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AT THIS HOUR

Republican Senators Warn White House over Trump's Mexico Tariffs; Trump Dismisses Climate Change in New Interview; GOP Senators Join Rebuke of Arms Sales to Saudis, UAE; Soon Sanders Confronts Walmart Leaders in Shareholders Meeting; 2020 Democrats Candidates Criticize Joe Biden on 1994 Crime Bill, Plagiarism on Climate Plan; Rep. Jared Huffman (D-CA) Discusses Growing Calls for Trump Impeachment, Pelosi's Resistance. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired June 5, 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] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: OK. Thanks for joining us. We'll see you back here tomorrow morning. I'm Poppy Harlow.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Jim Sciutto.

"AT THIS HOUR" with our colleague, Kate Bolduan, starts right now.

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

The question of the days is, are Republicans in revolt. I ask because President Trump is facing sharp words and sobering warnings right now from his own party. It's all over the tariffs that the president has threatened to slap on Mexico at the beginning of next week unless Mexico will, in the president's words, "do something about illegal immigration."

Senate Republicans are responding by saying they may need to do something themselves, as in try to stop the president, as they overwhelmingly do not support the president's move here.

Look no further than the top Republican in the Senate, Mitch McConnell. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): There's not much support in my conference for tariffs, that's for sure.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Will you try to block those tariffs?

MCCONNELL: Well, what I'm telling you is that we're hoping that doesn't happen.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: Hope and prayer. The vice president and the secretary of state are meeting with Mexican officials on this very issue today. So, what is going to happen? Let's try to figure it out. CNN's Lauren Fox is on Capitol Hill. Michelle Kosinski is at the

State Department.

Lauren, let me start with you.

What are you hearing from Republican Senators right now?

LAUREN FOX, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, this morning, a lot of Republicans are optimistic that maybe something could come out of those discussions with Mexican leaders today. That's the hope because they don't want to have basically rebuke the president of the United States.

But Republicans deeply concerned about these tariffs. Here is what a few Republicans told me this morning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN CHUCK GRASSLEY (R-IA) We think tariffs, in this instance, are hurting the chances of getting USMCA and, for me, that's a very important goal.

SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R-TX): I support getting Mexico to doing more and I hope conversations occurring today produce more cooperation by Mexico. They could have a big impact.

But I think the tariffs are unnecessary, if we can get Congressional Democrats to just do their job, which is to support bipartisan legislation, which would fix the holes in the law that are being exploited by cartels.

SEN. PAT TOOMEY (R-PA): We would all be better off if we don't put a round of tariffs on Mexico.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FOX: Behind the scenes, Kate, Republicans very frustrated at that lunch yesterday. I'm told about half a dozen Republicans rose and told White House and justice officials in the room that moving forward with tariffs could put them in a difficult position where they may be forced to vote against the president's emergency declaration on the border and these tariffs, if it comes up for resolution of disapproval, which could happen if Democrats in the House force the issue -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: Right. But do they have -- then the question then, of course, becomes do they have enough support, the overwhelming amount of support need in both chambers to override a veto you would expect to be coming? Much more on that, Lauren.

But, Michelle, where do negotiations stand between the Trump administration and Mexico over the president's demands here?

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT: There are some optimistic signs. From Mexico, we've been hearing that based on what they've seen from the White House, they feel like a deal can be worked out. That sounds somewhat comforting to all of those business people and farmers and Republicans, members of the president's own party, who have been so concerned out there.

And today the White House, one of the White House aides is spelling out exactly what they think Mexico could do better. More resources at their border, take care of asylum seekers, make sure people aren't profiting on human trafficking.

So, they're spelling out some points where Mexico could do better. It seems that the point that Mexico is in at least some agreement on that. So, a couple of hours from now, we could have a clearer picture -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: Depending what comes out of the meeting, there might be progress to avoid it.

But even short of that, Michelle, I mean, the president's trade rep when he was on with Jim Sciutto this morning said also that they believe that the tariffs might not even need to "go into effect," precisely his words, because they have Mexico's attention.

When I heard that, I'm starting to wonder if this will be another example of some machination --

KOSINSKI: Yes.

BOLDUAN: -- of the president starts a fight, then backs down only to claim himself the victor on this.

KOSINSKI: Starting to catch on, Kate. Yes. So, we've seen this many times before.

Note that the only person who is not expressing some hope or optimism on this tariff issue is the president himself, saying while he was traveling that he feels like these tariffs will go into effect, saying that Mexico has to stop all immigration through its country to the U.S. border.

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: That's an important point, Michelle. Is his standard of what doing something is, is not, one, not clear and maybe completely different from what his trade advisers are negotiating?

KOSINSKI: Of course. Of course. And he likes to be the one to make the threats. We have seen, with tariffs, that he will allow them to go into effect in some cases, even when it will hurt U.S. businesses and U.S. consumers.

[11:05:04] So, he's willing to do this. It's just that there are so many people out there now who are getting tired of this. And people are calling it negotiation by threats. And this is the way, in some cases, diplomacy is also conducted. First come the threats, then then comes the stress. And in the end, lo and behold, it somehow works out.

BOLDUAN: The trade version of fire and fury.

It's good to see you, Michelle. Thank you so much.

KOSINSKI: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Lauren, great work.

We'll see what happens on Capitol Hill.

Let's talk about this right now. President Trump is on his way to Ireland, landing any moment now, actually, where he will be meeting with Ireland's prime minister. This, of course, comes after spending this morning with other world leaders making the 75th anniversary of D-Day. It happened early in the morning, most of it.

It really was a beautiful ceremony. One of the highlights you're seeing is when veterans of the battle walked on to the stage to a standing ovation by the massive crowd, by all the world leaders, including the queen of England, standing ovation from all of them.

But you have this beautiful ceremony, such pageantry, but amidst of the pageantry, President Trump is raising eyebrows once again during this trip. This time in a new interview.

CNN senior White House correspondent, Pamela Brown, is at Shannon Airport where the president is due to arrive just minutes from now.

So, Pam, it seems that it has now become the president versus climate change once again.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right. The president has made his views clear once again, even as world leaders have spoken to him. Theresa May, the prime minister in the U.K., said she spoke to the president about climate change. It's a big concern for her.

We do expect that to come up here in Ireland. The prime minister here also said he will bring it up to President Trump.

The president brought it up in an interview, a wide-ranging interview with Piers Morgan in the U.K. He talked about his discussion with Prince Charles and said that Prince Charles is very passionate about climate change and he was moved by what he had to say.

But it was clear, Kate, that it didn't convince him otherwise on his views of climate hang and his skepticism of it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I believe that there's a change in weather, and I think it changes both ways. Don't forget it used to be called global warming. That wasn't working. Now it's called climate change. Now it's called extreme weather. Because with extreme weather, you can't miss.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BROWN: So he talked about several other things in that interview, Kate. He aimed to clarify his comments on Meghan Markle, saying he meant that she was just nasty about him, not nasty as an individual.

And he talked about the Vietnam War, saying he was never a fan of the Vietnam War. And that basically he claimed, at the time when the war was happening, nobody had even heard of that country. As you know, he received a deferment. He claimed he had bone spurs and so he never served in the Vietnam War.

Kate, President Trump arrives here in Shannon, Ireland, 30 minutes from now. He will be meeting at the airport VIP lounge with the prime minister.

There was a lot of disputes between Ireland and the U.K. over the venue because initially President Trump wanted to meet with the prime minister at his golf course, in Doonbeg, which is not far away from me here in Shannon, and the Irish balked at that suggestion. They've been able to finally settle on a neutral venue.

There's been questions raised, Kate, about whether this trip to Ireland is so that President Trump can come and play golf. But U.S. official said that is certainly not the case. They wouldn't say whether he will play golf while he's here but he said there are several issues to discuss with the prime minister.

Again, the prime minister is expected to bring up climate change, as well as trade and other issues -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: Definitely a lot of issues to be discussing for sure.

Great to see you, Pamela. Thank you so much.

While the president is overseas, I do want to head back to Washington. Because there's another Republican rebellion against the president in the works. This one having nothing to do with Mexico. Instead, all over the president's move to go around Congress to sell weapons to Saudi Arabia. Now there's a bipartisan effort under way in the Senate to stop him.

CNN's Alex Marquardt is following this for us. He joins me now.

Alex, this is something that we don't see very often, Democrats and Republicans working together on anything, full stop, but working together against the president. What are you hearing right now?

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and the other thing we don't see very often is Republicans in Congress coming out so vehemently against the Trump administration's proposals.

But this is something that we have seen, both those elements, we've seen play out several times in the past eight months in the wake of Jamal Khashoggi's murder, the Saudi journalist working for the "Washington Post," who was murdered at the consulate in Istanbul. The CIA and intelligence concluding that Saudi Arabia's crown prince was behind that. [11:10:00] Let's put this into some context, Kate. Essentially what

happened here is that secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, in order to bypass Congress, declared an emergency to be able to proceed with 22 separate arms sales worth $8.1 billion, mainly to Saudi Arabia, but also to the United Arab Emirates.

In the wake of Khashoggi's murder, bipartisan members of Congress have tried to prevent this relationship between Saudi Arabia and the U.S. from growing any cozier.

So what we're seeing now is this group of bipartisan Senators, seven of them, led by the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Bob Menendez, but joined by senior Republicans, Rand Paul, Lindsey Graham, issuing for each one of those 22 arm sales, 22 joint resolutions of disapproval.

Kate I want to read you part of what Lindsey Graham said in response to this: "While I understand that Saudi Arabia is a strategic ally, the behavior of crown prince, Mohammad bin Salman, cannot be ignored. Now is not the time to do business as usual with Saudi Arabia. I'm also very concerned about the precedent these arms sales would set by having the administration go around legitimate concerns of the Congress."

So here we have this group of Senators that doesn't want to essentially reward the kingdom of Saudi Arabia with these arms sales.

But frankly, these resolutions of disapproval, they're not much more than that. It's not clear what these Senators can do to essentially block those arms sales beyond stating their disapproval -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: It's one thing to say something. It's another thing to do something.

As you're seeing, this is all kind of coming together right now, Alex. The administration sure seems to be testing the limits of the national emergency, national security declarations, from trade and tariffs to immigration and the border.

MARQUARDT: Right.

BOLDUAN: And now looking at going around Congress when it comes to arms sales. Put it all together, it's quite something.

Thanks, Alex. Appreciate it.

MARQUARDT: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Coming up, why is Senator Bernie Sanders headed to a Walmart shareholders meeting? The message that he's taking. And the real question is, will it be heard?

Plus, he was the only armed guard on campus the day of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida. He is now facing criminal charges for what he did or, rather, didn't do that day. We'll talk to a mother of one of the victims. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:17:16] BOLDUAN: Bernie Sanders is headed to Arkansas, but not really to talk to voters. Instead, to talk to the board of Walmart. In just a few minutes, Sanders is going to be face-to-face with executives from the company at their annual shareholders meeting. Are you wondering what's going on here, like many of us?

Let's go to CNN's Ryan Nobles. He is there.

Ryan, this is fascinating, a fascinating political move. Sanders is serving as a proxy for a Walmart employee at the shareholders meeting. What is going to happen? What is he trying to do?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, he's certainly trying to send a message to the executives and the leadership of Walmart here, Kate. Of course, this is a frequent target of Senator Sanders on the campaign trail. He often talks about big corporations and what he feels is their unfair treatment of their employees, and Walmart specifically is a company he talks about a lot.

Take a listen to a smattering of things that Sanders has said on the campaign trail.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The wealthiest family in the United States pays their workers' wages that are so low that many of these workers are forced to go on food stamps, Medicaid or public housing.

If you are worth $170 billion, pay your workers a living wage.

(CHEERING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NOBLES: Of course, I spent a lot of time on the campaign trail with Bernie Sanders. I have parts of his speech where he talks about Walmart memorized.

It will be a little different today, Kate, because now he will be face-to-face with his leadership.

What he will do here is formally ask that a member, an associate, an employee of Walmart gets a seat at the table of their board of directors to give the employees a voice. This is about his fulsome argument about treatment of associates with these massive companies that make billions of dollars in profits.

Kate, it's unlikely that that proposal will pass this is part of Sanders' broader message about economic inequality. And his message to Democratic primary voters, if he's elected president, these are the kind of challenges he will take on. BOLDUAN: Fascinating move, no matter what comes of it, to say the

least.

Ryan, thank you very much. Good to see you.

So that's happening in Arkansas. As for the Democratic front-runner, Joe Biden, he is facing trouble on two fronts this morning, accusations of plagiarism on the climate change plan that he just rolled out. And that's the very issue that helped end his 1998 presidential bid, you'll remember. That's one. And then there is his role with the controversial 1994 crime bill, something that he has had to answer to, and for, since the moment he announced his run.

He is also stepping up his attempts to defend that past in the face of his competitors, not letting up one bit. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA): that I have a great deal of respect for Vice President Joe Biden, but I disagree with him. That crime bill, 1994 crime bill, it did contribute to mass incarceration in our country.

[11:20:08] BILL DE BLASIO, (D), NEW YORK CITY MAYOR & PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That crime bill was one of the foundations of mass incarceration, in a very painful era in our nation's history. And I think, look, the vice president, anyone else has to be accountable for every vote they take.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: CNN's Arlette Saenz is joining me now from Manchester, New Hampshire.

Arlette, how is Biden responding to this criticism?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN REPORTER: Kate, so far, we really haven't heard him directly respond to what his rivals have said on this but this issue will keep coming up over and over for Joe Biden on the campaign trail.

And it was here in New Hampshire, three weeks ago today, where he defended the bill, saying it did not lead to mass incarceration.

Last night, in Concord, he once again offered a defense for that crime bill. Take a listen to what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES & DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When I wrote the crime bill, which you have been conditioned to say is a bad bill, there's only one bill, only one provision in it that had to do with mandatory sentences that I opposed and that was a thing called the three strikes and you're out, which I thought was a mistake. The rational way to go about it is to make sure you're not putting

people in jail who, in fact, have not committed violent crimes. You should put them in work programs. You should put them in positions where they are on probation, et cetera.

(APPLAUSE0

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAENZ: Though he's not directly responding to criticisms from people like Kamala Harris or Bill De Blasio, Biden is offering that defense of that crime bill.

Today, we also see him in a different position at odds with his Democratic rivals when it comes to abortion. His campaign saying he does support the amendment that bans the use of federal funds for abortion except in the case of rape and incest and to save the life of the mother. This puts him at odds with many other Democratic rivals and could be an issue going forward that you see them bring up, especially as they're heading closer and closer to that first debate -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: Yes. I was thinking about the debate when you're talking about the crime bill. He will have a hard time not responding directly to his competitors when that's presented at that first debate.

Good to see you, Arlette. Really appreciate it. Much more to come on that.

Ahead for us, are the calls for impeachment of President Trump, are they having any impact on the one woman with all the power? Right now, Nancy Pelosi, she is speaking to reporters right now. One Democrat in her caucus says that they must act by August. Why is that? Is that the timetable that Pelosi is working with? That lawmaker joins me next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:27:17] BOLDUAN: Holding firm, at least for now. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is nothing, if not consistent on -- especially when it comes to the big question before her now, whether or not to start impeachment proceedings of President Trump.

Here is what Nancy Pelosi told reporters just moments ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): But you're going to impeach and it's an indictment. It's an indictment. So when you're impeaching somebody, you want to make sure you have the strongest possible indictment, because it's not the means to the end that people think.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: She's saying people need to know exactly what they're getting into, and the House needs to be prepared when they do that.

So, is that the message? Is the message being received by House Democrats who say the time is now for impeachment? Let's find out.

Joining me now is one of dozens of Democratic lawmakers who support launching impeachment proceedings, Democratic Congressman Jared Huffman, of California.

Congressman, thank you for coming in.

REP JARED HUFFMAN (D-CA): Thanks for having me.

BOLDUAN: You hear the speaker say that. What do you say in response?

HUFFMAN: I'm all for building that air-tight case, moving us towards on an indictment. But I think that's what an impeachment inquiry is about, beginning the process of hearings, investigations and the proper context that can get us there.

BOLDUAN: Do you think that with the House Judiciary Committee, starting with committee hearings next week, that you're essentially launching impeachment proceedings, but just not calling it that for whatever reason?

HUFFMAN: We're doing a lot of the same things, no doubt about it. We're just not doing it in the context of an impeachment inquiry.

I think there's growing momentum in the caucus, though, for going ahead and initiating what would be called an impeachment inquiry.

And there's a couple of advantages to that. A lot of legal scholars and others think it will give us enhanced standing in the various fights we're having with the administration. But, secondly, I think it helps us tell this story to the American people and put it in the proper context.

BOLDUAN: Help me understand, though, where Nancy Pelosi is wrong. Her main point is that the goal of impeachment, if you are going down that road, is to get a result. And the result that you would want is to remove the president from office, which you're not going to be able to do because the Senate is not going to go along with it.

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: Until you have movement and you convince the Senate, if you could -- until you could convince them otherwise, where is the speaker wrong in this?

HUFFMAN: It really doesn't work that way. I'm not saying that the speaker is wrong. I'm saying that those who say we have to wait for a green light from the United States Senate before we do our constitutional job in the House, I think, have it confused. That's not the way the Constitution lays it out.

[11:29:59] We've got a job to do, I believe. And the evidence is overwhelming. It's compelling. It's time to begin an inquiry. And then it will be on the Senate.

And, look, the politics of this issue and where things are with the Senate are not static. They can change.