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Priebus Out, General Kelly In As Chief Of Staff; President Laments Health Care Loss On Social Media; Official: North Korea Could Launch Nuclear-Capable Missile by 2018; White House Aide Defense President Trump's Ban on Transgenders; Trump Suggests Use of Violence During Police Arrests. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired July 29, 2017 - 08:00   ET





UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He will not put up with some of the B.S. that's been going on in the White House.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our president is impulsive. He's deceitful. He's autocratic. He is narcissistic. General Kelly can't fix that with a better organizational chart.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: North Korea launched another intercontinental ballistic missile making it the second launch this month.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This new launch missile flew for about 45 minutes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's concerning. Obviously, we've noticed lately that the North Koreans are way more advanced than we thought they were.


VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Another major change in the White House, President Trump has picked a new chief of staff. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly is in, Reince Priebus is out. But Priebus says this is the right move.


REINCE PRIEBUS, OUTGOING WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: Well, I said the president has a right to change directions. 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 an -- it was something that I think the White House needs. I think it's healthy and I support him in it.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Also, North Korea fires yet another missile, but Pyongyang claims this one will be able to hit the U.S. mainland, striking cities like Los Angeles, Denver, Chicago, and possibly even New York and Boston.

BLACKWELL: And the Russia sanctions bill is on its way to the president's desk. The White House says he will sign it, but Moscow is firing back ordering U.S. embassy staff cuts in Russia and seizing two embassy facilities.

First, though, President Trump's purge of what he calls the D.C. swamp picking up speed now with Reince Priebus out, he is moving further away from the Washington establishment.

Let's go now to CNN White House correspondent, Athena Jones, joining us now. Athena, what does or do we know yet what this latest change means for the White House?

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Victor. Well, as you mentioned, one thing it means is that the so-called Washington establishment wing of the west wing is seeing its power diminished. Two top figures leaving just in the last couple of weeks with the first the resignation of Sean Spicer as press secretary and now Reince Priebus out as chief of staff.

But one thing it could mean is that it could be an opportunity to right the ship after months of turmoil and infighting that is still, in the public view. And that many outside observers have begun to worry is getting in the way of the president's agenda, his ability to carry out his agenda.

Remember, this is an administration now a little over six months into the job still can't point to any major legislative achievement. In fact, this week, the White House suffered another big blow when the Senate Republicans were unable to pass an Obamacare repeal bill. Something that Republicans have been running on for years.

Something that one was one of President Trump's campaign promises. And so, the hope is that bringing in General Kelly who has been praised for his leadership skills by the likes of Republican senators like Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, and of course, by the president.

We heard the president refer to General Kelly as a star, a real star, one of the administration's true stars, several times during his speech in New York yesterday. I should note that the president also once called Reince Priebus a star. But there's still a lot of questions surrounding what this new move will amount to.

For instance, will General Kelly be empowered the way Priebus wasn't and to be a true gate keeper, and controller of access to the president, the chiefs of staff have traditionally been. That is not the role that Reince Priebus played.

We know a slew of advisers including the president's family, his daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, are people who have a direct line to the president. The new communications director, Anthony Scaramucci, has also bragged that he will be reporting directly to the president.

So, will that change? Will General Kelly be able to stop the leaks that he himself has railed against, and that the president, of course, has been talking about for months. Will he be able to stop President Trump from waking up early in the morning and tweeting?

Sometimes, even tweeting important announcements like this week's ban on transgender people serving in the military. So, there are a lot of questions that go into whether Kelly is going to be able to right that ship, going to be able to control that order and going to control a president who looks like he wants to be managed much.

BLACKWELL: All right, we'll see if that happens. We're already a half dozen tweets into this day. We'll go over those in just a moment. Athena Jones, thank you.

PAUL: General John Kelly served in the Marines for decades, previously said joining the government was, quote, "last thing he ever wanted to do." So, it makes people wonder what changed his mind and how is he going to fit into the west wing.

[08:05:07] CNN correspondent, Dianne Gallagher, is here to talk about that. Dianne, even "The Washington Post" talking this morning in an article how the president tried to convince General Kelly several times to take this position. He politely declined every time. What do we make of the timing of his yes now?

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So, Christi, let's talk about you what made him take that homeland security job before. We talked to John Kelly last month. He said that it was a conversation with his wife. When the administration came calling, he spoke with his wife, Karen, and she said, look, the Kelly family is about service to this nation.

If they think that you need to do it, then you got to take that job. At this point, it does appear that the president thinks he needs John Kelly to restore order to this chaotic White House.

Again, the question everyone has now, is the president going to let him do what he needs.


GALLAGHER (voice-over): It was another major announcement made over Twitter.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We're following breaking news. President Trump just announcing a new White House chief of staff.

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

PRESIDENT TRUMP: John Kelly will join us. 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.

Earlier in his career, Kelly served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. His son Robert Michael Kelly was killed during 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.

GENERAL 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, daft infighting and loose lips have distracted from the president's agenda.


GALLAGHER: And of course, Trump sets the tone, he sets the structure of the White House as Athena mentioned earlier, all of those assistants who report directly to the president, the White House is say bit unorthodoxed. They like it that way. Whether or not General John Kelly is going to get a chance to assert himself as chief of staff is still to be determined how much influence he's going to have.

PAUL: arty, Dianne Gallagher, we appreciate it. Thank you.

BLACKWELL: All right, with us now, CNN military analyst, Retired Lt. General Mark Hertling, Lynn Sweet, Washington bureau chief for the "Chicago Sun Times," and Adam Entous, staff writer for the "Washington Post." Good morning to all of you.

So, let me start with you. The president is issuing official statements via Twitter and we're going to put up some on the screen here. He seems to be venting after the failure of the health care legislation, tweeting this morning.

"If the Senate Democrats ever got a chance they would switch to a 51- majority vote in first minute. They're laughing at Republicans make change." This is one of six tweets out this morning from the president.

The president here, even if they went to a 51 majority, and that's what they needed as part of the budget reconciliation process, Lynn, didn't get the 51 votes.

LYNN SWEET, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, "CHICAGO SUN TIMES": Well, that is what's remarkable and we'll see if Kelly has any influence on tweeting or not. I guess it's no because is this what's important to the president. So, just so people who are listening know, the Senate has all of these rules about what needs 50 votes to pass and what needs 60 votes to pass. In which case, the party out of control does have extraordinary power.

In the long run, this has served to benefit the party out of power which is what the leaders know. Then you change these rules at risk of not having a voice in the future because senators stick around much longer than presidents, they have a little different view of what needs 50 and 60 votes.

Now, having said this, this shows us that the president is still fuming, on losing the health care vote. And still doesn't have a strategy to get the votes he needs to however advance his agenda. That's really the bottom line here. He's boxed in.

BLACKWELL: And Democrats got rid ever 60-vote threshold for appointees, everyone except for the Supreme Court several years ago. This year, Republicans got rid of it, for Supreme Court appointees to get Justice Gorsuch on the bench.

And now the president suggesting to get rid of it for legislation so he can this 51 votes although he got 49 votes and the threshold was 51 for this budget reconciliation bill for health care.

[08:10:12] Let's move now to this big shift in the White House. And General, let me come to you, because you know General Kelly, Secretary Kelly well and so does Retired Rear Admiral John Kirby who wrote this for Let's put it on the screen.

"In Retired Marine General John F. Kelly, the president just got himself a no kidding, bonafide straight shooting full-tilt leader as a chief of staff. Here's hoping Mr. Trump knows how to use him." From your perspective, how can he impact the White House?

LT. GENERAL MARK HERTLING (RETIRED), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: I read John Kirby's op-ed this morning and I agree with everything he said on that. John Kelly, I served with in Iraq for 15 months in 2007 during the surge. We've conducted many operations together. Collaborated on quite a few things.

The man I knew was an extremely good leader, very pragmatic, very common sense. Great sense of humor. Loved his Marines and is easy to work with. He also knows how to lead up, Victor, and that's an important thing to do in the White House.

When we were together in combat, both of us would try and lead our bosses up to do the things we wanted to do. So, that's an important thing that a leader needs to know how to do.

The problem is that he has a really interesting cast of character within the White House, as he said in Dianne Gallagher's interview that he has to deal with. That's going to be challenging to him.

They're not all marines. Even though he has great experience with governments and the Congress, he is still going to have a tough time of it in my view try to bring order to the chaos which is currently in the White House.

BLACKWELL: So, Adam, let me come to you, the president called, according to the reporting Reince Priebus weak. He's now going to get someone with broad shoulders. Do we know that the president is really prepared or is there any indication he's truly prepared for another potential power center support in the White House that he's getting in General Kelly?

ADAM ENTOUS, STAFF WRITER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Right. I'm not sure, actually, I think the verdict is out as to whether or not Trump is prepared. How he's going to structure this. You have Kelly who's very strong. You've got an NSC that is also has somebody there who also wants to exert himself when it comes to policy.

You also have chaos that has gone on for months now and it's really going to be interesting to watch to see how Kelly tries to control not only the underlings who are still vying for authority and power, and also, managing up to when it comes to Trump, who has showed himself to be is very erratic.

I mean, he is still -- until a few days ago, attacking the attorney general for recusing himself in the Russia investigation. How is Kelly going to manage these relationships? I don't think we have the answer to that, yet.

BLACKWELL: Lynn, I wonder how this impacts the president's legislative agenda because, yes, repeal and replace failed in Congress. That can't be placed solely on the shoulders of Reince Priebus. But you have someone who had relationships on the Hill now gone and bringing in someone who doesn't have that legislative experience.

You expect there would be impact to the ability of the White House to get stuff done. I mean, a lot more, I would imagine would go on to the plate of the vice president.

SWEET: Yes, but that is -- we have outlines here actually of a working relationship that is a better modeled. People who do leadership studies will do case studies on this because I think what is clear here is that President Trump wanted a peer.

That's what he sees in Scaramucci and Kelly as opposed to just staffers. I think in his world, people are divided that way. He wanted somebody who he thought was more an equal. Not fair. Maybe not right.

So, when it comes to the legislative piece, actually, this is where Kelly could at least have a system. I think he could be an intimidating figure to people like Kushner and Ivanka, because of the experience he brings.

His very presence could speak valiums in a way opposite of the very talkative Scaramucci because they know he's the real thing as opposed to somebody who's come up through politics. So, getting the --

BLACKWELL: Let's talk about that. I'm running out of time, but let me come to you, General. Let's talk about this Kelly/Scaramucci dynamic, how will this orderly former military man who's used to that regimented life deal with the free-welding new communications director?

HERTLING: Well, what was just said, I'm in drastic agreement with, that General Kelly has character, and he has a presence, but he also has an interlay. I would suggest that Kelly is being brought in because he is a near peer of the president.

[08:15:04] I'm not sure Mr. Scaramucci has that same, as we say in Iraq, "wasda (ph)." He's been brought in to do something else. He's been brought in to kick a little tail, do a little thing, find a little leaker, make sort of a distraction

Kelly's got to run the ship and I think the president probably sees him as a strong guy with strong character, an immense presence, and a high intellect where he can corral some of these free-floating electrons and cause them to go in the right direction. And I think that's where he's going to bring discipline to the west wing.

BLACKWELL: Adam, finally to you, the man who was brought in and announced at the same time as Steve Bannon, to kind of reassure the Republican Party, I'm talking about Reince Priebus, of course, is now gone, Bannon's still there. What's the message to Washington, to the party?

ENTOUS: You know, I'm not really sure. I mean, it's clearly, you know, the president is tapping somebody in Kelly who can bring discipline to a very disorderly White House. I'm not sure where Bannon fits in going forward.

Obviously, he's survived through to this point. You know, are there additional changes that are coming? Is the attorney general now in a better place with the president? We don't know what addition along changes might be coming down the pike.

BLACKWELL: All right, Adam Entous, Lynn Sweet, General Hertling, good to have you this morning.

PAUL: North Korea claims it now has a ballistic missile that can strike anywhere in the United States, and U.S. officials are warning, you know what, that claim might not be too far off.



BLACKWELL: Well, North Korea now has missiles that could hit major U.S. cities.


BLACKWELL: That is the warning from analysts after the North Korean regime carried out a test launch yesterday.

PAUL: Experts say a missile from North Korea could possibly strike anywhere from Los Angeles to Chicago. South Korean officials say this missile is indeed more advanced than the one previously launched this month. U.S. officials agree that the threat is certainly becoming more complex.


REPRESENTATIVE ADAM KINZINGER (R-IL), FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE: It's concerning, obviously, we've noticed lately that North Koreans are way more advanced than we thought they were. This ICBM missile test at least surprised me when it happened on July 4th.

This is another one, and there was success to it. It's obviously very concerning. One of the things to keep in mind, though, every time they have a missile test, they learn from it. We also learn from it.

We have the ability to watch trajectories. We know how they're doing and what they're doing and it makes us better at defending.


PAUL: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson reacted to the launch saying this, quote, "The United States seeks the peaceful denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and the end to belligerent actions by North Korea. As we and others have made clear we will never accept a nuclear arms North Korean nor abandon our commitment to our allies and partners in the region."

BLACKWELL: U.S. officials say this latest launch is another sign that North Korea is accelerating its nuclear programs. It tells CNN that the regime may be able to launch a nuclear capable missile by next year, which is years ahead of previous estimates. Here's CNN's Brian Todd.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A frightening new assessment from U.S. intelligence of Kim Jong-un's deadliest weapons. By early next year, North Korea will have a missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead to the American mainland. That's according to a U.S. official familiar with the latest intelligence assessment.

MICHAEL ELLEMAN, INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTE FOR STRATEGIC STUDIES: What's jarring is the pace at which North Korea has been testing missiles for the past three years. The assumption going forward is that they will continue at this aggressive pace.

TODD: The new assessment means Kim will likely be ready two years earlier than previously expected with technology that could strike the United States. But the official CNN spoke with, says while the missile can get off the ground, it's reliability could vary. Missile experts agree.

(on camera): What are the variables here?

ELLEMAN: What we have not seen and we don't know is how accurate the missile will be and whether it has the mechanisms to protect the warhead as it re-enters the atmosphere at very high speeds.

TODD (voice-over): July 4th, an intercontinental ballistic missile test-fired by North Korea flies more than 1500 miles into space and returns at high speed. Experts say that launch, and North Korea's test of a high-thrust engine in March sped up Kim's ICBM capability.

And showed the determination to have this threat in his back pocket against the U.S. A key question now, once he has a reliable long- range missile that can carry a warhead to America, how will Kim's behavior change?

ADAM MOUNT, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: That's the critical question. There are those who believe now that he has an ICBM capability, he will be more likely to aggress at lower levels of conflict. On the other hand, he has shown and demonstrated restraint when it matters.

TODD: Now, Kim is vowing no restraint if he's provoked. North Korea is threatening a nuclear strike on, quote, "the heart of U.S." if America tries to remove Kim from power. That's a response to recent comments from CIA Director Mike Pompeo, when he discussed the potential of regime change related to North Korea's missile and nuclear threat.

MIKE POMPEO, CIA DIRECTOR: I'm hopeful we will find a way to separate that regime from this system. The North Korean people I'm sure are lovely people and would love to see him go as well. You might know they don't live a very good life there.

MOUNT: Threatening the viability of the North Korea regime is exactly what would drive him to launch a nuclear attack against the United States and its allies.

TODD (on camera): The nuclear and missile threat from North Korea has accelerated to such an extent that for the first time an American state is preparing for it on its own. Officials in Hawaii will soon start a campaign to inform the public what to do if North Korea fires a nuclear-tipped missile.

[08:25:04] Experts say it would take about 20 minutes for a missile launched from North Korea to reach Hawaii. Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.


PAUL: Stay just close, people are expected to hit the streets today in protest to the president's transgender military ban and the Republican lawmakers that are coming out against the policy change. We have more on that for you.

BLACKWELL: Plus, overnight, heavy rain caused severe flooding and high-water rescues throughout the mid-Atlantic. We have details on the severe weather threat for millions of people this morning.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLACKWELL: Chief of Staff Reince Priebus is out after six months. It was the shortest tenure for a chief of staff in modern history. Secretary John Kelly will leave the Department of Homeland Security to take the job. He'll start Monday where he'll join another meeting of the president's cabinets.

Now as for Priebus, he told our Wolf Blitzer, he supports the president's decision.


[08:30:03] PRIEBUS: I'm always going to be a Trump fan. I'm on Team Trump. And I look forward to helping him achieve his goals and his agenda for the American people.


PAUL: All right. Well, demonstrators are going to be staging new protests in several cities today. This against President Trump's ban on transgender personnel in the media (sic). Also 45 senators are urging James Mattis to advise the president against implementing the ban right away.

Now the "Washington Post" first reported the senators wrote a letter asking Mattis not to discharge anyone until he finishes the assessment on the issue. Right now no changes have been made to the current policy. That could change at a moment's notice.

Let's talk this -- discuss with us now former president of the Transgender American Veterans Association, Monica Helms and CNN military analyst, Lieutenant General Mark Hertling.

Thank you both for sticking around here. I want you to listen together here to some remarks made by Sebastian Gorka, one of the president's aides, on this issue. Let's listen.


SEBASTIAN GORKA, WHITE HOUSE ADVISER: The military is not a microcosm of civilian society. They are not there to reflect America. They are there to kill people and blow stuff up. They are not there to be socially engineered.

We want people who are transgender to live happy lives but we want unit cohesion and we want combat effectiveness. There are leading studies from the medical establishment, for example, that state that the transgender community has a 40 percent suicide attempt rate. That is a tragedy.

We need to help those people. We don't need to try and force them into the higher obstacle military environment where they are under the utmost pressure to kill or be killed. And that is why the president is doing this out of the warmth of his consideration for this population.

(END VIDEO CLIP) PAUL: General Mark Hertling, you have talked, I'm sure, had many conversations in the last couple of days about this with your colleagues in the military. What are you hearing from that regard?

LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, as you know, John Kelly and I both wrote an op-ed on this piece, claiming how the ban was identified by the president, and why it was done and why it was not a very smart move.

We have transgenders searching. They're serving well. I had them serving with me when I was still commanding. There's no problem with unit cohesion. There's very little problem in terms of funding for medical care for them.

And Mr. Gorka is extremely ill-informed on this issue. And he was mixing metaphors. He got on BBC and said those things yesterday. There was an immediate reaction from a lot of veterans, me included, that he just doesn't know what he's talking about and it's unfortunate because it's not the first time he has been put up as a spokesman to talk about things that he knows very little about.

PAUL: So, Monica, when you first heard about this change that the president tweeted about, what was your -- what was your first reaction?

MONICA HELMS, U.S. NAVY VETERAN: I was saddened and disappointed. I was also angry about it, too. And this was not something that you would expect most people with -- this president, I kind of expected it from the beginning.

PAUL: What would you want to say to the president, though, about this very issue?

HELMS: Transgender people have been serving longer than they've been serving openly. They've been serving honorably. They have been in all branches of the service, in all wars. So we've been around a long time.

PAUL: Sebastian Gorka made a comment that he believes in essence, and I'm paraphrasing here, that there's a 40 percent suicide rate with transgenders and that they would be -- essentially, the military would be a dangerous place for them. Do you agree with that?

HELMS: No, I don't. Because his figures are incorrect. As 40 percent have attempted suicide, that sets the figure. And that's because they don't have a job. They are being harassed by society. And they're thrown out of their families.

If they're in the military, they have a purpose. They will be able to serve this country and they will do their jobs. And they have to do their jobs very well.

PAUL: And you, sir, obviously, we want to point out, we've got some pictures, I believe, of your time in service. What does your service mean to you? HELMS: It means a lot because my entire family has served. All the

way back to my grandfather, and even in the civil war. All of my uncles, my father, my son, my brother, his son, we are a very patriotic family. And it is -- I'm very proud of our family and what we have done.

[08:35:03] PAUL: When you decided to undergo treatment and become a woman, what kind of support did you get -- did you get support from the military, from the people that you knew?

HELMS: No, because I wasn't in contact with a lot of those people.


HELMS: I stayed away from many of the people in the military because of -- when I first came out, I did talk to some former submariners like myself and they were disappointed and upset with me. However, later on in life, 20 years later, these men have changed their minds. They supported me very well when I went and saw -- went to a reunion last year, to submariners. And all these men were extremely supportive of me and because I did the same job they did.

I worked like they did, I went through all the same stuff. It's just that I changed differently in this part of my life.

PAUL: That's such better phrase, I just changed differently. We all change, you know, in different seasons of our life.

General Hertling, do we have any indication what prompted these tweets from the president? Was it about money? Was it about what Gorka was talking about? What have you heard in that regard?

HERTLING: There are indicators and there have been various reports that it was exactly that. That it was political deal-making regarding the budget. I'm not going to go into that, I don't know that for a fact but there's certain valid reporting on that.

But it did come out of the blue, Christi. I mean, the secretary of Defense, Secretary Mattis had just two weeks ago said that he was continuing to study this. There was support among all the service chiefs for this. They just wanted to do a little bit more research to find out how transgender service members were being treated. And in fact, Secretary Mattis put out a letter saying I want to come back in December '17 with my final assessment.

And then suddenly the president tweets this out. So it caught the Pentagon flat-footed. No one knew that this was going to be tweeted out as a directive. And I think there was a whole lot of pushback from men and women who have to execute these policies.

if I can say one more thing, though, about Mr. Gorka's comment. He actually made something that was very insulting where he said we are forcing these people into the service. And I think what you'd find out when you do the research, you find out, number one, no one is forcing anybody into a voluntary service. And in fact, transgenders are actually volunteering at a higher rate for the small percentage of the population than the other 1 percent of our population that's volunteering to serve in uniform.

So it was just like an engineered regarding facts and figures and budget and how cohesion existed in the military that I think a lot of people got wrong this week. And it's really unfortunate because transgenders are serving with a great deal of pride in the cloth of their country.

One other thing, if I may, I need to correct myself because I said earlier John Kelly. I meant John Kirby and I wrote an op-ed for this week on this subject.

PAUL: Yes. And I was just going to mention John Kirby because he has said as well, you know, we would lose a lot of talent if what happens is what the president is trying to mandate.

Thank you so much, general -- Lieutenant General Mark Hertling, Monica Helms, so good to have you here.

HELMS: Thank you very much.

PAUL: Thank you. Victor.

BLACKWELL: And let's remember the unit cohesion argument was used to keep blacks from serving in the military, women from serving in the military, and gays from serving openly. And today the United States has the strongest fighting force in the world.

Moving on, the president delivering some tough and controversial talk on how police should handle suspects after an arrest. Watch this.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And when you see these thugs being thrown into the back of a patty 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. You know? The way they put their hand. 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?


BLACKWELL: And cheers and applause from the officers standing behind the president after those remarks coming during a speech the president made on Long Island yesterday about MS-13 gang violence but now some law enforcement is denouncing what they call an endorsement of brutality.

We spoke with former police chief Cedric Alexander about his thoughts on that matter.


CEDRIC ALEXANDER, FORMER POLICE CHIEF, DEKALB COUNTY, GEORGIA: Look, the remarks we heard yesterday from the president are very disturbing to all of us in the law enforcement community and across this country. We have been working for years, a large number of years, a great number of years, to improve relationships and certainly in the most recent years we have been.

When you have the highest office in the land make a comment to the fact, give inference to the fact that brutality is OK, you're going to find any city leader or police executive anywhere in this country who's going to support that.

[08:40:03] We are really outraged by that remark. And certainly, we want to make it very clear that police in this country, it is an honorable profession and a profession in which we operate by laws and policies, but more importantly is that we have a constitution in this nation that we live by. And under that constitution is which we make decisions out there on the street and do the very best job that they can do every day to keep this community safe.

We know that our men and women across this country face some very unique challenges out there. They put their lives at risk. And all of us support what they do. But none of us are going to support the idea that we should be brutal in any type of way.


BLACKWELL: Also of note, President Trump mentioned that the current laws are, as he said, stacked against police and we'll be looking to change those laws. He said his White House will.

Severe storms ripping through the mid-Atlantic knocking out power for thousands ever people. Water rescue teams prepare as millions are still under a flood watch.

CNN meteorologist Jennifer Gray has the latest for us.

JENNIFER GRAY, AMS METEOROLOGIST: And Victor, records have been broken all across the mid-Atlantic as well. And the rain's still coming down. We'll have a full forecast coming up after the break.


[08:45:19] BLACKWELL: More than 20 million people, look at this, are under a flood watch this morning, after a rare nor'easter storm caused severe flooding across four states.

PAUL: CNN meteorologist Jennifer Gray has been watching this from the weather center. What's going to happen here, Jennifer?


GRAY: We'll be right back after the break.


[08:50:50] PAUL: Outgoing chief of staff Reince Priebus says he's happy with the president's choice to make a chance.

Mark Rogers joining us now. He's a CNN national commentator, former House Intelligence chairman, also knows Reince Priebus well.

Thank you so much for being with us. We appreciate it, Mike. So I wanted to ask you real quickly something that Reince said yesterday to Wolf Blitzer about him leaving this position. He said, "It was something that I had always talked to the president about, which is, and I have always said to him and he always agreed with me, anytime either one of us think that we need to make a change and move in a different direction, let's just talk about it and get it done."

How -- when he says we always talked about it, what exactly does that mean? Because I'm wondering how comfortable you can get in a position if you're constantly talking about changing it?

MIKE ROGERS, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY COMMENTATOR: Yes, I'm not sure he meant he was constantly talking about it. But I think Reince is very practical in his approach to this and believe that if his role as chief of staff, and it was an odd role, he didn't have complete control over the White House and who had access to the president in making those kinds of day-to-day, both communications, legislative, policy decisions. He didn't have that role.

So I think he understood that there was a chance this might not work. And especially, especially since the first part of the -- his tenure there, you know, it was a bit of a rocky start in the internal side. I mean, you know, the great example is, the president was talking about MS-13 yesterday, gave a big speech on it and because he tweeted over that about his chief of staff change, none of that got covered.

And so I think they probably both came to the conclusion now's a good time to try to change that, if he's going to be successful, he being the president, successful in a legislative agenda coming up.

BLACKWELL: Mr. Chairman, General Kelly is going to have to do more than walk and chew gum at the same time. He's going to have to walk, chew gum, bounce a ball, sing a song. There's a lot to do. But from your perspective, job one for the incoming chief of staff?

ROGERS: Take control of the White House. There is these competing factions in the White House. Access to the president. There was a list in the beginning, some 28, two dozen people have walk-in privileges to the White House. And, you know, given the way the president is, you're not going to change the president nor the way he presents himself. But what you can change is the flow of information to build on what your policy agenda is.

And you need one person in charge to do that. Of course, the 800- pound gorilla, you really can't have your family going around the structure. If they're going to be in the White House, they need to be in the structure of the White House with the chief of staff who helps control the agenda, the debate, all of those things.

And certainly General Kelly can do that. And this may be that thing that many people who supported Trump and wanted an aggressive agenda, on infrastructure and tax reform and all that, this gives them a little hope that hey, finally, we're going to get control in the White House, stop this infighting, stop this fractionous kind of an attitude in the White House, and start putting some discipline back in the White House to get your agenda done. And I think, you know, certainly the general has the ability to do that.

BLACKWELL: All right. Chairman Rogers, thanks for being with us this morning.

ROGERS: Thanks for having me.

PAUL: Thank you so much.

BLACKWELL: All right. Reminder, do not miss the new episode of "DECLASSIFIED" with Mike Rogers tonight at 9:00 p.m. Eastern. Here's a look.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were able to have it confirmed that he did get on the flight. And then we were waiting for him upon arrival at Madrid Airport with the Spanish National Police.

So we're all waiting at the airport, everything was set up. The Spanish National Police were supposed to observe him getting off the gate. We were watching Monzer walk into the baggage claim area and now, all of a sudden, over the radio, we heard, we've lost him.

And we thought that he had caught on to us and that he had escaped out the side door. And then everybody got into a panic mode. Went around nervous, where is he, where is he, and even the DEA agents were running around in the baggage claim area trying to locate him.

John and I were going from point A to point B and then all of a sudden here comes Monzer. He walked out of the bathroom.

[08:55:05] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Once he arrived in baggage claim, the Fugitive Squad of the Spanish National Police put him under arrest.



All right. That's it for us. Thanks for being with us this morning.

PAUL: Yes. Make some great memories, but do stay close. "SMERCONISH" is with you next.


MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Michael Smerconish in Philadelphia. We welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.

The president up early this morning, a barrage of tweets blaming Democrats for his problems and encouraging the GOP to challenge the filibuster rules.