Return to Transcripts main page


When Trump Learned of Son's E-mails; Bush & Clinton on Humility; High Schoolers Interview Mattis. Aired 8:30-9:00a ET

Aired July 14, 2017 - 08:30   ET



[08:32:15] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: What did President Trump know about his son's meeting with a Russian attorney and when did he know it? Let's get "The Bottom Line" with CNN's senior political commentator David Axelrod.

David, these are the questions that investigators, of course, are asking now that it has come to light that, you know, these e-mails that Don Jr. released and there is all sorts of conflicting reporting and stories out of the White House about the timeline here. What do you see?

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, part of the conflict has been created by the president himself, who has said various things about when he learned about these e-mails. As he - did he learn just a few days ago as he was saying originally or is it a few weeks ago as has been reported now? We don't know.

But the key question for the investigators isn't going to be when he learned about these e-mails in the last few weeks, it's going to be whether he knew about the meeting in the first place. And it's really hard for me to believe that Don Jr. was acting on information and a meeting arranged by people who were known to Donald Trump, former business partners of Donald Trump, with connections to the Russian regime and to Putin and had a meeting that included Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner, two -- the two top figures in his campaign, and nobody told Trump.

We know this about the Trump operation, it was tight, it was small, and Donald Trump was at the center of it. And the fact that no one would come to him and say, hey, we just got a tip that we may have some information that could really be dynamite in this campaign seems implausible to me. And I'm sure investigators are going to drill down into that question.

CAMEROTA: I don't know about that because - I mean I don't know that I agree with you in - because what we've heard out of the White House is that they didn't know who this person was, they didn't know what they were going to get. So, you know, I can - I can imagine a scenario where, let's not bother Donald Trump Sr. until we really know what we have our hands on here.

AXELROD: Alisyn, I have to push back on you. And I want to be fair to the president, but this -- these e-mails came from someone who was known to both him and the president - to both Don Jr. and the president.

CAMEROTA: Yes, they just didn't know the person - the actual person that they were going to be meeting with. You're right about that, but they didn't know the woman.

AXELROD: Understood. It's not --- it's not. But the point is, he got an e-mail from someone who said, I am going to send you someone who is connected with the Russian regime with information from the Russian government. And the people who were presenting this were people who were known to both Trumps, people with whom Donald Trump had done business. This is - this has to be a focus of interest for these investigators.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: And that will be. I think that's clear, that Special Counsel Bob Mueller will be looking into that and investigate that the best he can.

David, interesting last night, two former presidents, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, they were in Dallas. They were speaking at a presidential leadership scholars event. And they were talking about the values of humility. Listen to this.

[08:35:13] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: I think it starts with Bill Clinton being a person who refused to lord his victory over dad. In other words, he was humble in victory, which is very important in dealing with other people.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: If you want to be president, realize it's about the people, not about you.

You want to be able to say, people are better off when I quit, kids have a better future, things were coming together. You don't - you don't want to say, God, I - look at all the people I beat!


BERMAN: So, you know, they were speaking to the people who were in that crowd, David, but do you think perhaps they had a different audience in mind?

AXELROD: Yes, I don't think that was very subtle. Clearly they were referencing the man who's there now. And they're right about both things.

The first is, I really - I was blown away when - I have the office next to the president of the United States for two years. And when you see what comes to that desk, the complexity of these issues, serially one hour after the next hour, one after another, issues that has - that have grave implications, many of which require a lot of expertise, you want to bring people around you who are going to give you good advice. You want to be able to synthesize that advice. You can't run it like the Trump organization. It's not like you are the center of everything, you can make all of these decisions based on your own experience and knowledge. And that is something every president has to be able to do.

And the second point is also true, which is, at the end of the day, you're there as a servant. You're there to do things for the American people and to try and make progress for the American people and for this country. And if you view it all in very personal terms, it doesn't go well. And we've seen that in the first six months.

CAMEROTA: David, tell us about the latest episode of "The Axe Files" where you sat down with Congressman John Lewis. Actually, we have a clip. Let us play it and then you can talk about it. Watch this.



AXELROD: I think one of the most momentous events in the civil rights movement was when ABC cut into their screening of "Judgement at Nuremberg," which was a major new film at the time, ironically about Nazi war crimes, to do 15 minutes of film from Bloody Sunday, chronicling the attack on you and the people you were marching with. That, as much as anything, probably led to the expediting of the Voting Rights Act.

REP. JOHN LEWIS: Well, when the American people saw that film footage, they didn't like it. They started (ph) speaking up. They started marching all across America. In a matter of a few days, there were demonstration in more than 80 cities. Almost on every major college and university campus. At the White House. At the Department of Justice. They were demanding that President Johnson Act. That the Congress act. And we (INAUDIBLE) the press. And I said over and over again, without the media, without the press, the civil rights movement would have been like a bird without wings.


CAMEROTA: We should let everyone, that that airs tonight at 10:00.

David, what do we need to know about it?

AXELROD: Well, listen, John Lewis is an American hero. He put his life on the line again and again as a very young man during the civil rights movement in order to secure the right to vote for people, the right to sit at lunch counters, ride public transportation. And he speaks with a moral authority of someone who really did put it on the line.

And his thoughts there on the media seem very relevant today. He reminds us of how important it is for reporters to be there, to bear witness, because that is essential to democracy.

So I was - it was a really, really great conversation with an extraordinary man. I hope people tune in.

BERMAN: Can't wait to see it. That's 10:00 tonight Eastern Time right here on CNN.

David Axelrod, thanks so much.

AXELROD: Thanks, you guys. Have a great day.

CAMEROTA: You too.

BERMAN: All right, up next for us, check out this, a pretty incredible scene five years ago. It has happened again, but this time with deadly consequences. The Caribbean beach tradition that took a tragic turn.

CAMEROTA: Oh, my gosh.

But first, the CNN series, "The History of Comedy," will returns Sunday night. It explores how humor crosses the cultural divide. So here's a little taste.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But, see, the beautiful thing about ethnic humor is, what, while you're making those observations about us, hey, we're making observations of you. We are. We're looking in the rear-view mirror going, look at those Caucasians. Look, what a waste of space. Only two people in that big car.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you are fighting a power that you cannot defeat, you will tend to find other outlets so that you can survive. One of those natural outlets is humor.

[08:40:09] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is the huge resort hotel, which is the best bet for the city dweller who is looking in the country for the same amusements he has in town.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Borscht Belt basically began after World War II. You had a lot of middle class Jewish families living in the city. They were looking for a place to go. There were these hotels. And people would be able to go up there and have a relatively economical vacation.

GENE BAYLOS: And I have the system (ph). (INAUDIBLE) gambling in Los Vegas. As soon as you get off the airplane, you walk right into a propeller. Do you people come here for the reading or the (INAUDIBLE)? Come on, (INAUDIBLE) as it goes, this is it.

RACHEL BLOOM, WRITER/COMEDIAN: The root of a lot of Jewish humor is, it's attacking back with our minds.



CAMEROTA: Time now for the "Five Things to Know for Your New Day."

President Trump wrapping up his Paris visit at the Bastille Day Parade. Waiting for him back home, new questions about when he learned of his eldest son's meeting with a Russian lawyer. Yahoo! News reports that the president's personal lawyers learned of the e-mails weeks ago.

BERMAN: White House aides and Jared Kushner's legal team are now subject to questioning by the special counsel for their response to disclosure of Don Jr.'s e-mails. The president's son now being asked to testify also before the Senate.

CAMEROTA: The Senate Republicans' latest health care bill is facing an uphill battle. Two Republican senators already say they will vote against it. The party cannot afford to lose another single vote if this hopes to pass.

[08:45:05] BERMAN: A federal judge in Hawaii expanding the definition of which family members are exempt from the president's travel ban, ruling grandparents, in-laws, aunts and uncles cannot be barred from traveling to the U.S. from the six mostly Muslim nations being targeted.

CAMEROTA: Trending today, Beyonce is crazy in love with her new bundles of joy. She just revealed the names of her twins, Sir Carter and Roomy. In this lavish picture posted on her Instagram account -

BERMAN: I took a picture just like this when my twins were born.

CAMEROTA: When you - I know, me too -


CAMEROTA: Because you and I both are parents of twins. We have a lot of advice we can give her because I'm sure she needs our help.

BERMAN: For more on the "Five Things to Know," go to for the very latest.

CAMEROTA: All right, so listen to this. There is this popular spot for thrill seeking tourists in the Caribbean and it has turned deadly. There's a 57-year-old woman who was killed after losing her grip on a fence. What happens here is there's a blast of an airplane that flies just feet above tourists' heads.

And this is what happened on Wednesday. This is video from a similar incident. You can see how strong the jet blast is. This was in 2012 at the International Airport in St. Martin. And you can see that woman was unable to hold on to the fence and flew off into a barricade.

This woman in this video did recover from her injuries, but authorities on the island say that they have now placed signs along the beach warning tourists not to get too close.

BERMAN: I'm not sure signs will be enough if people are getting that badly hurt.

All right, this week's CNN Hero had a rough time growing up. Harry Grammer was arrested at 16, sentenced to five years juvenile probation. He has since turned his life around and created a non- profit group in Los Angeles helping today's youth stay out of trouble. Watch this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HARRY GRAMMER, CNN HERO: The bottom line is, everybody in this room, including myself, we've got a story to tell. You're going to tell the world about who you are. I want to see what you have inside of you that wants to come out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (rapping): Gonna tell them your story. How you are going to live (INAUDIBLE). Gonna tell them your story.

GRAMMER: We need to listen to our young people. We need to find out what it is that they're longing for, what they want.


BERMAN: We need to listen.

To learn more about Harry's mission, head to And while you're there, nominate someone you think should be a 2017 CNN Hero.

CAMEROTA: All right, securing an interview with a member of the Trump administration is no small task. Up next, the young journalist who managed to get a cabinet secretary to open up and go on the record. "Mad Dog" Mattis doesn't speak openly often, but -


[08:51:39] BERMAN: All right, move over Woodward and Bernstein. The all-star reporter duo of the future is here, Fischer and Gormley. Learn those names. A pair of high school students outside Seattle who landed a big scoop and an interview with a notoriously media-shy member of the Trump administration, Secretary of Defense James Mattis. How did they do it?

Joining us now is Teddy Fischer and Jane Gormley.

Teddy, this is fascinating how this all began. Explain to us how you came up with this notion of going after James Mattis.

TEDDY FISCHER, STUDENT WHO INTERVIEWED SECRETARY JAMES MATTIS: Well, I found out about his number being leaked through "The Washington Post." I like to watch the news and do so regularly, but I don't always read all the content. I just like to look at the headlines whenever I can. And so I saw a headline that his number had been leaked. And I knew who Mattis was. I'm fairly interested in foreign policy. And so Mattis is somebody that I looked up to. So I was curious right off the bat. And -

CAMEROTA: But, Teddy, hold on a second. Did you - was it you who spotted the post-it note on the folder that was being carried by Donald Trump's long-time bodyguard, Keith Schiller, there, and you see, blurred, a little post-it note. And it turned out that that was the cell phone number of Secretary Mattis. Did you - did you zoom in on that or did you just read that the - of the number somewhere online? FISCHER: Well, I didn't find it originally. "The Washington Post" took

it down, but somebody in the comments in that article - the follow-up article to the bodyguard article still had it. So there was a picture and I just flipped it upside down, zoomed in and I just put the number in my contacts.

BERMAN: And you called him? You say, hey, general, it's me, Teddy, how you doing?

FISCHER: Well, I called him to just - to see if it was him. I didn't leave a message. When I called, it went to his voicemail. And in that mail he identified himself and I recognized his voice. So I just, for laughs, sent it to one of my friends in journalism. We were debating what we should text him. If it was a joke or something like that. And then I just decided to ask for an interview.

CAMEROTA: And what did you say?


CAMEROTA: Yes, that - good thinking. But what exactly did you say that got him to call you back?

FISCHER: I think I took more of a casual approach. I know he likes being called just Jim. A lot of people thought it was actually disrespectful because the text actually got published. But I just said hi, Jim, and then I told him who I was, my grade level, what - my school, my paper, and then Washington state because I told him I was from Washington because Mattis is also from Washington state. And I just asked for an interview.

BERMAN: So, Jane, you know, you were integral in helping craft the questions, and then writing the article here. You know, writing, maybe for a high school paper, is different, you know, than "The New York Times." What did you want to get out of the defense secretary and what did you make of his responses?

GORMLEY: Right. I think that, from the beginning, once we knew that we had gotten this interview, Teddy is - he knows so much about foreign policy and politics and he's really well informed on that. So from the beginning we knew that he wanted to do a story on that. And then because we knew this was such a big story, and such a good catch, that from the beginning I know that I wanted to take more of a human interest approach and try and do a reflection and ask questions that the reporters that can normally reach him wouldn't be able to because of our high school angle, I think.

[08:55:18] CAMEROTA: Great thinking. So what the - what did you get, Jane? I mean what was the thing that was most surprising to you that he said?

GORMLEY: Right. I think that overall I was really -- I loved how the focus just, throughout the entire interview, was on education. Not just in my questions that were directly asking about education and history and things like that, but in a lot of Teddy's questions that were about military policy and things like that. The answers a lot of the time came back to education.

CAMEROTA: And, if fact, he said he loved that. He said that he thinks about that a lot, what people should -


CAMEROTA: What kids should study now to prepare them for a life in politics.


CAMEROTA: And he was so happy for - to have those questions from you guys.

Great job, guys! John is very nervous -


CAMEROTA: That both of you are coming to take our jobs here tomorrow.

BERMAN: Great job until we see you interviewing with Zucker (ph) next week. So, just saying.

CAMEROTA: But congratulations, you guys.

GORMLEY: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: It's such a great article.

FISCHER: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: We direct everybody to read it at "The Islander."

Thanks so much for being with us.

And thanks to all of you. Have a great weekend. CNN "NEWSROOM" with Pamela Brown picks up after this very quick break.


[09:00:07] PAMELA BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Well, good morning. I'm Pamela Brown. Nice to have you along with us on this Friday morning.