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Description of Behavior of President Trump by Anonymous Author of "New York Times" Op-Ed Examined; Rand Paul Suggests Using Lie Detector Tests To Find Op-ed Writer; Trump Wants Justice Department To Unmask Op-Ed Writer. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired September 7, 2018 - 8:00   ET

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


[08:00:00] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Rick, I just want to start with you because I want to get your take on this. Should everybody who is suspected in and around the White House be given a lie detector test?

RICK SANTORUM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No. I think the hunt for this I think just horrible person who would do something like this, horrible on a lot of levels, because if you really do care about protecting the country, you don't put a letter out there that you know will cause more turmoil within the administration. You don't do something that will further undermine those who you say are actually trying to work together to keep this country on the rails. I think you undermine your case.

So even given this is a good guy or gal who is trying to do something good, he didn't help the case by publishing this letter. And there's nothing new in this letter. This letter is simply a rehash of several books, including the Woodward book. So set that aside. The president shouldn't be and the White House shouldn't be fixated on who this is. They should get about their business and just try to do a better job.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: But it appears he is fixated on it, to an extent, Van, and we heard it last night at this event in Montana. It was a 90-minute speech. You heard him go back again and again to the fact he thinks the "New York Times" is out to get him, the deep state is out to get him, and this is about impeaching him.

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think if 10 percent of what you see in the Bob Woodward book is true, if 10 percent of what this letter to the "New York Times" says is true, we are in an unprecedented national emergency where the president of the United States is incompetent and erratic, and Congress should take that very seriously. The fact that we're mainly in some who done it adventure to figure out who the person is as opposed to taking seriously the claims, I think that's a very, very bad sign.

BERMAN: What does that mean, take it seriously?

JONES: Take it seriously -- listen, right now we're having congressional hearings to rush through the only person on the Federalist list who is pretty much guaranteed to never let President Trump be criminally prosecuted. That's what we're rushing. We're rushing to get somebody on the Supreme Court who that's his main qualification.

Congress should be having hearings right now to say if 10 percent -- doesn't have to be true. If half of it is true, 10 percent is true, we need to have hearings. We need to bring people from the White House to congress, ask them questions and figure out what is going on. That's not happening.

And so part of the dysfunction that we have right now, part of the breakdown we have right now is that Congress is not doing its job of oversight, and so instead we're worrying about what the "New York Times" editorial policy is.

I'll also say another thing. About the person, I agree with Senator Santorum. I don't know why this person decided to partially out themselves. I think it does undermine the case. At the same time, if that person is in there and they are the person who every day keeps the president's hands off the nuclear codes, if he or she were then to out herself, it wouldn't just be him or her. Her whole network -- everybody she's e-mailed, everybody she's texted, all those people would probably go out, too. So I don't understand why she would partially out herself or why he would partially out himself, but what I would say is there is a reasonable expectation that if the person revealed him or herself their whole network would be gone, and that would be a bad thing.

CAMEROTA: What about that, Rick, that this suggests a dire situation?

SANTORUM: Well, first off on the comment that we're rushing through the Kavanaugh nomination, this is -- we're not rushing through anything. This nomination has had actually more vetting than any nomination --

CAMEROTA: Hold on, Rick. You know Democrats want hundreds of thousands more pages from the White House, which is the equivalent of what other candidates got.

SANTORUM: No, it's not. Actually, Alisyn, it's not. They're requesting things that in the past have been agreed not to be requested because they were confidential presidential documents, and they have nothing to do with the thoughts and --

BERMAN: Just on that point, I don't want go down too far this rabbit hole, but they have everything to do with his thinking as a judge as was released yesterday when we found out what he had written about Roe versus Wade. When we found out what he had written about --

SANTORUM: Whoa, whoa.

BERMAN: You can argue about whether or not it's privilege. You can't argue it doesn't tell us how he thinks.

SANTORUM: What he wrote on Roe versus Wade was simply an explanation of the facts, which is there are people who have a different point of view.

BERMAN: What he thinks about the facts. It is what he thinks about the facts.

SANTORUM: That's not in that e-mail.

BERMAN: I'm not saying it's a good or bad thing, I'm not saying it's a good or bad thing. I'm not saying it's a good or bad thing, senator, but we know more about how he thinks about important judicial --

SANTORUM: The man has 300 opinions. The man has written law reviews. There's so much information about what this man thinks, it's ridiculous. They're trying to find some gotcha, they're trying to find something, did you speak a law firm or did you speak to this lawyer. They're trying to find things that help recuse him from certain cases in the future, but there's nothing there.

[08:05:12] JONES: Other nominees have been willing to recuse themselves when it looked like it looked like a potential conflict of interest. The problem that Democrats have, I think the problem that just fair-minded people have is that you have a president nominating a justice that may well be sitting in judgment of that president.

SANTORUM: And it's happened before. And every time it's happened before, Van, the justice actually turned on the president. So that's an interesting take.

JONES: Here's the deal, every time it's happened before does not apply to the Trump era at all. We are upside down every day because we have --

SANTORUM: It happened in the Nixon era, so that was pretty upside down back then.

JONES: We have precedent being broken and norms being stretched every single day, and I think Judge Kavanaugh would have been wise to say listen, if something comes before me about the person who is appointing me to this position, just for the legitimacy of the process, I will recuse myself. The Democrats would then fall over backwards in their chairs and we would be done. But the fact that he won't even say what anybody would obviously say -- I'm appointing somebody who's under investigation. If the present investigation right now brings this person in front of me, I should not be involved. He won't say that. That's why you have --

SANTORUM: As you know, Van, the president isn't a target of the investigation, that's been clear that he is not a target of the investigation.

JONES: But if he becomes one --

SANTORUM: And so for him to recuse himself for something that may or may not happen in the future is ridiculous.

CAMEROTA: But why, Rick? Why not just say who knows what is going to happen, but if this scenario plays out, I will recuse myself?

SANTORUM: Because he's a judge who has a long history of being impartial and deciding things based on the law, and that's what he would do as a Supreme Court justice, whether it's this president or any future president.

JONES: Other people in his position were happy to say I will recuse myself in this situation. He won't.

SANTORUM: He was not involved with the administration in any of these issues, and he shouldn't recuse himself as a result just because he happened to be nominated by this president. If you do that, then all the judges nominated by this president have to recuse themselves. That's ridiculous.

BERMAN: Well, if it has to do with the future job security of the president, it might be a slightly different issue than other cases presented. But Senator, can I get your answer to what Van Jones brought up before? This idea that if there is a group of people working inside the White House concerned about the emotional, mental leadership capacity of the president, should Congress get involved in any way? Is it the responsibility of Congress to ask a question about this?

SANTORUM: Look, I think a lot of members of Congress who are concerned about the actions of the president and I think a lot of members of Congress work closely with the administration to try to keep things sailing in the right direction. Look, everyone understands this president has weaknesses. He has failings and -- as every president does.

CAMEROTA: Yes, but this is different.

SANTORUM: You may say it's different, it may be different in degree, but I think every president has problems that his staff has to compensate for.

CAMEROTA: I'm only telling you what I read -- meetings with him veer off topic and off the rails, he engages in his repetitiveness 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 weren't for unsung heroes in and around the White House. We have been hearing how they have been so concerned about things he might sign without knowing the consequences, without knowing the history, that they've purloined letters off of his desk, and things like that. But here's my question. Doesn't any of that worry you?

SANTORUM: Of course, it worries me that that may happen on occasion. I think pulling out isolated incidents and saying this is the way it is every day. I talk to people in the White House, that's not the way it is every day. Everybody has their bad days, everybody has issues at certain times, and everybody has their weaknesses. But I think what you've seen is and what the White House is saying I think is true, look at the result. The results have actually been fairly solid, fairly stable on a variety of fronts.

JONES: Listen, part of the problem that we have is you're starting to see a breakdown of so many norms. Again, you're a broken record when you say -- if the idea that Barack Obama was erratically running around the White House doing weird staff that his staff has to have a mini coup every day to keep him from blowing up the world, nobody on the Republican side would be, hey, but he did a good job with bailing out Detroit so it's good. That's not how fair-minded people think about this stuff.

I think two things can be true. I think the economy was beginning to heal under Obama, that's continued under Trump, and he gets credit for that. But the way he's conducting himself -- if this stuff is true, and I don't know, but if 10 percent of the stuff is true, a normal fair-minded person being a senator or Congress would say let's have some hearings here. We had a gazillion hearings on Benghazi.

[08:10:10] SANTORUM: For what purpose? For what purpose, Van?

JONES: Great question, senator, to figure out what happened there. Don't we want to figure out what's happening inside the Oval Office if in fact we have an erratic president who is making bad decisions and having mini coups every day? So the idea that Congress should just sit here and do nothing doesn't make sense to most people.

BERMAN: So how does that work, though? A Senate committee or House committee that calls in White House staff members to testify and ask them questions?

JONES: Absolutely. What's going on, is this true, are these things happening? This is the kind of thing that when you have checks and balances and oversight, you have the opportunity to have those kinds of inquiries. Listen, the people's house needs to understand the people's business. The idea that no Republican said I am concerned enough about this that I want to ask a single question on the record of a single White House staff is shocking.

SANTORUM: I would disagree with that. I just don't think it's the purview of the United States Congress to go in and oversee the management style of the president of the United States.

BERMAN: Isn't there an oversight committee?

SANTORUM: I don't think that's their job.

BERMAN: What is the oversight committee?

SANTORUM: Well, the oversight, it's to look at policies and look at what's happening. If there are things that are going on --

BERMAN: And also the administration of those policies. Corruption. Oversight committees look into a ton of things.

SANTORUM: How a decision making process works is really I just don't think is within the Congress's purview to look at. You have to look at what decisions are made and why they were made, but the process by which the president functions I just don't think is part of the oversight of the Congress.

CAMEROTA: Rick, are you saying that you have decided the end justifies the means? You like the president's policies, and so however he gets there is, regardless of whether it's amoral, as the author says, regardless of whether it's dangerously impulsive, as the author says, regardless of all of the leaks in the Woodward book, you're OK with all that stuff because at the end of the day, you've basically like -- you like the policies?

SANTORUM: Well, I like the policies, and everyone says, and it's true, making policy in Washington is like making sausage. It's not a very pretty process. And so the idea that we're now going to have this new standard that the way policy is made is now going to come under scrutiny as to whether it's made in the right way. I'm sorry, I just don't buy that.

CAMEROTA: You know there's not just the process.

JONES: It's not just the policy making.

SANTORUM: If the president is doing something that is dangerous to the country, it's incumbent upon those in the executive branch to perform their function. It is not the role of the Congress to step in and govern these things. I'm for the Congress taking more power and control. I think the people's body has actually taken a step backwards, I think it's wrong. But I think this is a dangerous area to go into.

JONES: Senator, just to be clear. I'm not worried about just the policy making. I'm worried about the execution of policy. And that I think, we've never had to worry about that.

SANTORUM: Execution of policy is fine. I'm all for that. But that's not what's being talked about here. What's being talked about here is how the president formulates policy.

JONES: A little bit of both. Anyway, can I say one more thing? I got a chance to serve for about six months in the Obama White House, and what I will say is there have been many, many books written about the Obama White House, many, many books written by former Obama aides, including myself. None of them have described anything remotely like this. We had a very disciplined, very sober, almost boring process by which we moved things to the president's desk. And by the time something got to the president's desk, everybody at the appropriate level had had a chance to weigh in, and if there was not agreement, the disagreement was laid out next to the memo, and we had a decision making process that everybody understood. I cannot express to you how different even 10 percent of what you're hearing is from a normal, functioning White House.

BERMAN: Different is one way to put it. Van Jones, great to have you. Senator Rick Santorum, we always appreciate it.

SANTORUM: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: He was a star witness in the Watergate hearings. He'll be a star witness at today's Brett Kavanaugh hearings. Former Nixon White House counsel John Dean joins us next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:17:54] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump wants to know who wrote that resistance op-ed in the "New York Times." The "New York Times" reports that the White House has a list of about 12 potential suspects. So, listen to what Senator Rand Paul suggests they do to unmask the author.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: I think if you have a security clearance in the White House, I think it would be acceptable to use a lie detector test and ask people whether or not they're talking to the media against the policy of the White House.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: Some say not since the Nixon White House have we seen this level of paranoia. Joining us now is John Dean, the former Nixon White House counsel. He's a CNN contributor who is scheduled to testify at the Brett Kavanaugh hearing today. Mr. Dean, great to see you again.

JOHN DEAN, FORMER NIXON WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: Your worst fears have been confirmed. Yesterday when you were on "New Day" with us, you feared that you would make some sort of suggestion just in talking about history and how it went down in the Nixon White House that would then be applied and it seems as though Senator Rand Paul was listening when you said this yesterday morning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DEAN: When he thought there was a leak in the Department of State or his National Security Council would demand everybody take a lie detector test and if you want to work here, strap down and get on the box and test your truthfulness.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump by the way during executive time is taking note of this saying, oh, lie detectors. Let's get them in house. But seriously, what's --

DEAN: I hope I haven't suggested something.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: Well, Mr. Dean, a few hours later we heard Senator Rand Paul say. Did you have any -- could you imagine that this would actually become a suggestion and possibility?

DEAN: No, in fact Nixon wanted to -- I did dig out the tape where on July 24 of 1971 he is telling his chief of staff, his former White House counsel and a fellow by the name of Bud Krogh that they should wiretap -- excuse me, not wiretap, but put on polygraph tests on about 400, as many as several thousand people in the state department, in the justice department, in anybody who had access to information, they want to go digging. [08:20:14] But Bud Krogh actually tried to do it and I remember him coming to my office telling me about it. He says there are not enough machines to do all the polygraphing he wants done.

CAMEROTA: Well, it might be different this time because there are reportedly 12 suspects that the White House thinks they've narrowed it down to them according to the "New York Times." Here's the list of the people, the faces who have come out and made strong denials, either written or, you know, vocally denied it and we've been told the president is watching these very, very closely.

Now on the flip side, Mr. Dean, doesn't the president have the right to know who among them, who in their midst is sort of a -- you know, not on board with the message and working to somehow undermine the president?

DEAN: Well, first of all, I think polygraphs work. I found myself in the situation where it was my word against the acting director of the FBI. I took a polygraph test, passed with flying colors. We asked the acting director to take one, he resigned two days later.

CAMEROTA: So maybe that's the answer. Is that what you're suggesting?

DEAN: Well, I can't say nay don't work. From my own personal experience. They're also very painful to feel take, incidentally.

CAMEROTA: Is that right?

DEAN: They're physically painful to take.

CAMEROTA: Why is that?

DEAN: Well, they strap you in a chair, they have blood pressure cuffs on you, things on the tips of your finger and you sit in a little rigid chair and they test your response, your physical response to when you are lying and when you're telling the truth, they ask you deliberately to lie to test the machine.

CAMEROTA: Yes. But I mean so back to the point, does the president have a right to know? However he finds the answer?

DEAN: You know, he could ask his staff to come forward and I don't know if he's done that, say, who did this and whether they will or not there's another question. I just think it's heavy handed that these are the people he hired and leaders who are doing the right thing just naturally the staff is typically very zip lipped about what they are doing. They admire the leader and one of the things I was sure was going to happen is that he was going to have the very problems about leaks and anonymous writings that indeed he has.

CAMEROTA: By the way, sometimes people come forward and deny that it was them. I don't know if you've ever heard of this scenario but we find out decades later that, in fact, somebody was deep throat. But I want to move on because you're be testifying at the Brett Kavanaugh hearing today. What are you expecting? What do you expect to tell them?

DEAN: Well, the first question is I'm not sure when that's going to happen. When I heard Chairman Grassley say that they could go to Saturday and Sunday to finish this up. But that kind of gave me a few palpitations. I'm hoping they finish today. I'm on the last panel dealing with executive power. The two prior panels, one dealing with the issue of abortion, the other dealing with health care, those can be very contentious subjects so I don't know that they will be on time but I think late this afternoon probably I will get my shot to share with the committee what I can.

CAMEROTA: I mean of course they're very interested in whether or not Brett Kavanaugh believes that a sitting president can be subpoenaed and indicted or is subject to a different set of laws than the rest of us. And as you know he had this 2009 Minnesota law review article in which he seemed to suggest that indicting or investigating a sitting president does get in the way of presidential duties and that Congress might consider a law exempting a president while in office from criminal prosecution and investigation. What do you want them to know about that?

DEAN: Well, if the Congress adopted the judge's position then a sitting president could go out on 5th Avenue and shoot anybody and not be charged for murder as long as he was in office. I think this is -- I don't think this is a good recommendation, I don't think Congress is ever going to write such a statute, I don't think the constitution provides an inherent protection to a sitting president.

I disagree with the Office of Legal Council policy. I know why it was written. It was really written to deal with Spiro Agnew, Nixon's vice president and not to deal with Nixon so they sort of decided we'll go halfway and say a vice president can be indicted, a president can't and it's just a policy decision.

What I think the committee will get into with me will be what would have happened had U.S. v. Nixon where the president was forced to turn over his tapes by the Supreme Court been decided differently.

[08:25:12] CAMEROTA: Well, that will be fascinating to hear and to follow. John Dean, thank you very much for --

DEAN: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: -- your history and expertise.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Thanks, Alisyn. So, President Trump wants the author of this op-ed unmasked. Up next, a key Democrat in Congress who says that, in fact, this person should step forward.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If you look at this horrible thing that took place today, it's really -- is it subversion? Is it treason? It's a horrible thing. You know the good thing about that? Even liberals that hate me say that's terrible what they did. And it is really terrible.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: President Trump last night talking about the stunning "New York Times" op-ed from an unnamed senior administration official. The "Times" reports the White House has a list of about 12 suspects and has talked about lie detector tests. Joining me now is Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell of California.

Congressman, thank you very much for being with us.

REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D), CALIFORNIA: Good morning.

BERMAN: Leave the treason aside because it's not treason, doesn't meet any definition of treason, the president is flat out wrong about that and he knows it. However, when he says that even liberal members of Congress who don't like me, say that this --