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Prosecutors Start Over In Flint Water Case; Iran Under Scrutiny; Trump Flip-Flops On Foreign Dirt. Aired 3-3:30p ET
Aired June 14, 2019 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Because they know how much I love this country.
Number two, if I was -- and of course you have to look at it, because, if you don't look at it, you're not going to know if it is bad. How are you going to know if it is bad? But of course you give it to the FBI or report it to the attorney general or somebody like that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PAMELA BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm going to bring in CNN's Abby Phillip at the White House.
So, Abby, yesterday the president said FBI Director Chris Wray was wrong when he said campaigns should alert the agency if they had contacts with foreign countries. Today, the president says he would report it, but only in certain circumstances. What's going on here?
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Pam, it seems that the president is trying to have it both ways on this issue.
You're exactly right that the president made it very clear in his interview with ABC News that he felt that requiring campaigns or expecting campaigns to notify the FBI if a foreign government approached them would be simply too much to ask. He said directly the FBI director is wrong if he believes that that is the right course of action.
But now, today, in this FOX News interview, the president is trying to walk it back and, in fact, claiming that he was somehow misquoted or his words were misrepresented. Listen to what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: They say, oh, he would accept it. Well, if I don't listen, you're not going to know. Now, if I thought anything was incorrect or badly stated, I would report to the attorney general, the FBI. I'd report it to law enforcement, absolutely.
(END VIDEO CLIP) PHILLIP: And if you're listening closely there, you will hear the president adding a new caveat to all of this. He's saying, in fact, you have to listen to what this is in the first place in order to know whether it's bad, and, if it's bad, then you report it to the FBI.
So the president may have created even more problems for himself today, Pam, by basically saying, I actually would sit down and listen and determine for myself whether this information is derogatory or bad in nature, and then I would report it to the FBI.
That is simply not what most people believe ought to happen in a situation like this. According to a lot of Democrats and even some Republicans on Capitol Hill, the right response to receiving this kind of information or receiving an offer of this kind of information is to immediately notify the FBI.
And President Trump is still not saying that as of this morning, even after all of this blowback, Pam.
BROWN: All right, Abby Phillip, thank you for bringing us the latest from the White House.
I'm going to bring in Shan Wu, a defense attorney, former federal prosecutor, and CNN legal analyst. He is also a former lawyer for Trump campaign deputy Rick Gates. Also with us, Rachael Bade, a congressional reporter for "The Washington Post" and a CNN political analyst.
Thank you both for coming on.
First to you, Shan. What do you make of the president's about-face today?
SHAN WU, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it's more of the same, which is basically, the president always feels and he is the one that should decide what's right, what's wrong, what's legal, what's illegal.
So even in the face of all this blowback, where he obviously made a very foolish statement, basically admitting to wanting to do a crime, he says that, if it was bad, meaning he should determine if it's bad or not. And, really, it's a bright line rule.
And really Congress should pass a law that would just mandate that they disclose any contacts. That would take the discretion out of it. But this is very much in line with his view of law enforcement. He thinks he knows better than law enforcement. And that really tends to make a very lawless administration.
BROWN: Well, it's interesting you bring up what Congress should do here, but the Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, has shown an unwillingness to take up any bills addressing election interference, according to our reporting from Manu Raju and our Hill team.
On top of that, he was asked about the president's comments. And he said -- he sort of pivoted to Democrat and saying, this is really the Democrats picking on him. What's going on with Mitch McConnell? What's -- what's his strategy here?
RACHAEL BADE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I mean, obviously, McConnell, he's trying to tamp down this controversy.
The president clearly expects his lawmakers on the Hill to do that. But the reality is that a lot of Republican lawmakers, not McConnell specifically, but a lot of senators, Lindsey Graham, for instance, they came out and they said that this is not something that is acceptable.
Lindsey Graham, who is a top ally of the president, even called the president, said, this is not OK. And basically, that sort of pressure is probably why we saw the president walk it back.
The Democrats in the House, they are getting ready to introduce a bill that will basically require that anybody who is offered dirt on a political opponent from a foreign country will have to report it. And I talked to a lot of House Republicans yesterday, and basically all of them told me they would vote for such a bill.
So I'm curious if McConnell can keep that position, saying he's not willing to take this -- such a bill up to the floor, if this overwhelmingly passes from the House, and given all the criticism.
BROWN: -- kind of pressure on him.
BROWN: But, at the same time, it seems like he doesn't want to get into a fight with the president.
BROWN: And that would be seen as a rebuke to President Trump, given everything laid out in the Mueller report. So...
BADE: It absolutely would. He would have to eat his words.
BROWN: Sort of interesting position, yes.
So, Shan, you say the President Trump's comment shows that he has a disregard for law enforcement.
Jamie Gangel, my colleague here at CNN, spoke to a senior GOP source. And, basically, this source said that if the president were to act on his words, that that would be an impeachable offense.
So does this increase pressure on Democrats to move ahead with hearings?
WU: I don't think this one particular statement necessarily really ratchets it up that much. Certainly, if he did that, and he sticks to his word, that would be an impeachable offense. Add that to the laundry list of potential offenses. But I think it may help the Democrats in terms of slowly swaying public pressure to understand that he needs to be held accountable, that his basic instinct is always, I don't need to listen to anyone, I decide what's right or wrong.
He sort of has like a grade schooler's view of what it means to be president of the United States. I'm president. I get to do anything. FBI director's opinion doesn't matter. Intelligence people's opinions doesn't matter. It's my opinion that matters.
BROWN: So what do you think about his pivot, though, saying that, look, I would want to listen so that I could then tell the FBI about the offer?
BROWN: Is that still a violation of the law?
WU: Perhaps listening is not, if you report it right away. But really what he wants is he wants the little marshal's star to be able to -- so that he can make those decisions as the chief law enforcement officer himself.
But I do like that idea of I think the no-brainer bipartisan support for that sort of mandatory disclosure, because then you don't have to worry about that.
BADE: You would think so. I mean, you brought up the point of impeachment, and that was one of the top questions reporters had for Pelosi, Speaker Pelosi yesterday, when she at the mics. What does this mean for impeachment? Does it cross a line?
And once again, we saw her tamp down any expectation of impeachment, saying, we have got these -- legislation -- we have these bills, this legislation that we're going to be introducing, we're going to pass those.
And it's just another example of Pelosi sort of using strategic timing to sort of let the pressure out on impeachment by saying, I'm going to bring up these bills to pass these.
And we only saw, I think, maybe one top Democrat come out and say, I support an impeachment inquiry in the House. Those numbers have really plateaued in the past few days, in the 60s, and we haven't really seen them pick up. So this was not enough, obviously, to move that needle.
BROWN: It's interesting. Even though Nancy Pelosi is sort of distancing herself from impeachment, the president, at the same time, seems to be escalating his war of words with House Speaker Pelosi after she doubled down on her claim that he is part of the criminal cover-up.
Here's what he said. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: It's a fascist statement. It's a disgraceful statement. I call her nervous Nancy. She's a nervous wreck. And I will tell you what.
For her to make a statement like that is outrageous. But when Nancy Pelosi makes a statement like that, she ought to be ashamed of herself.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: So he's clearly responding to what she said. And it was inflammatory what she said.
But it also seems like, Rachael, that Nancy Pelosi gets under the president's skin.
BADE: Oh, yes.
BROWN: More than anyone else in Congress.
BADE: Yes, absolutely. There's no doubt about it.
I mean, all you have to go back is a couple of months ago, when she really bested him coming out of the shutdown. He shut down the government, saying he was going to build the wall. He didn't get $1. And that's all because of Nancy Pelosi's leadership. She refused to give on that.
And ever since then, that has kind of set this tone. The president, after the 2018 election, he called her, told her he admired her, and he's told aides that as well. But now, when it comes to impeachment, she has really held the line. And I think there are a lot of Trump allies who think, if they were to prematurely go into impeachment, it would help the president.
And Pelosi has told people she thinks that's why he's lashing out. That's why he's trying to goad her caucus and trying to move them toward impeachment. But, right now, she's cool as a cucumber and is not moving ahead with that.
BROWN: And we know that he -- he likes gamesmanship, and then who can win the game and it's all about winning and losing. And when it looks like she could be winning on a front, that clearly bothers the president.
BADE: Oh, yes, absolutely. I mean, I think he would love it if they wouldn't overreach on this right now. It would help him.
WU: Yes. It's great for her to tamp it down, because he keeps ramping it up.
BROWN: Yes, exactly.
All right, Shan, Rachael, thanks so much for coming on. Appreciate it.
And coming up, tensions rising. The president rejects Iran's denials that it had anything to do with attacking two tankers, saying he has video proof. So, what happens next?
Plus, a stunning admission from the man accused of shooting Red Sox legend David Ortiz -- why he says Ortiz actually wasn't the intended target.
And a woman whose entire family was sickened by the tainted water crisis in Flint, Michigan, speaks out at the news that prosecutors have dropped all charges against government officials, why she says it's just another example of being told to shut up and die quietly.
BROWN: Well, tensions are flaring between the United States and Iran.
And now President Trump is putting the blame squarely on Iran for an attack on two tankers in international waters.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Well, Iran did do it. And you know they did it because you saw the boat. I guess one of the mines didn't explode. And it's probably got essentially Iran written all over it.
They are a nation of terror. And they have changed a lot since I have been president, I can tell you. They were unstoppable. And now they're in deep, deep trouble. You can't -- they don't have anything.
QUESTION: But how you stop this action? How do you stop these outrageous acts with 30 percent of the world's oil...
TRUMP: Well, we're going to see. We're going to see. We're going to see.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: Well, this comes as United States released this new video.
Officials say that this shows Iran removing an unexploded mine from one of the tankers, proving with -- quote -- "virtual certainty" Iran was behind the attack on the two ships.
CNN Senior International Correspondent, Fred Pleitgen in Tehran, Iran.
But, first, I want to bring in CNN Senior Diplomatic Correspondent, Michelle Kosinski.
So tell, us, Michelle, what more are we learning about this video?
MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT: OK, well, the DOD says that this came from a U.S. plane that was overhead.
And even in darkness, they were able to see this ship trying to get this unexploded mine off of the tanker. And they said that this boat -- it was an Iranian fast boat -- that this is an asset of the IRGC, of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guard.
And this is some proof. And the first round of attacks on tankers that we saw just a few weeks ago, remember, the administration was criticized for not offering hard proof at the outset, for not giving a lot of detail as to why they thought Iran was behind this.
So here is the video. And we are hearing from others , from diplomatic sources of U.S. allies, that, when you see this video, this is a virtual certainty, in their words, that Iran did this. And they feel that this video -- quote -- "nails it."
All right, I'm going to go to Fred to get the response from the Iranians, especially in the wake of this new video being released.
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Pamela.
Well, the Iranians are saying the exact opposite. They're continuing to say unequivocally that they didn't do it. In fact, the Iranian foreign minister came out, despite this video, and said that he doesn't believe that there's even circumstantial evidence that the Iranians were behind these attacks.
So it has been quite interesting to see from the Iranian perspective. Essentially, what they have been saying all along is that they didn't do this. They say that essentially that part of the Gulf of Oman is where they have their security and they are responsible for the security there, and so therefore they wouldn't do it just because of that.
And it's one of the interesting things that we heard from President Trump there, essentially saying that the Iranians are under a lot of pressure and that they're changing a lot.
The Iranians don't seem to be feeling that pressure, because the Iranians are essentially saying or said today at Friday prayers that they believe that Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, essentially humiliated President Trump when he rebuffed President Trump's offer for new talks, which, of course, was brought by Shinzo Abe, the prime minister of Japan, so the Iranians sticking by their guns.
Also, one of the things that the Iranians are putting out there -- and this is through the Fars News Agency -- they say, look, the company that runs the ship that was on that video essentially itself is saying that it doesn't believe that ship was hit by a mine, the crew apparently saying they believe it was hit by projectiles.
Now, of course, it's unclear how much situational awareness the crew would have had as those explosions were going off. But, certainly, that's definitely something that's also very much feeding into the Iranian narrative as well -- Pamela.
BROWN: And I want to go back to you, Michelle, because even in the wake up this attack, the president is claiming that Iran is changing its behavior for the better under his hard-line policies.
What are you hearing about that, particularly from allies?
KOSINSKI: Yes. I mean, it's not clear what exactly he's referring to. And I wish that he had been pressed on that. Like, what examples is he giving?
But we do hear from other sources that there is some evidence that Iran is feeling the crunch of U.S. sanctions, especially cutting off its oil sales. I mean, that was something that particularly infuriated Iran, that they are having more trouble funding their many operations overseas that the U.S. considers so destabilizing.
So that is true, to some extent. The thing is, in terms of changing Iran's behavior for truly the better, what the U.S. did in its campaign of maximum pressure was supposed to bring Iran back to the negotiating table or stop it from doing things like this, right?
Well, what we're seeing from these latest attacks and other incidents that we're not even talking about today is that it's not a deterrent. Iran is not changing its behavior, and they're refusing to come back to the negotiating table. And U.S. allies too are concerned about that, especially since they felt like the Iran nuclear deal was the best way to keep Iran's activities in check.
BROWN: All right, Michelle Kosinski, great reporting. Thank you so much. Fred Pleitgen from Tehran, thank you.
And coming up right here in the NEWSROOM, for months, they drank and bathed in dangerously lead-tainted water, wondering if they would ever see justice. And now victims of the Flint water scandal are dealing with the news prosecutors have dropped all criminal charges against government officials.
So what's next for the future? We're going to talk to one victim.
Plus, the man accused of trying to murder David Ortiz now claims the Red Sox legend was not his intended target -- what else he told reporters from his jail cell.
BROWN: Well, 15 people charged, millions of taxpayer dollars spent, and no one has ever been jailed. Now, nearly four years since the city of Flint declared a state of emergency because its water was contaminated, and three years after the first criminal charges were filed against state and city officials, prosecutors have dropped all the pending criminal cases.
That's because a new legal team formed by the current state attorney general has accused former prosecutors of mishandling legal evidence. So they want to dump everything and then start all over.
Former Governor Rick Snyder declared a state of emergency in Flint in January 2016. And he also could still be charged for his role in the crisis.
The entire city was affected by dirty toxic water running through homes, businesses and schools. People suffered from lead poisoning and a deadly outbreak of Legionnaires' disease.
Now, residents now say they feel betrayed by this latest move.
Keri Webber, one of many Flint residents affected by the water crisis, joins me now. She says she and her family have suffered serious health issues as a result of the lead poisoning discovered in Flint's water system.
Thank you for being here, Keri.
KERI WEBBER, RESIDENT OF FLINT, MICHIGAN: Thank you so much for having me.
BROWN: How do you feel about the charges being dropped and this investigation starting over from scratch?
WEBBER: This is no different than what they have done to us since the very beginning.
This went to D.C. It was very quietly closed, the investigation there. Every time it seems like we're making headway, it gets shut down.
BROWN: So why do you think this is happening, the dropped charges and the investigation restart?
WEBBER: I'm afraid they're looking for, seriously, limitations and when charges can be made.
Those that were already headed to trial, it's been proven what's happened. As a mother of one child with Legionnaires' and another child with profound organ damage to lead poisoning, husband the same, this is inexcusable.
It's just -- there's no excuse.
BROWN: I want to talk a little bit more about that, just how this decision, how it affects you personally, why it matters so much to you.
WEBBER: Nick Lyon was the one in charge of Department of Health and Human Services here in Michigan, who failed to mention the Legionella outbreak. And it's back, by the way.
There's been Legionella outbreak again this year, not as severe, but it's only June. Our daughter, 20, had Legionnaires', was the first or second case confirmed from the home. This did not happen in the hospital. She got Legionella in our home, in our shower.
Our second child, at 15, they found lead lines in her bones. Then they found out she had a liver problem. Then they found out it's her kidneys. My husband's had an eye stroke.
I took this to the top of the state, the top, to be told that, because she was 15 and my husband was 45, they did not count.
BROWN: Why didn't they count?
WEBBER: Too old.
BROWN: But she was 15.
WEBBER: Too old.
Yes, they were looking at children seven and younger.
So you have been very active, Keri, with citizen efforts to monitor the city's water supply.
BROWN: How is the water there now where you live? Do you feel it's safe now? Have pipes in your area been replaced?
WEBBER: Our pipe was replaced September 28, 2016, not by the state of Michigan, not by the city of Flint, but by donation.
We just had our first reading come back four months ago that was within the safe value for the EPA. And I mean four months ago. When we were tested last October, we were so 46.1 parts per billion lead.
BROWN: So, clearly, you're trying to do what you can as a citizen there in Flint to improve the situation. There's also a community meeting there later this month with the legal team now leading the criminal case.
Do you plan to attend? And what will you say to them?
WEBBER: I don't even know if I'm going, because, first of all, my daughter's health -- I'm so sorry.
BROWN: It's OK. Take your time.
WEBBER: Has taken -- has taken a very serious turn. She's 19.
And, frankly, I have attended all the hearings in D.C., all the hearings in Flint. It's all been a horse-and-pony show. It gets you nowhere. You get promises.
I mean, Governor Whitmer said, well, we're going to bring the PODs right back. It's July. We still don't have a water POD. I delivered water alone for years to the disabled and the handicapped.