CNN's Jeffrey Toobin: Trump Doesn't Care About Deaths of 'Not White' Puerto Ricans

September 13th, 2018 2:10 PM

During Wednesday’s edition of CNN’s New Day, co-hosts Alisyn Camerota and John Berman and their panel slammed Donald Trump’s handling of disaster relief to Puerto Rico and slimed the President as a racist. CNN Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin found a sinister motive for his response to the hurricane that ravaged the island territory.

Toobin played amateur psychologist and theorized: “Isn’t the story even darker than that? Isn’t the story that these people who died, apparently thousands of them in Puerto Rico, 3,000 as you point out, they’re not white people. And they don’t count to Donald Trump as much as the deaths of white people.” Even Camerota expressed skepticism of Toobin’s claim, saying, “I don’t know if we can draw that conclusion.” Toobin doubled down, asking “If 3,000 white people had died in Florida or Texas, would he be saying it was a success?”



Berman answered Toobin’s question by saying, “He wouldn’t acknowledge the failure, no matter what. I don’t think it’s in his DNA to acknowledge weakness or failure.” Time magazine columnist Joe Klein agreed: “He said that. He said that that’s part of his strategy is never to acknowledge failure.” As though the journalists at CNN ever acknowledge success. 

After complaining about President Trump’s response to Hurricane Maria and invoking a quote from Ernest Hemingway defining courage as “grace under pressure,” Klein called President Trump “graceless under pressure” and accused him of suffering from “personality derangement.” 

The discussion then turned to the recently released Bob Woodward book and the anonymous New York Times column, which Klein described as an “act of patriotism” because “it corroborates Woodward’s reporting.” CNN political analyst David Gregory disagreed with Klein’s analysis, saying “I don’t think it’s an act of patriotism” and arguing that “if you want to take this stand, you do much better doing it publicly.”



Should President Trump end up touring the Carolinas to survey the damage of Hurricane Florence, expect the media to make a successful visit for the President virtually impossible as they seek to advance the narrative of “fundamentally deranged person” living in the White House.   

A transcript of the relevant portion of CNN’s New Day is below. Click “expand” to read more:



New Day


07:20 AM

ALISYN CAMEROTA: President Trump touting that the U.S. is ready for Hurricane Florence and also attacking Puerto Ricans and the San Juan Mayor in a new tweet. Here’s what the President just posted. He says, “We got A pluses for our recent hurricane work in Texas and Florida (and did an unappreciated great job in Puerto Rico, even though an inaccessible island with very poor electricity and a totally incompetent mayor of San Juan). We are ready for the big one that is coming!” This comes after the President called his administration’s response to Hurricane Maria “one of the best” and “an unsung success.” Let’s bring in Joe Klein. He’s a columnist at TIME and the author of the book Primary Colors, as we now know. It was not anonymous. We have a lot to ask you about and CNN Political Analyst David Gregory; and CNN Chief Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin. So David Gregory, let’s start with Hurricane Maria and Hurricane Florence and everything that’s happening. So the President says that it was an unsung success what happened in Puerto Rico. The same amount of people died as a result of Maria as 9/11. That was not a success.

DAVID GREGORY: Well, it clearly was not a success. And any leader looking at that would try to learn from those lessons about federal response, about state and local response. But what we know about this President is that that doesn’t matter as much as taking on all comers who would criticize him and to project a story that is belied by facts on the ground. The notion that he would take on, you know, the local mayor in such a… in such a fashion is not surprising. It just fits a pattern. But we’re hopeful that the federal agency responsible, FEMA, which is still a bit defensive about their role in Maria, can learn everything they can learn about a very difficult situation, about situational awareness which they lacked in their own reporting in the aftermath of the storm, and as they apply it to different storms. Islands are more vulnerable for obvious reasons. The infrastructure in Puerto Rico is certainly an issue. But the federal response is kind of the response of last resort. Who else can be responsible? The federal government has resources and has scale that no one else has. The President doesn’t really want to engage in any of that.

BERMAN: Look, his statement about Puerto Rico, it’s not true, and more importantly this morning, it’s not helpful. It’s not helpful, let alone to the families of the 3,000 people…

CAMEROTA: Oh, it’s hurtful.

BERMAN: …who died in Puerto Rico. It’s hurtful to them. But it’s not helpful to the people in North and South Carolina, who are about to get hit by a Category 3 or Category 4 storm.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: But isn’t the story even darker than that? Isn’t the story that these people who died, apparently thousands of them in Puerto Rico, 3,000 as you point out, they’re not white people. And they don’t count to Donald Trump as much as the deaths of white people. I mean, you hate to say that about someone, but look at his record. Isn’t that indicative of who he is and what he stands for?

CAMEROTA: I don’t know, I don’t know, Jeffrey. I don’t know if I can draw that conclusion, but we certainly know that they didn’t have the apparatus in place when they knew that that hurricane was coming, too, Maria, and you have to ask why.

TOOBIN: You got to ask why. But in terms of acknowledging the failure, if 3,000 white people had died in Florida or Texas, would he be saying it was a success?

BERMAN: He wouldn’t acknowledge the failure, no matter what. I don’t think it’s in his DNA to acknowledge weakness or failure.

JOE KLEIN: Well he said that. He said that that’s part of his strategy is never to acknowledge failure. I mean, I think Hemingway defined courage as grace under pressure. This guy is graceless under pressure always, and it, and it speaks to the much larger issue here, which is his personality derangement, which has been the story of the past week. Woodward’s book, the anonymous column in the New York Times. We have a national crisis right now, and it is very serious, and we have to focus on that rather than…Jeff, I’m sorry…whether or not, you know, he didn’t care about Puerto Rico for racist reasons.

CAMEROTA: Well, I mean, look, this does bring us to the anonymous column, the op-ed. Because why are we acting as though we’re surprised? In the Woodward book, in the anonymous column, we keep hearing about what was going on inside the White House and what the writer of the anonymous op-ed says is that they, whoever it was, was driven to go public in this halfhearted…half way because of the amorality of the President. And that conversations about policy run off the rails and that the…it’s just always marked by immorality, so here we are.

KLEIN: Yeah, I think it was an act of patriotism, the column. There’s been a lot of controversy over whether it was a good thing or bad. I think it was a good thing, because it corroborates Woodward’s reporting. It corroborates the reporting that people at CNN and other news outlets have been doing for the past year. It is yet another source that says that we are dealing with a very fundamentally deranged person who is leading our country right now. And thank God there are people, sane people who are surrounding him, who might limit the damage, because the legal recourses here move very, very slowly.

BERMAN: Joe says it corroborates the Woodward reporting. Well, there is some new information in regards to the Woodward reporting. We finally have statements from Gary Cohn and Rob Porter, who are quoted all over the book Fear. And you have these, to give deference to The Washington Post and Ben Bradlee, non-denial denials of sorts participating in this book Fear. Gary Cohn says, David Gregory, “This book does not accurately portray my experience at the White House. I am proud of my service in the Trump administration, and I continue to support the President and his economic agenda.” Rob Porter has a somewhat similar response. But the basic thing is they’re saying, “I don’t like the book, but I’m not disputing anything specific in it,” are they?

GREGORY: No, they’re not. They don’t like the general characterization. But I…yeah, I think those are pretty thin as denials. They’re obviously concerned with maintaining some level of loyalty to President Trump, who I think has made it very clear that he demands that from people, that that’s a higher test than telling the truth about all of this. And we do get…you know, we get multiple portraits and an overall narrative about how the President approaches policy, how he approaches decision making. There are things that we’ve seen before in other administrations: impulsivity, power centers, rethinking of policy, ugliness within an administration, within a West Wing. Those things go on all the time. To suggest that that is so bizarre because it’s Donald Trump is not fair. But it’s so top-down, and that is the picture here. And even the demand for loyalty and to kind of clean this up and to project this idea that, you know, they don’t really dispute anything specific and therefore it’s all fiction, that’s not true. The President wants to create a different reality about what’s really going on in his own administration.

CAMEROTA: Jeffrey, wasn’t it interesting that it took them a week to refute or attempt to refute or put out a statement? So Gary Cohn and Rob Porter were silent for a week. And it’s our reporting, according to Jim Acosta, Kevin Liptak and Cristina Alesci, that there was a source close to the White House; and they, the White House applied a lot of pressure on these two men to release a statement over the past week.

TOOBIN: Right, and you know, as you pointed out, Berman, this is a non-denial denial. They don’t dispute anything in the book except they say they were proud to work in the White House.

CAMEROTA: Well, it says it does not accurately portray their experience.

BERMAN: The book isn’t about their experience.

TOOBIN: I mean, it’s like, you know, during Watergate when Ron Ziegler would say, who was the White House Press Secretary, “That story is outrageous. I won’t dignify it with a comment.” But they never dispute the facts. And that was Bob Woodward 40 years ago. This is Bob Woodward today. I trust him a lot more than the people in the White House.

KLEIN: Yeah. There is one word that doesn’t appear in either of these statements. The word is “untrue.” They don’t say this book is untrue. They don’t say this book is false. They don’t say this book is lies. They say, “It doesn’t convey my impression of what it was like in the White House.” So I…I’m with Woodward, too.

BERMAN: I have to ask you, Joe. We’d be accused of malpractice if we didn’t ask you, because when the op-ed came out from this unnamed author, everyone said, “This is reminiscent of when Joe Klein wrote ‘Primary Colors,’” and at first, you were anonymous there. There’s a difference. I mean, yes, we didn’t know the identity of either you or the person writing this, but there’s a big difference about where this is coming from.

KLEIN: Well, yeah, I wrote a comic novel. I mean, and…and everything that happened was really good. You know, the reviews were fabulous. The books flew out of the stores…

BERMAN: John Travolta.

KLEIN: Yeah. I mean, Random House thought it was going to be a failure. My editor at Newsweek said to me, “This is a really fun book, Joe, but you know books like this don’t sell.” In this case, the person has committed, as I said, an act of patriotism; and their future, their reputation, is at stake. I’ve had a really good life.

CAMEROTA: But do you think they should go public?

KLEIN: No, I do not. I think it…say, I think it’s really important that you have sane people. Jim Mattis, obviously, is one of them. I think you have…it’s important that you have as many people like that surrounding this President, because he ain’t going anywhere for a while.

BERMAN: Can I ask you just quickly?

GREGORY: I have a different…I just want to say I think we have to acknowledge a different view on this. I don’t think it’s an act of patriotism. I think if you want to take this stand, you do much better doing it publicly. We don’t know who this senior official is. The New York Times has inserted itself into this story in a way where if this comes out and it’s not very senior, then I think this whole thing will look different. And I think that, you know, the argument, counter-argument to that is that this is a person who is now feeding a narrative of paranoia by the President of the United States that people are out to get him instead of allowing people to evaluate what they think on the merits by putting their name to it. There’s lots of people…


GREGORY: …who have come out with blind quotes about what they think is wrong with the White House.