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President Trump Announces Replacement for FBI Director Comey May be Selected As Soon As Next Week; Virginia Family Discusses Their Support for Donald Trump; President Trump Delivers Commencement Speech to Liberty University. Aired 10-11a ET

Aired May 13, 2017 - 10:00   ET



[10:00:16] CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Well, good morning to you. So grateful to have you with us. I'm Christi Paul.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Victor Blackwell. Good morning to you. CNN Newsroom begins right now.

PAUL: And this hour President Trump will address students at Liberty University. Our cameras are there. We'll bring you all of it as soon as it transpires. But he just arrived moments agao with his chief strategist Steve Bannon.

BLACKWELL: This is Mr. Trump's first commencement since becoming President Trump. It comes after a tumultuous week as the White House deals with the fallout following his sudden dismissal of FBI James Comey during the FBI's investigation into possible ties between the Trump administration, or rather the Trump campaign, I should say, and Russia. Now this is as four candidates prepare to interview today for the FBI director job.

PAUL: We have a team of political reporters and analysts standing by here. We want to begin with CNN Washington correspondent Ryan Nobles who is at the commencement. You see him there on the left. Ryan, what are you hearing from the crowd there? I understand they have got 7,000 students and their families who are going to be watching. What are they saying? What do they expect?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Christie, this is expected to be a pretty friendly crowd for the president. This is a group of people and voters in particular that generally supported him during the election, and, of course, here at Liberty University, their president Jerry Falwell Jr., a very influential evangelical leader, that his endorsement that really allowed the president to coalesce evangelical support, something that was important to him winning the Republican primary and then eventually the White House.

But we don't aspect him to make too much news during this speech here today at Liberty University, instead just words of encouragement for the graduates. But he did make a little bit news on his flight down on Air Force One, talking to reporters very briefly in the cabin of Air Force One, initially a conversation that was supposed to be off the record. But the president told reporters that they could report out that he is very close to making a decision about who the next FBI director will be. And he said that decision could come as soon as next week, before he heads out on a lengthy trip abroad.

So that's a significant development after a very tumultuous week in Washington. And the president is hoping that he can come here to Lynchburg, Virginia, with a very friendly crowd. We've already seen many of those "Make America Great Again" hats in this crowd. He expects to be received here warmly when he speaks in just about another half-an-hour. Christi and Victor?

PAUL: All right, Ryan Nobles, thank you so much, we appreciate it. And again, right there on the right-hand side of your screen we see from moments ago the president as he arrives taking some steps down to the waiting car and on his way to Liberty University this hour.

BLACKWELL: And as the president prepares to speak there in Lynchburg, some of those waiting to hear from him are still conflicted over their support for the president. Let's go now to another part of the city there, Lynchburg. CNN correspondent Polo Sandoval spoke with a family that is mixed on their support, not all of them supported him, the president. Polo?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey guys, good morning. There seems to be many constituents here in the heart of the Bible Belt who aren't quite sure what to make of President Trump's recent tweets and behavior. But what we did find was the president still enjoys the benefit of doubt from many of those in the heart of the Bible Belt, and we found that was at play under one family's roof. They call it the "White house of Lynchburg."


SANDOVAL: The White family tackles everything at the dinner table, from the projects to the politics behind the controversial firing of FBI director James Comey.

LARRY WHITE, TRUMP VOTER: Those who are, which is probably the majority here, those who are pro Trump, voted for Trump, I think something like this doesn't, isn't going to shake them one bit.

SANDOVAL: Larry White and his wife Kathy are raising their family in Lynchburg, in the center of Virginia but leaning right. More than 50 percent of the city voted for Donald Trump.

LARRY WHITE: We all basically have the same worldview, a Christian world view. But when it gets into politics there's certainly going to be some variation.

SANDOVAL: The whites are highly conservative but they're also conflicted when it comes to their views on President Trump.

ANNA WHITE: I didn't actually vote for him.

SANDOVAL: And 23-year-old Anna White is one of the few in her family who did not cast a vote for President last November. Recent Trump tweets have only reassured Anna of her decision. Her Trump voting family members, however, still stand by their choice.

ABIGAIL WHITE, TRUMP VOTER: I don't think there is ever going to be any one time where I'm like, oh, OK, shouldn't have voted for him, he was not the her joy thought he was, like he wasn't a hero to begin with.

LARRY WHITE: You didn't vote for him because of thinking he was a hero.

KATHY WHITE, TRUMP VOTER: But I would add too. I have trust issues with the former president, and the president before that. So the idea of trusting this president or not trusting is not new.

[10:05:06] SANDOVAL: This is the kind of dialogue you'll find at the White's dinner table.

ANNA WHITE: Intense. We all get very intense and passionate. We don't get angry, but we get very passionate when we're talking.

ABIGAIL WHITE: There's a lot of us so it's hard to actually talk at the dinner table.


SANDOVAL: This weekend it's Trump's turn to talk in Lynchburg, a place that welcomed him as a candidate and now as president. This part of Virginia is home to some of Trump's steadfast supporters as the city's Republican Party vice chair Tim Griffin.

TIM GRIFFIN, VICE CHAIR, LYNCHBURG, REPUBLICAN PARTY: Jerry Falwell Sr. was part of the Reagan revolution and the moral majority. And that's why it's so important for people to come to Lynchburg, meet voters, meet people, and see what it's all about, see what Liberty is all about.

SANDOVAL: Over 100 days into Trump's presidency Griffin and fellow Republicans seem unfazed by the cloud of controversy swirling over the White House.

KATHY WHITE: I want to support the role that he plays, the job that he's doing. I want him to be a good representation of America. I have to cry, but I love this country

SANDOVAL: The White's faith in President Trump is being tested, but their faith in the office is unshakeable, a feeling shared by many in this brass buckle of the Bible Belt.


SANDOVAL: And a White will be in the audience waiting to hear President Trump speak. What interesting is obviously the Comey termination has dominated the conversation at the dinner table, especially this week. We've heard people here say they are obviously questioning the timing. Others felt that it was the right thing to do, Victor and Christi. But there was a consensus, though, with one question among the White family, and that is President Trump should stop tweeting. Guys?

PAUL: All right, Polo Sandoval, appreciate it so much. Thank you.

BLACKWELL: Let's bring in our panel to discuss. CNN commentator Andre Bauer, CNN senior political analyst Ron Brownstein, CNN presidential historian Timothy Naftali, and former Clinton campaign media director Zerlina Maxwell. Welcome to all. We're just a few minutes away from the president speaking today. First to you, Timothy, our presidential historian. This president, his first choice here, Liberty University, the significance and what you are expected to hear from him?

TIMOTHY NAFTALI, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, first of all, I'm always interested when the president decides to use a prepared address. So I'm going to be interested in the themes that he focuses on. Are we going to see some shift, if any, in his message.

I'm also going to be looking for extemporaneous statements by the president -- the president likes to interact with the audience. Maybe he'll say some things off the cuff that are not in his prepared remarks. It would be interesting if he were to refer to the last week and talked about how he understands leadership. It would be interesting if he talked about rule of law. And it would also be equally important if he doesn't refer at all to the controversy of the last week. So, I'll be listening intently.

PAUL: Ron, what do you anticipate we're going to hear? Are we going to hear something that will actually make news today? Are we going to hear a message of unity as we have gotten word that at least it will in part be something along those lines? And how will he do that after the week he just had?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I'd be surprised if he addresses the issues that are front and raised that have been raised by his dismissal of the FBI director.

Look, evangelical Christians have become an absolute cornerstone of the Republican coalition based on issues, you know. Especially when the conservative Christian movement started it was often described as "values voters." It's hard to see how Donald Trump with everything that's swirled around him in the campaign was an example of values, you know, defined in that way. It was really more about issue positions, and particularly the appointment of a fifth Republican justice on the Supreme Court, which has been probably his biggest policy achievement so far. He won 80 percent of white evangelical Christians.

This is right at the cornerstone of the coalition. And I think he will be talking about the policy positions that kind of connect him to those voters. I think that will be the principle message I think today, because as I say, it is not really a values connection. It is a policy connection, and that was made very clear in this campaign.

BLACKWELL: You see on the stage the president there arriving to his, his left, your right on the screen. This is Jerry Falwell Jr., head of Liberty University there. And Zerlina, as we watch here live pictures, the president preparing for the commencement address, his first commencement as president of the United States. Not all of these students are supportive of the president. During the campaign, we know that there are protests today. But during the campaign there was a petition online and a letter "Liberty United against Trump." I'm going to read just a portion of this to give us maybe some color about some of those in opposition. "Because our president has led the world to believe that Liberty University supports Donald Trump, we students must take it upon ourselves to make clear that Donald Trump is absolutely opposed to what we believe and does not have our support. We're not proclaiming our opposition to Donald Trump out of bitterness but out of a desire to regain the integrity of our school."

[10:10:13] They go on to say "We don't want to champion Donald Trump. We want only to champion for Christ." So the narrative that this is in full an audience that is friendly to the president, maybe not 100 percent accurate.

ZERLINA MAXWELL, DIRECTOR OF PROGRESSIVE PROGRAMMING, SIRIUS XM: I think that's true. And I think that certainly if you're an evangelical who believes that lying is against what the Bible teaches, if you believe that confession essentially to committing egregious acts of alleged sexual assault against women by groping them, that that is against what the Bible teaches, then you are going to be in opposition to Donald Trump.

And I think that, you know, the students who wrote that certainly were concerned about a number of different things he said during the campaign, whether they be racist or sexist or misogynist. And I think that coming out against Donald Trump shows that they believe in the tenets of the Bible and what it teaches and they have integrity in that regard.

PAUL: Please don't go anywhere. You're all going to stay with us. And we see them putting hand to heart, most likely just pledging allegiance there. We're going to be right back as we do have words now from the president as he was on Air Force One on his way to make this commencement speech. We'll play that for you on the other side of the break. Stay close.


[10:15:45] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- and job creation with the power vested in me by the board of trustees --

PAUL: You're looking here at the Liberty University commencement as it gets under way. The president not in your screen there, but will be shortly as he is delivering the first commencement speech as presidential to Liberty University. And we should point out, the first extended appearance we'll see from him after the firing of FBI director, now former FBI director James Comey, this week.

BLACKWELL: And of course this comes during that period, the question now was the firing of James Comey directly related to the FBI investigation into Russia's meddling into the 2016 election? Here's what the president said a few moments ago on Air Force One on Comey's replacement. Watch this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think you might make a decision or an announcement?

DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We can make a fast decision. These are outstanding people that are very well known, highest level. So we can make a fast decision.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Before the trip next week do you think it's possible?

TRUMP: Even that is possible.


BLACKWELL: Our panel is back with us now. Let's start with Andre Bauer. We didn't get you last time. Just now potentially days away, Andre, from the announcement of the next potential FBI director.

ANDRE BAUER, CNN COMMENTATOR: That's exciting. You know, I have my own favorite, but whomever it is I think it starts a fresh start to a new presidency. Many people were concerned about the former FBI director's different ties and allegiances. And so part of the administration is cleaning it. And keep in mind, part of Donald Trump's big sale to the American people was draining the swamp. And I'm a firm believer in term limits not only for our members of the United States Congress and Senate but also so many of these agency heads. It needs turn over from time to time.

BLACKWELL: If you look at the list of people who are being considered, these are fresh faces from outside of Washington. Let's put up the four faces if we can. Go ahead, Andre.

BAUER: Well, my hope is that we do get somebody that has a nonpartisan background. I do have somebody I like that actually has a partisan background, although I think he's been fair when you talk about Trey Gowdy. But outside of that it's time for some turnover in so many of these different positions, not just FBI director. I know when I was a state senator I got rid of all the magistrates and put new ones in. It was a big shakeup and a lot of people weren't happy about it. But the people elected me over the person that had been there for a long time, and I came in with a different idea and a different approach to government.

And so there were some growing pains, but that's part of continuing this wonderful electoral system we have. And if the people didn't like that they could not vote for me next time, as they can with Donald Trump.

PAUL: I want to ask you, Timothy, we had some reporting from CNN here from some senior White House officials that there's a sense of dejection within the West Wing ranks right now that most were really caught off guard by the decision to fire James Comey, and even Vice President Mike Pence was said to be a little rattled at the events this week. What do you make of that characterization of the morale in the White House this early on in the presidency?

NAFTALI: Well, this president seems to be winging it a lot of the time. And the decision to remove the director of the FBI at a time when the FBI is undertaking an investigation of the 2016 campaign creates at the very least, leaving aside legal and political issues, terrible optics.

And the president normally works with his inner team, I mean, previous presidents, Republican or Democrat would have worked with their team to come up with a communication strategy, a messaging strategy to prepare the American people, to explain why such a potentially controversial decision was made. And, obviously, it didn't happen in this case. We saw that with the scrambling, with the fact the explanations of why Comey was fired changed and the president himself upset or undermined the White House's explanation.

So I don't know whether the morale was high or low. I wouldn't be surprised if it was low. What I think will be interesting to watch is the extent to which the White House team can be consistent over the next little while.

[10:20:09] Has the president learned anything from this? Will he? Can he learn from this? The impression that the United States, the American people got last week was a country that was led by a White House that is in disarray. And if the morale is low there, it's not surprising to me at all.

BLACKWELL: Ron, let me come to you. From the Air Force One there we heard from the president that it could be potentially a few days which means we go from firing of James Comey to now the path to confirming the next FBI director. Is Washington ready to pick the next guy or woman without exactly knowing how or why the previous FBI director was let go?

BROWNSTEIN: I think your question answers itself. I think there are many, many questions to be answered about how the previous person was let go.

And I can't -- Andre's point I think kind of misses the central issue here, which is that whatever the other motivations, whatever the other justifications were for removing James Comey, the fact is the president fired the senior law enforcement official overseeing the investigation of whether his campaign was colluding with the Russians in an effort the destabilize the 2016 election. That is the core issue. And that hangs over whoever comes into the job. Whoever he points, no matter how independent, no matter how well-respected, is coming in to office with the knowledge that the president fired their predecessor while they were pursuing this investigation.

And to Tim's point, to acknowledge that that was part of his thinking in his interview with Lester Holt after sending out the White House, or allowing or encouraging the White House staff to go out with a completely different story that he totally undermined and made clear was not true from the beginning. So that is there. That is part of this legacy going forward. No matter who steps into this job they know that their predecessor was removed by the president while they were investigating.

Now, we've had legal scholars today in the newspaper debating whether that amounts to, could amount to an obstruction of justice depending on the mindset of the president based on his own words. So all of that I think is a very serious cloud over this next appointment, and the idea that we're going to turn the page and move on to the merits of another person without fully investigating what happened here I think is kind of unlikely.

PAUL: And a lot of people think this investigation can't move forward without hearing from Comey himself. And we're getting word from the "New York Times" reporting this morning that Comey does want to testify, but he wants to do so publicly. Let's listen to Senator Mark Warner here from last night talking about James Comey and testifying.


SEN. MARK WARNER, (R) VIRGINIA: We just heard from the director that he's not able to make it Tuesday. It's my hope we'll be able to find a time. I think it's really important that the Congress and, more broadly, the American people hear Director Comey's side of the story.


PAUL: Zerlina, what do you make of the news this morning that Comey wants to testify, he wants to do it publicly. Do you think that will happen?

MAXWELL: I do think it will happen. I think eventually we will see Director Comey take an oath and testify before the Congress in an open hearing because I think that he believes in transparency, and in some points in history, you know, it was to a fault I think that he's been criticized for the way he handled the e-mail investigation and almost trying too hard to appear transparent in that regard. And so I think it's important that he testify in front of Congress under oath because we do need to get to the bottom of not only the hacking but now this new issue that has been raised this week, which is why the president would all of a sudden in the middle of a 10-year term -- now what was mentioned earlier is that there should be term limits. There are. There's a reason why there's a 10-year term for FBI director. They are supposed to be apolitical. They're supposed to go across more than one administration potentially so that they are not partisan.

And so the fact that the president in his own words admits he fired Director Comey because of the Russian investigation into his own campaign, we need to know more about that specifically and also ensure that the investigation continues in earnest in the FBI and in the Senate and the House, and I don't know how we do that without a special prosecutor. I think that this process actually has been too politicized. But I hope that we do hear from former director Jim Comey.

BLACKWELL: Zerlina, Andre, Timothy, Ron, stay with us. You see on your screen now this is Jerry Falwell Jr., president of Liberty University. We're just minutes away from hearing from President Trump, his first commencement address as president of the United States. We'll take a quick break and we'll be right back.


BLACKWELL: You see on your screen here Jerry Falwell Jr., president of Liberty University. Another president, a president of the United States will speak in just a moment there at the university. It's his first commencement speech since taking office.

PAUL: And coming so after quite a tumultuous week for the White House. They've been dealing with the fallout from the sudden firing of FBI Director James Comey. The president spoke about finding a replacement for him on Air Force One a little bit earlier. Let's listen to this just from a little while ago this morning.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think you might make a decision or an announcement?

DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We can make a fast decision. These are outstanding people that are very well known, highest level. So we can make a fast decision.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Before the trip next week do you think it's possible?

TRUMP: Even that is possible.

I think the process is going to go quickly because almost all of them are very well known. They've been vetted over their lifetime essentially, but very well known, highly respected, really talented people. And that's what we want for the FBI. So I'll see you over at the school. Have a good time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, Mr. President.


[10:30:08] PAUL: So hearing from the president as opposed to one of the surrogates whom we've heard a lot from.

BLACKWELL: Actually, let's play Sean Spicer at yesterday's daily briefing there at the White House. I'm going to play this for our panel as we welcome them back in. We've got Andre Bauer, CNN commentator, Ron Brownstein, CNN senior political analyst, Timothy Naftali, CNN presidential historian, and Zerlina Maxwell, former Clinton campaign media director. Again, let's listen to Sean Spicer, a bit of sound, a mash-up from yesterday's briefing.


SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I'm not aware of that. I haven't spoken to him on it about the reason.

I have not asked him about the deputy -- I have not asked him about -- generally I don't go through the list of government employees and ask him. So I have not asked him specifically about that.


BLACKWELL: The number of times yesterday, Timothy, that we heard Sean Spicer say I don't know, I haven't asked, we haven't had that conversation, seemed to be more. I won't say excessive because it's not for me to make that judgment, but more than we've heard in the past. How has the president's, I guess, 180 on how he came to the decision to fire James Comey affected that relationship potentially between the president and his communications director, the press secretary, deputy press secretary?

NAFTALI: Well, I don't know about their personal relationship, but I'll say this, which is that the White House communications director, or director of communications, his job, or her job sometimes, is to support the president and clean up the president's messes if that's required.

I think the problem last week, and this gets back to something Ron said, is deeper than that. The president just didn't change the rationale, the public rationale for firing Comey. The way in which he explained himself put him in some jeopardy. I'm not saying yet legal jeopardy, but he actually -- he actually deepened suspicions that he did this because he was worried about the direction that the Russian investigation was going.

I'm not saying that was the reason he did it, but the way in which he explained himself. And the letter that he sent to Mr. Comey, both of these are telltales and give you a sense that's what motivated him. And of that's what motivated him then there is going to be enormous pressure on whoever he selects to be --

PAUL: We appreciate it so much. Let's listen here to the president of the United States in his first commencement speech, this one to Liberty University.


DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you very much, everybody. And congratulations to the class of 2017, that's some achievements. This is your day and you've earned every minute of it. And I'm thrilled to be back at Liberty University. I've been here, this is now my third time. And we love setting records, right? We always set records. We have to set records. We have no choice.

It's been a little over a year since I've spoken on your beautiful campus, and so much as changed. Right here the class of 2017 dressed in cap and gown, graduating to a totally brilliant future. And here I am standing before you as president of the United States, so I'm guessing there are some people here today who thought that either one of those things -- either one -- would really require major help from God. Do we agree?


TRUMP: And we got it. But here we are celebrating together on this very joyous occasion, and there's no place in the world I rather be to give my first commencement address as president than here with my wonderful friends at Liberty University.


TRUMP: And I accept this invitation a long time ago. I said to Jerry that I would be there. And when I say something, I mean it.


TRUMP: I want to thank President Jerry Falwell and his incredible wife Becki -- stand up, Becki -- for their kind words, their steadfast support, and their really wonderful friendship. Let me also extend our appreciation to the entire Falwell family, Trey, Sara, Wesley, Laura, and Caroline. Thank you for everything you do to make this university so exceptional, one of the truly one of the great, great schools.

[10:35:13] Most importantly to our new graduate, each of you should take immense pride in what you have achieved. There's another group of amazing people we want to celebrate today. And they are the ones who have made this journey possible for you. And you know who that is? Nobody. You forgot already. You're going to go out and do whatever you're going to do. Some are going to make a lot of money. Some are going to be even happier doing other things. They are your parents and your grandparents. Don't forget them.


TRUMP: You haven't for got them, have you? Never ever forget them. They are great. And especially this weekend let's make sure we give a really extra special thanks to the moms.


TRUMP: Don't forget our moms, because, graduates, today is your day. Today is your day. But in all of this excitement don't forget that tomorrow is Mother's Day, right? I had a great mother. She's looking down now, but I had a great mother. I always loved Mother's Day.

We're also deeply honored to be joined by some of the nearly 6,000 service members, military veterans and military spouses, who are receiving their diplomas today.


TRUMP: Would you please stand. Please stand. Wow.


TRUMP: That's great. Thank you very much, great job. We're profoundly grateful to every single one of you who sacrifice to keep us safe and to protect God's precious gift of freedom. It is truly a testament to this university and to the values that you embrace that your graduating class includes so many patriots who have served our country in uniform. Thank you very much. To the class of 2017, today you end one chapter, but you are about to

begin the greatest adventure of your life. Just think for a moment of how blessed you are to be here today at this great, great university, living in this amazing country, surrounded by people who you love and care about so much.

Then ask yourself, with all of those blessings, and all of the blessings that you've been given, what will you give back to this country and, indeed, to the world? What imprint will you leave in the sands of history? What will future Americans say we did in our brief time right here on earth? Did we take risks? Did we dare to defy expectations? Did we challenge accepted wisdom and take on established systems? I think I did, but we all did. And we're all doing it.

Or did we just go along with convention, swim downstream so easily with the current, and just give in because it was the easy way, it was the traditional way, or it was the accepted way? Remember this, nothing worth doing ever, ever, ever came easy. Following your convictions means you must be willing to face criticism from those who lack the same courage to do what is right, and they know what is right, but they don't have the courage or the guts or the stamina to take it and to do it.

It's called the road less traveled. I know that each of you will be a warrior for the truth, will be a warrior for our country and for your family. I know that each of you will do what is right, not what is the easy way, and that you will be true to yourself and your country and your beliefs.

[10:40:00] In my short time in Washington, I've seen firsthand how the system is broken, a small group of failed voices who think they know everything and understand everyone, want to tell everybody else how to live and what to do and how to think. But you aren't going to let other people tell you what you believe, especially when you know that you're right.


TRUMP: And those of you graduating here today, who have given half a million hours of charity last year alone, unbelievable amount of work and charity, and few universities or colleges can claim anything even close. We don't need a lecture from Washington on how to lead our lives. I'm standing here looking at the next generation of American leaders. There may very well be a president or two in our midst. Anybody think they are going to be president, raise your hand.



TRUMP: In your hearts are inscribed the values of service, sacrifice, and devotion. Now you must go forth into the world and turn your hopes and dreams into action. America has always been the land of dreams because America is a nation of true believers. When the pilgrims landed at Plymouth, they prayed. When the founders wrote the Declaration of Independence, they invoked our creator four times because in America we don't worship government. We worship God.


TRUMP: That is why our elected officials put their hands on the Bible and say, "So help me God" as they take the oath of office. It is why our currency proudly declares "In God We Trust." And it's why we proudly proclaim that we are one nation under God every time we say the Pledge of Allegiance.


TRUMP: The story of America is the story of an adventure that began with deep faith, big dreams, and humble beginnings. That is also the story of Liberty University. When I think about the visionary founder of this great institution, Reverend Jerry Falwell Sr., I can only imagine how excited he would be if he could see all of this and all of you today, and how proud he would be of his son and of his family.

In just two days we will mark the 10th anniversary of Reverend Falwell's passing. I used to love watching him on television, hearing him preach. He was a very special man. He would be so proud not just at what you've achieved, but of the young men and women of character that you've all become. And, Jerry, I know your dad is looking down on you right now, and he is proud. He is very proud. So congratulations on a great job, Jerry.


TRUMP: Reverend Falwell's life is a testament of the power of faith to change the world, the inspiring legacy that we see all around us in this great stadium. This is a beautiful stadium, and it is packed. I'm so happy about that. I said, how are you going to fill up a place like that? It is packed, Jerry.


TRUMP: It is a beautiful campus, and in your smiling faces. But it all began with a vision. That vision was of a world class university for evangelical Christians. And I want to thank you because, boy, did you come out and vote, those of you that are old enough, in other words, your parents.


TRUMP: Boy, oh boy, you voted. You voted.

[10:45:00] No doubt many people told him his vision was impossible. And I am sure they continue to say that so long after he started at the beginning with just 154 students. But the fact is no one has ever achieved anything significant without a chorus of critics standing on the sidelines explaining why it can't to be done. Nothing is easier or more pathetic than being a critic, because they're people that can't get the job done. But the future belongs to the dreamers, not to the critics. The future belongs to the people who follow their heart no matter what the critics say because they truly believe in their vision. At Liberty your leaders knew from the very beginning that a strong

athletic program would help this campus grow so that this school might transform more lives. That is why a crucial part of Reverend Falwell's vision for making Liberty a world class institution was having a world class football team, much like the great teams of Notre Dame, great school, great place. In fact, Vice President Mike Pence is there today doing a fabulous job as he always does.


TRUMP: A few years ago the "New York Times" even wrote a story on the great ambitions of the Liberty Flames. That story prompted a long time president of another school to write a letter to Jerry. It's a letter that Reverend Falwell would have been very, very pleased to read. Jerry tells me that letter now hangs in the wall in the boardroom of your great university. It came from the late Father Theodore Hesburgh who was the beloved president of the University of Notre Dame 35 years ago. Like this school's founder, he was a truly kindhearted man of very, very deep faith.

In the letter Father Hesburgh recalled that Notre Dame's own meteoric rise from a small Midwestern school to national football powerhouse. And then he wrote something so amazing and generous. He wrote "I think that you are on that same trajectory now, and I want to wish you all the best and encourage you from the starting and from being able to start very small and arriving in the big time." Thanks to hard work, great faith, and incredible devotion, those dreams have come true. As of February of this year, the Liberty Flames are playing in the FBS, the highest level of competition in NCAA football.


TRUMP: Don't clap. That could be tough. Don't clap. That could be tough. I'm a little worried. I don't want to look at some of the scores here. Jerry, are you sure you know what you're doing here?


TRUMP: Those other players are big and fast and strong. But I have a feeling you're going to very well, right. From the most humble roots you've become a powerhouse in both education and sports. And just wait until the world hears the football teams you'll be playing on your schedule starting next season. President Falwell gave me a list of some of those schools, the ones you'll be playing in 2018. Would you like me to read the names, just came out? Would you like hear them? I'm a little bit concerned.


TRUMP: UMass, Virginia, Auburn. Jerry, are you sure you know what you're doing?


TRUMP: Jerry, Auburn. I don't know about that, Jerry. This could be trouble, Jerry. Rutgers, Old Dominion, Brigham Young, Army. I might be at that game. Who am I supposed to root for? Tell me. I don't know.


TRUMP: That's a tough one, Jerry. I don't know, Jerry. I'm going to have to think about that one, Jerry. Buffalo, Troy, Virginia Tech. Oh, no, Jerry, Ole Miss, and wake forest. Those are really top schools. Maybe in four or five years I'm come to a game. You'll build it up.


TRUMP: Good luck. The success of your athletic program arriving on the big stage should be a reminder to every new graduate of just what you can achieve when you start small, pursue a big vision, and never ever quit. You never quit.

[10:50:14] If I give you one message to hold in your hearts today, it's this -- never, ever give up. There will be times in your life you'll want to quit. You'll want to go home. You'll want to go home, perhaps to that wonderful mother that's sitting back there watching you and say, mom, I can't do it. I can't do it. Just never quit. Go back home and tell mom, dad, I can do it. I can do it. I will do it. You're going to be successful.


TRUMP: I've seen so many brilliant people, they gave up in life. They were totally brilliant. They were top of their class. They were the best students. They were the best of everything. They gave up. I've seen others who really didn't have that talent or that ability, and they are among the most successful people today in the world because they never quit and they never gave up.

So just remember that -- never stop fighting for what you believe in and for the people who care about you. Carry yourself with dignity and pride. Demand the best from yourself and be totally unafraid to challenge entrenched interests and failed power structures. Does that sound familiar, by the way? The more people tell you it's not possible, that it can't to be done, the more you should be absolutely determined to prove them wrong. Treat the word "impossible" as nothing more than motivation. Relish the opportunity to be the outsider. Embrace that label. Being an outsider is fine. Embrace that label, because it's the outsiders who change the world and who make a real and lasting difference.

The more that a broken system tells you that you're wrong, the more certain you should be that you must keep pushing ahead. You must keep pushing forward.

And always have the courage to be yourself. Most importantly, you have to do what you love. You have to do what you love. I've seen so many people, they're forced through lots of reasons, sometimes including family, to go down a path that they don't want to go down, to go down a path that leads them to something that they don't love, that they don't enjoy. You have to do what you love, or you most likely won't be very successful at it. So do what you love. I want to recognize a friend who is here with us today, who can serve

as an inspiration to us all, someone who doesn't know the meaning of the word "quit," a real champion, a true, true champion, both on the field, off the field. He's a hall of fame quarterback for the Buffalo Bills, really a good friend of mine, an amazing guy, Jim Kelly. Where's Jim? He's here some place. Stand up, Jim.


TRUMP: What a great man. Jim Kelly, he was tough.


TRUMP: Jim, do you have any idea how much money you would be making today? They would hit Jim, it was like tackling a linebacker. They would hit Jim, four guys, five guys that weighed 320, and they'd just keep going down the field. He was much more than a quarterback. He had tremendous heart, and he knew how to win. Jim is tough and his toughest fight of all was that he beat cancer not once but twice.


TRUMP: And I saw him and his incredible wife as they were in a very low moment, Jill, very, very low moment. And it was amazing the way they fought. It didn't look good. I would have said maybe, maybe it's not going to happen. But there was always that hope because of Jim and Jim's heart.

But I want to just say it's great to have you here today, Jim, and these people are big, big fans. And if you can get a young version of Jim Kelly, you'll be beating a lot of teams, Jerry.


[10:55:02] TRUMP: So, interestingly, though, I said I wonder what Jim is doing here. His daughter, Erin, crosses the goal line to you and today with you. So Erin, stand up. Where are you, Erin? Where is Erin? Congratulations, Erin. Congratulations, graduating from Liberty. Great choice. Thank you.


TRUMP: Liberty University is a place where they really have true champions. And you have a simple creed that you live by, to be really champions for Christ. Whether you're called to be a missionary overseas, to shepherd a church or to be a leader in your community, you are living witness of the Gospel message of faith, hope, and love.

And I must tell you I am so proud as your president to have helped you along over the past short period of time. I said I was going to do it and, Jerry, I did it. And a lot of people are very happy with what's taking place, especially last week. We did some very important signings.

(APPLAUSE) TRUMP: Right, James? Very important signings. America is better when people put their faith into action. As long as I am your president, no one is ever going to stop you from practicing your faith or from preaching what's in your heart.


TRUMP: We will always stand up for the right for all Americans to pray to God and to follow his teachings. America is beginning a new chapter. Today each of you begins a new chapter as well. When your story goes from here, it will be defined by your vision, your perseverance, and your grit. That's a word Jim Kelly knows very well, your grit.

In this I'm reminded of another man you know very well and who has joined us here today. His name is George Rogers, Liberty University CFO and vice president for a quarter of a century. During World War II, George spent three and a half years as a prisoner of war. He saw many of his fellow soldiers die during the Bataan Death March. He was the victim of starvation and torture as a prisoner of war. When he was finally set free he weighed just 85 pounds and was told he would not live past the age of 40. Today George is 98-years-old.


TRUMP: Great.


TRUMP: That's so great, George. If anyone ever had reason to quit, to give into the bitterness and anger that we all face at some point, to lose hope in God's vision for his life, it was indeed George Rogers. But that's not what he did. He stood up for his country. He stood up for his community. He stood up for his family. And he defended civilization against a tide of barbarity, the kind of barbarity we're seeing today and we've been witnessing over the last number of years. And I just want to tell you as your president, we are doing very, very well in countering it. So you just hang in there. Things are going along very, very well.


TRUMP: You'll be hearing a lot about it next week from our generals. Things are going along very, very well.