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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Protesters Gather Outside Trump's Phoenix Rally; NYT: McConnell, In Private, Doubts If Trump Can Save Presidency; Emails: Breitbart Editor Pledges To Do "Dirty Work" For Bannon; Mixed Messages From Trump And Tillerson on Afghanistan; Report: McMaster Lobbied Trump With 1972 Afghanistan Miniskirt Photo. Aired 9-10p ET
Aired August 22, 2017 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: At the top of the hour tonight, Donald Trump versus the protesters who are on hand for his campaign rally tonight in Phoenix. The President versus the state's two Republican senators, neither of whom will be in attendance tonight, though, one of their GOP primary opponents will be.
[21:00:05] President versus Senate Mitch McConnell, who "The New York Times" now reports as privately doubting whether he can save his presidency.
And finally tonight, the president versus Donald Trump. Will we see the kind of buttoned down, on message president we saw last night or the off the cuff presidential id that emerged after Charlottesville a week ago today? And sure, Phil Mudd put it in tonight "The Situation Room" will we see the president tonight or just Trump? Let's go first to CNN Sara Murray who's inside the hall. What do we expect from the president tonight? We have seen the crowds outside. There's, obviously, thousands of people inside are waiting to hear from him.
SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think that will be what's interesting, look, there are teleprompters set up for the president, maybe we will see sort of reserved delivery. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, press secretary, pointed to the president's message of unity last night when she was asked what he might talk about tonight.
But also there's a pretty big crowd already building here. There are still people streaming in. And we know that this president has a tendency to go on rifts, tendency to flee the teleprompter if he hears a big cheering crowd. One thing the White House did take off the table today, though, they said President Trump will not pardon controversial Sheriff Joe Arpaio at this event today. Joe Arpaio had been held in contempt of court for declining the judge's order in a racial profiling case, Anderson.
COOPER: The president has been outspoken against -- I mean, both Arizona senators at one time. They're not going to be there tonight, right?
MURRAY: No, Jeff Flake and John McCain, the two Republican senators in this state are not attending. They obviously had sharp words for the president and the president has had some pretty sharp words for them in return. He lavished praise on Kelly Ward who is challenging Jeff Flake for his Senate seat and Kelly Ward is here tonight. We are told by officials that she is not expected to speak but Anderson, as you know, the president can always pull an audible at an event like this. So we'll be looking for if he has anything to say about her, anything to say about Jeff Flake. Obviously if he were to throw his full support behind Ward, that would be a finger in the eye not just to Flake, but also the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell who made it clear no matter what the president says, he's standing behind Flake in Arizona.
COOPER: Is that a song from Katz playing behind you? I believe it is. Yes. All right, Sara Murray. Sara, thanks very much.
Let's go now to Gary Tuchman among the protesters. Gary what's the crowd like?
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, the crowd is loud, the crowd is angry, and numerous. There may be 2,000 people here right now, may be more. We're expecting the possibility of several thousand as many as 10,000, according to people on Facebook who said they would show up.
But right across the street from where Sara was just talking to you, I want to give you a look at what's going on here. There's an important thing to mention but there's been absolutely no violence whatsoever. And that's partly because of good preparations by the Phoenix police.
Excuse me for one second. I want to give you a shot. This is the buffer zone, this street. This is street is Monroe street in downtown Phoenix. That's the Phoenix Convention Center. We can see Trump supporters still going into the rally which begins in an hour.
Often, there has been taunting between both sides. The people walking into the rally, and the people here. Right now, they're chanting "No KKK, no Fascist USA." quite a multicultural turnout here, old, young, white, black, Latino, Native American. We also see those people going into the Trump rally, but not nearly as many of that representation. But people are waving, people are giving the finger on both sides. There's a lot of nastiness to go around.
One thing that stood out to me, Anderson, during the campaign I would hear Donald Trump rallies say he's a great unifier. And what you seeing today with the possibility, ultimately, a more people being outside this rally than inside the rally, and this country certainly isn't unified. It may be as unified as any time since the Vietnam War. What we're hoping for, Anderson, is so no violence. Ultimately, when this comes to an end that could be when the people come screaming out in the thousands and they meet the people standing right now on several streets in downtown Phoenix, Anderson.
COOPER: Gary, thanks. I want to bring in the panel, Kirsten Powers, Ed Martin, Jen Psaki, Alice Stewart, and Ryan Lizza. I mean, what you all expecting tonight? You know, we heard from Sarah Huckabee Sanders that he's not going to be saying that he's going to pardon Sheriff Joe Arpaio today. That was something the mayor of Phoenix was particularly enraged about or upset about or concerned about tonight that that would upset the protesters outside, though would certainly please a lot of the president's supporters in Phoenix. But Sarah Huckabee Sanders has said plenty of stuff before, turns out the president freelances.
ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think it's a good sign that Sara Murray indicated the teleprompters are up. So that is one way to help keep, you know, keep the blinders on, but at the same time we all know that when he's in a crowd like this in a rally --
COOPER: Feeds off that.
STEWART: Feeds off the crowd, feeds off the emotions. So, hopefully they keep them on message. But you also notice the back drop of the event, said "promise made, promise kept." So clearly the message this evening is going to be one of the key promises he made on the campaign which was securing the border, it's important to have safety on the border, protecting law and order in this country and also providing the necessary resources to those on the southern border in order to keep our country safe. And so that clearly will be the message. Let's just hope he stay --
[21:05:14] COOPER: But Ed, certainly as a Trump supporter.
ED MARTIN, TRUMP SUPPORTER: Yes.
COOPER: I mean, the president has a lot of good things to talk about, about in terms of the border, in terms of the vast drop in number of people crossing over illegally. Question is, you know, we've also seen infrastructure week which ended up, I can't even remember when that was, there was little talk of infrastructure.
MARTIN: Well, but look, I mean, for those of us that are Trump early supporters, this is like going back to the beginning. He came down the escalator, he talked about, you know, immigration, and the problem of immigration, law and order, you mention it. I mean, this is what we elected him for. And I hope we're going to get to it later. McConnell he has no credibility. Trump also ran as a guy that said Washington is broken and so far McConnell's proven that Washington is broken. They can't pass a repeal bill after running on it for seven years so when he stands up there, Trump, our people, which is lots of people, I mean, voters, Trump supporters are going to look up and say that's we elected you. It's really exciting.
COOPER: You know, Jen, there's plenty of people could also just look at the last couple months and say the White House is broken. I mean, that, you know, how many people have been fired, resigned, attacked, mocked.
JEN PSAKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. And I would say the choice to do this today is a perfect example of that. The truth is, giving a speech on Afghanistan, an issue that has vexed Republican and Democratic presidents, it's a difficult, serious national security issue, he should have capitalized on that today. He could have gone --
MARTIN: The schedule --
PSAKI: Let me finish. He could have gone to visit troops. He could have gone. You can change it. He could have gone and made a surprise trip, to the troops overseas, at home. He could have gone and met with allies. They let that moment sort of drop and they haven't explained add lot of things. But they're also not making the case to the public. And he had a real opportunity to do that.
COOPER: It could be that intentional, I mean, does he really want to, you know, put his -- everything behind Afghanistan? I mean, it's one thing to make a speech, but, you know, there's not a lot of new stuff necessarily in that speech.
PSAKI: Something they don't really want to hear about.
RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Right, I mean, there are only 17 million people who viewed that speech last night.
COOPER: It's not something he ran on.
COOPER: -- he talk about Afghanistan much during the campaign.
LIZZA: It's not an issue that they want to highlight during the campaign. But I think what Ed was a saying is a good point about how this is going back to that original issue, immigration. That he talked about in his first campaign speech. And it's also the issue that tore apart the Republican Party quite for a long time.
I remember interviewing John McCain two years ago and he said in Arizona, Trump is riling up the crazies. That remark is what got Trump when he was asked by an interviewer in Iowa to attack John McCain for not being a true hero. This issue has been dividing Republicans for a long time. You know, there's sort of scars built up in the Republican Party over this and Trump has had no compunction about ripping off, can't rip off the scars but, you know, the scab.
And just to your point, Anderson, about what he's going to do tonight, I went to a lot of those rallies during the campaign, 2015, 2016, they are like, you know, conservative versions of the grateful dead shows. People who go there they want to hear the hits. They don't want to speak from the teleprompter, they don't want to hear President Trump, they want to hear Trump. And, you know, I'd be very surprised if that's not what we get.
PSAKI: I don't think anyone here thinks he's going to speak from the teleprompter or that he's going to stick to the president he was last night or when he gave the joint sessions speech. That's not what the crowd wants, to your point. He doesn't have new policy to announce. He's going to feed off the crowd. There's nothing new to announce. All likelihood, we're going to hear some of the red meat that goes back to the divisive person he was a week ago.
KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: We just talk about -- also to the fact that we just don't even care anymore that he's having a campaign rally, that we just go right to the fact of what he's going to talk about and that --
MARTIN: He's running for re-election.
POWERS: -- can you explain why he's having a campaign rally?
MARTIN: Well, because this is Donald Trump, Donald Trump ran against the convention of the RNC, then against the convention of -- like groundhog's day when I come to New York, people said on the day before the election, he can't win, he can't win. He does this all the time. And what he's going to do, by the way, for those of us that care about these issues, he whacked Chinese businesses yesterday. He said to them you can't --
POWERS: -- to my question that doesn't involve because he's Donald Trump and does something different.
MARTIN: No, he's --
POWERS: Why is the president of the United States having a campaign rally tonight?
MARTIN: It's the same reason that the president of the United States, CNN is going to cover on Friday night, he's going to talk about Twitter. He does things very differently.
POWERS: No, no, but the answer that doesn't involve Donald Trump does a different -- like, is there a reason, a proactive reason to have a campaign rally?
COOPER: -- lot of it just because he enjoys it and he's, like, isolated and miserable in the White House and --
MARTIN: I don't know about that, but --
POWERS: It's concerning because there are actually a real problems in the world that need to be dealt with, I mean --
MARTIN: I just expressed --
PSAKI: That's my point. You're the commander in chief or you want to do a legislative agenda, you still want to do health care, you want to do tax reform, go out and sell that. Sell that.
MARTIN: They're reporting on the tax deal moving ahead, they're reporting on appointments. Judges are getting appointed. You guys are missing it. He's governing every day trying to --
COOPER: But actually the reporting, as you brought up Mitch McConnell which we're going to talk more about, he hasn't talked to Mitch McConnell according to "The New York Times" since august 9th in which point it was a shouting match between them.
[21:10:04] MARTIN: Well, but the reporting is that there are, gang of six, whatever the group of six that's doing the tax deal, they're making progress. In other words, the government continues to work and the one common denominator --
COOPER: But Gary Cohn is the one who is trying to make progress on the tax deal. And he's being attacked by Bannon from outside the White House and breitbart. Does that seem -- doesn't that seem dysfunctional to you?
PSAKI: And the reporting is that it is tax cut, not a tax deals.
MARTIN: Great, perfect.
PSAKI: It seems like a --
PSAKI: -- problem and Trump needs --
MARTIN: It's not a problem for us, it's a problem for you guys here.
PSAKI: I'm telling you if I were advising the president and I was trying to sell an agenda, you have a month left to accomplish, what I would send my time doing in August.
COOPER: He's a month left to accomplish, just explain to people why it's that timeframe.
PSAKI: Well, there's a natural cycle in Congress where really you have the first eight months of the year, seven months of the year before the August recess, then have about a month before that there's going to be a budget fight. So September I'm get to. September there's going to be a budget fight to keep the government open.
So at that point after that, the end of the year, really not a lot happens in Congress. That's been the case for decades. I don't think it's going to change now. He hasn't accomplished a lot so far. So, I think it's highly unlikely that November and December are going to be highly productive months.
STEWART: And I think with regard to why he's doing this, clearly this is his comfort zone, getting out there amongst the people. And this started out as a rally to get out there, and gin up the base, and talk about one of his promises kept with regard to immigration. But it's no surprise about an hour ago I got a fund-raising e-mail from Kelly Ward who is the Senate candidate against Jeff Flake who there's been no love lost between President Trump and Jeff Flake.
COOPER: And she's going to be there tonight. STEWART: And she will be there this evening. So I would not -- here's the thing that's going to, I think this is going to be the difficulty for Trump. She will be there. Her name may not be in the teleprompter, but he won't be able to help himself from calling attention to her and that, unfortunately, could be the news tomorrow because he's turning --
MARTIN: -- there's a treasurer may run, too.
COOPER: No, no, but I was going to say if he's thinking about or he wants to pardon Arpaio, why wouldn't tonight he just -- I mean, do you think it's possible tonight he could very well just be carried away by the crowd --
COOPER: And you like, you know what --
STEWART: -- to the brink.
MARTIN: He does this every time for us. He comes out and he says something, he floats the possibility of Arpaio, and then he realizes it's not a good time to do that. Your mayor was on and he said, hey, I think you did that today, there would be violence. This is actually called leadership. Trump says, I'm not going to -- he may do that later, he may do it when the Justice Department actually checks it and makes it work.
But tonight he's going to get people really excited and hopefully no violence and that will be great, right? That will be a positive thing. And by the way, Kelly Ward, she's a good candidate, she's a strong candidate. But here's the truth. McConnell and Ryan have to lead or they will be on the block in '18, their teams. Because they can't get away with saying, repeal and replace for all these years and then do nothing. So Trump's got a position where they're going to come toward.
LIZZA: I think, but if they -- I mean, I think what McConnell and Ryan would say is, you know --
COOPER: Sorry, the presidential motorcade there, we believe, heading to the venue.
LIZZA: I mean, the relationship between Flake and Trump is so interesting. The senator from Arizona who Trump is now supporting the opponent. Flake has been very critical of Trump personally. But he has supported Trump's legislative agenda including repeal and replace. I guarantee --
MARTIN: Not immigration. Not immigration.
LIZZA: Well, there's --
(CROSSTALK) LIZZA: -- legislatively on immigration in --
MARTIN: But he's been outward. He's outwardly against --
LIZZA: But if you look at the legislative agenda, he supported repeal and replace, right? I would be very doubtful that he would not support the tax reform.
MARTIN: He's personally attacked the president, though, right?
LIZZA: So Trump looks at that and says, I don't like -- so Trump looks at that and says even though he's a vote for my agenda, he personally attacked me. So I don't care --
MARTIN: There's no Democrat in Arizona, so he's going to get a vote.
LIZZA: But as a political strategist, a normal president would say, you know what, I don't care if he's attacked me personally, he's a vote, I'm going to leave him alone.
COOPER: We're going to have more to talk about tonight, as the president and protesters share the Phoenix streets including breaking news, new reporting on just how badly the relationship has deteriorated between the president and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Talk of shouted profanities, Senator McConnell doubting Trump's presidency ability to survive.
Also why Steve Bannon is taking aim at the White House and a number of folks in it when we continue.
[21:17:45] COOPER: The breaking news tonight as we await the president to speak in Phoenix, his feud with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, new reporting on it out of "The New York Times" tonight. The headline "McConnell in private doubts if Trump can save presidency", it's quite a headline. Other details, sources are saying that the two have not spoke into weeks. A phone call, according to Time and CNN reporting as well, devolved into a (INAUDIBLE) shouting match.
Earlier tonight I spoke with Alex Burns who shares the byline on this with Jonathan Martin.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Is McConnell not sure that president trump will serve his full term? I mean, what does it mean that he may not be able to salvage his presidency?
ALEX BURNS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, look, he's expressing pessimism and frustration in a range of ways, Anderson. But from the get-go of this story, it was very clear that the Senate leader is really telling people close to him, people who are supportive of his agenda in general, and who he relies on to pass legislation and support the party on the national level that he simply no longer feels that President Trump can be counted on to be a dependable partner for him in governing or in politics, either.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Back now with the panel. I mean, Ryan, what's so fascinating about this, the anger is not just about the failure on health care, but, which I guess the president claims to blame McConnell for, but also he believes McConnell hasn't been running enough interference on the Russia investigation.
LIZZA: Yes, and like the layers of intrigue on this story are many, right? McConnell was the guy who unlike Paul Ryan, Speaker of the House, was a Republican leader who last year said this is our -- this is the nominee of our party. We're going to support him. He never, ever criticized Trump. You had to really, really push McConnell to get him to ever say a bad word about Trump even during the worst moments of that campaign and he had a strategy in mind. He wanted the Scalia seat. He wanted that to go to a Republican-appointed Supreme Court justice. He got it. That was his strategy. And a lot of Republicans, lot of conservatives, have criticized McConnell for not speaking up enough on some of the low moments during Trump's campaign and presidency and now this relationship has been torn apart.
COOPER: Does it matter? I mean --
MARTIN: Look, McConnell -- the Senate is losing their popularity amongst conservatives and Republicans. So I mean, McConnell, as I said earlier, has to get himself moving. So whether they're fighting or not, I imagine, I got to imagine Obama fought with Manchin or Lieberman and somebody said --
[21:20:04] COOPER: Do you think there's a strategy the president has?
MARTIN: I think the strategy is let's get something done, and McConnell is saying why are you putting pressure on me? So, and again, they have to -- McConnell plan for seven years on repeal and replace and tax cuts and things like that. He's going to have to deliver. And he's going to deliver.
COOPER: But wasn't it the president who also ran on replacing Obamacare?
MARTIN: Yes, that's why he's not a dictator, that's why the myths that's he's Hitler don't hold because, you know what, he's hand in (ph) by a Congress and the Supreme Court and federal judges in Hawaii and --
COOPER: But he left it up to them to come up with Obamacare solution.
MARTIN: That's the way its report -- he wanted something, right, he wanted something to make progress.
POWERS: You know, I actually, and I said this before, I actually do sort of lay the blame on the Senate and the House, more on the Senate with health care because I do think that, you know, they have been talking about this for the last seven years.
COOPER: They passed how many bills on that, I mean --
POWERS: So I mean, so think it was reasonable for Donald Trump to come in and think that may be they would have a plan, right, I mean, that seems like a reasonable thing to expect and they probably told him that. So on that one, I think that you're right.
I don't think that you're right that it doesn't matter, though, because he can't get anything done without the Senate. And so this idea -- and you have this idea that somehow he's just going to leave and then you have no concerns apparently --
LIZZA: What is the number-one achievement of the Trump administration so far?
MARTIN: Illegal immigration down. China on their heels.
LIZZA: Gorsuch. Come on.
MARTIN: Gorsuch. I can't pick one. I got to make a list.
LIZZA: Who is responsible for the Gorsuch --
MARTIN: Elaine Chao --
LIZZA: I'm sort of channeling -- I'm channeling my McConnell sources, because they will tell you that they will brag about the fact that they are responsible for the most important success of Donald Trump's short administration, the Supreme Court pick.
MARTIN: -- what you've done today, not what you did --
LIZZA: The second thing they'll say is you can tick off half a dozen Republican senators that Donald Trump has personally attacked and they will argue that has not helped them pass his agenda through the Senate. I'm just --
MARTIN: That's an argument.
STEWART: The key with regard to how McConnell helped with regard to Gorsuch, he was the one that helped to make sure that Obama didn't have the opportunity to appoint a Supreme Court justice, and he kept that ball to the next term for Republican president to name that.
But here's the problem, when you're the president of the United States, and the president of the GOP, and the speaker of the House and Senate, in the Senate you have a two-seat majority. You can't afford to have these kinds of squabbles. And they really need to work together. But the White House is confident. And I'm hopefully optimistic that we can put this behind us. I mean, can put these squabbles behind us because we need to work on tax reform. We need to work on infrastructure.
MARTIN: Ryan, look, I think it was in your magazine. It was in your article, you read about the EPA. Every day they're changing rules and regulations. In the Justice Department, every day -- Ben Carson in HUD, they're doing this every day. In other words, Trump's vision is governing. And he's going every day. Now he's being hemmed in on some things. That's fine. Illegal immigration isn't one of them.
PASKI: But big legacy-defining achievements happen --
MARTIN: Saving America is a big legacy for those of us who think he's doing it.
PSAKI: Here's why it matters. In the dynamic, Mitch McConnell is never going to be elected nationally. He's not a super popular guy. And I have admiration/hatred for how he handled things in the Obama --
LIZZA: I was going it to say, Jen Psaki making a case for McConnell.
MARTIN: This is a great moment. Bringing people together.
PSAKI: Trump needs to be the public case maker. Mitch McConnell is the street fighter behind the scenes who is getting legislation done, twisting arms, making people vote certain ways. Without that if he says I don't care how you vote, don't care what you do, that matters. It matters because it's hard to get legislation done.
MARTIN: Look, there is a battle in the Republican Party about the future on immigration, on trade, on these approaches. That is a fundamental battle and it's going to play out for lots of years now. Trump is --
LIZZA: I wish I had this -- I wrote about this recently, I wish -- the quote in front of me, I'm going to paraphrase from the former McConnell adviser who said very pointedly, the person who killed repeal and replace was John McCain. Mitch McConnell is not the guy who alienated John McCain by attacking him personally. In the Senate, that's what they believe that was about. So --
COOPER: They believe that was payback?
LIZZA: McConnell believe, will point out that was -- certainly wasn't unrelated to that, you know. MARTIN: So that wasn't Trump's fault, it was the Senate's fault.
COOPER: But that is --
LIZZA: Their argument is that Trump has alienated Republican senators who are responsible for passing his agenda.
COOPER: Right, in fact, you point out, you know, the -- in your opinion the good things are being done at the Justice Department to advance the president's agenda. The president is going after the very guy who is advancing his agenda maybe more than anybody else, certainly at the Justice Department, his own attorney general.
MARTIN: You're not surprised, right? This is how he's always operated in terms of politics. He's gone after his own party, 16 other guys and one woman --
COOPER: His own party was the Democratic Party. I mean, he like -- he's been all over the map.
MARTIN: -- where this is like, we could talk about, Alice, when someone tells you they're pro-life and they just came up with a few years ago, that's good for people that are pro-life. You want converts to that point. You want them to believe it. And when he points Gorsuch and other judges and puts Ben Carson you say, hey, I don't try to study the heart of politicians because it's not worth the trouble. What are you doing lately? And what Trump is doing along these lines, to show up in Arizona, I know you guys think it's a political rally. That's why --
[21:25:13] MARTIN: I know, but you think it's only political. It's a transformation of the country. Before he ran, no one except Jeff Sessions took seriously that issue at this level.
COOPER: Let's take a break. We're going to wait for President Trump to take the stage at his campaign rally in Phoenix, Arizona. We'll bring it to you alive.
Also ahead ousted White House strategist Steve Bannon back at Breitbart News and taking aim at president and not so nice headlines when we come back.
COOPER: President Trump arrives in Arizona tonight amid a barrage of negative headlines from Breitbar, the conservative website is once again being run by his former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, after he was fired from his West Wing post last Friday.
At his new gig, doesn't seem to be helping the president as now. Headlines from the website during the president's primetime speech in Afghanistan last night, some proclaimed strong comparisons to President Obama's Middle East policy. Certainly won't play well to the president's base. We've also learned tonight Breitbart editor in chief Alex Marlow got duped by an e-mail trickster over the weekend who claimed he was Steve Bannon. The two exchanged e-mails back and forth, with Marlow pledging to fake Steve Bannon that he and other top aides would do Bannon, "dirty work" against White House aides. Let's bring back in the panel.
How does -- I mean, apparently this guy has done this before, whoever this trickster is, has done this before into the Trump White House. What does even mean that this guy wants to do Steve Bannon's dirty work, and why would he put that in an e-mail? Anybody?
[21:30:00] STEWART: Clearly what he was doing, he was trying to provoke answers out of them to indicate Breitbart has an agenda, they are trying to push certain stories that will be derogatory toward one person and --
COOPER: How worried should the president be, do you think?
STEWART: Well, I mean, this guy has done this before. Look, the president has known all along that Steve Bannon is loyal to the base of the populist nationalist agenda. And that's what he wants to further. And he knew whether it was inside of the administration, or now that he's outside, working with Breitbart, that is where Bannon will continue to put his emphasis.
Breitbart has been vocal and unequivocal holding the feet to the fire with this administration and others with regard to making sure they stay true to these issues and really the story from this person who posed as Steve Bannon is really not a surprise. Breitbart front and center on their page today is continuing to do the same thing. They are -- they're pushing the McConnell contradiction story. They're pushing that President Trump flip-flopped with regard to Afghanistan. So they're continuing to do what they're going to do. The story just shows that.
POWERS: Are you concerned, though, I mean, if you read the story, I feel like, maybe somebody can tell me they read it differently, to me, it's pretty clear that Bannon has been trash talking the White House to the editor based on what he was sharing with who he thought was Bannon, right? So, it's pretty clear that these conversations have happened. I mean, he says, like, you told me that Jared and Ivanka are evil, you know, this is the most not dysfunctional White House, the most divided White House, these kinds of things. It's very clear that Bannon has been downloading stuff to these editors, to the editors.
STEWART: I don't see as much as trash talking the president or Jared and Ivanka, it's -- he's concerned that some of those back at the White House now, Jared, Ivanka, Gary Cohn, and others, don't really represent the nationalist agenda. They're more of the globalists. They clearly want to expand our military footprint. And that was his concern when he was in the White House and clearly it's a --
POWERS: According to this guy, he said they're evil. MARTIN: But the fact is that if you watch what happened, since I was on the RNC until 2015, everybody thought it was going to be Jeb, and we're working up, and all the media things were played out right, and Breitbart started to surge and Bannon was fearless. When Bannon went in the campaign, some of us were surprised in the sense he would be going after Ryan on positions.
MARTIN: Not personally. I think that stuff is distasteful. But I don't know what that was about. He's going to do it again. He's going to do it. So there's a contrast. And Breitbart was consistent and is consistent on where they are. It's not where the whole Republican Party is, but it's where a chunk of the party is. And they're going to be fearless on it.
LIZZA: I think --
MARTIN: -- the personal, you know, I don't know.
LIZZA: As Kristen pointed out, they called the president's daughter and son-in-law evil and hatched a plan, he thought he was talking to Bannon but he wasn't, and hatched a plan to drive them out of the White House by the end of the year.
MARTIN: Well --
LIZZA: But to use all of the influence of Breitbart, which is a very influential site these days, to drive the president's daughter and son-in-law, the two most important people to him in the White House out, I mean, how does Trump react to that? How does he react to a website now devoted to the destruction of his daughter --
LIZZA: Read the e-mails. The editor in chief said we're going to drive them out of the White House --
MARTIN: Bannon didn't say that. Some imposter said it.
LIZZA: No, no, the editor of the website.
POWERS: -- Bannon had said to him, though, he said as you --
LIZZA: Wait a second.
MARTIN: No, they're not facts. They're e-mail exchanges.
COOPER: But the editor is talking to he thinks is Bannon and says I remember when you told me that --
MARTIN: -- story written like that, this is like, I mean, whoever the guy that wrote the e-mails should be told you're a rotten guy.
POWERS: He's the editor. He's editor in chief of Breitbart.
MARTIN: Right, and he was hoaxed.
POWERS: But he believes that Steve Bannon told him that Jared and Ivanka are evil. I mean, he believes that that happened. Are you saying he's delusional?
MARTIN: I'm saying that it's a dumb thing to do to send an e-mail like that, and more importantly, Breitbart's space in the media for conservatives and populists has not been personally attack -- I'll be surprised if they start. In fact, this is probably the best way to inoculate Ivanka and Jared from being attacked personally.
COOPER: But it's interesting, you're saying for conservatives, I mean, a lot of what they're is espousing is just not traditional conservative --
MARTIN: That's right.
COOPER: -- values and ideals.
MARTIN: This is Donald Trump. He's not a traditional conservative.
COOPER: Well, yes. I knew. We're not --
MARTIN: Well, he's a new Republican Party.
LIZZA: Ed, don't you -- you know, don't you think that --
MARTIN: He is.
LIZZA: -- that Bannon's exile from the White House shows that project failed, that the new Republican Party that sort of the Bannon influenced version of Trump, it was defeated. He got kicked out. And now Trump's surrounded by people who don't buy into that.
LIZZA: With the exception of immigration, I think he betrayed --
MARTIN: Some of these other issues.
LIZZA: Government being broken. Trade, they didn't pull out of NAFTA like they said they would.
MARTIN: No, but that doesn't mean that the TPP they pulled out right away and that's never --
LIZZA: That was going to happen whoever won, that Hillary and Trump both --
MARTIN: -- but that's a different problem for the Democrat Party. I mean, and Hillary --
LIZZA: -- consensus on that.
MARTIN: Well, but it was a consensus that Trump drove. By the time Trump was the leading nominee, everybody took that position. So, look, the Republican Party has dramatically shifted.
LIZZA: -- Bannon told the "Weekly Standard," he basically said we lost, the presidency, the Trump presidency that we, the nationalist, populists, have voted for, is over. And the Republican establishment in Congress is what killed it because they don't agree with us, and he listed all the issues.
[21:35:04] MARTIN: But I think I did an interview on CNN, I said this that he -- Bannon is a showman also. So he left with a showman's flair saying I'm coming for you, Paul Ryan. I'm coming for you. And now he's going to run a successful media site. Again, Trump's vision, he's the one common denominator in --
COOPER: We'll have more in the president speech in Afghanistan. He vowed repeatedly that the U.S. will win the war. This afternoon, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had kind of a different take. What we said when we continue.
COOPER: The top U.S. commander in the Middle East announced today that additional U.S. troops could arrive in Afghanistan in days or weeks. That came just hours after the president outlined his own war strategy stressing over and over that victory was the main objective.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And we will always win. I'm a problem solver, and in the end, we will win. Our troops will fight to win. We will fight to win.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson seems to be downplaying some of those expectations. Here's what he told reporters this afternoon.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[21:40:00] REX TILLERSON, SECRETARY OF STATE: I think the president was clear, this entire effort is intended to put pressure on the Taliban to have the Taliban understand you will not win a battlefield victory. We may not win one, but neither will you.
And so at some point, we have to come to the negotiating table and find a way to bring this to an end.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Let's go back to the panel. Do you see daylight between the president and his secretary of state?
PSAKI: Yes, absolutely.
PSAKI: First of all, the other thing Secretary Tillerson said is that fighting is going to get everyone nowhere. That is in direct contrast to, of course, the clips that we're just shown by what President Trump said last night.
He's right, and most military and civilian leaders would agree with what Tillerson said. Now, the problem is, we heard a little bit of rhetoric from Trump last night about the diplomatic side. We didn't hear a lot of details about how that actually would happen.
PSAKI: And the specifics are there's no confirmed ambassador. Reportedly, Tillerson was the only person from the State Department who was at these Camp David meetings this weekend. There's an acting special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, but not somebody who's there permanently.
So, how exactly they'll get this done? How they'll get the Taliban and Afghan government to the table? Those are big questions we don't know.
And in the meantime, we have an open-ended military engagement that the American public doesn't have details.
MARTIN: One word, Mad Dog. Mad Dog Mattis may --
COOPER: It's actually two words Ed.
MARTIN: It's former -- I put it together, you know? Anyway, Mattis.
Look, Mattis, this is a statement. You guys are here, right? You were here for this. North Korea, Trump says we're going to come and we're going to take you down. And Tillerson says, OK, let's try to get together.
I mean, this is good cop/bad cop. And what you have is Mattis whose message is, when you meet someone, be nice, and remember, you have to figure out a way to kill them. That's --
COOPER: So you're saying all the military commanders up until now have just been --
MARTIN: No, I'm saying --
COOPER: -- not up to the stuff that General Mattis is?
MARTIN: Obama didn't have the will to do.
PSAKI: Obama put almost 10 times as many troops on the ground with 30,000.
MARTIN: The point is to win, you have to win now, not put troops there and talk about it, go and win. Mattis --
PSAKI: There's no military outcome. That's what Tillerson was saying, that's going to win.
MARTIN: No, there's a military outcome when everybody there is taken to their knees and then they say --
COOPER: But wait a minute, we had more than a 100,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan --
MARTIN: If you don't have the will to fight, you can have a million troops --
COOPER: You're saying that the 100,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan did not have the will or the ability that what --
MARTIN: No, the president of the United States.
COOPER: -- 8,000 U.S. troops are going to have?
MARTIN: The president of the United States didn't have the will to do what it took, to handle the thing the way they needed to. And that's what Trump is saying. If he doesn't live up to it we'll be back here in six months time.
POWERS: Well, I mean, I think Trump was better on this topic probably during the campaign. You know, where he had a more realistic -- whether he stumbled upon it by accident or it was actually his position, he had a more realistic understanding --
COOPER: He'd been tweeting against the actions in Afghanistan for years.
POWERS: This is something that has bedeviled president after president. It has nothing to with President Obama. It's Afghanistan, it's a problem and it's not -- and it's a difficult problem and he didn't lay out anything different that would make us believe that something different is going to happen.
COOPER: What's interesting to me about one of the things the president said last night, is on the diplomatic front that Pakistan has to step up.
COOPER: Everybody -- every president has always said that. Obama said that. Saying to Pakistan, you have to step up, doesn't mean that -- it's like saying to China, you have to do better in North Korea. There's reasons they have the -- you know, they have the policy in North Korea. There are reasons that Pakistan has their military focused on India and has safe havens.
STEWART: And it's no different than telling everybody in the U.N., you have to pony up your NATO, you have to pony up 2 percent of your GDP to be a part of this.
Look, you're the expert when it comes to the State Department, no doubt about that. Here's what I think, though, where the president hit it out of the park yesterday. Clearly, he was saying just the opposite when he was running, saying we need to pull our troops out of Afghanistan, but after talking to Mad Dog Mattis, and talking with Nicholson who oversees the situation there in Afghanistan, he realized, situation is different. And I think it was important for him to say we need to make changes according to the situation on the ground, and not on arbitrary timeline.
COOPER: But, it's interesting, though, you know, people say he listens to his generals. There's all this reporting that he actually -- is not impressed by Nicholson. He actually spoke a lot against Nicholson --
STEWART: He, reportedly almost fired him.
COOPER: Right, and it was up to McMaster and Mattis to defend Nicholson to the president. And H.R. McMaster, according to the reporting, basically in order to help convince the president, this is in the Washington Post, how this new policy was arrived at.
One of the way General McMaster tried to persuade Trump to recommit the effort was by convincing him that Afghanistan was not a hopeless place. He presented Trump with a black and white snapshot from 1972 with Afghan women, this is the photograph, in miniskirts walking through Kabul to show him that western norms had existed there before and could return.
PSAKI: What -- I mean, what -- that's all I have to say to that. I mean, I think --
MARTIN: But, what is that reporting? What's that reporting?
PSAKI: This is -- it's been pretty well reported, but he showed him this picture. They also were talking about negotiating with the Taliban. So I'm not quite sure how those two things square together where they're going to go to a place where women are wearing miniskirts there when they've also negotiated with the Taliban.
[21:50:11] LIZZA: And Tillerson was -- is, you know, sort of uber- realist in his comments today when he was asked does Afghanistan have to be a democracy and said, you know, it's up to the people in Afghanistan, you know, no commitment --
COOPER: Well, that's clearly, you know, politically off the table for this White House. I mean, the whole -- but, you know, presidents in the past, George W. Bush got elected saying not nation building and stuff, and that's what the U.S. has been doing there.
POWERS: I think this is what a lot of voters are frustrated with. I think there are Democratic voters that were frustrated with it and I think there probably are obviously Trump voters who are frustrated. You see how Breitbart is reacting to this.
Because, you know, what Trump basically said he was going to do is I'm going to be different. I'm not going to be like everybody else. Well, it turns out he is like everybody else.
They say that they're going to do one thing and then they come in and the generals convince them of something else. And so, you know -- and I think that is a legitimately frustrating thing, I think, to a lot of voters and I suspect to a lot of Trump voters.
MARTIN: I don't think anybody thinks Trump is, you know, not one of a kind. I mean -- and look, what he did was, again, that was exciting. He listened to generals. Whatever the reason he got to the position he said, you know what, we have to do something different than I ran on, and here's why.
And when he gave that speech, you know, he was on the teleprompter then he started to get ramped up, remember? And he got off the teleprompter a little bit. I was talking to folks late last night and today, they were excited about it. They didn't think he betrayed us. They thought that's a serious guy.
MARTIN: No, because he didn't say we're going to give 100,000 -- we're going to put 100,000 military and manage the country and build values and all that. He said we're going to go in there and we're going to try to win this thing. I know it's hard.
PSAKI: But part of the challenge, I think, it was new to Trump, so I would give him some credit for acknowledging --
MARTIN: This is great.
PSAKI: -- something that was different from what he thought. However, the policy was not new to the United States. This has been our policy for some time. It hasn't been working.
And to the point you raised earlier, if you're going to put more pressure on Pakistan, what exactly is our leverage? I mean, I think --
COOPER: Because right it seems to be embracing India which is not necessarily where Pakistan wants to hear --
PSAKIL: Correct and there's a reason they align themselves with the Taliban. So --
COOPER: We have to take a break. We're minutes away from the president's campaign rally in Phoenix. Thousands of protesters are expected to be outside the convention center. We saw a number of them already.
Thousands are obviously inside to listen to the president. We're going to have more on the pack scene outside and inside when we come back.
[21:51:19] COOPER: We're just minutes away from the start of President Trump's campaign rally in Phoenix, Arizona. It is, in fact, a campaign rally with 1,168 days until the 2020 election.
Outside the convention center, protesters have been flooding the streets. So far, there has not been any violence thankfully. Back now with the panel.
What do you all expect? I mean, we're just minutes away from this. Ed, what are you expecting to hear from the president?
MARTIN: Well, I think --
COOPER: This is going to be a rally president.
MARTIN: Yes, it's going to be rally president. I don't -- but I don't think -- I actually was -- we were talking off the air, I don't think you'll see him go after McCain, maybe he will. But I think on the red meat of the issues -- the issues that people care about, I think you're going to hear immigration.
You know, for -- even on immigration of legal immigration, there's been -- Miller in the White House has been pushing some of the changes to the laws. I mean, that's all very exciting and law and order. Arpaio, I don't know how he's not going to praise Arpaio to the ceiling. And Arpaio is going to be there I think --
COOPER: No, Arpaio -- I mean, as of earlier today, said he's not going to go but --
MARTIN: I think the thing will be --
COOPER: Maybe he'll be a surprise guest.
MARTIN: I think it'd be great if the president talks a little bit like he did about, you know, no violence and no hate. Like he has done in the last couple days and that there is no violence and no hate.
Like that would be -- I mean, hate, I guess we can't get rid of. But in the violence, it would be nice for people to go back to seeing that kind of, you know, First Amendment expression and then move on. But --
COOPER: Do you think we're going to hear about election night?
PSAKi: Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama.
COOPER: The gorgeous map?
MARTIN: A few times. Yes.
PSAKI: I think part of the challenge is it is contradictory to throw red meat at this audience and also be a uniter. Because this audience wants to hear from him, the wall and I'm going to send people back over the border.
And they want to hear things that for part of the population in Arizona, but also around the country, it's very offensive and divisive. And the problem -- the biggest problem I would say Trump has right now is that part of the country, a large population of the African-Americans, Latino Americans feel that he's not their president.
MARTIN: It's like the day before the election. You're saying the same thing. More people than you realize are for lower unemployment.
PSAKI: This has nothing to do with the election.
MARTIN: It sounds exactly like the day before.
PSAKI: All I'm conveying is, it's hard to be a red meat rallier like he wants to be and will probably be and also be a uniter when keep tried to be yesterday.
MARTIN: When Obama jammed through --
POWERS: -- they don't feel he's their president because of the divisive rhetoric. And you sit here talking about Joe Arpaio as hero, who's like --
MARTIN: In 2009, when the Tea Party exploded -- I was there in St. Louis, I founded the St. Louis Tea Party and bunch of others. We had rally after rally, people felt disenfranchised from Obama. Nobody said -- I don't think you sat here and said, oh my gosh, he's not a uniter. They said people disagree. That's America. That's the beauty of disagreeing. Lots of people will.
PSAKI: But here's the difference. Barack Obama went and talked to the protesters and he said --
MARTIN: No, he didn't. Then He jammed through Obamacare on a straight party vote.
PSAKI: Let me finish. I worked for him for almost 10 years. He would say people have the right to protest. He would say people should have their voices heard.
MARTIN: So does Trump. PSAKI: That is different from what Trump is saying.
MARTIN: No it's not. So is Trump. You just want to hear something different because you're in a bubble that says everything he has says has be wrong.
PSAKI: I don't think I've even said that.
STEWART: This is an opportunity for him. I expect him as he did last night. Last night was about making the speech on Afghanistan.
However, he did start off reiterating the key message points in response to Charlottesville, denouncing hatred and racism and trying to unite the country. That was an important message. I see him doing the same thing this evening.
But also, to feed into the base and play red meat, he will talk about securing the border. He'll talk about law and order. This is also a great opportunity and venue for him to talk about his support for Kate's Law which increases penalties for illegals that are in this country.
Also, withdrawing support for sanctuary cities. These are key issues for people in this area and increasing funding for securing the border. And these are issues that don't get talked about a lot but this is the perfect venue for him to say that.
[21:55:08] PSAKI: They're also emotionally charged issues that make the other side very upset.
COOPER: We're going to take another quick break. We're going to take a look inside the venue where President Trump is expected to speak in just a matter of minutes. We'll be right back.
COOPER: I want to take you back to Phoenix, Arizona. You're looking at the scene outside. We're not sure the total number of people. At least, it had been about a thousand earlier on in the evening. Those are people who are entering the venue where President Trump is about to speak.
He's going to be introduced by Vice President Pence. There's the crowd inside, very eager to hear from President Trump. We are just moments away from the speech at the rally in Phoenix.
It is time to hand things over to Don Lemon. I appreciate you watching tonight. I'll see you tomorrow night. "CNN TONIGHT" starts right now.
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: All right, now, there you go. Live look inside the Phoenix Convention Center and a live look outside, as well.