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Trump Defends Confusing Remarks on Trade War with China; Dozens of Jeffrey Epstein's Accusers Speak at Hearing; Lori Loughlin, Husband to Appear Back in Court Today; Deutsche Bank, Capitol One Have Until 4 P.M. to Tell Court If They Have Trump's Tax Returns; Brazil's President Demands Apology from Macron Before Accepting Aid Money to Fight Fires. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired August 27, 2019 - 11:30   ET



[11:30:00] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Sorry, it's the way I negotiate.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: So my question is, is that a strategy? Is it a strategy to call President Xi an enemy one day and then say that relations are very good --

TRUMP: No, no, no.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: -- and then -- I mean, it's gone back and --

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


VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Joining me how to discuss how that approach is actually working out for U.S. businesses, is Rick Helfenbein, the president and CEO of the American Footwear and Apparel Association.

Rick, good to talk to you again.


We're about five days out from the beginning of retail ugly and I appreciate that the president has a wonderful negotiating strategy. And we hope he had that phone call that nobody seems to know about.

BLACKWELL: Yes, I want to ask you about that phone call.

But let me start with the strategy that the president says, hey, it works for me. How does it work for the businesses you represent?

HELFENBEIN: You know, we operate on strategic plans and we plan six to nine months in advance, so all this back and forth is really a one- way sign that's telling us, get out of China. And it's very hard to do because our second choice to China would be Vietnam and they have limited capacity. Plus, the president has threatened Vietnam.

So then maybe we would go to India. But the president has threatened India with tariffs.

So we then decide, OK, we'll tough it out in China. But how do we do that when, on September 1 -- China is our largest supplier of apparel. On September 1, we're going to get hit with 15 percent tariff.


HELFENBEIN: You know, retailers are having a pretty tough go here in America.

BLACKWELL: Let me ask you about the 15 percent. The president continues to say that consumers here in the U.S., U.S. businesses are not paying the tariffs. We know that not to be true.

But if any of this is being absorbed, how long can the businesses in the apparel industry absorb that? When is it going to be exponentially worse, if that's coming?

HELFENBEIN: You know, we have this whole thing that we have a shopping season that starts around Thanksgiving and that's when we make our money, between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

And if you take money out of our margin, we don't make money. And when we don't make money -- remember, the consumer is like two-thirds of the economy. And 10 percent of the jobs in America are in retail. The retailers don't make money.

That big "R" word is looming out there and we don't want to even modestly predict a recession. But what's going to happen? Prices go up, sales go down, jobs get lost. Where are people going to go? What are people going to do?


HELFENBEIN: And the fact that the president is doing this and, you know, people are saying, we have to sacrifice, I believe Lindsay Graham, Senator Graham over the weekend was talking about the sacrifice and --


BLACKWELL: Yes, take a little bit of pain.

HELFENBEIN: A little pain. And Walmart shoppers are going to feel the pain. Man, that's America. You know? We don't need to feel the pain.


HELFENBEIN: We want to do the right thing for America, but this is no way to do it.

BLACKWELL: Rick, let me ask you this. There was a bit of a news conference that did not get a lot of attention. But I want you to listen to what the president said and I want your reaction to it.


TRUMP: This has to be a deal that's better for us. And if it's not better, let's not do business together. I don't want to do business. Forget about tariffs for a second. We're taking in tremendous amounts of money. Forget that. I don't want to do business.


BLACKWELL: "I don't want to do business." What are you hearing when the president says, if the deal isn't better for us, no business?

HELFENBEIN: Well, that reference is a reference to decoupling the United States from China. And if we decouple, this isn't going to bode well for the economy. It's going to, frankly, be a disaster, because both economies have been relying on each other.

In America, we have like 329 million people and, in China, they have 1.4 billion people. So we're going to tell them what to do?

We want to have this trade deal. We want to be able to sell into China. And we want China to be a little better to us in terms of our intellectual property.


HELFENBEIN: But the means and the ends aren't matching here.

BLACKWELL: Quickly, let me ask you, do you care about this back and forth when the president says we got a call overnight from China, they want to go back to the table, and then China says, we have no confirmation of a call? Do you care about those specific details?

HELFENBEIN: We don't care about the specific details. We just want them to talk. We think that, quite frankly, the president sits there sometimes and he's got on one shoulder the Dow man and on the other shoulder the tariff man. And they've both got to work together.

[11:35:07] When the Dow man starts going down, the tariff man goes up. We need them to be working in sync to get this to have relevance for America. This is not working out.

BLACKWELL: Well, you -- you certainly paint a picture there.

Rick Helfenbein, good to talk to you again.

HELFENBEIN: Good to talk to you. Thank you.

BLACKWELL: Still ahead, Jeffrey Epstein may be gone but some of his accusers are finally having their day in court. An emotional day to be sure. We are live at the courthouse in New York, next.


[11:40:09] BLACKWELL: Right now, at least a dozen accusers of alleged sex trafficker, Jeffrey Epstein, are speaking out in court. A judge is giving these alleged victims a chance to be heard after the defendant was found dead from an apparent suicide.

CNN's crime and justice reporter, Shimon Prokupecz, is live from outside the courtroom.

Shimon, what is happening there now?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME & JUSTICE REPORTER: The victims actually have begun to speak, Victor. By our last count, there probably are about 30 victims inside the courtroom. Some of them will not speak, but certainly many more in the courtroom then will speak.

We've already heard from one victim, Courtney Wild. She has been central in this case. She's been outspoken and she's been out there talking to the "Miami Herald" back in 2018.

She was also one of the victims who sued the Department of Justice over the first deal, the secret deal, which she called a secret deal that she gave to Jeffrey Epstein.

Here's some of what she said. Fighting back tears, she said that she feels very angry and sad and that she says justice has never been served in this case. And she called Epstein a coward.

Of course, Jeffrey Epstein killed himself inside the federal jail here where he was being held.

And so now a lot of these victims, the judge giving them the opportunity, the opportunity that the judge says they did not have previously, to come into court and give their side of the story, tell the public, tell prosecutors in open court what happened to them.

And of course, that is what is going on behind us in court. We expect several more victims to speak. Some of them will not identify themselves and instead be referred to as Jane Doe Number One or Jane Doe Number Two.

So there will be new victims we've never heard of before who are going to be appearing here in court to tell their side of what happened to them.

BLACKWELL: Still so important as there are so many questions about how Jeffrey Epstein was able to commit suicide.

Shimon Prokupecz, thank you.

Now to another hearing we are watching closely. Actress Lori Loughlin and her husband are back in court for a hearing in the college admissions scandal.

You'll remember the couple is accused of paying $500,000 to a fake charity to get their daughters into college, as well as lying about them being recruits for the crew team.

CNN correspondent, Scott McLean, is outside the Boston courtroom there.

Scott, what is today's hearing all about?


So Loughlin and her husband, fashion designer, Mossimo Giannulli, are expected in over three hours from now to sort out some procedural issues, specifically the potential for conflict of interest with their lawyers.

Loughlin and Giannulli are both being tried together for fraud and money laundering charges but they share many of the same attorneys, which could become a problem if there ever were to become a conflict between the two of them as the case goes on.

One of the law firms has also recently represented the University of California in a completely separate case, though USC in this case is the victim of this alleged fraud. So that law firm has vowed to put up a so-called ethical wall between the lawyers involved in the respective cases to make sure that there are no issues.

The judge will then ask both Loughlin and Giannulli if they understand the risks of this arrangement and whether they want to proceed.

Now, the last time Loughlin was here in Boston and at court, she was waving to her fans, she was all smiles. In fact, the day before court, she was even posing for pictures and signing autographs with fans, which is a bit perplexing considering the seriousness of the charges against her.

Each of the charges carries a potential maximum sentence of up to 20 years in prison.

As you said, Victor, the pair are accused of paying half a million dollars to get their two daughters into USC as crew recruits even though the government alleges that neither of them had ever participated in rowing at all.

This allegation, it has come with professional costs already to Loughlin. She no longer has a show on Netflix. She now longer has a show on the Hallmark Channel. And brands have distanced themselves from her daughter, Olivia Jade, who is a social media influencer with some 1.4 million followers on Instagram.

Both Loughlin and Giannulli pleaded not guilty, even though many other parents involved in the cheating scandal, the largest ever uncovered in U.S. history, have pleaded guilty, including Felicity Huffman. She's actually supposed to be sentenced in that case next month -- Victor?

BLACKWELL: We'll see what happens in court and outside as the circus was outside the courtroom the last time.

Scott McLean, for us there, thank you so much.

[11:44:55] The situation in the Amazon, it grows more dire by the day. Fires burning out of control. But is a personal feud holding up millions in foreign donations to fight those flames? Why Brazil's president says he wants an apology.


[11:50:07] BLACKWELL: It is deadline day for Deutsche Bank and Capital One to disclose whether they have President Trump's tax returns. An appeals court in New York has given the banks until 4:00 this afternoon to answer the question.

CNN justice correspondent, Jessica Schneider, is with us now.

Jessica, they have four hours now. Any indication if there will be some movement from the banks?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Not just yet, Victor. So far, those two major banks are refusing to reveal if they even have the president's tax returns. They're up against a 4:00 p.m. deadline where they must file a letter with the court finally disclosing if they even possess the tax returns that have become a political hot topic.

It's a seemingly simple fact that both Capital One and Deutsche Bank refused to tell that panel of judges during the oral arguments on Friday. The banks cited contractual obligations when they declined to tell the judges if they had the president's tax returns in their possession.

Well, that argument didn't seem to fly well with the three-judge panel. That was with the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York. All the judges seemed very frustrated on Friday and they set this process in motion for these letters from these banks to be filed by 4:00 p.m. today.

Really, this procedural fight, it's unfolding amid this larger fight that we're seeing over the president's tax returns on multiple fronts. Congressional Democrats, really in a broad array, are making this huge play to get the president's tax returns and financial documents.

They're saying that they could serve a legislative purpose, that they could help Democrats strengthen existing banking laws, for example. And they are arguing that they aren't just doing this for purely political purposes, something that Trump's attorneys are saying they're doing.

So a New York district court judge, he has already ruled in the Democrats' favor. The president's lawyers have now taken this issue to the appellate level. So we'll see what Capital One and Deutsche Bank have to say later today, Victor.

That filing deadline is at 4:00 p.m. We could see if they reveal whether they have the president's tax returns, or it's still possible that they could try to dodge answering that question yet again.

What we know is that the letter to the court, it will be filed under seal, so it's even questionable at this point whether the public will get that clear answer as to whether these two banks even have the president's tax returns -- Victor?

BLACKWELL: Lots of options there.

Jessica Schneider, thank you.

A personal feud holding up a massive and urgent firefight in the Amazon. Brazil's president is demanding an apology after the G-7 pledged money to the fight to get the fires out in the Amazon.

More after the break.


[11:57:23] BLACKWELL: The G-7 pledged $20 million in aid to help fight the fires raging in the Amazon, but the Brazilian president says he will not accept the money until he gets an apology.

This morning, Bolsonaro told reporters that Macron has to take back insults before he responds to the aid offer.

With me now, near the site of some of the worst fires in Brazil, is CNN senior international correspondent, Nick Paton Walsh.

Nick, what is going on here between Bolsonaro and Macron?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, all of this obviously is a personal spat and is a massive distraction from the urgency of the fires here.

But it seems that -- let me wind you back to how we got here because it's confusing. You know, Jair Bolsonaro says, well, I'll accept the aid potentially and I'm going to have to negotiate with France but French President Emmanuel Macron has to roll back his comments calling me a liar.

This started at the beginning of the G-7 when, seeing how the fires were breaking out here, Macron said he that Brazil's president was lying about his commitment to the environment.

Then we find Brazil's president commenting on a meme on the Internet, which is very offensive to the French president's wife. The French president then says how offensive that is and hopes that Brazil gets a president who's up for the job soon.

And then Jair Bolsonaro, who was obviously deeply offended and seems to have this apology or withdrawal of comments contingent on accepting the $20 million the seven richest countries scraped together to tackle this massive environmental crisis.

All of it, frankly, it is extraordinary, Victor, that the first 90 seconds of you and me talking this, about how these two men don't want to get along. It is obviously incumbent on the Brazilian president to deal with the fires inside his own country regardless of his environmental policy. The fires are raging incredibly hard.

But we've just heard from Donald Trump, the U.S. president, saying how he has had dealings with Jair Bolsonaro, got to know him very well, thinks he's doing a great job here, and doing what he can to fight the fires.

Quite what metrics we're looking at right now in terms of how well the firefight is going is unclear, though -- Victor?

BLACKWELL: Nick, tell us more about the state of the fires now.

WALSH: Incredibly hard, frankly, to give you real serious numbers about how the fight is going.

Now where I've been standing here, near one of the air bases, we saw about five what looked like propeller aircraft from the military taking off. We see cargo planes taking off quite a lot. We've been told 43,000 troops, as Jair Bolsonaro said, are on their way to fight the fires.

We're here with the fire brigades behind us. They handle all fires around the town here, be it a domestic fire or a forest fire. They're waiting for the call here and say, in fact, often, they get those calls around about noon when people tend to set the fires that are behind deforestation here.

But it's a massive effort. And 85 percent up on last year. A huge job for Brazil. May need that international help. They're not seeming to accept that readily yet --

[12:00:09] BLACKWELL: Yes.

WALSH: -- until this personal spat is sorted out.