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Trump Threatens Iran After Days of De-Escalation; Trump Rips GOP Rep. Justin Amash Who Called His Conduct "Impeachable"; GOP House Leader on Rep. Amash: He Just Wants Attention; Former U.S. Attorney Says Democrats Should Not Consider Pardoning Trump if Charged After Leaving Office; Farmer: Trump's Backers Will Suffer for Trump's China "Talking Point"; NYT: Former Employees Say Deutsche Bank Found Suspicious Trump & Kushner Account Activity; Kamala Harris Unveils Plan to End Gender Pay Gap. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired May 20, 2019 - 11:00   ET



[11:00:44] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. Thank you so much for joining me.

It's a new war of words that could lead to actual war, but does President Trump mean what he's tweeting right now? Well, Donald Trump's Twitter feed, we do know, can feel like the personal musings of the man, not necessarily policy. When it comes to threatening annihilation of another country, attention must be paid.

Here's what Trump threatened overnight in a tweet: "If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran. Never threaten the United States again."

Iran's foreign minister has been meeting the president tweet for tweet on this one, telling Trump to, quote, "never threaten an Iranian. Try respect, it works."

What appears to be President Trump's fire and fury 2.0 comes as officials in Washington are debating the nature of the threat posed by Iranians, sparking the administration to move assets to the region.

Let's figure out what is going here or try to. Let's get to Abby Phillip at the White House for us.

Abby, this is also the same president who told FOX News in a taped interview this weekend he doesn't want to go to war. What are you hearing?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Kate. This is in many ways reminiscent of the fire and fury when it came to North Korea. President Trump issuing these tweets on social media that seem to escalate the tensions between him and Iran, but at the same time, suggesting he wants to negotiate, he wants to talk and, more importantly, that he is against war as a political principle.

Listen to how he described his approach to Iran in this FOX interview. It's going to sound very different from the tweet you just read.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I just don't want them to have nuclear weapons. And they can't be threatening us. And you know, with all of --


TRUMP: With all of everything that's going on -- and I'm not one that believes, you know, I'm not somebody who wants to go into war, because war hurts economies. War kills people, most importantly, by far most importantly.


PHILLIP: The president there saying he does not want to go to war. And what our sources are telling us is President Trump is hesitant to be goaded into war with Iran. He's been trying to temper his aides, including national security adviser, John Bolton, about this idea that the United States is inevitably in conflict with Iran. But at the same time, this is also a president who is usually the first to ratchet up the rhetoric on social media.

In this case, you know, aides say the president is trying to push Iran back to the negotiating table, trying to let them know a conflict with the United States is not in their best interests. The question now becomes, will it work? It looks like Iran is not interested in talking and they're willing to meet the president, as you put it, tweet for tweet on social media. Where is this all heading, it's anyone's guess at the moment.

But the administration is also trying to make it very, very clear this threat from Iran, in their view, is very real. They had briefings with Senators over the weekend to that point. We'll hear more about that in the coming days -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: That's for sure. More briefings to come on that front. A very serious moment, regardless of how serious people take the tweets in this exact moment.

Great to see you, Abby. Thank you so much. I really appreciate it.

Iran isn't the only target of the president's right now. A member of his own party going where no Republican, or even a lot of Democrats, have gone before. Justin Amash, the Republican from Michigan, declaring this weekend that the president's behavior, as spelled out in the Mueller report, justifies impeachment. The president in response calling Amash, "a loser who sadly plays right into our opponent's hands."

CNN's Manu Raju is following this on Capitol Hill for us.

Manu, good to see you.

This is a major moment, the first Republican to break from the party on this not so small at all issue. How are Republicans and even Democrats reacting to it right now?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the backlash from the Republicans has been swift. From not just the president but members of Justin Amash's own party here on Capitol Hill, pushing back against Amash, saying he's doing this for attention.

This comes as Amash, this morning, got a new primary challenger in his race, his House race, assuming he does run for re-election next year. We'll see if Republicans get behind that primary challenger.

In very sharply worded remarks yesterday, the House Republican leader, Kevin McCarthy, attacked Amash and said he's doing this all for attention.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): Those who know Justin Amash, this is exactly what he wants. He wants to have attention. You have to understand Justin Amash. He's been in Congress quite some time. I think he's only asked one question in all the committees he's been in. He votes more with Nancy Pelosi than he ever votes with me. It's a question whether he's even in our Republican conference as a whole.

What he wants is attention in this process. He's not a criminal attorney. He's never met Mueller. He's never met Barr. Now he's coming forward with this? Because this is what he wants.


[11:05:23] RAJU: Pretty remarkable to hear a leader of the party attacking a member of his conference. But it shows how Republicans are aligning themselves with Trump and pushing back against Justin Amash.

Amash has broken with his party on a number of issues, including whether the president's emergency declaration at the wall, his effort to try to fund money administratively. Justin Amash saying it's not conservative values. But he was the only member of the House Republican conference to break from that. But he does, for the most part, vote with Republicans, despite what Kevin McCarthy is saying there.

And, Kate, Democrats are put in a bit of an awkward spot, too, because he's gone farther, Amash has, on the question of impeachment than a lot of their own leaders have. That will be a question for them to answer from their own supporters, why aren't you aligning with the Republican who said that the president has engaged in impeachment conduct -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: I think you hit it there, Manu. It really can't be overstated how significant it is to hear Kevin McCarthy coming out and lambasting him in that way so public publicly. It's not one of those, the statement is said in public and we deal with our problems in private at all when you hear Kevin McCarthy putting it out.

Good to see you, man. I appreciate it. RAJU: Thanks.

BOLDUAN: Let's see -- let me get more perspective on this. Joining me now, John Kasich, a former Republican governor of Ohio, former presidential candidate, and now CNN senior political commentator.

I'm also going to lean on your time in Congress as well. We're going to continue through your resume, as I like to do, Governor.


What do you think of Congressman Amash's take here and the stand he took this weekend?

JOHN KASICH, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You forgot to add MVP of both the congressional baseball and basketball games.

BOLDUAN: Obviously. That was my next question.

KASICH: This is not a big deal. I mean, this is a tempest in the teapot. No one is going to pay attention to him. Romney came out and said he praised the guy, said he's got guts, but isn't going to go anywhere.

What's interesting is when you saw family separation at the border, the Republicans didn't have much to say. All of a sudden, because someone in the party is saying something about the president, they're out to really rip into him. Maybe they ought to show a little courage on some other issues at the same time, like so many of these crazy tweets. But we don't hear much from them on that. But this is not going anywhere.

BOLDUAN: If it clearly seems that it's not going to change anything with regard to Republicans, like this does not at least appear at this moment that this is the crack that opens the floodgates with Republicans in terms of impeachment.

KASICH: No, no, no. This --


BOLDUAN: Do you think --


BOLDUAN: -- to Democrats? Does it change anything for them at all?

KASICH: No, nothing. This is nothing. I wouldn't pay much more attention. You won't hear about it in a couple days.

BOLDUAN: I'm going to mark that one.

I do want to ask you, there's an interesting thing that Preet Bharara, the former U.S. attorney of New York, posing an interesting question this weekend. Let me read you what his tweet was. He wrote, "Are Democratic candidates being asked whether they'll consider pardoning Trump if he's charged after leaving office?" Bharara says, "They should say no. This is not Ford/Nixon. Sometimes an indictment can bring unity."

This is down the road, to say the least, but what do you think of that? Do you think that that's the question the Democratic candidates should be answering right now?

KASICH: I don't think anything about it. Joe Biden won't answer a question like that.

And by the way, let's just talk a little bit about Joe, because when we first did your show, I told you at the time, not that I'm somebody who can see the future, but I said I felt Biden is going to run a campaign basically ignoring the other Democrats and focus on his campaign and his election and Donald Trump, which is exactly what he's done. And I notice he's really moderating himself. He's not allowing the left to push him farther to the left, which is really interesting. The question is, are the Democrats --

BOLDUAN: Interesting but smart. Which do you think?

KASICH: Interesting and smart. It's --

BOLDUAN: Interesting, yes. Smart?

KASICH: Yes, because the country is center right, not left. It's center right, center left, not far left.

I can tell you, somebody said to me the other day, they watched some Democrats and they're saying not only are they not likable, but they seem angry. If you want to run for office, if you're not likable and you're angry, you're not going to win. They have to be careful. We'll see what happens as Biden moves forward.

BOLDUAN: Let's talk -- you mentioned crazy tweets. I want to ask you, it does stem from a tweet, though. The president on this new threat he leveled toward Iran overnight, threatening the end of Iran if they threaten the United States again.

KASICH: This is very, very serious stuff, Kate. Let me suggest on the debate stage, I think I was the only Republican that said we shouldn't tear up the Iran nuclear deal unless they violate it.

[11:10:02] Here was the thing. We had three goals. One, Iran does not get a nuclear weapon. Two, so they stop ballistic missile development. And, three, they stop messing in the region with radical groups.

We had one thing working. There was no violation of the Iran nuclear agreement. And our European allies told us, if you hang in there, we'll work on ballistic missile development and stopping them from funding groups like Hezbollah. The president ignored the whole thing.

So not only do we have a stop of ballistic missile development, not only have we not stopped them messing in the region, but now we withdrew. And it's possible they will restart their program. And the fact is that Iran, long term -- we need to think about it in

the long term -- filled with many young people who are Westernized. We just don't want to say every day, death to Iran. It's not smart. It's not smart geopolitically.

And a lot of this being driven by his, the president's relationship with Saudi Arabia, who is not exactly a box of chocolates. These are people -- have preachers inside the country who are very, very radical.

The fact is we need a more balanced policy, working with our allies. It doesn't mean Iran doesn't do horrible things. They do very bad things. To shut off all dialogue


KASICH: -- and write them off is a mistake.

BOLDUAN: And it maybe wouldn't be your approach, but what do you think of -- how seriously do you take the tweet? Because it's very, a la fire and fury, that supposedly the president says was a successful approach because then it got North Korea to come to the table --


KASICH: Yes, well wait a minute. What have we gotten from North Korea?


KASICH: We now have more development. They're shooting projectiles into the ocean.

Here's the interesting thing. He calls Kim, you know, he's a good man.


KASICH: And he's dealing with them. Why has there been no effort to try to create a more balanced policy and an opening to Iran?

You see what's happening in Iran right now is that the hard liners, the radicals, the ones we know are just the pathetic ones in that country, in some respects are being enforced. They're saying, you see what we told you. And the more moderate people, who created the deal, who want some better relations, they're being pushed out. This is a dangerous place for us to be.

We need to have a little bit more balance, clear eyed, and working with our allies. And this is not what we're doing. And now we are right on the edge of all this friction.

Do I think it's going to lead to war? I certainly hope not. But when tensions get ratcheted up so high, you can have mistakes, and that's what we want to avoid.


KASICH: Nobody in this country wants war.

BOLDUAN: Let me ask you about another relationship that seems to be kind of at a turning point and a precipice right now, this trade war with China. Talks are at a standstill, or at least all signs point to that right now, but that does not mean people aren't already feeling it already.

I spoke with a farmer from Maplewood, Ohio. I want to play what he said. His name is Christopher Gibbs. He told me that the tariffs that are already put in place have put him already in a freefall. Let me play you what else he told me.


CHRISTOPHER GIBBS, FARMER: I'm certainly not unpatriotic at all. And I'm certainly not going to have my patriotism questioned. And I'm not sure why the president is even bringing this up.

Why the farmer community has to take one in the shorts just so the president can have a talking point and be tough on China just is a little bit beyond me.


BOLDUAN: His frustration, Governor, is that he says the president keeps talking about the patriots that these farmers are. He said that's just code to get them to try to stop speaking out when he wants to speak up for his farm and his livelihood.

KASICH: Yes. Right.

BOLDUAN: When I asked some Republicans about that, you know, respond to Christopher Gibbs, they say, Kate, short term pain, long term gain. Do you see that?

KASICH: Look, first of all, Republicans -- when I was in Congress, I used to raise the issue. We have a level playing field, and that was like heresy when I was in the House. Republicans were free trade on everything. Balanced policy does make sense.

However, again, I hate to say this, but we have a bunch of countries that are connected to us through the World Trade Organization. It's the way in which we manage this trade relationship. If you don't have good trade relationships, it can lead to conflict.

The president was right to go after them from the standpoint of them stealing our intellectual property, not having a level playing field, having state subsidized businesses, but the best way to resolve this was to work with all of the nations in the West who share the same view we have to increase the leverage and the pressure on China.

Furthermore, we also withdrew from the -- we never ratified the pacific trade agreement. You know why? Because it was Obama's. You know what we're doing with Iran? Because it was Obama's. There are some things that people in the other party do that make sense.

[11:15:03] And so here we are in this trade war. It's hurting farmers. If there's one thing that farmers want -- it's two things. They want great weather and they want access to international markets. And they're not getting it now. And they wake up in the morning and say, what's going to happen to my family, what's going to happen to my business.

This is serious stuff, because other countries are going to fill in the gap for the things we're not exporting. Other nations will do it.

BOLDUAN: Well, that's one thing --


KASICH: We covered a lot here today, Kate. My goodness.

BOLDUAN: We did. That's what we do. The new co-anchor "AT THIS HOUR," John Kasich.

It's good to see you, Governor. Thank you so much for coming in again. I always appreciate it.

KASICH: Always good, Kate. Thanks for the time.

BOLDUAN: Thank you very much.

Coming up for us, it loaned Donald Trump hundreds of millions of dollars and reportedly ignored some red flags in the process. A new report on what former employees at Deutsche Bank are saying about transactions involving Donald Trump and Jared Kushner.

Plus, the pay gap between men and women in the workplace is unfortunately old news, but Democratic presidential candidate, Kamala Harris, is now flipping the script. Will her plan level the playing field? She's laying it out to CNN. And will it also help her pull ahead in the 2020 field? That's next.


[11:21:03] BOLDUAN: Follow the money, that's the crux of many a successful investigation. But employees at Deutsche Bank were doing just that when they say they flagged suspicious activity involving accounts controlled by Donald Trump and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

The "New York Times" is reporting that they even went so far as to recommend that Trump and Kushner be reported to a government watchdog over foreign deals, but that never happened. And some of those bank employees are now speaking out.

CNN business and politics correspondent, Cristina Alesci, has been looking into it.

Cristina, important to say there was no evidence offered, no proof there was anything illegal that was found. But why was this -- what are you learning about why this raised red flags? CRISTINA ALESCI, CNN BUSINESS & POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: At the crux

of this is several Deutsche Bank employees who sit in the Anti- Financial Crimes Unit, essentially saying that they think transactions they saw, that the computer system flagged and they determined needed to be sent and forwarded to Treasury for further investigation should have -- it should have gone that way. Instead, they send it to senior bankers and those senior bankers, who have the authority to determine whether or not the transaction should be forwarded to Treasury, decided not to forward them to Treasury.

Now, the employees say it should have happened. But it didn't happen because Deutsche Bank was too concerned about its relationship with Trump and Kushner.

But we don't know, if that's actually what motivated the bankers not to forward it -- and look, I have covered banks for years. I know that once these transactions get flagged, they don't necessarily go to the banker who has the relationship with Trump and Kushner. They go to a compliance person in that department, and that person makes the decision on whether or not to flag it to Treasury.

BOLDUAN: And these are -- this is transactions from 2016, 2017. And there's a whole lot that comes with how much scrutiny people, like public figures like Kushner and Trump, get when it comes to their transactions. But what is everyone saying about this? Is Deutsche responding?

ALESCI: One of the employees essentially said that she was fired after flagging these transactions, which suggested there was some kind of retaliation.

Deutsche Bank did shoot that down. The bank is saying that it had nothing to do with that: "At no time was there an investigator prevented from investigating activity identified as potentially suspicious. Furthermore, the suggestion than anyone was reassigned or fired in an effort to quash concerns relating to any client is categorically false."

That's Deutsche Bank. The Kushner Company has had a much more pithy response. They said, "The 'New York Times' tries to create scandalous stories, which are totally false, when they run out of things to write about." I have not heard back from the Trump Organization yet.

But you know, this is just an example of why Deutsche Bank needs to be very careful, because --


BOLDUAN: They have come under a lot of scrutiny.

ALESCI: This is another negative headline for them. They're facing fines in Europe because there were potential implications that they were somehow tied to a large anti- -- sorry, a large money laundering operation tied to Russian criminals, between 2010 and 2014.

You know, they are -- they're being asked for information about the Trump Organization because it's being investigated by the attorney general and by members of Congress. So everyone just assumes that Deutsche Bank is a bad actor because of all of these negative headlines. But it really requires a little bit of, you know, scrutiny in terms of what really went on here.

BOLDUAN: Yes, and much more to come, I'm sure.

ALESCI: This might spark another investigation.

BOLDUAN: Would not be surprised, especially in this day and age.

Cristina, really appreciate it.

ALESCI: Of course.

[11:24:49] BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, Kamala Harris' message to companies who don't pay women and men equally, pay them or pay up. What she told CNN about the plan she says will radically change the fight for equal pay. That's next.


BOLDUAN: According to government stats, women make roughly 80 cents for every dollar paid to men in the workplace. For African-American and Latina women, the number is closer to 60 cents on the dollar. The pay gap is real and it isn't anything new, but Democratic presidential candidate, Senator Kamala Harris, is rolling out a very new idea to take it on.

[11:30:04] She sat down with Kyung Lah to talk about it. Listen.


SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA): What I am proposing is we shift the burden.