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Interview with Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia; Interview with Anthony Scaraucci. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired March 1, 2018 - 08:00   ET


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, it's going to have to be you to bring the Republicans to the table on this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need to act.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to your New Day. It is Thursday, March 1st, 8:00 in the east.

So two days of chaos in the White House. One of the president's closest aides, White House Communications Director Hope Hicks is resigning. She's still there, but she will soon be gone. A source tells CNN that the president berated her for admitting to lawmakers that she tells, quote, "white lies," end quote, on his behalf. Adding to his turmoil, President Trump attacking his own attorney general very publicly again for how he's handling allegations of surveillance abuses. And "The Washington Post" reports that Special Counsel Robert Mueller is looking into the president's efforts to force Sessions out last summer.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: And there's more. Jared Kushner has heat on him. The president's son-in-law is now facing a damning report in "The New York Times" that says he secured hundreds of millions of dollars in loans for his family business after taking meetings with financial executives at the White House. The key here is the timing. Now, moments ago we spoke about all of this, all this West Wing chaos, whether it's real, with former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci. Listen to what he says about morale at the White House. Remember, this is a man with zero interest in saying something that is just hollow in its negativity of the president. He says morale is a real problem. Listen.


ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: I think it's a big departure in the sense that this is one of the president's closest friends, aides, loyalists, somebody that understands the heartbeat of the president, understands his personality, and also is -- she's incredibly good at guiding people. I will tell you this about Hope, Washington is a rough place. We both know that. There's not a malicious bone in Hope's body. She's just a wonderful person, always trying to do the right thing, cares about everybody, not interested in conflict, not interested in the ego rub.

CUOMO: On the negative side, she says that she did tell some lies for the president. She said that there was no communications between anyone from Trump and Russians. She underplayed the situation with that meeting and the drafting of the response thereto. The Rob Porter thing was a debacle of epic proportions.

SCARAMUCCI: Let's unpack each one of those things. But let's start with the white lies. So I would submit to your viewers, or anybody in America or around the world, tell me the person that hasn't told me a white lie, I'll identify that person as the biggest liar in the room. And so here is what happens in Washington that I absolutely can't stand. She's in a closed door session, they're asking her stuff, it's under oath, you know how important that is. So do I. The integrity of every sentence, every syllable. They asked her if she told any white lies. She said yes probably. I wasn't there.

And then they pick up the phone, Andrew, I'm sorry, Chris, and they drop a dime on her. It's just totally unfair. It's a closed session and in strict confidence. So now they're trying to colorize this woman who is an extremely gifted professional as a liar. So I submit it back to everybody else, hold a mirror to your face and tell me you haven't told a white lie because I don't believe it.

CUOMO: You think she was one of the good ones, I get it.

SCARAMUCCI: High integrity, great person.

CUOMO: What about the Robert Porter situation? She should have known.

SCARAMUCCI: I hold the White House chief of staff accountable for that.

CUOMO: Kelly you hold accountable?

SCARAMUCCI: Because he had the information related to Porter. I don't understand why he would allow Hope to date Porter if he's got that information.

CUOMO: How can he keep them from dating?

SCARAMUCCI: My point is he had the information, he tried to cover up the information, tried to get other people inside the White House to cover up the information for him.

CUOMO: You believe Kelly covered up the information about --


CUOMO: Because that's not what the White House says. The White House says as soon as he found out, he acted on it.

SCARAMUCCI: Well, I don't believe that. CUOMO: Is that another white lie?

SCARAMUCCI: You've got to ask him. Have him sit in the white chair and ask him if it's a white lie or not. You'll be able to figure it out quickly. But the Rob Porter situation for me, I liked Rob. I've been asked even by the president did I see any of that indication of Rob. I didn't. But there was an FBI dossier on Rob, and people knew about it.

CUOMO: So how does Kelly survive then? Why didn't he get the berated that Hope Hicks got?

SCARAMUCCI: This is how it works. It's going to be up for the president to decide that. I guess he's an honorable marine, and so he's got to look at himself in the mirror and say what he knew and when he knew it. But I'll tell you what I don't like about it. I talked a little bit of smack about two guys we were trying to get rid of. He fires me in five seconds. These guys are smacking up their wives and he's trying to find a way to keep them inside the White House. So it's very dishonest to me.

CUOMO: So is it a personal grievance that's motivating you? You think as a matter of honor and duty Kelly needs to go?

SCARAMUCCI: It isn't. It's a cultural grievance because I've sat in this white chair with you over the six months after he fired me and said nothing but good things about him. I have no problem with him firing me. Everybody has an opportunity and the right to change their staff, particularly when they're the chief of staff. But this is a cultural thing. The morale inside the White House, you're a great reporter, you have got great reporters on staff. The morale is terrible. The reason the morale is terrible is the rule by fear and intimidation does not work in a civilian environment. Here we are. It's messed up. It will be up to the president to decide if he wants to fix it or not.

CUOMO: The question is whether or not the president is contributing to the turmoil.

SCARAMUCCI: I predict more departures.

CUOMO: You do believe that we should be open to more people leaving the administration?

SCARAMUCCI: If the current situation and the current culture inside the administration stays exactly the way it is, there's literally no change, there will be a lot more departures. The morale is at an all- time low and it's trending lower.


CUOMO: All right, let's bring in CNN politics reporter and editor at large Chris Cillizza and CNN political analyst Joshua Green. It's good to have you both, gentlemen. So we know Anthony Scaramucci well. So do you. He is completely not inclined to say anything negative about the president. That's not where he's coming from. He's not a critic. So for him to say that morale is bad and getting worse, that it is destabilizing and putting meat on the bones of this Ides of March notion that you're going to see more people leave the White House, that is remarkable.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: Agreed, because he has his enemies, Steve Bannon, Reince Priebus, John Kelly it sounds like from your interview with him, Chris. But Donald Trump is not one of them. Anthony Scaramucci knows where his bread is buttered at the end of the day and criticizing Donald Trump is not something he does.

But I do think his comments are worth noting for that reason because there is a sense -- people say Hope Hicks, staffer. There is a sense that this is one of the last, one of the only originals left who were with him in June, 2015, and someone who is not family, who he trusts and who has showed total loyalty to him. The less of those people, the more likely you get the Trump -- isolated Trump, angry Trump tweeting, even more and more nasty than he has. And the more unpredictable he is, the more dangerous he is to the Republican Party, its prospects in 2018, and to himself politically speaking.

CAMEROTA: What's your reporting say about what the morale is inside the White House?

JOSHUA GREEN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: In speaking to people in the White House last night, that is exactly how Trump was -- angry, upset, furious. The people I've talked to said they've never seen things this bad. It's stunning from the standpoint of we were accustomed to this six months ago, eight months ago, a year ago. John Kelly was brought in to assert order and hierarchy and to tamp this stuff down. Everybody I talked to last night to a man said that things are absolutely out of control.

CILLIZZA: And by the way, add to the fact that Jared Kushner is -- I don't know want to say it's an untenable position, but his job overseeing the Middle East peace process such as it is, liaising with China and Mexico, I'm not sure you can do that job as currently constituted with the security clearance he now has, the downgraded security clearance. If Jared Kushner goes, he's never going to leave the Trump orbit because he's married to Donald Trump's daughter, but if he goes, if that pulls Ivanka away in in the nearer term from the White House, now you don't even have those family connections because Don Jr. and Eric Trump obviously are handling the business and not involved in the political end of Donald Trump's life.

Now you have Dan Scavino essentially who is an original. That's just not I think going to be enough for someone who has always depended on that small group, mostly family --

CAMEROTA: Why do you assume that Jared Kushner has to go? Doesn't it make more sense that General Kelly would go?

GREEN: That's ultimately up to the president. Scaramucci, I was just talking in the greenroom, I said, wow, you're really sticking knives in Kelly's back. He said no, I'm sticking knives in his front, and I think that's a sign that there's a real effort out there -- this has been ongoing for weeks now, since the Rob Porter scandal, among a certain faction of Trump loyalists to try to make that happen, to push out.

CAMEROTA: Right, and at times we know that Donald Trump has lost favor with General Kelly.

GREEN: We do. But on the other hand he said publicly, Trump did, it's up to Kelly who he wants to downgrade when it comes to security clearances and gave him tacit permission to downgrade Jared Kushner.

CUOMO: This is bad for me, let me give it to somebody else. But then I'll come in and weigh in when it suits me.

CILLIZZA: Do what I want.

CUOMO: On one level, I can get the frustration from people in hearing this. This is like a soap opera. It just feels like every time we have one of these episodes we need to end with one of those people with one of those frozen faces on the soap opera.


CAMEROTA: But it's called "As the stomach turns."

CUOMO: That's good. But on the other side, why do we care? Because this is going to have a direct effect on what gets done for the American people. Or not.

CILLIZZA: I think that's really important. It's not about he doesn't like this one or he depended on that one. It's about the president of the United States, how he views institutions. We haven't talked about Jeff Sessions, but how he views institutions. How he treats his top law enforcement official, how he views his relationship between the Justice Department and the White House.

CUOMO: How do you know that this Ides of March thing, again, it's not mine. I'm using it because I like it. But this is this notion that, well, if Kelly goes, McMaster may be like, well, that was my affinity, and if that's the way we're going, I'm not here either. You do the same things to me you're doing to Kelly, then he's gone.

CILLIZZA: Mattis and Tillerson.

CUOMO: And if Jeff Sessions keeps getting beaten up, say I don't need this anymore, I'm going to leave, one after another, this is a problem.

GREEN: It is, and this is actually one problem the White House is going to confront right now in figuring out who is going to replace Hope Hicks. She came in basically because they couldn't find an attractive communications director.

CAMEROTA: She's the fourth.

GREEN: Fourth or fifth?

CUOMO: Jason Miller. GREEN: Essentially she was a necessity because they couldn't get

somebody else to come in. She came in, she did a good job. Trump obviously trusted her. But the problem is still there. People don't want to come into this White House --

CUOMO: If the job is coms, you'll find somebody. If it's Trump whisperer, that's a tough job to fill.

GREEN: That's an impossible job to fill. But even in the coms job, it's difficult to impossible because Trump considers himself his own communications director. If he doesn't like the tenor of the news coverage, he will lash out at that person. And if you're a Republican operative, you have to look ahead to November and expect this is going to be ugly. There are going to be big losses. Trump is going to lash out. Why do I want to hop on board now, six months before that bloodbath, and be part of the crew that's blamed for that? I'll just hang back and let somebody else take that job.

CILLIZZA: And the reality is there is no replacement for Hope Hicks in the Trump universe. There just isn't. They're going to hire someone to be the communications director. They will find someone, though Josh's point is well taken. It's not easy because a lot of people who are potentials for that don't want to go into it. But it's the replacing of someone -- he never listens to anyone all the time, or I think probably most of the time. But someone who he trusted who he believed had his best interests at heart who always put him first rather than that person, there's not a person you can find on the street or in the Republican political firmament that does that.

There's a reason there was a small motley-ish crew in June, 2015, because everyone was laughing at Donald Trump. He was the punch line of a joke. But Hope Hicks believed in him. Corey Lewandowski, it's why Corey Lewandowski is still around, because he believed in him. It's why Dan Scavino is still in the White House, because he believed in him.

CAMEROTA: And you know who else believed in him? Jeff Sessions. Jeff Sessions believed in him before a lot of people did. We interviewed him all the time. He was one of the first people to come out in full-throated support of Donald Trump. And sometimes when they talk about how important loyalty is in the White House, it might be a one-way street.

GREEN: It's often a one-way street. I have a whole scene in my book about how Sessions became the first person to endorse Donald Trump, the first setting senator to endorse Donald Trump, went way out on a limb. Had Trump lost the election, Sessions was afraid he'd be blackballed by his own party because he'd done that. Well, he stuck with Trump. Trump won. He was rewarded with the attorney general job. And now he's become the whipping boy for the president.

CILLIZZA: It hasn't been -- again, it hasn't been 18 months since Donald Trump said, out of everyone in this country, I want Jeff Sessions to be the top cop for my administration. And now it's beleaguered, I would never -- telling two different national newspapers, the "Wall Street Journal" and the "New York Times," I would never have hired him if I knew he was going to recuse himself. Disgraceful, all caps. This is his pick. Barack Obama didn't say, hey, I'm going to pick -- Loretta Lynch is going to be your attorney general, Eric Holder. This is who Donald Trump wanted.

CUOMO: Here is why it became relevant. To policy, we just had another big meeting, bipartisan, on TV, really great. We had it with immigration. The difference becomes what happens next. Sessions is really important to that. The people in the infrastructure around the president are really important to that in terms of going and liaising with Congress and using the capital and figuring out where the space is and keeping the president on message. Who is going to be doing those things? If Sessions is injured, so when he goes to people to talk about this policy, they're like, please, like all of a sudden you're his guy? I heard what he said about you. He calls you Magoo. I'm not doing this with you. This matters.

GREEN: It matters. And I think in the case of Jeff Sessions, he stays not out of loyalty to Trump but because he has power. You know, Sessions was a gadfly in the Senate. He didn't really -- he didn't really get a lot done.

Now, he's the top law enforcement officer in the land with enormous power and discretion over things like criminal justice reform, how immigration laws are carried out.

The only reason he would stick around and take the kind of hazing he's gotten which is more brutal and humiliating than any cabinet official I think in the history of the U.S. presidency -- you know, most people would leave the first time this happened. They would resign. They would go off -- Sessions has stayed in and is taking it again and again and again because I think he has that power.

But as far as people listening to him or him being seen as somebody who speaks for the president, you know, that's not happening.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Josh Green, Chris Cillizza, thank you for the analysis. Great to talk to you.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: So, to this point about what all this means for policy, the president was very ambitious in this meeting yesterday. He said he supports expanded background checks. That is a no-go zone for many Republicans and certainly their friends at the NRA.

So, what does it mean for policy? That's where the man on your screen becomes very relevant. Senator Joe Manchin, Democrat from West Virginia. He was there. He has a proposal, bipartisan, with the senator to his left, Toomey. What does this mean for change? We have him on.

CAMEROTA: OK. Plus, we spoke with a panel of gun owners with very different thoughts on gun control. So, where do they stand on arming teachers and so much more? That's ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [08:20:07] CUOMO: So, we had another big televised bipartisan meeting event with the president and lawmakers on both sides. This time, it was about gun control and the lawmakers who were working on a bill to strengthen background checks, OK? So, the president says, listen, you guys, forget about the NRA. Listen.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In your bill, what are you doing about the 18 to 21?

SEN. PAT TOOMEY (R), PENNSYLVANIA: We need to change that.

TRUMP: OK, are you going to leave that?

TOOMEY: That's -- whatever you want.

TRUMP: So, you have a case right now were somebody can buy a handgun at 21.

It doesn't make sense that I have to wait until I'm 21 to get a handgun but I can get this weapon at 18. I don't know.

So I was just curious as to what you did in your bill.

TOOMEY: We didn't -- we didn't address, it, Mr. President. But I think we --

TRUMP: You know why? Because you're afraid of the NRA, right?

TOOMEY: It wasn't an issue five years ago.

TRUMP: It's a big issue right now.


CUOMO: One of those lawmakers is Democratic Senator Joe Manchin from West Virginia. He worked with Toomey, the Republican senator on this bill. He tried to get a bill like this done after Sandy Hook. It got voted down or he didn't have enough votes and he joins us.

Senator, good to have you with us.

SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D), WEST VIRGINIA: Good to be with you, Chris.

CUOMO: In terms of the state of play coming out of this meeting, there were a lot of frowns on the Republican side of what the president was saying. But I want to show your Democrats and what their responses were.

Feinstein when he was talking about these different measures, they were very excited. I've seen Feinstein kind of like that before, and it was when the president kind of agreed with her about a clean bill on DACA at the last big televised media event. After yesterday, do you believe you have a clearer sense of where the president is and what you can get done? MANCHIN: Well, I've never seen him more determined and willing to do

whatever he needs to do in order to try to bring some sanity and order to this whole gun issue.

You know, in 2013, when I introduced a bill, I brought -- we started drafting that bill, I had Tom Coburn working with me. I wanted to make sure it was bipartisan, Chris, which is what I try to do every time on a piece of legislation.

And Tom and I were working, and Tom for whatever reason left the bill, and I got Pat and started talking with Pat. He brought his ideas. We formed a piece of legislation that had bipartisan support. We didn't have enough of my Republican friends, but we had some. We introduced that bill, OK?

The NRA, we tried to talk to them. We tried to work with all parties, not just them, everybody involved, and thought we had something that would be basically something to move forward. And then that went for naught, OK? We lost that, had 54 votes. We needed 60.

So, that's been the most -- that bill, the Manchin-Toomey bill, has been vetted more than any bill in the last five years. It makes sense. We closed the loopholes. You want to talk about all the guns people are wanting to ban, everything people are wanting to do, it's all for naught if you can't have a background check and knowing who shouldn't be able to buy a gun.

If they can still go to the gun show and go to a table that's not regulated and doesn't have to have a background check, they can buy anything they want to. When the terrorist organizations get on the Internet and they tell you, Chris, if you want to buy a weapon of mass destruction, go to a gun show. If you can get on the Internet and buy whatever -- the commercial transactions, you know, a law abiding gun owner is not going to sell their gun to a stranger. On a commercial transaction, you don't know. You're trying to get rid of it.

We think those should be regulated to where they have to be -- they have to be background checked. It makes sense.

So, the president embraces that. He likes the bill. We're going to work with him and his administration to see if that's going to be the base bill they want to work off of. And anything they want to put to it, if the president's support is there, I think makes a big difference.

CUOMO: And you are OK with raising the age to buy weapons like AR- style rifles to 21?

MANCHIN: Chris, I said I agree with the president. That's a no- brainer. If you have to be 21 to buy a handgun, it only makes common sense that you should be 21 to buy an AR-15.

CUOMO: What about a shotgun or hunting rifle?

MANCHIN: No, that's not -- no. We're talking about these weapons, we're talking about these weapons, which is the high-powered weapons of mass destruction. What I understand. If people want -- I had a shotgun when I was 12. I've had guns all my life, but I was taught properly how to handle them.

And here, if a person at 18, if that's the case, they're going to say, well, 18, you should take a test, show competency, you should show maturity, that you know how to handle it in a safe manner and you're deemed to be a person of responsibility, then that could be one of the caveats if you start negotiating.

All these things will be brought to the table to talk about which is how you work legislation. But right now, I don't have a problem on an AR-15 going to 21. And also --

[08:25:00] CUOMO: Do you think you have the votes?


CUOMO: Do you think you have the votes? Do you think it's different this time?

MANCHIN: The president makes all the difference in the world, because we've always had problems with our Republican friends coming on board on something what it makes so much what we call gun sense. It's common sense. We call it gun sense. If you come from a gun country, if you come from a gun culture, you know certain things you do and don't do.

You don't sell your gun to a stranger. You don't basically sell your gun to someone who is a criminal or someone who has been mentally adjudicated or you think is crazy. You don't even give it to a family member you don't think is responsible.

You're taught, that's in you. We didn't infringe in those rights. We said if you're going to go to a gun show, you want to sell a gun, then it should go through an FFL dealer or has to have a background check, because you don't know the person that wants to buy it.

Those things make sense. Everybody, 80 percent, 90 percent of the American public agree. That's what I think the president can hook onto and we can get this thing over the goal line.

CUOMO: You've always had at least half the country on the same page with this type of change and it hasn't happened because of how politicians are rewarded and punished at the polls by single issue voters and by a lobbying group called the NRA. What changes there this time?

MANCHIN: Well, I'm still an NRA member, lifetime member. When I joined the NRA and all my friends that belong to the NRA are enthusiasts, they like to hunt.

They think it's a culture. They like to shoot. They like to do the different things, sporting. And that's what it was for.

We taught safety, gun safety. We would even teach children how to properly be able to handle a gun and what they should and should not know and do. We did everything. We thought that's the premise of who we were.

It's changed from that because now they're afraid to change anything. I'll give you a perfect situation. I said this yesterday. If President Trump in 2013 would have been the president during that period of time, we wouldn't be talking about this, Chris. The bill would have passed.

But because of President Obama and the previous administration, people were afraid, and they told me in West Virginia, they said, Joe, we've read the bill, we understand the bill and it's a good bill but we're not going to support it and we're afraid for this bill to pass because we think it will give an opening to where President Obama will take more of our rights away, Second Amendment. Nobody in West Virginia believes Donald Trump is going to take their Second Amendment rights away, nobody.

So with that being said, it gives us the momentum we need to make this happen in a common sense, gun sense way.

CUOMO: We'll see. Obviously the big question is we had big huge poll numbers in favor of helping the DACA people, also, and the president was on the right side of that according to people in the polls who said they wanted that kind of change and it didn't happen.

So, let's see what happens this time.

MANCHIN: Well, I'm hoping -- I'm hoping the president can think back to that couple weeks ago and look at this where he really has a chance to do something that absolutely nobody else has been able to do, no president before him has been able to get this across the goal line, whether it be Republican or Democratic.

He's the one that can do it. I want to work with him. I want to do something that's common sense, gun sense. And get something.

CUOMO: #winning. That will appeal to the president. He's probably watching right now.

MANCHIN: I hope so.

CUOMO: Senator, thank you for joining us.

MANCHIN: Thank you. Thank you, Chris.

CUOMO: Alisyn?

CAMEROTA: OK. So, Chris, what do gun owners think about the gun control debate since the Florida massacre? Are they willing to give up their AR-15s and see them banned?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've already decided you cannot have an automatic weapon, all right? So, all we're talking about is where the line is.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But the line is for military use. An AR-15 is not a military rifle. It is a regular semi-automatic rifle that looks bad ass.


CAMEROTA: OK, more of our spirited conversation, next.