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President stoking fears of impending economic disaster, if he is not reelected; Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) Reacts To Rep. Tlaib's Rejection Of Israel's Reversal To Ban Her Entry; Disturbing New Details About The Working Environment In The U.S. State Department. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired August 16, 2019 - 14:00   ET


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: You are watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thanks for being here. We begin with the President stoking fears of impending economic disaster, if he is not reelected.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You have no choice but to vote for me, because your 401(k) is down the tubes, everything is going to be down the tubes. So whether you love me or hate me, you've got to vote for me.


BALDWIN: But sources tell CNN, the President is the one who is rattled. The Dow plummeted 800 points earlier this week after the bond market flashed a warning sign of a recession. President Trump is reportedly worried that that could jinx his reelection.

But instead of calling in his advisers to look at ways to stave off a potential economic downturn, he tweets things like, "The fake news media is doing everything they can to crush the economy," end quotes. He also maintains the U.S. is winning against China.


TRUMP: The tariffs we've taken in close to $60 billion in tariff money, and the consumer has not paid for it. Now at some point, they may have to pay something, but they understand that.


BALDWIN: Let's go to CNN's Kaitlan Collins. She's there in Berkeley Heights, New Jersey, where the President continues his working vacation. And so, help me understand, Kaitlan, this administration is avoiding making a recession plan because the President doesn't want to look weak?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, and officials are acknowledging that they don't have any kind of a plan for a recession. But Brooke, what that seems to have a lot to do with is the President himself who behind the scenes has wavered from being agitated by this renewed talk of there potentially being a recession on the horizon, and also the President downplaying the reports that there could be a recession on the horizon.

We've seen him turn from privately to hardline advisers like Peter Navarro, who is encouraging the President to be tough on China telling him that this is going to pay off economically in the long run, but the question is, of course, when?

But then also, we're seeing that the President also turned to people just outside of the administration. Period. We're told by sources that yesterday, the President was on a call with the Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin and three bank CEOs asking them what they thought about the economy and the reports that you've seen this week, with numbers going up and down at such a rapid pace.

We're told that those in bank CEOs did tell the President that they would like to get this ongoing trade war with China resolved as quickly as possible. They talked about the negative effects of that. But overall, what the President heard was a positive conversation with these bank CEOs.

Now, we know privately, he's got some apprehension about the economy and about what's happening, because he knows he is counting on that for 2020, and you can see that and some of his actions this week, including backing off those tariffs.

So, the question is whether or not that's something that the President sticks by if he does back off that trade war at a fuller scale, or if he continues to try to maintain it, as we've seen him do in the past, because he has threatened these substantive measures before only to back off them at a later date when it comes.

BALDWIN: Okay, Kaitlan, thank you very much in Berkeley Heights. Let's continue on. More now on the President playing the fear card on the economy. I'm joined by CNN political analyst, Sarah Isgur. So Sarah, nice to have you on.

SARAH ISGUR, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Thanks for having me, Brooke.

BALDWIN: And you just heard Kaitlan's reporting, right? Administration officials acknowledge that they do not have a plan for the possibility of a recession. What do you make of that? And what do you think that signals?

ISGUR: Well, the President has to run a very different race this time than he did in 2016. That was an open field and he was running on change. This time, he is the economy. If the economy tanks, he knows there is no path to reelection.

His approval numbers, of course, are underwater. But we have seen presidents reelected when the economy is strong. There's another year and some months left to go and he can't see those numbers move. That being said, the numbers of the bond markets and the Dow going down, of course, do not affect voters the way that consumer confidence and economic optimism can, and those numbers have remained fairly steady, above 50 percent on consumer optimism which he needs to hold strong, which might be why we're seeing a lot of the rhetoric that we are. BALDWIN: Here's more color from the White House. This is from "The

Washington Post" today that the President's economic advisers are actually coming to him and delivering up beat assessments in which they argue the domestic economy is stronger than many of these, you know, economic forecasters are making it out to be.

And there was a quote from former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers, and this is how he put it, "When the economy turns down, one of the important resources we have is policymakers' credibility. Ludicrous forecasts and even economically illiterate statements had dissipated the credibility of the President's economic team." So how, how dangerous is that for the economy?

ISGUR: Well, the economy he's not like all other policy issues. Confidence does matter. Retail spending matters. And if, you know, folks on Main Street don't believe that they're going to have money coming in the door, they're going to spend the money today and it turns into a spiral where the economy can really turn quickly.

[14:05:15] ISGUR: The President cannot have that happen. His polling numbers depend on the economy right now.

BALDWIN: I just want to put a button on this. This is how Catherine Rampell -- we have her on all the time -- she is a columnist over at The "Washington Post" and this is how she characterized his team. "Trump's economic brain trust consists of a guy who plays an economist on TV, a crank who's been disowned by the real economics profession and the producer of "The Lego Batman Movie."

That is Catherine Rampell. We've got to say, we've got to finish this up. I've got a Congresswoman waiting in the wings. But Sarah, thank you very much for your assessment on all of this.

Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib of Michigan says that she will not go to Israel that's rejecting this reversal made by Israel over her visit plan for this upcoming weekend.

Just a day ago, Israel said that it was denying Congresswoman Tlaib and Congresswoman Ilhan Omar entry due to their support of the Boycott Israel Movement, otherwise known as BDS which protest policies against Palestinians.

Then Congresswoman Tlaib made a plea to be able to go see her grandmother who was in her 90s who lives in the West Bank, and so the Congresswoman said quote, "This could be my last opportunity to see her." Tlaib is the first Palestinian American to serve in Congress.

And so Israel's Interior Minister granted the Congresswoman access for humanitarian reasons after she quote, "committed to accept Israel's restrictions."

Then this morning Congresswoman Tlaib rebuked the offer saying that she would have been forced to sign a letter and quote "Silencing me with treatment to make me feel less than is not what she (referring to her grandmother) wants for me. It would kill a piece of me that always stands up against racism and injustice." And her family in the West Bank backs Tlaib up.


GHASSAN TLAIB, REP. RASHIDA TLAIB'S UNCLE (through translator): We are against the conditional visit of Rashida to Palestine. Rashida has the right to visit Palestine as a Palestinian, regardless of being a Congresswoman as any citizen with a U.S. passport has the right to come and visit their family without any conditions or pressure.


BALDWIN: In the wake of that, Israel's Interior Minister hit back saying of Congresswoman Tlaib, quote, "Her hatred of Israel is stronger than her love of her grandmother." Israel's ban on Congresswoman Omar visiting is unchanged.

So with me now Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz who represents the State of Florida. So Congresswoman, great to have you on. Thank you so much.

REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D-FL): Thanks, Brooke. Great to be with you.

BALDWIN: After Israel now partially reversed its decision here to let her in, Tlaib in, on humanitarian grounds. Congresswoman Tlaib now says she won't go. She won't visit her grandmother under what she is referring to as oppressive conditions. To that, you say what?

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: I think this is demonstrative of the dangerous slippery slope that President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu have placed Israel on.

When you have two free countries who allow for the freedom of speech, the freedom of travel, with really without conditions and to have suggested -- to have prohibited my colleagues from traveling to Israel, I think was a sign of weakness. I think it was unfortunate. I think it allows Israel to be exactly what we don't want it to be, and that is a political wedge and a political football.

We need to make sure that Israel remains a Jewish and democratic state, and that we make sure that we can promote and expand people's awareness about -- of the importance of both of those statuses. And so this isn't counterproductive to achieving that.

BALDWIN: Because of all of that, do you think it's the right call for her not to go? Or should she?

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: you know, I can understand why Congresswoman Tlaib decided not to go and that her family agreed with that decision. Because, you know, we're Americans, you know, she is an American. We are able to freely travel within the United States. We can freely travel essentially, around the world, except for obviously, you know, a couple of countries that are on our terrorist watch list.

But, you know, to go to Israel under conditions proscribed prohibiting her from saying or doing certain things, I can understand why that that's an oppressive set of conditions that wouldn't be fair to her or make sense. But, you know, she had to be torn because with a 90-plus year old grandmother, it is likely that you know, you just never know when someone is at that stage of life.

But that it shouldn't be this way. That's the bottom line, Brooke, is that we should -- both of our countries should encourage and allow free travel and dialogue, and particularly for our members of the Knesset and a Members of Congress so that we can promote tolerance and understanding. This promotes the opposite of that.

[14:10:10] BALDWIN: You had mentioned Netanyahu and Trump and, you know, you say what you will about Trump's role in all of this, right? You know, part of the reason she wanted to go, which you mentioned is this could be the last time she sees her 90-year-old plus grandmother.

A Republican Senator, Marco Rubio tweeted about this yesterday, and this is what he said, "I disagree one hundred percent with Representatives Tlaib and Omar in Israel, and the offer of the anti- BDS bill we passed." Right? But he goes on to say he suggested the ban might be exactly what the two Congresswomen wanted to bolster what he called attacks on Israel.

So given the fact that she is not going, you know, stirring up even more headlines, does this give credence to what Senator Rubio was saying?

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: What I'll underscore is that I vehemently disagree with both Congresswomen on their views on Israel, on the BDS movement, and, and I vocalize those disagreements, but I don't think that we should start, you know, paring back the travel and the opportunity to expose people and I realized that they weren't planning on meeting with Israeli officials.

But we are going backwards when it comes to making sure that we can have two states living side by side in peace, two states for two peoples. And we also are going back on our freedoms that both countries have fully embraced and always stood for by prohibiting two people based on the disagreements that we have with them over an issue from traveling to what is a free country, and that I passionately believe should remain a Jewish and democratic state.

It's just like we shouldn't be rolling up the flaps of the tent in our country, and neither should Israel.

BALDWIN: I wanted to pivot Congresswoman to the legislation regarding guns. Right? So your Florida district is next door to Parkland where 17 people were killed last year.

Obviously, we've been covering the mass shootings in Gilroy, in Dayton and in El Paso and then the calls are loud for change. The House Judiciary announced committee votes on several bills on the week of September 4th, which is the week when you all return from recess.

The bills include bans on high capacity ammunition magazines, red flag legislation, expanded background checks, and those convicted of misdemeanor hate crimes to be prohibited from purchasing weapons. So have that menu of measures, which one do you actually think has a chance?

WASSERMAN SHULTZ: Well, you know, the answer to that question lies squarely in the laps of President Trump and Mitch McConnell, because I am a show-me-person not a tell-me-person. And, and the talk, unfortunately that President Trump is engaged in has been cheap up to now. He said he was for better background checks before and then pulled back.

I know what a President should be doing when they really are for passing legislation. They pick up the phone and they're working the phones. They say to the Majority Leader in the Senate, especially from his party, "I want you to put this bill on the floor, I want you to vote for it. And I want you to make sure it passes."

And this is common sense legislation that is a 90/10 issue for gun owners, for Republicans, for Trump voters -- for Trump voters -- even according to a Fox poll, and that's because nearly everyone in America believes that we should make sure that if you buy a gun, if you're prohibited by Federal law from owning a gun, you can't purchase it. And we have to close all the loopholes.

And we have to close the Charleston loophole, which is the other -- the enhanced background check bill, Brooke, because that shooter was able to get a gun when he should have been prohibited because the background check didn't come back in three days, and he was given the gun anyway.

Those two things need to happen, and you know, the Republicans need to decide that they're going to cut the NRA leash and do the right thing and care more about taking care of people and keeping them safe than holding on to their power.

BALDWIN: We wait to see to your point what Mitch McConnell and President Trump do. We'll be watching. The country will be watching. Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, thank you so much.


BALDWIN: Insults, retaliation and loyalty tests. Disturbing new details about the working environment at one of the government's most important agencies, the State Department.

Plus President Trump asks about buying a country -- Greenland, just one of a number of requests his aides have dismissed.

And a man who lost his wife in the El Paso massacre had just one request, could the community help him fill some seats at her funeral? He joins us. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.


[14:19:37] BALDWIN: Serious concerns are being raised at the State Department today about leadership and politically motivated harassment of subordinates. A new Inspector General report indicates that some employees were labeled as quote unquote "traitors" if they were not seen as supporting President Trump. The report centers around two people in particular, Mari Stull, a

former senior advisor who left her State Department post in January and Assistant Secretary Kevin Moley who is still there. So let's go to our CNN military and diplomatic analyst, Rear Admiral -- retired Rear Admiral John Kirby.

[14:20:08] BALDWIN: And so Admiral, obviously, you used to be a spokesperson over at State, just your reaction to these details.

JOHN KIRBY, CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: Yes, pretty stunning. I went through the entire report yesterday. Read every line. I mean, it was a very, very comprehensive detailing of what we would call in the military toxic leadership, which is just regarding employees, assuming the worst of them, berating them, basically treating them as almost subhuman.

I mean, it was very troubling to see the things that were substantiated in there. And now, of course, it's really up to the State Department. I'm glad that they had this investigated. I think, Secretary Pompeo should be lauded for that.

And now it really is going to be on his shoulders, what he does about that going forward. I think he has got 60 days to determine what actions he will take as a result of this very, very disturbing report.

BALDWIN: The report also reveals some employees were targeted for retaliation in one case, because of staffers, quote, "relationship with the gay and lesbian community." I mean, you read that, it sounds like workplace discrimination, doesn't it?

KIRBY: It certainly does. No question about it, not to mention the fact that that certain employees seem to be targeted because they were considered to be Obama holdovers or Democrats or you know, undermining the President's agenda these are career employees that you know, that serve any administration, they don't have partisan loyalty.

So yes, it definitely seems like there was some discrimination here at work.

BALDWIN: Admiral Kirby. Thank you, sir.

KIRBY: Thank you.

BALDWIN: You know, the saying all work and no pay. Coming up next, how the 2020 candidates made time for some self-care this week from deep fried butter to the cupid shuffle. Highlights from the campaign trail you might have missed.

And President Trump's aides might be getting used to his unusual proposals. This week, it was buying Greenland. Coming up, a look back at some other examples and consequences of the art of the dismissal.


[14:26:26] BALDWIN: Running for President isn't all about speeches and policies and interviews. Candidates get to have a little bit of fun. Take a look.


BALDWIN: Highlights you don't always see from the trail.

Before becoming President, Donald Trump made his fortune and a name for himself in real estate and now the realtor-in-chief is reportedly dreaming big, not content with skyscrapers and golf courses, oh no, the President has now has an eye on buying an entire country -- Greenland.

CNN has learned from sources that President Trump has on multiple occasions floated this idea of buying the island from the Danish government. The mostly ice covered landmass is about three times the size of Texas and an important strategic location for the U.S. military.

CNN's Fred Pleitgen is in Greenland where the offer is getting the cold shoulder.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Folks in the very beautiful territory of Greenland don't seem that interested in President Trump's alleged idea to buy this place.

The official government of the semi-autonomous regions said quote, "Greenland is not for sale." They did say that they were willing to conduct cooperation between what they call equal countries.

Now, local residents that we spoke to here in the small village Kulusuk said the Americans tried to acquire Greenland in 1867 and in World War II, and they failed, and one resident said it will not happen.

There are some reasons why America might want to have Greenland. It certainly does seem to have a lot of natural resources, and the Chinese have been trying to get in on that business. And it's not really something that the U.S. really likes seeing with China trying to get a lot of that business here.

Also, the U.S., of course, has a big military base here in Greenland as well, the Thule Military Base, so there are some good reasons why the U.S. might want Greenland.

However, if these natural resources really become exploitable here in Greenland, certainly the folks who would probably want autonomy -- full autonomy and independence rather than becoming part of the United States.

One of the things that President Trump would probably have to do if he were to acquire Greenland is finally acknowledge that climate change is real, because Greenland with its giant ice sheet is certainly on the front line in the battle --