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INSIDE POLITICS

Violent Protests Erupt At Hong Kong Airport; Trump: Call with China Was "Productive"; Sanders Attacks Washington Post, New York Times. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired August 13, 2019 - 12:30   ET

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


[12:30:00] WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Future that they know by 2047 will not include the kind of freedom of expression that is allowed at -- right now. But as Ivan pointed earlier, they are in a sense shooting themselves in the foot when they've -- things have gotten this violent. There were two million people that's estimated out at one point back in June in support of this peaceful movement. People were inspired around the city by these youth who were sending a strong message about an extradition bill, about the possibility of dissidents being handpicked by Beijing and sent back on trumped-up charges.

But things have change. The city is a much darker place now, people are tired, people are frustrated. The police and the authorities have been pushed to the limit, and China has showed pretty remarkable restraint thus far given the fact that Peoples Liberation Army soldiers were also stationed in a barracks in Hong Kong not too far away from where these protests have been breaking out in the streets. But the -- as you mentioned, the image of, you know, armed vehicles driving across that bridge into the city, it would be an image that would change the game, I believe, irreparably.

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Will Ripley in New York, appreciate it. Will is going to stay with us. Admiral Kirby as well to your point you made just a moment ago, the caution, the patience on Xi's part may not be working in his favor if public opinion shifts because of the more violent behavior. We shall see.

It looks like a calmer scene at the Hong Kong airport. The moment our reporters are on the scene, we will keep in touch with them and keep an eye on this story.

And as we go to break, the president was asked about Hong Kong just moments ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, the Hong Kong thing is very tough situation, very tough. We'll see what happens. But I'm sure it will work out. I hope it works out for everybody, including China, by the way. I hope it works out for everybody.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you heard of gathering military troops (INAUDIBLE). TRUMP: It's a very tricky situation. I think it will work out and I hope it works out for liberty, I hope it works out for everybody, including China. I hope it works out peacefully. I hope nobody gets hurt, I hope nobody gets killed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:36:45] KING: Welcome back.

We got some live pictures here still from the Hong Kong airport. We'll continue to monitor developments there. Police went in earlier, clashes with protesters. Some people who were injured were taken out or treated by medical personnel. Things appear to be calmer at the moment but we have correspondents, producers on the scene and will continue to monitor that and get back to it if the news warrants.

Back here in Washington, a major blink today in the trade war with China. The Trump administration announcing it plans to cancel or delay looming tariffs on some products from China. The U.S. trade representative says it will delay tariffs on some consumer products like laptops, cell phones, video came consoles, and certain toys and clothing items. The president just last hour saying negotiators from both sides had a productive call yesterday and there's an appetite to get back to the table.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We'll help I think a lot of different groups of people. And we had a very good talk yesterday with China, very, very productive call. I think they want to do something. I think they'd like to do something dramatic. I was not sure whether or not they wanted to wait until a Democrat has a chance to get in. Hopefully that's not going to happen or the economy will go to hell in a hand basket very fast but they really would like to make a deal.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: The president also saying his administration trying to avoid disruption during the Christmas holiday season here.

With me at the table to share their reporting and their insights, Seung Min Kim of the Washington Post, Jackie Kucinich of the Daily Beast, Margaret Talev of Axios. I'll just show you the big board on Wall Street, they like this, the investors like this, they have not like the trade war. We've seen turmoil in recent days, some down days on the market. The market up more than 400 points now as we watch this play out.

This also announcement coming as the president, not coincidentally I would argue, is traveling to western Pennsylvania for an economic message. He's visiting a petrochemicals plant under construction there. That's going to bring jobs to Beaver County which is just outside of Pittsburgh, a part of the state critical to his 2016 win. On the one hand, this is the president blinking. He said this was a big deal, he said these tariffs would go into effect. On the other hand, he says China called and wants to get back to the table. So we really don't know is it a blink, a retreat that in the long run is a good thing or is it a retreat that is largely for domestic political purposes here in the United States?

MARGARET TALEV, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, we know it is at least the latter. I mean, there are two kinds of buzz words that guide how we should think about this. One is election and the other is recession. And the president is worried about the second and intent on, you know, winning the first.

And since the beginning of his presidency, he has used this tension with China as a lever to kind of show that he could be tough on foreign policy, to try show that he was different than President Obama. And he's had the advantage of a really strong economy to allow him to do some of these things. But all of a sudden you look at these numbers, some trouble in manufacturing, a slowdown, economists more and more talking about not just recession but the potential for recession to emerge before Election Day.

For the president, that would be potentially politically catastrophic, and he understands that. And this is something -- look, whether Xi really wants to make a deal or is kind of willing to do something to allow the tariffs to come off, same difference. I mean, it will -- the president is looking for some way to slow the brakes a little bit on the full manifestation of his threats.

[12:40:08] KING: And when he talks about these things, he's very transparent in the sense that he says China called, they want to get back to the table. He thought they were going to wait to see who won the election, see if they're going to have (INAUDIBLE) to negotiate with a Democrat but then he moves on to, well, we're worried about the holiday season and we don't want to -- you know, essentially hit Americans in their wallets, their pocketbooks heading into the holiday season. That tells you his political team is getting to him saying, Mr. President, we've got a pretty good economy right now. Why would you want to mess with it?

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, and that's after he said that this isn't going to affect consumers, that this isn't going to affect Americans. They've been subsidizing farmers for months and months in order to lessen the effect there. There is some surprise in this administration that China would dig in and that the amount of pain that they'd be willing to sustain throughout these tariffs.

And yes, he's looking at the election. And he knows that the Chinese know the political calendar and they know his pressure points. They know where his base is. They know the political environment in the United States.

SEUNG MIN KIM, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: And that's why this makes his one kind of final major legislative priority that much more important which is the ratification of the U.S./Mexico/Canada trade deal. And we were -- just before we went to the break we had talked to a lot of lawmakers and it really can be characterized as being in limbo right now. I mean, it is up to Nancy Pelosi to put it on the floor. She has a lot of leverage here to give the Trump administration that one major economic win that would certainly help his -- the economy and his political prospects in these key states such as Iowa and Wisconsin.

Clearly very much in peril right now.

KING: And she is -- in her heart, if this was just her decision, she would bring it to the floor. The question is she faces a lot of pressure from her base, number one on the trade issue period which divides the Democratic Party much like President Trump has changed the Republican calculation on this. But you're also giving -- to your point giving the president a gift, the question is where is the state of the economy.

And if you listen here, this is before this big announcement today, Christine Romans sat down with David Solomon, he's the CEO of Goldman Sachs who said, you know, look -- he was -- a lot of several analysts saying the economy could tip in a recession next year if things even stayed as they are now. Mr. Solomon saying he's more rosy than that but adding the big China question.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID SOLOMON, CEO, GOLDMAN SACHS: But I think when you look at the base economy, the bas economy is chugging along OK. There are things that are getting added to the equation, in particular the trade war with China that is having an impact. It's having an impact on growth. I don't think that impact is significant yet but we're watching that very, very carefully. And I think those are the kinds of things.

What's going on with monetary policy, what's going on with trade, how that is all linked? That has the potential to slow down growth if it's not handled correctly over time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Morgan Stanley going further in an analysis saying that if the next tariffs went in as full as originally planned until today, it had the potential to, quote, cut into the muscle of the economy. So this is a -- the president often relishes being a contrarian, going against traditional Republican economic orthodoxy, going against the advice of the Wall Street CEOs. This appears to be a day where he has decided the combination of that advice is in his best political interests.

TALEV: Well, yes, and I think -- look, we talk about the economy in national terms, but much like electoral politics, the economy in certain places really matters when you overlay those two maps. And when you look at where he's going today, for example, this is a place that's never really recovered from what happened to U.S. steel, right. That's trying like get into plastics, stay into plastics, right? And then flipped for Trump in 2016 and then flipped pack for the midterms.

Places like that help voters in some of these key places in the rust belt manufacturing states perceive the economy in their own lives. Employment, future prospects, buying power, all that stuff really matters to whether they're motivated to vote for the guy they backed in 2016 or to the extent that some of them were Democrats, whether the pendulum swings back, and the president knows that.

KIM: It's interesting. You're already seeing some of the blow back though come from his base after the tariff announcement this morning. You saw Laura Ingraham tweeting that Trump caved when it came to the tariffs. So he's going to have to watch that part of his base as well.

KUCINICH: Promises made, promises kept. And he needs to be able to show places like this area in Pennsylvania that he's keeping their promises because as you pointed out, the tax cuts didn't really help this sector of his base. And so he needs to point to something else and that's manufacturing.

KING: Right. And for all we talk about the national numbers which are pretty -- most of the national economic numbers are pretty good. All politics is local and it's your main street, your community. The president will be in Beaver County, Pennsylvania, in a little bit. And we'll talk more about that tomorrow.

But before we go to break, a quick update from the 2020 race. The Democratic candidate Tom Steyer announcing today he has reached the donor qualification for the September debates. He has not yet, at least, met the polling requirements. Steyer needs one more qualifying poll. So far, nine candidates have met all the criteria and will be featured on that debate stage in Houston next month.

We'll be right back.

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[12:49:25] KING: Bernie Sanders is struggling somewhat to find his path in the crowded 2020 Democratic field and he wants to tell you why. It's the media, the Vermont senator says. That's a tactic we hear, of course, from President Trump all the time, but it's also not new to Senator Sanders. He complained about the media a lot back in 2016 and returned to the theme aggressively yesterday in New Hampshire. Twice suggesting the Washington Post doesn't give him a fair shake because he is so critical of its owner, Jeff Bezos, of Amazon fame.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Does anybody here know how much Amazon paid in taxes last night?

CROWD: Zero!

SANDERS: Yes.

[12:50:00] See? And I talk about that all of the time. And then I wonder why the Washington Post which is owned by Jeff Bezos who owns Amazon doesn't write particularly good articles about me. I don't know why.

And while we're at it we take on the corporate media as well. You know, if you look at the Washington Post which is owned by the wealthiest guy in this country, a guy named Jeff Bezos, we fought with the workers in Amazon to get them $15 an hour. And you wonder why the Washington Post is not one of my great supporters. I wonder why. The New York Times, not much better.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: CNN's Arlette Saenz joins our conversation at the table. To the last point he made, we're not supposed to be his reporter, we're supposed to cover him in the business so that's a nice try, senator.

But this is -- look, this is a tactic as old as the republic. Normally done by politicians who in my view are trying to rally their base, keep their base. Senator Sanders has a little bit to worry about in that regard. He has a loyal base, he has a great fundraising machine, but 2020 with 20 candidates is not 2016 one-on-one. Is that what this is about more than the Washington Post?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes, I think partially so. And you'll remember, back in 2016 his campaign often complained about the media coverage then. He called it the Bernie blackout. Today they're calling it the Bernie write-off. And that was something that resonated with some of his supporters that he wasn't getting a fair shot from the media.

But as you point out, there are 23 other candidates running for president this time around and Bernie Sanders is having to find a way to distinguish himself as not the only kind of anti-establishment voice when you have others in the field out there. So I think this is, you know -- it's not surprising that he went there, he's often been critical of media coverage. Today, he didn't repeat that Amazon/Washington Post line. We'll see if that was a one-off or if it continues, but it's certainly a frustration that his campaign has aired out.

KING: And we have a Washington Post representative at the table. I want to just quote your boss, the executive editor Martin Baron who sees Senator Sanders in New Hampshire. Martin Baron also has experience, he used to work at the Boston Globe, he gets the New Hampshire primary dynamic quite well. Martin Baron saying this, "Contrary to the conspiracy theory the senator seems to favor, Jeff Bezos allows our newsroom to operate with full independence as our reporters and editors can attest."

KIM: I can 100 percent back him up on that. I mean, look, if there was any hint of interference, we would be crying foul. I mean, that's just -- we would just not let that happen.

I do think it's -- the trend that we're seeing with Democratic officials and Democratic strategists and politicians being a little bit more aggressive and punching towards the media is I think a relatively new phenomenon. We've heard for some time Republicans criticize a lot, you know, sometimes fairly, sometimes not, about the liberal media. But there was a really interesting story last week in Politico where they quote a lot of Democratic strategists, and one of them one Obama official was saying that, you know, making the press the foil is good politics for the first time in a Democratic primary which is a little bit -- I mean, from our perspective, a little alarming, but it's just how -- how the media is being vilified is dangerous on all sides.

KING: And look, we're not perfect and so if you're watching at home and see something you don't like, you have ways to communicate with us. We don't pretend to be perfect. But, I've been through a few of these rodeos so let's show you Bernie Sanders timeline, his trend line in this election.

Remember, he had a one-on-one shot against Hillary Clinton last time. He complained a lot about his coverage last time. He came pretty close being the little PT boat as I used to say against an aircraft carrier. He did quite well.

Here's Bernie Sanders over the last several months in polls. He was at 19 percent nationally back in March. He's down about 14 percent now with a little dip down to 11.

This is -- you know, it's not just all him, just not all his performance. Again, he's kept a loyal band of support that tends to be in the mid to high teens. You have Joe Biden in the race, you have Senators Warren and Harris and these new faces in the race, interesting people. It's a very different dynamic and he's -- it is harder. It's a harder race.

TALEV: And he -- and Senator Sanders knows all of that and he also knows how the media works and that there is -- that an independent media is not controlled by if there is an individual owner, you know. But what's dangerous about this is now in 25 years as a reporter, I have learned that a lot of Americans don't really understand the wall between, you know, the news pages and the editorial page, don't understand the separation of advertising versus reporting, don't understand an owner's influence or non-influence on news operations.

And so it is true that there is not merit to what Senator Sanders is saying but it's also true that a lot of smart people who are curious and want to know things don't know that. They just don't inherently know that. We take it for granted.

KING: And to your point, a lot of Democrats blame the media for Trump. And so he is more of an easy foil if you will in Democratic politics now to beat up on us.

[12:55:00] KUCINICH: You know, I mean, yes. That is also -- I mean, I think any of us who look at our Twitter feeds on a daily basis. And, you know, he's --

KING: Why would you do that?

KUCINICH: I know, I know, it's awful. But, you know, we've seen -- but, you know, a lot of -- and a lot of news organizations have received a lot of backlash. What happened to the New York Times just last week with the headline about Trump? So it's something that, you know, we all have to manage every day. And it's going to be part of this cycle no matter who you're covering.

KING: Part of the campaign which makes them interesting.

Thanks for joining us today in the INSIDE POLITICS. A busy breaking news day. See you back here this time tomorrow. Brianna Keilar starts after a quick break. Have a great afternoon.

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