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Iranian Foreign Minister Speaks Out; Trump Hits Campaign Trail. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired July 17, 2019 - 15:00   ET



ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: Boeing and the FAA are facing multiple investigations after two 737 MAX jets crashed within months of each other, killing 346 people.

Top of the hour. I'm Ana Cabrera. You're watching CNN.

Digging in and sounding off. One day after the House passed a resolution condemning the president's racist tweet, the president is no closer to apologizing.

And Speaker Nancy Pelosi just commented on how few Republicans called out the president for his bigoted attack.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): In the most gentle way. You have no idea the provisions that some people wanted to have in that resolution. This was as benign. It condemned the words of the president, not the president, but the words of the president.

And in doing so, it anchored itself in the words of Ronald Reagan, Ronald Reagan, beautiful speech by Ronald Reagan, which I reference all the time.

And so you would have thought that that benign approach might have appealed to them. What is America? We, the people, we, the people, nation of immigrants, by and large, and he is denigrating every -- all the newcomers that come to our country.


CABRERA: The president's comeback will likely come from the campaign trail. Hours from now, he is headlining a rally in North Carolina this evening, an event that will mark a remarkable contrast, the president of the United States seeking his reelection, as the House of Representatives has put on official record that he made racist statements when he told these four Democrats to -- quote -- "go back to the crime-infested places from which they came."

All House Democrats backed the resolution calling out those remarks. But just these four Republicans and a recent Republican turned independent, Congressman Justin Amash, voted to condemn the president's racist words.

And as Democrats unify behind this House resolution, the four progressives attacked by Trump sent mixed messages about whether there's a rift inside the Democratic Party. They say there is none.


REP. AYANNA PRESSLEY (D-MA): What we are, are four women who have an alignment of values, shared policy priorities. There is no insurgency here. There's nothing conspirital (sic).

QUESTION: There is no insurgency?

PRESSLEY: There is no insurgency and there's nothing conspirital (sic).

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY): Just as there are members who challenge her conclusions, who disagree with her, so do we from time to time, but that does not mean that there is a fundamental fracture or a dehumanizing going on within our caucus.


CABRERA: And yet listen to this pushback in their interview with CBS.


REP. RASHIDA TLAIB (D-MI): She is speaker of the House. She can ask for a meeting to sit down with us for clarification, a fact that acknowledges -- and I have done racial justice work in our country for a long time -- acknowledge the fact that we are women of color.

So when you do single us out, be aware of that what you're doing, especially because some of us are getting death threats.

OCASIO-CORTEZ: I did not say that she was disrespectful of women of color. I found some of the comments disrespectful, and that was my personal opinion.


OCASIO-CORTEZ: And I did feel that singling out on the basis of one vote was creating an opening.


QUESTION: ... interested in having a conversation face-to-face with speaker -- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.


TLAIB: Absolutely. Why wouldn't she sit down with her?

OCASIO-CORTEZ: Yes. No, absolutely. And we have reached out to that end.


CABRERA: Pelosi's office is now currently working on a time for the House speaker to meet with Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez.

Let's discuss.

Dana Bash is CNN's chief political correspondent. And Shermichael Singleton is a Republican strategist.

Shermichael, let me ask you first about what we heard from Pelosi initially when she talked about the words that were part of this resolution, that they used the gentlest words possible, and that they made sure to focus on the words, to call out the words, not the president himself.

Do you think the 187 Republicans who voted against this resolution thought about that nuance?

SHERMICHAEL SINGLETON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: No, because when you think about the 2018 midterm results, most of the Republicans who actually lost their seats were in districts that were sort of problematic.

It wasn't a surprise. Republicans that are remaining in the House are in pretty safe districts. And in most of those districts, the president has an extremely high approval rating. So there wasn't necessarily a reason, at least a political reason, for them to vote for this resolution.

Now, if you look at the four Republicans who did, for example, Will Hurd, he won his race last year by less than 1,000 votes. It's a predominantly Hispanic district, where we know for a fact that a lot of Hispanics view the president unfavorably, in part because of a lot of his rhetoric.

So there was a reason why the four voted for him, but there was also a political reason why a vast majority did not.

CABRERA: All politics and not principle, then?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, exactly. You just took the words out of my mouth.



BASH: Political reason. You just laid out the politics beautifully.

And then there's the moral question. And when it comes to the question of whether or not the president said the right thing, whether it was appropriate for him to do the right thing, I can guarantee you there are a lot more than four Republicans who believe that he did not say the right thing.

But when it is a partisan vote -- and it was very much perceived as a partisan vote, because it was brought up by the speaker of the House, it used the R-word. And, more importantly, the leader of the party, the president, who this was all about, made very clear in a very -- there was nothing subtle about the tweet that he sent out -- that if you vote with the Democrats on this, there will be retribution.

The only four Republicans who didn't care were those who would actually find greater retribution, if they survive a Republican primary, if they have those, with Democrats and independents in their swing districts who have voted for them in the past.

CABRERA: I want to talk more about the Republicans on this issue in a minute.

But first I want to ask about Nancy Pelosi and Democrats and what they do now with this impeachment resolution that has come up, with Al Green putting forward this resolution. Nancy Pelosi has to make a decision. What do you think she's going to do?

BASH: It's up in the air.

What we don't think is going to happen unless something dramatic changes in conversations that are likely going on as we speak is that Al Green's resolution is just going to come up for a vote on the floor.

They don't want that. The House speaker has made that clear ad nauseum that she doesn't want that yet. So what they have to decide is how to get rid of it.

Do they table it, which is -- which means that the vote is just to kind of move it off the agenda, because they have no choice but to figure out how to do that? Or do they send it to the Judiciary Committee, which would be a punt, because they would say the Judiciary Committee, this is their purview, we would be going around them if we brought it to the House floor, we have to have them deal with that.

In any scenario, they don't want to do this. But what Al Green, the sponsor of this, has done is, within nanoseconds of this unifying vote against the president's rhetoric, came on the House floor and said, I want to have this appeasement vote, showed the divide on that issue very, very blatantly and openly.

CABRERA: Exactly.

SINGLETON: Because if you look at the polling data, a vast majority of the American people still do not support impeachment.

We have seen maybe a 5 to 6 percentage point increase, within the margin of error, within the past several months, but it's not an overwhelming majority, which I think is a part of Nancy Pelosi and leadership's calculation.

What they don't want to do is sort of give something to the president that will benefit him going into 2020. The reality is Democrats are indeed divided. When you look at polling data in swing states, AOC, the four, the Squad, if you will, they have sort of defined who the Democratic Party is, according to data.

Even Democratic strategists are beginning to raise the alarms within their own party, saying, hey, guys, we need to be very, very careful here because we don't want to risk ginning up turnout for the other side, which would not benefit Democrats in states that they have to absolutely win electorally.

CABRERA: OK, guys, stand by, coming back in just a moment.

But we want to talk about whether the president's racist tweets have made a difference to his base. Here, again, is what he said about the four congresswomen -- quote -- "who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe."

He goes on to say -- quote -- "Why don't they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime-infested places from which they came?"

Again, three of the four lawmakers he targeted were born in the U.S. The other one is an American citizen.

CNN's Randi Kaye talked to a group of Republican women in Dallas, several of whom are affiliated with groups that support President Trump, to see if any of them have changed their minds.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: How many of you don't think what the president said was racist? Raise your hand.

(voice-over): These eight Republican women from Dallas don't see anything wrong with President Trump telling four Democratic congresswomen to go back where they came from.

DENA MILLER, REPUBLICAN: He was saying that if they hate America so much because what we're seeing out of them and hearing out of them, they hate America. If it's so bad, there's a lot of places they can go.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm a brown-skinned woman. I am a legal immigrant. I agree with him.

KAYE (on camera): You don't think that's racist to say that?

MILLER: No, not at all.

KATHLEEN LIEBERMAN, REPUBLICAN: Well, actually, I think it's just -- it's a demonstration of how their ideology spills over. Even though they're American now, so to speak, they're not acting American.

GINA O'BRIANT, REPUBLICAN: I'm glad that the president said what he said because all they're doing is -- they're -- it's they're inciting hatred and division. And that's not what our country's about. We -- it's not about that at all and I don't --

KAYE: Isn't that what the president does with some of his own comments -- his own racist comments? O'BRIANT: He didn't say anything about color.

CAMI DEAN, REPUBLICAN: We know the president is now racist. He loves people from -- you know, Hispanics to black people -- all across the board.


KAYE: Let me just share with you the definition of racism from Merriam-Webster dictionary."A belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities, and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race."

Based on that definition, do you not think what the president has been saying...


O'BRIANT: No. He dated a black woman for two years. Two of his wives are immigrants. He is not a xenophobic racist.

MILLER: But the first black billionaire is endorsing President Trump.


MILLER: How can you call him racist?

KAYE: So these congresswomen...


KAYE: These congresswomen -- these congresswomen who said they ran for Congress and ran for office because they explicitly love this country, you're saying that's a lie.




MILLER: That's a lie.

KAYE: You're saying they hate this country?


LIEBERMAN: It's clearly that they're very manipulative to...


LIEBERMAN: ... accuse instead of extracting the truth...


LIEBERMAN: ... because when you say... UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

LIEBERMAN: ... you know, don't you think he's racist, you're accusing us. You're accusing him.

KAYE: I'm asking, I'm not accusing you. I'm asking you what you think.

LIEBERMAN: But you can tell we -- OK, it's irrelevant. It has nothing to do with the real issue. It has nothing to do with the premise of the issues.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Exactly, and whatever...


LIEBERMAN: Why do you keep bringing it up?

KAYE: Do you think it's just a coincidence...


KAYE: ... that these four congresswomen that the president is going after -- none of them are white?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't think it matters.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's idiotic, what they're saying, so it doesn't matter whether they're white, man, woman, brown, yellow, anything.

MILLER: I wish that there was a white one that they bait (ph). Why are they not racist? How come they aren't racist? Befriended one of their white female congresswomen colleagues and let her join the...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because they won't.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's a good point, right.

MILLER: They don't like white people. Come on, they're racist.


KAYE: How many of you still plan to vote for President Trump?




CABRERA: Back with us now, Dana and Shermichael.



CABRERA: Your thoughts? What is your reaction?


SINGLETON: I have no thoughts on that.

Look, I'm not surprised, right? I mean, I think we have seen enough representations and examples at this point in time where individuals who are Republicans will pretty much find anything to justify their support for the president.

And I think if you look at some tangible things, for example, it is those things that give them I guess the animus, if you would, to be able to say, you know what, regardless of what he says, what he tweets, I'm still going to stand with him.


CABRERA: But that's not what I heard there. I didn't hear them say, it doesn't matter what he said, I don't agree with it, but I'm still going to stand with them. It sounds like they agree with him.


But what I'm saying is, let's say the president wasn't successful with appointing judges. Let's say he wasn't successful with nominating and getting confirmed dozens of judges to the federal courts.

I then think it would be a lot more difficult for some of those individuals to say, well, I agree with it, and I'm going to go on the record to defend this.

BASH: Yes.

Ana, I agree and, as I'm watching those women in that interview, which was fascinating and so telling, I was remembering being in the suburbs of Philadelphia with women who looked a lot like them, probably the same socioeconomic level, right after the "Access Hollywood" tape came out in the 2016 election.

And to a person, each woman I talked to -- they were Trump supporters -- said that they didn't care at all. They understood that he wanted to do -- to help the economy, to change Washington, all the things that were not about women.

And, in this case, you can change women for race, and they didn't care. And it's a very similar sentiment. There is a support for Donald Trump among people, not just working-class people, and not just necessarily working-class white people, that is -- it is impossible to change that.

And I think possibly the only thing that could rock that is if the economy tanked or if something -- if he broke a major, major campaign promise having to do with fundamentals like pocketbook issues.

CABRERA: Let's turn to something that Thomas Friedman called our attention to in an editorial with "The New York Times."

It's titled "Trump's going to get reelected, isn't he?" And he writes about how this last round of the Democratic debates and this lurch to the left that it really exposed, it concerned him and others.

He writes in part -- quote -- "Dear Democrats, this is not complicated. Just nominate a decent, sane person, one committed to reunifying the country and creating more good jobs, a person who can gain the support of the independents, moderate Republicans and suburban women who abandoned Donald Trump in the midterms. But please spare me the revolution. It can wait. Win the presidency, hold the House and narrow the spread in the Senate. A lot of good things still can be accomplished."

BASH: This is the genius of what Donald Trump has done in driving the conversation that we're having right now. He understands fundamentally in his bones the political benefit of elevating those four women.


And he understands the political pretzel that it puts Democratic leaders in, Nancy Pelosi currently, and ultimately whomever the Democratic nominee is going to be, unless, of course, the Democratic nominee is somebody who is super progressive, and is somebody who is like-minded with the four women that we're talking about.

Otherwise, it will be hard for Donald Trump, if he doesn't have those foils, if he doesn't have that personification of the ultimate liberal Democrat who doesn't represent America. It would be hard for him to win.

In this case, it's a lot easier.

SINGLETON: I mean, I agree.

And if you look at the data, of the 64 Democrats that were elected in 2018, 43 of those seats were won in sort of purple districts. Those Democrats consider themselves to be relatively moderate.

BASH: Right.

SINGLETON: When you poll capitalism vs. socialism, capitalism far favors -- outfavors socialism with the average American person.

When you look at many of the proposals out of that are being laid out folks like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, most folks within the Democratic Party itself are saying, I'm not that far left.

We look at key demographic groups, African-Americans, Hispanics. A vast majority consider themselves to be moderate. So I think Democrats have to be very, very careful with these notions of democratic socialism, if you will, these notions of free college for everyone free health care for everyone, because those are things, again, in swing districts, districts where Democrats cannot afford to not increase turnout in comparison to 2016, they risk jeopardizing whoever the ultimate nominee is for their party.

BASH: That's where the passion is. That's where potentially -- we will see -- no votes have been cast yet -- that the Democratic base has been.

Maybe it's different now, because there's such an anti-Trump fervor.


CABRERA: I can't help but say I had -- the thought crossed my mind, Trump has been criticized for playing to his base. And are Democrats now guilty of sort of doing the same with some of these...


BASH: Which is what Nancy Pelosi is trying to throw herself in front of him, and which is what has caused this big rift.

SINGLETON: It's going to ultimately come down to turnout.

And if you look at 2018, keep this in mind. Donald Trump was not on the ballot.


Thank you both, Shermichael, Dana. Good to have you with us.

BASH: Thank you.

SINGLETON: Thanks, Ana.

CABRERA: Still ahead, singer Ricky Martin joins the growing number of Puerto Ricans now calling for the governor to resign. He says he will join another mass protest set to begin in just a few hours in San Juan. We will take you there live.

Plus, 76 billion pain pills, that's how many opioids flooded the U.S. market over a six-year period. Details on "The Washington Post" report that sheds new light on the deadly opioid crisis.

And in a new interview with CNN, Iran's foreign minister says it won't start a war with the U.S., but warns accidents can happen as tensions escalate in the key shipping channels in the Middle East.

Stay with us.



CABRERA: One hour from now, Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif will meet with the U.N. secretary-general in New York.

Now, this comes as he's calling new U.S. restrictions on the travel of Iranian diplomats basically inhumane.

Our own Fareed Zakaria just sat down with Zarif at one of the few places he's still allowed to be, the Iranian U.N. ambassador's residence in New York. And he began asking about the escalating incidents with oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz.


FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN WORLD AFFAIRS ANALYST: Foreign minister, what can you tell us about this Panamanian-flagged tanker that appears to have been escorted to a port in Iran by the Iranian navy?

MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF, IRANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: Well, I haven't had any briefing about that.

What I have heard in the news is that it required assistance. And it's being assisted. But I haven't seen any private briefings about that.

ZAKARIA: You know a lot of people think that the Iranian government is trying to raise tensions in the Persian Gulf by interdicting tankers, by, in a sense, signaling that it could, in various ways, block the flow of oil from the Straits of Hormuz.

ZARIF: But, you see, we are in the Persian Gulf. We have 1,500 miles of coastline with the Persian Gulf. I mean, we control the Strait of Hormuz.

It is -- I mean, these waters are our lifeline. So their security is of paramount importance for Iran.

But, throughout history, Iran has provided security in these waters. The United States is intervening in order to make these waters insecure for Iran. You cannot make these waters insecure for one country and secure for others.

ZAKARIA: Do you believe that, as a result of this, whoever is to blame, you could have an escalation which would result in a military incident?

ZARIF: Well, in such a small body of water, if you have so many foreign vessels, I mean, accidents will happen.

You remember 1988, when a U.S. warship in these waters shot down an Iranian civil airliner, killing 290 passengers. So, accidents, even catastrophes, can happen under the circumstances.


ZAKARIA: Do you think that, the tensions being as high as they are, there is a possibility of war?

ZARIF: Well, you cannot simply disregard a possibility of a disaster.

But we all need to work in order to avoid one. There is a war going on right now. It's an economic war. An economic war against Iran targets civilian population.

And President Trump is on the record saying that he is not engaged in military war, but in an economic war. Economic war is nothing to be proud of, because, in a military confrontation, civilians may become collateral damage, whereas, in an economic war, civilians are the primary targets.

ZAKARIA: Why is the Iranian government engaging in military activities of various kinds, the shooting of the drone -- down of the drone, the seizing of tankers?

I know you're going to deny some of it. But I guess my fundamental point is, you are raising military tensions in the Persian Gulf. Why?

ZARIF: Last I heard, the people who seized tankers where the Brits in Gibraltar, who seized a tanker carrying Iranian oil, against all principles of international law.

So -- and they admitted it.


ZAKARIA: But are you denying that you're not -- you guys are not asserting -- you're not raising tensions?


ZARIF: We're not seizing...



No, no, no we -- we defend our territory. The United States drone entered Iranian territory, entered Iranian airspace. It was shot down, because, even without entering Iranian airspace, it could spy over our entire territory.

While entering our airspace, it not only threatened our territorial integrity, but it was threatening our national security. We will not tolerate foreigners coming 6,000 miles from their shores to our shores, and threatening our national sovereignty and stability.

ZAKARIA: Do you, as a result, think there could be a war between the United States and Iran?

ZARIF: Well, I can tell you that we will never start a war. We have never started a war. We will never start a war.

But we will defend ourselves. And anybody who starts a war with Iran will not be the one who ends it.


CABRERA: And you can watch the entire interview on "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS" at 10:00 a.m. Eastern this Sunday. Just minutes from now, Senator Bernie Sanders will defend his take on the Medicare for all plan. Hear how he explained his vision in an interview with me this afternoon.

Plus, Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle gets real with Pharrell about what it's like to be under constant scrutiny -- that rare glimpse into royal life is just ahead.