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Trump Orders National Guard Troops to U.S.-Mexico Border; Interview with Rep. Ruben Gallego (D), Arizona; CNN: Mueller's Team Talking To Russian Oligarchs About Election Meddling; Daniels' Ex- Attorney Speaks Out In First T.V. Interview. Aired 9-9:30a ET
Aired April 5, 2018 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[09:00:00] CAMEROTA: Her name is Claire. Her mom and dad are grateful for the officers' help.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't normally, you know, handle these kind of situations, and it feels great to help directly bring a new life into this world.
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CAMEROTA: That is wonderful. OK. Thanks so much. See you tomorrow. Time now for "CNN NEWSROOM" with Erica Hill.
ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. I'm Erica Hill in today for John and Poppy.
It's less than a wall but more than tweets. After days of fuming and venting about undocumented immigrants pouring across the southern U.S. border or threatening to come in that caravan, President Trump now calling on the National Guard, signing on order to send troops to the southern border.
What we don't know, how many troops, for how long, what exactly they'll be doing nor how much this will cost. 2017 saw the fewest arrests of those attempting to cross illegally in years. But there has been a recent surge. And late last night the administration putting out figures to show that spike in March.
CNN's Abby Phillip is at the White House with the latest.
Abby, good morning.
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Erica. The president moving his government to deal with this issue of what you just mentioned, a recent surge in border crossings in the last month or so. But the details are not quite clear yet. In fact, just a couple of moments ago reporters spoke to the Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen who said they don't yet have any details about how soon these troops will be heading to the border and how many will be going.
She did say she's been in contact with the governors of the states along the border, have been talking to them, most are on board but of course there's California who has been at odds with this administration over a number of immigration-related issues. And she said her conversations with Jerry Brown are ongoing. But she did point us to this -- the numbers from past administrations. George W. Bush and President Obama saying that they would be kind of in along those lines. Bush sent about 6,000 National Guard troops and 1200 from President Obama's administration.
Meanwhile, President Trump this morning weighed in, giving Mexico some credit for dealing with the issue of the caravan of illegal immigrants coming from Central America through Mexico to the United States. Here's what he wrote, "The caravan is largely broken up thanks to the strong immigration laws of Mexico and their willingness to use them so as to not cause a giant scene at our border. Because of the Trump administration's actions, border crossings are still at an unacceptable 46-year low. Stop drugs."
But I want to point you to that last part of his tweet. The 46-year low is still true, it is still true that border crossing are at a low of almost five decades. But the administration today still saying that they want to stop what they perceive as a growing problem at the border going into these warmer summer months by bringing these troops there mostly to assist with the border security officials that are already on the border.
They're going to be doing a lot of technical work, just adding a little bit more manpower to the process of interdicting drugs and stopping illegal crossings as they're happening -- Erica.
HILL: Abby Phillip at the White House for us this morning. Abby, thank you.
National Guard troops of course are actually controlled by governors which means that the states of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California understandably have a lot to say about this mission and how it takes shape.
CNN's Ed Lavandera is on the border now in the town of Laredo, Texas.
Ed, good morning.
ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Erica. Well, across the border from Texas to Arizona, those National Guard units waiting for their marching orders to exactly see how this deployment will play out.
Last night as we were making calls around the region trying to get a better understanding of just how quickly these marching orders were coming down, many of the people that we talked to were still trying to gather information to exactly determine what they will be doing, what they will be tasked with.
And what is interesting, Erica, is that many of the people we talked with, and here especially in the border communities, and we were on a flight down to Laredo yesterday with Republican Texas Senator John Cornyn, spoke to him about this move. He says he had spoken with the DHS secretary as well as President Trump yesterday but still got no clarification as to how many troops would be involved, how much this operation will cost and just how long the troops will be here.
If you look behind me, this is the bridge that takes you from Laredo into Mexico. Tens of thousands of people use this bridge. And as Abby mentioned, you know, the illegal border crossings are at an all- time low. If you look at this one graphic, this dates back to the year 2000. You can see just how much those numbers have decreased in the last 18 years.
And if you look specifically at the month of March which the Trump administration has been pointing to as the reason for wanting to get these National Guard units out on to the border, you can see the uptick there. We've seen this over time that there have been upticks certain months. Sometimes it's very difficult to explain as to why exactly things happen at this particular time.
[09:05:05] There's a lot of disinformation that smugglers use to get people to cross the border. So that is something that over time, over the last 10, 15 years, we have seen. But, you know, many people here along the border always very concerned about what these deployments of troops mean and what it will mean for their communities here. So it's something that they're watching very closely -- Erica.
HILL: Still a lot of questions. Ed Lavandera, appreciate it. Thank you.
Joining me now Democratic Congressman Ruben Gallego of Arizona, who sits on the Armed Services Committee and has served in the United States Marine Corps in Iraq.
Sir, good to have you with us. You have been critical. One of the many --
REP. RUBEN GALLEGO (D), ARIZONA: Good morning.
HILL: Good morning. One of the many questions I know you have is about the cost here, the cost that would be incurred. And that was actually brought up. Your concerns specifically brought up yesterday with the White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders. Take a listen to her response.
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SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I don't think you can put a cost on American life. The president sees securing the border as a national security issue and protecting Americans. If that congressman is so concerned, maybe he ought to show up and actually support legislation that would fix these problems instead of blaming the president who is actually trying to do something about it.
We'd like to see him work with us in partnership and actually do something instead of just complain about it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HILL: What's your response?
GALLEGO: Well, I'll gladly work with the president when his ideas aren't stupid and detrimental to the United States. Unfortunately this is what this plan is. It was not planned out. It's using our National Guard troops who are greatly trained. You know, you're going to pull them out of their private lives to essentially go and try to solve a political problem.
This is a failing presidency. Their ideas are failing. So now they're just throwing essentially red meat at the base by, you know, essentially sending troops to the border. Ironically, by the way, if the president had actually worked with Congress and actually had struck a deal with us when it came to the Dream Act and to other immigration issues, there would have been more assets at the border than he's going to end up doing with these National Guards troops.
But this is what happens when you have failing presidency, a bad administration, in general just a president that does not know how to lead this country.
HILL: We should point out the president, though, setting the wheels in motion. As we know that your governor is on board and your GOP colleague, Martha McSally, says now it's up to Democrats. Here's what she had to say at a campaign stop yesterday. "It depends on how long it takes to get the Democratic leadership to come to the table and be willing to provide the resources and everything we need to secure the table," going on to say, "Perhaps this will bring them back to the table."
GALLEGO: This is again --
HILL: Do you believe it's in your hands now?
GALLEGO: I wish it were in my hands but the Republicans are in charge of the House, the Senate and the presidency. The reason they're having problems in terms of governance is because they don't know how to govern. For them to kind of deflect on to Democrats what's going on here really shows you, you know, the lack of leadership you have coming from the Republican Party.
Look, answer simple questions. How long is this going to take? Where are the funds going to come from? Is it going to come from the Department of Homeland Security? Is it going to come from the Department of Defense? Who's going to pay for this? Is it going to be the states? Is it going to be the federal government?
These National Guardsmen aren't going to have arresting power. They're not even be able to hold weapons. But we're going to put them on -- in the desert and basically make them stand around just for, you know, political show so these politicians can say they're doing something.
This is utterly ridiculous because some of these areas haven't even had a homicide in years. There are counties in Arizona, for example, some of them that actually were in McSally's area that have not seen one homicide in almost five years. But yet we're going to send these National Guard troops down there and waste human time, resources and money basically because Donald Trump wants to boost his numbers. And of course then you also have Republican members of Congress and governors that are afraid to actually stand up to Donald Trump and actually try to speak sanity to that man.
HILL: What we know that your governor has said he's voicing his support for. One thing I found interesting, though, in a statement from his spokesperson what that it sort of downplayed the impact here on potential illegal immigration and was talking more about stopping drug cartels. Is that more of a concern you believe in the state of Arizona?
GALLEGO: Well, I think -- you know, we are always having problems, no matter what part of this country we have with drugs and the extent to what drug cartels can do. You know, if the governor is so concerned about that, he should really look at his state budget and actually implement, you know, some changes and actually investments that would actually stop that.
You know, the drug cartel -- I'm sorry, the drug cartels here in Arizona are not necessarily going to be stopped by, again, these National Guardsmen who are going to be unarmed, largely at this point, we don't know what exactly they'll be doing and we don't know to what extent and how long they'll be in Arizona or other parts of this country.
So these are all great ideas if they were actually planned out. But again, this president doesn't plan out anything, doesn't coordinate, and essentially is using again our troops as a political ploy so he can, you know, again boost his numbers with his base voters.
[09:10:04] HILL: Representative Ruben Gallego, appreciate you joining us this morning. Thank you.
This just coming in to CNN, a top aide to EPA chief Scott Pruitt resigning. Samantha Dravis is the associate administrator at the EPA's Office of Policy, considered to be one of the aides closest to Pruitt and has been responsible in the last year for carrying out much of the deregulation policy that has been so controversial. The resignation comes of course as Pruitt is facing growing scrutiny and ethical questions for some of his decisions.
A CNN exclusive. Investigators for Special Counsel Mueller questioning Russian oligarchs. Did they illegally funnel cash donations to the Trump presidential campaign? Plus, President Trump gets testy. New details about the tense meeting with his National Security team on Syria.
[09:15:00] HILL: This morning we are learning Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team is aggressively questioning Russian oligarchs, stopping and interrogating two of them at U.S. airports. Mueller's team looking at whether wealthy Russians were illegally funneling money into Trump campaign coffers.
Kara Scannell is following Mueller's aggressive new strategy. Kara, what do we know here?
KARA SCANNELL, CNN REPORTER: Well, Erica, what we've learned is that Mueller's team is now looking and targeting oligarchs which we had not ever heard of before. So, we understand that he had stopped two oligarchs as they entered the U.S. on their private planes and searched the electronic devices of one of them.
We also understand his team has asked another Russian who is outside of the U.S. if he would comply with a voluntary request for documents and sit for an interview with Mueller's team.
This all relates to issue of campaign finance and if Russian money flowed into the U.S. It's illegal for Russians to contribute into U.S. politics, as it would be for any foreigner, and the issues that we understand Mueller's team are focusing on or whether money was hidden through straw donors, American citizens who can legally contribute or through Russian investments into corporations or think tanks and whether those organizations funneled money into the campaign.
Now, we are seeing these aggressive tactics. We know that diplomatic relations between Russia and the U.S. are strained. It's not likely that Russians would comply with a treaty request, which is in a way forcing Mueller's team to try to approach these oligarchs off guard when they come into the country.
And this is also a strategy by prosecutors, they're able to try to get honest answers as well as search devices before they can be cleaned of evidence.
HILL: We're also learning at the same time the Trump administration announcing targeted sanctions against oligarchs who are close to Putin. What more do we know about those?
SCANNELL: Sources tell my colleagues, Elise Labott and Jeff Zeleny, that we could see new sanctions against several Russian oligarchs close to Putin as soon as this week so within the next day or two. This is the latest tit for tat between the two nations following the poisoning of the former Russian spy in the U.K.
Both the U.S. and Russia are expelling each other's citizens. It also follows the outgoing national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, who in his final remarks, said he did not believe -- he said he believed that U.S. failed to impose sufficient costs on Russia.
Now, the Trump administration has been criticized for not being aggressive enough on Russia. So, we'll wait and see exactly which oligarchs are targeted in these latest sanctions.
KEILAR: Kara, appreciate it. Thank you.
Joining us now to discuss, CNN contributor, Bianna Golodryga, CNN political analyst, Patrick Healy, and CNN senior political analyst, David Gergen. As we look at all this, we all know by now, Robert Mueller does not do anything without thinking about it first.
He is methodical and very specific. So, there's a reason obviously that he is targeting these oligarchs, speaking to them about specific issues. How connected are they to Putin, and how concerned, Bianna, should the White House be?
BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, as one legal expert noted to me yesterday, oligarchs should think twice about coming to the U.S. now following the developments that we just heard about. Look, the oligarchs are clearly tied to the Kremlin. That's why they're called oligarchs.
They do the Kremlin's bidding. That's the sort of arrangement that they have with Vladimir Putin. You do my dirty work and you get to live in a lavish lifestyle and spend money abroad and invest in U.S. companies and travel abroad and travel freely.
Clearly now, this is the next step that goes a bit closer to Vladimir Putin, makes him a bit more uncomfortable. Remember, we saw the first 13 indictments against those Russians in the troll farm.
Now, of course, they were hired by one of Vladimir Putin's inner circle oligarchs as well, his so-called chef. But that kept a bit of a distance from the Russian government, from the Kremlin.
This seems to implicate closer ties to the Kremlin directly. You wonder now what U.S. officials, what U.S. allies close to Trump or U.S. citizens knew implicitly if they were, in fact, straw donors.
Remember the first indictment suggested that there were no willing complicit Americans along with those indictments. We'll see now if that changes.
HILL: Such a good point as you bring that up. I do want to shift gears here and talk about the border. We have a lot to cover this morning. Secretary Nielsen yesterday was asked specifically why, why today. There wasn't a specific answer.
It would seem that increasingly this is an administration that is in many ways playing catch-up to the president who throws out ideas, throws out a tweet sometimes, agitated tweets, sometimes factually challenged tweets.
David, how difficult is it to govern this way, where you're constantly playing catchup and having to come out seeming as if you have a policy that's been in the works for some time and yet, it would appear there's a lot of scrambling behind the scenes?
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I agree. It's government by impulse rather than government by deliberation. That does cause -- it causes waves of anxiety and scrambling among people around him.
I think the president would help himself a great deal if he laid out the basis for why these troops are need, exactly what they're going to do. How long they'll be there. They need to come up with a plan. [09:20:01] Always when you resort to using military, it's really important to know what's the goal here, how soon are we going to get out, how soon will this stop? It's easy to get in than to get out. They haven't done that. It's really important.
I do think Erica, it's important to understand, what's the reason for doing this now? They keep saying, well, Bush sent in the National Guard. When Bush sent in the National Guard during his presidency to the border it was because the governors of Texas and Arizona and New Mexico and California asked that he send the Guard.
They wanted it. In this case the governors are saying, what? What are we doing here? Governor Brown of California may well oppose it.
HILL: Governor Brown saying I can't give you an answer at this point, I don't have all the information. As we look at this, Patrick, there's always risks, falling into the political prism because this is all happening in the ramp-up to the November midterm elections. Is that a fair criticism at this point?
PATRICK HEALY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: That's exactly right, Erica. I think what a lot of Democrats and frankly some Republicans are wondering is whether President Trump is starting to use immigration, using the border, using what's going on in Mexico as a rallying cry for his base.
"Fox & Friends" and Fox News is certainly talking a lot about this. It seems now in the policy making business for President Trump, they're giving him a lot of his ideas that he is then tweeting about and they have been covering this extremely heavily.
I think what Democrats are saying is where is the crisis exactly. President Trump put out a tweet this morning that sort of suggests that the hundreds of people who have been moving to the border now may be scattering somewhat or slowed down.
He's sort of suggesting again this sort of approach from him, this sort of strong man for the military approach with regard to undocumented people possibly coming over the border is something he is going to stop with the full might of the military.
What he's really talking about is the National Guard. I think Democrats and some Republicans -- you saw it last night with CNN's interview with John Cornyn, the senator from Texas. They're still wondering what exactly are you talking about? What are the details here? Why are we doing this? Who is asking for it? The midterms hover over all of this, a desire to have a rallying cry for the base.
HILL: We should point out in terms of that caravan, our own Leyla Santiago who made her way down to the caravan and has been speaking with people, they told her clearly as she reported this morning, this has not impacted them. Not every single one of those people is making a beeline for the border.
So, again, want to bring the facts into that there as we clear it up for folks watching at home. When we shift here and I want to talk about Scott Pruitt who sat down with Fox News and got a little defensive at one point. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Trump said he would drain the swamp. Is draining the swamp renting an apartment from the wife of a Washington lobbyist?
SCOTT PRUITT, EPA ADMINISTRATOR: I don't think that's even remotely fair to ask that question.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HILL: He doesn't think it's remotely fair to ask the question. The White House, though, clearly does have some questions of its own and may think it's a fair question. We know they're looking into a number of issues, David, involving Scott Pruitt. I mean, how much longer does he last at this point?
GERGEN: It will be shorter than he wants. As the associate resigned today and things are closing in. The Republican Party is increasingly uncomfortable with where all this stands. What we know is the president will support you, but if you start getting bad headlines and the story doesn't go away, he pulls his support. That's basically what we're starting to see now.
HILL: I do want to get your take on this, CNN exclusive interview with Keith Davidson, the former attorney for both Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal offering up new details in how these financial deals came to be just ahead of the election. Take a listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KEITH DAVIDSON, FORMER ATTORNEY FOR DANIELS AND MCDOUGAL: The last conversation I had with Michael Cohen, he called to offer his opinion as to whether or not Ms. Daniels and Ms. McDougal had breached attorney-client privilege and thereby waived it. It was his assertion that each of them had. He was encouraging me and informing me as to his opinion that they had, in fact, waived the attorney-client privilege. He suggested it would be appropriate for me to go out into the media and spill my guts.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you here at the behest of Michael Cohen?
DAVIDSON: No, no, no. Not in any way, shape or form.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HILL: The steady drip continues. It's not going away. Bianna, though, is it having an impact at this point?
[09:25:08] GOLODRYGA: You know, I saw that interview last night and I was wondering the same thing. Is he doing this now to clear his own name and his own reputation that had been sullied? Also raises the question as Michael Avenatti had, what about the attorney-client privilege he had with his two previous clients. Has he breached that? As far as taking this to another level or you know, irking the White House, I'm not seeing that right now. I think this is more of one man wanting to clear his name.
HILL: Bianna Golodryga, David and Patrick, appreciate you all joining us, thank you.
Still to come this hour, the president irritated after a tense meeting with top advisers on Syria. We have those details for you just ahead.
Plus, we are keeping a close watch on Wall Street. After a wild few days, CNN's Alison Kosik is on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Alison?
ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Erica, volatility on Wall Street really becoming the norm. What a wild ride it was yesterday, the Dow actually swung 700 points throughout the trading day on fears of an all-out trade war with China. Now those fears have subsided, are stocks in the clear? I'll let you know after the break.