President Trump backtracks on threat to close border with Mexico

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," April 4, 2019. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT: If we don't make a deal with Congress, the border is going to be closed.

We're going to give them a one-year warning and if the drugs don't stop or largely stop, we're going to put tariffs on Mexico and products, in particular cars. The whole ballgame is cars. It's the big ballgame with, many countries it's cars.

And if that doesn't stop the drugs, we close the border. I will do it just like -- you know I will do it. I don't play games.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So the border stays open at least for a year?

TRUMP: No, I didn't say that. We're going to -- we would start with the tariffs. Then we will see what happens.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRET BAIER, HOST: The President Tuesday and then today talking about the border, whether he is going to close down the border because of the situation there. He has already called it a national emergency but now there is the aspect of tariffs, possibly on Mexican cars or cars made in Mexico but maybe not for a year. We are trying to figure out from the administration.

Let's bring in our panel. Tom Bevan Real Clear Politics co-founder and president; and Jonathan Swan national political reporter for Axios.

Jonathan -- where do you think we are on this?

JONATHAN SWAN, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, AXIOS: I think we are at the stage of Trump starting to try and formulate a Plan B. We spoke -- we reported this morning that people around him thought he was more likely than not to edge off closing the ports. And the primary argument that people close to him told us, what he was receptive to is the effect it would have on economic growth.

And we were seeing numbers in terms of the amount of commerce that's passing through some of these busy ports on the U.S.-Mexico border. Trump doesn't want to do anything in the year and a half now before his re- election that's going to hammer the stock markets or have a dampening effect on economic growth.

So I think you are seeing him recalibrate and, I mean the car tariff issue is very, very complicated because you have a deal that he struck that hasn't been approved by Congress with Canada and Mexico, a new NAFTA which wouldn't allow them to do this.

And then you also have the separate issue of Trump asking the Commerce Department to provide a national security rationale for car tariffs which there is going to be a legal challenge there.

So, the bottom line is it's very, very complicated but this is Trump pivoting off the very hard line position that he outlined last week.

BAIER: Tom -- many Republican lawmakers piped up saying that there is roughly $1.5 billion of commerce that goes over that border every day. Forbes wrote an op-ed saying if the border shut down happens it could lead to a recession.

Obviously that had an effect. But, what is the impact of this kind of -- well, maybe we will do this instead?

TOM BEVAN, FOUNDER, REAL CLEAR POLITICS: Well, look, I think Trump sort of in frustration launched this idea that he was just going to shut down the border. And he is frustrated by the flow of drugs and the flow of people, quite frankly. And this is an issue that is going to carry through to 2020.

And quite frankly I'm astonished that, you know, you have got Trump administration officials now, even some former Obama administration officials saying this is a crisis. The system is sort of melting down.

But there is nothing going on in congress on immigration. And Democrats who are running for president in 2020 are talking about just the opposite. You've got Beto talking about tearing down walls. You've got Julian Castro talking about decriminalizing crossing the border.

So this is issue that Trump obviously wants to solve. It's an important issue for his base. He is going to keep it front and center though as he heads into 2020 because it's an issue that I think quite frankly probably works for him given who he is going to be running against in their positions.

SWAN: I think there is also just a really important point that needs to be underscored here which is there is a crisis at the border there are people who don't have a place to go and they are being redistributed into the country on buses. I mean, the Associated Press did a story outlining all of this. I mean it is a really serious problem there.

The issue though will not be solved, the wall is almost the least important issue for the people who cover. A lot of the these people actually want to be caught. They are going through and appealing for asylum. And that's the issue which (INAUDIBLE)

(CROSSTALKING)

BAIER: Changing the asylum laws.

SWAN: That is the big fight that is going on right now between the courts and the Trump administration.

BAIER: Yes. And let's be honest the President really wanted to tweak Mexico to do more on their side of the border both on the flow of illegal immigrants and the flow of drugs which is what he said a couple of times.

One more topic quickly and this is the "New York Times" and the "Washington Post" with these headlines that some on the Mueller team say the report was more damaging than the Attorney General revealed. Limited information that there is some angst on the Mueller team -- all anonymously sourced. The DOJ pushed back hard saying the statement was in response to misreporting.

The Attorney General deciding to release the report's bottom line findings and its conclusions immediately without attempting to summarize the report with the understanding that the report itself would be released after the redaction process. The Department continues to work with the Special Counsel on appropriate redactions of the report.

Tom, what about this? Is this a push to the Attorney General? It's obviously getting pounced on by Democrats on Capitol Hill.

BEVAN: I mean, does anybody really believe that the Mueller team, who have Democratic leanings certainly aren't going to carry any water for Donald Trump, if they had objections that this is how it would go down? It would come out two weeks after the fact through anonymous sources about associates saying they had a few of them have some concerns?

I'm not buying it. I think this is another media job by the "New York Times", quite frankly that they are continuing to do what got them in trouble in the first place. What got the media into trouble in the first place.

We're going to see the Mueller report eventually. That process is underway. Let's just all wait and not engage in this kind of behavior until we actually see what's in that report.

BAIER: You have 10 seconds -- Jonathan.

SWAN: I disagree with Tom. I think what we are seeing here is some members of the Mueller team who have frustrations and the laws of physics, they are back in the wild. They are talking to their colleagues and all these reporters are talking to the colleagues who are getting it from them. I think that's how it's coming out.

I don't disagree about some of them being Democrats. But I think that's how it's coming out.

BAIER: That was 13. All right. Thanks for inviting us into your home tonight.

That's it for this abbreviated edition of “Special Report” -- fair, balanced and unafraid.

Next up from Kansas City our town hall with Howard Schultz.

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