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Holiday Sale Shopping; Trump's Trade War with China; Ties with U.S. and South Africa's Far Right; Trump Conducting Interviews; Heavy Rain Helps Firefighters. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired November 23, 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] ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Strong start. Just Thanksgiving, Thanksgiving Day yesterday, an estimated $3.7 billion is estimated to have been spent. Today, Black Friday, people are going online. An estimated $6 billion is expected to be spent. And then Cyber Monday, $7.8 billion expected to be shelled out. And that's only online shopping. So people are feeling good. Consumers are feeling confident. Unemployment is low and people are willing to dig deep and buy this year for the holidays.

Jim.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Alison Kosik.

I saw your shopping cart, by the way, out of shot there and I know it looks pretty full, so get back to it and let us know what your best deal is.

KOSIK: Shhh, don't tell. One of those -- one of the gifts in there is for you.

SCIUTTO: Thank you. I will take it.

Alison Kosik, thanks very much.

Black Friday shopping is almost as traditional as Turkey on Thanksgiving, but its future could be in jeopardy if President's Trump trade war with China goes on much longer.

Joining us now to discuss, CNN economic analyst Rana Foroohar and Stephen Moore, who was a senior economic adviser to the Trump campaign. He is also the author of a new book, "Trumponomics." There's the cover right there.

Rana, let me start with you, just because folks at home, they hear about the trade war with China, they hear about tariffs. Probably haven't seen it in prices yet. And I understand that this season retailers have eaten many of -- much of that 10 percent tariff hike hit. But if the president raises that to 25 percent, it would be harder, I'd imagine, for retailers to hide that from consumers.

RANA FOROOHAR, CNN GLOBAL ECONOMICS ANALYST: Yes, absolutely. You've hit the nail on the head. I mean I think that the administration was actually being pretty strategic as well in terms of what it actually putting tariffs on. It was kind of trying to hold off on some of that consumer facing stuff that would raise prices on yours iPhones and some of those electronics that Alison was saying are so popular. If that -- if we see more tariffs in January, that's where the rubber hits the road because then I think you are going to start to see prices going up. I'm talking to a lot of CEOs that are saying we can't eat anymore.

I think it's going to be very interesting to see what happens this week with you see trade talks between the U.S. and China. Will President Trump be able to make a deal with Xi. I think you may see a short-term deal, but I think that larger term this larger conflict between China, which I think is more like a cold war, not just a trade war, is going to continue to brew.

SCIUTTO: Listen, you heard that from Jack Ma. Jack Ma made that point. He says the trade war is 10, 25 years in the making.

FOROOHAR: Yes.

SCIUTTO: And, Stephen, I wonder what you think of that because the president, I imagine -- I imagine here, listen, I apply the pressure now, I force China to the table to make concessions, but you've got to admit, China has their own domestic political concerns. They do not want to be seen as backing down to the U.S. here. Is it realistic for the Trump administration to hope they could come away from this meeting with Xi next week with a deal or in the near term soon after that?

STEPHEN MOORE, CNN SENIOR ECONOMICS ANALYST: Well, you're exactly right, Jim, that a lot of this for Beijing is saving face.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

MOORE: And you're exactly right, they don't want to be seen as, you know, backing down to the United States, and certainly not backing down to Donald Trump. So, you know, the -- I don't know, I'm a bit pessimistic that they're going to find some kind of deal in the next couple of weeks. I'd love to see it, but I just -- I think this is going to take longer than that.

And, incidentally, this is really the economic fight of our lifetime really. I mean it's all about whether the United States or China will be the economic super power over the next 25 and 50 years. I certainly want it to be the United States.

But China -- look, the other point is that China does abuse -- engage in a lot of abusive trade behavior.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

MOORE: It's really difficult for American businesses to do business and sell their products over in China because of their extreme protectionist policies. And so I think even though I had trade wars and absolutely tariffs are going to raise the prices that we pay for products when we go to Walmart and buy goods and services from China, but I guess I would say, if there's any time to pick a fight with China and get this resolved, it's now when our economy is pretty healthy.

SCIUTTO: Yes, I hear you. I hear you. Listen, and China's engaged in outright theft for years of U.S. intellectual property, secrets, et cetera. That's a real cost to the economy beyond being wrong.

I want to ask you both before I let you go to kind of put on your economic crystal balls here because you've had a lot of talk recently, a lot of signs. The stock market's a leading indicator. It's declining on concerns about shrinking growth. You have interest rates rising. You have the oil prices falling. Signs of perhaps trouble ahead.

So, Rana, and then Stephen, what does this add up to you in the coming several months, year, are the chances of a recession rising?

FOROOHAR: Yes. I've always thought that the chances of a recession in 2019 or 2020 are actually pretty high. I mean if you look just historically, recovery cycles tend to last about a decade. And that's where we are. We're just over 10 years of a recovery at this point. So it's kind of natural historically that this should happen.

If you also look at what's been keeping the markets up recently, it's been tech stocks. Well, those are now in trouble off the back of increased regulation, that U.S.-China trade war. I mean you're seeing, interestingly, the U.S. Defense Department saying to allies, hey, we want you to stop working with Chinese companies. I think a lot of U.S. multinationals are worried that they're going to have to pick sides. That won't be great for the market.

[09:35:03] SCIUTTO: Stephen Moore, your prediction?

MOORE: Well, I'm not going to contradict my best buddy in the world, Larry Kudlow, who said -- who said the other day that, you know --

FOROOHAR: I thought it was me!

MOORE: You're up there.

But, look, Larry -- by the way, for people who didn't see it, he says I look as far in the future as I can see, and I don't see a recession.

Look, I do think --

SCIUTTO: Well, he also -- he also has a political motivation there.

MOORE: That's true.

But, look, I'm pretty bullish on the economy right now. I -- by the way, I love buying stocks. Every time there's a dip like this, I think it's a good time to get into the market. And, incidentally, you know, the -- yes, the economy's slowing down. We're probably going to get closer to 2.5 percent growth in the fourth quarter, but no recession. I just don't see it. I mean I think -- I think as the tax cut continues to kick in and there deregulation policies, America's going to be a great place to do business. And I think we're going to continue to see 3 percent growth for the next two years.

FOROOHAR: Oh, man, I think the tax cut's tapped out.

SCIUTTO: All right, we will mark it.

Rana and Stephen, we will mark that date, November 23rd, 9:35, and we'll call -- we'll come back to you in six months' time.

Very happy Thanksgiving to you and your families.

MOORE: You too.

SCIUTTO: Thanks for taking the time on this day after the holiday.

MOORE: Thank you.

FOROOHAR: Thanks.

SCIUTTO: While President Trump is looking to replace Chief of Staff John Kelly, he might not be looking that far.

And forget college football. Today is all about golf. This afternoon, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson will hold their big 18-hole showdown. The only place to see it, "Bleacher Report" live, in Pay-Per-View as well. This -- all this at 3:00 Eastern Time.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:40:34] SCIUTTO: A murder trial is set to begin on Monday for the man accused of plowing his car into a crowd in Charlottesville, Virginia, and killing a protester there. James Alex Fields is charged with killing Heather Heyer as she marched against a white nationalist rally last year. The hate that sparked that rally has spread and grown around the world, sadly. Now a group of white South African farmers say that they've been energized by the alt-right in the U.S. and by President Trump's rhetoric. They believe they are in danger, and the country is heading towards a brutal race war. But murders of white farmers in South Africa account for less than 1 percent of all murders in the country.

Here's CNN's David McKenzie.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. Even in its bloody aftermath, a young woman killed by a neo-Nazi, President Trump refused to pick sides.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What about the alt-left? They came charging at the, as you say, the alt-right. Do they have any semblance of guilt?

MCKENZIE: Facing mounting criticism, the president would eventually condemn hate groups, but not before his initial comments were echoed by white supremacists globally.

SIMON ROCHE, SUIDLANDERS: How all these people, these right-wingers in the USA, restrain themselves in the face of such antagonism I really don't know.

MCKENZIE: That's an audio message from a South African sent from Charlottesville back home to his followers. His photo places Simon Roche at the scene. Surrounded by Nazi flags, he's in the corner wearing a hard hat.

ROCHE: The time is now for you to, white men, to arise.

MCKENZIE: And he took to the alt-right media for support.

ROCHE: Help us to continue to fight the good fight.

MCKENZIE: A constant theme.

ROCHE: We represent the white people of South Africa who are presently being told that they can expect to see a genocide.

MCKENZIE: For Roche and his group, the Suidlanders, the warning is more than just rhetoric. On a remote farm in South Africa, they are preparing for an all-out race war.

MCKENZIE (on camera): What does it feel like for you to have your family here hiding in the bushes if this was a real world situation?

ROCHE: Well, it would be really disturbing, but if you're prepared for it, it's not that bad.

MCKENZIE (voice over): It's a drill, of course. Here catsup replaces real blood.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE).

MCKENZIE: But make no mistake, Roche is deadly serious about his founder's doomsday prophesy.

ROCHE: There is a pervasive sense amongst certain sectors of historically white societies, that those societies are being diluted on other people's terms.

MCKENZIE (on camera): But when you a term like diluted, I think Nazism, I think eugenics, I think all of these horrible things from the past.

ROCHE: (INAUDIBLE).

MCKENZIE: Why is being diluted a problem?

ROCHE: That's neurotic. The societies are in demographic terms being diluted.

We are preparing for a storm. Like the canary in the coal mine of the same anxieties and distresses that are being experienced in western Europe and in the USA.

MCKENZIE: So a lot of oxygen comes from support in the U.S.

ROCHE: Yes. Terrific oxygen.

MCKENZIE (voice over): Oxygen in the form of an inaccurate tweet from the U.S. president.

There it was, a tweet from left field. I've asked Secretary of State Pompeo to closely study the South Africa land and farm seizures and expropriations and the large-scale killing of farmers.

HEIDI BEIRICH, INTELLIGENCE PROJECT DIRECTOR, SOUTHERN POVERTY LAW CENTRE: It's not really, you know, at the end of the day about any kinds of facts or data. Once Trump put out that tweet, attention was drawn to this theory of white South African farmers under attack and being genocided in a way that had never happened before.

MCKENZIE: A South African myth connecting white supremacists worldwide, in videos and chat rooms and far right websites and increasingly in the mainstream.

David McKenzie, CNN, near Welkom (ph), South Africa.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCIUTTO: Well, we often ask if presidential tweets matter. There's an example of where they do.

[09:44:58] Coming up, could President Trump's next chief of staff be as close as the vice president's office?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCIUTTO: President Trump is holding interviews for top level cabinet positions this week at Mar-a-Lago amid speculation that Chief of Staff John Kelly might be on his way out. This morning, CNN has learned that a top contender for that spot is Nick Ayers, pictured there. Ayers currently serves as Vice President Pence's chief of staff, but is well liked by Trump as well.

Joining me now with the latest is CNN White House reporter Jeremy Diamond.

[09:50:00] Jeremy, Nick Ayers, I know that some in the White House he makes uncomfortable, if that's the right word. That there was some opposition there. How did he earn the president's trust?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Yes, that's right.

Well, Nick Ayers, as you mentioned, is the vice president's chief of staff currently, but he's also this 36-year-old ambitious political operative who has really had this meteoric rise in Republican politics. It all began at age 19 when he started on governor Sonny Perdue's first campaign for governor in Georgia. And from there he quickly rose to become the head of the Republican Governors Association, ran a 2012 Republican presidential campaign.

But his real rise in the Trump world, at least, began when he started working for now Vice President Mike Pence. And it really started when he became Pence's chief of staff last year, and that's when he earned the president's trust. The vice president and the president used to have these weekly lunches. And it used to be a time for both of them to really get to know each other, to get -- to forge a bond that would be helpful to both the vice president and the president. But when Nick Ayers came in as the vice president's chief of staff, the president waived him and incoming White House chief of staff at that time, John Kelly, to join both of them for these lunches. And, really, that is how, according to two sources close to the president, Nick Ayers came to form this really close bond with the president. And it's how the president came to know and like him.

And now, a little over a year after that point, it now seems that Nick Ayers could potentially be the president's next White House chief of staff.

SCIUTTO: I mean it's quite an exchange, right, you have the retired four-star Marine general for quite a young replacement, but these things happen in the second half of presidential terms.

Why hasn't the president then made this move yet? What's holding him back?

DIAMOND: Well, we know that despite the fact that the president's catch line as a reality star was "you're fired," the president actually doesn't like to fire people personally.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

DIAMOND: And he has hesitated on whether or not he should fire the White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, who is typically the person who does the firing for the president.

But we also know that Ayers has earned his fair share of detractors. And one of those key detractors, we're told, according to multiple sources, is Kellyanne Conway, the combative spin master for the president. And what we're told is that last year, when Nick Ayers was coming in as the vice president's chief of staff, she opposed that. She denied all of this in a statement telling us, I am pro-John Kelly and pro-Nick Ayers. As somebody who deals routinely and directly with the president and the vice presidents, I have an excellent working relationship with their excellent chiefs of staff. As far as I know, neither of those jobs is available. She also told me, I have zero beef with Nick Ayers.

But we do know that that bad blood has continued, according to our sources. And now the question is whether Nick Ayers' allies in the White House, Jared and Ivanka Trump, for example, whether that will be enough to get him this job of White House chief of staff.

Jim.

SCIUTTO: Yes, you don't want Kellyanne Conway as an enemy inside that White House. We'll see if he can overcome that, if that's indeed the case.

Jeremy Diamond, thanks very much. Rain is helping firefighters get the upper hand finally against that

horrible wildfire in northern California. But the downpours, they have another problem for fire crews and people who have already lost everything. We're going to have a live update from the fire zone in California, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:57:45] SCIUTTO: The so-called Camp Fire in northern California is now 95 percent contained, but the danger far from over. Almost 1 million people, can you believe it, under flash flood watch now as heavy rains expected through today. Initially, it might sound like a good thing for the fires, but it actually brings a slew of other problems, including flooding, mudslides and the flow of all that debris.

The Sacramento fire captain told CNN's affiliate, KTXL, that the weather, quote, makes the ground really unstable for firefighters. So more danger for them.

CNN national correspondent Ryan Young is in Paradise, California, sort of ground zero for this fire following these conditions.

What are you seeing there now, Ryan?

RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, just the utter devastation everywhere. It's something that kind of catches your eye. You think about Thanksgiving and all the families that were able to be together yesterday. And you think about how these families were probably ripped apart based upon this fire.

When you look around, it looks like a moonscape here with the devastation that we've seen. And you talk about that rain. It's been constant and steady for the last day or so, which has been good.

But if you look back at the trees, that's what -- something they're worried about, some of these larger trees falling over and creating more problems for those first responders. And you thing about the efforts they have of -- just kind of pan back toward the fire scene -- they're going through some of these building piece by piece to try to see if they could find any human remains with cadaver dogs. And you know how difficult that is.

One of the things that we've been doing, as we've been walking around, and you just kind of see the devastation and how some of this water is starting to compact parts of the homes here. So you understand the difficulties they have.

We were actually talking to some National Guard members who were keeping guard around this area to see what they're dealing with. Look, they say, look, it's not only cold but windy at this point and they've been looking up to make sure the trees don't fall on them as they've been blocking some of these roads because people have been trying to get in. But when you consider that this has been one of the deadliest fires ever, you understand the toll that this takes. Talking to some people last night at the hotel, they said they never

imagined they would have to be an hour and a half away from home knowing that everything they ever had was lost. Not sure if they're going to rebuild. And when you talked to them like on Thanksgiving and the idea that their families have now been separated based upon this fire, you understand the pain they are dealing with.

[09:59:54] But then when you get here, the idea that there's nothing left, the whole town is gone, that's something that sticks in your heart and you understand how hard it is.

As electricity crews go by us right now, as they're trying to get some of these lines out of the street to make sure that no one gets hurt as they come back.