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Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH), Presidential Candidate Discusses U.S. Troop Buildup In Middle East, Impeachment, Opioid Crisis; Justice Department Intervenes In Manafort Prison Transfer; How Supreme Court Ruling On Double Jeopardy Could Impact Manafort; Ocasio-Cortez Says Immigrant Families In "Concentration Camps" As Trump Threatens To Start Deporting "Millions" Ahead Of Campaign Relaunch; Press Secretary Sarah Sanders Leaving White House. Aired 1:30-2p ET
Aired June 18, 2019 - 13:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[13:32:25] BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says the addition of a thousand American troops in the Middle East is meant for defense and part of what he says has been a very successful pressure campaign against Iran.
Pompeo, during remarks at U.S. Central Command just moments ago, said the point is to deter Iranian aggression in the region.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: President Trump does not want war. And we will continue to communicate that message while doing the things that are necessary to protect American interests in the region.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: The addition of troops comes in the wake of the administration blaming Iran for attacking tankers in the Gulf of Oman. Iran denies any involvement, but it does say the U.S. is moving towards confrontation.
Congressman Tim Ryan is joining me now. He a Democrat from Ohio, and he is running for president.
Congressman, I know that you blame the president for pulling out of the accord with Iran as precipitating this showdown. As you're running for president, how are you thinking about this? If you inherited this, how would you handle it?
REP. TIM RYAN (D), OHIO: Well, you've got to be engaged, completely engaged moment to moment. If you read history, you see, whether it was Roosevelt or Kennedy during the Cuban Missile Crisis or any other significant time, the president of the United States has got to be engaged. And you have to be surrounded with people who I don't think have an agenda.
That's why I worry about John Bolton. I think he has an agenda. I think he wants regime change in Iran and has wanted it for a long time. And that starts to cloud your judgment.
As president, you've got to make sure you've got people giving you good advice, not an ax to grind that may steer you in a direction you don't want to be in.
KEILAR: Do you feel that the president is using restraint, as some Republicans have said?
RYAN: Well, he's a distractor in chief. His whole goal, regardless of what the issue is, is how do I get the American people distracted from the economy, the distracted from the fact they're living paycheck to paycheck.
And all the promises he made during the campaign, he has not fulfilled, especially in places like Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin that he states he has to win. And so he uses these opportunities to take all the oxygen out of the room on any other issue.
So I worry that that's his goal. His goal isn't to solve the problem but his goal is to be in the news regardless of what the issue is.
Now here we are with Iran, that could spin out of control very, very quickly. He's in it for all the wrong reasons. That's what I worry about more than anything.
KEILAR: Her Republican colleague in the Senate Tom Cotton, from Arkansas, says the U.S. needs to immediately launch a retaliatory strike against Iran. What's your reaction to that?
[13:35:04] RYAN: I just think that is so irresponsible, quite frankly, with all due respect, to talk about launching missiles and escalating tensions right out of the gate. We don't even have all the facts yet, let's be honest. We don't have the information we need to start lobbing bombs.
If we're going to have that kind of reactionary leadership, this country is going to go down the tubes because we can't afford it.
We've got a trillion-dollar deficit, annual deficit, trillion dollars, $22 trillion debt. We've got Russia, we've got China breathing down our necks. We've got the highest income inequality we've had since the Great Depression. And now we're going to get into a war in the Middle East? Are you freaking kidding me? That's the dumbest thing I've ever heard in my life.
We need statesmen today. We don't need reactionaries. We need statesmen to put this stuff at ease.
We should re-engage Iran. We should get back into the Iran deal that we had with them and the rest of the world was in agreement and stop this nonsense of, how can we get on TV, how can we start beating the war drums.
This is not what we need right now. We need a president that's focused on making peace, being strong, but making peace, and then focus on getting the middle class rebuilt in the United States. KEILAR: I want to talk to you about impeachment proceedings because
you have recently started calling for them to begin against President Trump. Speaker Pelosi is still resisting the calls from Democrats like yourself. Is she going to have to budge on this, do you think?
RYAN: She's juggling a caucus that's divided. And so I personally think that the president has committed crimes, and I don't think he's above the law. If someone in Youngstown, Ohio, that works at the auto plant or did work at the auto plant did what the president did, that person would be indicted.
And so we can't have a king, we have a president. And so that's why the pressure is mounting.
She's got to juggle the interests of the caucus, and it's not easy because there are people in our caucus who don't want to go down the road of impeachment. That makes it difficult for her as leader.
But we're saying that we think we need to do this and we'll see where the cards fall.
KEILAR: I want to ask, you mentioned the opioid crisis. You're co- chair of the Military Mental Health Caucus. You're co-chair of the Addiction, Treatment and Recovery Caucus.
KEILAR: The opioid crisis has torn your state apart. The president, at a recent opioid crisis event, which was last week, touted a new drug and its use among veterans. This is a Ketamine-like nasal spray, which has shown some promise in treating depression that's resistant to other drugs. It also appears, and this was discovery pretty recently, to work similarly to an opioid.
Let's listen to what the president said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think it's made by Johnson & Johnson, but it's a suicide -- if you're depressed.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
TRUMP: You take it. It's an inhaler. And it almost immediately cures depression at least for a little while.
And I said order -- corner the market on it and give it to anybody that has the problem. Because you have people calling. Our folks do a great job on the phone but it's a telephone. You have people calling, looking for help. If those people had that, I'm hearing, like instantaneously, they're in much better shape.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: I wonder, as someone who is involved in combating the opioid crisis as well as trying to combat veteran suicide, do you have any concerns here?
RYAN: Well, I have a concern when the president says things like I think it's Johnson & Johnson, when he knows damn well it's Johnson & Johnson and it's his friends at Mar-a-Lago who are making the deal with him and the V.A. on all of this and it's not going through the proper protocols.
It's abhorrent that we lose 22 vets a day to suicide. We all need to be figuring out how to fix that, both from the pharmacological end and alternative treatments.
But to have the president fast track something that his buddies are involved in with a deal with Johnson & Johnson and we don't know -- all the protocols haven't been done, which means we don't know what the side effects are on this, I think is reckless. Again, it's a pattern of behavior.
We just had an event here in Youngstown just a couple of days ago with a double amputee vet who was teaching yoga classes to other vets and healing them from their posttraumatic stress with yoga, with meditation, with transcendental meditation that the David Lynch Foundation is doing much good work, healing vets with these treatments that actually gets them off of their drugs, which is what they want.
We know vets who have gone from taking 20 drugs down to two or three and saving the V.A. a lot of money, getting their life back. Let's explore these treatments that get this off of the drugs.
[13:40:02] Look, if this works, I'll be all for it because it's about saving lives. But let's not fast track something where Trump has a back-room deal with somebody that we don't know anything about and we'll skip over these protocols.
Who knows? Some of these drugs, you don't know what the side effects are. Some of the side effects could make things worse. But we won't know because we didn't go through the proper protocol. So I think we have to be very, very careful as we try to address it.
But knowing that there are already real solutions out there that vets who have had posttraumatic stress will tell you all about, things like I mentioned around these integrative health approaches.
KEILAR: Congressman Tim Ryan, thank you for being with us.
RYAN: Thanks for having me.
KEILAR: Former Trump campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, may no longer be heading to New York's notorious Rikers Island prison after the DOJ intervenes. We'll have details on their unusual request ahead.
KEILAR: In an extremely unusual move, the Department of Justice has swooped in at the 11th hour to try to save purchaser's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, from one of America's most notorious prisons, Rikers Island in New York. The long-time Trump associate was expected to await trial there. But
then the deputy attorney general, Jeffrey Rosen, stepped in with a letter to state prosecutors fielding a request from Manafort's defense lawyers to keep him in a federal Manhattan prison instead. Now it appears that that may happen.
Elliot Williams was the deputy assistant attorney general under President Obama.
I mean, how unusual is it for the second highest official at DOJ to intervene like this?
And would this have gone up to the attorney general?
ELLIOT WILLIAMS, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL: No. Unusual would make it seem like it might happen, but infrequently. This kind of thing would never happen. It just shows the kinds of inequalities you see in our criminal justice system. Look, if you have friends in high places, to paraphrase Garth Brooks, you can get out of situations that ordinary people just would not.
KEILAR: Now, I'm going to ask you about this because I've also talked to some legal minds who say they felt it was, in their view punitive, that he was going to be sent to Rikers Island. They thought this was an odd play. They also thought this was an odd place for him to go, that this might be prosecutors trying to send a message.
I also spoke to a former corrections officer from Rikers. And here's what he told me about the possibility of Manafort serving time there in solitary confinement.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LORENZO STEELE JR, FORMER CORRECTIONS OFFICER AT RIKERS ISLAND: It's very unusual. In a million years. I would never imagine that he would actually be going to such a violent jail.
I worked in solitary confinement while in C74 (ph) on Rikers Island, and just the conditions, the inhumane treatment.
It's a place that -- it's the last place on earth that anyone needs to go through.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: He found it odd that he was there in the first place. Did you find it odd?
WILLIAMS: No. If there's a silver lining to all this, it's shining a light on solitary confinement as a tactic, which is never good for anyone and is bad for the human psyche and is almost a form of torture.
[13:45:04] Let's put that aside, though. Paul Manafort is no longer a federal prisoner. For lack of a better way to put it, he's in state custody so he had to be transferred from the federal custody to the New York local prison, which was Rikers Island.
Now, the solitary confinement thing that's done for his protection.
But again, Rikers is a tough place, there's no question about that. Solitary is a really bad thing to do to people.
But what we need to make clear, it's not -- he had to be moved from federal prison to be in the custody of the state.
That's why it's so funny that this deal was struck to get him back into a federal prison. Again, he's awaiting trial on state charges, which would mean he would be put in a state jail.
KEILAR: The bigger issue being that Rikers has issues that need to be reformed. But that Paul Manafort, in your estimation, in your view, is getting special treatment in order to be moved from there.
WILLIAMS: There's no question. And there's a tragic bit of poetry to all of this. Look, one of the Central Park Five was held at Rikers Island that the president of the United States called for --
KEILAR: The death penalty for.
WILLIAMS: -- the death penalty for. Now the president's campaign manager managed to get out of because he had, like I said, friends in high places.
KEILAR: Yesterday, there was a case that I want to ask you about. This involved double jeopardy. The Supreme Court ruled that a person can be prosecuted twice for the same crime in both federal and state courts. Tell us how this is going to play when it comes to Manafort.
WILLIAMS: Well, again, Manafort, because he's facing state charges now, and I guess there was a question as to whether if the Supreme Court had ruled a certain way whether it might have complicated or thrown things out. This is an incredibly complex law. But the simple fact is he can still be tried on state charges.
One of the things -- there's a "New York Times" piece that lays out all the stuff about Manafort today. The "New York Times" piece quotes Manafort's lawyers as saying these charges are nonsense and because he's already faced federal charges this isn't fair. Well, it is fair. Under New York State law and, frankly, as ratified by the Supreme Court yesterday, he can still face trial in New York on these state charges.
KEILAR: It will be interesting to see how it all plays out.
Elliot Williams, thank you so much.
KEILAR: Hours ahead of President Trump's official launch of his re- election campaign, the president tweets that mass roundups of undocumented migrants could start as early as next week. But is this a ploy to fix weak polling numbers? We'll discuss.
[13:50:33] Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez stirred up a controversy this morning when she said this about the treatment of migrants on the southern border with Mexico.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D), NEW YORK: The United States is running concentration camps on our southern border. And that is exactly what they are. They're concentration camps.
And if that doesn't bother you, I don't -- I don't -- we can have -- I want to talk to the people that are concerned enough with humanity to say that we should not -- that never again means something.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: The comments have triggered a backlash. And Ocasio-Cortez tweeted out her response to the criticism, saying, quote, "Shrieking Republicans should know the difference between death camps and concentration camps. And this is about mass detention."
Her comments come as President Trump tweeted out that ICE, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, would begin removing the millions of undocumented immigrants from the U.S. starting as soon as next week.
A senior immigration official telling CNN there's no operation next week to pick up millions. And they have no clue where the president got that impression.
The senior official also said that there are tentative plans for an operation in July to pick up families that did not show up to their hearings and have removal orders. A target list is not final, but it is not millions, that official said.
Jim Acosta is here with us, our chief White House correspondent.
I wonder, when you're looking at Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, she trying to make this distinction between -- she wasn't saying death camps, but she brought up "never again." It seemed like she was trying to make a connection. What did you make of what she was saying?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I think what she was trying to say -- I'm not going to explain away what she had to say. This is a real sticking point in the Democratic Party and, I think, for a lot of Americans, in terms of what's been going on down at the border, the family separation policy that went on for several months that resulted in the separation of children from their mothers.
Some of those kids went into a jail or cage-like settings. That has certainly unnerved a lot of people in the Latino community.
And going back to what the president tweeted last night, it sounded as if he was talking about this deportation force that he talked about in the 2016 presidential campaign.
I talked to a senior administration official this morning who said, over at the Department of Homeland Security, there are not a lot of happy faces over there, because they believe the president essentially let the cat out of the bag that this operation was coming.
This official said the operation is not imminent, as you were saying a few moments ago, maybe not next week. But they are talking about an operation to sweep up undocumented immigrants, and that includes families.
This is going to concern a lot of people in the Latino community. A lot of these families are mixed-status families. If you go in and try to sweep up families looking for undocumented immigrants, you may sweep up people who are documented or even U.S. citizens. There's a lot of concern out there.
KEILAR: And splitting up adults from children, which has been a political issue for the administration.
KEILAR: Where he's talking about this, this is coming next week, he says this is -- he tweeted this on the eve of the launch, the official launch. He's had many events. This is the kickoff for his election. What does the timing tell you?
ACOSTA: It tells me -- and I talk about this in my new book, "The Enemy of the People" -- this has been an emanating issue going back to the 2016 campaign. Then-Candidate Trump launched his campaign talking about Mexicans being rapists and criminals. He talked about building the wall on the border with Mexico, that Mexico was going to pay for it. Ended up being something he wants the taxpayers to pay for.
Now -- locking at the 2018 midterm election cycle, he talked about those caravans of migrants heading toward the border, called it an invasion.
The policy of immigration didn't work for him in the midterms. We saw the Democrats sweep the Republicans out of the House.
But it's interesting that he's, right before this re-election campaign, going back to this issue that excites his base time and time again, and that's immigration.
But when you talk to Republican strategists, and you know this, Brianna, there's a mixed bag as to whether they think this works on a national level. A lot of Republican operatives, up until the midterms, were saying, oh, my goodness, he's turning off people in these swing district races that we needed to keep the House. As we saw in the 2018 midterms, that strategy did not work out so well.
[13:55:05] KEILAR: You mention your new book, I have it right here, "The Enemy of the People."
ACOSTA: Thank you. KEILAR: I want you to tell us a little bit about the book. And in
light of this news that Sarah Sanders is going to be leaving the White House, this is something you talk about in the book. She obviously had a strained relationship with the press corp.
What do you talk about when it comes to her as press secretary, someone we didn't see doing briefings, which is normally what you would associate with a press secretary?
ACOSTA: Right. Brianna, that you were a White House correspondent, so you remember this.
KEILAR: We worked together.
ACOSTA: We worked together at the White House. We had regular briefings. It was something the American people expected, so the press secretary could go on and not just take questions from the correspondents in the front row of the White House briefing room, but also to pass on very vital and important information on to the American people.
And for the last 90 or so days, we haven't had a White House briefing. What do Sarah and the rest of the gang do? Exclusively interviews on FOX News. If there's time, they'll go down the driveway at the White House and talk to the rest of us for a few minutes before going back inside their offices.
I think Sarah leaves behind, and Sean Spicer, her predecessor, leaves behind a record of dishonesty, the kind we have not seen from a White House press secretary in many, many years.
I hate to say that. It pains me to say that. But when the press secretary feels comfortable tweeting out a doctored video, resulting in the suspension of my press pass, which is what happened -- I mean, we can't go back and sugarcoat this.
ACOSTA: That's what happened.
And when she shows up in the Mueller report admitting she passed on, knowingly passed on false information to the American people when it came to the firing of James Comey, it's unfortunate that this happened.
Hopefully, the president will select a new press secretary who will get back to giving us facts, giving us the truth. And that's what the American people expect.
KEILAR: All right, Jim Acosta, "The Enemy of the People: A Dangerous Time to Tell the Truth in America." Available now.
Thank you so much.
ACOSTA: Thanks. Thanks, Brianna.
KEILAR: Good luck.
ACOSTA: Good to see you again.
KEILAR: More on our breaking news this hour. President Trump putting the brakes on the confirmation process for acting Defense Secretary Pat Shanahan. We'll have details on his replacement, Mark Esper, next.