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President Trump Delivers Angry, Divisive Speech in Phoenix; Trump Hints He Will Pardon Controversial Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Aired 6- 6:30a ET
Aired August 23, 2017 - 06:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If you want to discover the source of the division in our country, look no further than the fake news.
[05:59:04] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This issue in Charlottesville is the albatross around this administration's neck.
TRUMP: They're trying to take away our culture. They've got clubs, and they've got everything.
JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: I find this downright scary and disturbing. I worry, frankly, about access to nuclear codes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president was very much like the president was at almost every one of his rallies.
TRUMP: We were just one vote away from victory.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president had more kind words for the leader of North Korea than he did for a war hero who is fighting brain cancer.
ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY. It is Wednesday, August 23, 6 a.m. here in New York. We have a lot of news. So here is our starting line.
Angry and defiant, President Trump last night attempted to rewrite history of his Charlottesville response, conveniently omitting his blaming of both sides for the deadly violence and his saying that very fine people marched with white supremacists.
The president's combative speech did not stop there. He went after Arizona's two Republican senators again without ever saying their names. All of this as CNN learns the president and Senate Majority Leader
Mitch McConnell have not spoken in weeks.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Let's be clear. This is a new low. The president was not merely recharging the base. He was playing Americans for fools. The nation's former director of national intelligence is calling President Trump's speech downright scary and disturbing. James Clapper now questioning the commander-in-chief's fitness for office and his access to the nuclear codes.
One night the president calls for peace and the unity that our fighting men and women deserve after they return from war. The next night, he does his best to destroy the same.
We have it all covered. Let's begin with CNN's Boris Sanchez, live in Phoenix.
I was watching last night, Boris, as the president said that we had turned off the live feed. I was watching him say that on CNN. That's how bizarre it was.
BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Bizarre it was, Chris. Another whirlwind performance by the president of the United States, really what we've come to expect from Donald Trump.
As you said, he went after some of his favorite targets: the media, the Democrats, some members of his own party in Congress. And he seemed very focused on trying to clarify his response to the violence in Charlottesville, though he left out some important information.
TRUMP: We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence. That's me speaking on Saturday.
SANCHEZ (voice-over): President Trump attempting to revise selectively, recounting his past statements about the deadly violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, and purposely omitting his off-the-cuff responses that sparked the uproar.
TRUMP: We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides.
You also had people that were very fine people on both sides.
SANCHEZ: the president blaming the media for the backlash.
TRUMP: I hit them with neo-Nazi. I hit them with everything. I got the white supremacist, the neo-Nazi. I got them all in there. Let's say. KKK, we have KKK. I got them all. So they're having a hard time. So what did they say, right? "It should have been sooner. He's a racist."
SANCHEZ: And accusing the press of giving a platform to hate groups, a charge the president reiterated on Twitter after the campaign rally. TRUMP: They're bad people, and I really think they don't like our
SANCHEZ: President Trump also fomenting division by attacking the removal of Confederate statues.
TRUMP: They're trying to take away our culture. They're trying to take away our history. And our weak leaders, they do it overnight.
SANCHEZ: Mr. Trump also threatens to shut down the government over funding his border wall, but he made no mention of his promise to make Mexico pay for it.
TRUMP: We have to close down our government. We're building that wall.
SANCHEZ: The president throwing more red meat to his base...
TRUMP: I think we'll end up probably terminating NAFTA at some point, OK, probably.
SANCHEZ: ... before once again attacking Arizona's two Republican senators, Jeff Flake and John McCain, who's battling brain cancer, without saying their names.
TRUMP: 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.
SANCHEZ: President Trump also firing up the crowd and teasing a potential pardon of controversial Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
TRUMP: So was Sheriff Joe convicted for doing his job?
I'll make a prediction. I think he's going to be just fine, OK?
SANCHEZ: Despite his press secretary telling reporters the president wouldn't discuss the issue.
Outside the rally, thousands gathered to protest the president. But inside Mr. Trump was in denial.
TRUMP: All week they're talking about the massive crowds that are going to be outside. Where are they?
You know, they show up in the helmets and the black masks; and they've got clubs and they've got everything. Antifa!
SANCHEZ: Police using teargas and pepper spray to disperse the crowds after his rally.
SANCHEZ: And the president also called out the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, by name, saying, "We have to talk to Mitch," which the phrasing of is very interesting. Because as you said, Alisyn, sources are telling CNN that the Senate majority leader and the president haven't spoken for weeks.
[06:05:10] "The New York Times" also reporting that Mitch McConnell privately has questioned Donald Trump's fitness for the office of president -- Chris and Alisyn.
CUOMO: All right, Boris. Thank you very much.
Ordinarily, we do use the expression "throwing red meat to the base." But last night the president was feeding them poison.
Let's bring in our panel: CNN Politics reporter and editor at large Chris Cillizza and CNN political analysts John Avlon and April Ryan. I -- you know, I know we also say this is -- ooh, we've never seen anything like this before. Never seen anything like this before. Last night was stark in contrast to the night before. All of the worst suspicions were confirmed. He read that speech. He clearly didn't believe it. Because as soon as he could, he refuted everything of virtue he had laid out.
JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: And this is the basic dichotomy of Trump, because you've got three categories. You've got Twitter Trump. You've got Teleprompter Trump, and you've got town hall Trump. And last night was unbridled president on a red meat rampage, and it was poison, because he kept targeting different groups.
I'll say, Chris, yesterday on set we had a little bet. He had a little bet, just a fiver, a little Abe Lincoln on whether he would stick to the script, whether he would try to be presidential. In fairness, when you saw me this morning, you gave me a ten.
CUOMO: Yes, because I was so wrong...
CAMEROTA: Had to double down on that.
CUOMO: I can't believe how wrong I was.
AVLON: You know, it's a required little Hamilton to address that wrongness.
But among the significant things last night, first of all, he teased a pardon for Arpaio. He went after the two Republican senators, albeit not by name but with kind of a vicious twist. He said that he would accept a government shutdown, which is already looming in September, in exchange for the wall. And then he went after the press, which is a normal day in Donald Trump's life, except he did it in a way that I hadn't heard before, accusing us of being the primary source of division in this country and hating our history and our culture.
That's different. That was a poisonous red meat speech, the likes of which we've seen in other nations, but rarely in the United States from the president of the United States.
CAMEROTA: April, what did you hear? APRIL RYAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I heard a lot of hate. And let me
say this. Let me go back a little bit.
Monday night I was at Fort Myer with the president when he delivered that speech, very sober speech, delivering it to the Teleprompters and to those soldiers that were in that room.
I mean, 24 hours later it was a stark contrast, polar opposite speeches. You know, some people wanted to say that, you know, this president is unfit because of his mental stability. Others are saying it could be an Archie Bunker moment. Either way, this is the president of the United States. One minute he says, you know, "I'm for peace, you know, tolerance, and he doesn't want to use words like "bigotry." He's not, you know, a bigot or anything, and we can't stand that.
But the next thing, code words again the next night, you know, going after people, going after the media, going after groups of people, supporting people who want to gather groups of people based on culture and race. It's a sad day for this nation. It's a sad day. And I mean, we got glimpses of it, you know, during the campaign. You know, I guess people would say that was the honeymoon. And now you see the real President Donald J. Trump. It just -- I'm shocked, you know, from Monday to last night. It's shocking.
CUOMO: I think the honeymoon -- maybe a better metaphor is that that was the high, and this is the hangover that we're dealing with right now in terms of how he's decided to express himself.
Be very clear, this is not a matter of opinion. This is a matter of fact. Take a listen to what the president said about Charlottesville and how he tried to double down. Here's the sound.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Here's 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 hatred, 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)
CAMEROTA: So can we conclude that he was embarrassed by his words, his original words, the fact that he omitted them last night? Can we conclude that, because he omitted the "on many sides, on many sides," really, he knows he made a mistake there?
CUOMO: No. No, you can't, because you can't judge his intentions. Right? Only he knows his own heart.
CAMEROTA: Right. Right, so why... CUOMO: What you can do is this. He misled that audience last night. He's hoping to play them for fools.
CAMEROTA: Sure. He rewrote history. Agreed? He whitewashed it; he rewrote history. Why, Chris Cillizza?
CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER AND EDITOR AT LARGE: Because he does it all the time. He does it to make himself look better. He does it to make him look like he won, he was the victim. He was somehow aggrieved and ill-treated. He has a massive victim complex. His candidacy was built on grievance, both his own and the ones that he identified within the country.
So he doesn't -- I don't think he does it because he's embarrassed, Alisyn. I think he does it because, in his mind, he's always right, and so he will adjust the facts to fit. "Well, there were Muslims celebrating on 9/11 on New Jersey roofs," "Well, Ted Cruz's dad maybe was involved in the JFK assassination," "Barack Obama did wiretap Trump Tower," "There were more people at my inauguration." I mean, this is...
CILLIZZA: He rewrites history constantly to make it more favorable to him.
Now, lots of people rewrite history and make it more favorable for them. Very few people are the president of the United States. But this -- there's a through line here: victimhood and grievance. That's what you saw last night.
Donald Trump is forever the victim in his own mind. He is the victim of poor staff. He is the victim of bad choices made by other people. He is the victim of the media most especially. Remember Jeff Sessions, his comments about Jeff Sessions: "I can't believe he would do this to me" about Jeff Sessions' recusal. We talked about it on this show. No sense that it's about for the good of the country; 100 percent focused on himself.
This is -- this is who the guy is.
CILLIZZA: He may have other moments. Monday night is the exception. Tuesday night is the rule.
AVLON: It's when he actually gives a speech written by staff that's apparently taking the office of the president more seriously than the president himself.
And I think -- you know, Chris makes an important point. You know, conservative presidents -- think of Ronald Reagan. Playing the victim was not in his vocabulary. It was about a larger purpose beyond himself.
And the conflation of conservative populism and victimhood is significant. And the fact that this president, as Tim O'Brien, his biographer, has pointed out, is basically motivated, everything he says can be in two prisms, self-aggrandizement, self-preservation. That seems to be the president's two speeds.
RYAN: Narcissism, as well.
AVLON: And narcissism.
CAMEROTA: And so April, I mean, going after the senators, McCain and Flake, from Arizona in their, you know, back yards, the crowd seemed to like it, obviously. Everybody there is predisposed to support President Trump. But where does that leave us today? What happens on Capitol Hill? How do people like Mitch McConnell and the Arizona senators respond to him now?
RYAN: Well, you know, Senator John McCain is really in a battle for his life and trying to heal. So that's probably his primary focus, which it should be. And others in the Republican Party are fighting for him.
Here's the bottom line. You know, the other night we heard here on this network, CNN, the speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, say that, you know, the president messed up with his words, but he came back the fourth time, Monday night, and it was OK. That was when he said it.
But this is the fifth time. And, you know, you wonder how this party can stand and justify -- and you already know Mitch McConnell is -- just last evening, you know, to donors saying that he felt the president wasn't fit, and he also didn't believe that he was going to finish out this term.
Republicans are rising up. The question is, will their base see what the leadership in Washington sees? And they're leading -- you know, leaders are leading the way. This is real. This is not fake. People are not making this up. There's omission. He's going after a prisoner of war, a man who's sick. Two senators in their own home, in their back yard. I mean, there is a lot of -- I don't even know what you call it there. We've never seen this.
CUOMO: And also, April, be clear. He can criticize anybody he wants. That's fine. It's about how he abuses the facts and how he is twisting reality for people to create enemies, and the insensitivity of forgetting that a man is fighting for his life.
And look, that's stock in trade for the president of the United States...
CUOMO: He misled them on the facts last night, and he's trying to destroy the people who call him out on it, who's the media. But the test -- he's not a victim, and neither are these Republican senators. Mitch McConnell is no victim. His job is to stand up and to speak truth to power. Will he do it? We'll see. But it's on him, not on the president.
CAMEROTA: Panel, thank you very much. We will rely on you later in the program.
President Trump attacking, as we've been talking about, Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The two men have not spoken in weeks with all the work to be done on Capitol Hill. So how is their relationship unraveling? Does it mean they'll be able to get anything done? We dissect all of that next.
[06:18:47] CAMEROTA: OK, so President Trump last night once again hinting that he may pardon controversial former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Was Sheriff Joe convicted for doing his job?
He should have had a jury. But you know what? 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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: Let's bring back our panel. We have Chris Cillizza and John Avlon. And we want to bring in Alex Burns who just broke a "New York Times" article about President Trump's feud with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, which we'll get to in a moment.
First, Joe Arpaio. John Avlon. I mean, he's beyond controversial. He's -- you know, he's been, you know, punished. I mean, unapologetically, racially profiling, among other things.
AVLON: Yes, among other things. Arpaio is sort of a great exemplar of that whole militia movement, Minutemen movement down on the border that was ostensibly trying to cease illegal immigration but ended up stomping on the civil rights of Latino citizens and other folks.
And the investigation, by the way, that led to this conviction, which the president said he's going to overturn, dates back to the George W. Bush administration, folks. So if you conspiracy theorists out there think this is some kind of kangaroo court driven by partisan agendas, go check your facts first. I know that's unfashionable these days, but let's do it for the heck of it.
Also, and he was campaigning with the president, too.
CUOMO: Right. It wouldn't make sense for President Trump to be hard on Joe Arpaio, Chris Cillizza, because he represents everything that he was trying to spoon feed the people in the audience last night. And if you take the president at his word, which is he's all about him and what works for him, he will not surrender the "me" to the "we" in any way, big or small. Why wouldn't he support Joe Arpaio?
CILLIZZA: Remember, one of the fundamental rules of Trumpism is "If you like me, I like you." Go back to Vladimir Putin. "Well, he said nice things about me, so why wouldn't I say nice things about him?" That's the fundamental default. If you are nice to Donald Trump, Donald Trump will be nice to you until you stop being nice to him. It really isn't much more complicated than that.
Joe Arpaio has said that their relationship goes back years, said that Donald Trump sent him notes, thanking him for his leadership on birtherism. He was an early supporter. He formally endorsed him in Iowa right before the caucuses in 2016. This is seen as, you know, a big thing. Donald Trump brought him to Iowa to endorse him.
And it's -- just one other thing about the way in which Trump presents this. It's a classic "Stay tuned, wait until the next episode, right? Who knows what will happen? But I think he's going to be OK." I mean, this is -- this is him. This is Donald Trump, reality star.
CAMEROTA: He likes to tease.
CILLIZZA: Make sure you tune in for the cliff-hanger.
CAMEROTA: Right. I mean, he's the master of the tease, in fact, he's -- Chris Cillizza, he did another one last night. You know, while Congress is so worried and hammering about government shutdown, President Trump seemed to feed that. Let's watch.
(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.
Let me be very clear to Democrats in Congress who oppose the border wall and stand in the way of border security. You are putting all of America's safety at risk. You're doing that. You're doing that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: So that was a message to Democrats. But I'm sure Mitch McConnell was listening to that, that the president thinks that the government shutdown is one of the answers.
ALEX BURNS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. And that's a big deal. You have -- it's sort of obvious to say it, but Republicans right now are deeply, deeply concerned that when they get back to Washington after Labor Day, they are going to defund the government, raise the debt ceiling and, hopefully, get some kind of traction on another issue like tax reform. They see Trump as not having been helpful in any way on any of those subjects so far.
So to have him out there, even Republicans who in general support the idea of maybe not a border wall, but enhanced border security of some kind. To have the president out there drawing not quite a red line but pretty close, in saying, "I'd rather see no government funding at all than see government funding without the wall," that makes it awfully difficult for Republicans to put together the votes on their own side. Ironically, it probably means that Republicans will have to rely that
much more on Democrats to fund the government.
CUOMO: So what is the inside scoop about what's going on between the president and the Senate majority leader? McConnell's silence is often taken as acceptance. But what is the reality from your reporting?
BURNS: The reality is that the silence extends to McConnell's relationship with the president. They've not spoken in two weeks. The president berated McConnell over health care and especially over the Russia issue in that private phone call earlier this month.
And what they're saying about each other to the people around them, while they're not talking to each other, is as stark as it has ever been. McConnell, who has never been a huge fan of the president and has been up front with folks for a while about feeling like the president is not the governing partner, the ideal governing partner, at this point is pretty close to saying that he's given up.
CAMEROTA: So who wins that battle royale between the president and the Senate majority leader?
AVLON: We're watching something kind of fascinating and unprecedented, which is a basic inversion of the American system, where you've got a series of people, even within the administration, coddling and trying to contain a president they view as impetuous and impulsive, rather than the president being a father figure.
And with the larger context of government, you've got -- even though Republicans have unified control, Mitch McConnell and other Republicans privately, increasingly, loudly, Corker publicly questioning his fitness for office.
That's very significant, given the context in which you can see a president have power challenged, not just institutionally but more fundamentally. That's a serious step that, you know, people are starting to discuss openly. That is a dangerous thing to do.
[06:25:07] But you know, last night on CNN's air, Jim Clapper did it, as well, former DNI who served in every administration from Kennedy to Obama and doesn't do it lightly. Bob Corker doesn't do that lightly. McConnell may be doing it privately, but that carries enormous weight, given how much of an institutionalist he is. So watch his face. This is significant.
CUOMO: But at the end of the day, Cillizza, you have talk and you have action. You know, you can condemn him slowly in different terms to different degrees. But at the end of the day, it's about what do they do when they get back here? How does the president not win inasmuch as these Republicans have to try to empower their own agenda? That's how they'll get re-elected. That's how they show progress, no matter how they have a relationship or don't with the president. At the end of the day, isn't that the reality, that they have to try and get it done, no matter whether they want to do it with him or not?
CILLIZZA: And largely speaking, they have a similar agenda. I mean, this is how they justified getting -- backing him in the first place.
Alex is exactly right. I mean, Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump are oil and water, politically speaking. I know they're in the same party, technically, but that's about where the similarities end.
But the theory of the case was, "Look, he -- he has an agenda much more similar to ours than Hillary Clinton does."
You're right, Chris, that tax reform, immigration of some sort. Maybe they try health care reform again. Sure. But in your question of who wins, I think Mitch McConnell probably wins. Because Mitch McConnell is not going anywhere.
CILLIZZA: He doesn't have a serious challenge as leader. John Cornyn, who's second to him from Texas, has already said he's for him. McConnell is up in 2020. I don't think he's going to lose there. You know, Donald Trump has a lot more chance of losing in 2020 than does Mitch McConnell.
So that's the thing about institutions. They remain while individuals pass through. So near term, you're correct. Longer term, you know, I think a classic example and another way that they're different, Mitch McConnell always playing the long game. Donald Trump playing the shortest of all games, which is a day-to-day, strategic chaos.
CAMEROTA: Of course, Mitch McConnell is married to Elaine Chao in Donald Trump's cabinet. I mean, to be a fly on the wall of those dinner conversations between that couple.
BURNS: Yes, absolutely. A lot of people who are close to McConnell, who we spoke to in the course of reporting this story, sort off played down that angle, said that he's a master at sort of disassociating the personal from the political. But the way he was talking about the president's remarks last week on Charlottesville was -- was more heated than people typically hear from Senator McConnell. And it may not be an accident that happened after his wife was standing next to the president during that whole show.
AVLON: I wonder, the folks -- you know, McConnell actually is very passionate about civil rights, goes back to his history and certainly, obviously, his relationship with his wife. But I wonder if the folks in the rally understand that the people who know Trump best, who work with him most closely, whether in his administration or in the Senate, in private are not more polite in admiring of the president than they are in public. That there is a continuity of dealing with the president by the people who work with him that is deeply troubled and somewhat disgusted.
CAMEROTA: Panel, thank you all very much.
CUOMO: All right. We have had government taking action after this spate of naval problems. There have been four collisions. There have been fatalities. And now the commander of the Pacific's Seventh Fleet is being dismissed. What will his removal mean? And will it be enough to make things better? Live report next.