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Trump's Public Falling Out With GOP Establishment; Corker Calls White House "Adult Day Care" After Trump Attacks; Trump On Tillerson: I'd Like Him "To Be A Little Tougher"; White House Makes Demands For "Dreamers" Deal; Vice President Mike Pence Walks Out of NFL Game When Players Kneel during National Anthem. Aired 8-8:30a ET
Aired October 9, 2017 - 08:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[08:00:00] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We'll get to all of those stories, but first, President Trump's feud with top Republican escalates. Senator Bob Corker says the president's threats could put the nation, quote, "on the path to World War III." And he believes that the president is treating the White House like a reality show. This as the White House delivers a long list of demands to Congress threatening to detail a possible deal to protect DREAMers.
BILL WEIR, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump is coming to Vice President Mike Pence's defense, saying his walkout of an NFL game after some players knelt during the National Anthem was planned for a long time, which makes that, I suppose, a political stunt. How much will it cost taxpayers? We'll have covered.
But let's begin with the very latest from CNN's Joe Johns live at the White House in morning. Happy Monday, Joe.
JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Happy Monday to you, Bill. President Trump getting slammed in a new interview by a prominent member of his own party, Senator Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker. Now, the president has not responded publicly to the latest dust-up, but what this back and forth does show is the deep division between some Senate Republicans and the president. They could be critical to pushing the president's agenda through Capitol Hill.
JOHNS: In a scathing critique, Senator Bob Corker telling "The New York Times" that President Trump's reckless threats could put the U.S. on a 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 is a situation of trying to contain him."
Corker's blunt criticism 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 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 and this proposal fails to represent any attempts at compromise.
All this while Vice President Mike Pence is facing criticism for amplifying the president's feud with the NFL, the VP 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 the 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.
ERIC REID, SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS SAFETY: Last time he's been to a Colts game was three years ago. So this looks like a P.R. stunt to me. He knew well our team has had the most player protests. He knew that we were probably going to again. And so this is what systemic oppression looks like.
JOHNS: And one of the latest tweets from the president this morning continuing to stir up that feud with the NFL, the president tweeting the trip by VP Pence was long planned. He's receiving great praise, the president tweets, for leaving the game after players showed such disrespect for the country. Bill and Alisyn, back to you.
CAMEROTA: OK, Joe, thank you very much.
Let's bring in our political panel. We have CNN political analyst David Gregory and Jonathan Martin. Jonathan was one of the reporters that did that "New York Times" interview with Senator Corker that is getting so much attention today. Gentlemen, great to have you.
Jonathan, let me start with you. Why was Senator Corker so candid with you in saying all of these things like the president is turning the White House into an adult day care center, he's turning it into a reality show, the people around him are just working to try to contain him, why did he share all of that with you?
JONATHAN MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think that this is the culmination of what I would call a slow rolling public intervention that Senator Corker has been staging via the media for months now. He spoke out after Charlottesville about the president. Last week in the capitol he said that Secretary Tillerson is part of a coterie of advisers who are basically guarding the country from quote, "chaos."
[08:05:00] And by the way, he repeated that line twice in the capitol, first through a scrum of reporters and secondly to cameras downstairs. And then yesterday obviously he tweeted what you guys showed there about the daycare center, and then we talked for some time. That is all to say this is very much a methodical, well thought out plan. This is an influential senator, somebody who knows Trump about as well any other senator does. They play golf together. Both of them made lots of money in real estate. They have more of a rapport than most elected official do with this president.
And what Corker understands about Trump is that you get his attention through the media. You speak to him through the press and you speak to his advisers through the press. And that is what he is doing here. He is trying to basically grab Trump by the lapels and say, you've got to stop acting like this is a reality show. This is real. Lives are at stake here, and when you tweet about North Korea and undercut Secretary Tillerson, that could imperil the world.
And by the way, he was very candid in saying that there is no good cop, bad cop strategy, there is no kind of well thought out game plan behind the scenes in the White House where Trump is some so-called crazy madman and Tillerson is the normal -- that's giving them way too much credit. Corker says, no, it's just Trump being impulsive. He is really kind of opening the kimono here in saying a lot of things here that many people in the party will talk about privately, but not publicly.
WEIR: Good cop, bad cop works if the good cops are on the same script.
MARTIN: If there is any script at all, exactly.
WEIR: But I think, Jonathan, what is so telling is what pinprick created this dam burst, and it started with the president tweeting that Bob Corker begged me to endorse him for reelection, I said no and he dropped out. You and your sources found that was not at all true. So you -- the whole impetuous for the call was to reach out to the senator's office and say can I get him on the record, and then he said we'll just put him on the phone and he unloaded there. I'm curious as to what it will take for the other men in the Senate cloak room who feel the same way to come out this way.
MARTIN: Well, keep in mind, Senator Corker is not running for reelection, so there is that. But to give him credit, even if he had been running for reelection, he would still be candid about President Trump. He certainly was before he decided not to run for reelection.
What is it going to take? I think it's going to take a lot more. I think that the GOP senators look at their voters, their voters by and large are OK with President Trump, and as long as that's the case, I think they are going to be hesitant about speaking out.
But make no mistake, though, what Senator Corker has done here, he has created pressure on other people in the caucus to be more candid about what they actually are saying privately about this president. And as Corker told me, he said, look, the vast majority of our caucus agrees. Now you could go ask them and some of them may say, no, no, no, that is not true. But he said they all get the deal. And so now you're going to have a lot of members of Congress who are going to have to answer for their private comments and their scathing private critiques of this president and be asked, guys, if Senator Corker could say it publicly, why can't you?
CAMEROTA: He kind of -- "threw them under the bus" is overused -- but he certainly held them up for scrutiny by saying everybody feels this way and this is what they are saying behind the scenes. He also said to you, I don't know why the president tweets out things that are not true. He knows it he does it. Everyone knows he does it, but he does. So again, peeling back the curtain in a way that people previously didn't want to say out loud.
MARTIN: Yes. It is the worst kept secret in Washington. Every GOP senator, everybody who covers politics, they all know that Donald Trump didn't tell Corker he wouldn't endorse him. That's laughable. All of us get that. It is just that there is a sort of game being played by people on Capitol Hill where you have to pretend like this is somehow something that it isn't. And what Corker is doing is saying, you know what guys, I'm done playing the game. Let's say out loud what all of us sort of know and say privately behind closed doors.
And for a lot of the anti-Trump crowd, it is refreshing because they've all been waiting for this moment. As one said, everybody is a hero and brave in their own living room after 7:00 p.m. But we just haven't seen that so publicly until yesterday.
WEIR: Keyboard courage. David Gregory, to follow up on Jonathan's point that Senator Corker is essentially performing for an audience of one, trying to get his agenda through our cameras into the White House. I even got that feeling with the governor of Puerto Rico where he is in such a box where he can't be critical because he needs them. But as each of these men come out and says -- speaks their mind, how do you think that affects the Republican Party going forward?
[08:10:00] DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it is like Jonathan said, there is a lot of people who understand what is going on and aren't willing to say it. But I think it's important that Corker is now running for reelection. He can let it rip here. He doesn't have to face the voters, he doesn't have to do the kind of calculating that his colleagues have to do, and that's really bottom line.
Now, look, Corker, is different. He got elected on his own in Tennessee. It wasn't just that he was on Trump's coattails. He is an internationalist and speaking about areas where I think others would share criticism of the president or at least the concern of the heading of the president with regard to foreign policy and relationship with allies and such.
But because he's not running for reelection he lets it rip, and it is very important what he is saying. But also look at the box he could so easily be put in by Donald Trump. Oh, yes, he's part of the Republican establishment. He strayed from core Republican values, the Republican party of today that Donald Trump represents, and he's in there with Mitch McConnell and all the rest who couldn't get health care done. So he can isolate him in that way.
What Republicans know is that Trump has held the base together pretty well so far. There is enough of the agenda that they would like to still see pass they don't want to completely alienate him. Otherwise, how do you explain how Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell and others hold their tongue on some of the stuff that's been going on?
CAMEROTA: So Jonathan, did Senator Corker share with you what plans to do in terms of working with the president moving forward, or what he thinks this will do to their relationship.
MARTIN: He told me that he talked to Senator McConnell earlier in the day Sunday he made clear to me that Senator McConnell had not criticized him at all for that day care tweet, which I thought was striking. And he said that he told McConnell and said, look, I'm not going to change on policy. I'm going to be the same guy.
So look, he doesn't want Trump removed from office. He told me that he wants Trump to have a good term. He said repeatedly to me, he said I don't wish him any harm. I think he's a nice guy. There is sort of the fascinating disconnect between Corker's personal view of Trump as a golfing buddy and as someone who is the commander-in-chief.
So look, I think Corker is going to now be in the camp of John McCain, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, basically a free agent, somebody who is still a center right figure but not tethered to the kind of party loyalty that most rank and file GOP senators are, and on issues like health care or tax reform, somebody who you can't take to the bank that they are going to be there. And when you have got a two seat majority and you have at least four senators who are basically free agents, I'll tell you what, that is going to make Mitch McConnell earn his salary.
GREGORY: It's not only that. It also shows you that the president is not strategic even in his insecurity. That what he has got is a fist and a Twitter account and that is what he will use against all comers who come at him. He is that impulsive on North Korea or on somebody who takes him on politically here.
So what does that mean strategically? I means that he'll cut deals with the Democrats, he'll do it on anything, and he'll further isolate the Republican party. But it is hard to see if he's really thinking several moves ahead here if he keep alienating people that could get things done, because Donald Trump told voters that he said, are you ready to win again? So he was going to achieve. It was going to be achievement. He is not achieving by taking on players kneeling in the NFL. That is a cultural war. It could keep his base together but he is not achieving anything in Washington.
WEIR: It is a burn off on Twitter. Who has got the better dig? But, Jonathan, I guess one of the other sort of bold letter revelations, and he alludes to it in the tweet about it being an adult day care center, that there are White House staffers whose job it is every day is to contain this man. Who and how?
MARTIN: It is extraordinary. The chairman of the foreign relations said the president of the United States is basically day in and day out being managed, contained, as he put it, by a group of former generals and senior executives. Who are they? John Kelly is chief of staff, retired Marine general, Jim Mattis, secretary of defense, retired Marine general, and secretary Rex Tillerson, the former CEO of Exxon and secretary of state.
What Corker is basically saying publicly here is that Trump in a lot of ways is not performing the role of the president as we know it, and he is somebody who is basically being controlled in the way that sort of other countries have, we haven't seen here in American democracy, by a kind of bullpen by committee of folks who try to control him and make sure that he's not a threat to himself or the country. To me, guys, that was the most extraordinary part of the story. Saying Trump is sort of tempting World War III is remarkable, but then when you say this president, duly elected by the American people, has to be contained by a group of nonelected officials, remarkable.
CAMEROTA: The whole thing is remarkable. Jonathan Martin, thank you very much for sharing your reporting with us. David Gregory, thanks so much for the analysis.
So the feud between the president and Senator Corker forcing fellow lawmakers to have to pick sides.
Who's on Team Trump, who's on Corker's side? Congressman Sean Duffy here next to tell us where he sides.
CAMEROTA: President Trump's feud with the Republican establishment is not simmering down. Senator Bob Corker is fighting back with a scathing rebuke of the president in a "New York Times" interview.
Let's discuss all of it with Republican Congressman Sean Duffy of Wisconsin. Good morning, Congressman.
REP. SEAN DUFFY (R), WISCONSIN: Good morning, Alisyn. Thanks for having me on.
CAMEROTA: Are you siding with President Trump or Senator Corker?
DUFFY: Well, both in a way. So, I don't think that airing dirty laundry publicly is a good strategy, you know, going after the senator who's vote you are going to need on tax reform is not the best strategy.
But guess what, President Trump is frustrated with the Senate, he is frustrated by taking shots by senators when he looks at his own record, where you have the stock market is up and unemployment that's down and securing the border. We have the Keystone pipeline being built, looking forward to going back to coal again and crushing ISIS. I mean, things are going well for this president and he's fighting for the same policies that Bob Corker was fighting for, which was healthcare reform and tax reform.
I think the president is a little bit frustrated that his own team is taking shots at him and he's fighting back so I get the president's frustration, but I don't think that is the best strategy, Alisyn. I think trying to deal with this behind closed doors would be more productive.
[08:20:03] CAMEROTA: Do you get Senator Corker's frustration? Do you share the feeling that the president is turning the White House into an adult day care center, and that the people around him are tasked with trying to contain him and basically keep him from himself so he doesn't do any rash?
I don't. I mean, I look at -- I look at a president who has been incredibly successful, even with some of the transition in the White House. The record I just laid out, it is pretty impressive.
Even if you look at North Korea, I mean, some would say, and I don't know that Bob Corker would say this or not, but looking at the same strategy of Barack Obama or George Bush or Bill Clinton is a strategy for success with North Korea.
I don't think that path has worked so Donald Trump is taking a different tact. He's going to address the threat right on and I think that -- so I don't get where Bob Corker is coming --
CAMEROTA: And I guess do you --
DUFFY: -- his record is successful.
CAMEROTA: I'm sorry to interrupt. But do you think that tweets about little "Rocket Man" and we'll see what happens next, there is a brewing storm. Do you think that those are effective, the president's tact he that is taking with North Korea?
DUFFY: Well, I look at the success in that you have a reengaged United Nations, who is making sanctions against North Korea again. You are starting to see better participation from China, which you've never really seen before, which is a good thing.
And you see other countries around the world actually recognizing the problem of North Korea and partnering with us. When you look at not just the oil and gas that goes into North Korea, but also the financial sector that services North Korea.
When we can go after banks in China or elsewhere, that is pretty powerful stuff and Donald Trump is getting success on those fronts so I disagree with that assessment. I think President Trump is far more successful than past presidents in this space.
CAMEROTA: Do you agree or disagree with Senator Corker that the president's reckless threats toward other countries could set the nation, quote, "on a path to World War III?"
DUFFY: What I think would set us on a path to World War III is past presidents who have turned a blind eye to North Korea building a nuclear weapon and advancing their technology for intercontinental ballistic missiles. That's the problem.
If you want war, sit back and do nothing with a rogue regime as they develop technology that could destroy the world. This is President Trump finally being the adult in the room saying we have to address this. We won't sit back and let them threaten our interest and our allies interest.
We are going to push back hard. The appeasement strategy of past presidents has been the failure of a strategy. President Trump is taking a new approach, which I think is smart.
CAMEROTA: But just tell me --
DUFFY: -- doing same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.
CAMEROTA: I understand, but I'm just confused about the approach that you are talking about. Are you talking about Secretary Tillerson's approach of diplomacy or President Trump's approach of tweeting?
DUFFY: I would say that President Trump's approach, which is not only what he does publicly on Twitter and in interviews, but also what he has his team do. You can't separate Tillerson from Trump.
CAMEROTA: But why not? But Congressman, they sound like they are completely separate. Secretary Tillerson is trying diplomacy and President Trump is tweeting give it up, Rex, it's not going to work.
DUFFY: I don't buy into the idea that President Trump doesn't have control of his administration. I look at Tillerson, maybe looks like he's going in one direction and Trump looks like he is going in another, is there some strategy that the president has here?
CAMEROTA: I don't know. Is there? Do you think that -- you think that is strategy? You think that Tillerson is trying one thing and President Trump is deliberately saying something that is antithetical to that to keep people confused.
DUFFY: You know what, I do. And the reason is, Alisyn, you see when people don't do what President Trump says, they are out of the administration. And the president doesn't have a problem with firing people, whether it is on reality tv shows or in the White House. So, unless they were singing off the same sheet of music, I think you wouldn't see Rex Tillerson still in his position as secretary of state.
CAMEROTA: But when -- when Secretary Tillerson does not deny that he called the president a moron, do you think that that was all part of a strategic plan?
DUFFY: Well, you can read whatever you want into the statement, I watched that statement too and I think it was pretty clear that that is not what he said. But Alisyn, I think if we take a step back and truly look at what this president has done, I know that some want us to continue with the strategy of appeasement.
That is not Donald Trump. And you do have to admit, there are successes with our ally countries who are engaging in North Korea in a far different way than they have in a year ago. The United Nations is engaging in a different way.
China is actually engaging in a different way that they are going to support us in our effort to go after financial institutions that support North Korea, that hasn't happened in the past.
[08:25:06] So, you have to actually give President Trump great credit for what he's been doing in North Korea. He's making more advancement than prior presidents have and the risk and the threat was similar.
CAMEROTA: So, I mean, it does sound like you are on Team Trump, not team -- I know you started by saying you are on both, but it does sound like you are siding with President Trump than Corker.
But I do want to get to Puerto Rico and the relief. So there -- so as you know the governor is asking Congress for $4 billion to help the relief efforts. Is that the right amount, will you get on board with that?
DUFFY: So, know the governor well, a wonderful governor. The island was devastated. Listen, I want to look at where he wants to send the money. But they are going to need billion dollars to rebuild and I think this is an opportunity for us in Congress and with the president and with Puerto Rico to team up and rethink the way that the island actually works.
It could be a great enterprise and help them with the energy sector, with their roads and bridges that have been destroyed. I'm going to be supportive of revenue that flows to Puerto Rico to help them in this disaster, but I actually want to see how they plan on spending it.
But it is probably going to be even more than $4 billion to support the island and great people -- and you know, I think this could be a great rebirth for Puerto Rico. As you know, Alisyn, people have been fleeing the island for years going to Florida and New York and other states.
And the best and brightest have left the island and now after this disaster, even more are leaving. Not because they want to leave Puerto Rico, they would prefer to stay there with their families, where their roots are, where their life is.
But there's been no opportunity and I think out of this crisis, we might see some great results come for the island and for the people of Puerto Rico and so I will support the island and the governor and the whole team.
CAMEROTA: OK. Congressman Sean Duffy, great to talk to you. Thanks so much for being here.
DUFFY: Thanks, Alisyn.
CAMEROTA: Let's go over to Bill.
BILL WIER, CNN ANCHOR: Reaction from the other side of the political aisle with Congressman Adriano Espaillat, a Democrat from New York, member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. I guess, one of the other headlines today is Democrats are retweeting Bob Corker. What are your thoughts about his adult day care observations about the president?
REP. ADRIANO ESPAILLAT, D-NEW YORK: Well, it seems that they are having trouble playing in the sand in the White House, right, and it is unfortunate that they could not get their act together because we should be working bipartisanly and not dealing with different factors, factions of the different parties. We should be working as two members of both sides of the aisle and it shows that there is a very deep division within the Republican Party.
WEIR: Other news that came out overnight is in regard to immigration reform and as it affects the DREAMers, 800,000 undocumented immigrants brought here as children. You came as a 9-year-old and was the first undocumented member of Congress to be elected.
This wish list says, yes, we'll give you that. We'll let the DREAMers stay, but -- and it is a long one. Complete construct of the border wall, crackdown on sanctuary cities, target visa overstays, they are going to limit family -- or want to limit family based green cards to spouses and minority children.
And makes it harder for those who are here legally to bring relatives and points based system for green cards and toughen asylum standards, they want 10,000 more ICE officers, a thousand more ICE attorneys. Anything in here you could work with?
ESPAILLAT: Listen, these 70 points, they are very aggressive. The wall is a nonstarter. But what jumped out at me when I saw the list was that -- my grandmother, my grandparents petition for us. So, had this been in place when I got here, my grandparents, which were green card holders, would not have been able to petition for our family to come here.
WEIR: From the Dominican --
ESPAILLAT: From the Dominican Republic. But in addition to that, you know, 10,000 agents, so they are saying we're going to allow the young DACA recipient to stay, but we are going to deport their parents.
Remember, DACA recipients and DREAMers have share personal information with us, the government. So, we know where they live and they are undocumented because also their parents are undocumented so we put their parents in peril to be deported in addition to the wall, in addition to punishing sanctuary cities.
It seems like an attempt to derail the whole discussion. Rather than a real genuine effort to bring help to 800,000 young people that are working and going to school and are serving in our military.
WEIR: How do you account for that then? How do you account for his seeming overture to Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer that I could work with you on DREAMers?
ESPAILLAT: Well, obviously, we saw the reactions from our leaders in the Democratic Party both Senator Schumer and Leader Pelosi. They are alarmed that this what he brings forward as a negotiation proposal --