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Trump Gets Presidential Physical; Book about Trump's Mental Health; Trump Defends Shithole Comment. Aired 8:30-9:00a ET

Aired January 12, 2018 - 08:30   ET



[08:31:11] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: OK, today, President Trump gets his first official physical since becoming president. It will be conducted to the physician to the president rather than his personal doctor. And the White House says it will release the results.

CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta joins us with more.

What will we learning today, Sanjay?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think we're going to learn a lot about his overall physical health. You know, we know a few things about him. We know his height and weight. We know he takes a cholesterol lowering medication for that. The numbers that you see in terms of his cholesterol is based on that medication he's taking.

It's about a four hour exam. They're probably going to focus on his heart. They're going to focus on risk factors for things like stroke. They're going to do cancer screenings. They may ask him about anxiety, about depression, about stress. Those are standard questions that are typically asked.

We've heard about his lifestyle over the last year, his diet, his lack of exercise. The impact of that on his physical health, those are the things that they're going to want to probe as well. So it's a pretty thorough exam.

What we've heard as well, as you've heard, we've all heard, is that the mental health exam, mental health component of it is likely not to be done here. And to be fair, it's not typically done. In the last 16 years that I've been covering these sorts of stories, it's not typically done and it doesn't sound like it will be done this time either.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Sanjay, stick around. I want you to join in this conversation.

Today's medical physical comes as there are growing questions about the president's mental fitness. Our next guest briefed members of Congress on the danger that she says is evident in the president's behavior, even though she has not independently examined the president. Dr. Brandy Lee is the author of "The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump:

27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President." She is an assisting clinical professional of psychiatry at Yale.

Professor, thank you so much for being with us.

First off, just tell me, because there's been a lot of talk about it, what you told members of Congress.

DR. BRANDY LEE, AUTHOR, "THE DANGEROUS CASE OF DONALD TRUMP" (via telephone): Thank you for having me.

First, let me say, I am speaking for myself and not my university.

I have spoken with the members of Congress about concerning signs that I was seeing. The signs of mental, psychological, cognitive and neurological impairments that I was seeing in the president and that there ought to be some kind of mechanism for assessing his capacity.

First of all, I'm not diagnosing him. I'm not interested in Mr. Trump's personal health. Indeed, none of the authors of this book are or we actually have a national coalition now that is of thousands of mental health professionals who are concerned about the effects he is having and the risk that he is posing on public health by virtue of his office. So it is not about a personal diagnosis whatsoever.

BERMAN: Well, let --

LEE: And, in fact --

BERMAN: Yes, let me ask you this.

LEE: If there were one test to do --

BERMAN: Let --

LEE: It would be a capacity evaluation because this functioning would be most important.

BERMAN: A capacity evaluation. That's what you think should happen today at the physicals? Because we've been told there will be no really specific or comprehensive mental health exam.

LEE: Yes, because none of us are truly Mr. Trump's personal psychiatrist and, therefore, cannot really recommend to his White House physician to do a certain test or not. We can simply alert mainly the public about the concerning signs that we see because the public has a right to know, especially if they are in danger due to psychological, cognitive or neurological instability.

BERMAN: So, professor, here's the thing, and you know full well that what you have said publicly and what you told members of Congress is controversial.

[08:35:03] The American Psychiatric Association has what's called the Goldwater rule after a lot was written about Barry Goldwater way back in 1964. This is the Principle of Medical Ethics, Section 7.3, a physiatrist may share with the public his/her expertise about psychiatric issues in general. However, it is unethical for a psychiatrist to offer a professional opinion unless he or she has conducted an examination, has been granted proper authorization for such a statement.

Now, you have not conducted an examination and you are offering a professional opinion here. This is not a diagnosis.

LEE: Actually, no, I'm just alerting about the signs. The signs that other people may not recognize because they -- there's a wide variation in normal. So most people who have not seen individuals who are impaired day in and day out may miss these signs.

For example, if someone had a yellow face, ordinary individuals might see that as their normal complex. But a physician may look for signs of a liver failure. And if there are alerting (ph) signs, signs of concerns, then you would recommend an examination.

So, regarding the Goldwater rule, I am actually a very strong proponent of it. I have kept with it. As a forensic physiatrist, I have often been asked in my 20-year career to diagnose someone without seeing them. And I have always refused to do so. And so I can confidently say that -- that I -- that I understand the principles of the Goldwater rule and have kept them, even here.

BERMAN: Let me --

LEE: But I do not agree with is the American Psychiatric Association's changing its interpretation of the rules going from just diagnosing to the media to a gag rule essentially. We cannot make any comment whatsoever on a public figure, even in an emergency.

Now, you know already that from what you've read it's different from what is in the books. That is dangerous to me. To silence an entire profession.

BERMAN: Let me, doctor, while I have -- while you're here --

LEE: Yes.

BERMAN: Let me bring in Sanjay, Doctor Sanjay Gupta, right now, who's been listening to this.


GUPTA: And, Dr. Lee, yes, I've had a chance to read -- read the book that you edited and the various essays. One -- I think one of the points that needs to be made here is that you -- you're looking for these clues, as you point out, with regards to President Trump's behavior, erratic, offensive behaviors, as you've called them. But those are clues to actually arrive at this diagnosis of dangerousness. Isn't that -- isn't that the real concern here? You can find clues, but without examining him, how do you --

LEE: Well, it is -- it is, of course, risk of danger, risk of danger when it comes to some of the greatest dangers. But we also know that he has already been in danger. There is bullying in schoolyards that directly cite his words as their inspiration. And unprecedented spike in hate crimes that have continued to this day. And a 22 percent rise in gun deaths that is unusual since his candidacy.

So we -- we already know that he has -- these are widespread cultural effects he is having. But we also know that there are many signs that could lead to a risk of enormous danger and those are dangers of a magnitude that we cannot reverse. Just by virtue of the technology that we have and the amount of arsenals that we allow the president to have at his disposal. So we take all of that into considerations when we access dangerousness. Again, dangerousness is not about the person. It is not about Mr. Trump. It's not a diagnosis. It's about the situation.

BERMAN: Dr. Lee, Dr. Gupta, on behalf of Dr. Berman, I thank both of you.


LEE: Thank you for having me.

CAMEROTA: You just play one on TV.

BERMAN: That's right.

London's mayor calling out President Trump, saying the president's reasons for cancelling his trip to London is bogus. What he said, next.


[08:42:16] CAMEROTA: OK, time now for the "Five Things to Know for Your New Day."

President Trump denies making a racist comment in the Oval Office. Mr. Trump says the language he used was tough but he claims that he did not slam immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador and some African nations as coming from blank-hole countries.

BERMAN: The president also telling "The Wall Street Journal" he probably has a very good relationships with North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un despite repeated verbal attacks. Also odd, the president will not say if the two men have spoken.

CAMEROTA: London Mayor Sadiq Khan lashing out at President Trump for cancelling a visit next month to London. The president said he was pulling out a ribbon cutting for the new U.S. embassy because of what he calls a bad deal surrounding it, but Mayor Khan says Trump backed out because he knows he would have been greeted by large projects.

BERMAN: Congressman Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, accusing Republicans of blocking dozens of key witnesses from being interviewed in an effort to scuttle the Russia investigation. CAMEROTA: In southern California, evacuations zone have been expanded as the search continues to find missing -- all the missing in the deadly mudslides. At least 17 people have been killed with dozens more still missing.

BERMAN: For more of the "Five Things to Know," go to for the very latest.

CAMEROTA: OK, so President Trump has a long history of making racially charged comments that he insists he's not a racist. We'll talk about that in "The Bottom Line," next.


[08:47:45] CAMEROTA: This morning the president is denying making a racially charged comment about immigrants during an Oval Office meeting with senators. Mr. Trump tweeted that he used tough language but he actually did not clarifying if it included saying that immigrants from Africa, Haiti and El Salvador comes from blank-hole countries. None of the lawmakers in that meeting are pushing back against this story.

So let's get "The Bottom Line" on it with CNN's senior political commentator David Axelrod and CNN political commentator Van Jones.

Van, what did you think when you heard this?

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I thought it was obviously racist. But, more importantly, it was not accurate. I think the news media has not -- listen, let's look at it. It turns out about 30 percent of Americans have college degrees. Forty-three percent of immigrants from Africa have college degrees. It turns out 11 percent of white Americans have an advance degrees beyond college. Twenty-five percent of Nigerian Americans have advanced degrees beyond college. So it's not just that it's racist, it's ignorant.

And part of the problem that we have is that he relies on these stereotypes and then we argue about how he's referring to the stereotypes. We never just debunk the stereotypes. African immigrants are coming here, revitalizing urban communities. They're doing -- African immigrations, from an education attainment, not an income, but education attainment, are outperforming everybody, including a lot of Asians. We don't talk about that.

The last thing I want to say is this. If Barack Obama had at any point said, I don't want any immigrants from Europe. Screw that. I want immigrants from Africa. The right wing would have gone completely insane, and rightfully so, because that would have been stupid and racist, but he never did that. We've got to start dealing with the fact that this president does not know how to make America great again. The people making America great again are immigrants from places like Haiti and Africa who come here and work their butts off and do a great job.

BERMAN: All right, guys, the president has a new statement about this, trying to clean it up. I'm not so sure it helps. He said, never said anything derogatory about Haitians other than Haiti is obviously a very poor and troubled country. Never said take them out. Made up by Dems. I have a wonderful relationship with Haitians. Probably should record future meetings. Unfortunately no trust.

Now, Jake Tapper, our Jake Tapper reporting, in separate reporting, has said, David Axelrod, that the shithole countries was referring to Africa, all right, was referring to all countries in Africa, not Haiti, and the president somehow thinks that that distinction this morning, if in fact it's true, helps him. Your thoughts.

[08:50:19] DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think he must have been watching -- I know he was watching early morning TV because 20 minutes after he was reputed by his amen corner over at "Fox and Friends," he issued a tweet saying that he never said what a room full of people heard him say and what his own spokespeople didn't deny yesterday. So he's watching TV, probably saw a tape of himself making that speech down in Miami to the Haitian community and felt like he needed to leap into that.

But, look, there are -- the larger issue to me is -- I said this yesterday, it's not a question -- you know, this debate, is he a racist, is he not. It's not -- it's not about him, it's about us and who we are. The United States of America has always stood for something. I'm the son of a refugee. At the time that my father came over here, there were the same kinds of nativist settlements aimed at eastern Europeans, Italians, Pols. You sort of -- you heard the same kind of language. And yet immigrants came, as they have over the -- over generations and immigrants have built this country. And immigrants renew this country.

One of the reasons we are who we are and why we are so competitive as a country is because people come here to work and contribute and live their dreams. And to send a signal to the world that we are going to demean people, that we are going to close our borders and so on is a self-defeating impulse. So America needs to stand up, even if its president -- even if our president doesn't, for those values that have animated us from the beginning.

CAMEROTA: David, I'm just curious, do you think that formal President Obama will say anything about this?

AXELROD: You know, I haven't spoken to him in the last 24 hours. I don't know what he'll do. I know how strongly he feels about what I just said. And, obviously, you know, his father came here, was educated here, you know. So I know how strongly that he feels about these values. And his -- so, you know, he's been selective --

JONES: You know, it's interesting too --

AXELROD: He's been selective about what he's -- what he says because he feels, as a former president, he has to choose his spots. But he's also said that when fundamental values are affronted, he will speak.

CAMEROTA: Go ahead, Van, what were your thoughts on that?

JONES: I just -- it's interesting because, you know, we have a first lady who is here -- and I think she's doing a great job -- but she's from Slovenia. Slovenia, I think, the average income for a household in Europe is about $30,000. Slovenia, $20,000. She's a college dropout. So she comes from a country that's not the shining star of Europe. She's not well educated. But she comes here and she's done a great job. Why is this tough to understand that that happens from folks in Africa.

The last thing I'll say, I'm bragging on the educational attainment of Africans, but you don't have to be rich, you don't have to have a degree to be worthy. You don't have to be -- you can be poor. You can not have a college degree. And you can still be worthy. And you can still do a great job. And America's supposed to be about that. And so don't take that from us. For -- you know, if you want to stereotype people, I'm sorry, these stereotypes do not holdup for African immigrants who are out performing almost every immigrant groups, including a bunch of Asians.

But even if they weren't, even if they weren't, you don't have to be rich. You don't have to have a college degree to be worthy and to come here and do a good job. Let's let the Africans and the Haitians and the El Salvadorians do what everybody else has done all these many centuries. Don't change the game now. Let everybody make America great again.

BERMAN: David Axelrod, you said this isn't about the president, it's about us. It's about America. America needs to speak up and say who we are. Does that include House Speaker Paul Ryan?


BERMAN: Does that include Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who at 8:54 a.m. still have not come out to comment on this?

AXELROD: Yes. No, I think this is a real moral gut check for the Republican Party if the Republican Party is with -- if Republican leaders are willing to stands up. And they should.

You know, the White House -- someone in the White House apparently said yesterday on a background basis that they're not worried because this will play well with the base, meaning their base. And, in fact, it is playing well with the alt-right kind of base. I saw Ann Coulter and others were very excited about what the president had to say.

But I think there are a lot of other people in this country, Republicans, Democrats and Independence, who are deeply embarrassed by it and worried about this kind of behavior again and again and again. And if I were a Republican leader, I would not want to put all my eggs in this crazy basket. I would want to stand up for those fundamental values that America has stood for. And it will be interesting to see if they are willing to do that.

[08:55:14] CAMEROTA: I don't know, Van. I don't think the alt-right is -- I don't think you can call his base the alt-right. I mean I think that that's of the fringe -- I think that that's a fringe element of his base.

JONES: Well --

CAMEROTA: But I -- I am having a hard time this morning thinking that these comments are going to be just fine with, you know, millions of people who still support the president because they have other issues that they're interested in. I'm having a hard --

JONES: It's --

CAMEROTA: If we don't want him to use broad brush strokes, I'm having a hard time with us using broad brush strokes this morning.

JONES: Look, I don't think that Axelrod was using a broad brush stroke. You -- somebody said that the base would like this. Well, the part of the base that would like this would be the alt-right. To your point, even Fox News, you know, came out against it a little bit today and, you know, certainly Mia Love, who's a Republican who voted for Trump came out against it.

But the part of the base that I think was being referenced is that what they call it alt-right. I just call it white racist, white terrorist base. And, you know, I would -- listen, if Trump doesn't like those people and he doesn't want them to be a part of his base, he should say so loudly and forcefully and he has not.

CAMEROTA: I agree with that. I agree with that. And I agree with the part of the base just making that distinction.

Gentlemen, thank you very much for this conversation. Really great to talk to you.

Be sure to watch "The Axe Files" tomorrow at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. David's going to speak with former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

BERMAN: All right, CNN "NEWSROOM" with Poppy Harlow after this quick break.

CAMEROTA: Have a great weekend.


[08:59:59] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow in New York.

A sad irony this morning that today is the day that President Trump will sign a Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day proclamation, less than 24 hours after news broke that he called African nations, in his words, shithole countries.