Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

Cease-fire in China Trade War as Trump Freezes Tariff Increase; White House Confirms Trump Had "Informal Conversation" with Putin; Hundreds of Text Messages by "The Washington Post" Journalist May Offer New Clue in His Murder; Remembering President George H.W. Bush's Life In Public Service; More Protests in France over Rising Fuel Prices, Cost of Living; Mexico's New President Vows Transformation. Aired 3-3:30a ET

Aired December 2, 2018 - 03:00   ET

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


[03:00:00]

(MUSIC PLAYING)

CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): A dinner and a deal: the U.S. and Chinese presidents agree to put their trade war on pause for 90 days.

Violence in the streets of Paris as anti-government protests turn ugly. French authorities scramble for a response.

And the legacy of George H.W. Bush. My guest later on in the show says the U.S. needs his spirit today more than ever.

Live from the CNN Center here in Atlanta, I'm Cyril Vanier. It's great to have you with us.

(MUSIC PLAYING)

VANIER: The U.S. says it will delay hiking tariffs on Chinese goods -- at least for now. That's what came out of a two-hour dinner between Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping. This on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Argentina.

China agreed to buy more U.S. goods while both sides work toward a comprehensive trade daily over the next 90 days.

And it was an eventful two days in Buenos Aires at the G20 summit. Also among the highlights, Russian president Vladimir Putin and Mr. Trump, who met briefly. Putin said they discussed the recent confrontation between Ukrainian ships and the Russian navy.

The G20 leaders didn't promise much concrete action at the end of their meeting but there was, nonetheless, unanimous agreement to reform the global trading system. The G20 leaders also reaffirmed their commitment to the Paris climate accord with one notable exception, one country out of the 20: the U.S., saying it stands by its decision to withdraw from the climate agreement.

Let's begin with the agreement between China and the U.S. Steven Jiang joins us now from Beijing. He's looking at this very carefully.

Steven, the trade war was expected to get a lot worse soon. But now it's actually slowing down.

STEVEN JIANG, CNN SENIOR PRODUCER, BEIJING BUREAU: That's right, Cyril. You hear the word "cease-fire" being -- floating around. But I think more accurately this is a pause in the escalation. The existing tariffs from both countries are billions of dollars on each other's imports. They're still very much in place.

They say the devil is in the details. The one detail a lot of people will be focusing on is the 90-day negotiating period that you just mentioned, because these talks will focus on the core demands by Mr. Trump.

That is China needs to change its economy structurally and stop unfair trade practices against the U.S. That means China needs to not only buy more from the U.S. but also to stop stealing American trade secrets and stop subsidizing its own industries and companies.

These sorts of demands long resisted by Mr. Xi and his government because they view these as a move by the U.S. to contain the rise of China.

So it's still very difficult at this stage to envision a permanent solution to this trade war because the two sides have so far remained so far apart -- Cyril.

VANIER: All right, Steven Jiang, reporting from Beijing, thank you. We appreciate it.

As we mentioned earlier, Mr. Trump ended up having a brief conversation with Vladimir Putin at this G20 summit. This after he had canceled their scheduled meeting on his way to Argentina. Matthew Chance joins us now from Moscow.

Matthew, tell us about this apparently impromptu chat.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Cyril, there are always going to be these impromptu opportunities for the two of them to meet on the sidelines of the G20. In fact, the Kremlin were bitterly disappointed that that face-to-face meeting that had been planned for two hours didn't take place.

And they expressed concern that if they didn't sit down with their American side and talk about substantial issues between them, that could lead to more tensions globally.

But as you say, there was an opportunity for them to exchange comments, particularly about the naval incidents in the Kerch Strait. Here's what Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, had to say about what was discussed.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) VLADIMIR PUTIN, PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA (through translator): Of course, we were there. We talked to each other. I had a brief chat talk with President Trump and I answered his questions about the Black Sea incident.

He has his position on that and I have mine. And we didn't change those positions. But I informed him about how we view the incident. I think it's a pity we didn't succeed in having a full-fledged meeting because I think the time is ripe.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHANCE: Yes, time is ripe there, he is saying, for that full-fledged meeting. It seems they agreed to disagree on the issue of that naval confrontation in the Kerch Strait.

One of the issues that wasn't discussed, though, are the latest revelations in the Mueller investigation. They're into --

[03:05:00]

CHANCE: -- Russia and collusion and the way in which those revelations have once again put the spotlight on Trump's Russia business dealings.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHANCE (voice over): For Trump, it's always been about business, his business, his brand, his properties.

TRUMP: People ask me, what does Trump stand for more than anything else. And if I use one word, it's always quality, big windows, great fixtures, beautiful kitchens. Everything is going to be the best and that's what it's all about.

CHANCE (voice over): It was Trump that property developer who campaigned to be a Republican presidential candidate, juggling his business and political ambitions, which inevitably overlapped.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Cohen --

CHANCE (voice over): But by how much is only now coming to light. His former lawyer revealing negotiations to build a Trump tower in Moscow went on much longer than previously admitted until at least June 2016 after he essentially secured the nomination. Nothing wrong with that, Trump insisted, before leaving for the G20.

TRUMP: It was a well-known project. It was during the early part of '16 and I guess even before that. I didn't do the project. I decided not to do the project. So I didn't do it. So we're not talking about doing a project.

CHANCE (voice over): It was in this location on the outskirts of Moscow near the sprawling Crocus City business entertainment complex that the Trump World Tower Moscow, as it was called, was meant to be built, part of a 14-tower project, according to the developers which would have sort of across this whole area.

You can see here through this wired fence that some of the towers have already started to be constructed but, of course, the Trump Tower isn't amongst them.

One of the ideas for that Trump building, according to one of his business associates, was to give the top floor, the penthouse apartment, a 250-apartment block, to Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, as a way of attracting buyers.

IVANKA TRUMP, DAUGHER OF PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: The Trump Organization likes to be ahead of the curve. We're always ahead of the curve and this would be another example.

CHANCE (voice over): Ivanka Trump and her spa and fitness brand was also an integral part of the Moscow proposal. In a letter of intent obtained by CNN, Trump's daughter would be given sole and absolute discretion to approve the spa designs. This was a Trump family affair.

But how much was the Kremlin also involved?

Until this week, it insisted attempts by Trump associates to make contact over the Moscow tower had been ignored. The Kremlin spokesman now admits his office called and asked why they wanted to have meetings with the presidential administration and explained that we have nothing to do with construction issues in the city of Moscow. It may be an important change.

The Russian-based owners of Crocus City, where Trump Tower Moscow was meant to be built, have been embroiled with the Trump family in other areas, too.

Did the Russian authorities give your family information to pass on?

Take Emin, the pop star son of Crocus owner Aras Agalarov, who helped set up a meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and Russians promising dirt on Hillary Clinton at Trump Tower in New York.

Aras and Trump also co-organized the 2013 Miss Universe contest in Moscow. But for the U.S. president, it appears business and politics in Russia have often mixed.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CHANCE: Cyril, there are still obviously questions surrounding the extent of President Trump's business -- previous business relationship in Russia and still concerns over to what extent Russia interfered in the U.S. political process -- back to you.

VANIER: Matthew Chance, thank you; that was a great piece of reporting from Moscow. Thanks.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration is doubling down on its support for Saudi Arabia. Secretary of state Mike Pompeo declined to comment on the CIA's belief that Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman personally ordered the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. He told CNN's Wolf Blitzer that there's no direct proof of that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Obviously, sitting in an unclassified setting, here's what I can say. I have read every piece of intelligence that is in the possession of the United States government.

And when it is done, when you complete that analysis, there's no direct evidence linking him to the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. That is an accurate statement, it's an important statement and it is the statement that we are making publicly today.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VANIER: Remember, Jamal Khashoggi was murdered during a visit to the Saudi --

[03:10:00]

VANIER: -- consulate in Istanbul in October. The Saudis have continuously denied that crown prince Mohammed bin Salman was involved.

America and the world say goodbye to George H.W. Bush. We will look at his legacy and how he changed the presidency. Stay tuned.

(MUSIC PLAYING)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MUSIC PLAYING)

VANIER: Memorial services are set for former president George H.W. Bush. He died on Friday at 94 after suffering from Parkinson's disease and congestive heart failure. His last words were to his son, President George W. Bush, during a phone call.

"I love you, too," he said.

Family members surrounded the elder statesman as he passed away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NEIL BUSH, SON OF BUSH 41: First of all, there has been amazing outreach from friends and citizens of this community and around the country, around the world, expressing condolences for the life of a great man.

He would treat everybody in Houston the same, with the same amount of respect. He loved Houston. And I should say I'm personally grateful. And I think I speak on behalf of the Bush family when I say that we're grateful for Mayor Sylvester Turner and for the incredible respect he showed to my mother and to -- upon her passing.

And there is a great plan for Thursday's funeral and for the activities around that. And the mayor is going all out to provide the security and the logistics. And we're really grateful to the city for doing everything, pulling out all the stops, to recognize and celebrate this life that was so well lived.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VANIER: Mr. Bush will lie in state at the U.S. Capitol starting Monday. He will have a state funeral in Washington on Wednesday and another funeral in Houston, this one on Thursday. And that's when and where he will be buried.

People have been sharing their tributes and memories of Mr. Bush ever since he died. A red, white and blue wreath was placed at the entrance of his home in Texas, where he passed away on Friday.

The towers in Kuwait City are lit in the American colors and a portrait of Mr. Bush. As president in1990, he ordered Operation Desert Storm, sending U.S. forces to liberate Kuwait after Iraq invaded.

And at the White House, these are live pictures. The Stars and Stripes flying at half-staff for the 41st American president. He lived there from 1989 to 1993.

Mr. Bush's life in public service began decades earlier. He volunteered for the U.S. Navy as a teenager, becoming one of its youngest pilots. He went on to be a congressman --

[03:15:00]

VANIER: -- an ambassador, head of the CIA, vice president for two terms before becoming president. In the coming days, you'll be hearing a lot, a ton, from those who knew Mr. Bush. Let's look at some of the key moments in his presidency.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(MUSIC PLAYING)

GEORGE H. W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Read my lips: no new taxes.

I, George Herbert Walker Bush, do solemnly swear.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States.

BUSH 41: That I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States.

Kuwait is liberated. Iraq's army is defeated. Our military objectives are met.

Just because you run against someone does not mean you have to be enemies. Politics does not have to be mean and ugly. "I love you, precious, with all my heart and to know that you love me means my life. How often I have thought about the immeasurable joy that will be ours someday."

Just because you're an old guy, you don't have to sit around drooling in the corner.

No regrets about one single thing in my life that I can think of.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VANIER: Joining me is Julian Zelizer, a CNN political analyst and a history professor at Princeton University.

You wrote an opinion piece, Julian, for cnn.com, in which you raise a toast to Bush and you write, "We need more of George H.W. Bush's spirit in this country today." Tell me why you wrote that.

JULIAN ZELIZER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: There were two parts of his career that I think are notable in 2018. One is his total devotion to public service. Someone from a very wealthy patrician background spends his entire career in different jobs, from being in the Congress ultimately to being President of the United States.

The second is his willingness to compromise and to take big political risks for decisions that he thought were best for the country. And there are many cases as president where he did this to his own detriment.

So I wrote this saying, these are features of his political history that are worth remembering in our contentious age.

VANIER: I wonder, would he be looked at differently if precisely we weren't in such a contentious moment of American politics?

I mean, would his legacy feel different if 2018 weren't quite as aggressive and toxic as it is?

ZELIZER: It could. Obviously, he was a one-term president and, for many Americans, that's a measure of failure. He also had a lot of negative parts of his career that many people don't like.

The 1988 presidential campaign is considered one of the fiercest ever run until that time by a Republican. Also, he pardons people who are involved with the Iran-contra scandal, which he himself was connected to at the end of his presidency. That didn't sit well with many Americans.

So part of how we remember a president depends on what moment we're in. And relative to where we are today, these other aspects of his career are elevated.

VANIER: Right, because Americans could have re-elected him president in the early '90s but they didn't. Now the Bushes are a political dynasty and often when that is commented on in this country, it comes with quite a lot of criticism, this dynastic power. Two presidents, a governor in this Bush family.

The interesting thing is his son, George W. Bush, the 43nd president, said his dad actually didn't give him any advice.

How did the two men relate to each other?

ZELIZER: Well, they had a lot of tension. Growing up George W. Bush had a pretty wild and uncontrolled and unstructured childhood and there were tensions with the father. It's not's easy growing up with someone of this prominence.

The son did work for him when he was running for President of the United States and, ultimately, there were a lot of tensions over George W. Bush's presidency, where his father felt that his son was making decisions and taking advice from people who really weren't doing what was best for the nation.

So it was both a very fraught relationship but also, at the same time, very close. It will be very emotional, I'm sure, when he speaks at the memorial.

VANIER: Julian Zelizer, thank you so much. You'll be giving us your insights throughout the week as we follow on the services and the way he is remembered and his legacy on CNN. Thank you.

ZELIZER: Thank you.

VANIER: I want to show you one more thing about this, a revealing personal moment from the life of president George H.W. Bush.

In 2013, he shaved his head. It was in support of the son of one of his Secret Service agents, 2-year-old Patrick, who was battling leukemia. But this was a cause very dear to the former president's heart. He lost his own daughter, Robin, to leukemia when she was just 3 years old.

[03:20:00]

VANIER: -- George H.W. Bush dead at the age of 94.

Turning now to France, where the government is considering whether to impose a state of emergency. This after more than 200 people were arrested on Saturday after protests turned violent. At least 92 demonstrators and police officers were injured. CNN Paris correspondent Melissa Bell reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The tear gas and the scuffles began early. All around the edge of the perimeter, the police had set up to prevent a repeat of last week's violence on the Champs-Elysees.

The Yellow Vests had warned that this would be part three of a protest against the hike in the fuel tax, which helped pushed the price of diesel up 16 percent this year. But the hike on which the French president has refused to back down was just the spark of a protest, now aimed more broadly at the cost of living in general and the liberal policies of the French president in particular.

Ahead of today's protests, authorities had warned that more radical anarchist elements might once again infiltrate demonstrations that were supposed to be peaceful. The so-called casseurs, intent on violent action.

Tear gas, stun guns and water cannon were used by police. Cars were burned and shops damaged and looted by protesters. Emmanuel Macron condemned the violence from the G20 summit in Argentina.

EMMANUEL MACRON, PRESIDENT OF FRANCE (through translator): No cause justifies that security forces are attacked, shops pillaged, public or private buildings set on fire, pedestrians or journalists threatened or that the Arc de Triomphe is sullied.

Those guilty of this violence do not want change nor improvement. They want chaos. They betray the cause they claim to serve.

BELL: By the afternoon, some of Paris's most expensive neighborhoods were the scenes of confrontations between riot police and protesters with a roundabout at the Arc de Triomphe changing hands between the two several times.

France's interior minister tweeted to condemn the violence, calling it an insult to the republic. Violence that spread more widely and lasted longer than it had last Saturday, even though the numbers out on the streets of France were down.

This was a scene around so many of the roads that lead on to the roundabout that is around the Arc de Triomphe, the focus of so much of the action today, so much of the violence that we have seen and late into the evening, still police services struggling to contain the anger, the violence, with tear gas canisters still being fired late into the night. Already the Yellow Vests have said that they will be back again next week -- Melissa Bell, CNN, Paris.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VANIER: U.S. secretary of state Mike Pompeo is accusing Iran of testing a medium-range ballistic missile. Pompeo says the test violates a United Nations Security Council resolution, which bans Iran from engaging in any activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons.

A U.S. Defense official says the launch does not appear to pose a direct threat and intelligence on it is still being assessed.

In Mexico, a new era has begun on Saturday. Andreas Manuel Lopez Obrador was officially sworn in as president, becoming the country's first leftist leader in decades. As CNN's Rafael Romo reports, the former mayor of Mexico City has promised radical changes for the country. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANDREAS MANUEL LOPEZ OBRADOR, PRESIDENT OF MEXICO: (Speaking Spanish).

RAFAEL ROMO, CNN SR. LATIN AFFAIRS EDITOR (voice-over): On his first day as Mexico's new president, Andreas Manuel Lopez Obrador is vowing radical transformation over the next six years.

LOPEZ OBRADOR (from captions): Today is not just the start of a new government but also the beginning of a change of political regime.

ROMO (voice-over): Nicknamed Amlo for his initials, the 65-year-old leftist leader is sworn in among crises on multiple fronts, like rampant gang violence and soaring homicide rates, on which Lopez Obrador vows to crack down.

LOPEZ OBRADOR (from captions): The Mexican citizen, in actuality, is in a state of helplessness. We do not have police to protect the people.

ROMO (voice-over): In a country where nearly 40 percent of people live in poverty, the incoming president also promises to improve a startling inequality, planning to lead by example in a pro-austerity charge.

At his inauguration, crowds of supporters saw Amlo ride through Mexico City in a modest white Volkswagen. He opened the gates of the presidential palace, which he says will remain open to the public, as he plans to live in an apartment.

[03:25:00]

ROMO (voice-over): Amlo also promises to cut his salary by 60 percent, stop unnecessary spending and fight corruption, which he has called Mexico's worst nightmare.

LOPEZ OBRADOR (from captions): The crisis in Mexico originates not only from the failure of the neoliberal economic model over the last 36 years but also the predominance of the filthiest public and private corruption.

ROMO (voice-over): Some of Lopez Obrador's policies have already caused concerns about the future of Latin America's second largest economy. However, his plans to ditch a partially built $13 billion new airport sent the peso tumbling. And the central bank is predicting less growth in 2019.

There's also uncertainty over how he will handle a series of actions by the U.S. president, like pushing to shut out thousands of Central Americans seeking U.S. asylum, pressuring Congress to finance a border wall and imposing tariffs on steel and aluminum that some viewed as a way to strong-arm Mexico and Canada into signing a revised trade agreement.

But at least for now Lopez Obrador and Donald Trump have struck a respectful tone.

TRUMP: We've had great conversations and I think we're going to have a great, great relationship.

ROMO (voice-over): Similar to his American counterpart, Lopez Obrador has said he would put Mexico first. Now citizens are eager to see results.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I think we are all hoping that everything he promised will come to fruition. Obrador promised a lot. And for a six-year term, I think it's not much time to do it all, to restructure everything in Mexico.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We're very hopeful and hopefully he won't be like the Venezuelan president, Nicolas Maduro, promising things and then you don't see anything. But I'm very positive.

ROMO (voice-over): The new president declares he has no right to fail after promises to fix corruption, crime and poverty in a country that has long been hungry for change -- Rafael Romo, CNN.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VANIER: A former U.S. first lady, Michelle Obama, can claim a new title: best-selling author. Her memoir, "Becoming," is the top- selling book of 2018 here in the U.S. It sold more than 1 million hardcover copies since it hit store shelves on November 13th. That's only been two weeks.

Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Cyril Vanier. We'll be back with the headlines in just a moment. Stay with us here on CNN.