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Chief Strategist Steve Bannon Fired; Heather Heyer's Mother Will Not Talk to Trump; Yale Classmate Tell Mnuchin To Resign Immediately. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired August 18, 2017 - 15:30   ET


[15:30:00] DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: It is not a great number in your own party, but it's certainly one that is survivable for Donald Trump. You get worried if you're an incumbent and your fellow partisans really start bailing on you and it goes below 80s into the 70s down into the 60s. That becomes a real problem. He's not there yet. But as you noted, these leaders, their voices matter. I mean, Bob Corker coming out like that and raising as you said, the issue of stability. That matters.

Mitt Romney's statement. I just saw before I came to talk to you that John Cornyn put out pretty tough remarks now, the number two man in the United States senate about Donald Trump's comments this week and how he missed and failed at an opportunity to really heal the country and move it forward. So, while getting rid of Steve Bannon may in the very micro-sense change the news cycle a bit for him rather than all these Republicans that have been coming out being the dominant storyline, Brooke.

But I don't think it's going to be a completely page-turning moment for him. It seems to me that Republican leaders on the Hill are still looking to hear from Donald Trump to clean up and move past those remarks on Tuesday where he had that moral equivalency between the counter-protesters and the KKK and the Neo-Nazis.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: You know, you mention all these really important Republicans, but I think the one voice that perhaps means more is Heather Heyer's mother. This is what she said this morning.


SUSAN BRO, MOTHER OF HEATHER HEYER: I have not and now I will not. At first, I just missed his calls. The first call, it looked like, actually came during the funeral. I didn't even see that message. There were three more frantic messages from press secretaries throughout the day, and I didn't know why. That would have been on Wednesday. And I was home recovering from the exhaustion of the funeral and so I thought, well, I'll get to them later and then I had more meetings to establish her foundation, so I hadn't really watched the news until last night.

And I'm not talking to the president now. I'm sorry. After what he said about my child and it's not that I saw somebody else's tweets about him. I saw an actual clip of him at a press conference equating the protesters like Miss Heyer with the KKK and the white supremacists. You can't wash this one away by shaking my hand and saying, I'm sorry.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is there something --

BRO: I'll not forgive him for that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is there something, though, that you would want to say to the president?

BRO: Think before you speak.


BALDWIN: David, how damning do you think that is?

CHALIAN: Nobody can begin to imagine the unspeakable pain that that woman is experiencing, and to -- what I think is so damning in her words for the president, Brooke, what I think is sort of the wake-up call inside the White House if people are willing to hear it, is the notion that, I didn't need to hear what anyone else was saying. I watched the president's own words. I watched him say it. I think there are so many Americans, even some that have supported Donald Trump, that watched him on Tuesday and understood that that was fundamentally at odds with America and walked away being like, I watched those words and those aren't correct words to use.

BALDWIN: Yes. David, thank you.

CHALIAN: Thanks, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Coming up next, Bannon is out. Will anyone else be on their way? Nearly 300 people who went to Yale with the treasury secretary, Steve Mnuchin, just signed an open letter asking him to resign in protest. Two of them join me live with their message to Steve Mnuchin.


BALDWIN: Treasury secretary Steve Mnuchin is feeling a little bit of heat now as the fire storm over the president's Charlottesville remarks has intensified. Mnuchin was one of the cabinet members standing by the president as he tried to defend protesters rallying with Neo-Nazis in Charlottesville. Nearly 300 of the secretary's classmates at his alma mater of Yale just signed a letter to him and in part, this is how it reads.

President Trump has declared himself a sympathizer with groups whose values are antithetical to those values we consider fundamental to our sacred honor as Americans. As men and women of Yale and as decent human beings. President Trump made those declarations loudly, clearly, and unequivocally and he said them as you stood next to him. We can be Republicans, Democrats, libertarians, greens, and a number of other things and still be friends, classmates, and patriots, but we cannot be Nazis and white supremacists. We can disagree on the means of promoting the general welfare of the country, on the size and role of government, on the nature of freedom and security, but we cannot take the side of what we know to be evil. [15:39:58] With me now, James Donelan, Mnuchin's former classmate who actually wrote the letter. Matthew Countryman, who is the one who start this whole thing. So, gentlemen, welcome to you.


BALDWIN: All right. So, Matthew, you took this idea to your Yale class of '85 Facebook page. We understand the why from reading the letter. But how quick was the response?

COUNTRYMAN: Instant, actually. So, I had heard that Trump had said something but I didn't get to see the video until early in the evening and I was so shocked and to see my classmate there, saying not a word, was just so disturbing, so upsetting. To give validation to the forces of racial hatred in our past was really just more than I could take. And so, I just expressed myself on the Facebook page. I just -- I didn't know how much people would feel the same way I did. I didn't know whether this would get people to act, but I just wanted to know.

Literally, I asked a question. Who was willing to call for him to resign? And the response was instant. James among them. And not, you know, people I didn't know necessarily well. And not, you know, people I didn't know necessarily well, certainly not in touch with, but it was really widespread too, that people wanted to find a way for us to express our revulsion.

BALDWIN: So, team work here. James, you're the one who takes it upon yourself to write this letter. I understand it took you all of 20 minutes to fire this thing off. Let me hear, just in our own words, why you want Mnuchin out.

JAMES DONELAN, FORMER YALE CLASSMATE OF STEPHEN MNUCHIN: Well, there comes a point when ordinary politics is left behind, and a moral absolute imperative comes to the fore, and I think we've reached that point now that Trump has said what he said. He said it very clearly. He really meant it. And our esteemed classmate was standing next to him. That, in itself, is a statement. You can't stand silent when something like this happens.

BALDWIN: What about --

DONELAN: It has to be something you confront.

BALDWIN: But what about if you look at it from the flip side of this, and this is to both you, James to you first, thinking maybe the nation needs someone like Mnuchin in the White House, who is Jewish, who is presumably disturbed by those comments of the president inside the cabinet. That it's too risky to put someone unknown there, James.

DONELAN: You know, I understand and appreciate that argument, but we've reached the point where we're basically enabling a failing administration, and we need to accelerate Trump's departure and the shutdown of normal business in the White House as soon as possible. And in particular, I think we can really think about what it means to be in the leadership. I have no doubt that the good civil servants of the treasury department will keep the place running very well in Mr. Mnuchin's absence, should he decide to resign.

It's whether one promotes the ideological basis of the Trump administration that is most important. And I think anybody who is associated with that on the side of the political appointees, the higher offices of the Trump administration, I think it's time to get out of there.

BALDWIN: Do you -- it's my understanding neither of you have, you know, the secretary on speed dial. I don't think you're super close with him, but Matthew, I mean, I imagine he holds Yale near and dear to him, and you know, does anyone from your class of '85 talk to him regularly and how much sway do you think this letter might have on him?

COUNTRYMAN: You know, I'm not sure sway is the issue. I think -- nor do I think his Judaism is the issue. I think this is a question of basic moral principles, right? Are you willing to participate in an administration that's giving license to political forces of racial hatred of our racial past that is, in fact, standing against the kind of efforts to build a multiracial, multiethnic, religiously diverse democracy? These are not political questions in my mind. These are questions of moral judgment. And you know, I hope he hears our message.

I hope that the people who do talk to him, I'm sure he has classmates he's close to, I'm sure there are people who are very dear to him who feel the same way. I would expect that there would be. I don't know them but I'm sure they're there and I hope this message gets through, that this is not a matter of the debt ceiling or of the infrastructure project or anything else. This is a question of what kind of democracy, what kind of nation will we be and whose side is he on.

[15:45:00] BALDWIN: I got it. James, Matthew, thank you both.

DONELAN: Thank you.

BALDWIN: More on the breaking news today. One of the most, if not the most controversial figure inside the Trump White House has been fired. What's next for Steve Bannon, and what all of this means for the Trump presidency?


BALDWIN: One Democrat running for office in the very red state of Kentucky just put out a political ad that poses this question in the wake of President Trump's Charlottesville comments.

[15:50:03] Here's a piece.


AMY MCGRATH, (D) KENTUCKY CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE, RETIRED LIEUTENANT COLONEL, ARMY: Every Republican congressman and senator has to make a choice. Standing up to the president may not be what they signed up for, but when the president is in solidarity with white supremacists and Nazis, those members of congress have to stand up and tell him he's wrong. They need to tell him this is not what America stands for. This is not what soldiers, airmen, sailors and Marines laid down their lives for in World War II and this is not the kind of president our country deserves.


BALDWIN: That is lieutenant colonel Amy McGrath. She says she was the first female Marine to fly an F18 in a combat mission. Retired now, she is running for congress against Republican incumbent Andy Barr who won reelection in 2016 by more than 20 points. She joins me live from Louisville. Lieutenant colonel, thank you so much for your service.

MCGRATH: Thank you, Brooke. And thanks for having me on here.

BALDWIN: So, first, I got to ask. The news of the day. Steve Bannon has been fired. Your response.

MCGRATH: Well, I mean, I really think Steve Bannon never should have been in the White House. I just believe this is a symptom of the president himself. He's like a failing general who's losing the battle, and he's just firing his lieutenants and captains to try to make up for his own failures. And you know, I just believe that leadership starts at the top, and that's what we need to focus on. We need to focus on him and his own failures, and you know, I just believe that leadership starts at the top, and that's what we need to focus on. We need to focus on him and him as a leader and his failures his failures there.

BALDWIN: I'm paraphrasing you. you talk about how it's time for politicians to have the guts to stand up to the president. You talk about the emperor has no clothes. What do you think they're afraid of?

MCGRATH: I'm not sure. I think it's a part of the partisan politics we've had, and the fact that we have career politicians who have grown up and care more about their party and their own re-election. I think it's time we need to have leaders that care more about the country. I think they're afraid of their own party, and, you know, we need to have leaders on both sides of the aisle that step up and say, this is America, and I stand for something greater than my own party. And that's --

BALDWIN: To your point.

MCGRATH: -- that's the call to action I had today.

BALDWIN: To your point, on both sides of the aisle. Some Republicans have spoken up. I'm sure you've seen Senator Corker's words, Republican from Tennessee. You tell Republicans to speak up. To be fair, Amy, do you think former President Obama or Hillary Clinton should be speaking up right now as well?

MCGRATH: That's a good question. And I think that as leaders of our country, even though they're not in an elected capacity right now, maybe they could speak up. I think it's time for all Americans to -- that are in leadership positions to stand up, and the one thing I'm really disappointed in, for example, with my current opponent is that he hasn't. He hasn't stood up, and doesn't have the courage to stand up when, you know, he's either in solidarity with the president, who is in solidarity with white supremacists or doesn't have the courage to stand up and say and do what's right.

BALDWIN: The president has said many, many times that he wants to work with Democrats. But they're not giving him a chance. And with now Steve Bannon out of the White House, do you think Democrats, members of your party, should give the president a chance?

MCGRATH: I think Democrats should give the president a chance when he has, or -- comes out with policies that are good. I think many, and many Kentuckians were looking forward to the president coming out with policies on infrastructure, for example. Some of the things he talked about doing, people were excited about and hopeful about. He hasn't been able to do any of it. Keeps getting sidetracked with other things that are not what Americans want, and that's -- I think Democrats could do that, when the president actually shows up and starts leading.

BALDWIN: Do you think with regard to your ad, I understand your message about, do you want to stand with the country or with the president? But, Amy, do you think it is appropriate to cut a campaign ad not even a week after Charlottesville happened and Heather Heyer has been [00:25:00] buried?

MCGRATH: I do. Because I think this reaches to the soul of America. We have to have leaders. Leaders matter. What they say, how they act, what they do matters. And this is about our elected officials standing up and doing what's right.

[15:55:01] So, that's my message. My message is, I'm running for congress in order to be one of those leaders, no matter what party you're from. This is what we need. We need leaders that care about the country over their party.

BALDWIN: Amy McGrath, thank you.

MCGRATH: Thank you, Brooke. Thanks for having me.

BALDWIN: You got it.

Coming up next, Steve Bannon, fired. Now a source close to the chief of staff says he's not done.


BALDWIN: Here's more breaking news just in to CNN. A person close to the White House chief of staff, John Kelly, saying the top aide is not finished getting rid of people in the west wing. Steve Bannon, may be his highest profile firing as of yet but the source tells CNN those fostering of dissent in the White House are also in his sights. Quite a week for the president, facing backlash over his Charlottesville remarks. General Kelly in the role less than a month.

Let's end this with a quick moment to honor his week's CNN Hero. Dedicating her life making sure that dogs know love and comfort and happiness before they pass.


MICHELE ALLEN, FOUNDER, MONKEY'S HOUSE: This hospice is in our home. And when I say in our home, in every single room in our house. This is the last stop for these dogs.

Come on, sweetie.

I don't want them missing out on anything because they didn't get adopted.


BALDWIN: Oh. So cute. We love seeing all of these different Hero stories. If you'd like to learn more about Michelle's full story and the dogs or if you know someone phenomenal, we really encourage you to, please, nominate a hero. Go to

On that note, I have been checking my Twitter. It's been a wild day indeed. If you want to tweet me, send a tweet @brookeCNN. I am the same on Instagram. Love the feedback. Everything about it. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Let go to Washington, "The Lead" with Jake Tapper starts right now,