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President Trump Addresses Reporters. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired August 20, 2019 - 15:00   ET

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


[15:00:01]

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Certain people and the media are trying to build up, because they'd love to see a recession.

We're very far from a recession. In fact, if the Fed would do its job, I think we would have a tremendous spurt of growth, a tremendous spurt.

The Fed is psychologically very important, less so actually, but very psychologically important. And if the Fed would do it's job, which it's really done poorly over the last year-and-a-half, you would see a burst of growth like you have never seen before.

And that would be lowering interest rates and maybe putting some -- if you look at what China's doing, if you look at what Germany's doing, if you look at what so many countries are doing, putting some money in, because we want to compete with these other countries.

So I think that we actually are set for a tremendous surge of growth if the Fed would do its job. That's a big if, frankly. But they should -- they should -- the Fed should -- the Fed should be cutting.

And I would say, they should say, at a minimum, 100 basis points over a period of time, not at one time, but over a period of time.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

TRUMP: Well, I'm not talking about -- I'm not talking about doing anything at this moment.

But indexing is something that a lot of people have liked for a long time. And it's something that would be very easy to do. And a lot of people have been talking about indexing for many years, and it is something that I am certainly thinking about.

I can say that a majority of the people in the White House at the level that does this kind of thing, they like indexing. So it is something I'm thinking about.

Payroll taxes, I have been thinking about payroll taxes for a long time. Whether or not we do it now or not is -- it's not being done because of recession, because we are -- legitimately, if we had a cut in interest rates by the Fed, if they would do their job properly, and if they would do a meaningful cut, because they raised too fast, you would see growth like you have not seen ever in this country.

Now, if you go from the election, that great November 8 day, if you go from November 9 to present, you're talking about almost a 60 percent increase in the stock market. You're talking about unemployment numbers that are the lowest in history in many categories, and, overall, almost the lowest ever in the history of our country. I think it was 1969.

And we are set to surpass that number. I mean, our country is doing very well. When I spoke to the president, we were just walking in, and he said, "Congratulations on the great success of your economy and your country."

And I appreciated that. But our country is doing very well.

QUESTION: Mr. President, would you agree strengthening American military forces in Romania?

TRUMP: Well, it is one of the things we will be talking about today. I assume you might be bringing that up. But it is something we will talk about.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: ... the G7, would you like to have Vladimir Putin back in the G7, make it the G8 again?

TRUMP: So, it was the G8 for a long time. And now it is the G7.

And a lot of the time we talk about -- we talk about Russia. We're talking about Russia, because I have gone to numerous G7 meetings. And I guess President Obama, because Putin outsmarted him, President Obama didn't thought it wasn't a good thing to have Russia in. So, he wanted Russia out.

But I think it is much more appropriate to have Russia in. It should be the G8, because a lot of things we talk about have to do with Russia. So I could certainly seeing it being the G8 again. And if somebody would make that motion, I would certainly think be disposed to think about it very favorably.

But, as you know, for most of the time it was the G8. It included Russia. And President Obama didn't want Russia in, because he got outsmarted. Well, that's not really the way it should work.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

TRUMP: Yes.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

TRUMP: We have spent a lot of time on it. We have spent a lot of time discussing it already. Our countries have been discussing it, and we're going to -- we're

taking it up today at a very important meeting right after this meeting.

Do you like the idea? It sounds like you like the idea, right, the waiver? Do you like the idea? OK. No, it's something we're thinking about.

QUESTION: Mr. President, on Venezuela, is the White House in contact with the Maduro regime?

TRUMP: Thank you.

QUESTION: With his number two, Cabello?

TRUMP: Well, we're in -- we are in touch. We're talking to various representatives of Venezuela. We're helping Venezuela as much as we can.

We're staying out of it, but we are helping it. And it needs a lot of help. It's an incredible tribute to something bad happening, and the something bad is socialism.

[15:05:02]

And it's amazing, because, 15 years ago, is one of the wealthiest countries. Now it's one of the poorest countries. It has oil reserves, has a lot of things going.

But it's a very sad thing, what's happened. They don't have water, they don't have food. And we are helping a lot. We are talking to the representatives at different levels of Venezuela, yes.

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: I don't want to say who, but we are talking at a very high level.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) the trade deal that you want to seal with Boris Johnson at the G7?

TRUMP: So, I spoke with Boris Johnson. I think he's going to be a great prime minister. I think he's going to do a fantastic job. I have known him.

A lot of people know that we have a very good relationship. I think he will be far superior. I think he will do something that will be a very -- I think he's going to be very important for the U.K. I think he's going to be very important.

Dealing with the European Union -- I hate to say this to you, but dealing with the European Union is very difficult. They drive a hard bargain. They are represent by Jean-Claude, who is a friend of mine, but he's a tough man. He's a very, very tough man. And he's a great negotiator. And we have all the cards in this country, because all we would have

to do is tax their cars, and they would give us anything they wanted, because they send millions of Mercedes over, they send millions of BMWs over.

But we're talking to the European Union. We're going to see if we can work something out. But I will say this. Dealing with the U.K., they have not treated the U.K. very well. They -- that's a very tough bargain they're driving, the European Union.

It's a very tough bargain. And I think that U.K. has the right man in charge right now, the right person in charge, in the form of boss.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) Afghanistan, what is your current thinking on pulling out the United States...

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: Well, we're talking to the government of Afghanistan. We're talking to the Taliban, and we're talking to others.

And we're looking at different things. We have been there for 18 years. It's ridiculous. We have taken it down a notch. We have -- we're at about 13,000 people right now, 13,000 Americans.

NATO has some troops there too, by the way. And we're having good discussions. We will see what happens. We will see what happens. Look, it's 18 years. We're like -- we're not really fighting. We're a -- almost more of a police force over there. It's been so many years.

But we're like a police force. And we're not supposed to be a police force. And as I have said -- and I will say it any number of times, and this is not using nuclear -- we could win that war in a week if we wanted to fight it. But I'm not looking to kill 10 million people. I'm not looking to kill 10 million Afghans, because that's what would have to happen. And I'm not looking to do that.

But it's a war that has been going on for almost 19 years now. And, frankly, it's ridiculous. But, with that being said, it's a dangerous place. And we have to always keep an eye on.

QUESTION: It sounds like you would like to pull completely out, if you could.

TRUMP: I would like to look at various alternatives. One of the alternatives is going on right now.

We're talking about a plan. I don't know whether or not the plan is going to be acceptable -- acceptable to me. And maybe it's not going to be acceptable to them.

But we are talking. We have good talks going, and we will see what happens. This is more than other presidents have done. But we have brought it down. We are bringing some of our troops back. But we have to have a presence, yes. QUESTION: Mr. President, could you clarify your position on enhanced

background checks? After El Paso and Dayton, you seemed to be fully in support...

TRUMP: Right.

QUESTION: ... of enhanced measures. When you were leaving Bedminster, you seemed to suggest that we already do have strong background laws, which a lot of people read as you dialing back...

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: I mean, I'm not doing that to be cute.

We have very, very strong background checks right now. But we have sort of missing areas and areas that don't complete the whole circle. And we're looking at different things.

And I have to tell you that it is a mental problem. And I have said it 100 times. It's not the gun that pulls the trigger. It's the person that pulls the trigger. These are sick people. And it is also that kind of a problem.

And we're looking at mental institutions, which we used to have. Like, as an example, where I come from in New York, they closed up almost all of their mental institutions or many of them. And those people just went onto the streets. And they did it for budgetary reasons.

Well, New York is not unique. They have done that in many places.

QUESTION: Would you support either of the House bills that were passed earlier this year?

TRUMP: Well, I'm not going to get into that, but we are in very meaningful discussions with the Democrats.

And I think the Republicans are very unified. We are very strong on our Second Amendment. The Democrats are not strong at all in the Second Amendment. I would say they're weak on the Second Amendment. And we have to be careful of that.

[15:10:00]

The Democrats would, I believe -- I think they'd give up the Second Amendment. And the people that -- a lot of the people that put me where I am are strong believers in the Second Amendment. And I am also.

And we have to be very careful about that. They call it the slippery slope, and all of a sudden, everything gets taken away. We're not going to let that happen.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

TRUMP: Yes, go ahead, please. QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

TRUMP: Go ahead.

KLAUS IOHANNIS, PRESIDENT OF ROMANIA: Well, I hope so, because we have good results, and I want to share those with President Trump.

TRUMP: What is your question?

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

TRUMP: It's so nice to have a question about Romania.

(LAUGHTER)

QUESTION: So I asked -- I asked you, will you discuss this issue, the fight against corruption, with (OFF-MIKE)

TRUMP: Sure, I will. Sure. Sure, I will Of course I will.

But I think that this is a man that can solve the corruption problem in Romania. And he's made big strides, from what I hear. I haven't been there recently. But he's made very big strides. And I think he's the man that can solve the corruption problem.

There are a number of really terrific countries like Romania, but they have a tremendous corruption problem. And I have heard you have made tremendous progress.

IOHANNIS: We did.

TRUMP: Yes.

QUESTION: Mr. President, what is the status of your foreign aid cut package? Do you still support cutting...

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: Well, we're looking at it. And we're looking at it in different ways.

And we're talking to Republicans and Democrats about it. And certain things, we can save. And certain things, it probably could be a penny wise. Maybe it's a penny wise. We will see. But we are looking at it. And we have some things that are on the table very much. And we will let over the next probably sooner than a week.

QUESTION: Mr. President, your administration has been taking steps to make it easier to discriminate against LGBT people in the work force. Are you OK with that?

TRUMP: Well, I just got an award and an endorsement yesterday from a -- the exact group, a group. They gave -- you saw that. They gave me the endorsement yesterday. And I was very honored to -- is it Log Cabin? The Log Cabin group. And I was very honored to receive it. No, I have done very well with that community. Some of my biggest

supporters are of that community. And I think they -- and I talk to them a lot about it. I think I have done really very well with that community.

As you know, Peter Thiel and so many others, they're -- they're with me all the way. And they like the job I'm doing. And I just got a big endorsement from the Log Cabin group.

Yes.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) You keep insisting that your trade war with China, the trade war with China is not affecting the U.S. economy.

But a lot of economists disagree with that, and they worry (OFF-MIKE)

TRUMP: Well, OK. Let me -- let me tell you something.

Number one, we're doing very well as an economy. But somebody had to take China on. I read and I see so much. And I read so much. And I will see these economists saying, oh, give up, give up on China, give up.

China has been ripping this country off for 25 years, for longer than that. And it's about time. Whether it's good for our country or bad for our country short term, long term, it's imperative that somebody does this, because our country cannot continue to pay China $500 billion a year, because stupid people are running it.

So I don't mind this question. Whether it's good or bad short term is irrelevant. We have to solve the problem with China, because they're taking our $500 billion a year plus. And that doesn't include intellectual property theft and other things and also national security.

So I am doing this whether it's good or bad for your statement about, oh, will we fall into a recession for two months, OK? The fact is, somebody had to take China on. My life would be a lot easier if I didn't take China on. But I like that doing it because I have to do it. And we're getting great results.

China has had the worst year they have had in 27 years, and a lot of people are saying the worst year they have had in 54 years. OK? And, frankly, I don't want that to happen. But it does put us in a good negotiating position, doesn't it?

And China wants to make a deal. And that's good. But they have to make a deal that's fair to us. It can't be a deal that's not fair to us. And you should be happy that I'm fighting this and I'm fighting this battle, because somebody had to do it.

We couldn't let this go. And I don't even think it's sustainable to let go on what was happening. They were stealing all of our intellectual property, ideas. The theft was incredible. They call it intellectual property theft. And they value it at $300 billion a year. Who knows how they value

it? I know how to value dollars. I don't know how to value intellectual property theft, but they have experts that say it's at least $300 billion a year, where they steal it. Somebody had to do something with China.

[15:15:00]

Obama should have done it. Bush should have done it. Clinton should have done it. They all should have done it. Nobody did it. I'm doing it.

So, what do you say? Oh, my trade deals are causing a -- my trade deals aren't causing a problem. This is something that had to be done. The only difference is, I'm doing it. I could be sitting here right now with the stock market that would be up 10,000 points higher if I didn't want to do it.

But I think we have no choice but to do it. And a lot of people that really know, people that love our country, they're saying thank you very much for taking it on. And we're winning, because they're having the worst year they have had in decades.

And it's only going to get worse. China's two lost million jobs in the last month-and-a-half, because they're moving. The people, the companies are moving to non-tariff countries. They have lost over two million jobs in a very short period of time. They're going to lose a lot more jobs.

And if I didn't help certain companies or American companies, like Apple -- for a very short period of time, I may help them, only until they do what they have to do, which is probably move.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: All right.

So you're listening to President Trump there. And I think really the headline is on the fact that he did acknowledge that his administration is thinking of some sort of possible tax cuts to spur the economy.

I know he's saying that the word recession is an inappropriate word and blaming other people for using the word recession, although I would argue top economists have been using the word recession, still acknowledging that maybe a possible payroll tax cut is on the table.

So I have got a lot of smart economic minds to my right, Joe Ciolli, Linette Lopez, Cristina Alesci.

Cristina, let me just start with you on first just the payroll tax cut potential. What did you think of some of the news he made?

CRISTINA ALESCI, CNN POLITICS AND BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Well, the contradiction is remarkable, because, on the one hand, he's going out there trying to convince Americans that he has the Midas touch with the economy and it's never been stronger. And, on the other hand, he is pressuring the Central Bank to lower

interest rates, which is something that you would only do if the economy was slowing down. So how you square that, I'm not exactly sure.

(CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: Yes.

ALESCI: And the payroll tax cut, whether it's a payroll tax cut or a middle-income tax cut, it's becoming clear that he has to do something, because it's going to help him politically.

The Democrats are going to slam him for the corporate tax cuts that $1.5 trillion, to our deficit -- to our debt. So he knows that that political attack is coming. And he is looking to do something for the middle class, perhaps, or at least float something to the middle class that could give him a win politically.

BALDWIN: So, Joe, she makes the perfect point. I just want you to jump in on that.

It's sort of like they're these, you know, flashing bright lights that danger ahead, potentially, economically speaking. And he's essentially acting like, we're cool.

JOE CIOLLI, "BUSINESS INSIDER": Yes.

BALDWIN: But, oh, by the way, yes, we are considering doing A, B and C to mitigate any potential problems down the road.

CIOLLI: Yes, the real subtext here is that the White House is scared about what's happening with the economy. They're starting to react privately and then outwardly by acknowledging it, that there's something going on this.

This payroll tax cut is a pretty unprecedented move. We didn't see it since 2011-2012, when the Obama administration did it so we could dig out of the last recession. They didn't do it before the previous recession, they did it as a recovery method.

So the fact that that's even on the table is worrisome. And then we have had reports coming out that they're talking about maybe taking their foot off the gas pedal with the China tariffs. We have a bunch going into effect in September, more in December.

So the fact that these are even discussions that are happening and being reported and then acknowledged by the president himself, it shows that they're worried in the White House.

BALDWIN: Can we just also, just staying with you, take a quick step back? Because we're talking about payroll tax and payroll tax cuts.

Just remind everyone what a payroll tax is, if they were to cut it, how much more pennies, nickels, and dimes somebody may have, if much at all. CIOLLI: So what they would do if the payroll tax cut went into place,

that would just immediately juice everyone's paycheck. It would be a kind of a quick hit to everyone's wallet. And that would theoretically be then deployed into the economy.

Right now, the consumer is really what's keeping the economy going. Businesses have really slowed spending. So it's on the consumer to keep things afloat. And by doing this, they would be given a little more disposable income to theoretically deploy in the market.

LINETTE LOPEZ, SENIOR FINANCE CORRESPONDENT, "BUSINESS INSIDER": But it's not very much. It's about 80 bucks a month.

So we're not talking about a huge juicing of the economy. And when you go into a recession, like Trump suggested in that clip we might actually do for just two months, but who actually knows, if you go into a recession, you don't want to starve social services for people who might find themselves in a bad way.

And when you cut the payroll tax cut, you're immediately making sure that fewer funds go into Social Security and Medicare and all these things that we pay for it with the payroll tax cut. So that $80 a month may not mean much to you and your family right there, but it does mean a lot in aggregate. It does mean a lot together for those programs.

And I would just like to say one thing. He kept saying if the Fed would do its job. The Fed's job is twofold, to make sure that unemployment is low, that is, many Americans have a job as possible, and also to make sure that inflation doesn't run away with us.

[15:20:03]

We don't have either of those two problems in the United States of America, as he pointed out. So the Fed's job in keeping prices stable, that they're doing it, actually.

ALESCI: It's not to help him get reelected.

LOPEZ: Its job is not to help him get reelected. The Fed is absolutely doing its job right now.

He's hoping that he can knock on this door and maybe it'll juice the economy a teeny-weensy bit, not even...

(CROSSTALK)

ALESCI: Until, by the way, just after the election, right?

LOPEZ: Exactly.

ALESCI: It only needs to get through November.

BALDWIN: That's the pretense, as we watch any of this, is the politics of this, wants to keep the economy moving and grooving, and through November of 2020. ALESCI: You hit it. You hit it. You hit it.

But I think it's also an important point to fact-check him on his economic prowess, let's just say, to put it that way.

BALDWIN: Go for it.

ALESCI: OK.

He's talking about record growth. Well, if you look at growth, projected growth in 2019 is 2.1 percent.

(CROSSTALK)

ALESCI: That is not much different than the final years of the Obama administration.

BALDWIN: No.

ALESCI: OK, wages are rising. We can give him credit for that. But manufacturing is experiencing a really big slowdown. Now, it's a small part of the economy, but it's an important part of -- it's important part of a weather vane for the economy.

(CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: Because he said specifically when he was talking about the trade war with China, he said, this is huge to think about it long term taking on China.

But he said, in the short term, the effect on our economy is irrelevant, was the word he used.

And I just thought of everyone sitting...

(CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: ... these farmers.

(CROSSTALK)

LOPEZ: That's not real at all.

And another thing is, he's saying we're going full speed ahead into this fight with China. He's like, I don't care what happens. I don't care what the economists say. We have to do this.

And what that's going to do to business investment is, yes. Like, this is him saying, we're going in no matter what happens, and there's no end in sight, because the Chinese, they're not looking like backing down any time soon either. So prepare for the long haul.

(CROSSTALK)

ALESCI: Yes, he's not saying the other side of this.

He's trying to say that all of this pressuring the Chinese is working.

It's not. The Chinese do not have a two-year cycle or a 18-month cycle they're looking at. They're looking at the next 50 years. They can take the pain. And that is not something that I think he's messaging, because it's not politically convenient.

LOPEZ: He's not -- he can't take any pain at all.

(CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: Thank you, guys. Thank, all three of you. I appreciate it, sitting with me and watching all of that.

Much more to discuss, including President Trump saying Russia should be back in the G8. That was another news line from him.

Also ahead, even after two mass shootings just 17 days ago, the president already appears to be cooling on background checks. I think the direct quote from him was, "We're looking at some things." That was the president.

We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:27:40]

BALDWIN: Want to continue the conversation, just a bit more analysis of what we just heard from President Trump.

Moments ago, we heard him seeming to back away from the idea of background checks, despite showing support for it after those back-to- back mass shootings in El Paso and in Dayton.

Jim Acosta is our chief White House correspondent.

And I also know you have new reporting about how those background check conversations have been going behind the scenes.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Right.

BALDWIN: So, tell me what you know.

ACOSTA: Yes, Brooke.

I mean, we just heard the president a few moments ago once again throw cold water on this idea of new background check legislation when Congress returns. The president was just saying a few moments ago that we have in this country very strong background checks. He said that there are some missing areas. He did talk about that.

But, at the same time, Brooke, I think we should take note of some of the language the president used towards the end of his remarks there talking about gun control. He said we have to be careful about a very slippery slope, a slippery slope, that he says we're not going to let that happen. Brooke, I want to point you to something the president said on August

9, just earlier this month, where he seemed to take issue with the NRA's notion that background checks could lead to a slippery slope.

He said: "Look, the NRA has over the years taken a very tough stance on everything. You know, it's a slippery slope. They think you approve one thing and that leads to a lot of bad things."

So the president, he was taking issue with the NRA's notion that there's a slippery slope if you pass new background check legislation. He seemed to be parroting those same NRA talking points just a few moments ago.

I will tell you, Brooke, I have been talking to a number of sources up on Capitol Hill in the Republican Party. They all seem to be saying, while the president was on vacation in Bedminster, he was talking to lawmakers up on Capitol Hill in the House and in the Senate. And based on those conversations, aides and GOP officials are saying the president does appear to be backing away from background check legislation, gun control legislation, as Congress returns.

You did hear the president say he's leaving some wiggle room there. He said there are some missing areas, but it sounds as though he is throwing cold water on the idea, after sounding open to it in the aftermath of El Paso on what happened in Dayton, Ohio -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: All right. So that's where we are on that.

I also want to play another clip. This was the president attacking Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib once again. So let's play that clip.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I mean, Omar is a disaster for Jewish people. I can't imagine if she has any Jewish people