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Iran Announcing A Major Escalation Of Its Nuclear Program; President Trump Heads To Orlando To Officially Launch His Reelection Campaign; Taylor Swift Shows Support For LGBTQ Community. Aired: 2- 2:30p ET

Aired June 17, 2019 - 14:00   ET


ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: All right, Oren Liebermann in Jerusalem. Thanks very much. And that's it for me. I'm Alex Marquardt. CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.

ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, I'm Ana Cabrera, in for Brooke Baldwin, you're watching CNN. Thanks for joining us on this Monday news. Just in, on the growing tension between the U.S. and Iran.

Today, Iran announcing a major escalation of its nuclear program. Iran's atomic agency says, it is ramping up production of its low- grade uranium, the material used to power nuclear plants not to build bombs. But doing this, increasing production and stockpiling this material would be a violation of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. An agreement that Trump administration has worked for the past year or so to dismantle.

Now, this comes just days after the U.S. blamed Iran for attacking two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman. Iran denies that claim even as the U.S. says it has video evidence and now President Trump's national security team is even considering sending additional troops to the Middle East in response to these tanker attacks.

CNN's senior international correspondent Fred Pleitgen is in Tehran. Fred, CNN just hearing from a senior Iranian official, what did he say?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Ana, this was our own Christiane Amanpour, who heard from Iran's Ambassador to the United Kingdom who, just in a couple months ago in an interview said to Christiane that he believes that Iran and the United States are heading for a confrontation.

He also said that he doesn't believe that President Trump himself necessarily wants a war between Iran and the United States. But he also said that the Middle East is the land or the area of unintended consequences.

So certainly, pretty strong warning there coming from an Iranian official. As the Iranians themselves, also upping their rhetoric to a great deal. But we've heard in the past couple of hours from the Iranians is that the chief of Iran's General Staff came out and he said, first of all, once again, denying that the Iranians were behind those tanker attacks, but said, if the Iranians wanted to close off the Strait of Hormuz, they would be able to do that because their military is so powerful, as he put it.

And he also said, if the Iranians were to do it they would do it publicly, they wouldn't do it secretly, like, for instance, with tanker attacks, like the ones that we saw in the Gulf of Oman a couple of days ago. So certainly, you could feel that uptick in his rhetoric, as you were saying, at a time when the Iranians also escalating their nuclear program, but still today saying that they're staying within the boundaries of the nuclear agreement.

However, they are saying that at this pace they're currently ratcheting up, their production of low enriched uranium, that within 10 days, they will exceed the levels that they're supposed to have under the nuclear agreement.

So clearly, they're telling the United States, they are not backing down, but also telling America's allies, the Europeans, that if they want to preserve the nuclear agreement, they need to start doing something very soon giving Iran economic relief that the Iranians wants so badly.

Because the Iranians very well know that there is a rift between the Trump administration and its European allies, the European allies want to keep the nuclear agreement intact. And of course, we know the Trump administration has already left the nuclear agreement -- Ana.

CABRERA: Okay, Fred Pleitgen reporting in Tehran, Iran for us. Thank you. We'll of course stay on top of developments in that neck of the woods.

Meantime, back in Washington, move-over infrastructure week, because in a White House known for stepping on its own message, it looks like the kickoff to 2020 may be taking your place. Tomorrow, President Trump heads to Orlando to officially launch his reelection campaign.

But today, his mind is fixated on polls, internal polls, leaked from his campaign that suggests he is trailing Joe Biden, in some key states. As you might expect, the President is dismissing any numbers that are less than favorable.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: Well, I don't believe these polls. There's no way he beats me in Texas.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC HOST: But even your own polls show you're behind right now, don't they?

TRUMP: No, my polls show that I'm winning everywhere?


CABRERA: And he continued to spin on Twitter saying quote, "Only fake polls show us behind the motley crew. We are looking really good. But it is far too early to be focused on that. Much work to do make America great again."

Too early to focus on polls? Not a comment you'd expect from someone who could talk of nothing else in the run up to the 2016 election.


TRUMP: The polls come out, and we're really killing it.

The polls are coming out. We're leading in so many polls, I can't tell you. I don't know where to begin.


CABRERA: As the saying goes, that was then, this is now. Several members of the Trump campaign polling team, including the CEO of a polling firm founded by Kellyanne Conway are now out of the job. Joshua Green is a national correspondent for "Bloomberg Business Week," a CNN political analyst and the author of "Devil's Bargain: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump and the Nationalist Uprising," and Maeve Reston is a CNN national political reporter.

Josh, you first, I spoke with Patrick Hayley of "The New York Times" last night who covered Trump's campaign back in 2016.

[14:05:04] CABRERA: And he said, every time he talked to Trump, he brought up polling back then. What is up with the President's obsession with polls?

JOSHUA GREEN, NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, BLOOMBERG BUSINESS WEEK: Trump views polls as a measure of his own self-worth to a degree that I've never seen in another politician. And everybody on his staff knows this.

I did a Bloomberg piece a couple of weeks before the 2016 election and got some leaks polling data from his campaign that showed he only had a 40 percent chance to win.

And immediately, I had calls from staffers saying you've got to retract that. Trump is going to be furious. People know that they're walking on eggshells when they're bringing Trump polling news that isn't good news.

Maeve, the source tells CNN that leaks from the campaign are unacceptable. The leaked polls were also bad polls if you're Trump if the numbers were good for Trump, what do you think the reaction would be to these leaks?

MAEVE RESTON, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, we certainly probably would not have seen the same reaction, which as you pointed, Ana, he's stepping all over his own at campaign re-launch this week for 2020.

But it is really interesting, because those states that have been so much under discussion -- states like Michigan and Wisconsin -- we really don't know how he's doing there at this point. There hasn't been a ton of public polling yet. And it's very hard to

figure out how he's going to look stacked up against some of these 2020 Democrats. So he has reason to be nervous, especially with all of the trade wars that he's tried to launch this year.

And so, for him to say that, you know, he's looking -- like, he is doing really well, everywhere. I just don't think anyone could make that assertion at this point.

CABRERA: Josh, I have to wonder we know how much the President watches TV, multiple outlets, including CNN reported these numbers. Any chance they were leaked, in order to get his attention about this?

GREEN: Absolutely. Look, I don't know why they were leaked. But that certainly makes sense. It's a device that his advisers have turned to in the past, they know that sometimes their views can't get an honest airing, but that the President watches cable TV very closely.

So sometimes, when his advisers want to convey a message, they'll go on TV, knowing that Trump will probably see it. You could certainly imagine the same thing happening here, where Trump's poll numbers are alarmingly low. We see this reflected in a lot of public polling.

If you look at the upper Midwest, and even showing a tighter race in Texas than Trump might comfortably expect, this could have been a way of his adviser sending a message and saying, look, we're going to get these numbers out in a way that Trump is going to have to confront in hopes of shocking him into doing something differently to make himself more popular.

CABRERA: And let's talk more about the states where this internal polling is bad for Trump? Maeve, Michigan, Wisconsin, it is early, but how big of a warning is this?

RESTON: I mean, I think it's a huge warning. Obviously, those states are partly how the election was won in 2016. And the big mistake that Hillary Clinton made was not spending enough time there, not putting in the investment and talking to people there about some of the economic anxieties that they had.

So, it's going to be really interesting to see how Trump's policies are playing out there. And you know, there are a lot of things that he's done in terms of threats to the auto industry, because of the trade war also, you know, agricultural tariffs, all of those things affect people who live in those states.

Many of those people were, you know, some of the original Reagan Democrats who flipped for Trump. So are they better off today than they were four years ago? We're still waiting to see the answer to that question -- Ana.

CABRERA: Josh, we're just getting this and Joe Biden apparently just said on the record quote, "If I'm your nominee, I plan on winning Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, believe it or not, and I believe we can win Texas and Florida." First off, this is general election talk. And second, what about

those states he just mentioned?

GREEN: Well, I think first off, what this is, is Biden's gamesmanship, trying to get into Trump's head trying to make the story about Trump versus Biden, which is helpful to Biden from the standpoint that if we're talking about Biden as the Democratic nominee. We're not talking about the other Democratic candidates. So, I think that's partly what's going on.

You know, but the fact of the matter is, if you look at these leaked polls, if you look at public polls, Trump right now is not in a position where he looks like he's going to win 270 electoral votes. Whether Joe Biden can win Georgia, I'd still be a little bit skeptical.

But the idea that Biden would be ahead in the upper Midwest in states like Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania -- almost every poll that's come out that I'm aware of backs that up.

As does my own reporting on the ground, about how the trade war and how the declining economy in the upper Midwest has solely Trump's image and lowered his approval ratings.

[14:10:02] GREEN: Right now, Trump can try and deny reality by firing his pollsters but the fact remains that it looks like he's got a steep climb to re-election at least right now.

CABRERA: Yes, he could fire those people but it doesn't change the numbers. Maeve, real quick, go ahead and finish up.

GREEN: Exactly.

RESTON: Yes and I mean, in Texas, obviously we saw what Beto O'Rourke did in Texas last year. Clearly, Democrats feel like they have energized and activated the Latino vote there. And that could be a fascinating thing to watch, a fascinating battle ground this year.

All of the 2020 Democrats have been down there saying that they're going to fight for Texas. So we'll see.

CABRERA: Let the race begin. Maeve Reston and Joshua Green, thank you both for being here. Up next, see how President Trump treats his team and taps into his inner TV producer. Chris Cillizza joins us to talk about why Trump's Chief of Staff got kicked out for coughing.

Plus, a presidential candidate takes his fight against gun violence directly to the gun rights lobby. We'll talk to Congressman Eric Swalwell about that the message he delivered just moments ago, near NRA headquarters.

And O.J. Simpson trying to break into the national spotlight once again, 25 years to the day after his run from police became one of the most watched events in TV history.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [14:16:06] CABRERA: The Trump administration is often referred to as

the reality TV White House and now, bizarre moment during a recent interview is just getting more fuel to that narrative. And the idea that Trump is the producer in chief. CNN politics reporter and editor-at-large Chris Cillizza takes us inside.

Chris, everybody is talking about this moment that all started with a cough, or I guess - the moment it started before but the cough is what triggered another moment that everyone's talking about.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER AND EDITOR-AT-LARGE: That is exactly right, Ana, and like Walt Whitman once said, "I contain multitudes." This clip contains multitude. Let's play it. We'll come back and I'll do a little bit of analysis on it. Let's go to the tape.


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

STEPHANOPOULOS: You're going to turn it over?

TRUMP: You know 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 and -- let's do that over he's coughing in the middle of my answer.


TRUMP: I don't like that. You know, your Chief of Staff. If you need to cough, please leave the room.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I'll just get a shot and I'll come over here ...

TRUMP: You just can't.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... just to change the shot. Sorry.

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

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, we 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.


CILLIZZA: I told you. Okay, so there's a lot going on there. So, it's Mick Mulvaney, the White House Chief of Staff who coughs as he said, it just came on me. In the middle of Trumps answer about a financial statement. I think, by the way, in reading the transcript, he's talking about his tax returns.

But what does that little clip tell us? Well, I think a couple of things. Number one, as you mentioned Anna, in the lead into this, Donald Trump is a guy whose formative experience right before the White House was as what -- star and executive producer of a reality TV show.

He likes it just right. So even though he is being interviewed by ABC and he is the President of the United States, he wants the take to be totally clean. He doesn't want any background noise, anyone coughing, he wants it to be the way he wants it.

I also love when they cut back to him and he just goes -- like he's very disappointed in Mick Mulvaney for coughing.

Which brings me to point number two. I don't think this was Trump's main motivation, or I do think it was more of the producer in him that wanted to have a clean audio track. But remember, Donald Trump, noted germophobe. Does not like shaking hands with people, does not like illness, sees it as a sign of weakness.

So none of this is by accident. It is a fascinating reveal into how he thinks how he operates, and by the way, how he treats staff, right?

If someone on the staff coughed off camera here, I think it is unlikely I would say get out, get out, you get out. I mean, right? So right, exactly. So there's a lot in here. I would urge -- people I spent the morning literally going through the transcript of his interview, it's, you know, two days spent with Donald Trump.

There's a lot in there that I think is -- if not revelatory, certainly the kind of stuff that reminds you of his unorthodoxy, of how different he views the Office, how differently he talks about both the office in the United States and its role in the world.

I mean it really -- eye opening is too much because your eyes are probably open, but it will reaffirm a lot of the things that you may have suspected about Donald Trump -- including he doesn't really like it when people cough. Back to you -- Ana.

CABRERA: And to his credit, he gave a lot of access there to ABC. So he can --

CILLIZZA: He did and it's fascinating just quickly -- it's fascinating because he repeatedly talks about how he likes George Stephanopoulos and why he gave him all this access. But then he also says, you're being sneaky. You're doing what you shouldn't do. I mean it's --

CABRERA: He called him a wise guy.

CILLIZZA: Right. It's a very much -- the two sides of Donald Trump, the love-hate relationship he has more broadly with all the media.

[14:20:02] CABRERA: Chris Cillizza, always a pleasure. Thanks.

CILLIZZA: Thank you.

CABRERA: We are learning new details in the shooting of baseball legend David Ortiz. Investigators now say, they're closing in on the mastermind behind that attack, the person who apparently ordered the hit. Plus, Taylor Swift's new song -- maybe her most political move yet. We'll talk about her message of equality and understanding in her new video.


CABRERA: She's done it again. Taylor Swift is using her massive platform to express her political views. She just dropped a new music video for her latest single, "You Need to Calm Down," this song takes on anti LGBTQ protesters and cyber bullies.

[00:05:07] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(MUSIC lyrics)

Oh-oh, oh-oh, oh-oh, oh-oh, oh-oh You need to calm down You're being too loud And I'm just like oh-oh, oh-oh, oh-oh, oh-oh, oh-oh You need to just stop Like, can you just not step on his gown? You need to calm down.


CABRERA: That just gives you a little taste of the video. But the words, too, matter here. This statement at the end of the video grabbing some headlines, it says. "Let's show our pride by demanding that on a national level, our laws truly treat all of our citizens equally." And then she asks fans to join her in supporting the Equality Act. Chloe Melas, CNN entertainment reporter is here with us. And Chloe, Taylor Swift continuing to use her platform to really be the change she wants to see.

I know earlier this month, she also took to Instagram to implore her senator to pass this Equality Act Bill.

CHLOE MELAS, CNN ENTERTAINMENT REPORTER: Right. So you see that call to action at the end of the video, which again, is not something that really Taylor Swift has ever done. She's only recently become more outspoken and more political, Anna.

In this, she's asking for fans to go to, sign a petition, which now -- because she's Taylor Swift, there's over 200,000 signatures to amend the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits any sort of discrimination based on your sexual orientation.

So again, this is a move that we're not used to seeing from Taylor Swift, who has really shied away from politics over the entire course of her career and people are applauding her. But people are also not happy with this music video.

CABRERA: What aren't they happy about?

MELAS: Well so, there's a lot of people out there that feel as though this music video is completely stereotypical, stereotypical of the LGBTQ community and stereotypical of the haters and of the people in the video, which are the protesters, which some people on social media are saying that she makes them look like an educated hillbillies. Not my words, but those of people on social media.

Again, it's hard as a celebrity to please both sides. But there are -- there's a ton of celebrity support in this music video from Ellen DeGeneres, to Jesse Tyler Ferguson. The amount of celebrity cameos in this is absolutely jaw dropping and incredible.

And so, you're seeing support on both sides. But then also, Ana, people are not happy with Taylor Swift for also equating her own experiences with cyberbullying to homophobia. So again, people feel as though --Taylor, why are you coming out now to be this gay icon? Why are you using this song to do that?

But if you look at her past year, she's become more vocal, she endorsed two Democratic candidates in Tennessee. She just donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to an LGBTQ organization. So, she's trying to use her platform for good and for social change. And I think that this Taylor is here to stay whether or not people like it or not.

CABRERA: All right, Chloe Melas, thank you

MELAS: Thank you.

CABRERA: A 2020 candidate is taking his message about guns right to the doorstep of the most powerful gun rights organization in the country. We'll talk to Congressman Eric Swalwell about why he says for the NRA, "The gig is up."