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tv   CNN Special Report  CNN  August 25, 2017 6:00pm-7:00pm PDT

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that this was going to happen. >> one of the things i want to point out and i think it's good for viewers and everyone else to understand what we're talking about when we mention the fact that he went around the process and richard painter pointed it out extremely well this was political in nature. barack obama during his pardon process had what the white house affectionately called a double blind process. the president didn't want to know who was applying for a pardon. he didn't want to have anything to do with it while it was at the department of justice. many people remember the pardons that bill clinton gave and everyone else gave to get in that level of trouble. he didn't want to touch that. for someone to come along right now and make a pardon without going through any of the proper procedures or protocol which is political. anyone that says this pardon is anything but political -- this does not serve to meet any end of justice whatsoever. you're pardoning a racist. it actually shows you the compare and contrast that we
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normalize behavior that is unethical and immoral and is now donald trump. >> not the first person to make a pardon that is seen as political. doesn't mean it's not controversial. standby. we haven't taken one breath yet as we cross into the top of the hour. as one of the most powerful hurricanes in decades moves closer to the texas gulf, a huge political storm has descended on washington. president trump picks this very moment to pardon the controversial former arizona sheriff joe arpaio. also, one of his most controversial senior advisers has resigned. sebastian gorka out following the president's official order to bar transgender americans from military service. they will no longer be allowed inside to apply to join the military. so hurricane harvey and the mother of all friday night news dumps. let's begin with cnn's sara murray again from the white house. again, walk us through this
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series of remarkable actions tonight. >> this is a white house that's really wrapped its arms around the notion of friday night news dumps and today is certainly no different. as you pointed out, the president signed his memo officially banning transgender troops from joining the military and directed the department of defense they could not use resources to pay for medical treatment regimens for current transgender troops. tonight a white house official would not say if that means that if you're currently serving in the military and you are transgender if you will no longer be allowed to. that's a question that still remains unanswered. so fast forward a couple hours and then we get a statement from the white house saying the president has decided to pardon a controversial sheriff joe arpaio of arizona. now, sheriff joe was being held in contempt of court because he violated a judge's order in a racial profiling case. now, the white house pointed to joe's record in the military as well as his record in law enforcement and pointed out that
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he's 85 years old and said he deserves a pardon. this comes just days after white house press secretary sara huckabee sanders said that the president would not use his phoenix rally to pardon the controversial sheriff. of course when trump took the stage it was a different story. he said he thought sheriff joe would be fine and tonight he made good on that promise. all of this comes as people are eyeing the president very warily when it comes to the issue of race relations. that comment he made in the wake of the violence in charlottesville that equated white supremacists to the actions we saw from counterprotesters is on the top of mine stinging for many americans and this move certainly is not going to make them feel more comfortable about where this president stands in terms of race relations. there is yet another component of the friday night news dump and this was sebastian gorka deciding to resign from his role at the white house tonight. gorka billed himself as a national security adviser to the president. the thing that was confusing
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about all of this is even though he was constantly on tv, he was always doing interviews and always speaking on the president's behalf in a bombastic tone by the way that president trump actually enjoyed, he didn't have a portfolio within the white house. if you talked to other national security officials, they say they weren't really sure what gorka was working on. he wasn't involved in key decisions or in key meetings. we know the white house chief of staff john kelly has been systematically going through the staff trying to decide are you in the right role? are you prepared? are you qualified for this role? are you fully serving the president to the best of your abilities in this capacity? and we're told that john kelly's evaluation had played a part in sebastian gorka's decision to depart. ever since steve bannon was ousted from the white house, they were talking that gorka could be the next to be leaving. >> all of this after dinner on a friday night. i do want to note, the lawyer
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for sheriff joe arpaio told me a short time ago he was informed of this pardon this afternoon. saw the paperwork, in fact, for the pardon this afternoon at 3:00. so the white house waited intentionally waited at least five hours by my math to announce it to the american people. they timed it well. a category 4 hurricane. a category 4 storm hitting the texas coast. our martin savidge is in corpus christi with the latest on that. you've been getting pounded out there. what's the very latest? >> reporter: that's exactly right. south texas is getting hammered. we're going into another hour of just extreme wind. in fact, if you look at the radar signature, it looks like harvey is just about kissing the outer banks area of some of the off islands. but that just means that the worst of it is still to come here in corpus christi. we've been taking a beating for some time now. the wind just continues to grow
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and grow. it's both fiercer. it's stronger. and it's now starting to have a detrimental impact on infrastructure. they're not in view of the cameras but there are places where there's damage inside of this town. lights are still on at this hotel but other areas where the power has gone out. this is very much a potentially catastrophic situation here. category 4 storm. we're not feeling the full brunt of those winds. there would be no way that i could stand up if that was the case. we have a building that's helping to shield us. at times, the wind hits you so hard it literally takes your breath away. the air is pulverized with water. at the same time tremendous amounts of water coming down. that's going to be the long-term signature of this particular hurricane harvey because this system is going to stall, we're told, and then it is just simply
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going to be like a waterfall pouring off of the gulf. right now the real concern though is for public safety. no one is supposed to be out. there are a few people who are out and about. otherwise, you have to shelter in place and even the 911 responders say they can't get out in something like this. if it was life and death, they might try but that's a case by case call. there was no mandatory evacuation here in corpus christi. in a number of outer lying counties there were. some people may be wishing at this hour that they thought differently. there were a lot of people that did leave. now that is no longer an option and this is likely to be an event that goes on for days, john. >> martin savidge for us again just in the middle of the elements right now in corpus christi. we do want to note the worst is yet to come. the winds are still going to
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pick up where martin is and then that area faces days of torrential rain. this will be a huge story for days to come and this huge story is the backdrop during which the white house has decided to dump an enormous amount of news tonight. so back with us to talk politics, brian stelter joins us. also with us former bush ethics adviser richard painter who teaches law at the university of minnesota. ana, i want to get your reaction to those who haven't heard it. i think the headline out of the white house tonight, the first presidential pardon of the very controversial sheriff from arizona, joe arpaio. former sheriff. >> john, as i told you earlier, this is a slap in the face to the latino community. to most of us in the latino community. perhaps not the guy that hates taco trucks but other latinos see joe arpaio as a symbol of racism, of discrimination, of racial profiling, of abuses of
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civil rights and the president of the united states has seen fit to pardon him today. you know, in a very extraordinary move. i think that he didn't do it in arizona earlier in the week because he knew all hell would break loose because he knew there would be thousands of impromptu protesters that would have shown up outside that rally to protect that act and what it would have meant. that's why the mayor of phoenix warned him not to go to arizona because he was afraid that he was going to pardon joe arpaio and what that would mean in that community. turn it into another charlottesville. we have a president of the united states, a so-called president of the united states. i would call him president of the divided states that in the last two weeks stood with racist, with neo-nazis and now with this man that's a symbol for civil rights abuses and racial profiling. he's the president of 34% of americans and that's about it. >> we'll ask about the political implications of that in just a moment. also with us on the phone,
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george washington university law professor. to make the argument, the president has the power to pardon people. that's an absolute power that the president has. you do note this is an unusual type of pardon and certainly an unusual process. explain. >> it's unusual in the number of respects. this is occurring relatively early in a presidential term. more importantly, this was someone who hasn't been sentenced yet. sentencing was supposed to occur in october. generally a president will wait to see what the sentence might be. arpaio was looking at probably less than six months. may not have gotten any jail at all. but most troubling aspect of this is putting the immigration controversy aside, this involved a classic and raw example of contempt of court. it really deals with the rule of law. it doesn't matter what the
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subject is. the sheriff has to live within the law and courts determine a great variety of things that sheriffs do from executing warrants to limiting police misconduct. it's essential that regardless of disagreement you have with the court that you comply with court orders because that's what the rule of law means. now, to put this into perspecti perspective, after the order was given to arpaio, he continued to arrest people for 17 months. he didn't go back to the court and say i want to try to take an appeal. i want to get clarification. for 17 months, he violated a court order from a sitting judge. about 171 individuals were arrested. now, it doesn't matter how you feel about the underlying issue of immigration. what you should care about is that you had a sheriff who flagrantly refused to comply with an order of a court. that's what is so dangerous.
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>> all right. jonathan turley, stand by. we do note that this happened on this friday night during a major hurricane hitting the florida coast, which in some ways is a master class in media management. this is news dump 101 except it's not 101, brian stelter. it's an accelerated version. an advanced class in news dumps. >> folks who are in texas weathering this storm are not interested in joe arpaio tonight. for the rest of the country, once again, president trump back in the news. i have to wonder if it's because gorka issued a scathing resignation letter. he has a lot of critical words for president trump. he says true believers like steve bannon have been pushed out. this letter comes out. it's leaked to a pro-trump website and then you get news about joe arpaio.
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who knows what exact time line was. you said that arpaio's lawyer found out hours ago. it's curious that the president wants to make so much news tonight. >> the lawyer for sheriff joe arpaio told me that he was told at 3:00 pacific time, which would be 6:00 -- which would be two full hours before the white house announced it to the people. that's the paperwork. >> and transgender ban information was coming out around that time. now we've had multiple other stories. it's only 9:00 p.m. i find myself wondering what else could break tonight. in a serious note, the president is at camp david. he says he is monitoring this storm. we've not seen a category 4 hurricane hit the coast of texas since 1961. haven't seen aone anywhere in te united states since 2004. they seem to want to make other news. >> they got a lot done while monitoring the hurricane for sure. brian stelter just read part of
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the letter from gorka. how much of a concern should that be to the white house. talking about steve bannon helpful or hurtful to the trump administration. what about sebastian gorka? >> i got an e-mail from the white house. a senior white house official says he did not issue his resignation. therefore they added that he no longer works at the white house. >> they're trying to say he was fired? >> that's what they're implying in this. they say that he didn't issue his resignation. they'll say he no longer works at the white house. we'll have that back and forth as we have with other members of the senior staff that left of the white house. this is clear as he said in his resignation letter that brian indicated. sebastian gorka felt that make america great policies will no longer be implemented with this white house. we saw this when steve bannon left. he was concerned about what the chief of staff kelly and the
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breitbart wing of the old white house refers to them as democrats in the west wing, and concerned about policies they would implement. based on what sebastian gorka wrote, he says he didn't feel like policies he stood for and people that he knew supported donald trump stood for were going to continue to be implemented. >> i just got a thank you note written by sheriff joe arpaio to the president of the united states. let me read it outlo loud. it says thank you @real donald trump for seeing my conviction for what it is. a political witch-hunt by holdovers in the obama administration. i look forward to putting this behind me to make america great again and thanks to my loyal supporters who stood shoulder to shoulder with me. for those asking how they can continue to help, a donation to
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my legal fund goes directly to paying off my legal fees in this fight. sheriff joe arpaio trying to raise money right now among everything else. jonathan turley, if you're still with us, i want to get your reaction to one central point that sheriff joe arpaio makes in this twitter thank you note to the president. he calls his conviction a witch-hunt by holdovers in the obama justice department. your reaction to that one line? >> it was not a witch-hunt. i admit i've been critical of arpaio for a number of years. this was as clear a case of contempt as you can get. i'd be very surprised if the justice department would sign off on a petition of this kind. i've been down that road with the justice department before. this is a very rare type of action that a client can receive obviously from the president of the united states. one of the reasons we have that
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process, the justice department balances a lot of interest. balances where the person has admitted guilt. whether this is the type of offense that warrants attention. the sentence. all of that gets hashed out, which is problematic if you then circumvent the process because this case has a huge amount of significance for prosecutors. they have to go in front of judges and say when you issue an order to me, we will comply because we live by the rule of law. and officers of the court and officers on the street alike make that pledge. when people say he was doing his job, his job was to comply with the united states constitution. you can't do that if you ignore a direct order from a federal judge so for me, this has nothing to do with immigration. this has to do with respect for our system of law. so that's what makes this so
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problematic. >> you know, as much emotion as i have tied in to what sheriff joe arpaio represents, let's not forget that he was one of the first cheerleaders in the birther movement against barack obama. let's not forget that he systematically instilled so much fear in immigrants. i was reading something from his contempt complaint. it said mayys they rexposed womd girls to a disproportionate risk of physical and psychological harm. you would think one would prioritize such crimes as sexual violence over less serious offenses such as low level immigration offenses. so what that says is that you had someone who had so much bigotry and hate in his heart
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that it spilled out into his work performance. that's where the contempt of court is so serious. that's why it's such a large crime. there were other things that the maricopa county sheriff's office was not doing to satisfy his racist urges to round up as many brown people as he could. >> yes, you're the lawyer. you're the expert on that. >> i'm practicing law. practicing is the key word. >> the president sees this as the sheriff executing his duties as sheriff. he has always been an advocate for local jurisdictions complying with federal immigration laws. he views this as what the sheriff was doing in this case. right or wrong, and clearly i'm telling you this is how the president views it. him issuing this pardon, he believes that sheriff arpaio's lifetime of service, 50 years in law enforcement and dea and serving our country and in the military, he views that as
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something that needed to be taken into consideration and his decision for issuing the pardon was, look, this is an 85-year-old man. served for 50 years. i'm going to show some compassion to this person. i'm not saying i agree with him. i'm saying that's where he's coming from. >> i hear you. regardless of the man, so for a lot of us we're taking out -- for better or worse, i may be unfair in this criticism, but i'm taking out the fact that he's 85 years old. taking out that he was a military person and all of this stuff because of what he represents. today, you know, regardless of the man, donald trump pardoned racism. >> let me read you something which is making the rounds right now on social media. this appears to be a statement that then citizen donald trump made way back in tw 202012. the president wrote congratulations to sheriff joe on his successful cold case posse investigation which claims barack obama's birth certificate is fake. >> this was the height of the
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birther movement in 2012 when now president trump was leading the charge. arpaio was one of the people helping him by allegedly investigating, air quotes with that, investigated president obama's birth place. you have this tweet from five years ago and citizen trump thanking arpaio for it. >> this seems to be, you know, president trump taking a stand again against everything and anything that has to do with president obama. >> no. yes and no. nothing happens in a vacuum. nothing in the political spectrum happens in a vacuum. we have to look at this as a nexus that goes back to charlottesville. we can start there with his response when you had images of bigotry and anti-semitism. there's a direct line you can draw from that to joe arpaio. that is a direct correlation.
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so, yes, everything that is barack obama. we know where donald trump's political career started. with the birther movement. his number one cheerleader was joe arpaio. so for me, i am beyond, you know, fed up with donald trump. that happened 19 months ago. where many people like myself find on a night like tonight, i'm still troubled by those good people who are still a part of that 39%. >> i have richard painter on the phone, an ethics lawyer in the bush white house. richard, one of the things you've been looking at very closely and very concerned about is the russia investigation. look. you know, the president does have the absolute power to pardon. he pardon joe arpaio. sheriff joe arpaio in his first pardon showing a willingness to issue what some people consider to be political pardons. does this send a message for what he might be willing to do down the line to people who may be connected with him that could be in some kind of trouble with the various russian
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investigations. >> they've already been talking about that. newt gingrich was talking about that back in december. i was on a phone interview with npr. newt gingrich was on the same phone interview. we talked about those issues. gingrich said he can pardon people if there's a problem. they were talking that way a couple weeks ago to the point of the president pardoning himself. i think one thing that's gone on here is this is a trial balloon here to see how much of a reaction there is to a pardon here of a lawless sheriff and this is not just about -- it is about the rule of law. it is about immigration as well because he enforced immigration laws in a discriminatory manner which is what the president wants to do and what he advocated in the campaign trail. he's going to see how the public responds to this and see what other kind of pardons he can issue. i would not be surprised to see some pardons in connection with
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the russian investigation either to get people to shut up and not testify or just to help his friends and family. >> you know, alice, you have been sitting here and explaining for a lot of us an argument for why the president is doing this and how the white house has done it today. i do want to ask you though as a republican who has worked in the business for a long time, do you think it was a smart move to pardon sheriff joe arpaio after these last two weeks? >> after the last two weeks probably was not the best timing. but with regard to a president who we all have said from the very beginning he's very loyal to those that are loyal to him. and politics makes strange bedfellows. we have sheriff of maricopa county in on a big issue like birtherism with a billionaire real estate tycoon and they have a long history together. we knew if something like this were to happen and sheriff arpaio would be in legal trouble, that the president
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would be there for him. so this was not a matter of if but when. he clearly indicated this was going to happen. he was in arizona. the fact that this was dumped late on a friday night in addition to a couple other big news stories and in addition to a hurricane, it's not a surprise. but -- >> the endorsement was in january of 2016. very early on arpaio had his back. >> this is more of what the president has been doing. really, really catering what he's doing and his actions to the 35%, his base. sheriff arpaio represents strong border security, building the wall, immigration and 74% of republicans want to see that. it's good for the base but not for politics. >> alleice brought up 74% of americans support the president on immigration. by in large on just about every question you ask republicans right now, a majority, if not upwards of 70, 75, 80 percent
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supports the president. we've been talking about this for over two years. this causes you, you know, enormous pain. is it possible at this point that your republican party is no longer really your republican party? that the republican party has shifted so much that this is a move that will be wildly popular with most of them? >> there's no question that the trumpism is very different from the republican party that i grew up in. it's very different from the republican values that i espouse. i will tell you as long as there are republican leaders out there like john mccain, like lisa murkowski and like susan collins and john kasich and lindsey graham, i feel represented in the republican party. it's important for these folks to remember that the legislative branch is a co-equal independent branch. they need not kowtow to this
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president. they need not be a rubber stamp to every ridiculous thing he does. we've been talking so much about sheriff joe arpaio. let us not forget what he did earlier today. i mean, at 6:00 in the afternoon, a man who dodged the draft five times banned transgenders and qualified patriotic americans who want to risk their lives in service of this country. banned them from serving our country. throwing another bone to this base. so that in itself is so repugnant that somebody who did what donald trump did during vietnam. this week slammed john mccain. a man hanging by his thumbs for five years and then today also goes ahead and bans people who want to serve and risk their lives. something that he was unwilling to do. >> let me give you some new reaction to the pardoning of sheriff joe arpaio from one of those republicans that i think
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ana navarro still associates herself. senator jeff flake. regarding the arpaio pardon, i would have preferred that the president honor the judicial process and let it take its course. jeff flake coming out against the pardon. not the strongest condemnation. i would have preferred. jeff flake is the senator from the state of arizona. >> jeff flake just wrote a book critical of the president. he doesn't want to get back on bad terms with the president during this time. i think we're going to hear more republicans giving similar statements like that. yes. the legal system we should respect the legal system and let it play out. that being said, the president has indicated for quite some time this was going to happen and it should be as no surprise. >> and laura, legal analyst with us, your take, again, jeff flake
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of arizona said he would have liked to have seen the legal process play out. jonathan turley told us that he thpgs th thinks this is a slap in the face for the rule of law because sheriff joe arpaio was convicted of contempt of court. your reaction to the process and the decision? >> senator jeff flake's statement is an understatement that rivals only my shock to the president's pardoning of a man who is a racial profiler of latinos and people who he suspected of being immigrants. in the 1990s, he started to gain the reputation of the so-called toughest sheriff in america when he had open tent cities for people he suspected as illegal immigrants open to hot, burning sun in arizona and had people wearing pink underwear to try to humiliate them and cut out lunches. this person is known to have been flouting the law when the court said, listen, you cannot
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engage in racial profiling. it wasn't the preference of the court that you not do so. it's a mandate of the constitution. the fourth amendment and other aspects of it. it's a shocking revelation that the president of the united states who has deemed himself the law and order president would endorse and condone the activity of a sheriff who chooses not to be the model citizen of following the law. and frankly, i have to agree wholeheartedly with the comments that ana and other commentators made tonight. this is a political decision to do so. but it must be noted that when you have an administration who is already being questioned by the appointment of an attorney general with a somewhat tenuous connection with the civil rights agenda of people in this country and was already speculating he would not be able to enforce civil rights agendas that were long and proudly held by the former presidents of the united
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states, it's a shocking revelation and it doesn't bode well for the confidence in the department of justice. >> laura, stand by if you will. i want to go back to the white house. one thing we haven't talked about is sebastian gorka was fired tonight because the white house making sure that we understand that he didn't resign but forced out. you have new details about this. >> the word we heard is that sebastian gorka resigned and he's doing interviews with some more conservative leaning news outlets in which his version of events is that he did resign. now white house officials say that while they can confirm that he left the white house, he did not resign. other officials are telling us that this was in fact part of john kelly's systematic look at the staffers and white house look at whether they were doing the kind of jobs that were the right fit for them and serving the president. it is part of that process, part of the knowledge that sebastian
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gorka was saying bombastic things on television without much of a portfolio within the white house that ultimately led to john kelly making this decision. sebastian gorka was not going to fare in this white house. he needed to go. we've seen this in the white house before. officials are now saying it is not actually a resignation. he was in fact forced out of the administration. >> brian stelter, i want to bring you into this discussion. gorka was a national security official even though what exactly he was doing in national security was always questioned and how qualified he was to do it was also in question. what he really was someone that went on tv. remind us of who sebastian gorka was. the controversial surrounding him and what he's saying right now. >> he was a contributor to breitbart. he was seen as a far right person when it came to national security and terrorism. his credentials have been called into question by some of his
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former professors. it was his role on television and also he spent a lot of time on twitter. between twitter and television is what the president appreciated about gorka. he was a staunch vocal defender of the president and that's leaving the white house with gorka being forced out here. it's unclear whether he was ever in. the key terrorism meetings that were happening in the west wing. >> times he would go on with chris cuomo in the mornings and the interviews would go on for a half hour. the president liked that. he liked that he would go back and defend and have back and forth. >> now gorka says that he disagrees with what he says are moderates that are ascending in the white house and this scathing letter he calls a resignation letter, he says these voices that were embodying making america great again is
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undermine in recent months. >> on the phone we do have the former attorney general of the state of virginia. ken, thank you so much for being with us. i honestly don't know where to begin because of everything happening tonight. let's start with sheriff joe arpaio who was pardoned tonight by the president. your reaction? >> it was political prosecution to begin with so it's not surprising to see a pardon, which is obviously a very political act used to kind of close this chapter out. people will view the pardon based on where they start on sheriff arpaio. the prosecution in 2016 was commenced the day before early voting began in arizona. and you know, when you make a decision like that at the department of justice, it of course looks political. there was no new information not
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known to arizona voters so it's not like the government was withholding the information. here they get criminal contempt which is not unprecedented but darn close to it. the way a situation that sheriff arpaio was in is normally handled as civil contempt. that was bypassed by the department of justice to the surprise of virtually everybody. >> let me just ask you. i don't mean to cut you off. >> i hear you flying through things. >> jonathan turley, a guy that plays it right down the middle. i have no idea what his politics are. he says that the real issue here isn't necessarily even the prosecution. it's what the judge has decided. he was in contempt. you don't have to agree or disagree with the idea -- any policy on immigration. it's just that he decided not to obey the law as it was written
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and these judges for months were telling them to obey the law and he didn't. >> right. i have a lot of respect for professor turley. i think what he lays out there is easy to understand. at the same time when you go back to the time period in question, the 18 months in question, you know, the sheriff's position was thone of confusion on his part. that's what he says with respect to the continuing process by which hethey're handling law enforcement in his county. prior to the criminal prosecution, he was elected with fairly substantial margins. smallest one was 6%, which maybe it's because of my own history, that seems like a fairly comfortable margin. you know, this is going to be viewed by americans across the
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country, i think largely based on where they start. where you end up is going to be based on where you start. let me just make one quick point. i understand the concerns about this pardon if you're in the obama justice department and you're making a decision like they did to start right at election time to move on this guy criminally, it shouldn't politically -- it was a political prosecution. this is a political pardon. and those two go together frankly. it's pardon of why the pardoning power exists for the president. >> i don't want to put words in your mouth or thoughts in your head. i get what you're saying. you don't seem to be jumping up and down with joy over it. you are obviously a deeply committed conservative. >> i am an idealist. i wouldn't say i'm jumping up and down for joy. i think on balance it was a defensible and positive thing for the president to do. i hope future presidents,
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including this president, when he's on his way out, whenever that may be, won't initiate prosecution of people running for office strictly for the purpose of defeating them, which is why the timing of sheriff joe's prosecution was commenced when it was commenced. it was so he would lose the election. and he did. that is now how prosecutions should be commenced. it is not how they should be carried forward and now president trump has undone it. >> and i'm dying to ask you what you meant by whenever that might be when you talk about the end of the president's term. hang on for one month. i want to bring in ana navarro right now who has been listening and wants to weigh in. >> judges in arizona were clear in their finding. this man was convicted. i just think this pardon is all about politics. i think the timing is all about politics. i think when it didn't happen was all about politics. this was a very political move
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by donald trump who frankly wanted to do this. he wanted to do this. he can. he did. that's the bottom line. regardless of what it means for so many americans and just how anning at a tatagonizing an act americans. not just latinos but anyone who believes in civil rights should be offended by the act of the president of the united states. >> i want to switch gears while i have ken on the phone. your reaction to sebastian gorka being pushed out so the white house says. they say he did not resign. gorka has been associated with what a lot of people call alt-right. the trumpist wing right now of the republican party. gorka says he thinks the ascendent group inside the white house is this more -- what some people consider more moderate
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wing. do you think that assessment is an accurate assessment and does that concern you? >> it's a captain obvious statement. there are no conservatives in significant positions of influence within the white house itself. you have scorick perry at energ but not in the white house. i really don't know much about gorka. i never really understood why he was there in the first place. but i will say that on the more general point, the white house is not peopled with conservatives at this point. they're just not there in positions of influence. >> we could go down the roster, but i do think your opinion of that is certainly significant in and of itself as someone that worked as part of the party as long as uyou have.
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i'm not arguing. >> the conservative movement feels that way. this is widespread among movement conservatives. >> standby, if you will, ken. now joining us on the phone is douglas brinkley. thank you for being with us. we know that the president has the power to pardon. we know that presidents have issued pardons which are political and controversial. what stands out to you about this pardon? >> well, one thing that stands out is he went to camp david today. you know, the gorka and sheriff arpaio are really kind of connected. one losing garko breitbart won't want him out of the white house but cheers on alt-right world for backing the sheriff and pardoning him. i think that we're looking at donald trump really trying to be a maverick. trying to do things his own way.
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he's been recognized he has a brutal political fight coming up in the fall. his legislative agenda hasn't accomplished anything. he couldn't repeal and replace obamacare so he's starting to do things like transgender in the mi military today and sheriff arpaio and it kind of makes the garko story secondary. at all costs donald trump time and again protects his base. history is going to see this as donald trump pardoning one of the leaders of the birther movement on obama so it's inherently in history going to have a racist cast to it. >> it's interesting because a lot of times, most times when you're dealing with pardons in so far as they're controversial, they color the legacy of the president after he is out of office. i'm trying to think, the only other pardon this controversial that i can think about that
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didn't happen at the end was when gerald ford pardoned richard nixon. joe arpaio is not richard nixon but only thing i can think of with timing. >> no president did it in the middle of a category 4 hurricane that's hitting the gulf coast. the timing to me while millions of people are evacuating and jack up the friday evening news cycle for some reason by doing these moves right now. presidents wait to pardon people usually at the end of their administration. this one is of a highly political nature. it comes the very same week he's doubling down on building of a wall along the mexican border. he's talking about shutting down the government in coming weeks, and he's championing somebody like the sheriff as being a great american hero. so it's a real moment where trump is showing his
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anti-mexican-american hard right side of him and that may be who he truly is as a person. it's a big evening. it's a big event. we're going to talk about it for weeks to come. >> brian stelter, we were talking about the notion of a friday night news dump. traditional you think people are trying to hide information. trying to reduce coverage of it. so is it that or is this the president trying to hijack the coverage of the hurricane? >> he does the opposite of a news dump trying to hide something. the president seems to want the attention on these stories and not on the hurricane on the other side of your screen. to be clear, 130 miles per hour winds will take down houses. there will be massive storm surge in the mention couple hours. we're talking about thousands of people who if they are in their homes need to be in bath tubs with a mat es tress on top of t. i know fema said it's ready.
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the president does seem to be making other headlines for some reason. the white house has done something unusual in gorka by putting out the statement that you were describing this comment from officials saying gorka was forced out. they are stating something clearly to conservatives. we didn't want gorka in this white house anymore. it's creating a huge new controversy for the white house. >> i want to point out one thing here. i don't truly believe at the bottom of my heart that most americans know who sebastian gorka is. he's not a household name by any stretch of the imagination. >> nobody in politics knows who he is. >> the people who do know him are very specific group of republicans. >> that's why it's leading breitbart right now. >> it's a very limited audience. >> to the point you guys were making about the president wanting to draw attention to this, if he wanted to draw
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attention to pardoning sheriff arpaio, he would have done it when he was in arizona. if they wanted to draw attention to the white house flexing their muscles and getting rid of gorka, they would have done it earlier on the day. they clearly wanted this to get dropped in the headlines. unfortunately we're talking about this instead of letting people know in hurricane's path what they can do to protect themselves. this is the state of play that we're in. you were talking earlier about other controversial pardons by presidents. i think they are two totally separate issues and categories. i do think with regard to president obama pardoning chelsey manning, facing a 35-year sentence for lacking classified information is a controversial pardon. it goes to show ptresidents hav authority and power to issue pardons based on whatever issues they want. >> did they pardon or commute that sentence? >> semantics. with all due respect to that comparison, she did serve time,
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and she was punished for her crime. whether you think the punishment was long enough or however culpable you think she was for the crime, she served a punishment for the crime. sheriff joe arpaio by pardoning him before he was sentenced will never serve punishment for the crime he committed. i want to talk about this quote/unquote news dump that we're seeing. if you think about the news as we searched on twitter today, it was transgender ban he put in place. we were talking about all of those individuals who whether they wanted to serve our country, they should have every right to do so. i believe it was senator tammy backworth that said, it didn't matter if you were gay or straight or anything else. she wanted you there to help her. category 4 storm with 130-mile-per-hour winds who people need to make sure they evacuate if they can, if not, take shelter and then you talk
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about sebastian gorka. nobody knows who he is. and then you're talking about joe arpaio. what we haven't talked about, and i'm glad you didn't scoop me, is that north korea tested three missiles today. they all failed. >> a few hours ago. >> they shot short range missiles into the sea of japan. >> this was the same person who the president of the united states said now respects us. imagine if they disrespected us what they would be testing. i'm saying all of this to say that there's so much going on right now with this trump administration, what most americans want is they don't want a pardon of arpaio. they don't want to be dealing with a transgender ban on a friday night. they don't really care who gorka is. what they want is calm. they want the white house to be calm. they want steady leadership. they want somebody who bring this country together and what donald trump is not, calm. >> they didn't vote for calm.
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they voted for jobs. they're going to deliver on the jobs part. the calm part they never promised. it ain't coming. >> they're not delivering on nothing right now. >> just one point, president obama did commute the sentence of chelsey manning. you say semantic, it's not just semantics because if you commute the sentence, the person is convicted of crime but gets out of jail. if you issue a pardon, you're saying the person is absolved from -- >> she suggested this would follow normal process. it went around the normal course of pardons. >> alice, you had something on that. the white house is fine with that. the white house all but told us they weren't doing it the normal way. when she was asked, specifically asked have you sought recommendation from the deputy attorney general or salt an fbi
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background check which is part of the process for, for seeking a pardon. and she says, as, brian said, she indicated look we are going through the normal thorough process of issuing pardons. as we have found out, that, that may not have been the case. >> anna navaro, you are with us. jump into the conversation. >> you know, it strikes me as i am listening and trying to process it, we shouldn't lose sight of the forest through the trees. i think donald trump is doing something else with this, with this pardoning of arpaio. he is sending a message to all of those people that were involved in his campaign part of trump world now being questioned and part of this russia investigation. i have absolute power to pardon. and i have no qualms about using it. even if it is done in an extraordinary way, done without the approval of justice department, i can do it all by myself. and i will. come hell or high water i don't care what anybody says, the media says, what the pundits
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say. i don't care what 65% all of cans say. i think he is senting a message to the manaforts. be not afraid. i can pardon. i will. >> something richard on the phone with us brought up earlier. this is something that, richard painter is gone, saying the white house has been sending messages all along the power does exist. and we know from some reporting over time, also the president has asked questions about the power of the pardon. former attorney general of the state of virginia, still on with us right now. you know the law, ken. do you take that message from this that the president would be willing if he sees fit to issue pardons in the russia investigation? if it does lead to any convictions ultimately? >> none per se. i think an interesting observation. i would say, you know i am somebody who thinks the pardoning power should end on november 1 of an election year. so you shouldn't be able to pardon people after election day. at the end of any term.
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the one thing that i think is -- really gives everybody a shot at this, whether they like it or don't like it, the fact that he has done it before, before assuming he rnz funs for re-elen in 2020. one way or another some are more likely to vote. some are less likely to vote for him because of it. i will give him the credit for doing it straight up here in, you know, when he is actually accountable for it. i appreciate that. if i can make one other point responding to the comments. he said, you know americans don't want to see this don't want to see that. look, the whole list, no offense, americans don't care about it. there are a small portion of people who care about gorka if they know who he is. a small portion of people in this country who really care a lot about this pardon. that they know about it. >> that is not true. >> in arizona. >> that's not true. >> we need to keep the forest
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through the trees clear here. >> we are talking all these forests now. >> quit talking about all the forests now. let's be extremely clear. there are a large group of people who are terrorized by sheriff arpaio. and legitimate citizens ripped apart had to show papers put on the side of the road, racially profil profiled. people who are concerned and fear fall but joe arpaio because he got to be racist and hide behind a badge. so, i understand what you are saying, but you cannot minimize the effect and the terror that joe arpaio reaped on not just a small fragment of the country but a large swauft the country who are very, very pissed off tonight because law and order only matters from a stage in kansas. it doesn't matter in practice for donald trump. >> guys, stand by. i want to bring in someone into the discussion who disagrees with you wholeheartedly. on the phone is arizona republican congressman, paul gosar who thinks to days a great
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day. he says in a statement the pardon reflects the very reason we voted president trump into the oval office. to uphold the rule of law. congressman to uphold the rule of law is that what happened here? i thought the law decide in arizona that sheriff arpaio was in criminal contempt? >> isn't it interesting that he wasn't a fair aspect of a trial he asked for a jury trial. from that standpoint this was railroaded all the way through. when you talk about a justice system that was so negligent from the obama administration, set up joe arpaio day one, eric holder or loretta lynch, that's hardly an application of the rule of law. >> we had jonathan turley on with us before, constitutional scholar, george washington university school of law, who says that that interpretation of it, here simply doesn't hold. you know you call it political prosecution. but the courts, were the ones that ultimately decided he was in criminal contempt. they had told him he needed to
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follow the law, and he didn't. >> the politicized it. it was very politicized all the way through there. so, when we start seeing the application of the politicalization of the courts. >> the judges? the judges? >> the president has the the opportunity, to pardon, as he sees fit. just look mr. clinton and just like president obama did. in regards to that. so -- >> you know i don't know if you had a chance to listen to some discussion. those, others among them that one of the things sheriff joe arpaio did, criminal contempt was about is that he would go after people ask for their papers essentially try to take them into custody with no proof of any kind of violation of a law. just on the suspicion perhaps that they weren't legal citizens based on, who knows what. their appearance.
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>> go ahead. >> once again, when you politicize the law, forbid the individual from a jury trial, i think you have got a big problem in the, in the, the efficacy in regards to the rule of law the way it is applied. >> i just have to ask you, congressman, is racial profiling okay? i mean, what, what the central aspect of joe arpaio's crime was racial profiling. if you are going to defend him, i have to ask you is racial profiling okay in any form, or fashion? >> racial profiling is not okay, when or where, from the standpoint that this, this application was with joe par io, hardly when you politicize it, do you have a rational application of the law. >> you know, congressman what does tonight tell you about the president of the united states? and this white house right now. what message are you getting with the pardon of sheriff arpaio and the, you know, firing
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of sebastian gorka. the thing, he is real. he believes that -- that, you know he has the got success in mind. and he has got outcomes he wants to make sure. he is a businessman. what he wants to make sure is that, that, what he promised the american people he is getting done. now that's what i see. and from that standpoint, those that helped him get along the way, you know, get, get to the president of the united states he is going to make sure he helps them out making sure that they, that are do, due process. >> help out the people who helped him even if it means this pardon. congressman gosar, thank you for being with us. breaking news in addition to all the breaking news, hurricane harvey. category 4 storm. on the verge of coming ashore in texas. the president signed a disaster order freeing up federal aid for the storm. want to go to weather nation's ben mcmillan in ingleside, texas miles from the eye of the storm.
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doesn't look good there at all. what can you tell us? >> yes, category 4 hurricane is getting very close to coming on shore. the eye wall with wind over 100 miles an hour. going to affect the area from inglewood to colton. most severely. now, maximum wind of the storm will have. on the coast. and, it is just starting to move in now. the eye is moving closer. >> this is not the worst to come. is it? it is about to hit right now. you could be in for several hours of this, correct? >> that's correct. guys, we have seen a lot of transformers blowing in the last 30 minutes. large power flashes lit up the sky. that is indication of what is to come. a long night. texas residents as many parts of the infrastructure, in this area, will be shut down. including freshwater, power and other amenities. >> talk to me about storm surge. are you seeing any. what is the concern where you are? >> we are looking at 6 to 12
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foot storm surge in this area from corpus christi up to folton. corpus christi, 300,000 people, seven feet above sea lechlt storm surge 6-12 feet could be problematic from any yars up the coast. >> then of course there is this. that as the bad as surge might be. bad as wind are right now, the worst may be tomorrow. the day after and the day after. where they're expecting several feet of rain ben. >> that's correct. guys, we are losing audio here. but we can, receive 30 inches or plus of rainfall. in some areas. >> all right, ben mcmillan for us in ingleside, texas. the eye of the storm. crossing over the texas coast. very, very shortly. ben ourks tha thanks to you. let you get into safety as this continues to get worse throughout the evening. a very busy evening to say the least. not just this category 4 storm
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hitting the texas coast. but also the news of the president's first par douchb the controversial sheriff joe arpaio from the state of arizona. sebastian gorka deputy assistant to the president, controversial, out. fired from the white house. and a whole lot more. time to turn over to cnn's don lemon and "cnn tonight." >> announcer: this cnn breaking news. >> there is breaking news. a lot of it. just fasten your seat bechlts the first one of. millions in the path of a monster storm, bearing down on the texas coast. and the white house, dump maze jr. breaking news tonight. right in the middle of all of this. this is cnn tonight. i'm don lemon. thank you for joining us and staying with us four hours we are on live for you at least this evening into well into saturday morning. first, the storm. the eye wall of hurricane harvey. one of the most powerful hurricanes in years, beginning to move onshore. the storm


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