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Trump Vacations More than Obama After Criticizing Him; Collins & Murkowski Defend Their Health Care "No" Votes. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired August 4, 2017 - 06:30   ET



[06:30:15] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Investigators trying to determine what caused a fire at one of the tallest buildings in the world. This is the 84-story Torch Tower in Dubai, living up to its name. One side of the skyscraper was engulfed in flames, as you can see. It affected dozens of residences. The building was evacuated.

It took about two hours to put out the fire. Happy to report there was no loss of life here. The Torch Tower also caught fire two years ago.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. A missile scare prompting Air France to expand a no-fly zone around North Korea. It comes after flight data show an intercontinental ballistic missile launched by North Korea flew within miles of the flight path of an Air France passenger jet. That flight with more than 300 people on board passed just east of where the missile splashed down.

CAMEROTA: A fugitive on the run for five years captured just days after being profiled on HLN show "The Hunt with John Walsh." The suspect wanted for sexual assault of a minor taken into custody without incident about 40 miles west of Chicago. After the episode aired last Sunday, police received two tips that were, quote, pinpoint accurate, and they credit the show with his capture.

To remind everybody, I worked with John Walsh on "America's Most Wanted" for many years, putting fugitives' pictures on TV works like a charm.

BERMAN: Huge success, he says.

CAMEROTA: Massive success, the power of TV.

BERMAN: All right. When the going gets tough, the tough play golf. President Trump about to hit the links, or at least be right near them, living amongst them for a 17-day vacation.

So, is this just a tiny wee bit hypocritical from the president of the United States? We'll discuss, next.


[06:35:37] CAMEROTA: Remember when then-candidate Donald Trump said this about President Obama's vacations? (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If I were in the White House, I don't think I'd ever see Turnberry again, I don't think I'd ever see Doral. I own Doral in Miami. I don't think I'd ever see many of the places that I have. I don't ever think I'd see anything.

I just want to stay in the White House and work my ass off and make great deals, right? Who is going to lead? Who is going to lead?


ROMANS: Times have changed. President Trump repeatedly slammed President Obama for taking vacation and golfing. Guess what President Trump is doing today?

He's going on a 17-day vacation to his New Jersey golf club.

Let's discuss with CNN politics reporter and editor at large Chris Cillizza, CNN counterterrorism analyst Phil Mudd, and CNN military and diplomatic analyst John Kirby.

OK. So, Chris Cillizza, I just want to recount -- it wasn't something candidate Trump said once. It wasn't something he said twice. He liked this topic, that he thought that President Obama golfed too often and took too many vacations.

Let me just remind people, by reading some of his tweets. Here they are.

Can you believe that, with all the problems and difficulties facing the U.S., President Obama spent the day playing golf. Worse than Carter.

Number two, President Obama has a major meeting on the New York City Ebola outbreak with people flying in from all over the country, but decided to play golf.

Here is a good one. Don't take vacations, he said, in 2012. What's the point? If you're not enjoying your work, you're in the wrong job. Think like a billionaire.

What are we to make of the 17-day vacation that he will now be taking, Chris?

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER AND EDITOR-AT-LARGE: Well, I always think like a billionaire, you guys know that.

The -- OK. Broadly, I think this is -- I think the whole people criticizing the president for taking vacation is a dumb story because --

CAMEROTA: Like the one we're doing?

CILLIZZA: -- everyone deserves to have some vacation, OK? Broadly, it doesn't matter which party. It's fine. Every summer, it's -- well, it's vacation, well, it's a working

vacation. Well, he's still going on vacation.

Why does it matter here? Again, because Donald Trump brought it up so many times as indicative of what he believed to be Barack Obama not taking the job seriously enough, not being buckled down, being distracted, caring more about sort of impressing people than actually doing the job of president. So, when you do all that and then you say, you know what, I'm going to take 17 days off, we should talk about it.

I wish we could have a pact in the future in which we all agreed, presidents of both parties, let's just say you can have a vacation, we're not going to criticize the other person for having that. More so the president of the United States.


CILLIZZA: They're president of the United States, of course, they're still going to be working. If I check my phone and write stuff on my vacation, my guess is the president of the United States is not going to go on an island where he can't be reached by phone.

BERMAN: Right. Look, I hope he has great vacation, plays great rounds of golf. Absolutely everyone deserves a vacation. But as to the question of whether or not it's hypocritical, I don't even think it is a question. The answer is yes, yes, it's abundantly hypocritical. The president criticized President Obama doing this. He is now doing this. He's taking a longer vacation, twice as long "The Washington Post" --

CAMEROTA: Three times. Three times more leisure time at this point in his presidency than President Obama. I think those numbers matter just to point out.

BERMAN: Absolutely.

Now, taking the Chris Cillizza rule forward, let's move on to the president's phone calls with world leaders, "The Washington Post" revealed the transcripts of these calls took place the week after the inauguration. One of the most revealing was the back and forth that President Trump had with Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto on the subject of who will pay for the wall.

Let me read you just a little bit of that conversation. My position has been and will continue to be very firm, saying that Mexico cannot pay for the wall. That was President Nieto. Then President Trump said: But you cannot say that to the press. The press is going to go with that and I cannot live with that. That was President Trump.

He also went to say, you know what, it will all come out in a wash. Just stop saying it out loud that you won't pay for it.

[06:40:02] You know, Admiral Kirby, you know, this shows, I think, the difficulty with campaign promises and the difference between promising something to your supporters at a rally during the campaign season and actually delivering on it with a world leader.

JOHN KIRBY, CNN MILITARY & DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: It does. It also shows a man who is absolutely consumed with his own image and the way the press perceives him and his leadership. I mean, in both calls -- you talk and the one with the Mexican president, but with the Australian prime minister, he also was fixated on the perception, the image of him accepting these 1,200 refugees in accordance with the deal that President Obama said.

It was really more about the image and perception and how it was going to play to his base rather than a meaningful strategic discussion about real geopolitical and trade issues between us and these two other countries. So, it was fascinating to me -- it was kind of revealing in that it was boldly classic Donald Trump, right? I mean, he spoke almost to those two guys the way he speaks at these rallies like last night. I mean, there wasn't a whole lot hidden there, but it was really about his image and perception of it.

CAMEROTA: But, Phil, I mean, it also exposes the promise that Mexico was going to pay for it was a lie. I mean, that Pena Nieto -- that Mexico never agreed to it, of course. And now, he's begging in those calls, please don't mention to anybody that I made that up.

PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Is this a serious conversation? You're saying the president lied? The man hasn't seen the truth since the 1970s.

I think the most interesting piece is what the admiral said about the lies and the image. I think there is a serious conversation that links both this and golf and Russia, and that is --

CAMEROTA: Tie it up.

MUDD: -- if you look at the motivations, the president I think is concerned about the Russia investigation affecting his image. His image is based on telling the people, I work hard, I don't work on golfing vacations, I'm a businessman who will move you forward.

If there's an investigation that ties his money into dirt, it's going to affect his image. The same thing with the conversations we saw revealed in the last couple days with the Mexicans and Australians. It's not about policy. It's about, please don't say this publicly. I said this during the campaign about the fence. You're going to affect my image.

To the Australian, please don't do this on immigration, I campaigned on immigration. It's about image. All this is about how he appears to his base and not about whether he's making progress in policies.

BERMAN: All right. Just a one word from you, Admiral Kirby, we were talking about the implication of these calls, you think it's a bad thing they were leaked at all, correct, Admiral?

KIRBY: I think it's abhorrent, absolutely abhorrent. It will have a chilling effect on foreign policy. The president has right and should have the ability to have confidential conversations with foreign leaders, absolutely terrible.

BERMAN: So there is that aspect to it. We should make it clear that people within the national security realm think it is bad these things are out there. Given that they are out there, however, we can talk about the implication of some of the things he says, you know, the things that are contractions to what he said in public, whether it'd be about Mexico, whether I'd be the nature of the phone call with the Australian leader.

And there's this statement he made about the state of New Hampshire which is causing major waves today. Listen to this, he goes: And we have the drug lords in Mexico knocking the hell out of our country. They are sending drugs to Chicago, Los Angeles and New York. Up in New Hampshire, I won New Hampshire because New Hampshire is a drug- infested den, is coming from the Southern border.

Just a historical point here, he won the New Hampshire primary. He didn't win New Hampshire in the general election, Chris Cillizza. But New Hampshire's elected leaders right now, Democrats and Republicans, are really upset with the characterization of New Hampshire as a drug- infested den.

CILLIZZA: Yes, I mean, obviously the president made these comments with the expectation that it would not become public. That said, I don't think it's smart to run down one of the 50 states, and by the way, a swing state in elections, one or the seven or eight swing states in elections.

It's the way he does business. It's the way he talks. I mean, we -- even if this call had never been released, we know this is who he is behind closed doors and frankly oftentimes in public. I don't know that we should be terribly surprised by it. There is not a private Donald Trump that is radically different from the public Donald Trump, and these calls show that.

BERMAN: I will say these calls also show the public Donald Trump was being dishonest about what the private Democrat said in a conversation at least with the Australian leader, so that is one thing.

CAMEROTA: Right, but I would say the people whose children have died of opioid overdoses wouldn't mind his description that it's a drug- infested den. They agree. That's part of why they voted for him. They did want him to clean up New Hampshire.

Thank you, panel, very much.

BERMAN: All right. Republican Senators Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski defying the president and their party by voting no on repealing Obamacare. How much pressure did they face? What do they feel like now? An exclusive interview with CNN's Dana Bash, that's next.


[06:48:15] BERMAN: We have a CNN exclusive. Senators Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski speaking out about the battle to repeal and replace Obamacare. They voted no along with Senator John McCain.

CNN chief political correspondent Dana Bash, often referred to as the 101st senator, spoke to them. She joins us now from Washington.

Good morning, Dana.


Well, Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski were the only Republican senators to vote on the leadership Obamacare replacement plans all the way through the process. The two women were close before this, but this high profile and high intensity experience took their bond to a new level.


BASH: I was watching you with your desks next to each other, you could sort of sense a bit of relief that each of you had that you had one another. Did I read that right?

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: I will say I was very happy that Lisa was literally sitting next to me as we were voting from our seats which, as you know, is unusual and issues for only very important votes.

SEN. LISA MURKOWSKI (R), ALASKA: To have that weight, that responsibility, knowing that your vote really is that pivotal, it does help to know there is another kindred soul close by.

BASH: You are both heroes to a lot of people and heretics to a lot of people. How do you see yourself?

COLLINS: Well, I see myself as someone who has an obligation to represent the people of Maine. And sometimes that means casting uncomfortable votes, votes that will make my party uncomfortable and even angry at me.

[06:50:00] MURKOWSKI: You want to vote to do the right thing. And so, worrying about the consequences, are you fearful of repercussion from your party, a tweet from the president, a backlash from your leadership? I don't believe that we should be motivated or discouraged from taking the positions that are important to the people that we represent in our respective states.

BASH: Can you give me a sense of the kind of pressure you had and how you handled it? How did that bear itself out? Phone calls?

COLLINS: Well, phone calls, meetings. I had a private meeting with the vice president at one point.

BASH: And is it hard at that point -- you ran on repealing Obamacare. This is the time. The bell is ringing. Go.

MURKOWSKI: I had an opportunity when we were at the White House -- the second time we were over there, and it was a very directed appeal, that we need to come together as Republicans. I made a statement to the president with my colleagues and with his team there that I'm not voting for the Republican Party. I'm voting for the people of Alaska.

COLLINS: And I remember being so proud of you for saying directly to the president what your obligations were. And that's the way I feel, too. The people of Maine don't expect me to be a rubber stamp.

BASH: If you were male senators, do you think it would be such a priority for you, to make sure Planned Parenthood is not cut?

COLLINS: That's a really good question. The issue of family planning services, cancer screening, well women care probably does resonated with us more than with our male colleagues, and to me it was so unfair to single out one Medicaid provider and say to women in particular, you can't choose which health care provider you want to go to.

BASH: I want to borrow a phrase from the first female secretary of state who talked about cojones. A lot of people are saying that you two have more cojones than a lot of guys around here. Do you buy that?

COLLINS: You know, every senator has to make his or her own decision. So, I wouldn't judge my colleagues.

MURKOWSKI: I absolutely agree.

BASH: You guys have some pretty stiff spines.

COLLINS: That I'd go with.

BASH: Did Senator McCain come to you before he cast the last vote against the health care bill? Did you know?

COLLINS: Well, I so remember when both Lisa and I were talking with John McCain on the Senate floor and he pointed to both of us and he said, you two are right on this issue.

MURKOWSKI: And to have the conversation that we had after the vote, we had one of those conversations that you'll think of years down the road where he said people might not appreciate this as a positive, maybe your colleagues are not going to viewing this as a positive right now, but the time will prove that having a pause, having a time- out for us to do better is going to be good for the country. It was a good, good strong John McCain message.

BASH: I've seen Congress and Congress people when they have some political fear of their president, and he tried to intimidate you on Twitter very directly specifically, maybe having his interior secretary call you.

MURKOWSKI: You can't live in fear that the direction you're going to take, that you believe is truly in your state's best interest.

BASH: Did you feel he was trying to intimidate you?

MURKOWSKI: I will just say that the president and I had a very direct call.

BASH: Do you think there's been a shift among your Republican colleagues as it relates to the president?

COLLINS: Many of us are still very interested in the president's agenda.

MURKOWSKI: Finding those areas where we are working together, partnering, this is what we should be doing. If there's rhetoric that is out there that is not constructive to governing, I think it is important to speak up. And I think you are starting to see a little bit of that.


[06:55:02] BASH: Now, I also spoke with the senators about the Russia investigation. Senator Collins is on the Intelligence Committee which is investigating. I asked her the news that CNN broke first about the expansion of the special counsel's investigation into the president's financial dealings. And Susan Collins said that she believes the special counsel should follow the leads wherever they may be. I said, well, the president has said that's a red line. And she laughed, and she responded, the president can't set red lines for Bob Mueller.

CAMEROTA: Yes, it's so fascinating to hear them sort of behind the scenes talking about their thought process. It was really poignant to hear what went into that vote.

BASH: Yes, I agree. I mean, I have been sort of dying to talk to them, to get a sense of what was going on there. And as I said, I was watching them from the Senate floor inside the chamber and to get a sense of what those whispers were was pretty cool.


BERMAN: Emboldened, I think, to say the least.

CAMEROTA: Yes, for sure. Dana, thanks so much for sharing all that with us.

BASH: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: All right. So, there are big developments this morning in the Trump-Russia investigation. Special counsel Robert Mueller is issuing grand jury subpoenas and following the money.

We have the latest developments for you next.



BERMAN: Special counsel issuing grand jury subpoenas related to Donald Trump Jr.'s meeting with a Russian lawyer.

TRUMP: They're trying to cheat you out of the leadership you want with a fake story that is demeaning to all of us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm not just going to take the president at his word.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Federal investigators explore the potential financial ties of President Trump and associates to Russia.