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Trump And Putin Speak For An Hour; New Ultimatum House Democrats Offer To Attorney General Bill Barr; 263,000 Jobs Added An April. Aired: 2-2:30p ET
Aired May 3, 2019 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: You are watching CNN on this Friday. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thanks for being with me. Here's the breaking news.
For the first time since the conclusion of the Mueller investigation into Russian election interference, President Trump just spoke to Russian President Vladimir Putin and they didn't talk for five minutes, they talked for over an hour by phone this morning.
President Trump tweeting some of the topics, that rapport, Ukraine, North Korea, Venezuela, but no discussion on Russian interference in the election. CNN's Kaitlan Collins is outside the White House for us right now, and it's really about right, what they did not talk about that seems to be the key here.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It does. And so this conversation was a little over an hour. She said it was very briefly that they discussed the outcome of the Mueller probe, as you've noted for the first time since the report was made public and they talked about that. She said they both noted the fact that there was no collusion, which she said the leaders both knew beforehand.
But when she was asked, Brooke, about the very serious part of the report, the first report about Russian interference in the election, which the Special Counsel said happened in sweeping and systematic fashion, this is what she said they got into.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH SANDERS, U.S. WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The conversation on that part was very quick, but what I can tell you is that this administration, unlike the previous one takes election meddling seriously, and we're going to do everything that we can to prevent it from happening. That's why we've taken a whole government approach, we'd have had contact with all 50 states and are looking at ways to actually prevent it from taking place.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: So Brooke, she doesn't note whether or not the President confronted Vladimir Putin over what the report makes very clear that Russia interfered in the election, something that Intelligence officials have warned will happen again. And that was part of the report that Bill Barr, the Attorney General during his press conference endorsed. That was the way Mueller indicted the Russians, how he handled that, those involved in the interference.
But she says that wasn't something that was a big part of that conversation today and didn't get into whether or not it was even discussed at all, just said not directly answering that question there about the interference.
BALDWIN: Okay, I'm going to come back to that in a little bit, but now, Kaitlan, thank you so much.
I want to move on to this new ultimatum the House Democrats have just offered Attorney General Bill Barr. He has until 9:00 Eastern Time Monday morning to comply, and if he does not, the top law enforcement official in the land will be charged with contempt of Congress. That is the promise that House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler has just made in this new letter.
It's all in an effort to get the redacted parts of the Mueller report and its underlying evidence. But as Chairman Nadler continues to take a hard line on contempt here, there are signs that he is softening his demands on what exactly he wants from the AG.
Nadler offered to prioritize and limit what underlying evidence the committee wants to see, his main request are as follows: For Barr to reconsider allowing all members of Congress and key staff to review the redacted portions in the Mueller report in a secure location. Also, for the DOJ to work jointly in getting a court orders to that redacted grand jury material may be released.
Asha Rangappa is a former FBI special agent and CNN legal and national security analyst and Asha, nice to have you on and we'll jump to contempt here in just a second. But I want to begin with Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, writing a letter to Mueller asking him if he wants to testify on his phone calls with Bill Barr and whether Mueller has been misrepresented. What do you make of that?
ASHA RANGAPPA CNN LEGAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I think it's a little bizarre that he is kind of focusing on this one thing with Mueller. I mean, Mueller should come and testify, but he really needs to testify about everything that he uncovered in his investigation, including potential national security threats with the contacts between Russia and the Trump campaign, as well as whether or not the evidence that he uncovered on the side of obstruction would meet a legal threshold for prosecution even though he declined to decide otherwise.
Why Lindsey Graham is focusing on you know, one phone call when there's so much else to discuss, I mean, that that may go to weather Barr perjured himself, but it does seem that there are bigger fish to fry in terms of the results of the investigation.
BALDWIN: Okay, so back to Nadler. If Attorney General Barr is held in contempt, what would that mean for the AG because we know Obama's Attorney General Eric Holder was held in contempt, but ultimately, people don't remember that that was vacated.
RANGAPPA: Yes, and you know, we're really entering crazy town now, Brooke.
BALDWIN: We're just now entering crazy town?
RANGAPPA: We're now in like the back alleys of crazy town, okay, near the dark dumpster where somebody is going to really get hurt.
[14:05:08] RANGAPPA: Look, you know, Congress has the power to hold the Attorney General in contempt. But guess who enforces a criminal contempt order? The Attorney General.
So it kind of ends up becoming a futile effort. I mean, it could be done as a symbolic matter, but I think that's why you see him trying to potentially negotiate on the procedure or manner or content of what is going to be turned over.
I do think, Brooke, that if they were to take the step of actually starting formal impeachment hearings, not proceedings, but hearings, they would really strengthen the basis for some of these requests.
BALDWIN: I got you and it's kind of like -- it's like the referee looking after himself in that regard. But when I read some of the notes earlier from the Democrats, you know, it sounds like the Democrats were allowing or offering some give, you know, using their demand, narrowing what it is they want immediately. So do you think Chairman Nadler is going to get what he wants?
RANGAPPA: Yes, I think that -- this is I think an effort to negotiate. This is normally how it works when you have this showdown between Congress and the Executive Branch is that they do a little bit of back and forth to try to negotiate.
I think, though, that what we are seeing from the White House is just absolute stonewalling. So I don't know how much he's going to get unless they up the ante in terms of the grounds on which they are requesting this information.
BALDWIN: Asha Ranggapa, just now entering crazy town. Look at you. Asha, good to see you. I needed the laugh. It's a Friday. We needed the laugh. I appreciate you very much.
In the words of President Trump "Jobs, jobs, jobs." His blockbuster new jobs report is out and it's great news for the economy with 263,000 jobs added an April. That number shattered expectations. The unemployment rate also falling to 3.6 percent -- that is the lowest since 1969.
So let's just sit back for a second and just put that in perspective -- 1969 -- that was the year of the moonwalk, The Beatles Abbey Road, Richard Nixon became President and a new era of aviation was ushered in with Boeing 747, and the stonewall riots kicked off the Gay Rights Movement. Right. So that was '69, the strong jobs report comes on the heels of impressive GDP growth.
Diane Swonk is chief economist for Grant Thornton and Rick Newman is columnist for Yahoo Finance. And so appreciate both of you for being here, and Diane Swonk, first to you. What do you think is behind the strong showing and where are these jobs?
DIANE SWONK, CHIEF ECONOMIST, GRANT THORNTON: Well, it was a great showing. We did get a little extra help from beginning of census hires, which will be a tailwind on hiring going forward. Those will drop off in 2020. But those are temporary hires by the Federal government.
The big gains though were in professional hires, and especially in technology, computers, people doing computer programming. I'm at the front lines of this and what you're seeing is people outsourcing the ideas of automation, AI, and that's requiring a lot of staffing up. And that's where we're seeing the job gains, which is interesting, because it underscores how technology change can boost the demand for workers, but also distort what the demand is.
We saw those workers increase for those very highly skilled jobs, but at the same time, the participation rate among those with a high school diploma or less actually fell during the month. That's one of the fly in the ointment of this report was that the unemployment rate fell for the wrong reasons even though we had a strong job number, there were fewer people in this marathon and expansion joining in to get in the run. There are fewer people throwing their hat in the ring and they were these lower skilled workers that are still sort of left on the sidelines.
And that's not what we'd like to see this late in an expansion. This may be a two-month blip. But that's something we're worried about right now, it's watching that participation rate.
BALDWIN: Appreciate you bringing up the fly in the ointment, but bottom line, this is awesome news for this President, Rick, and he knows it. Recent CNN poll shows 56 percent of Americans approve of Trump's handling of the economy and this is more good news to pile on to that, how do you think that this impacts him in 2020?
RICK NEWMAN, COLUMNIST, YAHOO! FINANCE: That's on Trump's mind, that's for sure. I mean, his overall approval rating remains around 42 percent, so think about the gap there. He is getting relatively high marks for the economy, but relatively low marks overall.
So that makes you wonder what would his approval rating be if the economy were weaker? And I think that tells you a lot about his strategy for 2020. One of the things we are seeing Trump really double down on is going after the Fed and really trying to get the Fed to lower interest rates. There is absolutely no reason according to economic textbooks, which Diane Swonk can talk about that the Fed should be lowering rates when you see a job report as strong as this one.
If anything, they should be raising rates because you're supposed to do that to head off inflation. Trump wants the Fed to lower rates as in --
BALDWIN: That' what we heard from the Vice President today.
NEWMAN: Yes. BALDWIN: Echoing the President.
NEWMAN: Well, the memo is now out in the White House. Everybody go out and say this. Trump wants an insurance policy for 2020. What he wants is something that will put a little bit of tailwind behind the economy in 2020, maybe get it growing a little faster than it would otherwise and use his odds going into Election Day in November next year.
[14:10:12] BALDWIN: Do you agree, Diane with Rick on you know, the memo from the White House is out on that, you know, lower those interest rates, which would be a boon for him in 2020? Should they do it?
SWONK: I think that, yes, the memo is out. It's undermining the credibility of the Fed that said, Jay Powell, the head of the Fed is wearing noise cancelling headphones and not listening to it. He is doing his job as he needs to do it. He should be very validated right now about the fact that people got angry with him for sort of saying, we think this inflation -- low inflation -- is transitory, and we don't see any reason to raise or lower rates right now. He should be feeling very comfortable with his decision right now.
And that's the most important thing is that, even though the rhetoric is going on, I do think it's destructive, it is not affecting the way the Fed is making decisions.
BALDWIN: What about, Diane, the deficit? It's on track to reach a trillion this year? Rick is throwing his arms up.
NEWMAN: Who cares?
SWONK: It's mind boggling. It's mind boggling that we would put such a deficit out in a time of economic -- good economic times. And what you worry about is what do we have in the till when the economy does eventually falter? And it will eventually falter. I don't believe that recessions are not inevitable. I think they are inevitable.
And I think that's something that we have to deal with as we've now limited our ability to deal with recessions going forward. We've also sort of baked into the cake some constraints on entitlement spending, which, you know, although there are a lot of people who like to reform it, it's awfully hard to pull that back, especially when you've got an aging population that's relying on it even more, and the unevenness of this recovery.
As good as it is, and it is much better than it was, this recovery, it's almost 10 years old, it does not feel like it did even with a lower unemployment rate in the latter part of the 1990s when you had consumer competence even higher, and a euphoria out there instead of this sort of undercurrent that we continue to see in the confidence numbers in business and in consumers.
NEWMAN: One thing I would add on the debt is, you know, we had similarly strong economy in the late 1990s, but tax revenue was flowing into the Treasury and we actually had four years of government surpluses, people kind of forget this, but from 1998 through 2001, government collected more money than it spent. That's incredible to think and we're now going the opposite direction. That tells you there's a hollowness at the middle of this economy right now.
Some of this is going on to a credit card we're going to have to be paying off in the future.
BALDWIN: Okay, I've got to roll. I've got some breaking news ahead of me, but I appreciate it, Rick and Diane very, very much on these jobs numbers and the economy.
Here's the news. The President just spoke about his call with Vladimir Putin, the economy, about Mueller and Don McGahn, we have the tape, next.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you very much for being here. Thank you. Steve, go ahead.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You spoke with Vladimir Putin earlier today.
TRUMP: Yes, I did.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What options are you looking at to get humanitarian assistance to Venezuela?
TRUMP: Yes, I had a very good talk with President Putin, and probably over an hour and we talked about many things. Venezuela was one of the topics and he is not looking at all to get involved in Venezuela other than he'd like to see something positive happen for Venezuela and I feel the same way. We want to get some humanitarian aid right now.
People are starving. They have no water. They have no food. This is Mr. Prime Minister, one of the richest countries in the world 20 years ago, and now it's -- they don't have food, and they don't have water for their people. So we want to help on a humanitarian basis, and I thought it was a very positive conversation I had with President Putin on Venezuela.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you address the election meddling issue?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you talking about extending the new START Treaty or adding China to it or what exactly?
TRUMP: We're talking about a nuclear agreement, where we make less and they make less, and maybe even where we get rid of some of the tremendous firepower that we have right now. We're spending billions of dollars on nuclear weapons, numbers like we've never spent before. We need that. But they are also and China is frankly, also we discussed the possibility of a three-way deal instead of a two-way deal.
And China, I've already spoken to them, they very much would like to be a part of that deal. In fact, during the trade talks, we started talking about that they were excited about that maybe even more excited about trade. But they felt very strongly about it.
So I think we're going to probably start up something very shortly between Russia and ourselves maybe just started off and I think China will be headed down the road. We'll be talking about non- proliferation. We will be talking about a nuclear deal of some kind and I think it'll be a very comprehensive one.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President did you address the election meddling issues that came up in the Mueller report with Mr. Putin today?
TRUMP: We discussed it and he actually sort of smiled when he said something to the effect that it started off as a mountain and it ended up being a mouse. But he knew that because he knew there was no collusion whatsoever. So pretty much that's what it was. It started off --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you tell him -- Mr. President, did you tell him not to meddle in the next election?
TRUMP: Excuse me, I'm talking. I'm answering this question. You are very rude. So we had a good conversation about many different things, okay.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you ask him not to meddle?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you tell him not to meddle in the next election?
TRUMP: We didn't discuss that. Really, we didn't discuss it. We discussed five or six things. We also -- we went into great detail on various things, especially I would say the nuclear -- especially may be Venezuela. We talked about North Korea at great length and pretty much that's it.
We also discussed trade. We intend to do a lot of trade with Russia. We do some right now. It's up a little bit. But he'd like to do trade. And we'd like to do trade. And getting along with Russia and China, getting along with all of them is a very good thing. Not a bad thing. It's a good thing. It's a positive thing. Getting along with other countries, including your country, by the way. But getting along with countries is a good thing. And we want to have good relationships with every country.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, should Mueller testify? Would you like to see him testify?
TRUMP: I don't know. That's up to our Attorney General who I think has done a fantastic job. Yes, go ahead. Yes, please.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... visit in Slovakia -- TRUMP: Well, I'd like to. I know people from Slovakia and they're
incredible people. I would love to, it's a beautiful country, and it's doing very well. It's doing very well. Yes, yes, please.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... tariffs because --
TRUMP: Well, the tariffs have been a necessary thing for me to do because in the case of the European Union, they have not treated us right. We're losing $181 billion a year. We have been for many years and the European Union has not treated as properly. But we'll see what happens with regard to tariffs on cars with the European Union. We haven't made a decision on that.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, are you going to nominate Defense Secretary Shanahan? Are you going to make it official?
TRUMP: It'll be discussed next week.
[14:20:01] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, it's World Press Freedom Day, can you say anything? We've heard a lot that you --
TRUMP: Say it again? Say it again?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's World Press Freedom Day, we've heard a lot about your grievance about us, can you say something that you can improve to improve communication and relationship with the press?
TRUMP: Well, I think I have a very good relationship with some of the press. And unfortunately, some of the press doesn't cover me accurately. In fact, they go out of their way to cover me inaccurately. So I don't think that's a free press. I think that's a dishonest press and I want to see a free press.
I mean, today, I was happy to see on the front page of "The New York Times" for the first time where they were talking about spying and they were talking about spying on my campaign. That's a big difference between the way they've been covering. But that's a big story. That's absolutely bigger than Watergate, as far as I'm concerned.
So I want to see freedom of the press and I get treated fairly by some press, but I get treated very unfairly by other press. And frankly, I think that's very dishonest and I don't consider that when you have a stories that are purposely written badly, in many cases, very much on purpose. I mean, you look at it. That's not free press. That's the opposite of free press.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, have you decided whether you will invoke executive privilege as it relates to Don McGahn?
TRUMP: That'll all be determined over the next week or so. But you know, I will say this, there's been no President in history that has given what I've given in terms of looking at just a total witch hunt. I call it the Russian hoax. It turned out to be no collusion, no obstruction. It was a total hoax. And yet I was transparent. We gave 1.4 million documents. We gave
hundreds of people. I let him interview the lawyer -- the White House lawyer for 30 hours. %Think of that. Thirty hours. I let him interview other people. I didn't have to let them interview anybody. I didn't have to give any documents. I was totally transparent because I knew I did nothing wrong. It turned out did nothing wrong. No collusion with Russia. Think of it. $35 million, they spent, they wasted over a period of two years. No collusion, no obstruction. Thank you all very much. I appreciate it. Thank you. Thank you, Bill. Thank you, Steve. Thank you.
TRUMP: I'll be running on the economy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... right this way.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you. Thank you for coming.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right this way, press, thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Press, thank you.
BALDWIN: All right, so there you have it. The President of the United States on his hour or so long call with the President of Russia this morning, Vladimir Putin, and one of the top lines out of that whole thing, despite what you know, Bob Mueller found in his own report, that you know, the effort of Russia to systematically attack our democracy. You heard the President say not once in that hour long call, did he bring up interference or meddling? So let's start there. I've got Kaitlan Collins standing by over at the White House with some of those takeaways, and Fareed Zakaria with some analysis in New York.
But Kaitlan, first to you, let's just start on that stunning acknowledgement that he never brought it up.
COLLINS: Yes, and at first, he was talking widely about the Mueller probe. And he said that they did discuss that and he said that during this phone call, which he said lasted over an hour that he felt that Vladimir Putin was smiling when they were talking about the end of the Mueller probe saying that it started out as a mountain and ended up as a mouse.
That seemed to be the President referencing the collusion investigation and whether or not any Trump campaign officials had colluded with any Russians leading up to the election. But then when another reporter in the room was asking about the other big part of that report, Brooke, which is about election interference, which we should remind our viewers that Mueller said was happening in sweeping and systematic fashion, the President told the reporter they were being rude by asking that question.
He continued to talk and then he said, "We didn't discuss that." So that was a question following up earlier when we had asked Sarah Sanders, did the President tell Putin essentially not to meddle in the next election, which Intelligence officials have said could happen again, and Sarah did not directly answer that question, Brooke, and now, it seems that we know why she did not answer that.
I do want to point out one other big thing the President took away from that phone call and that was on Venezuela. He said that the Russian President told him that they did not want to get involved in what is happening there regarding Maduro, but Brooke, that directly contradicts what the Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo told Wolf Blitzer just a few days ago when he claimed it was the Russians who convinced Maduro to stay in Venezuela.
BALDWIN: Right. And obviously, we know that is a total contradiction as you point out on those two points. I appreciate you, Kaitlan very much. I want to get some analysis from Fareed. First, just on, you know, the election interference and the fact that we know what is still happening. And not once was this brought up on this call with Putin. And I know this is like this age-old question I keep asking you, but what is it about Vladimir Putin that President Trump just can't seem to quit?
FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST: Well, you know, there are probably two things going on here. Why at one level, Trump has always been very defensive about his election, and therefore, views any discussion about Russian interference as in some way insulting him, impugning the integrity of his win, the legitimacy of his win.
[14:25:14] ZAKARIA: So that I get and to a certain extent, we know that he is not going to bring up 2016.
The puzzling thing is, why wouldn't he try to really talk about 2020 and make clear that here now he is very determined that this does not happen, because that in no way reflects on him anymore.
I mean, you know, it would be in fact, a sign of his zealousness about it, the fact that he wanted good elections. He didn't want outside interference. He knows he can win without anybody.
BALDWIN: I don't need any help.
ZAKARIA: Right. I don't need any help. That would be you know, if I were advising Donald Trump, I'd say fine, don't talk about 2016. Talk about 2020. And how you did bring it up with Putin and how you -- but he doesn't confront Vladimir Putin on anything. And it may be that it's just some kind of defensiveness, but it's certainly noteworthy in that same conversation. He was railing against the European Union.
You know, Donald Trump finds it much easier to criticize America's democratic allies in Europe than he does to criticize Russia. If you listen to that, there was not one word of criticism of Russia, including on Venezuela on which he is flatly wrong. The Russians have troops in Venezuela, have advisers in Venezuela, have given aid to Venezuela. And according to the Secretary of State ...
BALDWIN: We have that clip.
ZAKARIA: ... intervened ...
BALDWIN: Forty eight hours ago on CNN with Wolf Blitzer, Secretary Pompeo said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: He had an airplane on the tarmac, he was ready to leave this morning, as we understand it, and the Russians indicated he should stay. We think the situation remains incredibly fluid. We know that there were senior leaders inside the Maduro government that were prepared to leave. They told us as much over the past few weeks, and we're convinced that the Venezuelan people are going to get their democracy back.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: And yet this President says Putin doesn't want to get involved in Venezuela.
ZAKARIA: He is deeply involved. Russia is the single most important power in Venezuela right now. It is the outside power that is propping up the government much more than the Chinese and that's -- so there is the puzzle again, you know, which is why -- why cut all this slack for Putin? He doesn't cut it for the Europeans and for the Germans. He doesn't cut it for the Chinese.
That's the part which you know, frankly, none of us know. And maybe it's just Donald Trump is such a narcissist that anything that in some ways seems to impugn his independence or legitimacy, he doesn't go to, but he did it all through the campaign as well. He has some kind of soft spot for or a blind eye color, what you will, whatever metaphor you want. There is something odd about his relationship with Russia, compared to every other country.
BALDWIN: And just speaking of foreign policy, it was yesterday, I read your opinion piece in "The Washington Post" where you talk about, is there a Trump doctrine or sort of this this foreign policy worldview? Enter John Bolton, right. And what's your point on that?
ZAKARIA: Well, you know, Trump probably doesn't have a coherent worldview. Often Presidents don't. But here you have right next to him, John Bolton, who has this very dark view of the world in which he thinks everyone is out to get us. We have to be wary of everyone. He has, at various points advocated or implied that the United States should militarily intervene against Syria, Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Iraq, of course --
BALDWIN: Iran, Yemen.
ZAKARIA: Iran, he has often talked about regime change in Iran and North Korea. And that's all about just flexing American power, you know, and it's an odd combination with the Donald Trump who came in saying he wanted to end America's wars, we've gone to too many wars.
And so what I worry about is probably, you have the President who doesn't have very strong views, you have advisers who have these very strong views. Could something happen where the advisers push or create circumstances where it then becomes a matter of credibility that the United States has to take some kind of military action in Venezuela?
I think the danger of the way in which the Trump administration has handled this is they've been very, very forceful and declarative in terms of their rhetoric. But you know, Maduro has to go. Democracy has to --
BALDWIN: But you keep hearing all options on the table, all options on the table.
ZAKARIA: But they're not doing much and so --
BALDWIN: At what point, I mean --
ZAKARIA: Right, at what point do they feel like in order to not look like they're bluffing.
ZAKARIA: They have to do something militarily much better, in my view, to be doing much more diplomatically, much more in terms of sanctions, much more in terms of helping the opposition.
ZAKARIA: You know, why did the opposition had this bizarre coup, where they called for the military to go up rise and nothing happens? Normally, if the U.S. was involved, they would have helped these guys plan it and said, "First, get your ducks in a row. Make sure that you have some generals who are willing to defect, before you call on people to defect. Make sure that it's not going to --"