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Interview With Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton; Donald Trump Speaks Out; Historic Iranian Nuclear Deal Reached; Interview with U.S. Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas; Interview with U.S. Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired July 14, 2015 - 16:00   ET


[16:00:09] JOHN BERMAN, CNN GUEST HOST: We have a deal. The big question, is the world safer today than it was 24 hours ago?

I'm John Berman. And this is THE LEAD.

The world lead, the reaction pouring in from optimism to flat-out alarm after the United States and world powers strike a deal with Iran to stop their pursuit of the bomb. But can the president convince Congress that this is a good deal for America?

Breaking news in the politics lead. Once, it might have been a hit bravo reality show. Now it is real reality. Donald Trump is in first place for the Republican nomination in a brand-new nationwide poll. This hour, we will hear from Trump in a special one-on-one interview.

The national lead, a teenage girl found wandering through the woods after she walked away from a plane crash, she says she has reality TV to thank for saving her life.

Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm John Berman, in today for Jake Tapper.

Don't trust, do verify. That is what President Obama said his administration will do now that the West and Iran have agreed to a nuclear pact, one that the White House insists will stop Iran from getting the bomb. Secretary of State John Kerry echoed his boss, telling CNN's Christiane Amanpour this is about the measurables and that should Iran fail to live up to this deal, all the sanctions snap right back into place. That's his claim.

Even the possibility of military action against Tehran gets put back on the table.


JOHN KERRY, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We're putting to test whether or not there's a change of heart, a change of mind, a change of direction. And if there isn't, we have every option available to us every day that we have right now.


BERMAN: Kerry's Iranian counterpart, Javad Zarif, said he almost walked away from negotiations many times, but he had to get what we called inhumane sanctions stripped away.

By and large, both sides are managing expectations. Both sides are saying this deal is not about normalizing relations. And both sides still have to sell this deal, the Iranian delegation to the hard- liners and the ayatollah in Tehran, the president and his team to a very skeptical Congress in Washington.

CNN is tracking developments on this deal from around the world.

Let's go first to CNN global affairs correspondent Elise Labott in Washington.

Elise, what does the U.S. say is in this deal and, perhaps most importantly, is it the same thing that Iran says is inside?

ELISE LABOTT, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, as soon as the deal was announced, it was a battle of who won and who lost. Iran says it won international legitimacy for its nuclear program, while the U.S. and its partners argue this is a win for curbing Iran's nuclear ambitions. Both are right.


LABOTT (voice-over): A historic moment capping more than a decade of diplomacy, after the latest round of 18 days of intense and often fractious negotiations, both sides claiming victory in a deal they hope would transform the Middle East.

MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF, IRANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: I believe this is a historic moment. We are reaching an agreement that is not perfect for anybody, but it is what we could accomplish, and it is an important achievement for all of us.

LABOTT: Secretary of State John Kerry called the final product proof the U.S. has held out for a good deal.

KERRY: Sanctioning Iran until it capitulates makes for a powerful talking point and a pretty good political speech, but it's not achievable outside a world of fantasy.

LABOTT: The deal curbs Iran's enrichment of uranium and reduces its stockpile of nuclear fuel, converts its underground nuclear site into a research facility and limits Iran's research of advanced nuclear technology for the next 15 years.

U.N. inspectors get more access to Iran's nuclear program, but must give 24 days' notice for suspicious sites, a stipulation that will anger critics.

In exchange, a windfall for Iran. Billions of dollars in U.S. and European Union sanctions will be lifted as Iran makes good on the deal. A U.N. embargo will end after five years, eight years for Iran's ballistic missile programs. But U.S. sanctions on terrorism and human rights will remain.

Iran's president predicting a new chapter in his nation's relations with the world. As expected, three Americans being held in Iran and a fourth who went missing are absent from the deal. They were never part of the talks, though U.S. officials continue to call for their release.

For now, their families left waiting. The family of jailed "Washington Post" reporter Jason Rezaian said they hope the deal will bring him home, saying in a statement -- quote -- "The outcome of the nuclear deal does not change Jason's cruel and illegal imprisonment for the past 356 days. Jason is completely innocent of all charges. Today, he should be reporting on the details of this agreement, rather than being subjected to continued incarceration."



LABOTT: And the danger is today's battle of narratives will end up being a battle of interpretation. If all sides are not on the same page about what was agreed upon, that could be a real Pandora's box when it comes to implementation, John.

BERMAN: There are still weeks, if not months of discussions about that. Elise Labott in Washington, thanks so much.

From the minute the word came down the deal was done, the world's been evaluating its merit. The Vatican's view of the deal? Positive. Also giving the agreement a thumbs-up, Syria's Bashar al-Assad, who hailed the accord as a great victory.

But two key U.S. allies, two countries that don't exactly agree on everything, they have lined up against the deal, the Saudis and the Israelis. A Saudi source brands the accord as a charade while, Israel labeled it a stunning historic mistake.

CNN senior international correspondent Nic Robertson is live in Vienna.

And, Nic, the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, not a fan of this deal.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Not a fan at all, has made that clear all along, John.

And pretty much as soon as this was being announced here, he was one of the first to stand up and criticize it, bluntly saying it's a bad deal, bluntly stating that it's a bad deal of historic proportions.


BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: The bottom line of this very bad deal is exactly what Iran's President Rouhani said today. The international community is removing the sanctions and Iran is keeping its nuclear program.

By not dismantling Iran's nuclear program, in a decade, this deal will give an unreformed, unrepentant and far richer terrorist regime the capacity to produce many nuclear bombs, in fact, an entire nuclear arsenal with a means to deliver it. What a stunning historic mistake.


ROBERTSON: Well, what we heard today from the Iranian foreign minister was a repudiation and a reaction to that. He says that Iran's never been after the bomb. He says it doesn't matter how many pathways to a bomb you try to close down; we haven't been after one.

The reality is here, this is what Iran's been saying for years. They have been talking the talk, but now they're going to get measured on this talk. They are going to have to, pretty much as Secretary Kerry said today, walk the walk. Otherwise, the sanctions and everything else are coming back -- John.

BERMAN: All right, Nic Robertson, terrific work in Vienna these last few weeks. Thanks so much, Nic.

Now I want to go to Jim Acosta at the White House.

Jim, the president and his team going to sell it to Congress right now. They say Congress will have plenty of time to examine every provision. He welcomes their input, he says, as long as they don't disagree with him, because if they do, he will veto it.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly right, John. President Obama is putting his legacy on the line with this Iran nuclear deal. While the White House is confident the deal won't be blocked by Congress, the president's critics are not holding back, predicting this agreement will fail, posing a major nuclear threat to the world.


ACOSTA (voice-over): When it comes to the fallout over the Iran nuclear deal, it's all on President Obama.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Because of this deal, the international community will be able to verify that the Islamic Republic of Iran will not develop a nuclear weapon.

ACOSTA: The president's global sales pitch has begun with a call list that includes Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, leaders in Europe, Saudi Arabia's king and Republicans in Congress.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: The deal that we have out there, in my view, from what I know of it thus far, is unacceptable.

ACOSTA: The White House strategy, flood the Iran debate zone, with social media showing all of the ways the agreement will block Tehran's path to a nuclear bomb. The president's loudest critics say the billions of dollars in sanctions relief coming Iran's way will do just the opposite.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: They're going to put it in their war machine. This is a death sentence for the state of Israel if this isn't changed.

ACOSTA: But if the deal works, it's an Obama legacy showpiece, right up there with health care reform, same-sex marriage and Cuba.

Congress has 60 days to review and block the deal. But much of that time will be during lawmakers' August recess, pushing a likely showdown to September.

OBAMA: I am confident that this deal with meet the national security interests of the United States and our allies. So I will veto any legislation that prevents the successful implementation of this deal.

ACOSTA: Leaders from both parties already have problems with the deal. Consider the dispute resolution process, which may take 30 days to break through any Iranian opposition to inspections at suspicious sites, 30 more if the U.N. gets involved.

SEN. ROBERT MENENDEZ (D), NEW JERSEY: The deal doesn't provide for anytime/anywhere inspections.


ACOSTA: The president phrases it differently.

OBAMA: Simply, the organization responsible for the inspections, the IAEA, will have access where necessary, when necessary.

ACOSTA: Others wonder what happened to the president's comments in 2013, when he suggested Iran would give up some of its facilities.

OBAMA: We know that they don't need to have a underground fortified facility like Fordow in order to have a peaceful nuclear program.

REP. ED ROYCE (R), CALIFORNIA: The president told us that Iran doesn't need to have an underground facility like Fordow in order to have a peaceful nuclear program. Yet this military complex will now stay open.


ACOSTA: But the big question comes down to this. Do the deal's opponents in Congress have the two-thirds vote needed to override a presidential veto, the one that he promised earlier today?

The answer from both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue is, no, they don't. The president likes to say he will have enough time during the duration of his life to see whether or not this deal fails. Now it's all but certain he will have that chance, John, and he will have another chance to address these questions tomorrow, when he holds a news conference here at the White House -- John.

BERMAN: Be interesting to hear.

Jim Acosta at the White House, thanks so much.

Two-thirds is a high hurdle, but one senator, he is intent on beating that hurdle. He's been critical from the very beginning of this deal, Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas. He called the deal a dangerous mistake. We will talk to him next.


BERMAN: All right. Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm John Berman, in for Jake Tapper.

It took almost two years to broker this nuclear deal with Iran. Now, President Obama and his administration have 60 days to convince Congress that the deal is good for U.S. national security. This sell job, though, is going to be tough, especially with people like Senator Tom Cotton, Republican from Arkansas who is roundly entrenched against this deal.

He is joining me now.

Senator Cotton, thanks so much for being with us.


BERMAN: Senator, you put out a statement today where you call this deal a dangerous mistake. You say it is going to make the path -- pave the path for Iran to get a nuclear weapon. But isn't that path more difficult if two-thirds of the centrifuges go away, if 98 percent of the enriched uranium goes away? Isn't that path to a nuclear bomb at a minimum a longer path?

COTTON: Unfortunately, no, John. It barely would link them to time. But we really need to step back and think about the nature of Iran's regime. This is an anti-America terror-sponsoring outlaw regime that has the blood of hundreds of American soldiers on its hands from Iraq and Afghanistan.

And at root, we are giving Iran sanctions relieve and we are giving international legitimacy to their nuclear and their government while they're not surrendering their nuclear program. Whether they follow the deal or whether they violate the deal, they will still have a nuclear program and be on the threshold of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles and in the meantime, they'll still get billions of dollars of sanctions relief and the arms embargo will be lifted against them so they can use that money to destabilize the Middle East and threaten American interests.

BERMAN: I think the administration would agree with you on a few points. Number one, Iran will get money. They'll get sanctions relief, maybe $100 billion. Iran, five or eight years into this deal, will have the arms embargo lifted.

But where the administration disagrees with you, Senator, is on the breakout time. They say they extend the breakout time, the time it would take Iran to get a nuclear bomb, from two months where it is now to a year. If that is true, is that not important?

COTTON: Well, I think there's real dispute about whether it would extend the breakout time that far. But again, even if Iran obeys their obligations under this deal, which might be the first time the ayatollah's ever done so, they're still talking about an eight- to ten-year sunset period.

Just nine years ago, I was in Iraq, and Iran was supplying roadside bombs that could destroy any vehicle in the American inventory. That was just nine years ago. Do we really Iran is going to change in the next nine years?

And if they don't, they're going to have nuclear arms on ballistic missiles with a healthy economy, and a military that is well-funded. I think that's an unacceptable outcome. The American people will repudiate it, and Congress will reject it.

BERMAN: What's the breakout time today? Or what do you think the breakout time was last week or two weeks ago?

COTTON: Best estimates today are around two to three months, according to public sources. That's actually been reduced during the last six years of the Obama administration. There is some dispute about whether it will be extended to a year or not.

But remember, when President Obama started us down this path, the goal was for Iran to dismantle their nuclear program, not to manage --


COTTON: -- not to manage it, not to slow it down, but that Iran had to dismantle their nuclear program. In exchange, the West would dismantle sanctions. We've come far from that objective.

BERMAN: Understood. But where we are today is this, what do you support? What would you say the alternative is -- the sanctions regime that is in place, it hasn't stopped Iran from moving toward a nuclear weapon? They have, what, 20,000 centrifuges. That's under a sanctions regime which I think you support.

COTTON: Well, I would have imposed much stronger sanctions as I voted for two years ago. But, unfortunately, this administration lobbied Congress hard not to pass those. After Congress kills this deal, we need to re-impose those sanctions and impose tougher sanctions and most important, we have to restore the credible threat of military force --

BERMAN: Right.

COTTON: -- which in the end is the only thing that these ayatollahs understand and the only way to bring them into compliance with the demands of the civilized world.

BERMAN: Senator, you wrote a letter to the Iranian leaders and the ayatollahs, basically educating them on the American system. It didn't seem to have the effect you desired. They still went ahead and made the deal here.

Do you intend to follow up with another letter now? COTTON: Well, I think we made our point perfectly clear in the

original letter. That if Congress doesn't ratify an agreement like this as a treaty, then no future president nor a future Congress is obligated to obey the terms of this deal.

[16:20:06] And as you've seen in the last 24 hours, many presidential candidates have repudiated the agreement and said they will rescind it on day one of their presidency.

BERMAN: All right. Senator Tom Cotton, thank you very much for being with us. Really appreciate it, sir.

COTTON: Thank you, John.

BERMAN: I want to turn now to Democratic Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard from Hawaii. She is an Iraq war veteran and a member of the House Armed Services and Foreign Affairs Committee. She will be part of whatever hearings will take place over the next few weeks regarding this measure.

Representative, you had a chance -- a preliminary chance to look at this. What's your first impression?

REP. TULSI GABBARD (D), HAWAII: That we will need as Congress to maximize the next 60 days to really dig into the details of this deal. This is a document that we just received or was made public this morning, over 150 pages. And it's important for us when you consider the magnitude of this deal to really seek the expert opinions from those who have studied these areas in great depth and to be able to ultimately make the best decision for the American people.

I think that it's important for leaders in our country right now to not politicize this issue, not use this as a way that they may try to take political gain and really murkying the waters as we try to focus on really what's going to be in the best interest of the United States and getting to that outcome of preventing Iran from obtaining or developing a nuclear weapon.

BERMAN: Some of the things inside the deal that critics have pointed to, number one, sanctions relief, they're going to get upwards of $100 billion right back. Are you concerned that Iran could use some of that money and use it quickly to help terrorists around the world?

GABBARD: Well, I think you've got to take it one step previously before that, John. I think if you look at sanctions relief, it's important that we make sure that these sanctions are phased out and that we can ensure compliance, first of all.

BERMAN: Right.

GABBARD: And second of all, if you don't have that compliance, really how realistic are these so-called snapback sanctions? I think that's a key component. The other key area that I'm going to be looking at very closely is one of the inspections regime. You know, that particular portion of this agreement is so critical to any kind of enforcement of it. If you don't have access anywhere anytime in Iran, then enforcement becomes something really that's impossible to do.

BERMAN: Anywhere anytime at least with the preliminary reading appears to be like 24 days, anywhere anytime. If that level of access is so crucial to you, does that mean you can't vote in support of this deal?

GABBARD: Well, again, like I said, it's important for us, it's important for the American people to dig down and read into the details of exactly what they're proposing, what the timelines are, what that process is and making sure that it is not inhibiting the access of these international inspectors.

So, I think it's preliminary to jump out and say, well, yes or no. I think we've got to really do our due diligence and dig into this deal before jumping out and taking a position.

I just want to mention really how real the impacts of this deal are. My constituents in Hawaii know better than most because we are in the crosshairs of North Korea. When you look at some of the same people who negotiated the North Korea nuclear deal, also negotiated this deal, it's cause for some skepticism, because we know nuclear -- we know North Korea has nuclear warheads. We know they have long-range missiles, which can reach Hawaii, can reach my constituents. And so, this is something that is -- that is very real.

BERMAN: As it stands right now, you're not a yes vote, at least not today. You're going to take the full 60 days.

Representative Gabbard, thanks so much for being with us.

GABBARD: Thank you, John. Aloha.

BERMAN: All right. A brand-new poll just out puts Donald Trump at the top of the Republican pack for 2016. He's also joined the ranks of those blasting the new deal with Iran. You will hear what he has to say. He would do differently. We have a one-on-one interview.

And in the national lead, her family crashed in the mountains. Her grandparents feared dead. So, how did a 16-year-old girl manage to survive the ordeal and get help?


[16:28:16] BERMAN: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm John Berman, in for Jake Tapper today.

Our national lead, she is a 16-year-old girl being hailed as a superhero by the county sheriff. Autumn Veatch is alive after she tells authorities that the small plane she was traveling in with her step grandparents crashed in the wilderness of Washington state. She says she managed to hike alone through rugged terrain and mountains for two days before being rescued once she reached a highway.

Her step grandparents are feared dead as crews continue to search for any wreckage.

Let's bring in CNN's Dan Simon, who's outside the hospital where the teenage girl is now recovering -- Dan.


We're just outside of the main entrance to the hospital. And inside the teenager, 16-year-old Autumn Veatch, seems to be doing remarkably well. She came in a bit dehydrated with some bumps and scratches and burns after literally clawing her way to safety. This all happened after her plane en route from Montana to Washington state crashed into a mountainside, the teenager being the sole survivor.


AUTUMN VEATCH, CRASH SURVIVOR: I have a lot of burns on my hands. And I'm kind of covered in bruises and scratches and stuff.

SIMON (voice-over): Sixteen-year-old Autumn Veatch told a 911 operator she escaped with just minor injuries after a traumatic private plane crash that on Saturday killed her step grandparents.

VEATCH: We crashed and I was the only one that made it out.

INTERVIEWER: OK. Made it out from the collision or --

VEATCH: From the plane.

INTERVIEWER: -- or survived?

VEATCH: Yes, the only one that survived.

SIMON: She says she wound up at this general store after a lengthy trek through thick woods.

RICK DELUC, STORE OWNER: Clearly rattled and, you know, shaken by the experience. And I think physically the fact she hadn't eaten for two days I think had a lot to do with it as well.

SIMON: Authorities say Veatch was traveling with Leland and Sharon Bowman.