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Trump: I Can Be "More Presidential" Than Anyone Except Lincoln; Study: Brain Disease CTE Found in 99 Percent of Ex-NFL Players Brains; Trump's Twitter War: What Is It Good For?. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired July 26, 2017 - 06:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[06:30:54] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Russian officials are slamming a U.S. house vote to slap new sanctions on the Kremlin, one of them calling for, quote, painful retaliation against Americans. It's seen as a direct challenge to President Trump's authority. Why? Well, because it gives Congress the power to block efforts by the White House to weaken those sanctions.

And the vote was huge in favor of doing so. Republicans and Democrats joining in checking the president's power in this regard. The measure also includes new sanctions on Iran and North Korea. It is unclear when the Senate will vote on it.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: So, there was this close and dangerous encounter between a U.S. Navy ship and an armed Iranian patrol boat in the northern Persian Gulf.

(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)

CAMEROTA: OK. According to U.S. Defense officials, the Iranian vessel failed to respond to radio calls, then those flares. And it came within 150 yards before the U.S. Thunderbolt fired those five warning shots off you heard to head off a possible collision. The Iranian ship then stopped its provocative action, but it did linger in the area for hours.

CUOMO: Something to keep in mind here, also. People will hear 150 yards. That's not that close, right? It's 450 feet. It is nothing when you're on the water.

You know, even guys like me with little rinky-dink fishing boats, it's so small, it is short that it tells you that it was completely intentional. It was easily avoidable. So, this was a desired confrontation.

CAMEROTA: Troubling.

CUOMO: All right. So, being presidential, it's easy, says Donald Trump. In fact, he says he's more presidential than any president in history with the exception of Abraham Lincoln. Is this traditional Trump hyperbole, exaggeration, or is it a window into a deeper truth about the president? Next.

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[06:36:23] CAMEROTA: So, President Trump last night was bragging that he could be more presidential than any of his predecessors except for Abraham Lincoln. What does he mean by that?

Joining us to discuss is CNN political commentator Jack Kingston, who was a senior adviser to the Trump campaign, and former Florida Congressman David Jolly.

Great to see both of you, gentlemen, here.

I want to actually play for you what President Trump said because it wasn't just braggadocios. It was revealing. And it's the first sentence. So, let me play it for you and get your take on what he was trying to tell us.

Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's so easy to act presidential, but that's not going to get it done. In fact, I said, it's much easier, by the way, to act presidential than what we're doing here tonight. Believe me. And I said, with the exception of the late, great Abraham Lincoln, I can be more presidential than any president that's ever held this office. That I can tell you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: OK. David, when he says acting presidential is not going to get it done, what does he mean?

DAVID JOLLY (R-FL), FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: Well, he's missing the lessons of history, and I suppose it was kind of him to exempt Abraham Lincoln from his declaration. But, Alisyn, listen, those we consider presidential have earned it, not declared it, FDR, JFK during the Cuban missile crisis, Reagan in Berlin.

Trump on the other hand, as we have seen repeatedly, continues to engage in self-promotion, suggesting he is above accountability and obviously the division through insults and through his Twitter feet. And where that matters, for us as a country, why we should be concerned is because in moments of national crisis, in moments of national decision, I don't believe this president has positioned himself to actually be one that can unite the country.

I mean, we have grave concerns about this president's leadership, many of us in the country, and there will come a time when that matters when we do need to unite under his leadership, and I don't know that we're there yet.

CAMEROTA: Jack, how do you hear it?

JACK KINGSTON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think presidential in the sense that David is referring to, he has done that. He's done that with assembling I think one of the best cabinets in the history of the country. His State of the Union Address or his address to Congress I though was magnificent. His speech to Poland, outlining the West versus the terrorism and --

CAMEROTA: And, Jack, I'm sorry to interrupt, but you just fastened on the two things, the two moments where he was scripted and he got a lot of plaudits for being sort of disciplined and perhaps staying on a great message. But the rest of the time, the other six months, I mean, what he's saying is that he knows how to do that, those two things you cited, he can do that, but it's not going to get it done.

In other words --

KINGSTON: Well --

CAMEROTA: Hold on, let me just ask you, do you think he's saying that flame throwing is more effective?

KINGSTON: Well, actually, I think what he was saying is presidential in the kind of status quo, business-as-usual sense, he doesn't want to do. He does want to disrupt Washington. He does want to break the -- maybe the elite monopoly that runs this city, and I think that's what he's referring to, is I came to Washington to absolutely take the place -- not take it apart, but turn it on its head in many respects and shake it up.

And David and I served in Congress. And we know whether the Democrats or Republicans are in charge, status quo always seems to win.

[06:40:04] CAMEROTA: David, very quickly, do you want to respond to that shaking up idea?

JOLLY: Yes, sure. Look, I love Jack and we do need to shake things up. But I disagree. I don't see this president as presidential at all. This is a president who fell asleep communicating to the free world on Twitter and introduced us to covfefe, a president who has insulted world leaders and who continues to change his position on health reform, by the day, depending on the pressure that he feels.

CAMEROTA: OK. Guys, I have to play for you this conversation that was caught on a hot microphone. This is between Senator Susan Collins and Jack Reed. And they're talking about the president, and their candor with each other is striking, and what their real feelings are, are noteworthy.

So, let's just listen to what they were caught saying yesterday.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

SEN. JACK REED (D), RHODE ISLAND: I think he's crazy.

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: I'm worried.

REED: I mean, I don't say that lightly and as a kind of goofy guy. And, you know, the -- this thing, you know, if we don't get a budget deal --

COLLINS: I know.

REED: -- we're going to be paralyzed. The DOD is going to be paralyzed, everybody is going to be paralyzed.

COLLINS: I know. I don't even think he knows that there is a BOC or anything. I really don't.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: OK. That audio was worse than I thought. We had the transcript up but I don't know if you guys could read it.

Basically, what they're saying to each other is that they don't think the president knows what the Budget Control Act is. They don't think he knows what dire straits the federal government is in, in terms of the budget, and what the consequences are.

Jack, what is it like to hear two lawmakers tasked with doing this think that their president doesn't understand what's going on?

KINGSTON: Well, first of all, they violated the rule that every mike should be considered live and they should know better.

I think what you have is two friends saying a lot of snarky comments, you know, and kind of stroking each other, if you will. But the truth is, here's what you need to know about the budget -- we spend too much, we waste too much, we tax too much. The government is too big.

And I think the president not only knows that, but he appointed one of the best budget directors in history in Mick Mulvaney who, frankly, could be able to debate both of those senators and come out quite well. He knows the budget thoroughly, and that's his job.

But the president does know what the balanced budget agreement was. He knows the agreement that we did in -- I think it was August 3rd, 2011, and that's been the budget of the land ever since then. They're working to get a new budget done now.

But, you know, I think you have two people just kind of maybe talking a little smack. I thought what they said about Blake Farenthold was atrocious, that they would say that about a House member in a seven- year old photo, making fun of him.

CAMEROTA: Look, we haven't played that part, because it's a little off topic. He's in pajamas with a Playboy bunny of some kind. They're talking about his appearance. It's because he said he would challenge Susan Collins to a duel, if he could.

But, David, what do you hear in their exchange?

JOLLY: Yes. So, here's what I hear. Look, different presidents have different leadership styles. This president does not lead by understanding policy details, that's clear. I don't think he could hold a town hall about his health care plan and be able to defend it. I also don't think he does understand the budget. But his is an opportunity for Congress to step up and actually lead.

Look, I made the case, Congress didn't run on Trump's platform. They ran on their own. They frankly distanced themselves, many members, from the president during the election.

Well, why fall in line behind this policy leadership now? Congress members like Senator Reed, Senator Collins, frankly, Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, should step up and own their Article I agenda and their authority to lead with policies that they have worked on for years. When they complete it, drop it on the president's desk and say, Mr. President, sign here.

CAMEROTA: Congressman Jolly, Congressman Kingston, thank you very much for joining us today.

KINGSTON: Thanks.

JOLLY: Good to be with you.

CAMEROTA: Chris?

CUOMO: Big story this morning. Research on traumatic brain injuries in football players. It is new and we have the details in "The Bleacher Report", ahead.

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[06:47:49] CUOMO: All right. We got results from the largest study ever about TBI, traumatic brain injury, and football, and the link is stronger than ever to this degenerative disease called CTE.

Andy Scholes has more in "The Bleacher Report."

We know that Sanjay Gupta looked at this, but this research from Boston University, this is more than guys like us expected to learn, Andy.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Chris.

I mean, it's definitely concerning for the game of football. Researchers at Boston University studied the donated brains of 111 deceased former NFL players, and they found that 110 of them were found to have a degenerative brain disease CTE. That's more than 99 percent. In total, CTE was diagnosed in 87 percent of 2002 former football players studied, that included high school and college players.

Now, CTE is believed to be caused by repeated trauma to the head. It can only be diagnosed in someone after death. Now, it's important to note that in this study, many of the donated brains came from former players and their families who were worried about CTE while the player was still alive.

Lead author of the study said there are many questions that remain unanswered like how common is this and how many years of football are too many. Now, the NFL issued a statement saying these studies are important for advancing science related to head trauma and the league will continue to work with a wide range of experts to improve health of current and former NFL athletes -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: That is really valuable that they're beginning to look at all this and try to get some answers. Andy, thank you very much.

So what drives President Trump's tweets? Well, we're going to look at his social media habit and the patterns it reveals and what all that tells us, next.

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[06:52:41] CUOMO: President Trump and Twitter. He loves it. The public and fellow politicians often do not. The president calls his tweeting modern day presidential, an effective way to reach his supporters directly. And let's be honest, the way to go around those who check him like us.

He's got more than 34 million followers. Since taking office, he's tweeted nearly a thousand times. What do we see in those?

What most of them, the timing is relevant, come in the morning. Why? Because he's often watching us. In fact, he could tweet any moment.

He watches us and other morning cable fair and looking to attack whatever he does not agree with. So, is it effective? It depends on how you measure it.

For the country at large, according to a nationwide ABC News/"Washington Post" poll, a full 67 percent of you disapprove of his Twitter use, the words used to describe his tweets most often are inappropriate, insulting and dangerous. You have to go weigh down at the bottom of the list to find words like effective and refreshing.

Look, it's clear his tweets are to fire up his base, and it works. But it is that effectiveness that raises concerns. Most tweets pander to cynicism and rejection of institutions. And they do frankly what the president does most, attack whoever opposes him, judges, lawmakers, of course the media, anyone who seeks to check power or speak truth to it, any suggestion of his legitimacy.

He has slammed Hillary Clinton a full 32 times over Twitter since his inauguration, bringing back the old familiar theme of trying to prosecute her just days ago. Remember, the president often says the media keeps bringing up his election, but the numbers tell the story. It is, in fact, the president who keeps bringing it up.

Now, his clobbering of Clinton is nothing compared to what he says about a free press, tweeting about us a full 92 times, even threatening reporters in a way that is certainly beneath a president.

But the last question about his tweeting is probably the most important. What is the effect of all this negativity generated by the president? Does it heal the divide? Does it help secure his signature promise of making America great again? Well, we know for sure there is one thing it does, it drives coverage.

Why? Well, the tone and substance of his tweets matter. The tone comes from the top, so do our headlines.

So, if consensus, unity and a positive message to move the country forward is not the goal of this tweeting, what is?

[06:55:05] So, that's what we know about the tweeting and some of the questions that's raised. In fact, as suggested, the president did just tweet about his crowd size last night in Ohio. And you know what? This is a step in the right direction for the president. The crowd in Ohio was amazing last night, broke all records.

We don't know if that's true, but what's the point of this tweet? It's positive. He had a great time in a great state and he'll be back soon. Obviously, bonding with his base, getting out there in the country is something the president enjoys and often serves as a beneficial distraction from what's going on in Washington.

Let's discuss all this with Jeremy Diamond, a CNN White House reporter, and Michael Smerconish, CNN political commentator and host of "The Michael Smerconish" program on Sirius XM.

Smerc, let's start with, first, what do you make of the analysis of his tweets? Where do I miss it?

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I thought it was excellent. And I particularly appreciate the point about timing. I look at the president every day on Twitter before I go in the radio. In my hand, yesterday's 6:00 a.m. hour, seven different tweets. My list might not even be complete.

And what he does by that timing is set the stage for programs like yours and Alisyn's on television, mine on radio and the entire news cycle of the day. It's almost as if we're playing catch-up from the get-go and he has set the tone.

One other observation I would make -- his base is comprised of people who like him and people who despise his opponents. So, that's why it's constantly bashing Hillary, it's constantly bashing Obama, and he's playing very effectively to that core.

So, even though overall, Americans say they don't like the tone, that's OK. He's not playing to the country at large. He's playing to a small sliver that he needs to stay in his camp.

CUOMO: And a tactic that will be measured in his ultimate performance, right? Will he expand his base and get elected again, what will it mean to his own party in the midterms? We'll see.

Jeremy, in its immediate impact, how do you think the tweeting does shape coverage? Is the suggest correct that tone comes from the top, or headlines come from the top. What he says is going to dictate what winds up being reported?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Absolutely. I mean, listen, we know these tweets are presidential statements. It's just the same that he could tweet something just as much as he could say something from the Rose Garden of the White House as he did yesterday. And I can barely count the number of times when the news cycle or my day in particular has been torpedoed by one or a series of tweets.

But I think it's important to look at whether or not there is a grand strategy behind these tweets. You know, I think we often try to find some deeper meaning in what the president does or how he approaches media coverage, but a lot of times -- sometimes there is a strategy behind these tweets, to drive coverage and use the bully pulpit of the presidency, but other times, it's not so much that.

Sometimes, he's simply venting. He's found Twitter as an outlet for his frustrations. That's the way in which he used this platform since before he even ran for the presidency, he was an avid Twitter user as well.

And so, I think we see that consistently even today, venting frustrations and kind of getting it out before the day starts.

CUOMO: You know, well-articulated but it also brings up a frustration, Michael, because often it seems that the president gets a defense by his own randomness. Lawmakers will say, look, I don't pay attention to the tweets. Neither should you.

John McCain said, I pay more attention to his actions. And to me, that always feels like a very hollow excuse for something. How can you ignore anything that comes out of the president of the United States? Is it different that he tweets it than if he were to whisper it to someone in the hallway or say it at a meeting in the White House?

SMERCONISH: Well, that suggests that there's an inconsistency between the Twitter feed and the way he comports himself.

CUOMO: Good point.

SMERCONISH: I don't see any inconsistency. I think what you see in the tweets is a good measure of the man.

Listen, Chris, he has a good ear. He has a very good ear to be able to, you know, put chum in the water for the sharks. He knows what ignites that base of his.

Look at the speech he delivered in West Virginia to the Boy Scout Jamboree which many of us felt was inappropriate for that audience. I think he was feeding on the response he was seeing. I would love to see a side by side of what the intended remarks were and what he actually said.

And I think what you would probably find is that as he heard the ovation and the response, he took more and more deviations. These tweets, they reflect that same thinking on his part.

CUOMO: Jeremy, what's your take on Anthony Scaramucci coming in and the shakeup that is anticipated and whether or not this is going to really change anything? Because the president has been tweeting in full effect since Anthony Scaramucci got in there. We haven't seen a change on that level.

What's your guess?

DIAMOND: Yes, we certainly haven't. I think we've even seen a series of pretty significant tweet storms even by Trump standards in the last couple days since Anthony Scaramucci has been appointed. I think we're going to see a little bit of a different style as far as how Scaramucci approaches these versus how Sean Spicer approached them.