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Oprah Gives Rousing Speech On Female Empowerment; Oprah's Speech Fuels Speculation Of 2020 Bid. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired January 8, 2018 - 09:00   ET


[09:00:07] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. I'm John Berman.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Poppy Harlow. Hope you had a great weekend.

Did you read "Fire and Fury"? It shows no signs of fading away and this morning President Trump may have an O on his mind, and it is not former President Obama.

Two major headlines to begin this Monday morning. Over the weekend, the president, the secretary of State, the CIA director, a top White House adviser, all insisting the president is stable and smart, like really smart, in the president's own words, and also, quote, "a very stable genius."

BERMAN: Yes. "A very stable genius" is a new phrase in the political encyclopedia as is executive time, a phrase reportedly use to explain big chunks of time in the president's schedule to watch TV and post tweets.

But the most important new political term in the English language might be Oprah. More on that shortly.

First, though, reporting from the White House otherwise known as the D.C. headquarters of Mensa, CNN's Joe Johns.

Joe, you know, the president, his aides, his advisers, people in Congress, all coming out to say how smart he is.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Right. That's true, John. And the president's summit over the weekend at Camp David really overshadowed by these questions about the president's fitness to serve. The president felt compelled to address those on Saturday in a tweet, indicating his mental stability, indicating also that among his two greatest assets are his stability and like being really smart, the president said.

Also the president over the weekend indicating his sort of alignment if you will with President Ronald Reagan, whose stability was also questioned late in his term, though in hindsight, some of those questions actually were found to be valid.

The president also attacked -- continued to attack Michael Wolff, the author of that blockbuster book, and his allies all coming out in support of the president in very broad terms. Listen.


NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: No one questions the stability of the president.

MIKE POMPEO, CIA DIRECTOR: President Trump is completely capable.

STEPHEN MILLER, SENIOR ADVISER TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: The reality is the president is a political genius.


JOHNS: Meanwhile, the former strategist for the president, Steve Bannon, one of the people quoted in that book, backing away from some of his comments. Bannon indicating that when he was asked questions regarding a 2016 meeting at Trump Tower involving the president's son, Don Junior, and others he said he was not referring to Don Junior.

He said in fact he was talking about Paul Manafort, a seasoned campaign professional with experience and knowledge of how Russians operate. He, Manafort, should have known. They are duplicitous and cunning and not our friends. To reiterate, his comments were not aimed at Don Junior.

John and Poppy, back to you.

BERMAN: So, Joe, there's this new phrase, executive time. Axios is reporting executive time, words to explain what on the president's schedule -- Joe.

JOHNS: Well, this is interesting. Axios is reporting that the president has increasingly spent more and more time in the residence in the morning as opposed to coming down and jumping into some of the activities of the day in the West Wing, and executive time apparently refers to some of the early morning hours when the president would stay in his residence, tweet, listen to phone calls, make phone calls, and watch television. So that's what we're told executive time is -- John.

HARLOW: All right. With that, Joe Johns, thank you.

BERMAN: I could use some executive time.

HARLOW: I could use it every morning.


BERMAN: I have like three episodes of "Stranger Things" and some executive time.

HARLOW: Yes. Love to hang out with you.

All right. Joining us now, Molly Ball, CNN political analyst, Matt Lewis, CNN political commentator, and Caitlin Huey-Burns, national political reporter for RealClearPolitics. I hope you've all had your executive time and your coffee this

morning. And we'll get to that in a moment.

But on a more serious note, Caitlyn, look, the White House was out in full force on the Sunday shows. You could flip around and they had another surrogate on there talking. Stephen Miller was -- I'm sure people saw it -- "STATE OF THE UNION" with Jake Tapper, you had Mike Pompeo, Rex Tillerson, Lindsey Graham, all backing up the president's stability, sanity and a lot else. Did this strategy work?

CAITLIN HUEY-BURNS, NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER, REALCLEARPOLITICS: Well, I think the fact that you had to have surrogates out there talking about the stability of this White House, of this president I think says a lot. The face that you have the U.N. ambassador, the director of the CIA, the secretary of State who all three of whom would love to be talking about other things particularly issues at hands like North Korea and other items, are being asked questions about the stability of the president.

And I don't think any of us want to be offering kind of the mentality health diagnoses, but I think the response to this book really shows the ways in which the president seems to want to engage on this issue.

[09:05:13] He could have easily move on from this. There is the question of why this White House granted such big -- such access to the author of this was book, but the president's statement on Steve Bannon, his continued responses particularly at Camp David, shows a level of engagement by the president on this issue.

BERMAN: And it's that level of engagement that I find so fascinating, Molly.


BERMAN: Because, look, you know, I'm tempted to ask, would a very stable genius -- would someone very stable say that or would a genius say that? But that aside, there's the other phrase, if you're explaining, you're losing. I mean, if you're engaging on this, haven't you already in a way admitted defeat on the political battle?

MOLLY BALL, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, definitely you have conceded the point that these are the kinds of battles you're obsessed with. Right? I mean, and that is a major part of this book as well, is the idea that the president is obsessed with personal slights, he's completely focused on what people think of him and particularly what the media thinks of him. You couldn't get a better case study than what we saw this weekend and the way that the president himself has responded to the book.

And also the way he has demanded that the entire executive apparatus respond to this book, right? It's not just him having to sort of pop off on Twitter, which we're all sort of used to, it's the entire Cabinet, it seems like, and multiple members of the White House staff having to go out there and make these testimonies. And when you say, you know, did it work? The question is, what is the goal? Would working mean that it convinced the American people that it, you

know, made the book go away? Or when you say, well, did it work, is it just, does the president feel better? Because so much of what the staff of the White House and the executive branch itself is engaged in is just making the president feel better about these things.

HARLOW: Matt, to you, in terms of who this really matters to, in terms of the future of the president getting things done, getting legislation through, there's one group that really matters, and that's Republicans in Congress. At least right now while they control Congress. So what are Republicans in Congress sitting thinking?

MATT LEWIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think Republicans in Congress are maybe one of the few groups of Americans out there who are feeling pretty good right now, at least compared to the way they had felt over much of 2017. They did get accomplishments. And this president in terms of -- would put rhetoric aside in terms of governing, in terms of legislation, regulations, things like that, Donald Trump acted and governed like a mainstream Republican politician, not like the guy that we're talking about in terms of the rhetoric.

So I think that if you look at -- even people like Lindsey Graham, you know, who was incredibly critical of Donald Trump throughout the campaign, and even after, is pretty happy right now.

BERMAN: He is. Let me ask you, since you brought up mainstream Republicans, Matt, as the conscience of the conservative movement, I'd like to call you, Matt Lewis. What do we make of Steve Bannon's sort of apology or non-apology apology?

HARLOW: Non-apology apology?

BERMAN: Right. Expressing regret for the fact he didn't issue a letter sooner, but not exactly denying that he said these things, just saying that Don Junior isn't unpatriotic. What happened here?

LEWIS: Well, I think there are a couple of interesting things here. One is how this is all a microcosm of some of the problems with Donald Trump and Steve Bannon. You know? Donald Trump apparently gave Michael Wolff permission to have this access, sort of accidentally. You know? The Trump staff misread or misinterpreted his comments, allowed Michael Wolff to have this access.

And Steve Bannon had plenty of time, the story started to break, he could have gotten out ahead of it a little bit and apologized sooner or clarified sooner. He waited for hours and by the time he got around to issuing it, it was too late.

Ultimately, though, I think that what has happened is that this is something -- it reminds me of the purges, you know, in the Soviet Union, where you basically, you know, if you're a friend of Steve Bannon, you've now had to air-brush him out of pictures. You've had to publicly distance yourself from him. And Steve Bannon has had to write -- I don't want to call it a humiliating apology. Maybe there's going to be more to come, but this is -- you know, this is kind of an embarrassing place right now. A year ago Steven Bannon was given access, the kind of intel access that generals get and today he is personal non-grata.

HARLOW: Molly, executive time. A new phrase that we're all learning this Monday morning, but it's Axios reporting that basically the president takes on his calendar what is called executive time in the morning from 8:00 to 11:00 a.m. then he heads into the Oval Office around 11:00 a.m., but the fascinating part about this is that executive time according to this reporting from Axios, is spent by the president watching television, making phone calls and tweeting.

[09:10:08] What does this tell us about the president?

BALL: Well, I think it substantiates a few things that we sort of knew, right? We knew he watches a lot of television despite his denials of that fact. We knew that he spends a lot of time stewing about things and tweeting about them, and issuing those presidential statements in his inimitable way.

And we knew that he operates in a non-traditional manner compared to past presidents. We knew that his MO, the way he processes information, the way he makes decisions is not the same as presidents we've seen in the past. And so this is confirmation of that and it's also confirmation of what we were talking about earlier, the extent to which the White House is structured around accommodating his particular needs.

And just making sure that he is comfortable, he gets the things he wants, he's sort of placated, and the way is smoothed for him. And if you look at his career, it's often been said that this was the way he operated in business as well, was that he ran the organization very much about him, his name on the building, at the center of everything, and everyone around him was sort of a planet orbiting the sun.

BERMAN: The audience of one, as Jake said yesterday.

You guys, stick around. Caitlin, we promise you'll get the first question next block and it will be on Oprah.


BERMAN: All right. Be sure to stick around, everyone, for "CNN TONIGHT" with Don Lemon. He's going to speak live with "Fire and Fury" author Michael Wolff, 10:00 p.m. right here on CNN. You will not want to miss that.

And as we said, at the Golden Globes it wasn't just about who won, but you might run?


OPRAH WINFREY, MEDIA MOGUL, WINNER, CECIL B. DEMILLE AWARD: So I want all the girls watching here now to know that a new day is on the horizon.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BERMAN: Let the speculation begin. Oprah Winfrey 2020, is that for real?

HARLOW: Plus, a diplomatic breakthrough hours away. It is possible, because North Korea and South Korea are set to talk face-to-face. President Trump takes credit but is this really just about sports?



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. This morning, genuine, real, and not altogether unstoke speculation about a possible Oprah Winfrey candidacy for president of the United States.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: For real, for real. Just ask Evan. Overnight, she has set off a firestorm, accepting, of course, the honorary award at the Golden Globes. The street brought the audience to its feet. Brian Stelter is here with us.


HARLOW: Very possible.

STELTER: She is in some ways the anti-Trump and the speech she gave last night, although, its proximate purpose was to celebrate the "Me Too" movement. It also sounded a lot like a campaign speech.


OPRAH WINFREY, ACCEPTED CECIL B. DEMILLE AWARD: I want the girls watching here now to know that a new day is on the horizon.

STELTER (voice-over): Oprah Winfrey bringing the Golden Globes audience to its feet with an inspiring call to action.

WINFREY: When that new day finally dawns, it would be because of a lot of magnificent women, many of whom are right here in this room tonight, and some pretty phenomenal men fighting hard to make sure that they become the leaders who take us to the time when nobody ever has to say me too again.

STELTER: The television and movie icon honoring those who have spoken out about sexual harassment and discussing in personal terms the women whose stories will go untold.

WINFREY: I want tonight to express gratitude to all the women who have endured years of abuse and assault because they, like my mother, had children to feed, bills to pay, and dreams to pursue. For too long women have not been heard or believed if they dared to speak their truth to the power of those men, but their time is up.

STELTER: Oprah also emphasizing the power of the free press to expose injustice.

WINFREY: We all know that the press is under siege these days. I want to say I value the press more than ever before.

STELTER: Oprah's speech fueling speculation on social media about a potential 2020 presidential bid. Despite Oprah's past comments downplaying a foray into politics, her longtime partner, Stedman Graham, telling the "L.A. Times" overnight, it's up to the people. She would absolutely do it.

During his opening monologue, host, Seth Meyers, jokingly encouraging Oprah to run referencing his jabs about President Trump not being qualified at the 2011 Correspondents Dinner.

SETH MEYERS, HOST, GOLDEN GLOBE AWARDS: Some have said that night convinced him to run. So, if that's true, I want to say, Oprah, you will never be president. You do not have what it takes.

STELTER: Oprah's speech was the culmination of a night focused on combatting sexual harassment. Actors and actresses appearing on the red carpet wearing black in solidarity, many making a statement with pins reading "time's up."


STELTER: In the past, Oprah sometimes deflected questions about running for office. She said to a "Bloomberg" interviewer last year, "I never thought about it until President Trump was elected. I always thought I would need political experience, but now I wonder, hmm, maybe not. In some way Trump's changing of the rules of politics could impact people like Oprah Winfrey. So, we'll see what's she is thinking.

[09:20:07] BERMAN: That's right. We are only talking about this. We only cannot say it's possible because of President Donald Trump. Brian Stelter, great to have you with us.

Our panel is back with us. I want to start with this simple question, guys. You are some of the smartest people in politics. Raise your hand if you think this is impossible. If Oprah for president, raise your hand if you think it will never happen.

Let the record show all three of you think there is at least a possibility that this is real. Caitlyn, I have to say, that is something. That says something about where we are this morning in to 2018.

CAITLIN HUEY-BURNS, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, "REALCLEARPOLITICS": Sure. I'd like to reserve my spot on being embedded that campaign as a reporter if I could. I think this is important because of what she said also. You know, she is talking about a very important issue at a time that the country is facing a reckoning on the issue of sexual harassment.

We saw that last night, but it also speaks to the fact that Oprah has long had a platform and has shown to do a lot with that platform. I think it also speaks to the idea that Democrats really don't have a real leader of the party at this point heading into 2020. I know we're three years away, but there are a lot of Democrats wanting to run for president. I would also note that people that are very popular, then enter the field, see those ratings go down. I wonder if that would be the case with someone like Oprah Winfrey, but she has been very vocal on a lot of key issues as well.

HARLOW: It's a great point too about sort of the whole that is left and who will fill it for the Democrats and how much more of an opportunity does that leave for her. I mean, she is now a correspondent on "60 Minutes" sort of coming into the public view full time again.

But remember, Matt, her first piece was on criminal justice reform. I mean, this is a woman who has taken on some very serious, very pertinent issues as she did again last night with those remarks.

Stedman obviously sort of her partner in life, he said to "L.A. Times", that she would absolutely do it. David Axelrod tweeted this, "Don't know if he meant to fire it or whether Oprah knew he would but Stedman kind of launched a bombshell here. What do you think?

MATT LEWIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, look, I think this is entirely plausible. I think Oprah Winfrey is utterly likeable. I think that she has been involved in politics, but mostly totally possibly, she's totally likable, she's been involved in maybe areas that are center left, but there's broad consensus.

I think there is a hunger out there for civility, and Oprah Winfrey could fill that niche. I think very clearly if there's any trend that's held up in recent years, it's that we want the opposite of the last guy.

So, whether it's, you know, George Bush being the opposite of Bill Clinton, or Barack Obama being the opposite of Bush or Trump being the opposite of Obama. I think that pattern continues.

I think the only question out there for Oprah is, as Brian Stelter said, the anti-Trump? I mean, in some ways, African-American woman, center left, but also a celebrity, so she's likable, but also a celebrity. Is that the contrast or is the problem the breaking of norms, this celebratization of politics?

Will we want a sort of technocratic, normal politician? To me that's the real question, but there's no doubt she is a very serious and compelling political figure today.

BERMAN: You know, Molly, Kaitlin, kind of raise this point, but what does this say about the Democrats in general? When you're thinking about the ideal Democratic candidate, the name we are coming up with is Oprah Winfrey? You know, it is this governor, that governor, this senator, that senator.

MOLLY BALL, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I mean, she has a lot of the advantages that Donald Trump brought to his race, right? Everybody knows who she is. Everybody has seen her face. The Democrats don't have politicians with that quality. There are a lot of promising Democrats rattling around in the realms of the Senate and maybe some governors, but the pure name I.D., not to mention the money, that were such advantages for Trump I think are part of the reason that she would sort of cannonball into the pool if she were to run.

It is far out and there's a lot of time for Democrats to make themselves known, but they would have to do it in the boring traditional ways, right? Not going to the Golden Globes and giving a speech.

But you know, going to the rubber chicken dinners in Iowa and New Hampshire, and shaking hands, you sort of get to leapfrog that whole process when you are a celebrity and of course, that gives you a built-in advantage.

HARLOW: Although, I think Oprah would have to go to the (inaudible) -- shake a lot of hands as well. Quickly, lightning round here, Caitlyn, then Matt, then Molly. The Oprah ticket would be Oprah plus who? Caitlyn?

HUEY-BURNS: I don't know. Biden perhaps, sure.

BERMAN: We've heard that this morning already. Matt?

[09:25:04] LEWIS: I'm going to say Biden, but I will say this, she goes for a bipartisan cabinet with plenty of Republicans. This is a different time of politician.

BERMAN: Matt Lewis sucking up for a press secretary job.

HARLOW: He would be good. Molly?

BALL: I have no idea and I have a firm policy of not making predictions, but if she's going on the Trump model, you would think she would choose a conventional Democrat who is aligned with the ideological center of the party and to be a liaison to more traditional politics on this model like a Mike Pence.

BERMAN: The seriousness of this discussion this morning I have to say all of those answers in this entire discussion right now just shows this isn't completely unreal, which is fascinating.

HARLOW: Thank you all. We appreciate it.

BERMAN: All right. We have been talking about 2020, but look, Republicans have to get through on 2018 first. Sources tells CNN the weekend meetings at Camp David did not exude confidence as they head to the midterms. Stick around.