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Former FBI Lawyer Lisa Page Calls President Trump's Attacks "Sickening"; President Trump To Attend Queen's Reception For NATO Leaders After Attack On French President Macron; An Unauthorized Biography Examines Melania Trump's Life In The White House. Aired 7:30-8a ET
Aired December 3, 2019 - 07:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Joining us now are CNN political analyst Kirsten Powers, and CNN legal and national security analyst Asha Rangappa.
Kirsten, can you imagine the President of the United States speaking and tweeting about your personal life, your relationships, your sex life? I mean, it's so jaw-dropping what she has lived with for the past two years. It's incredible, actually, that she has stayed silent for so long.
KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST, COLUMNIST, USA TODAY: Yes. I mean, I think what he's been doing is really bullying her, right? I mean, his -- Melania, hello -- do something about the bullying. He -- it's just this nonstop attack on this woman who, you know --
I've said before I don't think the texts that they exchanged were appropriate in the sense that you always want to look like you are completely above reproach when you're in a position like that. Of course, she's free to have opinions. I just -- I do think there's something about two agents who were working on the investigation exchanging those texts that doesn't look right.
But all that said, nothing that she did would make her deserve the nonstop attacks from the president in the most personal terms possible against her. I mean, I think why he gets such glee out of destroying peoples' lives is something that is just unbelievably troubling.
CAMEROTA: Asha, you were a former FBI agent and so I want to read one of the portions of her interview that she did with "The Daily Beast" about the FBI.
She says, "The thing about the FBI that is so extraordinary is that it is made up of a group of men and women whose every instinct is to run toward the fight. So it's particularly devastating to be betrayed by an organization that I still care about so deeply."
What are your thoughts?
ASHA RANGAPPA, CNN LEGAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST, FORMER SPECIAL AGENT, FBI: Well, I think that there are a couple of things.
First, you mention that it was amazing that she's stayed silent for so long. And I think it really goes to how civil servants, whether it's in the Department of Justice or Department of State, really have a culture of being apolitical -- of not trying to get into partisan fights or in the crosshairs of -- it's not in their DNA. They put their heads down and they do their job.
And the fact that you have these people speaking out, I think Lisa Page is kind of emblematic of this parade of former FBI agents, former prosecutors, now current state department employees who are coming and testifying in front of Congress of how they feel their institutions are under assault.
And I think that what she said about the Department of Justice, specifically in being crush by what's happening to it, is an interesting comment, especially since it's coinciding with, as we watch, the attorney general rejecting the findings of the inspector general's vindication of the Russia investigation. I mean, this is exactly what she's talking about.
CAMEROTA: The thing that she says was her breaking point -- that made her speak out was this moment that President Trump reenacted, I guess, what he sees as a sexual moment in front of one of his rallies of thousands of people. So, I warn anybody eating their breakfast this morning, this is disturbing. Watch this moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I love you, Peter. I love you, too, Lisa. Lisa, I love you. Lisa, Lisa -- oh God, I love you, Lisa. And if she doesn't win, Lisa, we've got an insurance policy, Lisa.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: Kirsten -- or do either of you find it curious that a man, Donald Trump, who is so well-known for his past infidelity and affairs, as splashed all over the "New York Post" for years -- that he's so fixated on their relationship?
POWERS: Yes. I mean, he has no shame, though I think that's been well established. And this is something that we would have used to call unpresidential, right? This is just not how presidents behave. It's unthinkable of any other president, good or bad, in the history of this country behaving in the manner that he's behaving.
It's -- it really is just -- it's inexplicable. I don't -- you know, he can't -- like, his delight and his glee in ridiculing people and, like I said, ruining their lives -- I mean, really making this woman's life miserable harming her career, causing unbelievable stress to her -- that he delights so much in that is just -- it's unbelievably troubling.
CAMEROTA: I mean, again, for something that he, himself, has been accused of, caught doing.
CAMEROTA: Asha, it's -- I mean, the idea -- Kirsten, I hear what you're saying. The idea that it's just unpresidential. Surely there's another word for it.
POWERS: Well, it's indecent. I mean, it's just not -- it's not how we expect people -- our leaders to treat other people.
She doesn't -- I mean, the fact that she had an affair is like, it's her business, frankly. It's not -- you know, he obviously has no standing but I don't think anybody has any standing. I mean, it's just nobody's business. It's beside the point.
CAMEROTA: Look, if their affair or if their relationship or their text messages were proven to have somehow scuttled the 2016 election, or to have somehow interfered in the 2016 election, or to have somehow corrupted the investigation that Mueller was doing, this would be a different conversation --
CAMEROTA: -- that we're having. That's not the finding, Asha.
RANGAPPA: No, it's not and it appears that she's going to be vindicated by the I.G. That again, as Kirsten said, these were inappropriate but these -- you know, that nothing that was expressed there actually influenced the investigation.
And I think -- I just want to go back to the interview that she did where she points out that these text messages were cherry-picked, selectively taken out of context -- the worst ones that could perpetuate this narrative -- by the Department of Justice and given to reporters with an order to not source it back to the Department of Justice.
I mean, this is not what our agencies are there to do. It's definitely not what our Department of Justice is there to do, which is to slander one of their own employees to perpetuate a narrative that benefits the President of the United States.
And again, I just go back to Bill Barr because that is exactly how he is leading this department now and I think it completely illustrates exactly what she is concerned about.
CAMEROTA: Asha Rangappa, Kirsten Powers, thank you very much for your perspective --
POWERS: Thank you.
CAMEROTA: -- on all of these angles. Great to talk to you -- John.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right.
President Trump getting ready to meet with Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles today. We have exclusive reporting on how these meetings might go. That's next.
BERMAN: Breaking news. Just a short time ago, President Trump jumped squarely into a public feud with the French President Emmanuel Macron, slamming his criticism of NATO. These two men meet shortly and this will clearly make for an awkward scene, to say the least.
Also today -- that's the president meeting with the secretary general of NATO a little while ago. Also today, the president will have tea with Prince Charles and then go to a reception hosted by Queen Elizabeth.
CNN's Max Foster is live at Buckingham Palace in London with some of the exclusive details. Sort of a good cop-bad cop routine here from the president today, Max.
MAX FOSTER, CNN ROYAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. But first of all, before we have that reception, we've got that amazing Macron-Trump bilateral. Everyone wanting to be a fly on the wall in that.
You may remember, John, that ahead of this meeting, President Macron was very concerned about the situation in Turkey and Syria, worried about the way America pulled troops out of northern Syria, how Turkey put -- went in there and -- those incursions there, all outside the NATO realm. He wants the whole idea of the alliance to be reconsidered, which didn't go down very well with Donald Trump.
Macron effectively saying the organization is braindead because of America's actions. Donald Trump saying this morning NATO serves a great purpose. I think it's very insulting, a surprise -- it's very disrespectful.
So that's the tone they're going to be going into this bilateral meeting with this afternoon.
Then, as you say, a reception here at Buckingham Palace hosted by the queen. Meghan Markle won't be there. She's taking a voluntary leave from public duties. Prince Andrew won't be there because he's been forced out of public duties after that terrible interview on the BBC.
Boris Johnson will be there but there won't be a bilateral between the two of them we're told, which is very unusual but we're in a general election campaign.
It seems as though Prince Charles is actually taking the front seat for the U.K. today. They'll have a tea ahead of this reception.
And I'm told by his people that President Trump and Prince Charles -- very different characters, very different agendas -- have actually got a good working relationship. They had tea last time and it went very well. We'll wait to see how it goes today, John.
CAMEROTA: I'll take it, Max. It sounds like the day is only going to get even more interesting. Thank you for all your reporting for us from London.
So as we await the House Intelligence Committee's report on impeachment today, House Republicans already releasing a 123-page prebuttal that does not address any of the incriminating evidence against President Trump.
John Avlon has our reality check. John, what does it say?
JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it turns out that Donald Trump has been teasing his party's impeachment strategy for quite a while --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: What you're seeing and what you're reading is not what's happening.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AVLON: -- because we've gotten the first look at the GOP impeachment defense and it is essentially denial -- the president did nothing wrong. That's despite the clear fact pattern that emerged after two weeks of testimony from Trump staffers.
And here's how "The New York Times" summed up the 123-page report. "Republicans did not concede a single point of wrongdoing or hint of misbehavior by the president."
Now, not surprisingly, the president tweeted this thanks out to Republicans saying, quote, "I read the Republicans' report on the impeachment hoax. Great job! Can we go to the Supreme Court to stop?" The answer is now, Mr. President.
But, of course, the president is pleased with the Republicans because they seem to be taking dictation from the White House, which nonsensically declared earlier that Ambassador Sondland's testimony completely exonerated the president. In fact, here's what Sondland said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GORDON SONDLAND, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE EUROPEAN UNION: Was there a quid pro quo? The answer is yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AVLON: And how about the idea that Trump was just motivated by concern about corruption in Ukraine.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID HOLMES, COUNSELOR FOR POLITICAL AFFAIRS AT THE U.S. EMBASSY IN UKRAINE: That the president only cares about big stuff and he meant big stuff that benefits the president, like the Biden investigation. (END VIDEO CLIP)
AVLON: But if the Republican strategy is going to be a total denial of testimony, then we've got even bigger problems on our hands.
Now, their goal is presumably to confuse folks into saying well, Democrats and Republicans can't agree so I guess we'll just never know what happened, but that's a moral equivalence that just doesn't fit the facts. That's picking Trump over the truth.
Now, I would have expected Republicans to say something like what the president did was wrong and we wouldn't want a Democratic president doing it, but it doesn't rise to the level of impeachment and removal, especially less than a year out from an election.
And that would be kind of like what Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein said about Bill Clinton's behavior. She said it was immoral, deplorable, indefensible, but arguing that censure was a more appropriate punishment than impeachment.
Instead, we're getting a complete refusal to face facts out of deference to the president's reality distortion field.
I would be so happy to hear just one Republican apply the same standard they did during the Clinton years, like this from then- Congressman Richard Burr. "I do not believe we can ignore the facts," he said, "or disregard the Constitution so that the president can be placed above the law."
Or how about this?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE PENCE, THEN-REPRESENTATIVE (R-IN): This business of high crimes and misdemeanors goes to the question of whether or not the person serving as President of the United States put their own interests -- their personal interests ahead of public service.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AVLON: That is, indeed, the question and that would be Mike Pence back in 2008. Apparently, where you stand is a matter of where you sit.
There is a cost to this epidemic of situational ethics because we're sowing the seeds for a broader embrace of unreality.
Take a look at this. Fifty-three percent of Republicans say that Donald Trump is a better president than Abraham Lincoln. Now, I don't even know what to do with that except to say that we need remedial American history ASAP. But I'm guessing it's more a reflection of kind of a reflexive know-nothing teamism and that's dangerous in a democracy that depends upon being able to reason together.
Denying facts and ditching history, abandoning principles all out of fealty to one person in power is leading Republicans toward something George Orwell once warned us about. "The party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command."
And that's your reality check.
BERMAN: You know, John, it does seem as if sometimes the president is reading out of 1984, quoting directly for it and ironically at times.
AVLON: Watch out and wake up.
CAMEROTA: John, thank you very much.
Well, she has long been one of the most mysterious figures in the White House, first lady Melania Trump. Now, a new biography reveals her thoughts on her family, her politics, even her wardrobe. The author joins us, next.
BERMAN: So, new this morning, this brand-new look inside the world of the first lady, Melania Trump, the likes of which we have not seen before. The list of things we simply did not know is long and revealing -- very.
The book is "Free, Melania" by our very own Kate Bennett. She joins us now. Kate, congratulations. I know you've worked on this for so long.
First up, just a question about the book and the title. It's "Free, Melania," but it's Free, comma, Melania. Why?
KATE BENNETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, AUTHOR, "FREE, MELANIA": Right. You know, the original meme -- the hashtag #freemelania when she first sort of came on the scene that she was somehow trapped or miserable or needed freeing, quite frankly, literally from the White House -- just in my almost three years of covering her now has just proven not to be the case.
And I think -- my sort of thesis is that she is actually the most free of those people in the Trump orbit. She's able to do and say and sort of openly have a discourse and disagree with the president without facing the repercussion that we've seen him have against other staffers -- other members of his administration.
She can set her own schedule. She's not really into campaigning. She has a very small staff. She can work on her "Be Best" program whenever she feels like it.
There's no sort of -- the similar sort of accountability that other first ladies have had. And, you know, I think that has its positive side. It's sort of a weird, antiquated role being first lady, anyway, and it sort of has, in some ways, a negative side for Melania Trump.
CAMEROTA: Kate, the book is fascinating. It is filled with so many interesting tidbits and insights into her because she is such an enigma.
And so, let's start with one of the moments where she got so much attention because she doesn't speak that often but sometimes it seems as though she's sending messages through body language or through her clothing.
And the one that I'm talking about is when she was going to the border and she wore that jacket that said "I really don't care. Do you?" You have a theory and a backstory about this. What was that message about?
BENNETT: Well, you know, I -- it sort of is a long story but I really -- and, you know, as you said, looking -- covering Melania Trump, you can't analyze a bunch of speeches or comments or things she's said on the record because that just doesn't exist. So you have to look for these non-verbal clues.
I happen to think there are no Melania Trump coincidences. She didn't just grab this jacket and run out the door.
I happen to think it might have been a message to Ivanka Trump. And the two, behind the scenes, were helping to convince President Trump, at the time, to sign the executive order ending the zero tolerance policy of separating families at the border. Melania Trump very much wanted that to happen, worked on her husband, really let him know how disturbing it was. Made this trip to the border, which was negated and any positive sign of it because of the jacket.
And I -- and I think it was her way of signaling hey, hey, this is my -- this is what I worked on. I worked on this one. I used my influence and my power behind the scenes. I helped with this one.
BERMAN: I want to ask about Ivanka in just a second.
But first, on clothing, you actually think there is a message sometimes in slacks or trousers or pants -- explain.
BENNETT: You know, I think there is a certain way that Donald Trump prefers women to dress in a more feminine way. I think he's an old- fashioned man and I -- and I -- and I think that his tastes tend toward more feminine garb. And oftentimes, I think Melania Trump wears menswear -- she wears suiting. And again, I don't think there is any --
You know, when she wore that white pantsuit, for example, to the State of the Union in the thick of the Stormy Daniels headlines. Sort of in the deepest parts of that moment in her life she wore this white pantsuit and it sort of heralded suffragette -- or was it maybe Hillary Clinton who liked pantsuits and why was it white, and what did it mean? Was it resistance signaling. Now, if you asked Melania Trump, she'd just say oh, I wore a white pantsuit.
But I think she's savvy enough to know that leaving that gray area and what she wears is something that is smart. And I think she's learned how to manipulate her public persona in a way that people really do have to read into it, and she knows they're going to and that part is fascinating.
CAMEROTA: And also, speaking of Stormy Daniels, Kate, you report that the president and first lady don't share a bedroom. Their bedrooms are not even on the same floor.
BENNETT: Yes. I mean --
CAMEROTA: What is -- why is that? What's that about?
BENNETT: I think that it's really difficult to analyze anyone's marriage. It's virtually an impossible task.
But the first couple doesn't share a bedroom and I think that is not that unusual when you look at the broad scope of many marriages. We know the president doesn't sleep a lot, just from his Twitter schedule alone. This is a couple that's been together for 20 years. I don't think that there is any sort of behind-the-scenes acrimony in their marriage or didn't come of vase-throwing or anything like that.
I think that this is an independent couple. They are not joined at the hip, as her office has told me several times. She's independent, she likes her own space, she's a bit of a loner. And I think that the first couple have, in their 20 years together, found a way to make their marriage work and one of those things is not sharing a bedroom.
BERMAN: Or a floor, apparently.
I want to ask quickly about relationships, not just with the president but Ivanka, that you were talking about -- what's the relationship there? And also, with Karen Pence, the wife of the vice president, Mike Pence.
BENNETT: You know, Melania Trump and Karen Pence couldn't have been more different in terms of their backgrounds, their beliefs, their -- you know, on the surface, when they came together on the campaign, they were just two sort of polar opposite women and I think it took a while for them to get in lockstep.
More recently in the past few months, they've taken several trips together, which I have been on, and they seem to be clicking a little bit more.
But, yes, I think in the beginning there was a challenge because of Melania's past as a model and she being the third wife of the president.
The Pences are, as we know, devoutly religious. They're very traditional. They hold themselves to an incredibly high moral standard.
So I think there was a literal foreign nature to this exotic Melania Trump creature coming on the scene and that created some initial friction and not some -- not an exact closeness right off the bat. And with Ivanka Trump, this is, again, a stepmother-stepdaughter relationship. Ivanka really appreciated and liked Melania Trump in the beginning. She liked him (sic) for her father. She really thought that she was a good fit. But I think the White House years have really put a strain on their relationship.
And it's unprecedented to have two women not so far apart in age acting in sort of similar roles and those overlapping moments, whether they're trips or how they conduct their social media have created, as one source told me, a cordial but not close situation between the first daughter and the first lady.
CAMEROTA: Kate Bennett. The book, again, is "Free (comma), Melania."