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Economic Turmoil?; Putin Orders Military Response to U.S. Missile Test; Ruth Bader Ginsburg Undergoes Cancer Treatment. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired August 23, 2019 - 15:00   ET



BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: But Trump didn't stop with China or its president, Xi Jinping, who he compared to Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, the man Trump nominated to lead the agency two years ago.

But, today, President Trump asked whether Jerome Powell or President Xi was the biggest enemy of the U.S. For his part, Chairman Powell told economists today that there is a risk of an economic slowdown, noting that the Fed is ready to take appropriate steps.

By the way, the Fed holds its next rate-setting meeting in just a couple of weeks.

So let's begin with our CNN White House correspondent, Abby Phillip, who's with me there live in Washington.

And so, Abby, CNN has learned -- just first on China, learned that the president and his trade team met after China announced those new tariffs, and he promised some sort of response this afternoon. Do we have any further details on what the White House may be planning in response?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brooke, we have really heard nothing at all from the White House or from President Trump., I should add.

His Twitter feed has been pretty silent for the last several hours. But, as you said, he met earlier today with his trade team, trying to come up with some kind of response to these new retaliatory tariffs from China.

But he has signaled that he is not backing down. In fact, he's trying to convince U.S. companies to pull out of China altogether, saying that the United States doesn't need China at all.

And there's a big question this afternoon about, what form will this response take? Will we see President Trump today? Will he issue a written statement of some kind? Will there be more forceful measures coming from the White House?

We just simply don't know as of this moment. But, as you pointed out, Wall Street, economists, investors, they have been hanging on every word from President Trump. The markets reacting strongly to everything that he has been saying on social media thus far.

So, really, the stakes are quite high for what President Trump will say today, just hours, mind you, before he is set to get on an airplane and leave for France for the G7 summit with world leaders.

BALDWIN: Let's talk about that G7, because we have new reporting that folks familiar with conversations tell CNN that President Trump has complained about having to go to the G7 for his third time, asking why he has to attend.

So what's going on there, Abby?

PHILLIP: The G7 has always been for President Trump one of the more contentious of these summits that are convened multiple times in a year with other world leaders.

And, remember, last year, the president was at the center of this almost iconic photograph of German Chancellor Angela Merkel staring at him over a table, practically pointing at him, trying to convince him, along with other world leaders, to sign on to this communique document that the president did not want to sign.

And so that's the kind of environment that President Trump is going in -- into. And our sources are telling us that the president's been telling his aides he doesn't understand why he needs to be at the G7 at all. He has complained about some of the sessions which have been focused on the economy, on things like the oceans.

Remember, the president pulled the United States out of the climate Paris accord -- the Paris climate accord, which most of the other world leaders signed on to -- all of the other world leaders signed on to.

So there is some underlying tension there. The president has also wanted to have more venues to brag about his own accomplishments and brag about the American economy. Aides have tried to create some new venues this weekend for him to do that. But there is a sense of dread both from President Trump's part, but also from the other world leaders who know that this is the kind of environment that the G7 often is.

Emmanuel Macron this week said that they're not even going to attempt to have a communique this year, in part to eliminate the possibility that there will be a contentious fight over the wording of such a document, a fight that President Trump might be the leader of -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: Won't even have a communique this year.

Abby Phillip at the White House, Abby, thank you very much. We will stand by for that response from the White House on the markets.

Back here at home, Fed Chief Jerome Powell is speaking at an annual economic forum on the very same day, as we mentioned, that the president of the United States question whether Powell or the president of China was the nation's biggest enemy. CNN business correspondent Alison Kosik is tracking the action down at

the New York Stock Exchange.

And so you tell me, what are the details on Powell's speech today? And how are investors reacting?

ALISON KOSIK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, clearly, they're not reacting well, simply because of those tweets from President Trump.

Those tweets are really stirring up the sell-off that you're seeing. Right now, stocks are close to session lows. But you did see investors really pay attention to all the tweets that President Trump made today, both on China and as he sort of pulverized Fed Chief Jay Powell right there on Twitter, saying, as usual, the Fed did nothing.

But here's the thing. The Fed, meaning the Fed members, the Fed chief, they're all at a conference in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. It's not an actual Fed meeting where decisions are historically made.


So the expectation that a rate cut or some sort of decision was supposed to happen is really unrealistic. And for the president to go ahead and lash out against Jay Powell was really out of line, what many investors here have told me.

Usually, when you see a Fed chief make a rate decision outside of a regular Fed meeting, it's for an emergency. And the last time I looked, we're not in any kind of economic emergency. The next meeting for the Fed is on September 17 and 18.

And while there are expectations that the Fed could go ahead and cut rates, again, Fed Chief Jay Powell really didn't give any indication that that would actually happen, although, Brooke, he did acknowledge that in the three weeks since Powell did have that rate cut happen, he has seen more turbulence in the economy -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: Alison Kosik, thank you very much.

Liz Ann Sonders is senior vice president and chief investment strategist for Charles Schwab.

So, nice to have you, Liz.


BALDWIN: And, first off, your thoughts on China's moves today. What do you think their reasoning was for doing this now?

SONDERS: Well, I think it's retaliation. It was clearly tied to the initial decision to go to 10 percent on the remaining $300 billion.

I think the only thing that was tied to the more recent news was when the Trump administration split the tariffs, conceding that there would be an impact on the consumer, with only some kicking in on September 1 and the others December 15. The fact that China timed their implementation of tariffs to that same

point made it a more direct retaliation. But to have expected China not to retaliate, I think, was probably foolish, to the extent people thought that they would just sit back.

BALDWIN: So they have retaliated. We're basically more than a year- and-a-half into this fight with China.

You tell me, is there any hope of a deal being made, because that is the biggest immediate economic boost we could get?


And I think, absent a deal, which I think does not look like there's any chance of that happening, at least in the near term -- it doesn't look like either side is in a position to do the kind of compromising that would be necessary to get not just a trade deal-lite, but something comprehensive in nature.

And I think the hit to business confidence and the denting of animal spirits, which has led to a rolling over of capital spending intention plans and really eliminated the hope that we would extend this expansion by having business investment spending kicking from what has been more of a consumer-oriented economy, I just don't see, absent a trade deal, where you reignite animal spirits.

And the notion that the Fed, whether they cut by a quarter-point or half-a-point in September, is the elixir for ails us, it's not.


BALDWIN: If they do that, if they cut -- they're already low -- if they if they cut anymore, would that really juice the economy in the way that is necessary, or, I mean, is infrastructure off the table or anything else that could achieve something substantive?

SONDERS: I think on the margin -- on the margin, it helps things like housing, but it doesn't solve the uncertainty with regard to a trade deal.

It may provide a boost to asset prices, which is what monetary ease has done quite successfully in the last 10 years or so. But it's not the elixir for what ails either the United States' economy or the global economy.

So, again, on the margin, I think it's a benefit. But housing, as an example, is not a big enough portion of the economy to offset the hit that has come from the lack of business confidence.

BALDWIN: Let me ask you about the fact now that Trump today is demanding that U.S. companies abandon China. Realistically, these are the two biggest economies in the world. No one's pulling out.

What are the implications when U.S. businesspeople don't listen to the credit president? And does it show more weakness?

SONDERS: Well, he -- no president has the authority to demand that of companies. And you had just today...


BALDWIN: Because he tweeted, I hereby order. You saw that.

SONDERS: Well, that's -- those are the words, but he doesn't actually have the authority to do that. And you saw the Retail Federation come out and really push back and talk about the intricacy of the global supply chain, and that this is not something that can be turned on a dime.

And I think this is what a lot of companies are facing, is that we are so integrated globally, that you -- we have to concede that trade is not somebody wins, somebody loses.

And when you're dealing with the two biggest economies in the world, the ripple effects, not just through the confidence channels we already talked about, but actually through the trade channels, goes well beyond just the United States and China, and has had a real dampening effect on the global economy.

And I just don't see a resolution in the near term for that dampening effect.

BALDWIN: Also, Liz Ann, there was a piece in "The Washington Post" this morning on President Trump relying on his messaging skills vs. hard data, facts, from aides showing a slowdown.

How much longer can he dismiss this?


SONDERS: Well, I think that the facts are, to some degree, right in front of us.

And there has, admittedly, been and still exists a bit of a defining line, a pretty hard line between what's going on, on the manufacturing side of the economy and what's going on in suit consumer side of the economy.

The rub is that we're starting to see some of the leading indicators associated with the consumer side, some confidence measures, the average workweek condensing, a pickup in unemployment claims in some of the more manufacturing-oriented states.

So if we start to see the manufacturing weakness morph into the consumer side of the economy, and then we actually see the tariffs implemented in September and then again in December, which has a much heavier bias toward consumer-oriented goods, then I think that represents a much more difficult economic environment.

So this notion that the hit from tariffs is still prospective, we have seen it already. We have seen it in the numbers. We have seen it in the confidence measures. We have seen it in things like the ISM Manufacturing Index and new orders and capital spending intention plans. So it's not esoteric anymore. It's not prospective anymore. There's

meat being put on the bones in terms of the impact this is having on the economy. And then we could just do the math of what the additional impact would likely be if those additional tariffs kick in, and that doesn't include what China just did.

BALDWIN: Sure. Sure.

SONDERS: And there will have to be some math associated with that too.

BALDWIN: Liz Ann Sonders, thank you for your expertise. I appreciate it.


SONDERS: Thank you.

BALDWIN: And as we have been talking, I just want to point out that the president's new tweets, by the way, after hours of silence, this is what he just tweeted -- quote -- "The Dow is down 573 points, perhaps on the news that Representative Seth Moulton, whoever that may be, has dropped out of the 2020 presidential race."

I'm glad this is all funny to the president, whether it's farmers losing their livelihoods or workers losing part of their hard-earned 401(k)s. It's hilarious, Mr. President.

Still ahead here on CNN, breaking news about Supreme Court Ruth Bader Ginsburg. We have just learned she has undergone a new treatment for pancreatic cancer.

Plus, President Vladimir Putin ordering a response today to this week's U.S. missile test -- what that could look like.

And I will talk to the author of an opinion piece that claims President Trump may have actually inspired more hope and change than President Obama. He will explain exactly what he means by that.

You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Stay right here.



BALDWIN: Breaking news, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has once again undergone cancer treatment, this time for her pancreas.

Let's get right to CNN senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen.

So, what do what you know?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: What we know is that she had this pancreatic tumor removed and that, according to the press release from the Supreme Court, they say there is no evidence of disease. And we want to be very careful with that term, no evidence of disease. That is obviously a good thing to hear. But it means there is no evidence at the point in time in which they are looking. There can later be evidence of the disease, unfortunately, and that does, unfortunately, happen to cancer patients.

And, Brooke, I was speaking with Dr. Otis Brawley, who used to be with the American Cancer Society, now with Johns Hopkins. And he explained, she had pancreatic cancer 10 years ago. He's said you can tell from her treatment that it was localized, it was very small, it hadn't spread, which is good. They caught it because they were doing a C.T. scan for another reason.

And they removed that part of her pancreas. And so now there's a tumor on another part of her pancreas. And he said, look, people can be treated for this and live for years. He has seen it happen.

I said, "Dr. Brawley, give me a number."


COHEN: And he said, "I'm not going to give you a number."

He also was very clear that he didn't treat her, he doesn't know anything about her case.

BALDWIN: Of course.

COHEN: But he said: "I have seen patients in this in this situation, get treated and live for years. It is no guarantee."

And so I said, "If a patient asks you what's the prognosis, what are the chances?" he said, "I would tell them, yes, impossible."


BALDWIN: She has beaten cancer several times over, as you and I chatted last hour.


BALDWIN: And she is one tough 86-year-old.


BALDWIN: We wish her...

COHEN: And Dr. Brawley said that was so important that she's in good shape.

BALDWIN: Healthy.

Elizabeth, thank you very much for that.

COHEN: Thanks.

BALDWIN: And, before I let you go, breaking news out of Illinois.

Health officials there announced what could be the first known death from what they call a severe lung illness that could be connected to vaping?


So what's happened is that there have been these cases popping up, typically young, healthy people who develop these respiratory symptoms, sometimes quite severe, that land them in the intensive care unit. And in Illinois, they're saying, we have this death, but we don't know that it's from vaping.

This person is sick. This could be from vaping. But we're not sure.

But the fact that so many of these people were young and healthy, and the only thing they can think of at this point in time is that maybe it's vaping, maybe it's something else. They're looking into it, but the CDC just had a call with reporters, where they said that they're looking into 100 -- and or that 193 cases like this are being investigated in 22 states, people who get very sick, and it may be because of vaping.

But they have to find out if that's the cause.

BALDWIN: We see the map there.

Elizabeth Cohen, thank you for that, both of those updates.

COHEN: Thanks.

BALDWIN: Coming up next, this bizarre tale out of Russia, government officials there confirming that a doctor tested positive for radioactive material after he treated patients from an explosion at a military site.


Listen to this. Russia claims that the doctor wasn't exposed to radiation from the blast, but, rather, seafood that he ate that was contaminated by the Fukushima disaster. We will ask a nuclear expert about that.

We will be right back.


BALDWIN: Russian President Vladimir Putin lashing out at the United States today days after the Pentagon tested a new cruise missile in California.


In an unexpected press conference, Putin ordered his military to research and prepare a -- quote -- "symmetrical response."


VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Given the newly emerging circumstances, I instruct the ministries and relevant departments to analyze the level of threat posed by the actions of the United States to our country and take comprehensive measures to prepare a symmetrical response.


BALDWIN: This past Sunday, the Pentagon says they launched a successful missile test that traveled more than 310 miles before meeting its target.

Our senior international correspondent, Fred Pleitgen, is live I Moscow.

And, Fred, what else did Putin say? And how much do we really know about Russia's capability to even try to respond?


Well, the Russians say that they have been working on what they call new age super weapons for quite a while now. And not all of them are medium-range. So they're actually quite long-range weapons that the Russians have been talking about.

And, today, Vladimir Putin once again spoke about those weapons as well. But, in that press conference, which, as you said, was quite unannounced and came really surprisingly, he did seem downright angry at this missile test.

He says, the fact that this missile was tested only 16 days after the end of the INF, Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, he says, shows that the U.S. got rid of that treaty on purpose and that the U.S. was planning this for a very long time.

Of course, the U.S. says that it went out of this treaty because the Russians had been the ones who were cheating because they had, as the U.S. puts it, deployed medium-range missiles of their own.

Now, essentially, Vladimir Putin is saying with the fact that he says that there's going to be a symmetrical response, as he put it, he says that that's going to be a tit-for-tat response. Now, it's unclear whether or not that means that he's actually going to deploy new medium-range weapons in the not-too-distant future.

But it certainly seems, Brooke, judging by his body language, judging by how angry he was today, that we could be one step closer to a new nuclear arms race between the U.S. and Russia -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: All right. So that is a very real possibility.

Let me ask you about this bizarro development today in that Russian military explosion that killed those five scientists.

PLEITGEN: Yes. BALDWIN: So, officials confirmed that one of the first responders in

that incident was found to have a radioactive isotope, cesium-137, in his muscle tissue.

And now you're hearing a very strange explanation as to why.

PLEITGEN: Yes. Yes, you're absolutely right. It is certainly a very strange explanation.

So, essentially, what the Russians did at the beginning, they said that there was no radiation spike. Then it turned out that there was a radiation spike. So the story's really been all over the place for a very long time.

Now, Russian opposition media -- and this is key -- is now reporting that two of the people who were killed apparently died of radiation poisoning. Official Russia has not confirmed that yet. However, they did confirm today, as you said, that one of the doctors who was treating the victims has the cesium-137 radio isotope in his muscle tissue.

Now, they then said -- and this is where the explanation gets really bizarre -- that they don't believe that this came from actually treating people who were exposed to some sort of radioactive explosion, but that he probably ate seafood, as they put it.

They say that he was on vacation somewhere in Asia, and that they believe that he may have consumed, as they put it, a crab from the Fukushima region, rather than going back to the people that he actually treated after a radioactive explosion.

So it certainly is something that seems quite strange, to say the least, Brooke.

BALDWIN: I'm no expert, but I'm about to talk to one.

Fred Pleitgen, thank you very much.

With me now, Edwin Lyman is a senior scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists and the former president of the Nuclear Control Institute.

So, Edwin, cesium-137, you heard what Fred was just reporting, the cesium-137 -- quote -- "trace sub-threshold amounts" in this one doctor's muscle tissue.

I mean, is it in the realm of possibility that it could be there from eating crabs from the Fukushima area?

EDWIN LYMAN, UNION OF CONCERNED SCIENTISTS: Well, it's in the realm of possibility, but it could have come from a lot of other places as well.

The problem is that an isotope like cesium-137 doesn't come with a label telling you where it came from. So it's a mystery. But there are a lot of different ways that cesium-137 has been injected into the environment.

It was injected when we tested atmospheric -- or nuclear weapons in the atmosphere, when Chernobyl exploded, when Fukushima exploded and released cesium-137. So there are a lot of environmental sources. And it's really impossible to tell where this came from.

So we don't know.

BALDWIN: So, if you're this doctor, how worried are you?

LYMAN: Well, we don't know what the level of exposure is, first of all. So, again, it's very hard to tell.

Now, it is true that you have to -- if you inhale or ingest cesium- 137, some fraction of it will end up lodged in your muscle, and it's -- it has a 30-year half-life, meaning it's around for several hundred years. So he does have a body burden.

But, again, we don't know how severe it is. And this doesn't tell us very much about the actual explosion.

BALDWIN: All right, well, Edwin, oddly enough, this is not the only nuclear headline to come out of Russia today.

That country just launched the