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President Trump Defends Announcement of Steel and Aluminum Tariffs; President Trump to Meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu; Chaos Inside The Trump West Wing; Trump's Vacillating Positions On Gun Control. Aired 8-8:30a ET
Aired March 5, 2018 - 8:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You want to do these kinds of things with a scalpel, not a chainsaw.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If he says something different it will be something different.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They're all talking about internal staff struggles and not talking about their agenda.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He only creates half the drama. The other half is caused by staff killing each other.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If I may be so honored to have all the female nominees stand with me.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's this possibility of the status quo not having the status quo any longer.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The changes are being driven by the powerful sound of new voices finally saying, time's up.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Welcome to your New Day. It is Monday, March 5th, 8:00 in the east. Alisyn is off. Erica Hill is joining us this morning. Thank you, my friend, as always.
ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Good to be back with you.
Up first, President Trump defending his decision to impose tariffs on imported steel and aluminum despite fierce resistance. The president is now tying those tariffs to issues with Mexico and Canada and saying they will come off, the tariffs, if a new NAFTA deal is signed. Could these tariffs hurt Republicans in the midterm elections?
HILL: The White House is downplaying reports that the president's chief economist is planning to leave over the tariffs. A key question meantime about the president's son-in-law who is supposed to spear Middle East peace talks. With his security clearance reduced, will Jared Kushner even be in the room when the president meets the Israeli prime minister today at the White House.
It is a very busy Monday morning. We've got it all covered. We begin with Kaitlan Collins live at the White House. Kaitlan?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Erica and Chris. President Trump seems to be welcoming the idea of a potential trade war and rebuffing the concerns of those U.S. allies who are worried that those proposed tariffs could have severe impacts. But according to the president, the United States has been on the losing end of those global trade deals for just too long.
PETER NAVARRO, WHITE HOUSE TRADE ADVISER: The president was quite clear. We can't have a country that can defend itself and prosper without an aluminum and steel industry.
COLLINS: The Trump administration defending its stiff proposed tariffs on imported steel and aluminum despite threats of retaliation from key American allies who will be disproportionately hurt by the policy.
WILBUR ROSS, U.S. COMMERCE SECRETARY: Sure, there may well be some sort of retaliation, but the amounts that they're talking about are also pretty trivial.
COLLINS: White House adviser Peter Navarro telling CNN that at this point the president isn't planning on issuing any exemptions.
NAVARRO: As soon as you exempt one country, then you have to exempt another country. And so it's a slippery slope.
COLLINS: British Prime Minister Theresa May calling Mr. Trump Sunday to express deep concerns after officials from the European Union vowed to impose taxes on U.S. goods, including Harley-Davidson motorcycles, bourbon whiskey, and Levi's jeans. President Trump appearing undeterred, responding by threatening to tax European cars and tweeting, steel and aluminum industries are dead. Sorry. It's time for a change.
But Mr. Trump's advisers appearing to leave room for the president to change his mind.
ROSS: Whatever his final decision is, is what will happen. What he has said he has said. If he says something different, it'll be something different. I have no reason to think he's going to change.
COLLINS: A number of Republicans speaking out publicly against the president's proposal.
GOV. JOHN KASICH, (R) OHIO: This trade wars and dividing us from our allies makes no sense. SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R) SOUTH CAROLINA: China is winning and we're
losing with this tariff regime. You're letting China off the hook. You're punishing the American consumer and our allies. You're making a huge mistake here.
COLLINS: On the heels of a chaotic week in the West Wing, the president making light of the tumult at a closed door, black tie dinner, telling attendees, I like chaos. It really is good. Now the question everyone keeps asking is, who is going to be the next to leave? Steve Miller or Melania? And taking a jab at his embattled son-in-law, saying, quote, "Before I get started I want to apologize for arriving a little bit late. You know, we're late tonight because Jared couldn't get through security." The president also joking that Vice President Mike Pence starts out each morning asking everyone, quote, has he been impeached yet? Mr. Trump making light of China's decision to scrap presidential term limits in a conversation with donors Saturday.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He's now president for life. Hey, look, he was able to do that. I think it's great. We want to give that a shot someday.
COLLINS: Now the president and first lady Melania Trump will welcome the prime minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife here to the White House today. And it's worth noting that there are no scheduled photo opportunities at the moment, but one thing to keep your eye on is if Jared Kushner is going to be involved in that meeting after he was stripped of his top secret national security clearance last week, Chris and Erica.
CUOMO: That's the rub, Kaitlan. The president can give that kind of classification to really anyone he wants. It'll be interesting if he bucks Kelly's own determinations, but there's a lot of politics there. All right, Kaitlan, thank you very much.
Joining us now CNN political analysts Josh Green and Jonathan Martin. Gentlemen, good to have you. So Erica just did this really great interview with Stephen Moore. Stephen Moore, obviously economic adviser to President Trump, no a CNN colleague here. He and Larry Kudlow and another economist got together to put their conservative bona fides on display, saying this is the wrong thing for Trump to do. Jonathan Martin, why is the president doing it anyway?
JONATHAN MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Because he is a longtime believer in protectionism. If you look at the arch of his public life, the one consistent view he has had is on the fact that America is somehow getting hosed when it comes to its trading, that we need to get even or even get revenge with some of the folks who are purportedly taking advantage of this.
This goes back to the early 1980s. Back then the bad guy was Japan and Korea, and now it's more China or occasionally the EU depending on the day. This is consistent Trump, but this is the one real moment where substantively he appears to be bumping up against conservative orthodoxy. Folks like Stephen Moore are singing from the "Wall Street Journal" editorial page hymnal, and the vast majority of GOP members of Congress feel the same way. You don't start trade wars. This is anathema to the right at large. But it is who Trump is and it always has been.
CUOMO: I like Stephen Moore saying to you, my advice to the other countries is don't retaliate because you know how Trump is. He may double down. Really? That's what other countries should take into consideration. This guy may go crazy on us so we maybe won't protect our interests?
HILL: We'll suck it up and go with it. In terms of retaliation that's a big question because we saw the reaction from the EU over the weekend, Canada and Mexico threatening. And then actually Peter Navarro was just asked what about retaliation. Here's what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PETER NAVARRO, WHITE HOUSE TRADE ADVISER: Who cares? We got the politicians, everybody in the swamp is rising up against it. At the end of the day, we're getting a bad deal. And the president has said quite clearly and quite correctly that these countries around the world running huge trade surpluses with us, we're shifting our wealth offshore, they're taking our jobs and factories, and all we're trying to do with our trade policy is to get a fair and level playing field.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HILL: So Josh, does that backfire?
JOSH GREEN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I'll tell you who cares, Mitch McConnell cares and Paul Ryan cares because the European Union indicated over the weekend that they were looking at applying retaliatory tariffs on bourbon which is made in Kentucky, Mitch McConnell's home state, and Harley-Davidson motorcycles which are made in Wisconsin in Paul Ryan's district.
So the idea that you can slap these kind of tariffs, broad tariffs without any kind of harmful retaliatory measures that will have real effects on American workers and consumers is folly. And guys, part of what's so upsetting to mainstream economists about these tariffs is not the fact that Trump imposed tariffs at all or how high they are but how broad they are. These tariffs mainly seem to hit U.S. allies. If you look at importers of steel to the U.S., two of the top three are Canada and South Korea, both U.S. allies. China isn't even in the top 10.
If you look at the aluminum tariffs, they hit Canada hardest. They actually hit Russia harder than they hit China. So part of the frustration here is that it's this ad hoc, broad brush approach that isn't even really going to hit the countries that most deserved to be slapped with tariffs.
CUOMO: And it's fact free again, J. Mart, right, like trade imbalance. We don't have a trade imbalance with Canada if you take into consideration services and all the other metrics that they look at, and automation is the big reason that we're losing manufacturing jobs. And the president keeps ignoring that, what's your point?
MARTIN: I was going to say Peter Navarro in that clip was talking about how the swamp is rising up against this. Sure, there is a bipartisan consensus that trade wars and tariffs are generally bad. But there's an important point to make here. The Trump coalition across basically the entire American south is going to be against this. Here's why. Those states in the south depend upon agriculture and auto making in a huge way to fuel their economies. If you drive through basically the SCC you're going to find European or an Asian automaker in every state starting in South Carolina going all the way to Mississippi. Those are foreign automakers, but those are American jobs there. What do you think the EU is going to do if we do these kinds of tariffs and the impact at those auto plants across Trump country? The governors in those states who are Trump allies are going to be put in a really tough spot.
HILL: And that's an important point because not only is it those jobs, we know since this was first announced the National Retail Federation coming out last week saying this is a tax on American families in that op-ed from Stephen Moore and others in terms of what they called a regressive tax on low-income families. So in some ways, Josh, the president has to balance, yes, I'm keeping a campaign promise, yes, I said I would protect the steel industry and we need to do better in this country, and yet the broader impact on millions and millions of Americans, their jobs and the things that they pay for, how does that weigh out that it's better to go for the campaign promise and 140,000 jobs, Josh?
GREEN: I think one of the frustrations among orthodox Republican politicians and also economists on Wall Street is that this doesn't seem to have been carefully weighed out, the pros and the cons. I was looking at some numbers on the way over here, and one of the other groups that's going to be hardest hit are farmers and agriculture communities. Farmers are some of the biggest U.S. exporters who primarily are in the kind of rural areas in red states that voted overwhelming for Trump.
So I think the knock on effects of these tariffs could come back and really hit Trump voters hard in Trump areas. And we're heading into a midterm election if the effects of these things start to be felt, if the narrative around this becomes -- not that I'm standing up for steel and aluminum companies but imposing all kinds of taxes and job loss on my own base voters, could be yet another problem the Republicans --
CUOMO: The big fact for people to remember on this is we have a lot more workers that are in factories and in businesses that have to buy these materials than those that produce it. John, I want to ask you about a different topic, but you can talk about whatever you want. This big meeting with Bibi today and the president, do you think Jared Kushner is at that meeting?
MARTIN: I think it's possible. I'm not sure. CUOMO: It's possible I lose weight in the next two days. It's not
probable, though. What do you think?
MARTIN: Yes. I'll give the fact that his portfolio includes bringing peace to the holy land, my guess is yes.
CUOMO: I'm asking you because usually these are highly confidential situations. You're not going to have press avail for that reason, and it would raise that question of whether or not he has the clearance to go to the meeting. Josh? Good job.
HILL: Well played.
GREEN: There were news reports that he met with Netanyahu at Blair House over the weekend, so clearly they've had a face-to-face meeting. Now whether that was because Jared doesn't have the security clearance, I couldn't know. I haven't done reporting on it. I would expect him to be there just by virtue of the fact that he's supposed to be the administration's chief Middle East peace negotiator.
MARTIN: That's what I just said. Who knows? That's his gig. He's got to be there, right. Exactly. He's the negotiator.
HILL: It will be interesting to see because of course, at Kaitlan pointed out and reminded us, there's no photo op. There are a lot of questions that likely neither official there feels like addressing at the moment, so --
CUOMO: And it just goes to chaos again. So you put John Kelly, Trump puts Kelly and says you deal with the security clearance. I don't want to deal with it. Then he has this big meeting and if his son-in- law is there it means he basically waived away all of this new strictness, so it's chaotic. There it is. Josh, Jonathan, thank you very much.
So could President Trump's decision on tariffs and his vacillating position on guns turn off conservative voters? We discuss next.
CUOMO: Tariffs are good. Raising the age for buying weapons, that's good. These both came from President Trump. They fight conservative orthodoxy and then you have this political concern of the chaos in the White House. What are conservatives to do?
Let's ask one. Matt Schlapp, the chairman of the American Conservative Union. Good to see you, friend.
MATT SCHLAPP, FORMER GEORGE W. BUSH POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Good to be with you, Chris.
CUOMO: You say chaos, what chaos? No chaos. You make the case for why there's no chaos in the White House and while Matt does that I want you to run our list we have of all the zany stuff that has been going on in just the last week. You tell me, why is there no chaos?
SCHLAPP: I think there's a lot of activity and energy and announcements coming from the White House. I think the news media seems to be focused very much on some kind of chaos amongst the personnel at the White House and of course, there are stories there too.
But I find my interactions to be pretty level in that they have a good system. I think there is no question that this president wants to see activity and especially when you see Republicans in Congress especially in the Senate moving at that slow glacial pace, I think that makes President Trump uneasy. He wants to push his agenda every day.
CUOMO: Now I understand what he wants to do, but this is about the method and the madness. There's two parts to the expression and I don't know how you can look at this White House just in all the talent they've sweated in one year alone, Matt. We've never seen anything like this. We've never seen the amount of scandals, the amount of turnover, the amount of drama, of all these different levels. How can you deny that reality?
SCHLAPP: I agree with you that especially this White House started off that way, but I think under General Kelly, I think things have gotten a lot more orderly. I think --
CUOMO: We just had the Porter scandal. Kelly is right in the middle of it saying he didn't know these things which is so hard to believe, Matt.
SCHLAPP: I don't think you should call the general a liar, I don't think that's appropriate, but I think --
CUOMO: Did you hear that word come out of my mouth?
SCHLAPP: You used the euphemism. It's hard to believe what he's saying.
CUOMO: If I want to call you a liar, I'll do it right to your face and they'll be a smile on mine. So, it's about my desire to call somebody something or not. It's about the fact, the FBI reports that the White House Counsel's Office, they have plenty of reasons to know, then the situation starts to come out. It's not handled well. That's all recent with Rob Porter. You know, if it happened in another administration, Matt, you'd be going nuts.
SCHLAPP: Well, let's look at the facts. You're right. There's no question I think the general said we haven't covered ourselves in glory over how they've handled this. I think the way they set up the clearance process at the very beginning of who got what level, I think was clearly flawed.
And look, they're fixing a problem and it's, you know, once again, he inherited a White House that decided to say we'll take the conventions and the rules that other administrations usually followed and we're going to do it our way. What you see, Chris, is that there was some rational for previous policies so that you didn't get into these problems and I think they're trying to iron those out.
CUOMO: We're making the same point, so we'll move on. Let's leave style to decide. Let's go to substance, tariffs. Are you with the president on that? Let's slap some tariffs out there and see what it does? See if it brings people to the table to help us out?
[08:20:06] SCHLAPP: The American Conservative Union hasn't taken a position yet. We're going to look at it carefully. The aspect of this which did not really get teased out very well I think over the weekend is the national security impact on the fact that we have so few factories and smelters.
And there are some high-level military industrial complex needs that come from especially the aluminum and the steel industries and we have to make sure we're not just going to be relying on overseas importers of these products.
So, I think there's an aspect of this that I think conservatives want to hear out. But we also have to be honest that a tariff is a tax and that means the consumers pay more for consumer goods.
The other side of that is Donald Trump wouldn't be the president today if he didn't have a heterodox position when it comes to these big trade arrangements. He has a different point of view than what Republicans have run on in the past and it's one of the reasons why he won in states like Wisconsin and Michigan and Pennsylvania.
CUOMO: But his promise was to make the deals better.
SCHLAPP: He did.
CUOMO: Not to create more stress for the American workers which you would argue that's what tariffs would do. Let's be very clear.
SCHLAPP: I don't know about that.
CUOMO: We'll discuss it in a second. Just to get the premise right, the president has to make a national security case for these tariffs because that's what triggers the legislation that gives him the power, Section 232 is obviously reflective of legislation that puts that in there. So, it's not that, you know, let's just keep the apple and the cart in the right way in terms of how it's going, the horse and the cart. Now in terms of substance of it.
SCHLAPP: If they'll make the argument on the national security grounds, I think they need to have their prominent security voices out there.
CUOMO: And they don't.
SCHLAPP: I think it's conservatives hear this argument and I think conservatives definitely are giving Donald Trump the benefit of the doubt on most things because on the things they care the most about, you know, he's batting near 1,000. You know, Ronald Reagan used these authorities. George W. Bush, the president I served for used these authorities. So, this is not something that is unusual for Republican presidents to use --
CUOMO: What happened with Bush when he did the tariffs in 2000?
SCHLAPP: Eventually the WTO ruled them illegitimate.
CUOMO: That's right. And he backed off from a year later and they were seen as hurting the GDP and the labor market.
SCHLAPP: More than a year later, but you know, I think the point was made which is the following which is at what point do presidents stand up for American industry, and that is a very legitimate question. I mean, the WTO hasn't exactly been the most favorable outfit for the American worker.
And I think it's OK for us to examine these questions. You know, we have thousands of tariffs on the books as you know. They come in all shapes and sizes. It would be improperly reported to say somehow this is coming out of nowhere. We actually -- this is a tool that is a legitimate tool, but we have to be honest. It has a negative impact.
CUOMO: Right. I would differ with that. I don't think it's a legitimate tool at all. We've never seen it work for U.S. labor. We've never seen a trade war work for U.S. labor. You can't find one.
SCHLAPP: Tariff is not a trade war. Now you jumped the tracks.
CUOMO: No, I'm not jumping the tracks. That's how you get to one is you put in a tariff, there is retaliation and now you have a war and you have people asking our partners not to retaliate because Trump's unstable, you don't know had a he'll do. Not a great rational.
SCHLAPP: President Trump is stable, and he's been very clear -- we all have to be honest. There's clarity about his point of view on these questions that he wants to use these powers to make sure that the American worker and these American industries have a big --
CUOMO: And I'm asking you because the method that he's choosing here flies in the face of conservatism and I wanted to see if you would step up about that. Another one that doesn't is he position of raising the age on guns from 18 to 21. Are you with that?
SCHLAPP: I'm dubious of raising the age on gun ownership --
CUOMO: What does that mean dubious?
SCHLAPP: Well, let me be clear here. I think people have to be able to protect themselves and I'm the father of five daughters and unfortunately, people do bad things and women are often stalked and I would hate to think that a woman who is not quite the age of 21 can't protect herself by getting the gun she needs to take care of someone and give her security.
So, I think the question of raising the limit on guns. I want to make sure people can always protect themselves in those situations. I think we have a system -- basically a statewide system on the right to conceal/carry. That's an awfully important system for states to be able to continue oversee.
CUOMO: So, if Trump pushes raising the age limit, does he lose conservatives or no?
SCHLAPP: I think the question on this and immigration and these big questions where the president had these bipartisan meetings at the White House, you know, my perspective is an individual is I want to hear what the packages are, what's in them. There could be things that I really very much support.
There could be other things that I think I'm less fond of, but that's the legislative process. You know, if you want to do something on background checks and such, you might have to accept something else you don't like and it's a question of can we still do that in America?
Can the left and right, Democrats and Republicans, sit down with this president and hammer out some big questions?
[08:25:05] You know, if I veto everything, Chris, because there's one little thing in I like then we'll never get there. And I think that's something we have to consider as a country on these big questions, I like the fact that President Trump is saying, look, let's at least talk about them and see if we can get there. There's nothing wrong with that.
CUOMO: All right. Let's see where it gets and see how you feel about it then. Matt Schlapp, appreciate you being with us.
SCHLAPP: Thanks, Chris.
CUOMO: All right, Erica.
ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: They are DREAMers living in fear.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is one big chess game for them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HILL: Today was the deadline. Any action in Congress, though, appears illusive. A live report on the fate of DREAMers next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOVERNOR JOHN KASICH, OHIO: Have we forgotten the DREAMers, the DACA, the young people who came here? They're not even in the news any more. We can't be taking these kids who have been here for 20 years and ship them out of the country for political reasons.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HILL: Ohio Governor John Kasich trying to keep DREAMers on the national agenda. Their fate remains uncertain. Today's deadline imposed by President Trump passing. CNN's Sara Sidner is live in Los Angeles for us this morning with more -- Sara.
SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Erica and Chris, you know, this was the deadline for DREAMers.