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Trump Sends Troops to Middle East; Trump Gives Barr Power; Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) is Interviewed about Pelosi Video; Disaster Relief Bill Held Up. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired May 24, 2019 - 13:00   ET



[13:00:20] DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Dana Bash, in for Brianna Keilar, live from CNN's Washington headquarters.

Breaking news from President Trump himself. He says that he is giving the go-ahead for additional troops to be sent to the Middle East. He says it will be around 1,500 troops, taking what he calls defensive positions.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We want to have protection in the Middle East. We're going to be sending a relatively small number of troops, mostly protective, and some very talented people are going to the Middle East right now and we'll see how -- and we'll see what happens.


TRUMP: It will be about 1,500 people.


BASH: Now, with some reaction to what the White House and Pentagon say are threats from Iran, I want to bring in John Kirby, who is our national security analyst. Of course a retired admiral. You've been at the Pentagon, you've been at the State Department and spokesperson. You understand these kinds of issues better than most. So break it down for us exactly what this is and why they say at the Pentagon even that it's needed.

REAR ADM. JOHN KIRBY (RET.), CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: So there are two components to this 1,500. The first is that they are extended the patriot batteries that are already there and the troops that support them. That's around 600 people. They're going to be extended, so they're not additional into the region. The other 900 are additional and they are coming with some of reconnaissance and fighter aircraft.

So, for General McKenzie, the central command commander, it is two things. One, it means that the threat from Iran hasn't diminished sufficiently enough for him to reduce his force presence. Number two, he wants to have better eye on what the Iranians are doing, which is why you're seeing this -- these reconnaissance aircraft going in the -- in the troops that support them. And he's still concerned about the ballistic missile threat from Iran. Their ballistic missiles are short range, but everything in the Middle East is short range. So he's putting those patriot batteries in there for that purpose.

BASH: And you're talking about what the general in command there says he needs.

KIRBY: Right.

BASH: Are you confident that it is coming from him and not from the White House?

KIRBY: Yes, I am. Pentagon officials I've spoken to make it very clear, this is coming from the bottom up, Dana, there's no question about it. And I know General McKenzie very well. He would not politicize his presence on the ground at all. If he says he needs them, you can bank on the fact that he needs them. That said, Dana, it is fair to criticize the administration for escalating the tensions. The only reason that Frank McKenzie needs to ask for these additional resources is because some of the political actions that the Trump administration has participated in, designating the IRGC as a terrorist group, upping these sanctions, pulling out of the Iran deal, they have provoked this.

BASH: Such important context. Thanks for doing that reporting.

KIRBY: A pleasure.

BASH: Appreciate it.

And now investigating the investigators. President Trump is doing everything he can to help his attorney general dig into the origins of the Russia probe. The White House is directing the intelligence agencies to give Bill Barr extraordinary access to information. The president signed an order expanding Barr's power and gives him the ability to declassify sensitive materials at his own discretion.

Our Laura Jarrett is at the Justice Department.

And, Laura, the president said moments ago he hopes Barr also looks into the U.K., to Australia, to the Ukraine as part of this investigation. What does this mean exactly?

LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: It means that we are in for quite a sweeping investigation here. You know, originally, it was hard to figure out what exactly the scope would be. But this order from the president last night makes it pretty clear that Barr is in the driver's seat. You know, traditionally, the president is the ultimate authority on classification issues. But under this new scheme and this memo that really formalizes the ongoing review that we know that Barr was undertaking, look into the origins of the Russia investigation and surveillance issues surrounding 2016, it sort of flips everything on its head and makes Barr the ultimate classification authority.

And we had also know that Barr was working in close coordination with the CIA, the FBI, the director of national intelligence, all working together collaboratively, we were told, to undertake this review with Barr at the helm, along with a U.S. attorney, a top prosecutor named John Durham out in Connecticut. But it makes it clear that if there's any disagreement between the intelligence committee and Barr, Barr wins out, Dana.

BASH: OK, Laura, thank you so much for that.

And a feud between America's two most powerful leaders has gone from worrisome to downright dangerous. President Trump and his associate shared doctored and edited videos of Nancy Pelosi, aimed at questioning her mental fitness. Now, one slows down a clip of Pelosi to look and sound like she's drunk. Now, that was tweeted out by Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani, which he later took down but tells CNN that he has no apologies for raising questions about Pelosi.

[13:05:08] Now, here's a look at the original clip and then how it was edited.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): And then he had a press conference in the Rose Garden with all this sort -- sort of visuals that obviously were planned long before.

And then he had a press conference in the Rose Garden with all this sort -- sort of visuals that obviously were planned long before.


BASH: Now, to be sure, that is fake news. And the manipulated video has been shared millions of times on social media. It has been removed from YouTube, but still up on FaceBook, although the company says it's demoted the video making it less visible to viewers on FaceBook.

Moments ago, President Trump responded to that video saying he doesn't know about it and weighed in on why he continues to escalate the feud with the House speaker.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When you say -- when you say a personal attack, did you hear what she said about me long before I went after her? Did you hear? She made horrible statements. She knows they're not true. She made -- she said terrible things. So I just responded in kind.

Look, you think Nancy's the same as she was? She's not. Maybe we can all say that. But I think -- I think, frankly, I think right now we are -- I'm only speaking for myself. I want to do what's good for the country. I think Nancy Pelosi is not helping this country.


Joining me now is a senior senator from Minnesota, Amy Klobuchar, who is a Democratic candidate for president. Senator, thank you so much for joining me.

I want to start on that doctored video --

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you, Dana. That's a lot of news.

BASH: A lot of news, so let's tick through it.

KLOBUCHAR: That's a lot of news you have.

BASH: It is. It is. So let's tick through it starting with that doctored video.


BASH: Probably the most egregious example of what we've seen recently but probably just one example, not probably, definitely one example of the dangers of misinformation that's spread on the Internet. I know you've been pushing legislation on these issues, but Congress hasn't done much. Do you think this incident could actually spark action?

KLOBUCHAR: I hope so because it's happening all over the place. I don't think we would expect the president of the United States to be sending out a video that is doctored. But we've seen this. It's a concerted effort. There's several videos out there, two of them that I know of, of Speaker Pelosi slowing down her words, trying to make her look in some inebriated state. It is unbelievable to me that the president would be involved in this kind of disinformation campaign.

At the same time, we know we've seen it in other contexts as well. And so for citizens, number one, they've got to check out news websites to figure out what's true or not at this point and not just believe these videos they see on the Internet. And then, yes, I'd like to pass our legislation that we have out there to make sure that paid political ads, at least, that you know what they are and who paid for them and also privacy legislation, which is also going to be very important here.

This is the kind of thing we're going to see, but for the president to engage in this kind of activity when in fact, I mean, think about it, he's sending over troops to the Mideast right now. We've got in the middle of the Midwest, meanwhile, we have farms going bankrupt. We've got problems from his tariffs. And yet this is what he's focused on is just escalating a battle. And I think we need less chaos and we need more reasoned leadership, which is why I'm running for president.

BASH: Well, you mentioned the president. I want to ask you about FaceBook, because, as I mentioned, it has not removed the video from its platform, downgraded it. But the company -- its policy is not to require things posted on its site to be true. What can or should Congress, or if you're president, do about FaceBook on that kind of policy?

KLOBUCHAR: These social media companies for years now have -- think that they can do anything they want because they claim that they are not really companies and they claim they're just information-sharing sites. Well, we've seen that's not true. So that's why I think rules of the road here are going to be very important going forward, and that includes looking at the consolidation we've seen and it also includes privacy. And then, finally, it involves the kind of stuff that they're allows out there, which is clearly misleading the public.

BASH: Let's turn to Iran. You mentioned there's a lot of news. This is -- this is certainly at the top of the list. You heard the president announce today he's going to send an additional 1,500 troops to the Middle East to counter Iran. Based on what you have heard in your briefings as a U.S. senator, is this appropriate?

[13:10:00] KLOBUCHAR: You have to listen to the military when there is a threat. And so I would want to talk to them about that because that wasn't happening when we had our classified briefing last week. That being said, it really concerns me that this administration, this is a self-inflicted problem. First of all, they got out of the Iran agreement, something that I would not have done, leaving this all to our allies to enforce and giving more leverage to China and to Russia, the last thing that we should be doing. It is no surprise, then, that we're seeing volatility.

Then you have the president saying he doesn't want to go to war. However, perhaps he has created such a volatile situation that this kind of activity is happening right now. And then the third thing I would say is if he is serious, if he is near us going to war with Iran, he cannot do that without an authorization of military force, which a number of us are pushing in Congress. That's what the -- is required here. He can't use that old authorization anymore when he's dealing with Iran. And I can't go into all the details from our classified briefings except to say, I strongly believe we would need an authorization of military force.

BASH: Just briefly to follow up on something you said. Just last week, as you mentioned, you -- as part of an all senators briefing -- did here about the classified information coming out of Iran. You said just last week, based on that, this did not seem necessary. I just want to make sure I understand what you said correctly.

KLOBUCHAR: No. No, no, no, I said they did not tell us at that point that they were sending in the troops.

BASH: I see.

KLOBUCHAR: We didn't know that. And so I would like to follow up with them on what has led to that decision. Obviously, Iran is a very bad actor. They have perpetrated terrorism around the Mideast. But the point is, you want to try to do everything you can to dissuade them doing more and you don't want to go to war right now.

BASH: Got it.

KLOBUCHAR: I don't think anyone wants that.


KLOBUCHAR: And so that's why we need to be working with our allies to reduce that fact.

BASH: Let's turn to the attorney general, Bill Barr, his investigation of the origins of the Trump/Russia probe. The president, as you heard, he's giving the attorney general new powers to have access to sensitive material from the intelligence community.

Do you agree with that as a way just to get to the bottom of this, find out if really there is any there there and end speculation once and for all?

KLOBUCHAR: We know the origins of this investigation, Dana. The origin of this investigation are in the Mueller report and they are well established. And that is that there was a report from the Australians, one of our allies, that there was a representative of the Trump campaign, one Papadopoulos, who was at a bar in London and told an Australian diplomat that there was dirt that the Russians had on Hillary Clinton. That's why people started to look into this. This is exactly what happened.

And so for them to then go back in there and look at it again when the FBI director, appointed by Donald Trump, Christopher Wray, has said that there wasn't spying going on, that that is not the right term, I think it's wrong and I think it's even more wrong that the president has taken this step to empower Barr to make these decisions when in fact usually the agencies make the decisions themselves. And, in the end, this is all part of a pattern of politicizing our Justice Department instead of allowing justice to be done. The main thing in front of us, we know what it is, it's the Mueller report, and we want to get the details on what Russia did so that we can protect ourselves in the future and get to the truth.

BASH: OK, so speaking of politics, since I know you don't live under a rock, you are well aware of what happened at the White House this week with the president inviting a bipartisan group of leaders to meet with him at the White House on infrastructure, not even starting the meeting because he was angry about something Nancy Pelosi said.

So given all of that, and knowing what you know about being a member of Congress and hoping to not be in Congress anymore, how would you deal with this situation? Obviously you wouldn't do that if you were in the White House. But if you were in that meeting, how would you deal -- and dealing on the front lines of infrastructure, which I know you're very interested and have your own plan on the campaign trail.

KLOBUCHAR: Yes, right. Well, first of all, my plan that I have running for president is the same I would have in Congress, and that is that we have to pay for our infrastructure, and I have a way to do it by repealing some of these tax cuts that went to the wealthiest, including storing your money over in the Bahamas. And it's a well thought out plan. It's $1 trillion. The president keeps throwing out those terms, but then what happens at that meeting, I don't think there's anything that Speaker Pelosi or the other leaders there could have done. He went in there. He planned to get out because he had no plan on how to pay for it, and he threw a tantrum basically in order to avoid being able to talk about the fact that he didn't have it pay for. [13:15:11] I do have a pay for. There's a logical way we can do this.

And this is about the flooding in Iowa. This is about what's happened with the -- what we need to do about our levees, what we need to do about our bridges and our roads, our crumbling schools, our rail transit centers. We need an upgrade to our infrastructure in America. And that is what he has not been able to deliver on despite a promise on his election night.

BASH: Senator, one last question before I let you go.

Robert Mueller, as you know, the House Democrats who are in charge there, unlike you all in the Senate, they're trying to get Robert Mueller to come and testify publically. Jerry Nadler, the judiciary chairman, says Mueller only wants to testify in private.

Would you be OK with that?

KLOBUCHAR: I think that it would be much better if he was in public. That's what we should do because the public has to hear about what the Russians actually did. They're not all -- not everyone's going to be able to read that 448-page report. And so hearing from him -- from him directly, when Barr so many times, the attorney general, including to me personally said, I don't know the answer, he said to me, why don't you ask Bob Mueller about the tax returns. And I said, OK. He said, yes, when he comes before you, why don't you ask him. Well, I'm still waiting for Director Mueller to come before us. And I think it should be in a public setting.

BASH: Senator Amy Klobuchar, I know you have -- have to get over to Iowa. Something's happening there in eight months, right?


BASH: Thank you so much.

KLOBUCHAR: There is, but there's a lot going on now, too. So thank you very much, Dana.

BASH: Yes. Thank you, senator, I appreciate it.


BASH: And also breaking today, a Republican is holding up the passage of a disaster relief bill. Hear why.

Plus, on Fox News, a Republican donor and now the president reportedly wants his company to build the border wall.

Also, Theresa May steps down as Britain's prime minister. Her tearful good-bye and what this means for the future of America's closest ally.


[13:21:59] BASH: And now to the crucial disaster relief bill turning into a disaster all right, but without the relief part. The $19.1 billion bill was expected to pass the House today and head to the president's desk for him to sign it. He said he would. But that is no longer happening, and the reason is because most House members left town for Memorial Day recess hoping the legislation would pass by what's known has unanimous consent, meaning they wouldn't have to take a roll call vote and physically be there. One Republican, Chip Roy of Texas, used his right as a lawmaker, as anyone could, to object to doing it so quickly. He said it's too expensive and lacks money for the president's border wall.

Now, what's happening is this crucial bill, which is important to parts of the country all across the country, areas devastated by floods and wildfires and hurricanes, they are now having to wait for help.

I want to bring in CNN's congressional correspondent Phil Mattingly.

So, Phil, I feel like, you know, you and I have been in Congress long enough to know -- we weren't elected and we certainly aren't members of leadership, but if you would have asked us, with this kind of bill, with this kind of price tag in today's day and age be a sure thing for everybody to agree to without actually taking a vote?


BASH: Be a no-brainer? That would be a no?

MATTINGLY: This was utterly predictable that this was going to happen.

BASH: Right.

MATTINGLY: Anybody who has watched any large fiscal package over the course of the last decade, particularly with the rise of the House Freedom Caucus, particularly with fiscal conservatives, would know that they have major problems with this.

Now, they are in the distinct minority. This bill, when they eventually vote on it in an up or down fashion, when they come back for recess, will get 350 plus votes. And the pain threshold that was reached from lawmakers across ideological lines, Republicans from Georgia, Iowa, Nebraska, California, Florida, Puerto Rico, there's wide-ranging support for this. I think there's two things here.

There's, one the question of, why would you block this knowing how badly these places need it? Remember, disaster relief bills, when you were up there every single day, these things would always loose fiscal conservatives, but they would pass fairly easily and fairly quickly. This has been a battle for months. A battle where the president had problems with Puerto Rico funding, immigration funding for the border that the administration requested over the last two weeks kind of came into play and muddied things up again. Democrats were very staunch in their position on things. So it's been a mess. Now there's an opportunity to pass it. This Republican, well within his rights, Chip Roy --

BASH: Right.

MATTINGLY: Said, no, not right now.

BASH: Exactly. And the most important thing is, as you said, it is going pass and it would have passed had House members stayed around and not left for Memorial Day recession. And if you're out there saying Washington is broken, this might be an important data point.

MATTINGLY: Yes. I think it's just one of those things where -- and, look to -- to be fair, when House -- when the House recessed yesterday, not to get too technical about it, there was no deal.

BASH: That's an important point.

MATTINGLY: Senate Republicans got the president on the phone, made this deal, locked it in, but had they stayed, they would have passed this overwhelmingly last night and then been able to go on the recess now they have to wait a little bit longer.

The beauty of Congress, you never quite can predict what's going to happen. But to your point, I would say this was somewhat predictable if you've been watching these days.

[13:25:00] BASH: Yes, because we have been around for the past 10 years and not under a rock.

Thank you so much, Phil, thanks for breaking that down.

And suspicions are confirmed, British Prime Minister Theresa May says that she is resigning after she failed to deliver on Brexit. What's next for America's closest ally?

Plus, more on our breaking news this hour. The president giving his go-ahead for the deployment of about 1,500 troops to the Middle East.


[13:30:07] BASH: After days of increasing speculation