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Democrats Smile as Trump Goes Off Script on Guns; Trump Stuns Republican Lawmakers on Guns; Sen. Sasse "Not Ditching Any Constitutional Protections"; Trump Holds White House Meeting on Trade Rules; Trump Talks Tariff on Steel, Aluminum Imports; Trump: U.S. Will Impose Steel & Aluminum Tariffs Next Week; Americans Polled: Is Trump Racist?; AP-NORC Poll: Majority Americans Think Trump Is a Racist. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired March 1, 2018 - 12:30   ET


JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: -- just political theater or is the President laying down some serious markers on policy? The Democrats in the room were smiling, even winking. The Republicans were golfing and hoping the President was just playing to the cameras and really didn't mean things like this.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: It doesn't make sense that I have to wait until 21 to get a handgun but I can get this weapon at 18, I don't know.

Some of you people are petrified of the NRA, you can't be petrified. Take the firearms first and then go to court. I like taking the guns early, like in this crazy man's case that just took place in Florida. He had a lot of firearms, they saw everything. To go to court would've taken a long time, so you could do exactly what you're saying, but take the guns first, go through due process second.


KING: Take the guns first, go through due process second. Raise the age. Two things that the NRA doesn't want and most Republicans saying Congress vote for unless they're forced to by their President. Do they think he means that? Or did they think that was just the cameras are here and this is what I'm going to say today and it doesn't matter if I mean it tomorrow?

JAKIE KUCINICH, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, THE DAILY BEAST: It's usually it's a common talking point when you talk about gun control on the right when they talk about confiscation of guns. It just usually doesn't apply to their President. I think what Trump has done in this case though, you know, how he put himself in the center of the dock at the bay and Republicans were looking for -- to him for what to do. I think that's what's happening now, he's put himself in the center of this and they don't know how to act. He told Steve Scalise he's not going to concealed carry reciprocity bill. They're looking to him to see what actually he means, because I don't know many people who thought that he meant everything that he said in that meeting. KING: You make a key point, because for eight years some guns rights groups would send e-mails saying the next knock on the door is going to be Obama and Hillary or Obama or Hillary coming to take your guns. Don't answer the door they're coming to seize the guns and there's a Republican President who says he's a friend of the NRA sitting at the White House saying seize the guns first, then worry about due process.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And the amazing part about that law is Vice President Mike Pence is explaining to him a gun violence restraining order which is a very buzzy (ph) idea that's getting a lot of kind of potential talks and then Marco Rubio says he's going to push for something on this. And he interrupts his Vice President, who has a very strong Second Amendment record, and talks about taking the guns first. And it's one of those things where you like you don't feel like you have the capacity to be surprised very much, particularly if you covered his campaign and you've been in Washington for the last 14 months. And that was kind of a who boy kind of moment, but to your initial question. What does this mean for Republicans on Capitol Hill?

Not much at all. Because where they stand on this issue is not up for much variation. I think Carl has made some good points about where Democrats are and I let him take that. But I think all you need to know about where House Republicans are? Speaker Paul Ryan laid out on his press conference earlier this week making very clear gun restrictions, gun control that legislation is not going to be on the floor. All we need to know where Senate Republicans are? Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, give the open air this morning in the U.S. Senate. The first time he's spoken publicly since this meeting, he said absolutely nothing about the meeting or guns or school violence. He doesn't say things or not say things loosely.

KING: The usually a McConnell's silence is more -- what he doesn't talk about is more interesting than what he does talk about.

CARL HULSE, CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Democrats have been told that the Senate next week is going to the Dodd-Frank rollback, so not guns. And, you know, when we talk about the confiscation of the gun which was always going to be Hillary Clinton or President Obama not as Jackie said a Republican President. Democrats wouldn't vote for what he know


HULSE: Here's what I think the effect of this was, though, that the Republicans John Cornyn -- and they were hoping for a quick exit on this. They have this limited background check bill with Chris Murphy. They would have liked to got that out on the floor, maybe pass that, knock away a few amendments and say we did something. Now they can't do that, because the President has told them wait we have to have this big comprehensive thing. They wanted to do something before they left town, and now they're going to have a hard time doing it.

KING: And to the point about -- we laugh about these things, but its actually not laughable when you see Republican senators saying things that are so damning about the Republican President, is actually saying he doesn't understand policy, he's not -- he didn't study before the meeting whatever.

This is Ben Sasse, Conservative Senator for Nebraska, yes a frequent Trump critic, so if you're a Trump supporter, you can roll your eyes, but he said, "We're not ditching any constitutional protection simply because the last person the President talked to today doesn't like them". Essentially saying, the president doesn't have positions based on principle, it's based on the last person who wants to talk to him. To that end someone else who tried to raise voice today, Marco Rubio, Senator from Florida of course his state is where Parkland was. Senator Rubio was part of the CNN Town Hall where he laid out some views including some new views on gun control. Here's the Senator on the floor short time ago.


SEN. MARCO RUBIO, (R) FLORIDA: Now there are some additional reforms that I'm open to. The possibility of looking at age limits on some automatic rifles, the notion of looking at what could be done with high capacity magazines. We'll continue to explore and look at those. These reforms do not enjoy the sort of white spread supporting Congress that the other measures I've announce do. And in order to successfully pass, these ideas will have to be crafted in a way that actually contribute to greater public safety, but also do not unnecessarily or unfairly infringe on the Second Amendment right of all law-abiding adults.


[12:35:14] KING: Number one, he's making the point Carl made in the sense that we have the Cornyn bill before us maybe bump stocks, we do one or two clean things and get it over with and then maybe we'll keep talking and keep talking and keep talking about other stuff. Number two though, Senator Rubio right there says there are some additional reforms that I'm open to the possibility of looking into age limits for semi automatic rifles.

At the CNN Town Hall, Marco Rubio said this "I absolutely believe that in this country if you're 18 years of age, you should not be able to buy a rifle and I will support a law that takes that right away". Is he backtracking?

KUCINICH: It's overview. I mean we've seen this before with him at immigration. This isn't uncommon for Senator Rubio to get ahead of his skis, see some polling -- because I believe in Florida the Republicans weren't exactly happy. I know the gun community wasn't happy with what he said, particularly the NRA and some of those to the right of the NRA. It does feel like he's backtracking and maybe not realizing how much pushback there would be to this.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: The key thing here, going a little bit back to President Trump is that people on the Hill know this. It's important to pay attention to what Trump does, not necessarily what he says. And often in the context of these meetings, he might say all kinds of things. But the question is, what does he direct his staff to implement, to push forward? Why does he put his shoulder into? And I think there's no evidence yet that he's putting his shoulder into any of this, really. And frankly, this morning, he tweeted and kind of backtracked a little bit. He acknowledged the fire that he's been taking from the NRA. It raises real questions about whether he's willing to follow through. I'm just not sure we've seen any evidence of that yet.

HULSE: I think you're going to see Republicans start to like to -- Senator Rubio there start to talk about things like School improvements, like physical changes at schools to make them safer. They're going to talk more about the FBI. Senator Grassley has called a hearing for March 12 and the judiciary committee Senator Hatch has got his proposal. They want to stay away from the gun elements, and just because they know and you seen new polls, I saw a poll from Florida today. Now overwhelming support down there for an assault weapons ban now. I think Republicans see where this is moving and they want to kind of keep it on their side and it's going to be hard to do. And we have a big march coming up I think quite at the end of this month.

KING: But just like the DACA Dreamer Immigration debate, the Republicans want to keep it to the things they want to do and the things they can pass is hard to do when the President is constantly moving. I want to hold this conversation just a second. I want to take in just a second and go to the White House. Now, President Trump at the press pull into a meeting told this is a discus trade proposal from the President. We thought there might be a big announcement today. Let's listen.


TRUMP: The biggest steel companies in the United States. They used to be a lot bigger, but they're going to be a lot bigger again. And we have the big aluminum companies in the United States and they've been very unfairly treated by bad policy, by bad trade deals, by other countries, they've been horribly treated by other countries and they have not been properly represented, more importantly because of that, workers in our country have not been properly represented.

So we're going to build our steel industry back, and we're going to build our aluminum industry back, and I just want you to hear from a couple of the folks in the room. We'll have a few speak, but I might want to start with Dave Barrett from U.S. Steel was a massive company years ago and got smaller and smaller and smaller, and Dave was with Caterpillar for 33 years, and did a great job. They brought him in. He's been there for a short while and he wants to build it back up. Dave, maybe you could say a little bit to the room and to the press about U.S. Steel and where they were, where they're going and what you think of what we're going to do.

DAVE BARRETT, CEO, U.S. STEEL: Well, thank you, Mr. President.

TRUMP: Thank you.

BARRETT: And thank you very much for your leadership on this issue and also Commerce Secretary, thank you, sir, very much. This is vital to the interest of the United States. This is our moment, and it's really important that we get this right. The alternatives that commerce secretary presented were all good alternatives and we trust your judgment in terms of the ones to be selected. We believe that the leadership that this administration has shown on tax reform is simply outstanding. The elimination of bureaucracy is simply outstanding. We trust your judgment on this issue and having then somebody that has global views and believes in free trade. We know when it's completely unfair, we are not projectionist. We want a level playing field. It's for our employees to support our customers. And when we get this right, it will be great for the United States of America. We have to get this done.

[12:40:05] TRUMP: And for your company and for your workers and for so much else even the security of our own nation.

BARRETT: Absolutely.

TRUMP: You like the tariffs that we're talking about, you like the tariffs where they won't be dumping on our country. What they do is they dump massive amounts of product in our country, and it just kills, it destroys our companies and our jobs, and it's been happening for so many years. And we are not the beneficiary. You feel tariffs are the answer?

BARRETT: Yes, sir. The transshipments that go on, which you're well aware of and we call it the whack-a-mole game. It's time for whack-a- mole to end. It's time for some fairness here, its pass time. Thank you.

TRUMP: People have no idea how badly our country has been treated by other countries, by people representing us that didn't have a clue. Or if they did, then they should be ashamed of themselves, because they've destroyed the steel industry, they destroyed the aluminum industry and other industries frankly. When you look at all the plans, the car plans, automobile plans they moved down to Mexico for no reason or whatsoever except we didn't know what we were doing. So we're bringing it all back. John can I ask you to say a few words?

JOHN FERRIOLA, CEO, NUCOR: Absolutely, we believe very strongly. First of all thank you for --

TRUMP: Thank you.

FERRIOLA: -- the work that you've done as secretary and we appreciate all of the work that has been done on this issue. We believe very strongly that it's time with decisive and meaningful action to stem (ph) the flood of the illegally traded inputs -- imports into this country and we are counting on the administration to fulfill the promises that were made and to give us that level playing field to compete.

We are confident, we have 25 thousand team mates that always say were confident that they are giving a level playing field they will -- I'll complete any company in any country in the world. All we want is a level playing field. And today we're not getting that. The cheating is phenomenal. The amount of circumvention that takes place is incredible. Just look at last year and last year Mr. President, the imports increased 50 percent in 2017 over 2016. Once we initiated the beginning of the 232, other countries saw this as a need to get in before went into effect. So what we're asking for today is fast action and action that will last.

TRUMP: Well, you know, I tell the story that a couple months ago we put tariffs on washing machines coming into the country because they were dumping the machines all over the place, and we had lost our manufacturing abilities for washing machines. Now we have plans being built, put a 30 percent tariff on. And we have plans being built and nobody seen that in many, many years and it's happening at a rapid phase. The same thing with the solar panels, we have 32 companies of which 30 of them were out of business. They were closed. And the two were on mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, they were finished.

They would close pretty quickly. And now the two are doing much better and they're talking about opening seven or eight of the old plans that were closed. And they weren't even so old solar panels. So a lot of good things could happen the fact is we weren't treated and we haven't been treated fairly by other countries, but I don't blame the other countries. When I was in China I said listen, President Xi, I have a lot of respect for President Xi I said, I don't blame you if you're able to get away with making almost $500 billion a year off of our country, how can I blame you somebody agreed to these deals?

And those people should be ashamed of themselves, what they've let happen. So we're bringing it back and we're going to bringing it back relatively rapidly, and we're going to be instituting tariffs. Next week we'll be signing. Perhaps some of you folks will be here when you have Nucor, when you have U.S. Steel you have the great aluminum companies represented at this table. They've been decimated aluminum has been decimated in this country. Perhaps you would say something as a great aluminum company and that's been in business for a long time. How about a few words Aluminum?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, Mr. President, thank you, Secretary Ross, and the other members here, Senator Mnuchin. We're in a situation where competing unfairly has meant that there has been capital depletion in our business, a lack of investments. And that lack of investment is reflected in a loss of jobs in America, and it's all been a matter of unfair competition. And we need a level playing field or we're going to lose our manufacturing infrastructure and the National Security issues that surround having a vibrant, capable manufacturing sector.

[12:44:56] TRUMP: We'll take care of the situation. OK? So steel and Aluminum will see a lot of good things happen. We're going to have new jobs popping up, we'll have much more vibrant companies and then the rest will be up to management to make them truly great. If you could ever make U.S. Steel like it used to be, we would be very happy. And I actually think it's possible. But we have a long way to go. I remember when I was growing up, U.S. Steel that was the ultimate company, and today you have so many closed plans.

And the NAFTA deal was a disaster for our country. The WTO has been a disaster for this country, for our country. In fact the rise of China economically was if you look at it directly equal to the date of the opening of the world trade organization. It has been great for China and terrible for the United States and great for other countries, but terrible for the United States. So we're talking about it and two of the groups that I want to do some very fast action will probably have everything completed by next week. We'll be imposing tariffs on Steel imports and tariffs on Aluminum imports, and you're going to see a lot of good things happen. You're going to see expansions of the companies. I know that David, you said you'd be expanding.

Tim, I know you said you were expanding you're all -- pretty much all of you will immediately be expanding if we give you that level playing field, if we give you that help.

And you can hire more workers and your workers are going to be very unhappy. They're going to be very, very happy. And again what's been allowed to go on for decades is disgraceful. It's disgraceful. And when it comes to a time when our country can't make aluminum and steel and somebody said it before and I will tell you, you almost don't have much of a country because without steel and aluminum, your country is not the same, and we need it. We need it even for defense if you think I mean we need it for defense, we need great steel makers, great aluminum makers for defense.

So we'll probably see you sometime next week. We'll be signing it in and you'll have protection for the first time in a long while. And you got to regrow your industries. That's all I'm asking. You have to regrow you industries. Mr. Secretary, thank you very much for being here. We appreciate it. Mr. Secretary, thank you very much. And we'll see you next week. Thank you everybody. Thank you very much.


TRUMP: Unlimited period.


TRUMP: It'll be 25 percent for steel. It'll be 10 percent for aluminum. It will be for a long period of time.


TRUMP: Thank you very much. Thank you very much.



KING: You see President Trump there at the White House meeting with leaders of the steel and aluminum industry in the United States, a hastily arranged meeting, a very important announcement from the President. President saying he is prepared he said he'll have this ready for action next week to impose a 25 percent tariff on imported steel and a 10 percent tariff on imported aluminum. The President -- the American first President using the word protection. Saying American companies need protection. So clearly a protection is moved from the administration, if we go around the table, two big questions. Number one, the substantive policy impact, the president is provoking a trade war. He is provoking a trade war here and that could be a big deal. And number two, the process, this came about in a rush and the President says it won't be ready until next impart because he surprised his own team by saying I want to do this now even though you're not quite ready for me to do it now.

HULSE: There a lot of preparation in Washington about this and the effects it could have on the economy. Republicans are nervous and trade wars are unpredictable. These countries will fight back and it could cost us economically.


KING: We're talking about fighting back. We're talk about fighting back we're talking about our neighbors they make steel in Canada, we're talking about China, we're talking about big players in the world economy. And the President, he promised to start the campaign so we should not be surprised by this. It's taken a while for some of these things to get to the finish line. A lot of people even inside his own White House trying to get in the back off and dial these things back, re negotiate don't retaliate. Do you think follow through with this 25 percent tariff on steel, 10 percent tariff on aluminum? They'll be pay back, the other countries is more challenged to do their own steps.

KICUNICH: I mean he is going to bring Democrats or Republicans together again but it will be against this policy. I have a feeling, it is the Hill and you can speak to this more than I can, it's not going to be pleased.

MATTINGLY: Well, specifically on the center of Republicans I've heard from a number throughout the course of the morning who were incensed by this idea, the reporting of it and frankly how it came to be, you had this policy process, our Jeremy Diamond has done some great reporting, I've gotten something from the Hill side in the sense of. This was essentially the President with Wilbur Ross and Peter Navarro, a trade advisor and the commerce secretary basically coming in short circuiting the inter agency process, pushing out the NEC Director Gary Cohn who have very much been trying to slow this up for a long time and doing this all on their own, and then frantically telling aides that this had to be done within a 24 hour period.

He wanted to make the announcement today, they spent the entire morning saying now the announcement is not actually coming, this hastily arranged meeting no big news is going to happen he's just going to give an update on things and then the announcement comes anyway.

[12:50:15] And I can tell you again from the Hill perspective, Senate Republicans who've been very concerned about the tariff issue months leading into this frankly, were concerned about this during the election. Right now, are very, very, unhappy. They don't have any power over this, which is the difference from immigration or guns or anything else like that. But they are very, very unhappy.

KING: The economic questions were huge. Political impact is the President in the midterm election year is essentially siding with Bernie Sanders, isn't he?

PHILLIP: Yes, but he also made this promise to his base, so that's the way he sees it.


PHILLIP: And he is coming out and doing this before his aides can really stop him. He has made the determination that this is something that he wants to do. He has not been able to do come off of this despite lots of lobbying within the White House and outside of the White House.

It was only a matter of time. I think some people realize it's only a matter of time before Trump gets what he wants on this one.

KING: It's interesting to watch again both the policy ramifications, political ramifications. Big announced by the President. Watch the follow-up.

Up next here, a new poll asked Americans, CNN asked Americans this question, do you think your President is a racist?


KING: Welcome back. Here's a question asked in a poll, and I guess for good reason. Do Americans think President Trump is a racist? The Associated Press and the University of Chicago took the poll and asked that question, 57 percent of all American said yes. That's all Americans. Nearly six in 10 Americans think the President is a racist.

Look what happens when you break that down by race. 47 percent of whites, nearly half of whites, think the President is a racist. 84 percent of African-Americans think the president is a racist. Three quarter of Hispanics believe the President is a racist.

And it's just a stunning, it is a -- every day we talk about things we never thought we would ever talk about. But if you are -- I would hope if you're the President of the United States and you see those numbers, you would spend a little quiet time, put the phone down and not tweet and think about why is it that nearly six in 10 citizens of my country think I'm a racist?

HULSE: You know, I see two things happening in the electoral climate, gender gap, and Democrats are also heartened by this idea that when -- in their polling, one of the main problems that people are raising about President Trump and the Republican Party is intolerance. There is a sense in the country of the party and the President being intolerant.

KING: That's right.

HULSE: It's been clearly reflected in the polls and it's going to play a big role in this midterm election.

KING: Even 21 percent of Republicans, 21 percent of Republicans say the President is a racist. And to your point, think about that. African-Americans, Latino-Americans don't like this President. Then look at the poll we released earlier this week, President's approval rating among women. Only 32 percent of women approves 63 percent disapproved. Younger voters, 18 to 34, only 26 percent approved of the President's performance, 67 percent disapproved.

[12:50:02] Let's just do the math. The demographic math for this President, but also the Republican Party long-term that is so --


KING: -- that is so devastating.

KUCINICH: It is. And I'm sure Republican leaders are looking at polls like this and really sweating the midterm elections, frankly because right now the Democrats are energized, they really want to vote. And then you're looking at the President and you will see how much the President is out on the campaign trail. That will also be a reflection going into August, those later months. See, who wants to stand next to this person who the majority of the country doesn't agree with?

PHILLIP: I mean, the cautionary tale here is that the last campaign was fought on this battleground. It was fought on the question of temperament and intolerance. It didn't quite get them there. So the question is, is this enough for Democrats to really overcome Trump's personality, the force of it?

KING: That's why I said at the beginning I would think the -- you would think the President would take some quiet time and think about this. But you're right, because what he would say normally when this question come up is, as we heard before, I'm President, you're not. He is the one.

Thanks for joining us CNN's INSIDE POLITICS today. We'll see you back here this time tomorrow. "WOLF" starts after a quick break. Have a good day.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Hello. I'm Wolf Blitzer. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks very much for joining us. We --