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Iran Denies U.S. Warship Shot Down One Of Its Drones; Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-PA) Is Interviewed About Calling The President Racist-In-Chief; Trump Tries To Disavow 'Send Her Back' Chant Amid Pressure. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired July 19, 2019 - 09:30   ET


[09:30:00] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: -- of the warship and refused repeated calls to turn around. But this morning Iranian officials say, all of their drones are counted for going as far as to suggest U.S. military might have shutdown one of its own drones. The latest incident comes as "The New York Times" reports at Iran's foreign minister said that he would be willing to meet with U.S. lawmakers to talk about ways to end the impasse over the nuclear deal.

Jim is live in Aspen, Colorado at the Aspen Security Forum. Obviously this is going to get a lot of attention there.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN POLITICAL & NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: No question, Poppy, Aspen Security Forum annual event where reporters like myself get a chance to meet face-to-face with administration officials, military leaders, and Iran, definitely top of the conversation here.

I'm joined by David Sanger. He's of course national security correspondent for "The New York Times" and author of the piece describing the Iranian foreign minister's outreach. But first let's start on these drones. So the Iranians, one, claiming it was not theirs and then now even suggesting this morning that well maybe the American shutdown one of their own. That's not unusual after incidents like this. There are a lot of wild claims going on. But what do we know about this incident?

DAVID SANGER, CNN POLITICAL & NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: We don't know very much because the navy hasn't told us a whole lot. We know that the drone was not that big. It might be consistent with the size of some smaller American drones. But it could also be very consistent with some of the older Iranian drones as well.

SCIUTTO: So nothing on the scale of the U.S. Global Hawk which was shot by the Iranians, which is almost the same size as the 737 passenger aircraft.

SANGER: That's right. This is isn't even close. This is sort of the equivalent of a full airliner and a little piper cub, right? So if the idea here was to exact some retribution on the Iranians by shooting down one of their drones, they took them one of ours. I'm not sure it was of equivalent nature.

But I think the bigger issue, Jim, is that it shows you just how fragile this whole situation is that you're working in very confined spaces. There are a lot of ships out there. There's a lot of stuff in the air. No one's quite sure what everything is, there's no real air control. And so the chances of making a mistake, fortunately these are unmanned. But, boy, if you brought down a manned flight either Iranian or American, we're off to the races.

SCIUTTO: That's always the danger when there's a higher concentration of military hardware, forces, et cetera, and when the tensions are high. In the midst of that, you have the Trump administration deploying an additional 500 U.S. troops to Saudi Arabia in response to the Iran threat. Tell us about how that factors in to the status of the tensions between the U.S. and Iran right now?

SANGER: So right now, there's not enough U.S. forces in the region if there was actually a real conflict. So these are mostly symbolic. And frankly, most of us think that if the Iranians decide to go after American forces, the Saudis, others in the region, they're going to probably step up their cyber activity which -- to which it's not clear how the U.S. or the Saudis or others would respond and make them very active.

SCIUTTO: And that's the thing. In the new environment of war beyond what you see in front of your eyes, the potential for shooting things down, you already have and this is happening as we speak, there are cyber attacks happening every day going in both directions. I want to ask you a question because you had the opportunity to meet face-to- face with the Iranian foreign minister, Javad Zarif, in New York before coming out here yesterday. You had the story about this in the "The New York Times" which we referenced earlier. Him laying out the outlines of reopening contact between the U.S. and Iran, tell us what he told you.

SANGER: So this was a really fascinating meeting. He met with probably 15 or so reporters, a group he frequently sees when he comes to New York. His movement is very limited in New York, so we went to the Iranian mission. His idea is essentially this, Jim. It is to go accelerate an element of the nuclear agreement that was signed with the Obama administration in 2015. Actually, it was never signed. It was just reached between the two.

And that agreement calls for Iran to sign-up earlier to set of restrictions that allow the International Nuclear Energy Agency, the IAEA, the International Atomic Energy Agency to do very intrusive inspections. And in return, Congress would go back off on American sanctions. This was supposed to happen in 2023. With President Trump having pulled out of the agreement, it probably won't happen at all. But it was just an interesting opening bit.

SCIUTTO: OK, is it your sense that there is interest from both sides here, Iran and the Trump administration, to open channels for direct negotiation?

SANGER: You certainly have seen that. The Iranians have said every step they've taken in the nuclear agreement is easily reversible. The Americans have said they would engage in talks with no preconditions. There was some suggestion that Rand Paul, a senator from Kentucky was being sent out to float a few ideas. SCIUTTO: Interlocutor, yes.

[09:35:01] SANGER: Right.


SANGER: We asked Minister Zarif about this. He would not say if he was meeting him. But said if he met anybody it wouldn't be as an emissary but rather just as a senator.


SANGER: But that's how John Kerry got talks with Iran going, earlier in the Obama administration.

SCIUTTO: That's right. That's how the nuclear deal negotiations started. They started with back channel negotiations in secret at first. In fact, as you and I know, we covered that for many months and years.

David Sanger, thanks very much. And Poppy, imagine that, from the tensions today to the possibility at least of reopening negotiations, this is President of course who's met face-to-face three times now with the North Korean leader. Is it possible we would see the same with Iran? That would be quite a turn around.

HARLOW: It would. It's perfect you have Sanger there who just did that interview. And I'm excited to hear Monday, Jim, I mean what everyone there tells you over the weekend on this front. Thank you. We'll get back to you in a little bit.

All right, so the President says he is not to blame for a racist line chanted at his own rally this week. We'll have live reaction next from a Democratic lawmaker who has labeled the President racist-in- chief, next.


[09:40:22] HARLOW: Well, this morning the President is facing new criticism as he tries to disavow a racist chant at his rally earlier this week. He is now claiming that he was not happy when supporters in the crowd there in North Carolina repeatedly shouted "send her back" referencing sitting U.S. Congresswoman Ilhan Omar. Let's talk about this and a lot more with Democratic Congressman Brendan Boyle of Pennsylvania. It's nice to have you sir. Good morning.

REP. BRENDAN BOYLE (D-PA): Yes. Thanks for having me.

HARLOW: So you tweeted earlier this week calling the President racist-in-chief. The President is saying, I didn't like hearing those chants at my own rally, you know, I disavow them. He didn't do that in the moment, though, I should note. What would you have to hear from the President to assuage your concerns given the label you've placed on him?

BOYLE: Yes. Well, it's not just myself but others. I mean, it's a hashtag that's going around Twitter frankly because it fits. He clearly is a racist. And I'm not someone who throws around that term lightly. I think if you do, it loses its impact. But in his case also let's not sugar coat it or twist ourselves into not attempting to avoid saying what is obvious.

At this point given who he is, given the things he's done in his life, given birtherism, my conclusion, the conclusion of a lot of the American people I think is pretty sad at this point in terms of who Donald Trump actually is.

HARLOW: So there's nothing he could say that would assuage you or concern or your belief on that front. Let me read to you from Susan Glasser, her column this week in "The New Yorker" from quote, half the country is appalled but not really sure how to combat him. The other half is cheering or at least averting its gaze. This is what a political civil war looks like, with words, for now as weapons.

Two parts to this question, does her sort of hedging there for now, talking about words as weapons for now make you concerned about potential violence ahead? And then also, is this where we are? I mean, would you call this a political civil war in this country?

BOYLE: Those aren't -- that's not a terminology that I use. But I will say, one concern that I have and it's by the way been not just me but a number of us privately talking about the sort of vitriolic climate in which we're living and that the President is clearly egging on especially at his rallies. And the idea that someone, you know, unbalanced with some sort of mental health challenges would then act upon those words, we already saw it in the last couple of years a number of people in politics and in the media were on the receiving end of one very disturbed individual already.

It seems to me that what we need to do now and it would be helpful if we had the White House, someone who wanted to tamper down that sort of rhetoric because it can end up feeding a climate in which people do some very extreme things.

HARLOW: Let's hope not. Let me ask you about, you know, if you haven't heard, we have a big debate coming up here on CNN July 30th and 31st, the next Democratic debate. We now know the line-up, who's going to be on the stage, and what night, et cetera. The former vice president Joe Biden obviously, a Pennsylvania guys, is about to be on the debate stage between Senator Kamala Harris and Senator Cory Booker, two African-American senators who have accused him at least of racial insensitivity.

Democrats right now are unifying on the issue of race against the President, right? And you're among them. Do you think it would be a misstep for Booker or Harris to take on Joe Biden again on busing on his, you know, praise of working with some segregationist senators? Would that be a misstep right now?

BOYLE: Well, I mean given that take for example the busing issue, that seems have been debated actually before I was born. So I'm not just as a one Democrat and as a member of Congress, but as a voter I'm much more interested in the issues and the ideas that will lead us through the 20s this upcoming decade being debated and discussed rather than going back to the 1970s.

I do hope also while, you know, individual candidates are going to pursue their own strategies, I do hope that we focus a little bit on President Trump not exclusively but showing the ways in which we are so strongly opposed to this administration and just have a different agenda. And it's just not the extreme rhetoric the President uses.

Keep in mind the one big accomplishment of President Trump and the Republican Congress last term was their tax cut, $2 trillion, 83 percent of which went to the top 1 percent. With Democrats in charge of the House, we just passed yesterday the first minimum wage increase in a decade. That is major contrast in terms of which party is actually fighting for working people and which party is fighting for the top 1 percent.

[09:45:11] HARLOW: You did. A $15 minimum wage bill that does not look like it's going to go anywhere in the Senate. But you guys unified around that. I would encourage people to read the CBO reporting on that to see what it means for jobs, what it means for wages, et cetera because it is really important to pay attention to.

But just going back to your point about, you know, busing was debated before you were born, I get that. But it sounds like you're saying votes, policies, actions, words of a member of Congress even decade ago aren't relevant to how they would perform as President. Is that a correct read?

BOYLE: No, that's not necessarily what I'm saying. I'm just saying that I hope the focus is on the issues of today and tomorrow and not going back 50 years.

I also have to say, I don't think any of the 20 Democratic candidates standing on that stage is can anywhere close be credibly compared to Donald Trump when it comes to race and ethnicity. Specifically Joe Biden has an incredible record when it comes to civil rights in this country, from the 1970s all the way through to today. If he talks about that proud civil rights record for which he's won awards, lifetime achievement awards, if he speaks about that I'm sure he'll do just fine. Joe Biden's character is in clear contrast to the current occupant of the White House.

HARLOW: OK. Quick yes or no, if your primary were today, would your vote be for Joe Biden? Sounds like it.

BOYLE: Yes, it would.


BOYLE: First, there is a little hometown pride here since Biden is a Philly area guy.

HARLOW: Obviously.

BOYLE: We have adapted him for many years.

HARLOW: OK. BOYLE: But I do believe and the polls show this, that he would be our best candidate to beat Donald Trump.

HARLOW: Congressman Brendan Boyle, appreciate your time this morning. Have a nice weekend.

BOYLE: All right. Thank you.

HARLOW: All right, so some really dangerous temperatures ahead, 158 million Americans are at risk for dangerous even potentially deadly heat as major cities are set to be scorched over the next few days.


[09:51:37] HARLOW: Potentially record breaking heat could make it very dangerous to spend a lot of time outdoors this weekend. Triple digit temperatures expected across a lot of the country. Nearly 200 million Americans are under heat watches, warnings, and advisories from Boston to Saint Louis. Right here in New York City, thousands registered for the triathlon this weekend, but with the extreme temperatures expected to be near 100 degrees, the race day has been canceled.

Meanwhile, horse races in New York and Maryland also canceled this weekend. Chad Myers, our meteorologist joins me now. This is, you know, really, really serious stuff, especially for little kids and elderly people.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Absolutely. This is not as bad as what we saw in 1995 with the heat wave of Chicago, but not far from it. And we know how many fatalities happened, like over 700 there in that five-day heat wave. This is a three-day heat wave. But it is still dangerous. When the heat index gets to 110, your body simply can't cool itself down. Even sweating doesn't work. You need to get some place cool, make sure you have some liquids in you because that evaporation is still going to take place. And it just isn't going to do as much.

Look at the red area, over 100 million people in this zone. For Omaha today, the heat index will be 116, same with Des Moines and Quad Cities, somewhere around 109 for Chicago. But in the heat Island affect downtown, Chicago could feel like 115. On the streets, by the buildings, on the asphalt, no question about it, this is going to be a dangerous event.

Farther to the north, we'll actually get a little relief but severe weather will pop up here across parts of Minnesota and also into Wisconsin. Now, Poppy, in the do not try this at home category --


MYERS: The weather service in Omaha, Nebraska, decided to put four biscuits on a tin and put it in the car to see what would happen. One hundred and eighty-five degree pan by the time they got done. There are the biscuits there. And yes --

HARLOW: Are they done?

MYERS: They cooked and they ate them. That's the do not try this at home part. Eight hours in the sunshine, the pan got to be 185 degrees. They said the middle was still a little bit doey, also that that lady right there didn't eat for a while after that. Not really feeling all that well. So please do not try it. It works. You can do things like, you know, I'm sure you had an easy bake oven as a child, didn't you? So, you know --

HARLOW: I did and I want to get my daughter one. But Chad, you're fully aware that what you just did means more Americans will try to bake biscuits this weekend on. You're aware of that, right?

MYERS: No, no. We go to hurricanes so that people don't have to do that.

HARLOW: OK. All right.

MYERS: We show this so that they don't have to do that.

HARLOW: Fair enough. Fair enough.

MYERS: Please don't do anything with eggs, at least, you know.

HARLOW: Yes. No, exactly.

MYERS: Eight hours in the sun.

HARLOW: Exactly, all right. All right, we're going to keep a close eye on these obviously dangerous temps, Chad. Thanks my friend.

MYERS: You bet.

HARLOW: Ahead, House Democrat with a new plan to press the special counsel. How they want to pin him down on possible criminal activity by the President.

[09:54:40] Plus our new original series "The Movies," it is fantastic and it continues Sunday night with the 2000 from the "Dark Night" to "Gladiator" to "Monsters, Inc." Hear from the actors and directors and those who brought you your favorite scenes and brought them to life. Get the stories behind the movies you love. It airs Sunday at 9:00 eastern right here.


HARLOW: All right. So do you remember where you were, if you were alive, when Apollo 11 landed on the Moon or have you just read about it in history books? Well, tomorrow marks the 50th anniversary of the historic feet. And NASA is pulling out all of the stops to commemorate it. At 4:02 p.m. Eastern Time, the exact time of the landing, NASA T.V. will replay the live broad cast of the monumental event.

[10:00:08] Then 10:38 p.m. --