tv Charlie Rose Bloomberg April 13, 2017 10:00pm-11:01pm EDT
♪ announcer: from our studios in new york, this is "charlie rose." charlie: we begin this evening with our focus on president trump's first 100 days in office. the wall street journal said down with the president at the white house for a wide-ranging interview. the president said he will not label china a currency manipulator, a reversal from the campaign. also talked about keeping janet yellen as chairwoman of the fed, even though he previously said he would like to replace her at the end of the year. they covered many subjects. we would like to cover this with gerry seig. gerald: a lot of it was about
the relationship with china and the relationship between china and the north korean nuclear threat. a lot of conversation about the relationship he is developing of china andt xi how he is openly using their relationship to go after the north korean nuclear program. he said he offered a grand deal to the chinese, president xi personally. if you help us survive this north korean nuclear program problem, help us stop it, we get it better deal from us on trade. which was the centerpiece about china and the campaign. it was a direct message to the chinese, which he delivered himself. he said you help us on north korea, we will do a better job on trade than we might have otherwise. charlie: how many people were there?
took place in the oval office? gerald: yes. charlie: when was a scheduled? gerald: a couple days ago. we were talking about it for a while. it was put on the schedule a couple days ago. in the context of the flow of events around the visit of president xi in florida and the chinese missile strike, and the fact there are upcoming conversations about trade in the budget and of the health care bill. one problem, there is so much going on, it is hard to focus any conversation. the firehose has been turned on and it is flowing freely right now. there was an interview with a fox news that they ran this morning in which he said his next big effort is health care, not tax reform. that was pretty clear in
our conversation. where you going to go on tax reform? it is a giant issue, cutting taxes is a very important ird for republicans. every time we tried to go to the tax reform path, he reverted to health care. we will get the health care bill done, we will kill obamacare and replace it. that all seem to die away a couple weeks ago when they could not muster the votes to get it to pass. the president himself suggested they would set health care aside, do taxes, do a big bill to spend money on infrastructure. that is not the case now. now we are going back to health care, we will get this done first and we are close to making a deal. he said it could happen one of two ways. i will work out an agreement with conservatives who did not like what we did. or democrats can come to our aid itn we squeeze obamacare and
starts to wither on the vine and they say, make a deal with you and us and republicans. one way or the other we will get health care done. i thought that was a striking change from a week or two ago. charlie: he changed quite a bit. and on foreign policy, a different approach from a number of issues. one thing i wrote about, the extent to which he is developing a good working relationship, a close one with president xi of china, china was the subject of a lot of tough campaign rhetoric. on trade, bullying its neighbors, cheating the u.s., not being fair. putin, who was supposed to be the powell with a close working relationship. the reverse has happened. he is developing a good relationship with president xi.
they met for hours and mar-a-lago last week and talked for an hour on the phone this week. guy, we i like this have good chemistry, we can work together. vladimir putin, he said i called him after the terrorist attack to offer condolences and help, but i do not know him. we have a quite different reality than the one that was present during the election campaign. the secretary of state that with putin in moscow. they were not very positive notes about u.s.-russia relations. gerald: there was a lot of tension there. brought those tensions to the surface. the idea that the u.s. was going to work with russia in syria not , against russia and syria, now seems a distant memory. there is still a common goal, let's eliminate isis, but a clear desire on the part of the u.s. now to get rid of president
assad in syria. and president trump told us today i'm not demanding that, but i think it's going to happen eventually. the secretary of state said he has invalidated himself as a future leader of syria. meanwhile the russians continue , to prop up president assad. there is certainly tension there. it came to the surface this week when u.s. officials said we think the russians knew about the chemical weapons attack that happened recently in syria. we think they may have condoned it. we think they are trying to cover up the evidence. we asked president trump about that. he said we're not sure yet we , are investigating whether all those signs of russian complicity are correct or not. he was cautious, but there is a lot of tension in the air. charlie: he was also cautious in terms of saying that assad did not necessarily have to go. >> and i think that's a way of saying, that's not the goal of our policy, but if our policy produces a departure from assad, we would like that.
and more than that, and this is the real message you are seeing play out at the united nations, the world is going to decide that assad can't stay. we as the united states don't have to make that happen. president trump was very clear and said a couple times, we are not going to get into the quicksand of syria. the missile strike was not a prelude to some big, deep involvement of boots on the ground in syria by any means, but i think the message is the world is going to get rid of assad. we won't have to do that ultimately. charlie: he did say they would that they would in fact the would launch another missile strike if there was another use of sarin gas or even perhaps because of barrel bombs. gerald: he did say that, he said they are ready sent that message. if there is other chemical attack, we will act. the question we post was what about something short of a sarin gas attack what about barrel , bombs? he said, we will see, maybe. it's a hard line to draw.
in terms of basically striking out at syria for specific actions, that game is on to some extent. i think the message to the syrians is, watch it, we do not want you to know for sure when we will strike back, but we are willing to do it. the russians and iranian said we will meet force with force. does he feel this is becoming precarious, if there is another strike in the russians or iranians respond against american forces somewhere? gerald: we did not discuss it at that level of specificity. the message was sort of, we will be proportional. if we see misbehavior, we will respond accordingly. not we are going to basically , force the hands of the syrians or the russians or the iranians. i think what the president is trying to do here is walk a pretty fine line, or at least this is my impression, between washing your hands of the problems in syria on the one hand or of getting deeply
involved. this is exactly the line that president obama saw out there and it's one he tried to avoid having to walk, because it's very hard as a superpower to get engaged a little bit. once you get engaged you are , expected to stay engaged and ultimately to fix the problem. that's not the message from the trump administration right now. we will see if you can be a little involved in syria but not all the way in. charlie: the message from the secretary of state is our goal is to get rid of isis. gerald: but then the secretary of state tillerson said after that then we will figure out how , to solve the syrian problem. he is acknowledging that there is a syria problem out there that you can't avoid forever. but he is also saying, sequence it. we will deal with isis first, then we will worry about president assad and what happens to him. that is not at all inconsistent with what president trump told us today. he was more explicit in saying we are not going to go diving
into syria. i said in a campaign that is a mistake, i am still saying that is a mistake. that's not what we are about right now. charlie: how does he expect to get the russians to negotiate? gerald: that's not clear. one of the things that has been hanging in the backdrop of our conversation was the meeting that was going on at the time we were talking between secretary of state tillerson, foreign minister lavrov, and the conversation with president putin. the result of those conversations was not exactly clear. i think he was holding back a little bit to see what comes of that. there is a question out there, when does president trump meet with vladimir putin? that may happen sooner than later. this question you just raised is in fact going to have to be hashed out. the russians made noises about wanting to see something one-on-one. at a minimum, that is where they
have to sit down and look each other in the eye and say what are we going to do? what my plan, what's your plan? charlie: what is interesting about this, based on events in the last two weeks, he almost in kissinger's style has basically played the china hand as we believe between china and russia that china is the better place for to us do business. gerald: that's an interesting way to put it and i think that's right. you know, the superpower relationship that we're going to have to invest our time and our effort in and the one that we really need to make work, maybe it is the one with china. that's kind the impression you got. and by the way i'm very happy to , discover that the president xi is someone i can work with. he's a serious guy. president trump said he's a real leader. i get along with him. there was a lot of indication in the body language as well as the actual words, we're going to work this china account.
it is not going to be a disaster. we will be tough, tough on trade. but we will make this relationship work. the one thing that did not come up and i think looms in the background is, the way china is asserting itself or some would say, bullying its neighbors in , its own backyard in the south china sea. there is a lot of tension in that area and some of that tension involves close calls between the u.s. and russian navy as the u.s. try to assert their rights to water and islands in that part of the world. there are places where this relationship could still go seriously off the tracks but for thatyou do get the feeling the impression that donald trump has is that i can make this relationship work. charlie: he did talk about chinese currency, didn't he? he said,e did, and contrary to what he said in the campaign, the u.s. government is not going to officially declare
that china is manipulating its currency to increase it power in trade, increase its ability to export and make it harder for people to send their products to china. that is a decision the government has to make in a few days. they have already made the decision that they're not going , to declare china a currency manipulator. why? the chinese are not manipulating their currency, they are not trying to drive down their currency to gain trade advantage. in fact, the opposite is happening. the currency is appreciating and treasury secretary mnuchin says the chinese are trying to drive up the value of their currency. of course, the trump administration wants to take credit for that and says they are doing it because we warned them they better change their behavior. that's kind of the way the chinese have been heading for a while. that is one potential area of conflict and 10 tension --
conflict and tension with the chinese that is not going away. charlie: he talked about janet yellen and the fact he's opposed to the idea of raising interest rates? gerald: he did and said basically i like low interest rates, which is a bit of a warning shot to janet yellen and the fed not to go too far and certainly not too fast in raising interest rates. there's a question down the road and this is a ways off, another year or so of having to reappoint janet yellen as chairwoman of the fed or not. he would not engage on that, saying that's a way off but he essentially said what he thinks about fed policy, which is interest rates lower better than interest rates higher and i'm reserving judgment on janet yellen. he said along the way he thinks the dollar has appreciated too much. and that makes it difficult for american companies to sell their
products abroad, it makes them too expensive. he said he would like to see it go down. when president say those sorts of things, they're taken seriously in the financial market. charlie: and then there are the questions that were swirling around the trump residency before syria and before the chinese president came to mar-a-lago. it is this steve bannon on the , one hand. the intrigue, the factional fighting, did he speak to that? gerald: a little bit. not much. he basically said steve bannon is a smart guy. i like him. he didn't join my campaign until late and i'm my own strategist. i make my own decisions on strategy, which was kind of a difficult formulation to read precisely. we asked him explicitly, are you going to make some change in your senior team and he said i don't think so.
that is what i think for now we'll see down the road. , a classic trumpian formulation, if you think about it. for now, no, but don't hold me to that later. charlie: he also said you guys fix this or i'll fix it. gerald: that's what he's saying implicitly in his public comments and i suspect explicitly in private conversations with his staff. was, i am not doing any big staff shakeups for now. i like steve bannon fine but let's not be confused. he's not the president. i'm the president. charlie: also, with respect to health care and some other things, he's got to risk his base and he's got to negotiate with his base, which is in part the freedom caucus in the house. is he prepared to abandon them? gerald: well, i think what he was suggesting was that we're going to bring the freedom caucus around. they like me, he said.
he said this quite explicitly. he said they want me to succeed, i want them to be happy so we're going to find a way to do it. one of the things that happened in the health care debate that actually works to the president's advantage is that some of the things the freedom caucus, some of the changes in obamacare or some parts they were trying to eliminate turned out to be fairly popular with those blue-collar populist voters who supported donald trump. he's got a little bit of leverage i think on the freedom caucus because as people understood some of the changes that were being considered in health care at the behest of the freedom caucus and more conservative parts of the house, they realized those things weren't playing all that well with trump voters who benefit from some of those votesr. -- benefit from some of those programs. i think trump is saying i may be able to bring those people around but also saying if that doesn't happen, i'm willing to cut a deal with the democrats. the implicit message there was, if i cut a deal with it it
mcgrath, you guys in the freedom caucus aren't going to like the outcome so much. charlie: where does he think north korea is going? gerald: i asked him what's the message you're sending by sending an aircraft carrier and its associated ships toward north korea in recent days? he said you cannot allow a country like that to have nuclear weapons. that's the message he wants people to get. now, the north koreans already have nuclear weapons. they have nuclear devices that they've exploded. but i think his message was, i'm sending this as a sign to the north koreans and probably to the chinese as well that this , program is going to have to be stopped one way or the other and in particular, the ability to develop missiles that can warheads isear going to have to be stopped. you have interviewed
him before you've seen him in , action before. you have been reading and writing about all the controversy about his first 100 days so far. what was his demeanor? gerald: i thought he was more relaxed than i expected given , all the controversy, given the syrian episode given the fact , he'd just been through this high-stakes episode with the chinese. he seemed pretty relaxed about all of that. maybe surprisingly so. we asked him, you've been in this job 75, 80 days, whatever it is. how has it changed you? what's your reaction? he said i do not think i have changed, but the gravity of the office does kind of present itself to you. you cannot avoid the fact that every decision is a big decision, they are life-and-death decisions. he said it's not like closing a real estate deal where you win or somebody else wins. these are life and death decisions and every one of them is a big decision. it was an interesting look into
the sobering reality of being president, which donald trump has figured out. charlie: it's that and all presidents say there's no experience that will give you everything you need to handle this job. they all say that. gerald: and he said you have to have -- all the skills you have need to be brought to bear in this job. there's clearly some element of being president that is humbling to anybody, everybody who's ever walked into that office and that certainly includes the current occupant. charlie: gerald, thank you so much for joining us. gerald: sure, charlie. ♪
charlie: we continue with david sanger of "the new york times," who was in moscow. secretary of state rex tillerson is also in moscow where he met with russian president vladimir putin late in the day at the kremlin. it was the first face-to-face meeting of the russian leader with a top trump administration official. earlier this week, the white house accused putin's government of covering up bashar al-assad's role in the chemical attack. putin charged trump with fabricating evidence. today's meeting could determine future relation between russia and the united states. david sanger is the national security correspondent from the "new york times." he joins me from moscow and i join him by congratulating him on the recipient of his team of a pulitzer prize. congratulations.
david: thank you very much, charlie. it was a great team, and all russia-related. the story of the russian hack and the russian disinformation program. charlie: you get to moscow and there is much drama this morning, as he went to broadcast at cbs about whether vladimir putin would meet with rex tillerson. why did he decide to do it, did he always decide to do it? has there been any reporting on the subject? david: that would be inside vladimir putin's head. but we have seen this before moments when he kept john kerry , and president obama at various waiting to see whether or not or when he was meet. we've seen this happen. in this case, because he's known mr. tillerson from the days that he was the chief executive of
exxonmobil, it surprised us a little bit because he was obviously dealing with a known quantity here. this was the first meeting between anybody senior in the trump administration and vladimir putin, or at least the first one that we know about. it have somewhat critical to watch whether or not they could get past this remarkably different set of facts they have been describing, and based on the only voice we have heard since then, which was mr. tillerson had a news conference with sergey lavrov, the russian foreign minister. it does not sound they have gotten any closer on the facts. the american view is that it was the syrian regime that was responsible for the sarin gas attack. mr. putin himself in other interviews today or broadcasts today gave some completely alternative theories.
they're still not in the same place about who hacked into the election process. while mr. tillerson hasn't wanted to dwell on it since his boss is a skeptic, he said it is basically an established back to that russia messed with it and of course putin denied that. charlie: a lot of people from putin to tillerson to others are saying that the relationship is at a low point. what are the implications of that? david: the implication is, what happens if it spirals downward? i mean, we can fight over syria. we had a proxy wars that went on throughout the cold war. we don't have the numbers of nuclear weapons pointed at each other, thank goodness, that we did at the height of the cold war. we don't have the sense of russia as a rising power that is going to challenge us that we had during the cold war. that role has been taken on now by china.
but we certainly do have a sense of contention and that is really in three or four different different places. it's over crimea and the ukraine and mr. tillerson said today there would be no relaxation of sanctions until that's solved. i do not see a solution getting closed on that. it's over europe where the russians are now meddling in the elections, the way they did in our case. it's over the election investigation. whether or not this is supposed to be a distraction from, that is chugging forward. and then, of course, it's over russia's general view that its role is to be the spoiler for the united states. the counterweight to nato. and i think that the big transition we've seen over the past week is that donald trump has come around to thinking that maybe the russians have been pretty disruptive actors. not something you heard during the campaign or the first 80 days of the presidency. charlie: the interesting thing
is where the united states is tonight with respect to the future of bashar al-assad. david: part of the difficulty we've had in the past weeks, since the missile strike last thursday, has been getting the administration to explain what its strategic objectives are in syria. the narrowest explanation may have offered is this is to stop , the use of chemical weapons again. then sean spicer, the press secretary, came out and said no, it's to stop violence against the syrian people and left open the possibility we could retaliate for barrel bombs and the other horrors that have been rained on the syrian people by the assad regime. then we heard from nikki haley that maybe this was about regime change, something mr. tillerson denied. then we heard it's about protecting the syrian people. setting up safe zones and no-fly
zones and so forth. which would be a far more complex operation. you could argue, you have an days intotion only 80 its time in office. they haven't had time to figure out their goals. but that's very different from what donald trump was saying during the campaign, which was we shouldn't be involved in , these kind of conflicts at all. america first means focusing on america within its borders. charlie: it's interesting, too, how the president, president trump, has referred to the president of russia as saying he's supporting a very bad man and clearly we had the secretary of defense presenting evidence why they were sure this came from bashar al-assad. and they note that there were russians connected to where this took place. expected -- they
would have been expected to have known, because of their proximity and it is a violation of the treaty, what russians should have seen what they were planning to do. david: tillerson said the other day the russians were either incompetent or had the wool pulled over their eyes by the -- there syrian hosts. there were upwards of 100 russians on the space where the united states since the weapons. so even though it's a big base, it is hard to believe that the russians had no idea what was going on. the russians today called for an investigation, led by criminal investigators of the hague to figure out what happened and who is responsible. but putin, just hours before he tillerson laid , out these different theories, including that the syrians had
mistakingly had a warehouse full of this material that had , belonged to terror groups or that the united states and its allies had set this entire thing up as a hoax in an effort to try to force assad out. what is clear is this -- the american view now, not a week ago, is that assad has to go and the only question is how do you orchestrate that? and the russian view is that this set of events has driven them closer to bashar al-assad and more intent to holding on to him. it represents their special interest in having a port there, which is their largest port outside the russian border? david: the port is part of it but i think a good deal of it as well has been that with the military move into syria, president putin has, on the cheap, given russia a much larger role in the middle east than itself it's had in decades.
it's made it deciding force that has kept assad in power, along, of course, with the iranians. so all the early talk that president trump had about why can't we be friends, don't we have common interests here can't , we come to some common interests in fighting isis and all that? i think the overall message of the trip that tillerson took here was, not anytime soon. you have to wonder whether or not mr. tillerson came equipped with enough policy options to break this logjam. he did not hear many big ideas about reviving the process that john kerry started up, called the geneva process. bringing syria and all of its neighbors together. you heard about some small working groups to work out smaller differences between russia and the united states. but that seemed to be mostly a cover to say, we have done
something. charlie: the other thing, it's apparent from the interview that president trump has done here in the united states with "the wall street journal" and fox news is that he says, i still hold to the position i held before, that we have no business in going in and getting involved in a civil war in any significant way. david: well, that's true and he has said that repeatedly but at the same time he hasn't made that compatible with a strategy that would actually remove assad from power. with the help of the syrian people. you have to stop the war to be able to do that so the syrian people can take an honest and real vote. and that means a lot syrians no longer living in syria. and he hasn't made it compatible with the rest of the strategy. i did think it was interesting tonight when we were at the russian foreign ministry and the secretary tillerson and foreign
minister lavrov were talking. lavrov turned to tillerson and gave him 85 to 10 minute tutorial of all the times the united states had gone about regime change in his mind and seen it go bad. he went back to bill clinton's intervention on the balkans. he went forward to saddam hussein, under the false pretenses of weapons of mass destruction. then he took it to libya and what happened over ball mark and off overthrown. the moral of the story as he listened to lavrov, every time your americans go and do this, you leave a vacuum with a giant mess, which sounds a lot like what donald trump used to say on the campaign trail. charlie: we still don't know how president putin sizes up president trump, do we? david: they both revel in being unpredictable. we didn't see putin go in to grab crimea, for example.
they're not terribly ideological and i think the final one and the most important one is they both have this sense that their countries have, for some reason or another, not been able to exercise the kind of power that they're due and they're determined to fix that. you could imagine two people with those common views finding a way to have an accord because they're not ideological enemies. you could also imagine this spinning a bit out of control because both of them are vying to bring their countries back to the kind of global influence that they imagined from a previous glory era. charlie: david sanger from moscow, thank you for joining us. david: thank you, charlie. great to be with you. ♪
charlie: we continue our coverage of the trump administration's big week on the national security stage. joining me from washington, david ignatius. he is foreign affairs columnist for the "washington post." from boston nicholas burns who , served as secretary of state for political affairs under george w. bush. i'm pleased to have both of them back on this program. nick, you said this was a
remarkable day in the foreign policy history of a president. nicolas: it could be, charlie. donald trump is so predictable. rex tillerson went to moscow and said we're at the lowest point with russia in memory. donald trump a back that up. and they really took it to the russians and were extremely critical of what the russians had been doing in syria. rex tillerson brought it back, rightly to ukraine and crimea. tillerson ofto that russian interference in our election was a problem. that is progress. this relationship is at a low point in the russians are trying to undercut the united states. i also thought it was interesting to see, donald trump, who for 18 months has been railing against nato saying
it's obsolete and you'll forgive me, i'm a former ambassador to nato, and today donald trump is said nato is no longer obsolete. he said nato used to not be fighting terrorism and now they are. nato wasn't spending enough and now they're on track to spend more. he tried to put a positive gloss on these issues where he has been extremely critical. and we may be seeing a re-centering of the administration. generalese figures like mattis and h.r. mcmaster and rex tillerson are winning some of the policy battles of the white house. charlie: david, your column says similar things so you two seems , to be on the same page. david: i agree with what nick said. in that column this morning, i quoted tom donelan, the national security advisor for president obama who thought the strike on , syria was appropriate. but said the changes on policy on russia, china, and syria from
the administration in recent weeks had been , whiplash-inducing. that was the phrase he used such , sharp changes from what donald trump talked about during the campaign. he was going to get closer to russia and china was raping america and was our biggest adversary. syria was something to stay away from. seeing him a change all those. i do think the president is listening more to his foreign policy team than he did and listening a lot less to the person who's encouraged him to be a disruptor, dismantle or gas , and that's steve bannon. it's really striking to me how the knives are out for steve bannon. the things that journalists like
me are hearing from the white house about bannon. the president angry at bannon for his claim to grab attention for himself tells that you trump that is moved from being very pro-bannon to considerably less so on these foreign policy issues. we will have to see. i'm struck by the way donald trump is doing what henry kissinger prided himself on doing, which is playing the triangular relationship the , u.s., russia and china, playing off of the two superpower rivals, seeking advantage, leaning one way then the other. that's classic kissinger balance of power diplomacy and oddly enough, donald trump most inexperienced president in my lifetime, seems to be doing a little bit of that. charlie: and i think jared kushner is being schooled by him. you may know more about that than i do. there have been conversations as jared kushner realizes that he has not been in government and he reaches out to learn as much as he can. david: i have that same impression.
jared kushner, 36 years old. young man, harvard grad but not much experience, certainly in foreign policy. i think henry kissinger has taken jared kushner on as a project. the last project he may undertake in trying to teach him about the way in which a great power like the united states maneuvers, especially during a period of adversity. kissinger came in at a time the vietnam war had really enfeebled the united states, it was thought. we don't read or hear about this, it seems that kissinger is giving advice to kushner and through him to the president. charlie: how do you perceive the russians to be reacting? nick: i think the russians are angry and a little bit stunned.
we all heard from the first weeks of the administration, all those positive words from donald trump. the russians were thinking this could be a sea change in the relationship with united states. there's tremendous disappointment in moscow. president putin kept secretary tillerson waiting until the end of the day. there was a whether or not he would see them -- see him. hopes there.shed there is fallen hope there. what do the russians expects given everything they've done in the middle east to undercut the united states, plus the interference with the election. i think president trump is locked in on charges. there may have been collusion between the trump campaign and the russian government. we do know the russians interfered. interesting that tillerson raised that this week. interesting that president trump still won't criticize president putin. he was asked today at the press conference, what is your relationship like with vladimir putin?
he pivoted away from putin and said outlaw of nice things about xi jinping, that they had good talks at mar-a-lago and on the phone about north korea. and david's points i think is central here. it looks as if the united states has flipped. now very open in praising china, very critical of russia. the opposite of where president-elect trump was during the transition. charlie: what do you guys both see as our options in north korea? the president has said in the interviews in the last couple of days, i'm sending an armada to the waters off north korea. what do you make of that?
david: charlie, i'll begin and then hand it to nick. i think trump has pretty much told us the baseline, that he happened extensive, said four hours of one-on-one conversation with president xi. north korea was a central part of that. i'm told that each explained how they look at this north korea problem. trump said it's intolerable for the united states to get a nuclear missile that could strike america territory. president xi talked about how difficult it is for china to deal with north korea. what a difficult neighbor they are so they talked it through and then interestingly, after the visit, the chinese have been unusually cooperative. they abstained on the u.n. vote on the syrian resolution, taking a different position from russia. trump said today that china has already started turning around north korean coal ships exports , that are crucial for the north korean economy. the chinese issued a press statement today basically warning north korea that the
current situation of confrontation is intolerable to china. so it seems as if trump has jinpingto pull xi toward them in this crucial confrontation. obviously the chinese want this to be resolved without military force. that would be catastrophic for northeast asia. it has been really interesting, surprisingly nuanced to me, a bit of diplomacy from a very inexperienced president. who, until the summit with xi jinping i'm not sure he'd ever , had a meeting quite like that. charlie: it is so interesting to me that the strike took place on thursday night and xi jinping is having dinner with of the man that ordered the strike. nick: i think it must have stunned him the way all of us were stunned, because of the astonishing speed of the use of
those missiles going there. is trump trying to signal us about north korea? i agree with david in that the chinese are banking on this to restrict coal ports to north korea. but i'm skeptical that president trump is going to be any more successful than president obama or president bush. i was part of the bush effort to try to get the chinese to do more. at the end of the day, the chinese i think, are more , comfortable with the status quo of a nuclear armed north korea than the possible alternative the collapse of , north korea at some point, refugees into china and north korea, democratic, based in seoul, aligned with the united states and that would border china. i don't think if donald trump
and secretary mattis and secretary tillerson will be able to appear that chinese wall. they'll give a little but will say they are frustrated, but will they actually change a core chinese position? i'm not sure they will. david: trump has presented the chinese with another unsavory option that the u.s. will take unilateral military action on their border. that has to be the least attractive of all. i've heard people in the trump administration talk in a very general way about the possibility that some day a different north korea might be a buffer state between a strong south korea and china. the chinese obviously fear a unified korea dominated by south korea would be in effect an , american proxy on their
border, threatening. so i think there a little bit of creative thinking about some way to say to the chinese, we understand that you have interests. we would be prepared to explore an outcome that would recognize those interests and leave you feeling secure, as opposed to insecure. charlie: in terms of diplomacy, nothing makes another nation happier, especially if they're weaker, which is not true in respect to china, if they believe that you are listening to them that their point of view , is being heard. nick: and it's interesting to see donald trump's first foray. i think this has been the most important two weeks of his presidency with foreign policy. he spent a lot of time with xi jinping. they did not play golf together at mar-a-lago. they had a lot of one-on-one time. nfl that phone call where they were checking in with each other
about north korea, that is a very good sign. i think we've learned that china is two things to the united states. in a way china is going to be , our most important partner on big issues like north korea and climate change. if the trump administration would see its way forward on a climate change. but it's also a competitor for strategic and military power to the united states. and balancing that retires real subtlety and sophistication of foreign policy. i think president obama and president george w. bush were able to keep the balance. and frankly, i think president trump has had a good week dealing with xi jinping in mar-a-lago and the last night. his statements today were very admiring of xi jinping supportive of a stronger , relationship between the u.s. and china and he really gave the back of his hand to russia. didn't want to talk about the russian relationship. so let's hope this ideological battle in the white house is really swinging toward people who know what they are talking about. our secretary of state and secretary of defense. charlie: has this country made a
choice as to whether they are going to go after isis and leave assad alone except for the use of chemical weapons? or do we have a larger strategy that includes not just getting rid of or minimizing isis and then going after some transition in the syrian government? david: charlie, as near as i can tell from my reporting, the strategy remains pretty much what it was under obama and strategy is generous in implying clarity. but in eastern syria, the united states will lead a coalition that will take the isis capital of raqqa. the u.s. is going forward with a force that is led by syrian kurdish elements who are good fighters. it drives turkey not, but the u.s. is pushing ahead with that. in terms of the ultimate political balance in the west of syria, damascus and aleppo in the north and the cities in
between, i think the u.s. continues to believe that negotiated political settlement there they get the bashar al-assad out eventually after a transition of some length is the only policy that makes sense. when i talk to senior commanders in the pentagon, that's still what they tell me. i'll see whether any progress was made by rex tillerson in his conversations with putin about the u.s. and russia brokering that transition. john kerry tried it. admirably. he worked so hard on it under president obama. never really got it done. i think trump is basically trying that again, although they're not saying it. charlie: but john kerry always the moan to the fact, as did 51 diplomats that the u.s. had no , leverage on the ground so therefore, negotiations were very difficult.
david: they have more. fire 59 cruse missiles and you have more leverage. charlie: do think this was a shot heard around the world, that the united states intends to lead? nick: this was president obama's point of weakness, where he lost american credibility the failure , to defend the red line in syria. i do think president trump earned a little bit of credibility last week with those airstrikes. but it's going to be hard to perceive because tillerson has been talking about a big negotiation to bring the parties in syria together and go for a transitional government and some kind of cease-fire. that could take years. he's right to try it but i'm not sure we have the leverage on the ground. the russians have leverage, they are far more powerful than we are in syria. they have the iranians and hezbollah and the syrian government. i do not think putin will be pushed off that position. tillerson is right to try.
president trump said today it is time to end the war. but i'm not sure they have the leverage yet. can the u.s. build coalitions with fighters on the ground? whether syrian kurds or sunni militias to get that leverage? charlie: someone said to me that in the conversation between rex tillerson and the foreign minister lavrov, he read out seven or eight examples where american intervention had come to nothing. david: that's a standard russian refrain. americans keep going in and blowing up countries without knowing what will come next and look at the message you have created. understand, it carries an important proof. in this case, russia gained the strategic advantage when it intervened in syria in september 2015 and has been in the driver's seat and u.s. diplomacy has been bootless.
it hasn't had the clout to be effective. what i hear from the white house as they talk about what they're trying to do, is the idea that the u.s., by being more decisive, in two day responding to chemical weapons attack, puts the russians on their back foot a little bit. i quoted one official in a column this morning saying the russians are catching for a change after pitching for so long. now they're catching. now they're responding. charlie: i saw that. david: so i think that tells you how they're looking at this. they want to make russia own the syria problem. once russia owns it do they , really want to stick with bashar al-assad? that's the kind of conversation i think they want to have. charlie: nick, thank you so much. david, thank you so much. ♪ mark: i'm mark crumpton, and
you are watching "bloomberg technology." the u.s. dropped the most powerful nonnuclear bomb in its military arsenal for the first time in history today. the bomb struck in islamic state tunnel complex in afghanistan. the massive ordinance air blast bomb is also called the mother of all bombs. cia director mike pompeo has announced a wikileaks as a hostile intelligence agency. he gave his first public speech since becoming director, saying the group is being co-opted by russia. director pompeo also said iran should take notice of the u.s. military strike in syria. the un security council has voted unanimously to conclude the piece keeping mission