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Mick Mulvaney On Bolton's Damning Allegations Against Trump; Florida Shatters Daily Record With 3,200+ Virus Cases. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired June 19, 2020 - 07:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[07:30:00]

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Are the accounts in the book classified or false?

MICK MULVANEY, FORMER ACTING WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF, U.S. SPECIAL ENVOY TO NORTHERN IRELAND (via Skype): Well, they could easily be both. You could have some things in there that are false.

And certainly, the excerpts that I've read -- I've not seen the whole book. I'm not sure why I didn't receive a courtesy copy of it. I understand I'm in there several times over. But the excerpts that I've seen have been factually false and it's very likely or possible that the stuff that we've not seen is classified.

So those two things, I've seen some of the criticism --

SCIUTTO: But the classified --

MULVANEY: -- in the press --

SCIUTTO: But the classified issues, you are saying, are therefore true. The ones that you're claiming are classified are, therefore, true because they can't be classified if they're false.

MULVANEY: But let's make one thing perfectly clear. I have not seen the book. I don't know if you have or not.

But I'm not involved in the process of screening that book. That goes through the National Security Council that John Bolton used to run.

SCIUTTO: OK.

MULVANEY: So I think speculation --

SCIUTTO: Understood.

MULVANEY: -- is people saying look, this is classified or not.

SCIUTTO: OK. Well, I have seen the book.

So let's go through particular issues here and we'll also look at what the NSC classification has said about it. So first, let's start on China. Bolton says that the president pleaded

with Xi Jinping, of China, to help him win the election by buying agricultural products in swing states. We should note the classification process, it removed Bolton's direct quotes of the president on that issue but left the account in. So is the account false or true of the president pleading with Xi to help in the election?

MULVANEY: I think it's John's -- sort of, his whimsical spin on what actually happened at the meeting. I was at the meeting, Sec. Pompeo was at the meeting, Sec. Mnuchin was at the meeting.

And did the president talk about the Chinese buying more American soybeans and other agricultural products? Yes, he did that probably every time he talked to government -- to President Xi. Would selling American agricultural products be good for the country and thus, good for the president's reelection chances? Yes, they would be.

But to put those two factually true statements together to make it look like the president was begging China for inappropriate help is just -- that's bizarre, and I think that's why you saw Pompeo respond the way that he did.

Importantly, Jim, you can't ignore the fact that --

SCIUTTO: But is that -- is that -- you can call it bizarre --

MULVANEY: Sure.

SCIUTTO: -- but he -- Bolton says -- and he took contemporaneous notes, by the way -- that the president made that explicit connection and said if you buy it, it will help me win election. And that quote was removed in the classification process. So if the quote is false, why was it removed as classified?

MULVANEY: Go over again how this meeting takes place. There's a bunch of us sitting on one side of a table on the American side, the Chinese on the other side. John Bolton is there. There was about a dozen people in the room, all right?

And if John Bolton is so upset about it now in his book -- in fact, I guess he's using this to help sell his books -- he didn't complain to me at the time, he didn't complain to White House counsel at the time. And no one else at the meeting who was there -- and again, there's probably a dozen of us -- remember anything that was inappropriate. It's only John Bolton and it's only now.

So you take that sort of circumstantial evidence to --

SCIUTTO: But it's not only John Bolton -- it's not only John Bolton because --

MULVANEY: (INAUDIBLE).

SCIUTTO: No, but it's not -- that's just not true because Ellen Knight, who did the classification review of the book, explicitly had him remove the quote of the president making that connection between buying products and helping him win election as classified.

If that's classified, are you saying you were in the room -- that the president did not make that connection? And if you say that, then why did the classification process remove the quote?

MULVANEY: The classification process is done by the National Security Council lawyers and I don't understand and don't pretend to understand it. I'm not involved in the process for classifying information as to what class -- what is classified and what is not, and what level of classification it gets, all right?

What I'm telling you is that the remaining --

SCIUTTO: Yes. I'm just asking if the president --

MULVANEY: -- people in the room --

SCIUTTO: Yes. I'm just asking if the president said it or not.

MULVANEY: No, I don't remember the president saying that at all. And apparently, no one else in the room does, other than John Bolton.

SCIUTTO: OK, but we should note the classification process required that the quote be removed.

I want to ask you another question. Bolton says that the president gave Xi Jinping, the authoritarian leader of a foreign adversary, the OK to build concentration camps in northwestern China, which currently hold a million Muslims.

Again, that quote was removed in the classification process. Is it true or not because if it's not true, why was it deemed classified?

MULVANEY: Yes, and I can -- I can honestly tell you I don't know anything about that conversation because I wasn't in the room when that conversation took place and neither was John Bolton.

I read that excerpt. I think it was in "The Wall Street Journal" yesterday. And if you look at the details it says that the only people in the room at that time were the president, President Xi, and the interpreters. So, ironically, in a book called in "The Room Where It Happened," John Bolton was not in the room where it happened.

Are the detention camps a terrible thing? Absolutely, they are. Is it something that the world should be paying more attention to? Absolutely, they should.

[07:35:03]

But to think that John Bolton somehow has this mysterious nefarious information about the President of the United States is just too fantastical to take credibly.

SCIUTTO: It's not John Bolton. Again -- notably, again, the classification process deemed the president's quote classified. So if it was false, presumably, it wouldn't be classified. Let me ask you about an issue that you do have direct knowledge of and that is Ukraine. The president says that the -- Bolton, rather, says that the president directed Ukraine aid withheld to secure a political favor. I'm going to read directly from his book on this.

He writes, "The next morning, August 20th, I took Trump's temperature on the Ukraine security assistance, and he said he wasn't in favor of sending them anything until all the Russia-investigation materials related to Clinton and Biden had been turned over."

So that's Bolton's account of it. And he makes an explicit connection to the president's directing this aid hold.

I should remind you, Gordon Sondland -- the president's former ambassador to the E.U., a president appointee, and donor to his inauguration -- testified under oath that there was a quid pro quo.

You said from the White House podium -- you'll remember, of course -- that presidents do this kind of thing all the time. Make connections like this all the time.

Did the president withhold aid from Ukraine to secure a political favor?

MULVANEY: Actually, that's not an accurate recitation of what I said at the press conference. But let's get to your point about the terms and conditions, which we've said several times.

There were two reasons the president withheld the aid, which is we were worried about corruption and we were worried about other European participation. That was the issue that was litigated during the impeachment.

But let's look at, generally, the conversations between the Ukrainians and the President of the United States because I don't think people understand, Jim, how those meetings and phone calls take place. They are arranged exclusively by the National Security Council.

The phone conversation with Zelensky that started the impeachment process -- it was the lynchpin -- was arranged by John Bolton. The meetings that took place at the -- at the United Nations General Assembly are arranged by the National Security Council.

So if John Bolton was so --

SCIUTTO: Sure.

MULVANEY: -- worried -- I think at one time he referred to a supposed drug deal that Mr. Sondland and I somehow were --

SCIUTTO: Yes.

MULVANEY: -- cooking up. If he was really concerned about that, why did he set up the meetings?

That's what I said that there's case after case here -- SCIUTTO: I do want to get to John Bolton. I want to get to him and his credibility -- I do -- but I want to ask you specifically about this allegation here.

Are you saying that Bolton, Gordon Sondland, Fiona Hill, Alexander Vindman, and others -- who, by the way, testified under oath which notably, of course, John Bolton did not -- his testimony was blocked -- are you saying they're all lying when they say that the president directed -- that this aid was withheld for a political favor and Bolton now saying the president directed it? Are they lying?

MULVANEY: The Office of Management and Budget was -- it was integrally involved in the flow of money to Ukraine, as was well- litigated during the impeachment process. And at no point did the president ever tie political favors to the flow of that money. It was revolving -- the restrictions revolved, as I mentioned, around the corruption of Ukraine and about the participation of the other European nations.

Do I believe that all of those people --

SCIUTTO: OK.

MULVANEY: -- who testified had a -- excuse me, let me finish -- had an ax to grind against the president? I do. Do I believe that all of them said things that are provably false? Yes, I do? So I do think there's a lot of --

SCIUTTO: OK. So they were --

MULVANEY: -- a lot of the arguments being made against the President of the United States.

SCIUTTO: I know that is an allegation made at virtually anyone who leaves this administration and criticizes the administration. We should note that they testified under oath and therefore, would be exposed to criminal charges if that were true.

Let's talk about John Bolton because you say he had an ax to grind, he's a liar. The president has called him a dope. Pompeo has called him a traitor.

Why did the president appoint him to be his National Security adviser?

MULVANEY: Yes. I don't know why he was appointed. I was at the Office of Management and Budget at the time and was not involved in the hiring of John Bolton.

But I do know why he was ultimately fired and that was because it simply became -- the president welcomed and still does welcome folks who disagree with him. I disagreed with him on spending, for example, when I ran the Office of Management and Budget. That's -- you don't have to agree with the president 100 percent of the time in order to work well with him.

But by the end of his tenure with the administration, it was obvious that John Bolton and the president were dramatically misaligned.

John Bolton was interested in more military action in Venezuela, interested in more military action in Iran, interested in more military action in Korea, and the President of the United States simply was not. And those two things were simply not reconcilable.

And as you saw John trying to undertake his --

SCIUTTO: Yes.

MULVANEY: -- own foreign policy --

SCIUTTO: Yes.

MULVANEY: -- instead of implementing the president's foreign policy, that's when those differences become irreconcilable.

SCIUTTO: Let me ask you, if you're saying that Bolton's accounts, for instance, of requesting that a foreign power -- an authoritarian power intervene in the election to help his election, the president giving him a pass to house -- to imprison a million Muslims in concentration camps.

[07:40:00]

If you're saying it's false, will the White House release transcripts of those conversations to contradict this version of events?

MULVANEY: In fairness, I don't think transcripts exist of those conversations. This is not like it's a telephone conversation on the -- with Mr. Zelensky. These are face-to-face meetings. There are notes that are taken by folks who are there, but there's no such thing as, I don't think, is a transcript of our face-to-face meeting with Mr. Xi at the G20 summit.

SCIUTTO: Will they testify under oath? Will they then testify under oath to contradict these accounts?

MULVANEY: I'm sorry, will Mr. Xi -- will President Xi testify under oath?

SCIUTTO: Anybody. No, I'm not asking about President Xi.

MULVANEY: (INAUDIBLE).

SCIUTTO: I'm asking about -- I'm asking about the witnesses present who are Americans. I'm not asking about the Chinese president.

I do want to ask you about the Covid crisis because it is still, of course, a national crisis. The death toll is rising.

At the CPAC conference in February, you said the following regarding the Covid outbreak and we're going to play the comments here.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MULVANEY: The reason you think -- you're seeing so much attention to it today is that they think this is going to be what brings down the president. That's what this is all about.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: Since then, nearly 120,000 Americans have died. Were you wrong?

MULVANEY: We have a lot more information now than we do back then, Jim. Keep in mind, back then we were comparing Covid -- coronavirus -- to the other two coronaviruses that we had experience with, which was SARS and MERS.

And in February of 2020 -- I guess it was 2020 now, we were under the belief, led in large part by the CDC, that if we could keep the disease out of the United States that we could deal with it the same way as we dealt with MERS and SARS. And while MERS and SARS were terrible diseases, we managed to keep them generally out of the United States and it did not disrupt our way of life here. That is the only piece that's the -- that's the perspective we had on coronavirus back in February.

Does it turn out the disease is different than we expected it -- expected it to be? It absolutely does.

Listen, a lot of folks have been wrong about this in the very beginning. The CDC --

SCIUTTO: Yes.

MULVANEY: -- just put out some information two weeks ago that says it's actually kind of hard to get this disease from hard surfaces. That's different than what they said in February. Were they wrong? It looks like they were.

They also put out information that says (audio gap) --

SCIUTTO: Is the president wrong --

MULVANEY: -- who don't have symptoms.

SCIUTTO: Fair point.

MULVANEY: So your information about this disease --

SCIUTTO: Fair point with respect --

MULVANEY: -- changes every single day.

SCIUTTO: It is, no question everybody's learning something every day.

The president, though, said yesterday that it's dying out. The numbers -- and I'll put them up on the screen in a number of states. Twenty- three states seeing an increase in cases. Is the president wrong today to say that this outbreak is dying out? MULVANEY: Yes. I've never thought that the number of cases was the -- was the right metric, and the increase in cases.

For example, I'm here in my home state of South Carolina and we've had an increase in the number of cases reported. That is a function, in part, to the piece that was on just before me, of the more extensive testing. If you test more people you're likely to find more cases.

And also, if you do percentage increases --

SCIUTTO: More people are dying. Mr. Mulvaney, more people are dying. More people are dying.

MULVANEY: They are, and it's a terrible disease. I am not --

SCIUTTO: One hundred twenty thousand are dying.

MULVANEY: Right. Jim, if you'd let me answer your question, I'd be happy to. I'm not trying to minimize what the disease is. I'm trying to put it in perspective.

The real number that counts, as we sit here and try and figure out what to do as a nation, is not the raw number of people with the disease. Many people with -- who test positive for the virus show no symptoms whatsoever.

And again, before you cut me off I was going to say the CDC, a couple of weeks ago, said it's much harder to get this disease from folks who don't have any symptoms than we thought back in February-March of last year.

The critical number is this. It's the ratio between the number of people who need intensive care -- who need hospitalization -- and the capacity of our health care system. Because what it looks like at this time -- and again, anybody is liable to be wrong because we are learning more about this disease every single day -- but it looks like if we -- if you are able to get the necessary medical care that you need, the disease is not nearly as fatal as we originally thought that it was.

So, raw number of cases, in my mind, is not the right metric. It's that ratio between the number --

SCIUTTO: Fair.

MULVANEY: -- of people that need care and are ready to deliver it (ph).

SCIUTTO: That's a fair point but that does not -- does not mean it's dying out.

I do want to ask you a final point because there is a consistent portrayal of this president, and not just from John Bolton. You can list them.

From Jim Mattis, the former Defense secretary. From John Kelly, the former chief of staff -- of course, preceded you. From Rex Tillerson, the former Secretary of State. From Richard Spencer, the secretary of the Navy, and others that this is a president who is unfit for the job and who consistently places his own political interests about the country's interests.

I'm asking you -- and I know you'll attack --

MULVANEY: Yes.

SCIUTTO: -- John Bolton -- but are all these people who the president appointed to these positions, by the way, and who volunteered to take those positions. Many of them have years of service in the military and other -- elsewhere in government.

[07:45:05]

Are all of them liars when they say that this president is not up to the job?

MULVANEY: It's always difficult to tell what someone else is thinking, Jim, so I'm not going to say they're liars. I'm going to say they're wrong.

And I think if there was one criticism that I would level against the president is that he didn't hire very well. He did not have experience at running government and didn't know how to put together a team that could work well with him.

There is something that's generally consistent with that list that you just gave, which a lot of those folks are folks who are either in the military or actively involved in the military. And that's just not -- the military personality is just not the type that works well with Donald Trump, who's a small businessman who's done extraordinarily well.

I would put in the other category, though, folks like Sec. Mnuchin.

SCIUTTO: Rex Tillerson came from a massive oil company. I mean, let's be fair. It's not all -- it's not all military men.

MULVANEY: And I did say --

SCIUTTO: But I do --

MULVANEY: If we go down the list, which -- the other folks that you listed, many of them are, including Mr. Bolton.

But you've got folks like Sec. Mnuchin, Sec. Pompeo. These are -- Kevin Hassett, one of the smartest people in the country. These are folks who know that the president can be successful at his job and they don't have nearly the complaints --

SCIUTTO: Right.

MULVANEY: -- or any of the complaints that the folks that you listed.

So listen, he's a -- he can be a --

SCIUTTO: Well, according to Bolton -- according to Bolton, Sec. Pompeo had complaints but he kept them private and has not shared them publicly.

MULVANEY: (INAUDIBLE).

SCIUTTO: Mick Mulvaney, I do appreciate you taking the time and the hard questions this morning.

MULVANEY: Jim, as I said, I've known Mike Pompeo a lot longer than John Bolton has, and Mike Pompeo would have said something to me long before he said anything to Mr. Bolton. And, Mike Pompeo has never said an ill word about the President of the United States to me in public or in private.

SCIUTTO: OK. Bolton has a different story, to be fair.

But we do appreciate you taking the time this morning and taking the hard questions.

MULVANEY: Thanks, Jim.

SCIUTTO: And we'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:50:48]

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Florida shattered its daily record again in new coronavirus cases. In Palm Beach County, several hospitals report being out of ICU beds.

Joining us now is Melissa McKinlay. She's a commissioner of Palm Beach County and former mayor. Commissioner, thank you very much for being here.

So, what does that mean that several hospitals in Palm Beach County are out of ICU beds? What's next?

MELISSA MCKINLAY (D), PALM BEACH COUNTY COMMISSIONER, FORMER MAYOR OF PALM BEACH COUNTY (via Cisco Webex): Well, we have about 14 hospitals in Palm Beach County. I think they're sharing a lot of patients right now.

I don't -- I can't tell you with the data that we have how many of those ICU beds are actually filled with Covid patients or they're just filled with general surgery patients. But we're watching and monitoring it very closely right now.

CAMEROTA: Do you agree with the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia experts there who say that Florida, from where they sit, looks like the next epicenter of coronavirus?

MCKINLAY: I hope we don't get to that point. It's a balancing act right now. These numbers are definitely concerning to me and we're trying to figure out what our next steps are. And I'll just continue to pray and work hard that we don't end up like the state of New York did.

CAMEROTA: Yes.

I know that you are resorting to prayer in some cases because what the other option is is mask-wearing. Do you understand --

MCKINLAY: Yes.

CAMEROTA: -- the aversion to mask-wearing by some people and officials?

MCKINLAY: Yes. I think the aversion of mask-wearing is the same aversion some people have to wearing seatbelts or putting their child in a -- in a booster seat, you know. They make the argument it's a personal decision and I understand that.

I think it's a small step to protect the public and to protect, particularly, the elderly and the most vulnerable. It's something that we're going to be discussing on Tuesday at our Commission meeting about asking the public to make it mandatory to wear masks.

The bottom line, if you have a health condition that prohibits you from wearing a mask that you don't have to wear it. But for most of the public, I think mask-wearing is probably something we need to be doing.

CAMEROTA: When you go outside in Palm Beach County, do you see people wearing masks? What's the status of what it looks like on the streets now?

MCKINLAY: Well, you know, it's about 90-plus degrees here and 85 to 90 percent humidity. It's summertime in Florida. You don't necessarily see the people wearing masks as they're walking on the street.

What we really want to be focused on is when you walk inside and you go indoors and you're in closer proximity to other people. That's when we really want to see people wearing a mask.

CAMEROTA: And are people wearing masks?

MCKINLAY: I would say in my experience it's about 50-50 right now.

CAMEROTA: And what is that about? I mean, I understand personal responsibility or personal freedom, as you're saying, but has the message not gotten out to people of how much that changes the trajectory of the virus?

MCKINLAY: I'm not sure it's necessarily the message as much as it might be virus fatigue -- you know, pandemic fatigue that we're dealing with.

Florida opened up very quickly and I think people thought that that was a return to normal. I don't think we can scale back how we've opened but we can simply slow down how we move forward and put these precautions in place, like wearing a mask.

CAMEROTA: And so, do you think that there will be a mandatory mask requirement, at least in Palm Beach County?

MCKINLAY: I'm hoping my colleagues will agree with some of us who've made that ask, on Tuesday. It's anybody's guess right now. I've got a couple of colleagues who wish that everything was open right now and a couple that are a little bit more conservative and wanting to slow things down.

So I can't tell you which way that vote is going to go on Tuesday but I hope it goes the way that the public health needs it to go.

CAMEROTA: OK, and we will be watching.

Melissa McKinlay. Thank you very much, Commissioner. We appreciate your time.

MCKINLAY: Absolutely -- thanks so much.

[07:55:01]

CAMEROTA: President Trump's rally in Tulsa appears to be moving forward despite the growing coronavirus cases in Oklahoma. It's possible that the state Supreme Court could pull the plug. We'll get a status report, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ERICA HILL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Record single-day highs for new cases -- more than 3,200 reported in Florida.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK: Florida imposed the quarantine on New Yorkers. Now we're afraid they're bringing the virus to our state.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's not really so much a second wave, it's we've never finished the first wave.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Both responding officers charged in the shooting death of Rayshard Brooks have surrendered. Officer Devin Brosnan has since been released on a signature bond.

DON SAMUEL, ATTORNEY FOR DEVIN BROSNAN: He's disappointed in the system, to be honest with you.

PAUL HOWARD, DISTRICT ATTORNEY, FULTON COUNTY, GEORGIA: This is nothing new. We charged it based upon the facts.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

END