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President Trump Declares DACA is Dead, Blames Democrats; China Slaps Tariffs on $3 Billion of U.S. Exports; Outrage After Sinclair Tells Stations To Air Media Bashing Promos; Kentucky Teachers Protesting At State Capitol Over Budget. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired April 2, 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] ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: With proper border legislation. Democrats want no borders, hence drugs and crime. We may hear more when the president speaks next hour at an event that for 139 years has been nonpartisan and apolitical. The White House Easter Egg Roll.

In the meantime, let's check in with CNN's White House reporter Kaitlan Collins -- Kaitlan.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, the president is on a roll of his own this morning, continuing that tweet storm from yesterday after a few days of relative silence from the president continuing to talk about DACA more this morning. He seems to be confusing the issue some. He's talking about people crossing the border now to take advantage of DACA but, of course they would not even be eligible for it.

But separately aside from that fact, the president is also using much different language than what we've seen him use regarding DACA in the past. Listen to what he had to say yesterday on his way to church for an Easter service compared to what he said about DACA before then.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A lot of people are coming in because they want to take advantage of DACA and we're going to have to really see.

Very, very tough subject. We're going to deal with DACA with heart.

This should be a bipartisan bill. This should be a bill of love, truly, it should be a bill of love and we can do that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COLLINS: Now these tweets, let's give some context. This comes after three days of the president in Mar-a-Lago at his club in Palm Beach, Florida, where he dined and ate and hung out with a lot of people who essentially were hardliners on immigration who told him that his base thinks he's softened his stance on that. Several of them on the FOX News payroll so that could be in part why we are hearing so much on this from the president now after days of silence on this and not remarking on this issue. But the question now, Ana, is whether this actually represents any

kind of a policy change for this president, if he's actually going to change something or if this is simply just him venting after watching something he didn't like on cable news.

CABRERA: All right. Kaitlan Collins at the White House for us. We know you will stay on top of it.

Joining us now, let's discuss all of this, from "The Guardian," Sabrina Siddiqui, from the "Chicago Sun-Times" Lynn Sweet, and Perry Bacon from FiveThirtyEight.

Perry, the president's tweets, this hard-line immigration rhetoric, what set off this new tweet storm? Why is he reverting back to what he started his campaign with?

PERRY BACON, SENIOR POLITICAL WRITER, FIVETHIRTYEIGHT: I'm not totally sure. Like Kaitlan said, it came out of nowhere to me, at least. In terms of really to focus on the DACA deal, there's not a lot of evidence that that issue is moving because we basically have the parties are really divided. The Democrats want the DACA recipients to have the ability to get citizenship which Trump does not support.

Trump wants to have these new limits on legal immigration which Democrats don't support, so we have from basically December to March where the two parties fought on immigration and nothing really happened. So Trump saying he wants a DACA deal now and sort of pumping up the issue, the issue is kind of dead right now.

I do think this tells you that he's moving a bit toward midterm mode, and I think in the midterms one thing he will try to do is sort of stoke the immigration issue and (INAUDIBLE) about the issue just where his base is. He wants to make sure people are nervous about illegal immigration because it helped him get there in the first place.

CABRERA: Trump seeming to reference a caravan of people moving through Mexico toward the U.S. border, something FOX News has been covering, although inaccurately in some cases. He writes, "These big flows of people are all trying to take advantage of the DACA. They want in on the act." He tweeted again this morning that, "Everyone wants to get on the DACA bandwagon."

Quick facts first here for you, DACA beneficiaries have to have lived in the U.S. since 2007, brought here as children by their parents.

So, Sabrina, the facts really aren't on the president's side on this.

SABRINA SIDDIQUI, POLITICS REPORTER, THE GUARDIAN: No, as you note, the eligibility requirements of DACA are very clear. People cannot simply show up at the border and expect that they would qualify for the program and, in fact, a lot of studies have shown that the rates of illegal immigration have actually gone down in recent years as opposed to trending upwards which the president has claimed.

But I think to echo what Perry was saying, there is very little appetite at least among Republicans in a midterm election year to strike a deal on immigration. And if you look at the framework that the White House put out for DACA, there could have potentially been some agreement if he had just asked for some border security measures in exchange for legal status for Dreamers. Instead he put forth what was effectively conservative wish list phasing out the visa lottery program and most notably seeking to dramatically reduce legal immigration. And that was only going to be a nonstarter with Democrats.

So it's hard to place the blame on Democrats in this case, other than to interpret that as midterm posturing as well as if you look at the fact that Trump is one who moved to terminate DACA to begin with.

CABRERA: Right.

SIDDIQUI: So this uncertainly is because of his own action.

CABRERA: Which was back in September. We went back and looked at sort of the key milestones, along the way since then and by our count at least there have been at least three proposals in which the Democrats had been willing to give the president some money for his border wall in exchange for protection for Dreamers.

So, Lynn, do you think a DACA deal is truly dead?

[09:05:03] LYNN SWEET, NATIONAL BUREAU CHIEF, CHICAGO-SUN TIMES: Nothing's dead. It just won't happen before the midterms. It may not happen but, you know, if you think of death as a clinical end of life, things don't end that way in Washington. They just go on back burners, could be for years, so the issue here is that these are real people, though, who may have their lives thrown out in the meantime and of all the many fact checks that CNN does and everyone does, I think this one is most stunning that if you read the president's tweets, it's as if he hadn't absorbed this one essential fact about DACA that it's only open to people who have been here since 2007.

It is 2018. No one, no one new can come in as you mentioned. I mean, let's absorb the depth of this one and what he's tweeting today and the stunning lack of acknowledgment that what he is saying is so wrong on this, that he wants to do this. I think, by the way, that he's doing it to change the conversation to immigration because I believe he thinks no matter what we say about it, any discussion about immigration is good for him as opposed to talking about why David Shulkin left the Veterans Administration.

CABRERA: Well, yes, we're going to get to that, too, actually, but I do just want to kind of continue this real quick because, Sabrina, I wonder if who he's been surrounding himself with is influencing why he is now coming out. We know this is who he had with him this weekend or who he was talking to. You can see a lot of FOX News personalities and including Sean Hannity and Janine Pirro along with Don King and Bill Shine. We hear Corey Lewandowski was around him but absent John Kelly. What does that tell you?

SIDDIQUI: Well, certainly, every time the president surrounds himself with a lot of the loyalists who were supporters of his during the course of the campaign, he has a tendency to then revert back to a lot of the very hard-line positions, particularly on immigration, that were a primary piece of his agenda that he campaigned on but I think it also goes back to Stephen Miller who also was spending time with him this weekend who is the author of that framework that the White House put out who really pushed this president into maintaining a hard-line on immigration so that in a way the president was able to publicly position himself as being supportive of Dreamers by saying, look, I'm willing to grant a path to citizenship, I just want all of these anti-immigrant proposals in return and so that's sort of having it both ways.

It also shows that he hasn't cut ties with a lot of the controversial figures, people like Corey Lewandowski, who were integral parts of the campaign, of course, forced out on controversial circumstances.

CABRERA: These are people who say, let Trump be Trump.

Lynn, add in that this is the first week without Hope Hicks. Where do you think this is headed?

SWEET: Where it would have been headed even if Hope Hicks were sitting in the White House today, that these tweets are powerful tools to command the attention of the nation and create chaos. So maybe -- people should know, Congress is not in this week, nothing could happen anyway. As I said, I don't think anything is going to happen until the midterm. But would Hope Hicks alone have prevented this? No. If anything it seems like she empowered this, encouraged it as a form of presidential communication that bested anything else that the administration official spokesman could put out.

CABRERA: There's still the ongoing question, who's in, who's out of this White House, Perry. Scott Pruitt back in the hot seat. Latest reporting renting a condo from an energy lobbyist for just $50 a day, well below the market value. Listen to Chris Christie on this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), FORMER NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR: I don't know how you survive this one. And if he has to go -- if he has to go, it's because he never should have been there in the first place.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: Remember, the president ran on the message of draining the swamp and EPA source tells CNN Pruitt's goose is cooked, his words. What do you think?

BACON: I'm not so sure about that. I mean, Ben Carson, Steven Mnuchin, Ryan Zinke, we've had a lot of Cabinet secretaries who have been under controversy in the administration. The one who got pushed out was David Shulkin and that was because I would say because of policy disagreement. Some people in the administration want the VA to be more private. Shulkin opposed the privatization of care among veterans.

I'm not sure on policy Pruitt has, you know, rolled back a lot of Obama regulations. He's been very conservative. He's in a place where he agrees with Trump and the conservatives' policy view, so I sort of think Pruitt is in a stronger place to stay in the administration. I mean, obviously, Trump fires people all the time. There could be a tweet, you know, two minutes from now saying Pruitt is gone but Pruitt has been pretty solid on policy and I think that's going to help him stay in the administration.

CABRERA: Real quick, Sabrina, why do you think this White House keeps insisting that Shulkin resign when he insists he didn't, essentially he was fired?

[09:10:08] SIDDIQUI: Well, there's this obscure legislation that actually makes it an important distinction because if someone was fired then the natural person who is the acting secretary would be that person's deputy and in this case Trump bypassed Shulkin's deputy and handpicked his own choice to be the current acting secretary of the VA, so in a way it's important to have that distinction from the White House's position because that could bar his choice from being able to implement and oversee any policy at the VA while the Senate considers a replacement.

Of course Shulkin is quite clearly saying that he did not resign and I think everyone knows his words speak for themselves.

CABRERA: Sabrina, Lynn and Perry, thank you all.

Also this morning, escalating trade tensions as China strikes back at the U.S. The country slapping tariffs on $3 billion worth of U.S. exports and Alison Kosik is here now with the details.

Fill us in, Alison.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Ana, so China said it would retaliate and now it's making good on its trade threats but this is stoking those fears again of a trade war. So beginning today, China is going to slap tariffs on 128 U.S. products. So that's a 25 percent tax on eight American goods like pork and recycled aluminum, 15 percent tax on 120 other products which include fruits, nuts, wine, steel pipes.

So this $3 billion is really just a small sort of drop in the bucket of the hundreds of billion dollars of dollars that are actually shipped between the U.S. and China each year but interestingly enough these tariffs are strategic.

Here's an example for you. Pork. The Pork Producers Council warned that this is going to have significant impact on rural Americans and of the top 10 pork producing states that you see there, eight of those states voted for Trump in 2016.

Now these tariffs are retaliation against President Trump's duties on foreign steel and aluminum that went into effect two weeks ago and China has repeatedly said that it doesn't want a trade war but it does say it will take firm counter measures if necessary so it's willing to do more and what winds up happening as you see this latest move, it's really escalating the tensions between China and the U.S. which may only get worse because the president has long accused Beijing of unfair trade practices that steal American jobs.

He has more trade actions in the works like tariffs on $50 billion worth of Chinese goods and that's important because experts are warning, if Trump takes action on those bigger tariffs, that could really spark an all-out trade war between the U.S. and China. It really would be devastating for U.S. consumers and for U.S. companies and these are household names like Starbucks and Boeing and Apple and Nike.

They all rely on China for a huge portion of their sales and a financial hit to corporate America is just one reason Wall Street doesn't like it. A trade spat between the U.S. and China, that could also hurt global growth. It's part of the reason we are seeing U.S. futures lower. We're seeing the Dow possibly having a triple-digit dip at the open. This could be a rocky day because of this headline -- Ana.

CABRERA: All right. We'll be in touch with you as we plow forward. Thank you, Alison Kosik.

Fighting back, teacher walkouts in two states this morning. Protesting budgets, wages, pensions. We are there.

Plus back in the spotlight the first lady at her first major public event after the Stormy Daniels interview.

And this video has gone viral. Outrage building after local anchors across the nation are told to recite the same media bashing promos.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:17:55]

ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: Outrage after Sinclair Broadcast Group forced dozens of local news anchors to read fake news promos warning viewers about the, quote, "Troubling trend of irresponsible one-sided new stories plaguing our country." This (inaudible) mashup has gone viral.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JESSICA HEADLEY, FOX ANCHOR: I am Fox San Antonio's Jessica Headley.

RYAN WOLF, FOX ANCHOR: And I'm Ryan Wolf.

HEADLEY: Our greatest responsibility is to serve our Treasure Valley communities.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Eastern Iowa communities.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mid-Michigan communities.

(CROSSTALK)

(END VIDEO CLIP) CABRERA: Let's discuss. CNN's senior media correspondent, Brian Stelter is with us and CNN media analyst, Bill Carter. So, Brian, what do we know about how this came to be?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: This is the latest example of Sinclair trying to encourage its stations to take a particular bent, particular point of view and these promos, they were sent to stations across the country, a very specific script. The instructions were so detailed and even told the anchors what to wear.

What is concerning about this and the reason why it's getting so much criticism is that these anchors are having to read these words delivered by management even if they don't agree with the words. It's coming out of their mouths so it's their credibility on the line.

It's another example of how this company's politics are trickling down to local stations across the country. We've seen pro-Trump commentaries on the broadcast, conservative leaning reports, news reports, town hall events and now these promos, which essentially say other stories are fake, don't believe other news. They're biased. Only believe us.

It's the kind of fair and balanced thing we use to see from Fox News where they would say we're fair, everybody else is unfair. The difference here is it's involving local stations across the country.

CABRERA: Bill, what's your take? How do you see it and especially when you think about journalistic standards?

BILL CARTER, CNN MEDIA ANALYST: Well, this is the thing, it's not journalism, it's propaganda. Most of us have heard this kind of thing in totalitarian regimes where somebody has to repeat what the government says, in this case it's what the corporation says and really in terms of journalism, all you're doing is undermining the credibility of your people.

They're not saying what they think is true, they're saying what they're told to say. I feel bad for those people. They probably are protecting their jobs by doing it.

[09:20:08] An awful lot of them are uncomfortable doing it. Brian has reported on some of these people and I think it really undermines their point. They're trying to make the point that there's fake news and nothing could be faker than this. It's not sincere at all what these people are saying.

CABRERA: Brian, if you're a journalist at one of these stations, could there be the argument this is what you signed up for?

STELTER: Yes. I suppose there is. That's certainly the argument management is making. Sinclair says they're doing this to encourage trust in journalism. The reason why we see everyone from comedians like Joan Oliver to politicians being so critical of this is because of the company's conservative leanings.

And because that conservative bent has been, again, kind of appearing in the newscasts, taking away actual local news time being used instead for what many people view as these very politicized segments. It's been an ongoing trend at Sinclair. It is notable because Sinclair is like a local version of Fox News.

It's been growing and adding more and more stations. It's been in some ways aligned with President Trump, so I think that's why we're seeing so much reaction, so much outrage about this video.

I've spoken with anchors and reporters in local markets, who say they're worried about whether they can get job at other stations in the future because they feel they're credibility is being tarnished by these promos and Sinclair's other efforts.

One of the anchors said to me, I've worked really hard for years to build up my credibility and now I'm given this script to read which tears it all down. So, that's why it's one of the points attention.

The other dynamic here is that Sinclair has business to the government right now. They're trying to buy more tv stations. They're waiting FCC permission to do so. It is notable that that deal has been relatively smooth for Sinclair.

While our parent company here at CNN, Time Warner is being sued by the government to block the AT&T deal. Two very different deals for sure, but that's another reason why there's scrutiny around this. It seems like a company with a pro-Trump bent perhaps at the top is receiving very easy path to government approval for a deal.

CABRERA: Bill, when you think of media outrage as this whole debacle between Laura Ingraham and David Hogg, and now advertisers boycotting her show. How do you think advertisers might respond to this?

CARTER: Well, I think that if it's brought to their attention they're not going to like it. I think, you know, it does drag them into what is a political argument. I think one of the points that Brian keeps making is that there's already relationship between Trump and these stations.

Jared Kushner said they had a deal with the Sinclair stations to get favorable coverage for Trump during the campaign. So, they're basically coming across as someone with an established point of view and then trying to tell everyone else that you have to be an independent news organization.

The hypocrisy is just overwhelming, and I don't think advertisers like it. If enough viewers say we don't like this and started watching other channels, they'll certainly react.

CABRERA: Bill Carter, Brian Stelter, always good to see you guys. Thanks for the discussion.

This morning, classrooms are empty in at least two states as thousands of teachers walk out demanding more for themselves and their students.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:27:44]

CABRERA: Thousands of teachers in both Oklahoma and Kentucky walking out of classrooms right now over pay raises and better funding for schools. Here's a live look right now in Frankfurt, Kentucky where thousands of educators are rallying at the state capital, teachers there are furious after the legislature slipped some changes to their pension into a bill about sewage services.

Polo Sandoval joins us now from Frankfurt. Polo, take it away.

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There's, of course, that pension reform bill that has these teachers fuming, but there's also the funding issue. Look down this sidewalk here just outside the Kentucky state capital. You're seeing a massive crowd that had marched down the street from the local teachers' association to the steps of the capital to have their voice heard.

There's the pension issue is a hot button issue that they're talking about here, and then there's also funding and that is what has brought teachers both current and retired out here including Claudette Green, who recently retired as a principal.

Claudette, you were telling me a little while ago that this is much more about the pension. It is also about the funding, the budget, the educational budget that's being discussed by lawmakers right now. Tell me more about that.

CLAUDETTE GREEN, RETIRED PRINCIPAL: More about the funding? Well, what we understand is a lot of the public education funding is going to support charter schools. I'm not really familiar with charter schools but from what I know they are supported by the public.

Do you know most of Kentucky is rural area and we do not have the economic background to support charter schools. Our children are doing great. We are competing internationally with other students and we don't need charter schools.

That would only be for the children who can afford it and that is fine and dandy if you have the money to pay for your education, but our public-school children are from economically depressed rural areas.

SANDOVAL: You're here to put pressure on lawmakers as they consider the operational budget for the next two years, is that correct?

GREEN: That's correct.

SANDOVAL: Thank you so much, Claudette Green. One of the several voices, Ana, that we've heard from here as people are certainly upset about this pension reform bill that was passed by both the House and Senate at the state level, but what they're extremely upset about and vocal and passionate about is also the funding bill.

Ana, some of these teachers do worry that they could potentially affect their jobs if they cut down on textbooks, on hiring --