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U.S. Drone Shot Down by Iran in International Airspace; Biden Stands Behind Statements on Working with Segregationists; Former Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe is Interviewed about Trump's Attacks on Him; Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) is Interviewed about Iran's Shootdown of Drone. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired June 20, 2019 - 07:00   ET



[07:00:04] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Good morning and welcome to your NEW DAY.

And breaking this morning, an American drone shot out of the sky by Iran. An Iranian commander says this is a clear message to Washington: This is how Iran deals with its enemies.

CAMEROTA: So this morning, we are awaiting a response from the White House. Just hours before this drone was shot down, President Trump had downplayed the threat from Iran.

So this is all developing as we speak. CNN has a reporter on the ground inside Iran. So let's go to Frederik Pleitgen. He is live in Tehran -- Fred.


Certainly, some diverging opinions on this between the U.S. and Iran as to what exactly went down. The Iranians are saying that this drone violated Iranian air space early this morning and was then shot down somewhere south of the Strait of Hormuz.

The Iranians also came out just a couple of minutes ago -- we just got this -- saying the drone also masqueraded what they called its identification equipment. So they're saying that it essentially shut off whatever transponding equipment was on it.

Now, the U.S. has a very different take on what happened. As you mentioned, the U.S. says that the drone was shot down over international air space in the Strait of Hormuz. And the U.S. just coming out also a couple of minutes ago with a short statement saying that the U.S. did not fly any aircraft over Iranian air space on Thursday. That is, of course, today.

But you're absolutely right. The Iranians very angry about this, drawing a red line. This is what the commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps had to say. Let's listen in.


MAJOR GENERAL HOSSEIN SALAMI, IRAN'S REVOLUTIONARY GUARDS CHIEF (through translator): We have no intention to fight with any countries, but we are completely ready for war. What happened today was an obvious sign of this accurate message.

PLEITGEN: So there you have it. The Iranians saying this was a clear message to the United States. All of this, of course, coming, guys, as the tensions between Iran and the U.S. have continued to flare up over the past week since those two tankers were attacked in the Gulf of Oman.

The U.S. blaming the Iranians. The Iranians saying it wasn't them. And one of the things you guys might recall is that, after that incident took place, the U.S. said that around that time the Iranians had also tried to fire or did fire at a U.S. drone that was flying over the area. They say at that time they had missed the drone.

So as you can see, those tensions still very, very much flaring up as both sides say they don't want this to escalate into a shooting war. But the Iranians clearly saying they are prepared for a war -- John.

BERMAN: All right. Frederik Pleitgen, please stand by in Tehran. I know you're working your sources there.

Meantime, let's get straight to the White House. CNN's Joe Johns is there. Joe, what are you hearing? Is there any White House response to this provocation?

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: I can tell you this. We're -- we've had one U.S. official speaking to me on email just a few moments ago, and that official, essentially, saying international air space.

I've talked to the Pentagon. They say that they do know the national security adviser is going to be talking with the Pentagon, talking with the secretary of defense.

But the one piece of information, the one sentence that the Defense Department will release is that the drone was in international air space. So there you have the war of words.

The significance of this, really, if you think about it is, this is the first time in a long time that we've had a United States asset involved in some type of unpleasantry or dispute with Iran.

Now, there's been a lot of back and forth as we've had this escalation between the two countries, and the United States has continued with its mixed messaging. On the one hand, we've had the information being put out there that they are sending a strike group into the region as a show of force.

On the other hand, we've had the administration suggesting that those attacks on oil tankers, for example, in the Gulf are not as serious as they've been posed in the news media. The president himself on FOX just last night indicating there's nothing to worry about with regards to Iran. Listen.


SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: As you look at the geopolitical workup there -- Iran, Russia, China -- tell me your concerns.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES (via phone): Don't worry about a thing. Everything's under control. The Iran deal that was made by President Obama paid 150 billion -- paid 1.8 billion in cash. I terminated that, and Iran is a much different country. I will tell you, much different today than when I took over. When I took over, it looked like there was no stopping them. Right now, they've got problems.

HANNITY: Would you say they never get nukes?

TRUMP: But we'll see what happens.

HANNITY: They never get nuclear weapons?

TRUMP: I would say if I were you, don't worry about a thing.


JOHNS: Nothing to worry about, that's the word from the president. But have to remind you that the administration said just this week that they are sending 1,000 additional troops into the region.

John, Alisyn, back to you.

CAMEROTA: All right, Joe, bring us anything as soon as you get it from the White House. Thank you very much.

Let's bring in Maggie Haberman, White House correspondent for "The New York Times" and CNN political analyst. Maggie, great to have you here.

[07:05:06] Our military experts and analysts this morning have said this is the biggest test for the Trump presidency thus far. And how do you think President Trump will respond to a provocation like this?

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think he's going to respond similarly to what he said last night. I'm, frankly, more interested in what senior officials in the administration say. I'm curious about what John Bolton says. I'm curious about what Mike Pompeo says, because there has been a disconnect between what they say and what the U.S. is doing in terms of sending troops, and what the president is saying.

I think it is -- the president, we know, does not want a conflict with Iran. He is very aware that all of these foreign engagements have been very problematic. That was part of the platform he ran on in 2016, was no more foreign wars. So we will see. BERMAN: You're saying there's a disconnect, that the message being

delivered from Pompeo and Bolton is different than the message we just heard from the president there.


BERMAN: Is there a disagreement in the goals inside the White House?

HABERMAN: I think there is. I mean, I think that, look, if you take what -- look at what Bolton is saying both currently and historically, Bolton is much more militaristic about Iran. This is not a surprise. I think that there is some belief that Bolton is much more interested in a conflict than, certainly, the president is. The president is the president. And we have seen over many months the president has gotten frustrated with the idea that John Bolton's words are being taken of having more weight than what the president himself says.

The president is still the one calling the shots, but this is a new provocation.

However, the U.S. doesn't seem to agree on what actually happened. So let's wait and see.

CAMEROTA: Well, I mean, as Joe just said, they think that it was over international air space.


CAMEROTA: And this is a, as we've been told, something like $120 million, maybe up to $180 million piece of sophisticated weaponry. And the president, as you and I -- as all of us have talked about for years, is a counterpuncher. He doesn't like being provoked in a flagrant the way like this.


CAMEROTA: So will he be able to resist responding in kind?

HABERMAN: He's usually -- he usually responds to a provocation when it's a smaller thing that he can punch and knock down. He's pretty aware that he can't actually do that with Iran.

So I don't think you're going to see the typical, you know, as if he were swinging back at a primary foe. I think that he is going to actually be a little more careful in what he says.

BERMAN: It is interesting, when you listen to the language he used last night. Not dissimilar in some ways to the language he uses when talking about Kim Jong-un and the fact that he appears to have some operations building up his arsenal back underway. It's interesting to hear the president, who can get plenty hot with his rhetoric, downplay things.

HABERMAN: He -- again, he can modulate when he wants to. I mean, for all of the talk that he's just this unguided missile, sometimes he is. But he's actually pretty careful when -- when the situation can call for it. And when he knows that he is out of his depth, right? When he knows that there are things that he might not necessarily have some great base of knowledge to act on and to describe something.

So again, I do not expect a ferocious response from him, but this is obviously developing.

CAMEROTA: OK. So as we wait to hear from Joe Johns, when he gets more reporting from what the White House response will be, let's talk about Joe Biden, who has gotten himself into hot water for these comments. He was trying, I think, to say that he's willing to cross the aisle and use the two most extreme examples of segregationists who were racists in the '70s. He said, "I even had to work with these guys," basically. But --

HABERMAN: That isn't what he said.

CAMEROTA: No, it isn't.

HABERMAN: That's what he was trying to say.

CAMEROTA: The way he phrased -- that's what he was trying to say.


CAMEROTA: And he didn't phrase it that way. And that has gotten him into all sorts of trouble. And I think that you have pointed out that there is a bit of a Trump strain when Joe Biden, basically, refuses to apologize and says, "This is my brand. You know? This is me."

HABERMAN: And demands that somebody else apologize to him, as he did with Cory Booker, which was just very clearly not going to go over well with Cory Booker. I'm not even sure the point of saying something like that if you are Joe Biden.

But look, he is like Donald Trump, north of 70. He is somebody who believe -- is set in his ways. He believes that this is who he is, and he should not have to make calls to change.

And he is somebody -- I'm so struck by this -- the frontrunner's candidacy is leaking, in terms of advisers, saying, "We're trying to get him to do something different." The same way Donald Trump's did. Not just as president but, certainly, as a candidate. There is something Trumpy about all this.

BERMAN: I definitely want to come back to that point. So hang onto that for just a second. I do want to play, though, what the vice president said about Cory Booker last night --

CAMEROTA: That would be helpful.

BERMAN: -- demanding the apologies. Let's listen to that.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you going to apologize to Cory Booker?

BIDEN: Apologize for what?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Cory Booker has called for it.

BIDEN: Cory should apologize. He knows better. There's not a racist bone in my body. I've been involved in civil rights my whole career. Period, period, period.


BERMAN: Apologize for what? It's Cory -- using his first name, not Senator Booker -- who should apologize.

HABERMAN: Right. Somebody owes me an apology. I mean, really, that part was the part to me that just was so incredibly resonant of something that the current president would say.

This is -- this is not just sort of an idle discussion about words. Joe Biden needs the support of African-American voters in this primary if he's going to be successful.

[07:10:09] And this is raising an issue that a lot of people have had concerns about with him, that he is just -- Is he right for this moment? Does he understand the current discussion about race, not just nationally but within the Democratic Party, and what a generational divide there is?

And again, he made a cleanup effort last night at a different fundraiser, where he did say what you just described, which is again, I think, what he was trying to say. But we don't -- you don't get points for what you're trying to say. The current president often is trying to say something, and then we are told that we misunderstood him.

Again, I think that this is going to raise a lot of new questions about, you know, Joe Biden's viability over the next several months.

CAMEROTA: Because what he seems to be saying and what we often hear President Trump saying, or at least demonstrating, is that they don't really feel like playing by 2019 rules.


CAMEROTA: I mean, this has happened a few times to Joe Biden now.


CAMEROTA: Which is, like, some vague recognition that there's new rules. But he doesn't want to play by those new rules.

HABERMAN: I think the problem for Democrats is also that, again, it's really -- you can't really criticize Donald Trump for playing by new rules and then say, "We're going to do the same thing." I think they are trying to figure out what this all means.

I mean, Donald Trump's biggest strength, as we have talked about many times, is a refusal to be shamed. And that is not necessarily something that we have seen Democrats want to emulate.

So I'm not sure how this plays out. We say one top adviser to Joe Biden leave the campaign amidst this. I'm not sure where this goes.

BERMAN: Two points. One, I just want to point out Jim Clyburn, who's the No. 3 House Democrat --

HABERMAN: Yes, it's important.

BERMAN: -- senior African-American member of Congress, and other members of the Congressional Black Caucus have come out in defense --


BERMAN: -- of Joe Biden or support of Joe Biden.


BERMAN: So that is out there. It's unclear what this will do to African-American support.

HABERMAN: That's right.

BERMAN: But to the other point, you know, as a campaign reporter, it sets off alarm bells when there are leaks. "We tried" --

HABERMAN: That's right.

BERMAN: "-- to get him to not say this. We warned him not to do this, but he did it anyway."

HABERMAN: This is the second time we have seen this in two weeks. For three weeks. The first one was over the Hyde Amendment, where Joe Biden was sticking by it for now and then a day later, changed his position. And we heard -- there was all this ticktock from advisers on how they got him to where he was.

It doesn't speak to a whole lot of respect for the candidate running, and it speaks to concern about themselves, the advisers, by trying to let it be known where they were.

It's survivable, clearly, because Donald Trump had a pretty leaky ship during 2016, and he's president. But it raises questions about the operation's strength going forward.

BERMAN: We don't know if Democrats played by a different set of rules.

HABERMAN: We don't know.

BERMAN: That's one of the unanswered questions of this campaign.

HABERMAN: We don't know. There's a lot we don't know right now.

BERMAN: Maggie, it's great to have you. Thank you very much.

We're following the breaking developments, Iran shooting down a U.S. drone. How will the White House respond? We are pressing.

And overnight, the president launched a new attack on a familiar target. That's next.


[07:16:47] BERMAN: New frustration this morning from Democrats after Hope Hicks refused to answer any questions about her time in the White House. The House Judiciary chair, Jerry Nadler, says he will destroy the White House in court over their claims of immunity. The question is, when?

Overnight, the president hurled fresh attacks on the Russia investigation and those who helped launch it.


TRUMP (via phone): What they did was unbelievable, that they could do a thing like that. And they reported to McCabe, who I think is a terrible, terrible guy.

McCabe didn't do anything without Comey. McCabe was totally dominated by Comey. He did nothing. Andrew McCabe was a bad guy. But Andrew McCabe did nothing without calling Comey. He wouldn't -- there's an expression. He wouldn't go to the bathroom without getting Comey's approval.


BERMAN: You heard the name there from the president, Andrew McCabe. And joining us now is the fired former acting FBI director, Andrew McCabe.

Thank you very much for being with us, Andy. When you hear the president say that, what's your reaction?

ANDREW MCCABE, FORMER ACTING FBI DIRECTOR: You know, John, I've been listening to the president say insanely stupid things for years now about me personally, about my organization, and about the investigation we undertook to find out if the president posed a threat to national security.

I won't get down in the weeds with the president and exchange insults on Twitter or on TV or anywhere else. But I think the question we should be asking is why do we have a president who feels necessary to attack individuals? Individuals, private citizens, individuals who serve in our government. To attack people personally when he's scared of the truth that they have to offer.

I think that's the more concerning question here. And unfortunately, it's one I can't answer for you. But I think we saw another example of that last night.

BERMAN: You can't answer it. What do you suspect the answer is?

MCCABE: As I said, I think the president is afraid. The president is clearly very concerned about the Russia investigation. He has been since its inception. He has good reason to be concerned about it. I think we've all seen now, with the release of the Mueller report, that there was substantial reason to believe that the president and those around him conducted themselves inappropriately and, in many cases, illegally.

The Mueller report -- the Mueller investigation, the special counsel investigation resulted in numerous convictions of the president's associates. So very clearly not a witch hunt. And ultimately exposed, I think, 11 different categories of obstructive activity engaged in by the president himself. Not to mention the fact that it conclusively proved the meddling of the government of Russia in our democratic process and what's described as a vast and effective campaign.

So, you know, I think those are all conclusions that the -- that concern the president greatly. It's unfortunate that he responds to them by attacking individuals, rather than by buttressing and supporting the system of democracy and democratic elections that we rely upon.

BERMAN: I'm correct, Andy. You have called for an impeachment inquiry, yes?

MCCABE: I think there -- I think Congress should absolutely move forward with their constitutional obligation to have this information heard.

[06:10:07] I am not a politician. I'm not a political operative. I wouldn't dare to predict how that process would affect the election or whether it would result in the president's removal. I think those are all issues that are far down the road.

The only thing that's clear to me right now, John, is that Congress has an obligation under these circumstances to air out exactly what is known by the government about the president's conduct.

BERMAN: You say --

MCCABE: And they should do that by calling witnesses.

BERMAN: You say Congress has an obligation, and my question to you is at this moment, do you think Congress is meeting that obligation? Or put another way, if the White House goal here is to delay and drag this out -- Hope Hicks claimed some type of constitutional immunity, not executive privilege but some kind of immunity yesterday in not answering any questions. If their goal is to drag it out, if that's their game, is it a game they are winning?

MCCABE: Well, I don't know if I can call winners and losers. I think it's absolutely clear that the White House is trying to delay and obstruct and bind up that process.

So again, ask yourself why is that? They're clearly very concerned about the public at large hearing, in a vivid and compelling way, the information that was revealed by the special counsel. So the simple fact that they're engaging in that level of delay

tactics and obstruction of the -- of the Congress' work is something that should concern us even more.

So turn that around, John. So let's talk about Congress. Under these circumstances, knowing what they know, confronting the sort of resistance that they're getting from the administration, if they don't act now, when would they ever? That's the question.

BERMAN: And again, just simply yes or no, do you think they're acting too slowly?

MCCABE: I think that they should be moving forward. I think they should be moving forward in a deliberate and careful fashion. They claim to be doing that. But it would be -- I think it would be good for them to make a little more progress.

BERMAN: All right. I want to ask you about this report that came out in "The New York Times" over the weekend that dealt with a new level of cyberwarfare against Russia. I'm not going to ask you about the facts that were in that. It said the United States is getting involved in the Russian power grid.

But there was this tidbit in the article that said that members of the intelligence community kept the information about this operation from the president for two reasons. One, they were afraid he would overrule and stop the operation. Or No. 2, that he would leak the details about it.

What does it say to you if there was that concern from inside the intelligence community?

MCCABE: Well, I won't comment on the current operation or those details that were reported in "The Times."

But I will tell you from my own experience of dealing with issues very similar to that during the two previous administrations, that in my experience, those issues were dealt with at the highest levels of the National Security Council with the deputies and principles committees and with the presidents themselves.

And it is really unimaginable to me that any intelligence agency would conceal relevant facts from the president, who is the ultimate decision maker. So I can't say whether or not that's happening now. But if it is, it would be a marked departure from the past.

BERMAN: Would you be scared in their situation that he would leak those details?

MCCABE: Well, I think we've seen the president speak impertinently to our foreign allies in the past. We've seen, with conversations the president had with the Russians in the Oval Office, where Israeli intelligence was allegedly exposed.

So is there concern to think that the president might speak out of turn and reveal things that others would not? Absolutely, there's that concern.

BERMAN: All right. Andrew McCabe, the author of the new book, "The Threat." Thank you for being with us this morning.

MCCABE: Thanks, John.

BERMAN: Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: All right. Overnight an American drone was shot down by Iran. So we will ask a senator on the Armed Services Committee how the U.S. should respond today.


[07:28:27] CAMEROTA: Breaking this morning: Iran has shot down an American drone. One Iranian official describes this as a message to the U.S.

Just a few hours earlier, the president said he did not worry about a thing with Iran. So what will the U.S. do now?

Joining us is Democratic Senator Mazie Hirono. She serves on the Armed Services Committee.

Good morning, Senator.

SEN. MAZIE HIRONO (D-HI): Good morning.

CAMEROTA: OK. So Iran has shot down this expensive, sophisticated piece of surveillance aircraft. They say they did it intentionally to send a message to the U.S. How should the U.S. respond?

HIRONO: Well, so far, the president has -- says there's nothing to worry about. There is a dispute as to whether the drone was in international airspace or in Iranian air space. They say so, and there might be a dispute about that.

But, you know, this whole situation is, in my view, fraught with peril in that if there's any kind of a kinetic strike by either country, it can quickly escalate into something that would be akin to a war, which in my view, would require a new AUMF.

But we know that the president doesn't want to go to war with Iran. He has said so. We need to have Iran come to the negotiation table.

From the Iranians' viewpoint, I think there is a mistrust of the United States, because we summarily -- the president pulled out of the JCPOA, the Iranian nuclear deal. And so I think their perspective is, "How are we supposed to believe that the United States is going to keep its word?"

So we need to create, I think, an environment where both sides, particularly at this point the Iranians, believe that it is.