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Iran Seizes Foreign Tanker Carrying "Smuggled Fuel"; U.S. Prepares to Send 500 Troops to Saudi Arabia; Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D- MA), Presidential Candidate Announces Plan to Rein in Wall Street and Big Banks. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired July 18, 2019 - 09:00   ET


[09:00:20] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow.


From lock her up to send her back. 2016 strategy meet what appears to be the 2020 strategy.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATE: Omar has a history of launching vicious anti-Semitic screeds.



SCIUTTO: Listen to that moment. Take stock of it. The president presiding over supporters as they call to send back Somali-born U.S. citizen. Let's repeat that. A U.S. citizen and a sitting elected congresswoman, Ilhan Omar.

HARLOW: Omar is one of the four progressive women that the president has targeted with these racist attacks this week. And if last night is any indication the president is honing in on his re-election rallying cry.


TRUMP: The hate-filled extremists who are constantly trying to tear our country down, they never have anything good to say. That's why I say, hey, if they don't like it, let them leave. Let them leave. Huh? Let them leave.


TRUMP: So they don't love our country. I think in some cases they hate our country. And they're so angry.


HARLOW: Lauren Fox is on Capitol Hill for us this morning. So, Lauren, Congresswoman Omar is responding to the president's

attacks with a quote from I think Maya Angelou.

LAUREN FOX, CNN POLITICS CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Poppy. You know, I mean, really remarkable words from the president last night and the reaction from the crowd you can see why he is using this to propel his 2020 campaign. It is sort of invigorating that base. But the Congresswoman Ilhan Omar had a response for the president last night. She tweeted, quote, "You may shoot me with your words, you may cut me with your eyes, you may kill me with your hatefulness, but still like air I'll rise."

And like you said that is quote from Maya Angelou, and it is such an important sort of moment for these four freshman Democratic women who have been in the spotlight really since they got to Capitol Hill. And it has sort of become all-encompassing this week. First with that resolution on the House floor earlier. Then you had the vote last night. Al Green's resolution to move ahead with impeachment, which he said was directly related to the president's tweets and comments that were racist and bigoted this week.

And then you had that vote happening last night with more Democrats voting to actually table that resolution. So basically to dissolve of it than voting in support of it. But it's just a clear illustration of where things are heading in the House as Nancy Pelosi is really trying to get her caucus to focus on policy. It's really hard when the president is using the kind of remarks that he was making last night at that rally in North Carolina -- Poppy and Jim.

HARLOW: Lauren Fox, thank you. We appreciate the reporting this morning.

SCIUTTO: Let's discuss now with Alex Burns, national political correspondent for "The New York Times" and Wesley Lowery, national reporter for the "Washington Post."

Alex, if I could begin with you here, as often happens with this, you have -- well, at this point I think just one Republican who's expressed a distaste for the president's comments yesterday. Significant, though, in that he has a position in the Republican leadership. He's vice chair of the House Republican conference, Mark Warner of North Carolina. This was his comment last night. I'll read it here.

"Though it was brief, I struggled," those were his choice of words there. "I struggled with the center back chant tonight referencing Representative Omar." Now he did go onto say, "Her history, words and actions reveal her great disdain for both America and Israel." It's not clear how he concludes that. "That should be our focus and not phrasing that's painful to our friends in the minority communities."

This is a familiar pattern. You have a handful of Republicans who respond and criticize, the vast majority either supports or stays silent here. And I wonder in a way the exception proves the rule, that this is Trump's party on rhetoric like this, on a tax like this. ALEX BURNS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Absolutely. And even when you

look at that sort of rather mild expression of discomfort over what the president did.

SCIUTTO: Well qualified.

BURNS: It is (INAUDIBLE) in the language of political tactics, right, that we ought to be focusing on Ilhan Omar's views on Israel and nor on what the president said last night. We saw this obviously last weekend and earlier in the week with Republicans saying let's talk about socialism, which is more important than these racially offensive things that the president has been saying.

There is just no appetite, no willingness in the House Republican conference or in the Senate to just confront the president directly on a pretty core question of political and social values. And the strategy that you have seen Republicans adopt for most of his presidency has been to do pretty much what Mark Walker did or less and wait for the controversy to move on.

[09:05:03] I think what we've seen this week is that's not really going to be an option. This is the campaign he's going to run. You're not going to be able to run and hide from this for a year and a half.

HARLOW: Perhaps because they see what at least one House Democrat sees, Wes Lowery, and told our Jake Tapper anonymously. But let me read it to you, Jake's reporting that this Democrat said, quote, "The president won this one. What the president has done is politically brilliant. Pelosi was trying to marginalize these folks and the president has now identified the entire party with them." Is that true?

WESLEY LOWERY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think that far, I mean, long before this week there were efforts on the right among conservative media and other people to elevate some of these voices and to -- you know, many of the attacks that are being made currently against Representative Omar and the others have been percolating at this point for weeks and for months. Right? It is true this wasn't something anyone was really talking about until Nancy Pelosi got (INAUDIBLE) with Maureen Dowd and brought up this attack of members of her own caucus.


LOWERY: I mean, I think there is a question of whether or not taking, you know, a swipe at your own caucus members leading to a multi-day controversy that kind of predictably ends with the president tweeting something racist about them was a politically wise tactic, but what I also think is true is that, you know, I think moderate Democrats including those members who talked anonymously with Jake Tapper are probably kidding themselves if they think if only the Democrats don't talk about these issues, they won't be campaign issues.

President Trump wants to campaign on these issues.


LOWERY: There's almost nothing he said at the rally last night that he might not have said even if none of the previous days had happened. And so the reality is one of the primary battle grounds of the 2020 election is going to be this issue of who belongs here, or who Americans, what's acceptable language. The president is clearly showing that this is how he intends to rally his base. And so Democrats do no matter what tack they take have to figure out how they're going to address and respond to these issues.


SCIUTTO: Alex, devil's advocate, though, here. What independence is the president winning over with this kind of rhetoric. Set aside, you know, the base. You know, Brad Parscale, the president's, you know, very high up in the president's reelection campaign, as the "New York Times" reported, is telling people, listen, the president has concluded he can't win. The folks are not going to be won over at this point so this is purely about rallying the base and it's a turnout strategy now to get folks who already are with you.

Right? I mean, is it -- is it true that this is politically smart for the president, or is it more true that this is really the only strategy he has?

BURNS: I think it's clearly the only strategy that he's ever truly been comfortable with. Right? That I think it has happened with a lot of people who run for office for the first time and win, that they think whatever the tools were they use that first time, that's the playbook, that's how the whole system works. And I think the president looks back on 2016 and says he ran a campaign that was unabashedly about racial division, about stoking nativism and xenophobia, and it worked and he's going to do it again.

SCIUTTO: Failed in the midterms.

BURNS: He'd failed in the midterms and the day he was elected most Americans didn't like him. Right? Most people voted for somebody else. Doesn't mean he can't win again. He won the first time with most people disliking him. But he's certainly not doing anything to try to say there are all these people out there who voted in 2016 for Republican candidates for Senate, who voted in the midterms, Republican candidates for governor and not for me, and I ought to go after those people.

HARLOW: What is striking I think, Wes, to that point is that he has even stronger economy now and it's his. He can call it his economy. Before it was the Obama economy in the 2016 election. This is such a strong economy. But is this an admission what we heard from last night from him spending so much time and energy singling out these four freshman members of Congress that he doesn't think he can win on the economy, that he has to win in this way?

LOWERY: Well, certainly, I mean, I think Alex is right that it's clear that the president saw the success of 2016 and sees this as his playbook and always has. I mean, again, we talk about this all the time on air, but this is how he launched his 2016 campaign. This has always been the tack he was going to take. But beyond that, we also know that angry people vote and happy people don't always, right? That an argument that aren't things pretty good right now is not an argument that you need to storm to the polls.

HARLOW: Right.

LOWERY: But an argument that these scary people are taking over the country and want to forever ruin America is in fact an argument that mobilizes people. It gets troves of Americans to race to the ballot box to vote for Donald Trump. And so what we see here in North Carolina was not some nuanced argument about the economy. Not some declaration that we've made America great again and businesses are getting better because frankly the reality also is while the economic indicators are doing well, it takes time for that to trickle down to the kitchen tables of everyday Americans.


LOWERY: There are a lot of Americans out there who still feel as if the economy is not working to serve them. But again, what -- Donald Trump's strategy here is to play to the cultural wars, to stoke the xenophobia and the base level, the darkest impulses of the American populace. He did it in 2016 and it worked. He tried to do it in 2018.

[09:10:02] His closing argument of the midterms was in the caravan. And it's unsurprising that this is how he's launching 2020.

HARLOW: Alex Burns, Wesley Lowery, thank you both very much.

We want you to take you to Puerto Rico because it is calm on the streets of San Juan, Puerto Rico, right now but it was a violent night filled with clashes between protesters and police officers fired teargas at the crowd after those protesters broke through barricades at the governor's mansion.

SCIUTTO: They were among thousands who took to the streets last night. They are calling for the governor of Puerto Rico to resign.

The reason they want him to resign, 900 pages -- nearly 900 pages of chats from the governor were leaked showing messages, there were at times filled with offensive homophobic, misogynist messages.

Leyla Santiago was in the crowd last night amidst of those protests. She joins us now live from San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Any sign that this was the last night of this or this continues?

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Not from the people I've talked to on both sides. Protesters say they're not backing down until the governor resigns. The governor saying I'm not resigning. This morning as the sun came up we really got a better idea as to the damage. We saw broken windows, broken doors. The cleanup effort is under way but you still can see the anger and the graffiti that was left on these walls. As you mentioned, we were here as sort of the frontline of this

standoff between police that are guarding La Fortaleza, which is the governor's mansion. And protesters, we watched as it became pretty heated pretty quickly and then teargas was dispersed. We were on the ground in what can only really be described as a stampede of people who were running, getting -- you know, in a stampede of people who are growing in their calls for the governor's resignation. So I think it's important to understand exactly why they're on the streets.

Is this about FBI arrests for corruption scandals? Is this about chats? Is this about money and how it's being dispersed? I asked the people of Puerto Rico why they're here. Here's what they said.


GABRIEL ALEDO, PROTESTER: This is about the dignity of our country, you know, of Puerto Rico. This is about we being tired of the same stuff happening over and over again. The corruption of this government, of all the governments that have passed through this country, you know.

LEISHKA FLORES, PROTESTER: I think this is the most important thing that Puerto Rico is going through because we have so much. Right now the person who is governing us is not capable to be in his position anymore.

MARIANNA SUAREZ, PROTESTER: I think that the governor really needs to resign, and he needs to understand that everyone wants it.


SANTIAGO: So all eyes (INAUDIBLE) on where we are standing now, at the governor's mansion, on the governor, but also on the legislature to get a better understanding as to if they will proceed with impeachment.

SCIUTTO: Interesting. One commonality it seemed that a lot of folks spoke to is the age, young people seem to make up the majority of the crowd.

Leyla Santiago, thanks very much.

She has another plan for that. Elizabeth Warren revealing moments ago how she would rein in Wall Street and take on big banks if she were to become president. And former vice president Joe Biden says that if Trump is to reelected there would be no NATO in four years. What does NATO secretary-general think of that? I asked him.

HARLOW: Plus rising tension in the Persian Gulf this morning. Reports that Iran has seized a fuel tanker. The latest from the Pentagon on that next.


[09:15:00] SCIUTTO: This morning, Iran's state media is reporting that Iran has seized a foreign ship carrying millions of liters of what it says is smuggled fuel.

HARLOW: So that ship was reportedly boarded during an anti-smuggling operation, of course, right in that critical Strait of Hormuz on a small island there. Let's go to the Pentagon, our colleague Barbara Starr joins us with the latest. Do we even know sort of what was the country of origin for this ship?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, nobody is exactly, you know, coming up and publicly stating the origin of the ship, what flag it was flying under or what exactly it was doing there. But the U.S. has been noting since the weekend that there was a small tanker that went missing that went into Iranian waters.

And they've been watching, trying to figure out whether this is the same ship that essentially disappeared over the weekend and has now resurfaced. The Iranians not being clear. At one point, they said that they had helped tow a disabled ship into Iran, and that, that was the ship the U.S. was referring to.

Now, they're saying several days later, they have seized it. So adding a lot of mystery to all of this about the very murky business sometimes of shipping in the Persian Gulf.

SCIUTTO: So, we know the U.S. already sent an additional carrier group to the gulf in the midst of tensions with Iran. Now, we know the Trump administration is sending hundreds of ground forces to Saudi Arabia. How big now is the increase in the U.S. presence there?

STARR: Well, this is about 500 U.S. troops. And what they're actually doing is going to a place called Prince Sultan Air Base in the remote district area east of the Saudi capital. They're going to be working on improving this air base so the Air Force actually can fly patrols out of that air base.

They'll also have patriot missiles there to help defend that airspace. One of the reasons they picked this remote area to operate out of is they think it will help keep them safe from any Iranian ballistic missile firings which the Iranians have been doing in that area on a fairly regular basis.

[09:20:00] This is so remote, they don't think that Iranian missiles can get the reach to target them there. So, they will continue to fight these patrols and try and be a deterrent to any Iranian aggression.

HARLOW: OK, both significant, Barbara, thank you very much. Senator Elizabeth Warren has made herself a name that she's embracing, you know, having a plan for that. She's got another one this morning, this is about taking on Wall Street.

SCIUTTO: Another way she's made a name for herself, moments ago, the 2020 candidate releasing part two of her economic patriotism theme that includes limiting the compensation of big bank executives. MJ Lee joins us now with more on Warren. You have to tell me how many plans we're up to now with this. Well, that has been a signature of her campaign, is releasing very specific plans. But how many so far and tell us details of this one.

MJ LEE, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, well, Elizabeth Warren today is returning to the very issue that really helped launch her political career, and that is reining in Wall Street. You know, even before she ran for Senate in Massachusetts, it was her work before and after the financial crisis, that made her this national figure.

So, here is the plan. She is talking about reinstating Glass- Steagall. This is essentially trying to make banking boring by separating commercial banking from investment banking. She wants to completely overhaul the private equity industry, she wants P firms to be held more accountable from making any bad investments.

She wants to toughen rules on bank executives and the compensation and the bonus that they receive. So essentially, if they're making bad investments and they shouldn't be getting the big paychecks.

HARLOW: What does she mean by bad investments?

LEE: She's talking about -- she essentially is making the case, and she has said this before many years of her career that she feels as though it's the big banks who are drawing these big profits including private equity firms, even though those profits do not get passed down to the workers of the companies. So, she's --


LEE: Essentially trying to hold them accountable --


LEE: She's also talking about making basic banking more accessible, so expect her to talk about things like postal banking and also closing the carried interest loophole --

HARLOW: Right --

LEE: Obviously, this is very popular --

SCIUTTO: Oh, essentially about these -- some of these are not whackadoodle, you know, far left idea. I mean, Glass-Steagall, there's a big conversation after the 2008 financial --

HARLOW: Really?

SCIUTTO: Collapse --

HARLOW: Right --

SCIUTTO: And carried interest loophole. I mean, even President Trump has mentioned that --

HARLOW: Yes, that's true, yes --

SCIUTTO: Occasionally as an idea. So some of these ideas are, you know -- HARLOW: Yes --

SCIUTTO: They're not that far-out of the mainstream --

HARLOW: It will be --

LEE: That's right --

HARLOW: It will be so interesting, guys --


HARLOW: If she is on the same stage as Joe Biden --

LEE: Oh, yes --

HARLOW: Because that history --


HARLOW: In terms of the senator from Delaware and the credit cards and all of that will all come back to the floor, I think.

LEE: That's right, they could not be further apart --

HARLOW: Yes --

LEE: On those issues.

HARLOW: Totally --

SCIUTTO: Another reason to watch the draw, MJ Lee, thanks very much --

HARLOW: Tonight, yes, thanks MJ.

SCIUTTO: Democrats more divided than ever on the question of impeaching this president. Did the failure of their latest attempt, at least attempt of one member just give President Trump a boost for 2020 or does it hurt him?

HARLOW: We're moments away from the opening bell on Wall Street. We could see a little bit lower open this morning, investor optimism over the U.S. and China are going to reach a trade agreement is flailing a bit. The Treasury Secretary says talks between both sides are set for today though, we'll see.


SCIUTTO: This morning, the White House says that they are one step closer to reaching a budget deal with Congress.


STEVE MNUCHIN, SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY, UNITED STATES: The good news is we've reached an agreement between the administration, the House and the Senate on top line numbers for both year one and year two. We're now discussing offsets as well as certain structural issues, and we've agreed as part of that deal, there would be a long- term, two-year debt ceiling increase.


SCIUTTO: You know, that debt ceiling is always increasing. Lauren Fox is back with us now. So, Lauren, what do we know about the agreement, and crucially are Democrats in the house as optimistic now as the White House appears to be?

FOX: Well, look, it's a really good sign, Jim. And I think one thing that we've heard from Democrats over the last couple of days is they're getting closer and closer to reaching a deal. Nancy Pelosi; the house speaker has said she'd hoped to get some kind of final agreement including those offsets that the secretary was talking about there by tomorrow.

That's because this takes a long time to process. They have to write up this legislation, they have to get ready to put it on the floor for the house members to vote on. And just a reminder, at the end of next week, house -- the House of Representatives is expected to go on their month-long recess.

You don't want this debt ceiling hanging over the August recess. It could be terrible for the markets. It also could open up a tax for house Democrats who are in those front line districts back in their districts for Republicans to call them out basically, arguing you know, you had time to vote on all these anti-Trump resolutions on the floor of the house, but no time to deal with the debt ceiling.

So, I think that's what the house is up against. But you know, there's no deal, Jim, until everything is agreed upon. And I think that's really important here. Those top line numbers obviously, a very significant development. But until there's a broader agreement that everyone comes out and says, has been agreed to, there's just no telling if this will be dealt with --


FOX: Before that August recess begins at the end of next week. Jim?

SCIUTTO: Oh, one thing clear. The total U.S. national debt, that's going to grow and keep growing. Lauren Fox, thanks very much.