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Report: Trump Taps New Communications Director, Spicer Resigns; Scaramucci Says No Friction With Spicer Or Priebus; Susan Rice Privately Meets With Senate Intel Group On Russia Probe. Aired 3:30-4p ET
Aired July 21, 2017 - 15:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[15:30:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you all.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, what are you trying to accomplish with your staff -- can you explain to us what you're trying to accomplish.
TRUMP: Make America great again.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Anything you can tell us?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: And we're back, you're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin continuing our special coverage of this major shake-up today inside the Trump White House. Sean Spicer, out after six months and a day as the White House press secretary. He says he'll stay on until August and Sarah Huckabee Sanders will be the third female press secretary ever to helm the post when he completes his job. All of this as the White House names a new communications director, this man, Anthony Scaramucci. He is a 53-year-old Wall Street financer and former Trump campaign fund-raiser and today, he made his praise and love for president Trump clear.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, NEW WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: I think there's been, at times, a disconnect between the way we see the president and how much we love the president and the way some of you perhaps see the president. But I love the president. And I'm very, very loyal to the president. And I love the mission that the president has. I love the president. I obviously love the country. I love the president.
And the president is a very, very effective communicator. The president has really good karma. The president himself is always going to be the president. I was in the oval office with him earlier today and we were talking about letting him be himself, letting him express his full identity. I think he's got some of the best political instincts in the world and perhaps in history. When you think about it, he started his political ascent two years and two months ago and he's done a phenomenal job for the American people and the people I grew up with, they so identify with the president and they love him and so we're going to get that message out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: Let's talk now to three White House reporters, CNN's Kaitlan Collins, Jonathan Lemire with the Associated Press who is in the room, Abby Phillip, also, there, The Washington Post," also here in New York CNN's senior media correspondent, Brian Stelter.
And Abby, let me begin with you as I was watching Scaramucci, all I kept thinking was of Sade and "Smooth Operator."
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: That's actually a great analogy for this moment. Look, this is one of the main reasons why he's standing up at that podium today. When I talked to people, they say that in the last couple of weeks, the president has been watching him on television, and he likes what he sees. He sees him going out there, defending him very eloquently, doing it without missing a beat, and he likes the combativeness.
It's something that the president wants in his spokesman. It doesn't hurt that Scaramucci looks the part for this job. And all of that really matters at this point in time. Beyond that, there's a pretty longstanding relationship and a desire from the president to really give his White House a refresh. He doesn't think that he's getting the credit that he deserves for what's going on, and Scaramucci gave voice to a lot of that today in the briefing room.
[15:35:00] BALDWIN: I loved how Dana put it at the top of the coverage saying, essentially, when Trump looks in the mirror, Scaramucci is what he thinks he would like to see. And so, on the style, he gets, you know, major checkpoints. But Brian Stelter, on substance, yes, he hails the president as successful, though name me one major legislative win in the first six months. I mean, what do we know on substance with him?
BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Substance is what's lacking today and we'll see down the line if there are improvements in this White House about answers to questions and about action on the president's priorities. For as much as we can say about Sean Spicer, and why he resigned today, his tenure was check marked or it was checkered by errors, by misstatements, by confusion from the podium, and that is ultimately the president's responsibility. It's the president who sets the tone by making confusing, misleading contradictory statements by sometimes outright lying.
So, will that change with the new communications director? I guess we'll see about that. We're at the six-month mark and the sunshine -- the Sunlight Foundation, which is a nonprofit that studies transparency in government which didn't give Obama great marks, says Trump is much worse. This administration is hostile toward the press and is a secretive government. We'll see if Scaramucci and Sanders are going to change that. I think it's going to be very hard to change just because he's a smooth operator, and he was today, doesn't mean this White House is not in crisis.
BALDWIN: Jonathan, you were in the room. What was your impression? Has he genuinely seemed to be taking almost every question on day one.
JOHNATHAN LAMIRE, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, ASSOCIATED PRESS: It's certainly a contrast in styles between his first day behind the podium and Sean Spicer's first day behind the podium. You might recall that Spicer, it was the day after the inauguration, he came out here and delivered a very combative screed against the press in the room about the size of the crowd that the president drew, saying that it was far greater than what President Obama had drawn eight years earlier and he left without taking any questions.
Today, it was very different. Scaramucci seemed very relaxed. He was calm. He joked around a little bit, made some self-deprecating cracks. At the same time, he did push back against the press corps here suggesting that we have not given the president a fair coverage, but he did so with a far more ease and charm and even blew a kiss when he walked off the podium at the end of it.
BALDWIN: Yes, he did. I've seen the gif. Kaitlan, to you. He was asked about the relationship with Steve Bannon. He says he's looking forward to working with him but from reporting I've seen, no love lost between these two and even including Reince Priebus, looking at previous Sara Murray reporting that he was up for previous appointments that were quashed by the chief of staff. Can you just tell us about the inner workings of the west wing involving Scaramucci?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Absolutely. And a lot of that was what led to Sean Spicer's resignation today. Last night, we found out that Sean Spicer, Steve Bannon, and Reince Priebus were largely kept in the dark as the Trump administration narrowed down and decided that Scaramucci was going to be the next communications director. This is a position they have had a lot of trouble filling and I'm sure that Sean Spicer and Reince Priebus were hoping it was someone from their RNC side, someone that's a Washington creature like they are and they ended up getting Scaramucci who's a Donald Trump creature.
He's from New York, he's smoothly dressed and he's smooth when he talks and he speaks of a White House that's running perfectly. That's exactly what Donald Trump wants representing his administration on television. It's created controversy behind the scenes in the west wing. A lot of staffers were shocked today when they found out that he was being hired. They said they were left in the dark and they did not know this was happening today.
BALDWIN: Also, from our reporting, though, I think it was Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner, embracing this move. They believe that this will be the reset that the White House needs.
STELTER: Family always comes first, right?
BALDWIN: We shall see. Day one. Thanks, everyone. So much. Coming up next, someone who knows all about west wing drama, former
Clinton adviser Paul Begala is going to weigh in on all of this. Stay here.
[15:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN SPICER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period, both in person and around the globe.
When we use words like "travel ban" that misrepresents what it is.
I've said it from the day that I got here until whatever, there is no connection. You've got Russia. If the president puts Russian salad dressing on his salad tonight, somehow that's a Russian connection. But every single person -- no, well, no, that's -- I appreciate your agenda here, but the reality is -- oh, no, hold on. No, at some point, report the facts.
We didn't use chemical weapons in World War II, you know? Someone as despicable as Hitler who didn't even sink to using chemical weapons.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Let me answer. I am just reporting.
SPICER: You were asking me a question and I'm going to answer it, which is the president, I'm sorry, please stop shaking your head again.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sean, do you have time for another question, please. Sean, Sean.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Come on, Sean. Sean.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[15: 45:00] BALDWIN: Part of the Sean Spicer greatest hits reel. We're talking about the major shake-up today within the White House press corps. Sean Spicer will be out in August, and Anthony Scaramucci has been appointed as the coms director and Sarah Huckabee Sanders will be taking Sean's job as press secretary. Let's talk to Paul Begala, CNN political commentator, and Democratic strategist and a former adviser to president Clinton. Also with me, Matthew Whitaker, CNN legal commentator and executive director of the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust, and last but not least, David Zurawiki, media critic for "The Baltimore Sun." gentlemen, my goodness. We thought we'd be talking about "The Washington Post" and the "The New York Times" reporting. To watch Scaramucci, Paul Begala, your impressions and just you knowing the inner workings of a White House, what's his biggest uphill battle?
PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, a White House is a living organism, especially -- it's only been going six months but still in six months, it forms its own ecosystem. Now you're transplanting an organ into that. The body's going to want to reject it. I don't know Scaramucci well. I've met him a couple of times. He has a great conference investment group and he had me out there, he paid me, so obviously, he's a genius, he is smart enough to pay know give a speech. But I do think he may have good skills within that ecosystem to fit in so the body doesn't reject the new organ. Lord knows the president needs new blood.
The problem here is not Scaramucci, it's not even Spicer, although he did a bad job. I must say. It's the president. I always say this focus on the organ grinder, not the monkey. Guys like me or even guys like Scaramucci or Sean, we're all monkeys. It's the president and Donald Trump is a black hole of integrity. He's a swirling malignant vortex of deceit and dishonesty and duplicity and anybody who goes in there is going to find their credibility destroyed. That's what's going to happen to the mooch.
BALDWIN: Paul we played the clip. The mooch. We just played the clip. And Matthew, I want to get your two cents in a second. We played the clip where is the love is abundant when it comes to how Scaramucci feels about the president. If you're saying there is problems with the president, then isn't there a problem with Scaramucci?
BEGALA: You kind of got me there. I want to like the guy. Honestly, I don't support this president's agenda but having been in that job, it's public service, and I admire anybody who's willing to serve their country. But there was an element, remember in the "The Manchurian Candidate" where they say, Raymond Shaw is the wisest, kindest, bravest, warmest human being I've ever known in my life, because they were brainwashed by the North Koreans. There was a little bit I thought with Scaramucci today. Maybe that is what Trump needs. Maybe Trump's the kind of guy who just believes you never stand so tall as when you stoop to kiss his ring.
BALDWIN: Matthew Whittaker, how do you feel?
MATHEW WHITAKER, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY, IOWA: I disagree with Paul. But along this line, I see a president that is sensing that things aren't working and I think Paul would agree with me on that. Six months in, and he's making some decisions. He's bringing in Ty Cobb and he's bringing in Scaramucci, he's changing up his legal team on the outside, and I think what is happening is you're seeing Donald Trump the leader and the person that has been successful in business that is taking charge and trying to optimize his organization. Now, I will -- I think everybody admits it hasn't been working for the first six months at an optimal level and maybe some of these changes will improve things.
BALDWIN: So, Matthew, here's my question because, you know, one of the big issues, this cloud hanging over the White House for months and months is this whole Russia investigations but the thing is that the president keeps talking about it. We've all read the transcript from the far-reaching "The New York Times" interview from earlier this week. He keeps talking about Russia. He keeps talking about the special counsel, Robert Mueller. Isn't that part of the problem, and do you think Scaramucci is someone who maybe is close to the president and can say, Mr. President, with all due respect, stop? WHITAKER: Well, let's first remember it's made in America week but I agree. I hope Scaramucci is somebody --
BALDWIN: Is it?
WHITAKER: It still is. It's been the longest week of my life but it still is made in America week. But nonetheless, I think that is somebody that the president sorely needs is a plainspoken person. I hope Scaramucci can fill this role, and that tells him where to compartmentalize this Russian investigation, to let the professionals and the outside legal team and Ty Cobb when he comes into the White House, and others handle this and manage this and not comment about the players from the office of the president. Because it -- from my perspective, as a former federal prosecutor, it's not helping his defense at this point.
BALDWIN: So, for all the winning that Scaramucci clearly believes that the president has been capable of, is capable of, you think this is a person who is capable of telling the president, no?
WHITAKER: I hope so. I was a little concerned. I mean, and you played the clips earlier on how much he loves the president. But I think that that level of respect hopefully can be some tough love and somebody that can tell the president what he needs to hear and just that he's great and doing a great job.
BALDWIN: OK. David, we talk a lot about, obviously, the role in the media and how it's been thus far in the last six months and a day. How do you see press briefings moving forward, now that we have Sarah Huckabee Sanders at the helm and also Scaramucci as the boss?
[15:50:00] DAVID ZURAWIK, MEDIA CRITIC, "THE BALTIMORE SUN": You know, I don't think -- first of all, Brooke, I don't think -- Scaramucci sounds like the last guy who is going to rein Trump in. He said how brilliant his political instincts are, how important his tweeting is, and he measures importance only by followers. This is a guy who from the world of business and finance where numbers are everything. The bigger Trump's audience gets, the more damage he does. It is an inverse law with his tweets, with his reckless tweets and his disregard for facts. Look, they're going to be smoother. They're not going to be as contentious in terms of the press briefings. There was a belligerence to Sean Spicer's press briefings that was really outrageous. That was beyond the pale, when she told April Ryan is his greatest hits reel you played to quit shaking her head, that was so far beyond the pale of that discourse --
BALDWIN: And to rage at Congressman Cummins meetings, remember when she was asking about the Congressional Black Caucus?
BALDWIN: Right, right, right. Forgive me, that was the president, not Sean Spicer. Sorry, that was the president, not Sean Spicer.
ZURAWIK: Spicer -- Scaramucci is going to be an improvement over Spicer in terms of being less contentious, less abrasive. You said smooth operator. Dana said the guy Trump wants to see in the mirror. I think both of those were dead on, I see him as the football coach brought in with a sagging team, who has a great first press conference and says we're going to win, we're going to win, we're going to win. You walk out into the hall and he grabs ten players and says, by the way, I'm taking your college scholarships away. Too bad boys, we have to win. I don't trust him either, he is too smooth for me as well.
BALDWIN: You know, it was only in 2015 he was asked about this. Scaramucci was asked about this, he called Donald Trump a hack. Let's go back to the sound and then we'll remember his mea culpa fifty times over.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Another hack politician.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You called Donald Trump a hack?
SCARAMUCCI: He's a hack politician. The politicians don't want to go at Trump because he's got a big mouth and he's afraid he is going to light them up on Fox News and all these places, But I'm not a politician.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why is he resonating?
SCARAMUCCI: You're an inherited money dude from Queens County. Bring it on, Donald.
He brings it up every fifteen seconds, OK. One of the biggest mistakes I made is I was an unexperienced person in the world of politics. I was supporting another candidate. I never should have said that about him. So, Mr. President, if you're listening, I apologize for the 50th time for saying that. But here is the wonderful thing about the news media. That was three minutes of my life. He's never forgotten it, you've never forgotten it, but I hope someday, Mr. President, you'll forget it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: Paul Begala. Do you give Scaramucci credit for apologizing?
BEGALA: Yes and no. I think Matt makes a very important point here and I do hope the president and Scaramucci are watching, which is the highest form of loyalty is to say no, sir. To stand up to him. Every president needs it. Believe me, I have been there. You have to stand in that oval office and look him in the eye and say, no, sir, you're not going to say that, we're not going to do that. That's real loyalty. The first test for me will be the president's Twitter feed.
Scaramucci has to get control of that. I would make it a condition of my employment. Every tweet goes through me, sir. You're not allowed it anymore. That is below your pay grade. It goes through me and I approve it. Or if you can't do that, what the hell, be devious, I would hit the NSA to set up a complete shield that blocks the president's Twitter feed but he doesn't know it. It's like those cars at Disneyland that have steering wheels that aren't connected to anything. They have got to get him off the Twitter machine, it is killing him.
David's point about that is exactly right.
BALDWIN: Yes, so is that possible, Mathew? No go ahead, David, go ahead.
ZURAWIK: I just want to say, one thing that I think all the coverage has done so far, and this is just a minor thing I'm thinking, we're talking a lot about personalities, the difference between Spicer and Scaramucci. One thing is much important is this White House's attitude toward the press and the public. A disrespect not just for the press but for the public's right to expect truthful, reasonable flow of information from the White House. You can't have it without a democracy. That has to start at the top, and I don't think however smooth this guy is that he's the guy that's going to change that.
BALDWIN: We shall see. Truth in transparency. An excellent point. This is day one. We'll be watching ever so carefully, won't we, guys? Thank you all so much. Happy weekend.
Our other big story today, Special Counsel Robert Mueller asking White House staff to produce all documents related to Don Junior's infamous meeting at Trump Tower. Those new details next.
[15:55:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BALDWIN: Much more on the breaking news and the resignation of Sean Spicer, but first CNN has learned that former Obama National Security Adviser Susan Rice met behind closed doors with intel investigators. Rice has been under scrutiny from some house Republicans who believe she improperly unmasked or revealed the identities of Trump associates collected in intelligence gathering.
So, let's go to our senior congressional correspondent Manu Raju, on the Hill with more on what the meeting was about. What more do you know?
MANU RAJU, CNN Senior Congressional Correspondent: This is actually the first of, the third of three Obama era officials who met with the senate intelligence committee this week. Two others being the former Obama chief of staff, Denis McDonough, as well as former director of intelligence James Clapper.
She is coming in quietly behind closed doors meeting with senate staff as part of the intelligence committee's probe into Russia meddling. It's unclear if she did answer any of those questions that were asked about the issue of unmasking, but we do know from a representative Rice she did actively cooperate to help with the understanding of what Russia did in the elections. Now, this comes, Brooke, as the senate judiciary committee is trying to move forward with their own investigation, wanting to move forward with a hearing next week with Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign chairman, with Donald Trump Junior, the president's son. As well as Glenn Simpson who is the head of a research firm that had ties to the British dossier of unsubstantiated allegations about President Trump.
Those three men have not yet said if they'll testify next Wednesday before the senate judiciary committee. Moments ago, a spokesman for Chuck Grassley, the chairman committee reiterated subpoena threats if those three men do not show. They also said Grassley's representatives are undergoing active discussions with Paul Manafort and Donald Trump Junior. So, signs that some negotiations that are happening behind the scenes about this possible public testimony on Wednesday. This after Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law, going behind closed doors with the senate intelligence committee on Monday. A lot of activity. Some high-profile names. Rice today, others coming next week as these Russian investigations take shape, Brooke.
BALDWIN: Manu, let me ask you a quick follow up, I've got you for 60 more seconds. On the latter point you made about Don Junior and Manafort and the senate judiciary, what's that final moment where they need to say, we're coming, we will testify, and then obviously, you alluded to the subpoena. If not, then they would be subpoenaed?
RAJU: The final moment is going to be today. Today is the day. Chuck Grassley made it very clear he wants an answer by the end of the day, so the question is can they strike some sort of deal? That's unclear yet, but that's exactly what they're discussing behind the scenes at the moment, Brooke.
BALDWIN: Got it. Manu, thank you very much. We'll be waiting for testimony on that next week. I'm Brooke Baldwin. But stay right here, "The Lead" with Jake Tapper starts right now.