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Trump Touts Fastest U.S. Economic Growth Since 2014; Putin Ready to Go to Washington for Second Meeting with Trump; Michael Cohen Claims Trump Knew About Trump Tower Meeting. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired July 27, 2018 - 10:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[10:00:00] KEVIN HASSETT, CHAIRMAN, COUNCIL OF ECONOMIC ADVISERS: Their comrades. You know, as an economist it's my duty, sir, to remind that we should not make too much of one number. Right? How often do we hear economists say that? But when I think back to the first time I met with you in the Oval and we talked about your vision about how to make America great again, you might recall that in the end I agreed, yes, that stuff really ought to work.

And the fact is that if we look at the data today that we can see the proof in the pudding that the president's policies are working. And it's not just in the top line. But it's in the details. So the president said that if we deregulate the economy and have a tax reform that there will be a capital spending boom because the factories will come back to America. If you look at the data, then the factories are booming again.

The president said that if we emphasize energy production here in the U.S. that we could become a dominant energy economy, even an energy exporter. Well, if you look at the data today, one of the reasons why the data is so strong is that drilling and mining activity skyrocketed in an almost unprecedented way.

And finally, and this is the thing that at times, sir, you've kind of looked at me and smiled about whether I really agree with you, you said that you would bring the trade deficit down. And you have. The $50 billion reduction in the trade deficit proves that if you stand up for America's workers and let our allies know that deals that aren't reciprocal are unacceptable, then you can make a lot of progress.

And so thank you very much for your leadership, sir, and for your faith in me.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you, Kevin. Great job. Thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

LARRY KUDLOW, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL: Thank you, sir. Thank you, sir. It's a little warm out here. So I'll be as quick as I can.

I want to reiterate what the president said and my pal Kevin Hassett. Look, we've had a pro-growth agenda. It has been in place for a short while. It's already beginning to work. Low tax rates, roll back of regulations, unleashing energy and trade reform to fix a broken world trading system.

I just want to note in the numbers -- and this is becoming a trend -- business investment is booming, 9 percent to 10 percent growth in the first half of this year. I believe that's going to continue. Why do I talk about business investment? Well, that's the key to productivity which is the key to growth which is the key to rising real wages. And very strong jobs, a point that Kevin an I made during the campaign a million times and we continue to make it.

These tax cuts particularly on the business and investment side are going to be boosting wages, livelihoods and jobs for middle American ordinary working folks. And it's starting to take effect. And that's why I agree with the president, this is a boom that will be sustainable. Frankly, as far as the eye can see this is no one-shot effort. So that's me. Thank you, sir. Appreciate it very much.

TRUMP: Thank you. Thank you very much, everybody. Thank you.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: There you have it, the president touting the growth of the economy in the second quarter, calling it sustainable, not just a one-time shot.

We're going to fact check all of it. I should note we thought he might take questions because there were reporters there on the South Lawn yelling those questions. The president did not take questions for a second day in a row following the Michael Cohen tape, et cetera, following CNN's reporting last night that we just went through on whether the president knew or not about that Trump Tower meeting. We will get to all that.

I'm glad you're with us. It's a little after 10:00 a.m. Eastern. And let's fact check what the president just said. Our Christine Romans, our chief -- our chief business correspondent is here and back with me is former senior economic adviser to the Trump campaign, Stephen Moore.

Christine, help me fact check the sustainability of all of this. 4.1 percent is a great number. It's a quarterly number. It's not an annual number.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Yes.

HARLOW: And the president and Larry Kudlow just said this is not a one-time thing. This is here to stay. Is it?

ROMANS: You know, these numbers bounce around a lot so that's the president being incredibly confident and putting a marker out there that he said this is sustainable. He said third quarter will be outstanding. And he says that we're going to have annual growth this year for the entire year of more than 3 percent, which would be -- he is right, which would be the strongest in 13 years.

So he's banking on two more quarters just like this to get there. And that's something that economists have been debating all more about whether you could have consumer spending grow 4 percent again the next two quarters. Consumer spending at 4 percent, that's great. One of those reasons is they got goodies from companies that had tax cuts. They are spending their own tax cuts. And some economists think that's not necessarily sustainable.

We also saw this big export rush. And that was farmers and other actually equipment makers and the like to rushing their orders to China and elsewhere around the world ahead of tariffs. So some of that -- that export number, is that going to be sustainable? That second -- that briefcase on your screen there, this is the number I'm actually most excited about. You've got tax cuts and deregulation that have really fuelled confidence among businesses.

They are building factories. They are buying technology, they are buying equipment. And that's a number, if it's sustainable, that could be pretty exciting for the economy overall. But the president here is saying these numbers are sustainable. And that's what our economists have been arguing about all morning.

HARLOW: It's notable that he had his entire economic team around him.

I mean, Steve Moore, he had Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, he had his budget director, he had Larry Kudlow, he had Kevin Hassett, I mean, he had the vice president next to him. He wants this to be the most important message to the American people right now, amid a week of huge controversy for this president. And we know that Americans vote largely on the economy. This is a good line for the administration. But I wonder if you could weigh in on what the president said, which is he said, and I quote, "We've accomplished an economic turnaround of historic proportion. We are the envy -- the economic envy of the world." Is he going too far there?

STEPHEN MOORE, CNN SENIOR ECONOMICS ANALYST: Well, on that last point about U.S. being the envy of the world, that actually came from a "Wall Street Journal" headline a couple of weeks ago where, you know, the U.S. economy is really booming right now. And there's been a slowdown in Europe, and a slowdown in China and a slowdown in many of the Asian economies.

It's interesting, last year when the economy started to pick up, a lot of these economists that Christine was just making reference to said, well, yes, the American economy is growing because the rest of the world is growing. Well, now we're growing a lot faster than the rest of the world. You know, I was thinking --

(CROSSTALK)

HARLOW: Hold on. No, no, no. Steve Moore, China slowed down but our economic growth is still not what China's economic growth is.

MOORE: No, it isn't. I mean, look, they've been -- but they've slowed down. They used to be growing, remember a time, to 12 percent.

ROMANS: Yes.

HARLOW: Now it's 7 percent.

MOORE: Now they're growing a lot more -- they're in a bit of a panic right now in China. But, look, we're in a much mature -- more, more mature stage of economic development than China is. But my point is, you know, I remember, I was thinking about this when I was listening to my pals Larry Kudlow and Kevin Hassett talking, that when we were on the campaign and working together, we would tell Donald Trump, you know, you can -- you should talk about 3 percent to 4 percent to 5 percent growth.

And, Christine, you may remember this, I mean, all the economists at Harvard and Yale and people like Larry Summers and Paul Krugman said it's impossible. Remember there was this line, Christine, about secular stagnation. That the American economy just couldn't go grow any faster than 2 percent because we hadn't grown for faster than 2 percent for 18 years. And now we do have this boisterous growth.

Now, look, can I predict the future and say that we're going to continue this? No. But one of the most important forward looking statistics is that number Larry Kudlow talked about, business investment. In my opinion, Poppy and Christine, it's really a good forward looking indicator for the economy. Having those numbers are off the chart.

HARLOW: It is. But we heard from executive CEOs across companies like Coca-Cola, like Whirlpool, all of these companies that are very concerned, Christine Romans, about the tariffs and the impact that that's going to have. And this does not undo that. I mean, these tariffs are not gone. There's a deal to make a deal with Europe but it's not gone. They're still there. And I would just note, the growth that Steve Moore, you're talking about, is annual growth, right?

You're hoping for annual growth of over 3 percent. The president just said that. But quarterly, this 4 percent is something we saw --

MOORE: Poppy --

HARLOW: -- four times in the Obama administration.

MOORE: Over the last five quarters now we -- we're growing at about 3.2 percent. So we've got -- we've ratcheted it up from the 1.6 percent growth we inherited from Obama.

HARLOW: Right. Except for last quarter when it was 2 percent.

ROMANS: If we don't have a trade war. Everything is great if we don't have a trade war.

HARLOW: Yes.

MOORE: Good point. I agree, Christine. You're exactly right.

HARLOW: It's true. And that's still very much a possibility.

Christine, can you talk about the deficit? The president said the thing he's most proud of, beyond the economic growth, is he said the deficit coming down $50 billion. He claimed that that has added 1.2 percent growth overall. Fact check that for us. ROMANS: When you cut the deficit, it does add to growth. That is

something that adds to the complicated calculation of GDP. GDP is the most -- the broadest measure of an economy's health. And when you have a larger deficit it cuts into growth, and when you can shrink the deficit, it adds to growth and adds to jobs.

He's right. Again the sustainability of this is the big question. Some of that export growth we saw was, as our colleague Paul La Monica calls a soybean rush. It was a sugar rush. It's not going to last into the next quarter because they were selling all these goods and equipment overseas to get ahead of the president's trade rules, trade policies that are going to cause retaliatory tariffs. So that's the kind of the asterisk on that number.

HARLOW: That's right --

MOORE: But, you know, I think, Poppy -- Christine, you're right. The one thing that could really upset this apple cart is this trade war. And we're all been nervous about it. You cover the financial markets. You know, every time there's some progress, the market goes up. And every time there's been some new threats of tariffs, the market goes down.

ROMANS: Right.

MOORE: I happen to think what happened on Wednesday was a very significant breakthrough. And now, it's just the outline of a deal. Nothing has been signed yet.

HARLOW: Sure, with Europe.

MOORE: But, you know, the idea was, let's de-leverage. Let's -- you know, let's bring these tariffs down, not up.

[10:10:05] And ultimately, that was always -- when I used to talk to Trump about this on the campaign and even in the White House I'd say look, I'm not a protectionist. I just want a level-playing field. I want these other countries to lower their tariffs. Again we don't -- this was just one agreement. It was a handshake. But if this turns out the way we hope, you know, you could see some real progress on the trade front that would --

HARLOW: Right. Well, I mean --

MOORE: Yes. Sorry.

HARLOW: And for our viewers who might not know a handshake with someone very notable and important and integral to this, the president of the European Commission, to agree to bring it down to zero tariffs on both sides. Will it happen? We have to wait and see.

Thank you both, Christine, Steve, nice to have you.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

HARLOW: Let's talk about the politics of this. Bianna Golodrya and Margaret Talev are back with me.

I mean, so you guys -- Margaret, this is what the White House wants the story to be today, this weekend, next week. Distract. It's important to talk about. But he didn't take a single question there about the other relevant stories.

MARGARET TALEV, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: No, he didn't take a question. Let's be fair, no president would if they didn't want to step on their good news message, which this certainly was. This is good news and it's economic news and it's substantive news. And it takes some of the heat off the president for some of the drama that is just relentless and never ending over this Michael Cohen and the audiotapes. And those are also very real issues because they cut to the president's credibility and they go to the underpinnings of a wide-ranging federal investigation that exists for also legitimate reasons.

But, look, the question on the economics of this is how long is this going to last? From a political perspective, it may not matter if it lasts past November, it's good for the president and it's good for his party. And that's what he is counting on right now.

HARLOW: What -- I mean, Bianna, you cover economic as well. And you cover these numbers. Is Margaret right in terms of when it needs to be good for the president until?

BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Absolutely. But remember the third quarter GDP number will be coming out right before the midterm elections. So, you know, the president taking a risk saying that the next term is going to be even better or just as good. I mean, on the one hand you may look back and say this is something that President Obama and previous presidents didn't do enough of. Right? Touting his good report because this report doesn't necessarily affect everybody at home.

But it is psychologically important. It does stimulate confidence. Maybe people now will say we'll go to a movie and dinner tonight because the president was telling us once again how well the economy is performing. So that psychologically is very important to hear from the president. But he may be overdoing it by promising another great number just a few weeks before the midterms.

HARLOW: Thank you both. Appreciate it on all of these stories this morning.

Bianna, Margaret, have a great weekend.

Ahead for us, Russian president Vladimir Putin now says he is ready to come to Washington. We'll have more on that. And it is more than just that. He's also invited President Trump to Moscow. No response yet from the White House on that.

Also the president's former lawyer claiming that the president knew about that 2016 Trump Tower meeting with the Russians before it happened. It's an explosive claim. But is it credible? This morning the president issues a flat-out denial. We'll dig into all of it next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:17:39] HARLOW: All right. Breaking news. Russian president Vladimir Putin has invited President Trump to Moscow. He also says that he is ready, open and willing to go to Washington.

Our senior international correspondent Sam Kiley joins me from Moscow this morning. Michelle Kosinski, our senior diplomatic correspondent, is at the State Department.

Let me begin with you, Sam. So this was in response to a reporter question to Putin this morning. And he made a lot of news. What did he say?

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, in the first part of his answer, as if coordinated, and we have -- I'm not suggesting there was any coordination but it is happy coincidence that the Russian president reiterated his point of view that, and I quote, "Trump's great virtue is that he always wants to keep his promises to his voters." About an hour later we had Donald Trump on the stand boasting about the economic success of the United States and saying that he had made good on his promise to get tough on trade and reduce America's budget deficit.

Then Donald -- sorry, then Vladimir Putin went on to say that not only was he happy to go to Washington, subject to certain conditions, I think those conditions are probably more about having substantive talks than the secret talks that they had but that is my analysis, he also said that -- implying that this had happened in Helsinki, that not only was Donald Trump invited to Moscow but that it happened during the Helsinki process.

Now that is a detail -- yet another detail coming from the Russian side of the Helsinki summit that has come without any kind of reference from the United States.

HARLOW: Yes.

KILEY: That the Russians once again driving the narrative in terms of the international affairs of this whole meeting, Poppy.

HARLOW: Sam, thank you for that reporting.

And Michelle, to you, A, any word from the White House on this? And B, the significance that as Sam just said, this was apparently discussed in Helsinki behind closed doors between the two men and we didn't learn about it from Pompeo's testimony under oath this week. This is the first we're learning about the extension of this invitation to Moscow.

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT: Of course, it is, Poppy. We just saw Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state, on the stand, you know, being grilled by senators.

HARLOW: Yes. KOSINSKI: In the Foreign Relations Committee, asking all of these

questions about what went on. No mention of oh, by the way -- you know, he was talking about cooperation and possibilities of working together.

[10:20:04] Never a mention of, oh, you know, Vladimir Putin also extended an invitation to President Trump to come to Moscow. Not even as an example of, it was a good, positive meeting. No mention of this. And it is unclear why. You see Vladimir Putin there with his swagger saying, oh, you know, you can criticize President Trump for this and that, but he does keep his promises to his constituents.

You know, we're ready to come to Washington. Oh, and I extended that invitation to him while we were in Helsinki together. So this is -- if this is true, and it's not as if the Russians are to be believed on everything they say.

HARLOW: Right.

KOSINSKI: Not by a long shot. But if this is true, and now comes the time of asking the White House, did this happen, by the way, why was there no mention of it, this would not be the first time we are hearing more information and more detail on what was said and what happened from the Russians than we are from the U.S. government. And when Mike Pompeo was -- I don't even want to say he was answering the questions --

HARLOW: Right.

KOSINSKI: -- because for the vast majority of these questions about what was said in Helsinki, he would not answer those questions, ultimately saying that these were private conversations between Trump and Putin.

HARLOW: Right. And saying, look, the president has the right to conduct foreign policy as he sees fit. No word -- right, Michelle, no word yet from the White House on this?

KOSINSKI: Absolutely nothing.

HARLOW: OK.

KOSINSKI: I mean, there was no inkling of this.

HARLOW: Right.

KOSINSKI: And it's not to say that this will happen or that the White House would be OK with President Trump traveling to Moscow.

HARLOW: Right.

KOSINSKI: But the fact that this is information that's coming out of the Kremlin and, you know, not from the U.S. government is strange.

HARLOW: Strange. It's been quite a week. Thank you, Michelle Kosinski, Sam Kiley. Appreciate it. Ahead for us, that explosive new report. CNN's reporting of where the

president's former lawyer now says Donald Trump knew about the election -- pre-election meeting at Trump Tower in 2016 promising dirt on Hillary Clinton. His lawyer and former fixer says yes, the president knew about it and he knew about it before it happened. Back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:27:03] HARLOW: Welcome back. I'm Poppy Harlow in New York. And if you are counting, and we are, we're now up to 17 denials at minimum, denials from those around the president and the president himself that he had prior knowledge of that Trump Tower meeting with Don Junior, Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort and that Russian lawyer in June of 2016.

It came out a year later that the Russians had offered dirt on Hillary Clinton to have that meeting. But the president's son said the meeting itself was a nothing and not even worth the candidate's attention. Fast forward to a brand new claim from Michael Cohen, the longtime Trump family lawyer and problem solver, that indeed candidate Trump did know of the meeting beforehand and did know the alleged purpose, to get dirt on Hillary Clinton, and signed off on the meeting.

That's explosive if it's true. And that brings me to denial number 17 this morning from the president himself writing that someone, i.e. Cohen, quote, "is trying to make up stories in order to get himself out of an unrelated jam."

MJ Lee, luckily, is here to break it all down for us. It's incredibly complex and it all comes down to who do you believe.

MJ LEE, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: That's right. Just to quickly recap our explosive reporting, Michael Cohen claims that Donald Trump, when he was the presidential candidate, knew about this famous June 2016 Trump Tower meeting. This is the meeting where Don Trump Junior and others close to the president expected to get dirt from Russians about Hillary Clinton. And a key piece of our reporting is that Michael Cohen believes this and is willing to go to Special Counsel Robert Mueller and tell him this information.

If Michael Cohen's claim is true and is correct, then that would contradict the very many denials that we have heard from Donald Trump, Donald Trump Junior and others close to the president for so many months now. Here's just a little reminder of those many denials.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL SCHMIDT, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Did you know at the time that they had the meeting?

TRUMP: No, I didn't know anything about the meeting.

SCHMIDT: But you know --

TRUMP: It must have been a very unimportant meeting because I never even heard about it.

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: Did you tell your father anything about this?

DONALD TRUMP JUNIOR, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S SON: No. It was such a nothing, there was nothing to tell.

JAY SEKULOW, PRESIDENT TRUMP' ATTORNEY: Let's focus on what the president was aware of, nothing. He was not aware of the meeting, did not attend the meeting, and was only informed about the e-mails very recently by his counsel.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEE: Donald Trump's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, said last night that Michael Cohen is lying. Well, that is not what he was saying about Michael Cohen even earlier this year.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: I do not expect that Michael Cohen is going to lie. I think he is going to tell the truth as best he can given his recollection. And if he does that, we're home free.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEE: So earlier this year, Michael Cohen was honest. But now that he seems to have incriminating information about Donald Trump, that he's willing to share with the special counsel, Donald Trump's camp is saying that he lacks all credibility.

HARLOW: MJ Lee, thank you for walking us through all that reporting.

Let's talk about it. With me now is Shan Wu, our legal analyst and a former federal prosecutor, also CNN senior political analyst David Gergen, who's worked for four administrations, and our political analyst David Drucker. Thank you all.

David Gergen, let me begin with you on this. All right. Here's what --