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Tearing Down Columbine High School?; Biden Flip-Flops on Abortion; U.S. and Russia Warships Nearly Collide; Weak May Jobs Report; Mexico Tariff Negotiations Going Badly?. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired June 7, 2019 - 15:00   ET



BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: But we are also getting word that things did not end well last night.

So, let's go straight to the White House, to our correspondent there, Kaitlan Collins, with an update.

And what are you hearing?


It does seem to be changing by the hour, but the president's latest tweet signaling that there could be a deal in the making is a shift from what he had been saying before. So, it seems like the president is leaving open to back of this threat to impose these tariffs.

Now, as you noted, there is a deadline here. So the president is facing that, and they have got to decide soon what to do. But we did hear from the vice president's chief of staff earlier, who said that if they do submit that legal notification to essentially jump-start this process, so those tariffs would actually go into effect on Monday, with all of the logistics that would happen with that, he did signal that that move could be reversed over the weekend if these talks continue to go well.

Now, Brooke, as we have noted, they have been meeting for several days, including over a three-hour meeting at the State Department today between U.S. officials and Mexican officials. And essentially what we are seeing come out as this is their offer to deploy the Mexican National Guard to the border with Guatemala to hopefully try to stop the flow of migrants that are then coming through trying to cross the United States border.

But the question that really is going to be the end-all/be-all here is whether or not President Trump accepts what they have been talking about and negotiating over for the last several days.

Now, he's on the way back to the United States from his trip overseas in Europe. So the question is going to be whether he accepts that. And right now, it still seems that the president was insisting to lawmakers who don't want the president to take this move because they fear it could wreck the economy that he is not bluffing.

And, of course, as it always does, it depends on Trump.

BALDWIN: We stand by and wait. Kaitlan Collins, thank you very much for that.

Now, if all of this tariff drama is happening as the president learns of a week jobs report, only 75,000 jobs are added in the month of May, unemployment, though, does remain low at just 3.6 percent.

CNN political commentator Catherine Rampell is a columnist for "The Washington Post." And Lindsey Piegza is chief economist at Stifel, Nicolaus & Company, a wealth management and investment banking firm.

So, ladies, good to have both of you on.

And, Lindsey, just starting with you, when you look at the May jobs report, do you think this is an indication that the trade war is hitting more of Main Street than Wall Street? Or do you think it's just sort of like everyone's tapping the brakes just to see what happens?

LINDSEY PIEGZA, ECONOMIST: Well, I think it's very clear that the U.S. economy was losing momentum for some time going into this second round trade war with Mexico.

Now, of course, there is a compounded level of uncertainty that is making businesses pull back, if they hadn't already, as a result of the ongoing trade war with China. This certainly has caused some businesses to say, wait a minute, let's wait until we know exactly what's going to happen, and then we can make further decisions.

So I do think there was some underlying weakness that's now coming to the forefront even more so with the latest move from the White House.

BALDWIN: What about Congress, Catherine? What about Republicans? What about speaking up and making sure they have a veto-proof majority on this very issue?

CATHERINE RAMPELL, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, that's the question here, right?

These weak numbers reflect what businesses were doing before Trump announced that he was potentially going to raise tariffs on Mexican goods, which would cause a lot more damage most likely than all of the trade actions that we have seen so far, precisely because there's so many businesses that rely on sort of a seamless, unfettered ability to trade across the U.S.-Mexico border.


RAMPELL: So Republicans have been a little bit non-confrontational thus far, but it could be really damaging to legislators who are from border states, but even legislators from states that aren't on the border, but are still reliant on that supply chain.

So they might decide maybe now's the time to step up and say something.

BALDWIN: And, to me, it's also, big picture -- you and I have talked about this, but I'm curious your perspective, whether it's the tariffs on Mexico or how he's threatening to slap more tariffs on Chinese imports, like, what message does this send to our other trading partners, to other countries around the world in terms of doing business with the U.S., if this is how we're treating them?

PIEGZA: Well, I think the Trump administration is trying to send the message that they want a level playing field. And this is really where the politics comes up to the economics.

It's going to be difficult for the Trump administration to sell to the American public that the long-term potential gain is more than going to offset the short-term pain. And that's really the message and that's the selling point that they're going to have to convince, because when we look at leveling the playing field with China, the idea is to protect U.S. intellectual property, protect U.S. goods from counterfeit abroad.

When it comes to Mexico, the Trump administration's trying to force an orderly immigration process. These are long-term benefits for the U.S. economy. But, in the short term, tariffs could be very painful. Any time you talk about restricting the free flow of capital goods, labor...

BALDWIN: Small businesses.

PIEGZA: ... this will result in a net loss of productive capacity, access to international goods.

This is a net drain on the economy in the short term.

RAMPELL: I would argue that, even in the long term, it's quite damaging because we have so much more uncertainty that's been injected into the economy.



RAMPELL: And beyond that, we had a deal with Mexico, right? We had a deal that Trump signed, that Mexico and Canada signed as well. It hasn't yet been ratified.

And despite that, Trump said, you know what, forget it. I'm still going to impose tariffs anyway.

So if he wants China to come to the table and make serious concessions, what would...


BALDWIN: What's the incentive if they're seeing what is happening with Mexico? RAMPELL: What's the incentive, right, right, if they think that they can have a handshake deal, or they can have a signed deal, for that matter, and he will go back on his word?


RAMPELL: So I think in terms of the longer-term goal of restructuring, for example, the Chinese economy and our relationship with China, this is also damaging.

BALDWIN: What do you guys think about -- I want to ask about the Fed.

That the Fed -- if the Fed reduces damage from tariffs by lowering rates -- and lowering rates is precisely what this president has been wanting, right? Would that not be enabling the president's policy, if the Fed chooses to do that?

PIEGZA: Well, I think we have to give the Federal Reserve a little more credit that they're not going to bend to the whims of the market or the president.

And to be fair, this isn't something that's particular to the Trump administration. There isn't an administration in history that hasn't wanted lower rates to continue...


BALDWIN: Of course, but is the president going to see it that way?

PIEGZA: Well, we don't know. He might say that he got his way. But I do think that the Fed is going to be looking at growth and inflation. And if they see growth and inflation falter, for whatever reasons, be that tariffs or a slowdown in the global economy, I do think they will take action.

But they have been very clear that they're digging in their heels. They want to make sure that the data isn't a one-off decline.


PIEGZA: So this morning's employment report was not enough to force the Fed's hand. They're going to open the conversation to it. But it's very unlikely that they act in June, maybe September, more likely December.

BALDWIN: What do you think, same question?

RAMPELL: I think the Fed is in a very difficult position right now, because their congressional mandate, their legislative mandate is maximum employment and stable prices. It's not to bother with trade policy. It's not to bother with fiscal policy.

So they're a little bit constrained in how much they can worry about signaling to Trump that he should just go full-bore with these trade wars, right? I mean, they can't really take that into consideration. They have to -- they have to just look at what the data say. And if the data suggests that we're having a slowdown or job growth is faltering or what have you, they have to respond to that.

They can't worry about what incentives they're setting for this president. I mean, what are they going to do? They're going to punish Trump by sending us into recession? That's not on the table.

BALDWIN: Right. No, of course not. Of course not.

RAMPELL: So, they're in a difficult position right now.

PIEGZA: Well, they can also justify a rate reduction by looking at earlier data, saying, even before the tariffs, it was very clear the U.S. consumer was pulling back, it was very clear that business investment was slowing, inflation numbers have been muted.

Then, on top of that, you layer the ongoing trade negotiations or the deteriorating trade relations. So they do have justification looking at the data independent of trade.


PIEGZA: And I think that will give them enough cover.

RAMPELL: And other international risks, of course.

PIEGZA: Exactly, exactly. Of course, Brexit. We haven't even talked about Brexit. So...


BALDWIN: Talk to my husband. He's English. I got plenty of time for you on that.

Lindsey and Catherine, thank you very much. I appreciate it.

RAMPELL: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Now to this story, this near collision in international waters that has U.S. military officials condemning Russia.

CNN received this U.S. Navy video that shows a Russian destroyer almost colliding with the U.S.-guided missile cruiser. This is the Philippine Sea. The warship came within 50 to 100 feet of the USS Chancellorsville, which was in the process of recovering a helicopter.

The U.S. ship had to take emergency action to avoid the Russian craft. Russia's Pacific Fleet is denying the U.S. account and they say that it was the American ship that instigated the incident.

CNN senior national correspondent Alex Marquardt is with me now.

And so, Alex -- Alex, what more do just by looking at this video?

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brooke more than anything else, when you look at this video, this was a very, very close incident. As you say, the U.S. Navy says that that Russian ship came within 50

to 100 feet. The Russians are saying it was more like 160 feet. That doesn't really matter when you're talking about these two warships that are thousands of tons each.

They both say that they had to take emergency maneuvers in order to avoid hitting the other. The U.S. Navy is saying that the USS Chancellorsville was on a straight course, that it was going in a straight line, because it was landing a helicopter, recovering a helicopter, they say.

That's a complicated maneuver. So you have to stay at a set steady speed, you have to go in a straight line. The Russians, however, are saying that the USS Chancellorsville crossed -- turned and crossed their wake in front of their destroyer.

Now, the video that we are seeing from the U.S. Navy, which we're showing right there, the U.S. Navy points to that wake. You can see the big wake behind that Russian ship there. That, they say, indicates that the Russian ship took a strong turn, kicking up that wake, indicating, in their view, that this was a provocative action taken by the Russians.

One of the things we should note that you can notice from this video is that there were actually Russian sailors that were sunbathing on the back of that destroyer.


BALDWIN: They were taken by surprise.

MARQUARDT: They were taken by surprise. They're out there in international waters, clearly not doing anything too important.


But this is a very serious international incident.

BALDWIN: There they are.

MARQUARDT: This is not something that -- these ships out there under maritime law are supposed to keep within about 1,000 yards of each other.

The U.S. has responded. The acting secretary of defense, Patrick Shanahan, says that he will be taking it up with his Russian counterparts in Moscow at a military-to-military level -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: We know that, Alex, this happened in the Philippine Sea just off the coast from China, but it happens just as President Xi and Russian President Vladimir Putin are having this high-stakes meeting.


BALDWIN: Is there any kind of -- is there any way that could be related? MARQUARDT: This is an important point because oftentimes when you

talk to the U.S. Navy or to U.S. military experts, they will say that the -- that the Russians will show hostility towards American ships when it's in their sphere of influence, when it's off of Russia.

This was nowhere near Russia. This was in the Philippine Sea. This was close to China. And so when we see this rapprochement between the Chinese and the Russians, when you see each Chinese President Xi Jinping talking about how close Russia and China are while he's in Russia this week, that lends experts to believe that this is -- this is Russia showing the Chinese that they're willing to sort of act on their behalf, that they are willing to harass American military assets now in a Chinese sphere of influence, as well as off of Russia -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: Alex Marquardt, thank you very much.

Next: Biden backtracks -- why the front-runner in the Democratic race for president is reversing his stance on abortion funding.

Plus, a morbid fascination. Columbine High School officials are considering tearing the building down. Is that the right thing to do? We will talk to the superintendent coming up.

And terrifying images of a lesbian couple beaten and bloodied during this homophobic attack. Arrests have been made. We have those details coming up.

You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.



BALDWIN: We're back. It's Friday. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

Joe Biden, Joe Biden reverses course on the Hyde Amendment after decades of supporting it. Just this past week, his campaign made a point of reiterating Biden's support for the controversial measure that prevents federal funds from being used to pay for abortions, except under limited circumstances.

But then, last night, this happened:


JOSEPH 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 right, as I do, I can no longer support an amendment that makes that right dependent on someone's zip code.



BALDWIN: Now, CNN has reporting that it was pressure from women working within the Biden campaign who made the difference.

Will that defuse criticism he's made here?

CNN senior political commentator and former Obama senior adviser David Axelrod is with me.

David Axelrod, happy Friday to you.


BALDWIN: On this issue, earlier today, you called this an awkward flip-flop flip. What did you mean by that?

And how does our new reporting about women within the campaign helping change his mind maybe alter your opinion?

AXELROD: Well, we have to look at the sequence of events. What happened was, the vice president was campaigning some time ago, and a woman stopped him and asked whether he would support repealing the Hyde Amendment. He said he would and then she asked him again. And he repeated that he would, because she wanted to make sure that he understood what the question was.

And the next day, the campaign denied that he had changed his position and said he had misheard the question. And then a day after that, he goes back to the position he had when he answered the question that that woman had asked him.

I think the things that would worry me from the perspective of the Biden camp are a few. One is, this is going to happen recurrently, that he has positions that he's taken in a different political era, at a different time, that he's going to have to either defend or change. That's one concern.

Why they didn't see this one coming is a little bewildering. They had a long time to prepare for this. And you would think they would have gone back and looked at all of these positions and talked through how they were going to handle these questions.

And then there is this issue of him speaking to that voter and having the campaign say, no, he misheard. And I think this is a particular vulnerability for him. He is 76. He would be by years in leaps and bounds the oldest president to take office if he does get elected.

And this has been a question. And so you don't want your campaign saying on fundamental issues he misheard the question when the questioner asked him twice, because that raises a whole 'nother set of questions.

So I think he probably flopped on to the right side here in terms of the politics, and there may not be a lingering effect of this in terms of this particular issue. But there are systemic issues about the campaign and his performance that should be a cause for concern. And they have to tighten up the ship there.



I wanted to also ask you about Nancy Pelosi and her tough talk earlier this week. Maybe it was an effort to placate her, we will call it the impeachment caucus. She's been reluctant on impeachment, talking about Trump and how he should be in prison.

David, if you were advising the speaker, would you have advised to use that language?

AXELROD: Probably not.

But I have some experience, having been in the White House when she was speaker the last time. And one thing I know is that she uses these kinds of things as -- she throws red meat out there as she's trying to corral her caucus. And she was trying to forestall move toward impeachment.

And she is a master at working her caucus and knows what she -- I don't think she was doing that for public consumption. She might have known that it would leak out. But I think she was doing it mostly to keep the caucus online.

BALDWIN: For the Democrats.

AXELROD: And she is, as I said, very good.

The president said she was out of control or she's nervous. I think his concern is that she's very much in control. And part of that is her knowledge of how to push the buttons within her own caucus.

BALDWIN: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.

Tomorrow night, you have a new episode of "THE AXE FILES." Your guest is former Defense Secretary and former CIA Director Robert Gates, who has a lot to say about this president and his fondness -- fondness for tariffs.

Let's play a clip.


AXELROD: Let me ask you about a few quick tariffs. The president has used them, I don't know if the word liberally is the right way to say it, but we're in a trade war with China. He's now brandishing them to Mexico, not as a matter of trade, but to try and influence their policies on immigration.

Is this a winning strategy? ROBERT GATES, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: First of all, on China, I think that I give the administration credit for challenging the Chinese and being tough on those issues. And hanging tough, I think, makes a lot of sense.

The United States has not for 30 years, for all practical purposes, used economic leverage for geopolitical or geostrategic reasons. I mean, my view is -- well, for openers, I think it's strategically unwise to antagonize every country in the world simultaneously

I think we ought to establish some priorities. We ought to understand the critical nature of the trading relationship with both Canada and Mexico...

AXELROD: Number one trading partner, yes.

GATES: ... and realize the disruption that that will cause.

I just think we're applying them too broadly to too many countries all at the same time. And it's not clear what the priorities are or what the long-term strategy is. And in some cases, it's not clear precisely what the outcome is.

I mean, one of the criticisms of the imposition of these tariffs on Mexico is, so what specifically, what are the benchmarks for Mexico? What has to change to pull the tariffs back? And that's not clear.


BALDWIN: Now, obviously, Mr. Gates is a longtime Republican, but he seems to be in this growing chorus of Republicans who are at odds with President Trump on trade policy.

How do you think was ends?

AXELROD: You know, the former defense secretary deploys words like strategic weaponry very, very carefully.

And the words that I thought were most striking there was, we can't antagonize every country in the world simultaneously. And I think he was making a broader statement, not just about tariffs, but about the general approach to foreign policy of this administration.

He accepted this interview. I have been -- I called him and asked him to do it. And I didn't know whether he accept it. When he did without hesitance, it seemed to me that he had some things on his mind that he wanted to share.

And you will see, if you watch the show tomorrow night, that this wasn't the only critique that he had of this president and his direction. And I think this is something that he wanted to impart.

BALDWIN: He wanted to come on, and he wanted to talk about it. I hear you.

We will tune in. It is "THE AXE FILES" with David Axelrod. We will watch for the full interview with former Secretary Gates. That is tomorrow night 7:00 right here on CNN.

David Axelrod, thank you, thank you.

AXELROD: Thanks, Brooke. Have a great...

BALDWIN: Thank you. You too.

Coming up next: romanticizing and idealizing student killers. Colorado school officials now considering tearing down Columbine High School because of the morbid fascination around it. Will they go through with it? Should they go through with it?

I will talk to the superintendent live next.



BALDWIN: Concerned about the morbid fascination with Columbine High School, school district officials in Colorado are now considering tearing down the school where that mass shooting back in 1999 left 12 students and one teacher dead.

Twenty years later, instead of interest fading, school district officials are becoming alarmed by the growing obsession with Columbine. The district says a record number of individuals have tried to get into the school illegally or trespass on the property just this past year.

In a letter to the community, the district superintendent says this -- quote -- "The tragedy at Columbine High School in 1999.