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Report: Obama Unleashes on Trump; Sessions Is Prepared for The Outcome of Possibly Being Fired by Trump Over NYT Op-Ed; Trump Stumps for Candidates. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired September 7, 2018 - 14:00   ET


[14:00:00] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: I'm Brooke Baldwin. You are ware watching CNN. Thanks for being with me. I want you to keep this in mind. President Trump and his predecessor have not spoken a single time since the inauguration. Not once. And yet some eight weeks away from the midterms, today both are publicly making their case for the future of America. In true split screen fashion, former President Obama delivering rare political remarks, rebuking the current presidency after months and months of not even uttering Trump's name. On the right, live pictures of the campaign rally in North Dakota where President Trump is about to speak. He is, quote, pissed off we're told about a number of things. So, we'll get in to that in a moment. But first, Obama speaking on the state of America's democracy in Illinois a short while ago. He reprimanded not just Trump, but the Republican party in his first public speech of this year's midterms.


BARAK OBAMA, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: We're supposed to stand up to discrimination. And we're sure as heck supposed to stand unclearly and unequivocally to Nazi sympathizers. How hard can that be, saying that Nazis are bad? What happened to the Republican party? Its central organizing principle in foreign policy was the fight against communism. And now they are cozying up to the former head of the KGB. In a healthy democracy, there are some checks and balances on this kind of behavior, this kind of inconsistency. But right now, there is nothing. And by the way the claim that everything will turn out OK because there are people inside the White House who secretly aren't following the president's orders, that is not a check. I'm being serious here. That is not how our democracy is supposed to work. These people aren't elected. They are not accountable. They are not doing us a service by actively promoting 90 on percent of the crazy stuff that is coming out of this White House. And then saying don't worry, we're preventing the on other 10 percent. That is not how things are supposed to work. This is not normal. So, these are extraordinary times. And they are dangerous times.

Let's start with Athena Jones who is live in Urbana where the speech just happened. Athena, name checking this president, something we haven't heard him do yet.

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That is absolutely right. You talk to Obama aides, and they say it is not important whether or not he mentions President Trump by name, it is obvious who he is talks about. It is clear he wanted to make it even more obvious by mentioning President Trump for the first time in this political context. And boy, was it a strong rebuke of the Republican party that back him. You played a lot of those sound bites talking about how it shouldn't be hard to say that Nazis are bad and he went through a long list of issues. You can tell that he has been paying close attention to the headlines and now he is unrestrained. This speech kicking off a series of political events that he will be having to help midterm candidates. He said that the politics of fear and resentment and paranoia has found a home in the Republican party. He also went down a list of ways that Republicans are not acting as checks and balances on the president.

Republicans in Congress who he says know better, who say they know better, have been quoted making complaints, but not taking action on a series of things. He talked about Republicans making sure campaign finance laws work for the powerful and privileged few. They want to make it harder for people to vote. Not caring anymore about the deficit when it comes to tax cuts. So, he had a long list of complaints. He also mentioned the 3,000 Americans who died after Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico saying these things should not be bipartisan issues, making sure that folks are taken care of. And his big message is to get out and vote. He is still telling people to ignore cynicism and to really get out and vote and that is the only way to make a difference. He also speaking here at college campus of course note that had in 2014 in the midterms then only one in five young people voted. So, he is urging them to change all of that in the fall.

BALDWIN: Athena, thank you. Now for the analysis, with me now Van Jones, former special adviser to President Obama. Van, you know the man. He worked for the man. I mean he has been sitting on this and sitting on this publicly at least. And today he did not hold back.

[14:05:05] VAN JONES, CNN HOST: You know, the thing about him is timing. Something about this guy, he always has impeccable timing. And it is the week after Labor Day, we are now in an eight-week sprint. And fourth quarter, you bring out your star. And, you know, obviously he has had something to say for a long time. And the thing is, when you have Obama unleashed, when he just does his thing, it is arresting. And everybody said he was not going to do this. All of the early reporting on this speech was it was going to be very restrained, it was going to be -- and it was not.


JONES: And I think that part of what people are looking for and what they are missing is just that voice of moral authority. He got accused of being this professor in chief. And that was almost like a knock on him. But when you don't have somebody who wants to lead and remind us and teach us and instruct us on how democracy works, whacky stuff starts to happen. And so, I was super happy to see, oh, yes, basic civics. Congress is a co-equal branch. Congress can do oversight and supposed to. How many hearings did we have on Benghazi and yet you've got somebody from inside the administration saying we have a national emergency and we're not calling hearings, we're not asking a single question, we're just bringing out lie detector machines. So that is why I was happy to hear from President Obama. BALDWIN: So not often, though, do you have a former president coming

out and so publicly eviscerating a current president such as this. He criticized Trump on the economy, he criticized Trump on Charlottesville, he criticized Trump you Puerto Rico. He has the power to gin up the base. Do you think your party will pick up what he's throwing down ahead of November?

JONES: I think so. I think people are trying. We are in an unusual moment. I'm not willing to hear anybody come and say, hey, ex- presidents aren't supposed to do this. Hold on a second, presidents aren't supposed to do that. We have a sitting president who does stuff every day that sitting presidents are not supposed to do. So, if a couple times the ex-president comes out and bends some norms, I don't want to hear it. The norms are out the window. And democracy is at risk. And I don't mean that in a hysterical way. I mean when people don't get the point that democracy works because people believe in it, dictatorship works because you've got a bunch of guns. Democracy works because you have a bunch of ideas baked in institutions. Once you start fulling down faith and institutions, you have a bunch of groups running around mad at each other. The whole point of having a Democratic Republic with independent checks and balances is that everybody can put their guns down and we can actually get business done. And so, democracy how it is supposed to work is on the line and a big defender is back on the stage.

BALDWIN: Here is my yes but. President Trump loves a good foe. This former president just gave him an hour's worth of material. Let me read you a tweet from Lindsey Graham. The more president Obama speaks about the good old years of his presidency, the more likely President Trump is going to get reelected. In fact, the best explanation of President Trump's victory are the results of the Obama presidency.

JONES: Listen, sounds good. Great talking points. But there is something also called Comey and the Russians and a whole bunch of other stuff.

BALDWIN: You don't think this will drum up --

JONES: Sure, but Democrats are in damned if you do, damned if you don't position. Yes, Trump likes a good opponent. I think Obama is less strong bragging on economic stuff, more strong bragging on American values. I think if he brings us back to that, nobody could ever say in the Republican party anything bad about Obama's personal character. About his fidelity to the way that things are supposed to work. So, number one, I think it is very, very good if you are going to pick a fight, if Trump wants to pick a fight, picking a fight with the Obamas, go right ahead. Please go right ahead. Because the Obamas for a bunch of people are people that will bring out the best in the Democratic party.

BALDWIN: He also talked a lot about women who I know is noteworthy, we need more women in politics, rolling up the sleeves. Of course. I have my series and we're rolling out one of the pieces today and watch van jones tomorrow night 7:00 p.m. right here on CNN. A number of guests in addition to of course your special guest. [14:10:00] JONES: Joy Behar and a bunch of women who are running for

governor. A transgender woman, Native American woman, Latina lesbian all running for governor and may win.

BALDWIN: Van Jones, thank you. More breaking news ahead here, sources tell CNN Attorney General Jeff Sessions is prepared for whatever outcome awaits him, including being fired. This is coming as President Trump demands his AG investigates the "New York Times" for its damning op-ed by this anonymous senior administration official. More on that coming up next.


BALDWIN: We're back with more breaking news. I'm Brooke Baldwin. President is calling for an investigation tied to the "New York Times" op-ed by one of his own who remains unidentified. Reportedly team west wing is considering lie detector tests or sworn affidavits to hunt out the mole. Let's go to Sarah Westwood she's in Fargo at President Trump's event and Sarah the president is now calling out his attorney general to find out who wrote this thing and Jeff Sessions is coming to terms with the potentiality that he could be fired.

SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN REPORTER: That's right, Brooke. Sources are telling our colleague Kaitlan Collins that Jeff Sessions has accepted the fact that his relationship with President Trump is now likely to he said well on end well one way or another. While he has not said he plans to resign, he is acknowledging that their relationship is worse than it has ever been. The two rarely speak one-on-one anymore. And this all comes as President Trump is now calling on his attorney general to investigate that nameless author of the op-ed that has so clearly gotten under his skin this week. He told reporters aboard air force one that he doesn't want the person who wrote the "New York times" piece sitting in on high level meetings. Take a listen to what he said just moments ago on Air Force One.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think Jeff Sessions should be investigating who the author of the op-ed piece was?

DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: I think so. Because I think it is national security. Jeff should be investigating who the author of that piece was because I really believe it is national security.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And is there action that should be taken against the "New York Times"?

TRUMP: We'll see. I'm looking into that right now.


WESTWOOD: It is unclear what legal grounds President Trump thinks he has to request a criminal investigation from his justice department. The author of the "New York Times" op-ed neither divulged nor referenced classified information. But this is not the only reason. Just a few days ago we saw excerpts from Bob Woodward's forthcoming book that revealed unflattering anecdotes with the administration. So, Trump and his top aides are trying to determine which senior official wrote that piece but also who cooperated with Woodward for his book. We saw President Trump vent about both things last night at his rally and we're likely to hear more here in North Dakota.

BALDWIN: Got it. And to your first point, the fact that sessions has come to the fact that his relationship may not end well with this president, I don't know if that is breaking news. Almost comical. Thank you so much.

An outside adviser told the "New York Times" that the White House has a list of 12 people who believes may have penned this op-ed. With three now Morgan Ortagus former intelligence analyst for the Treasury Office of Intelligence and Analysis. And CNN senior political analyst John Avalon who wrote the book of several, "Washington's Farewell, The Founding Fathers Warning to Future Generations."

Welcome to you both. Let me begin with you, John Avlon. Yes, A, the president wants sessions to investigate this. Not sure anything is illegal about penning an anonymous op-ed. I don't know what he would be investigating. According to the "New York Times" there was a discussion of asking senior officials to sign sworn affidavits that could be used in court and of course there was a bit about the lie detector tests.

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST JOHN AVALON, AUTHOR OF "WASHINGTON'S FAREWELL, THE FOUNDING FATHERS WARNING TO FUTURE GENERATIONS": Yes, if there is one thing that is good for office morale, it is marching people to get lie detector tests.

BALDWIN: That's not going to happen.

AVLON: No, and look, invoking national security, which is typically what an administration would do if they were trying to get a newspaper to turn over a source, that is the fight over the Pentagon Papers, but there is no national security implication that is clear to any reader in the op-ed itself. Jeff Sessions coming belatedly to the situation of his actual mortality, I don't know. But that is not exactly breaking news. That relationship is broken. But the president is clearly furious and it really does undermine whatever sense of confidence he had in his team, which was already pretty shaky.

BALDWIN: It does underline the fact that the president wants to get to the bottom of this if he uses all these potential options.

MORGAN ORTAGUS FORMER INTELLIGENCE ANALYST FOR THE TREASURY OFFICE OF INTELLIGENCE AND ANALYSIS: So, I think where there is a little bit of a national security implication is I think the president have tying the op-ed to the many leaks that we've seen. And in fact, leaks of things that as someone who used to be in the intelligence community take you never saw leaked. Detailed conversations with foreign leaders, detailed readouts. So, from a national security perspective, I think why he is invoking national security is because he's saying someone who is leaking -- who is writing an anonymous op-ed could be someone who is similarly leaking things that he believes undermines his administration, would be dangerous to national security. AVLON: He could have a point with who leaked the Kislyak transcript

or something like that. But not being the same person? There are lots of people leaking out of this White House.

Lindsey Graham weighed in today. Listen.


LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: This op-ed piece about the personality of the president suggesting that he is unhinged and he is incapable of being a good president without being minded, tells me a lot about the Mueller investigation. I think what is happening here is a new line of attack that is the best evidence yet that there is no collusion. This to me is a signal that there is nothing there with Russia in terms of the president working with the Russians during his campaign. The next line of attack is the man is unfit for office, he is crazy.


BALDWIN: So, in summary, he is saying plan A wasn't working, there was no collusion, so therefore let's go with plan B which is attack the president, attack his personality. Couldn't both be true?

[14:20:00] AVLON: They could both be true, but for him to try to connect the Mueller investigation with the Woodward book and this op- ed is itself a little off the rocker. His dear friend John McCain had a very different perspective on the president's fitness and questions of Russian influence. His good friend and colleague Bob Corker said it was adult daycare time at the White House. This is not breaking news. This is the culmination of reporting we've seen over months.

Lindsey Graham has his own political reasons for cozying up to Donald Trump but that is not a truth teller right now, that is someone trying to keep his relationship with the president close.

BALDWIN: And I want to move to some of what the president said last night in Montana, Morgan, specifically where he was talking about his own potential impeachment. He is saying the economy is great, but if it happened where the majority has turned over to one of the chambers of Congress essentially that this would turn in to a third world nation and saying to his own supporters that it will be your fault because you didn't vote. I don't know if the third world country bit is correct, but he and Obama are agreeing that you do need to vote.

ORTAGUS: And if you look at it from a political perspective, the president whenever he talks about impeachment, it is to rally his base. When the Democrats talk about it, it is to rally their base. So, we're seeing a lot of politics. Even if the Democrats were to flip the house, you still -- and only Mueller know what is in that report, so I still find it very hard to see a situation where the senate votes him out of office. It is a fantasy to think that the cabinet will invoke the 25th amendment. So, I think where the Democrats are playing somewhat dangerous ground, they are setting up unrealistic expectations for the base that the president will be kicked out of office or that the president will somehow magically be removed by the 25th amendment. I think those are very farfetched scenarios. The best way to remove the president from office is to beat him in 2020.

AVLON: Of course. And no one should be an impeachment enthusiast. It would be deeply destabilizing to our nation. But it is worth pointing out that elected Republicans talk about impeachment more than incumbent Democrats. Democrat leadership realizes that that is a dangerous game to play. Now, the activist class and folks running out from the outside do want to gin up their best by talking about it. I agree, they are setting themselves up for disappointment. Ultimately the question of impeachment needs to be based on whatever Mueller comes up with, but no one should go into it with a redone conclusion.

BALDWIN: All right. Here is the president.


DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: -- it wasn't him, but would have been the same thing if the Democrats got in with their agenda in November of almost two years ago, instead of having 4.2 up, I believe honestly, you'd have 4.2 down. You'd be negative. You'd be in negative numbers right now. We were heading south. And you look at those bad numbers that were there in the last couple of years, it was this way and going in the wrong direction.

[15:25:00] It was the weakest recovery in the history of our country since to be totally specific because I'm not sure that they have gone any further since the Great Depression in the 20s, it was the weakest recovery we've ever had. Barely a recovery. And now this is called not recovery, this is called rocket ship what has happened. And today numbers came out, and this is something that makes me happy. The numbers were great. Job numbers were great. The numbers have been incredible almost from the beginning. Took me a few months to get the engine started. And we did that with regulation. You had pipelines that couldn't be built. I immediately approved them. Dakota. How about Dakota Access.

That was a very unfair situation. And you know I approved it. I thought there would be protests. Nobody called me. They just built the pipeline, it's been working ever since. A lot of jobs. It was very unfair. They got their approvals and then they said you have your approvals, but you can't build it. And I was told they would never be able to build it. I approved it day one. Same with Keystone. Total of 48,000 jobs. But more importantly, two great projects. And we approved them immediately. And you would have been stuck. So many people thanked me for that.

I guess more importantly though when I walked in, I was walking in with Kevin Cramer and a strong man came up to me. Tough kind of a guy. And said I want to thank you Mr. President for saving our country. And he had tears coming down his eyes. This wasn't just a statement. Because he had tears coming down. Unless he was a real wise guy. But he had tears coming down his eyes. And he said I want to thank you, Mr. President, for saving our country. And I want to thank you for all of the horrible things that you have to go through because it is so unfair to you and it is so unfair to all of the millions and tens of millions of people that voted for you. It is true. [applause]

Thank you. So, I really appreciated that. And it is hard for Republicans and conservatives. We have a great judge right now being looked at to go up and be the next justice of the United States Supreme Court. He is intellect, a great man. And the way they are screaming and shouting, it is a disgrace to our country actually. I don't know if anybody has been watching it. They are making fools out of themselves. And one of those people I'll be running against in 2 1/2 years. I'll be running against them and I look so forward to it. Because we'll be able to give it back. So forward to it. But the court system is very important. I'll be appointing and have appointed a record number of judges. We'll be district court judges, we have court of appeals, we have supreme court of course.

And one of the reasons that it is so important to get Kevin this is just that. Because it could change very quickly. And we could actually have, you know, this will be hopefully everything goes very well with Judge Kavanaugh. He is central cast. You know ten years ago they said he will be a supreme court judge. The intellect is extraordinary. And the man is extraordinary. But they were saying this years ago. I heard it even before I ever thought I'd be doing this, that there was a man named Kavanaugh who is extraordinary. Those are the people we want on the supreme court. And we'll have him hopefully and we have Justice Gorsuch who is an outstanding man. Very proud of it.

BALDWIN: All right. We wanted to listen to the president there when we were just jumping in, he was joking that when he was listening to Barack Obama's speech, he was joking that he almost fell asleep. The theme there in a lot of his speech is about look what I've done in terms of unemployment rate and jobs numbers and I've saved America. This was all, yes, he talks a lot about the economy, but a lot was in reaction specifically to what president Obama had said earlier making fun of this administration and how they tout the economy. Here's what Obama said.


[14:30:00] BARAK OBAMA, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: So, when you hear how great the economy is doing right now, let's just remember when this recovery started. I'm glad it has continued. But when you hear about this economic miracle that has been going on, when the job numbers come out, monthly job numbers, and suddenly Republicans are saying it's a miracle. I have to kind of remind them, actually those job numbers are the same as they were in 2015 and 2016. Anyway, I digress.


BALDWIN: Context is always key, right? John and Morgan are with me. And here you have these two presidents, former president and President Trump out in full public view now it is official, Trump V. Obama.

AVLON: The campaign is on. 60 days out from the midterms. They are both putting their biggest quarterbacks on the field. Look, Trump can take justifiable credit for how the economy has done under his watch. But he can't say that he was inheriting a disaster of an economy. The country was not anywhere --