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CNN NEWSROOM

Trump on 2016 Trump Tower Meeting; Trump Claims Tariffs will Help National Debt; Bikers Talk Politics; Trump Ramps up Rhetoric Against Media. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired August 6, 2018 - 09:30   ET

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


[09:30:00] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: That he said about the Trump Tower meeting in 2016, quote, this was a meeting to get information on an opponent. Information from Russians on Hillary Clinton. This is the antithesis of what he, his lawyers, his son, Don Junior, have said over and over again. This statement that he dictated in July of last year said that this meeting was primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children.

So which one are we supposed to believe, David?

DAVID URBAN, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN STRATEGIST: Yes, so, Poppy, look, I'm going to push back on that and my good friend Jonathan Swan at Axios has a piece out this morning that says, look, you know, what's the big news here? There is no breaking news. This is exactly what the president said on July 13th of 2017, one year ago. So I think, you know, if we go back and look at his statement from July 13th, 2017, he says the exact same thing and Jonathan has it right. He -- Jonathan Swan nails it again.

HARLOW: So he -- he -- I read Jonathan's piece. The president dictated -- we know this because of the letter that his lawyer sent to Mueller's team admitting that he did dictate that July 8th statement in which it said the meeting was primarily about Russian adoption. You know, nothing else to see here. And now the president is saying it's information on an opponent.

URBAN: Yes.

HARLOW: The American people should believe which one, because it matters, doesn't it?

URBAN: Look, it does matter. It does matter, Poppy. And, you know what, it is very confusing and, you know, I would say the latter of the two statements, right, the July 13th statement, I believe. I don't believe that the president -- you know, there's some -- a lot of folks out there opining that the president knew about this meeting at some point along the way. I'm not so certain about that. I go with a July 13th 2017 statement where he said, look, this is -- was a meeting about people, you know, potentially offering up -- look, they came in under a guise of being about, you know, lifting sanctions on the Magnitsky Act and the it switched up to being a meeting about offering some opposition research on a candidate. HARLOW: Well, we know -- look, we know from the e-mail chain setting

up this meeting to Don Junior that it was about dirt on Hillary Clinton and he said if it's later in the summer I love it.

But I'm running out of time and I do want to get you on something so important, and that is --

URBAN: OK.

HARLOW: The media, the freedom of the press, the fourth estate (ph). As you know, over the weekend, the president declared, once again, that the news -- he said the fake news is the enemy of the people and then he said "they," meaning us, the media, quote, can also cause war. Is that taking this too far? Is that dangerous at a point in time when journalists have threats against their life?

URBAN: Yes. Yes, look -- yes, look -- sure, look, again, I think that the president is correct on this, if you've got to -- you know, look at the words, right, fake news, as he said, is bad and it --

HARLOW: He said -- he said they can also --

URBAN: But -- but --

HARLOW: OK, he calls CNN fake news, OK, and you know it's not. I mean you wouldn't be on this --

URBAN: Well, I think he -- I don't think he said -- I don't think he called the entire network --

HARLOW: You wouldn't be on -- hold on, yes -- yes, he does. He writes it. You wouldn't be on this network if you thought that. And he said "they," meaning the media, they can also cause war. I understand you work for him, you're a friend of his, but is this taking it too far?

URBAN: Yes, look, I think it's taking it a little bit too far. Look, I think there are very, very, very many good journalists in America and across the world and people, you know, risk their lives every day to get the truth out all across the -- all across the world. But at the same time, there are lots and lots of bad journalists. And, Poppy, to say that there are no bad journalists is just -- is just naive for anybody's account. There are bad -- look, there are bad doctors, there are bad lawyers, there are bad accountants and to think that there are no bad journalists just does not -- doesn't pass the straight face test.

HARLOW: Yes. Except you know that's not what the president does is he groups together huge networks and newspapers and says they are all fake news --

URBAN: Well --

HARLOW: And then says they can cause war. So I appreciate your candor.

URBAN: Well, listen -- listen, I don't -- I don't -- Poppy, let me just put it this way, I don't think anyone at CNN, I don't think any of these journalists that you or I work with or know would cause war. How about that?

HARLOW: I appreciate that.

David Urban, it's nice to have you. Come back soon.

URBAN: Thank you.

HARLOW: Thank you.

The president, who told us, quote, tariffs are the greatest and who plans a multibillion dollar rescue package for farmers already hurt by those trade wars now claims tariffs will bring down the national debt. It's a big promise. We're going to fact check it next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:38:20] HARLOW: President Trump is offering a new and novel defense of the tariffs that have launched essentially a trade war. Not only are those tariffs, in the president's words, working far better than anyone ever anticipated, he says they will allow the U.S. to start paying down large amounts of our national debt. Just fact checking that debt, it is $21 trillion and change.

My chief -- my friend and our chief business correspondent Christine Romans is here, as well as our senior economics analyst Stephen Moore, who also advised the president on all things economy during the campaign.

Nice to have you both.

So, Christine, let me just begin with you.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Sure.

HARLOW: The president says that these tariffs will bring down the national debt, $21 trillion.

ROMANS: Large amounts of the national debt, he says.

HARLOW: The tariffs on the $85 billion worth of goods right now at best would bring in $21 billion, OK.

ROMANS: Right, which would be, what, 0.1 percent of the national debt.

HARLOW: Exactly.

ROMANS: Look, the national debt is going up. It's going up because the government is spending so much more than it brings in.

HARLOW: Yes.

ROMANS: And the Treasury Department has to borrow money, ironically in some cases, in many cases, from the Chinese to pay for that debt. And we're running up the national debt. It's $21.3 trillion right now. It went up a big amount also during the Obama administration because of the financial crisis. You know, it was -- it was spending all kinds of money to try to keep the economy out of recession.

You know, you don't -- you don't get out of the national debt by tariffs. You get out of the national debt by huge growth, which is, I think, what they -- their strategy is with these tariffs they're going to have.

HARLOW: Yes, and we've seen some.

ROMANS: And we've seen some growth. But that is -- getting -- cutting the national debt by large amounts, paying it down just by tariff strategy alone is just not possible.

HARLOW: You also look at the cost of this to American companies and consumers, Stephen Moore. I mean you know Coca-Cola just came out and said they're going to charge more for Coke because of the aluminum tariffs. Winnebago is going to charge more for RVs because of the tariffs. And you've got the OMB, the budget director of the president's, acknowledging that we're going to run a trillion dollar plus deficit for at least the next four years. I mean by the president's own calculation, do we just then need more tariffs?

[09:40:24] STEPHEN MOORE, CNN SENIOR ECONOMICS ANALYST: Well, tariffs are taxes. That's one reason I don't like tariffs because they are taxes. But they do collect money. There's no question about it.

HARLOW: Yes.

MOORE: But a little history lesson, by the way, for the first 100 years of our nation, as Christine knows, the primary way we raised revenue for the federal government was through tariffs. So I'm not justifying them, but I don't like tariffs.

But, look, let me just give you a status of where we are, I think, on this trade situation. I think President Trump had a major advance a week ago Wednesday in Europe where it looks like we could get a nice agreement with Europe where they'll buy more of our agricultural products and manufacturing products and oil and gas. I talked to the trade people over the weekend. They feel good about where we are with Mexico, Poppy. They feel like we're making good advances with Britain.

And so I think where we're at right now is the strategy which I've always thought was a smart strategy, which is isolate China. China's a big, big problem. I'll just correct one thing you said, Poppy. You said, you know, Trump is launching a trade war with China. I think if Donald Trump were on with you right now, I know what he would tell you. He'd say, we're not launching this trade war, this was launched a long time ago by China where they -- they are restraining our exports to China, they are cheating, they're stealing. They steal 300 billion of our intellectual property. And I think most Americans agree that can't continue any longer. We need to retaliate. And that's what Trump is doing.

HARLOW: So -- and the question becomes, at what cost for the American consumer, right, Christine Romans? I mean --

MOORE: That's true. There will be -- there will be a cost to the consumer, no doubt.

HARLOW: And the president pointed to the Chinese markets in his arguments this weekend.

ROMANS: He did.

MOORE: Yes.

ROMANS: And he said the Chinese markets are down, he said, 27 percent, the stock market, and he's saying that is evidence that his trade strategy is working.

You know, the Chinese economy is slowing. There's a huge government focused deleveraging going on there, a cutting debt campaign going on, and the trade spat. It has not been good for Chinese markets.

But I think using the Chinese markets is somehow a barometer for how Americans will feel better about paying more for a car, more for a Coke. Those are two different economic statistics. So I'm not quite sure that that sells his argument there.

You know, look, the long term strategy here is that in the short term there's going to be some pain because these companies -- American companies that are paying this tax are going to have to find domestic sources, right? Long term, the White House strategy is that long term you're going to change sort of the balance of trade. The irony for me here is that the Chinese have sort of shifted from that manufacturing floor to the world (INAUDIBLE) manufacturing stuff. They want to be the leader on the things that really matter --

HARLOW: Yes. Yes.

ROMANS: You know, like AI and stuff like that. We're almost in a way sometimes with these tariffs fighting -- fighting the trade battles of 25 years ago with the trade battles of tomorrow.

HARLOW: Yes. That's a great point.

Thank you both. Stephen Moore, next time you're on, first answer to you, I'm just out of time today. Thank you both very much.

President Trump's attack on the media, attacks continuing on the media, reaching a new level, accusing journalists of causing war, but members of his own White House are breaking with the president's message on that.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:45:52] HARLOW: What happens when a half million people gather together in a small town for the world's largest motorcycle event?

CNN's Bill Weir hit the road to find out, joining bikers from around the world at Sturgis. It is an annual pilgrimage in Sturgis, South Dakota, to get their view on the president and the politics. Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) BILL WEIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): They rumble in from all points on the compass. And for one week each summer, this little town of 7,000 explodes to half a million.

WEIR (on camera): But this is one city that looks nothing like the rest of America. You can go hours without seeing a person of color. At Sturgis, a minority is a white guy on a foreign bike.

WEIR (voice over): There are no debates over gun control here or the ethics of the Me Too movements. And there is no doubt who is the leader at this pack.

WEIR (on camera): But you're a fan of the president? You think he's doing a good job?

JOHN SANDS, POSTAL WORKER FROM LEXINGTON, KENTUCKY: Well, he's going -- he's doing a lot better than what Obama did.

WEIR (voice over): This ghost rider reveals himself as John Sands, a postal worker who rides up from Kentucky each year and, like so many I talk to, sees proof of Trump's brilliance in the booming economy.

ROD WOODRUFF, OWNER, STURGIS BUFFALO CHIP: And what they'll tell you is they say, you know, it's the Trump bump. The economy is so good. People are feeling so good.

WEIR: Rod Woodruff is the owner of the sprawling Buffalo Chip, a Disneyland for bikers, and says his campers have an average income of $95,000 a year.

WOODRUFF: Seventy some percent are homeowners in the United States.

WEIR (on camera): OK.

WOODRUFF: Lots of people own multiple motorcycles.

NYLA GRIFFITH, MEDIA RELATIONS, STURGIS BUFFALO CHIP: We have a tattoo parlor up here. We've got food, pizza, anything you want at the Free Access Crossroads.

WEIR: Very good. You have your own jail?

GRIFFITH: No, we don't need one.

WEIR: You don't need one, huh?

WEIR (voice over): Violence and arrest are incredibly rare for a crowd of this size. One of the reasons is that most folks share the same values and those that don't keep it to themselves.

MICHAEL LICHTER, MOTORCYCLE PHOTOGRAPHER AND CURATOR: What I see here in motorcycling is a microcosm for the whole country. And I get the feeling sometimes that people that don't believe in what's going on is right have become very quiet.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think there's a lot of hypocrisy going on in the country now because I just feel like everybody wants freedom and they want rights, but God forbid somebody disagree with you because then you'll get your head bitten off.

WEIR (on camera): A couple months back, the president aimed his Twitter and trade war guns at Harley-Davidson. Even though they got a huge tax break, the company shut down a factory in Kansas City, laid off 100 workers and said because of the tariffs they'd have to start production in a new country overseas. Which begs the question, is this the ultimate loyalty test for his base? Do these folks pledge allegiance to the president or Harley-Davidson?

MARK HALVORSON, GREAT BEND, KANSAS: Well, I'm going to have to, you know, go with what's going to make America better, you know. And if Harley wants to choose to go somewhere else, then I'll choose to buy different bikes.

JAMES BAKALICH, LIGHTHOUSE POINT, FLORIDA: I personally love the man. I think he's doing a wonderful job.

WEIR (voice over): Despite the president's distain for my profession, they could not be nicer.

WEIR (on camera): Do I strike you as an enemy of the people?

BAKALICH: Not -- not whatsoever. Not at all. And we're sure glad to have you here.

WEIR (voice over): But it's obvious that no amount of earnest reporting will change their minds.

WEIR (on camera): Because if you look at Russia and the Mueller investigation and there's a lot of red flags and dark clouds.

HALVORSON: Well, that's usually pre (ph) a lot of politicians. But one they're picking on because he's out of the outside. I mean if you look at the Clintons, how come they can do things and no one else can?

WEIR: I mean I'm old enough to remember when the base loved Harley- Davidson and hated Russia. And it seems like it's flipped a little bit.

BAKALICH: I don't think there's any reason for him to call them out or make them, you know -- you should try to be friendly with everyone. If they don't want to be friends, then it's a whole nother story.

WEIR: Even Vladimir Putin? Even a dictator, a murder?

BAKALICH: Well, he met with Kim Jong-un as well.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The other fake news. We all know it. The real our lord --

WEIR: Touch me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ask our lord and savior Donald J. Trump.

WEIR: Touch me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He'll tell you.

WEIR (voice over): Back downtown, our presence sparks a debate between some Fox News fans from Texas and Bonnie from Nebraska.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They don't know what they're talking about.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, come on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, we do. You're un-American too. Get on the other side.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm not true. I watch both.

WEIR (on camera): See.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I go either way.

WEIR (voice over): Which proves we now live in a media age where people can choose their own facts.

[09:50:03] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have a friend who's very much Fox and I go, uh-huh, yes, I agree with you, no problems. Everybody has their own opinion, just like --

WEIR (on camera): That's true.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just like (EXPLETIVE DELETED), everybody has one.

WEIR: Just as long as they don't start shooting at each other, right?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's right.

WEIR (voice over): But then the heckling is interrupted by a hero falling from the sky.

Sergeant Dana Bowman (ph), an Army Golden Knight who lost both legs in a mid-air collision. He lands with old glory. And, just for a moment, it feels like we are all in this together.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HARLOW: Incredible reporting, as always, from our Bill Weir.

Bill, thank you for that.

Ahead, the president calls the media the source of war. Says the media causes war. Our Brian Stelter is with me, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:55:16] HARLOW: President Trump is once again ramping up his rhetoric against the media. This weekend, it went really far. Too far. He blamed journalists for starting wars. Our senior media correspondent, host of "Reliable Sources," Brian

Stelter is here. David Gergen is also with me, our senior political analyst and adviser to four previous presidents.

David Gergen, the media, quote, causes war, according to the president in this tweet. Now, just -- your initial read on that.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Wrong. It's just not true. We've had a lot of wars over the time of history, and it -- and the press has not caused any of the wars.

I do think it's true, Poppy, that at least in one war the press was a definite cheerleader. And that goes back to the end of the 19th century. And when we had the famous newspaper rivalry between Hurst and Pulitzer --

HARLOW: Sure.

GERGEN: And we went a period of yellow journalism and encouraged the administration to go into war, we went in and won.

I think -- Brian may disagree with this. I think we did too much cheerleading with -- in advance of the Iraq War under President George W. Bush. But in both cases, the press was cheerleading an existing administration. It was not causing a war.

HARLOW: The explanation I just asked David Irvin (ph), Brian, who worked and knows the president well, friends with him --

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Worked as a campaign strategist with him. You know, and he said to me, yes, I think this goes too far. But he also said, well, the president is talking about the fake news. And if you look at the full tweet, yes, the president wrote at the top, the fake news hates me. They're the enemy of the people, blah, blah, blah. They can cause war. But, come on, I mean, he points to all the major news networks and major newspapers.

STELTER: Yes. It's a very cynical strategy --

HARLOW: And that (ph).

STELTER: Trying to divide between good outlets and bad outlets. Trump does this sometimes. It's BS. And it should be called out.

I think we look at these tweets. Think about what's different this time. It is changing. Trump's tone is changing. And it is getting worse. You know, think about during the campaign, he would call us "dishonest." Then he started saying "fake." Then he started saying we're the enemy of the people. Now he's using words like "disgusting," using words like "dangerous" and "sick." You know, that's dehumanizing language. That's the kind of language he also uses to talk about immigrants sometimes. It's trying to strip away people's humanity. And as David knows, that never ends well. Look at the history books. That never ends well.

HARLOW: David, just -- sure. And, David, when you look at, you know, the insults, I mean we can take it, right? All journalists have thick skin. That's OK. What's not OK is language that could further a dangerous environment for journalists. I mean, Brian, you've pointed out, Katy Tur (ph), for example, pointing to threats against her, an NBC journalist, in your newsletter. So, I mean, at what point, David Gergen, you know, do you get into the territory of making it dangerous for journalists?

GERGEN: Well, I think that we've already entered a period of danger. And that is -- and it may get worse in the next few weeks. The president is using these rallies of his base to make the press the scapegoat. To make the press the punching bag. And the more he does that and goes after the press as, quote, the enemy of the people, a famous phrase that goes all the way back to the French revolution when enemies of the people went to the guillotine. You know, that is -- whips up crowds. It makes it seem like when you strip, as I think Brian has well said, you strip the press of its legitimacy and its humanity. Then there are going to be crazy people out there, especially in a culture with so many guns, who are going to be thinking about, maybe I'll just take one of those guys out. We've already seen that in Annapolis. You know, so I think -- I think this is -- as the president looks down the road, this White House looks down the road at a lot more rallies, they ought to tone this down and get back into a place of a sort of mainstream relationship.

STELTER: Yes.

HARLOW: But who will -- but, Brian Stelter, I mean the president has shown no sign of backing off on this one, of reining it in on this one.

STELTER: No, he's raising the temperature. He's not lowering the temperature.

HARLOW: Right.

STELTER: And, unfortunately, all of his friends, like Anthony Scaramucci and David Urban and even Ivanka Trump and Kellyanne Conway who are saying, hey, they're not the enemies of the -- he's not listening to them.

HARLOW: Who would he listen to?

STELTER: But I think we should recognize, Trump's doing this from a position of weakness, not strength. He is doing this because his back is up against the wall, because real news is so damaging to him. He's trying to tell his fans to only believe what he says. And, thankfully, most Americans see through it.

HARLOW: Thank you both, David Gergen, Brian Stelter, appreciate you being with me.

Top of the hour. 10:00 a.m. Eastern. Good morning, everyone, I'm Poppy Harlow in New York.

[10:00:01] Totally legal, those words from the president this morning. He also says, done all the time. Yet when it comes to that meeting that his son, Don Junior, held in June of 2016 with that Russian lawyer in Trump Tower.