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Senate Hears From Key Witness In Probe; GOP Senators Shift To "Skinny" Repeal Of Obamacare; Apple Supplier Foxconn To Invest $10B In Wisconsin. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired July 27, 2017 - 09:00   ET


[09:00:15] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm John Berman. The breaking news this morning, the shocking battle inside the West Wing of the White House.

Stunning, extraordinary, bizarre, all those words apply because of who this fight is between, the Chief of Staff and the new communications director. And stunning, extraordinary, bizarre because of just how public this fight is playing out on CNN this morning right before our eyes, on the T.V., as we watch communications director Anthony Scaramucci seemed to publicly knife chief of staff Reince Priebus.

HARLOW: That's right. You'll hear from him in his own words in just a moment, but the headline here is that he says if Reince wants to explain he's not a leaker, let him do that.

Scaramucci was calling in to CNN to explain a very confusing statement he made on Twitter last night, quote, in light of the leak of my financial disclosure info, which is a felony, I will be contacting the FBI and the Justice Department. Hashtag, swamp. And he tagged Chief of Staff Reince Priebus.

Now, he appears to be blaming Priebus for the leak of this information, which, by the way, appears to be totally public information on the public record. Here's part of the conversation that ensued this morning between Anthony Scaramucci and our Chris Cuomo. This is right after, by the way, Scaramucci says he got off the phone with the President.


ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR (via telephone): It's absolutely, completely, and totally reprehensible. And the -- as you know, from the Italian expression, the fish stinks from the head down. But I can tell you two fish that don't stink, OK, and that's me and the President.

I don't like the activity that's going on in the White House. I don't like what they're doing to my friend. I don't like what they're doing to the President of the United States or their fellow colleagues in the West Wing.

Now, if you want to talk about the Chief of Staff, we have had odds. We have had differences. When I said we were brothers from the podium, that's because we're rough on each other. Some brothers are like Cain and Abel. Other brothers can fight with each other and get along.

I don't know if this is reparable or not. That will be up to the President. But he's the Chief of Staff. He is responsible for understanding and uncovering and helping me do that inside the White House, which is why I put that tweet out last night.

When the journalists who actually know who the leakers are, like Ryan Lizza, they know the leakers. Jonathan Swan at Axios. These guys know who the leakers are. I respect them for not telling me because I understand and respect journalistic integrity.

However, when I put out a tweet and I put Reince's name in the tweet, they're all making the assumption that it's him because journalists know who the leakers are. So if Reince wants to explain that he's not a leaker, let him do that.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: These tweets seem to indicate a problem that didn't start today, and I'm not talking about the leaking.

It is well known, Anthony Scaramucci, that Reince Priebus was against you getting a job in the administration. You've talked about it privately with reporters. He has denied it, but there are tons of reports that that denial is hollow. And when you named him in the tweet, it seems to call that.

Where is your head on that situation? What do you believe the reality to be? Because it seems much more like Cain and Abel than it does brothers who can get along.

SCARAMUCCI (via telephone): Here's what I believe. After running two reasonably successful companies and one which the entire world knows I'm about to sell for $180 million, here's what I know. When you're running a successful company or an organization, you can take this human equation to the bank. Under confidence plus insecurity always equals paranoia and backstabbing.

And so what you have to do as a manager is you have to go through the process and the system and figure out where the backstabbing is coming from. That will lead you to the people that are insecure or under confident. And if you can't bolster them and make them better, then you have to remove them from the process because then it becomes addition by subtraction. That's what I know.

CUOMO: Understood.

SCARAMUCCI (via telephone): So when you -- I don't want to talk about anybody specifically because what I -- because we're on a live television wire, but the people know. The journalists know.

You know, the young kids on the comms team who are taking a lot of heat from me right now, they know, Chris. The people know. You know who knows? The President of the United States. The President of the United States, again, whether you guys like the

guy or you dislike the guy, he's the smartest person that I've ever worked for, OK? So let "Vanity Fair" write about that. I honestly don't care.

He has intuition, he has judgment, and he has a temperament in a way that I have never seen. Last night, we were having dinner, I told his wife -- I looked over to the first lady, and I said, I forgot how much fun I used to have when I hung out with him on the campaign trail.

[09:05:01] OK? He's a very interesting and very unique guy. There are people inside the administration that think it is their job to save America from this President.

CUOMO: Reince Priebus' name is connected to this every time it comes out in the last 24 hours.

SCARAMUCCI (via telephone): Reince, Reince, Reince, Reince, Reince, Reince --

CUOMO: Do you have concerns about him?

SCARAMUCCI (via telephone): Reince Priebus can speak to you about that and he can address that himself, OK.

CUOMO: All right. We will ask him.

SCARAMUCCI (via telephone): People know my history, between me and Reince, OK?


SCARAMUCCI (via telephone): I can speak for my own actions. He's going to need to speak for his own actions.


HARLOW: Let's talk about all of that because there is quite a bit to unpack. Jackie Kucinich is here, CNN political analyst. David Swerdlick, our political commentator. Caitlin Huey-Burns, national political reporter for RealClearPolitics.

So, Jackie, this is the head of all White House communications who does not report to Reince Priebus, who reports right to the President, publicly knifing Reince Priebus on live television this morning saying Reince can come out, he can explain himself. What is going on? What are the implications?

JACKIE KUCINICH, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, THE DAILY BEAST: Well, what you said at the beginning there, that this is someone the President has made -- he doesn't have to report to Reince. He reports -- Anthony Scaramucci reports straight to the President.

HARLOW: Right.

KUCINICH: So in some ways, the President did set up this rival dynamic because usually the President -- the communications director would report to the Chief of Staff. For whatever reason, that chain of command was broken, so it does set up this power struggle between two people that very clearly don't really think much of each other.

Now, the danger here is that the President -- I wouldn't be surprised if he kind of likes this back and forth, but to go from Cain and Abel to Itchy and Scratchy where they blow each other up, that's not entirely impossible.

Remember, when Steve Bannon and Reince Priebus were fighting, the President got tired of that. So it seems like these two -- either, you know, someone's going to have to leave or they're going to have to work it out because this is -- whether it's a distraction they want right now, eventually, we've seen this in the past, the President does get tired of this.

BERMAN: For both Cain and Abel and Itchy and Scratchy, for the record, it ends badly for one of them always.

KUCINICH: Yes, it does end badly.

BERMAN: You know, which I think is part of the issue here. And, Caitlin, the other part of the issue here is that Anthony Scaramucci made clear that he got on the phone with Chris Cuomo just after getting off the phone with the President of the United States. Is it fair to believe that the President sanctions this public attack on his own Chief of Staff?

CAITLIN HUEY-BURNS, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, REALCLEARPOLITICS: Well, that was the really significant point to me, was that they had this conversation and Trump gave Scaramucci his blessing to go on CNN and talk about these kinds of things.

What's really striking here is the way in which Priebus is left twisting in the wind. And we've seen the similar thing happening with Jeff Sessions here, but it's a very different scenario.

There are, if would be, significant political backlash for firing Jeff Sessions, the Attorney General, not to mention all the legal questions that would come of it. Firing Reince Priebus would not be all that surprising, and I don't think it would induce the same political backlash here.

So it's really interesting the way in which they are having this conversation publicly, really leaving Priebus out to dry here saying he can defend himself, I'm not going to do that, but also raising questions about Reince Priebus without letting him defend himself.

HARLOW: You know, David, Caitlin makes a good point. I was live on air when he named Reince Priebus Chief of Staff and Steve Bannon, senior advisor. Many people said that was sort of to cut it down the middle because he didn't necessarily want Reince Priebus as his number one choice but it was to appease certainly the establishment of the party.

DAVID SWERDLICK, ASSISTANT EDITOR, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes. HARLOW: So you're Reince Priebus this morning. You've had your

orange juice.

BERMAN: Well, hopefully it was spiked maybe.

HARLOW: Right, maybe a screwdriver.


SWERDLICK: Just one cup of coffee.

HARLOW: And --

KUCINICH: Maybe some Bailey's and cereal.

HARLOW: There you go.


HARLOW: And you are not tweeting anything. You are not saying anything. You are thinking what, David?

SWERDLICK: So I think you're thinking what Caitlin just said, right, that there won't be a political outcry if he's ultimately fired but it -- because he's does -- he's not like Sessions who has all his former Senate colleagues to sort of rally around him. And he is seen as this establishment figure, and Trump's sort of base of support comes from the anti-establishment wing of the Republican Party.

But at the same time, I think you're thinking, let's see how this plays out. Don't jump on Twitter. Don't immediately react and make -- just like Sessions, make the President make a move on you as opposed to capitulating. That's what I would do if I were him, although I can't imagine being in his shoes in the first place.

Can I just say one thing, though, about Scaramucci, which is this, I think the White House is quickly wasting him as a resource. If you go back to last Friday, he gave that affable, nimble press conference where he introduced himself, introduced Sarah Huckabee Sanders as the new Press Secretary, kind of said, look, Spicer's arm is tired, we're going to the bullpen for middle relief.

And now, they've already -- they're starting to use him up and make him the story in the same way that Spicer was the story.

HARLOW: That's true.

SWERDLICK: And I don't think that's going to go down well for the White House.

[09:10:05] BERMAN: When you say they, is it they or is it he? I mean, the question I have, Jackie, is, you know --


BERMAN: -- I'm old enough to remember when the President didn't like other people becoming stars within the White House, and Anthony Scaramucci just called into "NEW DAY" for half an hour. And while he claimed, you know, Jackie, it's all about the President, but, you know, he talked about himself an awful lot. I know an awful lot about the neighborhood where Anthony Scaramucci grew up. And you know --


BERMAN: And his mother and father back then.

KUCINICH: And Chris Cuomo apparently.

BERMAN: That too. But, look, how do you think the President will look upon this?

KUCINICH: The President OK'd this. He made that very clear. I don't know how many times Scaramucci said during the course of that interview that he had spoken to the President that morning and that the President had said, go ahead and call in.

So clearly, at this point, this is sanctioned. And that he has been OK'd because one thing seems very clear, is that he is -- Anthony Scaramucci has a direct line to this President and is very comfortable, you know, in telling everyone that and showing that, you know, he's ready to go to bat against anyone for him and for himself.

And that it seems like he wants to make it very clear inside this White House that he won't be pushed around. That said, I think David's right. There is a little bit -- it's curious that they're using him in this way so early in his tenure.


HARLOW: You know, Caitlin, one word that we have not uttered yet on this broadcast, 11 minutes and 18 seconds in, is Russia. And I wonder if there is some sort of strategy here from the White House.

You know, it's the President who has been just banging on this leaks drum over and over and over, attacking Jeff Sessions for not doing enough on leaks. And Anthony Scaramucci is all about leaks. Is there something else here? Is there a strategy here, take the focus away from that and talk about leaks and get everyone, you know, focused on that?

HUEY-BURNS: Well, certainly, the President feels under siege with everything going on with Russia. Remember, that's kind of the sticking point, of course, with Jeff Sessions and all of these other things going on.

He doesn't feel, at least publicly, from we've seen from interviews that he is being defended, most importantly not being defended on air. And so to Jackie's point, Scaramucci goes out there and speaks the language of the President. You heard over and over and over again the way in which he was praising the President, the smartest person he knew.

BERMAN: Right. HUEY-BURNS: You know, the top strategist. He has command, which was

what Scaramucci was trying to say, of this White House when we know outside, of course, it's chaotic.

BERMAN: Right.

HUEY -BURNS: What's important here about the Chief of Staff scenario is that this comes in the middle of these Russia probes, in the middle of a huge health care battle, biggest legislative battle right now, and a host of other things, not to mention the policy introduced yesterday with -- on trans service members without a plan to implement it.


HUEY-BURNS: So if the public is wondering why all this matters, I think that's really important to consider.

HARLOW: You know, David, quick last word. Does Reince Priebus survive until August? We're at June 27th -- July 27th right now.

SWERDLICK: Well, I kind of feel like they did, Sean -- they -- and sorry, Poppy, the "they" is the White House team. I think they did Sean Spicer a favor by giving him sort of a window to exit while he could make it look like he was outraged about being replaced rather than him just being drummed out because they didn't like the way he was doing his job.

I think that this may be the same kind of situation for the Chief of Staff, Reince Priebus, where he has not been effective, but they're going to make it able -- make it a situation where he can get out of there out of a fight, a personal fight with Scaramucci, rather than simply being dismissed for not doing his job.

BERMAN: Yes. It's not even 9:15 yet so stay tuned, everyone.


BERMAN: Jackie, David, Caitlin, thanks so much.

You know, next hour, we're going to have Ryan Lizza on with us right now to share his side of the story. He was part of this Twitter back and forth all night with Anthony Scaramucci and really a player in this drama. So stay tuned for that.

All right. Happening now on Capitol Hill. There is this Senate hearing digging into Russian meddling in the election. There is a key witness right now testifying, William Browder. Browder personally knows the Russian lawyer who met with Donald Trump, Jr. in the controversial sit-down last summer.

HARLOW: Our Manu Raju is on Capitol Hill with more.

So this is sort of part deux, part two, of the hearing yesterday. What's significant about Browder? MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Well, he has a lot of

experience in working in Russia. He's an individual who's actually, at one point, one of the largest investors in Russia.

And he has firsthand knowledge of alleged corruption with the Russian government, about Vladimir Putin, and he was instrumental in pushing the Magnitsky Act that became law here in the U.S. in 2012. And something that Russia now wants to repeal.

[09:14:53] But in addition to all of that, he has firsthand knowledge of some of the players who were in that Trump Tower meeting on June 2016 with Donald Trump, Jr., with Paul Manafort, with Jared Kushner, with other Russians, that same meeting, of course, we've been reporting about how Donald Trump Jr. was promised dirt from Russians in an effort that he was told by the Russian government to help his father's campaign.

Now, one of the key questions that investigators are looking at right now is whether or not those Russians in the room were connected to the Russian government, were in any way directed by Vladimir Putin.

And it's one thing that the kremlin has strongly denied Bill Browder in this testimony almost certainly will talk about lawyer Natalia Veselnistkaya, who is alleged to have ties to the kremlin, something that the kremlin again denies.

What will Bill Browder say about his knowledge of this lawyer? That's a key question that lawmakers plan to probe as they learn more about this Trump Tower meeting. And of course, this committee too still wants to talk to Paul Manafort and Donald Trump Jr. right now that's going to be done privately. The question is will that happen publicly sometime in the coming weeks, guys.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Manu Raju on the Hill. Thank you very much for that. Another big day ahead for health care. Minutes from now senators kick off what could be a grueling day as they fight on the future of health care in this country, a marathon series of votes. Ahead, this is the GOP plan still unclear at best.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, blindsided by the president's transgender ban, now the Pentagon is asking the White House, how do you expect us to implement this?

Plus, chaos at the Ohio state fair when a spinning ride breaks apart. One person has died.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It just flew off. The whole thing flew off. Her leg hit her leg -- just flew her whole leg -- and then -- took her out and she wasn't breathing.




BERMAN: All right, new this morning, the president taking a break from his public attacks on his attorney general to talk about health care. He just wrote this, "Come on, Republican senators, you can do it on health care. After seven years this is your chance to shine. Don't let the American people down."

HARLOW: Some Republican senators now setting their sights on the so- called skinny repeal after lawmakers rejected a straight repeal of Obamacare yesterday. Let's go to Phil Mattingly on the Hill. Skinny repeal does not fulfill the promise of repeal and replace Obamacare on day one at all, but it's sort of their last shot right now?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's something and I think that's better than nothing, at least as leaders look at it, and it's something they think it's something they might be able to get the requisite number of votes, 50, to actually move this forward.

Poppy and John, you guys know this quite well, repeal and replace that was put on the floor a couple nights ago, that went down in flames. Nine Republicans voted against it. Repeal only that went down in flames as well. Seven Republicans voting against it.

They need to find something they can pass. That's why they've essentially gotten to this point. So, what is the skinny repeal actual proposal? Repeals the individual mandate, repeals employer mandate, repeals the medical device tax.

These are three things that all Republicans agree should go away. So, they have agreement on that. But the issue here is this, guys, if that's what they end up passing, what does it actually get them to?

It gets them to a conference committee with the House of Representatives, House conservatives have already made very clear they don't like just the skinny repeal. So, how do they get to the point where they make the tough decisions?

As we've talked about for weeks on end here, the dynamics here between where Medicaid expansion states are, conservatives are on regulations, the divide that is so very real there this doesn't do anything to amend that or help that along.

How is anything going to change in the future? So, I think that's possibly a question for another time. Right now, what leaders care about behind the scenes trying to get to 50, whatever that looks like, that's what they're going to try and put on the floor.

At the very end of what will be a very long process, guys, I'll warn you the Senate will gavel into session at 10:00 a.m. It won't gavel out of session again until they have a final vote, at least likely, which means probably sometime tomorrow morning. So, Wheaties, power bars, Gatorade, gallons of coffee all in the works for sure.


BERMAN: My favorite kind of cocktail. HARLOW: Phil Mattingly, thank you very much for your report. You have a long day ahead as well, my friend. Let's bring back our panel. Let me go to you first, Jackie Kucinich on this one. The president basically pleading with his team, get this thing done. Listen.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Pursue the steps necessary to revitalize American industry, including repealing and replacing Obamacare. We better get that done, fellas, please, Mike, we need that so badly.


HARLOW: They do. How badly, Jackie? If they don't get it, then what for this White House?

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I mean, it's a promise broken. Now, the president has -- he hasn't accepted responsibility for this bill going past. You can see him blaming Congress for this that Mitch McConnell and friends can't get this done.

That said, going into 2018, going into any sort of negotiations on tax reform, this would significantly weaken this White House if they aren't able to push -- help push this through.

BERMAN: And one of the ways, David, they're now reportedly pushing this through is threatening senators in the states they come from who are opposed to it. There's reporting out of Alaska that the Interior Department, the interior secretary called the Alaskan senators including Dan Sullivan, saying, hey, if Lisa Murkowski continues to fight this, you guys are going to lose out. What do you make of that?

DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: What I make of it is that Senator Murkowski has shown over the last number of years that she's not afraid of the White house and she's not afraid of the leadership in her own party. She's not scared of President Trump and he is not responding well to that.

Can I just say that whether senators are voting for this or against this? They understand that skinny repeal is like repealing dinner without repealing dessert. They know they're going to be stuck with the result of that if they keep this going. That's why they don't want to move on it.

HARLOW: It's like --

BERMAN: I could actually support that though, David. I think a lot of people could support repealing --

HARLOW: I don't know, it's kind of like when I order a diet coke at McDonald's with my fries. Caitlin, to you, it worked though with Dean Heller, right?

[09:25:02] The threatening, public shaming, as the president was sitting next to him at the White House worked. He got Dean Heller to flip and vote yes. Dean Heller is very, very at risk, his seat, he's up for re-election. It's a swing state.

I mean, how is that going to -- why does the White House think that will work with someone like Murkowski who's not up until 2022?

CAITLIN HUEY-BURNS, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, "REALCLEARPOLITICS": Well, you bring up a great point. Dean Heller is in a separate category because he's up for re-election next year and is vulnerable, perhaps, to persuasion either by his own governor or by Donald Trump, who are very different stances on this.

But think of someone like Murkowski who was just re-elected, someone like Rob Portman who is also just re-elected, actually ran ahead of the president by about seven or eight points I believe in the state of Ohio. And others just don't see the political incentive from the president.

They see the political incentive from their constituents and that shows to me that the president has not figured out yet six months in how to really entice these lawmakers his way. He's using these kinds of bullying tactics but doesn't have the understanding of their exact circumstances and constituencies.

BERMAN: All right. Caitlin Huey-Burns, David Swerdlick, Jackie Kucinich, thanks so much, guys. From health care now to jobs, 3,000 of them at least, Apple supplier Foxconn announced what could be a $10 billion investment in a new manufacturing plant in Wisconsin.

HARLOW: No one better to talk about this than our chief business correspondent, Christine Romans, joins us before the bell. This is great for folks in Wisconsin but a big discrepancy on how many jobs?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: It's 3,000 to maybe 13,000, let's talk about the deal here. This is a win for the president's promise. It's a promise kept from this president. Foxconn, the Taiwanese manufacturer is coming to Wisconsin.

Like you said, CEO Terry Gou says Foxconn will invest $10 billion in an LCD panel plant. He made this announcement at the White House yesterday. He was flanked by Wisconsin's Governor Scott Walker, House Speaker Paul Ryan. By the way this will be located in Ryan's district.

Foxconn is an electronics manufacturing power house assembling products for Apple and Microsoft. From its Chinese factories employs nearly a million people in Asia. And the president is taking credit for Foxconn's investment, part of his effort to revive U.S. manufacturing.

The chairman of Foxconn, he teased he would be bringing production to the U.S. shortly after inauguration. Now, this CEO has promised that before with little results. For example, in 2013 Foxconn announced a $30 million plant in Pennsylvania, it still has not been built.

A big difference here, Wisconsin is offering generous tax incentives totaling as much as $3 billion. Governor Scott Walker says the project will create 13,000 jobs by the year 2020. That would cost the state about $230,000 per job.

However, Foxconn is a bit more conservative with its job estimate. The company says it will create 3,000 jobs, 3,000 with potential of generating 13,000. A great story on CNN Money right now about the history of this company.

Foxconn you may recall back in 2011 was criticized when there was a rash of suicides there, and the CEO at the time said we're going to try to move away from the business model of low wage workers to robots, so you don't have these social problems.

BERMAN: It will be interesting to see what develops in Wisconsin. Christine Romans, thank you very much.

All right. We have our eye on the White House this morning. There's a very public battle playing out. The new communications director saying the chief of staff should explain if he's not a leaker. Will Reince Priebus respond? We are waiting to hear.

HARLOW: Also, a lot of questions this morning after the president bans transgender people from serving in any capacity in the military at all. The Pentagon, no heads up to them, they want some answers. How are we expected to do this, Mr. President? Next.