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After Failures Trump Dares GOP to Act on Obamacare; Paris Gets 2024 Olympics & L.A. Gets 2028 Olympics; New Reporting on John Kelly's Reaction to Comey Firing; Trump Fires Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci After Just 10 Days. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired July 31, 2017 - 14:30   ET


[14:30:00] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: So we're learning here at CNN that Louisiana Senator Bill Cassidy is talking to HHS Secretary Tom Price. Just talking to Gloria Borger, reminding me that Senator Graham was at the White House Friday. We know these two gentlemen have co-authored their own health care amendments. Do you know any more about that? Is it significant?

JULIE ROVNER, CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, KAISER HEALTH NEWS: I know a little bit about it. Senator Cassidy has been trying to push this pretty much since January. He partnered with Senator Collins, one of the famous "no" votes. The idea is to let states that like the way the Affordable Care Act is working, continue to do that. And states that don't like it so much, could basically take the federal money and do almost whatever they want with it. That's kind of the sticking point, whether there will be enough freedom to satisfy the conservative, but the moderates might baulk that some of the protections in the Affordable Care Act could go away. So it doesn't strike me that this will make it that much easier to get moderates and conservatives on board, but it is kind of the last thing out there that hasn't been completely chewed over.

BALDWIN: Maybe it's a Hail Mary. You point out the House of Representatives are already on vacation. We shall see. Julie, I have a feeling we'll be talking again.

Thank you for your voice there in Washington.

ROVNER: Of course.

BALDWIN: Also, we are getting some news just into CNN. The word is the United States is closer to hosting the Olympics in the next decades.

Let's go live to Los Angeles. CNN's Paul Vercammen joins me here.

What's the story? Did L.A. get it?

PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: L.A. got the 2028 Olympics --

BALDWIN: Awesome.

VERCAMMEN: -- according to sources inside city hall. Just a sense of euphoria here, Brooke, in Los Angeles. You may know the bids came down between Los Angeles and Paris. And there was a sentiment that Paris should host 2024, because that would be the 100th anniversary. Indeed, they say a deal has been worked out where Paris gets 2024, Los Angeles gets 2028.

As I said, there's glee all over the city of Los Angeles. Nowhere more than the 1984 L.A. Foundation. You're saying, what is that? Well, the L.A. Olympics actually made money. Peter Ueberroth (ph)and a couple other folks connected to that invested the money, and they invested it well. So 150,000 youth in Los Angeles area still go to after-school and sports recreation programs to this day. Talking to somebody that's a part of that committee, just absolutely over the moon that they'll be able to reinvest again and host the 2028 Olympics.

BALDWIN: I'm from Atlanta. I remember the moments when we all sat around and listen to it coming to the city of Atlanta. It's a really special thing.

Paul, thank you so much. Paul Vercammen, in L.A.

We have news in, about the chief of staff, General John Kelly, and a phone call he made to fired FBI Director James Comey. Stand by for news, next.


[14:32:09] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BALDWIN: Here's the big breaking news. We have reporting coming in regarding the newly appointed chief of staff, John Kelly, and his response when he learned that President Trump fired James Comey, the then-chief of the FBI.

Shimon Prokupecz and Pamela Brown are here with us from the Justice Department covering all of this.

So, Shimon, what have you learned, or Pam?



PROKUPTECZ: Brooke, we've learn that incoming chief of staff, John Kelly, was so upset with the way President Trump handled the firing of Director Comey, he called Comey shortly after he was terminated to say how angry he was. This is according to two sources familiar with the conversation between Kelly and Comey. At the time, Kelly was secretary of Homeland Security. The sources say Kelly was particularly upset by the way that Comey was treated by learning he had been fired on the news rather than by the president. The call took place while Comey was traveling back from Los Angeles to Washington on May 9th after learning the news.

Brooke, I should note, Comey declined to comment to us about the story. The White House and Department of Homeland Security did not comment.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: There's more to this story. We have learned from our sources that Kelly was so angry, he even told Comey at the time he was contemplating resigning from his position as secretary of Homeland Security, as a showing of solidarity. Comey responded during this conversation by telling him not to resign. But clearly, it just shows you how upset he was.

We should point out, the sources we spoke with cautioned it was unclear how serious Kelly was about resigning himself. Of course, that never happened. And now he's at the White House as chief of staff.

For context, they're not particularly close friends, but had a working relationship. Kelly was so upset, even quote, "disgusted," was what one of the sources said, and even contemplated resigning at the time in May when this all went down -- Brooke?

BALDWIN: Let me broaden this conversation out. We have General Mark Hertling, who knows General Kelly extremely well. Served with him for many, many years. I also have James Galliano, former FBI, CNN law enforcement analyst.

General Hertling, does this sound like the General Kelly you know? Even though he wasn't -- that he would have given his resignation?

GEN. MARK HERTLING, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: I don't president to comment on the reports of palace intrigue or the reality show, but what I will tell you is I did get to know John Kelly well in combat situations on two occasions, then again in -- what I tell you is this is a man of extremely strong values --


[14:40:13] BALDWIN: Excuse me. Forgive me. Forgive me.

I don't even know what to say. We just learned as we're talking about the news with Comey and General Kelly, I now, just got a piece of information in my hearing -- how long has Scaramucci been in the job? The Mooch has been in there a job a week and some change. He has just resigned from his position as director of communications. This was someone who -- let me just -- I'm surprised. Let me just be real with you. This is someone who took the job -- remember Sean Spicer ended up deciding to resign. We know what's happened in the "New Yorker" interview, the profanity-laced interview with Ryan Lizza that he did just a few days ago, talking ill not only about Reince Priebus, but also about Steve Bannon. This is extraordinarily significant.

We're getting some folks. We're going to jump on set to go through the breaking news that Scaramucci has resigned.

Kaitlan Collins, at the White House.

Kaitlan, what? How did this happen?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There's a lot of news. We have heard that Anthony Scaramucci, named communications director just last Friday, has been removed from his position. We don't have a lot of details, but we do know there's been a lot of drama since he was brought into this position. We saw Press Secretary Sean Spicer resign in protest over him being named to this position. And then we saw the chief of staff, Reince Priebus, ousted last week over all of this drama that's been going on.

As you know there was that Anthony Scaramucci interview where he blasted Reince Priebus and accused him as a leaker of White House information.

Safe to say there's been a lot of drama coming out of Scaramucci being appointed, and we're likely going to find out more in the next few minutes about what happened with Scaramucci being removed.

BALDWIN: I'm talking to you and looking out of the corner of my eyes. We have mic'd two more people joining me.

The chief coms director at the White House, Anthony Scaramucci, who's been in the job, what was he, at the podium referring to Reince Priebus as his brother, this was two Fridays ago. He has now resigned.

Gloria Borger, David Chalian, surprise.


GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. Surprised every day. Every day. David can talk about this, too. I'm texting a bunch of sources. But it seems that General Kelly is the new sheriff in town, and that maybe he wanted some things very clear before he took the job. Who knows?

BALDWIN: As a condition to take the job --

BORGER: Who knows? Who knows? We don't know.

BALDWIN: -- to have the Mooch.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: One of the things that Anthony Scaramucci he made clear 11 days ago, is that he reported to the president. Now there's a new White House chief of staff. The reporting part to the president is clearly part of a discussion with the president how this is going to work.

You also have to look at this. It seems to me -- we thought Reince Priebus's tenure was short as chief of staff. This must be the shortest tenure ever. It was almost like a suicide mission. He strapped on a suicide vest. His 11-day mission will be known as getting rid of Reince Priebus from the job as chief of staff. He went in, he blew him up initially, when he was at the podium that Friday talking about we're brothers, but we're at odds, and I'm not reporting to him. Clearly, trying to act like chief of staff. Then he does that outrageous salacious "New Yorker" interview, now out of a job. His total mission, Anthony Scaramucci, seems to have been getting Reince Priebus out of the job. (CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: But he didn't resign over the language he used.


BALDWIN: In any corporate setting, one would not have a job.


BORGER: In a military setting, too, by the way. We knew at the time that Scaramucci was channeling the president's feelings about Reince Priebus, not his language.

CHALIAN: Of course.

BORGER: But he was channeling the president's feeling. So you can imagine, below, you have someone like General Kelly coming in, he wants to make the lines clear. He wants to make sure that everybody is going to go through me. Perhaps, I would assume. But Scaramucci had already said, by the way, I don't have to go through the chief of staff. I can go to the president himself. And by the way, I'm going to fire everybody. If you're the incoming chief of staff, you're going to say, wait a minute, I don't think that's how it needs to work or should work. Why wouldn't he have had a conversation with the president about these things before he took the job?

BALDWIN: Let me go to Jeff Zeleny who has reporting on the fact that Scaramucci and his big 11 days as coms director at the White House are over.

Jeff Zeleny, what have you learned?

[14:45:04] JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Brooke, we are learning there will be a statement coming out shortly, we believe, likely pretty soon, from the White House, explaining all of this -- explaining what led to this really bankrupt decision as David and Gloria were just talking about there, after about ten days or so in this position, not yet officially starting. He was going to officially start this week, but we're told there will be a statement coming out. And there's a potential possibility here, Brooke, he could be moving to a different job. We don't know that. We're being advised to be very careful with our language here. We do know the president effectively lost faith, some confidence in Anthony Scaramucci after that tirade that he went on against Reince Priebus, and Steve Bannon, who remain still in the West Wing as the chief strategist here. The language was one thing that - the president, initially, we were told the president was fine with. But once the coverage came in, he was somewhat alarmed. This is a housecleaning day. First and foremost, with the president appearing with the chief of staff. He did say that everyone would report to the chief of staff, he has the full authority. Brooke, this is the first big sign that that of course includes Anthony Scaramucci. That was a lingering question. Now it doesn't matter, because he is out. This is certainty a big moment. I would call this more than a reset. This is something that is a -- a

sign that people who have the president's ear are telling him this was not a good thing to have, I think, Scaramucci as a communications director. This is a moment we do not yet know if it was John Kelly's doing, but we do know the president was dissatisfied and unhappy with Anthony Scaramucci. We heard that earlier today. Brooke, as we get more, we'll bring it to you, but keep an eye out for the statement coming shortly.

BALDWIN: We will keep an eye out for it.

Keep in mind, the White House is supposed to be having an on-camera briefing in about an hour. We'll stay tuned to see if that happens.

I have more guests here.

I want to bring in Pam Brown. Pam Brown is our justice correspondent, who has some news.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: I do. I'm told by a person familiar with the situation that Anthony Scaramucci went to the now chief of staff, John Kelly, offered to resign, and John Kelly accepted. And the reason is he wanted to allow John Kelly to create his own team. That's the reasoning that was given. But I think it's a significant sign in terms of how much latitude the new chief of staff has and the situation. The person I was speaking with that made that point, clearly, this is a strong signal that John Kelly, as chief of staff, is in charge. He has a lot of latitude. And clearly, Scaramucci went to him and offered to resign. And that's the end of it. He's now gone.

CHALIAN: But also, President Trump loss confidence in Scaramucci as a spokesperson for him, as somebody whose image he thought was working to his advantage. No doubt, John Kelly was able to build his own team, no doubt. But if President Trump thought Anthony Scaramucci's performance over the last 11 days was how he wanted to be seen --


CHALIAN: -- this would keep going even with a new chief of staff.

GORGER: But you know, he never commented about Scaramucci's vulgarity. He never said, this is inappropriate, this is unacceptable, because the message that Scaramucci was delivering about Reince Priebus and Steve Bannon, by the way, was clearly sanctioned by the president of the United States. So, you know, there is a new sheriff in town. He's doing things a bit differently, and I think he wanted to make it very clear and Scaramucci offered it as you're reporting, but I'm wondering whether that was required.

BALDWIN: Jim Acosta, just adding a voice to our conversation. Our senior White House correspondent, also standing by with a little more news on the resignation after 11 days.

Jim, what have you learned? JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: The president was

insisting earlier on Twitter there's no White House chaos. I think we now have further evidence that nothing could be further from the truth. There is obviously White House chaos when a communication director is only on the job for 11 days, and then has to resigned after a profanity-laced tirade that dominated the news last week. You have chaos here at the White House.

I was talking to a friend of Anthony Scaramucci in just the last couple hours who was insisting he was going to weather this storm and the storm about his dog cussing some of the people here at the White House, that all of that was going to pass. Obviously, that did not pass. And as Jeff and others were pointing out, there was this issue that General Kelly was going to have to deal with, as chief of staff, as to what to do with these rival factions inside the White House. Scaramucci represented one of those factions. And that is the former campaign people who did not very much like the RNC people who had come in to run the White House. People like Reince Priebus. Those were among the factions fighting with each other. And there was this question and it was obviously going to come up at the briefing this afternoon as to who reports to General Kelly. Do these rival factions inside the White House, people like Steve Bannon, Jared Kushner and so on? They report to the chief of staff or report to the president and have the ability to go around the chief of staff. That's the situation that Reince Priebus was trying to deal with. Well, not really in charge. When he was managing the staff here. He had people routinely going around him, walking right into the president's office and having meetings with them, sometimes meetings that Priebus did not even know about until later on. So this was one of the situations that General Kelly would have to deal with.

[14:51:07] I do understand from talking to a source who is close to the president -- and this is not exactly talking about the Scaramucci situation -- but this is a pattern that sometimes happens over here at the White House. Something flares up, the president says, no big deal, or he may even like that, and then later on, as he's getting feedback from other people, he sort of changes his mind and says, you know what, maybe this wasn't such a good thing. This person suggesting to me perhaps that's what happened with Anthony Scaramucci. Where it may have been cathartic to see him lashing out and going after some people he want very high on. But after a time, after reflecting on it, perhaps didn't think too well of his performance -- Brooke?

BALDWIN: Maybe this was a condition, as Gloria was saying, we don't know yet, of General Kelly taking on the chief of staff job.

But let me go back to General Hertling.

We were talking about the reporting on how General Kelly felt when Trump fired Comey, and I had to cut you off. Forgive me. I understand you've been listening to this whole conversation and this news, General, and you have been smiling in bewilderment. Why?

HERTLING: What was the question you asked me again, Brooke? This fits in with what I was going to say. General Kelly respects people, he has a code of ethics from his 45 years in the Marine Corps. I didn't know he was going to bring a flame flower into the West Wing, but it seems like that's what he's done potential. If this has with him laying down the law, a lot of us we spend the weekend going, hmm, how will they address this first thing Monday morning. If I know him, he was all weekend setting down the markers, this is how we're going to run the staff, and I think he talked to the president saying let's stop the clown show. And Scaramucci was right in the middle of the clown car with the comments he made last week.

BALDWIN: General, stand by.

Brian Stelter, our senior media correspondent, this is all happening. Look at our full table. All the news happening here.



BALDWIN: The wall is gone.

To you, what do you make of all of this?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDICA CORRESPONDENT & CNN HOST, RELIABLE SOURCES: Scaramucci helped prompt Sean Spicer's exit, Ryan Priebus's exit. If you look at the chronology, he went from being the most visible man at the White House last Sunday eight days ago to being invisible this Sunday. No more interviews, no more press. All of a sudden, Scaramucci disappeared, so maybe that was a signal of what was to come today. This doesn't tell us anything about the press strategy. There's no clarity about what the press strategy if there is a press strategy at all.

BALDWIN: Will the bring the cameras back?


STELTER: That's right. He was suggesting sort of a carrot and the stick by allowing the cameras to be turned back on.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, all of a sudden, is now the leading force in the press shop, as the new press secretary. She is now the only person there that we've had there all along, now that Spicer and Scaramucci are both out.

BALDWIN: I wonder if Spicer is having second thoughts with Scaramucci out of the thoughts.

STELTER: Interesting.

BALDWIN: Out-loud musing.

CHALIAN: According to, I believe, Kevin Liptak, our White House reporter, upper press, people are asking Spicer, are you going to stay now? No answer either way.

BALDWIN: Right. Right. STELTER: Of course, Mooch became bigger than Trump.

BALDWIN: That's the point.

STELTER: Haven't we seen this before. The fact that I'm using the name "Mooch," he was in the tabloids all weekend.


BALDWIN: That was the story with Bannon.


BORGER: But not in a good way. He was getting -- I was just texting with a source who said, he was getting too far out front, in a bad way, and that the president realized it. I'm sure the family, by the way, realized. I'm sure Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner did not like the language Scaramucci was using. And to your point, there's only one star in this, and that is Donald Trump.

[14:55:26] BALDWIN: Donald Trump.

Although the president gave Scaramucci with Chris Cuomo in that for 30-minute interview on "New Day."

BORGER: Right.

BALDWIN: End of last week.

But hang on. Just going back to Sean Spicer, is there a possibility he's going to say, hit the brakes, record scratch, I may want to stay at the White House, because this guy is gone?


BORGER: I'll text him right now, but I find that hard to imagine.

STELTER: He hasn't been answering questions.

CHALIAN: Reince Priebus is gone now. Obviously, Sean was there as a Reince Priebus ally, part of the old RNC crowd that worked on the general election, and then into the White House. So it is hard to say. If you believe that President Trump is trying to unshackle himself from any restraints from the establishment, where he still sees people who are resistant to him -- remember in that same interview on "New Day," Anthony Scaramucci was talking about the notion people in the White House still felt they were trying to save America from Trump, instead of injecting Trump into America.



STELTER: Fascinating insight.

CHALIAN: I think Donald Trump is trying to make sure that he is clearing House of anybody who feels that they're somehow saving the country from the president.

BALDWIN: Why not have Scaramucci resign after what he said four days ago?

BORGER: Because I think he's feeling people out, honestly. And I think the president was probably talking to Kelly -- I have to presume about this. So I think there's a lot of things that enter into this decision, and by the way, it's a little more dramatic. Just let's say, you have a new sheriff in town on one day and a head rolls that day. And it's done. I mean, it is a little reality TV-like, a little into the boardroom, and who comes out? And I think that, you know, again, one to hear from -- and find out exactly what the chain of events was on all of this that would make Scaramucci offer his resignation.

BALDWIN: What were you are going to say?

BROWN: New reporting from Kaitlan Collins at the White House that John Kelly felt like he was not disciplined and he had lost his credibility in the wake of that "New Yorker" interview. So all of this was at play. Even though I'm told that Scaramucci offered to resign to Kelly, clearly, he got the message there was really no other choice.

CHALIAN: And, again, this would not be happening without the president's blessing, and if an added benefit, is the president sees a way to buck up his new chief of staff and really -- so, yes, give my blessing to this, and yes chief of staff, heads roll on day one, you look like you are in charge, that plays to the president's --


BORGER: No ambiguity. No ambiguity here now.

BALDWIN: We were talking before about the James Baker quote -- I'm paraphrasing -- you have somebody who is on the big piece or the staff piece, and it's the staff people who are more successful, this perhaps being the piece that Scaramucci was going to be reporting to POTUS, and now to Kelly. And what Steve Bannon, Kellyanne Conway, Jared Kushner, are they then reporting to General Kelly or to the president? Do we know?

BORGER: It would seem that way.


CHALIAN: We have not heard them one by one. But Kellyanne Conway was asked that question, and her answer was, I am here to serve the president and the chief of staff however I can best be deployed to do that. It was not a clear answer who she is reporting to.


STELTER: She could communicate with him through the television.

BORGER: This is up to the president. He has an open-door policy, like you or I might have.

BALDWIN: Of course.

BORGER: Come on in. Presidents don't normally have that.

BALDWIN: Oval Office privileges.

BORGER: Oval Office privileges. So will that change? That remains to be seen. This is Donald Trump, has run his business this way, for decades. He likes chaos. He likes competition among the people who work for him. And this outsourcing of being the person in charge, I think, is something very new to Donald Trump.

STELTER: To get the best people, get the chaos enabled. I was just thinking about how it took months to find a communications director --