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Stocks Slide Amid Recession Fears; CNN Reports, Talks Underway Between White House And Key Senate Aides On Guns; Sources Say, Trump Appears To Back Off Plans To Commute Blagojevich After Calls From Illinois Republicans; Trump Claims GOP Support For Gun Background Checks; Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) Says, Trump And GOP Will Stop At Nothing To Strip Women Of Their Reproductive Rights. Aired 10- 10:30a ET

Aired August 14, 2019 - 10:00   ET


POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Look, there are signs of this. There is the inverted yield curve, something we haven't seen since 2007 before the great recession. Is that what is going on here and spooking investors?


JULIA CHATTERLEY, CNN BUSINESS FIRSTMOVE: It's a great question, Poppy. What we've seen in the past is every U.S. recession has seen this happen beforehand, but it doesn't always mean a U.S. recession is coming.

What we're seeing here is general fears, overnight, weaker Chinese data, this morning, Germany seeing their growth falling. So there's lots of nervousness about what's going on in the world, even if we're not that nervous about the U.S. economy right now.

So there's lots of questions being asked. The question ultimately is, did the move that we saw from President Trump and the White House yesterday to delay a huge chunk of the tariffs here mean that the president effectively blinked and handed leverage over to the Chinese to say, look, actually, I'm afraid of what this trade war could do to U.S. economy. And therefore, if this is a poker game, he's kind of showing his cards.

But right now, it's just investors, Poppy, watching what's going on in the bond market, seeing that flee to safety, and going, there's too many uncertainties here for us to deal with, and that's the bottom line.

HARLOW: I think, too, Julia, if you listen really closely to what President Trump said yesterday about delaying some of those tariffs on China, he said, just in case they might impact the U.S. consumer ahead of the holidays, right? Something he really hasn't conceded before, that this is a tax on every American consumer.

Look, stay close, because the Dow is off 407 points. We'll get back to you in a little bit. Julia Chatterley, thank you so much. All right, while the president is on vacation, White House and congressional aides have begun early stage discussions on gun legislation. That's what we're learning this morning. But there is a lot of skepticism that anything is really going to change and actually pass the Senate this time.

The president claims he has Republican support for background checks, but Republican lawmakers are reportedly telling the president, some of them, otherwise behind closed door.

Kaitlan Collins joins me this morning outside of the -- I almost said outside the White House. You're not outside of the White House. You're in Berkeley Heights, New Jersey, where the president is back.


HARLOW: I think that is a perfect title for it. Kaitlan, thank you very much.

It's interesting. There are talks going on for sure. And Ivanka Trump was calling members of both parties, we hear, yesterday on this issue. The Senate says McConnell is a good man, he wants to get something done on background checks. But there is a lot of skepticism still.

COLLINS: There is so much skepticism around these talks that we're told are essentially, Poppy, in the preliminary stages with White House aides, congressional aides meeting, talking about legislation that could potentially expand and strengthen these background checks. There's still a great deal of skepticism along those talks that actually this is going to go anywhere and that there's a chance they could get any Republicans on board with this.

Evidence of that is that there's only one Republican so far involved in these discussions, and that's Pat Toomey of Rhode Island, who we know, of course, was part of that background checks push before that Republicans were against and that the White House threatened to veto.

So that's why there's so much skepticism here. Because despite the president saying that he believes the Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, wants to do something and is on board with background checks, we are being told behind the scenes that several Republicans and conservative allies of this White House are telling them they don't think background checks is the way to go here.

Now, these talks are going on. We're told the White House aides are going to come to Bedminster, here where we are, with the president on this August vacation to talk to him about this. But we should really take this with a lot of skepticism, because a lot of these lawmakers are not in Washington, a lot are not even at home, some of them are on vacations. That's what's happening in the background as all these talks are going on. So there doesn't seem to be this great sense of urgency.

HARLOW: Okay. Kaitlan, we're also learning on a totally separate topic, you know, the president had talked about Rod Blagojevich, who is currently serving a term in jail, that it was indicating that he may commute the rest of his sentence. But now, have the tables turned?

COLLINS: Yes. They seem to have turned pretty greatly here. Because just last week, the president was saying he was seriously looking at commuting that sentence, potentially pardoning him, either one of those in response to -- of course, he was found guilty of essentially trying to sell President Barack Obama's vacated Senate seat while he was the Governor of Illinois. Of course, he was impeached, he went to jail. And now, the president was saying he was considering pardoning him or commuting his sentence because he believed that he was doing something that essentially a lot of people did.

But after the president made those comments and people realized just how seriously the president was looking at it, something he's been looking at for well over a year now, he was flooded with calls from not only lawmakers in Washington but also Republicans back in Illinois who were telling the president, don't do this. It sets a dangerous and bad precedent, and this isn't something that we want you to do. And since then, the president has seemingly backed off moving forward with making any changes here.

So right now, it's unclear if that's going to happen, but it does seem like the chances have decreased significantly.


HARLOW: Okay, all right, important developments. Kaitlan, thank you very much at the New Jersey White House, we appreciate it.

All right, let's bring in Sabrina Siddiqui, White House Correspondent for The Guardian. Good morning to you.

Okay. So let's dig into what Americans should realistically expect on the gun front come September after the August recess. Here is what the president said about changing gun laws just after the El Paso and Dayton shootings. Listen.


DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: I'm convinced that Mitch wants to do something. I've talked to Mitch McConnell. He's a good man. He wants to do something. He wants to do it. I think very strongly he wants to do background checks, and I do too. And I think a lot of Republicans do.


HARLOW: Okay. Now, let's listen to him, something very similar, after the Parkland massacre.


TRUMP: We certainly have to strengthen background checks. Everybody agrees with that. And we're going to make background checks very, very strong.


HARLOW: Okay. But that changed after he met with the NRA. Is something different this time, Sabrina?

SABRINA SIDDIQUI, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, the challenge is that we've seen this movie before. And the president continues to say that he wants to see strong background checks, but he hasn't really spelled out what that means. And he hasn't put a great deal of his political capital behind a push for stricter gun laws.

Is he talking about the Manchin/Toomey bill that came up after the Sandy Hook massacre in 2012, which would have expanded background checks to private sales, at gun shows and online? He's certainly not talking about the House passed bill that effectively makes background checks universal, which is what Democrats are calling for. Is it something in between? We just don't know what the president is prepared to support.

And he has the bully pulpit at his disposal. So on an issue that is as contentious as gun control, if the president were to build the case before the American public and really make a significant push on Capitol Hill, then maybe there would be the prospect of some movement, but that's just something he hasn't been willing to do so far.

HARLOW: But if it couldn't happen in 2013 after the Sandy Hook massacre of little children and you now have a Senate with 53 Republicans -- you know, remember, back then when the legislation was put forth under the Obama administration, you had four Republicans vote for it in the Senate and four Democrats vote against it. Is there any reason to believe the makeup of the Senate is more open to this now? Has the public polling on it changed that significantly?

SIDDIQUI: No. And to your point, the fact you have a Republican-led Senate and the last time around the Manchin/Toomey background checks bill failed to overcome what was a Republican-led filibuster tells you that the prospects are really bleak for that particular background checks bill.

Now, Senate Republicans have been talking about so-called red flag laws, which is effectively a court-ordered way of prohibiting certain individuals from accessing firearms if they're deemed to be a threat to themselves or others.

But the Republican bill is being criticized by Democrats for being toothless because it doesn't require that states adopt red flag laws. It simply incentivizes them to do so. And even some Republicans are pushing back on that proposal and saying they're not prepared to support it because the NRA has expressed its opposition to any new gun laws at this point in time. I think the reality is they continue to have a significant hold over both the White House and Republicans in Congress.

And so I think the real action would be at the state level. That's where this fight has been waged in recent years, not on Capitol Hill. HARLOW: Let me switch gears just quickly here, Sabrina, and talk about the economy. If you look at the bottom of the screen, we have the Dow off 441 points, some major concerns about the economy right now. Recession fears are up. You've got an inverted yield curve that has a lot of people freaked out on Wall Street this morning.

This has been the shining light for the president. His poll numbers on the economy are very, very strong and they have been buoying the president overall. If that fades and if we are headed toward a recession, how concerning is that, of course, for the American people and the economy, but for the president who has largely been able to tout his economic achievements?

SIDDIQUI: Well, I think the major selling point for the president going into his re-election has been that his administration had been able to continue the economic progress that began under the previous administration. And if that goes away, then the question is what is he running on?

You've seen him, frankly, though not really even run that much on the economy, especially because you've seen the deficit balloon as a result of the tax bill that remains his major legislative achievement, and that's very unpopular with the American public. If anything, most of his messaging has been centered in that same us versus them approach to politicking. A lot of it's been the same anti-immigrant rhetoric we saw from him last time around.

So there is a question as to how much he actually has been running on the economy.


But certainly, that's a case that Republicans down ballot have been making to voters. And if that's not something that they can point to as a reason to give them another term in the Senate majority or to give them another term in the House, then that's going to be really problematic for not just the White House but Republicans down ballot.

HARLOW: Coupled with a trillion dollar deficit projection now for this fiscal year, which is to blame on both Republicans and Democrats.

Okay. Thank you, Sabrina. I appreciate it very much.

SIDDIQUI: Thank you.

HARLOW: Still to come, Democratic Senator, Presidential Candidate Kirsten Gillibrand will join me next. We'll talk about the chance of actual change in gun laws in this country and a lot more.

Also, one of Jeffrey Epstein's accusers says his death has given her more resolve to pursue justice. She's filed a new lawsuit in New York. We'll tell you about that.

And why are Russian mercenaries running a private army training camp in Africa? Just wait for this exclusive reporting from our Clarissa Ward. Stay right here.



HARLOW: All right. Welcome back. Well, this morning President Trump says that Mitch McConnell and, quote, many in the Republican Party want to do something about expanded background checks on gun sales. That is not though what we're hearing from some Republican allies of the president. Sources are telling us that behind closed doors, they're urging the president to, yes, focus on those red flag laws but not on universal background checks.

Let's talk about this and a lot more with Democratic candidate for president, New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. Good morning, Senator. Thank you for being here.


HARLOW: What do you think? Is something different this time? Is Mitch McConnell going to push for background checks in the Senate?

GILLIBRAND: You know, I don't know. He could be calling us back into Congress right now so that we could actually vote on the universal background checks bills that passed the House of Representatives already, but he's not doing it. And I haven't seen enough members of the Senate, Republicans, standing up to Mitch and demanding those votes. And so I believe we need to absolutely pass universal background checks as well as a federal anti-gun trafficking law.

And the truth is we shouldn't have to live in a world where little children die on park benches because of stray bullets or where back- to-school shoppers are getting mowed down because someone gets easy access to an assault weapon. That's America that we should not want to be part of. We should be doing the common sense stuff and standing up to the NRA. Greed and corruption is why nothing gets done.

HARLOW: So on the assault weapons issue, you have talked openly about being in favor of an assault weapons ban. I'm interested if you are supportive of a mandatory buyback program for assault weapons.

It was brought up first by Eric Swalwell, who was running for president in your party. Cory Booker has talked about that. Some have gone as far as to say not only should it be a mandatory buyback of assault rifles, but there should be criminal prosecution for those who don't sell them back. Is that something you support?

GILLIBRAND: So I think we should ban assault weapons as well as large magazines. And as part of passing that ban, do a buyback program across the country so that those who own them can be compensated for the money that they spent. But I think both of those ideas are strong. I think having --

HARLOW: But mandatory. GILLIBRAND: -- mandatory buyback combined.

Well, you don't want people to retain them, because if you make them illegal, you don't want to grandfather in all the assault weapons that are all across America. You would like people to sell them back to the government so that you can make sure people who shouldn't have access to these weapons couldn't have them.

HARLOW: The next prong of that is, if you're supportive of a mandatory buyback, then the next step is that you then prosecute, criminally prosecute those who don't sell them back, which could result in jail time for those individuals. Are you supportive of that?

GILLIBRAND: So the point is you don't want people using assault weapons. And so the point is, if you are arrested for using an assault weapon, you're going to have an aggravated felony. I mean, the whole point is when you make it a crime to own an assault weapon, then if you are found using it, that would be the issue.

So it would just be part of your law enforcement in terms of what you have access to. It's in the same way you need to have a certain certification, a certain approval to have a suppressor on your weapon. That's why the NRA is desperate to make it easier to get suppressors where you don't actually have to get a specific license or certification to have that suppressor.

So they just care about gun sales. They care about money. They are funded by a lot of people, including gun manufacturers. And gun manufacturers care more about gun sales than the safety of families.

HARLOW: You have perhaps the most unique perspective on guns of anyone in your party running for president because of the dramatic shift you've made. I mean, you had an A rating from the NRA until 2010. Then when you became a member of the Senate, it changed to an F. You were representing Upstate New York before you were a senator. You've talked about being in, in your words, embarrassed by some of your own stances on guns.


I wonder you think, Senator, that it is that prior A rating or the amicus brief you wrote to the Supreme Court in the Heller case, calling to overturn the handgun ban in Washington, D.C. Do you think that part of that is contributing to your struggle to rise in the polls in the Democratic primary?

GILLIBRAND: No, not at all. In fact, I've had a proud F rating for a decade and have been leading on this issue. In fact, the last time we had votes on this, it was my bill to end federal gun trafficking that got 58 votes, only two shy of the 60 it needed.

So I've been a vocal and effective leader on ending gun violence for a decade. And voters know that about me. But if your viewers like what you hear, you've got to go to and send a dollar because I'm very close to guaranteeing my spot on the next debate stage.

And one of the things that I'm most proud of, Poppy, in this presidential campaign is I'm leading the national narrative on major issues. I'm headed to Missouri on Sunday to do a town hall to fight back against these attacks on women's reproductive rights, and getting money out of politics.

HARLOW: I wanted to ask you about Missouri specifically because you are going to hold this town hall in St. Louis there this weekend. And that is a state where there is just one facility, one facility for abortions in the entire State of Missouri.

So you talked in the last debate about being, and this struck me watching it, a white woman of privilege. And what I think is not discussed a lot when it comes to abortion is that laws limiting abortion or having one facility in a state like Missouri disproportionately affects the poorest Americans, because they cannot afford to travel elsewhere to get that service. Is that something that we should expect you to talk more about, to highlight this weekend?

GILLIBRAND: Yes. So I believe we should repeal the Hyde amendment. That's the law that makes it really hard for low-income women to have access because you can't use federal dollars to pay for it. That's why we're doing the town hall in Missouri because they only have one clinic left. And women across that state are going to have a lot of trouble when they need access to care of getting in a timely manner.

And so I think these are vital issues for the presidential campaign. It's why I won't appoint a judge or justice who doesn't believe that Roe V. Wade is settled precedent and not understanding --

HARLOW: You and other Democrats have voted though, including Bernie Sanders and others, for budgets that include renewing the Hyde amendment.

GILLIBRAND: Yes, only because it was law of the land. As president, I'm going to repeal it. I'm going to make it a priority. I'm only going to only appoint judges and justices that see Roe as settled law. And I will codify Roe as law of the land and make sure no matter what state you live in, you get access.

Because the truth is, Poppy, these are human rights, these are civil rights. These are basic constitutional rights that the Supreme Court has guaranteed women as this right to privacy for 40 years.

And President Trump has done an all-out assault on women's reproductive freedoms since becoming president, even saying during his campaign that there has to be some punishment. He nominates Gorsuch. He nominates Kavanaugh. And his goal with these 30 legislatures around the country is to overturn Roe. These are legislatures emboldened by President Trump and his misogynistic language and his misogynistic agenda.

HARLOW: Let's talk about quickly the economy. We're looking at the Dow. It's off 450 points right now. There are major recession concerns this morning, Senator, as you well know. And you said something a few weeks ago that also got my attention. And you were talking about the economy and your fellow Democrats and you said it's important to stand up, quote, even to fellow Democrats on the economy. Who are you talking about specifically and how are you going to stand up to them? Are you saying that some of these plans are not affordable, and are they being disingenuous saying that America can afford them?

GILLIBRAND: No. I just spent time in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Michigan talking to voters who voted for Trump. Because one of the things Trump ran on is no bad trade deals. And the truth bad trade deals have crippled our economy.

I was contrasting with Vice President Biden and others who support trade deals that I don't, whether it's NAFTA or Trump's NAFTA 2.0, which is a giveaway to drug companies in Mexico. And I wanted to talk about the differences, because when I talk to families, I was in Youngstown, Ohio, where the community had been gutted. I talked to people who were working in a factory for G.M. for 20, 30 years, and they were told by text message that they lost their job. Some were given 24 hours to quickly move to another state to keep their job.

And so we need a presidential nominee, and I as president, will not support bad trade deals. I will stand up to China but in a responsible way. You can use tariffs responsibly but not with a trade war like Trump has created, which is hurting our producers.

HARLOW: And, Senator, I have about 15 seconds left. But you voted yes for the budget deal a few weeks ago. And you know how much that will add to the national debt that is already $22 trillion.


Why do you think America can afford that?

GILLIBRAND: I don't think our economy's challenges are because of debt or deficits. I think the challenges are because President Trump is unwilling to stand up to drug companies. He's unwilling to stand up to the companies shipping our jobs overseas.

HARLOW: What about what it leaves our kids? What about -- you have kids. I have kids.

GILLIBRAND: Yes. So, Poppy, Economy 101, the quickest way to pay down the debt and the deficit is create a growing economy. That's why jobs that are being lost in Youngstown, Ohio, at the G.M. plant could have been corrected if we didn't have bad trade deals, if Trump was willing to have an effective policy against China, if we were willing to have a strategy on how we create opportunity for our manufacturers and producers. That's not happened under Trump, and so these voters who voted for him are really suffering, much more so.

And so under my presidency, I will create a growing economy, which is how I will pay back the debt and reduce the deficit.

HARLOW: Let's hope something gets done on that front. I appreciate you joining me this morning to talk about a lot of important topics. Come back soon. Thank you, Senator.

GILLIBRAND: Thank you, Poppy.

HARLOW: All right. Take a look at these new images out of Hong Kong. Look at that. 11 weeks of protests, now you have police with shields up at the Hong

Kong airport. We'll have much more ahead.