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tv   The Lead With Jake Tapper  CNN  April 5, 2018 1:00pm-2:00pm PDT

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before congress next week about his company's handling of its users' personal data. the social media behemoth has admitted that as many as 87 million people had their personal data accessed instead of the 50 million they first reported. "the lead" with jake tapper starts right now. good afternoon, welcome to "the lead." i'm jake tapper. president trump just wrapped up an event in west virginia where he made outrageous and untrue unclaims. he was supposed to be talking about tax cuts but at one point tossed the remarks into the air. we're at a new point in the presidenty where many in the white house are feeling the absence of figures such as hope hicks, and the chaos is not just evident in the explosions of questionable remarks and tweetstorms, it's also apparent in policy decisions, and it's affecting the president's personnel decisions. on that last subject, we have breaking news on that right now. and what could potentially be the president's boldest and
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perhaps most baffling staffing move yet. epa administrator scott pruitt comes under increasing fire for a series of potential ethical lapses amidst headline after headline, prompting questions from republicans in congress and even white house officials about whether pruitt should keep his job. cnn has learned that president trump is as of now not backing away from epa administrator pruitt. in fact, quite the opposite. cnn's pamela brown is live at the white house. and pamela, what are you learning? >> reporter: jake, we've learned that president trump floated replacing attorney general jeff sessions with embattled epa administrator scott pruitt as recently as this week. even as pruitt faced a growing list of negative headlines about ethics concerns. in fact, one source i spoke with said the president was trying to protect pruitt as his fill-in for sessions. the president is known to float several people a day for multiple positions in his administration that are already occupied this. proposition, jake, this week, reveals the confidence he has in
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pruitt despite a dizzying number of ethics issues that have come to light. now asked by a reporter as he boarded air force one if he still has confidence in pruitt, the president simply said, "i do." pruitt has remained in trump's good graces for the most part, though a source familiar tells me the president's confidence in his has faltered a bit in light of the bad headlines surrounding these ethics issues. however, he is hesitant to fire him because he likes entertaining this idea of replacing sessions with him eventually, and feels confident that he will continue to advance his agenda at the epa. we should note the white house would only say today in response to our story that there are no personnel announcements at this time. >> at this time, of course. what about chief of staff kelly? does he have the same amount of confidence in pruitt? >> reporter: sources tell me and my colleague caitlyn collins that kelly has not matched the president's feelings about pruitt. in a source familiar with how things unfolded said that kelly
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called pruitt tuesday morning to ask if there were any other issues that could become public that he needed to have about. now the feelings were further deaned after pruitt -- deepened after pruitt did interviews with fox news as well as "the washington examiner," which senior administration officials said only made matters worse. one source said if more negative headlines about pruitt come out, that could be the final straw. >> i have seen a couple in the last few minutes. this idea that he maybe wants to replace jeff sessions at the justice department with pruitt, this underscores the president's focus and preoccupation with the issue of sessions and rosenstein and the russia probe. >> reporter: that's right. in fact, even if he's not tweeting about it, behind the scenes he's talking about it. that chatter continues about ousting both of them. multiple sources familiar with the thinking tell me and my colleague caitlyn collins, that his advisers have tried to thwart this by convincing him that by doing so, firing sessions, it would be damaging in the midterms given how
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popular he is with conservatives. the same advisers have argued that firing rosenstein could delay the completion of the special counsel, robert mueller's, obstruction of justice probe while creating unwanted headlines. the president has especially focused his frustration on rosenstein in recent weeks, often repeating his complaint that he is weak and not on his team. sources familiar with the president's grievances have told us that rosenstein resurfaced as a source of the president's wrath because of a photo of him dining with sessions and solicitor general nole francisco at a popular restaurant. trump has repeatedly complained about firing many in his administration, jake, as you well know. it doesn't necessarily mean he will. >> it doesn't mean he won't either. >> that's right. >> excellent reporting. thank you so much. the epa administrator, scott pruitt, has come under fire for renting a $50-a-night room with lobbyists whose firm was lobbying the epa. he's also facing questions about pay raises for two aides' salaries that were made against the advice of the white house, something pruitt recently said he didn't know about.
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we are now just learning that the man who led administrator scott pruitt's protection detail was taken off that assignment and reassigned when that individual refused to drive with lights and sirens blaring through the streets of washington, d.c., when this administrator, the administrator of the epa was stuck in traffic. that, of course, would have gotten pruitt around town more quickly. but it is against regulations. that news first reported by cbs news and also confirmed by cnn. my panel joins me for more on this breaking news. first of all, let me start with the breaking news about -- there's so many issues of breaking news. this one about the fact that he had somebody in charge of his security detail, and he wouldn't turn on the lights and sirens to get through traffic more quickly. and that person has been reassigned. the headline originally with cbs. we have confirmed it. this is another headline. could this be another problem for pruitt or not? >> it should be a problem. a lot of the behavior that you outline is the swampiest of behavior, right. it's this very entitled attitude
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that you come into the government and everybody's sort of there to do your bidding, and you're above the regular people which is what i thought donald trump was running against. you would think that it would be something that he would find offensive, but based on our other breaking news, it sounds like maybe not. >> and you were talking, david, about a reason why president trump might want scott pruitt to be the attorney general. >> sure. so at the conclusion of director mueller's investigation, the special counsel investigation, he turns his report over to the attorney general. sure would make sense if you replace the attorney general with someone who you just saved from another job in an auspicious demise and put him in as attorney general. that being said, the epa administrator's been very effective at his job, other than the distractions. he's been doing an incredible job for the administration, and replacing him would be pretty tough. >> what do you make of all this? >> the first thing you learn in conservative politics is the most formidable opposition you have is the environmental left.
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they are better organized, better funded. they run better campaigns, and if you were on the right and trying to make significant inroads against their agenda, you were the number-one target. i think what scott pruitt has experienced this week and last week is a perfect example of the very well-organized campaign against him. let me say this -- if we're talking about low rent and talking about sirens on a car and we're talking about him giving raises to his staff salary, i mean, that -- in the grand scheme of things, this is amazing that we're having the conversation about whether he should be replaced at all. in a conservative point of view, he's done his job absolutely, exactly how he said he was going do it. >> you don't think people need to follow rules if they're doing your agenda? that what you're saying? >> he didn't get the ethics approval that he needed to get in order to do this. heenl g he only got the ethics -- >> staying at the house of a lobbyist -- >> obviously inappropriate. and he didn't -- he didn't get
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ethics approval. he went when he found out it was going to be a problem, he went and sort of steamrolled it and made them do an ethics approval which they now have said they had to do too quickly, there was information that they didn't have such as his daughter was staying there. so that would normally cost you more than $50. i mean, you don't find it troubling that somebody is -- is renting from a lobbyist? >> $50 a night is not a standard rate in washington. >> do i love the optics? absolutely not. i hate the optics of it. i think if you're suggesting that scott pruitt, who's had a demonstrated, lengthy record in the public sphere -- >> he gets do to -- gets to do whatever he wants? >> no, no. what he is doing and executing is exactly what he said he would do in his confirmation hearings. it's what the president expected him to do. and the suggestion that he's somehow doing it because of a $50 rent is -- is sickening -- >> i think the pruitt problem here is not one fatal blow, but is he going to bleed out over time. that's the issue, right? none of these are fatal. he's doing a great job.
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finding a replacement is going to be tough. does he bleed out? you serve at the pleasure of the president until you don't. >> i think the larger issue is that the president's still talking about replacing the attorney general. whether it's with scott pruitt or with not. you could argue that scott pruitt is doing a great job in acting president trump -- enacting president trump's agenda. you could also argue that about attorney general sessions who is doing that. it's just that he has disappointed president trump when it comes to the russia probe. >> right. but the point is that president trump ran on something much bigger than just the environmental -- >> hold that thought. >> yeah. >> i want to play -- it was a contentious interview with fox news' ed henry when he was asked if -- pruitt was asked if his behavior lived up to the "drain the swamp" ideal. take a listen. >> president trump said he would drain the swamp. >> i don't -- >> is draining the swamp renting an apartment from the wife of a washington lobbyist? >> i don't think that that's even remotely fair to ask that question. >> well, they're obviously, ed and -- controlled by the environmental left, right? that's the only reason you would
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ask that question. i want to get to the idea that the environmental left is making him behave this way. i mean, there's also the issue of this trip that he took to morocco which cost $100,000-something which he's been questioned about. this just not -- this is not what you're supposed to be spending taxpayer dollars on. >> total cherry picking. what you said with the trips, with morocco, there's been a dozen stories since then that suggested those exact same trips were taken by his predecessors in the obama administration. again -- >> it's not a question of the trip. it's a question of they said there was a one-hour meeting on each day. it's a question of whether or not you're actually working. the point is, president trump said he was going to drain the swamp. for you to blame the environmental left for the behavior of one of the cabinet members -- i mean, it doesn't make sense. >> we've done a segment on a $50 rent. >> $50 a night from a lobbyist is questionable. you would concede that? >> it's absolutely -- optics are terrible. the suggestion that that's why he's doing the job the way he's doing it, i think, is nuts.
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>> what do you think about the idea of president trump replacing jeff sessions with scott pruitt? how does that sit with you? >> i don't like the idea of replacing any of the cabinet secretaries. let me tell you why. we've got a one-vote majority now in the united states senate. and you've got a very thin majority when it comes to controversial issues that pop up in environmental segments. and certainly in the department of justice. i mean, i think we're probably in an era where you couldn't confirm bobby kennedy to be at the department of justice, to run the department of justice. >> we also have three giant battles coming up on the hill. you have secretary of state, secretary of veterans affairs, and cia director which are going to not go without some bumps is my guess. >> so it's a question of the number of battles? >> it's -- what's the bandwidth that the senate has, as well. there are a certain number of calendar days left to have hearings. you're up against congressional recess in the summer. people getting out of here to campaign in october. you run out of days. to get all those folks have hearings and confirmed -- i will
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say this, the democratic minority is doing a very good job of burning all their time on bringing nominees to the floor. it's really inside baseball. they take 30 hours out of each nominee to bring them up for the lowest level nominee to come to the floor to vote, they're burning up time and doing a great job of stalling. >> what david said was you could -- he could see the idea, the argument of replace sessions with pruitt, you've saving pruitt's job which it's not clear if he's going to hold on to it very long. then mueller is issuing a report, and it's in pruitt's hands, does that alarm you? >> yes. i mean, the idea -- you don't think that's good, right? i mean -- >> i was pulling the string. i was making the argument -- jake said why do you think this might happen? i was hypothesizing why it might happen. >> we would like to -- i think we need a real investigation. and i feel like jeff sessions is somehow too biassed to oversee the justice department. i mean, what world are we living in? >> nobody in america believes
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the -- that director mueller is not doing a thorough investigation. i assure you he's doing a thorough investigation is as evidenced by the stopping of russian oligarchs and seizing their phones and going through their suitcases. the notion that he's not doing an investigation is not -- won't hold water. what happens in that investigation, if it's given to the attorney general, that he issues a report based upon that? and a lot what i think will happen, you can't -- mueller is a constitutionalist, can't indict the presidentment he will give a report -- president. he will give a report to the attorney general. it's up to the attorney general to see what happens. he hands it to rosenstein -- >> you're siaying rosenstein an pruitt might do different things? >> i believe so, yes. >> how would the base react to sessions being removed? we hear that he's popular and carrying out so many initiatives that the base cares about him. >> i agree removing any more secretaries, any more transition
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before the midterms is not helpful. >> one of the things that's unusual about the idea that president trump is saying this privately that he might want to replace sessions with pruitt is that hogan gidley, deputy press secretary, just earlier today was asked about pruitt and was less than optimistic in his response. take a listen. >> i can't speak to the future of scott pruitt. i can just talk about where we are now. that is that the white house is aware of these reports. we're obviously looking into those. we don't have any announcements to make as regards staffing right now. but we're aware. and you know, we believe some of these questions need to be answered. >> that's not a ringing endorsement. >> no. i mean, i think hogan's doing his job there. i think we've seen over the last two weeks that this president has made impulsive moves. and you can't be entirely sure when you're speaking on his behalf if you're on solid ground from moment to moment. i have no fault -- >> you serve at the pleasure of the president until you don't. >> indeed. stick around. we have more to talk about.
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not only did president trump just seem to repeat his claim that mexican immigrants are rapists, but he took it one step further. that's next.
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president trump this afternoon defending his order to send national guard troops to the border insisting there will be a wall and the military will help build the wall. president trump returning to the rhetoric that he used when he launched his presidential campaign in 2015 using terms that immigrant communities might find offensive. such as anchor babies or chain migration, saying that women coming to the u.s. are being raped "at levels nobody has ever seen before." cnn's jeff zeleny is at the white house. jeff, i thought that this trip to west virginia was about president trump promoting tax cuts and tax reform. >> reporter: that's what republican leaders thought, as
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well. that's why he went to west virginia, home of one of most competitive senate races. and it got off to a start about the tax plan. what republicans hope the president would talk about for the next several months. instead, he reverted to one of the old standbys of his campaign -- immigration, and bluntly, the word rape. >> mr. president, tell us about the border plan. >> reporter: president trump traveling to west virginia today to sell his tax plan. >> so now once again you see that america is open for business. one of the big things is our tax cuts. >> reporter: within moments he moved on from the biggest legislative achievement of his presidency to -- >> when i opened trump trump tower, everybody said, oh, he was so tough, and -- i used the word rape. and yesterday it came out where this journey coming up, women are raped at levels that nobody's ever seen before. they don't want to mention that.
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so we have to change our laws, and the democrats, what they're doing, is just -- it's insanity. i don't -- nobody understands what's going on. ♪ >> reporter: the president who used the word "rape" when first announcing his bids for the oval office going back to old and unproven claims about voter fraud. >> in many places like california, the same person votes many times. you probably heard about that. they like to say, oh, that's a conspiracy theory. not a conspiracy theory, folks. millions and millions of people. >> reporter: election officials, republicans and democrats alike, have dismissed this as a hoax. consumed by the president's fury over illegal immigration, the white house is now scrambling to implement his plan to send national guard troops to the u.s.-mexico border. >> we're going to have our wall. and we're going to get it very strongly. the military's going to be building some of it. but we're going to have strong borders. we have to change our laws, and we're working on doing that. >> reporter: a question remains unanswered -- why now when even
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the president actiontages arrests at the -- president acknowledges arrests at the border are done? border crowsin border crossings at an unacceptable 46-year low. that -- arrests are 25% lower than in 2016. republican governors largely voice support for the plan, while democrats like this congressman blasted it as blatantly political. >> using our national guard troops who are greatly trained, you're going to pull them out of their private lives to essentialygo and try to solve a political program. this is a failing presidency. >> reporter: even with so many questions here about the plan to send national guard troops to the border, one thing is clear, jake -- the president clearly making the decision to double down on illegal immigration as a theme of this midterm election campaign. he wants to get conservatives, his base back in his corner.
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of course, this all comes after conservative backlash saying he was not doing enough on immigration. the kwheer is how this resonates with -- the question here is how this resonates with voters. republicans on trying to hold on to suburban voters out in the country who could hold the key to the house and the senate remaining in republican control. jake? >> all right. jeff zeleny at the white house. thank you very much. we'll dive more about into the reality at the border at the moment including a trip down there. first i want to bring back my political panel to talk about this. david, he's never going to stick to script, right? i mean, you have the -- you've been talking about the tax cuts, you're on message. you come here, and you have your list. and -- >> i'm not the president, i don't have that luxury. >> you don't have the luxury, but wouldn't it be better for him? >> no, listen, if -- the way he got elected was being exactly like this. he cut through an incredibly crowded republican field and political neophyte by throwing the script in the air and doing exactly what he's doing. people vote for this. that's what they want. the same viewers that are
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looking at "roseanne" are looking at him now and love it. >> you're eyerolling. >> no. actually i wasn't. no, no. i think that's true. i think that is what he got elected for. >> you think it's not wise necessarily? >> it's -- i think his base likes it. i'm much more -- less concerned about him throwing away the script as what he said when he threw away the script. him talking about the mexican rapists. i think it was such a misrecession of what is happening -- misrepresentation of what is happening. conflating issues of like remember when i said all the mexicans are rapists, and then people are getting raped on their way here. therefore, all mexicans are rapists. when in fact what's happening, it's true, a lot of women do get raped, girls get raped on their way to the united states. but it's because they're being brought up by the coyotes. and there needs to be a better process for people to get into the country. we don't want them being smuggled into the country. we don't want them making horrible journeys which they're doing because they're fleeing violence. >> right.
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human trafficking those individuals, the ones, not -- people in the caravan, for example, mostly women and children. >> i would say the notion that using the national guard to help protect the border is somehow novel. president bush did it in 2006 -- >> obama did it. >> 2012. there were 6,000 soldiers. this is governed by the possy -- troops can't be used to enforce the law. they can be used to help protect the border, but they're not going to be arresting folks. they'll be used to splept the fol -- to supplement the folks on the border. >> it's been done before, but a difference is when bush did it, when obama did it, there was a process, interagency discussion, consultation with congress, consultation with mexico. as opposed to the president. this seems like a much more impulsive decision, the president seeing something on "fox and friends," saying he wants to do this. then the department of homeland
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security and others trying to make it a reality. >> look, i don't think anybody should be taken by surprise that this president takes border security very seriously. i mean, i think the idea that there's anybody over at homeland security who's questioning his commitment to the border -- of course they -- >> fair enough. >> but i think bringing this back to the politics for a minute, i think what david said is absolutely true in that the base does react to all of this. they're not going to love constant talk of tax cuts. they're going to want to talk about some of the things that got president trump elected in the first place. i think that's what he's doing. there's an interesting, you know -- i guess conversation to have about whether this is auultimaty a base election. if this is a base election, that stuff works well. if it's not, which we saw in pennsylvania, alabama, and virginia, suburban voters are running for the hills. there's got to be a melding of those two things for republicans. they've got to use the energy the president brings with base voters, but they also have to talk about tax cuts. they really do. >> and kyrstin, the president again bringing flute ocean this
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canard that millions of people -- bringing out this canard that millions of people obviously, there are fraudulent votes that happen in every election cycle, but there's no evidence according to republican and democratic officials that millions of people voted illegally. >> nope, there is not. i don't know how we -- okay. >> political hyperbole, shocking, right? >> hyperbole. he's telling people that millions of people voted illegally. >> today's campaign event. he's trying to rally the base. i do agree with you, the less he talks about the accomplishments, the less he talks about all the money -- he's in west virginia, the west virginia auditor did an united statesi it-- an audit in west virginia, some gigantic number will go into the west virginia economy. the president should be talking about that and how it's going to be spread over the economy. i agree with you, jake. >> but that's my question. why -- >> i agree with you. listen, the president should be touting his own success. he's doing great things -- >> why can't he like get them
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excited without making up things? >> he's not -- not -- >> millions of people, he said it's not true. you're like it's not true, but that's what they want to hear. >> anyway. stick around. russia running wild, rubbing it in the world's face. what went down at the united nations over the poisoning of an ex-spy on british soil.
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in our "world lead," russia clearly emboldened, warning the uk "they are playing with fire, and they will be sorry." in a security council meeting minutes ago, russia blasting the uk's claim that moscow is responsible for the poisoning of a former russian spy and his daughter on british soil, calling it a "coordinated campaign to delegitimize russia." shockingly, it was russia itself that it called for the meeting at the u.n. security council. britain's foreign secretary called that action a gambit
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tweeting, "the world will see through this shameless cynicism." cnn senior correspondent matthew chance is live in moscow for us. and the u.s. and uk representatives called russia's claims absurd. is anything actually likely to happen because of this meeting, though? >> reporter: well, i think they're right in that this is russia refusing to back down over these allegations that it was behind the skripal poisoning in britain. moscow faces diplomatic isolation over this issue and has responded with increasingly heated denials and increasingly heated rhetoric. all this comes as one of the victims in the salisbury poisoning, yulia skripal, speaks out for the first time from her british intensive care ward. today the first statements from yulia skripal. now awake after surviving the nerve agent attack meant to kill her and her father, sergei, in
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salisbury, england, last month. "i woke up over a week ago now, and am glad to say my strength is growing daily." yulia's cousin claims she recorded this unauthenticated phone call with skripal on wednesday and handed over the audio to russian state television. the call has not been confirmed by cnn, but in it an update on yulia's father. the former russian spy remains in critical condition as an emboldened kremlin called the u.n. security council meeting today, rejecting all blighted. >> translator: ladies and gentlemen, i don't know what to say about this. it's some sort of theater of the absurd. >> reporter: russia's anger has been fueled by the british government's allegation that the weapons-grade nerve agent used in the attack was made in
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russia. british foreign office tweeted the same conclusion but quickly deleted it. scientists who examined the nerve agent say they never identified a source. soon russia's foreign ministry spokeswoman took to facebook, "the uk now has its own test tube of shame," she says, "liars." britain stands by its assessment, but british officials say that the allegations were fabricated, designed to discredit russia. >> translator: the so-called skripal case became a pretext, an imaginary or pre-staged one, for a groundless mass expulsion of diplomats. not only from the us and britain but from a number of other states. >> reporter: the foreign minister spoke about 0 expelled american -- spoke as 60 expelled american diplomats left, part of a tit-for-tat response. as relations worsen, the trump administration is also threatening to sanction russian oligarchs coming to the u.s.
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over their involvement in the american presidential election. as for the skripals, russia's ambassador to the uk was all smiles today at news of yulia's survival, even offering an invitation home. >> really happy, and i am sure that one day yulia will come back to moscow where she has a job, importance. >> reporter: well, it's not clear at this point, jake, how keen yulia skripal will be to resume her life back in russia. british officials say that they've offered her the opportunity of a consular visit from russian diplomats in britain, but so far they say she has not agreed. >> all right, matthew chance in moscow. thank you very much. what are the odds that former kgb agent and now schw schwschwan -- and now russian vladimir putin knew about the poisoning? we'll talk to the experts next. this is the ocean.
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we're back with the breaking news. in the world lead, russia accusing the uk and allies of manufacturing claims that vladimir putin and the kremlin were behind the poisoning of an ex-russian spy on british soil. and russia vowing there will be consequences. my panel of experts is here. assuming that russia was behind the attacks which is the assumption of the british government, the french government, the american government -- >> i would say it's more than an assumption at this point. >> assuming it's true, based on your knowledge of the russian government, would putin have known about the operation? would he have had to have signed off on it? >> probably. but i think at this point russia can't possibly back down. russia can't possibly say, you know what, the jig is up. we did it. that was us. sorry about that. they have to maintain this posture of denial. and they have to maintain the posture that they're being punished unfairly. and that the west is not in a position to punish them because who punishes, a parent, maybe somebody who's a boss. russia's trying to show that they're equal, that they're peers. and that they can call this
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meeting, they can roll out there side of the story as crazy as it is. today we heard about the russians officials asked for information about the health of sergei skripal's guinea pigs and cats to see if they were also poisoned. >> to see if they were also poisoned? >> correct. this is an official information request from the russian government. >> michael allen, today american diplomats were seen leaving russia on buses. part of the expulsion, russian diplomats expelled from the u.s. but in either case, in both cases i should say, there is no reduction in diplomatic staff. it's just the individuals they're kicking out are being kicked out. but still 60 more russian or american diplomats can come in. how significant is this expulsion of diplomats? >> it's significant enough in that if we are taking down serious intelligence officers and getting them out of the game, thereby freeing up fbi resources, it is significant. but look, this has happened for decades. they're just going to rebuild. say that -- they by all accounts have the highest number of
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intelligence officers in washington and around the united states than even during the cold war. i mean, this is -- >> more now than during the cold war? >> yeah, this is an open congressional testimony. they are more aggressive than they ever have been. so that speaks to a lot about what we need to do in the united states in terms of monitoring who's here and what they're doing. >> and julia, here's how longtime putin critic and russian chess champion gary kaspirov responded, he tweeted, "the cell lynn was boasting and laughing about this on russian -- kremlin was boasting and laughing about this on russian tv. putin shows there's no limitation to the humiliation trump will accept from him, helping rally his gang for sanctions." is that right? >> i think it's a little bit overstate. i think it's true that this is not as bad as it seems. what's ironic i think, and probably not that ironic given how putin maneuvers when this happens, he tends to punish his own people.
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so for example, the steven spielberg st. -- the st. petersburg consulate was closed. there's been a diplomatic presence. a lot of russians now have a hard time getting an american visa. who wants to go to america from russia? the most pro-american, pro-western russians who tend to not like putin. so this is just another way to get his shot at them in. >> and michael, we learned that special counsel robert mueller has questioned some russian oligarchs who have levisited th united states about funneling money to support president trump's campaign, even going so far as to remove information from their cell phones so the -- that is the other subtext of all of this is what the russians did in 2016. >> i think one of the legacies of the mueller investigation, aside from the indictments which are very important, and we've got to get to the bottom of it, they're going to uncover a vast network of russian activity. not just traditional cold war-like spying. but money and funds, and covert influence, and manipulation of
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internet platforms and the rest. and so you know, this is a partisan issue. we can all have our different views on collusion or not. but i'm really glad that there's a team of people going through this so that we can educate the -- not just the american people, frankly, but the international community. >> quickly, trump is expected, the trump administration expected to sanction some oligarch who have ties to putin because of their election interference in the campaign. >> they were supposed to do that quite a while ago, and they didn't. there tends to be this kind of bifurcation. we have the trump administration and trump himself. we have the trump administration saying, for example, on your phone call with putin do not congratulate putin. >> right. all caps. >> right. what is -- what does trump do? he congratulates putin. and you know, say something about the poisoning. what does trump do? he doesn't say anything about the poisoning. unfortunately, this creates a huge opening for the russians to manipulate and exploit. >> michael, julia. thank you very much. appreciate it. today referring to a caravan of migrants heading to the u.s., president trump said "women are being raped at levels nobody has ever seen."
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president trump is making ms. way back to washington after a -- his way back to washington after a startling speech throwing out his prepared remarks on tax reform and said female migrants coming from mexico are being "raped at levels never seen before." multiple parts of the administration scrambling to carry out the president's sudden, impulsive order to send u.s. national guard troops to the border. we have robert starr and laila santiago outside of -- barbara starr and lila santiago outside
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of mexico. what can the national guard troops, what can they not do, and will they be armed? >> there are a lot of questions here and few answers. the pentagon said they would engage most likely in things like aviation, maintenance, surveillance, logistics support, support functions for the border control operations down there. but not likely to engage in law enforcement actually moving out and detaining people trying to cross the border themselves. these will be national guard activated by the governors. the big question, of course -- will they be armed? will the governors want them to be armed? will the pentagon want them to be armed? the dhs secretary, department of homeland security, talked about telleri -- talked about it earlier, very noncommittal. >> mexican officials will be unarmed, is that true? >> we, as you know, in the past they have had -- in 2006 there were weapons. it has been done before.
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the weapons didn't have ammunition. we're continuing the negotiation. >> reporter: continue the negotiation about what they're going to do. some initial indications, maybe 2,000 to 4,000 national guard. the question again, who pays for it. this can run into very big money for the pentagon. when president bush did it in 2006, it was over $1 billion. when president obama did a smaller operation in 2010, that alone was $1 million essentially. >> all right. barbara, thank you. laila, this afternoon, president trump mentioned this caravan journey and said, "women are being raped at levels nobody has ever seen," have you heard anything like that from the people with whom you've spoken? >> reporter: listen, i am in puebla, mexico. this is the church where many of them are arriving as we speak. i spoke to one woman, she was with the caravan earlier. she's from el salvador, a central american, that is also
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on the way north. when i asked her about that, when i said, look, president trump has talked about raping -- the raping of women, she said, look, he's trying to make this caravan, to give it a bad name. she says the reason we are going as a caravan is to provide that safety for each other. sort of this safety in numbers. now that said, i have covered immigration in mexico, as well as the u.s. side of the border. i can tell you that that is the concern. that there is a level of violence and assaults on women, and that is why so many say this journey is so dangerous, that they want to take part in the caravans that we are seeing right now. >> and president trump also tweeted in part today, "the caravan is largely broken up thanks to the strong immigration laws of mexico and their willingness to use them so as not to cause a giant scene at our border." is that the case? is the caravan breaking up? >> reporter: the caravacaravan,e seeing it in smaller groups.
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that is not the trump effect. this caravan, it is an annual event, actually a religious pilgrimage, that is so symbolic that people have chosen to sort of make a statement. this group is making a statement about central america and the conditions there. some of them, 200 of them, expected to get to the u.s.-mexico border and seek asylum. typically every year this starts off as a big group like it did this year, about 1,000 or so people, and they go their own ways once they get to certain checkpoints in mexico. it is common for this group to break up, which we are seeing. that is not because of president trump. that said, i have spoken to some which are not in the majority that said that they were on their way to the u.s., and now they're changing their mind given some of the rhetoric that they're hearing. i want to make sure to leave that clear. the fact is that always happens
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in this caravan around this point in the journey. >> and quickly if you can, the trump administration reporting a spike in border crossings for the month of march. is that in any way because of mexico doing more or less on their side of the border? >> reporter: mexico has stepped up its immigration enforcement. that was in 2014. for part of a program that was established after actually the unaccompanied minors crisis we saw in 2014. yes, when i was on the border, i did see that there was more law enforcement. there's also still a bit of a back and forth, especially on the river that we have seen. >> all right, barbara and laila, thank you very much. appreciate it. breaking news just in moments ago. president trump speaking to reporters on his way back to washington talking about stormy daniels. president trump has remained uncharacteristically silent on the allegations of any affair he had with the adult film actress until now. what did he say on camera, ahead. termites.
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that's it for "the lead." i turn you over to wolf blitzer in "the situation room" who has more on trump and stormy daniels. thanks for watching. happening now, breaking news. breaking his silence. president trump speaks out on the payment to porn star stormy daniels saying he knows nothing about the $130,000 payment and referring all questions to his lawyer. replacing sessions? president trump floated the idea of replacing the attorney general jeff sessions with epa chief scott pruitt as recently as this week even though pruitt is mired in a series of scandals. moments ago t