Return to Transcripts main page


Trump Faces Deadline for Mexico Tariffs; Man Arrested Over Times Square Plot; Biden Reverses on Abortion. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired June 7, 2019 - 09:30   ET



[09:31:25] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: The pressure is on. Tariffs will go into effect against Mexico on Monday if day three of negotiations fail. President Trump faces a deadline today to sign an executive order if he wants to instate those tariffs on Monday. A senior administration official says that talks are headed in a positive direction and Mexico is promising to make changes to help curb migration, but a Trump adviser also saying there's still a long way to go.

I want to get to CNN's Michelle Kosinski.

Michelle, right now the president's tariffs still set to go into effect on Monday, though these negotiations are still going on. What is your -- what are you hearing from sources as to how far apart the two sides remain?

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's tough to know. I think it was telling yesterday -- and, by the way, most of the information we've been getting on the detail has come from the Mexican side. The Mexican foreign minister said that while there was progress, the U.S. is focused on immigration enforcement while Mexico is focused at more the core issue, on development, on why people are leaving these countries to go through Mexico to get to the United States. So that shows you that there's a pretty big gap on thinking.

But, late last night, we did see a major concession from Mexico, willing to move on border enforcement, to move 6,000 National Guard troops to its border with Guatemala where so many people are coming from.

Also the U.S. wants Mexico to better deal with the asylum issue because the administration has had a problem with so many people claiming asylum once they get into the United States. The U.S. wants Mexico to deal with it there when people cross the border into Mexico. That's why we saw legal meetings yesterday with so many legal advisers. Obviously they're tackling the asylum issue.

So gaps there we're not sure how close they are at this point. The fact that we did see some movement last night shows you that they're working hard on it, even, you know, at the 11th hour. And we just saw the foreign minister arrive to the State Department

now. So we expect to hear from him on his way out and then we'll have a better sense of where exactly things are.

So, on the one hand, you hear some optimism and some movement coming from Mexico, but from the White House you still hear, it's not enough. Yes, there's progress, but we're moving forward with these tariffs, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Well, I wonder when you watch those slower job numbers, Trump officials get worried about the broader effect on the economy of these tariffs.

KOSINSKI: Exactly.

SCIUTTO: Michelle Kosinski, thanks very much.

Joining me now to discuss is David Swerdlick, he's CNN political commentator, as well as assistant editor for "The Washington Post."

Good morning.

So, David, sounds like some progress here.


SCIUTTO: Mexicans 6,000 at the southern border, but that's a largely undefended border, so it's hard to see how that completely stops the problem here. What's your read of the Trump administration's willingness to give on this?

SWERDLICK: I think we're going to see, probably by the end of today, something. Clearly, the Trump administration has the Mexican administration's attention on this. They announced that they're going to put National Guard troops on their border with Guatemala. They have this high level delegation here negotiating with the Trump administration. But there are some fundamental sticking points.

As Michelle just reported, Mexico is coming at this from the point of view of, what's the big, regional problem here that's driving so many migrants toward the U.S. border. On the other hand, the Trump administration wants to make these changes to that rubric of asylum so that so many asylum seekers don't wind up at the U.S./Mexico border. If you are from El Salvador and Honduras, why can't you apply for asylum in Guatemala? If you're from Guatemala, why can't you apply for asylum in Mexico?

[09:35:00] SCIUTTO: Well, I mean, because the administration hasn't been successful and neither has Congress in actually changing the laws or amending the laws to some degree.


SCIUTTO: But it strikes me that this is basically moving the problem south, is it not? I mean because you have Central American countries with both economic and security issues, that's what's chasing many of these people out of their countries.


SCIUTTO: So now you're pushing it down to the Mexico border in effect without solving the root problem.

SWERDLICK: Right. I mean it's pushing -- as you say, it's pushing the problem south. And it's also essentially trying to frame the issue in terms of, you know, what's best for the United States, not what's best for the partnership. Trump administration and Republicans before the Trump administration resisted a comprehensive fix to immigration that addressed asylum and other problems. They want to just stop the flow of these asylum seekers.

I will say this, Jim, real quickly, that I think one thing that's -- from the Trump administration perspective is that if they impose tariffs on Monday, Trump probably sees this as a win-win. If they get an agreement he'll say, I made a great deal with Mexico, I forced them to the table. If he doesn't he'll say, I'm tough, here's your tariffs.

SCIUTTO: But here's the thing, though. I mean you say he's framing it purely in the interest of the United States. Really it's in the interest of the president, right, politically? He's made a calculation here that this serves him politically.


SCIUTTO: During the midterms, he made a similar calculation with the border, you know, deployment of troops, et cetera --


SCIUTTO: And the numbers show that issue did not work for him in the midterms, did not work for Republican candidates. I just wonder who's getting the politics right on this issue right now.

SWERDLICK: So, again, I'm glad you made that point. Right, it's in the -- the president is framing it as in the interest of the country, but it is politically in his own interest.


SWERDLICK: I think the calculation is that even though the majority of the country may not be behind the way the president is approaching this, he's appealing to his base. He's got that floor of 35 percent support, that ceiling of 45 percent support. He doesn't want to lose that base and the base does resonate with the issue of being tough on the border, whether it's building a wall, whether it's tariffs on Mexico, even though Republicans, who traditionally have been free traders, are saying, don't do tariffs, don't punish a trading partner and a neighbor, but that's falling on deaf ears right now.

SCIUTTO: This is not the first time we've seen Republican lawmakers, at least some of them, say this is a step too far. That said, we've often seen them back away or not meet the threshold to override a presidential veto, as they did on the national emergency declaration. Is this an issue where the GOP joins ranks and says, no, this is too

much, we'll block the president.

SWERDLICK: I think it's an issue where they're going to do exactly what they already did do, which was make a lot of noise, especially those border state senators like Cornyn and Cruz --

SCIUTTO: Yes, Cruz.

SWERDLICK: And Arizona and New Mexico, you know, who do have this direct relationship with Mexico because they share a border and because they have all this trade. But, in the end of the day, I still don't think most Republicans are -- have the sort of, you know -- the stones, frankly, to challenge the president if he really does put these tariffs into effect.

SCIUTTO: Well, it's interesting because apparently the president can kind of game this a bit because if he signs an entirely new executive order here on this, Republicans can block him purely on the tariffs. But if he amendments his prior executive order on national emergency, which enabled him to use other funds to build portions of the wall --


SCIUTTO: Then Republicans would be forced to vote not just against tariffs but also against money for the wall, and that's a tougher vote for Republicans to make against the president.

SWERDLICK: It's a tougher vote for them and I think that's why you'll likely see Senator McConnell, the Republican majority leader in the Senate, not even bring that kind of thing up for a vote again because Republicans are counting on those same Republican base voters that are --


SWERDLICK: That love the president and they know that and he knows that.

SCIUTTO: What, Mitch McConnell not bring something up for a vote?


SCIUTTO: Has that happened?


SCIUTTO: David Swerdlick, thanks very much.

SWERDLICK: Thanks, Jim.

Coming up this next hour, and this just in actually to CNN, the Trump administration will likely submit legal notification today of its intention to implement tariffs on Monday. The vice president's chief of staff, Marc Short, saying today. But Short said that Trump could turn that off over the weekend if negotiations continued to go well. So the Trump administration moving forward at least with the legal preparation to impose those tariffs, but if there's progress in those negotiations, still reserving the right to pull back.

Other news, a man arrested for allegedly planning an attack on New York's Times Square. New details about who he may have wanted to target. That's coming up.


SCIUTTO: A man is behind bars this morning, suspected of planning an attack on New York's Times Square. Sources tell CNN the suspect was looking into buying grenades and firearms. He also allegedly talked about killing police and government officials. On Thursday, the FBI and NYPD teamed up in an operation to arrest that man.

CNN national correspondent Brynn Gingras, she's been following the story. She joins me now.

What more do we know about this suspect and how did authorities catch him?

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Jim, what we're learning about this individual from a source is that he was actually under surveillance for some time. This operation being conducted, as you mentioned, by the NYPD, the FBI, the Joint Terrorism Task Force, or JTTF, and included undercover officers. And what the source is telling CNN is that they learned they individual had the intention to buy explosives, including grenades, and really wanted to make some major threat on Times Square being the target, including harm officers and others apparently at Times Square.

Now, we know that that person, according to our source, is in custody. We are expecting that person to actually appear before a judge, be in court in the Eastern District here in Manhattan -- or Brooklyn, rather, later this morning. So we should learn a little bit more.

But it's also important to note that our source tells us this person is no longer an imminent threat. So, of course, that tells us that it's likely this person was acting alone or isn't part of a bigger network where there's other threats out there.

[09:45:06] But, of course, we always learn more when these people appear in court, and afterwards when we hear from officials and that complaint gets opened up. So we'll certainly give you more information.

But as of now, the important thing is to know there is no imminent threat, that this person is behind bars and we expect to hear more very soon.


SCIUTTO: Brynn Gingras on the story, thanks very much.

Investigators say early autopsy results are so far inconclusive for three Americans who mysteriously died at the same resort in the Dominican Republic just five days apart. According to the country's attorney general, 41-year-old Miranda Schaup-Werner had a heart attack and died at the Bahia Principe resort in La Romana (ph) on May 25th. Five days later, Edward Nathaniel Holmes and Cynthia Ann Day were found dead in their room. The island's AG says that autopsy's show the couple experienced internal bleeding and had fluid in their lungs. Investigators are waiting on the results of pathology and toxicology tests to give a formal cause of death.

A complete 180 from 2020 Democratic frontrunner Joe Biden. Why the former vice president is changing his long held stance on federal funding for abortions.

And Van Jones travels to Sacramento to meet with a man who has spent the last two decades struggling with PTSD and a spinal injury after being shot multiple times in 1994. Don't miss "The Redemption Project," Sunday night at 9:00 right here on CNN.


[09:50:58] SCIUTTO: After days of criticism, the Democratic frontrunner, Joe Biden, reversed course on his long held position on federal funding for abortions. The former vice president now says that he no longer supports what's called the Hyde Amendment, and now wants it eliminated. The Hyde Amendment blocks federal funds from being used for most abortions.

Let's speak now to CNN political reporter Arlette Saenz. She's been covering the Biden campaign.

So what can you tell us about the reasoning behind this change in position?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, Jim, last night Biden tried to frame this as an issue relating to health care. He was saying that no one should be restricted from facing abortions based on their income or zip code. And he pointed to some states who are trying to enact these laws that would create more abortion restrictions in their states.

But you've also seen this wave of pressure that descended on him from his 2020 rivals over the past two days. And take a listen to what Biden had to say yesterday as he explained this move.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I make no apologies for my last position and I make no apologies for what I'm about to say.

I can't justify leaving millions of women without access to the care they need and the ability to exercise their constitutionally protected right. If I believe health care is a right, as I do, I can no longer support an amendment that makes that right dependent on someone's zip code.

(END VIDEO CLIP) SAENZ: So Biden there saying that he's not apologizing for how he used to feel on this issue. But as he saw more and more Democrats come forward criticizing him, really the entire Democratic field, and also these groups that are working to protect abortion rights, they were also pressuring the former vice president to reverse course on this, you now, last night, saw him finally make that statement after about two days, saying that he does now fall in line with the rest of the Democratic field on this issue.

SCIUTTO: That was -- of course, candidates change positions. We have the current occupant of the White House who has changed them multiple times, including during the campaign. But Biden's campaign national co-chair just a couple of days ago said that his position on the Hyde Amendment was a matter of his faith. He put it in those terms. So how is the campaign reconciling those comments with this current change of heart then?

SAENZ: Well, Jim, Cedrick Richmond was on our air just a few nights ago making that point and saying that Biden has been consistent over the years.

But you have seen this kind of messaging struggle. You had that graphic up earlier where Biden had told a voter on a rope line back in May that, yes, he supported repealing the Hyde Amendment and then the campaign coming out saying that he misheard that voter and that he stands by it. And then, almost 48 hours later, reversing course again.

So there is a little bit of a messaging discrepancy coming from the Biden campaign. We'll see if they offer any further insight into why exactly they decided, you know, 36 hours after this story first broke on Wednesday, why that was the moment that they decided to go ahead and come forth.

One issue could be they're heading into the debate. There was a lot of Democrats criticizing him about that and perhaps they wanted to maybe get this out of the way before they reached that debate stage.

SCIUTTO: Exactly, would not want to be ganged up on, on that crucial first debate.

A lot of Democrats going to Iowa this weekend.

SAENZ: Yes, that's right. The -- basically the entire Democratic field is going to descend on Iowa for an Iowa Hall of Fame dinner. You're going to see them fanning out across the state. Joe Biden will not be there this weekend but he is heading to Iowa next week, on Tuesday and Wednesday. Tuesday also happens to be the same day that President Trump will be in the state. So we'll see how those two players kind of react to each other as they're both battling for that 2020 win.

SCIUTTO: Arlette Saenz, on the campaign, thanks very much.

Coming up at 11:00 Eastern Time, my colleague, Kate Bolduan, she'll speak with Senator Bernie Sanders. That will be live right here on CNN. Stay with us. [09:54:46] Meanwhile, we are watching breaking news. Just hours ago,

look at these pictures, that is a Russian warship coming very close to a U.S. war ship, dangerously close. This was on purpose, an act of aggression, says the U.S. Both sides, though, pointing the finger at the other.


SCIUTTO: It's 10:00 a.m. here in Washington. I'm Jim Sciutto. Poppy has the day off.

[09:59:51] Our breaking news this morning is a run-in between U.S. and Russian warships. A very close call in the Philippine Sea. This morning, each nation accusing the other of deliberately recklessly causing a near collision between a Russian destroyer and the U.S. Chancellorsville, a guided missile cruiser. The video.