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Robert Mueller Agrees To Testify Publicly; Image Of Drowned Father And Daughter Underscores Border Crisis; House Passes $4.5 Billion Border Aid Bill. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired June 26, 2019 - 05:30   ET



[05:30:44] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT MUELLER, FORMER SPECIAL COUNSEL, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE: There has been discussion about an appearance before Congress. Any testimony from this office would not go beyond our report.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: We'll find out. Robert Mueller will testify publicly next month. All it took was two subpoenas from House Democrats.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Heartbreaking, gut-wrenching -- this image a powerful symbol of the border crisis. And the House, overnight, passing a bill, including new standards to care for children at the border.

ROMANS: It's finally here. The first 2020 Democratic debate is tonight. Will the candidates go after each or the president?

BRIGGS: And breaking overnight, secret talks between the U.S. and North Korea for a third summit just months after talks collapsed in Hanoi.

Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Dave Briggs. Mueller time, 21 days away.

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans. It is 31 minutes past the hour.

We begin with breaking news -- what could be the congressional hearing of the century. Mueller time, as Dave calls it, just three weeks away.

Robert Mueller agreeing to testify in open session on July 17th after House Democrats issued subpoenas for his appearance. It's something Mueller was clearly reluctant to do.


MUELLER: Any testimony from this office would not go beyond our report and the report is my testimony. I would not provide information beyond that which is already public.


BRIGGS: Mueller will testify in back-to-back hearings before the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees.

Members of both parties giving a clear preview of what's in store.


REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): It's important that he answer a lot of specific questions. I think one of the questions that isn't specifically in the report will be what -- you wrote a letter, Mr. Mueller, to the special -- to the attorney general saying that he had, in ways, mispresented the report. How so?

REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): I've been a critic of how the Mueller team was assembled. I think it's ludicrous that you had people who were involved in defending the Clinton Foundation engaged in this investigation.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): Of course, there's no limitation on confining his testimony to the four corners of the report. That may be his desire but Congress has questions that go beyond the report.

REP. MARK MEADOWS (R-NC): Bob Mueller better be prepared because I can tell you he will be cross-examined for the first time and the American people will start to see the flaws in his report.


BRIGGS: And, President Trump weighing in on the Mueller news with a short but familiar 2-word tweet, "Presidential harassment!"

ROMANS: After days of reports of inhumane conditions for kids being held at the southern border, this image. This image is the most disturbing and heart-wrenching. It's a devastating reminder of the dangers many face when they try to cross into the United States.

This is the picture of a Salvadoran father and his daughter lying face down in the water. This is on the Mexican side of the Rio Grande River.

Oscar Alberto Martinez and his 2-year-old daughter, Valeria -- they drowned Sunday. The photograph was taken by journalist Julia Leduc, who lives in Mexico. The young girl, you can see, is tucked inside her father's shirt, her arm around his neck, their bodies coming to a rest near a riverbank.

According to the photographer, the father and the daughter had successfully crossed the river to the U.S. side and the father dropped the girl off on the bank and started to head back for his wife, Tania. When Valeria saw her father swimming away she jumped in after him. Tania witnessed the entire episode.

She tells Mexican media the family waited in a migrant camp for two months in triple-digit heat for an appointment to receive political asylum.

BRIGGS: With that awful reality as a backdrop, the House, last night, passed a $4.5 billion emergency border and bill -- a bill, excuse me, despite that White House veto threat. Now, it contains provisions for the treatment of migrant children in U.S. custody after a last-minute push from the progressive wing.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): It's not an immigration bill. It's an appropriations bill to meet the needs of our children so it can remove the needs that they have but also the shame that we should have that they don't have diapers and toothbrushes and the care.


BRIGGS: Still, four Democrats voted against the bill. Three Republicans crossed party lines and voted for it, including Will Hurd, whose district is on the border.

[05:35:06] The Senate has a bipartisan bill that would allocate more than $4.5 billion for the border crisis, but there are significant differences with that and the House bill and it's unclear if a deal can be reached here.

ROMANS: All right. Joining us now, Zach Wolf, "CNN POLITICS" digital director. Nice to see you this morning.

BRIGGS: Morning.

ROMANS: How are you?


ROMANS: Let's start with Bob Mueller -- Mueller time, as Dave calls it.

BRIGGS: Twitter did that, not me.

ROMANS: Twitter.

Look, we've got a date now, three weeks from now. This is something that many Democrats have wanted for a long time.

And it occurs to me that Bob Mueller faces Democrats who want him to go farther than he has in his report, and he faces Republicans who want to attack him for what they see as a witch hunt. Both sides are going to be -- could be pretty tough on Bob Mueller here.

WOLF: Yes, I think both sides are going to be really tough on Bob Mueller. And he tried so very hard during this entire, essentially, years' long process -- he tried to stay as, sort of, out of the limelight, as down the middle. Tried to keep his process as depoliticized as possible.

And all of that is going to go out the window when he is faced by Democrats who want to sort of taunt him here or bring him into saying damning things about the president. And, Republicans, who are essentially going to character assassinate him --


WOLF: -- taking cues from the president. So it will be an interesting thing.

And let's not forget he is kind of a very even-keel guy. We've seen that in his previous testimony. It's hard to sort of flap him. So this is going to be really interesting to watch.

BRIGGS: Yes. The drinking game might be a drink every time you hear Peter Strzok, Lisa Page or the origins of the investigation.

But let's not forget what Bob Mueller said in the one time we heard him discuss the findings of the Mueller report -- listen.


MUELLER: And the word speaks for itself, and the report is my testimony. I would not provide information beyond that which is already public in any appearance before Congress.


BRIGGS: He also said, "We will not comment on hypotheticals about the president."

So, Zach, what's the central question Democrats want answered and will Bob Mueller even answer it?

WOLF: I think for a lot of Democrats, the problem is that the work didn't essentially speak for itself. There was this document out there that a lot of Democrats saw and wondered why aren't we immediately impeaching the president because of this thing?

So, if anything, this testimony could provide, they hope, I think the spark to move forward with impeachment -- a spark that we haven't really seen. You know, it hasn't followed up after the release of the written version of the report.

ROMANS: Let's talk, Zach, a little bit about this image of the Salvadoran father and his daughter that is just heartbreaking. And I think it really shows what is -- just the awful reality at the United States border and the fact that the United States has not really figured out how to manage all of this quite well.

I want to tell you a little bit about the story behind that photo. He had already gotten her safely across and went back to get his wife, And the little girl saw him and went running after her daddy. He grabbed ahold of her and they got caught into a strong current and he tried to -- he tried to save her.

I mean, while the wife is watching. I mean, this is just awful. This whole thing is so awful. My question for you about the debate, about the border, and about how we're going to fix this problem is does this picture change anything? Does it -- does it change anything -- the impasse we have between these House and Senate versions of border funding, of preventing mass deportation starting in 11 days. Does it get us anywhere?

WOLF: I don't know if it's immediately going to do that. They do need to solve that funding problem. I think that this is sort of maybe something that's -- that could change minds large -- in a larger way out in the country and maybe that's something more important.

And we also know that President Trump has responded to photos -- to disturbing photos in the past. That's what made him decide to change his mind about striking Syria was when he saw the use of chemical weapons on children.

So, we know that photos have power sometimes that words don't. It will be interesting, I think, to see what sort of power this type of horrible photo has on the leaders of the country.

BRIGGS: It is a devastating photo.

Beto O'Rourke, who will take the stage tonight in the first of the Democratic debates, had his own take on it, and I guarantee you Republicans will pounce on what he tweeted, if we can put that up for the folks. "Trump is responsible for these deaths."

I don't know about that, Zach. This is a heartbreaking, devastating problem at our southern border.

How do you expect that problem and that photo to take center stage on the debates tonight, and will Democrats step up with a clear plan of how to address the crisis?

WOLF: That's one thing that I think a lot of Democrats don't have, is a clear plan for how to fix this.

[05:40:04] And, you know, the other thing that you did mention, I think, Christine, is that they had been sitting in Mexico --


WOLF: -- essentially, a refugee camp for days on end. And they came to the U.S. out of desperation, which is, I think, what unifies all of the people who are essentially refugees at the U.S. border. They're coming here out of complete desperation.

And the U.S. has cut off aid to Central America and President Trump says Mexico's not doing anything. There is no silver bullet that's going to solve this problem.

And the two political parties aren't even really working together at this point. So, you want to hear the message that's going to fix this and it's just hard to parse out of the political conversation right now.

ROMANS: You're right. The family had been waiting in a migrant camp -- wait for asylum paperwork for two months.

We know that immigration border security is the second item that voters say are key to these debates coming up here in the next days at 12 percent behind health care. Health care, of course, which propelled the Democratic Party --


ROMANS: -- basically, the midterms in 2018.

Talk to me about how you're going to break out. How these Democrats think they're going to break out here in the next couple of days.

I mean, Congressman Tim Ryan told Poppy Harlow yesterday it's going to be like speed dating with the American public. You've got a minute to sort of make your case.

WOLF: Right, one minute. And for some of these people, the American voters haven't even heard of them before. So, they have one minute and they might have to throw some elbows to get noticed.

And the one thing I'll say about immigration is that I feel having looked at this a little bit, immigration is often a more motivating issue for Republicans, whereas health care is more motivating for Democrats. So, you know -- and there might be -- part of the reason that most Democrats don't have a way to fix this at the border is that this is not the motivating issue for their base.

So to the extent that we see immigration tonight, it could be more as a criticism, I think, of President Trump than as a way forward.

BRIGGS: Of course, at these debates it's usually some type of zinger and not really a policy unveiling that really allows someone to break out of a crowded field. It will be fascinating tonight, Zach. Thank you, sir.

WOLF: Thank you.

ROMANS: Nice to see you, Zach.

All right, breaking news. The U.S. and North Korea holding secret talks to arrange a third summit between President Trump and Kim Jong Un. That, according to South Korea.

I want to bring in CNN's Paula Hancocks for more on this. What do we know, Paula?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Christine, this came from the South Korean President Moon Jae-in. He did a written interview with a number of news agencies and he said that behind the scenes there have been negotiations between the U.S. and North Korea to try and set up a third summit.

He was also saying that this is off the backdrop of "a mutual understanding of each other's position" following the Hanoi summit. So, the South Korean president is really trying to spin it positively that that Hanoi summit ended without agreement, saying that at least now, both the sides understand each other a little more.

He went on to say that, potentially, North Korea could offer to give up Yongbyon (ph) nuclear facility in return for some sanctions relief. But that is, effectively, what North Korea did offer at Hanoi. And the U.S. president, Donald Trump, said that he wanted more. That he wanted some of those undisclosed sites to be on the table as well.

So we're hearing this at the same time as the president is going to be heading very shortly to the region to the G20 in Japan. He'll also be coming here to Seoul and we understand from the Blue House that he's considering going up to the DMZ as well.

But it comes at the same time that North Korean state-run media is slamming Trump's advisers. We're hearing from the Foreign Ministry, saying that they believe they are hostile and giving viscous slander.

ROMANS: All right. Paula Hancocks for us in Seoul. Thank you so much for that.

All right. Accusations of mental disabilities, threats of obliteration -- that's what high-level diplomacy looks like between the U.S. and Iran. What's next between these adversaries? We're going to go live to Tehran, next.


[05:48:36] ROMANS: All right, let's get a check on "CNN Business".

And your leading indicator this morning, eye-popping numbers from the Congressional Budget Office. The nation's federal debt now projected to balloon to 144 percent of GDP by the year 2049, the largest in history, potentially pushing the country into the risk of a fiscal crisis if policymakers fail to change laws.

President Trump is presiding over an explosion of debt while calling this the best economy, maybe, in history. He touts it whenever he can, even here at a solemn Medal of Honor ceremony.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The economy is stronger now and we're doing better economically than ever before. We're setting records. And you fought for something that's really good.


ROMANS: Setting records, indeed. The government spends so much more than it takes in. The deficits have climbed after Congress passed a massive spending bill the same year it signed a tax cut law that brings in less tax revenue.

CBO officials warn policymakers the nation's debt and deficit issue poses substantial risks to the American economy.

BRIGGS: Insults and threats between President Trump and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. Now, Rouhani claims the White House is, quote, "suffering from mental disability." The president warning any attack on anything American will result in overwhelming force and obliteration.

[05:50:00] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER: Do you have an exit strategy for Iran if war does break out?

TRUMP: You're not going to need an exit strategy. I don't need exit strategies.


BRIGGS: All right, Fred Pleitgen live for us in Tehran. Fred, the war of words will halt for a moment but it sounds like there's some news you have about Iran's plans in the future.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you're absolutely right, and those plans actually, apparently, start tomorrow.

The Iranians announcing just a little earlier today that their deadline for their caps on their low-enriched uranium production ends tomorrow. They'd set a deadline for the Europeans. And they say that come tomorrow, they are going to start massively increasing the amount of low-enriched uranium they produce.

The Iranians, of course, still saying they don't want to totally get out of the nuclear agreement, but they're also saying that they are going to exceed the limits of low-enriched uranium that they are going to produce and they are going to ramp up that production even more.

Meanwhile, also some threats coming from the Iranian military today, Dave, against the U.S., saying that they would halt any sort of aggression against their airspace. They are also saying they don't believe the U.S. even dares come near their airspace anymore after, of course, one of their air defense system shot down an American drone last week. So, the Iranians certainly not backing down.

I also have one piece of business news, specifically for Christine, that I looked up. The Iranians, today, say that for the first since the U.S. got rid of their sanctions waivers, they have sent a shipment to oil to China. So, the Iranians claiming that they are busting the sanctions, guys.

ROMANS: Oh, interesting. All right --


ROMANS: -- thanks for that, Fred.

BRIGGS: Expect that to come up --


BRIGGS: -- at the G20. ROMANS: Absolutely.

BRIGGS: Thank you, Fred.

We'll be right back.


[05:55:37] BRIGGS: Salacious allegations against Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter of California. Prosecutors alleging he used campaign funds to pay for multiple extramarital affairs with congressional staffers and lobbyists.

Hunter pleaded not guilty last year to charges of wire fraud, falsifying records, and campaign finance violations.

His wife, Margaret, pleaded guilty to federal charges earlier this month and is cooperating with prosecutors.

Congressman Hunter agreed to step down from his congressional committee assignments when he was first indicted. He later went on to win reelection in a campaign that was widely criticized for its ant- Muslim themes.

ROMANS: Salt Lake City police releasing the last-known images of a missing University of Utah student in a desperate bid to find her.

MacKenzie Lueck was last seen at the Salt Lake City airport on June 17th. Police say she got into a Lyft to Hatch Park in the northern part of the city and met someone in a car.

Her friends are concerned and not giving up hope.


JULIANA CAULEY, FRIEND OF MACKENZIE LUECK: I text her and call her still. I check her location to see if it will pop up magically.

We don't care about the past. We don't care what she's gotten into or what has happened. We just want her home.


ROMANS: Salt Lake City police are urging anyone with information about Lueck's whereabouts to call their tip line -- 801-799-4420.

BRIGGS: The federal government is cracking down on illegal robocalls. It involves nearly 100 cases brought by the Justice Department, the Federal Trade Commission, and local authorities in some 15 states.

The companies and individuals being targeted collectively placed over one billion unwanted calls for financial schemes and other services.

Authorities say Derek Jason Bartoli, a Florida man, developed, sold, and used software responsible for 57 million calls to U.S. phone numbers over just six months in 2017. ROMANS: All right. The popular sitcom "THE OFFICE" is the latest casualty of the streaming wars.


CAST, "THE OFFICE": (Singing Stayin' Alive).


ROMANS: It's surviving.



BRIGGS: Stayin' alive.

ROMANS: Netflix losing "THE OFFICE," beginning in 2021. But then, it will stay alive on NBC's own streaming platform. The network says it has secured exclusive domestic rights for all nine seasons.

You know, this was streamed for some 52 billion minutes on Netflix last year. "FRIENDS" was next at 32 billion. In April, it was viewed nearly twice as much as "FRIENDS."

BRIGGS: At least a million of those minutes came from my home.

OK, two hosts, one terrific late-night sketch. Trevor Noah pays a visit to Jimmy Fallon's "TONIGHT SHOW" and they decided to spin the wheel of political impressions.



TREVOR NOAH, HOST, COMEDY CENTRAL, "THE DAILY SHOW" (IMPERSONATING BARACK OBAMA): Ok, uh -- OK, first, you've got to get the finger right. This isn't going to be easy but progress rarely is, so listen up. When a man loves a woman, sometimes he wants to stimulate her economy.

FALLON (IMPERSONATING SEN. BERNIE SANDERS): What do you sell? You sell donuts?

DUNKIN' DRIVE-THRU EMPLOYEE: We have donuts, we have coffee. Can you please speak louder?


DUNKIN' DRIVE-THRU EMPLOYEE: Would you like a donut or a coffee?

FALLON (IMPERSONATING SEN. BERNIE SANDERS): I would not like a coffee. I would like a cup of steamed milk and make sure that's it's not one percent. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: And there's the zinger. Well done.

ROMANS: Boom -- well done, gentlemen.

All right, thanks for joining us. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. "NEW DAY" starts right now. We'll see you tomorrow.


MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The special counsel has agreed to appear in public in an open session to testify.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've got questions about how Mueller's team was assembled.

SCHIFF: There's no limitation on confining his testimony to the four corners of the report.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Roughly 250 children transferred into HHS care says that freed up some room to bring about 100 child migrants to this Clint station.

PELOSI: Our legislation is a vote against the cruel attitude toward children of this administration.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's no way to look at this photo and not have your heart broken. Politicians have to talk about what they're going to do about it.


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

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY. It is Wednesday, June 26th, 6:00 here in New York.

We begin with two big, breaking stories.