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New Chief of Staff to be Sworn in After Shake-up; Putin Retaliates Over Impending U.S. Sanctions; Interview with New York Congressman Chris Collins. Aired 7-7:30a ET
Aired July 31, 2017 - 07:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[07:00:07] DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Reince was a good man. John Kelly will do a fantastic job.
SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Trump turning to retired four-star General John Kelly for help rebooting a stalled White House agenda and
reigning in a chaotic West Wing.
That's after Reince Priebus became the latest in a string of high- profile Trump officials to be pushed out in the first six months.
MICK MULVANEY, DIRECTOR, OFFICE OF MANAGEMENT AND BUDGET: I think the president wants to go a different direction, wants a little bit more discipline, a little more structure in there.
MURRAY: It remains unclear how Kelly's appointment will impact the chain of command at the White House and if the former homeland security chief will exert any influence over the president's own behavior, including his use of Twitter.
COREY LEWANDOWSKI, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN CHAIRMAN: You have to let Trump be Trump. Anybody who thinks they're going to change Donald Trump doesn't know Donald Trump.
MURRAY: The president remains at odds with many in his party over his repeated public attacks on Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
JEFF SESSIONS, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, it's kind of hurtful, but the president of the United States is a strong leader.
MURRAY: The two men are expected to come face-to-face today at the president's cabinet meeting. Trump also turning to health care this weekend, blasting the Senate's failed efforts to dismantle Obamacare, tweeting, "Unless the Republican senators are total quitters, repeal and replace is not dead."
Despite the fact that it would have had no impact on Friday's defeat, the president also urging GOP leadership to change the Senate's rules so legislation can pass with a simple majority, saying that Republicans "look like fools who are just wasting their time."
TRUMP: I said from the beginning let Obamacare implode and then do it.
MURRAY: Trump also threatening to end subsidy payments to insurance companies and even eliminate some health benefits for members of Congress if the bill is not passed.
MULVANEY: What he's saying is, look, if Obamacare is hurting people, and it is, then why shouldn't it hurt insurance companies and more importantly, perhaps, for this discussion, members of Congress?
MURRAY: Senator Susan Collins, one of three Republicans who voted against repeal says Trump's threats wouldn't change her vote.
COLLINS: We need to go back to committee, to the Health Committee and the Finance Committee, identify the problems, carefully evaluate possible solutions through hearings, and then produce a series of bills to correct these problems.
MURRAY: In addition to the domestic agenda and organizational issues, John Kelly is also going to be coming into this White House confronting a number of foreign policy challenges, including these escalating threats from North Korea, but also the U.S. relationship with Russia. We are still waiting to hear when President Trump will be signing the sanctions bill against Russia.
Back to you guys.
CAMEROTA: OK, Sara, thank you very much for all of that.
Let's bring in our political panel to discuss it. We have White House correspondent for Bloomberg News Margaret Talev; and CNN political analysts John Avlon and Alex Burns. Great to see all of you. Happy Monday.
Alex, I want to start with you, because you have a very comprehensive article over the weekend in "The New York Times" about how frustrated Republicans have grown with the disarray and chaos in the White House. Now, are these Republicans like John Kasich, who never had much faith, or are these loyalists who are starting to turn?
ALEX BURNS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it's pretty much everybody, Alisyn. And what you're hearing from Trump loyalists is not anger at the president, but you're hearing anger at pretty much everybody else. And that includes Republicans on the Hill. It includes Republicans in the White House who are close to the president but not the president himself.
And this is sort of -- you can see it as a coping mechanism, but it's definitely a new phase of the way Republicans in the grassroots and at the leadership level across the country are thinking about it.
CAMEROTA: Well, why aren't they mad at him?
BURNS: Well, they see him as a newcomer to Washington who's received a lot of bad advice and has been mistreated by Republicans on the Hill. Whether they are right about that or not, I do think that, if you sort of play out the next couple steps of this, if you listen to what the president has been saying about Congress over the weekend, you can see that we're potentially headed for a pretty big collision between the forces behind the president and the more conventional leaders on Capitol Hill who want to do things -- want to continue to do things their way.
BERMAN: Margaret, John Kelly, General Kelly, he's the guy who's going to fix everything, starting today at 9:30 when he gets sworn in before this cabinet meeting, right?
JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: No pressure.
MARGARET TALEV, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, BLOOMBERG NEWS: Right, John, right. No pressure, but by noon everything should be completely in order.
You know, there are a couple of questions, and one is how much has he already negotiated or how much will he be able to lock down with the president in terms of who reports directly to him, what ability he has to be a gatekeeper in and out of the Oval Office, both physically and kind of, you know, in general.
But also, does the president want more of a peer with whom to bounce off strategic ideas: Should I do this, should I do that? We've heard folks like Corey Lewandowski say the president is the president. There's no changing him. But if part of this move with John Kelly is to say "I recognize that I need to do things differently," that is maybe the main thing that has the potential to be a game-changer.
[07:05:05] AVLON: Look, I mean, all the sort of, you know, ridiculous rhetoric about the White House acting like a well-oiled machine in the past aside, everyone recognizes there is a problem. This is not remotely normal, not only because of historical approval ratings but because of a daily churn of chaos that emanates from the Oval Office.
So a new chief of staff may be a corrective that's needed. The president respects generals. John Kelly has got a good rapport with the president, apparently, as well as the other members of the cabinet who are former military.
I also think, crucially, he served under Secretary Gates and Secretary Panetta, two really of the wise men of Washington who have a reputation for thinking and governing beyond partisanship. And that may be what this administration needs.
Now, the idea that someone is going to change Trump, ain't going to happen, people. Trump's going to be Trump. Maybe his instincts can be channeled more constructively.
BERMAN: Maybe. Maybe.
AVLON: We don't know. We don't know what the communications director, Anthony Scaramucci, we don't know if he'll report to the chief of staff or the president. You know, Scaramucci reported to the president before and not Reince Priebus. What about Jared Kushner? Does Jared Kushner report to the president?
What about Steve Bannon, who is this coequal to Reince Priebus the way it was set up before? These are sort of important questions, Alex.
ALEX BURNS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, in some ways on an even more fundamental level, when I was talking to Republicans in Washington over the weekend, their big question about John Kelly is, we all like the idea. I mean, Americans like the idea of someone who's not a politician, somebody who has experience in the private sector, from the military, being in charge of government.
This is a White House that has a broken relationship with Congress and a broken relationship with sort of just the traditional political mechanisms of Washington. Those are not mechanisms that John Kelly has spent his career operating.
So if you're trying to figure out how to work with Capitol Hill, Reince Priebus was clearly not your guy to get that done. The president reached that conclusion a while ago. But is General Kelly the guy to do it? I don't know that there's anyone in or around the administration that sees him as sort of a cure-all for everything.
CAMEROTA: Go ahead.
AVLON: One thing that we need to push back upon is a framing of the problem of Washington as being outsiders versus establishment. I think it's perhaps better understood as competence versus incompetence. I think that's a more fair, less pejorative way of saying the challenges this administration's facing right now.
CAMEROTA: Margaret, let's look at the week, just to remind people. Because you -- it would be -- it's hard to get your mind around what last week looked like. We have some help from monopoly pieces here on the screen that will guide us through.
On Monday, there were some attacks against the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, and the president made a political speech, or at least portions of it, in front of the Boy Scouts.
BERMAN: Which the Boy Scouts later apologized for.
CAMEROTA: There you go.
Next, he said that he was more presidential than every president except for Abraham Lincoln. That was on Tuesday. But I think that more happened on Tuesday.
BERMAN: Abraham Lincoln later apologized for that.
CAMEROTA: On Wednesday, he seemed to surprise the joint chiefs by banning transgender soldiers from the military.
On Thursday -- well, that was the Scaramucci explosion day. That was -- and that went public.
And then on Friday, Obamacare, the repeal and replace failed, and Reince Priebus resigned. I think there was actually more, even, that happened that week. But that's just a starter course for where we are.
TALEV: There actually -- there really was. Two other things happened. One is that Jared Kushner came out publicly, put a public face after operating largely behind the scenes and said that he didn't collude at all with the Russians.
And the other is that, of course, the president had to come forward and signal, at least with a brief statement, that he was going to support -- ultimately sign that sanctions legislation. So look, this really is a reset week for the president. Last week was a fairly catastrophic week. And I think everyone inside the West Wing recognizes this, not only as an opportunity, but as, like, a mandatory opportunity to kind of take back control of the process.
BERMAN: I want you all to sit back and imagine the most uncomfortable Thanksgiving meal you've ever had. And then, Alex, is that what this cabinet meeting -- because the president will hold a cabinet meeting today. Is that what that will feel like?
You have Jeff Sessions, the attorney general, face-to-face, we believe, with the president of the United States for the first time since the president started his campaign of public humiliation against him. You know, what's that going to be like when the two men are sitting face-to-face? And do you think we'll see this, you know, cabinet fluff session, you know, literally going around the table you know, saying, "Dear leader, this is how much we like everything that you've done for us so far"?
BURNS: John, I think like an uncomfortable holiday meal with family, I think people will probably say a lot of positive things that they don't mean. And I think they will probably...
CAMEROTA: And drink too much.
BURNS: ... all be on their best behavior. Right?
I think that anyone expecting sort of public enmity between Donald Trump and Jeff Sessions face to face, if that were going to happen, it might have happened already.
One of the sort of ironies of this president, right, is that he's known as a tough guy. He's known as someone who likes firing people. Actually, hates face-to-face confrontations with people who he is close to.
[07:10:07] So you know, I wouldn't be shocked to see him say really nice things about Jeff Sessions at the cabinet meeting and then maybe turn around and say not-so-nice things in a different context. That's pretty much been the pattern with the president and a lot of people who are close to him.
CAMEROTA: If this whole John Kelly move to chief of staff, is this part of a larger chess game, as has been speculated, where Jeff Sessions stays but is moved to the Department of Homeland Security? AVLON: I'm reluctant to embrace the chess metaphor with this
presidency and administration. That said, there certainly has been a lot of telegraphing that this could be a, quote unquote, "elegant solution" to the president's problem. You move Sessions over. You don't fire him, make it less of an insult, and then maybe put someone -- a more compliant A.G. who comes in, who would take the steps to sort of fire Mueller.
If that happens, it will not actually solve the problem, because it's transparently what it is. It's an attempt to basically just achieve the president's ends with sort of minimal insults.
CAMEROTA: Anyway, you're saying it won't work because Republicans...
AVLON: Republicans are going to recognize it for what it is. Lindsey Graham has already called it out and said that looks wrong and feels wrong because it is wrong. And the fundamental problem is the president doggedly seems to want to derail the Russia investigation. And if he sidelines Mueller, if he fires Mueller, one way or the other, that's going to cut off -- that's going to kick off a constitutional crisis. Make no mistake about it.
BERMAN: Hey, Margaret, let's talk about health care for one moment, because the president, Kellyanne Conway said the president will decide this week whether or not he pulls subsidies to insurers, subsidies that actually help low-income Americans pay for health care. That is the next big decision we think the president has to make.
You know, do you think he would go that far, as to basically force Obamacare to implode on itself?
TALEV: I'm loathe to predict what the president is going to do for obvious reasons. But I'll say this. I think, fundamentally, there are two questions from the president.
No. 1 is does he really want to get into an all-out war with the Republican Party of which he is the leader. He spent a lot of time calling Republican lawmakers "them" rather than "us." But that's rhetoric. And this is something quite different.
And No. 2, is he going to try to, quote, "Let Obamacare fail by not doing stuff or by actively doing stuff."
I think those are two different choices, both with political and potentially some legal ramifications. So we will be watching this very closely, but I think what he has hinted out would be, actually, an enormous and fairly hostile act.
BERMAN: And I've got to say, I think the Republican legislators want a week or so off right now from this. They don't want to have to deal with...
CAMEROTA: So does the president.
All right. Panel, thank you very much for all of the insights. Great to talk to you. TALEV: Thanks, guys.
CAMEROTA: Meanwhile, Vice President Mike Pence is in the Baltics and he's taking on Russia over its retaliation for the U.S. sanctions that President Trump is expected to sign. Russian President Vladimir Putin ordering the U.S. to cut its diplomatic staff by more than half.
CNN's Claire Sebastian is live in Moscow with more. What are the latest developments, Claire?
CLAIRE SEBASTIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Alisyn, 755 people, that's the number that President Putin says he wants to cut from the U.S. diplomatic presence here in Russia. The sort of clarification of what that will actually mean that I've got from the Kremlin in the last hour or so. They say the people who it's affected, it's up to the U.S. to decide. It will be diplomats, non-diplomats as well as local Russian staff.
Now, we know numbers, the most recent that we've seen from the State Department from 2013, that Russian staff outnumbered U.S. staff here in Russia. So that just gives you a sense of the impact of that.
But as for the State Department, a senior official told CNN that they are still assessing the impact of this and how to respond. If they do respond, Russia says, they reserve the right to take countermeasures themselves. President Putin said he does not think that would be a good idea at the moment.
But further inflaming tensions here, Alisyn, as you say, is the vice president, Mike Pence, right on Russia's doorstep in Estonia today, strong comments about how Russia is the biggest threat to the Baltic states, the most unpredictable neighbor. And he had this to say about relations with Russia.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE PENCE (R), VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We hoped for better days, for better relations with Russia. But recent diplomatic action taken by Moscow will not deter the commitment of the United States of America to our security, the security of our allies, and the security of freedom-loving nations around the world.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SEBASTIAN: So the next step, of course, is that President Trump has said he will sign that sanctions bill. Vice President Mike Pence reaffirming that on that trip to Estonia. So certainly, that won't change Moscow's position. They went ahead and retaliated before that happened. But it is certainly something they will be watching closely -- John.
BERMAN: All right. Claire Sebastian for us in Moscow. Thank you so much, Claire.
We do have some breaking news out of Afghanistan. Reuters is reporting that ISIS is claiming responsibility for a deadly attack on the Iraqi embassy in Kabul. The attack started when a suicide bomber blew himself up at the gate, allowing government [SIC] to get into the embassy and fight with security forces. This attack comes a week after the Taliban leveled an attack on government workers in Kabul, killing 35 people.
[07:15:11] CAMEROTA: Police in Alabama are hunting for a fugitive following a jailbreak. Twelve inmates escaped from the Walker County Jail last night. Police have recaptured 11 of them overnight. Jail officials not saying how these men got out. Police are -- they're urging people in the area to stay off the streets until the manhunt is completely over.
BERMAN: All right. Tensions boiling over and turning violent at an airport in France. An EasyJet passenger tweeted the moment a member of the ground staff in Nice punched a man holding a baby. An airport official says the victim complained about an 11-hour flight delay when he was hit in the face. A fellow passenger says the punch left a mark. The baby, thankfully, was not hurt. The airport says the attacker who works for a subcontractor, not EasyJet, has been suspended.
CAMEROTA: All right. Well, his anger management class has not worked out, obviously, for him. That is not the right response.
BERMAN: Customer service response, in the questionnaire, I might have said, you know, did not meet expectations.
CAMEROTA: Very good point.
Meanwhile, there's been a dramatic shakeup at the White House. Reince Priebus out. John Kelly in as White House chief of staff. What do the president's strongest supporters in Congress think of this change? We'll talk to them next.
[07:20:36] CAMEROTA: In just a few hours General John Kelly will be sworn in as White House chief of staff, replacing Reince Priebus. Priebus is the seventh person to leave the Trump administration in just six months. Does his departure mark a new beginning?
Joining us now is Republican Congressman Chris Collins of New York. Good morning, Congressman.
REP. CHRIS COLLINS (R), NEW YORK: Good morning, Alisyn.
CAMEROTA: Nice to see you.
COLLINS: How are you?
CAMEROTA: I'm well. So what do you think will change with General John Kelly as chief of staff?
COLLINS: First of all, let me put a little different spin on what we heard earlier from Alex. This has been a great week for the president. You know, I was at the jamboree. Forty thousand Boy Scouts shouting, "We love Trump. We love Trump."
You know, banning transgenders, which is probably supported by the vast majority of Americans.
CAMEROTA: Hold on, Congressman. Wait a second, just one second here. He didn't tell the Pentagon. OK? The joint chiefs were taken by surprise. How is that a great rollout of a new policy?
COLLINS: President Trump is President Trump. He is the commander-in- chief. He can roll things out however he wants. He doesn't report to the joint chiefs. They report to him.
CAMEROTA: Sure, but it creates a little bit of chaos, you'll agree. Right? They didn't know about this policy. They, in fact, have said they're not going to do anything about it, not going to enact it, because there are no details for how to do so.
COLLINS: Well, that's -- he's going to be rolling that out. But again, he's the president of the United States, commander-in-chief.
On Friday we were in New York City talking about MS-13, something that is the scourge of America. He's taking the fight to the criminal element.
He's dealing with North Korea. He's dealing with Russia. And now he has solidified the inner circle of the West Wing with John Kelly, with Anthony Scaramucci, two great individuals. I think it's all coming together extremely well as we move into tax reform.
And let's remember, it was six months ago that President Trump said "Let's not work on health care. Let's move on tax reform, because we're not going to be able to do health care..."
COLLINS: "... by ourselves. We need Democrat help." He knew we weren't going to get Democrat help.
COLLINS: We didn't get Democrat help. We wasted six months on health care.
CAMEROTA: Democrats say they weren't invited to the table, as you know. And by the way, you didn't actually need the Democrats. You could have done it just with Republicans in the Senate, but that didn't work either.
COLLINS: Well, of course, you're not going to get 50 out of 52 senators, not with Susan Collins and Murkowski and John McCain. You were kind of like -- you weren't going to get there out of the gate. Obviously, we didn't.
CAMEROTA: Right. So you can't blame Democrats for that.
COLLINS: Well, sure we can. They're the ones that created Obamacare. They wouldn't help us fix it. Now you've got Joe Manchin saying, "Let's get together, but by the way, we're not going to touch these."
CAMEROTA: Well, hold on a second, Congressman. They said that they will help you fix it. They won't help you repeal it.
COLLINS: No, they'll help us fix it on their terms. And we're not going to continue to pay 90 percent on expansion in the expansion states for able-bodied workers when we pay 50 percent for the blind and disabled. They want to fix it on their terms.
CAMEROTA: Well, sure. And you want to repeal it on your terms, but isn't this the point, is that there has to be some sort of negotiation between both parties? And Democrats say they were never invited to any closed-door meetings.
COLLINS: No, this -- they are going to wear it. You know, we said to America and America agrees, Obamacare has failed. It's failing, it's imploding. I have suggested to the president we absolutely end the cost-sharing revenues on Tuesday -- that's tomorrow -- to insurance companies. The courts have ruled they're illegal.
For anyone to suggest that Trump would be pulling the rug out from under the individual marketplace, when the federal courts have ruled the payments are illegal and follow the law; let's end them.
CAMEROTA: And you don't think that that will create chaos in the marketplace, that insurance companies don't know...
COLLINS: Absolutely they create chaos. It will create chaos.
CAMEROTA: And how does that help Americans?
COLLINS: No, it's Obamacare that's failed. The very insurance companies and hospitals that railed against the American Health Care Act are now going to have to live with Obamacare for the next nine months, the next 12 months, which includes reduced dish payments to hospitals. The CSRs, the cost-sharing revenues were deemed illegal by a federal court, Alisyn.
CAMEROTA: And yet, I hear you, Congressman. But and yet the lowest- income Americans do rely on them. And pulling them just out from under them today would create chaos, according to the experts. So why -- why go down that road?
[07:25:00] COLLINS: Well, we're not going to break -- we're not going to break -- that's why we had to get rid of Obamacare. That's why the Democrats should have helped us. That's why the insurance companies should have have railed against us and the hospitals. Now we're stuck with Obamacare for the foreseeable future with all the negative pieces.
And you can't just tweak this piece and that when there's $8 billion of taxes, fees and penalties that are a drag on the economy. So we now have Obamacare for the foreseeable future with all the problems we have, especially in the individual marketplace. Connecticut doesn't even have an insurer next year. Iowa, 94 out of 99 counties don't... CAMEROTA: So that's it. So Congressman, that's it. You're -- you're
just going to watch whatever happens next, or are you going to go to the table with some of the moderates, the 40 moderates in the House who say that they are ready to go back to the drawing board?
COLLINS: Well, by the way, I'm one of those moderates, because we met with the new Dems last week.
COLLINS: And you know what the new Dems said?
COLLINS: Basically, they said, "We're not going to work -- we're not going to talk about ending the expansion, the 90 percent reimbursement for able-bodied." They've actually -- they basically said, "We'll tweak something a little bit here or there, but we need more money to do this. We need more money to do that, and we're not going to talk about rolling back the expansion to Medicaid." It was all but a joke.
CAMEROTA: OK. So from where...
COLLINS: A waste of our time.
CAMEROTA: That's interesting. So from where you sit, there is nothing more the House can do?
COLLINS: On health care, no. We're moving to tax reform. And I would say the insurance companies and -- are going to have to deal with what they're going to have to deal with, because we tried. Alisyn, we tried, we tried to fix this thing. And it didn't play out.
So now that it's dead, this is the law of the land. Obamacare is the law of the land. The federal judge has ruled the cost-sharing revenues are illegal. We tried to fix it. Not a single Democrat stood with us when we tried to fix it. And now they're going to say it's our fault? You know, give me a break.
CAMEROTA: Congressman, one more thing. You said that the president, you see good signs ahead. He's trying to solidify the White House and the West Wing. Do you believe that Anthony Scaramucci, the new director of communications for the White House, should report to General John Kelly, the new chief of staff, or to the president?
COLLINS: It doesn't matter to me. Mean, let me tell you, Anthony Scaramucci is a -- is a tough guy in his own skin. He's got the ear of the president. So will John Kelly. I would say, frankly, it doesn't matter.
CAMEROTA: But I mean, how do you solidify it? The reason I ask is because you're saying that now it's going to be streamlined; it's going to be solidified. How do you solidify something if people aren't reporting to the chief of staff?
COLLINS: Well, Anthony Scaramucci is the communications director, the spokesperson. Who he reports to, you know, doesn't matter.
One thing about President Trump: he talks to who he needs to talk to when he needs to talk to them, and quite frankly, an org chart, you know, that's -- it doesn't mean anything to me, because when he needs to talk to someone, he's going to. And I have no doubts whatsoever that John Kelly and Anthony Scaramucci, along with his other advisers, are going to work very well together. And who cares what the org chart looks like?
CAMEROTA: Very quickly, I know that this is the first face-to-face meeting with Jeff Sessions and the president today at his cabinet meeting. How do you think that's going to go?
COLLINS: I think it's going to go just fine. Jeff Sessions, a good friend of President Trump, and he's taken some shots. He's a good friend of mine, as well. He's a professional. I think the meeting, it will be a non-issue. It's going to be absolutely a non-issue.
CAMEROTA: And you think he stays in his job for the foreseeable future?
COLLINS: I hope so. I mean, he's a great attorney general. I certainly hope that Jeff Sessions remains in that job. If there's a change, everyone serves at the pleasure of the president. We all know that. But personally, a good friend of Jeff Sessions. I hope he stays.
CAMEROTA: Congressman Chris Collins, thanks so much for being on NEW DAY.
COLLINS: Good to be with you, Alisyn.
BERMAN: All is well. The meditation clearly working for Congressman Chris Collins of New York.
All right. North Korea launching a new ballistic missile. What can the president do to stop North Korea's nuclear ambitions? We're going to ask the former head of the CIA and NSA next.