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Trump, Economic Advisors Downplay Recession Threat, Trade War Fears; Soon: Elizabeth Warren Will Speak at Native American Presidential Forum; Potential Mass Shootings Stopped in 3 States; Trump Confirms He's Looked into Buying Greenland as NASA Warns of Its "Supercharged" Ice Melt. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired August 19, 2019 - 11:00   ET


[11:00:00] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks so much to all of you for joining us today. I'm Jim Sciutto.

"AT THIS HOUR" with Kate Bolduan starts right now.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. Thanks so much for joining me.

This morning, a full-court press from the White House, dismissing fears of a looming recession.

The president touting a strong economy and arguing things have never been better.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: 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.


BOLDUAN: And the president's commerce secretary says. despite the roller coaster week on Wall Street that we saw, fears about one key indicator are overblown.


WILBUR ROSS, COMMERCE SECRETARY: Eventually, there will be a recession, but this inversion is not as reliable in my view as people think.


BOLDUAN: And when all else fails, the president's top economic adviser says give positive thinking a chance.


LARRY KUDLOW, TOP ECONOMIC ADVISOR TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: Well, I'll tell you what, I sure don't see a recession. We're doing pretty darn well in my judgment. Let's not be afraid of optimism. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: So I say about everything in life.

Let's get to the White House. Boris Sanchez is there. He joins me now.

Boris, for the White House, to be honest, having a hard time staying on message, they surely are on message when it comes to the economic message they want out there. But what are you hearing behind-the- scenes?

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kate, privately, concerns about the economy have long been a running theme in the president's conversations with his staff.

As you know, frequently, when he talks about his accomplishments, the economy, the strength of the American economy, is almost always near the top. The president privately has talked to aides about concerns that this ongoing trade war with China could hurt his chances for reelection.

That's part of the reason that you saw him delay these tariffs on China going to December 15th. The president apparently swayed by aides who told him that these tariffs are Chinese imports could harm Americans who are shopping, who are Christmas shopping, and it could apparently ruin Christmas. The president keeping that in mind, he's decided to delay these tariffs.

Obviously, publicly, a very different story as you played the sound from Larry Kudlow, Wilbur Ross and others. They're putting out a united front suggesting that the fundamentals of the economy are strong.

And as advisor of the president, Kellyanne Conway, said on the White House lawn this morning. She insinuated that the media is suggesting that this is looming in order to harm the president, something that he tweeted out just a few weeks ago -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: Boris, thanks so much. Let's see what we hear from the White House. Yet again, today, we heard Kellyanne Conway in the driveway earlier.

Joining me Neil Irwin, senior economic correspondent for the "New York Times."

Neil, it's great to see you. Thanks for being here


BOLDUAN: So the president, his trade advisers and top economic adviser all say that the U.S. is not headed for a recession right now. The president went so far as to say the following, "Most economists actually say we are not going to have a recession."

What are most economists telling you right now?

IRWIN: So it is true that if you look at surveys of forecasters, most of them only assign about a 33 percent chance of recession, one in three. That's still higher than it was just a couple of months ago.

And I think there's no question that the risks have shifted in the last couple of months. And that the possibility we'll see a meaningful downturn either a recession or significant slowdown in the last year have risen a lot in the last few weeks.

BOLDUAN: It's kind of where the feeling is or the fact that the risk factors are now showing more warning signs. That's what a lot of folks are seeing.

What do you make of Kudlow's line? I love the idea of being optimistic and that having a real effect. When he says let's not be afraid of optimism, I was wondering does talk of a recession contribute to the likelihood that one is actually going to happen?

IRWIN: It absolutely can. If you're a CEO trying to decide whether to hire a bunch of people or build a new factory, you're nervous about what you've seen.

If you're a consumer thinking about buying a new house or car, maybe you want to hold off on that.

It's when everyone collectively in the economy makes the decision to postpone decisions to not spend, that's how recessions happen.

That said, I'll just add, things can happen that are bad in the economy without it becoming a full-blown recession. We saw that in late 2015 and early 2016. So I think the idea this is just a binary, there's a recession that bad or we're in the clear, it's not that simple. This could get ugly, even if things don't actually flip into negative territory.

BOLDUAN: That's a great point. There's something in between. And that is a really, really excellent point.

President Trump said that they were holding off -- here's one element of it, the trade war and what impact it's already having and going to be having. You've written about this.

President Trump had said, when he was speaking to reporters, that they were holding off on this new round of tariffs in order to avoid the Christmas holiday shopping season. And lots of people, myself included, took that as an acknowledgment finally from the president that tariffs are hurting American companies and consumers.

[11:05:03] My colleague, Jake Tapper, asked Peter Navarro about that. And let me play what the pushback and explanation was for why that wasn't an admission on the part of the president.


PETER NAVARRO, DIRECTOR, WHITE HOUSE NATIONAL TRADE COUNCIL: I was in the Oval Office when we had executives come in and they said, look, let's wait until December 15th, because we've bought all of our stuff that's going to be on the shelves and we did it in dollar-based contracts, which mean we don't have any ability to shift the burden to the Chinese.

But what we're also doing, Mr. President, is we're moving our supply chain and manufacturing out of China as fast as we can.


BOLDUAN: Does that explanation make sense to you?

IRWIN: I think there's something to that. I don't think that's completely wrong.

I think the bigger issue here is, you know, is the White House, even as they have this kind of happy talk and everything is going to be fine and we need to be optimistic, are they doing the planning and being realistic about the ways their own actions are contributing to the slowdown, the risks they're actions are creating?

The real risk here is that they really believe that they can just rip apart the global trade system without consequences, that if there's a recession in Europe or China or other parts of Asia, that that won't come back and effect the U.S. That's not what the historical record shows. We've seen downturns and recessions where what happens overseas really can bounce back and have major impact on the U.S. economy.

BOLDUAN: And that gets me to the final line of your piece from this weekend and I think it deserves repeating for folks if they didn't have a chance to catch it, which you wrote, "The chances of a near- term recession are only about one and three in the view of most forecasters, but if it does develop the big question will be whether the usual tools to fight it are up to the task."

Rick Newman, of "Yahoo Finance," we were talking about this last week, and I think it is quite important. Why is that such a big question right now of whether the tools the government has will be able to combat a recession this time?

IRWIN: So you have the Federal Reserve. They can cut interest rates. That's usually the first order of response to a recession. Their interest rates is only 2 percent right now so they don't have that much room to cut before they're back at what's called the Zero Lower Bound.

In fiscal policy, you have a dysfunctional political moment where it's hard to imagine Nancy Pelosi, Mitch McConnell and the Trump administration are going to come together to agree on the fiscal policy side.

And then you have the question of competence in the administration. How much are they able to find the tools using other parts of government to really combat this? That's a real open question.

BOLDUAN: It sure is.

Neil, thanks for coming in. Appreciate it.

IRWIN: Thanks a lot, Kate.

BOLDUAN: And while the economy is a huge focus on the 2020 campaign trail, this hour, Elizabeth Warren may be taking questions on a whole lot more than that.

Any minute, she's going to start speaking at the Native American Presidential Forum in Sioux City, Iowa, offering -- what this does is offer her an important opportunity to address what has been a sensitive issue for Warren since getting into the race, which is her past claims of Native American heritage.

This is the first time that we're going to see Warren publicly discuss Native American issues before a Native American audience.

CNN's M.J. Lee is there waiting for the speech to begin.

M.J., what are you learning about Senator Warren's efforts to reach out to the Native American community?

M.J. LEE, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, no question that this is a big moment for Senator Warren, as you said.

This is an issue that has been tough for the Senator. When she decided to release the results of her DNA tests last fall, you remember that there was a ton of criticism, a lot of backlash, including from tribal groups. And Senator Warren had to eventually apologize, saying that she handled that in an insensitive way.

You can see behind me it's actually Congresswoman Deb Haaland, one of the first two Native Americans who were elected to Congress, who has endorsed Senator Warren. She is now introducing her, so we will see Senator Warren take the stage very soon.

And what's important about sort of the setup of the conference today is that there are multiple chairs on stage, as you see. This is not going to Senator Warren giving a speech. She's going to have a dialogue, a Q&A session with tribal leaders. So we don't know what kinds of questions she will get and especially if she's going to confront any questions about her family ancestry.

We were told by organizers that they really would like to stick to a substance and policy and that's in line with what the campaign would like as well.

Last week, Senator Warren put out an extensive policy plan addressing the needs of Native American communities, including draft legislation that she worked on with Congresswoman Deb Haaland. So the campaign and organizers of this event saying they would like to stick to policy issues.

But again, the issue of her family ancestry has loomed over Senator Warren's campaign for a long time now. So we will see if she takes the opportunity today to address those issues -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: And you're there for us, M.J. She'll be speaking live this hour. When she starts, we'll bring it to you.

M.J., thank you so much.

[11:10:03] Coming up for us, three men arrested in three different states. Police say they may have stopped -- with those arrests stopped three different mass shootings. What we're learning about who they are and how they were stopped.

Plus, President Trump, background checks. Why does it sound like he's once again backing down?

Stay with us.


[11:15:15] BOLDUAN: Three men in three different states and three potential mass shootings thwarted, Youngstown, Connecticut and Norwalk, Connecticut and Daytona Beach Florida. All three men are now behind bars after police picked them up on tips they were expressing interest in committing mass shootings.

We're learning more about what they were threatening and how they were caught.

CNN's Polo Sandoval has been following all of the developments.

Polo, thanks for being here.


BOLDUAN: What are you learning?

SANDOVAL: Kate, consider these are allegations that are made against these three men. So there's no telling whether or not these three men would have actually turned these words into actions.

However, consider the case in Ohio here. James Reardon, who not only had the fire power at his disposal, but he also has made very clear publicly his white supremacist views.

Investigators initially were red flagged for posts where he appears in a video, shooting a rifle, having a caption in there. In that caption, you actually have one of the Jewish community centers in Youngstown that was actually tagged there.

Plus, that caption also suggests that that gunman would have been the shooter in this potential incident or attack on this Jewish community in Youngstown, Ohio.

So what happened is that one of these residents eventually flagged this to police who launched an investigation. They found various weapons in his mother's home, as well as other things that they're looking into. But then they also looked back at a "National Geographic" documentary.

Police in this small town of Ohio saying that the man that they have in custody is the same individual who appears in a documentary about the Charlottesville Nazi rally. I want you to listen to the interview that he offered back then.


JAMES REARDON, ALLEGEDLY PLANNING A MASS SHOOTING: I want a homeland for white people and I think every race should have a homeland for their own race.


SANDOVAL: So you have that, you have the weapons. And that's essentially all that it took for the attack to take place in El Paso.

We should, of course, mention, when it comes to this particular case, the FBI is involved and they're looking into it. They have not actually pressed any charges.

As for the other two men, there's one case in Connecticut. Investigators also acting on a tip on the various Facebook posts that were allegedly posted by 22-year-old Brandon Wagshol, arrested and detained him, saying that he had plans to potentially carry out a mass shooting.

And then another one in Florida. Body camera that was released from police officers in Daytona Beach showing the arrest of another man in his 20s, identified as Tristan Wix.

He was reportedly sending text messages to his then-girlfriend saying that he was planning on carrying out a mass shooting. He also told detectives that he did not have any weapons. However, he was fascinated by this idea of a mass shooting. So the investigators essentially moving in.

And it all started, again, with the red flag that was initially coming from the girlfriend at the time.

And so that seems to be the commonality among all these cases, Kate, the case in Florida and Connecticut and, the most disturbing one, in Ohio. Somebody saw something and they said something. And because of that, we are not covering three possible mass shootings in this country.

BOLDUAN: A lot more to be learned about what their intentions were. It's super troubling to see this all. Good news that the folks were picked up that are dangerous. Still troubling.

Thanks for bringing it to us. Really appreciate it, Polo.


BOLDUAN: So are there important lessons to be learned here? Joining me is former FBI special agent, Katherine Schweit. She co-

authored a study of 160 active shooter incidents from 2000 to 2013 and once led the FBI's Active Shooter Initiative.

Katherine, thank you for being here.


BOLDUAN: Really appreciate it.

In each of these cases, as Polo was laying out, you have someone seemingly close to the suspect alerting law enforcement. Why is that so important in preventing shootings from happening in this day and age we live in?

SCHWEIT: It is the lynch pin, Kate. It absolutely is the lynch pin. Family, friends, peers, teachers, coworkers, bosses, those are the people who will see what happens.

I know, in this case, you see three individuals who are all white males in their 20s, and you say that is the profile of who we're looking for. But it isn't. There's no profile. We're not looking for a profile of a person. We're not looking for somebody who plays video games or is a loner or somebody who has got mental health problems. We're looking for behaviors.

And I think those tips show exactly that. Those tips that came in, showed somebody was concerned about the shooting, with the tagging of the JCC in Youngstown and the different situations where somebody sees a text message and they report it.

We know there's been a tremendous amount of research in this area in the last few years by the FBI and the National College of Behavioral Health and it's great research, but it helps us to hone down on who we're looking for and what we need to watch for.

[11:20:06] BOLDUAN: You've studied active shooters extensively for the FBI. In Ohio, we know the guy was a white supremacist. In the other two cases, what we know at the moment is they seemed obsessed with mass shootings.

The element of white nationalism, does that as a motivation make it harder or easier to weed these guys out?

SCHWEIT: Well, white nationalists can be -- everybody is allowed to have their own opinion even if they sound like an idiot. It doesn't complicate an investigation in any way in terms of looking for somebody.

That is -- somebody's obsessiveness about a particular belief is not -- you have an absolute fundamental constitutional right to, and in law enforcement, the FBI can't investigate based on that. It's not appropriate.

That can be in addition to behaviors. And that's obviously what we need to look for, is the behaviors where the guy shooting a gun and videotaping himself is just like a lot of other people who think that's really cool for some reason. But it's the tagging of the JCC and the statements. It's the text messages from the other kid.

So it makes you wonder, OK, how far, how willing are they to go to an extreme to commit a violent act based on the combination of things. And that's really what the behavioral experts look like and law enforcement and the FBI. We look at what are those pieces together.

So you may have very strong political views about something, but you may not have the means. You may not do the planning and the preparation to get there.

But when we do threat analysis on somebody, we aggregate. And so somebody having support for violent extremism or support for or obsession about other people who have committed violent acts, absolutely, that adds up.

BOLDUAN: I do wonder, do you think the tragedies like in El Paso and Dayton, do you think it has made people more vigilant so they are reporting more, or do you think as we've heard -- we've heard in the past the fear after tragic mass shootings of a copycat effect after mass shootings. Do you think either one is at play here?

SCHWEIT: I think, yes, I think that's a good observation, Kate.

Certainly, there's limited research, but there's research that shows that a contagious effect. And we general that when an incident occurs, we're more likely to see -- I don't know if "more" is the right term -- but we're more likely to see a copycat.

And then the idea of obsessing over whether or not somebody else has done it, and I want to do it, too, and I want to be like him, I want to be like Mike, is there for sure.

And then we -- (CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: Katherine -- go ahead, I'm sorry.

SCHWEIT: I was just going to say, you asked me also about reporting. I think that -- I was working with the FBI during 9/11, "see something, say something" came out. People reported every single person and every single piece of information. That's what we need them to know now.

And when you get these aggregate four shootings in a matter of eight days like they did in Dayton and Ohio, and now these situations of making the other arrests, people are attentive, and that is what we need. We're only going to solve this problem if people see something and say something.

BOLDUAN: Your research in this area has been extremely important.

I really appreciate your perspective. Thanks so much, Katherine.

SCHWEIT: Thanks. BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, President Trump confirms that he is

looking into buying the island of Greenland or had been or maybe still is, just as the Danish prime minister calls that idea absurd. That's next.


[11:28:31] BOLDUAN: President Trump confirms for the first time that he has been considering trying to purchase Greenland. Listen to this.


TRUMP: The concept came up and I said, certainly, I would be - strategically, it's interesting and we'll be interested. But we'll talk to them a little bit. It's not number-one on the burner. I can tell you that.


BOLDUAN: It's somewhere on the burner apparently.

This, as the Danish prime minister called the idea, quote, unquote, "absurd," also saying Greenland is not for sale. Greenland is not Danish. Greenland belongs to Greenland. That's the prime minister.

And the former U.S. ambassador to Denmark added this to CNN.


RUFUS GIFFORD, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO DENMARK: I can tell you, if anybody in the Obama administration had brought up purchasing Greenland, we would have been laughed out of the room.


BOLDUAN: But it's not just that Greenland is now at the center of this international kind of real estate controversy. Greenland is also at the center of the climate crisis.

CNN's Frederik Pleitgen traveled there with NASA climate scientists to learn more.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): Take off from a tiny airfield in south Greenland.

NASA embarking on its mission to map how warmer ocean water is melting Arctic ice.

Chief scientist, Josh Willis, shows me the probes they're launching all around Greenland. It's like dropping thermometers into the sea.

(on camera): They go out of the plane, right down this tube right here, and fall down into the ocean, and then they separate into two parts, all the way down to the sea floor. So it gives us a profile from the surface to the bottom on the shelf.

(voice-over): We've reached today's drop zone, the massive Helheim Glacier.