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President Trump Makes Controversial Remark at Event for Native American Veterans; Interview with Former White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci; Interview with Richard Cordray. Aired 8- 8:30a ET

Aired November 28, 2017 - 08:00   ET


[08:00:00] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump is going to head up to Capitol Hill. He's going to rally skeptical Republicans. That's the plan. The Senate budget committee is going to vote today to advance that plan or it's going to be stuck. How will two of the biggest GOP opponents, they're on that committee, how are they going to vote today?

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Meanwhile, President Trump is under fire for using a racial term to attack a political foe at a White House ceremony honoring a group of Native American war heroes. Listen to this.


DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You were here long before any of us were here, although we have a representative in Congress who they say was here a long time ago. They call her Pocahontas.


CAMEROTA: The backdrop for this Oval Office event is also raising questions about the president's sensitivity and judgment, and we'll get to all of that, but not to Chris.

CUOMO: Joining us now to discuss this controversy and the state of play in government is Anthony Scaramucci, the former White House communications director.

ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, FORMER WHITE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Just this particular controversy. Go ahead, Chris. How are you, man? Good to see you.

CUOMO: It is good to see you. Il figlio prodigo torna.


CUOMO: The prodigal son is back. Where you have been?

SCARAMUCCI: I've been doing a little speaking. I've been out on the road, obviously working on closing my deal with SkyBridge, and that's it. Been fun. CUOMO: How do you feel about what you see coming out of the White

House and the general state of play in this nation?

SCARAMUCCI: Listen, I think the president is doing a very good job. I am not here as a Trump loyalist. I am just here looking at it objectively. The economy is booming, the unemployment numbers are fantastic, you're getting middle class and lower income wage growth. If you look at the last two quarter prints, that's the first time in about 11 years that you have seen that kind of wage growth and that kind of activity, so I think all of those things are positive.

I think he's mired down in his legislative agenda because of what I call the political establishment on both sides giving him a hard time, which, I'm hoping, he will figure out a way creatively to break that log jam.

CUOMO: How much of it is of his doing, not so much what is happening, but how he's doing, the battles he takes on, the way he speaks?

SCARAMUCCI: I would say all of it is on his own doing, but not the way you guys say it. All of it is his own doing because he's a disruptive, entrepreneurial figure who has literally crashed down the gate in Washington, knocked down the barricade of the permanent political classes, so they're super upset with him because of that. And so they are recalcitrant and they are resistant to the moves that he's trying to make because they don't like his style.

But I think if you look at the content that he's delivered on for the American people for the last 10, 11 months, it has been exemplary. Also you don't give him enough credit for what is going on in North Korea. There's envoys there from China. Not giving him enough credit for the understanding of what is going on in the Iranian situation. I just got back from a four-and-a-half day in Israel. I went down to the areas in Israel by the Gaza ship, a city called Sderot where they are shooting rockets into Israel, 10,000 rockets have been shot into Israel over the last ten years. They have got the iron dome set up there that's blocking about 95 percent of them, but this is all sponsored by terrorists emanating from Iran. And so --

CUOMO: So while you were there, I know you have good contacts. Did anybody express concern that the president revealed classified information that he was given by Israeli defense which they feel leads back to Iran?

SCARAMUCCI: Yes, listen, and I remember that situation and that kerfuffle.

CUOMO: Kerfuffle?

SCARAMUCCI: But I don't think they have any concern related to that. if anything I think that they're with great relief that they see a super strong friend in the White House.

CUOMO: You don't think they were concerned that he revealed classified information?


CUOMO: Answer that part of it.

SCARAMUCCI: I don't. I don't. I think that what happened in the White House at that moment and whatever that information was, I think it's irrelevant to the longer term strengthening of the alliance that they have gotten with him, vis-a-vis the last president. But let me just finish. He's the first president in U.S. history to actually visit pray at the western wall. So we have to get the information out there cleanly and we've got to get the information out there objectively about the president.

CUOMO: But the reason I'm talking about how he does the job is because it winds up being a great distraction, sometimes at his own direction, sometimes despite maybe his intentions. We look at what's on the plate right now, what happened with the Pocahontas thing, with Elizabeth Warren, in front of Navajo Native Americans who were there to celebrate, with Andrew Jackson overlooking the ceremony. Is this something that you would have suggested he do?

SCARAMUCCI: Listen, that's the president's style. It's a little shock jockey. And listen, I think it's the style that got him elected. I don't think he would be in the Oval Office if he didn't have that style.

CUOMO: You think people voted him because he will use a racial slur against one of his opponents?

SCARAMUCCI: No. I think people voted for him because he has expressed a level of the discontent about the current order of operations inside of Washington, and I think he has used that kind of style and that kind of delivery system --

CUOMO: What does that is to do with calling her Pocahontas?

SCARAMUCCI: I think that she's been nasty to him, and he's been nasty to her.

CUOMO: You won't let your kids operate that way but you are going to say it's OK for the president? You're not in there anymore. You can be honest.

SCARAMUCCI: I'm being honest. You've been victims of racial slurring because of your ethnic heritage. So have it. What do you do in a situation like that? This is what I do. See that. That's what you do. And you have to do that. At the end of the day, we're getting little bit too micromanaging with each other's languages, and the whole political correctness movement, I think most people in general are tired of that. You are, I am. Maybe you are not, I don't know, you work at CNN. But I'm totally tired of it.

CUOMO: Save me your cheap shots. The president of the United States uses a racial slur --

SCARAMUCCI: It wasn't really that cheat. It was an expensive shot.

CUOMO: My standard would have started higher, but I'm giving you a discount off the bat. Expensive issue, that comment, not so much.

What I am saying is this -- we demand better from a president. He's supposed to be a standard setter. You know this. If you heard this from the other side you would call it out.

SCARAMUCCI: OK, so I actually disagree. I have heard so many things from the other side, and one of the funnest things from my 11 day inside the White House was someone sent me a clip of all the late- night comedians. You want to talk about cheap shots, most of them were ethnic slurs and most of them were racially charged attacks on me.

CUOMO: They are comedians. They're jokers. They're not president of the United States.

SCARAMUCCI: I understand all of that, but my point is I don't see it as such of a big deal as perhaps you do or --

CUOMO: Source matters.

SCARAMUCCI: You say source matters. I also think that results matter. I think the American people by and large are looking at a booming economy, they are looking at rising wages, and I think there's a sense of optimism. Even Goldman Sachs, my former company I worked at 21 years ago, talking about 2018 being even better --

CUOMO: They have every reason to feel that way. They're going to get their taxes cut.

SCARAMUCCI: That's good.

CUOMO: He's trying to get rid of Dodd-Frank. The bankers have every reason to feel good about this. I'm just saying. You haven't done this in a while, and you're off your game. I'll give you an easy one. The "Access Hollywood" tape, is it authentic? Is it real? Did it happen?

SCARAMUCCI: I think it was real. Do we have -- I mean, again, I've been away, so is it confirmed that the president said that it wasn't real?

CUOMO: He has reportedly been telling people he questions the authenticity of it, and when the White House was asked about it, they didn't say he never said that, he doesn't think that. Sarah Sanders shifted away.

SCARAMUCCI: I will go back to the president on October 7th, which was a fateful day in our campaign where he gave his apology. And I think he said -- I don't remember it 100 percent, he said in the taped remarks that he said it, he acknowledged it, and he offered his apology.

CUOMO: He absolutely did.

SCARAMUCCI: So I will go back to that. That's what I remember.

CUOMO: Then why question the authenticity now?

SCARAMUCCI: You are saying he is questioning it and you're saying you've got sources, I have not talked to the president specifically related to that, so I don't know if he is questioning it or not.

CUOMO: Would you counsel him to question its authenticity?

SCARAMUCCI: I would say let's go back to the original tape that was cut, and I will tell you it was cut on the fifth floor of Trump Tower at 11:50 p.m. in that little studio that we used to call into you from. So I would say let that go. We have so many big problems in the country. We can focus on those things. I think that's one of the things I learned about Washington, Chris, that I honestly did not like. We focus on all these petite micro-aggressions, we focus on all of these scandals. If Secretary Clinton were president right now there would be a big scandal and special prosecutor related to her emails and all this other nonsense. We are doing it from both sides. My thing is we should probably stop doing that and focus on serving the American people.

CUOMO: When you were in there, Anthony, you brought a sensibility that you have on your outside life. People can judge you any way you want. I have known you for a long time. Telling the truth matters. It just does because I can't trust you on any level when I think you are going to BS me. It's different. So the reason you can't let it go because this is a big fat lie, this "Access Hollywood" is inauthentic, we should question it. It's a lie, it's done to deceive, it's done to affect the minds of a certain part of the population, it's cheap and its' unnecessary. And if he will lie about this, what else will he lie about that matters, and that's why you must call it out.

[08:10:09] SCARAMUCCI: I hear you --

CUOMO: You would not do this, by the way. If you were at Sanders' podium, you would not do this. You would not stand up there and say that's not the issue. The issue is people voted already. You wouldn't do that. Go ahead.

SCARAMUCCI: Sarah is doing a great job.

CUOMO: By what measure?

SCARAMUCCI: By so many different measures. She's got a wonderful personality.

CUOMO: You think she tells the truth?

SCARAMUCCI: I think she does the best of her ability to tell the truth but also to protect the president. And so I think that there's a fine line to draw --

CUOMO: Hold on a second. Hold on a second, because these things matter. She does the best to tell the truth while also protecting the president. SCARAMUCCI: Absolutely. The president has to be -- that press

secretary is unfortunately for her she's like a hockey goalie. I only had a chance to do it one time, but the shots are coming in on net super hard, and she's doing everything she can to block as many shots as possible. There's a lot of confidential operation that she has made privy to that she has to protect the president from getting that information out there. She also has to deliver messaging on behalf of the entire administration. And frankly I think she's doing an A-plus job. I have an enormous amount of respect for her. And I miss working with her, frankly. I think she's great.

CUOMO: And her personality aside, because I'm not assailing her personality, there is a constant stream of deception that comes from that podium. She either uses misdirection or she just misstates things, and you will call that, what, protecting the president? What about protecting the American people? That's who she works for.

SCARAMUCCI: First of all, I probably have a couple accomplishments in the 22 -- Sarah and I sat together and turned the lights back on, and I think Sarah and I would agree, and I hope she would agree with me saying this here on the air is that it's super important for the fourth estate to have an opportunity to cross rough the White House. Obviously in a democracy you need to check power because we both know what happens to people, they get power, they can get a little crazy.

So I think she's done a very good job of opening up the White House, speaking from the podium in my opinion very truthfully. I haven't seen every single press conference. You are probably micro-analyzing it closer than me, but I think it's a super tough job. I think it's impossible -- if you were at the podium, I was at the podium, I think it's a super tough job to please everybody in the room, but by and large she's doing a very good job.

CUOMO: One of the things that happens on a fairly consistent basis is something that you said was wrong, which is attacking the media, attacking the First Amendment, trying to curtail and abridge that freedom, calling an entire news organization like CNN fake because you don't like the coverage. You had said that was a mistake. They have doubled down on it in your absence.

SCARAMUCCI: I maintain that. I'm not inside the room anymore, but I maintain that for me I don't see -- we're winning. The president is winning. You just look at the economic data from the economy, you can just look at the progress that's being made on behalf of the American people. And again, what he's not getting enough credit for is his situation as it relates to our foreign relationships. And so for me I would rather let the results speak for themselves. Bill Parcells had a great line about head coaching --

CUOMO: Former coach of the Giants.

SCARAMUCCI: Former coach of the Giants. He said, look, let my record speak for itself. The president has a very good record. I think where he's not doing as well as he would like to be do something is on the legislative side, but unfortunately he can't really do that much. Given the way the system is set up and our republic is set up, he has to deal with the Congress. And so my guess is because he's a brilliant entrepreneur, he will innovate and he'll figure out a way to get his legislative agenda passed. But if I was sitting in the room, I would say, hey, guys, who cares? I know the president likes knocking you guys. You know, you probably don't like it. I think some of the American people find it enjoyable. But at the end of the day --

CUOMO: I actually find it kind of amusing to be honest.

SCARAMUCCI: So you like it, too.

CUOMO: No, I don't like it. I think it's cheap, I think it's beneath the presidency, but I don't know it hurts us, so there's no real reason to feel any sense of umbrage.

SCARAMUCCI: I don't know if it hurts you either, Chris, but the point is you asked me the question and I'll answer it declaratively. We've got a winning team. There's a winning strategy. Let's just focus on the winning --

CUOMO: If he's winning so much, why are his poll numbers in the toilet?

SCARAMUCCI: Well, what are his poll numbers right now?

CUOMO: Mid-30s.


CUOMO: Even his numbers within the party are on the historically low side.

SCARAMUCCI: OK, but you say that, and he was always polling at lower numbers than people than he actually achieved during the presidential campaign.

CUOMO: It's different in the campaign versus now. Now he's being judged on what he does, not just what he says.

[08:15:01] SCARAMUCCI: I understand that. Let me just finish. The elections happen once very four years. He's raising record amounts of money at the Republican Party level. When he runs for re-election, he will have probably a billion to a billion and a half dollar war chest.

And I think as the evidence of his economic agenda and his other things play out, I think that he'll go well over 50 percent, and he'll win a re-election.

CUOMO: I thought he didn't want to play that money game?

SCARAMUCCI: Now, where are you going with that?

CUOMO: You said the big war chest. What does he need that for? I thought he thought that game was dirty. He didn't want to be in the amassing of campaign wealth. SCARAMUCCI: Hold on a second. So, now, you and I will have to acknowledge and give him a huge compliment, I think he won the election. I knew these numbers better last year, but we were 2.3 times -- she had 2.3 times more people than we did. I think she outspent us 2 to 1, and he won the election.

So, I think he -- if you are making the point that he can deliver with less personnel --

CUOMO: I am saying money in the business is bad, then why would he be amassing a war chest?

Last question --

SCARAMUCCI: Because he's running for re-election. Every smart politician does that. You're --

CUOMO: But he said he's not a politician. He said he's better than that. He said the money was dirty. He said he wouldn't do it that way, and you're just saying he is going back on those types --


SCARAMUCCI: No, no, no, you are trying to call him out as a hypocrite and I am trying to call him out as a smart guy that's involved into the presidency.

CUOMO: People can decide what the fact suggests.

SCARAMUCCI: This is a lot of fun. I sort of miss this, man. I'm glad you got me --


CUOMO: And you know who else should miss it? The president. And that's my last question. You are a good advocate for the president and his positions.


CUOMO: How often are you in contact? Is the president reaching out to use the Mooch?

SCARAMUCCI: No, I've talked to him a few times since I left. I'm not going to bother him, he's the president of the United States. I'm trying to think the last -- I spoke to him last week and wished him a happy Thanksgiving.

Listen, I got -- look, we started out as friends. It's politics. The decision to fire me, I accepted like a man. I'm not a whiner.

I think -- you know, you play competitive sports. I play competitive sports. There's no whining in sports and politics. It is what it is.

I served at the president's leisure, when it came time for him or John Kelly to decide I wasn't going to be serving anymore, that's their prerogative. I had no problem with that.

CUOMO: It's good to know you are still in touch. The president needs good heads around him. Anthony Scaramucci, you are always welcome on this show.

SCARAMUCCI: I appreciate it, Chris. Good to be back. I fulfilled my campaign pledge there. See that? I said I would come back and --

CUOMO: You did, and it took longer than I expected.

SCARAMUCCI: Yes, well, I have to travel around a little bit.

CUOMO: It's all right. The best for the holidays to you and your family.

SCARAMUCCI: Thank you. Merry Christmas.

CUOMO: Alisyn?

CAMEROTA: OK, Chris, let's talk all the news of the day. We want to bring in CNN political analysts, Jonathan Martin and Josh Green.

Gentlemen, great to have you.

Josh, I don't know if you were just listening to that. Where would you like to begin? Do you want to talk about the Pocahontas slur and everything that we have seen with the president?

JOSHUA GREEN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I didn't think it was a very vigorous defense of the president from Scaramucci. It almost seemed low energy. But he's on a difficult position of having to defend a racial slur like Pocahontas, especially the context in which it was delivered yesterday, while honoring Native American veterans. So, I think Scaramucci had a tough chore in that interview.

CAMEROTA: And, Jonathan, I mean, what he said to Chris was we all felt it, we're Italians and you have to brush it off, it's that simple.

JONATHAN MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, look, I think Scaramucci -- you could always see it happening in real time is trying to be honest because he prides himself as being a straight shooter, and trying to be honest about his view of the president's shortcomings, and if he and Chris were talking in the green room right now, he would be more candid about his view's of the president's shortcomings and he kind of edged towards it in the interview.

But he's not going to go all the way. Why? Because he wants to keep his access open to the president. He knows the president watches a lot of TV and he doesn't want to blister President Trump on the air so he can keep his contacts.

So, he's trying to walk a line about being honest about the reality of how he views the world and what is plain to see, and at the same time not going too far and slighting a president who for all we know is watching right now. CUOMO: Look, there's value in the testing of positions that reflect

the minds around the president.


CUOMO: Anthony Scaramucci is unique in many ways. He is not unique in terms of his disposition and his perception of how the president is doing and why he does what he does. That's why it's important to test, because, Josh, the rationals fall away under scrutiny. There is no good reason to call Elizabeth Warren Pocahontas that doesn't wind up in, well, you know, tit-for-tat, she said what she said, he's a president of the United States.

"The Access Hollywood", well, it's a small thing, you got to let it go -- no, lying matters.

So, that's why the testing matters, because these are positions that are held by other people in power, who are supporting this president.

[08:20:06] GREEN: Well, I think that's right and I think why you saw Scaramucci squirm in that interview to the degree that he did. You know, the other problem that you guys didn't get to is all of this comes at a political cost for the president who right now, I think, is focused on trying to pass tax reform. He's going up to the Hill today. The fate of the bill is very much in limbo in exerting presidential leadership could really make the difference in whether or not it moves forward.

Instead, here we are with a noted Indian affairs expert like Anthony Scaramucci talking about the president's Pocahontas comment, which can't be helpful to the Republicans ambitions on the Hill today.

CAMEROTA: Well, let's talk about that, Jonathan. So, what's the president's style? When he goes to Capitol Hill in a few hours, he's going to roll up his sleeve and he's going to try to persuade the ten lawmakers who are on the fence? I mean, what are we going to see happen today?

MARTIN: Well, this is eerily similar to the health care debate, where you got a president who would tweet and try to nudge law makers along, but never really delving too deeply into the actual details of the bill, and certainly never being proficient enough to negotiate with the individual holdouts about what their concerns are. He would rather stay at 20,000 feet, and 20,000 feet can be charitable there.

And what's also striking and similar, guys, about this bill and the health care debate is the fact that once again, we're talking about a handful of GOP holdouts who could make or break the bill. What is not in the conversation, which to me is extraordinary, is where are the red state Senate Democrats, senators who represent states that the president won last year by ten points or more who, by the way, are facing re-election next year in red states? They apparently are not scared at all. They don't fear the president's wrath, because they're happy to vote against the bill.

CUOMO: It's also because what -- MARTIN: They're not even in the conversation --

CUOMO: Well, there's a good reason and bad reason for that, right? The bad reason is that the Democrats are coming together as an opposition party and that's something they will have to rationalize to their voters.

But there's a good reason also, which is the president gave them cover.


CUOMO: The proposition to get the votes over the line to Alisyn's question is we're all, you know, in bad trouble if we don't do this. If we don't do this, we all lose. That's powerful medicine because it happens to be true.

The other reason is, the president is going to be exposed as not being for the middle class, and not being a populist, and not being a little guy when this tax cut goes through. And that will give cover to the Democrats, because even in red states, they will say, look, I'm for you, but I'm for the group the president said he was for, J. Mart, but he isn't, because by any analysis, this tax cut is good for people like Cuomo and Camerota, not for you, the people he was supposed to for.

MARTIN: But, Chris, that underscores the failure, frankly, in salesmanship that they could not sell this bill more effectively. Use the bully pulpit to really, you know, rattle senators like Heidi Heitkamp from North Dakota, Claire McCaskill from Missouri, Jon Tester from Montana -- these are red states the president carried them overwhelmingly the last year. The president, by the way, stumped in some of these states in the last few months, and pointedly invoked these senators by name, Joe Donnelly in Indiana, and saying we want your vote on this, and if not, dot, dot, dot, and here we are on the eve of this vote and those senators don't feel threatened at all. That's remarkable.

CAMEROTA: OK. Jonathan Martin, Josh Martin, thank you very much for these snap analysis.

Joining us tonight -- please join us, I should say, we have a CNN debate on tax reform. Jake Tapper and Dana Bash will moderate a debate with these senators, Bernie Sanders, Ted Cruz, Tim Scott and Maria Cantwell. That's at 9:00 p.m. Eastern.

CUOMO: Here's -- if you are going to do the drinking game to that debate tonight, the word I would pick is rigged, because you're going to hear Bernie Sanders use Trump's word against him again and again, and say that this tax bill is rigged to help the upper class and not the middle class.

All right. Confusion inside the nation's top consumer watchdog agency. We still don't know who gets the parking space. Which one of these two people is the boss? It's going to be a legal battle. It's going to take time. The man who that set off the battle joins us next.


[08:22:35] CUOMO: A leadership showdown at the nation's top consumer agency. Two people say they are in charge. You got an Obama-era official suing President Trump over his pick of budget director, Mick Mulvaney.

Joining us now is the man who prompted the shakeup with this resignation, Richard Cordray, the former head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Thank you for joining us, sir.


CUOMO: The obvious question, who wins? Who should be the head?

CORDRAY: Well, I think it's clear in the law which says that the director of the agency, and that was me as of Friday, has the right and the duty to pick a deputy director. I did that. It's Leandra English.

And then it says that the deputy director shall serve as acting director when the director is unavailable as for example through a vacancy which happened when I resigned Friday night at midnight. So I believe Leandra English is the acting director, the Trump administration has a different view and they're citing a different statute.

At best, these two statutes are in conflict with one another, and so, it's in front of a court, and the court took it home overnight to think about it further because it is a serious legal question, as the court said yesterday, and that's where it will be hashed out.

CUOMO: Why create a situation like this? Why make it so the president has to prove that he has the executive authority to decide who runs one of his agencies? That's something that's always been assumed. It seems as though there might be a tinge of political brinksmanship here?

CORDRAY: Well, first of all, the law says that the director shall appoint a deputy director --

CUOMO: Right.

CORDRAY: So I felt obliged to fulfill that duty on my way out the door to make sure that was taking care off.

Second and important point in these cases, this is set up to be by design an independent federal agency, very similar to the Federal Reserve. In fact, it's in the government organizational chart, it's part of the Federal Reserve. If Janet Yellen resigned, the notion that Donald Trump would be able

to appoint somebody that he controls to manage monetary policy at the Federal Reserve I think people would find very strange. This is also an independent agency.

So, what we are talking about, Chris, is an interim situation here, not a permanent situation, it's an interim situation. During that period, the independence of the agency should be preserved and that's part of what is at issue in the court case.

CUOMO: What do you make of the criticism that you did this to frustrate the president?

CORDRAY: Well, I think you do the things you do as part of carrying out your mission as an agency and our mission is to protect consumers, that's what I've been working on for the last six years, and it's an important mission.