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Pompeo Meets With Putin Amid Tensions With Iran; Trump Says U.S. In Very Strong Position In Trade War With China; Trump Threatens To Slap Tariffs On Call Chinese Imports; Barr Taps Prosecutor To Review Origins Of Russia Probe; Interview With Rep. Don Beyer. Aired 10-10:30a ET
Aired May 14, 2019 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN NEWSROOM: Another nine people injured.
According to Princess Cruise Line, some of the victims were royal princess guests out on an excursion. The NTSB is now investigating the crash.
A very good morning to you. It's a busy one. I'm Jim Sciutto. Poppy is off today.
We begin this hour with what the Russian Foreign Minister calls the, quote, sad state of U.S.-Russia relations and the worldwide tensions that result from it. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo just held talks with his Russian counterpart in Sochi on the Black Sea and is now preparing to sit down with Russia's President, Vladimir Putin. That meeting is set for one hour from now, though Putin is well known for making his visitors wait, sending a message.
Iran, Syria, North Korea, Venezuela, Ukraine, all believed to be up for discussion, all issues on which the U.S. and Russia, under very different circumstances on very opposite sides.
Let's discuss now with Steve Hall, retired CIA Chief of Russia Operations. I mean, I'm having trouble getting my head around this because the U.S. and Russia are on opposite side of so many key national security issues, issues that Russia shows no interest in changing, in relenting on. So where is the potential for common ground here?
STEVE HALL, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, it's not just you, Jim. I think everybody can agree to start with all analysts that I have heard of saying, look, the United States should engage with Russia on areas where there are things that the United States has interests in. The question is, where do any of those interests overlap with Russia? And as you go down the list of things you just listed, it's difficult for me to imagine really any of them.
So let me tell you how I think the Russians are seeing this. First of all, whenever you get Pompeo or President Trump over to Russia, it's a big win politically for the Russians. It shows that they're still at the big boy table, that they are indeed geopolitically strong and can insert themselves in these situations.
But what the Russians are really taking away from this is that, okay, they can attack the elections in the United States in 2016, they can attack the elections in other western democracies, they can do all of those things to include kill their own people, this group (INAUDIBLE), or at least make attempts to do so internationally. And what happens? Secretary Pompeo shows up in Sochi and says, sure, let's talk about these things, whatever it is.
So with the exception of nuclear weapons treaties, I don't know why we're talking to Russia. We should be excluding them from everything, as should our western allies.
SCIUTTO: We have Matthew Chance in Russia as well to join the conversation. You heard Steve Hall there talking about a Russian approach to this where they see -- Putin sees he can play the U.S. President. I wonder if on the ground in Moscow, if that is the view you're hearing there.
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I don't think if you speak to Russian officials, they're going to express the view in such stark terms. But, clearly, they are extremely happy indeed that this meeting is taking place, even though it's against the backdrop of some very frustrating situations with regard to Iran and other issues between the two countries. I think they would have been very pleased to hear that Secretary Pompeo neglected to mention the issue of election meddling in the 2016 election in his initial remarks, and instead emphasized the areas of possible cooperation. And he identified counterterrorism and arms control as being two of those areas where they're not adversaries, he said, and he's right. These are relatively non-controversial areas, where the two could forge some kind of agreement.
But as Steve was just saying, you put that against all of the areas where, you know, the Russians are diametrically opposed to the United States, whether it's Syria, Venezuela, North Korea, and, of course, Iran. It's very difficult to see, you know, how and why the -- or how at least there's going to be common ground on those issues found between these two countries. Jim?
SCIUTTO: I mean, the other issue Pompeo quashed was a statement from the State Department condemning Russia's attempt to foment a coup in Montenegro, which is a U.S. -- a NATO ally, by the way. Steve Hall, I wonder then -- this is a difficult question. I wonder then if the only real area for potential progress here is the U.S. backing off on some of these issues that it has held the line on, for instance, Russia invading and occupying and taking control of part of a European country in Ukraine, Crimea, Eastern Ukraine, or continuing, because it's not just 2016, continuing to interfere in U.S. elections in 2018 and 2020, as U.S. officials constantly warn about. I mean, is that really, I mean, in stark terms, the only potential for progress is the President giving ground?
HALL: No, not at all. And I hope that the United States doesn't reward Russia for annexing Crimea and continuing to foment violence in the eastern part of Ukraine as well as all the other bad behaviors essentially that Putin is undertaking in the international realm.
Look, I don't think anybody would argue that we can only negotiate, only talk to the countries that we agree with, because that's sort of not the point of diplomacy. The point of diplomacy, another method, is to try to reach some conclusions beneficial to the United States.
But Russia -- one of Russia's goals here is to weaken the United States. And in many of these issues, we really don't need Russia's help in resolving issues like North Korea. Iran managed to insert themselves a little more so in, as in Syria. But, really, can the United States not figure that out together with our western allies without Russia's so-called help? There ought to be ways to do that. There ought to be creative diplomacy that can accomplish that. I would hope so.
SCIUTTO: Yes. I mean, U.S. allies did not give Pompeo the warmest reception in Brussels on his way there, didn't give him a kind of group meeting, as he had asked for.
Matthew Chance, I wonder on Iran, people may forget that Russia was a signatory and remains a signatory to the Iran nuclear deal, supports staying in that deal. Should we expect Putin to be lobbying Pompeo and the Trump administration to somehow find their way back to that deal or at least not blow it up more?
CHANCE: Well, I think we can certainly expect that. I mean, Russia is pretty close to Iran. Actually, it's been one of the big sort of geopolitical shifts of the past several years. The fact that, historically, Russia and Iran have a relatively tense relationship, now they're ever closer, partly because of the fact that Russia sees it as an influential partner in the region. They fight side by side, remember in Syria, backing their joint government ally, Bashar al- Assad.
Russia has been providing nuclear technology, nuclear reactors inside Iran, and provides them with diplomatic and political cover at the United Nations. And, of course, they're both under U.S. economic sanctions and are both fundamentally opposed to the expansion of western and specifically American power globally and in the region. And so they've got this very tight relationship.
It's been, you know, something of a challenge for the Trump administration, the Obama administration before it, to try o drive a wedge between these two nations. But there's nothing I am seeing here that suggests that's likely, certainly not as a result of this Secretary of State visit to Russia.
SCIUTTO: Steve Hall, Matthew Chance, thanks very much. We know you're going to stay on top of it.
This morning, trade negotiations between the U.S. and China, the other global adversary and the two world's most powerful economies at a standstill, and judging by the latest blizzard of social media posts from President Trump, that's just fine with him. This morning, the President is again claiming the current state of mutually increasing tariffs is much better than any trade deal. But he also says he will make a deal when the time is right, which also the President continues to repeat a falsehood, that tariffs bring money into U.S. coffers. They do not. They are paid for by you and U.S. companies.
CNN's Kaitlain Collins is at the White House. Kaitlan, I can't help thinking about a speech last summer where the President told veterans what you're seeing and reading is not what's happening. Is that what the President is doing, creating a new reality, I mean, specifically on who is paying for tariffs?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. What you're seeing on Twitter is not exactly what's happening behind the scenes here. Because though the President is cheery and confident on Twitter about what's going on with China, behind the scenes, we're told there's been little to no movement essentially here, Jim, since that Chinese delegation left Washington without a deal on Friday.
Now, there's cautious optimism that something could still happen, that there still could be a deal, and we're told U.S. officials do expect to travel to Beijing again in the coming weeks for another trade meeting, but it's unclear when that meeting is going to happen, Jim, or what would happen once they got there. Would they start from scratch and try to do this trade -- start these trade talks all over again, or would they build off of what came to an impasse last week when the Chinese delegation was here in Washington?
Now, largely, the consensus here is that it won't be resolved until President Trump and President Xi are in the same room together and they can make a decision about this. And that's not going to happen until the G20 Summit at the end of next month.
So right now, there has been no movement. These talks are essentially at a standstill.
SCIUTTO: Kaitlan Collins, thanks very much, at the White House.
Let's discuss now with Dana Bash, CNN Chief Political Correspondent. Dana, so not a lot of folks are happy with the war, even Republican Senators. But it's your reporting that GOP Senators are willing to give President Trump space to try to find a deal with China. What does that mean and why?
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: They have been willing to give the President space. I'm hearing that. Our colleagues on the Hill, Phil Mattingly and Ted Barrett are also hearing that. But patience is also running thin and wearing thin, I should say. I heard that even this morning doing some reporting on this, Jim, because for obvious reasons.
Yes, the people who elected the President and in a lot of these, particularly the Ag states, this is Trump country. And they like the idea of a long-term solution for dealing with China. I mean, you yourself say in your new book, shameless plug (ph) here for you, that it is Chinese policy to lie, steal and cheat.
And people in the United States who do business with China understand that implicitly, inherently. So they have been willing for a long time to give the President running room.
But when you're talking about small businesses, like that Nick Valencia piece you ran a little while ago, or more importantly, the Ag producing states, the farmers, they have been hurting for a while with regard to this trade war. And they really want to see a solution because it has been potentially temporary when it comes to their hurt.
But now, they are worried, and I'm hearing this from people who represent farmers and also from -- you know, even heard it from people when I was out in those areas, covering some elections, they need to make sure that this isn't a permanent situation to do permanent damage to their businesses.
SCIUTTO: You mentioned the book, it's The Shadow War. It's out today. Thank you, Dana. She's clearly a good friend of mine, but it does talks about Russia and China fighting this kind of undeclared war on us.
Forgive me, because I had to smile a little bit when I saw this about GOP Senators giving the President a little leeway and time. Because it strikes me that isn't that the GOP platform on a whole host of issues here, you know? Give him space on Russia, China, the border, his own taxes.
SCIUTTO: Patience running thin. Is it? I mean, are they going to confront the President on this at some point?
BASH: I mean, that's a really legitimate question because that is the M.O. of republicans across the board. You know, let Trump be Trump. This, I think, could be different if it does drag on, because this really is the bread and butter of their constituents, again, particularly in these farm states. And so they understand the potential for a real long-term solution. But they also are feeling the real pain of -- right now, short-term pain, and it could be long- term pain.
But the thing that they also understand real quick, Jim, is that the President has changed his position over the decades on social issues, like abortion. This is something that has been in his core forever, I mean, since he began in business. He has been obsessed with the trade imbalance, obsessed with china in particular, and they understand he's not going to let this go anytime soon.
And the other silver lining that I hear is that, yes, it could hurt the good economy, but when else is best to do this other than during a good economy, because if the economy was bad, then it would be really detrimental.
SCIUTTO: Yes. And it strikes me on, for instance, North Korea, the President can talk about making progress that doesn't exist and kind of punt on that because folks will think it's like a million miles away. On U.S.-China trade, they feel it in their pocketbooks whether you're a consumer or a farmer. So how do democrats already campaigning in those key early voting states, like in Iowa where this has enormous effect, how are they responding to this, taking advantage of this?
BASH: Aggressively, absolutely aggressively. I mean, you mentioned Iowa. Let's just take one specific example. Joni Ernst, republican freshman senator from Iowa, she's up from re-election this year. And she has been one of those willing to give the President some time, but not a lot of time.
And she understands because she talks to her farmers every day that they are beginning to hurt and understands that Iowa is, when you're talking raw politics, a state that Barack Obama won a couple times. The President might have won by ten points, but it is potentially up for grabs on a presidential level, and certainly on this level of the Senate. And so that's a key political state where this issue, this trade issue, could have real political ramifications, never mind economic impact, and that's, of course, very much related.
SCIUTTO: No question. Dana bash, always good to have you on. I look forward to seeing you tonight.
SCIUTTO: We're going to be together again.
Attorney General Bill Barr investigating the investigators, tapping a federal prosecutor to look into the origins of the Russia probe. We're going to have the latest next.
Plus, truly a disturbing police involved shooting near Houston, Texas captured on video. An officer kills a woman who can actually be heard on the video shouting, I'm pregnant. We're going to have a live update on that story.
And Supreme Court Justice Stephen Beyer has a warning for his conservative colleagues. Be careful before overturning precedent. Is he signaling concern for Roe V. Wade? Stay with us.
SCIUTTO: In criticizing the Russia investigation, President Trump has demanded now an investigation of the investigators. And now, Attorney General Bill Barr is answering that call, choosing U.S. Attorney John Durham to review whether intelligence collection involving the Trump campaign and Russia was, quote, lawful and appropriate.
In the past, Durham has been chosen by both republican and democratic administrations to investigate corruption and other issues. This will now be the third separate probe into the early days of the Russia investigation.
With me now to discuss this and other issues, Democratic Congressman Don Beyer of Virginia.
He serves on the House Ways and Means Committee. Congressman, thank you for taking the time this morning.
REP. DON BEYER (D-VA): Thank you, Jim, very much.
SCIUTTO: So, first, your reaction to the Attorney General of the United States appointing a U.S. attorney to lead what is now the third investigation of the origins of the Russia probe. Is that necessary?
BEYER: I don't think it's necessary, but I'm reluctant to resist it. You know, we don't want to be in the same, that's a witch hunt mode that the President is in. And I think one of the things, when you have good people, whether it's Robert Mueller or the guy appointed today, that are respected by both sides, that do deep investigations, all we really want is the truth, so if he comes out with more clear evidence one way or the other. I think if I were Barr and the President, I would be a little careful about doing much more research into that because it's generally not going to help them.
SCIUTTO: Let me ask you this, and I appreciate your fairness on this issue, but also to be fair, the Director of the FBI, Trump's appointee to replace, of course, James Comey, Christopher Wray, testified under oath on Capitol Hill last week he's aware of no evidence of illegal spying or surveillance in the beginning of this Russia probe. Are you concerned that Barr is politically motivated to do the President' bidding rather than arrive at the truth?
BEYER: Yes, I am very much concerned about that. And certainly, Barr's redacted short letter on the Mueller report and then his awful testimony before the Senate gave all of us the impression he is much more the President's attorney rather than the Attorney General for the people of the United States.
But again, Jim, with Comey, with McCabe, with Wray, a series of very honorable people leading the FBI, I'm not worried about what they're going to find.
SCIUTTO: You sit, of course, on the House Ways and Means Committee, a committee, which by law, has the right to request anyone's tax returns, including the President's, and the committee has now done so and the President, as he has done to many requests now, virtually, every request from this Congress, is saying no, is refusing. Deadline Friday. What does your committee do if and when, likely, that deadline passes without action?
BEYER: Well, Jim, the early debate was do we subpoena the return or do we go right to court? Our Chairman made, I think, the wise decision to subpoena it first. But if the subpoena is neglected and rejected, then I think going to court is the next step. And it will be interesting to see whether Trump actually disobeys an order from a U.S. federal court. I certainly hope that he will not.
SCIUTTO: How long does that court process take though, in your view? This is a president who is not uncomfortable going to court. He did it as a businessman. He's doing it as president. And it seems part of the strategy here is to stretch this out as close to or beyond 2020 as possible.
BEYER: I think we're all worried about Trump running out the clock, you know, making it so that ultimately this is an irrelevant conversation because you're in the middle of a presidential campaign. But, unfortunately, we don't control that. So we're going to follow the process thoughtfully and legally as we can and hope that the clock doesn't run out.
In a perfect world, the court would say this is really important. Let's think about it, read it and make our judgment right away. And then if it goes to another court, we'll deal with that.
SCIUTTO: You're aware that for voters, particularly as 2020 advances, they place investigations and including the possibility of impeaching the President well below other priorities. We'll put the polling up on the screen. But the issues that out-Trump it, climate change, Medicare for all, action on guns, free public college, when you speak to your constituents, do they say to you, listen, man, enough already. Focus on other stuff, protect my health insurance, for instance. What do you hear from your constituents and are you concerned the party is running away from its constituents on this?
BEYER: I'm not concerned about that at all, Jim. In fact, if you look at what we have accomplished in these first four and a half months on everything from last week, we passed legislation in the House on preserving the waiver for pre-existing conditions. We have a big hearing this week on climate change. We've done -- we're going to have a vote, I think, on Friday on the Equality Act, you know, banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity and lots of other really important things, like a huge infrastructure plan right now. In theory, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer worked a deal with Trump two weeks ago on a $2 trillion infrastructure plan.
But there's a balance that we're trying to go through. On the one hand, we really want to focus on things that change people's lives. On the other hand, we have a responsibility to pay attention to the constitution. And if this president can lie thousands of times and do all kinds of things that are probably real obstruction of justice, it would be irresponsible of us to not try to hold him responsible.
SCIUTTO: Final question here.
Today, the Highlands Ranch Community in Colorado, they're going to hold a celebration of life for Kendrick Castillo, you'll remember this young student who gave his life trying to stop a gunman in his school. It's a story that we speak about on this program far too often and I'm sure you hear about and see far too often. I know that democrats have made efforts for gun control measures including universal background checks, which have passed in the House but you know is going to die in the Senate. What is the democratic strategy for beyond symbolic votes, getting change done, getting republican support so these measures actually become a reality?
BEYER: Jim, I think as long as republicans are in charge of the Senate, the White House, it's very much a long-term strategy. We're moving in the right direction. I believe that the NRA seems to be crumbling under corruption charges for the first time in American -- at least recent American history. More people think negatively about the NRA than positively. Even our Universal Background Check Bill we passed in the House is supported by something like three quarters of NRA members.
So we're moving things in the right direction. My perfect world, of course, is that democrats take back the Senate in 2020 with a democratic president and then we can make some really big strides right away. In the meantime, we have to continue to point out we can respect the right of individuals to own weapons in this country, but we need to keep them out of the hands of the dangerously mentally ill and criminals. That's what our legislation does.
SCIUTTO: It seems like a simple rule. Congressman Don Beyer, thanks for joining the show this morning.
BEYER: Thank you, Jim, very much.
SCIUTTO: A woman who said she was pregnant, shot and killed by a police officer at a Texas apartment complex. Their deadly encounter caught in a disturbing video. Now, police want to talk to the witness who was behind the camera.