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Interview with Tom Friedman on President Trump's Week of Reversals, and the State of the Republican Party. Aired on 8-9p ET

Aired August 21, 2019 - 20:00   ET


[20:00:08] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening.

When we left you last night, President Trump had just cancelled a trip to Denmark, a key NATO ally because the Danish prime minister would not sell him Greenland, calling the idea absurd, which made our very stable genius call her nasty and then cancel the official trip. So don't worry America, alienating allies is all part of the plan.

The Denmark diss capped today in which the president also accused Jewish Americans of being either ignorant or disloyal if they supported Democrats. It should be noted that throughout history, calling Jews disloyal has been a common anti-Semitic trope, it's been a pretext to exclude Jews, or take their business, or put them in ghettos or expel them or expel them from schools, or exterminate them.

Today, the president repeated the disloyalty claim although this time specifying that American Jews who voted for Democrats would somehow be disloyal to Jews and to the state of Israel. Nevertheless, the theme of disloyal American Jews from this president continues.

Ivanka Trump must be very proud of her dad tonight and probably just watch for an Ivanka leak in the coming days how she tried to talk her father, you know, to change the language. It's a classic Ivanka move.

The president also today executed a move rarely seen in modern day politics. He denied something he confirmed yesterday which was then denying what the White House was denying that very same day. It's like a flip-flop flip. It's a move rarely seen because it might make voters think the person doing it is either A, unstable, B, not a genius, or C, truly has no idea what they are saying at any given moment or D, all of the above.

So, here's what happened. Today, the president was asked for a second straight day about the White House looking at the possibility of cutting payroll taxes, which was first reported by "The Washington Post" Monday. Here's what he said today and unless you're Simone Biles, prepare yourself for your very first back flip.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm not looking at a tax cut now. We don't need it. We have a strong economy. Certainly, a payroll tax cut, President Obama did that to artificially jack up the economy.

President Obama had zero interest rates. I don't have zero interest. I have real interest rates and despite that, I have a strong economy.


COOPER: So he's not looking at a tax cut now, no payroll tax, no nothing. Now, it's possible that in that moment, he believes what he's saying that he understands the words and they reflect his believes, but then the question is did he believe what he said yesterday? Did he understand what he said then because it is the opposite of what he said today?


TRUMP: Payroll taxes, something that we think about and a lot of people would like to see that and that very much affects the workers of our country. So, we're talking about indexing and we're always looking at the capital gains tax, payroll tax.


COOPER: But today, not considering any tax cut. Yesterday afternoon, considering all kinds of tax cuts.

And that was news yesterday because it was the opposite of the White House had been saying when "The Washington Post" broke the story they were looking at a payroll tax cut.

So, this is just the latest example of how difficult it is to give credence to the words that come out of the president's mouth or the White House press office for that matter. At any given moment, those words can lose all their meaning because they suddenly say something that was the exact opposite of what they just said and this is someplace really we've never been before. I mean, look, presidents have shaded the truth before, they have lied on occasion. They've held back information, sometimes for good reasons, sometimes not. They have changed positions, sometimes drastically.

That's not what is happening now. These are just complete and total changes in positions from one day to the next, not based on any actual change of thought, it's just different words.

Our friend and colleague Maggie Haberman has observed that this president will say whatever he needs to say just to get through in ten-minute increments of time. And judging from the last 24 hours, it would be hard to say that she's wrong.

Whether it's about a little thing like the health and future of the U.S. economy or gun legislation after two mass shootings, 12 days ago, shortly after El Paso and Dayton, the president was going to stand up to the NRA and position that imposing tougher background checks for gun buyers would be the first step on a slippery slope. That's a common NRA talking point.

The president said he did not buy the slippery slope argument from the NRA.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: You know, it's a slippery slope. They think you approve one thing and that leads to a lot of bad things. I don't agree with that. I think we can do meaningful, very meaningful background checks. I want to see it happen.


COOPER: OK. So, that's August 9th. Now, a regular person, just anybody listening, would think, OK, he means those words, those are strong words. They seem powerful, one of his favorite words. It comes out of the president's mouth, it must have meaning. He doesn't believe slippery slope. He wants to do something meaningful.

Well, yesterday, he said, quote: We have very strong background checks right now, very, very strong, he emphasized, and also then reversed himself on that whole slippery slope thing.


[20:05:03] TRUMP: The people that -- a lot of the people that put me where I am are strong believers in the Second Amendment, and I am, also. We have to be very careful about that. You know, they call it the slippery slope and, all of a sudden, everything gets taken away. We're not going to let that happen.


COOPER: OK. So, yesterday he -- he does believe in the slippery slope all of a sudden and believes that we already have very, very strong background checks. So, that was yesterday. Here's what he said today.


REPORTER: What happened to the strong appetite for background checks?

TRUMP: Oh, I have an appetite for background checks. We're going to be doing background checks. We're working with Democrats. We're working with Republicans. We already have very strong background checks but we're going to be filling in some of the loopholes as we call them at the border.


COOPER: OK. Having said the word border, he then segued into talking about the Mexican border because, of course -- so in him talking about background checks there, was he talking about people coming over the border? Was he even talking about guns at all? We don't know. It's all just words.

There is no actual meaning often when the president talks and that's really alarming. I mean, remember when Republicans on Capitol Hill said they wouldn't pay attention to the president's tweets? Well, I guess the question is, should anyone pay attention to the president's words? We know from the Mueller report how often people around the president

in the White House simply ignore what he says. They hope he forgets or moves on. And maybe that's how they sleep at night but we can't ignore the president of the United States even if his words mean nothing.

He is signing laws and making decisions that impact all our lives, our futures. It may seem funny at times but it's not. This is pathetic.

Let's get perspective now from Tom Friedman, "New York Times" columnist, and author of the bestselling, "Thank You For Being Late: An Optimist Guide to Thriving in the Age of Acceleration".

I spoke to Tom earlier this evening.


COOPER: Tom, the degree to which this president, I don't even know if flip-flop is the right thing, because that implies you actually held the position and then changed your position, it just says stuff which is completely at odds and then reverses positions on things he's already reversed and just says stuff that comes into his head.

I mean, why should anyone believe really anything that first comes out of the president's mouth or for that matter, even the White House? Because everything they deny often then is revealed to be true or the president admits it shortly after.

TOM FRIEDMAN, "NEW YORK TIMES" COLUMNIST: Yes, we've just been through a really crazy few days or ten days. I mean, we heard the president by tweet impose $300 billion and -- tariffs of $300 billion of trade with China against all the advice of his advisors, then reverse it when they discover that gosh, I was going to hit American shoppers on Christmas.

We had him offered to buy or request to buy Greenland, why? I'm not really sure. And when the Danish prime minister, which has ultimate sovereignty over Greenland push back at the idea is absurd, he cancelled a trip to Denmark.

COOPER: And he calls her nasty, which is, you know, his famous, you know, favorite adjective for women.

FRIEDMAN: His go-to one. For men, it's weak.

Today, he spent the day talking about Barack Obama who hasn't been president for three years. He suggested American Jews who really don't want to see Israel become a binational state because it absorbs the West Bank, were being disloyal to Israel, evoking some really ugly anti-Semitic tropes. This is aberrant behavior.

If this man was the CEO of any Fortune 500 company, he would have been removed a long time ago.

COOPER: I mean, that is really -- that is really true. I mean, had -- if he was running a company, he would be -- I mean, the board would meet. Shareholders would be revolting and they would be -- this person would be out.

I mean, there comes a time when it's just, it's not even funny. I mean, you know, there are times -- it's easy to kind of dismiss and suggest, oh, it's crazy. It's disturbing. This is the president of the United States.

FRIEDMAN: Yes, for the first time, Anderson, I had the thought today that Donald Trump may lose not because more people turn out to be Democrats and Republicans. He may lose because the country is just exhausted of this non-sense.

And I find myself really exhausted of it just as a citizen, not as a columnist, a news person. You can't find a quiet comfortable moment with this guy. You're being constantly assaulted, whether it's around your identity, you know, in my case as an American Jew. Or around your 401(k), you talk to people on Wall Street, they are having a really time -- a really difficult time investing because with one tweet, everything, the whole direction of the market can go 180 degrees opposite.

And so, I think people are getting exhausted of this. It's not funny. He's playing around here with big -- with China. Suddenly, we're going to tariff $300 billion more goods and then we're not going to do it. We're going to do something with Huawei, and then we're not going to do it.

There is one thing you know about every one of these decisions, I am absolutely convinced, Anderson, that was that there was not a meeting of Commerce, the State Department, the Pentagon, the NSC, let's think this through, let's plan this out, let's stress test it.

This came on the impulse and tweets of the president of the United States. And that's not a way to run a great country.

COOPER: Also, you know, you talk about him playing with big things. He's also playing with very dark and deep and dangerous things internally in the United States.

I mean, you know, obviously, you know, racist tropes, anti-Semitic tropes, you know, dog whistles, you mentioned the thing he said about American Jews. You know, yesterday, it was -- they are either ignorant or disloyal. He didn't say to whom. Could have been the country, could have been -- and again, you know, that raises all sorts of antis-Semitic tropes.

And then I just want to play what he said today essentially doubling down on it or maybe trying to fill in, you know, who they would be disloyal to. Let's listen.


TRUMP: In my opinion, you vote for a Democrat, you're being very disloyal to Jewish people and you're being very disloyal to Israel. And only weak people would say anything other than that.

(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: OK. So, now, it's disloyal to Jews and to the state of Israel. For him, the state of Israel is simply where Bibi Netanyahu leads. I mean, he makes -- I mean, Israel is a complex place with people with lots of different ideas and political ideas and religious ideas, and for him, it's just all about Bibi Netanyahu.

FRIEDMAN: Well, you know, we're in a place on Israel now, Anderson, we've never been before. We have had American administrations since I've been in Washington that have been more pro-Israel or less pro- Israel. We have never had an American administration that's been pro- settler. That's what we have.

We have an American ambassador in Israel, David Friedman, Trump's former bankruptcy lawyer, wonderful preparation for that job, who basically is pro-settler who is basically winked at annexation of the West Bank for Israel. We've never had that before.

So, what's missing? Why is this important? Why should the average citizen care? Because the great role America has played in the Middle East all these years has been to be the reality principle, to draw red lines for Israelis or for Arabs, because, frankly, all of these governments are combinations of extremists and more rational people.

And what every Israeli prime minister always needed in the past or Arab leader, was an American president out there, so they could say to their crazies, when their crazies bring up something crazy in their cabinet, like annexing the West Bank or murdering a Saudi journalist named Jamal Khashoggi, that when someone brings them, that a leader says, hey, I want to do that crazy think you're suggesting, but the American president broke my arm. I can't do that. They drew a red line. We're not playing that role.

COOPER: You wrote actually in your column last week, this was before the president made these comments about disloyalty. You said, if you're an American Jew and you're planning on voting for Donald Trump because you think he's pro-Israel, you're a damn fool.

Can you explain what you mean there?


COOPER: Because, I mean, you also then wrote a column about how basically there is no peace plan, you know, Jared Kushner, much vaunted, he's the one who's going to be doing all this, we've seen nothing of it and none of the other players are truly coming up with anything, either.

FRIEDMAN: Look, if you're an American Jew of my generation, what is it you want to see? You want to see an Israel that is Jewish, that has a Jewish majority and is Democratic and is located in its historic homeland.

The fact is, though, you can only get two out of three of those. Israel can be Jewish and democratic, but it can't be in the West Bank. It can't be in its full biblical, historic homeland. It can be democratic and in the West Bank, but then it won't be Jewish because they will be an Arab majority.

So, you have to choose. And what I've been trying to say is to be pro-Israel today is not to be slavishly supportive of the Netanyahu government, which is today the most right-wing government Israel's ever had, which is basically, tacitly, by design or default annexing the West Bank, creating a situation where Israel will have a very significant Arab minority which will either have to allow to vote that will threaten its Jewish character, or not allowed to vote that will take it down the road of South Africa and apartheid.

And those of us who actually love and care about Israel's future as a Jewish democracy and believe that Palestinians are entitled if they can get their act together to a state of their own, as well, that to me is the pro-Israel position. I didn't sign up to support a binational state that will have to suppress a minority and be a pariah on the world stage. Is that pro-Israel? Because that's where we're going.

Trump is a blood sucker on this issue, Anderson, because he is actually out to exploit this issue, to raise money from Sheldon Adelson, and to win Jewish votes in Florida by presenting himself as the ultimate defender of Israel and Democrats because they actually are worried about Israel's Jewish democratic character, Democrats as being enemies of Israel.

This is all about 2020 election. He hasn't thought this through at all. This man has no idea of what it means to be pro-Israel if you want an Israel that is Jewish and democratic, which is what founders wanted, not an Israel that is a binational state and suppressing a minority of Arabs that may one day be a majority. That to me is not pro-Israel. That's a fraud.

COOPER: There was something else that the president said today, basically a threat and hasn't gotten much attention, but he basically threatened or he did threaten to release thousands of ISIS fighters into Europe, into France, into Germany, which is where he says they came from, basically as punishment to them for not doing what he thinks they should be doing in terms of doing more for NATO, and paying attention in Afghanistan.

Do you think he also basically claimed credit for personally destroying the caliphate? He said he's the one who ended it. I'm not sure troops in the field see it that way.

Do you think the president realizes or -- I mean, well, I know he doesn't think before he is saying it but do you think he cares the implications of what he is saying? It's like when he talked about wiping Afghanistan off the map, that's -- he can easily do that. Does anyone care about this stuff?


COOPER: We're going to have Tom Friedman's answer on that when we come back.

Later, a Parkland survivor on the president and the plan he has for reducing gun violence and saving lives.


[20:21:38] COOPER: We're talking tonight about the president's meaningless words and his behavior and the impact it has around the world with "New York Times" columnist Tom Friedman. Our conversation continued what the president said about ISIS and America's allies.


COOPER: There was something else that the president said today basically a threat and adding on as much attention, but he basically threaten or he did threaten to release thousands of ISIS fighters into Europe, into France, into Germany, which is where he says they came from, basically as punishment to them for not doing what he thinks they should be doing in terms of doing more in terms for NATO, and paying attention in Afghanistan.

Do you think he claimed credit for personally destroying the caliphate? He said he's the one who ended it. I'm not sure the troops in the field see it that way. But do you think the president realizes or -- I mean, I know he doesn't think before he says it but do you think he cares, the implications of what he is saying?

It's like when he talked about wiping Afghanistan off the map. That's -- you know, he could easily do that. Does anyone in the White House care about this stuff, about --

FRIEDMAN: Look, the world we live in today, Anderson, is a world that was created by American power and those should be updated and retooled as we go along. But the world is stable today, OK? Because it's built on this alliance of what I call the two United States -- the United States of America and united states of Europe, which is the European Union. It's other great center, free market and free people.

And the fact is we're the two pillars holding up the world. The idea that we will have an American president who thinks it's in our interest to break up the European Union so he can somehow strike better trade deals with them is flat-out nuts. The European Union is the other great center of free markets and free people and Trump treats it like it's some Benetton store in a Trump Tower that isn't paying enough rent.

So he has no idea of why the world is the way it is, and that's not to give the Europeans a pass on every single thing, but they are our wing man in the world. And world that is not built around the kind of alliances we had before, oh, baby, you will miss it when it's gone.

COOPER: Do you think -- is there any chance of Republicans, you know, Anthony Scaramucci has been going out saying that there's going to be these Republicans who are going to come forward. We've seen no sign of it except for Republicans who are leaving Congress, not going to run again.

I mean, you know, under Obama Republicans were screaming about the deficit, about deficit, the whole Tea Party was about deficits. No one seems to care about that at all and the deficits have exploded and certainly this president doesn't care about that.

FRIEDMAN: You know, look, the party has clearly become a cult of personality. It's not a party in any sense it was before.

What is more conservative than to say that running up a debt this high and then beating on the Fed to lower interest rates is kind of like burning all your furniture to heat the house and one day, you'll run out of furniture.

[20:25:07] It's as if Trump wants to absolutely pull out every stop, burn every piece of furniture to make sure the economy is heated enough so he can reelection in 2020, and nothing else matters. And not only, again, these financial issues, but also on these Jewish issues, these trade issues, he will say and do anything, it seems, I don't know if he's reading polls and going the wrong way but I don't think you have to be a CNN anchorman or "New York Times" columnist to watch the president's behavior in the last 30 days and say something really unhinged is going on. That's deeply troubling.

COOPER: Tom Friedman, always good to talk to you. Thank you.

FRIEDMAN: Thank you, Anderson.


COOPER: Well, just ahead tonight, breaking news from the White House on gun control proposals and a discussion with a survivor of the Parkland shooting massacre about the president's many broken promises on background checks.


COOPER: We showed you at the top of broadcast, President Trump appeared to change positions yet again today on gun legislation. We played what the president said just 12 days ago, shortly after the shootings in El Paso and Dayton about not buying into the NRA's position that this would put the country on a slippery slope to more draconian gun laws. So just to refresh your memory, here's what he said back then.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know, it's a slippery slope. They think you approve one thing and that leads to a lot of bad things. I don't agree with that. I think we can do meaningful, very meaningful background checks. I want to see it happen.


COOPER: All right, so that was the ninth of this month. He didn't agree with slippery slope argument. He was taking a strong stand, blah, blah, blah, got a lot of headlines. Yesterday and once again today, he reversed himself after speaking with the NRA Chief Executive Wayne LaPierre. He began mouthing the very same talking points that he earlier took issue with or said he took issue with. Kaitlan Collins asked him about it today.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Sir, that word slope, that is an NRA talking point --

TRUMP: It's a Trump talking point.


COOPER: Wow. OK. So in the space of less than two weeks, the President gone from decrying the NRA notion of a slippery slope on gun legislation to making it his own position.

For more on the evolution, we're going to go to CNN's Jim Acosta at the White House. So there's new reporting about when the White House might talk about some specific gun proposals. Jim, what have you heard?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Yes, Anderson, from what we understand talking to our sources, White House official says the President has been briefed on a range of options to address mass shootings in this country. The White House staff, they've been working on this for the last several weeks on this.

No details in terms of what is going to be ultimately unveiled by the White House and no firm timetable, but they do expect to announce something right around when Congress returns from recess. But, Anderson, this is -- as you were seeing with the President earlier today, this is changing by the minute.

COOPER: I mean, yes. I mean, it's changing, yes, by -- any time he opens his mouth, it's not clear what he says has much meaning, because this is the exact same stuff he did after Parkland.

The NRA has, you know, as we well know, has played a story well in the President's change of heart certainly after Parkland. That's not how he characterized it today, though.

ACOSTA: No, that's right. And you heard the President say, no, he didn't talk about universal background checks with the NRA head, Wayne LaPierre, our sources tell us otherwise.

But the President has certainly had several conversations with people over at the NRA that does sound like as we saw in the past after the mass shooting in Parkland, the President has changed his views based on those conversations.

And Anderson, he really isn't flip-flopping on this issue. He's shape shifting. It is difficult to pin him down as you saw what occurred earlier today when reporters were talking about at the White House. He just doesn't want to get pinned down on this issue and it's because he knows 90 percent of the country wants universal background checks.

And, whereas, you know, inside of his base, you can almost flip that number upside down in terms of where things stand. I talked to a source close to the White House this evening that said, remember, President is not just hearing from the NRA, he's hearing from Republicans up on Capitol Hill who are reminding the President where his base stands on this issue.

COOPER: Right. I thought it was very telling yesterday when he was sitting down and he talked about it in exactly those terms saying, remember, the people who got me here feel very strongly about this. That's for the Second Amendment.

And then he said, "I do, too, and it's a slippery slope and we're not going to let that happen." So, I mean, he never -- he's not a great poker player. It's not as if he hides what his true motivation is. This is all about 2020.

ACOSTA: That's right, Anderson. And, you know, it is a slippery slope to 2020 for this President. If he goes against the NRA, he is going to be eating into that base of support. And when you talk to people who are inside this White House, close to the White House, people who talk to the President, they will remind you that gun rights enthusiasts are perhaps the most active and enthusiastic members of that Trump conservative base. If the President disappoints those voters, that could spell big trouble for 2020, no question about it, Anderson.

COOPER: Jim Acosta, thanks very much.

David Hogg joins us now. He survived the shooting at Florida Stoneman Douglas High School. He's now a gun control advocate. David, appreciate you being with us. I'm wondering -- first of all, what your response is to this -- you know, the idea that they're going to have some gun proposal by -- you know, when Congress comes back?

DAVID HOGG, STONEMAN DOUGLAS H.S. SHOOTING SURVIVOR: I love the idea, but it's painful to see this again and again, you know, if I'm being honest.

COOPER: Because this is what he did after Parkland?

HOGG: It's exactly what he did after Parkland. And it's exactly what he's done again and again after every single one of these mass shootings that gets on T.V. And I think what we need to realize is we got to tell him that he can't keep doing that, right? If you're going to say you're going to do something, do it.

Donald Trump says he's a man of his word. He says that, you know, he is someone that is able to get his job done and is able to take action and that he is not controlled by anyone, prove it. Prove that you're not controlled by the NRA. That's what I would say to him.

And realize that when you go back and forth and you get caught up in these debates, that shows how you think politics is a game. But when people think politics is a game, people die.

COOPER: Yes. I mean, clearly he's just -- he talks for the news cycle so he can dominate with headlines of, oh, he's one stronger meaningful background checks and then hope -- he hopes people will not pay attention and forever will die down and he will just go about that.

[20:35:04] I want to talk about what your group, March for Our Lives. You've unveiled basically a sweeping gun control plan today in part to keep pressure on lawmakers. It includes a gun registry, and correct me if I'm wrong, an assault weapons ban and a mandatory buyback of all assault weapons. There's a lot of gun owners out there who are going to hear that and say, "Wait a minute, every one of those things is a nonstarter politically."

HOGG: You know, and that's all right. It's OK for us to disagree, because I personally believe that discourse is one of the most American things if you look back at our history, right? But, that is why it's so important that everybody goes out and votes on these issues.

I think the real reason Donald Trump is starting to talk about background checks is because they're very worried about Virginia and Pennsylvania and the fact that they know that they're going to start losing the suburbs very quickly if they don't start being good on these issues.

COOPER: But -- I mean, a mandatory buyback of assault weapons, I mean, there are millions and millions of them out there. That's basically confiscation. I mean, yes, you're paying somebody for their weapon but you are telling anybody who has one, they're going to have to give it up, which is the greatest concern/fear.

HOGG: Well, let's think about it this way. These are weapons of war that shouldn't have been on our streets in the first place. I can guarantee you that the framers of the constitution never would imagine a weapon like the AR-15 being in the hands of an American citizen. They never would have imagined somebody going into a school.

COOPER: But doesn't this play into the narrative of -- I mean, Democrats want to take away your guns?

HOGG: I think it plays into the narrative of, look, if we want to talk about this issue in reality, we're going to be honest about it. We're not going to dance around the issue. And March for Our Lives is not a group of Democrats. We're not a group of Republicans. We're a group of Americans that believe in peace and that we want to create it.

And, you know, even though that may be a nonstarter for some people, that's OK because this plan talks about many other things as well. And if this plan ends up in Congress and they say, you know, a gun registry is a nonstarter or the assault weapons ban and the mandatory buyback program are nonstarters, OK, maybe we start talking about reclassifying them as class 3 firearms and making sure that you have to have the right permitting in place where you can still go and use them, but people aren't going to have nearly as easy accessibility to them to go and commit mass shootings as they are currently.

COOPER: So this is setting the bar high and let's have a discussion?

HOGG: Yes, let's have a discussion, you know. And that's what I would say to Donald Trump is, if you want to have a discussion about peace and how Americans can come together and not only talk about mass shootings but talk about the reality of gun violence in the United States today and the stories that are not on T.V., and the fact that, you know, two of thirds of gun deaths happen in rural and suburban areas that are gun predominantly gun suicides, let talk about that.

Let's have an actual conversation about mental health where it's not continuously stigmatize. Let's have a conversation about why in the United States and almost every community it is easier to access a gun to end your pain than it is to go and access an affordable quality therapist, right?


HOGG: And for those that want to really see this plan, I would encourage you to go to We also -- we talk about all of these things and read into it. And if you disagree, that's OK, but at least you know what we're talking about.

COOPER: David Hogg, appreciate it. Thank you.

HOGG: Thank you.

COOPER: Thanks for coming in. Blessed are the tweets, President Trump embraces the title King of Israel and the idea that he may be the second coming of God on Twitter today. The question is, will evangelicals care or do they all just think, yes, OK, that's just what he does. We'll be right back.


[20:42:10] COOPER: This morning, the President tweeted out compliments about himself from a right-wing conspiracy theorist, which included these lines, "The Jewish people in Israel love him like he's the King of Israel. They love him like he is the second coming of God."

OK, so that was the President restating what this person had said. It was obviously some pretty strong stuff. They're particularly coming after his talk about Jews and disloyalty. Later, he was talking to reporters about his trade war with China and said this.


TRUMP: Somebody had to do it. I am the chosen one. Somebody had to do it. So I'm taking on China.


COOPER: Donald Trump says the chosen one. Joining me now to discuss whether any of this is of concern to evangelicals or what people may be thinking about this, Chief Political Analyst for the Christian Broadcasting Network, David Brody, also "USA Today" columnist and CNN Political Analyst Kirsten Powers. Both, good to have you on, David, as always.


COOPER: So, David, I know you tweeted today that when the President makes these kinds of comments that he is, in your words, simply saying he's the best when it comes to supporting Israel, he goes for shock value. Do you think that's how it's seen by, you know, many of the folks who listen to your network, by evangelicals that you have talked to?

BRODY: 100 percent, Anderson, and here's why. My social media platforms are blowing up with conservative evangelicals saying they take it with a grain of salt. It's all fun and games. They know he's playing for not only shock value, they understand the sense of humor, they understand that this is a bit of his television side. They're not taking it too seriously.

Are there some conservative evangelicals that would say, hey, you know, tone it down, it might be a little sacrilegious. Sure. But for the most part, evangelicals say this is Trump being Trump and everybody is just getting in a lather, no big deal here, folks.

COOPER: Do you think if President Obama had, you know, said that he was the chosen one, looked up to heaven, even with, you know, jokingly if he had said, retweeted some left-wing radical person who is a conspiracy theorist who said that what this person, you know, that he's the King of Israel. I mean, do you think that would be the same response?

BRODY: Well, let me say a couple things about that. First of all, Donald Trump is his own person. He's his own persona. In other words, everybody knows -- when I say everybody, conservative evangelicals, know that when he does all of this stuff, it's all tongue and cheek.

President Obama on the other hand, a different persona, a different person, maybe -- I would argue a little bit more serious when it comes to the way he presents himself. And so, therefore, it would be taken probably differently by conservative evangelicals. I'm not here to say what's right or what's wrong. I'm just simply saying that with Donald Trump, everybody knows the deal.

COOPER: Well, I mean, it sounds like you're saying that people just know he's a joke.

BRODY: No, not at all. No. Conservative evangelicals feel far from thing --

[20:45:02] COOPER: He is serious?

BRODY: No, they don't think he's a joke at all, Anderson.


BRODY: Look, you know, we've heard a lot tonight on CNN about words, Donald Trump's words. Well, we also know that actions speak louder than words. And when it comes to actions, evangelicals have a long list of accomplishments that this President has clearly delivered on. It's not even -- look, Anderson, real quick, conservative evangelicals believe this is the best President they have ever had. It's not even close.

COOPER: Right. Certainly on the Supreme Court he's gotten two judges. I mean, that's obviously --


COOPER: -- you know, number one front and center. Kirsten?

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I mean, first of all, David, you're just -- you're saying flat out there's just a double standard, that if Barack Obama did this, that he would be held accountable for it and Donald Trump does it and evangelicals don't care and you don't care.

BRODY: Actually, what I'm --

POWERS: I am wondering -- I am wondering if -- when you were talking about all the fun and games and the joking and the laughing, is that also about the calling Jews disloyal? Is that also part of the fun and games?

BRODY: Well, first of all, there's a couple of things here. They don't see any of that necessarily as fun and games. They see the fact of a president, President Trump, who is supporting Israel 100 percent.

POWERS: It's just a yes or no question. It's a yes or no question.

BRODY: No, I understand.

POWERS: I don't want -- I've been listening to you.

BRODY: Kirsten, Kirsten, here's a thing.

POWERS: I've been sitting here --


BRODY: I've been -- I'd answer it, Kirsten.

POWERS: David, just answer the question.

BRODY: Kirsten, first of all --

POWERS: Is it a joke when he calls Jews disloyal?

BRODY: I already answered the question.

POWERS: Is that funny?

BRODY: I already answer the question --

POWERS: Is it?

BRODY: -- and they say 100 percent -- POWERS: What's the answer?

BRODY: -- Donald Trump is supportive of Israel. That's the bottom line.

POWERS: That's not the answer to my question.

BRODY: And so that's -- what's the question exactly, Kirsten?

POWERS: Is it funny, is it funny when he calls the majority of American Jews in this country that vote for Democrats disloyal? Is that part of the funny part?

BRODY: I think you need to understand, Kirsten, you're taking what I said about being funny --

POWERS: You just can't answer the question.

BRODY: Well, can I at least -- if you want to -- if you're going to ask me a question, why don't you listen for the answer? And let me tell you a couple --

POWERS: Because it's just a yes or no -- it's just a yes or no question.

BRODY: OK. Well, Anderson, you -- go ahead, Anderson, because clearly she doesn't want to listen to the answer.

COOPER: Well, I'm wondering, you said people find it fun -- you found it funny, his other comments. Did you hear people saying, oh, that -- I mean, was the response to the disloyal Jews the same kind of that's just the kind of stuff he says I write it off?

It sounds like you're saying essentially -- the hard core supporters write off any of the stuff that, you know, they're not comfortable with, they don't like as -- you know, that's him being him. He's a showman. He's doing what we want.

BRODY: Yes. The showman part was to what I said at the beginning. As for the disloyal Jews stuff, I haven't heard any of that at all so, you know, I can't speak to that because I haven't heard any reaction --

POWERS: What haven't you heard?

BRODY: Well, let me just finish, Kirsten. I haven't heard any of that reaction. What I can tell you is that this President has been 100 percent, according to conservative evangelicals, 100 percent for Israel and that's all they care about and we can go down the list. The embassy, I mean, I have a whole parchment scroll if you like to hear it.

COOPER: Yes. Kirsten, you raised that point yesterday. This was largely about evangelicals --

POWERS: Yes. COOPER: -- and we're simply out of time. But I would like to discuss this in greater depth. I apologize for being out of time. Kirsten, thank you, David Brody as well.

BRODY: Thanks.

COOPER: Still to come, the international spat that no one expected. We'll be right back.


[20:52:21] COOPER: Coming up, President Trump unleashes on that nasty lady from Denmark, you know, the prime minister. First, let's check in with Chris to see what he's working for "Cuomo Prime Time" at the top of the hour. Chris?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: The idea that buying Greenland is absurd, that's nasty. It's nasty, Coop.

COOPER: Yes, it's nasty.

CUOMO: It's a nasty thing to say and now I'm not coming to your country. Now I'm not coming. That's what you get. Don't be so nasty.

So we're going to unpack that with a good friend of the President, Chris Ruddy, the head of Newsmax. And there's a nice little conflation here because the President retweeted one of Newsmax's talents, the -- they love him like the king tweet.

COOPER: Right.

CUOMO: That may be led to why the President still thought that he is the chosen one when it comes to China.

COOPER: Yes, second coming, I believe is also --

CUOMO: It's all fitting together. So we will ask brother Ruddy to help us understand why he would repeat something about Jewish- Americans that he has to know is a dangerous thing to say. So we're going to look at the lens of the election tonight through the behavior of just one day.

COOPER: All right. That's fascinating. Chris, thank you. Appreciate it, seven minutes from now. Trolley to hell.

The world shakes its head as "The Ridiculist" once again welcomes the commander-in-chief. We'll be right back.


[20:57:08] COOPER: Time now for "The Ridiculist." And tonight, we're adding President's failed attempt to shakedown Denmark. You know, the back story the President recently revealed he thought a good idea for America, which is already $22 trillion in debt would be to buy Greenland, which is technically part of the Danish Kingdom and also notably not for sale.

The Danish prime minister said the idea was absurd, that was her word, essentially telling him to take his pile of bootleg monopoly money elsewhere. And, you know, our President, he's a counter puncher, that's what they all say. So, today, he put that smart-talking prime minister lady in her place.


TRUMP: But I thought that the prime minister statement that it was absurd, that was -- it was an absurd ideas, it was nasty, I thought it was an inappropriate statement. All she had to do is say, "No, we wouldn't be interested."


COOPER: That's all she had to do. She should have been polite, unlike the President who's, you know -- or like the President who's always polite.

Nasty, a world leader who happens to be a woman, dares to call the idea of the U.S. buying land that is, again, not for sale, there wasn't a sign on it, absurd and suddenly she is nasty.

Somehow the star of the "Access Hollywood" tape feels comfortable levying that insult which he's also used, of course, against Hillary Clinton and Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren and Meghan Markle without any trace of irony or self-awareness.

Perhaps, we should have seen this coming after all it was just last night that the President scrapped his entire upcoming trip to Denmark, apparently annoyed the Danish government when sign over a land mass that's three times the size of Texas to a guy who's business history does include bankrupt casinos, a sham university, hidden tax returns and red meat sold at an electronic store.


TRUMP: When it comes to great steaks, I've just raised the stakes. The Sharper Image is one of my favorite stores, with fantastic products of all kinds. Trump Steaks are by far the best-tasting, most flavorful beef you've ever had, truly in a league of their own.


COOPER: I know I've showed that clip before, but that's the same guy who's President and he hasn't changed at all, telling the world it's just one giant Sharper Image. He is selling meat at Sharper Image which is -- I mean, bold, powerful.

He is behind the counter trying to trade a pile of frozen steaks for Greenland, basically, now. He's also almost as bad on foreign relations as he was a beef retail. And now that I've rolled the steak clip, I got to show you the vodka one as well.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: We launched a vodka called Trump Vodka and we're considering it. And I think it will be the finest vodka anywhere in the world.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where is it made?

TRUMP: It's made actually in various parts of Europe.


COOPER: There he is, parts of Europe. He couldn't even name a country, like any country. For all we know, his vodka came from a Portuguese cat shelter or a Bulgarian morgue. Think about that for a moment. I see

As for the United States and Denmark, while Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said to have stepped in tonight, just trying to undo some of the damage done by the President's latest game show pilot, the message, though, is clear the world is not one giant pocket listing and President Trump isn't the landlord-in-chief.

To barrow from the legendary Danish author, Hans Christian Andersen, the emperor has no clothes on "The Ridiculist."

That's it for us. Let's hand it over to Chris for "Cuomo Prime Time." Chris?