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Trump Holds Cabinet Meeting; Trump Insists No Chaos; Trump to Handle North Korea; Trump Slams China; Putin Escalates Rift; Trump's Election; Trump Dares GOP to Act. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired July 31, 2017 - 14:00   ET



[14:00:23] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Here we go. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you so much for being with me.

A new week, new faces, and only time will tell, to borrow a phrase, if it would be a new-and-improved way of doing business at the White House. Former Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly is now approaching his sixth hour as White House chief of staff, as questions surround him. Can the retired Marine general calm the chaos that is the Trump administration.

As part of Secretary Kelly's first day on the job, he took a seat at the president's second cabinet meeting ever. Also in attendance, of course, you had the A.G., Jeff Session. This is, in fact, believed to be the first time that the attorney general has been in the same room as the president since the president launched these attacks calling Sessions week and beleaguered and disappointing after Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation without telling the president beforehand.

But we watched the pool spray. There were no signs of friction, just plenty of adulation for this new chief of staff.



This is our first cabinet meeting with General Kelly. He will be chief of staff, as you know. We all know him. We respect him, admire what he's done. And at Homeland what he has done has been nothing short of miraculous. As you know, the border was a tremendous problem and now close to 80 percent stoppage. And even the president of Mexico called me. They said, their southern border, very few people are coming because they know they're not going to get through our border, which is the ultimate compliment.

So I just want to congratulate him on the great job he's done with Homeland Security and I have no doubt that he will be an absolutely superb chief of staff. We were discussing a little while ago before the meeting how well we're doing, however. We have the highest stock market in history. We have GDP on Friday, got very little mention, although I guess in the business areas it did, but got I think very little mention. And 2.6 is a number that nobody thought they'd see for a long period of time. So we're starting from a really good base.

I predict that General Kelly will go down in terms of the position of chief of staff, one of the great ever. And we're going to have a good time. But, much more importantly, we're going to work hard and we're going to make America great again. It's all about making America great again.


BALDWIN: So let's start there at the White House with our reporter Kaitlan Collins.

And, Kaitlan, as we've said, you know, he's only been in the job six hours. But how's it going so far for the new Chief of Staff Kelly?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So far so good. He was officially sworn in as chief of staff this -- first thing this morning. As you know, Donald Trump announced on Twitter late Friday evening that he was going to be making John Kelly the new chief of staff. So that transition happened pretty quickly. And then, after that, he attended his first board meeting with the president as the chief of staff.

Now, as you remember, the last cabinet meeting -- excuse me, board meeting -- I called it a board meeting. That's because Donald Trump kept referring to it as the board room today. So we saw the businessman in Donald Trump really come out.

But during this cabinet meeting, in the last one seven weeks ago when Reince Priebus was still the chief of staff, it created a lot of headlines because they had the cabinet members go around the room and praise Donald Trump and thank him for the for opportunity to serve his agenda. But today was a little bit different because we saw Donald Trump offering the praise to John Kelly. Let's listen to what Trump had to say this morning.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What he's done in terms of Homeland Security is record-shattering. 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.


TRUMP: Thank you again.

KELLY: Thank you.

TRUMP: Thank you very much. We'll see you -- we'll see you in the board room. We're having a cabinet meeting.


COLLINS: So you see there at the end, when Donald Trump repeatedly referred to it as the board room.

BALDWIN: In the board room.

COLLINS: Yes. But there's no doubt, Brooke, that John Kelly is going to have his hands full here. He's going to face the same problems that Reince Priebus did, which is, this is a very top-heavy White House. A lot of people, including Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump, Anthony Scaramucci and Steve Bannon all report directly to the president. So we're going to see this week how John Kelly will handle that and impose some discipline on this administration.

[14:05:07] BALDWIN: Kaitlan, thank you so much.

As the president predicts, General Kelly will go down as one of the greatest chiefs of staff ever. Let us remind you who has also received similar over-the-top praise.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think of a great man and I want to just introduce you to him for a sec. We've kept it a surprise. Senator Jeff Sessions.

Jeff Sessions is a fantastic man. Jeff Sessions is one of the most highly respected people in the United States Senate.

He's a man of integrity, a man of principle and a man of total, utter resolve.

And Reince Priebus, who I just spoke to, he's doing a tremendous job. It's not an easy job when he had 17 egos and now I guess he's down to one.

But I'll tell you, Reince is really a star. And he is the hardest- working guy.

Reince, come up here. Where is Reince? Get over here, Reince. Boy, oh, boy, oh, boy.


BALDWIN: Perspective.

With me now, CNN's senior political analyst Mark Preston and CNN chief political analyst Gloria Borger.

Great to have both of you in New York.

You know, this quote stuck out to me. I was reading one of the papers this morning. James Baker, advice on chief of staff. You can focus on the chief or you can focus on the "of staff." Those who have focused on the "of staff" have done pretty well.

Gloria, how do you interpret that and do you think the reset will do great things for this president?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, look, I think that clearly the way General Kelly would approach it is "of staff." He is a general, but he's used to saluting. He gets it. He knows what that's all about. So I don't think he's going to try and sort of take over the White House and -- but, you know, the question is, and I think we need to put an end to this notion of presidential pivot, finally done. This president is not going to change at all, OK? He's a 71-year-old man who does what he wants to do.

BALDWIN: Just some of the people around him.

BORGER: The question is whether General Kelly can have any influence on him in any way, shape or form to get him not to shoot himself in the foot. Now, that may not mean on the tweeting front, but there has to be -- you know, there has to be a way where they can sort of come to grips with how the White House is going to operate. May he won't have the president have an open-door policy as he has right now because that can be a problem. So we'll have to see how the chain of command works.

BALDWIN: He clearly has this admiration/obsession with generals. And we talked about this a lot when we were talking first about, you know, cabinet appointments. But, again, you look, Mark, at, you know, what's happened to General Flynn --


BALDWIN: And what's happening with General McMaster. And so I think that sort of lets it up in the air.

And, you know, when you listen to Scaramucci talk about how the priority really is leaks, I mean this is a man who brings tremendous military might to the office. But what does he bring to the table on ending leaks in the White House?

PRESTON: Well, certainly as a high-ranking four-star general he certainly doesn't want to see leaks. But I don't think that leaks -- I would be surprised if the general thought that the first priority right now for the White House is leaks.

To Gloria's point, it really is managing down, bringing order to a chaotic White House. And as much as President Trump goes out there today and says, there's no chaos. I mean we're doing so well. Well, if you're doing so well and everything's going so well, then why did you change your top spokesperson and your chief of staff?


PRESTON: Literally within a week. Why did that occur? So clearly things aren't going well.

For the general, though, to be successful, he is going to have to focus on bringing some structure and order. Perhaps, you know, getting a body man, somebody who is with the president the president can trust, but that can tell the president not to tweet, somebody that can maybe persuade him -- some of the time. Well, he won't win all the time.

BALDWIN: Yes, to Gloria's point, will he listen.


BALDWIN: He being the president.

PRESTON: You're not going to -- you're not going to change the man. But at least you can put somebody with him that will make him have informed decisions.

BORGER: But leaks come from a White House that is divided and that has a lot of infighting. And people leak because, you know, they either want to do someone else harm or they want to say what they've done or they -- so what he needs to do is get everyone on the same page and unify the staff in a way that it hasn't been unified. And if you look at what Donald Trump has done, is he's taken out all the Republican National Committee loyalists in there and put in his peeps.

BALDWIN: Look at his inner circle.

BORGER: Right.


BORGER: He has put in -- he's got his family and his folks. And so maybe now there is a chance that they will be more or less on the same page and they won't be competing with each other. We -- you know, we have to see.

BALDWIN: What about the comments on the, quote -- by the president's quotes, beleaguered and weak A.G. He was obviously in the room for the cabinet meeting. You know, the one notion in the ether is that, well, he could take John Kelly's old job at Homeland. How possible is that?

[14:10:04] PRESTON: Not possible at all. I mean that would be a step down for him to lead as the attorney general to go to the Department of Homeland Security. That's not to say that that's not an incredibly big and important job, but his background is in the law.


PRESTON: His background is prosecuting cases. His background is working with Congress when you need to work with Congress as the A.G.

I guess the most striking thing about the general accepting this job I thought was looking at what President Trump did to Jeff Sessions where he turned on him rather quickly, rather quickly after, as we showed at the top of the segment, So many nice things to say about him. But, gosh, he doesn't seem to like him now and he's very vocal about it.

BALDWIN: I mean, to my point earlier, not going so well with General McMaster.


BORGER: Right. I mean --

BALDWIN: Did he take his ques at all from that situation?

BORGER: You know -- right. And I did a column last week on the cabinet and what, you know, and what they're thinking about. And, you know, my reporting shows that some members are, you know, just keeping their heads down, trying to do their jobs.


BORGER: But one source said to me, look, they're perturbed because they know that this could happen to them because Donald Trump --

BALDWIN: Even the loyalist of the loyal.

BORGER: Who was the loyalist, most loyal? Who was the biggest cheerleader?

BALDWIN: Jeff Sessions.

BORGER: It was Jeff Sessions.


BORGER: So this could happen to Jeff Sessions, only he said, you know what, I'm not going anywhere. And, by the way, Chuck Grassley, the chairman of that committee that would have to confirm a new attorney general says, sorry, no room -- no room on the agenda.

BALDWIN: Not going to happen. Not going to happen.


BALDWIN: Gloria and Mark, thank you very much.


BALDWIN: Hold that thought for the next time. Appreciate you.

The president also under fire for telling police officers, rough up the, quote, thugs you're arresting. And now officers from around the country are pushing back. We'll talk with both sides on this one.

Also, after North Korea fires another missile, the president says he'll handle it. We have a new -- new hints perhaps of his new strategy there.

And President Trump completely ignoring Mitch McConnell's advice to move on from health care. And, instead, if you check his Twitter feed, doubling down with taunts against his own party. His new threats over the future of Obamacare.

You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.


[14:16:01] BALDWIN: We're back. You're watching CNN on a Monday. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

Another missile, another launch, another test for President Trump on the crisis in North Korea. So, how will he handle it?


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We'll handle North Korea. We're going to be able to handled them. They'll be -- it will be handled. We handle everything. Thank you very much.


BALDWIN: It is not quite clear yet here, but part of the handling apparently includes rip China. The president taking to Twitter blaming Beijing for doing nothing as North Korea tests missile after missile that it claims can strike U.S. cities.

So with me now, Fareed Zakaria, who is hosting a CNN special tonight entitled "How Trump Won," and we'll get to that in just a second, a question that many are asking still, my question, though, out of the gate, what is, "it will be handled" mean to you?

FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST, "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS": Well, it really means almost nothing because Donald Trump, frankly, has the reputation of being a bluffer. I mean, remember, this is the guy who said he had tapes on Comey, said he had sent investigators to Hawaii where they had found amazing stuff about Barack Obama's birth certificate. You know, and throughout, there's just a string of bluffs and braggadocio and tough talk, which is following with nothing.

What worries me is that in this case Trump might want to do something to distract from, you know, foreign -- from domestic troubles. This would be a place where he could -- he could be bold, he could be decisive, the country would rally around him. It would be deeply, deeply irresponsible because there isn't a simple solution to the North Korea problem. Everyone who has looked at the military option says they essentially don't exist. You're talking about a kind of hellish second Korean War. And the only path is really through China, through really good diplomacy with China.

BALDWIN: But on China -- but on China, and we've talked about this, how he has said before, they've tried. And now he's saying they're doing nothing. I mean how do you think that that is falling on those in China and then what will compel China to help?

ZAKARIA: I think that we have to recognize that China is not doing this out of some kind of, pique at Donald Trump. China has interests. It looks at a North Korea that if it pushes too hard could implode. And if it implodes, it's on its southern border. And what happens is, you get 2 million refugees streaming into China, you get a collapsed North Korea that is then absorbed by South Korea. So now, on China's border, you would have a pro-America country with a treaty relationship with America, 30,000 American troops and, by the way, 15 nuclear weapons, because they would, of course, inherit the North's arsenal.


ZAKARIA: They want that. So they look at that and say, yes, we don't like -- we are unhappy, uneasy with the nuclear weapons, but we are really -- you know, the collapsed North Korea is a nightmare scenario for Beijing. So we've got to address that. We've got to have a conversation with them about, what would a collapsed North Korea look like. Would we be willing to withdrawal our troops from a unified Korea? Would we change the nature of the treaty relationships? Would we be willing to go in with China and destroy all those nuclear weapons? If we don't have that conversation with them, just sending them abusive tweets, that does not really change --

BALDWIN: Are those conversations not happening?

ZAKARIA: Oh, it's not happening at all. I think that, you know, Trump's problem was he -- he thinks foreign policy is a branch of sort of kind of psychiatry. That, you know, he and Xi got on well. He served him a nice piece of chocolate cake. But China has deep interests there. You have to have a strategic dialogue that helps them understand how you can make it in their interests to do this. They're not going to do it because they had a nice time at Mar-a-Lago.

BALDWIN: Right. No chocolate cake with Putin, but let me ask you about Russia because we know that they're retaliating against this new sanctions bill that Congress overwhelmingly passed. He's ordering 700- plus diplomats to leave his country. If you read "The New York Times" piece with David Sanger, he's saying that essentially the whole notion of Russia manipulating the U .S. election is backfiring on him. He's not, you know, getting anything out of it thus far.

[14:20:05] And so I'm wondering, you know, the two hour, 16 minute meeting at the G-20 and the chat around the dinner table, is that all out the window? Is all that good will an attempt to have a relationship with Russia gone because of this bill?

ZAKARIA: You know, what's happened is really that Donald Trump has so boxed himself in on Russia by refusing to even admit that they -- that they hacked the election by refusing to say, you know, let's leave this to a committee. I will fully cooperate. By creating this kind of atmosphere where people are wondering, why does he -- you know, why is he fighting this? He has been paralyzed on Russia policy. He can't be cooperative. And in effect he can't really do anything. So Congress is running Russia policy now. And this bill that was passed overwhelmingly by both houses, that Trump had to sign because there were enough votes, it was a veto-proof majority.

And the Russians have realized, we're in a very different world. We're in a world where the administration, for the first time really in decades, the administration is not running foreign policy. The admiration is hamstrung, boxed in and its congressional hawks who are driving the agenda. Democrats are delighted to join in because it embarrasses Trump. The whole thing is frankly a fiasco. And if you add to that the fact that we have really no China policy right now, because, again, Trump began by falling in love with Xi Jinping. Now he's fallen out of love with him. You know, the two most important countries in the world that we have had to have complicated, strategic relations, we're paralyzed and confused.

BALDWIN: So how did he win? How did he win? What are you looking at tonight in your doc?

ZAKARIA: What we're trying to do is to look at the deeper reasons. In other words, everyone can talk about Hillary Clinton, and Comey and the Russian hacking. We're asking why did he even get close? This was such an unorthodox candidate. A guy up against 16 very professional Republican politicians. He was up against one of the most talented politicians in American in Hillary Clinton. How did he even get (INAUDIBLE) ten points?

He got in -- he did as well as he did and he won because he tapped into something very deep in this country, which is a cultural rebellion against urban professional elites against the kind of America that in many ways "The New York Times" and CNN, you know, represent.

And there's a whole bunch of the country that are not only not -- don't see themselves as part of that country. They seed the country moving in a way that they don't like and for some --

BALDWIN: It was a rejection?

ZAKARIA: For some reason Donald Trump was able to become their voice. And that's why I think his support has stuck so much more strongly than people realize because, you know, initially there was a part that people would say, well, he's actually not delivering on those promises that he made. He turns out to be, you know, maybe less conservative, more conservative.

It's not about ideology. People say, well, he doesn't execute well. It's not about competence. It is a kind of class rebellion and it's about tribal loyalty. Almost imagine a sports team. If it does well, you know, you've -- if you're a fan, you're going to be a fan whether they're doing well or badly. In fact, when they're doing badly, you double down.

BALDWIN: You're a bigger fan than ever. You're a bigger fan than ever.

It is -- the special airs tonight at 10:00 Eastern. Fareed Zakaria, "Why Trump Won." You see it there on your screen. Tune in. I will be watching.

Fareed, thank you so much.

ZAKARIA: Always a pleasure.

BALDWIN: Thank you.

We are just getting word of a pretty fascinating meeting happening at the White House involving health care. We'll tell you who's showing up at the White House today.

Also ahead, another speech by the president sparking massive backlash after he told dozens of police officers there at this crowd in Long Island, be rough with your suspects. We're going to talk to both sides, hear both perspectives, ahead here on CNN.


[14:28:18] BALDWIN: Despite the top Senate Republican bluntly telling the president it is time to move on from health care, the president is not listening. Instead, he is taunting and daunting his own party to get back on track to repeal and replace Obamacare.

These messages part of a tweet storm over the weekend and into the morning. And two of the president's threats getting backlash. First, he is threatening to take away federal help for lower income Americans under Obamacare. And, two, he's threatening to force members of Congress to join Obamacare completely.

Julie Rovner is back with us today. She's the chief Washington correspondent for Kaiser Health News and she has covered all things health on The Hill for 31 years.

And so, Julie, what do you make of all these tweets as a way to try to compel something on health care policy?

JULIE ROVNER, CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, KAISER HEALTH NEWS: Well, it's going to be very hard, partly because the house is already gone for the August recess. The Senate is still here, but they're supposedly doing other things. But I think the president's making very clear that he doesn't want them to give up. He wants them to try to do something. What that something is, is the big question right now.

BALDWIN: From a Trump supporter perspective, just quickly, wouldn't they be thinking though, hey, this is great, you know, this is a promise seven years in the making and this is the president who, he is not going to give this up lightly.

ROVNER: That's right. Yes, I know -- I fully understand why the president is doing this and I understand why Republicans are frustrated because they promised to do this long before the president was out pushing for it.

BALDWIN: Right. Right.

ROVNER: But I think, you know, what we've seen over the past six months is that this is very difficult and they really haven't been able to come to any kind of agreement that the Senate can pass, that the House could pass too. At this point they haven't even come to any agreement that the Senate can pass.

[14:29:55] BALDWIN: Well, maybe there's a glimmer of hope. This all depends on your perspective. I don't' know what's up at the White House, but we're learning here at CNN that Louisiana Republican Senator Bill Cassidy was at the White House today talking to HHS Secretary Tom Price. I was just talking to Gloria Borger here at CNN a second ago reminding me that Senator Graham was just at the White House Friday. We know these two gentlemen have co-authored --