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Deal on the Debt Ceiling; Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) is Interviewed about Mueller and Impeachment; Jens Stoltenberg on U.S. Commitment to NATO; CNN Picks Debate Lineups. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired July 18, 2019 - 09:30   ET


[09:30:00] LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Before that August recess begins at the end of next week.


JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Well, one things' clear, the total U.S. national debt, that's going to grow and keep growing.

Lauren Fox, thanks very much.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, and it's grown more than $2 trillion under this president, largely because of those tax cuts.

All right, so this morning House Democrats are turning their focus to the Special Counsel Bob Mueller's upcoming testimony next week after yesterday's failed impeachment bid.

With me now is Democratic Congressman Jamie Raskin of Maryland. He serves on the Judiciary and Oversight Committee.

Good morning, sir. Always good to have you.

REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): Thanks so much for having me.

HARLOW: Let's get to that in a moment, the special counsel and impeach. But I just want to begin with your take on what we heard last night from that crowd that chanted the refrain, "send them back" about four sitting members of Congress.

RASKIN: Well, the president has dragged down not just discourse in the White House, but discourse in the country. This is a -- you know, this is right out of a dictator's playbook essentially to pick a scapegoat and then just to hammer the scapegoat over and over again.

But the Democrats are completely unified this week. We're fighting on increase in the minimum wage to $15. That has enormous popularity across the country. America deserves a wage and so we're focused on trying to improve economic and social conditions for the people.

HARLOW: And Congressman Hakeem Jeffries was on earlier on "NEW DAY" talking about that legislation.

Before we do move on to some of the things on your plate on these committees, "The New York Times" op-ed columnist Tom Friedman writes this this morning, dear Democrats, this is not complicated. Just nominate a decent, sane person committed to reunifying the country, creating more good jobs, a person who can gain the support of independents, moderate Republicans, suburban women. Please spare me the revolution. It can wait. Win the presidency, hold the House, narrow the spread in the Senate and a lot of good things can become accomplished.


HARLOW: What do you -- what's your message back to him? And are you at all --

RASKIN: You know, I don't --

HARLOW: Are you at all concerned that the president has been somewhat successful in painting a picture of a Democratic Party that is socialist and so far left that it can't win in 2020?

RASKIN: Well, but I like his points. You know, we're progressives because the heart of that word is progress. But we are conservatives at this point because we want to conservative the land and the air and the water and the climate and the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, everything that Donald Trump and his gang of nihilists wants to tear down. He's everything that we're defending. And all we need to do is to run as conservatives who want to conserve what is best in America against these people who would destroy everything at this point.

HARLOW: OK, let's move on to all that is on your plate on the judiciary of course next week with the questioning of the special council on Wednesday.

The move to impeach the president put forward by Al Green, Representative Al Green yesterday failed. You voted with 94 Democrats for it essentially not to table it and 137 of your fellow Democrats voted against that. What do you think that should tell the American people right now about where the Democratic Party actually stands on this because that -- it's just quite a divide?

RASKIN: Well, it's actually not much of a divide at all. I mean those of us who voted not to table, we're essentially saying, we have a process in place in the Judiciary Committee, in all impeachment resolutions, and there could be more because the president commits impeachable acts all the time, but they should --

HARLOW: Yes, but the chairman of your committee, Jerry Nadler, voted against it, opposite of you, because he thought it should have gone through the process to go to the judiciary first.

RASKIN: But I agree with that. I think that all impeachment resolutions and censure resolutions and so on should go to the Judiciary Committee. That's the proper process.

Youi know, we've -- we've got a committee process to use people's expertise -- HARLOW: But you voted not to do that. You voted not to table it. I

guess the central question I'm trying to get at is, is --

RASKIN: Yes, but by voting not to table --

HARLOW: Is the -- is the cost as divided on this as it appears?

RASKIN: Well, let me just explain the parliamentary route here.


RASKIN: By voting not to table we were saying it should not be frozen on the floor, it should be sent to committee.


RASKIN: So by not tabling it, we would have referred it to committee. So that's what, you know, I think that most, if not all of the members of the -- on the majority side of judiciary voted not to table because we wanted it to come there.

You know, there -- I was not very impressed by that resolution because it didn't even enumerate high crimes and misdemeanors. It was an expression of righteous frustration at the president's outrageous remarks. But it really did not look much like an impeachment resolution. It did not talk about abuse of power, about obstruction of justice. It did not talk about contempt of Congress. It did not talk about violations of the emoluments clause. So it was not a remotely comprehensive catalog of the potential offenses committed by this president.

HARLOW: I know that you would like to see an impeachment inquiry opened. You've said that for a long time now on our air and elsewhere. If the special counsel, if Bob Mueller doesn't say anything in his testimony next week outside of what is included in volume one and volume two of his report, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer and the leadership of your party don't move from their current position on moving on impeachment, is it useful for the party to move forward on impeachment?

[09:35:06] RASKIN: Well, we've got to move forward on investigations. And everybody in the party is clear about that. We are dealing with a completely lawless and reckless administration. And we have all sworn an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution against enemies, foreign and domestic. And this is our job on the Oversight Committee and on the Judiciary Committee.

So it is true that Attorney General Barr's derailment of this whole process has been pretty effective. And he essentially lied about the contents of the Mueller report. Then he delayed the release of the Mueller report for three and a half weeks and then it came out substantially redacted, which prompted two letters of protest from Special Counsel Mueller saying that the attorney general was confusing the American people.

And that essentially has been the design of this whole propaganda offensive by the administration. The president and attorney general have been repeating this idiotic mantra of no obstruction, no collusion when, in fact, there's overwhelming evidence of obstruction in there.

HARLOW: You have -- sir -- sir, very quickly, before we go, you bring up Barr. You guys voted this week yesterday to hold him and Wilbur Ross in contempt of Congress. You have, as a constitutional law professor, previously cited 1821 Supreme Court decision that gives you the authority to have the sergeant in arms arrest those held in contempt. At this point, for Barr, is that what you suggest?

RASKIN: Well, no, right now what we're seeking is a criminal contempt finding against the attorney general that would be taken to federal court.


RASKIN: We know that Attorney General Barr and the administration tried madly yesterday to stop this from happening because it's a terrible stigma and dishonor for his career that he acted in such blatant defiance and contempt of the American people.


RASKIN: And he did --

HARLOW: The challenge -- as you know, the challenge for you guys on that one is going to be getting a U.S. attorney to take action against their own head of their own Justice Department.

We are out of time. Come back, congressman, especially next week, because it's a big one. Thanks very much.

RASKIN: It's a deal. I would love to.

HARLOW: OK. All right. Thanks.

SCIUTTO: It's a key question for Democrats, as you asked him there. We'll see.

Other news, 2020 presidential candidate Joe Biden said that if President Trump wins four more years, the U.S. will be out of NATO, which has helped keep the peace in Europe for decades. Why the NATO secretary-general tells me, in his view, that may not be true.


[09:41:47] SCIUTTO: There are real questions, concerns, fears even about the survival of NATO, an alliance in Europe decades old to help keep the peace there, keep Europe united against Russia and other threats. Real concerns.

So I raised those concerns with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg in an interview. He is more confident. He says there are no indications, in his view, that NATO is in danger. In fact, he says that the U.S. is taking steps to preserve the alliance.

This comes as there are questions about other issues and treaties between the U.S. and Russia, including an intermediate nuclear forces treaty which Stoltenberg says Russia will withdraw from, that a challenge to peace in the region.

Here's our conversation.


SCIUTTO: Mr. Secretary-general, thanks very much for taking the time today.

JENS STOLTENBERG, SECRETARY GENERAL, NATO: Thank you so much for having me.

SCIUTTO: I want to begin, if I can, with the relationship between the U.S. and NATO. As you know, President Trump has, at times, feuded with NATO members. He's even questioned at times the relevance of NATO today.

I want to play for you really an alarming prediction that former Vice President Joseph Biden made in an interview recently on CNN and get your reaction. Have a listen.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If he wins re-election, I promise you, there'll be no NATO in four years or five years.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST, "CUOMO PRIMETIME": You think there'll be no more NATO if he's re-elected?

BIDEN: No more NATO.


SCIUTTO: The vice president -- eight years as vice president, predicting that if President Trump is re-elected that NATO will -- will end? Do you think he's wrong?

STOLTENBERG: So I will be very careful being part of a upcoming presidential campaign in the United States.

But what I can say is that what we have seen over the last years is actually an increased U.S. presence in Europe. U.S. military presence in Europe.

President Trump has clearly called for more defense spending from European allies. But at the same time, we have seen that the U.S. is committed to NATO, the our transatlantic alliance, not only in words but also in deeds by increasing the number of U.S. troops in Europe.

SCIUTTO: I want to ask about election interference if I can because I always remind people here in the U.S. that Russia's interference in elections continues in Europe, most recently in the E.U. elections. Just as it's predicted, Russia will attempt again to interfere in the 2020 election here in the U.S.

In your view, is Russia's election interference a national security threat to NATO and the west?

STOLTENBERG: It is a serious concern. And, of course, they -- they have attempted and have tried to interfere in domestic political processes, undermine the trust in our democratic institutions. That's something we take very seriously. And that's also reason why we have stepped up our efforts and make sure that doesn't happen.

Part of our strengthening cyber defenses, sharing best practices, supporting each other, and partly just by increasing awareness. But I also strongly believe that perhaps the best weapon we have against disinformation and interference in political processes is to have a free and independent press asking the difficult questions, checking the sources. And by having that, we are also undermining the possibility of when they (ph) interference in our democratic processes.

[09:45:09] SCIUTTO: Today, how grave a threat is Russia to Europe, to NATO, to the U.S., in your view?

STOLTENBERG: We don't see an imminent threat of a military attack. And -- and -- and that's also because NATO provides credible and strong deterrence every day. We have done so for 70 (ph) years in a very successful way deterring any attack against an ally. And -- and we will continue do so, sending a message that an attack on one will trigger an attack from the whole -- would trigger a response from the whole alliance and that's the best way to prevent a conflict.

But what we see is a more assertive Russia and we see this concept of hybrid war or shadow war, which is an attempt to blur the line between peace and war using a covert operation, cyber meddling in domestic political affairs and we saw the Skripal case, the use of chemical agent in -- in -- in United Kingdom.

SCIUTTO: As you know, I wrote a book called "The Shadow." We're very much on -- on that -- on that topic.

Final question before I let you go, because I spoke to -- to a number of people in Europe. I spoke to them across the military and intelligence services here in the U.S. And one criticism they had, they felt that they were not getting leadership from the top in the U.S. They were not getting the public statements about the threat from Russia that they feel they need from this administration, this president.

I just wonder, from your seat, where you're right in the middle there, you're very close to the Russian threat. From your seat, do you hear words, statements, conviction from this president that you believe you need to hear today to keep the alliance together and to stand up to Russia?

STOLTENBERG: So what we see is that the U.S. is increasing its military presence in Europe and European allies are stepping up. So the politics (ph) is that while there are some questions asked about the strength of the transatlantic bond, the reality on the ground is that we are doing more together than we've done for many, many years. And that's very reassuring when it comes to the strength of the transatlantic bond.


HARLOW: Great interview.

SCIUTTO: You know, it's an interesting contradiction because it is true, the U.S. is deploying more forces in Europe along with its NATO allies. More military hardware, jets, et cetera. So why the disconnect with -- with the statements from the president about why we're doing this --

HARLOW: Yes, to what end.

SCIUTTO: To what degree is Russia a threat. In fact, as you know, you've often had contradictory statements.

HARLOW: Of course.

SCIUTTO: Well, they're not really a threat. They did not interfere in the election.

HARLOW: Of course.

SCIUTTO: Of course he made it very clear there, not just --

HARLOW: That they did.

SCIUTTO: Not just interfering in U.S. elections but European elections.

HARLOW: So you'll be there tomorrow.

SCIUTTO: I will be.

HARLOW: Jim's going to be at the Aspen Security Forum tomorrow. It will be interesting to hear what's top of mind for everyone there.

SCIUTTO: No question.

HARLOW: OK. All right.

So, ahead, in politics here, Joe Biden, Senator Kamala Harris went toe to toe in that first debate. Will they get a chance to do it again? We'll break down their chances before -- because, of course, CNN's draw is tonight.


[09:52:30] SCIUTTO: Tonight we're going to find out who will go head- to-head in the second round of Democratic presidential debates, which, of course, will be live right here on CNN. In an effort of complete transparency, CNN will air the draw for the debates live at 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time tonight, that way you can see exactly how the lineups are selected.

HARLOW: And take a look at this. These are the 20 candidates who will participate in the debates on July 30th and the 31st. Will we see another Harris/Biden showdown?

Let's bring in our senior political analyst Mark Preston.

Good morning, Mark.

I'm excited for tonight at 8:00.


HARLOW: I have my predictions. But how's it going to work?

PRESTON: Well, let's go through it. Let's show you on the screen how it's going to work. It's really going to be very simple, but it's going to be, as you say, very exciting.

What's going to happen is you're going to see a random draw that's going to be split into three different parts. That's going to determine the lineups for each night. And then during each draw, the cards with the candidate's name is going to be placed into a dedicated box.

Now, there's going to be a second box that's going to hold the cards for each debate night. Then the anchor, after shuffling the cards, will reach into the first box and pull out a name card and he's going to match that, or she will match that, with the dates that is pulled out of another box.


PRESTON: So we will see that consecutively three separate times in these three different groups that are broken up.

SCIUTTO: Now you're going to make an effort -- because there are four -- in virtually all the polls, four clear frontrunners, Harris, Biden, Warren and Sanders. And the plan is that they're going to be divided into two pairs.


SCIUTTO: Explain how that works and also the importance of that, right, because, for instance, the Biden/Harris interaction in the last debate, I mean that was defining. A real big bump for -- for Harris as a result of that. So how does that play out tonight?

PRESTON: Well, a couple of things. Right. So what we've done is we've -- as we said, we're doing this in three parts, dividing it amongst three different groups that are based upon their public support in polling. So, as you said, four candidates right now seem to have broken away at this point in the campaign, that's Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, Joe Biden, and, of course, Elizabeth Warren.

Now, what we saw in the last debate is Elizabeth Warren was on the first debate stage by herself and the three other candidates were on the second night together. What this will ensure is that at least two of the frontrunners each night will appear on stage. I also think it's going to give a lot more oxygen for those on stage right now to -- or on stage at the end of the month to make their case because we're also going to give them open statements as well. So when we're looking for moments, you should start off with the opening statement at the beginning of this debate.

[09:55:02] HARLOW: Well, that's -- that's an important decision, right, because that's really introducing themselves to the American people who don't follow this every day, day in and day out, like some of us geeks do. So I'm glad we're doing it that way.


HARLOW: All right, Mark, thank you.

PRESTON: Thanks.

SCIUTTO: Coming up, President Trump stepping up his attacks on four Democratic congresswomen with a new strategy, though, that sounds very familiar.