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Trump Fires Back at GOP Congressman's Talk of Impeachment; Jared Kushner Unveils Middle East Peace Plan. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired May 19, 2019 - 16:00   ET


[16:00:00] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: He goes on to say, "President Trump engaged in specific actions and a pattern of behavior that meet the threshold for impeachment. America's institutions depend on officials to uphold both the rules and spirit of our constitutional system even when to do so is personally inconvenient or yields a politically unfavorable outcome."

And now President Trump is calling out Amash, saying, "Never a fan of Justin Amash, a total lightweight who opposes me and some of our great Republican ideas and policies just for the sake of getting his name out there through controversy."

CNN's Boris Sanchez is live for us at the White House. So tell us more about the president's sentiments on this and how much further he plans to take it.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fred, President Trump not holding back on Twitter, essentially suggesting that Congressman Amash is doing this for publicity. Take a look at the two tweets that the president sent out earlier today. He makes the case that Amash did not actually read the Mueller report because he didn't mention anything about no obstruction. The president has repeated this claim that Mueller exonerated him on obstruction of justice when, in fact, Mueller did not weigh in on that in the report.

He pointed out at least 10 occasions where the president tried to interfere in the Russia investigation and you could see there at the end of the tweet, the president calls Amash a loser who sadly plays right into our opponent's hands.

It's important to point out Justin Amash is really an outlier when it comes to Republicans' views on the Mueller report. Many more Republicans align themselves with people like Senator Mitt Romney, who spoke to Jake Tapper this morning on "STATE OF THE UNION." Listen to what Mitt Romney said.


SEN. MITT ROMNEY (R-UT): I respect him. I think it's a courageous statement. But I believe that to make a case for obstruction of justice, you just don't have the elements that are evidenced in this document. And I also believe that an impeachment call is not only something that relates to the law but also considers practicality and politics. And the American people just aren't there. And I think those that are considering impeachment have to look also at the jury, which would be the Senate. The Senate is certainly not there either.


SANCHEZ: Now, this is significant because it means that talk of impeachment is now bipartisan with at least one Republican, but even among Democrats in Congress, they're divided on the issue of impeachment. And the most powerful Democrat in Congress, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, has said that it's not something that she wants to pursue. She believes that Donald Trump should be voted out of office, even though she says that she believes that he conducts himself with impeachable behavior every single day, Fred.

WHITFIELD: Boris Sanchez, thank you so much.

All right. Joining me now to discuss, political reporter for Bloomberg, Sahil Kapur, and congressional correspondent for the "New York Times" Julie Hirschfeld Davis.

Good to see you all of you. All right. So, Sahil, you first. You know, what do you make of Amash's comments? Do you think that he will inspire other Republicans to say out loud what they think, just like he did?

SAHIL KAPUR, POLITICAL REPORTER, BLOOMBERG: Well, that is the key question. Does Justin Amash bring other Republicans along with him on the question of impeachment? Now the answer that most of my Democratic and Republican sources have to this is no. It's very significant in a way that Democrats now having the talking point that impeachment is a bipartisan issue. But beyond that, Justin Amash is kind of a caucus of one.

He is the least partisan Republican in Congress. He's one of the most willing to criticize President Trump. Si do other Republicans go along with him? Probably not, but this does strengthen Democrats' hands in a way, and that they now have more ammunition, rhetorically, at least, to demand the oversight requests, you know, in terms of Mueller testifying, in terms of the full Mueller report. In terms of things they want from Don McGahn. So it definitely plays into Democrats' hands in a sense.

WHITFIELD: So, Julie, Democratic congressman and 2020 hopeful Eric Swalwell tweeted this, saying, "I should note, Justin Amash was just one of two House GOP members who joined me and every House Democrat after 2016 election on bill to have an independent commission on Russia. Sadly, the other, Walter Jones, has passed. We need more GOP courage to put country over party."

He's calling on Republicans to take a stand. But we've also seen Democrats have waivered on the idea of impeachment. You know, Nancy Pelosi saying not there yet. But do you believe that other Dems will become impatient with that approach?

JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think that Democrats are already becoming impatient with that approach. And indeed, we've seen Nancy Pelosi and some of the chairmen of some of the top committees who are involved in this, you know, going back over the Mueller investigation to figure out what should come next really sort of rethinking where they should be and -- you know, what the pace should be at which they should investigate these things and should they move toward impeachment and re-evaluate what they have admitted is really a political decision not to go there yet.

But I think that, you know, one of the things that's significant about what Congressman Swalwell said, and you can see it if you read through Justin Amash's tweets, where he came out with his position, is, you know, this idea that more Republicans need to step up, you know, look at the actual facts, and do something that may be, in his words, you know, maybe inconvenient or politically hard but what, you know, in his view, in Congressman Amash's view, is the right thing to do.

[16:05:20] We have not seen a lot of Republicans be willing to break with their party over this. I don't expect that we will see that. I mean, I agree with Sahil that he doesn't bring a huge constituency with him, but it'll be interesting to see what other Republicans who may be wavering privately do with this declaration on Congressman Amash's part and whether they feel maybe more emboldened to say something themselves.

WHITFIELD: So, Sahil, what do you believe, you know, Congressman Amash is up to? I mean, you see the president's tweet. He says he's just trying to get attention.

KAPUR: Well, Congressman Amash tends to speak his mind. I don't think anyone would really take this away from him, his critics or his supporters. He has voted with President Trump on issues like repealing the Affordable Care Act and passing the 2017 tax law. He's voted against President Trump on things like declaring a national emergency to construct a wall. So he's ideologically principled in his libertarian views more so than he is partisan.

Now the other question I would ask about this is that does the fact that a Republican has come out for impeachment, at least said the president has committed impeachable offenses, motivate moderate Democrats who are in Republican districts to say what they really think on impeachment if they do think the president has committed impeachable offenses? They're reading the same polls that we are. That show the country is not there.

As Mitt Romney was accurately saying that support for impeachment is low and opposition is high, does this change the equation in terms of moderate Democrats coming out for it? That may be a more interesting thing to watch in the next couple of days and weeks.

WHITFIELD: And Julie, are Dems running out of time? I mean, the focus right now is the 2020 election. You've got a field of 23, you know, Democrats. And everyone is -- you know, in terms of the Democratic Party, everyone is trying to, you know, bring some focus to who the front runners will be in the long haul. Is impeachment just simply a distraction? Is there just not enough time?

HIRSCHFELD DAVIS: Well, I think that for the moment, we're likely to see congressional Democrats continue to take a pretty slow and deliberate approach here. They know that this is a politically very loaded thing. But at the same time, many of their presidential candidates are starting to talk about this in a more aggressive way. And they may not have as much time as they think they do because as the campaign really starts to gather momentum, they're going to have to come out with a position. And also, if they want to make any substantial progress in the investigations that they want to do, they're going to have to decide whether they're going to need to go that route in order to have more power to compel a kind of cooperation that they are going to need from the administration.

WHITFIELD: And the flip side to that, Sahil, won't it backfire for so many Dems who say they want to hold the president accountable and then they don't?

KAPUR: Well, that's precisely the concern that Speaker Pelosi and senior Democrats have. They don't want to overreach on this. They want to gather all the facts. They want bipartisan support, they said, which again Amash in a way gets them there. But they want a standard that is so -- that is so clearly met and can't be, you know, argued against easily by President Trump and can't play against them.

Now one thing to keep a close eye on here is that Democrats could theoretically open an impeachment inquiry without necessarily pursuing a vote. And it's important because that would strengthen their hand in terms of oversight requests. There is an argument that the administration can make that Democrats don't have a legislative reason for demanding that the Mueller report or for demanding testimony from Don McGahn or Robert Mueller. But it's very hard to say that they don't have an oversight justification for doing that when they've opened an investigation into whether the president has committed an impeachable offense.

And I'm told from Democrats in the House that there's increasing chatter about this issue. And Justin Amash's statement might play into that.

WHITFIELD: All right. Sahil Kapur, Julie Hirschfeld Davis, good to see you both. Thank you.

KAPUR: Thank you.


WHITFIELD: All right. Next, senior White House adviser Jared Kushner unveiling key details of his proposal for peace in the Middle East. It's first on CNN and we'll break it all down for you next.


[16:12:54] WHITFIELD: Welcome back. As first reported by CNN's Jake Tapper, the White House is unveiling the first part of its Middle East peace proposal. The plan is led by senior White House adviser and President Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner and focuses on economic development to help Palestinians. It calls for building out infrastructure and industry across the region and what's being called a workshop meeting of Middle East countries is planned for late June in Bahrain to discuss the proposal. The much stickier political component of the plan will be announced later in the year.

CNN diplomatic editor Nic Robertson joins me now from Abu Dhabi, and senior diplomatic correspondent Michelle Kosinski is in Washington.

Good to see you both. All right, so, Nic, you first. Palestinian leaders are already upset at the U.S. for moving its embassy to Jerusalem. So will they be on board for something like this?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: They're already indicating they're not or at least they're considering it. But the language that they're using at the moment seems to imply that they're considering it at a great distance, with a barge pole, if you will. We've heard from the Palestinian authority president Mahmoud Abbas, from his spokesman, and he says quite simply that an economic workshop is futile. He says that without a political horizon, there's no point in having an economic discussion, and there's no discussion that they're going to get into unless it has a map to getting a Palestinian state and East Jerusalem is the capital of that state. So a pretty strong indicator there that there's no big buy-in yet from the Palestinian side. They're not lining up to attend this economic workshop so far.

WHITFIELD: So, Michelle, so how will Jared Kushner, you know, have to go about selling this plan, you know, across the Middle East if already there's this reticence that's being expressed?

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT: Right. Well, that's what they're already trying to do. And remember, the Palestinians haven't been involved at all. They stopped talking to the U.S. when the U.S. took these actions to move the embassy without the consultation with the Palestinians, to give away the Golan Heights.

[16:15:01] So the Palestinians see the U.S. as being very one sided on this, on being for Israel, and giving away already some things that could be considered to be leverage to get the Israelis to concede some things in what ultimately would be an agreement. So the Palestinians are going to be angry about this from the start.

So what Kushner and his team is trying to do is clearly make this a kind of a sweetener. Like, let's have this economic workshop, and we'll show the world how many people, especially in the Arab world, are willing to commit to invest in Palestinian territory or are willing to build the Palestinian economy the way they're describing it as let's improve people's lives and show them all the potential that's out there so that they will ultimately agree with the political part of this which is largely seen as the big, the real part of this, which is going to be something that they likely won't like.

Because remember, this administration has moved away from the U.S. view that there needs to be a two-state solution. We don't even really expect a two-state solution to be part of this political plan. Kushner and team are emphasizing that the political part of this is going to be detailed. It is going to be extensive. But they're not saying one single thing about it. That doesn't indicate necessarily that it's going to be something that the Palestinians would like. So they're using this economic chunk in the hopes that they will ultimately go along with this or feel like they are railroaded into going along with this.

Big questions out there, like how many people are really going to be committed to investing now before the political element is unveiled and before people know whether the Palestinians are going to be remotely on board with this. So it's weird, and especially when reporters today ask questions of senior administration officials, even basic things like who's invited to this economic workshop, as they're calling it.

WHITFIELD: Because if a date is already out there, you would think that means that there are people --


WHITFIELD: -- countries that are already committed.

KOSINSKI: Yes, well --

WHITFIELD: So what was the answer? What did they say?

KOSINSKI: And who's invited, no answer to that. Have they been briefed on the political part of this plan, no answer to that. So there's very little information coming out. And when they were asked, well, have the Palestinians been invited? Has Palestinian leadership been invited?

WHITFIELD: The answer?

KOSINSKI: They would only say that they've been talking to some Palestinians, sounds like in the business world, for some time about this. So it is extremely vague.


KOSINSKI: But they're hoping to say, look, there's a hopeful world out there for Palestinians on the economic front first.

WHITFIELD: So then, Nic, will this only stoke the fire, escalate tensions, so to speak?

ROBERTSON: Look, if it is quite simply that the political horizons, as the Palestinians see it, the hard meeting and any negotiation, if there's no indications what that may be, then this, this can drive tensions higher because, you know, Jared Kushner and team are not going to get the buy-in that they want to get here. You know, what the Palestinian authority president spokesman is saying is look, there was already an economic forum like this hosted in Washington in March last year. He said, we didn't attend that. The implication being they won't attend it this time.

Look, there's no doubt about it, there is, you know, a vast amount of Palestinian youth that is dissatisfied with their ossified political leadership that is a corrupt leadership, that is a divided leadership. There's a lot that's at fault with it. They'd like to see it -- they'd like to see it change. They'd like to see some invigorated young leaders in there. But that doesn't mean -- and this is Jared Kushner's language here where he says, you know, that kind of -- the youth, the grandchildren are being stuck by their grandparents' old fights.

You're talking about, you know, an economic aspiration for a better future, and yes, you might want to shift those old political leaders out of the way. You don't particularly have a mechanism for it, but are you going to give up on what you believe are your historic and your family's rights, the lands and pieces of territory, and are you going to buy into an economic vision that doesn't give you a vision of where your children can grow up and what their borders might be and what sovereignty they have and what justice they have and all these things.

Yes, unless you -- unless the administration can deliver on some of those answers, then you create tensions because there's no deal to be had here.

WHITFIELD: Yes. All right. Nic Robertson, Michelle Kosinski, thank you so much.

Still ahead, severe weather continue today, and it's about to get worse in the U.S. At least 49 tornadoes have been reported since Friday. A live update next.


[16:23:33] WHITFIELD: Nearly 50 million people across the country are under a severe weather threat today. This after a weekend of strong storms slammed the Midwest with 49 tornadoes reported since Friday. About 11 million people in the northeast are under a severe thunderstorm watch. Damaging winds, hail, and isolated tornadoes are threatening the region.

CNN's Ivan Cabrera is following the latest for us.

So, Ivan, where is the threat now?

IVAN CABRERA, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Hey, Fred. Good to see you. The biggest threat right now at this very second, in fact, I want to start small and widen out eventually. But Syracuse, New York, is now under a tornado warning. Remember the difference between watches and warnings, watches you prepare, warnings you take action. This particular thunderstorm has the possibility of dropping down a tornado in Syracuse. So if you're watching us from that area, keep that in mind.

Get to the center of your home, lowest floor. That's going to be your best bet for this particular cell as it continues racing off to the north and east, part of a bigger pattern of course that we've been talking about. As Fredricka mentioned, we have a severe thunderstorm watch that now encompasses well, basically from D.C. heading up to Burlington, Vermont. And all those squares you see in orange there, those are severe thunderstorm warnings that are going to be isolated tornadoes as well as I've showed you in Syracuse for the remainder of this evening and then heading into tonight.

This is going to be the area we're going to watch. We also have the potential for severe storms across portions of the Great Lakes and into the Ohio Valley, although, less activity as I'm seeing there right now. As far as future cast, this is these storms as they'll continue to develop.

[16:25:02] They will be approaching the New York metro I think by later this evening around 8:00, 9:00. So keep that in mind. Today's thunderstorms not the typical ones you see right in the summer. These could have some pretty nasty winds associated with them. And then we have a new storm. This is a completely new storm coming out of the West Coast. And this, I think, is going to be a huge deal for tomorrow.

This is not going to be just thunderstorm activity, even severe thunderstorms. We're talking tornadoes, strong tornadoes, and the possibility of long track ones as well. So if you're watching us from Oklahoma into the panhandles of Texas and Oklahoma, this is going to be a huge deal for tomorrow. And then heading into tomorrow afternoon, it is going to be a busy day four of five because on Tuesday, more severe weather on the way.

WHITFIELD: Wow, all right. It's a tough season. Ivan Cabrera, thank you so much.

All right. Still ahead, in just moments, Senator Sanders hosts a rally and then leads an abortion rights march through the streets of Birmingham. We're live next.


WHITFIELD: All right. Crowds are beginning to gather in Birmingham, Alabama, ahead of Bernie Sanders' rally there. In just a few moments, he'll be speaking from the podium shortly. It's been a pretty busy weekend for the Vermont senator. He unveiled his education policy Saturday. And then this morning he slammed a recent string of anti- abortion legislation.

[16:30:01] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: -- that is a decision that is being -- that should be made by the women and her physician. And I think many of -- you know, what people are doing is sadly is creating a political issue out of a medical issue. So the decision about women should be able to control their own body and those decisions are made by a doctor and the woman.


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, NEWSROOM ANCHOR: CNN's Ryan Nobles is traveling with the Sanders campaign. He's joining me right now from Birmingham. So he really has two big events, his own rally, and then he's going to join in a previously scheduled rally, right?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, that's right, Fred. So, you know, we should point out that this trip to Birmingham, Alabama, was something that the Sanders campaign had been planning for quite some time, and was long before this legislation regarding abortion was passed in Alabama. But the campaign is adapting on the fly, essentially changing the Sanders schedule to accommodate -- to be a part of this and give him the opportunity to talk about the abortion issue.

So it just so happens that this event that's about to take place here behind me in the next half hour piggybacks alongside a big march that's happening in downtown Birmingham with abortion rights supporters. And so what Sanders is going to do is he's going to finish his remarks and then he's going to walk about a block away and take part in that march, which is going to walk around downtown Birmingham and then end up right back here where a rally will take place.

And, you know, Fred, I think what the Sanders campaign wants to specifically highlight is how consistent Bernie Sanders has been on the issue of abortion. He was marching in pro-abortion rallies at the very beginning of his political career. He has long said that he believes that abortion is something that is specifically up to the mother, to the woman in those situations.

And they want to remind voters of that, that this is an example of many of these progressive issues that Democratic voters care about that Bernie Sanders has always been, on what they would argue, is the right side. So while Sanders didn't intend to talk about abortion when he initially started this plan, of course, as you mentioned, Fred, they rolled out a really big education plan on Saturday where they called for a number of things, including banning for-profit charter schools, which they believe is a winning issue for them as well.

They've been able to adapt here and make abortion a big part of what they're going to talk about here over the next 24 hours. Because Fred, after he leaves Birmingham, he heads to Montgomery tomorrow, which is, of course, the state capital in where a lot of this at the center of all this debate over abortion is taking place. Fred?

WHITFIELD: All right. Ryan Nobles, thank you so much from Birmingham, Alabama. Appreciate it. And we'll be right back.


WHITFIELD: And this just in to CNN. Trump tweeting just moments ago, if Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran. Never threaten the United States again. Back with me, CNN's Michelle Kosinski, so Michelle, this, just days after the president when asked, you know, from a reporter is the U.S. going to war with Iran, and this is what he said.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, are we going to war with Iran?


WHITFIELD: He said I hope not, and now this tweet. What's going on?

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT: Yeah. Well, he's been emphasizing that he wants to talk to Iran. Iran so far has not taken him up on that. But we have seen this back and forth, especially in the tweets over the weekend, with first, President Trump saying that, you know, well, he blamed the press for there being conflicting stories or conflicting information.

So he said Iran was confused. Iran's foreign minister fired back that, no, the b team, which is how he now refers to Trump's advisers, including National Security Adviser, John Bolton. They say one thing. Trump says another. Iran says it's the U.S. that doesn't know what to think. But Iran has been emphasizing that there will be no war with the United States, that Iran does not want war.

And they made a sort of snide remark over the weekend, too that nobody is under the illusion that it can fight Iran in the region. So Trump maybe responding to this. Like, if Iran wants to fight, that will be the end of Iran. Never threaten the U.S. again. So this could be just more of the Twitter back and forth between the U.S. and Iran, which is amazing considering that we're talking about real and what the U.S. described as imminent threats here.


KOSINSKI: Or is this more of a response to information that's coming out of the investigation of those threats that supposedly Iran was behind in the region. Also just today, there was a Katyusha rocket fired into the Green Zone in Baghdad. It did not hit the U.S. embassy. So at this point, we just don't have enough information.

We don't know if the president is responding to that and he suspects Iran or he knows something more about the threats that have been made. Remember, we are still waiting to hear whatever became of those threats...


KOSINSKI: -- and also the attacks that happened to the ships off of the UAE. Was that Iran or not?

WHITFIELD: In fact, I wanted to ask you about that to remind people about the sequence of events, because there was the movement of the U.S., you know, naval battle group to the Persian Gulf region. And then it was revealed that it was as a result of threats. But then it's been unclear specifically what those threats are. Members of Congress have been demanding detail on that.

And then you have the president who then asked, you know, point-blank about whether there was war on the horizon and he said no. So help us tick through all of those. I kind of gave the broad brush, but you have more detail on the specificity of all this. KOSINSKI: Well, I think that was perfect. And the U.S. moved those assets to the region because the U.S. thought that it saw Iran moving missiles around in the Persian Gulf on boats pretty covertly. But the U.S. picked up that in intelligence. I think what's been unclear, and there was reporting that came out over the weekend in the Wall Street Journal, that there's a possibility, some think, within the administration that Iran could have been responding to what it saw as an imminent threat from the U.S.

[16:40:07] But the reporting was that others in the administration dispute that, and that it was clear that the threat first came from Iran. There are so many unanswered questions here about that sequence. And also, as I mentioned before, the responsibility, there were real attacks to ships, commercial ships off of the UAE. Supposedly four ships were hit by what are believed to be mines. Some believe that Iran is behind those attacks.

So those are real attacks. What we're waiting for is the U.S. and others to come out and say, who was behind it? Was it Iran? And if it was Iran, how far up in the leadership chain did it go? And if it was Iran, what is the response going to be? Also, there are members of the Senate who were briefed last week, and members of the Republican Party who say that there were senators who feel like they're in the dark over this, too.

That lawmakers are also looking for more information on specificity of the threats and the intelligence. And, you know, what came first, the chicken or the egg in what either side is seeing as potentially threatening behavior from the other.

WHITFIELD: And Michelle, also joining us again, CNN's Diplomatic Editor Nic Robertson from Abu Dhabi. So Nic, there was a quieting, you know, as a result of -- or following some real fear about what was going on, what these threats were all about. Does this tweet from the president only further agitate?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Oh, 100 percent, absolutely. Because I think the general perception had been -- we'd heard it from the Saudi minister of state for foreign affairs today that they didn't want war, though they're ready to fight if the fight came to them. We heard from the Iranian foreign minister saying they didn't want war, but, of course, no country would actually be brave enough essentially to take on Iran.

The language from President Trump had been that he doesn't want to go to war. The language from the Ayatollah in Iran was that he doesn't want to go to war. So this, you know, turns out all on its head again. It's the sort of maximum pressure and maximum threat. If Iran wants to fight, then that's the end of Iran. A threat doesn't get much bigger than that.

It's reminiscent of the sort of barbs that President Trump was throwing around before he settled down to have a sort of a more direct and cordial relationship with Kim Jong-Un of North Korea. The president does seem to be taking the temperature back up here, and he has to know that because all the conversation has been about how the temperature has gone up, the discussions about how it got there and John Bolton's involvement in that.

What we do know is that the United States, along with its GCC partners, its gulf allies in essence here, have begun just yesterday increase -- enhanced security patrols, naval security patrols in the gulf at this time. It's hard to fathom at the moment why the president is precisely using this language. There's a sort of a sense here among U.S. allies, you know, the sort of five (Inaudible) partnerships that shares intelligence.

The United States, Britain, Australia, Canada share intelligence. And there's a real sense that while the United States has seen and believes it has seen missiles being loaded onto Iranian ships, that -- where is the intent? Where's the information that tells the United States that the intent there was to attack? Was this, quite simply, a ploy by the Iranians, knowing that the United States would be able to see what they're doing, loading missiles on to ships, simply to raise the tensions themselves by virtue of doing that.

There's a lot of heavy analysis going on here at the moment, and a lot of it focuses on why is Iran engaging in the behavior that it's engaging in. And also, what does the United States know about that behavior? The Iranian people are under pressure. Their president hasn't been able to deliver on what he said he'd deliver for the people. There will be presidential elections in Iran within the next couple of years.

Are they trying to shape a narrative in Iran for the next president to be a hardliner? And is this drive to build tensions with the United States and its gulf partners all part of that longer-term, internal political objective to keep the (Inaudible) and ayatollahs in charge in Iran? It's a guessing game here at the moment. And President Trump's just thrown another wild card into that guessing game.

[16:44:51] WHITFIELD: Yeah. This only provokes more confusion, Michelle. You know, Nic mentioned, you know, John Bolton, publicly the president was trying to make a distinction between his approach to Iran and the more hawkish, you know, point of view of John Bolton. But now, what does this do? This is now, you know, President Trump the hawk?

KOSINSKI: No. It could be just a tweet in response to Iran's tweets. But the point is, why add more fuel to the fire, especially if it seemed like the president was trying to tamp things down. Remember, he very publicly said that he's the one that tempers John Bolton. I mean Bolton is this known Iran hawk, who in the past has publicly called for early strikes against Iran.

He wrote this op-ed that said to stop Iran's bomb, bomb Iran. And that was the title of this op-ed. He's called for a regime change very openly.

WHITFIELD: And he has history with the run-up to the Iraq war.

KOSINSKI: Of course. And so that's been a huge topic of public discussion around the world lately. So Trump felt the need to get out there and say, well, I don't want war. I temper John Bolton, repeatedly emphasizing that he wants to talk to Iran. Maybe this is a response to Iran not wanting to talk to him.

WHITFIELD: All right. Michelle Kosinski, Nic Robertson, thanks to both of you. Appreciate it. And we'll be right back.


WHITFIELD: Recently, two CNN Heroes joined forces to help a young girl. Together, they worked to deliver the gift of mobility to a child at a shelter in Peru.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He sent me a little video of a little girl who is eight years old, named Damasca. She has cerebral palsy. She's been in a stroller for her whole life. It's time, don't you think, for her to have a wheelchair to call her own? Look what we have for Damasca. We had to think of everything, because, you know, she's going to grow with this wheelchair.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This chair is fantastic. She's going to be so happy. She's going to have a better life.


WHITFIELD: To see the whole heartwarming story, and to nominate someone you think should be a CNN Hero, go to The abortion debate remains a lightning rod issue when it comes to women's rights. Tonight on CNN, W. Kamau Bell heads to Jackson, Mississippi for an all new episode of United Shades of America to show us what reproductive justice is all about.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know, knowing that whatever they're experimenting with here is coming to you soon. You know, I always think when one out of four women in this country have had an abortion, chances are pretty good that someone you know has been through someone's doors like this. And it should be a positive experience. For me, it's just such a privilege to be with someone who needs someone during a difficult period of their life.

Does a fetus have any value? Absolutely, but that woman is a living human being. And we never take our eyes off of that. You know, that's what's important.


WHITFIELD: W. Kamau Bell, the Host of CNN's United Shades of America joining me right now. Wow, what timing. So when people, you know, hear the term reproductive rights, they think about abortion. But reproductive justice is about a lot more. Explain.

W. KAMAU BELL, CNN UNITED SHADES OF AMERICA HOST: Yeah. Reproductive justice is a term that was put together by the group Sister Song and Women of Color, who lead that group. And it's the idea that we shouldn't just be focusing on abortion when it comes to people's rights, reproductive justices, the right to parent, the rite to sex for pleasure.

The right to access healthcare (Inaudible) -- the right to, you know, all sorts (Inaudible) a good medically accurate sex education classes. So it looks at people the way we should holistically instead of just individual parts.

WHITFIELD: So of the people that you spoke with, what are their thoughts and feelings about, you know, these recent legislative items that have passed and then some that are proposed. I am talking about Alabama, Missouri, Georgia.

BELL: Well, when we were there, which was several months ago, they were all prepared for these moments that are happening right now in Alabama. And there are more states who are trying to get these cases before the Supreme Court to overturn Roe V. Wade. (Inaudible) who owns the Pink House, the last abortion clinic in the state of Mississippi, she feels confident that Roe V. Wade will be overturned.

And she's like but we're going to still do the work. So as we know, if Roe V. Wade is overturned, people with money will still have access to abortions. White women with money will have access to abortions. It's going to affect people of color and people who do not have money. So they're aware that they will still do the work no matter what happens. But the point is we shouldn't let it get that far.

WHITFIELD: Is it their feeling that they're going to have to do it in the shadows where if some of them are, you know, out in the open, everyone knows who they are, what they're about. I mean obviously, the Pink House stands out. People know what that group is all about. But is there a fear or feeling that as this wave of legislation, you know, is underway that many will have to do things, you know, kind of behind closed doors, you know, or, you know, in hiding?

BELL: I think if the law is overturned, they may be doing it illegally. But I can't imagine the women I talk to doing it in the shadows. Laurie Bertram, Robert who is in the episode who is in there talks about how there are powerful people who are ready for the fight. I can't imagine them going into the shadows. They may do the work differently, but the work will still get done.

But I think, again, what -- you know, I post a video that we did through CNN digital about my vasectomy and how easy it was compared to a woman's right to have an abortion or all sorts of issues related to women's rights to reproductive justice. So there's hypocrisy in this country about how easy it is for a man to handle his reproductive issues and versus a woman or anyone with a uterus.

WHITFIELD: And then as a man and a father, you know, to three daughters, right? You had to be thinking about your daughters the whole time that you were talking to activists, people who were willing to talk to you on this topic.

[16:55:07] BELL: I mean, I was thinking about my daughters. But, you know, let's be honest. My daughters are probably going to be OK as long as I have this TV show and I get these nice CNN checks. I am thinking about people who don't have access to what I have. I mean if I'm quite honest, I think it's pretty selfish if I am just thinking about my daughters. I'm thinking about people who don't have the access to what I have to make their world better and to...


WHITFIELD: When you talk about legislation, it really isn't about whether you have the means, the money or not. I mean, because -- especially if it's blanket. It applies to all.

BELL: Yeah. But as we know, it applies to all. But it does not apply to all. Rich people will always get the abortions they need to get, as they have in the history of this country. It's just about the fact that theirs will be safer and there will be more access to them. I mean these laws that apply to all don't always apply to all.

WHITFIELD: I got you. All right, W. Kamau Bell, great points. Thank you so much. And, of course, we'll be watching. Be sure to tune in to an all new episode of United Shades of America with W. Kamau Bell, that's airing tonight 10:00 eastern and pacific right here on CNN. And thank you so much for being with me today. I am Fredricka Whitfield. The next hour of the Newsroom continues with Ana Cabrera right after this.


ANA CABRERA, NEWSROOM ANCHOR: You're live in the CNN newsroom.