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Stocks Set to Open Higher; Possible Trade War; Intel Chief Testifies on Capitol Hill; Texas Kids off Primary Season. Aired 9:30- 10a ET

Aired March 6, 2018 - 09:30   ET

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


[09:30:00] CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Steel and aluminum tariffs will be very important and it could move the market because yesterday when he came out and said he was opposed to these tariffs and worried about a trade war, the market actually bounced back because a lot of people thought that now there is a pretty concerted effort to persuade the president not to pursue this.

You also saw futures pop a little bit this morning, John. The market got a little bit firmer. Started on that firm footing that maybe -- maybe there's a way out of this tariff pledge from the president. But also some soothing tensions on the Korean peninsula. The idea that perhaps -- perhaps there could be some talks. This summit between the North and the South next month. That encouraged people that it's a move away from the brink of war, John Berman.

So you see the Dow up about 115 points right now.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, yes, the markets heading up as we head into the morning here. The people perhaps like the idea that there will be exceptions to the tariffs. Much more ahead. Stay with us.

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[09:35:33] BERMAN: All right, new this morning, President Trump facing opposition from his own party on his plan to issue new tariffs on steel and aluminum. House Speaker Paul Ryan set to speak very shortly. The question is, how hard will he fight the president on this? Will Congress actually move to block it? CNN national correspondent Suzanne Malveaux on Capitol Hill with the very latest.

Suzanne, what are you hearing?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is really the big question, just how far members of Congress are going to take on the president on this very issue. We have yet to hear from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on this, clearly working behind the scenes. And we are also waiting for House Speaker Paul Ryan, in about 30 minutes or so, to go before the cameras and to be asked specifically about this, just how far are they going to fight the president on this?

Already in a rare move we've seen a statement from his office, his spokeswoman saying here, I'm quoting here, we are extremely worried about the consequences of a trade war and are urging the White House to not advance with this plan. The new tax reform law has boosted the economy. We certainly don't want to jeopardize those gains. That coming from the statement there.

Now, what started off here, John, was kind of a whispering campaign among members of Congress trying to convince the president, and it got louder and louder. We've seen this over the last 24, 48 hours, turned into a situation where you had Ryan sending out copies of a report from CNBC linking the markets and the -- kind of the fall in the markets with the potential of these tariffs.

We've also seen people go directly to the cameras. Senator Lindsey Graham saying that while basically means that China's off the hooks. You've got conservative groups like the Club for Growth coming out and saying this is an affront to economic growth. And you also have the House Ways and Means Committee writing a letter, drafting a letter to the president saying, if you're going to have tariffs, make them narrow, make them targeted.

And then lots of discussion here, and this is also quite surprising, the potential for hearings over these tariffs on the Senate side, to take to task whether or not this is a national security issue, whether or not this is really advantageous at this time.

And then, finally, there is that possibility -- and this is something that they don't want to do -- but the possibility of a legislative fix here. That they could pass a law and essentially try to block the president from going ahead with these tariffs.

I'll tell you, John, there is no appetite for that. They are very wary of going up against Trump in any kind of aggressive way. So what you're seeing so far and what we're hearing so far is those back channels at work, can they get in the president's ear, make it known that they do not think that this is a good idea, John.

BERMAN: And, again, we're looking at live pictures from where the House speaker will speak very shortly. He will no doubt try to get in the president's ear when he stands behind that microphone.

Suzanne Malveaux on Capitol Hill, thanks very, very much.

New gun control legislation passes the Florida senate less than a month after students and teachers murdered in a school there. So what changes and what happens next?

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[09:42:37] BERMAN: New developments from Florida. The state there passed new gun control legislation almost three weeks after 17 students and teachers were murdered inside that high school in Parkland, Florida. The bill raises the age to buy a gun from 18 to 21. All guns, not just handguns. It also requires a three-day waiting period for most purchases and bans the sale or possession of bump stocks. The Florida house will take up that bill today. New video out of Syria. It shows the moment an air strike hits a building just feet in front of volunteer rescue workers. Through the smoke there -- I think -- yes, there you can see a man rushing to safety with a child in his arms. Increased air strikes by the Russian- backed Syrian regime have decimated several towns outside Damascus, killing and injuring hundreds, including a number of civilians.

New this morning, the nation's top intelligence chief on Capitol Hill. This is just after the news broke that North Korea is open to putting their missile tests on hold.

Joining me now, CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr.

We're looking at DNI Dan Coats right there testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee. What is he expected to say.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, this news about North Korea breaking just a couple hours ago and not at all clear. That's really -- we don't know what he's going to say. He's accompanied by General Robert Ashley (ph), the nation's top military intelligence officer. Both very experienced in watching North Korea. So they are beginning to assess very quickly what these statements out of North Korea about being willing to denuclearize, being willing to talk to the U.S., being willing to give up missile testing, what it may all mean.

And it's very early hours. No one can be really sure what Kim Jong-un is talking about. Everybody's using this word "denuclearize." And it's not clear that the North Koreans have the same definition as the U.S. The U.S. wants Kim to abandon it all. Not clear he plans to do that.

One of the big questions people like Dan Coats have, the U.S. intelligence community, is it possible North Korea doesn't even have to test any weapons anymore. They may be so far down the road that they believe they have functional weapons and there's no need to really change their plans.

John.

BERMAN: All right, Barbara Starr for us.

Barbara, thanks very much.

We will keep an eye on that hearing. And if the DNI Dan Coats says anything, we will bring that to you live.

[09:44:58] Voters heading to the polls for the nation's first primary of 2018 in Texas. A former punk rocker says he can take the Texas Senate seat held by Ted Cruz. Doesn't look like much of a punk rocker there. Looks like a congressman, frankly.

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BERMAN: All right, happening now, voters in Texas heading to the polls for the nation's first midterm primary. An early signal of what could be on the horizon across the country and whether President Trump has actually motivated Democrats to head to the polls. Early voting numbers in Texas do look good for Democrats there.

Joining me now, the pride of Texas, CNN's Ed Lavandera live from Dallas.

Ed.

[09:50:04] ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John.

Well, you know, a few weeks ago, over the course of the last few months, the fund-raising numbers have started pouring in for the man who's expected to be the Democratic nominee for the Texas Senate race here, a guy by the name of Beto O'Rourke. A little known congressman. But his fund-raising numbers have been so substantial, that it's kind of catapulted him into the national limelight here. And a lot of people are wondering whether that's going to propel him to be able to oust Ted Cruz from the Senate.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

REP. BETO O'ROURKE (D), TEXAS SENATE CANDIDATE: Hey, everybody!

LAVANDERA (voice over): Robert O'Rourke has campaigned in almost every one of the 254 counties in Texas, even in places we're finding a Democrat is harder than hunting Bigfoot.

O'ROURKE: This community voted for Donald Trump 73 percent. Not the place you're going to expect to see a Democrat in the first place.

LAVANDERA (on camera): Why do you hit those places where the likelihood of you getting many votes, let's be -- let's be frank, is pretty slim?

O'ROURKE: Listen, I -- my philosophy is, everyone deserves to be heard. It's to my benefit to listen to every single Texan that I seek to represent.

I share the story of El Paso.

LAVANDERA (voice over): O'Rourke started in politics as an El Paso city councilman in 2005, was elected to Congress in 2012, and around town is simply known as Beto.

O'Rourke faces a daunting task. This was the sea of red in Texas after the 2016 presidential election. President Trump won by nine points.

Lloyd Benson was the last Democrat to win a Texas Senate seat. The grainy video gives away that was a long time ago.

LAVANDERA (on camera): Texas highways are littered with the political careers of Democrats who thought they could win in this state, right?

O'ROURKE: Yes.

LAVANDERA: What makes you different?

O'ROURKE: They're also -- they're also really strong memories of people, like LBJ.

LAVANDERA (voice over): Here, O'Rourke tells the story of campaigning in a small town that hasn't seen a senator there in 70 years. He's banking on the idea that if he can meet you face to face, he'll win your vote.

O'ROURKE: So, listen, that doesn't mean that we win. It just means that we're getting back to our roots of how we used to win. The way that we used to run campaigns when we were successful.

LAVANDERA: Beto O'Rourke wasn't a politician back then, he was road tripping around Texas to his own soundtrack as the shaggy-haired guitarist of a punk rock band.

LAVANDERA (on camera): We were able to track this down.

O'ROURKE: I love it.

LAVANDERA: This took a lot of work.

O'ROURKE: Yes. Well, good for you. There were only 500 made, so you --

LAVANDERA: Only 500 made?

O'ROURKE: Yes.

LAVANDERA (voice over): O'Rourke says he's brought that punk rock spirit to this campaign.

O'ROURKE: We're not doing the corporate stuff. The DNC, the DFCC, the PACs and the corporations and the special interests. It's just us. This is as punk rock as it gets, right?

LAVANDERA: Without much help from the Democratic Party, he's gone to social media.

O'ROURKE: Good morning from Tyler, Texas.

LAVANDERA: Live streaming the campaign every chance he gets.

O'ROURKE: We don't have folks who produce slick messages for us. We have an iPhone and it's a late model iPhone at that.

LAVANDERA (on camera): How crucial has that social media aspect of your campaign been to your success?

O'ROURKE: It's great. It's the most direct, honest way to connect with people short of actually being there in their community with them in person.

LAVANDERA (voice over): The El Paso congressman supports providing legal status to many undocumented migrants, legalizing marijuana, he's pro-choice, supports a ban on assault weapons, not the kind of issues that get strong support in Texas. And Republican Ted Cruz seizes on that every chance he gets. SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: I mean they would love to see the state of

Texas have an anti-gun, big government, pro-amnesty, liberal Democrat represent it. Now, I don't think those are the values of Texans.

LAVANDERA: Republicans who have seen him campaign in the reddest parts of the state, like Tim O'Hare, a Republican Party chairman in Tarrant County, aren't nervous.

TIM O'HARE, TARRANT COUNTY REPUBLICAN PARTY: And I know Democrats like to think they've got a chance and they do this every -- every two years.

Beto's going to lose. And it's just -- it's the same song, different dance.

LAVANDERA: Beto O'Rourke knows making punk rock mainstream in Texas isn't easy, but he'll head out on the road again hoping to make it happen.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LAVANDERA: Now, despite the recent fund-raising push, Ted Cruz does have about a million more dollars of cash on hand than Beto O'Rourke, as they both head into the primary. They're both expected to win here tonight, setting up the general election race back later this year.

We reached out to Senator Ted Cruz, tried to interview him for this story, but his spokesperson said they weren't able to schedule an interview with us for this one.

John.

BERMAN: All right, Ed Lavandera in Texas. We've got a lot of money in that race. Keep your eyes on it. Appreciate it, Ed.

[09:55:01] Moments from now, House Speaker Paul Ryan, he will speak to the press. This as he says that he is against the president's plan to issue new tariffs and worries that a trade war might erupt. We will bring you these statements live.

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BERMAN: All right, good morning, everyone. John Berman here.

[09:59:52] The breaking news this morning, an important development on the Korean peninsula. What is seen by some as a breakthrough in negotiations. South Korean officials say that North is willing to halt nuclear tests and missile tests altogether if the United States sits down to talk. The South also announced a summit with the North.