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AT THIS HOUR

Obama Gets Candid on 8 Years as President; Critics: Kushner Family's Name-Drop in China "Corrupt" and "Bribe"; Trump Turning Liberals into Conspiracy Theorists. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired May 9, 2017 - 11:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[11:30:00] BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Plus, one of my next guests says President Trump is turning liberals into conspiracy theorists on incidents involving everything from beer to Stephen Colbert. Do they risk becoming "The Boy Who Cried Wolf? We'll discuss.

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BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Once you've been president of the United States, then, A, you've made a mistake every day.

(LAUGHTER)

B, everybody has seen when you fail.

(LAUGHTER)

Large portions of the country think you're an idiot.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: Life in the White House certainly no walk in the park. Former President Barack Obama getting candid there about what his eight years as president were like. Mr. Obama speaking moments ago at a summit in Italy and defending, as well, his record on climate change.

I want to discuss this with Caitlin Huey-Burns, a national political reporter for RealClearPolitics.

And he said something else. This is always so fascinating to me, Caitlin, to hear a president talk after he's left the White House. He also said this. Let's listen.

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[11:35:26] OBAMA: You know, the hardest thing about being the president of the United States is, it is unique in its isolation. You live in what's called "the bubble." And it is a very nice prison. So, you don't have the freedom of movement to be able to just take a walk or to sit at a cafe.

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KEILAR: Bubble? We've heard him talk about the bubble. I don't know if we've heard him talk about the prison, though, but maybe not surprising to hear that.

CAITLIN HUEY-BURNS, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, REALCLEARPOLITICS: Right, exactly. Remember that one time he left the White House and there was talk of the Bears' loose and he took that nice little walk around outside the White House? This certainly, it is an isolating place, and we've seen this current president go to more familiar places to him, like Mar-a-Lago and to his other club in New Jersey that he's been frequently lately.

What's interesting about Obama coming out and the spotlight being on him is it comes at a time where he is having to defend key items of his legacy, which are, of course, Obamacare, which Republicans are aiming to finish repealing, and also climate change. We've seen the current president weigh whether to pull out of the Paris climate change agreement.

KEILAR: To that point, talk more about that, because that was a big issue, as we heard the former president's comments, defending the Paris climate deal. And there have now been multiple meetings, at least at the staff level, that have been canceled, allegedly for scheduling conflicts, but it seems, perhaps, it's more than that.

HUEY-BURNS: Right, exactly. President Trump campaigned on pulling away from this climate change deal, but then, after the election, he kind of signaled some kind of openness. And the talks within the staff, according to reports, have kind of shaped up to be a kind of a proxy battle between two different factions, kind of the Bannon wing, who is wanting to pull the U.S. away from these kinds of things, and then Ivanka and Jared Kushner, who are probably, you know, more supportive of staying in this.

You're also getting pressure from people in the business community to keep this deal, along with leaders of other nations, including the president of China, who Trump has become close with. So, it's really shaping up to be kind of a proxy battle for our role in these kinds of things, and it is to be determined.

But the president is supposed to go abroad and make a decision soon here. But it's really interesting to watch. And we've seen this on other issues, too. Campaign promises meet the reality of governing, and our role in the world has really changed in terms of how the president sees these things.

KEILAR: On foreign policy, as we were just discussing, as well.

HUEY-BURNS: Absolutely.

KEILAR: Caitlin Huey-Burns, thank you.

HUEY-BURNS: Thank you. KEILAR: Corruption, pure and simple? Ethics experts are blasting the Kushner family with those words for trying to woo Chinese investors through a U.S. visa program. We'll talk to one of those critics, ahead.

Plus, a new chapter in rage against the airlines. Someone smashes a pie right into the face of a major airline executive. We'll have details on that, ahead.

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[11:43:05] KEILAR: "Corruption and a bribe," those words describing a name-dropping pitch by Jared Kushner's sister to Chinese investors. Now calls are growing for Jared and Ivanka Trump to recuse themselves from China-related policies and issues.

I want to bring in one of the men making this call, Noah Bookbinder, a former corruption prosecutor and executive director for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.

First, just explain -- we've heard a number of ethics questions, so explain in your view, how bad is this one on the continuum of ethics problems?

NOAH BOOKBINDER, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, CITIZENS FOR RESPONSIBLITY & ETHICS IN WASHINGTON & FORMER CORRUPTION PROSECUTOR: Well, this one's pretty bad. I mean, this looks like people trying to enrich themselves based on a connection to a senior adviser to the president.

KEILAR: Because she drops her brother's name. Obviously, he's in the administration. She acknowledges that, and says that the president will be a key decision-maker when it comes to this controversial visa program, right?

BOOKBINDER: That's right. She drops his name. She says he recently left the company -- left his job as CEO of the company to go to the administration. She says that Trump is going to be a key decision- maker. We don't know that Jared Kushner or anyone else in the administration played a role in this, but we certainly shouldn't have the families of senior officials using those positions for their own gain and their business's gain.

KEILAR: And she's backpedaled on this. Clearly, there's an acknowledgement this wasn't the right way to go, although, certainly she's saying that's not her intention. That's what we're hearing from the company.

Do you see this, I wonder, as a data point of other things? I recall Ivanka Trump wearing something, and then her company, which she's supposed to be separate from, tweeting about it. And is there any pattern that you think is concerning when it comes to knowing where these lines are? Is this different from other administrations?

[11:45:00] BOOKBINDER: It's very different from other administrations. We have a consistent pattern of very little line- drawing at all between personal businesses and what the government is doing. It starts with the president, who has not been willing to sell his business interests, and every day, is potentially violating the Constitution by taking foreign money. And then down to his administration, where you've got, first, the president's adviser, Kellyanne Conway, and then the State Department, apparently, peddling Ivanka Trump's businesses --

KEILAR: Supporting Ivanka products.

BOOKBINDER: Exactly. As well as Mar-a-Lago.

KEILAR: I want to ask you before I let you go, because I think this is so important. So, what are the repercussions? What happens in response to this?

BOOKBINDER: Well, right now, we're not seeing a lot of action in response to this. The White House counsel ought to be stepping in and stopping White House officials from doing things they shouldn't be doing. The Office of Government Ethics is trying to, but doesn't have a lot of power. And really, it comes down to Congress in its oversight authority and the American people to demand ethical behavior from the White House.

KEILAR: Noah Bookbinder, thank you, sir. We do appreciate you being here.

BOOKBINDER: Thank you very much.

KEILAR: Is President Trump turning liberals into conspiracy theorists? According to our next guest, the answer is yes. And his argument involves Stephen Colbert, President Trump, and beer. That's coming up.

Plus, Spirit Airlines canceling flights. And these travelers obviously not happy about it, brawling right inside of the terminal. We'll have details on this story, next.

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[11:50:24] KEILAR: They are the real fake news, as big of an oxymoron as that is. We're talking about conspiracy theories. There are plenty of them on the right with some people believing anything negative they hear or read about a Clinton or an Obama or any Democrat must be true. But the left is not conspiracy free either. It's a lot of conspiracies going on right now.

We have CNN politics reporter and editor-at-large, Chris Cillizza, joining me now.

We talked about the one side, that some of this conspiracy theory is on the right, but you found many examples this is happening on the left.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER & EDITOR-AT-LARGE: There's no question Donald Trump traffics more in conspiracy theory in bits of news that he extrapolates outward as not being true than any president we've seen before.

That said, I think a lot of Democrats dislike Trump so much that they're ready to believe anything that's said about him.

KEILAR: Anything negative. Anything negative.

CILLIZZA: So, one example, during the health care debate last week, a reporter spotted a bunch of beer being brought into the capital. That tweet was retweeted more than 3,000 times, largely by liberals on Twitter, saying they're taking away people's health care and celebrating with beer.

KEILAR: And then you heard even elected members of Congress say they were cracking beers open.

CILLIZZA: Lots. Lots. Headlines everywhere.

KEILAR: Not true though?

CILLIZZA: No. Never was true. It was for something else. So that --

(CROSSTALK)

KEILAR: Some reception or something on the Hill?

CILLIZZA: Right. As anyone who's been on the Hill, they have a lot of receptions there.

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CILLIZZA: But the thing is, 3,000 retweets for the first tweet. Her clarification tweet, 300. Because there's a segment of people who just want to believe that that's what they were doing.

KEILAR: What else did you find?

CILLIZZA: FCC, the Federal Communications Commission, opened an investigation into some controversial comments Stephen Colbert, the late-night host, made with Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin. While this was a sign that the Trump-led FCC was investigating Colbert, trying to silence free speech. No. The FCC opens investigations lots of times where there are complaints, things that might violate their standards. It's standard operating procedure. CNN reporting was right on this. We've had an FCC spokesman saying there's nothing new here about this.

KEILAR: If someone asks, we have to take a look.

(CROSSTALK)

KEILAR: And it happens all the time.

CILLIZZA: If someone asks, and it's viable. You know, OK, what was said was sort of out of line, maybe we should take a look, you know. It happens again and again and again and again. I do -- look, this does not, Brianna, take away from the fact that Donald Trump traffics in real conspiracy theories, has, probably always will. But the left is not immune from this either. I do think it's the effect of Donald Trump. I think he makes them so angry, so unhappy with the process, so unhappy with the fact that he's president, that they are literally welling to believe anything that makes him or the Republican Party look bad.

KEILAR: It's sort of human nature. People, in a way, confirming what they believe.

(CROSSTALK)

CILLIZZA: --- bias. Exactly right. More and more now, because you can find news sites, cable TV, whatever, that plays to your particular bias. Well, it was on TV or I read the headline of it, it must be true. You seek out things that confirm that these stories are true. And then, of course, the, oh, actually, it wasn't true, is two days later and you missed that because it doesn't conform --

(CROSSTAKL)

CILLIZZA: -- to your beliefs.

KEILAR: And maybe it's not loud enough as well.

CILLIZZA: Right.

KEILAR: Chris, thank you so much, sir.

CILLIZZA: Thank you.

KEILAR: Coming up, airline rage. A brawl breaks out inside of a terminal after Spirit Airlines cancels flight. And the cherry on top, an airline CEO getting a pie in the face during a speech. We'll have that next.

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[11:58:19] KEILAR: Anger erupts at the Ft. Lauderdale airport. Passengers went into open revolt at a Spirit Airlines ticket counter after nine flights were canceled last night. Watch this.

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KEILAR: You might not be surprised that police arrested three people there. About 300 Spirit flights -- and this is why many of them were upset -- have been canceled over the past week. The airline is blaming its pilots for the disruption, saying that they've put their contract negotiations above customer service.

Airlines and their bosses are not exactly having an easy time. Take a look at this. Alan joyce, the CEO of Australian carrier, Qantas, found himself in the firing line earlier today. He got hit with a pie in the face while he was delivering a speech at a leadership breakfast. Security guards grabbed the man who did it, though we don't know his motive at this point, we should mention. As for Joyce, he cleaned himself up and returned to the podium to finish. Since most of the pie ended up on his glasses, he said he couldn't actually tell what flavor it was. We'll report back later when we find that out.

Thank you so much for joining us AT THIS HOUR.

"Inside Politics" with John King starts right now.

[11:59:52] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Brianna, thank you.

Welcome to "Inside Politics." I'm John King. Thanks for sharing your day with us.

More health care blow back for Republican lawmakers back home. And this candid admission from one Republican, "the House plan tinkers with Obamacare," he says, "but comes nowhere close to repealing it."

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UNIDENTIFIED IOWA REPRESENTATIVE: The individual markets, the individual markets, and your insurance companies --