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Reince Priebus Resigns as White House Chief of Staff; Homeland Security Secretary General John Kelly Appointed White House Chief of Staff; North Korea Successfully Tests Intercontinental Ballistic Missile; President Trump Makes Controversial Comments on Police Behavior towards Arrested Suspects; Democrat who Voted for Donald Trump Discusses Reasons for Vote. Aired 2-3p ET

Aired July 29, 2017 - 14:00   ET



[14:00:00] REINCE PRIEBUS, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: The president has a right to hit a reset button. I think it's a good time to hit the reset button. I think he was right to hit the reset button. And I think that it was something that I think the White House needs. I think it's healthy.


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Priebus will be replaced by homeland security secretary and retired General John Kelly. And he will certainly have his hands full. Aside from the investigations involving the White House, this week was punctuated by Senate Republicans' failure to repeal and replace Obamacare.

Well, today the president is tweeting major criticisms against GOP lawmakers. A misunderstanding about how the vote failed? More on that in a moment.

But first, let's talk about this major staffing change within the executive branch. Reince Priebus is the sixth member of the Trump administration to resign or be fired since February. I'm joined now by CNN White House reporter Kaitlan Collins who is live on the north lawn there. So Kaitlan, what more are we learning about Priebus' resignation?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, so Reince Priebus is out after just six months here at the White House. He is the shortest serving chief of staff, with the exception of chief of staffs who are interim, that the U.S. has ever seen. And as we know Reince Priebus did his first interview with CNN last night with Wolf Blitzer. And during that interview he was asked by Wolf what his greatest disappointment was during his time here in the West Wing at the White House. Let's listen to what Reince had to say to that.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST, "THE SITUATION ROOM": What's your biggest disappointment? REINCE PRIEBUS, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: Well, look, I mean, I

wish health care would have passed. But I don't think it's over yet, Wolf. I think we can still get there.

BLITZER: Talk a little bit about that. How do you get there, because you don't have the votes? There's a 52-48 majority the Republicans have in the Senate, clearly not enough.

PRIEBUS: They have to keep working, Wolf. They have to roll up their sleeves and keep working. They have to come up with another amendment. I think that Lindsey Graham has got an amendment. I think they have to work on Lisa Murkowski and see if we can get her on the right side of the health care debate.

I don't think this is over. I think they can get this done. And obviously coming together as a party is something that I think we've had too much difficulty doing.


COLLINS: So as you can see there, Fred, health care was something that was definitely on Reince Priebus' mind. He was brought into this White House with the understanding that his biggest asset was that he was very close to people on Capitol Hill. He has a very close relationship with House Speaker Paul Ryan. And the White House was really hopeful he would be someone who was in this White House with a lot of outsiders, that he would be the insider who could really tell them which levers to pull to do what and how to navigate Washington. And I don't think he did that for that White House and that's part of the reason that he resigned this week.

Now, health care is something that's also been on the president's mind today. He's been very active on Twitter this morning. We're going to put up his latest tweet about health care that came not long ago. Donald Trump said, "If a new health care bill is not approved quickly, bailouts for insurance companies and bailouts for members of Congress will end very soon." Now, we've reached out to the White House to get more clarity on this tweet. They haven't provided that yet. We're still waiting to hear more. We may hear more from Donald Trump on Twitter this morning. But we also know he's been tweeting about changing the Senate rules and whatnot. And we'll likely hear more about that soon.

WHITFIELD: All right, Kaitlan Collins at the White House, thanks so much.

COLLINS: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: Important to put into context here the role Reince Priebus played during Trump's campaign and in the Republican Party as a whole. Many saw him as an intermediary between the White House and moderate Republicans, valued for his connections in the Washington establishment. CNN correspondent Boris Sanchez joining me now with more on this. So, Boris, any more reaction coming from Washington insiders? BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Fred. Republican lawmakers

especially have come out to thank Reince Priebus for his service. Perhaps no more heartfelt statement upon his departure from the White House than from his close friend, House Speaker Paul Ryan. Both men have worked together closely for some time, both of them from Wisconsin.

Paul Ryan writes, quote, "Reince has left it all out on the field for our party and our country. Here's a guy from Kenosha, Wisconsin, who revitalized the Republican National Committee and became White House chief of staff. He has served the president and the American people capably and passionately. He has achieved so much, and he has done it all with class. I could not be more proud to call Reince a dear friend."

He then went onto congratulate Secretary John Kelly, who is replacing Reince Priebus as chief of staff, on his appointment, saying that he looks forward to working with him to advance our agenda. A lot of lawmakers also reaching out to Secretary Kelly to congratulate him. The question of course is how is he going to deal with the White House that has been steeped in dysfunction. Here's what Kellyanne Conway had to say.


KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: I think in General Kelly the president has selected a generational peer and someone who knows how to organize large structures. That's not to say that our outgoing chief of staff did not. I'm merely answering your question about the new one.

[14:05:08] And it was a week ago that Reince Priebus said upon Sean Spicer's resignation that there's a fresh start. So I think people will look upon this the same way, too. But I think Reince should be thanked for his service and his sacrifice. These are tough jobs. It's a pressure cooker environment. It's different from previous White Houses because, as you know, day in and day out, Martha, people want us to get clouded up and gummed up with the noise and not really want to cover the news.


SANCHEZ: Secretary Kelly walks into that pressure cooker environment, as Kellyanne Conway said on Monday, Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right, Boris Sanchez in Washington, thanks so much.

Let's talk more now about this latest White House shakeup with our panel, Dylan Byers, CNN senior reporter for media and politics, David Swerdlick is CNN political commentator and assistant editor for "The Washington Post," and Abigail Tracy, staff writer for "Vanity Fair." Good to see all of you. All right, so, Dylan, you first. Priebus is out, General Kelly in. What are you hearing about the real reasons as to why he resigned?

DYLAN BYERS, CNN SENIOR REPORTER FOR MEDIA AND POLITICS: Well, look, based off my conversations with sources both in and close to the White House, you know, the idea here is Reince Priebus, like Sean Spicer, they were brought in really as sort of the only -- some of the only people with experience in this arena to bring in an administration and a president and advisors who really had no idea what they were doing, or had never been in politics at all. Six months into this administration, things obviously aren't going very well.

There was a feeling that it was time to change hands. And, you know, when I talk to folks close to the White House, what they say is that Reince Priebus was never really given the mandate or the authority to run this White House effectively. Obviously running any White House where President Trump is at the helm is extremely hard. Same for Sean Spicer, running any communications strategy where you have President Trump at the helm tweeting out whatever comes to mind while he's watching FOX News is very hard.

The thinking here was when President Trump gets into office, what is he going to do? Is he going to try and sort of expand and bring in more seasoned hands, bring in people with more experience, a more diverse set of skills? Or is he going to sort of get into a trench warfare mentality, bring in guys like Scaramucci, bring in some military guys like John Kelly who he obviously really admires. He obviously opted for the latter decision. And that's what we're seeing now in terms of shakeups that are taking place at the White House.

WHITFIELD: So, David, this morning Kellyanne Conway, a counselor to the president, hinted that the chief of staff, you know, change and send a loud and clear message, particularly about leakers. Take a listen.


KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: I think General Secretary Kelly will bring some strength and discipline and put out without even saying so the dictum that loose lips sink ships. And I think people will think thrice before they try to hurt each other, hurt their colleagues by using the press to do so, or even to think that they're helping the president by conveying information that perhaps is not yet ripe for public disclosure or is in negotiation or conversation.


CUOMO: So, David, our Wolf Blitzer asked, you know, Reince Priebus, he said, don't be ridiculous in terms of the leaks. But then you listen to Kellyanne Conway there. Is that a veiled threat to anybody else or anyone in the White House who might be chatty?

DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, if it's a threat, it's not even that veiled. You know, the back and forth between Anthony Scaramucci and Reince Priebus over the last several days also wasn't in the end all that veiled.

But, look, I think that Kellyanne Conway has a point there, that General Kelly has a reservoir of bipartisan support and admiration, Democrats and Republicans. He's a man of stature. He has run large organizations. And I think if he had been the chief of staff in the first place, Fred, that he probably could have set out this trajectory of saying, look, we're going to run a tight ship. I'm running the show. I'm your link to the president.

But now things -- you know, the boat is already taking on water. His job is going to be that much harder. And I think it's even more difficult when you have a president who is as unconventional, let's say, as President Trump.

I think Reince Priebus failed in part because he wasn't the right guy for the job, but also in part because of the president that he was dealing with. If you think about leaks, yes, there have been leaks. Yes, this has been a problem for this administration, Fred. But a lot of the information that's come out and that has been a problem for this administration has come from the president himself on the record in interviews with folks like Maggie Haberman from "The New York Times" and on Twitter. So that is not something that the chief of staff is going to solve.

WHITFIELD: Interesting. So, Abigail, this change coming after, you know, the other change in the communications office, Anthony Scaramucci, I mean, it didn't help that he was publicly attacking, you know, Priebus, and even the White House chief strategist Steve Bannon in that kind of vulgar rant, you know, to "The New Yorker."

[14:10:09] sources are telling CNN that Trump consulted some conservatives about whether to keep Bannon, and they told him that getting rid of him could damage Trump's base. But is it your view that Bannon's job is on the line too potentially?

ABIGAIL TRACY, STAFF WRITER, "VANITY FAIR": I think we've heard that for a while now. And I think he might be a little bit more on the edge than at times in the past.

But I do think one interesting thing to think about is John Kelly was somebody who did have the approval of Steve Bannon coming in, and Steve Bannon was one person who actually brought in John Kelly to be homeland -- to run Homeland Security. So I think right now he's probably OK. I think we've had a lot of shakeups already, so it might make sense to kind of stick with the status quo with the people we have left. But I think, you know, moving forward he might be in jeopardy. But we'll have to see, I guess.

WHITFIELD: OK. And so, Dylan, are you able to hear us? I see you tapping your earpiece. OK, maybe not. So David, let me ask you, right now you have acting homeland security as secretary, but then there is talk inside of Washington, inside the beltway and beyond that Jeff Sessions, who's the current A.G., could potentially be moved to that Homeland Security secretary gig, which would mean the president then would have to find a new A.G. Does this create a new problem, potentially, for the White House? Or does this solve potential problems that Trump sees?

SWERDLICK: Well, it might solve one problem and create others, Fred. I mean, if you talk about Sessions and Kelly, they're the two members of the cabinet that arguably have been the most successful in pushing forward President Trump's agenda, in large part because they are both working in different ways in issues related to immigration. And whether or not, you know, we can have a separate discussion about the pros and cons of that policy, they are moving forward with their immigration policy.

So in some ways it's a fit for Sessions to go over to Homeland Security. But then you have to have another attorney general appointed, which means that senators in the Justice Committee will have another crack at questions -- particularly Democrats, at questioning the new nominee of the president for attorney general. And that will open up a whole new can of worms in terms of the Justice Department investigations, the special prosecutor and what that new attorney general, if there is a new attorney general, will do going forward. That is another problem, at least message-wise, for the White House.

WHITFIELD: So, Abigail, you know, this week we've been hearing about and, well, really in the past 24, 48 hours about control of the White House. You know, it's unraveling and all that. And so Scaramucci would help, you know, would help kind of wrangle it in. And now, you know, Kelly would do the same. But already you've got the president who's been tweeting a lot today, all over the map from the stock market to health care, et cetera. So isn't this just testament to no one really can control the message out of the White House except for the president of the United States?

TRACY: Right. So I think to some degree any White House chief of staff who comes in is a little bit doomed as long as Trump continues to really be Trump. I think we look at Reince Priebus and obviously he wasn't empowered to be an effective chief of staff, but you wonder, regardless of how well John Kelly is able to sort of address these warring factions that we're hearing about in the West Wing, it matters to some extent but also at the end of the day so much chaos has been created by the president himself. And if he refuses to, you know, listen to the guidance of his advisors and ultimately his chief of staff, I think whoever fills that position is doomed to some degree.

WHITFIELD: And, Dylan, you know, the president wants to, you know, promote his agenda. He still needs a big legislative win. This was a big defeat with health care, you know, Republicans controlling both houses, you know, of Congress and still wasn't able to get his agenda through. So how does this president try to reset? We know that tax reform may be the next thing he wants to tackle, but you can't do that if you don't have friends or support on Capitol Hill. So what could change for him?

BYERS: Without support on Capitol Hill you also can't do it without discipline, without message discipline. We've been talking about how hard it is to be a communications strategist, to be a chief of staff in the Trump administration because Trump's running the show. But that doesn't mean he has a strategy.

And so, you know, so often here there's a lack of message discipline. If health care is on the line, if there's the question about whether or not the Senate is going to impose sanctions on Russia, if you're dealing with all of these things, why are you sort of going out there and giving Anthony Scaramucci the green light to go after Reince Priebus? Why are you engaging in this sort of spectacle, very much like "The Apprentice," the show he used to host, where you're sort of throwing your top deputies after one another?

[14:15:04] You think about this change and we always talk, well, look, can John Kelly do a better job than Reince Priebus? Can Anthony Scaramucci do a better job than Sean Spicer did? Really what we're seeing, it's only a matter of time before something goes wrong and this president, the people he trusts now, he decides he doesn't trust them anymore and he decides to throw them under the bus. This happens over and over and over again.

And what that's about is a lack of discipline on message. It's also about an abdication of responsibility. The president refuses to take responsibility for what his administration is doing, what it stands for, what the agenda is and how it's going to impose the discipline to get that message out. And that's why you're seeing all the leaks. And by the way, I don't think the leaks are going to stop just because you bring in new blood.

SWERDLICK: Can I just add one thing?

WHITFIELD: Go ahead, David.

SWERDLICK: I agree with everything that Dylan said. I just would add that this was the president who campaigned saying, look, I'm a CEO, I'm a businessman. I'll hire all the best people. They'll do all the right things right away, and so far that has not been the case.

BYERS: The president said a lot when he was trying to get elected.


WHITFIELD: And like the show, we know he likes to fire too with the flick of the wrist. All right, Dylan Byers, David Swerdlick, Abigail Tracy, thanks so much.

Coming up, President Trump called him a star. Now John Kelly is incoming chief of staff. Ahead, more on the man tasked with bringing stability to the White House.

Then we'll hear what Trump voters have to say about the challenges the Trump agenda faces now.


[14:20:39] WHITFIELD: North Korea says it now has missiles that can hit some of the biggest cities in America, and experts agree. Analysts say Friday's test missile is more advanced than the one launched earlier this month, traveling 2,300 miles high for a distance of 621 miles. North Korean Dictator Kim Jong-un says that puts the whole U.S. mainland in range, and at least one analyst says if the missile were fired at a flatter trajectory, North Korea could strike anywhere from Los Angeles to Chicago. CNN's Kristie Lu Stout is joining us live now from Tokyo. So, Kristie, how is the U.S. responding to this latest test? KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fredricka, the United

States was quick to condemn this latest test along with its allies in the region. And we've heard that statement from the U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson who pointed the finger of blame squarely at Russia and China for being the key economic enablers of North Korea's weapons programs.

Of course we know that that U.S. new package of sanctions was just passed by the U.S. Senate. It's now on President Donald Trump's desk awaiting for him to sign that off. If he does sign that off, that would level sanctions targeting Chinese institutions that do business with North Korea, so putting the pressure on North Korea directly that way.

But this is a new reality here that everyone in the region is still grappling with, the fact North Korea tested a second intercontinental ballistic missile. The timing was expected time to coincide with the anniversary of the armistice. What was not expected is the amount of progress it signals. Back to you.

WHITFIELD: All right, Kristie Lu Stout, thank you so much for that.

All right, it is not the most visible role in the White House, but it could be one of the most crucial. Our next guest explains how a chief of staff is more than a gatekeeper and can alter the course of a presidential administration.


[14:26:39] WHITFIELD: President Trump's new chief of staff John Kelly is already earning high praise from many in Washington. The retired marine general brings experience that includes nearly five decades of military service. And while he's known as an accomplished, competent leader, he faces enormous challenges, among them trying to bring order to a White House plagued by infighting.

Let's bring in CNN's Dianne Gallagher. So, Dianne, what else do we know about John Kelly?

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Like you said, Fred, he is the consummate marine. He's plainspoken, he is mission oriented, and above all he's a leader. But perhaps most importantly, President Trump likes and respects John Kelly. And, well, it appears the feeling is mutual.


GALLAGHER: It was another major announcement made over Twitter.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST, "THE SITUATION ROOM": We're following breaking news. President Trump just announcing a new White House chief of staff.

GALLAGHER: The president tapping Homeland Security Secretary General John Kelly to replace Reince Priebus as his new chief of staff.

DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Reince is a good man. John Kelly will do a fantastic job.

GALLAGHER: Kelly, a retired Marine Corps general with nearly five decades of military service, has served many roles, the latest Homeland Security chief, where he has earned high marks from the president for defending and enforcing the White House immigration policy.

Now, earlier in his career Kelly served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. His son, Robert Michael Kelly, was killed in combat in Afghanistan in 2010. President Trump and General Kelly visited his son's grave on Memorial Day earlier this year.

Starting Monday, General Kelly enters a new arena, White House politics.

GEN. JOHN KELLY, NEWLY APPOINTED WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: What I never saw on the military side was the level of toxic kind of politics that are associated with what I do now.

GALLAGHER: The question now is can General Kelly unite the West Wing where sharp elbows, staff infighting, and loose lips have distracted from the president's agenda?


GALLAGHER: And another question is going to be whether he can actually restore order to the chaos that is there in the White House right now, Fred. Many people wondering just how much power the president is going to give him.

WHITFIELD: All right, Dianne, thank you so much.

So what impact will John Kelly have on the White House? And will he be able to usher in any change? Let's discuss this with Chris Whipple. He's the author of "The Gatekeepers, How the White House Chiefs of Staff Define Every Presidency." Good to see you, Chris.


WHITFIELD: So first up I want to get your reaction to something Reince Priebus said just yesterday.


REINCE PRIEBUS, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: This is not like a situation where there's a bunch of ill will feelings. This is, I think, good for the president. I think it's smart for him to pick General Kelly. And I think that things are going to be run very well.


WHITFIELD: All right, so do you buy that? I mean, no ill will. He says he honors the president. In fact, he says he thought it was the right thing to do to hit the reset button.

WHIPPLE: Yes. Well, let me just say respectfully that this is a White House without a great track record of truth telling. But when I heard Priebus say that this was one big happy family simply doing a reset, I was reminded of something that Andy Carr, George W. Bush's former White House chief told me, and that is if anybody tells you they're ready to leave the White House, they're probably lying.

[14:30:07] And that's just I think a pretty good bet. So let me just say that in the best of times with a president who understands something about governing, the White House chief of staff is the most difficult job in government. Under these circumstances with this president it may well be mission impossible. I mean, this is a White House that is fundamentally broken, maybe beyond repair. It cannot pass legislation. It can't issue executive orders that are enforceable. It can't prioritize the president's agenda. It can't get anybody on the same page. In a normal White House with an empowered White House chief of staff, all of those things flow from an empowered White House chief of staff who can execute the president's agenda. Priebus was never empowered because Trump doesn't understand the job.

WHITFIELD: OK. So, oh, that's a lot there. So one would think, you know, at these depths here we're talking about six months that you could only go up from here. I mean, we are talking about, like you were describing, it's the White House. It's the epitome of power. No one would want to leave it. At the same time no one would want to leave it in shambles. You say it's mission impossible, but if it means a chief of staff has to be empowered by the president to do a great job, do you see that potentially happening in this case that this president does want successes and now it may be the time to empower your chief of staff, John Kelly, if Reince Priebus was not empowered?

WHIPPLE: Well, now is the time for sure, if Trump wants to have any hope whatsoever of accomplishing anything as president. The indications, the evidence so far is alarming. It's not good. There's no -- I get no sense that Trump has learned anything from his first six months in office. And the really troubling thing about the incoming chief is that for all of it he may well have a sterling reputation as a general. Generals have not traditionally done well in this job. Al Hague lasted a little over a month as Gerry Ford's White House chief of staff. And the fact that apparently Kelly has not met any conditions for taking this job, that really suggests to me that he has no idea that this job has to be completely restructured.

WHITFIELD: What kind of conditions -- what kind of conditions would you think he should have asked for then?

WHIPPLE: Well, it's critical that the White House chief be empowered as first among equals in the White House. He's got to be in charge of executing the president's agenda. He's also got to be the gatekeeper. That means that Scaramucci cannot come and go and report directly to Donald Trump. That way lies disaster. It's never been the case in the White House where the communications director had unfettered access except perhaps in some cautionary cases. Gerry Ford had a setup very much like Donald Trump's where senior advisors came and went without a chain of command. He called it the spokes of the wheel with the president at the center. Well, it was a disaster. WHITFIELD: So John Kelly doesn't have the political experience. Yes,

he's been in the military 45 years, in the marines, you know, and he's a general, so he understands politics. But when you have Reince Priebus who understands politics, you know, lives, breathes it, and he was not able to influence lawmakers on Capitol Hill to move, you know, some of the president's agenda forward, why will John Kelly be able to do that if that's part of the power of a chief of staff?

WHIPPLE: Well, you know, one can only hope if, you know, if you're a Trump supporter, one can only hope that he can somehow make that happen. I mean, the reality is that if you oppose everything Donald Trump stands for, this is the White House staff structure for you. I mean, it is organized in such a way that it really guarantees failure, in my opinion.

I would suggest that, respectfully, that John Kelly pick up the phone and call James A. Baker III, Ronald Reagan's quintessential White House chief of staff, talk to Ken Duberstein who came in after the Iran-Contra affair and picked up all the pieces and helped Reagan finish successfully. Talk to Leon Panetta, a couple of Democrats, Leon Panetta and Erskine Bowles. They will explain to him that you have to have a White House chief who is empowered as first among equals. He's got to be calling the shots.

And most of all, and this was Priebus' greatest failure, you can't be a sycophant. You can't be a yes-man. You've got to be able to walk into the Oval, close the door, and tell Donald Trump what he does not want to hear. And so far that has not happened.

[14:35:05] WHITFIELD: Wow. Those are tall orders because you're talking about a White House, a president who has made it very clear that having to rely on Washington insiders is the complete opposite direction that this president would want to go.

WHIPPLE: Which is fine. If he doesn't want to govern, if he wants to be just a disrupter, that's the way to go. If he wants to govern, he has to change.

WHITFIELD: Chris Whipple, thank you so much. Pleasure.

WHIPPLE: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: And we'll be right back.


WHITFIELD: The Russia sanctions bill is on its way to the president's desk. And the White House says he will sign it. The proposal penalizes Russia and makes it harder for President Trump to ease those penalties without congressional approval. Russia is already retaliating, saying it will seize U.S. diplomatic properties like this one and demand that the U.S. remove some diplomatic staff from the country.

[14:40:04] CNN's senior international correspondent Matthew Chance is in Moscow for us. So, Matthew, obviously the Russian government is not happy with the new sanctions bill. Will these sanctions stand in the way of Russia and the U.S. ultimately working together?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We'll have to wait and see because the Russians have already announced a decision, a retaliation, if you like, in response to this sanctions bill passing both houses of the Congress in anticipation of the President Trump signing it into law.

And the sanctions that they've announced are pretty dramatic. I mean, they've said that the number of diplomatic staff in Russia from the United States, and remember, the United States has an embassy and three consulates in Russia, is to be reduced to 455 people, which they say is the same amount of Russians that work in diplomatic compounds or organizations in the United States from Russia.

And what's not clear at the moment is how many people that actually involves. But state media here in Russia is saying it's up to, you know, more than 700 people that will either be deported from Russia or at the very least, if they're Russian nationals, leave their jobs.

Although I've spoken to my diplomatic sources and they say they're still seeking clarification about the number of people from the United States that this affects. But clearly the Russians have already lost their patience with the United States now. They were waiting for some time, remember, since President Obama expelled the 35 Russian diplomats in response to allegations of Russian meddling in the U.S. presidential election, the Russians were hoping that that relationship was going to get better, that Donald Trump was going to be able to turn it around. This is a sign that they've lost faith in his ability to do that.

WHITFIELD: Matthew Chance in Moscow, thank you so much.

All right, still ahead, President Trump -- President Trump under fire for telling police officers not -- suspects during arrests. Why some are concerned about what this means for future -- the future of policing, next.

But first, in this week's Turning Points, we meet an Ohio man who was homeless at 19, addicted to drugs and alcohol, and now he's an ironman helping others overcome their addictions.


TODD CRANDELL, FORMER ADDICT: Everything bad that happened in my life and everything that is now currently good in my life is a direct result of my real mother committing suicide when I was three-and-a- half years old. When I was growing up, I felt abandoned. I felt angry, depressed.

I took my first drink of alcohol at the age of 13. For the next 13 years I was a full blown alcoholic, cocaine, heroin, crack. I got my awakening at the age of 26. I received my third drunk driving charge, and that's when I decided to turn my life around.

The day I quit I went cold turkey. Exercise helped me deal with depression, from wanting to use drugs again. What made me pursue the Ironman was simply the enormity of it. But I didn't know how to swim, I wasn't a bike rider, and I wasn't running. And then about six years into my sobriety I started doing the ironman. I have done 28 Ironmans around the world.

We want to talk about how awesome it is to be sober. My inspiration for forming Racing for Recovery was simply helping other addicts to show them what can be done when you're not using drugs. I never in a million years thought I would be alive let alone doing what I'm doing today. And that's the best message I can deliver to someone who is currently battling addictions.




[14:48:15] DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When you see these thugs being thrown in the back of the paddy wagon, you just see them thrown in, rough, I said please don't be too nice. Like when you guys put somebody in the car and you're protecting their head, the way you put your hand on -- like, don't hit their head and they've just killed somebody, don't hit their head. I said you can take the hand away, OK.


WHITFIELD: Tough talk from the president during a speech about gang violence, and now his comments are under scrutiny. CNN's Polo Sandoval has the latest now. Polo?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Fred, we have seen in that video that there are several police officers in Suffolk County that do respond with applause during that part of the statements from the president. However, we have heard from some of the police agencies, mainly the brass here, who are simply distancing themselves from those comments themselves.

I want to read you a portion of a statement that was released by Suffolk County police. It reads in part, "The Suffolk County Police Department has strict rules and procedures relating to the handling of prisoners, and violations of those rules and procedures are treated extremely seriously. As a department we do not and will not tolerate roughing up prisoners." The department referring to the president's remarks in which he told officers to, quote, "don't be too nice."

We have also seen this kind of response from other police departments across the country, including here in New York City. The NYPD in only the last few hours put out a statement, I want to read a portion of what the police commissioner mentions in that statement. Commissioner O'Neill saying, quote, "To suggest that police officers apply any standard in the use of force other than what is reasonable and necessary is irresponsible, unprofessional, and also sends the wrong message to law enforcement as well as the public." That again coming from NYPD Commissioner James O'Neill recently. [14:50:05] We have also heard from some other police organizations,

including also the Blue Lives Matter movement who took to Twitter and also to Facebook. It's defending the president. It's saying that he likely was simply joking. But again, this does not push out the fact we have heard from other agencies and other organizations that have already distanced themselves right after some of these comments were made, including the Boy Scouts of America, Fred. You recall just on Thursday they put out a statement apologizing for some of the political rhetoric, which is a word they describe, that was inserted in one of those recent speeches that was delivered by the commander in chief just this week.

WHITFIELD: All right, Polo Sandoval, thanks so much for bringing that to us. Appreciate it.

All right, still ahead, CNN follows up with a family of Democrats who mostly voted for President Trump. What they have to say six months into his presidency now.


SCOTT SEITZ: Oh, there's things about Donald Trump that I do not trust, but he spoke to me about jobs.



[14:55:14] WHITFIELD: Welcome back. The Trump White House has been rocked with recent staff changes, but one thing under the administration that has remained steady is the economy. A new government report shows the U.S. economy picked up momentum during President Trump's first full quarter in office. CNN's Gary Tuchman followed up with one family of Democrats who mainly voted Trump to see where they stand today.




GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Scott Seitz is a grandfather, a steel worker, a Democratic councilman in the village of McDonald, Ohio, and a Donald Trump voter, the first time this husband and father of three ever voted for a Republican for president.

SCOTT SEITZ: There is individuals in this village that look down on me, family members as well. But I have to think about these individuals in this room and put food on the table. And I think he had a better chance of providing a job in the future for us.

TUCHMAN: Seitz had to start a gutter cleaning business after so many steel jobs left this part of the rust belt. But shortly after the new president took office he got a job at a plant making titanium for the F-35 fighter jet. He works seven days a week and loves it, and says this about President Trump.

SCOTT SEITZ: He helped negotiate that F-35 fighter jet. So there was a mass hiring over there. So for me personally I think he's done a good job.

TUCHMAN: It's very debatable how much credit the president deserves since negotiations were in the works before he took office, but this family gives Mr. Trump the credit.

TUCHMAN: Who did you vote for on Election Day?


TUCHMAN: Donald Trump?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I voted for Donald Trump as well.

TUCHMAN: But then there is mother and wife Derinda Seitz, who appreciates the president's business credentials but did not vote for him or Hillary Clinton, and would still not vote for either of them today.

DERINDA SEITZ, DID NOT VOTE FOR TRUMP OR CLINTON: I don't like how he just throws things out, you know, without to me thinking it through. Sometimes he says things, and I think he's like acting like a fifth grader.

TUCHMAN: When the Seitz family sat down with Van Jones before the president took office, they talked about why they couldn't vote for Clinton.

SCOTT SEITZ: You know, Hillary we couldn't trust her. Anybody who deletes, as I understand it, 30,000 e-mails two days after she was subpoenaed.

TUCHMAN: And today?

SCOTT SEITZ: Oh, there's things about Donald Trump that I do not trust. But he spoke to me about jobs. And that overruled everything.

TUCHMAN: But they say they could have forgiven Hillary Clinton for what they believe were her ethical lapses.

SCOTT SEITZ: If she would have came through here and not completely neglected us or completely disregarded us, she would have had all of our votes, everybody in this entire county. We switched over because she came through here and said nothing that was going to help us put food on the table. We were only looking for hope.

TUCHMAN: And ultimately that's why Scott Seitz says he voted for Donald Trump.

SCOTT SEITZ: You don't sit around and wait for things to happen. You go out and you clean gutters and --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hope you get through. SCOTT SEITZ: You make ends meet. You know, you do all that you can.

TUCHMAN: It's families like this that helped put Donald Trump in the White House for four years, and if it delivers on his economic promises could keep him there for eight.

Gary Tuchman, CNN, McDonald, Ohio.


WHITFIELD: All right, the president's first few months have had its challenges with the failed health care bill as the latest rough spot. Tomorrow morning Jake Tapper will talk with Republican senators Susan Collins who was a no vote on that bill. What she has to say about the next steps. Plus, we'll hear from Senator Bernie Sanders, those interviewing airing tomorrow 9:00 a.m. eastern right here on CNN.

Thanks so much for being with me this Saturday. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. I'll be back tomorrow, 2:00 eastern time right here on CNN. Right now my colleague Ana Cabrera picks it up from here.

ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: It is Saturday. You made it through the week, and what a weekend as we begin with a White House reboot. The President Trump biggest staff shakeup yet, the president hitting the reset button, replacing his right hand man. In fact, General John Kelly is the new White House chief of staff, a role generally considered the most crucial position in the West Wing.

Now, all of Washington is wondering who President Trump might tap to replace General Kelly as Homeland Security secretary. Kelly takes over the office -- squarely in the crosshairs of Trump's colorful new communications director Anthony Scaramucci. The man who calls himself "The Mooch" referred to Priebus as a quote, "paranoid schizophrenic."