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Cabinet Members Praise Trump; Firing Robert Mueller; Champions for Change Story. Aired 8:30-9:00a ET

Aired June 13, 2017 - 08:30   ET

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


[08:30:00] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can't thank you enough for the - the privilege that you've given me and the leadership that you've shown.

REX TILLERSON, SECRETARY OF STATE: Mr. President, thank you for the honor to serve the country. It's a great privilege you've given me.

REINCE PRIEBUS, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S CHIEF OF STAFF: On behalf of the entire senior staff around you, Mr. President, we thank you for the opportunity and the blessing that you've given us to serve your agenda and the American people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Only the secretary of defense did it differently, talking about the honor of serving the men and women who fight for this country and that sense of privilege.

So let's get "The Bottom Line" with CNN's senior political commentator David Axelrod.

Is this media cynicism? Is this a good thing that, you know, it's nice to be nice to the president? Everybody's so tough on him all the time.

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think it was embarrassing. I was thinking about - I sat in many cabinet meetings when I was in the White House. I think the president would have burst out laughing if this - if he - if a couple of people had gone down the row doing that because it was so clearly orchestrated. It felt very North Korean, you know, everybody giving praise to the leader.

I think what's happened is that Donald Trump is in a deep hole. His polling numbers are bad and we know that he reads them. The general narrative is negative about accomplishments and he's trying to create an alternative reality and they're trying to keep his spirits up and so we get what is this new reality show. But, at the end of the day, only General Mattis walked out of there with his dignity.

CAMEROTA: But I am curious about what it's like in the White House. Don't you have to be sort of sycophantic to the president. Yes, Mr. President, how high? You know, let me jump up when he walks into the room. Don't - don't -

AXELROD: Not if you have a secure president. There's no doubt that people - there is an aura to the presidency and when you walk in that Oval Office you feel it and there is a tendency to want to agree with the president. But to heap this sort of obsequious praise on the president -

CUOMO: Right, but it's about something else. It's a projection of a certain perspective. You hear it with the podcast. You hear it when you do your speaking. You hear it at the university in Chicago. People say, you guys are too tough on the president. It's always negative. Where's the nice stories? Where's the positive stuff? What do you answer?

AXELROD: You know - well, my answer is, having been there, I - you know, I - no one would argue that Barack Obama was the target of derision general on the part of the media, but there were times when we were completely under siege and you felt it, you know, the president, that he's a one-term president -

CUOMO: But they say it's more and different with Trump. Is that fair criticism?

AXELROD: Well, I mean the fact - sometimes you follow the facts and the facts create that sense.

I have no doubt that there are times when people are unfair to Donald Trump. There are times when people are unfair to politicians generally. And he has chosen the media as a straw man to operate against. That's part of his political strategy. So we have that dynamic.

But at the end of the day, the news media has an obligation to report what is happening and what is not happening. And now I will say this, I do think as serious as this Russia probe is, and I think it's deadly serious, and not just because of what the Trump involvement may or may not have been but because of what Russia has done, there are a lot of other things going on every day that are important on health care, on banks and financial reform, on deregulation.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Sure.

AXELROD: I mean - and those things actually have more bearing on the day-to-day lives of people, and they get submerged in this frenzy over the coverage of this scandal.

CAMEROTA: This is exactly the point that the RNC chair, Ronna McDaniel, was just making on our air. Can't we be done, she said, with this investigation -

AXELROD: Well, but I think -

CAMEROTA: Because it's eclipsing everything else.

AXELROD: You know, let me say, I think there's a strategy on the part of the White House now to try and be submerged these probes and the Mueller piece is part of it. But I go back to what I said before on the Russia piece, they can't stop because Russia is not stopping. And whatever happens in terms of their conclusion about collusion, those committees need to get to the bottom of what Russia did and how - and how we stop it because this is a threat to democracy.

CAMEROTA: Yes. And their work is not done, obviously.

AXELROD: Absolutely not.

CAMEROTA: David Axelrod, great to see you. Great to have you in studio.

AXELROD: Always good to see you guys. Yes, happy to be here.

CAMEROTA: Thanks so much.

CUOMO: All right, so the man of the moment in the orbit around the president right now is his friend Chris Ruddy. He is at "Newsmax." You've see him on TV. He speaks about the president often. But he is in the middle of a real embrolio (ph) with the White House right now about what the president might be thinking about doing with respect to the special counsel. We've got him on the phone for his side of the story. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:38:42] CUOMO: All right, we have the man of the moment for you. Long-time friend of President Trump who says the president is considering firing Special Counsel bob Mueller. The White House denies that that conversation ever happened. Ruddy says he never said he had a conversation with the president about it and now he is fighting with the press secretary, Sean Spicer. He is on the phone. "Newsmax" CEO Chris Ruddy.

Chris, what is going on, my friend?

CHRIS RUDDY, "NEWSMAX" CEO (via telephone): Well, Chris, thank you for having me on.

I wouldn't say that I'm fighting with Sean Spicer. I think that Sean is again doing something a little unusual and different, which is making a news story where one doesn't exist.

I was on CBS yesterday and Judy Woodruff asked me about reports that the White House was unhappy with the special counsel. As you know, the president's own attorney, Jay Sekulow, went on TV this weekend and said that the president was leaving open the option of terminating Robert Mueller as the special counsel. And I said that the president was indeed considering that. I'm a journalist. I run "Newsmax." And I never said that the president told me. I never said I had a conversation. I never implied. As you know, I've been on CNN many times and I only speak for myself and not the president. He has his own spokesman, although they are, I think, in need of a little bit of a help from time to time.

[08:40:07] So the president's spokesman issued a - what I would call a bizarre press release last night saying that I had not spoken to the president about it. And I said, hey, I never said I spoke to the president. And, interestingly enough, they never denied my underlying report that - that - CUOMO: Well, but that's what's generating the interest here is that you - this is friendly fire. So you have the substance and you have the style. Let's deal with the substance first. Do you believe that the president is seriously considering getting rid of Bob Mueller and why do you think that?

RUDDY: I think it's a consideration the president has had because Mueller is illegitimate as special counsel. Chris, remember, there is no evidence of wrongdoing. There is no evidence of collusion. There's no evidence of obstruction. There is no serious allegation made that the president or any of his senior staff engaged in collusion or any other crime. So why -

CUOMO: Look, Chris, we don't know - we don't know what they're really looking at. And how can you say Bob Mueller is illegitimate?

RUDDY: But that was -

CUOMO: He was praised by your side of the aisle as a great choice as special counsel by Republicans.

RUDDY: Well, look -

CUOMO: I don't understand what this newfound disparagement is about.

RUDDY: I have no disparagement for Bob Mueller -

CUOMO: You just said he's illegitimate as special counsel. That's not nice.

RUDDY: (INAUDIBLE) correct. But I said, as the man, you asked - I'm saying as a man, I think he did a great job running the FBI. I think it's inappropriate. Look, this man was interviewed by Donald - the president a day or two before he was named special counsel to become FBI director.

CUOMO: Right.

RUDDY: He had a private conversation. Don't you think it's a little unethical for him then to become the investigator against the president after having that private conversation? I think it's - and that currently there is other (INAUDIBLE) that are -

CUOMO: No, I don't. Where would be the conflict - where would be the conflict of interest? In fact, Mueller never disclosed that fact. You did. But what would be the - what would be the conflict there?

RUDDY: He had a private conversation with the president -

CUOMO: Right.

RUDDY: On his views about all sorts of matters, potentially about the investigation, I don't know. And the next day he's now maybe using some of that information in his investigation.

CUOMO: The president nor his counsel, nor anybody around him ever raised that as a concern. They praised Bob Mueller as a choice.

RUDDY: But, Chris, what was the actual evidence that the president or anybody around him did wrong here? You're veering off the point here. And there's no basis to how -

CUOMO: Oh, no, actually, I'd love to focus on exactly that point because here is my problem with this assertion, and we just heard it from Ronna, from the GOP, about it as well. We do not know what the evidence is in the investigation. We have heard from Comey and others that they didn't see proof of collusion.

RUDDY: Right.

CUOMO: But there are a lot of other questions and leads -

RUDDY: Well -

CUOMO: And nobody involved in the investigation that I've talked to believe the work is done. And you and I don't know what they know. So let it play out and see where it goes. If it's nothing, it's nothing.

RUDDY: I think Angela Merkel interfered in the American election. I think she wanted to elect Hillary. I'm making that allegation to you. I know I have no evidence of it, but I'd like you to appoint a special counsel to investigate it.

CUOMO: And that - and - right, and that is - but that - no, but it - but it isn't. But it isn't.

RUDDY: No, I mean that's how ridiculous - it's ridiculous.

CUOMO: But it isn't and I'll tell you why. I'll tell you why it doesn't stand up as a syllogy (ph). Because if you talk to Comey, if you talk to Clapper, they'll say not only is what Russia did unprecedented in its malice and in its intricacy, but that there are a enough questions about people around Trump and about how Russia did this and how to stop it that it requires investigation. And, remember, when you make a political argument to try to get this away from the president, you are also - you are also creating a disadvantage for this democracy. You need to know how Russia did it and how to stop it and who was involved. Those are real questions.

RUDDY: But Clapper has said there's no evidence of collusion here. (INAUDIBLE). He was Barack Obama's -

CUOMO: No, he did not. He said he was not aware - Clapper did not say that. I interviewed him myself, Chris. He said, I didn't know because I wasn't -

RUDDY: Look, there have been numerous congressional members that have -

CUOMO: Chris, let me get the fact out there. He said, I wasn't monitoring the FBI investigation. I don't know what he had. That's what Clapper said, not, there is none and I know everything there is to know. He didn't say that. RUDDY: Chris -

CUOMO: But your side of the aisle uses that and deceptively so.

RUDDY: Chris, you - you're coming from a - you're the son of a great lawyer, Mario Cuomo, and there's a rule in law, it's called habeas corpus. If you charge someone with a crime, you have to have some evidence that there's a crime committed. And there's no evidence of that, OK.

CUOMO: Habeas corpus exists when you have someone in custody.

RUDDY: So - so -

CUOMO: We're talking about the president of the United States and open questions that go to the fundamental basis of our democracy.

[08:45:06] RUDDY: I think the -

CUOMO: Chris, if you change the names here and Chris Ruddy was considering whether or not we need to know whether the Russians helps Hillary Clinton, I guarantee you there would be no passivity in your - in your perspective.

RUDDY: No, I wouldn't - I wouldn't say that at all. You know, I thought that the FBI director's press conference about the indictment, Hillary was totally in violation of FBI protocol last June. I thought his interference in the election with reopening the investigation two weeks before was an interference and violation of FBI and Justice Department protocol. And I thought that his writing of the memos with the president and leaking it to the press was an ethical violation, potentially a criminal one. It's - the whole thing has been very strange. Nobody wants to talk about what Comey's activities have been, which Democrats have criticized time and again. So I -

CUOMO: Sure. I think we've talked about all of that a lot, by the way.

RUDDY: Well, I think what I'd rather talk about is - and I think when the president says this is a political witch hunt, I think it's a political diversion. You know, the president has had tremendous success. He just went over to Saudi Arabia and got a hundred billion in arms deals. He's gotten China to open up their markets for 30 years. No president has been able to do that. He's gotten the Korea thing finally being dealt with by the country. Jobs are a priority in this country, like they have never been before. And I think they don't want to talk about the president's achievements. So I'm open for criticizing him. If you go to "Newsmax" now, there will be stories critical, there will be stories supportive. But when - it seems like stuff is just being made up. I can understand the frustration that the president -

CUOMO: Right, but I feel - but I get that that's a frustration. I also think that it's a false premise. I mean I say this to people all the time. I get that you don't like him, but show me what's untrue. Show me what we report on this show that is wrong or doesn't deserve the coverage. You can't ignore the fact, Chris, that the president creates so many of these news cycles himself and often on purpose. You're going to get scrutinized for what you say and do as president.

RUDDY: Well, I would -

CUOMO: When you say outrageous things, you're asking for that coverage, are you not?

RUDDY: Well, I think some of the tweets are - are - should be reviewed. I think there should be a review process. And, look, the president, from time to time, said that -

CUOMO: Some? He's the president of the United States. Everything he says matters so much. Look at what he's done in terms of perception of the media in this country.

RUDDY: Well, that is true. That is true.

CUOMO: Sheerly through the force of his own personality.

RUDDY: I think the president should be more careful about public issuances. But I also think that the public and the press have a job of not just telling the - you selectively tell the stories that you tell and you're not sharing the positive things.

You know, look at the poll numbers for the president. This is the most negative barrage of media attacks any president has sustained in the history, and yet he still has 40 percent of the polls. And if you look at some of the polling numbers about voters, they'll show they're almost all the voters that voted for him said they'd still vote for him. I think that's an amazing prescient that defines the American people.

CUOMO: Right, Chris Ruddy, there's no question that he has a base that is solid and he plays to it. The question is, how he will grow.

But to the main point here, Chris, and you know I've always been open with you about criticism. You have to hear it and you have to learn for it - from it, and that's a lesson for everybody in this situation. But, look, the president could tweet about whatever he wants. He could talk about Dodd-Frank. He could talk about health care. He could talk about his jobs plan and what it actually is. But what did he just tweet about just now? "A.G. Lynch made law enforcement decisions for political purposes. Gave Hillary Clinton a free pass and protection. Totally illegal." He made that choice. He just put that tweet out there. You know it is pregnant with reasons for criticism. Are we not supposed to talk about it?

RUDDY: Look, the American public elected Donald Trump president because they liked the fact he's very candid and open. He's the type of guy that does not hide what he thinks. He had a long history, coming from New York, of being that way. I don't - it's not necessarily my approach. It's not your approach on how you would deal with public policy issues. But this is the way he is and the public -

CUOMO: And that's his prerogative, but isn't it our duty to review what he says? RUDDY: And the public voted for him. It's - there's no - I think you'd

agree with me, Chris, there's no surprises that we've seen from the president. He's doing what he's always done, which is being very candid and honest.

CUOMO: It's beside the point. The point is, he's my president and he just tweeted something about Attorney General Lynch, calling her a felon. Am I supposed to not cover it?

RUDDY: No, I think you should. As the president just said today on (INAUDIBLE) -

CUOMO: And that will be the news cycle. This is going to drive the next several shows here because what he just said is so damning.

RUDDY: But, remember, Chris, I'm not the president's spokesman. I believe that it's OK to report what the president's saying, but we should be fair in how we report his achievements. And I don't think the press is doing a very fair job. I don't think the White House press office is doing a good job at explaining what the president's achievements have been. And they are now facing a very serious threat from Robert Mueller. But I do think at the basis of all of this is - I think it would be a mistake to fire Mueller, but I also think the basis of his investigation is flimflam. There's no real basis -

[08:50:24] CUOMO: Well, you - look, you can think that, but flimflam means deceptive nonsense and I don't think that's fair to Mueller. Let's see what he has, let's see what he does.

Chris Ruddy, appreciate you being on NEW DAY, as always. Thank you.

RUDDY: Same here, Chris. Thank you.

CUOMO: Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: OK, Chris, we are switching gears right now to a much lighter and arguably just as significant topic.

CUOMO: Thank the Lord.

CAMEROTA: CNN is launching its special series "Champions for Change." This is a series in which a dozen CNN and HLN anchors are sharing the causes closest to their hearts. And HLN anchor Michaela Pereira joins us now from Los Angeles to tell us all about Optimist Youth Home and Family Services, a place that gives kids a fighting chance to get on the right path.

How are you, Michaela?

MICHAELA PEREIRA, HLN ANCHOR: I am great.

CUOMO: You're better looking every time I see you.

PEREIRA: Flattery will get you nowhere, Cuomo.

Ali, who's that emergency kit for dealing with Cuomo going? Is it still serving you?

CAMEROTA: I've used it. I have had to break out the protective eye wear from time to time.

CUOMO: Too sexy.

CAMEROTA: And the -

CUOMO: Sexy proof (ph) glasses.

CAMEROTA: The anchor away spray that you'd given me.

PEREIRA: The anchor away spray, very important.

CUOMO: Axe body spray. Everyone likes it.

PEREIRA: Well, you guys know, you know the work that I do is very important to me on the air, but there's a lot of work I do off the air.

I'm about to introduce you to a place that is very close to my heart and has a lot to do with my upbringing. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PEREIRA: There's just something special, and I can't always put my finger on it, but I feel it every time I'm here.

Why are you giggling down there, potato?

Oftentimes when I make my way to the Optimist Youth Home, I find myself pulling into the driveway almost like, oh, I don't know if I'm in the right space to be here today. The push me, pull me stress of daily life. All of that stuff isn't important when I get here. And it's like church. It's like therapy. It's like a hug from mom.

PEREIRA (voice-over): So I wanted to bring you here to the place that is all of those things to me, Optimist Youth Home and Family Services. More than 200 at risk teens live full-time in Optimist residential and foster programs throughout the Los Angeles area. This is the main campus in the Highland Park neighborhood of L.A.

PEREIRA (on camera): So in order for a kid to land here at Optimist, they usually have encountered law enforcement, sometimes there's drugs, sometimes there's gangs, sometimes there's truancy, sometimes it's all of it. And either a judge or the probation department gives them this option.

There's structure. They've school they've got to attend like every teen. But a lot of it's on them. The work is with them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm getting my bachelor's degree next May and -

PEREIRA: You are not!

PEREIRA (voice-over): I first met Victor Pinzon (ph) nearly ten years ago. He was in and out of the juvenile court system in San Jose, California.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My family had a tough time, especially my mom being a single mother.

PEREIRA (on camera): Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We grew up in the - well, I grew up in the wrong neighborhood.

PEREIRA (voice-over): At 16, a judge gave him one last chance and sent him to Optimist.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I had to do a year being at Optimist. I had to be here for a year. So I kind of got comfortable. That's when I started being open and, you know, talking to the counselors, to the therapists.

PEREIRA (on camera): Yes. Is it better now with your family?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's better now. I have a beautiful relationship with my mother and my brothers. So it's - Optimist helped a lot.

PEREIRA: I can see how much that means to you.

This place feels very familiar and comfortable and normal to me because our home was essentially like that. My sisters all lived in foster homes. I wasn't. I was an infant when I was adopted. Somebody gave us a chance. The five of us got a chance. I believe every kid deserves a chance.

Saturday's attack on London Bridge -

PEREIRA (voice-over): I often ask myself what path my life would have taken had I not got that chance?

PEREIRA (on camera): I've been working with Optimist for over ten years because I see what it - what a difference it makes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's home.

PEREIRA: It's home, right?

PEREIRA (voice-over): Monique, Devin, Alex, Javier, they all landed here for different reasons.

[08:55:00] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I've been through foster care and I've been always bouncing houses. And when I came here, I didn't plan on staying. Like, I remember, I was just like, yes, as soon as I get there I'm dipping. Like, this ain't for me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just didn't think I would stay to even try to give it a chance, really. I just got used to it and got used to things more. Got to know a lot of good people. And I just maneuvered it.

PEREIRA: And now?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And now I'm good.

PEREIRA: Now you're good.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

PEREIRA: Two years from now, three years from now, where do you want to be?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In college.

PEREIRA: Doing what?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm just going to go to community college the first two years, transfer, maybe get my nice like little apartment, get a job I like, buy a house.

PEREIRA: You've got dreams.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

PEREIRA: You've got dreams, baby.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

PEREIRA: You can do it.

What do you want to do?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to be a nurse. My mom was always sick when I was younger.

PEREIRA: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She was having like seizures and stuff and she has cancer. So I like helping people because I always helped her.

PEREIRA: In Los Angeles there are numerous groups that are doing worthy, worthy, worthy work, but my path was led here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I didn't think you know who (ph) that is.

PEREIRA (voice-over): Phil Orlando (ph) is Optimist's executive director and now my dear friend.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you ask why the kids like it here, it's because people cared for them. It was obvious you cared for kids and that's why you're here. And that's why we wanted you here.

PEREIRA (on camera): There by the grace of God go I. You know that's why I'm here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know.

PEREIRA: I don't believe in bad apples. I don't believe in throw-away kids. I don't. I just don't. And that's why I stay here.

At the end of the day, it's a kid. They need some guidance. They need some direction. They need some love. They need some forgiveness.

She says it's perfect.

And they need hope. This guy right here, Victor, you make me happy. And handsome, too. Look at this face.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PEREIRA: You know, I got to give kudos to the bosses here at the network for giving us an opportunity to shine a light on these non- profits because they are not the ones, as you guys both know, these small non-profits aren't the ones with the big PR firms to give them lots of publicity. They're doing the quiet, important work that a lot of people don't hear about. So I'm really glad that we're able to shine a light on them.

CAMEROTA: Me too, Michaela. Gosh, what a beautiful piece you put together. I really get the sense of the place and the good stuff that they're doing. Thank you.

PEREIRA: Absolutely.

CAMEROTA: And it's great to see you.

PEREIRA: Come and visit.

CUOMO: Keep doing it, Mic.

CAMEROTA: Yes. We'll do.

CUOMO: You make a difference. You make a difference, my friend.

PEREIRA: I miss you.

CUOMO: We love you. We miss you. Thank you.

PEREIRA: Miss you.

CAMEROTA: CNN and HLN anchors will be bringing you their causes all week. For more information, you can go to cnn.com/championsforchange. John Berman will reveal his charity today at 10:00 a.m. Eastern.

CUOMO: CNN "Newsroom" with Poppy Harlow and the man himself, J.B., John Berman, right after this break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:00:13] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you. I'm Poppy Harlow.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm John Berman.