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Trump Says He'd Take Dirt from Foreign Governments on His Opponents; Two Tankers Experience Explosions in Gulf of Oman; Former GOP EPS Chiefs Say Trump Administration is Undermining Science. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired June 13, 2019 - 07:00   ET


ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: These are the tough questions. Thank goodness they're being asked.

[07:00:05] Thanks to our international viewers for watching. For you, CNN TALK is next. For our U.S. viewers, the president seems to invite foreign interference in the upcoming election. NEW DAY continues right now.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Good morning. Welcome to your NEW DAY.

Russia, if you are listening, the president announced he would take any dirt you have on his political opponents. Russia, if you're listening, the president announced he would not necessarily tell the FBI if you came to him with such information. And Russia, if you're listening, the president also claimed that every member of Congress would do the same.

This all comes from what should be considered an historic interview with the president in the Oval Office where he said, "Yes, I'd take it" when asked if he would listen to foreign countries trying to get involved in the U.S. elections.


GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS: Why does it bother you so much?

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Because it's untrue. I like the truth. I'm actually a very honest guy. If I thought they were correct, I wouldn't be complaining at all. I understand that. It's like the witch hunt that goes on.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Your son Don Jr. is before the Senate Intelligence Committee today. And again, he was not charged with anything. In retrospective, though --

TRUMP: Not only wasn't he charged, if you read it, with all of the horrible fake news. I mean, I was reading that my son was going to go to jail. This is a good young man. That he was going to go to jail.

Then the report comes out, and they didn't even say -- they hardly even talked about him. STEPHANOPOULOS: Should he have gone to the FBI when he got that


TRUMP: OK. Let's put yourself in a position. You're a congressman. Somebody comes up and says, "Hey, I have information on your opponent." Do you call the FBI? I don't think -- I'll tell you what.

STEPHANOPOULOS: If it's coming from Russia you do.

TRUMP: I've seen a lot of things over my life. I don't think in my whole life I've ever called the FBI, in my whole life. I don't -- you don't call the FBI. You throw somebody out of your office. You do whatever you --

STEPHANOPOULOS: Al Gore got a stolen briefing book. He called the FBI.

TRUMP: Well, that's different. A stolen briefing book. This isn't a stolen -- This is somebody that said, "We have information on your opponent." "Oh, let me call the FBI." Give me a break. Life doesn't work that way.

STEPHANOPOULOS: The FBI director says that's what should happen.

TRUMP: The FBI director is wrong.

STEPHANOPOULOS: In your campaign this time around, if foreigners, if Russia, if China, if someone else offers you information on opponents, should they accept it, or should they call the FBI?

TRUMP: I think maybe you do both. I think you might want to listen. I don't -- there's nothing wrong with listening. If somebody called from a country -- Norway -- "We have information on your opponent." Oh. I think I'd want to hear it.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You want that kind of interference in our elections?

TRUMP: It's not an interference. They have information. I think I'd take it. If I thought there was something wrong, I'd go maybe to the FBI. If I thought there was something wrong.

But when somebody comes up with oppo research, they come up with oppo research, "Oh, let's call the FBI." The FBI doesn't have enough agents to take care of it.

But you go and talk honestly to congressmen, they all do it. They always have. And that's the way it is. It's called oppo research.


BERMAN: All right. First of all, you can bet Russia is listening.

Second of all, the president is lying when he says he's never called the FBI.

The third thing, we have yet to hear from any member of Congress who says they've been called by Russia with information and never turned it over to the FBI.

CAMEROTA: All right. This comes as Donald Trump Jr., who organized that infamous June 2016 Trump Tower meeting with the Russians, returned to Capitol Hill for more testimony. And Hope Hicks, the former White House communications director and long-time Trump aide, will testify next week before a House panel investigating President Trump.

But none of that is the huge headline this morning.

Joining us now to talk about the huge headline is White House correspondent for "The New York Times" and CNN political analyst Maggie Haberman.

So Maggie, the president didn't enjoy the past three years of investigation from Robert Mueller. And yet, he is willing to do it all over again. He has learned nothing.

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: His whole statement is no collusion, no obstruction of justice. So apparently, it's no collusion, but it would have been OK if we did.

This message, the whole thing they have been saying about the Trump Tower meeting, about every other attempted contact by Russians with the campaign during 2016 was we didn't know. We were political neophytes. Now we know.

You have the president now saying, "Yes, so what? What's the big deal?" You had his son-in-law in an interview with Axios say a similar thing, which was, you know, when he was asked by Jonathan Swan, "Would you let the FBI know this time around about that Trump Tower meeting?"

It was, "You know, I don't know. I'm not going to engage in a hypothetical." So no. It doesn't seem like a whole lot of lessons have been learned. And to be clear, this is no longer just about Russia. This is about any foreign country.

CAMEROTA: That's how George Stephanopoulos posed the question.


CAMEROTA: Anything. So Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Iran.


CAMEROTA: I mean, step right up.

HABERMAN: Israel. There are a ton of countries that could be offering assistance.

And the president is just flat-out wrong when he calls this opposition research. Opposition research is something that, as you know very well, that campaigns work on, which is basically about public records. It is about things that are stolen from a campaign or stolen from somebody's files. That is what he's talking about. And he's trying to make it all sound as if it's all the same. It is not all the same.

[07:05:06] BERMAN: Foreign countries don't do opposition research.

HABERMAN: No, they don't.

BERMAN: They do intelligence.

HABERMAN: Correct.

BERMAN: Right?


BERMAN: I mean, they do spying. It's a different thing.

HABERMAN: Right. And there are two -- and there are different types of things. One is sort of intel collection, which most countries do. And then there are things like trying to get people to click on malware, which is what we were talking about during the 2016 campaign and where that information came from.

And this is another thing where people around the president will say, well, news organizations used this material, or it was on WikiLeaks. You know, the law is about elected officials. That is -- that is what we're talking about here.

CAMEROTA: And it's explicit, by the way.

HABERMAN: It is explicit.

BERMAN: Can we just -- just clear up a few things here? The president says he's never called the FBI in his life.

HABERMAN: That's not true. He -- in either the late '70s or '80s, when he was a casino developer, and he realized that there could be some problems with some of the people he was associating with in building these casinos who had alleged mob ties, he called the FBI, said that he wanted to "fully cooperate," quote/unquote. This is in an FBI file. This isn't just made up. This was written about during the campaign. It was written about in 2017. It was written about by the late Wayne Barrett, who wrote phenomenal stuff about Donald Trump's time long before the presidency. So that is also not true.

BERMAN: So when it helps him, he called the FBI.

HABERMAN: Right. When it was -- when it was in his self-interest, he called the FBI. And he described himself as wanting to be extremely helpful. Right now, he's suggesting, in his self-interest, it might be better to take assistance from a foreign power.

CAMEROTA: So has there ever been a more Machiavellian statement uttered? I mean, the idea that whatever it takes to win. So whatever we -- what everybody has endured for the past three years, what Democrats, what Congress, what voters, what the White House with this investigation, we should prepare for, as the president gears up for this next campaign, to be in this same situation. HABERMAN: One other statement that he made that I was very struck by,

and you just mentioned Congress, members of Congress. You know, he said if you go ask members of Congress they all do this, too.

Not true, No. 1. But you also -- you haven't heard any member of Congress say, "Yes, I do this." You also haven't heard any Republican member of Congress say this is really wrong. What he said is not true.

So once again, you are seeing Republicans are moving in lockstep with what the president says, despite the fact that they know, all of those members of Congress know that foreign interference is a whole different order of magnitude. He is trying to make it all sound the same.

He's really sort of throwing under the bus Republican members of Congress who have gone out on a limb for him and said these investigations were unfair. How can you accuse him of this? Of course, nothing bad would have happened. And once again, he takes a statement and just makes it harder for his defenders.

BERMAN: I think some will find a way to half condemn this.

CAMEROTA: I think that's probably true.

BERMAN: I think when we get some of these members, if they ever agree to come on and ask them directly, they can't say, "Yes, we would take it." Because there's not a single elected official I've ever in my life, besides the president, who says that they would take foreign information in an election.

HABERMAN: No, and there was such a -- there was such a striking statement that he made to Stephanopoulos, which was, you know, "Give me a break. That's not how -- that's not how life works." Or "That's not how real life works. Life doesn't work that way." I mean, that has -- that has been his whole mantra, is this is how we do things in sort of the real world. And you people with your elections are different.

When you are the president of the United States, you are the commander in chief. You are supposed to set the tone. That is a role that he has eschewed time and time again and he did again in this interview.

CAMEROTA: How do the people around him in the White House who have also endured all of this for the past years, how are they responding this morning?

HABERMAN: There is a -- there is a micro mentality for almost everybody working in that White House, which I think you know. But -- and they -- He turns everything into an up-down referendum on himself. And they sort of join on that, where the people who are criticizing him they see as wrong. They see him as right.

There were some people who were present for that interview and who were aware that this was going to be problematic. But as I understand it, I don't think anybody did anything to try to either cut the interview off or try to change the topic. Or it just sort of rolls along. It's his show.

BERMAN: I will tell you, the optics of it in the Oval Office, to have that happen --


BERMAN: -- in the Oval Office, I have to believe -- you know, we had Josh Campbell on before. People who have worked in intelligence, in the FBI say this is something that will have been discussed over the last 24 hours in foreign intelligence services around the world.

HABERMAN: Of course it would be. And I mean, and him also saying that the FBI director is wrong for saying that that kind of a -- of a meeting or a contact is something that they would want.

He's once again publicly undercutting the head of the FBI to take sides with, I mean, essentially, the possibility of foreign help. It is -- somebody said on Twitter, and I thought it was a good point, that it might be more stunning if the president actually did condemn this and say, "Of course not." That's probably true, because I don't think it's a huge surprise. I think we have seen he generally views the principle of self-help first.

CAMEROTA: And winning.

HABERMAN: Winning right.

CAMEROTA: Winning at any cost.

HABERMAN: At any cost. Correct. Whatever it takes.

That said, he is still the president. And it was still a really stunning statement.

CAMEROTA: You know, he hasn't had a director of communications, I guess, for a while.

HABERMAN: For a while. Since Bill Shine.

CAMEROTA: Bill Shine? Yes.

HABERMAN: And he wasn't the director of communications.

CAMEROTA: Yes, so whatever. Whatever role that was.

But it has been pointed out, I think by Laura Ingraham, that the optics also are strange of George Stephanopoulos standing over the Resolute Desk, taller than the president at the desk.

[07:10:14] HABERMAN: That's the part that Ingraham took issue with?



CAMEROTA: Yes, actually. BERMAN: Wasn't it just that she agreed to talk -- that he agreed to

talk to ABC?

CAMEROTA: Yes. That also --

BERMAN: And got questions different than how blue are your very blue eyes?

CAMEROTA: -- is of course what they would be appalled by. But my point is, is that there were strange things about that. I mean, not just that he said something so appalling, but that the optics and in the Oval Office. And so would a director of communications have been able to stop any of that?

HABERMAN: Probably not at this point, honestly. Because again, I think that the president is setting the tone for so much of this. But I think that, at a certain point, you know, we -- it's funny you mention Ingraham. You know, Ingraham is the one who did that interview with the president at Normandy where you had the backdrop of gravestones as he was attacking Robert Mueller and he was responding to leaked criticism from Nancy Pelosi. Most presidents would have avoided doing that.

But most presidents -- he obviously doesn't -- isn't aware of the settings he's in. And that's where you rely on staff to sort of help out, and the staff almost never does in these cases. So it's -- this is another example.

BERMAN: "The New York Times" overnight, your colleagues -- your colleagues also have a story on exactly what the William Barr investigation is going to be looking into and who they will be speaking with. That it includes officials in the CIA who apparently were connected with the assessment that Russia was trying to help Donald Trump win. Curious.

HABERMAN: It is curious. Look, I think that -- I think that Barr has made it clear that he was going to take investigating the investigators seriously. And I think that this is another example of it.

I think the question is going to become how deep that look goes, what it looks at in terms of sources and methods. I'm loathe to say too much about it without knowing what it's going to look like going forward. But it is -- it is -- it is another unusual step that we are seeing from an investigator close to President Trump.

CAMEROTA: Don Jr., the president's son, also went back and sort of re-testified behind closed doors, because they had found discrepancies between what he had claimed to what Michael Cohen had claimed. We don't know what the results of that were, but the president is defending his son, obviously, as he would. But it's also just interesting that they felt the need to call him back and that he did go back.

HABERMAN: I think that -- I think it's not surprising that they felt the need to call him back. They called him by subpoena. And there was, remember, that big back and forth about what the scope was going to be, how long it was going to be. It certainly ended up being shorter in time frame. People -- people close to the president's son had said that it was limited scope. People, Democrats on the committee, I think Mark Warner, said that's not true. But I don't know. I wasn't sitting in there.

I don't think it's a surprise, because there were things that were said in the Mueller report that were at odds with what Don Jr. had said. My understanding is that he went in and he said, "I have no testimony to change," that "what I said is true" and that the words you're relying on are two people who have pleaded guilty to crimes, in both cases some version of lying to investigators. One was Rick Gates, former deputy campaign chairman, and one was Michael Cohen.

The issue in the Cohen piece, in particular, this is about whether Don Jr. had told the president about the Trump Tower meeting. And Cohen had said that he witnessed some meeting where he saw Don Jr. whispering something to his father and his father saying, "OK, I got it" or something.

The issue with that public facing piece from Michael Cohen is that Michael Cohen's own version of that change -- or people around Michael Cohen's version of that change -- Lanny Davis, Michael Cohen's lawyer gave one version and then said, "Oh, I was wrong." And so I think that that muddies it quite a bit.

BERMAN: Maggie Haberman, thank you so much for coming in this morning.

Also breaking this morning, two oil tankers reportedly attacked while sailing through the Gulf of Oman. This is off the coast of Iran also. You can see it on the map right there.

The White House says the U.S. is providing assistance and will continue to assess the situation.

CNN's Nic Robertson joins us now live with the very latest on this. Nic, what do we know?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Well, the USS Bainbridge is rendering assistance in that area right now about ten miles off the coast of Iran.

The U.S. Fifth Fleet got calls at 6:12 and 7 a.m. local time in the morning. The two ships in distress. They sent their vessel to -- to render that assistance.

What we know now is that 44 people -- seamen, the captains and crews of both those ships -- abandoned ship. One was an oil tanker. One was a chemical tanker. Abandoned ship after being hit by what one of the captains describe as being shots fired at the vessel, some kind of projectile hitting the vessel, causing the vessel to burst into flames. And smoke billowing out of it.

The Iranian navy say that they've picked up all 44 crew members and that they are now on an Iranian island. And one of those crew members is being treated for injuries.

Satellite imagery of this incident shows a long plume of smoke in the area where these ships are believed to be hit. Iranian media is now running pictures of what it says are these ships. Fire can be seen; smoke can be seen coming from the mid sections of both of these vessels.

[07:15:06] This seems to be an escalation over the attack on vessels harbored near the Emirati port of Fujairah about a month ago. These ships were moving and targeted. The other ships, ultimately the U.N. blamed on state actors, that the United States and Saudi Arabia blamed on Iran. Those ships were at anchor and targeted by mines. This appears to be an escalation -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Yes, and a troubling development, Nic. Thank you very much.

So three former EPA chiefs say the White House is dangerously ignoring science. By the way, those EPA chiefs are Republicans. One of them next.


CAMEROTA: Three former EPA administrators under Republican presidents expressing deep concern publicly about the Trump administration's position on the environment and the climate.


WILLIAM REILLY, FORMER EPA ADMINISTRATOR: I compliment the previous Congresses of the last two years for not accepting the proposals to gut EPA staffing by a third and its budget by a third.

I want to say how much I respect and admire the attention that you are paying to oversight of the EPA. There has never been a time when it was more urgently needed.


[07:20:10] CAMEROTA: Joining us now is the man you just heard from, William Reilly. He served as the EPA administrator for four years under President George H.W. Bush.

Mr. Reilly, thanks so much for being here. Why did you feel the urgent need to --

REILLY: Good morning.

CAMEROTA: Great to have you. What was so urgent, do you feel, that you've seen, that you felt the need to sound the alarm to Congress?

REILLY: EPA is on a deregulatory tear. The administrator in his confirmation hearing took pride. He had been acting administrator. And the fact that some 33 regulations had been essentially abandoned or severely restricted. And he said that the advantage of doing that was to reduce by $2 billion the burden on various sectors of the economy.

The extraordinary thing about these regulations is some of them were extremely important to health and environment. The methane regulation which was withdrawn is a very powerful greenhouse gas. Mercury is an important toxic, and especially for the formation of brains in young children. The waters of the United States is an important area to pay attention to. All of these, coal ash, all of these are presented.

And this is what I think all three of these administrators who spoke yesterday at the hearing have found astonishing, is that they are presented, not as ways to improve the environmental protection or the health protection for the people of the United States. They are really defended solely on grounds of economic impact.

CAMEROTA: Absolutely. And as we mentioned, we had Christine Todd Whitman on yesterday. And as we talked, there have been something like 83 environmental rollbacks since the president took office. I mean, we have a graphic of just a few of them. I mean, truly, this is a handful. Pulled out of the Paris climate agreement; proposed lower car emissions standards; weakened Clean Power Plan; eliminated EPA panel on air pollution; relaxed rules on, as you said, methane leak inspections; approved oil drilling in the Arctic. I mean, it goes on and on. We would have to have a scroll for the rest of this segment to show all of the rollbacks happening.

But what is it, if you can narrow it down, that keeps you up at night most?

REILLY: Well, I think mostly, I'm concerned that, first of all, the structure of our laws are sound. The public in the United States, including Republicans, have strong support in all of the polling I've seen for the air and water quality laws.

But it's possible to weaken them by allocation of budget resources, by deregulatory actions, by new standards for cost/benefit. And all of those things are being done.

Not only that, but in two years or more of service to the country, in this administration, there is no inspector-general at EPA. There's no head of research, assistant administrator for research and science at EPA. The -- the across the board fall-off in enforcement numbers, all of this is very worrisome. It suggests that this EPA, which is really founded by President Nixon, a Republican, to protect the environment and health of the people of the United States, now has a primary concern with economic cost and impact.

And in fact, you know, if you look back at the history of this agency, so often people of various sectors of industry have complained about our laws. Air most particularly in my time, when we reauthorized the Clean Air Act.

And yet, the economy has boomed through all of these years. The GDP has gone constantly up. The cars have increased in numbers, and the pollution levels have gone down, very significantly down. This is -- this is probably one of the most effective agencies of the federal government. And its effectiveness now is being impaired. CAMEROTA: Mr. Reilly, you know, what does it mean that there is

actually a climate change denier in the White House? I mean, it has been reported that the term "climate change" is even being spiked from websites, from governmental websites. And so explain the challenge --


CAMEROTA: -- for people like you of having to try to cope with this.

REILLY: And now there's a proposal by the administration that the next National Climate Estimate will not go out beyond 2040, which is really a head in the sand kind of thing to do.

There is a consensus among the agencies that drafted the National Climate Estimate that we're going to have anywhere from a three to five minimum increase in temperature by the time of the end of the next century and that most of that's already baked in. That's the consequence of emissions that have already been released. Well, and the sea level rise is estimated to be 12 to 48 inches. And that's -- that's -- Those are modest numbers. Those are numbers that are largely assuming a certain number of interventions to control emissions.

[07:25:09] Well, this is -- this is potentially a catastrophe looming over the country. It's not tomorrow; it's not next week. But according to mainstream science, it's out there.

So for the president to deny it, and the president has said that he considers it a hoax. The administrator of EPA, happily, has not said that.


REILLY: Has declined to characterize that. Simply said it's -- it's a serious issue. It's not a crisis.

But this is profoundly wrong. And it -- it disrespects what has always been the fundamental reality of EPA regulation, which is the foundational importance of science.

CAMEROTA: Well, William Reilly, we really appreciate you coming on with your expertise and attempting to sound the alarm. Thank you very much for being on NEW DAY.

REILLY: Thank you for having me.


BERMAN: All right. The president says that any member of Congress would accept help from the Russians or other countries, and no member of Congress would tell the FBI. Well, we're going to ask a member of Congress if that's true, next.