Return to Transcripts main page


Trump's Approval Rating Slides in New Poll. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired August 8, 2017 - 09:00   ET


[09:00:25] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. Top of the hour. I'm Poppy Harlow. John Berman has the week off.

A day after President Trump insisted his base is bigger, stronger, and closer than ever, a new CNN poll tells a different story.

Among Whites who do not college degrees, the core of the President's base of support, just 35 percent now strongly approve of his presidency. That's a decline from 47 percent in just February.

Overall, 38 percent of Americans approve of the President's job performance six months in. That's the lowest yet in polling.

Now look at this. Only 24 percent of all Americans say they trust most of what comes out of the White House. Almost three Americans in four say they do not, 73 percent.

All right. Break that down by party. Ninety-three percent of Democrats mistrust the Trump White House. No surprise there, but here is what's just remarkable, guys. Only half of Republicans say they trust most of what they hear from the President and his inner circle. Only half of Republicans, his own party.

Joining me now, CNN Political Director David Chalian. I would say what strikes you most, but I suppose that's it, the lack of trust among his own party.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: You're right. And I -- and it's so interesting, that number you just cited among Republicans. Forty-eight percent of Republicans believe only a little bit or nothing at all, just some or nothing at all, of official statements coming out of this White House.

That presents huge challenges as you know, Poppy, for getting your legislative agenda through. Republicans are not fearful of you on Capitol Hill if their voters, their own voters, are feeling that they can't always trust what is coming out of the White House.

It creates a lot of complications. Never mind the fact that that overall number you showed of 73 percent of Americans, overall, not trusting, that's a huge trust deficit. That's --


CHALIAN: That is the credibility gap that we so often talk about that Trump has with the American people. HARLOW: But, I mean, this is a credibility gap of the

administration's own making. We have pointed out, time and time again, across the network things that he has said that have proven to just be false.

Let's talk about the honesty and trustworthy numbers as well because that's another area where he is falling.

CHALIAN: Yes. So take a look at this. Is the President honest and worthy? Sixty percent of Americans say he is not, 36 percent say he is.

Now, his supporters would say this doesn't concern us so much, this attribute about the President, because he wasn't deemed trustworthy back in the fall and he won the election anyway. Of course, that was when he was being compared to another nontrustworthy candidate, Hillary Clinton. This is a different context with him as the President.

And then, look at this number about effectively managing the government. This is a really startling number because of President Trump's background. He said he was going to bring his business acumen to the federal government. Fifty-nine percent says he can't manage -- they say that he can't manage the government effectively. That was one of his core promise, to come in here and shake things up.

HARLOW: Right. Drain the swamp, make it work, get legislation passed. We have not seen that.

The base, this is what he harped on again in the last 24 hours. My base is stronger than ever, closer than ever. That is not what these numbers show.

CHALIAN: We just don't see that, Poppy. And as you noted at the top, we are seeing a little bit of erosion. We looked at how Republicans who said they strongly approve of the President, how they behaved over time.

So these are the most fervent supporters of the President, Republicans, and -- that said they strongly approve. In February, 73 percent of Republicans said that. In March, it was 69 percent. And now, it's down to 59 percent.

That's just among Republicans, his strong approval numbers. So he's losing ground with some of his most fervent supporters.

HARLOW: Also the social media. Now, not every -- I mean, a lot of folks like his Twitter. Certainly, journalists like to hear from him since he doesn't give a lot of interviews to independent outlets, but they also see some risks in the way that he is tweeting.

CHALIAN: Yes, you're right. They do see this as definitely a way to get around the media, get your own message out there. There's no doubt that Americans see that as a tool that can be used that way. But look at this risk number. Seven in 10 Americans, 71 percent, say, yes, Donald Trump's tweets are a risky way to communicate. And, you know, we see that day in and day out. I mean, he retweeted

this morning about a North Korea story that wasn't through any sort of official channels. You can -- and yet can have impact and his U.N. Ambassador reacting to it.

[09:05:01] The tweets are seen as a risky form of communication to many Americans, seven in 10, an overwhelming majority. And, you know, I think Donald Trump sort of provides evidence for that day in and day out.

HARLOW: Indeed, David Chalian. I think it was 13 tweets yesterday, something like that?

CHALIAN: Something like that.

HARLOW: Something like that. Thank you very much, my friend.

CHALIAN: Thanks, Poppy.

HARLOW: Appreciate it. All right. Let's dive into these numbers a little bit more. Political Analyst Alex Burns is with us, a national political reporter also for the "New York Times" who wrote a story over the weekend with 75 sources that this White House did not like very much. We'll get into that in a moment.

Tara Palmeri is here, a White House correspondent for "Politico." And Betsy Woodruff, politics reporter for the "Daily Beast."

So, Alex, let's start with you. We'll get to your story in a moment, but looking at these numbers, what stands out to you more, the fall in some of his core base, which is White, noncollege educated voters in strong approval, or the trust deficit here?

ALEX BURNS, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: I think it's sort of one and the same in a lot of ways. That a lot of more conventional all White House teams would look at those trust numbers and see there's a total political crisis, right?


BURNS: That when 75 percent of people say you simply cannot trust basic information coming out of the White House, that makes it very, very difficult for the President to persuade people who don't already like him to give his policies a chance. Because, let's say he gets great news, who is going to believe it when he goes out to try to sell it? Let alone if he gets bad news.

I do think that that number that you touched on with David, about can he effectively manage the government, is a huge deal. That's the kind of criticism that can cut across party lines. And it really goes to the heart of his value proposition as a candidate, which is I'm a business guy, I can do this.

HARLOW: Yes. Right, I'm not one of them. I'm not one of Washington.

Tara, I wonder how you think what Alex brings up does affect his ability to get legislation through, get those legislative points on the board, right?

Because if you're a member of Congress and you're sitting in a rather vulnerable seat heading into 2018, and you're saying, well, I want to go with the White House on this one. But, whoa, so many Americans, even Republicans, don't trust the White House on a lot of things, so are they going to trust what the White House is saying on this? Does that change your calculus?

TARA PALMERI, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, POLITICO: This has been the story of the White House since President Trump was elected because of the fact that he really didn't win the popular vote. He has always felt this bit of an insecurity that he doesn't have a true mandate, and that's why you always talk -- hear him talk about that, his historic election, this great win.

And the truth is that it does really hurt his influence on the Hill, and it hurts when he's trying to put forward a legislative agenda. And you already see that with the healthcare bill. A lot of his members, they just are willing to stand to him and say, no, I choose to be the anti-Trump, but I'm also a Republican. So it's going to be a huge problem for him down the line. He already hasn't been able to pass the healthcare bill.

But, you know, at the end of the day, the poll numbers are not great, and they really did -- they wasted a lot of that trust equity in the beginning when they were squabbling about little things like the size of the crowds. So this is something -- I don't know if the American people are going to take this back.

And the thing that Trump had during the election was that there were so many anti-Hillary Republicans out there who just could not vote for Hillary Clinton, but the next person he's up against will likely not be Hillary Clinton. And they might not have that strong of a sentiment against a Democratic candidate, or they may not have that strong of a sentiment against another Republican if someone tries to primary him.


PALMERI: So he's really in a difficult position. They need to work on that trust.

HARLOW: If Alex's story is telling, you may be on to something there on a Republican challenger in 2020. Look, it's important, Betsy, I think to also note, of course, the positives here. And the positives is how Americans are feeling about the country and the direction of the country overall.

You've got 53 percent of Americans in this poll say they think things in the country are going in the right direction. That is up -- well, that is up, and it's compared to 45 percent who think things are going badly. This a reflection, is it not, of this sort of stellar stock market surge, job growth, et cetera? Some credit here to the White House on that one?

BETSY WOODRUFF, POLITICAL REPORTER, THE DAILY BEAST: Certainly. I think the problem for the White House, though, is that the President doesn't seem to be getting credit for the economic gains that have been made over the past few months.

One -- some numbers in these polls that really stood out to me is the fact that more Americans who responded disapproved than approve of how the President is handling the economy. And more than half feel that he, himself, is doing a poor job on middle class issues.


WOODRUFF: That itself is a major sleeper issue for the President because if he doesn't get credit for any economic gains, then that means he won't have one of the core life lines that presidents often rely on when everything else in their administration is going south. It also means there's going to be more pressure than ever on the White House and Congress to get tax reform done in the next 12 months.

Part of the reason the stock market has reached such record numbers is because there's a lot of investor confidence and investor optimism that tax reform could happen. But as there's more reporting indicating that tax reform may be on the rocks, some of those stock market numbers could end up slipping, and that, itself, could undermine one of the few lines of good news that the President has.

[09:10:03] HARLOW: Thank you all. Stay there. Don't go anywhere. We have a lot more to dissect ahead, and a lot ahead this hour.

If Americans do not trust this White House, how can the Trump administration gain back that trust? We'll dive into that.

Also the President this morning saying the United States must be tough and decisive on North Korea. Well, what does that mean in terms of next steps? This as North Korea this morning threatens physical action in response to new U.N. sanctions.

Plus Google's CEO cuts his vacation short to deal with the outrage over that memo, clearly with gender bias, written by one of its male engineers.



NIKKI HALEY, UNITED STATES AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: I know the one thing you do is, every day, you try and get the trust of your people. That's part of your job. And the only way you get the trust is not by what you say, it's by what you do.

And I think this President, if you look at the actions, whether it's on the Security Council, whether it's with unemployment, whether it's with all the new investments that's happening, look at the actions.


[09:15:03] HARLOW: Look at the actions, says U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley, defending the president on trust as these new CNN poll numbers show he is facing and this White House is facing a credibility crisis.

Sixty percent of Americans don't think the president is honest and trustworthy, 24 percent say, only 24 percent say they trust what is coming from the White House. That is compared to 73 percent who do not.

Let's bring back our panel, Alex, to you, looking at North Korea and the situation, North Korea coming out this morning threatening physical action. That's the regime's words in response to these sanctions.

Given the crisis and given these intense situations with North Korea right now, and you've gotten an American public who largely doesn't trust this White House.

ALEX BURNS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It is the nightmare for folks who have been in the White House before, who have tried to nudge this White House and what they see as a more constructive direction when it comes to public communications and credibility.

What if this president had to go to the American people and make the case for military action somewhere. You already have people after the whole Iraq war experience extremely skeptical of what they hear from the government about the need to using force.

HARLOW: Look, this president has -- that is what he has based his question over the intelligence community on.

BURNS: Absolutely. And so, you combine that with a president who has an individual credibility crisis, and suddenly people start to worry, people in the sort of national security establishment, the Washington establishment in general start to worry, does this president have the leadership position to make the case with the country to do something really difficult and scary.

HARLOW: So then the question becomes, Betsy, to you, what does the White House, what does the party do to turn this around? It's still early. It's six months in.

BETSY WOODRUFF, POLITICS REPORTER, "THE DAILY BEAST": It becomes extraordinarily difficult. The reality is having these trust deficits creates enormous trouble for the White House. Another important component of this too is that Congress itself doesn't seemed to have a huge level of confidence in the White House.

Remember, the president severely damaged his trust relationship with House Republicans when he said the health care bill that they passed and that he celebrated with him on the Rose Garden several months ago was actually mean.

It's not just an issue of the American people not trusting the White House. It's also an issue of Congress, members of the president's own party not trusting hem to follow through on commitments that he makes to them.

That speaks to the ability of the Republican Party to actually advance its agenda now in a rare moment of united government. And of course, if the Republican Party can't deliver on promises that it's been making for nearly a decade.

Mainly the promise to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, that will do nothing to help the president and his party gain the trust of the American voters. So, they're kind of between a rock and a hard place on this one.

HARLOW: You know, Tara, Kellyanne Conway, one of the chief counselors of the president admitted as much that we have some poll issues. I mean, she's a professional pollster. This was her bread and butter before she came to the White House.

And she said we have to get those numbers up with the Republicans. Now the president said all those polls are fake, but the people around him say we've got to deal with this.

TARA PALMERI, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. I think it's a bit of a reality check that maybe the president isn't comfortable with admitting that perhaps his aides are more comfortable with that, but at the end of the day, you're right. They do have to get those poll numbers up, but the question is how can they do it?

Maybe tax cuts, if the economy is doing really well around 2020, that could be really helpful for him. People don't generally like change, and if things are doing well, then Trump could sail into a second term.

But you know, between now and then they do need to be thinking about how much value the words that are coming out of their White House have. This is a struggle that any White House has. Even White Houses that have a real devotion to the truth in a lot more ways.

And this is something that they really need to work on, if Trump is going to make it into a second term. Obviously, the economy will help, tax cuts will be great, but we'll see if that even comes out of tax reform, if they can push it through.

HARLOW: Alex Burns, front page of your newspaper above the fold today, is this report by your colleague, talking about this climate change report from scientists with 13 different federal agencies coming out.

I think this is graph version 5 that they've been working on basically saying the climate temperature has been accelerating in a rapid pace in terms of climate change over the last four decades.

And humans contributed emissions. CO2 are largely to blame for them. Now that runs directly counter to what this president has said and namely what the EPA Chief Scott Pruitt has said. How does that factor in with this trust gap and this credibility gap?

BURNS: You know, it's one of these issues, climate change is one of the issues that does not necessarily seen every day as a crisis for this administration, but it goes to the heart of the credibility battle. [09:20:05] And really the battle by this president to sort of impose his view of the world on a resistant federal government, that when you have all these scientists reaching this conclusion that has been resisted by political appointees and their conclusions happen to make it into the media while it is still pending --

HARLOW: You have to think they were concerned about it not getting out there, they were concerned that the White House wouldn't sign off on this report. If the White House doesn't sign off on it later next week, it wouldn't be public, right?

BURNS: And you know, there's a conventional wisdom in Washington and in the political world that climate changes often not a voting issue the way other issues are, but you know, when you ask people about the importance of scientific information, do you want leadership that trusts data, science.

The polls you get back are pretty lopsided, and so you know, I don't know that people are dying to see the president suddenly reverse everything he's done on climate and the environment.

But the more this sense builds that the administration is suppressing or can't be trusted with hard information from experts, that certainly feeds the larger questions of credibility.

HARLOW: Betsy, what do you think? I mean, there was a reason that this report was leaked, right? There's a reason that this got out there and landed on the front page of the "New York Times today"?

WOODRUFF: Right. That also speaks to the trust problem the president has with employees in the federal government and folks in the scientific community. It's something we've seen across federal agencies as more and more federal employees feel comfortable or feel like they have to leak information that the otherwise wouldn't necessarily be released.

Now, of course, the leak of this report is not an illegal leak. It's not something that would fall under the purview of the Justice Department to investigate. That's important for people to understand, but it absolutely gets to this larger problem for the White House, which is the people advising him.

the people and agencies gathering research, gathering information don't think that he trusts them. The result is that they feel more comfortable and feel an obligation in some cases to release information like this that can really damage the White House.

You know, one thing in this report, one really important nugget that's highlighted in the "New York Times" story is that the report shows there have been major advances made in what's called attributes in science, which is the way that scientists can connect human behavior to the changing climate.

That's something that's going to be a major problem for the president, and that's something an important scientific advancement because it helps us make sense of what's happening. That will put the president and Republicans on their heels, as they may have to change their approach to this issue.

HARLOW: All right, thank you so much, Betsy, Tara, Alex. We appreciate it. A lot to get into in these numbers.

Coming up, a new political analysis predicts despite lower approval numbers for this White House, an uphill battle for some Democrats in 2018. What the map says about the party's chances of retaking the House.

Plus, U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley refusing to discuss a report containing classified information on North Korea, so why was the president retweeting that article with anonymous sources, the sources he hates so much? The intelligence community is reacting, next.



HARLOW: This morning, North Korea is vowing to take, quote, "physical action" in response to those new harsher U.N. sanctions. U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley says it's time to end the tough talk. Listen.


HALEY: All the balls lie in Kim's court, in North Korea. I mean, he's now got to decide how far do you want to take this rhetoric, how much do you want to show your muscle. It's too much too much. I mean, he has to decide if he strikes the United States, is that something he can win?


HARLOW: North Korea state media saying, the regime, quote, "cannot just sit down and watch wild dogs pounce on us," their words.

Our international correspondent, Will Ripley, is live in Beijing for more. Will Ripley, you have unique perspective given how many times you have been to Pyongyang reporting on this. Your thoughts?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's colorful rhetoric, but not unusual for North Korea, who do really feel in some sense that they do have a pack of wild dogs surrounding them, and that lead wild dog would be the United States.

Which is why they feel entirely justified, Poppy, in continuing to develop these missiles and these nuclear weapons, and it's also why officials who I spoke with back as recently as June, they said that they were expecting more sanctions.

This is not coming as a surprise to them. They say that the missile program, the nuclear program will be the last ones they cut, even if they have to endure financial hardship in other areas.

And so, they have these threatening, of course, to strike back, to retaliate against the United States because of these sanctions, but they pledge that this missile program will continue. And don't forget sanctions take a long time to take effect and experts say that North Korea, which is months away from having an ICBM that could potentially deliver a nuclear warhead to most of mainland U.S.

HARLOW: It's remarkable. Will Ripley, thank you for the reporting and the important perspective as well.

As tension with North Korea escalates, President Trump this morning chose to retweet a Fox News story on U.S. satellites that according to these sources say detected North Korean anti-ship cruise missiles.

Now notably we don't have that reporting. It's also notable that this report contained classified information. Two unnamed sources, of course, the president has railed against unnamed sources.

Just hours later, U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley was asked about that report on Fox that the president retweeted. Here's what she said.


HALEY: I can't talk about anything that's classified. If that's in the newspaper, that's a shame. It's incredibly dangerous when things get out into the press like that.