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Kudlow Says Trade Wars Are Imaginary Things; Russia Says to U.N. That Gas Attack Was Staged; Trump to Make Decision to Strike Syria in 24 To 48 Hours; Trump Says Everyone Responsible for Gas Attack Will Pay A Price. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired April 9, 2018 - 15:30   ET



BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: The shadow of a trade war looming large for two of the world's economic giants. Instead of pointing the finger at China over the U.S. trade deficit President Trump shifting the blame onto previous administrations.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't blame China. I blame the people running our country. I blame presidents. I blame representatives. I blame negotiators. We should have been able to do what they did. We didn't do it. They did. And it's the most lopsided set of trade rules, regulations that anybody has ever seen.


BALDWIN: With me now tax and economics reporter for "The New York Times." Jim, in just a second, we'll get into some of what we heard from Larry Kudlow, the chief economic adviser. He also weighed in on this. How do you see it? What did you make of the president's comments?

JIM TANKERSLEY, TAX AND ECONOMICS REPORTER FOR "THE NEW YORK TIMES": I think the president, what he's talking about, is the entry of China into the World Trade Organization in 2000. And a bunch of votes that the United States Congress actually took back that at the end of the Clinton administration which really did pave the way for Donald Trump's takeover of the Republican party, his anti-Trump rhetoric. And I think this is something folks who write about policy have seen for a while in the speeches Trump gave during the campaign but he's ramped up now in the last few weeks which is this idea the entry of China in the WTO came on bad terms and that China is cheating us at trade and it's the fault of the people who allowed it way back then.

[15:35:00] BALDWIN: He also, just adding on to what he said earlier today, I would be curious how farmers would be impacted by this saying, I'll make it up to the farmers. They will be stronger in the end. I want to play you that exchange. I mentioned Larry Kudlow was talking to our reporter Jeremy Diamond. After that we'll talk.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: We're not in a trade war as you've repeatedly and the President has insisted. What does a trade war look like?

LARRY KUDLOW, ECONOMIC ADVISOR TO TRUMP: I don't know. You tell me. I don't know.

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

KUDLOW: This is not Smoot Hawley in the '30s. Trust me. There are no tariffs enacted yet. You understand that? None, zero.

DIAMOND: So, what will a trade war look like?

KUDLOW: I don't know. It's an imaginary thing.

DIAMOND: It's an imaginary thing?

KUDLOW: I am going to have to look at a novella or something. I just don't get it.

DIAMOND: But that's a real thing, trade wars has happened in history.

KUDLOW: I have no idea because we're not engaged in one. I don't know whether we're going to have tariffs or not. I wouldn't take it -- I would take the President's arguments quite seriously. We may. On the other hand, we may be able to sell this with negotiations.


BALDWIN: Let me ask you about that point, it's an imaginary thing. And maybe they are just making some of the stuff up as they go, Jim. He's right with some of these deals wouldn't go into effect for 60 or so days. Negotiations possible. I don't know why they'd want to muck up the market, though, and perhaps do serious damage in the meantime. But is negotiation possible?

TANKERSLEY: Well, they're certainly hoping so. This is the strategy here is to try to force China to come to the table and cut a deal with the United States on things like intellectual property protections that the administration things would be better for American business. Now what you can see in these clips is there is not necessarily at this moment a consistent administration strategy on whether the tariffs well actually go into effect. They want to be able to both say, hey, these will happen. These are real but also don't freak out. These might not happen. And those both can be true in the context of a negotiation. It makes it hard for markets to know what to think in any given moment.

BALDWIN: Jim, thank you so much. More on our breaking news as Nikki Haley is getting ready to speak on the Syria chemical attack. Russia moments ago, blasting the U.S. there. This as the President vows a decision on whether to strike Syria, what that will look like potentially in the next 48 hours.

[15:30:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK) BALDWIN: Right now, a pivotal meeting at the United Nations to determine how the U.S. and its allies should respond to suspected chemical attack in Syria. As you well know now Russia has called it a hoax. President Trump speaking publicly for the first time on the attack is calling it barbaric. And the graphic images we are about to show you 100 percent defy Russia's claim. Just a warning, children should leave the room as we play video out of duma, Syria. CNN was not able to independently confirm the content you are about to see.


[speaking in foreign language]


BALDWIN: It is just so difficult to look at, all these children. In response the President is saying that a, quote/unquote, decision on the U.S. response will happen within the next 48 hours and that nothing is off the table. He also says if Vladimir Putin is responsible, Russia will pay a price.


TRUMP: It was an atrocious attack. It was horrible. You don't see things like that as bad as the news is around the world. You just don't see those images. We are studying the situation extremely closely. We are meeting with our military and everybody else and we'll be making some major decisions over the next 24 to 48 hours. We're talking about humanity. And it can't be allowed to happen. So, we'll be looking at that barbaric act and studying what's going on. If it's Russia, if it's Syria, if it's Iran, if it's all of them together, we'll figure it out and we'll know the answers quite soon.


BALDWIN: Joining me now Senior United Nations Correspondent Richard Roth. And we know Russia is speaking right this very moment. What are they saying?

RICHARD ROTH, CNN SENIOR UNITED NATIONS CORRESPONDENT: Russia's ambassador began, in effect, by saying, stand back, I have a lot to say. This may go long. A huge amount of criticism of the U.S., the West, but really particularly he just said that what happened in Duma where the alleged chemical weapons attack took place was staged. There has been no resident who has confirmed that a chemical weapon attack took place.

[15:45:00] The bodies of the dead, according to Russian Ambassador Nebenzya are as a result of contamination not found, use of sarin and chlorine not confirmed. Earlier he said the U.S. authorities are stoking international tensions. He said everywhere you go, everything you touch, chaos is left behind. You're fishing but you're only pulling out mutant fish. Ambassador Haley of the United States is a few speakers away. There are prepared remarks where she delivers strong criticism of Moscow and the Syrian regime. I have a hunch she may be adjusting her comments in the wake of this

huge verbal assault on the United States, U.S. leadership, and saying that this chemical weapons attack did not take place and, Brooke, you're hearing diplomats use the phrase all options are on the table. These are certain countries. You don't often hear that. That tends to make one believe you may see certainly an attack as President Trump hinted at coming maybe this week.

BALDWIN: All right, Richard, thank you. We'll wait for Ambassador Haley to speak. We will take that live certainly. Meantime while the reported chemical attack is bringing Syria back to the front headlines, my next guest is reminded every day the suffering the Syrians face. She is a Syrian-American and co-founder of a Syrian relief organization in Illinois. Thank you for being with me. If I can get to you respond. You heard our U.N. correspondent referencing Russia speaking right now saying that they believe the attack has been staged. They've called it a hoax. Your response to that?

LINA SERGIE ATTAR, SYRIAN-AMERICAN ARCHITECT AND WRITER FROM ALEPPO: Really there are no words to respond to these really horrifying things that we're hearing from the Russians after watching these images. And not just these images from Duma but images from one year ago, images from 2013. Over 200 chemical weapons attacks have happened in Syria by the Syrian regime and its Russian allies. And we have seen images of these children dead in their basements for years now and so to say this is staging, to say that our human suffering is not real, there are really no words because what we are watching is genocide.

BALDWIN: Your organization had a team on the ground recently but was forced out of northern Syria. I understand they're still helping people coming in. Can you tell me what you hear from these people?

ATTAR: They're in shock. They've been forcibly displaced in the last few weeks after living under siege for years, siege by the Syrian regime, where children and women and elderly were dying of starvation. And then they were face the bombs every day. These families live in these basements, these images you see families in these cramped quarters living in their basements because that's the only shelter they can find. When hit with a chemical weapons attack the gases sink to the bottom and children die in their sleep. We've seen this time and time again.

And the stories that they've told of surviving the siege, surviving this evacuation which is really an eviction from their home and their land, is something unspeakable that we're watching. We are all witnesses not just Syrians, not just Americans, but the entire world is a witness to this genocide. We're in the eighth year of war and many of these images of the children you're seeing, that the viewers are seeing, are images of kids that really knew nothing but siege, hunger, cold, bombs, and then dying from chemical attacks. All of these kids have hopes and dreams.

Our organization works with kids, Syrian kids, all the time, refugee kids. These kids want to grow up and do things and become things and look towards the future. That's what we are focused on, but it's very difficult to be put in this position time and again to talk about the suffering.

BALDWIN: Quickly, what do you think they hope happens as far as the U.S.-led coalition, a response? What would they want?

ATTAR: Syrians want the war to end. They want to know that the world cares and that there is leadership in the world that will stop people from dying at the hands of their own government. They want the genocide to stop. And, most importantly, Syrians want like every other human being on the planet to live in freedom, dignity, in justice and in peace. We need this war to end and to end now.

[15:50:00] BALDWIN: Lina, thank you so much. And just a reminder we do expect to hear from Ambassador Nikki Haley momentarily. Her direct response to the Russian Federation and their allegations of this whole attack being staged. We will bring those remarks live. We're back in just a moment.



[15:55:00] TRUMP: If it's Russia, if it's Syria, if it's Iran, if it is all of them together, we'll figure it out and know the answers quite soon.


BALDWIN: President Trump warns there will be a price to pay for what appears to be a toxic gas attack in Syria. We're expecting another strong condemnation from the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley. Live pictures as this meeting is underway. David Lesch is with me, he is the author of "Syria, the Fall of the House of Assad" and a Middle East history professor at Trinity University. Let me get into this. The fact that we've heard from the President and who knows what we could hear from Ambassador Haley saying that we will respond, we don't know to what degree but in the next 48 hours. So, unlike the attack from last year, Assad has a head's up, in some form or fashion, that something big could be happening. How might he be preparing? Given that knowledge?

DAVID LESCH, MIDDLE EAST HISTORY PROFESSOR, TRINITY UNIVERSITY: Well he had a heads up last year, too. He has more this year. So, I think he's busy expecting an attack and he will disperse his forces and hunkering down and his ally in the U.N., Russia, is trying desperately to thwart military action against Syria because there is nothing Assad can do to prevent it. There is really nothing Russia can do to prevent it. The very reason why we are doing this, if we do carry out at the

attack is the low hanging fruit and Russia doesn't want to look like it's impotent but not by not being able to do anything, unless its regular forces are hit but I'm pretty sure the de-confliction lines are quite busy and the U.S. will let the Russians know exactly where we got are going to attack if we do so.

BALDWIN: And why this attack itself? Why do you think Syria would have done this at this time? LESCH: Because it works. They've done it a number of times in the past. If, in fact, they are responsible for this one as well. And they've gotten away with it with barely a slap on the wrist in the past. They don't have the manpower resources or the resources in general to go house-to-house and street to street. This is a poor man's weapon of mass destruction to gain their strategic objectives and it worked in the past in many other cities in a war weary population it compels the people there to give up as they have done, in fact.

And Jaysh al-Islam has entered into a reconciliation agreement and they will be moved out. So, it is successful for them and they haven't really been punished very much but I think this time as opposed to what some of your earlier guests said today, I think this one is going to be harder than last year. It is not going to be a pin prick. Because I think Trump is actually pretty angry about this as his tweets suggest and as his comments today suggest because I believe Trump wants to get out of Syria and he's like, guys, I told you I want to get out of Syria and you keep pulling me back in by carrying out these stunts. So last year's attack didn't deter Syrian actions, so I think this year if it is carried out in the next few day it will be more intense.

BALDWIN: So, David, why is Russia just now speaking at the U.N. and doubling down on the notion this is all staged, that this is a hoax, what -- what is their strategy in denying this?

LESCH: Well they are protecting their clients --

BALDWIN: client being Syria.

LESCH: Their client state being Syria. They've done this throughout the conflict and they have constantly said it's a hoax and sometimes it has been. So, there is enough doubt that they think from their position that they can raise that maybe will prevent an attack from happening as I said earlier. Will make them look impotent because they won't be able to do anything. But at least from their point of view they are getting points in Assad's eyes for trying to protect him. Although in the end, Russia, from my visits to Moscow over the last year, I know they're frustrated with Assad.

They don't control him as much as many people think. Assad operates under this deterrence defense umbrella from greater powers such as Russia and Iran and that is a dangerous situation because Assad and the military think they have more flexibility to do the things that they allegedly just did.

BALDWIN: Even just the word "hoax", though, David, doesn't Russia calling this a hoax doesn't this put Trump in an odd spot given the fact he uses the term hoax when quite often describing facts he doesn't like.

LESCH: I think the use of that term is not an accident. Russia has been saying things that are fake news just as much as the Trump administration. So perhaps they're trying to strike a cord with Trump. But I think Trump is really very angry with Russia. Having named Putin and his tweets and his -- in his comments.

[16:00:00] BALDWIN: Why do you think -- let me stop you on that. Because it has taken him 15 months, Russia attacked the U.S. election in 2016 and Russia is currently attacking the U.S. and Russia attacked -- the poisoning assassination attempt with our friends in England. Why did it take this? Do you think for the President to call out Putin?

LESCH: It is the accumulation of incidents. And he acted in expelling Russian diplomats after the poisoning incident in London of an alleged Russian spy. And he took assertive action there. He's been surrounded since the beginning of the administration by old cold war warriors who are Russo-phobes. With an attack like this, coming on the heels last year of a similar attack in which he did act, I think he feels compelled to act again. And I think the anger and the exasperation in him is very real. That as much as he wants to get out of Syria, he keeps getting pulled back in.

BALDWIN: Uh huh and speaking of the attack which was this month a year ago, the retaliation, the tomahawk missile strike in the Syrian airfield he was widely praised. David, thank you so much for your expertise. And thanks for being with me. I'm Brooke Baldwin in New York. Let's go to Washington with "THE LEAD" with Jake Tapper starts right now.