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Trump Slams NFL Players for Anthem Protests; GOP on Verge of another Health Care Loss?; Face-off in Alabama; White House Rolls Out New Travel Restrictions. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired September 25, 2017 - 10:00   ET



POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Top of the hour, 10:00 a.m. Eastern. Good morning. I'm Poppy Harlow in New York.

President Trump says players should stand up during the national anthem and he is standing by his comments this morning, tweeting four times about it so far. Yesterday, dozens of NFL players did not stand. Many of them, as you saw, locked arms in silent protest of the president lashing out at them and the league. But President Trump thinks NASCAR gets it right, holding that organization up as a model of patriotism. He also saluted the NFL fans who booed those protesting players.

Andy Scholes is following all of this from the sports angle, Joe Johns from the political angle at the White House. So, Joe, let's go to you at the White House first. This came during the president's remarks in Alabama on Friday night, seemingly out of nowhere, but it is going many places fast.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: It certainly is, very fast and one indicator of that were the president's tweets this morning. We have three of them that are just very interesting, I think, to say it mildly.

I want to read the first one to you. "So proud of NASCAR and its supporters and fans. They won't put up with disrespecting our country or our flag -- they said it loud and clear!"

That's interesting, because just a little while later, Dale Earnhardt, who certainly could only be described as NASCAR royalty, took to Twitter, to apparently respond to the president to a measure. And he says, "All Americans are granted rights to peaceful protests. Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable." Apparently quoting John F. Kennedy, the president there, so a response if you will, from a leading name in NASCAR.

Couple other tweets we have, "Many people booed the players who kneeled yesterday, which was a small percentage of total. These are fans who demand respect for our flag."

And another one, the president tweeted, "The issue of kneeling has nothing to do with race." He says. "It is about respect for our country, flag and national anthem. NFL must respect this!" Now, that line it has nothing to do with race is fascinating. The president has said that on camera, on the record, as well. And without trying to psycho analyze Mr. Trump, it does sort of smack of cognizant dissidence given the fact that the players who have participated in these kneeling protests during the national anthem at NFL games, have stated pretty clearly that it's not about patriotism, it's not about disrespecting the flag. It's about concerns about racial inequality in the United States. So, the president sort of contradicting what people have said time and time again as these protests have gone on and I'm sure the controversy will, too.

Poppy, back to you.

HARLOW: Joe Johns at the White House. We're going to dig into it with our panel. Thank you for that.

Let's get the sports side of this. Andy Scholes has the NFL reaction. And Andy, what I find so interesting is that none of these coaches or owners or players who are friends of the president, close to him, Tom Brady, Bob Kraft, Rex Ryan, people who have different given a lot of money to his campaign. None of them stood behind him on this.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Yes. That's right, Poppy. And it was pretty clear that, you know, players, coaches, and owners for every team had a plan on how they were going to show that they were a unified front after what President Trump said on Friday. You know, we saw groups of players taking a knee. Some sat together on the bench, many locked arms during the national anthem.

And for the first time, we saw owners from teams around the league, some who did donate to President Trump's campaign, standing arm in arm with their players during the anthem, showing their players that they had their backs. And after the games yesterday, players around the league explained why they decided to do a show of unity.


JULIUS PEPPERS, CAROLINA PANTHERS: I felt like he attacked our brothers, my brothers in the league. So, I felt like it was appropriate to stand up with them.

JOSH NORMAN, WASHINGTON REDSKINS: Mess with one, you mess with all. - Nobody's divided in this. We was in unity. We wanted to stand for something. Just telling you right now, this man is not welcome --


SCHOLES: And Patriots quarterback Tom Brady locked arms with the team and held his hand over his chest during the anthem yesterday. And Brady said in the past that he and President Trump are friends. And this morning on his weekly radio show, Brady was asked for his thoughts on the president's comments.


TOM BRADY, NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS: I certainly disagree with, you know, what he said, and you know, I thought it was just divisive. And, you know, like I said, I just want to support my teammates.


[10:05:02] SCHOLES: The Patriots owner Robert Kraft is also a friend of President Trump and he released a statement saying that he was disappointed in the tone of President Trump's comments. And Poppy, it's interesting, you know in the NFL world, we often talk about how the players and the owners are at odds over a number of issues.

HARLOW: Right.

SCHOLES: But this has certainly seemingly brought them together.

HARLOW: It really has. And that's a great point. Andy, thank you for the reporting and Joe Johns at the White House as well.

Let's dig into it with our panel. CNN political commentator Ben Ferguson is here, former New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker, Chad Brown and U.S. Navy veteran Kathy Huntington. It is nice to have you all here.

And Kathy, let me begin with you because the president says this is about the flag and the White House said on this network yesterday, Steve Mnuchin the Treasury secretary, this is about, quote, "Respect for the military." You served in the Navy, your son is now serving in the Navy, how do you see it?

KATHY HUNTINGTON, U.S. NAVY VETERAN: I don't see this as anything that specifically relates to respect for veterans. The reason this began last year when Colin Kaepernick took the knee was to protest to draw attention to police brutality.

As a veteran, I served to protect Americans and it would be willfully ignorant to ignore the ongoing police brutality. In fact, earlier this summer the president said in a speech that it was OK to rough up individuals that had been apprehended by law enforcement. And that drew a lot of criticism from law enforcement agencies across the nation.

This isn't about veterans. This isn't about disrespecting us or disrespecting the flag. It is, in fact, for standing up for our fellow Americans which is what I did in the military and what I continue to do today when I, too, join in and say, we need to address and end rampant police brutality.

HARLOW: Chad, to you, you played for the Steelers who made a collective decision as a team with the exception of one to stay in the locker room and not come out for the national anthem yesterday. You also played for the Patriots, where Tom Brady, a friend of the president, just called this divisive, something he doesn't support. Bob Kraft, friend of the president, flown on Air Force One, got a Super Bowl Ring, also, did not stand behind the president on this one. How do you see it?

CHAD BROWN, FORMER LINEBACKER, NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS: I thought Tom Brady and Mr. Kraft were correct. His -- Donald Trump's message was divisive and for him to lack the understanding of team sports, that this was only going to unify the NFL, the coaches, the players and the owners as well.

We talked about it earlier how the players and owners are sometimes at an impasse whether it's regarding contracts or the collective bargaining agreements, but here they have all come together. This is that type of thing where the competitive nature of these players, these individuals is going to shine through and we saw the unity on display on NFL sidelines yesterday.

HARLOW: Ben, let's talk about the language that the president used because the words that he used to describe the NFL players who take a knee, just listen.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say get that son of a -- off the field right now -- out? He's fired. He's fired.


HARLOW: And then this is how he used to describe those on, as you know, the controversial both sides language he chose after the violence in Charlottesville. Let's play that.


TRUMP: Well, I do think there's blame -- yes, I think there's blame on both sides. You look at -- you look at both sides. I think there's blame on both sides. And I have no doubt about it, and you don't have any doubt about it either.


HARLOW: Yes, he condemned Neo-Nazis and white supremacists later. The language that he used, though, Ben, for these NFL players, taking a knee, is striking many this morning as shockingly harsher than he used about white supremacists and Nazis. How do you see it?

BEN FERGUSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I don't see it that way at all. I think there are two different things here. First off, you look at the president of the United States of America, and you had a state of emergency that had been declared in Charlottesville. So, he was trying to calm down on both sides and make sure there weren't more death and destruction and riots and people that lost their lives. He had talked to the governor there. So --


HARLOW: That was actually from the press conference two days later. Hold on, Ben. What I played for you was actually 48 hours later.

FERGUSON: Right. And there were still extremely high tensions with the president of the United States of America in that scenario. The second thing here that's important is, the president was criticizing NFL owners saying, why don't you do your job and actually protect this country and our flag and our veterans and stop being a league that allows people that beat their wives and beats their girlfriends, you guys help them cover it up for goodness sakes as the owners.

[10:10:02] The owners are incredibly flawed group in the NFL. This is a group of individuals that don't even care about their own players when they have traumatic head injuries and help cover it up to win games. This is a league that will help cover up any crime that has been committed if one of their players can help them win a game.

I'm not surprised if players were standing arm in arm with these players. They care about winning games. They care about making money. They don't even care about their own players. They don't care about the women they abuse.

They will cover up anything to win a game. So, of course, they're not going to have a backbone and stand up for the American flag. They're going to stand by their players every time they get a chance because they care about winning and making money at all costs no matter what laws or what disrespect there is in this country.

HARLOW: Chad, quite an accusation about the league that you played for, for many years. How do you respond?

BROWN: Wow. I think Ben is wrong. The NFL strengthens the communities that it's in. The players participate in all types of community endeavors, whether it's giving financially, youth football camps.-


FERGUSON: Do they protect the players' health? They didn't. They lie to the players.

HARLOW: Hold on, Ben. Let's let Chad finish.

BROWN: Ben, do I get a chance to speak here? Thank you, Ben.

The NFL has done an increasingly better job of protecting the health of the players and while you are trying to somehow -- make a stab at the NFL and then push up Donald Trump, Donald Trump talked about -- he wanted the old days of football, where head injuries were ignored, so you're almost talking out both sides of your face here. It's unfortunate --

FERGUSON: No, I was talking about the league.

BROWN: In my mind it's indefensible.


HARLOW: I would just say -- I would say -- I want to get Kathy -

BROWN: -- each and every year.

HARLOW: I want to get Kathy back in here. But I will say, Ben, just go back and look at the transcript of the president's remarks on Friday night and what the president said about, you know, knocking their heads and concussions and it might change your argument a little bit. Kathy -

FERGUSON: It doesn't change my argument. I'm -


HARLOW: Ben I have to get Kathy back in. - OK, I hear you. But you're saying that the president is standing against all of this stuff and he seemed like he wasn't as concerned if you read the transcript on Friday night about head bangs, et cetera.

Kathy, to you and your son, your son is serving right now and the president and the White House thinks this is a fundamental disrespect for the service that he is giving, risking his life every day for the same thing that you did. Have you had any conversations with him about this?

HUNTINGTON: I have. And out of respect for him as an individual and a grown adult I know the values I raised him with. We have had conversations about this. I know he would be happy to share them as appropriate, but really, just out of respect for him as an individual I will let him speak for himself.

But I will say that I am very proud of my son. I'm proud of all my children in the values I raised them with. And part of that is standing up for Americans even those we disagree with or sitting down when appropriate to draw attention to matters that go largely ignored.

And I just would like to address that this doesn't have to be an all or nothing one or the other issue. It is entirely appropriate to address traumatic brain injuries and domestic violence within the NFL, and police brutality. We can certainly look at both and we should.

HARLOW: An important point. So Ben, to you, as you know Republican Senator Ben Sasse had some interesting tweets on this. Let me read them.

His first tweet, "NFL players, you have the right to protest Trump tomorrow. But aren't there better ways than kneeling before the flag soldiers died to defend?"

He went on to tweet, saying, "By the way, Trump wants you to kneel -- because it divides the nation, with him and the flag on the same side. Don't give him the attention he wants." Struck us, what do you think?

FERGUSON: I disagree with that. I think the president is on the right side of this one because you honor and respect the American flag and the American people. I mean, you look at the Ravens, for example, you're overseas in a foreign country. You're from the American National Football League, you kneel during the national anthem on foreign soil, but you all stand for God Save the Queen.

That is in my opinion un-American. If you want to protest Donald Trump, protest him. If you want to go register to vote and vote against him, vote against him. Again, I look at where all this started. Colin Kaepernick isn't even registered to vote and didn't vote in any election including the last one after he started the protests. This is a guy that wears a shirt who supported Fidel Castro, who used his police and military to brutalize his own people. --

HARLOW: Ben, are you saying that doesn't make him an American? -- Ben, are you saying that doesn't make him an American to exercise the freedom to exercise - his First Amendment right.


FERGUSON: If you're an American citizen you can be un-American. You can be un-American and be an American citizen. Colin Kaepernick is a guy that is a hypocrite. He supported Fidel Castro. A guy who brutalized his own people, the same brutality he's standing up against in this country supports in another country and isn't even registered to vote in this country and didn't get involved in the last election. That's hypocrisy.

[10:15:06] HARLOW: Chad?

BROWN: Colin Kaepernick has done lots in his community. He's recently donated almost a million dollars, pledged almost a million dollars to various projects within his community. Colin Kaepernick is aptly involved. Perhaps before he wasn't but this spark of inspiration from him I think will certainly he will be voting in future elections. And he more than participates -

FERGUSON: He didn't vote in the last one.

BROWN: As the son of a Marine, I recognize that the flag does belong to the military, but also belongs to my mother who is a school teacher. It belongs to me as an NFL football player. It does not belong to Ben and those folks who believe in patriotism in such a very narrow view. The flag belongs to us all.

HARLOW: Well, Chad, you just said the flag doesn't belong to Ben. You're saying it belongs to all Americans. Did I mishear you?

BROWN: I was saying, with a very, very narrow view, the flag belongs to us all. Not all just who believe as Ben believes that the flag belongs to us all, not just those who will stand up.

HARLOW: Chad, thank you. Ben, thank you. And of course, to Kathy Huntington and her son who is currently serving, thank you to all.

Happening right now, Congressman Anthony Weiner is minutes away from learning if he will go to prison or not. This has been a long, long dragged out courtroom drama. He just arrived in federal court this morning.

He is being sentenced today on one count of transferring of obscene material to a minor. He pleaded guilty to the charge back in May. It carries a maximum of 10 years in prison.

Prosecutors are seeking between 21 and 27 months in prison for Weiner in this case. The defense is asking for probation. Weiner is in the middle of a divorce from his wife, former Hillary Clinton adviser, Huma Abedin.

We've got a reporter at the courthouse. We will bring you up to date on those developments as the sentence is handed down.

Meantime, Republicans wooing their fellow Republicans on this Obamacare repeal and replace bill. But is it enough for those holdouts?

Plus, face-off in Alabama, not just talking about the Republicans on the ballot, former White House adviser, Steve Bannon, pitted against the vice president, Mike Pence, backing the two opposing candidates today. That's ahead.


[10:21:22] HARLOW: All right. This morning, Senate Republicans are shopping a revised health care -- Obamacare repeal and replace bill. They are trying to win over holdouts in their own party, trying to get enough votes. The tweaks are aimed at specific states like Alaska and Maine, no surprise why. They need the votes of Senators Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins to get this through.

But there's a brand new CBS News Poll out. And what it shows is that the Republican Party also needs to big time win over the American public. Just 20 percent of those surveyed approve of the Graham/Cassidy bill.

Our special correspondent Jamie Gangel joins me now. I feel special that you're here with me after all of your great reporting. I mean, you have been working the phones all weekend on this thing. You just talked to Senator Susan Collins of Maine.


HARLOW: What are you hearing?

GANGEL: So she has told me that she is strongly leaning against this.

HARLOW: Still?

GANGEL: Still. That said, what we're seeing here is a Hail Mary pass. They've come up with this revised bill at the 11th hour targeting Maine and Alaska. But this is what Senator Collins just told me.

She said that it does not change what they're doing with traditional Medicaid, which is one of her primary concerns, which will hurt Maine. And then she went on to say, this bill is a moving target and we really have no idea what the implications are because the language keeps changing.

HARLOW: Right.

GANGEL: So, it's an attempt. We have to see what the CBO score is. There's going to be a Republican leadership meeting. HARLOW: We won't see the full CBO score before the vote.

GANGEL: Right. And we won't see the CBO score now on the new revised 11th hour fix.

HARLOW: So, this is sort of take three, if you will. I mean, this is -- but this is not looking like third time is a charm? This is take three under this president for an Obamacare repeal and replace, one of his signature promises, not just his, one of Republicans' signature promises for the last seven years. What does it say, Jamie, that this one is a Hail Mary and not looking likely at this point?

GANGEL: Right. I don't want to say three strikes and you're out because I think they will keep trying. It's very, very critical. But two things, this speaks to how divided the Republican Party is.


GANGEL: They cannot get together on something with enough compromise. It seems, to get it through. The second thing is, politically. It's easier to keep criticizing Obamacare for the Republicans than come up with a Republican plan that will face criticism because it's not going to be perfect either.

HARLOW: It's easier to criticize. It just doesn't do anything that's the problem. So, the president this morning could be tweeting four times about Graham/Cassidy and saying, watch CNN tonight. I'm not going to wait for that one, but watch CNN tonight. Watch Graham and Cassidy duke it out with Bernie Sanders and Amy Klobuchar, right? But he's not.

He's tweeting about the NFL and he's tweeting multiple times. It's the first thing he tweeted about this morning. What do your sources, Republicans on the Hill, think of that?

GANGEL: Well, you know when I put out calls this weekend it was all about health care and then it very, very quickly became NFL, NFL.


GANGEL: So, I am getting one thing across the board from Republicans and that is, the "d" word, divisive.


GANGEL: They do not think -- wherever they come down, everyone is in favor of the anthem, but on this particular point of what the president has done and how he's handled it, they feel it is divisive.

HARLOW: From Republicans.

GANGEL: From Republicans, even from conservative Republicans.

[10:25:02] Because whatever this is about, it is -- it does not help the Republican Party. And many conservatives are very much First Amendment, free speech, but they see this as tainting the Republican Party because they feel he's doubling down on an issue that many feel is about race.

HARLOW: Then what is it about? I mean, what is the calculation from this White House? Because it's not like they're staying silent on this. I mean, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin came on with Jake yesterday and talked about it. You saw Mark Short, the legislative director go on with Chuck Todd and talk about it.

I mean, this is sort of a full-corps press from the White House to defend the president on this one. What's the long-term play? Or is it this is already out there and so we have to get behind him?

GANGEL: I -- spoke to someone in the cabinet last week and the reality is that they're not going to change Donald Trump and whether this is changing the topic or something he feels strongly about and is going to double down. They understand that he is going to go out there and do it. Do they like it any more than the other times he's done it? No.


GANGEL: But they have come to terms with the fact that -


GANGEL: It's going to happen.

HARLOW: Jamie Gangel, breaking news left and right as always. Thank you for being here. We appreciate it. Let us know if Collins calls you back.

GANGEL: OK, got it.

HARLOW: Thank you so much.

So, today, also the White House unveiling new travel restrictions for citizens of eight countries, on that list, Chad, Libya, Iran, Somalia, Syria and Yemen. It also targets citizens of non-Muslim majority nations including Venezuela and North Korea.

The rules are said to take effect October 18th. Why? They replace a key part of the president's controversial travel ban that expired yesterday. The Supreme Court, though, is set to hear arguments on the legality of the original ban, next month.

Ahead for us, their names are not on the ballot but the Senate primary run-off in Alabama has everyone talking about President Trump and his former chief strategist Steve Bannon. The race has the former allies going head to head.