Return to Transcripts main page


Will Trump Policies Boost the U.S. Economy?; At Least 4 Attorneys Approached to Join Trump's Legal Team; Trump Announcing New Tariffs Against China. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired March 22, 2018 - 12:30   ET


[12:30:00] ELIANA JOHNSON, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, POLITICO: -- and this is why he was happy to shutdown the government. He simply didn't believe this crisis -- it was going to cause a major crisis.

But, you know, the president is right, that he was elected because he was the only Republican in the primary to talk about trade, and he helped Ted Cruz switched his position. You had Pat Toomey, a former president of the Club for Growth switches position on TPP.

He's right that he won, but what you heard critics say were that, these voters are eventually going to realize that he was selling him a bill of goods. It's because trade deficits are not the reason that factories are shuttered and so on in Rust Belt states.

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Anyone will tell you the best way to get to the president on something is to explain how it affects him, to make it personal. How it affects you from a political standpoint, how it might affects your re-election. Which is why this is interesting.

We show you a major headline in the New York Times today. The unemployment rate is at historic lows. The stock market taking a hit today because of concerns about this have been skyrocketing. A lot of people say the economy is going gangbusters and might be getting better.

Neil Irwin writing in the New York Times, "If all goes according to plan, this would imply that the United States economy in 2019 and 2020 will be the healthiest it has been in half a century."

If you are a politician and you're going to be running for re-election in 2020, you know, that's gold. That is manna from heaven. And so a lot of people say, why would you potentially mess with that, Mr. President?

MARY KATHARINE HAM, SENIOR WRITER, THE FEDERALIST: If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Yes, I think there will be bad effects from this. The folks who are affected may not blame him for that.

On the other hand, as we saw I think is this Pennsylvania '18 race. The upside of this policy politically on the ground is not as great as one might have imagined. There will be bad effects here, though.

JOHNSON: Well, I think the question s, do the president's supporters give him credit for following through on a campaign promise doing what he said he's going to do, or do they resent the economic backlash that it built.

KING: And I think that could be a state by state, region by region approach. It might help some people here at manufacturing and the like. We'll see what happens with NAFTA and additional (INAUDIBLE) might hurt. Some of these farm states will see a (INAUDIBLE) --

HAM: One more thing, he also announces, to your point about (INAUDIBLE), he announces a plan closer to an 11, some plan that's really out there and then he sort of massages it. The USTR Robert Lighthizer is now announcing these will be areas that will be exempt from this, most of them allies and big exporters of steel, so.

KING: That's true, don't just always follow the words, read the paper. We'll see how this plays out.

We're waiting for the president to come out. We'll bring that you live when it happens.

Up next, hear the war of words between the president and the former vice president.


[12:36:52] KING: On our political radar right now

The House Intelligence Committee says its work is finished. Its Russian meddling investigation is over. Committee members voting today along party lines to end the probe and to release the Republican report on the investigation. Republicans say they found no collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. Democrats say they're not finished.

Here's the ranking Democrat Adam Schiff.


REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), RANKING MEMBER, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: It's suffice to say though that the majority was not interested in conducting any further investigation even when the flaws and what we have done so far have been -- become so apparent over the course of the last week.


KING: The Ohio governor John Kasich says the Republican Party is his vehicle, not his, quote, master. He was talking to moderate Republicans out in California about a possible primary challenge to President Trump in 2020. Someone in the audience asked if he try to run as an independent. Kasich's answer, quote, all options are on the table.

And finally today, a little sass from Republican Senator Ben Sasse tweeting this. "Total dysfunction. D.C. is about to add $1.3 trillion to your debt like it's no big deal, and meanwhile both of our crazy uncles are fist fighting in the backyard. Happy Thanksgiving, America." It is March. The crazy uncles just happened to be, the president of the United States and the former vice president of the United State. Here's the vice president first threatening to cold-cock the current commander- in-chief.


JOE BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When a guy who ended up becoming our national leader said I can grab a woman anywhere and (INAUDIBLE) her. And then I said, I made a mistake. They asked me if I'd like to debate this gentleman, and I said no. I said, if we were in high school, I'd take him behind the gym and beat the hell out of him.


KING: The president responding to that with this. "Crazy Joe Biden is trying to act like a tough guy. Actually, he's weak, both mentally and physically, and yet he threatens me for the second time with physical assault. He doesn't know me, but he would go down fast and hard, crying all the way. Don't threaten people Joe."

Mature conversation there.

A little bit of breaking news to bring you right now. At least four defense attorneys at major law firms were approached to join President Trump's legal team in recent weeks according to multiple sources familiar with those inquiries. The lawyers include the former U.S. Solicitor General Ted Olson, Emmet Flood who worked -- who has worked for multiple presidents, Robert Bennett, who worked for Bill Clinton back in the Paula Jones litigation.

So, clearly for some time, the president has been reaching out to try to add new lawyers. At the top of the show if you're just joining us is top attorney on the Russian meddling defense team John Dowd, resigned. So, turmoil, chaos, turnover. You see it in the administration itself, you see it in the president's legal team.

What is -- those are big names, big names. They've been approached. Haven't come in. Where are we?

JOHNSON: Well, as one person said to me who knows Ted Olson that his interest in joining the Trump team was about zero. So I haven't gotten any indication that it's true that the Trump team is reaching out to people. It's clear that the president is dissatisfied with his legal team, unclear that he's having much success, Joe diGenova aside in actually bringing in heavy hitters to join the team as he losses people.

[12:40:04] KING: All right, so heavy hitters and Ted Olson, __, Robert Bennett would be heavy hitters.

JOHNSON: By the way, it's a problem that mirrors the problem he's having in the White House a lot where people are leaving but he's having trouble recruiting people to come in. PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. I think it's a good point that this is -- if you're a lawyer and you're looking at your client and you can't ever figure out what your client is going to do, if your client is going to follow your advice or if your client is just going to start an all-out nuclear war with the special counsel, maybe you're not willing to take that on. And I think that's also what you hear from policy folks on the economic side, on the foreign policy side as well.

They're not totally sure they want to go work for someone or with someone who that's very unpredictable in the ways that he deals with the issues that are most important at the time.

KING: And think about what you're saying there. To be an attorney for the president of the United States is a big deal. Big deal. Could be very helpful to your career, in most cases.

These lawyers were just like, no. Now, some of these guys already have good careers, but good for anybody else they brought in as well. No, (INAUDIBLE) do that.

SAHIL KAPUR, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, BLOOMBERG: It should be a very coveted job, right, to be the president's lawyer, to be something that most people (INAUDIBLE) and the fact they're not as they're revealing.

Can I just say lastly, to the Biden stat, remember the old days when parents were worried about explaining the Ken Starr report to their children? Now we have a president tangled up with porn stars, playboy playmates, exploitive appointments, sexual assault allegations, and turning to beat up the former vice president. This is politics in 2020 --

KING: Well, the vice president -- and to be fair to the current president, the former vice president is encouraging these ridiculous (INAUDIBLE) war.

HAM: Yes. (INAUDIBLE), it's ridiculous, it's bad for (INAUDIBLE). But it's in the year of our Lord 2018, the grand American experiment comes to an end with an old man fight in a kiddie pool of jell-o. I think it's probably what the founders intended and it's exactly what we deserve.

KING: I have nothing to add to that. (INAUDIBLE) going to stick for a little while. Thank you, I think.

Up next, some fresh words in Washington about a big changing of the guard in Mississippi.


CINDY HYDE-SMITH (R), INCOMING MISSISSIPPI SENATOR: Mississippi has had five senators over the past 71 years. One, two, three, four, five over 70 years. The history of this moment is not lost on me, Governor.



[12:46:06] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Six million jobs, at least, gone, and now they're starting to come back. You see what's happening with Chrysler, with Foxconn, with so many other companies wanting to come back into the United States.

But we have one particular problem, and I view them as a friend. I have tremendous respect for President Xi. We have a great relationship. They're helping us a lot in North Korea. And that's China.

But we have a trade deficit, depending on the way you calculate, of $504 billion. Now, some people would say it's really $375 billion. Many different ways of looking at it. But any way you look at it, it is the largest deficit of any country in the history of our world. It's out of control.

We have a tremendous intellectual property theft situation going on which, likewise, is hundreds of billions of dollars, and that's on a yearly basis. I've spoken to the president, I've spoken to representatives of China, we've been dealing with it very seriously. As you know, we're renegotiating NAFTA. We'll see how that turns out.

Many countries are calling to negotiate better trade deals because they don't want to have to pay the steel and aluminum tariffs that we are negotiating with various countries. Mr. Lighthizer, Mr. Ross, we are just starting a negotiation with the European Union because they really shut out our country to a large extent. They have barriers that they can trade with us but we can't trade with them. They have very strong barriers, very high tariffs. We don't. It's just not fair.

NAFTA has been a very bad deal for the United States, but we'll make it better, or we'll have to do something else. The deal we have with South Korea is a very one-sided deal. It's a deal that has to be changed.

So we have a lot of things happening. But in particular with China, we're going to be doing a Section 301 trade action. It could be about $60 billion, but that's really just a fraction of what we're talking about.

I've been speaking with the highest Chinese representatives, including the president, and I've asked them to reduce the trade deficit immediately by $100 billion. That's a lot. So that would be anywhere from 25 percent, depending on the way you figure, to maybe something even more than that. But we have to do that.

The word that I want to use is reciprocal. When they charge 25 percent for a car to go in, and we charge two percent for their car to come in to the United States, that's not good. That's how China rebuilt itself. The tremendous money that we've paid since the founding of the World Trade Organization which has actually been a disaster for us, it's been very unfair to us. The arbitrations are very unfair, the judging has been very unfair, and knowingly, we always have a minority and it's not fair. So we're talking to world trade, we're talking to NAFTA, we're talking to China, we're talking to the European Union.

[12:50:05] And I will say every single one of them wants to negotiate. And I believe that in many cases, maybe all cases, we'll end up negotiating a deal.

So we've spoken to China and we're in the midst of a very large negotiation. We'll see where it takes us. But in the meantime we're sending a Section 301 action. I'll be signing it right here, right now.

I'd like to ask Bob Lighthizer to say a few words about the 301 and where we are in that negotiation. And we're doing things for this country that should have been done for many, many years. We've had this abuse by many other countries and groups of countries that were put together in order to take advantage of the United States and we don't want that to happen. We're not going to let that happen.

It's probably one of the reasons I was elected, maybe one of the main reasons, but we're not going to let that happen. We have right now an $800 billion trade deficit with the world. So think of that.

So let's say we have 500 to 375, but let's say we have 500 with China but we have 800 total with the world. That would mean that China is more than half. So we're going to get it taken care of, and frankly, it's going to make us a much stronger, much richer nation.

The word is reciprocal. That's the word I want everyone to remember. We want reciprocal, mirror. Some people call it a mirror tariff or a mirror tax, just use the word reciprocal.

If they charge us, we charge them the same thing. That's the way it's got to be. That's not the way it is for many, many years. For many decades, it has not been that way.

And I will say the people we're negotiating with, smilingly, they really agree with us. I really believe they cannot believe they've gotten away with this for so long. I'll talk to Prime Minister Abe of Japan and others, great guy friend of mine, and there'll be a little smile on their face and the smile is, I can't believe we've been able to take advantage of the United States for so long. So those days are over.

Ambassador Lighthizer, thank you.

AMB. ROBERT Ambassador LIGHTHIZER, U.S. TRADE REPRESENTATIVE: Well, thank you very much, Mr. President. First of all, for those of you who don't know, Section 301 is a statute that gives substantial power and authority to the president to correct actions in certain circumstances, whether it's unfair tax policies or practices by our trading partners.

In this case, the area is technology. Technology is probably the most important part of our economy. There's 44 million people who work in high technology areas. No country has this much technology intensive industry as the United States, and technology is really the backbone of the future of the American economy.

Given these problems, the president asked USTR to conduct a study. We conducted a thorough study. We had hearings, we reviewed tens of thousands of pages of documents, we talked to many, many businesspeople. We had testimony as I say, and we concluded that in fact China does have a policy of force technology transfer of requiring licensing (INAUDIBLE) and economic value of state capitalism wherein they go in and buy technology in the United States in non- economic ways and then finally have cyber theft.

The result of this has been that the president has analyzed it. We have a 200-page study which we'll put out and he has concluded that we should put in place tariffs on appropriate products. We can explain later how we concluded what products they are. That we would put invest restrictions on China with respect to high technology. And that we'll follow WTO case because one of the actions here does involve a WTO violation.

This is an extremely important action, very significant and very important for the future of the country. Really, across industries. And I would really like to thank you very much, Mr. President, for giving me the opportunity to work on it.

TRUMP: Thank you very much, Bob. Secretary Ross?

WILBUR ROSS, COMMERCE SECRETARY: You know, actual property rights are our future, and it's no accident that in June of this year, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office will issue its 10 millionth patent, 10 million patents. There is no country in the history of the world that remotely approaches that.

[12:55:00] So the steel and aluminum actions we've taken deal more or less with the present. This action on intellectual property rights deals with the future. So we're trying to solve both today's problem and problems that otherwise will be forthcoming.

That's why these actions are so important and so important in unison with each other. We will end up negotiating these things rather than fighting over them, in my view.

TRUMP: Mike Pence? Would you like to say something, Mike?

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you, Mr. President and to all our honored guests.

Today's action sends a clear message that this president and our entire administration are determined to put American jobs and Americans as first. The action the president will take today under Section 301 also makes it clear that the era of economic surrender is over. The United States of America is taking targeted and focused action to protect not only American jobs but America's technology, which will power and drive an innovation economy for decades to come.

It is just one more step of a promise made and a promise kept by President Trump.

TRUMP: So, we'll sign right now. I just want everybody to know just for a second time that we are in the midst of very major and very positive negotiations. Positive for the United States and actually very positive for other countries also.

And we have some of our great business leaders and leaders, period, right behind me. I may ask Marilyn of Lockheed, the leading women's business executive in this country according to many. And we buy billions and billions of dollars' worth of that beautiful F-35. It's stealth. You cannot see it. Is that correct?


TRUMP: Better be correct, right? Marillyn, please say a few words.

HEWSON: Well, thank you, Mr. President. I would just say that this is a very important moment for our country, and that we are addressing what is a critical area for the air space and defense industry, and that is protecting our intellectual property. As has been expressed, that is a threat to us. If we have that stolen from our companies because that is the lifeblood of our companies, and so we very much welcome this action on the part of the Trump administration and the president of the United States. Thank you.

TRUMP: Thank you, Marillyn.

This is the first of many. This is number one but this is the first of many.

Thank you all very much. Marillyn?


UM Would you like to testify for Special Counsel Robert Mueller, sir?

TRUMP: Thank you.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: The president of the United States declining to answer reporters' questions following that little signing ceremony.

We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting from Washington.

Now, the president has just announced $60 billion in new tariffs aimed at China. Right now, a very significant development. The president said at the very end of his statement, this is the first of many, presumably more announcements of tariffs.

He bitterly went against China and its trade surplus with the United States. Bitterly went against the European Union, went against NAFTA, the North America Free Trade Agreement. He said all these agreements are horrible for the United States and he's only beginning to get started in fighting Europe, Asia, other countries that have trade surpluses with the United States.

Let's bring in our panel for some immediate analysis on the breaking news. Joining us, our Chief Political Analyst Gloria Borger, CNN senior economic analyst, former Trump economic adviser Stephen Moore, and CNN Global Economic Analyst Rana Foroohar.

The markets aren't very happy with word of these tariffs. Rana, let's start with you.

The fear is that China will retaliate specifically against U.S exports to China. That's the major fear right now. This could lead to a major trade war.

RANA FOROOHAR, CNN GLOBAL ECONOMIC ANALYST: Yes, I have no doubt there is going to be retaliation. I'm sure the Chinese are going to target important and iconic U.S. brands. There's already been discussions of that.

The big fear, of course, is that this is just the beginning of a more global trade war. You know, we've already heard Transatlantic fighting, Europeans getting involved. Trade wars don't have winners. You know, the president said trade wars are easy to win --