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Trump Hosts Rally Tonight As Approval Hits New Low; Poll: Most Voters Really Want Trump To Stop Tweeting; Scaramucci To Hold Online Event Tomorrow; Dow Hits Record 22,000 Mark, Will Rally Continue? Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired August 3, 2017 - 09:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[09:00:00] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Our ancestors wouldn't have made the cut.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Absolutely. So we should let you know Chris is filling in tonight for Don Lemon on "CNN TONIGHT." It's at 10:00 p.m. Are you having a good time doing that?

CUOMO: It is different.

CAMEROTA: Right.

CUOMO: And good. Especially in this environment. And you know who's happy about Anthony Scaramucci having his big event tomorrow? Mario Cantone. He's going to be back on the show tonight to show his latest impersonation of Scaramucci.

CAMEROTA: Fantastic. We will recap that tomorrow morning. Meanwhile time now for "CNN NEWSROOM" with Poppy Harlow and John Berman.

Take it away, guys.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Great to see you, guys. Interesting programming note. Look forward to seeing that. Thanks so much. We got a lot of news, breaking news. Let's get to it.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Top of the hour. Good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow.

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman. The breaking news this morning, blame Congress. That's right. In the wake of evidence of Russian meddling in the U.S. election, Russian military intervention in Syria, Russian occupation of Crimea, the president of the United States is blaming a bad relationship with Russia not on any of that, but on Congress.

HARLOW: Moments ago the president attacked lawmakers for the Russian sanctions bill which they overwhelmingly passed in the House and the Senate. He wrote, "Our relationship with Russian is at an all-time time and very dangerous low. You can thank Congress, the same people that can't even give us health care."

Now this comes as the president prepares to meet this morning with his National Security adviser, General H.R. McMaster, and McMaster finds himself in the center of a policy debate and a reported personality struggle that could come to a head today at 11:00 a.m.

So let's go to the White House. We find our Sara Murray there.

What do we know about this meeting?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: Well, we don't know a lot of about this meeting. I mean, as you might expect a meeting between President Trump and his National Security adviser is not really something they're inclined to give you a lot of details on ahead of time. But we do know that it's playing out against the backdrop of President Trump wrangling with a very difficult decision which is what to do about the strategy about the way forward in Afghanistan.

We know he's been frustrated with the options that his advisers have put on the table for him so far. They are trying to present him with a plan that he can get on board with. So obviously we're going to be looking for any inkling that the president may be nearing a decision on how to move forward with Afghanistan, not just on this meeting but about other meetings with his National Security team coming up.

Now it's also going to be a packed day for the president because he is going to be heading to West Virginia later today. This is part of the president's effort to shore up support among his base. So why does he need to do that? Why does he need to make sure they're still with him?

Take a look at the president's approval numbers. There's a new Quinnipiac poll that shows that right now 33 percent of Americans approve of the job the president is doing, 61 percent disapprove. And you can see the way that has shifted since June. And not in the right direction. In June, 40 percent of Americans approved of the job he was doing, 55 percent disapproved.

So not expanding his support but certainly the president trying to keep those core backers, the people who put him in this White House still on board with him.

Back to you, guys.

BERMAN: All right. Sara Murray at the White House for us.

And as we mentioned before, this meeting with H.R. McMaster comes as President Trump is slamming Congress -- slamming Congress after the Russia sanctions bill that he signed, the president says he believes it encroaches on his executive authority, insisting it includes a number of unconstitutional provisions.

HARLOW: All right. So members of the Russian government, the Putin regime, are lashing out saying the sanctions amount to what they're calling full-fledged trade war on Russia.

Let's go to Oren Liebermann. He joins us in Moscow.

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Russia made it very clear how angry they are about the sanctions bill and President Trump's signing of it. Even if the initial reaction was simply coming from the Kremlin, there won't more of a Russian retaliation against the U.S. That didn't last very long. And it was Russian Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev who fired off an incredibly angry statement directed at the Trump administration.

Here is part of it. "The Trump administration demonstrated complete impotence in the most humiliating manner. Transferring executive powers to Congress."

Now it seems that most of Russia's anger is directed not at Trump but at Washington politicians who they accuse of an anti-Russia hysteria. Trump himself gets off with a softer criticism, even if he is by some of the statements we've seen considered weaker for not standing up to Congress.

As for what further actions Russia could take, that's on top of already closing two U.S. diplomatic compounds here in Russia and forcing the U.S. to expel more than 750 of its staff members in Russia, Russian President Vladimir Putin has left that option open. He said we have a lot of other options in which we can -- in ways we can retaliate back against the U.S. but he didn't specify which ones.

It is worth pointing out that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will meet the Russian Foreign minister in the Philippines this weekend but there is very little expectation that whatever it is that comes out of that meeting will do anything to improve U.S.-Russia relations. In fact Tillerson himself said the relations are the worst they've been since the Cold War.

[09:05:03] HARLOW: Oren Liebermann, in Moscow, thank you very much for that.

We have a lot to discuss between what the president is saying on Russia and this meeting with his National Security adviser. Let's bring in our panel. Retired Rear Admiral John Kirby, he's a CNN military and diplomatic analysts as well. We're joined by David Rohde, CNN global affairs analyst and online news director for "The New Yorker."

So, Admiral Kirby, to you first. Every problem with Russia, as John outlined, is Congress's fault according to this president. A bill that he signed, by the way, what do you make of that this morning? And by the way, what message does it send to Putin?

REAR ADM. JOHN KIRBY, CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: Yes. So there's a lot to unpack there. First of all, obviously not every problem with Russia can you lay at Congress's feet. And yes, he signed it but he signed it reluctantly.

HARLOW: Yes.

KIRBY: Look, we have to remember where this all started. This started in the recent past with the election meddling but also Russia's destabilizing activities in the Ukraine, throughout Europe and of course in Syria where we have never been able to find a way to work cooperatively with Russia. So the history here is long and it's complicated. And to lay it all at Congress's feet is simply too simplistic and just not accurate.

There is a lot that we can still try to work with Russia on but unless they start to change their behavior and hopefully these sanctions will work. I just don't see -- excuse me. I just don't see that happening.

I do find some comfort, though, in the strong Medvedev comments about this. The fact that they reacted so angrily tells you how effective these sanctions may actually be.

BERMAN: Well, he just reacted angrily, they reacted in a way that seemed actually designed to upset the president of the United States, hit him where it hurts, David Rohde. You know, the complete impotence of the president signing it in humiliating manner, Dmitri Medvedev said right there. Why are they trying to needle the president like that?

DAVID ROHDE, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: I mean, the Russians are sort of masters at disinformation and they know President Trump, the Chinese studied his personality, we all know this is the way to get him. But I agree with Admiral Kirby. These are effective sanctions that's why they're so angry.

HARLOW: What else that ties into this, though, David, is what we were reporting yesterday that "Politico" report that Congress has delegated $80 million to the State Department purely to fight Russian disinformation and Tillerson apparently is not willing to spend it, willing to use it. Again, defiant of Congress on Russia?

ROHDE: Yes. It's just -- it's puzzling. He's alienating Congress constantly. You mentioned earlier, they will talk about this, but he is alienating McMaster, you know, we'll talk about that in a minute but it's an odd strategy. He's alienating all his allies.

BERMAN: Just one more point, Admiral, on the Russia issue, and Poppy did bring it, up, which is what message does it send to the rest of the world there if this president refuses repeatedly over years and years to blame Vladimir Putin or to go after him for any of the international, you know, indiscretions that he's committed?

KIRBY: Yes, I'm sorry, I didn't get to that with Poppy's question. But it sends a message that the United States is not of one mind and of one policy with respect to Russia. You have obviously Congress and the will of Congress being expressed very clearly. You have many in his Cabinet, Mattis, Tillerson, McMaster, all willing to acknowledge and actually Vice President Pence, who by the way who was in Estonia this week, acknowledged that Russia is a bad actor on the global stage. And yet the president himself cannot bring himself to criticize Putin directly.

BERMAN: Yes.

KIRBY: So it sends a message I think to Putin and Medvedev that we're not of one mind when it comes to our strategy and our policy with them and they -- because they know there's a gap, believe, the Russians know how to exploit gaps and they'll continue to try to do that. BERMAN: We'll note Bill Kristol on Twitter just said that what the

president is doing is blaming America in a way for --

HARLOW: That's a good point.

BERMAN: An interesting point.

HARLOW: It's a good point. Look, it's easier to harm a country divided than united any way you slice it.

KIRBY: Absolutely.

HARLOW: David Rohde, to this meeting at 11:00 a.m., Afghanistan will likely be discussed with McMaster. We know the two have had serious policy and just personality differences to say the least.

The president said I'm going to abdicate a lot of responsibility on Afghanistan to my generals. So McMaster wants more troops -- U.S. troops, and some of the president's key policy advisers like Steve Bannon do not. How do you see this shaking out?

ROHDE: I see the president as completely isolated on Afghanistan compared to his National Security team. There is this astounding NBC report of the meeting that happened in July where President Trump was comparing his generals to New York restaurant consultants who were giving him bad advice. He called for firing General Nicholson who I met, I covered Afghanistan for seven years.

He has isolated on demanding that Congress deal with health care now. He's isolated, demanding that we pull out of the Iran treaty against, you know, Mattis and all these people. He's on Afghanistan. Mattis was reportedly so angry he had to sort of go out and go on a walk to work through this.

I've never heard of a president acting this way in a meeting. So today's meeting is even higher stakes, but again he is ignoring his generals.

BERMAN: There's a lot of McMaster's job may if not be in jeopardy be shifted. Is there anything that you're hearing in your reporting?

[09:10:01] ROHDE: I hear mixed things. I mean, this is -- you know, Kelly seems to be the new chief of staff trying to -- you know, telling Jeff Sessions he has his job, telling McMaster -- you know, pushing back I guess against the Bannon camp and the nationalists camp. I don't know what to say, though. It's very hard to predict. The struggle goes on inside the Trump White House.

HARLOW: You cannot predict what is going to happen in the Trump White House. I don't even know why we have you on the show.

Admiral, to you, what will you be looking for out of this meeting when the White House if they give any sort of readout of it as things leak, as they do, what will you be looking for?

KIRBY: I would hope that this is clearly going to be a discussion about the Afghan strategy. That seems to be front and center for the National Security Council's agenda. At least it should be. I hope that that's what the readout says. That they had a good, healthy discussion about this. A good back and forth that the president is curious and asking the right questions about where things are going in Afghanistan and not being, as David rightly says, not being, you know, dismissive of the military advice he's getting from people who are very experienced.

I mean, my goodness, General Mattis, General McMaster, and in General Nicholson, who I know very well as well, and you're not going to find a more experienced Afghan hand than him. So I hope that the readout of this says that they had a good healthy discussion and that the strategy formulation process continues apace.

BERMAN: You know, you tried more troops under the Obama administration, upwards of 100,000 fewer troops. Withdrawing them.

You know, Admiral, what's your sense right now of what might work?

KIRBY: Well, look, so you have two missions there, right? You have the counterterrorism mission which is going after ISIL, it's going after al Qaeda which is U.S. dominant. You've got the advice, assist and train aspect for Afghan National Forces. And then you have the issue of a geopolitical realities in Afghanistan. A government which is still struggling, a unity government which is not really all that unified, and you have Pakistan on the other side of the border which continues to provide safe haven.

So I think and I hope that as they go through this strategy process they're looking at it from a holistic perspective, not just military. But geopolitical and geostrategic including what to do about Pakistan.

BERMAN: All right. Admiral Kirby, David Rohde, thank you so much. We should learn more about that meeting in the coming hours.

HARLOW: Yes.

BERMAN: So stay tuned for that.

All right. White House shakeups leaving Americans, well, shaken. The president's poll numbers hitting a new low.

HARLOW: Including what are his Republican supporters saying? Also, Anthony Scaramucci's private playbook goes public. The big plans he had before he was ousted from his White House communications gig. And tomorrow, big plans to speak publicly about the whole thing.

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[09:16:18]

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, the president heads to some friendly territory, West Virginia, hosting a campaign-style rally with his biggest supporters. It is some needed support. We know he is good at these things and thrives on these. It's quite to help ease the blow of the lowest approval rating you have seen yet, 33 percent, according to a new poll.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: I guess, 33 percent approval rating really you can't even call it an approval rating because not many people are approving. Here to discuss, Tara Palmeri, CNN political analyst and White House correspondent for "Politico," David Drucker, CNN political analyst and senior congressional for the "Washington Examiner," and Mary Katherine Ham, CNN political commentator, a conservative blogger whose paperback edition of "End of Discussion" just hit the shelves.

Katherine, you're going to get the very first question. We are talking about the new low in the president's approval rating 33 percent. That's low anywhere you cut it. There's also a drop in this Quinnipiac poll among Republican voters, an 8 percent drop down to 76 percent, which is pretty low of your own party.

I think we may have a picture of that right now. Just so people can see it. You know, 76 percent in your own party is not good. You know, what do you think is behind this drop?

MARY KATHERINE HAM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I mean, there's a lot behind it. First of all, I do think it's always important to point out that he was elected with a 60 percent approval so like falling from that was probably expected and were in strange waters.

But when you're looking at his core group, Republicans and I think, you know, like white high school educated voters, you're seeing drops in those categories, which are people, who probably were among Trump devotees or were convinced by Trump by the end of the presidential election or sort dropping off.

And that's what he needs to be worried about and that core group has stayed with him, but it can only do that for so long if he's not sort of producing legislative victories, and that kind of thing.

HARLOW: So then he's going to play to that group tonight in West Virginia, but the question, Tara, becomes is that group enough? I mean, how does that help him, what he's doing tonight, the time, the energy, the prep spent, getting any points on the board as he is simultaneously in the same 12-hour period continuing to alienate his own Congress that he needs on his side to get any of these legislative points on the board.

TARA PALMERI, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: His staff is banking on the fact that Congress has such low approval ratings that their approval in fact doesn't really affect his. And yes, the president is very much aware that he needs to get on the road.

While he doesn't like to travel, one senior administration official told me that once he's done with the rally on the way home on Air Force One, he usually says that was great. I really enjoyed that because he really does feed off the crowds.

He just doesn't really like to leave the White House and go through the whole rigmarole of traveling which can be difficult as a president, but Trump really does need to get back there. He needs to be talking to that 30 percent. He needs to be showing action because obviously talk is not enough. These people voted for him. He had big promises and they want deliverables, and so far, he's had a really hard time giving any sort of legislative deliverables.

BERMAN: You know, it's interesting, David Drucker, another item in this poll people were asked about the president's use of Twitter whether or not he should continue to use it, 69 percent said, no. Among Republicans 54 percent no. This poll was before -- you're one of them?

HAM: I'm glad we're coming together on this.

BERMAN: It is an example. The president healing divisions right now. Notable, David, that the president did issue this statement this morning, which seems to be alienating Congress even more, sucking up to Vladimir Putin maybe even more. Maybe an example of what some of those people concerned about his Twitter use are saying.

DAVID DRUCKER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, look. I have talked to Republican voters in the field a number of times and they tell me that they like the president's agenda, want him to succeed.

[09:20:01] They are not ready to give up on him, but they don't like his use of Twitter. They don't like his antics and his behavior and they wish that he could tone it down, be more focused in, and to coin a Trump phrase, be more presidential.

And so, the president has an opportunity here, if he can actually produce, and I think one of the things he's going to have to do in order to do that for these big ticket items that go beyond executive orders and things that are completely in his control is number one, re-orient the way he deals with Congress.

While it's very cathartic for a lot of voters to feed upon Congress, nobody really ever liked Congress, but they like them even less now. The way he has jaw boned Congress, threatened Congress, and strong- armed Congress is not going to produce results.

Because they plan on being around Washington a lot longer after President Trump is gone, and so a reengagement with members of Congress, taking off the table all of the threats could help him over the long-term.

I think the other thing that the administration needs to get better at and maybe John Kelly can help him get there is to learn how to negotiate a legislative deal. For all the president's hype about what a great negotiator he is -- and he may have been in real estate and entertainment, this White House has not proven adept at negotiating legislation.

It's complex. It's different. You are dealing with multiple personalities. A lot of interconnected parts. They're simply not good at it yet. They are going to have to get good at it or they are going to run into road blocks with tax reform and infrastructure. Never mind health care still hanging out there. HARLOW: But Mary Katherine, isn't a fundamental issue to David's point the fact that the president does not think he has a negotiating problem? I mean, after he grudgingly signed the sanctions bill, he said yesterday, I can make far better deals with other countries than Congress has and can. So, if he doesn't think he has a problem, that's the problem.

HAM: I think that's a pattern we've seen. His conception of himself is that he's very, very good at this.

BERMAN: Someone called him and told him that he's a great negotiator.

HAM: And then he told us all about it. Congress is a very different animal to deal with. I think this is one of the open questions about General John Kelly is whether he can impose some order and convince him that look this hasn't worked the way you want it to thus far. Let me see if I can make some inroads in different ways and get this show on the road.

I think that's an open question. Look, I think he respects John Kelly. The question is how long that lasts. If anyone other than his immediate family often that doesn't last that long. But John Kelly is not a guy who's going to get run rough shod over.

BERMAN: You may think. You know, Tara, it's "Politico" reporting that John Kelly is trying to choke off the flow of information coming from the president. The sort of controlling him, really manage him in a way that you haven't seen before. You think that could work?

PALMERI: The president is in a unique position in the sense that he doesn't use a computer. He doesn't look on line. He doesn't seek his own information, so in a way, he's very vulnerable to the influence of other people and the kind of information they put in front of him.

As we've seen in the past, some aides have used reporting that's very weak to try to convince him to make certain decisions and it's very effective. So Kelly is saying anything you put in his hands needs to come through me first because aides would tell me that they would slip in news articles into his daily binder to get his attention.

He is very influenced because his ideology isn't completely formed and so because of that, you know, more so than any other White House, his personnel matter in terms of impacting policy because these people have an influence on a person who hasn't really formed their views per se.

Yes, Kelly is trying to cut off access. He's trying to keep the oval office from being a revolving door. But at the end of the day, one senior administration official told me, listen, he's not going to try to stop Trump from being Trump.

He's not going to stop him from tweeting so don't expect that from happening, and Trump does like having interactions with staffers, but he wants to limit those from the time stocks.

HARLOW: Another man who said don't stop Trump from being Trump, and even tried, Anthony Scaramucci. Tomorrow we get a brand new program coming our way --

BERMAN: Can I call it?

HARLOW: Call it.

BERMAN: Scaramucci vision.

HARLOW: He's been saying it all morning. David Drucker, Anthony Scaramucci said in this interview to the "Daily Beast" the tweak I'm going dark, but he's not. He's going under the bright lights telling his story tomorrow.

DRUCKER: And nobody in Trump's inner circle ever goes away or ever goes dark. They always reemerge. I think Anthony Scaramucci is going to continue to be close to the president in that sort of orbit that Corey Lewandowski insist in.

And that's one of the reason I think that Trump ultimately never really changes how he operates because a lot of the influences on him that are ultimately deemed to be unhelpful, let's say, to his success, or whether it was in the campaign or White House never really drift away.

And I think overtime, we'll see Anthony Scaramucci reemerge as one of the president's surrogates on television. In doing that prior to his blow-up last week, he was actually always very effective at that.

[09:25:06] And it's clearly something that he has an interest in keeping it up because he's putting on a big show tomorrow. I don't think this is going to be the last we're going to see of him for quite a while.

HARLOW: As long as it's not 9:00 to 11 a.m. Eastern, I'm OK with it. I don't want any competition on those ratings. Thank you very, very much, David, Tara, and Mary Katherine Ham. Again, Mary's book, do you have it?

BERMAN: End of discussion right there.

HARLOW: End of this discussion, thank you all very much.

Meantime, Dow future said to open higher after a record Wednesday. The Dow hitting 22,000 for the first time ever. We will see what happens today in 5 minutes at the opening bell.

Business correspondent, Alison Kosik, joins us now. What are you expecting?

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: You know, we have watch President Trump, Poppy, become the markets cheerleader in chief. This is the Dow's third milestone this year. The Dow has actually gone from 20,000 to 22,000 in a matter every of months.

And though we've seen the enthusiasm for things like tax reform that's what really helped push the initial rally. As we've seen the Trump economic agenda stall, Wall Street is actually focusing less on politics and more on the economy.

Stocks were actually thriving under the Goldilocks fundamentals that are happening right now. We got moderate growth, an improving labor market, low inflation, big corporate profits.

In fact, it was good old corporate profits, Apple's that pushed the Dow past 22,000 yesterday and overall earnings this season have been strong, 2017 is on track for the best profit growth in six years.

So, everybody's asking how long can this rally keep going. Markets don't always go straight up. They actually shouldn't. It's already been almost 400 trading days since we've seen a decline in the S&P 500. Experts are saying we are long overdue for a pullback -- Poppy.

BERMAN: All right. Alison Kosik for us, thank you very much. Again, we are watching the markets very closely.

We have some news just in here. A day before we were supposed to hear from the attorney general talking about how they are cracking down on leaks, what could be a huge leak with huge implications. We'll have details next.

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