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Trump Preparing Dozens of New Pardons; Mexico to Impose Tariffs on U.S. Goods; House Speaker Paul Ryan Comments on Trump's Campaign Sypgate; Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired June 6, 2018 - 10:30   ET

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


[10:00:18] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Top of the hour. I'm Poppy Harlow in New York, along with Brianna Keilar. And we begin with breaking news out of the White House. Sources tell CNN that the White House has assembled the paperwork to pardon dozens of people. This is signaling that the president is poised to exert his constitutional power to intervene in some cases where he believes the Department of Justice has overstepped -- Brianna.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: This is a very big deal, Poppy.

HARLOW: Yes.

KEILAR: And let's bring in Kaitlan Collins at the White House to catch us up on this -- Kaitlan.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Brianna.

We saw this last week the president pardoned unexpectedly that conservative author who's floated conspiracy theories and now we have learned that the White House is prepared to pardon dozens more people when President Trump makes the final decision on that.

Sources tell CNN that the president has prepared the paperwork for at least 30 people to pardon so far, ready to move forward. One of those people is Alice Johnson, that woman who was imprisoned in Alabama on charges related to drugs and money laundering. As you'll recall Kim Kardashian visited the Oval Office last week with Jared Kushner to lobby President Trump to pardon this woman.

Now the paperwork is prepared to pardon Alice Johnson, but the White House has not made a final decision on whether they're going to pardon her or commute her sentence. That is still something that is being discussed behind closed doors inside the West Wing. Though in recent days President Trump has expressed an interest in pardoning her, but I am told that his chief of staff John Kelly has been against it so far since he has reviewed the case.

So we're seeing the president be prepared to exert his constitutional power, a power he definitely has once again. He has already done so five times in the 17 months that he's been in office, most recently with Dinesh D'Souza, that conservative author, but also with several other people. These pardons often come as a surprise for the president's own staff.

They're often unexpected. Sometimes they're even political supporters of the president. Now what's unusual about that is not that the president is pardoning people. President Barack Obama also pardoned dozens of people as did his predecessors but what is unusual is the president using this constitutional powers to pardon people so early on in his administration for controversial figures.

That is what's unusual figures like, D'Souza, Scooter Libby, Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, several others, Joe Arpaio, as well, so we are seeing that. What's also unusual is the way that the White House is executing this. They typically have bypassed the Department of Justice Office of the Pardon Attorney which typically you go through them with the application process for recommendations about pardoning people.

But instead the White House has largely done a lot of this on their own with President Trump being the one and final decision-maker here. So what we can tell from our reporting so far is the White House is prepared to make dozens of more pardons in the coming months -- Poppy and Brianna.

HARLOW: And Kaitlan Collins, before you go, this is your excellent reporting on this. It is significant that there has been this consternation, it appears, according to reporting within the West Wing about this. The chief of staff John Kelly for example not supportive of a potential pardon for Alice Johnson. Don McGahn, the "Washington Post" also reporting, not supportive of this but then you have Jared Kushner on the other side of this.

The fact that they're not all on the same page on this.

COLLINS: That's right. And Jared Kushner and John Kelly aren't often on the same page to some of these things.

HARLOW: Right.

COLLINS: But we are seeing Jared Kushner kind of making a comeback in the West Wing. He recently got his security clearance reinstated after so much drama surrounding that. And we are seeing him really make a stand here. He was given a lot of things in his portfolio when he joined the administration involving peace in the Middle East and several others and the Office of Innovation Technology.

But prison reform has been one of Jared Kushner's main things. We're seeing him really stick by that by inviting Kim Kardashian to come and make her appeal to President Trump to pardon her but we are seeing that it does say something about Jared Kushner's role in the White House and it also of course raises questions about if the president is trying to send a signal to his allies with this pardoning power.

Of course we know the Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen, those situations there as well. And I'm also told one more thing that since the president has been pardoning people in recent days, his allies, his friends outside of the White House have been either calling the president or speaking with people who speak to the president often and trying to lobby for the president to pardon people they deserve -- that they think deserve forgiveness, as well.

HARLOW: Kaitlan Collins, appreciate the reporting with that breaking news for us.

Let's talk about all of this with our senior political analyst, Mark Preston is here, on the phone joining us is our legal analyst, Carrie Cordero.

Mark Preston, to you, look, this is so different from past administrations in so many ways as Kaitlan just outlined.

MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. No, it certainly is and it's very unconventional but it's something that we've become used to, right? There is no conventionality right now in the White House.

[10:05:04] One thing we have to point out, while this is not conventional the Constitution does lay out very explicitly that the president has the power to pardon those who have made offenses against the federal government. So he has the power to do so. The question is does it become one of these situations where he uses it for his own personal beliefs, and if that's the case that's where it becomes problematic.

KEILAR: Yes, and Carrie, as Mark said, he does have this power but is there -- when you're looking at the timing of exerting this you look at so many presidents who wait until the end of their presidencies to use this power. What does this telegraph to you?

CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, what I think we're seeing is that the president has found a particular legal authority that is really as broad as can be. So the pardon power is one of the areas that generally is thought to be not reviewable by outside courts, Congress doesn't have an authority to change anything that he does with pardons so he has found this aspect of executive power and he is latching onto it.

What is so unusual and it's really important, I think, for us to acknowledge, that this is beyond anything -- if he goes forward with even more of these pardons, this is so far beyond anything that we have seen in modern history. The process of obtaining pardons has been set up through a Justice Department office that has traditionally reviewed applications, there has been a process that has gone through and then they make recommendations to the White House.

That process has existed as far as I know since the late 19th century, and so he really has found this piece of executive power and he is testing how far he can exercise it.

KEILAR: Right.

HARLOW: Let's remind our viewers, Mark Preston, about potential pardons the president his discussed publicly in the past few days because with the exception of Jack Johnson, the boxer who was -- you know, the Mann Act was utilized in a very racist way against him. Put that aside, the people that the president has pardoned clearly shows a pattern here and he has been talking about a potential pardon for Rod Blagojevich and also Martha Stewart.

PRESTON: Right. So a couple of folks that we've seen so far who the president has pardoned. Joe Arpaio, even before he went through the whole process was given a pardon. Somebody who was very much with the president on the issue of immigration and in fact is a candidate out in Arizona. We also saw Dinesh D'Souza come get a pardon as well who is a favorite of conservatives so clearly it looks like it was a political move at least that's what the appearance is.

HARLOW: Who pleaded guilty, by the way.

PRESTON: Right. Correct.

HARLOW: Who pleaded guilty.

PRESTON: Who pleaded guilty and is now on -- now on a tour now saying that he was targeted and then of course Scooter Libby as well. Scooter Libby, former chief of staff to the vice president who was accused of making false statements, Vice President Cheney.

Now Donald Trump could perhaps get caught into a bit of a problem if he has made false statements himself. So there seems to be a pattern right now with the message that he is sending with these pardons.

KEILAR: Thank you, guys, so much.

HARLOW: Yes.

KEILAR: Mark Preston, Carrie Cordero, we do appreciate it, you joining us on this breaking news that the president -- the White House has assembled paperwork to pardon dozens of people according to two sources.

Some breaking news in to CNN. Mexico is retaliating against President Trump's tariffs on steel and aluminum. They're announcing that they'll levy their own tariffs on U.S. goods ranging from pork to bourbon.

Let's go to CNN's Alison Kosik on this. I mean, this is something that is going to hurt some American workers -- Alison.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: And not just workers, also consumers. This is just the latest salvo in this trade war, Brianna, that is just getting hotter and hotter. So Mexico announcing that it's going to go ahead and sling those retaliatory tariffs against goods that it gets from the U.S.

These are valued at $3 billion. They include products from the U.S. including pork, apples, bourbon, cheese, potatoes, the list goes on and on. So if you're a consumer you'll probably begin to notice this in the grocery store.

Keep in mind, Mexico is actually the second biggest market for U.S. exports. Mexico buys $345 billion of U.S. goods each year. Now keep in mind, Mexico isn't the only one being slapped with -- being slapped with tariffs from the Trump administration, meaning aluminum and steel coming from Mexico. We, meaning the U.S., putting tariffs on those products. The EU in a similar situation. We are slapping tariffs on imported steel and aluminum, as well. So guess what? The EU is going to slap back here toward the U.S. come July. The EU announcing that it's going to go ahead and put tariffs on products that it buys from the U.S. as well.

[10:10:06] So as you alluded to, Brianna, this could hurt companies because it will make those products less competitive -- our products meaning less competitive overseas so that could wind up hurting companies, that could wind up filtering down to jobs, and then of course this could become more expensive for consumers as well -- Brianna.

KEILAR: All right. Alison Kosik, thank you so much for breaking that down for us -- Poppy.

HARLOW: All right. Joining us now is Steve Moore, CNN senior economic analyst and also was a former senior economic adviser to President Trump.

No one better to have than you right now on this news. Help me understand this. This is a 15 percent to 25 percent tariff from our ally on our goods. Mexico is the second largest consumer of U.S. goods according to the Commerce Department. This could raise prices for Americans significantly. It could cost U.S. jobs. Why would -- you know, what does this mean?

STEPHEN MOORE, CNN SENIOR ECONOMICS ANALYST: Well, this is exactly, Poppy, what we didn't want to see happen. You know, we've been operating under NAFTA now for 25 years. There have been some abuses of NAFTA, but on balance NAFTA has been a very good thing for the entire North American continent for Canada, U.S. and Mexico, and this kind of tit for tat tariff war that we're in, I don't want to use the word war, but maybe dispute, I think is headed in the wrong direction.

And, you know, Poppy, I've talked about this many times on the show. I'm very much in favor of Donald Trump getting very tough with China because I think China is a big problem on the world stage.

HARLOW: Yes.

MOORE: But if you're going to pick a trade, you know, dispute with China, you want your allies behind you, you want Mexico, you want Canada, you want Germany.

HARLOW: Sure.

MOORE: You want Britain. And I worry that this is a distraction from, you know, the big dispute which is with China.

HARLOW: Steve --

MOORE: And you -- by the way, you are right, Poppy, that these import tariffs are going to make American products more expensive and this is exactly what we're moving against and away from over the last 20 years. HARLOW: Just remind people, you worked on the president's team, you

advised him on all things economy. You're not some liberal economist here saying these things. I know you don't want to use the word trade war, but isn't this exactly what a trade war looks like, Steve Moore?

MOORE: Well, you know, it's what the beginning of stages of a trade war look like. Now I believe --

HARLOW: Isn't that semantics?

(LAUGHTER)

MOORE: Well, maybe it is, but look, I believe Donald Trump -- when I've talked to him about this, he's always said, Steve, I'm in favor of free trade. We just need a better deal. We need fairer trade with these countries and to some extent he's right. It is true that a lot of these countries do have higher tariffs on our goods than we impose on them, but you don't want to see this kind of tit for tat raising of tariffs --

HARLOW: Yes. So --

MOORE: Because that makes goods and services more expensive for everyone.

HARLOW: Sure. Which makes it tough for middle income Americans, right? And poor Americans, which makes it tough on the jobs front and we know because of the tariffs, just yesterday, the business roundtable that has all these big company CEOs that sit on it said 90 percent of them say it's going to lead to higher costs for U.S. businesses. They've cut back on their hiring plan by 13 percent. They've cut back on their sales plan.

I have a hard time understanding why the president thinks this is a good idea. Can you make any argument why this is beneficial to America?

MOORE: Yes. Yes, I can. Look, I did campaign with the president and many of these especially Midwestern states where Donald Trump broke through, states like Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Iowa, and you know, we called them the sort of rustbelt states. Those are states where they're heavy manufacturing, where a lot of factories have been lost. And I got to tell you, Poppy. I mean, a lot of the workers in those states, you and I can talk about how wonderful free trade is, and I do think it's good for everybody.

HARLOW: Yes.

MOORE: But a lot of those workers in those states, they don't agree with us. They believe that --

HARLOW: But trust me --

MOORE: You know, because of China and Mexico that they're losing their jobs and they want Trump. I believe that a lot of this is probably pretty popular with voters. HARLOW: OK. But trust me, I've spent a lot of time with those voters

in those states and I've heard those arguments. It also leaves out the fact that technology has changed things immensely, more so than deals like NAFTA.

MOORE: That's true.

HARLOW: In terms of jobs.

MOORE: That's true

HARLOW: The important point, as we wrap up, though, "The New York Times" is reporting that these tariffs from Mexico are specifically hitting some of the president's biggest supporters in Congress, their districts. So for example, the Vice President Mike Pence is from Indiana. His district being hit with steel. You've got motor boats from Florida, Marco Rubio there being hit. You've agriculture products from California being hit. Kevin McCarthy. Politically, is this going to hurt the Republican Party?

MOORE: Well, it could be. As I said, I mean, the political truth of this is that these policies are, you know, popular with a lot of voters to get tough with countries like China and Mexico, but you're right. I mean, look, there's no -- a tariff is a tax on imported goods, so it will make things more expensive, but it is also true, Poppy, that Mexico needs access to the United States market.

[10:15:11] I mean, what ultimately I think Donald Trump wants to see is these tariffs reduced. One last point to think about in terms of this, this evolves, because this is really the second or third inning on a baseball game. Mexico has major elections coming up, Poppy, in I believe it's July.

HARLOW: Yes.

MOORE: And one of the leaders is a -- you know, a socialist who, you know, who is against NAFTA. This would be a very disturbing development if that happened in Mexico. That's one of the reasons why it's so important that we have an integrated economy with Canada, the United States and Mexico as we move forward over the next 20 years because the big economic issue is going to be, will the economic center of power be -- will it be North America? Will it be Europe or will it be Asia?

And I think share Donald Trump's, you know, concern. We want North America to be the economic power, but we need free trade with these countries for that to happen.

HARLOW: And that this -- moves like this make it less and less likely.

Steve Moore, appreciate you being here. Thank you.

MOORE: Thank you.

KEILAR: And we are continuing to follow all of the breaking news. A big primary night. What will the main takeaway there? We will break that down for you.

And President Trump says Melania is doing well and seen around the White House. This after she has been out of the public eye for weeks. We'll have the latest next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:20:44] KEILAR: So moments ago President Trump had a new message about Melania Trump, the first lady. He unleashed on the media saying reports about her whereabouts were so unfair and vicious and much, much more.

Joining me now to talk about this is Jeremy Diamond.

And I also want to tell you, Jeremy, we are keeping an eye on the House leadership talking on the Hill so if I interrupt you, that is why. But tell us about this. This is an interesting tweet the president just sent out.

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Absolutely. You know, the president is unleashing this morning on Twitter, you know, just lobbing these accusations about certain things that he says the media has reported about Melania Trump during her weeks, during which we have not seen her appear in public at any kind of open press event. A number of these accusations that the president is making on Twitter this morning are simply false.

He tweeted, "The fake news media has been so unfair and vicious to my wife and our great First Lady Melania during her recovery from surgery. They reported everything from near death to facelift, to left the White House and me for New York or Virginia, to abuse, all fake. She's doing really well."

We should point out that none of those things have been reported in the mainstream press. It has certainly been pointed out that there have been a number of questions raised about her lack of appearance in public and some speculation online perhaps but some of these things but certainly CNN has not reported any of these allegations until just now when the president himself is raising them.

The president also suggested that four reporters had spotted the first lady at the White House last week and that they never reported the sighting, but there is a tweet from Eamon Javers who's a reporter from CNBC --

KEILAR: We're going to go to Paul Ryan on the Hill.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: Told you it was going to be an economic cool question.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

RYAN: Sorry, Manu. Go ahead. MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: (INAUDIBLE) with

Trey Gowdy who came out afterward who said that he's more convinced that the FBI did what my colleagues and the citizens would want them to do. Do you agree with Trey Gowdy?

PAUL: Yet normally I don't comment on classified briefings. Let me say it this way. I think Chairman Gowdy's initial assessment is accurate. I think -- but we have some more digging to do. We are waiting for some more document requests. We have some more documents to review. We still have some unanswered questions.

It would have been helpful if we got this information earlier. As Chairman Nunes said just the other day, if we got all the information we're 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. I'll leave it at that. I'm not going to keep commenting on more classified subject. Yes, Ana.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Two question that I think are linked to this. Can you say definitively now that we're past the point where this Congress can review and renegotiate NAFTA --

PAUL: It's an ITC question. So I don't want to make a definitive declaration on TPA because, as you know, the way the law works, there's a period of time that the ITC consumes to do their scrub and if the ITC, you know, picks up the phone tomorrow and tells us we only need a few week, then yes, you can do it.

I think we're pretty far into the deadline, but I don't want to speak on behalf of the ITC. So I'm just not going to say that. I think we're down the road and unless the ITC says they don't need as much time, they could do it within the timeline to get it on the floor into December, that's what it would take to do that.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: And also is there anything that Congress could do to limit the president's power to impose tariffs and would you support --

PAUL: You would have to pass a law that he would want to sign into law and that would really what it would take. You can do the math on that one.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Tomorrow you're going to pitch a compromise immigration to your fellow congressmen. Are you confident, optimistic that that's something you can get 218 Republican votes?

PAUL: I feel good about the kind of conversations we're having. Our members are earnest and sincere in trying to understand each other's perspectives. We have a big swath of views within our conference on this issue, and I really do believe that there is a sweet spot here. I think the president was extremely productive when he put out his four pillars. They're extraordinarily reasonable. They attempt to actually fix the solution.

Remember, when we fixed DACA, we want to fix it permanently so we don't have another DACA problem down the road.

[10:25:03] And so we're having productive conversations. We plan on having a conference like conversation for two or three hours tomorrow, and that's what we should be doing is talking out among ourselves so the majority can function and we don't want to do it a discharge petition, honestly.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE)

PAUL: I'll -- you'll see.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Last question.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Mr. Speaker, do you believe that the (INAUDIBLE)?

PAUL: I don't know the technical answer to that question, but I think obviously the answer is he shouldn't and no one is above the law. I'll leave it at that. Thanks.

KEILAR: All right. Paul Ryan so talking about tariffs. Talking about pardons and there at the top after a question from our Manu Raju talking about --

HARLOW: Yes.

KEILAR: Really, Poppy, the president's allegation. You know, the president has said that the Obama administration basically placed a spy in his campaign.

HARLOW: Yes.

KEILAR: Trey Gowdy put some big holes in that theory after getting a classified briefing --

HARLOW: Yes.

KEILAR: -- from law enforcement officials and Paul Ryan, this is big, he's siding with him. He's saying there's no evidence to the contrary of Gowdy's initial assessment after that May 24th --

HARLOW: Yes.

KEILAR: That May 24th briefing. So here he felt compelled to basically say that this is, you know, it doesn't hold water, the president's allegation.

HARLOW: To be compel to say in so many words, Brianna, from the House speaker, the Republican House speaker, Mr. President, you're wrong and the president who's been on this, you know, campaign to assert that there were spies inserted in his campaign.

Trey Gowdy as you know went on FOX News last week, let me read you exactly what Trey Gowdy said about the president's claims, quote, "I'm even more convinced that the FBI did exactly what my fellow citizens would want them to do when they got the information they got and that it has nothing to do with Donald Trump," and as you said, Brianna, incredibly significant that the House Speaker Paul Ryan who doesn't usually comment on these briefings and who doesn't usually get in the crosshairs of the president said this.

I think we have our Mark Preston with us, is that right?

KEILAR: Yes, we do. He's right here with us.

HARLOW: All right. Mark?

PRESTON: Well, a couple of things. You know, Paul Ryan is liberated in many ways because he's decided not to run for reelection so he can speak his mind and -- as well as Trey Gowdy. We saw Trey Gowdy as well, I mean, as we've been noting here is also leaving Congress so he, too, can speak his mind about these things and not necessarily have to always be supportive of the president specifically in a case like this.

But also you have to wonder was the speaker getting pressure from within the Republican conference to try to tamp this down because, listen. They have to go back, they have to run for reelection. Every member of the House of Representatives, 235 of them have to go back to their districts and have to answer questions from their constituents, from voters. What they don't have to answer, specifically Republicans don't have to answer, they don't want to have to answer questions about the allegations that Donald Trump tweets out every morning at around 7:00, 7:30 a.m.

HARLOW: That is a very important point. Let's bring into our coverage also Manu Raju who asked that question that made so much news.

Manu, and look, it's just so significant that it's from the Republican House speaker, and so significant that it's from Paul Ryan who doesn't, you know, tend to at least publicly, very vocally disagree with the president. I mean, he has on tariffs, but not on a lot of other things.

Do you think that it is, that Ryan was getting pressure as Mark suggests from other Republicans running saying you've got to tamp this down?

RAJU: Yes, it seems that way. He's seen what Trey Gowdy, how much criticism that Gowdy has gotten from Republicans including Rudy Giuliani, saying -- questioning what Trey Gowdy is saying that the FBI did exactly what it was supposed to do. And Ryan, just felt that he didn't agree with the criticism that Gowdy had been getting because Paul Ryan who sat on that same briefing, and saw nothing wrong fall under Paul Ryan's view.

Remember right after that briefing Paul Ryan sent a statement. He laid out exactly and said that there were things that he wants to see more. He defended the constitutional rights of Congress to oversee the executive branch but he did not weight in specifically on the merits of the charges by the president who's criticized this investigations, suggested that there were spies who have been infiltrated in his campaign.

The president continuing up until last night suggesting there was, quote, "spygate" that was occurring, something that Gowdy has been the one Republican who said, no, that's not what he has seen. This is significant, this is the speaker of the House siding with Trey Gowdy over the objections of some of his own fellow Republicans, even Devin Nunes, the House Intelligence Committee chairman who went on FOX News over the weekend and suggested that perhaps that Trey Gowdy -- didn't side with Trey Gowdy's view of what happened here, but a very significant development.

Here's Paul Ryan saying that what Gowdy said was -- there's nothing to dispute what Gowdy said and we'll see how the president and the White House reacts. So far the president has continued to make these unsubstantiated charges --

HARLOW: Guys, hold on one second. Let's listen to the coach of the Philadelphia Eagles. The uninvited team at the White House yesterday.