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Poll Numbers about President Trump and Race; Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) is Interviewed about Trump's Comments and Immigration; Scott Kelly is Interviewed about Apollo 11. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired July 16, 2019 - 08:30   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[8:30:42] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: All right, President Trump continued his attack against four Democratic congresswomen of color. This is nearly a decade after he gained national attention for fanning the birther movement. So do voters think that the president of the United States is racist?

Joining us now is CNN senior political writer and analyst Harry Enten.

You have some numbers about all of this, Harry.

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL WRITER AND ANALYST: I do have some numbers. And I should point out that all these numbers are before the latest diatribe from the president of the United States on Twitter.

But this was back basically last year. And what do we see here? We see the question is very simple, do you think President Trump is a racist? And 49 percent of all voters said that, yes, they believe he's a racist. Now, of course, among Republicans, it's significantly lower, 11 percent. But this, to me, is just such a shocking number. Forty- nine percent of voters think the sitting president of the United States is a racist. I've just never seen anything quite like it.

BERMAN: Yes, a majority of people would be completely unsurprised by what they've seen the last two days.

ENTEN: Exactly right. You know, we had this thing going back in the press, do you call Trump's tweets racist or not? The American public would have no problem with that whatsoever. Forty-nine percent. That's a very large, large number.

But, you know, let's dig a little bit deeper into the numbers. You know, this is a lot about race relations. And let's get more into the politics of this, right? And what do we see? Trump's approval by issue. So I have his overall approval rating and I have his approval rating on race relations. And what do we see? This is just not a strong area for the president of the United States. Overall his approval rating was 43 percent. That's been true in the last three CNN polls.

On race relations, though, only 39 percent of Americans approve of that. They do not like this type of rhetoric. They don't like what he's been doing all along going after certain groups in this country. And that shows very much so. And so he's playing into a weakness here because I think there's a lot of people, oh, he's playing 23 degree chess, right? This just shows that, in fact, he's not even playing checkers. This is just not a good area for him whatsoever.

CAMEROTA: And the disapproval numbers are high.

ENTEN: Right. I mean, look at this, 55 percent of Americans disapprove of Trump's sort of approval on race relations. And I want to also point this out. You know, let's just look at this. So, why do people disapprove of the president of the United States? So among those who disapprove, look at this, only 38 percent of those who disapprove say they disapprove of him because of his positions on the issues, but personality and leadership qualities, that's why the majority of those who disapprove in the United States disapprove of him, which is exactly what's going on here.

And among moderates, you might say those more swing voters, that's an even higher percentage. Just -- excuse me, 58 percent disapprove of him because of personality and leadership quality. This is the exact type of tweet that plays into that.

BERMAN: And, Harry, you pointed out, the minute this happen on Sunday, I saw you comment that people wonder how the economy can be so good and the president's approval rating be stuck at 42, 43 percent. and the answer is today.

ENTEN: That -- that's exactly right. That's exactly right.

I mean, look, if you were to look at how -- why people approve of him, the -- the reason they say -- 72 percent say their position on -- his positions on the issues. And, indeed, look at this. This is the top reasons why you approve or disapprove. It was an open ended question. Among those who approve, the top issue is the economy. Look at that, 26 percent. But look at this disapprove column. Liar, no integrity, 13 percent. Racism, bigotry, 11 percent. Incompetent, 11 percent. Not presidential, 7 percent. It's all about his behavior. The fact that he cannot act presidential is hurting him. And I just don't understand, as a political analyst, what exactly is going through his head except that his -- he (ph) is running everything and he just can't help it.

CAMEROTA: Well, that's the only explanation because those things in the disapproval category you would assume would be easier to fix.

ENTEN: Yes. All -- if he just acted the regular way a regular president, he would be running ahead of the game and his approval on the economy has always been running very, very high, and I think this indicates it.

I just want to point out one last thing here, and that is just, you know, you were just talking about whether or not this helps remember. In the last few weeks of the 2018 campaign, right, they were running on immigration, he was running hard core. That did not change anything. These vote numbers right here, basically the same. The Democrats won both those who decide in the last month, as well as before that. BERMAN: Some of this stuff might be baked in, but he's certainly not

helping his stance with the way he's talking.

ENTEN: That's exactly right.

BERMAN: Harry Enten, thank you very much.

CAMEROTA: Very interesting, Harry, thank you.

ENTEN: Thank you.

BERMAN: All right, so not many Republicans have come out condemning the president's racist remarks in any form or fashion but a few have. A few have. And we will speak with a Republican senator who is among them, next.

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[08:38:51] BERMAN: This morning, many Republican leaders are remaining silent after President Trump renewed his call for a group of minority Democratic congresswomen to leave the United States.

This morning, though, there are some Republicans condemning the president's words.

Joining me now is Republican Senator Rob Portman of Ohio.

Senator, good morning. Thank you very much for joining us.

Let me read to our viewers what you have said about the president's comments. You say that's not something I would say and I think it's divisive, unnecessary and wrong.

What is wrong with what the president said, senator?

SEN. ROB PORTMAN (R-OH): Well, John, first of all, when I agreed to come on with you last week it was to talk about the border. So hopefully we'll get a chance to talk about that as well since I went down on Friday to tour some of the detention facilities.

Look, I -- the -- the comments are unnecessary and -- and wrong by their very nature and, you know, I -- I -- I think there's a lot we should talk about and can talk about that unites our country now.

Earlier on your show I noticed people were talking about the strong economy and the fact that wages are up, there are more jobs, you know, people are seeing more opportunity. That's a great thing for our country. And the president's responsible for a lot of that.

[08:40:01] BERMAN: Senator --

PORTMAN: The tax cuts and tax reform is working.

So I would hope, as I said in other comments, that he would talk about that because that would help unite our country. BERMAN: I -- and I understand that and we are going to talk about

immigration. Half of my questions are about that. But I do want to address your comments about the president's statement being wrong. And I've heard you say that, but I want to know, why? What about them is wrong?

PORTMAN: Well, three of the four of these women, of course, were born here in the United States. All of them are American citizens, as -- as much as I am and you are. So, you know, that's something that when they disagree with their political points of view, and I do, and I think they have made comments that are inappropriate themselves, but the point is, let's focus on the policy issues.

And, again, I go back to the biggest policy issue of all that most people care about the most, which is their futures and their kids futures and that's how the economy's doing and things are going well. So that would be a good topic to focus on.

BERMAN: Is it wrong -- is it wrong to tell people who disagree with policy points that they should leave the country?

PORTMAN: Well, yes. I mean it was -- it was -- that's not all that was said, though. It was said that, you know, go back to their country, and their country is the United States of America?

BERMAN: Right.

PORTMAN: So that's (INAUDIBLE) --

BERMAN: It was wrong on both levels is what you're saying?

PORTMAN: I'm sorry?

BERMAN: OK, so you are saying that's wrong.

And my last question on this point then, senator, is, what are you going to do about it or do you think you have a responsibility in this subject to do more than just say it's wrong?

PORTMAN: Well, I think all of us have a responsibility to speak our mind on it. And so I've done that. And, again, I think we ought to focus on how to work together to solve problems. And I'd love to get back to talking about the border with you a little about that because that's an opportunity for Republicans and Democrats alike to acknowledge there's a crisis and deal with a crisis because it's very real and a lot of people are being hurt and it's unfair for our country. So it's -- it's an issue that just screams for a little bipartisanship to try to solve the problem.

BERMAN: What did you see? You went to the border on Friday. What did you see?

PORTMAN: Well, I went to two facilities. One was the Donna (ph) facility, where I saw a lot of families with kids. I spoke to five or six of the families about why they came, why they took the journey. And, look, these are all people from Central American. And in the case

of people I talked to, and probably 95 percent of them from three countries, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras. They live in a very poor part of the hemisphere and all of them said the same thing, they want to have a better life for us, for our kids, can't get a job and you understand that.

When, on the other hand, we have a country of laws and the immigration laws need to be respected. And that includes, by the way, long waiting lists of people who come here legally from this country. So we need to deal with it. And until we do, we're going to continue to see this surge.

Remember, there are now tens of thousands of people a week streaming across the border presenting themselves to the Border Patrol because they believe that if they do so they'll get into the country. And traffickers are telling them that. And traffickers are charging them huge amounts of money to come up here. And they're right, these families with kids that I saw will all be released into the country. And the end of the day, if they do claim asylum, and none of them I talked to were claiming asylum, but some will, then only 15 percent will actually be able to have that claim granted because it will be viewed that it's not appropriate for the others, that they're more economic refugees, and yet 100 percent are being released into the United States and less than half to come their hearings, according to the best information we have.

So it's a problem and there are things we can and should do. And we can do it in a bipartisan way. But if we don't, you know, we'll continue to see this influx, and not just from these Central American countries, but from other countries as well.

BERMAN: One of the things the president has -- has proposed, or says he will implement, I guess it's more than a proposal, he says he's going to do it by fiat, is he's going to change the asylum rules so that if you come here from El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala and pass through Mexico, you will be turned away because you passed through another country, basically. It's the idea of a safe third country. Do you think it's legal, this action from the president?

PORTMAN: Safe third country certainly is. We do it, as you know, with Canada. But I don't know that Guatemala and Mexico have signed up yet. They're just talking about doing that.

BERMAN: Well, they haven't. And that -- that's -- that's the difference. I mean Canada we have an agreement. We have a tacit agreement or verbal agreement with Mexico. I think it may be even a written agreement -- sorry, with Canada on this. We have no agreement at all with any of those countries and the law requires an agreement.

PORTMAN: Yes. And I think we should pursue an agreement. And just so the viewers understand, if you walk through another country, come to another country that does have the ability to provide safe haven, then you need to apply for asylum there. And that would be Guatemala for most of these individuals and Mexico. Both countries are talking to us about doing that possibly. I have suggested something a little different, which is similar to

what actually President Obama did remember when the unaccompanied kids were coming up in such huge numbers back in 2013, 2014, and that is to have these processing centers in Central America and in Mexico be used so U.N. -- through the U.N. HCR, High Commissioner Refugees, actually has centers in Central America and has a center in, in Mexico. And we've talked to them about processing these individuals. There's a lot of interest in that, by the way, that's bipartisan. That would make a lot of sense. Why do you want to have these people take this long and arduous journey if the same criteria as asylum can be used for refugees, which it is, why shouldn't that decision be made closer to their home? And that would cut out the traffickers, which, you know, would be the only group that would really be huge losers in this would be those human smugglers and human traffickers who are taking total advantage of the situation and exploiting these people.

[08:45:33] BERMAN: And, Senator, we thank you -- we thank you for going down and looking for yourself at the border there.

Just to go back to the beginning of the conversation, you obviously were uncomfortable answering questions about the president's words and statements. Does he put you, as a Republican senator, in a bad position?

PORTMAN: Well, again, as I said in my statements that you didn't put on the air, he puts me in a -- in a situation on many topics that I'm very comfortable with, including talking about the policies. And that's -- that's where we've got to be focused.

BERMAN: But, Senator, that's dodging my question about -- about this. When -- when -- when he's telling people they should go home, right, people, women of color --

PORTMAN: Yes, well, I've -- I've -- John, I've -- I've made my comments on that. We've talked about it. You know how I feel. And I think the focus ought to be on the policy issues. And there I think he has a lot to talk about. Frankly, the American people are very pleased with the way the economy's going because they're feeling it, they're seeing it, and -- and that didn't just happen. It's the result of good policies. The president can talk about those policies.

BERMAN: Can you only talk about policy though? Is it -- can you talk about policy without also addressing things that might tear at the fabric of the country?

PORTMAN: Well, yes, I mean I -- and I did. And, you know, that's part of the topic as well. But my -- my point is that, with all the issues we have right now, immigration being one of the crises we're facing, and it is a humanitarian crisis. It's an immigration crisis. It's a drug crisis on the border. Let's figure out how to put some of these differences aside that are political and focus on good policy and actually make a difference in the lives of the people we represent. That's -- that's my focus and I hope that that can be the focus going forward.

BERMAN: Senator Rob Portman from Ohio, thanks for being with us this morning.

PORTMAN: Thanks, John.

BERMAN: Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: OK, John, here's what else to watch today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ON SCREEN TEXT: 9:15 a.m. ET, Apollo 11 crew at Kennedy Space Center.

10:00 a.m. ET, House Republicans hold news conference.

12:15 p.m. ET, Joe Biden speaks in Iowa.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Where were you 50 years ago today, Alisyn Camerota?

CAMEROTA: I'm not going to answer that, John.

BERMAN: Fifty years ago today one of us wasn't born. Fifty years ago today, since America launched its first mission to the moon. The question is, will we ever go back. An acclaimed astronaut joins us next.

CAMEROTA: Why do I have a horrible feeling I was watching --

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[08:52:06] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Three, two, one, zero. All engines run (ph).

We have a liftoff. Liftoff of Apollo 11.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: It was 50 years ago today that a nation was riveted watching as Apollo 11 launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida. Four days later, the first man landed on the moon.

Joining us now to discuss the significance of that moment and where we are today is acclaimed astronaut Scott Kelly.

Scott, great to see you this morning.

CAPT. SCOTT KELLY, U.S. NAVY AND ASTRONAUT (RET.): Thank you.

CAMEROTA: So, 50 years, have we made tremendous progress since then or not enough?

KELLY: You know, I think we've made a lot of progress. I'm not sure if it's tremendous progress because I think we do have the capability of going back to the moon and staying there perhaps and also going to Mars. So, you know, on one hand, it's a lot of progress, but I think we could be doing better.

BERMAN: You have a tendency to go to space and stay there for a really, really long time. But one of the things that I heard you say, which was fascinating, about the Apollo 11 mission, all the Apollo missions, was, they only had a few months, six months, to train for their missions back then, which seemed to me so incredibly complicated. You, for your missions, you say you have two years.

KELLY: Yes, I was kind of shocked. I was recently talking to Mike Collins, General Collins, who was, you know, one of the crew members of Apollo 11, and he told me that they only trained for six months for that flight, where on the space shuttle we did generally longer but for the Space Station a lot longer. So that was actually a surprise to me, too.

CAMEROTA: So what do you want to see happen now? You do -- is Mars the next frontier?

KELLY: You know, I think Apollo proved that we have an unlimited potential to do great things. And we can go to Mars or back to the moon.

The problem NASA always runs into, though, is every time we get a new president, a new Congress, the plan changes, the funding changes. And when you do that, it doesn't allow you any consistency. It causes you to do negative work.

So my hope is that someday a government is going to come along in this country and say, hey, we're going to fund NASA for ten years. We're going to have a consistent plan. And we're going to let them do the things that we know they are capable of doing.

BERMAN: Or just get rid of elected officials altogether. That could be the astronaut's platform.

KELLY: Well, there's that too.

BERMAN: Scott, is there such a thing as astronaut envy? You've done so much between the space shuttle and the Space Station, yet, when you think about Apollo 11, you're talking about Michael Collins, who I had the honor of meeting. Do you envy what they got to do?

KELLY: Well, you know, I've spent 520 days in space and I would trade every day of that for a mission to the moon. So I think there is certainly envy, but also you feel like you're privileged just to be part of any -- any space program that is currently, you know, in operation. It's not like, you know, we can look at another company and said, well, you know, if I work for, you know, you know, United Airlines versus American Airlines, my experience would be different. You know, we have one NASA. We have one space program. So I just felt, you know, really privileged to be a part of the one I had the privilege to be a part of.

[08:55:26] CAMEROTA: Well, Scott Kelly, thanks so much for helping us take a look back at 50 years. I mean, it's remarkable how much has been accomplished, I think just as you said, but how much more we still have to look forward to.

So, thank you very much for all of your experience with us.

KELLY: Thank you.

BERMAN: So which Republicans will vote to condemn the president's racist comments about four women of color who are in Congress? Our coverage continues next.

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