Return to Transcripts main page
Trump Honors Army Medic Who Served in Vietnam; Scaramucci Is No Longer at White House; Kelly Wanted Scaramucci Removed. Aired 3:30-4p ET
Aired July 31, 2017 - 15:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[15:30:00] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He ignored a direct order to stay back and braved an enemy assault while moving into the kill zone on four more occasions to extract wounded comrades. He treated the injured, prepared the evacuation, and though bleeding heavily from shrapnel wounds on his head and entire body, refused evacuation to safety in order to remain at the battle site with his fellow soldiers who were heavily outnumbered by the North Vietnamese army forces. On May 14th, the platoon was again ordered to move out towards Nui Yon Hill. The private first-class McCloughan was wounded a second time by small arms fire and shrapnel from a rocket propelled grenade while rendering aid to two soldiers in an open rice paddy.
In the final phases of the attack, two companies from a North Vietnamese army division and an outfit of 700 soldiers from a Viet Cong regiment descended upon Charlie company's position on three sides. Private first-class McCloughan again with complete disregard for his life went into the crossfire numerous times to extract the wounded soldiers while also fighting the enemy. His relentless and courageous actions inspired and motivated his comrades to fight for their survival. When supplies ran low, he volunteered to hold a blinking strobe light in an open area as a marker for a nighttime re- supply drop.
He remained steadfast while bullets fell around him and rocket propelled grenades Flew over his prone body. During the morning darkness of May 15th, he knocked out a rocket-propelled grenade position with a grenade, fought and eliminated enemy soldiers, treated numerous casualties, kept two critically wounded soldiers alive through the night and organized the dead and wounded for evacuation at daylight. His timely and courageous actions were instrumental in saving the lives of his fellow soldiers. Private first-class McCloughan's personal heroism, professional competence and devotion to duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself and the United States Army.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bless us, o lord, as we depart our separate ways. May the memory of this occasion, may our participation unite us all in compassion, for service to all the members of our families, our military, our country, strengthen us in faith and renew us in spirit and send us forth with your peace. Amen.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Jim, thank you, god bless you, god bless your family, god bless of United States of America. Thank you, Jim.
[15:35:00] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: We always want to tape the medal of honor recipient ceremonies live. It's so entirely special for these individuals and really for all of us here. Congratulations, and huge thank you to army specialist James C. McCloughan there at the White House.
Another major breaking story has brewing at the White House as well. So, let's get back on that topic, that being in the last 45 minutes or so, we have learned on this first day on the job for the chief of staff, hours into General John Kelly's job, we have learned that the chief of communications, Anthony Scaramucci, who had been at his post for all of 11 days, offered his resignation, he is out. John Kelly is in charge now, with you source close to Kelly tells CNN -- Jeff Zeleny, let me bring you in, and we can deliver this together. You tell me, it was General Kelly who thought that Scaramucci wasn't quite disciplined enough, right? He had burned his credibility in his post.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Sure Brooke, that's what we are learning this afternoon, and it's also a sign that the president is giving his new chief of staff the full authority he promised he would or said he would last Friday when he made this surprise announcement Reince Priebus was leaving.
As it pertains to this, we are being told that Anthony Scaramucci was essentially escorted off the White House property earlier this afternoon. It was after the chief of staff, John Kelly said, look, he does not think he is right for this White House. All goes back to the tone of that conversation, the interview with "The New Yorker" magazine that was so incendiary and divisive. I'm also being told that Jared Kushner, son-in-law and senior adviser, as well as Ivanka Trump, the president's daughter, also supported this decision for him to leave, but they also supported the decision for him to come in.
In fact, Ivanka Trump was in the room when the president was interviewing him just less than two weeks ago. This is all happening pretty abruptly. There was a big question in Washington how long would Anthony Scaramucci stay on the job, a few people thought he would be leaving this afternoon, but we're also told that the president was sounding people out, as he often does. He talked to one ally, who said this, Brooke, he asked if Anthony Scaramucci this damaged himself, the ally said yes, sir. That sets the table, really one of his first official acts, Anthony Scaramucci out, Brooke.
BALDWIN: Did you say Scaramucci was escorted off the property?
ZELENY: We are told by our producers, our team, that he was escorted off. That's not necessarily unusual. We are told he was escorted off the property earlier this afternoon. Now, the question is what happens next? Most people in Donald Trump's orbit never leave entirely. They go to a different part of the structure, or the system. He obviously still supports this president very much. So, he will be keeping an eye on and report more on what he will do after this. I suspect he will stay in orbit, perhaps some other time of job in the government. I wouldn't rule that out. But in terms of the west wing here, he is no longer here. BALDWIN: Jeff, thank you so much. Great reporting, as always. From
the White House. Mark Preston is here, Gloria Borger is back. Thoughts, ruminations?
MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: A couple thoughts, one is his legacy will go down as --
BALDWIN: Can you have a legacy after 11 days?
PRESTON: Absolutely. You absolutely can have a legacy after 11 days. A short legacy. One is he forced a chief of staff and a communications director to leave. It was his actions that did so.
The briefings apparently are now on the camera, you know. We are going to see a briefing today that will be on camera. He said he wanted to open that up, so perhaps that's, you know, another legacy thing, and frankly we won't forget about the telephone call he had with our friend that put him in this situation, Ryan Lizza.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: So, there's a couple things I'm hearing. One is that the president over the weekend was asking some of his closest allies about what they thought about Scaramucci and his behavior, and should he get rid of him. Clearly the answer was yes. The other thing I heard was general Kelly, I was told, made the decision two to three days ago. If we're trying to piece this all together, perhaps Kelly made the decision that this needed to happen, went to the president, the president maybe was sounding out his friends and allies, and then the source also said to me -- the days of tolerating B.S. in this White House are over.
[15:40:00] PRESTON: Wow. I think there's something to be said about pulling the band-aid off. This has been a difficult time in terms of personnel at the White House and having the right people in place. I mean, I have to say this, but we could see more people go. You have a new chief of staff that wants to bring order, perhaps a more military type of structure, we could actually see more people go.
BALDWIN: We were having this whole conversation when it was all breaking, you and Chalian made the great point about the star burning a little too brightly when you are in a situation when there is only one star, that being the president of the United States. We talked once upon a time about Steve Bannon and the caricature of who he was and what he represented to the press and everyone else, a little too big for the president. Do you think that was the case with Scaramucci, the 30-minute conversation he had with Chris Cuomo on this network at the end of last week? Do you think that was a piece of it?
BORGER: Yes, I think so. I think there's no brighter star in the constellation than the president of the United States. When you have somebody coming out, with a new chief of staff coming in saying, I am going to fire everybody. While your old chief of staff is sitting there, it's unsustainable, untenable. Remember, we did not -- Donald Trump did not tweet about Scaramucci's vulgarity. He didn't come out and say, by the way, I don't approve of this, because the message that Scaramucci was delivering, as vulgar as he delivered, it was Reince Priebus and Steve Bannon have got to go. That was clearly sanctioned by the president of the United States. I think the way he did it got him in a lot of trouble. I think that that is a real -- that's a real issue.
BALDWIN: It's interesting to note what you're telling me from your sources, that the president had conversations with people over the weekend, maybe feeling them out about what he should do with Scaramucci, after this profanity laced piece in "The New Yorker" which any of us wouldn't be sitting here the next day had we used any of that language, yet it took the president having conversations with other people to make the decision.
BORGER: I don't know the exact content, but the question was, is he redeemable or not?
BORGER: Does he have to go? Is there any way to salvage this? After all, Scaramucci clearly feels a bond with this president. He's had a bad week. There have been reports in the newspapers he's in the middle of a divorce, he's just had a new baby, now he's lost his job. This is a lot of pile-on. However, it was a problem of his own creation.
PRESTON: I do think that what might be lost in all of this is that these conversations do happen a lot where there's so much infighting, but they're often not reported. As the communications director, he did not know the ground rules when he was talking to this reporter where he just lit into everybody. That is a problem. The second thing, when I talk to people on Capitol Hill, specifically Republican offices, there's a sense of decorum still in Washington. As partisan as it is, there's a sense of decorum. And I think that from Capitol Hill there was a level of unease having Scaramucci be the person who is going to be crafting the message for the president.
BALDWIN: Let me bring in Brian Stelter here on all of this, you know, Brian, we were talking -- let's just jog back, I'm losing track of the time frame. I don't know if it was weeks with Sean Spicer announcing, knowing that Scaramucci was coming in and the president wanted to keep him, he says no, I'm going to leave by august. Is there any chance that Spicer might stick around with Scaramucci out?
BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: I have asked him. He has not responded. He has declined to other reporters asking the same question. I think it's unlikely, but let's not rule anything out on this edition of "White House Survivor." That is exactly what if feels like at this moment. I would suggest an alternate scenario, that you see Scaramucci give this interview that's shocking, it's possible the president wanted this to happen, he wanted Scaramucci to shake it up and cause Priebus to be leaving. Who knows exactly.
We'll see if the president tweets about this, but it's quite possible that he was doing some things the president wanted, even when he called Ryan Lizza, by not saying it was off the record.
[15:45:00] But not saying it was off the record by giving those quotes it does seem like the beginning of the end by Scaramucci. It was the beginning of the end for him. He was barely visible after that interview. And just to reiterate another point. On one level this is a sad, human story. He had a child born last week in New York with his wife. They're going through a divorce, according to the New York tabloids, which of course are feasting on this story, but people close to Scaramucci confirm he wasn't there for the birth of this child, he wasn't able to meet the child for several days because of the brand- new job at the White House he had wanted so long. It's a sad story on that personal, human level. What we don't know is what comes next to him.
BALDWIN: On the personal level, we all wish him the very best, and you mentioned that Ryan Lizza interview, Ryan, are you with me?
RYAN LIZZA, REPORTER, "THE NEW YORKER": I am.
BALDWIN: Hi, Ryan. Have you been keeping up with the news in the last 30 minutes? Thoughts?
LIZZA: I have.
LIZZA: You know, after that interview appeared, a lot of people asked me, do you think Anthony Scaramucci will be fired? And I would say he's either going to be fired or promoted, you never know with Donald Trump. I think the early indications were that Trump was either neutral to positive about some of the things he said, and of course the biggest story in the wake of that interview was Reince Priebus got fired, not Anthony Scaramucci, so that seemed to suggest where Trump's opinion about the interview was.
But one thing -- we don't know this yet, but from the statement the White House put out about the new chief of staff John Kelly should have a clean slate, it does suggest that Kelly is doing what any sane chief of staff would do coming into a White House factionalized, making sure that everything is running through him. So, it's a sign that perhaps Kelly has more authority than Reince Priebus did, if instead Kelly asked or wanted this had to happen. Those are my initial thoughts.
BALDWIN: Yes, to the clean slate, that was part of the White House statement, and also apparently General Kelly, chief of staff on day one, apparently, he wanted Scaramucci removed, because he didn't think Scaramucci was disciplined and has burned his credibility. We were on tv all over the place in the wake of this extraordinary interview, but just to remind people, Mark Preston made the point, how did he not know, coms director at the White House, ground rules on talking to a reporter on the phone and what would be included and not? You've been doing this for years. It's not like you cajoled this out of him, he just kind of let it rip.
LIZZA: Yes. Look, what happened was I had tweeted earlier in the evening that he was having dinner with Sean Hannity and other folks. He got out of that dinner and was getting requests from other reporters about it, and was informed of the tweet and called me. The conversation started with him trying to find out who revealed what to me was relatively trivial information, who the president was ding with. And then sort of, you could say escalated. He went off on Reince Priebus, and pretty colorful language. Went off on Steve Bannon, chief strategist, talked about calling in the FBI to investigate leaks, you know, without actually offering any evidence, that there was something the FBI should be investigating. I've said this before, it was probably the most unusual interview I've ever had with a government official in 20 years of covering Washington.
BALDWIN: And might be forever and ever and ever from here on out, but what an extraordinary interview. Obviously, Ryan, I'm going to let you catch your breath. Thank you for getting to a phone and calling in. Listen, as you -- it sounds like a central piece in some of these decisions. Let' go to the White House with Jim Acosta our senior White House correspondent because what are sources telling you about how the president perceived the interview between Lizza and Scaramucci and ultimately talking about his ultimate decision?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: We know from talking to sources that the president was initially pretty pleased with what Anthony Scaramucci said. He liked the take no prisoners style that he was exhibiting last week, but that eventually the president soured on Anthony Scaramucci, feared he was becoming more of a story than he was or that this White House was.
[15:50:00] and I can tell you that in talking to Anthony Scaramucci in several minutes, this source was telling me that Scaramucci talked to the new general White House chief of staff yesterday was, and I can tell you that in talking to Anthony Scaramucci in several minutes, this source was telling me that Scaramucci talked to the new general White House chief of staff yesterday and stepped aside to essentially let him have rein. Scaramucci decided to step aside to give General Kelly a clean slate is what they're saying.
But this friend of Scaramucci also said he plans to show up with his other job with the administration, and that's at the import/export bank tomorrow morning at 9:00. This is somebody who has been very close to the president over the last few years, in the presidential campaign, during the transition and then being here in office. According to this friend of Anthony Scaramucci, the man known as the mooch intends to be an outside adviser. They are trying very mightily at the White House to sort of put the best face on this, but Brooke, make no mistake, when the president is tweeting earlier this morning, "no White House chaos," this once again has been a day of White House chaos, and really the norm, not the exception over here.
This is a White House that appears to be in staff chaos and staff turmoil from week to week, and that is why when you talk to people inside the administration, inside the White House, outside the White House people who are close to the president, that is why they say to you that the first six months of this administration have felt like six years, because this is just something that constantly plays out. Keep in mind Anthony Scaramucci just on the job for 11 days and has what is undoubtedly going to go down as one of the most controversial tenures that a White House communications director has ever had. And has done the exact opposite job of what a White House communications director does. This person wasn't shaving the messaging of this administration, this director was damaging the messaging of this administration, Brooke.
BALDWIN: You were there in the briefing room. This is a must-see briefing. We'll take it as soon as it begins with Sarah Huckabee Sanders on quite a day at the White House. Jim, please stand by. Thank you very much. Linette Lopez has been seated as Mrs. Business Insider. You were just there with me last week.
LINETTE LOPEZ, CORRESPONDENT, "BUSINESS INSIDER": WHAT a difference a few days makes. A weekend.
BALDWIN: What a difference two days makes. You've covered him for five years, you were saying before he went to all the fancy parties. You've known him for a little while. You're reaction to this 11-day tenure?
LOPEZ: You know, the funny thing was on Friday I was speaking to a friend of his who has known him from Harvard Law School, and he said, anybody who is friends with Anthony right now has to be worried about the Icarus complex, they have to be worried about him flying too close to the sun. And the second I walked into the headquarters, that friend texted me, Icarus, question mark. Anthony is known for biting off a little more than he can chew. But in business that has worked out for him.
He started his own hedge fund early, sold that to Newburger Berman, then he kind of bought this set of assets from Citi after the financial crisis that people thought were pretty ugly, nobody wanted to touch them. It would be a lot of work to turn them around, and he did manage to turn them around. He did a lot of things on Wall Street nobody thought he was going to be able to do. So, when he said I'm going into this White House and nobody is going to stop me, and people started to count him out back in January and February when it looked like he wasn't going to get a placement.
This time, though, he might actually be down, who knows. But I think one thing we're not talking about here is that the sale of his firm is still not complete. Skybridge, which was a fund to funds, which means a hedge fund that sells investors another hedge fund, so you're paying a fee on a fee, OK? Very expensive stuff. Skybridge has not sold to H&A, the large Chinese conglomerate who is buying the firm, and most analysts say they're overpaying for the firm.
Wall Street is cutting their fees for everything across the board. So, what you have is this guy who was joining the administration selling his firm that is in a business that is not looking so hot right now to a Chinese conglomerate that wants to overpay for it. There are a lot of questions there. And the deal is pending treasury approval. If Donald Trump wanted to kill that deal, he could do it tomorrow.
BALDWIN: Obviously, you haven't talked to him, but knowing him, how would the news of essentially being pushed out fall on his ears?
LOPEZ: It depends on how he's seeing it. I know Scaramucci has political aspirations beyond this White House. But I know he also sacrificed a lot for this White House, and he sacrificed relationships and friends, not just Diedre, his ex-wife, but friends on the street who don't recognize him now. But at the same time, he wants to sell this company. He wants to sell it bad. And it was going to be a political headache. If he was very, very close to the president and there was a Chinese conglomerate overpaying for his hedge funds.
BALDWIN: Thank you for covering this friend you've known for years, and all of this is just fascinating and giving a lot of people whiplash following it all. I'm going to ask you to stand by because again, we're waiting for this White House briefing to begin. How will Sarah Huckabee Sanders explain this to the White House principal and really the rest of the country and the world that the chief of staff wanted the White House communications director out. There's so much more on this. Back after this.
[15:55:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BALDWIN: Back with breaking news that Anthony Scaramucci after 11 days has offered his resignation there at the White House, this on day one for the new chief of -- chief of staff, thank you. It's been a long day. Chief of staff John Kelly on his first day. We're waiting for this White House press briefing to begin in my last 60 seconds, Gloria Borger, what you know.
BORGER: The president initially, as we know, approved of the subject matter of what Scaramucci was talking about. Then he wanted to get rid of Priebus, maybe even Bannon over at the White House. But the way he did it rubbed the president the wrong way. We know also that the president had called someone who was an ally of his over the weekend and asked about it. You know, what do you think about this? And Barbara Starr and I are also reporting that Kelly made the decision about two to three days ago. So maybe Kelly -- we're all surmising this, but as we piece this together, perhaps Kelly was thinking about it, which wouldn't surprise any of us at all. He goes to the president, the president talks to a friend or more or his family, I have to assume, and then the ax falls.
BALDWIN: Gloria, Linette and Mark, thank you so much.