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New Book Raises Questions on Trump's Mindset; December Jobs Report Posted 148,000; The Trump Russia Investigation; Aired 8:30-9a ET
Aired January 5, 2018 - 08:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[08:30:00] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: When somebody gets tagged, the hands go down, the style is gone, and they revert to their basic selves. That's what he's doing.
DAVID DRUCKER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: And -- yes.
CUOMO: And nobody is going to be able to convince him not to be himself, this is who he's always been.
DRUCKER: No. That is true, and part of it is because I don't really think he had a plan to begin with. He, himself, has said he's very instinctive that he operates on his gut. That is how he's most comfortable.
JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes.
DRUCKER: He's most comfortable in chaos. He has had periodically some good moments during the first year of his presidency.
DRUCKER: The first speech to Congress, et cetera. He always follows it up by instigating chaos and instigating tumult.
DRUCKER: It's where he's most comfortable. And look, I don't shrink anybody, but when you're 71 years old and you won the presidency, you don't change because you don't think you have to on top of it.
AVLON: No. But no one should be surprised, as Jeb Bush said during the campaign. He's a chaos candidate and he'll be a chaos president, and here we are.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: All right, gentlemen. Thank you very much, John Avlon and David Drucker.
CUOMO: All right. Much more about what "Fire and Fury" author, Michael Wolff, says that he learned firsthand about the president's capacity for the job, next.
[08:35:03] CAMEROTA: Michael Wolff, the author of that White House tell-all "Fire and Fury," says 100 percent of the people that he talked to around the president do not think the president is fit for office.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: According to your reporting, everyone around the president, senior advisers, family members, every single one of them questions his intelligence and fitness for office.
MICHAEL WOLFF, AUTHOR, "FIRE AND FURY": Let me put a marker in the sand here, 100 percent of the people around him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: OK. Here to discuss all of this our editor-at-large of the "Weekly Standard," Bill Kristol, and former George W. Bush political director Matt Schlapp.
Gentlemen, great to see you.
Bill Kristol, what do you think when you hear Michael Wolff says all of the people that he talked to including the president's aides don't think that he's fit?
BILL KRISTOL, EDITOR-AT-LARGE, WEEKLY STANDARD: I think he's right. And look, you know, why did people like me oppose Trump for the Republican nomination, not vote for him in the general election, and spend the last year urging Republicans and conservatives not to rationalize what he's doing or making excuse for him because he's not fit for office.
You know, people, you're never Trump, you just have some irrational dislike of him or you're frustrated that, you know, the party didn't take your advice. So that's what it is.
I mean, I totally agree with you, Alisyn, a few minutes ago when you sort of got exasperated and said, what are we doing here? I mean, what we are doing is we have him as president and now he's trying to distract everyone into let's have a fight with Steve Bannon, Sloppy Steve. Isn't that amusing? Stave Bannon is now out. Bannon doesn't matter. Trump matters. And he's president of the United States.
CAMEROTA: Yes, I mean, listen, my feeling is, Matt, that it's obviously delicate to talk about this, it brings me no pleasure to talk about the chaos inside the White House and some of the president's top aides think that he's not fit. That's horrible. I mean, it's a horrible feeling.
MATT SCHLAPP, CHAIRMAN, AMERICAN CONSERVATIVES UNION: Yes.
CAMEROTA: So what are we to do with this information, Matt?
SCHLAPP: Well, first of all, of course there was a certain amount of chaos and disorder at the beginning of the presidency because the very fact that this guy, Michael Wolff, is walking around the West Wing is evidence of the fact that some of the president's advisers didn't have his best interest at heart, and I think it is fair to say that, you know, for many of us who support Donald Trump, who supported him through the election, some of the folks that were put around the president and the way the first six or eight months enveloped was very disheartening.
CAMEROTA: OK, so you think it's a problem --
SCHLAPP: I think they wasted a lot of time.
CAMEROTA: I just want to make sure, Matt. You say this is a problem with his advisers and the people around him, not with the president.
SCHLAPP: I want to make something very clear. I love all this talk about this 100 percent of the people around the president don't think he's fit for office. I'm going to not be humble here for a minute. I know the president. I talk the president. I've talked to him for a number of years.
CAMEROTA: Did you talk to Michael Wolff?
SCHLAPP: Always my hand, I think he's fit to be president.
CAMEROTA: Did you talk to Michael Wolff?
SCHLAPP: I don't even know who he is. I'm pleased --
CAMEROTA: That's it. He says 100 percent of the people that he talked to around the president.
SCHLAPP: No, but, Alisyn. No, no, that's not the point. Let's go to the point of what he's trying to make. The point he's trying to make is that everyone who knows the president somehow thinks he's unfit. I deal with the president, he's perfectly fit. He's doing a good job. As a matter of fact, the president saw the disorder in this White House and it's the president who brought in General Kelly. It's the president who said this is no way to run a railroad.
He did that himself. So when you criticize him for the disorder and maybe some of the chaos at the beginning of this administration you must also give him credit for solving much of that and for bringing in people who saw that as a problem.
COOPER: OK. So, listen --
KRISTOL: Alisyn, Alisyn, Alisyn. Two nights ago the president apparently called his personal lawyer and had him send the cease and desist letters to the publisher and to Wolff and to Bannon, which is nuts. I mean --
SCHLAPP: It's not nuts.
KRISTOL: Much were written -- it is nuts. Book were written accusing --
SCHLAPP: It's not.
KRISTOL: Books were written accusing Barack Obama of forging his birth certificate, books written accusing Bill Clinton of having Vince Foster murdered, books were written accusing George W. Bush of knowingly fabricating information about weapons of mass destruction. Not one of them, not one of them as president of the United States thought, you know what, I'm going to call my personal lawyer and try to get -- threaten a defamation lawsuit, which of course is never going to happen, as a way of trying to intimidate other people from coming forward.
I mean, if you're president of the United States, let off steam, fine, you call the White House counsel and say, god, this is just terrible that they can say these things about me. And the White House counsel says yes, Mr. President, that comes with the territory.
The fact that now, now, not a year ago, when Trump had never been in the White House before, not six months ago before he got rid of Priebus and Bannon and Flynn has been indicted and all of this first batch of appointments were out of office basically. Now, this week, Trump is not behaving like a serious president of the United States.
SCHLAPP: But let me try to --
CAMEROTA: Yes, hold -- go ahead, quickly, Matt. Go ahead.
SCHLAPP: Yes, let me just be fast. I respect Bill Kristol but I just say that there is no question with Donald Trump, what you see is what you get. Bill has worked for presidents. I have worked for a president. They blow hot when the doors are closed and they bitch about their enemies and they complain and they --
CAMEROTA: Yes, but this was further than that.
SCHLAPP: Let me finish. Let me finish. And they blow hot. But when the cameras are on, they put on the powder and they smile and they restrain from saying what they think, and what you get with Donald Trump is what Chris Cuomo said, behind the scenes he blows and then when the cameras are on, he is talking to all of you, he says the same thing.
[08:40:05] It's that authenticity that you can criticize that people like so much about him.
CAMEROTA: OK. So, listen, Bill, where do we go from here? Now that we know that and it's very hard to unknow the stuff that's going on inside the White House and the things that people around him have said to Michael Wolff and to other reporters. Let's not pretend that Michael Wolff has a monopoly on this. You know, Maggie Haberman's reporting, our reporting, OK, we've heard this before.
So, as you know, Bill and Matt, Democrats are more often talking about this publicly and invoking things like the 25th Amendment. You know they brought in this Yale psychiatrist to try to help them understand the president's mindset.
SCHLAPP: That's going to solve a lot of problems.
CAMEROTA: So, Bill, what are -- what's Republicans' next move? What do Republicans do with this information?
KRISTOL: Well, I mean, Republicans in Congress don't have much to do right now. Republicans -- serious people in the administration need to redouble their efforts to make sure the president doesn't cause genuine damage to the country or the world, and they try to carry out decent policies. You've got to do both at once. I mean, you've got to try to have a good Iran policy and help the protesters there, at the same time that you worry about the president.
Republicans in Congress should pass whatever policies they think are right. I have no problem with that. And approve good judicial nominees but, but they should stop rationalizing and defending and excusing this president.
SCHLAPP: Can I just jump in there?
SCHLAPP: Actually the good people at the White House are overjoyed at the fact that the president continues to keep his campaign promises. I actually believe he has saved the country from the path it was on Barack Obama. And it really doesn't matter what I think, these people around the country, these middle to lower class Americans who have been abandoned by our economy, who felt left out, they now feel invigorated by their economic opportunity.
Our country was in a very dark and bad place I believe over the last eight years and I think it's in a much better place. And I think, look, at least half of Americans are overjoyed at the fact that they feel like their lives will be improves because Donald Trump is simply doing what he said he would do.
CAMEROTA: I don't know if half of Americans.
SCHLAPP: Alisyn --
CAMEROTA: As you know the polls have suggested it's a base of 30 percent to 35 percent.
SCHLAPP: The same pollsters that got the election wrong. Let's be honest. I believe --
SCHLAPP: You're the one citing half of the American people.
SCHLAPP: I believe in science -- I have spent a lot more time studying polls than maybe some journalists have because I've had these jobs in politics and I will just tell you that when you go around the country and talk to Americans they feel very connected to Donald Trump and they like his agenda. You can go through all the psychoanalysis and babble that you want, the fact is is this. You can't argue with the fact that he has a clear agenda and is implementing it and it's making the country, our economy, better.
CAMEROTA: OK. Matt, thank you for your perspective. Bill Kristol, thank you for yours. Great to talk to both of you. Chris.
CUOMO: All right. So overall, 2017 was a pretty good year to get a job. So what did we see in December? Did we close out with a bang or a whimper? The numbers matter when it comes to jobs and you've got to look inside them. Let's do that next.
[08:45:46] CUOMO: Breaking news. The Labor Department releasing the jobs report for December just moments ago.
Chief business correspondent Christine Romans is here with the numbers, what they mean now and what they mean relatively.
What do you got?
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: I got this. I got the last month of the year 148,000 net new jobs created. That shows that employers slowed their pace of hiring a little bit in the very end of the year. The slowest pace since the hurricanes, remember, stalled the job market there in the fall. The unemployment rate, though, still at this 17-year low, sitting at a 17-year low, 4.1 percent.
You guys, a lot of economists considered that full employment. They say at this sort of level you eventually are going to have to see wages start to rise. We don't see that yet in this report. 2.54 percent wage growth, we like to see better.
Where was the job creation? Health care, as usual. Construction, manufacturing. It's interesting, I saw retail jobs relatively flat, and you've got 18 states raising the minimum wage this year. That might have something to do with it so watch the space on that.
So where do we stand overall? I always say presidents get way too much credit and way too much blame for individual economic statistics, but President Trump takes credit for any good numbers he sees. We've tallied the numbers for the year. 2.05 million new jobs created. That is the slowest pace in four years, something clearly to watch there.
What the president does keep taking credit for, this, and we've got futures up almost 100 points here this morning on this news. Maybe because the markets think the Fed will be aggressively raising interest rates if you don't have more robust jobs growth.
CAMEROTA: Maybe it will never come down.
CAMEROTA: You hate when people say things like that. Yes, you're rational. Thank you, Christine Romans.
ROMANS: You're welcome.
CAMEROTA: All right. Meanwhile, one year ago this week the U.S. intelligence community publicly confirmed Russia's interference in the 2016 election. Now of course the special counsel and multiple committees on Capitol Hill are investigating the meddling and whether the Trump campaign was involved.
So tonight in a special report, CNN tells the Russia story from the beginning, connecting all of the many threads including what we know about that infamous dossier.
CNN's Pamela Brown has a preview.
PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Ten days before the inauguration of Donald Trump --
ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: We are live in Chicago tonight.
BROWN: On the same night President Barack Obama was giving his farewell address to the nation --
BURNET: We have breaking news in the nation's capital tonight, that we need to tell you about. I want to go straight to Jake Tapper --
BROWN: A team of CNN reporters broke a stunning story.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Jim Sciutto, Evan Perez, and Carl Bernstein and I have all been working on this story.
BROWN: About America's new president.
TAPPER: Claims of Russian efforts to compromise the president-elect, Donald Trump.
BROWN: The president-elect and the outgoing president had both been briefed on the most sensational charges in the dossier.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Allegations that Russian operatives claim to have compromising personal and financial information about Mr. Trump.
BROWN: U.S. officials with direct knowledge told CNN that Trump had been warned Russia could have kompromat on him. That's the damaging information often gathered through surveillance that Vladimir Putin is believed to collect on powerful people.
(On camera): Was your concern that the Russians could have leverage over the president of the United States?
JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: Well, yes.
BROWN (voice-over): Former intelligence chief, James Clapper. CLAPPER: Gaining leverage. That's their objective. And if they can
compromise somebody, you know, they have a term for it, an acronym for it. Kompromat.
BROWN: And we concentrated on other major chapters of the Russia story as well, the Comey firing, the Trump Tower meeting, and we also followed the money. Looking at President Trump's past dealings with Russians in business.
And Chris and Alisyn, it seems nearly every day a new development comes to light. We don't know what it all means and how the story will end, but as Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his team continue to look into possible obstruction of justice and coordination between Trump campaign associates and Russians, it's clear that this story is far from over.
Back to you.
CAMEROTA: OK, pam. The CNN special report "THE TRUMP RUSSIA INVESTIGATION" airs tonight at 10:00 p.m. Eastern.
CUOMO: All right. The author of a scathing White House tell-all defending his account saying that there is deep dysfunction in the White House.
[08:50:02]His blistering account in our "Bottom Line," next.
CUOMO: The author of this bombshell book about the White House speaking out in an interview about his reporting and concerns inside the White House about the president. Here's a taste.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WOLFF: I know people would point out that in the beginning it was like every 25 or 30 minutes you would get the same three stories repeated. Now it's the same three stories in every 10 minutes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And what is the suggestion there? Because that goes beyond saying OK, the president is not an intellectual. I mean, what's -- what are you arguing there? You say, for example, that he was at Mar-a-Lago and didn't recognize life-long friends?
WOLFF: I will quote Steve Bannon. He's lost it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: All right. Let's get "The Bottom Line" from CNN Politics reporter and editor-at-large Chris Cillizza.
What's your takeaway? Do you believe that Michael Wolff has made a compelling case that the president of the United States is mentally unfit? CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: Let me say I haven't read the
whole book yet, Chris, but I do think that that is the sort of central and most important debate. A lot of the Bannon stuff and what he said about Don Junior is all salacious and interesting, but I do think the core argument of this book is, is Donald Trump fit, competent, well for this office?
I made the case yesterday that what's difficult for me is that Donald Trump's behavior, impetuousness, bullying, sort of creating a story of his own life that doesn't always comport with the facts, this is nothing new to Donald Trump. He's been doing this his whole life. This is a man who made up -- who impersonated a young PR executive in the 1980s working in the Trump Organization to --
CAMEROTA: John Barron.
CILLIZZA: Right. To promote Donald Trump's --
CUOMO: And named his kid after him.
CAMEROTA: I know, right.
CILLIZZA: Donald Trump's coolness to the tabloids. So it's not new. I'm interested to see what the cases beyond quoting Steve Bannon saying that something is broken in Donald Trump?
CAMEROTA: I don't know, Chris. I hear you. Now you made the same point. It's not new, it feels more disturbing.
CILLIZZA: Well --
CAMEROTA: Hold on, Chris.
CAMEROTA: Seeing it somehow in one chunk, OK, I guess in a book form, all sort of condensed, hearing -- if you take Michael Wolff at his word and record that he talked to so many insiders, top staffers and aides and advisers around the president, I don't know.
[08:55:12] It feels so disturbing to hear that they think that something has deteriorated with his mental fitness and that they don't trust him to do the job.
CILLIZZA: I don't disagree. The only thing I would say, Alisyn, is I do think there's a difference between temperamentally unfit for the job and mentally unfit or deteriorating.
CAMEROTA: I agree.
CILLIZZA: I would argue he has demonstrated throughout his life he is not temperamentally a fit for what we expect past presidents have acted like in this office. A mental deterioration, that to me is the part that I haven't seen proven. He clearly is someone who has a grandiose view of himself and of his life, someone who is totally comfortable with not comporting with established facts, someone who lashes out, someone who's impetuous, someone who can be childish, but none of that -- I just keep -- that is who Donald Trump has been for the entire time that we have known him.
CAMEROTA: Yes, I know. I mean, that's --
CILLIZZA: I don't see -- other than the forgetfulness.
CILLIZZA: Which is in Michael Wolff's book. Other than that I don't see a lot of evidence that the way in which he acts day-to-day, which many people take issue with, is fundamentally different than the way in which he acted a year ago or 10 years ago.
CAMEROTA: I'm really only basing it on the idea that they said that he is repetitive.
CAMEROTA: And that he used to tell the same stories in a 30-minute span.
CAMEROTA: And now it's a 10-minute span.
CAMEROTA: That's notable but --
CUOMO: I think you have a responsibility to ask the questions.
CAMEROTA: You know?
CUOMO: It's just very thin. And the problem politically is you see people on the left talking about the 25th Amendment and trying to go down this road. I think it's a mistake, I think it's practically a mistake. I mean, it's politically a mistake for them, but let them do whatever they want, we'll cover it anyway.
CUOMO: But I think much more likely is, and very close to the truth and equally troubling is that you don't have a competency issue. You have a temperament issue.
CUOMO: Someone who is overwhelmed by the job, and someone who has never had to surrender the me to the we in their professional life. He has always been the product. And now that he has an agenda that's supposed to be product, he's at his worst on a regular basis, and that's what they're seeing. That's what they can't handle. And that's what the rest of us are going to have to --
CAMEROTA: You've got five seconds to put -- CILLIZZA: Temperamentally unfit and thinks he is temperamentally
perfectly fit. That's I think the true danger.
CUOMO: Is that me or -- who are we talking about?
CILLIZZA: No comment.
CAMEROTA: Well played.
Chris Cillizza, have a great weekend.
CILLIZZA: Thanks you all. You too.
CAMEROTA: Thanks so much.
"CNN NEWSROOM" with Poppy Harlow and John Berman picks up after this break. Have a great weekend.