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White House Press Briefing; China Announces Tariffs on 106 U.S. Products. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired April 4, 2018 - 15:00   ET

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


[15:00:01]

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: So, he is blasting Russia on his way out the door. Rex Tillerson blasted Russia as he left the State Department.

I mean, do you get the sense that these guys finally leaving are able to say how they really feel, want to get it out on public record?

LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: No, I don't think so, Brooke, because H.R. has said this multiple times before.

And, in fact, a couple months ago -- I kind of surprised folks with this, this morning -- H.R. pulled a bunch of generals together right before he was going to -- retired generals -- right before they were going to unveil the national security strategy.

H.R. has been adamant about not only Russia, but several other parts of the world where he believes we're failing. And it was written into the NSS document, the thing that was unveiled about -- I guess it was about six weeks or so ago.

And the key questions that many of us on this conference call asked him, we said, hey, H.R., this is great. It's good words on the piece of paper, but there seems to be a disconnect between what our security strategy is saying and what the administration is doing, actively pursuing.

H.R. has talked at several security conferences, different forums or councils. And every time I have heard him speak, he has had the same message. So, this isn't the parting blow. In fact, this is probably what got him into a little bit of trouble with the president. He seemed to be a little too adamant about some of these things and the president wasn't very comfortable with both what he was saying and the way he was saying it.

So, yes, this seems to be a parting shot because it's being reported this morning, but H.R. McMaster has been saying this for a while.

(CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: Got you. General Hertling, always a pleasure. Thank you so very much.

Let's continue on.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BALDWIN: You are watching CNN on this Wednesday afternoon. Thank you so much for being with me.

We will show you a live peek inside that Briefing Room. We're waiting for Sarah Sanders to take that podium. She has got a lot she will need to answer to, including the president not being a target in the Russian probe, also, as we were just discussing, this big U.S. -- decision on U.S. troops in Syria.

Of course, there's China, Beijing wasting no time, counterpunching against the president's latest tariff on its products, China announcing a 25 percent tax on some 106 American exports, including the crucial soybean.

More on how that really matters in a moment. But this is the official list. I want you to watch this scroll here of the nearly 1,300 Chinese goods the U.S. is proposing will be taxed, blood products, engines, aviation parts, scales, so much more on the list.

And that news sent markets deep, deep in the red, tumbling some 500 points by mid-morning. But we will take a look at the Dow now. All right, so rebounding up 131 points. First signs of the upswing came after these comments from President Trump's new chief economic adviser, Larry Kudlow.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION: Is it possible that these stiff new tariffs against China are, in fact, a negotiating tactic and won't go into effect?

LAWRENCE KUDLOW, PRESIDENTIAL ECONOMIC ADVISER: Yes. It's part of the process. I would take the president seriously on this tariff issue.

There are carrots and sticks in life, but he is ultimately a free trader. He said that to me. He said it publicly. So, he wants to solve this with the least amount of pain.

QUESTION: Can you have growth if there's a trade war?

KUDLOW: Hopefully, we won't get to that point.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Before Chinese tariffs on soybeans and airplanes, China on Monday went after fruits, nuts, wine and U.S. pork, and that has put hog farmers in America's heartland on edge.

Joining me now, Brian Duncan, a hog farmer in Polo, Illinois.

Brian, thank you so much for being with me.

BRIAN DUNCAN, VICE PRESIDENT, ILLINOIS FARM BUREAU: Thank you, Brooke. Appreciate the opportunity.

BALDWIN: I mean, we just wanted to go direct to you guys. Midwestern states have come to depend on the Chinese export market. These pork tariffs, Brian, this is your livelihood. Are you worried?

DUNCAN: Well, certainly. And I think today another shoe dropped as we saw China announce tariffs on soybeans.

And I sit to you -- I'm talking to you from Illinois, that number one soybean-producing state. Yes, farmers out here are very concerned.

BALDWIN: I was looking. American pork producers, obviously, you guys really depend on China for the exports. I was reading in "The Omaha World Herald" more than $660 million in pork. That's a lot of money, right, was exported to China last year, and soybeans even more so.

If China turns to other countries, Brian, for its pork, what do you do?

DUNCAN: Well, overall, it's a bad situation. There's not a lot we can do.

And China is a very interesting market in that they are a high demand market for cuts of meat that a lot of other places don't use called variety cuts. Think snouts, ears, tails, things that add a lot of value to a hog that otherwise would maybe be not consumed at all in other parts of the world.

[15:05:07]

So, China is an important market and one that we had hoped to grow into, continue to expand into. That's the problems with these things, Brooke.

Once a market is lost, it's really, really hard to get back. And this really couldn't happen than at a worse time for American agriculture.

BALDWIN: How much of this do you think is talk and how much of that talk really worries you?

DUNCAN: Isn't that really the question all we're all asking, the markets are asking?

We had hoped it was brinkmanship. But here's what I know. Since the original tariffs on steel and aluminum were announced, the value of a hog has dropped $20. And a lot of it has to do with just the overall concern about trade agreements, not just with China, but as we renegotiate NAFTA.

Farmers are export markets. Grain, livestock producers, we are export-dependent. So, thanks to this kind of negative environment surrounding trade creates a psychology that is very damaging in the marketplace.

We saw soybeans down 40 cents this morning. And I know President Trump this morning to Sonny Perdue and said let America's farmers know that they are not going to be a casualty in this trade war. Well, I'm afraid we already are. And that's just reflected in our markets and the psychology that has occurred here. And, again, very difficult to climb out of the hole.

BALDWIN: You already feel like a casualty, Brian.

Do you -- in listening to the president, do you believe he knows what he's talking about? Big businessman. Comes into the White House. Does he know what he's talking about?

DUNCAN: I had hoped that he does. And I hope that he's listening to his advisers.

I am concerned with how he measures the success of trade agreements, looking at trade deficits and looking at trade agreements like there's winners and losers, instead of just measuring the overall economic benefit to trade agreements.

Brooke, as I sit here today, and you say I feel like a casualty. We're projected to grow a four billion bushel soybean crop this year. The market price of soybeans dropped 40 cents this morning. I haven't seen last trade, but it's in the 30 to 40 cent range.

If you take that times a four billion bushel soybean crop, American farmers, American soybean producers are down $1.6 to $1.7 billion today. Yes, we feel like a casualty.

BALDWIN: Wow.

Brian Duncan, let's stay in contact with you as we will watch to see where this talk goes. Thank you so much. We're thinking of you in Illinois and in all of this, the heartland of the country. Thank you so much.

DUNCAN: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Wow.

We do have breaking news here also involving Facebook, a major development on exactly how many users had their information, their data inappropriately shared with that Cambridge Analytica firm. Turns out it's actually more than we first thought, this as we wait for that White House press briefing.

Stay with me.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:12:23]

BALDWIN: Breaking news now on Facebook. They are now saying that Cambridge Analytica, the data mining company that has ties to the Trump campaign, may have actually accessed the data, not just on the 50 million, but 87 is the news.

Sorry, Laurie Segall. We have to go to the White House to Sarah Sanders, who is now briefing the press corps.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

[15:12:42]

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: (In progress) -- what would prove to be the final public speech of his incredible life, Dr. King said, "Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will, and He's allowed me to go up to the mountain, and I've looked over, and I've seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you, but I want you to know tonight that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. And so I'm happy tonight. I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord."

These prophetic words were from a man who found his identity and his purpose through his faith, and selflessly led a movement that, while it cost him his life, changed the course of history.

On honor of his sacrifice, we continue to perfect our union by defending the truth of all our country's founding principle: that all men are created equal.

Looking ahead to tomorrow, the president will be traveling to West Virginia. While there, he will participate in a roundtable with CEOs and workers from companies who have provided bonuses, pay raises and other benefits to their employees as a result of the Trump tax cuts. Also participating in the roundtable will be families who have more money in their pockets as a result of this new law, which passed without a single Democrat vote. This will be the president's fourth trip to West Virginia since he took office.

Later this month, the president will welcome the decorated U.S. Olympic and Paralympic teams to the White House. This event will take place on April 27th. The president looks forward to celebrating these incredible athletes and their remarkable achievements in the 2018 Winter Games.

Before taking your questions today, I have a special guest here with us: Secretary Nielsen from the Department of Homeland Security. As you all know, the president received a briefing yesterday on the administration's strategy to confront the growing threat of illegal immigration, drugs and violent gang members coming across our southern border. As the president said, the mobilization of the National Guard will be an important part of the strategy. Secretary -- Secretary Nielsen will come up now to deliver brief remarks, and then take your questions, and after that, I'll be back up to answer your questions of the day on other topics.

With that, Secretary?

KIRSTJEN NIELSEN, SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: Well, good afternoon, everyone. I want to start -- I'm going to give you some facts and perspective. Hopefully, I can put some things in context.

But I want to start with just a very simple statement for today's announcement, which is, border security is homeland security, which is national security.

[15:15:03]

It's not a partisan issue. It's not something we can separate out. It's core to being a sovereign nation.

The president has reiterated this many times. In fact, he has specifically said that a sovereign nation that cannot, or worse, not -- chooses not to defend its borders will soon cease in fact to be a sovereign nation.

The threat is real. We've talked about it over the last 18 months. The Department of Homeland Security, since its creation in 2003, has watched for current and emerging threats, despite a number of steps that this administration has taken, which I'll talk about shortly, we continue to see unacceptable levels of illegal drugs, dangerous gang activity, transnational criminal organizations and illegal immigration flow across our border.

This threatens not only the safety of our communities and children, but also our very rule of law, on which, as you know, our country was founded. It's time to act. So let's talk a little bit about that today.

In an effort to prevent such a consequence, the president has directed that the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security work together with our governors to deploy the National Guard to our southwest border to assist the Border Patrol.

The president will be signing a proclamation to that effect today. When the president took office last year he issued a series of Executive Orders and directives that empowered DHS for the first time in almost a decade to fully enforce our border security immigration laws.

At that time, we saw a precipitous drop in unlawful border crossings, 44 percent down in the first few months of his -- after the inauguration. This Trump effect, as many of you have referred to it and we have, as well, illicit border activity was undeniable.

As smugglers, transnational criminal organizations and those who are responsible for illicit activity across our border, were forced to wait and see if enhanced enforcement efforts would scale back their criminal activity for good.

In the last 15 months, under the president's leadership, the administration has taken major steps to methodically strengthen border security. Let me just give you just a few, but we're happy to provide additional details.

We stepped up the targeting of dangerous criminal gangs such as MS-13, we removed thousands more criminal aliens than the year prior, we no longer exempt entire classes of illegal aliens from the consequences of breaking our immigration laws.

We began the first new border wall system construction in close to a decade, we modified our asylum system processing to more quickly adjudicate claims and we ended so-called temporary immigration programs that were either constitutionally dubious or were administered in a manner that was inconsistent with the purpose of the law or contrary to the intent of Congress.

Despite these actions, we've recently seen the numbers of illegal border crossings rise from 40-year lows last April to pre -- back to previous levels. Our current border security and immigration laws fail the American people.

The system rewards bad behavior. It does not punish law breakers. It undermines our nation's economic interests. Make no mistake, interdiction without the ability to promptly remove those without legitimate cause is not border security, it is not national security.

When the president took office, the traffickers, smugglers, TCO's and the illegal aliens that serve as their currency paused to see what our border enforcement efforts would look like and if we could follow through on the deportation and removal.

While we have been apprehending aliens at the border with historic efficiency, these illicit smuggling groups saw that our ability to actually remove those who come here illegally did not keep pace. They saw that there were loopholes they could exploit to avoid detention and removal.

And let me give you some numbers to put how that has changed the context of our immigration and border security system. Before 2013, approximately one out of every 100 arriving aliens claimed credible fear, which is the first step in the United States asylum process.

Today, more than one out of 10 do so. Why this matters is because this number unfortunately demonstrates and is indicative of the rising level of fraud that plagues our system.

This prevents us from timely helping those who really do need asylum. When we have to deal with the fraud and the backlogs, we are unable to help those truly in need.

Before 2011, over 90 percent of arriving aliens were single adult males. Today, 40 percent are families and children. The traffickers and smugglers know that, if you arrive with a family, under our current legal and court system, you have a much better chance of being released into the United States.

[15:20:02]

We have seen the smugglers advertise this as an enticement. And we have seen traffickers, unfortunately, fraudulently use children to gain entry into our country.

Before 2009 -- the last stat here -- 90 percent of arriving aliens were Mexican nationals. Today, nearly 50 percent are from Central America. The traffickers and smugglers know that these individuals cannot, under U.S. law, be easily removed in an expeditious way back to their country of origin. And so they exploit the loophole.

Each of these reflect the effects of legislative and legal loopholes that have made it that much more difficult to remove the bulk of those we apprehend, whether they are criminals, traffickers, gangs or illegal aliens.

Those falsely claiming asylum know that, if they use the magic words, "credible fear," because of the low threshold that currently exists and because of the very large backlog, they will be released, with work permits, into the interior for many years before they see a judge.

In 2012, when DACA was offered, families with children similarly understood that deferred action was on the table, and the possibility of further future deferred action has caused additional migration that continues through today.

This is exacerbated because of the deeply flawed Flores settlement agreement, one that we have talked about before, and because of our inability to use expedited removal authority for all unaccompanied alien children. Because of this, we do see many more Central American families with children attempting to enter the country illegally -- many more than a decade ago.

Smugglers themselves are gaming the system, pure and simple. They take advantage of the loopholes in our laws. They know that we cannot prosecute as we need to to stop their behavior. And they know, in some cases, it takes many years for them to be removed. This, in addition, creates a massive magnet for additional illegal immigration, TCO activity and criminal activity across our border.

Every day, we rely on a number of partnerships to help us accomplish our mission to secure our borders: state and local officials, interagency federal partners, Congress, and, of course, our international partners. I have been with and will and -- continue to work with these partners. This is a problem that requires all of our attention.

This administration has also asked Congress for help. Congress makes immigration law. It's that simple. That is how our system works. Congress makes immigration law. Congress decides which classes of aliens are allowed into the country and which can be deported.

We've asked for changes to existing law to close loopholes that exacerbate the challenges we have, and often result in a defacto court order, or resource-constrained resulting "catch and release."

The president, as you know, terminated administrative "catch and release" last year. But, due to these loopholes, we often find, particularly those with family, they must released after 20 days.

We asked Congress for additional funds for the border wall system, for detention beds, personnel, as that magnet of lawlessness still draws people by the thousands to our borders. Why not attempt the journey if you have no belief you'll ever be caught? We must change the environment. We must change and reduce those pull factors.

Unfortunately, time and time again, Congress has failed to act. Worse still, some members of Congress have continually opposed efforts to secure the border. As a result of this continued congressional inaction, the administration has drafted legislation, and we will be asking Congress again to provide the legal authority and resources to address this crisis at our borders.

We will not allow illegal immigration levels to become the norm. More than 1,000 people a day, 300,000 a year, violating our sovereignty as a nation will never be acceptable to this president.

Since becoming secretary, I've spoken with hundreds of members of Congress on the need for legislation. I will continue to speak with anyone who will listen about the need to end "catch and release" and close these loopholes once and for all.

Based on conversations with congressional leadership, I am optimistic. We are a country based on the rule of law. I ask (ph) Congress to pass needed legislation with all urgency. I will work with you. Let's get this done.

In the meantime, the president has directed that National Guard personnel be deployed to the southern border. The Department of Defense, as you know, has long supported the efforts of DHS to protect our nation's borders.

This includes ongoing counternarcotic missions, infrastructure construction, persistent surveillance operations, training and aerial support throughout the Western Hemisphere. The Department of Defense is a longtime partner of the Department of Homeland Security, and I thank them for their support.

While plans are being finalized, it's our expectation that the National Guard will deploy personnel in support of CBP's border security mission. It will take time to have the details in place, but we are beginning today and we are moving quickly. We are anxious to have the support.

I have spoken with all of the governors and will be continuing these conversations. It is very encouraging that some of them have already take dramatic -- have taken dramatic steps in their own states to confront illegal immigration and to strengthen that border security to prevent the criminal activity and the inflow of drugs.

[15:25:08]

These are leaders who understand the importance of enforcement in border security and how it improves public safety in their states. I look forward to working with each of them. As a result, I will not provide the full details today, because much of what we will be doing in conjunction with the border state governors will be worked out through the appropriate processes, as it has been in the past.

The urgency cannot, however, be underscored. We will be doing this today, under the president's direction. I will continue my conversation with all four border governors, and we hope to have the path forward very much specified in the near future.

I also want to just make sure, before I turn over questions, to mention that we've been in touch with my counterparts in Mexico regarding this action. They understand the administration's desire, much like their own, to control illegal entry into our country. They understand and respect our national sovereignty.

I thank them for their recent support in addressing the yearly caravan, as well as in signing a number of security-related agreements last week. I value their partnership and do not expect this operation to affect that relationship.

I want to close by saying that the problems of "catch and release" and unsecured borders are solvable problems. Congress has the ability and the opportunity to provide this administration and our country with the tools it needs for border security.

In my conversations with members of Congress, all have said they're for border security and the rule of law. The vulnerabilities we need to address are well-known. The legislative fixes have been drafted and debated. The tools are tested and ready.

All that is lacking is the will to act. I'm hoping that changes, and I call on all members of Congress to work with us to close these loopholes and to end "catch and release" completely.

Let me be clear: We are a welcoming nation. We support -- we support tens of millions of legal visitors every year, as well as over 1 million legal immigrants. We will continue to do so. But, as I said earlier, border security is national security. Security of our nation is not a partisan issue. Border security is national security. It's a foundational element to the very security of our systems, of our citizens and our homeland. The president's committed to securing our border and using all the tools that he has available to him.

I thank him for his leadership and support of DHS. I thank you for listening, and I look forward to your questions.

QUESTION: Hi. Maybe for some context, could you compare what the president is contemplating with what President Bush did: 6,000 National Guard personnel for about a year and a half, Arizona, New Mexico, California, President Obama did about 1,200.

NIELSEN: Right.

QUESTION: Is he contemplating something larger than that, and something of a longer duration? And how soon do you think, whatever the number is, the deployments will begin?

NIELSEN: So let me take the last part first.

We do hope that the deployment begins immediately. I will be continuing to have conversations with the governors today. As you know, it's done through a memorandum of agreement, so we're working with all haste to agree on that. So we hope to -- we'd specified out the missions where we need support. They include everything from aerial surveillance, which, as you know, is part of Operation Phalanx, through to some of the support functions that the Guard was able to do under President Bush in Operation Jump Start.

So we've been very specific, state by state, locale by locale, of what CBP believes they need, and then we'll work in conjunction with the governors who are, in fact, on the front lines to see what they need, and work it within the National Guard. But as soon as possible. Conversations are ongoing.

QUESTION: And size, and duration of the (inaudible)

NIELSEN: So size and duration, we have not -- I don't want to get ahead of the governors. This is a partnership with them. We are giving them the opportunity to review our suggestions of how the National Guard can support the Border Patrol. But as soon as the numbers are available, we'll provide them.

QUESTION: You said it will be more robust than the Bush deployment.

NIELSEN: I think I -- it will -- it will be strong. It will be as many as is needed to fill the gaps that we have today, is what I can tell you. So we'll go through it and make sure.

QUESTION: And then, Secretary, in terms of the operations that the National Guard will be involved in, Operation Jump Start specifically prohibited the National Guard to lay hands on immigrants. They were only in a support capacity to the Border Patrol. Are you thinking of similar rules of engagement, if you will?

NIELSEN: We're working with governors, but we have had that conversation. As you know, it's a -- it's a partnership under Title 32. So I'm very interested in continuing the conversation with them. To date, but we've discussed our support activities that are very similar to Jump Start.

QUESTION: So it wouldn't be actual enforcement then (ph)?

NIELSEN: Correct, as of now, as of now. Yes.

[15:30:00]