enthused, so he's firing up the base. the liberal base is obviously very excited about turning things around. >> he thinks the election will work in 2018. we shall see. have a great weekend. wolf starts right now. hello, i'm wolf blitzer. it's 1:00 p.m. here in washington, 8:00 p.m. in jerusalem, 1:00 a.m. saturday in beijing. wherever you're watching around the world, thank you very much for joining us. a flurry of activity in a growing list of scandals in the president's administration. he is standing in awe of beleagueuered erkpa chief scott pruitt. also, president trump
breaking his silence on the stormy daniels saga, and an attorney for the adult film star says the president's words will help their case against him. in the first comment, the president said he did not know about the $130,000 in hush money paid to daniels. fears of a trade war with china rising again. president trump says he's considering tariffs on another $100 billion worth of chinese goods. will this lead to negotiations or escalation? and the u.s. takes aim at wealthy russians with ties to vladimir putin. the trump administration imposing sanctions against severen russian oligarchs, a dozen companies they own or control and 17 senior russian government officials. and that's where we begin. cnn has team coverage of the sweeping russian sanctions. our correspondent evan perez will connect the dots with special counsel robert mueller. we'll explain how it all came
together, but first let's go to our senior correspondent michelle kra zaczynskkosinski. she has the list. >> we have energy giant gascom, a head of the national guard, a guy named andrew kostin, sometimes referred to as trump's piggy bank. and alexander torshin, whether that money might have gone towards now-president trump. he also allegedly tried to set up a trump-putin meeting. then there's oleg deripaska with alleged ties to the campaign
chairman. viktor vekselberg made a large donation to trump's donation. that's also vekselberg's cousin. plus his company has ties allegedly to current commerce secretary wilbur ross. so clearly the administration has chosen a few of the original more than 200 people that they put on a list for potential sanctions, but they're not shying away from some of putin's real inner circle, as well as some of the sha dirks hrks arkse that the special counsel is looking into. why is it hard for these sanctions to come down, and why is it so unusual for the administration to spell out that this is in part because of russian meddling in the u.s. election, wolf? >> very significant list. nonetheless, a major step as far as the u.s. trying to punish the
russians. michelle kosinski, thanks very much. here to break it down for us, cnn national security analyst, former senior adviser to the national security council under president obama. tell us how this all came together. >> wolf, this is a really good day for u.s. national security, ask kudos to the national security team. i don't say that a lot. these sanctions are a step toward implementing the kind of real deterrence who john bolton, who starts on monday, said we need in the russian strategy. it's definitely a step in the right direction. the russia arranged activity includ threatens the matrix here. we're going to look at ukraine, also election meddling,
cyberactivities and that kind of thing. we just kicked out diplomats because of the nerve agent attack in the u.k. so i think the administration is signaling to putin, finally, that we see everything he's doing and we're going to impose penalties across the board. as michelle mentioned, seven oligarchs were designated today. they do his dirty work for him. the word oligarch is being thrown around a lot these days. in russian contacts it means a very rich business leader withowith political influence. they have a relationship with the russian leader. they're moving his money and goods and services around the world and doing his dirty work for him. >> give us a little more specific information on these oligarchs, seven oligarchs who were mentioned in these new
sanctions. >> this is like putin's family list. it has his son-in-law, as mention mentioned. oligarchs are designated for various things other than the ukraine and syria things i mentioned. they're designated for that, but they've also been involved in a lot of other really shady behavior. they work in russia's energy sector, which is now legal in the u.s. they're representatives of the russian government. but in addition, they have been accused of money laundering, bribery, extortion, all those other kinds of activity. these are not the kind of guys you want to invite to your dinner table. >> usually, samantha, whenever the u.s. does something like this to the russians, whether it's shutting down a diplomatic mission, the russians immediately respond in kind. i assume u.s. officials are now bracing for a list of american business tycoons, government officials, big corporations that are about to be sanctioned by the russians, right? >> i would expect that, wolf.
i don't think vladimir putin is going to take any of this lying down, again, because these guys are so important to them. the money question here is, wolf, whether any other countries are going to follow suit and issue similar designations. where they have these actions, like greece and the u.k. >> since putin's son-in-law was on this list by the u.s., should we anticipate that the president's son-in-law jared kushner will be on the russia list when they respond? >> i think it's possible, but jared kushner has had a series of engagements with representatives of the russian government, like ambassador kislyak, so i don't know if it's a short thing ure thing in this. >> i don't think it's a matter of if, but when they'll respond. i'll be anxious to see their list for their sanctions. we'll see what they decide to do. samantha, thank you very much. as we mentioned earlier, one of the russian oligarchs is
oleg deripaskas. he's tied to deputy campaign chairman rick gates. manafort, as you know, has been indicted by the special counsel robert mueller. rick gates was indicted. he pleaded guilty. he's reached an agreement with the special counsel. i want to bring our justice correspondent evan perez who has been closely following the endeavor. they were the only ones sanctioned today with some sort of connection to the president of the united states. >> right, wolf. the thing we have to keep in mind as far as it relates to the mueller investigation is that what mueller is now homing in on is the question of whether or not anybody might have legally provided money, donated money to the trump campaign, whether through shell corporations, whether through americans that were essentially straw donors.
that's the big question for the mueller investigation, whether anybody was part of this influence operation by the russian government, and whether these people who are very close to vladimir putin, were part of that. so the three names you just put up there, oleg deripaska, alexander and viktor all have been in business with paul manafort, offering to provide deripaska some private briefings. this was a time when manafort was in the campaign. obviously we now know that gates is cooperating with the mueller investigation, so he is going to be able to shed light on exactly what that relationship was, whether there was any money that needs to be tracked as part of that relationship. viktor vekselberg, we've been told he attended the inauguration, but he was also at that dinner where michael flynn
was. you see pictures where michael flynn is sitting with vladimir putin, and i know that viktor vekselberg's cousin donated money to the trump inauguration, something he had never done before in his life. he had never been a donor to anything like this. so that's something the mueller investigators are going to want to take a look at. vekselberg is someone who is very wealthy. he owns an energy company and he travels to. his name figures largely in this. he has some ties with the nra. he actually posed a meeting between the. the fbi is looking into whether or not he was somebody, perhaps a conduit for money, that may have gone into the campaign. all of these people, obviously, again, the unifying factor is.
i need to know if that is part of the russia investigation. >> they presumably would have liked to have interviewed these individuals, especially the three you mentioned. if he had come to the united states, questioned them, had a search warrant for their documents and cell phones, stuff like that. now these individuals aren't coming to the united states and there's going to be no chance for mueller to interview them. >> right, i think the element of surprise is definitely lost here for some of these individuals. certainly, i think as my colleague shimon prokupecz reported earlier this week, the mueller investigators are being very aggressive, and they're doing exactly what you said, stopping them when they were.
we'll see if any of that changes the pattern of the united states. >> let's get more on these developments. mike rogers is joining us, cnn form former chairman of the intelligence committee. >> this is good, this will pinch putin where it hurts most, especially in the pocketbook. you come because you're connected to the government and the governmental louz you to take over large segments in russia. what i found interesting about this set of sanctions is it hits them in banking, it hits them in manufacturing, it hits them in commodities like aluminum. with also hurts them in their weapon sales, and we know all of those things have contributed.
it's going to take a little more to operate and then to promote. >> do come in the same week that president trump said getting along with russia is a good thing, two week, maybe even at the white house. there seems some conflicting messages going on here. >> there is. it would be much better if the president just said, we're going to completely ramp this up unless we get some dmang your. they will ramp this up until we see a change in behavior, and most people will tell u wolf, without that continued pressure, vladimir putin isn't going to.
it has to be part of a broader plan to continue to ramp up this pressure to change vladimir putin's behavior. >> what happens when the russian business leaders, government officials and they'll try to find the thing that pinches the most, but when was the last time you saw um. that's why this hurts them more than they'll be able to hurt us. it will hurt some american injurings, but i do believe we'll pay a little price on the other side. again, this is all about ramping up pressure which i'm finally glad the administration decided to do. it's getting close to 2018
elections. >> they do sell some vodka here in the united states. i'll be interested to see if the president's son-in-law jared kushner is on the sanctions list because putin's son-in-law was on the sanctions list. >> drink tito, wolf. >> thank you for that. the u.s. stock market taking a pretty heavy hit as china takes a salvo and the jobs department is disappointing. that blows them all out of the water. hydro boost water gel from neutrogena®. with hyaluronic acid it goes beneath the surface to plump skin cells from within and lock in hydration leaving skin so supple, it actually bounces back. the results will blow you away!
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slap china with $100 billion in new tariffs, tweeting, quote, china which is a great economic power is considered a developing nation within the world trade organization. they therefore get tremendous perks and advantages, especially over the u.s. does anybody think this is
fair. we were badly represented. the wto is unfair to u.s. let's go to richard live on the floor of the new york stock exchange. richard, give us a little fact check on the president's tweet, but also tell us what you're seeing and hearing on the floor right now. >> there are so many undercurrents, strands, difficulties concerning this trade story that it is beyond belief. you got that tweet from the president about 10:30 when the market was trying to rally. that dropped the market lower. larry kudlow, the national economic director, he came out and tried to soothe the markets,
saying there wouit would be unl there would be a trade war. then steven speaking on another network saying there is the potential of a trade war with china. my point, wolf, is that in this market you know very well, they hate uncertainty. the one thaing that has been pu on the table yesterday of the chinese saying we'll retaliate and this morning's tweets is uncertainty. nobody knows whether this is a negotiating strategy, whether there is a likelihood, a possibility, a remoteness of trade with sanction s on tariff. >> it could escalate to a real trade war. that could be devastating not just for the u.s. and china but so many other countries around the world. the global economy could be at
risk as well. the march jobs report weaker, almost 100,000 jobs lower than the 200,000 that were expected. the jobs were, in his words, a little sloppy right now. walk us through these latest numbers. >> i would say ignore them for the moment. 103,000 versus 175,000 expected. when you get that sort of disparity between the expectation and the reality, that usually means some catastrophic event, and in this case it's the weather. look at construction. instead focus on the revisions of january and february. when you see those, you see that the u.s. is still creating jobs, roughly 200,000, among exceptional job growth. 19 months of continuous job growth and an employment rate at record lows. it cannot continue. there simply are not the people
to fill the jobs at this sort of rate. but for the time being, it's good going. >> the unemployment rate remains at 1.6%. the president backs the environmental chief scott pruitt as he takes even more heat to ties with a washington lobbyist. he demoted an epa official after tax problems on the right.
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the president today tried to shoot down reports by cnn and others that as recently as earlier this week, the president considered replacing the attorney general jeff sessions with scott pruitt. cnn politics reporter and editor at large, chris lizza, is joining us now. other cabinet members have been fired for less. why not scott pruitt? >> it's unusual, but remember, it's only 1:00 on friday so it's still possible we'll get news on that. you mentioned john kelly being concerned that pruitt's headlines can get worse. i don't know that that can happen. let's go rapid fire through a bunch of headlines about scott pruitt that happened just in the last few weeks. scott pruitt gets more security than any epa head ever. why does that matter? security costs money. scott pruitt had security at the rose bowl and disneyland.
scott pruitt, when he could have flown commercial, he flew private jets. pruitt had a $50 a day condo linked to lobbyists. he paid $50 a day, but only on nights he stayed there. reviewing scott pruitt's conduct. next one, pruitt's security diesel asked to use sirens and lights throughout d.c. i wish i could do that. you probably shouldn't abuse that when you're an official with the trump administration. and epa officials sidelined after questioning scott pruitt, essentially saying when the epa race questions everything we just went through, whether it's security detail or cost of his travel, those people were either removed or sidelined, which is
really not the way that you should be running an administration. now, despite all -- let me do one more. scott pruitt under fire for giving aides raises. this is where we saw scott pruitt saying i didn't do this, but two aides, unknown to him, asked for $85,000 in pay raises that the white house did not want. so -- that's a lot. now, donald trump still hasn't gotten rid, as you mentioned, wolf, still hasn't gotten rid of scott pruitt and called him a good man, sort of. let's go through who else he's called a good man of late. >> michael flynn, general flynn, is a wonderful man. >> he's a good man. >> we'll see what happens with bannon, but he's a goodma man. >> rex is a very good man.
>> what do those people have in common? they don't work for the trump administration anymore, so scott pruitt is hoping not to join that list. >> thanks very much. let's get some perspective from david riff kin. he is a constitutional lawyer formerly worked for the department of justice. he also works with scott pruitt, knows him personally. when you see all these allegations against him, you know him well. david, what do you think? >> let me just make a couple points. for example, the facts are not correct about most of the allegations. look at the the apartment issue. there is a memo that's available that indicates clearly that ep ethics official looked at the $50 per night access to a single bedroom and concluded it was not a gift. >> since that memo was provided, he has said he didn't have all the information that he need to do -- need to do make that
decision. >> i looked at the memo. the first pages don't say that. >> the memo was written, and now the ethics person at the epa is saying they're reviewing it again because they didn't have all the information they needed. >> they're talking an allegation. maybe his daughter stayed there one night or more. was t it was not a gift. >> when you get to rent a place, a condo for $50 a night, and you only have to pay the nights you're there, that's a pretty good deal. >> i hate to waste time on this, but there is a list of six or seven properties which says in the airbnb world, the price for getting a room, a single bedroom within a six-mile radius from where he stayed, excuse me, six-block residence, was $55 and below. this was clearly drif bin his
adversaries. adversaries understand he is the most obstruct active generator. >> you i think the president likes what he did, removing this from the obama administration. and is he causing a big picture for the president of the united states? >> no. sometimes the scope, one of the most affected members, to his cabinet. for the president is listen to this and push them out -- >> if he's forced to retire -- let's say he's forced out and he's fired. what would be your reaction? you know scott pruitt well. you've represented him when he was the oklahoma attorney general. >> and i worked with him almost every day for several years. it breaks my heart when i hear
this business about pliflights everything. he's a man who cares about his job. he works 24/7. he cares about getting everything done by law. i don't see anyone else who can do his job. like you said, he's very good at what he does. again, for example, everybody is criticizing him for flying all over the place. i remember he was still in oklahoma telling me how unfortunate it is that you need a partnership between state departments and federal. why do you think you'll be flying to a bunch of states? because he wants to bring states into getting things done with the environment. >> he's your friend. we'll see if he survivors. bits questionable. >> i agree. see what happens next. up next,.
president trump was asked about the hush money, $130,000, that was paid to stormy daniels. he denied that he knew anything about it and now her attorney is saying that could help. we'll be right back. offer our congratulationst we on your acceptance..." through the tuition assistance program, every day mcdonald's helps more people go to college. it's part of our commitment to being america's best first job. ♪
the attorney for the adult film actress stormy daniels says the case for stormy daniels is stronger now that the president has broken his silence. here's the president's first public comments about the stormy daniels saga. listen. >> reporter: did you know about the $103,000 payment to stormy daniels? >> no. >> why did michael cohen make
this, if there was no knowledge about it? >> you'll have to ask my attorney michael cohen. >> let's bring in our panel to discuss that and more. we have cnn political analyst jackie sivich and legal analyst laura coates. what do you make, laura, of stormy daniels attorney, michael avenatti, saying trump has now made their case stronger. >> the president of the united states is now talking about this issue, and i wonder if the view in which michael cohen is viewing his life is a good view or not. michael cohen himself said he had nothing to do with the pot this issue, that he kind of made it his own. you can't do that. you can't make meaningful settlements on behalf of your client if your client doesn't know about that. also the question of how many
more people. underlying this entire thing is what avenatti is saying, in that if this person knew nothing about it, then you couldn't actually have a good agreement. the reason i call it presumptious at this point is because there is a court that is trying to decide if there is enough about an implied contract and whether trump, aka doug denison, would have to be a party to benefit from it, or whether or not it was void by itself. the judge has already said i want you to slow down on your requests for depositions, take a breath on discovery until i've had a chance to resolve these issues. at this point in time it certainly does not bode well for michael cohen, but it never did. >> david, talking a little bit about the timing now of the president breaking his silence on this whole stormy daniels saga. >> the president has not been much for taking questions from reporters as of late, so this one was lingering out there for
quite some time. to me it felt like, let's lance that boil. i'll talk to reporters. he didn't get this question in the press conference last week, but i think his answer just begged more questions. you said you didn't know about it, does that mean you didn't know about it at the time? when did you first learn of michael cohen's payment to stormy daniels? it was in the press when all of us first learned about it, or did you have knowledge prior to that even if you didn't have knowledge at the time? it wasn't entirely clear. i think there's more probing that needs to go on there, but i think he understands that if, indeed, he wants to talk to questions by reporters on other topics he prefers to talk about, he probably knew at some point he had to take a question on this, because he can see from sarah sanders' briefings they get constant questions about this. >> i'm anxious to hear your assessment about this, jackie. >> there are even questions from evangelicals about this
particular issue. it's not that they'll turn away from trump, they'll just stay home during midterms. they knew who president trump was when he was a candidate. it was pretty clear. but by voting for him, they were hoping to get someone who would push their agenda. this is a distraction and they don't like that, that this is constantly in the news and really counter to a lot of their principles. the nra had a story today. there is a meeting apparently in june way lot of evangelicals and they're going to discuss this and they hope the president joins them. >> i saw the npr report. he disputes that analysis. listen to this. i'll read it to you since i don't have the actual clip. attaching the planning of the meeting to any personal accusations against the president is entirely farcical.
that isn't the purpose and it has never been a point of discussion. >> in our recent polling among white evangelical voters, president trump is at 68% approval, a lot healthier than his overall approval which in this poll was at 42%. so it is still a group that, for a president who has not gained a lot of traction from a lot of groups, it is a group that is still with him. to jackie's point, we also asked the recent poll do you believe the women? do you believe the president? among evangelicals, 40% believed the women. 36% believed the president, and about a quarter of a percent said they weren't sure. so there is some question in here, even though evangelicals remain a stalwart part. >> laura, now that i have sanctions of these russian
oligarchs. a few of them robert mueller would have liked to have spoken to if they flew to the united states, questioned them upon their arrival at an international airport, take a look if they had a search warrant, their documents, their cell phone, stuff like that. now these individuals are not coming to the united states. >> absolutely not. why? because they'll be within the jurisdiction of the united states and when that happens, mueller's power becomes exponentially greater at that time, so it discourages it. but it also has more effect than his previous indictment talk had. remember how he talked about the troll trolling and the bot system and all that. it was a way of alerting the public, alerting donald trump, alerting congress and alerting russia about the idea that if you come within our reach again, we will extend that great arm of justice no one likes. but the other issue here is about the power of the curse. i know we're talking about
congress, but really we're talking about an investigation like this. the power of the purse for mueller extends to financial ties and about squeezing where it hurts. the notion here that i'm going to be able to somehow attack and sanction putin by the vehicles in which he has tried to interfere with our election, and that's a very, very powerful strategy. how it will come to fruition in the united states in a court of law is very difficult. but right now it sends a very clear message. >> very quickly, i'm just curious. would it be normal for the administration to ask the special counsel robert mueller and his team for guidance before they went ahead and slapped these sanctions against some of these oligarchs, knowing they would not be able to come into the house for potential questioning? . >> normally you would have a parallel attack, especially if you have allegations like we have between manafort.
when one is that aggressive against the other, you don't have that meeting of the minds. busloads of central americans desperate for a better life continue to make their way north through mexico on their way to the united states. most will stop in mexico city to try to get refugee status there. most of these migrants are determined to cross the border into the united states. president trump says these so-called caravans are part of the reason why he's deploying at least 2,000 national guard troops to the border of mexico. leyla, buses still arriving. walk us through what's happening. >> i'm going to get out of the way. this is the first bus that's arrived today. this is the first person you see getting off the bus. i see right now two buses that have come in, each of them i'm told carrying about 60 to 70 people. this is the second part of the
caravan to arrive here in puebla. we're already starting to see children getting off the bus, we're starting to see women getting off the bus, and this is on top of what is about 200 central americans, part of this caravan, that have already arrived in this area. now, we're told that there could be some more buses that are arriving, but for right now you're seeing this happen sort of live as we try to figure out exactly what their plans are. that has been part of the day today, a lot of people trying to figure out exactly what is happening. i'm actually going to try to get a little closer to them and see if maybe i can talk to one of the families here that has just arrived. i'll give them a minute to sort of get their surroundings. [ speaking foreign language ]
>> she has two children. i'm asking her why she's here. she's saying there is a lot of violence where she's coming from. i'm asking this they're dangerous. >> she said a child of this age cannot be dangerous. she said they've been going from town to town just to arrive here. i'm asking where she's going. she is going to the united states. i'm asking about the rates that president trump has talked about on this journey.
she's saying that the women have not been assaulted. this is just one. i'm going to move around here. it is quite busy as they just arrived. i'm holding my camera man as well so we can give you a better shot and give you a greater view of exactly what's happening. they are going to right now take i want to kind of talk you through of what we know is what about to happen. right now, after this, they will go into the church. they will meet with legal aides as well as immigration advocates and they will advise them and try to come up with a plan for what's next. we're told that some of these folks will get to mexico city. as you just heard from the woman we just talked to, some of them will also go to the u.s./mexico
border. organizers are saying they believe that will be about 200 people. i've got to tell you, wolf, i'm hearing from the people on this caravan themselves it will likely be more than that. that many of them plan to go to the u.s./mexico border to seek asylum. what mexico has done, which is a little different this year than other years. remember, this is an annual event. these are sort of pilgrimages that happen every single year. and what they've told me is that this year mexico provided many people in this caravan a 20 or 30-day permission to stay here while they seek asylum. some folks are taking advantage of that, to seek asylum in mexico for 20 or 30 days. many are going to seek asylum in the united states. but this is only -- not even
half of the journey here. i'm told they will stay here for several days, go to mexico city and while we do see a lot of people here right now, wolf, this is actually part of that dispersed crowd that president trump talks about, because this is much less in terms of amount of people than what they started. organizers say they started about 1200. now this is about 70 right here. >> let me interrupt. i would love to hear more from some of these hondurans. we all know there's a very violent situation in honduras. they want out. if you could, speak to one or two of them and give us a sense of why they're attempting this journey to the united states. >> reporter: sure. i'm trying to get back into this crowd right here. as can you imagine there's a bit of chaos. [ speaking foreign language ]
she's from honduras. [ speaking foreign language ] i'm trying to hear her a little better. [ speaking foreign language ] >> so she's saying for her it's a situation, she doesn't have the financial means to raise her children there. she actually is not mentioning the violence. i'm going to try to talk to this woman over here. [ speaking foreign language ] >> i want to share with you what she just said. she said she left honduras
because of the violence and said something that's key, wolf, to what i've heard over and over, seeking a better life for her children. i'm going to learn more about her children. [ speaking foreign language ] these are her three children plus one more child. so she has four children. [ speaking foreign language ] this is a 2-year-old child. i'm asking him what this journey has been like for her children. she says that they suffered. [ speaking foreign language ] she says they've had to sleep outside. sometimes they haven't had food. [ speaking foreign language ] i'm asking her how does she explain that to them? [ speaking foreign language ]
so their mother -- so she's the grandmother. she's saying that their mother is in san francisco and so they know that they're going to meet their mother in san francisco. [ speaking foreign language ] i'm asking her about the idea of being called a dangerous caravan. [ speaking foreign language ] she is tearing up, wolf, as she says this is about fleeing violence in honduras. i do want to show you, we have more buses coming in. >> leyla, i am grateful to you. our viewers are grateful to you