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President Trump's Approval Ratings Hitting a New Low; Interview with Chris Coons. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired October 30, 2017 - 06:30   ET


ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump's approval rating hitting a new low a new NBC news/Wall Street Journal poll has just 38 percent of Americans saying that they approve of the job that the President is doing. That is the lowest of any president in modern history at this stage in his presidency. Let's bring back John Avlon and Ron Brownstein. Ron --


CAMEROTA: -- Ron, help us crunch these numbers. Let me show you a few examples. This is among his approval, among whites. OK, so, in September, a month ago, it was 51 percent, now it's 47 percent. Among whites with no college degree in September it was 58 percent. Now it's 51 percent. What do you see?

BROWNSTEIN: Yes, that, that, that's a really important number, right? I mean, from the beginning the president has underperformed among college-educated whites. He won them only by only three points in the actual election after Romney had won them by 14, if you look at his approval rating relative to other republicans. That's where he's most conspicuously below them. He's only in the mid 30 among college whites. His base has been these blue-collar, working class white voters; economically strained, culturally conservative; won more of them than any candidate since Reagan since 1984.

Now, both the NBC Wallstreet Journal poll and the Fox poll put his approval among them down to around 50 percent, which is a significant decline from his vote and, I think, reflects partly the same thing that's hurting him with the white-collar whites, which is his demeanor, the way he's conducting himself as president, but it's also the hangover from the healthcare bill, which was deeply unpopular in working-class white America.

Trump got, as a candidate, that much of the modern Republican base are economically strained. Lower middle class white voters who actually like a government safety net as long as, I think, benefits them. He went down the road of trying to take away their benefits in the healthcare bill and he has paid a cost in his working class support.

They are hoping for the tax cut, in effect, to bring that back, but, as you know, all of the analyses is that it has very small benefits for people at the median income and below actually raises taxes on many people in the upper middle class primarily to give benefits to the corporations and those at the top. JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I look; I think policy has some impact when you break down these issues. People are aware of of things like the the Puerto Puerto Rico --

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: -- Especially in a job approval poll. It's not a personal approval poll.

AVLON: That, that, that's right. But I don't want to overstate how much policy drives these approval ratings because what it also is is now we have someone who has been president for over nine months, people have a sense, and if they believed that they were getting a charismatic executive who would really show business savvy, problem solver. They got the economy is doing well but the problem solver side's totally MIA because he seems to be a problem creator. And there's a degree of embarrassment that's coming and the key number for me is independent voters at 34 percent. That's a really bad number.

BROWNSTEIN: One thing to note about these approvals is that, as John is kind of alluding to, it's at a point where the economy is doing very well. I mean you look at the external conditions this is when a president should be, you know, well above, at 50 percent or above. It's hard to get well above when you're in modern America --

CUOMO: -- Except for one thing. It's it's it's doing well; it's doing well for the people at this table, thank God. --


CUOMO: -- The people who put him in office --


CUOMO: -- It's not doing well. It hasn't been doing well, and that was his promise. And so look, I think that what you see in these numbers and talking to number crunchers over the weekend is it he gets taxes done, he's got a big trampoline effect on this job approval because he would have --

BROWNSTEIN: -- I agree.

CUOMO: -- But he would have delivered something alright, so take the other side. Why?

BROWNSTEIN: I think, I think, look, first of all, I mean they're probably going to, yes, it's better than alternative. It is better than not passing the taxes. But if you're talking about voters in white working class America who are the core of his base, feeling that their economic situation is not improving, they are skeptical of the tax cut in the early polling.

CUOMO: How do we know?

BROWNSTEIN: In all all of the polling, I mean, you know whether they believe it will benefit them, or people above them, on the income ladder; whether they think it will be beneficial for the economy if the deficit goes up. I mean the fact is, we talked about this before, the president has shown he can dominate the news cycle. We read all of his tweets. What he has not shown is that he can move public opinion on an issue that he is trying to (INAUDIBLE). The healthcare bill --

CUOMO: -- But if he declares tax cuts, and they say everybody gets a tax cut, why won't that help him?

BROWNSTEIN: Because because not everybody believes it. And that is a problem for presidents in both parties. People don't believe you're cutting their taxes (INAUDIBLE).

AVLON: Well, first of all, we need to see what the actual bill is, right? But I think the fundamental problem is that if the bill looked like what Donald Trump has been promising, a middle class tax cut, that didn't necessarily cut taxes on the wealthy but, cut corporate taxes and had that approach and maybe even closed some deduction loopholes for the hedge funds. I think it would be popular with the base. It would actually have that trampoline affect Ron's talking about. But, if it is really geared towards top earners and already wealthy that is going to increase resentment and a sense of betrayal, I believe.

BROWNSTEIN: Even with a decline in the white working class numbers, the biggest risk for republicans in 2018 is the disaffection in white- collar white America and these are voters who are kind of don't like the way Trump's approach demeanor they don't think he's he's had the temperament they want to see in their president. In this tax bill they are taking an enormous gamble on those voters

because they are removing some of the tax breaks they most depend on including the state local tax deduction and potentially 401k limiting severely limiting the retirement saving.

I mean you are taking the voters who are most culturally alienated from Trump and you are kind of hitting them potentially economically to the point where incredibly tax policy center said, I know Paul Ryan disputes this, "60 percent of all families between 150 and 350k, the upper middle class, would have increased taxes under this bill." That is a lot of of bricks on the load.

CAMEROTA: Here's one thing that we know and that is the National Association of Home Builder's, which had been a key ally, are have come out against it because they're worried about either the mortgage deduction going away or the state and local tax deduction going away which of course would hurt home sales so they are quite concerned and have expressed this to congress and now congress is maybe rethinking what what we we're going to see in this.

AVLON: Which which shows how dynamic this is. That is a big deal. That is a major lobbying group. It seems to speak for many folks in middle America, but obviously it's self-interested. I think removing the mortgage deduction would be devastating to to some folks of middle class and upper middle class families. But, but so that's a big deal in the ongoing scrum to get a final deal done.

CAMEROTA: Got it. Gentlemen, thank you very much for (INAUDIBLE).

CUOMO: Right, so, this is an investigation we have to follow. Two navy SEALs are being looked at in the murder of an Army Green Beret. We have a live report from the Pentagon. Where was this? Why is it seen this way? We have answers next.


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: A powerful storm knocked out power to more than a million customers in the North East. CNN Meteorologist Chad Myers has the forecast. How did this happen? What does it mean for things to come?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGISTS: It means that we could have had a big snow storm if this was January. I guess that's the good news that it didn't happen with a snow event, but wind and rain knocked down power for a lot of people.


ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: That looks good Chad. Thank you very much. So Puerto Rico's power authority is moving to scrap a $300 million contract with Montana based Whitefish Energy. It was supposed to rebuild power lines destroyed after Hurricane Maria.

The no-bid contract has come under intense scrutiny after FEMA said they did not approve the Whitefish contract. Whitefish Energy is located in the small hometown of President Trump's Interior Secretary, Ryan Zinke. The White House and Zinke both said they had no role in awarding this contract. Puerto Rico's governor will join us live in our next hour to talk about all of this.

CUOMO: Naval officials confirming to CNN that two Navy Seals are under investigation in connection with the murder of an Army Green Beret in Mali. CNN's Barbara Starr live at the Pentagon with details. Mali, what do we know about that and why this is being investigated?

BARBARA STARR, CNN COORESPONDENT: Good morning Chris. So this happened in the West African nation of Mali back in June. The Pentagon has never publically disclosed it. The "New York Times" breaking that story.

CNN now able to confirm, in fact, now naval investigators, criminal investigators are looking into the death of Staff Sergeant Logan Melgar. He is a Green Beret that was serving with the U.S. Embassy in the West African nation of Mali, found dead back in June.

The Army turned the investigation over to the Navy, a clear sign that Navy personnel are under investigation after a military coroner ruled his death a homicide. His wife has been notified of this investigation we are told. But what exactly happened remains the murder mystery at this point.

Two Navy Seals under investigation for it. We simply don't know was there some sort of personal altercation between the men. Was it some sort of military hazing incident, if you will? No public acknowledgement yet of exactly what happened. This all remains very much under investigation. Alisyn?

CAMEROTA: This is bizarre, Barbara. Thank you for the reporting. Please keep us posted on this.

So there's this waiting game happening in Washington. The first arrest in Robert Mueller's investigation could come as early as today. What does this mean for the Russia investigations? Next.


CUOMO: All right, sources tell CNN the first arrest in Special Counsel Bob Mueller's Russia investigation could come as soon as today. Why? Well because we know that there are sealed indictments and usually action on them comes soon after they are presented.

So, joining us now is Democratic Senator Chris Coons of Delaware. He's a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and one of the Congressional Panels investigating, of course, Russia's election meddling.

Senator, as always, thank you for joining us.

CHRIS COONS, DELEWARE DEMOCRATIC SENATOR: Thank you Chris. Good to be on with you again.

CUOMO: So would you like to squash this expectation that because there are sealed indictments, we could see action as soon as today?

COONS: No Chris, I don't know who has been indicted. I don't know when special counsel Mueller might act on or might execute indictments if they've been handed down and I think that's appropriate.

This should remain sealed and we'll just have to wait for developments later today or this week. Typically in a large complex federal criminal investigation or an ongoing investigation that is into a range of sensitive matters such as the one Robert Mueller is leading. They begin at the bottom and work their way up. And they will go for indictments typically against more junior figures in order to try and coerce more senior figures to cooperate with them and in order to move an investigation forward.

Compared to your typical large federal investigation, this ones moved fairly quickly ...

CUOMO: Yes, it has. He started presenting in July, just for people's context, he started presenting to the grand jury in July and now you're getting an indictment. That's certainly not slow by more cases that I've looked at in the past.

COONS: That's really fast for an investigation of this scale and size.

CUOMO: Right. And, you know, you are right, again, historically, although we don't have a lot of precedent with this type of investigation. The small fish to big fish is the normal pattern with really when I was eyebrow popping this weekend everybody saying Manafort, Flynn, Manafort, Flynn, Manafort, Flynn.

But if you're going to start small there are a lot of other people that could lead them into those two gentlemen maybe it doesn't have to deal with those two guys.

COONS: That's right. There's apparently been some investigations into money laundering, into real estate deals, into complex financial transactions and that's just a guess on my part based on who has been hired to join Robert Mueller's team and join based on reports about who's been seen coming and joining from the grand jury room.

We have no visibility into this investigation in the Senate and I think that's what's appropriate.

CUOMO: The fact that they're sealed, what do you make of that?

COONS: I think that's also typical practice in a federal investigation in order to make it possible for investigators to arrange for a handover of someone who is going into custody or to make sure that they don't get advanced notice that they're about to be arrested to prevent document destruction or witness tampering.

You mentioned two names that have been widely discussed, Paul Manafort, President Trump's campaign manager, Mike Flynn, former General Flynn. His first national security advisor. Both of them have been subject to fairly significant questioning. Both by panels in the Senate and House and by the Robert Mueller investigations.

So, they are very likely names to be on the short list but there's a number of other figures involved in this wide scale investigation.

CUOMO: Right, and again I'm just putting those names out there because we've been hearing them. I would not be surprised if it doesn't involve either of those gentlemen from my digging over the weekend and before. All right, so, let's switch topics while I have you Senator.

Full disclosure, you know, we've been pounding on the authorization of use of military force. I think it is an objective truth -


CUOMO: ... that Congress has punted (ph) on this duty for administrations after administrations. OK. So I say administrations on purpose because obviously it's about the military aspect, the political aspect. There's a lot when you go from Bush to Obama to Trump. And now, here we are once again where you guys don't really know what is going on around the world.

That could be blamed on the executive but it's really you job to demand that they come in present the case and you vote consistent with the constitutional authority to declare war. And that's what it is when you put blood and treasure on the line and people don't come home. You're making war. What is your take on what begins today in terms of this debate and these hearings and where should it go for Congress.

COONS: Well, Chris, later today Secretary Mattis and Secretary Tillerson the Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense will appear in front of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to debate why we need an authorization for the use of military force. I feel strongly that 16 years after the Congress authorized the 2001 so called AUMF our declaration of war against those based in Afghanistan who attacked New York and the United States on 9/11 that we have gone far a field from the scope of that initial authorization.

Most of the members of Congress today weren't even in Congress in 2001 and I don't think it was easy to image that we would someday lose American soldiers in the battlefield against ISIS in a country called Mali in West Africa based on an attack that was launched in 2001 from Afghanistan thousands of miles away.

I do think this is an urgent job on the behalf of the United States Senate. I'm looking forward to these hearings today. As you know, Chris, I've been very active in African policy.


COONS: I've been to Mali, I've been to Nigeria, I've been to Chad, I led a congressional delegation to go visit Northern Nigeria in August. Most of my colleagues I think should be paying more attention to the roughly 20 countries in Africa where we have some U.S. troops. Some in very small groups, some in very large groups deployed to fight terrorism across that continent.

CUOMO: Right. And that's why when Schumer and Graham came out and said well yes I didn't even know how many guys were in this year, that's on your guys. That's not about the executive not telling you enough. Why would they tell you? You're not curious about it. They know you've punted (ph) on your duty to this. Of course the executive is going to take authority that you guys give it but it's on you.

And I really hope, Senator, you have been active in this part of the world, in Africa and what's going on there.

I hope you guys jump up and down about this, I really do. You guys are not shy when it comes to putting your flag in the ground. This matters if you support the troops support their mission. You know advice and assist we know now with what we saw in Niger.

It's not an accurate assessment of what these men and women are up against in the field so we're going to follow this very closely. Senator, thank you for being on New Day on a Monday morning especially; appreciate it.

COONS: Thank you Chris. Allison, thank you.

CAMEROTA: The first charges filed, now the first arrest on in Mueller's Russia investigation could come as early as today. We discuss the political fallout next.


CUOMO: The first arrest in Bob Mueller's Russia investigation could happen as early as today.

(VIDEO CLIP) MALE: It's important to emphasize that whatever it is, is really just the beginning.

FEMALE: I have not yet seen any definitive evidence of collusion.

MALE: That's been a side show, as something develops that's more serious, yep we'll take up some space.

MALE: It's not a side show.