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Stephen Miller's Powerful Role; Warren Speaks at Native American Forum; Randy Rainbow's Rise with Satire. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired August 19, 2019 - 08:30   ET



[08:31:27] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: His name is Stephen Miller, and it is now synonymous with family separations at the border and immigration hard-liner. Miller is instrumental in crafting the president's controversial immigration policies.

But who is Stephen Miller. Well, a new "Washington Post" profiles examines how Miller managed to come to power and how he maintains it. And here to discuss it is the author of that profile, Josh Dawsey, "Washington Post" White House reporter and CNN political analyst.

Josh, great to have you here.


CAMEROTA: So many people know the name Stephen Miller and obviously recognize his face, but they don't exactly know how he has managed to exert so much power over the president and his policies. What did you learn in your reporting?

DAWSEY: Stephen Miller is a savvy political operator. One of the things that he does is that he goes deep into agencies and finds political appointees who are six, seven layers beneath the president at Homeland Security and other agencies and convinces them to do exactly what he wants, even if the cabinet secretaries aren't on board. One of the things we garnered (ph) in reporting this profile is that he frequently has a lot of people to the White House who work at these agencies for secret meetings with him in the executive office building. This is a -- this is a political operator who reads almost every analysis, every editorial, every "Wall Street Journal," every editorial, every bit of information that comes out about immigration and is really singularly focused on it.

And he knows how to work for the president. One of the things that Stephen Miller does that kind of coalesces his power is he knows what the president kind of generally wants to do on immigration and finds lots of bureaucratic ways to make it happen. His public charge rule last week, for example, of separations, you know, Miller was a key person behind that. And the president kind of has a big picture vision on immigration and Stephen Miller is really the one who puts the detail to the paper and makes it happen.

CAMEROTA: But, Josh, that one was seen as like an abject failure. DAWSEY: Right.

CAMEROTA: And so why doesn't the president hold Stephen Miller responsible for that?

DAWSEY: Well, some of Stephen Miller's most high profile projects were seen as abject failures. I mean he was behind the travel ban that was obviously not implemented well in the early days of the administration, led to lots of lawsuits, reversals, changes in policy. Stephen Miller was behind the child separations.

But -- but one of the reasons that he has such staying power in the White House, Alisyn, is that he is the president's main speechwriter. The president says things out loud and Stephen puts them to paper. He channels his voice better really than anyone else in the White House, if you talk to aides and advisers.

And in the presidency, Stephen is behind one of the immigration policies that he views has gone well as well. And, you know, he was behind the recently -- the purge at Homeland Security when the numbers at the border were continuing to rise, rise, rise, Stephen came in and said, we can get those down and the president's kind of trusted him to do that.

So, for better or worse, some of the failures, some of the successes, Stephen has been the ultimate survivor in the White House and kind of keeping close to the boss, having his ear and being the main implementation guru on all things immigration.

CAMEROTA: It's also interesting, Josh, what you alluded to before, which is sort of the pervasive paranoia that surrounds Stephen Miller.

DAWSEY: Right.

CAMEROTA: And you have this passage about how other people in and around the president see him.

DAWSEY: Right.

CAMEROTA: So I'll just read this. You say, DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, obviously former secretary, and her staff instructed subordinates to alert the front office if Miller called them out of the blue to request statistics or discuss a policy proposal.

DAWSEY: Right.

CAMEROTA: They saw Miller attempting to marshal statistics to win arguments by blindsiding his rivals with their own agency's data, making them look uninformed and incompetent with they appeared unfamiliar with the numbers he already had.

I mean that's obviously a brilliant stroke.

DAWSEY: Right.

CAMEROTA: But what do people around the president think of Stephen Miller?

[08:35:05] DAWSEY: Well, because he has so much power, as you said, a lot of people are paranoid. In talking to people for this story, Alisyn, a lot of them wanted to be careful what they even said anonymously because they said he will forensically go through the quotes and look for words and point people out who think they're sources and retaliate. Stephen has a lot of power in the White House and across the agencies he's responsible for, the Department of Homeland Security, USCIS, all of the immigration portfolio. He's seen as the one person who can scuttle most anything, who can get in the president's ear and help the president turn on someone, who can really, you know, make their lives miserable or decent, whatever he chooses to do. So there's a lot of palpable fear across the government in those agencies of where Stephen will come down on an issue, what Stephen will get the president to say, to tweet, to propose and get where his thinking is on any given thing can matter to, you know, tens of thousands of people.

CAMEROTA: And, by the way, Stephen Miller, as you point out in the piece, is against legal immigration.

DAWSEY: Right. Right.

CAMEROTA: And illegal immigration.

DAWSEY: Right.

CAMEROTA: He's trying to crack down, as we've seen in the recent policies last week, trying to crack down on legal immigration.

DAWSEY: Well, Alisyn, one of the things we kept hearing over and over from people in reporting this story is he sees cutting down on legal immigration and illegal immigration as a way to have a societal transformation. He believes that immigration is key to changing how the country works. He sees there's been excesses, in his mind, of too many people coming over. He thinks it's put a burden on the country and he wants to fix that and cut legal and illegal.

Early on in the administration, he was trying to get former DHS Secretary John Kelly to do mass deportations, not just felons, mass deportations, and Kelly pushed back. One of the people we talked to in the story, a senior official in the government, said he's singularly focused on how to get people out of this country. And that's what animates his thinking, his proposals, his ideas and what he does every day.

CAMEROTA: Josh Dawsey, it's a fascinating profile. Thank you very much for sharing it with us here on NEW DAY.

DAWSEY: Thank you for having me.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: It's a great profile. It really is.

All right, Elizabeth Warren's past claims to Native American heritage once threatened to upend her presidential campaign, but now she is trying to make amends. What Warren is doing to rebuild her relationship with the Native American community? That's next.


[08:41:12] BERMAN: In just hours, Senator Elizabeth Warren will speak alongside tribal leaders at the Native American Presidential Forum in Iowa. The Democratic candidate has unveiled some ambitious policy plans aimed at helping the Native American community. She's been working to mend that relationship since her own ancestry claims were called into question.

CNN's MJ Lee live in Iowa with the latest on this.

This will be interesting, MJ.


You know, we've been covering the Warren campaign since day one. And this is not a campaign that has had any major missteps or controversies, but the issue of her family ancestry is the one major exception. You remember back in the fall when she decided to put out the results of her DNA test, she received a ton of backlash and a lot of criticism, including from some tribal leaders. And eventually she had to put out an apology saying she understands that a DNA test has not anything to do with the issue of citizenship in a tribe. This is an issue that we have seen her look pretty uncomfortable talking about at times. And now the fact that she is participating in this forum today means that she's sort of wading back into this issue after some months of not having to face a lot of serious questions about it.

And talking to the campaign, the campaign says that they're going to deal with this and talk about this issue in the way that they do with almost everything, right, focusing on policy, that they want to talk about substance. It's why we saw last week the senator put out a major set of policy proposals aimed at helping the Native American community. She put out a draft legislation with Congresswoman Deb Holland, one of the first two Native Americans elected to Congress who has endorsed Senator Warren.

And organizers that I've talked to of this conference telling us that she's going to be on stage with some tribal leaders, taking questions in a Q&A session, and that they really want to make sure that they are focusing this conference on substance as well.

One of the things, though, John, that a lot of voters are going to be paying attention to is how she answers the questions of potential attacks that she's going to get from folks like President Trump, who have used racial slurs and some racially insensitive ways of going after the senator. So we'll see if she gets any questions about her own family background today.


BERMAN: Indeed. We will be watching.

MJ Lee for us in Iowa. MJ, thank you very much.

So his parity videos have been viewed by millions, but how much do you really know about Randy Rainbow. Like, is that even his real name? My interview with the first time Emmy nominee. That's next.


[08:47:51] CAMEROTA: So, Emmy nominations have just been announced and there's at least one person on the list who does not have a traditional TV show. He is king of a different screen. There is only one human named Randy Rainbow, and his popularity is fueled by millions of clicks. This is his story.


RANDY RAINBOW, COMEDIAN (singing): Trump. Six. Flip. Cockoo. Huckabee. Mueller. Trump. Six. Flip. Cockoo. Huckabee. Muller.

They had it coming. They had it coming. They were the best that he could find.

BERMAN: So, Randy Rainbow --

RAINBOW (on camera): Yes.

BERMAN: What would you say you do for a living? What's your job description?

RAINBOW: Oh, you sound like my mother. I'm a comedian and a commentator and a satirist, I suppose.

RAINBOW (singing): Just be best, just be best, just forget those you've oppressed, blame your spurs use ethnic slurs, then just defer to Kanye West.

BERMAN: Satarist.

RAINBOW (on camera): And an Internet sensation and a musical theater star and I mean the list goes on. We don't have all day.

BERMAN: That about sums it up, almost. You might just need to add Emmy nominated national touring a-level lyrical writing all around force of nature.

In case your Internet has been down for three years or so, Randy Rainbow is the writer, producer and star of a series of musical parity videos with a common theme or target.

RAINBOW (singing): He's all about his base, and his own self feelings.

Popular. You're really unpopular

BERMAN: Have you ever talked to anyone within the Trump administration? Has anyone reached out to you?

RAINBOW (on camera): Yes, me -- me and Kellyanne are having brunch next Sunday.

RAINBOW: The queen of alternative facts, Kellyanne Conway.

BERMAN (voice over): OK, that's not real, but the name Randy Rainbow is.

RAINBOW: I would not make it up, John. It's been a -- it was a tough childhood. It's working out now. But I wouldn't wish it on any 12- year-old.

BERMAN: A musical theater savant, he moved back to New York to reach for his dreams. He ended up reaching Hooters.

RAINBOW: My first job was as a host at the Hooters on 57th Street.

BERMAN (on camera): And how did that work out?

RAINBOW: For me it was great, but imagine the poor gentlemen, after a hard day's work, who would walk into Hooters and open the door and there I'd be with my clipboard and shorts.

I did not wear the orange shorts. I'm sorry to disappoint you.

[08:50:10] BERMAN (voice over): Eventually Rainbow became a pretty successful producer of parity Internet celebrity videos when in 2016 lightning struck. As he might say, orange lightning.

RAINBOW (singing): He's super callus fragile ego centric braggadocios, likes to throw big words around and hopes that we all notice.

RAINBOW (on camera): Braggadocios was the first major one. I think it got like 20 million views in two days.

BERMAN (on camera): That's a lot.

RAINBOW: That -- they tell me that's a lot. Is that good?

BERMAN: I think that's good.

BERMAN (voice over): Some other hits, Omarosa to the tune of Oklahoma.

RAINBOW (singing): Omarosa, you're a mess, but I'm not mad you're here.

BERMAN: Desperate cheeto (ph) to the tune of -- well, you get the point.

RAINBOW: Desperate cheeto (ph), upsetting everyone you meet-o.

BERMAN: Now he's getting millions of hits for every video and selling out his live show with a national tour.

RAINBOW: He's staring at his stubby little fingers on his phone wondering how to spell covfefe.

RAINBOW (on camera): Now that I'm on tour and I'm traveling the country, I'm getting to hear firsthand from people what they're taking from the videos. And I understand how cathartic they are for people. For some people it's an education, some people are learning things from my videos --

RAINBOW (singing): How do you solve a problem like Korea, when you're a crazy dotard --



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Or a dotard, I'm sorry.

RAINBOW (on camera): There's a lot of children in my audience, believe it or not, and there are parents and teachers who say they use my videos as teaching tools.

BERMAN (on camera): There are a lot of swear words in your videos.

RAINBOW: Kellyanne, let's cut the (EXPLETIVE DELETED).

I know but I'd rather they hear it from me than the president.

RAINBOW (singing): Covfefe. Covfefe. Covfefe. Covfefe. Let's call the whole thing off.

RAINBOW (on camera): I understand now that what I'm doing is really even more important than I knew. And I think it's just a testament to how healing and important -- especially in times like this -- humor is.

BERMAN: Healing?

RAINBOW: Healing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm just living vicariously through your videos right now. Thank you so much.

BERMAN (voice over): Healing for some, maybe naughty to others, but to some folks, folks like Broadway legend Stephen Sondheim, folks who know rainbows work, especially his lyrics, are just plain good.

RAINBOW: Said that I was, you know, as good as anyone writing today and -- or, you know, some other things. I don't know. You'd have to look it up. I don't like to boast.

BERMAN (on camera): But that's pretty amazing. If I had told 12-year- old Randy Rainbow you'd be hanging out with Stephen Sondheim, what would he have said?

RAINBOW: It would not have fit in my little brain. I would have thought you were crazy and called the police.

BERMAN: If I had told 12-year-old Randy Rainbow, you would be writing about politics.

RAINBOW: That's almost crazier, because I had no interest in politics whatsoever.

BERMAN (voice over): Now it's his job, which involves a lot of work and TV.

RAINBOW: Well, I watch CNN constantly. It's on every television. I'll decide what the topic is. Then I'll write for about three to four hours. I'll record the song. And then I'll film for another three or four. And then I stay up all night editing. I haven't slept since June of 2016.

BERMAN (on camera): So you watch a lot of CNN.


That's right, Wolf.

BERMAN: Who's your favorite on CNN?

RAINBOW: Well, I feel like I'm being set up here.

BERMAN: Who's your favorite?

RAINBOW: John Berman is my favorite, although you could have brought Chris Cuomo with you.

BERMAN: I was going to say --

RAINBOW: I would not have been mad.

Did you bring Chris Cuomo with you? Anderson? John Berman. Not even a boyfriend (ph). It's all right.

BERMAN (voice over): So what about his future? What if he loses his muse?

BERMAN: What if he loses?

RAINBOW: What if he loses?

BERMAN: Uh-huh.

RAINBOW: Great. Let's get a new cast in here. I'd be thrilled to have some new material, especially in a year's time.

BERMAN: Can you rhyme with Buttigieg?

RAINBOW: I've tried. I'm still working on it.

RAINBOW (singing): Why they all crushing on Mayor -- ooh gurrrl!

BERMAN (voice over): The way he sees it, no matter what happens, the world needs Randy Rainbow.

RAINBOW (on camera): As long as there's news and controversy and as long as there are racist, anti-Semitic, misogynist bigots looking for a comeback, I'll be here. RAINBOW (singing): Just be best.


CAMEROTA: That was fantastic.

BERMAN: So you -- so that is Randy Rainbow. He's on his national tour now. He's coming to The Beacon Theater in New York in the fall --

CAMEROTA: That's huge.

BERMAN: Which is big for him because the Beacon is technically on Broadway.

CAMEROTA: Well, sure. I mean The Beacon, if you get there, you've arrived.


CAMEROTA: But he's already transcended that. He has 20 million or 200 million hits on YouTube. So I think that's even bigger than The Beacon.

BERMAN: He's a big deal. And if you listen to the words, the craft that he works with there, it's just very, very impressive.

CAMEROTA: Oh, my gosh, no, it's so impressive. And I -- it looks like your -- he has a new fan and you have a new fan.

BERMAN: I'm like -- I'm like top ten. It's clear that I'm like top, you know, maybe --

CAMEROTA: Top three.

BERMAN: Maybe.

CAMEROTA: Top three.

BERMAN: I think he was making that up.

CAMEROTA: All right. More "Good Stuff," next.


[08:59:23] CAMEROTA: OK, it's time now for "The Good Stuff," and this is a really good one, John. OK, get the tissues ready.

A young boy with autism treated to a heartwarming first day of school. More than 20 police officers gathered in Chesterfield, Missouri, to walk five-year-old Carmine Madalene (ph) to start kindergarten, OK. Now, they are all friends of Carmine's dad, Andy, who's a fellow police officer, who is in the hospital fighting esophageal and stomach cancer, OK.

Now, at the last minute, Andy, the dad, along with two nurses from the hospital, surprised the rest of them and he showed up after all. [09:00:00] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDY MADALENE: This is one of my biggest days, and I -- and I -- and I didn't -- I just did not want to miss this. He means the world to me. We've been through a lot together.