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Axios reports Mueller subpoenas communications from Trump advisors; Trump Stays the Course on Tariffs Amid Oppositions. Aired 7- 7:30a ET
Aired March 5, 2018 - 07:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRIS CUOMO, NEW DAY: Good morning, welcome to your NEW DAY, Alisyn is off, Erica Hill joins me, thank you for being here, very good to have you. We begin with President Trump defending his decision to impose tariffs on imported steel and aluminum despite fierce resistance from U.S. trading partners and top Republicans.
The president is now tying those proposed tariffs to issues with our neighbors; Mexico and Canada. But GOP leaders fear a trade war would hurt them badly in the mid-terms.
ERICA HILL, CNN: The White House down-playing reports -- the president's chief economist is planning to leave over those tariffs, while the fate of the president's daughter and his son-in-law remains uncertain with their roles reduced and powers limited. Are they on their way out? We begin our coverage with Kaitlan Collins live at the White House. Kaitlan.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning, Erica and Chris. President Trump appears to be welcoming the idea of a potential trade war and rebuffing the concerns of those U.S. allies who are worried about what the impact of these proposed tariffs will have. But according to the president, the United States has been on, quote, "the losing end of these global trade deals for just too long.
PETER NAVARRO, DIRECTOR, TRADE & INDUSTRIAL POLICY: The president was quite clear, we can't have a country that can defend itself and prosper without an aluminum and steel industry.
COLLINS (voice-over): The Trump administration defending its stiff proposed tariffs on imported steel and aluminum despite threats of retaliation from key American allies who will be disproportionately hurt by the policy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sure, there may well be some sort of retaliation, but the amounts that they're talking about are also pretty trivial.
COLLINS: White House adviser Peter Navarro telling Cnn that at this point the president isn't planning on issuing any exemptions. NAVARRO: As soon as you exempt one country, then you have to exempt
another country. And so it's a slippery slope. COLLINS: British Prime Minister Theresa May calling Mr. Trump Sunday
to express deep concerns after officials from the European Union vowed to impose taxes on U.S. goods, including Harley Davidson motorcycles, Bourbon Whiskey and Levi's Jeans.
President Trump appearing undeterred, responding by threatening to tax European cars and tweeting "steel and aluminum industries are dead. Sorry, it's time for a change."
But Mr. Trump's advisors appearing to leave room for the president to change his mind.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whatever his final decision is, is what will happen. What he has said, he has said. If he says something different, it will be something different. I have no reason to think he's going to change.
COLLINS: A number of Republicans speaking out publicly against the president's proposal.
GOV. JOHN KASICH (R), OHIO: This trade wars in dividing us from our allies makes no sense.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: China is winning and we're losing with this tariff regime. You're letting China off the hook, you're punishing the American consumer and our allies. You're making a huge mistake here.
COLLINS: On the heels of a chaotic week in the West Wing, the president making light of the tumult at a closed-door black-tie dinner, telling attendees, "I like chaos. It really is good.
Now the question everyone keeps asking is 'who is going to be the next to leave? Steve Miller or Melania?'" And taking a jab at his embattled son-in-law, saying quote, "before I get started, I want to apologize for arriving a little bit late.
You know, we're late tonight because Jared couldn't get through security." The president also joking that Vice President Mike Pence starts out each morning asking everyone, quote, "has he been impeached yet?"
Mr. Trump making light of China's decision to scrap presidential term limits in a conversation with donors Saturday.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He's now president for life. No, he's great. And look, he was able to do that. I think it's great. Maybe we'll have to give that a shot some day.
COLLINS: Now Erica and Chris, the president and the first lady are going to welcome the Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu here to the White House today and though there are -- CUOMO: Oh --
HILL: I think we lost Kaitlan's shot there --
CUOMO: Well, she'll be back --
HILL: See if --
CUOMO: I'm sure she's fine, we'll let you know otherwise. Joining us now, David Gregory; Cnn political analyst and Ted Johnson; "Variety" senior editor and Washington Bureau chief. He was in the room when it happened during President Trump's speech at the Gridiron Club Dinner. It's good to have you both. So David, we have more meat on the bones with what's going on with the tariff. The president is up and tweeting, and it does seem as expected that these tariffs in Trump's mind are bait to bring people to the table and cut better deals. People will say this is what he's a master of, what's the risk?
DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, let's just explain what he is suggesting there that -- because this caught my eyes, saying that the tariffs only come off, only happen if we don't renegotiate NAFTA.
CUOMO: Is that how you read it?
GREGORY: I don't. I read them as he's going to do it, and then if they want to come and talk about it -- you know, who cares what we think. Let me just read it. "We have a large trade deficits with Mexico and Canada.
NAFTA which is under renegotiation right now has been a bad deal for the USA. Massive relocation of companies and jobs, tariffs on steel and aluminum will only come off if new and --
CUOMO: No --
GREGORY: Fair NAFTA agreement is signed. Also, Canada must treat our farmers much better. Highly restrictive.
CUOMO: Right --
GREGORY: Mexico must do much more on stopping drugs from pouring into the U.S., they have not done what needs to be done. Millions of people addicted and dying."
So the question just becomes method. Is this the right way --
CUOMO: Well --
GREGORY: To achieve those goals?
CUOMO: Right, so -- but let's be clear that what he's suggesting is he's -- for the first time, giving you a window when these tariffs go away, right, on what the conditions are. If they renegotiate NAFTA which has been going on for a while. If there can be resolution with Canada. So I mean, this is the first
time we've seen the president I think flinch a little bit in the face of the criticism that's coming not just from abroad, but from conservatives, members of his own party.
Others like John Kasich; governor of Ohio with a strong manufacturing base saying that this is bad for the economy, bad for jobs, that it's not paying attention to the role that innovation has played in reducing our manufacturing base.
And threatening not just financial markets, but what has been described as the synchronicity of growth, economic growth around the world.
That's what the president has put in jeopardy with this move. And I thought Wilbur Ross over the weekend suggesting to this fluidity.
This was a very hasty process of announcement, and now he's suggesting -- well, maybe the president will change his mind.
This is this unpredictability that perhaps the president very deliberately wants people to be sitting with and uncomfortable with.
HILL: Ted, is it flinching though or is it more the president -- I won't say doubling down, because he's already done that tripled or quadrupled at this point, and almost laying out more of a case.
Well, let me just remind you here since I didn't give you details. Last week, Ted, this is why I'm telling you, I'm doing this. And even the point on Mexico, is that what he's trying to use to bring national security into the mix?
Because we know that is supposed to be at play here based on the way that he wants to do these tariffs. This is all based on a 1962 trade war where he has to show that there is a threat to national security.
TED JOHNSON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, what I am seeing right now is Trump is playing his business instincts. He is viewing himself as "hey, this has worked for me in my own business, why can't it work for the country?
And this, as David said is a kind of a way of bringing -- or his way of bringing -- trying to bring Canada and Mexico to the table.
The problem as we've seen in the last couple of days is it rattles others in the Republican Party. It rattles world leaders and it rattles the markets.
I think that the calculation in Trump's mind is that this is probably good politically and this is good strategically business-wise. But as we're seeing, I mean, we've never quite had a negotiator in office in this way before.
CUOMO: Right, we've also never seen tariffs pay off for the U.S. the way he's suggesting it would. Because look, just one example of the concern about retaliation. Everybody keeps talking China, but they're not the main player when it
JOHNSON: Yes --
CUOMO: To steel, Canada is. But Canada is not just a big producer, David, they're the big buyer of U.S. --
GREGORY: Right --
CUOMO: Steel, I think it's 16 percent of the market they send into the U.S., but it's 50 percent of what they buy up --
HILL: OK --
CUOMO: From our market. And that's an important number because Trudeau who is no fun of Trump could easily play this political advantage as well.
And say, you know what? Why don't I slap a tariff on what you're bringing in here in terms of your steel, 50 percent of your market that we absorb, now what happens?
GREGORY: Right, and steel producers in this country over the weekend were quite vocal about the idea that there is such integration between Canada and the United States and steel production and purchases that they should be exempted from this.
The president making it clear I think this morning that he wants to use this as leverage in some of our trade disputes with Canada and certainly with Mexico as well when you think about NAFTA.
The unpredictability is what I think a lot of businesses are concerned about here, they don't know how to plan and what the impacts are of this negotiating stance if it's just that or if it actually does develop into a trade war.
And that's what the president is risking here. I'm not an economist, I won't presume to know more than I do about this, but that unpredictability that we're seeing in the markets in the broader economic growth is something that I think would deeply worry this president who wants to be seen as somebody who is driving jobs and growth for the country.
HILL: And that unpredictability, of course extends into the White House as we know which in many ways we're hearing last week is what brought this about.
It's all the chaos that is happening, all the -- the consistent chaos we should say, they're in the White House. Ted, you were at the Gridiron Dinner over the weekend.
We hear the president saying in his remarks, "I like chaos" --
JOHNSON: Yes -- HILL: Maybe not a surprise, but also poking fun too. I mean, that
line he had in particular about "sorry we're late, Jared couldn't get through security. That's saying something.
How did that play in the room?
JOHNSON: Well, he got a lot of laughs for that line. Tthe most controversial line was when he said I like chaos, and then he said, oh, people are wondering who is going to be the next to leave.
Is it going to be Steve Miller or is it going to be Melania? There were some gasps in the audience. And then Trump immediately was like, OK, look, he turned to Melania and said, OK, we're OK, aren't we?
You still love me, don't you? So he knew that was a pretty daring remark. You know, I can't help but think that Trump is a show-man and he loves this audience.
And if you take a step back, this is -- this is the D.C. elite. This was a white tie event, it was a very formal event. You don't get more insider-ish in D.C. --
CUOMO: Yes --
JOHNSON: Than this event itself. Trump loved it. And it kind of goes against the whole idea that he came to Washington to drain the swamp.
He even tweeted about it yesterday, saying how good of a time he actually had.
GREGORY: I think that's such a good point because you know, in his war with the media, when people overlook is how much he loves the media, feeds off the media, and wants to be embraced by insiders, by the establishment.
He wants to -- he wants to be accepted in this role as president of the United States, a place you may have --
CUOMO: Right --
GREGORY: Been thinking about, but never thought he would get. And the show-man piece of it is Ted, I think so astutely says, the show -- his populism is a big part of his showmanship.
The notion that Donald Trump, whose life-blood is the media, starting with the --
CUOMO: Right --
GREGORY: Press in New York would become some populist against the media is a joke.
CUOMO: Yes, I mean, look, he has said, you know, I don't know why they love me, but, boy, do I love them, when he's talking about the base.
Ted, you know, what struck me, I actually tweeted this out to see if people picked up on this in this speech. We don't have it ready, but this was it.
I have a lot of respect for the people in this room, the president said. Fairness is important to me. You've got your point of view, some of you cover it squarely, there are few professions I respect more.
He's talking about journalism. I want to thank the Gridiron Club of course, I want to thank the press for all you do to support and sustain our democracy.
I think it's important that people have to be able to pick up on this point, especially if they're Trump folks, if they're in this base.
He says a lot of things for effect that he doesn't necessarily mean. Here's at the Gridiron Club after all the nasty things to the media and he says few professions I respect more. How was that taken?
JOHNSON: Well, I think people were kind of surprised by it, because just a couple of hours before, he was actually bashing the media in a tweet as he tends to do almost day-to-day.
And here he was in this crowd. And it wasn't just that earlier in the evening. Mitch Landrieu made an impassioned plea, Mitch Landrieu, the mayor of New Orleans made this impassioned plea for the importance of an independent press.
And Trump had a smile on his face and he started clapping, and I think that was the first sign that people add OK, he's going to say something that is actually praiseworthy about the media recognizes its importance.
GREGORY: Yes, I just think -- I think that's important for you to point out, Chris, that it happened. And I think that I actually take him at his word, although, I do have some skepticism about that, given other things he says and other things he does and here's why?
I totally agree with you which I think he says things for effect, I think it's a play, I think it's a show. But he has failed to understand that he is an institution.
He's not just Donald Trump anymore, he's the president of the United States. And when the president speaks, it's an institution speaking.
That's why it's so dangerous and counterproductive when he says things that attack a free press. So I'm happy to note that he said the other the other night.
But that's where we have to keep our attention and focus --
HILL: Right --
CUOMO: Well, as Wilbur Ross said, it's what he believes until he says something else. And whatever he says last, that's what it will be.
GREGORY: Yes --
CUOMO: So, we'll play it like that, well, Ted, good to have you. Thanks for being with us --
JOHNSON: Thank you --
CUOMO: D. Greg as always, appreciate it --
GREGORY: Thank you --
CUOMO: The word "chaos", we use it a lot. Like we did describe what's going on in the West Wing and that's not because that's what we think, that's because that's what is said by so many people who are working there and around that mood.
So we're going to get the inside story from Trump's former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowsky. What does he have to say about this? Let's get after it.
CUOMO: The White House insists chaos, no chaos inside the West Wing. But last week, we saw the president's communication's director and close confidant resigned. Jared Kushner's security top secret clearance stripped and fighting back reports that his national security adviser H.R. McMaster is leaving soon, and maybe his economic adviser as well.
So how bad are things inside the White House? Let's get a fresh take from former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski; he's currently the chief strategist for America First Action.
Corey, thank you for taking the opportunity to come on the show.
COREY LEWANDOWSKI, CHIEF STRATEGIST, AMERICA FIRST ACTION: Good morning, Chris.
CUOMO: It's good to have you. Let me ask you one-step sideways for a second before we get to the political intrigue. This "Axios" report that they took a look at a subpoena that supposedly was given to a witness who was going to go before Mueller.
And it was asking people to preserve all of their electronic communications from about 2015 with this long list of Trump people. You were on that list in terms of people they want communications captured with. What do you make of that subpoena?
LEWANDOWSKI: Well, I think it's probably standard protocol for the Mueller investigation to see if there was any collusion or cooperation or coordination which we know there wasn't.
But what they want to do is they want to look and see any communication between staffers that potentially they would be interested in. And my guess is, this is information that the Mueller team would already have access to.
I am sure and the campaign has been very clear about this, they have cooperated with the Mueller investigation in any way, shape or form, and any electronic communication between potential individuals that we're associated with the campaign that were done on the campaign communication network would have been preserved already.
And I'm sure the Mueller investigative team already has those.
CUOMO: When you say we know, you of course are open to the idea that we don't know, right? We only know what Mueller is able to show in the end.
I mean, you've said in the past you can't know about all the different things that Mueller is looking at. You weren't privy to all these different communications, you weren't part of all the different dynamics that have been exposed already.
So you're not a 100 percent sure of that, are you?
LEWANDOWSKI: Well, I'm only sure of what I am familiar with as it relates to Corey Lewandowski. And I know that I didn't coordinate or cooperate or --
CUOMO: But there are a lot of other people, you're only one on a very long list --
LEWANDOWSKI: No --
CUOMO: Of people they're looking at.
LEWANDOWSKI: You're exactly right, Chris, you're exactly right. And what I've said and what I mean, and I've been very clear about this, if anybody attempted to influence our U.S. election system by coordinating or cooperating with an outside source to materially change the outcome of this election, those people should be in jail for the rest of their lives.
And if that's what Bob Mueller finds, is that people who are trying to do that we've seen they've indicted 13 Russians. If they have found individuals who are trying to impact the outcome of an election from the U.S. here, those people need to go to jail. Our democracy is too sacred.
CUOMO: All right, next point, 22 folks, staffers, talk to the "Washington Post" say it's crazy in here in the White House. It's hard, it's dysfunctional, we're having a hard time, our morale is down, we can't get things done. What do you say?
LEWANDOWSKI: Well, look, I love the sources that aren't willing to go on the record, and I think if people want to complain about their jobs, and let me tell you this, I don't work in the White House, I've never worked in the White House, but it is an extremely difficult environment under any circumstances. And if you go back and you talk to our friends who have worked there
in the past, regardless of the administration, the 18 hours a day, seven days a week, constant barrage is very difficult.
But look, it is an amazing privilege I think to be able to serve our country by working in the White House. And if people don't want to work there, they should leave.
Because this job, being the administration is bigger than any one staff person. And if you don't think that you're in the right position, do yourself and the president and the country the service that they deserve and leave.
And not go out, you know, on the record or around background with 22 sources who say it's chaos. If you don't like it, you can leave. It's still a free country, so do that.
CUOMO: Right, but why not look at it the other way, and think about what the culture is in there, and who is endangering that culture and maybe that should be addressed.
Maybe chaos isn't a great working theory for the business of government. Maybe there is something to what is being talked about by Scaramucci and others that the chief of staff has created a culture in there that is making a lot of people feel down in the mouth.
Do you think there could be something to that?
LEWANDOWSKI: Well, what I think is, you know, if I look back in the last year, it wasn't that long ago where everyone says that White House was in chaos because the Reince Priebus, Steve Bannon, Jared Kushner try and bring up the top.
And no one could understand who the boss was. No one is saying they don't know who the boss is anymore. They know that John Kelly is the chief of this staff and he is running the staff in that way.
But what I don't understand is, you know, there was chaos seven months ago when there was a free willing, everybody had access to the White House to the president, and now it's chaos because everything is controlled and buttoned up and there's a process.
So I don't think you can have it both ways. Do I think that people say, hey, I want it one way or the other or maybe somewhere in- between? Possibly.
But you can't make the argument on both sides, and I think what you've seen here is that John Kelly has put in process -- a process in place where people have to report through a specific line. And I know some people don't like that.
CUOMO: Do you think that if he pulls -- well, he did pull Kushner's security clearance. Do you see that as an indication that he and maybe the president's daughter may not be long for the West Wing?
LEWANDOWSKI: You know, I don't see that. I think Jared and Ivanka will have the opportunity to stay inside the West Wing for as long as they want to.
But I -- let me say this, you know, when you look back at a number of people who didn't have their access to a top secret security clearance, there is a rationale for understanding that there has to be a process in place to make sure that people should have access to the right type of clearances for our own country.
And we saw a problem in the White House a few months back where an individual who shouldn't have been there continued to have access to information, and that was a failure somewhere.
CUOMO: Who are you talking about?
LEWANDOWSKI: So I think Jared and Ivanka will -- Rob Porter?
CUOMO: You're talking about Rob Porter --
LEWANDOWSKI: Clearly --
CUOMO: Do you think Kelly knew about that?
LEWANDOWSKI: Yes, that's exactly right -- you know, I don't know, I mean, I don't know, I --
CUOMO: What do they know about the story?
LEWANDOWSKI: Clearance works and what they told me --
CUOMO: Yes, but think about, you know, if you were there, you know, you worked on the campaign, you know about accountability at the top.
You know the FBI knew this, you know, they were delivering information to the counsel's office, how do you not know? --
LEWANDOWSKI: Or protecting somebody --
CUOMO: Not like somebody said he had traffic tickets --
LEWANDOWSKI: No, Chris, somebody knew. Somebody knew and the question was what did they know and how soon did they know it?
But look --
CUOMO: But then, how are we supposed to take it, Corey? Because this is a big part that gets us into this gazy fake news in the media so bad B.S. spin that will come out of the White House.
You know, somebody knew, you just said it yourself. And we all know that that's the truth. This isn't the kind of information nobody pays attention to.
Gossip is like 50 percent of the job down there in terms of learning about who you're working with and their vulnerabilities. So we say, well, obviously, somebody knew.
So let's get after it and figure out who was it. Was it Kelly? Was it this one? That whole picks. Should she have been involved with it? You know, does this go all the way to the president?
And those questions all get attacked as being unfair. But isn't all of that scrutiny totally legitimate when you have someone this close to the president handling all the things that the president is going to have to sign off on?
Weren't those all legitimate questions?
LEWANDOWSKI: You know, there is some clear legitimacy to those questions. And if you look at what the House Oversight Committee is now doing is they're investigating the administration to understand how that process broke down and why it failed, and that's the right thing to do right now.
So Trey Dowdy has asked very clearly for an understanding of what the process was, who knew what, when and where? And I think he's going to get to the bottom of it and that's a very fair thing for him to do to make sure that the people who need and are required to have access to top secret information have that with the best of their ability and the best understanding possible.
And I think that's what the house is going to look into.
CUOMO: If the president were to say to you, Corey, I think I'm going to let Jared just see this stuff, I'm going to show him my briefing everyday anyway.
I don't care what they say, I trust him, what would you advise him?
LEWANDOWSKI: Well, the president has 100 percent authority --
CUOMO: I know, but what would you advise him?
Not about having the right to do it, it's about whether or not it will be right to do it. What would you tell him?
LEWANDOWSKI: Well, Chris, what I think is the access of information that the president has and who he can grant that to is very selective.
And if he wants to grant access to someone, so they can look at something specific, so in their particular role in the building, they should have the opportunity to do that.
And what we know, part of Mr. Kushner's role is negotiating Middle East peace, and if there is information that he needs to have access to in order to continue in that capacity, then -- and the president feels comfortable giving that to him so that he can help achieve that goal, then he should have the opportunity to do it.
But that is completely at the discretion of the president in a limited basis and that I know of and the president is very clear, he gave John Kelly the chief of staff the ability to decide what was going to happen on the clearances and John Kelly has made that decision.
CUOMO: Under the category of chaos, we look at these tariffs. I understand, you understand what Trump's disposition is in terms of muscling up and then falling back on a position.
But tariffs are very dangerous thing to do that with, and that's why he really took people by surprise the way he came out of this. This isn't what his advisors wanted.
People were telling him that isn't the intelligent way to do this, you got to let us get people on board with it. He blew all that away and just went out with it. And now he's going to have to try to negotiate this process through Twitter. Was this the right move?
LEWANDOWSKI: Well, I think, Chris, if you go back and look at the campaign which is now almost two years ago, he'd been talking about the need for tariffs for a long time.
So, you know, the report said the staff wasn't aware of it, I think are somewhat untrue. There was a report listed yesterday that, you know, a few weeks ago, there was a meeting in the Oval Office between five or six people who discussed this opportunity and whether or not to impose tariffs.
So this notion that the staff hadn't been aware of it I think is factually inaccurate. But what I do think is very important is this president has said, if this is going to help Americans have more jobs, meaning, we're going to have manufacturing here in the country, that's a pledge he made during the campaign --
CUOMO: Right --
LEWANDOWSKI: And now that he is fulfilling that promise, should not be a surprise to anyone --
CUOMO: Right, but how is he fulfilling the promise with tariffs? You see, that's the point. You want to cut new trade deals, go ahead. Tariff is not a deal.
It opens you up to retaliation, we've never seen it work in the past, now he's going after Canada and Mexico, no one saying that his goal is a bad goal to have more jobs.
It's whether or not, this is the right methods, the name of your book, "Let Trump be Trump".
LEWANDOWSKI: Yes --
CUOMO: When Trump is doing something that's good for everybody else, you think this is an example of where he should have listened to his advisors?
LEWANDOWSKI: Well, I think he did listen to some of the advisors. I think he listens to Wilbur Ross, I think he listens to Peter Navarro, and what they said was, the section that -- of the U.S. code which the president is using --
CUOMO: Right --
LEWANDOWSKI: Section 232 from what I understand, is a national security issue. And the president's position has been, if we don't have a steel industry and we don't have an aluminum industry here in the United States, it presents a national security problem, God forbid we ever have a serious conflict.
And that's where he's doing his -- now, does that give us the opportunity to go back and what he tweeted today was let's go back and renegotiate NAFTA so that it can be fair to the United States.
That's a fair thing. And let's just look at it for one second. The tariff that he's talking about, particularly as it relates to aluminium is a cost of -- and the "New York Times" wrote this story.
So this isn't the right wing propaganda.