President Donald Trump threatened to impose another round of tariffs on China and warned that Chinese meddling in US politics is a “bigger problem” than Russian involvement in the 2016 election.
Asked in an interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes” whether he wants to push China’s economy into a depression, Trump said “no” before comparing the country’s stock-market losses since the tariffs first launched to those in 1929, the start of the Great Depression in the US.
“I want them to negotiate a fair deal with us. I want them to open their markets like our markets are open,” Trump said in the interview, while adding that more tariffs “might” be in the mix. So far, the US has imposed three rounds of tariffs on Chinese imports totaling $250 billion, prompting China to retaliate against US products. The president previously has threatened to hit virtually all Chinese imports with duties.
Questioned about his relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin’s efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election, Trump quickly turned back to China. “They meddled,” he said of Russia, “but I think China meddled too.”
“I think China meddled also. And I think, frankly, China … is a bigger problem,” Trump said, as interviewer Lesley Stahl interrupted him for “diverting” from a discussion of Russia. He didn’t provide evidence in the interview of China’s involvement in the last election or its involvement in the current election cycle.
Trump made similar accusations last month during a speech at the United Nations, which his aides rushed to substantiate by pointing to long-term Chinese influence campaigns and an advertising section in the Des Moines Register warning farmers about the potential effects of Trump’s tariffs.
Stahl tried to get Trump to commit to not firing special counsel Robert Mueller, who’s leading the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign. Trump refused to do so, telling her: “I don’t pledge anything. But I will tell you, I have no intention of doing that. I think it’s a very unfair investigation because there was no collusion of any kind.”
Discussing Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court, Trump took credit for getting his nomination through the Senate around Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations that the judge tried to assault her when they were in high school.
At a campaign rally in Mississippi late last month, Trump mocked Ford for what he cast as her incoherent story about what happened with Kavanaugh, a move that even drew some criticism from Republican senators.
Trump didn’t express regret. “Had I not made that speech, we would not have won. I was just saying she didn’t seem to know anything,” he told Stahl. Ford was “treated with great respect” including by him, Trump said.
The president left the door open to reviving a much-criticized practice of separating migrant parents and their children at the Mexican border, something the Washington Post reported last week was under consideration within the administration.
“There have to be consequences … for coming into our country illegally,” he said, arguing that “part of the reason, I have to blame myself, the economy is so strong that everybody wants to come into the United States.”
Pressed again, he added: “You can’t say yes or no. What I can say is this: There are
consequences from coming into a country, namely our country, illegally.”