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Clinton Book on Campaign; Trump's to Speak in Nevada; Trump Blames Media for Charlottesville Fallout; Challenger for Heller; Ex- Russian Diplomat Downplays Contacts. Aired 9:30-10a

Aired August 23, 2017 - 09:30   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:30:34] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, brand new this morning, I will have to live with that for the rest of my life. Hillary Clinton, in her own words, on the election. Stunning words from her new book, including what she thought about sharing the stage with the Republican nominee Donald Trump at that one debate. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is not OK, I thought. It was the second presidential debate and Donald Trump was looming behind me. Two days before, the world heard him brag about groping women. Now, we were on a small stage. And no matter where I walked, he followed me closely, staring at me, making faces. It was incredibly uncomfortable. He was literally breathing down my neck. My skin crawled.

It was one of those moments where you wish you could hit pause and ask everyone watching, well, what would you do? Do you stay calm, keep smiling and carry on, as if he weren't repeatedly invading your space? Or do you turn, look him in the eye and say loudly and clearly, back up, you creep. Get away from me. I know you love to intimidate women, but you can't intimidate me, so back up.

I chose option a. I kept my cool, aided by a lifetime of dealing with difficult men trying to throw me off. I did, however, grip the microphone extra hard. I wonder, though, whether I should have chosen option b. It certainly would have been better TV. Maybe I have overlearned the lesson of staying calm, biting my tongue, digging my fingernails into a clenched first. Smiling all the while, determined to present a composed face to the world.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: With me now to discuss, Jonathan Allen, "Roll Call" columnist and co-author of "Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton's Doomed Campaign."

Jonathan, it is fascinating to listen to that thought bubble, that thought bubble commentary from Hillary Clinton as you see the images from that moment play out on the screen.

JONATHAN ALLEN, AUTHOR, "SHATTERED: INSIDE HILLARY CLINTON'S DOOMED CAMPAIGN": It's really amazing to hear her narrating her own book there. You watch Donald Trump behind her and I can't help but think that anybody -- any man who did that to a woman in a Walmart shopping aisle would be -- you know, somebody would call the police on them for doing that.

This is something she actually practiced in her debate prep, as Amie Parnes and I report in "Shattered." Her longtime adviser, Philippe Reines, practiced getting into her physical space so that she was accustomed to Donald Trump doing that, if he did it, and would be able to be calm. And so she did go with that option a, as she described. You know, did not get up in his face, did not tell him to back off. And it almost sounds like there's a bit of regret there in her voice.

BERMAN: You know, but you can see where she's coming from in that moment of decision. Look what happened to Marco Rubio, you know, when he made the jokes about the little hands and decided all of a sudden to go all in on attacking the president directly. He ended up flaming out. There was a risk to this that she had seen. They made the choice. You know, 20/20 hindsight is crystal clear, right?

ALLEN: And I think it was clear that Hillary Clinton won the debates. That's something that's -- there's been some revisionist history on in the last several months. But in fact if you look at the polling right after the debates, the first debate, the second debate, the third debate, she actually -- her lead over Donald Trump at that time expanded.

BERMAN: Right.

ALLEN: So I think, you know, it's hard to know what the right decision was to make. Obviously it sounds like she's a little bit conflicted about that. I think what she is doing is putting herself in the position of a lot of women who feel like they've been encroached on by men and saying like there are two options here and neither one of them is a perfect option. And, by the way, I'm not the one who put myself in this position.

BERMAN: Right.

ALLEN: All of that said, there's a fascinating metaphor here too for the fact that Donald Trump was lurking behind her in the campaign and the polls and was a lot closer to her than she realized at that moment or even over the course of the next several weeks.

BERMAN: And then to hear her in an excerpt, which we did not play, she says, I couldn't get the job done and I will have to live with that for the rest of my life. It gives you some insight into what she's thinking right now.

ALLEN: Yes. And in our book, Amie Parnes and I write about election night where -- where it sort of hits her that she's let not only herself down, but let the president down, let her party down and even I think she believed let the American people down in losing. And she tells the president that she's sorry. I mean this is something that hit her extremely hard on election night and I have no doubt has been very difficult for her in the months since. [09:35:20] BERMAN: And also, just in closing, Jonathan, you do have to

wonder about the strategic, you know, value in having those excerpts released today in this political environment this month. Something we can all speculate on.

Jonathan Allen, great to have you here with us. Thanks so much.

ALLEN: My pleasure, John.

BERMAN: All right, come hell or high water. Get it? Nevada businessman Danny Tarkanian says Nevada GOP Senator Dean Heller will pay a big price for not backing the president, and now he is running against him in a primary.

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[09:40:08] BERMAN: All right, new reaction, new ramifications from the president's speech overnight in Phoenix. He heads to Nevada shortly. And controversy is following him. The president finds himself the subject, if not the actual cause, of a rift in the Nevada Republican Party.

Joining me now to discuss, Danny Tarkanian. He is running for Senate against the incumbent Republican Senator Dean Heller.

Thank you so much for being with us.

If I first can get your reaction to the president's speech last night in neighboring Arizona, in Phoenix. The president seemed to offer a defense for his initial reaction to the violence in Charlottesville, but omitted the very words that were controversial when he said that many sides, many sides were to blame for the hatred on the streets there.

DANNY TARKANIAN, SENATOR DEAN HELLER'S GOP PRIMARY CHALLENGER: Well, first of all, I missed the speech, unfortunately, but I was with my son watching his baseball practice. But I saw the snippets of it.

But with respect to that statement in Charlottesville about both side were at fault, how could anybody disagree with that. They had a photograph of one of the anti-rioters with a flame thrower trying to burn some of the other side. I mean he's not at fault? Aren't they both at fault? Who would disagree with that and why are you making such a big controversy over that?

BERMAN: I think that one of the things that people find at fault is the idea, that as the president, very fine people, very fine, as he said, were marching alongside the neo-Nazi chanting Jew will not replace us. You are a candidate for Senate.

TARKANIAN: Yes, that's --

BERMAN: Are you willing to tell the people of Nevada that you think very fine people marched with other folks chanting Jew will not replace us. TARKANIAN: And that's what the mainstream media keeps trying to do, is they take his words and twist them out of context. What President Trump was trying to say was, there were some people there -- excuse me -- that were some people there that were actually protesting because they were upset that the Robert E. Lee statue was going to be taken down. There were many people in the south that revere Robert E. Lee. And he said there were some of them that were not part of the white supremacist, KKK, and the other racially charged groups that were there. They were just doing this because of the way they feel their heritage should be represented. But instead you guys took it out of context and act like he was saying part of the KKK was fine people. He never said that.

BERMAN: You know, I -- in this case, I do understand what your argument is here, but the context was, he said there were very fine people on that Friday night torch lit rally by the statue, very fine people. And, again, if you look at the pictures, there were other people there. Maybe there were very fine people there, but the question becomes, do very fine people attend such an event.

This is history. Let's talk about the now, though --

TARKANIAN: But -- But --

BERMAN: Go ahead.

TARKANIAN: But let me clarify. I watched all three speeches and you're taking that out of context. But, go ahead, ask me your next question.

BERMAN: Well, no, but, again, but -- and, you know, the very first speech, which he read last night, he omitted the word many sides, many sides were to blame for the violence and he did not utter the words neo-Nazi, KKK or white supremacist. He didn't call them out on day one.

Day two when he --

TARKANIAN: You know, my mom's been a lifelong Democrat and she watched this whole thing and she told me she couldn't believe how the media is blowing this out of proportion. That she watched President Obama's speech after the five police officers were killed in Dallas and he didn't say anything close to as strong as what President Trump did.

I think when you start losing people like my mother, who's been a lifelong Democrat, you're losing the center part of this country.

BERMAN: But, again, this isn't about me. I'm just telling you, again, the course of what he said in trying to get your reaction to it. And I do appreciate you offering your opinion of it. Again, this is something that ultimately the voters of Nevada are going to have to decide. And you are running in a primary against an incumbent Republican senator. And the issue seem to be, in many ways, how much this incumbent Republican has or has not supported President Trump. Do you think that Republican primary voters --

TARKANIAN: No, that -- BERMAN: Go ahead. '

TARKANIAN: No, that's not the issue at all. What it is, is, the people in America, and many of them here in Nevada feel the same way, they're sick and tired of politicians who say one thing when they run for office and they do the exact opposite once they're elected. Dean Heller is a poster boy of that type of politician. He ran for office saying he would repeal Obamacare. When he had the chance to do it, he voted against it. He ran for office saying he was going to defunding Planned Parenthood. He gets in front of an unruly town hall and he promises to protect the funding of Planned Parenthood. He ran for office saying he was against illegal immigration, then he joins the Gang of Eight and he wants to grand citizenship to illegal immigrants.

This is what people are sick and tired of. All they want is a politician who's going to tell them what they -- he truly believes in and then has the conviction to go back to Washington, D.C., and do those thing. Dean Heller is not that type of person and I am.

BERMAN: Danny Tarkanian, thanks for being with us.

I do want to note. We did reach out to Senator Dean Heller, offered him a chance to speak as well. And we will do so in the future. Watching this race very, very closely. Thanks for coming on.

TARKANIAN: Thank you. Thank you for having me on.

BERMAN: All right, the nation's former top intelligence chief says the president could be a threat to national security. James Clapper's stunning interview, next.

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[09:49:22] BERMAN: I worry about his access to nuclear codes. Those words about the president of the United States not just from any nervous Ned or Nellie, but from a man whose professional charge for 50 years was to worry about the nuclear codes. James Clapper was Director of National Intelligence under President Obama. And it is safe to say he was alarmed by the president's speech overnight. This is what he told Don Lemon.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: It's just so objectionable on so many levels. You know, I toiled in one capacity or another for every president since and including John F. Kennedy through President Obama. And I don't know when I've listened and watched something like this from a president that I found more disturbing.

[09:50:10] Having some understanding of the levers of power that are available to a president if he chooses to exercise them, I found this downright scary and disturbing.

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Are you questioning his fitness? CLAPPER: Yes, I do. I really question his ability to -- his fitness to

be in this office. And I also am beginning to wonder about his motivation for maybe -- maybe he is looking for a way out.

I do wonder as well about the people that attracted to this rally as others. You know, what are they thinking? Or why am I so far out -- off base? Because I don't understand the adulation. And, of course, that's why I think he gravitated to having this rally, as ill-timed as it is.

LEMON: What should we do? What should Washington do at this point? You said you are questioning his fitness. There are many people who are saying it. They won't say it publically. They don't have the courage that you do. Maybe after this speech they will now. It will become painfully obvious to -- as it is to most Americans. What should we do?

CLAPPER: Well, I think, you know, the key thing here is, where is he with Republicans. And I was quite struck by Senator Corker's remarks. Very thoughtful and very, very measured. And I know Senator Corker. I've dealt with him. And he is a very thoughtful senator. And he wouldn't say that lightly and without forethought. And I'm hopeful that other similarly thoughtful Republicans will reach the point where enough is enough.

LEMON: Enough is enough. What do you mean? Be plain for us.

CLAPPER: Well, that this behavior and this divisiveness and the complete intellectual, moral and ethical void that the president of the United States exhibits. And how much longer does the country have to borrow a phrase, endure this nightmare?

LEMON: Is he a threat to national security, the president?

CLAPPER: Well, he certainly could be. Again, having some understanding of the levers that a president can exercise, I worry about, frankly, you know, the access to the nuclear codes. In a fit of peak (ph), he decides to do something about Kim Jong-un, there's actually very little to stop him. The whole system is built to ensure a rapid response if necessary. So there's very little in the way of controls over, you know, exercising a nuclear option, which is pretty damn scary.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: All right, James Clapper right there. Fascinating interview.

Just in to CNN, we have just heard from a key man at the center of the Russia election scandal, the former Russian ambassador to the United States. He had so many of those meetings which are so controversial. He just spoke to CNN and said some pretty surprising words. Stay with us.

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[09:56:07] BERMAN: All right, just in to CNN, moments ago we heard from the former Russian ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak. Kislyak is a man very much at the center of so many of the stories about Russian meddling in the U.S. election, really from beginning to end, to when he left the United States just a short time ago. Some people refer to him as a spy master himself.

Matthew Chance just got this exclusive interview. Matthew joins us now.

MATTHREW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: John, thanks very much.

He's a very difficult man, as you indicated, to actually track down. He's been back in Russia for just the past couple of weeks. He was only relieved of his duties as ambassador a couple of days ago by Vladimir Putin, the Russian president. We've been denied all access to him. No one else from the western media has managed to get a face to face interview with Sergey Kislyak.

But we followed him around and caught up with him here in a place called Moldavia, which is in central European Russia and asked him those key questions.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHANCE: Hi, Mr. Ambassador. A quick question. Did you discuss lifting sanctions with any members of the Trump team when you were in the United States?

SERGEY KISLYAK, FORMER RUSSIAN AMBASSADOR TO THE U.S.: With your respect, I'm here to talk to Russian people.

CHANCE: I understand that. You say you've got no secrets.

KISLYAK: I've said everything I wanted prior to this.

CHANCE: Did you discuss opening secret channels with the Kremlin with Jared Kushner, for instance?

KISLAYK: I've said many times that we do not discuss the substance of our discussions with our American (INAUDIBLE) out of respect to our partners.

CHANCE: Fair enough. But when you met Donald Trump, the president, were you surprised when he disclosed secret information to you about Syria?

KISLAYK: I'm not sure that I heard anything that would be secret. But that was a good meeting. And we were discussing things that were important to your country and to mine.

CHANCE: What about this allegation that you're a spy master, a spy (INAUDIBLE) --

KISLAYK: Nonsense.

CHANCE: Did you attempt to recruit any members of the Trump administration? KISLAYK: You should be ashamed because CNN is the company that keeps

pointing to this allegation. It's nonsense.

CHANCE: It's U.S. security officials, intelligence officials, that made it, of course.

KISLAYK: I heard that in a statements by them. Also by former head of the FBI who said that I was a diplomat. I have no reason to doubt that he knew what he said.

OK.

CHANCE: Just one last question.

KISLAYK: Yes.

CHANCE: What's your prediction for the future of U.S./Russian relations?

KISLAYK: I'm afraid it's going to be difficult. And it's not because of us. It's because of the U.S. political dynamics. The anti-Russian laws isn't going to help Russian/American discussions and relations.

CHANCE: These are the sanctions law?

KISLAYK: It's the sanctions law, but sanctions is an instrument. It's basically a statement of being against (ph) Russia. That is the most important thing. And it's not going to be whisked away. It's going to stay. And it's going to spoil ability of both countries to resume a normal (INAUDIBLE) relation. And normal (INAUDIBLE) relations is exactly what is missing.

CHANCE: Have you lost faith that Donald Trump is going to be able to do what he said during his campaign and make things better with Moscow?

KISLAYK: I'm not sure that I operate with (INAUDIBLE) of faith, absence of faith. We work with the United States based on the policies that are there. They are not new. We have seen so many different things about us (ph). And I -- we are pretty comfortable with what we do for Russia. And, by the way, I'm here to do exactly what is important to us.

CHANCE: Sergey Kislyak, thank you very much.

KISLAYK: Thank you. Bye-bye.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHANCE: Well, John, Sergey Kislyak there, the former Russian ambassador to the United States. He's not in that post anymore, but he was at least giving some responses to some of those key questions that we were asking him. But again, he is a diplomat right till the very end.