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Trump Breaks with FBI Director on Whether to Report Foreign Influence; Hope Hicks Agrees to Testify on Capitol Hill; Six Suspects Arrested in Shooting of David Ortiz; 24 Officers Injured After U.S. Marshals Kill Man in Memphis; Navy Sends Help After Suspected Oil Tanker Attacks; House Intel Committee Subpoenas Rick Gates and Michael Flynn; Trump Says Nothing Wrong with Taking Dirt from Foreigners on Political Rivals. Aired 9-9:30a ET
Aired June 13, 2019 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[09:00:23] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: A very good Thursday morning to you, I'm Jim Sciutto. Poppy Harlow is on assignment today.
We begin with chaos in Memphis. At least two dozen police officers and two journalists are recovering from injuries this morning following violent clashes with protesters. People flooded the streets after officers with the U.S. Marshal's Service shot and killed a man in North Memphis earlier this day. Authorities have identified the man as Brandon Webber.
Memphis police were not involved in that shooting in any way, but they were caught in the tension that followed. Some people threw bricks and rocks at the officers, police cars were vandalized, windows were broken out. In a fire station a concrete wall completely demolished.
CNN correspondent Martin Savidge has more details on the story.
What more can you tell us about the root of this and are things calmed down now?
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, emotions are still very raw in the Frayser neighborhood which, as you point out, is in North Memphis. It started around 7:00 last night when U.S. marshals were moving in, attempting to serve warrants on the man they were going to arrest on federal charges, but things turned, they say that the suspect attempted to flee, got into a vehicle, used that vehicle to ram a number of police cars then got out of the vehicle with a weapon, and that's when U.S. marshals opened fire and killed him.
And that is what sparked a protest that then started shortly thereafter. A crowd gathered and some in that crowd began throwing bricks and rocks. You had 24 police officers that were injured. At least six of them had to be transported to hospital to be further checked out. And a number of civilians, including two journalists that were on the scene covering the situation there.
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation has been brought in now to investigate the shooting here to determine exactly how it went down, but right now the mayor is asking for calm in the community there, saying that people shouldn't react until they know all of the facts.
Police eventually wearing riot gear and using tear gas were able to disburse the crowd late last night, but again tensions are going to remain in that neighborhood. Most of all people want to know exactly why was this person targeted and did they or did they not have a weapon as the authorities allege -- Jim.
SCIUTTO: Well, just the reaction out of control. Martin Savidge on the story, thanks very much.
SAVIDGE: You're welcome.
SCIUTTO: Also breaking this morning, the U.S. Navy is now responding to a suspected attack on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman. Navy officials say it received two distress calls less than an hour apart, flames, billows of black smoke, you see it there, pouring out of one of those tankers, a serious attack.
A source tells CNN the incident is very similar to an attack just last month when four tankers were targeted in the United Arab Emirates port. News of the alleged attack sent oil prices soaring, worries about supply there sending prices up.
Let's bring in CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr and CNN international diplomatic editor Nic Robertson.
Nic, looking at this, they appear to be connected in some way, similar M.O. to these attacks. Is there any evidence now as to who is behind them?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: What we can say at the moment, Jim, is this is a clear escalation over and above those previous attacks. The previous attacks were mines attached to the rear, the sterns of vessels while they were at anchor. These ships were moving, they were heavily ladened with oil and chemicals, and they were targeted while they were on the move. And that is different to the previous attack.
So this is an escalation, it's an escalation as well, of course, because one person was injured, that the fires broke out and that the crews were forced to abandon ship. What we -- what has been described by the master on board one of those vessels is some sort of shell hitting the side of the vessel and you see the vessel on fire, the broadside of the vessel is on fire rather than either end.
So this is unlikely -- it appears unlikely that this was -- that the vessel was struck by a mine and certainly from the accounts on board the vessel that there were two strikes of some sort of shell. So this gives us an indication of an escalation.
Now the Iranian Navy initially, according to Iranian media, rescued all 44 of their crew members aboard and took them to an Iranian island in the vicinity. Now this was the early reporting, of course, but this seems to be a much more serious incident targeting heavily ladened vessels on the move that now have no one on those ships -- Jim. SCIUTTO: Barbara Starr, U.S. Navy responding, providing assistance,
but I also imagine concerned about the safety of U.S. naval vessels in the same area.
[09:05:08] BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's one of the reasons, of course, they need to find out as fast as possible what exactly happened here and who may be behind it all and what their intentions are. You know, there were two Navy warships that received the distress calls early today, but it was the USS Bainbridge that was closest and was able to move in.
A tug, a Netherlands tug actually picked up 21 crew members from one of the stricken ships. They got on to the tug and then the tug transferred them to the Bainbridge where they are now at this hour. No firm word on the other crew from the other vessel. But these are waters that the U.S. Navy consistently operates in, many of the allies operate in them.
The fate of these commercial mariners is very serious because these are people who have no means of defending themselves. They man these ships up and down these waters, they carry vital cargo and they just have no means of defending themselves when they come under attack. So there is going to be a lot of concern as you mentioned already, oil prices spiking, we will have to see if the market calms down.
This is likely potentially to raise commercial brokerage insurance rates for these commercial ships at some point. So there is a lot of economic impact. We are already hearing from the tanker industry about how concerned they are and we will have to see how military forces in the region, if they do respond.
STARR: What may happen next -- Jim.
SCIUTTO: Nic, that economic impact may very well be the intention of an attack like this, is it not? In other words, to show the kind of trouble a state actor or non-state actor can cause in the event of bigger hostilities. Of course it happens at a time when the U.S. and Iran and the U.S. and its allies in Iran ramping up the rhetoric and the tension in the region.
ROBERTSON: Jim, there's a very clear cause and effect here. The attack off the coast of the Emirates four weeks ago on those four ships, the U.N. said that a state actor was most likely behind it. Both the United States and Saudi Arabia said that they believed Iran was behind the attack. Well, in the wake of those attacks noticing that Iran is under tougher and tougher economic sanctions and wants a way to get out from under those sanctions, you have right now the Japanese prime minister in Iran talking to the president and the supreme leader, Ayatollah Khomeini.
So if you've got a cause which is that spike in tensions because of the attacks four weeks ago and the effect is the Iranians get a senior figure on the global stage to come and talk to them about their concerns. SCIUTTO: Yes.
ROBERTSON: This seems to be, you know, amplifying that message, turning up the heat.
SCIUTTO: Yes. These things often are very much connected.
Barbara Starr, Nic Robertson, thanks very much.
It's a busy morning, we have this breaking news now, on Capitol Hill the House Intelligence Committee has just subpoenaed both former Trump deputy campaign chairman, Rick Gates, and former White House National Security adviser Michael Flynn for documents and testimony related to the Mueller report.
Lauren Fox is on Capitol Hill with more.
Lauren, these are two key figures in the investigation, another sign that the investigation from the Democrats' perspective in the House is not over.
LAUREN FOX, CNN POLITICS CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right, Jim. And we think that this is a very key indication of that. They have subpoenaed Rick Gates and Michael Flynn for testimony and for documents.
And I just want to read a little bit of Adam Schiff, who is the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, here is a little bit of his statement. He said, "As part of our oversight work the House Intelligence Committee is continuing to examine the deep counterintelligence concerns raised in the Special Counsel Mueller's report and that requires speaking directly with the fact witnesses. Both Flynn and Gates were critical witnesses for Mueller's investigation, but so far have refused to cooperate fully with Congress."
And obviously this gives an indication, they are looking to get to the bottom of Russian interference in the 2016 election and I just want to put this a little bit in context for you, Jim. You know, this is exactly what House Democrats have been doing across the board. We heard yesterday the House Judiciary Committee will speak with Hope Hicks, the former White House communications director, behind closed doors next Wednesday and they will release a transcript afterward.
There are still questions about specifically what she will be willing to answer, whether she will be able to comment on her time in the White House, but that just shows you Democrats digging in, they want to get to the bottom of the Mueller report from Russian interference to obstruction of justice. They're not done with their house oversight just yet. Of course, this could be a long road ahead -- Jim.
SCIUTTO: It will be a long road ahead. Thanks very much, Lauren Fox on the Hill. I know you'll stay on top of it.
[09:10:00] If any leading Republicans are outraged this morning or alarmed, even mildly concerned, that President Trump is inviting foreign governments to interfere in upcoming elections including the 2020 election, they're certainly keeping it to themselves. So far the outage, the alarm bells, any objection whatsoever coming solely from Democrats after the president's casual admission to ABC News that he would, quote, "listen if a foreign country once again offered dirt on a political opponent." Listen to his words.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think you might want to listen. I know there's nothing wrong with listening. If somebody called from a country, Norway, we have information on your opponent, we'll, I think I'd want to hear it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCIUTTO: Nothing wrong with listening, the president says. Now the president attempting to clean this up it appears now with tweets now where he says the following, "I meet and talk to foreign governments every day." He mentions the Queen of England, the prince of Wales, prime minister of Ireland, et cetera. "Should I immediately call the FBI about these calls and meetings?"
I just want to be clear here. That is not what the president was asked about. That is not what he spoke about in that ABC interview. He was asked specifically about foreign governments offering damaging information on political opponents in reference to 2016 interference by Russia in this election when his campaign was offered dirt on Hillary Clinton. That's what the question was about, that's what his answer was about. These tweets are frankly misleading.
My guest now, Bob Baer, former CIA operative, a lot of experience covering Russia and its interference in U.S. political process, Susan Hennessey, a former NSA attorney.
So, Bob and Susan, I'm going to ignore the president's tweet here because it doesn't align with the facts of what he said yesterday. So let's talk about what he did say yesterday, Bob. A U.S. president saying that if a foreign government or foreigner offers information on a political opponent that he would listen. It would be very easy for him to say, I will not accept any foreign help, that's interference. He did not say it.
Is that cooperating with foreign interference in a U.S. election?
BOB BAER, CNN INTELLIGENCE AND SECURITY ANALYST: Oh, Jim, absolutely. That's an open invitation, especially for hostile governments, to hack the elections. That means get in the cell phones remotely from abroad of all the Democratic candidates, anything they pick up, fragmentary or not, give it to the president and he will do them a favor in the future. He's --
BAER: Asking for the KGB, for Russia, to interfere again in our elections. There is no question about it. This is flat-out against the law. I've -- you know, of course, this has never happened in American history. It truly, truly worries me what this president is about because he doesn't understand foreign influence in our elections.
SCIUTTO: Susan Hennessey, Bob Baer mentions the law, you're a lawyer. Let's read the law, federal law. "It shall be unlawful for a foreign national directly or indirectly to make a contribution or donation of money or other thing of value in connection with a federal, state or local election."
I should note that in the special counsel's report Robert Mueller and his legal team mentions that damaging opposition research is surely valuable to a campaign here. Is the president endorsing breaking U.S. campaign finance law?
SUSAN HENNESSEY, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY AND LEGAL ANALYST: I think potentially he is. So one thing that the Mueller report does make clear is that Robert Mueller believes that things like opposition research, the kind of dirt that was offered in that Trump Tower meeting to Don Jr. and Jared Kushner, does qualify as a thing of value under campaign finance law.
Now the reason why Mueller declined to press charges was because he said, look, there is a knowledge requirement. You have to know that it's illegal at the time. He didn't believe that he could show that about the participants in that meeting. He also said they weren't sure how exactly they would prove that it was worth $25,000, which is that threshold, you know, that threshold to actually pursue felony charges.
One reason why the president's comments is so alarming -- his comments yesterday are so alarming is not just because of the disregard of the law, but also because he's now the president of the United States. We saw what he was willing to do as a candidate, but now as president he wouldn't necessarily have to violate campaign finance law because of the very reasons that he mentioned in his tweets this morning.
He has all kinds of contacts with foreign governments. It's very, very difficult to sort of disentangle these issues, you know, what is related to helping him politically and what is in the interest of the United States. And that's why we really should expect and demand a president to be absolutely crystal clear about representing the interests of the American people and not his own political interests.
HENNESSEY: In engaging with foreign countries.
SCIUTTO: You think that wouldn't be a lot to ask.
But, Bob Baer, as always happens with this, a statement like this is politicized, we've heard widespread criticism, condemnation from Democrats, not a peep from Republican lawmakers yet on it. But you served overseas, you served doing intelligence on hostile foreign powers, including Russia. Just for someone who has been in effect on the front lines of this
kind of conflict, explain to our viewers why this matters or why it should matter to them if they're tempted to say, it's just Trump talking again.
BOB BAER, FORMER CIA OPERATIVE: It's -- because it's the whole question of free and fair elections in this country. Our democracy is based on that of not having hostile in governments in the middle of it. And if I were sitting in Moscow in the FSB office, I would start right now --
SCIUTTO: Yes --
BAER: Involving myself in American elections. Start hacking phones, e-mails and the rest. And they can influence the outcome of it. Do we really want a president of the United States who is backed by a hostile foreign country? I don't. I mean --
SCIUTTO: Yes --
BAER: Seriously, I've been talking about this. This should be impeachable. Cooperating with a hostile government, and this is what Trump asked for yesterday.
SCIUTTO: Susan, the politics of this, Nancy Pelosi, the speaker, has resisted so far opening formal impeachment proceedings, preferring the investigative route with the powers they have, also the courts. Does this put her in a greater political bind here when the president today is talking about ignoring a U.S. law?
SUSAN HENNESSEY, FORMER NSA ATTORNEY: Look, I think it does demonstrate that this is just going to get worse and worse and worse, and so sort of this reluctance to not pursue sort of even opening an impeachment inquiry. You know, Trump really is demonstrating in real time, you know, the harms that he could inflict by remaining in office, and especially remaining in office without sort of the symbolic at least sort of messaging of this behavior was unacceptable, this is impeachable conduct.
You know, the founders of the U.S. constitution thought a lot about foreign interference. They were really concerned about it. And that's because we want Americans whenever they vote to be voting based on what they believe is in America's best interest, not what's in the best interest of a foreign country.
We also don't want elected officials to be doing things either because they are beholden to foreign powers or because they want to curry favor and have other countries interfere in elections in the future. So, this is a really perilous --
SCIUTTO: Yes --
HENNESSEY: Thing. It's also surprising to not see Republicans sort of speak out at this point. SCIUTTO: Yes --
HENNESSEY: Look, the Russians happen to favor Trump, next time, China might favor a different -- a different candidate, a Democratic candidate.
SCIUTTO: Yes --
HENNESSEY: They aren't always going to be on the winning side here, and so this really is a moment that calls for a bipartisan --
SCIUTTO: Yes --
HENNESSEY: Condemnation and say, this really is about the fundamental norms and protection of democracy.
SCIUTTO: The information is the interference. It's why Intel agencies call these information ops. That's the interference. See Podesta's e-mails, Hillary Clinton's e-mails, it was weaponized. Bob Baer, Susan Hennessey, thanks very much.
Still to come this hour, Hope Hicks on the hot seat, one of the president's closest former aides say she will sit down with the House Judiciary Committee to answer questions. I'm going to speak with a member of that committee coming up.
Plus, more arrests in the shooting of Red Sox legend David "Big Papi" Ortiz, police say the suspects were offered money, what was the motive? We're going to be live in the Dominican Republic. And happening right now, a hearing on Capitol Hill to discuss the threat of deep fake videos in the 2020 election.
Manipulated videos that can make anyone seem to say anything. It's frightening.
[09:20:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
SCIUTTO: Just moments ago, President Trump took to Twitter to try and defend remarks he made that he would listen if a foreign government approached him with damaging information about a political rival and would not necessarily report that contact to the FBI as the FBI director had said should be expected.
With me now is Democratic Congressman Steve Cohen of Tennessee. He sits on the House Judiciary Committee, congressman, we appreciate you taking the time this morning.
REP. STEVE COHEN (D-TN): Good morning, thank you.
SCIUTTO: You heard the president's comments. He would listen if a foreign government approached him with damaging information about a political rival and would not necessarily report that contact to the FBI. The law as you know is very clear here, election law -- Barr is accepting anything of value from a foreigner to influence a campaign. Did the president just say that he would be willing to break the law? COHEN: The president did say that, and it's just a continuing
evidence of the fact that this is a lawless president and a lawless presidency, and nothing will stop him. He is -- nothing stopped him through his years of not paying contractors on his work, not paying -- going bankrupt many times, taking advantage of subcontractors and doing whatever he chose and then just going to court and hiring Roy Cohn or Michael Cohen or Rudy Giuliani or Bill Barr to take care of the mess they left behind him.
He just -- impeachment is for the purpose of getting a president who is not capable of doing the office in the way it was supposed to be done out of office.
SCIUTTO: You --
COHEN: This is more clearly showing the man is just incapable of abiding by the law and carrying out his --
SCIUTTO: Right --
COHEN: Constitutional mandate.
SCIUTTO: You already have come out in favor of opening impeachment proceedings against the president for the president's behavior up to this point. I would ask you just by itself, is the president signaling publicly a willingness to break standing U.S. election law, is that by itself an impeachable offense in your view?
COHEN: I think it's part of an impeachable approach. It may be singular, but you take the totality of the circumstances, is this person capable of serving the public and the idea and the terms that the constitution drew up the presidency? When you say that you will violate the law and you'll work with -- take information from foreign powers which is against the law, it shows, you cannot be president because you can't faithfully execute the office which is the oath you take.
So, this will be something I will add to my continuing impeachment article. I've had -- I drafted one, I had one filed in 2017, I've have had it amended, I've had it fine-tuned, it will be more fine- tuned, and one day I will drop it.
SCIUTTO: As you know, the speaker of the house Nancy Pelosi, has to this point resisted moving to formal impeachment proceedings against the president. With this latest statement by the president, do you believe that Speaker Pelosi is failing in her duty to protect the law?
[09:25:00] COHEN: I can't say that. You know, Nancy Pelosi and I are friends, I respect her, she's really smart. She's got a different perspective on what gets the country in the best shape and gets rid of Donald Trump, and she thinks it's the 2020 elections. I think the 2020 election will rid us of him, but I think he is a present danger and that if we don't do something to assure -- and I think impeachment proceedings will help see that he is beaten, but that's not the reason to do it. I think we have a moral imperative to bring those charges in the
house, at least, stand up, do its responsibility even if the Senate won't. I think we'll see blood on our hands, I think we'll see soldiers dying because this man will find a way to wag the dog, get us into a war to improve his standing and to make him feel like he's a man and not just a young guy that got sent off from the Upper East side of Manhattan to the military school Upstate because he was a bad young man. And now, he can be the commander-in-chief. We're going to see that come out of him.
SCIUTTO: To this point, no sitting Republican lawmakers to my knowledge, and correct me if I'm wrong, but no sitting Republican lawmakers have objected to the president's comments yesterday regarding accepting help from a foreign power. Former -- John Kasich, for instance, former politicians have, but no sitting lawmaker. What do you say to your Republican colleagues who will not call out this behavior?
COHEN: Well, there's not much you can say to them that hasn't been said before. You know, I looked at the panel when John Dean and Joyce Vance and Barbara McQuade came before us on Monday. And I saw those men and the one lady and I thought these are the same people in different incarnations that sat on -- with Richard Nixon, and it took a long time before you got some Republicans to leave.
I think about half of the Republicans ended up voting for impeachment, but at first, there were none. And these are the same people and some of them will go down like the people that stood with Nixon. They will not show leadership, they will not back their party, they will not face the truth, and they can't face reality and politically, they support this president and unfortunately the Republican Party as we know it today supports this president.
Ninety percent support this president. They don't care if he is lawless. They don't care if he shoots somebody on Fifth Avenue.
SCIUTTO: Do -- you're aware of the numbers here, and we'll put these up on the screen. Seventy six percent of Democrats, they do support opening impeachment proceedings against this president, but among independents, it's only a third. Of course, that's where the money is, right there in the coming elections because independents are going to turn it. Does that give you pause about opening proceedings --
COHEN: No, not at all --
SCIUTTO: Impeachment proceedings?
COHEN: Not at all. When Watergate hearings started, it was at 19 percent in favor of removing the president. The facts that were produced at the hearings led it from 19 up to 57 percent. Now, we had the 23 minutes, we had Rosemary Woods and the quote-unquote, "smoking gun". But I think if we get the witnesses, if we have the hearings, the public will see more and more and more.
Even those who have bought this malarkey for the last two years, that this is a lawless presidency, that this man does not know any constraints on his ambition, on his narcissism, on his id, and that he -- the people will come along and that will rise.
And especially, the independents who are more likely to be -- they are independent, they're more likely to be college-educated, they're more likely to be concerned about issues the Democrats care about like healthcare, like guns, like the climate change, and they care about those issues, too. And I think it just raises the numbers.
And by the time the hearings are over, I think those numbers will be greater. An impeachment hearing if done with -- correctly, and with a president like this where there are so many instances, there's obvious in the Mueller report, obstruction of justice will just rise the numbers, educate the --
SCIUTTO: Right --
COHEN: Public, and then the Senate is going to have to be faced with voting against it. If they do, "Sayonara" Cory Gardner, "Sayonara" Susan Collins, "Sayonara" Martha McSally, maybe "Sayonara" Texas and Georgia.
SCIUTTO: Congressman Steve Cohen, good to have you on the program this morning.
COHEN: Jim, good to be with you, too.
SCIUTTO: As David Ortiz recovers in a Boston hospital, we are getting a new look at the moment that he was shot in the back while police have six men in custody now and others still on the run. A full update on that story just ahead.
And we're moments away from the opening bell on Wall Street. We are watching oil prices which are expected to rise, following the suspected attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman. Plus, investors watch for any hints of a trade deal between the U.S. and China after the president says there is no deadline.