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Trump Takes Questions at the White House; Trump's Position on Background Checks; Trump Calls Danish Prime Minister's Statement Nasty; Parkland Parent Talks about Gun Legislation; Trump Spurns Denmark. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired August 21, 2019 - 13:00   ET


[13:00:00] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The economy. If the Fed did what they were supposed to do, they'd drop interest rates by 100 basis points, they maybe would do not only not tightening, but they'd do some loosening or leave it alone, do nothing. But if they dropped interest rates by 100 basis points or more. Nobody -- nobody would be able to compete with the United States.

Right now the Fed is tying our hands because we're paying interest rates and Germany and others countries that aren't like us are not. It should be the other way around in a sense. But why should they be paying no interest rates and even have an incentive beyond that and we're paying interest rates.

The Fed has missed the call for a long time.


TRUMP: I think we have a very strong economy. I don't -- I just don't see any reason to. I think the Fed has been very late and very early. They were very early to raise and they're very, very late to cut. But the Fed can do the whole thing.

Yesterday we had the strongest dollar in the history of our country. Yesterday -- wait. Yesterday we had the strongest dollar in the history of our country. Now, in one way, I'm honored by that. But in another way, it makes it much harder to export goods. You understand.

So in two ways, one, I love it, but in another way I don't like it because it's much harder to compete. But we had literally the strongest dollar in the history of our country.


TRUMP: Say it?


TRUMP: We're looking at that very seriously, birthright citizenship, where you have a baby in our land, you walk over the border, have a baby, congratulations, the baby is now a U.S. citizen. We're looking at it very, very seriously.


TRUMP: I don't know how you found that out, but that's very good.

We are looking at birthright citizenship very seriously. It's -- it's, frankly, ridiculous.


TRUMP: Do I what?


TRUMP: I am the one that kept the families together. OK. You remember that, right? Just remember I said it. And now it gets even better. President Obama and others brought the families apart. But I'm the one that kept the families together.

With what we're doing now, we'll do even more of that, but it will make it almost impossible for people to come into our country illegally.

Plus, we're building large sections of the wall. I won the lawsuit two weeks ago in the Supreme Court. We're building large sections of wall and lots of other things are happening.


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: All right, you've been watching President Trump there with a head spinning question and answer session on a number of issues that included, of course, many falsehoods and, frankly, a lot of things that didn't even make sense.

After first supporting, quote, meaningful background checks for guns, he then caved after hearing from the NRA. And then moments ago says that he's for them. No details though. No policy specifics.

He then called the female Danish prime minister nasty for saying his idea to buy Greenland is absurd, even though it was never for sale. And, keep in mind, he's the one to cancel his visit to the U.S. ally. Again, no details there. No policy specifics.

And then, just 24 hours after saying he's considering a payroll tax cut to juice an economy that he says is not showing any warning signs, he is now backtracking on that.

He also says the trade war that he started with China isn't his, but he's the, quote, chosen one to do it.

He also tripled down on that trope of saying that Jews who don't vote for him are disloyal.

The only thing that he appears to be clear on in his never -- is his never ending praise for Russia, once again saying the adversary meddling with America's democracy should be rewarded and invited back into the G-8.

I want to bring in CNN's Kaitlan Collins and our host of "INSIDE POLITICS" John King.

Kaitlan, you're there at the White House. Let us start with the issue of guns here. He is -- he's really all over the place.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Brianna, this was a long wining gaggle. The president took questions for about 40 minutes in the 90 degree heat where he repeatedly backtracked on things he said just yesterday or things he told the NRA chief, Wayne LaPierre, in a call earlier this week, when we're told he cemented this idea that he wasn't going to push for those background checks any locker. A position he had taken in reason days but seemed to solidify during that phone call with the head of the NRA.

But the president told reporters there when I asked him, what happened to this strong appetite that he maintained there was for strengthening background checks, he said he still wanted to move forward with background checks. He said there were loopholes he wanted to close, even though he didn't disclose what those loopholes were. And he denied telling Wayne LaPierre that he was not going to pursue background checks.

[13:05:06] That's not what our reporting shows, but the president there was maintaining that.

He then quickly moved on to talk about loopholes on immigration on the border, while talking about being asked about background checks, before then moving on, the president came back to the background checks repeatedly several times throughout that when he was asked about this point he was making which comes from reporting we have that Wayne LaPierre told the president, no matter what he does on make -- more restrictive gun measures, it's never going to be enough for the Democrats. That's something we heard the president repeat there, that he fears if Republicans do move on gun control, that Democrats will still want more.

When he was asked about the slippery slope comment being an NRA talking point, the president denied that and said it's a Trump talking point. But clearly there is not a center here where we are in this White House on gun control and where the president's position is. And that's why you've seen Senate Republicans be hesitant to come out in favor of certain measures because they fear the president will later back off of them depending on who his audience is.

KEILAR: He's back and forth. Back and forth.

And he went after you, Kaitlan. Why?

COLLINS: He had been asked a question by another report about Joe Biden and mistakes that Joe Biden has made, missteps he's made, and comparing those to ones the president himself has made when he said he was going to go to Toledo, Ohio, instead of Dayton, Ohio, where that shooting occurred. The president was comparing those. The president was criticizing the reporter from NBC News. Then he also criticized CNN, talking about a lack of credibility and reporters.

And that also came as the reporter -- the president was repeating those claims that he's been making in reason days about reporters wanting a recession to happen because he think -- they think it will hurt his re-election chances, which, of course, is not true. But the president was repeating that while maintaining that the economy is still strong, even though he was calling for federal rate cuts, those big Fed rate cuts that he had been calling for in reason days, which there raises questions, why do you need those rate cuts if the economy is doing so well?

But the president also backtracked on saying he's considering that payroll tax cut and indexing, something the president now says he is not considering.

KEILAR: All right, John King, let's break down where the president is on guns. Just to give people a road map, because you really need one here, initially after the shootings, he's talking about background checks, he's talking about how Mitch McConnell's amenable to this. He's not. He's talking about how the NRA doesn't have influence over him on this. Then we hear him publicly say that there are already all kinds of -- there are already a lot of background checks. He's signaling he's walking away from it. And now there's this. What's going on?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We have more uncertainty and we have seen this movie before in the sense that after Parkland, the president leaned in and said we have to do something. And, yes, he said, we want to do limited things. And we're not going to do everything the Democrats want. But he said after Parkland we're going to do something. Then, after talking to the NRA, he retreated. He said after Dayton and El Paso, we're going to do something. He said it would be meaningful. Then, after talking to the NRA and conservatives in Congress, he retreated.

Yesterday, the White House made clear, as Kaitlan noted, never mind, we have existing background check laws. We don't need to do this. And now the president today saying, we might do something and clearly saying he -- that he wanted to do something modest.

We don't know. We -- the answer is, we don't know, because it changes from day to day, sometimes from minute to minute. Even some of those answers from the president were inconsistent.

But here's what we do know. Unless the president is very clear, very specific and very consistent, Republicans heading into an election year are not going to touch the issue of gun control, even modest expansions of background checks. So for something to happen, the president needs to be consistent, specific, consistent, specific, and today, and in recent days, and after the last mass shooting, and the recent mass shootings, he's been anything but.

KEILAR: The only way to deal with an intractable issue is to throw the full weight of the presidency behind it and to push and push and to not really let off the gas, right?

KING: Yes, he could come forward and say, this is a hypothetical, but we are going to do this improvement. What we believe to be an improvement to background checks. I will support this grant program to the states for red flag laws to try to do a better job to keep people with mental illnesses, who are at risk to themselves, to keep them from getting weapons. A lot of Republicans don't want that as a federal law. They think it should be a state by state issue.

He could come forward with two or three relatively modest things like that, and he could say, I know the Democrats want to do more. We can talk about that after. Let's do this now. We have an immediate crisis before us. Let's do this. Then we can have a broader conversation.

If he did that, he could bring his party to the table and, yes, put pressure on Democrats who would say it's not enough. We want to do, you know, high capacity magazines. We want to do assault weapons. There's no way. The votes aren't there. Whether you agree or disagree with the Democrats on that, the votes aren't there in the Senate right now.

But the president could have a modest two or three step package and he could say, I have told the NRA (INAUDIBLE) either to be on board or pick a fight with the NRA. But the president (INAUDIBLE) he is inconsistent. And if he is not specific, it is not going to happen.

KEILAR: He -- on the trade war. He actually tried to distance himself from his own trade war.

That's Obama's fault. And, look, the president is absolutely right when he says that China has been cheating for 25 years. And that Bill Clinton didn't do enough about it. George W. Bush didn't do enough about it. Barack Obama didn't do enough about it, or didn't want to pick the fights for other reasons. Thought there were reasons the U.S. is benefiting so much, we won't pick these fights. Start the conversations, not finish the conversations.

[13:10:15] The president is absolutely right. The question now is, the uncertainty about the tariffs are a big contributing factor to the possibility of an American recession, to the obvious fact of global slowdown in China, in Germany, across Europe, and the president has to make a decision. This is a political decision now as well as an economic decision. Is he willing to cut a bad deal or a modest deal, a compromise deal (INAUDIBLE)? Is he willing to go into an election year where if he does not, the U.S. economy might go into a recession. It might stop short of going into a recession but still slow down significantly and hurt him politically.

The president actually deserves a lot of credit for standing up to China. You can -- a lot of people out there will cringe at that. You know, a lot of people question how he's done it. Standing up to China is not a bad thing. You can question it. I'm not smart enough to tell you whether this day or that day or this tariff is the right way to do it.

But now is the -- he thought that they would work this out by now. He thought that the U.S. economy was big and bold and strong enough to fight it off. The evidence is before us that this is having a big impact on the economy. The calendar tells us there's an election around the corner. The president's going to have to make a decision. He started this. Yes, he inherited a mess. Other presidents could

have, perhaps should have done more. He started this. It's his trade war. Now it's his decision.

KEILAR: So this was 40 minutes about the president was speaking. So there was just this parade of issues. And one of them had to do with his visit to Denmark, which he's canceled.

And, Kaitlan, he called the female Danish prime minister nasty for saying that his idea to buy Greenland is absurd.

COLLINS: Yes, the president was clearly miffed by the reaction to those reports that he was considering purchasing Greenland, especially the one from the prime minister where she said Greenland is not for sale. She referred to the president's idea as absurd and said that they hoped they thought that it was not -- the president was not being serious about doing so. And the president was clearly irritated by that. He talked about maybe he wasn't that serious about buying Greenland, but he said past presidents have considered doing so, which is true. He repeatedly cited Harry Truman.

But the president was clearly irritated by her response to it because he says, in his opinion, he feels like she blew him off. Now, the president said maybe he'll travel there later on, but he said he will not be going there in a week and a half because of this. And the president seemed to defend that by simply just saying that her reaction to it was what bothered him, not anything else about the trip. Even though our sources were telling us privately the president was already complaining about the idea that he was going to have to go to Europe twice within about a week of each other because, of course, this is a president who doesn't like to travel much overseas.

But the first trip that the president is heading to this weekend, Brianna, is the G-7. And the president repeated and renewed his calls for Russia to be readmitted to the G-7, saying that the only reason he believes they were expelled is because President Obama was upset that they outsmarted him by annexing Crimea.

Now, of course, they were expelled because they annexed in something that they said broke international law that many countries condemned Russia for. And even France's president, who said he would consider having them rejoin the G-7, says there are conditions with that. The president there did not say there are any conditions. He said that they're talking about Russia at the G-7. Russia might as well be there.

KEILAR: All right, so, I mean, it's interesting to hear Kaitlan describe that because in one breath, you know, he has words for Denmark, which is a U.S. ally, and then he's praising Russia.

KING: Yes. And, again, invoking Obama. That if you got stuck in traffic today, if you don't like the family separation policy, if you are wondering why he flip flops on --

KEILAR: And that's false. He said --

KING: Right.

KEILAR: Just to be clear, he said, I'm the one who kept families together.

KING: Right. Right.

KEILAR: Obama tore them apart. That's false.

KING: Right.

And yesterday he was for a payroll tax cut. Today he's against it. And he's citing Obama. Somebody told the president Obama did this twice to get the president to back off. That's what they do. The staff members know, if they slip Obama in front of him, he will be -- want to be as far away from it as possible.

Russia did take Crimea on Obama's watch. The world community said this is wrong and imposed sanctions. No, they did not role in the tanks to force Russia out. They decided, instead, to impose economic sanctions and then the symbolic sanction, if you want to call it that, of kicking Russia out of this organization. The president now says they should come back in, even though Russia still has Crimea.

To your point about who the president likes and who he doesn't like, who he says is nasty and who isn't, the French have already said the president is over describing President Macron's views. Boris Johnson, the new prime minister of the United Kingdom, and Angela Merkel, the chancellor of Germany, said today that they see -- they do not see the -- Russia meeting the test yet to be allowed back into the G-7.

So the president has -- is going to have some friction here with Angela Merkel, another strong female leader with whom he has had differences and who he believes is his new friend on the world stage, Boris Johnson. Here's a little -- early bit of tension between those two. I suspect he won't call Boris Johnson nasty.

KEILAR: I suspect he will not. That's a very good point, John King.

And thank you so much.

KING: You're welcome.

KEILAR: Kaitlan Collins, at the White House, as well.

Let's get back now to this issue of gun violence.

[13:15:02] Manuel Olive and his wife Patricia lost their son Joaquin in the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

Manuel, you and your wife founded the Change the Ref Organization. This was in your son's memory. And I just want to thank you for joining us today to talk about this issue.

MANUEL OLIVER, FATHER OF PARKLAND SHOOTING VICTIM JOAQUIN "GUAC" OLIVER: Thank you for having us here. It's a pleasure. KEILAR: We want to know how you're doing, because I also know you just happened to be in El Paso during the recent shooting there, you and your wife were, and you were honoring your son on his birthday by trying to visit migrants and lend emotional support to them at the border.

What is it like to watch the same thing happen again that happened to your child and feel like nothing is being done to prevent it?

OLIVER: Well, I wasn't surprised when I got the news. It was thanks to a lot of friends and groups that know what we do. They were concerned about our being inside the shooting. So they -- everybody was texting us, are you -- is everything OK. That's how we noticed that something was going on. Something was wrong. Another mass shooting. I mean this is -- I get these texts like very frequently. Sad. True of my life is that. So I was not surprised. I'm glad that I was able to be there and somehow talk to members of the community.

KEILAR: What do you think when you hear the president, he's talking about supporting strengthened background checks. He backs away from it again. And then we just heard him there at the White House saying, again, that he is looking at doing something on background checks.

What do you think about that?

OLIVER: I don't trust Donald Trump as a person that can do anything about this. I don't think he's concerned enough. He goes back and forward. (INAUDIBLE) since before I lost my son Joaquin. It's his regular attitude. I'm not expecting him to solve it. To be honest, I have never expected that to happen from him.

However, he should. He should be concerned. Maybe I'm concerned because I lost my son. Maybe I'm concerned because I've been able to meet with people that every single day lose a son, a daughter, a wife or a husband. Maybe I'm concerned because I know 40,000 people will lose their lives this year. But the president doesn't really care.

So, is that important? Do we -- should we care that much about what Donald Trump thinks about this? To be honest, me, I don't -- I don't even follow that thing (ph), that comment that will give hope one day and the other day give frustration. So I'll -- I'd rather stay on my path that is fixing this from happening again.

KEILAR: And so what does that take? What does it take to fix this?

OLIVER: Well, number one, guts. You need to be out there and be brave enough to talk to the NRA and tell them what really happens in here. We have a president that is more concerned about selling guns from the gun manufacturers, giving them all the benefit of that industry than people dying out of that.

So that's number one, you've got to be brave, you're going to be mad. You've got to be a responsible person and citizen, like my wife, like me, like my friend Fred Guttenberg and many others. We are parents. And I'm still a father. And I should be doing what I'm doing for my son. KEILAR: Manuel Oliver, as you said, be brave and be mad. We will

continue to follow this story with you.

Thank you so much.

OLIVER: Thank you very much. Have a great day.

KEILAR: You as well.

And one of America's allies is livid after the president snubs Denmark because they refused to entertain offers to sell Greenland.

Plus, he praises Russia, which is still meddling in America's democracy, and he wants them back into the G-7.

And why the administration just moved to keep migrant families in detention longer.


[13:23:50] KEILAR: Moments ago, President Trump lashed out at the prime of Denmark for her reaction to his idea of the U.S. buying Greenland.


QUESTION: Selling Greenland?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Yes. No, Denmark, I looked forward to going, but I thought that the prime minister's statement that it was absurd, that wasn't -- it was an absurd idea, it was nasty. I thought it was an inappropriate statement. All she had to do is say, no, we would not be interested. But we can't treat the United States of America the way they treated us under President Obama. I thought it was a very -- not nice way of saying something.


KEILAR: All right, these comments following the president's announcement on Twitter that he is postponing his state visit to Denmark, leaving officials there very much in shock.

Let's bring in former director of national intelligence, and CNN national security analyst, General James Clapper here with us now.

OK, so this -- I mean this trip had actually been on the books for a while, before this controversy erupted. What's your reaction to this whole thing?

JAMES CLAPPER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, I think it's a terrible insult, really, to -- Denmark has been a longstanding stalwart ally of the United States. Deployed with us and lost many troops, particularly for a country that small. So, I mean, this whole episode of buying Greenland, to me, is -- it is absurd. I thought their -- the prime minister's description of it was right on the money and I just -- but it's more of the same of bizarre behavior. [13:25:26] KEILAR: Is it important that he visits Denmark and

maintains that relationship?

CLAPPER: Well, I think it -- having made the commitment, and Denmark already had preparations underway for it, yes, I think we -- it -- the appropriate thing to do was to fulfill the commitment. But to call it off at relatively speaking kind of late in the process, for the position that the government of Denmark has taken on selling Demark -- or selling Greenland, I mean how else would you expect them to react? How would we react if Russia says, well, we're going to buy Alaska back or Japan buys Hawaii? It's equally absurd.

KEILAR: Yes, probably call it even more than absurd.

So, you know, it seems like with this episode that he's seeing the world almost as a bit of a Monopoly board. Does his view about Greenland and the idea that you could just purchase it, or if he's seriously considering that, as he appears to be, or appears to have been, does that tell you anything about how, for instance, he views Russia's land grab? Grabbing, annexing Crimea, which is the reason why it was booted from the G-7, which -- or G-8, which he seems to not really have a problem with now.

CLAPPER: Yes. I can't -- I wouldn't try to analyze the thought process here, or if there is, in fact, any relationship between the response to Denmark versus --

KEILAR: But he doesn't think it's --

CLAPPER: His continued deference to Russia.

KEILAR: The annexation doesn't seem to be, to him, to register as a big enough deal, as a negative, that he would say, Russia should stay out of the G-8.


KEILAR: He's -- he's making this statement that, you know, talking about them coming back. What do you make of that?

CLAPPER: He's consistent -- consistent with, you know, giving a pass to Russia. And the reason they were booted out of it -- the then G-8 was a seizure of Crimea. Well, that situation hasn't changed any. Not to mention their toe hold in -- in the Ukraine, shoot down of MH-17 and, of course, the blatant interference in our election in 2016. And they're going to be back in 2020. So this strange deference to Russia and to Putin personally continues to mystify me.

KEILAR: This is how he actually described the decision about booting Russia out of the G-8, which is now the G-7. Let's listen.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: President Putin totally outsmarted President Obama on Crimea and other things, including the red line in the sand, all right. He outsmarted. He made a living on outsmarting President Obama. And, frankly, because of it, Obama was upset and he got Obama out of what was the G-8 into the G-7.

It's come up, should we put Russia back in? We spend a lot of time talking about Russia at those meetings and they're not there. I think it would be a good thing if Russia were there so we can speak directly.


KEILAR: He says Obama was outsmarted.

So you were around for that episode. What do you -- what's your reaction to that?

CLAPPER: Well, I never have understood this preoccupation of President Trump with President Obama, unless I -- I think, you know, has a certain amount of jealousy, I guess. I don't know what it is, why he keeps harking back to that.

So -- and this wasn't a unilateral U.S. decision to boot Russia out of the G-8. This -- this was all the nations involved wanted to do this. It was a unanimous thing. So to blame it all on President Obama for, which he likes to do, blame President Obama for everything, again, is strange.

KEILAR: All right, General James Clapper, thank you so much.

CLAPPER: Thanks. Thanks, Brianna.

KEILAR: We always love discussing these things with you.

And President Trump under fire now for saying that Jews who don't vote for him are disloyal and he is refusing to back down. Let's discuss why.