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President Trump Takes to Twitter to Criticize Former White House Aide Omarosa Manigault Newman; Bridge Collapses in Italy; Interview with Rep. Frederica Wilson. Aired 8-8:30a ET
Aired August 14, 2018 - 8:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOSH DAWSEY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. Early, in the administration Donald McGahn, the White House top lawyer, came in with a stack of NDAs and said that the president wanted all senior employees to sign them. What they didn't know is that behind the scenes McGahn and the president had been fighting. McGahn said these agreements aren't enforceable. You can't ask West Wing employees to sign nondisclosure agreements. It had not happened in previous administrations, the Bush, Clinton, Obama administrations. But the president was fixated and had dozens of employees sign these agreements that said they could not make any information public about their time in the White House really until the end of time. And how many of them signed it, as the lawyer, Don McGahn, privately told them, these really aren't that enforceable, but the president wants you to sign them so you have to sign them.
BERMAN: But that's a two-sided argument, right? He was making that case because basically he was sick of listening to the president. It was a way to placate the president, in effect lie to the president to say I'm having our people do this even though I know this is not enforceable.
DAWSEY: Right. And it's something the president has done throughout his career. There were NDAs on the campaign, in his business length, strict, lengthy NDAs so you could not make any disclosures about his families, any member of his family, any of his business deals, his affiliations, his contracts. The one that Omarosa Manigault Newman was offered after leaving the White House was six pages and had dozens and dozens of clauses that said even when the agreement ended and let's say the payments, she was being offered $15,000 a month ended, she still could not say anything forever. And it said that explicitly in black and white. And so these are a favorite tool of the president. In a 2016 interview with the "Washington Post" he told us exactly, he told my colleagues that he loved NDAs and he thought the president or whoever was in the White House should have one.
BERMAN: And there are people, other people who left the White House, Keith Schiller among them, who apparently do have certain types of NDAs either with the campaign or the RNC where they have pledged their silence going forward. It is something he's used for people after they served in the administration.
Josh, I want to get your take on something the president just wrote. We're careful about chasing what the president writes on Twitter for a lot of reasons, but this is notable because of I think the harshness of the language he chooses to use. He's writing about Omarosa. We were just talking about Omarosa. He says "when you give a crazed, crying lowlife a break and give her a job at the White House, I guess it just didn't work out. Good work by General Kelly for quickly firing that dog." President Trump has used this dog language before. He's used it with men but often also with women. It became quite controversial in the past when he has called women dogs, and he knows this. He knows the controversy in the sensitivity which it creates, and he chose to do it any way.
DAWSEY: It's the president's, one of his ultimate insults. You see here he has been frustrated. He's tweeted repeatedly about Omarosa, far more than the pastor in Turkey or North Korea or any sort of foreign affairs or domestic affairs. Folks in the White House are saying you're giving this book more oxygen, you're giving her more television appearances, you're giving more time to this book by saying constant things about it and insulting her constantly.
And the president is so incensed that recorded him, that she wrote this kind of explosive if unverified book that he doesn't seem to care. It's interesting several people that I talked to said this weekend at Bedminster the president said we're going to let this book go, we're going to ignore her. It's crazy that she said all these things about me that aren't true. Obviously it has gotten in his craw to the extent that he cannot do that any longer. The president has made all sorts of insults on Twitter that we've never seen another president make. And calling an employee a lowlife dog would be among the harshest of them, but there certainly is precedent for it.
I think the one question, John, is how did she get in the White House? If she's a lowlife dog, why was she paid $180,000 a year, one of the highest salaries in the government, given the highest title in the government with the exception of chief of staff, given an office on the West Wing complex, and given access to the Oval Office and senior staff meetings? And why when she left did the president wish her good will and say I thank Omarosa for her service. You associated with her for 15 years, were none of these characteristics that he evidently seems to be seeing in her now evident? And vice versa, the characteristics she's saying about him, did she see them before? There's just a lot of things that are puzzling about this.
BERMAN: Those are great questions, Josh. She had a constituency of one inside the White House, and it was president Donald Trump. Josh Dawsey, great to have you with us, appreciate it.
DAWSEY: Thanks for having him.
ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Let's bring in now CNN political director David Chalian and CNN chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin. I do want to pick up on that last point because it is fascinating. The president making this point in his latest tweet. She's a low life, she's all these other things, he's calling her names. Again, this is not new for this president.
[08:05:06] But the bottom line is he's saying I gave her a chance in the White House, he hired her specifically to come into the White House. Maybe it's a silly question at this point, but how does the president get to continually hide behind that, Jeffrey?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Just to go back to what we discussed earlier, nothing he says makes a difference in how he's perceived for better or for worse. He has been at the same point in the polls basically since he took the oath of office, somewhere around 40 percent. And regardless of criminal investigations, the incredible racism of his Twitter feed. Let's not also forget about Omarosa. She's an African-American woman. Who does the president attack on Twitter constantly? African-Americans. Whether it's the UCLA basketball team, whether it's the NFL football players, whether it's our colleague Don Lemon, LeBron James. It's always black people that he's attacking, not exclusively, but to a disproportionate extent he's attacking black people.
HILL: And consistently attacking their intelligence.
TOOBIN: Calling them dumb, which is a classic racist accusation. This is a president who became famous -- we sometimes forget the entire basis for Donald Trump's political career is his racist attack on Barack Obama for not being born in the United States. That's how he became a public political figure. This is -- the tweet today calling Omarosa is a dog is just part of that.
BERMAN: I do want to point out because others have pointed it out just in the last few minutes here, he has called Mitt Romney a dog, Glenn Beck a dog, Erick Erickson a dog, Chuck Todd a dog, Reverend Wright a dog, Robert Pattinson, he called Kristen Stewart a dog when Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart were dating during "Twilight" he said she cheated on him like a dog. So he's used that insult, but David, I just wanted to note that. I wanted to put that out there.
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICS DIRECTOR: I understand but what are we doing? We're parsing the language of a president calling someone a dog.
CHALIAN: And trying to provide some context to that. Yes, and in fact in all those things you read it is often in the context of being fired. He uses the expression a lot, fired like a dog, a kick to the curb kind of a thing. But this is nuts. We don't need to sit here and say let's actually explore what he means here. He's demeaning another human being and attacking her because of charges she's making. He's trying to make her less than human. That's why he's using the term "dog," and he's the president of the United States of America. So this is just, again, as Jeffrey noted, nobody is going to change their mind about Donald Trump because of this. That will not happen. And so it is not surprising to any of us but it is absurd.
BERMAN: That's exactly right. That's exactly right. And just because something isn't unexpected, just because we have seen this type of behavior before, does not mean that we should not point out the word you chose there, David, was absurd, how absurd it is to hear this language from the president of the United States. HILL: And once again, what we said before, but I think it bears
repeating. This is also how this president is choosing to spend his time right now on a Tuesday morning. He's attacking a woman that he fired who is going out trying to sell a book. There's a whole host of history between two of them, but this is where the president's focus is on Tuesday morning, not on this country.
CHALIAN: I saw that he found time to at least issue one tweet I guess of concern about what might be going on in England, but this is clearly consuming him. He has now been for the better part of the last two days completely consumed personally pushing back against Omarosa's claims in her book.
BERMAN: Jeffrey Toobin, we're going to transition out of this to some other information in a second here, but we were talking to Josh Dawsey before about these non-disclosure agreements. Clearly Omarosa isn't respecting any kind of non-disclosure agreement she may have signed or not signed. She did say she did not sign one in the White House. She had one with him when she was an "Apprentice" performer, or whatever it was, didn't sign one after the White House. Would any of that be binding?
TOOBIN: Not on a public official I don't think. But also -- and there was one fabulous -- when you were talking to Josh from the "Washington Post" which I thought was a great surreal Donald Trump moment. Imagine the White House counsel, the chief lawyer in the White House going to employees saying the president wants you to sign this. It doesn't mean anything, it's not binding, it's just some crazy thing the president of the United States wants you to sign, but just sign it to make him feel better.
HILL: And make my life easier.
[08:10:00] TOOBIN: So he'll stop bothering me. Again, we are so into the surreal world with this presidency, but it's just worth pausing and not to normalize this kind of behavior.
HILL: But to point out, what you're saying, to point out the paranoia that clearly exists with this president, the lack of -- whether it's lack of understanding, a blatant disregard, a lack of concern for any sort of not only legal issues but also just, hey, this is the way things are done, all of that has gone out the window.
All of this as, David, you have some new polling numbers for us this morning, and specifically when we look at the president's approval rating, this is something I would imagine that Donald Trump would point to today and say I'm not doing so bad, doing all right here. What will he like about this number?
CHALIAN: He will like that he is not losing any altitude, that he is remarkably consistent. He stays within such a narrow band of approval, everyone's locked in on him. He can do anything -- I think he once famously said he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and he's not going to lose support. He seems to be right about that.
The other point that he will like about this poll, talk about the way that his mind works, we have that chart that stacks him up historically to his predecessors at this point in their presidencies. For the entire Trump presidency that yellow line, the Trump line, has been at the bottom. He's always been underperforming his predecessors at each point of his presidency compared to theirs. Not true in our poll today. He's actually above Reagan, Clinton, and Carter where they were numerically in the August of their second year. That is going to be welcome news to the president no doubt as well.
BERMAN: All of those people lost seats in the midterm elections as we said.
TOOBIN: And the other thing about that chart if we could just put it up for one more second which I think is worth noting, at the very top, the most popular president at this point in the presidency was George Herbert Walker Bush in 1990. What happened to him two years later? He lost. If you look at the two at the bottom, Reagan and Clinton, they both won two years later, Carter lost. So it is not necessarily a good predictor one way or the other about whether you as a president will get reelected.
BERMAN: One other note we'll just put there as we finish this discussion, in this poll another fascinating number, 66 percent now say that Robert Mueller should finish his probe before the midterms. As David has pointed out this morning, and we do in our online write up, that may be because Democrats actually would like to see some of the information that Mueller produces before the midterms because they think it will hurt the president, but still an interesting number nonetheless. David Chalian, Jeffrey Toobin, great to have you here this morning for this discussion.
HILL: We are following breaking news this morning out of Italy. This is video from Genoa, Italy. A highway bridge collapsed. You can just make it out. You can see where a portion of that bridge is missing there. It happened during a storm. Officials confirming several people are dead and we do know, though, there is a frantic effort at this hour to pull survivors to safety. CNN's Nic Robertson is live at the scene right now with those breaking details for us. Nic?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: There was a tremendous thunderstorm in the minutes before the bridge collapsed. I'm going to step out of the way now and you may be able to see some more of the bridge absolutely sheared off. This is the main highway that runs along the coastline here from Italy into France, from Genoa all the way to Nice. It is jam packed with traffic today. This is holiday time, peak holiday time in France and Italy. We were traveling along the highway a few minutes before crossing the bridge. The traffic started backing up.
As we came into town, the police had the bridge sealed off, but ever since we've been here for the past hour and a half the city streets have been crisscrossed by police cars, fire trucks, emergency services, rescue services. I see a fire truck now that's on a small bridge close to the collapsed bridge. You can see that sheared off bridge there, superstructure there, the bridge sheared off, and below that crumpled concrete lying below. It is absolutely chaotic and pandemonium here in Genoa at the moment as the police try to weave their way through all the traffic that's been forced off the highway.
It's unclear yet how many people were caught up in this incident, but this is a highway that has two lanes in both directions, a major highway on a peak travel day of the year just before lunchtime. The other thing that I noticed about this bridge as we were approaching it, that road repair signs before the bridge, and it appeared as if the bridge was undergoing some structural repairs at the time. Unclear what -- not in any way clear if that contributed to this disaster today, but this is a town and emergency services scrambling to deal with something they never expected to see. This suspension bridge has spanned the valley here for decades moving people along from holiday destinations to visit elderly relatives today is a tragedy and disaster in Genoa.
BERMAN: And Nic, these pictures are just remarkable, that we're looking at right now. I know we don't know how many people might still be missing, how many people feared caught up in this, how many cars might have been on the bridge, what was the weather like?
I know it was windy, it was blowing there, we can see the bad weather here, but were these gusts upwards of 50, 60 miles an hour? What would it take to bring a bridge like this down?
ROBERTSON: It was windy, but it was -- it was raining really, really heavily, thunder and lightning, raining really heavily in the area. There were literally ponds of water running down the middle of the road. It was one of those rainstorms where you're very close to making that decision to just pull off the highway and wait till it passes.
It's a rainstorm that's been shadowing our travel along the coast and has just hit out of Genoa. This is a thunderstorm that's been traveling along the coast of Italy for the past -- I would say for the past half day or so, absolutely torrential rain, thunder and lightning. But again, not clear at this stage on if that contributed to this disaster. The winds strong, but not excessive gusts.
I mean this bridge here has stood the test of time for decades upon decades. This suspension bridge, as I look at it, I have to say, looking at it from a distance where I stand now, the concrete is old, it appears discolored in places.
There appears to be rust at the top of some of the suspension cables, so this is a bridge that services tens possibly more hundreds of thousands a people a day, particularly in the peak, peak Mediterranean tourist season John.
CAMEROTA: All right. Nic Robertson live for us there in Genoa. We'll continue to check in with you. I appreciate the reporting from there on the ground. Obviously, still a lot to learn about this, but those pictures, absolutely devastating.
BERMAN: Remarkable to have Nic right on the scene in hours after that bridge collapsed. I'm sure we'll have much more on that coming forward.
CAMEROTA: Just ahead, a reversal in a prominent stand-your-ground case in Florida. We have a live report on that next.
HILL: A big development to tell you about this morning. In a high profile stand-your-ground case in Florida, Michael Drejka was cleared by police after shooting and killing a man who pushed him to the ground in a convenience store parking lot. Today, Drejka will be in court to face manslaughter changes. CNN's Martin Savidge joines us this morning with the latest. Martin, morning.
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Erica. The family of Markeis McGlockton obviously relieved to hear of the arrest but also troubled now by new information that suggests that Michael Drejka had a history of going after people parked in a handicapped spot.
Michael Drejka now facing manslaughter charges for the shooting of a Florida father in front of his family after an argument over a parking space. The deadly drama captured on surveillance video. An attorney expressing the feelings of the victim's family.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Michael Drejka, period point blank, is a cold blooded murderer and he took Markeis's life without a second thought.
SAVIDGE: There's no question Drejka kills Markeis McGlockton. That's on the tape, but Drejka initially avoided criminal charges by invoking Florida's controversial stand-your-ground-law saying when McGlockton shoved him, he shot in self defense.
But almost two weeks later, a state attorney reviewing the case disagreed, issuing the arrest warrant. Under Florida law, now prosecutors will have provide, quote, "clear and convincing evidence that stand-your-ground doesn't apply in the shooting."
Meanwhile, reports have surfaced Drejka has had similar confrontations before, but never so violent and police were never called. The owner of the Clearwater convenience store where the shooting occurred told CNN affiliate Bye Nye News (ph) Drejka has a history of confronting customers parked in the handicapped space.
Truck Driver, Richard Kelly, says he witnessed Drejka's wrath first hand when he briefly parked there.
RICHARD KELLY: He asked me was I handicapped. I said, "obviously, I'm driving a tanker. I'm not handicapped." And I asked him was he handicapped. He stated, "no." He said, "my mom is."
SAVIDGE: Kelly says Drejka just kept getting more and more angry. KELLY: He flipped out on me. He just totally flipped out. Called me every N word, said he was going to shoot me, he was going to kill me. He went back to his truck, got something out of his truck and walked back up on me.
SAVIDGE: The store owner stepped in and broke up the argument, but Kelly says the incident leaves him wondering what could have happened had the store owner not intervened.
And it appears that Drejka didn't just have problems with people parking in a handicapped spot. There were also alleged accounts of road rage where he used his gun, at least threateningly, one, to teens who he was angry at for not going through a yellow like and in another incident outlined in the arrest warrant. Apparently he got angry at a female driver for going too slow, he thought, in a school zone. He's got a court appearance later today. John -
BERMAN: All right, Martin Savidge for us. Martin, thanks so much. Joining me now is Democratic member of Congress, Frederica Wilson of Florida. She introduced a resolution in 2015 calling for a repeal of stand-your-ground laws in the wake of Trayvon Martin's shooting death.
Representative, thank you so much for being with us. Let me ask you specifically about this case. Now, charges have been filed. Are you encouraged by this development.
REP. FREDERICA WILSON (D), F.L.: I am certainly relieved and I am so happy that this man who thought he had so much power to do all of these things, I'm so happy now that he's being charged. I was beginning to worry, but I'm relieved now.
BERMAN: The sheriff initially said the stand-your-ground prevented him or at least caused him to pause before pressing charges overruled by a prosecutor. Is this a case in your mind of the law then working as it should if a sheriff was overruled?
WILSON: No, that is not the way Samuel Brown is supposed to work. In fact, we do not even need stand-your-ground. We need to get rid of stand-your-ground because it's being misused all over this country, and we're finding it is racially tinged because it's being used in instances where White people actually kill Black people and get away.
[08:25:00] So that is very troublesome to people in Florida and, of course, all over America. So we're happy that he is going to trial and justice will prevail. This man is a renegade. He's a proven renegade. He's almost like Mr. Zimmerman and it reminds me so much of poor Trayvon who was killed by Mr. Zimmerman - murdered shot in the heart.
BERMAN: Representative, if I can -
WILSON: So terrible.
BERMAN: If I can shift your attention to some news this morning, the President of the United States, with whom you've had your own issues over the years, moments ago called Omarosa Manigault-Newman, who worked for him, a dog. That is what he wrote on Twitter. It's up on the screen for people to see. Your reaction to this.
WILSON: A dog? How dare he. He has taken this country to its knees. We already have racism raining down all over America. People can't even enjoy themselves. They can't even enjoy an evening out. And I remember specifically telling the boys and the 5,000 role models of excellence project be very careful because when they walk to a corner, someone locks the door. People hold onto their purse and they get on an elevator. People get off (ph).
These are boys of color and now you have to say it to everyone because everyone is a target. We're finding that college students, they're calling the police because they went to sleep in their dorm. A little girl was selling water on the side of the street and they called the police, and the President of the United States is calling a woman of color a dog? How dare he.
How dare he call anyone a dog. He has a nickname for everyone, and his nickname is Don and the first grade reader. That's his nickname, and we have to stop him. And the only way we can stop him and stop all of this foolishness and all of this hate and all of this racism that's raining down on America is we've got to send a blue wave through this country in the midterms and then we've got to send a blue wave in November and we'll shut down all of this racism.
LeBron James said it correctly when he said racism has always existed, but President Trump has emboldened the racists to come forward without any fear or fear of punitive actions, and we have got to stop this -
BERMAN: You -
WILSON: - because I could be next.
BERMAN: Well, look. In fact, the president called you wacky in a tweet more than a year ago, which is similar language to what he has used with Omarosa Maingault-Newman over the last couple of days. He called her wacky as well. Do you see a racial chinge (ph) to those comments like you clearly see something racial with the dog statement?
WILSON: I said it a year ago almost that Mr. Trump is a White Supremacist. He has surrounded himself with White Supremacists, and everything that comes out of that White House is racist.
So what he says is racist. The people around him, what they think, what they say, how they act is all racist, and we've got to stop this -
BERMAN: Well, look, look -
WILSON: - and I don't -
BERMAN: You said -
WILSON: - I don't expect anything more from him but to call Omarosa a dog. That's his trusted advisor. How dare he.
BERMAN: You called the President of the United States a White Supremacist surrounding himself with White Supremacists and everything that comes out of this White House is racist. Do you believe that everyone who works in the White House is a racist?
WILSON: Not everyone who works in the White House, but in order to work there, you have to have some sort of value system and it has to align itself with racism, otherwise you wouldn't be able to exist in the White House. It is that thick. It is that clear.
I know a woman who went to cash a check for $140 and the bank called the police to say that she had stolen. She had to actually show her drivers license, her voter registration, everything -
BERMAN: You're talking about something - you're actually talking about something societal here and problems that exist around the country, but again, you've made a charge that President of the United States is a White Supremacist. What distinguishes him, in your mind, from the people who marched in Washington the other day in this all- right Neo-Nazi rally? Do you honestly see them in the same light?