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Trump Defends Whiplash Negotiation Tactics Against China; President Trump Looking Ahead To The Next G7 Summit Hinting It Might Be Held At His Doral Miami Resort. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired August 26, 2019 - 14:00   ET


ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. $20 million, really a paltry amount. Nick Paton Walsh. Thanks for that terrific report. That's it for me. I'm Alex Marquardt. CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.

ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: Hello, and thanks for joining me. I'm Ana Cabrera in for Brooke Baldwin. After a G7 Summit dominated by uncertainty, ambiguity and little productivity, President Trump and the First Lady are now on their way back to the U.S.

But before leaving France, the President held a lengthy, somewhat meandering press conference where he addressed a range of topics including Russia, Iran sanctions, the environment, Brexit, the possibility of next year's Summit being held at the President's golf course in Miami.

And after markets were confounded by the President's whiplash signals on Chinese tariffs, today another reversals saying "all is calm."


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I do. I think they want to make a deal very badly. The Vice Chairman of China came out that he wants to see a deal made. He wants it to be made under calm conditions, using the word "calm." I agree with him on that. And China has taken a very hard hit over the last number of months. I believe they want to do a deal. The tariffs have hit them very hard.


CABRERA: With us now, Michael O'Hanlon, he is a Senior Fellow on Foreign Policy at the Brookings Institution. Michael, good to have you with us. I just want to start with your overall takeaway. What grade would you give the President at the G7?

MICHAEL O'HANLON, SENIOR FELLOW ON FOREIGN POLICY, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: Well, because I'm a little bit of a fatalist when it comes to the President's relations with other members of the G7, anything that doesn't end in acrimony, and actual divisiveness is okay by me.

And so in that regard, because this one had some tension and some negativity, but also a more positive vibe, than I think last year's G7 in Canada, or some of those early NATO meetings --

CABRERA: He was even hugging Macron this time.

O'HANLON: Yes, I mean, you know, there's a little bit of everything in this Summit. And it's not all one type of emotion, but at least it's not all bad. And so in that regard, I breathe a slight sigh of relief, especially when I think back to the mood he left the United States in for the Summit and talked about mandating that American companies leave China, which displayed to me the sort of more, you know, bully-ish side of Trump's personality.

And so I thought today, he was a little bit more reasonable, a little more interesting to listen to, and a little more balanced emotionally.

CABRERA: One of the more notable moments from today's news conference was the when the President was asked about wanting to re-invite Russia back to the G7. And he once again blamed President Obama for Putin's ouster. Watch.


TRUMP: President Putin outsmarted President Obama. Wait a minute. And I can understand how President Obama would feel. He wasn't happy and they're not in for that reason. You say how does that work?

YAMICHE ALCINDOR, PBS HOUR, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Do you think it's a leading statement that Russia outsmarted President Obama?

TRUMP: Well, he did.

ALCINDOR: What other countries have said that the reason why Russia was kicked out was very clearly because they annexed Crimea. Why keep repeating what some people would see as a clear lie?

TRUMP: Well, it was annexed during President -- I know you like President Obama -- but it was annexed during President Obama term. If it was annexed during my term, I'd say, "Sorry, folks, I made a mistake," or "Sorry, folks."

President Obama was helping Ukraine. Crimea was annexed during his term. Now, it's a very big area, a very important area.


CABRERA: So first, Michael, if you will, fact check for us Obama's role in pushing Putin from what was the G8? And secondly, did he just defend the annexation of Crimea?

O'HANLON: Yes, it almost sounded like that at the end. And I don't agree with that. And I really do not agree with the President's statements about his predecessor, you could have -- you could have a disagreement about tactics.

But Vladimir Putin is the guy who sees Crimea and even worse, Vladimir Putin is the person who is responsible for 13,000 deaths in Eastern Ukraine, where there is no legitimate Russian claim to the territory and no defense of Russian behavior.

And yet we know from social media and intelligence and intercepts, that it's Russian forces that have been helping the separatists there, and also that accidentally, but still in a very, you know, unjustifiable and you know, indefensible way shut down that Malaysian jetliner -- this was all because of Russian aggressiveness, that you can try to make an explanation about what gave rise to it, to blame an American President directly like that, I think is just unproductive and wrong.

So on that one, I'm going to have to disagree pretty strongly with President Trump.

CABRERA: And also striking is, you know, two and a half years now into the President's term. He is still standing on foreign soil and attacking his predecessor. How is that perceived at this type of diplomatic event?

O'HANLON: it's seen as friendliness towards Putin when everybody else is working hard to keep the sanctions on, so that people ultimately will have to deal on Eastern Ukraine and so he won't do anything worse.

You know, if we show lack of solidarity and putting pressure on Russia, who knows if he might start nibbling away at a Baltic state, a NATO member, or you know, intensify the kinds of attacks on Western democracies, that we saw in the 2016 election.

[14:05:16] O'HANLON: So this kind of indifference to the historical record of how Vladimir Putin has shown aggression towards many of his neighbors, it's dangerous. And I really think it needs to be emphatically opposed. Even when other parts of President Trump's press conference today, I thought were more interesting and more reasonable, you could say they were more tactical, you know, his sort of give and take with President Xi in China or his cozying up to Kim Jong-un in North Korea, but also keeping the sanctions on.

I see more method there, I see more positivity in the overall approach, but to somehow let Putin off the hook, I think just invites more Russian dangerous behavior. I think it's a big mistake.

CABRERA: We also know that the President was a no-show at the G7 meeting on climate change, the White House gave an official reason saying his meeting with Germany and India ran too long.

And yet the leaders of both of those countries were at the climate meeting. And when he was asked about where he stands on this top issue at the Summit, here's what President Trump said.


TRUMP: We're the number one energy producer in the world, soon it will be by far the number one. It's tremendous wealth. And LNG is being sought after all over Europe and all over the world, and we have more of it than anybody else. And I'm not going to lose that wealth, I'm not going to lose it on dreams, on windmills, which, frankly, aren't working too well. I'm not going to lose it.

So, Josh, in a nutshell, I want the cleanest water on Earth. I want the cleanest air on Earth. And that's what we're doing. And I'm an environmentalist. A lot of people don't understand that.


CABRERA: Here he is in France, basically denying that climate change exists as the Amazon rainforest continues to burn. And then adding, "I'm an environmentalist," he says. Well, what did you make of that answer, Michael?

O'HANLON: Well, it wasn't that strong either. But I do think when he talks about LNG and gas, of course, that is the relatively more benign fossil fuel, it produces a lot less CO2. And if he had confined his remarks to that, he would have been on more solid ground.

Now, you know, in one sense, I'm not going to be too harsh on President Trump, because frankly, in general, the United States, we are still very happy about the fact that we're producing all this energy and Democrats and Republicans tend to be very happy about it.

And Republicans, or at least President Trump tend to be more opposed to any kind of restrictions on that. But even the Democratic and moderate positions, let's say, the Paris Climate Accord, don't go that far.

And so in a broader sense, we are not really getting that serious about climate as a nation. So you could say President Trump is only being blunt and honest about what a lot of us pretend to believe we're doing a better job on than we really are. That's about the strongest defense of his statement I could make.

I think that the liquefied natural gas, part of his argument, has some merit. The overall part seems to be completely unaware of what's happening to the planet right now.

CABRERA: Michael O'Hanlon, I really appreciate your analysis and your perspective on all of that. Thank you.

O'HANLON: Thank you very much.

CABRERA: The President painted an optimistic, yet vague outlook for trade negotiations with China today. Right now, the Dow is reacting. You can see, it's up 171 points right now as markets try to recover from last week's turmoil.

Let's trace this back to Friday, when China unveiled a new round of retaliatory tariffs on about $75 billion worth of U.S. goods. President Trump quickly counter punched via where else? Twitter. Pledging to hike the tax rate on $550 billion of Chinese goods already being taxed. He also quote, "Hereby ordered you companies to stop doing business with China."

The President's tweet said markets into a freefall. The Dow closed down on Friday about 600 points. On Saturday, at the G7, the President was asked about his Twitter declarations.


QUESTION: Any seconds on escalating the trade war with China?

TRUMP: Yes, sure. Why not?

QUESTION: Second thoughts? Yes?

TRUMP: Might as well. Might as well.

QUESTION: You have second thoughts about escalating the war with China?

TRUMP: I have second thoughts about everything.


CABRERA: Uh-oh. Second thoughts? About five hours later, the media was told those comments were quote "greatly misinterpreted." And his only second thoughts were about raising tariffs higher. Then, yesterday, the President claimed he received a late night phone call from China.


TRUMP: We've had calls. We've had calls at the highest levels, but I don't want to talk about that.

QUESTION: Last night? You said last night you got a phone call?

TRUMP: But the Vice Chairman put out a statement last night that was a statement and saying that he wants to make a deal and he wants calm and I think it's a very good word to use, "calm."


[14:10:00] CABRERA: "Calm," but again, vague. So if you're confused about President Trump's strategy with our latest and largest trading partner, the President has this message today.


TRUMP: Sorry, it's the way I negotiate.

QUESTION: So my question is, is that a strategy? Is it a strategy to call President Xi an enemy one day and then say that the relationship is very good the next day?

TRUMP: Yes, no, no, no.

QUESTION: And then, you know, I mean, it's gone back --

TRUMP: The way I negotiate, it's done very well for me over the years, and it's doing even better for the country.


CABRERA: Okay, let's talk about all this with Alexis Glick, a former Wall Street executive and now the CEO of Gen YOUth. Alexis, good to see you.


CABRERA: So the President today says Treasury Secretary Mnuchin has been fielding many calls, he did have a different message certainly in tone about China at his press conference today even calling Xi brilliant at one point in all of this. What is China to make of what has been a roller coaster past few days in comments regarding this trade situation?

GLICK: Well, I mean, this has become a tit-for-tat, and as you can see, just you mentioned, right? It's like a roller coaster ride that never ends.

And right now, it's really who has more muscle? Who can impact the other more aggressively? And that's why the President and we know the way he bargains and the way he communicates via Twitter, and otherwise, is he likes to bully you kind of into submission.

And where we are right now with China is the wheels are coming off the bus. And what I mean, the wheels are coming off the bus, I mean, it's not just threats, potentially, for recession here in the United States, but we're seeing it around the global economy.

We saw in Germany, their economy contract for the first time in a very, very long time. Two, you know, quarters of contraction is the sign of recession.

In Mexico, they just cut rates for the first time in five years. The Bank of England just signaled the other day that with the way Brexit is going, they're looking at easing rates.

So around the globe, there is so much tension right now, and for the President right now, all eyes are on him, because around the globe, most feel that the trade war with China is the thing that is exacerbating risk of a global recession, and causing all that market turmoil that you just talked about.

CABRERA: Do you think those other world leaders who were at this Summit would be pressuring him then in a certain direction in how to deal with China?

GLICK: Well, you saw it with Boris Johnson, right, who many folks believe is sort of the quintessential Trump ally. And of course, they want to do a big trade between the U.K. and the U.S. once the Brexit situation settles itself one way or another.

But you could see even in his comments, the Prime Minister essentially said, "Listen, we want free trade. We've had 200 years of a healthy free trade open economy. We are keen to see this tariff battles cease." So I think across the board, you have a sense of growing urgency, I

wouldn't say that it was contentious, I would say it was uncomfortable. And you could see that also, just in the comments coming out of the Fed last week coming out of Jackson Hole where you had Fed policymakers together.

There is growing concern that not just what monetary policy can do, whether, you know -- and if you just look at the Federal Reserve, our goal is to maintain upwards of like high employment, to make sure that we have an employed economy, right? To make sure that we have stability, that we don't raise inflation to too risky a level.

Well, in any one of those monetary policy leaders, whether in the United States or otherwise, right now, you're worried about business investment, you're worried about consumer spending. You're starting to look at this trade battle and say, "Do we have the tools other than cutting rates to really spur the economy if things take a turn for the worse?"

So right now that unease is growing, even though the U.S. consumer has been fine. And hopefully, all of this rollercoaster ride doesn't slow down the U.S. consumer because right now, business leaders as a whole are really uncomfortable with this uncertainty, and that could spell real trouble for the economy if we don't create some degree of certainty. Let's know where we stand. Let's move on.

CABRERA: Okay. Alexis Glick. I really appreciate your expertise. Thanks.

GLICK: Of course.

CABRERA: President Trump is already looking ahead to the Next G7 Summit hinting it might be held at his Doral Miami Resort. Ahead, his message to people already concerned that he is profiting off his presidency.

Plus, the climate crisis. President Trump skips the climate meeting at the G7, but the explanation from the White House is an easily provable lie.

And someone new plans to take on President Trump in the 2020 Republican primary. Does Joe Walsh stand a chance?


[14:19:47] CABRERA: Patriotism, not profit is the reason President Trump gives for trying to host the next G7 Summit at his property near Miami.

At a news conference just a few hours ago on this final day of this year's Summit, he said the Trump National Doral offers the best proximity to the airport of the site his team viewed.

[14:20:10] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: It'll cost me anywhere from $3 billion to $5 billion to be President. And the only thing I care about is this country.

My people looked at 12 sites -- all good, but some were two hours from an airport. Some were four hours from an -- I mean, it was so far away. Some didn't allow this, so they didn't allow that. With Doral, we have a series of magnificent buildings, we call them bungalows. They each hold from 50 to 70 very luxurious rooms with magnificent views.

We have incredible conference rooms, incredible restaurants. It's like such a natural. We wouldn't even have to do the work that they did here.

My people wanted it. From my standpoint, I'm not going to make any money. In my opinion, I'm not going to make any money. I don't want to make money. I don't care about making money.

We had military people doing it. We had Secret Service people doing it. We had people that really understand what it's about. It's not about me, it's about getting the right location.


CABRERA: Now, just to give you an idea of how much money goes into putting up an event like this, the CBC reports that when the G7 was in Canada last year 2018, it cost taxpayers there an estimated $170 million, that's for security, property upgrades, et cetera.

And so let's discuss about what this could mean for the President and his property. With us now, CNN contributor, Walter Shaub. He used to serve as the Director of the Office of Government Ethics. He resigned in 2017, after multiple conflicts with the Trump administration.

Walter, what's your reaction when you hear the President say this would be all about doing what's best for the country?

WALTER SHAUB, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: You know, after two years of this, it's not surprising to see President Trump using his public office for private gain. But what is surprising about this is the sheer brazenness of this. It is incomprehensible that at this point, they're saying the Trump Doral Resort is one of the finalists for the competition. Just an hour ago, the White House tweeted that it is the location. So it's unclear whether a final decision has been made.

But this is a contract that has to be competed, and it involves millions of dollars. Certainly, not the whole amount for the conference or other costs that go to other vendors. But millions of dollars are potentially at stake in this contract.

And I don't even understand how he could be one of the finalists. Certainly the Trump Doral Resort is not exactly cost effective. And there are just thousands and thousands of facilities in this country. How the President could be one of the 12 that they looked at, as he says, and then potentially be the final choice just absolutely makes no sense and undermines confidence in our Federal government's procurement system. CABRERA: Now, "The Washington Post" reports that Doral is in steep

decline with profitability down across the board. The Trump Organization denies this. But I think that's important context here, Walter.

I mean, if you were to just, you know, believe him on its face that the property is designed and could be the best location because of a number of different variables. If you were just to give him that, should this property be excluded, just based on the fact it's a property that the President's family owns? I mean, would there be any rules or laws he would be breaking by hosting it there?

SHAUB: Well, the rules and laws that he might be breaking by being the selectee are the Federal Procurement Rules, but you would think that a President of the United States would want to avoid even the appearance of impropriety.

And in this case, let's imagine that even if absolutely everything was above board, and they followed all of the procurement rules, it still is going to leave unresolvable lingering question as to how the President managed to land such a lucrative contract.

And the United States has a reputation for having a fairly clean and reliable procurement system, that's going to cast down in the minds of prospective contractors. It's going to tarnish our reputation overseas with these international visitors.

And so I think that there's some just very basic optics problems, even beyond the very real potential of corruption in the procurement process that should have led him to not compete for it. It shouldn't have been on the shoulders of the government officials.

CABRERA: Later in the news conference, the President was asked about perhaps inviting Russia to that next G7 Summit and he said this.


TRUMP: I do nothing for politics. I know a lot of you aren't going to -- you're going to smile at that. I do nothing for politics. I do what's right, and people like what I do, and -- but I just do what's right.


CABRERA: I know you take issue with that statement, "I do what's right."

[14:25:04] SHAUB: Yes, I mean, there were six other members of the G7 who ought to have a say on whether or not Russia is admitted back into the group. And given that Russia's invasion of Crimea is what led to their objection, this is not something that should be undertaken lightly or even attempted to be undertaken unilaterally.

The fact that it's also happening at his facility just makes the whole thing seem much more personal to him, which raises questions, you know, that have been lingering from the start about whether he has been strong enough on Russia.

CABRERA: Walter Shaub, good to have you with us. Thank you.

SHAUB: Thanks.

CABRERA: One of the most important topics at the G7 Summit is the climate crisis. So why was President Trump the only world leader to skip that meeting? The White House says one thing, this photo says another.

And a troubling new report on organ transplants -- why so many kidneys are being thrown away instead of saving lives?