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tv   Situation Room With Wolf Blitzer  CNN  July 28, 2017 2:00pm-3:00pm PDT

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finding this very shocking, in fact, in the words of one. so it will be interesting to see, jake, how many more rnc staffers follow him out the door, jake. >> all right, jeff zelany, thank you so much. it's a tumultuous day. president trump has gotten rid of his fbi director and now his chief of staff. wolf blitzer is next. we want to welcome our viewers in the united states and around the world. i'm wolf blitzer in the situation room. we're following breaking news. president trump just announcing a new white house chief of staff, doing so on twitter. the president says, general john kelly will replace reince priebus after days of speculation about his future. our correspondents and specialists, everyone is standing by to follow the breaking news. i quickly want to go over to our white house correspondent, sara
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murray, for the latest. sara, the president did what a lot of people expected him to do. he basically got rid of his chief of staff, reince priebus. >> that's right, wolf, and typical donald trump fashion, he broke the news on twitter. he said, i am pleased to inform you that i've just named general/secretary john f. kelly as white house chief of staff. he is a great american and a great leader. john has also done a spectacular job at homeland security. he's been a true star of my administration. wolf, we were hearing last night and this morning the concern around reince priebus is growing. there were some close to the president who really felt he was no longer an effective chief of staff, not only in executing the president's wishes but also keeping things running smoothly in the west wing and ensuring the president's priorities were moving forward on capitol hill. this was a concern that was shared by the president's family members who work in this administration, with jared
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kushner, with ivanka trump. we were told the president was turning this decision over. this is someone who does not take firing people lightly. he does not take making huge staff changes like this lightly, so it was clearly something he was turning over. when he was in new york earlier today, he lavished a little praise on john kelly, and as soon as he got back here to washington, d.c., he made this nouch announcement on twitter. this is certainly the type of thing that will hit the blindside of reince priebus. he had no plans of retiring. he felt his position in the white house was secure. >> he's standing out in the rain at joint base andrews. we're told both reince priebus and anthony scaramucci, they were on air force i with the president. we haven't seen either. i don't understand why he's
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standing outside, but presumably he'll get into the limo to head to the white house. jeff zelany is standing at the white house. jeff, you're getting more reaction? >> reporter: we are, indeed, and this is all playing out as the president announce this on twitter. he thanked his existing and outgoing chief of staff, reince priebus. this is just coming in, wolf. he said this. i would like to thank reince priebus for his service and dedication to his country. we have accomplished a lot together, and i am proud of him, exclamation point. as you know, reince priebus is on that air force i flying back to long island just outside washington. anthony scaramucci, the new communications director, who is playing such an outsized role in this palace intrigue here, he is not on that plane. he actually stayed in new york city or somewhere in the area. reince priebus is on that flight. what we're trying to figure out in this hour, and in fact we do
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not know, is how reince priebus found out about this. if he resigned, if he was fired, if he agreed to go. but this is something, wolf, that as we learn more, it will offer a window into what has been a drama here, as sara was reporting throughout the week. loyal allies to reince priebus have been telling us throughout the day that he's not going anywhere, that there is nothing to this story. very close people to reince priebus said there is nothing to this. they simply did not know the president was going to make this move today. but it is one that has been in the works. we've heard rumors. for several months the president has grown not pleased with reince priebus at several points. he stopped praising him in public remarks. earlier this week there was that major jobs announcement in wisconsin v wisconsin, the foxconn plant coming to wisconsin.
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reince priebus had no part in that. the children of the president, ivanka trump and jared kushner, his son-in-law, in particular among others, were urging the president to make a move here. so this is something that was in the works for a while, but boy, wolf, taking everyone by surprise here at the white house, particularly his choice. he did praise him in that speech in long island. he praised the homeland security secretary, john kelly. it stood out a little bit as he was sort of calling him out, but not all that surprising, of course, in an integration law enforcement speech, wolf. the president, as we know, likes his generals. he has talked about that repeatedly. now he has a general in the most important office here in the west wing. we will see if that changes anything in terms of his governing style or, indeed, his agenda, wolf. >> the president naming retired john f. kelly to be the next
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white house chief of staff. you're getting more on the background. what have you learned? >> it certainly is a developing story, but what i've learned is reince priebus, in fact, offered his resignation privately to the president yesterday. he resigned yesterday. this is what i'm being told by somebody extremely close to reince priebus. we saw him on the airplane today with anthony scaramucci, which i'm not too surprised about, actually, because for reince priebus, to leave the white house, he's going to have to leave on good terms. the fact of the matter is he's leaving under a very dark cloud. and if it is true, which i do believe it's true, that he did resign yesterday, at least in some ways, he's going out on his own terms. >> presumably the president did not want to have him resign without having a successor ready to be announced at the same time. so he's announcing john kelly is the new white house chief of staff by giving up his cabinet position as secretary of
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homeland security. sara murray is getting additional information. what are you learning, sara? >> reporter: there are some people close to the president who are weighing in on this pick. there are a lot of people who thought reince priebus was a very good fit to this job when trump first came to the white house. they felt he needed a political hand on his side, somebody who knew washington. even those people have begun to sour on priebus in the last several weeks and thinking someone else needed to be in that job. now they think perhaps the john kelly pick is one he really needs right now. they feel like someone like kelly could impose a little more order, and they hope they'll have more respect to a general who has a more defined sense of protocol. i'm not sure if we have this sound, but president trump did lavish praise earlier today on kelly when he was in new york. maybe we can play just a part of
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that for you guys right now. >> i want to congratulate john kelly who has done an incredible job of secretary of homeland security. incredible. one of our real stars. truly one of our stars. [ applause ] >> john kelly is one of our great stars. >> reporter: you heard him there in some ways sort of forecasting the move that he was going to be making on the plane today. john kelly is walking into a very interesting situation here. we have not heard from anthony scaramucci, the newly minted white house communications director, on this staff shake-up, but it seems things have moved pretty quickly since he joined the team, wolf. >> indeed, it is. david chalion is getting more information. david, what are you learning? >> if the resignation came
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yesterday from reince priebus, clearly he was in some degree in knowledge about the rollout. while this is a friday evening development to all people, he looked like he was doing his job even though he had privately giving praise from the day before. you can't worry -- you just heard the president call him a star in the administration, but the president's son-in-law, the advisers in the west wing believe that john kelly has sort of been a calming force in in, unless you are conceding isn't working. priebus has accomplished a lot, but it is hard to see in the first six months of this administration what is working well.
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shaking it up is a good way to fixing that. the other thing is john kelly still has a president that acts out on twitter, has impulses that seem to be add odds with desired mission goals on a given day. it is not at all clear that the president, by putting john kelly in the chief of staff office, is promising change in his own behavior. it is that behavior that has caused the most chaos and distraction from the mission at hand for this administration. >> jeff zelany over at the white house getting some more information. jeff, what else are you learning? >> wolf, we've been watching those pictures there of the president holding the umbrella walking to the length of the plane here. you're wondering out loud here what he was doing. he was actually answering a question from a group of reporters there on the plane. this is coming from the pool reporters on the plane. he said, reince is a goodman. john kelly will do a fantastic
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job. general kelly has been a star, in the president's words. has done an incredible job thus far. great, great american respected by everybody. he's done a great, great job. reince priebus is a good man. wolf there. again, as david chalian and others were saying here, of all the staff changes in the white house -- and there is likely to be more of them coming -- the -- one person will not change in the oval office, wolf. the new chief of staff can certainly direct leadership, but the president, of course, is staying the same, and all the challenges of the russia organization remain the same. so this chief of staff who we believe will start next week, wolf, certainly has his work cut
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out for him. >> the president will need a new secretary of homeland security now. we know now why the president deplaned, walked back to speak to a group of reporters. we'll hear that town reportedly from the secretary of the united states. gloria bori gloria borger is with us as well. >> last night we began to get wind something was going on -- >> this was following the anthony scaramucci attack, the interview he granted liz of the new yorker, which he really leveled -- >> right, and reince priebus had not been getting a show of support, exactly, from the president or the podium at the white house. and we began to be hearing this and also hearing that perhaps general kelly would be considered as a replacement. i heard that from a good source of mine. i also heard from a source that
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people were talking to reince priebus who were friends of his and were telling him, you know, this is the time for you to go. there were other people who were saying to reince, hang on now, because maybe scaramucci will be gone in a while if you want to get involved in that. but it was clear that he did not enjoy the support from the president of the united states. we got a lot of pushback from people who know reince priebus that he was ready to leave. but i also heard that the president made his decision. it was difficult for him to do it, because as we know, he doesn't like to fire people, but that he had lost confidence. and also -- and my colleagues at the white house were hearing this as well, that jared and ivanka are also pushing for this. i think we now have to look and see if another shoe falls. we have to look to see what
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happens to steve bannon inside this white house now, because that is another name that is being thrown around as somebody who might, in fact, be vulnerable at this point. and, you know, i think that bannon and reince priebus have established a kind of uneasy alliance in the white house over these past months. so now you have to ask if reince priebus is gone, what happens to steve bannon. >> in that interview that scaramucci gave you, he said, and i'm looking at the article you wrote, he reiterated that reince priebus will soon resign. >> he was very clear about that, that he would be gone imminently. look, once those remarks were out in public, i think -- could really the two of them stay in that white house? could scaramucci in that same interview talk about how reince didn't get the message when scaramucci was the relief -- >> i'll read the quote.
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this is scaramucci. he didn't get the hint that i was reporting directly to the president, because normally a communications director at the white house reports to the white house chief of staff. >> exactly. so scaramucci was basically telegraphing in that interview that reince is out. he didn't get the hint and now we have to do it the hard way. i know people close to reince said he resigned, but scaramucci on the record saying he's going to be gone soon. how could these two guys work together? i found it incredible the two were going to remain. >> i also heard last night that reince was looking for an elegant way to leave, he was looking for a place to jump to. but that didn't appear, and i think at this point, particularly with pruthe pressu from scaramucci on behalf of the president of the united states, that reince had no choice. >> some of reince's allies yesterday were saying, maybe the
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scaramucci interview gives him a little extra. this is trump saying i like what scaramucci did. >> we're seeing this ally from new york, because we talk about different factions, there was the new york faction, the jared, the ivanka and others, scaramucci being one of them, coming in as the wedge and knocking out the rnc establishment that came in and basically with a backbone of the white house in that whole operation. what's going to be interesting to see is who are republicans on capitol hill now going to reach out to in that west wing? because there doesn't seem to be anything of any real senior stature that paul ryan or mitch mcconnell can pick up the phone and call. >> it's going to be -- >> you and i were talking about general mcconnell earlier, he is a politician in the sense of
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military but he's not a legislati legislative, congressional guy. >> let's hear more about general kelly right now. the now former secretary of homeland security, barbara starr, over at the pentagon. ra barbara, you spent some time covering him over the years while he was in uniform. >> a very well known, retired marine. donald trump likes his generals, but are generals really, at this point, what he really needs? a four-star general like john kelly is someone very expert at running large organizations. he served in western iraq at the worst times in am bbar province and fallujah. he's not going to put up with a staff that -- military generals don't put up with that kind of
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thing. but is his bigger problem in management the person in the oval office? will a four-star general directly be able to cope with the flexible management style that donald trump offers many days of the week? kelly also becomes essentially the third, if you will, key four-star in a place of power. retired but recently retired. we have general james mattis, of course, also retired marine, secretary of defense, current four-star general joe dumfort. three generals in very crucial jobs. john kelly has the chops with the military committees on capitol hill. he's grown the chops to deal with the committees on capitol hill, the deal with immigration, the deal with homeland security. but as for the rest of it, he
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may have a road ahead of himself to get up to speed on that while he's dealing with a white house in some sense of disarray. let me just briefly put a human face on general john kelly, secretary john kelly. in 2001, he lost his son in battle. he became the highest ranking officer to lose a son or daughter in combat. first lieutenant robert kelly was killed in afghanistan. on this memorial day -- >> hold on for a moment, because the president now, we're getting the tape of the president walking down the stairs at air force i going back to speak to reporters about this major announcement. listen in. >> reince is a good man. john kelly will do a fantastic job. general kelly has done an
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incredible job thus far, respected by everybody. a great, great american. reince priebus a good man. thank you very much. >> all right, so there you see the president of the united states speaking very briefly to reporters with the announcement praising john kelly, the new white house chief of staff. this white house chief of staff does not need senate confirmation. senator john madsen of west virginia is with us. you know john kelly. what do you think? >> he's held in high regard of both democrats and republicans. i was in the armed services for six years and he came to the force many times. we just truly enjoyed having him. he was always forthright, straight talking, told us exactly what was going on, what to expect and basically what he thought needed to be done. it's going to be received well. the president has a right to put his team together.
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i wish reince all the best, but it's a job. the president is going to put the people around him, and every executive is going to do that who they have the most confidence in and can get the job done that needs to be done. >> he's a retired four-star marine corps general. can he bring some order to the white house? clearly there's been so much disarray lately, so much back stabbing, palace intrigue some are calling it. what do you think? >> if a general can't do it, i don't know who can. they're disciplined, they're orderly, they're structured, they know what it takes. they know the chain of command and they're not going to put up with nonsense. we'll see how it goes, but general kelly, sure, he has the ability to do it. he's proven he's a true leader. he's done it in homeland security, he's done it in the force in appropriations.
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he spoke to us. we respected that. there are some things we talked about. he got back to us. i think he's going to do a good job. >> you think this white house is in disarray right now? did you have frequent conversations with the now former white house chief of staff reince priebus? >> not that muany. i've had a few but not that many. reince had his hands full. they just got to build a relationship. my recommendation, build a relationship. general kelly has a relationship with most of the senators that i know of. he's been up there many times in many different committees, well thought of and well liked. i'm sure on the house it will be the same thing. he's starting in a pretty good place, bipartisan place where democrats and republicans have is a lot of respect and have worked with him in a professional manner. >> he likes to surround himself with national security adviser, a three-star active duty,
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general mcmaster right now, retired general mattis. this is a president who likes that kind of military -- i guess you could call him. the leadership this general provides, do you think it's such a good idea to have all these generals surrounding the president? >> the only thing i can tell you is the generals you just spoke about, general mattis, general mcmasters, general kelly, these are cream of the crop. these are as good as it gets. i've known him and spoken to him, i've interviewed him and spoken to him on committees. he's as good as it gets. these are top notch people. they happen to have come through this military rank and done extremely well at the highest level, wolf. as far as character and quality of a human being, you're not going to get any better than these three. >> one final question before i let you go. senator, have you ever seen
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anything like this before in the white house, the back stabbing, the attacks leveled against reince priebus yesterday, steve bannon, chief strategist at the white house. have you ever seen this kind of talk so publicly announced? >> no, i don't think anybody has. they left it all in the yard. they took it to the lawn and mess it up ed it up in the yard. some people can get things done in those conditions, some can't, so we're going to see. the president is making some changes. he has the right to do that. he needs a comfort level. he has to make sure he believes the person there is serving it the way he wants it served and is representing his administration and his country. i respect that. i always have and always will. so we're going to see what happens, but it's a little bit unusual, unorthodox, if you will. >> certainly is. joe manchin, the senator from
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west virginia. thanks for joining us. >> thanks for having me. >> gloria, it is rather extraordinary. we've seen resignation now after resignation. sean spicer, the press secretary, resigned earlier in the week, his close friend and ally in the white house reince priebus now gone. >> right. i think in a way the reince priebus departure is not a surprise, although we did get pushback on it today, but we had heard -- >> when you say pushback, a lot of our viewers don't understand that. are these people simply out of the loop, they don't know what they're talking about, or are they lying? >> it could be a little bit of both, and it could also be that the person involved didn't know at that point. i mean, wolf, it's hard to know. all i know is, you know, you're only as good as your sources and you have a source that tells you that reince priebus will be gone, and then you have a good source that tells you that's not the case. >> clearly the sources that were pushing you away are not good
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sources, so you have to be careful with those sources down the road. either they don't know what they're talking about or they're lying, so those sources presumably should go away. that's my experience as a reporter. >> thank you. i'm not the only one doing the reporting on this, and when you get different stories from the white house in which there are competing interests, and you have to understand the decider is the president of the united states, and we were told, or i was told that the president had made his decision, but you never know until you know in these situations. >> especially with donald trump. >> particularly with this white house. indica kate collins, you're there on a daily basis. can a four-star general bring some order to an otherwise chaotic scene. >> that's a great question. they're constantly at each
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other's throats, the dramatic sight between this new communications director and reince priebus. we saw action from reince priebus in the way donald trump delegated them. reince priebus was kept in the dark on this decision, he had no input. when donald trump was told not to hire anthony scaramucci, he hired him, anyway. and he wasn't reporting to a chief of staff that we normally see in the white house, he was reporting directly to the president. so reince priebus was the guy in the white house to help donald trump with his talks on capitol hill, and clearly, even with health care last night, that just wasn't something he could do for donald trump. >> jamie has been been doing some reporting. can a four-star retired marine general bring some order to the white house? >> that's the $64,000 question,
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isn't it? that's really what everyone who i spoke to this afternoon is saying. they all respect general kelly, they all think he's a straight arrow. if anybody can do it, general kelly can do it. on the other hand we're talking about president trump. here's something that someone just sent me that i want to read you because i think it speaks to their relationship. this is from a republican source who is very close to both generally kelly and president trump, and this person told me that the president calls kelly all the time for add rice and perspective on issues outsd of his portfolio. so this is someone trump has been reaching out to for some time. and then the other thing we heard about kelly is everyone describes him as good, calm, adult leadership, but there is, again, always the caveat, as you said, wolf, how long will he put up with the nonsense?
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and another source said, this won't work unless president trump really changes. wolf? >> and there's no indication that president trump is about to change. he's got his strategy, he's got his way of operating, and he certainly hasn't changed so far. david chalian, you're getting more analysis as well. >> wolf, i think we should take this moment and put it into context of when this change is coming. it is coming at the end of what may be one of the most consequential weeks in the trump presidency. i say that because the trump presidency revealed itself this week to be entirely dysfunctional. this change comes at the end, perhaps in the hopes of getting it back on track, but take a look at what happened this week. he left his attorney general twisting in the wind all annoyed and disappointed in him because he recused himself from the russia investigation. the boy scouts of america had to issue a statement of regret that they had the president of the united states there who turned the rally political. he issued a transgender military
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policy on twitter that his own people had no idea was coming and said he wouldn't be doing so until it was done in the proper ways. his first legislative achievement of health care fails, goes up in flames, senate can't get it passed. this is a week that revealed the total and complete dysfunction of the trump presidency, and never mind the circus-like infighting that we see in the soap opera going on with scaramucci and priebus this week. this week now ends with changes that donald trump and his team clearly are hoping will turn this around, but it seems that that is a leap of faith to me that one big change as white house chief of staff or a new communications director is going to solve the kind of paralysis and lack of ability of governing that has been present in the administration. >> let's not forget, mark, that reince priebus, all of us know
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reince priebus. we've covered him for a long time. he was the chairman of the republican national committee, and did, by all account, an outstanding job as the republican national committee chairman. he was brought in by the president. everyone thought that was a pretty good pick by president trump, and now six months later, he's out. >> he's out. and i think it has to say to the chaos and the confusion that is in the white house. i think that we really need to emphasize this, that it's coming from the top. it's coming from the president himself. he is the one driving this chaos out and around his age. when donald trump basically became the republican nominee, president trump moved it over and backed him up. that upset a lot of people, including john kasich, who thought it had been done too early. having said that, sean spicer, all these republicans that went inside, i think they felt, to some extent, a duty to try to
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keep the white house even-keeled. clearly they were unable to do that. donald trump is donald trump. he's going to do what he wants. but it is amazing to see somebody survive. >> that's why the white house is so undivided. they believe in trump, not the party. and then -- >> this has been an unusual relationship between reince priebus and the president for some time. i remember doing reporting a couple months ago where i had one source say to me that the president really doesn't seek out reince priebus' advice very much anymore, and you could see sort of a deterioration. and i think also what you saw was jared kushner, who is obviously very close to this president, and to a degree, ivanka, feeling that the
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president was not well served by reince priebus for whatever reason, even though you would argue that perhaps their politics might be closer to reince priebus. there was a sense that he wasn't as organized as he should be as chief of staff, et cetera, et cetera. these are their complaints, so you see this playing out. now, i think this started way before health care failed. clearly it might have been, you know, the final straw, but nobody blamed him. i was told for mccain's vote, there was nothing they could do to control that, but this has -- >> go back two years. >> hold on one second. but do you think the failure of the repeal and replace last night, that dramatic moment, that as a result of that reince priebus made one of the factors why he's gone? >> you could say it's the final straw, but that would be too -- way, way, way oversimplified. this has been going on for quite some time. so maybe this was a moment
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congress is gone, the health care -- they truly didn't want to do it in the middle of the health care fight because it would be yet another distraction to all the other distractions they had. but i think it was much more than that. >> this is an important issue. o you've been doing reporting on this. did he tell the president he's out before the senate vote yesterday overnight or later today? >> let's take all these millions of threads that are out there and try to knit them together and let's acknowledge this is a breaking news story, so it is what it is. i've been told by the source very close to him that he resigned yesterday. that vote occurred so late into the night -- >> 2:30 in the morning, middle of the night. >> correct. i suspect he had done it before -- it was all your fault, ryan. done before based on scaramucci. i would say it goes back even a few months to the very beginning. there was never an easiness that
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donald trump felt with the rnc folks, and co kaitlan's point, loyalty. >> and leaking. scaramucci accused him of being a leaker. >> i think when you are the chief of staff and you can't hire your own communications director, that's basically the president saying, i don't have a whole lot of faith in you. he fought this guy -- >> there are a whole bunch of others on the white house staff who report directly to the president, not the white house chief of staff. >> toipt mai want to make a poi that. we have the white house chief of staff because eisenhower put that position there. it's based on the chief in command. they get the final results on who gets to see the president and all the major staffing decisions. this white house was not set up that way. this white house was set up with five or six senior power centers that all have direct access to president trump, and presidents
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before who have tried that, it was a disaster. so the big question for kelly here who is coming from the military, knows about the chain of command, did he get president trump promise him that he can hire and fire anyone he wants and that every single person reports him no matter what he previously promised? >> i think the answer is no, but go ahead. >> if he didn't, he set himself up to fail. >> if he got that promise, everything we know about donald trump is donald trump is constitutionally incapable of keeping his end of the bargain on that promise. i also think looking at the relationship, and mark was talking about the nominee, go all the way back to the summer of 2015 with that royalty pledge that reince created that donald trump tried to get to the republican party commission because he was seen as an outsider from the very beginning of their relationship, it was always an awkward negotiation because the two of them never really had the same goals or
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objectives. >> i want to quickly go back to jeff zelany at the white house who is getting more information. dramatic information unfolding. what else did you learn? >> reporter: the president returned here to the white house a few moments ago from his trip to long island, but it turned out to be much more than a speech to deliver in long island about ms-13 gangs. efrs ma he was making a significant change in his leadership here, and you can tell it's raining pretty heavily here in washington, so he took a motorcade back as opposed to flying marine i back. there was some poignant images and moments on the tarmac at joint base andrews, reince priebus seeming to be now the outgoing chief of staff essentially left there on the tarmac. the images coming in, the description coming in from the pool of reporters that he was sitting in the suv on the telephone sort of absorbing this news here. even though he, as mark preston
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and others are reporting, that he privately tendered his resignation last evening, it is not something that allies here at the white house or, in fact, at the rnc knew about. and it is something that this -- wolf, he told me many times that he wanted to stay in this position at least a year. he said that he wanted to serve the first year of the presidency. that, of course, didn't happen, so wolf, what this does, it makes reince priebus one of the shortest serving chiefs of staff in history. we actually looked this up, our white house producer kelly liptac compiled this, and 180 days is the shortest white house chief of staff in president history. this was something reince priebus was hoping to avoid here. of course, over the last, i would say, couple months or so, wolf, it became clear something had changed inside this white house, how the president viewed reince priebus. initially, of course, this was sort of viewed as a shotgun marriage, if you will, after the
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surprise election of donald trump last november, and when reince priebus, the chairman of the republican national committee, suddenly became the chief of staff. it was never mr. trump's first choice, necessarily, but he thought it would be sort of the way to grease the skids here in washington with a legislative process. of course, he had a very good relationship with speaker paul ryan. that never really materialized, and it became clear as the weeks and months wore on that reince priebus didn't have much legislative experience at all. so different than so many other chiefs of staff that went before him. i was told by someone close to the president that in the recent weeks and months, the president viewed him as more a junior staffer than a chief of staff here. it became clear where this was going here. many of his associates didn't
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nil realize it. but again i'm told, wolf, that other people who were aligned with the republican national committee essentially came in with reince priebus also may find themselves looking for new jobs as well. they may be resigning because this washington-new york divide we've been talking about so much over the last six months or so, it really is deepening even more now, and the trump loyalists feel it's time for them to take the reins here. we'll see how that plays out. but this is causing unrest on the west wing here. this is not simply a change of person in a corner office here. the chief of staff works in the corner office maybe just about 15 steps or so from the oval office, has the biggest office in the west wing. this is about far more than that, wolf. this is about a different direction here. so we'll see next week how many more people, how many newer people are here and how many people who are here now may go,
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wolf. >> we'll see if secretary kelly, retired general, kelly can bring that kind of order. he doesn't necessarily have a lot of legislative experience, either, since he's a retired general. he was head of the military's seventh command. he served in iraq as well. david, what do you think? because the other individual that was very severely attacked by anthony scaramucci in that new yorker magazine interviewed with steve bannon, the chief strategist at the white house. what happens to him? >> i think that's a really good question, and steve bannon is someone to watch. first of all, not just because of what scaramucci said in that interview, but let's remember that steve bannon, like reince priebus, we have been hearing for months, could he go s he going to be in trouble, what's his role going to be? as we've heard over the months,
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the trump family, jared and ivanka, were not, we've been told, so thrilled with him, either. it's also, i think, very important to remember that he is credited with some of the infighting that's been going on. so if general kelly is someone who wants to come in and clear the decks and say, okay. no more of this. president trump is going to be president trump. that's not going to change. but i think we should all watch and see sort of where steve bannon fits into all this. >> good point. kaitlan, you're a white house reporter. you're getting more information from your sources right now. what are you learning? >> sarah huckabee sanders who started last friday after sean spicer quit just told reporters that john kelly will start monday morning and there will be a cabinet meeting right after
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he's sworn in. these conversations between kelly and the president started about two weeks ago. she said it predated the scaramucci drama. >> okay, it started two weeks ago, so we got very strong pushback. it's very hard to sort of understand what was going on where we were not being told the truth. i agree with jamie, and i was told last night, that jared also would like to see bannon gone. and i'm not sure where that will stand. i mean, one of my questions is, does the sessions imbroglio sort of give sessions a little bit of padding here because conservatives on the far right
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would not want to see bannon gone, and they're already upset with the president because of what's going on with jeff sessions. the other way to look at it, though, was of course there was an alliance between bannon and reince priebus. again, you really don't know until you know, but if the president wants to make a clean start of it, then it would mean that bannon would lose his job. >> gloria, you really had some good sources there last night ready to release what we now know, that reince priebus is gone. were your sources already suggesting general kelly was one of the candidates to replace him? >> yes. >> that's a good source. >> thank you. >> if bannon left and sessions was sidelined and the health care bill has now failed, and we're bringing in kelly who is not quite a hardliner on immigration when he was at dhs. there are more views on that issue than president trump does, and oouyou've brought in scarami
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who is pro-choice and believes in climate change. he has a series of socially liberal views. that would be a real test, i think, for conservatives, that series of changes. that would be a big set of changes where a lot of conservative voices would be sidelined. >> this is a major, major shakeup at the white house the president clearly wants. >> no doubt about that, and hearing kaitlan report the news that mission i for the white house is to attend a cabinet meeting. is jeff sessions going to be at that cabinet meeting, and how is general kelly going to repair the relationship between jeff sessions and president trump? it will be very interesting to see that dynamic. the last time the trump cabinet came together, it was this lovefest of people professing their love for donald trump, one after one after one as they went
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around the table. is the chief of staff going to bring a tenor to how the meetings look going forward? >> when we talk about people being fired and donald trump wanting his own people in there, let's look at four people across the board. we look at sean spicer. wasn't a trump guy. understand him getting knocked out. reince priebus, understand him getting knocked out. they're not going to do damage to president trump now that they're leaving the white house. steve bannon gets knocked out, there could be damage to the president. when it comes to jeff sessions which i know we're not talking about so much there, that's a different situation. i just hope the viewers understand that. those in the west wing are trying to help him put his agenda together. the person who runs the public justice is really loyal to the constitution and it's not the same thing.
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>> roger stone, trump's long-time adviser, has a line about how trump views staff. the first question is is, who is he? the second question is, get him. the third is, who was he? staffers for trump are disposable. we learned this with the way he treated jeff sessions, his most loyal supporter. so i think it doesn't really matter what idealogical camp you come from, whether it's rnc or the breitbart wing of the party, these are people who he thinks can help him at that moment, and when they're finished, they get discarded. >> and i think the important thing is people have been saying trump needs somebody he would regard as a peer. you need a jim baker sort. he didn't regard ryan as a peer for some reason, and perhaps he would regard general kelly that way. we know the respect he has for all the generals.
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he thin so maybe general kelly in that role would be regarded by the president as someone more on an equal footing on him. and fraps, to david's point earlier, he would listen to him. but maybe he was. this may be what you need as chief of staff in this white house. >> reince priebus denounced the chief of stachlt you see him getting onto air force i. they just got off air force i to the the. you see the video where they're. if reince priebus is watching us right now, we would love to have you call in, we'd love to hear from you. you could clarify precisely the truth, the fiction, everything right now. we would love to hear from you,
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reince, if you want to call in. you've known a lot of us for a long time. we would like to get your side of the story. we have cameras at the white house as well. if you want to go in front of the camera, we welcome you to do so. it wouldn't be unusual for him to call in and say, here's what's going on. >> i think it's you from the situation room calling the white house. >> he has undergone a lot of drama the last few weeks. being overruled by the scaramucci hire. the last few days, this public feud of scaramucci attacking him so viciously. no one has heard from this guy, non knows his side of the story here. he has aides and advisers he uses to get a sense of what's going on with him, but he's just been silent. >> what would you like to hear from reince priebus? let's say he does call us. >> i would really like to hear his thoughts on what it was like inside these last six months now
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that he is free to talk. but looking at that video of him walking with dan scovino that you just played, wolf, we heard from the pool reporters there, they got in the same car in the motorcade, and then dan scovino and other aide left that car because it became clear that >> this is his last walk into the presidential moder canadien. scavino goes into a car that is returning to the white house with the president and reince priebus alone heads off in a different direction. >> maybe heading home. that's pretty amazing, don't you think, mark? >> my mouth is -- my mouth is open. i think we're all looking at each other like, wow, is that really happening? you would think there's got to be some kind of transition period where there would be a hand-off. >> maybe there has been and we didn't know about it. >> that's true. that is true. >> it could have been going on. >> or for a week or two.
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we honestly don't know. but i know that there were people talking to reince last night who were saying to him that, you need -- and i have one source saying to me that he told reince he needed to kind of suck it up and hand in his resignation. >> resignation, right. >> now, we don't know if my source knew that had already been done or whatever. but there were people talking to him about it. maybe the transition, you know, was already in the works. >> did you sense, caitlyn, in your day to day coverage of the white house, you had been there from day one, this really bitter feud that was going on between these senior officials? >> absolutely. it's been going on like that for months. that's why reince's departure has been long rumored and now it's finally come to fruition. we really saw him as a weakened chief of staffer these past few weeks. he would have meetings and no one felt compelled to go to them. he wasn't involved in major decisions. we really saw his role reduced here at the white house. it was only a matter of time for
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him honestly. >> the interviewed, extraordinary interview you did with anthony scaramucci in which he really levelled these charges against reince priebus accusing him of leaking saying he was going to go to the fbi, maybe had already gone to the fbi and digital proof of the leaks. that's pretty extraordinary. >> i guess you have to give the communications director some credit for being transparent. he said reince was on his way out and it is true, 24 hours later reince is gone. it's a classic trump way, though, of moving a chief of staff out. it's like, all right, let's give him a hint by hiring someone he doesn't want. let's leak some stories, let's have the communications director go at him. and then let's tweet out that i've hired someone new without actually tweeting out that the old chief of staff has resigned or been fired. it's not quite "you're fired." you're layered over or you know,
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you're slowly being pushed aside. >> in business, ways told time and time again by people who worked for donald trump, that what he would do is effectively make your life miserable until the point where you would quit so he wouldn't have to fire you. and, you know, to be fair to reince priebus here, his position became completely untenable and completely unsustainable because he was layered. you had the communications director acting like he's the chief of staff. i can hire and fire. i have a direct line to the president of the united states. >> i report to the president. >> i report to the president. and the president was not listening to reince. and i think that at a certain point you say, if i can't do my job, what am i doing here? and i would think that those are the things that reince was thinking about. >> congressman peter king of new york is joining us right now. peter king, republican of new york. he was on air force one, flew from washington up to long island. i assume, i don't know if you're
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staying in long island right now, or if you're back here in washington, congressman king. were you informed that reince priebus was about to go? >> we actually flew up with scaramucci and reince priebus were sitting at the table all the way up. nobody said anything. i stayed on the plane coming back afterwards. anthony stayed in new york and we were on the plane with reince the whole time. when the flight was over, reince said, all of us said good-bye. no one knew anything was up. the president was announcing that kelly was going to be his new chief of staff. >> this was a total shock, a total surprise to you, congressman? >> yeah, and i tell you, i give reince priebus credit. he certainly kept his game face the whole time. he didn't show anything. he was very friendly and composed and calm all the way up and all the way back. >> so, do you support this decision by the president to
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bring in general kelly and lose reince priebus as the white house chief of staff? >> well, i have a tremendous regard for general kelly. he's just a top-rate person. i had a very good relationship with reince priebus. i have nothing to say about reince priebus. this is the president's decision. i'm not going to question. also had a very good working relationship with, and i wished him well, wished reince well. i certainly think secretary kelly will do an outstanding job. >> what was the mood like on that plane, air force one the flight from joint base andrews outside of washington to macarthur airport out on long island, and coming back? we know anthony scaramucci, he was on the flight going to long island. he stayed in new york. he did not fly back on air force one. did you see any interaction between reince priebus and anthony scaramucci? >> no, there wasn't any interaction. there wasn't any hostility.
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reince was at the table, anthony was sort of near the end -- on the other side, and there was nothing, you know, no hostility. there was no hugging and kissing, but everything seemed fine. if you didn't know something was going on, you wouldn't have sensed anything. i give reince credit. he didn't tip his hand at all, on the way up or back down. >> did they exchange any words, scaramucci and reince priebus? >> i didn't see -- i certainly didn't see any hostility. >> you spoke yesterday, congressman king. you and i spoke at this time yesterday. you knew what was going on, the interview that scaramucci gave "the new yorker" magazine. how awkward was it for you to be on the plane with both of them? >> it was a very interesting situation. i'll leave it at that. >> when you say very interesting, give me a little bit more. >> only because everyone knew the backdrop, but it was, you know, the 800 pound gorilla in the room that nobody was talking about. and we were talking about
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everything else. also, to be honest with you, i was working on this -- i was going to introduce the president. anthony was working on what he was doing. reince was on the phone quite a bit. so, generally air force one planes are not a place where you get too social, especially when you're on the way to an event. everyone was getting ready for it. it's only a 45-minute flight up. it's not like going across the ocean. >> what was the president's mood? >> he was up bet on the way up, he was up beat during and after the event. he thought the event was very well. he was very pleased with it. on the way back again, he seemed in good spirits. he was talking with us. photos, that type thing. everyone had a good game face on, i can tell you that. there was no -- >> a good game face, but you're on the intelligence committee. you're on the homeland security committee. earlier in the day north korea launched yet another
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inter-continental ballistic missile, a deep source of concern for the president, his national security advisors. in the midst of a potential threat like that, congressman, you see this palace intrigue going on at the white house. that's not good. >> well, that didn't stop them. on the plane, h.r. mcmaster's top assistant, she was in with the president and they were discussing and talking. so, everybody was being, as far as i could tell, everything was being done that had to be done in the midst of all that, this occurred. >> you're on the homeland security committee. you've worked with general kelly, the now former secretary of homeland security. can he bring order? he's a retired four-star marine corps general. can he bring order and discipline to the white house? >> yeah, i wouldn't want to get in frank kelly's way, i'll put it that way. anywhere he goes, he's very
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strong, very quiet, quiet strength he has, determination. certainly he's a great leader. everyone i've spoken to at hhs has a great regard for him. >> do you expect more shoes to drop? >> i have no idea. i'm trying to catch the 6:00 train here at union station. anyway, i'll let you know if i hear of any more shoes drop. >> you have a lot going on. congressman peter king as usual, thanks very much for joining us. >> thanks, wochllf. >> thank you. >> announcer: this is cnn breaking news. >> i'm wolf blitzer in "the situation room." we're following breaking news tonight. the biggest shake up yet in the tumultuous trump white house. the white house chief of staff, reince priebus, forced out and replaced now by the current homeland security secretary retired marine corps general john kelly. president trump making the announcement on twitter just
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about an hour or so ago as he returned from an event in new york out on long island aboard air force one. source close to reince priebus tells cnn that he privately resigned actually yesterday as his feud with the new communications director anthony scaramucci exploded. scaramucci publicly accusing reince priebus of leaking information and launching a profanity-laced rant against him, all apparently with the president's blessing. also tonight, the president is thanking reince priebus for his service and hailing general kelly as a great leader and a star in his administration. i quickly want to go straight to our senior white house correspondent jeff zeleny. jeff, these are powerful dramatic moments in the trump presidency. >> reporter: no question, wolf. this is one of the biggest resets that we have seen so far in the first six-month tumultuous often administration of donald trump. but it came fast and


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