Return to Transcripts main page


Major Shake-Up in Trump Campaign; Louisiana Hard Hit by Flooding. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired August 17, 2016 - 07:00   ET


ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We begin with breaking news. Donald Trump shaking up the top of his campaign again. Trump naming a new chief executive as well as a campaign manager.

[07:00:05] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Trump insiders say that the candidate is fed up with being boxed in, and he has brought in a real firecracker, somebody from the political fringe. We're going to tell you about it. The change is supposed to be making Trump even more of himself.

Remember, they've been trying to get him to be his best self. Now it's going to be hammer, hammer, hammer.

We have this story covered the way only CNN can. Let's begin with Jessica Schneider live at Trump Tower in New York. This is a big story because of who he's bringing in and because of what they're going to do, Jessica.

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you know, Chris, the campaign is actually trying to spin this as an expansion rather than a shake-up. Because this really does change the balance of power on this campaign.

Paul Manafort's role will be diminished and instead, Kellyanne Conway will step in from senior adviser to now be Trump's right-hand woman, if you will. She'll be traveling with the candidate.

And Steve Bannon will be stepping down temporarily from his role as executive chairman of Breitbart News. He'll be moving in as what they're calling the CEO of the campaign, and Trump is terming it as a way to bolster this business-like approach to his campaign.


SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Donald Trump shaking up his campaign leadership team again, for the second time in two months.


SCHNEIDER: Senior adviser Kellyanne Conway confirming that she has been promoted to campaign manager. And the executive chairman of Breitbart News, Steve Bannon, is now the campaign's chief executive.

The campaign's embattled chairman, Paul Manafort, will stay on, despite his relationship with Trump going sour in recent weeks.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: The campaign is doing really well. It's never been so well united.

PAUL MANAFORT, OUTGOING TRUMP CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Trump is very plugged in. He's very connected. The campaign is working, contrary to what the media is saying.

SCHNEIDER: Manafort is under investigation by Ukrainian authorities for allegedly receiving millions in illegal payments from the country's former pro-Russian ruling party.

This is the second major shake-up for Trump's team. Back in June, he fired Corey Lewandowski weeks before the Republican convention.

TRUMP: He's a good man. We've had great success. He's a friend of mine. But I think it's time now for a different kind of a campaign.

COREY LEWANDOWSKI, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR/FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN CHAIRMAN: I had a nice conversation with Mr. Trump, and -- and I said to him, "It's been an honor and privilege to be part of this."

SCHNEIDER: The news comes as Trump tries to appeal to black voters in Wisconsin, but the audience was mostly white.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: I'm asking for the vote of every African-American citizen struggling in our country today who wants a different and much better future.

SCHNEIDER: Trump addressing the violent protests in Milwaukee, after police shot and killed a black man Saturday.

TRUMP: Those pedaling the narrative of cops as a racist force in our society, a narrative supported with a nod by my opponent, share directly in the responsibility for the unrest in Milwaukee and many other places within our country.

SCHNEIDER: He's placing the blame for inner city unrest squarely on what he calls failed Democratic policies.

TRUMP: The African-American community has been taken for granted for decades by the Democratic Party. It's time for rule by the people, not rule for the special interests.

Hillary-Clinton-backed policies are responsible for the problems in the inner cities today; and a vote for her is a vote for another generation of poverty, high crime, and lost opportunities.

SCHNEIDER: With only 83 days until the election, Trump is digging in on his combative style, in hopes of turning around his slide in the polls.

TRUMP: I am who I am. It's me. You have to be you. If you start pivoting, you're not being honest with people.

(END VIDEOTAPE) SCHNEIDER: And Donald Trump releasing a statement this morning about how he's viewing these campaign changes, saying, "I believe we're adding some of the best talents in politics, with the experience and expertise needed to defeat Hillary Clinton in November and continue to share my message and vision to make America great again."

Now, meanwhile, Donald Trump will get his first national security briefing today. It's the first time he'll have access to classified information -- Chris.

CUOMO: All right. But the most important information this morning is unclassified, and it is this change. Let's discuss.

Corey Lewandowski, CNN political commentator and former Donald Trump campaign manager. Yes, he's still receiving severance payments from the Trump campaign. And Paul Begala, CNN political commentator, senior advisor for pro-Clinton super PAC.

Corey Lewandowski, bringing in Bannon, Breitbart, Citizens United, doing things with Dave Bossie there, ad work. This guy makes Manafort look like a puppy, makes you look like a kitten. Breitbart has writers who call CNN "Hitler." They're the most, you know, ham-fisted fringe fight, fight, fight, say whatever you have to say. Bringing him into the campaign, a surprise to you?

[07:05:04] COREY LEWANDOWSKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No, I think what you have is you've got a candidate who wants to win. This is a clear indication of that.

You know, if you look at Steven Bannon and what they built at Breitbart, it's win at all costs. And I think that really makes some people on the left very afraid, because they're willing to say and do things that others in the mainstream media wouldn't do. They've attacked the mainstream media on multiple occasions. And so what they're willing to say and do, I think right now, is the type of mindset that the campaign wants to prove to the Clinton people, that they're going to take this fight directly to her, and that's what he's going to bring to him.

CUOMO: Yes, but how matters. This is part of the criticism. I'll tell you who's not afraid of this. Begala. Because if you do it by lying and you do it by saying things are wrong, by being crude and mean, you're actually playing into his weaknesses, not his strengths. How do you view it? Are you afraid? You're going to take it to her -- he's going to take it to her twice as much as he has, and it's going to get personal.

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Right. So first off, I'm always up for new deck chairs on the Trump-tanic. OK. That's what this is. The problem is Trump. It was never Corey. It's not Mr. Manafort. And it's not these new people. It's the candidate, stupid.

Corey didn't go to Donald Trump. I know, believe me. He's too nice. He didn't go to Trump and say, "Hey, I've got an idea. Let's attack POWs." Manafort didn't say, "Let's attack a Gold-Star family." This is

Trump, and Trump's problem -- let me tell you this. I know this because I'm advising a super PAC that's attacking him. If you did a word cloud of people's descriptions of Trump and concerns, the biggest word would be "temperament." Not just because it's three syllables. Because they worry that he doesn't have the character, judgment, temperament to be president.

If, in fact, this new team is a bunch of flamethrowers, like you say - I don't know most of them -- that's going to worsen his problem, not make it better. He needs to bring his team together and say, "Look, I know I have my base. Your job is to get me voters I don't already have." And I don't think that Roger Ailes from FOX News or this guy from Breitbart, very successful, but they're successful in the same pool of voters that Trump already has.

CUOMO: Right. But Bannon and Ailes are very different animals in terms of where they come from, the sophistication. The good news may be, Corey, Kellyanne Conway. She's the pollster there now. She, in her new role, as we understand it, will travel with Trump. Big sacrifice for her. She's got young kids.

But you know, so she's going to be with him. That may help leaven this, because he's going to have a seasoned pro with them whose instinct is always decency, always how to be your best and most effective. Might that balance it out?

LEWANDOWSKI: It's very important that Kellyanne is with him as often as possible. No. 1, it's a woman, and he needs a high-profile woman in a senior role there that he can listen to and understand what the gender gap is right now. She's going to happen with that. She's an excellent person when it comes to message development. She's done this for a long time. She had a very successful polling company.

She also brings a sense of calmness to Donald Trump. She understands that when things are fired up, she has this calming effect on him and allows him to manage and message him in a way that he wants to do it and he's comfortable with; not trying to tell him what to say, but highlighting some of the message points that are going to resonate better with specific audiences going to talk to. So her being on the plane is something I think has been lacking which is that senior leadership on that plane for the last two months.

CUOMO: So you see this as kind of like a check and balance. Because, you know, bringing in Breitbart, you know, is a decided thing. You know what? And we're going to see it in minutes. Because they will start putting out attack pieces on me and on this show and on this. And you'll see exactly what their full flavor is.

And then on the other side, you have somebody who does not play that way. Kellyanne has been very effective, but not that way. No concern from you about Trump doubling down on being all-out, scorched earth, attacking Clinton.

LEWANDOWSKI: I don't think it's what it is. I think you have what is he's building up that leadership team. He wants to have people around him who want to win at all costs.

CUOMO: What does that mean, though, at all costs?

LEWANDOWSKI: You know what I think it is? I think you have with Donald Trump a person who wants to be true to himself. That got him through primary process, by being true to himself.

And now what you've seen over the last 60 days is his poll numbers have deteriorated following the Republican convention. Some of that has been blamed on the fact that people continue to tell him to do things that he doesn't feel comfortable doing. He wants to remain true to himself.

You saw him say yesterday, "I'm not going to pivot. I'm going to be the same Donald Trump." You know what? That's the right thing to do when you're running for office. You want to tell the people who you are and let them make the decision when they go to the ballot box: do they support or oppose you? That's what the American public is all about.

CUOMO: He was whooping up on Hillary Clinton in polls early on when he was in his most fulsome representation of himself. Could he return to that?

LEWANDOWSKI: He was -- when he's his true self is when he attacks a man's disability. When he is his true self is when he mocks the POW. When he is his true self is when he attacks the entire immigration -- immigrant population or the entire Muslim faith. That, it seems to me, is the real Donald Trump that voters are seeing. And a staff shake-up doesn't cure that. It might even -- it might even worsen it. That's the real Donald Trump. People keep saying, when is he going to get back on message and get off all the hateful division? The hateful division is the message.

CUOMO: So what does this do to his relationship with the party? Because this is the opposite of what they want, right? Everybody in Republican leadership or at the party has been saying to him, "Stay on the teleprompter." I know he hated that advice. I know he thought that it was wrong on some visceral gut level.

But if he comes out and now says he's going the full scorched-earth policy, "This is who I am. I'm not pivoting," what does that do to those relationships?

[07:10:06] LEWANDOWSKI: Look, I think what you saw last night was Donald Trump gave a speech on -- on the teleprompter last night, talked about law and order, talked about how to make our city safe again, did outreach to the African-American community.

CUOMO: By saying that you need even more cops in your communities? That's how you reach out to black people?

LEWANDOWSKI: You know what he said? He said there's an alternative. He said, "The Democrat Party has taken advantage of you for the last 30 years. And look, you haven't -- you're not better off today than you were eight years ago from the beginning of this administration." Hillary Clinton's approval numbers, trust and honesty, are at 11

percent. We saw a candidate for the U.S. Senate from New Hampshire yesterday not be able to answer the question if they thought Hillary Clinton was honest and trustworthy. She's the sitting governor of the state. That includes Democrats and Republicans have a question on her honesty.

Donald Trump is authentic. He's a change agent. And if you want change -- and you look at the congressional approval ratings, it's at 11 percent. Congress is in the wrong direction. If you actually want change in Washington, there's only one candidate that's going to bring that. It's Donald Trump.

CUOMO: So if the ultimate downside to Trump is crass and the ultimate downside to Hillary Clinton is can't be trusted, who wins that race?

BEGALA: Well, look at the polling. Hillary does.

CUOMO: But maybe that's because he hasn't been playing his game.

BEGALA: Disqualified him.

CUOMO: Been trying to please other people, stay on teleprompter.

BEGALA: There's been two things happening. I don't think the problem with Trump is that he's being too disciplined. OK? I don't. I think the problem is he's being himself.

And I am for Corey's strategy of "let Trump be Trump," because the country hates Trump. Yes, they're angry with Hillary, too, but it's not -- it's not that close right now. Right? Because what's Hillary doing? She's actually laying out policy ideas, and people like it.

She had a very successful convention. It was not just flame throwing at the other side, which there was some of. It was a lot of ideas, a lot of policies. "Here's what I'm going to do to revive the economy. Here's what I'm going to do to -- to try to improve our standing in the world."

And Trump doesn't seem to be comfortable in that mode, because it's not really his mode. His mode is really the division and the nativism and the stuff that people hate. But that's the real Donald Trump.

CUOMO: This requires a little real-time thinking. Right? Because let's play on the idea of is correlation causation? When the polls were knotted up between Trump and Clinton, and I think he even edged ahead, he was full on hammer, taking it to her personally. All he talked about was her trustworthiness. Do you believe that that's the magic sauce for him?

LEWANDOWSKI: Look, I think you have to put lead on the target. There's no question about it. I think that there were missed opportunities about the FBI's investigation that weren't talked about. There were missed opportunities about Sheryl Mills having a relationship as the chief of staff in the state house and doing work for the Clinton Foundation or volunteering or whatever she was doing. I think that there are missed opportunities from the campaign over the

last two to three weeks that have not had the Trump campaign responding directly to the mistakes that the Clinton campaign has been making. And now we're going to see that change.

CUOMO: Now here's the big -- go ahead, what's your take on it?

BEGALA: The Trump campaign is a Dumpster fire. Donald Trump is inside the Dumpster. And now he's decided he's going to pour more gasoline on his own head.

Trump's problem, honestly, OK, it's that most people don't think he has the judgment and character and temperament to be president. You don't cure that by doubling down on the things they're worried about. He needs to find a way to reach out to younger people, to people of color, to women. None of this suggests that that's what he's going to do.

CUOMO: The real problem here that we have going into it is, first of all, I'm going to bring you -- you guys are going to come back next hour with us so we can keep talking about this conversation.

You know who I'm worried about this -- in this dynamic is the voters. Because if Trump doubles down on going after the personal and integrity issues and trust, you're going to have to respond. She's not going to be able to elevate and talk about economic policy and her ideas to make America better if she's getting attacked all the time.

BEGALA: Which she's been doing.

CUOMO: And the voters wind up having to make a choice between who's less worse.

BEGALA: Look, our super PAC has done negative Trumps on ad. We always will. I hope to run some even after the election so we can see 100 percent negative. OK.

But her campaign is not doing that. The polling has said this is Lee Atwater, famous of politics. Never interrupt your opponent when he's destroying himself. Hillary is not answering in kind. She's not attacking Trump.

CUOMO: There's plenty of personal stuff.

BEGALA: Nonsense. Nonsense.

CUOMO: Come on. His plan stinks. He can't do it. That's what a campaign should be about.

LEWANDOWSKI: His first television commercials start on Friday. The battleground states. What we see is a super PAC is pulling back in some of those states right now to shepherd their resources for later on. You know, they've got a lot of rich donors. George Soros, where he's going over there. As much as he can spend to make sure that nothing changes. Hillary Clinton is going to be an extension of the Obama administration, which means nothing changes. That's status quo. CUOMO: All right. That is the state of play. Let's pick up the conversation in the next hour. Paul Begala, Corey Lewandowski, thank you -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Chris, we have to talk about this big story, as well. Historic flooding now claiming 11 lives in Louisiana. Flood warnings are extended in Baton Rouge and other affected areas. CNN's Boris Sanchez is live in hard-hit Gonzales, Louisiana. He's right in the thick of it.

Boris, what's the latest this morning?

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, good morning, Alisyn.

There is good news. The water is receding in some areas, but in others, like where I am right now in Gonzales in Ascension Parish, it is simply not moving. You can see behind me there's still many homes that are inaccessible. Dozens of roads that are shut down.

[07:15:04] As a matter of fact, not far from here, neighbors were digging out a ditch in order to route the water out of this neighborhood.

Across the street from us, you may not be able to see it right now, because it's still dark out, but the Ascension Parish courthouse is also inundated. So it's not just residents that are having a hard time, assessing just how extensive the damage of this flood was.

More than 60,000 people have registered with FEMA to receive some kind of aid. There are tens of thousands of people that have been displaced, many of them having a hard time with what we're seeing right now.

There was a curfew put in place in Ascension Parish yesterday, not only to help those people, you know, stay away from the dangerous situation on the streets but also to prevent crime. About ten people were arrested last night for looting, Chris.

CUOMO: All right. Thank you very much, Boris. There's no question we should not be underestimating the despair down there. We will stay on that story.

The other big story this morning comes from the election. Donald Trump bringing in new blood, putting people in new roles. What's it going to mean going forward? Will he go back to his bombastic style? The answer is yes and more than ever. Will it work? Next.


[07:20:10] CAMEROTA: A major shake-up this morning in Donald Trump's campaign. What does this mean for the next 83 days until the election? Let's bring in CNN political commentators Mary Katharine Ham and Kaleigh McEnany. Ladies, great to see you this morning.

The news broke overnight, something like 1:30 in the morning that Donald Trump has done this campaign shake-up again. First he removed Corey Lewandowski, as we'll remember, put in Paul Manafort. Now he has seemed to have somehow sidelined Paul Manafort and replaced him with Kellyanne Conway, who we all know. She has -- is a political pollster. She's now his campaign manager. And Steve Bannon, who has been called, quote, "the most dangerous political operative in America." What does this mean?

MARY KATHARINE HAM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, he's affiliated with Breitbart. It's appropriate they would be brought on board at this point.

I think Kellyanne has a great history, a conventional history as a pollster. She also specializes in polling women. So I think that's an interesting skill to bring to this campaign in particular.

I do think it's interesting that he gives this big speech, which is a prompter speech and something he wanted to -- to sort of give air to, and then they come out with this the next day, which takes all the air out of it. So that's one of the things where there's not a ton of strategy to the timing of these things.

CAMEROTA: The background reporting on this basically says that Donald Trump didn't like feeling hemmed in. He didn't like being on prompter. He didn't like the things that Paul Manafort was suggesting, in terms of becoming a more general election candidate. And that this is actually a return to the bare knuckles style of Corey Lewandowski who was ousted, because that's what Steve Bannon represents.

KAYLEIGH MCENANY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, I mean, I think what this is, is you have different campaign managers or different executives on a campaign that serve different roles.

Corey did an absolutely phenomenal job, winning an historic primary. Donald Trump got more votes than any Republican candidate in presidential -- at least Republican presidential history.

Then you look to the next phase, which was securing the delegates. Paul Manafort was brought in to really secure the delegates, get past the Republican establishment, and bring home this win, which he did.

Now you have Kellyanne, who wants to broaden the base, you know, appeal to women voters, turn to a more conventional strategy. I think it's a mix of letting Trump be Trump but also doing so in a way that is going to be palatable to the American public, which is being on teleprompter, as we saw last night, and bringing home a very good message in a very kind of, I guess, not scripted way but a real way.

CAMEROTA: But you're not mentioning Steve Bannon. I mean, Steve Bannon, isn't that the wild card here? Stylistically, isn't he a return to the rogue sort of bare-knuckle style?

MCENANY: Sure, you have both. I think you have Kellyanne Conway, who's going to do a great job making sure that Trump drives home the message that made him skyrocket in the polls, that is to say the message he put forth at the convention. But you also have Bannon to say, "Let Trump be Trump." And that is the delicate balance that Trump needs to...

HAM: But I think the delicate balance means that this campaign always has a quarterback controversy. And that's not a healthy situation to be in. It's a very tough, delicate marriage to make work.

CAMEROTA: But Mary Katharine, how do you explain that -- what Donald Trump has just done last night? The changes he wanted to make. Robe Costa from "The Washington Post," who's been leading this reporting and breaking some of the news, said -- he just tweeted out that what this means to him is what he hears, huge rallies will start again, gloves off, brutal fights with Clinton, heavy emphasis on nationalism and populism. That's the Bannon strategy. What can we expect?

HAM: Well, that sounds largely like what they've been doing. I'm not sure it's a huge change.

CAMEROTA: Wasn't he hemmed in a little bit with Paul Manafort? Wasn't he more prompter...

HAM: I think there were attempts at that. But I think every time you see a prompter speech, the next couple days you see a return to the Corey Lewandowski or the Bannon style, because that is Trump.

The problem, I think, is that although nationalism and populism creates rallies, and rallies are fun and big, rallies do not necessarily translate into a ground game that gets people out. That's what they're missing and they're still missing.

MCENANY: I think what's important is you saw in that tweet nationalism and populism. It's important to let Donald Trump be Trump, you know, not be this rehearsed politician as we see with Hillary Clinton, who focus tests -- focus groups her every word.

Letting him be Trump but doing so in a way that stays on message. Populism, bringing home that message of "We're here to dethrone the elites." You know, getting back to public service. Politics should be -- politics isn't about personal enrichment and not public service. If he can stay on that message in a way that is not rehearsed, that is not scripted, but is Trump being Trump on message? That's the end goal.

CAMEROTA: Let's talk about who Donald Trump surrounds himself with. We have Paul Manafort and his dubious connections to Ukraine and the former pro-Russian leader there.

Steve Bannon, who now we've been discussing, has a very brass-knuckle style.

There's also reports about Roger Ailes being somehow connected now to the Donald Trump campaign, that he's not officially added to the campaign but that he may be sort of coaching informally Donald Trump before the debates. Roger Ailes, whom all three of us interestingly worked for at one time or another in our careers, was the head of FOX News and left amid sexual harassment allegations.

[07:25:07] What does this say about the Trump campaign? HAM: Well, I think it's this tendency the Trump campaign has to take

something that is a strength. So Ailes has certainly strength, certainly, with debate prep, with crafting TV.

But knocking it out with this giant liability, which is the sexual harassment charges plays to the idea that Trump is not terribly friendly to women. And I think the candidate and the campaign have a tendency to do that. Every time they have a strength. They neutralize it with something else.

CAMEROTA: What about that, Kayleigh? How does that play with female voters?

MCENANY: Well, look, Roger Ailes is not part of this campaign officially or even unofficially. He knows Donald Trump. They've spoken. They had a meeting, I believe, on Sunday.

CAMEROTA: They were out at the golf club together, and they've had many conversations that they've both talked about. And it does seem to be in some informal way he's coaching him.

MCENANY: Well, look, this is not something that Hillary Clinton wants to get into. Her husband, Bill Clinton, was accused of sexual assault twice and sexual harassment six times. So if we want to compare sexual harassment, the only official sexual harassment we have on a campaign is Bill Clinton, not Roger Ailes.

CAMEROTA: Is that how you think they'll play it? Is that what we're going to hear more of going forward?

HAM: Look, I do think it's tricky for Hillary to bring this stuff up, because -- not only because of the comparison, which Kayleigh is right about, but because Trump won't be afraid to talk about it as another candidate would. so I think it's tricky for her to bring it up.

But I do think there will be media coverage of this kind of thing, and it will -- I'm not sure it changes a ton of voters' minds, but it adds to the idea of who does he surround himself with.

CAMEROTA: Mary Katharine, Kayleigh, thanks so much for breaking all of this down with us this morning.

We have a quick programming note for you. You can join us tonight for a CNN town hall with the Green Party candidate. It's going to be hosted by Chris Cuomo tonight at 9 Eastern. Cannot wait to tune in for that -- Chris.

CUOMO: It should be fruitful. That's what we're hoping for tonight. The questions are going to be coming from you.

So preparations for the first presidential debate are well under way. But now with this big change in Trump's design of his campaign and now Roger Ailes helping him to prepare five weeks out, what can we expect in that debate? We have some insight next.