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Reporting Indicates Misreading of Intelligence Led to Increased Military Buildup Between Iran and U.S.; Transcript of Voicemail Left for Michael Flynn by President Trump's Lawyer Released; IRS Faces Deadline Today On Subpoena For Trump's Tax Returns; Pelosi: Trump "Gives Grounds For Impeachment" Every Day; Trump Unveils New "Merit- Based" Immigration Plan; WSJ: Intel Suggests U.S., Iran Misread Each Other's Actions; Walmart & Macy's Raising Prices Due To Trade War; SAT To Assign New "Adversity Score" To Level Playing Field; Sanders Kicking Off Tour Through Southern States. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired May 17, 2019 - 08:00   ET


[08:00:00] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: People have had too many donuts in the control room.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: They're gaslighting you.


BERMAN: They're gaslighting you. It says it's Thursday. It's not.

CAMEROTA: It's not. It's Friday, and it is 8:00 in the east. And this is our final show in this studio. And you can tell, I feel like some people have already left.

BERMAN: And you're Alisyn Camerota, not Dana Bash.

CAMEROTA: That's right, until Halloween.

Meanwhile, up first, new court documents just unredacted about former national security adviser, now convict, Michael Flynn. He told investigators that people on President Trump's team, or Congress, contacted him to potentially obstruct the Russia investigation. Flynn provided Mueller with a voicemail from the president's attorney about how he tried to influence the outcome. So which member of the Trump team was it? And which members of Congress were trying to influence this? We will get into all of that.

BERMAN: Also new this morning, Iran and the United States, are they on the brink of a conflict over what could be nothing more than a misreading of intelligence? The "Wall Street Journal" reports that leaders in Tehran thought an attack from the U.S. was coming and that they were preparing for a counterstrike. The U.S. thought Iran was preparing an attack, leading the Trump administration to boost their military presence in the Middle East.

Joining us now, Kaitlan Collins, CNN White House Correspondent, and Ian Bremmer, President of the Eurasia Group. Ian, I want to start with this "Wall Street Journal" reporting. Let me read it to you right now. It's either the guns of August or gift of the magi, two misunderstandings that can be very dangerous here. "Intelligence collected by the U.S. government shows Iran's leaders believed the U.S. planned to attack them, prompting preparation by Tehran for possible counterstrikes according to one interpretation of the information. That view of the intelligence could help explain why Iranian forces and their allies took action that was seen as threatening to U.S. forces in Iraq and elsewhere, prompting a U.S. military buildup in the Persian Gulf region and drawdown of U.S. diplomats in Iraq."

IAN BREMMER, PRESIDENT, EURASIA GROUP: Yes, we wanted them to do something. The old status quo was we pulled out of the Iranian nuclear deal, everyone else stuck with it, it was hurting the Iranian economy but not enough to move them, and so they were waiting Trump out. Everybody in the administration knew that. So as a consequence, the U.S. had to continue to escalate to either get all of the other countries to back away from Iran and show that they are not going to help, but also to get the Iranians to move away from the deal. And that's basically where we're at now.

CAMEROTA: So it was the U.S. that escalated, not Iran that escalated?

BREMMER: No, we've escalated all the way through. We had a limited nuclear deal under Obama. We pulled out, that's an escalation.


BREMMER: Nobody moved. And then we continued to push.

CAMEROTA: But I mean in the past 10 days because some of the intelligence, or at least what we've been told, is that it was Iran that was escalating. They were moving missiles on to a boat.

BREMMER: Look, there is always going to be a misjudgment. When you talk about the U.S. and Iran, for us the most important date in history is 1979 when you had the revolution and they occupy our embassy. For them it's 1954 when we have a coup against their previous government. There's always going to be that sense of who is the one that has escalated. In the last few weeks we are the ones that have been escalating on sanctions against the Iranian economy.

BERMAN: But my question to Jeff Merkley, Democratic senator, moments ago was do you think John Bolton is trying to force Iran into a war? Do you think that John Bolton is trying to bring on a conflict? You seem to be at least suggesting the answer might be sort of yes.

BREMMER: I think at the very least Bolton wants to create more instability around the Iranian regime, wants to make it more likely that this government will start to have the kind of internal dissent that you've seen in Venezuela. I think in the case of Secretary of State Pompeo, he's trying to put enough pressure on the Iranian government that they move out of the Iranian deal and that the Europeans and other countries end up closer to the U.S. than they are right now.

In the case of Trump, I actually think he's trying to force the Iranians into a place of submission to engage directly with him so he can show that he's the guy that does the big new deal. The fact that you have three people in the administration, all of whom have different intentions of what to do with this escalation, does make it a little more challenging to get to a good outcome.

CAMEROTA: Kaitlan, I don't know if Venezuela should be the model that they're following. It didn't go well in terms of the intelligence, or at least what the White House was thinking would be the outcome.


CAMEROTA: So I don't know if they're getting the best advice here.

COLLINS: And that's a lot -- has so much to do with the president's frustration with John Bolton in recent days. It's not just over Iran. It's the president doesn't like this idea that John Bolton is running the national security realm inside the West Wing. The president wants to looks like he's doing it.

But he's particularly frustrated with John Bolton because of that narrative that has been emerging in recent days, but also because he does feel like they were misled about what was happening in Venezuela because he thought that the intelligence showed that it was going to a bring about a change in regime there a lot quicker than it did. So you're seeing this internal divide inside the West Wing of the president and his national security team because he doesn't want to look like he's being led into war by John Bolton.

BERMAN: Talk to me more about this, because you have got some great reporting on this along with the CNN team. How divisive is it, and how are we supposed to read some of the president's public statements that he actually wants a dialogue with Iran?

[08:05:00] COLLINS: Well, they are working on that. The president - so they had the Swiss at the White House yesterday because it does seem that they are trying to establish some kind of backchannel so they could talk. And you saw the president saying as much publicly when people were talking about the aggressive moves, and he said, no, I think they're going to want to talk soon.

That's where the president's head is at. He's telling people he does not want to go to war with Iran. Now he seems to feel like he's at odds with John Bolton. Then there's also Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who doesn't want to be looped in with John Bolton, and he is more attuned to what the president wants, and if he wants to pursue a diplomatic channel here, he's going to follow that.

But it's very interesting to see that the president with his own national security adviser often mocks him privately, or in front of other world leaders, saying that John Bolton wants to invade countries, start wars. So that is a conflict emerging between the two of them to keep an eye on.

CAMEROTA: What about Acting Defense Secretary Shanahan, is it time for not an acting defense secretary? Is it time to have a real one?

BREMMER: Certainly the fact that he's more operational and isn't really a policy guy, so he doesn't have the same level -- even if he was the secretary of defense, he would not be a significant voice in determining what the policy outcome here.

But I want to be clear here. I don't think the concern is 120,000 troops on the ground and invading Iran at all. I think that the concern is you get an accident, you end up with a military confrontation that could lead to a couple bombs flying. And in the case of Iran, the impact that would have on disrupting traffic through the Straits of Hormuz, really raising oil prices globally, that's what is plausible now that wasn't a few months ago.

And we know that Trump doesn't want the sort of disruption that could really impact the markets. He likes showing that he's tough, he doesn't mind landing a couple hits, he didn't mind bombing Syria when they were using chemical weapons, but that was a big win, that was over chocolate cake, Xi Jinping and the next day, no problem.

In the case of Iran you can't quite do that, and Trump is aware of that. so I do think Bolton is leading Trump. Bolton would be very happy to have Iran get wrapped on the knuckles really hard and have America look strong with the Saudis, with the emirates, and others. Trump would not be happy with that, and that's where I think the divide is.

BERMAN: Big change of gears here to this reporting about Michael Flynn. Unredacted legal filings give us a new insight into what was going on just before Michael Flynn cut a deal with Robert Mueller's team. There's a transcript here, so I'm not going to do it, but there's a transcript of a conversation inside the Mueller report which gets into the fact that Flynn's team was called by John Dowd, and it basically told you need to share with us any information that the Mueller team is asking you about. By the way, the president loves Michael Flynn. So we knew that, that was in the Mueller report.

What's new -- what's new is this unredacted filing from overnight which says that Michael Flynn informed the government of multiple instances both before and after his guilty plea where either he or his attorneys received communications from persons connected to the administration or Congress, which is odd, that could have affected both his willingness to cooperate and the completeness of that cooperation. This gets to whether the president's team was trying to push Michael Flynn into not cooperating.

COLLINS: Yes, and if you look at this voicemail that was left to Michael Flynn at the end, it says, remember how the president feels about Flynn. That is sending a pretty clear message. And the president has often tweeted talking about Michael Flynn, saying that he's a good guy, sending a certain message. So now this raises questions about what it is that they were trying to communicate, and also raises questions about the Attorney General Bill Barr's decision about obstruction of justice.

Another thing it does show is the depth that Michael Flynn helped the Special Counsel here and what he revealed to them, because they likely would not have known about this voicemail unless he told them that explicitly. So it does tie into what he helped him do, which is what his team was trying to argue when they were trying to get him a lesser sentence. But it plays a stunning role about what the president's own lawyer was doing.

CAMEROTA: I think it's worth reading it. I think it's worth reading because it's unredacted.

BERMAN: I defer.

CAMEROTA: I think it's worth reading the verbatim from this voicemail so that everybody knows what the president's lawyer was telling Michael Flynn.

Here it is. "It wouldn't surprise me if you've gone on to make a deal with the government. If there's information that implicates the president, then we've got a national security issue. So, you know, we need some kind of heads up, um, just for the sake of protecting all our interests if we can. Remember what we've always said about the president and his feelings towards Flynn, and that still remains." Listen, I can't hear the inflection, but the words and the "ums" and the suggestions here, it just sounds like a strange voicemail to leave.

COLLINS: And remember John Dowd was the president's lawyer who was caught talking to another one of the president's legal team members outside of a restaurant in Washington, very loudly, overheard by a reporter, about the special counsel's special. Then he's calling the former national security adviser.

[08:10:04] Reading that, if you think about the voicemail if you got that on your phone you would know it's a pretty clear message that you're receiving there, and it shows what the president's legal team at that time, the message they were trying to send to someone who had a lot of damaging information about the president and the White House.

BERMAN: Ian Bremmer, 10 seconds or less, are you still as bullish as you were on a trade deal with China?

BREMMER: No. No, I'm less bullish because Trump just decided to really put the screws on Huawei. He wants cooperation from the Europeans and the rest, but that's really going to upset the Chinese. If he wants to use it as a point of leverage, it's helpful, but it's in the balance right now.

BERMAN: That's a big shift from you for the last few months.

BREMMER: Yes, that's right.

BERMAN: Ian, Kaitlan, thank you very much.

The Trump administration making it very clear they will continue to stonewall Congressional investigations. So what can House Democrats do? Congresswoman Maxine Waters, who is very much in the middle of this, joins us next.



BERMAN: Today is the latest deadline for the Treasury Department and IRS to hand over the president's tax returns to Congress. But Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin, has hinted that they will not comply. Now, the treasury secretary is set to testify before the House Financial Committee next Wednesday. Joining us now is the chair of that Committee Congresswoman, Maxine Waters. Thank you so much for joining us.

Madam Chairwoman, let me ask you this. The House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, who has publicly said she does not think that impeachment is the right move right now had a different take on it yesterday, where she did seem to acknowledge that impeachment would provide the House with certain powers. Listen to what she said.



NANCY PELOSI, SPEAKER OF THE U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: We have to exhaust every other remedy on the way. And, again, use the tools at our disposal, even if that means saying, one possible use of this investigation might be impeachment, even though I don't want to go to that place. But, if that's what protects us in court.


BERMAN: Do you feel as if the speaker is moving closer to your opinion, which is more or less impeachment now?

WATERS: I don't know, but I've always believed that if the information about this president, and his involvement with Russia and Putin, and the oligarchs in the Kremlin. And, if we but look at Muellers report, and see where he clearly defines that he's obstructed justice, that people will increasingly come to the conclusion that impeachment is inevitable.

This president has done everything that one could even think of to be eligible for impeachment, and the Constitution basically gives us the power to deal with someone who has not acted in the best interests of this country, who is unfit to be president.

And so, I don't know if Nancy Pelosi is moving closer but I suspect that the information is becoming overwhelming. And, it's very interesting what Michael Flynn is saying about the contacts that were made with him, trying to influence him, trying to basically frighten him, if he in fact, you know, gave information in the investigation. So, I'm hopeful that the American public will support impeachment.

BERMAN: The American public doesn't. We know that based on the polling, and we also know that up until now the House Speaker hasn't supported impeachment.

WATERS: That's right. That's right.

BERMAN: Have you been frustrated with House leadership on their response to your calls for impeachment?

WATERS: Well, no, I'm never frustrated, because someone does not think as I think, or don't believe as I believe. I just think it is my responsibility to be true to my beliefs, and to honor my own thoughts, and to be able, after I have done my analysis and my own investigation, to be able to speak truth to power, and I do that no matter what anyone else does.

BERMAN: All right. A few weeks ago you had the Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin, before your committee.


BERMAN: And it got heated. Let me play a little bit for our audience.

WATERS: All right. OK.


STEVEN MNUCHIN, U.S. TREASURY SECRETARY: Sat here for over three hours and 15 minutes. If you'd wish to keep me here, so that I don't have my important meeting and continue to grill me, then we can do that. I will cancel my meeting, and I will not be back here. I will be very clear, if that's the way you'd like to have this relationship.

MAXINE WATERS, HOUSE FINANCIAL SERVICES COMMITTEE CHAIRWOMAN: You are free to leave anytime you want. You may go anytime you want.

MNUCHIN: Please dismiss everybody. I believe you're supposed to take the gravel, and bang at that --

WATERS: Please do not instruct me as to how I am to conduct this committee.


BERMAN: All right. So, that was then. He said he wasn't going to come back if you kept him there. He is coming back.

WATERS: He's coming back.

BERMAN: Have you had discussions with him since then.

WATERS: No, we have not talked since then. He is coming back. We have about 18 members on our committee that did not get an opportunity to ask the questions. And so, we expect him to be back, and we expect our members to have the opportunity to ask the questions.

But, you know, the elephant in the room is going to be about his refusal to turn over the tax returns that has been requested of him. And, he has said that he did not have any conversation with the president, or with anybody in the administration. He made this decision on his own. Well, I question that.

BERMAN: Were you asking that under oath?

WATERS: I may ask him, or I may allow someone to ask him, but it's going to be ask.

BERMAN: Do you feel that he should be held in contempt. It would be by the Ways and Means Committee, not your committee, if he does not comply.


WATERS: Well, the law basically says that he should turn them over. That he should, when it is requested, I guess in the right way, and it is being requested. I want you to know that the Chair of Ways and Means has been very careful about the way that he's approached this. And, I think the law says "shall" in referring to what he must do.

BERMAN: I want to ask you.


BERMAN: I'm sorry, I didn't mean to interrupt you.

WATERS: That's all right.

BERMAN: But I did want to ask you about the president's Rose Garden event yesterday --


BERMAN: -- where he hosted changes to legal immigration, changing the ratio between those admitted, because of family connections here, and as he puts it a merit-based system. Now, he didn't talk about the Dreamers, and I heard Democrats say, no deal. If we're not getting anything on the Dreamers. But, the Dreamers aside for a second, would you be open to some changes in who is admitted to the country legally?

WATERS: Well, we need comprehensive immigration reform that takes in consideration those people who are in the country illegally, takes into consideration whether or not there would be employment efforts, where people would not necessarily be given, you know, citizenship status. But, that would be some way by which they could apply labor to help with our economy. I think that all of these things should be taken in consideration. Asylum, those people whose lives are threatened. All of these things should be taken into consideration.

There should be comprehensive immigration reform and not immigration reform that is based on exciting and inciting those people who have negative thoughts about others coming across our border, and basically working to use that information to promote himself in a campaign. And, I think some of that is very racist. It is not keeping with what this country is supposed to be all about. It is not what the Statue of Liberty portends.

BERMAN: What exactly --


BERMAN: -- just so our viewers know, are you saying is racist there? WATERS: Well, you know, this business about you must speak English. We're going to give you points for speaking English. And, we don't want poor people. We only want those people who are earning substantial wages already. All of those things are not keeping in step with the way that we treat human beings. And, even the fact that, you know, he used to talk about chain migration, when you were able to help others in the family come. He's going to limit that. And, I think that some of those policies are racist.

BERMAN: We just had Ian Bremmer on who said he's very bearish on a U.S. trade deal with China at this point. Are you supportive, because many Democrats are. Chuck Schumer was saying bravo to the president for being tough on China about a deal just now. Were you supportive of the tariffs?

WATERS: No. Let me say this. I think that it is unwise for the president of the United States to make these policies in a vacuum all by himself. He does not appear to have the expertise, and the kind of support that gives you credible information about these decisions.

In my state of California, the farmers are hurting. We have nuts, we have wines, we have products that many of our business people depend on. And it does job creation. And so, I don't think that the president has approached this in a way that is good for this country. The price of goods coming in from China are going to go up for our consumers. I think that if he wants to do real trade, or change trade, he needs to be in negotiations. He needs to talk about what makes good sense for this country, and our businesses. And, I think the bluffing is over, and China retaliated, because they know he's a bluffer now.

BERMAN: Chairwoman Maxine Waters, thank you so much for coming on New Day. Look forward to speaking to you again soon.

WATERS: Well, you're certainly welcomed, and thank you.

BERMAN: Alison.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: And John, the company that administers the SAT exam making a major change to try to level the playing field. We have all the details next.



BERMAN: It's time now for the five things to know for your New Day. Newly unsealed court documents reveal that Michael Flynn helped the Special Counsel's obstruction investigation that convicted former National Security Adviser. Says people connected to the Trump administration, or Congress contacted him to discuss his cooperation. Flynn even gave Mueller's team a voicemail.

CAMEROTA: A new report says the escalations between Iran and the United States may be the result of a misunderstanding, or misreading of intelligence. The "Wall Street Journal" reports that U.S. intelligence shows that Iranian leaders believe the U.S. was planning to attack them, prompting Tehran to prepare to strike back.

BERMAN: President Trump unveiling his broad merit-based immigration plan. It calls for fast-tracking young English-speaking, and as he puts it more educated immigrants, and turning away more asylum seekers at the border. The plan offers no protections for Dreamers, which Democrats say they will not support.

CAMEROTA: America's largest retailer Walmart says it will raise prices on some of its products, because of President Trump's tariffs on China. Macy's is following suit announcing price hikes, because of the trade war.

BERMAN: A Diversity Score adversity is being added to the SAT test. The College Board says it will take into account a student's social and economic background, measuring factors including the crime rate and poverty levels in their neighborhoods. For more on the five things to know go to Day for the very latest.

CAMEROTA: All right. 2020 hopeful, Bernie Sanders, is kicking off a four-day tour through the south today. Democratic candidate hoping to shore up support in states where Joe Biden is currently leading in the polls. Joining us now to discuss this and more is Andrew Gillum, former Tallahassee Mayor, and last year's Democratic nominee for Florida governor. Morning Mayor.

ANDREW GILLUM, FORMER MAYOR OF TALLAHASSEE: Good morning Alisyn, I hope you well.

CAMEROTA: We are doing well. So, let's talk about Bernie Sanders. He's obviously hoping to shore up his base in the south. What do you think that Bernie Sanders needs to do to appeal to African-American voters, in particular.

GILLUM: Yes. Well, I'm pleased to see Senator Sanders once again making his way south. He joins a number of other candidates who have made campaigning across the south a really important part of their strategy. And, I mean, beyond just South Carolina, all those South Carolina --