Return to Transcripts main page


President Trump Wildly Swings From Uniter to Divider; Only One Ticket Wins Powerball's $758 Million Jackpot; Trump Campaign Aide E- Mailed About Effort to Meet Putin; Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired August 24, 2017 - 06:00   ET


[06:00:00] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: These are just a few of the offerings from a befuddled media.

President Trump wildly swinging from united to divider. The president's about-face tone reflecting a simple truth -- the president cannot believe one of these two versions of the truth.

It comes as Republicans watch in horror as the president remains at war with his own party. The widening rift with Mitch McConnell and Republican leaders threatening Trump's ability to get anything through Congress.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We also have two CNN exclusives to tell you about. Congressional investigators have found an e-mail that captures another attempt from a top Trump campaign aide to arrange a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. So we'll give you the details.

Plus CNN has tracked down Sergey Kislyak. He of course was Russia's former ambassador to the U.S. and talked to him about his contacts with the Trump campaign.

And then there's this story that everyone is talking about this morning. Who won the massive Powerball jackpot? We did, but not the one winning ticket that was old in Massachusetts, that hit all six magic numbers for a whopping $758 million, the largest jackpot ever --

CUOMO: Single winner.

CAMEROTA: By a single person in the U.S. But I'm not kidding, we really did win, Chris. You know that we won 24 bucks?

CUOMO: $24. And now there's all this talk about what to do with the winnings.

CAMEROTA: I know. Because you just split between 24 people.

CUOMO: Fifty. Fifty people. $24.

CAMEROTA: I thought Phil has absconded with the money but then he did show up this morning. So now we have to figure out we wanted to --

CUOMO: Yes. And everything he has on only costs about 18 bucks so obviously he didn't use the wings on that. CAMEROTA: We have it all covered for you.

Let's begin with CNN's Suzanne Malveaux. She's live at the White House with our top story.

What's the latest, Suzanne?


Well, President Trump again displaying how starkly different he is on and off script, delivering a message of speech of unity, this following the fiery campaign rally, leaving some lawmakers really questioning whether or not they can do business with this president as they ready to go back to work.


MALVEAUX (voice-over): One day after delivering an angry and divisive speech at a campaign rally.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They're bad people, and I really think they don't like our country. They're trying to take away our culture. They're trying to take away our history.

MALVEAUX: President Trump striking a dramatically different tone than reading the teleprompter at the American Legion Convention.

TRUMP: It is time to heal the wounds that divide us and to seek a new unity based on the common values that unite us.

MALVEAUX: The president's wildly different speeches again prompting criticism from the nation's former intelligence chief.

LT. GEN. JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: He'll make a scripted teleprompter speech which is good and then turn around and negate it by sort of -- you know, the unbridled, unleashed, unchaperoned Trump. And that to me is -- that pattern is very disturbing.

MALVEAUX: President Trump's attempt to tamp down tensions comes as a new national poll says 62 percent of Americans feel the president is dividing the country and 59 percent say his behavior encourages white supremacist groups.

The president's rift with members of his own party growing in the aftermath of Tuesday's unhinged rally.

TRUMP: Believe me, if we have to close down our government, we're building that wall.

MALVEAUX: House Speaker Paul Ryan responding to this threat on Wednesday.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: I don't think a government shutdown is necessary and I don't think most people want to see a government shutdown, ourselves included.

MALVEAUX: President Trump reiterating his claim that Republicans are just wasting time if they don't get rid of the filibuster rule, an idea Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell already rejected. McConnell releasing a statement Wednesday insisting that he and Mr. Trump are committed to advancing our shared agenda together, amid reports that the relationship is rapidly deteriorating and that they haven't spoken in weeks.

This as CNN learns that the president has begun his effort to unseat one of his top Republican critics, huddling with potential challengers to Senator Jeff Flake before taking the stage in Phoenix Tuesday night.

TRUMP: And nobody wants me to talk about your other senator who's weak on borders, weak on crime.

MALVEAUX: Two other Republican leaders appear to be in the president's crosshairs over Russia. Politico reporting that President Trump called Senator Tom Tillis earlier this month to discuss a bill that Tillis had designed to protect Special Counsel Robert Mueller from being fired. And in a separate phone call in July, the president expressed his frustration with the Russia sanctions bill to Senator Bob Corker, the Foreign Relations chairman voicing his concerns about the president's temperament weeks later.

SEN. BOB CORKER (R), FOREIGN RELATIONS CHAIRMAN: The president has not yet -- has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability, nor some of the confidence that he needs to demonstrate in order to be successful.


[06:05:01] MALVEAUX: President Trump today meeting behind closed doors with director of Office and Management Budget, that being Mick Mulvaney to discuss the debt -- the debt ceiling rise and the fierce debate that will take place with Senate Republicans. He's also reportedly preparing to roll out the military ban for transgender individuals -- Alisyn, Chris.

CAMEROTA: OK, Suzanne, thank you very much.

Let's bring in our political panel to discuss all of it. We have CNN political analyst John Avlon and Karoun Demirjian, and senior writer for the "Weekly Standard," Michael Warren.

Great to see all of you. So just to recap the whiplash of what President Trump has been saying just in the past week, lest anybody has missed it, all of the differing tone, the differing positions. So here is a brief montage.


TRUMP: 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. I'm really doing this more than anything else -- because you know

where my heart is. OK. I'm really doing this to show you how damn dishonest these people are.

It is time to heal the wounds that divide us and to seek a new unity based on the common values that unite us.


CAMEROTA: All right. So, John, look, I know that your thinking is that town hall Trump is the real Trump, right? So teleprompter Trump is not the -- that's not his real heart and his real gut and where he is.

But why then the vacillation? Why then do we see teleprompter Trump? Why then are his aides fitting him into an unnatural box that's so confusing for people to get their bearings?

JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Because that's where he should be because that's where he sounds remotely presidential. And it would be really weird if he was standing in a military base in a relatively small room full of soldiers and ranting. He's not going to get the crowd response energy that town hall Trump is dependent upon. And he's not going to be able to be sort of filtered away, you know, tweeting to his heart's content.

CAMEROTA: OK. So he plays to his audience.

AVLON: Yes, look, there are not two Trumps here, people. I'm a former speechwriter. Right? I was Rudy Giuliani's speech writer when he was mayor in New York. Proud to do it. But -- and proud of the work we did. But here's the point. There's not two people here. There's one person and there's a speechwriter. And the speechwriter is trying to summon the better angels and the best ideals of the administration, and the president's real personality keeps undercutting that effort. That's the truth.

CUOMO: And, Karoun, I mean, I don't even know why the president deserves the benefit of vacillation or picking his audience because the audience is irrelevant. He could be talking in any forum at any moment and be equally disruptive and abusive of the truth. It's all about where he is in terms of his perception of how it's going for him.

You know, he doesn't like the idea that the media catches him doing something. So he won't apologize. You know, he doesn't like the idea that he's perceived as having been wrong, so he goes into attack mode. Isn't that the obvious explanation for what we see?

KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I mean, yes. We can say that the audience doesn't necessarily matter because you started your montage the last few days, if you'd extended it into last week, it's we've really seen an -- you know, the teleprompter Trump and the non-teleprompter Trump. And it's been remarkably consistent. On, off, on, off, on, off. How he's doing it. And one of the episodes last week with -- when he was talking about

Charlottesville was not in front of a rally crowd. He just, you know, did not like the way that he had been put into a box the day before and so he let it rip the next day and this is what we've seen. And it seems to be that he can go so far before he's bottled up a bunch of stuff that he wants to say that then comes out.

And this is continuing. And the question is, will the next Trump that we see continue the pattern or will his better angels, as John put it, you know, in his administration, manage to corral him a little better going forward?

The country is kind of getting used to seeing this back and forth for better or for worse.

CAMEROTA: So, Michael, there's some new Quinnipiac poll numbers to share with everyone. Here's the question that the Quinnipiac poll just asked. Is President Trump level headed? Do you see him as level headed? 68 percent of respondents say no, 29 percent say yes. Does he divide or unite the country? 62 percent of respondents say he divides the country. Only 31 percent say that he unites them.

I know, Michael, that you find it very interesting that his own pollster has begun polling Republicans where his approval still remains strong. But what does that tell you?

MICHAEL WARREN. SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Right. Well, Tony Fabrizio is the president's pollster. And he asked the question that he released on Twitter yesterday asking essentially if the Republican primary for president were today, who among these Republicans, who would you support? Who would you most likely definitely support?

And I think among definite GOP voters something like 54 percent picked Trump. Under 60 percent. It's not a great number for him.

[06:10:05] And I think there's a recognition among Trump's political team that he does have a problem here because you look at those Quinnipiac poll numbers, most of the country says that he's not doing a good job, he's dividing the country. He still has that core base.

But I think right now practically the bigger problem for Trump is not losing his base and losing more people who are sort of with him through thick and thin. It's losing people in Washington, it's losing Republicans in Congress and sort of the people who have, you know, just kind of shrugged their shoulders and said, well, we're going to try and get through our agenda even though we have sort of an erratic president.

Now I think you're seeing that slow burn kind of heat up a little bit and Republicans are just saying, we don't really need this president to get what we want to get, you know, through. And that's a problem politically for the president as we head into 2018.

CUOMO: Getting nothing done and being consistently ugly on issues about -- you know, some of the fundamental fabric of the country is going to make you unpopular. And remember, the idea of being popular within the base, his party, is totally routine. You are always at 85 percent to 90 percent to 95 percent within your base.

I talked to pollsters last night just to make sure I wasn't losing it. They've never seen numbers like this. Put up more of the numbers in this poll. Again left pollsters, right pollsters, they really shouldn't be from different political wings because they're just measuring numbers, but they are. No one has ever seen anything like this.

Total disapprove, close to 60 percent. Within his own party he's struggling to stay around 75 percent, 80 percent. Look, Republicans, 77 percent to 14 percent. Remember, you are traditionally well over 80 percent and into the 90s.


CUOMO: You always own the home team.

So, again, John, they haven't seen numbers like this. It can't be argued that it's not hurting him the way he is. Of course it is.

AVLON: It absolutely is. And you can try to, you know, go through some ornate ritual of denial which certainly someone in the West Wing is probably trying to do this morning. But the reality is that all -- his strategy has been to just keep the base, just keep the base. But now, you know, that base keeps shrinking because he becomes more and more difficult to defend. That 77 percent number is really significant. Look at the independents down to 33 percent. I mean, that's the swing in America --

CAMEROTA: They're the ones that are really important to look at. They're the deciding factor.

AVLON: Ultimately. But he's losing his base as well is the point.

CUOMO: Well, until he starts delivering on the big-ticket items which he hasn't done.

AVLON: Yes. Until and if, and there are only a few more months to do it. And I think that's the point. Republicans on Capitol Hill are starting to say, do we really need this guy? Because they keep putting up with abuse and they haven't been able to get anything done. And they've only got a couple more months before you're in a re-elect year.

CAMEROTA: Go ahead, Karoun.

DEMIRJIAN: But it's not just the Republicans on Capitol Hill. One of my colleagues reported that at that rally that was in Phoenix there are people that were getting tired of listening to him and the crowd started to flag. And the people who stayed started to look like they were getting tired of it. The president may not have acknowledged that in his comments when he's going after the media and everything else, but he had to have seen it if he was in -- standing in front of that crowd. CUOMO: Was it fatigue from winning, Karoun?

DEMIRJIAN: So the base is physically (INAUDIBLE), too.

CUOMO: Were they tired of what he was saying or only tired of winning?

DEMIRJIAN: Perhaps it's --

AVLON: They were tired.

DEMIRJIAN: Physically from winning. Exactly. Or it's not and that's a problem. If he can actually see that physically playing out, not just in poll numbers but actually in front of his eyes. Perhaps that's part of the -- you know, then switch around the 180 that we saw between Tuesday and Wednesday.

AVLON: The embarrassment number I think is the key one to look at. It's -- we all get at this point, he's a divider, not a uniter. He's an inversion of George W. Bush in that way. But the embarrassment number. When people are saying at (INAUDIBLE) is they're embarrassed that he's president, that's bad news for the country. It's really bad news for the president.

CAMEROTA: Guys, stick around. We'll have more questions for you. Thank you for this.

Meanwhile, we have to get to the Powerball numbers.

CUOMO: This is it. Somebody's life very different this morning. Powerball, $758.7 million. Only one winning ticket sold in Massachusetts. Matched all six of last night's winning numbers. That is the largest ever won by a single ticket in American history.

Kerri Corrado from our affiliate WHDH live at the store that sold the winning ticket in Watertown, Massachusetts.

It's such a big deal that just the place that sold it winds up becoming famous.

CAMEROTA: They get money, too.

CUOMO: Yes. They get a little bit of slice for selling that ticket. So what do we know?

KERRI CORRADO, REPORTER, WHDH: Well, this person who won may or may not know that they have just become a millionaire. So it could be quite the surprise when they wake up if they were sleeping through all of this but this is a look at the store that sold the winning ticket. The lucky winner walked into Handy Variety one day not knowing that they just purchased a ticket that could forever change their life.

Now the winning numbers are 6, 7, 16, 23 and 26. The Powerball is 4. Now this is the largest won by a single ticket in North American lottery history like you mentioned. And this is the game's highest since the world record $1.5 billion in 2016. Now again it was sold at Handy Variety, Watertown.

[06:15:02] This is the fourth time a Powerball jackpot winning ticket has been sold here in Massachusetts. Now since the store sold the ticket, they, too, get some of the winnings. We are told about a $50,000 bonus. Now that store was set to open at 6:00. But we haven't heard any signs or seen any signs of an owner just yet. Back to you.

CUOMO: All right, Carrie, thank you so much.

Here is so how magical the thing is. I have a plan for what I would do if I won the --

CAMEROTA: Tell us. Share it with us. What is it?

CUOMO: Christine Romans -- you've got to see Romans' eyes go around in her head when I get -- because she's like it's so farfetched.

CAMEROTA: What is your plan?

CUOMO: Here's my plan. One, I take the lump payment. OK.


CUOMO: Sure. It's going to cut me in half. So I'm only looking at about $370 million, but I'll make do.

CAMEROTA: Somehow it will make you do that.

CUOMO: And then what I'll do is, one, set up all the kids for everything that they would need. But I'm not going to give them too much because giving kids money doesn't make their lives better.

CAMEROTA: That would ruin them, I agree. Good.

CUOMO: Then I would fund -- all myself, no outside patrons, a charity that does sports teams and tutoring, you have to have them both together, in all of the pockets of poverty around the country. That's what my foundation would do and I would run it.

CAMEROTA: That's beautiful. You deserve to win.

CUOMO: And I would go on a legendary speak-truth-to-power tour of all the people I'd wanted to say things to but haven't.

AVLON: That I believe. But you're leaving out the obvious one which is you'd buy a bigger boat, man.


CUOMO: I'd buy everyone I know a bigger boat.


CAMEROTA: Well, here's the good news. You did win. You got 24 bucks.

CUOMO: Just 24 bucks.

CAMEROTA: But $1 of the 24 bucks. So you're going to reinvest that into the instant scratch ticket, right?

AVLON: True.

CUOMO: And I get to be next to you every day and let's be honest.

CAMEROTA: That is hitting the jackpot.

CUOMO: Is there any -- there it is.



CAMEROTA: Thank you. All right. Meanwhile, back to our top story, there is another potential problem for President Trump. There's the discovery of this new e-mail written last summer by a top campaign aide who was trying to set up a meeting with Russian president Putin. What does this mean? We have a CNN exclusive for you next.


[06:20:34] CAMEROTA: OK. Now to a CNN exclusive for you. Congressional investigators have uncovered an e-mail from a top Trump campaign aide that reveals a previously unreported attempt to arrange a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Now the source of this e-mail is Rick Dearborn. He is now the president's deputy chief of staff.

CNN's Jessica Schneider is live in Washington for us with all of this.

What have you learned, Jessica?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Alisyn, this e- mail was actually disclosed to congressional investigators in a batch of about 20,000 documents from the Trump campaign. So the e-mail itself is from then campaign aide Rick Dearborn. And in it he explains that an individual was seeking to connect top Trump campaign officials with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Now that individual who's trying to make that connection is identified only as being from W-V. One source saying that that's a reference to West Virginia. Now in this e-mail, though, Dearborn appeared skeptical of the request to set up a meeting with Putin and it's unclear if Dearborn ever actually acted on that request.

But what is notable is this e-mail was sent in June 2016, around the same time of that Trump tower meeting involving Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort, and Russians who had promised damaging information on Hillary Clinton.

Now it's unclear if this new e-mail had any connection to that meeting. But intelligence experts are saying that this all fits a pattern of Russians trying to gather human intelligence from the campaign and yet another attempt to gain an entry point into the campaign itself.

Now Rick Dearborn who wrote this e-mail and is now the president's deputy chief of staff, he did not respond to multiple requests for comment. And White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders says she would not comment on potentially leaked documents.

But, you know, Alisyn and Chris, this is yet another point of question for congressional investigators in their Russia probe. The question being, did the campaign do anything with this request for Trump to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin?

So lot of questions swirling. This just yet another one -- Alisyn and Chris.

CAMEROTA: OK. Jessica, thank you very much for explaining all that.

Let's bring back our political panel to discuss this and more. We have senior writer for "The Weekly Standard," Michael Warren, CNN political analyst John Avlon he's the editor-in-chief of the "Daily Beast," and the author of "Washington's Farewell," very good book, I have to mention, and CNN political analyst, Karoun Demirjian is a congressional reporter at "The Washington Post."

Michael Warren, hard to know what to make of this new disclosure. You know, obviously the Russia investigation has sort of fallen off the news cycle given all the other things that have eclipsed it, no pun intended.

Do we know what -- how the administration or how Congress is doing with this Russia investigation now?

WARREN: No, we don't. And I think it's important to remember that just because we're not talking about it in the news media doesn't mean it's not happening. And in fact, it is happening, not just with the congressional investigations but the special counsel investigation as well.

Let's remember what is the purpose of all these investigations? It's to find out how much Russia was doing to interfere or meddle in our election process. And that's really always been the goal here. So we're finding out more and more about this.

As the president and I think as the president's sort of supporters and allies have been saying, there's nothing here, it's time to move on. Well, it's not necessarily time to move on. We're learning more about it in the media. I think that's really the sort of the tip of the iceberg. Does that necessarily mean that there's any wrongdoing on the part of the president or his campaign? No, not necessarily.

But we just have to find out more. And you know, the little bits that we're finding out through leaks and that sort of thing really suggest there's a lot more here to be looked through. You mentioned, what, 20,000 documents. CAMEROTA: Documents.

CUOMO: Right.

WARREN: That Congress is looking at. That's a lot of paper to look through.

CUOMO: And this raised eyebrows because it's about disclosure. So the sum and substance of this potential meeting itself is only interesting because of any efforts to not bring it forward. And of course, the man at the center of all these things was the former ambassador, Kislyak.

CNN finally tracked him down which is a story in and of itself about how the Russian government didn't want us to find him, but we did. And here's some sound about this.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: What about this allegation that you are a spy master, a spy recruiter?


CHANCE: Did you attempt to recruit any members of the Trump administration?


KISLYAK: You should be ashamed because CNN is the company that keeps pointing to these allegations. It's nonsense.

CHANCE: It's U.S. security officials, intelligence officials that made it, of course.

KISLYAK: I've heard other statements by them, also by former head of the FBI who said that I was a diplomat.

[06:25:02] I have no more reasons to doubt that he knew what he said.


CAMEROTA: Matthew Chance there doing yeoman's duty, finally tracking down Kislyak so that he could scoff at the suggestion.


CAMEROTA: But still, to hear -- I don't know that anybody has heard his voice before. I mean, you just always saw the picture of this, you know, Russian diplomat.

AVLON: Handsome, handsome man is what you're trying to say.

CAMEROTA: Oh boy. John Avlon, your thoughts? AVLON: Look, it's not surprising that Kislyak is going to be

dismissing all this, saying, I was just a diplomat doing my level best and all this is simply a distraction. You know, obviously by all accounts and by intelligence sources had been -- having more nefarious aims. And you've got to say, look, I think the reason the other report is significant isn't only because it's another Trump aide who has a senior role in the White House, one of the main liaisons, not just to the legislature but also to the social conservative community, is being approached with a meeting with Vladimir Putin himself allegedly.

That's not insignificant. I mean, at this point, you know, it seems the Russians had more contact with the Trump campaign and vice-versa than probably members of the Trump campaign did with people from Oregon or Hawaii. I mean, you know, this is just -- this seems to be a pretty constant refrain.

We'll see what the investigation holds. No one should jump to conclusions. But it's got to move forward. And people who are trying to deny it and say let's move on, they're being motivated solely by short term.

CUOMO: Well, and also look, the president didn't help on this because he keeps conflating any attachments by his staff and/or campaign to Russian efforts and the Russian efforts.

Karoun, the Russian efforts are of primary importance. Mueller has his own jurisdiction to look into any nefarious ties with Trump staff and campaign people. But these questions matter and that's why we keep watching the investigation.

Something else that matters is what's going on between the president and the GOP, specifically the leadership. McConnell came out yesterday and said no, no, no, the president and I are talking all the time, we're in constant communication. We're always, you know, working on the big shared agenda that we have and anybody else who says otherwise is clearly not part of the conversation.

Is that it? We were wrong, they're fine, everything is good?

DEMIRJIAN: I mean, I think keeping up appearances has been a very big thing for the GOP right now with the president because there certainly are many frustrations bubbling under the surface. Sometimes they come up to the surface. And we've seen that play out. There is -- I mean, there is tension. There's tension that we've seen between Trump and the GOP explode over things like the health care bill, certainly over the Russia investigation periodically.

So this isn't surprising that they would try to, you know, clean up the mess because there's other things in the agenda that they have to worry about going forward. But, I mean, episodes like this raise questions. I'm not particularly surprised that Kislyak, you know, responded the way he did. He's kind of -- I've met him a few times. He's a little bit of a -- that's kind of his personality as well, to be very dismissive of things especially when we're in the middle of an investigation like this. And an episode like this would go with the e-mail. I mean, this is

the problem, right? The investigation is about Trump, but it's also about what Russia was trying to do and when you have things like this e-mail come up, first the question is, is it credible? You know, is it credible? If it is, it shows you that there is a coordinated campaign going on by Russia to try to have influence over the election. We knew that.

You can't expect a country that's as sophisticated as Russia when it comes to various sorts of spy games, and they have done this sort of election influencing stuff in Europe frequently, that they would just -- there will be an accident or there will be just a one-off. So even if it's not this e-mail that is some sort of a smoking gun, it just reminds us that this is a broader campaign than just the allegations surrounding Trump which is sometimes something that gets lost in all of this political infighting between Trump and the GOP.

CUOMO: Remember, the unifying theme is, if the president thinks it's bad for him, he attacks it. So the Russia investigation, no matter how fundamental it is to our democratic process and its integrity, it's bad. He doesn't want it because it may be bad for him.

CAMEROTA: We'll be talking to senators on the -- some of these congressional committees coming up in the program. Thank you very much, panel.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon is about to receive orders to implement the president's ban on transgender service members. We have all the details next.