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Trump Rewrites History While Lashing Out At Rally; Trump Hints Again He May Pardon Sheriff Arpaio; Hillary Clinton: My Skin Crawled. Aired 10-10:30a ET
Aired August 23, 2017 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[10:00:00] MATTHEW CHANCE, SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: -- that were asking him. But again, he is a diplomat right until the very end. John?
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: I got to say, a fascinating interview, Matthew Chance. Kislyak seems to take a certain amount of glee. He had that smile on his face the whole time over perhaps all the controversy he has been in the middle of for more than a year.
Matthew Chance, thank you so much for that interview.
All right, good morning, everyone. I'm John Berman.
New this morning, the president of the United States is giving himself glowing reviews. He says his controversial overnight 77 minute go after everyone speech he says it was amazing. He also said it was a packed house, which some reports are questioning this morning. That aside, the president vented, defended, teased and attacked and made important words for - made important news, I should say, for words he did not say. The president revising history, he edited out a phrase that set off a firestorm in the wake of the unrest in Charlottesville.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Here is what I said on Saturday. We're closely following the terrible events unfolding in Charlottesville, Virginia. This is me speaking. We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hated, bigotry and violence. That's me speaking on Saturday.
We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides. It's been going on for a long time in our country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: Left out the many sides, many sides, which was, of course, the source of so much of the initial controversy.
CNN's Boris Sanchez in Phoenix covering what was a remarkable event last night. Boris?
BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, John. It's probably easier to go through who the president didn't go after, than who he did, some of his favorite targets, the media, Democrats, some Republicans, amazon.com. He also threatened to shut down the government if he didn't get funding for the border wall. No mention of Mexico paying for it. He also threatened to undo NAFTA. And he went after Arizona's two Republican senators. He didn't name them. Here are some of the highlights.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: The obstructionist Democrats would like us not to do it. But believe me if we have to close down our government, we're building that wall.
I'll make a prediction. I think he's going to be just fine, OK?
But I won't do it tonight, because I don't want to cause any controversy.
So I think we'll end up probably terminating NAFTA at some point, OK? Probably.
One vote away, I will not mention any names. Very presidential, isn't' it? Very presidential.
And nobody wants me to talk about your other senator, who's weak on borders, weak on crime, so I won't talk about him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SANCHEZ: John, after saying it's not -- rather, that it is very presidential that he didn't name any names this morning on Twitter he did just that. The president taking to Twitter, roughly 40 minutes ago, writing, quote, "Phoenix crowd last night was amazing -- a packed house. I love the Great State of Arizona. Not a fan of Jeff Flake, weak on crime and border!"
The president went on to tweet about the fake news media, saying that we didn't cover his response to the violence in Charlottesville accurately. He also then went on to criticize the Republican Senate saying they should get rid of the filibuster rule otherwise they're just wasting time. So that measured by the book, by the teleprompter Donald Trump that we saw on Monday. He is taking a very different approach today, John.
BERMAN: All right, Boris Sanchez for us in Phoenix. Boris thanks so much.
Whatever divisions the president is stoking this morning, one of the most consequential might be with the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Sources tell CNN, the president and the senator have not spoken since the stormy phone call two weeks ago.
CNN's Manu Raju in Washington with some of these details. Manu, this is a relationship that could be dangerous to sort of mess up.
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Yes, that's right. And it's not going particularly well right now. I'm told from sources with direct knowledge of that August 9th phone call that the president essentially blew up at Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, really frustrated about the issue of Russia in particular. Not believing that the Senate majority leader has done enough to protect him from that investigation, but also, frustrated at Congress passing a Russia sanctions bill that essentially tied the hands of this administration in loosening sanctions. And this is something the president privately expressed significant frustration with Mitch McConnell. In fact, I'm told, even there was some profanity from the president towards McConnell on that phone call. They have not spoken since.
Now, of course, this comes at a critical time, John, at a time when there's a number of issues that are lingering for the Congress to come back and deal with come September. At the same time, "The New York Times" reporting that Mitch McConnell actually has raised concerns about whether or not the president could salvage his presidency, whether or not he can actually get some of those key items done in order to keep the government open and in order to raise the national debt ceiling as well as those big ticket items such as infrastructure, tax reform, things that they still hope to accomplish, that they will need to do together.
[10:05:16] Now, what the president is doing this morning is not helping things either, some Republicans, expressing frustration at his continuing going after changing the Senate filibuster rules, going after Senator Jeff Flake. Republicans in the Senate support Flake, particularly Mitch McConnell who is raising money in trying to ensure that Jeff Flake stays in that seat as well as the Republicans are saying they're not going to change the Sneate filibuster rules, even though the president continues to go after Mitch McConnell over that very issue, John.
The thing that really is irking President Trump is the fact that he does not believe that Mitch McConnell is doing enough on Russia probe to prevent Congress from going after him. Mitch McConnell is leaving it to these committees to deal with that investigation. John?
BERMAN: A lot of people seem irked right now over this.
All right, Manu Raju for us in Washington. Manu thanks so much.
Joining me now to discuss, CNN political commentators, Matt Lewis, Symone Sanders, Ben Ferguson.
Guys, I want to play you some response to the president's speech overnight. This was on CNN with the former director of National Intelligence, James Clapper. Let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: I found this downright scary and disturbing.
I really question his ability to -- his fitness to be in this office. And I also am beginning to wonder about his motivation for it. Maybe he is looking for a way out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: Ben Ferguson, you take serious issue with the questions that Director Clapper raised.
BEN FERGUSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR AND CONSERVATIVE TALK RADIO HOST: Yes. I think its bush league. And I think it's childish because you don't like the president to then somehow imply that he is either a, trying to figure a way out by what going down in flames or b, people saying that somehow the president is, you know, unfit. People have been saying, well, maybe this is early onset dementia. I had to have that conversation earlier today.
If you don't like the president of the United States of America, that's your right. But to somehow imply that, you know, I'm terrified or he is unfit or, you know, we need to go to plan b, it's been six months. You don't like the president, say it. But to imply that somehow he should be -- not be the president because the American people elected him. The American people decided he is the president.
To even have the discussion that he is having I think is out of bounds. I think it's irresponsible. I also think that it undermines the office of the presidency, which is bigger than any one man, including Donald Trump. I didn't like Barack Obama. I never said he shouldn't be president because he was unfit or I'm wondering if he is trying to somehow self-implode his own presidency and we should move on to plan b. It's wrong, it's embarrassing and I think it's absurd.
SYMONE SANDERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR AND FORMER NATIONAL PRESS SECRETARY, BERNIE 2016: John, I think we're conflating feelings here with the facts. Yes, there are people that do not like the president. I don't like the president. But the facts are that he went on an unhinged rant yesterday evening. The facts are --
FERGUSON: It was a rally.
SANDERS: The facts are that Donald Trump has done not one, but plenty of things that we can point to that have caused, not only folks like myself, but Director Clapper to question if he is fit for the presidency. So this is not about people not liking the president. This is about Donald Trump standing up on a stage and literally calling himself the victim when someone was killed in Charlottesville last week by white supremacist. This is about Donald Trump saying he wants to bring the country together but standing up there talking about pardoning a known racist, Joe Arpaio. This is about Donald Trump not being presidential. This is about Donald Trump not upholding the bar that used to be really high for the office.
FERGUSON: I totally respect the ability for you to disagree with the president. You don't like - Sheriff Arpaio. I have no problem with that.
SANDERS: It's not about -- I want to be clear. It's not about me not just liking Joe Arpaio.
BERMAN: One at a time, one at a time. Ben.
SANDERS: He is a well-known racist. He has been convicted for racially profiling people.
BERMAN: OK. Ben, you quickly, then I want to go to Matt.
FERGUSON: Many of his supporters would say that he did his job, which was to go after illegal immigrants. It was very successful. We will save that for another day. But I go back to the core point I made a second ago. Just because you don't like what the president said - last night his rally was exactly the same rally, the same style that he's had since he started presidential campaign and no one was saying back then that he was unhinged or somehow there needs to be a plan b. --
SANDERS: I was.
FERGUSON: And I understand that you don't like him. Again, the fact that we're even sitting here six months into a presidency and people think it's appropriate because you don't like the policies or a rally the president has to say that somehow he is unfit to be president. Here is what I would say.
I dealt with Barack Obama for eight years and policies I didn't like and him flat-out lying to me saying, if I like a doctor, I can keep it, but I didn't say he should all of a sudden be impeached or he is unhinged or he has dementia. That is out of bounds. -
[10:10:05] BERMAN: OK. Hang on. All right, guys, Matt Lewis. You have been sitting ever so quietly. Go ahead.
MATT LEWIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: This is my conservative temperament, John.
No, look, I would take issue with Ben a little bit here. I think that - look, I think Barack Obama was a horrible president, too. But he didn't have a problem with impulse control. Barack Obama, remember the no drama Obama part? So, the problem with Obama, a lot of bad ideas, a lot of bad policies and in some cases, I would say, dithering in action in terms -- he endangered us for different reasons.
But I think it's fair to say that Donald Trump does have character issues, does have a problem with impulse control, does seem prone to fly off the handle and just be reactive rather than thinking things through. And I don't think that six months is premature to say -- to give this analysis. I mean, I think six months -- we have seen every single day the chaos that this man has brought to this country. I don't think that's premature.
BERMAN: Matt Lewis, I want to follow up - I'm going to follow-up with Matt quickly. Get my voice in there. I had to jump in quickly.
Matt, one person who seems dissatisfied after six months is the Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell. Who was apparently -- openly questioning whether the president can salvage his administration, then had a shouting match over Russia. It begs the question to me, is the president making the Russia situation even worse? Is Bob Mueller going to want to talk to Mitch McConnell and say, hey, was the president trying to end the Senate investigations into Russia?
LEWIS: I think he is making everything worse. Some of the things that worked to get him elected I think are working -- are not working so well in terms of governing.
Mitch McConnell is a guy like him or not, who -- he overcame polio. He has been in politics for 50 years. He didn't just sort of get elected nationally because of charisma. He is a guy who climbed the greasy bowl of politics, worked his way up over like 50 years to become the majority leader.
And he has a vested interest -- he and Donald Trump should be on the same page. They should both be trying to fix health care and reform it, make it more conservative and possibly repeal and replace Obamacare. Do tax reform. Do infrastructure. I mean, Mitch McConnell's wife would be in charge of that project, from a cabinet level position.
And here they are fighting. And I don't think it's because Mitch McConnell is contentious. I think it's because President Trump is not capable of governing.
BERMAN: Symone Sanders, last night -- hang on, Ben. We're going to get to you in the last word. That's how I'm setting this up.
Symone Sanders, quickly, the president suggested last night that he would be willing to shut down the government over funding for the border wall. The Democrats welcome that fight?
SANDERS: No. The president of the United States should be concerned with the government running properly, with things running on time, not with shutting down the government so that he can get an arbitrary wall built that will do nothing. A wall, by the way, that he told us Mexico was going to pay for. Again, another lie he told us.
Democrats are willing to come to the table with Republicans in Congress and with the president when they are willing to offer something substantive. Democrats will come to the table on health care if folks are willing to fix Obamacare. We are not coming to the table on repeal and replace. And frankly, neither are some Republicans in the Republican Party.
I think it is high time that folks stop with this arbitrary rhetoric and these arbitrary deadlines and these arbitrary things that apparently we think America needs - this wall and get down to the business of getting things done for the country. BERMAN: All right. Ben Ferguson, you will be rewarded for your patience, last word from you.
FERGUSON: Let me say this about Mitch McConnell, real quick. Mitch McConnell has never been a fan of Donald Trump. That's very clear. I think Mitch McConnell has proven that he cannot lead the Republicans on simple basic issues like repeal and replacing Obamacare.
I think the president is absolutely right to be angry and upset with Mitch McConnell. The majority of Republicans don't like Mitch McConnell. I honestly think that Mitch McConnell is John Boehner 2.0.
He is probably going to be the next to go because it's proved that he cannot lead on the issues that the American people elected Donald Trump to do. And if it's personal and he is not leading because he doesn't like the president, then that tells me just how amateur he is at his job. If you know the American people put you there to do certain things -
LEWIS: The president is attacking -
FERGUSON: -- get over the fact you don't like the president of the United States of America.
LEWIS: He is attacking Republican senators, two incumbent -- be the bigger man here. - 50 years
SANDERS: The president should be the bigger man -
BERMAN: Hang on, guys. Guys, we're out of time. Matt -- three words, Matt.
LEWIS: He is attacking -- this is more than three. The president is attacking two incumbent Republican senators.
FERGUSON: Who didn't do their job.
BERMAN: All right, guys. We're going to leave it right there because we have to go to break. Wow. A lot to discuss, they're interesting debates though, which just goes to show the discussion the president really has started. Thank you, guys.
[10:15:01] So, pardon me, the president says the controversial former sheriff from Arizona, Joe Arpaio, is going to be just fine, new reaction from the new sheriff next.
And so close, it made her skin crawl. Hillary Clinton, new words you have never heard before. What she is saying in her new book about this very memorable moment in of the second debate.
And what is in a name? This is stunning. A sports commentator just found out what he will not be doing because his name is Robert Lee. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Was Sheriff Joe convicted for doing his job?
I will make a prediction. I think he is going to be just fine. OK?
But, but I won't do it tonight because I don't want to cause any controversy. Is that OK?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[10:20:06] BERMAN: All right, President Trump hinting more than hinting that he may pardon former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who is convicted of contempt of court in a case for racial profiling.
Joining me now for his reaction is the successor of Joe Arpaio at the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office, Paul Penzone. Sheriff thanks so much for joining us. I just want to get our reaction to the president last night who really made it clear that he does intend to pardon Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
SHERIFF PAUL PENZONE, JOE ARPAIO'S SUCCESSOR: You know, my focus is solely on the men and women in our office. The pardon or the potential pardon of my predecessor is not an issue that we focus on or care about. I care about the health of our community. Right now, our office has spent about $70 million in taxpayer money due to the actions of my predecessor and the court orders that currently hold in compliance over this office. So, we have a lot of work to do. Any distractions such as those take away from our efforts to truly shine a light on the great work by the men and women within the office who are carrying on after those issues.
BERMAN: He was convicted of not complying with that court order. Correct?
PENZONE: Correct. There were issues of civil rights violations and other things that are not reflective or indicative of what professional law enforcement stands for. You know, last night, we had a rally here in Phoenix. And you saw law enforcement handle challenging circumstances. And the professionalism, the discipline in the face of the challenges is really what's defining of this selfless service.
So, we need to really recognize, we have work to do. The work is building relationships with our community to address issues of crime and to remove distractions or those who have not acted in the manner that is truly representative of what this authority stands for. That's how we're going to restore order in our communities. That's how we're going to earn trust from those that we serve. And that's how we're going to have a safer community.
BERMAN: What message does it send to that community if the president weighs in on these issues? PENZONE: Well, I can't speak necessarily for the community at large. But I did speak recently on this issue. We made a decision in November. I was fortunate enough to be privileged with this office. That decision was final.
This community said they no longer believed in the leadership that they had in the office. They wanted to see new leadership. So the actions or the potential actions of the president, is his prerogative. That will be respected. But this community was not happy with what they had as a sheriff. And the courts -- the justice system held him accountable.
BERMAN: You heard the president say last night -- he openly questioned was Sheriff Arpaio convicted for doing his job. From where you sit, was the sheriff convicted for doing his job?
PENZONE: The justice system made it very clear. He was convicted because he defied court orders. And no one is above the law. And everyone who is in violation of the law should be held accountable. That process brought out the facts of the case. The judge made a determination.
I'll keep going back to this place and please forgive me, but as the sheriff of Maricopa County, we have very serious issues to deal with here. We have a great community. We're going to thrive. What's most important is we close the page on the previous legacy, start anew and build a community that we can all be proud of and that anyone when they look to Arizona, they see professional law enforcement and they know it's a safe community.
BERMAN: Are you supportive of a border wall which clearly the president is?
PENZONE: My focus is on comprehensive security for our nation. So if that means, in part, physical structures along with staffing our border agents properly and getting training to ensure that they are safe and give them the tools that they need is absolutely a priority. Whether one or all of those pieces is necessary to accomplish that, I'm not sure. But I will tell you this. We as a nation must be safe. We must ensure that anyone who is within our nation is here lawfully and that we respect what is the greatest aspect of being an American citizen or citizenship. So there are a lot of elements to it. I don't believe any one piece is the solution to it.
BERMAN: Sheriff Paul Penzone, thank you for joining us this morning. We know you got a job to do. It has been busy in your neck of the woods the last 24 hours.
PENZONE: It has. And you know what, leadership in this trying time is critical. We need to make sure that leadership is focused on serving others and not serving ourselves. And that's what we're doing here at Maricopa County.
BERMAN: All right. Sheriff thanks so much.
PENZONE: Thank you. BERMAN: Her skin crawled. This was a moment so many people remember for the election. Hear what Hillary Clinton has to say now. Almost surreal narration of this moment, excerpts from her new book just released. Stay with us.
[10:29:08] BERMAN: Brand-new this morning, Hillary Clinton speaks or more accurately reads aloud. Audio excerpts from her new book, an account of how she saw the election, including a surreal play by play narration of a crucial debate moment, listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is not OK, I thought. It was the second presidential debate and Donald Trump was looming behind me.
Two days before, the world heard him brag about groping women. Now we were on a small stage, and no matter where I walked, he followed me closely, staring at me, making faces. It was incredibly uncomfortable. He was literally breathing down my neck.
My skin crawled. It was one of those moments where you wish you could hit pause and ask everyone watching, well, what would you do? Do you stay calm, keep smiling and carry on as if he weren't repeatedly invading your space?