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NYT: Trump Lashes Out at Sessions & Comey, Warns Mueller; Sen. John McCain Diagnosed with Brain Cancer. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired July 20, 2017 - 06:00   ET



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Sessions should have never recused himself. He should have told me. I would have picked somebody else.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Most people would quit their job if their boss did this.

[05:57:23] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is a president who believes that everybody is out to get him.

TRUMP: I said hello to Putin. We talked about production (ph).

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), RANKING MEMBER, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: It seems a bit hard to believe that that was really the topic of conversation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's obsessed with Russia. This is a battle between an outsider and a whole city full of insiders.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That operation that he had on Friday revealed he has an aggressive type of brain cancer.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There is nobody who is the kind of fighter that John McCain is.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: This disease has never had a more worthy opponent.


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

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY. It's Thursday, July 20, 6 a.m. here in New York.

And the story of the morning is "The New York Times" interview with the president. You have to hear his opinions about how he's perceived around the world. Whether he made the right choice for attorney general and, maybe most important, his reckoning of what line the special counsel should not cross and what happens if he does.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: So this was a wide-ranging interview, and they covered a lot of ground. The president accuses fired FBI Director James Comey of trying to leverage that dossier of compromising information in order to keep his job.

The president also issued a warning to Special Counsel Robert Mueller about the scope of the Russia investigation. Once again, Mr. Trump insists that he himself is not under investigation. Mr. Trump also talks about that undisclosed meeting with Vladimir Putin.

So let's begin our coverage with one of the journalists who conducted that interview with President Trump: CNN political analyst and "New York Times" White House correspondent Maggie Haberman.

Maggie, great, great to have you. Fascinating, wide-ranging interview that you have. He talked about Jeff Sessions, who he seems to have soured on. Let's play that for our viewers, and then you can comment on it. Listen to this.


TRUMP: Sessions should have never recused himself. And if he would -- if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me before he took the job; and I would have picked somebody else.


TRUMP: Zero. So Jeff Sessions takes the job, gets into the job, recuses himself. I then have -- which frankly, I think is very unfair to the president. How do you take a job and then recuse yourself? If he would have recused himself before the job, I would have said, "Thanks, Jeff, but I can't, you know, I'm not going to take you."


CAMEROTA: So Maggie, we want to know what jumped out at you. Isn't the time line of that a little confusing? How did Jeff Sessions know he was going to...

CUOMO: He didn't know.

CAMEROTA: ... recuse himself before he took the job?

CUOMO: He couldn't know.

HABERMAN: My take on it, and I think among the more charitable explanations is that what the president was referring to, and he talked about it at other points in the interview, was the fact that Jeff Sessions botched his testimony in his Senate confirmation hearing, where he was not forthcoming about Russian contacts with the Russian ambassador. And my read on what the president was saying was that he, you know, had Sessions made clear that he was going to omit that or had he had a concern about that in the first place that he wouldn't have appointed him.

Look, we know that he's been angry at Sessions. Peter Baker, one of my two colleagues, the other is Mike Schmidt who conducted the interview with me, Peter Baker and I wrote several weeks ago that the president was fuming at Jeff Sessions. This has been going on for quite some time over the recusal. The president sees the recusal as the original sin.

What was striking and what jumped out at me was that he said it to us. I was very surprised that he said it on the record, but as you guys know, the gap between what this president says privately and what he says publicly has always been pretty narrow. It's usually pretty consistent, but it was a remarkable disclosure and a remarkable public rebuke.

CUOMO: Is it unusual to have the president of the United States basically undermine the sitting attorney general?


CUOMO: And clearly, he has no confidence in him because of this situation. It also seemed in the conversation that he looks -- you used the term original sin. The president seems to view Sessions stepping away from the investigation as the main domino that has led to the special counsel. Is that accurate?

HABERMAN: Absolutely. And it's not even a close call. I mean, he believes that it all leads back. Mueller leads back to Rosenstein, who leads back to Jeff Sessions. And the president really laid out that way. It sort of unfurled how he watched this in his mind develop and what has been frustrating for him.

Look, he -- you know, just make a point. His mood was pretty sanguine. He was -- he was very upbeat. Whatever -- whatever is happening around him, he seems pretty settled in his own mind about whatever he's going to do with this White House.

He clearly knows that he cannot fire Jeff Sessions and Peter Baker, and I wrote about that a couple weeks ago, he also clearly would not mind if Jeff Sessions left on his own accord, and that was what came through to me.

CAMEROTA: I mean, and that may happen if you're frozen out by the president who's publicly undermining you. How long do you want to stay in job?

Next, James Comey. He shared more of his opinion about fired FBI Director James Comey, as well as what we thinks, or the president thinks that dossier was really about, so it was filled with salacious details, unconfirmed. So the president, this is not audio, but I'll read it for everyone, and told you this.

"When he," meaning Comey, "brought it, the dossier to me, I said, 'This is really made-up junk.' I didn't think about anything. I just thought, man, this is such a phony deal. So anyway, in my opinion he shared it so -- so he - so that I would think he had it out there."

One of the reporters asked, "As leverage?"

Mr. Trump says, "Yes, I think so, in retrospect." Give us more context here.

HABERMAN: I think -- I mean, he was pretty clear. I mean, what he -- what he was indicating was that he felt as if James Comey was, you know, essentially presenting him with this information and dangling it to show that he had something on the president.

I think in the president's mind that was about keeping his own job, James Comey keeping his own job. But, again, another remarkable statement from the president.

Look, he has made, in fairness, a series of remarkable statements about James Comey, you know, beginning with when he fired him, but this was a first, and this was a new revelation on how he is viewing that chain of events during the transition process.

CUOMO: I want to skip ahead. We have this stuff done in order, because you've given us so much news to unpack, Maggie, but I don't think -- I don't want to wait to talk about the Mueller stuff.

HABERMAN: We're here.

CUOMO: This was a big deal because this -- this issue of what the president can do with a special counsel or should do with a special counsel, we were talking about it before the show. It seems reasonable that, if the president has no financial dealings with Russia, no financing, nothing to be worried about, he should want the special counsel to go down that road and come up with nothing; and that would be the best validation for the president's position.

Instead he said something very different to you. I believe we have sound of it. Let's play it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mueller was looking at your finances, your family's finances, unrelated to Russia. Is that a red line?

HABERMAN: Would that be a breach of what his actual charge is?

TRUMP: I would say yes. I would say yes.


CUOMO: And then he goes on, right. He said he didn't want to answer it, but he seemed to suggest -- you tell me, Maggie, your take. You were in the room. That if Mueller went after him personally, too much, that might be too much would seem to suggest he'd move on Mueller.

[06:10:09] HABERMAN: Wasn't clear exactly what he meant, and I'm hesitant to put words in his mouth, because we did ask him that question.

CUOMO: He said he didn't want to answer it right now. HABERMAN: We asked it repeatedly, right, and we asked it different

ways. He was very cautious and thoughtfully cautious about not answering it, but he was making clear that he saw Mueller's purview as very constricted, specifically to Russia and made clear that, if it was made broader about financial issues, and to be clear, the White House is very aware, the counsel's office is very aware of the number of attorneys who Mueller has hired who are experts in financial crimes issues. They are paying close attention to that.

The president made very clear that, if things went sort of, in his mind, far afield or beyond what the corners and parameters are of this investigation and the initial charge, that he would consider it a, quote, unquote, violation.

But he did not say what he would be prepared to do. However, he clearly wants to leave that option open and wants Mueller to be aware of that.

CAMEROTA: Maggie, this next one, this next excerpt we have is confusing.


CAMEROTA: The president -- and that's why you're here. The president told you that he does not believe that he's under investigation. In fact, he went further. I'll read it: "I don't think we're under investigation. I'm not investigation. For what? I didn't do anything wrong."

Of course, "The Washington Post" reported on June 14 that the president is under investigation for possible obstruction of justice, and when he says "We're not under investigation," obviously his team is under investigation.

HABERMAN: I didn't know what we referred to, but I do think that what he was saying was not that he is under investigation since the firing of Comey. I think he meant prior to that, and I think he meant about whether he had done anything in connection with Russia. And, again, I'm interpreting. That's my -- that's my read on what he said.

CUOMO: And that would be fairly consistent with what he's said all along.

HABERMAN: That's right.

CUOMO: The first time he played on this point was when he said, "I can only speak for me."

CAMEROTA: That's correct.

CUOMO: "I didn't do anything wrong."


CUOMO: That's obviously a point of interest for him, but I have to tell you. HABERMAN: Yes.

CUOMO: It was surprising in this interview. We have a lot more to unpack about it, but his notions about where he stands in the world and what's going on were very definite and often at odds with what we know about the facts of different situations.

And it was very helpful, Maggie -- I don't know if it was for you -- but to explain why he comes after the media when he disagrees with reporting as quickly and as capriciously as he does. He has his own ideas about what's true.

HABERMAN: Look. He sees -- this is not new. This president has always had a certain view of his accomplishments and how he has done and what he sees as a divide between how that gets reported in the media and how he sees himself.

I mean, I was really struck. I was on that Paris trip last week. I haven't seen him seem that engaged and that happy in a very long time. I think that he is really enjoying the foreign travel for a number of reasons. But I think part of it is that it's about sort of exploring these new patches of land where he can woo people and make his case.

And look, I mean, look, there are obviously a number of world leaders who are very concerned about the United States' standing right now and this presidency. His visit with the French president was the antithesis of what it had been just a few weeks before.


HABERMAN: And I think that was a point of pride for President Trump.

CAMEROTA: Meg, it's always so helpful to have you give us behind-the- scenes context. Stick around. We have many more questions for you.

We do want to get to this breaking news right now. Senator John McCain has been diagnosed with brain cancer. Right now, the 80-year- old is recovering at home in Arizona after having surgery last week to remove a malignant tumor we first thought was just a blood clot.

The senator's doctors at the Mayo Clinic spoke exclusively to CNN's chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta. We should note Dr. Gupta reviewed the senator's medical reports when the senator was the presidential nominee in 2008. Sanjay joins us live from Hot Springs, Virginia, with the latest.

What do we know about this, Sanjay?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we've got a lot more details. Obviously, most people know that he had an operation this past Friday for a blood collection that was actually inside of his brain, but what exactly caused that, how he's been doing since before that time, we did get some of those details. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) 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 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.

[06:10:06] 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 p.m., McCain was in the operating room, undergoing a craniotomy to remove the 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 the 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 Beau 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 of exposure to the sun when I was very young. And fair-skinned.

GUPTA: Doctors removed a dime-sized melanoma from McCain's left temple. That was the most serious of several 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.


CUOMO: I mean, he's so tough. Everybody knows that. The question is what does he do now? Right? I mean, what are the options, Sanjay?

GUPTA: Well, you know, he's having these conversations with his doctors. This is unfolding real time, you know, so they're just getting this information, as well, Senator McCain and his family. What typically happens, Chris, is that there's more treatment necessary. Even though the surgeons feel like they got all the tumor out, they can bet that there's some microscopic bits of tumor left, so chemotherapy and radiation.

One thing is because he had this operation, they've got to wait a little bit of time before they start the operation, until that wound where he had the operation heals. That can take three or four weeks. His doctors told him that he would need a couple of weeks just to recover but, you know, he also, as you point out. He's tough. He got out of hospital the day after his surgery.

In the ICU that night, got out the next day, woke up right away after surgery, was joking around with the operation room staff and knew, you know, what year it was, knew everything was oriented just fine so doctors let him go home the next day. But it's going to be a few weeks of decisions and then potential start of therapy.

CAMEROTA: Look, the prognosis is sobering for anyone. He's 80 years old. But he is a fighter, as we know. That defines him so obviously we'll just be praying for him and following every step. Sanjay, thank you very much.

CUOMO: Lindsey Graham has it right. Only John McCain can say this is not the toughest battle that he's ever faced. And we wish him the best. We'll stay on this situation and, if anybody is going to get through this, John McCain will.

All right. The big story of the morning is certainly when the president revealed in this "New York Times" interview that meeting, the second undisclosed meeting with Vladimir Putin, the president was willing to talk about it, and he explained it fully. We have Maggie Haberman coming back to tell you the story next.


[06:17:06] CUOMO: All right. We've actually learned a lot, thanks to this "New York Times" interview with the president, what he thinks on important issues. A lot of it is surprising.

Let's bring back Maggie Haberman, one of the three "New York Times" reporters who were in that interview. We also have political director for CNN, David Chalian, and CNN political analyst John Avlon.

Another big topic that came up this second undisclosed, for about 10 days, meeting with Vladimir Putin. You asked, and the president responded. Here's what he said.


TRUMP: I said hello to Putin. Really, pleasantries more than anything else. I actually talked about Russian adoption with him, which is interesting, because that was part of a conversation that Don had in that meeting.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you know the time that they had the meeting?

TRUMP: No, I didn't know anything about the meeting.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CUOMO: So Maggie, interesting. He's saying he talked about adoption there almost coincidentally and brings it up that his son's meeting was about that also. What was the suggestion there, that this was a topic that was important to the Russians? What was your read on that?

HABERMAN: My read -- that was my read on it. My read on it was not that the U.S. president raised it all again. Again, I want to be clear, because we don't know specifically what happened; and he didn't say, so some of this is speculation.

But what is interesting about it is the talking about Russian adoptions is really related to talking about sanctions. And so it made me wonder what specifically Vladimir Putin said or in what context he raised it.

The U.S. president did not say very much about that yesterday in his interview with us. He didn't go further than what you heard on the audio, really, but it was very clear that he described this meeting as fairly brief, which is consistent with what the White House said.

CAMEROTA: Fifteen minutes, right, is what he told the...

HABERMAN: Right. And others have said it was close to an hour. You know, the White House argument is that -- is that this president was in the room and that other people who were talking about it weren't. I don't know that we're ever going to know what was said.

CAMEROTA: Maggie, one more point. Did the president tell you that he first wandered over to Putin's side of the room because that's where Melania was seated?


CAMEROTA: His wife, the first lady. She was seated next to Vladimir Putin, which some people have said is an unusual seating arrangement.


CAMEROTA: And then do we know where Melania was during this conversation?

HABERMAN: It appeared she was present for the whole thing, but, again, I'm speculating, just based on how he described the scene. I didn't get the sense that she had disappeared off anywhere.

CUOMO: Now, you said earlier, Maggie, that you haven't seen him this sanguine for quite some time. You know, when were you in Paris with him for that trip and then in this interview. He didn't have the full cadre of supporters there to intimidate you guys this time. It seemed like it was much more of a casual setting.

HABERMAN: I don't think it's really intimidated us before. But it was a pretty chill scene. That wasn't my takeaway, Chris, honestly. I do agree, it was a very sort of lax setting despite being in the Oval. [06:20:02] My takeaway and, again, this, may prove wrong, but my

takeaway was that, whenever Donald Trump is sort of this calm or sort of seeming at peace and the disparity between his level of sort of visible anxiety or agita and some on his staff is pretty wide. It's a big gap.

He seemed as if he has some sense of what he is going to do with this presidency, what he's going to do with his White House. He has some plan in his own mind. He may not have read anyone in on it yet, but he seems to know where he's going.

CAMEROTA: And also, I mean, you have also some interesting color that we'll get to in a moment about how Ivanka walked in at some point during the interview. She brought her daughter, Arabella, 6 years old, about their interaction. President Trump and his granddaughters, very interesting. He also wanted Arabella to speak -- to sort of show off and speak Chinese for you.

HABERMAN: I do that with my -- I do that with my kids, too.

CAMEROTA: Yes, mine, too. But they speak pig Latin.

All right. So we'll get into all of that in a second. But first, John, I want to bring you in. Obviously, this is a wide-ranging, fascinating interview. What jumps out at you?

JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, I mean, first of it all, the really unprecedented nature of the lack of support he's showing Jeff Sessions. I mean, however he's reconstructed the time line in his own mind about recusal, this is a president who does not support his own attorney general and really seems to be paranoid that his entire Justice Department may be conspiring against him.

Also telegraphing, I think, in a most troubling way for the country, the possibility of firing Mueller and his investigation if it goes outside the lanes, which he has prescribed in his mind, which is Russia. Those are both bombshells, and they're deeply destabilizing, frankly, to the sort of justice system we have in the country.

CUOMO: David, was your read similar to John's in terms of the urgency that the president was conveying about Mueller? Because Maggie fairly says they asked him several times about that. He didn't want to give an express answer on what the consequence would be for going too far in the president's estimation down the road, investigating his or his family's finances. I don't know how Mueller can't do that within the -- within his purview, why he wouldn't do that, but what was your take about the urgency?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes, I mean, since Mueller's appointment I feel like President Trump has been keeping pretty consistent in keeping the option out there and dangling and available to him of somehow getting rid of him, which obviously would be a politically devastating option for him to choose. That combined with Sessions, I do share John's concerns.

The thing about Sessions that I find so odd, as Maggie has said and wrote in the interview. It is clear that Donald Trump knows that he can't fire Sessions. Well, what is this? Isn't this firing by another way just pushing and pushing and pushing? I don't think he gets to just wash his hands of this, if indeed these comments result in Jeff Sessions leaving.

I understand it's not the same as what the president did with Comey in actually getting rid of him, but there certainly would be a cause and effect relationship there that would be very concerning in the midst of what the Justice Department is involved with right now.

CAMEROTA: Boy, Maggie, it's fascinating that Jeff Sessions finds himself in this position. He was his earliest, most vocal ardent supporter. He was on our air touting President Trump, then candidate Trump when it wasn't that popular among Republicans to do so, and you know, there's always talk about loyalty and how important it is to President Trump; but I don't know if it's reciprocal.

HABERMAN: Well, I think in President Trump's mind, this was an act of disloyalty. He basically said that, you know, that to recuse yourself from this issue was unfair to the president, so in his mind that's where the loyalty goes.

However, Jeff Sessions did what -- what most legal experts thought was the prudent thing after he had, you know, had this botched answer, and to be fair to the president on his criticism of that Senate testimony, a lot of people have said they think that Jeff Sessions turned what was essentially an easy question into a very complicated one; but I think that that is where the president's head is.

CUOMO: You also have to remember, the president is somebody who doesn't believe in admitting any fault, so he probably saw this as a mistake organically. That you should have never said that you met with him. You know, you should have -- you should have thought about it before. You should have had your stories first.

HABERMAN: You shouldn't have messed up the answer.

CUOMO: That's right.

AVLON: But I mean, A, you know, all Trump surrogates saying that there was no mistake in Jeff Sessions' testimony and then, of course, the president admitting the obvious undercuts their position. But I think what Maggie is pointing out is this, that loyalty is a one-way street to President Trump; and that's got to put all his most senior supporters, cabinet officials and staffers on notice. That is a -- a kind of bullying technique that is deeply destabilizing, but it cannot result in a solidity of government if people feel they could be undercut and abandoned at any moment from the guy at the top.

[06:25:11] CAMEROTA: Maggie, just can you give us a little bit of color in the room? You said he appeared sanguine. Was it -- I guess, Hope Hicks, his communications person was in there with you.

What was the mood in there?

HABERMAN: Hope was there. It was -- and then it was just Peter Baker, Mike Schmidt and myself. The president has four chairs set up the same way that he does -- did at Trump Tower in front of his desk. That's in front of the Resolute Desk now.

He previously had only had a picture of his father on a credenza behind him. He's added a picture of what I think is his mother and some veteran-related medals or something.

It was -- it was very relaxed. I mean, he was -- you know, he was pretty breezy. He was drinking a soda. He had that red button that gets him a soda on top of the desk. At one point, his granddaughter Arabella, one of Ivanka's children, ran into the room. And I think it may have been sort of the same thing as the -- Melania Trump wandering into the Putin interview meeting, that Trump and Putin had that ended.

I think this might have been an effort to try to cut this a little short, but the president wanted to keep talking. He created his granddaughter. He said, you know, "Hello there, baby." Gave her a kiss; told her to speak Chinese to us. She did that twice, and then she ran back out. She was very sweet.

He was -- he was -- look, he was irritated talking about Sessions, and he was irritates talking about Mueller and Comey, but generally speaking, his mood, especially considering he had come from this health care lunch, was pretty optimistic.

CUOMO: He was irritated about them, but he was feeling good about himself. I thought it was interesting that he was so taken with the scope and the scale, the pomp and circumstance of the Bastille Day parade that he was part of. He was talking to you about how many planes were in the air overhead.


CUOMO: And comparing it to the Super Bowl, and he even suggested, it seemed, that he wanted to do something like it on Pennsylvania Avenue.

HABERMAN: Well, he did, and it's funny you picked up on that. He had one of the -- one of the lightest moments in the interview, was when he was talking about Macron and the guy really loves holding my hand. And there was this moment at the end of the Bastille Day festivities where the two presidents had walked off the viewing stand and Macron shook Trump's hand and really wouldn't let it go.

And it was -- I was watching, and this was going on for several meetings, and so Trump made a sort of light-hearted joke about it. But he -- look, he loves a good parade, and he also is a bit of a military enthusiast. So there have been reports around the time of Trump's inaugural parade that he had wanted to include some military aspect; and he was told he couldn't. He clearly has not let go of that idea.

AVLON: What could possibly loves wrong, a man who loves a parade and is a military enthusiast? Look, I mean, the fact he keeps returning to his desire for a military parade on this inauguration day, I think, says a lot about his psychology and his approach to the office, what he loves about it, which is the pomp and the circumstances and sort of the bunting that would be associated with a strongman. But it does nothing to give us any kind of civic confidence about his commitment to little "R" Republican principles.

I mean, this is just all sort of -- let's not lose sight of how surreal the fundamental transcript of this interview is.

CAMEROTA: Maggie, thank you for sharing all of your reporting and all the color in the room with us.

So Republicans are huddling well into the night in hopes of finding a replacement to go along with their repeal effort on Obamacare. What do Americans want? Well, we have a brand-new CNN poll on this very topic next.