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Interview with Kellyanne Conway; President Trump Replaces H.R. McMaster with John Bolton as National Security Adviser; Gunman Takes Hostages in Supermarket in Southern France. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired March 23, 2018 - 8:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[08:00:00] KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: That's why we now have funding for the wall, for the military, for school safety, for opioids, for so many of the president's priorities, Christopher. This town was mocking the wall two years ago and now they're funding it. That's Donald Trump.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: That's Washington. I don't know how the wall makes any more sense now than it did two years ago when these guys made it up.

CONWAY: But the president, look at what he did just week. Just this week he rolled a two page, everybody should read it, very specific, very significant drug policy. Then yesterday he took action against China because the USTR released a report that said that we were losing innovation in the future and that there's intellectual property theft. And so he has taken action on that instead of just talking about it.

CUOMO: Whether or not it's the right action, though, winds up becoming a basis for the scrutiny.

PAUL: You don't want to talk about the tax cuts.

CUOMO: Of course I want to talk about them.

CONWAY: You don't want to talk about the tax cuts.

CUOMO: Of course I want to talk about them.

CONWAY: That over 4.5 million Americans have benefited directly from bonuses, from raises, that doesn't even scratch the surface of all the capital investment that they have committed to their communities here.

CUOMO: A lot of companies like the fact that you gave them more money. What they do with that money, we will see.

CONWAY: You've seen what -- you've seen what they have done with that money. People's paychecks are fatter.

CUOMO: You have seen what some have done with some of the money.

CONWAY: Many, over 400 companies.

CUOMO: People are getting more money in their paychecks, but we also know that it's very unequally distributed, and that the top does a lot better than the middle class and we're promised that this cut would be about them.

CONWAY: Some may call it crumbs. Other people look at it --

CUOMO: I've never said the word "crumbs." Money matters to people. They just could have gotten more of it if the policy was directed toward them. But let's not get too far off point. I brought you on here because of this initiative matters.

CONWAY: Taxes are not too far off point, but go ahead.

CUOMO: But I'm just saying the distribution.

CONWAY: It does matter. It does matter. And it's great that Congress has met the call with funding. And let me just give a shout out to something. In January, the president was flanked by Republicans and Democrats in the House and the Senate in the Oval Office steps away from here singing into law something called the Interdict Act. Interdict is an acronym. That provided $9 million in additional funding for the Customs and Border Patrol for fentanyl handling and analysis.

Why is this important? It passed the Hose by about 412 to three, passed the Senate almost unanimously. We can do this together. I hope the people who are constantly trying to throw logs in the path of this president in a town that is very used to statist and not used to disruption and progress, I hope that they will come together in that kind of bipartisan fashion in the future. There's a bunch of legislation that's working its way through Congress. You pass that, you're doing what's right for the people in your communities.

CUOMO: You guys are in power. The president should talk to his own party and find a way to get things done. It's all on you.

CONWAY: That's why the economy is humming, ISIS is on the run and almost all but gone. That's why we're more secure, we're more prosperous, and we're more accountable. But I can tell you as somebody who works here every day since and has been here since day one that --

CUOMO: You're one of the few, my friend. You are one of the few. You are a veritable unicorn in that White House.

CONWAY: Allow me to be an illustration as to why there's such a great benefit in serving, because we can all be dozens of other places for lots more money. We're here because we love the country and we believe in the agenda that prevailed, not the one that failed at the ballot box. And we are trying every single day the best we can, beginning with the president and the vice president who actually were elected to something to put that agenda forth. He's keeping his promises, and people should not be surprised, Christopher, when he keeps those promises, when he puts tariffs, but he shows an openness, he has carveouts. He listens to Congress, he listens to other experts.

When he goes ahead and he has the most massive tax cut that your network said to the America people many times falsely it can't pass, it won't pass, and if it does it only benefits the wealthy and the well connected.

CUOMO: It disproportionately benefits the wealthy and well-connected.

CONWAY: They don't feel wealthy or well-connected. They're wealthier, their paychecks are fatter. But look at the stock market, look at the confidence numbers, look at the great achievements that has happened on behalf of people, the regulatory reform. ISIS is all but gone.

CUOMO: Every decision should be looked at in terms of its conceptual base and then its impact. We'll look at that. We'll see what happens with the tariffs. They don't like it on Wall Street right now when it comes to China, but we'll see how it goes. I've got to let you go. I've got to start the top of the next hour.

CONWAY: Thank you, Christopher, and good luck on your new show as well.

CUOMO: I'll see you there as well. You're always welcome here to discuss.

CONWAY: Don't tell people at CNN you don't think those other issues are of public service.

CUOMO: We know they are, and don't tell people that we report things it's not true because it almost always is.

CONWAY: I didn't say that. I just said the tax did pass, and they're great. We're going to talk about that all year.

CUOMO: I know but their uneven. I've got to go. We'll continue this discussion.

CONWAY: We're going to talk about that all year. Thank you, take care.

CUOMO: Be well.

CONWAY: Bye-bye.

CUOMO: All right, time for the top of the next hour. Good morning, welcome to your NEW DAY. Alisyn is on assignment. The one and only E. Hill sitting next to me.

President Trump shaking up his administration again, naming his third national security adviser in just 14 months. H.R. McMaster is out, we told you this was going to happen, it is not new, it was weeks in the making, that was denied by the White House. They said it was fake news. They were lying to you. It was real then and it just happened today. Former U.N. ambassador John Bolton is in. That could mean very real changes to how the White House deals with North Korea, Iran, and Russia.

[08:05:08] ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: There is also a major shakeup in the president's legal team. It comes as President Trump insists he still wants to talk to Robert Mueller's investigators. And we are following a deadly hostage standoff at a supermarket in

southern France. The French president calling this a terrorist act. France's president is set to address the nation soon and we'll bring you a live report on that in just minutes.

CUOMO: Let's begin with the shakeup of the White House. We have CNN senior political analyst and senior editor for "The Atlantic" Ron Brownstein, and CNN chief political correspondent Dana Bash. So we all knew this was going to happen. It was also an example of the ugly side of this White House when it comes to messaging and its media relationship to say it was a lie. Even Kellyanne, I didn't want to get into it with her too much because the opioids mattered, and that's why I had her on. But they only care about palace intrigue, none of this is true. It was all true, and now we're seeing it play out in real problem.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. We reported it was going to happen, we knew it was going to happen. The question was when was it going to happen, meaning when would H.R. McMaster finally leave? Our understanding was part of the question was because he was and is active duty military, would he go somewhere to get his fourth star. Barbara Starr, our Pentagon correspondent, was already saying that's probably unlikely. Now we see he's going to retire from the military.

But more important what this means is the president is still from his perspective getting his sea legs, getting his mojo, because he was not comfortable with H.R. McMaster. H.R. McMaster, remember, came in because the guy he really wanted, over the objections of many people he trusted, Michael Flynn, the first national security advisor was there for a minute, and we all know why. He brought in H.R. McMaster, who has unbelievable credentials, but they never meshed in terms of their personalities. The president never liked the way H.R. McMaster briefed, and he didn't sort of like his style.

And now he's picked somebody who I am told has had -- they've had several meetings, they get along personally, they do mesh in terms of their personalities. The thing that is so stunning is how different they are when it comes to their worldviews, which you would think would matter more than anything for somebody who is the national security adviser to be as hawkish as John Bolton is when you have a president who ran on the opposite platform.

HILL: And to your point too, not only so opposite, but based on everything we have seen and heard, the -- part of these conversations that were happening over the last number of days, weeks, whatever it may have been, was the fact that, look, you were going to go along with the president, and it's very clear the president is the decider here. And part of what may not have worked for H.R. McMaster as well is the fact that, Ron, here are some suggestions, Mr. President, and you may not like them, but here's what I'm thinking and here's some of my advice. It's been very clear from John Bolton that he is going to be in many ways a yes man for the president. And to Dana's point, it is so off from so much of what we know in terms of where he stands.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, it reinforces what we have seen, which is in that this is an administration where the policy process, and you almost have to put that word "process" in quotes, is very different than what we have seen in other administrations where there is really no systematic way I think for the opposing viewpoints to feel as though they are ultimately being heard and given a fair hearing, and that historically is why I think you see so many leaks out of the administration, whether it was the tariff decision or others where the president's mood and mind can change from hour to hour and no one is really sure how to get, how these outcomes are being generated.

I think this is also a reminder, though, of just how much by historical standards, how much tumult and turnover we are seeing in this administration. The White House chief of staff job has been won with a lot of turnover. It's not unusual for it to be a two-year tenure. But the national security adviser has been much more stable. Barack Obama had two in his first term, one in his second. George W. Bush had one in each term. Bill Clinton had one in eight years. George H. W. Bush had one over his four years, Jimmy Carter one over his four years. Even Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, two over eight years. We're on the third one now in 14 months, and I don't think anybody thinks this is probably the last that we're going to -- the last one that we're going to see.

And it's just a reminder, I think, for Republicans, particularly on Capitol Hill, that they have tied themselves to a tornado here in the Trump presidency, and they are likely to get more unpredictable rather than less unpredictable outcomes as they go forward.

BASH: The one difference is a key difference, and that is that all of those presidents who had more stability particularly in the national security area of their staff had government experience.

[08:10:07] And so there were some governors who didn't have obvious national security experience, but they had experience with building a government staff. And Donald Trump doesn't. We kind of forget, but it's an important reminder here, this is really new to him. The notion of a chief of staff, which apparently he doesn't even like in general, is more in his comfort zone building a regular staff to do things, to execute things, but the concept of a national security staff is brand new to him.

CUOMO: Right, look, anybody whoever went into the Trump Organization would realize immediately this man has never run a big team of any sort. And we have to remember was part of the sell. Part of the sell was, no, no, he doesn't know how to do a lot of this stuff, but he'll surround himself with the best. That has proven to be anything but true.

But I don't want to let one aspect of this get away from us because it really matters. We're having this battle over facts and feelings and fiction, OK, and we are living through a really important demonstration of this and we have to call it out. This is not new information that McMaster is on his way out, that Dowd, the lawyer was on his way out, that they wanted Bolton. We were reporting these things, and it was slapped back by this White House, calling it an obsession with palace intrigue, not true, the president said it. Listen to the press secretary just last week, just last Friday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sarah, you took to Twitter last night to ensure the public that H.R. McMaster's job was safe, but has the president spoken directly to either McMaster, Carson, Shulkin, to tell them that their jobs are in fact safe?

SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Again, like I said last night, and I'll echo it again. I spoke directly to the president last night. He asked me to pass that message along to General McMaster.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: If it wasn't true, Ron, and we got once again pilloried for being purveyors of fake news and all of this, it was just not true. And it has to be called out, does it not?

BROWNSTEIN: Let me give you two words that did not come up in your interview with Kellyanne Conway to underscore that point, buybacks, Medicaid. You can talk a lot about adding $3 billion for opioid funding in the spending bill, but Medicaid funds one quarter of all drug treatment in the country, and the administration's great effort in the past year has been to historically cut back Medicaid funding and to unroll expansion of Medicaid that brought in a lot of people, working poor adults who are dealing with opioid addiction.

Buybacks, she mentioned the bonuses that are being given to workers by companies that receive benefits in the tax bill. CNN reported a few weeks ago on a private consultant that estimated that they are spending $30 on buybacks, stock buybacks, for every one dollar they are spending on bonuses.

So there is a consistent pattern in the administration -- every administration kind of puts things in the most positive light. But you have an administration that has been less tethered to fact than any, and that is why I think you're seeing 60 percent of the country consistently saying in polls they do not believe Donald Trump is honest and trustworthy.

BASH: But Chris, I think there's something else that you're trying to get at here, which is if you heard what Sarah Sanders said, she said I asked the president and the president told me to say he's fine. It's coming from the president, and part of the reason why they're not telling the truth is because they have a very impulsive boss, and what could be true now could not be true five minutes from now because he's so changeable.

CUOMO: It's certainly more on the president than it is the people who speak for him, but they all make a choice. Dana, thank you very much. Ron Brownstein as always.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

CUOMO: We have been following breaking news on and off for the last hour or so because there is a deadly hostage standoff at a supermarket in southwest France. France's prime minister calling it a terrorist act. We have CNN senior international correspondent Jim Bittermann. He's live in Paris with the breaking details. Jim, what do we know?

[08:15:00] JIM BITTERMANN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Chris and Erica, in fact this morning it started off with four gendarmes, four police officers out jogging along a country road in southern France when someone came along and tried to run them down and then opened fire on them. One of the gendarmes was hit and was taken to the hospital. He's not in serious condition, but he was injured.

Then apparently the same gunman went to a supermarket in a rural town called Trebes which is near the town of Carcassonne in southern France, a town well known for its tourism and tourist areas in the heart of Provence. And he took hostages, a number of hostages. We don't know at this point how many people are inside the building.

But according to the police, he shouted Allah Akbar (ph) as he went in, he identified himself as being a supporter of ISIS and there may be at least two people injured. There may have been two people killed as well. We don't know because doctors have not been able to check out the state of those people because the situation's still ongoing. The SWAT teams are on their way by helicopter to the location and the Interior Minister is on his way down there too. Chris and Erica.

HILL: All right Jim. Thank you for the latest. We'll continue to follow that as well. Jim Bitterman for us live there in Paris. Former Playboy model Karen McDougal talking to CNN exclusively about her alleged affair with the President.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: If Melania Trump is watching this what would you want her to know?

MCDOUGAL: That's a tough one.

HILL: That answer, next.

CUOMO: All right. So the first time former Playboy model Karen McDougal is speaking out and she's doing so exclusively to Anderson Cooper about her alleged affair with Donald Trump before he was President. McDougal even gives details about the first time she actually met Trump's wife. Here's what she told Anderson Cooper.

COOPER: Where's this picture from?

[08:20:00] MCDOUGAL: That picture is from The Apprentice release party that they had at the Playboy Mansion. So they filmed it like a month before hand which is where I met him and then they had their release party when The Apprentice actually aired.

COOPER: So was that the first time you met Melania?

MCDOUGAL: It is. And honestly as you can tell, I tried to keep my distance. I --I tried to go as far away as I could. Just because I felt guilty. COOPER: Do you think she knew?

MCDOUGAL: You know, maybe. Maybe, I don't know. You know, it was told to me that they were arguing that night and I said why? And somebody had said probably because of you. But, I don't know if that's a fact or not. So don't quote me on that one.

COOPER: But some people seeing this are not going to believe that you had a relationship. Hope Hicks has said categorically you did not have a relationship.

MCDOUGAL: Yes.

COOPER: There's no truth in this. When you heard that denial, what did you think?

MCDOUGAL: Well I think somebody's lying and I can tell you it's not me. It's a little hurtful. But at the same time I have to understand, like if he were to have told Hope that he didn't do it, I guess I understand because he's trying to protect his family, his image things like that. But, it looked definitely a little like, wow, you're going to lie about that. OK.

COOPER: Do you have any text messages, photographs, videos, anything that would dispute the -- the -- Hope Hicks' statement that this never happened?

MCDOUGAL: The only thing that I have really is my journal that I keep. And like I said, I still do it to this day. It wasn't out to get anybody or gosh getting anyone in trouble. But, that -- those are my notes. Those are from me. No. When you care about somebody you don't try and set them up in any way, shape or form. That's my opinion.

COOPER: The thought though of telling your story to AMI, some people hearing that are going to think A, you wanted money and B, you wanted to damage the President.

MCDOUGAL: I voted for the President. I voted for Donald. Why would I want to damage him? That's my party, Republican party. That's my President. I did not want to damage him or hurt him any way, shape or form.

COOPER: If Donald Trump hadn't been running for President do you believe this deal would have been made with AMI? Knowing what you know now.

MCDOUGAL: Probably not. No. Probably not.

COOPER: You're pretty -- you're convinced now this was an effort to do a favor for Donald Trump in the last few months of the Presidential race.

MCDOUGAL: Unfortunately, yes.

COOPER: When you heard that Access Hollywood tape come out, just on a personal level I'm wondering what you felt?

MCDOUGAL: You know what, I was disgusted. I had not seen that in him at all. Like when our relationship was going on, I didn't see that side of him at all. Like I said, he was very respectful. He was a gentleman. When we were out in public I even had friends go, wow, he's really respectful to you when he's out in public. And you know his hand's always on your back or your shoulder and he -- and you know, he always introduces you. I didn't see that side of him until I started watching TV and you know, that's not the man that I knew.

COOPER: You filed a lawsuit but you are speaking to us. So, what is the point of the lawsuit?

MCDOUGAL: Why did I file a lawsuit?

COOPER: Yes.

[08:25:00] MCDOUGAL: I want my rights back.

COOPER: You want this -- the rights -- the life rights to your story.

MCDOUGAL: I want my rights back. You know, it's -- it's been -- yes, I want my life's rights back. I feel like the contract is illegal. I feel like I wasn't presented correctly. I was lied to and everybody involved in this deal. I want the rights back and I want to share my truth because everyone else is talking about my truth which they're -- I need to share my story.

COOPER: Do you have any regrets about the relationship that you said you had with him?

MCDOUGAL: Back then?

COOPER: Yes.

MCDOUGAL: The only regret I have about the relationship that I had with Donald was the fact that he was married.

COOPER: If Melania Trump is watching this, what would you want her to know?

MCDOUGAL: That's a tough one.

COOPER: Or say to her?

MCDOUGAL: Yes. What can you say except, I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I wouldn't want it done to me. I'm sorry.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HILL: Karen McDougal claims her attorney spoke with Michael Cohen. So could President Trump be in trouble if his long time personal lawyer is in fact involved. We'll discuss next.

CUOMO: All right. President Trump says he still would like to talk to Bob Mueller's investigators despite arguing that there's no need for a special counsel. Let's discuss the idea of why we have a Special Counsel and then we will talk about these potential legal issues surrounding the stories that these women are telling about Donald Trump. And they seem to be credible. So we'll get into that as well. The Special Counsel matters more so let's start there.

We've got CNN Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin and we have Harvard Law School Professor Emeritus, professor to Toobin at one time Alan Dershowitz. Good to have you both. Professor, I start with you. You're being pimped out by President Trump as proof that there should be no Special Counsel. You made a strong argument most recently in The Hill in an editorial where you suggested there was no probable cause of any crimes so there needed to be no Special Counsel. Let's start the debate there with this question to you.

You know better than I, for sure, that the language establishing this Special Counsel wasn't just about looking for crimes certainly it is specific to the interference and maybe a rising out of what is down there. But also to look for proof of coordination of those Russian efforts. So, the standard of looking for probable cause of a crime was not the only part of the purview of this special counsel. Why are you so adamantly opposed to it's existence?

ALAN DERSHOWITZ, AUTHOR : I've been opposed to Special Counsel from the very beginning along with many academics and many judges. The vice of the Special Counsel is that they better come up with the proof of crime otherwise they've wasted the publics money.