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Trump Let AG Decide If Mueller Testifies; Trump Was Surprised By Don Jr.'s Subpoena; Trump Want Iran To Call Him; Trump Speaks As White House Ramps Up Fight With Congress; Trump Discusses US-China Trade Negotiations. Aired 12:30-1p ET
Aired May 9, 2019 - 12:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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[12:30:00] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: -- they came back, no collusion. There's nobody in this room, including you, if they were -- that's you, John. If we looked at you with $40 million, 18 angry people that hated you, and all of the other things I mentioned, they'll find something. I don't know, maybe John or not.
Go ahead, finish it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mueller is also friends with Mr. Barr and as you're aware, Mr. Barr told lawmakers that he didn't have a problem with Mr. Mueller testifying.
TRUMP: I'm going to leave that up to the attorney general as to whether or not. I think to me it looks like a redo. Here's what happened, the report comes back, it's perfect, it's beautiful. There's no collusion, nobody even talks about collusion.
You know, I haven't heard the word Russia in a long time. There's no more talk about Russia. What happened to Russia, the Russian witch hunt? They don't talk because it was so on collusion which by the way is by far that's the big deal because it was all about Russia. So I haven't heard the word Russia. They don't use the word Russia anymore.
So there's no crime, there never was a crime. It was a hoax. It was a witch hunt. So this comes back and it comes back totally exonerating Donald Trump and a lot of other people. This was as terrible thing that happened to our country.
Now, I'll tell you what they are asking. They are asking about how this whole thing started? That's what people want to know. And I want to tell you, I had an event last night, a lot of you were there, thousands and thousands of people standing in the field. I've never seen anything like it, meaning, even the press, but it's always that way, we've never had an empty seat.
Thousands of people last night. You want to know what they want to know. How did this whole thing start? It's going to be hard for them to answer that.
Yes, please. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you satisfied with the advice you received from John Bolton?
TRUMP: Yes, John is very good. John is a -- he has strong views on things, but that's OK. I actually temper John which is pretty amazing, isn't it? Nobody thought I was going to -- I'm the one that tempers him, but that's OK.
I have different sides. I mean, I have John Bolton and I have other people that are a little more dovish than him, and ultimately I make the decision. I get -- I like John, I get very good advice from John.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, as you saw the Senate Intelligence Committee has subpoenaed Don Jr., that's the Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee, what do you make of that?
TRUMP: Well, I was very surprised. I saw Richard Burr saying there was no collusion two or three weeks ago. He went outside and somebody asked him, no, there's no collusion, we found no collusion. But I was very surprised to see my son. My son is a very good person, works very hard, the last thing he needs is Washington, D.C. He could rather not ever be involved.
Remember he said to me a long time ago when I was thinking about running, "Dad, if I can help, let me know. It's not my expertise, it's not something I really like, but whatever I can do. You're my father, whatever I can do." He's now testified for 20 hours or something, a massive amount of time.
The Mueller report came out. That's the bible. The Mueller report came out and they said he did nothing wrong. The only thing is it's oppo research. If he did wrong, then everybody standing with me probably except for John and Lamar. I think Lamar is pretty -- I tell you, did you ever do oppo research on our opponent? I don't think so, Lamar, right?
TRUMP: And I know John Barrasso never did opposition research because he's a fine, fine man. But I would say 99 percent of the rest of the folks, so they didn't -- what they didn't discuss is this woman that came in who I watched her on the "Today Show" when it all started. "Oh, I'm just an innocent" -- well, nobody even knows, although the halls of Congress know her very well because for years she's walked around all over Congress.
She came in and she left supposedly GPS fusion, goes and meets for a short period of time with my son and some other people. They talked about a subject as very well, you know, advertised and put out, which is nothing. It was a nothing meeting. In fact, Jared left. He said, "Get me out of this meeting. This is a waste of time."
She then went back to GPS Fusion. They were the ones that wrote the phony dossier. Why was she going to GPS Fusion? Why did she go back? Then I heard that Don for a year made three phone calls with an unmarked number. They called it unmarked, and this was a tremendous event because they all knew the fake news, they all knew. You were fair on that, John.
But they all knew that these phone calls, these tremendous phone calls before the meeting and after the meeting, there were I believe three, right? They all knew that it had to be to his father, unmarked, it's perfect.
[12:35:05] So he reported about the meeting and then reported what happened at the meeting. Except after looking and spending a tremendous amount of time and money, they were able to go back years and find out who made the calls. One was a local real estate developer. The other was a great person from NASCAR. He took two of them and a friend of Don's.
This went on for a year and a half, John, you heard all about the phone calls too, obviously the father where I knew -- I never knew about the meeting. But the phone calls to the father turned out not to be the phone calls.
My son is a good person. My son testified for hours and hours. My son was totally exonerated by Mueller who frankly does not like Donald Trump, me, this Donald Trump. And frankly for my son after being exonerated to now get a subpoena to go again and speak again after close to 20 hours of telling everybody that would listen about a nothing meeting, yes, I'm pretty surprised.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Should he fight that subpoena?
TRUMP: Well, we'll see what happens. I'm just very surprised. I really am but, yes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What did Iran do to prompt you to send an aircraft carrier to the region?
TRUMP: Well, they were threatening and we have information -- we have information that you don't want to know about. They were very threatening and we just want to have -- we have to have great security for this country and for a lot of other places.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you at risk of military confrontation, sir?
TRUMP: I guess you can say that always, right? Isn't it? I mean, always, I don't want to say no, but hopefully that won't happen. We have one of most powerful ships in the world that's loaded up and we don't want to have to do anything.
What I'd like to see with Iran, I would like to see them call me. You know, John Kerry speaks to them a lot. John Kerry tells them not to call. That's a violation of the Logan Act, and frankly he should be prosecuted on that, but my people don't want to do anything that's -- only the Democrats do that kind of stuff, you know.
If it were the opposite way, they would prosecute him under the Logan Act, but John Kerry violated the Logan Act. He's talking to Iran and has been, has many meetings and many phone calls and he's telling them what to do. That is a total violation of the Logan Act because what they should be doing is their economy is a mess ever since I took away Iran deal. They have inflation that's the highest number I've ever heard. They are having riots every weekend and during the week even, and what they should be doing is calling me up, sitting down. We can make a deal, a fair deal.
We just don't want them to have nuclear weapons, not too much to ask. And we would help put them back into great shape. They are in bad shape right now. I look forward to the day where we can actually help Iran. We're not looking to hurt Iran.
I want them to be strong and great and have a great economy, but they are listening to John Kerry who has violated a very important element of what he's supposed to be doing. He violated the Logan Act, plain and simple. He shouldn't be doing that. But they should call, and if they do, we're open to talk to them. We have no secrets, and they can be very, very strong financially.
They have great potential. Very much like North Korea. North Korea has tremendous potential economically, and I don't think he's going to blow that. I don't think so.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, can I circle back to trade for just a second.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is it still possible to get a trade deal with the Chinese this week or is it --
TRUMP: It's possible to do it. They are all here. The vice premier, one of the most respected men, one of the highest officials in China is coming. You know, you heard he wasn't coming, he's coming.
I will say this, once the tariffs went on, they upped the meeting. It was supposed to take place originally on Thursday. Then about five weeks ago they said, "How about Friday, how about next week." I said, "What's this all about?" And I said, "That's OK, let's -- don't worry about it. Let's take in $100 billion a year, and we put the tariffs on." We made the statement. And then they upped the meeting. "How about let's go back to Thursday."
So I have no idea what's going to happen. I did get last night a very beautiful letter from President Xi. Let's work together. Let's see if we can get something done, but they re-negotiated the deal. I mean, they took -- whether it's intellectual property theft, they took many, many parts of that deal, and they re-negotiated it. You can't do that.
And I'm different than a lot of people. I happen to think that tariffs for our country are very powerful. You know, we're the piggy bank that everybody steals, from including China. We've been paying China $500 billion a year for many, many years. China rebuilt their country because of us. They couldn't have done what they are doing. They are building a ship every three weeks. They are building aircraft like you've never seen, fighter jets.
[12:40:06] I respect it. I don't blame them. I blame our past leadership for allowing this to happen.
What I'm doing now with China should have happened many years ago, not just Obama, long before Obama. I always say, you know, if you look, NAFTA is one of the worst deals ever made trade deal, but the worst trade deal ever made is the WTO because China was flat-lining for many, many decades, many, many -- it was flat, right here.
The WTO came along. We allowed China into the WTO, and they became a rocket ship. You've got to take a look at the chart sometime. Do it. It will be very interesting, an economic chart. They are here, and they went up like a rocket ship.
Well, they did it with our money and others, and they did it because they are very smart and they are good people. I like the president a lot. He's a friend of mine. But I'm representing the USA, and he's representing China, and we're not going to be taken advantage of anymore.
We're not going to pay China $500 billion a year, so we put very heavy tariffs on China as of Friday, and we put them on also eight months ago. And when people looked at the economic numbers, they were shocked when they look at the import/export numbers. They were shocked. They said, "Wow. How did they get to this point? This was very good. That was a very good report." They had never seen that for many years.
I said try looking at all of the tariffs that China has been paying us for the last eight months. Billions and billions of dollars, and that's only because I gave them a break. Because we were negotiating goodwill, we were negotiating. I gave them a break. And I said, "Let's keep it at 10 percent instead of 25 percent."
So now what we're doing is, we are raising it to 25 percent on Friday, so it will be $250 billion at 25 percent, and it will be $325 billion at 25 percent, and we're starting that paperwork today. So we'll see.
But you know what? As president of our country I've got to do something about it. And as president of our great country, we're going to be taking in more money than we've ever taken in. And all of these countries, many of them have taken advantage of us, including our allies. They have taken advantage of us on trade. They have taken advantage of us on military. We defend all these countries for nothing or for a tiny fraction of what it costs. We take care of NATO.
I'm all for NATO. I'm all for NATO, and I think it's just wonderful. But it's different than it was 25 years ago and 40 years ago, and I got NATO to put up an extra $100 billion. Ask Secretary General Stoltenberg, he's like Donald Trump's biggest fan, because spending was going done that the contributions that the 28 countries were making. It was heading like a slope down, like a very steep mountain. And then I came and it went up like China. It went up like a rocket ship, OK?
But I don't like seeing people take advantage. We pay for anywhere from 70 percent to 100 percent of NATO. So we protect NATO, we protect European countries, and we protect them, and we protect them beautifully. We're the power. We're the most powerful nation especially since we've redone our military, redoing and done all of the nuclear. Never want to use it, but you have to have it.
But we've spent, and I thank Congress for this, $700 billion and then $717 billion, $716 billion on our military. Our military when I came to office was totally depleted. We now have by far the strongest military in the world, but we defend countries. When you look at our budget, so we're at $716 billion and Russia is at $68 billion, how do you figure that?
Because Russia doesn't go around defending every country in the world and not getting paid for it. And you know what, I don't mind not getting paid. If there he's a country that's been horribly treated and lots of bad things are happening and they are not a rich country, but when we defend the richest countries in the world and they don't pay us for what we do, and frankly they go back into closed meetings and they laugh at stupidity of the United States for doing it.
These are countries with nothing but cash. They could very easily -- I told this story last night. I picked up $500 million with one phone call to a country, and that's just the beginning, and I've done with many other countries anyway. But over the last very short period of time, one phone call that lasted for a period of I would say five minutes.
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[12:45:03] ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN ANCHOR: You've just been watching President Trump's first press conference since the release of the special counsel's report. It was not supposed to be a press conference. It was unexpected. It was extraordinary. It went through no shortage of topics, ranging from China tariff threats, Lordstown and GM sales, his opinions of John Bolton, the Iran provocations the administration has been talking about, North Korea's missile launches and NATO, and the special counsel's report, as well as the subpoena from the Senate Intelligence Committee, Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee of his son Donald Trump Jr.
I want to open it up to the panel because there's no shortage of news there, and to be completely clear there. That was an event related to submitting principles to Congress and to ending surprise medical billing. This was not a scheduled press conference. It felt, Kaitlan, as if the President had to get off his chest on a lot of issues.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And he went on apt length for about the Mueller report, especially and it was fascinating to watch the faces of the lawmakers there for this ---
MARQUARDT: We're going back in right now because the President is still speaking. Take a listen.
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TRUMP: -- with a lot of countries. It was a very expensive horrible thing for our country. And by the way, should never ever happen again to a president. Two years I've been going through this nonsense and now we have a good report, and now guys like Jerry Nadler, when I fought for many years successfully, I might add, back in New York, in manhattan. He was a manhattan Congressman, and I beat him all the time and I come to Washington, and now I have to beat him again over nothing. Over nothing, over a hoax.
And they know it's a hoax. They are smart. Nadler is a smart guy. Schiff is a smart guy. When Schiff goes to the microphone, he's conning this whole country, and he knows that. And he goes back into a room and he talks to his friend and he laughs, because that's the way life is.
But our country is doing great. We're going to find out about China tonight. And I think in the end you're going to be very impressed with the kind of things we're doing. And the reason they were so surprised with the numbers two or three weeks ago, not that 3.2 GDP which everybody was surprised at, but maybe more importantly export numbers, import numbers, because we have billions of dollars coming to our country that our country never would have seen with a regular president. This should have been done many years ago.
And I told President Xi of China and I tell Abe who is a good friend of mine, prime minister of Japan doing a great job. I tell him, I tell everybody. I said, "I don't blame you. I blame the people that ran the United States and I blame their trade representatives, and frankly I blame our presidents because this should have never happened."
We've been losing for years, close to $800 billion, not million, 800 million is a lot, but we've been losing $800 billion on trade, $800 billion. We're going to stop that, and we've already started.
So we have a meeting tonight at 5:00 with the top people from China, and we'll let you know what happens. Thank you all very much
The Red Sox are coming for a little while. I like the Red Sox.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What would you say to those aren't going to be too divisive, do you worry it's going to hurt your re-election?
TRUMP: (Inaudible) in Puerto Rico -- just so you understand, we gave Puerto Rico $91 billion for the hurricane. That's the largest amount of money ever given to any state, talking about states and Puerto Rico, a little different, $91 billion. Texas got 30. Florida got 12. Puerto Rico got $91 billion. So I think the people of Puerto Rico should really like President Trump.
Now that money was given by Congress, but they got $91 billion. Now, you remember how big the hurricane was in Texas. The largest water dumped in the history our country, they say. Three times, it went in, it went out, it went in. Texas got $30 billion. Florida got actually anywhere between 9 and 12. Puerto Rico got $91 billion, and now the Democrats are trying to hold up the money from Georgia, from South Carolina, from Alabama, to Florida, they are trying to hold it up.
They are hurting Florida. They are holding, I mean, what they are doing to North Carolina, to Louisiana, they are trying to hold relief aid because Puerto Rico which got 91 billion have to love their president. They want to get Puerto Rico more money. So they are willing to sacrifice Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina, North Carolina, Florida, Louisiana, and other states.
The Democrats are doing that. They are very divisive people thank you very much.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President?
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[12:50:07] MARQUARDT: You were just listening to President Donald Trump, again, in an extraordinary impromptu press conference running through a range of topics. I want to quickly address the last issue he was referring to. The idea that Puerto Rico has received $91 billion in the emergency disaster aid in the wake of the hurricanes, that is not true.
That has been proven false on several levels. They have been allocated $40 billion, $40 plus billion by Congress. They have been paid out somewhere between $10 billion and $11 billion. The $91 billion number that the President continually repeats, repeated last night on the campaign rally down in Florida is not true.
The intricacies of the disaster relief debate on Capitol Hill, we'll say that for another time. There's a lot of blame to go around there. But, guys, I want to expand it out. Because if you go through what you just listened to, you had President unwilling to take potential military conflict with Iran, off the table, you had the President saying North Korea is not ready to negotiate due to the missile launches. You had him weighing in on his national security adviser, John Bolton.
And you also had him weighing in and venting on the subpoena to Donald Trump Jr. Where he said "I'm really surprised," he said it repeatedly. Name checked Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr several times. What's your read on what we just heard?
COLLINS: So one thing you didn't just mentioned was ending surprise medical billing, which is what this event was about. The next time you hear the White House talk about how no one is focussing on what Trump's message is, it's because he does an event like this and there are eight to ten headlines coming out of it. They aren't about what the actual event was.
Now, having said that, he did talk about the subpoena which we had reported that the President's inner circle was frustrated by this because they felt like it gave the Democrats a talking point. And he said there, he was saying that Donald Trump Jr. is a good person, that he personally was surprised that the Senate, the Republican-led committee issued this subpoena for his son, and essentially was saying I don't know if we're going to fight this.
He didn't answer that question specifically when asked about it, but he certainly left that option open. And it would go with whatever the White House has been following with that so far.
The other thing that really stood out to me was his criticism of his National Security Adviser John Bolton. We reported that the President was very frustrated that John Bolton was teasing the military option in Venezuela too much and getting too far out there, and the President just said there that he has to temper his national security adviser at times which is a pretty striking thing for the President to say about one of his top advisers.
MARQUARDT: It's fascinating. It's very fascinating to watch the things that you reported being the scenes. Other people reported behind the scenes. And now the President just says them out loud, and this was certainly the case here.
Also that he spoke at length about Special Counsel Robert Mueller. A lot of the things that you guys have all reported about what has been said behind the scenes. He just laid out again in public with his very personal problems with the special counsel.
LISA LERER, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: The one phrase that stood out to me there was essentially no obstruction, in part because I wasn't exactly sure what that meant. There was kind of obstruction but essentially not obstruction. But the important thing there is it's a caveat from where the President was before which was just a blanket no obstruction.
So it does seem like there's a little bit of sort of movement of how he's interpreting that report. It was also interesting to me that so much time was devoted to that topic from someone who just recently complained that he had lost two years of his presidency. I guess now he can say he's lost two years and 20 minutes or so of his presidency discussing that report.
But this is, as Kaitlan pointed out, what infuriates and frustrates Republicans and his, you know, his fellow Republicans when they have to deal with being out in the campaign trail about this President. They want to talk about one thing, the economy, the economy, the economy. They want to hammer Democrats particularly in the re- election race with the economy.
And when the President comes out and does things like this where he veers from topic to topic, and introduces all kinds of new claims and counterclaims, it makes it harder for them to do that.
RACHAEL BADE, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: One thing that struck me is he seemed to back off this notion of trying to block Mueller to testify. Over the weekend obviously he said, he doesn't want Mueller to testify. The White House officials sort of tried to walk that back. He was asked about that multiple times. And he said, "I'm going to leave it up to the attorney general." And, you know, the attorney general has said, he's fine with Mueller testifying.
But at the same time he was trying to undercut Mueller's credibility because he talked a little bit about how he accused Mueller of wanting to have the FBI job that he gave to Wray, the current FBI director, and then he started to talk about a business dispute that he had with Mueller. So it seems like he's getting ready for the back that Mueller is probably going to be on the Hill at some point and he's trying to undercut his credibility.
MARQUARDT: And what he's doing there. He's laying out the conflicts that repeatedly mentioned in the Mueller report for the rationale for why he wanted to have somebody in this administration fired Bob Mueller to some degree. I would also note, the reason why there's so many pictures of Jim Comey and Bob Mueller together is because Jim Comey was the deputy attorney general when Robert Muller was the FBI director.
Toluse, I want to move on to something else too because it was another really important thing happening in the next 24 hours. As he's trying to trade talk, he talk about Republicans, one, and talk about the economy. They also don't want him to do anything to hurt the economy. What was your takeaway related to China, this huge talks starting at 5:00 p.m. tonight?
TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes. The President is very comfortable with the idea that he's going to put these tariffs on China. He thinks against all evidence that these tariffs are actually helping the country, that they are paid for by China and not by US consumers, that it's not going to hurt the economy in any way.
[12:55:03] And Republican senators, Republican lawmakers are telling him that that's not the case. That their farmers are being hurt, that soybean prices are being depressed by these tariffs, that China is likely to retaliate and that retaliation is likely to impact Trump's specific voters, places and parts of the country that have supported Trump in the past.
So the president seems to be sort of on his own on an island thinking that tariffs are the way to get the job done, whereas a number of the people there talking to him, even within his own party are telling him that that's not the way to go.
COLLINS: And he did say that he did get a letter from the Chinese president last night which is interesting because these talks have been upended and officials were not sure if the Chinese delegation would show up in Washington today. They are. The President said the meeting is starting at 5:00 today.
And so, they said that's a good sign. If they are coming, they think that that is a pretty good sign that these talks could be successful. But, of course, the time line is very different than what the President expected when back in March, he thought there was going to be a trade deal.
Another big thing, the President accused John Kerry of violating the Logan Act by saying -- talking about his contacts with Iran, Iranians which John Kerry says, this is his former counterparts that he's speaking with. But when he was asked about what prompted the US to send a carrier there, the President was talking about Iran saying that he has information that we don't know about. But then he went pretty hard on John Kerry there, saying that he should be prosecuted for violating the Logan Act. That's a pretty big statement to make from the president or the White House.
BADE: We have to ask if he asked the AG about that. Remember there's this exchange when Barr was testifying on the Hill last week, where Kamala Harris asked Barr has the President ever asked you to prosecute someone and he kind of didn't answer it. So anyway, just adding to the context.
MARQUARDT: Yes. There's not really a great history of prosecutions in the Logan Act if anyone wants to do the deep dive on that.
Look, we have other things up. The other thing, North Korea. He said given the missile launches that occurred, that he doesn't think that they are ready for a negotiation. There are -- is this, again, we've got about 30 seconds. But how do you think this is going at this point of time? Is this a full breakdown?
LERER: It feels that way, doesn't it? But we'll have to see.
MARQUARDT: We will have to see.
COLLINS: Yes. And, well, you can see why the President would say that because they have recently suspended talks to get back the remains of Americans who fought in the Korean War and now South Koreans are saying that they fired two short distance missiles.
BADE: And there was a lot of analysis over the weekend that that launch was to try to get Trump's attention and try to get him back to the negotiating table, it looks like it had the reverse effect if he's out there saying talks are breaking down
MARQUARDT: Yes, it seems that way. There's a lot there. Brianna Keilar is going to pick up our special coverage of this and this press conference after a quick break.