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U.S. Economy Adds Only 20,000 Jobs In February; AP: Midwest Farmers Losing Patience With Trump Tariffs; Trump Claims "No Collusion" After Manafort Sentenced. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired March 8, 2019 - 12:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


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[12:31:06] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back. A shockingly week jobs report is out this morning and now there's debate over whether it's a blip or a warning. They Labor Department says the economy added only 20,000 new jobs in February. That's an anemic in any case especially given months of more robust hiring.

It is just a month and there's no doubt temporary factors like bad weather and the partial government shutdown played a role in these numbers, and there are silver linings in the new report. The unemployment rate still remarkably low, 3.8 percent. And year to year growth in wages, pretty solid.

Still, because jobs growth was so far below expectations, this report raises questions about whether this is just a speed bump or if the economy is heading into a stretch of slower growth.

Among those hoping this is just a blip, a president gearing up for a re-election campaign that is anchored on the theme that he has revved the American economy into high gear.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We've seen wages rise more than they have at any time for a long, long time because the economy is very, very strong. If you look at the stock market over the last few months, it's been great. And certainly, since my election, it's getting close to 50 percent.

As soon as these trade deals are done, if they get done and we're working with China, we'll see what happens but I think you're going to see a very big spike.

The unemployment rate just went lower. We're down now to 3.8 percent so we have very good news on that. I think the big news, really, was that wages went up and that's great for the American workers.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Alison Kosik gets us started with a walk through the numbers.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A big surprise John with the February jobs report. Only 20,000 jobs were added to the economy in February. While this is a surprise, not completely unexpected, because if you see how the jobs numbers have been over the past year they've been averaging 234,000 jobs added monthly for a year.

So there's only so long the jobs market can add that many jobs when we know that the unemployment rate, as we've learned today, is sitting at 3.8 percent. That's a drop from four percent. We did see the unemployment rate tick higher in January in part because of the government shutdown.

So what happened with the sectors in February? We did see job additions in business services and health care. But then we see the drop off in construction, a loss of 31,000 jobs. That gives an indication why we saw some of those job numbers go down. In February we are seeing a home sale's under pressure.

So the big question is that job numbers, the job gains of 20,000 jobs added to the economy in February, is it a trend or is this just a blip? Because we did see the job numbers go down in similar fashion in September of 2017, John?

KING: Alison Kosik, thanks for the numbers breakdown. Ana Swanson with the New York Times joins the conversation now. And whether you're the president or whether you're an American worker, that's what you're worried about.

Is this just that blip, they happen. They happen. Actually we can show. We did put up the job chart numbers just through the last several years. And you go back and, look, you see a couple of very low points September 2017 the last time we were this low, but they do happen. And if you look at the overall picture there, that's pretty good. Is there a rebound in the making here or are there signs of slower growth?

ANA SWANSON, TRADE AND INTERNATIONAL ECONOMICS REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: I would say it's probably something in the middle here. You know, that was a very disappointing figure, 20,000 jobs. The initial reaction this morning was like did someone forget to put a zero on the end of it?

But, you know, I think overall it's dangerous to interpret too much from one month and it really should be viewed as more of a corrective to the blistering job growth that we saw in December and in January. A little bit more modest of the trend there.

And overall there could be trouble on the horizon here with the economy. We are seeing economies overseas, particularly China and Europe, slowing, the effect of the president's $1.5 trillion tax cut is starting to work its way through. And then you have the ongoing trade war and the effect of the tariffs. And so all of this could come back to bite just as the 2020campaign starts to heat up here.

[12:35:05] KING: And the campaign parts, what makes it interesting because we can walk through some of this. This is sort of two economies if you will if you're President Trump you have low unemployment. You have more jobs added, you have higher wage growth. You've been cutting taxes and regulations and you think that's given some steroids if you want some stimulus to the economy.

On the flip side, tariffs are causing a lot of anxiety especially out in foreign states that were Trump states. The trade deficits way up, stock markets up now but if we've had a few blips there and the global growth show that you speak of.

So if you're the president and you're in this tough negotiations with China, now there's talk that some of the President Xi no date because they're still talking both sides that have issues.

If you're the president, does this make you think, I want a deal, I want this to over with, I want the uncertainty over if I win a re- election?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's why there isn't so much focus on that summit and that trade deal coming together. The White House is paying very close attention to these numbers because they know the economy is going to be so critical to their 2020 message.

And that's something they want to be able to tout that's why you saw the president touting the wage growth and what he did is he left the White House this morning. But they are also increasingly looking to that China-U.S. trade deal that they think they can secure. Because they think if they did, that is going to be historic.

It would be monumental to President Trump's legacy while in office and they think it would be able to help them despite what the economy numbers are when they are going into that campaign.

SEUNG MIN KIM, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WASHINTON POST: And Republicans clearly, I mean after the trade deficit news came out this week, I've talked to Republicans on the Hill and they said, yes, of course, this increases the pressure for the president to get a good trade deal with China later this month.

And I was talking about -- especially Republican Senators from foreign states like we've mentioned earlier and their view on a really interesting. I mean, we're still at the point where they say, you know, farmers do love Trump. They support him, but they are starting to run out of patience.

I mean this is hurting their economy back home and that could definitely have an impact for his re-election campaign.

KING: So that point is from an A.P. story, Howard Hill is a hog farmer. We listen to a lot of voices from Washington, we should listen to voices out the America more often than we do.

"We have patients but we don't have unlimited patience. I think people recognize particularly with China, they have not been playing by the rules for a long time. I think producers are supportive of China correct these issues. On the other hand, we don't want it to go on forever."

Meaning, we have to make five year plans. You're in a farm, you make five year and ten year plans and all these uncertainty it's freezing that.

CATHERINE LUCEY, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS: Yes, the make plans, they buy equipment, they sell soybeans to China. So they -- and they need some certainty to their jobs. And, yes, I think I've say they've been very loyal to President Trump in these states. But these are states the president needs for his re-election.

You know, Iowa is a key, a key state for him. Other Ag states are going to be a big part of it. And the President really has -- and every president wants a good economy to run for re-election, but he has really pledged that he can do the things himself. But he is the one turbo charging that his policies, his decisions. So if there is really a slowdown, it's on him in a very significant way.

KING: And to that point in the sense that we have a Democratic House and Republican Senate, they are not going to be in a new economic policy initiatives in the past before the election. This is just not going to happen.

Maybe the U.S., Mexico, Canada trade agreement, that's one issue the President hopes to get through. We'll see where that one goes. But is -- are the trade negotiations with China the biggest thing that the president can personally do in the sense that he can't expect to pass any new legislation but he want to tweak tax cuts or do anything else, so if he's going to do anything, it's on him, right?

SWANSON: Yes. I think those are really under his power. And he has been very motivated to come to a deal, in part because of the stock market we missed that you saw at the end of last year, that's another metric that the President sees as a measure of his performance.

But in recent days we've actually been hearing that that summit between the president and President Xi Jinping of China is a little bit less certain. The president is also open to criticism on both the right and the left here for taking what is a bad China deal. And it seems like they're starting to back off a little bit from the certainty of that summit happening later this month in Mar-A-Lago.

The Chinese particularly very worried about the examples set by the president in Hanoi when he met Kim Jong-Un, wary of sending their president across the sea just to be embarrassed if no deal was made.

KING: And they might think of a Chinese perspective that a report like this might -- maybe gives him a little bit more leverage or a little more time to hold and wait and appreciate you're coming in. Before we go to break on this International Women's Day, some words of determination and inspiration from the first U.S. female fighter pilot to fly in combat went on to become United States senator.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MARTHA MCSALLY (R), ARIZONA: It just pissed me off. But I said, that's exactly what I'm going to do. And I walked around saying I'm going to be the first woman fighter pilot. I knew nothing about flying, but I was mostly driven because they told me that I couldn't.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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[12:42:34] KING: Topping our political radar today, Elizabeth Warren moments ago as you can see here talking with voters in Harlem. Also today, Warren rolling out one of her big policy plans, breaking up Amazon, Google and other big tech giants.

Warren's plan would dismantle companies with annual revenues of at least $25 billion because what she says they've become too powerful for mergers and buyouts. Warren says big tech dominants is squashing small businesses and stifling innovation.

Former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper kicks off his 2020 presidential campaign with a big rally in Denver last night. Telling the hometown credit he's the Democrat who can beat President Trump running as a pro-pragmatic candidate with a progressive agenda. He says, also could appeal to Independents and Republicans.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN HICKENLOOPER (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Being a pragmatist doesn't mean saying no to bold ideas, it means knowing how to make them happen. That is my record. And that will be my promise as president. Let's get to work.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: And the big 2020 problem for the lesser knowns in the Democratic field, getting that all-important name recognition. Pete Buttigieg at a politics and (INAUDIBLE) in New Hampshire this morning nodding to that challenge.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think it's safe to say I'm not extremely famous. So a big part of challenge for is just getting known. And I think that our party, especially in moments like this when there's a widespread field, I'd like to think that our party is favorable turf for new comers and underdogs and has a general knack for giving, you know, young person a funny name coming out of nowhere a shot.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Next, the Judge sends Paul Manafort to prison but also lands a body blow with the special counsel.

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[12:48:28] KING: The president this morning saying Paul Manafort caught a tough break, but the president's biggest takeaway is a familiar mantra.

(BEGI VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: Well, his lawyer a highly respected man and a very highly respected judge. That judged (ph) that there was no collusion with Russia. This has nothing to do with collusion. There was no collusion. It's a collusion hoax, it's a collusion witch hoax (ph), I don't collude with Russians.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Well, the truth for those of you who care about such things is that Manafort's trial revolved around financial crimes, not Russian conspiracy. Judge T.S. Ellis did not consider the collusion question. But the Southbound (ph) Hollywood reporters there made sure the president was paying close attention to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KEVIN DOWNING, PAUL MANAFORT'S ATTORNEY: I think most importantly what you saw today is the same thing that we had said from day one. There is absolutely no evidence that Paul Manafort was involved with any collusion, with any government official from Russia.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Judge Ellis sentenced Manafort to nearly four years in prison minus time served. That life sentence departed from the sentencing guidelines and is sparking outrage in some quarters. To that in a moment, but first the question raised again by that public appeal from Manafort's lawyer, is the president considering a pardon?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Has the president ruled out a pardon for Paul Manafort?

KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR FOR THE PRESIDENT: I didn't discuss that with the president. I haven't heard him say that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: CNN's Jessica Schneider joins our conversation. I want to start with you on the pause. I love the pause. I love the pause. Very smart pause.

(CROSSTALK)

[12:50:00] COLLINS: I said they were like digging for something to come. And then the president was asked again about it today and he said he's not the one who discusses his pardons, it's us who keeps bringing it in him up. And no course behind the scenes that has been a pretty big discussion about whether or not that's something the president would do. But right now what the White House is refusing to do is rule out that the president whenever grant him one, which is why people keep asking about it.

KING: And Mr. Downing, Mr. Manafort's lawyer, was clearly putting it out there, shall we say, by saying once again, we please the president. We're not talking about -- no Russian collusion here.

There's a lot of outrage about this sense was the judge within his guideline? I mean the judge can do whatever he wants.

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Exactly.

KING: But this is well below the guidelines. What was the rationale?

SCHNEIDER: Yes, the judge said it quite clearly. He said this is a just sentence. And in Judge Ellis' mind, this was in fact a just sentence. He didn't believe that the sentencing guidelines really spoke to what this crime was, the fact that Paul Manafort was a first- time offender here.

And Manafort's lawyers really pushed this point as well because they submitted several other examples of people who had stolen much more from the government and paid much less when it came to jail time.

They cited one woman, and this was incredible, who had $47 million in an overseas bank account. John, I'm not kidding when I say that her sentence was five seconds. Five seconds, it doesn't want to make sense of probation.

So that was the argument from Manafort's attorney. Judge Ellis obviously didn't go that extreme, but they were trying to have this parody in sentencing saying that Manafort, a first-time offender. This is it.

KING: And the question if you're the special counsel's office do you take this as a shock in the sense that, you know, he could've gotten 20 years in prison? He's 69 years old. He has another sentencing in another case next week.

So Paul Manafort's going to spend -- if not the rest of his life, pretty close for the rest of his life in prison. But the judge did say this early on in the trial, "You don't really care about Mr. Manafort's bank fraud, you really care about his information Mr. Manafort could give you that would reflect on Mr. Trump or lead to his prosecution or impeachment."

So, the special counsel have attest (ph) to think this judge was kind of skeptical of us from the get go.

LUCEY: Yes. I mean that's certainly from a lot of skepticism from the judge yesterday. And I think he just wanted to note that you -- this is prison time, there's going to be another sentence. And if you think about this in context of just how many people this case has pulled up. I mean, it is still a wide-ranging investigation that has touched a lot of people associated with the president.

LISA LERER, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: And I think we're so engrossed in the details that it is important to step back and say, look, the president's campaign manager was convicted, was sentenced to jail for bank fraud and dealings with foreign governments. Like that is a big deal. In any other administration, this would be a huge deal, but I think with this new cycle and this administration, the scope of this investigation, a lot of these moments sort of get lost in the --

KING: Right. It's a -- it is stunning sometimes that the standard is, well, the president hired a swamp creature who broke the law repeatedly then cut a deal to cooperate and lied about it. But the president says that does not reflect badly on me because you haven't proven Russian collusion.

You've just -- you're only proving that I hired and he's only one of a half dozen, my guys who are swamp creatures who lied, who have cheated and who are going to jail.

SCHNEIDER: And to that point Judge Ellis, he did say that this trial wasn't about collusion but Judge Ellis didn't say there was no collusion, he just said this was a trial on other matters. This was -- Paul Manafort was convicted for tax and bank fraud. So the president sort of twisting the judge's words there and saying he found no collusion.

COLLINS: Yes. But for the White House that's enough. That's the one thing that they can use coming out of this to say this had nothing to do with Russian collusion which his sentence didn't but of course you're saying they didn't say that we have proven that there was no Russian collusion.

For the White House, the state has really changed. Like what you're saying, typically that the President's former campaign chairman was convicted of anything it's a big deal. But for this White House, they so much want to distance themselves. They want to push the narrative that it started out being about Russian collusion but it's morphed into so many other things. So that's going to be helpful for their narrative going forward.

LERER: Any other moment in Washington this would be like a 550 alarm fire and we now you feel like it's just kind of like a little brush fire over here and then there's all this other thing. And you really --

LUCEY: And the president is still speaking very kindly about Paul Manafort, too. I mean today he said he feels badly for him, you know, he said it's been a hard time for him. So, I think that's --

SCHNEIDER: There's more to come here. The next sentencing on Wednesday in D.C. and the judge here Amy Berman Jackson, she could throw the book at Manafort up to 10 year sentence.

KING: And oddly Paul Manafort has now becoming exhibit A at the moment in the Democratic argument for criminal justice who are saying this is just wrong, here's Cory Booker.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CORY BOOKER (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm really ticked off about this, but in our country we prey upon the most vulnerable citizens in our nation, poor folks, mentally ill folks, addicted folks and overwhelmingly black and brown folks.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Were you shocked that he only got 47 weeks?

BOOKER: No, this criminal justice can't surprise me anymore.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: It's odd that Paul Manafort in the middle of this debate. But this has been an issue front and center for the Democrats in the campaign, and the president just signed a big criminal justice reform of this. It's actually a bipartisan agreement and the Democrats say, wait a minute. Wait a minute, you know some black guy gets pulled over the traffic, stop (ph), that's a bag of weed, so it's going to go to prison for long than Paul Manafort.

[12:55:06] LERER: But this is going to be an issue in the Democratic primary black voters make of the huge portion that Democratic electorate and the make up the majority in some key states, South Carolina as you will know. So we're going to keep hearing about this topic.

KING: We'll continue. Thank you all for joining us today on -- shall we say an interesting day. A lot happened. I hope to see you back here Sunday morning as well. We'll be up early 8:00 Eastern. Don't go anywhere, a lot of breaking news today including the president in Alabama. Brianna Keilar starts after a quick break.

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