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U.S. Detects Highly Unusual North Korea Sub Activity; Senator Jeff Flake Says His Party is in Denial About President Trump; White House Officials Tricked by E-mail Prankster; Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired August 1, 2017 - 10:30   ET


[10:30:00] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Similar posture toward China and North Korea, you said recently that the U.S. never frightened China or North Korea enough in the past. What exactly do you mean by that?

PAUL BONICELLI, FORMER STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL, PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, under President Clinton, under President Bush whom I served, and under President Obama, we never really did all the things we could do to make them know how serious we are. One thing is sanctions that really target and harm the leadership to those countries and their interest. And secondly, sending them the clear message that we are the most powerful military in the world, it's not just the numbers, but it's the kinds of technology that we have, and we will use it if necessary.

Our interests come first. Every country puts its own interest first. There is no such as an international consensus really. And as long as we demonstrate that, then aggressors realize it's not worth it and they back down. We need to practice that.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: In response to the elections in Venezuela over the weekend and now we've seen these two opposition leaders taken into custody by the Maduro government overnight, the U.S. did slap sanctions on Venezuela, but their financial sanctions, and they're largely against Maduro, they could have halted all Venezuelan oil exports, which would cripple them economically.

I mean, that's 10 percent of their exports. That is huge for them. Was it appropriate -- was it a measured response, the right response, one that Maduro will actually take a heat or should the U.S. have done more in sanctions on oil?

BONICELLI: I think this will be escalating. The truth is 20 years ago, we should have been dealing with this because Chavez taking to power not as a democrat. This was all very predictable, I saw that when I worked on the Hill and he came into power.

I think what Trump administration is doing is escalating as they will do in any of these other crisis points which is start with steps. This is the first step, it's a serious step. It's never really been taken against the president of Venezuela. The next step could well be the oil. And that does hurt the people, but you don't really ever solve problems with dictators like this without going after things that do hurt the people, too. Sometimes it's necessary. BERMAN: Let me ask you about sort of how the world sees the U.S.

right now because it's been a tumultuous week. I mean, you can't deny that's everything that's gone on the last 12, 13 days in the United States, particularly within the West Wing, hasn't been fairly chaotic. Where do you think that crosses over into foreign policy, or does it?

BONICELLI: I think it does. I think that people look at the White House as the symbol of power of the United States. But Congress would beg to differ. We are three co-equal branches of government. But I do think that it sends a message that the White House won't be ready for something if it looks chaotic. And that's why I think Mr. Scaramucci's comments were unfortunate.

But I think that's why General Kelly coming in is a great stabilizer not only within the administration and our government but around the world. People respect American military leaders because they see them as more than just Georgia's Patton. They see them as people that know diplomacy. They know politics. They understand how a government works and I think it will be very calming influence and reassuring to our allies and worrying to our enemies.

HARLOW: Paul Bonicelli, thank you. We appreciate it.

BERMAN: I got to say a pretty extraordinary --

BONICELLI: My pleasure.

BERMAN: All the spectrum today putting a huge amount of faith in John Kelly.

HARLOW: Huge. Right.

BERMAN: Sets the bar extraordinarily high.

HARLOW: I don't think he'll end up on the front of the "New York Post" anytime soon.

BERMAN: We'll see.

HARLOW: We will see.

Republican Senator Jeff Flake, not afraid to call out President Trump and now calling out his own party, the entire party, for not calling out the president more.


SEN. JEFF FLAKE (R), ARIZONA: The Russia investigation, that should have set off more alarm bells, I think, than it did. And I think going forward, we ought to be careful.



[10:37:56] BERMAN: All right. A new defiant call from a Republican senator. Jeff Flake of Arizona in a new essay tells members of his own party it's time to stand up to the president. Here is a small taste.


MIKA BRZEZINSKI, MSNBC ANCHOR: What were some of the key moments along the way for far in the Trump presidency where you and your fellow conservatives, Republicans, should have stood up and said no?

FLAKE: Well, I think I have to say many conservatives did come out with the firing --

BRZEZINSKI: But what were the big missed opportunities?

FLAKE: I think the Comey firing. The timing of it. You know, you can fire the FBI director. Could have said that, hey, last year did some things that he shouldn't have done, the way he handled the campaign wasn't good. The reason given, that, hey, the Russia investigation, that should have set off more alarm bells than it did. And I think going forward, we ought to be careful.

There's, you know, concern that the AG may be fired. That would be a real concern. And I'm glad that some conservatives are standing up and saying that certainly wouldn't be tolerated by Capitol Hill.


HARLOW: Joining us now to discuss this and more, Bakari Sellers, CNN commentator, former Democratic representative from South Carolina. And Alice Stewart is here, CNN political commentator and Republican strategist.

So, Alice, obviously he's making the rounds because of this book and also this really stunning and eye-opening opinion piece in Politico, where he writes that his own party has basically advocated responsibility for checking this president and he admits that he himself hasn't even done that despite being an outspoken critic of the president. Do you agree with him?

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: He made some excellent points in this piece. But I'm the first one to praise the president and this administration when they do things that are reflective of the -- of our party and of conservative principles. The appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court.

But I think one of the main points that Flake made in his piece is that we're talking about conservatives and those who represent conservatives in the party, when our principles are so malleable, they're longer our principles, then at what point is the purpose of the victory?

And I think it's critical for conservatives to be a check and balance on this president, and to stand up for our principles because without that, you know, it really affects the future of the party.

[10:40:12] BERMAN: So, Bakari, you may be shocked to know that overnight on social media there were critics from the left of Jeff Flake, the senator of Arizona, despite the fact he was calling on members of his party. I've read some people on the left saying, you know, sure, Senator Flake, you're critical now but what have you done?


BERMAN: About it the last six months. Is that fair?

SELLERS: No, I fall in that category as well. Listen, I have a great deal of respect for Senator Flake because he talks a really good game. But the people who have actually shown the courage, the Murkowskis, the Collins, the John McCain, they stood up when it was time to stand up.

BERMAN: Can I say one thing about that? That's on health care. That's on a policy issue --

SELLERS: Well --

BERMAN: -- that I'm not sure that the president was deeply involved in to begin with.

SELLERS: It wasn't just a policy issue. I mean, if you look at John McCain's stance, if you look at his vote, it was about the fact that the fabric of the Senate was falling apart. John McCain didn't vote against that bill because he had some affection for Barack Obama and Obamacare. What he did was say we need to take a step back and think about the values that are inherently a part of this August body called the Senate.

And what Donald Trump is doing is Donald Trump is destroying the very fabric of most of the fundamental tenants of our democracy. And if Jeff Flake wants to do something, why don't he start by joining Lindsey Graham, for example, in limiting the power of Donald Trump to fire special counsel? Take action. I'm tired of the words.

HARLOW: So he did -- they were words, but he did call on the president to pull out of the race after the "Access Hollywood" tapes was released through the end of the campaign.

But, Alice, some of the other criticism that is pointed out is some of the stance McCain and other Republicans have taken on trade and protectionism and also against Wilbur Ross, the Commerce secretary who has some very protectionist views, and they say well, Flake didn't take those stances. He confirmed Wilbur Ross, for example. Is that fair criticism of Flake?

STEWART: Look, I think he makes some good points on the trade issue, but at the same time, you know, actions speak louder than words. And if you're going to make such statements about free trade and the short, as he views it, he doesn't -- he views the president's policies of not looking the long ball and says conservatives and Republicans need to look at long term strategy with regard to trade.

And if that's the case, put together -- put forth legislation that supports this argument, I think he makes some really good points, but at the end of the day without following through with some kind of action it doesn't mean anything. But I -- look, it's important also to remember many conservatives like myself take issue with some of the principles that this president has put forward.

But the majority of the American people, with regard to Republicans, voted for him. They stood by him and they supported him. And I think that's the key point. He connected with Republicans unlike any other Republicans in this race. And we have to support their decision.

BERMAN: No, Republicans voted for him. He certainly won the primaries.

STEWART: That's right.

BERMAN: The majority of Americans didn't but that's the popular vote. Lesser cause.


BERMAN: Not what this discussion is about.

HARLOW: Minor detail.

BERMAN: Bakari Sellers, let me ask you about General John Kelly because on this show, when we're, you know, we're an hour and forty minutes into the show, every human being who has appeared says that he or she thinks that General Kelly will make a positive impact on this White House. Do you want to be the first one to disagree with that?

SELLERS: I mean, no, but compared to what? I mean, he's walking into animal house. And all he has to do is be a little bit better than before. I mean, starting from the inauguration to yesterday, this White House was complete and utter chaos. And if he's able to add just a little bit of control, then his job has been a success. I mean, the bar is so low, the level of expectation --


HARLOW: But what is your bar? What is your bar to call him a success?

SELLERS: I think his job is actually relatively improbable. The reason being is because he has to control a personality that's never been controlled his entire life, which is Donald Trump, and he has to keep the untethered influences of the Kushner's, Ivanka's and all of these people that are whispering in the president's ear from being able to manipulate him. I don't think that's possible either.

I do think firing Mooch and doing some other things in the White House is great. And he'll do that and he will command that respect, but Donald Trump will be Donald Trump. That's unfortunate.

BERMAN: Are you are rooting for General Kelly?

SELLERS: I'm rooting for the United States of America. BERMAN: You know, Alice, it's interesting because Poppy and I --

we're not going to call it an argument but we've had a little bit of a disagreement today.

HARLOW: In the commercial break.

BERMAN: In the commercial break about the president's use of Twitter. He has written things this morning but I think they're very innocuous. The latest one he's written, you know, "Only the fake news media and Trump enemies want me to stop using social media. 110 million people. Only way for me to get the truth out."

You know, he's saying he's going to keep using Twitter no matter what people say. By the way, the media doesn't him to stop using Twitter at all. I mean, it's a great way to find out what the president thinks. We applaud his frequent use of it.

But do you think General Kelly could have an impact on that aspect of the president's behavior?

STEWART: Well, based on the last 24 hours, it seems that something has changed. He has slowed down his use of Twitter.

[10:45:01] And look, I think, clearly, he was masterful in his use of Twitter throughout the campaign and getting directly to the people, getting his message right to them and bypassing the media. And I think it's an important tool for him to do so. However, the tweets seemed to be on message, furthering his agenda, furthering what they are trying to accomplish and touting their accomplishments in the White House.

And I think the constant attacks on the media and the derogatory statements he makes about the AG and others, I don't think that's helpful at all. But I do think what General Kelly did yesterday with regard to having that meeting, laying down the line, and letting people know, look, I'm the gatekeeper to this president. All roads go through me to get to him and I think that is critical.

But as Bakari said, any reset is only as effective as it applies to everyone, not just the comm staff and not just General Kelly, but also to the president.

BERMAN: That's right. We will just see how many people actually report to General Kelly as the days progress.

Alice Stewart, Bakari Sellers, great discussion. Thanks so much for being with us one and all.

STEWART: Thank you.

BERMAN: As for Senator Jeff Flake, that we were just speaking about, he of the provocative essay. The senator will be on "THE LEAD" with Jake Tapper at 4:00 p.m. Don't miss it.

All right. This is a big story having to do with the West Wing. A self-described e-mail prankster pulls one over on the White House. This has serious political and security implications. This is an important story. Stick around.


[10:50:19] HARLOW: Pranked. High level White House officials punked by an e-mail prankster in the United Kingdom.

BERMAN: All right. This is how easy it was to get the personal e- mail address of the White House official in charge of cyber security. The prankster -- I use that word loosely here -- poses as Jared Kushner and writes to the official White House account of Homeland Security adviser Tom Bossert.

This is what he writes, "Tom, we're arranging a bit of a soiree towards the end of August. It would be great if you could make it. I promise food of at least comparable quality to that which we ate in Iraq. Should be a great evening."

So the real Tom Bossert responds, "Thanks, Jared. With a promise like that, I can't refuse. "Also," and here's the kicker, "if you ever need it, my personal e-mail is," redacted.

Joining us now to talk about all of this, CNN Politics producer Dan Merica.

Dan, it didn't seem awfully hard to get some pretty sensitive information right there.

DAN MERICA, CNN POLITICS PRODUCER: You know, we're told this is a perfect example of spear fishing. It's a way that hackers get into e- mails It is a personal way of phishing. How they get into e-mail and different systems. They create fake e-mail accounts, send e-mails to the people they want to hack. In this case, it was a prankster and it's funny. There's certainly a lot of humor in the story.

But it also, you know, as cyber security experts say, it says important things about how cyber security protocols are followed at the White House and how easy it is to dupe someone. The most salacious and most interesting e-mails came between fake Reince Priebus, with the prankster posing as the former chief of staff, and the real Anthony Scaramucci.

And so I want to read these e-mails to you. Fake Reince Priebus wrote, "At no stage have you acted in any way that's even remotely classy. General Kelly will do a fine job. I'll even admit he will do a better job than me. But the way in which that transition has come out has been diabolical and hurtful. I don't expect a reply."

Well, he got one and the real Anthony Scaramucci fell for the prank and wrote, "You know what you did. We all do. Even today. But rest assured we were prepared. A man would apologize."

The fake Reince Priebus then writes back, "I can't believe you are the one questioning my ethics. The so-called Mooch who can't even manage his first week in the White House without leaving upset in his wake. I have nothing to apologize for." Now obviously this is a story that we've been following for the last

few days. Reince Priebus was ousted by Scaramucci. Scaramucci was then ousted by the new chief of staff John Kelly. So this prankster clearly had been watching the news and preyed on this really rivalry between Scaramucci and Reince Priebus to get Anthony Scaramucci to play along.

HARLOW: So to all of this, I mean, I guess, you know, Scaramucci doesn't -- the real Scaramucci does not work for the White House anymore but --


BERMAN: Neither does real or fake Reince Priebus. They have all been let go.

HARLOW: So is the White House saying anything about any of this?

MERICA: You know, the White House issued a statement. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the press secretary, issued a statement saying, "We take all cyber-related issues very seriously and are looking into these incidents further."

The real question is, how did this happen? And I think the most worrisome one is that Tom Bossert, the cyber security expert in the Trump administration, responded with his personal e-mail.

HARLOW: Good point.

MERICA: It just shows how easy it is for, in this case, a pranksters to get personal details of White House officials. Imagine if this was a hacker and that hacker now had the personal e-mail of the top cyber security official.

HARLOW: But do we know it's not? Do we know it's not?

MERICA: We've been told that this person is a prankster who has done this to other high profile banking officials. And he's on Twitter, he's tweeted these exchanges. And he said this was all for levity, not for, you know, anything of malice.

BERMAN: Meanwhile, (INAUDIBLE) bookers are trying to line up fake Reince Priebus for (INAUDIBLE).

All right, Dan Merica, thanks so much.

HARLOW: Clear your schedule for 11 years from now. The City of Angels set to be a city of Olympians.


[10:58:37] BERMAN: All right. The Summer Olympics coming back to the United States but you have to be willing to wait and wait.

Coy Wire has more on this morning's "Bleacher Report."

Coy, you're going to be 35 by the time of the Olympics Games.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: I love you, John. I'm glad to see you, and Poppy as well.

A deal is struck. Los Angeles will host the 2028 Olympic Games. They'll be back in the States for the first time since the '96 Atlanta Games. The Los Angeles Planning Committee estimates that this even will cost about $5.3 billion, but they feel they can keep costs low by using already existing venues like dorms at UCLA, the Staple Center Arena and the L.A. Coliseum as well.

The International Olympic Committee also said that they're going to give the city $1.8 billion as part of the agreement. This move also means that the 2024 Olympic Games will be held in, oh la, la, oui, oui, Paris.

All right. How would you feel to be public enemy number one of the entire city of Chicago because fellow fans said you cost the team a trip to the World Series? But 14 years later, the team gives you a $70,000 World Series ring to help you forget it all. That's the case for Steve Barton and he interfered with a foul ball, not allowing a Cubs player to make a catch that would have -- could have helped send them to the 2003 World Series.

He was booed, hated and shamed, public enemy number one, most hated man since Al Capone in Chicago but he was -- this guy receiving this ring, so happy, diamond encrusted. He had a response saying that he does not feel worthy. He is grateful and humbled by this opportunity, guys.

BERMAN: It's a wonderful gesture by the Cubs.

All right. Coy Wire, thank you very, very much.

WIRE: You're welcome.

HARLOW: Thank you all for joining us.