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INSIDE POLITICS

GM Announces Cuts; Papadopoulos to Serve Prison Term; Stone Associate Rejects Plea Offer; Threat to Close Border. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired November 26, 2018 - 12:00   ET

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


[12:00:00]

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks so much for joining me, guys. "INSIDE POLITICS" with John King starts right now.

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you, Kate.

And welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King. Thank you for sharing your day with us.

There's major economic news. General Motors today says it will close five North American plants next year, four of them here in the United States. And GM says it will slash its workforce by 15 percent.

Plus, former Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos reports to federal prison today and an associate of long-time Trump adviser Roger Stone says he is now refusing a plea deal offered by the special counsel, Robert Mueller.

And, yes, elections have consequences. More Republicans in the Senate means new committee assignments and that means a 2020 Democratic hopeful could lose a perch she has used to make her national name.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D), CALIFORNIA: Can you think of any laws that give the government the power to make decisions about the male body.

JUSTICE BRETT KAVANAUGH, SUPREME COURT: I'm not -- I'm not thinking of any right now, senator.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Back to that a bit later. But we begin the hour with breaking news and new worries about the economy as Americans start thinking about their Christmas shopping list.

General Motors says it's cutting 15 percent of its salaried staff in shutting down four plants in the United States, two in Michigan, one in Ohio and one just outside of Baltimore. GM also said it will close another plant in Canada. The closures mean over 3,700 American manufacturing jobs will be gone by the end of next year. The restructure in the front office could cut much deeper, 8,000 engineering white collar jobs across the United States. The car giant's cost-saving measures prompting outrageousness from the biggest auto union in the country. The United Auto Workers calls the decision, quote, callus and is now accusing GM leaders of putting profits before working families.

CNN's Cristina Alesci is live in New York.

Cristina, take us through this big announcement.

CRISTINA ALESCI, CNN BUSINESS AND POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: This is a big blow for the company and a big blow for President Trump's plan to bring manufacturing jobs back to the U.S. The move to shutter five plants, four of them in the U.S., is more evidence of what every auto analyst has been saying for years, that international production of smaller cars will go abroad because that's where the growth and the consumers are. And Trump and Republican policies haven't done anything to change that fundamentally.

Now, what's most striking about this announcement is that it hits a part of Trump country, especially in Ohio. There, about 1,600 people will lose their jobs. But across the country, average people are going to feel this. As you said, 37,000 manufacturing jobs will be lost. And the auto union here has a lot to say about it. It is the largest auto union basically saying that General Motors' decision to shut production at four plants will harm workers and will not go unchallenged. A union official called this decision by GM callus to reduce or cause -- cease operations in American plants while operating -- while opening or increasing production in Mexico and China plants for sales to American consumers is in its implementation profoundly damaging to our American workforce.

Look, this move, to put it into context, will result in $6 billion in free cash flow for the company. Part of that savings is from these cost reductions. But what's also interesting here is part of the savings comes from reducing investment, which is also a remarkable part of this announcement because the tax cuts were supposed to boost investment and now you're seeing a major U.S. company cutting.

John.

KING: Cristina Alesci live in New York.

The union's reaction is one thing. We'll wait and see -- I bet we'll hear from the president soon on this one as well.

With me here in studio to share their reporting and their insights, Catherine Lucey with the "Associated Press," Eric Morath at "The Wall Street Journal," Michael Warren with "The Weekly Standard," and Seung Min Kim from "The Washington Post."

Eric, let me start with you. You have experience covering the auto industry.

How much of this is the trend and how much of this, as you know, GM has complained about the president's tariffs, for example, saying they would -- so how much of it is just Americans are buying SUVs, the company wants to get ahead of the hybrid and electric market, see you later sedan business, or how much of it is other issues?

ERIC MORATH, LABOR ECONOMICS REPORTER, "THE WALL STREET JOURNAL": Well, I think it's a combination of things. I mean certainly Americans are buying bigger vehicles and the smaller vehicles just aren't profitable when they're made in America. And that's been a trend to move those overseas for a number of years. But I think we've seen the auto industry sort of kind of crest. And not just GM. Ford as well has been kind of taking steps to ensure themselves maybe a smoother landing into the next slowdown compared to when we saw bankruptcies a decade ago.

KING: And so, to Cristina's point, if you listen there, I mean I'm really fascinated by what the president's going to say here because this is -- I want to go back a year ago. This is the president. He's in Michigan. The Republicans, at this point, thinking their big tax cut, they're going to get their tax cut through. It's going to causes huge investment, more jobs. The president making a big prediction, including about General Motors.

[12:05:07] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: General Motors announced that they're adding or keeping 900 jobs right here in Michigan. And that's going to be over the next 12 months. And that's just the beginning, folks. In fact, I told them, that's peanuts. That's peanuts. We're going to have a lot more.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: We're going to have a lot more. And I'll -- it shows you the risk any time a president comments on one announcement from a company or one unemployment report or anything like this. But this is, as Cristina noted, Ohio, Michigan. This is the heart of Trump country.

CATHERINE LUCEY, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, "ASSOCIATED PRESS": Absolutely. And I think what we saw in the midterms was some weakness in Michigan, in Wisconsin, in Pennsylvania. So some of those states that really made up his coalition that really, you know, rely on some of these jobs. So I think what we're going to have to look for, as this unfolds is -- is -- does that -- is there a blowback against Trump for making these promises?

MICHAEL WARREN, SENIOR WRITER, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": But, you know, this is something that both parties do. I mean you can go back to 2012. This was an argument that the Obama campaign made in, you know, Osama bin Laden is dead and Detroit is alive. I mean this was an argument, to Eric's point, that we could have seen going back 10 years, that GM and the other American companies are in deep troubled, that they are going to have to be doing this. And I think that the bailouts and then the promises I think from the Trump administration, again, from both parties, sort of just extended a bill coming due and now we're seeing that bill come due.

KING: And all of the big American automakers go into negotiations next year with the United Auto Workers. They're all in the same year. So GM may be getting out ahead here, but we may -- this may not be the end of this by any means.

SEUNG MIN KIM, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": And that's -- therein lies the president and the potential political problem for the president as well.

And I also want to point to that. There's already pressure coming from Congress, not only to GM and for a further decision earlier today, but to President Trump himself. I mean we already have a statement out from Congressman Tim Ryan who represents that very northeast Ohio district and is stuff -- that will suffer the loss of these 1,600 jobs in that area. And he pointed to the fact that President Trump actually visited his district a little bit over a year ago and said -- I mean the comments may have been referring more -- kind of more specifically to the steel industry but said these jobs are all coming back. And Congressman Ryan is saying, you know, Mr. President, you owe us an explanation as to what happened and why you were so confident as to why these jobs were going to return.

KING: And to that point, Eric, GM, go back to 1979, was the largest private employer in the United States of America. More than 600,000 jobs. It has about 100,000 total now in the United States.

So as this -- how much of his, as we look forward, is this conversation about the impact of globalism, the impact of, look, you know, you go to an auto factory today, it's robots, it's technology, it's not -- you don't need as many people.

MORATH: Right.

KING: And so who will get -- I assume the engineers will be fine. The unemployment rate is a lot lower when the auto industry crashed as part of the financial collapse, you know, unemployment was high in a lot of these places. Today it's not as bad.

MORATH: Right. I mean who's going to be stung is the factory workers, right? You know, yes, the U.S. manufacturing -- the output is just as strong as it's ever been, but the employment is low because, as you say, automation. And that's -- think about a place like Lordstown, Ohio, those workers aren't going to be able to find a GM job, especially if they don't have a college degree. And they're going to look at logistics jobs, lower -- retail jobs, lower paying jobs, and that's going to sting that whole community.

WARREN: But there is a positive story in car manufacturing and in broader manufacturing. I mean you go down to nonunion states like South Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama, there have been foreign car companies to expand there. And it's not just the actual manufacturing, which, of course, manufacturing jobs are going, but all of the other industries that surround it.

You go to a place like Greer, South Carolina, where the BMW plant is, and there are all kinds of follow-on industries that have grown in that region that have created new jobs. So there is a positive story here, but I think it was a mistake for Trump to try to look at the big three for that positive story.

KING: Right, the economy changing. Quick.

LUCEY: But it also speaks to broadly who are his big policies benefiting?

KING: Right.

LUCEY: The tax cut, the tariffs, who are they actually benefitting? The people who voted for him?

KING: We'll watch this one play out. And, again, looking for the president's reaction here. I bet it won't be too long. Just a guess here.

Up next, a conspiracy theorist in the special counsel's office says he will not sign a plea deal.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:13:20] KING: Welcome back.

Today, a key witness rejecting an offer from the special council, as the president again tweets, quote, no collusion. The witness is Jerome Corsi. He's a Roger Stone associate and a well-known conspiracy theorist revealing this morning he won't sign a plea deal put on the table by Robert Mueller. The deal, Corsi tells CNN, would require him to admit to perjuring himself. Quote, they can put me in prison for the rest of my life. Corsi telling CNN, I am not going to sign a lie.

Corsi admits his statements to the special counsel don't match up, but blames a faulty memory, not willful dishonesty. Asked what happens now, Corsi said, quote, I don't know.

The back and forth plea negotiations today come with an important reminder, the special counsel doesn't tolerate people who lie to him. In Wisconsin today, the Trump campaign aide derided as the coffee boy expected to report to jail. George Papadopoulos said he will surrender to federal authorities and serve 14 day for lying to the special counsel.

CNN's Sara Murray and Manu Raju join the conversation.

Help us, Sara. You talked to Jerome Corsi. He says, I won't take this deal. Number one, why? And, number two, put him into context for people at home who might not understand, he's central to the Roger Stone question, which gets you to the possible collusion question.

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: So, Jerome Corsi is this, you know, conspiracy theorist, author guy. Roger Stone has said I hired him to do some research during the campaign. And basically Jerome Corsi says that, you know, the reason Roger Stone talked about the Podesta e-mails was because of the research I did for him. And it wasn't the Podesta e-mails necessarily, it was their business dealings. And that's the research you provided. Mueller's team was interesting in Corsi because they felt like he may have had some heads up about the Podesta e-mails coming out before WikiLeaks released them publically. So now Jerome Corsi is in this bind. He's been working with the

special counsel's office for two months. He's been in for interviews. He's been before the grand jury. He's handed over documents. He's handed over his computer.

[12:15:06] And he acknowledges that, you know, his brain kind of became mush along the way. Some of the things he said didn't match up exactly with some of the e-mails. He wasn't necessarily recalling things with the specificity the special counsel's office wanted. But he says I wasn't willfully lying. And so he doesn't want to sign this statement and he's especially incensed that they offered him this plea deal under seal. They didn't want anyone to know about it. And that's the other reason he felt like he really couldn't agree to something like that. And when I talked to him earlier, I said, you know, what happens next for you? And he said, I don't know.

KING: I don't know.

And you said -- as we noted, George Papadopoulos is reporting to jail today, prison today. You might say it's only 14 days. Fourteen days is -- so Jerome Corsi is looking at that.

It's interesting because the president was tweeting last week about angry Mueller team trying to badger witnesses. Corsi says they were badgering him. So somebody's talking to the president. The president is getting that from somebody. The president tweeting this today, when Mueller does his final report, will he be covering all of his conflicts of interest in a preamble, will he be recommending action on all the crimes of many kinds from those on the other side? What happened to Podesta? Will he be putting in statements from hundreds of people closely involved with my campaign who never met, saw or spoke. You can read the rest of it there.

This is the president lashing out in sort of a rambling way. Why?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think that they're anticipating a very damaging report. And you -- we do know that the White House, with the president and his attorneys that have been working on their own separate report that they want to put out when the Mueller report comes out, this is probably going to be part of it going after Mueller's team. The interesting thing too is the president again saying no collusion. But with the Corsi news, the question is, did he have advanced knowledge of these e-mails that are coming out via WikiLeaks.

This is a question that has been facing Roger Stone, Corsi's closest friend, for some time. And Stone publicly has said over and over again that he didn't have advanced knowledge, his contacts with Julian Assange through this intermediary, they were all innocuous, as well as with Guccifer 2. Does Mueller know a lot more than what we know publically? And, he may. And that's one thing that we have to figure out going forward is, what does he know about Roger Stone and does that add anything to the questions about collusion.

KING: Well, if Jerome Corsi turned over his computer, we do know from team Mueller that they are extraordinarily good at doing the CSI, if you will, on a computer, on something like that.

MURRAY: They are. And for Roger Stone's part, he just sent me another lengthy statement, but I will give you the highlight of it, which is that he said that he and Jerome Corsi have never talked about the Podesta e-mails. Their only conversations were about the Podesta business dealings, which is what Roger says his tweets were about at the time. He says he has had no advanced knowledge that the Podesta e- mails were going to be released until they were, you know, actually released by WikiLeaks.

KING: His tweets, I think, don't necessarily back that up. But we'll see. We'll see. Everywhere has their opinion here.

To this point, we're all waiting. We're all waiting because, you know, we assume Robert Mueller has been working on a report during the election lull period. The president's scattershot tweet tells you that he realizes that election lull is over and that this is likely to -- and I want you to just -- this is Alan Dershowitz, who has been a critic of the president, but has also strongly defended the president on the question of Robert Mueller and constitutional authority. I don't think he has any inside information, but he thinks what's about to happen is going to be bad for the president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALAN DERSHOWITZ, EMERITUS PROFESSOR, HARVARD UNIVERSITY: I think the report is going to be devastating to the president and I know that the president's team is already working on a response to the report. And so at some point, when the report's made public, and that's a very hard question considering the new attorney general who has the authority to decide when and under what circumstance to make it public, it will be made public probably with a response alongside.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: It's the last part, that's Alan Dershowitz's guess, I assume. A smart lawyer, but it will be devastating. It's the last part, when will it be made public, because the acting attorney general, Matthew Whitaker, has a big say in that, and he has said nothing publicly about this at all since taking on this awesome responsibility.

KIM: And -- but forget that -- or don't forget that he has made past statements before he was in his current position very much disparaging the Mueller probe, which is causing a lot of consternation on Capitol Hill. I mean we'll talk about this later, but obviously we're headed into a shutdown fight soon. A lot of the focus has been on that border wall issue that the president has demanded for so long. But don't count out the possibility that Democrats insisting on some sort of protections for the special counsel, in this spending bill will be a major wrinkle in part of those negotiations.

MURRAY: I think the other thing that's worth remembering, though, is that there's no requirement that this be made public. There's nothing in these rules guiding the special counsel that say anything needs to be made public to the American people, which is stunning when you think about the time and investment that has gone into this. KING: Right. You would think that would be part of the law, right, but we shall watch this one play out as well.

Up next for us, dozens of migrants arrested at the southern border. The president says he wants them gone or he'll close the border, he says, for good.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:24:37] KING: President Trump today threatening to permanently close the southern U.S. border. That after tensions reaching a new high over the weekend.

Two journalists on the scene tell CNN, about 500 migrants overwhelmed Mexican police blockades near the San Ysidro Port of Entry and rushed towards the U.S. side. Customs and Border Protection officials say that number was closer to 1,000.

Authorities on the U.S. side fired tear gas, dispersing the group. Dozens were arrested on both sides of the border. A Border Patrol agent who saw the whole thing firsthand says the majority of the migrants trying to get across were not peaceful asylum seekers.

[12:25:02] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RODNEY SCOTT, CHIEF PATROL AGENT, SAN DIEGO SECTOR BORDER PATROL: What I saw on the border yesterday was not people walking up to Border Patrol agents and asking to claim asylum. As a matter of fact, one of the groups that I watched, one of the groups that actually -- several of them were arrested, they passed 10 or 15 marked Border Patrol units walking east to west -- or west to east, I'm sorry, numerous uniformed personnel as they were chanting, waving a Honduran flag, and throwing rocks at the agents. If they were truly asylum seekers, they would have just walk up with their hands up and surrendered. And that did not take place.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: That's important to note. There were some families with children present, as you can see from the images. But the president says most of those trying to cross the border were, in his view, bad actors. He wants them gone. The president tweeting this this morning, Mexico should move the flag waving migrants, many of whom are strong cold criminals, back to their countries. Do it by plane, do it by bus, do it anyway you want, but they are not coming into the USA. We will close the border permanently, the president says, if need be. Congress, fund the wall!

CNN's Miguel Marquez joins us live now from the border in Tijuana, Mexico.

Miguel, what's it like there today, still tense?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No. I mean everybody's on alert, but certainly things have calmed down quite a bit. This is one of the border crossings that was closed yesterday. This is a pedestrian border crossing right near San Ysidro. It was shut when several hundred protesters came up from the area where the migrant caravan are staying. They're about four miles away from here. They moved up in this direction. And then several hundred of them, a smaller number than the -- the number that were protesting and demonstrating, actually pushed toward the border.

You can see this bridge here, that's a car bridge that goes into the U.S. They pushed past Mexican police positions and then they pushed up toward the border in several different locations. They actually went over part of the wall into U.S. territory, but agents were able to use both pepper bullets or pepper balls, they're like paint balls, and CS gas, or tear gas, to repel them. Made several arrests there.

It got very, very tense. Certainly tense on this side for the Tijuana government as well. You know, thousands of people from Tijuana use these border crossings every day to go to work, to shop, to go to school in the U.S. So it does causes a lot of disruption on both sides. So far today things are much calmer.

John.

KING: Miguel Marquez on the scene for us.

Miguel, appreciate the live reporting.

To that point, this is a problem when this happens, without a doubt. Is it a crisis, as the president portrays? Does it reach the level where you're threatening to permanently shut down the U.S. border, which is hyperbole. There's too much of an economic investment back and forth. No U.S. president is going to, quote/unquote permanently shut down the entire U.S./Mexico border.

But is this -- is 500 or 1,000 people trying to rush into a country of 300 million plus, is that a crisis or is it a problem?

WARREN: It's a bigger problem than the president's critics claimed in the run-up to the election. I mean I think there was this sense that, well, the president was making a big deal about it, so it's easy to dismiss. I think what you saw, the video that you saw of the response from Border Patrol indicates it was a big problem. And, in fact, this seems to be much more of a political statement from people in the caravan than the president's critics thought.

On the other hand, is it a crisis that really needed (ph) the U.S. military to go there, who don't seem to have been doing anything at the border yesterday. The Border Patrol seemed to have it pretty well under control in the sense that they were able to keep this group from sort of pouring into the United States. So it seems to be, on that level, a much more manufactured crisis on the president's part.

LUCEY: Crisis or not, it is an issue that they have to deal with and there are a lot of problems they have to unpack. I mean there are thousands of people backlogged at the border. There are people waiting. They are processing them slowly. And there are a lot of people who are asylum seekers and there is a process for that. You also see with the photos, while it's not clear exactly who all

these people were, there certainly were some, you know, mothers and children, you know, caught up in this. And so that -- the president certainly could face criticism over that. And we've seen often with images of children a rethinking with this administration on how they do things.

KING: And then so does it help or hurt, or do we know the answer to the argument, we're going to go through over the next 10 days, which is the president wants billions for his wall. The president knows he's got a month left of full Republican control of Washington that you would argue -- you would think, anyway, logic would tell you he's got a little bit more leverage in that fight now than he will come January. Does the fact that some of these caravan members tried to storm into the United States help the president make the case we need better border security, including a wall?

[12:29:44] RAJU: I mean perhaps it could with some of his Republican allies. But, still, the math is where -- where, at the end of the day, the math, in terms of the votes in both the House and the Senate, they're already hearing Democrats in the House saying that they would not accept going to the level that the president wants to go, $5 billion for the border wall, the Senate has agreed to $1.6 billion. They're going to have to bridge that divide somehow.