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Trump: U.S. to Slap 5% Tariff on Mexican Imports Over Immigration; Border Agents Apprehend 1,000 Migrants in Record Bust; Barr: Mueller Could Have Reached Decision on Obstruction; National Spelling Bee Crowns 8 Champions; Acting Defense Secretary: 'I Would Not Have Moved USS McCain'; Pompeo Meets With Merkel After She Appears to Criticize Trump; Sen. Elizabeth Warren Rolls Out Universal Childcare Plan; Arkansas Levee Breaks as Flooding Fears Grow. Aired 6-6:30a ET
Aired May 31, 2019 - 06:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I've exposed corruption like nobody knew existed.
[05:59:16] JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: He is ordering a new investigation of the highest officials of the FBI.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You don't think that they've committed treason?
WILLIAM BARR, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Not as a legal matter.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The answer to that question should have been an unequivocal no.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Frustrated by illegal immigration, President Trump is threatening to use tariffs as a weapon against Mexico.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Tariffs work if you have patience at the plate.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Trump thinks he's trying to impress his base, but this will affect his base very directly.
DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: An unprecedented eight-way tie at the National Spelling Bee.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They will forever be remembered as the Elite Eight.
ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: They beat the dictionary.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: They beat the dictionary. They broke the spelling bee.
BERMAN: Yes, completely broke it. Eight winners of the spelling bee, because there are not enough words for America's youth.
CAMEROTA: That's what happened. The spelling bee ran out of words to try to stump those kids with. And we are going to have those kids live on the show. We, of course, will try to stump them. Start thinking of your words.
BERMAN: I will. And we're trying to reach the dictionary for reaction at this point.
All right. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. Thanks for laughing at my dad joke.
CAMEROTA: I liked it. I really liked it.
BERMAN: By 7:30, you won't be laughing.
CAMEROTA: Your kids were mortified, but I liked it.
BERMAN: It's Friday, May 31, 6 a.m. here in New York.
And breaking overnight, what could be one of the most expensive distractions ever. In the wake of Robert Mueller announcing that he could not clear the president of a crime, stock markets are in turmoil this morning after the president promised to levy new tariffs on Mexico unless they stop the flow of migrants to the U.S. The tariffs start at 5 percent on June 10.
Overnight, Mexico's president said he didn't want a confrontation and called for talks, but he also issued blistering criticism, saying the Statue of Liberty is only an empty symbol.
The White House chief of staff claims the tariffs are not linked to President Trump's new trade deal with Mexico, but that NAFTA replacement deal, which Congress has yet to approve, could now be in danger.
One Republican senator, who's an ally of the president, is slamming this move as, quote, "a misuse of presidential tariff authority."
The Dow is set to open down nearly 300 points there, as you can see on your screen. We have it all covered for you. Let's begin with Joe Johns. He is live at the White House.
What do you know?
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is the president's latest move on border security. And this time, the president is threatening to use tariffs as a weapon against Mexico to try to get them to secure the border.
The problem, of course, is Americans could well end up paying a lot of the cost of those tariffs.
So, how does it work? Well, the president is threatening to impose a 5 percent tariff on Mexico, starting this month, and then that's going to continue, he says, for five months, all the way into October. Of course, the question will be, what happens if Mexico actually responds? The administration has said it would be their intention to remove the tariffs if the situation on the border improves.
A lot of problems with this, of course. Some people are questioning the president's legal authority to do this. There's also a question about the USMCA, which has been called NAFTA 2.0. This is the trade deal the administration and Mexico have been trying to put through their legislatures, actually ramping up activity on that, just this week.
So how will these tariffs affect all of that? Anybody's guess. As far as we know, the Mexican government is expected to be sending representatives here as early as today to sit down with the administration to try to talk some of this through.
John, back to you.
BERMAN: All right. Joe Johns at the White House. One thing seems to be clear as we wake up this morning: the markets don't like this one bit.
CNN's chief business correspondent, Christine Romans, joins us now with more on that. What are you seeing?
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean, I'm seeing selling around the world. When you look in Asian markets, all fell pretty sharply and closed down. And then European markets opened this morning a few hours ago, and they were all down very sharply. And then U.S. futures also down this morning.
I mean, look, a tariff threat is something that is not good for stock market sentiment right here. You've had six weeks in a row of the Dow falling, falling basically, because of concerns about what the president's tariff strategy is going to mean long-term. And the fact that markets are coming to grips with this is the way the president does business. And they don't like tariffs. They just don't, international markets don't. So you're going to see a big decline, I think, at the opening bell this morning.
One question is how serious the president is about this, is this really caught people by surprise, even, you know, inside baseball, inside the Beltway folks who didn't know the president was thinking about putting tariffs on Mexican products.
Very concerning, also, for U.S. exporters, especially of ag products, pork products. I mean, Senator Chuck Grassley said, this is not how you do business. These are two different things. Tariffs and border securities are two things. Markets clearly rattled, Alisyn.
CAMEROTA: Yes, absolutely. Christine, thank you. Please keep us posted throughout the program.
So President Trump says his tariff threat is a result of what happened at the border. Border Patrol agents in El Paso captured what they say is the largest group of migrants ever captured at the border city of El Paso. CNN's Polo Sandoval is live there for us with the latest. What is the
situation on the ground, Polo?
POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Alisyn, it was one of the busiest weeks for Border Patrol agents here in El Paso sector, as you mentioned. At least a thousand people apprehended about two days ago. And as one DHS official telling our colleague, Geneva Sands in Washington, that basically, this is the largest group that border agents have encountered, particularly in recent years since Border Patrol has really been dealing with this issue here.
I can tell you that these are the kind of numbers that, of course, President Trump has been pointing to in his ongoing claim that Mexico is just not doing enough to essentially stem the flow of undocumented families through their country. And then eventually ending up here in the United States, many of them, obviously, seeking asylum here.
[06:05:04] We should mention that Mexico, for its part, as we mentioned a little while ago, has responded. They certainly have not kept quiet here.
Late last night, Mexico's president sending a direct letter to President Trump, saying that it is certainly not looking for a confrontation, but at the same time, that tariffs are not the solution for these kinds of social issues.
And finally, the Mexican president also, in that letter, reminding President Trump that, according to Mexico, they also have been doing their part to essentially try to stem the flow of these asylum-seeking families through their country.
We should remember, here, John, that Mexico, essentially, became a virtual waiting room for many families who have been forced to wait in Mexican border towns until their number gets called up and they can make their way here to the United States, John.
BERMAN: All right, Polo. Polo Sandoval for us in El Paso, thank you very much.
This morning, we're hearing from Attorney General William Barr after the clear rift exposed by the first public statement from Robert Mueller. Barr says he personally felt that Mueller could have reached a conclusion on obstruction, even if Justice Department rules say a sitting president cannot be indicted.
CNN's Sunlen Serfaty live on Capitol Hill with the latest on this. It's very hard to understand this very different reading of Justice Department regulations, Sunlen.
SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, John. It certainly is, indeed. And significant statement from the attorney general, essentially trying to defend himself and his own actions around the Mueller report, of course, in the wake of Robert Mueller's remarkable public statement this week.
All this comes as up here on Capitol Hill, Democratic leaders are now facing new pressure to start impeachment proceedings.
BARR: He could have reached a decision as to whether it was criminal activity.
SERFATY (voice-over): Attorney General William Barr insisting that Special Counsel Robert Mueller should have ruled on obstruction.
ROBERT MUELLER, SPECIAL COUNSEL: The Constitution requires a process, other than the criminal justice system, to formally accuse a sitting president of wrongdoing.
SERFATY: Barr says it's not the Justice Department's job to investigate crimes to help Congress.
BARR: But he had his reasons for not doing, which he explained.
SERFATY: The attorney general also explaining this moment.
BARR: I think there is -- spying did occur. Yes, I think spying did occur.
There's nothing wrong with spying. The question is always whether it's authorized by law and properly predicated.
SERFATY: And despite President Trump's repeated claims --
TRUMP: Should she lose, we'll have an insurance policy, and we'll get this guy out of office. That's treason.
SERFATY: Barr says that's just not true, yet justifying his probe into the Russia investigators.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You don't think that they committed treason?
BARR: That is a legal matter, but --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But you have concerns 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.
SERFATY: It comes as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi opens up about why she's being cautious about moving forward with impeachment.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): He believes that he would be exonerated by the United States Senate.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I see.
PELOSI: And there is a school of thought that says, if the Senate acquits you, why bring charges against him in the private sector when he's no longer president? So when we go through with our case, it's got to be ironclad.
SERFATY: At least 43 House Democrats now support launching an impeachment inquiry. Pelosi insists Congress is not ready yet.
PELOSI: You have to go down that path when you're as ready as you can possibly be.
SERFATY: And lawmakers will be back in Washington next week after that weeklong recess. This will be a key moment for Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi as she faces this intensifying pressure growing around her over the issue of impeachment. Will we see next week, potential, that list of 43 House Democrats grow? Or will Pelosi be able to squash that rebellion -- John and Alisyn.
BERMAN: All right. Sunlen Serfaty for us on Capitol Hill. Much more on this coming up.
In the meantime, there are no words.
The dictionary could not keep up with this year's Scripps National Spelling Bee competitors. For the first time ever, eight -- eight -- were crowned co-champions.
CNN's Dave Briggs-- that's B-R-I-G-G-S -- joins us.
DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Nailed it!
BERMAN: You like that?
BRIGGS: Nailed it, Berman.
BERMAN: You could have been ninth champion.
BRIGGS: You are a bright man. That's right, the National Spelling Bee may have been short on words, but it was not short on winners.
The tournament started with 562 spellers from all over the country, but after 20 rounds and a run of 47 correct answers to end the competition, the panel ran out of words, forcing them to call it and leaving an unprecedented eight-way tie for the trophy.
Here is the spectacular crowning moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROHAN RAJA, SPELLING CHAMPION: Odylic, O-D-Y-L-I-C. Odylic.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You are correct!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's complete. (END VIDEO CLIP)
BRIGGS: The Elite Eight, or Octochamps, as Scripps called them, all under 14 years old, haven't entered high school yet.
And just to put this into perspective, in its 92-year history, the bee has never had more than a two-way tie, and that's only happened six times.
Merriam-Webster tweeting, "The dictionary concedes."
They even ran out of words, clearly, saying they are so proud of the winners, guys. And during the competition, the bee decided it was going to split the first- and second-place prize money in the event of a tie. But after seeing the incredible performances, they decided to give all of the winners the full 50 grand in cash.
CAMEROTA: Oh, my gosh! That is fantastic! Odylic. I don't even think that's a real world.
BERMAN: No, they make up words.
CAMEROTA: They're making that up.
BERMAN: I don't understand why they just didn't make up more words to try to.
BRIGGS: Berman, you'd have gotten idyllic. I think you would have nailed it.
CAMEROTA: Idyllic, yes. Odylic, what is that?
BERMAN: Anyone who reads the copy that I edit here knows I can't spell at all. I can't even spell my own name.
BERMAN: But I will say, Dave, does this show that maybe there's hope for America's future? Kids are spelling better and better?
BRIGGS: I think this is a complete exception to the rule. I think -- I think kids have no concept of how to spell. If mine are any indication, it's all autocorrect.
CAMEROTA: Some of the winners are from New Jersey, just saying.
BRIGGS: Six states, the eight winners.
CAMEROTA: OK. Dave, thank you very much.
Coming up in our 8 a.m. hour, we'll talk to all eight winners, live.
All right, Elizabeth Warren, she has a plan. In fact, she has more than one on the campaign trail, but will any of them get her to the White House? We'll take a closer look, next.
[06:16:12] CAMEROTA: OK, we are following some breaking news for you. Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan has just responded to reports that the White House officials asked the U.S. Navy to move the giant warship, the USS John McCain, during President Trump's recent trip to Japan.
Here is what Shanahan just said in Singapore moments ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: About your speech tomorrow.
PATRICK SHANAHAN, ACTING DEFENSE SECRETARY: Sure.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Could you talk about what your emphasis will be, and specifically (AUDIO GAP)?
SHANAHAN: Our business is to run military operations and not to become politicized. I'll wait until I get a full explanation of the facts before I'll pass judgment on the situation.
But, you know, our job is to run the military. And I -- I would not have moved the ship. I would not have given that direction. And so, I'll just wait to see what gets reported back.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: Yesterday, President Trump said he did not know about the request from the White House but said the staffer who did try to do it was, quote, "well meaning."
BERMAN: And there doesn't seem to be any ambiguity over the fact that the White House did make this request.
BERMAN: All right. More breaking news. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo meeting with the German leader, Angela Merkel, in Berlin just moments ago. This comes after the chancellor appeared to criticize the president in a commencement address at Harvard.
CNN's Atika Shubert is live in Berlin with the latest for us. How did this go, Atika?
ATIKA SCHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Well, the meeting is still ongoing, but it might require some delicate diplomacy from Secretary Pompeo because of this rousing speech that Angela Merkel gave at Harvard. You know, she's not exactly known for being a great orator, and she never once mentioned Trump's name, but it was very clearly aimed at least at, at least, a Trumpian world view. She spoke mostly in German, but she did close out in English. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANGELA MERKEL, GERMAN CHANCELLOR: Tear down walls of ignorance and narrow-mindness, for nothing has to stay as it is.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHUBERT: And now, she has come back to Berlin, and right before meeting with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, they said a few brief words.
Angela Merkel was all business. She made it very clear that Iran would be the top of the agenda. And this is something that Germany and the U.S. have not always seen eye-to-eye on.
Keep in mind that Secretary Pompeo actually snubbed Angela Merkel. He canceled a meeting with her a few weeks ago at the very height of tensions with Iran. So it could be quite a contentious meeting. They're likely to discuss, among other things, you know, the nuclear agreement which Germany believes is still valid and is working, and the U.S. has been pressuring Germany to drop it.
So it will be very interesting to see what comes out of this -- Alisyn.
CAMEROTA: Yes, it will, Atika. Please keep us posted.
Meanwhile, the Democratic candidates head west this weekend. At least 14 presidential hopefuls will make a stop in California. The front- runner, Joe Biden, will not be there, but Elizabeth Warren will be; and she is climbing in the polls, as she introduces another policy plan.
And CNN's Jeff Zeleny is live in Washington with all the details. What do we know, Jeff?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Alisyn. Good morning.
Elizabeth Warren is trying to break through that crowded 2020 field with a plan, or in her case, seven of them. It is those six words. I've got a plan for that. That's beginning to resonate with some Democratic voters, as she's showing signs of encroaching on her rival, Bernie Sanders.
ZELENY (voice-over): Elizabeth Warren is getting results by grinding it out. More often than not these days, she's driving the conversation in the Democratic presidential race.
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If he were anyone other than president of the United States, he would be in handcuffs.
[06:20:02] ZELENY: She's been out front on impeachment.
WARREN: It's not politics. There are some issues that are bigger than political convenience. And this is one of them. You know, my view is, make everybody vote.
ZELENY: And a host of policy ideas, like a new child care cost calculator.
WARREN: Put in how many kids you have or even how many you're planning to have, and you can see how much money you will save under this plan.
ZELENY: The Massachusetts senator's stock is rising: from single digits in March to double digits now in some national polls. And she's been one of the few rivals willing to take on front-runner Joe Biden, even reigniting an old feud with the former vice president over bankruptcy laws.
WARREN: I got in that fight, because they just didn't have anyone. And Joe Biden is on the side of the credit card companies.
ZELENY: Since her formal announcement in February, where she took the stage to Dolly Parton's working-class anthem "9 to 5," Warren has been working far longer than that. And she's putting on the miles, already visiting 18 states and Puerto Rico.
Her campaign stops are also policy addresses, from the opioid scourge in West Virginia and Ohio; to protecting public lands in Colorado and Utah. She's headed to Indiana and Michigan next week to deliver an economic message, which will put 20 states on Warren's map.
WARREN: I've got a plan for that!
ZELENY: Those six words have become a sound track of her candidacy, from proposing to break up big technology companies to forgiving most student loan debt.
The campaign trail has become Warren's classroom, explaining ideas like the professor she once was, promising to pay for all of these plans with a wealth tax.
WARREN: Do we think that the 2 cents should stay with the top 1/10th of 1 percent? They can't pitch in 2 cents on the 50th millionth and first dollar?
ZELENY: Now, Warren's advisers have been tight-lipped about one of the big questions looming over her campaign: can she raise enough money to sustain that extensive operation she's building in Iowa and other early voting states?
But John, Bernie Sanders has taken notice of her rise. All candidates are sharpening their message for the critical first debate that's now just a few weeks away -- John.
BERMAN: All right. Jeff Zeleny for us in Washington. Jeff, thank you very much.
We do have more breaking news, a levee breech in Arkansas. This is the Dardanelle levee. A meteorologist at the National Weather Service, he believes most people were able to evacuate beforehand, but officials are concerned that this could be the beginning of what would be a slow-motion disaster.
CNN's Rosa Flores is is in Ft. Smith, Arkansas, with more on this -- Rosa.
ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, indeed, the levee system and, if the levee system will hold is one of the biggest worries right now for the state of Arkansas.
As you mentioned, there was a levee breach overnight in the city of Dardanelle. That's about 90 miles east of where I'm standing. The good news there is that, according to authorities, people were able to evacuate.
But the levee system and its infrastructure, a huge concern. There are two levees that have overtopped already in this state. Other levees are showing signs of weakness, according to the emergency management officials, and some of those levees are leaking. So there is a huge concern about this infrastructure and if it will hold and for how long.
When it comes to the impact, here in Ft. Smith, where I'm standing, and you'll see that we have some drone footage of this area. According to city management, about -- or nearly 1,000 homes and businesses have flooded in. And these pictures really just show you the magnitude and the impact and the force of this water.
But when you talk about the impact statewide, it has impacted, already, thousands of people. More, possibly, in the coming weeks. And when you talk about the GDP, that's $23 million a day, because of the closure of the Arkansas River.
And Alisyn, the bad news here is, if you look around, there's a calmness to this flood, which is very eerie, because it's not going anywhere. The water is not flowing anywhere. It's very calm.
The good news is that President Trump has approved the disaster declaration, which means that federal funds will be coming in to supplement local and state efforts here -- Alisyn.
CAMEROTA: That will really help. Rosa Flores, thank you very much.
So when will this dangerous weather finally end? CNN meteorologist Chad Myers has our forecast. What do you see for the weekend?
CHAD MYERS, CNN AMS METEOROLOGIST: It looks good for the weekend. We only had two tornados yesterday on the ground, and for where they were, that seems like a win. There will be some wind damage today, but some of these storms, really, are going to die off right at sunset, as we expect.
Now, this weather is brought to you by Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, packed with goodness.
But let's get to next week, because that's the big story. This all redevelops. [06:25:00] Here's the weather for today. From Roanoke to D.C. and
Richmond, you could see some bigger storms. But this is where the wind event will happen. Some of these trees will be down.
Back you up to last week. There is the big trough. Cold weather in the west, heat wave in the east. It is now breaking down. That's why our weather today will be calmer. All weekend will be very nice and calm. But guess what happens Monday and Tuesday?
The weather is back, and look at the rain. Not this weekend. Sunday is still OK, but this area right through here, John, every spot right through here, 8 inches of rain or more. And our Rosa Flores right in the middle of the next round of severe flooding.
BERMAN: Look at that radar. Look at that red patch.
CAMEROTA: Looks like a lot of weather happening everywhere. Severe weather.
CAMEROTA: Chad, thank you very much for that warning.
All right. Attorney General William Barr breaking his silence. Why he thinks Robert Mueller could have reached a decision on whether the president committed a crime. That's next.