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Trump Holds Rally On Home Turf Of GOP's McCain. Flake; Speaker Ryan: Trump "Messed Up" On Charlottesville; Chelsea Clinton Defends Barron Trump Against Critic; Mnuchin's Wife Mocks Woman Over Lifestyle, Wealth; Missouri Gov Issues Stay Hours Before Scheduled Execution; NFL's First White Player Sits During National Anthem. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired August 22, 2017 - 15:00   ET


[15:00:00] BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Conference at Trump Tower last Tuesday where the president talked about the violence in Charlottesville. The president has not hesitated in responding specifically to Jeff Flake, as you said, calling him weak, calling him a non-factor in the senate, and praising a potential GOP primary opponent, Dr. Kelli Ward. We don't know if Dr. Ward is expected to be at the rally tonight or whether or not the president might give her a full endorsement.

Also not invited, the man known as the toughest sheriff in America, Joe Arpaio. He was found guilty earlier this year of going against a judge's order to halt a program that was found to be illegal for racially profiling Hispanics. The president drew speculation that he might pardon Joe Arpaio at this rally tonight, because he said last week that it was something he was taking very seriously. CNN reached out to the 85-year-old sheriff.

He said he was not invited to this rally but if he were, he would be happy to join. Before heading to Phoenix, the president, as you said, is stopping here at a Border Patrol Center in Yuma. He is set to take a tour and take part in a briefing. This is really part of an effort for the president to highlight a part of his agenda where he has had some success. We've heard from officials at Border Patrol who tell us that they have seen a significant decrease, 46 percent fewer apprehensions at the border in the first six months of the year compared to last year, in large part because of increased funding from this administration, Pam.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Boris Sanchez, thanks for breaking it down for us. We appreciate it. And let's talk more about this with CNN political commentator Ben Ferguson, also host of The Ben Ferguson Show and Rick Wilson. He is a republican strategist. Great to see you both.



BROWN: So, Ben, the big question tonight, there are a lot of big questions, one of them being, does he, should he go after Senators McCain and Flake on their home turfs tonight? How worried should they be?

FERGUSON: Well, I don't think they're worried at all because they -- everybody knows in Arizona how they feel about Donald Trump. And they've gone after Donald Trump in Arizona. They've gone after Donald Trump in Washington, D.C. and they've gone after Donald Trump everywhere in between. So this -- there's no secret in Arizona that the two senators are -- they are at very much at odds with Donald Trump. I would expect Donald Trump to get in a couple jabs here and there.

That's the -- that's the sport of politics. I also think, though, the president's going to be really trying to refocus on the bigger picture and the bigger issue which got him elected in Arizona, and that's the issue of border security, immigration reform, and so I think the more time he spends on that, maybe the less time on the personal jabs. It's probably going to be better off for his policies move forward.

BROWN: What do you think, Rick? Do you think he can stick to that?

WILSON: Donald Trump is not notoriously well-disciplined on the -- on the campaign trail and I had suspect tonight he is going to go off and do his usual level of personal slights and asides and insults to the -- to the incumbent senators from Arizona, and I think that's regrettable for Trump because you know, he is a guy who doesn't really have a lot of wiggle room in the senate right now. He is going to need Jeff Flake and John McCain on key votes coming up in the immediate future. And frankly, if he wants to make an enemy of Mitch McConnell, you know, promoting chemtrail Kelli Ward is not -- is not going to do well for comity between the White House and the senate.

BROWN: Rick, I want you to listen to this from the president last night.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My original instinct was to pull out and historically, I like following my instincts. But all my life, I've heard that decisions are much different when you sit behind the desk in the Oval Office.


BROWN: Now, Rick, you're clearly not a Trump fan, but do you give him any credit for admitting that he was wrong about Afghanistan?

WILSON: Look, just, you know, welcome, Donald Trump, to the broad movement of consensus in the national security community in Washington, D.C. Welcome to the club. We're going send over his embroidered globalist neocon jacket a little later today. And, you know, this is a guy who clearly had to bow to Jim Mattis, John Kelly, and Henry McMaster. This is the consensus belief in Washington. Trump is not a student of Afghanistan or anything, really, and so this decision has enraged his base, enraged a lot of people on the alt- right, and at a Breitbart and elsewhere, and which is unsurprising, but it is -- this was the mature sort of paced and appropriate decision. BROWN: And -- go ahead, Ben.

FERGUSON: Let me jump -- let me jump in here real quick. One, it did not enrage his base. I did literally three-hour radio show talking about this yesterday and the majority of Americans believe that they do need to take the battle to ISIS and Al-Qaeda and I also think that many people agree that it's smart when any president, even if it's Barack Obama, who I did not agree with him on my issues, I never want a president to fail on foreign policy and national security issues, specifically. This idea that people are still trying to score, you know, cheap shots at the president, saying he doesn't know anything about anything, at some point, Rick, you just got to give somebody credit for actually being, you know, the commander-in-chief and not bowing down. I mean, that's just the cheap attack, you know...

WILSON: Ben, Ben, wait a second, wait a second.

FERGUSON: He didn't bow down to anybody. We got information -- wait, this is...

WILSON: Donald Trump is notoriously unable...


BROWN: Hey, Hey, Rick, let's let Ben finish his thought and then we'll go to you, Rick.

FERGUSON: The President of the United States of America sat down with his general and listened to them and he decided that we needed to do something in Afghanistan to take it to ISIS and Al-Qaeda. And he also put Pakistan on notice, he also said you're not going to have a free check anymore. This is -- this is what many people just like you -- we were talking a week and a half ago and you said, the president's got to learn to be presidential and he needs to act presidential. He is acting presidential by your terminology and you're still ripping on him for it which is -- which is to me is just dumbfounding.

BROWN: Rick?

WILSON: Ben, I'm noting that Donald Trump has taken advice and counsel, finally from (INAUDIBLE) in the room.

FERGUSON: You said bowing down, though. That's a cheap shot.

WILSON: The fact that he fired Steve Bannon and got rid of a lot of the voices around him who were in the -- who were in the crazy zone is probably good for our country. I will note, however, there's been a lot of dissension on the right today and on -- in Trump's base today that suddenly...

FERGUSON: There just hasn't.

WILSON: ...he's a neocon and suddenly he is a warmonger. He promised America first and get us out of these conflicts. And frankly, you know, Ben, you've got to recognize that Donald Trump's record for years and years has been a -- for a precipitous withdrawal from Afghanistan. This was not a guy who...

FERGUSON: I agree. And...

WILSON: ...did more than study this in a sort of reflexive way and yes, I'm glad he took advice from mature adults.

BROWN: So let me ask you, Ben. Let me just...

FERGUSON: Again, it takes...

BROWN: Go ahead.

FERGUFSON: It takes maturity for a president to come out there and to actually say, I listened to my generals, I learned something from them, I have decided to go in a different direction. When you sit behind the Oval Office, things do change, the intelligence change, what people tell you changes your mindset, and all I'm saying is, I understand you don't like the president? I understand you're ripping on him but let's not make up a fake story here. The majority of conservatives are behind going after ISIS and Al-Qaeda. They were reminded about how deadly they are just last week in Spain, and to somehow say that a bunch of people are revolting on the president...

WILSON: Well, just to -- just to catch you up for one second...

FERGUSON: That's just not true.

BROWN: Well, Ben, it is -- OK.

WILSON: So it just been -- just to catch up for one second.

BROWN: It is true some in his base, Breitbart, we know Steve Bannon was not for this. He's no longer in the White House.

FERGUSON: But the Breitbart's not his base. It's...

BROWN: Well...

FERGUSON: Breitbart is not his base. And the average person that calls into my show, this is a conservative talk show, overwhelmingly, probably 10 to 1 were in favor of the president and this is before he'd announced it when I said, if the president says we're going to go into Afghanistan, and if he says we're going to maybe have to use more troops, would you support him in that to attack ISIS and Al-Qaeda. Overwhelmingly, Americans that voted for the president and some that didn't vote for him said they would support him in this because they understand the real threat to this country from ISIS.

BROWN: Rick?

WILSON: Listen, Afghanistan is not exactly a hot bed of ISIS and Al- Qaeda is a remnant of what it was. The complexities of Afghanistan are a lot more beyond the easy -- the easy enemies that we're -- we can identify and from either the past or that -- or currently active in Iraq, in the Middle East. So, you know, this is -- you know, no one opposes going after ISIS and Al-Qaeda, and the previous two presidents went after ISIS and Al-Qaeda with a great deal of vigor, not always perfectly in either case, and certainly the experience of our generals now...

FERGUSON: The rules of engagement could disagree with that.

WILSON: Afghanistan is reflected in this policy to some degree, but I do think that this still comes back and it's not just because I dislike the president, Ben. It is because this is a man who had to be conformed and had to be brought to heel by mature adults. He is not mentally capable of understanding the complexities of these kind of things.


BROWN: All right. Let me -- let me -- let me butt in here because I want to get to this sound that we have from Speaker Paul Ryan, and he was responding to the president's Charlottesville remarks during this town hall at CNN last night. Let's take a listen to what he said.


PAUL RYAN, SPEAKER OF THE UNITED STATES HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: In answer to a question, I think he made comments that were much more morally ambiguous, much more confusing, and I do think he could have done better. I think he needed to do better. So I do believe that he messed up in his comments on Tuesday when it sounded like a moral equivocation or at the very least moral ambiguity when we need extreme moral clarity.


BROWN: So Rick, I want to bring you in on this and then of course, Ben, I'll go to you, but he's getting some heat for not being stronger, for making it almost sound like Trump's words were an accident. What do you think?

WILSON: I think that what we've had here is a lot of agony on the part of republicans in congress who took the president's initial remarks and thought, OK, this is going to be OK. Then the second set of remarks, and said, oh my god, you know, this is a disaster. The third set, oh, he's trying to recover. So this is a guy who put them in that position where there is in so much pain over the fact that the president didn't intuit the right thing to say right off the bat and stick with it.

And so Paul Ryan has had to go and walk this very thin line because he's got, on the one hand, the crazy people who support Donald Trump in this -- in this fanatic, he can do no wrong mindset. And on the other hand, Paul Ryan knows both in his heart as a good person and as a political figure that a lot of the terrain Donald Trump ended up dragging the GOP into on this thing is incredibly politically damaging, and incredibly -- it's a huge moral hazard as well.


FERGUSON: Look, I said this early on. I think the president has to learn from this, and there's certain issues that you don't get redos on and you have to be very clear and very concise when it deals with certain issues. Race is a perfect example of this. I think the president has to learn from this. I think he has to do a better job, if there is a, quote, next time, and let's be honest, we all hope there isn't another innocent person that's killed in this scenario or this type of way, but the president has to make it very clear, moving forward, you always have to get these types of issues right, and I think the president is learning from that.

I mean, I will say this. The president is a guy that likes to have a blunt conversation, and he's not always scripted like a politician. He's not a politician until recently. And so when you mess up like this, you got to fix it quickly, and you got to learn from it and you got to make sure it never happens again and I think that's one of the things that Paul Ryan was alluding to last night.

BROWN: All right. We'll leave it on that note since you guys aren't yelling at each other at the moment. Ben Ferguson, Rick Wilson, thank you very much.

FERGUSON: Thanks for having us.

BROWN: Still appreciate it. Thank you.

WILSON: Thanks.

BROWN: Well, a new president, the same war. I'll speak live with the man who presented president Trump a plan to pull all troops out of Afghanistan and replace them with private contractors. Hear what he says. Plus, Chelsea Clinton coming to the defense of Barron Trump after a conservative website targets his clothes. Hear what happened. And the Instagram post has been deleted, but the backlash lives on. What happened when the wife of the treasury secretary got into a social media battle with a mother of three over wealth, designer clothes, and "Game of Thrones?" That mother joins me to tell her side of the story. Back in just a moment.


BROWN: Well, the wife of the treasury secretary is making headlines for all the wrong reasons today. After going on a bizarre rant over wealth, it all started with an Instagram post from Steve Mnuchin's wife, Louise Linton, she an actress who recently married the millionaire. Well, Linton posted a picture stepping off a government plane that she joined her husband for a visit to Fort Knox. She added the hashtag, great day trip to Kentucky, and then followed that up with five more hashtags, all related to the high-end designer clothing she was wearing.

Jennifer Miller from Oregon responded to that post by saying, "Glad we could pay for your little get away. #deplorable". Well, Linton lashed back at that comment, touting her wealth, personal sacrifice, and belittling the Oregon mother of three for having less money than her. Linton writing, "Have you given more to the economy than me and my husband? Either as individual earner in taxes or in self-sacrifice to your country. I'm pretty sure we paid more taxes toward our day 'trip' than you did. Pretty sure the amount we sacrifice per year is a lot more than you'd be willing to sacrifice if the choice was yours."

Linton goes on to say, "You're adorably out of touch." Joining us now to discuss is Jennifer Miller, the woman who was on the receiving end of Linton's rant. Also with us, CNN White House reporter Kate Bennett. Thank you both for coming on. I want to start with you, Jennifer. What prompted you to reply to Linton's Instagram post? Let's start there.

JENNIFER MILLER, CALLED OUT TREASURY SECY MNUCHIN'S WIFE OVER INSTAGRAM POST: Honestly, it was probably just a weak moment for me. It was the first time I had ever posted on someone's Instagram if I didn't know them. Yes, this is not something I make a habit of. But I was frustrated already by some stories I had just read about the secret service running out of overtime money because of the excesses of the administration's travel schedule, and then saw this woman who I didn't know who she was.

I knew who the treasure secretary was, so I assumed it was his wife, getting off of a government plane for what I assumed was a government trip and basically advertising for all of these European, you know, high-end brands that your average person couldn't afford, especially anyone in Kentucky where they were visiting, one of the poorest states in our country.

BROWN: So, you post. You make this post as something that you don't normally do, then you probably go about your day. Then she responds in this long rant. What is your reaction to your -- to her response and the backlash she's getting?

MILER: Well, once I found out about the response, I was a little bit amused and a little bit horrified, but mostly just confused as to why she would take the time or effort or energy to put together such a response and, you know, if I had any respect for her, it probably would have been hurtful, because she was very condescending and very -- she made a lot of assumptions about me and my husband and my life and my family. So -- but all of that didn't matter really to me so much until it blew up and the whole world started texting me. So I finally had to go and look at the whole thing.

BROWN: So, that's how you found out that she had responded, because people started letting you know?

MILLER: Yes, yes.


MILLER: I don't sit on Twitter or Instagram all day. I have a full- time job and three children and things to do, so.

BROWN: So, it's stuck -- it really struck me that clearly she took the time to look at your profile because she said, you know, you have three cute kids. She's looking at your profile and yet making these assumptions that clearly she's wealthier than you and that you have not given back to the economy as much as she had and so forth. And she even called you, "Adorably out of touch." Your reaction.

MILLER: Isn't that ironic? Yes, I find that to be probably the most out-of-touch statement of her whole response because I certainly am not the type of person who would try to display my wealth or brag about it in any way. It is -- it was deplorable, what she wrote in the first place, and then her response was even worse because if anyone's out of touch, it's certainly the person using taxpayer money to go on day trips to visit -- to visit Fort Knox. Apparently, they were going to stare at the gold bullion. I don't know what the deal was.

BROWN: Well, I mean, even if the trip was -- even if the trip was legitimate to Kentucky, she did go to Fort Knox with her husband. You know, what you really took issue with is seems is that she was posting about the designer clothes she was wearing, particularly in a state with a high poverty rate. Kate, I want to go to you because understand Linton has since deleted her post, she has made her Instagram account private. Is Mnuchin, the Treasury Secretary of the White House saying anything about this?

KATE BENNETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: So, so far, no comment. The post was deleted shortly after it started to make the rounds on Twitter last night and go viral. She took her account private shortly thereafter, probably why Ms. Miller didn't quite see the response and wasn't up for so long. The White House has not commented on this today. Ms. Linton hasn't apologized. The only thing a spokesperson from the treasury department did say that the Mnuchins will be reimbursing the government for the cost of Ms. Linton's travel to Kentucky and that she was not compensated in any way by those high-end luxury fashion brands that she tagged.

She did remove those tags, but she initially tagged there on that Instagram post, Valentino and Hermes and Tom Ford, so they wanted to make clear she wasn't being compensated, however, you know, in terms of taste, the damage was done.

BROWN: So I want to go to you lastly, Jenny. You know, you had said you posted on her account in a moment of weakness. What do you think now? Do you have any regrets about doing that? Or are you glad you did considering, you know, what kind of a spotlight this might have shed on the situation?

MILLER: I'm actually glad. I'm glad that, you know, they are reimbursing all of us, the government, the taxpayers for this trip that she used to advertise for brands that, I don't know, if her friends own them or what. But I think that that's a good outcome. And also, it's given me a chance to have a lot of followers on Instagram who I've shared a fundraiser with for a friend of mine who recently had a stroke and a lot of people are donating to that. And so I'm trying to make some good out of this situation.

BROWN: All right. Jenny miller, best of luck to your friend, by the way. I saw that link on your profile. Thank you very much for coming on.

MILLER: Thank you. BROWN: And thank you so much to Kate Bennett as well. Up next, a

last-minute stay for a man just hours away from execution. I'll talk live to the man who examined the murder weapon and a man who had his own death row conviction overturned, up next. Plus, a Cleveland Browns player becomes the first white NFL player to kneel during the national anthem. My panel weighs in just ahead.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: CNN, the most trusted name in news.

BROWN: Breaking news, with just hours before a Missouri man was set to be executed, Missouri's governor stepped in and issued a stay. He's appointed a board to further consider the case of Marcellus Williams and his 1998 murder conviction. This comes after new forensic evidence that points to another man's DNA on the murder weapon. Williams was set to die at 7:00 pm Eastern for the stabbing death of a former St. Louis post dispatch reporter.

I want to turn now to Greg (INAUDIBLE) he is a forensic expert hired by Williams' defense team to look at the DNA evidence and he joins us now from Idaho where he is a biology and criminal justice professor at Boise State. Thank you so much for coming on. First, your reaction to this stay.

GREG HAMPIKIAN, HIRED BY WILLIAMS' DEFENSE TEAM TO TEST MURDER WEAPON FOR DNA: Well, I was actually on the phone with OBY Anthony who was an exonoree who was reaching out to the press and through organizations and he told me that a news show that was interviewing him told him there was a stay and so I just started screaming, actually. And he did as well. We were -- we were very happy. This has been a very tense, very difficult process. I never expected it to go like -- to be so difficult. We had clear DNA evidence. I thought we would get a hearing right away. This, for us, has been a nightmare. I can't imagine what it's like for Marcellus, his family, the victim's family. It's really been chaotic. But thank God we've got some breathing time and I hope the board of inquiry will look very seriously at the new evidence.

BROWN: So, he was set to be executed tonight, and then this new evidence is brought to light by his defense team. You were waiting for the Supreme Court to weigh in. Then the state weighs in and issues a stay in the final hours because the clock is ticking. Tell us about this evidence. What did you find, what did it tell you and why do you believe it is so telling in terms of his innocence?