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Trump Lashes Out at Record Low Approval Rating; Ex-Trump Adviser Testifies 'No Contacts with Russia'. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired July 17, 2017 - 07:00   ET


[07:00:06] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president was not aware of the meeting and did not attend the meeting.

SEN. MARK WARNER (D-VA), VICE CHAIR, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: I'm not sure why we take anybody at the senior level of the Trump administration at their word.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), RANKING MEMBER, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: They can call it a fishing expedition, a witch hunt. Nonetheless, real evidence is coming forward that just can't be ignored.

MIKE PENCE (R), VICE PRESIDENT OF HE UNITED STATES: We will see the beginning of the end of the nightmare of Obamacare.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Republican health care bill in the Senate is a piece of junk.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a system that is crying out for reform and revision, and that's what we're trying to do.

SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: The longer the bill is out there, the more conservative Republicans are going to discover that it's not repeal.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to your NEW DAY. Chris is off this morning. John Berman joins me. Great to have you here.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Happy to be here.

CAMEROTA: Excellent. A new poll shows President Trump's approval rating sliding to a record low. The ABC News/"Washington Post" poll finds 36 percent of Americans approve of the job Mr. Trump is doing. That's the lowest sixth month approval rating of any president in seven decades.

Mr. Trump unleashing a flurry of tweets defending his son's meeting with the Russian attorney and once again attacking the media and Hillary Clinton.

BERMAN: This as one of the president's biggest campaign promises -- that's to repeal and replace Obamacare -- faces a new setback. The Senate has delayed a vote on the latest health care bill as Senator John McCain recovers from blood clot surgery.

We have a big week ahead, and covering it all for you, let's begin with CNN's Joe Johns, live at the White House.

Good morning, Joe.


President Trump is back in Washington, D.C., frankly hoping to turn the page after a week of revelations regarding Donald Trump Jr.'s meetings with that Russian lawyer. And now it does appear that the whole swirl of controversy over the Russian investigation, as well as the stalled agenda on Capitol Hill, is continuing to affect the president's approval ratings.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Congratulations, Mr. President.

JOHNS (voice-over): After nearly six months in office, President Donald Trump now facing the lowest approval rating in recent history. Just 36 percent approve of the president's performance in a new ABC News/"Washington Post" poll, a 6 percent drop since the 100-day mark in April.

The president attempting to spin these results, claiming that almost 40 percent is not bad and asserting that the poll was inaccurate during the election.

The poll also showing that 63 percent of Americans think that the meeting between Trump Jr., Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner and a Russian lawyer to get dirt on Hillary Clinton was inappropriate.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Most people would have taken that meeting. It's called opposition research.

JOHNS: The president once again focusing on his former rival in a Sunday morning tweet while defending his son, amid the latest revelations that at least eight people attended the meeting, including a Russian-American lobbyist who served in the Soviet military.

This despite Trump Jr.'s insistence that all of the details about the meeting have been disclosed.

DONALD TRUMP JR., SON OF DONALD TRUMP: I don't think there's anything else. We've scoured it thoroughly, just to be sure.

SCHIFF: He first said no such meeting ever happened; and then he said the meeting was about adoptions; and then he admitted the meeting was about getting information on Hillary Clinton; and that he wasn't forthcoming about who was in the meeting. So we can't accept anything Don Jr. says.

JOHNS: One of the president's personal lawyers also coming to Trump Jr.'s defense during a P.R. blitz on the Sunday shows.

JAY SEKULOW, DONALD TRUMP'S LAWYER: Donald Trump Jr. himself said things should have been done differently. Having said that again, none of that is violation of the law. That's more process.

JOHNS: While raising a possible defense of the meeting.

SEKULOW: If this was nefarious, why did the Secret Service allow these people in?

JOHNS: The Secret Service pushing back, noting in a statement, "Donald Trump Jr. was not a protectee of the USSS in June 2016. Thus, we would not have screened anyone he was meeting with at the time."


JOHNS: Not to be overlooked this morning, the Senate delaying its highly-anticipated vote to repeal and replace the Obama health care plan, because a key senator has a health issue of his own. Senator John McCain is recovering from surgery.

Also delayed, the release of the CBO score or the financial estimate, if you will, of the health care plan now on Capitol Hill.

John and Alisyn, back to you.

CAMEROTA: OK, Joe, thanks so much.

We should let everybody know that we will have Dr. Sanjay Gupta on our show later in the program to help us understand what Senator McCain is going through and what the prognosis is.

OK. Let's bring in our panel now to discuss all this. We have CNN political analyst John Avlon; associate editor and columnist for RealClearPolitics, A.B. Stoddard; and congressional reporter for "The Washington Post," Karoun Demirjian. Great to see all of you.

CAMEROTA: John, give us the historical perspective on this ABC News poll that finds President Trump at 36 percent approval.

JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It is an unprecedented low in the history of polling. No president has been this low at the six month mark. The people closest are people like Gerald Ford. Major reason for that is he pardons Richard Nixon. I mean, that's the kind of contemporary political baggage that we're dealing with, without an event like that.

[07:05:12] Bill Clinton also -- and this may be the most instructive parallel -- really, he gets creamed in the public poll numbers, particularly low at the five-month mark. He starts to make decided changes. He brings in David Gergen, fellow CNN analyst, who have been a member of the Reagan administration, the Nixon administration, to come in and try to steady the ship with an idea of communication. He eventually subs out his chief of staff, Mack McCarty (ph), his childhood friend, in favor of Leon Panetta. And that makes all the difference. So he took the poll numbers that were in rough shape because of a

series of small scandals and redid the way his White House operated.

BERMAN: No sign yet that the Trump White House has changed at all. You know, and they face continuing disapproval over some of the Russia drip, drip, drip, things that keep on coming out, A.B., 63 percent of the polling say that the meeting with Donald Trump Jr. and these Russians -- we don't know how many at this point -- was inappropriate.

And then there's another number, A.B., that's really remarkable. The ABC News/"Wall Street Journal" poll that looks at the counties that voted for President Obama in 2012 and then flipped to vote for Donald Trump. Look at that. In those counties, Donald Trump now is at 44 percent approval, 51 percent disapproval. He's underwater. You're looking at key Trump voters here, voters that he really needs, and they may be starting to turn on him, A.B.

A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR/COLUMNIST, REALCLEARPOLITICS: Right. You see Republicans clinging to the Republican support percentages in these polls for Donald Trump and thinking they have more time, because if their party turns on him, then they'll be forced to.

But so far, as we always know, Trump has this super sturdy, resilient place of at least 35, 38 percent that is going to stick with him, no matter what. And then they want to be looking at Republican support. They'd prefer the high 80s, now getting into the low 80s, but you're not seeing the Republicans, you know, overall breaking away from him, that the loss of support among independents in those soft Trump voters, the ones who voted for Obama and thought, well, it's a risk, but you know, this guy really sounds like he has a great plan. He's going to get to D.C. and knock heads, been a successful businessman desperate for change. Hillary Clinton is the epitome of the incumbent of establishment and of the status quo. We have to move on here.

Those are the ones where he's begun to bleed support. And remember, his numbers on election day in exit polls were pretty bad. He had very strong, high disapproval. And there was a strong majority the entire time in polling among voters, even who supported him on election day who said he did not have the qualifications for the office and to serve as commander-in-chief.

So as we look to the midterms, Republicans will be looking at that first number I mentioned, Republican support. But then they're going to be looking at that loss of independence. Because where -- where does that battle for the House next year, that 23-4-seat battle for Republicans to cling to the majority, where does it take place?

In the districts that Hillary won or Trump won by 5 percent or less, not the strong districts where Trump is loved, it's the ones that are on the margins. And those are the ones they're worried about.

CAMEROTA: So Karoun, it's hard to think that all these different Russia developments are impacting the president's approval rating, as well as the idea that, because of those, he's not able to get to the agenda items that he had promised. So this weekend there were more developments. And President Trump's

personal attorney, Jay Sekulow, was -- did the rounds on the Sunday morning shows. And he basically said, if everybody was going to be so bothered by these Russians or Russian-Americans who met with Don Jr., why didn't the Secret Service flag it? They could have flagged it. They could have said that, you know, he shouldn't be meeting with these people.

Secret Service has come out now in a highly unusual statement. I mean, they rarely talk. And said, "no, we didn't know. Donald Trump Jr. was not a protectee of the Secret Service in June of 2016," they say. Thus, we would not have screened anyone he was meeting with at that time. Your thoughts?

KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CNN ANALYST: Right, if we are to take the -- what the president's lawyer said in the most generous light, then you could say, "Well, because the meeting was in Trump Tower, if Trump was in Trump Tower at the time, there maybe have been some sort of guarding mechanism that the Secret Service is participating in, the idea that they were -- you know, had shut down the whole building.

That seems to be further than they were going at the time, because people were coming in and out for other reasons than to meet with the president.

So maybe in that situation, the Secret Service might have had some sense. But it's raising the question of, OK, if he's raising the Secret Service as a defense mechanism, does that mean that this got closer to Trump than we so far have known? Does that mean that maybe Trump was involved in the meeting or knew of the meeting or something like that, where the Secret Service would have ever been involved in some way?

So is it just something that he let slip, because it's a good thing -- good sounding thing to say, that makes it seems like the whole building was under Secret Service security lockdown, et cetera, and because the president was there; and nobody was going to get in or out without the Secret Service approving that?

[07:10:12] Or is it a little hint, indication of maybe there's something else here that we don't know about? Which is this has been a very big thing, with the president saying he only found out about it a few days before it was public information, that this meeting took place.

If that's not the case, that means there's more obfuscation, and it raises larger questions because, again, this has become a really central piece of the -- of the case that many people were trying to make that there was coordination between Trump's team and Russian operatives. And if that goes up to the president, that's a very, very different matter than the president's son.

BERMAN: Yes, look, the only thing Sekulow was trying to do was distract there and throw smoke. And what was remarkable is the Secret Service wasn't having any of it. They just said, "Nuh-uh, you know, this is your issue; it's not our issue. You deal with it politically. It has no protection implications here."

You know, John Avlon, something else remarkable happened this weekend, which is that the House -- Senate Republicans have delayed the vote on health care. Why? Because John McCain had surgery and is in Arizona recovering for the week. And we do send our best, you know, to John McCain and his family. Hope for the best for him over the coming weeks. You know, he's been through a lot. But again, no question that he's going to come out of this OK.

But, you know, the fact that one guy can't vote the way that Mitch McConnell wants him to vote this week means that this vote can't happen at all. It just shows how close things are.

AVLON: That's exactly right. So don't buy any spin that says it's a sign of strength, and the bill will get stronger over time. That's never the case. If they had the votes, they'd be pushing forward. And we do wish John McCain all the best in this.

But it's a sign of the -- it's not just the margins are bad, but they're under water. We've heard, you know, Susan Collins has said that there are even more senators who have real trouble. There are Republican governors coming out against the bill.

And so you're, you know, left to Vice President Pence coming out, saying that, you know, the president, I believe that this bill won't hurt people on Medicare and Medicaid. And other Republicans are calling B.S. on that. So this is a bill in real trouble. And there's very little history of bills getting stronger over the August recess.

CAMEROTA: A.B., when you poke around on Capitol Hill, what's the thought? Is something going to be voted on next week?

STODDARD: Well, there's a lot of concern, obviously, about the fact that you already have Collins and Rand Paul -- Susan Collins and Rand Paul coming out against the bill. And that leaves you, really, right at the margin, with Vice President Pence being the 51st tie-breaking vote.

So as John was saying, they don't -- with Senator Collins raising the specter of another seven people having concerns, most particularly Senator Heller in Nevada with his governor, perhaps. You know, he's made some comments that the bill is not good enough, bearing down on him.

And of course, Governor Kasich in Ohio bearing down on Senator Portman. There's a bunch of people we can see voting against this bill. So they always think it's doomed until, you know, they hoped Mitch McConnell pulls that rabbit out of the hat.

BERMAN: For whatever reason, the CBO says it's not going to give the score today, which may have just been more tough news for Republicans, trying to push this through. That's been delayed. Nothing is happening right now.

OK, guys. Stick around. Some other news we want to tell you about. Search operations resume in Central Arizona for a missing 27-year-old man swept away in this weekend's flash flooding. At least nine people were killed, including six children. It is believed they were all taking part in a family outing in a swimming hole about 90 miles north of Phoenix on Saturday. Heavy rain triggered a mudslide. Four family members were rescued.

CAMEROTA: More than 7 million people cast their ballots in Venezuela in a symbolic rejection of President Nicolas Maduro's plan to rewrite the constitution. That proposal sparking mounting tensions in a nation hit with months of violent anti-government protests.

Meanwhile, one woman died as she waited to vote in the unofficial referendum on Sunday. Men on motor bikes fired at a group of people killing her and injuring at least three others.

BERMAN: The driver of an SUV is in critical condition this morning after crashing onto the roof of a St. Louis home. Look at that!

CAMEROTA: How did that happen?

BERMAN: I will tell you. Witnesses say the driver was speeding as he approached the intersection in front of the House.


BERMAN: The SUV went up an embankment and then, apparently, went airborne. It took more than an hour for the fire department to rescue the man from the SUV. Fortunately, no one was home in the House at the time of the crash.

CAMEROTA: How fast do you have to be going to make your SUV airborne?

BERMAN: That's crazy.

CAMEROTA: I mean...

BERMAN: That's just crazy. Does it make it a three-car garage now? That's crazy. Glad he was OK.

CAMEROTA: Me, too.

Meanwhile, he testified behind closed doors. And now a former Trump campaign adviser is talking to us. What he told the House Intel Committee about the Trump campaign and Russia, next.


[07:18:58] CAMEROTA: President Trump defends his son as new details surface about that meeting at Trump Tower with a Russian lawyer and her associates.

One former Trump campaign official, Michael Caputo, testified on Friday about what he knows. The president praised him in a tweet, saying, "Thank you to former campaign adviser Michael Caputo for saying so powerfully that there was no Russian collusion in our winning campaign.'

Former Trump campaign director Michael Caputo joins us now. Good morning Michael.


CAMEROTA: I'm doing well. So you testified for four hours behind closed doors in the House Intel Committee. Can you tell us what they wanted to know and what you told them?

CAPUTO: Well, it would seem to me in a lot of ways, and I think my attorney, who's a veteran prosecutor, that this is a fishing expedition to some degree. I mean there were some very directed, very well-researched questions. And they asked me a lot about individuals going through name and name after name.

They also asked me about the 6-7 years I lived in Russia in the 1990s, which to me was rather historical discussion and really had nothing to do with Donald Trump. But I think they were looking for the context that I brought to the campaign, and I was hoping that I was successful in clearing up the matter.

CAMEROTA: Well, I think you were successful, certainly, in gripping and holding their attention, because Congressman Danny Heck said of your appearance, I will tell you that probably the three most fascinating three hours of time I have spent in my nearly 5 years in the United States House of Representatives. What was he referring to...

CAPUTO: Well, I also...

CAMEROTA: That was so scintillating?

CAPUTO: Well, I'm also fun to go have a beer with. But at the same time there is no Russian collusion. And I think it's a delusion. And I think, while we had a nice discussion.

And, by the way, you know this is an intimidating thing. I spent my time in the House of Representatives coordinating television coverage of committee hearings. I've been to and coordinated coverage of more than 100 of them. And you still don't know what you're going to get into when you get behind closed doors...


CAPUTO: ... with the House Intelligence Committee. You know, it seemed like a pretty partisan operation before I walked in there. But every single member who was present, including Minority Leader Adam Schiff, were very polite to me, very direct and very, you know, forthright with their questions.


CAPUTO: But I didn't have any notice that it was highly partisan.

CAMEROTA: That's nice. So you came away believing that it's fair. That's very good for us to know. You resigned 11 days after what we now know took place there with this

Don Jr., Paul Manafort, Jared Kushner meeting with this Russian attorney and her associates. Did you know about that meeting?

CAPUTO: No, I did not. And after I left the campaign headquarters to go to work at the convention on or about like June 1, I went into a silo and into a command structure. And I reported to the campaign through the Director of Caucus Operations at the convention. And it wouldn't be unusual for me not to hear about this kind of a meeting.

CAMEROTA: Had you ever heard of Natalia Veselnitskaya?

CAPUTO: I've never heard of Ms. Veselnitskaya. I've talked to people that I know trying to figure out who she is. None of them heard of her. I don't think that she's a Kremlin operative like they're saying. But she's someone who I never heard of until she was revealed in the media.

CAMEROTA: If, when you had worked at the campaign, Don Jr. had come to you knowing your work in Russia and said, "Hey, I just got this email from a pal who says that this comes from the highest levels of the Russian government and that they have some dirt on Hillary Clinton that they'd like to give us," what would you have told him to do?

CAPUTO: I would have said, you know, kick it upstairs. Kick it to the attorneys; kick it to the Opposition Research Department to see if this is an appropriate or even worthwhile meeting.

You know, you don't want those kinds of meetings to even come anywhere close to the president or the president's family. I mean, any opposition research meetings where they come -- no matter where they come from. You know, as an experienced campaign operative, I might have seen a red flag. But at the same time, you have to understand that the members of the family, we first find -- this is the first time President Trump ever ran for office.


CAPUTO: His kids were unfamiliar with it. And I can see how Don Jr. might make a mistake. And I appreciated his candor after this stuff broke and then broke again and broke again. In a TV interview where he said it's something if he had time, you know, could do it over again, he would do it differently.


CAPUTO: I respect that.

CAMEROTA: And I hear you that Don Jr. and his family are political neophytes. Check. We all understand that. But Paul Manafort isn't. Why was Paul Manafort in that meeting?

CAPUTO: Right. Well, I'll tell you, I know Paul for 30 years. I also knew at that time he was getting upwards of 500 email messages a day. He, you know, Paul probably did not read all the way down, several inches into the string of the email. He received a meeting request from the president's son, and his job at that moment was to say "yes" and to go.

But you know, the meeting didn't last long. I think the members, you know people who were attending it realized the context of the meeting and ended it pretty quickly.

CAMEROTA: Do you know the lobbyist who was in that meeting? Do you know the name -- I think that -- I think that this is the right name -- Rinat Akhmetshin?

CAPUTO: I don't know him. I've not heard of him. But there are a lot of Russian-Americans who work in Washington, some at the highest levels of our government, some with the highest levels of security clearance, and also lobbyists who work on the margins of the government. It's not unusual to me that someone like him would have been in the Washington orbit. It seems a little odd that he'd be in that meeting, but Ms. Veselnitskaya was looking for a friend to take. And I guess she took him.

I understand from some of the media reports, he was wearing jeans and a T-shirt. So I don't think he was expecting to be there either.

CAMEROTA: From your experience working in Russia for as many years as you did, and even coming into contact with Vladimir Putin, is it now your impression that Vladimir Putin was looking to somehow compromise or co-opt or play the Trump campaign?

[07:25:14] CAPUTO: I think the Russian government looks to get involved in elections for every single one of the countries in the United Nations Security Council at least and probably many, many more. Our country does the same.

It's important to note that in 1994, my government, the Clinton administration, sent me to Russia to get involved in their elections. We do the same thing.

CAMEROTA: So we're the same. I hear this. I hear this from a lot of people.


CAMEROTA: You think the U.S. is the same as Russia? You put those on an even par in terms of election meddling?

CAPUTO: I don't know if it's an even par, because I'm not quite sure of what we do. I don't know if we hack or phish emails. I'm not quite sure we do to get involved in an election. I know the direct involvement, sending advisors to go in and work on partisan elections all around the world.

You know, we saw President Obama send a team over to the Israeli election to tip that in favor of his favorite candidate. So it may be different. I'm not sure we're on par. But we both get involved in foreign elections in our way, to try to tilt them in our favor.

And to sit there as, you know, the Democrats and the committees, wagging their finger as if this is something that only is done by the Russians, that just, you know, it just -- it's a dubious claim.

CAMEROTA: Do you consider Russia a hostile foreign power?

CAPUTO: Of course not. When I heard that on the show this morning, it raised an eyebrow. Unless I woke up and I didn't hear the news, we're not at war with Russia. You know, I can remember when -- when George W. Bush was trying to make things better with -- in our relations. I remember Hillary Clinton giving a misspelled, you know, restart button to the Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation...


CAPUTO: ... wanting to gain better relations. I think Donald Trump wants to have better relations with every country. I think we have an opening to have stronger relations, more peaceful relations, more productive relations looking at things like ISIS and other really important issues...

CAMEROTA: Yes, of course.

CAPUTO: ... with Russia but...

CAMEROTA: But why was it bad when Hillary Clinton...

CAPUTO: I think the problem we have with this investigation was...

CAMEROTA: ... wanted the reset? Why was it bad? This is the part that also confuses me from the Trump campaign. Why was it so bad if Hillary Clinton wanted a reset but Donald Trump wants a reset and you guys approve of that?

CAPUTO: I don't -- I didn't think it was bad that Hillary Clinton wanted to reset it. I was hopeful when she came with that red button. Unfortunately, it devolved, like it did under George W., and I think in a new administration as it comes in, the idea that they want to have better relationships than the previous administration is not unusual.

We have a unique opportunity here to have better relationships with Russia and many other nations. But this investigation in particular is souring that opportunity. And I'd like to see them get to the bottom of these things as soon as possible.

CAMEROTA: Yes. And so, very quickly, when Republicans in Congress, Lindsey Graham, John McCain, say that Russia is an adversary, you think that they're wrong?

CAPUTO: Absolutely. I'm on the other side of Lindsey Graham and John McCain -- best wishes to him in the hospital this week -- on many issues, especially foreign policy. These are neocons, as we know, and I'm not, even though I spent most of my youth working in programs like the Reagan Doctrine, fighting the Soviet Union's goals in Central America and Asia and other places.

I see a unique opportunity here to work with Russia, not against Russia. We're not all; we often are looking at different priorities as nations. But we have a lot in common.


CAPUTO: Especially the people of the United States and the people of Russia. Let's not squander this opportunity.

CAMEROTA: Michael Caputo, we appreciate your being on NEW DAY and sharing your take on all of this. Thanks.

CAPUTO: Thank you.


BERMAN: All right. The president's approval rating hitting a record low, but his base seems to be standing behind him. Swing voters, not so much. We'll dig deeper next.