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Iran to Break Uranium Stockpile Limit Set by Nuclear Deal; NYT Reports U.S. Ramping Up Cyberattacks on Russia; Pentagon & Intelligence Officials Hesitant to Inform Trump of Cyberattacks on Russia; Supreme Court Issues Opinion on Racial Gerrymandering; Trump Campaign Fires Pollsters after Leaks of Unfavorable Internal Polling; Trump to Kick Off Re-Election Bid Tomorrow in Orlando. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired June 17, 2019 - 11:00   ET



[11:00:40] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Fredericka Whitfield, in for Kate Bolduan. Thank you so much for joining me.

Some major developments in Iran this morning, stirring even more tensions across the globe. Iran's atomic agency says in 10 days it will break the uranium stockpile limit it agreed to under the 2015 nuclear deal. Iran wants to increase its production of low-grade uranium, which is the kind used to power nuclear reactors.

This comes just days after Iran was blamed for attacking two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman. Iran has denied those claims.

CNN's Fred Pleitgen it with us with more.

Fred, what message is Iran trying to send by breaking its agreement on enriching uranium?

FRED PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Fredricka. The Iranians are saying they're not breaking the agreement. They say they're still staying within the agreement but they're certainly not adhering to all the terms of the agreement, at least in the way they have before.

What the Iranians are saying is they are quickly going to quadruple their output of low-enriched uranium. That's the uranium used for power plants, not for nuclear weapons, for instance. The Iranians say they'll reach that level within 10 days.

That's a clear message, first of all, to the United States that the Iranians are very serious about their nuclear program and also very serious about countering the United States and the Middle East.

Even a more clear message to their allies, the Europeans. The Europeans and Iranians are on the same page in all of this, against the position of the Trump administration. They want to keep the nuclear agreement intact. They want to keep it around. And the Iranians are saying, to the Europeans, if you want to do this,

you need to start doing business with us again. You need to circumvent America's sanctions. You need to make sure we're able to export our oil on international markets otherwise the agreement is going to die. Tough position for the Europeans.

But at the same time, the Iranians very well aware of the fact there's a rift between American's European allies and the Trump administration on this issue -- Fredricka?

WHITFIELD: Frederik Pleitgen, thank you so much, in Tehran. I appreciate it.

Meantime, the "New York Times" is reporting the U.S. is ramping up cyberattacks on Russia and has planted powerful malware that could cripple Russia's power grid. President Trump denied the report over the weekend. Two administration officials tell "The Times" they don't think he was briefed about the operation.

CNN's Matthew Chance is live for us in Moscow.

Matthew, what has been the reaction there?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's been a relatively muted response, Fredricka, here in Russia, given the magnitude of the claims of the reports carried in the "New York Times."

But basically, 24 hours later, the Russian authorities are starting to react saying that basically this is tantamount to a cyber war that's being waged by foreign powers against Russia. The Kremlin says it's something they've been warning about and have been aware of for some time and that corresponding departments have been very busy in trying to counter that.

The TASS news agency, the state news agency in Russia has been quoting an anonymous law enforcement official in Russia saying it's not just the energy sector targeted by foreign intelligence agencies but also the banking sector and the transport sector as well. So a very broad cyberattack is what the Russians are reporting not just from the United States but from other foreign powers as well.

The reason there's been a relatively muted response, not an angry response, as you may have expected, perhaps if the report is the other way around, is because it kind of fits into the Russian narrative.

In one line in a Russian news organization I've been reading is saying, look, countries will probe each other's cyber defenses. Russia does it. It's done it in -- it didn't say this, but basically we know it's been accused of carrying out cyberattacks not just in the United States but in neighboring adversary countries like Ukraine and Georgia and Estonia in the Baltics. So Russia does it. According to this report, the United States does it as well.

We're all doing it is the Russian fig leaf for their operations.

WHITFIELD: Matthew Chance, thanks so much.

I want to talk about this more with CNN national security analyst and former senior advisor to the national security advisor under President Obama, Samantha Vinograd, and former CIA operative and now CNN intelligence and security analyst, Bob Bear.

Good to see you both.

To Sam first.

"The Times" reporting that Pentagon and intelligence officials described broad hesitation to actually share these details of this operation with the president, largely because they weren't so certain about how he would respond. They were afraid he would be not supportive of the plan at all. How unusual would this be?

[11:05:22] SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Do you blame them? President Trump has consistently shown he doesn't put our own national security ahead of the interest of foreign officials.

We know he's leaked intelligence to the Russian ambassador in the Oval Office and he's certainly not careful about sources and methods. He's perhaps engaging in activities that could allow the attorney general to expose methods used in the Mueller report.

At this point, one thing I'm wondering, having prepared presidents for meetings in the past, two weeks or so before President Trump sees Vladimir Putin at the G-20 summit, how is President Trump not asked to be briefed on these operations? This is a hostile foreign power. He's about to see Vladimir Putin. Shouldn't he want to know the range of actions that we're taking to hold Russia accountable?

WHITFIELD: That's fairly consistent in the way in which he's responded to intelligence reporting on Russia's involvement, et cetera. This is an operation where intel officials would not need the president's approval?

VINOGRAD: No, but he did reportedly authorize these kinds of activities. He's saying these reports are inaccurate. Reporting from last summer indicate this was a presidential directive.

What he authorized was, reportedly, making things like Russia's electric grid legitimate targets rather than just cyberattacks. He broadened what is acceptable and delegated that authority to his secretary of defense. This is something he authorized doing. And now he's saying, I don't know anything about it.

WHITFIELD: Bob, let's go back to Iran. The announcement Iran will speed up enrichment of low-grade uranium. What does that move mean exactly? We heard from Fred Pleitgen it was for power plants, not for arms, nuclear arms. How do you interpret this?

BOB BAER, CNN INTELLIGENCE & SECURITY ANALYST: It's an Iranian provocation, Fred. We've pushed them into a corner. They are stepping up attacks on Saudi Arabia indirectly through Yemen. It's likely they were behind the tanker attacks. We are hurting them economically very badly and they're not going to

let this stand. They're sending a message to Washington, you can't push us around, this is an existential threat to us and we will strike back.

So the bluffing out of the White House right now is met by actions by Iran.

Fred, frankly, I think, my feeling, having watched Iran for many, many years, we're in the logic of war. Even worse than the '80s, in the Iran/Iraq war. By the day, it's getting worse.

WHITFIELD: Sam, you're in agreement with that. We talked earlier about where this administration is, pardon me, on the global scale, North Korea, Iran. In this case, you believe Iran really means business. Particularly, because diplomacy is nearly null and void, the nuclear deal with the U.S. is now null and void.

VINOGRAD: I think this is Iran's version of a maximum pressure campaign.

I disagree with Bob, somewhat. I think this is a message to the Europeans. I think the Iranians have discounted working with the United States and this is their way of trying to pressure the Europeans in choosing. It's an us versus them scenario. Iran wants the Europeans to say, we'll continue to do business with you. We will buy your oil.

That could trigger U.S. sanctions. Iran wants the Europeans on their side.

And 17 months into the Trump administration, we almost have to call this the proliferation presidency. Proliferation has always been a difficult agenda. We have North Korea with more weapons. When President Trump came into office he's saying there's no timeline.

Iran is closer to a nuclear weapon today -- let's be clear on that -- than when Trump came into office. They have more low-enriched uranium. They're saying they may go above the ceiling on uranium --


WHITFIELD: Less incentive. Less incentive.


VINOGRAD: There's less incentive. Nuclear weapons and the nuclear program is Iran's bargaining chip. It's what they traded away for relief of sanctions in the past. Now that sanctions are back on, they're taking a similar posture.

WHITFIELD: Bob, finally, now on this U.S. cyberattack on Russia, the "New York Times" sources on that story, you know, were current and former U.S. government officials. The president, we know he's tweeted out about the report saying this is a virtual act of treason. Is it treasonous? Was this bad news for the publishing of this kind of story in the "New York Times?"

BAER: Being a former intelligence officer, I think it's always bad for this stuff to be played out in the press. Because if there's a cyber war between us and the Russians, the Russians should be fully surprised by it. It's bad it got out. But it's worse no one told the president what we're up to. Or he doesn't understand the details.

The fact he doesn't read is a catastrophe. Because he really doesn't know what's going on and he has an undisciplined staff, and people are upset inside the government and they're leaking stuff. It's just a bad situation.

[11:10:12] WHITFIELD: Sam, how bad do you see it? Either the president doesn't want to be briefed or there have been occasions in which he doesn't want to be briefed or that he wouldn't be briefed by these officials regardless of how he is or is not receptive to it?

VINOGRAD: There aren't enough hours in the day to do your jobs when you're just managing national security when you're at the White House. Now the team has the added job of trying to manage the U.S. president. All these things they're doing try to keep our country safe, to defend us against Russia. They're doing all that.

And trying to keep the president in the dark because there's so worried about him pursuing his worst impulses. For example, placating president Putin. And at the same point, they're managing all of those issues.

Again, they're preparing him for President Trump's bilateral meeting with Vladimir Putin. And how worried are they about sharing information with him ahead of that meeting. Based on what we heard in the "New York Times" reporting, they're worried about him --


WHITFIELD: And based on the precedence of meetings between the president and Putin in Finland, for example.

VINOGRAD: Exactly. And, for example, the fact that he said, and somewhat walked back, it's OK to take information from foreign governments. The usual prep that goes into that kind of bilateral meeting is weeks in the making. Now they have the added concern of whether the president can be trusted with that intelligence and what's really on his agenda with Vladimir Putin.

WHITFIELD: All right, Sam, Bob, thanks to both of you.


WHITFIELD: Really appreciate it.

Race and politics coming together in a U.S. Supreme Court ruling just minutes ago. The court ruled that Virginia's Republican-led House of Delegates overstepped its authority. It did not have the legal right to challenge a ruling that lawmakers used race to draw its legislative districts. That means court-ordered maps that favor Democrats will be used in

Virginia. A big blow to Republicans ahead of the 2020 elections.

CNN's Jessica Schneider is at the U.S. Supreme Court.

Jessica, break all of this down for us.

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Fred, the Supreme Court really handing a win to Democrats in Virginia today by throwing out that Republican-led lawsuit and letting stand these court drawn district maps that did favor the Democrats in that state.

Now, this all stems from a 2011 lawsuit brought by African-American voters. They said the 11 districts that were drawn by the Republican- led legislation at the time relied too much on race, therefore, were improperly racially gerrymandered. A lower court agreed with those voters. Threw out those districts and redrew the districts and, in turn, came up with court-ordered maps.

Republicans weren't satisfied. They wanted to challenge it all the way here to the Supreme Court.

The problem is, the Republicans bringing that lawsuit were the Republicans in the House of Delegates in Virginia. But Democrats were actually holding the attorney general's office as well as the governor's office, and state law says litigation can only be brought by the attorney general. The attorney general said, House of Delegates, Republicans in the House of Delegates, you cannot bring this lawsuit.

What the Supreme Court did today, the Supreme Court agreed with the Democratic attorney general in Virginia and said, no, the Republican- led legislature in the House of Delegates cannot bring this lawsuit. As such, they let the lower court ruling stand. These court-ordered districts will also stand that do more favorably go to Democrats.

But, Fred, there's still a lot to come at the Supreme Court. This was an issue the Supreme Court somewhat resolved on partisan gerrymandering -- I'm sorry, racial gerrymandering, though they didn't go to what is unconstitutional and what isn't. But we are awaiting decisions on partisan gerrymandering, when politicians go too far in drawing the district lines for the political gain of one party or another.

Then, we're awaiting a decision on the citizenship question and whether or not that can be included in the 2020 census.

A lot of political issues here at the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court tries to stay apolitical but they have been thrust front and center in this political debate.

Fred, later this week, we will get more opinions. We're winding into the final days of the Supreme Court's term, ending at the end of June -- Fred?

WHITFIELD: In these final days, in the next week or two, they could be tackling upwards of 20 cases they could be rendering decisions on.

Jessica Schneider, thank you so much. Appreciate that.

Still to come, President Trump cleans house after several unflattering internal polls are leaked. What does this mean for his re-election campaign?

[11:14:35] Plus, the family at the center of a controversial arrest speaking out for the first time. What they were thinking as police, guns draw, surrounded them after their 4-year-old daughter allegedly stole a doll.


WHITFIELD: Welcome back.

At the White House, President Trump seems to be shooting the messenger. The Trump campaign has fired three of its five pollsters after a leak of internal polling. It shows the president trails Joe Biden in 11 key states.

CNN's Sarah Westwood at the White House.

Sarah, what more do we know about this decision, how it happened?

SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Fred, we know President Trump was upset about these poll numbers that show him trailing former Vice President Joe Biden in key states.

[11:20:08] These numbers are a couple of months old. CNN and others first reported on the existence of the poll, the 17-state survey weeks ago. But more details kept trickling out over the past few weeks, including last week, some hard numbers from head-to-head match-ups with Biden and Trump. Campaign aides were frustrated that those hard numbers from select states of the 17-state survey were released to reporters.

So it was Trump's private wrath combined with that frustration over the leaks among aides that led to the campaign over the weekend cutting ties with three of its pollsters. Three of them are expected to keep working with the Trump super PAC, one of whom is not expected to have any continuing affiliation with Trump groups.

Trump is continuing to deny the authenticity of those poll reports. Just this morning tweeting that only fake polls show him trailing his Democratic rivals.

We should note, Fred, the campaign itself was never actually disputing the numbers were accurate. They were just disputing the context surrounding the numbers, for example, saying they were from unfavorable turnout models and that other turnout models that more closely resembled 2016 were more flattering to the president.

But nonetheless, Trump still clinging to this notion that those polls are fake -- Fred? WHITFIELD: Sarah, he'll be delivering a big speech tomorrow to

officially launch his re-election bid. He's already tweeting about it. What is he saying?

WESTWOOD: That's right. This morning, Fred, President Trump touting the expected crowd size at that rally tomorrow night in Orlando, Florida. It will be held at a 20,000-seat arena. But President Trump is saying the campaign has already gotten over 100,000 requests for tickets. They are expecting to have a big overflow crowd.

This conversation about the campaign dismissing some pollsters is not what the campaign was hoping to have on the eve of what they're billing as a campaign relaunch, a launch of its re-election effort. Although, the campaign itself has been ramping up itself, adding more staff, putting boots on the ground in states that will be key.

This is more of a symbolic event for the president launching his re- election bid -- Fred?

WHITFIELD: We know the president likes a little affirmation, too.

Sarah Westwood, thank you so much.

Joining me now, John Kasich, former Republican governor of Ohio. He's now a CNN senior political commentator.

Good to see you.


WHITFIELD: OK, we have quite the litany. The reporting is the Trump campaign, this internal polling had Joe Biden leading Trump in several key states, including Ohio. These numbers are from back in March. Knowing Ohio as you do, do you see Joe Biden running ahead of Trump there?

KASICH: Well, look, before I get to that, I want to tell you, Fredricka, that I -- over the weekend, bursted with pride to see the people in Hong Kong standing up against authoritarianism, both in Hong Kong and in China.

That the power of the people, two million people marching in the streets saying, you will not silence us, you will not take our freedom away, made me feel so good about the fact that people can have power and preserve their freedom. That's why hanging out with authoritarians is so dangerous because they take people's voice away.

That being said, now they fire these pollsters. This reminded me a little bit like the Old Testament, where the kings would call the astrologers in -- and there's not much difference between an astrologer and pollster. If the astrologer didn't tell the king what he wanted to hear, they would take the astrologer out and execute him and bring another one in to tell him what he wants to hear. Firing pollsters doesn't change the reality and the numbers.

I got a kick out of it, that if the astrologer or pollster doesn't tell me what I want to hear, I'll get one that will tell me what I want to hear. I think that's a fool's errant, to tell you the truth.


KASICH: What the numbers are, the numbers are.

WHITFIELD: That's the consequence, the firing of it getting out. But what does it say to you that it would be information conveyed by his campaign and does it say that there's some -- it's almost a reality check, is it, that Joe Biden is doing well in Ohio?

KASICH: Well, look, I'm not convinced Biden or any Democrat will win Ohio. Ohio has been doing so well lately. It went from being purple to red. When you're growing jobs and things are going well, the economy is doing well, that's really a big deal.

I've been talking about the three states I think is going to matter. That is Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin. Wisconsin could end up being a tossup, although, it doesn't appear that way. Pennsylvania and Michigan being lost. That's why you heard some of the people coming out and saying, well, maybe there's another path for Trump to get there because these are really, really at risk for him.

[11:25:00] I think -- I don't know if the die has not been cast. In the suburbs people are not happy with the division. No one's happy with the idea that people's health care could be taken away or those with pre-existing conditions could be at risk or is anybody settling down? I have a job today. Will I have one tomorrow?

There's no question what these poll numbers show is that the president is in trouble and no surprise.

WHITFIELD: What do these headlines, what kind of position does this put the president in with all of these headlines as the backdrop? He's scheduled to relaunch his campaign tomorrow in Orlando. Will he be in fighting mode or will he -- will we see a president who demonstrates that, you know, everything's fine, I'm calm about it?

KASICH: Oh, no, it's be both. He'll be fighting about what he wants to do and how everything's going down the drain if he doesn't win. But yet, we're going to win and keep America great. I guess that's the new phrase in all that. That's what campaigns are all about. Every politician does it. You can't just say if it was Bill Clinton or Obama or Bush, everybody who runs for re-election says, hey, everything is -- it's the greatest thing ever.

Fredricka, you ever notice this? Every single election, people say, this is the most important election in our history. I'm not saying this one isn't critically important, but most of the time they'll frame it that way. Sometimes in some of these elections you meet the new boss, same as the old boss, as the song goes.

WHITFIELD: I'm sure you watched much of that 30 hours of the president spending with George Stephanopoulos. I would love your reflections on reflections on some of those moments, including this one. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They're after my financial statement, the Senate, they'd like to get my financial statement. At some point, I hope they get it.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ANCHOR, ABC NEWS: Are you going to turn it over?

TRUMP: No. At some point -- I might, but at some point, I hope they get it because it's a fantastic financial statement. It's a fantastic financial statement.

Let's do that over. He's coughing in the middle of my answer.


TRUMP: I don't like that. You know?

STEPHANOPOULOS: Your chief of staff --


TRUMP: If you have a cough, please leave the room.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I'll get the shot over here.

TRUMP: Just to change to the side?


TRUMP: OK, do you want to do that a little differently then?

STEPHANOPOULOS: Yes, we'll just changed the angle. Yes. Thank you.

TRUMP: So, at some point, I look forward to -- frankly, I'd like to have people see my financial statement because it's phenomenal.

STEPHANOPOULOS: It's up to you.

TRUMP: No, it's not up to me. It's up to lawyers, it's up to everything else. But they're asking for things they should never be asking for, that they never asked another president for.


WHITFIELD: OK, there was a lot there in that moment. Everything from the rosy picture about his financial statement, it's so great I want everybody to see, it it's fantastic. And we know what happens. Usually, when the president is repetitious about something, sometimes it's the opposite that may be true.

Then he got a little irritated about the whole coughing from his chief of staff. Just as if he were on his show "The Apprentice," he does these retakes.

There's so much there. How do you analyze all of that?


WHITFIELD: How do you get into the psyche of the president with all that?

KASICH: Well, thou shalt not cough, I guess. I don't pay much attention to that. That doesn't -- this whole thing about his financial statement and all that. Democrats aren't going to win or lose on the basis of Trump's financial statement. That's not what's is going to turn this election.

One thing in the earlier segment, Fredricka, that I heard you talking about is this "New York Times" story where Trump was criticizing the "New York Times" about the cyber efforts we're making.


KASICH: See, I think that was a message. I think that was a deliberate message to the world --

WHITFIELD: From whom?

KASICH: -- that instead of just sitting back taking a hit with cyber, that we're going to be more on the offense. I think the Obama administration did not do that. Frankly, our cyber operations are scattered too much places in the government. They ought to be consolidated so we have one group in charge, not many groups in charge.

Frankly, I think that story, that story lifted me when I read it. It made me feel better about the situation with cyber --


WHITFIELD: You believe it was intentional to release that?


KASICH: Pardon?

WHITFIELD: You believe it was intentional to release that --

KASICH: Oh, yes.

WHITFIELD: -- to send a signal to Russia?


WHITFIELD: And the U.S.?

KASICH: And not just Russia. Not just to Russia. Anybody around the world who's interested in trying to -- you read yesterday that over in Uruguay there, I think, Brazil or Argentina, there was like most of the country lost power. If these people want to attack our grid, our infrastructure, it's a real problem. And to sit back and not be able to say, listen, folks, we have an

offensive response is a terrible mistake. I give them credit for what was in that "New York Times" story.

WHITFIELD: John Kasich, we'll leave it there for now. Always good to see you. Thank you.

KASICH: Thank you.

[11:29:59] Up next, Phoenix police taking heat after video shows officers pulling out their guns on a family after their 4-year-old daughter allegedly steals a doll. What that family is saying now, next.