Return to Transcripts main page


President Trump Officially Launches His 2020 Campaign; President Trump In Orlando For Campaign Kickoff As New Poll Shows Biden, Sanders Would Beat Him In Florida; Acting Defense Secretary Shanahan Resigns, Addresses Reports Of Domestic Violence; President Trump Doubles Down On Threat Of Immigration Roundup. Aired on 8-9p ET

Aired June 18, 2019 - 20:00   ET


[20:00:18] JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: Good evening. John Berman, in for Anderson.

Tonight, four years after coming down the escalator at Trump Tower, the president officially declares he is running a second term. Yes, he actually filed the paper work the day he was inaugurated. This is his 60th campaign rally since then.

Still, tonight's events and you're looking at live pictures now is in Orlando, Florida. We'll go to the president live when he begins speaking. Mike Pence, the vice president, is the final speaker before the president.

What we'll be listening for tonight is if he hits on the same themes the president has been on these other campaign events or if he takes on new issues tonight. In addition, we will, of course, be keeping them honest on what he says including the campaign slogan, promises made, promises kept and we're going to bring you the latest on the chaos on his cabinet or acting cabinet as the case may be with the acting secretary of defense departing even as the confrontation with Iran grows more serious.

Plenty to talk about. Plenty that matters.

Let's go first to CNN's Kaitlan Collins who was down in Orlando.

Kaitlan, we're watching the vice president right now. You're in that hall. What do we expect to hear from the president tonight?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, the president has been sitting back for the last several months and watching this expansive Democratic field go out and launch their campaigns and now he wants some of the attention to be back on him. So, the president is going to do that tonight. The campaign has the official launch of the reelection bid. But, of course, John, the president has been running since the day he was inaugurated.

Now, the question of what you'll hear from the president tonight and whether that's anything different is another question and saying to expect essentially the same playbook from the president tonight and you got a little bit of a hint of that, John, from the president's tweets on immigration. BERMAN: Right. That's exactly right.

The president insisted today before departing the White House for the rally that there is a mayor deportation operation that will get underway next week. We have reporting that suggestions otherwise. Isn't that true, Kaitlan?

COLLINS: Yes, we're being told by senior officials they don't know what the president is saying when he's referencing these millions of people being deported. They said that there is tentative plans to pick up families in July that have been given orders in about 10 cities or so, but they've been cautious to say those plans are not final and while the list isn't final I see there, they said it's not in the millions.

And that's why you've seen in the aftermath of the president's vaguely worded tweet, the White House refers to DHS and DHS refers us back to the White House.

BERMAN: Kaitlan, many of the president's supporters, and again, we're watching this rally live. Mike Pence, the vice president, is speaking right now.

A lot of those people have been waiting all day ever before to get in. What's the enthusiasm like from where you stand?

COLLINS: Yes, there is a lot of enthusiasm. We walked around earlier. There have been people in line since lunchtime yesterday.

Let me tell you, it downpoured here in Orlando earlier. So, there is a lot of excitement here for the president.

But, John, one thing to note as we were walking around talking to some of the president's supporters who voted for him in 2016, they say they're going to vote again for him in 2020. When we asked who is the one Democrat they might be worried can beat the president, John, they said the same name you've been hearing the president himself worried about -- Joe Biden.

BERMAN: That is very interesting.

Kaitlan, one last point here. As I'm looking at the stage, Mike Pence is speaking from a teleprompter. I assume the president will as well. Does this indicate there is a specific speech he plans to deliver?

COLLINS: Well, John, there is always a teleprompter for the president at these rallies. Aides work on those speeches for days but, of course, as you know, President Trump often goes off teleprompter, especially in an arena where he's got nearly 20,000 of his supporters according to the campaign here cheering him on. So, even if there is a teleprompter for the president, expect him to say what's on his mind tonight.

BERMAN: All right. Kaitlan Collins, thank you very much.

I just want to tell you we're looking at the president's family and adult children are attending this rally. Donald Trump Jr. has already spoken.

With us for the hour in Washington, CNN Political Director, David Chalian, Chief Political Analyst, Gloria Borger, Chief Legal Analyst, Jeffrey Toobin, former Republican presidential candidate and U.S. Senator, Rick Santorum. And in Charlotte, North Carolina, all by himself, former South Carolina Democratic State Legislator Bakari Sellers. Rick and Bakari are CNN political commentators.

David, I wanted to start with you again, as we've been looking at the stage here. What do you think is the president's main goal besides ginning up he's already energized base.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Right, that is no doubt goal number one, John. But, obviously, to drive home this message of promises made, promises kept, and wanted to make sure that he's telling the story of how he delivered on the promise of that spectacular 2016 run that he had for the presidency.

[20:05:02] And we'll see, as you know, one of the great frustrations of a lot of Republicans on Capitol Hill, even some people inside his administration has been not to have a relentless focus on the economic good news day in and day out, and I am curious to see if that becomes a major thread in this speech as he tries to frame the reelection argument.

BERMAN: Gloria, one source told CNN that campaign officials are hoping this event will satisfy the president's thirst for the spotlight and reset the campaign's efforts. But this is the 60th campaign rally for the president. So, is there any reason to think that this event could move the needle?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Not necessarily. But I think it might make the president feel a lot better. He's been upset lately because there has been a lot of attention on Democratic candidates. You know, he's been taking on Joe Biden every single day and he's upset at Fox News because they have the temerity to host town halls with, of all people, Democrats.

So, he didn't like that programming. And he wants the spotlight back. And you see, he's going to get it this evening. This is his kickoff rally.

But as you point out, he's been rallying since the day he's got elected. He's been raising money since the day he got elected. During the midterm elections, there were a lot of candidates who are complaining that the president was out raising money for his own reelection and not for them.

BERMAN: Again, we're watching this live as we speak. When the president comes up and speaks, we will take that.

Senator Santorum, to you.

You know, ginning up the base is something. You need to energize the base. Pleasing the president, that's something also. You want the candidate in a good mood and if the crowd is going to put him in good mood, any campaign wants to do that.

But persuading more how voters. How does the president reach more voters than the ones he already has?

RICK SANTORUM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: He can talk about his record of success and helping Americans, people who he said he was going to help. If you look at wages in this country, they have grown now, you know, for lower wage workers, disproportionally, more than the upper wage earner, that hasn't happen in decades. If you look at poverty among -- in the minority communities, the lowest recorded. I mean, look at employment levels in those communities, the highest recorded.

I mean, the president's job on the economy has been extraordinary. He can go out and talk about how he has reached out and helped the working men and women in Michigan and Wisconsin and Pennsylvania who relied upon him by going out and changing NAFTA, to try to be more responsive to the needs of the communities.

Look, the president has a great message for working men and women across this country. He just hasn't done a very good job in my opinion in articulating that. He has a chance to start doing that now.

BERMAN: He does have a chance to do it tonight if he wants to deliver that economic message, but the message he chose to hit on today as he woke up or before he went to sleep last night, throughout the day, was this message, Bakari, of undocumented immigrants and the notion that there's going to be some massive roundup of undocumented immigrants in this country.

Aside from the policy, again, if the issue here, if the goal is to reach other voters to expand his base, do you think Democrats are actually excited he's focusing on immigration? Do you think his focus on that helps him?

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You know, I don't think Democrats have much to be excited about right now. I think if the election was today and this may throw people off, but if the election was today regardless of what the polls say, I think that Donald Trump will be effected for another four years and I think Democrat haves to get that in their head and begin to focus soundly on beating the president of the United States.

We can have these arguments over his economic policies and talk about how the tariff that he's imposed have destroyed formers in Iowa, Ohio and Illinois throughout the Midwest, we can talk about the fact that there's not promises made and promises kept. In fact, many of the manufacturing jobs he promised to bring back have left.

But what the president does best is actually talk to what is cultural anxiety. I think that we all know now the economic anxiety that the media and I'm part of that helped create this narrative that somehow there was economic anxiety throughout this belt in the Midwest and these working class voters, that's simply not the case and what we're seeing is that cultural anxiety play out, and that's why he goes to these cultural issues.

The president of the United States is going to harp on culture wars. He's going to continue to talk about these cultural issues and I take no solace in that, although it's very divisive and would divide the country. He's won the presidency like that and he's trying to do it again.

BERMAN: Can I ask you, Bakari, as well, a follow up on this, where you said if the election were held today, the president would win. Are you just trying to set the bar intentionally low and scare Democrats or do you actually believe that?

SELLERS: Well, I'm trying to do a little bit of both. I want to scare Democrats into not being complacent. But I mean, I think that we're looking at polls for example that down in Florida where I saw that Joe Biden was up nine points. It's the same poll that had Andrew Gillum, my good friend, up seven points.

I mean, we can't take anything for granted. And we're not calling him Governor Gillum tonight.

[20:10:00] And so, I think that one of the things Democrats have to do is begin to energize our base.

One of the things the Republican Party has going for it right now is when you look in Orlando, you see a base that's so, so excited.

We're relying on Donald Trump for that excitement. That is not a winning formula. We have to make sure our base is excited about whatever candidate is going to be, that's why the debate and that's why this primary, even the sparring between the candidates is very healthy. We have a long way to go as a party.

BERMAN: And we are showing the polls that Bakari was talking about. There's a new Quinnipiac poll out today, head-to-head matchups, an awful long time before a general election would happen, but if it does show if the election were held today, Joe Biden would be leading Donald Trump.

I think the vice president just announced that the president will be entering the room. There he is. President Trump with the First Lady Melania Trump significant that she is there with him. This is a campaign kickoff event, but she will not be at all the campaign events and by no means has she been up at all of them since then.

As we're watching this walkup, Jeffrey Toobin, quickly, give me your thoughts.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I just want to talk away from the politics but to the policy. Remember the president's tweet today, he says millions of people are going to be deported in the near future.

It's worth pausing to consider what that would mean to actual human beings. There are millions of people in this country without documents who have families, who have jobs who are have kids that are American citizens, and the idea that mass deportations could take place in this country, millions of people, that's what the president said, is something that has never happened in American history.

BERMAN: Jeffrey?

TOOBIN: And has only happened in authoritarian countries.

BERMAN: And again, we're waiting to see if he brings up that policy tonight when he speaks.

Let's listen to some of this as the president gets ready to speak. I don't know if we'll hear from the first lady prior to that. Let's watch.


BERMAN: Lee Greenwood, right?

David Chalian, as we're watching this, I will note the playing music, people are wondering what music we walk into. This is "Proud to be an American." I believe that's Lee Greenwood, right?

CHALIAN: I believe you're right, John.

BERMAN: All right. Let's listen.




It has been my honor to serve as first lady of this incredible country for the past two years. And I'm excited to do it for six more.

I'm proud of all that my husband, this administration and our entire family have done on behalf of the American people in such a short time.


He truly loves this country and will continue to work on your behalf as long as he can. All of us will.


Thank you-all again for being here tonight and now, I want to introduce my husband, the president of the United States, Donald J. Trump.



[20:15:03] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We had such luck in Orlando. We love being in Orlando.

Thank you. Thank you, Orlando. What a turnout. What a turnout.


You know, I said this is a very big arena for a Tuesday night, I said, you know, if we have about three or four empty seats, the fake news will say headlines, he didn't fill up the arena, you know?


So, I said maybe we shouldn't take a chance. Maybe we shouldn't go to Orlando. We should go someplace else. I said, no, I think we'll go to Orlando and --


And not only did we fill it up, but we had 120,000 requests. That means you folks have come out very, very good. Congratulations.

I want to thank our great Vice President Mike Pence and his wonderful wife, Karen Pence, and our magnificent First Lady Melania, thank you.


I'm thrilled to be back in my second home. That's what it is. It's my second home. In many cases, I think I could say it's my first home, if you want to know the truth.

It's the great state of Florida.


Very historic because exactly four years ago this week, I announced my campaign for president of the United States.

And it turned out to be more than just a political campaign. It turned out to be a great political movement because of you. A great movement. It's a movement made up of hard working patriots who love their country, love their flag, love their children and who believe that a nation must care for its own citizens first.


Together, we stared down a corrupt and broken establishment and we restored government of, by and for the people.


Our country is now thriving, prospers and booming and frankly, it's soaring to incredible new heights.


Our economy is the envy of the world perhaps the greatest economy we've had in the history of our country. (CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

And as long as you keep this team in place, we have a tremendous way to go. Our future has never ever looked brighter or sharper.


The fact is the American Dream is back. It's bigger and better and stronger than ever before.


2016 was not merely another four-year election. This was a defining moment in American history, ask them right there.



By the way, that is a lot of fake news back there. That's a lot. That's a lot.


You know what I say? The amount of press we have tonight reminds me of the Academy Awards before it went political and their ratings went down the tubes.

[20:20:10] True. This was our chance to reclaim our government.

BERMAN: All right. We've been watching the president kick off his reelection bid. He's been on stage for about six minutes.

Within two minutes, he did talk about the economy. About within four minutes, it was attacks on the media. So, he was talking about a bright rosy future, but then quickly reverted to the same themes he talked about since he began running four years ago today.

If I can, I want to bring back our panel to talk about what we've heard so far.

David Chalian, it was notable to see one of the things we were watching for, Rick Santorum mentioned would the president focus on the economy and he did saying the economy is thriving, prospering and booming. He called it perhaps the best economy ever.

That message lasted about 30 seconds.

CHALIAN: Yes, if the test tonight was, is Donald Trump -- obviously nobody expects Donald Trump to change. I don't think anyone will be surprised. But is Donald Trump going to seize this moment to frame his argument to the American people as to why they should renew his contract for another four years or is he just going to present us the Trump show, you know, and air his grievances and start the bashing of the free press? And he shows no desire whatsoever to try and actually seize this

moment to do something different. Again, I don't think that's terribly surprising.

I will note this one thing, John, he said that I think is interesting. He said that 2016 was not your typical election, that it was a defining moment in history. And it just struck me when he said that because that is exactly what the Biden campaign put out in a statement in advance of this framing this as make Donald Trump an aberration. Do not make it a defining moment of history.

And I think you just saw how the Biden and the Trump teams are looking at where we are in just completely different terms.

BERMAN: Looking at the same moment and completely different terms but they're talking about the same types of things which is interesting because they are the two candidates doing it in the rest of the Democratic field is focused on something else.

Gloria Borger, to you he hit it right away talked about going to Washington, a political movement he called it and taking on the corrupt political establishment. That is a message that he delivered in the campaign three years ago. Now he is the political establishment. Now he is Washington.

BORGER: Well, he is Washington. He's the political establishment. Some would say that former members of his campaign are corrupt. One of them is in jail and others maybe on their way to jail.

But, look, Donald Trump tonight started out on the teleprompter doing what his campaign advisors wanted him to do, talking about how he changed the system, talking about how he changed the country, talking about the good economy. That is what he should be talking about.

He should be saying I have changed the country for the better but can't keep himself from talking about his grievances. And I'm sure later in his speech, he'll get to his grievances with the Democratic candidates when he wonders off, but his first grievance as always was against the press and he couldn't help himself by going there after, what, four or five minutes?

BERMAN: Yes, it was starting at 8:14. It was four minutes in.

BORGER: Right, exactly.

BERMAN: Two minutes in with the economy and four minutes in was that other.

BORGER: You could probably see his speechwriters holding their head in their hands going, oh my God, just read the prompter.

BERMAN: Jeffrey Toobin, your take?

TOOBIN: Well, you know, remember he won the last election. You know, all this oh, isn't it terrible he's attacking the press? He won by attacking the press. He won by being Donald Trump. He won by attacking immigrants.

I mean, you know, the idea that Donald Trump should listen to some speechwriter rather than his own political instincts seems crazy to me. I mean, this is who he is. This is how he won. And like why should he change?

BERMAN: Rick Santorum, you called on him to focus on the economy and for a second, for a minute maybe even, I thought that's where he was going in this speech. Is it enough?

SANTORUM: Yes, look, Donald Trump has been successful because in his campaign he was a disruptive force. He was something that completely unusual in the field of American politics. He has been equally that if not more than that as president and as Jeffrey said, it has worked well for him and so I don't think he's going to change.

[20:25:00] I'm glad he did lead with the economy. I have no doubt he will come back to it throughout this speech and he will -- that will be the central focus of his campaign.

But he will talk about how he took on the establishment, by the way, whether you like it or not, John, the media is part of the elite establishment. So, it's not something different. It's not like I'm going to go and take on the media. The media is part of the Washington establishment.

And so, the voters out there across America see this not incongruent, saying, oh I took them on and we got these policies done, but I took them on and I took on the media, I took on the establishment.

So, I think this is all part of his shtick and as Jeffrey said, I think it was successful and I think I will be successful again.

BERMAN: Bakari Sellers, which message scares you more? Would it scare you more if the president did stick to the economy or does this anti-establishment or even anti-media message, is that something you think will resonate with swing voters?

SELLERS: Well, I don't really think anything matters anymore when it comes to Donald Trump. When he went down this path as Jeffrey rightfully pointed out earlier, where you bash immigrants, where you're bashing the media, this is how he became president of the United States.

And the irony to this, the reason I say nothing matters anymore is because voters have to set aside what Donald Trump says because we know that to not be the case. Donald Trump is the most unethical president we had in a very, very long period of time.

You talk about draining the swamp, well, the Trump family drained the swamp and replaced them with their own gators. I mean, the Trump family made a racket off of being in the White House, that is a fact. I mean, small things from Kellyanne Conway being just chastised and told she needed to be removed from office for her violations of the Hatch Act, to even more grave things like the secretary, like Mitch McConnell's wife actually going out and profiting off of her office and not being clear about her ethical conflicts.

So, this -- nothing matters anymore when it comes to Donald Trump. I think that's the frustration and what Democrat haves to do, whether or not he's talking about his divisive cultural war rhetoric or whether or not he's talking about the economy is give the American people something to look forward to.

It's not enough to say what Donald Trump is. Many of us knew for example Donald Trump was a racist in 2016. Voters knew that and they still voted for him anyway. That is not enough to say that.

You have to give voters a reason to come out and vote for you. That is what the American public is looking for. That's why this primary has to be exciting.

BERMAN: All right. Friends, stand by. We have a lot more to talk about. We'll take more to the speech and analyze what he says.

Also ahead, the departure of history's longest serving acting defense secretary. The vetting that apparently was not fully done and what it says about the West Wing.


[20:31:57] BERMAN: All right, the President is speaking tonight in Orlando touting the economy, then within minutes trashing the press. He has declared his love for Florida even as Floridians are trying to be showing him less love at least so far than 2016.

Take a look at this. This shows him trailing four Democrats, some by a lot. It's a brand new Quinnipiac Poll. On top of that, the "Orlando Sentinel" today, which has mostly endorsed Republicans over the years, including Mitt Romney in 2012, endorsed essentially not Trump.

And I'm quoting now, "After two and a half years we've seen enough. Enough of the chaos, the division, the schoolyard insults, the self- aggrandizement, the corruption, and especially the lies. So many lies, from white lies to whoppers, told out of ignorance, laziness, recklessness, expediency or opportunity."

Back now with CNN Political Director David Chalian, Chief Political Analyst Gloria Borger, Chief Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin, former Republican presidential candidate and U.S. Senator, Rick Santorum, also former South Carolina Democratic State Legislator Bakari Sellers. Rick and Bakari are (INAUDIBLE) of CNN Political Commentators.

And just so everyone knows, we all monitoring the event for news if the President does say something new, the same attacks he's been making in the past on things like the media, that's not so new. But if he does make some news, we'll get back there.

David Chalian, to you, the "Orlando Sentinel" endorsement of not Trump, greeting the President when he arrives, does give you sense of some of the headwinds he faces that there is a fatigue out there among some people? CHALIAN: Right. We should note, this paper, the "Orlando Sentinel," I think endorsed Hillary Clinton in 2016. So, I don't think that it has necessarily a ton of sway in terms of an election outcome, John, but I do think it is an argument, putting forth an argument of exactly what you're describing and quite frankly, what I think we saw in the 2018 midterms, right?

I mean, this is what is so critical for us I think to think about as we think about Trump's reelection. Remember that Donald Trump actually vested Hillary Clinton among independent voters in 2016. That was part of his success. And the independent voters went fleeing from the Republican Party in 2018 because of the behavioral stuff that the "Sentinel" put in that editorial.

And I think that, as we're seeing tonight at this rally, he is not going to adjust that behavioral stuff in any way, which begs the question how he plans on getting those independent voters back into the fold.

BERMAN: That's right, the chaos, the division, the schoolyard insults, the self-aggrandizement, Gloria. And as David was saying in the six minutes we saw of the speech, it was already there. He will not put that aside and that does seem to be something at least in the midterm elections that swing voters did find a problem.

BORGER: Well, they did and Donald Trump said the other day, I'm going to run in 2020 the way I ran in 2016, so he's not going to change because it worked for him once before.

[20:35:00] As Jeff Toobin was saying, it worked for him before to attack the media, attack the media. It worked for him before just say he was going to drain the swamp, say you're draining the swamp. Say you're going to build a wall, well, I'm still going to build a wall.

So he's going to run that way again because it worked once. The question is, these voters who held their noses and voted for him because they didn't like Hillary Clinton, what are they going to do now? And if you look at this polling in Florida, and again it's early so we have to give all the caveats, if you look at this polling in Florida, folks are saying, well, we're not so thrilled about Trump.

What was interesting in this Quinnipiac Poll was that a majority of Florida voters in this same poll, 54 percent say they are better off financially today than they were in 2016. So the question is what are they going to decide on? Will it be this so-called character issue that we say in the end people never vote on character? Will that become a huge issue in this campaign? That's what Joe Biden and a lot of Democrats want.

BERMAN: Bakari is with us right now. Bakari, what do think -- again, you have this issue of a dichotomy between the President's approval rating, which is never cracked 50 percent, 42 percent I believe in some of the most recent polls and you also have this economic numbers.

And there is this split and one of the biggest unknown in politics now is will that split remain? Will voters vote against the President despite the economy? What's the best way for Democrats to address that?

SELLERS: Well, again, I have to go back to this age-old saying of actually giving voters a reason to come out. I mean, there are a lot of us who believe that this is just simply a continuation of the Obama economy. That messaging in all likely hit and I know Rick would jump on me for saying that if I was next to him, would not work because Donald Trump is now the President of the United States and he gets an opportunity to own that.

And so if in fact Donald Trump was able to stay on an economic message and you saw things like wages increase and unemployment rates stay steady, then Democratic voters have to go out and we have to talk about those bread and butter issues. We have to talk about the fact that the tax bill was nothing but a sham. It won't pay for itself and there are many of these voters who work hard every single day who are not feeling the benefit of that relief that the President is talking about. That's substantively.

But we're actually going to be fighting this as well on cultural and moral grounds and value grounds. That is something that the Beto O'Rourke, the Pete Buttigieg, and the Joe Biden's talks about, a new moral America. And so we'll have to see and I think that the Democrats have to weave that closely. I will caution this, though.

I know David Chalian has the numbers gut, but we also saw, if I'm not mistaken, we also saw a decrease in African-American participation, percentage of participation down from 2008 and 2012. That number, for example, it has to go back up in Wisconsin, in Michigan and Pennsylvania, the three states where this election was lost.

You had Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton on the ballot, but there were many voters who chose the couch and did not come out and who stayed at home. That's a very, very concerning problem for Democrats. We have to give those voters a reason to come out again.

BERMAN: David Chalian -- go ahead, David.

CHALIAN: John, I just want to make just one point to what Bakari is saying and he mentioned it several times now. I do want to underscored I think it is really instructive when you look this notion of excitement, of enthusiasm.

When you look at people pitching tents and waiting for two days to get into the Trump rally to -- for people who are just coming out of the woodwork because they are so committed and loyal to this mammoth they want to see and join this effort of this reelection, you have to ask yourself, among those 23 Democrats, which one of those do you think are going to have people that would be pitching tents a day before a rally to get inside and show their support.

And I think that -- obviously I don't mean that literally, but I do mean that as an instruction that you have to think through which one of these Democrats can enthuse their supporters that much that they can like take this battle to the President. I think that's going to be a big question in this primary season. BERMAN: I did see a flinch in Bakari there because he's thinking that Kamala Harris, the senator from California, did draw 16,000 roughly at her campaign announcement. But that's the only thing we've seen where the numbers approach anywhere near what the President claims he's getting tonight.

Rick Santorum, I do want to ask you, the President was talking about the economy now. I saw yesterday JPMorgan Chase says there is twice as much of a likelihood of a recession next year that they were predicting at the beginning. You're nodding your head no, but I want to know what would happen if there start to be economic problems.

The President seems to get very nervous when the stock market goes down, when you have people concerned about for instance the trade war, when more and more people are yelling and screaming, then he starts to gets concern. He's very proud of the fact that he's meeting with President Xi from China in a couple months or next week or two weeks from now, I should say. So if the economy isn't as good eight months from now, how much of a problem is it for him?

SANTORUM: Well, clearly, the economic record for the President is one that is the calling card to the American public and it will be in this campaign.

[20:40:07] And if the economy drops off precipitously, which I don't think it's going to happen, is it would be damaging to the President, no doubt about it. But I also throw the fact that if you look at what the Democrats are proposing, I mean, there's this mad rush to the left.

I mean, guaranteed health care for everyone with Medicaid for all and, you know, we're going to pay off all, we're going to pay for free college, we're going to pay off all your student loans, we're going to pay your rent, and we're going to guarantee your income.

I mean, people are going to be -- and particularly, even if you accept what you said, which is the economy may be heading down and then you hear all of this huge infusion of government, all of these increases in taxes, I think -- look, I think that the President has an Achilles heel and it's his personality. I agree with that. It's also what energizes people, but it also turns off people.

But the Democrats Achilles heel is they are just gone crazy on over, you know, on socialism and I don't think that sells and that's going to be the divisive point even in a bad economy, that kind of heavy rhetoric on socialism, I just don't think sells.

BERMAN: Everyone stick around. Jeffrey Toobin, I owe you one or more than one. We'll get back to you. Up next, the fallout from the resignation of the acting defense secretary after a new report on domestic violence in his family. The question tonight, what happened to the White House vetting process?


[20:45:22] BERMAN: As President Trump speaks tonight in Orlando, the White House faces a number of uncomfortable questions at this hour about its vetting process after its nominee for defense secretary not only pulled his nomination but resigned as acting secretary. Patrick Shanahan sited a painful and deeply personal situation from long ago first documented in a graphic detail in a new story for "The Washington Post."

Now, despite the details, including a horrific attack by Shanahan's son on his mother using a baseball bat and Shanahan's questionable actions afterward, President Trump said today we have a very good vetting process. He also said he'd only heard about the nominee's problems yesterday for the first time.

"360's" Randi Kaye has more about the acts of domestic violence at the center of this controversy.


KIMBERLEY SHANAHAN, PATRICK SHANAHAN'S EX-WIFE: My husband is throwing punches at me.

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan caught in a violent late night argument with his wife at the family Seattle home in 2010. His wife, Kimberley Shanahan, called 911.

SHANAHAN: He's been hitting me. I don't need a medic, I just need -- I need you guys to get him out of the house.

KAYE: The police report shows his wife at the time insisted that Patrick had hit her and struck her several times in the stomach. Yet responding officers found Kimberley did not have any visible marks on her. Police also noted in the report Patrick had a black eye and a bloody nose.

Patrick denied hitting her saying that she was the aggressor according to police. Patrick Shanahan told police his wife threw his clothing out of their home and tried to light it on fire. He said she struck him multiple times in the face. His wife was arrested and charged with assault, though the charges were later dropped.

One year later, another violent incident in the family. In November 2011, the couple's son, William Shanahan, brutally beat his mother with a baseball bat. She was left with a bloody head wound and a fractured skull according to the police incident report.

Still, Patrick Shanahan defended his son at the time saying in a memo to his ex-wife's brother, "Use of a baseball bat in self-defense will likely be viewed as an imbalance of force. Will's mother harassed him for nearly three hours before the incident."

Meanwhile, just last night, Shanahan told "The Washington Post" he regretted writing that. "I have never believed Will's attack on his mother was an act of self-defense or justified. I don't believe violence is appropriate ever."

In January, Shanahan's ex-wife, who changed her name to Kimberley Jordinson, told CNN she stood by her allegations in that August 2010 domestic argument.

Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.


BERMAN: Our thanks to Randi for that. Back now with our political team. Jeff, first of all, we should just say that the story here, the background on Patrick Shanahan and what happened in that family is simply horrible. The larger question for the White House is that this was all out there in documents. Did the vetting process fail?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Right. And just to emphasize what you said, this was a very sad situation. Obviously, I don't know what happened, what the cause was, all the circumstances, but there's a way to deal with this and there's a way not to deal with it. If you want to nominate someone who has an event like this in their past, first of all, you air it out. You tell the members of the Senate.

Remember, he was confirmed to be deputy secretary of defense, so he's already been through this process. He has a very high level security clearance. But the way you deal with this is you address it early on, you try to explain what happened and then decide whether you can go forward with the nomination.

To spring this on the public and on the Senate who would have to vote on his nomination to be secretary of defense at the very last minute, I mean, he is -- you know, the vote would be coming up soon. I mean, it's completely incompetent on the part of at least the White House and certainly the FBI has a lot to answer for if they didn't raise this as well because divorces are a classic area to investigate when you are doing a background check on someone.

BERMAN: Gloria, it's not like there's nothing going on in terms of national security these days.

BORGER: Right.

BERMAN: There's a full blown crisis with Iran with 1,000 new troops headed to the region. This is a heck of a time to be in between acting defense secretaries.

BORGER: Right. I mean, don't forget, it's been about six months since General Mattis resigned, and so we haven't had a real secretary of defense that isn't acting in a long time.

[20:50:08] And this administration seems to have a lot of problems that way. The President once said, you know, I like to have actings, as he put it, because they're more flexible, which means that they don't need to be confirmed.

But I think the problem here with Shanahan was that the FBI was continuing to do its background checks but couldn't conclude it and so the Congress had to keep putting off the confirmation because they couldn't get all of the paperwork in. And as you point out, this comes at an incredibly inconvenient time. The President has appointed somebody else to be an acting secretary of defense, but there's a crisis going on in the Gulf of Oman. There are questions about what's going on with North Korea. We do have a secretary of state, obviously, but this is a President who hasn't been able to settle on one of his chief people and that's really a problem.

And as Jeffrey says, it says something about the vetting process in this White House. You know, they nominated a couple of people they wanted to serve on the Fed, that didn't go so well. There are VA secretary nominee. Ronny Jackson didn't go so well. They have a problem here.

BERMAN: And very quickly, David, because we're almost out of time, does it fight the message that he's trying to deliver on the stage tonight in Orlando that he came here and fought corruption and fought the establishment problems in the establishment where there have been so many problems within his own cabinet.

CHALIAN: Yes. And I think the Republicans on Capitol Hill, John, have made clear to the President that there's no time this fall to deal with some controversial nominee here. So they're looking for a cleaner process than has existed to date.

BERMAN: All right, more to talk about next, including the President's threat warning tease. It's hard to know what to call it, that he will deport perhaps millions of people starting next week.


[20:55:41] BERMAN: Immigration took center stage for the President tonight in Orlando when he set the scene with a tweet overnight. He said, "Next week ICE will be in the process of removing the millions of illegal aliens who have illicitly found their way into the United States."

The catch, along with possible legal practical and humanitarian considerations, it wasn't immediately clear what plan he was even talking about. When asked the senior administration, official told us there were "not a lot of happy faces around the Department of Homeland Security."

Meantime, when asked today, the President insisted that top immigration officials are, in fact, in aware of the deportation initiative. In the meantime, recent CNN polling shows skepticism of the President's handling of immigration with 41 percent approval and 54 percent disapproval.

Back now with our gang. Senator Santorum, the President's tweet, there are really no details about how he plans to round up millions of undocumented immigrants, how that would actually work. The President is saying -- insisted that ICE is aware and they'll start this initiative next week. But we all saw how the family separations played out for the President, one would think that this administration doesn't want a repeat of that. SANTORUM: Well, what the tweet said is he will begin deporting the millions of people who are here. He didn't say he will be deporting millions. He said he will begin deporting the millions who are here and there are. There 11, 12, 13 million illegal people in this country.

Let's first focus on who is the deporter in chief and that was Barack Obama who deported almost 3 million people, many more than Donald Trump.

BERMAN: Senator, we're just talking about the details about whether or not he has an actual plan here.

SANTORUM: Well, the reality is, Donald Trump obviously has plans. ICE has been working on plans. They even admitted that they have been working on different plans to try to increase deportations. And the reason is -- and this is why I disagree with Bakari the way he's framed the issue and Jeffrey framed the issue. The immigration issue for the President is not a cultural issue, it's not a moral issue, it's an economic issue.

If you look at why Barack Obama early in his presidency deported so many people is because we were in a recession and they were taking jobs away from Americans who were in need of jobs. I mean, this is an economic issue, one of the reasons that Donald Trump is doing well along lower wage workers because they see this as not a cultural issue or a moral issue, they see it squarely an economic issue where you're deporting people with lower skills who are competing with low-wage workers for jobs.

BERMAN: Bakari, you want to respond to that?

SELLER: Yes, that competition is non-existent. In fact, that's a political trope that we hear often times that somehow illegal immigrants or undocumented immigrants are here to take jobs from other black and brown people and that's simply not the case. And I actually do agree with Rick that the President is not looking at this as a humanitarian issue, that's pretty clear and evident.

I mean, I think that this President along with his former secretary of Homeland Security are going to be remembered for their border separation policy where you have children who is young as four months old being separated from their families. He's going to be remembered for the inhumanity, the cruelty, the lack of heart and compassion in dealing with this issue.

This is a very difficult issue that president after president after president has failed to adequately resolve or handle, I can admit that. It takes a bipartisan resolution to get this done. It takes the Gang of Eight and many others which have been lambasted by the right for a long period of time.

The President of the United States, though, is ill equipped to deal with this because the President of the United States does not have the character, the patience or the compassion to deal with this issue in the way that it should be. BERMAN: I will note, there's a bipartisan appropriations deal to talk about on the Senate side on the border and they will see if it gets through the House and the President's desk. David Chalian and Gloria, you have about 10 seconds each for a last thought from you. David?

CHALIAN: Well, it's just crystal clear, John, that the President believes this issue works for him. It works for him politically. It energizes his base and he thinks it's what delivered the Oval Office to him. And I would just question, he tried this in 2018 in the midterms also to lean into this issue and it didn't work. Why does he believe this will get him reelected? That is not clear to me.

BERMAN: Gloria, very quickly?

BORGER: Promises from Donald Trump. I mean, before the midterms he talked about a new tax cut, which we haven't seen. He's going to talk about rounding up immigrants, about building the wall. He's going to throw (INAUDIBLE) against any wall that he possibly can as he heads into this election saying he's tried to keep his other promises, the Democrats have got in the way and wait for some new one.

BERMAN: All right, friends, thank you very much for watching with -- this with us and helping us understand this. The news continues.