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Trump Disinvites Eagles from White House Visit; Giuliani: Trump's Team Made 'A Mistake' With False Statements about Trump Tower Meeting. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired June 5, 2018 - 07:00   ET


ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. Good morning, John.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you.

[07:00:03] CAMEROTA: This is your NEW DAY.

BERMAN: It is.

CAMEROTA: Though some of it may seem like deja vu. President Trump canceling the White House visit for the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles, citing the team's stance on national anthem protests, even though none of them did protest by taking a knee last season.

The real issue appears to be player turnout. Fewer than a dozen players planned to attend today's event. Philadelphia's mayor slams the president as, quote, "a fragile egomaniac."

This comes as a new development in the special counsel investigation. Special Counsel Robert Mueller is accusing Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign chairman, of witness tampering in his federal tax and money laundering case.

BERMAN: Rudy Giuliani tells CNN the president's legal team and press secretary, they made mistakes denying the president was involved in that misleading statement about the Trump Tower meeting with the Russians. Giuliani insists it was a mistake, not a lie, though they sure made that mistake again and again and again over a whole lot of time. And White House press secretary Sarah Sanders refuses to explain her role in spreading that lie.

Let's begin our coverage with CNN's Kaitlan Collins, live this morning at the White House -- Kaitlan.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: John, I think Alisyn put it best, saying it was deja vu, because here the president opened a new chapter into his culture war with the NFL by uninviting the Philadelphia Eagles -- Eagles just 24 hours before they were supposed to show up here at the White House for that Super Bowl celebration.

Now, it became quite clear why it was cancelled, and that's because not many of the Eagles were going to show up. You could imagine what the optics would look like with President Trump and eight or nine football players standing around him would be.

So, they have said that they are unable to come, saying that they don't agree with the president, but if you scratch the surface, you can see this clearly goes back to that national anthem issue and those players who knelt during the national anthem last football season, protesting police brutality.

Now the president clearly making it quite obvious on Twitter last night, saying that they were uninvited and then saying that only a small number were going to come; and it's staying in the locker room for the playing of the national anthem is also not acceptable.

Now, back in last season, none of the Eagles knelt nor stayed back in the locker room during the national anthem, but there is that new NFL rule that if you're not going to stand for the national anthem, you must stay back in the locker room or risk being fined. Clearly, something that has bothered the president.

But Philadelphia is also not happy. Their mayor issuing a blistering statement of President Trump last night, saying that uninviting the Eagles just goes to show the president is, quote, "not a true patriot but a fragile egomaniac obsessed with crowd size and afraid of the embarrassment of throwing a party which no one wants to attend."

Now of course, these are not typically political events. Ever since the president has stoked this war with the NFL since last September, when he referred to players who kneel on the field as SOBs, this is something we are seeing continue here; but it is escalating far, far more than we ever imagined -- John and Alisyn.

BERMAN: All right. Kaitlan Collins at the White House. Thanks so much.

Joining us now, CNN political analyst John Avlon and national reporter for "The Washington Post," Wes Lowery.

Wes, you're part of the lead piece of "The Washington Post," about how this all unfolded other the last 24 hours. What was going on behind the scenes at the White House? This really feels like the crowd size was a major driving issue.

WES LOWERY, NATIONAL REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Certainly. It was, as the Philadelphia mayor notes in his statement, at least in part, the fact or the idea that these players would stand up Trump and that he would look bad on camera, certainly seems to have played a factor here.

The piece today with my colleague, Josh Dawsey, includes a lot of details behind the scenes of why the president has stoked this war and this fight, really does trace back to that rally in Alabama last year, when he calls the kneeling NFL players SOBs. He says, you know, someone should tell them, "You're fired."

And the president was, to some extent, taken aback by how well- received those comments were and that that was one of the moments where he decided this was a winning political issue that he was going to continue to stoke. Is what we've seen time and time again, is that at every juncture, he sought to throw more fuel on this fire, going as far, we report in the piece today, as inquiring about whether or not the NFL could somehow be harmed via the GOP tax bill last year, right? Trying to figure out how to continue this fight, because he sees it as a winning one, politically.

CAMEROTA: But I don't know how you can see it as winning, John, when if you're being stood up by the winners --


CAMEROTA: If the winners of the Super Bowl are standing you up. I mean, at some point doesn't that start to have diminishing returns for the president, this going after them and saying vulgar comments about the players and everything?

AVLON: Well, the president has got three basic strategies that he employs at almost everything: distract, deflect, discredit. And so he's frustrated that he's going to look bad, because the Super Bowl winners don't want to come to his party.

CAMEROTA: Wouldn't that have been true, I mean, there were 70 who originally applied for a background check and that it had dwindled down to 10, wouldn't that have been embarrassing for the president?

AVLON: Yes. I mean, potentially, but again, not everything is politics. And we keep infusing politics into our sports. And the president thinks this is a winning issue. This is simply playing the culture war card. Let's not overthink it.

[07:05:05] But he thinks it's a winning issue, not just because the crowds like it, because his base likes it. But it really does diminish, you know, America's greatest game, the Super Bowl, the victory of it, and it makes the president look small. I mean, when the mayor of Philadelphia is calling you a fragile egomaniac, that's not a good look for the president, no matter how you --

BERMAN: What were your three "D's" right there?

AVLON: Distract, deflect, discredit.

BERMAN: All right. Let me add a fourth, divide.

AVLON: Sure.

BERMAN: I mean, divide here, Wes. I mean, this is clearly an issue that divides the country, and the president , he does everything he can to sort of drive that wedge in even further. And it's hard to imagine this issue playing at all, you know, if race were not a factor. I mean, Tom Brady didn't go to the White House last year, you know, when the Patriots won. And one big difference between Tom Brady and some of the Eagles players is, you know, Tom Brady is white.


BERMAN: I saw that. CAMEROTA: Wow.

LOWERY: Believe it or not. Well, real quick, I can't let John get away with calling the Super Bowl America's greatest game while my Cleveland Cavaliers are in the NBA finals. And so I've got to correct that. But --

AVLON: Just the single game. That's all.

LOWERY: However, I do think that, I mean, race is clearly -- clearly the undertone of race is relevant here. Now, it is fair to say we actually reported in this piece today, as well, Trump was really frustrated with the idea that Tom Brady didn't show up at the White House last year, but he didn't talk about it publicly. He didn't cancel the meeting the way that he has here.

And this issue around kneeling for the anthem, remember, started by Colin Kaepernick, a former 49ers quarterback, specifically to draw attention to issues of police brutality and police killings of unarmed black people, that race has always been present in this conversation, both in terms of the initial protests, which Trump has opposed and which his base does not like, as well as in the response to it, right, this idea that black athletes have very often tried to use their platforms to draw attention to historic injustices and that very often been told to kind of shut up and sit down and stick to sports. And so we can't pretend that race isn't a factor here.

But as you know, there were players, you know, these meetings have not always been political. There have always been players who come to the White House and always some players who decided not to. Not every player showed up to see Barack Obama at the White House.

BERMAN: Kim Thomas (ph) of the Boston Brewers didn't -- didn't show up, and he did so as as political statement. He flat-out said he was not going to go because of the president's policies.

LOWERY: Of course.

CAMEROTA: We should let everybody know that the Philadelphia mayor is coming on our program in the next hour. So stay tuned for that if you want to hear how he's feeling about all this this morning.

Let's move on to Rudy Giuliani, the president's attorney. He was on with Chris Cuomo last night. And basically, we keep hearing different things about this false statement, about whether or not the president was behind the statement from Air Force One about the Russians meeting in Trump Tower.

Surprise, it turns out the president dictated that statement, which many people had suspected but they never confirmed until they confirmed it in a letter. And then the truth came out, and that was embarrassing for Sarah Sanders.

And Giuliani last night was basically trying to explain that they just made a mistake, John. So let's play a portion of that.


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Why do you think they chose to lie about his role in drafting this statement about Trump Jr.'s meeting with the Russians?

RUDY GIULIANI, ATTORNEY FOR DONALD TRUMP: Chris, you think maybe somebody could have made a mistake?

CUOMO: That's a lot of mistakes.

GIULIANI: Why is it always --

CUOMO: A lot of mistakes.

GIULIANI: Why is it always that somebody -- you think Jay Sekulow lied? Maybe he just got it wrong, like -- like I've gotten -- I got a few things wrong in the beginning of the investigation. Meaning my knowledge -- this is a complex investigation.

First week or so, I got a few things wrong. And then it was clarified in a letter, and that's the final position.

CUOMO: Well --

GIULIANI: That's the danger of going under oath, that you can make a mistake. Please let me finish.

CUOMO: Please, go ahead.

GIULIANI: You can make a mistake. You can make a mistake and then, if you don't -- if you want to, you can say it's a lie. But it was a mistake. I swear to God, it was a mistake. The guy made a mistake.


CAMEROTA: I mean --

AVLON: This is the "Three's Company" defense. It's all a big misunderstanding, people. But it's not credible because of the fact pattern. It's Jay Sekulow not once but multiple times saying he did not dictate it. It's Sarah Sanders Huckabee -- Sarah Huckabee Sanders from the White House podium saying multiple times he did not dictate, then being flatly contradicted by their own letter after the fact.

There's not a credibility gap with this team. This is a credibility chasm, and it's of their own making. Unfortunately, the assumption of goodwill is tough to extend in the face of the facts.

BERMAN: You know, I have to say the most telling part of that question and answer was the laugh from Rudy Giuliani. He was laughing at the truth. It was scoffing at the notion of reality there.

Look, I know you're close to him there, but it seems to be a complete intentional disregard for reality there. The fact is that they spread a lie. They spread a lie. Now, did Jay Sekulow know he was spreading a lie? I don't know. Did Sarah Sanders know she was spreading a lie? CAMEROTA: But either way, that's not a mistake.

BERMAN: But someone knew. Someone knew.

CAMEROTA: -- they were being misled.

[07:10:00] BERMAN: The president knew they were spreading a lie. Hope Hicks, who had the letter dictated to her, knew that they were spreading a lie, and Hope Hicks was communications director.

AVLON: And, you know, and whoever was on Air Force One at that time. And then you've got the issue of Donald Trump Jr. and the statement he gave to Congress. So I mean, this is, you know, you can get into the, you know, splitting hairs about lies and intent, but this is clearly, they spread a lie from the White House podium and the president's lawyer. And that's why you can't simply assume it's a mistake or accept the "Three's Company" defense.

CAMEROTA: And then Wes, I mean, where does that leave us with Sarah Sanders? How can the press and public believe today when there's another press briefing or whenever the next one is, anything?

LOWERY: -- difficulties here. This is a White House and formerly a campaign that often has operated outside of the realms of normal political honesty or willingness to engage with facts this way.

But when you have the -- the spokesperson for the White House, and it's not just Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the former spokesperson Sean Spicer dealt with this, as well, step to the podium and say things that are later proven to be clearly demonstrably untrue, it undermines the credibility of the White House and the eyes, unquestionably, of the press but also of the American people, right?

And I think it's really interesting as we see the legal case continuing to play out, one thing that I can't think we lose -- we should not lose sight of is how remarkable it is that lawyers for the president are so frequently talking in public anyway of these ongoing investigations, that very few people would legally advise the lawyer of a president, who is facing an obstruction of justice investigation and potentially a collusion investigation, to be, you know, talking to all of our friends and colleagues on air constantly.

Perhaps it is a political strategy, but it is still pretty remarkable as a legal strategy, if only because it constantly creates these clashes between what the White House is saying and what the lawyers for the president are saying.

BERMAN: Look, I think it's also not impossible to tie all of this together. The president is bringing up the NFL and doing this thing, because it does distract --


BERMAN: -- one of your "D" words -- from this mess of lies that they got into here. And perhaps the president knew that the Paul Manafort news was going to come out overnight, as well. He out of nowhere tweeted about Paul Manafort over the weekend. Paul Manafort, the special counsel says, engaged in witness tampering, sending encrypted messages through people to try to get them to shape some of their testimony.

AVLON: This February, right, I mean, Manafort is already -- you know the degree of heat on Paul Manafort is extraordinary. And he's still trying to witness tamper and influence testimony via WhatsApp and third parties. And the individuals receive it, immediately go to Mueller and say, "Hey, we've got a problem here."

This is just a reminder that this is a deep investigation, but this is not necessarily the sharpest knives in the drawer. This is incredibly dumb on Paul Manafort's part. He somehow thought using WhatsApp would not get back to him. This is a bad decision, people.

BERMAN: I've got to change my WhatsApp use. I also thought that WhatsApp wouldn't come back to haunt him -- or me.

CAMEROTA: Right. Word to the wise.

BERMAN: John Avlon, Wes Lowery, great to have you here. Thanks so much, gentlemen.

LOWERY: Thanks.

BERMAN: So what are players saying about the president telling the Eagles to stay home? We're going to talk to a couple of former NFLers when NEW DAY continues.


[07:17:08] BERMAN: All right. Just now President Trump put out a new statement about his plans for today, now that he has disinvited, or uninvited, or just cancelled the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles from coming to the White House today.

The president wrote, "We will proudly be playing the national anthem and other wonderful music celebrating our country today at 3 p.m., honoring America. NFL, no escaping to locker rooms."

Joining us now, former NFL players Donte Stallworth and Nate Boyer. Gentlemen, thanks so much for being with us right now.

Donte, I want to start with you, because what appears to have happened was that a dozen or fewer Eagles were actually going to go to the White House, so the president basically said, "You know, you can't dump me, I dump you."

Why were the Eagles players, in your mind, making that decision not to go?

DONTE STALLWORTH, FORMER NFL PLAYER: Well, the players talked about it eloquently throughout the season. These guys from the Philadelphia Eagles have been working on a number of criminal justice reform issues. They've been working on a number of policing issues by going on their off days, going to speak with legislators in Pennsylvania, going to speak with police chiefs.

And so these players have been proactive, and the president obviously does not agree with the tactics of some players that are -- that have been taking a knee, but I think it's ironic to note that none of the Philadelphia Eagles during the season last year had taken a knee. You had some guys raise a fist but none of those guys take -- had taken a knee.

And so if the president seems to be open to some type of criminal justice reform with having Kim Kardashian in last week in the Oval Office to discuss at least one person that's close to her on criminal justice reform. So these players, I think the president is missing out on a big opportunity here to really bring forth some -- probably the biggest -- the biggest bipartisan issue in this country here in Washington is criminal justice reform, and I think the president is really missing an opportunity to move forward with that.

BERMAN: Nate Boyer, in front of an American flag, I might add.

You know, Donte notes none of the Eagles kneeled last year. None of them took a knee. So it does to an extent seem that what the president is doing here is punishing them for what they think. Is that an American value?

Nate, can you hear me?

NATE BOYER, FORMER NFL PLAYER: Yes, I thought you addressed Donte on that one. Sorry.

BERMAN: No, no. What do you think of that, Nate?

BOYER: Yes. I mean, just like Donte said, you know, a lot of these guys -- well, none of these guys were, in fact, kneeling last year. And you know, I encouraged a lot of people, a lot of players from different sports who won various championships that talked about not visiting the White House. I've encouraged them that -- that taking that opportunity to -- to have that conversation, have that sit-down, you know, talk about criminal justice, talk about whatever issues you've got going on -- we've got a lot of issues in our country -- that that's a huge thing. That's a good -- it's a great opportunity, a huge step, and now, you know, they don't even have that chance.

[07:20:12] You know, maybe one of those guys did want to go up there and sit down and talk about things. I don't really know. But, you know, either way you slice it, it's just -- it's a tough one. It's a kind of a time-honored tradition.

I remember when -- seeing videos of the University of Texas when they won the national championship and the whole team up there, you know, visiting with the president, no matter who's in that seat. And I just -- I think it's just a sign of the times, you know. It's the tumultuous era and divisiveness and how we see these images and symbols as just something that doesn't bring us together but something that tears us apart.

That's what hurts me more than anything. And I think hurts a lot of people that wore the camouflage uniform. And that's just a testament to where we're at as a country, and I think we're -- we're heading backwards.

BERMAN: Do you think players made a mistake? Do you think they missed an opportunity, the ones who decided not to go, Nate?

BOYER: You know, possibly in the past, but now there is no opportunity to go. But I understand from their point of view, too. A lot of these guys have said, 'Look, all I see this as potentially just a photo op. You know, and I don't want to be a part of that." And they have very strong feelings about how their children or maybe their grandchildren will view that because of the times we live in. You know what I mean? And the way that that may look. And if that's all it's about to them, then, you know, they don't see that as really moving the conversation forward.

Because at the end of the day what this is all supposed to be about is, you know, like you said, criminal justice. That's why Colin started sitting and then taking a knee in the first place, so he could -- you know, we could move that conversation forward about, you know, police brutality and just race. I mean, that's why that all started. It wasn't specifically about the anthem or the flag, but it has turned into simply that.

We see these images. We see something on the screen, and we sort of make a decision on our own about what it's about.

BERMAN: Donte, the president thinks he's winning this issue. He just does. You know, I hear it from people close to the White House. I heard it from the Republicans and the Democrats who don't necessarily agree with the president, but he thinks he's winning.

And "The Wall Street Journal" reported, you know, he flat-out said it to Jerry Jones the owner of the Cowboys. He said, "This is a very winning, strong issue for me. Tell everybody you can't win this one. This one lifts me."

How do you assess that, Donte?

STALLWORTH: I mean, obviously, he's catering to his base, but what's actually winning here? Democracy is not winning. What is actually being done to help move this country forward and not backwards?

Criminal justice reform, again, would be a way for Trump to actually get an actual win. He can -- he could probably do that. He's -- again, he's expressed some type of interest in this. And, you know, with obviously, also bringing in Jared Kushner to kind of be the one to oversee some criminal justice reform. Where are the actions behind that?

And the president has -- he had a really good opportunity, especially with the Philadelphia Eagles, who have been at the forefront of policing issues, policing inequities and criminal justice system. But he's -- he's missing a valuable opportunity to try to score a political points with his base. And, you know, it's not good for democracy. BERMAN: And not lost on all of us, Donte, I think today is it's not

just kneeling anymore that the president has a problem with. His statement this morning noted it's not enough for players to stay in the locker room. So the president keeps on sort of moving the line here. Not only can they not kneel, they can't stay in the locker room here. He seems to be dictating what he considers to be the only appropriate behavior.

STALLWORTH: Dictating. That's a good word. He's -- you know, he wants it his way or the highway. And obviously, he's the president of the United States, and he has his say in certain things, but at the end of the day, you know, there's no winning when you're -- when you're quelling dissent, when your squashing dissent.

There's no winning when you're not able to help this country move forward and to -- to really fix a lot of the inequities in the criminal justice system.

BERMAN: So, Nate, what happens next?

BOYER: This isn't -- this isn't a winning and losing, you know. This is -- everybody is losing right now. That's what it feels like to me. Because we're falling apart. You know what I mean? And we're so obsessed with that as a nation. And I'm not just -- I'm not talking about one man in one position. I'm talking about all of us.

Like, it is -- everything is not this black and white. And it's not about being right all the time, you know what I mean? We need to do such a better job, everybody, of just -- just having these conversations and, like, really listening to one another and really giving a damn about how each other feels. We're just going to be stuck in this place, you know? And it's a sickness that we're -- we're suffering together as a nation. And it really -- it really frustrates me, and it really hurts because we're going in circles over and over.

[07:25:23] BERMAN: I hope people listen to you. I hope people are listening to you here, because it doesn't always have to be about winning or losing here.

So what would your message to the president be in this case? You're the president who, you know, maybe only 10 or 12 Eagles would have gone, but he said no, ultimately. What's your message to the president?

BOYER: You know, it's not just to the president. Like I said, it's to everybody. We need to practice humility big time here. You know, we need to swallow some pride, every single person. And understand that just your experiences, your perspective is only yours.

But to gain any insight from somebody else, it takes you understanding and really believing that maybe you don't have all the answers and you're not always right all the time. You know, I struggle with it, man. It's just -- it's human nature, you know, but we have to be bigger than that. We've got to be better than that. And this is -- it's 2018 in the United States of America. And we're just -- we're acting like children. It's bad.

BERMAN: Look, we all struggle with it. Listening is one of the hardest things to do and something we could all do a little bit more of.

Nate Boyer, Donte Stallworth, thanks so much for coming in this morning. Appreciate it.

BOYER: Thank you, guys, John.

BERMAN: All right. Coming up in our next hour, we'll speak with the Philadelphia mayor Jim Kenney, the Philadelphia mayor. He joins us to talk about the president canceling the invitation to the Philadelphia Eagles to visit the White House today.

CAMEROTA: OK. So he was just given a full pardon by President Trump. Why does Dinesh D'Souza think he was unfairly targeted for a crime that he pleaded guilty to? He joins us to explain next.