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Some NFL Players Protest During Preseason Game; Vice President Pence Announces Plans to Construct U.S. Military Space Force; Former Trump Campaign Adviser Roger Stone Possibly Part of Mueller Investigation. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired August 10, 2018 - 8:00   ET

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


[08:00:00] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: You're a big Pittsburgh Steelers fan. This was the first round of pre-season games and players chose to take a knee despite the criticism they received from the president. What did you see?

GENERAL MICHAEL HAYDEN, FORMER CIA AND NSA DIRECTOR: John, I'm as irritated as the next fan. I view those three hours as my politics- free three hours of the week. But you have to rack-and-stack your values, and my irritation doesn't compare with fundamental issues at stake here, including free speech and these young athletes wanting to express themselves about what they view to be a serious social problem.

And so I expected this, I expect the president to tweet. But I don't know that more than a third of the country will agree with the president even among veterans. This is a split decision. When this first hit last September and October I did actually take a look statistically as where veterans were, and there's a generational gap. Vietnam veterans seem to be offended by this. Iraq and Afghan veterans not so much. And John I'm a 39-year veteran. I may be irritated at the players, but I don't think they're unpatriotic and they certainly aren't insulting the flag or the anthem.

BERMAN: And it's interesting some of the messages they were sending specifically last night were some of the same issues the president was discussing yesterday -- prison reform. It seems that the president does support those issues. Again, we'll see if he goes after them this morning.

I want to shift gears if I can to something that's happened over the last several days, and that's Laura Ingraham, who is a host on FOX News, make surprising comments I want to say -- or maybe not surprising -- about America and what America is. I do not want to play them again. We've already played them on this show and I don't think they deserve to be heard more. But what she said is that in her mind this is not the America we, she says, have come to love. She says because of demographic changes. She says legal and illegal immigrants have changed the demography of the country so it is not the country we love. You also, general, have talked about what you see in America.

HAYDEN: John, I believe in our essence we are a credal nation, we are defined by our beliefs, not by blood, soil, or even shared history. Look, there's some good countries out there -- Germany being one example -- that identifies its by blood and shared history and soil. We don't, and in our best moments we embrace the fundamental beliefs of the country.

And so I've said you read the documents, the foundational documents, you understand them, you pledge allegiance to them, you're an American, and it doesn't matter where you're from or what ethnicity you may represent. And John I do think this is a very important issue right now because there is a movement -- and I think the president reinforces it -- to redefine our vision of self as blood and soil rather than belief. Hence you get the words a year ago that there were good people on both sides in Charlottesville.

BERMAN: Are there?

HAYDEN: Look, there may have been, but that's not the issue. The issue is that there was a group there very aggressively in a planned sort of way that was redefining who it is we are. Those are the ones who were chanting "blood and soil."

BERMAN: Those are the ones who were chanting "Jews will not replace us" as well there. This is the one-year anniversary of Charlottesville. General, we will discuss that and have discussed that, so thank you for bringing it up. And this whole discussion is happening in light of that fact.

If I can I want to shift gears to national security here, to NATO. There was a fascinating piece in the "New York Times" overnight where they revealed that in this NATO meeting members of the president's national security team before the meeting were so concerned that the president might, for lack of a better word, mess things up there that they wanted the business of the meeting finished beforehand, which was the so-called communique or declarative statement that that group would make. And that statement was actually pretty substantial in terms of the United States and NATO members standing behind collective security, talking about forces in Europe, but they wanted that wrapped up because they were afraid he would screw things up.

Let me read you something from that piece. "Jamie Shea, a NATO deputy assistant attorney general, called the declaration," what they agreed to, "the most substantive agreement that the alliance put out in years. But its success according to American and European officials lies in the feverish work before the summit meeting to keep it away from Mr. Trump." What does it tell you that they had to do that behind his back?

HAYDEN: So number one, John, the "New York Times" piece has the ring of truth to it, doesn't it? It seems entirely plausible particularly after what happened at the G-7, and it kind of gives a new meaning to the concept of divided government, because on the one hand you have the president and what I would call his close circle of family and friends, and then you have institutional America.

[08:05:09] And it was institutional America that was trying to get these really important agreements, as you suggest, with our NATO allies. So the president gets to strut a bit and say how tough he was with regard to the NATO meeting in Brussels, but the real heavy lifting was done by the professionals in the Department of State and the Department of Defense. And you're right, this is a very substantive document. It's a commitment on the part of the alliance to be able to mobilize 30 battalions, 30 squadrons, 30 ships, in 30 days. That's a heavy lift, and to get them to agree to that is really quite an accomplishment.

BERMAN: I want to go to outer space right now and space force, which is something we've heard a lot of people make jokes of over the last 24 hours. The vice president further explained the president's policy on creating a new branch in the military. And though people are making jokes about this, general, there are real issues here, and I know this is something you've thought about in a substantive way for a long time.

HAYDEN: So what you've got here is I think the product of an impulse rather than the product of a study. And it doesn't mean that the impulse didn't have good things contained within it, and now you have got the Department of Defense trying to adjust. John, I'm not going to try to pull you through the knot hole of DOD organization, but you realize there's a column a and a column b in the Department of Defense. Column a are the services, the Army, the Navy, the Air Force. They don't fight, they train, organize, equip and provide forces to the combat and commanders, European command, Pacific command.

And in the president's proposal and what the vice president talked about yesterday was a little of column a and column b, and I think column b, the combat and command, the space war fighters, they are kind of buried bureaucratically right now. I think we're a little bit behind the curve there, and I think there's broad agreement that we might want to elevate it in terms of a unified space command.

The real question is over here in column a. Do you want to create another service, another military department? That's far more complicated. That's far more top heavy. It creates a bureaucratic layer and you can't do it without Congress. And so I think the real issue isn't emphasizing space more and elevating its aspects. It's this do we want to create the bureaucratic burden of another military department.

BERMAN: Do you?

HAYDEN: I would not. I don't think it's necessary. But I agree we have to up our game in space. John, we've been fighting from space for 45 years. The issue today, though, is we now believe we're going to have to fight in space, in other words we're going to have to defend our assets up there in ways we really hadn't expected to do in the past.

BERMAN: Do you have a preference on the logos? I don't know if we have a picture, if we can put them up there.

(LAUGHTER)

BERMAN: These are the logos. Look, there is actually something about this which is quite political, which is the president sent this out on his campaign e-mail yesterday. They were asking for Trump supporters to vote chon badge, which symbol they like, politicizing this. The Russians, actually, the Russian embassy in D.C., I don't know if we have that picture. The Russian embassy in D.C. put this out this morning, which I think in my Russian translation here from my years of Russian training, the top says "Space Force" and the bottom says "Russia." So that's the space force badge the Russians would like that see.

HAYDEN: I understand. I have not yet reviewed the entrants before I've made a decision. But again, John, upping our game, elevating our combat and command for space, all good ideas I think to have a general consensus. It's this military department thing here that may not be necessary.

BERMAN: General Michael Hayden, we went from the sidelines to outer space and back again. I really do appreciate it.

HAYDEN: Thank you.

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Kristin Davis, the woman known as the Manhattan Madam, is expected to testify before a grand jury today in connection with the special counsel probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election. So just what could she offer Robert Mueller and his team? CNN's MJ Lee is live now in Washington with more. MJ, good morning.

MJ LEE, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: Good morning, Erica. We know that sometime today Kristin Davis is expected to show up at the courthouse behind me as a witness in the Mueller investigation. We also know that sometime last week she was interviewed by investigators, though Davis and her lawyer have not commented on how that interview went. What we know is she is in a very close relationship with Roger Stone, a man also embroiled in the Mueller investigation.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LEE: She's known as the Manhattan Madam. Kristin Davis headed to testify before a grand jury today.

[08:10:00] Investigators are interested in her ties to a longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone. She and Stone have been close friends for a decade. In a statement, Stone told CNN last week "Kristin Davis is a longtime friend and associate of the mine. I am the godfather to her two-year-old son. She knows nothing about Russian collusion, WikiLeaks collaboration, or any other impropriety related to the 2016 election which I thought was the subject of this probe. I understand she appeared voluntarily. I am highly confident she will testify truthfully if called on the do so."

Davis once ran a high-end prostitution ring. She went to jail as part of the scandal surrounding then Democratic New York governor Elliot Spitzer.

ELIOT SPITZER, FORMER NEW YORK GOVERNOR: The remorse I feel will always be with me.

LEE: She worked with Stone over the years. In late 2016 she joined his payroll to help him with clerical tasks. Mueller's team has been looking into possible contact between stone and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange during the 2016 campaign. U.S. intelligence concluded Russian intelligence senior Democratic officials and provided the stolen material to WikiLeaks as part of Moscow's effort to meddle in the election. Assange denies the hacked documents came from the Russian government, while Stone once bragged about being in contact with Assange.

ROGER STONE, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN ADVISER: I actually have communicated with Assange. I believe the next tranche of his documents pertain to the Clinton Foundation, but there's no telling what the October surprise may be.

LEE: He later walked it back.

STONE: I followed Assange's Twitter very assiduously. I had a Google alert for him. I read every interview he gave. You could foreshadow what he's doing. I'm not involved in any collusion, coordination, or conspiracy with the Russians or anyone else, and there's no evidence to the contrary.

LEE: Investigators have also been probing Stone's finances and his personal life. People familiar with the situation say at least two witnesses were asked whether Stone was actually the father of Davis' son. Earlier this month, Stone posted a photo of Davis and her child to his Instagram with the caption "Why do FBI agents dispatched by Robert Mueller keep asking a number of my current and former associates if I am this baby's father? What does this have to do with Russian collusion and the 2016 election?"

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LEE: So we don't know why investigators want Kristin Davis as a witness. We don't know how extensive or how long her testimony is going to be today, but, John, this is just one more reminder that there's so much about the Mueller investigation that we don't know.

BERMAN: Indeed, there is. MJ Lee for us in Washington, MJ, really appreciate it.

We're going to talk about the state of America in the age of President Trump. So much has happened over the last 24 hours. So much has been said. We're going to get reaction from David Axelrod next.

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(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[08:16:25] SPIKE LEE, FILMMAKER: This guy, since he got in the White House, it's not a dog whistle, it's a bullhorn. And then also, Anderson, we've seen the rise of the right not just in America, it's worldwide.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Director Spike Lee speaking out on race, talking about President Trump. All of this coming, of course, as we mark one year since the deadly protests in Charlottesville.

So, where does America stand August 10th, 2018?

Let's bring in CNN senior political commentator, David Axelrod.

David, great to have you with us on this.

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Thanks.

HILL: There is a serious conversation that is happening and it's been happening, but one that is more and more out in the open is people feel more emboldened as we've seen, especially if they want to talk about things that many of us would look at as openly racist, bigoted comments and standings that they have.

Where do you see this country today?

AXELROD: Well, obviously our country is divided and it's divided by our leaders in part and the president of the United States. He has made it a strategy to mine these differences, mine these divisions, mine this issue of race which has coursed through our politics and our society from the beginning of our history, but is a galvanizing issue of a portion of his base. And he's decided to play base politics, and wherever he can he wants to light that fuse.

And that has emboldened others to voice racist views. And, you know, we're reliving the Charlottesville tragedy again this weekend, hopefully without violence. But, you know, this is -- this is the result of a leader who relentlessly tries to divide rather than unite the country.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: You know, it is interesting and it is the one year anniversary of Charlottesville, and there will be some protests in Washington and we certainly there is no violence. The last year, the protests last year were deadly. But I was speaking to a reporter from "Vice", Axe, who's been following this from the year, and she won awards from her coverage last year.

And she's been saying that in some cases, the more public groups that were prevalent in Charlottesville, they've had a hard time existing to an extent they've dissolved over the last year because of the spotlight that was placed on them after Charlottesville.

AXELROD: Yes, and I want to make clear, that I think that the majority of Americans are not are not sympathetic to those views. And even then, there was a small group of protesters that created a great calamity. So, I don't think these are majority held views but at the fringes, there are more covert or latent views that are exploited by the president all the time when he picks up issues like the football players and their protests, the way he uses the issue of immigration. Spike Lee called it a dog whistle and that's what it is.

HILL: You know, you actually provided a perfect segue way there because the president has just tweeted, David.

And he writes this morning: The NFL players are at it again, taking a knee when they should be standing proudly for the national anthem, numerous players wanted to show their, quote, outrage, he writes, at something that most of them are unable to define. They make a fortune doing what they love.

There's a lot in there, but I would say, one of the first things to point out is, an outrage, as the president puts it, his quotes, not mine, at something that most of them are unable to define.

[08:20:09] From the beginning, it was pretty clear why they were upset and why they were taking a stand.

AXELROD: Yes. Well, look at the tweet from Malcolm Jenkins, the Philadelphia Eagles player who expressed why he engaged in the protest and he talked about inequities in our criminal justice system, about concerns about the relationship between police and community. These are real concerns in the African-American community and beyond, and they've chosen to protest which is really part of what America is all about.

But I have no doubt, guys, and do not doubt for a second that this is a powerful issue among the base and if you look at polling, most Americans don't think the protests are appropriate. The president sees political gold in this and he will mine it. He started this.

BERMAN: Oh, yes.

AXELROD: It was really a dormant issue when it began. He started it and he sees advantage in it and he's going to continue to take advantage of it.

BERMAN: I want to point out a couple things here, if you want to have a debate about whether it's patriotic to stand or sit during the national anthem, that's fine. But the language he chooses to use is notable. He claims that these players don't know why they're taking a knee, something most of them are unable to define. I don't think that's true based on hearing from these players quite a bit.

They talk quite a bit about racial justice, prison reform, which is something the president himself discussed yesterday and the suggestion there they can't define it also gets to the idea of intelligence which is racial in and of itself there I think that is worthy of note. He also goes out of his way to note they make a fortune doing what they love.

I'm not quite sure what their salary has to do with their comments about this. So, notable language from the president.

AXELROD: You know, John, and let me just say one word about that. The fact that they make a fortune doing what they do and yet they still are willing to look back at others who haven't had the advantages they have or they remember the circumstances in which they grew up, and every African-American in this country understands the issue of discrimination in all its forms. I mean, you know, look, I don't think this is serious. I think this

is political. I mean, I don't think it's thoughtful, I don't think the president's critique is meant to do anything but inflame and rally and he thinks this is a winning issue.

And that's really a shame because presidents of the United States generally have seen their role as uniting the American people. This president willfully and strategically divides the American people.

HILL: And unfortunate in so many ways, that's putting it mildly. But this president refuses to take the time or to admit perhaps that these players know what they're doing and why they're why it.

BERMAN: He can disagree with it. He can disagree with it, but I think they know what they're doing.

HILL: Right. And as you pointed out, some of the players were wearing prison reform on t-shirts so something they could talk about there.

This is also an interesting segue into "The 2000s", obviously, a big decade for you, my friend, which we know we're playing more of this weekend here on CNN. But I think we have -- we played a little bit out of the break. Do we have a clip we can play?

BERMAN: Good. Play it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is this a real thing? Like is it possible that America could do this? And so, it was all like a collective holding of our breath.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We're only a few seconds away from the top of the hour when these states will be closing.

The rules are that we had to wait until all the voting had ended. And I remember at 10:59.50 my executive producer was in the air saying, 10 seconds. It was an electric moment I'll never forget.

And CNN can now project that Barack Obama, 47 years old, he will be the first African-American president of the United States.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HILL: When you look back at that and when you see that moment and we have the discussion we have this morning, where is your head at on all this?

AXELROD: Well, first of all I remember that moment very well because I was standing in a room with a bunch of senior campaign people watching Wolf that night, and I have to say, that was such an emotional moment when he -- when he made that declaration. It's something that I'll never forget.

Look, that was a watershed moment in our country's history, a barrier people thought could never be broken was broken. But the history of our country is that we're never moving in a straight line. There are always, you know, turns and twists and sometimes we go backwards. But on the whole our journey has been forward, and I still believe deeply that that's the case.

[08:25:07] We are in a country that's in the midst of change, demographic changes, economic changes and so on, that have created great disruption and we've had demagogic politicians who were willing to exploit that.

But I think that the election of Barack Obama was a watershed and we're going to continue to move forward from there in the same forces that propelled him forward are going to -- we'll see them in November and we'll probably and we'll see them in 2020. We have a system that corrects itself and that's the great thing about democracy.

So, you know, I'm not despairing, though I am sad about what I see today. You know, I want leaders who will unite the country, I don't want the great divider and I wish the president would understand his role as being president of the United States and not just the president of his political base.

That was, by the way, the core of the Obama campaign. He didn't run as the first African-American president, he ran as a president for the entire country. He ran as the president who wanted to lift the country beyond these divisions.

And that is I think the role -- the appropriate role of a president. Most presidents see themselves that way. This president doesn't.

BERMAN: David Axelrod, thanks so much for being with us.

"The 2000s" airs Sunday night, 9:00 right here on CNN.

HILL: Just ahead, a judge threatening the attorney general with contempt over deported asylum seekers. So, what triggered that outrage? We'll speak with one of the attorneys involved.

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