Return to Transcripts main page


Sources Say Trump Growing Frustrated with His Chief of Staff; Clinton Blocked Firing of '08 Advisor of Harassment; Nikki Haley Slams Disgusting Rumors of Affair with Trump. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired January 26, 2018 - 15:30   ET


[15:30:00] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: New signs of tension within the West Wing as a flareup has once again put the spotlight on the strained relationship between the president and his chief of staff. Sources tell CNN that the president feels that General John Kelly continues to undermine him, causing him to become frustrated and a way to lash out. The president reportedly thinks Kelly is undermining his authority and doesn't respect him. CNN's White House reporter, Kaitlan Collins, is covering this for us in New York today. Such a pleasure to see you. Obviously, we saw the president jump into this impromptu Q&A with reporters the other night, when it was supposed to be Kelly on immigration. Is that all pieces of this whole puzzle?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Yes. It just really is a signal of these flare ups that are becoming more and more public. And it's not surprising that there's tension between these two men, because Trump is this freewheeling off the cuff while John Kelly is very structured and brusque. They have very different mannerisms. So, it's not surprising that there clashing. But this flare-up Wednesday evening before the president got on a plane without John Kelly to go to Davos really shows the tension in the relationship. John Kelly was briefing reporters and the president shows up, upends the whole thing, starts taking questions and really steals the show away from John Kelly. And sources later describe that episode to us as a warning shot from the president --

BALDWIN: A warning shot?

COLLINS: -- to John Kelly to show him, hey, I'm still the boss here. Because there has been this speculation that John Kelly is the one in charge. He's managing the president. And that is something that Donald Trump cannot stand. He doesn't like to seem like he's being manage. He feels more and more like his chief of staff is undermining him. He doesn't respect him. But it's not just individual to John Kelly. If there is any tension that the president has always had with his chief of staff, as he often did when Reince Priebus was running the west wing. So, it just is an ongoing -- it's the movie we've seen before. But we're really seeing the tension between these two flareup.

BALDWIN: Because we've seen flareups before, not just with Reince Priebus, but I mean, think of all the people in the Trump orbit.

COLLINS: Steve Bannon, Jeff Sessions. BALDWIN: Sometimes they go the way of Steve Bannon but sometimes the

way of Jeff Sessions. What's your sense from people you talk to about the future of General Kelly?

COLLINS: So, I don't think he's on the chopping block. I don't think he's going to be replaced tomorrow. But I do think this is how this starts. It snowballs. It's a snowball effect. The president becomes frustrated with someone and then he pushes them and pushes them until they leave. That's how he did it with Reince Priebus, Steve Bannon, all of these people. He gets frustrated with them. But he keeps them around for some time before they're ultimately pushed out. And I think he does realize that he needs John Kelly in a sense that he has quieted the West Wing some.

But then he does these other things where he imposes these harsh restrictions on the president, which he doesn't like. It's not just who can come by the Oval Office, but it's his calls. It's all of that. As you've noticed, the president starts spending more, more time in the residents instead of the West Wing in the morning. It's because that's where he can be himself. That's where he can call all of his friends and see what they think about the media coverage. And he definitely feels restricted, not just in a professional sense, but in a personal sense by John Kelly.

BALDWIN: All right, we shall see how this one plays out. Kaitlan Collins, thank you so very much.

Meantime we are following breaking developments in not just one but two sexual harassment stories today. Hillary Clinton stepping in to save the job of a campaign staffer who was accused of sexual harassment. We are going to delve into that one. And also talk about the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Nikki Haley, and the reports that she had an affair with the president.


BALDWIN: A new report about Hillary Clinton's 2008 presidential campaign raising some eyebrows. A source tells CNN that Clinton decided not to fire a senior adviser who had been accused of sexual harassment. A Female campaign staffer accused Clinton's then faith adviser. His name is Burns Strider, of inappropriate touching and sending her suggestive emails. Strider was sent to counseling while this younger accuser was reassigned. CNN obtained the statement from the law firm who represented Clinton in her '08 campaign. Which I'll just read a piece of it. When matters arose, they were reviewed in accordance with policies and appropriate action was taken.

With me now, Erin Gloria Ryan. She's the senior editor at the "Daily Beast." Also, here CNN political commentators Tara Setmayer and Van Jones. Mr. Jones, to you first, sir. You know, on Hillary Clinton, the question is -- if this is all true and he was ultimately fired in a different situation some years later -- why didn't she do more and what does she need to say about it now?

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I mean, if you ever needed proof that this is a bipartisan issue that it's not about Republicans, it's not about Democrats, it's not about the Hollywood industry, it's not about -- that this is a bipartisan, ubiquitous problem, here you have it. And I thought what was very interesting today they pointed to their policies. And that's part of the problem. It turns out these policies have been inadequate for a very long time. And so, you can't hide behind policies that may be worked for you ten years ago. And say, see I was doing -- that's exactly the whole point is that the policies and the practices we've had not just in politics but throughout society are not good enough. She's going to have to come out and address it.

BALDWIN: She's going to have to come out and address it. What do you think?

TARA SETMAYER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Absolutely, I think that this is probably a blow to a lot of people who thought that Hillary Clinton was this stalwart to feminism and women's empowerment. And here she had a female campaign manager who was approached with this campaign worker, who was a faith adviser.

BALDWIN: Faith adviser, read scripture every morning.

SETMAYER: What kind of faith was he promoting if he's over here as a sexual harasser, and was married at the time? They brought this accusation, was pretty credible. Who they reassign the worker and keep him? And that was at Hillary Clinton's behest. I think that that's really pretty hypocritical. And if she continues to stay silent that just I think is even more disappointing, I'm sure, for her supporters. Obviously, I'm not a Hillary supporter. But I just find the irony of this is not lost, considering the position she took on Harvey Weinstein, and the #metoo movement. And yet here it happened in her own campaign and she personally allowed him to stay. And just to put a point on what you said, yes, he got fired years later from "Correct the Record" for the exact same thing.

BALDWIN: That's correct. He was quietly fired as he was there supporting her '16 campaign there as well.

SETMAYER: For sexual harassment.

BALDWIN: I want to move on to talk to you about what Nikki Haley. How she has come to talk about these rumors. Let me give you the back story. This is the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. She's disputing and condemning a rumor that she had or is having an affair with the president. This all started with the controversy I'll "Fire and Fury" book. I see you shaking your head. I know. Let me play this. She is speaking with Politico's Women Rule podcast. Eliana Johnson. Here she is.


NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: It is absolutely not true. It is highly offensive. And it's disgusting. At every point in my life, I've notice that if you speak your mind and you're strong about it, and you say what you believe, there is a small percentage of people that resent that. And the way they deal with it is to try and throw arrows, lies or not, to diminish you. (END VIDEO CLIP)

[15:40:00] BALDWIN: The rumor isn't the story. It's the way in which the ambassador so boldly said boom, boom to the rumor to try to quash it. What did you make of how bold she was?

ERIN GLORIA RYAN, SENIOR EDITOR, THE DAILY BEAST: Well, this isn't the first time that Nikki Haley has had to quash rumors of having an affair that were also totally unfairly leveled against her and really unfair and awful and sexist. In 2010 she offered to resign from being governor of South Carolina if those rumors proved true. Of course, they didn't prove true. But she has had practice coming out swinging and she did. I'm really glad she did. Because she's right.

Women are often times targeted if they reach a certain level of power by the one thing that women are still affected by more than men in the most dramatic way, which is their sexuality, their sex, their gender. So, I'm glad that she came out. I think -- and I echo something Van said earlier, sexism doesn't see ideology. And having, you know, conservative or liberal ideology doesn't inoculate you from having sexist viewpoints or being able to make sexist accusations. It also doesn't mean that you can't be somebody who stand up and is really tough and great against sexism. And Nikki Haley did something great today.

BALDWIN: I totally agree.

SETMAYER: Good for her.

BALDWIN: And I want to talk more -- let me read more from Nikki Haley. She said, there's a small percentage of people that recent that. And the way they deal with it is to try to throw arrows, lies or not, to diminish you.

I mean, to me, it's like here you have this successful, attractive woman. And all of a sudden people, detractors, you know, the criticism, well, is she must have [clicked tongue] with the president to get to where she is today. That is such BS.

RYAN: But I'm sure that like you know, I'm sure we've all experienced that here. Like, you know, we're women who have succeeded in industries that have a lot of men who are in power. And I --

BALDWIN: Look at what she did.

RYAN: Yes. What did she do? What did she do? And there's something so uniquely soul crushing about that for someone to assume you don't have talent enough on your own to make it. And Nikki Haley obviously does. And I'm glad that she attacked it.

SETMAYER: I have to say that I like Nikki Haley. And she has been a rising star in the GOP for some time. And I was actually in South Carolina for the primary when she was on stage with Marco Rubio. And it was Marco Rubio, Tim Scott and Nikki Haley and I stood in that room very proudly looking at that saying to myself, now that's the future of the Republican Party. Until Donald Trump beat Marco Rubio by 10 points in the primary and crushed -- is was soul crushing. Soul crushing my dreams Here we are today.

But anyway, so, I'm glad to see -- I was a little skeptical of her appointment in that position, given she had no foreign policy experience. I was kind of like, ah. But she's actually done a fantastic job. And I'm actually glad to see her in that position. She seems to be almost inoculated from some of the chaos that's been going on in this administration.

And I wonder if it's because -- but she has come out with different positions than the president at times. Which we all know doesn't go over very well. But with her, he seems to have laid off of her. And I wonder if it's because he knows that he has to be careful with his image with women. Because he's got problems in other areas. So, I don't think he wants to attack her. But she's doing a great job. I'm proud of her.

BALDWIN: Ask the man on the panel. Dude, it is 2018. What is going on?

JONES: Well, I mean, first of all, the idea that the one person who is classing up the joint. I mean, and she's classing up the entire Trump administration by exponential percentage points, that she's the one that you're going to go after her and say she doesn't have any class? It's just completely horrible. And this is part of where we are in this moment. You know, people want to figure out some way to pull people down. It's crabs in the barrel.

That's in some ways, it's a part of the game. But they go after women in a particular way. You must be using your looks, using your weird seductive wiles to get your way. It's like, listen, guys, the Trump administration is luckier than they deserve to have her there. She is going to be a star before, during and after this and she's handling it with the kind of class you expect from her.

BALDWIN: Incredible. Ladies, thank you for being with me. Nice to have both of you on. Van, don't move a muscle, because we're going to talk about the big show tomorrow. I'm sorry, Jay-Z's my first guest. Whatever.

JONES: Beyonce's husband.

BALDWIN: We're talking to Van about his big sit down -- "THE VAN JONES SHOW," with him, after this break.


BALDWIN: Our friend Van Jones has a brand-new show. It is premiering tomorrow. And he is kicking off his new program with one serious superstar of a guest, 21-time Grammy award winner and cultural icon Jay-Z. So, Van has this exclusive interview happening tomorrow. Score. So exciting.

JONES: So happy, so happy.

BALDWIN: There are so many different directions you can go. But where -- JONES: You've got to tune in. It's 7:00 tomorrow. It's a Saturday. If you're going to go out with your boo, set your DVR. But it's going to be amazing. I love this man. His most recent album was so concessional. You know, hip-hop is usually braggadocios, and accusing somebody. You ain't nothing, I'm the best. He's talking about his mom. He's talking about his marriage. So, he's totally change the game in hip-hop. He's been a philanthropist, talking about criminal justice. So, there's so much in this #metoo moment, black lives moment to talk about. He doesn't talk very often. So, I'm just -- I just can't wait. I can't wait.

BALDWIN: I can't wait for that. And then also we're going to set up a clip. Tell me about the rest of the show. You set up the clip-on Charlottesville.

JONES: Got you. So, the show has two parts usually. We're going to talk to somebody who's like a big opinion leader, sometimes politics, sometimes entertainment. And then we're going to go out into the country and talk to ordinary people and get ordinary people talking to each other.

[15:50:00] So, we have this thing we call "Van in a van." I went to Charlottesville where those Nazis matched and murdered that woman. So, I got a van and I picked up two conservatives and a liberal and we just drove around and talked. And I think people are going to be surprised by how the conversation went.

BALDWIN: Let's watch. Here's a clip.


JONES: How do you feel about what that sign says, Heather Heyer Way?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: These two (INAUDIBLE). A mother's child is gone, a community member is gone.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There were a number of people, including the president of the university, who said don't go downtown, stay away from downtown.

JONES: Somebody might have mistaken you as saying it was Heather Heyer's fault for coming down here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, No, I don't feel that it was her fault.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: People of good sound mind did not believe the way to handle the situation was to pretend they weren't there and nothing was going to happen.


BALDWIN: You do have this incredible way of grabbing people from both sides. And ultimately, I mean, you try common ground. Right? You talk so much about that. What was your takeaway from the conversation? JONES: You know, both of those people were born in Charlottesville.

We think about these cities, you know, they're a sound bite. Oh, the president handled this badly, let's move on. People are born there. They live there. They die there. These conflicts have generational roots and we got to that. And at the end, believe it or not, even though they didn't change their position, there was not just some tears, there was some laughter, too.

BALDWIN: We can't wait to watch. It premieres tomorrow at 7:00 here on CNN. Set your DVRs, watch it happen. We're so excited for you. Congratulations.

JONES: Thank you, I appreciate the opportunity.

BALDWIN: Tell your buddy Jay-Z if his wife ever wants to sit down for an interview with this girl, I'm down. All right.

JONES: That I will.

BALDWIN: Van, thank you so much.

JONES: Thank you, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Coming up next here on CNN, the fallout from the bombshell report that President Trump wanted to fire his special counsel, Robert Mueller and was only stop by a White House lawyer who threatened to quit if he follows through with it. More on that coming up.


BALDWIN: This morning students return to Marshall County High School in Kentucky for the first time since a 15-year-old classmate went on that shooting rampage. But the two students killed, Bailey Holt and Preston Cope, both also, just 15, will never get the chance to go back to class. Their families are speaking out as they struggle to grapple with what and who they lost.


SECRET HOLT, MOTHER OF SHOOTING VICTIM BAILEY HOLT: Even though she was 15, she had already decided her career was going to be a labor and delivery nurse. And she helped others. She always put herself what others needed the worst help. She was just so kind hearted. And just the most amazing kid anybody could ever ask for.

BRIAN COPE, FATHER OF SHOOTING VICTIM PRESTON COPE: This boy here looked up to Preston, his hero, his idol. There's four years difference between them. But you'd think he was just a year under him. But he hung with him and done everything, everything. He looked up to him so much. He was such a good son. It's hard but this is what's getting us through in our faith in God and God is lifting us and giving us the strength. Because I know that he's in a better place than we are. And we will all see him again. We will see him again.

(END VIDEOTAPE) BALDWIN: Gosh, obviously our hearts and thoughts go out to those parents, their friends, their family, that entire community there in Kentucky. Both families will hold funerals this weekend. Bailey's mom says her daughter called her as the attack was happening. But all she could hear was chaos and screaming. As for why this happened? That is still a tragic mystery. Prosecutors trying to get the teenage suspect tried as an adult.

I'm Brooke Baldwin, "THE LEAD" starts now.