Return to Transcripts main page

CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Coverage of the White House Correspondents Dinner. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired April 28, 2018 - 19:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:00:10] JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: I'm John Berman.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN HOST: And I'm Poppy Harlow.

Tonight, the pop, the politics, the punch lines. Two events across half a nation that everyone will be talking about, laughing about and probably, definitely fighting about. Reporters, lawmakers, celebrities gather here in Washington to celebrate the first amendment.

BERMAN: At the same time, the media critic in-chief President Trump skipping the event, knocking the jokes, holding rally minutes from now in Michigan. Will he throw out the script and go after opponents? A five-hour cocktail of campaigning in comedy completely unplugged starts now.

All right. Welcome to what promises to be quite an evening. Glad to have you back by my side after a little --

HARLOW: What a night to come back.

BERMAN: What a night. The White House Correspondents' Dinner, the White House correspondents that are taking place here at the Hilton hotel just a few miles from where we are and the President holding an event in Michigan. I think we have live pictures of both.

HARLOW: Yes.

BERMAN: This is the second year in a row that President Trump has skipped the White House Correspondents' Dinner. He obviously doesn't want to be here, the second year in a row. He has scheduled a rally in friendly territory. Last year in Pennsylvania, this year in Michigan. A state he won in front of voter that is like him. Voters that he likes.

Our correspondent Dianne Gallagher outside this event right now.

Dianne, what are you seeing? What are you hearing?

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, John, Poppy, to call it as a friendly crowd could be an understatement. This is the number of people here to see the President who could not get in. They are sort of piled around a jumbotron hoping they can watch what happens inside. They turned away several thousand others here inside Washington Township, Michigan.

The President been active on twitter today and really in the days leading up to it. So we are expecting as are the people here who came to attend, quite the -- quite the entertaining night for them. Many of them told me that they hope the President lets loose on the media. That they came here for their own version of the correspondents' dinner. That they would like for President Trump to spend the time here in Michigan roasting members of the media as well as other people who have been the ire of this subject of President Trump's tweets and his speeches in the past few days and weeks.

There have been b many t-shirts with James Comey's face on them. Other t-shirts, that with Kanye West sort of morphed into President Trump. A bit of a rallying cry here in Michigan tonight. And so, that's what they are hoping for in Michigan at this point.

Again, the President should be arriving any moment now to speak. We have already heard from his daughter-in-law, Laura Trump, at the podium behind me. She got big applause from the people here. But at this point, they want Trump and they are here for him. They are happy he chose to spend his night in this Washington -- John, Poppy.

HARLOW: They are, indeed. Thank you so much.

All right. So now to the red carpet to the other Washington. White House obviously planning that out.

BERMAN: Yes. No coincidence.

HARLOW: Washington, D.C., where the stars are shining and the stars are starting to arrive on the red carpet in this Washington. It is the glitziest event here, the White House Correspondents' Dinner.

Journalists are covering it. There are power brokers, lobbyists, politicians, celebrities, you name it.

Let's go to out Kaitlan Collins who looks stunning on the red carpet. I know. We saw her earlier tonight. And a lot like Al Sharpton. That's classic.

There she is. So, Kaitlan, obviously, we see you there with Michael Avenatti, the attorney for Stormy Daniels.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Yes, Poppy, that's right. Probably one of the biggest stars we have at this dinner tonight. Certainly, one of the most controversial. Of course, this is Michael Avenatti, the lawyer for Stormy Daniels, the woman who is suing President Trump of course.

Welcome to the dinner. This is your first Correspondents' Dinner?

MICHAEL AVENATTI, STORMY DANIELS' LAWYER: Yes, it is.

COLLINS: So you are here, but President Trump is not of course for the second year in row. The first President to not attend the dinner since Ronald Reagan, who of course, skipped the dinner because he was suffering from a gunshot wound.

What do you think about the President not attending this freedom, this toast to the press freedom two years in a row?

AVENATTI: Well, as you know, I just call it like I see it. And I think it's entirely disrespectful. I think it is disrespectful to the first amendment. I think it's disrespectful to the constitution. I think it's disrespectful to one of the founding principles this nation was founded on. If you can't laugh at yourself, you have no business being in the position quite honestly. And I don't know why he's hiding tonight. The only excuse that is good enough for me is if he is getting ready for his next "FOX and Friends" appearance.

COLLINS: But he says that he is going to the other Washington, the other Washington, Washington, Michigan to spend time with his supporters, who he said represents real America, not here in Washington, D.C. Do you buy that?

AVENATTI: No, I don't buy it at all. I mean, we have members of the press from all walks of life to laugh and they are here tonight. This isn't about a bias left wing conspiracy against the President from the media's perspective. The President should be here. He should be respecting the traditions of Washington. The traditions of the media. The traditions of the first amendment. It's critically important.

[19:05:15] COLLINS: So the President isn't here, but several White House staffers are of course. We just spoke with the press secretary Sarah Sanders and Kellyanne Conway. You and I were actually at an event together last night where you met Kellyanne Conway for the first time. Of course, there's an obvious dichotomy contrast there with White House staffers and of you, of course, was representing Stormy Daniels. What was it like to meet Kellyanne Conway?

AVENATTI: Well, there is no doubt there is a stark contrast between Kellyanne Conway and me. And we have a couple of things in common. We went to the same law school here in Washington, D.C. And you know, I will just describe our meeting last night as spirited. Let's just put it that way.

COLLINS: Spirited? Why so?

AVENATTI: Well, I just think it was a spirited meeting. And you know, we don't see eye to eye on a lot of things which you might imagine. And we will leave it at that.

COLLINS: What is it going to be like for you to be in this room tonight with other White House staffers? Sarah Sanders at head table, someone who has had to face questions about you and your case in the room?

AVENATTI: I think it's going to be interesting. We'll see how the night plays out. As you know, I've never been shy about controversy or confrontation. We'll see what happens. We'll see if there's anything that comes out. I'm looking forward to the event. Inn it's great to honor the press and that people continue their tradition. COLLINS: And of course, a judge just put a hold on your case in

California, a stale on that because of what's going on with Michael Cohen. What do you think that means and what's it say to you?

AVENATTI: Well, we are going to take an appeal this week to the ninth circuit court of appeals. We want to make sure the case is not unduly delayed. We want to make sure that the American people get the truth and know everything about what happened in connection with this transaction and the cover up as quickly as possible. We are going to continue to do that. And I also anticipate us taking other steps this week to make sure those efforts are successful.

COLLINS: And of course, you recently released a sketch of the man that you says go into your client in a parking garage some years ago. Have you gotten leads on that, anything like that?

AVENATTI: Yes. We have got a lot of leads. We got over 3500 leads. I have described probably 600 of those as credible. We are continuing to whittle this down. We are making considerable progress. And I think we are going to be close in short order to announcing who we think it might be, but we have got to make sure that we know exactly who it is before we do it because of the seriousness of making such an announcement.

COLLINS: How soon do you think we could expect an announcement on something like that? ?

AVENATTI: Well, I don't want to predict because then you will come back in a few days and ask me when it is. So I'm not going to set a time table yet, but I will tell you that we are working very, very hard to do that.

COLLINS: All right. We look forward to hearing that from you.

AVENATTI: Thank you.

COLLINS: When you do (INAUDIBLE) on that.

Thank you, Michael Avenatti, for joining us.

John and Poppy, of course, we will come back to you when we have anyone left on the red carpet.

Back to you on the studio, John and Poppy.

BERMAN: All right. Fantastic. Kaitlan Collins at the White House correspondents' Dinner with the press shy Michael Avenatti.

HARLOW: I haven't seen him on TV.

BERMAN: No, nice to see him there. And that was his correspondents' Dinner. That's the second most exclusive party in Washington, D.C. tonight.

HARLOW: Is this the most? BERMAN: The most exclusive party is onset with us. We have gathered

here -- I think the most highly esteemed group of panelists in the history of the correspondents' dinner. Not just because they didn't get invites there, but because they are happy to be here.

Kevin Madden, Republican strategist worked for Mitt Romney for a long time, now a partner at Hamilton Place strategies.

We see two pictures. Right now, we are looking at the red carpet at the Correspondents' Dinner. Then there's Michigan in Washington Township, Michigan. (INAUDIBLE) might have picked the name, Washington's Township. So clearly to set up the dichotomy there. What does the White House want out of this?

KEVIN MADDEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I mean, the President set a perfectly for this. I mean, this is exactly on brand with what his message has always been to his most core supporters which is I understand you. I hear you. I'm linking arms with you here in real America with real Americans.

Meanwhile, look at what the establishment, the elites, the ouch of touch media is doing in Washington, D.C. You know, (INAUDIBLE) amongst themselves in way that just demonstrates the gulf between them fighting for your priorities or me fighting your priorities.

HARLOW: You know, Catherine, I mean, the team Trump, if you will, has been fundraising, off of this, they have been sending out emails all week saying things like why would I want to be stuck if a room with a bunch of fake news liberals that hate me, the President's words.

Let's be forget, the President has been to this dinner. Seated at this dinner. Taking criticism in person at this dinner. He was part of this in the center of the glitz and glam of all that he is condemning now.

CATHERINE RAMPELL, COLUMNIST, WASHINGTON POST: Yes. And supposedly, that was a very scarring experience, right. I mean, there are all of these theories --.

HARLOW: That may have launch this.

RAMPELL: Right. There all of these theories that part of the reason he ultimately decided to run for President was because he got mocked so viciously by Barack Obama. In particular, Obama saying I know you have a really tough job deciding whether I forget who it is like whoever the Apprentice celebrity apprentice members were at the time. It was like you have to decide between this one.

[19:10:02] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE).

RAMPELL: Maybe. I don't know. That's just as difficult as deciding, you know, how to target bin Laden.

HARLOW: He took it for five straight minutes then.

RAMPELL: He looked very uncomfortable, that dinner, as you may recall. So supposedly, that's humiliation has stayed with him. Maybe it inspired his run. Who knows? I mean, I'm not sure he really thought he would ever actually land in the White House. He was just a marketing opportunity.

HARLOW: He did go to the gridiron dinner, but there were no cameras at the gridiron dinner. Obviously, he sees a difference between being shown on camera, laughing or not laughing.

You know, Laura Burke, writer, National Newspaper Publishers Association, thank you so much for being here tonight, by the way. Make the case that tonight, isn't just about pageantry for reporters. I mean, there are awards going out to journalism for the hard work that they do. You know, what's so wrong with once a year, journalists getting together to celebrate the first amendment?

LAURA BURKE, WRITER, NATIONAL NEWSPAPER PUBLISHERS ASSOCIATION: Absolutely. And there is nothing wrong with that. Actually, it's a great place to have a connection. It is a great place to almost have sort of a peace treaty for one night.

I mean, I went to a brunch today, we had Avenatti, we had Kellyanne Conway, we had Sean Spicer at the same event standing right next to each other, eating and conversing. And so, it's actually nice to have a night where you call kind a call it truce, particularly in the time that we have extremely partisan politics to say the least.

HARLOW: And again, tonight is about honoring journalism, journalists. There is some really important awards being handed out tonight which you will see live. And there's a lot of including a special guest on the red carpet again with our Kaitlan Collins.

Kaitlan, I'll throw it to you.

COLLINS: Hi there, Poppy.

Yes, of course, we have another former White House staffer tonight.

Last year famously no White House attended the dinner in solidarity with President Trump who held a rally with his supporters. Of course, the President is doing that again tonight in second year in a row here not at the dinner. But we do have several White House staffers here tonight. Also several former White House staffers.

So welcome to the dinner. Why are you attending this year but you did not attend last year? Of course, you do not work in the White House any longer I should say, but why this year but not last year?

GARY COHN, TRUMP'S FORMER CHIEF ECONOMIC ADVISER: Right. Well, look. I have been to this dinner many times before. This has always been a good event, a fun event. It recognizes the press. They give out scholarships to people. It is a fill anthropic event. You recognize what the press does.

Freedom of press is very important in this country. It is something we all stand for. And coming to this event shows how we acknowledge the press and what the press does for this country. It is basic core concept that we all believe in.

COLLINS: So why do you think the President is not here tonight? If that is this dinner is, it embodied as simply as toast to a free press, why was the President not attend tonight?

COHN: Look. The President has enormous demands on his schedule. A year ago we were in Pennsylvania at a friend of ours Ron Flamer's tool factory, the oldest tool factory in America, where the President was not only celebrating his 100th day in office, he was celebrating the fact that we have very old manufacturing plants in the United States. Something that I worked on while I was in the White House, bringing manufacturing and bringing jobs to the United States. We put through major tax reform to try and get that done. And the President was celebrating that on his 100th day in office a year ago. The President's out today talking to other constituents in another big manufacturing state. And I think that's important for the President. He gets to decide where he wants to be. But there's many members of the White House staff here tonight. I think probably all the members of the White House staff are probably here tonight.

COLLINS: There certainly are a lot.

So I spoke to your former colleague, Reince Priebus, formerly the chief of staff, of course, earlier. He said he thinks there's a chance the President might attend it next year. Do you share that?

COHN: I think there's definitely a chance that he would. I know he went to the gridiron dinner this year and had a good time. So next year maybe he will come to the White House Correspondents' Dinner.

COLLINS: So how has life been for you out of the White House? You famously left, of course, over a few months ago after the President did impose the steel and aluminum tariffs. What does have been like since you have out in the west wing?

COHN: So I think I have been gone about three and a half weeks now and I'm just sort of getting my bearings right now. I have taken a little bit of time off. Went on a little vacation. Enjoyed myself. Reconnecting with my lovely wife and my girls and just starting to figure out what's next in my life. But it's been great.

COLLINS: What do you think is different in the west wing lately? Do you think it's a difference in several people, of course, that have been in President's inner circle left, not just you, but also Hope Hicks, Rob Porter, several (INAUDIBLE), several others left. It's quite a different west wing even though it's just been a matter of weeks since you have visually departed. What do you make of that?

COHN: Look. The west wing is evolving. The presidency is evolving. As I said, it's been a little bit over a year, 14 months right now. And the President and his staff are evolving. It's always going to be different. It's not a static organization. People come to Washington to contribute their time, their talents. Their expertise and it evolves. The President continues to evolve.

COLLINS: Well, thank you very much, Gary Cohn for joining us. Hope you guys have great night.

John and Poppy, that was Gary Cohn, of course, the former director of the national economic council in the White House. Someone who has recently replaced by Larry Kudlow, who is now certainly risen to the top of the ranks in the White House, one of the President's favorites.

But what is very stunning to see, we are continuing to see this trial of former White House staffers attend the dinner this year. People who didn't attend last year when President Trump didn't, but now, it seems they are all in town for this big night tonight.

[19:15:04] BERMAN: Gary Cohn, out of a job, but no one needs to take up a collection I think.

HARLOW: I think he did OK.

BERMAN: He also said the President, he has a lot on his plate. That's why he is not at the event tonight. The President was at the golf course this morning.

HARLOW: That's true. This is just rally.

BERMAN: He could be here. If he wanted to be here, he would be here tonight.

Up next, a man who only survived the Trump administration for ten days, but Anthony Scaramucci still has the President's ear. He joins us to talk tonight.

HARLOW: Plus, the President gets ready to speak as this dinner in Washington gets underway. But the President in the other Washington, very far away from here. Stand by.

This is our special live coverage.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:19:18] HARLOW: All right. Welcome back to our special live coverage of the White House Correspondents' dinner also known as nerd prom.

BERMAN: Yes.

HARLOW: That's what they call it. Here in Washington, D.C., Poppy Harlow, John Berman. It is good to be with you.

BERMAN: Great to have you back.

HARLOW: There is a lot going on tonight. You are seeing the celebrities, the journalists all walk down the red carpet before this dinner begins. Tonight is about the first amendment. It is about journalism. And the President notably is not there. He is in another Washington. Washington, Michigan, getting ready to hold a big rally. You will hear some of that in just a moment.

Let's go to out Kate Bennett. She is on the red carpet with look at him looking dapper and Kate looking gorgeous. Don Lemon. Hi, friends.

KATE BENNETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Hello. We have got a definitely non-nerd here breaking the rules of nerd prom.

So what's it like being here this year in this era, the second, you know, Trump White House correspondents' dinner?

[19:20:11] DON LEMON, CNN HOST: It's actually very interesting, Kate. Last year, there weren't many representatives of the White House here. Of course, the President wasn't here last year. He is not here this year. All weekend, I have been running into people from the White House. I ran into Kellyanne Conway like four times. She was just around there. I ran into spicy, Sean Spicer, a couple of times today. And it's weird just like seeing them out and about with the media because, you know, what they say about CNN, supposedly, we are fake news.

BENNETT: We only got turned down on a couple of times I would say by whom on the coverage. Got turned down a couple of times. Won't say by whom.

So this is a very pop culture time though. People are talking about Kanye West. They are talking about the President. What's happening do you think out there in the world?

LEMON: I have gotten a lot of questions about it here on the red carpet and just people in general about Kanye West. And I said the same thing. This is about -- tonight is about the free press, about freedom of speech. Kanye West is free to speak his mind and say whatever he wants, but when you do that, you should realize the power of your words and the power of your platform. And you should know what you're talking about and if you are supporting something that's detrimental to your own culture as a person of color or for me as a person of cu color who happens to be gay. So that's it.

BENNETT: Excellent point. And then just in general, this is sort of a night when Washington takes a weird break, right, from sort of all the wonkiness, all the interviews, all the animosity any way. Do you think it feels normal or does it feels sort of like uncomfortable? What's the vibe tonight?

LEMON: It's a little weird because I'll tell you, go to my Instagram, DonLemonCNN. So last night I'm at a party. Kellyanne Conway walks in. And I said, oh my God, what's Kellyanne going to say? Is she going to, you know, just walking right past me. She gives me a big hug. And then as I'm talking to her, Michael Avenatti, Stormy Daniels' attorney walks right over and I witnessed them meeting for the very first time and someone captures it with camera.

It is amazing. You have to have a sense of humor. We all live in this world. We are all Americans. And so, we have to work together. We have differences, but we have to come together and be able to talk and live together. So I think it is great.

BENNETT: It is good night for that.

LEMON: Poppy, John, this is my old gig. Remember, Pops? We used to hang out and do this. I love doing this.

HARLOW: Exact except now you are the celebrity walking the red carpet and I'm stuck here with Berman for five hours.

LEMON: Poppy, can I show you someone? Tim, comer here. This is my boyfriend. Poppy and (INAUDIBLE), we are all friends.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How are you, Poppy?

HARLOW: Hi, Tim. They came all the way from Harlem to Brooklyn last week to meet the baby. And Don remarked at how far it was to get there. But thank you for coming.

BERMAN: Amazingly, not about being at the party tonight.

HARLOW: Right, exactly.

BERMAN: The White House correspondents' dinner brought to you by Don Lemon and Don Lemon's Instagram.

Don, thank you.

LEMON: John Berman, I loved you in the Boston marathon. You were awesome.

HARLOW: Amazing.

LEMON: Congratulations. Bye, Poppy. I love you.

HARLOW: Bye.

BERMAN: The reason I'm sitting down.

All right, Kate, Don, we really appreciate it.

You know, Pars Dennard to you. One of the things we have seen there and Don Lemon was talking about it was unlike last year, there are a lot of White House staff in President Trump supporters there. Current and former staff and supporters there. Why now? Why do you think they decided to break the seal and be part of this?

PARIS DENNARD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: President Trump encouraged them to do so. Look. let's not gloss over this and act like the press or the media is overtly friendly or kind in headlines in reporting of President Trump with the House, so the people that work for him especially the first year. And so, there was a significant amount of animosity. There was significant amount tension. And so there was a blanket. No one is going. I'm not going. No staff is going. They abide by.

This year, I think the ice has been thawed a little bit. I think the President has a lot more wins under his belt. A lot more things that they want to go and tout. So while people here in Washington, D.C. is celebrating the first amendment, the President is in Washington, Michigan, celebrating freedom of assembly. HARLOW: So Rick, though, the word from the President as he fund

raises off of not being there tonight is why would I want to be stuck in a room with a bunch of fake news liberals who hate me, but I want my staff to be there.

RICK WILSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Look. There's a certain amount of social desirability of these folks. They desperately want to get out of the playpen of the Trump White House and associate with other people. And get some air once in a while because I imagine --

HARLOW: I mean, they go home at night.

WILSON: Well. But they are, they always have the tweet of Dam Cleez (ph) hanging over their head in any given moment where their lives could be upended by Donald Trump rage tweeting something. And you know, all of them that are there tonight, they are enjoying going out and getting dressed up and going out associating with the reporters they are on paper despise so furiously.

There's a big nod and wink here to how much this is like professional wrestling for people like Kellyanne. If she goes out on your air and everybody else is there and opens up this gigantic sewage pipe of lies and then goes here and it is all hugs and kisses. So you know, it does pulls back the curtains a little bit on some of their -- we hate the liberal media act.

[19:25:14] JOAN WALSH, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Could they call it swampy? They say they are opposed to it because it's swamp y but then they are going to all come and try to rub elbows and try to make nice, so I find it kind of creepy.

I am the skunk at the garden party. I have always found the whole thing a little bit swampy. To Laura, it's glorious for people to come together and celebrate journalism. I support that. But sometimes, it got a little too cozy. So I was somebody thrilled by Stephen Colbert in 2005 taking it all on.

But I think this thing is that Presidents have come and they have come and they have listened and they have bee roasted. I mean, Barack Obama had to have Larry Wilmore talk about drones as well as you know, drop the n-word in his final year. Bill Clinton listened to whitewater joke and other things for Don Imus that were terrible. George Bush listened to Stephen Colbert. This man is not there because is too thin skinned.

BERMAN: Let me just say here is the skunk in a garden party. You have a fellow skunk with you tonight, I think.

Phil Mudd, you are watching this. I see you staring at these people dressed up at this party.

WALSH: I'm honored to be a skunk.

PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Checks and stripes, which is a complete disaster.

BERMAN: You were judging the people here tonight.

MUDD: No, I would, but look. Referring to this as a swamp is courteous. This is a pain in the ass. I have been to this thing years ago. Let me give you some characteristics. Seriously, to people who haven't been here. There's 3,000 people here. If you are not a VIP let me give you a couple of characteristics.

Number one, it's a watered down drink for a guy who likes a cocktail. Number two, I'm not kidding, their spouse -- you have got like two inches to move. And number three, let me give you Washington, D.C. I completely agree. Every person you talk to because we are all around this table low rent, looks at you u then looks over their shoulder then says is there anybody else more important to talk to? That is what this dinner is.

HARLOW: Who are you calling low rent? Thank you very much. And that is why Phil Mudd is with us.

BERMAN: Phil Mudd hating on a party.

Guys, stick around. We have a lot more to talk about, obviously. We are going to talk to Anthony Scaramucci.

Plus, the President now calling on a senator to resign over accusations against the President's failed VA nominee. Hear how the senator is now responding. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

[19:31:14] DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: If I could pick one moment from the last year in the White House which we all know is kind of impossible to do.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: It seems like there's one every day.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do I have to pick just one? I'm going say Saudi Arabia? Dancing with swords. Incredible.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The time that Anthony Scaramucci vowed to fire the entire White House communications staff because of a leak about his plans to oust a junior staffer.

ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: What I'm going to do is I will eliminate everybody in the (INAUDIBLE). So there is no problem.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That leak turned out to be an On the Record comment from Anthony Scaramucci.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The mooch.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The mooch.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The mooch.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All ten days of Anthony Scaramucci.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BERMAN: So tonight, there is no White House communications director. There hasn't been since Hope Hicks left. That is unless you count the President as his own.

HARLOW: Right.

BERMAN: Over the last 12 months, three different people have held the job including as you just heard for ten glorious days last summer, Anthony Scaramucci. Ten days, but a lifetime of memories. He openly talks about his time there, his departure and free to (INAUDIBLE) advice and criticism to people still in the White House.

You know, more importantly, he still talks to the President regularly, including about Russia, he tells me, within the last couple of weeks. I spoke to him about the event tonight and where the President's head is right now.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BERMAN: Anthony, this is the second year in a row that President Trump has decide d not to come to the dinner. Why, do you think?

SCARAMUCCI: Well, it's probably a combination of things. I mean, I don't know 100 percent know the reason, but I think that he probably has a conflicted view of the media at this point, 18 months into his presidency. I would say that for 45 years, I think he felt he had a very. Very good relationship with the media. And I would think at this point, he probably thinks there's some levels of unfairness that are going on with the media and he doesn't want to go there. He always pretty much expresses his true self. He wears everything on his sleeve. And I don't think he wants to go there and a mode about some of the things that he is upset about and what could be a reason. And I think the other reason, frankly, is that he has got a lot of work going on right now particularly with the North Korean situation and other things. And so, he probably doesn't want a destruction.

BERMAN: We will talk about North Korea in just a minute. I mean, he is going to Michigan for a rally. So I don't think the destruction is the issue. It really does beg the question.

SCARAMUCCI: Might be CNN, John. I don't know. I didn't want to want say that but it might be.

BERMAN: Well. But everyone, CNN isn't the only one there, right? And my question to you, is he afraid? Do you think he is afraid to go?

SCARAMUCCI: Listen. There's no fear in this man. I mean, this is the toughest person that I ever met. I mean, I don't see -- this is not a guy that has a lot of fear in his life. So, it's not that. I think it's just you know, I think it's just the atmosphere surrounding it is probably something he wants to avoid.

BERMAN: It's interesting because talking about the atmosphere around it, talking about -- look. Everyone gets made fun of. I mean, we all get made fun of at different times in something you know. And we all have to learn to laugh at ourselves.

SCARAMUCCI: Not me, John. I don't recall ever being made fun of. Probably in the early stages of Alzheimer's.

BERMAN: Of all people, James Comey has actually commented on the President's sense of humor. It's something that he has discussed in his book and it is something that he has discussed in his rounds of interviews. Let's just listen if we can what James Comey had said about the President and laughter.

JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: If you are insecure, you cannot laugh for two reasons. First, you look silly laughing, and so you expose yourself. And engaging in a humorous encounter with somebody else is a risk for an insecure leader because I might have to acknowledge you that you said something funny that I didn't say. And so, I saw President's Bush and Obama both use humor effectively, to relax, put at ease, to try and get to the truth. I never saw President Trump laugh even in an almost hour and a half long private dinner.

[19:35:13] BERMAN: Have you seen President Trump laugh?

SCARAMUCCI: I mean, so many times. So I mean, you have to know that on the campaign, there was rock inside (INAUDIBLE) campaign. And we laughed a lot. And I was only in the White House for 11 days, but we had a lot of fun in 11 days. And the President knows how to tell a joke, deliver a joke.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He has become more famous than me. More famous than I am.

SCARAMUCCI: He also knows how to get a joke. I saw him at CPAC, maybe you saw some of the clips of that where he is making fun of his hair and trying to get the comb over going in the back of his head.

TRUMP: I try like hell to hide that bald spot, folks. I will work harder.

SCARAMUCCI: No question I think this guy knows how to laugh. I think that director Comey, there was probably tension there. You know, I see -- I have never met director Comey. I read the book. But when I see director Comey speak, it's not the type of style, personality wise, that the President would gel to, so.

But no. This guy has played golf his entire life. I don't know if you play golf, John. But when you are on the golf course, you know, you have got a four or five-hour session. And you tell a lot of jokes. And the President is capable of getting a joke, taking the joke, but maybe just not with director Comey. BERMAN: I'm too busy with North Korea to play golf, Anthony, to be

frank. James Comey --

SCARAMUCCI: Very effective dig on me, by the way. So keep going, but that was good.

BERMAN: It was a joke. See? And you laughed.

SCARAMUCCI: I can take it. You know I can take it. You know, I got rolled in broken glass after my firing. It is all good by me.

BERMAN: Well. But you know, look. I think what James Comey was talking about there in addition to the private meeting was if you look back at the Correspondents' dinner, the famous Seth Meyers, when President Trump then just businessman Trump was the butt of many jokes. He wasn't laughing. He wasn't laughing at the jokes made at his expense. I mean, does -- can he laugh at his own expense?

SCARAMUCCI: No question. And I mean, he was laughing at the cardinals dinner when secretary Clinton was up razzing him. I have seen in another situation, a couple of years ago, you may not remember this, but on Comedy Central, they did a two hour roast of him.

BERMAN: I do remember.

SCARAMUCCI: They were hitting him pretty hard. You can go to that. He was really giggling about some of the joking said about him. I think the guy from family guy was like hosting that.

But yes, so he definitely can take a joke. He definitely can give a joke. I was there that night for the Seth Meyers thing. It was an impressionable night for me. Because it was the first time I had gone to that dinner.

BERMAN: Right.

SCARAMUCCI: And I think that he was probably caught off guard that night. And I think he was saying OK, you know. We always thought he could be President. He always thought that there was an opportunity and an opening for him to be President. And a lot of people think that instigated him to be President. I'm not one of those people.

I think if that were the case, he would have ran in 2012. What he did was in the 2015 time frame, he looked at his life, looked at the achievements he has had. Really thought he had an agenda that could help the American people. And then on the last day after "the Apprentice" finale, I actually had breakfast with him that next morning. And he look me straight in the face and said he was running President. And I have to confess, I didn't believe him. But here he is as the 45th President.

BERMAN: He has proved you wrong and many others in many different times in many different ways.

(END VIDEOTAPE) HARLOW: If you think that's it, think again. That was the beginning of a fascinating interview John did with Anthony Scaramucci, the man who held a very important job in the White House for ten full days.

BERMAN: Ten full days.

HARLOW: You also talked to him, which we will see in a little about what he talks to the President about still.

BERMAN: Yes. And I will give you a hint, Russia. The Russia investigation. Much more on that coming up.

HARLOW: But let's talk about laughs and laughing for a moment because as you heard, Lauren, Anthony Scaramucci said he seen the President laugh so many times.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, so any times. There's definitely no evidence of what he just said. And of course, with the Al Smith dinner, we saw the President really not tell jokes. I mean, he was sort of overly serious and made everybody uncomfortable and that was his contribution to the evening. He cannot -- he cannot not only tell jokes. And of course he can't take any because his ego won't allow it. Sort of an uncomfortable disaster for everybody and it shouldn't have been.

DENNARD: So I guess, I can just say, I've been with the President where he has laughed. So let's just set the record straight. The President does laugh -- multiple times. The President can tell jokes, can take a joke. I mean, this is just ridiculous.

HARLOW: Shouldn't he be there tonight taking it?

DENNARD: No. I think this goes on a narrative that he has that the media is against him and would rather go with the people.

WALSH: But staff can go. All of the stuff can go and they can party.

DENNARD: It's not about the staff going and going to a party. It's about the President knowing that the base, the people that support him feel that the media is out to get him and that the media does not report on him fairly and accurately. So what do you do? You go back to Michigan, a place you weren't supposed to win. A Republican has once of that thing, 1988. You go there.

[19:40:07] HARLOW: He could go back to Michigan tomorrow though. I mean, there is nothing preventing him.

DENNARD: Do you guys did politics? This is brilliant politics. This is what you do.

(CROSSTALK)

DENNARD: It's what you do.

WILSON: Is Donald Trump wants to warm comfy blanket of the red half mafia. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

WILSON: He wants those people cheering his name because he has a delicate ego. This is a man with a fragile delicate ego. And he is afraid to sit there. He can't roll with these punches. He can't go in front of people.

(CROSSTALK)

WILSON: Did not go as the President to the Correspondents dinner.

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: Rick then Joan. Go ahead, Rick.

WILSON: The guy runs away from criticism. He had got a delicate ego. This is the kind of bully behavior. They talk a great game of smack when they are behind the line or they are behind the podium. He is afraid to sit there and have people make extra jokes as his expense because he is comical character.

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: Paris then Joan.

DENNARD: I think Kim Jong-un would take issue with that. I think when President Trump talks, people listen. He is not joking. He can take a joke and he is serious. He is not a caricature. He is not a character. He is a serious person.

BERMAN: Joan.

WILSON: Confection.

BERMAN: Hang on, guys. Joan, go ahead.

WALSH: He can't take confection. And the idea that you are saying, Paris, that he went to the dinner and he took it, he did not. His face, if you just watched him over the course of those jokes, he turned into a little boy. He was a pie. So I'm not expecting to have --

(CROSSTALK)

DENNARD: If somebody said that about you and called you sulking little girl, you would take offense to it.

(CROSSTALK)

MADDEN: Paris, you are right. Rick, you are right.

Paris is right. It is brilliant politics. It is exactly what the President wants to do, which is, again, draw that contrast and show that you have a bunch of folks in Washington and they are out of touch with the concern of the American people. But at the same time, Rick is right, too. You know, I think for

Donald Trump, look. He has got the New York rule which is he would rather be talked about than not talk about. But at the same time, like there's a line of demarcation when it's not for his benefit or if it somehow criticism. He is very thin skinned on it.

But look. Here is the other truth. No President wants to be there at these things. No President wants to spend what is really only really nice day of spring in Washington, D.C. before it turns 95 degrees, they don't want to spend it wearing a tux hobnobbing around with journalists that they talk to every single day.

WALSH: But they do it. But they done it. Part of their job.

MADDEN: They don't want to be there. So in m some ways, you can say Trump is finally honest and that he is not there because he doesn't want to be there.

HARLOW: All right. So the President -- We are going to take a quick break here as the President is speaking in Michigan, in Washington, Michigan. The crowd just chanted something very interesting. What did they say? You will hear it next.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[19:46:48] TRUMP: He is going to get us into nuclear war, they said. No. No. No. Strength is going to keep us out of nuclear war. Not going to get us in. So we are doing very well. I spoke to the President this morning of South Korea for a long time. They just had a very good meeting. He gives us tremendous credit. Gives us all the credit. I mean, he, as President Moon of South Korea. You know, it started --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: That's the President touting diplomacy. In the midst of all of this between North Korea, the United States, South Korea, talking about that phone call he had this morning with the President of South Korea. But then listen what the crowd chanted back at him in Michigan. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CROWD: Nobel! Nobel!

TRUMP: That's very nice, thank you. That's very nice. Nobel.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: So you hear the President there. The crowd chanting Nobel as in the President --.

HARLOW: Nobel-peace prize.

BERMAN: (INAUDIBLE), you know, who writes a lot of national relations. He has suggested that the President and leaders of north and South Korea should get the Nobel peace prize if this works out.

HARLOW: And Senator Lindsey Graham.

BERMAN: We are going to talk a lot more about this and some other things the President said right after a quick break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:52:03] HARLOW: All right. Welcome back to our special live coverage of the White House correspondents dinner. Poppy Harlow along with John Berman.

And on the red carpet, we have CNN political strategist Amanda Carpenter and Symone Sanders who are with us.

Ladies, you look lovely. I want you both to react to what was just chanted at the President in Washington, Michigan as he talked about diplomacy and the progress being made with North Korea. They started chanting "Nobel, Nobel," as in Nobel peace prize.

Amanda Carpenter, your thoughts.

AMANDA CARPENTER, FORMER CRUZ COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Well, I do believe in the Ronald Reagan adage of trust but verify. But if we do prevent a nuclear war in North Korea from developing nuclear weapons, I think he has up for a Nobel-peace prize. That would be a huge historic achievement. I think they are getting a little bit ahead of our skis. But I'm hopeful, I hope he does it. And if he does, I support that.

HARLOW: Symone?

SYMONE SANDERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Poppy, I think I was struck by the fact that Donald Trump took full credit for everything that happened, took full credit for the meeting between the two, North Korean and South Korean Presidents, when there is a lot of credit to go around, and I think it's still early in the game.

So look. If Donald Trump himself is the reason that denuclearization happens in North Korea, then absolutely, I think he would be within his rights. But we don't even know that that's the case. Folks are currently talking about denuclearizing them -- demilitarizing the denuclearizing the DMZ, the line between North and South Korea. That is very different than getting rid of all the nukes.

HARLOW: Well, South Korea's foreign minister did say to our Christiane Amanpour clearly, credit goes to President Trump.

BERMAN: All right. Guys, stand by, if you will, because there was another moment in the President's speech in Washington, Washington Township, Michigan, getting a lot of attention. He chose to talk about the Russian investigation and a major new development in the investigation, the Russian lawyer who was at that Trump tower meeting, Natalia Veselnitskaya, has admitted, has said, has claim she is a Russian informant. This is what the President just said about that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Have you heard about the lawyer, for a year, a woman lawyer, she was like, oh, I know nothing, know nothing. Now all of a sudden she supposedly is involved with the government. You know why? If she did that, because Putin and the group said, you know, this Trump is killing us. Why don't you say that you are involved with government so that we can go and make their life in the United States even more chaotic? Look at what's happened? Look at how these politicians have fallen for this junk. Russian collusion. Give me a break.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: All right. Phil Mudd, this is your portfolio. The President claims that Natalia Veselnitskaya is gaslighting (ph), essentially America by claiming she is an informant. Is that what is going on here?

MUDD: Shut up. Are you kidding me?

Let me tell you the question. Day two when you are in the oval office, after you go to inauguration, you turn to your national security meeting and say, national security advisor, in that case Mike Flynn who gets fired shortly later, sit down and bring in department of homeland security, CIA, FBI. It give me the plan with state and local officials and the election process to prevent this kind of interference in the past. I have one single question.

How many times has the President of the United States directed his national security team to give him a plan for preventing Russian interference in elections? All he talks about is himself. I want to know how are you going to protect us, brother. How are you going to protect us? Never does he talk about that, ever.

[19:55:36] BERMAN: Why thought would she says she is an informant now? Is there any possibility that there is some kind of psychological warfare going on?

MUDD: Sure. I think there is two angels here. Angle one is, which is wrong. She is an innocent going in, wanting to talk about adoptions. Not so much. I don't think so. Angle two, she is an agent. She is spy for the Russian government, and she is a sort of ex--KGB officer. I don't think so.

I think what is happening is walking in. She has for cooperation contacts with the Russian government. Now I think the President is right, Russians including Putin are saying, the President has brought down a little bit of a hammer, we'll send him a message, life isn't easy if you don't bring us a little love. I don't think he's wrong, I think he just needs to talk about how to protect us, not how to protect him. And now I think the President is right. Russians are saying including Putin are saying the presents brought a little bit of a hanger. May would have sent his a message. Life isn't easy. If you don't bring us a little love.

I don't think he is wrong on this. I just think he needs to talk about how to protect us and not how to protect him.

BERMAN: All right, guys. We got to take a quick break. Phil Mudd has to get his pen back, first of all. We got a lot coverage and the White House Correspondents dinner, the glitz, the glamour, you can see it on your screen. The President still speaking in Michigan.

Our special coverage continue after this. This.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)