Return to Transcripts main page


President Trump Says in Interview It Would Be Appropriate for Attorney General Barr to Investigate Democratic Presidential Frontrunner Joe Biden; House Ways and Means Committee Subpoenas President Trump's Tax Returns; Trump Administration Reportedly Urging Former White House Counsel Don McGahn to Publicly State President Trump Did Not Obstruct Justice; Parts of Texas Experience Flooding as Tanker Collision Causes Chemical Spill in Gulf Coast; North Korea Continues Testing Short-Range Missiles; President Trump Says He Is Open to Phone Call from Iran; Senator Cory Booker Discusses Gun Control; Trade Tariffs on China Having Negative Effect on Some U.S. Businesses; Mother Suing School District after 14-Year-Old Son Dragged by School Bus. Aired 2-3p ET

Aired May 11, 2019 - 14:00   ET


[14:00:00] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: -- Americans back and forth from space to begin colonizing this solar system.

Thanks for being with us. Hello again. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. We begin this hour with eye-raising comments from President Trump about the Democratic frontrunner in the 2020 race. In a new "Politico" interview, the president says it would be, quote, appropriate for him to talk to the attorney general about investigating Joe Biden and his family. This coming as the president goes on a retweet rampage, at one point this morning, retweeting more than 60 things in an hour, and many of them blasting a subpoena of his son, Donald Trump Jr., and the Mueller report.

CNN's Sarah Westwood is covering all of this at the White House for us. So Sarah, the president has a lot on his mind, judging from his Twitter feed. So what's going on?

SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: That's right, Fred. And let's start with the president saying that he believes he would be within his rights to ask Attorney General Bill Barr to look into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden. And this all stemmed from events that took place in 2016, when Joe Biden was in office. Then Vice President Biden was one of several western leaders to push for the ouster of Ukraine's then top prosecutor. That Ukrainian investigator at the time, or around this time, was looking into a Ukrainian energy company in which Joe Biden's son, Hunter Biden, had a financial interest.

We should note again, Biden was not alone in pressuring this Ukrainian official to step down. And there is no evidence that Joe Biden's actions were connected to his son's business activities. But nonetheless, Trump said he could be interested in having the attorney general investigate this in the same interview that he acknowledged that Vice President Joe Biden, at the moment, looks poised to be the most likely Democrat to face him in the 2020 election. And this also comes as the president's personal attorney, Rudy

Giuliani, is backpedaling rapidly on plans to travel to Ukraine and talk to this investigation with Ukrainian officials. Giuliani went from on Friday defending that decision to this morning, telling our colleague Mike Warren, that he's decided not to make the trip, not to have those discussions, because they could be misrepresented, Fred.

WHITFIELD: And the Democrats, well, they've also issued a new round of subpoenas for the president's taxes. What is the White House saying about that?

WESTWOOD: That's right, Fred. This is an escalating fight between the White House and Congress. It's one of several battles that the White House is waging right now against Congressional oversight. On Friday, the Democratic Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee Richard Neal issued subpoenas to the chair of the IRS and to Treasure Secretary Steve Mnuchin in an effort to push for these tax returns, because, recall, the Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin has said to the committee that he doesn't believe there's a legitimate legislative purpose for the lawmakers trying to get these tax returns. The White House and the Treasury Department, they've tried to characterize this as a partisan exercise which cleared the White House. The Trump administration not relenting any time soon on their position that they are not going to be making the president's tax returns public, Fred.

WHITFIELD: And what more can you tell us about the White House request, that former White House Counsel Don McGahn not be able to testify?

WESTWOOD: Well, Fred, the White House, according to sources, pressured former White House Counsel Don McGahn to come out publicly and say that the president did not obstruct justice. Sources tell CNN that McGahn told Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigators that he believes the president didn't obstruct justice. But McGahn through his attorney William Burck declined to come out and announce that publicly. And sources also told CNN that the president was upset about McGahn's refusal to come out and say that publicly.

But this all really underscores the measures that the White House has taken to try to portray Mueller's report as exonerating the president, even though it explicitly did not on the question of obstruction. An attorney, though, for McGahn saying that at the time, the former White House counsel did not perceive the White House as threatening McGahn to make that public statement. Fred?

WHITFIELD: Sarah Westwood, thank you so much.

With me now, Renato Mariotti, who is a former federal prosecutor and CNN legal analyst, and Lynn Sweet, Washington Bureau chief for the "Chicago Sun-Times." Good to see you both.


WHITFIELD: All right, so let me begin with you, Renato. The president's comments about being OK with asking the U.S. Attorney General to investigate Joe Biden, this as Joe Biden has his meteoric rise to the front of the pack of the Democratic field. So as a former federal prosecutor, explain the legal and ethical problems with this kind of discussion, or OK.

RENATO MARIOTTI, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I have to say, it's shocking to me. I don't think we should be OK with that in any way. In fact -- I'm sorry, Fredricka. I'm having problems.

[14:05:00] WHITFIELD: You got a little feedback? OK, well, you can answer the question. Pull out the ear piece so you don't see yourself.

MARIOTTI: I have to say that it is outrageous that the president of the United States is calling on his political opponent to be investigated, and we're not getting condemnation from both sides of the aisle. That's really what shocks me most. Frankly, there's supposed to be a wall between the Justice Department and the president on issues like this. And this should be a widely condemned as an abuse of power by both sides.

WHITFIELD: And Lynn, it's pretty extraordinary to hear this because in the Mueller report, there were at least 10 attempts of obstruction being cited. And you've got that. People are still simmering over that. And then you've got the president who is potentially trying to interfere or encourage something that would seem like an overreach or potential obstruction. Why does the White House feel comfortable in saying this out loud?

SWEET: I don't know if the White House writ large really feels comfortable, or if they just have to be silent. But I hope that people listening understand that this is not normal behavior of a president. So the Mueller report outlined 10 episodes of attempted or potential obstruction of justice, with a finding still potentially to be made by Congress, if it ever gets there, by the House, if it goes toward impeachment.

But if you had any doubt, one would think, if you were President Trump, you stay out of trouble. If you get nailed for -- if you get busted -- and Renato knows this, it's rare. If I'm arrested for robbing the bank on Monday, maybe I shouldn't go rob the bank on Tuesday. So there is just this -- here's what's remarkable in history. The president seems unaware of what he's doing. And what I really would want to know with this Twitter tirade this morning, does he have a tweet deck or what? Or is he sitting there doing word searches to find everybody who might be tweeting something he considers deemed worthy of re-tweeting?

WHITFIELD: Yes. And then, Renato, you've got that, and then you've got the former White House Counsel Don McGahn refusing to publicly state the president did not obstruct, that by the urging of the White House. Renato, are you able to hear me? I think they're still trying to work out some audio with Renato.

So then Lynn, to you. The whole issue about the former White House Counsel Don McGahn, and the president asking, or really not the president directly but Emmet Flood asking, you know, McGahn to make a statement. And then McGahn's representation saying, no, we're not going to do that. I mean, is this not an attempt to obstruct justice?

SWEET: Well, it's not how -- that is not the protocol. So I don't want to use the word, for the moment, "obstruct justice," because that's a legal term. And I just want our listeners to appreciate that it's not how an elected official from an alderman to our president conducts business. You do not ask people to make exonerating statements for you. You don't ask people to investigate your enemies. You let the chips fall where they are.

You have oversight in some ways over who you appoint, but knowing that you asked somebody to issue statements is maybe, the most benign explanation is you thought you were controlling messaging management. But in this case, you crossed a line.

WHITFIELD: All right, so Renato, I think you've got the audio back now. So as it pertains to the former counsel, Don McGahn, there is an urging by House Democrats who want him to testify. The White House saying, no, wanting to exert executive privilege to keep him from doing so. But then if Don McGahn had already been quite loquacious for the whole Mueller report, can he now, as a private citizen, be prevented from talking further from the White House?

MARIOTTI: I don't think there is going to be any easy way for the White House to stop him from testifying. But one problem that the Congress has, that the House Democrats have, is that they have not received all of the materials relating to Don McGahn. So they haven't received, for example, his interview reports and so on that are cited in the Mueller report. So they can ask him questions. I think they will be able to, despite the White House's attempts to delay that or to ultimately try to block that.

But what questions are they going to ask him? I think they'll have to be very careful with the questions that they ask because I think the main fight is going to be over whether or not the interview reports, the notes of his conversations with the president and so forth are going to be turned over.

WHITFIELD: All right, Renato Mariotti, Lynn Sweet, thanks to both of you appreciate it. Thanks for rolling with it, Renato. And Lynn.

[14:10:05] Still ahead, Russia, North Korea, Iran -- President Trump facing political pressure from across the globe. So how can the president handle the growing conflicts now front and center on his agenda?

And later, hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil spilling out near Houston. It's the result of an oil tanker colliding with two barges. The latest on the damage and the cleanup efforts.


WHITFIELD: This afternoon, a massive cleanup is under way following a collision in waters near Houston. A tugboat pushing two barges collided with an oil tanker on Friday, almost ripping one of those barges in half. Officials say some 9,000 barrels of a gasoline blending product has spilled into the channel. The crash occurred inside the Houston Ship Channel near Bayport. Now, flooding is in the area, and it's complicating the cleanup efforts. Here now is CNN's Ed Lavandera.


ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It has been a week of intense rainfall here in the Houston, Texas, area, as another third round of rain is expected to continue falling here this afternoon. So many people here in southeast Texas waiting to see if any more serious floodwaters will rise out of the bayous and tributary systems that run out their way through this part of southeast Texas into the Gulf of Mexico.

[14:15:04] The good news is that For much of the last 24 hours, there has been little to no rainfall. So that has given previous floodwaters a chance to recede and really give residents a break. And that should be enough to get most areas through the worst of this flooding.

But the renewed rainfall and severe weather is going to be hampering efforts in another problem. In the Houston Ship Channel on Friday afternoon a vessel collided with two barges carrying 50,000 barrels of gasoline blend stock. One of those barges leaked about 9,000 barrels of gasoline blend stock into the Houston Ship Channel. Emergency crews are in the process of trying to contain that spill. And officials also say that one of the other barges carrying a 25,000 barrel container is capsized but has not ruptured. So they're trying to contain that and make sure none of that oil or gasoline spills into the Houston Ship Channel, as well.

There is around the clock air monitoring going on, although officials here in Texas say that none of those levels have come back harmful for residents in the area. But they are urging residents to stay away from the coastline, to be wary of that, and that they will probably smell the effects of this spill for those residents who live close to the coastline in that area. But so far, no injuries and no reports that this spill is causing any kind of health impacts for the residents in that part of the Houston Ship Channel.

Ed Lavandera, CNN, Houston, Texas.


WHITFIELD: Up next, big, global conflicts now front and center for the White House. So how will President Trump respond? More straight ahead.


[14:20:33] WHITFIELD: Welcome back. Tensions are rising with North Korea once again after Pyongyang launched more short-term missiles, and the U.S. seized a coal ship headed for North Korea, saying it breached sanctions against Kim Jong-un's regime. Those tensions just add to the mountain of foreign affairs issues facing the White House, not the least of which is a growing crisis with Iran, a trade war with China, and a U.S.-backed candidate struggling for power in Venezuela. I want to bring in Sam Vinograd. She is the former senior adviser to

the National Security Adviser in the Obama administration. So let's begin with North Korea. Trump has said that he is still with Kim Jong-un, but is Kim abandoning his relationship with Trump and looking for other allies?

SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: It certainly feels that way, Fred. And you mentioned the cacophony of threats that are hitting the president right now. And I want to make clear, there's never any shortage of threats impacting U.S. national security. There is a reason I didn't sleep for four years when I worked at the White House.

The difference this time is that a lot of these threats are of the president's own making. If we look at North Korea, the intelligence community has been very clear that North Korea will not denuclearize. They will not give up their weapons of mass destruction. President Trump, months ago, said that the I.C. was naive and didn't know what they were talking about. Only now that Kim Jong-un is launching these missile tests, he is acknowledging that perhaps they're right.

If the president engaged in the national security process, listened to his team, and did something other than operate based upon personal hunches and feelings, we'd have a lot less threats for the team to be dealing with right now.

WHITFIELD: So skeptics had always said Kim Jong-un is not going to abandon his missiles program. He's not likely to denuclearize, even though the White House is saying it felt that -- the president, particularly, feeling that it was promising it could achieve that. So now what will be the White House or the president's strategy? What would be the objective of any other dialogue with Kim Jong-un?

VINOGRAD: Well, I think the first step would be trying to multi- lateralize any response that we have to Kim's latest test. Secretary of State Pompeo is heading to Russia shortly. And under any other administration, I would say that that trip was a really smart idea because Vladimir Putin does have a much closer relationship with Kim Jong-un.

And I would tack on a trip to China, as well, again, because of China's relationship with Kim Jong-un, such that Russia, China, the United States, and the international community could have a coordinated response to Kim Jong-un, perhaps at the United Nations or elsewhere.

The problem is that President Trump has already absolved Kim Jong-un of guilt when it comes to these missile tests. He's already suspended new sanctions on North Korea based upon transgressions that the Treasury Department has identified them as undertaking. So the best thing that the president can do now is actually consult with his team before he issues any more statements by tweet, and try to engage an international coalition to respond to North Korea.

WHITFIELD: OK, let's talk about Iran now. The U.S. moving a Navy strike group and bombers to the area. Iran says it is pulling back on the terms of the 2015 nuclear agreement. Where is this going?

VINOGRAD: Well, it really shows that when President Trump goes big, he goes home empty handed. He violated and abrogated the JCPOA, the Iran deal, because he said that it wasn't broad enough, it didn't cover other areas of Iranian illegal activity. And that's true, it didn't. I helped work on the early days of that deal, and it was narrowly focused on Iran's nuclear program.

What we have now is a situation in which Iran is continuing its illegal activity in supporting terrorism, cyberspace, and abusing its own people, and launching ballistic missiles, while they're saying that they may, in fact, start nuclearizing again because of the pressure that the United States has put on them. The United States has not given Iran an offramp. Secretary of State Pompeo instead laid out an onerous 12-step plan with a list of demands that Iran had to meet, again, on such a broad range of issues before we start negotiating.

So instead of keeping a deal that minimized one threat, a nuclear threat, the president tried to get a bigger and better deal, and instead is emptyhanded. And we have a situation, Fred, where we have a nuclearizing North Korea, a potentially re-nuclearizing Iran, not to mention a trade war with China and all the regular business that the team has to focus on.

[14:25:06] WHITFIELD: So on Iran, is Iran sending a signal to Trump, that they're not likely to take him up on his offer of a phone call, that he's opened to talking now?

VINOGRAD: The president puts a lot of faith in the power of his own phone calls, but I don't think that the Iranian regime is keen to jump on the phone with President Trump because they have their own politics, too. The Iranian regime took a massive hit domestically when the president, frankly, humiliated them and withdrew from a deal they took a lot of pains to sell domestically.

And at the same time, I don't think anybody trusts the president's word on much of anything anymore. He has violated so many deals, he has flip-flopped on so many issues, that reestablishing the credibility of what the president says is a massive undertaking for the national security team. When we started the backchannel negotiations with Iran through the Omanis during President Obama's first administration, we had to spend time convincing the Iranians that we meant what we said, just like we tested their credibility. And at this time, I don't think the Iranian regime has much faith in the president's word on these issues.

WHITFIELD: But does it seem like, to you, that the president feels that his credibility is null and void on the global stage.

VINOGRAD: I don't think he really cares because I think that he just, again, views these agreements, views these negotiations, to an extent as a way to score political points. We look at North Korea, he refuses to acknowledge that diplomacy has failed because he has campaigned on solving the problem with North Korea. He refuses to acknowledge that he has contributed to the rising threat from Iran because he withdrew from the Iranian nuclear deal, and now Iran is saying that they'll enrich uranium and they'll store fissile material in country.

Humility is a characteristic that we should hope that all presidents have. And instead of sitting down with his team and honestly acknowledging where we are, the president is doggedly sticking to policies that he's using on the campaign trail.

WHITFIELD: Yes. If not null and void, then at least credibility has taken a big hit. That seems to be the signal that many countries are sending. All right, Sam Vinograd, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

VINOGRAD: Thanks, Fred.

WHITFIELD: Still ahead, we're just about 18 months from Election Day 2020. But many Democrats on the trail are already polling out their plans for -- rolling, rather, out their plans for the future of America. Can their vision resonate with voters this early in the campaign? We'll discuss next.


[14:31:15] WHITFIELD: Several Democratic presidential hopefuls are on the move today and making appearances in multiple states and Puerto Rico. Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren landed on the cover of "Time" magazine with the caption, "I have a plan for that." And Cory Booker began his day in Orangeburg, South Carolina, where he opened a new campaign office. And tonight, he'll appear on "The Axe Files" with David Axelrod to talk gun control.


SEN. CORY BOOKER, (D-NJ) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: So when I'm president of the United States, I'm taking a fight to this issue like folks will have never seen before, because we're better than this as a country. It is a uniquely American problem. No other country has this kind of carnage. More people in my lifetime have died in this nation due to gun violence than in all the wars from the Revolutionary War to now. We are not going to give thoughts and prayers, which to me is just -- I'm sorry to say that as a man of faith, but I was taught that faith without works is dead. We're going to bring a fight with everything that I have to solve this problem, because it is solvable, and we know it.


WHITFIELD: Joining me right now, CNN political commentator Mia Love, and Democratic strategist Aisha Moodie-Mills. Good to see you both. So Mia, you first. It looks like many of these candidates are trying really hard to distinguish themselves, particularly as you have the former vice president who is leading the pack.

MIA LOVE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. So one of the things that I would like to mention is that in order for anybody to win, they're going to have to try and win some Republicans also. They're going to have to go into the president's base and win Republicans, like me. And one of the problems -- I know Cory. I know Cory very well. I have the same concerns about the violence that has been occurring in our nation, especially as a mother with three children in school. That's a big issue. But one of the things I would like to hear him talk about is the responsibility for the administration to prosecute the cases that are brought to them by the ATF.

One of the things that has been very frustrating is, under Eric Holder, there was 25 percent less cases brought to the -- that the administration prosecuted -- or the Justice Department prosecuted than the previous administration. So it's important for the administration, or the future administration, to have some sort of accountability, to make sure that they're actually prosecuting criminals so that they go to jail or they can't commit these crimes.

WHITFIELD: And Then, Aisha, if it's not an issue of trying to support policy, there is an issue of supporting each other. Early on, when the field was, say, 10 or 12, the Democrats were saying, we're not going to fight each other. And now, you have got 21. Bernie Sanders not necessarily showing a whole lot of love for Joe Biden. And then Beto O'Rourke not commenting on supporting every single Democratic candidate. Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think party loyalty matters.

BETO O'ROURKE, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It does, but it's not unconditional. This country comes before anything else.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I know it's not unconditional.

O'ROURKE: And so I can't take a pledge to support every single Democrat in the country.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm asking you for here in New Hampshire.

O'ROURKE: I need to know about them first, right? Would you want me to make a blanket commitment about people I know nothing about, who I've never met?


WHITFIELD: So Aisha, what's going on here? Is this just the beginning?

AISHA MOODIE-MILLS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: What is going on here is that the Democratic hopefuls are intending to have conversations about policy, at least most of them. I think that what we get a little bit from Beto here is saying, hey, what a minute, I actually want to align with people who have ideas that I share.

[14:35:00] What we're seeing coming out of Cory Booker, what we're seeing coming out of Elizabeth Warren, of course, because she has got lots of plans, is that Democrats are actually -- and I would say Americans generally -- are actually looking for people who have ideas to solve the problems that we face, and who are ambitious and aspirational in thinking about who we can be as a nation, and what are the steps towards us getting there? That is the point of the conversation. That's what Democrats want to hear.

I think this conversation about whether there is going to be infighting or rivalry, what have you -- it's a competition. Yes, there are 20 something Democrats who are in the field. They're all running because they believe they can do better at the job. I think healthy competition is important. At the end of the day, though, when we get to the convention next summer, my expectation as a Democrat is that all of the candidates, who ultimately fell by the wayside, would absolutely fall in line and support the person we put up for president in that convention.

And so, a conversation is super premature about down balloting and who is doing what where. I think three things the Democrats want is someone who has a plan, someone who's plan is ambitious and aspirational and going to solve problems, and then certainly they're going to want to see the entire field rally behind the presumptive nominee.

WHITFIELD: So Mia, is there a worry that the ideas, however, will be dwarfed by a growing anti-Trump sentiment?

LOVE: Well, look, no one is going to win this presidency on hatred of the administration alone. I mean, if you think about -- if you looked at the last poll, 56 percent of Americans don't even want to talk about impeachment. They're tired of that. I think Beto actually has a point here. His job, at the end of the day, he's going to get into -- he's looking forward into the general election. And this is not just about supporting every democrat. This is about supporting Americans. When you become a member of the administration, you are the president for everyone. And now, it's about making sure that the United States of America and the people have a voice, instead of a particular party having a voice.

WHITFIELD: And so Aisha, Trump, he actually told "Politico" that Joe Biden will likely steamroll Democratic rivals who aren't registering. So what does these candidates need to do I guess to feel like they're Trump's competition?

MOODIE-MILLS: Well, I think here's the first thing, is that in order to get through this primary, which is what these candidates have to do before they get to Donald Trump, in order to get through the primary, they're going to have the excite and mobilize the Democratic base. And there are a lot of people in the Democratic base that feel like they haven't been seen or heard. And certainly, there's a lot of lip service being given to issues, but the outcome, specifically for people of color, for young people who are saddled with student loan debt, the outcomes in their lives have not changed. They've been the same for decades upon decades, that a lot of these candidates are going to have to answer for it because they have records over a course of time.

So what these candidate are going to have to do is to actually mobilize and the Democratic base. If they do that, then when it comes to the general, making sure that they can maintain enthusiasm from Democrats, let's be clear -- Hillary Clinton, a lot of her challenges were that nine percent of the Democrats who voted for Obama stayed home. Not that they all went and voted for Trump. That's actually not why Hillary Clinton lost. She lost because Democrats stayed home.

So in order to actually win at a national scale, these candidates are going to have to get through the primary by getting people riled up, and then maintain that enthusiasm and energy for the general election so that the base actually comes out en masse, because the last thing I'll say is that what we know, what we know in this country is that people who share the views of the vast majority of these Democratic candidates are actually the majority.

Hillary Clinton got 3 million more votes than Donald Trump. Now the way that our system works out with the Electoral College doesn't necessarily make a win a win, unfortunately. But I believe it is all about mobilizing people to turn out. And that's what these candidates need to be focused on, and not getting into some muck and mud with Donald Trump.

WHITFIELD: Quickly, Mia, last word?

LOVE: I agree with that. This is not -- at the end of the day, that battle is going to happen. But I think that the more people come up with ideas, ideas that actually can cross party lines, the better off they're going to be. But they're trying to differentiate themselves. And again, this is not going to be -- no one is going to win this presidency on hatred of the current president. They want someone who is going to be a leader and who is going to talk about their own ideas.

WHITFIELD: Mia Love, Aisha Moodie-Mills, good to see you both, and happy Mother's Day to you and to all the important moms in your life.

Don't miss tonight's episode of "The Axe Files." David Axelrod sits down with Senator Cory Booker for a conversation about the race and possible impeachment proceedings in Washington. That's tonight, 7:00 eastern, only on CNN.


[14:43:50] WHITFIELD: Welcome back. President Trump ramping up his trade war with China. On Friday, the administration decided to raise tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports. The administration also began the process of raising tariffs on essentially all remaining Chinese imports, valued at approximately $300 billion. Now, the China are vowing to take necessary countermeasures, saying tariffs must go before a deal can be reached.

CNN Correspondent Polo Sandoval joining me right now. So Polo, what does all of this mean for U.S. businesses and consumers?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So Fred, eventually for consumers, we're going to have to see, right? Because remember, this announcement was just made midnight yesterday. But as far as the businesses, I can tell you that there are many throughout the United States that are already taking a hit. That includes even the owners of various bike businesses. Take a listen.


SANDOVAL: Step inside Ryan Zagata's New York City showroom, and you'll see the unintended consequences of a trade war.

RYAN ZAGATA, OWNER, THE BROOKLYN BICYCLE COMPANY: With this new tariff, it is inevitable, we are going to have to increase the price on this model.

SANDOVAL: Like many of America's small to medium-sized businesses, the Brooklyn Bicycle Company is already dealing with the burden of increased Chinese import tariffs.

[14:45:03] These bikes are assembled in China, using foreign made components to keep the cost down for the consumer. In September, the Trump administration's 10 percent tariff hike on nearly $200 billion in Chinese goods Zagata to raise some prices.

ZAGATA: This has been one of our most popular bicycles. It was a $449 bike last summer. It is now $499.

SANDOVAL: Then on Friday, the White House announced that 10 percent will increase to 25, a change that will result in yet another price hike on the showroom floor.

ZAGATA: For every $100 we spend on bicycles, $5.50 we pay in duties. So September we've been paying an extra $10. Now we're at $15.50. With this additional tariff, now it is now another $15. So we're talking $30.50 for every single bicycle we import on $100. Not for every bike. Every $100 we spend, $30.50. So on a $200 our cast effective at $200, is $61 that we're paying in duties to the government.

SANDOVAL: Zagata says that means some of his customers will be paying more for the same bike.

ZAGATA: It is difficult for me. I can't call my customer and say, guess what? You're getting a better wheel set, you're getting better grips, and this luxurious leather sandal. That's not what you're getting. Effectively, this money is going to the government.

SANDOVAL: It's been a rough ride for many business owners since President Trump waged his trade war with China. Zagata blames the uncertainty that comes with trade negotiations.

ZAGATA: It is not difficult for us as a business to decide what to do. We've built financial models that we can punch in these variables, regardless of what the scenario is. And the model effectively will spit out this is what you need to do. The challenge with the models now is we're missing one main variable. We don't know what the final duties is going to be with these trade talks still ongoing.

SANDOVAL: There is some optimism coming from the president. On Friday he took to Twitter saying tariffs will make the country, quote, "much stronger. Just sit back and watch." That may be hard to do for some U.S. importers with China now vowing to hit back after Friday's tariff hike.

ZAGATA: I think tariffs are a great thing. I applaud the administration for what they're doing. I just think six months, nine months in, it's becoming really difficult. And come on already with these negotiations. Let's move ahead.


SANDOVAL: So you may be asking, why doesn't Zagata just do what the president wishes could be done, which is simply build the bicycles in the United States? As we heard today, it is simply not that easy. You see, most of the components that it takes to build that bicycle, the spokes, the wheel, the saddle, et cetera, a lot of those different items, Fred, they come from Asian countries. So even if you were to import them into the United States and actually build the bike here, then technically, you would still be subject to that 25 percent tariff. No way around it.

WHITFIELD: All right, Polo Sandoval, thank you so much.

Coming up, a 14-year-old student dragged by a school bus. Now his mother is suing, alleging racial animus. The latest on the case, next.


[14:51:39] WHITFIELD: A mother in Utah is suing a former school bus driver. She says he targeted her son, trapping the boy's backpack in the bus doors and then driving away. Here now is CNN's Stephanie Elam.


BRENDA MAYES, MOTHER OF 14-YEAR-OLD DRAGGED BY SCHOOL BUS: My initial thoughts were I was glad he didn't kill him. I was glad he didn't go under the wheels.

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Children lined up, getting off a school bush, when suddenly, the doors closed just as a 14-year-old boy is exiting. His backpack is caught in the door, then the bus starts to move. For about 20 seconds, the boy's body is dangling outside the bus, held up only by the straps of his backpack.

MAYES: As the driver is driving, he looks over three times, as he's going forward. He's driving forward, he's looking. Looks. He looks over. So he knew what he was doing. The children were very animated. He knew exactly what he was doing.

ELAM: Brenda Mayes is the mother of that seventh grader. She says her son called her after the February 4th incident, sounding, quote, terrified and embarrassed.

MAYES: And he said that he felt pressure across his chest, but he didn't have injuries. He could tell where he had been pinched there. ELAM: Mayes believes this was no accident but was done on purpose by

the bus driver John Naisbitt. In a lawsuit that names the Davis School District, it's Transportation Director, David Roberts, and Naisbitt as defendants, Mayes claims the bus driver has a history of targeting biracial students.

ROBERT SYKES, LAWYER FOR BRENDA MAYES: All of this was based upon race. It was racial discrimination, racial assault. And it was unconstitutional conduct. And the Davis School District suborned it. They tacitly approved it because they did nothing, OK, until this event.

ELAM: In a statement, the school district said, quote, "When issues of discrimination are raised at any time, they are investigated thoroughly. The Davis School District takes any claims of racial discrimination seriously, and does not tolerate any form of racial discrimination in our schools." Roberts had no comment, but Naisbitt, who the lawsuit claims was forced to retire soon after this incident, had this to say to CNN affiliate KSTU.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Would you say that you're racist?

JOHN NAISBITT, BUS DRIVER: Not at all, no. Look at my dog. He's as black as can be.

ELAM: Mayes says a criminal investigation into Naisbitt'S actions is ongoing.

Stephanie Elam, CNN.


WHITFIELD: And a look at our top stories now. An American hostage is among those rescued after being kidnapped in West Africa May 1st. The U.S. military assisted in the operation. These two men from France and a South Korean woman were also rescued. One of them describing the ordeal as hell. The French minister for the armed forces says four terrorists were killed in the operation.

And new allegations in the disappearance of four-year-old Maleah Davis. The mother told CNN that she thinks the child's stepfather bears some responsibility in her disappearance. The mother, along with a community activist, claimed there is surveillance video that shows Maleah's stepfather Darion Vence leaving their apartment with a laundry basket and a bottle of bleach.


[14:55:01] QUANELL X, COMMUNITY ACTIVIST: We want to share with you that there is a video camera at the top of the stairway by one of their neighbors. And on that video camera, we'll show it to you, it captures the stepdad coming out of the apartment with a bottle of Clorox, a laundry basket, and inside the laundry basket, a garbage bag.

(END VIDEO CLIP) WHITFIELD: Meanwhile, police have recovered the car Vence was driving when he claims he, Maleah, and his one-year-old son, were attacked and abducted. Police say they have not heard from the stepfather in several days since the incident.

And the president of Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania says fraternities and sororities won't exist anymore on campus. Her decision comes nearly two weeks after two frat chapters announced they were shutting down after allegations of racist, misogynistic, and homophobic behavior against past members.

And it's a somber graduation day at the University of North Carolina Charlotte. One of the students who was injured but survived the shooting there 10 days ago received her degree. Two victims, Riley Howell and Ellis Parlier also received degrees in memoriam. The school has announced $1 million in scholarships in memory of the slain students.

And tonight, Dr. Sanjay Gupta takes a journey into a very different side of Italy. Watch "Chasing Life with Dr. Sanjay Gupta" tonight at 9:00 eastern, only on CNN.

And thank you so much for being with me today. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. The news continues right now with Alex Marquardt after this.