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Police Thwart Three Separate Potential Mass Shootings; Trump Returns from Vacation to Recession Fears, China Trade War; Top Democratic Candidates Court Black Voters in South Carolina. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired August 18, 2019 - 16:00   ET

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


[16:00:08] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST: Hello, again, everyone. Thank you so much for joining me. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

All right, developing right now, CNN is learning that law enforcement may have thwarted as many as three possible mass shootings in the last five days. In Florida, an arrest caught on camera of a man who sheriff's deputies say was fascinated with mass shootings. According to investigators, the man detailed plans to, quote, "shoot as many people" as he could in a large crowd. Police reportedly hailing that man's ex-girlfriend as a hero saying she tipped them off.

And in Connecticut, the FBI arrested another man in his 20s after receiving a tip that he was attempting to purchase large capacity rifle magazines from out of state. Upon raiding his home, authorities say they found a stockpile of illegal weapons, including rifles, a handgun and titanium body armor.

And in Ohio, the FBI seized an arsenal of weapons from a 20-year-old man they say threatened to attack a Jewish community center. Police say that man, a 20-year-old, is a self-professed white nationalist who had racist and anti-Semitic posts on his social media.

CNN's Polo Sandoval is following all of these developments. So, Polo, what more can you tell us?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN ANCHOR: Well, Fred, we should note that that Ohio man's name is James Reardon. Police say he made an Instagram post of a video which shows a man shooting a rifle. But one of the things that really caught the attention of police in New Middletown, Ohio, is that the Jewish community center in Youngstown was actually tagged in that caption and that caption also implies that the gunman that's seen in the video would be the shooter behind a potential attack at the center.

We should also note that that Instagram page also includes many anti- Semitic comments and white nationalist content. Now before charging Reardon with telecommunications harassment, police did recover several rifles in his mother's home, ammunition, a gas mask, a bayonet. All of it is being processed at this hour. The FBI has interviewed Reardon but at this point they have not pressed any federal charges of their own. So at this point those charges remain at the state level.

The Youngstown Area Jewish Federation which actually runs the Jewish community center saying that not only it but also other various synagogues in the area are currently seeing additional security there.

I also want to take you to Florida for the second case that we're monitoring in -- where police body cam video actually shows the arrest of 25-year-old man who's believed to have threatened to commit a mass shooting. That 25-year-old's name is Tristan Wix of Daytona Beach. He was detained by police. He's suspected of sending text messages that were threatening to open fire on large crowds. In fact, one of them specifically read, quote, "A school is a weak target. I'd be more likely to open fire on a large crowd of people from over three miles away. I'd want to break a world record for longest confirmed kill ever."

Again, that's a post there. According to a release from the county sheriff's office, Wix told detectives he does not actually own weapons. However, he is fascinated with mass shootings, Fred.

WHITFIELD: And then in Connecticut, what are we learning?

SANDOVAL: That's a third case that we know about where a Connecticut man was arrested on Thursday who also showed an interest in carrying out a mass shooting. Police say 22-year-old Brandon Wagshol was arrested on weapons charges in Norwalk, Connecticut. Police saying that they received a tip that he was buying a rifle, or at least various rifle parts and then attempting to build his own weapon, but also in this case, what caught the attention of police were various Facebook posts that indicated that he wanted to carry out a mass shooting. He remains in custody.

So really the main attention here that's being focused on all of these three different investigations are these various posts that were put online. That's what initially caught the attention of federal investigators and also, in many cases, of course, local police as well.

WHITFIELD: All right. Polo Sandoval, thank you so much.

All right, so for more now on the Florida arrest, I'm joined on the phone by Volusia County Sheriff Michael Chitwood.

So, Sheriff, take me through how your office was alerted about these shocking text messages.

SHERIFF MICHAEL CHITWOOD, VOLUSIA COUNTY, FLORIDA: Yes, the girlfriend is a real hero here. She went to a local municipality, showed the text messages and actually four municipalities got involved before Daytona Beach Shores, which you see here in the body camera video, they make the arrest. And then the sheriff's office, we get involved. We start debriefing him, we read the text messages, we get a search warrant, we go to this apartment and recovered a .22 rifle and 400 rounds of ammunition.

Clearly when you look at this kid's background, he is the profile of a shooter. He's 24 years old. He lost his job, he lost his girlfriend. He's depressed. He's got the ammunition, and he wants to become known for being the most prolific killer in American history. He even says in one of his text messages where he talks about it would be a good way to die happy is killing other people.

[16:05:02] WHITFIELD: And you made the discovery of those weapons after you pursued him over the alarming texts. So now this young man is in custody. He is being interviewed or has been interviewed. What more has he been willing to say? What's the story? What have you learned?

CHITWOOD: He hasn't given up his location to us yet. But it's concerning because he is clearly outside of the realm of society, of normal society. So we're going to be seeing his fingerprints and his DNA come back to. He's being held without bond and in Florida we have what's called risk protection order where we seize your firearms. You're unable to purchase or obtain firearms until he attends a hearing with a judge. So, you know, this is what they are. They fly below the radar screen these folks. And it's so important for the community to notify law enforcement. All three cases that you see, it's people coming forward and prevented mass killings over the weekend I believe.

WHITFIELD: Yes, that vigilance was something else. I mean, that's very powerful. Now you made reference to, you know, we haven't located -- pinpointed his location. What do you mean by that -- his location? You mean his state of mind?

CHITWOOD: No, the location of where he intended to carry this out. I mean, we're like -- Volusia County, Florida, and Daytona Beach, we're like every other city and county in America. You know. We have festivals and events and, you know, we would be a target-rich environment.

WHITFIELD: Right. Right, because -- and so now I'm reviewing some of his texts. You're talking about, like, he made a specific reference in his text where he says, "But a good 100 kills would be nice. I already have a location."

CHITWOOD: Correct.

WHITFIELD: "Is that bad?" Yes.

CHITWOOD: Yes, that's what we're thinking. Yes. He already knows in his mind what his plan was. Like I said, he had a rifle and 400 rounds of ammunition. There's a lot of carnage could have been caused.

WHITFIELD: Yes.

CHITWOOD: What -- I truly believe in my heart that he is an active shooter. That's exactly what he was. He fits the profile exactly.

WHITFIELD: Wow. So reports are that it was roughly 12 hours from when deputies, you know, first got the tip from this ex-girlfriend, you know, between that information and his arrest. I mean, you were able to move rather quickly because, you know, most people might presume investigating an individual might take a lot longer than that before acting on that kind of tip? CHITWOOD: Yes, but in this case, it was all the municipalities worked

together. You know, the first municipal got that initial information. It wasn't their jurisdiction. They passed it on the second municipality. Went to his place of work. He was fired. The third municipal was Daytona Beach Shores, who was able to set up a surveillance and get him outside of the Winn-Dixie. And then the sheriff's office, we got involved. Started questioning him, got the search warrants, seized his weapons, with the risk protection order. So it was all of law enforcement in Volusia County saying, hey, this is a serious threat. We've got to get our hands on him and we've got to recover any firearms and ammunition he got.

WHITFIELD: Sheriff Michael Chitwood, thank you so much for your time, of Volusia County. Appreciate it.

CHITWOOD: Thank you very much.

WHITFIELD: Still ahead, President Trump returning from vacation to deal with the China trade war and fears of recession which White House officials insist is not a concern.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:11:54] WHITFIELD: President Trump wrapping up his vacation at his New Jersey golf resort and heading back to Washington. Take a look at live pictures right there from Morristown, New Jersey, where the president is expected to depart at any moment.

On his agenda when he returns to the White House, the U.S.-China trade war which has everyone from the farm belt to Wall Street on edge, the president tweeting about the situation last hour saying that the U.S. and China are talking. This as his top economic advisers push forward with a unified message. China, not the U.S., is feeling the pain, they say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PETER NAVARRO, WHITE HOUSE TRADE ADVISER: China is bearing the entire burden of the tariffs in terms of --

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: That's not --

NAVARRO: Hang on.

TAPPER: -- what a lot of experts say.

NAVARRO: This is what this expert says. What we see here unequivocally is that China is bearing the burden by lowering their prices.

TAPPER: Right.

NAVARRO: They lowered the value of the yuan by 12 percent to offset the tariffs.

TAPPER: Right. NAVARRO: And here's the most important part of the pain on them

rather than pain on us. We're seeing production, investment, supply chain, sourcing move.

TAPPER: But, Peter --

NAVARRO: It's hemorrhaging from China.

TAPPER: Listen to --

NAVARRO: And the good news is it's going into -- it's going into Southeast Asia and is coming here.

LARRY KUDLOW, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL: Well, I'll tell you what, I sure don't see a recession. We had some blockbuster retail sales consumer numbers towards the back end of last week. Really blockbuster numbers. And, in fact, despite a lot of worries with the volatile stock market, most economies on Wall Street towards the end of the week had been marking up their forecast for the third and fourth quarter. That echoes our view.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: CNN national correspondent Kristen Holmes is following the details for us.

So, Kristen, what else is the president's team saying?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fred, the strategy for dealing with the economy was on full display here. The last couple of days. It was deny, deny, deny. Deny that farmers are facing any impact from these tariffs which of course we know to be true. We have talked to hundreds of farmers across the country who say that they are struggling. That that government aid isn't enough and denying the fact that Americans are bearing the burden of this trade war.

Another thing, a report coming out saying that 95 percent of those price changes are going to be felt on the shoulders of U.S. importers. And so this is the clear message here when it comes to the economy. There's nothing to see here. And the deputy press secretary basically said as much.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HOGAN GIDLEY, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Still tariffing about half of their goods coming into this country right now. So there are a lot more leverage we can pull. But our economy is soaring. It's the best it's ever been. And the rest of the globe is stagnant or declining. And China falls in that declining category. They're struggling right now in their economy. Every number that came out this past week proved our economy is strong. Their economy is weak.

The time to strike is now. We've got to do it now while the iron is hot. We are hot right now. The world knows we're strong. China is suffering. We've got to strike now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOLMES: Yes, so you hear it there. And it's not surprising that the administration is taking this approach. We know that a bad economy means problems for President Trump, particularly when it comes to re- election.

[16:15:02] This is always an issue with an incumbent president, but in his case, especially so given that he's made it a central focus point of his campaign.

And one other thing here, Fred, I want to note is I have talked to so many voters across the country. We know that President Trump is a polarizing figure. And many of them tell me this. They say, well, I don't like President Trump, but I like what he's doing with the economy. Well, obviously those are potential votes lost if the economy takes a downward spiral -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. Kristen Holmes, thank you so much.

All right, it's hard to imagine any sector that's more vulnerable right now in this trade war than the American farming industry. White House Trade adviser Peter Navarro was confronted about that specifically earlier today.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER: Listen to the president of the Minnesota Farmers Union, Gary Wertish, who told CNN this week that even the president's supporters are being hurt and struggling in this trade war, even with the money that the administration is giving them to help them through this tough passage. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GARY WERTISH, FARMER: Words and twisters and tweets, that doesn't -- it doesn't pay the farmer's bills. That doesn't solve the problem we're dealing with. And, you know, this one, like I said earlier, this one is self-inflicted by our president. And we definitely agreed at the beginning, but it does not appear that there's a plan B.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: These are people on the frontlines and they're saying the trade war is directly hurting them and China is not bearing all the burden of this. They are bearing the burden of this.

NAVARRO: So there's a couple of things to say. First of all, this president has the backs of farmers and all the money we're taking in on tariffs, a lot of that is going right to the farmers to give us -- let's make no mistake about it. China is targeting those farmers to buckle our knees.

(END VIDEO CLIP) WHITFIELD: All right. Let's talk about this. Joining me right now to discuss, editor and commentary writer at the "Washington Examiner," Siraj Hashmi, and White House reporter for the "Washington Post," Toluse Olorunnipa.

All right, good to see you both.

SIRAJ HASHMI COMMENTARY WRITER AND EDITOR, WASHINGTON EXAMINER: Thank you for having me.

TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Thanks.

WHITFIELD: Toluse, you first, you know, the president's team arguing China is the one that's feeling the pain. But you just heard that American farmer say otherwise. So how is this going to play out for Trump this election season?

OLORUNNIPA: Well, the president may say publicly that the American economy is doing great and there's no negative impact from the tariffs. But we're hearing from farmers, from voters that there is an impact. China has a large amount of influence over the global economy and the U.S. economy because they buy a lot of our product, they buy a lot of farming product, and if they punch back by saying they're not going to buy as much soybeans or as much other agricultural products that farmers will bear the brunt. And that's part of the reason you've seen the president pull back on some of the tariffs that he said he was going to put in on September 1st.

He delayed that until December 15th because he realizes that American consumers are having a negative impact from this trade war and that he needs to find out some way to either create a deal with China that would stave -- push off this trade war past 2020 or at least give consumers some sort of relief. And the fact that there is no relief in sight at this point makes it hard for him politically to keep up this trade war. And I think even though his advisers are saying that everything is great and that China is the only one that's being hurt by this, the president realizes that he has a political impact of this trade war, and he does not want this to sour his chances for 2020.

WHITFIELD: So, listen, Siraj, to that same farmer describing, you know, the sentiment that his community feels like they are hurting big when the president argues that they are winning. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WERTISH: Some of the callous comments come, especially from the president and, you know, that farmers are winning. We're great patriots. That's very insulting. That's come from somebody that's never -- never faced the challenges of a family farmer. I go into the bank. And I tell the lender that I can't make my payment because we lost their market. The banker is not going to tell me, you don't have to make your payment because you're a patriot.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: So farmers, you know, represent a pretty significant chunk of the president's support, Siraj. So, is he at risk, at great risk when you hear the sentiments like that from farmers?

HASHMI: There certainly is political risk for President Trump. But there's probably even a greater risk for him to cave to China and put the U.S. at a disadvantage in negotiating China on the trade deal. Of course, we can't also ignore the fact that the USMCA, the U.S. Mexico, Canada Agreement, that was going to be passed still hasn't moved through Congress. And that's an area that most people, at least trade experts should put some focus on right now because that can at least help the economy, Mexico and Canada being U.S. -- the United States' biggest trade partners.

So, if you look at those two, China, the USMCA, those certainly are hurting the economy or they could, but there's also, you know, a lot of uncertainty among investors, the global economy at large seems to be shrinking down a little bit.

[16:20:03] And then, of course, you have to look at the fact that the Fed lowered interest rates for the first time in over a decade. So that's -- there are just a number of factors. So focusing only on China being the reason why farmers are hurting and why possibly U.S. consumers are hurting is a little bit narrow.

WHITFIELD: So, Toluse, listen to how, you know, the president's Democratic rivals might be capitalizing on all of this anxiety.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm concerned because I think NAFTA 2.0 was a disaster. I think it was a giveaway to drug companies in Mexico. It's going to harm our jobs. President Trump said no bad trade deals. Not only has he entered into them, but he started a trade war with China.

MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG (D-IN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's also a fool's errand to think you're going to be able to get China to change the fundamentals of their economic model by poking them in the eye with some tariffs. And by the way, despite all of the noise from that previous interview, there's some basic facts here that you can't escape. And one of them is that American farmers are getting killed.

BETO O'ROURKE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This current trade war that the president has entered our country into is not working. It is hammering the hell out of farmers across this country who do not want bailouts or payoffs. They just want to be able to make a profit in what they're growing and be able to have those markets again that they worked a lifetime to create.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: So, Toluse, you know, for these Democrats to kind of leverage this, do they have to tread lightly or do they need to, like, hit this topic hard?

OLORUNNIPA: Well, they definitely have to tread lightly by not being seen as rooting for a recession or rooting for American consumers to be harmed in the global economic slowdown. But they do have some areas where they can hit the president. There are a number of voters who like the state of the economy. They like certain things about the president's strategy in terms of his policies. But they don't like the chaos surrounding his tweets and everything else. And if the Democrats can link the tweets and chaos to the economic slowdown and say the president got us into a trade war, he's not keeping his promises on saying that he was going to end bad trade deals, if they can make that argument, that is a little bit a safer space for them to be instead of saying, you know, we want the president to fail on the economy because that means millions of Americans would be harmed.

So, they're trying to figure out that path. It does seem like they're trying to hit him hard over the trade war and over the farmers trying to pull back some of his base, some of the people who may have supported him in 2016 by saying the president has not kept his promises. He's not helped your lot in life and that seems to be where they find more safe argument.

WHITFIELD: And a very different technique, Siraj. You heard our reporter Kirsten earlier say the White House approach here is deny, deny, deny, that there could be any kind of downturn. Does that come with risks, too?

HASHMI: It certainly can. Of course, you want to at least, you know, imply or at least tell the nation that everything is fine because as soon as the White House, the president start panicking, you know, that's going to sow a lot of discord and a lot of division already, more than we already have. But if you specifically focus on the economy, then that's going to probably make the market even more volatile and probably accelerate a recession, not delay it any further.

So it's probably in the White House's best strategy right now to at least reassure that the market as well as the economy aren't nearing a recession. Of course we did have an 800-point drop this past week.

WHITFIELD: Yes.

HASHMI: But it's slowly crawling back.

WHITFIELD: All right, Siraj Hashmi, Toluse Olorunnipa, thank you so much, gentlemen. Appreciate it.

HASHMI: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: All right, next, a wedding becomes the scene of a terror attack. An ISIS suicide bomber infiltrates the ceremony in Afghanistan killing dozens.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:27:24] WHITFIELD: All right. Live pictures right now of Marine One. The president making his way to Morristown, New Jersey, before boarding Air Force One, ending his 10-day vacation, heading back to Washington, back to business. And of course if the president comes out and speaks, we'll bring that to you as it happens. Also, right now, three of the top five Democratic presidential

contenders are in South Carolina courting the African-American vote which makes up 60 percent of that key primary state's electorate. Within the last hour, Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg made their pitches.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Might it not be a better idea to start taking some of that $80 billion spent to lock people up and maybe, just maybe, start investing in our young people, investing in good education for our kids, investing in job training for our kids so they don't end up in jail in the first place.

MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG (D-IN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You know, what we're finding is that people who hear about our plans for dealing with institutional racism respond extremely well. But a lot of people haven't heard about our plans. So to me, we've got to -- we've got to keep working on that. And now that we have an on-the-ground presence, that expands our ability to reach into constituencies and communities that haven't yet been brought to the table and I think that will pay off in time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: CNN's Leyla Santiago is covering the campaign swing through South Carolina for us. So, Leyla joins us now from Columbia.

So what other ideas were coming from these candidates today there?

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Elizabeth Warren yesterday was in Aiken. She talked about her housing plan, talked about what she wants to do for historically black colleges and black entrepreneurs. Just in the last hour, she tweeted about the maternal mortality rate among black women, but today she went to a predominantly black church and really didn't talk much about plans. Never mentioned a single plan today which is a bit odd for her.

But she talked about something else she typically doesn't mention which is her faith. And then she used her time at the pulpit to give her own personal story. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I grew up in a family that didn't have much, but I always grew up with a dream. And for me, the dream was, I wanted to be a public schoolteacher. I finished my four-year diploma and I became a special needs teacher. I've lived my dream job. Uh-huh, it's the best. Never in a million years that I think I would end up running for office, first for United States Senate from Massachusetts, and now for president of the United States. But the reason I did, is I have been called to act, not just to see good but to act.

(END VIDEO CLIP) LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And there was one woman I talked to, one of the churchgoers there that afterwards I said so what did you think? Who was on your shortlist? She said Warren is now on her shortlist, admitted it's too early to have any sort of decision made. But one of the reasons that she liked Warren was because she felt that she could relate to her story. That's what every single candidate and campaign is trying to do out here.

Establish that connection. Up until now, she's been using plans to try to relate to people. Bernie Sanders is here. Senator Bernie, he just put out a criminal justice reform plan. He's hoping that connects with people. I will tell you that yesterday I spoke to a young black man who said that's exactly what he's looking to hear from these candidates, how they plan to reform the criminal justice system.

So Buttigieg talking about the Douglas plan, you know, they're all trying to find ways to win that vote that is so critical here in South Carolina.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Yeah. And so for Warren, she's usually, you know, she says, I have a plan for that. But then how about faith? Is that something that she has talked about while on the campaign trail before?

SANTIAGO: Right. So today -- and it was interesting to see how people reacted to it. Today, she talked about her experience as a Sunday schoolteacher for some kind of rowdy fifth graders. So there were people in the audience that were laughing about that and joking. But really, Friday, she was at the black church pac group talking about faith as well. She's actually traveling on this swing with her pastor.

But before this week, we really hadn't heard much from her. We heard when we at CNN asked her about it at her town hall, the role that it plays. And she basically said that faith is a part of every part of her life. But until this week, it really wasn't a part of the stump speech in which she constantly talks about her personal story, you know, why she's running, her history in the financial sector and banking and why it's important to her and the middle class.

So this week, we did sort of see a bit of some new insight with Warren in going into more detail with faith and the role it plays for her as a person.

WHITFIELD: All right. Leyla Santiago, thank you so much for bringing that to us from Columbia, South Carolina. Appreciate it. All right, let's take you quickly to New Jersey now, where the president, at any moment now, will be getting off Marine One there and then boarding Air Force One leaving New Jersey after 10 days vacation, making his way back to Washington. It looks like he's about to emerge right here.

He's got a lot to tackle when he gets back to Washington, particularly the trade wars. We've been hearing from farmers all across the country who have expressed that it has been hard hit that they have been taking with these tariffs and threats of tariffs with China. You see Melania Trump there walking with as well. Looks like they might be making his way to the cameras, and I think that's Barron, boy, has he grown, right? He looks as tall as his dad. All right, let's listen in to President Donald Trump.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So we had a lot of meetings yesterday on Afghanistan, on the economy, which is doing very well. We have the strongest economy by far in the world. The tariffs have cost nothing, in my opinion, or certainly very little. We have import prices from -- and through July, all the way through July, and they're down 1.8 percent, so that the import prices have actually gone down. China is eating the tariffs because of monetary manipulation.

Also, they're pouring a lot of money into their country because they don't want to lose jobs. They're losing, as you probably know, because you reported it. But they lost over 2 million jobs in a short period of time. And they want to make a deal. We'll see what happens, but they definitely want to make a deal. I would like to see Hong Kong worked out in a very humanitarian fashion. I hope President Xi can do it.

He sure has the ability. I can tell you that from personal knowledge. He certainly has the ability to do it if he wants to. So I would like to see that worked out in a humanitarian fashion. I think it would be very good for the trade deal that we're talking about. And other than that if you have any questions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's the status of your deliberations on the Afghanistan troop withdrawal?

[16:34:59] TRUMP: Well, we're looking at Afghanistan. We're talking to Afghanistan, both the government and also talking to the Taliban, having very good discussions. We'll see what happens. We've really got it down to probably 13,000 people. And we'll be bringing it down a little bit more. And then we'll decide whether or not we'll be staying longer or not. We're having very good discussions with the Taliban. We're having very good discussions with the Afghan government.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's the argument for staying?

TRUMP: I think just that we've been there for 19 years. We're like a police force. And that's about it, frankly. I think it's very important that we continue intelligence there in all cases, because it is somewhat of a nest for hitting us. If you look at what happened with the world trade, it essentially came out of Afghanistan. Most of the people, I think, they may not have come from Afghanistan originally, but that's where they were taught.

So there's a big argument to be made. And I buy that argument. You know, it's very tough when somebody says, well, this is a big breeding ground. And it is a breeding ground. And we have things under control very well with a small force. We can probably make it a little bit smaller, and then we'll decide. It will depend on the Taliban. It will depend on the Afghan government. But there is a case to be made. And the case also is that we're going to be leaving very significant intelligence behind for just the reasons I stated.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Inaudible)

TRUMP: I can't comment on that, can't do it, Maggie.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Inaudible)

TRUMP: Well, I think President Xi, obviously, has this in mind because he probably would have acted faster. So I think he has at least something in mind having to do with trade, because it's something he can do fairly easily. It could be, unfortunately, very ruthless. So I do think it plays on his mind. And I do think he is thinking about what I have had to say. It would have an impact on trade. There's no question about it.

(UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Inaudible)

TRUMP: A little louder, Maggie.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Inaudible)

TRUMP: Well, Greenland, I don't know. It got released somehow. It's just something we talked about. Denmark essentially owns it. We're very good allies with Denmark. We protect Denmark like we protect large portions of the world. So the concept came up, and I said, certainly, strategically it's interesting. And we'd be interested, but we'll talk to them a little bit. It's not number one on the burner. I can tell you that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Would you ever make an exchange with them of any kind?

TRUMP: Well, a lot of things could be done. Essentially, it's a large real estate deal. A lot of things could be done. It's hurting Denmark very badly because they're losing almost $700 million a year carrying it. So they carry it at a great loss. And strategically for the United States, it would be nice. And we're a big ally of Denmark, and we help Denmark and we protect Denmark, and we will.

In fact, I am supposed to stop. I am thinking about going there. I am not necessarily -- definitely going there, but I may be going -- we're going to Poland and then we may be going to Denmark. Not for this reason at all. But we're looking at it. It's not number one on the burner.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, back to Afghanistan. I have two questions on that. First of all, have you (Inaudible) at a wedding.

TRUMP: Well, I am not trusting anybody. Look, I am not trusting anybody. It's a horrible situation that's going on in Afghanistan. It has been for many years. Russia tried to do something. And at the time, they did it. They were the Soviet Union, and now they're Russia. They spent all their wealth on trying to do something in that land. There have been many, many great nations in that land.

It's a difficult territory. There are a lot of very good people there, I will say, but they're also good fighters. We have it very much under control as far as what we're doing. But the rest is, you know, a lot of bad things happen in Kabul. A lot of bad things are happening in Afghanistan and some very positive things. But we would -- look, we're there for one reason. We don't want that to be a laboratory, OK, can't be a laboratory for terror.

And we stopped that. And we have a very, very good view. Some things are going to be announced over the next couple of weeks as to what happened, who has been taken out. A lot of people have been taken out that were very bad, both ISIS and Al Qaeda.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Senator Lindsey Graham said that (Inaudible) and to trust the Taliban would be the biggest mistake since Obama's (Inaudible).

TRUMP: Well, I guess that means Lindsey is a very tough man, isn't he? OK, what else?

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is the administration going to allow U.S. businesses to continue selling? Is there going to be an extension of the (Inaudible)?

[16:39:54] TRUMP: No, that was reported. And actually, it's the opposite, Huawei. Huawei is a company we may not do business with it at all. And it was sort of reported, I think, the opposite today. I was surprised that we are open to doing business. We're actually open not to doing business with them. So I don't know who gave the report. Now, they have little sections of Huawei like furniture and other things that we can do.

But when you cut out sections, it gets very complicated, what's being sold, what's coming in. So at this moment, it looks much more like we're not going to do business. I don't want to do business at all because it's a national security threat. And I really believe that the media has covered it a little bit differently than that. So we're looking really not to do business with Huawei.

And we're actually talking about not doing any business because, again, the rest of it is not national security. But it's very difficult to determine what's coming in, what's not coming in is still Huawei. So we'll be making a decision over that in the not too distant future. But it's a little bit the opposite of what seemed to be reported this morning.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How were your meetings at Bedminster, sir? Did you have a good meeting?

TRUMP: I had a very good meeting with Tim Cook. I have a lot of respect for Tim Cook. And Tim was talking to me about tariffs. And, you know, one of the things that he made a good case is that Samsung is the number one competitor. And Samsung is not paying tariffs because they're based in South Korea. And it's tough for Apple to pay tariffs if they are competing with a very good company that's not. I said how good a competitor.

He said they are a very good competitor. So Samsung is not paying tariffs because they're based in a different location, mostly South Korea. But they're based in South Korea. And I thought he made a very compelling argument. So I am thinking about it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sir, there's reporting at CNN that Larry Kudlow may be leaving at some point.

TRUMP: Well, I hope not. I love Larry Kudlow. I think he's done a fantastic job. He has been going through health problems, as you know. But I watched him this morning. He was terrific. I think Larry is a fantastic guy. But I haven't heard that at all.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And are you doing any planning or are you going to be addressing your administration to plan for the possibility of a recession?

TRUMP: I don't see a recession. I mean, the world is in a recession right now. And although that's too big a statement, but if you look at China, China is doing very, very poorly. They've had -- I just saw a report, they've had the worst year they've had in 27 years because of what I have done. And they want to come to the negotiating table. You know, they're having companies lose -- they're leaving.

The companies are leaving. And they're laying off millions of people because they don't want to pay 25 percent. And that's why they want to come to the table. I don't think there's another reason other than President Xi, I am sure, likes me very much. But they're losing millions and millions of jobs in China. And we're not paying for the tariffs. China is paying for the tariffs for the 100th time. And I understand tariffs very well.

Other countries, it may be that if I do things with other countries. But in the case of China, China is eating the tariffs, at least so far.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But a lot of economists say that you should be preparing for a recession, that no president is immune to a recession, and that it's malpractice for the government not to be doing something.

TRUMP: Yeah. Phil, honestly, I am prepared for everything. I don't think we're having a recession. We're doing tremendously well. Our consumers are rich. I gave a tremendous tax cut. And they're loaded up with money. They're buying. I saw the Walmart numbers. They were through the roof just two days ago. That's better than any poll. That's better than any economist. And most economists actually say, Phil that we're not going to have a recession.

Most of them are saying we're not going to have a recession. But the rest of the world is not doing well like we're doing. The rest of the world, if you look at Germany, if you look at European Union, frankly, look at the U.K. I mean look at a lot of countries that are not doing well, China is doing poorly. Parts of Asia are doing poorly. We are doing better than any country or even area anywhere in the world. We're doing great.

And our consumer is really, really strong. And it looks like they're going to be for a long time. Also, when you go in and analyze the curve, the curve always means that about two years later, maybe you'll go -- that's a long time, two years. But I don't think so. Interest rates are low. I think I can be helped out by the Fed. But the Fed doesn't like helping me too much. But it -- you know, frankly, we have money that's pouring into our country because they want the security of the United States.

[16:44:46] We have billions and billions of dollars daily that's pouring in. We've never had anything like this because they want to come into the United States. That's a great thing. That means we can loan that money out. Mortgage rates are at an all-time low. Borrowing costs are at an all-time low. It's probably a great time. I told Secretary Mnuchin that this is a great time to refinance our bonds or some of our bonds.

You know, I mean the money is pouring in to the U.S. like never before and like no other country has ever experienced, including China money. I mean, China money, everybody, they're all coming in to the U.S. And we've never had anything like it. I think our economy is very, very good.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Inaudible)

TRUMP: Well, I would be prepared for it. We can do -- sure. We can do a lot of things. But if it slowed down, it would be because I have to take on China and some other countries. Look, you have other countries that are just as bad as China the way the treat us. You take a look at what's happen with the European Union. They have barriers. They have tariffs. Take a look at other -- I am not going to mention all the countries, because you'll be surprised.

But we're treated very badly, a lot of them by our allies. We're treated very badly. When all of that normalizes, we've got a rocket ship. Our country is going to be stronger, by far, than ever before. And if I wanted to make a bad deal and settle on China, the market would go up, but it wouldn't be the right thing to do. I am just not ready to make a deal yet. China would like to make a deal. I am not ready.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you an update on the Iranian oil tankers (Inaudible)?

TRUMP: No, no update other than Iran would like to talk also. I have to say also. China wants to talk. But Iran would like to talk. They just don't know quite how to get there. Look, they're very proud people. But their economy is crashing. It's crashing. Inflation is through the roof. They're doing really badly. They're not selling oil. Even -- we put the sanctions on. The oil is selling much less. I mean much less than we thought.

It's like a trickle. And they very much want to make a deal. They just don't know how to call because they're proud people, and I understand that. But I have a feeling that maybe things with Iran could work out and maybe not. If you notice, they haven't taken any of our boats. They've haven't taken our ships. They've taken ships, but they haven't taken our ships, and they better not. But I will say this.

I really think that Iran wants to get there. They have a great potential. I say this about North Korea. North Korea has tremendous potential. Also, Iran has tremendous potential. And we can do something very fast, but they don't quite know how to begin because they're proud people. They're very proud people. But their country is crashing. Their economy is a disaster. They've got to do something, so let's see what happens.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Inaudible).

TRUMP: So Congress is working on that. They have bipartisan committees working on background checks and various other things, and we'll see. I don't want people to forget that this is a mental health problem. I don't want them to forget that, because it is. It's a mental health problem. And as I say, and I said the other night in New Hampshire, we had an incredible evening. I said it's the people that pull the triggers, not the gun that pulls the trigger.

So we have a very, very big mental health problem. And Congress is working on various things, and I will be looking at it. We're very much involved. We're very much involved in looking at what they're studying.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Dayton shooter had 100-round capacity magazine. Would you support banning (Inaudible)?

TRUMP: Well, we're going to look at a whole list of things. And I will make a determination then. But I will say Congress is now, as you know, meeting in a bipartisan way. We'll see what happens. A lot of things are happening on the gun level. A lot of things are happening. But you have to remember, also, it's a big mental -- I was talking about mental institutions.

They closed so many, like, 92 percent of the mental institutions around this country over the years for budgetary reasons. These are people that have to be in institutions for help. I am not talking about as a form of a prison. I am saying for help. And I think it's something we have to really look at, the whole concept of mental institutions. I remember growing up, we had mental institutions.

Then they were closed in New York, I am talking about. There were many of them that were closed. A lot of them were closed. And all of those people were put out on the streets. And I said even as a young guy, I said, how does that work? That's not a good thing. And it's not a good thing. So I think the concept of mental institution has to be looked at.

Unrelated to that, I believe that the concept also of voter identification has to be looked at, because you can't have great security for the voter, people that vote. You can't have that national security unless you're going to have voter identification. It's something people have to look at very strongly.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sir, what does that have to do with gun safety?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Would you say who you golfed with, sir (Inaudible)?

[16:50:00] TRUMP: Yeah, I did. We had a lot of meetings, and the golf was the least of it. I played two days. The golf was the least of it. I don't care about -- look. I like golf. It's fine. It's so unimportant to me. Usually, I will play with senators. I will play with people where it can help. Golf is not important from that standpoint other than it is a little form of exercise and that's not so bad.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Inaudible)

TRUMP: Yeah, yeah, yeah, there is. I mean I have approved the deal. The deal is approved. Got to be approved by the Senate, but I have approved the deal. It's $8 billion. It's a lot of money. It's a lot of jobs. And we know they're going to use these F-16s responsibly. But we approved the deal, a lot of money. And it's a great aircraft. And we really believe, or we perhaps wouldn't have done it. They're going to use it very responsibly. But it's tremendous numbers of jobs. It's $8 billion.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You brought up voter ID laws in the context of the gun control.

TRUMP: No, no, I said unrelated. I wanted to bring that out while I am here with you. I think voter ID laws, if you look, voter identification, so when people show up to vote, because if you look, Judicial Watch made a settlement with California, I guess, or Los Angeles, where they found over a million names that was very problematic, a problem. And you just take a look at that settlement.

That's a lot of names. You had people that were well over 100 years old that were voting. But we know they're not around any longer. So you have a lot of voter fraud. The way you stop it, the easiest way is voter identification. We have to go and think about that. I hope Republicans and Democrats can both sit down and work something out on voter ID.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Your commission on voter fraud didn't find any actual fraud.

TRUMP: Well, we let the commission -- the commission was having a tremendous problem legally getting papers from various states like California. They were absolutely hard-lining. They didn't want to give this commission -- it was just a quick commission headed up by Vice President Pence, to look at voter fraud. The problem the commission had is we had to have a vast amount of lawyers, which I didn't want to bother with, because California and other states were giving up no information whatsoever.

And the reason they weren't giving up information is because they were guilty. They were guilty of it. And they know they're guilty of it. Many, many people voted that shouldn't have been voted. Some people voted many times. What I am saying is we need voter identification. We need voter ID.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I know it's not a top priority for you. But when you go to Denmark, this is something you'll want to talk to them about?

TRUMP: Maybe, maybe. I don't think Denmark has been absolutely set in stone yet going there. But if I did, I would certainly talk about it. But not top on the list.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How much do you think it is worth?

TRUMP: We haven't gotten there yet. First, we have to find out whether or not they have any interest. Look, they're losing almost $700 million carrying it. That's a lot of money for Denmark. They're losing a tremendous amount of money, so we'll see what happens.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Inaudible)

TRUMP: Well, Fox has always given me -- I'll tell you. Fox is a lot different than it used to be. I can tell you that. Juan Williams, then they have the wonderful woman that gave Hillary Clinton the questions. That was a terrible thing. And all of a sudden, she's working for Fox. What's she doing working for Fox? Fox has changed.

And my worst polls have always been from Fox. There's something going on at Fox. I will tell you right now. And I am not happy with it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Inaudible)

TRUMP: I don't know what's happening with Fox. But when they have like a Juan Williams, who has never said a positive thing, and yet when I show up at the Fox building, he's out there, oh, sir, can I have a picture with you? Can I have a picture? And he was 100 percent nice. I mean, you've never asked me for a picture.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Inaudible)

TRUMP: No, no. They have to run it the way they want to run it. But Fox is different. There's no question about it. And I think they are making a big mistake, because Fox was treated very badly by the Democrats, very, very badly, having to do with the debates and other things. And I think Fox is making a big mistake because, you know, I am the one that calls the shots on that -- on the really big debates.

I guess we're probably planning on three of them. And I -- well, I am very -- I am not happy with Fox. I am certainly happy, I think Sean Hannity and Lou Dobbs and I think Tucker Carlson and Laura and Jesse Watters and Jeanine. We have a lot of great people, even Greg Gutfeld. He wasn't good to me two years ago. Now, he sees all I've done. He says would you rather have a great president or a nice guy. I don't know.

[16:55:00] I think I am a nice guy. But nobody has done in 2 1/2 years what I have done. And I say that a lot. And very few people can challenge it. The first 2 1/2 years, nobody's done what I have done in terms of tax cuts, regulation cuts, the military, the vets, the choice, so many different things. Nobody has done that. Yeah?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you clarify what you meant what you meant when you said that you don't want to (Inaudible) -- are now not going to extend (Inaudible).

TRUMP: Well, I am talking to my people, but ultimately we don't want to do business with Huawei for national security reasons.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Inaudible)

TRUMP: We'll see what happens. I am making a decision tomorrow. It could be temporary, could be -- maybe not. But we're going to make a decision tomorrow.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Inaudible)

TRUMP: I don't believe it. I don't believe it. Every place I go, we have lines outside. Then we have even phony stuff with that. You guys were in New Hampshire. Maggie was there. You saw that room was packed. And they had -- Maggie, there were thousands of people outside. And then I see some phony website, some wise guys put up, that place was packed.

And the New York Times actually saw that. And actually, there was a massive flag behind, and even the seats behind the flag where you had no view.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Inaudible)

TRUMP: Because those people came down to be on the floor.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Who showed you the picture?

TRUMP: All of the people, any empty seat you had the people come down to be on the floor because they were so far away, plus you had a big flag. Look, we had -- I think they said we had 17,000 people outside that couldn't get in. The fire marshals closed it at a certain level. The arena announced -- I don't know the people at the arena that I broke Elton John's record.

And then I have fake news. The fact is that people, during a speech that I make, they love to come down to the floor if they're sitting in the high areas. And they're not allowed for fire reasons to have any more people. So that was an amazing evening. And you saw the enthusiasm. But we had a lot of people sitting behind that massive American flag that couldn't see so they moved over and they moved down and they came down to the floor as the speech started.

But Maggie Haberman was very fair. And she was there, and she saw the beginning of that speech. Every seat was packed. But then they tend to come down. They do it all the time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mitt Romney gave his last rally there the night before the election, and it was packed. He ended up losing the election.

TRUMP: I don't know. What can I tell you? Do I think I am going to win? Yes. Do I think I have more enthusiasm now than I had before this, you know, the 2016 election? Yes. I think we -- I think you people do, too. And some of you have reported it. I think there is more enthusiasm for President Trump than there was even for Mr. Trump, because what I said that I was going to do, I did.

The tax cut, the regulation cuts, the biggest in history. In 2 1/2 years, more than -- and that's one of the reasons our jobs are so good, because of the regulation cuts.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So why can't you tell us whether you talked to President Xi?

TRUMP: I just don't want to comment on that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Inaudible)

TRUMP: Well, I can speak to him any time. But he understands how I feel. I just can't comment as to whether or not I spoke to him. But I will tell you this. We're having very, very substantive talks with China and with others, but with China.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you watch any of the coverage of the Hong Kong protest (Inaudible)?

TRUMP: I can't believe it. You know, I tell you, I have never seen two million people when you talk about crowd size, Maggie. Those are serious crowds, the Hong Kong. I mean, when they said 2 million people on the streets that really looked like two million people on the street.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Inaudible)

TRUMP: No. I think it would be very hard to deal if the do violence. I mean, if it's -- Tiananmen Square, I think it's a very hard thing to do if there's violence. And, you know, that -- I am president, but that's a little beyond me because I think there would be, you know, I think there would be tremendous political sentiment not to do something. So I hope because we're going to end up doing a very good deal.

And I think China, by the way, needs a deal much more than we do. But I really do believe that if this weren't part of the deal, possibly something would have happened already a long time ago.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you support the principles of the protesters, the pro-democracy (Inaudible)?

TRUMP: Well, I will tell you what I do support. I support liberty. I support democracy. I understand what's going on very well over there. I would love to see it worked out in a humane fashion. And I think they have a good chance of doing it. Look, I put out, and I told you, that I really believe -- I have a confidence in the talents of President Xi. I think if he met with the protesters, within a very short period of time, they would work something out that's good for everybody. I really believe that. He's a very talented man.