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Tropical Storm Harvey Takes Aim At Texas Coast; Trump Supporters on Removing Confederate Statues; Clapper Worried About Trump's Access to Nuclear Codes. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired August 24, 2017 - 06:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[06:33:26] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: CNN has learned that the president has prepared paperwork for President Trump to pardon former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio. The early Trump supporter is scheduled to be sentenced in October. The charge is criminal contempt. For what? Disregarding a court order.

This all goes to the sheriff's way of enforcing immigration law. The question remains just when the president is ready to do this supposed pardon. Trump said, he thinks Sheriff Arpaio is going to be, quote, just fine, at that fiery rally in Phoenix Tuesday night.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: So, the Pentagon is about to receive its marching orders for implementing the transgender military ban. "The Wall Street Journal" reports that a White House memo calls for an immediate halt on admitting transgender people but to consider current service members' deployment ability before dismissing. The memo instructs the Pentagon to stop paying the medical treatment expenses of current transgender service members. The president impulsively announced the ban in a tweet last month without providing specifics.

CUOMO: The White House attempting to restart Middle East peace talks with a powerful face-to-face today. The president's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner is going to meet the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank. Kushner has already met with leaders of neighboring Arab countries, including Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia all this week as he leads a delegation through the region.

CAMEROTA: Tropical Storm Harvey is gaining strength and taking aim at Texas. Residents are buying sandbags with the threat of major flooding coming their way.

[06:35:04] The state's governor already declaring a state of disaster ahead of the storm.

CNN's Chad Myers has the latest for us.

How's it tracking?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: It's heading right towards the Texas coast. I just don't see it missing. I can see it stopping and continuing to rain for days, but this storm is going to be Hurricane Harvey as it makes its way towards the Texas coast, the first hurricane to hit Texas in almost a decade. Hurricane, maybe category one, maybe category two. Some models are more sinister than that. Hurricane watches and warnings are going to be posted all up and down.

The big threat, even if the wind is 85, that's going to knock some things down. The threat is there's a front north of here that won't allow the rain to go any farther. Look at the numbers for San Antonio, for Austin, over a foot of rainfall there. Some spots to the southeast of there over 20 inches of rain. There's not a place in the world that could take that kind of rainfall without a lot of flash flooding.

Texas is in trouble. I'm glad they have the warnings already posted, Chris.

CUOMO: How bad do you think it can get there? Are you and I going to be in the waders standing in some situations that are hit, or do we believe that this will be survivable?

MYERS: This could be flooding there for weeks, for all the water to finally come down from the hill country, it's going to be a mess.

CUOMO: All right. Chad, thank you very much. Obviously keeping everybody apprised of the situation. They often changes.

All right. So, there's more U.S. cities moving to take down or cover up Confederate monuments. The president railed against this saying they're trying to destroy our history and our culture. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: OK. How many people, show of hands, think the statues should stay put?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: Those are Trump supporters, part of our pulse of the people reporting. Five out of six say leave the Confederate monuments alone. Why? We'll get the answer ahead.

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[06:41:10] CUOMO: The city of Charlottesville is covering up Confederate monuments of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson in black. They're doing that to honor Heather Heyer. You know her, the woman who was killed by suspected white supremacists during those Charlottesville anti-protests. A black tarp is now draped over the 30-foot-high statues. Local stations report a man with a gun strapped to his leg tried to cut the tarp off the Robert E. Lee statue, he was stopped by police.

Now, at the same time, Charlottesville officials are going to hold a town hall tonight in partnership with the Justice Department.

CAMEROTA: OK. And that brings us to part three of this week's voter panel. On Monday, I sat down with a group of ardent Trump supporters to get their take on the removal of these Confederate statues and the infighting inside the GOP. So here is this week's final installment of "The Pulse of the People."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CAMEROTA: OK, how many people, show of hands, think the statues should stay put? You think the statues should go?

BOBBY VIERA, DONALD TRUMP SUPPORTER: I think if we're going to take the statues down, we should replace it with something else. I can't see anyone complaining about taking out Robert Lee if you replace him with General Patton. Good luck arguing that one.

CAMEROTA: Do you think the statues should stay up?

DAPHNE GOGGINS, DONALD TRUMP SUPPORTER: I think -- I think that it should be decided by each jurisdiction.

CAMEROTA: And are you comfortable with them?

GOGGINS: I'm not really affected by it. What statue, where are we going to stop? MLK? I mean, everybody is fair game. Rocky? Every statue has an issue, I guarantee you.

VIERA: You know, we have a hundred years of more heroes, if that's what you want. The civil war is considered the war that has the most American casualties in history. That's because both sides are considered Americans.

CAMEROTA: Of course, it was our civil war.

VIERA: So, they're both considered Americans in death. When it comes to counting numbers, how many died in the war, they're all considered Americans. Not traitors, not the other side, not the Confederates in the United States. To this day, there are people that have relatives that fought in that war, on both sides. We have families that fought on the war on both sides, exactly.

CAMEROTA: But despite that, you think the statues should come down?

VIERA: I think it's up to the cities. Put something else that represents America, something else to be proud if that's the problem. It's actually the problem.

L.A. KEY, DONALD TRUMP SUPPORTER: And do we go beyond statues? Because look at our money, take out your wallet. Dead presidents that owned slaves all over our money.

CAMEROTA: So, you think George Washington is the same as Robert E. Lee?

VIERA: No, but I will tell you that --

CAMEROTA: Hold on. L.A., do you think they are the same?

KEY: No, I do not. CAMEROTA: So, then why are you using the slippery slope argument?

KEY: I agree with you it's a very slippery slope. So, where do we stop taking down monuments, pictures, representations of our history and our past, because we need to teach our children in the next generation from the history that we have survived and made better because of?

CAMEROTA: Jimmy, what do you think about the president going against people in his own party, going against other Republicans? I can go through the list, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, John McCain.

JIMMY DOZIER, DONALD TRUMP SUPPORTER: There's Democrats that don't get along with all Democrats either.

CAMEROTA: Of course. But do you think it's effective? Do you think it's effective for President Trump to go against, say, Jeff Sessions? Do you think that helps get things done or do you think that adds tension?

DOZIER: If y'all would quit talking about his son, that's how he did it.

CAMEROTA: Tell me that theory. President Trump went after Jeff Sessions so he stop talking about Don Jr.'s e-mail.

DOZIER: That's what he did.

CAMEROTA: That's what you think. This was all a distraction.

DOZIER: He's still there. If Trump wanted him gone, he'd be gone. You know that.

KEY: We have a great deal of Republicans, the never-Trump Republicans obstructing and they need to be called out.

CAMEROTA: Sure. But Jeff Sessions was not a never Trumper. He was all in from the beginning.

KEY: You can't paint everyone with the same brush. I agree with Jimmy over here, they're throwing out rabbits. It's called chasing rabbits. Throw rabbit outlets, all go look over here at this rabbit, so we leave this alone over here.

CAMEROTA: And what are we leaving alone over here? What are they distracting us from?

(CROSSTALK)

[06:45:01] VIERA: Republicans are worried about infrastructure, health care --

CAMEROTA: Right. But, L.A., what do you think the rabbit is distracting us from?

KEY: There's so many issues because there's so many rabbits. (LAUGHTER)

CAMEROTA: President Trump is trying to distract us from what? What is it we're not supposed to see?

KEY: Depends on the negative issue of the day and where we're going with this. Where is the good news?

CAMEROTA: Is he distracting us from the Russia investigation?

GOGGINS: I think the distraction is from him quietly transforming -- retransforming America back to what it needs to be, because if you look around, they not -- you may not cover it, but the things he has done to roll back the transgender bathrooms, the regulations. He's doing things, undoing the agenda -- you know, they want to say it's Obama's legacy. But I say he's doing what he promised to do.

There are things that nobody is reporting. Like you said, chasing another rabbits.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CAMEROTA: We've heard it many times. They see progress. They're happy with what the president has done with the executive orders, with border crossings being down, deportations being up, rolling back environmental regulations. That's what they want to focus on.

CUOMO: Right. I mean, I think you have a fundamental problem with this group of people, the difference between fact and feeling. What they feel is true versus what is actually true.

CAMEROTA: Yesterday, we heard that in Technicolor.

CUOMO: Yes, the odds that or the likelihood that the one woman with the hat says, well, they're throwing rabbits out to distract. Yet she sees that as a virtue. But they can't identify what it's being distracted from.

What does this tell you? This tells you that what the president says matters. And to people who support him, they absorb what he says, even though they clearly don't fully comprehend it. That is always true in politics.

CAMEROTA: Listen, they think he speaks their language. They think they do fully comprehend everything he says. They think that we misinterpret it.

CUOMO: Yes.

CAMEROTA: These are snapshots of how his most diehard supporters are feeling.

CUOMO: True. And 60-plus percent of people in the country right now say he is not level headed.

So there are a lot of serious questions that are being raised right now, some by former intelligence officials, and those questions go to President Trump's fitness to lead the nation, hence the level-headed number. Are these legitimate questions, or are we still really just in the world of political criticism? Is this a real health and fitness issue? We'll discuss next.

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(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[06:51:07] JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: He'll make a scripted teleprompter speech which is good and then turn around with unbridled, unleashed, un-chaperoned Trump. And to me, that pattern is very disturbing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: That's former director of national intelligence, James Clapper, a man who worked for Democrats and Republicans, a career public servant. And he expressed concern about President Trump's fitness to lead.

Clapper is not alone. There's a growing number of intelligence community leaders breaking their silence after President Trump's most recent roller coaster week.

Joining us now is CNN contributor Garrett Graff. He's author of "Raven Rock: The Story of the U.S. Government's Secret Plan to Save Itself While the Rest of Us Died."

Provocative, and it's good to have you here this morning, because we're dealing with another provocative topics. First, let's just start with your feeling about this general assessment, that what we're seeing with President Trump isn't just about politics. It might be about fitness.

Would you go that far?

GARRETT GRAFF, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think Jim Clapper's comments should be really troubling to Americans. He is an incredibly sober, thoughtful person, mostly prone to monosyllabic answers. So to hear him speak as bluntly as he is after a 53-year career in the U.S. military and U.S. intelligence is really troubling.

I mean, this is someone who has been in the U.S. military and U.S. intelligence almost since the days of the Cuban missile crisis.

BRIGGS: You know, because of that suggestion that he made, and we have heard it from others, to be fair, it does raise the question of what's the practicality of this concern. That goes with Clapper and others to the nuclear football, as we call it. You know, the suitcase that's carried around in close proximity to the president, and his ultimate and almost unilateral authority to use them.

Put some meet on the bones for that. How absolute is the president's power to unilaterally engage in nuclear warfare? GRAFF: Yes, Chris, it is not almost unilateral. It's entirely

unilateral. What surprises most Americans is that is actually the entire point of the system. This was something that was designed during the Cold War to be executed as quickly and decisively as possible, and we have spent billions of dollars over decades ensuring that that system responds as quickly and without question as it possibly can.

There's no second voice in the room. From the time the president gives the launch order, the first U.S. ICBMs leave their missile silos four minutes later.

CUOMO: The story about Brzezinski getting woken up in the middle of the night and told that Russia has launched nukes and he just was about to alert the president and got the call back saying, oh, false alarm, false alarm. Hopefully, our early warnings systems are better than decades ago.

But how does it work in the case of imminent threat? And then we'll talk about no threat.

GRAFF: Yes, in the case of an incoming threat, the U.S. would have perhaps as little as 15 minutes to respond. That's why you have a system that relies just on the president's go order. There's no time to reach the vice president, chairman of the joint chiefs, congressional leader, some second voice in that room.

That's a system though that I think is not reflective of what the modern geopolitical reality is. You know, we don't face the tens of thousands of warheads that what we did during the Soviet Union and the Cold War.

CUOMO: But it's important for people to know that. It's not by committee. Even though Congress declares wars, in exigent circumstances, this would fall solely on the shoulders of the president.

[06:55:00] All right. So, that's about imminent threat. How about when there is none?

How about just accounting for caprice, you know, and just volition and the president being pissed off about something or someone? What's the ability in those situations?

Because I think that's what Clapper is talking about. What would be the president's ability to use nukes then just because he wanted to?

GRAFF: Absolutely the same as anywhere else. You know, the president is followed by that nuclear football, that black briefcase you mentioned. You know, it's out on the golf course with him. When he gets in an elevator, that nuclear football gets in the elevator with him, and he can launch that nuclear war wherever he wants at any given moment.

And that is an entirely unchecked power, the only time in our history that we have known that a president has had that power prescribed was in the final days of Watergate when Defense Secretary James Schlesinger told the Pentagon, if you get a nuclear launch order, please check with me or Henry Kissinger first.

Nixon was drinking heavily, he was despondent. There was fear he would launch an unprovoked nuclear war. There's no system in place to actually protect against something like that.

CUOMO: You know what, it is very helpful to know that regardless of the political discussion.

Garrett, appreciate it very much. And, Garrett Graff, you got a great book.

GRAFF: Of course.

CUOMO: I hope people read it. Take care.

CAMEROTA: Really interesting stuff. All right. Meanwhile President Trump's wild ride to uniter to divider to uniter to divider, how will all this impact his ability to govern? Our panel takes that on next.

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(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We saw two different displays, one Trump using a teleprompter. The night before, we saw the real Trump.