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Trump: China Ready to Resume Trade Talks; Trump Denies Raising Idea of Using Nukes to Disrupt Hurricanes; Trump Absent from G-7 Session on Climate Crisis; Trump Wants to Host G-7 at His Property In Miami; Former GOP Congressman Joe Walsh is Interviewed on His Presidential Bid. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired August 26, 2019 - 07:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Those were two headlines that have come out of the G-7. There have been many.

[07:00:06] So one was Boris Johnson -- you heard him there, telling the president that Britain would appreciate the president dialing down some of the rhetoric. I'm paraphrasing.

And then the other was President Trump talking about China. But frankly, it has been very hard to figure out which message to trust coming out of the G-7, because there have been so many conflicting and confusing messages.

BERMAN: And the markets are, frankly, rattled. Wild swings in the Asian markets in overnight trading, because they simply do not know where the president stands on this. We're waiting to hear more from him in a little while. Unclear whether the new statements will contradict the past ones.

Joining us now is Pamela Brown, CNN White House correspondent, who is in France covering this; Margaret Talev from Axios Politics; and Errol Louis, political anchor from Spectrum News and a CNN political commentator.

Pamela, I want to start with you. You are in France. Where are we right now? And I have to preface that by saying it's 7:01 a.m. Eastern Time, which is different, probably, than it was at 5:30 a.m. Eastern Time, because the president has had four or five positions on the trade war with China over the last 72 hours.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, absolutely. There has been a number of confusing mixed signals coming from President Trump and the White House in terms of where things stand with the China trade deal.

Just yesterday, you had the president saying he had second thoughts about escalating the war. The White House quickly came back and said, no, actually, the only regrets he had was not raising the tariffs even higher. And now, within 24 hours, the president is saying that he believes a deal will be struck with China.

Now, it was a little murky in terms of what the communications have been. The president has said that there have been -- that the Chinese called twice, called negotiators twice and that they -- they want to strike a deal. The president putting sort of a positive spin on things.

China had said at one point that they weren't sure with the calls, what they were talking about. So it's a little confusing on that end. But the president just spoke about it. He said, "I don't want to get into the calls, but there were calls at the highest level." So he president is maintaining the positive spin here this morning saying he believes something will be done.

And in terms of President Xi in China, you know, just a couple of days ago, he was calling him an enemy. And now he is saying positive things about him, saying that, you know, he has respect for him and so forth. So we're just going to have to wait and see where things go from here.

CAMEROTA: Errol, you've been watching what's going on at the G-7. How are allies responding to this? How can we tell what's coming out of the G-7?

ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I wouldn't go by what the president is tweeting, for one thing, right? I also wouldn't necessarily go by the public statements that are coming from the heads of state.

I mean, the reality is they have to try and appease him. They want to make sure that they're not on his bad side. They don't want to make things even more unstable. They've got constituencies they want to answer to. They've got a business community that they want to see sort of -- get a little bit more stable and more comfortable with whatever the new arrangement is going to be.

So you'll hear what you just heard from the British prime minister faint sheep-like objections. Although of course, they're -- they're radically opposed to what the president is doing, and they wish that he would cut it out. The summits used to be where you would straighten these things out, partly behind the scenes, partly in joint communiques. Neither of those seem to be working, though, with President Trump.

BERMAN: You know, Margaret, you're at Axios now, but you spent years at Bloomberg, which of course, is a big financial journalism hub. The markets have already decided what they think about the president's messaging, which is that they don't like how confusing it is. It is deeply unsettling to the world markets and to these countries that are trying to forge forward. So where do you see things standing this morning?

MARGARET TALEV, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. Good morning, John.

I mean, to me it's Monday morning, and so the president is reacting as if it's Monday morning. He is acknowledging the message that the market sent last week. He is acknowledging that a week from now or so, September 1, is going to be another deadline in the decisions on trade. And he is trying to calm things, although leaving the element of surprise as a distinct possibility.

So I do think it's too soon to know what's going to happen, but it does seem that -- as he's about to leave the G-7, the president is trying to send a calming signal.

But things have been so up and down, I think it's hard to bank on. It's hard to bet on it. And that's what has gotten -- part of what's gotten the market so concerned. The other part of it is just that in the sort of medium turn, if he continues along this trajectory, it is going to be rattling. It's not just the uncertainty that will be rattling, it's the -- the implications that would be rattling.

CAMEROTA: It's the rattling that will be rattling.

TALEV: It's the rattling.

CAMEROTA: Pamela, correct us if we're wrong. U.S. trade representatives, Lighthizer, et cetera, were already going to be meeting with their Chinese counterparts next week. And so the idea that something has come out of G-7, can we bank on that?

[07:05:07] BROWN: Like Margaret just alluded to, you can't really bank on anything at this point. Just given how all over the place the president and the White House has been. But you know, the president did say that the serious negotiations will continue. As you point out, they were already planned.

And it is kind of going to be interesting to see how China responds to all of this back and forth over the weekend here at the G-7, with the president saying that he only had regrets of not raising the tariffs either higher after he said he had second thoughts about escalating the trade war.

So it's really unclear at this point where China stands on this. We're hearing it from President Trump himself, putting this positive spin on it, saying that they are reaching out, that there were these two calls from the highest levels. But really, we don't know what the substance of those conversations were, and the president won't divulge that.

BERMAN: And again, we just heard from Matt Rivers and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing says they're not aware of any calls.

I want to read you one exchange with the secretary of treasury, Steve Mnuchin, just moments ago. He was asked directly, were there not actually -- was there not actually a call last night? Mnuchin would only respond, "There were discussions that went back and forth. Let's just leave it at that." So the secretary of treasury won't confirm there were actual calls. This feels like a little bit of cleanup once again over the president's claim there were calls last night.

Be that as it may, Errol, it does seem to me what Margaret is saying. The president seems to be backing off this morning, at least for now. He seems to have assessed the situation or been told that his rhetoric was too hot, and he's backing off. LOUIS: That's right. Look, the president is engaged in, politically

speaking, a timing exercise. He wants to arrive at some kind of a negotiated arrangement with China. He doesn't want it to happen too soon. He doesn't want it to happen too late. It's intended to sort of spur the economy, make him look good, help his re-election chances. That's the way the game has been played for a long, long time.

On the other hand, he doesn't want everything to fall apart in front of him. He doesn't want the markets to tank. He doesn't want the level of instability that's going to draw in, you know, new candidates running against him, a lot of bad headlines, a lot of economic losses and damage to the main brand of the Trump presidency, which has been, "Even if you don't like everything else I do, I've been great for the economy."

CAMEROTA: All right. Margaret, we have to move on to what the president said about how to stop hurricanes. As a hurricane -- a potential hurricane is approaching Puerto Rico as we speak.

So it is your reporting that the president suggested nuking them,, dropping a nuclear bomb inside a hurricane that would blow it apart before it could key -- it could hit land. And here's the reporting from Axios.

"The briefer who heard this was knocked back on his heels. The source in the room added, 'You could hear a gnat fart in that meeting.'" Something I've never said before on morning television.

TALEV: You just wanted to say that, yes.

CAMEROTA: "'People were astonished. After the meeting ended, people thought What the F? What do we do with this?'"

Can you expound on any of this, Margaret?

TALEV: I'm going to try. Yes. This is something that happened in the earlier part of the president's presidency but that we are finding out about now. And because it's hurricane season, and because it's just so fascinating, we thought it was important to report it.

We have this reporting from multiple sources. We gave the White House an entire day yesterday to comment, put this into context.

But look, what's important to understand is that the president heard about this idea and asked whether it was possible. This is an idea that has been around since the Eisenhower administration. It has been repeatedly knocked down by scientists for kind of obvious reasons, like nuclear fallout and that sort of stuff. But also because many scientists believe it just wouldn't work, that sort of counterintuitively, the energy produced in the middle of a hurricane is so big that there's no possible way that this could actually work in terms of disrupting the current. But also, there are, like, environmental reasons, science reasons, health reasons.

This idea did not go beyond discussions with the president, did not get into the planning levels. And it's also important to note that a lot of White House officials did not know about it, that this was not sort of widely known inside the White House, which is why it's coming to light now.

But there are multiple and distinct people who are familiar, both with the president's conversations about it and with the fact that this was memorialized in writing. But the White House this morning, you can see the president very clearly seems to be sending the signal he's not looking at doing this now. And I think we can all agree that's probably a good thing.

BERMAN: Yes. What's the only thing worse than a hurricane? A nuclear hurricane is basically what NOAA says.

And it's notable -- and Pamela, I'll let you talk about this. We'll put it up on the screen. We have a picture -- I hope we have the picture of what was supposed to be the big climate meeting at the G-7, where all the world leaders of the G-7 were to gather to talk about climate change, which is such a serious issue for all of these nations.

There is an empty seat there that belongs to the president of the United States, Pamela. He was a no-show. And this is part of the G-7 three-day meetings that the White House has been pooh-poohing for days.

BROWN: Yes, that's right. The president views issue -- the issue of climate change during the G-7 as a waste of his time. He was a no- show this morning.

What's odd, though, John, is that the president just mentioned, just before his meeting with the prime minister of India, that he thinks it's going to happen later. I guess he -- either he's not aware that it has already happened or I don't know what's going on there. But he was a no-show. It's also notable he was a no-show on the climate summit last year, as well.

He believes that this summit, the G-7, should be focused solely on the economy. He believes that there are so many issues relating to the economy, having to do with trade and tariffs and so on, that these other issues outside of that, such as climate change, really just aren't important to him during this weekend and that he just doesn't think it's a productive use of his time. That was one of the chief complaints going into this weekend from the president. And in fact, one of the big reasons why that economic summit was added here yesterday morning, to appease the president.

CAMEROTA: Errol, one more bit of news that has come out of the G-7, which is for the next meeting of world leaders, President Trump is suggesting holding it at his Doral Golf Club. Is there a problem with that?

LOUIS: Oh, there's a problem with that. In fact, he's going to send all of the people who have already started studies, litigation, public complaints about the Emoluments Clause, about the president personally enriching himself by using his office to boost his own business and never having separated himself from those businesses, it's going to go into overdrive. It will be a kind of scrutiny that he probably doesn't want, maybe doesn't expect. And it will make it global news in a way that it hasn't been before.

It will make clear to everybody. I think this one is really, really clear.

You know, you look at the Trump Hotel in D.C. and the fact that a lot of diplomats stay there. And well, are they paying above market rate? You have to sort of really work that and try and think it through to see is there a problem here?

This is kind of obvious, that all of the security, all of the diplomats, all of the money flowing directly into the president's pocket is something we've never seen before, something that arguably is illegal and something that's going to cause him a huge political headache.

CAMEROTA: OK. Errol, thank you very much. Ladies, thank you for all of that reporting.

BERMAN: All right. It's a new day in the Republican presidential contest. Former Republican Congressman Joe Walsh has officially entered the race. He is challenging President Trump. He's going to talk about his decision to do so next.

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(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[07:16:55] JOE WALSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm running because he's unfit. Somebody needs to step up, and there needs to be an alternative. The country is sick of this guy's tantrum. He's a child.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: Former Republican Congressman Joe Walsh, announcing that he will challenge President Trump in 2020. Despite the president's high approval among Republicans, Walsh says many in the GOP know the president is unfit and are dying to say so publicly.

And joining us now is Republican presidential candidate Joe Walsh. How does that sound?

WALSH: Wow. Alisyn, good to be with you.

CAMEROTA: Good to have you. When you were last on our program, which was I think like Thursday or Friday, you told us that you, over the weekend, would be making this decision. And I know you've been weighing a decision whether to challenge President Trump. And obviously, you've done a cost/benefit analysis. So what was it that made you think that this is actually going to be successful?

WALSH: It's -- it's like we live in this bizarro world where, I think, almost every American is either embarrassed or disgusted, Alisyn, with who this guy is personally, President Trump. I mean, you know like I know. He lies. The tweets. I think most people, privately, are tired of it.

CAMEROTA: Well, you say that. Hold on one second, Joe.

WALSH: Yes.

CAMEROTA: Because you say that, but what's your evidence of that? He has an 88 percent approval rating among Republicans. And I know that you hear from some of your radio callers that they're angry with you for talking about this. So where are you getting your information that so many people are disgusted?

WALSH: I've been in conservative talk radio for the last five years. And the people I talk to privately tell me, generally, private tell me, "I can't stand him, but Joe, the Democrats are socialists." Or "I can't stand him, Joe, but I like my tax cuts."

What happened this past week, and I think it's going to happen even more, the guy is tweeting us into a reception [SIC]. Look, Alisyn, I could be wrong. The bet I'm making with this campaign, and our slogan is "Be Brave," which is come on out. Say publicly what you believe privately. Follow my lead. I think there's support there.

CAMEROTA: So as I said, an 88 percent approval rating among Republicans. He also has a huge war chest. The -- the amount that he's fundraising and that the RNC is fundraising is huge. So again, do you -- are you doing this to just cause some sort of groundswell, like you just said, or do you actually think that you stand a chance against President Trump?

WALSH: Yes, I'm doing this to win. I mean, who in their right mind, Alisyn, would take this on if they didn't? I know. Look at that look you're giving me. Look at the look you're giving me. If they didn't think they could win.

Look, I have been waiting every day this year for somebody to step up, a Republican to step up to make the moral case against him that he is unfit. I wrote that op-ed in "The New York Times" two or three weeks ago. The guy's unfit. Come on. Somebody should challenge him. And I apologize for my role in helping to elect him.

Nobody stepped up, Alisyn. And if we don't, I realized this past week, the Republican Party's going to regret it. But the country will be in danger.

CAMEROTA: So now that you are officially running, I do think that it requires of some of your past --

WALSH: Absolutely.

CAMEROTA: -- incendiary comments. I know that you've apologized for them, but let's -- I do think that they require a little bit more explanation. So let's just go through a few of them. A few of the whoppers, OK?

[07:20:07] So this was on Twitter. This was 2017. You said, "We lowered the bar for Obama. He was held to a lower standard, because he was black." That was 2017.

Here's another one. This is 2018. OK? So this is just last year.

WALSH: Yes.

CAMEROTA: "I have a right to pray to whatever God I want to pray to. I have the right to call Obama a Muslim and call Trump a thin-skinned egomaniac. I have a right to use a AR-15 to defend my family and my home. That's America. Get off my lawn."

Was that helpful in 2018? That rhetoric?

WALSH: No. Probably a little too out there. But Alisyn, I -- I'm not a bomb thrower, but I despise political correctness.

CAMEROTA: But you are a bomb thrower. Saying, "I have a right to use my AR-15," saying, "I have a right to call Obama a Muslim," though you know that that's not true. That is bomb throwing.

WALSH: No. It's an -- it's a protection against free speech.

I remember the reason for that exact tweet. People were saying, "You've got to be careful what you say about the president." And I just want to remind people, even if you don't agree with me, we live in a country where we do have free speech.

But Alisyn, to your point, yes, I've been very outspoken. There are probably 40,000 tweets out there, and you could find 300 that you're going to look at me and say, "Joe, what were you thinking?" And all I could do is do what we're doing now, go through them one by one and apologize for some. That I used language in there, that tweet I shouldn't have used, yes. Yes.

CAMEROTA: Well, here's another one. Here's another one that I want to bounce off of you in terms of the language. This is from 2014. You say, "It appears I can say 'Redskins,' which is supposedly offensive, but when I say other words, they hit a commercial."

WALSH: Yes.

CAMEROTA: "If Redskins is just like the 'N' word, why can I say 'Redskins' on the air without being dumped out into a commercial? Found out if I say 'Redskins' or 'cracker' or 'redneck Bible thumper,' I could stay on. But if I say the 'N' word or the 'S' word, they cut me off."

I mean, that is bomb throwing. What -- you sound --

WALSH: No. That was -- Alisyn, that one in particular -- and I love this one -- that was making a serious point. There were people at that time in 2014 that said "Redskins" is the new "N" word.

CAMEROTA: Yes.

WALSH: Baloney. Let me finish, Alisyn. The "N" word has a unique, ugly history in this country. And I was making that point. I could say "Redskins." I could write down the word "Redskins." I couldn't say the "N" word or write out the "N" word. And that was the exact point. That it is different. It is offensive. Redskins is --

CAMEROTA: It sounded like -- it sounds like you wanted to be able to say the "N" word.

WALSH: No. No. I didn't believe that "Redskins" is the new "N" word. The "N" word is unique and ugly. And that's the point. We would never name the Washington football team the Washington "N" words.

CAMEROTA: Yes.

WALSH: But it's called the Washington Redskins. They're different.

CAMEROTA: I understand. I guess my point is that your impulse seems to be to say incendiary things. Has that changed?

WALSH: My impulse is to push the envelope and to get people to think. And oftentimes, Alisyn, I step over the line.

If there's one -- let me finish. If there's one thing I've learned in the last couple years is, it can lead to what we have in the White House now.

CAMEROTA: Because you normalized it somehow.

WALSH: Because that's all he does.

CAMEROTA: So how did it lead -- how did your incendiary comments lead to President Trump?

WALSH: It made it almost acceptable. Because I'd argue, Alisyn, that's all he does. That's all he's got. That's all he puts out.

Generally, behind a lot of what I said, there was a serious point to be made. But it led to him. Look, Alisyn, I'll get on my knees right now. I helped lead to Trump. There's no doubt about that.

CAMEROTA: And you're done with that. You'll never say incendiary comments like that anymore, or are those your nature?

WALSH: No. I think I said on the radio about a year and a half ago, I'm done with personal attacks.

I'll give you an example. People who call into my show believe that Ilhan Omar hates America or AOC hates America. No, they don't hate America. They believe in a different America than I do.

Absolutely. I'm done with the personal attacks. Trump's helped me get there.

CAMEROTA: Do your radio callers think you stand a chance?

WALSH: Probably not. Look, again, be brave, Alisyn. It's a bet I'm making. I firmly believe this guy in the White House is a goof. He's an embarrassment. Most of us believe that, but there's no alternative.

CAMEROTA: You and Anthony Scaramucci keep saying, "Most of us believe that." You keep saying that you know other conservative Republicans. You keep saying that people in the White House.

WALSH: Yes.

CAMEROTA: Can you tell us who might come forward or who's shared with you their concerns?

WALSH: Not yet. But Alisyn, almost every one of my former Republican colleagues in Congress, privately, they can't wait for this president to be gone.

CAMEROTA: Almost every one of your former Republicans has called you, and you've talked to them privately?

WALSH: No. I haven't talked to every single one. Virtually every one that I've spoken with has said the same thing. All they're doing, Alisyn, is they're keeping their mouth shut. They know that Trump at the top of the ticket is going to be a disaster in 2020. They just want him gone, and then they think the party can get back to normal.

[07:25:07] That's a bunch of bull, by the way. Because if we don't challenge Trump now, the Republican Party will never get back to normal.

CAMEROTA: Are they worried about you outing them now that you're doing this?

WALSH: It's interesting. Maybe it's making them uncomfortable, or maybe some of them just needed somebody to stick their neck out.

CAMEROTA: Have you been watching the president and the G -- the stage, the world stage during the G-7 and your thoughts?

WALSH: He's trying to walk back everything he did on Friday. Alisyn, Friday was a horrendous day. Think about what Trump did. "I order every U.S. company to do this." The Fed chair is as much of an enemy to this country as China? He's trying to walk all of that back, because the markets tanked.

He's erratic, and again, he's tweeting us into a recession. That's going to -- that will help most Americans be brave and come out.

CAMEROTA: Former congressman and current presidential candidate Joe Walsh.

WALSH: Wow.

CAMEROTA: Thanks so much.

WALSH: Alisyn, great to be with you.

CAMEROTA: Thanks so much. We'll talk again -- John.

BERMAN: All right. Thanks so much, Alisyn.

Honoring the victims of the deadly mass shooting in Dayton. We will tell you about the star-studded event. That's next.

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