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Reaction to Trump's Phoenix Speech; Poll Numbers on Trump; Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired August 23, 2017 - 14:00   ET

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


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Here we go. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you so much for being with me.

Any moment now, President Trump will take to the stage in Reno, Nevada, his third speech in three days. And it comes as we get these new numbers just in from Quinnipiac University. So let me read this for you.

It says 62 percent say President Trump is doing more to divide the country compared to 31 percent who say he's doing more to unite. The survey also finds that 35 percent of voters approve of the president's job performance, while 59 percent disapprove. And when it comes specifically to the president's response to Charlottesville, 60 percent disapprove compared to 32 percent who give him the thumbs up for how he handled it.

This week it has been truly a tale of two presidents on the national stage. Monday, the commander in chief is poised, sticks to the teleprompter, and is even conciliatory when he announces a change of heart about troops in Afghanistan. Tuesday, he is in full campaign mode, unapologetic for his Charlottesville comments, says the media is dividing the country, insults his critics and home state Republican senators and threatens a government shutdown over border wall funding.

So where will today take us? An audience of an estimated 10,000 veterans at the American Legion, where the White House says he plans to discuss unity and ways the country can come together. That's happening any moment now.

So let's go first to Jason Carroll, who is inside that event there in Reno, Nevada. Sara Sidner is outside where we're told protests are already underway.

But, Jason, just starting with you. You know, in the wake of that Phoenix rally, we've seen some tweets from the Ohio governor, John Kasich, really the first big Republican voice quite critical of the president.

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And it's really emblematic of what we've been seeing with this presidency. You know, a lot of those folks who are critical of this president say it's, you know, one step forward, as we saw in the case of Monday, and then two steps back, like we saw last night. And John Kasich weighing in with this with a tweet just a short while

ago. Let me read it to you. It says, I've repeatedly encouraged POTUS to unite our country. It was disappointing that last night in Phoenix he once again refused. After all, what greatness has America ever accomplished by tearing down its own. We must all unite for a common goal, a stronger America.

Much of the president's problems seem to come up when he goes off script, if you will. Here today he is expected to read from prepared remarks. There is two teleprompters -- there are two teleprompters in the room. But we've seen many times in the past when there have been prompters in the room and prepared remarks and the president goes off script.

But today he is expected to read from prepared remarks, to thank veterans for their service and their sacrifice, and he will call for unity. He will say in part, it is time to heal wounds that have divided us and to seek a new unity based on the common values that unite us.

We've spoken to a number of veterans before they headed into the event to get their sort of thoughts on what they expected to hear from this president. All of them across the board say they hope he sticks to the subject of what appeals to veterans.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DOREEN MATTHEWS, ATTENDING TRUMP SPEECH AT AMERICAN LEGION: Well, I know he kind of backs the veterans and does a lot of work for them. I really don't know what to expect because he has different opinions on everything. But we just hope for a positive message for everything, and especially for the veterans. The veterans need a lot of help with everything and some people seem to ignore them.

JOE PLEANZLER, DIRECTOR OF MEDIA RELATIONS, AMERICAN LEGION: We'll see what he says today. I mean I'm hopeful that the remarks are germane to what veterans care about.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARROLL: So the president should be speaking just about any moment from now. At the conclusion of his prepared remarks, he will be signing a bill to help streamline the process of veterans trying to apply for veterans. And, once again, a number of those here are hoping he sticks to the script.

Brooke.

BALDWIN: OK, Jason, we will see if he does.

Sara Sidner, stand by for me.

Let me just bring in Amie Parnes, CNN political analyst and senior political correspondent of "The Hill," and Michael D'Antonio, CNN contributor and Trump biographer. Just your quick reactions to the Quinnipiac numbers that 62 percent of respondents, you know, feel like he's doing more to divide the country, 60 percent disapprove of his handling of Charlottesville.

AMIE PARNES, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It's a totally problematic of -- for him in what we're seeing. I mean you're seeing that he's not talking to Mitch McConnell, a problem. Senators Corker and Tim Scott came out against him last week and said he's not acting presidential. You saw the business community and their reaction. This is not happening in a vacuum. This is -- it speaks to what the president -- his current state of mind, what he's going through, what he's experiencing with the people who actually supported him, some of them.

[14:05:00] BALDWIN: Do you think he thinks these rallies -- how is what he did last night helping him, Michael D'Antonio?

MICHAEL D'ANTONIO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, it's helping him emotionally. He needs this. It's his fix. You know, this is a guy who thrives on applause, who wants to get up there and perform. I think he's also kind of an inkblot test for everybody. The people who love him, love him. The people who are turned off are completely turned off.

BALDWIN: Let's listen in, the president.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Guests with us today, including HUD Secretary Ben Carson, VA Secretary David Shulkin, and former Secretary of Defense Bob Gates.

Where is Bob Gates?

Bob Gates has been so great. I'll tell you, he started off saying bad things about me and then he said great things and now I like him. Thank you, Bob.

It's a great honor to be back here with all of my friends at the American Legion and your national convention.

I want to thank Governor Sandoval for being here. Dean Heller is here some place or will shortly be here. He's caught the first flight out. So I want to thank Dean Heller, senator, for being here.

The American Legion embodies the spirit of patriotism that is the true source of our strength and the best hope for our future. You love our country. You cherish our values. And you definitely defend our great American flag. No doubt about that.

Above all else, you believe in America, just like America believes in you.

Today we are here to honor you for the sacrifices you have made to defend our nation and preserve our way of life. But we're also here for another reason. We are here to hold you up as an example of strength, courage, and resolve that our country will need to overcome the many challenges that we face. We are here to draw inspiration from you as we seek to renew the bonds of loyalty that bind us together as one people and one nation.

Those who wear the nation's uniform come from all different backgrounds and from every single walk of life. But they are all united by shared values and a shared sense of duty. They are all part of one team with only one mission in mind. Most importantly, they're all Americans, and they work together, they fight together, and they sacrifice together to defend our magnificent home.

Thank you.

Now, our nation must follow that same work ethic, that same devotion to a greater cause, to achieve our country's full potential. Here with us today are veterans who have fought in every major military engagement dating all the way back to World War II. You've endured bitter winters, treacherous jungles, barren deserts, and stormy waters. You've left your families, charged into danger, faced down your enemies, and bore the scars and wounds of war. Each of you took an oath to support and defend the Constitution. With that oath, you pledged your honor and your very lives for our great nation.

Every veteran here today is part of a long, unbroken chain of American heroes. We salute your service. The American Legion not only remembers history, you help keep history alive.

You teach young Americans to have pride in our history so that they will have confidence in our future. History and culture, so important. For generations now, the American Legion has taught our young people the principles of Americanism. You emphasize the need to preserve the nation's cultural, moral, and patriotic values. You encourage the observation of patriotic holidays. You stress the need to enforce our laws, including our immigration laws.

[14:10:30] You teach the responsibilities of citizenship and the importance of the Pledge of Allegiance.

True. So important.

And you do it all as your motto says, for God and country.

That's why we're here today, for America, and for God. But to fulfill our patriotic duties, we must take care of our great veterans.

One year ago at this gathering, and I remember so many of you so well, I promised you that I would make it my priority to fix the broken VA and deliver our veterans the care they so richly deserve.

And you see what's been happening. Now you have a true reformer in Secretary David Shulkin. He has done an incredible job.

He's working night and day to implement the ten-point reform plan that I discussed with you last year. Already we have made incredible progress. We are publishing wait times online for every VA facility, so you know what the wait is. We've delivered same-day emergency mental health services at every VA medical center.

We've opened the promised White House VA hotline. That's a big deal. That's a big deal.

We've dramatically increased the number of veterans approved to see the doctor of their choice and signal (ph) legislation to continue that very important choice program that I spoke to you about last year. And I want to thank the American Legion for your help in getting this done. You have been so helpful. Thank you very much.

Something that they've been trying to pass for 40 years, and we've passed, VA accountability legislation. So if -- if somebody that works at the VA is bad to the people of the VA, disrespectful, not treating our fellow patriots well, we look at them and we say, you're fired. That's it. That's it.

They don't do a good job, they're out. Because we want people -- we have great people at the VA, but we want people that do a great job. We weren't able to do that before. That was a hard piece of legislation to get passed. It's been worked on for so long. We got it done. So we're very proud of that.

Last week I also signed the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act. That's a big thing.

This legislation bears the name of one of the first members of the legion, your past commander, a man who wrote the original draft of the first landmark G.I. bill in 1944.

And now, under this legislation, veterans can use their G.I. benefits at any point in their lifetime, some difference. And in just a few moments, right here on this stage, I will sign another historic bill that the American Legion helped us deliver, the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act. And you all know what that means, right?

[14:15:11] No longer will veterans be kept waiting for years to get an answer to their appeals. They will receive timely updates, and they will get decisions much more quickly in a fraction of the time.

And the legion, I have to say, pressed so hard for that legislation. So, I want to thank you very much. I want to thank you. I want that thank you so much. You really helped. They have a lot of power. A lot of power. And they use it well.

When I spoke to you last year, I also promised that we would build up our military, and that's exactly what we have done. I am proud to report that we have worked with Congress to achieve a dramatic increase in defense spending this year. We are committed to expanding and improving a state of the art missile defense system to shoot down missiles in flight, and we're getting better and better and better at it. It's actually incredible what's taking place. And we will develop new surveillance and long-range strike capabilities to prevent our enemies from launching them in the first place.

In every foreign policy decision -- thank you.

In every foreign policy decision, we are making clear that we will always put the safety and security of our citizens first. That is why early this week I announced a new strategy in Afghanistan and South Asia. We will pursue an honorable and enduring outcome in Afghanistan, worthy of the tremendous sacrifice our troops have already made. We will give our men and women in uniform the tools they need and the trust they have earned to fight and to win.

And we have made, as you have been reading and seeing, tremendous progress in the fight against terrorism. Just over a month ago, in Iraq, Mosul was liberated from the barbaric rule of ISIS. We are stripping terrorists of their territory at a record clip. Their funding, their networks, and the false allure of their ideology, and I will tell you, we're going to start working very hard on the Internet, because they're using the Internet at a level that they should not be allowed to use the Internet. They're recruiting from the Internet. And we are going to work under my administration very hard so that doesn't happen.

No longer are we using our military to build democracies. Instead, we're forming a coalition of nations that share the aim of stamping out extremism, defeating terrorism, and pursuing stability, prosperity, and peace. Through the generations, America has always prevailed, not by military might alone, but also by the strength of our spirit.

And we have, in this country today, such spirit. I see it when I meet the people backstage. They're so proud, once again. I must say, much more proud than they were last year at this time. They are feeling very good about our country. Very, very good about our country.

Because our people have always had that will to endure and to overcome. This is now the challenge of our times. We must ask ourselves who we are, what we stand for, and what together we can achieve. If American patriots could secure our independence, carve out a home in the wilderness, and free millions from tyranny and oppression around the world, then that same spirit of strength, courage, and resolve can help us create a better future for our people today. A future like even our people have never had before in this great country. That's what we're aiming for.

We don't have to be content with a dilapidated road system, with crumbling buildings, or rusted out factories. We can build gleaming new highways, state-of-the-art manufacturing and modern works of wonder, and we can do it all with American workers and American iron, aluminum, and steel. We can do it ourselves.

[14:20:23] We do not have to accept the economic decay of once- thriving hubs of industry where they leave and they let all those jobs go. And those companies move to other countries. We've stopped that flow, and companies are now coming back into the United States. And I am so proud of that.

We can bring new jobs to Pittsburgh and Detroit and Baltimore and help struggling communities thrive and dream and prosper. We do not need to limit the potential of our children by trapping them in failing government schools. Every child should have the chance to explore their talents, pursue their passions, and know the joy of achieving their ambitions. And we will never tolerate crime in our cities, bloodshed in our

communities, or acts of hatred or terrorism against our citizens. We will not stand for it.

We will always support our great law enforcement personnel.

These are great people. Build bridges of trust and cooperation, and keep our families safe.

It is time to heal the wounds that divide us and to seek a new unity based on the common values that unite us. We are one people with one home and one great flag.

We are not defined by the color of our skin, the figure on our paycheck, or the party of our politics. We are defined by our shared humanity, by our citizenship in this magnificent nation, and by the love that fills our hearts.

And I know I speak for all of you when I say, our hearts beat for America. Our souls fill with pride every time we hear the national anthem.

This is the spirit we need to overcome our challenges, to pursue our common destiny, and to achieve a brighter future for our people. We will win. Watch. We will win.

This is the future we can build together if we have the courage to act, the strength to endure, and the patriotism to join together with true affection for our fellow citizen.

I want to close with the story of a hero who defines this spirit of service and sacrifice. A man whose strength, patriotism, and courage knows no bounds. A Vietnam veteran who threw himself on top of a grenade to protect his fellow comrades. This true American hero went on to serve in the National Guard for over 27 years. He is now a retired captain at his local fire department and owns a funeral home that memorializes our heroes. And he has worked tirelessly to bring another veterans post to Kansas City so that those who return from combat have a place to go that honors and supports them.

Some of you know this incredible patriot. He's a friend to many in this room. He is with us here today, and he's on stage with us right now, Medal of Honor Recipient Donald E. Ballard.

[14:25:35] He's got to say a word, right? This wasn't in the planning. Do I have your approval?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, sir.

TRUMP: Come on, Don, get up here.

DONALD E. BALLARD, MEDAL OF HONOR RECIPIENT: There is no greater love than someone that loves this country. And I believe we've elected the right leader to lead us out to drain the swamp. I'm with you.

TRUMP: Thank you, Don. BALLARD: (INAUDIBLE) with you before you were elected (INAUDBILE).

TRUMP: Thank you so much.

See, that's very risky of me. That could ruin the whole day for me. If he got up and said the opposite, I would be in trouble. So, thank you, Don. That was very risky. I didn't know what was going to happen. I had a pretty good idea.

But, Don, on behalf of the people of the United States, I want to thank you for your courageous service. You inspire us all.

Today, we are reminded that the greatness of our nation is found in our people, like Don. As long as we have faith in each other and confidence in our values, then there is no challenge too great for us to conquer.

We are people. We are people who love. We are people with heart. We are people who adore. We are people that are great. There is no country like the United States of America.

We have no division too deep for us to heal. And there is no enemy too strong for us to overcome. Because, in America, we never lose faith. We never forget who we are and we never stop striving for a better future. Together, we cannot fail. We will not fail. We will make America great again. Greater than ever before. I promise.

So, I want to thank you to the American Legion. You talked of greatness. You talk of greatness. The American Legion is greatness.

Thank you very much to our service members and to Don and to everybody in the room. Thank you to our great, great veterans.

May God bless you. May God bless the United States of America.

Thank you very much. It's my honor.

Thank you. Thank you.

BALDWIN: The president addressing the American Legion annual convention there in Reno, Nevada. Quite a contrast from that speech he gave last night -- I have whiplash. It's like which president is going to show up today?

Rich Galen, let me begin with you on that, Republican strategist, just on, you know, the sort of gasoline-throwing rally speech versus the much more toned down, unifier, teleprompter speech. How are Republicans responding to this?

RICH GALEN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, I think people want to hear that when he's speaking in front of an organization like the American Legion. It was, as you said, a teleprompter speech. For the most part, he stuck to it. He fell off the rails a few times, but not enough to, I think, to ruin it. The only thing I was really interested to hear the length and sound of the applause for an American -- for a Medal of Honor recipient as opposed to the commander in chief. The Medal of Honor recipient overwhelmed that.

But I think it was a good speech and I think that's what people in the hall wanted to hear. And I think they're glad he came and it's always good when the president of the United States addresses the American legion. I'm a lifetime member.

BALDWIN: Good on you, and good on the American Legion, and we're grateful for that and we're grateful for the honor recipient there.

[14:29:53] But again, you know, Nia-Malika Henderson, let me bring you in as well here on just the contrast. You even can think of -- you can go back to the -- to the -- you know, the response to Charlottesville last week and then the teleprompter speech and then the Trump Tower, it's like it negated the previous day. Same, you know, in a sense with this week. You had Afghanistan teleprompter speech.