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CNN: Trump Preparing Dozens Of New Pardons; Ryan Sides With GOP Representative Trey Gowdy On Confidential FBI Source; Mexico Slaps $3B Tariffs On U.S. Bourbon, Pork, Cheese, Produce; GOP Lawmaker "Disappointed" In Trump's Handling Of Eagles; White House Accuses Eagles Of Pulling A "Political Stunt;" Sarah Sanders Refuses To Explain False Statement On Trump Tower Meeting. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired June 6, 2018 - 11:00   ET




BOLDUAN: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. We begin this hour with breaking news out of the White House and President Trump's new favorite thing. One of the president's few absolute powers, the power of the pardon.

Right now, two sources are telling CNN President Trump is preparing a big, bold new wave of pardons, potentially dozens of people. Paperwork is now being assembled. CNN's Kaitlan Collins has the reporting and she's joining me from the White House. Kaitlan, how many people are we talking about here.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: We are talking dozens here, Kate, at least 30 people that the White House has prepared paperwork for, for the president to pardon. And all it would take is essentially the president's signature for that to happen.

So, a very large number there that comes after the president, of course, had that pardon last week for that very controversial figure, Dinesh D'Souza, the conservative author, who has floated conspiracy theories in the past.

But this just goes to show how much the president is willing to exert his constitutional power here to what he believes are wronged and help people he believes who have been either imprisoned for too long or sentenced in the wrong way.

We're really seeing an indication of just how much the president is ready to do that, just how high that scale is with this number of at least 30 people that the president is ready to pardon.

Now this comes as the president just met with Kim Kardashian last week in the oval office. That was unusual, but it was because she was lobbying for President Trump to pardon Alice Johnson, that woman who was imprisoned in Alabama on drugs and money laundering charges.

And of course, that is something that came as a result of conversations between Kim Kardashian and Jared Kushner. Now Alice Johnson does have the paperwork ready to be pardoned if the president should sign it.

But I'm told there is still some discussion going on behind closed doors in the west wing over whether or not she should be pardoned, or they should simply commute her sentence as they have done with other people in the past.

Now, the reason why it's up for debate is President Trump seems inclined to pardon Alice Johnson, but his Chief of Staff John Kelly has advocated against it. So, that certainly is an interesting riff there between the chief of staff and Jared Kushner over whether or not this woman should be pardoned.

But what this speaks to the larger point of is the president attempting to pardon people in his first year and second year in office. Now that's not unusual that the president can use this power to pardon people.

That is a constitutional right he has to do that and other presidents who came before him certainly pardoned lots of people as well. What's unusual here is how the president is using this.

He's already pardoned five people in just his 17 months here in office and of course, he seems to be prepared to do dozens more and go forward and typically they wait until the end of their term to pardon controversial figures like this.

One more thing I should note, Kate, is also since the president has pardoned people in recent weeks, his friends and allies outside the White House have started lobbying him and others to pardon people that they also believe should be given forgiveness here.

BOLDUAN: Let's see where that leads. Kaitlan, great to see you. Thanks so much. Lots of paperwork being prepared at this moment, but we also have some more breaking news this morning.

House Speaker Paul Ryan siding with Congressman Trey Gowdy saying he hasn't seen evidence of the president's claim that the FBI planted a spy in his campaign for political purposes, just as the president continues to make this unproven claim as recently as last night.

CNN's Manu Raju is on Capitol Hill. Manu, what did Paul Ryan say?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Well, Paul Ryan did side with Trey Gowdy, who did come out publicly after those briefings occurred last month right before Memorial Day, and Trey Gowdy saying that the FBI did exactly what it was supposed to do at that time.

Now immediately afterwards, after Gowdy essentially said that there was no Spygate as the president has been alleging, the president's allies have pounded Trey Gowdy including Rudy Giuliani and the president's lawyers and 2others have questioned Trey Gowdy.

But today in a very significant break from the White House, I asked Paul Ryan about that and he sided with Trey Gowdy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) RAJU: (Inaudible) you sat in a briefing with Trey Gowdy who said that he's more convinced the FBI --, do you agree with Trey Gowdy?

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), HOUSE SPEAKER: Normally I don't like to comment on classified briefings. I think Chairman Gowdy's initial assessment is accurate, I think. We have some more digging to do. We're waiting for some more document requests. We have some more documents to review.

[11:05:03] We still have some unanswered questions and it would have been helpful if we'd gotten this information earlier. As Chairman Nunes said the other day, if we had the information we were looking for we could wrap this up faster.

But I have seen no evidence to the contrary of the initial assessment that Chairman Gowdy has made, but I want to make sure that we run every lead down and make sure we get the final answers to these questions.


RAJU: So, Kate, no evidence to the contrary of what Trey Gowdy said. Now this is in line with what Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said who was also at one of those briefings last month.

And he said that, quote, "He saw nothing particularly surprising. Chairman Richard Burr, the Senate Intelligence Committee would not comment about what he saw in that briefing, but only Devin Nunes, who has really been the one on Capitol Hill pushing this has continued to raise some questions saying over the weekend that it was the media who is misreporting this.

And he's demanding more records from the Justice Department, but it is clear, Kate that Nunes is essentially on an island here on this issue on Capitol Hill as the Republicans who have been in these briefings say they see no evidence to support the president's claim that there was some sort of spy that infiltrated the campaign as the president suggested could be the biggest political scandal in history for Republicans who have seen the evidence don't seem to share that view -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: But Paul Ryan -- maybe in a Paul Ryanesque way seems to be saying, though, that it's not over. There's more digging that we need to do. I mean, that line is something of a lifeline to let this thing continue on if they so choose, which I think I know what direction the president will go on that. Great to see you, Manu. Thanks so much.

Joining me right now CNN Politics Reporter and Editor-at-Large, Chris Cillizza, and Shan Wu, former federal prosecutor. Thanks so much for being here, guys.

Chris, so, Manu laid it up perfectly with where Paul Ryan now stands on this, is there any chance that the president will take Paul Ryan's word since the White House didn't take Trey Gowdy's word really for it? CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER AND EDITOR-AT-LARGE: Let me make a 100 percent guaranteed accurate prediction, Kate, no. Donald Trump has convinced himself that there is more here, that the use of a human confidential source which the FBI has acknowledged in an attempt to learn more about what George Papadopoulos and Carter Page were doing with the Russians or what the Russians were trying to do with George Papadopoulos and Carter Page has been turned in the mind of Donald Trump to an embedded spy in his campaign and planted there by Barack Obama and without any real oversight by the Department of Justice and the FBI.

What I would say is every public fact we know suggests that is inaccurate, and people who have seen the classified information that includes Paul Ryan and that includes Trey Gowdy say that's not accurate.

Devin Nunes, House Intelligence Committee chairman, who has been onboard with this idea has not said anything. So, you would think if there was something that supported the idea that Nunes and Donald Trump had you would have heard it.

BOLDUAN: And also, I will say, though, Paul Ryan, saying we have more digging to do, though. That's a lifeline to the president on this one. That is -- that is a -- it's almost like a significant break from the White House for now-ish, but he's leaving it open with that statement until he says I've seen nothing and let's put it to rest, and I don't think Paul Ryan will say that, though.

Anyway, let's talk about pardons right now. Shan, the administration is preparing paperwork for at least 30 people, Kaitlan Collin, says for potential pardons. This is a power exclusive to the president. What do you make of this?

SHAN WU, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I think it's really an extraordinary abuse of that power. The pardon attorney system in the Justice Department is a very cautious one. They want to make sure that the people are deserving.

They want to make sure that there's been time for the people to show atonement, that their lives have turned around, and I think it's very interesting in Kaitlan's report that some sources attribute the motivation for the president to some instances where he thinks that the Justice Department has overstepped.

It's hard to imagine something more at odds with the concept of having the department recommendations because he's basically saying that he's interested in the department's wrong because he wants to show that they're wrong.

BOLDUAN: I wonder, Shan, if he's talking about where the paperwork is being produced and not prepared by the Justice Department and it sounds like conversations right now are within the White House -- Chris.

CILLIZZA: Yes. Remember that we know he did not go through the office of pardons. BOLDUAN: Right.

CILLIZZA: With Dinesh D'Souza and with Scooter Libby and I believe with Joe Arpaio, as well. So, that's one fact. The other thing is look at -- Shan makes the right point, look at the kind of people and cases Donald Trump is interested in pardoning according to Kaitlan and according to who he's pardoned in the recent past.

These are people who affirm a narrative he quite clearly believes. The FBI and the Justice Department are wrongfully pursuing and prosecuting people that the deep state is targeting people and he wants to be the person who rights these wrongs.

[11:10:11] That's not an accident. That's a narrative he very much believes in and a narrative that he thinks helps him both in the White House and with his base.

BOLDUAN: And it seems that no matter what the president thinks that a lot of folks see that and are reacting to it. Just last night the wife of George Papadopoulos went on Fox, Fox News to make her case that her husband has been wronged. Her husband should be pardoned. Listen to this.


SIMONA MANGANTE PAPADOPOULOS, WIFE OF GEORGE PAPADOPOULOS: I know (inaudible) committed in the Trump campaign. I know he did an excellent job. I know -- because of (inaudible) freedom is challenged and so I trust and hope President Trump to pardon him. I hope he will.


BOLDUAN: Shan, do you now think that what the president is doing is a signal for the rest of the investigation?

CILLIZZA: I certainly think it is a signal and a warm-up for him to get people used to the idea that he can do this as he pleases. Those public appeals really speak for themselves. They know the best way to get to him.

I think tellingly, you know, he has not actually named a position of a pardon attorney right now and frankly, he may not feel he needs to because he's the pardon attorney.

BOLDUAN: If it is a signal, Shan, what can Robert Mueller do about it?

WU: I don't think that Robert Mueller will do anything about it.

BOLDUAN: Or can?

WU: Absolutely. He can't, it's a constitutional issue, but certainly he'll continue to press forward and do what he sees is right and ultimately since it is a discretionary issue, and if becomes really abusive and we seemed to be headed in that direction, that becomes a political matter and would be possible grounds for people to call for impeachment.

BOLDUAN: Chris, Shan, thanks for coming on. I appreciate it.

Also, new this morning, Mexico is fighting back making good on threats to impose tariffs of its own on the United States in retaliation against the steel and aluminum tariffs that the Trump administration slapped on Mexico, and some of America's closest allies.

CNN's Paula Newton is joining me now from the New York Stock Exchange with more on this. Paula, what is Mexico doing here?

PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kate, good to see you. They're imposing about $3 billion worth of tariffs on everything from pork, apples, potatoes, bourbon, cheese, 15 percent to 25 percent and two things to remember about this. They may only represent about 1 percent of everything Mexico exports into the United States.

The problem is that they're only getting started and they're joining Canada and the E.U. in imposing those tariffs and I could tell you everyone is loaded and ready to continue with more tariffs if this trade war continues with the Trump administration.

And two, Kate, this is very, very political. When you start talking about things like bourbon and whiskey, Kentucky and Kennessee. I don't have to remind you that Donald Trump's base will think I want to strike out with trade, but is this really the way to be handling this?

The market, Kate, the market continues to shrug all of this off. Why? They think the sound and fury signifying nothing. They do expect this to really be resolved in the next few weeks and months. The market up better than half of a percent right now and basically on those numbers, and Kate, do we dare say it?

There are some people talking about not the three percent GDP that Donald Trump talks about, but despite the trade fears, people are whispering close to a four percent number by the time we exit the year.

And if that's not enough for you, I'll be back on CNN Money, join me online at 12:45 because even through all of this in 2018, you know, analysts are already looking at that "r" word for 2019, a recession and that is with unemployment with all-time lows. Tough to believe -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: A lot of opposing forces that you're dealing with right now -- 4 percent GDP and a recession. Thanks, Paula. Great to see you. Thank you.

Coming up, the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles is speaking out after the president uninvites the Super Bowl champions and the White House accuses the team of pulling a political stunt. His first remark, that's ahead.

Plus, after one of the biggest primary nights of the year, are hopes for a Democratic takeover of Congress still alive? We're going to breakdown where things stand. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


BOLDUAN: The coach of the Philadelphia Eagles moments ago speaking out for the first time about the invite and the uninvite to the White House. Listen.


DOUG PEDERSON, PHILADELPHIA EAGLES HEAD COACH: Why was that canceled? Probably because we didn't go. I was looking forward to it, you know. Listen, you win a world championship or an NCAA title or anything championship and, you know, you -- you want to be recognized that way. You know, I think it's great. It's over. It's behind us. We're moving on.


BOLDUAN: Doug Pederson says he's moving on, but is the president of the United States? Instead of celebrating the Eagles' Super Bowl win yesterday, President Trump held what he billed as a celebration for America when he canceled the Eagle's meet and greet, he signed a protester in the national anthem has been a big theme for him even though no players from the Eagles team had taken part in the protest during the regular season at all.

Joining me right now a self-described Philly sports fan who bleeds green, Republican congressman from Pennsylvania, Ryan Costello. Congressman, thanks for coming in.


BOLDUAN: What do you think of what Doug Pederson just said?

COSTELLO: I think he's on point. I mean, it is behind us. I think most Philly sports fans are more interested in how Carson Wentz is recovering than they are what happened yesterday. It was disappointing for a lot of us not having the White House ceremony.

[11:20:04] I had constituents down that still decided to attend even though they didn't really know what they were attending since it was no longer a Super Bowl celebration, so we move on from here.

I take issue with the fact that we somehow turned it into a dispute over whether players should be allowed to kneel during the national anthem or not because as you rightly pointed out, the Eagles handled themselves throughout the year on a very touchy, political subject with a great degree of professionalism and so time to move on, I guess.

BOLDUAN: But who is -- well, you can say it's time to move on, but sources are telling CNN that the president is not going to move on. He will continue -- he sees this as a winning issue. I want to ask you about that, but on this point the president made a big deal about who is playing politics here. He thinks the eagles are playing politics. Who do you think are playing politics?

COSTELLO: Well, I think I don't know the circumstances surrounding when the Eagles agreed to come and when they decided that they were not coming. So, I'll reserve judgment on that. I do think the president just the way he went about doing it was playing politics.

As to your other point, I actually tent to agree that the president doubling down on kneeling during the national anthem being a sign of disrespect probably is good politics. I don't think that you should kneel during the national anthem.

I understand it's an exercise free speech, but I don't find it appropriate. I think the NFL policy that if you can't stand during the national anthem in the locker room is the appropriate thing. Some people don't like me saying that but I --

BOLDUAN: The president won't even like you saying it, and the president is even going after folks who wait in the locker room.

COSTELLO: The president always doesn't like what I have to say.

BOLDUAN: That is a very fair point. Do you think it might be fair politics? Do you think that the Republicans should be running on?

COSTELLO: No. We should be running on the fact that we have 3.8 percent unemployment. We have more job openings than we do folks looking for work. I think the tax cuts are working. I think that there are a tremendous number of economic indicators that point that our economy is moving in the right direction. You're starting to see wage growth increase. That's really the message.

BOLDUAN: Well, let's see if the president sticks to your advice on what the message should be. You are retiring and one of the reasons that you've cited about your retirement is a general frustration -- it's frustration with the president.

But also, the fact that Republicans will ask questions ad nauseam at every turn about the president and here's a reason why lawmakers face questions about the president at every turn because he's now -- there's now a split between it seems Speaker Ryan and Donald Trump.

Speaker Ryan is now siding with Trey Gowdy against the president and saying so far they've seen no evidence that the FBI planted a spy in the Trump campaign. That, of course, has been a huge deal. Paul Ryan speaking out just this morning. Who do you side with on this?

COSTELLO: I think Chairman Gowdy's representation that the FBI has comported themselves appropriately during that period of time is correct. I think that Trey speaks truth to power and calls balls and strikes fairly, which is why on another matter when you look at Scott Pruit and the EPA administrator's spending habits and candidly some mismanagement that's going on there.

I think Trey is handling that investigation in the Oversight Committee properly by not jumping to judgment, but also asking the very tough questions. So, at some point in time, I think, we have to have trust in those leading these investigations or else the integrity investigation really falls apart. I think Trey's done a good job with that and I agree with Trey's assessment on the situation.

BOLDUAN: Well, trust is a big thing, right? And truth is a big thing. I say that because I want you to listen to what we heard yesterday from White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders regarding the president's involvement in the conflicting statements coming out of the White House.

Did the president dictate a later, a statement? Did he not dictate a statement about his son's meeting in Trump Tower during the campaign? Listen to what Sarah Sanders said yesterday in questioning.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, why can't you correct the record now?

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Again, I'm not going to answer questions that deal specifically with conversations between the outside counsel and the special counsel.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're not going to answer questions?

SANDERS: Again, I am not going to get into a back and forth with you on that and I would refer you to an outside counsel.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was your statement accurate or inaccurate?

SANDERS: Again, I know you want to get me into a back and forth with you on this conversation --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We just want to know if it's accurate or not.

SANDERS: I know your goal is to engage me in a conversation about matters dealing with the outside counsel and I'm not going to do that today.


BOLDUAN: Look, I hold you accountable for statements you've said and if you change your statement later on, do you think that Sarah Sanders should have to explain herself for a statement she made from the podium?

[11:25:07] COSTELLO: Well, the trick -- here's the rub there, if the representation to Sarah Sanders was that he didn't dictate the statement, then she used the information that she had at the time and made a representation that she felt to be accurate.

At a later point in time if she was told something different and she now has a new representation, that's not her fault. You can -- and obviously reporters will say when did it change? Who told you? When did you know?

At a certain point in time she does -- she does have some loyalty, rightly so to the president and that's who she speaks on behalf of and so she may not want to disclose what she was told and when she was told particularly during the course of an ongoing investigation.

Look, that was some entertaining television, but I would not point the finger at Sarah Sanders there and say she has done anything improper and it is a very difficult job being a press secretary under any circumstances especially so right now under these circumstances, so I would tread lightly there in critiquing her negatively.

BOLDUAN: Do you trust what comes out of the White House, though? I mean, do you think folks should take what Sarah Sanders says as true?

COSTELLO: I do, but I also think you should verify everything with a multitude of sources. Look, I also tend to think she does a pretty able job of not answering questions that she does not have the information on or does not want to make a representation at that time. I was listening the other day and she's pretty quick with her answers and moves right on to the next reporter.

BOLDUAN: And that she has the ability to control, but if one makes a statement publicly then maybe there is a --


BOLDUAN: There does seem to be a need to actually just explain yourself, when do things change. I don't think folks would fault anyone to say they had false information at the time.

COSTELLO: Yes, I don't think. You are correct. I do believe that there's going to be a follow-up from her. Perhaps she didn't want to make it at the time, but I don't dispute what you're saying, if it changed, when did it change? Why did it change? Look, this is an active investigation. I think more important than anything is that the investigators get answers to those questions even though we may, as the public not get that as quickly as we might like.

BOLDUAN: Also, good point. Congressman, thanks for coming in.

COSTELLO: Good to be with you.

BOLDUAN: Thank you. I will share a programming note with you. White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders will be joining Chris Cuomo tonight along with Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer. You can tune into "CUOMO PRIME TIME" at 9:00 Eastern right here on CNN.

Coming up for us, after a huge primary night, they're still counting ballots in parts of California and Democrats and Republicans have something to celebrate right now. How is that possible? We'll get to that next.