Return to Transcripts main page
THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Robert De Niro Attacks Trump; Trump Set to Meet With Kim Jong- un; Ex-Staffer: Trump Routinely Rips Up Papers That Need To Be Preserved. Aired 4:30-5p ET
Aired June 11, 2018 - 16:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: His last day was on Friday. He was on the Trump communications team. He's been on Trump team since the campaign.
You tweeted, the purge is beginning.
MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: And it is.
I think that Steven Cheung will be the first of a couple of people from the communications staff, which is separate from the White House press team.
Cheung's name had been on several lists going back to 2017 of people who could be on the chopping block. And it has been surprising every single time. He was on the campaign. He was seen as a high performer. He was one of the hardest workers. He was involved, from the White House end, in the Gorsuch nomination coms effort, and he was involved the tax reform coms effort.
HABERMAN: So, it is not surprising, in the sense that I think this is less about who is loyal to Donald Trump and who is having fights internally with other people and other factions.
You will, I think, see more. I think that the president is very obsessed with leaks right now and he's being directed in a certain way toward his communications staff.
TAPPER: But he's under the impression that his communications team is leaking to the press, bad stories, damaging stories...
HABERMAN: Correct. And he has been for some time. His constant refrain is, I have the biggest communications staff and I get the most terrible press.
He is not the first president to feel that way, but he might be the one who is the most focused on this.
TAPPER: He doesn't see that perhaps it is because the press is covering things that he says and does?
HABERMAN: No, he doesn't see that to cover him accurately doesn't mean you're covering him unfairly.
TAPPER: What other high-profile aides are you talking about? The story talks about John Kelly, the White House chief of staff, who, by almost all accounts, is not as powerful as he once was.
I mean, he is looking toward his one-year mark, which is next month. He could end up staying until the midterms. A lot of people expect that he will leave before that.
I think there is a side of him, just like his boss, who doesn't want to give into what he believes is press -- and negative press coverage and a call for his own head.
The other big name that is looking at leaving is Joe Hagin. He...
TAPPER: The deputy chief of staff.
HABERMAN: The deputy chief of staff who is -- was there at the very beginning, has worked in other White houses, really knows where everything is. He knows how everything functions in that White House.
TAPPER: Yes, he worked in the Bush 43 White House.
And he is one of the few people who is seen as hard to replace if he goes. He is one of the very few people who you would have seen in other administrations who works in this White House. He has attracted a lot of negative attention and questions about his loyalty because of his Bush years.
And that is sort of the brush that people use to paint people with to seem like they are disloyal in Trump's eyes.
TAPPER: Now, you report in this story that John Kelly, the chief of staff, met recently with some senators and called the White House a -- quote -- "miserable place to work." You heard that directly from somebody who heard the remarks.
Why is it such a miserable place to work? Obviously, it's a lot of hard work, but why would John Kelly be so unhappy?
HABERMAN: He's said this both to people who are coming in from outside of the White House and to his colleagues, because it is the constant churn of chaos, because anything that he's tried to implement in terms of structure, the president has generally undone or resisted, because the president claims to sort of want certain systems in place, but he doesn't really want those systems in place.
Look, John Kelly has done a number of controversial things and things for which he deserves criticism. There is no question that being chief of staff to this president is a near impossible job for anyone.
TAPPER: And you also write that he's now -- the president is now taking advice from people from outside the White House, like Corey Lewandowski and Dave Bossie, people who were basically prevented from getting a job in the White House early on.
HABERMAN: That's right.
And, look, he -- it is really interesting that if you look back at around this time two years ago was when Corey Lewandowski was fired from the campaign as the first campaign manager. Donald Trump didn't really want to fire him. He was pushed toward it by his children.
TAPPER: Right. Jared -- Jared made him do it.
HABERMAN: He wasn't the only one, but he was one of the big ones.
TAPPER: Ivanka, right.
HABERMAN: And he has regretted it basically ever since and he has continued to seek Corey Lewandowski's counsel.
He talks to him, as I understand it, multiple times a week. And I don't expect that to change.
TAPPER: So, one other thing.
Shed some light on this explosion from President Trump on Air Force One. The communique had been agreed to. There is still, as we can tell, no disagreement with the communique from the G7. The White House agrees with it all.
TAPPER: Justin Trudeau says what I think you had Stephen Hadley say, that he went too far, but still it could have been ignored. And yet this explosion, calling him weak, aides saying there is a special place in hell for Justin Trudeau. Tap into the Trump psyche here for us.
HABERMAN: A lot of it is always what you see is what you get. Right?
He felt like he was disrespected. It is also not clear to me that he knew that it is the tradition for the leader of the host nation to do their own press briefing. So this was going to be something that happened no matter what.
He may have seen it as some targeted barb at him, but it really wasn't a barb. It was just Trudeau standing up for his own country. Trump is very concerned about heading into this North Korean meeting how he appears.
The -- as you know, strength and weakness is everything to him. He felt like he looked weak and he was made to look weak and embarrassed. And he reacted this way.
It is really, I don't think, much more than that.
TAPPER: How did he look weak? Justin Trudeau, all he said was that the retaliatory tariffs were insulting and that Canada is polite, but they're going to stand up for themselves. He didn't even in that section mention President Trump's name.
HABERMAN: No, and there was nothing personal, nothing attacking, nothing as was described.
We have seen repeatedly the president call news coverage -- going back to earlier in the segment, call news coverage unfair, when it is not unfair. He has often described people as insulting him when they are not talking about him.
He views everything through the refracted lens of himself. And so, consequently, this became how this would play for me. And in his mind, this was going to play badly. I'm not saying there was anything that Justin Trudeau did that was wrong. I can't see a planet on which Trump both praises other leaders for defending their nations -- he describes this as a positive about them.
They stand up to us and they really defend their countries against us.
HABERMAN: And now he's angry at Trudeau for doing just that.
It is not logical, but it is how his mind works.
TAPPER: I have been covering politics for a long time, as have you. I don't know any president who insults people more than President Trump does.
HABERMAN: No. No. And, in fact...
TAPPER: This is a matter of fact.
HABERMAN: And who name-calls more than President Trump does, right?
HABERMAN: I mean, everything becomes deeply personalized almost Every single time. It is constantly -- and people in the campaign would laugh hysterically about it during the primaries until he pointed his gun at them.
He just -- there is just a fundamental disconnect. I don't know how else to describe it. He just won't hear it. He won't listen to it. When he's told this is what he's doing, he just won't accept it. TAPPER: Well, let's hope that that is all put on hold when it comes
to negotiations going on in Singapore, where we're all hoping for the best, of course.
TAPPER: Maggie Haberman from "The New York Times," thank you so much.
HABERMAN: Thank you.
TAPPER: Always good to have you on.
Did Robert De Niro just give the Trump campaign a jump-start with his F-bomb rant directed at the president, Trump, in front of an international audience?
Stay with us.
TAPPER: And we're back with our pop culture lead.
One of the most talked about Robert De Niro monologues since Travis Bickle looks into the mirror in "Taxi Driver" has become what the president's supporters consider the newest case study in Trump derangement syndrome.
Acclaimed actor Robert De Niro walked on stage at the Tony Awards last night to introduce Bruce Springsteen, but De Niro first apparently needed to curse at President Trump before the millions of people watching in the theater and around the world.
Most viewers at home in the U.S. heard silence, instead of the F-word.
We now know what De Niro said -- quote -- "F. Trump. It is no longer down with Trump. It is F. Trump," except he used all four letters, not just F.
Let me bring in my panel. We have Amanda Carpenter and Symone Sanders.
Symone, let me start with you.
Mark McKinnon, former Bush adviser, co-host of "The Circus" on Showtime, he tweeted -- quote -- "Hollywood, here is your problem. De Niro says F. Trump. Bee says Ivanka is a C-word. Maher, Bill Maher, hopes for a recession to get rid of Trump. That is all you got. Do you have any clue as to how this plays right into Trump's playbook? Keep it up and you will help ensure four more years."
What do you think?
SYMONE SANDERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think Mark McKinnon has it wrong. Look, for the people that don't like Donald Trump, speaking about him
in that way isn't gaining them any new fans or any new haters. Look, people are very staunchly decided on how they feel about the president, if you love him or you hate him or you don't care either way or not.
And so Robert De Niro, Samantha Bee, Bill Maher or anywhere else isn't truly going to affect anyone's feelings about the president. I think what matters more is what Democrats in these midterm elections are saying and doing.
And, frankly, they are not talking about Donald Trump. They're tacking about the issues.
TAPPER: Amanda, what do you think?
AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, this certainly mobilizes the Trump voter base and it reconfirms the idea that the left, either symbolized by an elected Democrat, someone in big Hollywood, a liberal journalist on TV, or some kind of actor, hates them.
And that is incredibly motivating for the Trump coalition. And so I would give some free advice to anyone that wants to give a speech about Trump. If your message is so crude that it makes Donald Trump's Twitter account looks classy by comparison, you ought to rethink your message, because there was nothing in that message besides hate.
This is what I call the Trump trap, where people who want to take on Trump become like him in the worst ways. And if our politics becomes a race to the bottom, Trump has already proven that he is the dirtiest player who will win at that game.
And so this will do nothing but backfire on him because you can sub De Niro, Samantha Bee, whoever you want. There is no effective Democratic opposition to Trump right now. And so the Republican get- out-the-vote committee is more than happy to use figures like Robert De Niro who volunteer as a stand-in.
TAPPER: So, here's the thing. Symone, I will come right to you.
A lot of Democrats, they say this is the point, that Trump has started this. The editor in chief at "The Atlantic," Jeffrey Goldberg, he reported today that he asked a White House official exactly what is the Trump doctrine, and that senior administration official responded -- quote -- "The Trump doctrine is, we're America, bitch. That's the Trump doctrine."
And when explaining, this person said -- quote -- "Obama apologized to everyone for everything. He felt bad about everybody." "President Trump," this official said, "doesn't feel like he has to apologize for anything America does."
So, "We're America, bitch," is the Trump doctrine.
Symone, I guess that is what I'm hearing from people on the left. It is, he started it.
SANDERS: He did start it.
But, to be frank, Robert De Niro doesn't speak for the totality of the Democratic Party, the resistance or whoever. Neither does Samantha Bee or Bill Maher, for that matter.
The issue here is, Jake, that we are allowing -- some folks, not me -- but some Democrats and folks on the left are allowing the right to frame this conversation. So, Robert De Niro comes out, says, F. Trump, oh, my goodness, the Democrats are waging war, and we have to hunker down on the right.
We cannot allow ourselves to be tricked into using the rhetoric and the playbook of the right. So, look, I don't really give a damn about what Robert De Niro has to say about Donald Trump.
[16:45:00] Frankly, many people feel the way that he feels. But what folks really care about and what's really going to move the needle it's talking about the issues. And every single time we allow ourselves to get tripped up into what some something or someone in Hollywood said, we -- that's playing in a Donald Trump's hands. That is the game that I'm not going to play.
CARPENTER: I would just say for the Trump voter, the culture war is far bigger and more important than the Republican versus Democratic political war. And while people like Symone are right to point out that there's a difference between a Hollywood actor and an elected Democrat, there is -- but there is no elected Democrat to focus on. There is no alternative to trench rather than these outpouring of you know, sort of freak statements that come out in hysterical examples of you know, what is called Trump derangement syndrome. And I think that is precisely because there's nowhere for that energy to go in a positive manner. You didn't see people you know, slapping on you know, sticker about Parkland or a Love Trump's Hate or something positive because there's nowhere to go because there's no effective Democratic figure for them to rally behind. And that's going to be an ongoing problem as we face the Democratic primaries where there's going to be more than a dozen people potentially running. And so I expect this dynamic to get worse, not better.
TAPPER: All right, everyone stick around. We got a lot more to talk about. It may be one of the most unusual tasks of the Trump White House taping back together the papers that President Trump has ripped up. An ex-White House aide talked to CNN. Stay with us.
[16:50:00] TAPPER: In our "POLITICS LEAD." an odd White House story that has highlighted serious concern that President Trump has been showing complete disregard for the Presidential Records Act which requires that documents be preserved. Instead, apparently, President Trump has a habit of tearing up notes and letters and news articles according to a former White House aide who had to tape them back together so as to comply with the law. Politico first broke the story reporting that this was part of how Trump handles documents he's done with. He just rips them up. CNN has confirmed the former staffer Solomon Lartey spent hours every day piecing back together President Trump's trash like it were a jigsaw puzzle with scotch tape. Lartey subsequently was fired. Let's bring back the political panel. Amanda, let me start with you. Politico reports of White House advisors have tried to get President Trump to stop but they have not been able to. Does that say anything about their inability to get him to just do what the law complies?
CARPENTER: Well, if he's been warned multiple times that this doesn't go in compliance with the Public Records Act and this seems malicious. On the other hand, just ripping it up and not using something like a shredder doesn't seem that smart. And so you know, this is just one of those things that I think is ironic because we spent so much time during the Clinton years going against Hillary Clinton because she took so many actions Republicans believe to deliberately evade the Public Records Act in terms of keeping e-mails off public servers and taking other actions like that. And so to see Trump say well, I'm just going to rip up these papers and throw them on the floor and make someone else piece them together, it's frustrating.
TAPPER: Symone, go ahead.
SANDERS: I mean, look, Amanda snatch the words right out of my mouth. This is a long list of things where Donald Trump is totally saying forget the rules, forget what I'm supposed to do in terms to preserve records to be in compliance with the law when it comes to national security and papers that passes the President's desk and e-mails. He's using his -- he's using his personal cell phone more and more, he's ripping up and just tossing papers into the trash like he doesn't care. And my question is are Republicans in Congress going to say anything? I like to remind folks, Jake, on a regular basis, Republicans are -- Democrats in Congress, Republicans in Congress and Independents in Congress, Congress is a co-equal branch of government. And that means they don't have to kowtow to the White House. So I would like to hear this outrage that people had over Hillary Clinton's e-mail server directed at this White House where they clearly don't give a damn about complying with the law and preserving papers and all types of matter and things that pass through the President's desk in office.
TAPPER: Amanda, Lartey, worked at the White House since the Clinton administration. He said he's never had to do anything like this in his tenure.
CARPENTER: Yes, I mean, it doesn't -- it seems like it's malicious because he's been warned but also not because just ripping it up doesn't do much. If they can actually piece it back together with scotch tape, it just seems like a mean thing to do to other staff.
SANDERS: Amanda, the loopholes and the excuses we are making Donald Trump --
CARPENTER: I think -- would you be that dumb to think that that would destroy the document? I don't think so but perhaps anything is possible.
TAPPER: Well, the Politico report -- the original Politico report suggested that he does this. This is like his file system that when he's done with it, he just rips it up and that's how you know that he's done with it. Lartey told CNN "we used to have to piece together all these torn papers and we weren't supposed to tell anybody. When Chief of Staff John Kelly came in, they were very -- they were leery of the leaks. I guess to Symone this is also part of the issue here is that the White House is so focused on leaks that the tearing up is also an issue.
TAPPER: Yes, I mean, I guess the White House is paranoid. But again, if you're running a tight ship, if you have people working for you in your office that believe and what you're talking about, they respect you, I think that tips down on the leaks that come out of your office. And so I think there are other things that this White House could do to tamp down on leaks that does not include destroying records or ripping them up that are supposed to go to the archives. But Jake, I mean I think this goes to a bigger issue. This just -- this just goes to a bigger issue of how Donald Trump can literally do whatever he wants, books all the norms and he meets no consequences whatsoever.
[16:55:17] TAPPER: All right, everyone stick around. We got a lot more to talk about. Can President Trump make the deal of his life? The Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee Congressman Mike McCaul will weigh in ahead. Stay with us.
TAPPER: Be sure to follow me on Facebook and Twitter @JAKETAPPER or you can tweet the show @THELEADCNN. That is it for THE LEAD today. I turn you over now to Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM." Thank you for watching.