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AT THIS HOUR

Trump Erupts Over Migration, Threatens Mexico with Tariffs; Mexico Tariff Not Received Well by the Dow, Republicans; Pompeo Checking into Reports that North Korea Executed Official Involved in Failed Nuclear Summit; A.G. Barr: Mueller could Have Reached Decision on Obstruction; Auto Industry Warning New Tariffs on Mexico Could be Devastating for Families, Workers. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired May 31, 2019 - 11:00   ET

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


[11:00:00] JIM SCUITTO, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. Companies pay and you pay at home.

Andy LaFrazia, very good to have you on.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ACHNOR: Thanks, Andy

ANDY LAFRAZIA, PREIDENT, CONTROLTEK: All right, have a great day.

HARLOW: And thank you all for joining us.

I'm Poppy Harlow. Jim and I will see you Sunday night. Don't miss it. We're going to moderate town halls with Democratic presidential candidates.

We'll see you there and back here on Monday morning -- Jim?

SCIUTTO: That's right. We'll be in Atlanta.

I'm Jim Sciutto, in Washington today.

"AT THIS HOUR" with Kate Bolduan starts right now.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. Thank you so much for joining me.

Whether it's a negotiating tactic or an attempt to distract, it's still surprised everyone on both sides of the border and both sides of the aisle. President Trump announcing that he's slapping a 5 percent tariff on all goods coming from Mexico, America's number one trading partner, and saying it's going to keep going up if Mexico does not stop illegal immigration to the United States.

For so many Americans already feeling the hurt from the trade war with China, this is probably literally exactly the last thing that they wanted or needed to hear.

The reaction you can probably predict at this point. The Dow sinking triple digits and even Republicans say this is a bad idea.

The chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Republican Chuck Grassley, of Iowa, put out a statement saying, quote, "Trade policy and border security are separate issues. This is a misuse of presidential tariff authority and counter to congressional intent."

All right. So CNN's Kaitlan Collins is at the White House. CNN's Patrick Oppmann is in Mexico City.

Let me start with you, Kaitlan.

Kaitlan, one thing of many things that is not clear is what is the president asking for Mexico to do? Wipe out all illegal immigration by June 10th?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and the White House still hasn't given us a number they're looking for on June 10th that would stop them from actually imposing the tariffs on everything coming in from Mexico, even though we have asked multiple times. Starting with last night during a briefing called that the White House had, trying to inform reporters of this.

Because we were told essentially, Kate, this is a decision that had been mulled over in recent days inside the West Wing. But really planning for it didn't ramp up until yesterday afternoon, after the president told reporters in the morning when he was leaving the White House he was going to have a big announcement on the border. It does seem to be a little last minute here, even though it had been considered. People didn't think it was going to go into effect.

That's why you're seeing Republican, even though Sarah Sanders telling reporters they should not be caught off guard and they and Mexico should have seen it coming.

Now we're hearing from Republicans, not only Chuck Grassley, but Senator Joni Ernst saying they don't think this is the route the president should be taking. Whether he heeds those warnings is another question.

But, Kate. inside the West Wing, some officials are questioning whether or not they have the legal authority to do this. They say the scope of this mandate is so big they think it could be tied up in the courts before the June 10th date even gets here.

That seems to be a concern that Republican lawmakers have, too, because the White House sent lawyers up to Capitol Hill yesterday to try to alleviate some of the concerns. Though judging by their public statements, it did not do much to do that.

BOLDUAN: That's a very good point.

Great to see you, Kaitlan.

Patrick, the White House says that Mexico should have seen this coming, is what Kaitlan is reporting. Mexico's president not staying quiet on this one. How is he and his administration responding today?

PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRSPONDENT: Well, Mexicans, frankly, didn't see this coming. Even after years of hearing President Trump talking about building a wall, threatening to close the border. Those are things they got used to and endured.

But this is very, very different and something the Mexican government is not only taking seriously, but the first time in quite some time, responding publicly to, saying they're sending emissaries to the United States to sit down and negotiate. Pushing back and saying that America is essentially better than this, the Statue of Liberty is not just a symbol, and America is mistreating migrants, people who are essentially just looking for a better life.

But you know, what is different about it this time, as Kaitlan was saying, is there's a timetable. We're talking about tariffs of 5 percent starting next month, up to potentially 25 percent in just a couple months.

And of course, this is going to have a big impact on Mexico. The U.S. is Mexico's largest trading partner, but you think of all the car companies that ship U.S. parts here to be assembled in Mexico and then bring them back across the border to be sold in the U.S. It's going to have a major impact on both sides of the border. It's going to cost Americans jobs. It's going to raise the prices of products in the U.S. agriculture products, computers, automotive products. It's just such a long list.

You think we really don't know what the impacts will be, but here in Mexico, there's so much concern over this because the economy here has been getting better. Of course, if the economy gets worse, you'll see more migration across the border. The same thing that President Trump says he's trying to stop.

BOLDUAN: That is a very excellent point.

I want to examine that further. But to put a fine point on what Patrick is laying out and how Mexico is responding, Mexico's president, as Patrick was alluding to, saying in their response, "The Statue of Liberty is only an empty symbol." That coming from America's close ally and greatest number-one trading partner today.

Patrick, thank you so much.

[11:05:15] Let's talk about everything that Patrick and Kaitlan were laying out. What are we talking about when you're looking at tariffs on goods coming from Mexico into the U.S.? It's a wide range and can impact almost everyone.

Christine Romans is here. She's taken a closer look at all of it.

What are we talking about?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Just about any kind of product you would use, quite frankly. We import so much from Mexico. What do we buy? Last year, almost $350 billion worth of goods. Patrick is so right to point out vehicles. Vehicles is a big part of

that. Cars and trucks and auto parts. And in fact, when you look at that number that shows $93 billion in imports, it's a little deceiving because some of the things we're bringing in from Mexico started in the U.S. in the first place. By one estimate, 40 percent of the imports that are coming in in manufactured goods are parts that started in the U.S. So jobs in the United States build it, it went there to be assembled. Coming back. It's a very complex relationship. Also, electrical machinery and machinery.

When you look at agriculture, this is what people could feel in their pocketbooks most quickly, I think, fresh vegetables, tomatoes and avocados, wine and beer, snack foods. The United States imports an awful lot of this. At 25 percent, you would see that in your grocery bill, no question.

On the auto front, at 25 percent, Deutsche bank says if there's a 25 percent tariff on autos and auto parts coming in from Mexico. Every car on average, every car on average, raise the price $1300 because the supply chain is so integrated, it would raise costs for everybody who is building and assembling and importing cars. That's where we would be there.

What about the other side of the fence? You talked about Chuck Grassley, the Senator from Iowa, and why he's so concerned about this. Here's why. This country buys a lot of stuff from us, corn, soybeans, pork, beef, dairy products, $20 billion last year. American farmers are already reeling from the president's trade war with China. What if Mexico were to retaliate against American farmers again?

This is dangerous, and this on a perm level is dangerous to anyone in the middle of the country looking at the president's trade policies -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: Christine, I want to get your take on what Patrick was laying out there. If the president, the intent is with the tariffs to obviously get them to bend to his will. But that would also weaken the Mexico economy. How does that help stop illegal immigration at all?

ROMANS: Look, over the past 15 years, covering immigration, we have seen when the U.S. economy is strong and the Mexican economy is weaker, that is a draw. It is a draw for people to keep coming to the United States.

BOLDUAN: Right.

ROMANS: The theory, the philosophy has been, use trade and use aid to build up countries and help people stay where they are, to improve standards of living in other places so you don't have this illegal immigration problem. That's clearly not what the intent here is of this White House.

This is always a new phase in the president's trade war, using trade as a cudgel for something else, for immigration, I think marks a new phase in this White House. I will say, though, surrogates, people close to the president, people

who like his tough stance on this, will tell you this: If you can get rid of illegal immigration, the benefit to taxpayers far outweighs the cost to taxpayers in tariffs. That's what they're starting to whisper about now.

BOLDUAN: Let's see if it's a convincing argument when Americans are feeling it in their pocketbook pretty quickly.

Thanks, Christine. Really, really appreciate it.

We're following other breaking news this morning. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo now saying that he's looking into unconfirmed reports that North Korea executed its special envoy to the United States. The reports are coming from a South Korean newspaper, which says the envoy and other foreign ministry officials were killed over the failed nuclear summit between Kim Jong-Un and President Trump in February. Killed over a failed summit.

This morning, Secretary Pompeo said this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Do you have any confirmation or comment about that? Are you concerned about those reports?

MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: We have seen the reporting to which you're referring. We're doing our best to check it out. I don't have anything else to add to that today.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: CNN senior diplomatic correspondent, Michelle Kosinski, is following this.

Michelle, what are you hearing about this?

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT: Very little. This is a report that comes from a South Korean newspaper. They're quoting one unnamed North Korean official, and everyone is looking at this and trying to gather more information.

So from one senior State Department official, they say they don't necessarily have evidence or reason to doubt the reports, but they're gathering information, from a senior diplomatic source in the region. They told me it's impossible at this point to know what is really going on there.

But not only are these high-ranking North Korean officials, this is as if in the United States, the U.S. special representative for North Korea, Steve Biagun, was executed along with a lot of other State Department people, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was sent to a forced labor camp.

[11:10:12] These are people that we felt like we almost knew having seen them so many times in these high-level meetings, leading up the summit.

We have Kim Yong-Chul, a seasoned diplomate. He's the Stephen Biagun counterpart, the special representative for the United States.

According to this report -- and this newspaper has had issues in the past, so you have to take it with a grain of salt -- but he has been executed along with four other working level diplomats in North Korea for, according to the report, betraying the supreme leader and having been recruited by American imperialists. So five people supposedly executed.

And then there's Kim Yong-Chul, a former spy chief, again, a high- ranking diplomat, who is the counterpart of Mike Pompeo. He's supposedly been sent to a forced labor camp along with others, including the translator from the summit who made some kind of error.

And according to this report, Kim Jong-Un's sister has been removed from her official duties, and she's his right-hand person. We don't know if this is true. But this is not necessarily out of the ordinary for Kim Jong-Un.

BOLDUAN: Secretary of state saying they are looking into it. Again, unconfirmed reports. If -- and it's a huge if -- if it was confirmed, it's really impossible to understand how the administration could work with a regime, with Kim Jong-Un, if something like this went down. Again, unconfirmed reports, but the State Department's looking into it.

Michelle, thank you so much. I really appreciate it.

Coming up, Attorney General Bill Barr speaking out for the first time since Robert Mueller broke his silence. Why he says Mueller could have made a decision on whether the president obstructed justice.

Plus, a crucial deadline in Missouri. Unless a judge intervenes by tonight, there will be no legal way to have an abortion in the state, and that would be a first for this nation. Details on that ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:16:56] BOLDUAN: Attorney General Bill Barr is speaking out in his first interview taped one day after Bob Mueller broke his silence on the Russia investigation.

Barr telling CBS News that he personally felt the special counsel could have reached a conclusion on obstruction, even if Justice Department guidelines dictate even though Justice Department guidelines dictate that a sitting president cannot be indicted.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL BARR, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: We analyzed the law and the facts. And a group of us spent a lot of time doing that. And determined that, both as a matter of law, many of the instances would not amount to obstruction. We didn't agree with the legal analysis, a lot of the legal analysis

in the report. It did not reflect the views of the department. It was the views of a particular lawyer or lawyers. And so we applied what we thought was the right law.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: CNN's Evan Perez is in Washington. And here we me is Jon Sale, a former assistant former prosecutor during Watergate.

Thanks to you both for being here.

Evan, did with that comment and looking back in the not so distant past, did he just contradict himself?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: I think, a few weeks ago, right after the report, the Mueller report was released, and back when I think it suited the purposes of the attorney general, he wanted us to all think that he and Mueller and the special counsel's office were all singing from the same song sheet.

Take a listen to him back in April talking about this exact thing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARR: We accepted the special counsel's legal framework for purposes of our analysis. And evaluated the evidence as presented by the special counsel in reaching our conclusions.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PEREZ: And so now that we have the benefit of not only reading the 400-page report and now after having heard from Robert Mueller himself just in the last couple days, we can see that there's a very wide gap between the two men, certainly between what the special counsel thought the Analysis of the law was and what Bill Barr, who already had a lot of skepticism about this investigation before he became attorney general in the end ended up concluding.

We can see now that certainly Mueller believed, constitutionally, his hands were tied. Bill Barr said not so much. I can clear the president because I'm looking at the same facts, and I think that there's no crime here.

BOLDUAN: I'm so struck on this point, Jon, because if this comes down to a difference of opinion between the attorney general and the special counsel on this, what are people supposed to do with it?

JON SALE, FORMER ASSISTANT FORMER PROSECUTOR DURING WATERGATE: Kate, with all due respect to Evan and to some of the critics of the attorney general, I wrote an article in "The Hill," in which I said, "William Barr, the right person for the times." That's not a popular article today, but I think history may prove it to be right.

Let's not look what he said in this press conference or that press conference. Let's look at what he did. The controversial part of the Mueller report is Volume II, obstruction. The attorney general released all but one-tenth of 1 percent of that report. So the report's out there.

[11:20:12] When he was confirmed, what was the concern? The concern was he was going to interfere with Mueller, be the president's lackey, not let him finish his investigation. He praised Mueller. He let him finish.

BOLDUAN: I hear you, but now we're talking about these are important moments, Bob Mueller is saying, and what Bill Barr is saying. There's a very interesting difference in how Bill Barr is talking today to CBS and what he said in that press conference after -- well, that was before he released the report.

SALE: My point is the difference is a nuance. I like to look at what he did rather than what he said, rather than debate what he said. And what he did is he released everything. We can then read it.

And you know, when Bob Mueller, with all due respect to Bob Mueller, when he was appointed, he knew the Office of Legal Counsel opinions were there. He knew that going in, and he still took the job. The code of federal regulations say he shall decide. It didn't say he may.

So I think it was his obligation to decide, even though he couldn't indict the president, he could have said, I can't indict him, but I think he committed a crime. Or I can't indict him and I think he didn't commit a crime. Not to punt on that.

BOLDUAN: There are a lot of people who share that view, it was up to him, he should have decided, but I think now we're in a worse place because we have a difference of opinion between the two men.

Let me play you another thing Bill Barr said in the interview when he was talking about who is shredding norms in society today. Let me play this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARR: I think one of the ironies today is that people are saying that it's President Trump that is shredding our institutions. I really see no evidence of that. From my perspective, the idea of resisting a democratically elected president and basically throwing everything at him, and you know, really changing the norms on the grounds that we have to stop this president. That's where the shredding of our norms and our institutions is occurring.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: I was just thinking about this this morning. I was thinking through some of the norms we have seen that the president has used whatever word you want, shredded, thrown out the window, disregarded.

He fired the FBI director because of, in his own words, the Russia investigation he was conducted. He tried to get the attorney general to un-recuse himself. He publicly took the side of Vladimir Putin over his own Intelligence Community. That doesn't happen. He took the side of the North Korean dictator in criticizing an American, which was also a former vice president. And even on the smallest things. He comments on market data before the markets open. He tries to pressure the Federal Reserve, which is a long-held norm that presidents have stuck with.

Am I wrong here?

SALE: This president, without a doubt, has violated every protocol that we have all learned to respect and to honor. But isn't the answer to that in November of 2020 that if the people think it's unacceptable, if they don't like his in-your-face style, elect someone else. That's our democratic system. But hyperbole, everyone is guilty of hyperbole.

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: Sure.

(CROSSTALK)

SALE: -- say treason is ridiculous.

BOLDUAN: But Bill Barr is saying he's not shredding norms. That's what Bill Barr is saying.

SALE: I think Bill Barr is saying there's blame on both sides.

But Bill Barr, for example, used the word spying. Then he said, you know, that's going to make people in the cable world network go crazy. And then he changed it. He said, well, maybe I mean unauthorized surveillance. So hyperbole, exaggerating, yes. But I think the rule of law is going to ultimately prevail.

BOLDUAN: Great to see you. Thank you for coming in, Jon.

Evan, it was great to see you. Thank you so much. I really appreciate it.

Coming up for us, some in the auto industry are now warning what they call a disaster after President Trump threatens to slap new tariffs on Mexico. What they're saying and what it will mean for American consumers. That's next.

[11:24:03] We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BOLDUAN: In the middle of a trade war with China, yes, the one that is still going on, President Trump is now threatening another trade war. This one with Mexico. All because of immigration. Trump now is promising a 5 percent tariff to set in on all goods coming from Mexico starting on June 10th.

One of the industries that could be the hardest hit, U.S. automakers.

CNN's Vanessa Yurkevich is in New Jersey taking a look at the fallout and what this will mean when we're talking about U.S. automakers.

Vanessa, what are you hearing about this?

VANESSA YURKEVICH, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: Hi, Kate. That's right. A trade group representing the biggest U.S. automakers are saying this morning that these tariffs could have a significant impact on the U.S. auto industry. Companies like Ford, Chrysler, G.M., not only get their parts from Mexico, but they also assemble their vehicles there and import them here to the United States as well.

Today, we're at Frank Pezzolla's dealership in Lyndhurst, and he said his biggest selling vehicle is from Mexico, and he's concerned the new tariffs will have a significant impact on his business and with his employees.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FRANK PEZZOLLA, OWNER, FRANK'S GMC: If you're a consumer looking to buy one of these nice SUVs, how would you feel about a 5 percent increase in price? I mean, it's going to be tough. A 25 percent increase would probably be disaster. I don't know how we would deal with that.

We have 115 employees that depend on us and depend on selling these vehicles. So I am concerned.

[11:30:00]