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Trump Delivers Angry, Divisive Speech At Rally; Former Intel Chief Frets Over Trump, Nuclear Codes; Trump Threatens Government Shutdown Over Building Wall; Ex-Intel Chief: Trump Speech "Scary And Disturbing" Aired 11-11:30a ET
Aired August 23, 2017 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CLARISSA WARD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello. I'm Clarissa Ward in for Kate Bolduan.
Just minutes from now, President Trump heads to a speech in Reno, Nevada. He will be speaking to the National Convention of the American Legion. Will he unleash the same vitriol of last night's speech?
Just one day after calling for racial healing and unity, the president went off teleprompter and wildly off message, basking in the warmth of an adoring Arizona base, he unloaded his fury and defended his Charlottesville comments that inflamed racial tensions.
Last night's remarks so combative and divisive, former Intelligence Chief James Clapper publicly questioned whether President Trump is fit to hold office. Let's take a listen to some key moments from the president's speech.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I hit them with neo-Nazi. I hit them with everything. I got the white supremacists, neo-Nazi, I got them all in there. Let's see. KKK, we have KKK. I got them all.
They're trying to take away our culture. They're trying to take away our history, and our weak leaders, they do it overnight. These things have been there for 150 years, for 100 years.
Now the obstructionist Democrats would like us not to do it. But believe me, we have to close down our government, we're building that wall.
I don't think we can make a deal. So, I think we'll end up probably terminating NAFTA at some point. OK?
Was Sheriff Joe convicted for doing his job? He should have had a jury. But you know what? I will make a prediction. I think he is going to be just fine. OK?
Obamacare is a disaster and think, think, we were just one vote away from victory after seven years of everybody proclaiming repeal and replace. One vote away. I will not mention any names. Very presidential, isn't it?
And nobody wants me to talk about your other senator who is weak on borders, weak on crime. So, I won't talk about him. Nobody wants me to talk about him. Nobody knows who the hell he is.
If you want to discover the source of the division in our country, look no further than the fake news and the crooked media, which would rather get ratings than tell the truth.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WARD: OK, so clearly, we have a lot to unpack from the president's speech. Let's get to it. We have CNN politics reporter and editor- at-large, Chris Cilizza, also, of course, have next to me is CNN senior media correspondent and host of "RELIABLE SOURCES," Brian Stelter. Thank you both for being with us.
Chris, I wanted to start out with you. I wanted to play you some sound from the former director of national intelligence, James Clapper, very senior official, many years of experience. Take a listen to what he had to say about President Trump's performance.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: I really question his ability to -- his fitness to be in this office, and I also am beginning to wonder about his motivation for it. Maybe he is looking for a way out. Having some understanding of the levers that a president can exercise, I worry about, frankly, you know, the access to nuclear codes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WARD: I mean, Chris, he is not mincing words here. This is serious critique to be leveling at the president of the United States.
CHRIS CILIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER AND EDITOR-AT-LARGE: And someone who is the director of national intelligence, Clarissa, someone who served under George H. Bush, George W. Bush, Barack Obama. I mean, this is not a partisan.
One thing I will disagree with Mr. Clapper about is I don't think Donald Trump is looking for a way out. I think he loves being where he is. This is someone who has spent his entire life working toward being in the center of the national spotlight.
He is now there. When you have the former director of national intelligence worrying about the commander-in-chief's access to the nuclear arsenal publicly on cable television, it speaks to how far it's gone.
[11:05:05] I will add, when you have the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Bob Corker, a Republican, no Trump hater, someone who mentioned as a potential VP, secretary of state in the administration, using words like concerns about stability and competence.
These are not things that can be written off as fake media or people who don't -- Trump haters. These are people who are elected officials, people who are public servants saying these things. People who have no ill will toward Donald Trump natively saying these things and I think the tendency to dismiss them is a huge mistake.
BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Well, they're saying publicly while other are saying privately. I think that's the story behind the story here. They are -- Clapper is saying publicly for the first time what a lot of his peers are saying privately.
WARD: So they are actively questioning at essence here. This isn't about politics. It's about competence. This is something you've discussed a lot on your show. Do you have a sense that this is really bubbling up into a groundswell?
STELTER: Yes. It's very uncomfortable to talk about. I feel uncomfortable sitting here talking about the president's mental health, about his fitness for office, but that's where we are at.
Let's be honest, our viewers are asking those same questions. Some of them have been for a while. I think what's crucial is it's happening in Washington, it's happening among Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill. It's happening among military leaders.
Mostly in private, but we're starting to see them public. The president's performance on that stage just reinforces why so many people are concerned. The president is trying to construct this alternate reality for his supporters by attacking media, by telling them they can't trust what they hear on CNN or anywhere else.
He is trying to create an alternate reality, but he is not doing it out of strength. He is doing it for weakness -- because he has Bob Mueller after him. He is doing it because Mitch McConnell is questioning the fate of this president --
WARD: But Chris, is it working? Is it playing out in his favor with his supporters?
CILIZZA: Yes. But I mean, Donald Trump could read Gaelic to his supporters and they would be supportive of it. The fact that it is working is not indicative of its truth, of its efficacy. It's evidence of the fact that we live in a very tribalized political environment. Trump has further tribalized it.
And therefore, whatever he says, they will support. But I want to return because Brian has really hit on this a number of times in his newsletter, on his show. I think it's really important, which is, go and read what Donald Trump said about the media last night.
On two separate occasions he says, they are against America. They don't want to make America great, they don't like -- they don't want us to succeed. I understand you think the media is too liberal. You think they're biased. You think they don't like Donald Trump. But when you start saying things like the media doesn't want to make America great, they are not like us, they are rooting against the country, that's the insinuation there and not even really the insinuation, that is dangerous rhetoric.
It is dangerous. Something is going to happen. You cannot vilify the media like this. I'm a reporter, but you cannot do this with any profession.
STELTER: It happens in other countries. This hasn't happened in the U.S. before. Clarissa, you've seen this elsewhere.
WARD: It's -- we have seen it elsewhere. It's a tactic he is using over and over again. Clearly, he thinks it's effective. A lot more to discuss on this issue. Unfortunately, we don't have time right now. We will be talking more about this later in the show. Chris Cilizza, Brian Stelter, thank you so much for joining us.
Some of Arizona's top Republicans chose to not attend Pesident Trump's rally. Our next guest not only was there, but he actually received a special shout-out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT TRUMP: We have three congressmen, a friend of mine who has been so great to me, Trent Franks. Where is Congressman Frank? Where is he? Get over here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WARD: Trent Franks is Arizona's senior Republican congressman. Congressman Frank joins us now from Scottsdale, Arizona. Thank you so much for joining us on the program this morning. We very much appreciate it.
REPRESENTATIVE TRENT FRANKS (R), ARIZONA: Thank you for inviting me.
WARD: I wanted to start out by asking you by something that the president brought up last night, which was the idea that he would be willing to shut down the government to get the funding that he needs to build his wall. Do you support him in that?
FRANKS: Well, I think that's really a good question. This government shutdown has been something that has happened or the threat of it over and over again. Republicans understand -- I do -- that the government shutdown hurts us tremendously because you and the media pretty much across the board will make sure that it's our fault no matter what.
[11:10:00] But here is what causes the shutdown. It's the 60-vote rule in the Senate. We pass all of the appropriations bills in the House. I've been there 15 years. We have consistently done it.
But then it goes over to the Senate, and the Democrats say no, we're not voting on it. We're not going to give you the eight votes to even bring it to the floor for debate. We will filibuster it. So, the only way you can stop a shutdown is to give us what we want. Unfortunately, that means in a combined Republican government, you can't even get a Republican appropriations bill without the threat of shutdown.
So, it is the filibuster that causes the shutdown. Donald Trump needs to understand something. If he truly in his own mind intends to drain the swamp -- I think he does. If he does, he has to help pull the plug on the filibuster. That's causing the shutdown.
You are in an impossible position as president or as speaker of the House. You either have to get the appropriations exactly the way the Democrats want or they will not let the bill to the floor. That will shut the government down. The Republicans will take the blame for it.
WARD: OK, but the threats like this -- there are plenty of Republicans or there are some Republicans who are also not necessarily sold on this wall. Do these kinds of threats really help to prevent the filibuster that you are talking about? Do you think that we're headed for a government shutdown?
FRANKS: Well, I think that's a good question. I think that at least his commentary is bringing the debate to the nation's consciousness. If we can do that alone, the nation will be on our side.
Just like they were when he appointed Neil Gorsuch. There was going to be a filibuster there, too. Even the Republicans -- some of them -- both of my senators said they would never vote to change the Republicans, probably half said that.
But then to a person they voted to change it because knew they couldn't go to the American people and say, well, yes, Neil Gorsuch is the most qualified nominee we've had in a century and yes, the election was about the Constitution and the election was about the Supreme Court.
But we unfortunately have rules that will not allow him to get an up or down vote in the Senate. They knew they could never sustain that with the American people. So, they changed the rule.
And as soon as we can elevate what happens to our spending process here in the same way, I think that rule will change. The government is what it spends. This is about the Article 1 constitutional powers of the Congress. It's a very big issue on both sides.
It cuts both ways. Democrats are in charge, they will have more capability to pass things. If Republicans are in charge, they will. At least then the American people will know who is doing what and it will be good for the country in my judgment.
The Democrats are going to change it either way. They've already said so. So, it's not a matter of if, it's just a matter of when it has to change.
WARD: So, Congressman, I have to ask you as well about the comments from the former director of national intelligence, James Clapper, questioning whether President Trump is fit to have access to the nuclear codes. How do you respond to that?
FRANKS: Well, I think that's a disgusting thing for him to say. If he had been there, he would at least know in his mind that what he is saying wasn't true. You know, Mr. Clapper --
WARD: Well, would he say it if he didn't think it was true? I don't think you would say something like that publicly if he didn't believe it was true.
FRANKS: I don't think he believes that to be true. Mr. Clapper once said that jihadist terrorism has nothing do with religious ideology. So, if he is questioning Donald Trump's position or fitness for office, he's certainly answered the question on his own behalf.
That he was never fit to be the national intelligence director when he would suggest where jihadist terrorism the peace and security of the entire human family that it might not be -- it wasn't really religiously motivated.
That is a fundamental misunderstanding and not just a casual thing. This is the core of the whole battle, and yet, he missed that. So, Mr. Clapper's perspective is not compelling to me at all.
WARD: All right. Well, thank you very much, Congressman Trent Franks. We appreciate you being on the program with us.
FRANKS: Thank you, Clarissa, very much. Good interview. Thank you.
WARD: Thank you.
Coming up after the break, we will ask a Democratic congressman from Arizona if he agrees with James Clapper and whether Congress should do something about it.
Later on, the revealing details in Hillary Clinton's new book. Hear about the moment she said Donald Trump made her skin crawl. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLAPPER: I toiled in one capacity or another for every president since and including John F. Kennedy through President Obama. And I don't know when I've listened and watched something like this from a president that I found more disturbing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WARD: Very strong words there from former director of national intelligence, James Clapper. The retired general tells CNN he is worried about the president's access to the nuclear codes.
I'm getting reaction to President Trump's speech from Arizona lawmakers on both sides of the political divide. Joining me now is Democratic Congressman Ruben Gallego of Arizona. Congressman, thank you so much for being with us.
We just had another Republican congressman from Arizona, Trent Franks, on the show. He called James Clapper's comments the questioning of the president's competency disgusting. I wonder if you would care to comment on Clapper's comments?
And also on one of your colleague's, California Democratic Congresswoman Jackie Speier, who has actually gone far enough to say that the 25th Amendment should be invoked in an attempt to get rid of President Trump. What are your thoughts?
REPRESENTATIVE RUBEN GALLEGO(D-AZ), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: I've been saying since the election, that Donald Trump cannot be trusted to govern, nor with the nuclear codes. He doesn't have the mind frame, maturity, mental capability to be president.
I'm glad people are coming around to this. Many of us have been saying this for quite a while. With all due respect to Jackie Speier, the problem with the 25th amendment is I think we're chasing down a hole that's never going to happen.
[11:20:12] If I remember correctly from my civics class, the 25th Amendment requires a vice-president and the executive cabinet to send a message to Congress that the president no longer has an ability to govern. That's never going to happen.
Look, the problem is right now, if everybody wants to keep the president in check, the way you keep the president in check is you elect people in 2018 that are going to keep the president in check.
If the Republican Party is not willing to keep the president in check, they need to elect Democrats or whoever it is. It's just that simple. There's no other way to do this. There's no other quick solution. I don't see impeachment happening any time soon.
WARD: What about censure?
GALLEGO: I'm absolutely for censure, but a censure is not going to do anything to a president. Pardon me, censure will not do anything to this president. This president has no sense of dignity in terms of the office.
He has no sense of person in terms of what he should do to better himself and this country. He will just swat away like a fly. He is that type of person that just will have no effect.
If you want to stop him, then put Congress and Senate in power that's going to stop him. That's it. It's that simple. I'm sorry that everyone wants to go down all these other rabbit holes, and if they exist, we'll go down them.
But in reality, unless the Republicans will put the president in check, which is designed by this Constitution, then we need to start electing Democrats. WARD: I wanted to ask you about one of the things that the president's spokes people has said he was not going to touch on in his speech last night in Arizona was the issue of Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
I think we all understood from President Trump's speech a pretty strong indication that he does intend to pardon him and in fact, CNN is getting new reporting in that the paperwork is already starting to be processed in the White House to kind of facilitate that procedure. I would like to get your thoughts on that as an Arizona lawmaker.
GALLEGO: Well, first of all, as an American, we should be horrified by this. This is another institution that the president is breaking down, another norm. That's what this president has done since the beginning. Let's look at the facts.
First of all, he comes in and as soon as possible he starts tearing down the media. Not that the media is friendly to one side or the other. The fact is he is trying to tear down one of the outside institutions that keeps government in check and abuse in check.
It's not a coincidence he starts going after that. Next, he starts trying to tear away at the rule of law. We start seeing that exactly with the extra illegal Muslim bans. Now, the pardon. A privilege that was given to the president of the United States by the Constitution.
He is using it as a showmanship piece, as if he was on some type of game show last night, walking around, strutting around, bragging how he may or may not do this. This is a travesty to the Department of Justice, who is prosecuting Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
It's to the American public. This is another way he is debasing our democracy and the rule of law that has been connecting this country. Look, the Constitution connects us from all over -- from Alaska to Florida.
It's the rule of law and the norms that have been established by presidents and politicians for many years and the institutions within that that keeps this country together. He is trying to pull it apart so that he has more power. Pardoning is just another step in that way.
WARD: All right. Congressman Ruben Gallego, thank you so much for joining us. I guess, the question really becomes though, what do Democrats intend to do about it? When do we see some kind of a unified strategy coming from the Democrats? We will, of course, be keeping in touch with you in the coming days. Thank you again for joining us.
GALLEGO: Thank you.
WARD: Coming up, a CNN exclusive interview with one of the biggest players in the Russia investigation. Find out what ex-Russian Diplomat Sergey Kislyak says about the kremlin's contacts with the Trump campaign. Plus, Hillary Clinton in her own words. An excerpt from her new book, Clinton talks about that debate where Donald Trump stood behind her and called him a creep.
WARD: Right now, we are keeping an eye on President Trump. In just a few minutes, his west coast trip moves on to Nevada where he will be speaking in Reno before a veterans group later today.
The question is, of course, which kind of speech and which kind of president are we going to get? Will it be a more subdued and scripted president, the likes of which we saw on Monday as he outlines his vision for Afghanistan or will it be the president who serves up red meat and airs old grievances to his supporters?
Let's bring in our all-star panel to dissect this. We have Amanda Carpenter, the former communications director for Ted Cruz, former Clinton White House aide and Democratic strategist, Keith Boykin, CNN opinion writer and immigration analyst, Raul Reyes, and Steve Rogers who is a member of President Trump's Advisory Board.
Lot to unpack here. Let me start with you, Steve. During the speech last night, we heard some harsh words. He didn't call out Flake and McCain by name, but there were disparaging comments made nonetheless.
We're also hearing CNN sources telling us that McConnell -- Mitch McConnell, the majority leader of the Senate and President Trump are not really speaking at the moment. They haven't spoken in weeks since they had this acrimonious telephone conversation.