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Aide Mocks John McCain; Trump Dismantles Obama Legacy; George Will on Mike Pence. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired May 11, 2018 - 08:30   ET

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


[08:30:00] DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Cruel things, untoward things about John McCain and many other people. And that is an accepted ethic. That's an accepted practice around there. And apologies are not, by the way, which is I think why we haven't heard from the White House, there's no "r" on the president's gearshift, it's always straight ahead.

But it really -- you know, it sets a tone that's really unfortunate. I don't think it's going to change. This is the nature of this presidency and this White House.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Well, look, I mean, you look at it a little bit of a different way. Did she think the joke would go over well? We don't know. We don't know the context. It doesn't really matter. We do know that people leaked it. And, as you know, the --

AXELROD: Well, that's -- that's remarkable.

CUOMO: Right. From being in the game, this is a kill shot leak.

AXELROD: Yes.

CUOMO: This is usually not what you do to one of your own, even if you don't like what they say.

AXELROD: But this also has been a practice that has been common in this White House.

CUOMO: Right.

AXELROD: They are not bound together by loyalty to each other.

CUOMO: Right.

AXELROD: They are not bound together in general by loyalty to the president.

And, by the way, you know, he himself has been a leaker when he was unhappy with people. We've seen reports of his unhappiness. And, you know, we just -- you know, interestingly, we just saw the story in "The Times" about him dressing down the secretary of homeland -- the director of homeland security in front of the cabinet. And so, you know, these -- this is the nature of this White House. This is the nature of how this president operates. ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: I want to ask you what it's like for you

to watch so many of these Obama-era policies being overthrown or whatever the word is, undone.

AXELROD: Reversed.

CAMEROTA: Reversed. Undone.

So the Iran nuclear deal is just the latest, but we have a whole slew of them. They go DACA, obviously. Paris Climate Accord, getting out. The Iran nuclear deal, getting out. TPP. Obama's individual mandate, doing away with it. Transgenders serving in the military. And all of the environmental regulations that have been rolled back.

So what is it like for you as you watch these things?

AXELROD: Yes, and you go a list of things. Well, thanks, that's all the time we have. I'm happy to be here.

Look, I try not to view these things through the prism of my past experience with the president. I try and view them through the prism of what the meaning of these things are.

I think the Iran nuclear agreement kept a malign force from -- who was -- that was on the verge of getting a nuclear weapon from getting one and gave us a little breathing time so if they did come -- approach breakout, that there were tactics we could employ. That's important for our national security.

You know, one of the things about -- when -- as you're reading that list, I'm wondering how many of those things could the president of the United States sit here and talk to you for more than three minutes about in detail? I suspect he doesn't know. The barometer that he uses is not, is this in the national interest, it's, did Obama support it, did he sponsor it. And I think it does play well with his base. Any time he says he's undone something Obama did --

CUOMO: Yes.

AXELROD: It plays well with his base. And I think right now he's about the business of trying to arouse his base because he's concerned about what's going to happen in November.

CUOMO: Right, but he's delivering --

AXELROD: But it's not about the policy. And that's what bothers me. It's not on the merits of the policy.

CUOMO: Right, he's delivering on campaign promises.

AXELROD: There's no doubt about it.

CUOMO: He's checking boxes the same way we put them up on the graphic. And there is something politically saleable about that and he's obvious in his intentionality. I mean look at the pay raises for the military. They gave them a pay raise. I think it was 2.4 percent. It's the biggest one they've seen, I think, in eight years. That wasn't good enough for Trump. What he wanted to say, and Obama sucks. So he says, this is the first pay raise you've had in ten years. Not true. They've had a pay raise every year. So he steps on the fact that he gave them a big one --

AXELROD: Yes.

CUOMO: Just to say that and also the other guy stinks.

AXELROD: Yes, which is really -- I mean we've never seen anything like this before where one president spends all his time trying to malign a former president.

I think part of it is what we said, which is it plays very well with the base. We know how Obama was dealt with by his base, how they felt about him.

I also think there's something about Donald Trump. I think he resents the fact that Obama left as a respected president with high approval ratings, that the elites liked Obama. And so he really wants to tear down the Obama legacy. And that is something that consumes him.

Again, the thing that we should be concerned about is, what is -- what are the implications for the country? And is he thinking through -- I mean the TPP was on there, the Trans-Pacific Partnership. There has not been a greater gift to China than America's withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership. That was going to be a bulwark against China's hegemony in that region and now we are not part of it. We've weakened it.

So, you know, these are the things that people should be concerned about. I'm not worried about Obama's legacy. I think that will stand. I'm worried about the future and what the implications of all of these decisions will be.

CAMEROTA: Here's what President Obama said about what's going on with the Iran deal this week. He said, in a democracy, there will always be changes in policies and priorities from one administration to the next, but the consistent flouting of agreements that our country is a party to risks eroding America's credibility and puts us at odds with the world's major powers.

[08:35:13] Have you spoken to him about this?

AXELROD: Well, we've had some conversations about it. But, you know, I think the point he makes is really important as well. Donald Trump has made -- his -- he made a business practice for his entire career of breaking agreements and breaking contracts. That was his approach to relationships. That's one thing when you're running a family business. It's another thing when you're president of the United States. And people are going to be more reluctant to enter into agreements with you if they believe that those agreements are not firm, that the president may withdraw on a whim. It is not -- it's not a good policy for the country.

CUOMO: And it's -- look, we just saw what you're worried about teed up. Heather Nauert comes on from the State Department, discusses Iran in very dark terms about their capabilities, their predilections. But we just got out of the deal that was the only real check we had on Iran. So what will they put it its place. We'll see if delivering on a promise is going to get us in a better place.

AXELROD: That's the -- that's the whole question, Chris, are these decisions taking us forward or are they taking us back. My concern is they're taking us back.

CAMEROTA: David Axelrod, nice to see you.

AXELROD: Good to be here.

CAMEROTA: Have a nice weekend.

So the countdown to the royal wedding is on. We take a look at the lives of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle before they met and since. We have a sneak peek at a special CNN report for you. You don't want to miss it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:40:49] CAMEROTA: It's time for "CNN Money Now."

President Trump will unveil his plan to lower your prescription drug prices today.

Chief business correspondent Christine Romans joins us now with more and the fine print.

What does that look like?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Well, drug companies are getting away with murder. Remember the president said that. This is his big campaign promise to cut your drug prices. He's going to unveil this blueprint at 2:00. Will it work? The big question, does it lower the sticker price of drugs or just shift around who pays?

Here's the plan. It's designed to improve drug price negotiations, to create incentives for lower prices by making it easier for cheaper, generic drugs to hit the market and targeting the shadowy world of drug rebates. Trump wants insurers to share their big discounts for buying pricy, brand named drugs with consumers. It's an idea the Obama administration also supported.

But the president is dropping one big campaign promise, having Medicare directly negotiate with drug makers. Instead, they plan to remove government rules preventing Medicare from getting better deals. Now experts say today's proposals, they could have a modest impact. Trump also expected to slam foreign governments, other countries for paying less for prescription drugs. Those countries use their national health care systems to set lower drug prices, but Trump wants them to pay more for their American innovations.

Americans, by the way, spend more on drugs than anyone else in the world, Alisyn. Over $1,100 per person each year.

CAMEROTA: Those are striking numbers.

ROMANS: They are.

CAMEROTA: Yes. So, obviously, it's good to get to the back story of why that is.

So, thank you very much, Christine.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

OK, so one week from tomorrow, Britain's Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will tie the knot. In a CNN special report tomorrow night, we tell you some new scoop about why the royal couple is such a good match.

Here's a preview.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA (voice over): As Harry helps carry the monarchy forward, he will continue to do things his own way, like proposing to the woman he loves, not someone British royalty might expect.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it's a wonderful coincidence that Harry has fallen in love with somebody who is American mixed race, divorced, and a career woman. She is very representative of our society today. And I think that makes the monarchy much more user friendly.

CAMEROTA (on camera): On Saturday, May 19th, Harry and Meghan will get married here on the grounds of Windsor Castle in St. George's Chapel. It will be a very traditional wedding for this very modern royal couple.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Meghan and Harry love story is a terrific story. It has unlimited fairy tale appeal.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I heard you were amazing in Chicago.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She does what she feels comes naturally. And Harry is the most relaxed member of the royal family.

CAMEROTA: Do you see any scenario by which Harry and Meghan overshadow Kate and William?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, yes, I do. I do. I mean this is -- (INAUDIBLE) was my first thought. You know, this -- this could be a problem because Harry and Meghan are a very compelling couple. They're very charismatic and very relaxed and easy. The cameras will follow them. William and Kate are -- there's a much more rigidity to them, as possibly there has to be because he is going to be king.

CAMEROTA (voice over): To some who have known the family well, Harry and Meghan will play a critical role in the monarchy's future.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The world's view of the British monarchy is probably going to be determined more by Harry and Meghan than by William and Kate, certainly by Charles and Camilla. That's a very unusual situation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The royal family need Harry to bridge the gap between the people and the monarchy, because without that connection, the royal family wouldn't survive.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: OK. So, join us tomorrow night for a CNN special report. It's called "A Royal Match: Harry and Meghan." It's 8:00 Eastern. And it has all sorts of juicy morsels in there that you haven't heard before about their past and their romance.

And next Friday I will be live from Windsor to preview the royal wedding for NEW DAY. So make sure you tune in for that.

OK, meanwhile, this week's CNN Hero, Neal Bermas, saw children begging in the streets of Vietnam. He knew he had to do something. So he immediately left his home, his New York home, and he started a unique nonprofit giving young people the skills they need to rise out of poverty. Watch this.

[08:45:08] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NEAL BERMAS, CNN HERO: The young people in our program come from a whole country with all kinds of very, very difficult past. We have kids with HIV background, kids from leprosy villages. Some have already been trafficked. Sometimes more than once.

You'll do great.

Within a couple years, no matter how difficult and how painful, how tortured their life may have been, with 100 percent assurance, I know that that young person is going to be starting a career with all kinds of possibilities.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: OK, to see more about Neal's program, head to cnnheroes.com. And while you're there, nominate someone you think should be a CNN hero.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CAMEROTA: Conservative columnist George Will eviscerates Vice President Mike Pence in a new column, writing, the oleaginous Mike Pence with his talent for toadyism and appetite for obsequiousness could, Trump new, become America's most repulsive public figure. Because his is the authentic voice of today's lickspittle Republican Party, he clarifies this year's elections, vote Republican to ratify groveling as governing.

[08:50:15] But how does he really feel? Joining us now to discuss is former press secretary to Vice President Pence, Marc Lotter, and Republican strategist Rick Wilson.

We could diagram that sentence all day long, gentlemen. George Will and his inimitable George Will style putting it all out there.

And, Marc, listen, I know this is awkward for you to, you know, have to comment on your former boss for whom you were press secretary, but do you take any of George Will's points that George Will isn't alone, that some people have seen the vice president as being a tad obsequious?

MARC LOTTER, FORMER PRESS SECRETARY TO VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: Well, I'll tell you, and I'll use it in a term because we all know and respect George Will's love for baseball and history, that even the best players in the game get more outs than they make hits. And, in this case I think he struck out because what he's not acknowledging is that the vice president and the president are pursuing the conservative policies that have got the economy moving, that's making our country safer again and it's working. And that's why the president's approval polls keep going up despite the fact that you have overwhelming negative coverage, including from some very respected conservative commentators.

CAMEROTA: Rick, how do you see it?

RICK WILSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, look, I think that Mike is, you know, displaying his own loyalty to Mike Pence, and that's admirable. But the fact is that, you know, Mike Pence has become a guy who -- who -- he was very respected in the conservative movement for many years as a mainstream right-leaning conservative governor. And there are a lot of things that I don't think Mike is going to want to acknowledge that this administration isn't pursuing conservative ends. There's a lot -- there's an expansion of government, there's reckless spending, there's major deficits, huge debt being piled on.

And -- but Mike Pence has taken on the role are being the number one Trump cheerleader. And I understand that. I think he recognizes there's a fragility about the president's mental state and about the legal status of this president and he sees that, you know, there's a non-zero possibility he could end up being in that chair one day because of Donald Trump's own mistakes. So I get that Mike Pence is trying to sort of skate up that middle line of kiss the president's backside on the one hand and, you know, and still talk conservative on the other.

So it's a difficult spot for Pence to be in, but I don't think that -- I don't think this was a miss by George Will. I think he analyzed something very, very on point about what's happening in Washington today where Republicans have decided that their principles that they advocated for decades don't matter, but making Donald Trump happy does.

CAMEROTA: Well, I mean, Marc, what I think that George Will was talking about was not policy, as you're referring to, but style, OK? And so here is a montage of what has raised eyebrows in terms of what Vice President Mike Pence has decided to say and do around Donald Trump. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm deeply humbled as your vice president to be able to be here. Because of your leadership, Mr. President, and because of the strong support of leadership in the Congress of the United States, you're delivering on that middle class miracle.

He's got broad shoulders. He's got high energy.

I have faith in this president's broad shoulders and big heart and his vision.

He's my friend. He's a man who loves his family. He loves this country. Boundless energy and optimism, broad shoulders and a big heart.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: Is he ever heaping it on a tad thick on the broad shoulders?

LOTTER: Well, that -- and that was actually a great clip of that from I think back in -- after the State of the Union last year, or the joint address to Congress after the inaugural on that. And -- but what he's talking about is the man that he knows and he spends so much time with every day in the West Wing and they're constantly on the phone. And I don't think a lot of people out in America do get a chance to see the leadership, the compassion and the caring that President Trump shows.

And whenever I've had a chance to speak with him, he's just -- he's a very engaging person and I think what the president -- the vice president is doing is kind of lifting the curtain a little bit and showing people the man that he's become -- that he's gotten to know over the last couple of years.

CAMEROTA: But do you think there's anything, Marc, to Rick's point, that the president needs this kind of adulation?

LOTTER: I think what the president wants is success. And he knows that when he sends the vice president, whether it's around the world or down the street, when we're in Washington, D.C., to Capitol Hill, he really measures things by success. And that's the way he gauges it.

So I think in the case of talking about the leadership, the man and the friend that he has in the president is one thing. But, at the end of the day, the president's focused on one thing, and that's getting the job done.

CAMEROTA: Hey, Rick, if you had ever used those terms with your bosses, or let's just say somebody had used them with you, what would have happened? [08:55:03] WILSON: Well, listen, you know, the -- as the noted

political philosopher Beyonce once said, you know, he ought to just put a ring on it at this point. I mean it's like everything but, Mr. President, can I give you a foot massage? It's so over the top. And there's usually a sort of dignified, broader sense with these guys who talk, you know, about the agenda. They don't talk about his strapping broad shoulders and they don't go into this sort of personalized, you know, rear kissing that gets -- I mean Trump obviously eats it up with a spoon. And, you know, that -- that one clip where Pence started out saying the broad shoulders, they went around the table and talked about how the glorious leader was, you know, the tallest, handsomest, smartest man in America ever. And this is obviously a play to Trump's ego. It's a very delicate, brittle little ego. And he constantly needs that sort of reinforcement. So, anyway, it's quite something.

CAMEROTA: All right, on that note, Rick Wilson, Marc Lotter, thank you very much for the conversation this morning. Have a great weekend.

LOTTER: Thanks, Alisyn.

WILSON: Thanks. You too.

CAMEROTA: CNN "NEWSROOM" with John Berman and Poppy Harlow picks up after this quick break.

Have a great Mother's Day, everyone.