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Transcript of Trump's January Call to Mexico's President Released; Sentencing Today for Woman Who Pushed Boyfriend to Suicide; Interview with Senator Thom Tillis; Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired August 3, 2017 - 10:30   ET



[10:31:33] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. The breaking news, this report in the "Washington Post," this leak of transcripts of phone calls between the president of the United States and the leaders of Mexico, Australia, also some information about Russia as well, revealing some contentious conversations to say the least and some arguments about who would pay for the wall in Mexico.

Joining us right now is Aaron David Miller, CNN global affairs analyst. He's also vice president and distinguished scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center.

You know, it's very interesting, David, because these transcripts that are released right now reveal the president of the United States trying to influence or push the president of Mexico into not saying that Mexico won't pay for the wall. A negotiation.

You just wrote this week that the president, who likes to say that what he does best is make deals and the fact that he's a master negotiator, you say so far it hasn't proven true.

Let me read you what you wrote. "Half year into the Trump era, there's little evidence of Donald Trump master negotiator. Quite the opposite, in fact."

What do you mean?

AARON DAVID MILLER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, I mean, nobody expected the president to solve any of these problems. That's not the knock on the president. The knock I think is that on issues like Saudi Arabia and Qatar, negotiating with Putin, trying to deal with North Korea, the policy is really inconsistent or nonexistent.

And the so-called master of the art of the deal has proven, I think, that the United States and America not first, but last. Take Mr. Putin, for example. I mean, Vladimir Putin looks at the world as one big intelligence operation and for reasons -- and again, this is not a partisan comment. I voted for R's and D's. I worked for R's and D's.

For reasons I cannot divine saying the president has a protected political space to Mr. Putin. Last year at the G-20 Vladimir Putin was literally a pariah. This year, at the G-20, the president singled him out for a private, quote, "public" meeting in the presence of others and has helped to validate and to legitimize him. That's just one example. And I think that's part of the problem here.

The Mexico business doesn't surprise me at all. It demonstrates the limits of presidential power. What I think is extraordinary is that in a recorded conversation which others clearly were listening to, the president chose to basically undermine one of his most important and resonant campaign promises. He knows Mexico wasn't going to pay for the wall and he wanted the Mexican president essentially to say so, which would have put the Mexican president in an impossible situation.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: On Russia, these calls were, by the way, you know, just seven days into his presidency, right, right after inauguration. I think January. But on Russia, so the response this morning to the president grudgingly signing the Russia sanctions bill, you know, saying, I can do better deals with other countries than Congress can, he also is now dealing with, you know, the pushback and the sort of jabbing of him by Putin's regime, and by Medvedev, saying the U.S. establishment, meaning Congress, fully outwitted the president.

How effective do you think that will be to President Trump? Because he, again, this morning on Twitter is knocking Congress for everything wrong between the United States and Russia.

MILLER: I mean, I think the Russians clearly are -- or at least Medvedev has put, with that comment, has put the president in a tough position.

[10:35:02] But I'd also note that Mr. Putin seems to have been quite restrained, threatening a trade war, but I'm not sure that's really possible. Mr. Putin has been quite restrained in his reaction to these sanctions. And I suspect still, for reasons that I don't think anybody can actually articulate, the two of them appear to be willing to accord one another the benefit of the doubt, hoping that somehow, for some reason, there will be some sort of rapprochement.

I just don't see it. U.S.-Russian relations are fraught and Mr. Putin, to some extent, uses the United States to validate his own domestic agenda in the projection of Russian nationalism abroad. So I don't understand it. But to say the least, these transcripts are going to be politically very problematic, not so much to his base.

BERMAN: Right.

MILLER: But those undecided, the D's who crossed the line and voting for him, Obama supporters. The drip, drip, drip of this is ultimately going to make itself felt I think in 2018, if not beyond.

BERMAN: Real question on Afghanistan right now because we believe the president, you know, is close to making some kind of decision about troop levels there.


BERMAN: Apparently there's pressure on the military to increase troop levels, increase U.S. involvements and political pressure from Steve Bannon and the likes to do just the opposite right there. What will this decision tell you, Aaron?

MILLER: I mean, I suspect that the president probably will give way to some sort of surge in Afghanistan. These are the two longest wars in American history. They are ongoing. We can't win in Afghanistan. The military, understandably, doesn't want to lose. And I suspect the president, even though he's risk averse here and probably doubts the efficacy of more troops will probably accede to what General Mattis and Dunford suggest.

BERMAN: All right, Aaron David Miller. Great to have you with us today. Thanks so much, Aaron.

MILLER: Always a pleasure.

HARLOW: Thanks, Aaron.

A new bipartisan push to stop the president from the ability to just outright fire the special counsel. Of course he would have to go through his attorney general to do so. A really interesting new bill put forth by a Democrat and a Republican in the Senate to take this to the courts, if necessary. Stay with us.


[10:41:31] BERMAN: All right. Happening today, a young Massachusetts woman convicted of involuntary manslaughter for urging her boyfriend to commit suicide in text messages. She will learn if she will go to prison for the crime.

Michelle Carter faces up to 20 years and is expected to take the stand at her sentencing.

HARLOW: HLN host Mike Galanos has been following the trial, he joins us from outside the courthouse.

So what is expected? We're going to hear from her, right, before she's sentenced by the judge. Any expectations going into that today?

MIKE GALANOS, HLN HOST, THE DAILY SHARE: You know, hey, John and Poppy, what we gather is most experts say if there's a prison sentence any time behind bars it's going to be one to three years, not that max of 20.

But let's talk about how we could get there. You mentioned that Michelle Carter could speak on her own behalf, we shall see about that. By the way, it's all going to start at 2:00 Eastern. We'll have it live for you on HLN.

What we know, we will hear both sides, the prosecution, the commonwealth. They're going to state the case that it should be 20 years. We believe that Conrad Roy's aunts will read a letter, in it saying 20 years sounds like a lot. It's 20 years Conrad Roy will not have.

On the other side the defense is going to plead for leniency. We may hear from Michelle Carter's father David pleading, praying for leniency from the judge. Probation only that his daughter was struggling and that the right thing to do here is probation only.

A couple of things to think about. Yes, we hear about all these texts, but it's what she was doing on the phone. As he is committing suicide, from what we gather she's on the phone with him. He gets out of his truck, as it's filling with the poisonous gas, the carbon monoxide, she orders him back in and she sent a text a couple of months later to a friend, basically convicting herself.

Here's the way it went. The girl's name was Samantha, "Sam, his death is my fault. Like honestly I could have stopped him. I was on the phone with him and he got out of the car because it was working, and he got scared. And I told him to get back in."

So, that -- being on the phone with him and doing nothing. That's what the judge said, you're convicted of involuntary manslaughter.

One last thing to think about, guys. This is really precedent setting up a legal front. That you could be 35 miles away, yet be responsible for somebody's suicide. It was a virtual presence that she was there and between her words and her texts, she set the table and did nothing as he took his own life.

Coverage on HLN at 1:00 and in the live proceedings from court at 2:00 Eastern.

Guys, back to you.

HARLOW: Yes. All right. Mike Galanos, what a day, we'll be following it.


HARLOW: Thank you very much.

BERMAN: All right. Shielding Robert Mueller. A bipartisan bill set to be introduced that will protect the special counsel from the possibility of being fired by the president. At least some. We're going to speak to one of the lawmakers, a Republican behind this bill. That's next.


[10:48:00] BERMAN: All right. A new push to protect Special Counsel Robert Mueller from being fired by the White House. Today a group of senators, Republicans and Democrats, plan to introduce a measure that would prohibit the president from firing any special counsel. It would also establish that only an attorney general confirmed by the Senate would have the power to remove a special counsel.

HARLOW: Now this would go to the courts. It is fascinating. And obviously this is -- comes after a lot of speculation that if the president were to oust Attorney General Jeff Sessions, he would put in an AG that perhaps might want to fire or carry out the president's wish, perhaps, to fire Bob Mueller.

Let's bring in the Republican senator who co-sponsored this legislation, Thom Tillis of North Carolina.

It's nice to have you here.


HARLOW: Good morning. Why do you think this is necessary?

TILLIS: Well, I think -- I know in the lead in, we were talking about this being about the general counsel or Special Counsel Mueller, but this is a bigger area that I think we need to focus on. And that is asserting Senate power where I think has waned over the last 70 years. And I would also add that our bill -- there are probably two bills that we'll work on and ultimately come together. But that the proposal that I have made with Senator Coons is to really codify the regulations that already exist in the Department of Justice. And adding that judicial review on the background.

So the president would maintain the power to remove the special counsel. We would just want to make sure that it had merit and have that backend judicial process.

BERMAN: Well, you make it retroactive, though, to just prior to the hiring of Robert Mueller.

HARLOW: Right.

BERMAN: So it really does seem as if you're at least a little bit concerned that the possibility exists that somehow the president might try to get rid of him.

TILLIS: Well, I think that one of the things that we're trying to do for the Department of Justice is repair its reputation which has suffered some setbacks in the last administration. So things that we can do to restore the people's confidence in the Department of Justice, the FBI, the independence of this agency, I think is important.

[10:50:03] HARLOW: But there is -- just to John's question, there is a reason that you guys are making this legislation if it were to pass retroactive to I believe it is May 17th, that is the day that Bob Mueller was appointed special counsel.

Do you, sir, have concern that the president would like to get rid of him and is this a way to protect against that?

TILLIS: Well, I don't -- I can't get inside the president's head. What I can do is make sure --

HARLOW: No, I'm asking you. Do you have that concern?

TILLIS: No, I don't. I think that we had a difference of opinion on Attorney General Sessions. I think that Jeff Sessions is doing a great job and this may be an area where I would not think that it makes sense while we're trying to restore the reputation of the Department of Justice to have something. It would be difficult for the American people to understand. (CROSSTALK)

TILLIS: If there is a termination, we just want to make sure through judicial review it was warranted.

BERMAN: The president will have to sign this bill, if you get it through the Congress. I'm not sure he will. I mean, what message would it send to you if there's a presidential veto on this?

TILLIS: It means that we have work to do to potentially override a veto. And I think that what we're looking for is good bipartisan support. Having Republicans lead -- you know, this is when we have Republicans controlling the Congress willing to do our job as stewards of the U.S. Senate. And that is to claw back and to assert our authority to make sure that we have the independence and that we have the confidence of the American people.

HARLOW: Do you believe that you have broad Republican support for this? What have you heard from your colleagues?

TILLIS: I think in our conversations that both the bill that Senator Graham is considering and the bill that we've put forth, we will have good support. I think it will be bipartisan support. We are trying to get the discussion going by filing the bill because this could be the last day of the session before recess. And I want to have those discussions over the course of recess so that we have a good, strong showing, a good, bipartisan strong showing.

BERMAN: Question on the news. "The Washington Post" publishing transcriptions of the president's call with the leader of Mexico back from January 27th about who would pay for the wall. President Trump acknowledging, you know, look, even if Mexico doesn't pay for it, just stop saying you won't. Do you think it was ever reasonable to think that Mexico would pay for the wall, Senator?

TILLIS: Well, I think that Mexico should do its part to help us secure the -- that's a very dangerous place for Mexican citizens to live. The cartels run the plazas down there. There's human smuggling, there's drug trafficking. There's a number of reasons why I hope that the Mexican government will work with us and work with me and Senator Cornyn who are filing a bill on border security. So to that extent, I think we should expect that they should step up. It's in our mutual best interest.

HARLOW: Does this -- very quickly, does this transcript that "The Washington Post" has published show in your mind that the president was, at the least, not fully honest with the American people or perhaps lied to the American people about his belief that Mexico would pay for the wall?

TILLIS: Well, I'll defer that question to the president. Again I don't know the full context of the discussion. I haven't read the transcriptions. I will. But I think at the end of the day, it's never made sense to assume we were going to build a large monolithic wall. I think we've got a smart approach to it. And I think it's an approach that the new chief of staff generally agrees with. I know border security experts and people in the rank and file do. So we just want to solve this problem, not let this be an administration at a time where we lose the opportunity to secure the border and make the homeland safer.

BERMAN: Senator Thom Tillis, thanks so much for being with us to talk about your new legislation. Appreciate it.

TILLIS: Thank you.

HARLOW: All right. So what do you get an NFL quarterback with five Super Bowl rings when he turns 40, John Berman?

BERMAN: I haven't decided yet. Maybe I'll just take him out for dinner.


[10:570:56] BERMAN: All right. The Baltimore Ravens denying a report that their owner Steve Bisciotti is resisting signing Colin Kaepernick.

HARLOW: Coy Wire has more in this morning's "Bleacher Report," including a very important birthday to John Berman.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: A very special day indeed and we'll save the best for last, Poppy. Good morning to you, guys.

An ESPN report came out yesterday saying that Ravens head coach John Harbaugh and general manager Ozzie Newsome both support signing Kaepernick but Bisciotti is blocking the move. Well, Newsome responded, he said, quote, "We are going through a process and we have not made a decision. Steve Bisciotti has not told us we cannot sign Colin Kaepernick nor has he blocked the move. Whoever is making those claims is wrong," unquote.

Now the Ravens are interested in signing Kaepernick as a backup whose on-field play has diminished since his 2013 season. And the team's Web site says they have gauged public opinion about signing the man who created intense polarized reactions when he protested against social injustice and police brutality during national anthems last season.

So the question remains, will the Ravens or any team for that matter take the chance on Kaepernick, determining that his ability to help the team win outweighs potential to be a distraction and hurt the team's bottom line?

Now I would be remiss if I did not give the opportunity to a Massachusetts native to tell this last story. It is a very special birthday for someone very special, Mr. Berman.

BERMAN: Very special indeed. There he is, he's turning 40. Tom Brady turning 40. You know, he doesn't look 40. He looks 25, Coy.

WIRE: Yes. And --

HARLOW: Tom -- go ahead, Coy.

WIRE: He feels he's 25, he looks like he's 25. But what do you get a guy who seems to have everything? Five Super Bowl titles, a supermodel wife. How about baby goats for the go? Greatest of all time. That's what the Patriots did at training camp, bringing a petting zoo for the kids to take selfies. It's an incredible day, John. I would let you sing happy birthday, but I don't know if you want to do that to our viewers.

BERMAN: No, no. We'll do it in private. We're going to have a private dinner tonight. Just the two of us. Thanks, Coy. I appreciate you being --

HARLOW: That's why John won't be on the show tomorrow because he's going to have a big night with Giselle and Tom Brady.

BERMAN: Just Tom. All right.

HARLOW: Thanks for joining us today. I'm Poppy Harlow.

BERMAN: I'm John Berman. "AT THIS HOUR WITH KATE BOLDUAN" starts now.