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Flake: 'Mr. President, I Will Not Be Complicit'; Senate Kills Rule That Made it Easier to Sue Banks; Republican Party at War With Itself. Aired 7-7:30a ET
Aired October 25, 2017 - 7:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[07:00:06] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president now has three people who have broken with him. He can't lose more than two on any big vote.
SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: I think the debasement of our nation will be what he'll be remembered most for.
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: They were not likely to be re-elected. That shows that the support is more behind this president than it is those two individuals.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Both of these really started with personal jabs from the president to these members.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's a tough situation for the Republican Party. We're seeing buyers' remorse play out publicly.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: We're going to concentrate on what our agenda is and not any of these other distractions that you all may be interested in.
FLAKE: History will look back and say why didn't we stand up? I hope that more of us do.
ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Welcome to your NEW DAY.
We begin with something that was certainly unusual. The impact we'll have to see, but this Republican rebuke against a sitting president, we haven't seen anything like it, at least in a very long time.
Two retiring GOP senators calling out President Trump, a member of their own party, remember, as dangerous and utterly untruthful. Senator Jeff Flake says he will, quote, "no longer be complicit or silent," issuing a call to arms to fellow Republicans. Senator Bob Corker says the Trump presidency will be remembered for, quote, "debasing the nation."
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: So could these defections and attention inside the GOP threaten the president's agenda? The White House spokesperson defending Mr. Trump's clashes with both men, saying it's probably best they leave. Coming up in just minutes, Senator Jeff Flake will join us live.
So let's begin with CNN's Joe Johns is live for us at the White House. Another intense day, Joe.
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: That's for sure, Alisyn. And, look, here at the White House they are saying it's all good, even with freewheeling criticism of the president by two prominent Republican senators. They're free to speak their minds, because they're not running for re-election. But that free will could affect the Senate arithmetic and the president's agenda.
FLAKE: It is time for our complicity and our accommodation of the unacceptable to end.
JOHNS (voice-over): Outgoing Senator Jeff Flake fiercely denouncing President Trump's policies and behavior as dangerous to democracy and calling on his fellow Republicans to do the same.
FLAKE: When the next generation asks us, "Why didn't you do something? Why didn't you speak up?" what are we going to say?
JOHNS: Flake railing against the politics of the era of Trump, the undermining of democratic ideals, the personal insults, and what he called the flagrant disregard for truth and decency.
FLAKE: Reckless, outrageous and undignified behavior has become excused and countenanced as "telling it like it is" when it is actually just reckless, outrageous and dignify -- and undignified.
We were not made great as a country by indulging in or even exalting our worst impulses; turning against ourselves; glorifying in the things that divide us; and calling fake things true and true things fake.
JOHNS: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell praising Flake but punting when asked by reporters how the party would respond.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: At what point do you have an obligation as a leader of this party to weigh in on these very serious criticisms of the president?
MCCONNELL: What I have an obligation to do is to try to achieve the greatest cohesion I can among 52 Republicans to try to achieve for the American people the agenda that we set out to achieve.
JOHNS: Flake's sweeping indictment coming hours after Republican Senator Bob Corker also blasted Mr. Trump.
CORKER: The president has great difficulty with the truth.
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. JOHNS: The retiring Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman
expressing concern that the United States' position in the world is suffering under President Trump.
CORKER: World leaders are very aware that much of what he says is untrue. He purposely is breaking down relationships we have around the world that have been useful to our nation.
JOHNS: Their feud reaching a boiling point, with the president responding to Corker's attacks in a series of tweets, again calling him "little."
The White House brushing off the criticism as petty while welcoming the decision of the senators to retire.
SANDERS: I think they were not likely to be re-elected. And I think that shows that the support is more behind this president than it is those two individuals.
JOHNS: A source familiar with the president's thinking says he is in high spirits after Flake's announcement. An ally of Mr. Trump's former chief strategist also celebrating, saying, "Steve Bannon added another scalp to his collection as another establishment domino falls."
JOHNS: Senators Flake and Corker won't be going anywhere anytime soon. They'll be in the United States Senate until January of 2019.
[07:05:07] The president, for his part today, headed to Dallas for a fund-raiser -- Chris and Alisyn.
CUOMO: All right, Joe, thank you very much.
All right. Let's discuss with CNN political analyst David Gregory; and reporter and editor at large for CNN Politics, Chris Cillizza. Let's play a little bit more of this sound so we can do a good discussion on, really, the full complement of things that were said. We have Flake and Corker.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Do you think that President Trump is setting a bad example for the nation's children?
FLAKE: Yes. Some of the statements that are made about people and seeming to ascribe the worst motives to people, as well. That's something we tell our kids not to do.
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Do you think he's a role model to children in the United States?
RAJU: You don't? CORKER: No. Absolutely not. We have young people who for the first
time are, you know, watching a president stating, you know, absolute nontruths, nonstop. Personalizing things in the way he does. And it's -- it's very sad for our nation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: All right. So there they are. David Gregory, it's interesting. You know, the little bit of this is a matter of perception. Are they defecting? I would say, no, they're doing the opposite. They're actually redoubling their commitment to what they say their party is about and stepping away from the president on that basis, not a defection at all. How do you see it?
DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, they're -- but they're going to be gone. I mean, they're doing the thing that I think resistors of the president want them to do, which is to stand up and say, "This is not right. This is not right for America. This is not how a president ought to behave. And this is not right for the Republican Party." So they will get kudos for that.
The other side of it is that those voices, brave voices -- you know, Jeff Flake is someone, whether you're a Republican or a Democrat, you can say, "This is a guy who should be senator." He's very smart. He's very dedicated. He's a terrific public servant. Well, he's now going to go.
Now, he probably wouldn't have won anyway. He recognized he was going to be primaried many, many months ago; and things had accelerated to the point where he isn't able to win.
So the immediate impact of this is to say, well, if you're a Republican president, you have these defections. You can blame him as being, you know, part of the establishment that needs to be drained. But you're losing votes for your priorities. In this case tax reform. That has obvious pain to the president here and now.
And maybe history will judge this as a moment of unraveling for the Trump presidency. But the immediate effect is for Trump and his allies to stand up and say, "Yes, these guys are part of the problem."
It's amazing to hear the White House spokesperson call these things that they're saying, Corker and Flake, petty. This from a president who often doesn't tell the truth, who personally insults people and is certainly a bad influence on America's children. But that's the state of affairs in the Trump presidency. People know it. Voters know it. It's the reality that we're living through.
CAMEROTA: So, Chris, these guys are retiring but not for 14 months.
CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS CORRESPONDENT AND EDITOR AT LARGE: Right.
CAMEROTA: So why now? Why did they feel they needed to make these statements now? CILLIZZA: Well, you know, I think when you think about your next
election, particularly given the cost of these elections, you have to sort of make these decisions about now. You simply can't wait and wait and wait and wait. It makes it difficult for the party to hold your seat, particularly in Arizona, and it makes it difficult for you to win.
So I think some of it is they're having these heart-to-hearts with themselves at a time when you have to make a go or no go decision.
I do think David's point is important as it relates to Jeff Flake. This is in some ways, he will be touted as a truth teller to the Trump presidency by those who oppose Trump.
It will be seen in many ways, though, within the Republican Party, particularly the Trump base of the Republican Party, as two things: a victory for the Steve Bannon/Donald Trump wing of the Republican Party; and also a cautionary tale for sort of the governing wing of the Republican Party.
Remember, the reason that Jeff Flake's poll numbers are where they are -- and that's not in a good place -- is not because he's too moderate. He's one of the ten most conservative senators in the Senate. It's because he wrote a book that was deeply critical of Donald Trump and was unafraid to go out and talk about it.
CAMEROTA: So wait a second. So his poll numbers plummeted after that. He was going to win re-election, you're saying, until the book?
CUOMO: Well, we don't know that.
CAMEROTA: I just want= to ask what Chris says about that.
CILLIZZA: Yes. No. Look, I think he had some issues before anyway. This exacerbated those issues tenfold. If he had said nothing about Donald Trump other than, you know, "He does his things and I do mine," he would have had a decent to better than decent chance of winning a primary.
CUOMO: Any poll you look at says that you have at least -- I mean, Chris and I, we were talking about this yesterday -- at least two out of three of people--
CUOMO: -- who identify as Republican are for Trump.
CILLIZZA: That's right.
CUOMO: So you go out, you're technically going out on a limb.
[07:10:07] CAMEROTA: Of course. I know he went out on a limb with the book. I just didn't know what his political standing was--
CUOMO: -- any criticism. It's--
CILLIZZA: Alisyn, I would say he had -- this was not a lock--
CILLIZZA: -- before he wrote about Donald Trump, but he was in a much better place within the Republican Party than he was afterward. After that book came out -- and David made this point -- it was going to be a very uphill climb to win the nomination.
CUOMO: It also depends on what happens next. That's the big factor. You know, I was watching "The Walking Dead" last night with my son. And like at one point, these two guys, "I've had enough," and they run out -- nobody follows them.
CAMEROTA: And you saw it as a metaphor.
CUOMO: Yes. And so they come out. Jeff Flake gives a speech yesterday and you hear -- [APPLAUDS] -- because they are countenancing what the president says and does.
He came out about Bob Corker, and the definition of a lie, if you want to use it, is you know it's wrong and you say it anyway with an intention to deceive. Them saying, David Gregory, that "Corker is why we have the Iran deal" is not just demonstrably false; it's a lie. And these guys hear them say it, hear it repeated, and do nothing.
And McConnell says, "Well, I'm here to enforce an agenda." The senator with Wolf says, "Well, it's your job to call lies. I'm here to" -- come on. But, again, why are they doing it? Two out of three Republicans like Trump.
CILLIZZA: That's right.
CUOMO: All weighed in with all the stuff that goes along with it. So what happens next here? You could argue nothing.
GREGORY: Well, again, it's also what are your priorities? Mitch McConnell is gritting his teeth through the Trump years and saying, "OK, I've got to work with this guy, because I want to keep control of the Senate as a Republican, and we have an opportunity, despite how erratic he is, to actually get tax reform done." Now we'll see what happens.
The reality, too, is that this is basically the "never Trump" movement of the campaign happening while he's governing. Trump surmounted that obstacle during the campaign. The "never Trumpers: didn't succeed. So now, even as he's governing, he's facing some of that.
If he can't get anything passed, if the Republicans lose the Senate and the House, then we have a new reality, because then you start asking questions about whether Trump in re-election can actually keep the party together. Right now, there's enough Republican leaders who say, "Yes, we can," and these others are going to be marginalized.
CAMEROTA: OK. David Gregory, Chris Cillizza, thank you very much for the analysis.
So how does Senator Jeff Flake feel this morning? He joins us live here on NEW DAY in just minutes.
CUOMO: All right. We're following breaking news, as well. Senate Republicans reversing another Obama-era policy late last night.
The Senate is making it easier for banks to avoid any type of litigation. Right now, you have consumer protections that allow for arbitration clauses to be upset and that you can sue. No more.
CNN chief business correspondent Christine Romans joins us now with more.
I thought we were supposed to be about the little guy in this administration.
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Yes.
CUOMO: How do you reconcile that with this?
ROMANS: It's a really good question, because the president wants to loosen Wall Street regulations, Chris, and this is his biggest win yet; and it's a blow to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Gone now is a CFPB rule banning forced arbitration clauses. That's in the fine print of contracts for banks, for credit cards and other financial companies. They force customers to resolve any disputes outside a courtroom, blocking them from banding together in class- action lawsuits. The Republicans call the rule an overstep by the CFPB head Richard Cordray, who was, by the way, appointed by President Obama. And they claim the class action lawsuits, they just benefit trial lawyers. They don't help consumers.
Consumer advocates fiercely disagree. They say that arbitration favors companies. All the leverage is with the big financial companies.
Here's an example I'll give you. Wells Fargo, victims have had trouble suing because of arbitration clauses. This new rule that was just killed was only issued in July. The CFPB, the government watchdog here, found that customers struggled to open arbitration cases against their banks. The power is with the big financial firms, not with the little guy -- Alisyn.
CAMEROTA: So interesting, Christine. Thank you very much for all of that.
So a past president and three Republican senators publicly denouncing President Trump in just the last week. So what does the future look like for this divided party? We debate that, next.
CUOMO: In the past week four powerful members of the Republican Party, a former president, the party's former presidential nominee, and two other sitting senators have all denounced President Trump and his behavior in unusual fashion. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We've seen our discourse degraded by casual cruelty. At times it can seem like the forces pulling us apart are stronger than the forces binding us together.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: To abandon the ideals we have advanced around the globe, to refuse the obligations of international leadership, and our duty to remain the last best hope of earth for the sake of some half-baked spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems.
CORKER: I think the debasing of our nation, the constant nontruth telling, the -- just the name calling, the things -- I think the basement of our nation will be what he'll be remembered most for.
FLAKE: I have children and grandchildren to answer to, and so, Mr. President, I will not be complicit or silent.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: There's no question that this is unusual. The question is does it have any impact? Who wins? What will happen with Republican Party? Let's discuss.
We have CNN's political commentators, Republican strategist Ana Navarro; and former senior communications adviser for the Trump campaign, Jason Miller.
Ana, these senators, the -- President Bush, what do you think it means for your party?
[07:20:04] ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, I think -- I think we're in a difficult moment. I think we're in a -- in an existentialist moment for the Republican Party, where there's a lot of Republicans who don't agree.
A lot of times this was Donald Trump's tone more than policy. Because Jeff Flake is one of the most conservative members of the Senate and has been so his entire career. But he just cannot stomach the idea of remaining silent while watching Donald Trump not condemn white supremacists, attack a Gold Star mother, attack John McCain. He just can't stomach the silence and the complicity.
And so I think there's a lot of Republicans right now who are looking around and saying, "If this Republican Party is going to be defined by the Steve Bannons and the Donald Trumps, then we don't belong here."
And then there's the John McCain types who, you know, I identify with, who are going to fight till the dying breath, who are going to stay there, and they're going to carry the flag until the very last day.
So you know, part of me wants to understand the Jeff Flakes and wants to applaud them for standing true to principle and doing what they feel is right and what their -- what their heart is telling them to do.
But on the other hand, my question to him is, "Jeff, if you quit, if Corker quits, if all of you all quit, if the sane Republicans of the, you know, Republicans who carry a compromising tone, a civic tone, all leave the building, who the hell is left to fight for Republican values and American values? Who is left to defend the things that so many of us stand for?"
So on the one hand, I applaud Jeff Flake. On the other, I'm frustrated that people like him and Bob Corker are quitting the ghost (ph).
CUOMO: But, Jason, the president, some of his allies, see it as a win. They say, "Don't let the door hit you on your way out." You're the problem. You're the establishment. You're why people put us here. They don't care what you find to be acceptable, because they don't find you acceptable. How big is this for the president?
JASON MILLER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think this is getting construed a little bit -- a little bit incorrectly here, Chris. Really what this is about is the fact that Senator Flake was out of step with the Republican base. He supports allowing people to come to the U.S. and not honor our immigration policies.
He even said in his remarks yesterday that he's out of step or has different views on trade policies.
And there's no internal dilemma with the Republican Party. The Republican Party has already decided that they support the president's "America first" agenda. And, heck, it's not even just Republican primary voters.
I mean, take a look at Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, traditionally blue states where President Trump went in and won on these broader policies. I mean, the Republicans who have criticized the president over this past week, these Washington politicians have much different views on these issues.
And so, look, for Senator Flake, I mean, the thing he didn't say yesterday was the fact that he is down by more than 20 points in a Republican primary. And so he picked a fight and wanted to go and throw all these insults at the president. But what he didn't say was that he was a dead man walking electorally.
CUOMO: So, Ana, the argument is now, look, I mean, you can go with the numbers, Jason, you and I, and you can show that Corker, Flake, even Collins and Murkowski, they vote with the Trump agenda at least 80 percent of the time.
But your point is taken.
And his point is, Ana, that this battle has already been decided, and you lost. This is the new party. They don't like you people and what you're about and your force -- your false moral superiority. We want to get it done, and that's what Trump's about. If you don't like how he does it, too bad. NAVARRO: I would say to them careful what you wish for, because you
just may get it. You see, I don't know how you win elections by making a party smaller not bigger. I don't know how you win the popular vote ever. I don't know how you continue the majority in the House or the Senate if this becomes an ever smaller party, a more exclusive party, not more inclusive party.
And so if they lose that faction of the Republican Party that is represented by the John McCains and the George W. Bushes and the Bob Corkers and the Jeff Flakes of this world, you've got a smaller party. Maybe more ideologically pure and maybe more to the likeness of a Donald Trump or a Steve Bannon, but a smaller party nonetheless, making it that much more difficult to win elections and making it that much more difficult to pass legislation.
MILLER: More difficult to win elections, President Trump just won.
MILLER: The presidential one. But there's an important point.
CUOMO: Go ahead.
MILLER: There's an important point.
NAVARRO: But, Jason, there's a lot of states that he won by 10,000 votes or less.
MILLER: Hold on, Ana. The president did better than Mitt Romney did with African-American voters. He did better with Hispanic voters. He won traditionally blue Democratic states. He only lost union voting households 51 to 42, one of the closest margins for a Republican.
The Republican Party is changing. It's bringing in new people. It's a rejection of these Washington elites and the Washington politicians, the people who have given us $20 trillion in debt and a whole bunch of terrible policies. This is a new party.
[07:25:10] And so you're kind of making my point for me when you talk about these Washington politicians who are frustrated with the president is because they're out of step with what President Trump is trying to do to move our country forward.
CUOMO: Right, but Jason, just to the other part of the -- hold on a second, Ana. Answer the other part of the allegation.
You're arguing the nature of the new party. Fine, point taken. What about the numbers? The job for the president was always to grow. He cannot get above 40 percent. Do you just not believe those polls, or where do you see the growth that will allow him to take on somebody within his own party in a primary and to win in a general?
MILLER: I mean, Chris, I would again point you back to the numbers. I mean, President Trump won with a little more than 90 percent of the Republican vote this past year. He received a standing ovation from Republican senators yesterday. I mean, heck, even Mississippi Senator Roger Wicker was saying that Senator Corker's comments were very unhelpful.
I mean, folks realize that President Trump is very popular within the Republican Party. I just completely disagree with the whole premise of the question.
CUOMO: But you can disagree all you want. I'm saying the polls never put him above 40 even within his own party, and numbers are--
CUOMO: -- at best the average and usually below that in terms of acceptance within the party. You know the same numbers I do.
MILLER: Right, exactly. The exact same polls that all said that President Trump was going to lose last fall.
CUOMO: You know that's a specious argument. The polls weren't wrong. OK, the popular vote went the way it was supposed to. Who was going to win the Electoral College all the polls got wrong, true.
But you have to look at those popular vote numbers, as well. He lost the popular vote. His mandate was to grow his base. Do you see him growing that base?
MILLER: He is.
CUOMO: We don't see it in the numbers. Why isn't it reflected in the numbers?
MILLER: He is growing his base. That's what he talked about in growing the Republican base. That's what we talked about doing better with Hispanics, better with African-Americans, better than Democrats in union voting households.
And so to think that the polling community that was so wrong across the board this past fall has now magically gotten it right and that we should believe everything now--
CUOMO: But again, it's apples -- it's apples and bananas, my friend. Because on the popular vote, he lost. And that's what the poll predicted. On which states in the Electoral College, they got it wrong. But the margins were so small. Jason, you know all this.
I get that you're making a point to an audience that may not understand the numbers the way you do, but you know that this was very tight. Clinton didn't get her base out the way she was supposed to, and he won in some key states where they didn't put resources, and you were smart enough to do it. Good for you.
MILLER: He won -- he won because of this message that these Washington politicians did not like.
CUOMO: And that's the test. That will be tested now, because now we'll see. Now that he has a record that has to go with his message, we'll see how he does. But he's got a lot of time.
MILLER: Once we get tax cuts done, which I believe that we're going to, I think he's going to be even stronger--
CUOMO: Big "if."
MILLER: -- heading into next year and going forward.
CUOMO: Big "if." That will be the test. You're right, Jason. I'm sure Ana would agree with that. If he gets things done for the people who voted for him, he's in good shape. If he doesn't, that is going to rest on his words.
NAVARRO: It's going to be very -- it's going to be -- it's going to be increasingly hard for him to get anything done when you have got a two-vote majority in the Senate--
CUOMO: And you keep bashing your base. You keep bashing your senators.
NAVARRO: You have at least six Republican senators who can't stand the guy.
CUOMO: All right.
MILLER: We do need Republicans who ran as conservatives and got elected as conservatives to actually act as conservatives. We need them to get onboard with the tax cuts. You can have Susan Collins and other folks--
CUOMO: True, true.
MILLER: -- who I wouldn't put in the conservative category.
CUOMO: Well, she would argue with that. But look, the truth is they're going to have to be conservative, but you guys have to figure out what conservative means.
CUOMO: And we've got to go. We've got to go. We've got to go. We have Senator Jeff Flake coming in. I can't use time that we want to use with him. But thank you very much for laying this out. I appreciate it. We'll see what happens with taxes -- Alisyn.
CAMEROTA: Speaking of Jeff Flake, he, of course, gave that passionate speech yesterday, calling on Republicans to speak out against President Trump's behavior. President Trump has just tweeted about this. Senator Jeff Flake is going to join us live on all of it, next.