Return to Transcripts main page

State of the Union

Interview With Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC); Interview With Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar; Interview With Former U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton. Aired 9-10a ET

Aired June 28, 2020 - 09:00   ET




JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST (voice-over): Country in crisis. Coronavirus cases in the U.S. spike to a new single-day high, forcing some states to scale back reopening.

ALEX AZAR, U.S. HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY: We want to help people make the right decisions for themselves.

TAPPER: Are the worst days of the pandemic still to come? I will speak to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar next.

And unfit for office? An explosive book reveals new allegations about the president's behavior.

JOHN BOLTON, FORMER U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: I'm very worried about entrusting key national security decisions to Donald Trump.

TAPPER: Now, with new reporting about Russians targeting American troops, is the president really putting America first? Former National Security Adviser Ambassador John Bolton coming up.

Plus: law and order. The Trump administration cracks down on the destruction of monuments, but with policing reforms and a deadlock in Congress, will Americans' anger about racial injustice be addressed? The author of the Senate Republican plan, Senator Tim Scott, will be here.


TAPPER: Hello. I'm Jake Tapper in Washington, where the state of our union is desperate for leadership.

After months of personal and economic sacrifice and loss, it is now clear that the U.S. has failed to get the coronavirus pandemic under control. As of this morning, there are more than 2.5 million cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. and more than 125,500 Americans dead.

Friday, at the first Coronavirus Task Force briefing since April, Vice President Pence painted a picture that seemed, frankly, out of touch with reality, declaring the U.S. had -- quote -- "flattened the curve," as cases hit a new record single-day high. On Saturday, Florida broke its record for new cases with 9,585 cases

reported in a single day. The governors in Florida and Texas are already rolling back some reopening plans, and other states have paused theirs.

As the nation is scrambling to control the spread of this virus, the president, who spent Saturday golfing, has been tweeting, among other subjects, about his political opponent Joe Biden, about the vandalism of monuments, and about his own television ratings.

Just this morning, shockingly, the president tweeted, thanking the great people of The Villages, and he showed a video in which someone driving a golf cart with "Trump 2020" signs can be clearly heard shouting, "White power."



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, you got it. White power! White power!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There you go. White power. You hear that?


TAPPER: The message the president has not been communicating, however, critical public health guidelines developed by his own administration, including a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar.

Secretary Azar, thank you so much for joining us this morning.

I do have to ask you. I'm stunned that the president retweeted this video in which one of his apparent supporters shouts "White power."

I assume that that's not a message you stand by.

AZAR: Well, I have not seen that video or that tweet, but, obviously, neither the president, his administration, nor I would do anything to be supportive of white supremacy or anything that would support discrimination of any kind.

TAPPER: Do you think that was a mistake by the president...

AZAR: I...

TAPPER: ... to tweet a video in which one of his apparent supporters says "White power" very clearly on the video?

AZAR: Hey, Jake is, as I as -- I said, I -- I have been -- I have been here getting ready to speak to you. I have not seen that, and so I don't want to comment further on that.

But, obviously, the president and I, his whole administration would stand against any acts of white supremacy.

TAPPER: All right. Well, we just played it for you, but I will move on.

New cases are increasing in two-thirds of the United States this morning on the deadly coronavirus pandemic; 125,000-plus Americans are dead. And take a look at this graph. The U.S. just had our two highest days of new cases yet. You can see how that compares to the curves for the European Union and for South Korea.

What we're doing is not working. What new steps is the administration going to take to stop the spread?

AZAR: So, Jake, what do we know?

We know that we're seeing surging in cases, especially in counties in America's South. We have heard from the governors that the average age is below age 35 of these cases, so they're younger and asymptomatic cases in many instances.


Nationwide, our fatality and hospitalization rates are at two-month lows, but we're seeing increasing hospitalizations from COVID in these areas.

And what are the steps that we're taking to deal with it? First, the surveillance and testing is actually bringing out this information. So, unlike our Western peers, we actually are doing significant asymptomatic testing. So, at least we have the knowledge of what is happening.

We're deploying teams out to state and local areas, because this is very much a community-based situation. You have got to get -- you can't just do contact tracing. Dr. Fauci talked about this on Friday. You can't just sit in the public health office and make phone calls.

We have got to get the local authorities, we have got to help them get out into the community where the disease is spreading and test everybody in a community, get all positive cases, get them isolated.

We have now -- things are very different from two months ago. We now have three therapeutics. We have hospital capacity. We have reserves of personal protective equipment. We're speeding our way towards having vaccines.

So, it is a very different situation.

TAPPER: Right.

AZAR: But this is a very, very serious situation. And the window is closing for us to take action and get this under control.

TAPPER: Right.

So, you know that what happens, mortality, death is lagging indicator. First, the cases go up. Then the hospitalizations go up. Then death goes up. We're in step one right now. Do you expect hospitalizations and deaths to go up in the coming

weeks, given this spike in new cases that we're seeing, and not just a spike in new cases, but spike in positivity rate, meaning the percentage of people being tested is also going up?

AZAR: Well, Jake, those are certainly risks that you raise that are appropriate to be concerned about.

And that's why one of my messages to individuals in these hot zones would be, if you have engaged in behaviors in the last couple of weeks where you have not exercised appropriate social distancing, and if you couldn't socially distant -- make yourself socially distant, worn face coverings, we encourage you, get tested.

Protect vulnerable members of your household and others. Get tested, because you could put yourself, but, more importantly, you could put our most vulnerable citizens at risk of severe complications or even fatality.

TAPPER: So, the performance by the United States, relative to other hard-hit countries, has, frankly, been awful.

The hardest-hit countries in the European Union, Italy and Spain, they're down 90 percent from their peaks. The U.S. got its case numbers down about a third, and now we're going back. And we're higher right now in terms of our peak in April.

We're the only wealthy country with a double-bump curve. So, why is that? And what more are we going to do, other than getting in communities, as you say?

AZAR: Well, Jake, what we're doing is, we have got to get down at that local level. That is really critical.

So, first, I would rather have no cases. But I will tell you what. I -- I'm glad that we have a robust testing system that is actually bringing out this data and telling us that we have youth who are getting this disease, who may be asymptomatic and may be spreading.

You know, countries in Europe don't necessarily test asymptomatic cases. They test people -- their protocols test those with symptoms. I would rather have the data that we have to know to take action.

And we have taken action, like in North Carolina in the last couple of weeks, working in partnership with the state and local communities, like Mecklenburg County. We have actually been able to turn that situation around. And it is these types of very community-based interventions, working with local leaders, NGOs, trusted community figures, get into the community, get people tested, get people isolated, and protect and ring-fence the most vulnerable.

TAPPER: Health experts with whom I have spoken say the spread is almost certainly tied to reopening too fast. Texas and Florida have had to reimpose some coronavirus restrictions.

Can you name even one state that has actually followed the White House guidelines on reopening?

AZAR: So, Jake, it is not really about reopening. We can and we have to get back to work, back to school and back to health care. I have been in Michigan. I have been in Massachusetts. I have been in Wisconsin.

TAPPER: Responsibly, though, right? Responsibly.

AZAR: Well, that's not so much about what the law says on the reopening, as what our behaviors are within that.

And if we act irresponsibly, if we don't social distance, if we don't use face coverings in settings where we can't social distance, if we don't practice appropriate personal hygiene, we're going to see spread of disease.

And so this is why you see the local authorities are reimposing certain community mitigation restrictions where they have seen inappropriate individual behavior that has enabled spread.


TAPPER: So, the secretary -- I'm sorry -- the chairman of the Senate Health Committee, Senator Lamar Alexander, Republican from Tennessee, he just told Manu Raju on "INSIDE POLITICS" before the show that it would be helpful if President Trump sometimes wore a mask, so that the idea of masks was not seen as a pro-Trump or an anti-Trump step, but, rather, just a health care step.

You talked about the importance of wearing masks. Don't you think it undermines the message that you are trying to give, that the surgeon general is trying to give, the Drs. Birx and Fauci are trying to give, when President Trump not only refuses to wear a mask publicly, but he makes fun of people who wear masks, and, also, he holds these rallies where no one, no one is social distancing, and no one is wearing a mask?

Doesn't that undermine the message that you are trying to give?

AZAR: Well, I am the president's health secretary, and I am telling people just what President Trump has said from day one in the reopening guidelines, social distance, wear facial covering where you can't practice social distancing, engage in appropriate personal hygiene.

And people, in the last several weeks, we have seen people engage in mass gatherings for any number of political and First Amendment reasons that are very important as part of our civic fabric. And I'm not going to comment on those aspects.

But I will talk about it from a public health perspective, which is, I encourage all individuals who choose to engage in these kinds of activities of whatever -- for what variety and for whatever reason, protect yourself, examine your own individual circumstances.

Examine the circumstances of those you live with... TAPPER: But I...

AZAR: ... and take appropriate precautions.

You have -- you have to take ownership of your own individual behaviors.

TAPPER: I agree with you. And we have -- I agree with you.

And we have been saying consistently on CNN and on my shows, if you're going to go out and protest -- well, first of all, if you're in a vulnerable group, you shouldn't. But, second of all, if you're going to, please social distance, please wear a mask.

But you know that there is a difference between indoor and outdoor -- I mean, indoor and outdoor activity. It seems that indoor activity is much more dangerous, potentially.

And yet the president continues to have these rallies where, again, not only does he not wear a mask, but no one on stage with him does, and none of his supporters do.

And, frankly, I worry about his supporters going into these indoor rallies, not social distancing and not wearing masks. Even though you are saying that they should be, the president and his campaign are not telling them to do so.

AZAR: Well, Jake, first, just with regard to the president, you know he's in a very unique position. The president, the vice president are tested regularly. Anybody around them are tested that day.

They're -- they're leaders of the free world. They have very different circumstances than the rest of us.

Our message has been consistent, which is -- and the surgeon general said this back in March. Always assess your individual circumstances. Are you at risk or are people in your family or your home at risk?

And that means 80 years and over or, say, 65 and over with three of the very important comorbidities, like hypertension, diabetes, renal failure, et cetera.

Assess what is going on in your community. What is happening in Montana is going to be very different than what is happening in Las Vegas in terms of community spread and risk.

And then assess the type of activity that you're engaging in. Are you taking a walk in the park? Or are you eating outside at a restaurant? Or are you going out to an overcrowded bar? And you have got to take individual responsibility.

But the important thing for the American people to know is, our circumstances today, even though this is a very serious situation in these localities, very serious, that has to be tackled...

TAPPER: Mm-hmm. AZAR: ... our situation is very different than it was several months


We have hospital capacity. We have personal protective equipment, and reserves of it, at our hospitals, and in our states, and at our national level. We now have therapeutics. We have steroids, remdesivir. We have convalescent plasma.


AZAR: And if you have had COVID, please contact your American Red Cross...


AZAR: ... or your local blood bank, and donate plasma, so we can increase our supplies for people. And we're advancing on vaccines.

TAPPER: We're definitely in a different position than we were several months ago.

But just to take issue with a few things you said, first of all, the AMA says there is still a PPE problem in some hospitals.

Second of all, some hospitals, including in Arizona, are actually starting to approach maximum capacity, and they're worried about what is going to -- what it is going to look like in two weeks.

And, third of all, sir, with all due respect, you, the surgeon general, Dr. Fauci, Dr. Birx, yes, you're all consistent. You have had one message.

President Trump and Vice President Pence are not having that message. They are not out there saying that masks are important. They are not out there demonstrating the importance of social distancing. They are holding rallies in which individuals are not social distancing at all.

Do you think it is going to be safe to go to Florida to have masses, thousands of people going into the Republican National Convention in a few months for the president, in a state that is right now experiencing a huge surge in coronavirus cases?

AZAR: So, Jake, I want to go back to some of the things you said there, because I want to make sure the American people are reassured about some of the actions of their government and of their health care system.


The -- with all respect to the AMA, they don't have the information we have. We literally are on the phone with the hospitals in Arizona, Texas, California, Florida every day, measuring their PPE supplies and their reserves and making sure that we're there to support them.

In Arizona, 15 percent of hospitalizations in-patient are from COVID. The rest of their capacity is consumed with other hospital uses and elective procedures. And you're going to see governors and hospitals slowing down on elective procedures to make capacity.

We will ensure that Americans who need hospital beds have hospital beds. If they need an ICU, they will have an ICU bed. And if they need a ventilator, they will have a ventilator, and we will be able to deploy therapeutics to them to help them through also.

It is very important that we rely on data. We're following this at the micro level, the county level, the hospital level.

TAPPER: Mm-hmm. And the numbers still keep going up.

Let me ask you. In the midst of all this, the Trump administration moved this week to ask the Supreme Court to strike down the entirety of Obamacare. Obviously, we're in the middle of a pandemic.

Is it not unconscionable during a pandemic to take health insurance away from 24 million Americans, without having a replacement plan ready to go, so that those 24 million Americans do not have to not have health insurance in the middle of a pandemic?

AZAR: So, first off, President Trump has done something really historic here for the uninsured, and he's made sure there's a program that, if you're uninsured for any reason, you get the COVID care that you need with no cost-sharing, no co-payments, no deductibles, no surprise medical bills.

So, the American people need to be reassured. Get your medical care. If you're uninsured, it will be covered -- it will be covered by us.

In terms of the Affordable Care Act, we have made very clear that, if the Supreme Court strikes down all or a large part of Obamacare because it is constitutionally or statutorily infirm, we will work with Congress to create a program that genuinely protects individuals with preexisting conditions.

And by that, I mean something very different than what we see today. A couple that is aged 55 in Missouri making $70,000 a year will pay $30,000 in premiums and have $12,000 of deductibles.

I'm sorry, that's not real protection for somebody with preexisting conditions. We are going to set a system up.

TAPPER: It is 2020. We haven't seen a replacement plan.

AZAR: Well, we have made very clear what we're going to do, which is protect those with preexisting conditions through mechanisms that genuinely can protect them, real insurance, and have financing that meets the needs of people the way they want them met, not with a one- size-fits-all solution.

The exact details will be dependent on the -- frankly, the composition of Congress if and when the Supreme Court does strike down all or a large part of Obamacare.

TAPPER: Well, your preexisting protections do not include requiring insurance companies to not charge those with preexisting conditions more.

That's the whole point. It is not just you can't deny anybody that has preexisting conditions insurance. It is also saying, and you can't charge them any more than you charge somebody who doesn't have preexisting conditions. And none of the plans that have been proposed do that.

AZAR: Well, Jake, you actually haven't seen what we would do, working with Congress, so you don't know what our preexisting conditions protections would look like.

We have been very clear that there are mechanisms that are well-proven to protect individuals who have suffered from preexisting conditions...

TAPPER: All right.

AZAR: ... to make sure they have access to affordable insurance.

And we agree. Individuals with preexisting conditions should have coverage, but also affordable access to coverage, not $30,000-a-year premiums and $12,000 deductibles.

TAPPER: All right. Well, I look forward to seeing that plan.

Secretary Alex Azar, thank you so much for joining us this morning. We appreciate it.

AZAR: Thank you, Jake.

TAPPER: The president says he was not briefed about Russians offering a bounty for terrorists to kill Americans in Afghanistan. Why not?

Former National Security Adviser Ambassador John Bolton joins me next.

Plus: If a Confederate monument is torn down, should the government put it back up?

We will talk about that ahead.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Jake Tapper.

This morning, the president is denying that he was told about intelligence from the U.S. that Russia has offered bounties to Taliban-linked terrorists to kill coalition troops, including American troops.

How could President Trump not have been briefed about this?

I want to bring in someone who knows the inner workings of the Trump administration's foreign policy, former National Security Adviser to President Trump Ambassador John Bolton, the author of the new book "The Room Where It Happened."

So, Ambassador Bolton, welcome to CNN. Thanks for joining us.

So, CNN, "The New York Times," "The Washington Post" and others are reporting this weekend that an element of the Russian GRU has been offering bounty to terrorists in Afghanistan if they kill coalition troops, including Americans, of course, according to U.S. intelligence agencies.

The president just tweeted this morning that he was not briefed about the -- quote -- "so-called attacks," notably, no condemnation of Russia or denial of the report of the U.S. intelligence.

Do you believe that he's not been briefed? And, if this is true, what should the U.S. do?

BOLTON: Well, look, I think, first, we have to stress there is much we don't know about this.

And with all due respect to the highly esteemed news services you mentioned, they get things wrong from time to time.

What we do know is, the Russians want us out of Afghanistan. They want us out of Syria. They want us out of Iraq. They want us out of a lot of places.

And if it is true -- underline the word if -- that they are paying surrogates to kill Americans, this is one of the most serious matters, I think, that has arisen in the Trump administration.


Now, so I asked myself this morning -- I have been puzzled over the tweet of the president saying, I don't know anything about this, although this sounds like a story I could have written on page 372 of my book.

What would motivate the president to do that? Because it looks bad if Russians are paying to kill Americans, and we're not doing anything about it. So, what is the presidential reaction, is to say, it's not my responsibility, nobody told me about it, and, therefore, to duck any complaints that he hasn't acted effectively.

This is part of the problem with Trump -- President Trump's decision- making in the national security space. It is just unconnected to the reality he's dealing with. It is about his personal position.


And the other thing that is interesting about it is, look, the Russians have been operating destabilizing operations -- they have been pushing destabilizing operations in Afghanistan for a long, long time. General Nicholson complained about this a couple years ago. The

concept that the Russians are actually helping the Taliban, arming the Taliban is not a surprise. And it also gets to the idea that the Russians are not our friends.

BOLTON: Well, nobody is going to jump up and say, oh, that doesn't sound like Vladimir Putin and the Russian government.

My only caution is, before we go too far down the track, just because it is in press reports doesn't necessarily mean it is accurate. And there is also some wordplay in here. Was the president briefed or was he just told about it?

But the fact that the president feels compelled to tweet about the news story here shows that what his fundamental focus is, is not the security of our forces, but whether he looks like he wasn't paying attention.

So, he's saying: Well, nobody told me. Therefore, you can't blame me.

TAPPER: Well, that's the other point, is that, like, it just seems as though a president would want to say, this report -- like, what -- I can't comment on whether or not it is true, but we're going to do everything we can to protect our fighting men and women.

Twenty-two U.S. soldiers were killed in Afghanistan in 2019. I mean, if even one of them was tied to this, that's one too many. But we hear nothing from the president about this.

What -- if this intelligence is true -- let me just ask you this. If this intelligence is true, what should President Trump do? What should the U.S. government do?

BOLTON: Well, again, underlining the word if on whether it is true, I think you have got to consider a number of strong measures against Russia.

If we had a real, sustained strategic discussion with Moscow -- and that was one of the things I tried to do, obviously unsuccessfully -- these sorts of issues would be addressed.

But it is very hard, with the herky-jerky way the president approaches these things, to be able to do that. Make no mistake, though. When you go after American service members, directly or indirectly, you are attacking the United States.

And I think it could call for some very severe measures against the Russians.

TAPPER: You write in your book that you never asked President Trump directly his opinion on Putin because you were -- quote -- "perhaps afraid of what I might hear" -- unquote.

What do you mean by that? Do you think it is possible that Putin has information on President Trump? I just wasn't sure what you were driving at there. BOLTON: Yes, I -- if I thought there were information, I would have

revealed it, because I think that would be the most disturbing thing you could imagine.

I think, just as a matter of what the shrinks would say about this, the president obviously has an affinity for strong authoritarian leaders. I think his policies with respect to Russian assertiveness against the United States have been wildly inconsistent, tough on one aspect, weak on another.

And I think that's also part of the problem. To have a sustained strategic view of U.S.-Russia relations, you have to have a clear understanding of your objectives, you have to have policies that make sense over a long period of time.

That's not the way that we do business with Russia, at least not in the Trump administration. It is on in the morning, off in the afternoon, and back and forth.

So, here's a question. When this press report first appeared a couple of days ago, if, in fact, the president had not heard anything about the matter before, presumably, what he should have done is call up the national security adviser, the director of national intelligence, somebody, and said: What's going on here? What are the facts?

Now, if that didn't happen in the last 48 hours, that, in and of itself, is disturbing.

TAPPER: I was -- when I was covering the coronavirus crisis a few days ago, I was thinking about the section in your book in which you talk about this conversation you had with then Chief of Staff John Kelly about the president's leadership.


Kelly asks you -- quote -- "What if we have a real crisis like 9/11 with the way he makes decisions?" And that made me think about this moment we're in now, 125,000 Americans dead, more than 40 times the death toll from 9/11. In a way have John Kelly's fears been realized with the coronavirus pandemic?

BOLTON: Well, I think certainly in part. I mean, this was a very emotional conversation between the two of us. And we were -- we had different views on some things, but I think we were both in the government to try and serve the country and discussing how difficult it was.

I think the president already demonstrated his lack of attention to the threat in January and February. People on the NSC staff, from the Centers for Disease Control, the National Institutes of Health, in those early weeks were waving red flags that this could be a real problem. The president didn't want to hear anything about it. He didn't want to hear bad things about China, he didn't want to hear anything that could impede the trade deal or indicate the Chinese were covering up flat out lying about what was actually happening with the coronavirus in China, and he was worried about the impact on the economy.

So it was a see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil approach that cost us a lot of time. And that cost the potential to mitigate some of the effects of the disease we're seeing now. I characterized it as an empty chair in the Oval Office and that's what I think it was.

TAPPER: The president instead of talking about coronavirus talks about a lot of divisive social issues. This morning he retweeted a video featuring somebody driving a golf cart that has Trump 2020 signs on it and yelling white power.

What is your response to that and why do you think he does this so often? He enflames racial fissures in this country, he says things that are racist, he says things that are going to be interpreted as racist. Why does he do that?

BOLTON: Well, I think he does enflame tensions, but I would just make this observation, he doesn't pay attention to a lot of things. It is entirely possible that he tweeted this video because he saw the sign, I think it was in the first go cart that said Trump 2020 or something like that. That's all he needed to see.

Not paying attention, not considering all of the implications of information he gets is typical of Trump. So it may be that you can draw a conclusion that he heard it and it was racist and he tweeted it to promote the message. It is a legitimate conclusion to draw. It is also entirely legitimate to say he just had no idea what else was in the video other than the Trump sign.

TAPPER: Bigger picture, former senior White House officials have reportedly cautioned that President Trump would have no guardrails if re-elected. The so-called adults in the room will all be gone, mostly surround himself with yes men and women.

You told CNN earlier this week -- quote -- "I think we can repair the damage of one Trump term. I'm not so certain about repairing the damage of two."

Why? What do you think he would do in a second term? Would he withdraw from NATO altogether? Would he pull out all U.S. troops from South Korea and Japan and Germany? What are you most afraid of?

BOLTON: Well, all of those things are true. And there are a range of national security concerns I have. I also am concerned as a life-long conservative Republican that once he no longer needs a re-election, once he no longer needs the people to come out and vote him in, there is really no limit on what he might do in a second term.

I can give you an example, one of the liberal justices on the Supreme Court may leave. And he may be advised by some of his closest advisers that the balance of the court would be a great legacy for him. He appointed some great conservative justices in the first term, now appoints some great liberal justices and leave that balance, what a legacy that would be. I could see him doing it.

The point is he in many cases made substantive policy decisions on national security matters because of the expected domestic political reaction. Now, all presidents take politics into account. Nobody I've ever seen like Trump. Once he doesn't have to worry about that political reaction, I worry about the consequences.

TAPPER: You write that President Trump was so eager to make a deal with China that he was willing to give up important national security priorities involving Chinese telecom company ZTE and Huawei. You also write that the president asked president -- Chinese President Xi to help him win re-election by entering into that trade deal that could theoretically include ZTE and Huawei.


You didn't really connect the two, but aren't you basically saying that President Trump was willing to sell out American national security interests in exchange for China helping him win re-election? Isn't that basically the conclusion of that information that you provide in your book?

BOLTON: Well, I would characterize it this way. I think the kinds of things the president did, his casual granting of essentially personal favors to some of these authoritarian leaders in the case of Huawei and ZTE, involving potential criminal prosecutions was a way that he took legitimate government power and used it for his own personal advancement. And I think he has trouble seeing the difference between his personal interest and the interest of the government of the United States.

So I try and recount these examples in the book, so people can draw their own conclusions. But I was obviously very troubled by it and I think people should be troubled by it.

TAPPER: Do you think President Trump has placed his personal financial interests ahead of the national interests?

BOLTON: You know, I don't see evidence of the financial interest point. I know that concerns a lot of people, maybe there is evidence of it. But, to me, the corruption was the political corruption of using legitimate government power to advance his own political fortunes.

Now, once again, I'm not saying that presidents can make decisions in the complete absence of political factors. Obviously that's not true. But there is a line that can be crossed and I think it has been crossed here where the political factors dominate everything else.

TAPPER: Do you think President Trump poses a clear and present danger to the nation?

BOLTON: Look, that's a buzz phrase. I think he's dangerous enough. He shouldn't get a second term.

TAPPER: One thing I want to ask you about the impeachment inquiry, there are a number of former administration officials who bravely risked their careers to testify. Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, Kurt Volker, Fiona Hill. I understand your issues with the partisan nature as you see it of the impeachment inquiry, but how do you respond to the charge that those individuals did something brave for their country by voluntarily testifying, but you refused to tell your story unless you were either forced to do so by a court, or paid handsomely as you are for this book?

BOLTON: Yes, you know, let's deal with the money first. If money were the object, I wouldn't have gone into the government in the first place, you can check out the salary levels to see that.

In my judgment, the people who testified did do the right thing, given their circumstances. I was put in a different position by the way my deputy Charlie Kupperman was treated by the White House, when the House subpoenaed him.

The fact is that we do know how to conduct a successful impeachment process in this country. The Watergate example, even though Nixon wasn't convicted by the Senate, he was forced to resign because Republicans and Democrats worked together. Sam Ervin, a Democrat, chairman of the Watergate committee, worked with Howard Baker and others. That didn't happen here from the get go.

The House advocates of impeachment pushed Republicans away. They guaranteed a partisan process and I think they left the country worse off through that approach because the Senate did acquit and that took another guardrail away. That's why I call it impeachment malpractice. And I don't have to march to that drummer


BOLTON: I thought they made a bad mistake.

TAPPER: But you say the articles of impeachment were too narrow but none of us had any idea that anything you allege happened until we read your book. We only knew about what happened with Ukraine because of the whistle-blower.

I know that you talked about China and Turkey, with Bill Barr, and with the White House counsel, and they apparently didn't do anything about it but how was the House of Representatives or how were the American people supposed to know about any of this given the fact that no one was telling us?

BOLTON: They didn't take the time to find out. They pivoted from the Russia collusion angle to the whistle-blowers report, almost without any lapse of time.

When I resigned on September the 10th, I was trying to get my life back in order. And it took several weeks to do that or at least to get started to do it. And by the time I came up for air they were already launched, on a course of action, by the way, that very much suited Donald Trump, a narrowly focused approach, done very, very quickly.

So had they bothered to take the time to find out what was really going on, there could have been a lot of different circumstances but by that time they had already poisoned the well with the Republicans who might have worked with them. [09:40:03]

To get the president convicted, you needed two-thirds of the Senate. That meant you needed a lot of Republican votes. They couldn't have cared less about getting those Republican votes.

Moreover, on Ukraine alone, they were fully prepared to say they had all the evidence they need for the quid pro quo, and what they failed to anticipate, all these great lawyers on the House side, was the Republican response which was even if all that is true, it doesn't rise to the level of an impeachable offense. That is why I think it was malpractice on their part. They botched the one opportunity they had.

TAPPER: Yes, I think there is an argument to be made that you could have come forward earlier and also that even if you had the Republicans in the Senate, we are going to tolerate this behavior from President Trump no matter what. We're out of time. Ambassador John Bolton, thank you so much --


BOLTON: So, the question is -- can we make a difference?

TAPPER: -- the room where it happened. We appreciate your time. Yes. Go ahead.

BOLTON: Yes, can we make a difference?

TAPPER: OK, anyway --

BOLTON: What I tried to do in the book is present the evidence.

TAPPER: OK. Thank you so much for your time, sir. We appreciate it.

The state of Mississippi taking steps to remove the confederate emblem from their state flag. Yes, maybe a hundred and fifty years too late, but is the U.S. in a moment of real lasting change? Senator Tim Scott will join me next. Stay with us.



TAPPER: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Jake Tapper.

There is a push by some Mississippi lawmakers this weekend to remove the confederate emblem from that state's flag. But President Trump is moving in the opposite direction, issuing an executive order to protect statues and monuments including confederate generals. These cultural changes come as legislation to reform policing appears completely stalled in Congress.

Joining me now, the author of the Senate Republican bill on policing reform, Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina. Senator Scott, always a pleasure. Thanks for joining us. We have a lot to get to. But first I do have to ask you --

SEN. TIM SCOTT (R-SC): Good morning, Jake. It's good to be back with you.

TAPPER: -- President Trump just retweeted a video -- President Trump just retweeted a video this morning featuring one of his apparent supporters shouting white power, take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: White power! White power!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There you go! White power! You hear that?


TAPPER: What is your reaction to the president retweeting that?

SCOTT: Well, there is no question he should not have retweeted it. He should just take it down.

TAPPER: Does it offend you, though? I mean, it offends me and I'm white.

SCOTT: Well, listen, if you watch the entire video, you can't play it because it was profanity laced, the entire thing was offensive. Certainly the comment about the white power was offensive. There is no question. I mean, we could play politics with it or we can't. I'm not going to. I think it is indefensible. We should take it down. That's what I think.

TAPPER: Let's talk about policing reform which is something you put a lot of energy to in the last few weeks. House Democrats --


TAPPER: -- passed a bill this week banning chokeholds at the federal level, ending qualified immunity. I know that you're disappointed that Senate Democrats blocked your policing reform legislation from even having a debate, but in order to get something passed, wouldn't a good next step be that the Senate takes up the House bill, go through the amendment process, make it better, so it can get passed, so that there is still a chance for policing reform?

SCOTT: Well, Jake, I think you asked a very important question. I look forward to answering that question very quickly here.

The first thing we need to realize about the House bill, is the House bill rejected all Republican amendments. They simply said that Republicans are not allowed to be a part of the process of getting the House bill together, and passing it, sending it to the Senate.

Our legislation, my legislation simply said, Democrats, I'll give you five amendments, 20 amendments, and managers amendment. They said, no thank you, no thank you, no thank you. So the facts are very simple, that in order for us to have a path forward, it requires the House and the Senate, Democrats and Republicans, to feel heard in the process.

I look forward to having a conversation later this week with some of the House leaders on the legislation because if there is a path forward, we should find it. But what we cannot do is eliminate Republicans in the House and have Democrats in the Senate say, I'm not interested in having a conversation about a bill that has so much in common, it is certainly a crying shame that the average person in this nation will not benefit from the parts of the bill that both sides agree upon, right now, and not having to wait until November to make it an election year issue. That's just unfortunate for kids walking the streets taking jobs, driving down the road. I want to help those kids.

I'm an African-American who had that experience, had that conversation on your show, so I look forward to having the conversation with my House colleagues that have been very serious and give Karen Bass a lot of credit, very serious about getting to a compromise. And I'll say, I spoke to her, last night, I spoke with her last week and we're going to get together this week and that's good because I'm serious about getting something done. But we cannot get something done if the Democrats in the Senate are more interested in presidential politics than they are getting something actually finished this year.

TAPPER: Let me ask you a question. One of the criticisms of your bill is that it didn't go far enough.


One of the criticisms from Democrats is it didn't go far enough. Police unions supported your bill, which some Democrats say is evidence, proof that it didn't go far enough. And there is indication that it could possibly -- there could have been some ground to move it.

Lindsey Graham said that he was willing to talk about qualified immunity, where you called qualified immunity -- I mean, removing that for police protections a poison pill. Do you think it's possible you could have pushed your Republican colleagues a little bit more and gotten a more aggressive bill?

SCOTT: Well, actually, that's what the amendment process is. You start in a position where you're willing to negotiate on what's in the best interest, not Republicans and Democrats, by the way, but of actual American citizens who feel like their lives are in jeopardy. That's what my bill wanted to confront. And that's what much of the House bill wanted to confront.

And so the question -- the answer to the question is, yes, without any question. We had an opportunity -- here's a classic example, Jake, the chokehold. The difference between their bill and my bill on the chokehold was the carotid. That is the primary -- the largest difference is whether or not the flow of air plus the flow of blood should be included in the definition.

I told the folks that I was negotiating with, I will accept that as an amendment and I'll offer it myself so that my 52 other Republicans will come along with me. They said no thanks. I said, wait a minute. Wait a minute. You mean to tell me you won't take your own definition as a way to improve the bill? They said no.

On the chokehold, the only thing they banned in the House are the federal agents. In my bill, ban the federal agents because local law enforcement must be under the supervision, first, of the city council. And they know that. I knew that. And that's one of the reasons why if you literally read the House bill, literally read the house bill, it does not ban chokeholds on the local level. There are penalties and so there are mine. My penalties just happen to be higher than the House penalties.

Jake, if we could do that on chokeholds can we do that on qualified immunity? I'm not going after character-driven law enforcement officers. I refuse to stereotype officers, especially as an African- American who has been stereotyped, but the bad officers, let's go full board after those folks. And we could have found the middle ground on that.

Now, here's where the actual difference is. The question is, what is the consequence of trying to demonize and stereotype all law enforcement? Well, New York City is starting to give us the answer. A 79 percent increase in murders over last year right now. A 64 percent increase --


SCOTT: -- in shootings right now. A 34 percent increase in robberies. So, what I'm suggesting here is that when we continue to play politics, trying to get 100 percent of what one side says is right and I know only leads to more challenges in the streets of America. That's the place we should not go. That's where we are right now.

We're actually instead of getting 75 percent last week, we're at zero this week. And we'll head into the fourth of July with nothing done. And that is a shame.

TAPPER: Thank you so much, Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina. We really appreciate your time today.

Permit me a personal moment now. This Friday, July third, will mark the release of the film "The Outpost" based on a book I wrote about the October third, 2009 attack on Combat Outpost Keating in some theaters and on video of demand, Apple, Hulu, Amazon Prime this Friday.

I first heard about the actual attack while sitting in a hospital room with my wife after our son was born. One day before up to 400 Taliban insurgents surrounded Camp Keating, which was located at the bottom of three steep mountains, it was the deadliest attack on U.S. forces there in 2009. And there was something poignant in that moment, holding my son, learning about eight other sons taken from this earth. I did not know their names then, but I do now. Kevin and Josh, Michael and Josh, Vernon and Justin, Chris and Stephan. Something about that moment sent me on a quest to find out more about the outpost. Who were these men who sacrificed so much for a country, frankly, not paying much attention to them? Why were they there? The book was a ton of work and it remains the single journalistic project of which I am the most proud. I remember coming home from meeting with Alex and Dave, two troops who served there who have become friends of mine, and I remember saying to my wife, my God, these guys sacrificed so much and I am just so selfish, so worthless comparatively.


And she said, but, honey, you can tell their stories. That's what you can do. I had no expectations a movie would ever be made, but long story short, in the fall of 2018 Rod Lurie, a director and West Point graduate was there shooting a film version of "The Outpost" in Bulgaria. There he recreated the entire Combat Outpost Keating with an incredible cast and crew that included three actual veterans of Combat Outpost Keating. Medal of Honor awardee Ty Carter, Hank Hughes and Dan Rodriguez, who plays himself in the film.

And I want to share with you this moment that was for me pretty emotional. This is a clip from a Taliban propaganda film of the very beginning of their attack on Camp Keating. That's Rodriguez right there running across the camp. And here he is nine years later, showing my son how he ran that day. That same son I was holding in my arms when I first heard about Combat Outpost Keating.

That moment for me and my son, and the movie, I hope, for you will tell a compelling story about heroism and sacrifice and selflessness and honor. And at a time when we all feel so divided about, I don't know, everything. I hope maybe in the story of these men, these brave soldiers, we can find something that we can all appreciate.

Thanks for spending your Sunday with us. Tonight we examine the president's actions in a new special called "Trump and the Law After Impeachment" premiering at 10:00 p.m. Eastern only on CNN. Here's a sneak peek.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: General Flynn was under enormous pressure. What they did to General Flynn was a disgrace.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Flynn case is an unusual case.

TRUMP: They tormented him. They destroyed him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a case where the administration, quite frankly, is attempting to substitute its own view of facts or nonfacts for that which has been demonstrably shown to the court.

TAPPER (voice-over): A case that following the president's impeachment acquittal, critics say exposed the administration's renewed zeal to undermine the rule of law. Intervene on behalf of friends and attack perceived enemies.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The common thread throughout the Trump presidency is abuse of power.