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U.S. Releases Video of Iran Removing Mine from Tanker in Gulf of Oman; Trump: McGahn 'May Have Been Confused' in Mueller Testimony; Biden: Trump Dead Wrong on Election Interference; Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) is Interviewed about Iran Video, Trump Critique of McGahn; Fed Watchdog Recommends Firing White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired June 14, 2019 - 07:00   ET



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- to Iran, they're going to strike back.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We want to make sure we put the pieces together properly. We are, in fact, going to blame Iran. We need to have rock-solid evidence.

[07:00:11] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The message I got from the president's own words was it is open season on U.S. political figures in 2020.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There's nothing wrong with listening.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is shocking to think that an American president is going to publicly solicit a crime. The question is what are we going to do about this?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He gets picked at every day. The fundamental point is they're trying to keep the 2016 election alive.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to your NEW DAY. And we do begin with breaking news overnight, because we have this new video from the Pentagon to show you.

The U.S. says that this shows Iranian forces removing an unexploded mine from a tanker in the Gulf of Oman. Defense officials believe Iranian officials were trying to get rid of evidence here.

This incident comes at a time of escalating tensions between the U.S. and Iran. Adding support for the U.S. claims, the United Kingdom now says it has no doubts over the validity of this video.

BERMAN: There's also another major story we're following, brand-new video just released moments ago of the president attacking former White House counsel Don McGahn, and also the president defending his refusal to testify in person under oath to Robert Mueller.

Also, the president taking heavy criticism for his willingness to accept dirt on political opponents from overseas. But the president's own campaign is now calling it a directive. They are now following that directive, which caused the head of the Federal Election Commission to release a scathing response overnight.

We have a lot of news. Our reporters are all over it. We want to go first to CNN's Michelle Kosinski with this new video released, which the Pentagon seems to suggest the Iranians were behind the attack on these tankers.

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT: Yes. We're also seeing a much different attack now from the last time this happened, only weeks ago when other ships were attacked in the Persian Gulf.

The administration was very reluctant to even say that Iran was suspected. It was more than a week later, and the secretary of state was saying maybe Iran was behind it.

Now, though, we see them get out there immediately, publicly, definitively, saying this was Iran, and here's some evidence.


KOSINSKI (voice-over): This dramatic new video, released overnight, shows a small boat approaching the Kokuka Courageous tanker. You can see an individual removing an object from the tanker's hull. U.S. military officials say that object is likely an unexploded mine, removed by Iranians just hours after the initial explosion.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accusing Iran of carrying out the attacks, using the video as his evidence.

MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Iran is lashing out, because the regime wants our successful maximum-pressure campaign lifted.

KOSINSKI: U.S. defense officials believe Iran recovered the device to remove any evidence of their involvement in the attack.

The military also releasing this photo of the ship's hull that they say shows the damage from one explosion and the likely unexploded mine.

The Japanese-owned ship was one of two tankers attacked in the Gulf of Oman Thursday as Japan's Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, visited Iran in an attempt to calm tensions between Tehran and Washington.

Iran has denied involvement, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif saying in a tweet, quote, "Suspicious doesn't even begin to describe what likely transpired this morning."

The secretary of state firing back.

POMPEO: Foreign Minister Zarif may think this is funny, but no one else in the world does.

KOSINSKI: The Japanese are coordinating with the United States in investigating the attack on its tanker, but at this point are not blaming Iran.

The incident in the Gulf of Oman follows months of escalation in the region. In May, national security adviser John Bolton accused Iran of executing an attack on four oil tankers in the United Emirates's port of Fujairah. An international investigation said a state actor was likely to blame.

And that same month, the U.S. deployed the USS Abraham Lincoln to the region to combat other threats from Iran.


KOSINSKI: Nevertheless, over the last few weeks the Trump administration has faced some criticism and questions over what proof is there, really, that Iran was behind several incidents?

So now they've put out some evidence. Is that to head off that criticism? Is it to justify, potentially, whatever the U.S. response will be? We don't know. But we did see the secretary of state yesterday meeting with the acting secretary of defense at the Pentagon.

Also, this morning, we're just hearing from a senior diplomatic source of a U.S. ally who say that they believe that Iran, it is a virtual certainty that Iran was behind the latest attack, and that the video nails it -- John.

BERMAN: All right. Michelle Kosinski, please, again, stand by. Let us know what more your sources are telling you this morning.

[07:05:05] We want to bring in CNN White House correspondent Abby Phillip; also Kaitlan Collins, a White House correspondent; and Susan Glasser, staff writer for "The New Yorker" and CNN global affairs analyst. We've got a lot of news breaking this morning. We're going to try to get to all of it.

Susan, I want to start with this new video we're just trying to analyze now, released overnight, which Pentagon officials say shows the Iranians removing this mine from this vessel, some kind of coverup.

Let me ask you this. Does this, in your mind, prove the Iranians were behind it? And why would they do this?

SUSAN GLASSER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, look, this is a pretty compelling evidence offered by the United States. I think it's interesting, if you start to see U.S. allies, as well, weighing in and saying that they find it to be convincing evidence, Iran is the likeliest suspect in this situation.

It also -- it carries echoes of previous rounds of tension, ratcheting up threats to tankers going through the Straits of Hormuz, one of the riskiest global flashpoints, you know, that there is, in the sense that it's a bottleneck. These tankers are often sitting ducks.

We, you know, harken back to the 1980s, and the tanker war. There's already talk that perhaps we should have U.S. warships escorting tankers through the straits, in order to head off a future round of this.

But pulling back, the question is, where are we going with this? Let's take the administration's claim at face value, that the Iranians are responsible. I guess my question is, what's next? What's going to follow as a result of this?

The administration has talked -- We saw Secretary of State Mike Pompeo -- about the success of what it calls its maximum pressure campaign. But the question is, success toward what? The United States has pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal. It's ratcheted up sanctions. It sought once again to isolate Iran.

If this is the Iranian response, I think it's greatly increased the risk of military conflict and war on both sides.

CAMEROTA: OK, let's move back here, at home, to politics, because there's a lot of breaking news on that front, as well.

So Abby, Don McGahn, the former White House counsel, has a story to tell, to Congress, so much -- the Congress wants to hear that story so much that they have subpoenaed him. But the White House has been stonewalling that.

So in this new video where President Trump sat down with George Stephanopoulos of ABC, he goes after Don McGahn in what might be an unwise move. Here is that moment.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I was never going to fire Mueller. I never suggested firing Mueller.


TRUMP: Do I think -- excuse me, I don't care what he says. It doesn't matter. That was to show everyone what a good counsel he was.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Why would Don McGahn lie under oath?

TRUMP: But we had a business --

STEPHANOPOULOS: Why would he lie under oath? Why would he lie under oath to Robert Mueller?

TRUMP: Because he wanted to make himself look like a good lawyer. Or -- or he believed it, because I would constantly tell anybody that would listen, including you, including the media, that Robert Mueller was conflicted.


CAMEROTA: It's an interesting tack, Abby, to take as Don McGahn is weighing whether to go in front of Congress.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and it's not exactly new for President Trump. I mean, this is the president executing a pattern of attacking people that he thinks are a threat to him, particularly by implying that Don McGahn is trying to protect himself, and trying to make himself look good by lying about things in the Mueller report and lying about things if he were to testify in public.

But the fact of the matter is, there's really no reason for Don McGahn to have lied to Robert Mueller. It would only have actually make -- made his situation worse. And in fact, I don't think that it helps McGahn, really, in any way to kind of fabricate events around this.

And -- but the president himself said it. He was telling everyone around him, at that time, that he felt that -- that Robert Mueller was conflicted. And Don McGahn took that to be, to be not only not a legitimate reason for getting rid of -- of the special counsel, but he also took the president's comments to him, as an order, to try to fire the special counsel.

So that's McGahn's version of the story, and the president is trying to push back on that. But the one person who did not speak to -- to Robert Mueller under oath on this topic is the president himself.

So anything that he says in the public sphere really does not carry the same kind of weight as it would if he had said it to prosecutors himself. Like all the other people who cooperated with this probe.

BERMAN: And exactly. And when George Stephanopoulos pressed him on that. The president called George a wise guy. McGahn was under oath, Kaitlan. The president was not.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And it's important to note here that the Mueller report is not based on just Don McGahn. A lot of what the president was so angry about, the details in the Mueller report, were from Don McGahn's deputy, Annie Donaldson, and notes that she took.

But also, this is based on interviews not just with Don McGahn, who said the president would call him at home repeatedly, that he told the special counsel the president was wearing him down, talking about Robert Mueller and wanting him to be removed from that position. But also interviews with the staff secretary, Rob Porter, Steve Bannon, several other top, high-ranking officials in the West Wing.

[07:10:07] So it's a cohesive effort that goes into the Mueller report, talking about how the president wanted Robert Mueller to be removed from his job as special counsel. It's not just Don McGahn. But we see the president singling him out there specifically.

But what was so striking in that interview is the president, he's asked why would Don McGahn want to lie about this. And the president says two things. One, because he wants to seem like he's a good lawyer. But then, two -- that was the most telling point -- where the president said, "Or maybe he believed it because of what I was saying to everyone about Robert Mueller."

And that's what you gather from the report. It's not that the president said it explicitly, but there are enough people in the West Wing who said the president's motives were clear, and what he wanted was obvious.

CAMEROTA: Susan, one of the stunning moments yesterday was when ABC revealed the video of the president saying that, despite all of this investigation, that he did not seem to enjoy, frankly, over the past two years, he would do it all over again, and he would, yes, be open for business, if a foreign country, even an adversarial one, wanted to bring dirt on a political opponent.

So that got the attention, of course, of everyone. And mostly the president's opponents on the Democratic side. And Joe Biden had a lot to say about it. And note the setting of how Joe Biden delivered this message.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Donald Trump doesn't think it matters if candidates for presidency accept damaging information on other opponents from foreign governments. I believe he's dead wrong.

In February, working with our close democratic allies in Europe, I helped develop a pledge that we encourage candidates running for office to take, promising they would use no disinformation in their campaigns or tolerate outside interference. I said then that, were I a candidate for office, I would sign the pledge. Today, I'm making good on that promise.


BERMAN: That's like the Boval Office, like the Biden Oval Office. He's trying to make himself look presidential signing a document.

CAMEROTA: I don't think he should call it "boval."


CAMEROTA: I think that has connotations to cows.

BERMAN: We'll send that to committee.

CAMEROTA: But in any event, Susan, I mean, he's signing legislation. It just is -- it screams presidential from his campaign, if that's what they're trying to accomplish.

GLASSER: Well, that's right. And of course, you know, Joe Biden, more than any other candidate, has really sought, not only to portray this as almost a general election campaign already, at a time when there are going to be 20 candidates on the Democratic debate stage later this month.

But he has also made the focus of his campaign, day in and day out, on Donald Trump. He calls him an existential threat to the country. And of course, Trump has played right into that narrative, for Vice President Biden, with his comments to George Stephanopoulos.

I mean, you know, it's amazing, and head-spinning to think that the president is out there saying, instead of "no collusion," essentially, "I'm now pro-collusion," right?

But I feel like there's a theory of the case here -- Joe Biden has it -- which is that what America needs is simply to be rid of Donald Trump, and that everything will somehow snap back to the way it was before. That is not the theory of the case that many of his Democratic rivals are taking. You could argue that is not the theory of the case that the speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, is taking as she approaches each fresh kind of Trump stunner of revelation.

So you know, we don't know yet whether Biden's theory of the case is correct or not. And it's hard to remember whether we're even going to think about this interview a week from now, because there will be something else.

BERMAN: It's interesting. You say it seems to be a pronouncement from the White House and the president: "We don't care about foreign interference."

They're also seeming to say, "We don't care about ethics violations." The Office of the Special Counsel, different office than Robert Mueller. It's an office that oversees government ethics and political intrusions into official work; recommended that Kellyanne Conway, senior counselor, be fired. They've never done this before. Fire Kellyanne Conway for things she repeatedly has said while working in government service of a political nature, including on Michael Smerconish's show, "SMERCONISH," when she went on and attacked Joe Biden. Watch this.


KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO DONALD TRUMP: He doesn't want to be held to account for his record, or lack thereof. And I found his announcement video to be unfortunately -- certainly, a missed opportunity but also just -- just very dark and spooky in that it's taking us -- he doesn't have a vision for the future.


BERMAN: All right. Again, we have not yet heard, Abby, from the president, whether or not he will fire Kellyanne Conway. I'm betting no.

PHILLIP: Seems like it.

BERMAN: The FEC chair put out -- I mean, this is -- everyone is saying this is sort of crazy. And yet, Kellyanne Conway and the White House seem to be laughing in the face of it.

PHILLIP: Yes, and that's actually probably one of the reasons why this has gotten to this point, that the way in which the White House is sort of waving this, the Hatch Act in the face of this office, has really, you know, in some ways, irritated the people who are in charge of enforcing this -- enforcing this statute.

[07:15:10] But it really highlights the degree to which this White House really does not care about the perception that they are using their public office for political purposes.

It's not just Kellyanne. It's Kellyanne and several other White House officials, who repeatedly go out in public, using their titles, using their official Twitter feeds, going out and presenting themselves as White House officials, and advocating for political purposes. That goes right in the face of the very heart of that statute, and the White House just does not care.

CAMEROTA: Abby, Kaitlan, Susan, thank you all very much.

BERMAN: All right. The breaking news this morning, this new video overnight which the Pentagon says shows that Iran is behind attacks on oil tankers. Plus, the breaking news of the president's new attacks on Don McGahn. What will one key Democratic presidential candidate say about this? Amy Klobuchar joins us next.


[07:20:02] CAMEROTA: Well, after sparking intense backlash by admitting that he would again accept foreign dirt on his political opponents, the president's campaign says it's actually now a directive to the campaign, to be all ears, when someone comes calling, even as the chair of the FEC slammed those remarks.

Joining us now to talk about this, and so much more, we have Democratic Senator from Minnesota, and 2020 presidential candidate Senator Amy Klobuchar.

Great to have you here in studio.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Great to be on. What a great day to be on.

CAMEROTA: So I want you to put on your senator hat, not your presidential candidate hat.


CAMEROTA: OK. So as a senator, when you hear the sitting president of the United States say yes, he would do it all over again, despite what we've heard from the Mueller report, despite all the hue and cry, yes, sure he'd be open to Russia coming with dirt or any country, basically. What, as a senator, do you do with that?

KLOBUCHAR: Well, first of all, I think it's illegal. You can't take things of value from a foreign country and use them in your campaign. It is illegal.

And he is actually putting himself out there, and sending out the signals, once again, just like he did in the 2016, about dirt on Hillary Clinton, means that he is engaging in this same kind of behavior. Our forefathers fought so hard to have an election and a democracy

that was free of foreign interference. That is what we are going to be celebrating as a country on the Fourth of July.

CAMEROTA: So what action do you think this deserves?

KLOBUCHAR: And yet this is a president that doesn't seem to think that matters. And it basically is saying, "Hey, you out there in Wisconsin, or in Iowa, or right here in New York" --


KLOBUCHAR: -- "you don't have a say, because we're going to let foreign powers invade the election, either by hacking, by propaganda, or by giving us dirt and tearing apart candidates."

CAMEROTA: I guess what I'm asking is that you have said that you have seen evidence that would lead to impeachment.


CAMEROTA: So why not start impeachment?

KLOBUCHAR: Well, that is a possibility right now in the House. I think right now what the House is doing is that they are simply gathering information. They now have Hope Hicks has agreed to testify. And they're going to be gathering information. And then they will make that decision.

The point is you've got the obstruction of justice, which I think you've seen a bit of again today with what he said about Don McGahn. But then you also have going on this interference in our election, where he is blatantly engaging in this and asking people to interfere in the election. And remember, it's a foreign country that didn't do it with missiles or tanks.


KLOBUCHAR: But they did it with cyber warfare.

CAMEROTA: So you would support an impeachment proceeding beginning now?

KLOBUCHAR: I would support an impeachment proceeding beginning now, but I also understand that they may be want to be doing investigations leading up to it, and I think they should be given the time to do that.

CAMEROTA: One more thing. Just this week, you reintroduced legislation on election security. It was from last year.

Last year, when you drafted it, and came up with it, you had Republican, leading Republican support on that. What's happened since then?

KLOBUCHAR: Well, that bill was so important, because it basically said, if you're going to take federal money, then you have to have backup paper ballots. Fourteen states in the union right now do not have full backup paper ballots. Many of them also don't do audits.

What does this mean? We now know two counties in Florida, potentially, were hacked into. We know in Illinois, they got as close as the database. Those foreign countries, not just Russia, know exactly which states don't have these backup paper ballots. And all we're doing is try to require that to protect us.

This isn't just a Democratic effort. The head of the Intelligence Committee, Burr, was on this bill. We had Lindsey Graham on this bill. We had Lankford, who was my partner, on this bill. And we were -- it was moving ahead, and the White House stopped it in its tracks. They literally made calls to Republican senators.

And now we know why. The president of the United States has said it. "Come on, bring your dirt. We don't care how clean these elections are." And they don't even care if it's hacked into. They stopped the bill for backup paper ballots.

BERMAN: And again, to be clear, Marsha Blackburn blocked a measure yesterday that would have done similar things.


BERMAN: Or at least created a duty to report if you're offered foreign dirt.

KLOBUCHAR: Right. All in the same circle of fraud and --

BERMAN: And Mitch McConnell isn't fast-tracking this in any way.


BERMAN: What does that tell you?

KLOBUCHAR: What it tells me is they don't care if we have free and fair elections.

So the American people have a few choices here. One is to vote. They're going to have to vote and make their -- it known that they want to have a say who their next president is, and not let Mitch McConnell or Donald Trump play around with the election equipment or play around with the ads or the hacking, to let that happen, or invite a foreign country to do it.

But it also tells me that we need to do everything we can right now, state by state by state. If the Senate is going to be a graveyard because Mitch McConnell won't let any of these bills pass, then the states are going to have to start doing this themselves.

BERMAN: I want to ask you, if I can, about some of the breaking news overnight.

We got this video, CNN obtained this video, that the Pentagon says shows the Iranians removing a mine from one of these tankers that was bombed inside, near the Straits of Hormuz.

[07:25:09] This is like the 3 a.m. phone call that one gets as president. OK, you get the 3 a.m. phone call.


BERMAN: "We have this video that we think shows the Iranians that were involved in attacking these tankers." What's President Klobuchar's response?

KLOBUCHAR: Well, the first you do immediately is you check with your intelligence. You're in the situation room. You meet with the military and you figure out exactly what happened.

And then, working with your allies, some of whom are still in contact with Iran, you start talking to them and figure out what you should do. Not alone but as a group.

And the second thing, if the president is even thinking of getting in some kind of a conflict, which we should, of course, try to deescalate at this point, but if he is even thinking of trying to get into any kind of a conflict, you go to Congress to get an authorization of military force. You don't do it on their own. So that you can have a debate on this.

The final thing I add, if I'm president, I wouldn't have had us in this situation in the first place, because I would have stayed in the Iran nuclear agreement, which is the thing that has basically ignited all of this. And it's basically put the leverage in the hands of China and Russia, where we don't want it to be, because they are still in the agreement, as well as leaving the bag in the hands of our European allies.

So those are the people that you work with now. But we should have never been in this place in the first place. I don't think it's a surprise that all of this is happening. And this White House should have anticipated it.

CAMEROTA: Very quickly, Kellyanne Conway has been accused --

KLOBUCHAR: Very quickly.

CAMEROTA: Thank you.

BERMAN: You're in it. You're in this report.

KLOBUCHAR: Yes, I know. Yes. Not in a bad way.

CAMEROTA: She's been accused by this independent watchdog agency called the special counsel, not Robert Mueller, of violating the Hatch Act by engaging publicly in partisan politics, which a public servant in her position is not supposed to be doing. I think we even have -- we even have a clip of her saying something about you.

KLOBUCHAR: That will be exciting.

CAMEROTA: Listen to this moment.


CONWAY: Amy Klobuchar, who seems to be a very nice person, I guess, unless you're on her staff. But you can change the "A" to an "O" and get, "Oh, my" instead of "Amy" there, because I don't think that was a very impressive roll-out.


KLOBUCHAR: Wow, I'd like to see her standing in four inches of snow. That's where I did my announcement, in the middle of a blizzard. I thought it was pretty impressive.

CAMEROTA: Very hardy.

KLOBUCHAR: Nine thousand people there.


KLOBUCHAR: Skiing, sledding.

You know, I think the issue here is not the substance of her words. It is whether she has repeatedly talked about the president's opponents, for no other reason but to cut them down, not related to public policy, and that is a violation of the Hatch Act.

Not that she couldn't do it if she was off campaigning, but she's doing it in the White House. She's doing it in interviews. She's doing it on her official Twitter page. And she is basically paying politics, and that is not allowed for federal employees for them to do on the federal dime.

BERMAN: If you were president, should she be fired for it? The special counsel says she should be.

KLOBUCHAR: Well, if I was president, she wouldn't be working for me. But if I was president, no, you're not going to have someone on your staff. You would have them leave if they're violating the Hatch Act. Sometimes people make one mistake. That's not what this is about, as was pointed out by the counsel. This was a repeated pattern of behavior and basically, she's just flaunting it at them.

She knows what the Hatch Act says. She's a smart person. And she is just keeping on doing it to see what they can do. And it is part of this lawlessness that you see in the Trump administration.

At the very least -- a wiseman once said this -- we should have a president that can obey the law, that can tell the truth, and try to keep the peace. And if you look at the events of that week, that is not happening. I think that's a minimum that you should expect from the president of the United States.

CAMEROTA: Senator Amy Klobuchar, thank you --

KLOBUCHAR: Thank you. CAMEROTA: -- very much. Great to have you here.

KLOBUCHAR: Thank you very much.

BERMAN: Thanks, Senator.

CAMEROTA: All right. The Founding Fathers are rolling over in their graves. President Trump says he would accept foreign assistance all over again. That's something that they warned specifically against. Just how specifically?


CAMEROTA: Wait until you see.

BERMAN: Wicked.

CAMEROTA: Just wait until you see.

BERMAN: They're from Boston. They all are. It was wicked specifically.

CAMEROTA: Wait until you see this.

BERMAN: Wicked specifically.

CAMEROTA: A "Reality Check."