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TV Host: White House Used National Enquirer As Threat; Time Magazine Asks Trump To Take Down Fake Covers; Tillerson: I'd Like To Go Faster On State Dept Staffing; Trump To Meet Putin Face-To-Face At G20 Next Week; Trump: If GOP Deals Fails, Repeal Now And Replace Later; Defiant Trump Resumes Vicious Tweets on TV Hosts; Who is Roger Stone?; House Intel Threatens to Subpoena White House Over Comey Tapes. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired July 1, 2017 - 18:00   ET


[18:00:30] BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: Hey there. You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Boris Sanchez in New York, in for Ana Cabrera. She has the weekend off. We thank you so much for joining us.

Tonight, the president is proving that he is nothing, if not defiant, even in the face of intense criticism and pleas from members of his own party to just put down the phone and stop the Twitter attacks. And yet he's once again lashing out at a pair of morning cable news hosts tweeting out, quote, "Crazy Joe Scarborough and dumb as a rock Mika are not bad people, but their low-rated show is dominated by their NBC bosses. Too bad."

Those insults follow the president referring to Mika Brzezinski as having a bleeding facelift and low IQ. Comments that broad swift condemnation even from Republicans, calling them sexist and inappropriate. And even before this controversy, a FOX News poll found that a whopping 71 percent of Americans believe that President Trump's tweets hurt his effectiveness.

CNN correspondent Ryan Nobles joins us now from the White House.

Ryan, Republicans want to be focused on selling the health care plan, but instead they are now having to answer questions about the president's Twitter tirades.

RYAN NOBLES, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Yes. It is really frustrating, Boris. I spent all week on Capitol Hill and a lot of these lawmakers, the last thing they wanted to talk about was the president's tweets, but, yet here we are having another conversation about a Twitter spat. This one, as you mentioned, between these hosts from MSNBC.

And you know what, White House aides often get frustrated with us that we continue to bring up these tweets, even though they are so controversial, suggesting that we're not focusing on some of the big issues that the White House has been tackling over time. But it's true. This week, there were a lot of big things that happened that didn't get coverage in part because of the president's tweets.

Let's take a look at a couple of them. One big thing, the Supreme Court allowed a big portion of the president's travel ban, a big victory for the president this week. That dealt went into effect this week as a result of that Supreme Court decision.

Another big thing that happened this week, the House of Representatives passed Kate's Law, which is a bill aimed at tamping down on sanctuary cities, tougher penalties for criminals who commit crimes who are illegal aliens. And then a third thing that happened, that this was White House Energy Week. Did you know that? Have you heard anything about Energy Week?

All of these things being put in the background because of the controversies that exist with the president's Twitter feed, and, of course, we didn't even get into these other big issues that are confronting not only the president but the Congress, and that's attempting to pass this health care bill, and of course the president's big trip to Germany this week for the G-20 Summit. So there's no doubt that this Twitter feed is getting in the way of a lot of these conversations.

SANCHEZ: All right. Ryan Nobles reporting from the White House, thank you.

I want to bring in our panel now. CNN Politics reporter Eugene Scott, CNN political analyst and historian Julian Zelizer. He's also, as I said, historian and professor at Princeton University, and Sarah Westwood, she's a White House correspondent for the "Washington Examiner."

Eugene, first to you. As we heard from Ryan there, the president had quite a bit that he could have talked about this week, not only the enactment of the travel ban, also the fact that we were being visited by the president of South Korea, Moon Jae-in.

A lot on the table here but he's really focused on what people on cable news have been saying about him.

EUGENE SCOTT, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: Yes. I mean, this is something that he showed himself to be really interested in, even during the election, and this is just a continuation of it.

One of the fascinating things is that the Trump team says that the president uses Twitter to communicate with the American people, what he's doing and what he wants to do. What he communicated this week is what he likes to do is just interact with cable news hosts in negative ways.

You know, we saw some Republicans in his base, look at that, a little more favorably. They didn't have as big of a problem with it as you would think. I think the question is, is he going to be able to get people who aren't already supporting him to support him if he continues this type of activity.

SANCHEZ: Julian, it's a common thing for presidents to look after their image and to watch what people are saying about them. But this is bordering on obsessive. There was a reports out that he was watching five hours of cable news a day. JULIAN ZELIZER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It's consuming the Oval

Office. It's clear this is what he is most focused on. And there's this theory that it's a distraction and it distracts people from the bad news, but I think that misses, it is actually one of the causes of the bad news. This week, that health care bill went down to defeat several times, actually, and I think this tweeting, and I think this kind of conversation that he's generating because of this obsession actually prevented him from whipping up the vote.

[18:05:06] It prevented him from selling why this health care bill is something more than stripping benefits away from millions of workers, and it left Republicans without anything as they go home.

SANCHEZ: Yes. You gave it a 30 percent to 40 percent chance of success. We talk about that last week. And that was before these tweets that now some Republican congressmen -- congresswomen, I should say, that are supposed to be being courted by the president for their votes right now are criticizing him harshly. Think about Susan Collins, et cetera.

Sarah, I want to go to you. This goes back to a constant theme of President Trump's presidency. How he feels about revenge and getting even. It's an issue that he has talked about regularly. Listen to this.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I love getting even with people, but I will --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You love getting even?

TRUMP: Absolutely. You know, there are a lot of bad people out there. And you really have to go -- if you have a problem, if you have a problem with someone, you have to go after them. It's to teach all of the people that are watching a lesson, that you don't take crap.

I think it's really important if somebody screws you, screw them back in spades.


SANCHEZ: And just a few moments ago, we got new fresh tweets from the president.

Sarah, I'm going to read them to you now. Quote, "The fake and fraudulent news media is working hard to convince Republicans and others I should not use social media, but remember, I won the 2016 election with interviews, speeches and social media. I had to beat fake news and did. We will continue to win."

I'm not sure that the media is trying to convince him to not use social media but rather other policymakers, his aides, the list goes on and on.

Sarah, what do you think of these fresh tweets?

SARAH WESTWOOD, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, WASHINGTON EXAMINER: We've seen this movie from President Trump before starting all of the way back to the campaign when an inflammatory tweet or a comment would squander a bump in the polls. And moving on to the transition, he made claims about illegal voter fraud that sort of undermined the momentum he had after winning the election heading into Inauguration Day.

And since then, every time that Republicans seem to be heading towards a legislative successor, his administration has achieved something, President Trump often undercuts those accomplishments by taking to Twitter and tweeting controversial things.

It's interesting to hear from voters out in the heartland who are asked by reporters about the president's tweets and whether it bothers them. And most often what you see from Trump's base is that it's not the tweets themselves that are giving them heartache, it's the inaction that we're seeing from Republicans in Congress.

But you can draw more or less a straight line between the tweets and the inaction because the constant controversies are causing Republicans to have to run for cover, to have to constantly distance themselves from the administration instead of working hand in hand with the Republican president.

SANCHEZ: Now, Eugene, Kellyanne Conway says that the media plays armchair psychologist with the president, but we have to ask what the motivation is for these tweets. Is it part of a grand strategy or is he just sitting at home, thinking, hey, they're punching me, I got to punch back? What's going on?

SCOTT: Well, I'm not quite sure it's part of a strategy but I definitely think it is a continuation of an approach he has had to criticism throughout his life. I think one thing we have to remember is that this is not Trump's first time dealing with the media. It is his first time dealing with the political media, and I think he's finding it to be a little more critical than he experienced or expected in the past.

But he has to realize not only is this not going to change, these tips with the media don't just hurt him in terms of perception, they hurt him in terms of what the people who sent him to the White House, which he constantly reminds people, think of him. We saw that poll that most Americans want him to stop tweeting, not just the media.

SANCHEZ: There wasn't just that FOX News poll. There was a Quinnipiac University poll that said 61 percent of Americans were hoping that he would put the phone and the Twitter away.

Julian, to you. Republicans are coming to his defense, specifically his aides, saying that he fights fire with fire, but in my mind, he's the guy that popularized the birther movement. He relentlessly went after Obama, questioning the main qualifications for being president, right? Saying that he was born in Kenya.

Now he's getting equally you could argue equally harsh criticism. But it doesn't seem like he's taking it very well. My question is this. If Barack Obama had taken to Twitter and launched attacks, talking about people's appearance or their IQ, what would the response have been?

ZELIZER: Well, I think it would have been pretty ferocious. I think his opponents would have called him on it. I think his opponents would have criticized him. I think parts of the media would have come down pretty hard, but he didn't, and so I think that's what we have, and that's the difference.

Now Donald Trump is doing this not as the star of "The Apprentice" and not as a New York celebrity. He's doing it as president of the United States.

[18:10:06] So what he says sets a tone for the country, what he says about particular constituencies, whether it's women or immigrants, sets a tone for how we see these parts of the population. And he has the authority of the presidency, when he goes after the media, that's not just some person doing it. So Barack Obama didn't do this, and he did, and so I think that's why we have this conversation.

SANCHEZ: All right. Panel, we're going to ask you to stick around. We have plenty more to get to.

Coming up, the return of Roger Stone, the Trump ally who built a career as a political dirty trickster, that's ready to testify in the Russian probe. A look back at a very colorful character.

And tensions with Tillerson. What have the secretary of state lashing out about at a meeting at the White House? That more next in the CNN NEWSROOM.


SANCHEZ: Later this month, one of President Trump's oldest and most controversial associates is set to testify in a closed congressional hearing in the Russian probe.

[18:15:07] But before he was one of the president's trusted confidants, Roger Stone had a long career as a political operative, dating back to his work for another president, Richard Nixon.

CNN's Randi Kaye reports.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He is the ultimate Washington insider who helped get this outside elected.

ROGER STONE, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I was like a jockey looking for a horse. You can't win the race if you don't have a horse.

KAYE: But long before Republican strategist Roger Stone ever met Donald Trump, he was advising another president caught up in controversy.

Stone was such a fan of Richard Nixon's the former body builder had Nixon's face tattooed on his back. Stone could relate to Nixon's resilience.

MORGAN PEHME, CO-DIRECTOR/CO-PRODUCER, "GET ME ROGER STONE": Roger was the youngest person called before the Watergate grand jury. He was all of 19 at that time. He was a young, dirty trickster.

KAYE: Later Stone became regional political director for then- governor Ronald Reagan's 1980 presidential bid. By then, Stone had formed a lobbying group with Trump's future campaign manager, Paul Manafort, called Black Manafort and Stone.

By 1996, Stone was run out of D.C. and out of Republican politics. He and his wife had been exposed by "The National Enquirer" as swingers and frequent visitors to sex clubs.

PREHME: The swinger scandal that "The National Enquirer" exposed forced Roger into the shadows. He had to operate from the fringes particularly as the Republican Party moved farther to the evangelical right. A person like Roger was no longer palatable as an out front political consultant.

KAYE: In 1999, Stone worked with Donald Trump as he weighed a bid on the Reform Party ticket. In 2000, he helped George W. Bush take the White House by sending protesters to Florida to shut down the recount. Always looking to live up to his reputation as a dirty trickster, Stone takes credit for bringing down New York Governor Eliot Spitzer.

(On camera): Stone was later accused of spreading false rumors about Pat Buchanan having an illegitimate child, which Stone denied. During campaign 2016, Ted Cruz blamed him for planting the fake story that Cruz had had five extra marital affairs. Roger Stone also pushed the birther movement and painted Hillary Clinton as unwell.

STONE: Well, look, I don't know whether it's Parkinson's or epilepsy or a brain tumor.

KAYE: During campaign in 2016, Stone was sometimes referred to as Trump's brain.

PAUL MANAFORT, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Roger's, you know, relationship with Trump has been so interconnected that it's hard to define what's Roger and what's Donald. While it will be clearly a Trump presidency, I think it's influenced by a Stone philosophy.

KAYE: Despite that, Trump says he fired Stone as his campaign adviser. Stone says he resigned. Though now Stone is once again in hot water for possible ties to Julian Assange after tweeting that John Podesta, Hillary Clinton's 2016 campaign chair, would have his time in the barrel. Podesta's campaign e-mails were leaked by WikiLeaks and Julian Assange.

Stone told a reporter, "I do have a back-channel communication with Assange, because we have a good mutual friend." Still, Stone denied having any direct communications with Assange and denied leaking Podesta's e-mails.

But now Intel officials want to know if Roger Stone had advanced warning of the e-mails leak and perhaps the Russian hack during the 2016 campaign.

The man whose motto is admit nothing, deny everything, launched counterattack now back in the spotlight again.

Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.


SANCHEZ: Our panel is back with us. Eugene Scott, Julian Zelizer and Sarah Westwood, thank you so much for sticking with us.

Eugene, you heard the end of Randi's piece there, admit nothing, deny everything. He's set to testify before the House Intelligence Committee. What are you expecting from his testimony?

SCOTT: Well, hopefully expecting some consistency, but that's not what he's shown us. So many of the things that Roger Stone has said he has gone back on like, just in the last six months. And so the reality is, people are wondering how much to expect from this testimony to be honest and for him to stand by as he increasingly gets questioned and these investigations move forward.

SANCHEZ: It is going to be a closed door hearing, though Roger Stone himself says that he wants it to be open.

SCOTT: Right.

SANCHEZ: He wants to give his version of the events.

Julian, based on everything that we know about Roger Stone's history, a self-professed dirty trickster, what do you think is he going to tell the House Intelligence Committee?

ZELIZER: I have no idea. I mean, he is kind of the underside of Republican politics. He's been involved since Nixon in many campaigns.

[18:20:03] He's known for hitting hard, but I don't know if he's going to go in front of the committee and says the kinds of things that he might have done in this campaign. He's been very adamant saying, I'm guilty of many things, but I'm not guilty of treason, and so, so far, there's no evidence of that, and I assume he will stick to that, but it might be an opportunity to take some punches at the Democrats, at his opponents for loyalty to President Trump.

SANCHEZ: Sarah, do you think the administration has anything to potentially be nervous about with his testimony?

WESTWOOD: Well, look, I think that at a certain appointment the question has to be asked for President Trump, how much responsibility he bears for someone so far on the fringes of his operation. I mean, Roger Stone was cut loose from the campaign a very long time ago, he's been shut out of the Trump White House, and we have not seen him in constant communication with anyone in Trump's official operation, so he's one of several people who have become the focus of this investigation like Carter Page, who have only a tangential relationship with the Trump White House.

This isn't Michael Flynn. This is not someone who was very high- ranking within the Trump administration and on the Trump campaign. This is someone who was excised a long time ago, and so even though there's been no evidence to substantiate any of the allegations against him if something were to emerge, that's the kind of questions you might see debated in Washington is whether President Trump does bear responsibility for someone who he did not hire in any capacity in his White House.

SANCHEZ: Eugene, to you, this whole testimony by Roger Stone is of course to the investigation into Russia's meddling in the election. Sources are telling CNN's Dana Bash that the president is not exactly accepting of the idea that Russia did meddle in the election, and sources within the administration is saying that they're frustrated because he just actually believe it.

But it has to be hard for him on some level to accept that Russia meddled without then giving into this idea that presidency is illegitimate because he didn't win just on his own volition.

SCOTT: Yes. I mean, that's one of the main pushbacks we've seen from him and he also has had trouble accepting the fact that he did not win the popular vote. I think what's been true and important to communicate is that no conclusions have been made public regarding the investigation, but that doesn't mean that things could not have happened, that the president, himself, was not aware of.

And I think that is what people currently investigating this relationship are trying to get to the bottom of. And I mean, I think when we see the fact that the president is going to meet Putin this week, there's going to be a desire for some people to see if he will confront him directly and have a conversation about this, but the reality is, he has not as of yet, and he could have, and so it's not likely he will.

SANCHEZ: And Julian, Kimberly Dozier, one of CNN's security analysts, was talking about some communications that were intercepted in which the Russians alluded to this being a very good meeting for them coming up at the G-20. Do you think President Trump confronts Vladimir Putin?

ZELIZER: There's no evidence to suggest that he will do that. I mean, at this point, he has not been very aggressive with dealing with the intervention, which did happen. It's not a question. It's not a speculation. It happened. And the intelligence agencies roundly confirmed this. So there's no evidence to say that he will go with the G-20, pull him aside, and say, why did you do this? And you can't do it again. And if he does, it would be a surprise and it would go against the history in the last few weeks.

SANCHEZ: Yes. Now, Sarah, to you, the House Intelligence Committee is threatening the White House with subpoenas because they say they are not satisfied with the administration's response to a request from the House to get these potential tapes that may or may not exist that the president tweeted about a month ago or so of a conversation that he had with James Comey. I want to play some sound from a member of the Intelligence Committee, Congressman Eric Swalwell. Here is it.


REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: The only reason that we are asking for tapes is because he hinted that they may exist, and so we sent a letter to him asking for the tapes. He sent us back this tweet. We don't think that is very responsible or professional, frankly, for such a serious investigation. And I wish we could just take the word of a president, but because of his record and obstruction in this investigation from the claims about President Obama and wiretapping to other claims about James Comey, I think we need to corroborate whether or not there were recordings in the White House.


SANCHEZ: Sarah, is this fight over tapes over? Because it seems like the president left the door open, didn't he, saying that, I don't have any recordings, but I don't know if maybe someone else may have been recording our conversation.

[18:25:03] WESTWOOD: Right. I think the wording of that was a little bit cryptic in there, that there's been a lot of armchairs pouring over those words, trying to find out what he meant, but, you know, fundamentally, the White House views this investigation as a witch hunt. I don't think that's just a political line from the president when he says that this is the greatest witch hunt in all of political history.

The president truly believes that there is no legitimacy behind this investigation, that it was thought up by Democrats to try to undermine his presidency, and so when you -- when the White House is viewing the investigation through that lens, it's not surprising that they are not responding to these document requests, with the kind of seriousness that Democrats on the committee want to see because the White House doesn't believe that this investigation is legitimate.

They think that the questions have been asked and answered, and it's really hard to prove a negative. I'm not sure how the White House would respond to the committee in a way that would satisfy members because it doesn't appear there are recordings of those conversations, but, clearly, this is going to be a standoff that lasts for far greater time if the White House is going to sort of waive off these document requests.

SANCHEZ: And we'll have to see how that might affect the president's agenda.

Sarah Westwood, Julian Zelizer, and Eugene Scott, thank you so much for joining us. We really appreciate your perspective on this Saturday evening. Thank you, again. Now you heard in Randi's piece about Roger Stone's ties to Richard

Nixon. Tonight at 8:00 p.m., you can tune in for the CNN Film "Our Nixon," an intimate portrait of the president's time in office told only through archival footage and tapes of the former president himself.

Coming up, a tabloid twist after the president's latest tweet scandal. The White House now accused of trying to blackmail two TV anchors.

Plus, a "TIME" magazine cover featuring Donald Trump displayed with pride. The problem? It's a phony. We'll explain when CNN NEWSROOM returns.


[18:30:00] SANCHEZ: President Trump's sexist tweets about MSNBC's Mika Brzezinski leading to a stunning new accusation. Did the White House use the National Inquirer to threaten journalists? President Trump says no, the hosts of Morning Joe say, well, watch.


JOE SCARBOROUGH, MSNBC HOST: We got a call that hey, the National Enquirer is going to run a negative story against you guys. And it was -- you know, Donald is friends with -- the President is friends with the guy that runs the National Enquirer. And they said, if you call the President up and you apologize for your coverage, then he will pick up the phone and basically spike the story. I had -- well, I will just say three people at the very top of the administration calling me, and their response was, like, are you kidding me?


SANCHEZ: Trump on Twitter call that allegation fake news and said that Joe Scarborough called him to ask for help with the Enquirer. I want to bring in CNN Senior Media Correspondent and Host of "RELIABLE SOURCES," Brian Stelter. Brian, this is a very serious allegation of blackmail. Joe Scarborough says he has proof of this. The other question why would Joe Scarborough be calling the President and the President is admitting that Joe called him for help with the National Enquirer if he didn't have influence on what story the National Enquirer is running?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: That's right. That's one of the takeaways here. There are -- there are disputed details between the two men, but both men are essentially saying, yes, the President has some sway at the National Enquirer. Now if you look at supermarket tabloid at the checkout counter, you'll see a lot of pro- Trump headlines, you'll see some criticism of his opponents, so it's sort of obvious as from looking at the -- looking at the publication that it's a pro-Trump publication. But Scarborough is going much further here, alleging that that President is able to use this outlet to punish his opponents and to celebrate his supporters. So essentially, Scarborough says that if you would call up Trump -- this is back in April -- but if you would call up Trump and said, I'm so sorry Sir, I'm sorry I was so mean to you, I take it all back, I apologize, I'll be nice to you in the future on television, Sir, then the bad story would have gone away. That is a really kind of stark and disturbing allegation from Scarborough. Now, he says he has proof. Here's Scarborough's tweet yesterday he says, the President is lying. In his version of events he says, I have text from your top aides and phone records. Anything else, I haven't spoken with you directly in many months. Now, why hasn't Scarborough shown these text messages? Why hasn't he shown these phone records? I have new reporting today that indicates he doesn't want to burn his sources. He feels like these White House aides are sources that he works with as a member of the media. He doesn't want to expose them because you know, maybe they're still giving him information, maybe they're still helping out. So he's conflicting on showing the evidence he says he has. But the more important piece here is, whether you believe Trump's version of events or Scarborough's version of events, it seems the National Enquirer has been weaponized by the President.

SANCHEZ: Right. So whether it was allegations about Obama wiretapping him, him potentially taping James Comey, a bloody facelift, the President seems to have created these stories out of thin air. In other words, they didn't exist before he mentioned them and that brings to mind a quote from The Art of the Deal. I want to bring it up right now. It says here, "one thing I've learned about the press is that they're always hungry for a good story, and the more sensational, the better." One of the themes of "The Art of the Deal" is the ability to manipulate the conversation about himself. Are these stories, the wiretapping, tapes, and his feud with now just about every media outlet that says anything negative about him, is this part of a strategy or is it just him having sensitivity?

[18:35:05] STELTER: I think this is about people debate --well, even at cookouts or dinner parties or among friends or family members, is it all strategic, is it all so ingenious or is it impulse? I like to think it's mostly impulse, but there is some sense of strategy. It's exactly what you just described from The Art of the Deal. The President does have a sense for what the press -- but one point is what the public is interested in, what the public likes to hear, some of these -- some of these fights and feuds, they're straight out of the soap opera, they're straight out of reality TV. And I think he understands the people -- some -- a lot of people like those kinds of stories. He's on Twitter right now, once again, railing against the media. Some of them has been watching at this hour or something. You know, tries to brand, he tries to label, and demean certain news outlets, I think it's just valuable for the audience at home just to kind of see through that and see it for what it is. In the same way, he was calling someone crooked Hillary or lying Ted, he tries to demean news outlets the same way. It -- you know, may amuse his fans or supporters, but it's worth recognize for what it is mostly kind of impulse, but some strategy as well.

SANCHEZ: Now, he rails against what he calls fake news but he doesn't mind fake magazine covers.

STELTER: Oh, yes, yes.

SANCHEZ: Take a look at this. This phony cover of Time Magazine declaring The Apprentice a television smash was spotted hanging in several of the President's golf clubs. Does this support the theory that the President just has a need for constant affirmation and just building up of stature and who he is?

STELTER: I leave that to the psychologists that might be watching this program. I do think this cover is remarkable, though. He put it back on screen, doesn't even really look that real, but it was hanging at the golf clubs for a while. This is not something that was just discovered overnight. David Fahrenthold of the Washington Post happened to notice this and try to dig into it, but he's been up on the -- on the walls for a while and they do show, among other things, Trump's interest in Time Magazine. That he does care deeply about news media coverage that we should sometimes view some of the feuds, and fights, and dramas as the Trump show. Something that he sort of creates and that television networks help create by discussing it.

SANCHEZ: He certainly loves a fight. We have to leave it there, Brian, but don't forget to watch Brian Stelter tomorrow on "RELIABLE SOURCES." It is tomorrow morning, 11:00 a.m. Eastern, right here on CNN. Thank you, again, for joining us.

STELTER: Thanks.

SANCHEZ: Coming up, tensions in the White House boiling over in a public way. What had the Secretary of State so mad at the President's Senior Staff?


[18:40:00] SANCHEZ: Tonight, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's frustrations with the Trump White House are out in the open. Sources tell CNN Tillerson had a testy exchange with a White House aide during a meeting last week that was described as intense and uncomfortable. Apparently, Tillerson is not pleased with the pace of filling crucial staff positions at the State Department and wants more control over who gets hired. He actually admitted his frustration in public. Watch this.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Secretary, are you satisfied with the pace of the staffing at the senior position at the State Department?

REX TILLERSON, SECRETARY OF STATE: No, I'd like it to go faster. Thank you.


SANCHEZ: Let's talk it over with former Obama State Department Spokesman and CNN Military Diplomatic Analyst, Retired Rear Admiral John Kirby. Admiral, to be fair, there's always tensions between cabinet agencies in the White House over appointments, but it's really urgent to get these positions filled. A lot of them are Under Secretary and Assistant Secretary positions.

JOHN KIRBY, CNN MILTARY DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: That's right. Now, it seems important for the State Department to be fully staffed so that they can conduct the business of foreign policy around the world and just as critically, Boris, to be able to provide policy guidance from Washington that's credible to our outposts around the world, embassies and consulates all over the place. So actually, look, I'm very encouraged that -- from the reporting that Secretary Tillerson is this concerned about it and trying as hard as he is to get these jobs filled quickly. I think that's actually an encouraging sign.

SANCHEZ: The White House is pushing Tillerson to make some major cuts at the State Department, slashing 30 percent of his budget. When you combine that with the slower pace in hiring, that has to impact the State Department's ability to function and just execute basic foreign policy.

KIRBY: Yes, I think -- I think that's exactly right. And this is one area of leadership where actually I'm disappointed in Secretary Tillerson, that he did not fight back a little harder to try to preserve the funding for the State Department. As Secretary Mattis over at Defense has said, if you don't fund the States Department fully, I'm going to have to buy more ammunition. There's a real give and take between diplomacy and defense. They go hand in hand. And I think this is a -- this is a tough time for our diplomats around the world facing these cuts, facing staffing issues while the world is still turning and there's still crisis all over the place. So I think -- I think this is a -- this is a tough issue for them. It's making it harder, just as critically, Boris, it's making it harder for some of our foreign counter parts around the world in trying to figure out where the -- where America's going to go on any of these issues. What our national interests are that we pursue. It's very confusing.

SANCHEZ: There are quite a few mixed messages, one of them being on our commitment to NATO and Article 5. I do want to get your perspective on this. President Trump asked his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to be his point man in the Middle East and to try to restart brokered peace talks. It's interesting that he asked him and not the Secretary of State. Is Rex Tillerson now playing second fiddle to some degree?

KIRBY: No. I actually don't think so, Boris. It's not unusual for a White House to assign special envoys for this or that foreign problem. President Obama did that too. That's not so unusual and this is a very targeted issue, Israeli-Palestinian tensions. I don't see any indications that Secretary Tillerson is actually cut out of that process, and from what I'm hearing, he actually has very good access to the President, he meets with him one-on-one at least once a week, if not more. And he, you know, I think he's trying to develop a sense of inertia and energy there at the State Department. What's holding him back is the staffing, it's the funding, and, frankly, maybe a two insular organization at the top, that he's not reaching out enough to the career service, foreign service diplomats that are right there in foggy bottom.

[18:45:30] SANCHEZ: Admiral, we have to talk about the G-20. The President set to go face-to-face with Russian President Vladimir Putin just a few days from now. CNN Global Affairs Analyst Kimberly Dozier actually had a report earlier, she writes, "Moscow believes its Leader, ex-spy master Vladimir Putin can extract major concessions from President Donald Trump when the two meet for the first time next week." Vladimir Putin has this ability to charm people. I think of George W. Bush saying that he looked into his eyes and saw his soul and that he's a good man, President Obama with the reset button only to disappoint these leaders later with invasions in Crimea and Georgia. Are you worried the same thing might happen under President Trump?

KIRBY: Well, a couple thoughts here. One, it is true that he does try to charm his way into getting concessions and deals. I don't think that we should look at this meeting on the sidelines of the G-20 as necessarily some sort of Summit where there's going to be a specific outcome or tangible sort of deliverable by either side. I really doubt that's going to happen. But I do think that everybody surrounding the President or his National Security Staff are very experienced. They know this man, Putin, for what he is and how he tries to operate, and I'm sure that they're giving the President good strong guidance about going into this meeting and how to play -- not play, that's not a good word -- how to interact appropriately and effectively with Vladimir Putin. I think they need to go into this meeting -- you know, with their shields up, and not, you know, being willing to fall for anything, but they -- but they also have to look for opportunities to try to make some points and put some points on the board for themselves in terms of working with Russia on issues where we can agree and making clear that we're not going to cooperate with Russia in effective fashion on those issues where, obviously, they have proven unwilling or incapable of helping the international community out such as on Syria.

SANCHEZ: Yes. The President considers himself a master of the art of the deal. We'll see how that works out during the G-20 summit. Rear Admiral John Kirby, thank you so much for the time.

KIRBY: My pleasure.

SANCHEZ: Coming up, President Trump taking aim at seemingly every aspect of Obama's legacy but he's hardly the first president to target his predecessor. A look back in history when we return.


[18:50:00] SANCHEZ: With the Senate health care bill at an impasse, President Trump is floating one possibly strategy to get the deal done. He tweeted, "If Republican Senators are unable to pass what they are working on now, they should immediately repeal and then replace at a later date." It's no secret that President Trump has been dead-set on reversing one of the signature achievements of his predecessor. And it's not the only part of Obama's legacy that he is targeting, CNN's Jason Carroll reports.


JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It wasn't long ago when President Trump had some good things to say about his predecessor, former President Barack Obama.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He's a very strange phenomenon. We get along. I don't know if he'll admit this, but he likes me.

CARROLL: Those words may be hard to swallow among Trump in Obama supporters.

TRUMP: I inherited a mess.

CARROLL: Candidate Trump spent much of his campaign promising to undo much of President Obama's most important achievement and now just six months into office, President Trump has made good on some of those promises, in short order pulling out of the Paris Climate Accord.

TRUMP: The bottom line is that the Paris Accord is very unfair at the highest level to the United States.

CARROLL: Obama, while not mentioning Trump by name, weighing in with a statement. Even in the absence of American leadership, I'm confident that our states, cities, and businesses will step up and do even more to lead the way. Trump also kept his word and bowed out of the Transpacific Trade Partnership, which the Obama administration had negotiated.

TRUMP: I immediately withdrew the United States from the horrible, disastrous, would have been another NAFTA but worse Transpacific Partnership.

CARROLL: And Trump has continued efforts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act.

TRUMP: At the core of this agenda is repealing and replacing the disaster known as ObamaCare.

CARROLL: Trump has also rolled back the Obama administration's policy with Cuba by tightening restrictions on the Castro regime. And the President has threatened to tear up the nuclear agreement with Iran, but so far only a threat. It's not unusual for Presidents wanting to change course from their predecessors. Franklin Delano Roosevelt wouldn't allow Herbert Hoover's name to be on what was then called the Boulder Dam. It was later changed to the Hoover Dam by Congress. George W. Bush had what was commonly called the anything but Clinton policy. And Ronald Reagan removed those solar panels from the White House Jimmy Carter had installed. But Presidential historian Doug Brinkley says those changes pale in comparison to what Trump is doing.

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Donald Trump's become a wrecking ball on Barack Obama's legacy. He's trying to score point after point with his base by anything that Obama signed or did or said or had his name attached to. Donald Trump wants to kind of erase it from history.

[18:55:08] CARROLL: The question going forward, can Trump create a legacy of his own beyond destroying that of his predecessor?


SANCHEZ: And Jason Carol, thank you very that reporting. Coming up, just how much TV does President Trump watch every day? You might be surprised to find out, plus, how it reflects his long-standing focus on his own image.


SANCHEZ: It is just about 7:00 p.m. and you are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Boris Sanchez in New York in for Ana Cabrera. Thank you so much for joining us. This was the week that could have been in Washington and inside the Donald Trump.