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Trump Threatens Mexico With Rising Tariffs Over Illegal Migrants; Flooding Threatens Thousands After Levees Breached In Arkansas And Missouri; Barr Says, We Didn't Agree With Legal Analysis In Mueller Report; Missouri Could Become The First State Without An Abortion Clinic. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired May 31, 2019 - 10:00   ET

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


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- ten more hours on the weekends, a little more just depending on if I had any homework.

[10:00:05]

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: As to these kids, a testament to what is possible when you outwork everyone every single day.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN NEWSROOM: Four hours a day, here's to that little kid. He earned it, they earned it. Coy Wire, thanks very much.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN NEWSROOM: Thanks, Coy.

WIRE: My pleasure.

HARLOW: All right, 10:00 A.M. Eastern, top of the hour. Good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow in New York.

SCIUTTO: And I'm Jim Sciutto in Washington, where the search is under way for the possibility of wiggle room in the latest ultimatum for President Trump. A senior administration official is now telling CNN that if Mexico merely makes a, quote, effort to curb the flow of undocumented immigrants to the U.S., the President might be persuaded to stand down on the tariff he has declared on all Mexican imports beginning June 10th. Those tariffs would start at 5 percent, increase slowly, topping out at 25 percent by October. And remember, those aren't paid by Mexico. They're paid by importers, that means U.S. companies and U.S. consumers, you and me.

HARLOW: Exactly. In launching what would be a second U.S. trade war, the President who once called himself tariff man, said the flow of illegal migrants coming, that's his word, through Mexico had to, quote, stop, as in completely. For his part, the President of Mexico says, quote, this is not the way to resolve things.

Guess who clearly agrees with the President of Mexico? Wall Street. The Dow off 275 points at the open, plunging at the opening bell and sure to rack up what will be the first losing month, folks, of 2019.

Let's go to the White House. Kaitlan Collins is there. Kaitlan, apart from the problems inherent in any trade war, there's also a really big deal here, and that is USMCA, the new trade deal, or NAFTA 2.0, which the President needs Congress to sign off on to get it going, and this is making this a whole lot harder for him.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And, Poppy, it was already facing bipartisan hurdles on Capitol Hill. And now, there are questions about what is going to happen to the future of it because, of course, that's the trade deal that the President said was going to pay for his border wall before he declared that national emergency.

Now, we spoke with the Press Secretary, Sarah Sanders, on the driveway of the White House. She said President Trump and the President of Mexico still have not spoken about this announcement that the President made yesterday. But she said that Mexico should not be caught off guard by this because the President has made his frustration clear over these border crossings numbers for weeks now.

Now, the other people she said should not be caught off guard by this are republican lawmakers, because we have already seen several pushing back publicly even though some of the President's allies have endorsed the move. We have seen people like Senator Chuck Grassley, Joni Ernst, say that they agree with the President on national security grounds, but they do not think this is the way he should move forward with this.

Now, our sources inside the West Wing have told us all of this essentially started ramping up yesterday afternoon, after the President told reporters he was going to have a big announcement on the border either yesterday or today. Of course, that announcement came over a Tweet from the President last night, and then, of course, the White House ended up having to brief reporters pretty hastily arranged into the evening.

Now, the question is what is the threshold that the White House wants to see? Because still to this hour right now, we have not heard a specific number from the White House on what they want to see that would actually cause them to not apply these tariffs on Mexico. That's still the big question. And, of course, there is some concern inside the White House about whether they even have the legal authority to do this or if it could be tied up in the courts before, Jim and Poppy, June 10th even gets here.

HARLOW: Yes, it's soon. Kaitlan, thank you very much.

Our Chief Business Correspondent, Christine Romans, is here with us to break it down.

Okay. So if this happens, what are we really talking about?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Well, we're talking about American consumers, we're talking about American autoworkers and we're talking about a trade relationship with our second biggest trading partner, essentially. I want to show you what the numbers are, Poppy, because these are numbers that are going to reverberate if indeed this happens in your shopping bill, quite frankly.

The United States imports a lot from Mexico, almost $350 billion worth of goods every year. The top categories are vehicles, machinery, other kinds of things that are used to make other things, right? We have a very complex supply chain in North America. And, in fact, for vehicles, it's so interesting, by one estimate, 40 cents of every dollar that comes that is considered an export from Mexico actually began in the United States in the first place. Think about it, the car parts and sections of cars go back and forth across the border several times. So it's pretty complicated here.

You know, the Chamber of Commerce says right away imposing tariff on goods from Mexico is exactly the wrong move. This will hurt American families and American businesses. And Chuck Grassley, the Republican Senator from Iowa, said trade policy and border security are separate issues. This is a misuse of presidential tariff authority.

Why do you think he might be so concerned about this? One reason is because the United States imports a lot of agriculture from Mexico. So think of avocados and tomatoes and snack foods and beer. These are things that would become more expensive. But we also export to Mexico.

[10:05:01]

$20 billion a year, American farmers ship in corn, soybeans, dairy, pork, beef. That is a very important market here. What if there was retaliation from the Mexican government? Then you would see American farmers hurt again. So, overall, we've got all these things that crisscross the border that are industries and farmers and small business and American families would have to bear the cost of, Poppy.

HARLOW: Can we just also -- I know Lim and I have a few questions for you on this, but can we just talk about cars, because Deutsche Bank just came out this morning and said every car imported to this country is going to cost $1,300 more and you're going to cut U.S. car production by 3 million in a year if this actually happens.

ROMANS: So think cars, appliances, washers and dryers, already we've seen because of the President's steel and aluminum tariffs, those prices have gone up for automakers already and for the big sort of the manufacturers. But the auto industry, in particular, the auto industry is so heavily invested on all sides. North American auto industry is completely integrated here. You know, a piece of machinery that comes across the border from Mexico to the United States, two pieces originate in the United States before they went to Mexico to be put together to come back. So that's just the reality of this business.

HARLOW: Wow. All right, Romans, thank you very much. Jim?

SCIUTTO: Yes, it's not just a one-way street. It's as two-way street. The stuff is going back and forth all the time. It's not that simple.

Well, the border patrol just apprehended the biggest ever group of migrants in Texas, and President Trump is using that to make his case for stricter immigration policies. More than 1,000 migrants were taken into custody Wednesday in El Paso, Texas. This is a surveillance video of that group crossing into the U.S. Joining us from El Paso is CNN Correspondent Polo Sandoval. So tell us about this group, what more do we know about it and was this a particularly unusual day?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Certainly not unusual according to officials. Obviously, the unusual aspect of things here is that this is the largest group, according to the Department of Homeland Security, that border patrol agents have apprehended in a single moment. Just over 1,000 people here, Jim and Poppy, that were apprehended about 48 hours ago here in the City of El Paso.

Federal officials say that this is certainly nothing new, that these human smuggling operations have been relying on larger groups. Obviously, the idea here is more bodies will mean more money for some of these organizations. So what they'll do is basically bring these groups of people, walk them up to the border and then they will make their way onto the U.S. Side, as we see clearly in this video that's been provided by customs and border protection.

And this story is certainly about numbers, whether you're talking about the economics and the auto industry or the number of apprehensions here. Do not be surprised if President Trump and other members of his administration basically point to these kinds of apprehensions to try to support their point that Mexico is perhaps not doing enough. But when you hear from Mexico, they say they have statistics of their own that show they're actively enforcing some of their laws and even deporting some of these undocumented people from their territory.

Jim and Poppy?

SCIUTTO: As we know on this issue that the facts don't matter. This is largely about politics here at home. Tell us about the Mexican President's reaction to President Trump's threat here, because Mexico has been interesting in recent years. They calibrate their responses to threats from this president, sometimes trying to wait him out. They don't necessarily punch back hard immediately. What are we hearing today?

SANDOVAL: A very different response, Jim, especially when you compare it, perhaps, from the predecessor of the President Andres Lopez Obrador. The President making clear he does not want confrontation. However, he also makes it very clear in this two-page letter that he sent to President Trump late last night that he also feels that Mexican officials have implemented various policies, whether it's their southern border or perhaps in the northern regions where they have reached this agreement with U.S. officials to make these Mexican border towns virtual waiting rooms where these asylum-seeking families are forced to wait in Mexican towns until they're given the green light to come over.

So you certainly are getting some disagreement from Mexican officials, but as we heard very clearly in that letter from Mexico's president, they feel that tariffs are simply not the way to find a solution for this social issue. Jim?

SCIUTTO: Well, you're hearing that from republican lawmakers as well on this side of the border. Polo Sandoval, thanks very much.

Over to Arkansas now where things are about to get a lot worse, thousands of homes in danger of flooding, this after two -- at least two levees have breached along both the Mississippi and Arkansas rivers.

HARLOW: Those images from the air there, that's Yell County, Arkansas. That is remarkable to see this morning. Miles and miles of roads are under water. And officials say there's a potential for greater devastation, greater destruction. Let's find out why.

Our colleague Rosa Flores is down in Fort Smith, Arkansas. Why is that? I mean, you see the devastation already, but the concern is it's going to get even worse.

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That is the concern, Poppy. And if there is a silver lining to all of this, is that this water has been moving so slowly into neighborhoods that it has allowed residents to pick up their things, their belongings, their children and head to higher ground.

[10:10:05]

Now, there's only been one death reported here in Arkansas, and officials hope it stays that way.

Now, Poppy and Jim, you know that this is something that we encounter a lot of times when we cover these types of events, these people that have gone through this before.

We found one woman who went through Katrina. She was rescued and taken to the superdome during Katrina. She moved several times, finally ended up here in Fort Smith, Arkansas, thinking that the water was behind her in the Gulf of Mexico, never thinking she would have to evacuate again. She says that she was filling sandbags to protect her apartment, and she had to walk away because she couldn't take iot anymore because those flashbacks from Katrina would keep coming back. Here's what she had to say. Take a listen.

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FLORES: How tough is it for you to go through this a second time, because you went through this during Katrina?

SHEILA CLAYTON, FLOODING VICTIM: I feel like I'm done. I had enough. I don't think I can take too much more. Not this, you know. It's too much for me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FLORES: And her learning, Jim and Poppy, for everyone that's going through this is that material things don't matter. Leave those behind. Hug your loved ones and thank God you have them.

Jim and Poppy? HARLOW: That's so true. Rosa, thank you for your great reporting on this today, and all weekend, I know you're going to stay on it. We appreciate it very much.

SCIUTTO: With so many lives and so many homes in danger there.

Still to come, the Attorney General, Bill Barr, unfiltered, now revealing that he overruled the Special Counsel on President Trump and possible obstruction, why he says he disagrees with Mueller's legal analysis.

HARLOW: Plus, another state moves forward with a plan to essentially ban abortion. In response, several big Hollywood studios threatening to leave completely. Will that make a difference?

Also, did Kim Jong-un slaughter one of his top advisers after the failed summit with President Trump? The Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, is responding to that reporting.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: All right. Welcome back. So this morning in a rare interview, Attorney General Bill Barr is responding to the Special Counsel's public and surprise statement earlier this week. Here's a clip.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAM BARR, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: As a matter of law, many of the instances would not amount to obstruction.

JAN CRAWFORD, CBS HOST: As a matter of law?

BARR: As a matter of law. In other words, 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)

SCIUTTO: Barr also repeating his criticism of Mueller this morning, saying that the Special Counsel should have made a determination as to whether he believed the President had engaged in criminal activity.

To help break down the full interview with Barr, let's speak to former federal prosecutor Gene Rossi, as well as White House Reporter for Politico, Eliana Johnson.

Gene, if I can begin with you, I wonder how you reconcile those two comments from the sitting Attorney General. Because on the one side, he says, listen, Bob Mueller should have made a determination as to whether the President committed criminal wrongdoing. But then he says, in the clearest terms possible or clearest terms since, the report came out, well, he rejects the Special Counsel's view of the law on this.

HARLOW: That's a good point.

SCIUTTO: How do you reconcile those two comments?

GENE ROSSI, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, this is like Charles Dickens, a tale of two theories. You got Bill Barr who says that, as a matter of law, the President of the United States could not have obstructed justice. That's on one side of the coin. The other side of the coin is Robert Mueller's view that's supported by at least 1,000 former federal prosecutors, high-level republicans and democrats, and trial attorneys like myself that say that the volume two sets forth at least four counts of obstruction.

Here's the problem I have with the Attorney General. Robert Mueller's press conference two days ago, there was one huge casualty in that press conference. That was the greatly diminished credibility of the Attorney General of the United States. I call it the Barr doctrine, that if the President of the United States feels sincerely that he is being unjustly investigated, he can do anything he wants. That is absurd.

HARLOW: But -- Okay, Gene, you make the note that I think is interesting that if Barr wanted Mueller to make a call on obstruction so much, he could have ordered him to. I mean, the guy works for him. He didn't.

ROSSI: Poppy, you hit the nail on the head. I'm glad you brought that up. I worked for the Department of Justice for almost 30 years.

[10:19:58]

When I went into a meeting with the U.S. Attorney, with my supervisors, when I was just a low level trial attorney, and even when I was a supervisor, you go into that meeting, and if you had an attorney that said, it's a jump ball, it said equipoise, I would say to that attorney, okay, if you had a gun to your head, basically, yes or no, would you prosecute?

Here's what I think happened, Poppy. The Attorney General did not want to hear Robert Mueller's answer. He basically took Robert Mueller's view that he should not make a recommendation, yes or no. But what Bill Barr knew is that if he asked Robert Mueller, okay, if you had no OLC memo, Bob, would you indict the President of the United States if he were Donald Smith? And he knew, Bill Barr had to know the answer would be yes.

And I want to end with this. If you looked at the body language of Robert Mueller and read his statement more than once, one clear thing comes out, that the President of the United States would have been indicted if he was Donald Smith and not Donald Trump.

SCIUTTO: Eliana, the other issue, it's interesting. I mean, Bill Barr broke with the President, saying that he did not think that the investigators who started the Russia probe committed treason. Of course, the President has repeated that line many times. Listen to Barr's answer because he also leaves some wiggle room here. Have a listen first.

I believe we have that tape. This is Barr talking about whether the folks involved in this investigation committed treason. Do we have that tape?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CRAWFORD: You don't think that they've committed treason?

BARR: Not as a legal matter, right.

CRAWFORD: But you have concerned about how they conducted the investigation?

BARR: Yes. But, you know, sometimes people can convince themselves that what they're doing is in the higher interest, the better good. They don't realize that what they're doing is really antithetical to the democratic system we have.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: Wow. That's the sitting Attorney General saying that the folks involved in this investigation were doing something antithetical to the democratic system, Eliana. And he has started -- there's an I.G. probe that started the investigation already, Inspector General, he started his own probe. It sounds like that is not something he's going to back away from.

ELIANA JOHNSON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: That's certainly not something he's going to back away from. He has appointed somebody to lead that probe. And I think from the outset, Barr has not been Attorney General for very long. First, he had to clear the Mueller probe from his plate. But now, I think that's the most important thing that he is looking at during his tenure as Attorney General, and he is deadly serious about seeing it to completion. And it's something that has really made him the Attorney General that Donald Trump has long wanted.

Obviously, he was disappointed in Jeff Sessions for his recusal from the Russia probe. Matt Whitaker, the acting Attorney General who took over for Sessions, really didn't have, you know, the same sort of gravitas that Bill Barr has having served in a position before. And I think that's why Trump has been so pleased with Barr in the position thus far.

SCIUTTO: Barr certainly acting in the President's interests on this. Gene Rossi, Eliana Johnson, thanks very much.

ROSSI: Thank you.

JOHNSON: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Well, some of Hollywood's biggest studios are considering pulling all their productions, all their film productions from the State of Georgia, this over Georgia's restrictive new abortion law. How the fallout could impact Georgia's multibillion dollar film industry.

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HARLOW: All right. This is really significant. So by the end of today, Missouri could be the first state in the country since Roe versus Wade to not have a single clinic performing abortions. The state's Department of Health is refusing to renew the license for the only Planned Parenthood clinic in the state.

SCIUTTO: I mean, this is really turning back the clock, really, back to pre-1973, when that was the law of the land in a number of places. It will be quite impactful for people living there. This as states around the country are passing a string of restrictive abortion laws, a bill passed in Georgia recently, now has major film and TV studios reconsidering whether to continue production in the state if this law takes effect.

An executive with Netflix expressed concern about the future production of shows, such as Stranger Things and Disney's CEO, Bob Iger, questioned the practicality of shooting films, such as Black Panther and Avengers End Game in the State of Georgia unless that law is blocked by the courts. Imagine the economic effect of that.

CNN's Senior Media Correspondent, Brian Stelter, joins us now. And this is part of a continuing phenomenon, right, Brian, where you have corporations responding to policy issues with enormous impact.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: And this is not an economic boycott yet, but it could be. Right now, it's an economic warning from virtually all of the major Hollywood studios, from Metflix and Disney, to Comcast and Viacom, and CNN's parent company, Warner Media, which has a big hub in Georgia.

Warner media says, we will think about not having any new productions in Georgia if this law goes into effect. We're hearing that from other companies as well, like AMC, which produces The Walking Dead in Georgia. They say they will reevaluate staying in George, again, if this law goes in effect.

And that's the if right now. NBC and other companies are saying, we know what's going on.

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