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White House Press Briefing; Dow Surges; Republican Senator Condemns President Trump; Interview With Minnesota Congressman Tim Walz. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired February 6, 2018 - 15:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[15:00:12]

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: We're back with the breaking news. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

Moments from now -- live pictures there inside that Briefing Room at the White House. That briefing is set to begin.

We are getting breaking news, actually, on multiple fronts over this negotiation on so-called dreamers.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who has been at the center of the DACA negotiations, has just told reporters that he is becoming -- quote -- "increasingly pessimistic" about immigration reform.

Also moments ago, President Trump weighed in, saying this another possible government shutdown:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're going to get it done. Frankly, I will go a step further. If we don't change the legislation, if we don't get rid of these loopholes where killers are allowed to come into our country and continue to kill, gang members -- and we're just talking about MS-13.

There are many gang members that we don't even mention. If we don't change it, let's have a shutdown. We will do a shutdown. And it's worth it for our country. I would love to see a shutdown if we don't get this stuff taken care of.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: We're going to come back to in just a second.

But here is Republican Senator Jeff Flake on the floor about to call out the president.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

SEN. JEFF FLAKE (R), ARIZONA: And if we are numb to such words, then we will surely regret that we failed to defend our colleagues in the Congress against such a vile remark.

But our silence will also mark the day that we failed to recognize that this conduct in an American president simply is not normal.

I wish I could stand here today and say that my words of last October have been proven wrong, that I had been unfair to inveigh against the daily sundering against our country, that I had been mistaken about the personal attacks, that I have exaggerated the threats against principles, freedoms and institutions, the flagrant disregard for truth and decency, the reckless provocations, most often for the pettiest and most personal reasons, reasons that have nothing whatsoever to do with the fortunes of people that we have all been elected to serve.

I wish I could say that I have been wrong, but I cannot. I have seen the president's most ardent defenders use the now weary argument that the president's comments were meant as a joke, just sarcasm, only tongue-in-cheek.

But treason is not a punchline, Mr. President. The president said that the State of the Union address was meant to promote and encourage unity in government. Then why follow up less than a week later with this divisive and harmful rhetoric?

Unity is not secured in a speech. It must be pursued constantly through appropriate behavior, mutual respect and gained by effective leadership.

Mr. President, respect is earned, not commanded. Applause signals approval of an idea, not loyalty to one's country. Our Democratic colleagues love this country as much as we do. To suggest otherwise is simply unconscionable.

None of us in Congress pledge loyalty or service to the president. This is not a royal court. Our oath is to the Constitution and to the people.

As members of Congress, we must never accept undignified discourse as normal because of the requirements of tribal party politics. None of this behavior should ever be regarded as normal.

We must never allow ourselves to lapse into thinking that this is just the way things are now. We will get through this period. And when we do, we will look back at the destruction of our discourse and the attacks on our Democratic values as nothing but a tragedy.

May we also be able to say that they were an aberration. But that, my colleagues, is up to us. We must recognize that this is abhorrent, destructive behavior, whatever rationale its defenders may offer.

And we must never shrink from opposing it, for it is in the opposing this behavior that we defend our norms, our ideals and our values. It is in opposing this behavior that we stand for decency.

Thank you, Mr. President.

I yield the floor.

BALDWIN: So, Senator Flake there, you heard him. "Treason is not a punchline, Mr. President."

Let's stay on Capitol Hill.

Joining me now, Democratic Congressman Tim Walz, who is also the highest ranking enlisted soldier ever to serve in Congress.

So, thank you so much, sir, for being with me. And thank you for your service.

[15:05:02]

REP. TIM WALZ (D), MINNESOTA: Well, thank you, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Let me begin, just to go back for a second. This was originally what the president said:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They were like death and un-American, un-American. Somebody said treasonous. I mean, yes, I guess. Why not?

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: Can we call that treason? Why not. I mean, they certainly didn't seem to love our country very much.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Congressman, what is your reaction to the president calling you un-American and treasonous?

WALZ: Well, the president clearly doesn't understand the founding principles of this nation.

Literally, the reason the Revolutionary War was fought is to question those, to be able to speak your mind. And to hear the president say it -- and, again, I know so often -- and I thank Senator Flake for those beautiful words -- that people say, it's just the president saying that.

You cannot go to that point. As I said, I did not serve 24 years in uniform to be called treasonous for simply standing up for my principles. I served in that so that my fellow Americans can criticize who and when they want to in peaceful protest.

So, this behavior has to stop. And I was saying earlier one of my biggest frustrations was that my Republican colleagues were not speaking out. And once again, Jeff Flake, a former colleague and friend of mine, did speak out. So, I'm grateful for that.

BALDWIN: Sarah Sanders says the president was joking, Congressman. What do you make of that?

WALZ: Well, I don't have much humor for the president after everything he has said. And you certainly don't joke about elected officials representing people simply disagreeing with your policies on principle.

The president has no understanding of that. And I said those of us who served together in uniform -- I served with people from all walks of life, all faiths, all economic backgrounds, all political persuasions, but that democracy is solid there.

And we know that's not a place where you question people. So, I don't find it funny. I think the American people don't. Again, I'm grateful for Senator Flake's expressing the foundational principle of this.

These are people -- and what's dangerous about this is, you see here in Minnesota I have got Republican legislators trying to forward bills that are anti-protest bills, trying to stifle people's opinion to speak out. That cannot stand.

And if it starts with the president, and if they think it's normal to call treasonous and traitorous to this nation simply because I disagree with his policies, that's a line that can't be crossed.

BALDWIN: This goes back to the State of the Union. It goes back to folks in your party not standing up, when he was talking about, let's say, the unemployment numbers improving. And help us understand why Democrats didn't get up and applaud? The likes of Democrat Senator Joe Manchin said about his own party that it was disrespectful.

What would you say to the Joe Manchins of the world?

WALZ: Well, each of us choose on our -- where we stand on those things.

I think, for many us, the president takes things out of context. The unemployment rate for African-Americans decreased in half under President Obama. And it went one point. We're happy with that. We're glad with that.

But this is a president that stands on policies that he wasn't there to craft, that he didn't help make happen, and then uses them as a political wedge against us.

Saying that because we want to get a long-term budget, we don't stand with the troops, that's a line again that he cannot cross. Or watching the vice president traveling to talk in front of soldiers on foreign soil at a time of war and blame Democrats for the shutdown and why not they're not getting paid, that's why we don't stand.

That's why we don't encourage the behavior. If the president wanted to come to us and say, together, we have worked on policies that have made a difference, he will get the applause on the issues that bring us together. But this president has proven he can't, and then the day after the speech go out and say we're treasonous for disagreeing with his plan that says...

(CROSSTALK)

WALZ: No, please, go ahead. BALDWIN: On the shutdown, though, Congressman Walz, you mentioned it.

And I don't know if you heard the president, what he has just said in this roundtable, where he's reacting. He's saying he would -- his words -- "I would love another shutdown" if essentially simply Democrats don't meet his immigration demands. "I would love another shutdown."

WALZ: Well, no one else would.

This hurts people. It's dysfunctional. This is an absolute failure of leadership. I understand this that you don't get everything you want. I understand you compromise to get things that make a difference.

This is something, again, the president's tendency to lean towards totalitarianism, his tendency to believe it's my way or no way, and again with the treasonous line, it's my way or you are against the country, and it's that type of behavior that has us into this place that Americans hate.

Compromise to get things done. Build some roads. Fix health care. Deal with comprehensive immigration. But don't simply question someone's love of the country and then say he would love a shutdown.

He will get what he wants on some of these things, but the American people certainly won't.

BALDWIN: Congressman Tim Walz, thank you so much.

The direct quote from the president: "Let's have a shutdown. We will do a shutdown. And it's worth it for our country. I would love to see a shutdown."

Gloria Borger standing by, our chief political analyst, here to also respond to that kind of language from the president.

[15:10:03]

Why would he say that?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, look, I think from his point of view, it's probably a negotiating ploy.

BALDWIN: Sort of an opening move?

BORGER: Yes, an opening move. And he probably feels, with some justification, that the shutdown last time was a political fizzle for the Democrats, which it was, that they didn't get anything out of it.

So, he's probably thinking, why not do it again? But if you put take -- if you that political explanation aside, this is the president of the United States calling for the government to shut down, which is kind of astonishing.

I don't recall any president in -- that I can recall ever saying, gee, I think a shutdown would be great for the country. The shutdown is not great for the country.

And the president -- you can pick a tweet over the last 10 years, the president always saying before he was president that shutdowns are bad and the president ought to be blamed for them. So, he has a history of being all over the lot on this. This is political.

But, again, it's sort of another indication that he hasn't grown into the office, that saying it as president is a very different thing from saying it as a candidate or a private citizen.

BALDWIN: Maybe Sarah Sanders is about to tell us he was joking on this, too, although I don't think anyone is laughing.

BORGER: Right.

BALDWIN: Let me get to other non-laughing matter coming out of the White House today, this coming from the chief of staff, John Kelly, talking about immigration, talking about dreamers.

Here you go.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN KELLY, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: There are 690,000 official DACA registrants.

And the president sent over what amounts to be two-and-a-half times that number to 1.8 million. The difference between 690,000 and 1.8 million were the people that some would say were too afraid to sign up, others would say were too lazy to get off their asses, but they didn't sign up.

So, the president shockingly said, OK, 1.8 million, and then probably the biggest shock was and a path to citizenship. That's beyond what anyone could have imagined.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Too lazy and get off your asses.

BORGER: John Kelly has surprised a lot of people since he has been chief of staff at the White House.

And I think the best advice might be to keep John Kelly sort of out of that range of answering questions off the cuff because, he tends to embarrass himself and he tends to embarrass the White House.

I think there are different ways of describing the discrepancy between the 700,000 DACA, or dreamers, we know about and perhaps the larger number that are in this country. And what he was trying to describe was the fact that the president put everything on the table, and the Democrats didn't give anything.

I think clearly this was a very inartful way to do it and won't gain any brownie points from any of those voters who were looking for some hope here on dreamers. BALDWIN: No, maybe the base would say, attaboy, but words matter,

words matter.

BORGER: Yes, absolutely.

BALDWIN: Gloria, thank you so much.

BORGER: We are all standing by for that White House briefing.

But, first, let's get to the resistance in this Russia investigation. Lawyers for President Trump are advising him not to sit down with special counsel Robert Mueller. That's according to reporting out of "The New York Times," which also reports the reason. His lawyers fear that the president of the United States could be charged with lying to investigators.

But just keep in mind that the president said publicly two weeks ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION: Are you going to talk to Mueller?

TRUMP: I'm looking forward to it, actually.

QUESTION: You want to?

QUESTION: You have a date set?

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: There's been no collusion whatsoever. There's no obstruction whatsoever. And I'm looking forward to it.

QUESTION: You would do it under oath?

TRUMP: Oh, I would do it under oath, absolutely.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: With me now, Neal Katyal. He was the acting solicitor general under President Obama. He has argued more cases in front of the Supreme Court than any other minority attorney in history, recently breaking Thurgood Marshall's record.

Wow.

And we should point out that Neal is also the lead lawyer who is challenging the president's travel ban before the Supreme Court.

So, nice to meet you. Thank you so much for coming in.

NEAL KATYAL, FORMER ACTING U.S. SOLICITOR GENERAL: Thanks for having me.

BALDWIN: All right, so, what does Mueller do if team Trump says no?

KATYAL: Well, first of all, I sure hope the president doesn't say no.

That would be unlike any other president in recent memory. He would have to be acting much more like President Nixon. Reagan testified. George W. Bush, all sorts of people, President Clinton. All these people have testified.

But if he does, yes, I expect Mueller to go and subpoena the president to testify.

BALDWIN: What does it tell you that these lawyers are literally worried the president will just lie, lie, lie, lie, lie?

KATYAL: Yes, it's sure not like a normal client.

[15:15:02]

Donald Trump's relationship to the truth is kind of very much like Roy Moore's to shopping malls.

BALDWIN: Ouch. Ouch.

KATYAL: Or something like that.

It's iffy all the way down. And, boy, I understand why the lawyers are advising the president not to testify. But, boy, to say that, they really have to distrust their client.

BALDWIN: Yes.

There is one lawyer who has been a law partner of yours, although you have not dealt with him on anything Trump-related, and that being Ty Cobb. It's kill this lone on an island saying, guys, essentially, we should fully cooperate with Bob Mueller here.

Why do you think he's sticking his neck out the way he is?

KATYAL: Well, I think Mr. Cobb is the good lawyer who understands that the president has got to do what other presidents have done like him, which is be forthcoming.

When Ronald Reagan -- when Iran-Contra discovered that Ronald Reagan had private diaries and the spokesperson said, these are the most personal and his lawyer said, no, we have to exert executive privilege and so on, President Reagan said, no way.

He said the following. He said -- quote -- "I want to get to the bottom of the matter and fix what went wrong."

Get to the bottom of the matter and fix what went wrong. Can you imagine Donald Trump saying either of those sentences? I think that's what the problem is.

BALDWIN: What would the consequences be of him saying no?

KATYAL: If... BALDWIN: The political consequences. This could drag on for a couple of months. We're going to blink and it's going to be November and the midterms, and in terms of Republicans wanting to hold on to districts or grab other districts, isn't that going to rain on their parade?

KATYAL: I think it would be an extraordinary catastrophe for the president not to testify.

Every day, thousands and thousands of people testify to federal investigators all the time in criminal investigations. And the idea that this president, who, after all, got taxpayer-funded lawyers, who has the ability to fire the chief investigator, Comey, against him, who has his own guy, Rod Rosenstein, supervising the Mueller investigation, to say, well, I can't testify, it's unfair, what signal does that send to everyone else who has to go through ordinary law enforcement investigations every day?

BALDWIN: Neal Katyal, thank you so much.

KATYAL: Thank you.

BALDWIN: We've got this White House briefing coming up.

Come back, please.

KATYAL: Sure.

BALDWIN: This isn't going anywhere.

Moments from now, we're going to get that White House response on a number of breaking stories today, the president threatening another government shutdown, saying it may be a good thing, the stock market now rebounding ahead of the closing bell here, about 43 minutes to go on Wall Street.

You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:21:32]

BALDWIN: Forty minutes to the closing bell and, surprise, look at the Dow now, swinging in the other direction, in what has been quite a volatile day for the stock market, up nearly 400 -- over 400 points here.

Yesterday, the Dow suffered the largest single-day points lost ever. So far, the president has been pretty quiet on these dramatic swings, but his treasury secretary said this today:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEVEN MNUCHIN, U.S. TREASURY SECRETARY: I'm not overly concerned about the market volatility. I think the fundamentals are quite strong. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The administration has claimed credit for the

markets going up. Are they going to claim credit when the markets go down?

MNUCHIN: Again, I think we will still claim credit for the fact that it's up over 30 percent since the election.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: With me now, Catherine Rampell, columnist for "The Washington Post," and Stephen Moore, CNN senior economics analyst and Trump's former economic adviser.

Good to see both of you.

STEPHEN MOORE, CNN SENIOR ECONOMIC ANALYST: Hi, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Explain this to me, because...

MOORE: I can't. Nobody can explain this.

BALDWIN: I'm like, what? No, the fact that Main Street is doing so well, the wage increases, the economy, yet Wall Street has been spooked.

MOORE: Yes. Yes.

BALDWIN: Why?

MOORE: Because too many people on Wall Street don't like it when workers do better and get pay raises.

And they think that that's going to cause inflation. That was really the -- if you're looking for one trigger for that big sell-off on Friday and Monday, it probably was the jobs report, when we got good wage gains.

And when we put together the tax plan, the whole economic plan, the whole idea was to try to raise wages for workers. But Wall Street thinks that's inflationary.

And I think they're wrong about. And, by the way, today is an amazing day. Just one hour ago...

BALDWIN: I blinked.

MOORE: ... the Dow was down by 200 points, and now it's, what, up 400 points. I have been watching this stuff for 40 years. I have very rarely seen such -- my neck is getting sore. I'm getting whipsawed from one direction to the other.

BALDWIN: Right. Right.

Do you think, as a result of this, we will see interest rates Janet Yellen low?

CATHERINE RAMPELL, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Well, the Fed was going to raise interest rates probably no matter what this year.

The real wild card right now is what her successor, right, Jay Powell, how he will interpret this data. If inflation is coming down the pike, which may be the result of these wage gains, we don't know, and if you look at what is happening with bond yields, which were quite high last week, that also suggests that markets may be expecting more inflation.

All of that data could convince the Fed to be little less dovish, to maybe speed up the process of those rate hikes. And another reason why markets may be a little skittish about whether those rate hikes may be becoming sooner, particularly with new leadership at the Fed, has to do with the fact that we have had this massive fiscal stimulus at a time of very, very low employment.

This is not well-timed fiscal stimulus, by which I mean the tax cuts. Right? You normally don't have a $1.5 trillion stimulus package coming when you have 4.1 percent unemployment.

BALDWIN: So, why do it now?

MOORE: Well, because the idea was to increase output. And when you increase output, that doesn't increase prices, that lowers prices.

The tax cut is going to make things more affordable, because, look, it's very simple. If the economy produces more apples, Brooke, what happens to the price of apples? They fall. They don't rise.

RAMPELL: Yes, but you have a stimulus package when the economy...

MOORE: It's not a stimulus.

RAMPELL: It is a stimulus. It's absolutely a stimulus.

(CROSSTALK)

MOORE: It's about creating jobs, creating investment.

(CROSSTALK)

RAMPELL: We have 4.1 percent unemployment.

MOORE: I know, but we want to have 3 percent unemployment.

(CROSSTALK)

RAMPELL: Do you want to overheat the economy?

(CROSSTALK)

MOORE: Look, how does 5 percent growth overheat the economy?

[15:25:05]

RAMPELL: Five percent growth?

MOORE: Yes.

RAMPELL: No one thinks we're going to have 5 percent growth.

(CROSSTALK)

MOORE: Well, Fed Atlanta Reserve said they thought we would get as much as 5 percent growth in the first quarter.

(CROSSTALK)

RAMPELL: If you have a sugar high for one quarter, that's not going to...

(CROSSTALK)

MOORE: But wait a minute. You were just the one who was saying that the economy is overheating. I'm not saying it's overheating.

I'm saying we can get sustainable 3.5 percent to 4 percent growth. That will put a lot of people to work. It will mean higher wages for workers. Why are you against higher wages for workers?

(CROSSTALK)

RAMPELL: I'm not. I just think it's complete fantasy to suggest to the American people that we're going to have sustainable 3.5, 4 percent growth, when the Fed doesn't say that.

(CROSSTALK)

MOORE: Those are the exactly the same people who said that Trump was going to cause the stock market to...

(CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: Sorry, guys. Got to go to the White House.

Here's Sarah Sanders.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: -- acting Assistant Attorney General John Cronan. Mr. Cronan supervises the criminal division's more than 600 federal prosecutors who conduct investigations and prosecutions involving organized and trans-national crime, gang violence and other crimes.

He will make a statement regarding MS-13 then take a few of your questions on this topic, and then I'll be back up after that to finish and answer questions on the news of the day.

Thanks guys. John.

JOHN CRONAN, ACTING ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL, DOJ CRIMINAL DIVISION: Good afternoon. Again, my name is John Cronan. I am the acting assistant attorney general of the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice. Before serving in my current role, I supervised a Terrorism and International Narcotics unit of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the southern district of New York. Prior to that, I served as an Assistant United States attorney in the southern district of New York, where I prosecuted violent criminals and I prosecuted national security defendants, including Osama Bin Laden's son in-law and the attempted Time's Square bomber.

On the day that Attorney General Jeff Sessions was sworn in, President Trump sent him executive orders to reduce crime in America and to target trans-national organized crime. As acting assistant attorney general, I support the attorney general in accomplishing these goals, by directing the enforcement of all federal criminal laws, with exception of those that are specifically designated to other divisions of the Department of Justice.

CRONAN: As Sarah mentioned, my duties include oversight of the nearly 700 prosecutors in the criminal divisions, and that includes the Organized Crime and Gang section, the Capital K section, the International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program and the Office of Overseas Prosecutorial Development Assistance and Training.

I had the opportunity just now to brief President Trump about one of the most significant threats to the public safety of our communities -- MS-13. And I appreciate the opportunity to also speak with you today about that threat. MS-13, or Mara Salvatrucha, has grown to more than 30,000 members worldwide; 10,000 of whom live right here in the United States, spanning 40 states and the District of Columbia. This violent, murderous gang has infiltrated our country.

It is estimated that there are 2,000 members in Los Angeles, between 800 and 1,200 members in Dallas and Houston, 2,000 members on Long Island, between 800 and 1,200 members in Boston and approximately 3,000 members living right here in Washington D.C., in the D.C. metropolitan area.

I'm sure many of you -- not all of you know MS-13 is probably the most violent and ruthless gang terrorizing our streets today. Their motto is "mata, viola, controla," which means "kill, rape, control." It is this motto and indiscriminate violence that MS-13 lives and rules by. They commit rape, robbery, extortion and murder, often just for the sake of it. They attack their victims with chains, bats, machetes, firearms. MS-13 recruits children to be murderers. They gang rape young girls and sell them for sex.

I briefed the president on a few examples of MS-13's brutality. These include a 15-year-old Gaithersburg, Maryland girl named Damaris Reyes Rivas --

[15:30:00]