Return to Transcripts main page


Michelle Obama Gets Candid on Women Who Voted Against Clinton; FEMA Chief Falsely Claims Media Not Focused on Puerto Rico Crisis; Trump Deletes Tweets After His Pick Loses Alabama Race; Saudi Arabia Lifting Ban on Women Drivers. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired September 27, 2017 - 14:30   ET



[14:33:45] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

Former first lady, Michelle Obama, just got entirely candid on the 2016 election, and specifically female voters. She told this audience, this conference in Boston, here's one piece of it, quote, "Any woman who voted against Hillary Clinton voted against their own voice. What does it mean for us as women that we look at these two candidates as women and many of us said, that guy, he's better for me, his voice is more true to me. Well, to me, that just says, you don't like your voice. You like the things you're told to like."

Jeff Zeleny is with us, our senior White House correspondent. And we'll talk to Dana Bash here in just a second for a little analysis.

But, Jeff, first, for her to open up the way in which she did, and that was just a piece of the rest of her message. What else did she say?

[14:34:35] JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Brooke, it's certainly interesting that we are hearing from Michelle Obama here, the former first lady, who did something sort of out of the usual for her. At the end of that campaign last year, remember when she went out and gave all of those speeches on the ground for Hillary Clinton. And the history, of course, between the Clinton and Obamas certainly included Michelle Obama, as well, but she put herself out there. And I remember being at those campaign rallies across the south, across the country, and Mrs. Obama was largely making the same argument at the time, that women must vote for Hillary Clinton. But the reality was different. Some 53 percent of white women voters did not vote for Hillary Clinton. They voted for Donald Trump. So that is who Michelle Obama is talking to.

And look, the reality here is that this is a raw emotion. The Obamas are watching every day what they believe is an administration that is not, you know, holding on to what they passed. She went on to say in her speech that, look, we wish this administration well, even though they tried to take down my husband.

Of course, President Trump, you know, was the leading Birther. For years and years, he questioned whether Barack Obama was an American citizen. So there is a lot of history freighted in this as well.

But one other thing I was struck by, as I've been reading through this speech, Brooke. She said, "I can't stop thinking about this. It has shaken me to my core in a way I can't have predicted."

So this is something that, as the months go on, both Michelle Obama and Barack Obama are writing books. And she said this is something she'll be discussing here.

But, Brooke, the reality is we have not yet heard from the Trump White House. We will ask them. We'll let you know when that response comes in. A lot of women just simply didn't like Hillary Clinton. And that was a failure on the Clinton campaign to connect with some of those women here. A lot of people voted for Jill Stein. They thought Hillary Clinton wasn't liberal enough. So Michelle Obama has a lot of commentary here for women on all sides of the spectrum.

Not really surprised she's voicing some of this now. She's out giving paid speeches and other things. But it certainly is a pretty sharp, blunt reminder of what is on the top of her mind.

BALDWIN: Yes. I suppose for all the people wondering, well, what do you think the Obamas are thinking right now.

ZELENY: Right.

BALDWIN: I guess this is just a sliver into their window of thought.

Here's another question. And you alluded to this, Jeff.

And Dana Bash, I know we've got you mic'ed up, so come on in after this.

This is also what the former first lady said: "We want the sitting president to be successful, because we live in this country. He is our commander-in-chief. He was voted in." She said, adding that she knows from experience that, quote, "It is very difficult to lead when you have a peanut gallery of people who don't know what they're talking about, second-guessing what you do".

Dana, what do you think about all of this?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, first of all, that's true. Nobody knows what it's like, unless you're in there. And she knows, and she was next to the president for eight years, as the first lady.

But as for the women and the statement that she made about women voting against their interests, look, she's not the only one to say that. We heard Hillary Clinton herself talking, as she's going through her book tour, and what she said in interviews, and also in her book, about the pain that she felt, about women voting against her, the first potential female president.

But I just go back in my mind and my experience to visiting the suburbs of Philadelphia, Brooke. Right after that "Access Hollywood" tape came out. Going to events with Ivanka Trump, as she was trying to appeal to sort of, you know, moderate Republicans in those suburbs, who ended up helping to give Donald Trump his victory in Pennsylvania, for the first time in decades, for a Republican. But hearing Brooke, from woman after woman after woman that they didn't care about the "Access Hollywood" tape --

BALDWIN: I remember that.

BASH: -- that's just Donald Trump, they just don't like Hillary Clinton. And they understand that Donald Trump is not the perfect candidate for women or anybody, but that they wanted to take a leap of faith and vote for him, over Hillary Clinton. And, you know, sort of woman after woman, voter after voter, would say, you know, we just want the person who's going to be best for Americans. And they, at that point, thought that was -- even at that point, just a couple of days after "Access Hollywood" came out, and the now-president said the things that we know he said on that tape, they didn't care. And I think that that is a reality that a lot of Hillary Clinton supporters, Michelle Obama, on down, still have -- understandably, have trouble wrapping their minds around.

BALDWIN: It feels like forever ago, but it was a blink. And we remember all of that, and thank you for reminding us.

So this is obviously Michelle Obama, the way she feels about it, with women. But to your point, you know, some of the onus certainly fell on Hillary Clinton, according to the other ladies in this country.

Dana, thank you very much.

BASH: Thank you.

[14:39:32] BALDWIN: Coming up next, the art of deleting tweets. The unusual move by President Trump, separating himself from the Senate candidate he once fully endorsed. The question is, does the Internet forget that?

And are there a few other tweets President Trump should maybe consider deleting, as well, if he's going down that road?


BALDWIN: More now on the human catastrophe unfolding in Puerto Rico as the Trump administration is being criticized over its response. Let me draw your attention to a tweet from the head of FEMA, accusing the media of not paying enough attention to the crisis. Brock Long wrote this: "While media hasn't focused on Maria, FEMA and its partners have."

That tweet, 100 percent not true. False. CNN crews have been on the ground reporting there since September 13th, one week before Hurricane Maria even hit the island. And now we have seven reporters there. Seven. Not to mention dozens of staff members alongside them. So I'm not sure what the whole media thing, which Brock Long is referring to, but CNN is not one of them.


UNIDENTIFIED CNN REPORTER: This is becoming just ferocious.

UNIDENTIFIED CNN REPORTER: Let me let our cameraman give you a shot of this. It is quite extraordinary.

UNIDENTIFIED CNN REPORTER: It is too difficult, too dangerous to go out there to help people.

UNIDENTIFIED CNN REPORTER: Trees are being torn out of the ground.

[14:45:01] UNIDENTIFIED CNN REPORTER: Look at what just flew by me just a few moments ago. This is a piece of awning. No leaves that were left on the palm trees.

UNIDENTIFIED CNN REPORTER: This is not yet over.

UNIDENTIFIED CNN REPORTER: It's hasn't picked up speed but potentially to 175 miles an hour.

UNIDENTIFIED CNN REPORTER: These ropes are vibrating. You can see them shaking.

UNIDENTIFIED CNN REPORTER: The worst of times is right now.

UNIDENTIFIED CNN REPORTER: Puerto Rico is facing the biggest crisis this island has seen in a century.

UNIDENTIFIED CNN REPORTER: One hundred percent power outage.

UNIDENTIFIED CNN REPORTER: We saw lots of downed trees, downed power lines and telephone poles.

UNIDENTIFIED CNN REPORTER: People driving around town, simply trying to get hold of food.

UNIDENTIFIED CNN REPORTER: They need everything. Food and water and power and information.

UNIDENTIFIED CNN REPORTER: Some of the roads just completely impassable.

UNIDENTIFIED CNN REPORTER: It's like a lawn mower in the sky came down. The main transmission towers that goes to San Juan, crushed this home.

UNIDENTIFIED CNN REPORTER: Frustration is mounting here. There are massive, massive lines. People have been sleeping on the ground. Many of them uncertain if they will be able to get off this island.


BALDWIN: Bottom line, this is not a time to be pointing fingers, arguing, or playing the tired blame-the-media game, especially if you are the person in charge of saving lives and rebuilding them. Speaking of tweets, they never go away, yes, with especially when you

are the president of the United States. The president deleted these tweets on Luther Strange after Strange lost the Alabama Senate Republican primary. As we told you earlier, the loss left the president, according to a source, quote, "Pissed and embarrassed and furious." The tweets he got rid of mentioned his support of Strange, like this one: "Luther Strange has been shooting up in the Alabama polls since my endorsement."

CNN senior media correspondent, Brian Stelter, is now here.

Memo to the president, you can delete your tweets, but they don't go away entirely.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT & CNN HOST, RELIABLE SOURCES: No, they live forever. There's lots of news outlets that keep track of these. And so does the Library of Congress. The government is required to keep track of everything that the president says. There's even something called the Presidential Records Act of 1978 that requires all communications involving the president to be preserved. That was created before cable tv or Twitter or e-mail or the Internet. So, you know, maybe we need to have a modern-day version of that records act.

Even if the president deletes his tweets, whether he's angry at himself for endorsing the wrong person, disappointed in the result, there will be records still kept.

But I guess maybe to our viewers at home, Brooke, it's a little bit like you go through a breakup, you delete those pictures from your Facebook feed, there's all sorts of digital versions of this.

BALDWIN: That person still exists.

STELTER: I think so. It's just interesting to see the president of the United States doing it.


STELTER: Can I suggest a few other tweets?

BALDWIN: Let's go there --

STELTER: If we're --

BALDWIN: -- if he were to be playing the delete-the-tweet game.

STELTER: If we're going to delete some other tweets, maybe this one involving Iran. This is a few days ago. Remember the president tweeted this apparent Iran test of a ballistic missile. According to the U.S. government, officials have said in recent days, there wasn't a test. It was old footage Iran put out there. According to Jim Sciutto and the reporters that looked into this, there wasn't a missile test. Maybe he should delete that one.

Or maybe the more personal ones. Remember, he attacked Mika Brzezinski. He attacked a lot of people by name. Maybe think about taking those tweets down.

Or just this morning, he said there was a Senator in the hospital. He said, this morning, "We have the votes for health care, but we have one of our Senators in the hospital."

Well, a few minutes ago, Senator Tad Cochran said, I'm not in the hospital, I did have a procedure, and I'm recuperating at home.

But technically, that tweet is inaccurate, too. So maybe the president has more tweets he might want to delete.

BALDWIN: You heard the reporters asking, who's in the hospital, who's in the hospital?

STELTER: It was kind of a mystery for a few minutes, until we realized that Cochran was at home recuperating. He had a procedure, but was not in the hospital.

So there's this kind of tension between keeping everything up, which is the government requirement, versus maybe want to take some more tweets down.

[14:48:43] BALDWIN: Brian Stelter, you're on it. Thank you very much.

Coming up, is it the start of a cultural sea change in Saudi Arabia? The Saudi kingdom lifting a ban on women drivers. My next guest is making her own history, recently named as the first spokeswoman for the Saudi embassy in the U.S. She joins me live, next.


BALDWIN: So, the news here, women in Saudi Arabia will soon be allowed to drive. It comes, finally, by royal decree after years of women defying Saudi law, getting thrown in jail for getting behind the wheel.

Many are hailing this as a massive win. But before any of you celebrate entirely too much, consider this. One activist, who drove and was jailed for it in Saudi Arabia, left the country for Australia.

She just talked to Christiane Amanpour. And she warns of a backlash, but did hail the move by the kingdom's new leadership.


FATIMAH BAESHEN, SAUDI ARABIAN EMBASSY SPOKEWOMAN: They're young, they're -- I would call them courageous, to take this step. And there will be a huge backlash from the radicals and from the, I would say, the extremist Islamists in my country.


BALDWIN: Let me bring in Fatimah Baeshen. She has a brand-new job. She is the first woman appointed as spokeswoman at the Saudi embassy in Washington. So, Fatimah, congratulations to you and welcome. Welcome. Nice to

have you on.

BAESHEN: Thank you very much, Brooke, for having me. On behalf of the Saudi embassy, I'm happy to be here.

BALDWIN: So, no question, this is obviously massive, massive progress. Just to you, as a woman, how big of a deal is this decree? And listening to the woman there, how will you handle the potential backlash from extremists in your country?

[14:54:51] BAESHEN: So, just to echo the sentiments of His Royal Highness, the ambassador, Prince Khalid bin Salman, this is an historic moment for Saudi history and for Saudi society, as well. But I think it's important to keep in mind that, you know, we -- Saudi society has been voting and leading up to this over the past few years. So women have been gaining access incrementally and systemically across the board, into the public space. And we've seen this, in the labor market, with the feminization of specific retail industries. We've also seen this with executive appointments. The Saudi stock exchange is shared by a woman. There's an airport in Saudi Arabia that's also chaired by a woman. We've also seen this in the politic. We've seen women being appointed as council members, advising King Salman. And so we've also seen this with municipal elections. So women are running in municipal elections, as electors, and also voting. So I think we -- you know, the decree to allow women to obtain driver licenses is an historic moment to Saudi society, but I think there's been a lead up to this, as well.

BALDWIN: Reading on the laws, Fatimah, just to be frank, it's wonderful for a woman to be able to drive, but she can't even drive to a restaurant and eat with others unless there's a family section.

BAESHEN: I think, you know -- and thank you for your question. But I think that there are a lot of misconceptions about Saudi Arabia and Saudi society. There are Saudi women who have been productive citizens for decades. You know, even since the inception of the kingdom in 1932. There are Saudi women who are rocket scientists. There are mountaineers. There are chemists researching cancer research. So I think, you know, I would invite all of us to kind of expand holistically and kind of look at the status of women in Saudi Arabia has evolved. And you know, the decree to allow women to obtain driver's licenses is a reflection of where society has reached.

BALDWIN: I understand. I'm listening to your every word, especially as a woman. But when I read, just for people who don't know, you know, Saudi Arabia, or as are familiar as you are, you can't marry, divorce, travel, open a bank account, have a job, have elective surgery without permission from their male guardians --


BAESHEN: Brooke, I don't mean to interrupt you, but I really have to stop you there. Forgive me for interjecting.

(CROSSTALK) BALDWIN: Sure, please.

BAESHEN: But as a Saudi woman, I can tell you, I actually just relocated here, and I have to tell you that I think there's a bit of a misconception regarding the guardianship system. So Saudi Arabia has made tangible strides in facilitating women's rights into the public space and overall with respect to access and choice. And I think there's still -- there's going for room for improvement with respect to control, and that's when we talk about the guardianship system.

But the guardianship system, institutional policy, is very different than what organically happens on the ground. And I think that's a disconnect. For example, I just relocated here. When I was living in Saudi, I had two bank accounts, I rented an apartment, I changed jobs twice, and I had never any kind of permission for that. But a Saudi woman sit next to me might have a different experience. But that's not the government or the leadership. That's about a kind of cultural norms with a very kind of microcosm, of family or immediate proximity.


BAESHEN: And I think we need to make this distinction, because even further with respect to the guardianship system, in May, there was His Royal Highness, King Salman, issued a royal decree to review the guardianship system as a check and balance system to this issue, organic implementation, versus, you know, the institutional policy itself.

BALDWIN: OK. Thank you for interjecting. And I just, I just, I care for women. And, you know, when we hear the woman who fled the country after being jailed, to Australia, you know, I guess I'm just left wondering, in terms of having hope for women in Saudi, what do you hope? What's the next step?

BAESHEN: Listen, I think this -- for Saudi women, the sky has been the limit and will continue to be the limit. And you know, there are, you know extraneous circumstances across the board and that happens within every society. But I think that the thing to keep in mind is that Saudi women have been doing amazing things, irrespective of not having a driver's license. But now that the leadership has issued a royal decree facilitating obtaining a driver's license, I think this links back to the Vision 2030. And Crowned Prince Mohammed bin Salman, when he announced Vision 2030, there were specific targets to facilitate the matriculation of women into the workforce at greater scale. Part of the barriers for women entering into the workforce at scale was actually transportation. Mobility is a huge element with respect to that.


BAESHEN: And I think this will actually expand the choice and allow women to, if they want to, obtain a driver's license. And if they choose -- Saudi society is just, like every other dynamic society, there are conservatives and kind of liberals and everyone across the board. This is just about choice. No one's going to force a Saudi woman to get a driver's license. If she wants to get one, she has the option to get one. And if she chooses not to, she will not.

BALDWIN: Well, I'm thrilled for the ladies to be able to drive and do all these wonderful things and drive themselves to get there.

Fatimah Baeshen, thank you so much.

BAESHEN: Thank you for having me.

BALDWIN: Appreciate you.

BAESHEN: Thank you.

BALDWIN: All right. We continue --