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Trump Threatens 5% Tariff on Mexican Imports Over Immigration at Border; Eight Spellers Tie to Top Scripps Spelling Bee; Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-PA) Interviewed about Impeachment Calls. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired May 31, 2019 - 07:00   ET

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


ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: NEW DAY continues right now.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

[07:00:07] ROBERT MUELLER, SPECIAL COUNSEL: Under longstanding department policy, the president cannot be charged with a federal crime while he is in office.

WILLIAM BARR, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: He could have reached a conclusion, but he had his reasons for not doing it.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Robert Mueller should have never been chosen. I think he's totally conflicted.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon told investigators that assertion was "ridiculous."

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He lies to the American public all the time, so we have every right to get to the truth.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This isn't the first time the president has talked to Mexico about dealing with this.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When you implement tariffs, that doesn't just affect Mexico. That's going to affect U.S. consumers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mexico's president said problems aren't solved through coercive measures.

KIMBERLY GUILFOYLE, TRUMP CAMPAIGN ADVISOR: No longer do you have the American taxpayer shoulder the burden of your gross irresponsibility at the border.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

CAMEROTA: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to your NEW DAY.

Attorney General Bill Barr is speaking out for the first time since Robert Mueller publicly contradicted him. Barr claims that his decisions were based purely on the law, rather than to protect the president, as he's been accused of.

He also insists that Robert Mueller could have made a decision on whether or not the president obstructed justice.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARR: I personally felt he could have reached a decision.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In your view, he could have reached a conclusion?

BARR: He could have reached a conclusion. The opinion says you cannot indict a president while he's in office, but he could have reached a decision as to whether it was criminal activity. But he had his reasons for not doing it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Breaking this morning, the markets in turmoil as the president announced new tariffs on Mexico to try to force them to stop the flow of migrants to the U.S. This could cost U.S. businesses and consumers $17 billion.

Is this an effective way to deal with immigration policy? Is this meant to distract from Robert Mueller's statements that he could not clear the president of a crime?

Mexico's leader was highly critical of the move, warning the U.S. not to turn a country of fraternity to the migrants of the world into a ghetto.

I want to break in Maggie Haberman, White House correspondent for "the New York Times" and CNN political analyst.

Maggie, we're going to get to William Barr and the tariffs in just a moment, but I do want to get your reaction and maybe your insight into what we saw on this show yesterday, which was, the president on his way to Colorado in this 17-free -- 17-minute free-wheeling news conference that was full of lies and untruths, including new attacks on Robert Mueller.

What do you think is behind that? Where is the president following Robert Mueller's first public statements?

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I do want to just asterisk that. This was not a news conference. This was him walking out of the White House. And calling this a news conference, it's not like everybody gets to come, so -- and ask their own questions. I just want to make that clear in terms of process.

But where I think his head is I think that he saw Mueller on TV. Remember, the president interprets the world through television, and Mueller had not appeared on TV talking until now. So it caught the White House's attention in a big way. It was a big neon sign. And Mueller stood there very clearly and said he couldn't say that the president didn't commit a crime. The president, I know that there is a political strategy around some

of the president's advisers, who think that trying to -- essentially trying to dare House Democrats to impeach him will have a positive political effect for him, but I don't believe the president actually wants to get impeached. I just don't. I think he thinks that that would be a sign of failure and that it would not help him in 2020.

I know, again, there's the Bill Clinton analogy. Bill Clinton was not actually on the ticket in 2000, and so we're never really going to know how that would have played out.

I don't think that he wants to so this go further. And I think that he continues to see this entire investigation as, you know, delegitimizing his victory.

You know, the response to that, unfortunately, for him, is that the the broader world that is concerned about U.S. institutions and election security doesn't necessarily care that his feelings get hurt by this investigation.

CAMEROTA: In our armchair analysis segment that I know you enjoy so much, he seemed angrier yesterday than we had heard him. You know, there are sometimes he comes out, and he's sort of playing and sparring with the press.

And yesterday, he seemed more irritated about some of the -- I mean, Mueller didn't say anything that dramatic that wasn't in the report. But somehow, it seemed to have angered the president.

HABERMAN: Do you think the president has read the report? Because I do not. And so I think that when he hears Mueller say that on TV, again, him interpreting everything through the screen that is in front of him, I think that that had much more resonance than almost anything else that has happened, in part because Bill Barr delivered a letter and then went on television himself, at an actual news conference, sort of, and said, you know, this was not a crime. He used the president's own language, talked about collusion, which is not actually a criminal thing, and this was essentially the president's P.R. language.

So I think that the president had felt pretty good about that. And then I think he saw Mueller in the box, and I think that that spooked him.

BERMAN: I'm so glad you said that William Barr uses the president's own language. Because it's a really interesting segue to the interview that William Barr gave to CBS News, which is actually playing more right now.

[07:05:00] But listen to how the attorney general answered the question about the president accusing past officials of treason. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You don't think that they've committed treason? BARR: Not as a legal matter.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But you have concerns about how they conducted the investigation?

BARR: Yes, but you know, sometimes people can convince themselves that what they're doing is in the higher interest, the better good. They don't realize that what they're doing is really antithetical to the democratic system we have.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: That first answer, Maggie, "not as a legal matter." No, well, why not just say no?

HABERMAN: There's only -- there's only -- there's only one form of treason that I've ever heard of, and essentially what that, which is a legal matter, and that gives, frankly, a permission structure for the president to keep saying it. I mean, that's really the only thing that I can take away from that.

We are, again, also seeing Barr in that statement. And I think it's important to note, appear to predetermine the outcome of this investigation, that he is in charge of, into the investigators.

And I think there are reasons that have been given for trying to figure out the origins of this, for looking at the conduct of certain people in the FBI. Although that has been looked at for some time now. This is -- there are at least three investigations into this. But Barr already appears to have a verdict --

CAMEROTA: What did you hear there that you heard was his verdict?

HABERMAN: That sometimes people convince themselves they're doing something for the greater good, and then that last part. That's certainly true. A lot of people convince themselves that they're doing something for the greater good. People who work for the president's White House also say the same thing.

CAMEROTA: Sometimes attorney generals feel that way.

HABERMAN: Right. But then he went on to then say, it's antithetical to the Democratic process. That's a very loaded statement.

BERMAN: He says, they don't realize that what they're doing is very antithetical to the democratic system we have. That's how William Barr, the attorney general, chose to phrase it. And to me, that's such a contrast from what Robert Mueller said, in his -- what he wanted to be his closing statement to America, which is don't forget the Russians attacked us, and it's really, really bad.

HABERMAN: Correct. And what Robert Mueller, in fact, said, is that was a charge that ought to be of concern -- I'm paraphrasing, but be of concern to every American. It is not an issue that we hear the president talk about. I mean, so Barr seems to be sort of accepting the idea that the

institutions that the White House chooses to represent are the ones that should matter.

Look, this president, we've talked about this before. This president is not novel in certain ways. There has been an erosion of norms, of certain institutions going back for some time. I know there's been a lot of talk about responding to congressional subpoenas.

Eric Holder did not respond to a congressional subpoena, and I don't seem to recall the same level of anger around it on the left as there has been around what's been going on right now with the Trump administration. And those are not grand jury subpoenas.

But you know, I don't think the president does everything in a new way. He does do it in a more extreme way. And that is what you're seeing here.

CAMEROTA: I just wonder if, in his investigation, the fourth investigation, as you say, there's a lot of redundancy here, that he's going to look at all of the FBI's text messages, because during that time, in the run-up to the election, I wonder if any agents ever exchanged any anti-Hillary texts?

HABERMAN: Right.

CAMEROTA: In other words, they have so zeroed in on these two agents as somehow being representative of this deep state. And if we look at everybody's text messages, it's possible that sometimes people talk about their own personal feelings with their friends.

HABERMAN: Right. And it's also that, look, at the end of the day, this is why people are concerned about Barr having this declassification ability that the president granted him last week, because the concern is that he's going to cherry-pick what gets made public to portray a certain narrative.

BERMAN: On the subject of cherry-picking, William Barr in this interview -- we're just hearing it for the first time -- addresses the criticism over his summary, in the words he chose to use the first time he released it, of the Mueller report. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARR: I was just trying to state the bottom line, and the bottom line was that Bob Mueller identified some episodes. He did not reach a conclusion, he provided both sides of the issue, and he is -- his conclusion was he wasn't exonerating the president, but he wasn't finding a crime either.

I'm just trying to state the bottom line.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: "I was just trying to state the bottom line." And also added another bottom line, which was saying, "Rod Rosenstein

and I have determined that, because there was no underlying crime, he could not have obstructed justice."

When you read the report, there are certain -- I mean, in every instance of possible obstruction, the Mueller team laid out evidence for, evidence against.

There were a couple of incidents, one involving Corey Lewandowski, one involving Don McGahn about -- related to a "New York Times" story that he wanted McGahn to refute. And with Corey Lewandowski, he wanted to essentially play some role in firing Jeff Sessions, reporting that we had done -- you know, Corey Lewandowski, private citizen, reporting that "The Times" had done a couple of months earlier, that had found some similar instances.

In those cases, in the Mueller report -- and again, I still wonder how much of the public has actually read it -- there was not a whole lot of countervailing potential in the Mueller report. There was not a -- but here's what supports why it wouldn't be obstruction. They basically just appear to conclude it was, without saying it.

You know, Barr is clearly frustrated that Mueller did not deal with that -- that piece of it. Barr has argued that it was within Mueller's purview. Mueller has explained why.

[07:10:10] I am not a DOJ official. I'm not equipped to judge which is actually more right on the law.

But I do know that, thinking that that summary, when you then say the president,, you know, didn't commit obstruction and here's why is not going to leave a clear impression.

Look, what the president has done every single time when there is a vacuum, is he has rushed in to fill it. And that is what he has done in the 30 years that we have all been watching him publicly.

A lot of other people, including Mueller, were playing by known processes that have been followed for a number of years. The president did not. Guess which one is winning the messaging war?

CAMEROTA: Well, speaking of vacuum and rushing in to fill it, you know, now the president today is announcing this 5 percent tariff hike on products from Mexico, our largest trading partner.

And I think this is interesting, because he also is announcing that he wants asylum seekers -- he won't allow them to come through Mexico from another country. He wants them to be stopped in Mexico and have to apply for asylum from Mexico. Why make that thousand-mile trip up to the U.S.?

And so obviously, he uses blunt instruments. We know this. But he is -- I mean, I think that for his base and for his supporters, this is an interesting pivot. One that I think that they probably will appreciate, because of the images that we're seeing now, where something has really exploded at the border. So this is -- do you think that this is his pivot and this is where

the White House will be talking now for the next few days?

HABERMAN: I mean, I think a couple of things are going on. I mean, some of it relates to immigration and the fact that the wall is not getting built, despite what the president says. He's not getting the money in legislation for it.

He knows that he is going to have to be able to provide some answer ahead of the election in 2020 to what was a core campaign promise, the symbolic campaign promise that he insisted wasn't just a symbol. It clearly now is right now. So that's part of it.

The other is, I think, that these tariffs are aimed at trying to leverage Mexico on a three-way trade deal. And so he's doing what he always does, which is take this extreme position.

If he does not get Mexico to sign onto this three-way trade deal, if these tariffs go into effect, they could really hamper the -- they will have, certainly, an impact on U.S. taxpayers and consumers, but there will be an effect on the Mexico economy.

And if the Mexico economy really takes a dive, I'm not sure where he thinks a lot of migrants are going to go. I mean, there are a lot more people trying to cross the border. So there are -- there are often, you know, these things that he suggests that seem counterproductive and this is one that there was a lot of controversy about within the White House.

BERMAN: And again, the market is down about 300 points in pre-market trading today. Gives you a sense of what investors think about this move. They don't like it, at least not yet. Maggie Haberman, great to have you with us this morning.

CAMEROTA: Thanks, Maggie. Have a good weekend.

BERMAN: The dictionary could not keep up with this year's National Spelling Bee competitors. For the first time ever, eight -- eight -- won the spelling bee.

CNN's Dave Briggs here with the details. How could there be an eight- way tie?

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: John, just sit back and watch, my friend. Not short on winners was the Scripps Spelling Bee. They did run out of words, however.

The tournament started with 562 spellers from all over the country, but after 20 rounds and a run of 47 correct answers to end the competition. The panel simply ran out of words, John Berman, forcing them to call it and leaving an unprecedented eight-way tie for the trophy. Here is the spectacular crowning moment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROHAN RAJA, SPELLING BEE CHAMP: Odylic, O-D-Y-L-I-C, odylic. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You are correct!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: The Octochamps, as Scripps calls them, are all 14 years old or younger, have not entered high school yet. And just for some perspective, in its 92-year history, the bee has never had more than a two-way tie. That's only happened six times.

Merriam Webster tweeting out, "The Dictionary even concedes." And they too, I guess, ran out of words. So proud of the spellers.

And guys, after seeing the incredible performances, they decided to give each of the champions the full $50,000 grand prize. And speaking of money, John, I know you don't like, $1,500 buys your way into the spelling bee. For the last two years, it has dramatically increased the field from under 300 to over 500. It's the American way, my friend.

CAMEROTA: Buying your way in. You're so right.

BERMAN: It's different. It's a change. You used have to win regional bees to get there. Now you can just pay a fee and get all the --

CAMEROTA: But I do feel like these kids earned their way in.

BERMAN: These eight, there's no --

CAMEROTA: I don't think they are faking.

BERMAN: When you break the dictionary, you know how to spell.

CAMEROTA: Yes, you won.

BERMAN: Dave Briggs, thank you very much.

And coming up in our next hour, we will speak to all eight champions. Well, hello! Very nice to see you all. We'll get a chance to talk to you in a little bit.

CAMEROTA: OK. So what will Democrats who represent the districts that President Trump won -- in other words, all these swing districts across the country -- what do they want now when it comes to impeachment? One of them is here next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:19:03] CAMEROTA: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi facing pressure as now more than 40 members of her caucus call for impeachment. But the members that she seems to be keeping the closest eye on are those in swing districts, Democrats that are districts where Donald Trump won.

So joining us now is one of those lawmakers, Democratic congressman, Matt Cartwright. Good morning, Congressman.

REP. MATT CARTWRIGHT (D-PA): Hi, Alisyn. How you today?

CAMEROTA: I'm doing well. So you represent a district which President Trump won by ten points in 2016. So you are the all- important Democrat in the swing district that may determine whether or not the House moves forward with an impeachment inquiry. So where are you on impeachment this morning?

CARTWRIGHT: Well, first of all, I need to apologize to you for my gravelly voice this morning, Alisyn. We're here in northeastern Pennsylvania. We're having our pollen festival right now. So --

CAMEROTA: We're familiar with that here, as well.

CARTWRIGHT: I understand. Well, you know, the "I" word is so important. And it's coming to the fore right now. The "I" word is something that we all have to start talking about, and that word is "infrastructure." It's not impeachment; it's infrastructure.

You talk about the Democrats in the swing districts, what do we campaign on? We campaigned on better health care, and more available health care, and cheaper health care. We talked about bringing down the high cost of pharmaceuticals.

And we talked about infrastructure: repairing, at long last, our roads and our bridges and our rail systems and our water systems and our sewer systems and bringing broadband Internet to rural areas.

CAMEROTA: Yes.

CARTWRIGHT: We promised those things. And they haven't been happening. They didn't happen in the first two years of this current administration, when everything was in Republican control. And we're pushing that now.

CAMEROTA: But there's another "I" word. I mean, I'm sorry to interrupt you, Congressman, but there's another "I" word that plays into this, and that's investigations.

And as you know, the president has said he will not do infrastructure while you Democrats in Congress are investigating him. So are you -- does that make you think that it's important to move more in one direction or another? Impeachment definitely or not?

CARTWRIGHT: Well, you have your finger on it, Alisyn. Not only did the Democrats in this last midterm election promise infrastructure, President Trump did, too! He promised infrastructure. He talked about how he's a builder. He has been a builder. And we had the highest hopes that he would do this.

And then, of course, when Democratic congressional leadership goes over to the White House last week for a meeting about infrastructure, their second meeting about infrastructure. It lasts, like, three minutes, and it blows up over the president insisting that no more oversight take place.

He's asking for the Congress not to do its constitutional duty -- CAMEROTA: Yes.

CARTWRIGHT: -- to overlook what's happening at the White House in exchange for an infrastructure package?

CAMEROTA: Well --

CARTWRIGHT: That's a nonstarter, Alisyn. That's not going to work.

CAMEROTA: I mean, this is why some of your colleagues have moved into the impeachment category. But I'm going to take what you're -- I'm going to take what you're saying this morning as a "no" on impeachment. Is that accurate?

CARTWRIGHT: Right now it's a "no." I think we ought to go forward with hearings. We ought to -- transparency ought to be the "T" word that we go forward. And, you know, Chairman Elijah Cummings on the Oversight Committee and Chairman Jerry Nadler on the Judiciary Committee, they should be allowed to have their normal and ordinary hearings, ensuring transparency in the executive branch.

And for us to hold up infrastructure, something that every politician promised, to hold that up out of the White House, I don't get it.

CAMEROTA: Have you talked to Speaker Pelosi about your position?

CARTWRIGHT: Absolutely. I'm on the House Democratic leadership team. I meet with the whole leadership team every week. And that's the -- that's the exact thing I say to her. Is that we've got to take all deliberate speed in having investigations, having hearings, but the animus isn't there for impeachment right now.

Let's focus on infrastructure and fixing the roads. You know, the average Pennsylvanian spends $2,000 a year fixing their car because of the rough roads and the potholes that they hit. Come on. Let's get the job done.

CAMEROTA: Do you sense that Speaker Pelosi is under building pressure from now 40 members of the caucus? Do you sense that anything has shifted since Robert Mueller came out and spoke publicly?

CARTWRIGHT: Oh, Alisyn, if there's a distinguishing feature of Nancy Pelosi, it is that she is tough as nails. And she knows what she needs to do. She knows how to count votes. She knows how to read the public sentiment. She talks about it all the time -- there's that graveling voice again -- but she understands that the time isn't right.

She's not taking anything off the table, and I'm not either. But let's just have normal hearings and find out about what's happening in the White House. But let's not derail infrastructure. We have to compete with China and the European Union. We have to help our businesses get their products to market. We have so many great things that we need to do with our country.

Why do you want to hold them up over not having hearings and investigations of the White House? After all, if they don't have anything to hide, why would they want to hold everything up over that?

CAMEROTA: All right. Congressman Matt Cartwright, thank you very much for sharing your position with us this morning.

CARTWRIGHT: My pleasure.

CAMEROTA: Take care of those allergies.

BERMAN: Not all heroes wear capes. I mean, braving the pollen festival to come on there. He was clearly struggling. That's really awesome.

[07:25:05] CAMEROTA: We can relate. You and I sometimes suffer from that same thing in the morning.

BERMAN: Indeed.

All right. The attorney general, William Barr, in an interview airing just this morning, defending his actions and, really, a split with Robert Mueller over the legal analysis in the Mueller report. We will show you these clips, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: Attorney General William Barr has been criticized for painting a very different picture of the findings of the Mueller report. Barr this morning is defending his actions in a new interview. The attorney general says the Justice Department sparred with Mueller over the legal analysis in his report. Listen to this.