Return to Transcripts main page


GOP Senator Corker on Trump: "Alert the Daycare Staff"; House GOP Leaders Speak as Trump-Corker Feud Explodes; Ryan: Corker "is going to Vote for Tax Reform"; Top U.S. General Shares New Details about Attack. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired October 24, 2017 - 10:00   ET



MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You said he's an untruthful president. Are you calling -- no question.

SEN. BOB CORKER (R-TN), CHAIRMAN, FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: Yes. No question. I mean, I don't -- we grew up in our family not using the "L" word, OK. But yes, just I mean, they're provable untruths, provable. So, I mean, on the Iran deal, everybody knows the role I played there and they're working with me, interestingly, right now, on tax reform. I made the deal with Toomey that, you know, that has allowed that to go forward. Obviously I want to make sure it's done properly. And then everything else, four times, he encouraged me to run and told me he would endorse me. So I don't know. It's amazing.

Unfortunately, I think world leaders are very aware of much of what he says is untrue. Certainly people here are because these things are provably untrue. I mean, just -- they're just factually incorrect and people know the difference. So I don't know why he lowers himself to such a low, low standard and debases our country in the way that he does but he does.

And, you know, I don't like responding. You know, you can let him go unanswered but -- and it's just not me to -- we don't do tweets like that. We've responded twice to, again, untruths, but you know it is unfortunate that our nation finds itself in this place.

RAJU: Is the president of the United States a liar?

CORKER: The president has great difficulty with the truth on many issues.

RAJU: Do you regret supporting him in the election?

CORKER: Let's just put it this way. I would not do that again.

RAJU: You wouldn't support him again?

CORKER: No way. No way. No, I think that he's proven himself unable to rise to the occasion. I think many of us, me included, have you know tried to, you know -- I've intervened, I've had private dinner, been with him on multiple occasions to try to create some kind of aspirational approach if you will to the way that he conducts himself. But I don't think that that's possible, and he's, obviously, not going to rise to the occasion as president.

RAJU: Do you think he's a role model to children of the United States?


RAJU: You don't?

CORKER: No, absolutely not. I think that, you know, the things that are happening right now that are -- that are harmful to our nation, whether it's the breaking down of we're going to be doing some hearings on some of the things that he purposely is breaking down relationships we have around the world that have been useful to our nation. But I think at the end of the day, when his term is over, I think the debasing of our nation, the constant non-truth telling, just the name calling, the things, I think the basement of our nation will be what he will be remembered most for and that's regretful.

And it affects young people. I mean we have young people who for the first time are, you know, watching a president stating, you know, absolute non-truths, nonstop, personalizing things in the way that he does. And it's very sad for our nation.

RAJU: Do you trust him with access to the nuclear codes?

CORKER: I don't want go into, you know -- I don't want to -- we're going to be in our hearing process. Certainly, we're going to be addressing the fact that he, with only the one other person on the defense side, has tremendous powers and, you know, I have -- again, I don't want to -- I don't want to carry this much further.

But look, I expressed concerns a few weeks ago about his leadership and just his stability and the lack of desire to be competent on issues and understand. And, you know, I -- nothing has changed. But again, I don't want to make this, you know, a daily issue.

You know, there's work that we need to do and he currently is the person that, from the executive side, we have to deal with and the shame of it is, there are some really good people around him and if he would stay out of their way and let them perform, people like Tillerson and Mattis and others, you know, we could really make progress on things that matter greatly to our country.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, a remarkable interview. Let me tell you how we got here. President Trump is headed to Capitol Hill shortly to have lunch with Republican senators to talk about tax cuts.

[10:05:01] Senator Bob Corker, even before this interview with Manu, did a round of interviews this morning talking about tax cuts. He said he didn't believe that the president has the skill or the commitment to shepherd through the type of tax reform that Bob Corker would like to see.

The president responded on Twitter, really lashing out, he said, "Bob Corker, who helped President O give us the bad Iran deal and couldn't get elected dog catcher in Tennessee, is now fighting tax cuts. Corker dropped out of the race in Tennessee when I refused to endorse him, and now is only negative on anything Trump. Look at his record!"

And then as Senator Corker was talking to Manu, the president tweeted, "Isn't it sad that Senator Bob Corker, who couldn't get re-elected in the Great State of Tennessee, will now fight tax cuts plus!"

Now we don't know if Bob Corker is going to fight tax cuts. We know that he didn't support the president's Iran deal. He voted against President Obama's Iran deal. And Bob Corker says it's a lie that the president said he would not endorse him if he decided to run for re- election in Tennessee.

Senator Corker said the president offered that endorsement. That is how we got to this point in that interview that Manu Raju had with Senator Corker. Manu joins me right now and Senator Corker, after he talked to you, kept on talking. And again, this all sets the stage for this Republican Senate lunch today.

RAJU: Yes. No question about it. Really sets the stage of what Corker is trying to do in his final year or so in office is that he's trying to take it to the president and try to steer him in a direction away from what Corker views as a reckless direction. He thinks that he's -- trying to ratchet up the pressure on the president, speaking out against him in rather stark terms when he believes the president is on the wrong side of the issues.

One thing that we need to - we need to keep be mindful of, John, is that Corker said he's going to use his committee to spotlight a number of things that he believes the president has done incorrectly in the world, things that he has done to tarnish relationships around the world. A powerful person on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he's going to use that as a way - as a vehicle of sort to go after the president over his policy and his decisions and his tweets.

Corker really has not let back. After he talked to me, he did talk to other reporters too. I was in that gaggle. He reiterated a lot of same things that he said to me. I tried to ask him, John, if he thought the president should be removed from office. He would not answer that question. And he also would not answer the question, the notable question, earlier in my interview when I asked him does he trust the president with access to the nuclear codes. He would not say if he did trust the president on that issue as well.

But remarkable to hear a sitting United States senator from the same party as the president, saying that he does not believe the president is a role model to children. That is a stunning statement, believing that the president has debased this country and something that we'll see if other Republican senators join in. But of course, he is retiring, giving him more freedom to speak out, where he is particularly incensed at the president for what he believes are essentially lies that the president has said about his running for re- election.

The president saying, he would not -- he's not running because the president did not offer an endorsement. That is flatly untrue according to Corker. On four separate occasions, Corker said, Trump said that he would endorse him for that if he ran again, really has led to the snowball effect. Nothing is going to end anytime soon. I don't think it will end any time soon. The president himself is not backing down, neither is Bob Corker. John?

BERMAN: All right, Manu Raju, again, remarkable interview on Capitol Hill for us. We should note. We are waiting to hear from House Republican leaders right now. Paul Ryan and his colleagues holding a news conference may be asked questions about this. If we know Paul Ryan he would rather chew glass, I think, than answer questions about the fight between Bob Corker and President Trump. But we will take you there if it in fact does happen.

Joining me now, CNN political analyst, April Ryan and CNN political commentators, Ana Navarro and Jason Miller. Ana and Jason, I think you're going to have a bit of a disagreement on what we've heard this morning. So I'm going to start with April, if you don't mind. April, you've covered the White House for a long, long time. And just put this in context when you have a senator from a member of the president's own party lashing out like we just heard from Senator Corker, the debasement of our nation is what he will be most remembered for.

APRIL RYAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: And that's not a Democrat saying that. That is someone in his own party. You know, this is something that we have been hearing quietly by Republicans, calling for us. They're calling many of us saying this. They won't give voice to it or give their name to it.

But now you have a name. You have a face. You have someone on camera. I mean, of course, we've heard from Senator John McCain who will not call out the president's name and we've heard them going back and forth. But this is someone new, someone who is giving voice to it, giving a face to it.

And yes, you know, this president is anti-climate change, pro-life, pro-gun, pro-marriage, saying he's not for same-sex marriage. This is what the Republicans love and these pro-life and everything like that. But the other stuff is the problem.

[10:10:10] And for this senator to say this, I believe, we'll start hearing other senators who feel safer in their districts or Congressional leaders who feel safer in their districts to give voice to this and give their faces because we've been hearing this for so long behind the scenes and now it's out. And of course, Senator Corker doesn't have anything to worry about. You know, he's not committing political suicide. He is not running again. But he is in the Bible belt who still -- there are still some in that community who love this president.

BERMAN: Jason Miller, you know, you worked for the president's campaign. You worked in the transition. You're still very loyal to the White House. What's your reaction to this today?

JASON MILLER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, John, I spoke with a senior administration official late last night to get a sense of what this lunch was going to look like today and they sounded very excited. A lot of optimism especially after the president's leadership to help move the House so much further along on the budget and on the tax- cutting process. And so, to see Senator Corker wake up this morning and effectively act as a surrogate for the DNC is very disappointing. This is way out of sorts of the mainstream for most Republicans are who want to get tax cuts done, who want to push forward on President Trump's agenda.

And the thing that really struck me from Senator Corker this morning is his line saying that we need to leave it to the professionals and I would ask him professionals like whom, like Hillary Clinton? I mean, keep in mind that Senator Corker loved President Trump when he wanted to be the vice president or the Secretary of State and to now see this clap back from him this morning, really undercutting the lunch. I think it's unfortunate.

But look, I think President Trump is going to be focused today, talking about tax cuts, trying to build broader consensus to get this done. Thank goodness we have Senators Portman and Hatch and Toomey that are really leading the charge. One other thing, John, that we haven't heard folks talk about this morning that I think you're going to see in the lunch is the president really make the case that we need to get his nominations through. Too many are being held up for silly frivolous reasons. That American people need to have these folks in their positions to help move us forward and so look for the president to make a push there too.

BERMAN: Just one quick point before I turn it over to Ana, who I know has a lot to say here. But when he was talking about leave it to the professionals, he was talking specifically about Rex Tillerson there. He was not talking about Hillary Clinton. Now, Ana, your response?

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You know, listening to Bob Corker today, frankly gave me a heavy heart. First of all, I hope that courage is contagious and a lot of those Republicans that are talking behind the scenes and are talking in whispers like April says, look at what Corker is saying and realize that they, too, have a duty to speak.

Corker is not being a spokesperson for the DNC. He's being a spokesperson for the Republicans who feel they cannot speak. Republicans will have lost their spine. And you know it gave me a heavy heart because look, Bob Corker is inherently a very nice guy. He's a very civil southern guy, type of guy that says ma'am and sir, who can't bring himself to say the word lie, so he says untruth.

He's also a loyal Republican. He is a team player. He's very serious about policy issues, particularly foreign policy issues. This is a guy who supported this president, who wanted to work with this president and gave this president the chance. I think he turned sour on Donald Trump during Charlottesville, where we first heard Bob Corker, before retiring, before making the decision of retiring, and not running again. When we first heard Bob Corker come out and criticize, you know, very vocally what Donald Trump's actions and words were was after Charlottesville and it's grown since then. I think what you are seeing is a man that is being led by his principles, by his conscience, by his duty to his constituents and by his love of country. BERMAN: One second. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan is taking questions. Let's listen in.

QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE) -- talking about tax reform, much this morning is the back and forth, the further (INAUDIBLE) feud with Senator Corker. What does that do to your effort to tax reform with the president?

REP. PAUL RYAN (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: I don't think it changes our efforts on tax reform. I know Bob, who supported the budget, wants to get tax reform. I know the president wants to get tax reform. I'm glad they're coming. I'm glad the president is coming to lunch because I long believe that it's best to settle these things in person and I hope that they can get a chance to do that. Sherman.

Wait. You're going to go on.

QUESTION: You guys were getting up on midterm last time (INAUDIBLE). Republicans get a piece of the government responsible, sober leaders in government and the president, he was saying get elected dog catcher. Corker is calling him a liar. What should voters think about this? --

PAUL: What they should think about are the results we achieve for the American people. So you know what we're focused on, what's within our control and what's within our control here in Congress is getting stuff done for the American people and getting a healthier economy, bigger paychecks, more take home pay. That to me is what's more important.

[10:15:04] At the end of the day, I know Bob well. Bob is going to vote for Tennessee. He's going to vote for America. He's going to vote for tax reform because he knows it's in the best interest of Americans. So put this Twitter dispute aside. The fact is, we have a historic chance of actually fixing this tax code, giving people pay raises and getting the American economy growing at the rate where we can actually get bigger paychecks, more take home pay, a healthier economy. That's what matters.

So, all this stuff you see on a daily basis on Twitter this and Twitter that, forget about it. Let's focus on helping people improving people's lives and doing the things that we said we would do, that accomplishes that. That's where we're focused on.

You're going to ask about this?

All right, good, yes, fine.

QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE) How do you plan to lower rates?

PAUL: I would love to answer that question because that's what the Ways and Means Committee chairman does, but I'm going to have to defer you to Kevin Brady, the Ways and Means Committee. They are the ones who hold the pen on this thing. They're the ones who are negotiating this bill, writing this bill. So, all these questions will be answered very shortly when the Ways and Means Committee puts out their mark. But if you have any specific questions you want to ask about, I would encourage you to ask the Ways and Means Committee because this is their jurisdiction.


PAUL: Yes. The House, yes, so there's different deer seasons. There's bow season, there's gun season, muzzleloader season. So -- you see him with a beard you will know when the season is. So yes, we get this done by Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving week is opening week of gun season, so our goal is to get it out of the House by then. The Senate is going to be a little slower on their trek. Because as you know, tax codes first in the House, that's the Constitution. By muzzle loader season, I can't remember exactly on muzzleloader season. Let me check with the Wisconsin muzzleloader season. I usually just do bow in December. So, our goal is to get it by the end of this year.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I thought you were giving it up if that's what it meant for tax reform.

PAUL: That's right. Yes, we'll give up Christmas if we have to for tax reform. That's what I said before. You're going to quote me on that, aren't you? I'm just joking about that. We're going to get this done. Look at Casey, you guys are -- you're staying here with us too. Yes, just kidding.


PAUL: That's what conference committees are all about. Thank you, everybody, appreciate it.

BERMAN: All right. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan there, more or less pleading with reporters to not ask more questions about this white hot feud between Senator Bob Corker, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Republican and the president of the United States right now when he did answer questions he had a historic level dodge. He said, he's just glad that the president is headed up to Capitol Hill today to have a lunch where Senator Corker will be so they have a chance to work things out.

I'm not sure that's going to happen. Why do I say that? Because as Speaker Ryan was talking, we had yet another statement from the president of the United States about Bob Corker. Let me read it to you. "Senator Corker is the incompetent head of the Foreign Relations Committee and look how poorly the U.S. has done. He doesn't have a clue." And then the ellipsis right there is indicating that there could be more coming we'll bring it to you when it happens.

Joined again by April Ryan, Ana Navarro and Jason Miller. And April, something very important also happened this morning. It was during Manu's interview with Senator Corker. Manu asked Senator Corker if he regrets supporting the president and Senator Corker says he would not do it again. Is that now a question, April, that will be posed to the other 51 sitting U.S. Republican senators?

PAUL: You know, the question is, it's not just about the senators, it's about the American public. There's a lot of buyer's remorse right now. And, you know, since this president has been in office, we've seen a lot of different things. And going back to what Ana said Charlottesville was a watershed moment for this president.

This was a major moment. This is one of the marks for this president and how he handled it, it turned a lot of people off. I mean I've been talking to a lot of Republicans, people who used to be in administrations in Washington. And they are saying, you know, we have to do something about this. Something is wrong.

So, it's not just about the senators. And -- but I'm thinking about what Paul Ryan also said about the president. You know, someone asked him about how the president handles things. He said yes, he uses different language. That was a euphemistic way to talk about the president in his -- who comes off brash in a different way. He's like a bull in a China shop. I don't think it's just about leadership in Washington. It's about the American public as well.

BERMAN: But April, and I know you say you've heard from Republicans, Ana Navarro, you say that Senator Corker is speaking for Republicans. But I spoke to Roger Wicker, senator from Mississippi, who by the way, Steve Bannon wants to unseat. So, if Roger Wicker was looking for a reason to be upset with the president there is one right there and Roger Wicker told me that Senator Corker's statements are unhelpful, Ana. So, it's not like we publicly see that many U.S. elected Republicans speaking out like Bob Corker?

[10:20:09] NAVARRO: Oh, I think you're right. We're not seeing it publicly. We are seeing more to do it publicly. We are seeing people like George W. Bush speak out publicly. We are seeing John McCain speak out publicly. Look, I, too, like Paul Ryan, am glad that Donald Trump is going to this Republican lunch today in the Senate and I hope that people like Senator Ben Sasse, that people like Senator Jeff Flake, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, John McCain, Bob Corker, speak to him frankly.

He needs to be reminded that the Senate and the House, they're not his mignons. They're not his enablers. They are his co-equals. They are co-equal branch of government and they deserve respect. They should not be bullied. They should not be bullied by being threatened with primaries or being threatened and being the target of morning Twitter tirades.

Frankly, this morning I'm just glad he's tweeting against Bob Corker and not a Gold Star Family. That's where we are in 2017. That gives me some grade of relief. But Republicans need to talk frankly with this president. They need to stand up to him. Because we're nine months into this, and it's not getting any better. It is getting much, much worse.

BERMAN: All right. I promised you that the ellipsis told us that President Trump was going to have even more to say about Bob Corker let me read it to you now. I'll read you the whole tweet.

"Senator Corker is the incompetent head of the Foreign Relations Committee, and look how poorly the U.S. has done. He doesn't have a clue as," now he added, "the entire world was laughing and taking advantage of us. People like Liddle Bob Corker have set the U.S. way back. Now we move forward!"

You know, Jason Miller, I know you're saying the president and the White House want to look forward, they want to get tax cuts done, but reading these tweets, it would be hard not to have the sense that the president has had his feathers ruffled this morning. So does it sting at all to get this criticism? Go ahead.


MILLER: Yes, I think anyone would be annoyed. Here's a day that we're going to get together and talk about tax cuts, they're going to lead to paycheck increases for American workers that this one rogue senator decided to get out there and take a position that's completely out of line with the rest of the Republican Party.

Look, I think that Speaker Ryan had the exact right tone. Which was he was upbeat. He was enthusiastic. He wants to talk about the agenda and what we're trying to do for people. And I think that's where most Republicans are.

Look, the economy is doing great. I think we're reasserting our standing on the world stage and I don't know what the heck was in Senator Corker's oatmeal this morning, but it's completely out of sorts with where I think the rest of the party is. And again, I got to go back to the point especially with those comments that he was making to Manu earlier. This man wanted to be VP and he wanted to be Secretary of State. And he didn't get either position. And so now, to come back and make these comments about well, I'm not sure if I would support the president again.


RYAN: That was then. This is now.

MILLER: I think that really speaks to -- that makes him look very small.

NAVARRO: No, it really -- you know what it speaks to, it speaks to the fact that Bob Corker had hope that Donald Trump would grow into the presidency.

MILLER: I disagree.

NAVARRO: The gravitas of the position. And instead, now nine months later he is disgusted and disappointed.

RYAN: Watching this president -

NAVARRO: A president who continues to be -

MILLER: Ana, April, the sky is not falling. We're going to get tax cuts through. Everyone is going to get a tax cut.

RYAN: Some people think it is. Some people actually -- even in the Republican Party, they believe it is falling on the international stage. MILLER: April, it's not. No one thinks the sky is falling, April.

BERMAN: I'll tell you what. Let's hope it does not fall.

RYAN: Don't discredit me, trust me. I can give you the names of some Republicans and Democrats if you want to know.

NAVARRO: No, don't reveal sources.


MILLER: Fire away.

NAVARRO: Listen, Jason, I just gave you -- I named six. You say one rogue senator. I said John McCain. I said Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Ben Sasse, Jeff Flake, and Bob Corker. That's almost 15 percent.

MILLER: If they're all on board. They're all on board with tax cuts as well.

RYAN: The issue is what will today -


BERMAN: Hang on, guys. We're going to do -- guys, guys, April, April, we got ten seconds left, go ahead.

RYAN: Yes.

BERMAN: April?

RYAN: What will the luncheon really look like today? Yes, I said what will the luncheon look like today? The question is they're fighting back and forth and the president when he feels his back is against the wall, he lashes out. So the question is will it be about policy or about his anger?

NAVARRO: I don't know, but I hope they hand out antacids.

BERMAN: That's right. Ana Navarro, April Ryan, Jason Miller, this will be one special lunch to be sure. Thank you all so much for being with us. Appreciate it.

We have other news, 24 minutes after the hour, new details about the ambush that killed four U.S. soldiers in Niger but some questions still unanswered. Why did it take so long to find the body of Sgt. La David Johnson?


[10:29:11] BERMAN: This morning, new details on the ambush in Niger that left four U.S. soldiers dead. It has been 20 days since that attack. Of course, the Pentagon briefing on this anew, Ryan Browne for us live at the Pentagon. Ryan, what are you learning? RYAN BROWNE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, we learned from this very rare appearance from General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the Pentagon Briefing Room. We learned a little bit more about the timeline of the events in question.

Now, there was this group went out on patrol on October 3rd, was described as a civil military routine reconnaissance mission and they spent overnight out in the field and it was on their way returning to their base where they were ambushed by some 50 ISIS fighters in this remote part of Niger. Now, U.S. troops waited an hour before they called for any support after coming under attack. And then it took another hour for air support to actually arrive in the form of French Mirage jets. And now, of course, this attack left four U.S. soldiers dead and two wounded as well as five Nigerian troops killed. But even after providing this timeline -