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Former White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci Criticizes President Trump; President Trump Tweets Conspiracy Theory Surrounding Death of Jeffrey Epstein. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired August 12, 2019 - 08:00   ET


[08:00:00] SARA SIDNER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They tried to do so in April of 2019, April of this year. That incident is finally reflected in the state data. But you will likely never see it in the data that we all see that is published by the FBI, those annual reports that so many people rely on to get the exact number of hate crimes in this country. It is, for lack of a better word, a mess.

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, it is. Sara, great reporting, though, as always. Sara Sidner, thank you.

Thanks to our international viewers for watching. For you CNN Newsroom with Max Foster is next. For our U.S. viewers, President Trump just lost one of his fiercest defenders. NEW DAY continues right now.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, good morning and welcome to your NEW DAY. It is Monday, August 12th, it's 8:00 in the east. Alisyn is off. Erica Hill joins us this morning for history.

HILL: It was a historic morning, yes.

BERMAN: It was very interesting. You have to consider a change at the top. Anthony Scaramucci, who served for 11 days as the communications director for the White House and defended the president relentlessly on TV since then, tells us that the president is giving people a license to hate, and that Anthony Scaramucci no longer backs Donald Trump for reelection.

HILL: He calls out the president for bullying after he was targeted himself on Twitter over the weekend. John spoke with Scaramucci just moments ago. Here are some of the highlights.


ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, FORMER WHITE HOUSE DIRECTOR OF COMMUNICATIONS: The last time I was in this chair with you, John, we were talking about the racially charged rhetoric that led to a whole Twitter nonsense from the president. And obviously, he then left to go to the two shooting areas. And so now he comes back from the two shooting areas, that was a total catastrophe because the only thing he was doing in those areas was talking about himself and praising himself and crowd sizes. And so Just one day after the next, it gets worse and worse and worse. And in the meantime, as you know, in a chair like this or inside your

studio or elsewhere, I got fired two years ago and have tried to stay very loyal to him and very loyal to the agenda because I think the policies are very, very good for the American people. But the rhetoric is so charged and so divisive that we have to all just take a step back and say what are we doing, actually.

So one thing that I find reprehensible, and the president continues to do this, and I think what will end up happening is sound and reasonably minded men and women in the Republican Party will say, wait, we can't do this. He is giving people a license to hate, to provide a source of anger to go after each other, and he does it on his Twitter account.

So let's just stop for a second and think about this. We ignore it, but he goes after people personally. Going after me personally, no problem, I'm a big boy. I can take it. Donny Deutsch can take it. But he goes after individuals as the president of the United States on his Twitter account, OK, which incites hate, which incites death threats. At some point I think the people in my party will have to look at all this stuff and stop being anesthetized to it, and say, hey, what are we doing.

The policies are great, many of them. The trade war thing is likely going to end up in an unexpected outcome. We can talk about that if you want. But lastly, how are we all tolerating this? So to me, I'm just saying last week, arguably one of the worst weeks in his presidency, and again, I'm not talking about things that happened to him politically from a legislatively point of view or things like that, but just from the way he's acting as a human being.

So to me, a couple more weeks like this, I really do believe there will be a groundswell in the party where people say, hey, the policies are great, but you're setting us up the way Jimmy Carter set up the Democratic Party where they went into the wilderness for 40 years. So those are my opinions. I'm very proud to state them. And listen, if you saw the Chernobyl series, it did not end well. We're in the first two episodes now. Let's see how this thing unfolds.

BERMAN: Are you calling for a change at the top of the Republican ticket?

SCARAMUCCI: I'm calling for it to be considered, yes. I think you have to consider a change at the top of the ticket when someone is acting like this, when someone is that lax, intellectual curiosity to take ideas from friends.

Just to give an example, last week on this show you asked me specifically, do I still support the president. I said that I did. I go on Bill Maher show, I'm asked, do I still support the president. Yes, I do. However, the racially charged comments, the divisive tweeting, the nonsense coming from the president is not helping the country. And so if you're in a place in your mind where loyal people to you -- and again, I was fired two years ago, he pointed that out on Twitter, big deal, blah, blah. I do appreciate the president getting the 11 days right, though, by the way, so thank you, Mr. President. But he's out there doing things, and you're trying to give advice, but

he can't listen to anybody. And if you say something that's one or two sentences off the mark of his support -- and I would tell his loyalists, loyalty is not blind obedience unless you're supporting a demagogue, OK, and so you don't want to ever be like that in your life.

BERMAN: Anthony, last week when I asked if you supported him, and the answer is yes. This morning when I asked if you're calling for a change at the top of the ticket, you said it should be considered. So are you no longer this morning supporting --

SCARAMUCCI: I'm in a neutral -- I'm a Republican, so I'm not switching parties to support a Democrat. I believe in the values and the policies of the Republican Party, but I'm now neutral on the president.

BERMAN: You're now neutral on the president.

SCARAMUCCI: We'll see how he continues to act. Absolutely. You have to get into a neutral position. And very smart-minded people --

BERMAN: All right, so you are no longer an active, you are no longer -- Anthony, I just don't want to pass this by. You are no longer an active supporter of President Trump in his reelection bid?

SCARAMUCCI: Yes. I think that's pretty obvious from over the weekend.

BERMAN: And quoting Bonhoeffer (ph) and using words like "evil" and talking about dangerous, it sounds like you are saying, Anthony, that the president of the United States is a threat to the security of the United States. Is that what you're saying?

SCARAMUCCI: Let's watch how this unfolds. I think that is starting to happen, John. And as I said to Jonathan Swan last night, if he continues like this over the next three or four weeks, it is a responsibility of people in the Republican Party, OK, to say, hey, man, we may need to put a relief pitcher in here. You pitched six strong innings, but you're throwing it up against the backstop now. And I really believe that.


BERMAN: So there it is.

Joining us now, Kaitlan Collins, CNN White House correspondent, Bianna Golodyrga, CNN contributor, and Jeffrey Toobin, former federal prosecut0r, CNN chief legal analyst, and producer of all kinds of hit television shows.



BERMAN: Kaitlan, Anthony Scaramucci did work in the White House, he has been a supporter of the president for a long time. So there are a lot of people who are going to look at this and say Anthony Scaramucci, 11 days in the White House, who cares. But it's significant when a longtime supporter of the president goes on TV and says I'm done.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And an ally of the president's for so long who has been defending him on television since he left the White House two years ago. Pretty realistically he'll call the president out on some things, but this is, of course, the furthest he's gone.

And what was interesting is he said since he's been in this public feud with the president over the weekend tweeting at him, he said he's gotten calls not only from Trump allies and lawmakers on the Capitol Hill but also from people who currently work inside the White House who agree with him that the president has gone a step too far in some of his recent comment.

With that being said, do any Republican lawmakers come out publicly and agree with Scaramucci, as he was saying, in the next three or four weeks he thinks we're going to see a shift. And that, I don't think so, because publicly they haven't broken with the president yet on anything he's done. But it remains to be seen.

BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: You mentioned he's defending the president up until Friday night in the Bill Maher interview. And I happened to watch that. And yes, he does walk this fine line where he says there's some policies I support. When the president does something that I don't support or I think is out of line or unpresidential, I'll call him out on it. But his go to line was I stand by my friends, I'm close with him, I don't just drop people.

So what happened within a matter of 24 hours I think people may be a bit more skeptical about this change in view of the president may question that, because we've gotten to know this president over two- and-a-half years. The rhetoric is not presidential, a lot of it is inciting some of the outrage that we're seeing throughout the country, and using words such as go back to the country you came from, s-hole countries. Where was Anthony Scaramucci when all of this was happening.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: To say nothing of when he was claiming Barack Obama was born in Kenya. The idea Donald Trump is somehow new or his behavior is new is not realistic to me.

However, I just would offer one word of caution that always seems appropriate. We always talk about turning points in Donald Trump's popularity, presidency, and the polls never change. The polls never change. He's there somewhere between 42, 38, 42, 45 percent popularity, which doesn't change whether it's Charlottesville, which is the two-year anniversary now, or the Helsinki press conference, or the failure of health care, nothing seems to change. He's not very popular, but it's not that his popularity goes down.

GOLODRYGA: And it's easy for people off the record to tell Anthony Scaramucci I agree with you, even those that are in the president's inner circle. I think things change maybe, perhaps, when they become public. We haven't seen that yet.

HILL: He seems to think someone is going to come forward and say something. I have to say, though, I'm with you, it's suspect. I don't see it happening at this point.

[08:10:05] Let me read you what he says. He said this to me in the interview, but after the interview he went on Twitter to emphasize it once again. "To those asking what took so long, you're right. I try to see best in Donald Trump based on private interactions and select policy alignment, but his increasing divisive rhetoric -- and damage it's doing to the fabric of our society -- outweighs any short-term economic gain." He basically said to me, Kaitlan, it's just too much, and he called last week the worst week of the Trump presidency.

COLLINS: Yes, and he was citing the way he acted at the scenes of those two mass shootings where the president was talking about crowd sizes and the photo of smiling orphan, or smiling photo with the new orphan. And so those are the thing that he was saying that kind of was the straw that broke the camel's back.

The question for people inside the White House who do still support the president and don't speak critically of him privately will be why is this happening now. Is this really what you thought was the worst, because actually the more things like that happen, like what you saw last week, we talked to people in the White House who said they did not think that trip went well. They tried to plan it, they didn't think it went great. But of course, it's a more muted reaction than what we saw two years when something like this would happened. People in the White House would be like, my God, what happened, they'd be texting about it. Now it's just people are going to shrug their shoulders, because we weathered so many storms, what's this one going to make a difference.

HILL: You have to wonder how much influence, how much sway does Athony Scaramucci have?

BERMAN: He has no electoral votes, I can tell you that right now.

HILL: No, he does not. He's not running. We know that, we learned that when you asked him. But I do mean that realistically. How much sway does Anthony Scaramucci have? Even though people may agree with him in private in terms of maybe trying to get somebody to come out and say something alongside him to support him.

TOOBIN: Let's see a Republican elected official who has to face the voters in potentially a Republican primary. When someone like that comes out against Donald Trump, then that will be something. Anthony Scaramucci has no electoral votes. He got no votes at all except his own. So I think you make a very good point that he's interesting, he's a media figure. He is not someone who is answerable to a Republican electorate.

GOLODRYGA: And again, I go back to Friday night where he was still standing by the president. The picture from the hospital in El Paso had already been put out, and his trip obviously had been criticized and some of the details coming out of his trip and commentary had been out there. So why Anthony Scaramucci had the change of heart, many skeptics may say, did it happen to happen after the president tweeted at him? I'm not saying that is, but timing is suspect.

BERMAN: The timing is there for all of us to see.

Jeffrey Epstein found hanged in his jail cell. Jeffrey Toobin, it is a failure of the criminal justice system. It is a betrayal of the victims of Jeffrey Epstein over the years. How can this happen? Scaramucci didn't address it directly, but he addressed the tone that we hear from the United States. How can the president pedal conspiracy theories over this death?

TOOBIN: Several issues there. The first thing is, obviously, is we have to look for facts. The only good thing you can say about a suicide in a place like the MCC is there are a lot of witnesses, there's closed circuit TV, there are people who had interactions with him. This is a fruitful place for investigation. And I think between the FBI and the inspector general, New York medical examiner who is doing the autopsy, we will know more facts. This is so rife for speculation, which leads to the president's unbelievably irresponsible and truly libelous tweet about the Clintons.

And we struggle in the news media trying to be responsible. Do we even report what the president says, because it's something the president says, or do we apply journalistic standards and say these sorts of accusations are so beyond the pale that we shouldn't even talk about them? And I don't know the answer to that dilemma.

COLLINS: But also this is a place where the president feels really comfortable. He questioned where Obama was born. He claimed that Obama wiretapped Trump Tower. He asserted that Ted Cruz's father killed JFK. This is a president who is not a stranger to these conspiracy theories, floating them just far enough where he can say he doesn't have responsibility for it, as with this. He's just retweeting someone else suggesting that the Clintons are responsible for this, which, of course, there is no basis for that. But this is where the president feels comfortable.

And what's interesting is his aides goal out and defend this and say he just wants things to be investigated when of course he's putting false information out there. His supporters take what he says very seriously. And so that's where the problem with that is, with the president using his platform to retweet a conspiracy, but it's something we've seen from him time and time again. So it's not surprising at all.

GOLODRYGA: But it's also telling when the best outcome can be incompetence, right. When you have so many prosecutor theories out there circulated, at least retweeted by the president himself, it's very easy for me to say this is so Russian where people just fall out of windows the day before their court date, what have you, or have heart attacks left, right, and center.

But when people can't trust their own government, when people have to speculate, were there alternative possibilities as to why somebody died the way they did? I think that brings out a very dangerous side to this country, because whether you like it or not, for the most part, Americans should have faith in the justice system, and it should be the President as the Commander-in-Chief, who is encouraging that as opposed to retweeting conspiracy theories that are complete nonsense.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And we should also note, it's a contradiction to what -- contradiction to what his own administration has set because Attorney General Bill Barr puts out this statement saying they want this to be investigated, and then the President is tweeting this, which is going in line with them saying they want this to be investigated, just completely goes against what even his own Justice Department is saying about this.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. And again, the President chose to do when he could have been talking about efforts to battle gun violence, background checks, what we were talking about Friday.

That's the part about it that bugs me the most is that given this range of things and challenges that are facing this country right now, this is what he chose to do.

All right, Jeffrey, Bianna, Kaitlan, thank you very, very much. Democrats are not backing down in their push to do something about guns after these two mass shootings.

Next, we're going to speak with one member of Congress, who wants the Senate to take up four measures that have already passed the House, stick around.


[08:20:26] BERMAN: All right, a bipartisan congressional delegation has just returned from three Central American countries over the weekend at the heart of the humanitarian crisis at the U.S. border with Mexico. The delegation led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi met with local leaders and then stopped by a detention facility in McAllen, Texas on the way back.

Joining me now is Democratic Congresswoman Katie Hill, who was on that trip. Congresswoman, thank you so much for being with us. Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, really the epicenter of so much of the migration to the United States over the last six months. What have you learned from your visit?

REP. KATIE HILL (D-CA): Well, a few main takeaways. The first is that those three countries are struggling from many of the issues that -- the same issues. First is violence, right? We have massive gang violence.

One of the things that stuck with me the most is it was actually a Border Patrol agent that was based down there who said that eight- year-olds are getting recruited.

And so when you have people fleeing, parents who are taking their kids up to the United States trying to get in, it's because they don't want their eight-year-old kid to get recruited to a gang, or their daughter to be raped. And, you know, one of the stories was that if you have an eight-year-

old who's being told that "If you don't come with me to, you know, to see these horrible things or to do these horrible things, then we're going to do these even more horrible things to your sister or to your mom," and of course, they're going to go join the gang, and so it's just this coercion.

On top of that, in Guatemala in particular, there has been this major effective climate change that is affecting rural farmers and it's causing true starvation. One in two kids under the age of five is severely malnourished. There's this violence against women that has made huge numbers of young women be pregnant through incest and rape and I mean, it's just awful. Right?

So use when you see people coming up here, it is not because they're -- I don't know what kind of mal-intent people could be thinking that it's coming from, but it is true desperation. And it just left me with such an amount of gratitude for where I was born.

And a recognition that we have to be looking at this from the kind of aid that we are providing to these countries, the role that we need to play in the region. And what we're looking at from a long term perspective of how we see people coming to America.

BERMAN: Exactly. In fact, the Trump administration has scaled back on the financial assistance programs that were in place during the Obama administration. Can you hear me, Congresswoman? Can you hear me?

HILL: I lost the sound.

BERMAN: Oh, we appear to have lost Congresswoman Katie Hale here. Let me give one more second to get that sound back. I will just note that much of the financial assistance, those programs that were in place, the Trump administration has scaled back on. Congresswoman, I don't know if you can hear my question.

HILL: I can now, yes.

BERMAN: But did you see the ripple effects of the removal of that financial assistance?

HILL: Absolutely. There were some amazing programs that were helping keep people in country that have been cut and drastically reduced. And what we heard over and over again, from everyone, from the F.B.I. to the Intelligence Agencies on the ground, to even Department of Defense was saying that we have to keep this funding going.

And also another misconception is that the money is going to these corrupt governments, and it's not. It is actually going to non- government organizations. It's going to our own agencies to help intercept drugs, to prevent gang violence, to you know, target these really critical programs that can make an impact and are making an impact.

So the first thing that I think we need to do to address this crisis is to restore that funding that has been either, you know, cut or drastically reduced, put a hold on and that can make an impact right away.

BERMAN: There was a mass shooting last week in El Paso also one in Dayton, Ohio. The one in El Paso is believed to have targeted Mexicans because of their race and ethnicity, and because they were in the United States.

The acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan, he was on with Jake Tapper over the weekend and said the timing of immigration raids that took place in Mississippi targeting migrant workers was unfortunate. He also was asked directly about these images of the crying children that we've seen whose parents were taken away. I want you to listen to what he told Jake over the weekend.


MARK MORGAN, ACTING COMMISSIONER, U.S. BORDER PROTECTION: They are here illegally, and that a lot of times, there's additional fraud that goes with this for them to try to get these jobs in these companies.

So, I understand that the girl is upset and I get that, but her father committed a crime.


BERMAN: That was Mark Morgan, the acting Commissioner at U.S. Border Protection who was saying that the girl's father committed a crime. Does that explain it away in your mind?

HILL: No, I don't think so. I think that you know, I.C.E. has limited resources, and we really need to be focusing on the people who are truly committing crimes. Crimes that are, you know, dangerous related to gang violence, related to --

[08:25:15] HILL: We do know that that gang members are coming across the border in certain numbers, and why are we not focusing on those deportations that should be happening? Not the ones that are, you know, people just trying to work and, you know, take care of their families.

I mean, this is the fundamental issue with immigration and how we need to be talking about it and looking at it in our country is that, you're right, asylum under the traditional definition doesn't necessarily include people coming here for economic reasons.

But I think one of the biggest things we need to do is expand legal immigration so people can do that legally. And you know, we're looking at it all wrong as far as I'm concerned.

BERMAN: I do want to ask you about the gun violence, again that we saw last week with so many people killed at the hands of weapons that some people in your party are calling for now bans on, what do you want to see happen?

I know the House has already passed measures. The Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is not taking up the measures passed by the House. What's your reaction to that?

HILL: Well, the first thing is that the pressure has to be on the Senate and on Mitch McConnell, in particular to take up the four different measures that we have already sent him that are sitting on his desk that can be voted on right away.

And in fact, you know, we're hearing that he says, "Oh, we need to be writing these different measures," or, "We need to come back and reconvene and talk about what we should be doing." No, no, no, it already exists. We have four different bills, we've got H.R. 8, H.R. 1112, we have the Violence Against Women Act, which there's no excuse for not passing, and then we have funding for $50 million for research to address the root causes of gun violence.

And so those need to be voted on right away, and then I think we need to go several steps further. So that's where you know, on the House side, we can be working on developing the next steps.

But on the Senate side, they need to take those votes and the American people are overwhelmingly supportive of all four of those different pieces of legislation, and I hope that the Senate realizes that that pressure exists and if not, they're going to be held accountable at the polls.

BERMAN: Congresswoman Katie Hill, thanks for joining us this morning.

HILL: Thanks so much for having me.

BERMAN: Erica?

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: There are breaking details on the deadly fire in Pennsylvania that killed five children. We're going to bring you those new details next.