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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Trump Attacks Amazon, Stocks Dive; New Info in Russia Probe; WSJ: Special Counsel Mueller's Team Looking Into Trump Adviser's Claim He Met With WikiLeaks Founder; Trump's Syria Shift: U.S. Soldier Killed was on ISIS "Kill or Capture" Mission. Aired 4-4:30p ET
Aired April 2, 2018 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ALISON KOSIK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So, there's so much uncertainty about whether this dispute will wind up escalating into an all-out trade war with China, whether this could cause global trade to slow down, which could wind up hurting the U.S. economy.
And then came the latest tweet attacking Amazon from the president, and President Trump attacking the single company is making a lot of investors nervous that Trump will take some sort of action against the company.
You look at Amazon's plunge,it's affecting the overall market sentiment, because the company has really been a major driver for the stock market's rally over the past year. As we see the dust settles, as the closing bell rings, the Dow and the S&P 500 are in a correction, meaning 10 percent fall from a recent high -- Jake.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Alison Kosik, thank you so much.
The Dow was down as much as 700. It is ending the day down about 460.
Now to the politics lead.
President Trump back in Washington continuing the tweetstorm he began over Easter weekend, however, lashing out on everything from Amazon.com to his own Department of Justice, which the president called an embarrassment, to Mexico, to immigration and more.
Full of rage and grievance. Not always hewing to acts. The current cycle began Saturday at Mar-a-Lago, where the president was hosting luminaries, such as FOX News host Sean Hannity and boxing promoter Don King.
The Trump administration is entering a new phase this week. It does not have for the first time in years White House Communications Director and Trump confidant Hope Hicks. Press Secretary Sarah Sanders today is confirming someone else who might get a sit-down with the president, saying President Trump discussed with Russian President Vladimir Putin the prospect of a sit-down with the Russian leader, possibly even at the White House.
Let's go there to the White House right now with CNN's Boris Sanchez. Boris, you have some reporting suggesting the conversations the
president had over the weekend at Mar-a-Lago, they may have sparked some of the tweets we saw from the president, especially having to do with DACA and undocumented immigrants.
BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Jake.
CNN has learned that the president met with some of his supporters and outside advisers, you could call them, at Mar-a-Lago this weekend, consulting with them. A message that a source indicates that was at least passed along to the president is that success during the midterm elections for Republicans depends on his being able to tout success when it comes to his long-promised border wall with Mexico, something the president has simply been unable to do to fulfill that promise.
SANCHEZ (voice-over): As the president wished the nation a happy Easter and welcomed guests to the White House, Trump also sent a message on immigration, taking aim at Democrats.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Democrats have really let them down. They have really let them down. They had this great opportunity. The Democrats have really let them down. It's a shame. And now people are taking advantage of DACA and that's a shame. It should have never happened.
SANCHEZ: President Trump's comments comes on the heels of a holiday weekend spent unleashing a fury of tweets, using some of his harshest language yet to attack Mexico and his political opponents over immigration policy.
The barrage of tweets began early Sunday morning, shortly after FOX News aired a segment on a group of migrants moving through Central America and into Mexico, some headed for the United States. Trump blasted Mexico for not doing enough to prevent border crossings also threatened to end the North American Free Trade Agreement.
The president blaming Democrats for Congress' failure to pass a bill on immigration, saying that a deal on DACA is dead. Democrats were quick to respond.
REP. JOHN GARAMENDI (D), CALIFORNIA: The reality is, it is a problem that was created by this president. It is a problem that he is using these DACA people as leverage to get his border wall.
SANCHEZ: In his tweets, the president called for Congress to pass stronger immigration law by repeating his demand for the Senate to bypass a likely filibuster with the nuclear option, an idea that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has rejected numerous times.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: It would fundamentally change with the way the Senate has worked for a very long time. We're not going to do that. SANCHEZ: The president's return to a hard-line stance on immigration came during a long weekend at Mar-a-Lago where Trump was joined by immigration hard-liners, including senior policy adviser Stephen Miller and a number of outside advisers and supporters, like cable news hosts Jeanine Pirro and Sean Hannity, along with former FOX News executive Bill Shine and controversial boxing promoter Don King.
Absent from Mar-a-Lago, Trump's chief of staff, John Kelly. Sources familiar with the conversations tell CNN that some allies of the president told him that his base believes he is getting soft on immigration.
SANCHEZ: Now, Jake, as you noted, the White House confirmed earlier today that last month during a call with Russian leader Vladimir Putin, the two discussed a potential bilateral meeting with a possible venue being here at the White House.
We're told that meeting could happen in the not-too-distant future, though no concrete details have been put in place just yet, Jake.
TAPPER: All right, Boris Sanchez, thank you so much.
My political panel is here with me to talk about all this.
Kaitlan Collins, let me start with you. Over the weekend, the president meeting with individuals such as Don King, Judge Jeanine Pirro from FOX News, Sean Hannity from FOX News.
And then he comes forward with all these tweets suggesting he has returned to his very aggressive position, previous position on undocumented immigrants.
This is what you get when you have this unofficial kitchen cabinet, I guess.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Exactly.
You can draw a straight line between those two things. And clearly that's what the president and they were discussing this weekend. Essentially, they were communicating to the president that his base doesn't feel he's been tough enough on immigration and he's really followed through on the promises he made back on the campaign trail.
And that's not surprising. And also you have to pair with Trump is around none of his top White House advisers, except Stephen Miller, who is certainly one of the most hard-line immigration proponents in the White House right now. You have to keep all of that in mind.
And it makes no surprise how the president is tweeting the way he is and the way he is lashing out and venting this frustration. And that comes after you have to keep in mind the president signed the spending bill that he was very frustrated about, that he essentially pitched a fit over because he didn't feel like it included enough money for his border wall and we're just that frustration continue to be vented out on Twitter.
TAPPER: I'm old enough to remember when the rapper and musician Common came to the White House. That was a big scandal because Common had controversial lyrics.
He has a song about a woman accused of killing a New Jersey police officer. President Trump meets with Don King, who has literally killed two people, did time for stomping to death a former assistant who owed him $600. And we don't even blink an eye in this new era.
BILL KRISTOL, EDITOR, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": Yes, Mar-a-Lago generally seems to be -- I have only been there once for 10 minutes.
But it seems to be kind of a remarkable place. Like something out of a bad novel. Various lowlifes and people have made money in dubious ways.
TAPPER: The Star Wars cantina scene.
KRISTOL: Social climbers and grifters. Not to impugn. I'm sure we will get now 300 e-mails from very reputable members of Mar-a-Lago.
But it does seem like quite an amazing place to go on a Saturday night. And Donald Trump enjoys it, I guess, because he's in his element. I do think the fact -- John Kelly, I really wonder about, the chief of staff.
TAPPER: He was not there.
KRISTOL: All he seems to have done the last couple of weeks is call people and tell them they're -- call Cabinet officials, pretty serious people, whatever you think of their job performance, Rex Tillerson, Dr. Shulkin -- and tell them you're going to be fired on Twitter in an hour or two.
I just wonder how much John Kelly can put up with this. And these tweets were not just hard-line immigration tweets, as you know. They were attacking -- doesn't he attack the Justice Department, puts justice in quotation marks?
For not doing something that if he wants to -- I think it's producing for some documents for some congressional request. That's in fact something Trump can order them to do. Trump intervenes in cases where he's not supposed to intervene in the Justice Department. But he has every right to pick up the phone and tell Attorney General Sessions, hey, there is some congressional request here. Why don't you guys get on the stick and fulfill it, if they should fulfill it? I don't know.
COLLINS: But then he would have to talk on Jeff Sessions.
KRISTOL: If you're chief of staff, it getting humiliating. It's always been somewhat humiliating. And he has swallowed hard obviously to do this job, but I think it has gotten more and more humiliating for John Kelly.
TAPPER: One of the other things that is remarkable about this, Nina, is President Trump sends out all these tweets, including talking about getting rid of filibuster, talking about DACA, talking about immigration.
And there's really no response from Congress. They don't even react anymore, Speaker Ryan, Leader McConnell, the Democrats. It is almost like -- this is not a flattering metaphor, but it is almost like a child you're just used to pitching a fit and so you just ignore them.
NINA TURNER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, time out corner.
The president, what he is doing is having temper tantrums, when he really should be leading his country. And to say that he's misleading the public when he says that immigrants are trying flock in here and linking that to DACA, DACA is for childhood arrivals.
TAPPER: Yes, and a specific date. There's no way that people can come in.
TURNER: Not under that.
TAPPER: No, under DACA.
TURNER: And the key word, childhood arrival. He's really making a mockery.
And given that it was Easter weekend, he wouldn't even let people recognize those of us who celebrate that, the resurrection of Jesus Christ. He had to jump in on that. And then we're coming up, Jake, as you know, on the 50-year remembrance of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on Wednesday.
You would think that the president of the United States would have the common decency, one, to let Easter and Passover happen without him jumping in with his drama.
TURNER: And then this week doing something that is noble to recognize the assassination of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King.
TAPPER: You brought up DACA. The president talking about basically DACA is dead. It's not going to happen.
Here is President Trump back in February 2017. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: DACA is a very, very difficult subject for me. I will tell you. To me, it is one the of most difficult subjects I have, because you have these incredible kids. It's a very, very tough subject. We're going to deal with DACA with heart.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Just in January, the president said he wanted an immigration bill with love, and yet completely different sound today.
CNN's Jim Acosta pointed out to the president he's the one who ended it. He ended it.
COLLINS: And he's been all over the place on DACA.
Back during the campaign trail, there was him in speeches saying that DACA was unconstitutional. He was going to get rid of it. Immediately entering office, he did not do that until his hand was forced by the state attorneys general, of course, last fall. And that's why he ended DACA.
And he has been all over the place since, saying he has heart for them, he's going to make sure they're OK. They don't have to worry about deported. And even today, he is saying that DACA is dead, but then he's saying that everyone is jumping on the DACA bandwagon, essentially saying he thinks these people who are crossing the border illegally now could be eligible for DACA, which is obviously not the case.
TAPPER: You had to have been in the U.S. at a specific date in the past.
COLLINS: But going to back Congress, the president is on a completely different page than Capitol Hill.
Getting rid of the filibuster is not something that is popular with even Republicans. And also even Senate Republicans cannot agree on an immigration deal. The president is blaming this on Democrats. But it certainly does not rest only on their shoulders.
KRISTOL: I mean, 25 years ago, Pat Moynihan said about Bill Clinton's welfare reform proposal it's boob bait for the Bubbas, I think, which I think was unfair actually.
Clinton had a pretty serious welfare reform. But he thought it was just a way of ginning up people out there who didn't know anything and it is sort of maybe vaguely racially tinged.
TURNER: Not vaguely.
KRISTOL: Clinton's wasn't. Well, whatever. Anyway.
But ginning up people. These tweets are really boob bait for the Bubbas.
In fact, illegal entrance into the U.S. is down over the last year. I think almost everyone agrees on that, quite substantially down in terms of numbers. And indeed Trump has claimed credit for that. He said we have deterred people from coming across the border, which may be true incidentally.
That stance may have deterred people from coming up from Mexico and Central America. Now we have 1,500 people, 1, 500 people. It's not a very large number in this kind of caravan from Honduras, up through Mexico. And Trump is making it seem like a massive invasion, when of course when we've really had huge numbers in 2014, 2015 when there was tens and hundreds of thousands of people.
Just it's so stupid. It's so demagogic. You take one photo of these 1,500 people and pretend there is a mass invasion coming across the border. Leaving aside what should be done with these 500 people, it really is -- it presumes the public is so stupid and is paying so little attention, that they will just rally to this because Trump tweets it.
TAPPER: All right. We are going to take a very quick break.
Breaking news in the Russia investigation. New reporting about who Trump campaign adviser Roger Stone allegedly met with before a massive document dump from WikiLeaks. That's next.
[16:16:55] JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: And we have this breaking news just in. "The Wall Street Journal" reporting that special counsel Robert Mueller is looking into informal Trump advisor Roger Stones' claim that he met with the founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange. "The Journal" says it has reviewed an email dated August 4th, 2016, in which Stone wrote, quote, I dined with Julian Assange last night, unquote.
In the months after that email, WikiLeaks, of course, released hacked emails from people close to the Clinton campaign, including campaign chair John Podesta. Stone told "The Wall Street Journal" that the email was a joke and that he never communicated with Assange in 2016.
My political panel is here with me.
Nina, I'll start with you. Is this something you joke about? Do you buy this excuse?
NINA TURNER, FORMER OHIO STATE SENATOR: No, not at all. And to be, I have to say, stupid enough to put that in writing in that way it really pales. I -- something smells here. TAPPER: And, Bill, how significant do you think this is? I mean, Roger Stone, he didn't work for the campaign. He'd been even fired, but he was an informal advisor. The email was to former Trump advisor Sam Nunberg, and they used to have a close relationship. It doesn't seem like something you would necessarily joke about.
BILL KRISTOL, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Yes, Stone is now saying he provably didn't dine with Assange. I guess that you look at his passport and see whether he left the U.S. since Assange was in, what, the Ecuadorian embassy in London. But maybe he just talked to on the phone or communicated with him in some way or another.
I mean I think the Stone firing many of us have always thought was kind of fake, you know, that Stone got a little too great hot to handle and they did this firing. But everyone thinks Stone was in touch with Trump during 2016. Stone was a huge fan of WikiLeaks.
The day after this, the August 5th, Stone tweets something about how Assange is a hero. So, he seemed to have Assange on his mind to, what is it, a couple of weeks later, he's touting the fact that Podesta is going to be in the barrel. The WikiLeaks stuff is going to come after him, and sure enough, it does.
So, I've always thought Stone would be if there were real coordination between indirect coordination between the Trump campaign and the Russians, I've always assumed Stone might well be part of that.
TAPPER: That he would he would play a role.
And where are we right now when it comes to the president's mental state and the Russia investigation because obviously sometimes he seems like he's about to order the firing of Mueller, other times he seems that that he has been calmed down and soothed into thinking that everything's going to be OK? What's his current state of mind?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Certainly more of the former, less of the latter. A lot of that has been due to his legal team who promised him for months that this was coming to an end, coming to an end, and clearly that's not been the case. We've seen a lot of frustration with his legal team which obviously alludes to a larger frustration with the entire Russia investigation overall.
And that's been something with the president he's been searching for these lawyers. They've reached out to several lawyers, been turned down by several. He only has one lawyer really dealing with the investigation from the outside right now. So that's certainly in a frustration of his and getting closer to people that he's been in contact with that he's known for decades, people like Roger Stone, it's certainly something that will frustrate the president.
But Rogers Stone specifically, he's gone back and forth between saying that he met with him, he didn't meet with him, he's had contact with him. He hasn't.
[16:20:01] And often his excuse when he is actually confronted about it is that he was just joking. TAPER: Speaking of people who were fired, let's turn to former V.A. Secretary David Shulkin. He told me yesterday that he didn't resign as the White House is claiming. He was indeed fired.
Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Were you fired or did you resign?
DAVID SHULKIN, FORMER VETERANS AFFAIRS SECRETARY: Well, Jake, I came to run the Department of Veteran Affairs because I'm committed to veterans, and I'm committed to fighting for them and I would not resign because I'm committed to making sure this job was seen through to the very end.
TAPPER: So you were fired?
SHULKIN: I did not resign.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: And the White House is pushing back on this as you know. They say Shulkin called White House Chief of Staff John Kelly Wednesday last week to ask how to respond to the firing rumors. And later that day, Kelly talked to the president who confirmed he was going to announce a replacement for Shulkin. Kelly called Shulkin on Wednesday, gave him the chance to resign which he took.
But I guess it comes down to it he said/he said, and in this instance, what do you think actually happened?
COLLINS: It really is that. It's a one-person thing. It depends on who you talk to. He's been fired or he's quit, and his point is Shulkin called John Kelly that morning to ask about a specific rumor, not just that he heard that he's being fired, that he heard from reporters who were inquiring with the press shop over at V.A. that he was going to be fired by the president on Twitter at 2:00 p.m. that afternoon. And then John Kelly went and spoke with the president and the president is like, yes, I want to get rid of him, I'm going to replace him with Dr. Ronny Jackson, and they essentially went from there.
Now, it is verbal he said/he said because they're saying that he only offered his resignation on the phone with John Kelly, not that he sent some kind of letter and there's some kind of larger proof. But the fact of the matter is Trump has wanted him out for weeks now. The only reason it took this long as because he hadn't thought of a replacement and then obviously he picked the White House doctor. But it was to make -- to be clear Trump wanted Shulkin out for a very long time.
TAPPER: Very quickly here. Who do you believe Shulkin or the White House?
TURNER: Shulkin. TAPPER: Who do you believe, Shulkin or the White House?
KRISTOL: Yes, Shulkin. And the White House wants to say he resigned because I think the power of an acting secretary who replace's someone who's inside is different from that if someone who's been fired.
TAPPER: OK, stick around. We're going to have a lot more to talk about.
Is President Trump looking to get the U.S. out of one war zone or does he want to double down? That story is next.
[16:26:l8] TAPPER: And we're back with our world lead now.
A U.S. soldier was killed last week in Syria. He was on a classified mission we're told to kill or capture a known member of ISIS, according to the Pentagon. But now, President Trump has stunned advisors by saying he wants to pull all U.S. forces out of Syria and to do so, quote, very soon. How might that affect the U.S. campaign against ISIS?
CNN's Barbara Starr joins me now live from the Pentagon.
And, Barbara, is the president's national security team backing him on this surprise announcement?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, there is now a national security meeting scheduled for tomorrow to discuss Syria. So far, no rush to agree with the president on any of this.
STARR (voice-over): CNN has learned that military plans are in the works that could send dozens of additional U.S. troops to northern Syria, defense officials say. Just as President Trump was saying this:
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We'll be coming out of Syria like very soon. Let the other people take care of it now.
STARR: Killed in northern Syria hours after President Trump said the U.S. should get out, Army Master Sergeant Jonathan Dunbar and Sergeant Matt Tonroe of the U.K., both killed in an IED blast while on a classified mission to capture or kill an ISIS operative.
Dunbar, part of the Army's elite Delta Force. The National Security Council meets Tuesday to discuss Syria and the 2,000 U.S. troops there. So far, no one is rushing to agree.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: All of his military advisers have said we need to leave troops in Syria.
STARR: The president's top diplomatic envoy for the fight against ISIS tweeted: Our fight against ISIS is not over. The Pentagon press secretary just before the president spoke.
DANA WHITE, CHIEF PENTAGON SPOKESWOMAN: While the coalition has significantly degraded ISIS, important work remains to guarantee the last defeat of these violent extremists.
STARR: The White House press secretary again trying to soften Mr. Trump's words.
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We want to help, but at the same time, we want other people to step up and put a little skin in the game.
STARR: President Trump also has frozen $200 million in recovery funds for Syria, for restoring water, power and roads.
An early U.S. pullout will only benefit Iran and Russia, skeptics warned.
JOHN KIRBY, CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: Russia also wants to keep their foothold in the Middle East, and the only one that they have right now is really through Syria.
So, they don't want to give that up.
STARR: And Iran should then achieve its goal, a trade route from Tehran to Damascus.
GRAHAM: It'd be the single worst decision the president could make.
STARR: And if the president goes against Defense Secretary James Mattis and General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the joint chiefs --
KIRBY: I think it's too early to say that, you know, this is the litmus test, that if it doesn't go their way, they walk. But I do think it's going to be very interesting to see what their advice is and agree to which it's being followed.
STARR: Now, Jake, I talked to least a dozen officials and so far, I haven't found anybody who agrees with the president that it's time to get out of Syria -- Jake.
TAPPER: Barbara Starr, thank you so much.
Senator Mazie Hirono, Democrat of Hawaii, joins me now live from Honolulu.
Senator, thanks so much for joining us.
What do you think, should President Trump --
SEN. MAZIE HIRONO (D), HAWAII: Aloha.
TAPPER: -- pull U.S. troops out of Syria? HIRONO: This is yet another example of the president's incoherence and it's clear that he thrives in chaos. We haven't heard from General Dunford. We haven't heard from General Mattis yet. This is -- this is really on a par with the kind of incoherence that the president exemplifies on a daily basis, and I think in this instance, he's again reacting to what's happening with the Mueller investigation that threatens to close in on him and his associates every day.
TAPPER: Well, what do you think should be done? Should the U.S. pull out of Syria or do you think that the U.S. troops need to stay there --