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Trump says trade war is 'already lost,' and he 'probably won't' attend White House Correspondents Dinner

CBS News logo CBS News 4/6/2018 Kathryn Watson
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President Trump said in a radio interview aired on Friday that the U.S. isn't in a trade war because the trade war is "already lost," and said he "probably won't" attend the White House Correspondents Dinner in Washington later this month because the press is "so fake."

Mr. Trump made those comments in an interview with WABC's "Bernie and Sid in the Morning," taped Thursday. The interview took place before the president's Air Force One comments denying any knowledge of a hush money payment by his lawyer to porn actress Stormy Daniels.

Mr. Trump explained why he is going after China on tariffs. On Thursday night, Mr. Trump announced he has directed the U.S. Trade Representative to consider an additional $100 billion in new tariffs on China, in response to China's decision to slap $50 billion in tariffs on U.S. imports. China's $50 billion was a response to the White House's announcement of $50 billion in tariffs on China. But Mr. Trump insisted that the U.S. isn't in a trade war — in the past he has called trade wars "good, and easy to win" — because the U.S. already "lost" a trade war. 

"Well, fellas, we've already lost the trade war," the president said. "We don't have a trade war. We've lost the trade war because for many years, whether it's Clinton or the Bushes, Obama, all of our presidents before, for some reason it just got worse and worse. And now it's $500 billion in deficits and a theft of $300 billion in intellectual property. So you can't have this."

The president said the stock market might take a bit of a hit in the short term — and it has  — but the country will be stronger in the long run, he insisted. 

"Now we could — the easiest thing for me to do would be just to close my eyes and forget it," Mr. Trump said. "If I did that, then I'm not doing my job. I'm not saying there won't be a little pain but the market's gone up 40 percent, 42 percent — so we might lose a little bit of it — but we're going to have a much stronger country when we're finished. And that's what I'm all about. We have to do things that other people wouldn't do."

President Trump directed the U.S. Trade Representative to consider an additional $100 billion in new tariffs on China. © Carlos Barria President Trump directed the U.S. Trade Representative to consider an additional $100 billion in new tariffs on China. The president also suggested he will "probably" skip the White House Correspondents Dinner later this month, like he did last year. Mr. Trump alleged the press often makes up sources to write stories. 

"I sort of feel that the press is so bad," Mr. Trump said. "It's so fake, it's so made up. I mean, 'sources say' and they have no sources. They're like novelists. I call them novelists."

Mr. Trump conceded that sometimes there are sources, but "in many cases they literally make up sources." Mr. Trump's own White House communications staff and senior staff on conference calls often decline to give reporters comments on the record, instead asking to be named as simply unnamed White House officials. 

The president said he wants to get things straightened out with the press before attending the dinner, so it's "probably pretty unlikely" he will go. 

"So I probably won't do it," he said. 

White House Correspondents Association President Margaret Talev in a statement said the White House has told the association Mr. Trump does not plan to attend. 

"The White House has informed us that the president does not plan to participate in this year's dinner but that he will actively encourage members of the executive branch to attend and join us as we celebrate the First Amendment," she said in a statement. "In keeping with tradition, Press Secretary Sarah Sanders also will represent the administration at the head table. The April 28 dinner celebrates award-winning reporting, scholarship winners and the vital role of the First Amendment and the free press in American democracy."

The New York radio show's hosts explained the show was pre-taped because Sanders and Mr. Trump wanted to listen to it on the air.

Before the interview aired, they said the interview had more of the feel of a "kid from Queens" than a U.S. president.

CBS News' Katiana Krawchenko contributed to this report.


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