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Unnamed Senior Official Slams President Trump In Scathing New York Times Op-Ed; Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy Discusses NYT Op-Ed And Kavanaugh's Confirmation Hearing; CNN Reality Check: How Would The 25th Amendment Work?; Facebook And Twitter Execs Get Grilled On Capitol Hill. Aired 7:30-8a ET
Aired September 6, 2018 - 07:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[07:30:00] SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D-CT), MEMBER, FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: Well, what I'm saying is that if you are knowingly operating inside this White House --
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: That's everybody who works in this administration. Everyone who works in this administration is knowingly worked there.
MURPHY: Oh, no.
BERMAN: Knowingly working there. There's no one who said --
MURPHY: No, no, no. If you -- no, no, no. Well, let me finish my sentence.
If you are working in the administration with knowledge of the moral damage that you're doing to the nation, then I don't think history is going to judge your decision to stay there rather than come to the outside and try to put a -- put a check on this administration kindly.
Now, I don't think everybody inside the administration feels the way this person does. But for those that do, I think you're better off on the outside trying to make sure that Democrats win control of Congress and this president only gets one term.
BERMAN: Very quickly, you're not trying to compare this administration in any way to Nazi Germany by saying this is not Vichy France, are you?
MURPHY: No. I just think you need to understand that history doesn't judge kindly people that try to rationalize to themselves staying on the inside of a reckless regime to make it more palatable.
BERMAN: We often hear -- and I hear it from Republicans officials and Democratic officials -- thank goodness Defense Sec. James Mattis is there, just to throw out one name.
Are you glad that James Mattis is secretary of Defense? If he is -- and I don't know that he's one of these people. If you read the Woodward book this depicts Sec. Mattis standing up to the president on certain things and as Woodward and other sources would say, somehow protecting the country from the president. Are you reassured that people like James Mattis are there?
MURPHY: So listen, of course, I'm glad that he has competent people inside the administration. And, Sec. Mattis says, himself, that he doesn't feel the things that this person feels.
And so, listen, we all have mixed feelings, right --
MURPHY: -- about good people going inside this administration. I just doubt whether the way in which this individual is expressing himself or herself is actually making the situation better.
BERMAN: And just to reiterate that last point, you do want what you consider to be competent people working for this president even if you disagree with him.
MURPHY: That's true and that's why I have voted in favor of a lot of decent people who have gone to work for this administration even though I may deeply disagree with their positions on matters of policy.
Again, the question is how you try to effectuate a policy agenda. I don't think that placing an anonymous article in "The New York Times" is the best way --
MURPHY: -- to try to advance your cause.
BERMAN: Very quickly. You're not on the Judiciary Committee but I'm sure you've been watching the Brett Kavanaugh hearings.
Do you think this testimony has changed any minds in the Senate?
MURPHY: I mean, I hope that some of my Republican colleagues are concerned about Judge Kavanaugh's refusal to engage in any hypotheticals about potential abuse of power cases coming before the Supreme Court.
I don't think it would have been hard for Kavanaugh to weigh in and say that he believes the president isn't above the law. That a president can't pardon himself. That he has to answer a subpoena.
Those aren't specific hypotheticals, those are broad, important hypotheticals.
Is it changing anybody's mind? Listen, I don't know. Obviously, we expected him to dodge and weave. He has largely dodged and weaved.
But we've got more to go and so let's wait until the whole thing is done.
BERMAN: Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut, we've got to let you go. We know you have a busy day ahead. Thanks so much for joining us. MURPHY: Thanks.
BERMAN: Alisyn --
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: OK.
So, John, there are so many burning questions this morning. Who is this resistor? What did they want out of this? Why are they still working for President Trump's administration?
The former director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, joins us next with his thoughts.
[07:37:19] CAMEROTA: Whoever wrote that startling "New York Times" op-ed had a goal of getting information out to the public. Supporters or President Trump are casting the person as a traitor and as dangerous.
Just a short time ago, President Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani tweeted his reaction.
He said, "If it could be any" -- sorry -- "If it could be anyone at such a high level he probably has top security clearances and a history of leaking. He's been elected to nothing but at any time he could substitute his judgment for our elected politically accountable president. Very dangerous person."
Here with us now is former director of National Intelligence, James Clapper. He is a CNN national security analyst. Director Clapper, good morning.
JAMES CLAPPER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST, FORMER DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY: Good morning, Alisyn.
CAMEROTA: Do you think that this person who took to the "New York Times" for this op-ed is dangerous?
CLAPPER: Well, this is a classic case in Washington of one man's whistleblower is another man's swamp dweller. And it depends on where sit about whether you feel this is dangerous.
I think people who are critics of the president will find reinforcement in this and also reassurance that there are people in the government who care more about the country and the Constitution rather than personal loyalty.
On the other hand, of course, this will feed the deep-state bonfire -- add fuel to that. So this is a classic where you stand, where you sit.
CAMEROTA: Well, the person who wrote it knew that there would be questions about the deep state and addressed that in the op-ed.
I'll read a portion of it for you. "This is not the work of the so- called deep state. It's the work of the steady state."
CLAPPER: Well, again, Trump opponents will find this reassuring it is a steady state and there's steady hands trying to navigate the ship of state so to speak. But at the same time, those who don't agree will find this just another example of the so-called deep state. So --
CAMEROTA: But I mean, from where you sit as somebody in the national security space, do you give any credence to what Rudy Giuliani just tweeted?
And I think that this is instructive -- what he just tweeted -- because it will tell us what the talking points out of the White House will be today, which is this is a leaker. It's probably somebody from the national security space. This is a dangerous person. They should somehow be outed.
CLAPPER: Well, I don't know about -- I don't agree that this person is dangerous -- air quotes. This -- I mean, obviously, the White House and the Trump camp are deeply offended by this because it really -- what it suggests is disloyalty to the president personally.
[07:40:04] But -- and I think Giuliani jumping to the conclusion -- well, this person has a clearance and -- which probably he or she probably does. But as previously leaked classified information, that's a big leap and there's no basis for that assertion at all.
CAMEROTA: Well, here's what Sec. Mike Pompeo, who is overseas right now -- when he got word of this op-ed here's how he responded this morning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: It is sad that you have someone who would make that choice. I come from a place where if you're not in a position to execute the commander's intent, you have a singular option and it's to leave. And this person said, according to "The New York Times" -- chose not only to stay but to undermine what President Trump and this administration are trying to do.
And I have to tell you, I just -- I find -- I find the media's efforts in this regard to undermine this administration incredibly disturbing.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Next question.
POMPEO: And I'll answer your other question directly because I know someone will say gosh, he didn't answer the question. It's not mine.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: I mean look, it's interesting to hear how he's framing it. I think that the person who wrote this op-ed has more than just a single option to leave. Obviously, the whole case that the person is making is that this person has chosen to stay to try to work within the administration to stop some of the president's impulsivity. CLAPPER: Yes. And in the op-ed, the writer acknowledges policy successes and things that -- policy issues with which he or she agrees. It has more to do with the president's personal characteristics, his behavior, and his impulsiveness.
And so, on the one hand, people will say it's a good thing we have people like that. And on the other hand, as reflected in Sec. Pompeo's statement, that the only option is to resign.
I have to think that this person has -- is prepared to resign because I don't think it's going to take as long as it did to find out who deep throat was to find out who the writer of this -- or writers if there was more than one person involved.
CAMEROTA: Look, I hear what you're saying that it depends on where you sit if this person is a traitor or a hero. But from where you sit, what do you want to say to this person this morning?
CLAPPER: Well, I think -- I took the -- I took the op-ed at face value and what struck me was that this person seemed to attach a higher priority to the safety and security of the country and adherence to the Constitution rather than personal loyalty.
And, you know, that's the way it struck me. And again, I took it at face value. I'm sure it was something of a cathartic for whom -- whoever wrote it.
CAMEROTA: Yes. We have no way of knowing if that person feels sort of unburdened this morning or petrified.
CLAPPER: That's right -- that's right.
Do you -- very quickly, do you worry what the president will do next in response?
CLAPPER: Well, this will -- you know, on top of the Woodward book, on top of Omarosa's book, on top of the Michael Wolff book, this just heightens, I'm sure, the paranoia and the siege mentality and the president's tendency to lash out to -- against anybody who criticizes him.
And so I think this will further consume him which, in my mind, is bad because it detracts from the focus on the real -- the real critical issues and that's really what's at -- what's at stake here. So this, in that sense, is just going to heighten that paranoia.
CAMEROTA: Director James Clapper, thanks so much for sharing your thoughts with us.
CLAPPER: Thanks, Alisyn.
CAMEROTA: John --
BERMAN: All right. Can you count to 25? This stunning op-ed suggests there were whispers in the cabinet of invoking the 25th Amendment to remove the president from office. So how could that be used?
We'll get a reality check, next.
[07:48:04] BERMAN: It's time for a CNN "Reality Check".
In this new op-ed, an unnamed senior administration official claims there were whispers within President Trump's cabinet about invoking the 25th Amendment to remove him from office. So how does that work?
CNN senior political analyst John Avlon explains -- John.
JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: That's right. In an opinion piece loaded with high-impact news nuggets there is a particularly interesting detail hiding near the bottom.
Quote, "Given the instability many witnessed, there were early whispers within the cabinet of invoking the 25th Amendment, which would start a complex process for removing the president."
The 25th Amendment -- so what is it, can it do what the author says, and better yet, should it?
Now, you might think the 25th Amendment, which spells out presidential succession, is an old concept but it's not.
The text is relatively recent, born right after John F. Kennedy died, thought up by members of his administration, including his brother, Bobby, who shuddered to think what might have happened had the president been only incapacitated in Dallas.
In fact, as recently as 1965, this nation had no real plan for what to do if a president couldn't discharge his duties.
The issue first came up way back in 1841 when William Henry Harrison died just a month after taking office. No one really knew what to call Vice President John Tyler. Critics simply called him "Your Accidency."
Four decades later, President James Garfield was shot and lingered incapacitated for more than two months. Afraid of causing a constitutional crisis, Vice President Chester A. Arthur -- of the really great sideburns -- avoided doing any presidential and the government ground to a halt.
In 1919, President Woodrow Wilson had a stroke and his second wife, Edith, essentially ran the country for 18 months.
By that point, the 25th Amendment was long overdue but it took the Kennedy assassination to get it written and it didn't get used by a president for another two decades when President Reagan had a 1985 surgery. [07:50:00] But it got its first real test two years later. That's
when incoming Reagan chief of staff Howard Baker was urged to consider it after reports that Reagan was in mental decline. Baker agreed to observe the president for deficiencies and when he didn't find any the 25th Amendment was never mentioned again in the Reagan White House.
It's been invoked just twice more, both by George W. Bush for colonoscopies, and that's really been it.
So the question we're confronting today is whether the 25th Amendment could be used to remove a president who some feel, as the unnamed White House writer puts it, is quote "detrimental to the health of our republic."
The short answer is not easily. Remember, the amendment was written primarily to address physical incapacity. But it does include a section never used on removing a president deemed unfit and that section reads like a Rube Goldberg machine.
Basically, it goes like this.
The vice president, along with a majority of the cabinet, can send a letter to the president pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House declaring that the president -- as former Sen. Birch Bayh colorfully put it is nutty as a fruitcake.
And then as soon as that letter is received, bam, the president is out. The vice president becomes the acting president.
But not so fast. The president can then write his own letter and send it back to Congress saying he's feeling perfectly fine.
After which the vice president and a majority of the cabinet still want him gone, they have to send another letter. Now once that happens, within three weeks, two-thirds of Congress must vote to declare the president unfit. Otherwise, he becomes president again and the V.P. goes back to his old job but presumably, not for long.
The odds of that happening -- that the president's V.P., the bulk of his cabinet, and two-thirds of both Houses of Congress would turn on him are incredibly long.
So while the 25th Amendment makes for some interesting history, the chances it gets written into President Trump's history are slim, to say the least.
And that's your "Reality Check."
CAMEROTA: But yes, very interesting history, John. Thank you.
CAMEROTA: All right.
So, two of the biggest names in tech testifying before Congress. How will Wall Street respond today? That's next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
[07:56:18] CAMEROTA: OK, it's time for "CNN Money Now."
Big tech suffering some big losses on Wall Street with two big-name executives testifying on Capitol Hill.
CNN's Alison Kosik joins us now. Hi, Al.
ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Alisyn.
Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey facing off with lawmakers. Google decided not to send a top executive and there was an empty seat there for them and was blasted for that choice during the hearing.
But, Sandberg and Dorsey outlined the steps their companies are taking to tackle disinformation and how to make political advertising more transparent.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHERYL SANDBERG, CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER, FACEBOOK: When bad actors try to use our site we will block them. When content violates our policies we will take it down. And when our opponents use new techniques we will share them so we can strengthen our collective efforts.
JACK DORSEY, CO-FOUNDER AND CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER, TWITTER: We don't believe that we can create a digital public square for people if they don't feel safe to participate in the first place. And that is our number one and singular objective as a company is to increase the health of this public space.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KOSIK: Now, as investors go, they're concerned that the government may slap new regulations on the social networks.
Facebook shed more than two percent and Twitter tumbled six percent at Wednesday's close. There are also concerns that recent problems with disinformation could wind up denting the bottom lines of both companies.
Now, right now, those stocks are flat in premarket trading. Looking at futures, they are pointing to a mixed open for the broader market -- Alisyn.
CAMEROTA: OK. Thanks so much, Alison Kosik.
We are following a lot of news this morning -- take my word for it. Let's get to it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN KERRY, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: This is a genuine constitutional crisis.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The failing "New York Times" has an anonymous editorial. Can you believe it -- anonymous?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There were whispers among cabinet officials about invoking the 25th Amendment.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: This is not a treasonous act. It's a disloyal and cowardly act against the president.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a cry for help to Republicans on the Hill to stand up to this president.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This anonymous op-ed writer must be found, fired, investigated.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you have all that chaos how do you solve the biggest problems?
KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: They want to serve and they're pretending that they're somehow protecting the country.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Democracy is fragile and if the president challenges it we've got to challenge him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.
BERMAN: All right, good morning. Welcome to your NEW DAY. It is Thursday, September sixth, 8:00 in the east.
This extraordinary 48 hours in the history of the United States. The president is demanding that "The New York Times" turn over the author of a so-called resistance op-ed to the federal government.
An unnamed senior administration official says there is a resistance inside the Trump administration trying to keep a reckless president in check.
This is one quote. "It may be cold comfort in this chaotic era, but Americans should know that there are adults in the room. We fully recognize what is happening and we are trying to do what's right, even when Donald Trump won't."
So the big question this morning, who wrote this and more importantly, what impact will it have?
So far, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo denied having any hand in this scathing editorial.
And overnight, the president attacked the author as "gutless." He also posted the lone word "treason" and he went after "The New York Times".
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: So if the failing "New York Times" has an anonymous editorial -- can you believe it -- anonymous, meaning gutless. A gutless editorial.
CAMEROTA: All right.
This morning, our White House reporters describe a heightened sense of paranoia inside the West Wing.
So remember, this comes hours after the leaks from Bob Woodward's bombshell book saying roughly the same things as this op-ed.
"The Washington Post" reports that White House meetings were canceled because of this to figure out how to respond and try to figure out how who was behind it.
So a source close to the White House tells CNN that aides are following leads based on key words that stand out.