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EARLY START

Trump Delivers Angry Speech in Phoenix; Clapper Questions Trump's Fitness for Office; Navy Removes Commander Of 7th Fleet. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired August 23, 2017 - 03:00   ET

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


[00:00:09] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I hit them with neo-Nazi. I hit them with everything. I got the white supremacists, the neo-Nazi. I got them all in there. Let's say it, yes. KKK, we have KKK. I got them all.

DAVID BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump goes off prompter and off script, off course, playing directly to his shrinking base. The president defending his Charlottesville response but apparently forgot what angered critics in the first place. It was classic --

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Yes.

BRIGGS: Trump airing of the grievances. And he's up tweeting just an hour ago. Good morning, everyone, and welcome to EARLY START. I'm Dave Briggs.

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans. It is Wednesday, August 23rd. It is 3:00 am in the East. It is midnight now in Phoenix.

Up first, a night after preaching to the nation about healing, President Trump does a 180 with his speech at a campaign rally in Phoenix. The president again, defending his response to the violence in Charlottesville. He spent nearly 15 minutes recounting his words but with a glaring omission.

BRIGGS: Mr. Trump neglected to mention he initially blamed the clashes on many sides and no mention of the very fine people that marched with torches on the Friday night in Charlottesville.

For context, here's what the president said last night and what he said 10 days earlier.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Here's what I said on Saturday. "We're closely following the terrible events unfolding in Charlottesville, Virginia." This is me speaking. "We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence." That's me speaking on Saturday.

We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence on many sides, on many sides. It's been going on for a long time in our country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: That, of course, just one moment. And the speech that has some, including the former Director of National Intelligence, a man who spent his entire career in military and intelligent service, James Clapper, questioning his fitness to hold the office. More on Clapper's response in a moment.

ROMANS: The protests turning ugly outside the Phoenix Convention Center after President Trump's speech. Three people were arrested. Police using tear gas and pepper spray to try to break up the crowd of protesters, it was double-digit heat. Police say people threw rocks. They threw bottles at police officers and dispersed gas in the area.

BRIGGS: Phoenix police were on high alert. For the thousands of people who attended the president's first campaign-style rally since the violence in Charlottesville, they kept Trump supporters and protesters behind barricades and on separate sides of the street, a job well done by the Phoenix police. So let's bring in Ron Brownstein, CNN senior political analyst, senior editor at the Atlantic 12:00 Eastern Pacific Time.

Good to see you, sir. Thanks for joining us.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Good morning, good evening, something, yes.

BRIGGS: Whatever it is. It is an extraordinary day in our nation's politics once again. Ron, what's your reaction to classic teleprompter Trump has gone, airing of the grievances is back, what's your headline?

BROWNSTEIN: Wow, where to start. Look, I agree with you. I think this was a speech unlike we have heard from any other American president in office, but it was quite like what we heard on the campaign trail from President Trump. I mean, it was this unique combination of a bottomless well of grievance, just unending grievance at anyone who he believes has crossed him or wronged him, combined with half truths and flat-out misleading statements.

And -- but then, ultimately also tied in with a very targeted set of populist, us against them messages, aimed entirely at its base. I mean, one thing that is above all about this president is that he has shown in office just a luck of interest in speaking or acting in any way that reaches out beyond those who supported him to begin with, in which as you point out, has been shrinking in polls.

And one last thing, you know, kind of lost in all our kind of reviews of how odd this was, he made lot of news tonight. He said he's probably going to withdraw from NAFTA.

ROMANS: Yes.

BROWNSTEIN: He said he will shut down the government to -- if they don't fund his border wall. He said, he is going to pardon Sheriff Arpaio. I mean, there was -- it was just an extraordinary experience.

ROMANS: And he spent a good half of the time, I would say, right, good 30 minutes.

BRIGGS: 30 plus minutes --

ROMANS: Bashing --

BRIGGS: -- on the media.

ROMANS: -- the media.

BRIGGS: Yes.

BROWNSTEIN: Yes.

ROMANS: Not saying the media is unfair to him, but saying the media are really just bad people.

(CROSSTALK)

ROMANS: On America. There's one sound bite in particular I want to play where he then goes so far as to say, it is the media taking away America's culture. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[00:05:00] TRUMP: It's time to expose the crooked media deceptions and to challenge the media for their role in fomenting divisions and yes, by the way, they are trying to take away our history and our heritage. You see that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: That is red meat for his base. I think he meant fomenting division, but, you know, correcting in terms of grammar something that doesn't make the media any more popular in the eyes of his supporters who think that we just try to nitpick the guy (ph).

BRIGGS: Some exercise of futility.

ROMANS: Ron, what do you make of the attack on the media?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, like it fits to that broader, a point from before which is that, you know, he is very determined and has been effectively from the beginning to identify the media as part of a series of forces that he says are holding down his voters and denying them the prosperity and security that they deserve.

And I thought tonight, one thing that was really striking again was how he inflated attacks on him or criticism of him with attacks on his supporters. I mean, he basically said anybody who was raising questions about me are really trying to suppress you and you had stood up, you had taken our back from these elites and when it is harmed (ph), we're really the elite. I went to the best schools and all of that. And now they are trying to put you back in your place by going after me.

And that is effective to a point but, you know, we -- I just go back to this -- you go back to Election Day, roughly 20% to 25% of the people who voted for President Trump in various ways did it with reservations that either said he didn't have the temperament to succeed, he didn't have the qualifications to succeed, they were unfavorable about him personally. There was nothing again tonight that would reassure any of those conflicted voters. In fact, it was -- I think everything, you saw it tonight, would kind of deepen the unease of people who were conflicted about him. And that is the reason why he is down in the mid-30s now in the polling after, you know, winning 46% of the vote.

The idea that his base is not eroded is simply not true. In the polling that came out this week in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, the three states that decided this election, 20%, 20% of the people who voted for him said they are embarrassed by his conduct in office. I don't think he assuaged anybody in that camp of -- who has those doubts tonight.

BRIGGS: Make no mistake, his supporters loved the speech, those that were in that crowd that showed up for a WWE match got exactly what they showed up to see. They got the applause lines. But those people also don't believe these polls. You talk about the people -- the voters who need convincing, what about the Republican senators, Ron?

BROWNSTEIN: Yes.

BRIGGS: What about the Bob Corkers of the world, the very measured sensible Republican senators who question his stability? And then there is Jeff Flake and John McCain who everyone expected the president to attack by name. He didn't name them, but he still went out of his way to go after them. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We were just one vote away from victory after seven years of everybody proclaiming repeal and replace, one vote away.

But you know, they all said, Mr. President, your speech was so good last night. Please, please, Mr. President, don't mention any names. So I won't. I won't. No, I won't vote -- one vote away, I will not mention any names. Very presidential, isn't it? Very presidential.

And nobody wants me to talk about your other senator, who's weak on borders, weak on crime. So I won't talk about him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: Ron, he also suggested Mitch -- his buddy Mitch, who's the Senate --

BROWNSTEIN: Yes.

BRIGGS: -- majority leader that he throw away the filibuster, 60 votes doesn't matter. It's hard to piece together 52 on anything. How does the president legislate moving forward with these type --

ROMANS: Yes.

BRIGGS: -- of verbal attacks?

BROWNSTEIN: You know, I think for Republicans in Congress, so I won't keep these all straight in my head, there were four separate lines of concern in what he said tonight. The first is the one you alluded to with corporate, just kind of the overall stability, careening around this kind of dwelling on grievance and just seeming very angry and volatile.

Second, attacking individual members, you know, not by name but in all but name, and particularly Jeff Flake, who he seems to be suggest -- you know, he has suggested already should be primary -- should be removed in the Republican primary. As Lindsey Graham said today, there's kind of an Article 5 of NATO in the Senate, you know, for incumbents, you attack one, you attack all.

[00:10:11] Third, he continued to set unrealistic legislative goals, not only ending the filibuster but the idea that they would shut down the government if he doesn't get his wall funded. And fourth, and I think maybe even most important, once again, he demonstrated he's really not capable of driving a message on anything beyond his own kind of personal attacks back and forth.

Was there an effective message for tax reform in that speech tonight? Was there an effective message on his proposals on reducing legal immigration tonight? I mean, one of the things that we saw in the healthcare battle was that the president could not provide any air cover to Republicans in Congress. They were voting on a bill that had less than 20% support in only by the time it came to the Senate floor.

So I think on all of these different fronts, if I remembered them all, they were reasons for them to worry whether he is going to be any kind of asset in moving their agenda forward. And in fact, in many distinct ways, looks like he's more of a detriment, a headwind. And I think it also probably reinforced their conclusion, which I think is spreading in the Republican caucus, that eventually he will triangulate almost entirely, and run against all of Congress, both parties and turn on them and kind of --

ROMANS: Sure.

BROWNSTEIN: -- position himself in that way.

ROMANS: Talk about the legislative agenda. And last night, was there any advancement of the legislative agenda? It doesn't really look like it at all. In fact, it might be the opposite.

All right, Ron Brownstein, thank you so much. Nice to see you so bright and early this morning or up late in Los Angeles.

BROWNSTEIN: Thank you.

ROMANS: Thank you, sir.

BROWNSTEIN: OK (ph).

ROMANS: Also, last night, President Trump not optimistic about renegotiating NAFTA with Canada and Mexico.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Because we have been so badly taken advantage of. They have made such great deals, both of the countries, but in particular, Mexico, that I don't think we can make a deal. So I think we'll end up probably terminating NAFTA at some point.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: The first round of NAFTA talks just wrapped up, negotiations got off to a tense start with the U.S. blasting NAFTA as a job- killing, factory closing deal, benefits our neighbors, not us. The administration is taking a tough stance on many complex issues for require -- for example, requiring a substantial portion of auto parts to be made in the U.S. Millions of jobs and thousands of companies rely on NAFTA but renegotiating it was a core campaign promise for this president. He blames it for the loss of U.S. manufacturing jobs.

So as talks resume next week, negotiators expect a great deal of effort will be required, especially since they aimed to rewrite NAFTA by the end of this year. That is a blinding pace for trade negotiations of the original deal took years, years to complete multiple presidencies.

One thing that this president believes is he looks at the trade deficit with Mexico and he sees winners and losers. He sees that trade deficit as only meaning America is losing. What trade economists say is that deficit is so big because you have such big exports and imports. It shows more the dynamism of the relationship, they say. Unbalanced, yes, but the dynamism of the relationship and the way the president thinks about it just too cut and dried, black and white, it doesn't really work that way.

BRIGGS: Right, and those people that voted for him, this is the message they want to hear.

ROMANS: That's right. They want to hear instead (ph).

BRIGGS: OK, now to the former director of National Intelligence says he's concerned about the president having access to our nuclear codes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEN. JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: I really question his ability to -- his fitness to be in this office.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: More of what James Clapper told CNN, next on the special EARLY START. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[00:17:17] BRIGGS: Welcome back to an early EARLY START. A blunt, sobering assessment of the president from the former director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, calling the president's speech in Phoenix "downright scary and disturbing". The retired Air Force lieutenant general openly questioning whether Donald Trump is fit to remain in office. Here is what Clapper told CNN overnight.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: What did you think of tonight's performance by President Trump?

CLAPPER: Well, Don, it's hard to know where to start. It's just so objectionable on so many levels.

You know, 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.

Having some understanding of the levers of power that are available to a president, if he chooses to exercise them, I found this downright scary and disturbing.

I think Bakari is right on the money, though, that this is not a surprise. It's interesting to contrast last night's teleprompter Trump performance versus tonight, which is, of course, the real Trump, just as it was in the unglued impromptu press conference at Trump Tower. So I just find this extremely disturbing.

LEMON: Are you questioning his fitness?

CLAPPER: Yes, I do. 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. I do wonder as well about the people that attracted to this rally as others. You know, what are they thinking? Or why am I so far out -- off base? Because I don't understand the adulation and, of course, that's why I think he gravitated to having this rally, as ill-timed as it is. He should have quit while he was ahead after last night.

But, again, I think the real Trump came through and, again, as Bakari said, shouldn't be a big surprise to anyone.

[00:20:03] LEMON: What should we do? What should Washington do at this point? You said you're questioning his fitness. There are many people who are saying it. They won't say it publicly, they don't have the courage that you do. Maybe after this speech, they will now. It will become painfully obvious to -- as it is to most Americans.

What should we do?

CLAPPER: Well, I think, you know, the key thing here is, where is he with Republicans? And I was quite struck by Senator Corker's remarks, very thoughtful and very, very measured. And I've -- I know Senator Corker, I've dealt with him. And he is a very thoughtful senator and he wouldn't say that lightly and without forethought.

And I'm hopeful that other similarly thoughtful Republicans will reach the point where enough is enough.

LEMON: Enough is enough. And what do you -- what do you mean? Be plain for us.

CLAPPER: Well, that this behavior and this divisiveness and the complete intellectual, moral and ethical void that the president of the United States exhibits.

And how much longer does the country have to -- to borrow a phrase, endure this nightmare?

LEMON: "The New York Times" is reporting tonight about the falling out between the president and Mitch McConnell over the investigations of Russia's interference in the 2016 election. There you see the headline up on the screen.

The report says the president was furious that McConnell failed to protect him. You call the accusations of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia worse than Watergate. What do you think is going on with the president? Why is this such a hot button for him?

CLAPPER: Well, first, to be clear, Don, I -- when I left, certainly on the 20th of January, I had not seen any evidence of direct collusion between the Trump campaign, the Trump camp and the Russians. There may have been collusion but I didn't have any evidence of it.

So I don't understand, frankly, the president's fascination and solicitation of -- solicitousness of Russia and Putin particularly, unless he feels he's a kindred soul, perhaps. So it is very strange to me. And I don't have an explanation for it. I don't know if it's collusion or something else.

LEMON: You have -- you said you question his fitness. Is he a threat to national security, the president?

CLAPPER: Well, he certainly could be. Again, having some understanding of the levers that a president can exercise, I worry about, frankly, you know, the access to the nuclear codes. If he -- in a fit of pique, he decides to do something about Kim Jong-un, there's actually very little to stop him.

The whole system is built to ensure a rapid response if necessary. So there are very little in the way of controls over, you know, exercising a nuclear option, which is pretty damn scary.

LEMON: Do you see this as a crisis, Mr. Clapper?

CLAPPER: Well, I'm not sure what the definition of a crisis is. If it is, we've been in it for quite a while, certainly since the election. I have to say, Don, I was -- I couldn't help but think, in the course

of the Charlottesville, his statements about Charlottesville, when he was so quick to characterize the intelligence community as Nazis, liken us to Nazis, on the 10th of January, yet seemed very reluctant to call out the real one or the wannabe Nazis in this case.

And maybe that's -- I'm being a little parochial here and defensive about the intelligence community. But that's one thought I had. So I think if it is a crisis, we've been in it for quite a while.

LEMON: What do you think other intelligence officials now and people who have some sway in Washington, what are the conversations they're having tonight? And what will they be having tomorrow, you think, after the speech?

CLAPPER: I think many people in the intelligence community, certainly the rank and file, are worried, are concerned about this.

[00:25:03] They -- in their -- and it's a tradition in the intelligence community to carry on with a mission and provide the intelligence that our decision-makers so desperately need. And they'll continue to do that.

But I think in moments of personal reflection, I suspect they are greatly concerned about the divisiveness that is taking hold of this country.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS: All right, James Clapper there, a military man, someone who spent a very long time, you know, and --

BRIGGS: A career --

ROMANS: Yes.

BRIGGS: -- servant to the government, not a career politician, someone who spent his life committed to the government, intelligence and the military.

ROMANS: All right, the Navy is set to make a big change after another incident in Asian waters. It's cost in a top commander his job. We're live in Singapore.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: Welcome back. The Navy planning to remove the commander of the U.S. 7th Fleet after the guided missile destroyer, USS John S. McCain, collided with a commercial tanker Monday off the coast of Singapore. This is the fourth accident involving a U.S. warship in Asian waters just this year. Naval officials say some remains of the 10 missing sailors from the McCain have now been recovered. Just a tragedy there for those families.

Let's bring in CNN's Manisha Tank, she's live in Singapore with the very latest here. Manisha. MANISHA TANK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Well, this is really quite

interesting that we see now the removal of Joel Aucoin. He's a highly decorated, a highly decorated naval officer. But it illustrates a very disturbing point, which is three of the incidents out of the four that you've described have been in the Pacific 7th Fleet specifically. And many questions are being asked about training, particularly in relation to the USS Fitzgerald, which was a collision that happened some two months ago or so, in which it was clear that poor seamanship, for example, was blamed for that particular collision. And we have seven sailors died.

Now we have 10 sailors missing. We're hearing about these remains being found. In fact, today, the -- Scott Swift who is the -- Admiral Scott Swift who is the commander of the overall Pacific Fleet is in Japan. He is meeting families. He is also meeting the commanders of the 7th Fleet and probably having some really difficult, very testing discussions. What actually went wrong here? We don't really know at this stage, and the investigation is going on. But we do know there was a steering malfunction that was happening right around the time of that collision. And people are asking why didn't the backup systems kick in? Is there a training issue here? So many questions.

[00:30:03] With that in mind, there needs to be a complete reset of systems for the investigation to continue. So, that will be a rolling sort of operational blackout happening, that will cease in the coming week. But it is hope that as that reset goes on, it will be much clear as to how these problems are occurring, but it is quite significant. Three out of those four in one single fleet.

ROMANS: It definitely is. All right, Manisha Tank, thank you so much for that, for us live this morning from Singapore.

BRIGGS: All right, EARLY START continues right now with more reaction from the president's interesting speech in Phoenix, Arizona.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I hit him with neo-Nazi. I hit him with everything. I got the white supremacist, the neo-Nazi. I got them all in there. Let's say, yes. KKK, we have KKK. I got them all.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Actually, the president did not hit them all going widely off the prompter. The president defends his Charlottesville response, but with a glaring lie by omission, he declines to mention he blamed both sides.

Welcome back to EARLY START, I'm Christine Romans. A 77 minutes speech, half of it bashing the media and he actually made some news in there. There's a lot of news made in there, but I think it was the oxygen in the room is what really energized and recharged the battery of this president.

BRIGGS: Yes. He threatened a government shutdown over the wall funding. He hinted at pardoning Sheriff Joe Arpaio, a lot of news made at (ph) first --

ROMANS: Killing NAFTA.

BRIGGS: -- killing NAFTA, it went on and on 30 minutes blaming the media. A night after, though, preaching to the nation about healing, President Trump does a 180 with his speech at a campaign rally in Phoenix. The President, again, defending his response to violence in Charlottesville. He spent nearly 15 minutes recounting his words, but with a glaring omission.

Mr. Trump neglected to mention he initially blamed the clashes on many sides and no mention of the very fine people that marched with torches on that fateful Friday night. And for some context, here's what the President said last night and what he said 10 days earlier.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Here's what I said on Saturday. "We're closely following the terrible events unfolding in Charlottesville, Virginia." This is me speaking. "We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence." That's me speaking on Saturday.

We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides. It's been going on for a long time in our country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: And that was just one moment in a speech that has some including the former director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, questioning the president's fitness to hold the office.

The protests turning ugly outside the Phoenix Convention Center after President Trump's speech. Three people were arrested. Police forced to use tear gas and pepper spray to try to break up the crowd of protesters in triple-digit heat. Police say people threw rocks. People threw bottles at police officers and dispersed gas in the area.

BRIGGS: Phoenix police were on high alert. They kept Trump supporters and protesters behind barricades on separate sides of the street.

Let's bring in Ron Brownstein, senior editor -- senior political analyst and senior editor at the Atlantic. It is 12:30 there in L.A., 3:30 Eastern Time. Good to see you again, sir.

This speech, like all of them campaign rallies ended with, you can't always get what you want, despite the rolling stones protesting. Why don't the president -- that's a message the president can't seem to get through because he, again, played the victim and blamed his own party for the things he can't get. What's your reaction?

BROWNSTEIN: Yes, I think, you know, I -- that's right. I mean, you have this, you know, from the beginning, the -- as a candidate, the president has had a bottomless well of grievance. And so much of these rallies are focused almost entirely on lashing back at anyone who he believes has crossed him or wronged him and what gets lost in that. And that is the drama, you know, the kind of the reality show drama that Donald Trump has brought to politics, kind of an endless rotating series of feuds with other figures in American life.

What gets lost in that, from the point of view of Republicans on Capitol Hill, is the ability to drive any kind of positive message on anything they are trying to do. I mean, when you got to the end of the health care fight, fewer than 20% of the country said they supported the bill that Republicans were voting on. That was a failure by the president. He could not provide them any air covered. Did he deliver any effective message tonight on tax reform, which is going to be tough? And by way, I think they moved beyond tax reform. They just simply -- tax cuts.

ROMANS: I agree.

[00:35:00] BROWNSTEIN: It was all about him. And often it include a tax on his own party, which I think are going to make Republicans on the Hill even more leery about climbing on any -- on to any limbs for the president.

ROMANS: And, you know, there was a lot of news in the 77 minutes. You know, half of it --

BROWNSTEIN: Yes.

ROMANS: -- was attacking the media, really attacking the media going further than just saying the media is unfair to him, but saying actually not good people, bad people. But also he threatened to shut down the government to get a wall built between the United States and Mexico. Listen to this moment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: 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.

Let me be very clear to Democrats in Congress, who oppose a border wall and stand in the way of border security, you are putting all of America's safety at risk. You're doing that. You're doing that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: He attacked not by name but very clearly attacked the two Republican senators from Arizona. He attacked the Democrats there. It's almost as if President Trump is against all of Congress here.

BROWNSTEIN: He's heading in that direction, you know. A Bill -- under Bill Clinton, the phrase became famous, triangulation, and that was the idea that Clinton was sitting himself up as a midpoint between the parties to try to -- but in his case, to try to reach agreements which they did on welfare reform and a balanced budget and other issues in '96 and '97. President Trump seems to be heading in the same direction, but not for my point where he's trying to bring the two sides together but where he's positioning himself to attack each of them equally as standing in his way.

And, look, if he want -- I'm sure if you had Chuck Schumer sitting here and you said to him, the president wants to shut down the government, close the national parks, all the other things that would happen in order to demand funding for a border wall that roughly 60% of the American public opposes consistently in polling, you know, he would say, where do you sign me up? That is not a fight that I'm sure Mitch McConnell is looking forward to.

ROMANS: Right.

BROWNSTEIN: They -- or even Paul Ryan who has been ambivalent from the beginning about the border wall. So, that is a place where the president is kind of maybe along (ph). By the way, the promises tonight Steve Bannon has done, but these were all populist, nationalist promises. He threatened -- you know, he basically said he's more likely to not (ph) he pulls out of NAFTA, shut down the government for the wall, that is the base he is returning to as some of his broader support has eroded from the turmoil of his first months in office.

BRIGGS: That crowd, his supporters whether they're 33%, 35%, 37% of the country loved it. But what's the net impact of a speech like these 24 hours after showing some leadership, sticking to the script and telling America why we need to send more troops to Afghanistan?

BROWNSTEIN: Look, I think, you know, obviously, one speech is not the point but it fits into the broader narrative. I think that if you go back to Election Day, as I've said before, and you look at the exit poll, somewhere between one-fifth and one-fourth of the people who voted for President Trump did so with reservations. They either said they doubted the temperament to succeed or they doubted they have yet the qualifications to succeed. And I think everything -- the overwhelming evidence, how he's gotten from 46% of the vote to an approval rating somewhere between 36%, 38%, 39%, is that those doubts had been deepened and hardened among that share of the electorate.

And I think everything he is doing has been about speaking to that shrinking base mobilizing, reinforcing --

ROMANS: Right.

BROWNSTEIN: -- that base, but at the price of adding more concern. You know, in the polling that came out this week in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania, the NBC Marist polls, the states that gave him the White House, 20% of the people who voted for him said that they were embarrassed by his conduct as president. And the overall numbers, of course, were much higher than that, only 60% of the people who voted of him said both that they were proud of him and they approved of the job he was doing.

He is systematically, I think, speaking to -- showing himself (ph) of incapable of speaking to a broader universe, trying to speak to all Americans. So much of his presidency is about mobilizing, this narrowing base, and ultimately, I believe it's too thin a sliver on which to govern. ROMANS: You know, because there's -- I guess there's two

deliverables. If you're looking at this President Trump and his presidency, the one is growing that base, that sliver that you point out, the other is advancing the legislative agenda. These are the two deliverables with every sort of appearance, every press appearance, every speech, every meeting from President Trump. Did he do either of those things last night?

BROWNSTEIN: No. I mean, as I've said, I mean, I think he is showing himself incapable of driving a message that is beyond whatever personal feud he is engaged in on that given day and it's kind of an endless precession of that. He really did not drive any message on health care that was effective for Republicans. He made no effective argument tonight for tax care -- tax cuts.

But I would say there is a third arena in which they have been more successful, and that is through executive action where, for example, the Environmental Protection Agency and other regulator agencies, they are executing a very significant change in direction why all in many ways all of these other fireworks are obscuring what's happening.

[00:40:15] But in terms of moving legislation, I think Republicans have come to conclude that he is unlikely to be an asset either in the inside game of bringing them together or in the outside game of selling to public opinion.

BRIGGS: One of the other pieces of news the president made is hinting that he might pardon a very controversial sheriff. Listen to what President Trump said about Joe Arpaio.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Was Sheriff Joe convicted for doing his job? That's what -- he should have had a jury. But you know what? I'll make a prediction. I think he's going to be just fine, OK? But, I won't do it tonight because I don't want to cause any controversy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: He never wants to cause controversy, this president.

BRIGGS: Well, I think he's trolling his own chief of staff there, General Kelly, just like he did with the Republicans senators by not naming them. Just to be clear, Joe Arpaio refused a judge's order to stop racially profiling. That's what he is being punished for. If the president is to pardon him, what does it tell you about the path forward?

BROWNSTEIN: And not only that, he lost -- you know, he lost his election before that happened, and again, it goes to the point -- two points. One, that this is a president focused, I think, on really a narrow base. And secondly, that kind of returning to those divisive themes, you know, pardoning Sheriff Arpaio, I think, would send a very clear signal to the most restrictionist forces in the Republican Party that he is standing with them. But I think many other Americans, those who are -- who started off

ambivalent about our President Trump and have had their ambivalence deepen would look at this, again, as someone who is focusing more on dividing. Look, this is inherently a very fragile moment in the history of the country. We are going to a big demographic transformation. Majority of our public schools students are now non- white. The majority of our under 10 population is now non-white. The economy is changing.

There is intrinsically centripetal forces at work. What is unusual is that we have a president now who is systematically jumping up and down on every one of those fault lines. And I think a pardon of Sheriff Joe would be another example of him speaking to that smaller universe at the price of widening the division in the society.

BRIGGS: The headline on drugs says powerhouse Trump battles in Arizona. He is a fighter.

BROWNSTEIN: Yes.

BRIGGS: We haven't seen the leader --

ROMANS: Yes.

BRIGGS: -- but we sure, once again, have been reminded of the fighter that President Trump is.

ROMANS: Ron Brownstein, bright and earlier, up late for us. Thanks, Ron. Nice to see you.

BROWNSTEIN: Thank you.

ROMANS: All right, 43 minutes past the hour. A clash between the whole country and the president who vowed to save it. The Trump administration rejecting a request to issue an order that would protect coal fired power plants from closing, the rarely used rule allows the government to shut down the electric grid during an emergency, for example, when a power plant is threatened by war or natural disaster. But the threat to coal plants is the burden of environmental regulations.

So Department of Energy says, the evidence didn't warrant its use and the White House agreed. But coal exec Robert Murray says this contradicts what Trump personally promised him, that's according to letters he sent to the White House that were confirmed by CNN. Murray warned that not issuing the order would bankrupt his company causing tens of thousands of miners to be laid off and risking the nation's electric power supply.

However, experts say no coal plant closure has ever threatened the U.S. power supply and ultimately the White House agreed. So the first sort of fault line between coal executives who were very, very supportive of this president though he was going to, you know, really work hard for them in this administration.

BRIGGS: Some huge donations in particular to his inauguration fund. All right, the rift is widening between the president and his own

Senate Majority Leader. The pair have not spoken in weeks. And Mitch McConnell has doubts the White House can get on track.

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[00:48:04] BRIGGS: President Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell not talking. In fact, it's been two weeks since a phone call between the two men erupted into a profanity-laced shouting match. Sources tell CNN the August night conversation unraveled when the president began to express frustration with the Russia investigation, and the Russia sanctions bill passed by Congress.

ROMANS: Since then, the president and McConnell have been publicly questioning each other. The "New York Times" now reports McConnell is privately questioning whether Trump can salvage his presidency.

BRIGGS: One senior White House official dismissing the seriousness of the rift, but is not denying the reports the two men are not talking. The president and McConnell will have to work together, though, if Republicans want to tackle tax reform, a spending package and raising the debt ceiling. Here's what President Trump said about working with McConnell on legislation in the future.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: The Senate, we have to get rid of what's called the filibuster rule. We have to. And if we don't, the Republicans will never get anything passed. You're wasting your time. We have to get rid of the filibuster rule.

Right now, we need 60 votes and we have 52 Republicans. That means that eight Democrats are controlling all of this legislation. We have over 200 bills. And we have to speak to Mitch.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: Two things, they need all 52 Republicans to line up on something before that even becomes an issue.

ROMANS: Right.

BRIGGS: And secondly, Mitch McConnell has reiterated time and time and time again there was no appetite whatsoever for doing away with that threshold.

ROMANS: Fascinating.

BRIGGS: They want to keep the Senate rules.

[00:50:02] All right, a Missouri death row inmate gets a reprieve from the governor just hours from his scheduled execution. Attorneys for convicted murderer Marcellus Williams say new DNA evidence unavailable during the trial in 2001 proves his innocence. Williams was set to be put to death by lethal injection Tuesday night. ROMANS: A newly created board of inquiry will now review that case.

The St. Louis County prosecutor says he is confident the board and the governor will confirm Williams' conviction after a full review. Earlier evidence against him included some of the victim's items being found in his car.

BRIGGS: A blockbuster shocking trade in the NBA as the Cleveland Cavaliers send All-Star guard Kyrie Irving, the Boston Celtics for Isaiah Thomas, two other players and the Brooklyn Nets 2018 first- round draft pick. Cavs star LeBron James wishing Irving well on Twitter, and that first-round pick the Cavs acquired could be an insurance policy in case James also decides to part Cleveland, which many have speculated he will, in fact, do.

ROMANS: Story next, we're getting a lot of attention overnight.

BRIGGS: Oh, yes.

ROMANS: ESPN deciding to pull announcer Robert Lee from the University of Virginia's college football season opener because of his name. Robert E. Lee, of course, was commander of Confederate Army. ESPN confirming the decision was made as the tragic events in Charlottesville were unfolding. Lee, who is Asian, has been assigned to another game.

Part of the statement from ESPN, they say they made the decision to switch games for him as it was happening simply because of the coincidence of his name. They said in that moment, it felt right to all parties, it's a shame that this is even a topic of conversation, and we regret that who calls play-by-play for a football game has become an issue.

BRIGGS: They made it an issue.

ROMANS: The reaction here online -- I mean, it's the second highest trending thing on Twitter right now is that this was a mistake.

BRIGGS: Behind Phoenix rally, I assume.

ROMANS: This was an over -- a complete overreaction by ESPN, but ESPN is standing beside that decision.

BRIGGS: They are getting hammered on social media.

ROMANS: Yes, they sure are.

All right, Google and Walmart teaming up to take on Amazon. We're going to tell you how they plan to VP online shopping powerhouse. CNN MoneyStream next.

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[00:56:42] BRIGGS: U.S. Navy planning to remove the commander of the U.S. 7th Fleet after the guided missile destroyer, USS John S. McCain, collided with a commercial tanker Monday off the coast of Singapore. Naval officials say some remains of the 10 missing sailors from the McCain have now been recovered.

Let's bring in CNN's Manisha Tank live in Singapore with the very latest details. Good morning, Manisha.

TANK: Good morning. Well, it isn't exactly clear why Vice Admiral Joe Aucoin is being removed. The circumstances around it on being shed is yet. However, I can tell you of the four incidences of collisions or some sort of incident that we've seen since the beginning of 2017. Three of them have involved vessels which are from that 7th Fleet over which he has a command.

So, obviously, some very serious questions being asked about operations there. In the case of this latest collision on Monday, it became clear that there was some kind of steering malfunction. And then the question had to be asked, what happened to the backup systems?

We know that there is an operational shutdown happening of the various commands out here. As the Navy takes a really in-depth look at what has really gone on, they really need to understand if there is some systemic problem here and that needs to be addressed quickly.

Now, the Admiral Scott Swift, who is the overall commander of Pacific Fleet, is in Japan today. He is meeting the families of those 10 missing sailors. And, I can also tell you the rather sombering news that remains have been found. This is after divers went down to assess the hull of the ship of the USS John S. McCain, and found -- looking -- knowing what they might be looking for in sealed, flooded compartments of the bow (ph) in the ship, came back with these reports.

But all hope is not lost. That session rescue does continue in the waters of Singapore for any possible survivors out of those 10 that went missing.

BRIGGS: Manisha Tank live for us just before 4:00 p.m. there in Singapore. Thank you.

ROMANS: All right, let's go a check on CNN MoneyStream this morning. Global stock markets mixed right now after a great day on Wall Street. The catalyst yesterday renewed hope for U.S. tax reform. U.S. stocks here rallied after whispers, just those market whispers that the White House and lawmakers may be moving ahead with reform.

The Dow surging almost 200 points, its biggest one-day gain since April. The S&P and the NASDAQ both gained at least 1%. Of course, many credit the promise of tax reform for the post-election rally. The Dow is up about 20% since the election, but many market watchers are starting to wonder if it's going to be just straight tax cuts not a real meaningful reform given the president's fractured relationship with Republicans in the House.

Google and Walmart are teaming up to take on Amazon. Walmart will start offering hundreds of thousands of products through Google platforms, including voice ordering through Google Assistant. It's the first time it's selling its online products outside its own website.