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Tape of Trump Press Conference with Italian President; Trump: If Turkey Goes into Syria "It's Not Our Problem"; Trump Defends Giuliani During Press Conference; G.M. Reaches Tentative Agreement with Union Workers after Weeks-Long Strike. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired October 16, 2019 - 11:30   ET

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


[11:30:00]

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE QUESTION)

SERGIO MATTARELLA, ITALIAN PRESIDENT (through interpretation): Before the members of the press introduce topics that have been discussed this morning, President Trump was talking about the possible implementation of tariffs on European products following the whole Airbus affair.

Of course, that's a topic that we will certainly be discussing this morning. And I do hope that we can come up with a cooperative-based approach and a frank discussion, so that we can avoid retaliation between the two parties.

Italy and I myself personally have always felt that it's better to talk things through to find a common solution, to find some sort of understanding for one another's stances. Because the alternative to that would be tariffs, followed by retaliation, followed by further tariffs.

And we also have to understand that we are waiting for a solution of the Boeing affair as well. So, of course, within the spirit of the Atlantic alliance, within the spirit of the friendship we've always had, I do feel it would be best to discuss these things and understand one another.

TRUMP: Well, in theory, there can't be retaliation, because this was an award that we got because of the fact that the European Union took advantage of past presidents. And this was an award that we got for the unfair treatment given to the United States by the European Union. So there should be no retaliation.

This was getting us even because $7.5 billion worth of things happened, bad things happened, unfair things happened to the United States by the European Union. So this was just getting us back to even.

And nobody else but me would have gotten that $7.5 billion back for the taxpayers of the United States.

Yeah?

QUESTION: Mr. President?

TRUMP: Yeah?

QUESTION: I'm sure you saw reports that John Bolton said that Rudy Giuliani is like a hand grenade, the way he was acting. And -- are you concerned that Bolton could be called to testify in your impeachment inquiry?

TRUMP: Now, look, John Bolton, I get along well with him. Some people didn't, some people didn't like John Bolton. I actually get along with him pretty well. It just didn't work out. I don't know that he got along with Rudy Giuliani.

Rudy Giuliani was seeking out corruption and what happens mostly in the 2016 election, because there was tremendous corruption in the 2016 election. I think even you would admit that. The election was -- it was disgraceful what happened, and what happened to me and what happened to the Republicans.

And that continues, with Nancy Pelosi and with Schiff. Adam Schiff got caught making up statements that he said I said that I didn't say. Which is fraud. I mean, it's purely fraudulent. So it continues.

So, Rudy was a great prosecutor. He was the best mayor in the history of the city of New York, as far as I can see. I think it's pretty much acknowledged, what he did for crime and everything else.

And when he saw what was going on with our election of 2016 -- the election I won, but the election that was absolutely corrupted by things that took place in government.

Now, we'll see what happens. The I.G. report's going to come out soon and we'll see what happens. I think people -- I know nothing about it in terms of the report. I'm waiting for the report like everybody else. But I predict you will see things that you don't even believe the level of corruption, whether it's Comey, whether it's Strzok and his lover, Page, whether it's so many other people, McCabe, whether it's President Obama himself. Let's see whether or not it's President Obama. Let's see whether or not they put that in...

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: Wait a minute. Let's see whether or not.

So Rudy saw that. And I can tell you, Rudy Giuliani -- because he was very, very incensed at the horrible things that he saw, as are many people, OK? And many Republicans. And the Republicans have been treated very unfairly by the Democrats.

I'll say this. Paul Ryan would never issue a subpoena. I don't say right or wrong, he wouldn't do it. He had too much respect for our country. Nancy Pelosi hands them out like cookies.

Everybody -- I don't even know these people. And for the most part, people, like, that are testifying -- I don't even know who they are. I never even heard of some of them, most of them.

But I have all these people testifying. And then they leak out. They don't say the good parts, they only say the bad parts. We're not allowed to representation, we're not allowed to lawyers, we're not allowed to have anything. The Democrats are treating the Republicans very, very badly.

TRUMP: Fortunately, we have a lot of good, strong, smart Republicans. But they never dealt, John (ph), with the Democrats the way the Democrats deal. And the Republicans won't forget it. Because what they're doing, what the Democrats are doing to this nation is a disgrace. What they have done, the disrespect that they've shown to the presidency -- and it'll happen to them.

Because if the Republicans have the House, which I think they will. Because of impeachment, I think -- because of this nonsense impeachment. It's based on a perfect phone conversation, an absolutely perfect phone conversation with the president of Ukraine.

A friend of mine who's a top lawyer read it. He said, this is perfect. You didn't say -- did you know this was going to happen? Actually thought it was going to happen.

There were many people listening to that conversation. Because when I speak to a leader, like if I speak to the president of Italy, if I speak to anybody, I know that there are many intelligence people on the line, I know that. I mean, with my understanding and knowledge. I don't know exactly who, but I assume there are many people.

Fortunately, they had transcribers, stenographers, people that do this for a living on the line, because we have an exact copy of the report, of the call.

So the call was put out immediately when I started hearing about the whistleblower. Well, the whistleblower's report was totally wrong. The whistleblower didn't know what he was talking about, or was given false information or was even worse than that.

Now, all of a sudden, Schiff doesn't want to talk to the whistleblower. Now all of a sudden, quid pro quo doesn't matter because now they see, in the call, there was no quid pro quo.

So with Rudy, Rudy was seeking out corruption. And I think there's nothing wrong with seeking out corruption.

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: Did you have -- Steve?

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: ... Rudy register as a foreign lobbyist last (ph) year?

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: I don't know what he did. I don't know. That's up to him. (CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: That, you have to ask -- excuse me, no. You have to ask Rudy those questions. Don't ask me. But Rudy was one of many people that was incensed at the corruption that took place during that election. Pure corruption.

For instance, I still ask the FBI, where is the server? How come the FBI never got the server from the DNC? Where is the server? I want to see the server. Let's see what's on the server.

So the server, they say, is held by a company whose primary ownership, individual, is from Ukraine.

I'd like to see the server. I think it's very important for this country to see the server.

Nobody wants to see it. The media never wants to see it. But I'll tell you, Republicans want to see it. So Republicans aren't treated well.

And here's the problem. I think we're going to take the House, based on what's happening with the impeachment stuff. And the Republicans can do the same thing in reverse, if they ever have -- and I hope it's going to be a long time, because nobody's done a better job with the economy, with our military, with our -- I've rebuilt the military. Our economy is the best it's ever been.

We have numbers that just came out where, not including taxes, the median household income for the average American has increased $5,000 in a very short time since I've been president. Nobody's ever heard of numbers like that.

So people want to find out, why was it so corrupt during that election? And I want to find out more than anybody else.

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: Steve, go ahead.

QUESTION: One of things that has been exposed by this Turkey situation is that as many as 50 nuclear weapons are at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey. How confident are you of those weapons safety?

TRUMP: We're confident. And we have a great -- a great air base there, very powerful air base. That air base alone can take anyplace. It's a large powerful air base.

And, you know, Turkey, just so people remember, Turkey is a NATO member. We're supposed to get along with our NATO members. And Turkey is a NATO member. Do people want us to start shooting at a NATO member? That would be a first. And that's all involved, having to do with NATO.

Yeah?

QUESTION: Mr. President, you're going to be seeing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi today. How do you anticipate that...

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: Well, I'd say this. I think that she's done this country a tremendous disservice. She's created a phony witch hunt, another one. First one failed, they're all failing. This one is just absolutely crazy.

All you have to do is read the transcript of the call. Read the transcript. This is a open-and-shut simple case. They're desperate because they know they're going to lose the election. They're desperate to do something because they know they're going to lose the election.

This administration has created the strongest economy in the history of our country. We have the greatest stock market. We had over a hundred times, we broke the record for stock markets. People's -- if you look at people's stocks, their 401(k)s, if you look at anything you want to look at, they're far better off now than they probably ever have been in this country. Record stock markets.

TRUMP: And don't forget, stock markets, not just rich people. It's all people. Because all people own in the stock markets.

New York Stock Exchange, all of them. They're at record highs. Nobody's ever done what we've done.

So they're playing games. They figure they can't win the election, so "Maybe we can find some ground, we'll get somebody that Trump never met, and maybe they'll say something bad about Trump, and if they do really bad, maybe it can stick a little bit." I don't think it's going to work.

They've treated the Republican Party with great disrespect.

OK, thank you very much. Thank you, everybody.

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: Thank you.

QUESTION: (inaudible)

TRUMP: My meeting with the family was really -- it was beautiful in a certain way. They did not want to meet with the person in question. But we had a very good meeting. They're very nice people.

And we met with the full group. It was four people, actually, as you -- you know how it's all broken up. And the meeting took place right here at about 6 o'clock last night, and it was very sad, to be honest. She lost and they lost their son.

I believe it was going down the wrong way, because that happens in Europe. You go to Europe, and the roads are opposite. And it's very tough. If you're from the United States, you do make that -- that decision to make a right turn where you're supposed to make a left turn. The roads are opposite. And she said that's what happened. That happens to a lot of people, by the way. But she said that's what happened.

She was in the room right out there. We met right here in these -- this area. And I offered to bring the person in question in, and they weren't ready for it. But I did offer.

I spoke with Boris. He asked me if I'd do that, and I did it.

Unfortunately -- they wanted to meet with her and unfortunately, when we had everybody together, they decided not to meet. Perhaps they had lawyers involved by that time. I don't know exactly.

I know the people were lovely. They were very nice. And they were, you know, desperately sad.

QUESTION: Sir, you suggested the family had indicated at one point that they were interested in meeting with her.

TRUMP: I thought they were. Based on what I saw they wanted to meet, but now they say they only want to meet if they're in the U.K. And that'll be up to them.

But I did meet the -- the family and I expressed condolences on behalf of our country.

Thank you very much, everybody.

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: Thank you. Thank you.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

TRUMP: Wait, wait. There's a great question I'm being asked. This is maybe the greatest question I've been asked in a long time. Please put those mics over here.

Go ahead, say it again.

QUESTION: Because you're winning with the WTO, because you are growing the biggest economy in the world, are you willing to give Italy a break on tariffs?

[11:42:41]

TRUMP: We are looking at Italy very strongly. As you know, the 7.5 is to be divided the way we say. We've divided it up. Italy has got a problem with the way we've divided it up. They say they had much less to do with it. Germany had more to do with it and France had more to do with it, as an example.

We will look at that more strongly. Ambassador Lighthizer is here. We're going to look at it very strongly.

OK, thank you. Good point. I love that question.

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: Thank you all very much.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: He may love that question. He didn't love much else. President Trump there with the president of Italy. You may never have known, because that's what happens when they're in the officer these days.

President Trump in a permanent state of lashing out, lashing out against Congress because of the impeachment inquiry, lashing out against the media because that's just what he does. Lashing out now against the Kurds. But notably who he is not lashing out, as you heard on this major statement on policy towards Syria, not lashing out against Russia, not lashing out against Turkey, despite their moves in the region right now.

Let's get to it, back to the table with everybody here.

Here are a couple lines I think I'd like to throw out there and then you guys can give me what you would like to say about it.

Not only did the president say, as we had talked about at the top, "not our problem if Turkey goes into Syria." Also saying "I wish them luck" to Syria, to Bashar al-Assad and Putin in their work now in Syria. And also saying that it's a "strategically brilliant" to be removing U.S. troops now from the border.

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Strategically brilliant. That's how the president of the United States is describing the ongoing slaughter of our Kurdish allies right now and the withdrawal of American power from a region of the world, which has gone infinitely more volatile because he's following through on his isolation stance.

He is wishing Russia and Syria good luck as we remove ourselves from that region entirely?

And don't forget the larger backdrop. It's not just the betrayal of our allies and abandonment of honor, a word he has only passing familiarity with. But the question remains, as Arwa Damon said before, why does the president keep advancing Vladimir Putin's foreign policy? Because they're the big winners in the region as we shore up Saudi Arabia.

[11:45:02}

BOLDUAN: Yes. When the president says he thinks it's strategically brilliant, the situation at the Turkish border and what he's decided to do, that is, obviously, not true, according to, forget anybody at this table, according to all Republicans who have been speaking out against him. I mean, even, as he was talking, Max, reporters on Capitol Hill, Ted

Barrett caught up with John Thune, one of the Republicans in Senate leadership, asked about the policy and John Thune said, "The policy being deployed currently is a big mistake."

MAX BOOT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Right. It's not strategically brilliant. It's a strategic disaster. I mean, you also had Lindsey Graham, who is generally a sycophant for Trump, saying, if there's a revival of ISIS, Trump will own it. That's what's going on here.

One of the other things that struck me, Kate, is the way Trump has not only betrayed our Kurdish allies. But now he is adding insult to injury because he's attacking the Kurd. He's saying, oh, they're not angels. He's suggesting one again --

(CROSSTALK)

BOOT: Completely false -- suggesting that the Kurds are deliberately releasing ISIS prisoners to force --

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: That's the second time he's said that.

BOOT: That's a lie. That's a lie.

BOLDUAN: Yes.

BOOT: First, he betrays them. He sets them up to be slaughtered. Then he insults them. This is truly shameful. This is why so many members of the U.S. military who worked with the Kurds are ashamed today who worked with the Kurds to see what is going on here.

At the same time that he is insulting our Kurdish allies, he is giving a green light to Turkey? Which is, yes, a NATO member but is very anti-American right now. He is giving a green light to Russia, which is our enemy.

Let's not forget another country, which he didn't mention, but Iran. Because when he is talking about inviting the Syrian regime in there, he says, oh, there's a lot of sand they can play around in, they can have it. Well, he's taking over there.

It's not just the Syrian regime. It's not just the Turks. It's also the Iranians. He claims to be opposed to Iranian power. That's why he pulled out of the nuclear accord.

But this is the greatest gift that the Iranians can possibly get. It's the greatest gift the Russians can get. It's the greatest gift the Turks could get. But it's a huge boost to the ISIS campaign. It's a disaster for American interests in the Middle East.

BOLDUAN: I will wonder this aloud. I know I have said it to you guys. I wonder where the advice is he is getting that this is strategically brilliant, when you know Pompeo and Pence are headed over there to get Turk why I to stand down, when you know that every Republican that he apparently listens to once in a while is saying that this is a mistake. I'm wondering where the advice is that this is so strategically brilliant.

One thing that reminds and bears reminding and repeating is that, if we want to be really crass about it, it's not just about the Kurds. It's not just about that America's word means something. It started because it was about ISIS and it was about the threat of terrorism, which is a very real threat and a very real concern about the resurgence of that.

I mean you've worked on terrorism cases. That was a large part of your career, Jennifer. This is devolving in very real time in a very real way.

JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: So what struck me the most, Kate, was this, when he said, Russia hates ISIS. They can handle it.

I mean, the notion that our president -- first of all, who himself knows nothing about national security, knows about the men and women, hundreds and thousands that spend their careers and their lives fighting terrorism, the prosecutors, the people at the CIA and the FBI. He doesn't listen to any of those people.

Not only that, he is basically saying Russia can do it. We are not trusting our president to fight terrorism. We're trusting the Russians now to fight our terrorism battle. That is shocking and appalling. I couldn't really believe it.

BOLDUAN: One thing among the fact checks -- I actually want to get back to the Pentagon. Barbara Starr is there.

One thing -- I will read a part of the quote, Barbara. I want to get your take on this.

Because the president said, "Our soldiers are not in harm's way. And they shouldn't be." And he says that they now have been pulled back and they are no longer in harm's way. Is that what you are hearing from defense officials?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, no, is the simple answer.

Look, several days ago, they pulled back a small number of troops from right up against the border between Turkey and Syria. He's not very clear -- no surprise perhaps -- about what he is actually talking about. Those troops have been pulled back.

But right now, as we're talking, there are hundreds of U.S. troops in Syria that are very much at risk.

We know, here at the Pentagon, job number-one right now, the top priority, everything else is taking a second seat, is to get those American troops out of Syria, obeying the president's withdrawal order, and get them out safely.

As we chatted a little while ago, you have a lot of players on the battlefield, the Russians, the Turks, the Syrian regime, ISIS, al Qaeda, militias on the road, all sorts of characters. And there's a good deal, a very serious concern right now at the highest levels of the Pentagon that they can get all of those U.S. troops out of there, out of harm's way and get them out safely So that, right now, is a very significant concern.

[11:50:05]

I just quickly wanted to mention, this notion that the president saying that others can handle America's counterterrorism fight. You have a lot of Special Operations forces right now not putting their name to it, but the ones who have prosecuted the war on terror on the frontlines for the last 18 years, speaking out about their dismay, to put it politely, about what is happening.

It should not be ignored that this is extraordinary. Special Operations forces don't speak out. They are the quiet warriors. They obey the orders. They go about their business.

It should concern Pentagon leadership and everybody when you see troops beginning to question the president's orders, even on background, even if they don't put their name to publicly.

That is something to pay attention to because this very concept, American troops fight with their partners on the ground, they don't fight alone. They give their word. They have an honor code to keep their word. And the president has ordered them out and sort of said it just doesn't matter anymore.

BOLDUAN: Barbara, thank you so much. I really, really appreciate the perspective.

All of that is happening. There will be more happening because today the president is set to be meeting with top congressional leaders about the issue of Syria. Let us see what this afternoon brings, is one thing I would say. I would just guess that there's going to be a lot more to come this afternoon after what the president just said.

He also talked briefly, I guess, relatively speaking, about the impeachment inquiry. It kind of went into greatest hits, guys. We'll get to the greatest in a second.

But let's start with -- I don't know, I was maybe a little bit surprised that he went to such great lengths, Jennifer, to defend Rudy Giuliani, who is under investigation right now by the southern district over his work in Ukraine.

RODGERS: That's right. There's been a lot of back and forth here over the past few days. It looked like he was letting Rudy go, sending him under the bus.

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: Yes, exactly.

RODGERS: Now he seems to be back to defending Rudy. Although not on anything apart from this one thing that he's talking about, which is the gathering of the dirt on the supposed origins of the 2016 election investigation.

He's really only defending Rudy in so far as he's saying Rudy was gathering important information that was going to vindicate those of us who have been saying the investigation into me was wrongful and should not have been done in the first place. Yes, a defense, but a limited defense.

BOLDUAN: You might have heard it, though his mic was off while the tape was rolling. But when Donald Trump started talking about the server again, John Avlon almost started levitating.

AVLON: Donald Trump returning to the CrowdStrike conspiracy theory that his own former Homeland Security adviser, Tom Bossert, said it's a totally discredited theory that he can't get out of his mind and he went there again.

BOLDUAN: So why -- why? Why?

AVLON: The president's attention to some non-facts, some conspiracy theories, is a fascinating thing, right?

(CROSSTALK)

AVLON: One of the flow-throughs is an ornate defense of Russian interests. You ask, who's advising him on this stuff? Why does his gut keep leading him in Russian directions?

You hear on this CrowdStrike thing basically is Russia didn't interfere in the election. No, no, the only interference and collusion was on the part of Ukraine. And he went to this secret server. It's all gets tied up in this investigator's report that he is very invested in. You heard him quote it yesterday even before the idea of maybe that will include President Obama.

That's the context in which he's defending Rudy Giuliani, despite the mounting legal troubles the former mayor is presenting. There's some personal loyalty there as well. I wouldn't over index the power to push the loyalty of Donald Trump.

What's fascinating is the way that Donald Trump and this entire conspiracy theory is designed really to absolve Russia for interfering in our election and to deflect and project it on our allies in Ukraine.

BOLDUAN: Yes. One thing I always remember and suggest is, when the president says the whole point of focusing on Ukraine was to root out corruption, he has yet to name another person that should be called out for corruption that isn't a political rival of his that they're investigating. When asked directly about it, he simply says, "I'll have to look into it."

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: Guys, stand by. We have more coming up. [11:54:29]

Coming up still, there's big news coming out of the G.M. and union strike. A proposed tentative deal has been reached between G.M. and the United Auto Workers after a five-week strike. This strike has been really dragging on. There's been really tough negotiations. We're going to go live to Detroit to get the latest, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BOLDUAN: We're following breaking news out of Michigan we want to get to. A possible end to the longest auto labor strike in history. General Motors has reached a proposed and tentative agreement with union workers after a neawrly five-week strike.

Vanessa Yurkevich is in Detroit and joins me now.

Vanessa, you've been talking to G.M. and the striking workers from the beginning of this. What's in the deal? What are you hearing?

VANESSA YURKEVICH, CNN BUSINESS & POLITICS REPORTER: Hi, Kate. Yes, this deal between UAW and G.M. is a long time coming. As you said, nearly five weeks out here, the striking workers in sun and cold, and now in a little bit of sleet. This is such welcome news to them.

In this deal, we know that it had been stalled out for a couple weeks. As soon as the G.M. CEO Mary Barra got into the room with union negotiators this week, it started to move this deal forward.

We know the union had said in the past they would not sign any deal unless a couple things were in there. One, temporary workers. They wanted to make sure their temporary union workers with G.M. would become full-time employees. We know that has been wrapped up.

Also, the issue of Mexico. They've wanted to make sure that G.M. would commit to moving some of their product lines back from Mexico to the United States. We don't know specifics, but we know that the union has been insistent on that and said they would not sign anything that didn't include some kind of movement back from Mexico to the United States.

[11:59:43]

Next steps now, the union's top officials have flown in here to Detroit and they will be voting on this tentative agreement here tomorrow. Once that vote happens, and it's approved, they will then take it back to their members across the country, people that are standing here behind me on this picket line and around the country, who will then make their vote, hoping to ratify this agreement and make it final -- Kate?

[12:00:00]