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Trump Says China Is Ready To Resume Trade Talks; Trump Increasingly Isolated On The World Stage; Weinstein Pleads Not Guilty To Two New Charges In New York City. Aired 10-10:30a ET
Aired August 26, 2019 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN NEWSROOM: A very good Monday morning to you. I'm Jim Sciutto in Washington. Poppy Harlow is off today.
We begin this morning waiting to hear from President Trump at the G7 Summit as he moves America away markedly from its closest allies on issues that used to anchor those allies, trade, the nuclear deal with Iran, climate change, Russia and more.
Just one picture says it all. The empty chair that President Trump has supposed to occupy at the G7 Summit's meeting on climate change, the White House says bilateral meetings with Germany and India went long, so they sent a staffer in the president's place.
But take a look at this photo. Both leaders from Germany and India were present at that climate meeting. So who was the president meeting with? What meetings went long if they made it and he did not? Was it a deliberate snub to that meeting?
Plus, there is another claim by this president that is drawing questions, drawing attention, but also at the same time moving markets. The president said that Chinese officials called their U.S. counterparts over the weekend, said they are ready to make a deal on trade. But his own Treasury Secretary, given the chance, would not confirm that any such phone call took place.
Joining me now from Biarritz, France, CNN Chief White House Correspondent Jim Acosta. Jim, is there any proof that what the president said and what now appears to be moving the markets in a positive direction, that what he said is true?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: No proof at this point, Jim. That's right. And we've been trying to seek clarity on this all morning. I mean, I will tell you that the president is already late for this joint press conference with the French president, Emmanuel Macron. When that gets going, I suppose this may be one of the first questions.
And it's sort of a shame, because, typically, at these joint press conferences, you only get two from the American, two from the French press, and so one of these questions may get burned just trying to get clarity on these phone calls.
The president said earlier in today here at the G7 Summit here in France that he had these phone calls or that phone calls were had with Chinese officials. And then later on in the day, the Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin tried to offer some clarity in all of that and said that there were discussions going on. It really didn't offer much clarity to the subject. But here is what happened when Steve Mnuchin, the treasury secretary, and the president were asked about that a short while ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: There was a statement that the spokesman for foreign ministries, for instance (ph). I mean, were you aware of the calls happening?
DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: I don't know about it.
STEVE MNUCHIN, U.S. TREASURY SECRETARY: There's been communication going on.
TRUMP: At the highest level. At the highest level, okay?
REPORTER: Can you clarify the calls, Mr. Mnuchin?
TRUMP: Look, in the meantime, our country is doing great.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: Now, we should point out that is not the only point where we're seeking some clarity at this final day of the G7 Summit. There was obviously the photograph that you just mentioned a few moments ago where there was an empty seat for the United States at this climate meeting here at the G7. President Trump did not attend that meeting, even though other heads of state were at that gathering.
We should point out that the White House said that the reason why the president was there was he was -- or not there is that he was holding these bilateral meetings with the Germany chancellor, Angela Merkel, the Indian prime minister, Prime Minister Modi. But those two foreign leaders, Jim, as you know, were both in that meeting. So that explanation really didn't hold up.
And so we're hoping to get some clarity on a lot of these different elements as we head into this press conference.
I will tell you just a few moments ago, Jim, I had a chance to chat with the French foreign minister here in the scene of this press conference that's going to be unfolding in just a few moments and asked him whether or not the French had invited the Iranian foreign minister, Javad Zarif, here in the hopes of having the Iranian foreign minister sit down with President Trump during some sort of a sideline meeting at the G7 Summit. They said, no, that was not the case. The French foreign minister said, no, that was not case, that was not their intention or motivation for bringing in the Iranian foreign minister.
He did say that there was just no hope of that kind of meeting occurring. But it was an interesting visit here that the Iranian foreign minister had at the G7 and perhaps we'll get to chance to ask either President Trump or the French president, Emmanuel Macron, about that as well. Jim?
SCIUTTO: Jim Acosta there, as we await the president's comments to the press coming up shortly.
Let's speak now to our team of reporters and experts on the many issues coming out of this conference.
You know, Molly Ball, I had a thought there, Emmanuel Macron trying to position himself as the new leader of Europe, particularly with Merkel stepping down and President Trump showing no interest in the G7 really at all here.
Was the visit by Zarif, in a way, a clever play with regards to the U.S. president saying, we, the six of us, are speaking to the Iranians, we're staying in the deal whether you talk to him or not, we have these channels open.
MOLLY BALL, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. I mean, that does seem like the statement that was intended to be sent. But from the European's perspective, they are still kind of at sea trying to figure out how they orient themselves in a world where there's a vacuum, where American power used to be, but also where so many other European countries have fallen back from the internationalist project and from the idea of, you know, world liberal democracies all in concert, because you do have the British and so many others going in a more nationalist direction, going in a direction of withdrawing or at least pulling back from international institutions.
And so those institutions having been crafted with the American power in mind, it changes the structure of them, it changes NATO if you can't rely on the Americans. We've seen a lot of the Europeans trying to make allowances for that, trying to boost their own defensive capabilities in the expectation that maybe America won't be there.
So you do have someone like Macron who has had his own domestic issues trying to position himself as the European leader now that Merkel also appears to be on the way out. But the question is what Europe is he speaking for, right? Is there a European unity that he can sort of raise the torch for when there are so many messy internal politics there, when it's really not clear what the people in these different European countries are looking for?
I think we're really at a hinge moment not just for the United States, but more the world order, for lack of a better word.
SCIUTTO: Jill, you spent years covering Russia. Does Russia drive right into that vacuum left by U.S. power? JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Definitely. I think Putin --let's say, is not -- he does not act, he reacts. And he reacts sometimes very skillfully. So if the U.S. pulls out of a place, he sits there and watches, okay, how can Russia, if they could, fill in the blanks, exploit, et cetera.
And even in this situation where you have President Trump saying let's bring Russia back in, I am not totally convinced that Russia ever believed that that was really a real offer. And you go back to the press secretary for the foreign minister who said -- Maria Zakharova , she said let's take this out of social media. If there is a real offer, concrete offer, we'll look at it. But let's get real.
SCIUTTO: W would you need the whole G7 -- the president couldn't do it unilaterally. You would need the whole group to agree.
DOUGHERTY: But he can as a guest, he can invite Putin when U.S. -- yes, next year, when the U.S. is --
SCIUTTO: Which, by the way, he's raised the idea of bringing it to his own golf course, that G7 meeting, which, of course, the president would profit from.
Pamela Brown, we have you on the ground there in France, an opportunity to fact-check this president and the White House on another claim made that the president did not attend the climate meeting because he was held up at other bilaterals with Germany and India. I believe we have the photograph of the German and Indian leaders, Merkel and Modi. They showed up at that meeting. So who did the White House claim that the president was meeting with that kept him from this climate summit?
PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. You know, Jim, the White House explanation doesn't add up. The White House saying he had these meetings with Germany and India, that those meetings went long. He sent staff in President Trump's place.
But as you point out, the picture is the proof here. Both the prime minister of India, Modi, and Angela Merkel were there at the climate summit. Those were the two leaders that the White House said the president was meeting with, which is why he couldn't have attended.
So it really doesn't add up and the president, his explanation, his excuse was that he thought it was happening later, he tried to act like he was confused about the timing of it.
But I think what this shows, Jim, is it's really symbolic seeing that empty chair of the president being an outlier here at the G7. It's sort of a six plus one dynamic where he really is on the outside on some of these key issues having to do with climate, having to do with trade, having to do with Iran. The president outwardly is trying to promote this sort of unified front, saying there's not tension with the leaders, everyone is getting along and they're sort of on the same page. But, clearly, that is not the case. And, again, this picture real exemplifies that, Jim. SCIUTTO: Abby Phillip, you've covered this White House for a number of years. Does the White House messaging shop care when its explanations don't add up? I mean, this was easily disproven because you had a picture there that show that those leaders showed up. Do they care?
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: There is -- I have not gotten any indication that they are particularly concerned with the reality not matching up with either their statements or even the president's statements.
I mean, routinely, the White House press shop says things that are either easily proven to be false or that the president then says is not true, and there's never any clarification, there's never really any walk-back. This is just the way things have been for two and a half years.
But in this case, I mean, it's not clear to me why they even bothered to claim that President Trump wanted to make it to this meeting. I mean, it is clear that the United States is not on the same page with European leaders about this core issue of the climate and of the environment.
And my colleague, Kevin Liptak, over the past week reported that aides were saying that President Trump was irritated about the G7 because of the focus of the world leaders on these issues of climate and on these issues of the environment and oceans and fires in the Amazon. He thinks that that is a waste of their collective time and would rather create an environment where he has an opportunity to boast about the United States' relative economic strength.
But it is within the president's pattern of behavior, he's called climate change a hoax, that he would not want to be at a meeting like this, it's not clear to me why the White House bothered to create an excuse around it when those are the patterns that have been in place for two and a half years.
SCIUTTO: So, Nia-Malika, we're waiting for the president to step up to the podium there, the president of the United States, at an important summit with U.S. allies. What should we expect the president to say on these issues and do we listen to his answers and grant them a grain of truth?
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: You know, maybe for the ten minutes as he's speaking and the ten minutes after. But the president has a way of reversing course. His aides have a way of reversing course as well, and kind of elaborating or undermining what he says.
And that's what we've seen throughout the last few days in the run-up to this with going to the G7 and the idea that somehow he was going to order companies to think about ways of pulling out of China and then he said, oh, well, there's really no plan to do that even though he said he could do that. So, yes, I mean, I expect we'll probably get more of that.
And it has been interesting though to see him try to at times, particularly with Emmanuel Macron, suggest that they're kind of on the same page, right? He said out of their early lunch meeting that it was the best hour-and-a-half that he ever had with Emmanuel Macron, which is saying a lot, because, I mean, they like to hold hands and sort of do a bromantic dance together. So we'll see.
I mean, he seems to like that relationship that he has personally with Macron, where that gets them in terms of any of these issues, particularly on climate, particularly on Iran, we'll see. Because Macron himself has wanted to not have a repeat of the G7 in 2018 when there was this sort of conflict with Justin Trudeau and President Trump sort of flew off in a huff and the communique and all that stuff. So we'll see.
I mean, in some ways, the stakes are high for macron too who wants to suggest that this was a success.
SCIUTTO: And he's done a good job of managing the personal relationship while substantively finding another path cleverly, you might say.
Everyone stay with us.
Moments away, the president will speak at the G7 Summit alongside the French president, Macron. We will be listening. We will be fact- checking, as we do, and we'll bring it to you live.
And we're following new developments in the Harvey Weinstein case. He just left, as you can see there, a New York courtroom moments ago. Key questions before him, including, it appears, a new allegation. Please stay with CNN.
SCIUTTO: Just moments ago, two big developments in the Harvey Weinstein case. First, the sexual assault trial in New York has been delayed now until January of next year, plus, and this is important, he's been indicted now on two new charges of predatory sexual assault. We should note he has pleaded not guilty to both of those new charges.
CNN's Jean Casarez is outside the courthouse in Manhattan. Jean, what do we know about these new charges? Are they new accusers?
JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, they were just announced. And we have not gotten a hold of the indictment yet in the Clerk's Office. But here is what we know. The grand jury did return an indictment on two more charges of predatory sexual assault. The prosecutor said this morning and, quote -- stood up and said, your honor, if you believe that these two new charges of predatory sexual assault are duplicative because we already have two charges of predatory sexual assault, we can consolidate. The earlier ones can be dismissed. So now, the charges are predatory sexual assault, four counts currently, Criminal Sexual Act in the first degree, first degree rape and third degree rape.
Now, one other thing. The prosecutors have wanted an additional witness to testify against Harvey Weinstein for months now. CNN has confirmed that it is the actress from The Sopranos, Annabella Sciorra.
Prosecutors, it appears, have gotten their wish through this new indictment. She would testify in regard to the predatory sexual assault that Harvey Weinstein is a predator. The defense has said this is an insurance policy at the very last minute to try to ensure a conviction. But that is one reason, while the judge has said that January 6th will be the new trial date. Harvey Weinstein is facing life in prison, Jim.
SCIUTTO: Jean Casarez, good to have you on the case. We know you're going to stay on it.
And now, we're into the trading day now and the markets still up. This comes after President Trump said that Chinese officials called U.S. counterparts over the weekend about a possible trade deal, then he and his treasury secretary refrained from substantiating that claim.
CNN Business Correspondent Alison Kosik, she joins me now. Alison the market is still up there. We spoke earlier about whether traders buy the president's claim. But at least as stocks go, they're buying stocks.
ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: They are buying stocks. But if you look at those gains, some of it has fizzled out just a bit. You're seeing the Dow up a little over 100 points.
Look, the reality is there's a healthy dose of skepticism here on Wall Street about these positive signals that President Trump is sending about where things are on trade talks with China.
Traders are telling me they're skeptical that a phone call or any communication happened, with one trader, saying unless the administration proves the conversation with China actually happened, the market will back off this rally, especially if we see China come out more officially to say that any kind of communication never happened.
A couple of traders even telling me, and not just today but in the past as well, it just feels like there's market manipulation going on by President Trump. Every time he Tweets, either to enrich himself or to enrich those around him.
As far as stocks go, look, they suffered big losses on Friday. But the reality is, if you look at the S&P 500, Jim, it's up 13 percent for the year still, only 6 percent from its high. So as bad as it was on Friday, it's certainly not as bad as it could be considering all the market movements in the triple digits that we've been seeing. Jim?
SCIUTTO: Alison Kosik, good to have you on the market. We will keep on top of that as the day progresses.
Meanwhile, any minute, President Trump expected to speak from the G Summit in France at that podium there. Some of the senior advisers have already entered the room. Please stay with us. We're going to bring it to you live momentarily.
Just moments from now on the heels of what can only be described as an unsteady G7 Summit in France, President Trump and France President Emmanuel Macron, the host of these talks, will hold a joint press conference. It will be our chance to learn just how well the president thought the summit went in his view.
Joining me to discuss the Susan Glasser, she's Staff Writer for the New Yorker and CNN's Global Affairs Analyst, and Nic Robertson, CNN International Diplomatic Editor. Good morning to both of you. Good afternoon to you, Nic.
Nic, tell us what the view is from our closest allies, diplomats there in Biarritz today, of how this summit went before we hear the president's version of events.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: I think what we have heard, as everyone has their own thing that they want to achieve, and Boris Johnson, the British prime minister, wanted to achieve a good conversation on trade with President Trump and he wanted to send a strong message to the European Union that Britain will exit the E.U. without a deal if that's necessary.
And we've seen that replicated with the other leaders here as well. We've seen President Macron achieving what he wanted to achieve, which seems to have been at least in some way to perhaps advance agreement on how to deal with Iran. And we've seen Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as well sit down with President Trump and go along with what President Trump was saying about perhaps signing a trade deal at the UNGA later this year, late September.
The view of President Trump, however, what people really think is something that's very closely guarded. We heard Boris Johnson, the British prime minister, used very careful language when criticizing the president's approach to a trade deal with China, saying Britain wanted to trade peace and described it as a sheep-like note, if you will, of dissatisfaction with that.
So I think the real sense here is that President Trump is powerful, is influential, they need things from him and they're not going to draw his eye, if you will, far better to work with him if they can find a way to do that to work against him. And that seems to be, despite a lack of communique, what's happening here.
SCIUTTO: Susan Glasser, there are genuine questions about the president's claims this morning. For one, did he have a conversation, did his administration have a conversation with Chinese leaders that fundamentally changed the status of those talks? Why the president didn't show up for a climate meeting there?
So we have fundamental questions about that which we hope the president will answer to there. But I'm curious, do the leaders present there, do they believe what the president is saying here? Do they believe the president's claims as he makes these statements, often contradicting what the leaders are saying privately?
SUSAN GLASSER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, that's right. You can either believe what President Trump says or the other things President Trump says. President Trump has not hesitated throughout his presidency to contradict himself. The empty chair at the climate meeting obviously is a visible symbol of a contradiction in his reason for not having attended, saying that he was in meetings with folks who actually made it there.
But I'm struck by that symbol for a different reason. The U.S. isolation at a meeting like this, all the conversation about just how carefully our closest allies and partners around the world, both economy and security, have to tread in order to basically manage the president of the United States rather than working with him, it's just such a fundamental reimagining of international diplomacy where the U.S. is essentially the problem at this meeting with his allies partners.
And everybody is not wanting to poke the beast, if you will. President Trump has said lots of contradictory things. He said that his fellow world leaders, that the number one thing that they talked to him about at these meetings is how the fake news is lying about him. There has been obviously no substantiation of that. He came and his agenda item included wanting to go readmit Russia to this group, where all of his European partners, with the possible exception of Italy, pushed back very strongly against him.
So the narrative that I think emerges is really one of.