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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
Trump To Reveal Afghanistan Strategy In Primetime Address; Christie Criticizes Trump's Response To Charlottesville; GOP Sen. Collins Not Sure Trump Will Be Party's Pick In 2020. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired August 21, 2017 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[19:00:04] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: OutFront next, breaking news, President Trump about to address the nation in his first primetime policy speech. What is his plan to win America's longest war?
Plus, Steve Bannon back at Breitbart and already targeting his old boss.
And the city of Phoenix, bracing for possible violence when Trump heads there. That city's mayor telling the president, please stay home. He's my guest tonight.
Let's go OutFront.
And good evening, I'm Jim Sciutto in for Erin Burnett. OutFront tonight, breaking news, the president confronts America's longest war. Just a short time from now Mr. Trump will use his first prime time address on a national security issue to lay out his plan for the deadly war in Afghanistan.
He is the third American president to wrestle with an Afghan strategy, and he's taken his time. After weeks of consideration, Trump huddled with his senior advisers at Camp David this weekend to come to a final decision.
The Pentagon has presented the president with options ranging from a complete withdrawal to the deployment of up to 4,000 additional U.S. troops to join the 8,000 American troops there now. Trump is said to be conflictive, skeptical of a continued U.S. presence in Afghanistan but fearful that withdrawal would allow Al Qaeda and ISIS to fill the void.
Five years ago, then reality television star Trump made his position on the Afghan war very clear, tweeting, quote, why are we continuing to train the Afghanis who then shoot our soldiers in the back? Afghanistan is a complete waste. Time to come home.
And since then Trump has continued to question the U.S. military presence there.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We made a terrible mistake getting involved there in the first place. It's a mess, it's a mess.
It's a total and complete disaster, and I'd like to see money spent on this country.
We're on track now to spend -- listen to this, $6 trillion, $6 trillion. Could have rebuilt our country twice. All together on wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the Middle East.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCIUTTO: So will Trump reverse course on Afghanistan tonight?
Two months ago, Defense Secretary James Mattis testifying to the Senate Armed Services Committee hinted that Trump's thinking might be changing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES MATTIS, DEFENSE SECRETARY: We're not winning in Afghanistan right now, and we will correct this as soon as possible.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCIUTTO: The president is right. Afghanistan has been a very costly war. Since the invasion in November 2001, more than 2,300 Americans have been killed there. More than 17,000 wounded.
The financial cost, an estimated $841 billion. That's just so far.
Tonight, the president will be at Fort Meyer in Arlington, Virginia, to ask American service members and the American people to trust his strategy at a time when a growing number of Americans are publicly questioning his leadership.
Jessica Schneider is OutFront tonight at the White House. Jessica, what more are you learning tonight about what the president will announce tonight regarding Afghanistan?
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, it's likely that the president will present a plan that will include four -- up to 4,000 additional troops in Afghanistan. That's on top of the roughly 8,000 troops already there.
But we know that the president has been presented with multiple options, including a full withdrawal. Now, the White House not giving any hints as to this. They haven't released any excerpts from his speech. They haven't delved into any of the details that we might hear from President Trump when he does go before members of the military at Fort Meyer in Virginia in just about two hours.
Now, we know, though, this was a lengthy and very delayed deliberation. We know that the president convened his national security team multiple times over many months to get details. Defense Secretary James Mattis saying that the president asked for many details, wanting more and more depth each time he met with his team.
President Trump did meet with his national security team at Camp David on Friday. And then on Saturday, President Trump took to Twitter saying that he had made his decision. Something that he's kept under wraps for the past few days and will finally disclose in that speech tonight.
But the question is, if President Trump does choose to send more troops, could his background actually create a backlash with the American public? We know that President Trump has repeatedly spoken out against the war in Afghanistan. We heard him repeatedly during the campaign saying that the war in Afghanistan and all military presence in the Middle East was just a waste of money.
And that of course, President Trump or then Donald Trump had taken to Twitter repeatedly, beginning in 2011 saying that Afghanistan was a complete waste, and he stressed no more wasted lives, saying it was time for all of the troops to come home. So the question is, if that's the strategy, sending more troops, that the president ultimately picks, will the American public back him?
[19:05:03] Combine that with the fact that there has been a lot of internal turmoil here at the White House with the staff shakeup. Also plunging poll numbers out of the Midwest. Those most recent poll numbers coming from Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania showing that around 55% of voters there disapprove of the president's job performance.
So Jim, the question tonight, whatever plan President Trump picks, will the American public be behind him? Jim?
SCIUTTO: Jessica Schneider at the White House tonight.
Now, OutFront tonight, retired U.S. Army Major General James "Spider" Marks, Kimberly Dozier, she's national security correspondent for the Daily Beast, and Mark Preston, he is our senior political analyst.
Mark, I want to begin with you, if I can. The president's first major primetime address to the American people since his address to the joint session of Congress in February. And he is really asking for the most sacred thing that a commander-in-chief, a president can ask for, and that's troops going into battle, possibly to die. But this happens at a time when even members of his own party are questioning his moral authority. How much is this a challenge for him?
MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR MILITARY ANALYST: Well, it's a very big challenge, not only what we're going to hear from him tonight but in the coming weeks when we actually see some of these troops get prepared to get moved into Afghanistan. The biggest problem right now, Jim, as you know, is that when you look at the trust level, you talked about this just a short time ago, 73% of Americans either don't believe anything that's coming out of the White House, they only believe just some things that are coming out of the White House.
That's an astronomical number. More than seven in 10 Americans have questions about what they're actually hearing from the president. So to your point, when you're sending young men and women into combat to, you know, in some ways many of them might not come home, that's a lot to ask.
And at the same time, Jim, when we look globally, when we're talking to our allies, there is a question about whether our allies can trust Donald Trump as well, given some of the things that have happened over the set of months that he's been in office.
SCIUTTO: Yes, there's no time when trust is more important than when a leader asks citizens to die for their country.
Kim, President Trump, he spent a lot of time criticizing President Obama for not bringing the troops home from Afghanistan. Here are just a couple of his tweets over the last several years.
This from November 2013, "We have wasted an enormous amount of blood and treasure in Afghanistan. The government has zero appreciation. Let's get out! And do not allow our very stupid leaders to sign a deal that keeps us in Afghanistan through 2024 with all costs by U.S.A. Make America great."
Now, to be fair, Trump has seemed to change his tune or at least moderate his message a bit in recent months and years. Here's what he told CNN in October of 2015 about why he might leave troops in Afghanistan as president?
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
TRUMP: We made a terrible mistake getting involved there in the first place. It's a mess, it's a mess, and at this point we probably have to because that thing will collapse about two seconds after they leave.
I would leave the troops there begrudgingly. I'm not happy about it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCIUTTO: Kim, you've been speaking to people inside the Pentagon, elsewhere, military officials. Do you sense that the president is going to reverse from that earlier criticism and make a greater American commitment to Afghanistan?
KIMBERLY DOZIER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, a slight increase in troops is what officials expect to hear tonight. And those tweets show you the kind of skepticism they had to fight their way through and help explain why it's taken so many months to come up with this strategy.
I understand that a lot of the cabinet members were settled on a strategy several months ago but Donald Trump kept sending them back to the drawing board asking what will be different this time. How is this not groundhog day?
And what they explained to him was that, well, this is actually the anti-Obama plan. That Obama put a deadline on it, we're not going to put a deadline on it, we're going to make the withdrawal condition- based. When Afghanistan is stable, only then, we'll withdraw down troops. So that you don't give the Taliban heads up on how long they have to wait until they can just come back which is what they did.
They also sold him on the idea that they could do this more cheaply. In order to keep the troop numbers under the 8,400 troop cap established by Obama, that meant the Pentagon had to send in contractors instead to do jobs like repair helicopters as a way to send in just combat troops but not any of their support troops to artificially keep those troop numbers low. Those contractors can cost up to three times as much.
So what you might see tonight is Trump selling to the American people that my plan is going to be smarter and cheaper.
SCIUTTO: General Marks, you know a thing or two. You've commanded troops in war zones before. Let's be honest about these numbers here though.
If it is true that we're talking about 4,000 troops or so, 8,400 there right now, I'm going to remind the American public that there was a time when there was more than 100,000 coalition troops in Afghanistan. Still a lot of challenges there.
[19:10:02] When President Obama came into office, his Afghan surge and had that time line that many have criticized was in the order of tens of thousands of additional U.S. troops. Are 4,000 additional soldiers going to win the war there?
RET. MAJ. GEN. JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, here's the difference. I think what we're seeing now is when the surge occurred in Afghanistan several years ago, the Afghan government and the Afghan military and security forces were ill-equipped to step up, and so the United States filled the void with the surge.
We're now at the point where the Afghan government and the security forces arguably are not where they should be but are getting closer to a point where --
SCIUTTO: Do the commanders on the ground say that because I was thinking the ones who really know are the forces fighting with them.
MARKS: It's General Mick Nicholson who will tell you ultimately there are challenges that exist today and aren't going to go away any time soon, but there has been progress. So my point is, what's different is, numbers of the Afghan security forces have increased. There has been an increase in quality that you see. It's still not where it should be.
So what the United States is going to do is essentially take a page from what we did in Iraq, which is we're going to support the training effort, we're going to get the Afghans out front. The United States will continue to lead in terms of command and control at the highest levels with intelligence, with medical support, with logistics support.
There will be some contractors. There always will be some contractors in (INAUDIBLE). But what I'm -- I guess what I'm saying, Jim, is that, it's not an ideal solution because if you don't -- if you cannot advance the policies of what the Afghan government is trying to do -- and also let's be frank, the Taliban owns more of Afghanistan than it did before 9/11. So there are elements of work that need to be done.
SCIUTTO: But, not to be skeptical because I know there are a lot of smart people working on this with a lot of battlefield experience on the ground. I've covered Iraq and Afghanistan for a year. I've been there a bunch of times, dozens of times in each place.
I've heard this argument before, local forces are standing up, they're better now, we need fewer of us, et cetera, et cetera. But this is a plan you've heard proffered to President Bush, to President Obama and now President Trump.
I mean, why should the American people, why should the parents of these forces who will be going into battle, why should they believe the commanders today when before it didn't turn out that way?
MARKS: Well, there clearly is skepticism to this. The argument could be made and put on the table. It's been dismissed obviously. It's either you go big or you go home.
We've tried that. I don't know that the United States -- certainly the American public is not ready to embrace a surge of numbers like we saw before.
SCIUTTO: Right, tens of thousands.
MARKS: That's not going to happen. So how do you take what you have, which is certainly less than half a load, and try to make the best out of it so that you can give the Afghans an opportunity to stand up on their own? It is the same. It's the entire argument that exists before, but it's the solution that we go forward or we completely walk away which remains an option.
SCIUTTO: And we saw the dangers of that in Iraq certainly when President Obama pulled the troops out of there, the (INAUDIBLE).
Kim, you've been talking to a lot of commanders. How do they answer those doubts, that skepticism, particularly with the kind of numbers that we're talking about here? How is this going to turn the tide in your view?
DOZIER: Well, they say when you look at the situation on the ground now, you see the Afghan government and security forces losing territory every day. And what that could lead to is a quagmire that produces ISIS plots that attack the United States back here.
So the option is to let the place fall apart versus having this long standing but smaller investment of troops to serve as a sort of intelligence and support backbone for the Afghan troops.
SCIUTTO: The afghan troops are losing territory every day? I thought they were ready to stand up and fight? DOZIER: They're ready to stand up and fight, but their losses at this point according to U.S. officials are greater than they're able to replace right now which is why you need more trainers to go in and train more new troops. Because they're basically losing them on the battlefield.
SCIUTTO: Mark Preston, if I could ask you, because part of this of course is always a political consideration. But President Trump in danger here facing the same -- similar decision that Bush and Obama faced before him. I mean, you can say that Afghanistan is where American president's foreign policies go to die, right? I mean, and if you can carry that back to British history there.
How much of a political challenge is this for President Trump going forward? He campaigned on getting out of foreign entanglements, and yet he's facing the same pressure to jump back in, even more.
PRESTON: You know, in some ways doing this here in the middle of August while Congress is out of session, where you don't have members of Congress who are doves or those who don't believe we should be interventionists going to the Senate and House floor, and making speeches and being covered. In many ways he's very lucky because of that. Because we'll get a little bit of breathing time.
[19:15:02] You will see people who come out in Congress, Republicans as well as Democrats, who don't agree with this decision. But he has surrounded himself with some very smart people including Jim Mattis and H.R. McMaster.
And as we leave this, I think it's worth noting that the chief of staff, John Kelly, he lost a son in Iraq back in 2010. He knows, you know, the horrors of war personally. I think that's pretty compelling certainly when he's giving advice and counsel to the president.
SCIUTTO: That's a great point, Mark Preston. He is a Gold Star father in the White House, the chief of staff, Retired General Kelly.
Spider Marks, Kim Dozier, Mark Preston, thanks very much as always. Please remember to tune tonight at 9:00 Eastern for a special coverage of President Trump's address to the nation.
And nearly following the president's address, don't miss the CNN special Town Hall with House Speaker Paul Ryan. It's moderated by my colleague, Jake Tapper. That at 9:30 Eastern only here on CNN.
OutFront next, we're awaiting Trump's first primetime address on national security. This as a leading Republican senator makes a stunning admission, that Trump might not be on the ballot in 2020.
Plus, Breitbart attacking National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster. Is Steve Bannon out to settle old scores now that he's out of the White House?
And it seems that everyone in America was looking up at the sky at that eclipse today, even if some of us didn't follow all the rules. Jeanne Moos will have that story. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
[19:20:05] SCIUTTO: Breaking news, you're looking at live pictures from Fort Meyer in Arlington, Virginia. Less than two hours from now, the president will announce his plans for the path forward, the strategy forward in Afghanistan. But it comes as more members of his own party are calling him out for his response to the violence in Charlottesville and questioning his leadership.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: I think in my view that the president's comments about both sides were a mistake. The statement's just wrong. There aren't good people on the neo-Nazi side.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCIUTTO: Now, the former Democratic mayor of Philadelphia, Michael Nutter, and the former Republican governor of North Carolina, Pat McCrory. Thank very much to both of you for joining us tonight. Both sides of the aisle are represented.
Governor McCrory, Governor Christie who you just heard there, he was an early supporter as you know of the president. One of his most vocal supporters but he's not alone now. You had Senator Bob Corker last week questioned the president's competence, his stability.
You had Senator Tim Scott, questioned the president's moral authority yesterday, saying it was compromised by his comments regarding Charlottesville. Does the president need to apologize for his handling of Charlottesville to truly move beyond this?
PAT MCCRORY (R), FORMER NORTH CAROLINA GOVERNOR: I think tonight, during the speech, not only should he talk about Afghanistan, which I consider to be the forgotten war and a lot of our soldiers have been forgotten over there, too. I'm glad the president has the courage to reset to an area that for the last nine years we haven't talked about it.
But I do think he has a chance to do something which he didn't do, which I firmly believe that he should have called this domestic terrorism in Charlottesville as he has called domestic terrorism out in other areas that he's criticized President Obama for not doing. And I think one of our great national challenges -- I mean, international challenges to our safety is both international terrorism and domestic terrorism from groups like white supremacists and the Nazis.
They are anarchists, they want to get rid of government, and they want to promote violence and distraction of property. Along with other right -- left wing communist groups are doing some of that, too. But, you've to call these groups out and be consistent in doing that. And I think tonight he has the chance to reset that.
And I also hope tonight he talks about how they're going to make decisions in the White House in the future. Now that they've had some staff changes with General Kelly in charge. I think they've got a great chance to say this is how we're going to make decisions. I hope it's more decentralizing in making decisions and giving decision- making power to the cabinet secretaries which I think he had some great cabinet secretaries and get this debate off stat.
SCIUTTO: But first, imagine, on that statement about calling out domestic terrorists, I imagine that's a statement that you would welcome, Mayor Nutter?
MICHAEL NUTTER (D), FORMER PHILADELPHIA MAYOR: It's one of the statements. And I think as the governor said, certainly the president should apologize. There's no indication so far the last even two years that we've closely watched Donald Trump that he has any ability to actually apologize for anything because he's never apologized for anything.
He didn't apologize for birtherism, he didn't apologize for Central Park 5, he didn't apologize for the discrimination suit that he and his father ended up having to settle with regards to preventing African-Americans from renting from them. And all of the stuff throughout the course of the campaign, not one apology.
So, you know, I don't know how much he can pack into what is supposed to be a speech about what we're
doing internationally and with Afghanistan. He has a lot to apologize for and try to clean up, but if you have no credibility and the only way that you can say things that are close to sane is when you're speaking from a teleprompter, and then that doesn't tell me that you have it actually in your heart.
SCIUTTO: (INAUDIBLE) because you mentioned those questions there. President Trump already signaling that of course he wants to run for re-election in 2012 -- 2020 rather. He's held rallies. There's another one tomorrow in Phoenix, but a Republican senator, Susan Collins, said something remarkable. She said she's not convinced that Trump will be on the Republican ticket in 2020. Have a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's already running for re-election. What happens then?
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: Well, it's far too early to tell now but it's a long ways between now and that point.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think he will end up the party's nominee in 2020?
COLLINS: It's too difficult to say.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCIUTTO: Governor McCrory, that's a remarkable thing for a Republican senator to say about a Republican president of the United States.
MCCRORY: Well, we have a lot of elections where incumbents are challenged within their own party, and this is a senator who I respect but made one of the crucial votes just in the last two weeks against repealing ObamaCare. So I think there's a little tension between Senator Collins and the president, and a lot of other people, but --
SCIUTTO: She's not alone among Republicans --
[19:25:03] MCCRORY: She's not alone but, again, tonight is an opportunity for the president to not only talk about domestic security and calling people out who need to be called out, but we also need to start focusing. We've got Korea, we've got Iran, we've got Syria. We've got some major issues, and the forgotten war of Afghanistan.
In North Carolina where I was governor, we have soldiers, men and women who feel like, you know, we're talking about all of these other issues, why aren't you talking about us that are in a foxhole in Afghanistan?
NUTTER: Governor, the problem though is, he has antagonized, if not I could use another "p" word, but he has really ticked a whole bunch of folks off internationally who also don't trust him much like many Americans. So, he's isolated himself so badly that it is difficult to believe virtually anything that comes out of his mouth.
He's moving to the point, and you know this as a former Republican official just like myself. Donald Trump is moving to the point that the only time he's not lying is when his lips aren't moving.
SCIUTTO: That's a remarkable charge.
MCCRORY: I'm not going to respond to that because this is where we need to have a conversation instead of attacks. Every president in our nation has gone through some difficult periods, and he's going through a difficult period now. But now more than ever Republicans and Democrats, we've got to deal with domestic terrorism. We've got to deal with health care, we've got to deal with jobs.
We've got to deal with Iran and North Korea which we've ignored now for so long. And there are no easy answers to any of these issues. So, he's got to bring the nation together whether you agree with him or not for the sake of our nation.
I'm not talking as a Republican or Democrat, I'm talking --
NUTTER: Yes, this nation needs to be healed. There's no question about that.
MCCRORY: And I think with a new chief of staff, I think with the Vice President Pence who I know extremely well, served with as a fellow governor, I think with others around him, now that they're reorganized, get some of the immaturity out of the staff.
NUTTER: There's only one piece of it. You hired your staff, you are responsible for your staff.
MCCRORY: That's correct. NUTTER: He hired every one of those folks there. Jim and the news media did not put those people there. Democrats did not put those people there. He has to have a responsibility for his team.
MCCRORY: You as mayor and I as governor, I'm sure have had to fire people before.
NUTTER: Every now and then.
MCCRORY: I had to fire some people and I had to do that as a governor and mayor. You make mistakes, you correct the mistakes --
SCIUTTO: And move on.
NUTTER: Well, the president made a T.V. career out of firing people.
SCIUTTO: We'll see if those changes filter up to the top. Governor, Mayor, it's nice to have people from both sides here. Thanks very much for the conversation. Appreciate it.
OutFront next, Steve Bannon back at Breitbart News and back on the attack. Who will be his number one target?
And President Trump heading to Phoenix tomorrow for a campaign rally. Will he shock the crowd by pardoning convicted sheriff, Joe Arpaio?
[19:30:37] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN HOST: Breaking news: a little more than an hour from now, the president will announce his strategy for Afghanistan. But already, the president's just ousted chief strategist, Steve Bannon, is attacking the president's plan through his Website, "Breitbart". The lead articles on the site right now happen to be: America First? With Steve Bannon out, globalists push for more war abroad. And, Mike Allen, Trump's Afghan plan will have the U.S. not winning but not losing.
OUTFRONT now, Chris Buskirk, who knows Bannon. I spoke to him over the weekend. He's the editor of "American Greatness." And Chris Cillizza, he's editor at large for CNN Politics.
Chris Buskirk, if I could begin with you, you spoke with Bannon over the day, a day, hours after he was fired. Did he speak about his opposition specifically to the Afghan war?
CHRIS BUSKIRK, EDITOR, AMERICAN GREATNESS: Well, Steve has been -- has been outspoken in his policy with regard to the Afghan war for years now. And so, his position on this really has not changed. He's highly skeptical of increasing our foreign military commitment overseas, specifically in the Middle East, in places like Syria, but also in Afghanistan.
The -- you know, so that really has not changed over the weekend, the fact that he was in the White House, is now out of the White House, he's a guy to stick to his guns. He's got his principles. He's got his ideas about a populist nationalist and America First agenda and that has absolutely not changed.
SCIUTTO: I think he referred to himself in one interview as Bannon the barbarian.
Chris Cillizza, the president has also been publicly critical of the war in Afghanistan for years. He said it was a waste of lives and money. That's a remarkable thing for a commander in chief to have said as he considering sending more soldiers into the line of fire. I mean, does "Breitbart" have a point?
CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER & EDITOR-AT-LARGE: Well, yes, frankly. Donald Trump has been remarkably consistent about Afghanistan until, it sounds like, based on the reporting they're getting, until his plan here on the way forward. He has been universally opposed to it saying that, you know, we continue to spend money, we continue to put troops there. To what end? He will now be the third president, Jim, to try to deal with this, America's longest war.
It's the difference between campaigning and governing, cliche but true. Barack Obama said many things in the campaign trail, particularly as it related to foreign policy. He got into office. It was much harder to do. He often found himself in some was echoing George Bush's foreign policy. I think Trump is running into something similar here.
SCIUTTO: So, Chris Buskirk, Bannon said he is now out to build support for Trump's agenda. His website though seems to be taking clear aim at the president. Bannon said on an interview as well that the presidency that he fought for is effectively over now. How could "Breitbart" -- what kind of damage could "Breitbart" and Bannon do to the president's agenda if they're not happy with it?
BUSKIRK: Well, I don't think they want to do damage to the president's agenda. I view it as being just the opposite. The president was very clear on the policies he wanted to govern on during the campaign and those were consistent with the policies largely that Bannon and "Breitbart" were advocating prior to Bannon being involved with the president's campaign last summer. I think that we're just going to see more of the same. Bannon wants to be a friend and ally to the president, just as he's been the past couple of years.
Now having said that, there's also going to be an element where I think "Breitbart" will be an effective counter weight to some voices that oppose those things in the White House. They'll be a sort of an accountability partner, if you will, to say, look, these are the things, these are the policies that you advocated on the campaign trail. This is the things that people voted for.
Now, are you going to do those or has something changed? If something has changed, you need to make the case for that. Is there new information? Is there something you learned having become president?
But nonetheless, this is where the rubber meets the road. This is where Bannon and Breitbart, anybody really who voted for Donald Trump has to say, this is how you campaigned. Are you going to govern that way or is something different now?
SCIUTTO: You should trademark that phrase accountability partner to describe what's going on over at "Breitbart" right now with the White House.
Chris, you want to say something?
CILLIZZA: I was just going to say, I think that's a really savvy lead on things, frankly. I think what you have in Donald Trump, particularly go back to June 2015, what you had is a candidate who didn't really know -- he had some basic ideas, some thoughts, but had no policy structure around them. Breitbart and Steve Bannon helped provide the meat on to those bones to give it -- here's -- OK, Donald Trump has a sentiment.
[19:35:04] What can it be turned into from a policy perspective?
So, I actually think Steve Bannon and "Breitbart" gave Trump a lot of the policy structure, policy background that he ran on. Remember, this is not someone in Donald Trump who is fundamentally ever been particularly ideological. He's been a Democrat, he's been an independent, he's bee a Republican. He's a Republican in the White House now, but Steve Bannon in particular has been advocating and consistently advocating a set of policies for much longer than Donald Trump has.
So, we know Trump/Pence will go to whoever has last had his ear. I think what you're going to hear from "Breitbart" is making sure that Trump knows this is what they view as the promises he made and if he breaks them, there are penalties.
SCIUTTO: Listen, we don't have much time. But, Chris Buskirk, just a quick word. When you spoke to Bannon this weekend, was he angry? Was he frustrated with his departure?
BUSKIRK: No. In fact, it was just the opposite. Very energetic. Very enthusiastic. I mean, really willing to get back in the saddle and get back to work. I mean, you get the situation where people want to go from one job to another, they move, it gives them a sense of freedom and energy that you haven't seen before.
And that's the take away I had from Steve over the weekend, the past few days. I mean, this is a guy who hasn't missed a beat, ready to get back after it.
SCIUTTO: We see some of that energy in the "Breitbart" headlines today. Chris Buskirk, Chris Cillizza, thanks very much.
CILLIZZA: Thank you.
OUTFRONT next, President Trump is set to hold a major rally next in Phoenix and the city's mayor doesn't want him to come. Why? I ask him. He's OUTFRONT next.
And the collision of the USS John S. McCain in the port of Singapore. It's the second major collision in the last two months. Why is this happening?
[19:40:39] SCIUTTO: Breaking news: President Trump right now preparing to address the nation on his plans and his strategy for the war in Afghanistan. He'll be making the speech live in front of service members in Fort Myer, Virginia.
Tomorrow, he's heading to Arizona for another in a series of campaign- style rallies. This one in Phoenix. But not everyone there is welcoming him with open arms.
OUTFRONT now, the Democratic mayor of Phoenix, Greg Stanton.
Mayor Stanton, thanks for joining us tonight.
MAYOR GREG STANTON (D), PHOENIX, ARIZONA: Jim, thanks for having me on. I appreciate it.
SCIUTTO: Now, you've urged President Trump to delay this visit to your city, arguing it's too soon after the violence in Charlottesville, that the country is still hearing -- healing, rather. Have you heard from the White House at all as you've expressed this opposition?
STANTON: Well, first I want to correct your statement earlier. You said a campaign-style rally. In Phoenix, this actually is a campaign rally. It's not a campaign-style rally. It is the presidential campaign that has rented out our Phoenix Convention Center. Not the White House. So, this is not an official White House visit, this is a campaign by the president.
And, yes, I did speak strongly and say this is not the time for a visit of this nature. It is so shortly after the tragedy in Charlottesville in which a young woman was murdered by neo-Nazis and white supremacists. Unfortunately, the president failed the country, failed the people of Charlottesville, failed that young lady's family, failed the United States of America by failing to unequivocally condemn the Nazis and the white nationalists and the white supremacists.
And, then, show so shortly thereafter to have a campaign rally in Phoenix, in which he's openly discussed the possibility of pardoning our former sheriff, criminally convicted sheriff, Sheriff Joe Arpaio. It's just not the right time. And it really is just to inflame people's passion and to put people at risk. And I don't think that's appropriate. That's why I stepped forward and said this is not the right time for this type of a rally.
SCIUTTO: You mentioned the speculation about the president pardoning Sheriff Arpaio. Trump retweeted a FOX News story saying that he is considering that pardon and Arpaio told -- himself he told NPR, quote: I didn't ask for it but I will accept it. If he does do it, the president understands what I've been going through.
As you said, you oppose the pardon. Why is that? STANTON: Well, you know, Sheriff Arpaio may be talking about what he
went through. Let me tell you what he put the people of this community through. For years, Latino residents of our community had to live in fear. Just going to the grocery store, or dropping their kids off at school, that they may have been pulled over under false pretenses to have their civil rights summarily violated, particularly with criminal action and/or deportation . People had to live in fear for such a long period of time.
I don't think Sheriff Arpaio should ever be pardoned, but particularly to have a discussion of a pardon where the sheriff systematically violates people's civil rights so shortly after Charlottesville in which the president failed us by failing to unequivocally condemn white supremacists and Nazis, you put it altogether, it's a very volatile situation and the timing just could not have been worse.
SCIUTTO: Let me ask you, the president is going ahead it appears with this campaign rally as you describe it tomorrow. Is there something that the president could say in that speech that you think would help heal the divisions?
STANTON: Yes. The president blew it, and blew it significantly after the tragedy of Charlottesville. Again, murder of a young woman by a white supremacist, an avowed Nazi. He blew it after that.
But you know what? Now, the president should try to make right. Now the president should come to Phoenix and say -- say the words of real meaning about bringing this country together. He should take the opportunity to unequivocally condemn and disavow any support of the so-called alt right, and white nationalists, and white supremacists.
America is begging, starving for that leadership. The president failed the first time around. Instead of discussions of pardoning Sheriff Joe who was criminally convicted for contempt of court, as part of a civil rights trial in which he systematically violated people's civil rights. Instead of talking about pardoning people, instead of getting involved in intra-party fights for the Republican nomination for the Senate, instead, the president should take this moment, speak directly to the American people, unequivocally condemn that sort of white supremacy that we saw in Charlottesville, which is disgusting for all-Americans to see and for once try to bring this country together.
[19:45:16] It's an opportunity for him tomorrow. I hope he takes it.
SCIUTTO: Well, we'll be listening and watching as I'm sure you will be. Mayor Stanton, thanks very much for joining us tonight.
STANTON: Thank you.
SCIUTTO: And OUTFRONT next, the frantic search for ten sailors missing after a Navy destroyer collided with a massive oil tanker. It's the Navy's fourth accident in the Pacific this year. How did this keep happening?
And, Jeanne Moos, a little less than overwhelmed by the most anticipated event in America today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Is that it, though?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. What do you mean, that's it? It's so cool.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCIUTTO: And more breaking news. A desperate search now under way for ten American sailors still missing after the destroyer, the USS John S. McCain collided with an oil tanker off of the coast of Singapore. This is the fourth incident involving U.S. warships in the Pacific just this year. The second collision in just over two months, in fact. A reminder these are the naval forces monitoring the grave threat right now from North Korea.
[19:50:03] OUTFRONT now, retired Rear Admiral John Kirby, now a CNN national security analyst.
Admiral Kirby, truly amazing events here. How could you explain this series of accidents?
REAR ADM. JOHN KIRBY (RET.), FORMER STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON: Well, that's the thing, I don't think we can. And, Jim, we need to be careful we don't try to draw too many parallels between what happened to Fitzgerald and what happened to McCain. There may be, but the investigation is just getting under way, w need to let the conclusions kind of be found out.
There may be similarities, but there may not be. I mean, each incident is going to be different in its own way. That said, you saw the head of the Navy, Admiral Richardson, come out and say, look, I don't know if we have a systemic problem here or not. I don't know if we have a fleet problem out in the Pacific that we need to worry about.
So, he's ordered two things, a comprehensive review across the region, and operational pause across the entire Navy to take a break and take a knee and try to figure out whether we got our watch standing procedures and training in place.
SCIUTTO: This, of course, a highly volatile area right now with the North Korea threat. Do these incidents in any way undermine U.S. military readiness in the region?
KIRBY: Well, they certainly -- when you have three ships now that are out of commission, as we do now, the Antietam, McCain and Fitzgerald, certainly there's a gap there in capability. That said, the Navy has redundant capabilities out there. They've got 14 other Aegis-equipped ships that can pick up some of the slack. They can also flow ships from the West Coast if they need to. I'm not worried about the Navy not being able to answer all bells or
meet the threat from North Korea or, frankly, any other threat in the region right now. They'll deal with this. They have redundancy in it. But look, when you lose three warships, I mean, that's a big blow. And that's a big deal and that's something that they need to take seriously.
SCIUTTO: Final question here, I took notice when the chief of naval operations in a tweet said to clarify the possibility of cyber intrusion or sabotage, no indications right now, but review will consider all possibilities.
Is there any concern that these incidents were not entirely accidental?
KIRBY: I don't think they know completely what happened here. And that's why the CNO is leaving the window open for all manner of possibilities. I think he's right to do that. You got to look at it all.
I would find it unlikely that would be the cause here, just from my own experience. But they're not wrong to rule anything out right now. They want to look at it all and they should.
SCIUTTO: It sounds like they're going to give him the space and time to do this.
Admiral Kirby, thank you very much, as always.
KIRBY: You bet.
SCIUTTO: And OUTFRONT next, Jeanne Moos on the eclipse, and the president going rogue.
[19:56:55] SCIUTTO: All eyes in the U.S. on the sun and the moon today.
Jeanne Moos, though, will not be eclipsed.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Silly glass. Who cares? Everyone from superman to President Trump donned them.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There he is.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is incredibly dark. It's very eerie.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a spooky, spooky experience.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I may be speechless.
MOOS (on camera): I see a shadow covering the earth.
(voice-over): It was the blanket news coverage covering the eclipse.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Totality now arriving.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So happy I could cry.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm a little breathless.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That was our two minutes of ecstasy.
MOOS: Coverage ranged from the couple that found ecstasy, getting married during the eclipse.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two hearts align today.
MOOS: To "The Washington Post" live streaming the eclipse's effect on fainting goats. When scared, they sometimes do this. During the eclipse --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They almost didn't move.
MOOS: Bonnie Tyler sang her signature song on an eclipse cruise.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you stare into a total eclipse of the heart without glasses?
BOONIE TYLER, SINGER: Look into my heart. I wear it on my sleeve.
MOOS: People sure were scared into wearing those glasses.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're not supposed to stair into the sun unless you hate your ice.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's concentrated energy that cannot only burn your glasses, it can also burn your eye.
MOOS: When it was over, "The Guardian" pranked readers with how can you tell if you damaged your eyes article that was intentionally blurry.
Outside, the path of totality.
(on camera): That's it, though?
(voice-over): The 71 percent eclipse of New York City was underwhelming.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it's cooler to watch the people watching it.
MOOS: Especially people using oddball boxes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You still see it?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No. MOOS (on camera): Does it work better if it's organic?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it does.
MOOS: And though the president's glasses work, that didn't stop him from glancing up without them, landing him on the cover of "The New York Daily News". This newborn was named Eclipse. Others were dressed in eclipse outfits.
And NASA released a photo of the International Space Station silhouetted against the sun, which was, of course, then photoshopped from Chris Christie to E.T. During the last solar eclipse over North America in 1979, a network anchor spoke of the next one.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's 38 years from now. May the shadow of the moon fall on a world of peace.
MOOS: There was no peace, even from cars this time around.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you hear the car alarm? Apparently, the car is excited about the eclipse.
MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.
MOOS: I got to admit, I was not underwhelmed. I thought it was pretty special.
Don't forget tonight to watch the president's address to the nation, that's 9:00 Eastern Time. We'll be covering it live. And after that, a CNN special town hall with House Speaker Paul Ryan. It is moderated by my colleague Jake Tapper. That starts sharp at 9:30 Eastern, only here on CNN.
That's it for us now. I'm Jim Sciutto, in all week for Erin Burnett. Don't forget, you can watch OUTFRONT any time, anywhere on CNN Go.
"AC360" starts right now.