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President Trump's Leadership Tested After Mail Bombs; East Coast Braces For First Nor'easter Of The Season; Texans Beat Dolphins For Fifth Straight Win; Sources Say Megyn Kelly Negotiating Exit From NBC News. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired October 26, 2018 - 07:30   ET

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


[07:30:00] SCOTT JENNINGS, FORMER SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: I think that would be a great meeting to convene here as we learn more about the bomber and why he did it or --

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: What you're seeing there is a not so subtle nudge from Scott Jennings there, a Republican who has worked in the White House for us.

Scott, thanks for being with us. Bakari, thank you, both. Again, like said, we've been trying to get you on all week but it's been a heck of a week, so thanks so much.

JENNINGS: Thank you.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: And, John, let's remember that two former presidents, a former vice president, a secretary of state -- those are just some of the people who were targeted by this serial bomber who is still out there.

Historically speaking, has something like this happened before? Presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin joins us next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CAMEROTA: President Trump originally called for unity after a series of bombs were sent to two former presidents, a former vice president, a secretary of state, congresspeople, and more. But now, he's returned to insulting the media.

Here to help us understand what's happening is Doris Kearns Goodwin. She, of course, is a presidential historian. Her new book is called "Leadership in Turbulent Times" of which we are in, Doris -- welcome.

DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN, AUTHOR, "LEADERSHIP IN TURBULENT TIMES": Thank you.

[07:35:00] CAMEROTA: OK, so this idea that a bomb was sent to two former presidents and first ladies, a vice president, a head of the CIA --

BERMAN: A former attorney general.

CAMEROTA: A former attorney general, different state -- U.S. representatives, an international media organization.

Is there a historical precedent for this?

GOODWIN: Yes. The gruesome parallel really is the killing of Abraham Lincoln because John Wilkes Booth had two fellow assassins. He wanted to take off the whole top leadership structure, so one was designed to kill the secretary of state.

He actually got into Seward's house and he hit a son with a concussion -- fell down -- knifed another son, and then got to Seward's bedside and cut him in the face. Half of his face came off. He was only saved because he had broken his ribs the day before and somehow his jaw was wired, and so it didn't go into the artery.

And then, the third assassin went after Andrew Johnson. He knew the hotel he was staying. He had a gun to get to him. Luckily, he got drunk at the bar and never carried out his assassination attempt.

But that's the scope of what we're seeing in this attempt this time, going way back to that, which would have -- would have taken out the whole leadership structure of the government at that time.

BERMAN: And, of course, this time they're former officials. But still, the historical precedent there, I think really puts it in perspective. What you're talking about here is a mass murder -- attempted, perhaps, mass murder of an entire political class.

Of course, I mean -- the title of your book is "Leadership in Turbulent Times" listed as non-fiction. But it could be a user's manual at this point, I think, for the President of the United States. We are in turbulent times and we are seeking leadership.

Let me play you what White House press secretary Sarah Sanders has said about the president's response to this over the last few days.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president, I think, could not have been more presidential yesterday when he spoke directly to the American people. He condemned this violence. Let's not get lost in who is responsible for this heinous act.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: So, she may be talking about that specific White House moment, but if the standard is 'could not have been more presidential' over the last 36 hours -- you've studied a few presidents. Is that true?

GOODWIN: What you really want for a president -- the reason the bully pulpit is called the bully pulpit has nothing to do with bullying. It has to do with the fact that it's the best platform a president has to educate the country, especially at moments of crisis.

So he could have used this moment -- this was one of those opportunities when crisis is there -- to reflect on has the dialogue created a context that made this act? Of course, it didn't produce the act directly, but are all of us responsible? He could have said that.

Suppose he said we have to ratchet down this kind of communication where we call each other horrible people. Where we say it's evil. Where we look at the people as the other.

And I'll take responsibility, he could have said, and you will have to take responsibility. But instead, responsibility was thrown on the media rather than himself.

That was one of those teaching moments when a president has the whole country listening and can really become a president at that moment. He doesn't have to be inside the cabinet looking out. He's right there in front of us.

CAMEROTA: But, Doris, that's so interesting the way you framed it because you're not saying that he has to take sole responsibility. You're saying we and that there's something comforting about we're all in this together.

I'm going to tone down mine. I'm asking the media -- I'm asking all of you on the other side to tone down yours. We're all in it together.

The way you framed it is a nice way of having somebody not have to take -- to shoulder all of the blame.

But he didn't say that and this morning, he was up at 3:00 insulting the media again.

GOODWIN: Yes, it's still hard to understand because he would have gained such respect, I think, and especially as he's moving toward the midterm elections. His polls were going up. Suppose he had been able to cap that movement of the polls going up by looking like he had taken a step away from where he's been from his entire presidency?

This isn't about me, this is about us. I want us to get through this together.

Always when the country comes together, however the crisis is, that's when we have strength and that's where you need a president to make us feel you're absolutely right -- the us, the we, not the you. Not pointing fingers at somebody else. But he didn't do it.

BERMAN: In times like this, which are tough -- people often ask has it ever been so bad. Could it ever be worse than this? And I'm glad you're here because the answer is --

GOODWIN: Of course, it's been worse. And I think it's important for history to provide perspective.

Think if we were living at the beginning of the Civil War. Six hundred thousand people would die. The country was falling apart. You weren't even sure whether this American experiment would last. Or think if we were living at the beginning of the Depression. You're trying to get your money out of the banks -- the banks are collapsing. There's no jobs to be had. There's a feeling that capitalism may be an issue right now.

Or even at the turn of the 20th century when the working-class and the capitalists were at such odds with one another. There were bombs -- there were bombs in the street. There were nationwide strikes and people wondered whether there'd be a revolution.

And you didn't know how those things would end. Now we know, so we can take comfort in it.

But if you're living through those moments, they were far worse times but we had leaders that helped to get us through and the citizens were awakened to the cause. That's the real key right now.

The anti-slavery movement made it possible for Lincoln to do what he did. The civil rights movement made it possible for LBJ to do progressive movement -- the settlement houses. All of that was underneath both Roosevelts.

[07:40:01] So right now, it's up to the citizens to awaken and we have the power. We still have that collective power to decide who to vote for, to get active in politics. New people are entering public life.

I feel hopeful about that. There's an awakening of spirit right now. And in every time of crisis the citizens were there, as well as the leaders. And then we figure out who the leaders are if we decide.

CAMEROTA: Your optimism is infectious, Doris Kearns Goodwin. The book, again, is "Leadership in Turbulent Times." Thanks so much for being with us --

GOODWIN: Glad to be with you.

CAMEROTA: -- to talk us through all of this and give us historical --

BERMAN: A user's manual. A user's manual for how to do the job.

Thanks, Doris.

GOODWIN: Thank you.

BERMAN: A nor'easter brewing. What will it mean for your weekend plans? Chad Myers with the forecast, next.

CAMEROTA: Plus, a world-class performance by a Red Sox -- a Red Sox star named John Berman after --

BERMAN: This one wasn't me. This one wasn't me.

CAMEROTA: We'll give you the highlights.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [07:45:09] CAMEROTA: All right. Well, the first nor'easter of the season is heading for the east coast.

CNN meteorologist Chad Myers has our weekend forecast. Say it ain't so, Chad.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: You know, typically, Alisyn, we think about a nor' easter with a snowstorm and all of that. This is warm enough, at least, it's going to be rain.

A coastal low running up the east coast. It's raining now in Atlanta into all of North Carolina, and that rain does get into D.C. in the afternoon. Not quite to New York City, though, by 11:00 tonight -- barely.

But it is going to be a blustery cold weekend. Go find the best book you can download and get ready for this weekend because it's going to be a windy, windy, cold weekend in the northeast.

Temperatures are going to be in the 50s. Winds could be somewhere around 60 miles per hour tomorrow, even through Manhattan and certainly along the coast of North Carolina and all the way up through the coast of New Jersey as well.

Heavy rainfall -- there'll be some spots there with two to four inches of rain. Not really worried about that. There'll be some coastal waves that you may have to worry about, like Atlantic City and Ocean City and places like that -- even toward Long Island.

But temperatures for the next three days don't get out of the 40s and the 50s.

Now, the good news, John, for you. The game is not in Boston. It is going to be 80 degrees and sunny later on today at 5:09 Pacific time, 8:09 right here. I know where you will be.

CAMEROTA: Chad, do you see what he is doing? He's even forsaking his beloved Red Sox to tell everybody what book they should read this weekend.

BERMAN: Well, because Chad said go find the best book you can download --

CAMEROTA: Yes.

BERMAN: -- and the answer is, of course --

CAMEROTA: "Amanda Wakes Up."

BERMAN: By?

CAMEROTA: Alisyn Camerota.

BERMAN: Now available?

CAMEROTA: In paperback. BERMAN: All right.

CAMEROTA: God, you're good.

BERMAN: Chad Myers --

CAMEROTA: God, you're good.

BERMAN: Thank you very much, Chad. Appreciate it. And go Red Sox.

CAMEROTA: I'm going to play along now for the Red Sox.

BERMAN: Let's do it. So, after a disastrous start, though -- before we get to the Red Sox we have to talk about other sports teams --

CAMEROTA: Oh, never mind.

BERMAN: -- that may or may not exist.

The Houston Texans, they could be the hottest team in the NFL.

Coy Wire has more in the "Bleacher Report." Hey, Coy.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning. Almost as hot as that new paperback book, baby.

A lot of folks wrote the Texans off after three straight losses. And listen, only five times since 1980 has a team started 0-3 and then made the playoffs.

But, Houston is rolling. They're atop the ASC South and it's in large part because of that tough young quarterback, 23-year-old Deshaun Watson.

Listen to this. Last Sunday, he rode 12 hours in a bus to play the Jags because a flight could have affected his collapsed lung and his cracked ribs.

But he still dominated the Dolphins last night -- five touchdown passes. He only had four incompletions. He had a 73-yarder to Will Fuller.

But the play that everyone is talking about -- still trending number one on bleacherreport.com -- DeAndre Hopkins with the Velcro on his glove or something, and somehow prevents this ball from hitting the ground. An incredible catch. There was a penalty on the play so it won't show up in the stat sheet, but it's showing up in highlight reels.

The Texans are rolling -- a huge 42 to 23 win.

Now, to the Red Sox. They have a commanding 2-0 lead in the World Series. Game three is tonight in L.A., as Chad mentioned.

But, Boston's Mookie Betts is getting headlines for something he did off the field. Take a look at this. The MVP candidate was spotted handing out trays of hot food for the

homeless after game two in Boston. This was in near-freezing temperatures at 1:00 a.m. It was at a public library near Fenway Park.

And the person who took this photo said Betts -- he was doing this discreetly. He didn't want any attention. And with the World Series going on, seeing Betts think about those who are in need maybe makes us all wonder how could we make our world a bit of a better place this morning.

BERMAN: Yes, it was good on him. I am now a huge Mookie Betts fan, period, but when I saw that --

CAMEROTA: You're not?

BERMAN: -- I'm huge.

CAMEROTA: Or, you are?

BERMAN: He's -- yes, he's the best. He's made my life almost as good as you have --

CAMEROTA: Yes.

BERMAN: -- maybe better.

CAMEROTA: Yes, that's fantastic. I mean, listen, this is what we hope that people who have a celebrity platform do, so that is wonderful.

All right.

Meanwhile, Brian Stelter is reporting that Megyn Kelly is negotiating her exit from NBC. The backstory on what appears to be another prominent NBC departure. Brian is here, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:53:33] BERMAN: Sources tell CNN that Megyn Kelly is negotiating her exit from NBC News. Her attorney will reportedly meet with the network's top brass today to negotiate terms. This follows an uproar where Kelly was defending blackface Halloween costumes on her show earlier this week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MEGYN KELLY, NBC HOST, "MEGYN KELLY TODAY": What is racist? Because you do get in trouble if you are a white person who puts on blackface for Halloween or a black person who puts on whiteface for Halloween. Back when I was a kid that was OK as long as you were dressing up as like a character.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Kelly apologized the next day. NBC aired a rerun of Kelly's show yesterday, clearly a sign of her likely departure.

Joining us now is CNN business chief media correspondent and host of "RELIABLE SOURCES," Brian Stelter. Brian, you've been all over this story. What's going on?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN BUSINESS CHIEF MEDIA CORRESPONDENT, HOST, "RELIABLE SOURCES": Yes, this is something that was probably going to happen anyway even before the blackface controversy but clearly, she sped up her departure. This was a train going down the tracks and it sped up quickly because of this real mess that she made for herself this week.

On Wednesday, she came out an apologized but that was not enough. And I think at this point now, both sides -- Kelly's team and NBC's team -- feel this is a foregone conclusion she will be leaving. It's all about the money now. It's all about the negotiating details.

CAMEROTA: But look, I know Megyn. I worked with her for many years.

STELTER: Yes.

CAMEROTA: I'm sure she's deeply embarrassed about this. I'm sure she wishes she could do it all over again differently.

But what you first said there -- are they just using this as an excuse because they wanted to end this show? Was this -- look, I understand that this is reprehensible but were they waiting for something to end her show?

[07:55:08] STELTER: I think there is an element to that, for sure. There's been two years of backbiting and bitterness inside NBC about Megyn Kelly.

She gets hired from Fox. She's treated as this all-star. She's told she's not going to get one, but two shows on the network.

There was a lot of resentment. There was a lot of --

CAMEROTA: Well, she was also paid a lot.

STELTER: She was paid too much, yes.

CAMEROTA: I mean, I think that to come in and be paid by more than some of your other stars --

STELTER: Twenty-three million dollars a year, yes.

CAMEROTA: -- doesn't engender kindness perhaps from other staffers.

STELTER: Yes, and that has been a --

BERMAN: (INAUDIBLE).

STELTER: That's been a factor over there at NBC for almost two years now, and there's been other factors as well. You know, she challenged management very publicly. She aggressively covered #MeToo cases, including cases inside NBC. So there's been that element as well. BERMAN: OK, because one of the things you will read -- it's been fascinating to see how this has been covered also because some conservative bloggers and writers who turned on Megyn Kelly when she did things at Fox they didn't like are now coming to her defense --

STELTER: Yes, they are.

BERMAN: -- and suggesting, among other things, that this is NBC retribution for the fact that Megyn Kelly has covered #MeToo with Matt Lauer and the other things inside NBC.

STELTER: Right, and she may argue that -- or her lawyer may argue that for her as she tries to make sure she gets paid her full contract on the way out of the door.

But the biggest factor here, as it almost always is in television, is ratings. Her program had sky-high expectations and she never met those expectations. So ultimately, this show was going to end anyway, someday -- maybe at the end of the season -- due to relatively low ratings.

But then, she steps in it by talking about blackface and that creates a scandal that NBC could not tolerate. There was so much disappointment inside the news division about what she said that that ultimately led to this sped-up departure.

We could hear about the exit later today, it could be next week. It's going to be a question about how much she'll be paid on the way out.

And by the way, she's not the first person to leave NBC in an ugly way. I mean, look at this. We've got at least five other names being put on the screen of folks.

Think about Ann Curry years ago. More recently, Billy Bush. Ronan Farrow had the great Harvey Weinstein reporting and they let him walk out the door. Matt Lauer, of course, in the scandal last year and now, Kelly.

It has not been -- NBC has not been able to manage these kind of departures very well.

CAMEROTA: Yes. I mean, those have all been shockingly high-profile. I mean, a cataclysm, like the Matt Lauer one.

And so, everybody --

STELTER: That's right.

CAMEROTA: -- wants to know what does this mean for Megyn Kelly? What is next? What happens with her?

STELTER: Right. Think about where she was two years ago coming off the presidential election. She moderated debates. She challenged President Trump. She was viewed as one of the biggest stars in television news.

This is a stunning fall from grace. So what is the comeback story? I don't know.

There has been talk about Fox. Fox came out with a cover statement yesterday. All it said was we're very happy with our current lineup.

So I don't see an open door there right now but, you know, things change every year, every two years in television. I wouldn't rule anything out.

BERMAN: So maybe not now but perhaps, not ever?

STELTER: Maybe, maybe not. But, you know, right now, I don't see a lot of places for her with high-profile jobs in television news. She really has been scarred not just by the blackface controversy but by other mistakes on the air as well.

BERMAN: When there is this separation --

STELTER: Yes.

BERMAN: -- do they -- does she get paid the full amount? I mean, with $23 million a year, reportedly, will she get all of that money?

STELTER: Yes, that's the $23 million question and I believe she will end up being paid a good portion of what's remaining on her contract. So, a 3-year contract, $23 million a year -- that means she's got what, at least $35 million to go.

Maybe NBC could argue that she violated one of the terms of her deal. I would assume the lawyers will try to argue that. But it might make the most sense for NBC to just let her go quietly and not make more of a mess or more a fight than there's already been.

CAMEROTA: Let's talk about your meteoric rise. You had a fabulous book, best-selling, "Top of the Morning" --

STELTER: About morning T.V. a long time ago.

CAMEROTA: -- about morning T.V. --

STELTER: Yes, yes.

CAMEROTA: -- and it is now being turned into a T.V. series with Jennifer Aniston --

STELTER: Right.

CAMEROTA: -- Reese Witherspoon. Steve Carrel was just announced as going to be playing the male anchor.

STELTER: Yes.

CAMEROTA: And so, John and I are just wondering who's going to play us and is this all based on your study of us.

BERMAN: You could get Clooney to play me. STELTER: You know, I have learned a lot by being around this studio. But the truth be told, so much has changed in morning T.V. my book had ended up being background material because it was about Ann Curry and Matt Lauer.

Things that have happened in morning T.V. in the past year -- think about Charlie Rose and Matt Lauer and other scandals. It's stranger than fiction.

So it's been interesting in the writer's room seeing the writers try to come up with an even more shocking storyline.

BERMAN: Yes.

STELTER: And I can't tell you what's going to happen but it will be on Apple next --

CAMEROTA: But who's going to play us?

STELTER: You all are -- you all are -- you're impossible, right?

CAMEROTA: Yes.

STELTER: You're impossible to recreate.

CAMEROTA: You're right, to imitate.

STELTER: Right.

CAMEROTA: That's right.

STELTER: That's my theory.

CAMEROTA: There was another book about --

BERMAN: It's stranger than fiction, he says. It's stranger than fiction. Stranger than --

CAMEROTA: About morning news also.

BERMAN: "Amanda Wakes Up."

CAMEROTA: Yes, it's called "Amanda Wakes Up." Wow, you're on a roll.

BERMAN: By?

CAMEROTA: By Alisyn Camerota behind the scenes.

STELTER: We should sell our two books together, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Yes, we should, Brian. We should go on tour, kind of like Andy Cohen and Anderson Cooper.

STELTER: All right, we'll figure it out during the commercial.

CAMEROTA: OK. BERMAN: All right.

Brian, thank you very much. And be sure to watch -- be sure to watch Brian this weekend on "RELIABLE SOURCES," Sunday at 11:00 a.m. eastern time.

CAMEROTA: Meanwhile, the manhunt for a serial bomber is intensifying this morning. President Trump's focus, though -- at least early this morning -- was on a --