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West Virginia Teachers Strike for 8th Day; Larry Summers Talks Trump's Trade War Threat; Trump Under Fire for Praising Xi After Extending His Presidency Forever. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired March 5, 2018 - 14:30   ET


[14:30:00] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Let's stay on this. I want to bring in Michelle Titus-Glover. She teaches elementary school in West Virginia.

Michelle, thank you for what you do for young people in this country. My mom was a teacher.

But, day eight. What if you don't get what you want?

MICHELLE TITUS-GLOVER, WEST VIRGINIA TEACHER: It's not so much about the raise at this point. It's not about a -- a 2 percent raise has been passed. It's not 2 percent or 4 percent. It is about the fact that the Senators are showing great disrespect for teachers. Now it's more about us standing up for what's right.

BALDWIN: Let me back up. I understand you have been teaching for 14 years and I guess my question is why now? What lit the fire to finally say, enough is enough? I'm going to fight.

TITUS-GLOVER: The public insurance for teacher, all state employees was going to be changed from 80 percent/20 percent to 60/40. So with the small raise they were going to give us, some teachers were going to lose up to $7,000 a year. So that's why now.

BALDWIN: Understand. I know for a lot of people watching, Michelle, it's like, why not pay teachers more? But the piece of the other side of the story -- and this is how I understand it. It is the state Senate who is really holding up this 5 percent raise request. It is my understanding they'll give you four. They say the 1 percent difference is $13 million which they say is too big a burden on the state of West Virginia. What do you say to them?

TITUS-GLOVER: It's not too much of a burden. I think at this point Senator ferns has said we will not give them what they want. At this point they are just digging their heels in. The governor created a bill that said 5 percent raise and he also told us that he would make a committee to show goodwill, that he would find ways to fix PEIA. They have frozen it now which gives us another 16 months or so until they are going to raise it again. When they raise it then the people will lose $7,000 or $8,000 off of their pay in essence.

BALDWIN: Michelle, we'll stay in touch with you. We'll follow this as this whole fight continues.

Thank you so much. And good luck.

TITUS-GLOVER: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Good luck.

Next, are we heading for a global trade war? Former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers joins me live. His reaction to President Trump's tariff threat, next.


[14:36:42] BALDWIN: More on our breaking news. President Trump saying he doesn't think there will be a trade war, as he threatens tariffs on steel and aluminum, sparking fears of a global standoff. He started the day by targeting Mexico and Canada and tossing NAFTA into the mix as a bargaining tool. The tariff threat going against the counsel of his advisors, sending jitters through stock markets and even Republican diehards.

With me now, Larry Summers, former director of the National Economic Council under President Obama and former Treasury secretary under President Clinton.

Mr. Secretary, a pleasure to have you. Welcome, sir.


BALDWIN: Trade wars. You know, last week, the president said they were a good thing. He's now saying don't worry about it. With your years of experience, I want you to finish my sentence. Trade wars are?

SUMMERS: Trade wars are terrible. What presidents have said before is that nuclear wars can never be won and must never be fought. That's the right strategy for trade wars. To try to initiate a trade war is crazy economic policy. To protect the U.S. industry, like steel, while sacrificing industries where a hundred times as many people work -- excuse me. I got that wrong -- 50 times as many people work in steel using industries makes no sense from the point of view of our national economics. To impose a national security policy that's fervently opposed by the secretary of defense is unprecedented. To suggest that, on national security grounds, we need to hurt Canada's production of steel, I don't get it.

BALDWIN: Do you --

SUMMERS: These policies are inexplicable to me.

BALDWIN: Do you think it's possible? This is a man who -- again, "Art of the Deal" here -- that the trade war threats are some sort of ploy, plot to force Canada or Mexico to give in on NAFTA?

SUMMERS: Well, Germany is not in NAFTA, and it is subject to this. Brazil's not in NAFTA, and it is subject to this. If there were any reports that there was a rational strategy process that came to this conclusion, one would at least want to consider the possibility that you suggest. But for what must be one of the first times in the history of a modern presidency, this was a policy that was announced before any documents that the White House had been prepared for the president's signature. The vast majority of his economic advisers and those with global experience opposed this policy. To my knowledge, all his foreign policy advisers opposed it as well. So I think it is a stretch to suppose that there is some rational bargaining theory explanation. It's further evidence that the president's initial comments were that trade wars were good and easy to win.


SUMMERS: That certainly wasn't -- it was Smoot-Hawley the last time we did like this that many economic historians believe made the Depression great. And --


[14:40:06] BALDWIN: I thought it exacerbated the Depression.

SUMMERS: That's what I mean. Made it from a small Depression to the Great Depression.


SUMMERS: I can't understand why, with an economy coming into groove, an economy showing signs of strength, you would want to throw everything up in the air with a set of policies like this. Markets didn't understand either. There was $400 billion of losses in the hour after the tariffs were imposed, against somewhere in the neighborhood of 1 percent of that was a gain for the steel companies that benefitted. So when you play with fire, it's not a certainty that you'll get burned. It may be that some settlements or something is worked out. But when you play with fire, you are taking a big chance.

BALDWIN: Let me --


SUMMERS: And when you play with fire, people are nervous about you in the future because people who play with fire once may well do it again.

BALDWIN: Right. You mentioned Smoot-Hawley and the Depression, and I think of President Obama and he slapped tariffs on the Chinese tires. He pitched this as a notion to create jobs or save jobs but, in the end, I was looking at the numbers, it cost U.S. jobs and raised tire prices for Americans. You mention all those. Also, the advisers who oppose the plan. Let me add to that list, Secretary Summers, and say Republicans, the speaker of the House, opposed this plan. Does Congress have the power to stop this?

SUMMERS: I suspect if there's a sufficiently unified view in Congress and Congress can actually move legislation that they could find a way to stop this. Whether they will actually do that, I think, is very much in doubt.

And, Brooke, let me correct one impression you might have left with some viewers. President Obama did do a tariff on tires. Frankly, I was in the administration at the time. I opposed that step. It was tiny compared to what was involved here. I don't know whether it was 1 percent or 5 percent. If you looked at the volume of products that were affected. And there, there was a legitimate argument, not one that I found persuasive, that the tires had been inappropriately subsidized. This is just a political move, playing to his base that, to my knowledge, not justified by economy economic theory.

BALDWIN: Larry Summers, a pleasure, sir. Come back any time. Thank you.

SUMMERS: Good to be with you.

BALDWIN: Thank you.

Still ahead, president for life. President Trump praises the leader of China for consolidating power, saying, quote, "Maybe we'll give that a shot some day." We'll discuss that.

Also, protests erupting in Washington as President Trump's deadline arrived on the fate of dreamers.

The White House briefing, moments away as well.





[14:47:41] BALDWIN: The White House is on the defense again. This time after President Trump praised Chinese Dictator Xi Jinping for seizing power, effectively extending how long he can stay in office. Forever.

Listen to what President Trump told Republican donors behind closed doors over the weekend.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: China is great, and Xi is a great gentleman. He's now president for life.




(APPLAUSE) TRUMP: President for life. No, he's great. Look, he was able to do that. I think it's great. Maybe we'll have to give that a shot someday, right?



TRUMP: He's the most powerful president in 100 years -- person, in the 100 years in China.


BALDWIN: Rick Wilson, a Republican strategist and former strategist for Rudy Giuliani's 2000 Senate campaign.

Welcome back.

Also with us, CNN political commentator, Ben Ferguson, host of "The Ben Ferguson Show."


Rick Wilson, to you.

"Maybe we'll have to give that a shot some day." Your immediate reaction when you heard the president's comments?

RICK WILSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, look, I would have probably have given the president a little bit of a pass on this if I hadn't repeatedly in the course of his campaign and the first year of his presidency heard him praising dictators, praising overseas strong men, praising people like Duterte and acting an envious way towards a lot of folks who are not exactly role models of western liberal democracy. So in this case it's Trump being Trump or it's Trump being funny. You've got to look at in the context of the broader statements and broader inclinations he's expressed over and over again. He certainly is more of a fan of authoritarians, including his best buddy Vladimir Putin, than he is to a lot of the allies we have around the world who are in countries of representative democracies.

BALDWIN: Ben? I mean, Rick is right.


BALDWIN: The president is not shy showing his admiration for these guys.

BEN FERGUSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, even "The Washington Post" ran a headline that said in a jokey speech, they even understood it was a joke. I talked to someone that was in the room. They said it was clearly Trump being funny and being Trump and joking around with a friendly audience. This wasn't a serious comment.

BALDWIN: Ben, Ben --


FERGUSON: The fact that we're sitting here having this conversation makes me laugh because it was obviously a joke.

[14:50:06] BALDWIN: Ben, Rick has the point it's this theme, right? It would be a joke if it was just taken as this one single time he said it, but the quotes, he's mentioned Vladimir Putin for his very strong control over his country. Duterte, the Philippines president, credited him for his unbelievable job on the drug problem. This is a man who kills suspected drug dealers. He's talked about Erdogan, Turkey, the great friendship. Saddam Hussein, even as a candidate, praised him for killing terrorists without due process. How are his comments a joke?

FERGUSON: Again, I'll go back to other presidents. We've always had presidents that have had awkward relationships with leaders around the world, whether it was Reagan, whether it was Bill Clinton, whether it was George Bush 41 during the Gulf War. We've always had relationships with different leaders who are not perfect, and they didn't instigate fighting words with them either. We have allies who are not the best allies in the world because sometimes you need access to protect American interests including on issues of national security.


FERGUSON: Let me finish this one point.


FERGUSON: Hold on one second, Rick.


FERGUSON: You're always mystified when I bring up the history of the past, but you can admit that Republicans and Democrats have had to have awkward relationships with very strong leaders around the world that we don't always agree with what they do in their own countries.

BALDWIN: It's actually --


BALDWIN: Rick, you go ahead. You jump in.

WILSON: Let's be clear about one thing. If your knowledge of history extends to anything more than the most incredibly superficial level, which I doubt in this case, you could go back and look at the presidents you cited --


WILSON: -- Obama, Reagan, Clinton, the Bushes. None of them went out and said, wow, it's awesome that authoritarian regimes in places like China and Russia, the way they treat people. They didn't go out and praise the hideous behaviors that exist in authoritarian states. They weren't out there saying, wow, it's great how much control Putin has. It's great that Duterte kills people without due process. So your reading of history would be enriched by going back and studying the fact that Donald Trump has a pattern of over time --

FERGUSON: Rick, Rick --

WILSON: -- of praising authoritarians and so the ha-ha joke level thing does not get --


FERGUSON: I heard it the first time, Rick. I hear what you're saying.


WILSON: -- does not get to the level where you can defend it easily, and then you can then smear presidents of both parties.


FERGUSON: Look, I didn't smear any other presidents.

WILSON: Ronald Reagan never went out and said --


WILSON: -- wow, I just think the Soviets are living a great life. He never said, wow --

FERGUSON: If you remember --


WILSON: -- the Chinese are living a wonderful life.

FERGUSON: If you're talking about history, if you want to talk about -- OK, Rick, if you want to talk about history, do you not remember Iran-Contra and some of the awkward moments around Reagan then and the people around him then? Do you remember any of that? You're the guy that's quoting history here. Was that a good example of when the president was perfect or the people around him were perfect and the relationship that we were having and the deals we were making with the Colombians and others and the drug cartel and members around the world? The bottom line is, Rick, again, you're smart enough to know --


FERGUSON: I let you finish. Let me finish.

WILSON: Since I --


FERGUSON: There are certain relationships the presidents of the United States of America have with countries around the world that are not always with great individuals or great men. You should admit that.


FERGUSON: Let's go back to the core point here. This was clearly the president in a private room joking --


FERGUSON: -- about something that even "The Washington Post" said was a joke.


FERGUSON: "The Washington Post" even said it was a joke. Why can't you take the same joke?

WILSON: OK, Ben, if you --

BALDWIN: All right, Rick, your turn.

WILSON: If you go back and look at history, which I've forgotten more about than you ever know, you go back and look at --

FERGUSON: Congratulations --


WILSON: These American presidents --


FERGUSON: Congratulations for saying you're smarter than anyone else.

WILSON: By you by a long stretch, pal.

These American presidents --

FERGUSON: Again --


WILSON: -- recognized that our country's goals and principles involved standing up for the values of individual liberty and the values of civil rights and human rights and these are people that even in the course of diplomacy, if we had to make accommodations with things, the presidents weren't out joking about it, saying, wow, I wish I could be like China.

FERGUSON: That's the third time you've said that.


FERGUSON: For a smart guy, you'd think you'd come up with a new talking point, Rick. (CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: Gentlemen, let me --

WILSON: This is ridiculous, Ben.

BALDWIN: Let me jump in. Let me jump in. One minute left.

Ben, why do you think the president -- you had the Mueller indictments, what the intelligence chiefs have said on the meddling or cyberwar. I mean, why has he still not stuck his neck out, he, being the president, and criticized Putin? Why do you think?

FERGUSON: Look, I don't -- I think bottom line is this president wants to make sure that he has decent relationships with individuals, wanted to have a reset and there's --


FERGUSON: -- and for all the people criticized Donald Trump -- again, all the Democrats have been coming out there saying that this president has, quote, "become unhinged" on X, Y and Z, and yet, he consistently shows restraint when he's dealing with world leaders. He's also very tough on trade today, which people then criticized him for. So how is it that one moment we can say the president is being crazy or unhinged on an issue on trade when he's saying I'm not going to screw around with these countries and the next moment he seems to be a little bit timid and cautious with how he goes out there and is bombastic with real world leaders that have real militaries?

[14:55:27] BALDWIN: All right, I'm out of time.

FERGUSON: I think the president did a pretty decent job.

BALDWIN: Ben Ferguson, Rick Wilson, welcome back from vacation for me. I'm back with the two of you guys. Thank you so much. Band-Aid ripped.


BALDWIN: Appreciate it.

Just in here, we do have some breaking news involving one of the president's former campaign aides, who is now refusing to appear before a grand jury. That's coming up.

[15:00:14] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.