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Latest Jobs Report Only 20,000 Jobs Added; Trump: Cohen Lied, Directly Asked Me for a Pardon, I Said No; 23 Democrats Members Vote Against Resolution Condemning Bigotry; House Passes Anti-Corruption and Voting Rights Bill; White House Communications Director Bill Shine Resigns. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired March 8, 2019 - 11:30   ET



[11:32:19] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Back to today's big news on the economy, 20,000 jobs added last month, a fraction of the 180,000 some jobs expected. Granted, these reports are always just one snapshot, but what does it mean for the big picture?

Joining me now is CNN global economics analyst, Rana Foroohar.

Great to see you, Rana.


BOLDUAN: What did you make of the report this morning?

FOROOHAR: Here's the headline, which is 20,000 jobs, not what we expected. This is far lower. That's fair. But you always have to look at jobs numbers in sort of a three-month group. If you average it out, we had a great January, a really terrible February in part because of weather. If you average it out across three months, that's 186,000 a month. That is actually pretty good. Anything that is between about 130 to 150 right now economists would say we are at the tail end of a recovery cycle.

BOLDUAN: It is the 101st month of job growth. We are still growing and breaking records on that front. It makes me wonder when you are taking all of this into account, what is the broader picture that you are watching?

FOROOHAR: The thing that I watch most closely is the labor force participation number. At the height it was 67 percent. That's what you want to see starting to tick up. You need slower steadier gains for that to happen.


BOLDUAN: I will say the layman's version of what labor force participation is. It's the percentage of people who are looking for work who are able to work?

FOROOHAR: The percentage of people who want a job that are in the labor force. It's about 63 percent of Americans that want a job have a job. You want to get that up a little closer to 70 percent. Then you would see the wage inflation and gains in your pocket book that we are looking for. There was a little wage inflation this time.


BOLDUAN: That is what the president noted this morning. Unemployment is still low and there's still wage growth.

FOROOHAR: Absolutely.


FOROOHAR: One thing that this jobs report did is it gave the Fed a little breathing room because the Fed had been under pressure. They were saying the economy is great, we are going to start hiking up interest rates. The minute that they did that the market started to wobble and then they had to flip-flop.

BOLDUAN: Other things to take into account that we have seen this week, trade deficit and federal deficit. Trade deficit hitting a high. The president said he would change that. Federal deficit jumped 77 percent this year versus last year, again something the president promised he was going to fix. What did that do to the conversation?

[11:35:09] FOROOHAR: The trade deficit question is interesting. That has a lot to do with the U.S./China trade war, which is sort of a Cold War --


BOLDUAN: Are you surprised how long the negotiations have gone.

FOROOHAR: Absolutely not. If you see a deal it will be a surface deal. Both sides can say we have a gain. It doesn't change the fundamental question which is, who will rule the --


BOLDUAN: They will be stuck in what?

FOROOHAR: I think we will be stuck frankly in a multi-year if not multi decade battle for global supremacy. The U.S. sees China as a rising problem. This is something the national security manifesto says we see China as a threat to the U.S. can we somehow together find low-hanging fruit that would actually be a win/win? I think there's a moment, the Chinese have felt more pain than the U.S. has. I think they are ready to cut a deal. They have to feel like they have an administration that is not going to flip-flop. They will have a longer-term view. We don't know what is going to happen in 2020.

BOLDUAN: We don't know what will happen in 20 minutes, let's be honest.

FOROOHAR: True enough.

BOLDUAN: Stay with me. It should be at this second.

FOROOHAR: Exactly.

BOLDUAN: Good to see you.

FOROOHAR: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Thanks for being here.

Coming up for us, President Trump blasting his former lawyer once again and making a startling new claim: Michael Cohen directly asked him for a pardon? We're going to have details on that after the break.


[11:41:22] BOLDUAN: All right. This just in from President Trump's Twitter feed. As he heads to Alabama to see storm devastation, he is ripping into his former attorney. Let me read it to you: "Bad lawyering fraudster, Michael Cohen, said under sworn testimony that he never asked for a pardon. His lawyers totally contradicted him. He lied additionally." And this is the interesting part. "He directly asked me for a pardon. I said no. He lied again. He also badly wanted to work at the White House. He lied."

Here is what Cohen said under oath before Congress on the issue of the pardon.


MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER PRESONAL ATTORNEY TO PRESIDNET TRUMP: I have never asked for nor would I accept a pardon from President Trump.


BOLDUAN: With all this confusion, this calls for Kara Scannell.

Kara, what is happening here? Have you heard rumblings of this before with all these reports?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN REPORTER: It is interesting the president has been quiet on this. He has kind of let this play out in the public where we have seen a change in the stories here where as you played that Cohen said that he never asked for a pardon. Lanny Davis corrected this and said that Michael Cohen did direct his former lawyers to ask the president's legal team and discuss the possibility of a pardon. These conversations occurred while they had a joint defense agreement and a lot of those conversations were after Michael Cohen's apartment was raided. And then we have never heard Cohen say that he directly communicated with Trump. We did report that when Michael Cohen went to Mar-a-Lago just after the inauguration that he had a feeling that he would be taken care of. I think it was early 2018. We don't have evidence. We just saw a tweet from Michael Cohen in response to the president's tweet. He said just another set of lies by POTUS. "Mr. President, let me remind you that today is International Woman's Day. You may want to use today to apologize for your own lies and dirty deeds to women like Karen McDougal and Stephanie Clifford."

BOLDUAN: It is fascinating. I think that's all we can make of it. We'll see what comes next and if there are reports. That seems to be a direct contradiction from the direct testimony where there was like wiggle room, at least Lanny Davis was trying to argue, about the reporting about the pardon and Michael Cohen said he never asked for a pardon and would never accept one. This seems to be the most direct contradiction to it. Time will tell.


BOLDUAN: Thank you, Kara. Appreciate it.

At the very same time, House resolution condemning all forms of hate and bigotry passes but not unanimously and not without drama. This started from comments about Israel made by freshman Congressman Ilhan Omar. In the end, the vast majority of the House voted for the resolution. There were 23 no votes and one vote of present all from Republicans.

That doesn't mean all Democrats were happy about how this turned out either. Listen to this.


REP. ELIOT ENGEL, (D), NEW YORK: I wish we had had a separate resolution about anti-Semitism. I think we deserved it. I think it was wrong not to have it. I don't think we should mix everything.

No member of Congress should be making anti-Semitic statements and saying hurtful things and then not apologizing for them.

[11:44:03] REP. TED DEUTCH, (D), FLORIDA: Why are we unable to singularly condemn anti-Semitism? If they are talking about how anti- Semitic words can lead at the most hateful extremes then it is anti- Semitism. Take my word for it, if you don't do that then please understand that anti-Semite will hear the words as a dog whistle.


BOLDUAN: CNN congressional correspondent, Sunlen Serfaty, is on Capitol Hill, following all the twist and turns in this.

Sunlen, what are you hearing now?

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The dust is still settling here on Capitol Hill, Kate. You had Ilhan and all Democrats voting for this resolution. I think that sound that you played really signifies a lot of concerns. Many Democrats saying that what this resolution group into less of a specific anti-Semitism resolution and more of an all-encompassing anti-hate piece, they are saying they would have liked it to be singularly focused on anti-Semitism. That is the crux of what we saw in this bitter battle here on Capitol Hill pitting Democrats against Democrats. Many Democrats saying if it had been just a specific bill talking about anti-Semitism that they felt it would have singled out Congresswoman Ilhan Omar a little too much. Notably 23 Republicans voted against this resolution for many of the

same reasons. Many Republicans saying it was too watered down, that they would have preferred it to be focused on anti-Semitism. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez calling it out on Twitter, saying, "Where is the outrage over the 23 members of the GOP who voted no on the resolution?"

Certainly the end to a long debate on Capitol Hill. I think democratic leadership certainly wants to move past this.

BOLDUAN: You can be sure about that one, Sunlen.

There's other business going on right now in the House. A vote moments ago to overhaul ethics rules.

SERFATY: This is called H.R.-1. This is a massive piece of legislation that Democrats have been working on in the House for quite some time. It seems like it has been almost completely overshadowed. It mandates the disclosure of presidential tax records. This has absolutely no track forward in the Senate. Democrats in the House know that but it is a big campaign promise so they are putting that ahead this morning. Certainly, a big piece of legislation that is really gobbled up in the controversy that they have been handling this week -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: Sunlen, thank you so much.

Coming up for us, he has become known for his critical tweets and harsh words against President Trump. But also what sets him apart is he is the husband of Kellyanne Conway, the counselor to the president of the United States, George Conway. Now the conservative attorney is calling out the president yet again. We'll tell you why.

First, many studies show that too much screen time can be unhealthy for young people. Our first "CNN Hero" of 2019 is teaming up with hospitals to make screen time healing time. As a high school student working out of his parents' basement, Seth Weigle (ph) set out to prove that gamers can also be do-gooders. Today he is making video games a part of the recovery for sick children across the country.


SETH WEIGLE (ph), CNN HERO: Sometimes people believe that video games are corrupting it is minds of America's youth, but video games are an incredible tool for helping kids find a source of fun and relief during stressful and difficult times.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To people who think the games are just games, they're so much more than that.

You don't have to talk about me being sick. We can play the game because that's way more cool than having to talk about me being sick.


BOLDUAN: To see this gaming team in action and to nominate someone who you think should be a "CNN Hero," please go to


[11:53:38] BOLDUAN: Breaking news just in, White House communications director, Bill Shine, has resigned.

I want to go straight over to White House correspondent, CNN's Kaitlan Collins, for more on this.

Kaitlan, what are you hearing?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: This is really unexpected. We just got a statement from the White House. The president is traveling to Alabama and he just landed there where he's surveying storm damage. But the deputy chief of staff and de facto communications director is leaving the White House. He offered his resignation to President Trump last night and the president accepted that resignation. They added that he is going to continue to support President Trump and his agenda, and this is news. They say he'll be senior adviser to the president's re-election campaign. Then they put out several statements from Bill Shine, the president and chief of staff and Sarah Sanders.

But President Trump said, "Bill Shine has done an outstanding job working for me and the administration. We'll miss him in the White House but look forward to working together on the 2020 presidential campaign where he'll be totally involved. Thank you to Bill and his wonderful family."

He made sure to say Bill Shine will be involved in his re-election campaign, but there had been talk lately of just how pleased President Trump was with Bill Shine. He had tried several months to get Bill to come in to the White House and be his communications director. It took several months of the president wooing him, with Sean Hannity, before Shine did enter the White House last year. Several witnesses said they have noticed him dealing with visual things for the president. The president is very visual. He cares about the lighting, he cares about where he's standing in a room when he's holding an event.

Other than that, there had been criticism if people inside the White House questioning what it was that Bill Shine did or what he had accomplished serving the president. Because they did not believe that during his tenure in the White House that the communications strategy had changed all that much.

[11:55:42] Now, we're still digging find out what happened behind the scenes because this is a very abrupt departure, to be clear. But I can also say that Bill Shine was scheduled to go with the president to Vietnam for that second summit with Kim Jong-Un, but we found out this week that Bill Shine did not go on that trip because two days before he announced he was not going to be going any longer and he had essentially been pushed off the trip. There are questions about why exactly that happened. We're still working to find out why, but it does seem to signal something that he was scheduled to go on a pretty significant trip with the president, and two days before announced he would no longer be going on that trip, and now we find out he's leaving the White House.

BOLDUAN: And the big question, as you're saying, the biggest unknown is why. It's noteworthy that he's moving to a bit of an unspecified capacity in the 2020 campaign, but why Bill Shine? He joined in July of 2018. I think that was when it was announced. Why would he be leaving now and in the way he described, which is he offered his resignation, it was accepted. That's not typically how it's announced. They just say, great news, Bill Shine is going over to the campaign. A lot to work out here.

Kaitlan, if you can stick with me.

Brian Stelter, host of CNN's "RELIABLE SOURCES" on the phone with me.

Brian, can you hear me?


BOLDUAN: As Kaitlan said, this is really unexpected.

STELTER: It is. The fact he did not travel to Vietnam was a signal that it might happen. We tried to ask Shine last week, why are you in CPAC instead, and Shine didn't answer those questions. Once again, a surprise, because the White House doesn't seem to be able to keep a communications director for very long. Yes, Bill Shine lasted longer than others, but another example of turmoil inside the White House. I think we should remember that Bill Shine was controversial from the very beginning. He was brought in from FOX News. There were questions about what expertise he would bring to the White House. There were questions about why he would be paid millions of dollars by FOX even though at the White House he was getting severance from his old job. It was controversial from the beginning, and I hope he comes out and tells us the real reason why he's suddenly leaving.

BOLDUAN: Yes. Were there problems between the president and his communications director, Bill Shine? Was that where this went? Or was this -- or is this -- they're just moving more to the campaign and this is how they're announcing it? Much, much more to come and much -- many more questions now raised.

Brian, thank you very much. I really appreciate it.

Thank you all so much for joining us. We're going to have much more on this breaking news, Bill Shine, the president's communications director, resigning from the White House. Much more after a break.