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Donald Trump Fires National Security Adviser John Bolton; Calls For Wilbur Ross To Resign After Reported Firing Threats; Mayor Nan Whaley (D) Addresses Senate Democrats On Gun Action. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired September 10, 2019 - 14:00   ET




MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: ... and whose efforts and judgments benefit him in delivering American foreign policy.


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: President Trump has now gone through three National Security advisers and says he will name a fourth in the next week. CNN's Kaitlan Collins is at the White House for us. And so what else are you learning about this, Kaitlan?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: There is so much going on right now, Brooke. But what we do know is the President and John Bolton are going back and forth over whether or not he was fired or resigned, is that they did get into a bitter disagreement last night over that decision that you were just talking about that the President wanted to host leaders of the Taliban at Camp David, a meeting that was of course scrapped later, in the end, when the President said because of that suicide car bombing attack.

But we are told that as the President was putting those plans together to host them there, John Bolton wasn't in Washington, but in Europe on a trip alongside the Vice President, and he was pushing back against the President saying that he didn't think it was a good idea to host the leaders of the Taliban on U.S. soil.

But we should note that while this is the point of contention that the President and John Bolton were arguing about last night, the President also got pushback from several other people on this idea of hosting the leaders of the Taliban at Camp David.

Several others inside the administration, but also Republicans outside of the White House as you've seen that spilled out into public view. But for some reason, it was John Bolton's pushback that urge the President so much that led to that bitter disagreement last night that now has led to even though John Bolton did show up to work this morning, he is now no longer the National Security adviser and we are awaiting the next one next week.

Now, you heard Secretary of State Mike Pompeo giving that briefing that was scheduled we should note, but Bolton was supposed to participate in that briefing alongside the Secretary of State and the Treasury Secretary, and he was almost grinning at some points when he was talking about John Bolton, saying that there were certainly things that the two of them disagreed on that were pretty well known.

Even though CNN reporting shows that those hostilities between the two of them really broke out to the open in recent weeks where they weren't even speaking for a short period of time and then were not really speaking outside of formal meetings here at the White House.

Even though back in the day the two of those men, along with the Vice President Mike Pence, were pretty ideologically aligned on the issues. But it's when Bolton started to slip in the President's eyes that Pompeo started to distance himself from the former National Security adviser.

BALDWIN: Got it. Okay, so bits and pieces of this coming out. Tension simmering for a while. This bitter dispute last night between the President and Bolton. Well, let me continue, you know, connecting the dots here. Kaitlan, thank you very much. Let's go to Kylie Atwood over at the State Department, and so specifically with this relationship between, you know, Secretary Pompeo and Ambassador Bolton, what are you hearing about these two?

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Well, we know that they have disagreed and Secretary Pompeo was asked about their disagreements during that briefing at the White House today, and he acknowledged that they have disagreed many times, but what Secretary Pompeo did there in the White House Briefing Room was demonstrate that he is on Team Trump.

Now there are two narratives right now about did National Security adviser John Bolton, tell President Trump he was going to resign, offer his resignation, as he said in a tweet, or did President Trump ask for his resignation as Trump is now saying.

Now Secretary Pompeo landed on the side. No shocker here of his boss, the President of the United States saying that it was Trump who asked last night for Bolton to resign. So those dynamics are still being figured out.

But what we are following here is what are going to be the changes in Trump's National Security, his foreign policy agenda as his biggest Iran hawk is leaving. Now Secretary Pompeo was asked if there's the possibility that President Rouhani and President Trump meet at the end of the month. There's going to be the U.N. General Assembly taking place in New York City. We know that President Trump has said he wants to meet with Iranian leadership and Pompeo said, "Sure, that was possible."

So even as this administration is keeping up its maximum pressure campaign on Iran, it is notable that Bolton is leaving, he has been the one pressing for that. And Secretary Pompeo, who is an advocate of whatever President Trump wants to go forth with is the one who was left standing here and he is going to be continuing to push forward the agenda. But of course, there's some questions about how disjointed the foreign

policy is going to be without a National Security adviser. Trump says he is going name one next week, but we really don't know who is going to come in and the list is pretty short. There is a long list of folks that we have heard that are up and possible to fill that job.

BALDWIN: Okay, before we talk about the fourth Kylie, thank you very much for all of that. Let's get some smart analysis. Two of the best women at CNN are with me, Jamie Gangel go and Dana Bash.

So between the two of you, help me understand, Jamie starting with you. I know you have some scoops, some color. What happened?

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think been following this for the last couple of weeks as it's been getting worse and worse, and I've been told repeatedly last week that Bolton was on thin ice and it was getting thinner by the day. His relations with Pompeo were strained.


GANGEL: But the real problem was, as a friend of his said, they were surprised it didn't happen sooner, because he is like a bull in a China shop --

BALDWIN: Which he?

GANGEL: Bolton.

BALDWIN: Bolton.

GANGEL: And his relations with the President were disintegrating. The latest thing was that the President wanted someone to go on the Sunday talk shows to defend him. And he was saying, "Why didn't anyone go on and defend me?" And Bolton said, "Well, I didn't think it was confirmed." And it turned out that according to my source that Bolton backed out of it, and the President was furious about that.

So I think it's something that's been building and then with the Taliban and the meeting in Camp David, it exploded.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And just to build off of that great reporting that Jamie has, I was told this is in keeping with what Kaitlan and others on our White House team were hearing.

I was just told before coming on with you that it was really the whole situation with Camp David; not just that it fell apart, but more importantly, this is somebody who spoke to the President about Bolton, that the President is convinced that it was Bolton who was leaking to the press, saying bad things about the President about his approach to Afghanistan, the notion of having the Taliban at Camp David, which obviously this is something that Bolton who is a historically a neocon thought was a terrible idea.

It is one thing to have disagreements in private, you actually hope that happens that there's a healthy debate on policy, but that this was the final straw. And then of course, there are other issues just about personality.

Another other source told me that this is -- that Bolton has a style and tactics and bravado that have irritated the President and other senior advisers for some time, obviously, we have known because of our team's great reporting, including Jamie's the most recent butting heads with the Secretary of State on policy, but also, personality wise.

I'm told that Bolton kind of was acting like a Secretary of State traveling by himself, getting his own plane, having too many staffers and things like that.

BALDWIN: Got it. So it seems to me that it sounds -- I'm hearing like differences in policy and also just a personality clash. But you know, obviously, it's healthy to have various opinions. I think the President probably even realizes, you know, he is probably fine right with having a very various opinions or people disagreeing in front of him.

But it seems to me -- you locked in on this -- that if it spills out into the public sphere that, you know, people disagree with how the President feels whether it's, you know, having the Taliban talks at Camp David or, you know, we went on Mount Mongolia rather than going to DMZ a couple of months ago. You know, the fact that that gets reported on by the press that seems to be that.

BASH: Absolutely. And look, I mean, this is a guy, John Bolton, who is a known commodity. And we were kind of joking internally that who would have thought that a neocon with a brash personality wouldn't survive in the Trump foreign policy administration? No one.


BASH: Like you were saying, it's surprising that it hasn't happened --

GANGEL: It lasted 18 months, that might have been a record.

BASH: Earlier. Right. Exactly. Exactly. Having said that, we also should take a step back, and you alluded to this, this will be the President's the next person, whoever that person might be worth fourth National Security adviser in three years. That doesn't happen.

And the reason it traditionally doesn't happen is because the National Security adviser is a really important person. It's the gatekeeper for the President of all things national security and international policy.

GANGEL; And not only the gatekeeper, but he is supposed to be the honest broker.

BASHER: Honest broker.

GANGEL: The person who is talking to the Defense Department, talking to the C.I.A., talking to the State Department.


GANGEL: And then bringing everyone together, not trying to influence it. Just one point on resign versus fire. That may encapsulate the problem with their relationship to begin with.

John Bolton is calling everybody right now to say, "I resigned first." Donald Trump is telling everyone he fired him. These are two very strong personalities. And John Bolton just called "The Washington Post" and said, quote, "I will have my say in due course."

And a Republican administration official said to me, someone is going to be paying him a lot of money for his memoir. This is not -- more of this is going to come out.

BALDWIN: Fascinating conversation, ladies. Dana and Jamie, thank you both so very much.

BASH: Thanks, Brooke.

GANGEL: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Our Breaking News coverage continues. The President's firing or John Bolton's resignation. Take your pick just the latest here in this recent trend, I'll be joined by legendary journalist, Carl Bernstein to talk about the impact of Trump's demands for absolute loyalty. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. We'll be right back.



BALDWIN: Welcome back. Here's a Breaking News on this Tuesday afternoon. The President's National Security adviser, John Bolton -- out. President Trump says he asked for his resignation, but Bolton is pushing back. He says he offered to resign last night.

Bolton made headlines during his time in the administration for challenging the President's foreign policy proposals, including with countries like North Korea and Iran and Venezuela and Afghanistan.

So with me now, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Carl Bernstein, he is also a CNN political analyst. You know, you've been listening to all of this analysis. What say you?

CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: First of all, this was never a good fit. John Bolton is a right wing neocon ideologue, the last thing Donald Trump is, is a conventional ideologue.

But more important, this is perhaps the most convincing evidence that we've seen of late that we have a governing crisis under this President, a dire crisis in which the National Security of the United States is not secure because of the conduct of the President of the United States. He cannot conduct a coherent presidency, a coherent administration.

The resignations of Mattis; his book, Mattis's book, what he says about this President in the book. This is one more indication of it, and also we have an astonishing thing that appears to be going on that already Bolton has called the President a liar.

The thing that that all of the networks, even on Fox of late have been saying about the President of the United States lying now appears that Bolton in his tweet and his threats to keep going on is going to talk some about the President's lying.

But more important is this whole question. We don't have functional governance for the first time in our modern history in this country, because of the conduct of this President of the United States.

BALDWIN: So given that, we now need -- he now needs this fourth National Security adviser, all the while issues with North Korea, Iran, Venezuela, you know, dot, dot, dot -- continue to linger.

BERNSTEIN: Think of all of these balls up in the air, it's not just lingering, they are unresolved, they are dangerous, and he is handling them in a way that is demonstrably dangerous, instead of again, a systematic conduct of the presidency of policy that relies on facts, that relies on process, that relies on expertise.

This is seat of the pants governance that is not working and our allies in particular as well as our enemies have picked up on this. And we are now in -- we're destabilized as a result of this President's weaknesses.

BALDWIN: Well, speaking of Trump wanting to surround himself by "Yes Men," let me just set this up for everyone. So Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross is going to extraordinary lengths to protect this President.

"The New York Times" is reporting that Secretary Ross threatened to fire top employees at NOAA on Friday after the agency's Birmingham office disputed President Trump's claim that Hurricane Dorian might in fact impact Alabama.

Some members of Congress are calling now on Wilbur Ross to resign. You have known Wilbur Ross for 30 years. What does this say about this undying loyalty?

BERNSTEIN: It's not about Wilbur Ross, who is the ultimate toady as it were. HE has demonstrated that throughout his tenure as the Secretary of Commerce.

BALDWIN: What's it about?

BERNSTEIN: I man, this is part of the same story as Bolton's firing. It is about incoherence, a lack of an ability to function as the President of the United States in a way that is open to fact, and the problem here is of all things -- the weather report, the weather report.

BALDWIN: The weather forecast, when people's lives were in danger.

BERNSTEIN: It is not liable because the President of the United States decided in what should have been a one-day story and to correct himself, and it may be no accident that the Bolton announcement is coming today to get this off the front pages and the lead on CNN and the cable networks to get the weather story off, because it all goes to the same thing.

And a President of the United States who conducts the presidency, as if it were a television show called "The Apprentice," "You're fired." But the consequences of this are now apparent to Republicans in a way that they will tell you in Congress -- many Republicans -- they are very worried about the stability of the President of the United States.

And at some point some people, besides Scaramucci and others, one would hope because they're telling reporters like myself, like Bob Woodward, like our people, they're not only telling how they feel, but they're doing it in a craven way, but many are saying we do not believe this President has the stability to exercise and be fit to hold this office.


BERNSTEIN: And increasingly, it's all one story that comes together, including the congressional investigations, including the conduct, the conflict of interests, including the denial of fact in science, including the lying, and especially government by whim, that is aimed at Trump's personal fortunes -- political, financial, and otherwise, that's what this presidency is about.

And this is not just a question of commentary. This is demonstrable, reportable contextual fact that we, as journalists need to keep our eye on is one story and keep advancing.

BALDWIN: We will.

BERNSTEIN: Including giving Trump a break when he deserves a break.

BALDWIN: We will, we will. Carl Bernstein. Thank you. It is Election Day in North Carolina. It's a big do-over vote in a reliably really red district, but this race could serve as a referendum on President Trump looking ahead to 2020.

But first, the Mayor of Dayton, Ohio bringing her fight against gun violence to Washington, D.C. Nan Whaley just met with Senate Democrats. I'll ask her if she thinks her words will inspire any action. We'll be right back.



BALDWIN: Back to our breaking news, the dismissal of National Security adviser, John Bolton via tweet. When it comes to Oval Office departures, this President has a long history of avoiding any face-to- face goodbyes and so for that, Chris Cillizza is here, our CNN Politics Reporter and Editor-at-Large. I heard that sigh and I see more faces on your screen, so who have you got?

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER AND EDITOR-AT-LARGE: Yes, okay so one thing just overall, Brooke, important that this President rose to fame/infamy, by telling people, "You're fired," but he doesn't actually like to do that in real life.

Okay, here we go. Fired on Twitter. Obviously, boom, John Bolton, news of the day. But remember, Reince Priebus had have just gotten back from a trip, Donald Trump tweeted from the tarmac that Reince Priebus was out, and John Kelly was in as his Chief of Staff -- gone.

David Shulkin, Secretary of Veterans Affairs via Twitter. Rex Tillerson. I mean, this has happened so long ago you barely remember, but Rex Tillerson also fired by Twitter. But Donald Trump fires people other ways other than in person, too. Let's keep going.

Okay, fired by letter. Remember Jim Comey was on the West Coast in the spring of 2017 when he was informed by watching television that he had been fired. A letter apparently had been sent to the F.B.I. He wasn't there to receive it. Okay, keep going. We've got more.

But wait, there's more. Okay, fired by Jeff Sessions. Andrew McCabe, who worth noting is a contributor to CNN, Andrew McCabe, fired by Jeff Sessions at the behest of Donald Trump and I'll note, let go, I believe within 24 hours of being eligible to receive his pension after two decades at the F.B.I.

Fired by John Kelly. Remember, I said Reince Priebus fired by Twitter for John Kelly. John Kelly then fired Omarosa, which, you know, I don't know, you can quibble about that, and The Mooch after his 11-day run.

So there's lots and lots and lots of ways you can get fired by Donald Trump, but you notice what wasn't on one of these screens, Brooke, fired in person by Donald Trump. He's not big in that.

BALDWIN: How about that and that's why he came to partial fame. All right, going down the firing rabbit hole, Chris Cillizza, thank you very much for that refresher.

CILLIZZA: Thank you, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Meantime, lawmakers are looking at how to stop more mass shootings like the tragedies in Texas and Ohio. The House Judiciary Committee taking up several gun bills today to limit access to high capacity magazines, block anyone convicted of misdemeanor hate crimes from buying firearms and provide incentives for states to adopt what's referred to as Red Flag Laws.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has resisted bringing this House passed bill to the Senate that expands Federal background checks or indeed any gun legislation to the Senate floor. He says he is waiting for a directive from President Trump. At the White House yesterday, also, President Trump awarded Medals of

Valor to the Dayton police officers who took out the mass shooter there last month. But you know who wasn't there, who says she wasn't even in invited? The Mayor of Dayton, Ohio.

Nan Whaley, even though by the way, she is in Washington, D.C. this week. She was at the Senate Democratic Caucus lunch today and Mayor Whaley is with me now.

Mayor Whaley, nice to have you back on.

NAN WHALEY (D), MAYOR OF DAYTON: Nice to hear from you, Brooke.

BALDWIN: First of all, just to the news and this lunch you just walked out of, so what is the sense you have? Do you think that the Senate will vote on the House's background check bill?

WHALEY: Well, I think if it was up to Senate Democrats, the vote would have probably happened immediately back in February. But there is a lot of interest, I think, in getting something done.

Mayors from across the country, Republican Mayors and Democratic Mayors came yesterday and today, really talking to the Senate to really share the stories of what's happened in our communities. Mayors like the Mayor of Parkland, the Mayor of Pittsburgh, myself, talking to senators about how universal background checks are the most popular thing I think in politics in the entire land with nine out of 10 Americans agreeing on a background check and just saying, "Hey, you know get this done. Get it off the off the table because ..."