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Trump Hopeful for Trade Deal with China; Trump Isolated on World Stage; Trump Denies Idea for Nukes; Trump Skipped Climate Meeting; New Poll Shows Three-Way Tie for Democrats. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired August 26, 2019 - 13:00   ET



[13:00:08] ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Alex Marquardt, in for Brianna Keilar.

Underway right now, he's increasingly isolated on the world stage, but the president defending his trade war, wanting Russia back into the G- 7 and the possibility of hosting next year's summit at his golf club.

One picture completely disproves the White House's excuse about why President Trump didn't show up for a meeting on the climate crisis.

Plus, why the president's purported idea of dropping a nuclear bomb into a hurricane isn't a good one.

And just in, a new poll shows the 2020 race tightening and becoming more volatile as two rise and the frontrunner falls.

President Trump is wrapping up his time at the G-7 Summit in the south of France. We just heard a lot from the president in a wide-ranging press conference that ended a short time ago. He said there was what he called tremendous unity between the world leaders. He also said he'd love to welcome Russia back into the group. And he said he may meet with Iran's president, Rouhani, under the right conditions.

CNN's senior White House correspondent Pamela Brown is there in France.

Pam, there's a wide range of topics covered in that presser. Lots of headlines coming out of it. One of the things we heard a lot about was China and the ongoing trade war with them.

What stuck out to you?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, what stuck out to me is just this persistent confusion over where things actually stand between the United States and China. There have been these confusing mixed signals sent throughout the weekend with the president first saying that he had second thoughts about escalate the trade war, then the White House saying, no, actually he only had second thoughts about not raising the tariffs even more. And then suddenly he said this morning here at the G-7 that China called late last night and that it wants to come back to the negotiating table, it wants to strike a deal.

And then since then he sort of backtracked and it's been a little bit murky. Now he is only saying, well, there have been many calls. Steve Mnuchin says that there have been several discussions over the last week but wouldn't say calls.

What we do know is that the vice premier of China did say that they want a resolution to the trade war and that they want calm. So it's unclear if that's what the president was talking about, but he said that what the vice premier said, that wanting a resolution, it gave him great confidence that a deal will be struck.

But it's worth noting that they haven't provided any sort of timeline about this alleged call that happened, who that was with, what the substance of it was.

And in terms of going back to the negotiating table, Alex, the U.S. and China were already set to negotiate -- to restart negotiations in September. So it's unclear if the dial has actually changed here.

MARQUARDT: Yes, lots of back and forth.

Pam Brown there in Saint-Jean-de-Luz. Thanks very much.

Let's dig into what the president just said and did at the G-7 Summit in France over these last few days. And to do that, with me here is retired Rear Admiral John Kirby, a CNN military and diplomatic analyst, as well as Julie Hirschfeld Davis, the congressional correspondent for "The New York Times" and also a CNN political analyst.

Great to have you both with me.

Julie, let's start with you. You just heard there Pam summing up beautifully this back and forth between the Chinese and American sides and what I can only describe as whiplash in just the span of a few days. We heard the president call Chinese President Xi Jinping an enemy and then just a few days later a great leader.

What do you make of that?

JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think what we saw just now at the G-7 was the president really trying to sort of apply some sort of rationale to the whipsawing that we've seen in the last few days, as if it was deliberate, that he was sort of going back and forth and that he's actually gotten somewhere. So he's trying very hard to sort of take credit for what he says has been progress in these talks in the last couple of days, when what the rest of the world is seeing, what the people -- the rest of the people around that table at the G-7 are seeing are very concerning signs of unpredictability and uncertainty with where these negotiations are going and really a sort of reckless sort of style from the president that gives them pause about what -- where this is all heading in the future.

MARQUARDT: Right. Let's take a quick listen to what the president actually said about

China in that wide-ranging press conference.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Look, here's the story. I have people say, oh, just make a deal, make a deal. They don't have the guts and they don't have the wisdom to know that you can't continue to go on where a country is taking $500 billion -- not million -- $500 billion with a b out every single year. $500 billion. You just can't do that. Somebody had to do this. It should have been done by President Obama. It should have been done -- and Biden, sleepy Joe. It should have been done by other people. It should have been done by Bush. It should have been done by Clinton. Double Bush. It should have been done. I'm doing it.


[13:05:02] MARQUARDT: John, China is nothing if not patient. Do you think that they, in this ongoing trade war, have their eyes on the end game? Are they -- they must be keenly aware that we're entering an election season.

REAR ADMIRAL JOHN KIRBY (RET.), CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: Oh, sure, they're mindful of our own domestic politics here. They're not going to make any decisions that disrupt their long-term strategic goals. And this is a nation that plans decades out in advance, not just from a military perspective but from an economic one too. And they're not going to give up the dramatic increases that they've had.

Now, they've had some stuttering in their economy of late, but by and large over the last decade or so it's been growing exponentially and they're not going to want to give that up. So I don't think they're going to be bullied by Trump or his whipsawing into making a deal that's not going to be in keeping with their long-term interests.

MARQUARDT: Let's jump over to Iran for a second. We did see the foreign minister, Javad Zarif, show up unexpectedly in France. White House officials called it a curveball, but the president did say he was aware. He did not meet with any U.S. officials, but today the president saying that there is a possibility that he could meet with President Rouhani in the coming weeks if the circumstances are correct.

Do you think he should?

KIRBY: I think -- yes, absolutely. A dialogue's always a good thing. I mean the -- but back to conditions, and this is where President Macron was right too, they have to be right. And right now the tensions have been escalated to a degree and things are so vituperative that I don't believe that sitting down right now would be helpful, probably would only make things worse. But in general, yes, some dialogue would be appropriate.

MARQUARDT: And, Julie, when it comes to Iran, the president again making this false accusation today that President Obama had paid hundreds of millions of dollars in cash in exchange for the Iran deal. That was just unfrozen Iranian funds.

But then he went on to say that in exchange for a new deal, he could offer Iran a loan guaranteed by oil. So how does he reconcile those two?

DAVIS: I don't think he does. I don't think he sees any need to, but it was quite striking given how frequently he pushes this false claim that the Obama administration somehow paid the Iranians to cut this deal. And I think it's one of the reasons why, John is right, that any meeting between the two of them, or even among officials, is unlikely to go anywhere is because the president is so bent on blaming the Obama administration and criticizing what has gone before that it seems unlikely that they'd be able to make any real headway -- real substantive headway on what the actual issues are right now.

MARQUARDT: Let's switch gears to Russia. Russia was not at the G-7 this year. It used to be the G-8. They were kicked out after they invaded and annexed Crimea, which President Trump said was as a result of them -- of Putin outsmarting President Obama.

Let's take a listen to what he said.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: President Putin outsmarted President Obama. Wait -- wait. 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?

QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE) a misleading statement that Russia outsmarted President Obama --

TRUMP: Well, he did.

QUESTION: When 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? Why keep --

TRUMP: Well, it was annexed during President -- I know you like President Obama, but it was annexed during President Obama's 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. Russia has its submarine -- that's where they do their submarine work and that's where they dock large and powerful submarines, but not as powerful as ours and not as large as ours. But they have their submarines. And President Obama was pure and simply outsmarted. They took Crimea during his term.


MARQUARDT: Yes, annexed is actually a very polite word. The president was right, they took Crimea.

I was on the ground there. I saw those little green men invade and take over Crimea. You were at the Pentagon.


MARQUARDT: Was it a matter of President Obama being outsmarted?

KIRBY: Well, of course not. I mean it's a ludicrous claim. I think he likes to blame Obama for everything. And part of his foreign policy, to the degree that there is a Trump foreign policy, it's about undoing the things that President Obama did.

Look, I mean it was an international community decision to isolate Russia and to make Russia have some measure of accountability for doing this.

Now, Putin doesn't care about not being in the G-8, but what he does care about are the sanctions. And to the Trump administration's credit, they have at least extended the sanctions that President Obama put in place on Russia and the rest of the international community has as well.

What -- that's what's really important here is not him blaming Obama for this and the ridiculous thing about being outsmarted, but how much and to what degree will the international community, the west in particular, continue to hold Putin accountable for his violation of Ukrainian territorial integrity.

MARQUARDT: Julie, when you look at these last few days and you step back at all these issues that we're -- that we just talked about, China, Russia, Iran and climate change, does it appear -- does it really emphasize how isolated the U.S. is compared to -- with regards to its allies?

DAVIS: Well, I think so. I mean previous administrations, previous presidents of both parties have typically used these kinds of gatherings to really take a leadership role in sort of garnering these kinds of international consensus on major issues, like climate, like what to do about Iran, and Russia and the rest. And this president has -- clearly doesn't -- has no interest in doing that. He didn't even really want to go.

[13:10:14] Now, President Obama sometimes didn't love to go to these summits either. But he doesn't actually take any sort of productive stance to try to get anywhere among the rest of the countries at these summits. And so I think what you have is a very isolated United States. Instead of the United States leading the way and sort of bringing the other countries along, you have President Trump seeming to sort of sit by and look and sometimes critically, but sometimes just silently, while the other countries try to -- try to make some sense of these issues.

MARQUARDT: But, John, it doesn't seem as though the other countries have written us off yet. I mean Macron was very warm and affectionate in his press conference. We saw Johnson -- Boris Johnson, the new prime minister of the U.K., same way, Merkel as well. So they still want to keep the U.S. in the fold.

KIRBY: Yes, they can't. I mean we have the world's strongest economy. We have the world's largest and most powerful military. We're still involved all around the world. They can't afford to just write us off.

Last week when I was here with Brianna, I said my worry was that he was going to blow this summit up and blow out any chance of -- blow up any chance of consensus. And what I think I saw today was that they -- that the G-7 partners simply took the box of matches away from him. They just coddled him. They just allowed him to sort of be there where and to what degree he wanted to be there and they're moving past the United States. And that's what really bothers me, Alex, is this -- this abdication of our leadership role and our convening power that we used to have.

MARQUARDT: I want to turn to one of the most outlandish and crazy things that I've heard of late. Yesterday "Axios" reporting that the president had a number of times suggested nuclear bombing large hurricanes in order to disperse them.

I was just on the website of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. They already had in place a page saying this is a horrible idea and wouldn't work.

Julie, is it outlandish to think that this conversation actually took place in the White House?

DAVIS: I mean I think the striking thing is it's not that outlandish to me given what we constantly hear from administration officials, from people inside the White House and outside of the White House, people on Capitol Hill. The president does tend to muse allowed about some of these very strange ideas. He gets very keyed up, especially where technology and science and gadgets are concerned. And you hear him voicing things that other presidents might perhaps at least take pause in saying out loud.

MARQUARDT: John, you're shaking your head.

KIRBY: Oh, I just can't -- I can't even believe that we're talking about this on television. I mean it's just -- it is so crazy. I just -- I'm speechless.

MARQUARDT: All right, well, let's leave it there.

Rear Admiral John Kirby, Julie Hirschfield-Davis, thank you so much for breaking down those fascinating few days in France. Thank you.

All right, wait, there is more. Why didn't the president show up to a meeting on the climate crisis? How a picture completely contradicts the White House's excuse.

Plus, the president floats the possibility of hosting the next year's G-7 Summit at his own Florida golf resort, which is raising serious concerns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [13:17:55] MARQUARDT: One of the final events at the G-7 Summit in France was a meeting on global climate change, but President Trump was a no-show. Aides claim that the president was busy in meetings that went along with the leaders of Germany and India. So staffers went to that climate meeting instead. But here, what that video you're looking at there shows, is German Chancellor Merkel and the Indian prime minister, Modi, sitting side by side at that meeting on climate change.

Our Daniel Dale, fact checker extraordinary, joins me now.

Daniel, it was no secret that the president wasn't eager to discuss climate change at the G-7. But it's quite another thing to snub this meeting as a whole.

So what happened here?

DANIEL DALE, CNN REPORTER: Well, we don't know exactly what happened. Perhaps he had some urgent classified priority that they can't tell us about. Perhaps he had to go to the bathroom.

What we do know, though, is that this event was on his schedule. The White House then told us he didn't come because he had meetings with Modi and Merkel.


DALE: And then we saw this photo of Modi and Merkel. So I think the simplest explanation is simply that the White House lied again to cover for him.

MARQUARDT: And that he had no interest in discussing that.

The president, Daniel, as you know, later said that he is an environmentalist.

Let's listen to that.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: 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. You -- a lot of people don't understand that. I have done more environmental impact statements probably than anybody that's -- I guess I can say definitely, because I've done many, many, many of them. More than anybody that's ever been president or vice president or anything even close to president. And I think I know more about the environment than most people.


MARQUARDT: He then talked about drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and he went after windmills as an alternative source of energy.

The president, as a hero of the environment, is there any evidence to support that?

DALE: Alex, there is no basis for that whatsoever. "The New York Times" did a really good piece a couple of months ago where they listed 83 separate environmental regulatory rollbacks undertaken by the Trump administration. That's everything from mining debris in streams, to the pollutants admitted into the air. And so, no, there's no basis for this.

[13:20:06] And when he says that he's an environmentalist because he's done environmental impact statements, those impact statements are the things that developers have to do when they're proposing a development project. It doesn't make you an environmentalist to do environmental impact statements.

MARQUARDT: Speaking of his projects, the president is now proposing that next year's G-7 Summit, when the U.S. hosts it, will possibly take place at his own golf resort, Doral, which is outside Miami. I imagine he'd make a fair bit of money off of that. And what would the ethical implications be?

DALE: Well, there are serious ethical implications. Trump has not lost any emoluments lawsuits, so we have to say that. But there is a clause of the Constitution, the emoluments clause, that said that presidents are not supposed to receive any gifts or payments from foreign officials as a result of being in office. Even if he's not guilty of violating that clause, we know, just from general principles of conflicts of interest and ethics matters, you know, this is an office holder apparently profiting from being in office.

MARQUARDT: And we actually do have sound from the president's press conference discussing this very matter.

Let's take a listen.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It will cost me anywhere from $3 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 -- I mean they were so far away. Some didn't allow this or 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 -- 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.


MARQUARDT: That was quite the ad for Doral there. But he also mentioned that he is losing or has lost, rather, $3

billion to $5 billion since becoming president. Is there any evidence to support that?

DALE: No. So, of course, we famously do not know exactly what the president's net worth is, in part because he refuses to release tax returns and other financial documents. But there's no evidence that he's even worth $3 billion, certainly not $5 billion. So the claim that he's losing this amount from being president I think doesn't hold water.

MARQUARDT: All right, Daniel Dale, thanks so much for joining me.

DALE: Thank you.

MARQUARDT: All right, well, fascinating polls just coming in showing a virtually three-way tie for the Democratic nominee.

Plus, hear about the calls that the FBI is now getting since the mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton.

All that coming up.


[13:27:23] MARQUARDT: This just in to CNN. The 2020 presidential race may be tightening up. There's a remarkable new poll from Monmouth University that shows a virtual three-way tie among the leading Democratic candidates, including a significant drop for the frontrunner. This poll, you can see there, showing Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren on the rise. They're neck in neck for first place in this poll. Both at 20 percent, while vice president -- former Vice President Joe Biden dropped to 19 percent.

Joining me now is the director of the Monmouth Polling Institute, Patrick Murray.

Patrick, thanks so much for being with me.

I want to start with that falling Biden number. That really seems to be the headline here that there's a three-way tie at the top. This poll showing that support for Biden has dropped also across demographics.

What did you find?

PATRICK MURRAY, DIRECTOR, MONMOUTH UNIVERSITY POLLING INSTITUTE: Yes. I mean you -- as that graph shows, we found that it was pretty much broad based in terms of the drop.

And you've got to remember, Joe Biden's support, unlike the other candidates so far, has been built mainly on this kind of veneer of electability, not on a real kind of attachment to his policies or to him as a candidate individually. And I think what we're doing here is entering a period of volatility. Most of that drop that we've seen across all those demographic groups has gone equally to both Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren right now. And I think that that is an indication that voters are just starting to tune in, pay attention and maybe saying, oh, maybe Joe Biden isn't as inevitable as we thought and we'll take a look at some of the other candidates right now.

MARQUARDT: Last week we here at CNN had our own poll. Biden in that poll was at 29 percent and he has, as you know, led most of the recent polls out there by a significant margin.

Do you think that your poll in this case is an outlier?

MURRAY: It could be an outlier. There's no question. There have been other telephone -- this is the first telephone poll that has shown basically a three-way race or a tied race. There have been some online polls that have shown this kind of dynamic.

But even with the CNN poll, we did see a change in Biden's numbers. It went up in the CNN poll. And that suggests to me that we are entering a period of volatility. Now whether what's happening in your poll or my poll is a trend, I don't know, but I think it's suggesting that the next set of polls that we see from any of these -- these top-notch pollsters are probably going to suggest that there still is some churning going on in the electorate right now as we head into September. And I think it's all because they're now starting to pay more attention than they have before when we had a pretty static race through most of the spring and early summer.

MARQUARDT: And not just the voting public paying attention, certainly Senator Elizabeth Warren will be paying attention to these polls.


[13:30:03] MARQUARDT: It looks like these days that she is the candidate with the greatest momentum. Over the weekend, we saw that she