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Trump's Long List Of Etiquette Rules For Meeting The Queen; EPA Chief Scott Pruitt Quits Amid Numerous Ethics Scandals. Aired 3:30-4p ET
Aired July 5, 2018 - 15:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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JANELLE BYNUM, OREGON STATE LAWMAKER: I live in this neighborhood, I feel like I should be able to walk where I want without being second guessed.
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SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Now, what's interesting about this case, Brooke, is that Bynum handled it really with a smile in her face and she actually ended up talking to that neighbor, who had called police.
She initially when called 911, by the way, she initially did not mention that she was African-American, but she did eventually in that phone call say I'm pretty sure she's African-American.
So, Bynum sort of said, you know, what happened, and the woman said, well, I was concerned about safety in my neighborhood. She's like, well, the only problem I have with that is that nobody in the neighbor mentioned safety as an issue that they were concern about.
It is a very good neighborhood. There is not a lot of crime and so, she was concerned, as many people of color are that her skin color is what triggered the phone call. But they talked it out and I think he was a teachable moment, if you will.
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: OK, well, I read about speaking of, you know, worries about the color of one's skin. I woke up this morning and heard the story about those Alpha Si guys down in Alabama who wanted to host some sort of event at this event space and were ultimately turned away. Why?
GANIM: Yes, Tuscaloosa, Alabama, there was a restaurant that these guys went to, saying, hey, we would like to rent this out for one of our events. Kappa Alpha Psi being one of the oldest black fraternities in the country.
Initially they paid their $1,500 deposit and all was well, until the Kappa Alpha Psi members say -- they -- the restaurant heard that it was a predominantly black group to which they said that they were told, we didn't realize it was an all-black group and we have had problems with your kind before.
When you say that, we don't know what the person on the phone meant, what they were thinking, but generally speaking, when those words are uttered in this country in particular, people immediately think race. You can ask just about anybody about those works, "your kind" and it certainly conjures up race.
Now, in their defense, the establishment has said, look, we had an incident back in 2016 with another black fraternity in which there were too many people that showed up. We felt it was security concern, police got called.
And there was a shooting outside of the venue at a gas station where they had put everyone. But the shooting, by the way, was from people who were not a part and were not invited to the event that the black fraternity was holding.
So, Kappa Alpha Psi saying, look, you cannot color everyone with the same brush, A, B, when you use words like your kind, that is a major problem, and it triggered for, you know, racist ideals.
You've got these two incidents and we have got these two incidents and we've heard a lot of these before. I think what's happening in this country is people are becoming far more alerted to, if you will, about subconscious racism, about racial bias, that may not be as overt.
Now people are seeing things and saying something about the things that are happening to black folks in particular in this country or people of color -- Brooke.
BALDWIN: Got to raise the awareness. Sara Sidner, thank you for bringing all of those stories to our attention. It's so important to talk about it. Thank you so much.
Coming up next here, President Trump's 11-day blitz from the Putin summit to Queen Elizabeth to his Supreme Court pick. Why these next 11 days could be among the most pivotal of his presidency? We'll discuss that coming up next.
BALDWIN: All right, let's talk about President Trump's next 11 days here. The president is on the verge of a high-profile globe-trotting blitz, putting him squarely at the center of the attention on the global stage.
The president's spin on the spotlight begins with a countdown to the unveiling of his Supreme Court nominee, that happens Monday evening. Then the president is slated to attend the NATO Summit starting next Tuesday.
Then the president visits the U.K., with the highly anticipated meeting with the queen. And finally, the following Monday, President Trump's face-to-face meeting with Russia's Vladimir Putin. But let's go back to Queen Elizabeth here and the royal protocol, the do's and the don'ts, with me, Victoria Arbiter, CNN's royal commentator. OK, I have so many questions. Not that I have ever met the queen, but, you know, is it a handshake? Is it a curtsy, is it a bow?
VICTORIA ARBITER, CNN ROYAL COMMENTATOR: It's a bit of both. (Inaudible) curtsy for Donald Trump, but as a foreign national, he's not required to bow to the queen, but out of respect, I recommend that he does so, as he shake the hand and it's just a small bow. It's your majesty when he first meet her, from thereon it's ma'am.
He better be a fast eater because we are anticipating they're having lunch, but when the queen finish lunch --
BALDWIN: Everybody finished. What about the don'ts.
ARBITER: Don't touch her, other than the hand shake, please don't touch the queen and also don't ask too many personal questions or anything that could be deemed too personal. Keep everything sort of surface level. Let her drive the conversation.
ARBITER: No selfies. Keep it on the weather, the Brits love to talk about the weather. You're safe bet.
BOLDUAN: There has also been this piece news. Obviously, the other part of this story is the protests, the protesters, who will show up in the U.K. next Friday and we have pictures of this Trump baby blimp that apparently got green lit to fly.
ARBITER: This has been approved by the mayor of London, 16,000 pounds was raised in order to get this in the sky. It was protests last summer that led to Trump's visit being downgraded from a state visit, with all the pomp and pageant and military processions, to this working visit.
But people are saying, you know, trying to be sensible here. We need this relationship with the U.S. particularly with Brexit on the cause. This to me seems a little juvenile.
It's taking something and sort of making a mockery of it, with a character that we know is quite temperamental so why (inaudible) further. Yes, OK, some people see this is a bit of laugh, but it's relationship is too important moving forward and I just don't think we should be rocking the cradles, so to speak.
BALDWIN: OK. Victoria Arbiter, thank you so very much.
[15:40:02] I just got a very significant piece of news here, let's all read the tweet together and go through this, "I have accepted," this is the president, "I have accepted the resignation of Scott Pruitt as the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.
Within the agency, Scott has done an outstanding job and I will always be thankful to him for this. The Senate confirmed the deputy of EPA, Andrew Wheeler, he will continue on," or I presume is the interim chief of the EPA.
So, this is a story that has been, depending on who you talk to a long time coming. This is a man who has faced at least 14 different probes and two ethical violations during his time as this EPA chief.
I think even yesterday we had to scroll just to go through the $30,000 or $40,000 privacy phone booth that he had put in his office. The fact that according to this whistleblower, he had his public calendar scrubbed from a number of meetings that he had as EPA chief, publicly removed from the calendar, the Trump hotel mattress.
You know, Sara Ganim is with me. Sara Ganim can go through, she's been covering all of these different really questionable things that this man has been a part of. And, yet, Sara, we saw him yesterday at the White House and the president even called him out by name for the Fourth of July festivities, and now the resignation. What the do you know?
SARA GANIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we know this came from a tweet from the president just moments ago, "I have accepted the resignation of Scott Pruitt as the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. Within the agency, Scott has done an outstanding job and I will always be thankful to him for this.
The Senate confirmed deputy at EPA, Andrew Wheeler." Brooke, the tweet goes on, but I think the important thing you see here is continued support from Donald Trump, which is what we have seen, we are now 14 different investigations we're talking about when it comes to Scott Pruitt, all dealing with allegations of ethical misconduct while EPA administrator.
And through the last 18 months or so that he has been in office, the president has been at times one of the only people who has supported him, who has stood by him. You still see part of that in this tweet.
However, it seems some of these things as they continued to pile on, were catching up with Scott Pruitt, the days and weeks and months trickled on, he could not escape these negative headlines. It's seem like not a week, day would go by without another scandal, another allegation. We are seeing a list here on your screen.
BALDWIN: This is the scroll of all of his problems.
GANIM: This was the scroll of the allegations of ethical misconduct in office, misuse of taxpayer dollars, potentially benefiting from the office that he held for personal gain. Then you had some other just rather bizarre headlines, like trying to use his position to get his wife a Chick-Fil-A franchise.
Trying to get a used mattress from the Trump International Hotel, using staff to run errands to buy lotion, to buy granola bars, I mean, everything from the really serious to the just bizarre and unusual.
And you see the list continues to scroll as we talk. It was one bad headline after another for Scott Pruitt, and you know, we were learning in the last couple of days, that my colleagues from the White House that this is wearing on the president and it seems that Scott Pruitt has now decided this is the time to go.
BALDWIN: Sara, thank you so much. Sara Ganim, standby. Let's go over to the White House and our reporter there, Kaitlan Collins. And Kaitlan, no question, pressure has been mounting, why was this guy still, you know, employed, why was he still in this cabinet position, and now the news, what was the final straw?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Brooke, that's the question pretty much everyone who works in this White House, including Chief of Staff John Kelly has had for months now. As these scandals have continued to melt, why is he still around?
The only person who still had confidence in Scott Pruitt and the job he was doing was the president himself. And you can see from his tweet announcing that he has submitted his resignation, he says nothing of these scandals that were facing Scott Pruitt, anything there, he said he had done an outstanding job and the president would always be thankful to him for the job that he did.
That is a stunning tweet when this is someone, an EPA administrator, a taxpayer funded high level government official was accused of blatant misuse of the taxpayer dollar, had a number of scandals against him and considering that other members of the president's cabinet have been fired for much lesser offenses.
You'll remember Tom Price who resigned over his airfare use. Scott Pruitt, that was just a blip on the radar for him essentially. But we do have here the president announcing that he submitted his resignation.
[15:45:07] Brooke, you'll recall that comes after just two days ago we reported that it was Scott Pruitt, who went directly to President Trump during a meeting this spring, suggested this play that stunned a lot of aides frankly saying that he should fire Attorney General Jeff Sessions and replace him with Scott Pruitt that would take over the Department of Justice for 200 or so days before returning back to Oklahoma to run for office.
Now that is where that came from, that suggestion that the president we have heard and reported floated for months afterwards that maybe he would replace Sessions with Pruitt for a little bit.
Even though aides and allies are telling him that wouldn't be a good idea. Even just this week we saw a number of stories come out about Pruitt, things he had aides do including a "Washington Post" report that he had aides put his hotel rooms on their personal credit cards and failed to pay them back.
Several things like that -- stories like that. He tried to get his wife a job, to be a Chick-Fil-A franchisee, all of these ways that he was using his position, his taxpayer funded government level position in order to advance himself and his family and gain personal things. It was quite stunning, Brooke, that none of those really registered on the president's radar. And I was told by sources inside the White House, that the president recognized the bad optics in the last few weeks of these stories against Scott Pruitt, but it wasn't that those stories themselves were enough to discount them with the president.
That is stunning considering the way he treated people, like Jeff Sessions, who the president has been frustrated with for almost a year now, a little more than a year now actually for his recusal from the Russia investigation, though, he has not committed any of the offenses that Scott Pruitt has been accused of doing
It is stunning to see how the president views the two of them in that way, which one he seems to value more. But here he is, saying that Scott Pruitt is resigning after what aides thought happened six or seven scandals ago, it just now is happening now.
The president has accepted his resignation, his deputy is going to take over at the EPA, that will certainly be something interesting to come, Brooke, but it's surprising that it did take this long for this to happen.
BALDWIN: Yes, a lot of people are wondering what took them to long. David Chalian, let me go to you. We are just talking about this yesterday and you're making the point, you know, from a Trump perspective he's been doing his job. What are you thinking?
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: And you know, every Republican on our air. You've heard Brooke said there's lots of other people that can do that job and not have all the scandal baggage as well. Certainly, the president came around to that thinking.
I know he announced Scott Pruitt's resignation. We just should remind everyone cabinet secretaries serve at the pleasure of the president. They stop serving the minute the president is no longer pleased.
So, while this may be a resignation that's been accepted, quite obviously President Trump was done with Scott Pruitt as the EPA administrator. And, yes, I think that there is no doubt that Pruitt was cutting against the grain in every possible way of the promise to drain the Swamp.
This guy proved to be swampier than anybody we have seen in Washington in quite some time. And that really is against the Trump brand that he was running on throughout his entire campaign, and that he has used as sort of a metric for himself, while serving as president as well.
And yet, he was able to hang on, as we discussed, because he was implementing the policy agenda that president Trump wanted. This was getting criticism from all sides, from inside the corners of the west wing, from Republican allies on the juice and of course from critics in the opposition. But clearly enough now to tilt the scales in favor of Donald Trump getting rid of Scott Pruitt from his cabinet.
BALDWIN: And before we come back to that whole conversation, just the fact that the president put this out on Twitter, it's not the first time he announced a resignation on Twitter like Rex Tillerson, Reince Priebus.
CHALIAN: Two good examples that came to my mind as well. We know that the president likes to communicate this way, it gets the news instantly out in his frame and can control that narrative and timing a little bit.
I guess, what I'm wondering is, is he done tweeting about staff changes going forward in this next few days before his foreign travel or are we going to see any other challenges from inside the Trump administration that have been rumored about that may be taking place this summer.
BALDWIN: David, thank you so much. Brian Stelter is back with us here as well. Media investigations played a huge role in his fate.
BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Checks and balances worked in this case, it might take them a very long time given these shocking lists of scandals. But the combination of journalists and whistle blowers, the sources, the former EPA staffers, who spoke out and called attention to Pruitt's abuses of power.
[15:50:13] Those were crucial. We saw story after story, dozens of them. And finally, those stories did appear to amount to something. I was thinking, Brooke, somebody is going to make a dark comedy about the Pruitt time at the EPA.
It's going to be very funny. It's going to be like (inaudible) on steroids. There was nothing funny about his use of taxpayer money and staffers to do personal tasks and things like that.
Of course, what's most important here is Pruitt use of the EPA to roll back the Obama-era environmental policies and rules. We'll see if any of that changes now that his deputy is in charge.
The scandals, of course, are what made the headlines, but it was a lot of the changes at the EPA that were also really important, and I think also worth keeping in mind the roll back of Obama era policy.
By the way, it wasn't just journalists calling attention. It was even some conservative commentators like Laura Ingraham coming out saying Pruitt has to go. Last night, Pruitt was at the White House enjoying the fireworks with the president.
BALDWIN: Yes, you wonder about the timing. I know in time we'll find out more of the details. Brian, thank you so much.
Back over to the White House we go. Kaitlin to you, just covering White House day in and day out you do, can you talk about the evolution of the relationship between Scott Pruitt and President Trump.
COLLINS: It's interesting not just between the two of them, but between Scott Pruitt and the entire White House staff. He was generally very well-liked including by two very key figures in this White House, Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump when he first got his start here. He was very well liked by a lot of people in the White House, just in a relationship, on a personal level. But then as these scandals begin to come out, and they just got worse and worse, and then it became even a running joke essentially in Washington, the number of scandals against him, and just how ludicrous they were.
Some going from him instructing staffers to figure out how he could buy a used mattress from a Trump hotel. Just very zany things, but yet his relationship with President Trump never falters.
That's not likely just because the two of them got along during their oval office meetings, though, the president does value his personal relationships with people as we have seen in the past, he's fired people he stopped getting along with.
With Scott Pruitt, it was a lot more than that. Really the only defense that the White House could ever provide for him in the wake of these scandals he was facing 14 federal probes was that he was doing what the president wanted over at the EPA.
He was rolling back those environmental regulations. He was doing those Obama-era guidelines. He was really doing what the president wanted. But that raised a question of if a staffer is doing something like that, something that administration finds useful, are they willing to overlook the scandals against him, and the blatant misuse of taxpayer money.
You also can't ignore that the president has been attending fundraisers in recent weeks, several of them with key figures in the oil and gas industry. One of those is the billionaire, Harold Ham, key figure in oil and gas, that is someone that the president was having fundraising dinners with, private residences here in Washington.
That is certainly someone who liked the work that Scott Pruitt was doing over at the EPA. So, it's a little bit more than just their personal relationship. It goes into the politics of what exactly he was doing that they liked.
But we never saw the president criticize Scott Pruitt. Now he would say that maybe he found some of the reports troublesome or he believed that we should look at them. But he never voiced anything less but confidence in him whenever reporters constantly for the last few months have been questioning is Scott Pruitt on his way out?
Are you considering firing him? The president never said he was considering that and you'll know White House aides even had trouble defending him. Sarah Sanders especially when she was at that podium in the briefing room ever since even April she said that they were waiting for the investigations.
They were going to see what the conclusions of those were and then they would make a decision going forward with Scott Pruitt. But, of course, here it is, Brooke, we are in July, and that never came out. We never heard them say anything critical of him for what he had done. And a lot of people in this White House like to say, when the president loses confidence in someone, you'll know because they are no longer here. But the president didn't fire Scott Pruitt. From his tweet he said he simply accepted his resignation.
Of course, Scott Pruitt was back in the news this week with those headlines about those allegations against him, but he wasn't fired. We have seen many other officials in this White House leave for lesser offenses or because they fell out of good graces with the president.
That didn't happen to Scott Pruitt. That did happen to people like H.R. McMaster, Rex Tillerson, Reince Preibus, several other of those key figures, but that is not the case with Scott Pruitt. Scott Pruitt clearly here submitted his resignation.
[15:55:04] We'll learn likely in the coming hours a little bit more behind what finally pushed Scott Pruitt to the edge to submit his resignation. A lot of bad headlines will do that for you, but not the president who fired him, Brooke, it was him who submitted his resignation.
BALDWIN: Sure, if you are just joining us we are following the breaking news here, embattled EPA chief no more. Scott Pruitt has resigned from his spot there. Kaitlan said it, he's been facing 14 federal probes and you know, a lot of questions swirling, including why now. All of these ethics violations have been piling up what has happened for this to be it for him to tender his resignation?
Sara Ganim has been standing by. Sara, what happens to these investigations that have been piling up against him?
GANIM: That's a great question, Brooke. Jumping off something that Kaitlin just said, you know, it was dogging them. These investigations were looming, and one has to really wonder what may have been beginning to trickle out maybe making its way back to the White House about what people were finding.
In times, it was their own party. It was Republicans who were investigating Scott Pruitt looking into the allegations of wrongdoing. Just late last week, two of his closest aides, current chief of staff, and one of his former top advisers testified under oath before the House Government Oversight Reform Committee.
Those were Republicans asking them questions, grilling them, we are told on a variety of topics over the course of two days. What did they tell them? Not only the details of those interviews have leaked out, and you have to wonder if that is looming.
Now I'm told from a congressional source that those investigations will continue at least some of them will continue especially Democrats don't want to let that go. They want to know what they can uncover about Scott Pruitt about what it says about the larger administration.
There is also, among those 14 different federal probes, investigations by the inspector general at the EPA, and those will continue as well, most likely. They have often investigated former officials and continue their reports.
So, you know, it really makes you wonder. But when Kaitlin talked about policy, I have to say a lot of Trump's constituents, who he cared a lot about, really did love the deregulation that Scott Pruitt that agenda that he was pushing at the EPA.
But you look at this tweet, Trump talks about Andrew Wheeler, the deputy, who was recently confirmed, and when Andrew Wheeler was confirmed at the EPA, people inside the agency started talking and wondering. Wheeler is very well-respected.
People believed that he would continue that agenda. And would the president lose confidence in someone who was pushing the agenda, yes, but with this side show going on that was continuously bringing bad press.
If they could lean instead on someone who could push that deregulation agenda, get the job done, but not cause so many bad headlines and so much controversy. And that appears to have finally caught up with Scott Pruitt.
But Andrew Wheeler is someone who is very well respected and is expected to continue the policies that Scott Pruitt's EPA had been pursuing under Donald Trump's administration -- Brooke.
BALDWIN: Got it. Sara Ganim, you are all over it. Thank you so much for that. I have about 60 seconds left. David Chalian, does this mean another testy confirmation battle?
CHALIAN: Well, it could. I mean, as Sara was just saying, Wheeler is going to be in there at an acting capacity. But if at some point the president wants to put forward a new person for that, that would open up a big cabinet confirmation battle.
I would be surprised if he wants to do that this fall, in the midst of the Supreme Court nomination battle, and the midterm election. Wheeler seems to be in good stead, as Sara was saying. So, perhaps that will be avoided this fall.
This also obviously is going to have huge ramifications, Brooke, for Scott Pruitt's future, who this was a guy who was really interested in a political career of his own, maybe running for federal office from Oklahoma one day.
This sort of being dismissed, I understand he resigned. But no longer being required to work in the Trump administration is going to be a bad marker on his record politically as he tries to piece together his future.
BALDWIN: David Chalian, thank you so much. As this big piece of news just landed on our lap again, now we call him the former EPA Chief Scott Pruitt. Make sure you stick with us right here on CNN. Special coverage continues. I'm Brooke Baldwin here in New York. Thank you so much for being with me. "THE LEAD" starts right now.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jim Sciutto in again for Jake today.