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U.S. Economy May Face Headwinds; Donald Trump Makes Controversial Statements about Jewish Democratic Voters; Some Officials Express Worry over President Trump's Recent Behavior; Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL) is Interviewed About Trump Sparking Criticism By Repeating Anti-Semitic Trope; Tom Steyer Live on NEW DAY. Aired 8- 8:30a ET

Aired August 22, 2019 - 08:00   ET



GENERAL WESLEY CLARK, FORMER NATO SUPREME ALLIED COMMANDER, EUROPE: -- people who won the Medal of Honor, many who died in the process of winning it. It's a very special thing. Those men who win the Medal of Honor, they're marked for the rest of their lives, and not only in public adulation but, I'm sure, emotionally, they probably never get over that experience of combat. And here you have a president who, he's president of the United States.

He's commander in chief. People in uniform respect the office, but he didn't serve in Vietnam. He's never been under fire. He doesn't really understand the teamwork, the sacrifice, the loyalty that comes and that people wearing that Medal of Honor represent. So it was a hurtful comment, actually.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: General Wesley Clark, thanks for being with us this morning. I do appreciate it.

CLARK: Thank you.

BERMAN: And thank you to our international viewers for watching. For you CNN Newsroom is next. For our U.S. viewers NEW DAY continues right now.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: All right, good morning, everyone. Welcome to your NEW DAY. It is Thursday, August 22nd, 8:00 in the east. And even by Mr. Trump's standards the latest bizarre statements are outrageous. Yesterday when asked about his trade war with China, the president dropped this doozy.




CAMEROTA: All right, that wasn't the only time yesterday that he suggested he is the savior. Right before that he praised and retweeted a rightwing conspiracy theorist who called Mr. Trump the King of Israel. The president also again questioned the loyalty of American Jews, repeating the same anti-Semitic trope that he has criticized Democrats for. And there was much more that happened yesterday, but this is only a three-hour program.

BERMAN: Again, "The New York Times" reports this morning that there is fear within the president's larger political world about what's going on here. "The Times" writes some former Trump administration officials said they were increasingly worried about the president's behavior, suggesting it stems from rising pressure on Mr. Trump as the economy seems more worrisome and next year's election approaches.

There are troubling signs for the economy this morning. The Labor Department says a half million fewer jobs were added in 2018 and early 2019 than previously reported. There was another yield curve inversion on Wednesday. And the budget deficit is on path to top $1 trillion.

Joining us now, CNN political analyst Maggie Haberman. She is White House correspondent for "The New York Times" who was the author of that quote we just read alongside Peter Baker. So tell us more about that. Former Trump administration officials say they're seeing behavior that worries them.

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: There's this constant question that hovers around coverage of the president, commentary about the president these days, which is, is he changed, is he different? I generally, and I think you both know, reject the idea that he's particularly different because I think that we're seeing a lot of what we saw in the campaign.

I have spoken with a bunch of former officials and senior officials in the last week or so, all of whom who disagree and said that they believe that this is an escalation of sort of his more erratic behavior or his more extreme behavior. And they attribute it to increasing stress in the job as he faces reelection. I don't think that we can ignore the fact that literally every day for him now is all tied up in worrying about whether he's going to get reelected next year.

And for all the question about whether he likes the job, we know he likes to win. And so I do think that he is very concerned about that. I also think we have heard previously from former administration officials they've been concerned about his behavior. And I think part of that is because when you leave, you suddenly become a lot more aware of things that either you tuned out or it just looks different from the outside, and I'm not sure which one to credit it with. But we're just reporting.

CAMEROTA: We've had Anthony Scaramucci, the former Comms Director, on our air saying the very same thing. And so what is it that they think is worrying him, the economy?

HABERMAN: The Anthony Scaramucci thing I think is really specific in the sense that Anthony Scaramucci went from being incredibly favorable to him to being incredibly critical of him. And again, I think that the number of people who suggest that they didn't see all these things before and do know, that's different than these officials who acknowledge that the president has always been like this. They just think that it's exacerbated. And they do attribute it to primarily the economy. They also attribute to, candidly, the change in staff around him.

And look, there has always been this question of has he been more willing to do certain things on policy or a number of other issues because certain people left? I've tended to reject that argument and that it's more he just doesn't want guardrails around him and so he grinds them down. But the reality is there's not a ton of staff left, and I think those who are there, I have heard this over and over from people in the building, are not doing a ton to tell him no. So --

BERMAN: Mick Mulvaney, for instance.

HABERMAN: I don't think that there's a sense that Mick Mulvaney is trying to do what General Kelly did, for instance, and I think Mick Mulvaney would say that, which was he's not really managing the president's behavior.

[08:05:02] The one data point that someone, a former official pointed to with me in conversation in particular was that the tweets have gotten a lot worse. And their point was you would not have seen some of these tweets in 2017. It's certainly true that in 2018 we saw an exacerbation of the tweets about Robert Mueller, for instance, when he had been hands off for a very long time about the Special Counsel investigating him on the urging of his lawyers. I think some of these tweets which are deeply personal feel a lot like what we saw during the campaign. But I think he sees this all as gong into campaign mode.

BERMAN: Yesterday there were a few things, and I don't know if it was more of the same or a little bit different, or more erratic or less erratic, but they were notable to me, which is one, the 24-hour reversal on the payroll tax, which is the day before, yes, that's something we're talking about, yesterday, no, we're not talking about it, guns, which is something we've discussed here. I don't fully believe he is going to be supportive of background checks, but yesterday he claimed he was interested in background checks, again, expanded background checks, whereas the day before he had walked away from it almost completely. So those two reversals to me were notable. And also the leaning in more to the comments about American Jews in Israel, which a lot of people look at and say were anti-Semitic. Those three things to me were worthy of note.

HABERMAN: I would have to pick them apart, because I don't think they're all the same, right. I think in terms of background checks, look, I think that he knows where he wants to be in terms of his base, his political and what he thinks will be sustainable for him, and I think he knows that that does not include a deal with Democrats. And I think he's trying to reconcile his previous language while sort of letting everyone hear what they want to hear, which is a classic of his style. So that one I don't think is a huge surprise.

The payroll tax, look, I think that cuts to the core for him, which is acknowledging that there are signs that there's an economic slowdown, and I don't think he's quite grappled with that. But to your point that's asking a lot to ask voters to pretend they didn't hear what he said the day before.

In terms of his remarks about disloyalty to Israel, the silence from his main protectors at, say, the Republican Jewish Coalition a day earlier, who were trying so say when he had said something similar a day earlier, he meant disloyalty to themselves. He didn't mean disloyalty to Israel, because there is an anti-Semitic trope that traffics on the idea, as you know, of Jews being more loyal to their religion than to where they live. Now, the argument from people I've heard around the president is this is different than, say, what he and others criticized Congresswoman Omar and Congresswoman Tlaib for. And there are a lot of Democrats, too, who were very upset with what they said, and it's different because he's not an anti-Semite. I think it would really behoove him to explain exactly what he's talking about, but I don't understand how people can keep insisting he didn't literally say what he said. He did say it.

CAMEROTA: And I feel like he refuted the RJC. He came out and said I meant disloyalty to, I think he said to Israel.

HABERMAN: He was very specific.

CAMEROTA: Yes, he was very specific.

HABERMAN: RJC was pretty quiet yesterday.

CAMEROTA: We just had former Congressman Joe Walsh on, conservative Tea Party guy who told us he is very close to being a primary challenger for Donald Trump because of all the disturbing things he now sees with more clear eyes than he did previously. Does that give inside the White House any indigestion, any heartburn when they think that there are people popping up who might be challenging him?

HABERMAN: I think the word popping up, the phrase popping up is actually a really apt one, because I think what they're concerned about is not the Joe Walsh or any of these candidates declared or possibly declaring like Bill Weld who is running, who has had a lot of trouble getting headlines. I don't think they're concerned they can really make inroads. Some of the Trump campaign advisers, particularly Bill Stepien, the former political director at the White House, has been working for a year to try to tighten their grip on these state parties to make it very hard for a primary challenger to amass delegates at the convention. So you're really just doing it to be on TV and to see what votes, and to get a rise out of the president. And that's what they're worried about, because you've seen how he's handled, for instance, Anthony Scaramucci over the last week. You would think that Anthony Scaramucci was the most important issue of policy based on the mind share that the president has devoted to it, at least on his Twitter feed and some of his conversations.

I think they're worried that somebody like Joe Walsh, who does have a facility with conservative talk radio, who is a little more familiar with the media milieu, will gain attention. Arguing against Joe Walsh taking off, I just think we have to really note this, is there's a long litany of tweets, among them his extremely pro-Trump tweets in 2016, his attacks on journalists who were just covering the president straight during the campaign when I would argue the president was pretty similar to how he is now, and Joe Walsh has never really explained the conversion. And then he has a number of other controversial tweets. And so I think that if he does run, he is going to face a different level of attention than he is used to.

BERMAN: Joe Walsh is going to have to spend a lot of time explaining Joe Walsh in addition to attacking the president. We'll see if he gets in. But it is interesting that there is conservatives in the White House that the president won't be able to ignore these people who probably can't beat him.

[08:10:00] HABERMAN: I think there's always the concern about what the president is or isn't going to ignore because he tends to treat these things as one-on-one discussions, as we know.

CAMEROTA: Maggie, great to talk to you, thanks for sharing the reporting.

HABERMAN: Thank you.

BERMAN: All right, we heard it just there, the president repeating the anti-Semitic trope. Up next, a Jewish member of Congress reacts to that and much more.


BERMAN: All right, new controversy swirling around the president's comments where, once again, he made clear what he thinks about American Jews who support the Democratic Party. Listen.


DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In my opinion, you vote for a Democrat, you're being very disloyal to Jewish people and you're being very disloyal to Israel. And only weak people would say anything other than that.


BERMAN: Disloyal, the idea of dual loyalty. Joining me now to discuss is Democratic Congressman Ted Deutch. Congressman, thank you so much for being with us. I want people to understand this, why this is an issue.


When you say Jews are being disloyal, or the idea of dual loyalty, why that is considered an anti-Semitic trope? Can you explain?

REP. TED DEUTCH (D-FL): Sure, because -- thanks for having me. Because throughout the history of the Jewish people charges of disloyalty, charges of dual loyalty have been leveled against Jewish communities throughout the world. And those charges in the context of the anti-Semitism that existed in those countries, those charges often led to attacks, violent attacks on Jewish communities. It's the expulsion of Jews from those communities.

When there is hatred and anti-Semitism, you only fuel that anti- Semitism, when you throw out there, you just lob out there those kinds of anti-Semitic troops.

And here's the thing, the ADL has noted a 60 percent increase in anti- Semitic hate crimes, the largest increase since they started keeping track, it's very dangerous when the president says the kinds of things that he says.

And by the way, let's also be clear, I'm not going to let the president of the United States tell me or the three quarters of the Jewish community in America who chose not to vote for him, that we are in any way disloyal to him, to Israel, to our community or to anyone else. He should just knock it off. It's dangerous, and he should know that.

BERMAN: I want to make clear again the idea of dual loyalty or disloyalty is no small thing when you're talking about the history of the Jewish Diaspora. In many cases, it is the thing which has caused so much pain and suffering over time.

You raise another point, though, which is that --


BERMAN: -- American Jews support for Israel, can you be critical of Israel without being anti-Semitic?

DEUTCH: Well, of course, Israel's a great ally and a critical ally of the United States. And the U.S.-Israel relationship has always enjoyed bipartisan support as it should. Are there times there are partisan differences? Sure.

But what the president is trying to do here is inoculate himself against his willingness to use these anti-Semitic tropes, like he did in his last campaign or like he did when he ran ads alleging a Jewish conspiracy that runs the world. He tries to inoculate himself against the things that rile up the anti-Semites in America by saying, but I support Israel, so, please, please, I can't possibly be using anti- Semitism.

That -- you can't do that. You have to treat them differently. And the fact is there are -- there's strong bipartisan support for Israel. It's been critical to the U.S.-Israel relationship and the president is trying to turn this into a political issue, which is quite frankly bad for the United States, bad for Israel and bad for the U.S.'s relationship.

BERMAN: In other words, you're saying that being pro-Israel doesn't inoculate yourself of charges of anti-Semitism, correct?

DEUTCH: Clearly not.

And let's just also, John, let's just be clear about something else. If you or I had an uncle who went on social media and started making claims or tweeting claims about being the king of Israel, and the second coming, and then went out into public and talked about being the chosen one, you know what we would do? We would gather our family members and figure out how to have an intervention because there's something clearly wrong there.

I don't understand why my Republican colleagues who are elected officials remain silent when the president does this sort of outrageous -- the sort of outrageous things we've seen over the past few days.

BERMAN: Congressman, we talked to you so much after the Parkland shooting, so I do want to ask you one question about guns today.

DEUTCH: Please.

BERMAN: Can I ask -- the president hasn't made clear exactly where he stands on expanded background checks. It seems like he is not in favor of expanding them, though we open the door a little bit yesterday.

Can I ask you what expanding them in your mind would do?

DEUTCH: Sure, it's very simple. And there's a reason that 90 percent of the American people support it, including responsible gun owners.

If someone wants to purchase a gun at a gun store, they have to go through a federal background check. They should be subject to that same background check if they buy a gun at a gun show or if they buy the gun online. That's what we're trying to do.

It's simple. It's not complicated. I just wish that the president would stop talking to the millionaire lobbyists for the gun lobby and would instead start talking to the families who have suffered loss, people like Fred who were on your show earlier today.

If he would -- if he would talk to the people from Parkland and El Paso and Dayton and Gilroy and Pulse and Las Vegas, he would understand why if we can prevent even one shooting, even one, it's worth doing.

[08:20:13] So, yesterday, he left the door open. I'm going to go with the President Trump of yesterday, and I know that I speak for my Democratic colleagues if he's serious about talking about it, all of us are willing to get on the phone today. We need to pass background check and Mitch McConnell needs to bring that bill up and let us do it.

BERMAN: Congressman Ted Deutch, thank you for being with us. Just one point, on Internet sales, there are required background checks for them but there are ways around it which is something I know a lot of this legislation wants to address.


DEUTCH: Too many loopholes, which need to be closed.

BERMAN: Congressman Ted Deutch, thanks for being with us.

DEUTCH: Thanks.


President Trump declared he's the chosen one and that was the least of the peculiar claims the president made yesterday. Reaction from a 2020 candidate to the erratic behavior from the president, next.


CAMEROTA: Well, it's been an interesting 24 hours if you've been listening to President Trump's rhetoric. Here's an example of President Trump talking about the trade war with China.


[08:25:03] TRUMP: Somebody said it's Trump's trade war. This isn't my trade war. This is trade war that should have taken place a long time ago by a lot of other presidents. Somebody had to do it. I am the chosen one. Somebody had to do it.


CAMEROTA: All right. Joining us now to discuss this and everything as we head into 2020 is Tom Steyer. He is a Democratic presidential candidate and he launched the Need to Impeach initiative.

Mr. Steyer, great to have you here on NEW DAY. You obviously have been calling the president unfit for a long time. I doubt this week has changed how you feel, but I do want to talk to you about your tactic and why you think that running for president is the best or most effective way to bring all this to light because as of this morning, there are 22 Democrats running for president.

And so, did you think that none of them could get the job done?

TOM STEYER (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, Alisyn, the reason I decided to run for president was because I believe we have a broken government, that corporations have in effect bought our government, and that we need to restore democracy, a government of, by and for the people. And for ten years I've been doing it.

And I thought when I listened to those debates, what I heard was a lot of discussion of what we wanted in a perfect world, but actually no discussion of how we're going to get it. That in fact what we need to do is break the corporate stranglehold on our democracy to get any of those important policy choices accomplished. And I was very scared what we're going to do is talk a lot of policy and a lot of theory, but in fact no one was going to take on the fact of actually accomplishing what the American people need. It's the critical thing to talk about in 2020.

CAMEROTA: Well, speaking of buying government, you know, you've been accused by some of the Democrats of buying your way into this race. You know, they're sort of suggesting that they're doing the shoe leather work and you've kind of leapfrogged your way given that you are a billionaire.

Here's what Steve Bullock, the governor of Montana, another presidential candidate tweeted. The DNC donor requirements created a situation in which billionaires can buy their way onto the debate stage and campaigns are forced to spend millions on digital ads chasing $1 donors not talking directly to voters. We're kidding ourselves if we're calling a $10 million purchase of 130,000 donors a demonstration of grassroots support.

What's your response?

STEYER: I'd say this: for ten years, I've been the person as an outsider taking on corporations and building the grassroots. If you look at the organization that I started Next Gen America, it's one of the largest grassroots organizations in the United States. We've knocked on literally tens of millions of doors. We've registered millions of Americans. And in 2018, just last year, we did the largest youth voter mobilization in American history.

For ten years, I've been taking on corporations at the ballot box and winning. And that's what we need now, a message to Americans that we can actually accomplish what we need to accomplish. And for ten years, I've been that person as an outsider who's done it.

CAMEROTA: If you don't make that September debate stage, what's your next plan?

STEYER: I will make the September debate stage.

CAMEROTA: How do you know that?

STEYER: If you look at the polls that the DNC doesn't accept in the four early primary states, a poll came out this week that had me at 7 percent on average between those four states. The rule of thumb is to be at 2 percent. So, I say if anybody does a poll, I'm in.

CAMEROTA: All right, we shall see. When do you think you will have that data?

STEYER: I don't know. What I know is this, Alisyn -- we are going out and talking directly to the American people. There is a response, a positive response. There is a message here that people want to hear, and that's actually what the campaign is about.

Do you have something to say that people want to hear that they think is important and they think is different? And the fact is, we do.

CAMEROTA: You know, I want to talk about what you are up against because you have talked about impeaching the president, obviously that has not happened. We had Matt Taibbi on earlier this week. He's a great reporter at "The Rolling Stone".

He has an article out this week about how popular President Trump is. And he goes to these rallies and I'm not sure if you've ever been to a Trump rally -- but he get -- President Trump gets a rock star reception. And in fact, what Matt Taibbi writes is the most common remark you

hear from Trump voters is that he's relatable and isn't phony. Blue state audiences tempted to howl at this should try to understand this phenomenon because it speaks to a legitimate problem Democrats have. The average American.