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Trump to Supporters: If I'm Impeached, It's Your Fault; White House Searching for 'NYT' Op-Ed Author. Aired 7-7:30a ET
Aired September 7, 2018 - 07:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS: I asked Jenkins after the game if he would continue to do what he did last night throughout this evening. He didn't give me a yes or no answer, he just said he was going to continue to do good work in the community.
[07:00:15] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: OK, Andy. I'm just wondering if that rain delay is a metaphor for the entire stormy season. You know, that we're looking at the storm cloud approaching. You know what I'm saying?
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: A fascinating thought.
CAMEROTA: Yes, thanks. Jeff Zucker just fed it to me.
Thank you, Andy.
And thanks to our international viewers for watching. For you, "CNN TALK" is next. For our U.S. viewers, NEW DAY continues right now.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The latest act of resistance is the op-ed published in the failing "New York Times."
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don't need to become obsessed with the search when the White House is burning.
REP. PAUL RYAN (D-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: If you're not interested in helping the president, you shouldn't vote for the president.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If senior administration officials think that the president is not able to do his job, they should invoke the 25th Amendment.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a flashing red light. We have never seen anything like this.
SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT: He has utterly failed to give us any assurance that he would defend the independence of the judiciary.
JUDGE BRETT KAVANAUGH, SUPREME COURT NOMINEE: I'm a judge. I apply the law.
SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R-TX), MAJORITY WHIP: Running for president is no excuse for violating the rules of the Senate.
SEN. CORY BOOKER (D), NEW JERSEY: The public has the right to know where he stands on these issues.
ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning and welcome to your NEW DAY.
They have a list, and they're talking about lie detectors. It has come to that. "The New York Times" reports that the White House has a list of 12 suspects who may be behind that blistering op-ed from an unnamed senior administration official that says there are folks inside the White House working to protect the country from the president.
Now Senator Rand Paul says that everyone should take polygraph tests, and "The Times" says that White House advisors have discussed that. One administration official after another -- look at this screen right there -- they're all lining up and saying, "It's not me. I didn't do it. I didn't write it." The president is said to be closely watching these denials. And as you look at that screen, is it possible -- is it possible that one of those people is not telling the truth?
CAMEROTA: So at a rally in Montana last night, the president continued to claim that the "New York Times" op-ed was treason, which it does not meet the definition of. He also tried to frighten his supporters about what could happen if Republicans do not win the midterms.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: You're going to have a country that's going to turn into a third-world country. Because if the opposite party becomes president, every time before it even starts, before you've even found out whether or not he or she is going to do a great job, they'll say, "We want to impeach him," and you'll impeach him. It's so ridiculous. But worry about that if it ever happens, that if it does happen, it's your fault, because you didn't go out to vote. OK?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: The president in Montana last night. Joining us now, CNN political analyst David Gregory; and CNN global affairs analyst Susan Glasser. She's a staff writer at "The New Yorker" who's written about a lot of what's going on.
Now Susan, not to obsess about the polygraph, but Senator Rand Paul suggested it out lout loud, and then "The New York Times" is reporting the White House is actually considering it. Advisors have discussed it.
One wonders what might happen to a lie detector if brought inside this Trump White House. If there's one hardy enough, with enough power, and force, and torque to do the job required? SUSAN GLASSER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, my guess is the good
professionals at the CIA and in our intelligence community and the FBI here used to wielding the polygraph machine might advise the president against using it on his own staff.
If you're already paranoid and ridden by conspiracy theories, it's not going to make you feel any better, that you don't know who you can trust.
It's also not going to make you feel any better to put them polygraph tests in front of your aides and have some of them fail. Who is Donald Trump going to hire to replace the team of people he has around him?
The turnover is already at historic, unprecedented, mind-blowing levels. I saw new numbers yesterday, Mark Kumar (ph), 61 percent of the senior officials in the White House have come and gone already in this White House.
So you know, Donald Trump doesn't have a lot of options left except to be alone and wonder who else he can trust.
CAMEROTA: David Gregory, you have pointed out that the president has good reason to feel paranoid. I mean, when -- between the Bob Woodward book and now this op-ed. Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean people aren't talking about you, you know.
DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Or out to get you.
CAMEROTA: Yes, right. And so what's interesting is that we had John Dean on yesterday. He'll be on again today, of the Nixon White House. And he talked about how this is becoming Nixonian. I mean, it's real deja vu for him that he thought he would never see again.
GREGORY: And also, what's Nixonian is -- is amplifying the attacks on the press to create this strawman. You know, that the press, which is largely hostile to Trump, as he is largely hostile to the press, is after him.
The truth is there is no president who would not endure withering scrutiny under these circumstances. When you have a senior official who's writing anonymously in "The New York Times" about how they're trying to protect the country and lead a resistance against the president, when you have a book like Woodward's where people are grabbing papers off the desk to keep the president from signing them, where they're trying to even out.
You know, there's always power centers in any White House, in an effort to kind of, you know, even out the process. The problem here is that you have the president who's driving everything and who's widely seen as so impulsive that people have to restrain him.
So I think the president is right to be angry about this. But yet again, what we have is all of the good work by the administration, all the positive signs for the direction of the country are completely overwhelmed by the president's paranoia. And the dysfunction within the White House, which is almost unfair to
the word "dysfunction" at this level of how they're operating. And there's nobody who wouldn't question whether they know what they're doing there, given these set of circumstances. So he'll obsess about impeachment and about finding the mole, and again, I understand the anger. That part is justified, but they're -- they're really going in all different directions that aren't really productive.
BERMAN: And I will only note, if we're going to draw the Nixon parallels here and on the screen before we had that list of people who denied being the author of this, that growing list.
CAMEROTA: I know where you're going with this.
BERMAN: Mark Feldt denied that he was Deep Throat. I mean --
CAMEROTA: For years.
BERMAN: You would think that, if you did write that, and someone asked you if you write it, you would say no.
BERMAN: It might happen. Susan, you have written about this overnight in "The New Yorker," and you say what this illustrates to you is that the crisis in so far as you think it exists inside this White House is a crisis that began on January 20, 2017.
GLASSER: Donald Trump is the crisis. And so, you know, there are many, many manifestations of it. Even this op-ed, for example, we're talking about Mark Feldt, who was Bob Woodward's source. He was Deep Throat.
The Woodward book suggested it's not just one anonymous official that Donald Trump has a problem with. It is a large number of people across him administration who cooperated with Bob Woodward, who has been the source for many of these stories.
The stories have started, basically, from the beginning of the administration. Because they fundamentally are portraying the same reality there. There's more reporting. There's more authentication that Woodward offers as to the book.
I've read the whole thing, not just the excerpts. And to me, it's the story not just of Donald Trump. We already knew that he has a problem with the truth. We already knew that he is a callous person who insults his advisors, who is very difficult.
We already knew those things. What we are starting to learn is what are the people surrounding him going to do about it and what have they been doing about it?
And so it's not just a problem of one op-ed, first of all. Yesterday, you had, I think, John Kerry, the former secretary of state, saying this is -- this is the constitutional crisis. At various moments in the legal investigation you've had people say, "If he fires Mueller, this will be -- this is the crisis."
In my view, there are incidents that suggest that we are in a crisis, and that we have been in one since January 20th, because we have a large number of people surrounding the president himself or interacting with him or in the government of the United States who believed that President is not really capable of carrying out the office, or that he is not prepared or that he's deemed reckless. That's just something unprecedented, and it never happened with Nixon, by the way.
GREGORY: Right. But we just have to put on the table here a couple of things. First of all, it is incredibly -- it's an incredible act of cowardice that somebody would do this and not actually resign. And if you want to really have your effect, you know, you by doing this , all you've done is feed all the dark instincts and arguments of the president by doing this, especially in "The New York Times."
CAMEROTA: But David, just one thing. I mean, their argument is that they are staying to try to keep the country from the president's impulsivity. I mean, why do you dismiss that they think that they're doing some good for the country?
GREGORY: Well, because again, first of all, the idea that they alone, to use Donald Trump's word --
CAMEROTA: Well, not exactly. They say that the team of them. They're part of the resistance. A group of them.
GREGORY: Maybe there is, and maybe there isn't. I mean, we've got a much fuller accounting of that, out of the -- out of the Woodward book in terms of the scenes than what we learned from this op-ed.
But the point is, I think the president is absolutely fair. It's actually fair to say, you know, if you don't want to be here. If you're part of the resistance than resign, because one of the pieces of this is, for this people who don't like the president, there is a process. Instead of whispering about the 25th Amendment, if you think he's unfit, than it's the cabinet's responsibility to exercise that.
Voters exercise that by going to the polls and voting Republicans, and then ultimately, Donald Trump, if it comes to that in 2020, out of office.
So the crisis is in part -- I agree with Susan in the sense it's Donald Trump, because he invites so much of this, because he's completely an open book.
[07:10:05] And I do think the question for "The Times" in all this, I presume, because I know the people over there, especially James Bennett, who's the op-ed editor, for whom I have great respect, you know, I presume this must be a senior person, or else they wouldn't want to take the heat, if it's ultimately -- we'll find out who it is.
If it's somebody who's more junior. That said, I'm still very curious about the decision making about why they allowed this move forward anonymously, knowing the backlash that would come. BERMAN: And Susan, you used the word crisis, and I can hear from inside the West Wing, metaphorically, because I can't actually hear. Just to be clear, they're going to give me the lie detector. I'm going to have --
CAMEROTA: Impossible now.
BERMAN: -- anything's possible. But I could, hypothetically, I'm saying crisis. Crisis. We're going to get you jobs numbers one hour and twenty minutes from now. And I bet these jobs numbers are quite good that come out.
So if this is a crisis, bring on more of it, I can hear the president's supporters say.
GLASSER: Well, I'm not sure how much more of a crisis the people working in the White House in the administration can take. It always seemed to me as an observer and talking with people in the government, as if it was an administration on the verge of a nervous breakdown. It seemed in many ways, unsustainable from the very beginning.
And yet, of course, it has kept going on, even with this enormous turnover, even with the internal fighting, even with the sense that the president is very isolated, even from within his own.
He didn't come to office with a cadre of people who could help him, really, who were trusted by him, and yet, also experienced enough and competent to do the job.
The Woodward book is really an amazing portrait of, in a variety of areas, on foreign policy, on economic policy, national security, where the president is both this unique combination of toxically ignorant, convinced of what he wants to do at any given moment, and yet impulsive, nonstrategic, and unwilling to be hampered and bound in by his own decisions or even by his decisions on those people he's hired to advise him. And so that makes him, essentially, impossible to work for, according to the account of these people.
And again I'm struck by the fact that these are the people he hired. These are the people who agreed to go work in the Trump White House when, of course, many others did not or were blocked from doing so because they had opposed Donald Trump in the election.
And you know, again, I feel like that is essentially a crisis, and that's what makes this unique. There's in-fighting in every administration.
GLASSER: By the way, this is the eighth president, Donald Trump, who's been subjected to the Bob Woodward treatment. So they shouldn't be surprised by it. And I find it amazing when Sarah Sanders said the other day, "Well, I haven't really read many Woodward books." And, you know, that's the trademark of these folks. They're not prepared. They should have been prepared for what was going to come in a Woodward book. These aren't sources from outside the administration. These are the people from inside the building. They are calling us. They are telling us what happened.
CAMEROTA: The call's coming from inside.
So David Gregory, at the end of this whirlwind week, how does the president move on, given this setting that he's now in to do the actual business of the country?
GREGORY: You know, I feel like if I've learned anything from now watching and chronicling this presidency so far is is that he absolutely will not move on. He wants to live in this muck. He wants to live in this drama. Which is incredibly self-sabotaging, because you know, there is good news about the economy. We are living in peace and prosperity. There's a lot of things to worry about, of course, but that's all true.
And what all of this -- this dysfunction speaks to is what would happen in a real crisis, a financial meltdown, an attack, God forbid, against the country. That's when these kinds of teams get stressed in a way that have life and death consequences. We should be afraid about that.
What the president wants to do is live in the specter of impeachment. You know, Democrats are actually afraid of impeachment in many ways, and they should be, because I think that could be -- it could really backfire on them, unless there's real grounds. And we just don't know, because we haven't seen the results of the investigation.
He wants to live in this drama. He wants to spend his days railing against "The New York Times," railing against Democrats to gin up his base. I think that's his M.O.
CAMEROTA: Susan, David, thank you both very much.
OK. So what does a witch hunt look like inside the White House? What life in the West Wing looks like.
BERMAN: It apparently looks like show motion. Apparently, all of our which, based on our tease video here, is slow motion.
CAMEROTA: And yes -- and fancy graphics that tilt. You're right.
So what happens when a president does not trust those around him? We have some people who know, next.
[07:18:49] CAMEROTA: "The New York Times" is reporting the White House has a list of 12 suspects who could be the author behind that explosive op-ed. The vice president and dozens of cabinet members and high-level aides rushed to issue denials yesterday. So how will this witch hunt for a mole end?
Joining us now are David Frum, a former speech writer for President George W. Bush, and he's a senior editor at "The Atlantic." And Jim Messina, former campaign manager for President Obama and deputy chief of staff. JIM MESSINA, FORMER DEPUTY CHIEF OF STAFF FOR OBAMA: Yes, ma'am.
CAMEROTA: We -- I think we undersold that. Great to have you both.
Jim, this happens in White Houses from time to time. In fact, in the Obama White House, there was something not exactly to this level, but there was a mole working in the national security space that started a kind of snarky Twitter account --
CAMEROTA: -- and had to be removed or outted or found.
CAMEROTA: So what happens when you discover that there is someone like this in your midst?
MESSINA: There isn't a White House who doesn't go through this. And there isn't a White House in the last eight presidents who hasn't gone through a Woodward book, right? And everyone comes into your office when I was deputy chief of staff for operations, and Rahm Emanuel running in my office and saying, "You've got to figure out who's doing this. We've got to run an investigation."
[07:20:08] And I also remember President Obama coming in and saying, "Jim, let's not worry about other people. Let's just go do our jobs."
And this is what someone in the West Wing has to be saying today. "We're talking about lie detectors. Why don't we just run the country and not worry about some of this stuff?"
CAMEROTA: But did you try to out them all?
MESSINA: I mean, you look around, you ask questions. You say to folks, ,"Hey, let's all be on the same team here," but you don't do things that they're talking about doing. And you don't --
CAMEROTA: You didn't deploy lie detectors?
CAMEROTA: But somehow you figured out who the mole was and fired him.
MESSINA: It was an accident, actually, how they figured it out. Yes, you have to be really dumb to get caught, is what I figured out after two years in the White House. You have to really be stupid. And my guess is Anonymous is not stupid.
CAMEROTA: What do you think, David Frum? What do you think is going to happen, now that we know that the president is feeling so put upon by all of this and Rand Paul has suggested lie detectors?
DAVID FRUM, FORMER GEORGE W. BUSH SPEECHWRITER: Look, what's going to happen is what has continued to happen. White Houses do not, and administrations, because we don't know the author of this piece is in the White House, and probably is not. White Houses do not protect their security punitively. They protect their security by inspiration. People believe in the president; people believe in each other. Presidents are politicians, and you don't rise in politics unless you have some ability to make people work as teams.
And what has been true about this White House is, because of this president's utter lack of leadership abilities, the place is a snake pit. Remember the story about Omarosa's recordings. It's pretty easy --
recording devices are now pretty small and difficult to check. But the reason no one checks "Are you recording?" is because they trust each other. They don't check who's got a pen -- pen recording device. They're on the honor system. Don't bring it in. Don't bring a recording device into a secure facility. Check your cell phones. There's a sign to remind you in case you regret. But everybody, it's assumed, will do it.
I -- remember the story about one White House staffer saying hurtful things about the imminent death of Senator John McCain? That was leaked by another staffer, who incidentally, did a lot of damage to the administration; was actually just trying to settle some private vendetta. This place is a snake pit, and it's a snake pit because the president raises snakes.
CAMEROTA: And -- but David, does that mean that the author of this op-ed will soon be outed? And is that important, to know the identity, or is it dangerous?
FRUM: I don't imagine the -- leaks are hard to track, and the author may well have taken some precautions. We may also be dealing with a number of false clues. We're all assuming the author is male because of a pronoun used by "The New York Times." That may not be true.
We may all be assuming that the author remains currently employed in the administration. The author may have been employed at the time the author wrote the piece and may not be employed now. There may be a number -- the author may be more than one person. So there is some indirection here.
It's hard to track down leaks. I think the identity of the author is less important than what the author tells us, which is this administration is in revolt against itself. That important people, probably most of the important people in the administration know its policies are disastrous.
CAMEROTA: Hey, Jim, you obviously have been in the White House. You know how this whole thing works. If you hadn't worked for a president like President Obama, who you say said, "Let's just do our jobs and not worry about this," but someone who is more prone to paranoia, can that president deploy the assets of the NSA, or the CIA, to try to suss out who this is?
MESSINA: In a worst case they absolutely could. And you see, like, senior members of Rand Paul saying, "Let's do lie detectors. Let's go spend all this time on a witch hunt." They absolutely can. And I agree with David. Usually, in a normal White House, people
wouldn't do this to each other, because they're all on the same team. But when you have two-thirds of the president's aides have already quit, plus they'll be getting new, more incompetent people to take these jobs after these guys go, I mean, it's -- it's just getting to the point of insanity.
CAMEROTA: But he wants to know who it is. And it's the president's -- I think it's the president's prerogative to know if there's somebody operating against him within his sort of inner sanctum. And as you say, President Obama said to you, "Let's just do our job." But Rahm Emanuel came into your office and wanted you to figure out who it is. And didn't you have to sift through e-mails or things like that?
MESSINA: I did. I did, and again, you can't figure it out.
But Alisyn, the bigger problem is, if you read the Woodward book, everyone is kind of out to stop this guy, right? An internal White House who spends a lot of their time trying to slow down the president from his worst base instincts. And it's not just one person, Anonymous. It is a whole bunch of people saying the same thing.
Ass David Gregory said this a while earlier, everyone is saying the same thing, which is you have a White House that is broken because the leadership at the top is broken.
CAMEROTA: So then why, David, are you suggesting in your article in "The Atlantic" that the person should resign? I mean, if they are keeping the train from derailing, why would you want that person to resign?
FRUM: Because they're not keeping the trains from derailing. We are plunging into a global trade war.
[06:25:03] In the last segment, David Gregory said the economy's humming along. Well, the Obama expansion has continued since 2010, but it is coming to an end. We can see that.
Just today, there's new data about the rapid decline in global trade volume, something that happens on the eve of recessions. We had declines of global trade volumes in 2000 and in 2008. The Trump trade war is biting; the tariffs are hurting.
And the people who are congratulating themselves in this article, about their success, are missing the point that, actually, we are having -- we are plunging into a global trade war that is going to cause global economic trouble. The president has been talking about withdrawing troops from the Korean Peninsula, something that could spark a global war.
So they have not been as successful as they flatter themselves. Now maybe there are even worse things that the president wanted to do, but the record of what this administration and this White House has done is so bad that I would really restrain the back patting. If you feel, as this author did, and does, and correctly feels, then
the right thing to do is not just resign and go quietly but go publicly. Go in a group, make your resignations count. Warn the country about the risks of protectionism, about the risks of this administration's appeasement of Russia and North Korea.
MESSINA: Hey, Alisyn, I don't agree with that. I think if Mark Feldt, who was Deep Throat, had resigned after the first story, we wouldn't have gotten a bunch of information. There wouldn't have been the whole Watergate deal. There are patriots inside this administration who are trying to just do their job especially in the national security realm, and help stop this president from his worst instincts. And I think --
CAMEROTA: You think they should stay?
MESSINA: I do.
CAMEROTA: You know, here is what the article says, David. Because you read it as self-congratulatory. Others read it as just sort of a warning siren, right?
So he says -- or he or she, the author, says, "Meetings with the president veer off-topic and off of the rails. He engages in repetitive rants, and his impulsiveness results in half-baked, ill- informed and occasionally reckless decisions that have to be walked back. The erratic behavior would be more concerning if it wasn't for unsung heroes in and around the White House."
I mean, then he goes on to make the point that in foreign policy, the president says he wants to do one thing with Russia. The president rails against trying to reign in Russia. And then the people around him who are trying to do the right thing impose sanctions.
FRUM: Congress imposed sanctions, and this White House tried to resist -- to resist them. I am glad with Jim Messina. We are glad that the people who are on the job who are relatively normal, who are patriotic, were not compromised by Russia, stay.
But it is what I find dismaying is that when people go, like Gary Cohn, the president's former chief economic advisor, who literally snatched off the president's desk a paper that would have voided the U.S.-South Korea trade agreement. The president then forgot about it.
The idea that you would leave the White House, and then fulminate about this to Bob Woodward months after the fact, but not alert the world that, first, we're on the verge of economically betraying such an important ally; and secondly, the president is so addled that if a piece of paper disappears from his desk, he forgets that it was ever there, that kind of behavior is a disservice.
Resignation is an art. You can go quietly if you support the administration. But if you're alarmed, make your resignation count.
CAMEROTA: OK. David Frum, Jim Messina, thank you both very much for your perspective on all of this. John. FRUM: Thank you.
BERMAN: You want to hear something that will make you even more unsettled? Overnight Russia issued a warning to the U.S. military. What was it? What impact will it have? How will the U.S. respond? That's next.