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Trump Hits Iran with Sanctions; Sanders Student Loan Debt Plan; O'Rourke Pitches War Tax; Joe Sestak is Interviewed about His Presidential Run; Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) is Interviewed about Immigration Raids. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired June 24, 2019 - 13:00   ET


[13:00:00] MICHAEL BENDER, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, "THE WALL STREET JOURNAL": Trouble last week. The -- I think that is a powerful contrast to Trump and it -- when -- that could be powerful for him. But the question is going to be whether or not Democrats want to see that fighter instead of a bridge builder.

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: All right, more debate highlights throughout the week.

See you tomorrow.

Brianna Keilar starts "RIGHT NOW."

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Brianna Keilar, live from CNN's Washington headquarters.

Underway right now, it's a pivotal week for the 2020 candidates. The first debate, new plans, new obstacles, and a new contender joining the race will be live with us this hour.

And disturbing accusations from an author against President Trump. She says he pushed her against a wall and sexually assaulted her in the '90s.

Plus, deal or deport? As migrant children suffer inside U.S. border facilities, the president starts a countdown on the face of thousands of families.

But first, the dispute between the U.S. and Iran just got personal. President Trump signed an executive order imposing hard hitting sanctions, as he put it, on Iran and its supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The supreme leader of Iran is one who ultimately is responsible for the hostile conduct of the regime. He's respected within his country. His office oversees the regime's most brutal instruments, including the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Sanctions imposed through the executive order that I'm about to sign will deny the supreme leader and the supreme leader's officer and those closely affiliated with him and the office, access to key financial resources and support.


KEILAR: We have senior international correspondent Fred Pleitgen, who is in Tehran following this. And here with me in studio, CNN military analyst and retired Major General James "Spider" Marks.

Fred, to you first. Tell us how Iran has responded and also what's really left to sanctions here?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Brianna, of course this was just a couple of minutes ago, so there's just responses trickling in right now that we're sort of translating as they come in. You have, for instance, one of the news agencies here, Tasnim (ph), say, with delusional excuses, Trump announced new sanctions against Iran. And the state news agency called Erna (ph) saying, America's desperation and new sanctions against Iran.

So they're just sort of starting to react to this. No real official reaction coming in yet. But I think it's safe to say that the supreme leader himself is not going to be quaking in his boots about this. He's someone who's obviously taken a very hard line against the United States.

And one of the things that has been sort of the messaging coming out of Tehran over the past couple of -- well, I would say, about the week or so, was that the supreme leader has essentially been humiliating President Trump because you'll recall about a week and a half ago the prime minister of Japan was here in Tehran and brought an offered from President Trump to talk. And that was rebuffed pretty harshly by the supreme leader. And that's certainly been part of Iran's messaging as well.

As far as those other sanctions, quite interesting to see because a lot of them are pretty high level commanders in the Revolutionary Guard Corps and a lot of them have actually played a key role over the past couple of years -- days. You have the commander of the Revolutionary Guard navy. The U.S. saying that he was threatening to close the Strait of Hormuz. There has been some pretty blustery language coming from the Revolutionary Guard.

And then, of course, another key figure as well, who's apparently being sanctioned, is the head of the Revolutionary Guard aerospace forces. Of course they were the ones who shot down that U.S. drone and the United States saying -- or specifically saying the Treasury that he was going to be one of the people who is going to be sanctioned.

Also interesting to hear, and I think this is probably going to be the real key one, that apparently Steve Mnuchin said as he was announcing this, that Javad Zarif, the country's foreign minister, could be sanctioned as well later this week. That is indeed pretty big news because Javad Zarif has been someone who's been very vocal, also vocal on social media. It will be interesting to see if he can continue that then and then whether or not he can continue his diplomacy and fly to international airports if those sanctions are in place. So that could be quite key as the Trump administration is saying it actually wants to strengthen diplomacy with Iran or get back on a diplomatic track.

And, finally, Brianna, one of the things that the Iranians have been saying again and again and again is that sanctions are not going to bring them to the negotiating table. So that seems to be one of the sort of key disconnects between Washington and -- or the Trump administration and Tehran, that the Trump administration is saying they're going to sanction Iran until the Iranians come back to the table and the Iranians are saying the sanctions are exactly what's preventing Iran from going back to the table.


KEILAR: Well, you can see the impasse there.

Fred Pleitgen, thank you so much, reporting for us from Iran.

And, general, you know, there's an adviser to Iran's president who says that Tehran considers war and sanctions to really be two side of the same coin.

What is the president's strategy here?

MAJ. GEN. JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, clearly when you look at those two sides of the coin, I mean, it's a really accurate statement when you think about it. Look, there are -- in the aggregate, there are only so many elements of power that can be employed either by a nation, a non-state actor or some organization, and that's diplomacy, information, military and economics. So you have economic sanctions that are working hard and then military on the other side. And so you have to play those in some degree of synchronous fashion. If you increase one, you might decrease the other.

[13:05:22] And I think what we see right now with this administration is, you've got an increase in the economic sanctions, as Fred just laid out. Look, this is pretty ecumenical. I mean it's the navy, oh, by the way, the air force, oh, by the way, the ground force, and, oh, by the way, the commander of the whole shooting match. So the IRGC is in a very, very tough spot.

The key thing is, is causality. What can the administration expect from this group of leaders in Tehran and what can we expect in terms of nefarious activity? We have to be prepared for that. We saw it with the drowning of the drone. We saw it with the oil tankers. We're going to see more of that and other soft targets in the region. It should be inevitable. And I know we're planning for that.

KEILAR: Is this effective in the sanctions, in bringing Iran really to a point that the U.S. considers to be more positive than they are right now?

MARKS: Yes, well, if you apply enough pressure and if you make it personal, then at some point somebody's going to -- you're going to lash out. You're going to -- you're either going to say uncle, I've had enough, I've got to talk, I've got to open up some additional lines of communications. Right now we talk to the Iranians through the Omanis.

KEILAR: Is that what you think is more likely to happen?

MARKS: Well, that's what this administration certainly is hoping for. But I think what the IRGC is going to do, at least if past is prologue, I mean this is their behavior, they're going to lash out in some asymmetric ways that they have in the past and they're going to try to drive a wedge between the United States and its partners in this sanction, this protocol of economic sanctions. I mean that's -- you could see where that's -- could start to atrophy very, very quickly.

So the United States has to be able to stand up with its partners and say, look, stay strong. We've got to stick together. I mean look at -- look at what the IRGC is capable of doing. You're next. You're next in the region. They're going to come after you. So we've got to stick together.

IRGC and the mulas (ph), the supreme leaders, they're looking to drive that wedge right between us and our friends.

KEILAR: And there may be some susceptibility to that, obviously. So, we'll see.

MARKS: Sure.

KEILAR: All right, thank you so much, general. We appreciate it.

MARKS: Thanks, Brianna.

KEILAR: The race for president is intensifying. Just 224 days until voters in Iowa speak at the country's first caucus. Candidates today are releasing some new policy plans, from college debt, to a war tax, and others are spread for this first debate this week spread out over two nights because the field is so large. And another candidate facing heat at his day job when the community confronts him on police violence.

First, though, Senator Bernie Sanders has unveiled an ambitious plan to completely eliminate student loan debt of every single American. That comes to a whopping $1.6 trillion. The Democratic presidential candidate announced the proposal on Capitol Hill this morning. And it's part of his strategy to win over young voters.

Let's bring in Ryan Nobles with more on the specifics of this plan.

And, Ryan, how is Sanders going to pay for all of this?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's certainly expensive, isn't it, Brianna. I mean we are talking about $1.6 trillion of student loan debt that Bernie Sanders would like to cancel, take off the books completely. It covers approximately 45 million people. And there are no eligibility limits. This is different than Elizabeth Warren's plan, which caps the amount of debt that you could have relieved and also it depends on how much your household income is. Sanders is saying basically, if you have student debt, it's going to be gone. And this is how he plans to pay with it. It's with some new taxes on

Wall Street. He calls it taxes on Wall Street speculation. Basically almost every trade that goes down on Wall Street he wants to attach a tax to, a 0.5 percent tax on stock trades, a 0.1 percent fee on bonds, and a .005 percent fee on derivatives.

Now, what Sanders believes is that the collection of these taxes will amount to $2.4 trillion in new revenue into the federal coffers over the next ten years. It's going to pay for all of his plan to cancel all of the debt. And then, going forward, Brianna, this sets the groundwork for his more ambitious plan of making college free at all public universities and community colleges.

There's no doubt, Brianna, that this is Sanders setting the stage for the debate coming up this week and it comes at a time when, of course, Elizabeth Warren is encroaching on his hold on second place behind Vice President Joe Biden.

KEILAR: All right, Ryan Nobles, thank you so much.

Also rolling out a new policy plan today is the Democratic candidate Beto O'Rourke. And if he becomes president, the former Texas congressman says he will put in place a war tax in non-military households in an effort to help cover health care costs for veterans any time the U.S. goes to war.


BETO O'ROURKE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have to do much more for the veterans who have served this country.

In our administration, we will make sure that we fulfill our end of the obligation as a country. We will spare no expense. We will bear any burden to make sure that we meet every single returning veteran with the care and the investment that they deserve.


[13:10:15] KEILAR: CNN's Leyla Santiago is with us now.

So, Leyla, how exactly does this work, this war tax?

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, this actually isn't something new for Beto O'Rourke. He has proposed it before as a legislator. And it's part of this bigger plan, an eight-page policy on how to address the issues with veterans.

So let's go ahead and take a look at some of these bullet points. You can see that the money collected would go into a trust fund for veterans. That's something that was another element of this proposal in which he would have a law made to establish a trust fund that would benefit every single veteran on the onset of a new war that is authorized by Congress. It would tax non-military households. And it would be for future wars. But what about you? What about the person who would actually pay for

this? Let's take a look at exactly the breakdown. It depends on income. So you make less than $30,000 a year, you're looking at about $25. And the range goes down. More than $200,000 a year, it can go to $1,000. So $25 to $1,000. And this is a tax that would go to help veterans that come back from these wars moving forward in the future.

You know, this policy for him and the campaign, especially, really highlight what they're hoping, which is his experience with veterans. When he was on the House, he served on the Veteran Affairs Committee. When he's in the town halls, he certainly talks quite a bit about what he considers his greatest accomplishment, which was expanding the access to mental health for veterans, something that he introduced and then later became law.

So this, you know, it's to look out for those veterans moving forward when it comes to health care. But in terms of strategy and how he's moving forward in this campaign, this is the eighth policy proposal for someone who was once criticized as sort of being a blank slate when he started, he's looking to this, just ahead of the debates, where everybody is trying to stand out as yet another way to sort of flex his muscles as a candidate.

KEILAR: Yes, we're increasingly seeing candidates talking about veteran's issues, Leyla. So we'll maybe continue to see that in the debate.

Thank you so much for that report.

And there are so many Democrats, right, at this point in time, running for president, it's tough to keep track of them all. What's one more, right? Joe Sestak, number 24 in the Democratic race for president, he's a retired three star admiral who also served two terms in the House of Representatives representing Pennsylvania and he announced his campaign over the weekend.

Sir, welcome. Thanks for being on.

JOE SESTAK (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's good to be with you, Brianna. Thank you.

KEILAR: The -- the first debate, as you know, is in two days.

SESTAK: Right.

KEILAR: You are going to miss it. You're very possibly going to miss the next two after that as the threshold gets higher.

So how are you going to make a splash here?

SESTAK: Well, as you probably know, the reason my delay happened is my daughter, who had brain cancer at four-years-old, and after my 31 years in the Navy, I got out and she recovered. And that's the only reason I changed from an independent to Democrat and went to Congress to fight for healthcare. Well, it came back last year. And so the deck of cards that I was

dealt was a pretty good one because she recovered. And the same doctors came and took care of her. One came out of retirement. And she kind of gave me a sign, Brianna, that said a bit ago, life's not about avoiding the storm, it's about dancing in the rain.

And so, yes, it's a little more challenging right now, but I'm running because this nation needs a leader who understands the issue, for example of Iran you spoke about, with the breadth and the depth of global experience, having served President Clinton's as coordinator of national security policy, that we stop or retreat from the world leaving bruised allies left behind and saying it's a wrap and restore the liberal based rules order under proper leadership.

Second, they want someone who's accountable to them. People, about self or above parties, as you know, Brianna, I stood up to my party's establishment, the highest level twice when I ran, for example, against Arlen Specter. The man who annihilated and humiliated Anita Hill. And yet I didn't agree he should become the senior of Pennsylvania. And although I beat him, it was at the cost of running against my party's desires.

So I think that's want they want, accountability to people, above party, above self. Someone who understands the world to protect our American dream at home, and finally someone who is willing to restructure policies practically, too many of which people only see in equity, the growth of inequity, not of the economy. That's why I got in.

And, yes, it's a little tougher getting in late, but I'll have fair winds and following (ph) seas and I'm going to work darn hard at it. And that's why I came to Iowa the day of my announcement.

KEILAR: And your daughter is a fighter. I can't tell you how happy we were to hear that she's doing well.

SESTAK: She is.

KEILAR: She is a fighter.

SESTAK: Strong as can be. Thank you.

KEILAR: I want to -- I want to -- she's a tough one.

[13:15:01] I want to talk to you about policy.

First up, you mentioned Anita Hill. All right, you put in your bio on your website you mentioned Anita Hill, that you say -- and this is -- this is key, you say, one Senate primary against Senator Specter who humiliated Anita Hill. I hear you saying it again here on the show.


KEILAR: So, as you know, Joe Biden, the frontrunner in polls, was the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. He oversaw the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings. He oversaw Anita Hill as she testified. He's faced some criticism for handling that. You criticize Arlen Specter. Do you criticize Joe Biden for that?

SESTAK: What I criticize is the issue that's also on my website, and I had in my announcement, this nation yearns for people to be leaders, to be accountable for one's self. And, no, I don't think people have been accountable for that tragic misadventure. Democrats and Republicans alike who voted for Iraq and the two decades of uncalculated costs. I don't think people have been accountable who are still in office for that meltdown on Wall Street.

KEILAR: But I want to ask you --

SESTAK: Nobody.

KEILAR: I want to ask you about --

SESTAK: And then I come back to -- I do come back to Anita Hill.

KEILAR: I do -- sir, sir, I'm so -- OK, yes, thank you. Sorry. I definitely want to hear what you have to say about Anita Hill.

SESTAK: But I wanted to make sure you understand it, this is not a criticism of an individual. It's a criticism of a culture of politicians who have not been willing, from Iraq or to the meltdown on Wall Street, to how, in day's passed, she was aloud, Anita Hill, to be confronted and humiliated there. I think anyone who should have been in charge of that hearing should have held it appropriately.

But I hold that, not as an individual. I say that because I put it out there because I was the one person who would not expect Senator Specter switching parties from the highest in Washington, D.C., down. And that was one of the major reasons I did it is I remembered my six sisters, when that hearing happened. And so I don't understand how people can't answer for themselves in that issue, to Iraq, to the meltdown on Wall Street. That's why people have lost trust in government.

KEILAR: Let's talk foreign policy here.

First Iran. I know you want to re-enter the Iran deal. That's something that would take time. So if you were president, you're in this situation where Iran has shot down an unmanned reconnaissance airplane, as it did last week, what do you do?

SESTAK: Well, if the circumstances of what Mr. Trump got us into, then, no, because I wouldn't have put us in that situation because, please, remember, we broke our word -- how embarrassing -- of a deal that we signed up to and Iran kept their word. And now he forced it into this terrible situation.

Look, we actually removed, by economic sanctions, convening the world, including Russia and China, to have a removal from Iran of their nuclear making weapons capability for at least a year before they could build it back. And now we broke that deal and put ourselves in this situation. That's what I mean about restoring U.S. leadership because if our Navy has to attack, Brianna, we can't do it if it's going to ever have to destroy that nuclear weapons capably, buried under 300 feet of hard rock. It would take us weeks and months. And we can't survive with our carrier battle groups in the Persian Gulf. We can't find their 19 mini submarines because our sonar doesn't work there. They'll close down the Straits of Hormuz, where 20 percent of the world's oil supply works.

So we have been backed into a corner by a misunderstanding by those who make these decisions and militaries don't fix a problem. They can only stop a problem. Like we did in Iraq. We didn't fix Iraq. No one thinks we did. And so here we've been put in a situation we think sanctions and our military is the answer. But we can't convene the world for sanctions again. We'd be lucky to get the European Union. But we'll never get China and Russia again after Iran kept their word.

KEILAR: Climate change. That's one of your key issues. You're certainly not the only one here. Washington state Governor Jay Inslee comes to mind. You want to rejoin the Paris Climate Accord. That's not unique in this field. How do you set yourself apart from the other Democratic candidates on the issue?

SESTAK: Two ways. First off, I made it clear, as I spoke at a group of Democrats last night who said we hadn't heard that before, that there's -- rather even we get the green new deal done as some people want in ten years, it won't matter because that's only going to, if we accomplish it, decrease 15 percent of the global greenhouse emissions that are required before the catastrophic threat explodes enough with climate change. It's all of the world doing it or nothing. That's why I said join and increase the national commitments.

Look, Saudi Arabia is going to use as much energy to run its air conditioners in ten years as it exports in oil today. So it's leading the world again to make it happen. Here at home, yes, I'm for a carbon fee, and it's on my website, because that takes care of an efficient market mechanism for the C02.

[13:20:05] KEILAR: How does that work? You voted -- you voted for that in the House.

SESTAK: Yes, I did.

KEILAR: I mean even in Washington state, which is pretty liberal, it's failed three times in recent years.


KEILAR: It did not get through a completely Democratic controlled Congress. It's politically very difficult. You know that. So why pursue something that really doesn't seem to have a way forward?

SESTAK: Well, that means you're not going to handle climate change then.

Look, you have to have somebody. Like, I represent a two to one Republican district (INAUDIBLE). So I got reelected despite my very progressive voting. I got reelected without spending a dime on one campaign ad, not one dime, because I went out there and explained and worked. And so we have to do that. It's the only way, in addition to several

other things that we can attack. And maybe if you have a leader, which I brought up earlier, who's trusted, who's showing that he's accountable, not to an ideology, not to a party, but accountable to people and demonstrates why, maybe we can begin doing it. That's why I speak about Jim Mattis and others who have said, as secretary of defense, climate change is going to get us more into wars of instability abroad.

Second, take air conditioners, if you don't mind. We haven't joined the Kagali (ph) agreement. But if we do and then enforce the most efficient air-conditioning standards today, because hydrocarbons, you know, they actually -- fluorocarbons (ph) actually are a thousand times worse than CO2 from fossil oil -- fuel, we will actually -- actually be equivalent by enforcing that globally the equivalent to replanting two-thirds of the Amazon. There's a lot to do. But it's going to take a leadership, not just in Washington, D.C., but globally.

Is it going to be tough? Sure it is. But it is the most catastrophic threat that humanity faces today. And it will explode because those seeds of the irreversibility of climate change begin to be sewn in a decade. And if we don't have the kind of leadership, accountable to people that demonstrate how it must be done, globally, as well here at home, we won't make it, Brianna. Sure it's tough, but we got dealt this deck of cards. We better have somebody who's willing to take a chance and not hide politically from saying carbon fee, like I did in Congress back then, or standing up, quite frankly, to Senator Specter and the party.

KEILAR: Congressman, admiral, Joe Sestak, thank you so much, sir.

SESTAK: A pleasure to be with you. Thank you, Brianna.

KEILAR: An author coming forward accusing the president of sexual assault in the 1990s. You'll hear from E. Jean Carroll in her own words.

Plus, speaker Nancy Pelosi says she told President Trump, you're scaring the children of America, as he starts a countdown clock to get a deal before raids on migrants families begin.


[13:27:37] KEILAR: President Trump says he'll hold off on ordering the mass deportation of immigrant families, but only for two weeks. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers were supposed to begin raids in ten cities as part of the president's promised immigration round-up. But now the president says it's up to Congress to come up with new legislation to address asylum issues or else the planned crackdown is back on.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says she had this message for the president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): When I spoke to the president, I said, look, I'm a mom. I have five kids, seven -- nine grandchildren and your children are scared. You're scaring the children of America. Not just in those families, but their neighbors in their communities. You're scaring the children.


KEILAR: California Congressman Ro Khanna is joining me now from Capitol Hill. He's a Democrat on the House Oversight Committee and the Armed Services Committee.

Sir, what's your reaction to the president putting the pressure on Congress to come up with not only a plan but a plan that he's going to approve or move forward with these raids?

REP. RO KHANNA (D-CA): Well, it's a sad deflection of responsibility. It doesn't take Congress or more than common sense to know that you need to give kids soap and toothbrushes and not have them sleep on a cold floor. I mean the conditions for the way we're treating these children are inhumane. And the president can change that with a stroke of the pen.

Now, the speaker is going to bring a bill to make sure that we have the resources to fully fund it. But this is really a lack of leadership from the president.

KEILAR: What do you -- you heard what Speaker Pelosi said. She said this is scaring children, not just children in migrant families, but children in these communities. What do you think the effect is?

KHANNA: I think it is making Americans embarrassed and ashamed of our country. I mean, look, my parents came here as immigrants and one of the things that they were so proud of is that America treats every human life with such dignity and respect. And for young kids to be treated the way they are, I mean we track Amazon packages in this country better than this administration has been tracking those kids. It's outrageous.

[13:29:51] KEILAR: I want to ask you about Saudi Arabia now. The secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, he's in Saudi Arabia. U.S. officials say the murder of American journalist Jamal Khashoggi did not come up during his meeting with the king there. It's also not a popular subject with the president, who downplayed it over the weekend. He was sighting business deals