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Trump's Pattern of Making Everything All About Him; Trump, Kudlow Defend Trump's Tariffs; Trump & Security Council Deciding on Retaliatory Measures for Syria Chemical Weapons Attack; White House Daily Briefing. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired April 9, 2018 - 14:30   ET



[14:31:28] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Right now, housing officials in New York are calling for new sprinkler laws after this deadly fire over the week over at Trump tower. One person died. Several firefighters injured when this fire broke out in an apartment on the 50th floor. We're learning from sources there was no working smoke alarm in the apartment where this fire happened. The building was finished in 1983 several years before sprinkler systems were mandatory.

CNN politics reporter and editor-at-large, Chris Cillizza, is with me.

As we talk about the president's response, he did thank the firemen and women for responding to this. He also found a way to insert himself or the prowess of the building credentials. What did he say?

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER & CNN EDITOR-AT-LARGE: Brooke, that's right. This is the rule not the exception when it comes to Donald Trump. Most recently, the one you mentioned, as you noted, Brooke, someone died, and six firefighters were injured. "Well-built building. They did a great job, thank you." Again, there's a lot of Donald Trump in that and not a lot of condolences.

Let's go to a lighter-hearted example, again, from over the weekend. This is Patrick Reed. He won the Masters Sunday. Here's Donald Trump with the presidential congratulations. Sort of normal stuff. "Congratulations, Patrick Reed. Great and courageous Masters win. When Patrick had his amazing win at Doral five years ago, people saw his great talent and a bright future ahead. Now he's the Masters champion." Who owns the Doral? Trump National at Doral. Patrick Reed won four times, in between, the Trump course and his win at the Masters. He saw fit to mention that.

I want to take you from a light-hearted to a much less lighthearted serious one. The Pulse Nightclub shooting, June 2016, more than four dozen people killed. Here is Donald Trump. Look at the timing here. This is right after it happened, June 2016. "Appreciate the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism. I don't want congrats. I want vigilance. We must be smart." What is that tweet? Let me summarize that tweet. I'll translate Donald Trump. Hey, I was right. I told you so. Also, we need to be tough. Again, whether it's lighthearted or serious, more tweets like these,

Brooke, about lots of different events, including the hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico and Texas. He makes it about himself over and over again. We all have some level of self-interest, of course. But any president, in the past, we've expected someone who looks out for the greater good, who puts the group before himself. Donald Trump has changed what presidential means in lots of ways. I think, none more so than that.

Back to you, Brooke.

BALDWIN: We're you the guy who wrote about the lacking of an empathy gene in this man? Yes.

CILLIZZA: That was always -- that was always the concern. I remember a Republican consultant told me this 2016 before Donald Trump won, he said, he'll never win because he can't go to a disaster site and express real empathy. It didn't really matter. Exit polling show people didn't think he was terribly empathetic, that he cared about problems of people like them. He still won.

BALDWIN: Chris Cillizza, thank you.

CILLIZZA: Thank you.

[14:34:46] BALDWIN: Next, John Bolton's first day on the job as national security adviser. What will he tell the president to do about the suspected chemical attack in Syria? We could learn much more from this White House briefing that is moments away. Stay with me.



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If during the course of the negotiation they want to hit the farmers because they think that hits me, I wouldn't say that's nice. But, I tell you, our farmers are great patriots. These are great patriots. They understand that they're doing this for the country. And we'll make it up to them. In the end, they'll be stronger than they are right now.


BALDWIN: That was the president also today defending his tariff threat against China.

But listen to his chief economic advisor, Larry Kudlow, speaking today.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: We're not in a trade war, as you repeatedly and the president has repeatedly said we're not in a trade war. What does a trade war look like?

LARRY KUDLOW, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF ECONOMIC ADVISOR: I don't know. You tell me. I don't know.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: You don't know what a trade war looks like?

KUDLOW: This is not the '30s. Trust me. We have, by the way, there are no tariffs enacted yet. You understand that.


[14:40:05] KUDLOW: None. Zero.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What would a trade war look like?

KUDLOW: I don't know. It's just an imaginary thing. We're going to have to --


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: It's an imaginary thing?

KUDLOW: We're going to have to look in a novella or something.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: I have you seen any signs --


KUDLOW: I mean, I just don't get it.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: A trade war has happened in history. What will that look like --


KUDLOW: I have no idea because we're not engaged in one.


BALDWIN: We shake our heads and smile.

But, Dana Bash, are they making this up on the fly? What's up?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I don't even think I have to answer that because it's pretty clear in listening and watching Larry Kudlow.

We have been talking since last week about the idea President Trump, this is his M.O., to go big, to give a lot of bluster about all the things that he wants to do in a negotiation, and then the hope is once the actual negotiation takes place, the person at the other side of the table or country, in this case, on the other side of the table, gives a lot. It doesn't seem like a lot compared to what Donald Trump has been talking about at the beginning. That's all well and good in a private real estate negotiation or business negotiation. When you are moving markets, it's a whole different thing. Brooke, I can say you and I are with somebody this weekend who works

for a major company saying already they are talking about potential layoffs in anticipation of a potential trade war. So it doesn't even have to actually happen as Larry Kudlow was saying for companies to be worried about instability, to be worried about uncertainty, and make moves ahead of time.

BALDWIN: Nia, I'm still on where Trump is saying, I'll make it up to these farmers. They will be stronger in the end. I was talking to a pork farmer who said, I already feel like a casualty. How is that going to sit with these good folks?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICS WRITER: That's the thing. If you are a soybean farmer and you see China wants to levy tariffs against soybeans, you're planning your crop, your planning your business, as Dana said. These are small business owners and they are just like big business. They want a plan, stability, to know what the prices are going to look like in terms of what they can expect, the exporting of the crops to China. It's a real problem.

It is interesting for Kudlow to essentially say there is no trade war yet. If you've seen the markets they seem to be rebounding today, but they were certainly jittery last week. A lot of people lost a lot of money because of the plummet and the uncertainty in the stock markets. And we have a president, of course, who wants to brag about the stock market and to say how is your 401K doing? Well, listen, people's 401Ks aren't doing as well as they were in January because of this talk around trade tariffs, around Amazon as well - certainly, hurt as well and we'll see what the stock market does today in terms of rebounding. It's not a game. As Dana said, it's easy to do this sort of bluster if you're one-on-one trying to build a building or brand a building more specifically. But it's very different when you have --


BALDWIN: A few more people affected.

BASH: Yes. And these are his constituents, people who voted for Donald Trump. And it's interesting. Farmers are one constituency. And people who work in manufacturing and plants is a different constituency. In some ways, they're kind of at odds. You could argue a lot of this stuff may benefit folks who want to work in these plants and maybe some jobs will come back because of the steel tariffs. With the other tariffs, you have farmers really worried.

BALDWIN: OK. Let's turn the page onto Syria. We're watching and waiting for the White House press briefing to begin.

Jamie Gangel, to you, we've heard the president today saying, give me 24-48 hours and we'll make a decision soon on potential retaliatory measures. We were talking during the commercial break about the attack a year ago. It was this month one year ago when the president ordered that Tomahawk missile strike of the Syrian airfield, which at the time, he got mega, mega praise. Does he have to go bigger this time? I mean, how do you see him responding? JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Two things. Looking back at

that week, that was, if not one of his best days, his best week in office. What he likes to call his poll numbers, his ratings, they went up, which has not happened a lot. He has not forgotten that. Just from a political point of view.

Number two, if we're talking about Syria and strikes, we're not talking about Robert Mueller, Stormy Daniels, the other things.

BALDWIN: Cabinet chaos.

GANGEL: Cabinet chaos. So there's that.

But I think the other thing to keep in mind is Donald Trump -- what's the phrase -- truthful hyperbole he's known for. I'm sure that Secretary Mattis is going to lay out options. There is one in there that is probably similar to the strike of last year and will make Trump feel he's done something and said something. But he can also sell it as, we did it, it was big, that he went again. So I think there are middle of the road options that are similar to last year.

[14:45:18] BALDWIN: I want to continue this conversation, so stand by, ladies.

As we're waiting for this White House press briefing to begin, we are getting in some -- you guessed it -- speaking of, Stormy Daniels news. This is involving the hush agreement and why she signed it. So stand by.



SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: (In progress) -- Russia and Iran also bear responsibility for these acts, since they would not be possible without their material support.

It is also now clear that Russia has betrayed its obligations to guarantee the end of the Syrian regime's chemical weapons program.

The president and his national security team are consulting closely with allies and partners to determine the appropriate response. As President Trump clearly stated, there will be a price to pay.

We call on all members of the international community to share any information related to this attack and to hold the perpetrators and their sponsors accountable. And we call upon the Syrian regime and Russia to open the area to international medical assistance and international monitoring.

And with that, I will take your questions.


QUESTION: The president was pretty definitive today in saying that this was a -- an attack with banned chemical weapons, yet there hasn't been any concrete proof of that. Russia insists that there is no evidence of chemical weapons.

What makes the president so sure that he is willing to make such a declarative statement?

SANDERS: The president is confident. He's been briefed by his national security team and being kept up to date constantly and regularly on the intelligence around that.

I can't get any further beyond that at this point.

QUESTION: Do we -- do we have any proof at this point that it was in fact a chemical weapons attack (ph)?


SANDERS: Once again, I can't get into anything beyond the comments that we've already made, but we're very confident in those comments.

Cesar (ph)?

QUESTION: Sarah, it was just a couple of weeks ago the president was talking about wanting to leave Syria very quickly. Now you're saying that there's a price that has to be paid.

Does the president believe that there are some things that are so atrocious -- which is the phrase he used this morning -- that the United States is, in fact, the world's policeman and it demands response, it demands the presence of the United States government in the region?

SANDERS: Look, the president wants to bring our troops home after we complete the mission to eradicate ISIS in Syria. At the same time he wants to make sure Assad is deterred from chemical weapons attacks on innocent civilians.

Signaling we want to remove our troops in no way degrades our ability to hold parties responsible.

Mike (ph)?


Has the president been briefed that his comments about wanting to leave Syria could have played a part and emboldened Assad and played (ph) a part in these attacks (ph)?

SANDERS: The only individuals that played a part don't reside in this country. And I think we've made very clear who we think is responsible for these attacks.

And to try to conflate that and make this, on any part, in (ph) blame on this president is absolutely ridiculous.

QUESTION: But he (ph) has criticized others for signaling military plans; it seems to be what he was doing here. Does he regret those comments that he made last week? SANDERS: Look, the president's been clear that he wants to make sure that we have the defeat of ISIS. We've also been clear in our actions, as you have seen, after previous chemical attacks; what this president has done. And I think we've been very upfront on that.


QUESTION: Thanks, Sarah.

First, the news out of Syria this morning about apparent strikes (ph) that were carried overnight (ph), does the United States believe that Israel was behind those strikes, as a number of reports have claimed? And -- was the United States given a heads-up by the Israeli government?

SANDERS: I can only speak on behalf of this government. For questions on that, I would refer you outside.

I can tell you, at this time the United States is not conducting air strikes in Syria, but I can't go beyond that at this point in time.

QUESTION: OK. So, from a White House perspective was -- did the White House get a heads-up from any foreign government about the (inaudible) strikes in Syria?

SANDERS: Again, I can't go any further than commenting on behalf of our government. And I can tell you that currently at this time the United States is not conducting air strikes in Syria.

QUESTION: And back on the deterrence for a sec, (inaudible) you said the president wants to ensure (inaudible) attacks like this in the future. Last year when the president launched those cruise missiles, he said there was a deterrent obviously.

What has changed between months ago when the Assad regime wasn't using chemical weapons and this strike now? It seemed to be the timing coming so soon after the president making that (inaudible) out of Syria that -- you can see why we're drawing the time there (ph).

So why in the president's estimation -- did his deterrence -- did his attempt (inaudible) on the Assad regime now failing?

SANDERS: Once again, the president has made clear that with the defeat of ISIS he wanted to be able to bring our troops home. But at the same time he wants to make sure that Assad is deterred from chemical weapons attacks on innocent civilians. We think you can have separation.


QUESTION: Sarah, didn't the president by saying that he wants to get out of Syria essentially give a green light to Assad to do this, as John McCain has suggested? That the United States was leaving, wasn't -- was, kind of, pulling up and leaving it to...

SANDERS: Look, we're still there.

And I think that it is outrageous to say that the president of the United States green lit something as atrocious as the actions that have taken place over the last several days. The president once again made very clear how he feels about those types of actions when this took place roughly a year ago, and we're going to continue looking at all of our options on the table currently.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) Assad. It's -- this was sending a message to Assad. Is that still his position?

SANDERS: I think the message that we sent to Assad was very clear, both in the president's words over the weekend and in our actions that we've taken in the past.


QUESTION: Has the president's attitude toward Vladimir Putin changed because of what's happened?

SANDERS: The president has always been tough on Russia, as he said last week, as I echoed again when asked about it. This administration and this president have been tougher on Russia than previous administrations. I think you can see that both through the actions that we've taken and in the comments over the last several days.

QUESTION: He singled out Vladimir Putin in the tweet yesterday. Does he feel that he still finds some common ground and work with him on various things?

SANDERS: The president still feels that if we can have a good relationship with Russia at some point that that's a good thing for the world. But at the same time, this president is going to be tough on Russia until we see some changes in their behavior, just as we've done every day over the last year and as we've outlined multiple times before, both from the president and as I've done from this podium on many occasions.


QUESTION: Yes. Thank you, Sarah.


Two questions on the foreign policy front.

Given the situation in Syria and your statement today, could the president be in the process of forming an alliance with President Macron in France and Prime Minister May in Britain not unlike that envisioned by the previous administration with France and Britain when the first reports of chemical weapons came out?

SANDERS: Well certainly have a great relationship with both countries, and are continuing conversations with both the U.K. as well as France, and hope to work with all of our allies and partners in a response.



SANDERS: Sorry, (inaudible).

QUESTION: ... is Prime Minister Orban, an admirer of the president who has said many kind things about him, won a landslide reelection. Will the president call him? And are there any plans to extend an invitation for a state visit or a working visit to Prime Minister Orban?

SANDERS: I'm not aware of a scheduled call at this time. But, if there is one, we'll keep you posted and likely have a readout to follow.

John Decker?

QUESTION: Thanks a lot, Sarah.

Today is the first day on the job for John Bolton as the national security adviser. Perhaps you can (ph) bring him out here one time, and he can take our questions.


QUESTION: My question...

SANDERS: I'd be happy to tag him in at some point.

QUESTION: Please do. I wanted to ask you about some comments that he made about Syria back in 2013 on "Fox and Friends."

He said, "I think if I were a member of Congress, I would vote against an authorization to use force in Syria." He continued, "I don't think it is in America's interests. I don't think we should, in effect, take sides in the Syrian conflict." Is that a point of view that Ambassador Bolton is bringing to the table now as national security adviser?

SANDERS: The point of view that matters most here at the White House, as you well know, is the president's. And, as Ambassador Bolton himself has said, he's certainly here to serve as an adviser, but ultimately, the decisions being made are the president's, and the comments that he's made previously are personal. And he's here to carry out the president's agenda.

Josh (ph)?

QUESTION: Scott Pruitt, the EPA administrator, often flew first class, had a $50-a-night rental on Capitol Hill and tripled the size of his security detail. Can you explain what the president meant when he said rent was about market rate; travel expenses, OK; security spending, somewhat more, but it was OK? How does -- why -- why did he say that?

SANDERS: He was referencing a report done by the EPA, which we are continuing to review. But, in that, it cites that the apartment was at market value and goes into other details, and that was what the president was referring to. QUESTION: $50 a night on Capitol Hill, with a lobby (ph) -- said it was at market value, according to the EPA?

SANDERS: Yes, according to the Office of Government Ethics.

QUESTION: And travel spending OK -- is the president OK with Cabinet secretaries taking first-class travel and tripling the size of their security detail? Was that OK?

SANDERS: Again, we are reviewing the specifics of each of those components. I know there was a much larger number of security issues surrounding the EPA administrator than in the past. But, for specific questions beyond that, I'd refer you back to the EPA.

QUESTION: Were those security issues, or -- were those included in pricing for it (ph)? Because there's been reporting that, across the country, no one found the death threats or, you know, police reports that jeopardized his life or safety. What are you talking about when you talk about (ph)...


SANDERS: I can't -- I can't comment about police reports, but I do know that there have been a number of questions raised. And, again, we're continuing to review that. Until that's complete, I'd refer you back to the EPA to (ph) -- on that.


QUESTION: Sarah, two questions on Syria. With all that's happened -- the question with the sanctions last week, and now these strong words associating Russia with the Syrian attack -- is there an expectation or a feeling that relations -- diplomatic relations with Russia -- with this administration and the whole country -- with Russia are eroding?

SANDERS: We've been very tough on Russia for quite some time. I think the only people, maybe, that didn't understand that, or see that were members of the press, who continually questioned to (ph) that. Now, I -- I guess people are concerned that we're being tough on Russia.

I guess I'm confused on which way you want to have it. The president would like to have a good relationship, but that's going to deter -- be determined by the actions that Russia takes. And we're going to continue pushing forward.

QUESTION: And, second question, the -- the items on the table beyond strikes -- is there a -- a thought, or -- or -- on the table, regime change with Assad?

And, also, where does diplomacy play in this, even with the strikes and all of this that you're saying is on the table?

SANDERS: I'm not going to get ahead of any potential options that the president may or may not take. But I can tell you that we're reviewing a wide range and a number of different options. [15:00:00]