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CNN NEWSROOM

President Trump Stands Behind Scott Pruitt Despite Mounting Scandal; Arizona Governor Welcomes National Guard Troops at the Border; Number of High Schoolers Vaping Surges; Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired April 6, 2018 - 10:30   ET

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


[10:30:00] TARA SETMAYER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: So people are willing, for whatever reasons, they think that the legislative goals and that Donald Trump is supposed to be giving them is worth setting aside character and integrity, letting him get away with things that no other president ever would have been able to, basically being hypocrites on the issue, considering that conservatives and Republicans, the faith -- supposed to be the values, faith and values coalition, and the way we handled the Bill Clinton affairs, and those voices have gone either silent or they decided to shrug it off.

And I just don't think that that's a good way to go. And no, the base doesn't care. So the more that they -- you talk about Stormy Daniels, they think that Donald Trump is the victim here. And it is a very strange psychology. And I think that it is not going to matter. What will matter is if we find out that there were any campaign violations. That's really where the complications come in for the president on this. Unfortunately not for morality of the affair with the porn star.

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: As we shift gears a little bit, CNN reporting that the president had floated the idea of replacing Attorney General Jeff Sessions with Secretary Pruitt as recently as this week.

Given all of the headlines that we have seen about Scott Pruitt, it would be interesting for one to imagine what that confirmation hearing would be like.

Matt, is the president just tone deaf here?

MATT LEWIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. I don't think there is any way that Scott Pruitt would -- because he would have to be reconfirmed. And I don't think that would be possible. But the difference between Jeff Sessions and Scott Pruitt is that Jeff Sessions did something that Donald Trump didn't like. Jeff Sessions recused himself from Russia, thereby angering the president and not demonstrating appropriate loyalty.

Scott Pruitt hasn't done that, for all the things that he's done, all the scandals, all the controversies that Scott Pruitt is now embroiled in, one thing he has going for himself is he's a loyalist to Donald Trump, he's advancing Trump's agenda, and so there you have it. What does Donald Trump care most about?

HILL: And we hear a lot about loyalty. But to pick up on that point, as we just heard from Jeremy's reporting as well, you know, (INAUDIBLE), who's an important part there of the campaign and very close to Scott Pruitt, one of these people reportedly iced out and still has a close relationship with the president.

Tara, as we look at this, which loyalty ends up weighing out in a situation like this?

SETMAYER: Well, it is tough to say. I mean, for all the talk of Trump being loyal, he's only loyal until he's not, which we've seen plenty of examples of throughout his tumultuous presidency with various other officials.

What is interesting to me about the whole Scott Pruitt thing is how swampy it really is. If you look at all of the scandals behind Scott Pruitt, the misuse of -- well, I wouldn't say misuse, the abuse of taxpayer money with the first class flights and, you know, building a $43,000 soundproof phone booth in his office and office furniture and the renting below cost condominium from a lobbyist's wife.

I mean, these are very swamp thing. So that goes against everything that Donald Trump ran against, about draining the swamp. I mean, Scott Pruitt -- the head of his security detail was removed after he told Scott Pruitt he can't use his lights and sirens to get through -- cut through Washington, D.C. tariff unless it's an emergency. A couple of weeks later that is gone, replaced with a new guy, and his new guy's friend gets a contract from the EPA.

I mean, these are very swampy things, yet why is Scott Pruitt still there? Because for now, Donald Trump likes what he's doing at the EPA. But as long as these headlines continue this way and this distraction, I mean, Scott Pruitt should have been gone a long time ago. But we'll see. I don't see him outlasting this regardless.

You can get another EPA administrator that will do the same thing Scott Pruitt is doing that isn't abusing his position.

HILL: Jen, in terms of that swamp, how much does that come back to hurt the president?

JENNIFER PSAKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think the big question here is how much does the president realize this is hurting him because it certainly is hurting him, perhaps not with his base, but certainly people who may fall kind of in the middle there, who are concerned about the swampiness that is being created here that he promised to fight against.

What struck me in some of the reporting this morning about aides saying that Pruitt wanted to be treated like he was president of the United States. There is no way that Trump likes that. And Pruitt's continued abuse of his office also just makes the White House look like they had no control over this situation, which does reflect back on Trump. So even if he isn't horrified by the individual abuses of power here by Pruitt this is starting to reflect back on the White House, it is dominating news, and that's something that we have seen in the past really irks Trump.

(CROSSTALK)

SETMAYER: And he hasn't done well in media interviews either, which is something else Trump cares a lot about.

PSAKI: That's true. That's true, too.

SETMAYER: Against what they said, right? The White House told them, you know, you may not want to keep doing these interviews and he had a pretty disastrous interview on FOX News the other day, which I'm sure didn't make the president happy.

HILL: Well, and to your point, as we were learning after that interview, that he had reportedly been told not to do the interview.

[10:35:02] The fact that he responded to a question with "is that a fair question" when this is something that we know the White House is already looking into.

SETMAYER: Right.

HILL: I mean, it begs the question, is there a tone deafness issue, not just in the Oval Office, but in Scott Pruitt's office as well?

SETMAYER: Well, I'll just jump on that real quick, not only that, but the pay raise issue, giving these bonuses to employees, which was rejected by the Office of Presidential Personnel, and then his other staffers found a workaround through the Safe Water Drinking Act, to give these employees bonuses, that's another aspect that Scott Pruitt has not been very forthcoming on.

He was -- the answers he gave FOX News versus the reporting we're finding out from other EPA officials who said he 100 percent knew what was going on, he's arguing process, that's never good. We start arguing process because you don't have an argument elsewhere. So he's in trouble with this.

HILL: Yes. And --

(CROSSTALK)

HILL: Go ahead, Jen.

PSAKI: I just want to say on the very basic issue that most people can understand who don't understand Washington, or ethics lawyers, is the fact that the ethics -- that they claim that paying $50 for rental is market value. I've lived in D.C. for almost 20 years. You cannot get a stoop of a front porch for $50. So the reality --

SETMAYER: Especially not now.

PSAKI: Definitely not now. So there is a reality there that just seems like they knew that they were lying and for most people that's a pretty obvious example.

HILL: Here's the other real quick question, Matt, I'll throw this to you, is we know this is a president who doesn't like being told what to do. Right? He's going to make his own decisions on his own time, whatever that time frame may be. And yet it is he's being barraged. We know he watches a lot of television, by all of these headlines, all of these stories mounting about the questions, about Scott Pruitt.

So who is it around the president that has his ear or who will be put on television to telegraph that message to him that perhaps it is time to take a second look at his conduct?

LEWIS: I don't think he's going to listen to anybody. I think when Donald Trump watches Ed Henry interview Scott Pruitt and determines that Scott Pruitt isn't up for the job, it's when Donald Trump gets jealous of the attention that Scott Pruitt is getting, or the fact that Scott Pruitt has carried himself in such a way to act as if he's the president, as if he's the big deal. I think that is the thing.

Look, Donald Trump is more than happy to create scandals and controversies that other people have to fix for him. What he's not willing to do is to lose political capital, defending somebody else, and their scandals and controversies. And that's why I think that Pruitt is very -- on very thin ice, sort of very tenuous right now.

HILL: Matt Lewis, Jen Psaki, Tara Setmayer, thank you all.

PSAKI: Thank you.

LEWIS: Thank you.

SETMAYER: Thank you.

HILL: President Trump mobilizing the National Guard to the southern border. He says it will help stop a caravan of immigrants headed that way. And at least one state says it is welcoming the help.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:42:08] HILL: As many as 4,000 National Guard troops heading to the U.S.-Mexico border. President Trump says they are need to help with a surge of illegal immigrants and that includes a caravan heading north right now through Mexico.

Officials in some states say they don't need the National Guard's help, others, though, are welcoming it and that includes Arizona.

CNN's Nick Watt is there now near the border.

So, Nick, we know Arizona's governor has said he welcomes this, tweeting his thanks as well to the Trump administration.

NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Erica. Doug Ducey, the governor down here in Arizona, he tweeted -- he said, "Arizona welcomed the deployment, Washington has ignored this issue for too long, help is needed for Arizona. It's about public safety."

Now there are four states on this border, Texas, New Mexico, with similarly positive response, Governor Jerry Brown of California, who is a Democrat, a little more lukewarm, so we'll see what happens there. But the Arizona National Guard, they say they're standing ready, but they have not yet received orders. So they don't know where they're going to go. They don't know what they'll be doing.

The reason that we came to this particular spot on the border is that the National Guard has been deployed here before. They were here in 2007. And also this fence that you see behind me, that runs out. That stops a couple of miles just up there where those mountains begin and actually Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke was down here last month, and he said this is a place where we would like to build a wall, where we will build a wall.

Because you know, actually those mountains, that's a nature reserve just over there. And that was actually closed to the public 10 or 12 years ago because there was such a problem of illegal immigrants, gun runners, smugglers, coming across the border up there.

So this may well be a place where the National Guard will be sent. But as I say, they have not received orders so they don't know. Now as you mentioned, the administration and the Department of Homeland Security is eager to portray this as a crisis on the border. And that's why they need to send the National Guard. And it really depends how you look at the figures.

I mean, President Trump himself tweeted this week that, you know, border apprehensions are in a 46-year low, 2017 was very low. I mean, you know, back in 2000, 1.6 million people were caught at the border. That number is way down. But this month, the number is up on last month, it's up on last year. And that's why they say they need to do this. But how they're going to do this, when the troops are going to arrive, we still do not know -- Erica.

HILL: Still a few important questions remain unanswered.

Nick Watt, appreciate it, thank you.

Teenage vaping is growing at an alarming rate. And experts say the e- cigarette trend could lead to the next generation of nicotine addicts. That report ahead.

[10:44:53]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HILL: There has been a huge surge of high schoolers using e- cigarettes or vaping. E-cigarettes, though, carry a number of health risks.

CNN chief medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta has more now. And in some ways they were turning to these because they thought they were safer than traditional cigarettes, right?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. That's exactly right, Erica. Look, you and I have kids who are about to go into high school pretty soon. And as far as high school fads, which often come and go, this one seems to be sticking and there is a lot of concern about it. Exactly for the reason you mentioned. There is a perceived harmlessness with this, but that's not the case.

Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GUPTA (voice-over): In Milford, Connecticut, high school principal Francis Thompson is desperately trying to snuff out a problem that teachers are having all across the country.

FRANCIS THOMPSON, PRINCIPAL, JONATHAN LAW HIGH SCHOOL: They could come in here, you have four, five kids at a time, congregating and they start to vape.

[10:50:06] GUPTA: It's a trend that many parents are not even aware of. But e-cigarette use or vaping has grown an astonishing 900 percent among high school students in recent years, according to the surgeon-general. And in 2016 National Youth Tobacco survey found nearly 1.7 million high school students and 500,000 middle schoolers had used e-cigarettes in just the 30-day period before the survey was taken. In Wrentham, Massachusetts, Assistant Vice Principal Spencer Christi says he too is overwhelmed by this new and pervasive epidemic.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These are JUUL pods. Now it moved to students vaping in hallways, vaping in classrooms.

JENNIFER WELDEN, TEACHER, KING PHILIP REGIONAL HIGH SCHOOL: In the back two desks in the corner, they had their hands kind of up like this, and there was a blue light coming from between their hands.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The most popular item, which is the JUUL, and as you can see, it looks like a flash drive. It's not. And then the kids can just tuck it away when they're done. So --

GUPTA: It's not just the design of these products. Critics say all these flavors also entice kids to start vaping. One study out of Harvard found some of these artificial flavors contain diacetyl, that's a chemical linked to severe respiratory disease.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The kids that I talk to believe that there is nothing in there that is dangerous. They don't think there is anything more than water.

GUPTA: It's not water. It's called e-liquid. And when heated by the coil, it changes to an aerosol. Columbia University researchers using this machine found the vapor has toxic metals, Meconium, nickel, zinc, and lead. And as we know, there is no safe level of lead.

With very little regulation, people are not fully aware of what they're consuming. I sat down with the FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb and asked him about this e-cig phenomenon.

SCOTT GOTTLIEB, FDA COMMISSIONER: The youth's use is deeply concerning to me. We're going to be taking some enforcement actions very soon to target companies that we think are marketing products and ways they're deliberately appealing to kids. I'm going to be having conversations with some of these companies trying to inspire them, if I can, to take more corrective actions on their own.

GUPTA: Don't forget, nicotine is one of the most addictive substances out there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it is the next epidemic among teenagers.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

GUPTA: Remember, Erica, e-cigarettes were marketed really as a smoking cessation tool. You know you get people off of cigarettes and there is some evidence that maybe an adult that has been -- that has worked. But what's happening with kids, again, 900 percent increase over five year period. Many parents completely unaware of this. So those numbers have gone up. Many of those kids, a quarter of them, are turning to regular combustible cigarettes as well.

HILL: Wow.

GUPTA: So it's a huge problem.

HILL: It really is. Sanjay, good to have you here. And good to highlight it as well. Thank you.

GUPTA: You got it. Thank you.

HILL: Tiger Woods is the main attraction at the Masters. The other co-favorite, though, is sitting at the top of the leader board. Andy Scholes joins us live from Augusta.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:57:43] HILL: All eyes on Tiger Woods yesterday, playing in his first round at the Masters in three years.

Andy Scholes is in Augusta. So day one, how did it go?

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erica, it could have gone much worse. I'll tell you that. But in terms of the weather, beautiful here in Augusta for round one. It's going to be beautiful here again today. And I, like many of the patrons here yesterday, following around Tiger in his first round back at the Masters in three years.

It was one of the biggest galleries I've ever seen. Everyone I talked to just hoping that he would do well here in his return. And I tell you what, the wheels almost came off in the middle of his round yesterday. On 11, Tiger hit it in the trees, and then his second shot he hit it from the trees into the gallery. Bogeyed that hole. Then he bogeyed 12 after hitting in the water. But he would rally, came through with a nice birdie putt on 16 to get a big ovation from the gallery. And after the round, Tiger, he said he was just pleased to get back to just one over par.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TIGER WOODS, FOUR-TIME MASTERS CHAMPION: I played in a major championship again. But also the fact that I was -- I got myself back in this tournament. I could have easily let it slip away and I fought hard to get back in there. And now I'm back in this championship. I know there is a lot of holes we play.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHOLES: Now, this was a very familiar sight. Jordan Spieth dominating at the Masters. He was on fire on the back 9 yesterday, five straight birdies. He's your leader right now at 6 under par. In 2015, when Spieth won this tournament, he led wire to wire. He's trying to do that now for a second time to win his second green jacket.

Now one guy who is not going to be competing this weekend more than likely is your defending champ, Sergio Garcia. He had a tin cup moment on 15 yesterday hitting five straight balls into the water. It was just an incredible thing to see. Sergio ended with a 13 on the hole, tying for the most ever at a hole here at the Masters. Sergio, though, will be hanging around until Sunday to put the green jacket on the eventual winner.

And fun fact, in the past 12 Masters, the winner has come out of the top 10 after round one. So these are the guys right now that have a great chance of putting that green jacket on come Sunday.

All right. Make sure to tune into to CNN 2:30 Eastern tomorrow, behind the scenes look at the Masters, "All Access at Augusta." We'll get you ready for all of the weekend's action.

And Erica, you and I said, beautiful yesterday, beautiful today, going to get rain on Saturday. That's when things will get interesting.