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Trump Irritated with Bolton; Pennsylvania's Critical Role in 2020; Peter Baker's New Book on Obama; Woods Struggles at PGA Championship. Aired 6:30-7a ET
Aired May 17, 2019 - 06:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[06:30:00] PETER BAKER, CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, "NEW YORK TIMES": Who's the one kind of putting the brakes on things. He's the one behind the scenes, you know, making light of Bolton saying, if it were up to John, we'd be in four wars by now.
But that points to a real dichotomy between a president who came to office on the promise of getting out of these Middle East quagmires, these overseas wars that he thinks have been, you know, against the American interest and costly, both in terms of money and lives, and a national security team that he's put in place that is more hawkish, that is more, you know, of the traditional, more neoconservative side of the Republican Party.
He's got to assert himself. I think he's saying, you know, I'm still in charge, I'm the one who's going to make these decisions. But it really does sort of indicate what an interesting and dynamic process you've got right now inside this administration.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Rachael, one of the really interesting things is hearing how many lawmakers, including -- and I would say particularly Republican lawmakers -- are so frustrated. I mean they say that they are in the dark, that they haven't been briefed, that they feel that they should have been briefed, they didn't know what the predicate was for the ratcheting up of tensions. I mean including Senator Lindsey Graham, who has said that people have not reached out to him and he doesn't know what's happening.
RACHAEL BADE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, there's a lot of frustration boiling up on The Hill right now, both Democrats and Republicans. There's sort of been this scatter shot approach where the administration is briefing some members of Congress, but not others. They briefed the Senate Intelligence Committee yesterday, but then canceled a briefing with the House Intelligence Committee. They briefed, you know, the Republican leader of the foreign policy panel in the Senate, but not the one in the House, which is led by Democrats. And so Democrats have been accusing the White House of basically playing favorites with the Republicans and keeping them in the dark.
But when you have people like Lindsey Graham, who said to reporters, I don't know what the heck is going on. I wish I had an answer for you, but I don't know because nobody is telling me. And so you hear that coming from The Hill. You also heard Speaker Nancy Pelosi yesterday, she's trying to sort of
applaud the president in his restraint and sort of encourage it. You know, from the podium during a press conference, she was talking about how the president opposed the war in Iraq and sort of suggesting, I hope he continues in that. He was right on that. We should continue to see him use this restraint. And so I've sort of been -- it's been interesting to see her, you know, while she's going to war with the president over investigates, to sort of applaud the restraint he has shown against some of his advisers at this point.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, I want to turn to 2020, if I can.
President Trump gave an interview to Fox TV where he was asked directly what he thought about the marriage of Pete Buttigieg. And I think the answer is something of a Rorschach test here, you see in it what you want to see. But let's play it and I would like all of your opinions on this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't you think it's just great to see the fact that you've got a guy there on the stage with his husband and it's normal, it's not even seen as a bid deal.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think it's absolutely fine. I do. I think it's absolutely fine.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But isn't it a sign of great progress in the country that that's just --
TRUMP: Yes, I think it's great. I think that's something that perhaps some people will have a problem with. I have no problem with it whatsoever. I think it's good.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: So when I saw that, I saw the wheels spinning in his head, Joe, about how he can answer -- because I do -- I actually don't think the president has any problem with gay marriage. His history would indicate that it's an issue he's more or less fine with. But he was trying to calibrate in that answer, how do I say this without offending so many of the people in my base who do have a problem with it. So he said fine. The interviewer said, don't you think it's great? He goes, the president, I think it's fine.
JOE LOCKHART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes.
BERMAN: And then he went on to say, there are people who will have a problem with it.
LOCKHART: Yes, I mean, this is -- this is the problem you -- and you hit on it, his history. His history says he's pro-choice. His history says he's a New York moderate to liberal that realized, I can get to be president by, you know, appealing to the far right. And, you know, there's a -- there's almost a hint in there of, you know, fine people on both sides. Some people will have a problem with it. So what he was trying to do there was to say, hey, you people who vote for me, you some people, I get it, I hear you, but I'm going to say this thing here that's politically correct, but I -- don't worry, I -- you know, don't -- don't take it that seriously.
CAMEROTA: I hear the threading of the needle.
CAMEROTA: I hear that.
And, Peter, I don't know if you're as much of a student of body language as I am, but also, I hope you noticed that when he said, I think it's fine. He shook his head just like that, which is a tell.
BAKER: Well, look, but it is a striking thing that here we are, not 12 years removed from -- or more, actually, from the George W. Bush second term campaign in which the Republican candidate for president, the incumbent said that he favored a constitutional attempt banning same-sex marriage. Now we're at a position where we're reading body language to see just how supportive you are or are not of same-sex marriage. At this point, it's a -- it's a settled issue, in effect, even though there are going to be a lot there who still find it disconcerting, who are opposed to it, when the two nominees, you can presume, or the two parties are going to both be on the same side, more or less, again of same-sex marriage. It doesn't mean this president has always been on the side of LGBT rights, obviously the transgender issue in the military, the big one, a big sticking point. It has been for the last couple of years. But, beyond that, he has not really tried to do any anything to roll things back.
[06:35:13] CAMEROTA: Yes. Rachael, we owe you one. Sorry, we're out of time. We have so much news in the show.
Thank you, Peter, Joe, Rachael, very much.
So, Joe Biden's campaign will be headquartered in Pennsylvania, and that state, of course, could be key to anyone's White House ambitions. So Harry Enten has the numbers to back up everything I've just said.
BERMAN: It's a good thing.
BERMAN: Former Vice President Joe Biden just announced that his campaign will be based in Philadelphia. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Highlighting how important Pennsylvania will be in 2020. So is the state a must win if Democrats want to take back the White House? The short answer is yes. The longer answer, from Harry Enten.
HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICS WRITER AND ANALYST: Shalom. This is --
CAMEROTA: Which he's going to mime for us.
BERMAN: I want to make clear, this is not mime. You've got to like say stuff (INAUDIBLE) here.
[06:40:01] ENTEN: I have to say stuff on television. Granted, so many people are watching us in airports, they can't actually hear what I'm saying.
So, let's take a look back from 2012 versus 2016 on the presidential level. And what we see is that most of the states voted the same, except right in this region right here, the Midwest, Pennsylvania, sort of the Midwest, and that's going to be the focus, because that is -- that is stereotypical of what happened between 2012 and 2016 that allowed Donald Trump to take back the White House.
CAMEROTA: But, wait a second, orange means that it went blue, you're saying?
ENTEN: So this -- orange means we went from Obama to Trump.
CAMEROTA: Got it.
ENTEN: These are the states that flipped right in here in the Midwest. And Pennsylvania is stereotypical of that.
And so what the heck exactly happened? How did Trump win Pennsylvania? Well, I would focus in on two things. Number one, we saw that Trump did better among African-Americans than Mitt Romney did. That's not such a surprise given that Barack Obama, the first African-American major party nominee in 2012. He -- you see this, a ten-point shift, but we also see this down here, whites without a college degree. This was a huge shift. Mitt Romney won them in 2012, but look at this, Donald Trump, in 2016, this is a huge, huge shift. This is a nine- point shift. And that was what drove -- this is working class Joe, this is what he's trying to sell in Pennsylvania, that he can get some of those back, at least keep that margin down.
BERMAN: What do the numbers tell us about Democrats in Pennsylvania?
ENTEN: Yes, so I think that this is -- this -- I went back, I looked at this, U.S. Election Atlas, it's a great website. Look at this, every Democrat to win the presidency since 1960 has won Pennsylvania. But it's even more than that. Pennsylvania was more Democratic than the nation as a whole from 1952 to 2012. That was not the case in 2016, where Donald Trump won the state by about a percentage point, despite losing nationally by about two percentage points.
CAMEROTA: That's fascinating. So the question is, has Pennsylvania fundamentally changed for good, or are those people still there waiting to be ignited by some candidates?
ENTEN: That's exactly right. And look at this, this is what happened in the House vote in 2018. What do we see? We saw nationally Democrats won by about seven percentage points, when you take out the uncontested races, and, Pennsylvania, we see that exact same thing, where Pennsylvania voted like the nation as a whole. So this is very key.
BERMAN: So it's aligned right now.
Where do things stand between the president and the former vice president in Pennsylvania?
ENTEN: Right. So this was a Quinnipiac poll that was out this week, and look at this, Joe Biden, overwhelmingly ahead of Donald Trump. It's early days yet, but this is exactly the pitch that Joe Biden wants to make. He says, look, Democrats need to win Pennsylvania if we're going to win the presidency and I'm doing exactly that. There were other Democrats who were also up, but this was by far your largest margin.
CAMEROTA: In your last 30 seconds, what do you have to wow us with?
ENTEN: Yes, you know, folks, sometimes we come to you from a studio and you don't really understand what's going on. But this is our last day at this particular studio. I got this nice picture of us together. The times that we spent together --
CAMEROTA: It's so great. It's an action shot.
ENTEN: It was so lovely. And, look, we even have -- we have this. This is me sleeping on a couch.
BERMAN: There are no couches in the new office.
CAMEROTA: You're not sleeping there.
ENTEN: There are no couches.
CAMEROTA: I'm not fooled at all.
ENTEN: But, you know what, I'm hoping, if nothing else, I can keep up the dance.
BERMAN: Wow, Harry dancing with Harry.
ENTEN: And maybe we can dance together some time, the three of us. We can go --
CAMEROTA: No, thanks.
BERMAN: Or not.
CAMEROTA: All right.
BERMAN: Harry Enten, thank you very much for being here.
CAMEROTA: Harry, you're wonderful. Thank you very much.
ENTEN: Thank you. BERMAN: What did President Obama really think about Donald Trump's 2016 election victory? Peter Baker back with us to tell us why the former president took it as a personal insult. That's next.
[06:47:41] BERMAN: This stings. This hurts. Those were the words former President Barack Obama uttered on election night 2016 upon learning that Donald Trump had beaten Hillary Clinton. This is just one of many fascinating, new details in an update edition of a biography of former President Obama.
Joining us now is Peter Baker, once again, author of "Obama: The Call of History."
Peter, great to have you back with us again.
This quote from your book, Obama may not have been on the ballot, but it was hard not to see the vote as a personal insult, as he called it on the campaign trail. This stings, he said, this hurts.
In fact, in the final days of the campaign, he made clear to an extent this was a referendum on him, correct?
BAKER: Yes, look, he -- he, of course, had been elected twice to the presidency. And the idea that the same public that elected him twice would then turn to someone like Donald Trump, you know, I think was astonishing to him. And he -- he could -- it challenged his understanding of what he thought he had accomplished and what the -- where the country was. Remember, Donald Trump, of course, wasn't just from the other party, wasn't just somebody who had different political philosophy, he was somebody who had literally targeted Obama with this birther controversy, this birther conspiracy theory all along, somebody who had gotten under his skin in an important way. And Obama just couldn't conceive, as many Democrats couldn't, and many people in the media, probably, too, couldn't conceive of the idea that the country could switch from a Barack Obama to a Donald Trump.
BERMAN: One of the most interesting traits in the book that you highlighted is something that has existed since 2016, the simmering tension between Obama world and Hillary Clinton world. And you get to this. To Obama and his team, the real blame with the loss lay squarely with Clinton. No one forced her to take hundreds of thousands of dollars from Goldman Sachs and other pillars of Wall Street for speeches. No one forced her to run a scripted, soulless campaign that tested eight-five slogans before coming up with Stronger Together.
There's that side of it. And then, in the Clinton world, you have people who say, if only President Obama had gone public in stronger terms with the Russian attacks on this election, things might have been different.
BAKER: Yes, that's exactly right. I think there were some -- you know, there's some defensiveness on the part of President Obama's team, the idea that they were being blamed for her campaign, in effect. You know, on the other hand, they -- as some of them later
acknowledged, the script that Donald Trump ran against Hillary Clinton was pretty much the same one that had -- that the Obama people had run against her eight years earlier, sort of portraying her as kind of a part of the entitled, elitist, you know, status quo and somebody who couldn't affect change.
[06:50:11] Remember, there is some overlap between President Obama's support and President Trump's support. About 9 percent voted for both of the field because they were looking to shake up the system. Hillary Clinton was the one they took that out on in both -- both of those elections.
BERMAN: One of the things that I think is most interesting in this new edition is in the epilogue you get into President Obama's thinking now about the Trump presidency. And you note that when he was on the campaign trail in 2018, in the midterm elections, he broke from a little bit of precedent and he talked about the current president as a liar. Why that shift?
BAKER: Yes. Yes, that's exactly right. He had not really done that up until that point. He had tried to -- he liked the idea that George W. Bush had said back in 2008 when he took over that he was going to leave the White House and stay relatively out of sight, not make trouble for his successor by constantly opining on things. But when it came to last year's midterm, he sort of took off the gloves in a way no president -- no former president had done, I think, really since Herbert Hoover in the -- against FDR. And I think the idea was, he just found a Democratic Party that didn't have a leader, didn't have a single figure who could focus that argument and I think he was very offended by the Trump presidency, the things he was seeing, as he says, the lying and the use of the military at the border and the other things that were going on last year.
BERMAN: I will note, two of the places the president campaigned hard, Georgia and Florida, did not turn out well for the Democrats. We'll see if that shifts in 2020.
Another thing you note, and this is your analysis of this, when you get to the economy, President Obama's view of the economy he left behind for President Trump, which he saw as improving, and where it is now. And one of the things you note is that Trump could do what Obama could not, he could sell it.
BAKER: Yes. Right. Exactly. You could take the exact same economy, and there are some differences now, but particularly in the first year or so, the economy was pretty similar under Trump as it was under Obama. But President Trump doesn't have a -- doesn't hold back. He just sells it. He says, this is the better economy ever. It doesn't matter. The facts don't necessarily back that up. And it has actually had an effect. You know, consumer confidence is up, polls show more optimism about the economy, and that was something that President Obama found difficult. He always remembered the caveats, yes, it's doing well, but don't forget about this, don't forget about the people who are left behind. He was never willing to sort of like, you know, give this unabashed sometimes overly optimistic view of things because he also knew that people like us would call him on it and that mattered to him. It doesn't matter nearly so much to Donald Trump.
BERMAN: Just to go back to the Russia investigation, in the fall of 2016, one of the things you write, and it really does seem pervasive, this feeling by the president and inside Obama world that Hillary Clinton would win.
BERMAN: That it was almost a certainty. And a lot of the decisions they made were based on that.
BAKER: That's right. Exactly. I mean the president's explanation for why he didn't take a more robust, public stance against what Russia was doing was that if he did, President Trump, then candidate Trump, would accuse him of trying to put his finger on the scale. He was already talking about the possibility that the election would be rigged and President Obama assumed that Hillary Clinton would win and didn't want to discredit or, in any way, cast the legitimacy of her election into doubt by providing ammunition to Donald Trump.
Obviously, that was based on a miscalculation. And not -- he's not the only one to think that Hillary Clinton was likely to win. But it did shadow and affect his account -- his actions.
BERMAN: Peter Baker, great to have you on CNN. Any new Peter Baker book is a reason to rejoice. This one is "Obama: The Call of History."
Thanks so much for being with us.
BAKER: Thanks very much for having me.
CAMEROTA: OK, John, the PGA Championship teed off and records are already breaking.
BERMAN: It was very exciting yesterday.
CAMEROTA: I know that. I'm very excited about it. The "Bleacher Report" is next.
[06:57:37] BERMAN: All right, Tiger Woods bid for back to back majors not looking so good after round one at a fascinating PGA Championship.
Andy Scholes, he is there live at Bethpage Black with the very latest in the "Bleacher Report."
ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, good morning, John.
Yes, Tiger Woods nine shots off the lead here at the PGA Championship, thanks to the reigning champion Brooks Koepka. You know, these two guys are playing together with each other in rounds one and two. And my colleagues, Don Riddell, actually asked Koepka earlier in the week if he was intimidated at all playing with Tiger. And Koepka said, what's there to be afraid of? It's not like we're going to fight and he's going to punch me in the teeth.
I tell you what, Koepka certainly looked fearless in round one here at Bethpage Black. Seven birdies, no bogeys. He finished with a course record 63. And it could have been even better. Koepka never really got in any trouble all day long.
He's looking to make some history here this week. On top of winning last year's PGA Championship, Koepka, he's a two-time reigning U.S. Open champion and no one has ever held back-to-back titles in two majors at the same time.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BROOKS KOEPKA, PROFESSIONAL GOLFER: I won this last year. You know, I'm playing good. You know, it was great that Tiger won Augusta, but, I mean, we're in a new week now.
That was one of the best rounds I've played probably as a professional. I mean, obviously, it's never been -- I mean it's never been this confident and I think, you know, I'm still learning, I'm understanding my game. And I've -- I've figured it out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHOLES: All right, Tiger, meanwhile, is going to have to go out there and have a really good day if he hopes to get into contention. You know, this hill -- this course here at Bethpage Black, very hilly, like a roller coaster, and that really sums up what Tiger's round was yesterday. He had two double bogeys on his front nine. He battled back to get under par after an eagle on four, but then really struggled to end his round, finishing his day two over par.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TIGER WOODS, PROFESSIONAL GOLFER: It wasn't as clean as I'd like to have it, for sure. Didn't get off to a very good start. But I fought my way back around there and, unfortunately, I just didn't together it together at the end.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHOLES: All right, so Tiger needs to have a good day to get back in contention.
Guys, not really going to matter much, though, if Brooks Koepka goes out there and plays like he did in round one. He could really run away with this thing.
CAMEROTA: Very exciting and it looks like a beautiful day there, Andy.
SCHOLES: It is. Looking forward to it.
CAMEROTA: All right. All right, thanks --
BERMAN: Brightened by Andy's smile, too.
[07:00:01] CAMEROTA: Thank you to our international viewers for watching. For you CNN "TALK" is next. For our U.S. viewers, there are new revelations about Michael Flynn's cooperation.