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Trump Defends Mexico Deal as Criticism Intensifies; Trump: China Getting Decimated by Tariffs/Trade War with U.S.; Report Raises Conflict-of-Interest Questions About Kushner; Soon, Watergate Witness John Dean Testifies on Capitol Hill as Democrats Divided Over Impeachment; California Wildfire Forces Hundreds to Evacuate. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired June 10, 2019 - 11:30   ET



[11:30:00] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES (voice-over): They couldn't believe how stupid we were with what's going on, where somebody comes in from Mexico and just walks right into our country and we're powerless to do anything.

Whereas, they have very strong immigration laws. They don't have to take anybody. They can say, "out, you get." So we're going to be essentially using, to a large extent, the very powerful immigration laws of Mexico.


ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: There's also one part of the deal that the U.S. was not able to get from the Mexicans. That is making Mexico a safe third country, which would have meant people coming from Central America had to claim asylum in Mexico first before coming to the United States.

It would have effectively reduced the number of Central American migrants who are coming up through Mexico on foot from being able to claim asylum once they step foot on U.S. grounds. That was something President Trump really wanted.

The Trump administration has been trying really hard to get some changes to the asylum process. They were not able to get that from Mexico. That was a major concession that Mexico refused to make as part of this deal as well.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: And yet, the president is lingering out there that there's some secret part of the deal they have yet to announce but it will be announced in coming days, keeping with the trend of how the president talks about things like this and everything.

Good to see you, Abby. Thank you so much.

Joining me now, because there's a lot to discuss is CNN politics and business correspondent, Cristina Alesci, and CNN politics reporter and editor-at-large, Chris Cillizza. Cristina, it seems clear the "New York Times" reporting got under the

president's skin. Look no further than his Twitter feed, and also more so on the CNBC interview. There was a lot he said in this, not only that they tried for 20 years, and we got what they tried for 20 years in two days, but it expands beyond that, that requires fact checking.

What's your take on one bit of this?


BOLDUAN: Right now, China is getting decimated by companies leaving China, going to other countries, including our own, because they don't want to pay tariffs. He continues so on and so forth. Put this all in perspective, please.

ALESCI: That's one thing that really stood out to me, is that he took this opportunity to really spin this false narrative that the Chinese are getting decimated by the tariffs and the trade war between the U.S. and China, and the U.S. is coming out unscathed. That is simply not true.

We have economists across the board lowering U.S. economic growth forecasts because of the trade war, because companies in the U.S. and consumers are paying for these tariffs. And if he moves ahead and makes good on his thread to impose additional tariffs, that would be additionally detrimental to the U.S. economy.

The other thing he did do in this interview was vilify the business community. You see this, time and time again, with Trump. Anytime someone comes out and disagrees with his policies, he tends to vilify them.

This time, it was the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which is one of the most powerful lobby groups in D.C., representing major U.S. employers. And he said they better start representing the United States. He's trying to pressure them into being silenced.

When Trump announced the tariffs on Mexico, they came out and said this is the wrong decision. We're going to explore legal options. Trump did not like that. Now he's trying to say, hey, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce isn't sticking up for the little guy.

BOLDUAN: When you just said that, that reminded me, the pressuring them into silence, that's exactly how farmers -- I spoke to a farmer in Iowa, Cristina, who said the exact same thing when Trump was saying about the China tariffs, that the farmers are patriots, so they can handle it. That's exactly what one of the farmers said, that's him trying to pressure us to stay silent. He said he wouldn't. It's so interesting you picked up on that as well.

But, Chris, the president is not backing down on this, saying when we look specifically at the Mexico deal, if you will, saying that this Mexico deal is a really big victory. When you're looking at this and the president's trend in the past, is it possible to measure that yet?


BOLDUAN: If this is a victory or something else manufactured?

CILLIZZA: No. And, Kate, don't just look at his time in office in which he's done this government shutdown, most recent government shutdown being a prime example. Go look back -- and Cristina knows this better than I do. But go look back at Donald Trump's business career. There's any number of examples in which Donald Trump either has a push in terms of a deal or loses a deal, and he just proclaims victory immediately afterward and keeps saying he won.

He believes it's a self-fulfilling prophecy, that really all this is, is P.R., so people aren't going to know all the specifics.

If you say, hey, look, I said Mexico needed to cut down on the number of people trying to cross into our country, and if not, I'm going to raise these tariffs, and they did it, the average person is not going to go back and say, well, actually, a number of these provisions were negotiated beforehand.

Yes, he got 6,000 troops, Mexican troops on the border, is more than might have happened before. The average person is not going to engage in that level. It's true in the business world. Definitely true in the political world. Trump knows that and takes advantage of it.

In some ways, he doesn't care what's in the deal. All he cares is he and seize on it and say, see, I won, and he knows the average person is not going to dig in and say, eh. There's a lot more gray area there.

[11:35:07] BOLDUAN: You guys both kind of hitting on this. You have seen this with the president before. We were talking about it even last week leading up to this. Could this be the president starting a fire, starting the fire in order to just put it out himself or be perceived to be putting it out in order to proclaim victory?

That, I guess, unless we see if there's more secret deal to the deal, we have to wait to judge.

CILLIZZA: Look, this is what he does. I'm the only one who can fix this. See, I fixed it. Now, then you go back, people go back, historians and journalists go back and say, well, if you look at the details, it's not clear this was a direct result of his actions. Or that it's even fixed. But by then, he's on to the next tweet. He's on to the next thing.

So he, in his own mind, and, honestly, for a lot of his supporters, he's won that. It doesn't really matter. He creates a lot of times -- not always, but a lot of times he creates false crises. Says he solved them without evidence whether he has or not and moves on and claims victory.

BOLDUAN: Go ahead, Cristina.

ALESCI: What is remarkable really in that process that Chris just laid out is that he's able to silence the people who initially got in his way. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is a perfect example. I'm going to harp on this because I reached out for comment from them this morning twice. I have not heard from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

It seems like not only does he spin this narrative and get his "wins," quote/unquote, but he also is very successful in putting the Republicans at bay, in putting the U.S. business community at bay and, in some cases, even journalists at bay.

It's part of a larger narrative with him. And it's really remarkable how he's able to silence critics by pressuring them publicly.

BOLDUAN: Cristina, great to see you.

Chris, it's great to see you.

Thanks, guys.

CILLIZZA: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Coming up next, a new report raises new questions about Jared Kushner's business dealings. Is the president's son-in-law and White House senior adviser profiting from his time in Washington? The details coming up.


[11:41:41] BOLDUAN: A new report is raising new concerns about the president's son-in-law and senior adviser, and his business deals. "The Guardian" reports that Jared Kushner is still a part owner of a company, which received $90 million in foreign money through off-shore accounts, which means the true source behind that tens of millions of dollars remains secret, of course.

And importantly here, at least in part, is the timing. That money has all come in since 2017, after President Trump took office and after Jared Kushner, of course, became a top White House official.

What does this mean for Kushner? And what role does this play, if any role, in the fight between Congress and the White House over Kushner's security clearance now?

Joining me right now is Jon Swaine. He's the senior reporter at "The Guardian," who broke this story.

Thanks for being here, Jon. I really appreciate it. And thanks for bringing your reporting.

Lay it out for us. What did you find?

JON SWAINE, SENIOR REPORTER, THE GUARDIAN: Cadre is a real estate company that Jared Kushner owns $50 million or so stake in. What we found is that Cadre has been raising millions of dollars to invest in real estate across the United States. It buys up apartment blocks, office buildings.

And as you mentioned, $90 million of that we found has come from foreigners, from people who are not from the United States. And that money has come by the Cayman Islands, by this offshore vehicle that helps keep the origins of the money secret.

And government experts that we talked to say this raises concerns because, as you mentioned, Jared Kushner is a senior adviser to his father-in-law in the White House.

We don't know who these investors are. Do they have business in front of the U.S. government? Do they have business in the Middle East where Jared Kushner has been trying to broker a peace plan? Are they positioned in any way that Jared Kushner could help them, could benefit them from his job in the government?

BOLDUAN: The issue here isn't the practice. You make it clear in your reporting that the deal between Cadre, Goldman Sachs, offshore entities that is legal.

The issues you're laying out is you have a senior government official with influence and who represents the Trump administration around the world making a profit off of foreign investments. Is Kushner saying anything about this?

SWAINE: He refused to answer our questions. His lawyer didn't respond to us. Cadre wouldn't talk to us on the record. Goldman Sachs has said there's nothing wrong here, that everything is legal, that they vet their investors very carefully, and everyone is all above board.

But the thing is it's worth remembering here is this is unusual. Governments before the Trump administration did not tend to go into government still owning all these complicated business interests. They would sell them off. This happened under George W. Bush, under Bill Clinton, under President Obama.

They would sell off their assets, liquidate them, put them into blind trusts so there was no possibility their work in government could be shaped by outside interests.

Donald Trump and Jared Kushner and others have declined to do that. They said we're going to carry on. We're going to have these interests. And it leaves questions unanswered.

BOLDUAN: These questions, it's nearly impossible, if there's even a slim possibility of finding out where the money comes from, and the influence that would be had because of it.

But one thing I'm interested in, is we know Kushner was initially denied his White House security clearance. Some of the reporting is that it was over potential conflicts of interest, potential foreign influence. That was one of the concerns. Now you have Congress and the White House at loggerheads in a fight over this.

Do you have any suggest or any of your reporting that suggests this dealing is part of it?

[11:45:11] SWAINE: We don't know for sure. But as you say, there has been a whistleblower who has spoken to Congress, spoken to the Democratic House committees who are looking into this, and she said specifically the reason Jared Kushner was denied this clearance was for his business interests and possible external influence those business interests pose.

It's possible this -- it's possible another business interest that Jared Kushner has retained is part of the problem. But it sort of highlights the problem we're facing, which is we don't know.


SWAINE: He has so many complicated interests and so many different companies and corporate entities, in Delaware and the Cayman Islands, and all over the place, that it's hard to keep track of all of the interests that he does have. And I think --

BOLDUAN: It's something we have talked about over and over again, since him getting into the administration, is people have had complicated business interests, if you will, in the past but, in the past, they have split very cleanly or put things in a blind trust, very cleanly, so there isn't any appearance of any possibility or suggestion of any problem there. And that's what's different that we're seeing here.

SWAINE: That's right.

BOLDUAN: Thank you, Jon. Thank you for bringing your reporting.

SWAINE: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: We really appreciate it.

Coming up for us, he was the star witness of the Watergate hearings. Today, John Dean is back on Capitol Hill for another round of hearings, about another president, all over the Mueller report. More on that, next.


[11:51:22] BOLDUAN: Forty-six years after his testimony helped bring down President Richard Nixon, John Dean is headed back to Capitol Hill. The former White House counsel, who is forever tied to the Watergate scandal for advising President Nixon, and after his explosive testimony to Congress.

Dean is set to testify in a couple of hours before the House Judiciary Committee. This time, about the Mueller report. It's part of a new series of hearings that House Democrats are holding to dig into the report just this week.

CNN's Manu Raju is on Capitol Hill and is following this for us.

Manu, what are you hearing from members ahead of this hearing?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Democrats are trying to begin their real challenge here of shining a spotlight on the Mueller report, something they believe that not enough American people have actually digested what's in there, so they are having a series of hearings beginning with this one. And also other committees, including the House Intelligence Committees, plan to look into other aspects of the Mueller report.

But, Kate, this all comes amid the party's divide about whether or not to launch a formal impeachment inquiry, to begin that process, an investigation before deciding whether to vote on articles of impeachment.

The Democrats are still not on the same page on that, including on this very committee, the House Judiciary Committee, where I talked to one member, Jamie Raskin, just moments ago, who made this case for launching an impeachment inquiry.


REP.JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): It's necessary to launch an impeachment inquiry because Special Counsel Mueller gave us detailed accounting of 10 different episodes of presidential obstruction of justice and so the president repeatedly tried to interfere in the ongoing criminal investigation.


RAJU: Behind the scenes the House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler has supported launching an impeachment inquiry. He's actually made the case to Nancy Pelosi that would centralize everything before his committee, the House Judiciary Committee.

Now, one member who is not on that committee, Ro Khanna, who I spoke with earlier today, make the case that that doesn't make a lot of sense, siding with Pelosi.


RAJU: Why not an impeachment inquiry to begin the investigation?

REP. RO KHANNA (D-CA): Well, I think we already have six committees that are doing incredible work. If you begin an inquiry, then you limit it to just the Judiciary Committee.

I think the speaker believes we're going to be more effective having six different inquiries of this president. And we can get most of the information through the courts. And that's going to be the case whether you have an impeachment inquiry or not. You still have to go to court.


RAJU: That is the same argument that Nancy Pelosi has been making behind the scenes.

She will return to Washington today, and they will meet with their members tomorrow amid this debate internally. But it will be interesting to hear at this hearing today, Kate, how

the members on that committee, House Judiciary Committee, that would oversee an impeachment inquiry, how they discuss this as they hear John Dean's testimony -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: Yes. That's definitely something to listen for in the hearing.

Good to see you, Manu. Thanks.

[11:54:06] Coming up for us, new evacuations are under way as fire crews struggle to contain a fast-moving wildfire in California. It's already scorched 2,000 acres so far. We'll take you live to the fire zone. That's next.


BOLDUAN: Hundreds of firefighters are battling fires across California right now. Mandatory evacuations are being ordered. And folks there will also be looking at record-breaking heat. A heat wave coming in that could make conditions even worse. The opposite of what they need right now.

CNN's Dan Simon is in Yolo County with fire crews and he joins me now.

Dan, what are you seeing and hear there today?

DAN SIMON, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Kate. This fire, known as the Sand Fire, is the first big one to hit northern California this year. Right now, it's had about 2,200 acres. It did not grow overnight, so that is the good news. It's also a 30 percent containment.

What's especially noteworthy about this particular fire is that PG&E, the power utility, cut power to about 20,000 customers simply as a preventive measure to prevent other wildfires from breaking out. This is the first time the utility has ever done so much.

Of course, they are under tremendous pressure after the utility was found to have caused the fire in Paradise, which destroyed the town last year where you have 85 people who died where that will happen continually over the summer.

[12:00:06] Kate, we'll send it back to you.

BOLDUAN: All right Dan, thank you so much. Watching those pictures. Always so scary out there.