Return to Transcripts main page


Should Congress Begin Impeachment Proceedings?; Did North Korea Execute Top Nuclear Negotiator?; Trump Issues Tariff Threat Against Mexico. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired May 31, 2019 - 15:00   ET




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dealing with people and relationships just isn't about communication. You know what I'm saying? Straight up.

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The conversation is raw and realistic to what some experience when stopped by police.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You say you started this when?




DENNIS: Last March.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was this after we saw kids get gunned down?

DENNIS: That's why I started it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You don't -- yes, but what I'm saying was how long did it take? It was last year.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm going to cut you off. He --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let me get it. Let me get it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm sorry. Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait.

DENNIS: The whole goal of this is trying to do something different. I want to change policing as we know it.

VALENCIA: Detective Dennis hopes to take his community policing tactic of "Clippers and Cops" nationwide.

DENNIS: I want to take this model not only from Atlanta but across the country and basically, implement it for all police departments.

VALENCIA: Nick Valencia, CNN, Atlanta.


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you for being here.

Wall Street is taking a nosedive after President Trump issued his latest tariff threat on Mexico. And it is all part of the president's battle over the border. He says, if Mexico doesn't help, that country will be hit with a 5 percent tariff on everything from cars to food to beer starting in June.

And he said that number will increase 5 percent every month until it hits a maximum tariff of 25 percent in October. And that move sparked concern from some congressional Republicans and outrage from top Mexican officials.

In an open letter to President Trump, Mexico's president wrote in part -- quote -- "Social problems are not resolved with tariffs or coercive measures. The Statue of Liberty is not an empty symbol. With all due respect and while you have this sovereign right to express it, your slogan America first is a fallacy."

That as the White House press secretary, Sarah Sanders, is saying she's defending the decision.


SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Congress should actually fix the laws and we wouldn't have this problem. Mexico should engage with us and we wouldn't have to take any additional steps.

But, at the same time, the number one duty that the president of the United States has is national security and to protect Americans. It is a humanitarian and national security crisis, and it has to be dealt with.

Unfortunately, the president is the only one that is actually stepping up and putting forward things to stop it.


BALDWIN: Let me show you some concrete examples here.

This is the breakdown of the more than $346 billion of goods that the U.S. imports from Mexico every year. You see that, cars, machinery, vegetables, fruit, including $93 billion worth of vehicles.

But what does this mean for you? By some estimates, it could raise the cost of purchasing a car by an average of $1,300. It could result in three million fewer U.S. cars being produced overall.

CNN Business' Vanessa Yurkevich is at an auto dealership in New Jersey.

And so what are folks there telling you.


Well, they are definitely concerned about these new tariffs. And we have heard this from the top, U.S. auto manufacturers weighing in today in -- on this today, saying that this could be a substantial impact on the U.S. auto industry.

We know that every American car manufacturer imports parts from Mexico and some import fully assembled vehicles. Today, we're at Frank's GMC in Lyndhurst, New Jersey. And the owner tells me his best-selling vehicle is from Mexico. So he's really concerned about these tariffs and what it will mean for his business, his employees and his customers.


FRANK PEZZOLLA, OWNER, FRANK'S GMC: Well, 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, and I don't want to see them affected in a bad way.


YURKEVICH: This is coming after a really tough year for U.S. auto manufacturers, who have had to deal with record layoffs, dropping auto prices, and tariffs on steel and aluminum.

And, Brooke, you mentioned, at the end of the day, this gets passed down to the consumer who are buying cars. About $1,300 is what cars are estimated to go up by if these tariffs take effect. And for the average American, Brooke, that is no small amount of money -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: That's a lot of money, $1,300.

Vanessa Yurkevich, thank you, Vanessa.

Let's talk about all of this.

Catherine Rampell is an opinion columnist for "The Washington Post" and a CNN political commentator. Caitlin Dickerson is a national immigration reporter for "The New York Times."

So, Catherine, Caitlin, happy Friday to both of you.

Let's jump in, first just to you on the macro. Why is Mexico so important to the U.S. auto industry?

CATHERINE RAMPELL, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Because so much of the of the -- of U.S. auto production includes parts imported from Mexico.

And when I'm talking about U.S. auto production, I mean both cars that are produced and sold to American consumers, as well as cars that are exported. If you look at the data, something like a third of the value added of cars that we export to other countries that we sell to Canada or to Europe or to China or wherever comes from parts from Mexico.


BALDWIN: And you can't just go to some other country and get those parts.

RAMPELL: No, no. You have complicated supply chains...


RAMPELL: ... that have been in place for many years, relationships that have developed for -- over many years, contracts that you can't just switch on a dime.

So this is really going to hurt not only consumers, but it'll hurt all of the workers that have their jobs on the line because they work in some part of that supply chain.

BALDWIN: So, when it comes to immigration, the bigger issue, the White House says Mexico isn't doing enough. Mexico says, this isn't going to fix this.

And we have these reports today at this processing facility in El Paso where 900 migrants are at this facility that is supposed to house a maximum of 125. And there's all this color about some of these people are just getting on top of toilets in cells to breathe. How is that a solution?

CAITLIN DICKERSON, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": We continue to see, like you say, conditions along the border get worse and worse. And we have seen this administration introduce deterrent measure after deterrent measure, to almost no effect at all.

So President Trump's latest idea, to introduce this tariff, it's questionable for a few different reasons. I think let's start from the very beginning. He justifies it by saying he would like Mexico to stop the flow of illegal immigration through its country into the United States.

Well, there are thousands of people waiting on the border in Mexico right now to enter legally, but because of new processes and new policies introduced by the administration, they can't. So, they go around.

Just this week, there was a group of over 1,000 migrants who were apprehended on the border trying to enter, the largest group that we have seen so far.

BALDWIN: Which Sarah Sanders has talked a lot about. And I'm wondering if this is part of the reason why they're doing what they're doing. Do you know?

DICKERSON: I'm sure that it's related. I mean, I don't think -- we can't read the president's mind, but that's a compelling number to anybody. That's a compelling number to me. It's a lot of people.


DICKERSON: And I think the conditions that you just talked about, those are in a facility at the U.S. border.

When you think about what the Mexican government is going to have to do to try to stop that number of people, all we have to do is look to last summer, when we saw large groups of people being tear-gassed. I know that I wrote obituaries about people, one man who was killed by a rubber bullet that was shot by Mexican police.

These are the kinds of things that happen when you see a country with a militarized police force try to, on the drop of a dime, stop thousands of people from crossing their borders. And it doesn't seem like Mexico wants to resort to those measures. But the president isn't leaving them a whole lot of options here.

BALDWIN: If this doesn't work for this White House, what is the next stunt on the border?

RAMPELL: That's an excellent question. And I don't see how this possibly could work for the White House, because, as Caitlin alluded to, part of what the United States or Trump is asking Mexico to do would violate international law, right?

If the goal is to keep people who are waiting on the border, who are trying to request asylum, which they -- under international law, they are legally entitled to do, that's not something that Mexico can actually -- has the authority to give in on, to make concessions on.

You could imagine that a different kind of strategy would involve something like working together with Mexico, working together with Central American countries, providing more aid to countries that are -- that are the source of many of these migrants. That would be more of a carrot kind of approach than a stick kind of approach.

I don't know if that counts as a stunt. But that would be a very different kind of strategy, something that's much more conciliatory, and that might have potential to work, not only on that level, but to also avoid alienating some of our friends and allies.

BALDWIN: We know that a priority of the president's has been replacing NAFTA. And just given this, just you wonder how Mexico is going to respond to that.

I wanted to ask you of weaponizing tariffs. This is just the latest example we will throw up on the screen, multiple countries, multiple products, various places where he's been using tariffs as weapons.

You see the countries there. Do you think this will make other countries rethink how they do business with the United States?

RAMPELL: Oh, if they haven't already, which they should have, absolutely. There are a number of reasons why I would argue that this strategy of

using tariffs as a cudgel to try to get Mexico to stop the flow of illegal immigration is wrongheaded.

BALDWIN: Illegal immigration.

RAMPELL: But one of them is that it gives us much less leverage with China or with the E.U. or with Japan, three entities which we are simultaneously trying to negotiate trade deals, because, if you look at what Trump has done here, where he signed a deal with Mexico, Mexico negotiated that deal, the USMCA, in good faith, and then turned around and then added new tariffs on them.

Why would any other country decide to make any kind of concessions, right, given that track record?

BALDWIN: Agree to that.

Catherine and Caitlin, ladies, thank you very much.

Breaking news into CNN, a judge just issued a ruling that will keep Missouri's last abortion clinic from closing for now. It was hours away from losing its license. The state's health department initially refused to renew the facility that's operated by Planned Parenthood.


So, let's go straight to Saint Louis to Alexandra Field, who is covering this for us.

And so tell us more about the decision.


Look, this is being considered a temporary victory for Planned Parenthood. But, certainly, the court battle will continue. The judge essentially said that he understood Planned Parenthood's perspective that there would be irreparable harm and injury caused if the clinic was forced to stop performing abortion services as of the end of this day, when its license is set to expire.

So ,he has said that they will be able to continue to operate in their entirety, at least until there's a ruling following another hearing, which has now been set for next week. What exactly is going on here?

Well, the state had said that it wasn't going to renew Planned Parenthood's license. That meant abortions at the state's only clinic would have come to an end at the end of this day. Planned Parenthood says that this is politicized, that this is a way for the state to regulate abortion out of existence, and that there's a war on abortion in this state.

The health department has said the reason that they didn't renew the license was because of certain violations and an ongoing investigation. All of that will still be debated in court. But for now at least, the judges said that this clinic can continue to operate.

In 2018, it performed some 3,000 abortions, again, the only clinic in the state that offers abortion. That will now continue -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: We will have this conversation then in a couple of weeks.

Alexandra Field in Saint Louis -- Alex, thank you.

Coming up next on CNN: The U.S. secretary of state says the U.S. is looking into reports that Kim Jong-un has executed his top nuclear negotiator and sentenced another official to hard labor. This is also the same man who hand-delivered those letters from North Korea to President Trump.

Also, Attorney General Bill Barr says he has seen no evidence of President Trump undermining U.S. institutions, despite multiple attacks on everything from the FBI to the media to the Federal Reserve.

And, later, singer R. Kelly facing 11 new charges in the sex abuse case against him, which could put him behind bars for decades. Hear how his attorney is now responding.

You are watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.



BALDWIN: We are back. You are watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

A North Korean negotiator who played a critical role in the failed U.S.-North Korean summit was reportedly executed, and another person sent to hard labor in a prison camp.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says the U.S. is looking into those reports from the South Korean newspaper that these officials were punished because Kim Jong-un left the February summit empty-handed. Now, to be clear, CNN has not independently verified this report. But the negotiator sentenced to force labor apparently is the same man who hand-delivered that letter from Kim Jong-un to President Trump last year.


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

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


BALDWIN: CNN's Brian Todd is following this for us.

And the notion of executing a top official because of that failed summit, is that even in the realm of possibility, Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Brooke, it certainly is in the realm of possibility.

Kim Jong-un is a man who is believed to have executed his own uncle with an anti-aircraft gun back in 2013. South Korean intelligence also says that he ordered the assassination of his own half-brother using a banned chemical weapon at a crowded airport in Kuala Lumpur in 2017. It is certainly possible that Kim Jong-un ordered these purges, ordered the execution of that top diplomat.

We do have a point of qualification that we have to mention here, Brooke. And that is that, in the past, South Korean media reports of North Korean executions, including reports from the newspaper reporting this situation, "Chosun Ilbo," some of those reports have turned out to be inaccurate.

However, there is a senior diplomatic source right now telling CNN that these two officials in question, Kim Hyok Chol and Kim Yong-chol, have -- quote -- "certainly disappeared."

So, Brooke, that is really in the realm of possibility right now.


There is also, Brian, reporting out of South Korea that Kim's own sister could be feeling the fallout from that failed summit in Hanoi? How so?

TODD: That's right, Brooke.

Kim Yo-jong, his younger sister, was really the face of a lot of these diplomatic breakthroughs. She's the one who went to the Winter Olympics and kind of started this ball rolling in these diplomatic breakthroughs with South Korea and the United States.

"Chosun Ilbo," that newspaper, is reporting that she has been removed from the public seen since the failed Hanoi summit in February and that she's been told to lie low. One analyst who studies the situation pretty closely just told me she might have been told to lie low by her own brother.


Brian Todd, thank you very much.

TODD: Thanks, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Vice President Mike Pence is weighing in on the calls to impeach President Trump.


QUESTION: Are you expecting impeachment proceedings?

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I wouldn't know why there would be. I really wouldn't.


QUESTION: But dozens of House Democrats say there is a mountain of evidence to start an impeachment inquiry.


I will talk to two men who are no fans of President Trump. One argues for impeachment. The other makes the case against it. So let's hash this out.


BALDWIN: After Robert Mueller appeared in front of cameras earlier this week to make his first public comments about his nearly-two-year Russia investigation, he reiterated that he did not exonerate President Trump.


So, now House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is facing pressure from more than 40 members of her caucus -- yes, everyone is counting, 40 members of her caucus -- to start impeachment proceedings against the president.

This is a debate that has been in the Washington bloodstream all week long. And so let's hash it out.

I have two staffers of "The Atlantic" magazine. David Frum is a senior editor, and Yoni Appelbaum is the Washington bureau chief and politics editor.

You two are on opposite sides of the spectrum when it comes to impeachment. So, gentlemen, nice to have both of you on.


BALDWIN: And, David, you first, you first.

You argue not to impeach. Give me your opening argument, 45 seconds. Go.

DAVID FRUM, FORMER SPEECHWRITER FOR FORMER PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: No question, President Trump is an authoritarian and corrupt leader.

Collusion or no collusion, he was helped into office by Russia. But beginning an impeachment process now ends in only one way, with an acquittal by the Senate. And Trump will be authoritarian and more corrupt after acquittal than before.

There are other approaches to use, including the range of investigations of all of his activities that is happening across Congress, to answer many questions, culminating with this, why did Russia want him so badly? Why did Russia help him?

And I think the answer to that will be found in his income tax returns and in his Deutsche Bank documents.

BALDWIN: Yoni, your argument to impeach?

APPELBAUM: Well, I think this is really a question that's best examined through the prism of constitutional duty and not of partisan politics.

We are in a nightmare scenario, wherein a number of very serious charges have been laid against the president. His own personal attorney has accused him of directing him in the commission of campaign finance crimes. The special counsel has all been accused him of obstruction of justice, and House Democrats have sued him over violations of the Emoluments Clause.

Those charges need to be resolved. They deserve a hearing. The House ought to launch a formal inquiry and then decide whether there's sufficient evidence to move forward with impeachment, or whether it should dismiss the charges.

But we can't stay here with those charges unresolved.

BALDWIN: OK, so there's the thesis of both arguments.

David, back over to you. In reading Yoni's piece, do you see any scenario where if they were to go forward, where new evidence could come out, a la Nixon tapes, during a House investigation...

FRUM: Yes.

BALDWIN: ... and/or Republican senators might actually switch allegiances based upon what comes out?

FRUM: I can imagine things external to the impeachment process that might change minds, some astonishing new facts, some outrageous, abusive behavior.

But I can't imagine anything internal to the process that will change minds. Another thing that people need to keep in mind is, it's very possible that President Trump will be reelected in 2020. The economy, although slowing, remains strong.

If this remedy is used now, when there aren't votes in the Senate, it will not be available in a possible second term, when things will be worse and when there may be votes in the Senate.

BALDWIN: Yoni, you say an acquitted Trump would still be a politically damaged Trump, but David argues Trump would be -- his word -- immunized.

APPELBAUM: Well, I think that, almost no matter what happens now, President Trump will step out there before the American people.

If the House decides not to move forward with impeachment charges, he will claim vindication on that basis. The special counsel all but accused him of obstruction of justice, and he said he'd been entirely exonerated. That's going to happen no matter what happens next. The real questions that the House has to grapple with are those of its

basic responsibility. And there, it's a little different. The House launched three separate impeachment inquiries against President Andrew Johnson, before finally pulling the trigger. It's not a one-shot deal.

After Johnson was acquitted, the first thing the House did was started considering new charges. If the charges are there, and they're justified, the House really doesn't have a choice. You don't fail to charge somebody just because you're afraid that you may get a biased jury that fails to convict.

The House has an obligation here to consider the evidence.

BALDWIN: Yoni, you make this point -- I want you to school everyone in American history, because, in your piece, you make this comparison between Trump and Andrew Johnson. Explain that.

APPELBAUM: Well, you have got a populist figure who's got the support of large rural stretches of the country, is despised by urban elites and liberals, but who makes a racially based appeal for solidarity.

Johnson said that he wanted to be a white man's government, and who got into a basic power showdown with Congress. And Congress tried repeatedly to bring the president into compliance. And the president repeatedly resisted. And, ultimately, that moved the House of Representatives to impeach Andrew Johnson.

He went to trial in the Senate. He was ultimately not convicted by a single vote. They came just one vote away from getting that required two-thirds majority. But it so damaged him politically by turning the entire national conversation away from Andrew Johnson's constant provocations and toward his debilities, toward the things that Congress believed he was doing wrong.

That changed the politics of the country in a fundamental way. And so the impeachment inquiry, although it ultimately didn't result in the removal of a president, did result in the termination of his -- of his political aspirations.

BALDWIN: So, there's your