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AT THIS HOUR

Trump Responds to Paul Ryan's Criticism Cited in New Book; Emotions Run High During Child Detention Hearing; Trump's Sole GOP Presidential Challenger, Bill Weld, Discusses a Possible Delay in Robert Mueller's Testimony, Alex Acosta's Resignation, Justin Amash Leaving GOP & Presidential Race. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired July 12, 2019 - 11:30   ET

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


[11:30:00] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Even if the Mississippi River was at normal levels. What is it, 10 feet above where it's supposed to be?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Absolutely.

BOLDUAN: All right, Chad, thank you so much. I really appreciate it.

MYERS: You're welcome, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Still to come for us, a new book is out. This time, the sources are all on the record, and one of them is named Paul Ryan. And Donald Trump is not happy. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BOLDUAN: So, Paul Ryan, tell us how you really feel. In a new book by "Politico's" Tim Alberta -- the book is called "American Carnage" -- the former Republican House speaker has a thing or two to say about the current Republican president.

Like this. Here's one excerpt: "I told myself I've got to have a relationship with this guy to help him get his mind right, because I'm telling you, he didn't know anything about government. I wanted to scold him all the time. Those of us around him really helped to stop him from making bad decisions all the time."

This is according to the "Washington Post." They got an early copy of the book, which is set to come out soon.

Is the president ignoring this? Obviously not. Taking, first, to Twitter and then, moments ago, on the White House lawn, the president said this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Paul Ryan was not a talent. He wasn't a leader.

Paul Ryan was a lame duck for a long time as speaker. He was unable to raise money. He lost control of the House. The only success Paul Ryan had was the time that he was with me, because we got taxes cut. Frankly, he was a baby. He didn't know what the hell he was doing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[11:35:19] BOLDUAN: With me now is CNN political commentator, former communications director for the Republican National Committee, who, of course, worked with Republican leadership on Capitol Hill, Doug Heye.

It's good to see you, Doug.

DOUG HEYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Good to be with you.

BOLDUAN: OK. You've got Paul Ryan on the record. You say, and what we're seeing coming out in this book, you say this is very important for the Republican Party, why?

HEYE: The main reason is, this is so often what we hear privately, that is said publicly. It's very similar to the situation with the British ambassador.

But this, I think, really highlights, there's going to be a point where Donald Trump is not the Republican president -- is not leading the Republican Party.

BOLDUAN: Right.

HEYE: This, to me, pre-stages how the Republican Party potentially could really fold in amongst itself and divide, and ultimately could spell doom for the party long-term.

And meanwhile, it also shows that Donald Trump very clearly does not care about the Republican Party that he leads unless it follows him blindly.

BOLDUAN: Why do you say that?

HEYE: Because what we see so often is Donald Trump is your biggest fan as long as you're his fan. And the second something negative comes out, Donald Trump goes after you. Donald Trump doesn't -- and this should be a lesson to every Republican member who goes out of their way to praise Donald Trump on everything. He doesn't give points. He only takes them away one at a time.

BOLDUAN: Yes. Loyalty all the time, but that's never remembered later. You can't cash points with him.

You have to hand it to Paul Ryan. I mean, he is telling Alberta this stuff on the record. That's what I was saying, that's what -- I'm loving about this book because it leads me to wonder why is it that some Republicans need, though, to leave office like Paul Ryan before they stand up to President Trump? Before they say the things that you are being told quietly?

Just look at the long list of -- just like Bob Corker. Justin Amash not only leaves the party and then starts really saying all of this stuff. Why does it have to be that way? HEYE: It comes down to polling numbers. Donald Trump is, as we've

seen, very popular, 85 percent, 90 percent-plus within the Republican Party. But it's not just a wide approval but it is very deep. It is a very deeply loyal base to Trump.

As we've seen -- Mark Sanford is a good example. If you cross Donald Trump personally, not on policy, where a lot of people may stand up and disagree with him, if you cross him personally, you do so at your own political peril.

BOLDUAN: It took me no time to look up the old quotes from Paul Ryan. Things like the tax cut press conference, "We could not have done this without exquisite presidential leadership." On Charlottesville, when he was coming out to condemn what the president said in Charlottesville, "He's learning. I know his heart is in the right place."

That is very different from what we hear from Paul Ryan once he leaves.

HEYE: Yes. I remember watching that tax event and e-mailing with an ex colleague of mine, who said, "If they were still working in the House of Representatives, we wouldn't be doing that." And I quoted Earnest Hemmingway's last line in "The Sun Also Rises," "It's really pretty to think so."

The reality is Paul Ryan was in a very difficult situation. He not only had to work with Donald Trump, he had to hold his House conference together. And --

BOLDUAN: And he couldn't get anything done if he --

(CROSSTALK)

HEYE: And that's the tax bill.

BOLDUAN: Yes. And that's exactly what you're seeing playing out.

Great to see you, Doug.

HEYE: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: There's much more to come from this book. I'm really looking forward to reading this.

Thanks for coming in. I appreciate it.

Still ahead for us, we're going to go back -- we have much more on our breaking news this hour. Robert Mueller's testimony before Congress, which has been planned and on the schedule for next week, it may be delayed. We're going to get reaction from President Trump's lone 2020 Republican challenger, next.

But first, an update on the "CNN Hero" that we first told you about last fall. Luke Mickelson wanted to help children who were sleeping on the floor because their families couldn't afford beds. He quit his job to start a nonprofit that builds and delivers bunk beds to children in need. In less than a year, his project has taken off in ways that he never would have imagined. Just take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LUKE MICKELSON, CNN HERO: We've went from just one little community to over almost 200 communities now, over 30,000 volunteers.

(SHOUTING)

MICKELSON: We've also received over 50,000 bed requests.

We're here to deliver beds. Do you want to show me where they go?

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: Yes.

MICKELSON: All right.

We started a new program in 2019 to help those kids that have been affected by natural disasters throughout the country.

Probably the best, yes.

We bring dignity, self-respect.

Perfect.

We're bringing something that they own and can be proud of.

Yes!

Like it?

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: The smile says it all. Go to CNNheros.com right now to read more about Luke's fight and journey and great work.

[11:39:49] We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BOLDUAN: This just in from Capitol Hill. Emotions running high as members of Congress are testifying before their own colleagues, before committees. Congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib in tears at the House Oversight Committee this morning on the Trump administration's child separation policy.

Sunlen Serfaty is joining me now with much more on this.

Sunlen, what happened?

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Kate, very emotional moments and very powerful moments coming out of the House Oversight Committee hearing this morning. Where, as you said, we hear from the testimony of some freshmen members of Congress who recently this traveled to the detention centers at the border. And they testified in front of their colleagues today to give their firsthand account of what actually they saw with their own eyes while they were touring the facilities.

[11:45:04] The Congresswomen described with great detail about what they say is inhumane conditions for the migrants. They say that some were treated "like dogs" -- that's a quote from them -- put in cages. They described people who did not have access to medicines that they needed. They described the conditions of overcrowding in what they say were very hot conditions.

And certainly, we've heard many stories coming from those detention centers at the border, but here's more of the emotional testimony from these Congresswomen today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY): This is a manufactured crisis because cruelty -- because the cruelty is manufactured. This is a manufactured crisis because there's no need for us to do this. There's no need for us to overcrowd and to detain and under-resource. There's no need for us to arrest innocent people and treat them no differently than criminals when they are pursuing their basic human rights.

REP. RASHIDA TLAIB, (D-MI): The fear in their eyes won't be forgotten, Mr. Speaker. But the suffering in these illegal -- camps cannot be forgotten. Imagine traveling thousands of miles in dangerous conditions because you have no other option only to be separated from your family and children, thrown into overcrowded cages, denied a shower, toothbrush, and, yes, Mr. Chairman, drink water out of a toilet if you're thirsty.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SERFATY: Now, early this morning, the House Oversight Committee released some new data, some new information that they were able to secure because of a subpoena they issued of the Trump administration, new information about the information of how many children, in fact, were separated.

Now, of the 2,648 children, Kate, at least 18 were infants and toddlers under the age of 2, including nine babies under the age of 1. And they were kept apart from a period of about 20 days to six months. So more details certainly emerging from this hearing today.

And Chairman Cummings calling that data and those stats that were revealed today proof, he says, that the child separation policy of the administration was more harmful and more traumatic and chaotic, in his words, than we previously knew.

The committee is still meeting right now. They are hearing testimony from the inspectors general from HHS and DHS, of course, to get their perspective of what's going on at the border -- Kate? BOLDUAN: OK, Sunlen, thank you so much for bringing us that. I

really appreciate it.

We're going to turn now to another breaking story happening on Capitol Hill that we've been watching this morning. The highly anticipated testimony from Robert Mueller may be delayed.

It's a wild roller coaster of a Friday in Washington as we watch it play out, because we have that possible delay and that much- anticipated testimony, and then you also have the labor secretary, Alex Acosta, announcing he is resigning.

Here to discuss is President Trump's sole Republican challenger for president, Bill Weld, the former governor of Massachusetts.

Governor, thank you for being here.

BILL WELD, (R), FORMER MASSACHUSETTS GOVERNOR & PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you, Kate. Pleasure.

BOLDUAN: A million things to ask you about today.

First on Mueller, you know Bob Mueller. If I'm correct, he worked for you, right?

WELD: He was my deputy in the Justice Department.

BOLDUAN: In the '80s. When he testifies, if it's next week or beyond that, do you think there's anything that is going to come out in testimony that he is going to say that will actually cut into -- that will change Republicans' minds? Will cut into his support.

WELD: Absolutely. I think his testimony is going to pack a wallop because all a member has to ask him is, Mr. Mueller, did your report conclude that Mr. Trump instructed the director of National Intelligence to lie to obstruct the investigation. Yes. And did your report conclude that he instructed a national security official to lie for the same purpose? Yes.

And did your report conclude that he instructed his own legal counsel to fabricate a false document and put it in the file in order to cover the president's tracks and obstruct the investigation? Yes. Do you agree, Mr. Mueller, with the 1,000 federal prosecutors who have stated that these incidents make out a clear offense of obstruction of justice and it's not even a close call?

I know Bob Mueller. He's an experienced prosecutor. It's going to be hard for him to say no.

BOLDUAN: But that's in the report.

WELD: That's right. But hearing --

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: -- on this and look where we are right now. WELD: Hearing him say all that and confirm what's in the report that,

frankly, a lot of people haven't read, I think is going to pack a wallop.

BOLDUAN: You and I will watch together or separately.

Alex Acosta just on the news, secretary of labor. He is now resigning, because of all the renewed scrutiny that has been on his role as a U.S. attorney in Florida over the sweetheart deal that was cut with Jeffrey Epstein at the time.

As you watched this play out and you saw what he said this morning in resigning, what's your reaction?

WELD: It seems to me the Trump administration might have calculated that they had some exposure over the continued focus on Jeffrey Epstein, because of Mr. Acosta, and concluded that Mr. Acosta had to go.

[11:50:06] Because, if you recall, during the earlier go around of trouble, in the sex case involving Mr. Epstein, Mr. Trump publicly took to the air waves and said, "Jeff Epstein is a terrific guy. He appears to love beautiful women almost as much as I do." These are direct quotes.

BOLDUAN: That was back in 2002, I think.

WELD: Yes. That's right. "And some of them appear to be on the younger side. And he certainly enjoys his social life."

Now, how did Mr. Trump know all those things unless he had socialized with Mr. Epstein? I don't think the administration wants those questions asked one little bit.

BOLDUAN: But 2002 is not 2019. Friendship can fall apart in that amount of time, yes?

WELD: That's true. And Mr. Trump did strike him on the no-fly list for Mar-a-Lago years later.

But that was his spontaneous reaction to the reports about his then friend, Jeffrey Epstein. He appeared to know a lot about Mr. Epstein's social life. Mr. Epstein, by his own words, was a fixture in Palm Beach, where Mar-a-Lago is located.

So that's my inference anyway. I think it's a reasonable inference. And I'm speaking as a seven-year former federal prosecutor.

BOLDUAN: You do have experience.

Let's talk about the race. Let's talk about where we are right now. CNN's latest poll has the president's approval rating amongst Republicans at 89 percent. Why do you think the president's approval rating, support amongst Republicans remains so high?

WELD: Among Republicans and the Republican state committees in all 50 states, those organizations are the Trump campaign in each of those states so obviously I'm not going hunting for ducks there. I'm not going to try to charm them any more than they can charm me.

I have found one interesting thing on the stump. I get very good response when I make my case. Almost everyone seems to say, yes, we think that.

But a lot of people are Democrats. And they're not even conservative Democrats. Some of them are liberal Democrats. They say, we're going to come vote in the Republican primary for you, for Bill Weld, so we can vote against Mr. Trump twice. Instead of throwing a dart into the air in the Democratic primary, we're going to vote in the Republican primary because, that way, we know we're casting a vote directly against Mr. Trump.

If that catches on, it's going to totally reconfigure the Republican primary. Which, in 20 states, Democrats and Independents are allowed, by law, to vote in the Republican primary anyway. And if they're willing to convert to Republican for one day and cast a vote in that primary for me and then take a long, hot shower with soap and go back to being Democrats -- that always gets a smile -- and a lot of them say that sounds good to them.

BOLDUAN: Everyone needs a shower every once in a while.

Can I ask you about -- I was thinking as we were going to speak today about Republican congressman or former Republican congressman, Justin Amash. Just last week, he made a clean break from the party. His reasoning, in part, was that the president has taken over the Republican Party and it's not something he can support anymore.

He's in a similar place that you are, in what has moved you to run when it comes to the president. Have you reached out to him at all or he to you?

WELD: In the past. Not recently. But I'm all for Justin Amash. I think he's likely to run for president as a Libertarian. And I think he --

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: That's what I was going to ask you.

WELD: I think he's likely to get the nomination.

You know, I ran last time there and our votes came directly out of Mr. Trump because they were protest votes and change votes. That's what Libertarian votes are. None of them were going to come from Hillary Clinton in the last race. And I think his votes this next time would come directly out of Mr. Trump's pocket.

BOLDUAN: So you would like to see Justin Amash run as a third party?

WELD: I would. I would encourage Mr. Amash. I think that would be a good move for him and a good move for the United States. Because, as you know, I think Mr. Trump is a threat to our Democratic institutions and the Bill of Rights. So the more votes that comes out of his pockets, the better I like it.

BOLDUAN: There have been a handful of Republicans who previously have flirted with a run against the president. One of them had long been the former governor of Ohio, John Kasich. Every time I have him on, I ask the same question, where are you in your process. In asking why he hasn't jumped into the race, his explanation is -- well, let me play it for you. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN KASICH, (R), FORMER OHIO GOVERNOR & CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I look at the situation. If I can help this country, then I want to do it. But right now, as I have said, I don't think there's a path. But that doesn't mean that tomorrow there won't be a path. So again, all my options remain on the table.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: He says he doesn't see a path. What do you see that he doesn't?

WELD: I see that I can win the New Hampshire primary, which would fatally wound Mr. Trump politically.

There's plenty of historical precedent for that. I was around when Pat Buchanan fatally wounded George H.W. Bush with only 37 percent of the vote in the New Hampshire primary. And I was riding around with President Bush. I was on his side, not on Pat Buchanan's side.

It's happened five times since the modern New Hampshire primary that a sitting president was running for re-election, faced a primary. Even if he didn't lose the primary, he lost the general election.

I think it's important that Mr. Trump not repeat as president of the United States. We can't afford five and a half, six more years of this guy.

[11:55:07] So I'm running to win. I think I can win. I think I'm qualified to take the job starting Monday. But meanwhile, I'm going to do what I can to lessen the odds in Mr. Trump's favor.

BOLDUAN: All right. Governor, thank you for being here.

WELD: Thank you, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Really appreciate it. Much more to come.

All right, we'll have much more on all the breaking news right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:00:00]