Return to Transcripts main page
Pompeo Makes Unannounced Trip to Iraq to Discuss Tensions with Iran; Iran Retreats on Nuclear Deal; Dow Falls 473 Points as Wall Street Gets Tariff Whiplash; China Putting Minority Muslims in "Concentration Camps"; Democrats Could Vote to Hold William Barr in Contempt of Congress; Global Markets Tanking in Response to Trump's China Tariff Threat; Egging of Australian Prime Minister Latest Such Political Attack. Aired 12-1a ET
Aired May 8, 2019 - 00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): The U.S. military ramps up its firepower in the Persian Gulf responding to what it says were threats of Iranian attacks. It's vague on details but there's hard evidence.
Don't even think about it: China warns the U.S. on tariffs as global markets tank. The winds of a trade war are blowing across the Pacific.
Plus the crackdown in China's northwest. Tearing Muslims apart, Beijing says they're being sent to voluntary training centers. Others say the camps are designed to erase all traces of Islam.
Great to have you with us. I'm John Vause. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM.
VAUSE: Well, America's most senior diplomat made an unannounced stop in Iraq amid a standoff with Iran. Mike Pompeo made a trip to Baghdad after canceling a trip to Germany.
Washington is sending bombers and a carrier strike group to the region citing credible threats from Iran and its proxies. Pompeo's arrival also came a day shy of a key anniversary. It's now a year since the U.S. left the Iran nuclear deal and Iran is using anniversary to announce it might restart its nuclear program. As CNN's Barbara Starr reports, it could also be making moves at sea.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: We are now learning new details about what the threat is that Iran is posing in the Middle East that has the U.S. so concerned, one of the key reasons they decided to send an aircraft carrier strike group and an Air Force bomber group. What we now know is that U.S. intelligence is showing the Iranians are likely moving ballistics, short range ballistic missiles around by boat in the Persian Gulf area. A lot of concern they could be moving these missiles over to the Red Sea off of Yemen, where U.S. shipping comes out of the Suez Canal.
This is a very widespread area. The U.S. saying that it has multiple threats of intelligence that it is concerned about. But these ballistic missiles, here's the challenge: U.S. troops are already up and down the Persian Gulf in a number of locations. When missiles move around by boat, they're mobile.
If the Iranians were to be able to fire them off of boats and they move them around to shore locations, the U.S. is going to have a challenge in trying to track where all of this materiel is moving.
So one of the things they're talking about at the Pentagon is the possibility of sending additional force, additional firepower; it could be Patriot missile defense batteries. No decision has been made. They hope the aircraft carrier and B-52 bombers do the trick, that the Iranians will back off and they won't have to send the Patriots.
But right now a lot of concern about this growing threat -- Barbara Starr, CNN, the Pentagon.
VAUSE: To Los Angeles now. Dalia Dassa Kaye is the director of the Center for Middle East public policy at the RAND Corporation.
Dalia, thank you for coming in, it's good to see you.
DALIA DASSA KAYE, RAND CORPORATION: Thank you.
VAUSE: I want you to listen to a little more from the secretary of state Mike Pompeo. He was asked what more he could say about these threats coming from Iran.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: I can't say much more. These are very specific. These were attacks that were imminent. We learned about them and we have taken every action that we can. Other than that, I can't say any more.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: Here's the problem, when the U.S. president has repeated lies to the American people and ordered senior aides and others that served in the White House to lie to Congress and investigators and to the American people as well.
All of this intelligence could be real and credible but it seems a stretch for this administration to go out and say trust us.
KAYE: Look. I think we have to take the threat seriously. It's no secret that the Iranians have a lot of capabilities that could be targeted against U.S. forces in the region. It's not hypothetical. They've done it before during the Iraq War in 2003.
But the context here is really important. Before we start hyping up a frenzy of concern and moving toward a war posture, we need to think about what is -- put this threat in context and understand that the U.S. has also been escalating our own posture toward the Iranians.
This is not happening in a vacuum. We're now at the one-year anniversary. I'm not sure a complete coincidence this visit is happening at that time, the movement of the aircraft carrier, and we've had a number of escalatory measures over --
KAYE: -- the past month, the ending of waivers to squeeze the Iranians as well as the designation of the IRGC Force as a terrorist organization. So none of this escalation is terribly surprising. And I think it's what many expected.
VAUSE: There's an opinion piece from "The Washington Post" that takes it one step further. It reads, "The Trump administration lies at a record setting pace and national security adviser John Bolton himself was credibility accused of twisting intelligence in the past to justify U.S. action against Iraq and Cuba.
"The current hyping of the Iranian threat reminds some analysts of the run-up to the Iraq War, a terrible mistake that Bolton still defends."
I remember that and there's different similarities here. But back then you had a president very eager for war. Trump still seems reluctant to get into a war in the Middle East. That doesn't mean he could not stumble into an all-out confrontation.
KAYE: We're in a serious moment where there may not be an intention to go to war but this escalation could get us here. We should be careful not to put all of this on hawkish advisers like national security counsel adviser Bolton.
Let's face it, President Trump came into office with Iran as a centerpiece of his posture in the region, of countering the Iranian threat, of the worst deal ever. In fact, Trump chose to with draw from the Iran agreement over the objections of his advisers at that time.
So this is still the president's decision to move on this escalation with Iran. And putting it on hawkish advisers takes away the responsibility that the president himself has. And we should be careful not to move down the path we did in 2003 without really scrutinizing intelligence carefully and really understanding the context in which this whole alleged crisis is emerging.
VAUSE: There was a bizarre moment in the early days of the Trump administration with then national security Michael Flynn in the briefing room, putting Iran on --
(CROSSTALK) KAYE: Yes, from day one Iran was on notice.
VAUSE: The Trump administration withdrew from the Iran nuclear treaty. Tehran remain compliant with the agreement but I guess they received very little in way of sanctions relief so they now expect on Wednesday that some small part of the nuclear program will resume.
So what parts would that be?
Does it matter if it's small parts?
Significant parts, whatever?
They're back in the nuclear business, right?
KAYE: Of course it matters but the bigger picture is what is important, which is a year after the U.S. withdrawal of the deal and we have to ask ourselves, what has been achieved?
What is the goal?
Have we reached strategic objectives?
If the objective is we get a better deal, clearly we haven't seen the Iranians coming to the table for a better deal and now we're hearing they may resume nuclear activities that are not acceptable.
We're a year into this withdrawal of the agreement and yet we're talking about war and we're talking about escalation and we're talking about very concerning Iranian behavior in the region. This is what the withdrawal from the deal was supposed to achieve.
It's better Iranian behavior or a better Iran deal. We're not seeing that. So it's really a time to ask hard questions.
What is Iran policy right now in the United States from this administration trying to achieve?
And it's very worrying. And I think right now we're moving on a path where, again, it may not be the intention but the escalation, I think we need to take it very seriously. We cannot just assume this is just a posture that's symbolic. The threat is real on both sides.
VAUSE: Iran's foreign minister seemed to dismiss this military deployment from Washington. He tweeted, "From announcements of naval movements that actually occurred last month to dire warnings about so- called Iranian threats, if U.S. and clients don't feel safe it's because they're despised by the people of the region. Blaming Iran won't reverse that."
Despite the snark in all of this, how concerned are they right now in Tehran?
KAYE: I think they're concerned. They're relatively isolated. Yes, they still have Russians and Chinese behind them. The Europeans are still in favor of keeping the nuclear deal.
But if the Iranians make moves that alienate the Europeans, they'll be left in a corner and that's what concerns me. There's no off ramp here. We're not giving the Iranians a way out. And for them this is going to be existential and you're seeing factions in Iran digging in their heels and looking for a way to survive this.
And I don't think that's likely to lead to good outcomes. And we could see more escalation and more destabilizing behavior from the Iranians and some could argue -- and I heard this in places like Israel -- there may be interests in having the Iranians leave the agreement and it will make it easier to get international pressure and get United States more backing for this maximum pressure campaign.
Again, it's not clear where this ends.
VAUSE: That's the problem. We have to keep watching. Thank you.
KAYE: Yes, thank you.
VAUSE: Global markets have been tanking since President Trump threatened new tariffs against China. Investors are not happy. On Tuesday, the Dow had its worst day since January 3rd, tumbling almost 500 points. The Nasdaq dropped nearly 2 percent, falling below 8,000 for the first time since April 18th. Asian markets are down across the board.
Traders are hopeful China and the U.S. could still make progress later this week when both sides return to the negotiating table. The Chinese and vice premier are part of the mix.
Steven Jiang live for us this hour.
Steven, the talks are still moving ahead. And it now seems that no one is talking about optimism. The mood has really shifted to be afraid.
STEVEN JIANG, CNN SENIOR PRODUCER, BEIJING BUREAU: But the fact that the Chinese leadership decided to send Mr. Hill (ph) to these talks is quite important. Remember just on Monday, there was a lot of doubt on whether Mr. Hill (ph) will go ahead to attend these talks because of the pair of tweets Mr. Trump fired off on Sunday.
Now the decision to send him there really tells you something about the leadership. Really weigh the pros and cons. Decided not going to a complete breakdown of these talks would be something that you cannot afford. That would cost too much economically for them.
And so they actually have to break their long held public position of not negotiating under threats. But as of now, it's hard to imagine the two sides could bridge their increasingly wide gap in just two days.
Mr. Trump obviously always had the option to pick up the phone and call Mr. Xi to work something out. But people are thinking the Americans have pledged to raise the tariffs some billions of dollars with Chinese tariffs on Friday and that could still happen, which would likely prompt the Chinese to retaliate by imposing counter tariffs.
At the moment the prospect of an escalation in this trade war is real and growing.
VAUSE: Yes, for the first couple of days, the Chinese media didn't even report the threat coming from the U.S. president. Steven, thank you for being with us. We'll have a lot more on this story later in this hour here on CNN NEWSROOM.
Liverpool headed to the UEFA Champions League final. The English club scored four goals on Tuesday. Looking out, Barcelona without their two strikers. Liverpool get the chance to prove themselves. They'll play in the final next month.
And next on CNN NEWSROOM, the U.S. accuses China of putting the country's Muslim majority in brutal detention camps. CNN travels for a firsthand look at what's happening.
VAUSE: Beijing says it has nothing to hide but Muslim families claim they are being torn apart by a crackdown carried out by Chinese authorities. The U.S. says millions are being held in the northwest of the country and that's where Uyghurs are being placed in detention camps, something China calls vocational training centers.
CNN's Matt Rivers and his team traveled to some of the most remote parts of China for a rare look at these camps. Here's the report.
MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The bedroom hasn't changed since they left, stuffed animals on the bed, their clothes in the closet. Their grandmother won't change it. She says it still smells like them.
Onseela (ph) and Nuseela (ph), ages 8 and 7, left their home in Kazakhstan to go to China with their mother, Adeeba (ph) in 2017. Adeeba (ph) grew up in China so she went back for a short visit to see some family and take a few classes in Northwest China.
Her husband and young son stayed home. But shortly after they arrived Adeeba (ph) and her daughters disappeared because they went back at the wrong time.
Xinjiang is the region where the U.S. says China put up to 2 million people, nearly all Muslims, in detention camps over the last few years. Activists say Beijing has done that to try to eliminate Islam within its borders.
Detainees told CNN they were tortured inside while undergoing political indoctrination. Adeeba (ph) and her family are Muslim. Her husband says a relative told him his wife was put in such a camp while his daughters were sent to live with distant relatives. He hasn't heard from any of them in nearly two years.
"When he sees young women in the neighborhood he calls them 'Mama'" Esten says. "He doesn't even know what his own mother looks like."
China says these camps aren't prisons but voluntary vocational training centers that are being used to not eliminate Islam generally, only Islamic extremism that the government has linked to past terror attacks in the region.
So authorities play propaganda videos like this one on state run TV to show happy Muslims cheerfully learning. They interview some who have been supposedly been, quote, "reformed," steered away from a life of terrorism.
But even if that's true, Esten says that still does not explain why his wife was locked up.
"My wife is not a terrorist," he says. "She has nothing to do with it. I can't express with words how much pain I feel when I think of her there."
We asked Chinese authorities what happened to Adeeba (ph). They did not reply to our question. So we went to Xinjiang ourselves, to some of the most remote parts of China, traveling thousands of miles in all. We went to six places, both to see what is happening here and, in one town, to try to find Adeeba (ph).
Ethnic Muslim minorities have lived here for centuries; Uyghurs, Kazakhs and others, culturally distinct from the Han Chinese who dominate the rest of the country. But now, every day, they're forced to prove that they're not a threat to the state.
Cameras watch their every move, in some places positioned every 50 meters. While Han Chinese regularly breeze through the myriad police roadblocks, anyone we saw who appeared to be a minority got stopped. Racial profiling appears rampant.
But all of that is likely still better than life for those that end up in places like this, detention camps designed for Muslim ethnic minorities, like this one outside the city of Kashgar, what China calls a job training site to us looked a lot more like prison. High walls, barbed wire, guard towers, things multiple experts told CNN are telltale signs of detention centers.
Images like this are rare. Few people have seen camps like this up close because China's government tries to prevent reporters like us from seeing them. A police officer soon reminded us of that fact. RIVERS: What's happening here is that this police officer doesn't want us to film but we believe that's a camp right there. This is as close as we're able to get. And right over there we believe are family members, who could have family members inside that camp and they're waiting to see them.
RIVERS (voice-over): China says it has nothing to hide here but not only do they obstruct attempts to film or go inside the camps --
RIVERS (voice-over): -- they also prevent us from speaking to those that know anything about them.
We tried to talk to this man that just brought food to his brother, who he says is being held in the camp. But before we can ask about life inside, plainclothes security surrounded us and told the man to be quiet.
There are camps like these all across Xinjiang; nearly 1,000 miles away, we took a train to the city of Turpan to see another, same type of prison-like walls, some kind of secrecy. And the minute after we arrive, some kind of police harassment.
RIVERS: Ma'am, can you tell me what that is?
Is this something you don't want us to see?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why are you here?
You come here.
Why are -- ?
RIVERS: We're here to film what we believe is a camp for Uyghurs and for Kazakhs and for Kyrgyz and for all ethnic Muslim minorities.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Who told you that?
RIVERS (voice-over): She threatened to arrest us and demanded that we delete our footage so we had to leave.
Our last stop is the town of Ghulja (ph), where Adeeba's (ph) family says she was detained. Her husband, Esten, believes she has since been let out of the camp and is back living with her daughters. They have been told they can't leave China because officials took away her passport. He has no way to contact her and fears he could end up in a camp himself if he went to find her.
So we tried to find her ourselves. But as soon as we arrive in town, traffic police block our way and officials following us insist on a group dinner. We declined strongly, saying no, no, no. But in the end, we got no choice. As Muslim minorities languish in
camps not far away, government officials drink liquor and dance to folk music. It is an absurd scene but we can't leave.
So we were unable to find her and we couldn't deliver this message, what Esten wanted us to share if we found her, quote, "Our son and I have been waiting and will always wait for you. You are the love of my life."
VAUSE: Matt Rivers joins us now live from Beijing.
The sitdown for the official dinner, that's a new one. That's a new tactic being carried out. But we heard for a long time that Uyghurs have been the victim of the majority of this crackdown. They want to make it part of China. It's very much not part of China in the way it looks, the way it sounds and the way it smells.
But they have complained for a long time. It seems it has accelerated though in recent years.
What is the reason for that?
Why are these crackdowns getting tougher?
RIVERS: There's a number of reasons. Some people point to the fact that a new party secretary in charge of the region came in in 2014. And that's when we started to see an acceleration of these camps building.
You can also point to the fact that Xi Jinping took over in early 2013 and he has overseen a number of different crackdowns on religious groups, against Christians and other types of ethnic Muslim minorities.
So there's a lot of different reasons that you can point to. But it is staggering the scale at which these camps were built and speed at which they were built. Think about the infrastructure that was needed to eventually house 2 million different people in one region. It is staggering how quickly they have done this.
And what you hear universally from advocates to human rights groups, to critics here in China, is the reason they're doing this is to Sinicize this population. They do not want anyone in China to model the ethnic Han Chinese people that really dominate the government here.
And the result, like we showed in our story, is that families are absolutely been torn apart and the story that we showed of that one family has been replicated countless times in this very unique part of China.
VAUSE: Yes. It's been going on for a while and it's one which obviously needs attention. Tomorrow, Matt will travel to the western part of the Chinese
province. His crew meet with around the clock government surveillance that made it so difficult for them to do their job.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RIVERS (voice-over): He and at least a dozen others followed us every single hour of our six-day trip, never more than 20 feet away. In the car, in the train station, in the hotel, in the room next to mine.
RIVERS: So it's a bit of an odd feeling to be in your hotel room at 1:00 in the morning and knowing that, on the other side of this connecting door that leads to the room next door to mine, there's at least three or four of the guys that have been --
RIVERS: -- following us around over the past couple of minutes.
VAUSE: Be sure to watch Matt's report Wednesday.
Tax records obtained by "The New York Times" show Mr. Trump in the early '90s was less qualified to host "The Apprentice;" more like "The Biggest Loser." The documents from 1985 to 1994 show Trump's businesses lost nearly $1.2 billion in 1990 and '91. His core business losses were more than double the next closest taxpayer. "The Times" report says Mr. Trump paid no income taxes for eight of those 10 years.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SUSANNE CRAIG, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Every year that we looked at, he lost money and the losses grew as he went further into the casinos and the losses that happened there. But it's unbelievable.
We would have thought at least in one of the years that we saw, maybe the year he wrote "Art of the Deal," he would have made money. He didn't. He was just bleeding money every year that we looked at in his businesses.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: The president says "The Times'" information is demonstrably false but failed to provide any specifics and prove that it was in fact demonstrably false.
Democrats in the U.S. House could vote to hold attorney general William Barr in contempt of Congress. They have been asking the Justice Department for the full unredacted Mueller report but to no avail. Now the White House is extending the stonewalling strategy to another key player in this investigation. CNN's Kaitlan Collins reports.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: The White House is stopping Don McGahn from turning over documents to House Democrats, the latest jab in the oversight showdown with the administration.
In a letter, current White House counsel, Pat Cipollone, telling the House Judiciary Committee, that the former White House counsel will be ignoring their subpoena, arguing that President Trump may want to assert executive privilege in the future and McGahn does not have the legal right to disclose these documents to third parties.
House investigators subpoenaed the documents as part of their investigation into obstruction of justice and were hoping to make McGahn their star witness.
KELLYANNE CONWAY, TRUMP SENIOR ADVISER: It's harassing and embarrassing. Eating fried chicken and acting like fools is not part of the oversight function, the last time I looked.
COLLINS (voice-over): Republicans are urging Congress to move on.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: We had two years for Mueller to take a look at this. He filed a report. It's on the Internet. Everybody can see it. It's over.
COLLINS (voice-over): But the gap between them and Democrats is wide, with Democrats still trying to gain access to the full, unredacted Mueller report.
Today, staff from the House Judiciary Committee met with Justice Department officials to try to reach an agreement on the matter. But the committee is preparing to hold attorney general Bill Barr in contempt of Congress if he doesn't turn it over. Democrats had a blistering response to McConnell's claim that the case is closed.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), SENATE MINORITY LEADER: So our leader says, let's move on. It's sort of like Richard Nixon saying, let's move on at the height of the investigation of his wrongdoing.
COLLINS (voice-over): House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Trump is making his own case for obstruction of justice.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER: Trump is goading us to impeach him. That's what he's doing. Every single day, he's just like, taunting, taunting, taunting, because he knows that it would be very divisive in the country. But he doesn't really care. He just wants to solidify his base.
CHRISTOPHER WRAY, FBI DIRECTOR: I'm honored to be here today.
COLLINS (voice-over): And today the FBI director breaking with the attorney general.
WILLIAM BARR, ATTORNEY GENERAL NOMINEE: Yes, I think spying did occur. COLLINS (voice-over): Chris Wray telling lawmakers he doesn't agree with Bill Barr's use of the word "spying."
WRAY: Well, that's not the term I would use. Look, there are lots of people that have different colloquial phrases. I believe that the FBI is engaged in investigative activity and part of investigative activity includes surveillance activity of different shapes and sizes and to me the key question is making sure that it's done by the book.
COLLINS (voice-over): Barr said last month the Trump campaign was spied on during the FBI's investigation into potential collusion with Russia, an assertion Wray said he couldn't back up today.
SEN. JEANNE SHAHEEN (D-NH): And at this time, do you have any evidence that any illegal surveillance into the campaigns or individuals associated with the campaigns by the FBI occurred?
WRAY: I don't think I personally have any evidence of that sort.
COLLINS: Now Democrats have not said whether or not they're going to move forward with those proceedings to hold McGahn in contempt of Congress for defining the subpoena. But we're told by source we can expect the former White House counsel to issue a statement on the developments soon -- Kaitlan Collins, CNN, the White House.
VAUSE: Take a short break. A lot more on the looming China-U.S. trade war and the very subtle message coming from China: don't even think about it.
JOHN VAUSE, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Welcome back, everybody. I'm John Vause with an update of our top news this hour.
[00:32:33] Iran is likely moving short-range ballistic missiles on boats in the Persian Gulf. This according to U.S. officials. They say those missiles are part of the reason the U.S. is sending a carrier strike group and bombers to the region.
The Pentagon says there's a credible threat from Iran against U.S. forces and interests.
The U.S. secretary of state made a surprise visit to Iraq as tensions with Iran escalate. Mike Pompeo says he spoke with Iraqi leaders Tuesday about protecting Americans in country. U.S. officials say Iraq was one place Iran and its proxies might target U.S. troops.
And hopes for a trade truce between China and the U.S. remain uncertain at best ahead of this week's talks in Washington. Global markets have been tanking since President Trump threatened new tariffs against China on Sunday. Beijing has said raising tariffs will not resolve any issues.
Richard McGregor is the former bureau chief in both Washington and Beijing for "The Financial Times." He now serves as a senior fellow with Australia's Lowy Institute. It's an independent think tank.
Richard, good to see you. Thanks for coming in.
RICHARD MCGREGOR, SENIOR FELLOW, LOWY INSTITUTE: Hi, there, John.
VAUSE: OK. The state controlled media in China, for the most part, has avoided, you know, reporting the threat which came from Donald Trump on a Sunday about increasing tariffs.
By Tuesday, though, commentary by "The People's Daily," which is the official voice of the Communist Party, appeared on social media. This was kind of interesting. Here's part of it. "Things we think are advantageous for us we will do it even without anyone asking. Things that are unfavorable to us, no matter how you ask, we will not take any step back. Do not even think about it."
It may not have been published widely. This social media account is used by Beijing's leadership to get out their thinking on various policy issues. But the message could not be louder and could not be more clear, delivered to the Trump administration.
MCGREGOR: Yes, I guess so. But it certainly took them some time, as you pointed out, to get to that message. The Trump tweet, which obviously thousands, millions of Chinese would have read, wasn't -- wasn't reported on by the Chinese media.
And I guess if there's any one person, you know, if you say, "Don't even think about it," if you say that to anybody, you know, somebody like Donald Trump, well, it might propel him just to do that, you know? And so I guess the Chinese welcome negotiating with the U.S. president.
VAUSE: On that social media account, this opinion piece actually looked at the question of which economy is in better shape to survive a trade war? Here's part of the piece: "As long as we can focus on developing our country, no matter what Americans do, the negative impact on us would be manageable and foreseeable."
[00:35:04] The thinking right now is that Trump made the threat, in part, because he believes the U.S. economy is strong, and it can deal with this. So from what you can see, who's right here?
MCGREGOR: Well, that's a very good question, though I think this is a long-running trope from the Chinese that "We can take more pain than you can."
In one sense that's true. You know, the Chinese people can take more pain than the American people can in a democracy and American shareholders can. But I think -- I don't think they're that confident about the state of their economy. You know, China is not about to fall apart, but it is slowing. They've had to pump up their tires a little bit. They're just doing that right now. They don't want this trade war to go on. So I think that's a little bit cocky on their behalf.
VAUSE: According to CNN's own reporting, the tariff threat from the U.S. president was born of frustration and a belief that the Chinese had, in fact, been stalling and even backsliding on some commitments.
Here's our report: "Trump's Sunday tweet was meant to rattle Beijing. It came without extensive discussion among his economic team, officials said. A person familiar with Trump's thinking added that the president also believed his team would be better positioned to extract concessions from China with the threat of additional tariffs. But it was another instance of Trump acting out publicly during what, under any other administration, would be carefully orchestrated talks."
So assuming the president, you know, is backed into a corner or has to make good on his threat of increasing the tariffs, and Beijing responds, how bad could all of this get just in sheer economic terms?
MCGREGOR: Yes, I think that's really tough, actually. Because if the U.S. does increase the tariffs from, you know, 10 to 25 percent, I think, on $200 billion worth of imports from China, I think China has tariffed nearly all of U.S. imports going into China. So then it gets tougher for China to retaliate. China would retaliate in some form.
But would that mean China taking action against U.S. companies and their investments inside China itself? That takes it up to another level.
So if Mr. Trump does put the tariffs up, that makes negotiations very hard, I think.
VAUSE: And well, these tariffs are then here to stay for, like, medium to long-term?
MCGREGOR: Yes, you know, the thing about the trade deal is we're going to -- we may get a trade deal. I suspect we'll get a trade deal. But I think for Trump, you know, China overseas is like the Mexican wall at home. He has to find a way to keep it in place. And we'll get a trade deal, and he'll start, you know, slandering it ten days or 100 days later.
And in any case, if we do get a trade deal, that's not the end of the trade war, because the trade deal will be full of surveillance mechanisms and sort of verification mechanisms; and that's fighting by another mean. It's just whether they fight, you know, sort of with tariffs going up, in the chaotic way, or that they keep fighting in a relatively more orderly fashion.
VAUSE: You know, the issue of slapping China with tariffs has been argued over and over and over within the Trump administration from the very first days. Here's part of an NPR/PBS documentary. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This group of advisers quickly splintered, deadlocked over whether tariffs would bring China to heel or send the world's two largest economies into turmoil.
Susan Thornton was acting assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs and has served under ten secretaries. She said it was one of the most difficult assignments of her career, trying to present a strong, unified front to the Chinese.
SUSAN THORNTON, FORMER ACTING ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE, EAST ASIAN AND PACIFIC AFFAIRS: You can't have this team that's fighting with itself. That's a big disadvantage for us, frankly.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think China was aware that there were different sides arguing different --?
THORNTON: Yes. They were having fights in front of the Chinese delegation, which is, like, a cardinal sin of negotiating.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: It's a fascinating documentary, and it's well worth a watch, if you can get it on PBS or listen to it on NPR. But you know, Richard, is you look at now, that argument about tariffs on China, it's been pretty much settled, because anyone who opposed it has either left or been forced out of the White House.
MCGREGOR: I think it's been pretty much settled. You know, I don't think it's done the U.S. much good economically. I don't know who's suffered more in numbers terms, and that's always very hard to judge in any case.
But I must say, as far as Mr. Trump goes, as a negotiating technique to get Beijing's attention and get them to the table, to get them to take the U.S. seriously, I would say it worked. Now whether it keeps working, because things settled down now in Beijing a little bit now, say, compared to a year ago when they were pretty rattled, it's not a strategy -- a forever strategy. You know, the -- you have to try something else eventually, but in the short-term, I think it had value.
VAUSE: Good point to finish on, Richard, and we appreciate it. Thank you. Richard McGregor there, live for us in Sydney. Thank you, Richard.
MCGREGOR: Thank you very much.
VAUSE: Well, coming up, a crack in political decorum as Australia's prime minister is egged.
[00:41:53] VAUSE: Here's an egg-cellent story from Australia. Jeanne Moos reports on the latest political food fight down under.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When a protestor threw an egg at Australia's prime minister, prime minister exhibited a hard- boiled head. The egg just grazed him, though he did have to help up a woman who got knocked to the ground. And the egg thrower got knocked verbally as she was led out. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Silly girl. You're appalling, absolutely
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: As is everyone who votes for this piece of (EXPLETIVE DELETED).
MOOS: It's the second egging in as many months in Australia.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When people are getting attacked in their own --
MOOS: Right-wing senator, egged by a teen, fought back.
The preferred reaction in the U.S. is playing it cool. Like George W. Bush did, ducking a pair of shoes.
GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So what if a guy threw a shoe at me?
MOOS: The same thing happened to Hillary.
HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: Cycling about --
What was that? A bat?
Thank goodness she didn't play softball like I did.
MOOS: Someone with similarly bad aim --
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I mean, you have Hillary, who is a disaster.
MOOS: -- hurled a tomato at then-candidate Trump, who waved and smiled.
But it's hard to smile through a pie in the face.
ANITA BRYANT, SINGER/POLITICAL ACTIVIST: Every --
MOOS: Anita Bryant campaigned against gays, then got pied by one.
BRYANT: Well, at least it's a fruit pie.
MOOS: While right-wing commentator Ann Coulter got pied by two.
When someone hit Rupert Murdoch with a foam-filled pie, Murdoch's then-wife Wendy, in pink, whacked the attacker.
And when Ralph Nader was pied, he served it right back. The shoe was on the other foot.
This Minor League manager took care not to throw his shoe at the ump. Instead he raised an armpit in protest: you stink.
Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.
(END VIDEOTAPE) VAUSE: Nasty. Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm John Vause. Stay with us. WORLD SPORT is next. You're watching CNN.
[00:45:12] (WORLD SPORT)
[00:57:05] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
[00:59:53] VAUSE: As voting begins across South Africa, the ruling ANC expected to hold onto power, despite corruption scandals, a slowing economy and the world's highest economic inequality. And the margin of victory could just determine the future of white-held land.
Vague on details and producing no hard evidence, the Trump administration pushes on.