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New Article Examines Obama's Disappearing Act and asks will he return to politics; Manafort Appeals Judge Decisions to Send Him to Jail; Nevada Brothel Owner Wins Republican State Primary. Aired 3:30- 4p ET

Aired June 25, 2018 - 15:30   ET

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


[15:30:00] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: I want to quote Jim Palmeri: "They miss dad and they're homesick. They being Americans. And there's so much in the world that's disorienting, and they want something they love. And that's familiar. And he can never be what people ultimately want." What was your biggest take away.

GABRIEL DEBENEDETTI, NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT," NEW YORK" MAGAZINE: The biggest takeaway here was essentially that Barack Obama was always going to do something like this when he left office. The idea was that he was always going to take a step back, he was not going to try to be some kind of shadow president, as a lot of people seem to want him to be. Basically. this is all about how he views change. Over the long run, he's not going to be the person who's jumping into our daily politics all the time and trying to fight President Trump.

BALDWIN: You tell this story, one of Obama's friends tells you about how he was with him for 45 minutes and he totally avoided the subject of Trump. At one point there was a TV on with the chyron about Trump. You know what it was. And it was just a blip, he didn't want to go there.

DEBENEDETTI: People that talk to President Obama these days say he doesn't talk about Trump. It's not that he avoids it, or he's trained himself not to talk about him. It's not what he's interested in talking about, there's Valerie Jarrett, is one of his closest advisors, is quoted in the story essentially saying, why would he waste his time talking about Donald Trump, you can't influence him, that much is clear. And over and over, his people said to me when I was working on this, if he were to get out there and start agitating, we need to fight against Trump on this and this and this, what would that do other than consolidate Republicans behind Trump. A lot of these people who don't like Obama would fall in line with Trump.

BALDWIN: Davis, here's my question to you, I was looking at what the political director at ABC had said from his conversation with Ben Rhodes. That Obama has been -- letting other voices emerge but is poised to hit the campaign trail this fall, and so, you know, we've been reporting on some of these meetings he's been having with potential 2020 candidates. Do you see this as how President Obama uses his voice the most?

DAVID TAFURI, FORMER OBAMA CAMPAIGN FOREIGN POLICY ADVISOR: It's a great piece by Gabriel. His last line sums it up, he says that Obama's absence is self-imposed. This really goes back to what I think was one of the weaknesses of President Obama, which was his reluctance to engage. In my area of expertise, foreign policy, we saw it, where he was reluctant to engage in Syria, he promised he would act if Assad crossed the red line, we see it in his post presidency, where he's unwilling to engage in the fray, even at times of crisis, where we have the separation of children issue, people want to see him engage. We have this promise that you mentioned that he's going to engage more in the midterm elections, but he's apparently going to wait until September to do that.

And that really might be too late. But the other problem that this highlights has nothing to do with Obama, it's that the Democratic party doesn't have a new standard bearer, they don't have someone who's a front-runner for the 2020 presidential campaign. And they don't have someone who can speak out on behalf of the party and describe the party's platform. There's also a vacuum that people want President Obama to fill, but he's unwilling to fill that.

BALDWIN: If he doesn't come out and speak about the polarization, the norm bashing, is it going to be too little too late when he does?

TAFURI: We don't know the answer to that, but I think people who are worried that it's going to be too late. Have a reason to worry. As I mention, there's no one else that can really do it with the authority that president Obama can do it with. He's still pretty young, very articulate, he's very persuasive, and he had a pretty successful presidency, he has a lot of power that he could wield and if he doesn't do that, you're right, there may not be anyone else who can.

BALDWIN: What's he up to now, you talk about words with friend's games on his iPad. Seriously, what's he doing?

DEBENEDETTI: He's preparing to play a big role in the midterms, he's raising money. Some Democrats would like him to do a lot more of it, of course. He's playing words with friends and he's golfing and traveling. But he's also building up a really ambitious foundation that is going to last for decades to come, because he's a young guy, and he's writing a book, sitting down at his desk in Washington, in his new office. Writing it out longhand trying to get at his -- it's a memoir, it's another memoir for him. That's taking a lot of time. The idea that he's just taken a step back and said, I did my time, I don't want to deal with this any more.

That's not what this is. He sees history as a long arc, and he does believe this is a blip we're going through. He looks at the early years of his own presidency, and appreciates and often talks of this with friends, how George W. Bush treated him by not weighing in even when he disagreed. I's true that president Trump is trying as hard as he can to go at Obama's legacy.

[15:35:00] All of this is temporary, it's not right for our nation to have a former president fighting a current president, that's not healthy for our democracy, and it's time for other leaders to step up. Some Democrats are starting to do it. Time for you to try.

BALDWIN: Gabe, your cover piece on "New York" magazine, thank you for coming in. Thank you for weighing in here as well. We're going to take you to the White House in a second. We have live pictures for you. Any moment Sarah Sanders will hold the first press briefing since last Monday. A lot to answer for next. We will take it live next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:40:00] BALDWIN: Paul Manafort is appealing a judge's decision to send him to jail for alleged witness tampering. He's now behind bars at Northern Neck Regional Jail in Virginia. Ahead of his trial on 25 criminal charges ranging from obstruction of justice to bank fraud. The man who dropped $130,000 at a Beverly Hills clothing store now adjusting to his cell block that used to house former NFL quarterback, Michael Vick.

He will be wearing a jail issued jumpsuit for court hearings. He was admitted to the so-called VIP section of the jail earlier this month. Michael Vick did time at the same block for dogfighting conspiracy in 2007. His cell reportedly has a toilet, shower, sink and that's about it. That White House briefing moments away, we'll take you there live. How a self-proclaimed pimp, brothel owner hopes to ride the Trump wave into office. After he ushers in a new breed of politicians.

[15:45:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: Live pictures inside the press briefing room at the White House. Waiting for Sarah Sanders to take to that podium. Obviously, a number of items on the agenda. Since we haven't had a press briefing in the last week, immigration and civility top of mind.

The civility questions coming after a couple of issues, namely, a restaurant asked press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders to leave because she works for the Trump administration. And of course, what is happening down along the border. The president now speaking out against due process there at the border. Let's go to CNN senior political analyst Mark Preston. I mean, is your -- imagine obviously civility, that she left that restaurant in Virginia. How does she spin it?

MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Is this is going to be one of the questions she is going to be asked today. I thought she handled herself on Twitter when she explained the situation Saturday. She said, look, I was asked to leave this restaurant. I left politely. Says more about the owner of the restaurant than it does about me.

If you look at what was said this morning. And she says she's going to be respectful and will continue to do so with people she disagrees with. This morning we saw from President Trump, he put out a tweet that was 180 degrees in the opposite direction. What the president said this morning: "The Red Hen restaurant should focus on cleaning its filthy canopies, doors and windows. Badly needs a paint job. Rather than refusing to serve a fine person like Sarah Huckabee Sanders. I always had a rule that if your restaurant is dirty on the outside it's dirty on the inside." That's a completely different tone. She will be asked to address that

today. I guarantee I suspect we will not get an answer though that will be satisfying to those who ask the questions.

BALDWIN: What about on immigration, Mark?

PRESTON: Let's trip through this right now because this is really where the big issue is right now. When you look at what's going on with the immigration issue, she's going to be asked over all, what is the current state of play. No one knows where we are at under that current state of play, what is the latest numbers on the reunification of these children with the families, the last numbers we saw, we believe a little over 500, has that number increased?

On top of that, what is the administration doing to work with Congress to try to get something done. What are they doing? Well, the easy answer to that is they're doing nothing, but by doing that means we're not going to get a resolution without some help from the White House. And then, of course, we saw the president urge the GOP to just abandon efforts on immigration all together. Let's wait until after the elections, she's going to be asked today, is this the kind of message you want to be sending to the American people right now?

You have this crisis on the border, you have a humanitarian situation underway right now. You're telling your fellow Republicans, let's forget about, and see what happens after November. Not a good message.

BALDWIN: Mark Preston, standby. We're waiting for her to step up and take those questions, waiting for that briefing to begin. First, a 2013 CNN Hero is running the equivalent of 65 marathons. The 1700 miles all the way from Seattle to San Diego. The reason? He's helping to raise 1/4 of million dollars to help provide free rights for kids with cancer for their chemotherapy treatments.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My son, Emilio, was diagnosed with leukemia.

I love you, batman.

We were fortunate, we had rides to the hospital to bring, Emilio. Many families don't have that support.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You want to blow a kiss to the camera?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They can't start the fight without getting to the hospital.

We get them here in a nice clean environment and on time. No child should miss their treatment due to lack of transportation.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BALDWIN: To learn more about our heroes like Richard, please go to CNN heroes.com. [15:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: Make Nevada, Nevada again. Sound familiar. One of the slogans tossed out by the Nevada brothel owner who just won a Republican primary for the state assembly, and he is Dennis Hof reality star on HBO's "Cat House" and author of "Art of The Pimp", giving credit to President Trump for his victory and calls Trump his Christopher Columbus and saying he's, quote, riding the Trump wave.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DENNIS HOF, NEVADA BROTHEL OWNER, REPUBLICAN PRIMARY WINNER: Dennis Hof is the Trump of Pahrump. Donald Trump paved the way. He made it OK for a reality TV star to be in office because he's done a great job. I'm going to do the same thing for the state of Nevada.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: With me now for more on all things Dennis Hof, CNN politics reporter, Eric Bradner. And Eric, for people who don't watch "Cat House" on HBO, who is this guy?

ERIC BRADNER, CNN, POLITICS REPORTER: Dennis Hof is a brothel owner, he owns several brothels in Nevada and by the way, they're legal there. It is the only state where that is the case. But he's also somebody who very much like Trump built a career on courting media attention. He a reality TV show and a book that he took the name of from the "Art of The Deal" and he has a heavy Fox News appetite and texts with Tucker Carlson afterward. Advertising for brothels in Nevada is illegal, it is a quirk of state laws. And so much like President Trump built his name in the 70s -- forgive me, Eric.

Forgive me. We have to go to the White House.

[15:53:26]

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Many by now have heard that I was asked to leave a restaurant this weekend where I attempted to have dinner with my family. My husband and I politely left and went home. I was asked to leave because I worked for President Trump.

We're allowed to disagree, but we should be able to do so freely and without fear of harm. And this goes for all people, regardless of politics. Some have chosen to push hate and vandalism against the restaurant that I was asked to leave from.

A Hollywood actor publicly encouraged people to kidnap my children, and this weekend a member of Congress called for people to push back and make clear to those serving their country and this administration that they are not welcome anywhere, anytime for anything.

Healthy debate on ideas and political philosophy is important, but the calls for harassment and push for any Trump supporter to avoid the public is unacceptable. America is a great country and our ability to find solutions despite those disagreements is what makes us unique. That is exactly what President Trump has done for all Americans by building a booming economy with record low unemployment for African Americans and Hispanics, the defeat of ISIS and the ongoing work to achieve peace on the Korean peninsula.

Earlier today, the President spoke with the new President of Colombia and congratulated him on his recent electoral victory. President Trump noted the strong partnership between our two countries and discussed the security challenges the new Colombian government will face as it - as he enters office.

We are also working to set up a call between the President --

[15:55:00]

-- and the President of Turkey to re-affirm our strong bond. We encourage Turkey to take steps to strengthen its democracy and continue progress toward resolving issues in the bilateral relationship.

Lastly, and on a slightly lighter and more positive note, it should be an exciting national championship at the College World Series, since the Arkansas Razorbacks will be playing and take on Oregon State starting tonight in Omaha.

So go Hogs, and with that, I'll take your questions. Jonathan (ph)?

QUESTION: Sarah, I want to ask you about the president's tweet over the weekend, where he said that people who cross the border illegally should be sent back with no court cases, no judges. Does the president believe that undocumented immigrants have no due-process rights whatsoever?

SANDERS: Virtually all Americans agree that it makes no sense that an illegal alien sets one foot on American soil, and then they would go through a three-to-five-year judicial process to be removed from the country.

Thousands of illegal aliens are removed every month, without seeing an immigration judge, as a result of procedures in current law, including voluntary removal and expedited removal. Just because you don't see a judge doesn't mean you aren't receiving due process.

The president is focused on securing our borders and reforming our immigration system to prevent the crisis at the border from getting worse.

QUESTION: But -- but he's saying no judges, no court cases, so no opportunity to claim asylum, no opportunity to see -- hear -- have their cases heard before a judge.

SANDERS: No. Like I just said, just because you don't see a judge doesn't mean you aren't receiving due process. Also, the president would like to see us stop people from illegally entering the country at all. We'd like to have secure borders. The Democrats are the ones that want open borders. The president would like us to secure the borders and have a very legal and easy immigration process so people can come here the right way, not the wrong way.

John (ph)?

QUESTION: Just in addition to what Jon (ph) was asking, under current law -- and you spoke to this -- contiguous countries to the United States, like Mexico and Canada -- people can be removed on an expedited basis.

SANDERS: Correct.

QUESTION: They can basically just be taken to the nearest border crossing and sent back. Does the president want to implement that type of policy for people from noncontiguous countries? Is that what he's looking for here?

SANDERS: The president would certainly like to see more expedited removal. But, ultimately, the president would like to see our border secured so that we don't have all of these problems to begin with.

The president wants to fix our immigration system completely, not just tinker with it. He actually wants us to have a system that works, and he wants to have a secure border. He doesn't believe in the philosophy that Democrats to, that we should have open borders.

He wants to stop that. He wants to stop the crime that comes into this country, and that's what we're hoping to do. And we'd like to see Congress step up and work with us.

Blake.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: The president -- the president -- the president also said in the Oval Office that people had proposed adding 5,000 judges. Who's proposed to add 5,000 judges? I've seen 750 as a max number.

SANDERS: There have been a number of different proposals -- quite a few that we've seen. We've laid out what we would like to see, and hopefully Congress will work with us to make that happen.

Blake.

QUESTION: Sarah?

QUESTION: Sarah, thank you. Let me ask you about a couple statements on trade. What is the president's reaction to the Harley-Davidson announcement today? Does he still feel that tariffs are the way to go?

SANDERS: The president's trade and economic policies have been a huge benefit to the American economy, and this includes the creation of over 300,000 manufacturing jobs. Unemployment is at 3.8 percent, the lowest since 2000. And manufacturing confidence is at historic highs.

The European Union is attempting to punish U.S. workers with unfair and discriminatory trade policies, and President Trump will continue to push for free, fair and reciprocal trade in hopes that the E.U. will join is in that.

QUESTION: And, on that -- and on the -- on the story about Chinese investments, curtailing possible Chinese tech investments, the Treasury secretary, Steve Mnuchin, said five hours ago that a statement would be forthcoming, and we still don't have it.

When might that be coming, or what exactly is the administration's stance on this?

SANDERS: Again, as the secretary said, a statement would go out that targets all countries that are trying to steal our technology, and we expect that to be out soon. We'll keep you posted.

John (ph)?

QUESTION: Thanks a lot, Sarah. Back on immigration, in terms of what the president envisions for the immigration policy that he'd like to see put in place, should asylum seekers be able to get their case heard before an immigration judge?

SANDERS: Certainly, there is a process in order to go through. There are points of entry that asylum-seekers should go to. We encourage them to work through the system and not come across the border illegally.

In fact, anyone that goes to a port of entry seeking asylum will not be prosecuted, and we would encourage people to use the correct system and not try to break the law.

Steve?

QUESTION: One more on trade, following up on what -- on what Blake asked about Harley Davidson.

[16:00:00]

They announced in an SEC filing, they're moving a significant amount of their operations to Europe because of the E.U. tariffs that were placed on Harley Davidson motorcycles.