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Interview with Senator Susan Collins; Trump: "Second Amendment People" Could Stop Clinton. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired August 10, 2016 - 08:00   ET

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


[08:00:00] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Michael Phelps adding two more Golds to his collection. Katie Ledecky, triumphant, landing her a second gold medal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The U.S. women's gymnastics team crushing the competition.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is all about the gold for the red, white and blue.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Welcome to your NEW DAY this Wednesday, August 10th, 8:00 in the east. Alisyn is off. Brianna Keilar joins me this morning.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Great to be here.

CUOMO: Another big turn in the election. The suggestion is whether Donald Trump unaware of what he says, or does he just not -- he just doesn't care about what comes out and how it is influencing people who are listening. The latest one, Second Amendment supporters, he says to them, they can do something to stop Hillary Clinton. Trump says he wasn't calling for violence, but a lot of people took it differently.

KEILAR: And his remarks have been condemned. They were condemned very quickly by officials, not just Democrats, but Republicans as well. And Trump again is blaming the media for twisting his words. Did he cross the line, though? Let's begin our coverage with CNN's Jason Carroll, live in Virginia. Jason?

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brianna, the Trump campaign really wants to move beyond this. They're having a terrible sense of deja vu, once again, having to explain what the candidate said versus what he meant.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CARROLL: Donald Trump on the defensive, again.

DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There can be no other interpretation. Give me a break.

CARROLL: Blaming media bias for the firestorm over this quip at his campaign rally.

TRUMP: Hillary wants to abolish, essentially abolish the Second Amendment. By the way, if she gets to pick, if she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is. I don't know. But --

CARROLL: Trump doing damage control, claiming he was calling on the political powers of Second Amendment voters to make their voices heard, not advocating violence toward his rival.

TRUMP: This is a political movement. This is a strong, powerful movement, the Second Amendment. Hillary wants to take your guns away. She wants to leave you unprotected in your home.

CARROLL: Clinton's campaign quickly denouncing Trump, saying he is dangerous and a presidential candidate should not suggest violence in any way. Other Democrats echoing the same sharp rebuke. Senator Chris Murphy calling it an assassination threat. Elizabeth Warren slamming him as a pathetic coward who can't handle losing to a girl. And Gabby Giffords, who survived being shot in the head, says Americans must draw a bright red line between political speech and suggestions of violence. Republicans blasting Trump as well.

GEN. MICHAEL HAYDEN, FORMER CIA AND NSA DIRECTOR: That's actually a very arresting comment. If someone had said that outside the hall, he would be in the back of a police wagon now with the Secret Service questioning him.

CARROLL: Trump blaming the desperate media for trying to distract what he calls Clinton's anti-Second Amendment stance, even though Clinton has never called for abolishing gun rights. The NRA and running mate Mike Pence coming to Trump's defense.

MIKE PENCE, (R) VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Donald Trump is urging people around this country to act in a manner consistent with their convictions in the course of this election, and people who cherish the Second Amendment have a very clear choice in this election.

CARROLL: Trump has taken heat for violent rhetoric on the stump before.

TRUMP: I would like to punch him in the face. Knock the crap out of him.

CARROLL: Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, once again issuing a tepid defense of Trump.

REP. PAUL RYAN, (R) SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: It sounds like just a joke gone bad. I hope he clears it up very quickly. You should never joke about something like that.

(END VIDEOTAPE) CARROLL: And Chris, we've seen various explanations for Trump's comments, one coming from New York City's former mayor, Rudy Giuliani, who said simply that Trump was joking, but also saying that this is simply part of Clinton's spin machine at work. It certainly got the attention of the Secret Service. The Secret Service saying they are aware of Trump's comments.

It got the attention of Bernice King as well. She is the daughter of Martin Luther King. She tweeted "As the daughter of a leader that was assassinated, I find Trump's comments distasteful, disturbing, dangerous. His words don't #liveup #MLK." "The New York Daily News" also weighing in this morning with this front page with a headline that reads, "This isn't a joke anymore." "The Daily News" calling Trump's comments offensive and reckless. Certainly, a number of people within Trump's own camp, including his diehard supporters, say regardless of Trump, whatever he said, they are still squarely behind him. Chris?

CUOMO: Jason, the proposition is can Donald Trump really be unaware of the impact of his words, or does he just not care about the impact of his words?

Let's bring in Senator Susan Collins of Maine. Senator Collins is the most senior Republican senator to announce that she is not going to vote for Donald Trump.

[08:05:01] Senator, you know, this is a pattern that we've seen where Donald Trump says something that is incendiary, maybe intended for effect, maybe unintended by lack of thought or strategy by him, and then everybody says it is the media's fault, you're taking him out of context, it is just a joke, you're making too much of it, it is political correctness. How do you see the situation of what just happened on the stump?

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS, (R) MAINE: Donald Trump has made so many disparaging and reckless comments that it is not surprising that this one has been misinterpreted. It is very rare for me to come to his defense, and as you know, I do not support him to be our next president, but in this case I truly interpreted his comments as saying that there are Second Amendment advocates in every state, that they have a lot of political clout, and that they could work together to prevent Hillary Clinton from becoming president. I really did not see it in any way as inciting violence or as a call for violence.

CUOMO: Right.

COLLINS: But I think in many ways, the fact that it is interpreted that way reflects a constant stream of inappropriate and reckless comments that Donald Trump has made.

CUOMO: You know, I'll tell you, you know, in full openness and candor, I was not shocked by the words when he said it. Maybe I've become conditioned or maybe I just saw it as you did. Then, because of the job, I had to go back and look at the context and see where all this concern was coming from. You know, in context, he winds up saying if she wins, if she gets to pick her judges, there is nothing you can do, well, maybe you Second Amendment people, maybe there is something you can do. So in the context, it was talking about if she is president already, and I think that is what made people concerned, even now that famous man in the red shirt behind him, who looked at his wife and made the "Ooh" face to her. Why do you think people pick up on it if it is not what he intends to say?

COLLINS: Because Donald Trump has such a history of making remarks that denigrate people, that mock the vulnerable, that are so inappropriate for a presidential candidate, and thus, when he makes a remark like this, which I interpreted as not in any way inciting violence, people leap to the conclusion that he is trying to send some sort of message. So in many ways, even though I don't think it was intended in any way to be inciting violence, Donald Trump has himself to blame for the fact that people leap to that conclusion. It is because he has had this constant stream of a attacks on people that people assume the worst.

CUOMO: Does it matter? You know, if you hear his surrogates, senator, they'll say, listen, he's tapping into the anger out there that is real, that you in the media and the Washington elite want to avoid. He speaks the way regular people do, and you don't like it because you're bunch of snobs. Do you agree with that?

COLLINS: No, I don't. It does matter because we should treat each other with respect in this country, and appeal to people's better natures. And what Donald Trump does is he inflames prejudices against ethnic and religious minorities, and he coarsens the debate in our country. A leader should lift us up and help to heal the divisions in this country.

Now, I certainly agree that a lot of what he says about the economy resonates with people who feel that they've been left behind by an unbalanced and uneven economy. But he has yet to offer any solutions to that. A leader's job, particularly for the highest office of the land, where that person is a symbol for our country, is to lift us up and make us better, not make us fearful and suspicious of one another.

CUOMO: All right, so on the same day we have this going on, with this intrigue around Trump once again, we have a couple of other developments. One you could argue is a little bit smaller. You have the father of the Orlando shooter, shows up at a Clinton event. He's behind her, which to many suggests a privileged position. The campaign denies it, says they didn't invite him. They don't know how he got in. That's one thing.

[08:10:05] Then these e-mails come out, 44 so far from the State Department that show pretty clear overlapping between what was going on at the Clinton Global Initiative and what was going on with secretary Clinton at the state department, even after 2009, when she had said she would be much more mindful to stop any conflict of overlapping. How does that weigh in on your suggestion of what the country needs in terms of leadership?

COLLINS: Well, it is part of the reason why I find myself in the very difficult position of being unable to support either of our major party candidates. I have been troubled by the fact that Secretary Clinton's answers on her e-mails did not match up with what the FBI Director Comey found. And she kept insisting that they did match up when it is so obvious that they did not. Now, we hear that there are suggestions that those who donated money to the Clinton Foundation were given special access to the State Department and its decision- makers. That's troubling, and that is a legitimate issue for us to be discussing.

CUOMO: So what are you telling your constituents, whether Maine or people, you know, people come to you. You're a senior senator, you are known as a straight shooter, maybe it's something about Maine, you've got you and Angus King, everybody sees you both as straight shooters. What are you telling people? They're saying I feel like you've put me in a position in this election where I have to pick who is less bad. What are you telling people?

COLLINS: Well, I can't tell you how many of my constituents have said exactly that to me, that they feel they're really struggling with the choices that we have. And they're surprised that the country this large that we've ended up with the choices that we have.

And it's been a struggle for me to decide what to do. I am a lifelong Republican and I've always supported my party's nominee. And I just can't this time because he lacks the temperament, the judgment, and the self-restraint to be our president. And yet, I'm troubled by the ethical issues that have been raised around Secretary Clinton despite the fact that I worked with her well as a Senate colleague.

So for my part, I first looked at the libertarian ticket, and if it were switched and Governor Bill Weld of Massachusetts were on top, it would be an easy choice for me because I've known him for many years and think very highly of him. I don't know Gary Johnson, Governor Gary Johnson, but I'm troubled about what I've read about his extensive drug use. And so I probably am going to end up writing in the name of someone. And I never would have guessed that I would be in that situation, and I think a lot of Americans are also struggling with what to do this year.

CUOMO: So, senator, who are you going to write in? Are you putting "Susan Collins" down? I'm been picking that up for some time in this conversation. Who are you thinking of writing in? Who is on your mind? Who are the options?

(LAUGHTER)

COLLINS: Well, I have thought of Jeb Bush, because he is the person I first endorsed and I believe he has the temperament, experience, and judgment to be president. So he is certainly an option. Condoleezza Rice I've always been a fan of, and she certainly would know how to handle the dangerous world that we're living in a way that Donald Trump does not. So she is another option. I haven't decided yet, but those are two names that would be at the top of my list. But I never envisioned that I would find myself in this dilemma when the primary season first started.

CUOMO: Well, senator --

COLLINS: This has been the most unpredictable year ever.

CUOMO: You're telling me. Senator Collins, thank you for being a straight shooter, as always. Appreciate your voice and guidance on NEW DAY.

COLLINS: Thank you, Chris, and happy birthday a day late.

CUOMO: Thank you very much. I'm only 19. I don't know how I got this job. Take care.

(LAUGHTER)

CUOMO: Brianna?

KEILAR: Chris, we're wondering how Clinton supporters are responding to Trump's Second Amendment comments. Up next, we will talk to a former governor about why the campaign says his comments are dangerous.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:18:25] KEILAR: Donald Trump is standing behind his comment about the Second Amendment people who could stop Hillary Clinton.

And here to discuss, we have former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm. She's a senior advisor to the pro-Clinton super PAC, Correct the Record.

Governor, thanks so much for being with us.

I want to start by playing what Donald Trump said and having you react. Here is what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Hillary wants to abolish, essentially abolish the Second Amendment. By the way, if she gets to pick -- if she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don't know -- but I'll tell you what, that will be a horrible day.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: And we see that man in the red shirt going --

JENNIFER GRANHOLM (D), FORMER MICHIGAN GOVERNOR: Wow.

KEILAR: Yes. He seemed to pick up certainly the impression that many people got from that Donald Trump saying, "I wasn't inciting violence. I was encouraging political advocacy of folks who believe in the Second Amendment."

Your reaction?

GRANHOLM: Well, I mean, all you have to do is listen to it. People are not stupid. I know he was trying to say that as a joke. But if you are running for president, you do not joke about

assassinations. This is a pattern of Donald Trump from back in the primaries, at his rallies -- I mean, a couple of examples, you know, that he -- when protesters were getting beaten up at his rallies, this is what we should have been doing to the other side for the last seven years, or he was complaining that in another rally, we're not allowed to punch back any more.

In the old days, they would be carried off in a stretcher, or part of the problem is that no one wants to hurt each other any more, or these are all different rallies.

[08:20:06] If you see someone getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of them. You remember, he offered to pay for the legal fees of the guy who cock-blocked one of the protesters.

This is a pattern that Donald Trump is engaged in. It is not presidential. It is, in fact, dangerous for the country.

So, Michael Hayden, here, I think on CNN, had a very, very telling comment when he said that not only are you responsible. When you are president, you're not only responsible for your words, but you are responsible for how people receive those words, words matter. Words can launch battleships, words can launch nuclear weapons -- this man is not fit to lead our nation.

KEILAR: Michael Hayden did say that on CNN. I wonder, though, as you say, and Republicans seem to be in agreement with Democrats. This is not good. This is not good for the country.

But I wonder if it is good for Hillary Clinton, when it comes to politics. She is fundraising off of his comments. Her campaign sent out a letter last night, sent out another letter to supporters this morning online.

This is something that for her is a vehicle to rile up folks that she wants to be on her side, and not on Donald Trump's side.

GRANHOLM: Well, every candidate for office, obviously uses what the other side does as a way of making the point that they are more fit to govern. And I'm certain that there are more people who are coming over to her side as a result of the recklessness of Donald Trump, everyday, there are more even Republicans who are deciding to endorse her as a result of it.

Bottom line is, this man is not worthy of the office that he seeks. He is not worthy of this great nation. And his statement yesterday is just another on a pile of statements that shows that his temperament is not fit.

KEILAR: She is using it obviously to make a point, but she is also using it, her campaign is using it to distract from something else that is going on. That has to do at least, the latest thing has to do with Clinton, the Clinton Foundation, e-mails between top aides at the Clinton Foundation. Let me give you an example of one of these newly released emails.

Doug Band, at the time top aide to Bill Clinton, helped found the Clinton Global Initiative. We need to speak to the substance person re Lebanon. He is talking to two of Hillary Clinton's top -- or one of Hillary Clinton's top aides, Huma Abedin, who's almost become a household name at this point.

And she responds. She says it's Jeff Feltman. That is at the time the U.S. ambassador to Lebanon. Is that really appropriate when one of the promises of Hillary Clinton was going in as secretary of state, there is essentially going to be this fire wall that she was not going to have overlap between the Clinton Foundation and the State Department and the U.S. government because it is unseemly at best.

GRANHOLM: So, number one, the person who wrote that e-mail, Doug Band, wrote it in his capacity as a personal assistant to President Clinton. He wrote it on the PresidentClinton.org e-mail. It was not foundation business.

This person is somebody the Clintons had known since long before the Clinton Foundation had been established. And all he was asking was that this person who was of Lebanese descent, he put in touch with a Lebanese expert at the State Department. It was for a meeting. It was not for state business. There was no official action taken on the part of the State Department on his behalf. It was just to set up a meeting.

KEILAR: But it's so unseemly. I understand he might have been wearing two hats, but it is not as simple as just taking one off.

This is a top aide to Bill Clinton, talking to a top aide, top aide to Secretary Clinton at the time, about an active U.S. --

GRANHOLM: About setting up a meeting. About setting up a meeting. It was not any official act.

KEILAR: Would have you done that?

GRANHOLM: Well, I mean, he wasn't in the State Department at the time. But I do flow that she has abided by the ethics agreement she signed at the beginning, which was not to take any action on the part of the State Department that mixed foundation business. This was not on behalf of the foundation.

KEILAR: Real quick.

GRANHOLM: Yes.

KEILAR: Before I let you go. DNC chair, is this a job you want?

GRANHOLM: No, no, no.

KEILAR: You definitely --

GRANHOLM: I'm hoping that they can convince Donna Brazile to stay on.

(LAUGHTER)

KEILAR: We'll see.

All right. Governor Granholm, thank you so much.

Chris?

CUOMO: I didn't hear Granholm say, no, not in any situation, no matter what happens. So maybe we'll have to stay on it.

Donald Trump, blaming us, of course, for twisting his words, for overanalyzing what he said about the second amendment followers. Certainly, he is not going to apologize. What does his campaign say this is really about? Are they concerned at all? Next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[08:28:57] TRUMP: Hillary wants to abolish, essentially abolish the Second Amendment. By the way, if she gets to pick -- if she gets to pick her do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don't know.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: Bad joke? Reckless? Is Trump aware of it? Does he care about it?

He is facing a firestorm, that's for sure, about what happened at the North Carolina rally. What does the campaign say about this, about why it does or does not matter in their opinion?

Sam Clovis, national co-chair, chief policy advisor for the Trump campaign, friend of NEW DAY joins us.

Sam, thank you for making it in to talk to us. Appreciate it.

You know, for context on this, when I heard it, I was like, you know, I think he made a bad joke, but I get there is probably a different standard for somebody who wants to be president. Who cares what I think?

Senator Susan Collins, no fan of Trump, no fan of Clinton either. And you know she is a respected Republican. Here was her take. Want your take on her take. Here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: Donald Trump has such a history of making remarks that denigrate people, that mock the vulnerable.