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CNN Reality Check: Trump Considering Pardons For Accused War Criminals; Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee Live On New Day; Horse Tosses Jockey And Steals Spotlight At Preakness. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired May 20, 2019 - 07:30   ET


[07:30:00] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: It was struck by lightning. Two other homes in Comanche County, Oklahoma flattened by a twister. More than 55 million Americans under a severe weather threat today.


A new report in "The New York Times" says that President Trump may be getting ready to pardon several soldiers convicted or accused of war crimes. Why would he do that?

John Avlon has our reality check. Hi, John.


So look, war crimes like executing surrendered soldiers are so universally reviled they're even a thing in Westeros.


JACOB BASIL ANDERSON, ACTOR, HBO "GAME OF THRONES": In the name of the one true queen, Daenerys Targaryen, I sentence you to die.


ANDERSON: It is not over until the queen's enemies are defeated.

CUNNINGHAM: How much more defeated do you want them to be? They're on their knees.


AVLON: Meanwhile, back in the real world, President Trump is considering pardoning several servicemen convicted or accused of war crimes. That's according to a U.S. official who spoke to "The New York Times".

Now, their offenses include the indiscriminate murder of unarmed civilians, including a young girl, and stabbing an already wounded teenage captive to death, right up to the desecration of the body of a Taliban fighter.

Now, as for evidence in some of these cases, a Navy SEAL accused of stabbing the teenage captive allegedly bragged about it over text messages and pled not guilty to the charges. As for the corpse desecration -- well, that was caught on video.

But, President Trump reportedly wants these men pardoned in time for Memorial Day, something that does less to honor our military than to dishonor it.

And it goes without saying that the brave men and women of our military deserve our support and the benefit of the doubt always. But make no mistake, everything about these proposed pardons threatens to diminish democratic norms.

For an American president to pardon soldiers credibly accused of war crimes sends an unmistakable signal that this behavior is acceptable, meaning we'll get more of it. And it sets America up for accusations of moral equivalence with countries who commit atrocities as a matter of policy.

Iraqi combat veteran and author Waitman Wade Beorn writes, "Trump's posture endangers our deployed men and women by betraying the trust of those nations that we will prosecute these rare individuals who commit crimes against their people."

Perhaps that's one reason it's a stark departure from past U.S. presidents who found it entirely possible to support our troops to the hilt without defending the indefensible.

Remember, Trump never served and maybe that's why he's been talking like Jack Bauer on "24" since the campaign.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When you get these terrorists, you have to take out their families.

I would bring back waterboarding and I'd bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding.

It used to be 'to the victor belong the spoils.' I always said take the oil.


AVLON: OK. All of those suggestions could constitute war crimes and we can't say we didn't see this coming.

He said the man of executing a suspected bomb maker in Afghanistan is a "U.S. military hero." That the man maintains his innocence. His lawyer saying the death occurred on a mission ordered by his superiors.

Trump's also expressed sympathy for a soldier who allegedly shot into a crowd of unarmed civilians, both seemingly in reaction to stories about the men on Fox News.

Far beyond political debates between left and right, there are basic issues of right and wrong.

So it's worth listening to some wise words from Justice Robert Jackson, the chief U.S. prosecutor at Nuremberg. Quote, "If we can cultivate in the world the idea that aggressive war-making is the way to the prisoner's dock rather than the way to honors, we will have accomplished something toward making the peace more secure."

Or by the president even contemplating pardoning people for war crimes, we can do the opposite -- undermining America's moral leadership in the world and making peace less secure at the same time.

And that's your reality check.

CAMEROTA: Really valuable, John, to hear those words. Thank you very much for that history lesson.

BERMAN: And listen to the testimony of the people who served alongside these men who have been charged with crimes. That's important here.

Time for "CNN Business Now." President Trump's trade war with China has brought devastating retaliation to American farmers, so could there be a small reprieve?

CNN chief business correspondent -- 20 years at CNN as of today -- Christine Romans joins us.


Look, the president says there could be a big reprieve here for American farmers. Now remember, he's offering a balm for a wound his own trade policies inflicted.

President Trump tweeting, "Our great farmers can begin doing business again with Mexico and Canada. They have both taken the tariff penalties off of your great agricultural product."

The U.S. lifted steel and aluminum tariffs on both those countries Friday, a day after delaying tariffs on foreign car imports.

Trump making good with Canada and Mexico and the E.U. while talks stall between the U.S. and China. The U.S. escalated tariffs on China after Beijing backed down from a potential deal and sought changes.

All of this has shaken financial markets and put further pressure on major U.S. industries like agriculture. But, President Trump defended his trade strategy on "FOX NEWS SUNDAY" adding he plans to take some of the estimated $100 billion collected in tariffs and help farmers.


TRUMP: I'm going to take $15 billion out of the $100 billion and I'm going to give that to our farmers.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ROMANS: It's not really a pot of $100 billion that he could reach into. But potential aid aside, we are on track for the worst conditions for farmers, guys, since the 1980s farm crisis.

[07:35:06] CAMEROTA: Christine, thank you very much for all of that context.

So, there's a Democratic presidential candidate who says he can create eight million jobs fighting climate change. Governor Jay Inslee is going to join us to tell us how, next.


[07:40:15] BERMAN: Washington Gov. Jay Inslee is betting the concern about climate change will propel him to the presidency. Inslee is one of 23, now, Democratic candidates vying to challenge President Trump.

Last week, the governor rolled out a $3 trillion plan that projects the creation of eight million jobs over 10 years by fighting climate change.

Governor Inslee joins us now, the first presidential candidate to appear with us on this new set. It's a day of firsts, so thanks for being with us.

GOV. JAY INSLEE (D-WA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think this has deep meaning.

CAMEROTA: Me, too.

BERMAN: We'll see.

Talk to us about this plan of yours. Lay out the pillars of this new plan.

INSLEE: Well, it's clear that our nation needs a new vision and that vision needs to be based both on science and inconfidence the American people to invent and create a clean energy economy.

And that's exactly what my plan will do. It's a big, bold, ambitious plan for a big, bold, ambitious nation, and it is designed both to fit the urgency of the moment because we know this is our last chance to rescue ourselves from the climate crisis.

I've been in sort of a tour of the apocalypse looking at the towns that have burned down and the towns that have been flooded in the Midwest because of the climate crisis. So we know this is our last chance and we've got to make sure the next president makes this the number one priority of the United States, and that's what I'm saying.

But we need a vision on economic growth and that's what my plan will do -- put eight million people to work building a new economy for the United States.

CAMEROTA: Look, you know how hard it is to get resistant legislators to go along with big, bold environmental plans. I mean, you have fought that fight for many years.

And so, here you would have to corral Republicans who aren't even convinced -- some of whom are not convinced that climate change is happening.

Here's what the RNC has said about your plan. "Not surprising to see yet another liberal Democrat proposing a $9 trillion plan that has the federal government calling the shots at the expense of American taxpayers and jobs.

Meanwhile, under President Trump, the economy is flourishing because of his pro-growth free-market approach."

INSLEE: Well, I know something about corralling legislators.

I just passed the most ambitious 100 percent clean electrical grid bill in the United States. I just passed the most ambitious bill to give people cleaner, more efficient buildings. I just passed a bill to give an incentive to help people get electric cars, and we have almost 50,000 in our state now.

But we cannot wait for the last Republican or Donald Trump to get science. We don't have that kind of time.

This is a president who said wind turbines cause cancer. We Democrats know that they cause jobs.

So I've rolled up -- I've rolled out a package to put carpenters, and laborers, and machinists, and auto workers to work. We know that clean energy jobs today are going twice as fast as the average in the U.S. economy. And my plan is based on a confident ability for this economy to rebuild itself just like we did in fighting World War II.

Now, to get through this we've got to get rid of the filibuster, and I'm the candidate who was the first to say we've got to take the filibuster away from Mitch McConnell. Progress has to occur. We need to eliminate the filibuster. That will help a lot.

BERMAN: So you're talking about jobs, which I find very interesting in the context of fighting climate change here. Something you said about coal jobs last week caught my attention.


BERMAN: I want to play that for our audience here.


INSLEE: We cannot be shackled to coal jobs forever.


BERMAN: All right. The reason that jumped out to me is because, of course, everyone remembers what Sec. Clinton said while she was running for president in 2016 about coal jobs. Let's remind people.


HILLARY CLINTON (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm the only candidate which has a policy about how to bring economic opportunity using clean renewable energy as the key into coal country because we're going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business.


BERMAN: So, she said we're going to put a lot of coal miners out of business. You say we can't be shackled to coal jobs forever. Is that the same thing?

INSLEE: No, this is based on two things.

One is science. Science is very clear. We cannot burn all the coal we have in the future decades or it will destroy the country, literally. This is a scientific fact.

And if you have doubt about that read a book called "The Uninhabitable Earth." He's a New York writer. I just was with him yesterday at a panel talking about this -- David Wallace-Wells.

You will see that the scientific fact is we just can't burn all this coal that we have. So what we need to do is embrace the dedicated, hardworking Americans who have built this nation by mining coal. Look, they're going to be transitioning already. Two-thirds of the plants have already closed down because of market forces.

My plan makes sure that we embrace these communities with what I call the G.I. bill for coal workers so that they're embraced with education and training and importantly, jobs because we need jobs for them and I have a plan to provide that.

[07:45:00] We know we're going to have a transition. We need to make it a transition where everyone in America has a chance to benefit, and they do.

Auto workers in Michigan, people building wind turbines and electricians in Iowa, the manufacturers building electric batteries, biofuels in Washington State. And yes, jobs in West Virginia and Ohio.

BERMAN: But you do know -- you do know that when she said we're going to put coal miners out of work -- we're going to take -- you know, we're going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business that there were people who said they're going to take our jobs away.

INSLEE: Well, we are going around talking to people about what we're going to do. Building electric cars in Michigan and Ohio. The new jobs of the future are by the millions if we seize this opportunity.

If we do not, do you know where those new jobs are going to go? China, Germany. I'm in favor of our kids having jobs in the new technology. I do not want to see those jobs of the future going all to China.

And we know we are capable of doing this because we've done it in the past. You know, what America is really good at is when there's a transition of -- industrial transition, that's where we really do well if we seize these opportunities.

But we will not do that as long as Donald Trump keeps giving $27 billion of our hard-earned money and subsidies to the oil and gas companies. We can't allow that to occur, so we're going to change that soon.

CAMEROTA: All right, Governor, on a lighter note or perhaps a cooler note, as you would say, we like to ask the candidates who come in about their musical preferences and we call it "Candidate Mixtape."

So, who is your favorite band or group or musician?

INSLEE: Well, I've got to go with Jimi Hendrix, a Garfield High School Bulldog. My dad was a biology teacher at Garfield High School. We don't think we taught -- he taught Jimi Hendrix's music, and certainly not chemistry, but I'm going with the Garfield Bulldog, Jimi Hendrix.

BERMAN: Are you experienced?

INSLEE: Just enough to be President of the United States.

BERMAN: Which was one of the cut lyrics --

INSLEE: Oh, yes.

BERMAN: -- of Jimi Hendrix's songs.

INSLEE: I will be on the watchtower to watch over you, I will tell you that.

BERMAN: All right.

CAMEROTA: Thank you, and you're trying to get rid of crosstown traffic.

INSLEE: There you go.

CAMEROTA: -- with some of the electronic cars. Very good.

BERMAN: Thank you, Governor. Appreciate you being here.

INSLEE: Thank you.

BERMAN: All right.

A riderless horse stole the spotlight at the Preakness. We're going to speak to the jockey who was tossed out of the starting gate. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [07:50:49] BERMAN: So the horse crossed the finish line; his jockey did not. At Saturday's Preakness Stakes, Bodexpress tossed his jockey coming out of the starting gate. The horse then continued on one of the most memorable runs in the 149-year history of the Pimlico course.

The 3-year-old colt stayed with the field and ran all the way through to the finish line. Officially, the horse placed last with a "did not finish" but I don't think it actually crossed the line last.

Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez -- he was not hurt and he joins me now. John, thanks so much for being with us.

First of all, just what happened?

JOHN VELAZQUEZ, HALL OF FAME JOCKEY, THROWN FROM HORSE AT PREAKNESS: First of all, let me say congratulations to War of Will who ran an amazing race in the Preakness.

And to tell you truth, what happened in the gate, it was one of the things that I guess a miscommunication between us and the assistant starter. And my horse was not really behaving very well, but another horse on the inside reacted as well. And when the gates opened, I think my assistant starter wasn't ready for it.

BERMAN: Did you know you were in trouble the minute that gate opened?

VELAZQUEZ: The minute -- the second that that horse jumped out the way he did, I knew I was in trouble. First of all, the horse was leaning against the wall so my right foot was already halfway over my irons.

So when he jumped out like that and sent me up in the air -- actually, he sent me up much higher. My feet were much higher than what the saddle were, so I was up in the air. I knew that I was in trouble.

BERMAN: So we're glad you're OK -- not hurt a bit as far as I can tell -- and I heard you right after the race in an interview.

What do you make of the fact that Bodexpress, the riderless horse, has become something of a folk hero? People loved watching this horse galloping around the track without a rider.

VELAZQUEZ: Well, like I said before, it seems like I'm getting more press than the winner, War of Will. But that can happen, so we do have things in place to make sure that -- make sure that the horses are safe and everything. So he just went around just like a normal race -- he was just missing me.

BERMAN: What do you think was driving him? Was this a horse who just wants to race and just wants to compete no matter what?

VELAZQUEZ: No, they are born to race and that's the way they think. And once those gates opened, that's what -- that's what -- that's what they want to do. So it's part of the competition. They do have it on them. They need a little guidance. That's why the jockeys are on top of the

horses to guide them and to -- and to make sure they are in the right places and try to the save the energy for the end. So that's our job to do the best we can to win the race.

BERMAN: So you've been in the middle of quite a bit of news in this Triple Crown hunt so far.

You were on top of Code of Honor, if I'm not mistaken, in the Kentucky Derby and you had your run obstructed, of course, during this race where the horse that crossed the finished line and ultimately was penalized. And now, the owner of that horse is appealing, trying to take this to federal court to have the results overturned.

Do you think that's fair?

VELAZQUEZ: You know, according to the rules that we have right now, I think once the crosses other horses' path, that's the way the rules are. And unfortunately, he did win the race but he needs to be disqualified in everybody's eyes.

Once you cross the path in front of other horses, it's not allowed. So, it's just like driving on the -- on the road. If cars cross in front of you and something like that, it can cause an accident and that's what really happened in that race and unfortunately, he needed to be disqualified.

BERMAN: And it was clear to you -- I just want people to hear this because you were on one of the horses that was affected there. There's no ambiguity here. You think this was crystal clear.

VELAZQUEZ: Yes, it was crystal clear. There's no question about it. Unfortunately, it happens.

The horse just spooked and overreacted for something the horse -- he saw in the inside -- the infield. You can see the rider tried to do the best he could to keep the horse straight but the damage was already done. There's nothing he could do. The horse ran a great race but unfortunately, he needed to be disqualified.

[07:55:00] BERMAN: So, John, I know this is a sport that you love very much, but it's also a sport that has come under particular criticism of late. Not just what happened in the Kentucky Derby, which I think -- my own personal opinion, if I'm allowed a personal opinion here, was it was the correct result in the end. I mean, the infraction, as you say was crystal clear.

But, at Santa Anita there were two horse that died just last week on the same day. The Preakness -- or at Pimlico, there was a horse that passed away.

There are serious questions now about the safety of these animals that are part of this sport. Is there reason for concern?

VELAZQUEZ: Well, there's always a little concern in what happens so obviously, accidents can happen. The horse how died the other day had a heart attack in there so there's things that can happen. I mean, a person walking the street can have a heart attack as well, so it's the way -- there's no control of that.

But the two animals that happened at Santa Anita, I have no clue. I haven't even heard of it.


VELAZQUEZ: But, yes, it happens but yes, the horse the other day, it was one of those things that had a heart attack after the race.

BERMAN: And just very quickly, John, after what happened in the Kentucky Derby, after falling off at the Preakness, will you be coming here to New York for the Belmont? Oh, I see you're at Belmont right now, but will you be running in the Belmont Stakes?

VELAZQUEZ: Yes, actually I think I'm going to ride a horse for Top Flight if he runs. He was here -- he was third in the -- in the Peter Pan and I think the distance will help him a lot and hopefully, he'll be ready for it.

BERMAN: All right. John Velazquez, we hope you have a successful and uneventful race here at Belmont, at least compared to the last two that you've been involved with.

Thanks so much for being with us this morning.

VELAZQUEZ: Thank you very much, guys.

CAMEROTA: All right, how about some levity?

BERMAN: Let's do it.

CAMEROTA: Alec Baldwin's Trump and friends channeled Queenses (sic) "Don't Stop Me Now" -- Queen's.

BERMAN: Queenses?

CAMEROTA: It's hard -- the plural of Queens.

BERMAN: You sound like Gollum from "Lord of the Rings" -- Queenses because it has some x's. Sorry, there's a tease here.

CAMEROTA: In the season finale of "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE" --

BERMAN: Liveses.

CAMEROTA: -- here are your "Late-Night Laughses."



(Singing to tune of Queen's "Don't Stop Me Now")

BALDWIN: Tonight, I'm going to have myself a real good time.


ROBERT DE NIRO, ACTOR, PORTRAYING ROBERT MUELLER, NBC "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE": I have something very important to say to the American people -- something they need to hear.

BALDWIN: No collusion, no obstruction.

CAST MEMBERS, NBC "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE": So don't stop me now. We're having such a good time.


LESLIE JONES, CAST MEMBER PORTRAYING WHOOPI GOLBERG, NBC "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE": So you really think that you're ready to be president?

PAUL RUDD, ACTOR, PORTRAYING PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE PETE BUTTIGIEG: Am I ready? Si, estoy listo. Oui, je suis pret. (Made up language spoken).

JONES: And what was that last one?

RUDD: A language I made up to speak to gnomes.

JONES, WEEKEND UPDATE, NBC "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE": If you're a woman out there and you feel scared or confused, just know that you're not alone. There's so many women out there that got your back, especially me.

You can't tell me what to do with my body. You can't make me small or put me in a box. I'm six feet tall and 233 pounds. Ain't no box big enough to hold me and I know, because one time I tried to mail myself to a dude.


CAMEROTA: Good stuff in there.

BERMAN: You can't argue with that.

All right. Could one Republican congressman's rebellion against President Trump grow into something bigger? NEW DAY continues right now.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're on a road to impeachment and now, it's a bipartisan road.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The first sitting Republican member of Congress to call his behavior impeachable. SEN. MITT ROMNEY (D-UT): Justin Amash has reached a different conclusion than I have.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): Can an impeachment even be potentially successful in the Senate? We see no signs of that yet.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If Iran attacks, it will be up to America to take the last strike.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're at a greater risk of nuclear war now than ever before.

TRUMP: I don't want to fight, but you do have situations like Iran. You can't let them have nuclear weapons.

ROBERT SMITH, FOUNDER, BILLIONAIRE INVESTOR, CHAIRMAN, CEO, VISTA EQUITY PARTNERS: This is my class, 2019, and my family is making a grant to eliminate their student loans. Now that you're college debt- free, I can't hear you.



ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

BERMAN: Good morning and welcome to your NEW DAY. It is Monday, May 20th, 8:00 here in the East. And you're looking at our brand new office space at Hudson Yards in New York.

CAMEROTA: Those are our new digs -- very shiny as the sun rises over them. And this is also very shiny. Our beautiful new, bright studio.

BERMAN: Yes, with the foot T.V. which --

CAMEROTA: And now I understand.

BERMAN: We have a T.V. at our feet.

CAMEROTA: At our feet. See, I thought you meant like they were going to be showing our feet, which is going to, I think, attract a different demographic --


CAMEROTA: -- of viewer, I felt.

BERMAN: We don't want to exclude that demographic and if you are into our feet, that is completely OK.

CAMEROTA: And that's fine, too.

BERMAN: All right.

For the first time, a Republican member of Congress says the president has engaged in impeachable conduct. Will more Republicans follow Congressman Justin Amash?

Amash already facing a coordinated attack by the president and his allies. He seemed to anticipate this. He did accuse the attorney general.