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New Chief Of Staff Rein In West Wing; Prankster Tricks White House Officials; Did Trump Dictate Meeting Response? Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired August 1, 2017 - 07:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[07:30:00] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Congressman Lee Zeldin, thanks so much --

REP. LEE ZELDIN (R), NEW YORK: Thanks, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: -- for being here. Great to talk to you -- Chris.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right. So, the new man in is Gen. John Kelly, hired to get the West Wing back in order. Is that a doable job?

A former Congresswoman who worked closely with the general joins us next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CUOMO: President Trump's new chief of staff Gen. John Kelly is trying to rein in the free-for-all inside the White House -- tall task. Is the general the right fit for the job? And how about Kelly, in particular?

Let's discuss with former White House chief of staff to President Clinton, Mack McLarty. And, Jane Harman, former ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee. Harman worked with Kelly for years in that capacity. She is now president and CEO of the Wilson Center.

Good to have you both.

Mack, let's start at 30,000 feet here. What do you make of the comings and goings inside the White House that have culminated in Gen. Kelly as chief of staff?

MACK MCLARTY, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF TO PRESIDENT CLINTON, CHAIRMAN, MCCLARTY ASSOCIATES: I think the president realized he was going to have to make some changes. I think he has. He's clearly, I think, empowered Gen. Kelly -- or Chief Kelly. That's what it appears at this point.

[07:35:03] But I think, Chris, when you really look at it what you've got to do first is get a government in place. We were able to get our cabinet confirmed the day after, save one inauguration.

Two, you've got to step on the world state. And three, you've got to get some things done for the American people, i.e., your legislative agenda.

In our case, it was the economic plan. Frankly, President Trump had a big setback with health care.

General Kelly has got to establish some discipline and order. I think he's well on his way to do that. He's had a real distinguished record, obviously, in service to our country. I think he's likely the right person to try -- to try to do this job, Chris.

CUOMO: All right. Let's talk about why, Jane. You know, people see a general in uniform, military, and they think well, but does he have the political savvy. People don't get how political generals can be -- that they have those skills. And, in fact, we have seen Kelly evidence that slight of hand that's necessary on the political side.

What's your take?

JANE HARMAN (D), FORMER U.S. CONGRESSWOMAN, CALIFORNIA, FORMER RANKING MEMBER, PERMANENT SELECT COMMITTEE ON INTELLIGENCE, DIRECTOR, PRESIDENT, CEO, WILSON CENTER: Well, first of all, my hat's off to anyone brave enough to be White House chief of staff. It's a really hard job. Just ask Mack, who did it with grace, and charm, and talent.

But at any rate, Kelly's got all of those things and the military background, I think, helps. For starters, I mean, he's been in a -- he's in a disciplined organization, both up and down the ranks, and he spent 45 years there. He's been out of the military -- let's remember this -- for about a year or more.

He was at the Homeland department for seven months and I thought he was extraordinary as secretaryof Homeland Security. I'm really sad that he's leaving there and the excellent team he has built and supported and the things that he is doing, given the threats to airline security, for example, in the recent plot in Australia.

And I guess the good news -- the only good news I can see for him personally is that he will now be on top, I hope, of a real strategy development team for North Korea. I think the North Korean threat is urgent. Things could happen at any minute and we need a whole of government response, not just a military response.

And as you've pointed out, there's no depth in most of the other departments yet so it matters that there's a steady hand at the top.

CUOMO: And it all is about how he balances the various responsibilities, Mack.

HARMAN: Yes.

CUOMO: John Podesta, obviously, has his own experience in this area. He wrote an op-ed in "The Washington Post." He called it "An Impossible Mission."

"As a former White House chief of staff, the best advice I could have given Ge. John F. Kelly has been overtaken by events. Don't take the job. He just signed up for what may be truly an impossible mission bringing discipline, order, and strategic focus to the chaos that is the Trump White House."

So, Mack, one of the things that we'll see here. So, he is supposedly everyone's boss.

That includes Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump. She puts out a tweet -- it could have just been a language issue but she puts out a tweet saying I look forward in working with the general. But she doesn't work with him, she supposedly works for him.

How does the general keep the president's kids from walking in and out of the Oval Office?

MCLARTY: Well, that's a challenge for any chief of staff -- chief javelin catcher, as the job has been called -- and thanks, Jane, to your kind words -- but he's also a gatekeeper. There's been a recent book by Chris Whipple about that.

But you do have to maintain some order and discipline and that includes who can go in the Oval Office and not. But, Chris, you cannot cut off communication from the president.

So I think what Chief Kelly has got to do here is certainly focus on order, stability, and discipline, but process is only part of it. The real -- the real challenge for this White House is to get results, to pivot from campaigning to governing.

CUOMO: Right.

MCCLARTY: That is the key.

And when Bill Clinton came into office he only had 43 percent of the vote. After the first year, after the economic plan, the Family Medical Leave Act, and getting some foundational pieces in place, his approval rating was 54 percent. The country felt pretty good about things.

That's what President Trump and Chief Kelly needs to do. They need to look outward, not inward.

CUOMO: You've got to put some points up on the board.

MCLARTY: No question.

CUOMO: I get you on that.

MCLARTY: No question.

CUOMO: So -- but in terms of like tone --

MCLARTY: Yes.

CUOMO: -- and what the man's take is, Jane Harman. So, you know, I've been only partially joking this morning that the president hasn't tweeted and that is one of the indicia of reliability of whether or not the president is staying focused on what he's supposed to be on.

So how -- knowing Gen. Kelly the way you do, how does that conversation go when, you know, Trump's like all right, that's it, I'm tweeting. I've had it. That Cuomo on his show -- blah, blah, blah. How does that conversation go?

HARMAN: I can't really imagine how that goes. We've never had a commander in tweet before --

(LAUGHTER)

-- so --

CUOMO: Well done.

HARMAN: -- I don't know. But let me say a couple of things about that.

I mean, Kelly, in addition to the longer military career, has faced tragedy in his own family. Everybody knows that he lost his son in combat in Afghanistan after six weeks. He has another son who's on his fifth tour who was just deployed, and that changes you.

And this man has compassion, empathy, a quality of connection that I think will change a lot, including the relationship between a White House staffer -- that would be him -- and the president. And I think it will make a big difference.

[07:40:15] As for the kids, you can't cut off the kids. Maybe during office hours, but they're his kids. And so the hope is that they who wanted a change in the White House will recognize that this will make their father or father-in-law's presidency much more successful.

And let me just say one thing about that. He's my president, too. At a time of huge threat we want our president to be successful, whomever we voted for, and this president needs to succeed. Our country needs to succeed -- let me put it that way -- including Congress.

And one comment about Congress. I hope they go back to health care and they did do something amazing last week. On a bipartisan, bicameral basis they passed that very tough sanctions law against Russia, Iran, and North Korea. And speaking with one voice our government can do so much more.

CUOMO: And we just had the vice president talking about Russia's presence in Georgia. We know how bad that can go from the Bush years, so we'll see if there's some cohesion to move us forward.

Jane, Mack, thank you very much. Appreciate you both.

HARMAN: Thank you, Chris.

CUOMO: Alisyn --

MCLARTY: Thank you, Chris.

CAMEROTA: Chris, you have to hear this story.

There are security risks, apparently, in the White House. How a prankster learned about some White House feuds just by sending a few e-mails.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:45:10] CAMEROTA: So, the turmoil in Washington does not seem to be hurting the stock market which is going gangbusters.

The Dow closing out July with another record high, it's 30th this year, alone. The streak could continue today so, right now, futures are up more than 100 points.

The credit goes to big corporate earnings. S&P 500 profits should rise 11 percent this season, and after a record 15 percent return last quarter, 2017 is on track for the best profit growth in six years.

The most valuable company in the world, Apple, will report today and any move for Apple moves the whole market.

That's your "CNN Money." Now, over to Chris.

CUOMO: All right. So now, we have an exclusive that was first reported by Jake Tapper last night.

Stunning proof that cybersecurity is not just an issue in your house, but the White House.Several White House officials got punked. A prankster posed as administration players with stunning success.

Pretending to be Jared Kushner, the prankster wrote Homeland Security Adviser Tom Bossert, quote, "We are 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 comparible (sic)" -- misspelled -- "quality to that which we ate in Iraq."

Without thinking twice about it, Bossert wrote back, "Thanks, Jared. With a promise like that,I can't refuse. Also, if you ever need it, my personal e-mail is --" and then he gave it.

Again, Jared -- of course, it wasn't Jared -- and it didn't end there.

The trick took a darker turn when the prankster pretended to be Reince Priebus and wrote to Anthony Scaramucci.

He wrote, quote, "I had promised myself I would leave my hands mud free, but after reading your tweet today which stated how soon we will learn who in the media who has class and who hasn't, has pushed me to this."

Whatever. It doesn't matter because it was fake.

Scaramucci fell for it, writing, "You know what you did. We all do, even today. But rest assured we were prepared. A man would apologize."

And the exchange went on.

It turns out the only Trump who did not fall for the trick was Eric Trump, writing back to an e-mail from his brother, Don, Jr. "I have sent this to law enforcement who will handle from here."

Well-played, Eric.

The prankster's trick is called spear phishing, OK? It involves making your e-mail address look like a legitimate one.

We received these exchanges from the prankster, himself, who's based out of the U.K. He says his motivation is mirth, not malice. He also says law enforcement has not contacted him yet.

And, you know, the reason we picked up on this other than the -- you know, the entertainment value of it is that this phishing thing is real. It's what got Podesta, right? It almost got us here with it and it is a window into how easy it can be to manipulate.

Yes, a little bit of a meaningful suggestion to what happened with Russia and their interference. You know, lots of different tools in the box that can be used.

CAMEROTA: So in other words, all the flattering e-mails you send me every day about how well I'm doing on the show and stuff, are those real or are those from a prankster?

CUOMO: They are 100 percent authentic, though inspired by your telling me to send them.

(LAUGHTER)

CAMEROTA: That is scary stuff. That is scary stuff and the Scaramucci exchange --

CUOMO: And not difficult to do.

CAMEROTA: -- with Priebus, you can see that he expected an e-mail like that from Priebus.

CUOMO: Right.

CAMEROTA: That wasn't out of the realm of possibility --

CUOMO: Right.

CAMEROTA: -- so he responded in-kind.

CUOMO: So they were -- they were gullible, they were susceptible, but what about the cybersecurity? How do we stop people from infiltrating? Meaningful question.

CAMEROTA: All right.

So meanwhile, the White House is looking to iron out its message. Will a change in staff help the president push his agenda? We have a debate for you, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:52:30] CAMEROTA: Well, after only a few days on the job, Anthony Scaramucci is out as White House communications director. Sources say he was pushed out by the new chief of staff Gen. John Kelly.

But as the West Wing attempts another reset, another bombshell report is putting staffers to the test.The White House -- sorry, "The Washington Post" reports that President Trump actually dictated that misleading initial statement about Don, Jr.'s meeting with a Russian lawyer.

Let's discuss all of this with our CNN political commentators. We have Dan Pfeiffer and Jason Miller. Gentlemen, great to see you.

Dan, you sent a funny tweet out about the swiftness of the rise and fall of Anthony Scaramucci.

You say, "Unfortunatelyfor the Mooch, the minimum tenure to get invited to the annual White House communications directors' reunion is three weeks."

He did not make that mark.

Can you -- what do you think about how amazingly rapidly all this has happened?

DAN PFEIFFER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, FORMER SENIOR ADVISER TO PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, I think first, in my mind as I was thinking about Gen. Kelly taking over, one of the questions that I thought would be a real test whether he was going to have a chance to succeed would be whether he would fire Scaramucci, who had committed multiple federal offenses in a very short period of time and was also just a distracting presence within the White House staff.

You just simply can't call a "New Yorker" reporter and trash the president's chief strategist and chief of staff. And so, I think that's a sign -- that's a good sign for Gen. Kelly.

And second, it is a -- it shows why you can't just hire a random cable television pundit from Wall Street to be your White House communications director. You have to have a professional with experience in trying to move legislation, carry message, that sort of thing. And the question now is are they going to be able to hire someone with that level of experience to take over.

CAMEROTA: Hey, Jason, before I let you talk about how you see the agenda moving forward I just want to read a very interesting tweet from President Trump back in 2012. He was not impressed with President Obama's string of three chiefs of staff.

So here's what President Trump wrote -- well, then-Donald Trump.

"Three chiefs of staff in less than three years of being president. Part of the reason why Barack Obama cannot manage to pass his agenda." I'm nomathematicianbut three chiefs of staff in three years versus two in six months -- your thoughts?

JASON MILLER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, FORMER SENIOR COMMUNICATIONS ADVISER FOR TRUMP CAMPAIGN: Well, Alisyn, good morning.

I think it's a little bit of apples and oranges there. I think the fact that President Trump is bringing in Gen. Kelly to help reset things and I think put a little more structure in the White House is a good thing.

General Kelly has made it clear, so far, that he's the biggest boss that we've seen so far and I think he's going to be able to get things tightened up and in order and, obviously, we saw him make some staffingmoves yesterday.

[07:55:10] I think a couple of things are going to help this White House get back on track here.

Number one, I think, is they move the issues set into tax reform. We saw Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and Legislative Affairs Director Mark Short come out yesterday and talk about the tax reform bill that's coming up. I think as they get into that I think that's going to really help President Trump.

The economic numbers that we're seeing right now are fantastic-- 2.6 percent growth last quarter. As you talked about in the previous segment, a Dow that's approaching 22,000. These are fantastic numbers --

CAMEROTA: Yes.

MILLER: -- and I think when the president is talking economy he's in a winning spot.

And I think also as Gen. Kelly puts in some of his people in the structure and helps to put a little bit more discipline in there that's going to help the president.

And my recommendation on this front as they're moving into tax reform, I would say go and try to keep Sean Spicer around through the tax reform effort. I think he's the person inside the White House who's been working on this tax reform rollout and you already have him in place. He knows the president, he's loyal to the team.

If I were Gen. Kelly I would go talk to Sean and say can I get you to stay around through this effort and my guess is he could probably convince Sean to do that.

CAMEROTA: Yes. Jason, before I move back to Dan, because you were in this role as communications director and you know President Trump and you know the team, do you think that Gen. Kelly is going to somehow help him rein in Twitter habit?

MILLER: Well, I think what Gen. Kelly is going to do, as any smart battlefield commander, is figure out what's the best structure to put in place for this president. And I think also in talking with people who have known Gen. Kelly, he's not someone who I've had the opportunity to work with closely for a longer stretch than I have with other people on the team.

CAMEROTA: Yes, but what is the best structure for the Twitter habit? I mean, we're just monitoring it this morning and the president has not tweeted which is, you know, notable. So, but Imean, seriously -- in all seriousness, do you think that Gen. Kelly as chief of staff will say you need to curtail some of that?

MILLER: I think what Gen. Kelly would be smart to do -- again, this would be from the communications recommendation -- is say Mr. President, you have a unique ability here to go around, to go through the media to get your message across when you're talking about your issues. When you want to make sure that you get your story out completely unfiltered, that's the best way to do it.

Now, at certain points, if you do want to go and pick that fight -- at certain points there are things that you know that the media's not going to give you a fair shake and that's where you want to go and put that out on Twitter.

But look, Gen. Kelly, he's going to put in the best structure that's going to work for President Trump. He's not going to go and try to force President Trump into a structure that's not going to work.

CAMEROTA: So, Dan, listen. About the new reporting this morning of "The Washington Post" saying that it was actually President Trump on Air Force One who dictated the message about Don, Jr.'s meeting with that Russian lawyer, it was a misleading message.

That meeting may have ended up talking about adoption which, of course, is just a substitute for sanctions, but that's not how it was sold to Don, Jr. as we now know from his own e-mails.

As communications director -- whoever fills that slot -- why do they put these things out in piecemeal? Why is it first a muddled message about what the meeting was and Don, Jr. didn't know who it was?

Then it turns out oh, it was a Russian lawyer and it was that oppo research on Hillary Clinton.Then it turns oh, no, it wasn't just with her.

Actually, there were eight people in the meeting. Oh, there was also a lobbyist. Oh, there was also a translator. Oh, there was also a representative for this music mogul's family.

I mean, how does that serve the president and his agenda?

PFEIFFER: It doesn't. It violates the most basic rules of communications. If you get the story out, get the whole story out and get it out as soon as possible. Don't take your pain in measures, you know, three days in a row. Get it all out in a row and don't burn your credibility by lying about something that is going to be proven to be a lie within days.

And I think a couple of things about this.

One, we can't -- we should not gloss over the fact that the President of the United States overruled his legal team, his communications team to put out a knowingly false statement. That is a big deal and that --

CAMEROTA: Well, a misleading statement.

PFEIFFER: -- says a lot -- oh, no, it's very -- it's more -- I think it's more than just misleading because we know what the meeting was actually about. And if they had thought about it for more than two seconds they would have known that they were going to be caught for that within 24 hours.

And it is also -- it's almost an argument for why Reince Priebus had to go and why the staff had to -- essentially, they put the -- if no one can stand up to the president and tell him you can -- do not do this and here is why and convince him not to do it, then that's a huge problem for the functioning of the White House.

They put the president in a -- or maybe he put himself in a position of great political and legal risk by allowing him to do this. And if there is no grown up who can say do not do this, then the White House -- it doesn't matter who the chief of staff is --

CAMEROTA: Yes.

PFEIFER: -- the White House is doomed to be in this level of chaos.

CAMEROTA: All right. We shall see, obviously, what affect Gen. Kelly has on it.

Jason, Dan, thank you very much for the insight.

PFEIFFER: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: We're following a lot of news for you. We'll talk to one of the reporters that broke that bombshell report in "The Washington Post," so let's get right to it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAY SEKULOW, ATTORNEY TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: I wasn't involved in the statement drafting at all, nor was the president.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: A new report finds the president personally dictated the initial misleading statement about his son's meeting with the Russian lawyer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It could be evidence of a pattern of obstruction of justice.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Donald Trump's legal team is failing him and Donald Trump's staff is failing him.