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CNN NEWSROOM

Trump Lashes Out at Disney; Trump Pardons Dinesh D'Souza; Allies Hit with Tariffs; Russian Journalist Stages his Death. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired May 31, 2018 - 09:30   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:31:34] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: So --

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Today the president is breaking his silence again on Roseanne's firing. But instead of calling her out for her racist tweets, he's actually making it about himself. He's demanding an apology from the head of Disney, Bob Iger.

HARLOW: Yes, he did this yesterday. He's doing it again this morning. Here's what the president writes. Iger, where's my call of apology. You and ABC have offended millions of people. They demand a response. How's Brian Ross doing? He tanked the market with the Navy sea (ph) lie, yet no apology. Double standard.

Of course he's referring to an erroneous report filed by Ross on Michael Flynn, a report that ABC did retract and apologize for. Ross was suspended.

Let's bring back in Mary Katharine Ham and Josh Dawsey.

So, guys, let's just listen to the president himself in his own words making racist remarks.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You had some very bad people in that group, but you also had people that were very fine people, on both sides.

Look at my African-American over here.

When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best.

They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists.

Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners when somebody disrespects our flag to say get that son of a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) off the field right now.

They call her Pocahontas.

(END VIDEO CLIP) HARLOW: So, Mary Katharine, I was scratching my head this morning thinking, why wouldn't he just denounce at least the Roseanne comment, right? But then you think about it sort of full circle and he hasn't taken back any of those things he said, right? So why would he condemn someone else?

MARY KATHARINE HAM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. No, I'm totally unsurprised that he's not taking that opportunity. Also, I'm not sure that I want like a nine day Roseanne news cycle. Like, we can all denounce her except for the president, obviously, and then -- and move on.

But, look, but this -- this is who he is and it's one of the reasons that I talked about that before he got the nomination for the GOP and before he was elected, and I'm not sure you're going to fix it.

And, by the way, he's not entitled to apologies for news outlets just criticizing him.

I will say, you can recognize the racism of Roseanne and that she should have been punished for it socially and recognize that there is a double standard, including the fact that one Samantha Bee called Ivanka Trump a feckless word I cannot say that begins with a "c" that is the worst word you can call a woman on TV and there will not be a nine day news cycle about that.

KEILAR: There's -- there will -- there will certainly -- it will be part of the news cycle. But, no, I definitely understand what you're saying, Mary Katharine.

I wonder if you guys heard what Tom Arnold said. He is the ex-husband of Roseanne Barr. And this is what he said about sort of whether he was expecting something like this to happen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TOM ARNOLD, ROSEANNE BARR'S EX-HUSBAND: I had a feeling this was going to happen when I first heard it was coming back. She was so into the conspiracy stuff with Donald Trump and so how far gone she was and the pizzagate, and Hillary's a pedophile, and Obama wasn't born here. She was, you know, a birther and how crazy that was, I just knew that this would not end well.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: I mean, Josh, he seemed to have -- this is the question, right, as we look back on, you know, part of the issue with Roseanne to -- also to your point, Mary Katharine, was it wasn't just one isolated thing that she said, right?

HARLOW: Right.

[09:35:03] KEILAR: I mean there was a pattern of things that she was saying. We understood she previously called another black female Obama administration official an ape, you know, in the past. This was something that Susan Rice showed an old tweet of. There were so many data points when it came to Roseanne that this is

certainly no surprise to the people who know her very well.

JOSH DAWSEY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. I mean I don't think myself to be a Roseanne expert. I can say that the president saw her as an ally. Obviously he was on the stage at a rally recently bragging about her ratings, saying that he called her personally to say she was representing, you know, the quote/unquote, deplorable supporters that love him so much. So it's hard to imagine the president's going to condemn her. And I think by his attack on Bob Iger and ABC, he's saying -- he's pointing out, hey, other people are offensive too.

As Sarah Sanders yesterday at the podium said that the White House did not support her comments, but she also came prepared with a whole litany of comments that other folks had made that were against the president. And it's quite a deflection strategy here from the White House on these comments. But I think the president -- you're not going to see him condemn her. I just don't think it's going to happen.

HARLOW: But let's just -- I mean, Mary Katharine, point of fact here, ABC did apologize. OK, maybe Bob Iger didn't pick up the phone and call the president, but let me remind you, within 24 hours of that Brian Ross report, the head of ABC News, who works directly for Bob Iger said, we deeply regret and apologize for the serious error we made.

I just don't understand what the president has to gain, even politically, by making this all about him and saying, why didn't Bob Iger call me. Do you?

HAM: Yes, I think it's his impulse and I think it -- you know, a lot of people in the base, and even beyond the base actually agree that the media's often unfair to him. And he is more than welcome to point that out. And apologies and retractions should be forthcoming when people get things wrong and sometimes they are not.

But, yes, he doesn't -- he's not entitled to a personal call from every reporter or every head of a network that gets something wrong. We should do our best to get things right. But this is not just about the person of the president and he -- Trump never recognizes that. It's always about the person of the president because that president happens to be Trump.

HARLOW: Thank you both. Mary Katharine Ham, Josh Dawsey, appreciate you sticking around.

Coming up, a fascinating new book revealing how deeply the election of Donald Trump shook President Obama. The question he asked himself after voters made their choice.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:41:44] KEILAR: All right, we have some breaking news from the president. He's actually just announced on Twitter that he has plans to grant a full pardon to conservative commentator and author Dinesh D'Souza. D'Souza pleaded guilty in 2014 to campaign finance violations arising from contributions to a GOP Senate candidate. The president says that D'Souza, quote, was treated very unfairly by our government.

Let's bring in Mark Preston now to join us to talk about this.

This was somewhat unexpected right, Mark?

MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. I mean no doubt we certainly did not see this coming. And in many ways, though, we shouldn't be surprised because what we've seen is President Trump with other pardons of famous people, Joe Arpaio for example, we saw him pardon him recently. And in addition to that, we saw Scooter Libby as well who was pardoned. Now, Scooter Libby, of course, was the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney and was involved in releasing the name of a CIA agent.

But having said that, President Trump clearly doing something that is unexpected. But, Brianna, should we ever be -- you know, not expect him to do something that would surprise us.

KEILAR: No, that's right.

HARLOW: There's something -- there's interesting here, guys. A, this is the fifth time the president has used his pardoning power so far. But one interesting note here. You see the end of the tweet, Mark Preston, where the president says he was treated unfairly by our government. One of the lead U.S. attorneys on the case was Preet Bharara.

PRESTON: Yes, well, I mean, listen, he also thinks -- for the fact is, he also is -- when he makes these pardons, he said the same thing about Joe Arpaio.

HARLOW: Right.

PRESTON: He's saying this about this gentlemen as well. And let's note, President Trump -- you know --

HARLOW: But he and Preet -- the president and Preet have a, you know, no love between those two.

PRESTON: No, no, no -- yes, of course. No love between those two. But it's also President Trump is trying to make the point that he two is also being treated unfairly by the government. Certainly by the FBI and the Justice Department as we speak right now. And this author, who he has pardoned, is also a very well-known conservative and a Donald Trump supporter.

KEILAR: So what -- I mean what's his sort of -- what's his game here? Who's he -- who's he sending this message to?

PRESTON: Well, a couple of things. I think that he's sending it to all of his supporters across the country that he is going to stand up for those that he thinks that have been treated unfairly. And in this case it so happens to be a conservative celeb in many ways. So I think that's who he's reaching out to. And I also think he's trying to make a point that other people are being treated unfairly. Hey, everybody, look at me because I am being treated unfairly. HARLOW: So, Mark Preston, though, what about, you know, a name comes

to my mind is Michael Cohen? I mean Michael Cohen was in court yesterday. Michael Cohen is someone who could be damaging to the president, potentially.

PRESTON: Could.

HARLOW: And, I mean, is this also an assertion of, I have pardon power?

PRESTON: You have to wonder, is there a little underlying message there that no matter what happens to you, Michael, up -- with the southern district of New York and their investigation into your business practices, I could be there for you.

So, Poppy, you're right. there could be a little subtle message being sent.

KEILAR: All right, Mark Preston, thank you so much.

And we'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:49:22] HARLOW: All right, we have more breaking news this morning.

Wilbur Ross, the commerce secretary, has just announced that the United States will slap some hefty tariffs on our allies, Canada, Mexico, the European Union.

Christine Romans, chief business correspondent, here with more.

This is very significant.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: It is. This is the steel and aluminum tariffs we heard about back in March, Poppy, remember? And then the administration granted some exemptions to our key allies, Canada, Mexico and the E.U. And now the commerce secretary saying at midnight tonight those exemptions will expire. There will be 25 percent tariffs on steel, imported steel from those places into the United States, and 10 percent on aluminum. Still some negotiations going on with some other countries as well.

The E.U. has vowed to retaliate and said that it is not fair, that it is casting itself as sort of the free trade -- the free trade beacon of the world while the United States is an America first protectionist. That's going to be bad for everyone, they say. You can expect retaliation on maybe Kentucky bourbon, maybe on motorcycles from Wisconsin, and some strategic ones there.

[09:50:21] HARLOW: Harley Davidson.

Can you help me understand, a, what this does to NAFTA negotiations, but also, b, how does this help American jobs, the Trump base, you talk about, you know, maybe retaliation on some key products out of Kentucky, for example. I don't get the play here in terms of helping U.S. jobs.

ROMANS: It raises the cost for people who consume this kind of stuff and then make it. So there is going to be one part of the economy that could have trouble with jobs.

HARLOW: Right.

ROMANS: But then this should, according to the White House, help aluminum workers and steel workers.

Now, we have seen steel production growing, though, over recent years --

HARLOW: Yes.

ROMANS: Without adding more workers.

HARLOW: Right.

ROMANS: So one wonders how that's going to -- how that's going to effect on the margin.

You asked about NAFTA.

What it seems is though is that the United States was not getting what it wanted from Canada and Mexico in its negotiations on NAFTA. So this clearly complicates ongoing negotiations of -- on NAFTA.

The commerce secretary told reporters that, look, going forward, there's flexibility. There will be more negotiation. But as of now, these are tariffs on key American allies.

HARLOW: OK, it's a huge development. Christine Romans, thank you very much.

ROMANS: Yes.

HARLOW: Appreciate it.

Brie.

KEILAR: Well, Poppy, a Russian journalist who staged his own death to foil an assassination plot is now hitting back at critics who say that he went too far. Arkady Babchenko shocked the world yesterday when he showed up alive at a press conference in Ukraine a day after his reported killing and now questions are being raised, if Ukrainian authorities and Babchenko acted ethically, lying to the press about his death and blaming Russia for it.

Joining me now, we have CNN's senior international correspondent Frederik Pleitgen.

Fred, what's he saying?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Brianna. Well, he's lashing out at critics who are not only criticizing him, but also the Ukrainian security forces as well, and basically asked the, look, what do you think we were thinking when we decided to do this? One of the quote which was on his FaceBook page earlier today is, I'm going to quote this, he says, we are kind of bored -- talking about their thinking -- we are kind of bored. We have nothing to do. Let's paint Babchenko's back with blood, make his face a giant blood clot, take him to the morgue and say, that's what it was like that from the beginning? And all these guys were like, hell yeah, let's do it, because we really have nothing else to do.

Of course, he's referencing the fact that they did stage his death and apparently he was taken -- it was an ambulance to a hospital and then they said that he had died there, which, of course, was not true.

Now, the Ukrainians say it was absolutely necessary. They say that they netted two suspects that are now under questioning and may be able to get to a wider network. But, of course, there are many people who are highly critical of what happened. The committee to protect journalists is saying, looking, you people need to explain why you thought there was no other way to conduct this operation rather than to fake a journalist's death.

Poppy.

Brianna.

KEILAR: Yes, it's a good point.

All right, Fred Pleitgen, thank you so much.

Two people are dead in Boone, North Carolina, this morning after a landslide caused their home to collapse. Heavy rain due to Subtropical Storm Alberto triggered this landslide on Wednesday night. It caused a gas leak and an explosion that destroyed the home. The identities of the victims have not yet been released as they await families being notified. Four people have died in North Carolina this week, causing the governor, Roy Cooper, to declare a state of emergency for the western part of the state.

Movie producer Harvey Weinstein has been indicted by a New York grand jury on rape and criminal sex act charges. The charges stemming from incidents with two different women in 2004 and 2013. And his attorney says he will plead not guilty. He remains free after posting a $1 million cash bail last week. Harvey Weinstein will next be in court July 30th.

And going to college just became more affordable for employees at Walmart. The company announcing a new benefit program where employees can pay just a dollar a day to go to college. Walmart says they'll cover the remaining costs for tuition, for fees and books. Employees can pursue their degree at Brandman University, Bellevue University or the university of Florida. All three have online accredited programs for working adults. This applies to all part time, full time and salaried employees who have been with the company for just at least 90 days. Coming up, can the summit be salvaged? The world waiting to see the result of a meeting between Mike Pompeo and Kim Jong-un's right-hand man. We're going to get a live report on those negotiations still underway.

HARLOW: Also, the secret memo now in the hands of the special counsel. Why former FBI Acting Director Andrew McCabe was so concerned after a conversation about James Comey's firing.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:59:23] KEILAR: Good morning. I'm Brianna Keilar in Washington.

HARLOW: And I'm Poppy Harlow in New York. So glad you're with us.

Our breaking news this hour, a new presidential pardon, a significant one. President Trump announces just moments ago that conservative author, filmmaker, fire brand, Dinesh D'Souza, will have his 2014 conviction for campaign finance violations wiped off the books. He will be pardoned. D'Souza says the president -- the president says D'Souza was treated very unfairly by our government.

Let's go to Kaitlan Collins at the White House.

Kaitlan, this is the fifth pardon for this president. It comes after other controversial pardons, like Scooter Libby, Joe Arpaio. What's most significant about this one?

[10:00:00] KAITLAN COLLIN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's pretty unexpected here, Poppy. The president just tweeted this minutes after he had been speaking with reporters at Joint Base Andrews as he's on his way to Texas today.