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Collins Announces She's Staying In Senate; Kelly Spars With Reporters: 'No, I'm Not Frustrated'; Trump Set To Announce New Approach To Iran. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired October 13, 2017 - 12:30   ET



[12:31:08] DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back. You're looking at a live picture of the White House. And inside the White House, the Diplomatic Reception Room, you can see people getting ready there for the speech that President Trump is going to give. We're told within the half hour, where he will unveil a new more aggressive, broader approach towards Iran beyond its nuclear program as he certifies the Obama era nuclear deal. We'll take you to the speech when he begins.

Meanwhile, one key Republican senator had a big speech of her own, this morning, Senator Susan Collins of Maine. She is the only Republican in the Senate from New England and is often a lonely moderate voice in her GOP caucus. It's one of the reason she had been mulling whether to leave the Senate after 20 years go back to Maine and run for governor. So what was her choice?


SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: I want to continue to play a key role in advancing policies that strengthen our nation. And I have concluded that the best way that I can contribute to these priorities is to remain a member of the United States Senate.


BASH: Her leader, the Republican Leader, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell praised Collins's decision to stay. He said, Senator Collins never misses votes. She fights fiercely for constituents. She brings conviction, smarts and leadership to every issue. Her decision to remain in the Senate is important not only for the people of Maine, he said, but the people she serves as well as the nation.

You know, usually when a single senator makes an announcement to stay or go, it's like, OK. But this was a big one.

PERRY BACON, FIVETHIRTYEIGHT: It was important for Mitch McConnell keeping the job because the Maine, senator likely be a Democrat. So it's important in the sense that they keep to hold that seat to the Republicans due. But also, she is in the center of every event in Washington. She is really in (INAUDIBLE) O'Connor (ph) whereas O'Connor (ph) was report back a generation ago where she decided everything. Now, Susan Collins is vote on health care, on DACA, on every issue really matters. So I can imagine her wanting to stay here and waiting to the scene of the action.

BASH: And because the reason for that is because Republicans only have a 52-seat majority. So they can only afford to lose -- never mind if they need a 60 votes which is the majority. But even on some basic majority votes, they can only afford to lose two. And to be one of them at least has been in a lot of the health care votes.

JULIE PACE, ASSOCIATED PRESS: She's constantly one of the focal points no matter -- whatever issue comes up right now because she is more moderate. She is someone who Democrats look to, to either side with them on an issue, to take a no vote on an issue, she -- on health care and numerous policy. She has really stuck to this moderate policy position.

What's interesting though about the decision she made is that, when you talk in them, you know this more than anybody, when you talk to senators, when you talk to House members right now. Congress is not a particularly appealing place to be.

BASH: Not at all.

PACE: They don't feel like they're actually making progress on a lot of key issues and a lot of ways being a governor actually does put you in position to be more impactful for the constituents you serve. So we're seeing her take the opposite approach of a lot of lawmaker who are bailing out right now.

BASH: Particularly, when you're Susan Collins and, you know, might want to think about getting a food taster when you go in a food taster, when go in to your Republican lunches because you're she's so often at odds with her constituencies. And it's not just on health care. She is one of a number of Republicans on the Senate Intelligence Committee who has been pretty aggressively investigating on the issue of Russia and potential collusion. Listen to what she told me last month.


COLLINS: I do not think his investigation should be constrained beyond the mandate he was given when he was --

[12:35:05] BASH: And the president called that a red line.

COLLINS: The president can't set red lines for Bob Mueller.


BASH: That was in August I should say. Pretty aggressive, Bob Mueller should have a very -- cast a wide net.

MICHAEL SHEAR, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Yes. Look, I mean, I agree with Julie that, you know, there's a lot of times -- I covered a governor for six and a half years. There's a lot of times that they really -- people really like that because it does feel like you're accomplishing something as an executive you can get something done. But I also think what may be tilting in the other direction for folks like Susan Collins is the sort of stakes right now. You know, I mean, the conversation about the Russia investigation, you know, and other things that are going on right now. It sets a pretty high, you know, it was a pretty high bar for importance. I think that there is a sense that, you know, if you're at the center of that and part of helping to shape the direction of the country at pretty critical times that you don't want to leave that. You don't want to leave that.

BASH: Meanwhile, elsewhere in the Republican Party, the president spoke at the Value Voter's Summit this morning and he sounded like a -- he gave every single line in a way that was intended to be perfect pitch for his audience. And for that part of the GOP base. Listen.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We respect our great American flag. Guess what, we're saying Merry Christmas again. Bureaucrats think they can run your lives, overrule your values, meddle in your faith and tell you how to live, what to say and how to pray. In America, we don't worship government. We worship God.


BASH: This was one of the things that blew my mind. I've been covering Republican politics and primary politics for many elections in a row. And the idea that evangelicals liked this guy who talks the talk more than he walks the walk and would be the first one to admit it. And they eat it up. Explain.

MARY KATHARINE HAM, THE FEDERALIST: Yes. I think they know he is not walking the walk. And a huge part of the election is broadly was a bunch of senators and many religious people feeling like they were being culturally believed for a long time in this culture war and they were losing every single battle.

And then a bully of their own came along and said, well, if he's going to throw some punches for me, then I will hire that guy. And the thing I tell to Liberal friends is like the good news is that means most of Trump's voters are nicer than Trump. So you actually can connect with them. But that's what's going on there. It's like we're going to hire our own bully and he's going to land some punches. And that's what he's up there doing.

BASH: And it is about the culture war. And he has continued that. I mean look at the NFL situation. He has continued that in the White House.

BACON: One way he is walking the walk though is he may have religious himself or go to church every day. In terms of policy though he is enacting the Conservative Christian agenda if you look at abortion or ban Planned Parenthood, he actually has been on the issues in some ways more than Bush have -- Bush was even in the right place of issues. I'm not surprised she is very strong evangelicals' purpose (ph), issues themselves, he has done what they'd asked him to do. BASH: OK. Everybody standby, any minute as we mentioned President Trump is set to unveil a new more combative approach to Iran. We're going to take you there live.

Plus, he says, he's not quitting, he's not getting fired, he is not frustrated. The president's chief of staff telling the media, we're the ones getting it wrong. We're going to talk to some White House reporters about all that.


[12:42:55] BASH: Welcome back to our viewers in the United States and around the world. We are waiting for President Trump to give his speech on the Iran nuclear deal. It's expected to start any moment. And we promise we will bring it to you as soon as it begins.

In the meantime, John Kelly, he has a message for the White House press corps. He is not going anyway. In fact for 30 minutes yesterday, President Trump's chief of staff sparred with reporters during his first appearance in the White House briefing room. And he said, he's not there to control the president but wants to ensure that Mr. Trump is getting the best information possible. And he had a lot of self deprecating humor joke about rumors that he'd quit or be fired. He teased reporters for asking multi-part questions, made fun of some of those infamous pictures of him listening to the president with his head in his hands.


JOHN KELLY, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: I'm not quitting today. I don't believe. And I just talked to the president. I don't think I'm being fired today. Although you guys at the camera is always catch me when I'm thinking hard. And it looks like I'm frustrated and mad. One of his frustrations is you, all of you, not all of you, but many of you. By the way, I'm just as I listen to that, that face I had on was my listening intently face. One more. Who's the lucky one?


BASH: The chief of staff got generally good reviews. It's actually very good reviews for his performance. But he may want to be careful with that. Be careful what he wishes for because stories like this one, "Time" magazine cover over the summer or the kind of things that tend to annoy this president who likes to be the on the "Time" magazine cover. He likes the spotlight to be on him.

But let's turn to the two of you guys are actually in the briefing room. You're White House reporters. And I'll start with you. You're one of those people who, you know, you're an objective reporter. But, you know, saw that this moment yesterday as a bit of a breath of fresh air and gave him high remarks. Do you think that this -- in terms of a beat reporter and the way that you have to deal with this White House and get information or just even the atmospherics, is this signal that things are going to change?

[12:45:06] SHEAR: Look, I hope so. I covered all eight years of the Obama presidency. And it is always an adversarial job. You are never friends with the people you're covering.

BASH: Nor should you be.

SHEAR: Nor should you be. If there's -- but at the same time there's a kind of level of we're all in this together. We might as well have, you know, not take ourselves overly seriously. And that performance that this -- that the chief of staff gave was more like what we normally get from press secretaries and from communications people and from staff at the White House where, you know, we're talking about serious issues. But there's a give-and-take or having some fun. If that had been the message, and that have been the kind of relationship that was develop starting at the beginning of this administration, I think there would be a different tone in Washington or at least in that building.

You know, think back to the first day that Sean Spicer came out the day after the inauguration. Think about all of the contentious sort of yelling and screaming. That's been a very different tone. So I think to that extent, you know, if that -- if what happened with Kelly yesterday is a signal of a different kind of tone, I think at least from the perspective of reporters in that building, that's a good thing.

BASH: And Julia, I want to read you something that was on the opaque page of the "Washington Post" today, Jennifer Rubin who was a Republican but had been -- has been a Trump critic said this. Kelly was careful to say he was sent in to run the information flow, not to manage the president. That might be true. But if the way the manage the White House not just information is to ignore the president continually reinterpreting or just ignoring his outlandish utterances. It seems the Congress and the American people should know about it.

PACE: Well, Kelly has been pushing this message. And his allies have been pushing this message because they know that what bothered the president about some of his other advisers is this perception that they're trying to manage him, that they are trying to cut back on the tweets, that they're trying to get him to read off the teleprompter.

And so, Kelly has been very sensitive to this idea that I'm there to -- I'm the chief of staff. I'm managing the staff. I'm helping him get better information. But I'm going to be hands off on the other pieces of it. What he's really hoping to do and what a lot of people in the White House are actually hoping he will do is show the president that actually taking this more measured calibrated approach inside the west wing can bear positive results, that Congress will react more positively, that the American people will react more positively and he won't feel the need to sort of throw the Twitter bombs like he does. I think that may be wishful thinking that is so baked in for this president. But he is hoping that he can avoid actually having to manage him but have Trump kind of lead himself there.

BASH: Don't tell me. I've got to pumping up on a break. We're going to get more on the other side. But we are awaiting the president announcing a new strategy towards Iran beyond its nuclear program. And we're going to bring that to you live. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:52:01] BASH: Any minute now. We are going to hear from the president. You're looking at a live picture of the Diplomatic Reading Room where he is going to deliver his remarks and his new strategy on Iran. We're going to bring you those live as soon as he comes to the podium.

In the meantime, just want to talk quickly about Paul Ryan and about Puerto Rico. House Speaker Paul Ryan is leading a bipartisan delegation right now to Puerto Rico. Lawmakers are going to meet with local officials and first responders and get a first hand look at the devastation still plaguing the island three weeks after Hurricane Maria. And this morning President Trump offered a different stance on Puerto Rico.


TRUMP: I went to Puerto Rico. And I met with the president of the Virgin Islands. These are people that are incredible people. They suffered greatly. And we'll be there. We're going to be there. We have really it's not even a question of a choice. We don't even want a choice. We're going to be there as Americans. And we love those people in what they have gone through.


BASH: What a difference a day makes. It was just yesterday he tweeted we cannot keep FEMA, the military and first responders who have been amazing under them most difficult -- I'm going to stop and let's listen to the president.

TRUMP: Thank you very much. My fellow Americans, as president of the United States, my highest obligation is to ensure the safety and security of the American people.

History has shown that the longer we ignore a threat, the more dangerous that threat becomes. For this reason upon taking office, I ordered a complete strategic review of our policy toward the rogue regime in Iran. That review is now complete.

Today, I am announcing our strategy along with several major steps we are taking to confront the Iranian regime's hostile actions and to ensure that Iran never and I mean never, acquires a nuclear weapon.

Our policy is based on clear ride assessment of the Iranian dictatorship, its sponsorship of terrorism and its continuing aggression in the Middle East and all-around the world.

Iran is under the control of a fanatical regime that seized power in 1979 and forced a proud people to submit to its extremist rule. This radical regime has raided the wealth of one of the world's oldest and most vibrant nations and spread death, destruction, and chaos all around the globe.

[12:55:04] Beginning in 1979, agents of the Iranian regime illegally seized the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and held more than 60 Americans hostage during the 444 days of the crisis. The Iranian backed terrorist group Hezbollah twice bombed our embassy in Lebanon, once in 1983 and again in 1984.

Another Iranian supported bombing killed 241 Americans. Service members they were, in their barracks in Beirut in 1983. In 1996, the regime directed another bombing of American military housing in Saudi Arabia, murdering 19 Americans in cold blood.

Iranian proxies provided training to operatives who were later involved in al-Qaeda's bombing of the American embassies in Kenya, Tanzania. And two years later killing 224 people and wounding more than 4,000 others. The regime harbored high level terrorists in the wake of the 9/11 attacks including Osama bin Laden's son.

In Iraq and Afghanistan, groups supported by Iran have killed hundreds of American military personnel. The Iranian dictatorship's aggression continues to this day. The regime remains the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism, and provides assistance to al-Qaeda, the Taliban, Hezbollah, Hamas and other terrorist networks.

It develops, deploys and proliferates missiles that threaten American troops and our allies. It harasses American ships and threatens freedom of navigation in the Arabian Gulf and in the Red Sea. It imprisons Americans on false charges. And it launches cyber attacks against our critical infrastructure, financial system and military.

The United States is far from the only target of the Iranian dictatorship's long campaign of bloodshed. The regime violently suppresses its own citizens. It shot unarmed student protesters in the street during the Green Revolution. This regime has fueled sectarian violence in Iraq and vicious civil wars in Yemen and Syria.

In Syria, the Iranian regime has supported the atrocities of Basher al-Assad's regime and condoned Assad's use of chemical weapons against helpless civilians including many, many children. Given the regime's murderous past and present, we should not take lightly its sinister vision for the future.

The regime's two favorite chants are death to America and death to Israel. Realizing the gravity of the situation, the United States and the United Nations Security Council sought over many years to stop Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons with a wide array of strong economic sanctions.

But the previous administration lifted these sanctions just before what would have been the total collapse of the Iranian regime. Through the deeply controversial 2015 nuclear deal with Iran.

This deal is known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA. As I have said many times, the Iran deal was one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into. The same mind set that produced this deal is responsible for years of terrible trade deals that have sacrificed so many millions of jobs in our country to the benefit of other countries. [12:59:59] We need negotiators who will much more strongly represent America's interest. The nuclear deal through Iran's dictatorship a political and economic lifeline providing urgently needed relief from the intense domestic pressure this --