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Corker: Trump's Recklessness Threatens 'World War III'; White House Makes Demands for DREAMers Deal. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired October 9, 2017 - 07:00   ET

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


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All of our energy today has to be on the DREAM Act.

[07:00:06] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Vice President Mike Pence reigniting the feud between the White House and the NFL.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When things are going bad in the White House, he kind of turns to this culture war.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This seems like a P.R. stunt to me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If that's called a stunt, I'm fine with every president doing it from here on out.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER; This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to your NEW DAY. Chris is off this morning, and Bill Weir joins me.

Great to have you here.

BILL WEIR, CNN ANCHOR: Good to be with you, my friend.

CAMEROTA: It's a busy holiday.

WEIR: It is, it is.

CAMEROTA: Let's get right to it. President Trump's escalating feud with a top Republican intensifying today. Senator Bob Corker now says the president is treating the White House like, quote, "a reality show," and his reckless threats could put the nation on the path to World War III.

WEIR: Meanwhile, Democrats in an uproar after the White House releases a demand list which threatens to derail any chance of a deal to protect DREAMers.

All of this as Vice President Mike Pence walks out of an NFL game after players kneel during the national anthem. Now many asking, was it all just a political stunt at the taxpayers' expense?

We have it all covered, and we begin with CNN's Joe Johns, live at the White House. Good morning, Joe. JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Bill.

The president of the United States slammed by a prominent member of his own party on Capitol Hill, Senator Bob Corker, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

The president has not commented publicly on this, but it certainly lays bare the tensions between the president and key members of Congress he'll need to push his agenda through.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHNS (voice-over): In a scathing critique, Senator Bob Corker telling "The New York Times" that "President Trump's reckless threats could put the U.S. on the path to World War III. He concerns me. He would have to concern anyone who cares about our nation."

Corker saying Mr. Trump is treating the presidency like a reality show, remarking, "I know for a fact that every single day at the White House, it's a situation of trying to contain him."

Corker's blunt criticism coming after the president bashed him in a barrage of tweets Sunday morning, suggesting Corker begged him to endorse him for reelection. Corker flatly denying that account and calling the White House "an adult day care center."

SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: Secretary Tillerson, Secretary Mattis and Chief of Staff Kelly are those people that help separate our country from chaos.

JOHNS: This as the Trump administration effectively derails any potential deal with Democrats to protect DREAMers, unveiling a long list of demands in exchange for a legislative solution, among them curbing funding for sanctuary cities, a crackdown on unaccompanied minors from Central America, and funding the border wall.

Democratic leadership denouncing the White House proposal, saying, "The administration can't be serious about compromise or helping the DREAMers if they begin with a list that is anathema to the DREAMers. This proposal fails to represent any attempt at compromise."

All this while Vice President Mike Pence is facing criticism for amplifying the president's feud with the NFL. The V.P. walking out of Sunday's Indianapolis Colts game after some players knelt during the national anthem. President Trump quickly taking credit, tweeting that he asked Pence to leave if any players knelt, a protest it seems the White House expected.

The vice president traveled from Las Vegas, where he was paying tribute to the victims of the massacre, to Indianapolis for the game and then back to Los Angeles. CNN estimates the travel cost to be around a quarter of a million dollars. Had Pence skipped the game, it would have been substantially lower.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The last time he had been to a Colts game is three years ago. So this looks like a P.R. stunt to me. He knew our team has had the most players protest. He knew that we were probably going to do it again. And so this is what systemic oppression looks like.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

JOHNS: And a tweet this morning from the president, yet another volley in the war of words over the situation in the Korean Peninsula reads, "Our country has been unsuccessfully dealing with North Korea for 25 years, giving billions of dollars and getting nothing. Policy didn't work."

Alisyn and Bill.

CAMEROTA: OK, Joe. You've given us a lot to talk about. Thank you very much for the reporting from a rainy White House there.

So let's bring in our political panel now. We have CNN political analysts David Gregory and John Avlon. Great to see both of you.

David Gregory, politicians are not normally known for their candor. I think that's a fair statement. Why is Senator Bob Corker doing this?

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, he's not running for reelection. So it's easy to become a lot more candid when you don't have to face the voters again and really let it rip, tell it like it is. And he has really gone to verbal war with -- with President Trump over the fact that the president has tweeted things out that are not true, about whether he was going to -- you know, whether he asked for his endorsement, did Corker ask for the president's endorsement. It's not how it went down, according to our reporting.

[07:05:10] And now you just have -- you know, you have a president with a fist and a Twitter account who's going to war again with someone else, also within his own party.

And I think what Corker is calling the president out on is the fact that it's not just him. That most, he says, he told Jonathan Martin of "The New York Times," most within the Republican Caucus know how volatile the president is, know what they're dealing with, but they don't speak their mind about it the way that Corker is now. And I think his warnings should be taken very seriously, around the country and certainly within the party.

WEIR: These are not subtle warnings, John. He's essentially insinuating that the leader of the free world has the emotional stability of a child and, as a result, is -- could bring upon the world, World War III. "It's a shame that the White House has become an adult day care center. Someone obviously missed their shift this morning."

He basically is saying that Tillerson, Mattis, and Kelly are the adults in the room.

JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes.

WEIR: Keeping the country from chaos.

And the president's comeback to all of these is that "Bob Corker begged me to endorse him for reelection, and I said no."

AVLON: Right.

CAMEROTA: There's one more, one more to read for you before you get to your response. To that, what Bill just read, Corker tweeted, "I don't know why the president tweets out things that are not true." Oh, he said this in the interview. "You know he does it, everyone knows he does it, but he does."

AVLON: Well, that's true. And, you know, Bob Corker is effectively pointing out that the president has no clothes when it comes to a lot of his public statements.

You know, the -- Trump's attack on Corker, oddly timed. Not helpful to his legislative agenda but goes by that pattern we see from the president, you know, sort of a bullying and "I'm" -- you know, "He begged me. He humiliated himself, and I said no."

But what we all know is that these things are not true. And what Corker is doing is elevating that. What is said in the cloak room behind closed doors in Washington, even by Republicans, that this president is -- has impulse control. He's arguably unstable. He is certainly incurious. And that there's a cadre of folks in the cabinet who are separating this country from chaos and that chaos is named Donald Trump. That's a big deal.

When the head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee says that the president has us on a path to World War III, that's a big deal. And this has the force of revelation with it, and it should send ripple effects through. And it cannot simply be that when senators know they're not running for reelection, they finally have the courage to speak their mind.

CAMEROTA: Well, I mean, but let's talk about -- let's talk about that, David. Because obviously, other Republicans have not wanted to speak out against the president, No. 1, for fear of reprisal, as we've seen, that he will do.

And No. 2, wanting to get their agenda done. You know, they had high hopes that if they just sort of stayed the course, that they would get their agenda that they've been waiting for for, you know, eight years. But that's not working out. So do you think that this signifies some sort of change in the strategy of Republicans?

GREGORY: Look, I don't know. You know, it might. It might. It's certainly a breach in the wall. But I think what you just said is the important part.

Look, Donald Trump, without any legislative achievement, without real achievement in his administration thus far, has kept his base together. One of the ways he does that is by attacking elites, attacking elites in the media, the media generally, launching cultural wars with the NFL, and on and on and on. And he does have an agenda that at least he has been committed to that a lot of Republicans signed onto. Whether it was getting rid of Obamacare, which didn't work, whether it's tax cuts, which again, you know, you go after a guy like Corker when you need 52 votes and you have no Democrats, it just shows you the president only has an ego and insecurity. He doesn't really have a strategy.

He's not being very strategic even in his hatred. And so, you know, that's one of his problems.

But that is what I think has held things together. And now you have to ask, well, what then? If there's escalation with North Korea. If there's the Iran -- an attempt to decertify the Iran nuclear deal, then you're going to see even conservatives start to push a little bit. And maybe we see, you know, real distance from the administration.

But I think leaders like a Paul Ryan, like a Mitch McConnell, with whom he's had a terrible relationship, have been holding back. Because they're trying to get this agenda done. Because they know that Trump has still got juice in the grassroots and that they as a party need to get something done legislatively.

WEIR: Apparently, Corker said that he got no pushback on the daycare center tweet from Mitch McConnell. So I'm mostly curious as to what is the conversation between Republicans in the cloak room of the Senate?

AVLON: Corker's tweets said in public what they've been saying the whole time.

WEIR: What they've been saying the whole time, right.

AVLON: And that should -- let that sink in for a second for folks at home, especially for that 36 percent of Americans who have been steadfast Donald Trump supporters. It's an historically low number. You know, you can ballpark it within a margin of error.

[07:10:07] CAMEROTA: But they'll say that Corker is an establishment Republican.

AVLON: That's -- yes.

CAMEROTA: So he doesn't count; he's old-school. They like the new--

WEIR: Swampy.

AVLON: No, no, that's actually--

CAMEROTA: Swampy.

AVLON: -- the point. Because quickly, they'll try to say it's partisan. It's a Republican civil war, and he's establishment.

But the lack of condemnation from Corker's fellow Republicans, further to the right or the center. The fact that he is an incredibly respected Republican senator and foreign policy authority who the president himself vetted for secretary of state, that should -- that should take -- everyone take a deep breath for a second and realize these are not partisan critiques of the president. The more you know about what's going on behind closed doors in Washington and the White House, the more concerned you are. And that means that if you're not troubled, you're not paying attention.

GREGORY: I also think it's important to point out there's a difference between a failing legislative strategy, between an administration that can't get an agenda across and the volatility of what happens on the world stage.

So a confrontation with North Korea, nuclear deal with Iran. You know, when you have, if Rex Tillerson ultimately leaves this administration, who replaces him? What about Mattis? What about McMaster? These decisions about what the United States may do with North Korea alone are deadly serious.

And even under the best of circumstances, if you look at our history with the most qualified of advisers in these positions, we have seen horrible misjudgments, terrible mistakes that cost countless lives. And this is where we get to a whole new level of danger in a presidency that's this volatile.

WEIR: And the pressure, then, just mounts on Kelly, you know, on McManus [SIC], on Tillerson. Maybe that's why he stays despite the public disrespect.

But talk about -- let's talk, John, about the overnight developments on immigration reform. There was some movement with Chuck and Nancy. The president seemed to be making some overtures that they could work out a deal to help those kids who were brought here as children to stay.

Now overnight, it takes three steps back.

AVLON: Yes. So the White House put forward a wish list -- it has been called a list of demands -- to go inside with the back of a napkin dream date with Chuck and Nancy that seemed to allow the DREAMers to go forward.

I think it's important to understand that this can be -- this could be seen as a poison pill by members of the White House staff who are more ideological than the president and offended that he's trying to push through a bipartisan deal. It also could be -- is going to characterized by folks, the Democrats as a list of demands and a deal breaker.

The question is, put aside all the kabuki. And is this really a wish list? What can they winnow down so there's some kind of compromise? Everyone has got to give something, a little bit?

There are plenty of people on the far right and the far left hoping this deal dies, because they don't want to see President Trump making a deal with Chuck and Nancy, as it were. I love that that's America's new dream date couple.

CAMEROTA: But David, I mean, is this just the manifestation of the backlash that the president got after appearing to have made a deal with Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi? So now you hear him reneging, and the "Whoa, whoa, whoa, I still want my wall"?

GREGORY: Look, you know, I think this is a different kind of example of the potential of President Trump as a deal maker, as someone who can balance a bunch of different views on a really tough issue. He has become a leading voice on hardline immigration stance within the Republican Party. But he's also someone who has an ideologically moderate enough background on some of the immigration issues to cut a deal with Democrats without completely losing the right.

So I think, at the very least, this is a statement of principles, and he maybe wants to be a bit outrageous on this because of all the backlash on the right, before getting to a place where he makes an ultimate deal.

Regardless, if he's able to do something more robust on immigration, which previous administrations, Republican and Democrat, have not been able to do, he can emerge victorious on this politically. If he can achieve something that's comprehensive. And I still think that's within the realm here.

WEIR: All right. David Gregory and John Avlon, thanks for being here.

President Trump also going after another establishment Republican but at what cost? What does the president stand to gain or lose by taking on another top Republican? It's a debate you don't want to miss, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:18:19] WEIRD: We all know his spats with John McCain. Now President Trump is taking on another establishment Republican senator, attacking Bob Corker of Tennessee. Not the first time the president has done this, of course. Previously criticized everybody from John McCain to Susan Collins, those who cast the deciding "no" vote sinking the GOP's effort to repeal and replace Obamacare.

Let us now discuss with Bill Kristol, editor of "The Weekly Standard"; and CNN political commentator and former senior communication advisor for the Trump campaign, Jason Miller.

Good morning, gentlemen. Happy Monday to both of you.

JASON MILLER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Good morning.

Jason, since you retweeted the president's attack on Senator Corker, I'll start with you. What happened to Reagan's 11th commandment: do not speak ill of another Republican? And what possible good could come of this strategically?

Miller: Well, Bill, I think it's important to point out that Senator Corker has been attacking the president over the last couple of months here. And obviously, the president took issue with that.

Look, Senator Corker definitely didn't mind kissing up to President Trump when he wanted to be vice president, when he wanted to be secretary of state. But now, since he didn't get either of these positions, and now he's retiring, he seems to just be kind of letting it all hang out there. A

And I think it's really showing the true colors of the swamp nature of Washington, D.C., that he is criticizing such basic tenets of the Republican platform like tax cuts.

And look, if Senator Corker is retiring, and he doesn't want to be in the U.S. Senate and he doesn't want to support President Trump, and he doesn't want to support such basic conservative principals, he should just resign. Let the governor of Tennessee go and appoint a conservative like Marcia Blackburn, the congresswoman who's running to replace Senator Corker, and get someone in there who's actually going to support the president.

WEIR: He seems to be having a real crisis of conscience. You think it's undermined all by sour grapes, that he didn't get what he want. Let's listen to Bob Corker a little bit. His criticism really started after the white nationalist rallies in Charlottesville. But let's take a listen to Bob Corker.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[07:20:20] SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: I think Secretary Tillerson, Secretary Mattis and chief of staff Kelly are those people that help separate our country from chaos.

The president has not yet -- has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability nor some of the competence that he needs to demonstrate in order to be successful.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WEIR: Bill, get to you in a second. But Jason, I just want to follow up on that. He said Corker told the "New York Times" that, in those cases, he was really speaking to an audience of one. He was trying to get a message to President Trump rather than undermine him.

MILLER: Well, I'm not sure what kind of message Senator Corker is trying to send by running to "The New York Times" and throwing out these very crazy comments like World War III, which I think really cuts against any narrative credibility that Senator Corker has here.

I mean, look, if you're going to talk about the delicate sensibilities of the U.S. Senate and go out and throw out such inflammatory language like that yourself, then I don't think you have much ground, really, to stand on.

WEIR: Bill Kristol, the tweets essentially insinuate from Corker the president has the emotional stability of a child. It's an adult day care center. And he's afraid that these Twitter flame wars are going to suck us into World War III. What's your whole reaction to this whole thing this morning?

BILL KRISTOL, EDITOR, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": Well, it's nice that Bob Corker is now telling the rest of us what he's believed for quite a while, apparently. Bob Corker was important in legitimizing Donald Trump in 2016. He was one of the establishment Republicans who came on board. He chastised people like me and others who were trying to save the party at the last moment from Trump when there was still a chance, I think, to rally against him. Trump had gotten less than 50 percent of the vote in the primaries.

Corker supported Trump. He wanted to be, I think, secretary of state. He's been pretty quiet until a couple of months ago. He's voted for every, so far as I know, every Trump nominee, every Trump piece of legislation.

So it's a good lesson that loyalty is a one-way street for Donald Trump. You can -- you can be loyal to him and say one or two critical things after Charlottesville. That was not a very -- astonishing to say something critical of Trump's appalling response. And Trump still will kick you when it seems useful for Trump.

So I guess I welcome Corker aboard, in a sense, the truth telling about Donald Trump team, but it's a little late, honestly.

I do think the earliest comment of Jason's was, you know, "Well, let him just resign if he's just a lame duck." You know, Donald -- this is typical of the Trump team. They think that these Republican senators and congressmen were sent there to rubber stamp whatever Donald Trump wants. Not just rubber stamp but never say anything critical.

Bob Corker was elected. He was elected by the citizens of Tennessee. He has the same status as an elected official, as other senators. And in certain ways, even the president. He owes them his six years of service. He owes them his candor. He owes them his best judgment. I wish he had exercised it a little earlier.

But the Trump team thinks, "You know what? You're there to do whatever Donald Trump says. If Donald Trump says jump, you're supposed to say, 'How high?'" That if you say something critical -- Corker didn't even vote against Trump, for God's sake, like John McCain and Susan Collins. But if you say something critical, boy, you've somehow betrayed the team. That's a very pernicious view, I think, of how politics should work.

MILLER: Look, Bill, I've got to push back here a little bit and the fact that Senator Corker campaign in his two runs for the U.S. Senate as someone who would go and cut taxes. And so I don't understand now why he's opposing such a basic Republican tenet.

KRISTOL: He also campaigned -- he also campaigned against -- he campaigned for reducing the deficit. But look, he's a senator. You know, you're elected by the citizens of that state, and then you're supposed to use your judgment. Maybe we can argue about whether the taxes--

MILLER: Tennessee went strongly for President Trump.

KRISTOL: Oh, and therefore, Corker is supposed to -- and Corker voted for Trump nominees, and he's given Trump the benefit of the doubt, too much of the benefit of the doubt.

But this again is the attitude of the Trump team. Tennessee voted for Trump, so if you're an elected representative, elected on your own in Tennessee -- and Corker was elected, of course, before Trump -- you're just supposed to roll over. The only thing he's done is threaten to vote against this crummy tax bill, which is a huge tax cut for billionaires, the no estate tax for corporations. And it's unclear whether it's going to do much at all to help the middle class. The prudent thing to do is to reserve judgment on a bill whose details we haven't seen. But the Trump team is, "Hey, sign onto a bill whose details you haven't seen. You know why? Because Donald Trump wants you to."

MILLER: So this is what happens in the swamp. You come to Washington. You're here for 11, almost 12 years. You forget the basic things that you ran on when you ran for the U.S. Senate, saying you want to cut taxes. You completely throw out this conservative ideology that you supposedly advocated when you first ran. You say, "You know what? Yes, I'm going to do things that will make some of my Washington friends happy."

KRISTOL: The swamp--

MILLER: It's really the swamp.

[07:25:02] KRISTOL: The swamp is blind -- the real swamp is blind loyalty to a president or to anyone else, instead of using your judgment as a congressman or senator.

WEIR: Yes. I mean, Jason, do you really think Bob Corker suddenly woke up and decides he doesn't want to cut taxes? Two things can be true at the same time. He may still can carry those conservative principals but is so worried about this president's rhetoric and unhinged launches on Twitter.

And do you worry that other senior Republican leadership on Capitol Hill feels the same way, just don't have whatever it takes to say it out loud?

MILLER: Look, the swamp obviously is going to try to fight back. They don't want someone who's going to come in and fight for real change. That's what the swamp does.

And I think it's just -- it's disappointing that Senator Corker, even before all the dust-up from this weekend, was laying down clear signals that he was going to oppose tax cuts. And I think that's really disappointing.

And I think if other senior Republican leaders are also opposing tax cuts, that would be disappointing, as well. I think they'll probably -- anyone who votes against tax cuts will probably have real issues coming up in the primaries next year.

WEIR: Finally, Bill Kristol, other news overnight was this wish list that sort of tamps down folks on the left side that -- hopes that maybe Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi could do a deal on the DREAM Act with the president. Is this a poison pill maybe, to kill that back talk, or what do you make of it?

KRISTOL: Hard to know. I thought at the time Democrats were perhaps a little too optimistic that they could hold Donald Trump to anything, based on one dinner. Let's see happens. This is the legislative process.

You know, it's funny to see Jason talk about "the swamp fights back." I mean, we're really now at sort of 8-year-old level of rhetoric that Trump has reduced intelligent people like Jason Miller to.

This is the legislative process. You know, let's see legislation. Let's make -- let's have arguments about whether there should be money for the wall in addition to legalizing the DREAMers. That's what the legislative process is supposed to be.

But with Trump you don't get any -- you never see the legislation. You have one dinner; you have a deal. Then someone else pressures Trump, and he says something else. This is why the administration's failing to get any legislation through. They're not serious about actually passing legislation.

Jason can call that the swamp. I call it representative elective democracy.

MILLER: No, the reason why we're having such an issue with getting legislation through is because Republican leaders on the Hill don't have the will to go and get it done.

I mean, Bill, as soon as President Trump won last November, they should have been waiting for him, ready to go with an Obamacare repeal and replace legislation so we could have dove into that right away.

And the fact that they didn't, the fact that they've just been either twiddling their thumbs or the fact that they don't actually want to go and fix our failing health care system, I think, is indicative of how this town works.

And look, this is what the swamp does -- no offense, Bill, but the swamp goes in any time--

KRISTOL: I'm not offended.

MILLER: -- the conservative agenda, they say, "Oh, this is -- you know, they're just crying about the swamp." Well, look, if Senator Corker was truly dedicated to cutting taxes, just as he had campaigned on when he ran for the U.S. Senate two times before, we would see him working with the administration, working with other Hill leaders to go and get this done.

WEIR: All right.

MILLER: Instead, he's out there popping off at the president. I don't think it's helpful. We need a conservative in there who's actually going to fight for President Trump's agenda.

WEIR: Jason Miller, Bill Kristol, a spirited Monday morning debate between both of you. Thanks for being here. We'll see you again soon.

CAMEROTA: "The Swamp Fights Back" coming to theaters near you.

WEIR: "Swamp Thing 2: Electric Boogaloo."

CAMEROTA: All right. Meanwhile, many questions this morning about Vice President Mike Pence walking out of an NFL game. Was it a political stunt or was it his free speech? One reporter at the game joins us to tell us what he saw, next.