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AT THIS HOUR

Trump Sounds Off on Manafort, Cohen, Trade, North Korea, Weak Jobs Report, House anti-Hate Resolution; Democrats Outraged by Manafort Sentence, Opposite of Trump; Economy Adds 20K Jobs in February, Far Below Expectations; Sen. Tina Smith (D-MN) Discusses Warren's Plan for Fixing Growing Power of Tech Companies, the House Anti-Hate Resolution & the Presidential Election. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired March 8, 2019 - 11:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:00:03] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan.

President Trump in the air and on the way to Alabama right now to survey the damage of this week's deadly tornadoes there. And on his way out the door, he had a lot to say. I know I can hear you already. He was talking about the jobs report this morning, the trade talks with China, his former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, and the Democrat's House resolution that was passed yesterday against hate speech, and his talks with North Korea. He still thinks they have a good relationship.

The president also had quite a bit to say about yesterday's sentencing of his former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I feel very badly for Paul Manafort. I think it's been a very, very tough time for him. But if you notice both his lawyer, a highly respected man and a highly respected judge, the judge said there was no collusion with Russia. This had nothing to do with collusion. There was no collusion. It's a collusion hoax. It's a collusion witch hoax. I don't collude with Russia.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: CNN's Sarah Westwood is at the White House with much more.

First of all, my friend, the judge did not make any big statement about Russia collusion. The judge did say the trial with regard to Paul Manafort was not about Russia collusion. That was not the question before the court, the question before this judge.

SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's correct. The judge who sentenced Paul Manafort yesterday said that the charges for which Manafort would be serving time were not related to Russian collusion but President Trump has seized on that in a sort of misleading way since that hearing yesterday. Beyond his former campaign chairman there was clearly a lot on

President Trump's mind at he left the White House. He weighed in on the February jobs report but dismissed concerns about the lower than expected number of jobs added in February and instead pointed to things like wage growth, the overall low unemployment rate after. This is a week of disappointing economic news, including the fact that the U.S. Census Bureau released data that showed trade deficits hit a 10-year high under President Trump. Trump did express optimism that a trade deal with China could still come together dismissing rumblings that the talks aren't going so well.

On North Korea, he said that he still has a good relationship with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, that he would be surprised and unhappy to see North Korea resume it's testing of missiles. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I would be surprised in a negative way if he did anything that was not per our understanding. But we'll see what happens. Look, when I came in under the Obama administration, North Korea was a disaster. You were going to war, folks. I would be very disappointed if I saw testing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WESTWOOD: Now, the president also hit some other highlights. He suggested that he is not worried Congress will have enough votes to override his expected veto of a resolution attempting to block his emergency declaration. He also went after Congresswoman Ilhan Omar's comments widely perceived as anti-Semitic. He attacked the Democratic Party for its handling of those, claiming the Democrats have become a party of anti-Israel sentiment. Those attacks, Kate, could fall flat given the president's failure to police racism and other forms of bigotry within his own party.

BOLDUAN: We will talk about that coming up a little bit later.

Thank you, Sarah. Really appreciate it.

So was it a miscarriage of justice or a punishment to fit the crime? After the federal judge sentenced Paul Manafort to less than four years in prison for tax and bank fraud, the reaction from Washington was swift. Democrats outraged.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL, (D), CONNECTICUT: This sentence in my view failed to do just to the very serious crimes that Manafort has committed as well as his utter disrespect for the law.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: And this morning now we, of course, have heard from the president and his take, which is the exact opposite. What does this sentence mean? Did Manafort get off easy? Joining me now is CNN legal analyst, Anne Milgram, a former attorney

general of New Jersey, and Asha Rangappa, CNN legal and national security analyst, and former FBI special agent.

Thank you guys for being here.

Anne, the sentencing guideline was 19 to 24 years. Diverting by 15 years from the sentencing guidelines. Is that sending a message?

ANNE MILGRAM, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: A couple things to think about. The guidelines are advisory. When I was a federal prosecutor, sometimes the judge sentences at the guideline, sometimes below or above. What is extraordinary is it is a significant departure. I would have expected eight to 10 years. I would not have expected less than four years for somebody who was not a cooperator.

Two points worth making. The first point is that the judge never liked this case. So we should be clear --

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: That was clear throughout.

[11:05:07] MILGRAM: This was not as surprising as I think some people were making it seem. The judge was always against the case. The other piece is that there's a real question of fairness and justice in this country in terms of sentences that white collar offenses get. I think a lot of people are raising those issues. Some of that we see here. Some of it we also see is really the judge thinking it's not the case the government thinks it is and I'm not going to give them the sentence for the case that they thought it was.

BOLDUAN: So, Asha, or are people missing the mark? The president's campaign chairman is going to prison. That is significant in and of itself.

ASHA RANGAPPA, CNN LEGAL & NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yes. I think that it's important to look at the big picture here. We have seven people in Trump's campaign who have now been caught in Mueller's net who have pleaded guilty or Manafort's case have been tried and convicted and are going to jail and have cooperated. So I think that focusing on the sentence which I agree with Anne is a bit of a travesty considering the seriousness of the crimes shouldn't take away from the serious concerns that we ought to have about the criminal activity generally that was taking place in the president's inner circle when he was running his campaign.

BOLDUAN: We heard the president focusing on the Russia collusion aspect of this which was, this was not a question before the court. The judge made that clear in his sentencing that it was not a question before him and not what the case is about. Not only is the president talking about it, but Paul Manafort's attorney talked about Russia collusion. Let me play that for you what the attorney said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) KEVIN DOWNING, ATTORNEY FOR PAUL MANAFORT: I think most importantly what you saw today is the same thing that we had said from day one, there's absolutely no evidence that Paul Manafort was involved in any collusion with any government official from Russia.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: Why is that the focus?

(CROSSTALK)

MILGRAM: So remember that there are a couple important points here. The first is there were two separate cases against Manafort. This case is just the bank fraud case. It is only about how he defrauded the United States. There's a separate case in Washington, D.C., that Manafort will be sentenced on next week that has more to do with Manafort's foreign ties. Remember that from day one, Manafort and Trump were part of a joint defense agreement so their lawyers were communicating even after Manafort started to cooperate. It has been reported that his lawyer was still coordinating and communicating with the Trump team. So they have been a part of the president's team. What is really extraordinary to me about this is watching the president say I feel badly for him and not acknowledging that he has now been convicted of a very serious felony for defrauding the United States government and he was the president's campaign manager. Some of the conduct that the judge is going to sentence him on next week went up and through that campaign. That is an extraordinary thing to me that the president isn't acknowledging the extraordinary wrong doing that happened on his watch.

BOLDUAN: And wrapped up into this question, Asha, is, do you think the judge in this sentence makes it harder or easier for Paul Manafort to get a presidential pardon?

RANGAPPA: My initial take yesterday was that it would make it harder. I think that there's general agreement that he got off quite easy. And given that a pardon is an expression of benevolence and mercy to correct a miscarriage of justice, it is hard to say there was a miscarriage of justice. Again, we are talking about President Trump. This is someone who pardoned Joe Arpaio and Scooter Libby. He sees it in terms of loyalty or making a statement. So I think it could still be on the table. I will say that I wouldn't discount the New York attorney general bringing a case against Paul Manafort in the event that he is pardoned for his federal crimes.

BOLDUAN: That would be a case, crimes that could not fit under a pardon --

(CROSSTALK)

RANGAPPA: That's correct.

BOLDUAN: Let's talk about -- you are both talking about a miscarriage of justice or a different application and a different standard that has been an important part of the conversation when it comes to criminal justice for a very long time. If you try to go apples to apples on this and this was a discussion this morning, apples to apples on other white-collar crime. And look at Congressman Wayne Jefferson convicted of soliciting bribes and wire fraud.

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: And 90 grand found in the freezer. The government said that was intended for bribes. He received a 13-year sentence. He served five. And then the same judge -- what about that?

[11:10:05] MILGRAM: There are so many issues with the way we sentence people in state and federal prison in America. I would argue that sentences overall are too harsh and not calculated for the best public safety. I think we do see that there's generally a disparity not just between white collar and sort of blue-collar crime. We see significant racial disparities throughout the system as well.

BOLDUAN: Such as African-American men.

MILGRAM: We have to be honest about the need for sentencing reform. I think Manafort is a piece of that conversation but I think that is a bigger conversation that is a national conversation. What Judge Ellis did here is a piece of that. It's not really the only example. It is one in a long line of examples in which ways we see judges having enormous discretion and sometimes used in a way that is wildly different than how other people are sentenced for the same crimes.

BOLDUAN: An important opportunity to have the discussion about all of this.

Great to see you, Anne. Thank you.

Asha, great to see you. Thanks so much.

And this is also a tough end to a bad week for President Trump who loves to tout the stock market gains and economic growth and strength as evidence of his policies working. Today, the numbers though are not his friend. This morning, we learned that the economy added 20,000 jobs last month. That was only a fraction of what had been projected and expected. That comes on the heels of other sobering economic news. Federal deficit jumped 77 percent despite promises to fix it. The trade deficit soared to a 10-year high despite promises to change that.

CNN business correspondent, Alison Kosik, is here.

Alison, will you walk us through today's numbers?

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Of course, Kate. So the slowdown in hiring that happens in February came as a huge shock because it really wasn't expected by economists who were knowing that the report was going to be coming out. On the other hand, it wasn't completely unexpected because if you look at the job market it is a tight job market. You will get reports that show the blip in the course of 12 months. You look at 12 months, you see the triple digit gains in jobs and the reality is in this red-hot labor market it is not sustainable. It is unrealistic to continue seeing the 200,000, 300,000 jobs gained every month.

With that said, you look at the unemployment rate, we are at 3.8 percent. That's near full employment. More explanation as to why we could continue to see growth in jobs, just not at the levels that we are used to seeing.

What happened in the main sectors? Services and business, 42,000 jobs gained. Health care we saw gains. Construction we saw losses. We also saw numbers remain flat in retail and leisure and hospitality. We can blame it on the weather. People didn't want to go out to restaurants and construction workers couldn't go out there and do that building.

One bright spot that we do see in this report, Kate, are wages. Wages grew 3.4 percent from last year. This is actually the biggest year over year percentage jump that we have seen since 2009. So this has really been the missing link, the missing piece in the jigsaw puzzle from when we saw the recession end. We have been watching the labor market and wages have been sitting static. Now we are seeing them rise. That is one bright spot for this jobs report.

But once again, we could see those numbers for jobs actually bounce a little bit more for march. Don't get used to these big numbers because don't expect those to really continue. It's just not sustainable -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: Important report.

Great to see you, Alison.

KOSIK: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Thank you so much.

Coming up for us, one 2020 contender put the largest tech company on notice. Democratic presidential hopeful, Elizabeth Warren, has a new plan to break up tech giants like Amazon, Google, Facebook. CNN has the details.

[11:14:02] Plus, House Democrats pass are a resolution condemning all forms of hate. President Trump is calling the Democratic Party after they passed this anti-Jewish and anti-Israel. I have a Democratic Senator joining me next to respond.

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BOLDUAN: Are some of the world's biggest tech giants too big and too powerful? And is it time for government to step in? Democratic Senator and presidential candidate, Elizabeth Warren, says yes. This morning, she is unveiling a plan to do something about it and by do something, she wants to break them up. We are talking about companies like Amazon, Google and Facebook that fits her brand of taking on big business. Is that going to win over Democratic voters?

Joining me right now, Democratic Senator Tina Smith, of Minnesota.

Senator, thank you for coming in.

SEN. TINA SMITH, (D), MINNESOTA: Thank you, Kate. It's great to be with you, and especially on International Women's Day.

BOLDUAN: Thank you very much. I really appreciate it.

Tell me, what do you think of this plan to break up some of the world's largest tech companies, like Amazon, Google, Facebook? Would you support something like that?

SMITH: I haven't had a chance to look at Senator Warren's plans yet. I can tell you that I see every day how these big tech companies have really incredible power in the market place and over people's lives. I think it is a very good thing for us to be looking at. I think it is a great idea to have women and men who are running for president bring forward big ideas and put them out there for us all to look at.

BOLDUAN: To look at and talk about. Details matter when it comes to a lot of this stuff. I haven't seen more --

SMITH: Exactly.

[11:20:00] BOLDUAN: -- when it comes to what companies and how this would apply. It got me thinking, you have some very big companies based in Minnesota. I wonder if you are concerned that rules like this that would apply to tech giants, Amazon, Google, Facebook, could also hit companies like united health and target based in your home state.

SMITH: Well, what you're pointing out is something that is really important which is that you have to be aware of the law of unintended consequences. I think about this in terms of the impact on the giant companies like Amazon. It is only recently that what has been happening is that Main Street businesses trying to compete have been faced with a different playing field when it comes to taxation. That is starting to change some. I want to make sure that those Main Street businesses have a chance to compete and win. When you have a company like Amazon that has so much market power, that makes it a lot more difficult.

BOLDUAN: On its face, though, you like the idea of what Elizabeth Warren is putting out there?

SMITH: On its face, I barely heard what Elizabeth has done yet. I think it is great that ideas are being brought forward.

BOLDUAN: You are endorsing Amy Klobuchar for president. She has continued to have to answer questions about her management style because of continued reports that continue to come up that she mistreated her Senate staff. Klobuchar is responding to those saying she knows she is tough. She holds herself and others to a high standard. She has acknowledged that sometimes she thinks she has been too tough. Some reports are that she is throwing things at people. Have these reports given you pause?

SMITH: I have known Amy for over 20 years. She is a very good friend of mine. We have worked together on lots of issues. I think it is good that she has taken responsibility for what she has admitted that she is sometimes too tough on her staff. I think that that is important. What I would say is that in the traveling that I have done around Minnesota and what Amy tells me from her travels around the country, people are not that focused on that issue. What they are focused on is what are her ideas for building economic opportunity for everyone all across the country. So that I think is actually the issue that most people are most interested in.

BOLDUAN: Let me play you something else that is playing out on Capitol Hill. I want to play you what President Trump said today about that resolution that passed in the House condemning anti- Semitism and all forms of hate following comments made by Minnesota Congresswoman, Ilhan Omar. Let me play the president for you first.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: The Democrats have become an anti-Israel party. They've become an anti-Jewish party.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: Senator, would you like to respond to the president?

SMITH: Well, I mean, it is a little hard not to be cynical when you have the president of the United States attacking Democrats on being anti-Israel. What happened yesterday in the House of Representatives I thought was a very good thing. The vast majority of members, Republicans and Democrats joined together and said words matter and expressing anti-Semitic ideas or any ideas that are based on hate, we stand against. Most people in the House voted for that. Oddly, representative king felt the need to vote present instead of yes. It is hard to be a little cynical about what the president is doing here.

BOLDUAN: Especially comments he has made in the past. Do you think Democrats in any way open yourselves up to facing criticism by not solely addressing what was the original motivation for taking on this issue in terms of a resolution, which was comments viewed as anti- Semitic? This resolution became not just to condemn anti-Semitism but much more.

SMITH: Absolutely not. I think that Speaker Pelosi and the Democrats handled this exactly right. I wish that we could be talking more about what we need to do to kind of get to the root issues and actually talk to one another about how we feel about each other and how we can come together against this sort of level of hatred. There has been so much tweeting and so much prognosticating about this when there's a fundamental issue where if we can talk about this more I think we would be able to get down to the gist of it. You know, I have known Congresswoman Omar for many years. We worked together back when we worked in Minneapolis city hall. I know her to be a fair- minded person. I also know that it is important to take responsibility for the words that she said that I think have caused hurt to people.

(CROSSTALK) [11:25:14] BOLDUAN: Do you think she has taken responsibility?

SMITH: I do.

BOLDUAN: Do you think she has taken responsibility?

SMITH: I think she is taking responsibility. I do. I think that we all though need to say how do we move past this particular drama that we are in the middle of? Think about this also. She has been personally threatened violently threatened. Let's try to bring this whole rhetoric down and get to the issue of how we can understand one another better.

BOLDUAN: I absolutely hear you. I spoke with the head of the Anti- Defamation League yesterday. When it comes to -- he made an important point that he didn't want this to become something akin to all lives matter. You can condemn, you should be able to speak out singularly to condemn anti-Semitism when it is the issue at hand and they have spoken out in defense of Ilhan Omar on the attacks against her as well.

SMITH: I respect that and I admire that. Words have consequences. They matter. They can cause harm. We all need to take responsibility for the impact that that has. The other thing is you can --

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: I gather you do not think that she harbors anti-Semitic views. Do you think she doesn't understand the weight of her words when she is a new member of Congress or doesn't understand what she was trying to say?

SMITH: I can't look into her heart and her mind and understand exactly what she is thinking. What I do believe is that everybody including representative Omar need to take responsibility for the words that you speak. We ought to be able to express views on policy issues without falling back on old and painful stereotypes, whatever they may be.

BOLDUAN: And also, on this day after the vote, the 23 Republicans who voted against this resolution, they will also need to be facing questions of why they decided to do that, as well.

Senator --

(CROSSTALK)

SMITH: That's exactly right.

BOLDUAN: Thank you for coming in. I really appreciate it.

SMITH: Thank you so much, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Thank you.

Coming up for us, the Dow is down -- right now, it is down almost 100 points after a disappointing jobs report capped off a week of bad economic news for President Trump. Is the economy losing steam? We will discuss this, coming up.

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