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White House: Trump 'Joking' in Call for Police to 'Rough Up' Suspects; 'Washington Post': Trump Dictated Son's Misleading Statement on Meeting with Russian Lawyer; CNN: General Kelly Called Comey to Express Anger Over Firing. Aired 7-7:30a ET
Aired August 1, 2017 - 07:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We support our men in blue; we've got your back. That type of talk was very attractive to many rank-and-file officers who think, yes, that is a thug. Throw him in the back the car. What is with all this scrutiny we're getting? Right?
[07:00:16] And so I think that, you know, of course we've had a lot of police leaders who have really condemned this in strong, unequivocal terms, but we can't forget that many of the folks who are really the ones interacting with people on the streets every day heard these comments and smiled a little bit about them. And I think that -- that there's a division there between some of your rank-and-file officers and your command staff.
CAMEROTA: Hey, Donte, very quickly, we're almost out of time, but what's the message that you're giving to lawmakers and to police chiefs across the country about how to best serve these communities?
STALLWORTH: Well, I think you just have to bring the human element into it, and you have to get them to understand that these are people who are dealing with these situations on a daily basis. And so for that, I think that, just from a human element, that should be -- to me that should be enough to get the ball rolling, but there's a lot of work that needs to be done here in Washington, D.C. And we've got a lot of congressmen and women who are -- who are open to helping criminal justice reform, so that's a good thing.
CAMEROTA: That is. That's a great note to end on. Donte, Wesley. Thank you very much for your expertise in all of this.
Thanks to our international viewers for watching. For you, CNN NEWSROOM is next.
For our U.S. viewers, NEW DAY continues right now.
CUOMO: Big report that the president personally dictated the initial and misleading statement about his son's meeting with a Russian lawyer.
JAY SEKULOW, LAWYER FOR DONALD TRUMP: To put this on the president is absolutely incorrect.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president played a deeper and more complete role than we'd understood previously.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Clearly, the right thing to do would have been to be up front about this.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If he did dictate it, and if he knew it was false, you bet it could be part of a legal problem for him.
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: General Kelly has the full authority to operate within the White House, and all staff will report to him.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As it turns out, the Mooch might have been a bit too much.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What we're seeing is basically "The Apprentice" with the democracy at stake.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: His reverence and respect for military generals may turn out to be our saving grace.
ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to your NEW DAY.
Up first, another revelation in the Russia investigation. "The Washington Post" is reporting that President Trump personally dictated that misleading statement about his son's meeting with a Russian lawyer.
Now this news flies in the face of repeated denials from the president's attorney and the White House. Is the president somehow in the cross-hairs now of the special counsel?
CUOMO: On this show, we asked his attorney, Jay Sekulow, if he had any role, and he said no.
Now, the president is insisting there is no chaos in his administration, even though after only a few days on the job, communications director Anthony Scaramucci, Scaramucci is out. The new chief of staff acting quickly to rein in the chaotic West Wing. How successful will the general be? We will see.
We have it all covered. Let's begin with CNN's Joe Johns live at the White House. Another interesting morning, Joe.
JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's for sure, Chris. The significance of this is a question, whether there was attempt at concealment at the highest level here at the White House, or if there's some other innocent explanation after that stunning revelation about the administration's response to the report in the "New York Times" that Don Jr. met with a Russian lawyer during the campaign.
It has the potential to cause legal problems for the president as the White House continues to deal with the fallout from the latest shakeup.
JOHNS (voice-over): "The Washington Post" reporting that President Trump personally dictated his son's misleading initial statement about the reason for the June 2016 meeting with a Russian lawyer. It all happened on Air Force One while the president was returning from the G-20 summit last month.
"The Post" says President Trump overruled his advisers who were advocating for full transparency, directing the statement to describe the focus of the meeting being about adoption of Russian children. Trump Jr.'s own emails, released days later, show that the meeting was actually about providing the Trump campaign with incriminating information on Hillary Clinton from the Russian government. It remains unclear if President Trump knew this at the time.
"The Washington Post" reports that White House advisers now worry that the president's direct involvement leaves him needlessly vulnerable to allegations of a coverup.
JAY SEKULOW, LAWYER FOR DONALD TRUMP: I wasn't involved in the statement drafting at all; nor was the president. I'm assuming that was between Mr. Donald Trump Jr., between Don Jr. and his lawyer.
JOHNS: After vehemently denying that President Trump was involved last month, one of the president's private attorneys refutes "The Washington Post" report in a statement saying, "Apart from being of no consequence, the characterizations are misinformed, inaccurate and not pertinent."
These stunning revelations coming after the president vowed there was no chaos at the White House, tweeting that it was a great day, despite another major shakeup.
[07:05:08] DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have no doubt that he will be an absolutely superb chief of staff.
JOHNS: Communications director Anthony Scaramucci ousted by the new chief of staff, General John Kelly, after only days on the job. Scaramucci's brief tenure marred by a vulgar tirade about his White House colleagues and amplified in a bizarre interview on NEW DAY.
ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR (via phone): 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.
JOHNS: Negative media coverage of the attacks on Reince Priebus and Steve Bannon eroding the president's trust in Scaramucci.
SANDERS: The president certainly felt that Anthony's comments were inappropriate for a person in that position. JOHNS: Despite the president's own history of vulgar comments.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Grab them by the (EXPLETIVE DELETED).
JOHNS: Which led to a rare apology in the final stretch of the campaign.
JOHNS: Two sources close to the White House tell CNN that the president initially found Scaramucci's comments amusing but eventually soured after it appeared Scaramucci was overshadowing him. The new White House chief of staff making it clear that he wants to rein in what you might call the free-for-all here at the White House. All staffers expected to report to him -- Chris and Alisyn.
CAMEROTA: I have heard the expression "the wild West Wing" used. Joe, thank you very much. Let's talk about all this with our great panel.
We have Josh Green is the author of "Devil's Bargain" and senior national correspondent "Bloomberg Business Week." Also with us, CNN political analysts David Gregory and Ryan Lizza, who got that bombshell interview with Anthony Scaramucci that set his downfall in motion.
Great to see all of you.
David Gregory, "The Washington Post," let's start with what "The Washington Post" is reporting, that it was President Trump himself, who dictated that misleading message about Don Jr.'s meeting with that Russian lawyer. What do you make of all this?
DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, look, there's a potential legal problem here in terms of obstruction of justice. There's the fact that the president, his lawyers, others in the White House have misled the public and the press about...
CAMEROTA: Which is not illegal.
GREGORY: Yes, well, right, but whether obstruction of justice is illegal, and certainly, will attract for scrutiny from the special prosecutor Mueller, but the fact that he's not leveling with the American people again. And I think the biggest point of all, which is this is just another indication that the real problem in this White House, the chaotic nature of the White House, the undisciplined nature of the White House is the president himself.
The president is his own communications director. He's his own strategist. He acts as his own lawyer. He doesn't listen to other people, and he's fighting every war that can possibly, that he could possibly take on. When you do all of that, it's a losing proposition. Maybe he's turned a corner here with a new chief of staff. We'll have to see what happens, but that is just another indication of this core problem in this White House. CUOMO: All right, so you have two issues. The first one is that the
president's counsel said he had nothing to do with it. That was the word from the White House, and now "the Washington Post" says that was all a lie. To remind, here is his attorney on NEW DAY, being asked about this specifically.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: So he didn't have anything to do with the statement that Don Jr. put out that was being worked on with his team?
SEKULOW: No, it was -- the statement that Don Jr. put out -- you talking about yesterday's, Chris?
CUOMO: The one over the weekend that the president's team was helping with.
SEKULOW: That was written -- no, that was written by Donald Trump Jr. and I'm sure with -- in consultation with his lawyer.
CUOMO: Because "The New York Times" is reporting that the president OKed the statement.
SEKULOW: Well, they're incorrect.
CUOMO: "The New York Times" is wrong?
SEKULOW: Yes, I know, is that shocking that sometimes they make a mistake?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: Shock is that you would say something that is that grossly inaccurate, knowing it's going to be discovered. And then you have the second issue which is, what was that introductory statement? It was that you know, Don Jr. saying it was a short introductory meeting.
I asked Jared and Paul to stop by. We primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children that was active and popular with American families years ago and was since ended by the Russian government. But it was not a campaign issue at the time, and there was no follow-up.
I was asked to attend the meeting by an acquaintance but was told not -- was told the person -- was not told the name of the person I would be meeting with beforehand. Now, at the time the big story there, Josh Green, was that, you know, there is no Russian adoption program. This is about sanctions and money being taken from Putin, but that was the least of the concern, as it turns out.
JOSH GREEN, SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, BLOOMBERG NEWS: Well, it was, and what's odd about the statement that Trump dictated was it seems clear in hindsight that "The New York Times" knew more, that they had these e-mails.
I think within hours of that statement coming out, there were more reports that gave us further details about who was in the meeting and what they were doing and the fact that this was really about getting Russian dirt on Hillary Clinton, or at least that was what was promised.
And we also know that Don Jr. was aware of that, because he himself released the emails once it became clear that they were coming out.
[07:10:08] So I think it shows a problem with Trump and the president, in particular, grappling with the fact that these stories are going to come out. You can't just spin and obfuscate and mislead and hope that they're going to go away.
CAMEROTA: So Ryan, that leads us to the feeling inside the White House, and that is certainly open for examination this week, with everything that we've seen.
One thing that has just comes to the attention of the public is this ForeignPolicy.com magazine that has punished Jared -- an off-the- record comment that Jared made to congressional interns. He was in a meeting with interns, and he said something that one of them then told Foreign Policy, and I will read it, about what he thinks -- you know, his mindset. OK?
He says, "They thought we colluded with Russia, but we couldn't even collude with our local offices." Meaning? Inside the White House, it was so disorganized, that they couldn't have orchestrated a collusion if they wanted to. If that quote is accurate, I mean, Jared seems to be telling the truth there.
RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes or inside the campaign. I think that this is -- you know, this is a comment that you've seen anonymously from a lot of people and from a lot of people, a lot of Trump surrogates that the campaign was so chaotic. They were barely, you know -- could barely tread water, and how could they have pulled off some complicated collusion scheme with Russia?
I mean, I think at the very least, we know from the email to Donald -- to Don Jr. that we now know the president sought to obfuscate about that the Trump campaign was at the very least open to the idea of collusion. Right? The email literally says, "Hey, Putin's -- Russian government supports your campaign, and we want to get some information, some dirt to you about Hillary Clinton." And Don Jr. very excitedly says, "Let's do it. Let's set up the meeting."
CAMEROTA: He says, "I love it." He says, "I love it," which shows they're open to it.
LIZZA: So they put a big "open for business" sign on the front of the campaign. If you've got something negative, we don't care what the source is. So this idea we were too disorganized to do it, it doesn't take a whole lot to collude with someone who's got -- with a foreign adversary who's got negative information. All it takes is a meeting and email. I mean, we've seen that so far.
So look, we don't -- we don't have proof of illicit collusion, but we certainly have evidence that they were looking for information, and they didn't really care about what the source was. So this idea that they were too disorganized, I'm not so sure that stands up. We'll see what the evidence finally proves.
CUOMO: So David -- David, what...
CUOMO: Go ahead. I appreciate it, Ryan.
David, let's get your analysis on what the problem is here, and what the potential solution may be. Obviously, the headline is Scaramucci's out, Kelly is in. Those two things were apparently connected. What do you make of what the problem is, and what this potential solution may yield?
GREGORY: Well, I mean I just think it's been a joke. The behavior within the White House. I mean, the lie from the president that, as a business leader, he was going to come in and run a great organization like his own organization, and then he has this nonsense.
I mean, Scaramucci acting like this is seventh grade homeroom, instead of the West Wing, and the presidency. I mean, really a joke. So all right, so that's behind them. Not shocking, given this White House, and how it's -- how the president has decided to operate, and behavior he's decided to countenance in his midst.
And a point about Russia. Just remember, what's silly about the Kushner comment is they were not only open for business. They never took the threat from Russia seriously, despite what was known during the campaign and then from intelligence services the president still doesn't accept that Russia alone did this.
Now at least Congress has tied his hands on the sanctions. The issue now is the potential to turn the corner. There are people like General Mattis and now General Kelly, who are close enough on really big issues to have the president's ear and apparently have his respect, to potentially instill some real discipline in Trump.
You know, the question is whether Trump listens to anybody, and that will be the ultimate test. And this whole issue with the misleading comment that "The Post" is reporting on this morning, what does General Kelly do with that, do with the response to that?
That's what we're going to be keeping our eyes on, because you have a chief of staff who has got this kind of power. Let's see him, the evidence of him actually using it on issues that matter, real problems, like North Korea, things like that. Not this nonsense about gossip between advisers.
CAMEROTA: And of course, Josh, the other thing is that if the White House was, and the campaign was that disorganized, as Jared seems to imply here, they don't -- they never acknowledge that they might have been susceptible to Russian collusion, that they might have just been blithely going into meetings.
And if you take the best reading of it, not knowing what to expect, and sort of underestimating the Russians and what they hoped to do, and so there's that whole layer, as well.
[07:15:21] Yes, I don't think incompetence is a real strong defense here from Jared Kushner, and if you look at the Don Jr. emails that we've already seen and are already public, they're factual, there's no dispute whatsoever. You can see exactly how Russian collusion could have happened.
All it took was an email from some European music promoter who knew that Trump's kids from back in the old days, saying, "Hey, I want you to have a meeting with this lawyer, this friend of mine, and boom you're in the door."
So I don't know that -- that the excuse offered up and leaked by the interns on Jared Kushner is one that's going to hold a lot of sway for people, certainly not for Bob Mueller.
CUOMO: Gentlemen, appreciate the perspective. Thank you.
CAMEROTA: We have so much news this morning. We need to tell you about this CNN exclusive.
According to two sources, before becoming the new White House chief of staff, General John Kelly was upset with how President Trump handled the firing of FBI Director James Comey and even considered stepping down as secretary of homeland security as a result.
So CNN crime and justice reporter Shimon Prokupecz joins us now with more. What have you learned?
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Alisyn. New White House chief of staff John Kelly was so upset with the way President Trump handled the firing of FBI Director James Comey that he called Comey shortly after he was terminated to say how angry he was.
At the time, Kelly was secretary of homeland security. The sources say Kelly was particularly upset by the way Comey was treated by learning he had been fired on the news rather than by the president. The call took place while Comey was traveling back from Los Angeles to Washington on May 9, after learning the news. Comey declined to comment to us about the story, as well as others contacted for the story, Alisyn.
CAMEROTA: OK, and so you understand that the call might have even gone further than that?
PROKUPECZ: Yes, that's right. It was a sort of lengthy conversation, we're told, and Kelly was so angry that he even told Comey he was contemplating resigning from his position as secretary of homeland security, in a show of solidarity.
Comey we're told, said -- told him "Don't resign," and our sources have cautioned us that it was unclear how serious Kelly was about resigning himself, and of course that never happened. And now he's, you know, White House chief of staff -- Chris.
CAMEROTA: Thanks for reporting all that with us this morning. Thanks, Shimon.
CUOMO: Really important story, because it also gives us a window into Kelly's threshold and how that may play out in this kind of game of power with the president. If the president knows he may quit if things go the wrong way, maybe more compelling.
CUOMO: All right, so what is this latest White House shakeup going to mean? Does it change the pattern of putting the agenda into place? We're going to ask a Republican lawmaker next.
[07:22:02] CAMEROTA: "The Washington Post" is reporting this morning that President Trump dictated his son's misleading initial statement about that meeting with a Russian lawyer. The president's own lawyer repeatedly denied that President Trump had any involvement with that statement. So how are Republicans reacting today?
Joining us now is Republican Congressman Lee Zeldin of New York.
Congressman, great to have you hear in studio.
REP. LEE ZELDIN (R), NEW YORK: Great to be back with you.
CAMEROTA: What do you think -- if "the Washington Post" is correct that the president himself dictated that misleading statement that this was a meeting about adoptions, not mentioning anything about the offer of dirt on Hillary Clinton, what does it mean that the president did that?
ZELDIN: Well, a couple thoughts come to mind. One is there is a point buried deep in this "Washington Post" story that it is unknown what the president knew about the Trump Jr. meeting at the time of that flight. So that's important to keep in mind. I was actually looking for that part in the story, just to see...
CAMEROTA: Hoping to hang your hat on something, right? I mean, because if the president knew about the emails, then it was even -- even worse to be misleading in this way.
ZELDIN: So then the second point related to that is, it's always best to have the maximum amount of transparency on any issue that is before you, as it obviously played out in this particular case with the few days in a row of the story coming out.
CAMEROTA: And does this look like the maximum amount of transparency to you?
ZELDIN: Well, again, I would be -- I would be really interested in knowing what the president knew at that time, and it's good that "The Washington Post" pointed out. I wish it was a little bit higher up in their story.
CAMEROTA: So you believe that. You think it's possible that the president's son and all of the attorneys and all of the aides did not mention to President Trump<,"Oh, by the way, there are these emails where Don Jr.'s excited about taking a meeting about Hillary Clinton oppo research?
ZELDIN: I just don't know, and even "The Washington Post" doesn't know, and it's important that they point that out. I'm not saying that to -- you know, to harp on that one point. I'm just saying it's good information to know, that the president dictated a statement and, obviously, as it played out over the course of a few days, it's good to provide a maximum amount of information up front, so that the slow drip doesn't hurt.
CAMEROTA: Here's -- I have a little excerpt from "The Washington Post" report that I will read to you: "The president directed that Don Jr.'s statement to 'The Times' described the meeting as," quote, "unimportant." Again, I mean, if you are calling for transparency, what do you say to the White House?
ZELDIN: Well, the meeting did end up becoming unimportant. That's actually why they were upset with how the meeting went. It was clear from the emails that were released, actually, right after I was with you last time, that one of the emails was pretty clear what the purpose of the meeting was from the perspective of those from the Trump campaign going to sit down, but as far as what happened at the meeting, that wasn't at all what...
CAMEROTA: Understood but it does seems that they're not disclosing everything they know. I mean, about this meeting. In other words, why is this coming out in piecemeal? You're saying that they should be more transparent. Why not just -- why start with a misleading statement. Why have that be your beginning point?
[07:25:19] ZELDIN: Well, again, I've been going back to I would really need to know what the president knew, and "The Washington Post" would need to know what the president knew to be able to declare that to be misleading.
It was misleading in hindsight, based off of all the information that we know, but you know, the -- Donald Trump Jr. said that he is going to, he wants to cooperate with the investigations that are taking place. He wants to be transparent. He says in hindsight he would have handled things differently.
I believe and I've weighed in, that once those emails came out, once I read them, the meetings shouldn't have taken place. They did. I've spoken up on that component of it.
But as far as this morning's story goes, you know, I'm not trying to, you know, come up with the worst possible assumptions to make the president look as bad as possible. You know, I'm someone who wants to -- I want the facts to come out. And there's an investigation, and they want to cooperate.
I also care a lot about a legislative agenda. I care about our country. I want him to be successful. And you know, there needs to be more oxygen left to be able to avow all of the issues. For us, my constituents, what's the most important issue here? And one person might say Russia
ZELDIN: Someone else might say tax reform or national security
CAMEROTA: Sure. Health care. I hear it all at the same time, too. I understand that. But it does seem as though -- well, look Senator Jeff Flake, a fellow Republican, has a new op-ed out this morning, where he's saying that it's time to basically for Republicans to speak up about what they're not happy about coming up at the Trump administration. Let me read you a portion of this.
He says, "Too often, we observe the unfolding drama along with the rest of the country, passively, all but saying, 'Someone should do something.' Without seeming to realize that someone is us. And so that unnerving silence in the face of an erratic executive branch is an abdication. And those in positions of leadership bear particular responsibility."
How do you interpret what he's saying?
ZELDIN: I believe that it is important whether you're a Republican or a Democrat, where you agree and disagree with a president either of your own party or the opposite party, that you speak up on it. That might mean saying something nice about a president of the opposite party, and it might mean saying something critical of a president of your own party.
CAMEROTA: Do you think Republicans have been too silenced about some of the missteps of the White House because just what you said, you're hoping to get your agenda passed, so you let some things slide that are unacceptable coming out of the White House?
ZELDIN: You know, I can't speak for my colleagues. For me, I have spoken up many times where I agree with the president on issues, and I have spoken up where I've disagreed. Where things might have been said or certain policy statements were made.
And I would encourage all my colleagues. And I encourage -- and not to be, you know, want to be a hypocrite. August of 2015 with the Iran nuclear debate, talking to colleagues on the other side of the aisle who are against the Iran nuclear deal coming back from August. And when your -- the president of your own party starts calling you multiple times, you come back and you're telling me they're going to vote for it, but is it worth it?
And you know, here you are fast forward two years. Remember that experience, that perspective from the opposite side of the aisle, as you see something you might disagree with. It is important to weigh in. It's also important to weigh in if there's something that is good to help get done.
CAMEROTA: Understood. Very quickly, you were on Air Force Once, I understand, on Friday, with Anthony Scaramucci and the president. Any inkling of what was about to unfold?
ZELDIN: And Reince.
CAMEROTA: And Reince Priebus. How was that? How was that exchange?
ZELDIN: Sitting between Reince Priebus and Mooch?
ZELDIN: You know, it was actually to their credit and especially Reince spent the entire trip, he was doing his job as chief of staff. He -- we were talking about health care, MS-13. We were talking about some vacancies in the administration. I did not see that just a few hours later, that you'd have that shakeup, and a few days after that, you'd have the news of yesterday.
CAMEROTA: Did you see any tension?
ZELDIN: Well, you know, I haven't quite heard the saying what happens on Air Force One stays on Air Force One. You know, there wasn't interaction between them. You interpret that for what it is. But you know, I would say that it wasn't tension that resulted in nothing getting done, nothing getting discussed. The president came in. We're all discussing issues, substance, the visit. It was all good and productive. But I'd be lying to you if I told the other -- maybe got a little bit of sense of, you know, somebody might have been there between the two.
CAMEROTA: Since they put you between them.
Congressman Lee Zeldin, thanks so much for being here.
ZELDIN: Thank you, Alisyn.
CAMEROTA: Great to talk to you. Chris.
CUOMO: All right. So the new man in is General John Kelly. Hired to get the West Wing back in order. Is that a doable job?