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Rabbis Cancel Annual High Holidays Call With Trump; GOP Under Pressure to Deliver in September After Tense Summer; Lone Jackpot Ticket Wins $758 Million; Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired August 24, 2017 - 10:30   ET


[10:30:00] RABBI ELYSE WECHTERMAN, RECONSTRUCTIONIST RABBINICAL ASSOCIATION: -- down on his expressions of concern for things like both sides and all sides. And yes, he listed those names, but he also neglected to mention that since his campaign, he refused to clarify and distance himself from anti-Semites, from racists, from xenophobes of all kind. And we need to spend time really caring for the members of our the community who are afraid and also building coalitions and working with other groups who want to fight these kinds of hateful ideologies.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: There are several Jewish members of the administration, you know, including the president's daughter and son- in-law, Gary Cohn, Steve Mnuchin among others. Do you have a message to the people who are Jewish and serve in the administration?

WECHTERMAN: I am sure that they are working the hardest that they can to represent their values. I do hope that they speak to the president. I can't speak for what goes on in the hearts and minds of individuals or even the president for that matter. But we have really not seen any moral leadership from the administration at all on any of these issues.

BERMAN: Any pushback from your congregations, by the way, for this decision to boycott the call?

WECHTERMAN: Of course we are a community that represents a diverse set of viewpoints. There are many, many different members of the Jewish community. Not all of them agree. I would say for the Rabbinical Association that I represent, the overwhelming response has been supportive and grateful. Of course there are a few who disagree and they are absolutely have their right to do so.

BERMAN: All right. Rabbi Elyse Wechterman, thanks so much for being with us, appreciate it.

WECHTERMAN: Thank you. It's my pleasure.

BERMAN: All right. The pressure is on after a downright tense summer. Can Republican lawmakers deliver on their agenda this fall? All this with new statements by the president this morning.


[10:36:10] BERMAN: Congressional Republicans, they have had the time of their lives but with the failure of health care reform, public recriminations from a Republican president about their efforts and now having to answer per said president's comments on white supremacists, this will be a summer they never forget.

But just like at Kellerman's, summer must come to an end and September could be even better or worse. A government shutdown looms, possible default on the federal debt, health care implosion, tax decisions, a dirty dance indeed.

Joining me now, CNN's political director, no one puts David Chalian in the corner.

And David, talk to me about September because you get the sense the White House, everyone knows there's a lot at stake here.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes. I don't think we're going to see Donald Trump doing that iconic lift with Mitch McConnell anytime soon. September is going to be tricky. As you noted, we have deadlines upcoming with just keeping the government open and funded. We have a debt ceiling increase that's going to be required if America is not going to default on its debt, which obviously could roil markets and the economy if that were to happen.

And that's supposedly -- that's supposedly the easy stuff that Ryan and McConnell are saying, John, that's going to be business as normal. And it's the tougher stuff like the big legislative items like tax reform, trying to go back in health care, getting infrastructure off the ground. Those big ticket items where they're looking to put W's on the board for the Republican Party with complete control.

Those are much, much trickier. Just keeping the government open and funded avoiding debt default, that should be the easier stuff here and yet we see from Donald Trump's tweets that it may not be easy at all for Republicans.

BERMAN: No. It's real and it's happening potentially soon. And they have to deal with it. And I'm not sure they necessarily see a way through it this morning. You brought up what the president has been saying all morning on social media. I do want to put up one picture just so we can put it in context historically.

The president re-tweeted this image of himself on the eclipse. I think we have it. There we go. He said the best eclipse ever, and it shows him, President Donald Trump slowly obscuring President Obama.

Now I know, David, one of the things that's repeatedly happened first during the campaign and now during the presidency is we say, you know, these things don't usually happen. They're never done. But when we talk about one president the way that one president treats another president, it is highly unusual even in a joking way to see something like that from a sitting president about a past president. And some would point out and say it demeans the office.

CHALIAN: Yes. Well, I think that whole notion, John, of the president's club, that rarefied group of individuals who had served as America's chief executive, as you know, it is the most exclusive club in the world. And I think it's just disintegrated. I mean, it doesn't apply to this president anymore. He has no relationship with his predecessors, he doesn't sort of seek guidance from them in any way in ways that his predecessors did with their predecessors.

So I think that notion that there's somehow tradition or what is the norm here, that is all out the window with the Trump presidency.

BERMAN: Right. The club may still exist, he's just chosen not to join.


BERMAN: He goes to Mar-a-Lago and Bedminster instead. But one thing that image does show is what some people noted as the mere obsession with the Obama administration. A lot of people think that what the president, this president, is doing in some ways is a reaction to each and everything he can to counter the Obama presidency.

CHALIAN: You get the sense from listening to the president, right, when you listen to his remarks, he brings up Barack Obama quite often and you get this sense of, did he just have a staffer go back and check whatever Obama said on this, or whatever President Obama did on this that President Trump wants to be in the opposite position?

He clearly feels the presence of Barack Obama hanging over him in some way because I don't recall hearing a president in their first eight months in office referring back to as constantly to their immediate predecessor the way that Donald Trump does.

[10:40:11] BERMAN: No. Barack Obama often referred to the economy that he inherited there. He did that for eight full years. But it wasn't quite as personal -- not even close.

CHALIAN: Not even close. Yes.

BERMAN: It was personal as we're hearing from President Trump. Comprehensive as well.

Back to Senator Mitch McConnell and what we are seeing in the Senate right now. I spoke to two former chiefs of staff to Senator Mitch McConnell, and people in McConnell are trying to send the message that, no, there's not really this heated debate, this spat, this rift between the Senate majority leader and the president of the United States.

That's the message they are trying to send. But it's hard to believe, David, when you see what we're seeing from the president, these constant messages sent on social media and what we know from CNN's reporting that these two men held a heated phone call not just over health care, but how Mitch McConnell handled Russia.

CHALIAN: Right. In McConnell world and some in the White House, quite frankly, want to paper this over and try to put the pieces back together here. But as you noted, we've reported how tense that phone call was back on August 9th when Donald Trump was on the golf course in Bedminster. Clearly a heated conversation that included not just the disgruntlement of the president that health care -- Obamacare repeal and replace didn't happen but that he didn't feel well protected by Mitch McConnell, who he clearly sees as somebody who should protect him, from the Russia investigations going on in the United States Senate.

This is not a healthy relationship, there's no doubt about that. Yes, the two men actually do need each other. They do both want some legislative accomplishments here. It's not like it's just one sided.

As you know, John, Republicans are more eager to blame the Republicans in Congress for not getting anything done yet in this presidency than they are willing to blame President Trump. So that there is pressure on both sides here to make the relationship work.

BERMAN: And say it is working. David Chalian, great to have you with us. Thank you so much for playing along.

CHALIAN: Thanks, John.

BERMAN: All right. U.S. diplomats targeted by sonic weapons at their homes in Cuba. This is actually happening or happened. And now we're learning some of the injuries, could be very, very serious.


[10:46:39] BERMAN: A mysterious sonic attack on U.S. diplomats in Cuba might be worse than thought. Some of these folks may have suffered brain damage.

CNN senior diplomatic correspondent Michelle Kosinski is here.

And Michelle, you know, much worse than previously thought with ramifications worse than thought.

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT: Well, there's a little more detail we know. But we have known that these attacks or incidents -- I mean, Secretary Tillerson called them health attacks on U.S. and Canadian diplomats in Cuba caused things like permanent hearing loss and concussions.

But there's a lot of mystery surrounding this. I mean, if this was a deliberate attack, no one is saying who the U.S. thinks did this. Yesterday, we heard from the State Department that said that they have been working with the Cuban government, that the Cubans have been responsive. But they have vehemently denied being behind this.

There's also been talk that this could be the work of some other government operating in Cuba that deliberately targeted these diplomats. We know that the attacks or whatever they were started in December. They continued for some time. They were different. Some of them were inaudible. They're considered to be these sonic incidents and in other cases some of the diplomats reported that they did hear something, like a deafeningly loud sound for a short amount of time that sounded kind of like the buzzing of an insect or something screeching. But in other cases, there were symptoms without them ever remembering

having heard anything. And some of them were thought to have happened while the diplomats were sleeping. So what the State Department is saying is that it took some time for people to report symptoms, to go to doctors and then for people to start to piece these things together and notice a pattern.

And then some of them have things like the permanent hearing loss. At least one diplomat now has to wear a hearing aide as a result. So the State Department says this is a multiagency investigation. They are not giving a whole lot more detail than that. But what kind of device or the nature of these attacks or whatever happened here, there are many questions obviously still surrounding them.

But just the horrifying nature of this that if these people were deliberately targeted in their sleep by some kind of unknown sonic weapon, who is doing this and where else might this happen?

BERMAN: Yes. Deeply troubling, to say the least.

Michelle Kosinski, thanks so much for that update.

Sending a message to the NFL. Why protesters say quarterback Colin Kaepernick is being kept off the field. We'll have the latest in the "Bleacher Report," next.


[10:54:45] BERMAN: All right. The streets outside the NFL offices in New York filled with Colin Kaepernick supporters.

Andy Scholes has it on the "Bleacher Report." Hey, Andy.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Hey, John. The NFL season kicks off two weeks from today. And Colin Kaepernick remains without a team and because of that a number of civil rights groups organized a rally outside the NFL's offices.

[10:55:02] People were wearing Kaepernick jersey's and shirts with Kaepernick's face on them. And many believe Kaepernick is being blackballed by teams because of his social activism.


SHRAVA MOHAMED, ACTIVIST: The NFL is 70 percent people of color. They need the black and brown community. So to blackball Kaepernick, that's not in their best interest.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Obviously the NFL thinks he's bad with this.

KENNETH CHAMBERLAIN JUNIOR, COLIN KAEPERNICK SUPPORTER: He's not yelling and screaming or being disrespectful. He's just bringing attention to a very important issue they have a problem with.

(END VIDEO CLIP) SCHOLES: Organizers from the United We Stand rally are requesting a meeting with the NFL by September 7th to discuss ways to support and protect players who are socially active. If they don't get a meeting, they are calling for a boycott of the league and its sponsors.

All right. After a promotional tour that was considered by many to be offensive and racist, Conor McGregor and Floyd Mayweather, they're much more subdued in their final media event before the fight yesterday. Mayweather remains a huge favorite for Saturday. And CNN's Don Riddell spoke with both of the fighters yesterday. And he asked McGregor about the fact that most say he has no chance.


CONOR MCGREGOR, UFC FIGHTER: You know, I'm a multiple time, multiple weight street fighting world champion. I've come from a ruthless, a ruthless, ruthless business. Not only do I come from it, I own it. So people can say what they want, speak what they want, but it's a disrespect. Also I'm going to look amazing with (INAUDIBLE).

FLOYD MAYWEATHER, BOXER: I have been here before with many different fighters, many different styles. There's been plenty of guys that, you know, talk a lot of trash. But when it's all said and done, I came out victorious.


SCHOLES: Nine for the Dodger's Rich Hill. He had a perfect game through eight innings, which means he had not even allowed one base runner. But an error by Logan (INAUDIBLE) in the ninth lost him the perfect game. Hill, though, still with a chance for the no-hitter. He pitched in the tenth inning, going for it, as when Josh Harrison crushed this one for a game-winning homerun. So the dodgers lose, 1- 0. And Hill becomes the first pitcher ever to lose a no-hitter on a walk-off homerun in extra innings.

But, John, you've got to feel bad for him because his teammates couldn't even get him one run. I think they owe him a couple of steak dinners or something.

BERMAN: No. And Rich Hill, one of the great stories, one of the great people in all of baseball. He's such an independently player. Our heart goes out to Rich Hill. He'll get through it.

Andy Scholes, thank you very, very much.

SCHOLES: All right.

BERMAN: All right. Intrigue surrounding Powerball. Yes, there is a winner of the ticket worth more than $750 million before taxes. But it turns out that person bought the ticket somewhere completely different than first thought. Chicopee, Massachusetts, which is decidedly not Watertown, Massachusetts.

CNN's Brynn Gingras, I believe, has finally made it to the right place here, tracking down the pack in Chicopee -- Brynn. BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we are finally in Chicopee and

this is where the Massachusetts State Lottery says that winning ticket was sold. Now we actually talked to the owner here, John, not too long ago. He's owned this gas station for 30 years. He's got about 30 locations in this part of Massachusetts, also in Connecticut. And he's pretty excited because he is also going to get $50,000.

And I want you to hear what we asked him, what he was going to do with his money? Here's what he said.


BOB BOLDUC, PRIDE STATION AND STORE OWNER: Well, we're happy for our customer and we are happy for the charities that we are going to give our commission to. They are all local because we support all local charities anyways.


GINGRAS: Yes. Bob Bolduc, he said he actually supports charities that are geared to children and education. But he also gave us a little bit of a preview, John, of who this winner might be. He said he was told by the lottery that a middle-aged woman bought the ticket right here at this location about 2:30 yesterday afternoon. That's all we know about that person. We don't know if she won the big jackpot or if maybe she was buying for the rest of her office, possibly even for your show team. We don't even know that, John.

But we do know that in this state, they can remain anonymous. So we don't even know if we'll ever find out that person's name. But at least we have a little bit of a clue and we finally have the right location as to where that winning ticket was sold -- John.

BERMAN: I do have to say, I have not heard from my mother in any way since last night. So I guess there is that possibility at a minimum.

All right. Brynn Gingras who made a frantic drive from Watertown where we thought the winner is taken earlier this morning all the way to Chicopee.

Brynn, thanks so much.

All right. And thank you all so much for joining us today. I'm John Berman, maybe inheriting a Powerball jackpot. "AT THIS HOUR" starts right about now.

CLARISSA WARD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Clarissa Ward in for Kate Bolduan.

Well, President Trump unleashes a new Twitter storm and he's hitting a number of his favorite targets. President Obama, the media and the leaders of his own --