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Trump Backpedals on Number of Issues; Trump's EPA Greenlights Mine Near Alaska's Bristol Bay; Fans Rally Around Demi Lovato, How She's Inspired Others. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired July 26, 2018 - 14:30   ET


[14:30:00] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Frank Bruni, come back. Thank you so much.

Just ahead here, the president blinks again. For the man who has long called himself the ultimate deal maker, President Trump seems to be backtracking on a number of issues lately. We'll break them all down, next.


BALDWIN: President Trump is in the Midwest today reassuring farmers and manufacturers who have been worried and anxious about the president's promises to raise taxes on overseas trade. He once claimed the U.S. was like a, quote, "piggy bank" for trading partners. After weeks of trade-war fears and iconic brands showing they would be hit by the tariffs, the president announced a deal to work towards a trade truce with the E.U.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We agreed today, first of all, to work together towards zero tariffs and zero no-tariff barriers, and zero subsidies on non-auto industrial goods.


[14:35:00] BALDWIN: Maybe it's a negotiating strategy but this president seems to love giving the American people a good whiplash.

With more, CNN political director, David Chalian.

David, these reversals, I know you have to run through some, they seem common when it comes to dilemmas of his own making.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICS DIRECTOR: Without a doubt, Brook. It's all dilemmas of his own making. It is what you get when your governing style is to govern from the hip, without a fully thought- through process. I'm thinking, back to June, we've seen a few occasions he has reversed course. Remember on immigration, he initiated that zero-tolerance policy. What was the fallout? Children were being separated from their families. So much pressure from Republicans, Democrats, from the public. He signed an executive order saying we're going to keep families together. The latest numbers show there are still separated families that have not yet been reunified. How about when he went overseas and met with Theresa May. He

undermines her on her Brexit plan, on her politics. And then what does he do the next day at the press conference? He tells the story he apologized to her and was nothing but deferential to her. A character trait we don't see with Donald Trump.

Then, of course, on the trade issue you mentioned, not that long ago, Brooke, he was calling the E.U. a foe. Some of our oldest and closest allies, America's closest and oldest allies are in the E.U. He calls the E.U. a foe. Where is he now? After a ton of pressure from his base, voters in farm country, from Republicans on Capitol Hill, from big business and companies, their bottom line is being affected by this, now he says he's finding a solution. He'll say this is the art of successful negotiation but clearly is reversing course from the trade-war rhetoric he was in.

When it comes to Russia, we saw him in Helsinki side with Vladimir Putin over the U.S. Intelligence Community as to election meddling. It caused complete havoc inside the White House because of the onslaught and back slash they were receiving. What does he do? He gets back home. He's sitting there with scripted copy in his hand saying, well, I meant to say why "wouldn't" it have been Russia that was in charge of the meddling. He thought that clarified everything. I'm not sure that it did, actually, Brooke. There are a lot of questions still. The president tried to clarify it.

And then finally, he issues this surprise announcement, blind sides his director of National Intelligence, Dan Coats, that he has invited Putin to the White House, of all places, this fall. What did we learn from John Bolton, the national security advisor, yesterday? That's being put off until after the Mueller probe, into 2019, again, after receiving an onslaught of criticism.

One of the things you and I have observed about Donald Trump, Brooke, over the course of his business career, his campaign and as president has been he doesn't back down. He quadruples down. That's been a trademark sort of characteristic. But over the last five weeks, on these issues of his own making, he has definitely adjusted to or responded to the backlash in ways that I don't think we've seen much before.

BALDWIN: Why do you think he's doing that? Do you think it has to do with the fact that he has fired a number of people? He's making these decisions himself and he's having to walk them back. Why is this happening?

CHALIAN: Interesting question. There's no doubt, he's on version two of his overall team. We have seen a lot of exits from the administration in terms of the original personnel around him, who guided the process more. We've also heard the president himself talk about how he has become more comfortable in the job, and heading into the second year this year, he thought, I've got this, I know what I'm doing. He's surrounded himself with people that perhaps were not as likely to serve as guardrails against this kind of stuff. As I said, he has a tendency to govern from the hip. He tweeted out to respond to a FOX News segment, not with a process that is fully thought through, vetted, brought on validators and supporters so when you roll it out, it goes more smoothly. He's facing the repercussions of that.

BALDWIN: David Chalian, thank you so much.

CHALIAN: Thanks.

BALDWIN: Good to see you.

Back to our breaking news. He is the man in charge of finances of the president's empire, and now he has been subpoenaed in the criminal investigation of Michael Cohen. Why this is so significant.

[14:39:48] Plus, Special Counsel Robert Mueller now officially looking at the president's tweets in what could be an obstruction of justice case. Those new details breaking today as well.

You're watching CNN. We'll be right back.


BALDWIN: It is a million acres of gorgeous wildlife habitat and fishing. Alaska's Bristol Bay was protected under President Obama's Environmental Protection Agency. But President Trump's EPA has given the green light to building the world's largest gold mine near here. And that doesn't sit well with a lot of folks who live there. They want to protect the pristine coastal community for the animals and for future generations.

Here's part three of "TRUMP VERSUS THE WILD." Bill Weir reports from Alaska.


BILL WEIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is a beach landing on a battleground. No bombs or bullets, thankfully, just gorgeous quiet.

But that little camp holds a band of brothers determined to protect it from invasion.

(on camera): What happens if a bear comes through the drink right now?


WEIR (voice-over): Among them is Drew Hamilton, a biologist and guide for the World Wildlife Fund, who makes a living getting cozies with grizzlies.

HAMILTON: It takes a couple days out here to ease into it and realize that the bears are just part of the landscape and they're going about their business. As long as you don't mess with them, they'll leave you along.

WEIR: In a nearby national park, my team learned firsthand that this part of Alaska is Nirvana for bears and wolves, whales, and eagles. A wonderland all made possible by salmon. Tens of millions surge into southern Alaska each summer to spawn, feeding every form of life, including a multibillion-dollar fishing and tourism industry dependent on the health of the landscape.

HAMILTON: We have bear tracks, wolf tracks, fox tracks.

WEIR: Which is why Drew worries less about wild animals and more about the human beings coming towards us on the beach.

(on camera): What are you guys up to?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We work for a surveying company up in Anchorage.

WEIR (voice-over): They are hesitant to admit they're doing work for the Pebble Mine, one of the most controversial projects in Alaska history.

HAMILTON: This is it. This is where it all started. This is where it all started.

WEIR: About 80 miles from the beach, a Canadian mining company called Northern Dynasty discovered enough buried treasure to propose the biggest gold and copper mine in the world.


WEIR: But when the EPA under Barack Obama determined that blasting it open and digging it up would threaten the fishery, stock in Northern Dynasty tanked, partners bailed, the companies sued. But then --

JOHN ROBERTS, CHIEF JUSTICE, U.S. SUPREME COURT: Congratulations, Mr. President.


WEIR: -- a reversal of fortune. In one of his very first acts running Trump's EPA, Scott Pruitt met with Pebble and then settled the lawsuits. When CNN reviewed that meeting, there was an outcry in Alaska. Most fishermen, tribes, even Governor Bill Walker are opposed to the mine. And Senator Lisa Murkowski said she would never trade salmon for gold.

But Northern Dynasty refuses to give up.

(on camera): The latest plan includes a 100-mile natural gas pipeline to power the mine. It would run past that active volcano into a massive port system on this beach. Imagine ships and semitrucks instead of bears and foxes, and a 35-mile road through some of the most pristine wilderness in the state.

(voice-over): Since Scott Pruitt resigned amid scandal, the new man in charge of the EPA is Andrew Wheeler, a former lobbyist at one of Pebble Mine's law firms. He declined our request for an interview.

TOM COLLIER, CEO, PEBBLE PARTNERSHIP: This is in the Roosevelt Room and that's Gore and Clinton.

WEIR: But the CEO of Pebble was happy to talk.

COLLIER: Nobody can guarantee there won't be an accident. We've done a hell of a lot to minimize the possibility of there being an accident on the site.

WEIR: Pebble Mine would sit in a wetland prone to earthquakes. The biggest worry is a damn failing like this one in British Columbia, which sent a lake full of acidic waste downstream. But Collier says the mine site is so far from Bristol Bay, that's a risk he can live with.

COLLIER: If there's an accident, it will kill fish for about 20 miles and that's it. And for 10 years, it will come back naturally.

WEIR: Utah's Bingham Canyon is the biggest mine in the world. Pebble has enough wealth to dig one, three times bigger. But after all the resistance, those plans have been cut in half.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are some theories that you shrink the footprint of the mine to get the permit and then, once you spend billions on the pipelines and roads and all of that, you say, well, we need to expand.

COLLIER: There's a lot of gold and copper and silver in the ground out there. We do not have any current plans to expand beyond what we're talking about with this permit. But it wouldn't surprise me if somebody -- us or someone else -- doesn't do that at some point in the future.

HAMILTON: They're basically talking about putting 175-mile gash across this pristine habitat.

WEIR: Plans and promises aside, Drew see this is first piece of survey equipment as the beginning of the end of this wilderness as we know it.

(on camera): What do you say to the argument that "This means jobs, this means an infusion into the Alaskan economy?"

[14:49:57] HAMILTON: I say there are already jobs here. You look at the time of Homer (ph) and their -- there are millions being made here in its current wilderness state. You look at the other side of the mountain. There are tens of millions of dollars already being generated in a fashion that can be sustained for decades and decades and decades. Why can't we just keep that going?

WEIR (voice-over): So he and his fellow bear lovers will try to stop the invasion through persuasion, but the clock is ticking. As Army engineers rush to review their plans, Pebble hopes to get their permit and a wave of new investors by the fall of 2020, right before Donald Trump's next election.



BALDWIN: Bill Weir, thank you so much.

For more on Bill's story, go to

To the breaking news today, the man behind the finances of the Trump Organization has been subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury in the case involving Michael Cohen. What this means for this president, ahead.

And just days after being hospitalize for an apparent overdose, a powerful hash tag emerges around singer, Demi Lovato, #howDemihashelpedme. Next, we'll talk to a woman who has been sober for nine years calls Lovato's willingness to talk about her disease courageous and inspiring.



[14:55:40] (SINGING)


BALDWIN: That is from Demi Lovato's latest single, "Sober." Lovato was hospitalized Tuesday after an apparent overdose. Fans of the singer are responding with a #howDemihashelpedme.

Journalist Nicole Slaughter Graham shares that sentiment. She wrote for

She's almost nine years sober, which is amazing, Nicole.

Thank you so much for being with me.

And just to answer the hash tag, how has Demi helped you?

NICOLE SLAUGHTER GRAHAM, JOURNALIST: Well, I don't know anyone that suffers from alcoholism or drug addiction or an eating disorder that's proud of it. When Demi speaks so candidly about it, is so open about it, it makes it OK. And she gave me the courage and the strength to talk openly about my own struggles with alcohol.

BALDWIN: And I honor your courage by sitting here on national television and saying, hey, here is who I am, and here is my struggle. With Demi, I know she has struggled very publicly with an eating disorder and alcohol and drugs since her rise to fame from Disney. You talk about your own struggles, which are very private. And a lot of women may turn their backs on her after hearing this news, right? But you wrote that you think this struggle may actually help her make her a stronger role model. Why?

GRAHAM: Because we're human. We're all human. We're not perfect. There's a stigma that comes with alcoholism and drug addiction. When people get sober, it's a beautiful thing. It gives their family and friends a lot of hope. The truth is, I said it in the piece, the natural state for an alcoholic is to be drunk. It's weird for us to be sober. And this shows the human side of her. Relapse is a part of the process for a lot of people that find sober living, and sometimes it's just a part of the process. It makes her more human and can be hopeful for others. If she pulls through this, if she makes it back to sobriety that will give people hope.

BALDWIN: Hopefully, when she pulls through and when she gets back to sobriety.

And lastly, on you, because nine years in, Nicole, for all the people watching, I want to you speak from your heart, what is your message of inspiration to all of the people, young women, who are out there and struggling?

GRAHAM: I want young women, especially, to know that struggling with a disease like alcoholism or drug addiction does not make them a lesser person. It doesn't make them weak. Sadly, our society tends to look down on this and that's the reason I'm speaking out about it because, you know, I'm a mother and a wife and I have a job, and I do those things because I found the ability to embrace sobriety, and it's nothing to be ashamed of. I want women to know they can embrace sobriety, too. It is possible for them. There are so many resources out there today to help people get sober. And just, you know, make that phone call. Pick up the phone if you are struggling. Call someone. There are hotlines. You can Google anything, how to get sober, and so many resources will come up. That's not a weakness. It's a strength to get sober. It's a strength to embrace the observer lifestyle. And it's not easy but it is worth it. Absolutely.

BALDWIN: Thank you for sharing your strength and your voice.

Nicole Slaughter Graham, thanks.

GRAHAM: Thank you.

[14:59:43] BALDWIN: We continue on. You're watching CNN on this Thursday afternoon. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thanks for being here.

I have two breaking developments for you now. A new subject is being investigated by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, the president's Twitter feed. This is according to the "New York Times." As Mueller contemplates whether President Trump obstructed justice. We'll have more on that in a second.

But first, let's get you straight to this explosive piece out of the "Wall Street Journal" today. A major financial player in Trump's private life has just been subpoenaed in another --