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Iran Shoots Down U.S. Drone Aircraft; White House Yet to Respond to Shooting Down of Aircraft by Iran; Joe Biden Refuses to Apologize for Comments on Working with Segregationist Democrats in Congress; Trump Administration Rolls Back Obama-Era Clean Air Rules; CNN: Iran Shoots Down U.S. Drone in International Airspace. Aired 8- 8:30a ET

Aired June 20, 2019 - 08:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[08:00:00] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Iranian reports that the aircraft was over Iranian space. Those reports, they say, are false. This is all developing as we speak. We are on the ground inside Iran. So let's go to Frederik Pleitgen live in Tehran. And Fred, the Iranians are calling this a message.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, they certainly are calling it a message, and the Iranians, of course, have a very different take of what happened and that response that you were just talking about from the Pentagon. The Iranians are essentially saying that all this happened very early in the morning today. They say that this drone entered Iranian airspace, violated Iranian airspace, as they put it, and they say that it was shot down in the south of the country south of the Strait of Hormuz.

The other thing that the Iranians have also, John, is they also said that the drone, they say, masked its identification equipment, which seems to somehow mean that it turned off its transponder, and the Iranians are saying that that also violated aviation rules. We know the U.S. has a very different take. They say it was shot down in the Strait of Hormuz in international waters. All of this, of course, contributing to the tensions continuously flaring up. And the Iranians saying that all this violates a red line. Here's what the commander of the Revolutionary Guard had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PLEITGEN: All of this, of course, happening as the tensions are still high, guys, after those tanker attacks last week that the U.S. blames Iran for. Iran saying they didn't do it, and both sides saying they don't want an escalation. But the Iranians certainly saying they're ready if one comes, Alisyn. ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Well, this certainly is an escalation and it certainly feels like that. Fred, thank you very much for reporting from Tehran for us.

So what is the White House's reaction this morning. CNN's Joe Johns is live there. Joe, what are you hearing?

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: So far crickets from the White House, as it has been all morning. And we have gotten that statement from Cent Com down in Tampa filling in some of the blanks. Probably the most important thing they've said is that Iranian reports that the aircraft was over Iran are false. This was an unprovoked attack the United States called it, a U.S. surveillance asset in international airspace.

Now, as I said, the White House isn't saying too much about this, it's pretty clear they don't want to get ahead of the president in case he decides to tweet about it. But last night he did talk about it, and gave everybody the impression there's nothing to worry about. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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: Don't worry about a thing. Everything's under control. The Iran deal that was made by President Obama 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 look like there was no stopping them. Right now --

HANNITY: You said they'd never get nukes, they'd never get nuclear weapons.

TRUMP: We'll see what happens. I would say, if I were you, don't worry about a thing.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

JOHNS: And we did get a little bit more confirmation on the aircraft involved in all of this. It's called a global hawk. It cost about $222 million to develop one of them if you include the R and D costs. Back to you.

BERMAN: Joe Johns, stand by at the White House. Let us know what else you hear.

In the meantime, I want to bring Errol Louis, CNN political commentator, Lieutenant General Mark Hertling, CNN military analyst and former commanding general of Europe and the Seventh Army, and Sarah Isgur, CNN political analyst.

General, I want to start with you, here. We just heard from Joe. This is an expensive piece of hardware, over $200 million if you include the R and D costs. It's a provocative action as well because of the messaging that came along with it. Iran telling the world they did this to send a message to the United States. What are the range of possible responses?

LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING (RET), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: It's huge, John. You can go all the way from backing down completely to hitting targets as a proportional response to a full-scale war. That's what's dangerous about this entire situation. Yes, it's a provocative action saying we did this purposely to send a message. But I would respond to that by saying the United States has sent several messages to Iran in the last several months. We're attempting to solve this as a short-term problem, when in fact the malign actions of the Iranian government are a long-term issue. They have been doing this for a while, and it's going to take more than just soundbites and tactical actions, which we've seen so far. It's going to take a strategy. And when you're just taking tactical actions, it's going to cause these kinds of responses to what we're seeing. So there's a little bit of harm on both sides.

[08:05:00] Again, I go back to the fact Iran is a malign actor. They do bad things. But there's a way to handle that as opposed to just throwing out soundbites and then saying don't worry about it.

CAMEROTA: Sarah, do you think this is the biggest test of President Trump's time in office thus far?

SARAH ISGUR, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It may well be. I'm not sure we're there yet. I think we're days or weeks away. This has been escalating, and I think you see also the tension within the Republican Party, which will be part of the test. You have Tom Cotton, for instance, urging action in Iran immediately, don't wait for further aggression.

BERMAN: A military strike.

ISGUR: Correct, now, and before this last drone strike or drone being shot down. And then you have Tucker Carlson saying no. You have Joanie Ernst saying no. Laura Ingraham somewhere in the middle. And so a lot of these people who have the president's ear on the right are not in agreement. And so what you're going to see is within the White House, I think, he's going to have to chart his own path here knowing that his base is not united behind this. He's not going to have Democratic support, and I think that is unique to this presidency so far.

BERMAN: And it is interesting because the split is not just with Tucker Carlson. The split between the president's sentiment also appears to be within his own chief national security advisers, Errol. John Bolton seems to be much more bellicose than the president, the secretary of state Mike Pompeo seems to be also. And they're sending very mixed messages, the president and his national security team.

ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: This is what lies at the heart of the problem is the overriding strategy. When you put on the kind of maximum pressure that this administration has tried to ratchet up against Iran consistently over the last few months, the idea is to force people to the negotiating table and try to negotiate something. This administration is very good with the tough side, but what is supposed to happen once they finally come to negotiating table? Well, there doesn't seem to be one. And to that extent what we're seeing a ratcheting of tensions. In the Straits of Hormuz there are going to be possibly severe consequences all the way around. And this administration I think has got to figure out and tell both its allies as well as its adversaries this is where we're trying to go and why. This is why we canceled the Iran nuclear deal, this is why we're doing maximum pressure. This is what we're supposed to get on the other side. Still unclear what that's supposed to be.

CAMEROTA: And General, before we move to politics, what would be a proportional response here for the U.S.?

HERTLING: If I may first, Alisyn, Sarah made some very good points, because the president is listening to Laura Ingraham, Tucker Carlson, Tom Cotton, none of whom are national security experts. They don't have the expertise. Who he's not listening to is the CIA director, the joint chairman of the Joint Chiefs, the secretary of defense, the acting secretary of defense, the secretary of state, and some of the other people who should be providing input in term of a primary committee as what the long-term U.S. strategy should be.

The president is listening to the wrong people, and again, he's making short-term announcements and decisions on an issue that's a long-term problem. What are the proportional responses? I have no idea. You could say let's strike a target, let's strike an air defense battery, let's strike at intelligence, let's strike the capital, but all of those things are areas that are just going to escalate something that's going to be very contentious in the Middle East.

BERMAN: All right, General, we're going to ask you to stand by because we're going to talk electoral Democratic politics now. A major development in the Democratic race overnight, and it had to do with Vice President Joe Biden made comments the other day of pride about working with segregationist former senators like James Eastland, saying that it was good he could work with them even when he disagreed with them, and then he used some language that some people found offensive on top of that. His Democratic opponents have gone after him, saying he should apologize for those comments, Cory Booker among them. And then last night in a moment that I think surprised a lot of people, Joe Biden not only refused to apologize, he sort of indicated he was the victim here. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you going to apologize?

JOE BIDEN, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Apologize for that?

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.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BERMAN: Period, period, period. Errol, the political dynamics at play here. What do you see?

LOUIS: Listen, the fact that he wants to say that he's been involved in civil rights he's opening himself up to an examination of his record, which really doesn't hold up well, frankly. When you see that he was trying to negotiate some sort of compromises between these arch segregationists and liberals like Ted Kennedy when he was on the Judiciary Committee, that's an interesting piece of history. Is that relevant to the race right now? It will not make him look good.

What he probably ought to do is stick to the 21st century. He's got a history of working across the aisle. Stick to working with Republicans, not segregationist Democrats who are a kind of dinosaur that most voters today don't even remember and don't want to remember.

[08:10:10] And he ought to do what I think any Democrat would need to do, which is take care that you're talking in the right way to a key constituency, namely African-American voters, who, frankly, didn't really exist in any significant numbers in the '60s and '70s when Joe Biden was getting into politics. It's a totally different world.

CAMEROTA: So interesting, Errol, that you say stick to the 21st century, because, Sarah, I'm not clear that former Vice President Joe Biden likes the lens of 2019 being put over his entire career. Who could blame him? Obviously, that involves a lot of contortions. But he doesn't play by these new rules, he doesn't seem to.

ISGUR: Or does he, right? He's up by 20 points. In some ways this is not a horse race right now. But, and this is, if you're a political nerd, this was the first punch thrown within the Democratic primary that we've seen so far. We've been waiting for it. It's no coincidence that it's coming less than a week before the first debate. And I don't think it's a coincidence that you're seeing it with Booker who has just learned that he won't be on the stage with Biden, so he won't get to throw that punch at the debate. He waited for an opening, I think he found a pretty good one.

But if I'm in the Biden team, I know I'm up by 20 on most of my rivals, including Booker at least. And I think that I'm going to monitor South Carolina numbers now really closely, see if this caused any lasting damage, because they know what all their rivals know. If he starts drifting downward, that's going to move quickly.

CAMEROTA: And then what do they do if there's some erosion?

ISGUR: Then they're gone.

CAMEROTA: You can't recover?

ISGUR: I think that if you're up by 20 and start losing altitude, and we've seen this in past races over and over again, look at Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama in 2008. Once that starts getting chipped away, it can then build a lot of momentum downward.

CAMEROTA: Fascinating. LOUIS: Elections are about the future. He should write that on the

mirror in the bathroom and look at it every morning. Let's talk about the future, not the past.

BERMAN: Errol Louis, Sarah Isgur, thanks to General Hertling as well.

CAMEROTA: OK, President Trump loves to brag about clean air and clean water, but why is the White House relaxing rules for coal fired power plants? We talked to the former EPA administrator who wrote those rules that are now being overturned.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:16:27] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. This morning, this is a very big deal. The Environmental Protection Agency just rolled back Obama era climate rules for power plants, leaving states to set their own pollution standards. The move fulfills part of President Trump's promise to help the coal industry but will likely face fierce legal challenges.

CNN's Bill Weir with more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BILL WEIR, CNN CHIEF CLIMATE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Before leading the EPA, Andrew Wheeler was a coal lobbyist, and today's rule change announcement made it hard to tell he ever left that job.

ANDREW WHEELER, EPA ADMINISTRATOR: The contrast between our approach and the Green New Deal or plans like it couldn't be clearer. Rather than Washington telling Americans what type of energy they can use or how they can travel, or even what they can eat, we are working cooperatively with the states to provide an affordable, dependable and diverse supply of energy.

WEIR: But in reality, American coal consumption is at a 40-year low, not because of regulation but competition. For the first time ever, more power is now being generated by cleaner, cheaper renewables. A free market trend President Obama tried to accelerate a tough carbon cap called the Clean Power Plan.

But after several groups sued, a conservative Supreme Court majority kept those rules from taking effect, and today, the EPA killed them. Instead, they'll give states three years to come up with their own pollution standards.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our air and water are the cleanest they've ever been by far.

WEIR: That is a lie. In fact, the American Lung Association says the air has gotten measurably worse in the last two years. Four in ten Americans are now breathing unhealthy air.

And according to a "New York Times" analysis, this is just one of 83 rules being rolled back, on everything from toxic chemicals to endangered species to the climate crisis. So, scientists can't help but worry.

DR. MICHAEL MANN, CLIMATE SCIENTIST, PENN STATE UNIVERSITY: The people who have been appointed to run the EPA are industry sort of lap dogs, close ties to fossil fuel interests and the Koch brothers, and what they've been trying to do is to literally roll back the environmental protections of the past half century.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WEIR: Dr. Mann is among thousands of scientists of Earth scientists around the world who agree that in order to save earth as we know it, about 80 percent of known coal reserves need to stay in the ground. And, of course, the coal they burn in West Virginia, those emissions don't stay in West Virginia, Alisyn. So it's hard to imagine all of this ending up in court, maybe even the Supreme Court.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Bill, thank you so much for bringing all this to our attention.

We want to bring in now, Gina McCarthy. She's the former Obama EPA administrator who finalized the plan that is now being rolled back.

Ms. McCarthy, thank you very much for being here.

So, what does it mean? Put it into plain English for the rest of us to understand what these coal roll backs will mean for Americans.

GINA MCCARTHY, FORMER EPA ADMINISTRATOR UNDER PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, what it means is that EPA really put out a remarkable rule. It basically acknowledged climate change is happening and it's an existential threat to all of us, and then it did absolutely nothing to require reductions.

In fact, it relied on energy projections about where the market is heading. It looks pretty good, so they decided they needed to do very little other than send a signal to states they had to consider now investing in old coal fired power plants so they could actually pollute more.

It was a rather remarkable and, frankly, not just disappointing but damaging proposal to all of us.

[08:20:05] At a time when we know climate change is real and we have to take action.

CAMEROTA: Let's --

MCCARTHY: So it was nothing but a roll back of a real rule in place of some market projections and some promises for action.

CAMEROTA: Let's look at the numbers of what the Trump administration has done, just to put a finer point on all of this in terms of their roll back. So, in terms of air pollution emissions, drilling and extraction, infrastructure and planning, animals, toxic substances and the safety of those, water pollution, in terms of all the things Americans say are important to them, there have been 49 rollbacks completed, 34 in process, 83 total.

And I'm just wondering I guess on a personal level, what it's like for you to watch your work for years be rolled back.

MCCARTHY: Well, it's obviously distressing, but more because the mission of the agency is really about protecting public health and the natural resources we depend on. When they ignore science, when they fail to take action moving forward, when they tell us that our future is somehow to go back to dirty coal, it just amazes me that they can sit in that agency at EPA and work with that career staff and not want to perform the mission they were given which is to protect human beings and to keep us safe.

This last rule that they put out yesterday was absolutely an anathema to the history of that agency. It was ignorant to science and it rejected real science action. And it really is going to leave us all vulnerable to more pollution, all potentially unhealthier and more unsafe. And it's going to make the U.S. continue to be the one country in the world that is admittedly not just doing nothing about climate but trying to reverse the trend of clean energy and go back to pollution and go back to an increasingly unstable and dangerous planet.

CAMEROTA: Yet President Trump describes himself as an environmentalist based on no evidence that we can find. Here's what evidence he gives. Listen to this.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

TRUMP: A report came out -0- our water and our air today is cleaner than it ever was. Because in many respects we're great environmentalists. I'm an environmentalists! But, a different kind, a real environmentalists. But our water is crystal clean. Our air -- it's the best it ever was.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: Your response?

MCCARTHY: I wish that was true is my response.

The challenge we face I think in the U.S., we've done a great job over the last 50 years while EPA has been on the job in making our environment cleaner, but we know we're far from being there yet. If you look at our international rating, we're nowhere near number one. We're actually number 27 in terms of our environmental performance.

And while we've done a great job, we have to keep moving forward. And people have to understand that the challenge of climate change puts all of those things at risk, all of those things. It will increase air pollution. It will cause challenges in terms of water, quality and quantity. It will create instabilities.

There are real challenges we have to face today. We need real facts, real science, a real agency that needs to be run by people that share the mission of that agency and make a real commitment. This president says a lot of things that are untrue. That's one of

the biggest untruths that he can say is that where we need to be and we're protecting our health and our population because we're simply not at this point. We're rolling everything back that we've relied on.

CAMEROTA: Yes.

Gina McCarthy, thank you for sharing your expertise and real knowledge with us. We appreciate it.

MCCARTHY: Thanks, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: John?

BERMAN: All right, we do have breaking news this morning. An American drone shot down by Iran. We just got a statement on paper from the U.S. military. We're waiting to see if there's an even bigger response. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:28:03] BERMAN: All right. Breaking this morning, a U.S. drone shot down by Iran. Central Command moments ago called it unprovoked. How will the White House and Pentagon respond?

Joining me now is Democratic Congresswoman Jackie Speier. She sits on the Armed Services Committee and the Intelligence Committee.

Congresswoman, have you been briefed on this latest attack?

REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D-CA): No, not yet. But certainly before the day is out, we will.

BERMAN: CentCom put out a statement calling this unprovoked. In their statement, they said this drone was flying in international airspace. Nevertheless, it comes at a very sensitive time in the Middle East, 1,000 U.S. troops headed to this region.

What are your concerns about the atmosphere there?

SPEIER: I'm very concerned that the actions by this administration are so provocative that they are creating an environment that will destine us to go to war. And there's many of us -- in fact, a majority of the members of the House right now that would really be repelled by any act of war, but that's where the president is heading.

And I think that we are going to have to speak up strongly against him using the authorization of use of military force dating back to the early 2000s on a basis of which he thinks he can act.

BERMAN: Well, two things. Is the president really headed to war here? That's an interesting question because we've heard much more bellicose language from the secretary of state and his national security advisor than the president himself. The president himself seems to be downplaying the threat of Iran. SPEIER: Well, it's very typical of the president to have, you know,

bad cop, good cop. But from the foreign country's perspective, you roll that all into one and you see a very bellicose as you put it nature with the United States. We are provoking them. We are taunting them.

And it's not in the interest of the American people nor our service members to be going into a war that is not required.

END