Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

President Trump Issues Conflicting Remarks on Gun Control; Live Coverage as Trump Comments Publicly on Volodymyr Zelensky's Election; Trump Announces Hand-Delivered Letter Received from Kim Jong-un Yesterday. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired August 9, 2019 - 10:30   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:33:01] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: Welcome back. And this just in to CNN. The president, speaking to reporters on his departure for vacation, making several newsworthy comments.

First, on gun control, he says that there is, in his words, "tremendous support for sensible background checks." He says that there would be a good package of measures for Congress to consider when it comes back from recess. Again, not saying that they should interrupt their recess to consider these. But he also says he has a great relationship with the NRA.

In addition to that, some news. He says he got a new letter from the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Let's bring in, now, "New York Times" political correspondent Alex Burns, as well as senior White House correspondent from "Bloomberg News," Margaret Talev. Also with us from Des Moines, senior Washington correspondent Jeff Zeleny.

So, Jeff, help me out here. Because these are opposing, contradictory forces. The president says, "tremendous support for --

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Right.

SCIUTTO: -- "sensible background checks." The president was just told by the NRA's president, Wayne LaPierre, that his base will not like background checks. The president is running for re-election on a base strategy. How does he square that circle?

ZELENY: Well, Jim, there's no question that the president has talked a lot about guns. You didn't hear a lot of urgency in his remarks this morning, not saying that the Senate should come back early.

But one big wild card in this long-running gun debate -- we've seen this play out in Washington, shooting after shooting after shooting -- a different equation is Donald Trump. He would make the decision to, essentially, order or implore Mitch McConnell to call something up for a vote, then it would indeed happen.

There are some Republicans, some supports of President Trump, who wish, in fact, he would do that. They believe, politically speaking, it could be beneficial to him. Now, will he do that? The answer probably is no, but it is an open

question. He certainly has kept an open mind after Parkland, to doing something on guns. And then he didn't do it.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

ZELENY: So it is that friendship with the NRA that has constrained anything here. But Donald Trump, again, he is the wild card and the different -- you know, the different leader in this moment. He could do something. We'll see if he does.

[10:35:08] SCIUTTO: It's a big question. And as you said, after Parkland, there was a lot of excitement. The president even accused Senate Republicans of being afraid of the NRA. But of course, the president himself also pulled back.

Margaret Talev, I said you were with "Bloomberg News." I know you have your new job, we'll wait for you to make that announcement when you're ready. But you cover Washington here.

The other bit of news from this, the president says he got a new letter from the North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un. This, of course, in the last couple of weeks, North Korea has, three times, tested missiles. It's made no progress, no concessions on dismantling its nuclear program. Where is the Trump policy on North Korea right now?

MARGARET TALEV, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I mean, Jim, President Trump has sort of painted himself into a corner because he has placed so much of an emphasis on his personal relationship with Kim, and has spent a lot of time kind of pushing back on the criticism that Kim hadn't done enough to earn sort of that joint visit to the DMZ, the president's step into Korea -- North Korea.

And now, Kim is testing the president, much in the same way that the president stress-tests institutions in the U.S., Kim is trying to see how much space he can get and the president's in a little bit of a bind about it.

There is a difference between the sort of testing -- there -- certainly a sort of range of tests and actions that Kim could do. But nevertheless, the president is in a bit of an awkward position here.

SCIUTTO: Yes, understood. And, listen, you know, it's three visits in fact, three summits with the North Korean leader, no progress.

This is the president, speaking to reporters just moments ago, on the White House lawn, on his way to vacation. Let's have a listen to the president.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: -- doing very well with China. We're talking to China. We're not ready to make a deal, but we'll see what happens. But, you know, we've been hurt by China for 25, 30 years. Nobody's done anything about it. And we have no choice but to do what we're doing. It's working out very well, as you know. We called them on manipulation, and they brought their numbers back

and they brought them back rapidly, and they were able to do that because they manipulate. But that's -- so it's called monetary manipulation. Not good.

But what happened and what's happening with China now, we have an open dialogue. We'll see whether or not we keep our meeting in September. If we do, that's fine. If we don't, that's fine. But it's time that somebody does what we're doing.

And I said, the American taxpayer is not paying for it. We had a big day in the stock market yesterday, but the American taxpayer is not paying for it. What China is doing is, by depressing their currency and by pouring tremendous amounts of money into their system, they're paying for it. The prices have not gone up.

So when the -- in fact, in some cases, they've gone down. Because the devaluation plus the money supplied, the amount of money that they pour in, which is a form of manipulation, has more than compensated for an increase in price. So as I said -- and everybody questioned it -- in the case of China, the tariffs have been amazing. We're taking in billions and billions of dollars.

Now, China's had their worst year in 35 years now. It was in 26 years, but now it's in 35 years. I want them to do well. But as of this moment, they're having the worst year that they've had in many, many years, in decades. And really, we're just bringing the system back into order. We have all the cards. We're doing well, our country's doing fantastically well.

You look at Europe, they've got problems. Like the biggest problem we have, is the fact that a lot of other continents, frankly, but a lot of other countries are not doing well. But we're doing great, and we continue to do great.

Our companies are poised. They have a lot of cash. Our system is beautiful.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, the NRA has been a strong supporter, an ally (INAUDIBLE) all (ph) the way back to the campaign. Do (ph) you (ph) think (ph) that (INAUDIBLE) NRA on background checks?

TRUMP: I think I could, but I don't think I'll be there. I have a great relationship with the NRA. They supported me very early. And that's been a great decision they made. We have Justice Kavanaugh, we have Justice Gorsuch. And they feel very strongly about the Second Amendment. The NRA's made a great decision, in supporting me, and nobody else would have won, aside from everything else.

I have a very good relationship. I'll (ph) change it. I have a great relationship with the NRA. I have a lot of respect for the people at the NRA. And I have already spoken to them on numerous occasions, numerous occasions. [10:40:00] And, frankly, we need intelligent background checks, OK?

This isn't a question of NRA, Republican or Democrat. I will tell you, I spoke to Mitch McConnell yesterday. He's totally on board. He said, "I've been waiting for your call." He is totally on board.

I spoke to senators that, in some cases, people -- friends of mine, but pretty hardline Senators, hardline. And when I say that, I say that in a positive way. Hard-line on the Second Amendment. And they understand. We don't want insane people, mentally ill people, bad people, dangerous people, we don't want guns in the hands of the wrong people.

I think that the Republicans are going to be great and lead the charge, along with the Democrats. I spoke, yesterday, to Nancy Pelosi, we had a great talk. I spoke to Chuck Schumer, we had a great talk. And Chuck Schumer in particular loves my China policy, as you probably know.

I said, "I can't believe it. You actually like something that I'm doing." He said, "Not like, love." So Chuck Schumer is -- he's great on the China situation, which we are winning, and winning big. And China wants to do something, but I'm not ready to do anything yet. Twenty-five years of abuse, I'm not ready so fast. So we'll see how that works out.

But on the --

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: -- on the background checks, on background checks, we have tremendous support for, really, common-sense, sensible, important background checks.

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: Yes, go ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did (ph) you start (ph) to (INAUDIBLE) background checks (INAUDIBLE)?

TRUMP: Time goes by. I don't think I'm different, but I think the Senate is different, I think other people in the House are different. I think that people that maybe had their arm up a couple of years ago, maybe they feel differently. I don't think I feel any differently.

I think with a lot of success that we have, I think I have a greater influence now, over the Senate and over the House.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can it get done now? Can it get done?

TRUMP: I think we can get something really good done. I think we can have some really meaningful background checks. We don't want people that are mentally ill, people that are sick, we don't want them having guns. Who does?

(CROSSTALK) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What if the NRA does not support that (ph) effort, would (ph) you fight them?

TRUMP: Well, we'll see where the NRA will be, but we have to have meaningful background checks, you know? In the case of -- in both cases, it's possible they wouldn't have been caught.

But in the one case, we also have to talk about age. Because he did things that were very, very bad, in Ohio, in Dayton. He did some things that were really bad. His school knew about it. When he turned 18, everything was expunged. We're going to have to get rid of that. Because you can't have that barrier.

If they would have had that barrier, they would have been able to see. But because he was a minor, it was expunged. We're going to have to get rid of that barrier.

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: I think this. I think a lot of really meaningful things on background checks will take place, including red flags, including a lot of other very, very important items. And the Republicans are looking at it very seriously, and I really believe that the NRA -- I've spoken to them, numerous times. They're really good people. They're great patriots. They love our country. They love our country so much. And, frankly, I really think they're going to get there also.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When you talked to Wayne -- when you talked to Wayne LaPierre, you talked to him several times. Did he warn you that background checks could cost you politically? And did you say to him, "Forget politics --

TRUMP: No, no.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- "we have to do something now"?

TRUMP: I had a good talk with Wayne. And I like Wayne. And, you know, as you know, they supported me very early, far earlier than anybody thought possible, especially me, not being a politician.

And that support has paid off. We now have two Supreme Court justices that are phenomenal: Kavanaugh and Gorsuch. And, I mean, they're phenomenal people, and they're big believers in the Second Amendment, which Wayne is also, and which I am.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFED FEMALE: -- background checks --

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: There's been -- there's been no president that feels more strongly about the Second Amendment than I do. However, we need meaningful background checks so that sick people don't get guns.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Will they support you?

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: I think, in the end, I think in the end, Wayne and the NRA will either be there, or maybe will be a little bit more neutral. And that would be OK, too.

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: Look, look, the NRA has, over the years, taken a very, very tough stance on everything. And I understand it. You know, it's a slippery slope. They think you approve one thing, and that leads to a lot of bad things. I don't agree with that. I think --

(CROSSTALK)

[10:45:05] TRUMP: -- I think we can do meaningful, very meaningful background checks. I want to see it happen. So I've got a lot of support. And I also have the support of other people on the other side. And I think the Democrats and Republicans have a chance to really come together.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why wasn't there a better time (ph) and place to deal with the migrants (ph) (INAUDIBLE)? Why --

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: The reason is because you have to go in, you can't let anybody know. Otherwise when you get there, nobody will be there.

But a big factor is to let people outside of the country that want to come in legally and illegally into our country, where they come in, in caravans where they surge (ph) the border -- which, by the way, we have the numbers way down right now, if you see, because Mexico has done a fantastic job.

Mexico has 26,000 soldiers, right now, on the border. They have been fantastic because of tariffs. But I don't care what it's because -- Mexico -- in fact, I'll be calling the president at a certain point -- I just hope they keep it up.

Because if the Democrats would change the laws -- what -- I was thinking about putting together, as you know, with the gun situation. So we have immigration and we have, let's say, some of the things we're talking about right now, you have them together. But I want people to know that if they come into the United States illegally, they're getting out, they're going to be brought out.

And this serves as a very good deterrent. If people come into our country illegally, they're going out. They're not coming in illegally and staying. We have bad laws. They may get in, although we're being very tough, but they may get it, but it doesn't matter because they're going out. And when people see what they saw yesterday -- and like they will see for a long time, they know that they're not staying here.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- black Americans (ph) --

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: I think they really are. You know, it's really amazing because African-American unemployment just came out very recently, the lowest in history. It's the best. The best numbers in history, African-American employment and Hispanic and Asian, too, have more people working today than ever worked in the history of our country.

Plus I did criminal justice reform, which President Obama could not get approved, which the media never talks about. If President Obama got criminal justice reform done, it would be front-page stories all over the place. I got it done.

I think that African-Americans appreciate it. So I got that. I have the best unemployment numbers, I have the best employment numbers for a lot of people. But African-Americans, number one that we've ever had.

One other thing we did, aside from criminal justice reform, Opportunity Zones. And they are doing unbelievably well. And you'll see that, and you've already seen it. But Opportunity Zones -- and (INAUDIBLE) beneficiary (ph) there is African-Americans.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, (INAUDIBLE) counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky to the White House, and what would be your advice for him --

TRUMP: Who -- who are you talking about?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky.

TRUMP: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you plan to invite him to the White House? And what would your advice for him on how to communicate with Vladimir Putin, to stop the conflict in eastern Ukraine?

TRUMP: I think he's going to make a deal with President Putin, and he will be invited to the White House. And we look forward to seeing him. He's already been invited to the White House, and he wants to come. And I think he will. He's a very reasonable guy. He wants to see peace in Ukraine, and I think he will be coming very soon, actually.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- Joe Biden's comments overnight, and does it --

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: Yes. His comments, look -- look, Joe is not playing with a full deck. He made that comment. I said, "Whoa." I saw it because I was on something, I had a television. I saw his comments. Joe Biden is not playing with a full deck. This is not somebody you can have as your president. But if he got the nomination, I'd be thrilled.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What about your rhetoric? What about your rhetoric?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, (INAUDIBLE) being banned on Twitter?

TRUMP: We're looking at that right now. We have a lot of these companies coming in a little while, as you know. We're going to be very tough with them. They're treating Conservatives very unfairly. Hollywood, I don't call them "the elites." I think the elites are people they go after in many cases.

But Hollywood is really terrible. You talk about racists, Hollywood is racist. What they're doing with the kind of movies they're putting out, it's actually very dangerous for our country. What Hollywood is doing is a tremendous disservice to our country.

[10:50:01] We have, now, in a little while, all of the heads of the biggest companies coming in, and we're going to talk to them. They treat conservatives, Republicans totally different than they treat others. And they can't do that.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would (ph) you have the Trump administration devalue the U.S. dollar?

TRUMP: No, we don't have to. We have such a strong dollar. The problem is, our dollar's at a level that it makes it hard. But the advantage to doing what we have, is money is pouring in because we have the safest currency in the world, we have the standard of the world.

But because it's so strong, it's gotten so strong because other countries have problems, it makes it harder for our manufacturers. So if we lowered the interest rate by the Federal Reserve, that would automatically bring down the dollar a little bit, and it would make it easier for Caterpillar and these companies. But we have the greatest currency in the world. No, I wouldn't do that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you thinking of cancelling the trade talks next month with China?

TRUMP: So, China wants to settle this deal. They've had the worst year that they've had in many, many decades. And it's getting only worse. Thousands of companies are leaving China. They would like to make a deal. I'm not ready to make a deal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But are you willing to cancel the talks next month?

TRUMP: Maybe. We'll see what happens.

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: Right now -- right now, the talks are scheduled in September. Whether or not -- we're talking about China -- whether or not they're cancelled, we'll see. Look, as I said, our people are not paying for these billions and billions of dollars that came in, $16 billions of which I gave to the farmers because they were targeted by China. And that's just a small fraction of what we've taken in.

So they are not -- because what China's been doing, they're a currency manipulator. They've manipulated the value of their currency, and that's where the money comes. And also, they put tremendous money into the system.

So if you look, prices have not risen. Our people have not paid. So all of these guys that say, "Oh, Trump, Trump, Trump," they don't know what they're talking about.

Now, China is unique. That doesn't mean it happens with other countries, it probably doesn't. But the prices have not gone up. In fact, we have virtually no inflation in our country. If the Federal Reserve would bring down interest rates over a period of time --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How much?

TRUMP: -- I would love to see a point or even a little bit more than that. If they would stop quantitative tightening, we have a rocket ship. I mean, we're doing well without it, but we're being handcuffed by the Federal Reserve. If they would stop that, it would be incredible.

(CROSSTALK)

UIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you want the (INAUDIBLE), South Korea and Japan, you meet Kim Jong Un (ph), will you (INAUDIBLE)?

TRUMP: Well, I hope that South Korea, and I hope that Japan start getting along with each other. You know, they're supposed to be allies. And it puts us in a very difficult position.

South Korea and Japan are fighting all the time. They've got to get along because it puts us in a very bad position. With that being said, I got a very beautiful letter from Kim Jong Un yesterday, it was delivered --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What did it say? What did he say?

TRUMP: -- hand-delivered from -- and it was a very positive letter.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What did he say? TRUMP: I'd love to give it to you, I really would.

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: We have --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- next meeting? (INAUDIBLE) talking about next meeting? Kim Jong Un, mention (ph) of a next meeting, next summit talk?

TRUMP: I think we'll have another meeting. He really wrote a beautiful three-page -- I mean, right from top to bottom, a really beautiful letter. And maybe I'll release the result of the letter, but it was very positive.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- Huawei?

TRUMP: We're not going to do business with Huawei. We're not doing business with them. And I really made the decision -- it's much simpler not to do any business with Huawei, so we're not doing business with Huawei.

That doesn't mean we won't agree to something if and when we make a trade deal. But we're not going to be doing business with Huawei.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- someone to replace Coats? Are you looking at Maguire, Hoekstra?

TRUMP: Maguire's excellent, admiral --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What about Hoekstra?

TRUMP: -- highly respected, great leader. He's acting right now. Sue did a great job. I liked Sue Gordon very much. I think that over a period of time, I'm in no rush because we have a great acting.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is it down to two people? Is it down to two people?

TRUMP: I like Hoekstra a lot. I spoke to Senator Burr about different people, he's head of Intelligence. And I'm working together with Senator Burr, the whole committee. I want to get somebody that everybody can really come together with. So we'll -- I like Pete Hoekstra a lot, he's great, he's doing a fantastic job in the Netherlands right now.

(CROSSTALK)

[10:55:01] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is it down to two people now? You had mentioned it was down to three. Is it more than two? TRUMP: I will tell you. That's a job that everybody wants, DNI.

Everybody. But I'm dealing -- I'm dealing with the committee, I'm dealing, really, with Senator Burr a lot. And we'll come up with somebody that's great. We have a lot of choice, a lot of people want the job.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are (ph) you (ph) concerned (ph) (INAUDIBLE) Japan, South Korea, are you concerned --

TRUMP: Yes, I'm concerned that they're not getting along with each other. They have to get along with each other. If they don't get along, what are we doing? They have to get along with each other, it's very important. South Korea and Japan have to sit down and get along with each other. Otherwise, what are we all doing?

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you considering moving troops from Germany to Poland? Are you considering moving troops from Germany, Poland?

TRUMP: So Poland has been a great, great friend of ours. They've offered to build a military base at a cost of many billions of dollars. No money put up by the United States whatsoever. They've offered to fund our troops and lots of other things, the way it should be. Not just stupid deals that we made with all these other countries that take advantage of us.

So Poland has been terrific. And we're going to be going to Poland very soon. I'm sure you're going to be going with us. I had a great experience in Poland, the last time I went.

In fact, some of you actually said the speech was one of the best ever made in Europe by an American president. Hard to believe that you actually said that. When you said that, I was, like, in a state of shock.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- fundraiser tonight, did (ph) Stephen Ross say anything about potentially cancelling --

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: Now, Stephen Ross is a great friend of mine. He's a very successful guy. We were competitors, but friends in real estate in New York in the old days. He's a great guy. He is, by the way, I think he's probably more inclined to be a liberal, if you want to know the truth.

But he likes me, he respects me. We're doing a fundraiser there, we're doing another fundraiser with another friend of mine. And I understand, the fundraiser was totally sold out and it's very successful.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, quick question about the age limit.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- your reaction to the controversy -- your reaction to the controversy --

TRUMP: I don't think -- I think it just makes Steve (ph) much hotter. I explained. I didn't speak to him yet, I'll see him in a little while. The controversy makes Steve Ross hotter. He'll figure that out in about a week.

But he's very happy. He's got a very successful -- a lot of people are going. We have two fundraisers. one is Steve, one is another gentleman. And I guess they're going to raise $11 or $12 million -- not billion, a million.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But Mr. President, when you talk --

TRUMP: I'm getting used to saying "billion." We're talking about a lot of money.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When you talked about age restrictions to buy guns, 18 months ago, you supported buying long guns at the age of 25, raising the age. Are you considering bringing that back now?

TRUMP: We're not talking about anything specific. I can tell you, there's tremendous goodwill for meaningful -- I'm talking about meaningful, add that word. Meaningful background checks so that sick and demented people don't carry around guns.

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: You have to remember, and I've said it. It's a big mental illness problem. And the gun doesn't pull the trigger. A mind, a sick mind pulls the trigger. So we want to take that out of the equation.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, long guns, 25 years?

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you support the Toomey-Manchin bill for the House (ph) --

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: So we're looking at Toomey-Manchin. We actually, if you look, there are many bills that have been put in, over a period of four, five years. They went nowhere. But there's never been a president like President Trump.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And you're going to get it done.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Will you call Congress back into session --

TRUMP: I don't think we'll need to. I may. Leadership is dealing, along with me right now. By the time you call them back, they're going to be back anyway. I don't think we'll need to call them back. I think we'll have a very good package by the time they come back, and they can start debating and voting on it then. So I really don't think, for the extra little time, it matters.

Leadership is doing a really good job. Mitch McConnell, Kevin, Nancy. I spoke with Nancy Pelosi yesterday, I spoke with Chuck Schumer yesterday. There's a lot of goodwill about this issue.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- do something to --

TRUMP: I don't think so. No, no. I think we have a lot of support. I mean, I'm very fortunate. In the Republican Party, I'm at 94 percent approval rating, so that helps. But I have a great relationship with the Republican senators. And I really think they're looking for me to make -- give them a signal. And we're going to have great support, and I think we'll have the support from the Democrats also.

(CROSSTALK)

[11:00:00] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, you also said this after Parkland. (INAUDIBLE) --

TRUMP: No, no. I never said what I'm saying now.

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: What I'm saying -- what I said there, you had tremendous opposition from many people on both --