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U.S. Navy Helps 2 Oil Tankers in Suspected Attack in Gulf of Oman; U.S. Navy Spots Unemployed Mine Attached to Tanker; Pompeo to Speak Soon on Attack on 2 Oil Tankers; Russia Warns Against Jumping to Conclusions, Iran Suggests They're Being Set Up; Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) Discusses Trump On Willing to Accept Foreign Dirt on Political Opponents, Trump Slamming Intel Community, the Mueller Report, Subpoenas for Flynn & Gates; Dominican Republic Police Arrest 6, Including Alleged Gunman, in $7,800 Hit on David Ortiz. Aired 1:30-2p ET
Aired June 13, 2019 - 13:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[13:31:05] BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: There's growing alarm in the Middle East over what appears to be new attacks on ships in the region. This time, two commercial oil tankers were struck while moving through international waters into the Gulf of Oman.
Here you can see. I mean, this is flames and smoke that is just pouring out of one of those damaged tankers after an explosion. And this is an image of the oil tanker shortly after the incident.
The crews were safely evacuated from both ships. There's one injury reported at this point in time.
Marine traffic shows the current locations of these vessels. The incidents happened not too far from where four oil tankers were attacked in the Strait of Hormuz last month.
I want to bring in CNN Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr. And we have our senior diplomatic correspondent, Michelle Kosinski, and CNN military and diplomatic analyst, retired Rear Admiral John Kirby with us.
Barbara, first to you.
You have some new details. Tell us.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: We do, indeed. A U.S. defense official now says that the crew of the "USS Bainbridge," the Navy ship that responded very quickly to the incident, that the crew of the Navy ship observed an unexploded mine on the side of one of the burning tankers.
It's believed it was one of these so-called limpet mines. These are mines that can be attached to the hull of a ship using magnets. So they observed an unexploded one. Why is this so significant beyond the obvious is because it's believed
that that is the type of mine that was used in May when four other tankers in the gulf region were also -- came under attack.
Now, those tankers were at a stopped position. These tankers were under way. And if, in fact, it's Iran behind it, as the U.S. now suspects, at least, it shows a very advanced capability by Iran to have some underwater capability to place a mine on a moving ship. None of this is to be taken lightly, of course.
And we're also learning that the U.S. Navy, in the coming hours, expects to deploy additional ships to this immediate region for security patrols, for helping those mariners get off the "Bainbridge" and get back to a port where they can get back to their company business, possibly back to their families.
Always worth remembering these are commercial mariners. Those are people working commercial tanker crews, people trying to earn a living with no means of defending themselves that came under attack -- Brianna?
KEILAR: And big economic implications here, obviously, Michelle Kosinski. You're at the State Department. This is something they are watching very carefully over there. What are you hearing?
MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT: They haven't said anything yet. But because we expect to hear from Secretary of State Pompeo very shortly, we expect him, even though it's too early to know all of the details of this or who exactly was behind it.
Last month's attack took some time to reach the conclusion, at least on the part of the U.S., that Iran was behind it.
But because the M.O. in this case was so similar, the targets were similar, even the location is similar, we fully expect the secretary of state to bring up Iran and its influence in the region during the address today.
We're not sure if he's going to take questions or how much he will say but this is another opportunity for the State Department to talk about Iran's activities in the area.
And I will say the last time, on May 12th, when four tankers were targeted with very similar mines, there was a thought among U.S. allies that, well, if this does turn out to be Iran, there's going to have to be some action that's taken, like we can't let this go.
The U.S. determined that this went up to the highest levels in Iran. That the IRGC was behind the careful planning of it.
So this is yet another attack. And if Iran was involved, only weeks after the last one, you know, there should be some response, at least U.S. allies believe so.
And we'll see what Pompeo says about the possibility that this was another attack by the same actor. [13:35:11] KEILAR: All right. We're awaiting the secretary because
we're certainly curious what he's going to say.
But, Admiral, when you look at this, even though conclusively we don't know if Iran is behind this. The signs at this point in time are certainly pointing towards Iran. Why would Iran, assuming they are behind it, why would they want to do it?
REAR ADM. JOHN KIRBY, CNN MILITARY & DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: They would want to do this to show the Trump administration, in particular, that they still have leverage. You want to keep the sanctions on us, you want to call the IRGC a terrorist group, you want to rip up the Iran deal, we have tools at our disposable as well. We can make life difficult for you and the West.
A third of the world's oil goes in and out of Strait of Hormuz. It's a very narrow waterway, as the map you just showed demonstrates. They're trying to prove that they can shut that flow down if they want to.
These two ships were attacked not far from the actual strait but far enough away that traffic, so I'm told, is still flowing in and out of the gulf today.
I think it's a real clear message, if they want to shut down the traffic, they can do it.
KEILAR: These are limpet mines.
KEILAR: Named for the shell, right that sort of attaches to rocks.
KEILAR: And this is very much what these mines look like. Tell us about -- and these would physically need to be attached, right?
KEILAR: Who would have the capability to do this?
KIRBY: Well we certainly know that the Revolutionary Guard, then naval component, the IRGC Navy can do it because we know they did it in the UAE. They have advanced their mining capabilities over the last 10, 15 years and this is one tool in their arsenal.
They have to be physically attached. You can do it through underwater methods and or you could do it from small boats, surface vessels. We don't know exactly how these mines got attached to these tankers.
But I think it's really, honestly, Brianna, a strange credulity to think that anyone other than the Iranians are behind this, and specifically the IRGC. We'll see what Pompeo says but that would be my guess. KEILAR: And what questions, Barbara, would you have, at this point in
time -- oh, I'm sorry, actually, Barbara Starr has left at this point in time.
Admiral, I want to know, when it comes to Russia, for instance, their warning against jumping to conclusions.
KEILAR: The Iranians suggest that they are being set up.
KEILAR: And yet, you just shared your assessment. So what is that?
KIRBY: That's just diplo speak. For the Iranians, it's a way to try to deflect. They want to play the victim here. They have Prime Minister Abe there today. And it was a Japanese tanker that was hit. So they are trying to play off of this to sow discord and doubt about this.
For the Russians, that is their -- they do this all the time, even when they are at fault. They will say, well, don't jump to conclusions, let's properly investigate. And that will be their mantra.
Frankly, I think that's fair. I think Pompeo will say the same things. Let's get the facts here. I don't think you'll see a specific announcement of actions by the United States today. But I do think they'll make it clear that, if it is, in fact, proven that the Iranians are to be held to account for this, that there will be some sort of measures taken -- what they are, we don't know -- in the future.
But this is classic diplo speak by both sides here.
KEILAR: Admiral Kirby, thank you so much.
KIRBY: My pleasure.
KEILAR: Ahead, more on the president's stunning comments about his willingness to accept information on his opponents from a foreign government. Will this increase pressure on Democratic leadership to push for impeachment?
I'll also speak to a key Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee and get her take on the president's slamming of the Intelligence Community.
[13:43:05] KEILAR: Democrats were quick to pounce on the president's admission that he would listen if a foreign government offered dirt on a political opponent.
One lawmaker called the comment "criminal." And it's likely to increase calls for impeachment.
Democratic Congresswoman Jackie Speier, of California, is with us from Capitol Hill.
Thank you for joining us.
It's so significant to have you on because you're a member of the Intelligence Committee.
I wonder, what is your reaction to the president contradicting the U.S. Intelligence Community, yet again, and saying that the FBI director is wrong?
REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D-CA): Well, Brianna, it is really astonishing to me that the president of the United States can think it's OK to accept dirt from a foreign government that will benefit him in his campaign.
It is a felony in this country to either solicit or accept anything of value from a foreign national. And getting dirt on someone would equate to being a value.
So he is, once again, soliciting, much like he did during the campaign, where he said, WikiLeaks -- or Russia, if you can hack into those e-mails of Hillary Clinton, please do it. And within minutes, that's exactly what Russia was doing.
So this collaboration, this collusion, this coordination has been going on. And it has gone on unabated.
And I really feel that Mr. Mueller really missed an important opportunity when he did not require Donald Trump to sit down with him and be interviewed. Because his attorneys were -- the president's attorneys were so successful in only agreeing to answer certain questions, you could never get to the president's intent because the answers were so scripted.
[13:45:03] So I think, once again, we see that the president is willing to engage in criminal conduct, whether it's in the White House or before he even became president.
When he was willing to accept money from anyone and not comply with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which would require him to determine whether the money was laundered. And he accepted a lot of cash for many of his real properties. So you have criminality there.
You have the collaboration and collusion that went on with more than 250 contacts during the Trump campaign with Russians and some 38 meetings that took place.
And then the --
SPEIER: Go ahead. KEILAR: I do just want to ask you, because you said the coordination was going on, it's going -- it continues to go on unabated. You used the word "collusion." So I just want to be clear because you are on the Intelligence Committee.
When we're looking at the Mueller report, we do not see the report go that far. Are you contradicting that finding or are you saying that, without having -- had a sit-down interview with President Trump, that's actually a missed opportunity to get to the bottom of it?
I just want to be clear because Robert Mueller did not go as far as you just went.
SPEIER: That's right. And I think Robert Mueller was not able to go as far because he never had that sit-down meeting with Donald Trump where he would have been able, through questioning, to determine both the president's mental state at the time, his intention, and whether or not he had knowledge, all of those elements.
I mean, when you had a colleague of yours actually interview him after he fired the former FBI director, he came out and said, yes, I fired him because he was investigating me through the FBI.
So this process is fraught with, I think, missed opportunities to get to the bottom. And often times, in the government, because are - have such a limited number of enforcers, much of the enforcement doesn't take place.
He actually conspired with Michael Cohen to give hush money to a porn star and a -- another woman in which he had a relationship with, to benefit his campaign. That is, again, a violation of the law and could be a felony.
KEILAR: I want to ask you about the House Intelligence Committee today issuing subpoenas for former national security advisor, Michael Flynn, also Trump campaign deputy, Rick Gates. You serve, obviously, on the Intel Committee, as we just mentioned.
Tell us the purpose of these subpoenas. They weren't expected.
SPEIER: Well, I can only tell you what I want to know as a result of those two subpoenas being issued and having them come and testify before us.
Rick Gates was with Paul Manafort in the cigar club in New York City where they shared poll data with a Russian operative, Mr. Kilimnik.
I think, with Michael Flynn, he clearly was getting direction. He was not freelancing when he was talking to the Russian ambassador and talking about not -- the sanctions that were imposed by President Obama, not to take to any actions and that they would move forward.
This all relates to the fact that Vladimir Putin wanted these sanctions lifted. So he was willing to court Donald Trump with a project in Moscow, the Moscow Trump Tower. He was willing to give him information about the campaign, willing to try and interfere in the election so that Donald Trump would win because he wanted the sanctions lifted.
Economically, the state of Russia is in dire straits.
KEILAR: I do I want to go back to the president's comments and our Stephen Collinson, who wrote an analysis of what the president said. He said, quote, "If it takes dirt from a foreign power, the president could then place himself in a dangerous compromised position. While U.S. intelligence agencies and even the White House say they're doing everything they can to protect the election, the most powerful man in the world is signaling he doesn't care and would be willing to undermine those efforts."
When you hear the president say this -- one, I want to know what your action is to that analysis. But when you hear the president say this, do you think that this is an invitation to foreign countries, adversaries who want to curry favor with Donald Trump that they will actively be looking at information, at dirt to turn over?
SPEIER: I think, Brianna, all you need to do is look at what happened in the past. It worked for Donald Trump, the candidate, in the past when he sought to have Russia hack into Hillary Clinton's emails. They did that. When he asked WikiLeaks numerous times to provide dumps on information that they had acquired.
[13:50:16] So it's worked in the past. I can't imagine that he would not want to see it work again.
And he comes forward, sometimes impulsively, and says what's really on his mind. And, yes, I do think that he wants to see this intervention.
And to those who say, we're doing everything in the White House to make sure that the election is secure, that is absolutely untrue. We have passed legislation to create greater security with our election next year. It is sitting over on the Senate side and Mitch McConnell has said he's not taking it up.
KEILAR: Congresswoman Jackie Speier, thank you so much for joining us.
SPEIER: Thank you, Brianna.
KEILAR: At least six arrests so far on the attempted murder of Red Sox legend, David Ortiz. And a seventh is still on the run. We'll have an update from the Dominican Republic, coming up.
[13:56:06] KEILAR: Police are calling the attack on David Ortiz a $7,800 hit. The former Red Sox star is recovering in the hospital and police in the Dominican Republic have six suspects in custody, including the man who allegedly shot Ortiz in the back.
Let's go to Patrick Oppmann. He is in Santo Domingo following this story.
And, Patrick, what are police saying about the suspects in the attempted murder plot?
PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It is an incredible murder-for-hire plot. They're saying these are professional assassins essentially. And of course, the family representatives we've spoken to of these men and their attorneys deny that.
But police showed video to us that essentially uncovers a plot to kill David Ortiz while he was out partying with friends.
And you see in the video of the alleged hitmen and his motorcycle getaway driver pulling up to cars and talking to people in the cars that were parked near the scene of the shooting and then going in. And amazingly, David Ortiz, although shot in the back at close range, was able to survive this.
And then the motorcycle stalls out and the men have to flee. The motorcycle getaway driver is captured. And the gunman -- the alleged gunman gets away. But police say they have now captured him. They have now found the gun that was used in the attack buried in his backyard.
And the only thing they have not uncovered so far, police say, is a motive. Who would pay nearly $8,000 to kill David Ortiz?
A remember, Brianna, this is total, it's about $1,000 per person.
KEILAR: Patrick Oppmann, thank you so much for that update from the Dominican Republic.
So far, Republicans are offering tepid criticism of President Trump's insistence that he would not go to the FBI if a foreign country seeks to interfere in the next U.S. election, once again. And Democrats, on other hand, are outraged.
We'll have coverage continuing in just a moment.