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Trump Threatens Tariffs on China; Kim Jong-un Visits China; White House Defends Immigration Policy. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired June 19, 2018 - 06:30   ET


[06:31:22] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: OK, China vows to strike back hard hours after the president threatens to impose tariffs on an additional $200 billion worth of Chinese goods. This as the North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-un is in China for the third time since March.

What's all of this about? We have CNN's Matt Rivers. He is live in Beijing for us this morning with more.

Matt, what have you learned?

MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that it's not a surprise that China is going to retaliate if the Trump administration goes forward with this additional $200 billion in tariffs because that's what they have said all along. When the Trump administration made that first round of tariffs, $50 billion worth official on Friday, China came out and retaliated in kind. Then, as a result, the Trump administration said, well, we're going to look at potentially putting $200 billion more in tariffs in the next couple of months. In a statement saying, in part, quote, China apparently has no intention of changing its unfair practices related to the acquisition of American intellectual property and technology. Rather than altering those practices, it is now threatening United States companies, workers and farmers who have done nothing wrong.

So that $200 billion figure intended to force China to back down, but so far, publicly, they're not. They're calling it blackmail and they're saying that they will hit back against American.

Well, what does that look like? That means more tariffs on American imports here and it likely means targeting American companies that rely on China. Think Apple, Boeing, Ford, General Motors, Cisco. And the big question, the big fear is, where does it go from here? Because if both these countries continue down this path, the American consumer will feel it in his or her wallet.

And as if all of that's not enough, a ton of news out of China today. Kim Jong-un has made his third visit here to Beijing in the last couple months, presumably talking with Chinese President Xi Jinping about that summit in Singapore, maybe discussing what denuclearization actually means to the North Koreans. And you can bet that China's strategic interests under Xi Jinping will be represented by the North Koreans at those negotiations moving forward.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, Matt Rivers in Beijing for us. Maybe Kim Jong-un trying to capitalize on this new riff between the United States and China. Certainly would be in line with North Korea in the past.

Thanks, Matt.

A new CNN poll shows that one week after President Trump's summit with Kim Jong-un, the good buzz is wearing off. Despite the barrage of images from Singapore, the poll shows that Americans' approval of how the president is handling North Korea dropped by five points since May. The poll shows more people think Kim Jong-un got a better deal for his country from the summit compared to President Trump. Only about a quarter believe that North Korea will eventually give up all its nuclear weapons and all of its nuclear making facilities, and nearly half disapprove of the president's decision to stop joint military exercises with South Korea.

CAMEROTA: OK, so what does all of this mean with the trade war fears? What does it mean with these new tariffs on China? And what is Kim Jong-un doing there for a third time? So we -- our analysts will dive into all of that, next.


[06:38:15] BERMAN: All right, new this morning, President Trump escalating tensions with China big time, threatening tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods. This is in response to China vowing to retaliate against the $50 billion in tariffs the United States announced last week.

Global markets are down sharply. Well, those are U.S. markets. You can see how the U.S. markets are responding. There's the global markets. Red everywhere.

Want to bring in CNN political analyst David Gregory and CNN global affairs analyst David Rohde.

David Rohde, I have to identify which David I'm talking to here, this $200 billion in tariffs is a big, new number. It is big. The market hates it. And it shows where the president is heading here. Who's got more leverage, China or the U.S.?

DAVID ROHDE, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: I think China does. The reason is the -- this is, I think, more of a threat to President Trump politically than anything else. He is -- his poll numbers have risen because of a growing economy in the United States, but all kinds of people, from manufacturers, to farmers, are being hurt by these sanctions by this trade war that he's declared worldwide almost with China, with Europe, with Mexico.

So this is very dangerous for him politically. If the economy slows, he is in very serious trouble. This is, I think, the biggest threat to his standing and his popularity in the country. BERMAN: You know, and a big part of this, David Gregory, is the

calculation on how far China will go to respond. That somehow he keeps pushing. He's got $50 billion, he says another 200 and actually he hinted he might be going 200 billion beyond that. He thinks that China might somehow blink. If they don't, it's a big deal.

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It is a big deal. And to David's point, it's the ability for China to respond to major American sectors and it's also the impact on consumers. I mean I've talked to people in the last couple of days who have said, what's the deal with the tariffs? Am I going to be paying more for batteries? I mean, you know, there are consumer goods that people consume in a very basic, functional level where they're going to see those price increases and they're really going to feel it. And it is going to hurt people who the president's counting on to be political supporters.

[06:40:25] There is another side to this, though, which is that I think the calculation by the White House that this is all a gambit in a big negotiation and that the president can declare victory at some point if he can get some kind of deal out of this, that both with the Chinese, but then separately with allies like Canada, if he can redo trade deals that he can somehow say are more advantageous for the country. So he certainly has a constituency who support the idea of standing up for American interests against getting ripped off internationally.

BERMAN: By the way --

GREGORY: The markets don't like it, and the business community certainly doesn't like it.

BERMAN: By the way, trade deal with Canada, the TPP, things like that, would actually help in negotiations with China. So the president has actually weakened his standing as he tries to get some kind of concession out of China.

David Rohde, I think the most fascinating factor in all of this, and I don't think it's disconnected, is Kim Jong-un arriving in China for two days of meetings. His third set of meetings with Xi Jinping in just the last few months. Kim knows that there's tension between the United States and China on these trade things. There's a long history of North Korea triangulating between -- for the long time it was the Soviet Union and China. Now he's putting himself right in the middle of the U.S. and China.

ROHDE: So, right now, Donald Trump needs China to enforce sanctions against North Korea. That's the leverage. Again, it's all the economy, stupid, as Bill Clinton said.

Now he's declaring a trade war with China right when he needs China to help pressure North Korea. And, of course, Kim Jong-un is going to ask the Chinese to ease up the pressure on North Korea economically. This is what China wants.

So, again, I don't understand the strategy here. It's attacking -- you know, he should be sort of working -- if he wants to pressure China on trade, he should be working with Europe and Canada and Mexico to pressure China on trade. Instead, he's going to war with everyone. And instead of working with China to pressure North Korea, he's going to war with China.

So it's the tough talk. It plays to his base. It's not working. Foreign governments aren't backing down when they are humiliated publicly by Donald Trump.

BERMAN: And, David Gregory, the president told the world on Friday he was expecting to speak to Kim Jong-un on Father's Day, over the weekend. He was going to speak to him over the weekend. That phone call, apparently, never happened. He staked a whole lot on this new relationship he has with the North Korean leader here and it's unclear whether it's paying the dividends.

GREGORY: You know, "The Economist" magazine had its cover a couple of days ago, at the end of last week, saying Kim Jong won. And there's no question that the leader of North Korea has hit his stride at the moment. He's being courted in China, even being offered some economic assistance by the Chinese. He's going to be meeting with Vladimir Putin in Russia. And he's had his summit meeting with the American president. All of this after being a bad actor by developing his nuclear arsenal further.

So, he's put himself in a position where he has achieved a certain status, may get a new economic path forward and has pledged only in a very vague way to denuclearize. So he's in a good position. The exchange for that is a lot of questions about what the United States is going to get, but we do have the tension way, way down.

BERMAN: Absolutely.

GREGORY: And that is a signature achievement. There are going to be a lot of questions as this moves forward about what exactly do we have a real partner in this negotiation as we move forward? And we're going measure this thing in missed phone calls and missed -- you know, missed opportunities to be more specific about what they'll do.

BERMAN: And, David Rohde, just put this in perspective for us. Getting more concessions out of North Korea requires China to maintain these sanctions. The minute China lets up on its economic pressure on North Korea, what happens?

ROHDE: There's no pressure at all. And that's -- you know, Kim Jong-un needs his economy to grow. He needs to show his population that there's hope. But 90 percent of North Korea's imports come from China. China has all the leverage here and China is increasingly angry at Donald Trump.

BERMAN: And Chin is where Kim Jong-un wakes up this morning.

David Rohde, David Gregory, great to have you with us.


ROHDE: Thanks. CAMEROTA: OK, John, we're going to talk more about what's going on at

the border. Is it meant as a deterrent or not? Because the White House can't get its message straight. So we have Dan Pfeiffer, former White House communication director, coming up with how the Obama administration handled it and what he sees happening now.


[06:48:436] CAMEROTA: The Trump White House defiant in the face of bipartisan backlash now over its practice of separating children from their parents at the border. But Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielson are sending very mixed messages about why they're doing this.


QUESTION: Are you intending to send a message?



NIELSON: No. Because why would I ever create a policy that purposely do that?

QUESTION: Perhaps it's a deterrent.



LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX HOST: Are you considering this a deterrent?

SESSIONS: I see that -- the fact that no one was being prosecuted for this as a factor in a five-fold increase in four years in this kind of illegal immigration. So, yes, hopefully people will get the message and come through the border at the port of entry.


CAMEROTA: All right, joining us now is CNN political commentator Dan Pfeiffer, a former senior adviser to President Obama, and author of the new book, "Yes, We Still Can: Politics in the Age of Obama, Twitter and Trump."

Dan, great to have you here.


CAMEROTA: Why can't they get their stories straight on whether or not this is intended as deterrence?

PFEIFFER: I think this is indicative of what we've seen from this White House the whole time, which is, is just doesn't operate like a well-run organization. There's no coordination. There's no -- and it's clear that there are people within this White House, within this administration, who are uncomfortable with the policy, but they can't do that because Trump is a very difficult boss. He's someone that everyone's afraid they're going to get tweeted about or fired the next day.

[06:50:08] So Kirstjen Nielson's in this position where she -- on Saturday it's reported she doesn't like the policy. Sunday she says it doesn't exist. Monday, apparently, in order to keep her job, she's out there defending it and lying about it, frankly. And so it's -- it's this mix of incompetence, dishonesty and cruelty that's defining so much of what they're doing.

CAMEROTA: Obviously this problem of immigrants pouring across the border illegally has plagued presidents for decades. Did the Obama administration ever consider separating children from their parents?

PFEIFFER: Like, immigration is one of the toughest issues. I think it's worth noting that we're dealing with something that is different necessarily than quote/unquote illegal immigration here. We're talking about people are coming to this country seeking asylum.

CAMEROTA: Some. Some.


CAMEROTA: We don't know that all of these folks who are coming here -- I mean there are thousands who come to --


CAMEROTA: Our border every -- every month --


CAMEROTA: And some are seeking asylum. Some are trying to sneak in.

PFEIFFER: Right. But we are -- but what the Trump administration has done is both trying -- is doing something that no previous administration has done, which is separate families from children, because they believe that even as you're dealing with the question of immigration and asylum seekers, this was beyond the pale of morality, beyond what we would do in this country. And immigration is tough because you're trying to find a way to align your laws and your values and your morality. And what -- and they've clearly made a decision here that some people are uncomfortable with, many in the Republican Party and the Democratic Party are uncomfortable with, that is something that we -- we did not do, President Bush did not do, and, frankly, no president should do.

CAMEROTA: I mean one of the thing that they're saying is that your policy didn't work. The catch and release, as they call it, which is, you can't hold kids for more than 20 days. So people come across the border illegally. You give them a court date. The courts are glutted, obviously, and so are the jails. So, we hope that you come back in six months and it doesn't work.

PFEIFFER: Well, there's a -- there's a way to solve this problem. There's a comprehensive immigration approach. There was a bipartisan one that passed the Senate back in 2013. That could be done today. They -- if you pass those laws, you get justice. It's not going to solve all of the problems, but it's going to help rationalize our immigration laws that deal with this problem, but also the millions of people who have been in this country, have been a part of the fabric of the American community for a very long time, who are now being deported by the Trump administration when we should give these people a path to legalization, a path to citizenship, particularly the dreamers.

CAMEROTA: Look, you were the head of communications in Obama's first term. When you watch what happens at the podium every day with Sarah Sanders, or you watch Kirstjen Nielson, or you watch Jeff Sessions, and you see all of these mixed, muddled messages, what do you think is going on behind the scenes? What would you have done about those things?

PFEIFFER: Well, we would not -- this is not -- like, no one's perfect. I'm sure -- we made mistakes, too. But there's no process, no organization, no structure within this White House. It's just policymaking by tweet. And so no one really knows what the actual policy is. There's no meeting. Like, we would have a meeting and the Department of Homeland Security would be there and the White House press office would be there and the White House policy operation and you would make a decision about how you're going to talk about this. They simply don't do that and they are not -- they don't feel constrained by the facts by telling the truth. And so that -- once you take that -- those guardrails off, it -- you know, anything goes.

CAMEROTA: So your book is called, "Yes, We Still Can." That sounds optimistic.


CAMEROTA: Are you feeling optimistic as you watch everything that's happening right now?

PFEIFFER: I am often dark, depressed and angry in the moment when I see what -- particularly you see the video of these children. This is -- it's just -- it's heartbreaking. But I believe in my -- this is what my book is about -- that if Democrats do the right things and follow the right lessons, they learn the way Obama fought these -- the forces of Trumpism around -- during his presidency.


PFEIFFER: We can return to power. We can -- we can have a politics -- we can return to a politics that is more thoughtful, more decent, more progressive.

CAMEROTA: Yes. And what are those? Just give us the top two lessons that you think Democrats are not heeding or should heed.

PFEIFFER: Well, I think -- I think Democrats are staring to do the right things. My first biggest message to the Democrats is, don't look at Trump and try to imitate him. The message -- we cannot try to be a paler shade of orange. We have to have a different approach.

And the other thing is, we have to -- where the Republicans are fearful and divisive, we have to be honest, fact driven, inclusive and have a message that inspire people. Many people who did not vote in 2016 to come out in 2018 and 2020. If we can do that, we can win.

CAMEROTA: Are you hopeful and optimistic that Democrats are going to win the House in 2018?

PFEIFFER: I think it is going to be very close. I think Democrats are probably a slight favorite. But we have a lot of work to do between now and November, which means that we have to keep organizing and marching, calling, knocking on doors. And if the enthusiasm we saw in the women's march, at the airports, March for our Lives, if that can be transferred into these elections, then I think we will do very well. But it takes work.

CAMEROTA: Yes, but you can't just harness -- I mean I think what you're saying is you can't just harness the anti -- we're not Trump, the anti-Trump.


CAMEROTA: So what is the message?

PFEIFFER: I think we have -- I think we have -- I do think in midterm elections we have to make a compelling case against Republican rule. I think there's an argument against the chaos of the Trump administration, the corruption of Republicans in Washington. But Democrats also need a positive, economic agenda, a positive economic agenda, and they need a set of proposals that did -- that reign in the corruption, a reform agenda around making -- around the corruption that's defined their problem. If you can have an economic agenda and a way to reform Washington, I think we'll do very well.

[06:55:07] And you've seen some of the -- there was a -- there was some big debates in our party about what the economic and health care is going to look like, but that -- that will be the core. So it's a strong message against Republicans and then a reason to vote for Democrats. Why will it be different if Democrats are (INAUDIBLE) than what we're currently seeing?

CAMEROTA: Dan Pfeiffer, the book is out now, "Yes, We Still Can."


CAMEROTA: A great read.

PFEIFFER: Awesome. Thank you so much.

CAMEROTA: Thanks for being here.

OK, John.

BERMAN: Thank you very much.

It's five minutes before the hour here.

The president could end the policy of separating children from their parents at the border with a phone call. Has he done it yet? Here's a hint. No. We'll be right back.



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I say it's very strongly the Democrats' fault.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This has been a plan and we're now seeing vivid images of babies, children being put in cages.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don't like the binary choice. We want Congress to help us fix this problem.

MITT ROMNEY: This is really a humanitarian crisis that is heartbreaking.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When they made the decision of zero tolerance, what did they think was going to happen?

BERMAN: Kim Jong-un beginning a summit in China as President Trump escalates the threat of a trade war.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Chinese are much better prepared for this kind of tit for tat.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is one of the main ways in which Donald Trump feels he can project great strength to his base.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

[07:00:00] CAMEROTA: Good morning and welcome to your NEW DAY.

President Trump and his administration are defiant about their policy to separate children from their parents at the border as the situation spirals into a humanitarian and political crisis.