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Trump: "I Wasn't on NFL"; Trump: Puerto Rico "So Thankful for Job We Are Doing"; Senate Won't Vote on Latest GOP Health Care Plan; Special Council to Interview Current, Former White House Staff; Trump: Military Action Would be Totally Devastating for North Korea. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired September 26, 2017 - 14:30   ET


[14:30:00] PAM OLIVER, SENIOR CORRESPONDENT & SIDELINES REPORTER, FOX SPORTS: Before the game, I noticed something different. I've been doing this 20 years, and I noticed that players were not really distracted, but they were a little bit annoyed. They were ticked off, angry. Their emotions were all over the place. And I felt it was because of the president's comments. I felt they felt emboldened. When you see no players, coaches, any other personnel on the side line with the singing of the national anthem, I think that sets this up to get everybody to understand this is serious. We are taking this whole thing regarding social injustice. Not the flag. Not the anthem. A lot of people are missing the point. And no one more than the president.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: I think it is noteworthy.

I've been a fan of yours, Pam Oliver, for a long time. For you to notice this difference in all the 20 years you've been covering football, that says something to me.

Go ahead, Gloria.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: I want to add to what the panel is saying it spoke to somebody who is a friend of the president's. And who has spoken within the last couple days. And he said that the president is happy about all of this. Because he believes that he has struck a chord in America that people are rising up because they want to be patriotic about the flag. And as he said, he was ashamed of what he saw taking place at football games. So the president tripling down cops will at it from a completely different point of view. And it doesn't sound to me like he will back down or change his mind any time.


And on Puerto Rico, let me get over to Jim Acosta, our senior White House correspondent, who is standing by.

David pointed out at the top, it was Puerto Rico that the president mentioned at the very beginning, because he's been criticized on his silence on the dire situation among Americans. It sounds like the president's saying Puerto Rico is pleased with the job done so far. JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. I

should point out we're being asked to leave the Rose Garden any minute now. You heard the president say, his administration has received tremendous reviews from people on the ground. If you go listen to what some of those local officials have been saying over the last 12 to 24 hours, there have been cries for help. Primarily, coming from those officials in Puerto Rico. Not necessarily a whole chorus of reviews. But the president said he will go to Puerto Rico on Tuesday. That will be a herculean effort on the part of the administration to pull that off. He said he would like to go to the Virgin Islands as well. So you heard him try to make this pivot over the last few days. We've been focusing a lot more on the president's views on the NFL and players who knell during the national anthem. When it comes to what the president is saying, not so much his focus Puerto Rico. You can look at the number of tweets that he's issued since Friday night, 24 or so tweets on the NFL and the players and on these sports issues and patriotism issues. Only about four or so on Puerto Rico. It's not surprising to hear the president say I'm not preoccupied with the NFL, I'm focused on Puerto Rico. At the same time, no question about it, there will be some eyes on this president. Watching and studying his actions down there because there has been some criticism that he hasn't played attention to what's going on down there.

BALDWIN: Indeed.

Jim Acosta, thank you.


BALDWIN: We'll let you get out of the Rose Garden there.


BALDWIN: Let's to go health care. As we were listening to that, the news was crossing. That the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, told Republican lawmakers in this luncheon that the Graham/Cassidy legislation is a no go. They didn't have enough votes. So -- enough, yes, so why bring it to a vote.

David Chalian, so try, try again. It failed. Is it tax reform time? What is your assessment?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: The clock is certainly running out on being able to do repeal and replace effort. This is going to remain an albatross around Republicans. It is a core promise they haven't delivered on. Yet, every attempt has not been popular with the American people. Which is why they haven't been able to deliver on it. So it is this constant conundrum. And what is so interesting in this moment, Mitch McConnell saying we won't even show people that we don't have the votes. We don't want that embarrassment on the floor again. Some folks before the lunge today were thinking, no, no, we have to show that we're trying. According to our reporting from Dana Bash, Manu Raju, and others, that there was a consensus in the room. That it was better for the conference if they did not have this vote. Did not show this failure publicly on the floor.

[14:35:21] BALDWIN: Right.


BORGER: The irony is Republicans blame the Republicans and the Congress more than they blame Donald Trump on this. So they're going to be the ones who will be held to blame --


BALDWIN: Is that fair? Mitch McConnell has been touted as this, I can help get mega legislation through. And I mean, eye kind of keeping track on the was in the win column and I'm looking at a goose egg.

BORGER: Sure. When you have a Congress that had years and voted, what? 50 times to repeal and replace and then they came time run the country, and they couldn't do it? Sure. I think they deserve the blame. I also think that Donald Trump doesn't get off Scott-free of the he got involved. He tried to cut a deal with his own Republicans and he couldn't make it happen either. But polls are showing it is the members of Congress who are really going to take the biggest share of the blame here.

CHALIAN: Brooke, I assure you, this is not the last effort. It may be the last effort this week but Republican there's come back.

BALDWIN: So here's the rub, depending on your perspective. We have reporting from others that President Trump -- and Mike Rogers, this is for you, having worked many an hour, many a year on Capitol Hill.

President Trump told House Republican who's are having a bipartisan meeting on tax reform, if they fail on health care, he would work with Democrats. He cites he loves the deal he did with the Senate minority leader and the House minority leader, according to a source familiar with the discussion. How is that supposed to sit with your fellow Republican when's he is saying, you don't play my way, I'm working with Democrats.

MIKE ROGERS, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY COMMENTATOR: It is one leverage point that Trump actually has. Probably not the best way to use it. If you know, he got great reviews when he crossed the aisle and worked with Democrats to solve a problem.

BALDWIN: He did.

ROGERS: You would hope that would catch on, hey, maybe has the good idea. Bring the groups together. I think what I saw last night. We're going to repeal this big ugly monster do something different is probably gone. Now they should back up and say what can we do to bring costs down? The middle class was suffering under the rate increases. So Republicans would do well for themselves, and I don't think you a is lost if they stop for a moment and take a deep breath and say, let's get back to fixing that problem. If we can fix that problem, I think they can recover. They all have to come together to understand they'll fix that problem, not the big repeal and replace. That's not going on get enough votes to get through. BALDWIN: We'll watch and wait on that.

Gloria, moving to a totally separate topic, that being this Russia probe. And your new reporting on Bob Mueller and where this investigation, who they're going to be questioning next.

BORGER: Well, my colleague, Pamela Brown, and I are reporting that the special counsel is going to start interviewing current and former White House staff as soon as later this week. That could slide into next week. But we've already reported and others have reported there are about a half dozen current and former White House staffers they want to talk on to find out about the questions regarding potential obstruction. The firing of James Comey, and on and on. Particularly, they had been interested -- and we've been reporting this before -- they've been interested in people who were involved in the crafting of that statement aboard Air Force One regarding Don Jr's meeting with Russians.

BALDWIN: Trump Tower meeting.

BORGER: Yes, the Trump Tower meeting. So they're going to clearly ask about those things. Now we know that documents have been collected and that the interviews could start very soon.

BALDWIN: Mike Rogers, your read on that n3ews?

ROGERS: Clearly, I think that there's a financial angle to all of this. If you're going to have a successful special prosecutor investigation into all of this, the financial trail. It was a young FBI agent about, the third day in the academy. They tell you, remember, every investigation is never about the money. It is always about the money. So I think what you're going to find is there will be a financial angle in addition to what Gloria is reporting on. Nothing solid if they don't get that piece of it done.

[14:40:16] BALDWIN: Let's move on to North Korea. Listening to the president talking with the Spanish P.M., it seems it was a toned-down message when we heard him speaking at the U.N. last week, David. The headline out of today is that the president is calling for a complete denuclearization of North Korea, not for the total destruction, which is I believe the words last week were the threat to totally destroy North Korea. The implication being not just Kim Jong-Un but all 25 million people.

CHALIAN: It was interesting. Clearly, as he always does, the president wanted everyone to know, if we had to go to a military option, we're prepared to do so. The president of the United States can absolutely cause a lot of damage to North Korea. He made that point. You notice that he said, that really is our second option here. That is the sort of plan b he was trying to say and he was trying to focus more on calling upon Spain other, countries. I just say Spain because he was standing next to me. But calling on the world community to help denuclearize the Korean peninsula and that's where the president was putting the he said fast it is. It was a market difference. BALDWIN: The emphasis, too, Gloria, he kept going back to, "This

should have been handled years and years ago." He said, "Various administrations left me a mess, but I'll fix that mess."

BORGER: He does have a point. I would like to see what Mike Rogers says about this. This has been an albatross for many years. I guarantee when President Obama was talking to him when they had their private session, that he told him, this is going to be the number one issue on your plate. And he was unable to deal with it. The question, of course, is whether Donald Trump has ratcheted up an already bad situation to an even more terrible place than it was. Or whether this is going on get solved in one way or another. And I don't think we know the answer to that. I'll going to agree what I heard today was really a bit of the rhetoric being toned down here of the.

BALDWIN: It seemed softened. He was asked about the tweet over the weekend which North Korea deemed a declaration of war.

Mike Rogers --


BALDWIN: -- what should Americans make of this?

ROGERS: I think Trump is better when scripted on national security issues. His speech was pretty toned down and pointed. There are two levels. Where a piece gets rubbed off, when Trump adds his special sauce to what the message is to Kim Jong-Un. So --

BALDWIN: What was the special sauce today?

ROGERS: The special sauce has always been that we're going to do this, we have a military option and we will use it. He heightens it up by using pejorative terms and saying we'll destroy all of them, it'll be "fire and fury." Those are Trumpism to what I think it is a solid strategy of changing Kim Jong-Un's calculus saying we have a pretty big and competent military, we have the resources and the technology, we will use it to take you out, Kim Jong-Un. That was a Mattis finger-printed event. That's why you see the bombers going over, see more naval operations, sees lots of preparations happening with the military.

The other piece, he needs to believe, Kim Jong-Un needs to believe the U.S. is serious. That's the one calculus that's been around about 12 years. Bush into Obama, nobody believed there was a military option. They've changed that calculus. I wish the president would tone down his part of it and start looking for that diplomatic out for Kim Jong- Un. I think we could go a long way.

I do agree they had to change is that break that paradigm of there's no military option. There are not very good options and we hope to god they don't use they will. They need Kim Jong-Un to understand that. They don't that. Now it is time to start finding ways to get to a diplomatic solution with Kim Jong-Un.


Let's jump back reporting on the Russia investigation and how they're reporting Bob Mueller, the special counsel, will be questioning current and former White House staffers.

I wanted to go back, David, and loop back to you. The point of how they'll look at the statement drafted on Air Force One, in the wake of the news from the Trump Tower meeting. What do you make of the fact Bob Mueller is so focused on the president's role in that instance?

[14:45:07] CHALIAN: I think this goes to the larger potential of are obstruction of justice. Was there some deception going on? If so, why? It seems to be part of a larger piece starting with Comey's firing, that Mueller is going to try to piece together. As we've been reporting about these were coming from the news they may be here the end of this week, perhaps the beginning of next week, this is when White Houses can start making mistakes. People have a hard time as they're under the glare of investigation and doing interviews, also making sure that they're sticking with their day job. So watching how the White House, John Kelly, in his now-role of the chief of staff, he's been able to structure the work flow in the West Wing. How now when people are sitting down for these interviews and talking to Mueller's team does Trump react? Does his team react as they try to move on to tax reform and other big agenda items? That's a big question mark hanging over this White House.

BALDWIN: Excellent conversation. We'll have more on all of this in a moment, including the president's war with the NFL.

I'm Brooke Baldwin. You're watching CNN. Stand by.


[14:50:59] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I wasn't preoccupied with the NFL. I was ashamed of what's taking place. To me, it was a very important moment. I don't think you can disrespect our country, our flag, our national anthem. To me, the NFL situation is a very important situation. I've heard that before about was I preoccupied. Not at all. I have plenty of time on my hands. All I do is work. To be honest with you, that's an important function of working. It's called respect for our country.

Many people have died. Many, many people. Many, many people are so horribly injured. I was at Walter Reed Hospital recently, and I saw so many great young people and the missing legs and the missing arms, and they've been so badly injured. And they were fighting for you our country, our flag. They were fighting for our national anthem. And for people to disrespect that by kneeling during the playing of our national anthem I think is disgraceful.

I think it is a very important thing for the NFL to not allow people to kneel during the playing of the national anthem, to respect our country and to respect our flag.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BALDWIN: Let's start there. I have CNN political commentators, Van Jones, and Scott Jennings. And Van served as special advisor in the Obama administration. And Scott served as special assistant to President George W. Bush.

Great to have you on.

Van, you first.

You heard the president saying, why have you been so preoccupied? I find all of this disgraceful, taking a knee.

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: The presidents can do more than one thing at the same time. It is conceivable that he wasn't distracted. His Twitter feed would tell you something different. I thought it was in poor form to raise the question about the soldiers who have been injured, going to Walter Reed.

BALDWIN: Walter Reed?

JONES: I thought that was in poor form.


First, a lot of DREAMers are soldiers. No respect for them. He also did not join the military himself because his foot hurt. I think that he's not the right person to go in and say, I care so much about the soldiers. He doesn't care about the soldiers. He missed the chance to become a soldier. More importantly, this is not about disrespectful the flag or the anthem will. They aren't fighting for an anthem. Fair fighting for freedom. The reality is taking a knee in sports is what do you when someone has been injured. I got kids who play soccer. Somebody gets hurt in soccer, everybody takes a knee. What they're trying to say, civil rights have been injured because of the issue of policing. We've gotten so far away from the policing issue. Now bits free speech about, the flag, about everything but what it is supposed to be about. You want a president to come forward and clarify the issues. Instead, the president is making the issue more murky. I think it is in bad form.

BALDWIN: Scott, how do you see it?

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I do agree with Van. I think we've gotten far away from where this all started. This was an important discussion we need to have as a country about the tension between neighborhoods, communities and the police force. It is one of the most worrisome civil issues.

I do disagree with Van on this. If the commander-in-chief isn't the right person to defend our patriotic traditions, to talk about defending the honor of the soldiers who fight, to talk about how we honor and respect our national anthem, then I don't know who is. The president is channeling the feelings of a lot of people. The imperial evidence backs me up. There's been a Reuters survey, a JDPowers survey, a "Washington Post," U. Mass Lowell survey. People booing at NFL stadiums. And the one guy on the Steelers who came out and saluted during the national anthem and stood has now got the top selling Jersey. So there's a lot of evidence --


BALDWIN: Now he's coming out saying he regrets that. That's a --


[14:55:09] BALDWIN: But I take your point. You're absolutely right. That was the number-one top selling Jersey.

To Van's point, how do you respect that the men and women who serve our country so valiantly for the choice, for the right to choose whether you want to take a knee or not? Is that a fair argument?

JENNINGS: Sure. I actually agree that the players should be able to express themselves in any way they see fit. I as a conservative want people to exercise their First Amendment rights. Free speech is free of the it is what it says it is. And they have to face the consequences of that. I think what they'll find is that a large portion of their fan base and potential fan base sees at this time way the president does, rather than the way the players do.

JONES: I want to say a few things. I don't agree with the idea that when people are expressing themselves, that that's a bad thing. I think we're on the same page there.

But you said something else that was very interesting. You said if the commander-in-chief can't defend the country, then I don't know who can. No one is arguing the president of the United States shouldn't be defending the country from actual threats. There is no actual threat coming to the United States from football players saying, hey, guys, we're concerned in the neighborhoods we grew up in. The places we go to for Thanksgiving. There's something horrible happening.

Maybe if we didn't say police are killing black people unjustly. Maybe if we had police are killing Americans unjustly. If you have pea putting on their Jerseys, when they could that off the feed, they have text messages from their cousins. Americans are being killed unjustly. If that's not a state of emergency, I don't know what is. The president is not addressing it. I don't think that is a threat to democracy. That's what democracy is. An act of democracy.

And I think the president does the country a disservice and he especially does his base a disserve by acting as if they don't love the country. Nobody out there has said one word, I hate America, America is a bad place, I want to go live in North Korea. These guys love America. They want to make America better. I think Trump needs to have more respect for what they're trying to do.

BALDWIN: How do you see that? Do you agree?

JENNINGS: I don't -- I don't disagree with Van that these players have every right to do what they're doing. I think they have a very valid message. The ones protesting police brutality. It is an extremely worrisome problem that we have to get our hands around. It has been a debilitating problem. And we have to deal with it. (CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: What about the president dealing with it, specifically to Van's point?

JENNINGS: I think the entire federal government has a responsibility to deal with this. I think, in some cases, the Department of Justice has stepped in. In some cases, they haven't. I think we need to have a national conversation. I think if the president were part of it, that would be terrific. I think we need people at every level of government.


JENNINGS: What I was saying about the president's engagement, I didn't mean he was trying to defend the country. I meant he was trying on defend he the country. I meant that he is trying on defend the patriotic traditions. Anywhere in this country, not just NFL, but a little league game, at the soccer games, people stand for the national anthem. And there's a heck of a lot of people in this country who don't take kindly to watching folks not respect the one thing that brings us all together. The concept that we stand and we're all in this together. It is a ritual that says we're all in this together.

JONES: Let me say one thing.

JENNINGS: When people see disrespect of that, it makes them mad.

JONES: I understand. Listen. I'm another southerner. My dad was a cop in the military. I understand the way people feel. I also think it is important, when you're president of the United States, to try to clarify. When Colin Kaepernick first started doing his protests, he wasn't standing, he wasn't kneeling. He was it was sitting down and a Navy SEAL approached him and said, hey, listen, guy, I don't appreciate that at all. The Navy SEAL said at least it is acknowledging that it is going on and take a knee. That would make me feel like you know what's going on. So Colin Kaepernick, his protest, this kneeling protest was the idea of a Navy SEAL. So, yes, it is a break from our normal tradition of everybody standing. But it is also a sign of respect that they're trying to do.

You have to remember, these guys are in a tough situation. They're living a tale of two lives. On the one hand, they worked hard and they're successful. On the other hand, they're coming from communities still struggling. They're trying to figure out a good thing to do. And I think the president of the United States is deliberately failing to at least acknowledge there's something there. In fact, his Justice Department is taking a step back from police reform, which is making things worse, not better.

BALDWIN: That's a whole issue --