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Trump Kicks Off 2020 Campaign Rehashing Grievances; Trump Trails Leading Democrats in New Florida Poll; Shanahan Nomination Derailed Over Family Issues; Hope Hicks to Testify Before House Panel; U.N. Investigator: 'Credible Evidence' Linking Saudi Crown Prince to Murder of Journalist; Rocket Hits ExxonMobil Headquarters in Iraq; Alaska Teen Accused of Murdering Friend after $9 Million Offer. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired June 19, 2019 - 06:00   ET



DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our radical Democrat opponents are driven by hatred. They want to destroy our country as we know it.

[05:59:04] GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: He can't keep himself from talking about his grievances.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In his campaign, he was a disruptive force.

It has worked well for him. I don't think he's going to change.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Shanahan now one of multiple individuals withdrawing from consideration for a post.

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT): I feel there was a deliberate concealment here. There ought to be an investigation.

PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: A man had a family issue. Let's check on it before we go attack him.


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

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY. It's Wednesday, June 19. It is 6 a.m. here in New York. And this morning, the fallout from what was supposed to be the president's 2020 campaign kickoff.

There was the suggestion there might be some new themes, new ideas for the re-election campaign. Instead, the headline was written by Pete Townsend in 1971. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

The president hit very much the same themes, the same grievances that got him elected in 2016. The question this morning, will playing strictly to his base be enough to win a second term? ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Cool reference. I like it.

BERMAN: You like it?

CAMEROTA: I like it a lot.

Meanwhile, in just hours, longtime Trump confidant Hope Hicks will testify before the House Judiciary. This will be behind closed doors. But the White House will still assert immunity over questions about her time in the White House.

Democrats want to ask her for details on several incidents of possible obstruction of justice outlined in the Mueller report. So how much will she say?

BERMAN: "See me, feel me" too far?

CAMEROTA: Oh, my gosh.

BERMAN: Too far?

CAMEROTA: No. Not this morning. It's not too far.

BERMAN: OK. All right, good.

CAMEROTA: You're a pinball wizard.

Let's -- we have it all covered. Let's begin with CNN's Joe Johns. He's live in Miami, traveling with the president. We'll see what he has to add to this.

Hi, Joe.


Well, the president's campaign had to have a reset moment, and this was it. But the implied message was they didn't see anything wrong with what they've been doing over the last several years, so they decided to stick with it.

It was the same old story. The same old song and dance, as you said. The same grievances the president has aired over the last two and a half, three years, including some of his favorite themes that he's picked up along the way. Robert Mueller, border security, fake news, immigration.


TRUMP: Our immigration laws are a disgrace.

We went through the greatest witch hunt in political history. No collusion, no obstruction.

Many times, I said we would drain the swamp.

We are building the wall. Our radical Democrat opponents are driven by hatred, prejudice, and


We'll tell Sleepy Joe that we found the magic wand. Sleepy guy.

More than 120 Democrats in Congress have also signed up to support crazy Bernie Sanders' socialist government takeover of health care.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lock her up! Lock her up! Lock her up!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lock her up! Lock her up! Lock her up!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lock her up! Lock her up! Lock her up!


JOHNS: The president starts his day at his Doral resort here in the Miami area. He's going to have a fund raiser, then back to Washington by mid-afternoon. He's also, in Washington, D.C., going to give an award to Arthur Laffer, the guy who created the Laffer Curve.

Back to you, John.

BERMAN: All right. Joe Johns for us down in Florida. Joe, thank you.

New developments this morning on the Democratic side of the race just a week out from the first debates. A new poll in Florida shows President Trump behind most of the leading Democrats. That includes Joe Biden. Biden is the clear frontrunner on the Democratic side, but he's taking a brand-new approach to these polls.

Rebecca Buck live in Washington for us this morning, where Biden will be raising money later today. And Rebecca, I'm sure Joe Biden likes the polls, even if he now says he doesn't really believe them.

REBECCA BUCK, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, John. It's not the same as the president saying the polls are fake news, but Joe Biden is not taking anything for granted, telling fund raisers yesterday that he realizes it's early in the race. These polls will change; the race will change.

And also, he understands that, as the front runner in this race, he does have a target on his back. We're starting to see some of these other Democrats go after him.

Elsewhere on the trail yesterday, Vice President Joe Biden visiting the Stonewall Inn marking Pride Month there. But he did not respond last night to the vice -- to rather, the president, President Donald Trump, relaunching his campaign and going after Joe Biden, as well as the president's son.

But other candidates did respond. I want to play some of that sound for you right now.


understand that he attacks me or other Democratic candidates, because poll after poll is showing the country that Trump is falling further behind in terms of his ability to get re-elected.

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA): This president doesn't understand, I don't think, the importance and the significance of his job. Which is the job of president should be to lift people up, not to keep beating people down. But that's the only thing he knows how to do, is beat people down.


BUCK: Meantime, Mayor Pete Buttigieg remains in South Bend. He returned after an officer-involved shooting. He has implemented an order that all officers in South Bend need to turn their body cameras on when they're interacting with the public, with pedestrians. He'll speak to officers today at a ceremony for new officers. We'll be watching that, see what he has to say -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: OK, Rebecca. Thank you very much for that report.

Meanwhile, President Trump's pick to lead the Pentagon, Patrick Shanahan, was forced to withdraw his nomination over domestic violence issues. So who will lead the Defense Department amid growing tensions with Iran?

CNN's Barbara Starr is live at the Pentagon with more. What's the word there, Barbara?


At midnight on Sunday, it will be Mark Esper, the current Secretary of the Army, the civilian head of the Army, who will move down the hall and become the new acting defense secretary, now the third defense chief here in the Pentagon in the last seven months.

[06:05:04] Mark Esper very experienced, has held a number of jobs; is an Army veteran; knows Mike Pompeo very well. But he has to get up to speed fast. He will be part of the national command authority. That means he has to know everything there is to know about writing legal orders, about nuclear command and control, about covert Special Operations, about the threats out there that he will now very quickly be dealing with. Iran, Russia, China, North Korea.

Esper could face his first test as soon as next week. There is already a NATO defense ministers' meeting scheduled. He is expected, possibly, to attend it.

As for Shanahan, he is out. There were very significant issues in his family regarding abuse that his ex-wife had been when they were married, arrested for domestic abuse. That his children had -- at least one of his sons had been also involved in the domestic abuse incident.

It is worth knowing that his ex-wife's family issued a statement strongly in his defense, saying in part, "We give zero credence to Kimberley" -- his ex-wife's -- "allegations that Patrick hit her in August 2010 or ever physically harmed her in any way." You can go on and read the rest of that statement.

Shanahan now will be out of office, as we say, as of Sunday midnight. Mark Esper now in charge. And it remains to be seen if President Trump goes ahead and tries to nominate Esper to be the permanent secretary -- Alisyn, John.

BERMAN: We are watching that. Barbara also raises very serious questions about vetting issues, which we'll get to in just a bit. Thank you, Barbara.

It's a very important morning on Capitol Hill. We're waiting for the president's former longtime aide, Hope Hicks, to arrive for testimony to the House Judiciary Committee. This will be behind closed doors, but there will be a transcript made public.

She'll face tough questions from Democrats about episodes of alleged obstruction in the Mueller report. But the answers might be few and far between.

CNN's Lauren Fox live on Capitol Hill. And Lauren, we're learning this morning the president will exert executive privilege to keep Hicks from talking, at least some.


You know, a lot of anticipation this morning just a couple of hours before Hope Hicks goes behind closed doors with the House Judiciary Committee.

And we expect the Democratic staff wants to ask her a few questions, including the payments that were made in the leadup to the 2016 elections to cover up the president's alleged extramarital affairs.

But that's not all. We also expect that House Democrats want to ask about a few incidences relating to the firing of James Comey, efforts to dismiss Mueller, and allegations that Trump tried to curtail the Mueller report.

But last night, White House counsel Pat Cipollone sending that letter to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, arguing that Hope Hicks was immune from answering questions about her time specifically in the White House, writing in that letter, quote, "because of this constitutional immunity and in order to protect the prerogatives of the office of the president, the president has directed Ms. Hicks not to answer questions before the committee relating to her time of her services as a senior adviser to the president."

Of course, this is all happening behind closed doors, but we do expect a transcript to be released -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: That will be very interesting, to read that transcript. Lauren, thank you very much. Now to this grisly story. She is accused of murdering her close

friend, because a stranger online told her he would pay her to send gruesome photos of the crime. We explore that next.


[06:13:13] CAMEROTA: We do have some breaking news right now, because the U.N. special investigator has just released the findings of the first independent international inquiry into the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last October.

CNN's Clarissa Ward is live in London with the breaking details. What does the report say, Clarissa?

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Alisyn, there's a lot of details in this. The investigator is not pulling any punches.

She says there is credible evidence that high-level Saudi officials, including the crown prince, were involved in ordering the premeditated murder of the slain journalist, Jamal Khashoggi.

She recommends that there should be targeted sanctions against Saudi Arabia as a result. She says that the Saudis should be forced to pay reparations for -- to the family of Jamal Khashoggi.

And most importantly, and interestingly, Alisyn, it appears she actually listened to the tapes, the famous tapes of the execution that took place in the Saudi consulate, which really punches a hole in this theory that the Saudis had tried to float that, essentially, this was a rendition that had gone wrong.

She says that 13 minutes before Jamal Khashoggi even enters the consulate, the forensic doctor who was part of the Saudi team of 15, starts talking about a dissection. He reportedly says -- expresses hope that the dissection would be easy and goes on to comment that he had never cut something on the ground.

He then goes into some lurid details I'm not even going to repeat about the torso being too heavy. And then another person in the group asks whether the sacrificial animal has arrived. That believed to be a reference to Khashoggi.

Khashoggi then arrives. He's taken into another room. He's told to write a text messages to his sons, telling them he's coming back to Saudi Arabia. He refuses.

[06:15:03] He sees a syringe and says, "Are you going to drug me?" At which point, there is a seven-minute struggle, during the course of which it is believed that he was asphyxiated with a plastic bag. Lurid and damning details in this new report, John.

BERMAN: Shocking and vile details, Clarissa. Thank you very much for that breaking news. We'll try to get reaction from the White House to see if it moves them off their passive response to the Khashoggi murder. Breaking overnight, a new attack on oil production in the Middle East.

A rocket hit an oil company headquarters in southern Iraq, very close to the border with Iran. The compound houses U.S. energy giant ExxonMobil and other firms.

CNN's Frederik Pleitgen live in Tehran. And Fred, there are militias with Iranian ties in the area. Any claim of responsibility yet?


So far, no so far, there hasn't been any sort of claim of responsibility at all. However, of course, this attack is extremely significant, because it is, indeed, another attack on oil and gas companies and production in the sort of wider area where the attacks on those two tankers happened just last week.

Now, the Iranians today for the first time, just a couple of hours ago, John, came forward and for the first time commented on that video evidence that the U.S. allegedly put forward, that video showing an Iranian boat coming up to one of those stricken tankers.

Iran's defense minister came out and called the accusations by the U.S. cowardly. He says when Iranian boats go out to help a vessel that was stricken, they conduct all sorts of checks to try and secure that area. They say, of course, all of that can be videotaped; but the Iranians are saying that all this proves absolutely nothing.

Meanwhile, the Iranians are also defending their decision to ramp up their civilian nuclear program once again and curtail the things that they do under the nuclear agreement. The country's president, Hassan Rouhani, came out not too long ago and said that this was the minimum that Iran could do, because they feel they're not getting any of the benefits for abiding by the nuclear deal. They say what the U.S. is doing is economic warfare -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Fred Pleitgen, thank you very much for the update from there.

A macabre murder case in Alaska. A teenage girl is accused of murdering her close friend after a man she met online offered her millions of dollars to send him gruesome -- gruesome photos of this crime.

Dan Simon joins us now with more. What have you learned, Dan?


We've seen these catfish schemes play out again and again. It's really become part of the lexicon; the manipulation and the deception can run deep. In this particular case, it took a fatal turn involving an unsuspecting teenager in Alaska.


SIMON (voice-over): This young woman is at the center of a disturbing catfish scheme, induced online, prosecutors say, to murder her supposed best friend.

DENALI BREHMER, CHARGED WITH MURDER: I know what I did was wrong. And I know I could have probably done something different.

SIMON: Eighteen-year-old Denali Brehmer's arraignment at an Alaska courtroom turned into something of a confession.

Authorities say it all began after Brehmer struck an online relationship with someone she thought was a man named Tyler from Kansas, who prosecutors say offered Brehmer at least $9 million to rape and murder someone in Alaska and to have photos and videos of the murder sent to him.

What Brehmer didn't know is that Tyler was a fraud, a catfisher. His real identity, police say, 21-year-old Darin Shilmiller from Indiana. The victim of this twisted scheme? Cynthia Hoffman. The 19-year-old was bound with duct tape, then shot and killed.

TIM HOFFMAN, FATHER: All that I know is my daughter didn't deserve all this. She should have had the friends that she wanted.

SIMON: Hoffman's father says she had a learning disability that could have made her vulnerable.

According to court documents, the killing was carried out by Brehmer and four of her friends, including two juveniles. All, including Shilmiller, have been charged with first-degree murder. It's unclear if he has an attorney.

On June 2, under the guise of going on a hike, Hoffman was taken to the bank of an Alaskan river. She was shot one time in the back of the head, her body then thrown into the river.

HOFFMAN: I have one thing in my mind right now. And that's to send all six of them to hell. And I ain't going to rest until it's done. And then after it's all done, I'll show my emotions.


SIMON: And court documents say that Shilmiller, the alleged ring leader of all this, directed Brehmer to sexually assault young girls, one of whom was 8 or 9 years old. Investigators uncovered video evidence of those crimes.

Right now, he is in Indiana. He's going to be extradited to Alaska. This is just a jaw-dropping case with a lot of unanswered questions.

John and Alisyn, we'll send it back to you.

CAMEROTA: Yes, it is, and it is so grizzly to think about.

And that dad has been so rational sounding. It was very interesting, in Dan's piece, to hear him say, "I will show my emotions when I'm done with this." Because last night, when I heard him talk, he sounded so even-keeled and so -- the most rational of everyone. And it's interesting to hear him say that he knows that he is reserving his anger for when they get some sort of justice, hopefully, in this.

BERMAN: Not going to be an easy path for him.

CAMEROTA: All right. Now to this. Same as it ever was. Same as it ever was. Is that a line by David Byrne, John? Or is it the new Trump campaign theme? You make the call. Next.


[06:24:39] BERMAN: So this morning, did he move the needle? The president is trailing in the polls. His approval ratings are mired in the low 40s. Facing that, overnight he held his big campaign kickoff rally in Orlando. Listen to a sample.


TRUMP: Our radical Democrat opponents are driven by hatred, prejudice, and rage. They want to destroy you, and they want to destroy our country as we know it. Not acceptable. It's not going to happen.


[06:25:09] BERMAN: Joining us now, Alex Burns, national political correspondent for "The New York Times"; Sarah Isgur, CNN political analyst; and John Avlon, CNN senior political analyst.

Sarah, you are the new kid on the block here. Welcome to NEW DAY. Thank you so much --


BERMAN: -- for joining us this morning as the new kid. If the goal is to expand the base, did the president do that last night? Because it really was, as Alisyn so eloquently said, same as it ever was.

ISGUR: I know. I've been humming that since she said it. It's been really annoying people around here.

It's interesting. He really redefined campaigning in 2016, nationalized the primary in a way we're now seeing repeat again in 2020.

But another thing we saw in 2016 was that he didn't really try to expand his base from the primary. And I think he's going to run that same playbook again.

On the flip side, the polls that we're seeing I don't find particularly compelling, because we're so far out. We still have over a billion dollars that's going to get spent defining candidates' narratives, issues that voters have yet to really grapple with. So I don't think they're particularly concerned about the polls, is my guess, behind the scenes.

But at the same time, no, I think clearly last night what we saw is the same playbook that we saw in 2016 that we're going to see in 2020, which is base turnout model. And I actually bet that you'll see something very similar on the left, as well.

CAMEROTA: I think, John, that Sarah makes a really interesting point. The polls are irrelevant right now. Interesting to look at for us, but irrelevant right now. So play the hits. That's what got him there. That's what got him there. So why would you change your playbook now?

AVLON: This was a greatest hits revival. I mean, he was playing "Free Bird." He was going back to the deep cuts.

I think the thing about it, though, is you see his version of expanding the base is really indulging in negative partisanship and projection. I mean, he's talking about how Democrats are motivated by hatred, prejudice, and rage, saying they're out to destroy the country as we know it. It's a fear-fueled festival out there. And that -- and that's what the folks were responding to last night. But he didn't --

CAMEROTA: But she's saying solidify the base. Don't expand the base. He's given up on expanding the base.

AVLON: I think his version of reaching out to swing voters is trying to tell them that Democrats are un-American and want to destroy this country.

BERMAN: Then I will say there is a problem here, and I don't think the polls are irrelevant. I beg to differ. I don't think the polls are necessarily --

AVLON: Good day, sir.

BERMAN: I don't think they're predictive.

CAMEROTA: Interesting but not predictive. OK.

BERMAN: But it shows you where things are right now. And right now the president is under water. We had an election in 2018 where the Republicans lost a lot of seats in the House. That told us, I think, how voters are responding to some of the president's behavior out there, Alex.

And I do think he risks -- and I know he won an election on this, but he risks giving Democrats an opportunity, a window here, a lane to run in if he's not going to pivot at all. And if he's not going to talk about the economy more than he is.

ALEX BURNS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I would say it's more than he risks giving Democrats that lane. He has given Democrats that lane. Possibly, he can close it off over the next year and a half.

But there is space that -- for Democrats and for a challenger. Even for a pretty left-wing challenger, if you trust the polls, which maybe we should, maybe we shouldn't. That wouldn't have existed if the president had played his cards a little bit differently.

The number that I'm looking at in the polls right now is not whether Joe Biden is leading him by six or by nine, or whether Elizabeth Warren is leading him by one or by two. It's the president's number. And the president's number is very, very consistently in the very low 40s. He's got to get that number higher. He's got to get it probably over the 46 percent he got in 2016 if not at least to the 46 percent number. And he's just not there right now.

The last president we have for a president who did not win a plurality of the popular vote and then won re-election, George W. Bush, he spent four years trying to talk to voters in the middle to persuade them that he was listening to them, that they could trust them, that he could keep them safe. We just don't have the president doing that right now.

CAMEROTA: Let's talk about what Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio- Cortez said yesterday, because she's getting a lot of pushback from Republicans, Sarah, as you know. So she likened the situation at the border, where the undocumented migrants are being held, to concentration camps. So listen to her.


REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY): The United States is running concentration camps on our southern border. And that is exactly what they are. They are concentration camps. I want to talk to the people that are concerned enough with humanity to say that we should not -- that "never again" means something.


CAMEROTA: Sarah, I've been -- it's been interesting to listen to some Republicans who are outraged by the language that she's using, because they don't think that it's anywhere similar but who were silent when the president talks about Nazis.

I mean, everybody gets into trouble when they go in this direction, but what do you think of the blowback that she's getting?

ISGUR: I do feel like every few months, we're on television talking about how Nazi comparisons don't work well. And here we are back again. Nazi comparisons don't work that well.

That being said, if there -- if 2020 is, you know, football in the arena, this is like some dudes out in the tailgate kind of bickering.