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Navy: "Some Remains" Of Missing Sailors Found; Mnuchin's Wife: My Post And Response "Highly Sensitive"; Trump Arrives In AZ For Border Town Visit And Campaign Rally; E-mail Prankster Poses As Bannon, Punks Breitbart; Impact Of Steve Bannon Working Outside White House; Border Apprehensions Down 46% From Same Time Last Year. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired August 22, 2017 - 16:30   ET




JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. Topping our world lead today, the ongoing efforts to find the 10 missing U.S. sailors after the "USS John S. McCain" and an oil tanker collided near Singapore. Tragically, bodies of some of those sailors have been found.

Moments ago, President Trump, quote, "We pray for our fallen heroes who have died while serving our country in the U.S. Navy aboard the USS John S. McCain and their families."

Let's bring in CNN's Matt Rivers who joins us from Singapore. Matt, what's the latest in this search?

MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the search is still technically being called a search and rescue, and when operations resume when the sunrises here in Singapore in just a couple hours, the Navy has said they're hopeful they might find some survivors.

But the reality is that over the last 24 hours, Jake, this really has been more of a recovery operation, given what you just said. It was the commander of the U.S. Pacific fleet that confirmed to reporters on Tuesday evening here in Singapore that divers for the U.S. Navy had made their way into damaged sections of the hull on the "USS John S. McCain" and found some of the remains of those 10 missing sailors.

Now the Navy has not said how many sailors they have recovered at this point. Also, the Malaysian Navy has been helping in this effort since right in the very beginning and they found a body in the waters near where this incident took place, that body in the process of being transferred back to the U.S.

So, Jake, at this point they're still active. The priority is to try to find someone who might be alive, but as you know, as the hours go by, the odds of finding survivors get a lot slimmer.

TAPPER: It's so horrific. A startling question also being raised now, Matt, about whether a cyberattack could have played a role here.

RIVER: Yes. That question was posed to the commander of the U.S. Pacific fleet, and like other top U.S. Navy officials, he took the question and said they have no evidence of that at all at this point, no evidence of outside activity, any nefarious activity of other actors, so at this point, he said there is no evidence of that.

However, none of the top U.S. Navy officials who have taken that question have said they're going to take anything off the table. They want this investigation into what caused this to be wide-ranging, and so they're not going to eliminate any possibilities this early on.

TAPPER: All right, Matt Rivers in Singapore for us, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Is it the Instagram version of let them eat cake? The wife of multi- millionaire, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin going after a mother of three, but now she is suddenly singing a different tune.

Plus, we are just minutes away from President Trump's arrival in the border town of Yuma, Arizona where he will visit a Customs and Border Protection Office. All of that coming up. Back after this.



TAPPER: More on our politics lead. You know what President Trump likes to do when he gets attacked? He punches back, ten times harder. He's not the only one in and around the White House who feels that way, apparently.

Louise Linton, the sometime actress and third wife of Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin is now facing backlash after publicly going after an Oregon woman on Instagram.

It all started with this post with Linton touting her high fashion goods worth tens of thousands of dollars while disembarking from a government plane in Kentucky which has the fifth highest poverty rate in the U.S.

CNN's Kate joins me now. Kate, Miss Linton obviously a very public figure, and she was very publicly in an open Instagram account flaunting her wealth. Is there any sense in the Trump administration that this was handled poorly?

KATE BENNETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, there is no word from the White House today about this incident, but we can imagine the optics of the situation certainly didn't look that great for Louise Linton.

However, just moments ago CNN obtained an apology from Ms. Linton given to us from her personal publicist.

[16:40:00] It reads, "I apologize for my post on social media yesterday as well as my response. It was inappropriate and highly insensitive." Still, both the post and the response quickly became the viral story of the day.


BENNETT (voice-over): In a bold example of Insta-bragging, Louise Linton, the glamorous actress and newlywed wife of Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin last night posted a picture of herself and her husband on her Instagram account deplaning in a government aircraft after a day trip to Kentucky on official business.

Dressed all in white and toting an Hermes purse and silk scarf, Linton proceeded to tag her outfit with the designers including Tom Ford and Valentino. She also tagged her husband.

That post which has now deleted, has caused a firestorm. A woman named Jennifer Miller commented on Linton's post saying, quote, "Glad we could pay for your little getaway #deplorable."

To which Linton shot back a barrage of condescending comments, asking Miller if she paid as much taxes as she and Mnuchin do, saying in part, quote, "Pretty sure the amount we sacrifice per year is a lot more than you would be willing to sacrifice if the choice was yours."

Linton, in a post littered with kissy face emojis wouldn't back down suggesting Miller, a mother of three from Oregon was, quote, "Adorably out of touch," and telling her to, quote, "Go chill out and watch the new "Game of Thrones."

Jennifer Milling telling CNN today --

JENNIFER MILLER, CALLED OUT LINTON FOR INSTAGRAM POST: It was deplorable what she wrote in the first place, and then her response was even worse.

BENNETT: This isn't the first time Linton has faced criticism. Last year, her self-published memoir about the time she spent volunteering in Zambia was blasted by critics for being filled with inaccuracies and racial insensitivities.

She later pulled the book from Amazon and apologized. Linton has flaunted her wealthy lifestyle in interviews before posting to her childhood days at the family's enormous castle in Scotland -- or living the Hollywood high life where she acted and produced movies. And where she met her now husband in 2013.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Congratulations to you, Louise, and your whole family.

BENNETT: Linton revealed flashy details about her June wedding, featuring President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump, and the ceremony officiated by Vice President Mike Pence with Linton wearing a custom-white ball gown and a diamond tiara.

For the over the top of then Linton bragged to "Town and Country" magazine about the different pieces of diamond jewelry she intended to wear, most gifts from Mnuchin.


BENNETT: A spokesman for the Treasury Department told us earlier today that the Mnuchins will reimburse the government for Ms. Linton's trip to Kentucky and they said she was not compensated for plugging those designers -- Jake.

TAPPER: So that was her on CSI actually playing Marie Antoinette?

BENNETT: Actually playing Marie Antoinette. I can't make it up. This was the hashtag "let them eat cake" yesterday. She actually played her.

TAPPER: All right. Kate Bennett, thank you so much.

Let's bring back my political panel to discuss this and much more. One of the things I liked about the Trump campaign was the fact that he would talk about the forgotten man and the forgotten woman. That is not that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is absolutely not that. It's completely anti. Everything we heard from then-Candidate trump, and I think literally everyone I know has been talking about this. They are not talking about what the president said what he sees for the path forward in Afghanistan.

They're not talking about this campaign rally that he has in Arizona tonight. They're talking these swanky designer brands that the wife of a cabinet secretary tagged on Instagram and her back and forth with just an average woman who happened to comment on her Instagram.

This is the textbook definition of a self-made controversy. I don't think it will necessarily go anywhere, but it's a little ridiculous.

TAPPER: Now the president has defended hiring a very, very wealthy commerce secretary and treasury secretary, saying it's good to have people who are successful in charge of the money in this campaign, and maybe that's part of the package.

I don't want to overanalyze the statement about the Trump administration. I think it actually serves as a lesson for those who are going into public office and those who are family with those going into public office.

KEVIN MADDEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You come under an incredible amount of scrutiny. Everything you say, everything you post on social media can become potentially a story. That is unfair, but it is the reality that people have to realize. So, I think the greater degree of discretion and restraint when you're on social media is the lesson for a lot of these family members.

TAPPER: If I could just say one point, first of all, that's the president touching down in Yuma, Arizona. We're going to that in a minute. We should just say -- and I agree with you because there is kind of a concept in politics that civilians are off limits.

But Miss Linton is an actress, she's an author, a very public figure. Her Instagram account was open to everyone.

[16:45:00] It is -- this isn't a matter of people like finding this on her private account.

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: And I -- I'm still inclined to want to give her a pass, because -- married to Steve Mnuchin, god knows, she's probably suffered enough --


BEGALA: I'm kidding. But I will say this though. First off, maybe she should just say that her Instagram account was hacked by the ghost of Leona Helmsley. This is every Democrats belief of what Republicans thinks about us, or about the middle class, or about working class. It's just -- you know, I was talking about the Trump base and hos the President says, I could shoot a guy on Fifth Avenue and not lose any voters. I can tell you from research I've seen. One of the few things the even most ardent Trump supporters don't like -- this is what you are talking about -- when they learn that Wall Street Bankers are actually running his economic policy, they don't like it.

It's one of the few things that decouples those Trump supporters from him. It's not just that Wilbur Ross, Commerce Secretary, is a billionaire, it's the notion that Wall Street, which he attacked in the campaign, is in charge. And they're two Goldman Sachs guys, very talented people. Secretary Mnuchin who have just joked about Gary Cohn, Chairman of the National Economic council straight out of Goldman Sachs, they're able people, but his base doesn't like that at all. This could teach them that, right? They could focus on this because it's such a pop culture story.

TAPPER: One of the things that's interesting about the Bannon departure also is that Bannon was actually privately talking about there being a raise on taxes on the wealthiest. I think people who made more than $5 million a year, and that was slapped down by a lot of Republicans. But one wonders if the -- what the Breitbart folks call globalists, but if, as you point out, if more and more of the President's base sees this woman as exemplifying what's really going on in the Trump White House and the tax reform policy comes out from the House and Senate and then it actually favors wealthy people, who know what will happen?

SUMMERS: That's a great question, and one of the things we were talking about earlier is whether or not the President will come to this woman's defense. You know, she's someone who is married to a top cabinet official. She's kind of (INAUDIBLE) in the press made to look a little ridiculous. I'm sure in her account, she's now apologized, of course, but the President has come out and defended people who are close to him before. Will he come out and say anything about this? It's probably one of the things that he shouldn't talk about this evening, but he does have this campaign rally scheduled in which he tends to give more off the cuff, unscripted analysis of things. Does he touch this? I'm not sure it's a great idea but he certainly could.

MADDEN: I don't think he will. And I also don't -- and I think Paul -- a lot of what Paul said is right, but I don't think people view the lens -- I don't think people view policy base like tax reform to the lens on someone's Instagram account on a story like this. Instead, the President does have a very still, unique ability to message to working class Americans about what their anxieties are in a very direct way and he does so. And when he does so, he does it well. The question is whether or not can he do it in a sustained manner so that he can continue to advance his economic agenda. Not whether or not this -- an incident like this is going to define it.

TAPPER: Everyone sticks around. We're going to have more with panel. When we come back, President Trump just touched down in Yuma, Arizona. He's going to visit a Customs and Border Inspection office there and then he's going to hold a campaign style rally. Will he be able to stay on message, a question Kevin just raised? Stick around, we'll be right back.


[16:50:00] TAPPER: We're back with our "POLITICS LEAD." There you see Air Force I in Yuma, Arizona. The President just landed there right near the U.S.-Mexican border. He's hoping to draw attention to his immigration strategy as fewer illegal immigrants are trying to cross into the U.S. This is the farthest west the President has traveled since taking office. CNN's Boris Sanchez is live for us in Yuma. Boris, what is the President's plan here?

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, Jake. Yes, the President is trying to highlight one of the areas of his agenda where he has seen some success. We've seen some success in terms of legislative efforts with the passing of Kate's Law and a crackdown on Sanctuary Cities in the House. Those two bills now headed to the Senate. We've also seen a tremendous amount of investment and a boost in funding to Border Patrol and ICE. The Department of Homeland Security directly attributes this new approach to a 46 percent decrease in the number of apprehensions at the border in the first six months of this year compared to last year. also, of note Jake, there's actually barrier here in Yuma. It's considered the gold standard when it comes to border security.

There are several layers of fence, there's stadium lighting for miles, and back when it was installed in 2006, since then the Department of Homeland Security says there has been a 70 percent decrease in the number of people trying to cross the border at this point. So the President is expected to tout that as a blueprint, so to speak, for the rest of the southern border. As you recall, Jake, this was one of the bedrock promises from Donald Trump during the campaign. After his stop and a briefing with the Department of Homeland Security, he's set to meet with a group of Marines and then he's headed to that rally in Phoenix where he may go unscripted. We've seen him cause news and distract from his agenda before when he's in front of his most artist supporter, Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Boris Sanchez in Yuma, Arizona. Thank you so much. President Trump, of course, is coming off his 17-day working vacation and heading for a campaign rally tonight so as always, we're playing our little office game, is there a tweet for that? Is there something in the @realdonaldtrump archives that contradicts what he is saying or doing now? And yes there is, there's a tweet for it. November 30, 2011, the habitual vacationer of Barack Obama has campaigned on our dime more than any previous president in history. My political panel is back with me. Let's talk about this rally tonight. President Trump, I would say generally good reviews, although the speech was kind of short on policy for a speech last night. Very positive reviews for his speech on Monday, not such positive reviews for his adlibbing on Saturday or his adlibbing on Tuesday. And tonight it's going to be adlib a palooza.

[16:55:28] SUMMERS: You know, I think Boris is absolutely right. This is the President, that when he's in his unscripted situations, tends to trample on his own message. And this is also a president for whom everything is about winning. He's has been campaigning for reelection literally weeks into his first term. We're not even through the first year of his first term and he's focused on getting reelected in 2020. It will be interesting to see if this is a rally that helps or hurts him.

In so many of these moments we've seen the president, as he did last night, I think, have a strong speech even if he admits though that he changed his position a little bit on Afghanistan. But will what he does tonight completely overshadow that typically speaking in a place that really was one of the states that launched his campaign at some place where he has gotten into a back and forth with both of the state's sitting Republican Senators. There is a lot of risks here for Donald Trump unless he restrains himself. But I don't know if I see a lot of rewards.

TAPPER: Paul, credit where credit is due. The problem with the border has gotten better, it has improved under President Trump. This is an opportunity for him to highlight that. It's something not only his supporters, but I mean, I think generally the public can get behind, undocumented immigration, illegal immigration is bad.

BEGALA: Continuing I must say a trend that began under President Obama where undocumented immigration start --

TAPPER: Sure but it happened under Democratic presidents, but it's uncomfortable for them to highlight it because they fear it will alienate their base.

BEGALA: Well, that maybe -- I just highlighted the facts. I mean, the numbers are numbers and the undocumented crossings went way down under President Obama, which, by the way, he put more armed people on the Texas -- or U.S.-Mexican border than any president since Woodrow Wilson, Blackjack Pershing, Chase --

TAPPER: I just love how you focus on Taxes.

BEGALA: Well it's my -- (INAUDIBLE) that matters.

TAPPER: You think of taxes as synonymous with the U.S.

BEGALA: I do. I do. But now, the President, he's speaking tonight after one of the most senior members of his party in the Senate, Bob Corker question his stability and competence, OK? I'm betting on (AUDIO GAP) unhinged in confidence tonight. Maybe he'll be (INAUDIBLE) to the sort of hostage take performance that he gave yesterday in Afghanistan. I doubt it. I think this is going to be Trump unhinged, unstable. I can't wait. But Bob Corker I think is going to be proved right tonight.

TAPPER: What do you think?

MADDEN: Well, with every one of these events, Juana was right. The element of surprise is always there. And I think the toughest part --

TAPPER: Just for FYI, there's President Trump getting off Air Force I.

MADDEN: The tough part when it comes to predicting how the performance is going to go is the President tends to you know, draw and rally or sort of draw off the enthusiasm of the crowd, and I don't think crowds like this are really driven by you know, substantive policy discussion, whether it's about Afghanistan or tax reform right now.

TAPPER: What are they driven by, do you think?

MADDEN: I think right now, they're driven by the clash of political civilizations, us versus them, at least in these -- in these particular rallies. And when some of that element starts to you know, make its voice heard in these rallies, does the President feed off of it? And that's where these rallies tend to become less of a -- of a message platform about where he wants to go on the agenda and they become more of these sort of freewheeling spectacles that we've seen in the past.

TAPPER: He really does love speaking before these crowds. During the campaign, it was very difficult for his campaign and for Republicans to get him to go to donor events, to meet with people funding the campaign. He hated that. He loved going in front of crowds. And in fact, sometimes, they had to schedule events where he could speak in front of the crowd just to give him to go to a state where he would be meeting with rich people.

SUMMERS: That seems to really energize him. When I've seen candidate Trump and now President Trump in front of a crowds like the one he's likely to see in Phoenix tonight, he seems to relish the attention, to relish the spotlight. He feeds off of the energy of these crowds, and he seems at times excited and gleeful. And I think there is a really difference in that Trump and in the Trump we see when the teleprompters are out when he's asked to make these bigger more scripted statements, and I think that that's why there are such a risk there were. He just gets carried away by the excitement and the energy of the moment.

TAPPER: But that's what Paul is looking forward to.

BEGALA: I can't wait. He's supporters see him as the master showman which he is. His opponents like me see him as a total narcissist, which he is. He's both. So we'll see him -- I think we'll see him on tonight. I don't want any teleprompters in the building who will not be there as Doug Ducey, the former CEO, Republican Governor of Arizona. He should be a natural ally to the President. He's not showing up. And as you pointed out, Juana, the President is at war with the two very popular Republican Senators in that state.

TAPPER: And Kelli Ward who's challenging Jeff Flake for the seat, she will be in attendance this evening. We'll see if he actually endorses her.

Thanks one and all, great panel. I really appreciate it. Be sure to follow me on Facebook and Twitter @JAKETAPPER or you can tweet the show at @THELEADCNN. We actually read your tweets. That's it for THE LEAD, I'm Jake Tapper turning you over to Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM."