The economic and political impact of President Trump's trade agenda

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," May 10, 2019. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


LIU HE, CHINESE VICE PREMIER: China believes raising tariffs in the current situation is not a solution to the problem, but harmful to the China, to the United States, and to the world.

REP. DEBBIE DINGELL, D-MICH.: We don't have a level playing field in this country, and we have to have fair trade policy. It's a very complicated issue, but we need to do something about trade policies, because, quite frankly, it's been hurting the American worker.

SEN. JOHN KENNEDY, R-LA: It's painful. It hurts. The only to win a trade war is don't fight it. It's hurting us. It's hurting China.


BRET BAIER, HOST: Those talks ended today without a deal, it seems. And so far, no definite time that they are going to continue with China. The president tweeting numerous times today about this, saying that "We've lost $500 billion a year for many years on crazy trade with China. No more. Tariffs will bring in far more wealth into our country that even a phenomenal deal of the traditional kind, also much easier and quicker to do. Our farmers will do better, faster, and starving nations can now be helped. Waivers on some products will be granted or go to new source." He tweeted a few more times along those lines.

Let's bring in our panel and start there, Byron York, chief political correspondent for the "Washington Examiner," Mollie Hemingway, senior editor at "The Federalist," and at the White House on the North Lawn, Jeff Mason, White House correspondent for "Reuters." Jeff, I'll start with you there. What is the sense at the White House about these talks?

JEFF MASON, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, REUTERS: That's a good question, Bret. I guess for starters the sense is that we didn't get where we thought we were going to get, at least over a week ago. There were not too long ago the Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin, Larry Kudlow, and others were saying that a deal was close, that they were getting towards the final laps. And then there was a big setback a little over a week ago when China pulled back on some of its commitments within the draft agreement, nearly 150 page draft agreement that they've been working on.

And that, of course, was met with a lot of dissatisfaction by USTR, Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, and the rest of the team. And so that prompted the president on Sunday to increase tariffs, and now the talks ended today, as you said, without a deal, likely to continue on talks, but along at the same time, likely to have those tariffs continue, which means a longer trade war.

BAIER: Byron, here's number four and number five tweets today. "Over the course of the past few days, the United States and China have held candid and constructive conversations on the status of trade relationship between both countries. The relationship between President Xi and myself remains a very strong one, and conversation into the future will continue. In the meantime, the United States has imposed tariffs on China which may or may not be removed depending on what happens with respect to future negotiations." So how does this play, and where does this come out? Obviously, farmers and a lot of people are feeling some pain already. Will they feel more, do you think?

BRYON YORK, CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, "WASHINGTON EXAMINER": They very well could. It seems to me that both sides have been feeling each other out and probably is calculating a little bit. And if there has been as much as we thought there was on issues like purchases from the United States, forced technology transfers, intellectual property theft, that kind of stuff, if there had been that much progress and the Chinese backed away from it, then they made a bad bet. They miscalculated. And now they've been hit with these tariffs, and they may have to retaliate.

But it seems to me, how many years have we been hearing about these abuses from China? And Trump has finally taken a very strong position. As you saw Debbie Dingell, we've also heard Charles Schumer, he has some significant Democratic support on this. So it seems to me that he's going to stay where he is.

BAIER: And Mollie, we should point out, it definitely hurts farmers here, but it hurts China.

MOLLIE HEMINGWAY, SENIOR EDITOR, "THE FEDERALIST": Senator Kennedy, earlier, you just had him saying that the only way to win a trade war is not to fight it. And that sort of assumes that you are totally fine with the trade situation as it is currently, that China can have high tariffs, that it can have these barriers to entry in their markets, that it can do intellectual property theft, and there's nothing we can do about it, or at least you can't do the stick approach, that you can only do the carrot approach.

We have tried the carrot approach for decades. It has not resulted in a better situation in terms of American companies being able to enter the Chinese market, and so the question is, what are you going to do? Now we had been told a year ago when tariffs first started that we were going to see dramatic increases in consumer prices, that this was going to be just horrific for the economy. We are in a very good economy right now. A year later we can look and we can see that in fact consumer prices have not gone up that much. Inflation is holding, GDP is doing well, the job market is great, wages are great for the United States. China is hurting a little bit, so it will be curious, we'll have to see if they are feeling pressure to come back.

BAIER: I want to turn to Iran, and these latest threats, and some more action on the U.S. part, moving more forces into the region. This is the president yesterday, Thursday, talking about answering questions about Iran.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT: We have information you don't want to know about that were very threatening, and we just want to have -- we have to have great security for this country and a lot of other places.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you risking a military confrontation, sir?

TRUMP: I guess you could say that mean, right? Isn't it? Always -- I don't want to no, but hopefully that won't happen. We have one of the most powerful ships in the world that's loaded up, and we don't want to have to do anything.


BAIER: The Navy putting out this video of the USS Lincoln, the carrier strike group, making its way through the Suez Canal. This is not usual. The Navy doesn't always put a video of their ships going through the Suez Canal on the way to the Persian Gulf. And now we have more information, ramping up pressure, prepositioning missiles that could threaten U.S. forces across the Middle East, a Patriot missile battery going into the region, as well as another warship. Jeff, it seems like these threats they are trying to deal with directly with the move of forces.

MASON: That's right. And some of those threats could include threats against oil tankers. That area of the world is where a huge chunk of world's energy, oil and tankers moves to the rest of the world, so that's one thing the United States is wanting to protect there. Iran, by the way, has called these report "fake intelligence."

BAIER: The U.S. pulled out four Patriot missile batteries late last year, now they are sending one back in, Byron. But the bigger point is that they are showing everyone what they are doing.

YORK: They are being very, very visible about it. And now today sending more men, more equipment there, it's just a measure of how seriously we take this. Apparently intelligence that there were plans for the Iranians to either attack American forces somewhere in the Middle East or have some sort of drone attack, or there have been all sorts of speculation about what it was. But it's pretty clear we think it's really, really serious.

BAIER: And also Israel is an ally, and they get threats from Iran all the time. So being in the region, we are there.

HEMINGWAY: Iran is a threatening country and it's always good to have a show of force and remind people of the dangers of going against American interests. I think it's also important that people be a little skeptical of what we are hearing right now. It doesn't seem to be in Iran's interest to launch an attack on the United States. We say that they are moving their missiles around, but it's important to remember that they've had missiles in their country for a long time. And so the provocative nature of some of what we are doing or how we are highlighting it is just kind of curious, particularly given that our sanctions against them are kind of going well. I think the United States needs to remember about being clear what it seeks from Iran and how what we are doing will accomplish that goal.

BAIER: That's a good point. Jeff, do we really have a sense of U.S. policy toward Iran other than having pulled out of the nuclear deal?

MASON: That's a big chunk of the U.S. policy. It's one of the things that the president is most proud of, is having reversed that decision made under President Barack Obama and taking the United States out of that. Surely sanctions are part of the policy now and trying to get some U.S. allies who for a long time have been attempting to keep that agreement in place to come along in the same direction that the U.S. under the Trump administration is going.

BAIER: All right, we'll follow it. Next up, the Friday lightning round.



RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: Biden's kid took down about $3 million to $4 million we can count, and Biden, when the kid got under investigation, actually says --

JOE BIDEN, D-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If the prosecutor is not fired, you're not getting the money. Well, son of a --

GIULIANI: I'll leave it out, was corrupt. That prosecutor was right on the tail of his son looking for the money that appeared to have been laundered.


BAIER: Rudy Giuliani, the president's attorney, saying he's looking into this situation with Ukraine, in fact going over there. Let's start there. We're back with the panel. Mollie, what about this, looking at this. Is this on the up and up? What's happening?

HEMINGWAY: This was an issue several years ago when the son of the vice president joined the board of Burisma, this energy company in Ukraine. Another person, another American joined the board who was a John Kerry bundler, and that was also somewhat contentious. And then apparently there's this other issue of Joe Biden warning off a prosecutor who was looking into things. It was always kind of weird that the son of the vice president was given this plum position and the media didn't seem to be terribly interested in it at the time.

Ukraine is becoming a much more interesting country to look too. They have already admitted to some light meddling against Donald Trump in the 2016 election. And a lot of players in that Russian hoax go back to Ukraine. So I think we might be seeing more attention paid to that country.

BAIER: Jeff, what do you think? Is Biden starting to feel the heat from being a frontrunner, not just from Democratic primary contenders, but from the White House?

MASON: It certainly shows that the White House sees him as the one that they need to attack, and this particular area in Ukraine is the way that they want to go after him. So I think it elevates him on some level, and the president tweeting about him as well suggests that it's not only Biden who is going after the president and trying to ignore the fact that he still has a primary to win, but it's the president going after him as a potential likely opponent.

BAIER: Byron?

YORK: The fact is Joe Biden is having a good moment right now.

BAIER: You look at that Monmouth pull out of New Hampshire?

YORK: Absolutely. There was a school of thought that said that Joe Biden would begin fall immediately in the polls, immediately upon entering the race, that his best day in the race would be his first day in the race. And the absolute opposite has happened. In the Real Clear Politics average of polls he has a 25-point lead over Bernie, and a 33-point lead over Elizabeth Warren. It doesn't tell you where he's going to be in the future, but this has been a good rollout for Joe Biden.

BAIER: It has, and we'll see if the attacks start putting up ahead of that first debate in June as you take a look at those polls.

Take a listen to Facebook and the calls for them to be broken up.


CHRIS HUGHES, FACEBOOK CO-FOUNDER: People have started competitors to Facebook over the past few years. And Facebook either acquires them when they are too small, or copies the technology outright.

REP. RO KHANNA, D-CALIF.: I'm for regulating them so they don't exploit privacy laws, so they don't buy up competitors and copy competitors. I want to make sure they don't have any future mergers so that they don't become big and stifling competition.


BAIER: Breaking up is tough to do?

HEMINGWAY: Breaking up might not be a particularly great plan for Facebook, but this is where we primarily discuss politics, that and other social media companies, and the way that they have been shutting down conservative speech makes them less liked by conservative people, also by liberals.

BAIER: Jeff, quickly?

MASON: I'm just interested to see to what extent this ends up playing out on the campaign trail. That's a major policy decision to say whether or not you want big tech companies to be split up.

BAIER: I just want to notice that the AP is moving a wire that says the U.S. begins preparations to impose tariffs on the remaining $300 billion in China's imports that don't already face import taxes. That could affect a lot of things.

OK, let's do winners and losers. Jeff, first to you.

MASON: Winner, Patrick Shanahan, the acting defense secretary finally got the nod to get the gig in full time from the president after being acting for several months. On the flipside, John Bolton had sort of a rough week. The policy in Venezuela that he's supporting is not going as quickly as he would like, and the president said yesterday publicly that he sometimes needed to temper his national security advisor.

BAIER: Mollie, winner and loser?

HEMINGWAY: Yes, whether you're a princess or a pauper, a baby is a wonderful blessing, and this week the royal couple there gave birth to Archi, and so that's a wonderful winner for the week. The loser would be Senator Richard Burr out of North Carolina. He's the head of the Senate Intel Committee, which has largely not done anything in terms of oversight with the Russia hoax, except for having a staff member who is in prison for lying about sleeping with one of his -- with a reporter. And then this week he for some reason decided to subpoena Don Trump Jr. months after he said that there was no Russia collusion. Not a great week for him.

BAIER: All right, winner and loser, Bryon?

YORK: Winner is President Trump who is actually experiencing a boom-let at the polls. His polling average, job approval, 45.1 percent, the highest it has been since February the 20th, 2017, when he was just in office. And the loser is Vladimir Putin, who fancies himself an athlete. Got out on the hockey ice, look at that. That's pretty bad.

BAIER: I've watched that.

YORK: And all those guys mysteriously died shortly after.


YORK: So he is the loser for me.

BAIER: I could watch that a lot of times. I guarantee you it was not covered in Moscow.

YORK: I think it was totally blacked out. He should probably stick to meddling in elections.

BAIER: Yes, he was kidding by the way. He was kidding about the people being dead, OK? Yes, panel, thanks. We made it around the horn. Jeff, thanks for White House cameo.

When we come back, "Notable Quotables."


BAIER: Finally tonight, it is Friday. That means "Notable Quotables."


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My heart goes out not just to the victims in this case, but there are those that won't be classified as victims that are feeling it this morning right now.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was going to go down fighting if I was going to go down.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We sent some messages on Friday to make sure that it was clear to Iran that we recognize the threat.

MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: We still have every intention of negotiating a good resolution with North Korea to get them to denuclearize.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are not in a Constitutional crisis.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Facebook that exists today is not the Facebook that we founded in 2004.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: China often works in terms of 20 year plans. I'm not sure this president thinks beyond his next tweet.

TRUMP: Buttigieg. Buttigieg.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have the two best guys in the world, so I'm really happy.

TRUMP: My son is a very good person.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would put him back into the circus. The freak show in the house.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You can hug and kiss me anytime.


BIDEN: That's very nice, thank you.

REP. NANCY PELOSI, D-CALIF., HOUSE SPEAKER: It would be useful to see his tax returns.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you care about Trump's tax returns?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I don't really give a rear end about it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't care about anybody's tax returns. It's their business.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I love you mom.

TRUMP: The person who told him that red is his power color, wow, that was a good move.



BAIER: Wearing a red tie.

That's it. Thanks for inviting us into your home tonight. That's it for this “Special Report” - fair, balanced and still unafraid.

Make it a great weekend.

“The Story” with Martha starts right now.

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