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Trump: Would Be "Violation" To Probe Family Finances; Warren To McCain: "Stay Strong And Keep Fighting"; Senator Warren On Trump's 6- Month Mark; Interview with Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Aired 9-9:30a ET
Aired July 20, 2017 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[09:00:24] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Top of the hour. Good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow. John Berman has the day off.
President Trump gives a stunning interview and deepens the battle lines with his own Justice Department on the six-month mark of his presidency, lashing out once again over the Russia investigation and all of its key players in this sit-down with "The New York Times." But the most scathing remark saved for his own Attorney General.
Jeff Sessions may have been among Donald Trump's most loyal supporters during the campaign, but a fuming President Trump will not forgive him for recusing himself in the Russia probe.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Sessions should've never recused himself. And if he would -- if he was going to recuse himself, he should've told me before he took the job, and I would've picked somebody else.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
HARLOW: We will hear from Jeff Sessions shortly, in his first live remarks since he was attacked by the President.
Before that, though, a devastating diagnosis. Senator John McCain is battling brain cancer. The iconic warrior, both in politics and on the battlefield, facing one of his toughest battles yet. But those close to him say that he will not surrender.
His daughter, Meghan writes: he is the toughest person I know. The cruelest enemy could not break him. The aggressions of political life could not bend him. Cancer may afflict him in many ways, but it will not make him surrender. Nothing ever has.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: God knows how this ends, not me. But I do know this. This disease has never had a more worthy opponent.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: We are covering all of the latest developments on this busy morning. Let's begin, though, with an update on Senator McCain's diagnosis. Our Dr. Sanjay Gupta, also a practicing neurosurgeon, is here with this CNN exclusive report.
And, Sanjay, you spoke, with McCain's permission, to his doctors. What have we learned?
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we got a lot more details, Poppy, about what happened on Friday, when he went in for that routine visit, how he subsequently got diagnosed with this brain tumor, and how that all unfolded over the last several days.
GUPTA (voice-over): Senator John McCain is recovering well after an operation last Friday to remove a malignant brain tumor known as glioblastoma. With Senator McCain's permission, I spoke exclusively to two of his Mayo Clinic doctors about the details of his care.
McCain had come in for a scheduled annual physical early Friday morning with no complaints except intermittent double vision and fatigue, which he attributed to an intense international travel schedule over the last several months. His doctors ordered a CAT scan to check for anything from a possible blood collection to a stroke.
Upon review of the scan, doctors called McCain, who had left the hospital, and asked him to immediately return for an MRI. The scans revealed a five-centimeter blood clot above the Senator's left eye, which appeared to have been there for up to a week. The decision was made to perform an urgent operation.
By 3:00 p.m., McCain was in the operating room undergoing a craniotomy to remove a tumor. Doctors made an incision above his left eyebrow to gain access to his skull, where they bore a two-centimeter hole to remove the clot and a tumor.
A pathology report revealed a primary brain tumor known as glioblastoma. It's the most aggressive type of brain cancer. It is the same type of tumor that Bo Biden and Ted Kennedy had. With treatment which usually includes radiation and chemotherapy, the median survival is 14 months, but it can be five years or even longer.
This is not Senator McCain's first health scare. In 2000, he was diagnosed with invasive malignant melanoma.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: From having a lot exposure to the sun when I was very young and having fair skin.
GUPTA (voice-over): Doctors removed a dime-sized melanoma from McCain's left temple. That was the most serious of several other bouts with skin cancer.
When McCain was campaigning for president in 2008, I had a chance to review all of his medical records. Details of his health since then have remained private, until just now.
His doctors at the Mayo Clinic who have been treating him for several years said it was McCain's gut instinct knowing that something just wasn't right.
GUPTA: And, Poppy, it's worth pointing out that Senator McCain had a really quick recovery from this operation. Keep in mind, again, he is 80 years old. He had general anesthesia. This was brain surgery. And yet, right after the operation when he woke up, he was joking around with the operating room staff.
He spent the night in the intensive care unit on Friday night but was able to go home on Saturday, the next day, which is a very, very fast recovery. What is happening now, Poppy, Senator McCain and his family are talking to the doctors about the next steps.
[09:05:06] HARLOW: Yes.
GUPTA: The chemotherapy, the radiation, and when that's likely to begin, probably sometime over the next three to four weeks, Poppy.
HARLOW: You know, Sanjay, if there was ever a fighter, it is Senator John McCain. Look, Senator Ted Kennedy, someone he worked with across the aisle so much, this is the same cancer that he battled. The prognosis, this is aggressive.
GUPTA: There's no question. I mean, there's a lot of literature, and that's where doctors typically turn to in situations like this. What does the literature show?
But you make an important point, Poppy. I mean, he is -- first of all, he's a fighter, but even more objectively, he has overcome, you know, a tough cancer before, invasive melanoma, a tough cancer. So he certainly got that spirit. The doctors noted that to me as well.
And given that he recovered so quickly, already, from this operation and how optimistic they are about moving forward, I think that's all going to work in his favor.
HARLOW: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thank you so much for the reporting this morning.
Also, this morning, President Trump is raising eyebrows with a candid and sometimes caustic remarks aimed at his own Justice Department.
Six months to the day into his presidency, we hear the President railing against the Russia investigation and all of its key players, tearing into his own Attorney General, Jeff sessions, for recusing himself from the Russia probe.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
TRUMP: Sessions should've never recused himself. And if he would -- if he was going to recuse himself, he should've told me before he took the job, and I would've picked somebody else.
MAGGIE HABERMAN, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: He gave you no heads up at all in any sense? TRUMP: Zero.
TRUMP: So Jeff Sessions takes the job, gets into the job, recuses himself. I then have -- which -- which, frankly, I think is very unfair to the President. How do you take a job and then recuse yourself? If he would've recused himself before the job, I would've said, thanks, Jeff, but I can't -- you know, I'm not going to take you.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
HARLOW: Our Joe Johns is at the White House with the very latest. And that is, Joe, just the beginning of it.
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: It certainly is. We are expecting, Poppy, to see the Attorney General within the hour at a cybercrime news conference at the Department of Justice.
At least two other people the President talked about in that interview are also expected to be at that news conference. That would include Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein as well as the Acting Director of the FBI, Andrew McCabe.
Now, while some of the harshest criticism in the interview was for the Attorney General, we know also that the President has, among other things, leveled a lot of the criticism at FBI Director James Comey. He did so again in the interview, charging, essentially, that the FBI Director alerted him to the existence of a dossier with damaging information in it in order to gain an advantage.
"The New York times" has not released the audio portion of that interview, but there is a transcript. I'll read it for you, and here's what it says.
When he brought me to this, I said, this is made-up junk. I didn't think about anything. I just thought about, man, this is such a phony deal.
Question, why do you think -- why do you think he shared it?
The President, I think he shared it so that I would -- because the other three people left, he showed it to me.
The President says, so, anyway, in my opinion, he shared it so that I would think he had it out there.
Question, as leverage?
The President says, yes, I think so.
Now, previously, Mr. Comey had said on the record, in his view, he needed to tell the President about it because there was damaging information inside it, and it was claimed, in the dossier, that Russians could use that information against the President. We do expect to see the President over at the Pentagon later today.
Back to you.
HARLOW: Joe Johns at the White House. Thank you for the reporting.
Let's discuss with Ron Brownstein, Rebecca Berg, and Salena Zito.
And, Salena, to you as someone who has sat in the Oval Office and interviewed the President on more than one occasion, what does it tell us that, on the six-month mark of his presidency, we are now hearing from the President an attack on his entire Justice Department, particularly Jeff Sessions, and frankly, an attack on the entire judicial process?
SALENA ZITO, COLUMNIST, NEW YORK POST: Well, I'm not surprised. I mean, you know, Maggie Haberman is such a great reporter, right, and she really has a way of pulling him out. He's very comfortable when he talks with her.
And I thought that she -- they were all able to have him talk about sort of the insecurity that he has about an Attorney General that is now someone that doesn't immediately have his back as soon as he is, you know, President, right?
[09:10:01] And this is something that is important to presidents. And show, you know, he -- I think he feels vulnerable without having that guy or, you know, if it ends up being a woman, that woman, you know, as part of his team.
He's disappointed. This is something that we've heard leaked out before, but that's the first time we hear it in his own words. And he's blunt about it.
Sessions was a guy that was with him in every -- almost every rally that I covered last year, right?
ZITO: I mean, this was a totally loyal guy, but it shows you that, for this President, when you can't be there for him, you -- and you are, you know -- you know, there's some sort of, you know, maybe you knew you were going to have to recuse yourself immediately, you know, that makes him incredibly uncomfortable.
HARLOW: So -- it does. And look, the former deputy U.S. Attorney General, Sally Yates, tweeting this morning.
The President's attack on the Russia recusal reveals yet again his violation of the essential independence of the Department of Justice, a bedrock principle of our democracy.
An important note in this also, of course, she was fired by the President.
Ron, to you. Is it possible that President Trump is trying to get Jeff Sessions to quit -- because he knows the optics of firing him would not look good after Comey, to quit so then he can replace him with a more friendly Attorney General who can subsequently fire a Special Prosecutor Mueller?
RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Certainly possible. I mean, there are a couple of big messages out of this incredible interview.
I mean, the first, I think, to underscore Salena's point, Jeff Sessions was the first and, for long periods, the only major elected official who was supporting Donald Trump. He is the closest to him, ideologically, really of anyone, any major figure in the Republican Party, in terms of his views on immigration and trade and kind of the Trump worldview.
And the fact that the President would turn on him so publicly and really, kind of viciously, is, I think, a clear signal to everyone in the Republican Party who is out there defending Donald Trump, whether it's Paul Ryan, whether it's Mitch McConnell, whether it's John Cornyn, all of them have to read this as, eventually, he will turn on them as well.
And then the second, I think, big message is the one you're kind of getting to, which is, in all of these different ways, whether it's attacking Sessions or trying to bound and draw bright lines to limit the Special Counsel investigation, he is sending a clear signal again to Republicans on Capitol Hill, that he -- you know, he is acting -- it is within his possibility to fire Robert Mueller at some point.
And if that is unacceptable to them, they have to make that very clear to him because he is basically setting up a pretext to do that, whether it's by removing Sessions or by claiming that Mueller exceeded his authority.
HARLOW: Rebecca Berg, to you. When it comes to all of these people in positions of power, you know, in the judiciary branch, the President seems to have a fundamental misunderstanding of who they need to be loyal to and what they need to be loyal to, OK? Because he talked about the FBI Director in this interview, and let me read you part of it.
He says: when Nixon came along, it was pretty brutal. And out of the controversy, the FBI started reporting to the Department of Justice, but there was nothing official, nothing from Congress. There was nothing. But the FBI person really reports directly to the President of the United States.
That is --
REBECCA BERG, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, REALCLEARPOLITICS: I mean --
HARLOW: -- not the case, Rebecca.
BERG: It's not the case at all, Poppy. And if President Trump had simply consulted the FBI's Web site, he could have learned that, since the 1920s, the FBI Director has reported directly to the Attorney General. It's right there, accessible to all of us at fbi.gov.
And it just shows that the President not only, I think, has a disregard for the hierarchy of federal government and his powers as President, but also kind of a fundamental misunderstanding.
And this is sort of what you get when you have a president who doesn't have any government experience, doesn't have any experience as an elected official or working even with government on the sidelines, but someone who, his whole career, has been a businessman.
And you wonder, he's been president for six months now. He's had time to sort of soak up how things work in government, how the office works. And President Trump, in my mind, just really hasn't shown an interest in learning about the institution, respecting the institution, respecting the way government works.
He did promise to come into Washington as a change agent. But to be a change agent effectively, to change Washington, you need to understand how Washington works in the first place. And we haven't really seen that from President Trump, and I think this is a perfect example of that.
HARLOW: And the independence of agencies and entities is not what needs changing. That is fundamental to our democracy.
[09:14:54] HARLOW: Salena, to you. Salena, when he was asked by "The New York Times" reporters about Special Counsel bob Mueller, they asked, you know, what if Mueller was looking at your finances and your family finances, unrelated to Russia, is that a red line? And he said, yes, I would say so, and then he said that that was a violation.
He didn't go so far as to say he would fire Mueller, right, when they asked, would you fire him because of that? He said, I can't answer that because I don't think that's going to happen. But he said there's a line where Mueller shouldn't look past.
SALENA ZITO, CNN COMMENTATOR: Right. He was definitely telegraphing to all of us, including Mueller, that this is where -- I'm with everything, until we get to this point, right? And, you know, although he didn't say, you know, I think if I remember correctly, he didn't say he would fire him, but you can tell that that -- he wants -- does not want Mueller there, right?
And I think, I think getting rid of sessions or forcing him to resign and putting another attorney general in place, like we said before, I think that opens the door and makes it possible for the next attorney general, if that's what happens, to fire Mueller. And you know, I suspect that's where we're going right now.
HARLOW: And guys, stay with me. We have a lot more on the other side, but by the way, the message from Jeff Sessions we're hearing this morning, I'm not going anywhere. And we're going to hear from him live in just a moment. Ron, very quickly. RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Just very quickly, again, if Republicans on Capitol Hill have said that is unacceptable to them. They have to make that much more clearer than they have because clearly the president is contemplating it.
HARLOW: All right, guys, stick with me. We have an exclusive interview with Senator Elizabeth Warren coming right up.
A lot more ahead for us this hour. Just pleasantries? The president gives his version of that previously undisclosed meeting with Vladimir Putin. What does he say really happen?
Also, Senator Elizabeth Warren would like to know that and a whole lot more. CNN with the exclusive interview. Our Phil Mattingly will talk to her in just moments.
And will he walk free? O.J. Simpson's parole hearing, just hours away.
HARLOW: Today marks six months in office for President Trump and he's marking it with a stunning interview, given to "The New York Times," in which President Trump undermines his own attorney general and is clearly at odds with the entire Justice Department.
Let's get straight to Capitol Hill for reaction to that and more. Phil Mattingly is there with Senator Elizabeth Warren, one of the president's most outspoken critics for an exclusive interview -- Phil.
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Thanks, Poppy. Senator Warren, a lot to get to. But first, I want to start, you took a trip recently with Senator McCain to Afghanistan, and I just kind of wanted to get -- what was he like on that trip?
SENATOR ELIZABETH WARREN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Tough as a boot and ready to go at every moment. I'm telling you, when you travel with John McCain, you get up early and you work until late at night because that's who he is. He's there, he's there to ask questions, he's there to probe, he's there to find out information and he's there to push hard.
MATTINGLY: So there was no sense, even then, no impact that you saw?
WARREN: Not at all.
MATTINGLY: And what's your sense, he's ideologically perhaps on a different side of things than you, kind of your perspective on his role in the Senate or as a colleague?
WARREN: John McCain and I co-sponsored along with Angus King and Maria Cantwell a Glass/Steagall bill, 21st Century Glass/Steagall. He was really strong on break up the giant banks, thinks they pose a real risk to the economy, and he didn't mind saying so. When we were in Afghanistan, I stood next to him while we were doing a big press avail, and he was just saying, there is no military-only solution in Afghanistan.
And he was really pounding on the Trump administration to make sure that we had a full complement of our diplomats and that we need a strategy before we send more people into Afghanistan. He's tough. And yes, there are places where we don't agree, but there are some key places where we do.
MATTINGLY: Now, you are a critic of the Trump administration. The president has gone after you a few times, as well. It would be an interesting moment, Poppy mentioned it's the six-month anniversary today.
You're releasing a report today which kind of lays out grades on one of his key campaign promises, draining the swamp. It's a report that lays out 192 lobbyists or corporate insider were part of the transition team, 81 lobbyists that were registered within the last two years. What's the purpose of releasing all of these names?
WARREN: Look, it starts with the fact that Washington works great for giant corporations. If you can hire an army of lobbyists and corporate insiders, you can make Washington work for you, but for the rest of America, it's not working great.
So Donald Trump promised repeatedly during the campaign that he would drain the swamp. So I want to hold him accountable for that and we went back and counted.
And it turns out that not only has he not drained the swamp, he has brought in, we actually did one more count last night, 193 corporate lobbyists, CEOs, and executives of big giant corporations and industry consultants.
That's who he's bringing in, in every part of government, and it's having a real impact on the decisions that are getting made. It's not business for the American people. It's business for big business.
MATTINGLY: You know, the counter is, these are individuals who know how markets work, who know how the business sector works, who know how Washington works. You disagree with that assessment?
WARREN: Well, look, the lobbyists do know how Washington works and that's the real problem here. What they're doing is rolling back rules that the Obama administration put in place to try to protect people.
For example, over at the Education Department, rules that were put in place to protect student borrowers. The lobbyists come in, and what happens? Those rules get rolled back.
And that means more room for the debt collectors, more room for the for-profit colleges, more room for all of those private industries that are making a profit off the backs of our kids. Over in the Treasury Department, they're looking at what should the financial reforms, should they be rewritten? For ones that were put in place after the 2008 financial crisis.
[09:25:02]And once the lobbyists come in, what happens? They've put together something that is described as the wish list of the giant financial institutions.
MATTINGLY: Now, the president would point out, the market at record levels right now, business optimism, doing OK, unemployment low, because of his administration, because of these actions?
WARREN: Look. Here's the problem -- I'm glad to see a high stock market, but that wealth is not widely shared. It does not mean that middle class America is doing well.
What's happened to middle class America is basically, it's been flat wages and rising expenses for the basics, for housing, for health care, for transportation, for education. Kid can't make it through school today without getting crushed by student loan debt.
A rising stock market isn't what helps on those issues. We have these regulatory agencies in place to watch out for the public interests. And when you load them up with a bunch of lobbyists and corporate consultants, then what happens is once again, government works for the big guys, but just not for anyone else. That's when I give Donald Trump an "F" on his promise to drain the swamp.
MATTINGLY: I want to shift over, speaking of agencies or departments, the president last night in an interview with "The New York Times" said had he known Jeff Sessions was going to recuse himself, the attorney general, he never would have hired him in the first place. You've helped put together, run an agency, overseen an agency. What's your response to that?
WARREN: Look, I didn't think Jeff Sessions should be attorney general of the United States, at all. I thought that he was disqualified to begin with. He had been back in the 1980s turned down by this Congress for being too racist to be confirmed as a federal judge.
But once he was confirmed, he followed the rules that are in place at the Department of Justice on recusal. And for Donald Trump to say, gee, I had in mind to have an attorney general who would not follow the law is just stunning. And it tells you once again that Donald Trump is out for exactly one thing and that is to protect the skin of Donald Trump.
MATTINGLY: When you look at the range of what we've seen or learned or uncovered any number of things in the Russia investigation, do you believe the president broke laws?
WARREN: Well, I think that's why we have a criminal investigation ongoing at this moment, to determine exactly the relationship between Russia, the Trump campaign, and Donald Trump himself.
And on this one, shoes drop every day. It's like shoes falling off a centipede, you know, that we keep getting more and more information. But we want to make sure that we get a full investigation from the FBI, and also, from the Senate and House Intelligence.
MATTINGLY: And do you have confidence that the administration -- or that the FBI, the Justice Department and Special Counsel Mueller will be able to do an investigation?
WARREN: I have no reason now to say that they won't. You know, the FBI has maintained its independence and I have every reason to believe that they will continue to do that.
MATTINGLY: Senator Warner, thank you very much for the time.
WARREN: Good to see you. Thank you.
MATTINGLY: Thank you. Poppy, back to you.
HARLOW: Phil Mattingly, great interview. Thank you so much for bringing us that exclusive. We'll get reaction from Republican Senator Bill Cassidy to that next hour.
Meantime, President Trump's take, what he said to "The New York Times" in this bombshell interview about what really happened in that second undisclosed -- previously undisclosed meeting with Vladimir Putin.