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Trump Approval Rating Hits New Low; Trump Calls Sanctions Bill 'Seriously Flawed,' Signs It Anyway; CNN's Jim Acosta, WH Adviser Clash Over Immigration; Trump Backs Plan To Cut Legal Immigration By Half; Some Republican Senators Start To Break With Trump On Policy; Journalist Who Interviewed Scaramucci Speaks Out. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired August 2, 2017 - 21:00   ET



[21:00:03] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: The president of the United States has reached new lows in both approval and credibility. On credibility, today, the White House admitted that two phone calls the president said he took accepting glowing praise from the president of Mexico and the head of the boy scouts never happened.

The White House today said it was just a matter of semantics. Now whether that's true, we have no idea. But the majority of Americans have trouble believing him on much of anything according to the latest Quinnipiac Poll which found only 34 percent think the president is honest, 62 percent do not believe that.

President's approval rating has also hit a new low in a Quinnipiac Poll, just 33 percent. Jim Acosta joins us now from the White House. Did they give any explanation why the president was citing phone calls that never happened?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, they were essentially saying today that he was just sort of mixing up his stories here. And let's just give a little context. The president earlier this week when he was sitting with his new chief of staff, John Kelly, was talking about some of the work down at the border, talking about how the border was a tremendous problem and now close to 80 percent stoppage, he said, and even the president of the Mexico called me and then the Mexican government earlier today put out a statement saying the president there had not been in recent communication via telephone with President Donald Trump. That's a pretty clear sign from Mexico City that Enrique Pena Nieto he has not been on the phone with the president.

And then you remember that very political speech, controversial speech the president gave to the boy scouts earlier last month and during -- I guess after that speech he was talking to the "Wall Street Journal" and he said I was told by the head of the boy scouts that it was the greatest speech that was ever made. The boy scouts told CNN no call of that nature was made. Here's how Sarah Huckabee Sanders answered that at the briefing earlier today when she was pressed on this. Here's what she had to say. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: They were actually direct -- they were direct conversations, not actual phone calls.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So he lied. He didn't receive --

HUCKABEE SANDERS: I wouldn't say it was a lie. That's a pretty bold accusation. The conversations took place. They just simply didn't take place over a phone call. That he had them in person.


ACOSTA: So there you go, Anderson. Sarah Huckabee Sanders trying to make the best of a bad situation. The president once again caught essentially making something up there and in this case just something as strange and as small as a couple of phone calls that he really didn't need to make false statements about.

COOPER: Yes, I mean, of all the things to make up, it just seems ridiculous. The folks you talk to at the White House, I mean, they all -- are they at all aware? They must be aware of. Are they concerned about or do they say they're concerned about how these kinds of things actually affect his credibility, their credibility?

ACOSTA: Well, remember yesterday, Anderson, when we were talking about the president being involved, weighing in on his son, Donald Trump Jr.'s false statement, misleading statement about that meeting with the Russian attorney, Sarah Huckabee Sanders acknowledged at the briefing yesterday, well, the president, yes, he was involved in that but then she accused reporters of pushing what she described as a false narrative about the Russia investigation. And so, there isn't really a whole lot of, you know, coming to grips with reality here and that is the president time and again seems to make these statements that just don't hold up.

I will tell you, though, when you talk to people privately in the administration and, you know, the White House will not want to acknowledge this, they will acknowledge to you privately that it is difficult at times defending this president when he makes these kind of remarks. And once again, as we saw today, he made the job of his spokesperson that much tougher.

COOPER: Jim Acosta thanks very much. With me now is Kirsten Powers, Gloria Borger, Tara Setmayer, Jeffrey Lord, and Paul Begalla. Jeffrey, I mean, why --

JEFFREY LORD, TRUMP SUPPORTER: Why did I know you were coming to me?

COOPER: Why does the president do this? I know he's always done this in the past.

LORD: Right.

COOPER: But as president you would think he would know things much -- LORD: Yes.

COOPER: -- the people are going to check. It's not like he's lying, calling up the New York Post with, you know, pretending to be his publicist.

LORD: You have to be precise. There's no question about it. And be accurate when -- as best you can in these kinds of situations. But I will say this, Anderson. You know, people out there watching this stuff, regular folks, I mean, I was --

COOPER: I know they don't care about a phone call. They don't care about him saying -- making up.

LORD: Well, right.

COOPER: And I agree with that. But my question is --

LORD: But there's another half --

COOPER: OK, what the other half?

LORD: There's another part to this, Anderson, which is when the media at large, any media institution makes a mistake, do they spend hours on end saying this on television?

COOPER: Actually, yes, actually they do correct themselves.

LORD: No, I didn't say correct themselves.


COOPER: Has this president ever corrected himself?


LORD: What is it Eisenhower said about Nixon? Give me a week and I'll --

COOPER: You're going to need more than a week to find it.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: I think he did once. He said he had some regrets after the cons.

COOPER: No, when said --


COOPER: yes, he talked about general regrets about tone and stuff.

KIRSTEN POWERS, USA TODAY COLUMNIST: But even when you look at today, I mean, the way Sarah Huckabee Sanders is acting so put upon that she has to answer these questions and how dare you even suggest that maybe he lied, rather than just saying he didn't tell the truth and taking responsibility for it.

COOPER: Or he made a mistake. I mean, --


POWERS: And then this -- the new story is, I guess, there were a bunch of people after he gave the speech at the boy scouts that were saying nice things to him. But that's still not actually what he said happened.

[21:05:03] COOPER: Well, I mean, again, to Jeffrey's first point, yes, these are minor things --

LORD: Right.

COOPER: -- and probably a lot of people at home who voted for him think, you know what, I don't care. All politicians lie. I guess my question is if you're lying about the stuff that doesn't matter, what happens when it's actually stuff that does matter?

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: All people lie. OK. Politicians lie more than people. I get that.

BORGER: Are politicians people?

BEGALA: You know, no, they are. I actually like politicians. But I do think -- well, in the gospel of Luke, Jesus says whosoever is dishonest on little things will be dishonest with greater responsibilities. This is timeless wisdom, people do know this. We don't want to analyze whether it's a phone call or personal. But it's a pattern. We're going to have to save the breaking news banner when the guy tells the truth.

TARA SETMAYER, ABC NEWS POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: That's the issue here. I would disagree that it's not a big deal. You know, I've been talking about the fact that Trump's character deficit is a problem, because when you are given this level of responsibility like the presidency, your credibility, your word, your character matters. To because to what Paul said, when it comes to bigger things, how do we know whether you're telling the truth or not? This is something that's almost pathological with Donald Trump, that he has to feel praised all the time to the point where he'll make things up to reinforce this idea that he's the greatest.

I mean, he literally made up these calls between the Mexican president and the boy scouts, both of them. The common denominator here is that they were telling him how great he is. This is an issue that I think has caused a lot of the problems with his governing style, his management style, has gotten him into trouble. He's unable to really get his agenda through because he continues to do things like this that cut at the core of his character and his credibility, and that is harmful to the country. Because what if there's a major attack, what if there's something going on foreign policy and he's telling -- saying one thing or another? How many times did he say he met Putind during -- when he was a candidate? He said Oh, yes, I met him in the green room at CBS, or something like that. I mean, then he was no, I never met Putin. How do we ever know when to believe Trump or not when not to? It's selective. LORD: So it's like if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor.


COOPER: One thing you always pointed --


LORD: How do we know other things were also not true?

SETMAYER: Well just because Barack Obama did it makes it's OK for Trump to do. What about that Trump supporters like you continuing. It does a disservice to honesty.

COOPER: But it's also the daily fabrications.

SETMAYER: That's right.

COOPER: I mean, the daily mistakes or lies or fabrications or fantasy, whatever you want to call it. It's not as if this is a one- off thing. I mean, that's the one example you keep repeating about Barack Obama.


BEGALA: -- and it hurt him enormously, but it was one in eight years.

COOPER: But these are daily occurrences.

BORGER: Right, and these are sort of provable, verifiable facts. You look at the crowd size from day one. Let's go back to day one. Look at the crowd size of the election. You look at the pictures. I believe that in his own mind he believes all of this, and that he believes that these people did say this to him, whether it was in a phone call or not. We still don't know what the conversations were.

BEGALA: That's more frightening.

BORGER: And this is -- but I do believe there is some sense of the details to be damned, you know, this is what occurred. And even if they didn't say it, this is what they were thinking.

BEGALA: I think instead it's -- I hope. I actually don't want to believe he's delusional. OK, I believe -- somebody told me this after the election. Actually it was my brother in Houston who said, what you never got is Hillary is a politician, she lied, she's a blank, blank liar. Trump is a BS artist. And a lot of people held him to a different standard because he's a reality show star. And I accept that now. I've learned that. But now he's our president and nobody -- nobody is holding him to a lower standard nor should they be, because (INAUDIBLE). It's August 2nd. There's going to be a storm. I came from that area. I'm scared to death when we have another major storm and I want my president to be able to say evacuate Galveston and people listen. The North Koreans are rattling Sabres, Venezuela is in flames. He has to have credibility. I don't want to support him politically, but I have to believe my president. SETMAYER: Or what happens when we have the next terrorist attack off (INAUDIBLE) here on the scale of 9/11, let's say, and then he spouts off about who was responsible or who wasn't or is he going to -- is he capable of unifying the country when he spouts off things that are so reckless and irresponsible. I'm not quite sure. And that's where it really matters.

COOPER: -- that his supporters will say, look, this was all baked in that --


COOPER: -- before he was elected and they decided, you know what, I like him on these other issues or I think, all right, I don't like the Clinton these other issues, and I'm going to go for him even though I think he's a BS artist.

POWERS: Well, look, you know, you're going to live by approval ratings and die by approval ratings. And If I was Trump, I would take a look at what's happening with his approval ratings because eventually people may get tired of it. And I do think that even if it's true that people don't care about this, and I'm not totally convinced that that's true. I don't care. You know, I care about this. And I think that it matters. And I think, you know, --

[21:10:04] BEGALA: And it's more today than on November 8th.

POWERS: And I think that we do have an obligation to hold people responsible regardless of what other people think. There's plenty of Obama supporters who said I don't care what Obama did, I love Obama. That doesn't mean as journalists, we don't hold him accountable.

COOPER: The other interesting about when he makes stuff up, there's almost a challenge to it that's as if we're all idiots if we actually disagree with him on this, because he's so out in front of it that you're almost like, well, it must be true because he's -- or else, you know, maybe we're just imagining stuff. But we're not imagining stuff.


BORGER: Right. But at some point in this poll today, this Quinnipiac Poll, 62 percent of the people in the country do not believe he is honest. And that's going to be a real problem for him going forward. I don't see how you turn that around with the American public.

LORD: Let me just say I'm sitting next to somebody who worked for a president who was challenged on issues like this, right? I did not --

BEGALA: He lied about an affair and that was terrible, but that's what it was. And the American people forgave him but it cost him enormously, Jeffrey, but he didn't lie about everything every day.

LORD: But I think, arguably, he's the most popular Democratic politician in the country today.

BEGALA: Yes. Sure.


BEGALA: -- not because we liked it. People are going to approve --

SETMAYER: Are you really sitting here saying that it's OK that the president -- that the American people 61 percent believe that he doesn't tell the truth is OK? That's kind of what it sounds like to me, you're rationalizing this.

LORD: No, I'm not rationalizing. I'm simply saying I think polls be damned in essence.

SETMAYER: Don't tell Trump that. Always the ones he --

LORD: A lot of people said, I mean, how many times have we sat at this table for the last year and a half and said this is the end of him because, and it isn't.

SETMAYRR: But we didn't say it was the end of him.


BEGALA: Truth is real and it is provable. And polls move, some are right, some are wrong, some go up, some go down but the truth is the truth and the president has to have fidelity to that or he can't lead us.

COOPER: We got to take a break. We're going to continue the conversation. President signs the Russia sanctions bill but also calls it "seriously flawed" and insists that he can make a far better deals with foreign countries than Congress can. We're going to tell all that in a moment.

And later, the immigration issue that led to a dust-up in the White House press briefing room involving a senior Trump advisor, a CNN reporter and Lady Liberty herself, more on that ahead.


[21:15:46] COOPER: The president signed a bill today that imposes new sanctions on Russia, a bill that gained overwhelming bipartisan support on Capitol Hill but it took the president nearly a week to put his signature on it. A reluctant signature considering he released two statements after signing the bill calling it, "Seriously flawed," he also said parts of it were, "Clearly unconstitutional." He ended the statement by saying, "I built a truly great company worth many billions of dollars. That is a big part of the reason I was elected. As President, I can make far better deals with foreign countries than Congress."

Republican Senator John McCain, who's getting treatment for brain cancer back in Arizona, released his own statement. "The concerns expressed in the president's signing statement are hardly surprising, though misplaced. The Framers of our Constitution made the Congress and the President coequal branches of government. This bill has already proven the wisdom of that choice." Mccain goes on to say, "Going forward, I hope the President will be as vocal about Russia's aggressive behavior as he was about his concerns with this legislation." Back to our panel. Ouch!


SETMAYER: You thought McCain was a maverick before? Now he's really is just unleashed. He's honest. I mean, I disagree with McCain on a lot of things as a conservative in the past, but he's right on the money here with this.

For Donald Trump again to have to insert the "I'm the greatest, I'm a deal maker" well, obviously he's not that great of a deal maker because -- how many deals have we gotten through thus far since he's been president? Zero. Outside of a Supreme Court nominee, which had nothing to do with him other than nominating. He's failed on health care. We haven't had anything on immigration, anything meaningful. When it's come to a deal, he was against the Russian sanctions, so where was he involved in this process? He was nowhere to be found. He was too busy tweeting about, you know, Anthony Scaramucci. I mean, these things are -- if he's that great of a deal maker, how come it was Pence that was up on the Hill the whole time trying to negotiate with the health care situation and not the president of the United States? I mean he --

LORD: Because that's what a vice president does.

SETMAYER: I understand that, but he's priding himself on being a deal maker and he has yet to demonstrate how that has come into play as president of the United States.

LORD: Give him time. He does have four years.

SETMAYER: Right, I know. Good Lord.

COOPER: His whole election, preelection thing was, I get people in a room together, you know, we close the doors and we make a deal.

BORGER: He does it with photo ops.

LORD: I for one don't think the health care thing is done. I mean, I think he is still going to persist with this. Over the objections, I might add, of some Republicans.

BORGER: Right.

LORD: And, I mean, let's be clear here, Senator McCain, who campaigned against this --

COOPER: On the Russia thing, I mean, for somebody who has avoided saying anything bad about Russia, avoided criticizing Putin time and time again, I mean, one of the strategies he could have used in this was to embrace this sanctions bill --

BORGER: Exactly.

COOPER: And, you know, make it his own.

BORGER: And by the way, he hasn't said anything about the 755 people who have been expelled from Russia, but he has criticized Congress on the sanctions bill. Where is his voice on those expulsions? He felt boxed in here, it's very obvious to me.

SETMAYER: That's right.

BORGER: These were veto-proof margins, huge margins. There was nothing else he could do except write this signing letter criticizing Congress and saying, you know what, you shouldn't have the final word, I should have the final word.

SETMAYER: And he also said it was unconstitutional. If he felt it was unconstitutional, then he shouldn't have signed it and then he should have let it go ahead with the veto override or, you know, into law and then challenge it in court if he felt that passionate about it. Why are you signing something you feel is unconstitutional?

COOPER: The prime minister of Russia put out a statement saying, that the president signing the sanctions bill, he said, "the Trump administration demonstrated complete impotence in the most humiliating manner transferring executive powers to Congress."

BEGALA: Point out, as you said, this is Prime Minister Medvedev so it's even below the pay grade of President Putin who is the equivalent of --

LORD: So in other words the Russians who thought they had a sure thing and turned this election for them are now upset.

BEGALA: Well, they're upset because they think he's too weak in defending them. First off, I'm glad he signed it. I think people like me who's been harsh critic of him and harsh critic of Russia, I don't care about the statement, I mean, I car, but I'm glad he signed it. That's a good thing. I want to see him enforce it aggressively. This is the Trump I want who said, if I'm hit, I hit back a thousand times harder. America was hit. Not just my party, my country, President Trump's country. We have to hit back Russia a thousand times harder. This is your Congress --


[21:20:01] BEGALA: This is Congress saying it -- now we didn't hit any Russians in Syria, we bombed Syrian planes. We have got to show Putin he has to pay a price. Dianne Feinstein said that today, this will be the beginning, not the end, of the punishment against Russia if the president doesn't toughen up.

COOPER: I find it interesting that the prime minister used the term impotence, because in some ways I feel like it's a direct --

LORD: KGB style.

COOPER: Dig at, like they know what his weaknesses are to be called -- you know, his whole thing is I'm strong, I'm strong, everyone in the White House keeps talking about I'm strong. Vice President Pence keeps talking about how broad shouldered he is, whatever that means, and why he's commenting on how broad shouldered he is, I don't really know. But I find it interesting that the Russians would use that term.

POWERS: Yes, I mean, they also -- they're hitting on something very important, which is that this was a real vote of no confidence of the president by his own party and it is a real rebuke. And so, he actually -- it actually is a sign of weakness. It shows that Congress, the Republican controlled Congress they don't trust him. They don't trust him in this area. They did not -- he was very specific about what he wanted, that he wanted flexibility to negotiate. I think if he was a stronger president, they would have deferred to him.

LORD: We've got a Republican --

POWERS: And if they trusted him. And they clearly don't. They boxed him in and put him in a situation and made very clear if he didn't sign it, they would override his veto. For a new president who has a Republican Congress six months in, I mean, this is unprecedented. I can't think of another time this has happened.

BORGER: Well, and if he had come out and said perhaps it would be help if had come out and said that I believe that the Russians hacked the election and I agree with the 17 intelligence agencies who also said the same thing, perhaps Congress would have negotiated with him a little bit, because maybe they would have had a little more faith in how he was dealing with the Russians. But I think this is not only a rebuke, but it's really evidence of the fact that they don't trust him to deal with the Russians, period.

SETMAYER: That's self-inflicted, though that based on his own behavior, as Gloria said, concerning Russia. So he has no one to blame but himself that he has been stripped of this ability because of his own statements and seeming denial about what took place with Russia trying to influence the election.

LORD: What took place?

SETMAYER: Russia -- are we going relitigate this again? I didn't say collusion because that's still being investigated.

LORD: OK. Good, good.

SETMAYER: But we do -- it is indisputable at this point that the Russians tried to influence the election. We're not talking about switching votes in voting machines.

LORD: That's a big deal.

SETMAYER: We're talking about -- OK.

BEGALA: They tried to and they may have.

SETMAYER: We don't know that yet. BEGALA: They attacked 20 different states voting systems.

SETMAYER: Whether they did or didn't but it still wouldn't have changed the outcome of the election, we understand that. But them meddling in the election with the fake news, with the bots on Twitter, with trying to shape opinion, this is typical Russian espionage stuff. This is what they do. So now, I mean, you worked for Reagan. You're acting now all of a sudden like, oh, my goodness, clutching pearls, the Russians tried to do this? It doesn't -- it strains credulity, Jeffrey, come on.

LORD: I just think that what you've got here is a Republican establishment that doesn't like the president, period. And that includes members of Congress.

SETMAYER: All of them?

LORD: Not all of them.

SETMAYER: All of them, Jeff, I mean, come on. Look at the vote.

BEGALA: Putin is anti-establishment. Putin is anti-American.

LORD: Look.

BEGALA: That's what the president is on this issue.

LORD: My astonishment at all of my liberal friends and their sudden strong feelings on Russia went for the last 50 to 60 years of the Cold War, they were practically in bed with them is always amazing to me.

BEGALA: We can relitigate the Cold War, but --


BORGER: -- right? You understand -- so the fact that the president it seemed to not get the fact that there are three coequal branches of government and that in fact Congress has every right to do this and can do this. I mean, he --

LORD: -- of simply said he could get a better deal.

BORGER: Right. But what would that be?

COOPER: And I'm just --

BORGER: Based on what?

COOPER: -- what evidence is there of that?


BORGER: Based on what?

BEGALA: They don't need a deal. We need punishment. Putin understands power. America has superior power. We are not using it. By the way, President Obama did not use it. At least --

COOPER: I'm not sure the president helped himself by one of the first statements after meeting Putin was about a cyber security joint operation with Russia that they then walked back. I'm not sure that instilled confidence in Congress that he was going to get a better deal.

We've got to take a quick break. The new plan to cut back on legal immigration. What the president said about it and how a poem on the statue of liberty came into play today.


[21:27:35] COOPER: The president today promoted legislation to reduce legal immigration, giving priority to people who speak English and are highly skilled. Senior Advisor Stephen Miller spoke about the plan at the White House and this happened with CNN's Jim Acosta.


ACOSTA: The statue of liberty says, "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free." It doesn't say anything about speaking English or being able to be -- be a computer programmer. Aren't you trying to change what it means to be an immigrant coming into this country if you're telling them you have to speak English? Can't people learn how to speak English when they get here?

STEPHEN MILLER, WHITE HOUSE SENIOR POLICY ADVISER: Well, first of all, right now it's a requirement to be naturalized you had to speak English, so the notion that speaking English wouldn't be a part of immigration systems would be actually a very ahistorical. Secondly, I don't want to get off into a whole thing about history here, but the statue of liberty is a symbol of liberty in lighting the world. It's a symbol of American liberty lighting the world. The poem that you're referring to was added later is not actually part of the original statue of liberty. But more fundamentally is history --


ACOSTA: You're saying that that does not represent --

MILLER: I'm saying --

ACOSTA: -- what the country has always thought of --

MILLER: I'm saying -- I'm saying the notion --

ACOSTA: Stephen, I'm sorry. That sounds like -- that sounds like.

MILLER: Let me ask you a question.

ACOSTA: That sounds like some national park revisionism. Right now, he wants to build a wall. He want --

MILLER: It's actually -- ACOSTA: -- about a sweeping change to immigration.

MILLER: Surely, Jim, you don't actually think that a wall affects green card policy. You couldn't possibly believe that, do you? I want to be serious, Jim, do you really at CNN not know the difference between green card policy and illegal immigration? I mean, you really don't know that?

ACOSTA: -- immigrant he came to this country in 1962 right before the Cuban missile crisis and obtained a green card. Yes, people who immigrate to this country can eventually -- people who immigrate to this country --

MILLER: Jim, as a factual question.

ACOSTA: -- they do obtain a green card at some point. They do it through a lot of hard work and, yes, they may learn English as a second language later on in life.

MILLER: So, but, Jim --

ACOSTA: But this whole notion of, well, they have to learn English before they get to the United States, are we just going to bring in people from Great Britain and Australia?

MILLER: Jim, actually -- I can honestly say I am shocked at your statement that you think that only people from Great Britain and Australia would know English. It's absolutely -- it reveals your cosmopolitan bias to a shocking degree that in your mind -- no, this is an amazing -- this is an amazing moment. This is an amazing moment, that you think only people from Great Britain or Australia would speak English is so insulting to millions of hard-working immigrants who do speak English from all over the world.


[21:30:13] COOPER: Back now with panel. Paul, what do you make of that exchange? I mean, certainly among, you know, some conservative viewers or right-wing viewers, they'll see that as a great victory by Mr. Miller.

BEGALA: Yes, but it's his job there to build support for the president's plan on the Hill and with the public. So people who already like it, the very, very conservative folks that's fine, they would like it anyway. They would like it if he had no press avail.

His job was to try to build out -- build support and I think for that perspective as a former White House aide, that performance was astonishingly bad. I'm sure the president likes it because he likes people who beat up on the media. But in terms of achieving his objective, after Mr. Miller finished, did we get one member of the House or Senate that said, wow, hey, I'm for your bill now, Mr. President, I'm on board, count me in. Your guy, Miller, has persuaded me.

And I couldn't help but think that Jeffrey's going to laugh at this, of Ronald Reagan. And I went back and read the speech that President Reagan gave in 1986 -- I came up from Texas for this. I was there too as a kid. I came up from Texas and my president spoke at the 100th anniversary of the Statue of Liberty.

By the way, he pointed out that Lady Liberty herself was an immigrant. She came from France. She didn't speak a word of English. He talked how wonderful it was that actually French workers and American workers together had refurbished her. And he said our greatest strength as a country is our immigration.

And that's the kind of Republicanism I think that even Democrats can admire. I don't think he gained a single vote today by doing that.

POWERS: It was just a nativist diatribe. I mean, it really was. I mean, him going after and trying to make this distinction about when, you know, the Emma Lazarus poem was put on the Statue of Liberty, as if that matters.

I mean, that has nothing to do with him and it's an integral part of our country's story as you're talking about, you know, Ronald Reagan telling that story. It's not a Democrat or a Republican or a Liberal or conservative thing.

This is something that we all grew up hearing. And can I also just add for all his condescension to Jim Acosta about how, you know, I guess, Stephen Miller knows so much about immigration law. It's actually not true that you have to speak English to become a naturalized citizen. And I'm shocked that he doesn't know many people who don't speak English.

I have many friends of my parents who are Korean immigrants, who are Chinese immigrants, who are Italian immigrants who don't speak a word of English. And I went and I looked it up because I thought am I crazy because I'm sure that this isn't true.

And if you go to the government website, it says quite clearly that, you know, if you're over the age of 50 and you've had a green card and lived in the country for 20 years, you actually don't need to speak English. So it's not even true what he was saying.

LORD: But Kirsten, just to clarify. You're saying, to borrow from Stephen's argument, that if, say, a million people were allowed in, that is not nativist. But it's nativist if 900,000 or 800,000?

POWERS: Well, how did I say that? I don't remember --

LORD: Well, that was in the clip earlier, where he got into this back and forth with Jim about how many people come in and where do you draw the line and what is nativist that he wasn't saying in that terminology, but that's the point --

POWERS: What's nativist about it is this is just a problem -- this is a solution looking for a problem. There is no problem with legal immigration. In fact, Donald Trump during the campaign said that he didn't want to stop legal immigration. So this is just something that he's doing to appeal to his base, people who are nativists. COOPER: He just said just a couple weeks ago --


POWERS: Yes, right.

BORGER: And he's looking for an issue because he hasn't had one that he can succeed on with his base, as Kirsten points out. I mean, most of Congress is trying to figure out what to do with 11 million illegal immigrants into this country. And there is legislation proposed about legal immigration, but there are lots of Republicans, I would argue, who aren't, you know, interested in this particular approach.

I mean, Jeff Flake just told you before that he believes in a certain kind of merit-based immigration but he doesn't want to hurt the economy. And there are economists now who are saying why would you do this? We have 4.4 percent unemployment.

If you keep these people from coming into this country, you're going to create economic problems in states where tourism and agriculture are very important.

SETMAYER: OK. Just -- I worked on this issue for seven years on Capitol Hill. And there are problems with legal immigration as well. From the H-1b visa program and the lottery system, the diverse lottery system that is addressed in this legislation where it's just random with certain countries. If there's a cap there, whether those are the best people that we want to bring here legally.

I think people have to understand and put this in perspective. It is a privilege to come to this country as an immigrant, it is not a right. It is a privilege. And we are the most generous country in the world. We allow 1.1 million plus legal immigrants every year into this country.

And I think the problem here is, that the way that the Trump administration and the way Trump as a candidate framed this issue, as being very nativist, as coming across with the alt-right and coming across this xenophobic and the wall that now any kind of reasonable legislation is looked upon in those terms. And I think that's doing a disservice.

[21:35:18] There are 40 percent of illegal -- of visa overstays are -- you know, happen in this country. Those are people that come here with legal visas and they stay. That's a problem.

Again, with the EB-5 program, that's a fraud problem that the Kushner family is running into right now. People should look that up. We can talk about that another day. But that's a problem.

There are aspects of legal when you bring in low-skilled workers into this country. The National Academy of Sciences did a major study on the economic impact of this last year in 2016 and where they discussed that if you put apples to apples with low-skilled workers and immigrants and low-skilled workers and Americans, that the American workers are hurt by this. So there are valid discussions to have around this issue that shouldn't be so emotional. But when you see a display like you saw with Stephen Miller today and that posture coming across that way, no one is going to listen to that. And I think it's doing a disservice for an issue that is very important to this country, especially for legal immigrants that wait for 20 years to try to get a green card here.

LORD: And it should be noted that the sponsors of this, Senator Cotton and Senator Perdue don't have reputations as being xenophobic nativists, right?

SETMAYER: No, but they would have been better served if they had not gotten the White House involved. If they had just introduced this without the White House, I think it would have been -- they would have gotten more traction, potentially more people to listen to it. But once you inject this kind of behavior, it's dead on arrival --

BEGALA: The senators that introduced it have been for this for quite some time. On May 11th, the president said -- was asked by economists, do you want to restrict legal immigration? And he said, oh, legal, no, no, no, no. We want people coming in legally. No, very strongly.

No facts have changed. I think the only thing that's changed is he's eroding with his base.

COOPER: Yes. We're going to continue the conversation next. I want to know what you think about. This is support for the president eroding among lawmakers of his own party. We'll talk about that.


[21:40:43] COOPER: The last few weeks, we've seen a growing rift between some Republican lawmakers and the president who's typically seen as the head of the party.

In the Senate, four Republicans opposed President Trump's transgender troop's ban including John McCain, who is also one of three Republicans who voted against the partial repeal of ObamaCare which the president obviously pushed for.

Seven Republicans have spoken out against President Trump's criticism of Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Republican Senator Jeff Flake is also speaking out against the president not just on policy. I spoke to him earlier tonight.


SEN. JEFF FLAKE (R), ARIZONA: Populism is just not a governing philosophy. It is popular and you can win a few elections here or there, but it's not a governing philosophy.


COOPER: Gloria, why the shift now? BORGER: Well, I think it's taken them some time to get some courage here if they disagree with him. Also, he's at 36 percentin the polls and they're not afraid of him. And they also don't believe if they follow him that he will have their back.

I mean, he turned on the House after the House passed health care and called it a mean bill. And he has tweeted about Republicans, telling them what they ought to do. They should only -- they should change the rules of the Senate. They should, you know, grow a spine on health care, et cetera, et cetera.

So, I think it's taken them some time and it's not unanimous in any stretch of the word, but I do believe that people like Mitch McConnell have said, no, no, we're not going to change the rules of the Senate for you. You're transitory. This is, you know, this is the Senate. And on issue after issue, they're starting to say, you know what, we don't have to follow, there's no reason.

COOPER: Jeff, do you think -- do you believe they are never with him because you said there's a lot of people and Republican establishment who just don't like him.

LORD: Yes, I do think that that's the case. And, you know, one of the interesting things here about Senator Flake, my friend Mark Levin denounced him yesterday and said -- on the radio he said, he's not a conservative. I mean, this (INAUDIBLE) sort of thing.

Brent Bozell who runs the Media Research Center which where I write a column, his father, Brent Bozell Sr., was the ghostwriter for Barry Goldwater's "Conscience of the Conservative", he put out a statement from his -- on behalf of his family saying, you know, this is just not so, you know, and really going after him. There are a lot of conservatives that think -- suffice to say that Senator Flake is not one of them.

COOPER: Do you believe Donald Trump is conservative?

LORD: Not in the Reagan sense, I don't. I think he's conservative on a lot of issues.

SETMAYER: Like what?

LORD: Energy, for example.

SETMAYER: When did this transformation happen, because --

LORD: Well, he spent a whole campaign talking about energy --

SETMAYER: Right, but before that since he was pro choice, he gave money to Democrats, he was pro single payer. He -- I mean, --

LORD: And Ronald Reagan was a Democrat until a couple of years before it --

SETMAYER: And you and I have this discussion and over a 20 years period of time Ronald Reagan came to understand conservatism and change over it and it was also very different back then. Not what Donald Trump, it was in like two years all of a sudden, oh, now I'm a Republican, but he doesn't act like a Republican. And to Gloria's point, he constantly -- when he makes these statements and these tweets, he's tweeting as if he's a bystander, as if he's not part of -- he isn't the head of the Republican Party as the president.

He's doing that so that he can inoculate himself from any failures or any criticism. And so Republicans, they're single seekers of re- election, right? Most people that are elected, that's their motivation.

They're looking at this thing going he threw Jeff Sessions who was the first elected Republican of significance to support him under the bus terribly, going after him in a very disrespectful way. Even Democrats were coming to the defense of Jeff Sessions.

COOPER: Paul, is this breaking with president? I mean, does it come with risks for the Republicans.

BEGALA: It does. First, I love Republican on Republican violence.

LORD: I wanted to give you a thrill tonight.

BEGALA: Yes, I didn't want to interrupt. The truth is, they're damned if they do and damned if they don't. The president's approval will drive the midterms, it will.

And if he stays at 33, the Republicans are in a lot of trouble. If he goes up to 63, the Democrats are in a lot of trouble. And you can break with him or not. I don't think voters are going to care, because they do all vote with him 90 to 95 percent. The time many of those votes are pro forma, I know, but still they do. I think that the rubber will hit the road coming up and it will be on Russia. The president has made sounds about firing Attorney General Sessions. He's made inklings about firing the special counsel, Mr. Mueller.

[21:45:00] If he does that, that will be the gut check for Congressional. It's fine for Senator Flake to write a book and I hope everybody reads it but I'm not that interested. I'm interested in checking his power as a chief executive. Article one versus article two, not R versus D.

LORD: If he fires Robert Mueller, the ultimate battle will be on between the establishment and the quote unquote --

BEGALA: It will be on between the constitution and the president.

SETMAYER: It would be a crisis for sure.

COOPER: I should point out we have breaking news about Attorney General Jeff Sessions. (INAUDIBLE) we'll get into that next.

Also more on one of the most colorful figures in the White House, Anthony Scaramucci, who lost his West Wing job on Monday in case you were in a cave. We're going to hear from a journalist who asked him about his now infamous profanity-laced tirade. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: It's breaking news tonight. Two sources say the new White House chief of staff, John Kelly called Attorney General Jeff Sessions to assure him his job was safe. The president has been leading Sessions twist in the wind, publicly criticizing him for recusing himself in the Russia investigation.

But again, the words tonight from sources is that Kelly told him his job is safe. The same day, Kelly of course was sworn in, Anthony Scaramucci was out just 11 days after he's announced as the White House communications director. For such a short time, there are still a lot of memorable moments. Take a look.


[21:50:06] ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: There are people inside the administration that think it is their job to save America from this president. OK, that is not their job. Their job is to inject this president into America and so that he can explain his views properly and his policies so that we can transform America and drain the swamp.



SCARAMUCCI: I love the president. The president is phenomenal with the press. The president himself is always going to be the president.

I think he's got some of the best political instincts in the world and perhaps in history. He's done a phenomenal job for the American people. He's the most competitive person I've ever met.

OK, I've seen this guy through a dead spiral through a tire. I've seen him at Madison Square Garden with a top coat on, he's standing n the keys and hitting foul shots and swishing them, OK. He sinks three-foot putts. Thank you.


COOPER: Back with the panel. Joining the conversation is Vicky Ward, editor-At-Large for the Huffington Post. She interviewed Scaramucci this week for a piece called, "Why The Mooch Lost His Cool".

So you talked to Scaramucci today. What did he say?

VICKY WARD, EDITOR-AT-LARGE, HUFFINGTON POST: So I talked to him this morning after the piece came out, and, you know, Scaramucci is very resilient. He was prompting that he had a sore throat.

He was kind of like making jokes. He said, don't worry, I'm going to go dark but then I will reappear as me. He still --

COOPER: Do you know what he means by that because there are some reports that he might -- WARD: Well, he's got lots of -- you know, he's got -- people have

been telling him he's got some data analysts at SkyBridge Capital, the hedge fund that he's in the process of trying to sell who told him that he's now huge with the base. So he could write books. He could actually run for office.

While I was speaking to him, Wilbur Ross was on the phone. So as Roger Stone said to me earlier this week, his influence with this administration is not dead and his great line to me was, I still intend to play myself on "Saturday Night Live."

COOPER: He characterized the profanity-laced conversation with Ryan Lizza as humorous and joking with you, right?

WARD: Right. He did. And, you know, obviously I've been -- I've gotten to know Anthony over the last months, years. And I've been talking to him for other reasons, for other long-term projects that I'm doing. And he does -- when he talks even to me, there are a lot of expletives in his speech and, you know, part of his schtick, his salesmanship is, you know, I'm the guy who grew up in a blue collar background in Long Island and I'm very proud of that.

I'm the guy who put myself through Harvard. I think that obviously what happened to Ryan Lizza and he -- you know, it was a learning curve. And he -- as he said to me --

COOPER: For sure.

WARD: -- you know, I made a mistake. I own this.

COOPER: You know, it's interesting, Gloria, because his communications plan for the White House which was dated June 30th was leaked today. And it's actually pretty good. I mean, I actually thought it was really well done.

BORGER: I liked it.

COOPER: With some of the priorities said, improve the culture, good ideas are welcome regardless of source, POTUS can choose to fight with the media but Comms cannot, meaning communications probably cannot. Comms will continue to challenge stories that are unfair, untrue but also express appreciation for good and fair reporting.

I mean, there are a lot of good ideas there.

BORGER: He also said, don't leave for the night until you return every reporter's phone call. I really like that. But there is another part of that where he said, you have to lead by example. And that was kind of his problem because he didn't lead by example and he got a little -- his star was shining a little too bright for the president.

COOPER: Paul, you're saying who leaked it?

BEGALA: Who leaked his whole tirade to Ryan -- destructive tirade was about a leak. Someone had leaked to Ryan Lizza that the Mooch and others were having dinner with the president. So we don't know who leaked it but I promise --

COOPER: It certainly shows himself in a good light.

BEGALA: It does.

BORGER: And by the way, who cares about who the president is having dinner with? I mean, he got so incensed about that.

WARD: Well, I think --

SETMAYER: Sorry, I -- I mean, was it really about that or was is it about the disclosure -- the financial disclosure form being leaked, --


SETMAYER: -- which wasn't, that Politico wrote. They both came out at the same time.

WARD: Well, yes. It was about the dinner because as I understand it, only someone from the inside could have leaked it. They literally --


SETMAYER: And then he went on the tirade about Reince Priebus, and then he knows it was Reince --

WARD: Yes.

SEMAYER: -- concerning the financial disclosure --

WARD: There's so many layers to this.

COOPER: One of the interesting things though that in this communications strategy is, make it clear that horn tooting and then degrading colleagues is not acceptable.

SETMAYER: How did he write this? I mean, he did everything against what he allegedly vote in this plan. You know, I think what happened is his ego got in front of him and it became all about him. It was very -- even though he was going on with (INAUDIBLE) with the president and how much he loved him to the point of ad nauseam, in my opinion, it was still all about him. And I cautioned last week that if that Trump will like it until he doesn't.

[21:55:08] And once people start calling Scaramucci a mini Trump, there is only one Donald Trump and that was probably the beginning of the end for him. And even in your interview, it was still about him. He's going to emerge and he (INAUDIBLE) this whole thing.

I mean, those kinds of egos, they are so narcissistic that there's no way they could coexist in the White House.

LORD: The one thing I would caution here is that there are plenty of people walking around Washington, D.C., who had a second act. And, you know, what he's saying to you --

WARD: Yes.

LORD: -- is probably exactly right. Go dark, as it were --

WARD: Yes.

COOPER: And by the way, he's had a second act in his life already. So I mean --

WARD: He really had --


SETMAYER: That's what happened with Goldman Sachs.

LORD: And I would bet you that the president stays in touch.

SETMAYER: Of course he will.

BORGER: -- what did he say about the president and his relationship with the president?

WARD: I think he's very good. I actually think the other thing is knowing -- you know, I spent only -- in covering the president as well and that there is a difference between the two men. I would say that Anthony Scaramucci is quite self-deprecating and quite self-aware, actually.

COOPER: Right.

WARD: The president doesn't like --

COOPER: Yes, you never hear the president say that he bought all the copies of his book to make it a bestseller and that there's in his basement which is a funny line there Anthony Scaramucci uses.

WARD: Yes.

COOPER: We got to take a break. Vicky, thanks for being with us.

WARD: Thank you.

COOPER: We'll be right back.


COOPER: That's all the time we have. Thanks for watching. Time to hand things over to Don Lemon. CNN TONIGHT starts right now. See you tomorrow.

DON LEMON, CNN TONIGHT HOST: All right. There she is, Lady Liberty, a symbol of America's benevolent invitation.