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Trump Jr. Balking at Senate Subpoena; Dow Tanks; China Strikes Back in Trade War. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired May 13, 2019 - 16:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

We will start with breaking news in the money lead, President Trump's trade war with China having a chilling effect on Wall Street, the Dow plunging just under 600 points on the news that Beijing will retaliate, threatening to raise rates on some $60 billion worth of American goods.

The president today saying he's acting now from a position of strength.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So we are taking in tens of billions of dollars. We have never done that before with China. This is a very positive step. I love the position we're in.


TAPPER: Let's bring in two experts, CNN's Cristina Alesci at the New York Stock Exchange and CNN global economic analyst Rana Foroohar.

Cristina, first to you.

How significant is this single-day loss? It's 618 points.

CRISTINA ALESCI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We just missed it. It would have been the worst day of the year had it closed below 660 points.

We're second -- the second worst day of the year as of right now, heavy selling throughout the day. And let's just put some context around this. The selling really started last week. Take a look at this chart. We're down over 4 percent right now. This is a clear message from investors to Donald Trump, they do not think it's going to be OK, they don't agree with this tactic of using tariffs.

They think that it's going to hurt the domestic economy and slow down the global economy. This is going to wreak havoc on business confidence, and it also is going to impose higher costs on consumers. Despite what the president has been putting out there, it's the U.S. consumer that pays the price here, Jake. TAPPER: And, Rana, what do you make of the timing of this?

Obviously, China could have retaliated over the weekend. They did so today, causing these jitters on Wall Street.


I think that this is China saying, look, we're not backing down. And, really, this is an existential issue for them. This is not about just buying soybeans from America. This is about the Trump administration saying, look, we want you to fundamentally change the way you do business.

We want you to not subsidize state-owned industries. We want you to privatize. That's not the Chinese system. That's not the direction they're going. And I think that, if something doesn't change, I think we're in for a very long haul here.

TAPPER: And, Cristina, the U.S. and China are nowhere near a deal.

Should we expect more tumbles like this, if the tit for tat keeps going on?

ALESCI: Yes, absolutely.

And the big question right now is whether or not Trump will go ahead and impose tariffs 300 -- tariffs on an additional $300 billion of Chinese goods. That is a big question. But the irony here is that Trump keeps hitting chairman -- Fed Chair Jerome Powell for causing market declines.

This, today's selling, is all Trump's doing. And, ironically, it actually might force the Fed to lower interest rates if these fears of a global slowdown persist -- Jake.

TAPPER: And, Rana, the president tweeted today in part -- quote -- "There is no reason for the U.S. consumer to pay the tariffs which take effect on China today."

Aren't tariffs typically imposed on businesses that then directly pass on the cost to the consumer?

FOROOHAR: Yes, that's absolutely right.

The last round of tariffs were mostly eaten by businesses. They lost, but they didn't pass that on to the consumer. This time around, it's going to be different. A lot of analysts are saying we could see as much as $800 per year per family additional in costs in for everything from furniture to clothing to white goods.

And that doesn't even take into account the market effect that Cristina was talking about. When the markets drop, you have a sense of insecurity and that makes people button up their wallets.

TAPPER: All right, Rana and Cristina, thank you so much.

Let's turn to the politics of this and bring in my experts at the table here.

Bill Kristol, let me start with you.

The president says there's no reason for the U.S. consumer to pay the tariffs, but he was obviously contradicted to a degree by his top economic adviser, Larry Kudlow.

So, why is the president not being as honest and up front as Larry Kudlow was when he said, yes, of course, there's going to be pain on both sides?

BILL KRISTOL, DIRECTOR, DEFENDING DEMOCRACY TOGETHER: There's already quite a lot of economic activist that Trump's protectionist policies are hurting American consumers and actually some American farmers.

And so far, he's managed to sort of, I don't know, convince people to accept it or not to -- that it's not real. He doesn't seem to be paying much political price. I know Jeff has been in Iowa more recently than I have, but my sense is that an awful lot of Trump supporters out there have decided either, I don't know, that it's going to go away soon, the price will go away soon, or it's not real or it's worth paying or it's just the liberal media talking about it.

Reality has to hit. At the end of the day, one person can say this, another person can say that. Will really -- will farm prices really be now? Will people be paying noticeably more because of Chinese tariffs? I think that's the real question a year from now.

TAPPER: And, Karen Finney, some 2020 Democrats, former Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Kamala Harris among them, have been critical of President Trump's approach. Take a listen.


JOSEPH BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The way you have to proceed is, we have to have our allies with us. It's not just us. We have to keep the rest of the world together.

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Working with our allies to address China in terms of the threat that it presents to our economy, the threat it presents to American workers and American industries.


TAPPER: So they're not saying that the president's wrong for taking on China. They're just saying that the president's essentially going it alone.


KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, and that there's a danger, I think, of going it alone, given the danger that China poses.

To what Bill was just saying, the economic impact, why should we believe that China is going to pay for it? Like Mexico is not paying for the wall, China is not going to make up the difference. And when people do start to feel it, there will be a real potential economic cost.

I think that there's also a cost in the insecurity and instability. And I think that's something that both Kamala Harris and Joe Biden were talking about, that when you're acting with your allies, then you're putting on a unified front, then there's less of this diplomacy by tweet.

The president sort of said yesterday, he tweeted, you better not do anything, it's going to be OK, and the Chinese this morning basically very much refuted that and made it very clear they are going to retaliate.

So I don't think there's any reason to believe that what the president is doing is going to work. He's not someone -- he's said himself, he's the king of debt, he likes to play with debt, he like to take risks. We saw that, frankly, with the government shutdown. So, again, I think this is going to breed insecurity, not more confidence in his policies.

TAPPER: And, Jeff Zeleny, you have been to farm country recently. You have been to Iowa.

Last time something like this went on, the president pledged $12 billion to help struggling farmers. Now he's talking about $15 billion. Is that helping the farmers get through this?


It's a small price for everyone who's receiving this aid. And farmers (INAUDIBLE) for years are not looking for aid. They're looking for better prices for their goods. So, up until now, Trump supporters have been incredibly trusting of the president and patient of the president.

We will see if that lasts. There's some compounding things going on, A, the floods have that have been happening in Iowa. The soybean prices are at 1981 or so pricing. So we will see how long people are sort of believing in the president.

But I thought he said something very interesting this afternoon in the Oval Office. He said, I love the position we are in. To me, that sounded like, buckle up.


ZELENY: Sort of, we're in for the long haul here. So we will see how it evolves over the summer. It's planting season. This is a time when farmers are thinking about all of this.

TAPPER: And some on Capitol Hill -- some Democrats are applauding what the Senate is doing. Senator Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York, tweeted at the president last week, telling him to hang tough on China. What's interesting here is that this is kind of a progressive,

protectionist way to go about this policy, and he has all of these Republicans going along with it.

SABRINA SIDDIQUI, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think that the president did very much campaign on this isolationist trade agenda. And he's in many ways acting upon what he said he would.

I think there is some more opposition when you're talking about more traditional U.S. allies, like Canada and others in Europe, but with China, there's been a lot more bipartisan consensus that Beijing needs to be held accountable for what are unfair trade practices.

The question is, how do you do it? So you have someone like Chuck Schumer, who has also talked tough on China, but I think there is some concern on both sides of the aisle that the route the president has chosen does risk a global trade war and that the people who are ultimately being hurt are actually American consumers, as well as the manufacturing and the agricultural industry.

So whether this will have an impact on him in terms of support within his base, that remains to be seen, but, ironically, trying to protect the American worker from trade deals that he says hurt them, he is actually taking action that is risking ramifications for the U.S. economy.

TAPPER: And let's take a closer look at those American workers who ares being hurt by this.

China threatened new tariffs on U.S. imports such as cotton, corn flour, furniture, aircraft parts.

And as CNN's Ryan Young now reports from Illinois, the retaliation is a punch in the gut to the U.S. heartland with manufacturing and farming taking the hardest hit.


RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Jim Schielein says the U.S. trade war with China and the tariffs are decreasing the revenue on his Illinois farm by 30 percent.

JIM SCHIELEIN, SOYBEAN FARMER: It's really hitting us in the pocketbook pretty hard.

YOUNG: Other farmers are much more critical of President Trump.

JOHN WESLEY BOYD JR., SOYBEAN FARMER: The president is playing footsie with China while America's farmers are on the losing end of the stick. And, quite frankly, I don't know why more Midwestern farmers are not outraged.

YOUNG: The trade wars are taking a toll on farmers already hit hard by low commodity prices and devastating floods across the Midwest. There's been a wave of farmers declaring Chapter 12 bankruptcy. Here in the Midwest district of Illinois, Wisconsin and Indiana, the number of those farm bankruptcy cases doubled in 10 years, according to the district's 7 Appeals Court.

Jim Schielein says farmers are taking extreme measures to survive, including when to buy critical machinery.

SCHIELEIN: You put off equipment purchases. You really tighten the belt on your expenses. This equipment wears out. It's complex.

YOUNG: The hope for some in the Farm Belt is that the tariffs go away, the trade war ends and farmers are no longer caught in a global crossfire.


YOUNG: Jake, and you can see soybeans like this are worth billions of dollars to our economy.


And you got to think about this. Farmers are looking for some sort of relief, because this really equals to what they could put on their kitchen table. A lot of them are hurting right now. So the conversation about tariffs and negotiation, that's one thing.

But they're really feeling it in their pockets.

TAPPER: All right, Ryan Young in Dixon, Illinois, thanks so much, Ryan. Appreciate it.

We have some breaking news now. We're learning what is holding up Donald Trump Jr. from talking to the Senate Intelligence Committee, the questions that he will not answer coming up next.

Plus, giant holes left in several oil tankers in an act of alleged sabotage. What's going on in this region, where the U.S. military is already making moves?


TAPPER: We have some breaking news for you now.

We're learning more details about that subpoena from the Republican- led Senate Intelligence Committee of Donald Trump Jr., two sources telling CNN that Donald Trump Jr. is balking at answering any more questions about two topics in particular, the now infamous June 2016 Trump Tower meeting and talks about a potential Trump Tower project in Moscow.

CNN's Kara Scannell joins me now, breaking this news.

Kara, why is he objecting to this?

[16:15:00] KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, essentially, Jake, according

to sources, Don Jr. doesn't want to have a complete do-over of his testimony from December 2017, when he met with the Senate Intelligence Committee and to other committees, discussing these topics, including the Trump Tower meeting and the Trump Tower Moscow discussions to develop a project there.

Now, the issues here is that we're learning some information that Chairman Richard Burr with the Senate Intelligence Committee has told some of his members and colleagues that they initially began these conversations with Donald Trump Jr.'s team back in December. That there were tentative agreements for Don Jr. to come in and meet with them in April, but then those talks fell apart after it was clear that the Senate Intelligence Committee didn't want to place any limitations on their discussions with Donald Trump Jr. They had provided his legal team with a list of 20 topics they wanted to discuss, with no agreements to limit in any way the scope or the length of the time that he would be questioned.

And that was something that Don Jr.'s lawyers objected to. They thought when they had some follow up questions that it meant that he would come in for an hour or two hours, but then it began to appear that this was going to be a long open-ended session with some of the members in themselves being able to appear. Now, led to Burr's committee voting to issue this subpoena, and now, we're at a bit of a standoff. The next move is really back to Chairman Burr and is he going to seek to compel Donald Trump Jr. to come in, because they really don't seem to be able to reach an agreement on Don Jr. answering either of those topics -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Kara Scannell bringing us the breaking news, thank you so much.

Sabrina, let me start with you. What do you make of this? Why not answer questions about this if there's nothing to hide?

SIDDIQUI: Well, that's the question precisely for Donald Trump Jr. and that's why the committee wants him to come back in because he had testified privately before Congress before and we've seen transcripts of some of those conversations. And really, at the heart of this is Trump Tower meeting in June of 2016, which Don Jr. himself set up when he was offered dirt on Hillary Clinton and then negotiations on Trump Tower Moscow, and he had told the committee that he was only peripherally aware of those negotiations. Michael Cohen, Trump's former personal attorney testified that he actually briefed Don Jr. maybe ten times on those negotiations. So, that's a question before him --

TAPPER: Although just to interject quickly, Michael Cohen is not necessarily a credible witness.

SIDDIQUI: He's not the most credible witness.


SIDDIQUI: But that's a question to be answered by Don Jr., the discrepancy -- to explain that discrepancy.

And then, of course, whether or not he told his father about that Trump Tower meeting in June of 2016. And there are some indications in the Mueller report that perhaps there were conversations between Don Jr. and his father about the nature of that meeting. He told the committee, of course, that he did not discuss it at all with his father.

TAPPER: And, of course, Mueller and his team declined to bring any charges against Donald Trump Jr. They did say when talking about the Trump Tower meeting with that Russian lawyer who promised dirt on Hillary Clinton, that A, it wasn't clear that Donald Trump Jr. knew that that was inappropriate. And, B, they got nothing of value. So, that's why they didn't go forward with any charges.

I mean, he had been basically, essentially cleared as far as no charges brought, but now we have all of this controversy.

ZELENY: We do, but the scope of the investigation is different. I mean, this isn't a court of law or bringing charges. This is something that really of all of the investigations in Washington, the most measured one, at least, it seems, from the outside, has been that Senate investigation. So, this is something that it seems to me that Senator Burr and Senator Warner on the committee want to put a bow on something.

But, you know, when you have others on Capitol Hill like Senator Lindsey Graham and others essentially saying, ignore this subpoena, it does make you wonder exactly, is there more there? There may not be more there. It may just be, I'm sort of a bit of paperwork, but it seems to me that Senator Burr, since he's the only one not up for re- election, one of the few that not up for reelection in the Republicans here, you know, this is going to be fascinating.

He has not spoken about this at all. We'll see if he holds to his guns and makes him come up there.

TAPPER: And let's just talk about that, because Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, indeed, as Jeff said, advised that Donald Trump Jr. not comply with a subpoena from his Senate colleague, Republican colleague. Take a listen.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): As I understand it, this subpoena relates to what Michael Cohen said about some meetings and about the Trump Tower in Russia. And if I were Donald Trump Jr., his lawyer, I would tell them, you don't need to go back into this environment anymore. You've been there for hours and hours and hours, and nothing being alleged here changes the outcome of the Mueller investigation. I would call it a day.


TAPPER: That's the exact opposite of his position during Clinton impeachment, when he said, it's important to comply with subpoenas.

KRISTOL: This is a subpoena from the Senate Intelligence Committee. Lindsey Graham is not on that committee. He doesn't know, actually, what Senator Burr and his colleagues think they need to find out.

[16:20:04] Incidentally, I think all the Republican colleagues of Senator Burr on that committee, the partial exception of John Cornyn, have been quiet or are supported Senator Burr. So all of these people taking cheap shots from the galleries, they don't know it, might be a bow on the package, as Jeff says, but it could be something important, you know?

The Senate Intelligence Committee isn't a frivolous group of people. They have serious staff. Senator Burr doesn't just wander out and say, I would like to get a little more detail from this guy. They may have something serious they would like to find out, not about the legal question of conspiracy, which presumably Mueller has disposed of, but about the counterintelligence issues.

TAPPER: And speaking of counterintelligence, I want to play this sound for you, Karen, it's President Trump today talked -- he was answering questions about whether or not he'd commit to never using any information from a foreign adversary. Take a listen.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I never did use, as you probably know. That's what the Mueller report was always about. They said, no collusion, and I would certainly agree to that. I don't need it.


TAPPER: Just as a fact check, he used it all the time. He cited WikiLeaks and the stolen materials. He would read from the WikiLeaks, the stolen materials, all the time at rallies.

FINNEY: And ask people to get more of it, if they could. And the special counsel certainly made that very clear.

You know, I think what you're seeing is really important. There's so much we don't know. And for Barr to take the extraordinary step of a subpoena, clearly, the negotiations broke down --

TAPPER: Burr --

FINNEY: Sorry, wrong one.

You know, that tells you that it's more -- I would think that suggests it's more than putting a bow on something, particularly when you consider there are still these 14 case that are still out there that Mueller referred that do potentially have to do with national security and intelligence matters. So I think the level of seriousness is such that, first of all, we know President Trump lies all the time and, clearly, Don Jr. has been caught potentially lying and it could be something related to our national security. TAPPER: Well, we don't know that.

FINNEY: Could be.

TAPPER: We don't know that Donald Trump Jr. in terms of perjury --

FINNEY: Well, there are inconsistencies, put it that way.

TAPPER: OK, but -- OK, anyway. Moments ago, President Trump praising a far-right nationalist, who he invited to the Oval Office, even as his fellow Republicans and human rights groups slammed the European leader's abuses. And it looks like the president knew it might be a bad idea.

Stay with us.


[16:26:51] TAPPER: Our world lead now. Two top Republicans urged President Trump to address what they call Hungary's significant erosion of democracy in the president's meeting today with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban. Orban is known for being staunchly anti- immigrant.

A United Nations report this month said asylum seekers in Hungary are immediately detained and some even, quote, deliberately deprived of food, unquote. But today, President Trump applauded the Hungarian leader, saying that according to many people, Orban is tough and has done the right thing on immigration.

As CNN's Kaitlan Collins now explains, Amnesty International has another word for those immigration policies -- draconian.


VIKTOR ORBAN, HUNGARIAN PRIME MINISTER: Twenty years ago, first time here.

First time in the history of Hungary --

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The last time Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban met one on one with an American president, Bill Clinton was in office.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT: Well, I am delighted to welcome Prime Minister Orban.

COLLINS: But today, the far right leader, heavily criticized by human rights organizations, returned to the White House.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's a great honor to have with us the prime minister of Hungary.

COLLINS: Both Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama shunned Orban, who was once seen as a promising reformer. His reputation changed dramatically as he rolled back democratic checks on his power, pulled his nation closer to Russia and China and erected a razor wire fence to keep migrants out.

TRUMP: Probably like me, a little bit controversial, but that's OK. That's OK. You've done a good job. And you've kept your country safe.

COLLINS: Under his leadership, Amnesty International has criticized Hungary for its systemic crackdown on the rights of refugees and migrants, its rollback on human rights, instances of excessive use of force by police at the border, and insufficient recognition and prosecution of rape and other forms of sexual violence.

ORBAN: President, thank you very much for the invitation.

COLLINS: In a speech last year, Orban said: We do not want to be diverse and we do not want to be mixed. We do not want our own color, traditions, and national culture to be mixed with those of others.

Last week, a bipartisan group of senators on the Foreign Relations Committee warned Trump that under Orban, democracy in Hungary has significantly eroded.

But officials say his meeting with Trump was a hard get. Orban was the first foreign leader to endorse Trump in 2016, but he's the last from Central Europe to secure a White House invite. The administration says the meeting is part of a bigger strategy to distance Hungary from Russia and China. Yet the meeting raises questions about which leaders Trump is willing to cultivate.

TRUMP: I know he's a tough man, but he's a respected man.

COLLINS: According to former White House strategist Steve Bannon, the two have a lot no common.

STEVE BANNON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE STRATEGIST: I can tell, Viktor Orban triggers them like Trump. He was Trump before Trump.


COLLINS: Now, that praise you heard from President Trump for the Hungarian prime minister today, Jake, is exactly what the president's advisers were worried about that, that he would seem too chummy or have too warm of an embrace for him, a leader that they're trying to keep at arm's length.

TAPPER: All right. Kaitlan Collins at the White House, thanks so much.

Let's talk about this with the experts. So, Bill, according to Kaitlan Collins' reporting, White House advisers didn't want him to appear too chummy. He seemed pretty chummy.

KRISTOL: Yes, normally, I think if one met with someone like Orban, there'd be at least background briefings in private, at least, the U.S. president would have urged Orban to let up on his attempts.