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Shortest White House Post in History; Father to the Rescue of His Son's Mess. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired July 31, 2017 - 22:00   ET


[22:00:00] JAKE TAPPER, HOST, CNN: President Trump says there is no chaos in his White House right before more chaos erupts. Anthony Scaramucci is out before he even started officially as White House communications director. So what in the blank blanking happened?

Also breaking, the Washington Post with a potential bombshell was Donald Trump, Jr.'s initial misleading response to his meeting with the Russians actually trump Sr.'s response.

Plus, a Lead exclusive. White House officials pumped by an e-mail prankster. Do the silly e-mails expose a much bigger security risk that could eventually impact you?

Good evening, everyone. Welcome to this special edition of The Lead. I'm Jake Tapper.

We begin tonight with breaking news in the politics lead, and just like that, poof, he was gone. Anthony Scaramucci doing his best Kaiser sauce impression before he could even officially begin in his role as White House communication director. A week and change after walking into the West Wing. Scaramucci was ousted today moments after General John Kelly was sworn in as the White House chief of staff, officially we're told Scaramucci offered to resign.

But sources tell CNN that General Kelly wanted him out and Scaramucci was escorted out of the White House. The retired marine general, according to the sources attorney general thought Scaramucci undisciplined and without credibility after his profanity-laced tirade about since fired White House chief of staff Reince Priebus and White House senior strategist Steve Bannon to the New Yorker magazine on Thursday.

Today, this is what the White House had to say about why he was ousted.


SARAH HUCKABEE-SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president certainly felt that Anthony's comments were inappropriate for a person in that position, and he didn't want to burden General Kelly also with that line of succession. As I think we've made clear a few times.


TAPPER: So President Trump thought that some vulgar comments were inappropriate.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Grab him by the (muted). You can do anything.


TAPPER: So this evening a senior administration official told me that even before General Kelly made his move this morning, President Trump had soured on Scaramucci. The president loved him as a fighter in the first few days of his tenure, I'm told, but the president came to dislike how the son of Long Island in the president's view portrayed their relationship as closer than it was.

The president didn't like how Scaramucci loved the limelight, I'm told. After the New Yorker imbroglio the senior administration official told me, the president was fielding calls all weekend from friends and advisers recommending that Scaramucci do the Fandango out the door.

The president was happy when General Kelly told him what he wanted to do, the sources said, since that's what the president wanted to do as well. And that brings us to the Lead's latest installments of one of our favorite games, is there a tweet for that? Is there something in the @realdonaldtrump Twitter archives in which the president criticizes a rival for something that the president just did?

And the answer is yes. We have a winner from Febraury 2016. Quote, "Wow. Was Ted Cruz disloyal to his very capable director of communication? He used him as a scapegoat, fired like a dog. Ted panicked." Scaramucci firmly holds the record for shortest tenure as communications director at the White House with Kardashian marriage like 11 days on the job.

But it is certainly not the first high-profile exit from the trump White House. In fact, it took a few days before the Rupert Murdoch own new York Post which on Friday had depicted the Trump White House's as the show "Survivor" they were forced to update its cover with two more now voted off the island, Reince and Mooch. The Trump tribe has spoken.

Let's go to CNN's Jim Acosta now at the White House. Jim, showing Scaramucci the door was high on the to-do list for General john Kelly as the newly minted chief of staff, apparently.

JIM ACOSTA, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, CNN: That's right, Jake. It's getting lonely on this island over here at the White House. Anthony Scaramucci 10 days after he blew a kiss to a reporter was essentially given the big kiss-off by this White House, all part of another staff shake-up over here, something that has become a regular occurrence over here at this White House, but this time orchestrated by the new chief of staff John Kelly who apparently was brought in to bring in some order to a very disorderly White House.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) TRUMP: We just swore in General Kelly. He will do a spectacular job, I have no doubt.

ACOSTA: A White House in chaos once again found itself spinning its way out of another round of staff turmoil just hours after President Trump welcomed his new chief of staff retired General John Kelly to the White House, his recently hired and embattled communications director Anthony Scaramucci suddenly was out the door.

SANDERS: General Kelly has the full authority to operate within the White House and all staff will report to him.


ACOSTA: It was just 11 days ago when the man nicknamed the mooch pledged to improve White House messaging and praise outgoing Press Secretary Sean Spicer and then chief of staff Reince Priebus.

[22:05:04] SCARAMUCCI: As it relates to Sean it speaks volumes to who he is as a human being who he is as a team player. OK? So his attitude is if Anthony is coming in, let me clear the slate for Anthony. And I do appreciate that about Sean and I love him for it. But I don't have any friction with Sean, I don't have any friction with Reince.

ACOSTA: The following leaking went to war with Priebus salvaging the then-chief of staff in a profanity-laced rant to the New Yorker, suggesting he might be the source of White House leaks.

SCARAMUCCI: As you know from the Italian expression, the fish stinks from the head down. But I can tell you two fish that don't stink, OK, and that's me and the president.

ACOSTA: Despite the president's own history of using questionable language the White House said Mr. Trump was bothered by Scaramucci's comments.

SANDERS: The president certainly felt that Anthony's comments were inappropriate for a person in that position. And he didn't want to burden General Kelly also with that line of succession.

ACOSTA: The White House said in a statement Mr. Scaramucci felt it was best to give chief of staff John Kelly a clean slate and the ability to build his own team. But sources told CNN new chief of staff John Kelly had lost confidence in Scaramucci. It was an immediate sign that Kelly is aiming to bring order to a White House that's been rocked by near constant staff turmoil. The president had praised Kelly as a miracle worker in his previous job as secretary of homeland security.

TRUMP: You look at the border, you look at the tremendous results we've had and you look at the spirit. And with a very controversial situation, there's been very little controversy, which is pretty amazing by itself. So I want to congratulate you on having done a fantastic job, general, and we look forward to, if it's possible, an even better job as chief of staff. JOHN KELLY, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: That's right.

ACOSTA: But earlier in the day, the president took to Twitter to insist all was well, touting the nation's stock market and unemployment rate before insisting no White House chaos, a message echoed by Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

SANDERS: If you want to see chaos, come to my house with three preschoolers. This doesn't hold a candle to that.

ACOSTA: The new chief of staff will find rival factions still in place. Even with Scaramucci gone, there are still sharp elbows being thrown by strategist Steve Bannon, counselor Kellyanne Conway and even the president's family all competing for the president's attention.

Daughter Ivanka Trump held Kelly as a true American hero.

TRUMP: We'll see you in the board room.

ACOSTA: In the president's cabinet turned board room Kelly was able to observe another source of White House tension, the damaged relationship with Attorney General Jeff Sessions who has gone from being trashed publicly by Mr. Trump last week to sitting across the room for him silently today.


ACOSTA: And the president apparently had more problems with Anthony Scaramucci than just to his comments to the New Yorker. Jake, I'm hearing the same thing that you're hearing. I talk to a source close to this president earlier today who said that the president simply did not like Anthony Scaramucci getting more publicity than he was getting. Jake?

TAPPER: Only one primary. Jim Acosta, thank you so much.

ACOSTA: All right. You bet.

TAPPER: Sticking with our politics lead, I'm joined now by my panel. We have with us, Mary Katharine Ham, senior writer at The Federalist and author of "End of Discussion" which is freshly out in paperback. Great book. Jennifer Palmieri, former White House communications director under President Obama. She also worked on the Clinton campaign, Joshua Green of Bloomberg Businessweek, author of another great week, "Devils Bargain," about the Trump-Bannon relationship.

And we also have with us the source of all this problem, Ryan Lizza, the Washington correspondent at the New Yorker, her interview with Anthony Scaramucci, and that was, I'm told the tipping point.

Let us remind our viewers of what Scaramucci told Mr. Lizza. Quote, "I'm not Steve Bannon, I'm not trying to suck my own bleep, I'm not trying to build my own brand off the bleeping strength of the president. I'm here to serve the country." Scaramucci also called Reince Priebus quote, a bleeping "paranoid schizophrenic, a paranoiac." Ryan, did you ever think that this was going to result in Mr.

Scaramucci being showed the door or did you think that he was going to be able to get away with that I guess?

RYAN LIZZA, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, CNN: You know, when he asked me that after the column came out I said, you know, he'll either get fired or promoted, you just never know with Trump. And it seems like he was on the promotion track when Reince Priebus, his arch enemy was summarily dismissed.

But, you know, like you, Jake, I had also heard something very similar before I published that piece. I did actually have an understanding that he was on a little bit on thin ice with Trump and was one of the reason he was pushing back so strongly to me not to publish.

So, there was -- it was already before the piece came out a bit of friction between Scaramucci and the president. But, you know, there was sort of a complicated set of moving pieces here, right? Scaramucci wanted Reince Priebus out, Bannon wanted Scaramucci out. Kelly comes in and pushes him out.

[22:10:03] So I think one of the things that's not being noted today as much is Steve Bannon right now. He is in a very interesting position where he sort of got what he wanted, was sort of the survivor at the top of that cast of characters in the West Wing.

TAPPER: And let's turn to our resident expert on 'Bannonology,' Joshua Green. It is remarkable that Steve Bannon -- I mean, Scaramucci came in very clearly gunning for Priebus, and gunning for Bannon.


TAPPER: Priebus is gone, Bannon still standing, Scaramucci gone. He's a much more effective infighter than Scaramucci anticipated.

GREEN: I think that's right. And I think in this case he didn't actually have to do a whole lot besides hold his tongue and keep quiet. I don't know any reporters that have managed to get Bannon on the phone. He's smart enough to step back and recognize that Scaramucci is blowing himself up and setting a land speed record for political self-emulation and just stepping back and letting him do it. And that's exactly what happened.

MARY KATHARINE HAM, SENIOR WRITER, THE FEDERALIST: The White House itself could learn a few things from that message.

GREEN: They could.

TAPPER: But Jennifer, let me -- I know it's a -- I'm going to support Anthony Scaramucci. OK. He comes in, he is passionate about the president.


TAPPER: He loves the president.


TAPPER: He says he's going to improve relationships with the press. He does. He actually does improve relationships with the press. And, you know, yes, he cursed, and yes, his elbows were sharp, but I mean, is that really something that you wouldn't think would be acceptable in a Trump office?

PALMIERI: That is not -- I will say something in support of him as well in terms of this White House. I thought he was a more sincere representation of Donald Trump than Sean Spicer was or Mike Dubke was. I think that if you want a communications director to communicate with the president's values and represent his personality, I thought Scaramucci was very effective at that, and I thought that he could be an effective discreet fighter for Trump, and Trump is going to need that as you go into, you know, as Mueller gets day by day gets closer to whatever his final report is going to say.

So it is remarkable, though, the one person who always survives is Steve Bannon. I mean, from, you know, he has been in this world for almost a year now, which is, you know, which is a record in and of itself.

TAPPER: For a non-relative.

PALMIERI: For a non-relative, you know, came in in the late summer, and you know, we were very dismayed about the Clinton campaign. Got the president relatively disciplined for the last two months of the campaign, and I think while everyone focused on Russia and, you know, and rightly so, and on healthcare and rightly so, Bannon and his team have been doing a lot of damage when it comes to immigration, when it comes to, you know, getting ready to support things that he's going to do, and that guy survived.

GREEN: What I think he's learned of, I think he's learned to pick his battles a little better than he did at the beginning of the administration where he tried to be in every meeting and do everything and enact the entire Trump agenda all at once.


GREEN: I think after he was sort of cast out there in March and April, he learned to survive, you need to fall back a little bit.


PALMIERI: Not to be -- not to be in the cover of Time magazine.

GREEN: Maybe you get embarrassed by Scaramucci coming in and not being on the cover of Time magazine, not be on the cover of a book. But he seems to have learned his lesson.

TAPPER: Mary, let me just ask you, there is this notion that President Trump only values loyalty to him, and there actually is no loyalty two ways other than, obviously, to his children. And you look at that tweet that he, the president sent out in our daily game of is there a tweet for it? And there was. President Trump faulting Ted Cruz for getting rid of his communications director so quickly after an event. I can't even remember what it was, it was certainly nothing like Scaramucci did.

HAM: Yes.

TAPPER: But I mean, is he a disloyal man, President Trump?

HAM: There are, I think Trump sees different rules for himself than he sees for everyone else.


HAM: I think we've seen that throughout all of this. And I wrote a column maybe a year and a half ago with the grizzly man metaphor, which is, look, you can go camping -- it was a lot of the GOP sort of aligning with Trump and trying to make this work. Look, you can go camping with a grizzly bear for a while. You can even think you understand the grizzly bear and that he likes you.

But eventually the grizzly bear is going to maul you. That is what we continue to see. And he remains the guy who is the grizzly bear at the top of this organization, and he is volatile and he decides what he decides any given day. And the question is, is he the guy who can go up against the grizzly bear? And is, for instance, General Kelly that guy?

TAPPER: Is he the Leo DiCaprio of this Revenant. We stick around, we're going to come back to you. We got more breaking news. A new report on President Trump's involvement in helping his son's initial misleading statement about that June 2016 meeting with that Russian attorney. That's story next. Stay with us.


TAPPER: Welcome back to our special edition of The Lead. My conversation with Governor Christie is coming up.

But first, some more breaking news in our politics. The Washington Post breaking the story tonight, reporting that President Trump himself personally dictated the initial misleading statement about his eldest son's meeting with the Russian lawyer.

The statement reportedly was worked out on Air Force One on the flight home from the G20 summit in Germany. You'll recall revelation after revelation. At first Donald Trump, Jr. said he had only discussed Russian adoptions with the lawyer and that the Trump Tower was insignificant. Later his own e-mail showed that he accepted the meeting because he was promised dirt on Hillary Clinton from the Russian government.

Washington Post reporter Tom Hamburger helped break the story this evening. He joins me now. And Tom, from your reporting, senior advisers wanted to take on a different strategy to Don Junior's meeting. TOM HAMBURGER, REPORTER, WASHINGTON POST: That's right, senior

advisers to White House advisers and advisers to the president's inner circle recommended in the early going what they described to us as a more wholesome disclosure about what that meeting was like.

In other words, it wouldn't, it wasn't just to be described initially as a meeting about adoption of Russian children in the United States, it would, in fact, be more of a disclosure of what that meeting was actually about.

Early on our reporting shows that advisers to the president and the president's inner circle recommended, because there were documents, these e-mails that you just spoke about that were coming out, that it made much more sense to be transparent, to be forthcoming, because later on if you issue a misleading statement, it could come back to hurt you.

TAPPER: But the president overruled.

HAMBURGER: That's what we're reporting tonight. We have from multiple sources that it was the president who in effect overruled the recommendations from these groups of advisers and from his inner circle. What Don Trump, Jr.'s lawyer has told us is that initially they were inclined towards this more fulsome statement and that ultimately he declined to confirm, in fact, told us he had no evidence that the president was the one who dictated this statement, but he said it was group worked out by what he called a communal group of lawyers and communications advisers.

TAPPER: Interesting. Now White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders repeatedly responded to questions on the meeting. Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Has President Trump had any communication with his son Donald Trump, Jr. over the last several days and was he involved and helping Donald Trump, Jr. crafts his statement from the press over the weekend on Air Force One? That's what reported on the New York Times.

[22:20:10] SANDERS: I'm not sure about specific communications and the nature of those conversations. I know that they've spoken at least some point over the last few days, but beyond that I don't have any further details.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: has he helped him with his response?

SANDERS: Not that I'm aware of but I just don't know the answer of that, Phil.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So is that not true?

SANDERS: I'm telling you, I'm just not sure. I don't know the answer. I'll have to check and let you know.


TAPPER: Now, President Trump's lawyer Jay Sekulow, went further and he denied that President Trump had anything to do with that initial misleading statement from Donald Trump, Jr. Take a listen.


JAY SEKULOW, MEMBER, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S LEGAL TEAM: I wasn't involved in the statement drafting at all, nor was the president. I'm assuming that was between Mr. Donald Trump Jr., between Don Jr. and his lawyer. I'm sure his lawyer was involved, that's how you do it.


TAPPER: That's him saying that the president was not involved. Now this evening Sekulow says, this is about your reporting. Quote, "Apart from being of no consequence, the characterizations are misinformed, inaccurate and not pertinent."

Your response.

HAMBURGER: So, Jake, we have of course reported that response. What you may not know is that we actually sent multiple, detailed questions to Mr. Sekulow asking him to respond in some detail. Instead what we got was the rather broad denial. I understand others at the White House and the White House team may have already described our story as fake news. We have multiple sources and are confident in our reporting.

TAPPER: Yes. It's interesting when they don't specifically say what their issue is with the story, they just say it's inaccurate and we're not talking about it anymore.


TAPPER: Great scoop, congratulations.

HAMBURGER: Thank you.

TAPPER: Let's go back to our panel. Jennifer Palmieri.

PALMIERI: I was just going to kid her, yes, it's non-denial, denial, denial.

TAPPER: So, yes, I mean, you as somebody who has issued statements, apart from being no consequence, the characterizations are inaccurate, misinformed and not pertinent, that is not specific about anything in the report.

PALMIERI: That is not saying that the report is not true. That in no way says that the president didn't dictate the statement. That just says that there are things in the story that aren't true and we don't think the story matters. That's not saying that Donald Trump didn't actually dictate the statement.

And it makes sense to me that Trump would be the person who dictated the statement because it was a very -- it was a transparently stupid thing to do. So the only person who would have the means of overruling everyone else is the president himself.

TAPPER: Because lawyers wouldn't be that stupid.

PALMIERI: Because lawyers wouldn't be that stupid, because everybody would understand the times isn't telling you everything that they have. You have to assume they actually have the e-mails. You have to play a few game, you know, a few steps ahead and assume that the times are going to come back to you and they are going to have all this information. So it's a very dangerous thing to do. So it makes sense the only person who had the standing to do that was Trump himself.

TAPPER: And Mary Katharine, the thing about the Russia thing is that the Russia controversy, the scandal, whatever you want to call is they're sure acting guilty.

HAM: Right.

TAPPER: I mean, I don't know if there is any there-there. We'll see what the FBI and Mueller and the Senate and House committees come up with.

HAM: Yes.


HAM: Now clearly the right thing to do would have been to be upfront about this. It's a shame that they were overruled. And look, I think this also points to an inability of the president to sort of let the lawyers deal with this, particularly because his children are involved and he's probably emotionally -- emotional and protective of them. And also to keep staffers protected.

It keep, either the principle of the president protected or staffers protected from the legal implications of this, by keeping them out of the room when this happens. And if that keeps happening, they will get themselves in trouble even if there is no there-there.


GREEN: I think that this partly stems from the way that Donald Trump has dealt with the media in the past. If you're talking about a real estate deal to the New York Post, if you're talking about some divorced mistress scandal to the Daily News, you can say no, you can lie, you can obfuscate, you can mislead without any real severe or political or legal consequences.

I'm not sure that Donald Trump and the people around him in any of his family inner circle understand the difference. If they did, they would get out ahead of the story and not let like this happen.

TAPPER: And you know, and Ryan, let me bring you in. The thing is, we keep being told, you know, President Trump is 71, he is not going to change. This is from people around him who are trying to tell people stop trying to change him. But by letting him do things like this, they are allowing him to hurt himself.

LIZZA: Yes. I mean, I think there are two questions about the way this White House is set up. One is the staffing issues that we've been talking about all day, all week, and just that chaotic nature of the place where Trump is frankly a micromanager. He is the chief of staff, right.

If you recall Jimmy Carter was a micromanager. I mean, Trump is, you know, he reaches down and has his hand in every minor issue at that White House, and he doesn't have a staff that understands the legal consequences of something like this. He's probably being investigated for obstruction of justice, you know, at the very least Mueller is looking at that, right?

[22:25:04] How can he have staff around him and lawyers around him who would allow him to get involved in crafting a statement, especially one that contradicts what his son was doing. So, that's just sort of jaw-dropping and, you know, another example of the staff being unable to control him the way you might control a normal president.

The other thing, though, is just the fact that he has his children so involved. Now, Donald Jr. is not involved in the administration but was involved in the campaign. That obviously creates a certain incentive to want to be deeply involved and deeply protective of his kids.

And you know, it's why people don't bring their children into the White House, because you can't treat them like normal staffers. It's why you don't bring them into politics the way that he has, because you might make a mistake like this. Maybe he was trying to protect them.

But you know, I saw Jeff Toobin and the other legal analysts tonight saying that this could be a piece of evidence. If you're looking at an obstruction of justice case, this is something that a prosecutor might look at and say, wait a second, what's going on here?

TAPPER: Everyone, thank you so much. Great panel. I really appreciate it.

Coming up, the internet prankster who pretended to be Jared Kushner and Reince Priebus and other members of the president's circle and got actual officials at the White House to believe him. He's got e-mails to prove it. That's next.

Plus, Governor Chris Christie joining us with his insights into all the latest shake-ups at the White House. Stick around.


[22:30:00] JAKE TAPPER, HOST, CNN: Welcome back to The Lead. Sticking with politics and a story that we're breaking for you tonight right now.

Hook, line, and sinker. A self-described e-mail prankster in the U.K. fooled a number of senior White House officials into thinking that he was other White House officials, including an episode where the prankster convinced the White House staff with cyber security, homeland security adviser Tom Bossert that he was Jared Kushner and he received Bossert's private e-mail address unsolicited. He shared some of those e-mails with us.

Quote, "Tom, we are arranging a bit of a soiree towards the end of August." The fake Jared Kushner on an Outlook account wrote to Bossert's official White House account. Quote, "It would be great if you could make it. I promise food of at least comparable quality to that which we ate in Iraq. Should be a great evening."

The very real Bossert wrote back to the very fake Jared Kushner, quote, "Thanks, Jared. With a promise like that I can't refuse. Also if you ever need it, my personal e-mail is" and then he gave his personal e-mail address.

White House officials acknowledge to CNN that the incidents happened and said they were taking the matter seriously. Quote, "We take all cyber related issues very seriously and are looking into these incidents further."

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told CNN this evening. "Cyber experts consulted by CNN said that the incidents are illustrative of how vulnerable Americans, even those in the highest reaches of power at the Trump White House, remains in the potential threat of what is called spear phishing. That's the process through which officials are duped by hackers and exposed government computer and systems to various cyber threats."

You might remember this happening to Hillary Clinton campaign chair John Podesta. Now no one in any of these White House situations clicked any links making them or their computers vulnerable and the prankster appears motivated by mischief, not anything more malignant.

The prankster told CNN, quote, "I try to keep it on the humorous side of things. I'm not looking for the keys to the vault." So the severity of this White House prankster should not be overstated but spear phishers often begin the process by falsely posing as a friend or associate before asking the victim to take further action.

Another exchange appears to have possibly played a role in the tensions between then-White House communication director Anthony Scaramucci and former White House chief of staff Reince Priebus. Masquerading as Priebus, the prankster e-mailed Scaramucci's official White House account using a account on Saturday.

Fake Priebus attacks Scaramucci in the e-mail. Quote, "At no stage have you acted in a way that's even remotely classy. General Kelly will do a fine job. I'll even admit he will do a better job than me. But the way in which that transition has come about has been diabolical and hurtful. I don't expect to reply."

The very real Scaramucci responded to the very fake Priebus, "You know what you did, we all do, even today but rest assured we were prepared a man would apologize." Fake Priebus wrote back to real Scaramucci, "I can't believe you are questioning my ethics. The so-called mooch who can't even manage his first week in the White House without leaving upset in his wake. I have nothing to apologize for.

Again, the actual Scaramucci responded, "Read Shakespeare, particularly Othello. You are right there. My family is fine by the way and will thrive. I know what you did. No more replies from me."

In a different exchange, the very real Scaramucci was hood link by the same prankster pretending to be ambassador to Russia designate John Huntsman, quote, "Whose head should roll first," the bogus Huntsman asked from a Gmail account on Friday before the Priebus termination had been announced.

"Maybe I can help things along somewhat." Responded the very real Scaramucci, "Both of them," an apparent reference to Priebus and Steve Bannon. Huntsman himself was also tricked with a prankster pretending to be Eric Trump, the president's son.

Eric Trump was certainly hood link by the prankster e-mailing as his older brother, Donald Trump, Jr. though, Eric realized it and said he was notifying the authorities. Now the Huntsman nor Trump would comment on the record.

The prankster has previously fooled major bank CEOs from Goldman Sachs and Citigroup.

He's long been a supporter of President Trump and he's even experienced Trump's management style when he was forced out of the transition. Governor Chris Christie will join us with his take on the White House shake-up next, and here's a look at tomorrow's New York Daily News cover. "Adios, moochato."

We'll be right back.



SARAH HUCKABEE-SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: General Kelly has the full authority to operate within the White House and all staff will report to him.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You said earlier all staff will report to the new chief of staff. Does that include Jared Kushner, does that include Steve bannon, everyone reports to Kelly?

SANDERS: That includes everybody at the White House.


TAPPER: That was White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders earlier today outlining the White House chain of command now that the new chief of staff retired marine General Kelly has sworn in and communications director Anthony Scaramucci has left his post.

But might that new flowchart be easier said than done? Will the president's son-in-law and chief campaign now White House strategist really relegate themselves to talking to Kelly instead of to the president? Will they take what is essentially a demotion?

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a friend and confidant to the president told CNN about the Scaramucci ousting. Quote, "The actions taken today by the president and General Kelly will professionalize the communications operation in a way that will serve the president and the nation very well."

I spoke with Governor Christie a while ago about the White House tumult.


TAPPER: So you're confident that General Kelly can turn things around?

CHRIS CHRISTIE, NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR: Well, listen, I think if the president appropriately empowers him and the general is, you know, working hard at it, I think he can. He's certainly has the experience to do it. He's run larger organizations and put discipline to them, so I think he does.

But again, you know, this is a team effort. And you know, this was the first show I came on very early in February and said that I thought there were problems with the way the president was being served by staff.


[22:40:00] CHRISTIE: And I was very candid with you about that, and I'm hopeful now. I think General Kelly has the background and experience to do it well, but everybody have to work as a team and they all going to understand that they're working to try to make the country better and the country will get better through a better Trump presidency.

TAPPER: So one of the big issues has been that there really have been like three chiefs of staff. In addition to Priebus and mow General Kelly, there is the Bannon chief of staff and then there is the Jared Kushner chief of staff with the Ivanka ancillary chief of staff there, and people who have worked in the White House have said that's very confusing and it makes it difficult to get things done.

So when you say as long as Kelly has the tools he needs, or whatever the term as you said, I assume you mean as long as everybody reports to Kelly instead of there being this kind of spread-out power structure?

CHRISTIE: Well, that's what I have suggested from the beginning, what we suggested in our initial transition report. And that's why I said at the time, if you remember, Jake, that it's the structure that was the biggest problem, not the people.

Having a structure where three people are in charge means no one is in charge. I heard the president loud and clear. He said General Kelly is in charge. So if that, in fact, is the case and the president enforces that with the rest of the people that General Kelly is in charge, he has a much better chance of success.

TAPPER: So you fault the structure, the Wall Street Journal editorial board has a different take. They wrote, after General Kelly was selected and Reince Priebus was deposed, quote, "The shuffling of the staff furniture won't matter unless Mr. Trump accepts that the White House problem isn't Mr. Priebus, it's him." That's from the conservative Wall Street Journal editorial page. Do you agree that President Trump in how disciplined he's been or not been is part of the problem?

CHRISTIE: I think that's part of who he is, and so I think if you're the chief of staff you need to understand the style of the principal, the approach of the principal, and you have to make a structure that works for that. What I said before was the three-person structure doesn't work. And that's not just an aside, I mean, that's the key to it.

Now you have one person the president has said who is in charge from a staff perspective, and I think the big key for General Kelly is not only to have that empowerment from the president, which he seems to now have, but also Jim Baker said it very well, he said this to me during the transition when I interviewed him and he said it again recently.

The chief of staff has to remember to be staff and not chief.


CHRISTIE: And so you have to work with your staff, you have to make them feel comfortable and let everybody know we're rowing in the same direction and rowing for the President of the United States. He is the person who was elected. We got to work for him.

TAPPER: But just to be clear, you're saying that this will work potentially if Bannon and Jared report to Kelly.

CHRISTIE: Everyone must report to the chief of staff other than the President of the United States.

TAPPER: Because that's not how it works. And we still don't know if that's how it's going to work.

CHRISTIE: I read a comment this morning where the president said General Kelly has full authority. Now, I read that comment, Jake, to mean that everyone has to report to the chief of staff. I think that's what should have happened from the beginning, I think that would have helped Reince Priebus to have been more successful in that job than it turned out he was, and I've said all along I thought Reince was a bit of a victim of the structure that got set up.

In the end what people have to be focused on in the White House is how to best make the president most effective. And you can't change your principal except around the edges. He's now 70 years old, he's had enormous success.

TAPPER: Seventy one. CHRISTIE: He's 71 now? OK, thank you. I'm trying to help you, Mr.

President. The fact is that, you know, what we need is to have a structure and an attitude in the White House that says, we are here not for ourselves, we are here for the country and this president.

TAPPER: But when he does things like announces the transgender ban on the military, which would remove 4,000 currently serving servicemembers and members of the reserves which the New York Times reports when General Mattis found out about it, he was appalled.

When he does that seemingly impulsively, announcing it on Twitter, no apparent coordination with the people that would implement this, very little idea of how this would be implemented, are there really going to be 4,000 members of the military kicked out of the military? Does that undermine his agenda?

CHRISTIE: Well, I think what happened there, Jake, I don't have inside information on this, but my sense from having worked with the president and for a long time I've known him for 15 years, is my guess is that there was some significant disagreement inside the administration about this policy.

And it tells you again about the structure and the problem with the structure. So the president I think you probably heard enough of this disagreement. He had made his decision, whether you agree or disagree with it, he had made his decision, and he wasn't going through the process again to get the announcement. He was going to announce it and then work on the back end to make sure the process put into place. Now you know, that's his style. We've seen that over and over again.

TAPPER: It's chaotic, though, empirically.

CHRISTIE: Well, but again, I think it is a result of in part, in large part the structure that existed in the White House.

[22:45:00] If you have a chief of staff who is in charge and the president trusts that chief of staff and he's fully empowered, then all this stuff will go through the chief of staff. I think that part of it was the president wasn't appropriately briefed beforehand, before he became president, about the diffuse structure being a real problem.

And so, now, we're going to see, though. That's been my theory, as you know, since February.


CHRISTIE: So now we're going to see if I'm right.

TAPPER: Yes. The attorney general, Jeff Sessions, has been having an unpleasant time, I think it's fair to say...


CHRISTIE: That's fair to say. TAPPER: ... fair to say with the president publicly shaming him,

humiliating him for the decision he made to recuse himself. A decision that I believe you have said was the right decision, have you not?

CHRISTIE: Well, I don't know, I don't think I've ever commented on that publicly.

TAPPER: Well, do you think it was the right decision?

CHRISTIE: Well, I think it depends why he really recused himself. I think if he recused himself because he gave confusing and inconsistent answers at his hearing regarding his contact with Russia and Russian officials, that then to be in charge of the Russia investigation is problematic for him.

But if it was because of association with the campaign, well, he could have recused himself right and told the president elect and everybody right then that that was a reason to recuse. I don't believe that was a reason to recuse. Lots of people have been involved in campaigns at some level and then gone on to serve as attorney general. We've seen that in any number of instances.

Certainly Attorney General Holder was very involved in the Obama campaign and then became attorney general. He didn't recuse himself of anything of significance even though a lot of political things came up.

TAPPER: Yes. But there are no investigation into the Obama 2008 campaign.

CHRISTIE: Well, but, Jake, this investigation goes well beyond just the campaign.


CHRISTIE: Right? And so I don't think there was a need for him to recuse himself based upon the association with the campaign. Now, if he believed that once he gave answers that at best were confusing regarding his interaction with Russia, at that point I think, you know, it was much more defensible to recuse.

But I want to be clear about what I think needed to be done here. I don't think he needed to recuse over his involvement in the campaign, but I do think that once he gave misleading or confusing answers about Russia that that became more of a problem.

TAPPER: What do you think about the way President Trump has been treating him? Really, I mean, it seems like berating him until he quits although he has not quit?

CHRISTIE: It wouldn't be my style, it hasn't be my style as an executive. If I have a problem with a member of my cabinet or my senior staff, I call them in and tell them, and if I think they need to go, I fire them.

Now, you know, the president has a different approach with General Sessions and we're going to see whether that approach works or it doesn't work depending on what the president's real end is here. And I don't know that. I haven't talked to him about this.

But what I will tell you, Jake, is that in the end, I understand the president's upset about the fact that he appointed an attorney general, and even if there was going to be a special counsel, that his attorney general should manage that special counsel investigation. Because the special counsel is not independent of the attorney general, they report to the attorney general.

And to not have an attorney general who can oversee that, I understand why the president would be frustrated by that, but it's the situation we're in.

TAPPER: We're going to take a quick break. Stick around, we got a lot more to talk about.


TAPPER: Coming up next, the White House's opioid commission which the governor is leading, and we'll get his side of the story about getting in the face of that heckling Chicago Cubs fan. Stay with us.



TAPPER: We're back with more on our politics lead. Late today, the Trump administration announced it will immediately begin reviewing an interim report on the opioid crisis in this country prepared by a White House anti-drug commission which is led by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. His state New Jersey has been hit hard by the heroin epidemic. Earlier today, I asked the governor about the findings and what more needs to be done about this crisis.


CHRISTIE: What we found, Jake, is 142 Americans are dying every day of drug overdose. Every day, which means we have a 9/11 scale loss every three weeks in America. So the first recommendation we said to the president is you must declare a national emergency, a public health emergency that will empower your cabinet and the executive branch and motivate the congressional folks to be able to fund this and to get on top of it because we have a crisis.

Think about that, Jake, every three weeks.

TAPPER: And that staggering.

CHRISTIE: The number of people who die are the number of people who died on 9/11.

TAPPER: Mostly from opioids?

CHRISTIE: Mostly three-quarters from opioids. TAPPER: And is the pattern that they have some sort of health

problem, they get opioids and then they can't afford to stay on it or the doctors won't continue prescribing and so they turn to heroin. Is that?

CHRISTIE: Four out of every five new heroin addicts in the country today started on prescription opioids. So this problem, Jake, is not starting it's not starting on our street corners. It's starting in doctor's offices and hospitals. We prescribe enough opioids in this country in 2015 to have every adult in America fully medicated for three weeks. It's out of control.

So one of the recommendations we're making is increased education for our doctors at medical schools and dental schools and mandatory continuing medical education if you want the DEA license to write these prescriptions. We don't have that now. We need to have that across the country.

TAPPER: The big pharmaceutical firms need to be penalized if they're pushing these too much? Do doctors who overprescribe need to be punished?

CHRISTIE: Well, doctors who overprescribed will definitely need to be punished. And the pharmaceutical companies as you probably know, there's lawsuits going on around the country regarding this and I don't want to say too much because New Jersey is a party to one of those lawsuits.

But I would just say that there's a lot of responsibility to go around here. But the good news is that we think the president and Congress have tools available to them in working with the states to be able to lessen this crisis significantly.

[22:54:58] But we have a long way to go. We have a number of recommendations that we'll announce later today with the president and we hope that the president declares a public health emergency in this country which will allow us to be very, very aggressive about this problem.

TAPPER: You've worked with law enforcement as a prosecutor, obviously as a governor. Do you share the concern of some police chiefs and police organizations that President Trump was too flippant when describing how suspects should be treated by police when he spoke on Suffolk County on Friday.

CHRISTIE: Yes. Listen, I don't think that that's what the president really believes. I think sometimes, you know, when the president starts to riffle a little bit as I call it, he's having fun. And because I'm from the same area of the country he is, I can tell when the president's being a little bit sarcastic and a little flippant.

I think he's still getting used to how people will take that from him as President of the United States versus a real estate developer. I don't think the president really believes that. I don't believe he thinks that, you know, police should rough people up. But I think that he makes jokes and is sarcastic and I think still getting used to how that's going to be received when you're president.

TAPPER: Speaking of a certain northeastern style, you had an exchange with a Cubs fan at a Milwaukee Brewers game yesterday. Let's take a quick look.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I appreciate that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What did he say to you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's the secret service right there.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm acting like a big shot.

TAPPER: The tail end of the exchange, obviously. What happened and do you ever think twice about things like that?

CHRISTIE: No, listen, Jake, when somebody swears at you publicly and says some really awful things with a lot of children sitting around and my own son with me, I took it the first time he said it and yelled it from about 15 yards and said some really lousy awful stuff and then I came back after having ignored him the first time.

And he went in for seconds. Well, if you're going for seconds, I've always said this whether it was my town hall meetings or any place else, if you give it, you're going to get it back. And I think that was a mellow reaction from a New Jersey governor to just say you're a real big shot, you know.

And most of these folks they think they can say anything they want. Public officials are public servants but they're not meant to be public punching bags. And I'm at a ball game with my son enjoying the game having no interaction with anybody on public policy issues or anything else. I don't think it's the right of anybody to stand up and swear at you and curse you out.

I've gone through this on the boardwalk and other places and always had the same response. I'll ignore it when it first happens. But if you persist, then you're going to get a reaction.

TAPPER: Thank you for being here. We appreciate it. And good luck with the opioid crisis.

CHRISTIE: Thank you.

TAPPER: Before we say good-bye to you tonight, there was an absolutely moving ceremony at the White House today, Vietnam War veteran James McCloughan became the first person to receive the Medal of Honor under President Trump. McCloughan story goes back as the late 1960's when the young army medic risked his life not once, not twice but nine times to save the lives of his fellow soldiers.


TAPPER: It has been nearly 50 years since the actions that earned Vietnam veteran James McCloughan this Medal of Honor. But for the former army medic and the men he saved in battle, the days are forever seared in memory.

Between May 13th and 15th 1969, McCloughan's team, Charlie company was attacked three separate times. According to the army, both platoons in Charlie company were ambushed two, helicopters were shot down, grenades landed within meters of the troop's positions and there were heavy casualties.

JAMES MCCLOUGHAN, RETIRED VIETNAM WAR VETERAN: Second day, we lose our only other medic we've got and that's Dan Shea and I got him and got his body. Now I'm the only medic.

TAPPER: Then 23-year-old McCloughan a specialist was left to care for his company all by himself. According to the army, McCloughan repeatedly ran into the fray braving enemy fired to pull the injured to safety and returned for more without hesitation.

MCCLOUGHAN: And I'm weaving and literally could hear and see the bullets skipping off the ground. They're firing at me.

TAPPER: He sustained injuries from a grenade explosion but pushed through his shrapnel wounds to save the lives of others. When McCloughan was given a direct order to evacuate for his own safety, he refused to leave his team.

The morning of May 15th, McCloughan helped Charlie company once more. This time by fighting back. According to the army McCloughan knocked out an enemy position with a grenade. McCloughan is credited with saving the lives of 10 men in Vietnam. As the nation shows its gratitude for his valor today, McCloughan says he's thankful to the army for building his character.


TAPPER: Before today, Mr. McCloughan had earned several military awards including the bronze star and the Purple Heart. We send him our gratitude today from everyone here at The Lead.

Be sure to follow me on Facebook and Twitter @jaketapper or tweet the show @theleadcnn. We actually read them. That's it for the special primetime edition of Lead. I'm Jake Tapper. Have a great night. We'll see you tomorrow at 4 p.m. Eastern.