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Trump Now Adopting Defiant Tone on Racist Tweet and Chants; Trump Speaks on Iran Seizing Two Oil Tankers; Trump Renews Attacks on Omar And Praises Rally Crowd; U.S. Official Says Iran Seizes Second Tanker; Trump Marks Anniversary of Apollo 11 Moon Landing. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired July 19, 2019 - 15:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[15:30:00] WAJAHAT ALI, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: -- vote. Keep them angry. We can rule for 40 years, throw in voter suppression and gerrymandering. But the Republican Party cannot afford to lose any other voters. They are shrinking. So independents are going to pissed off by this. Women, educated white women, Latinos, African Americans, and good luck Republicans in 2020. Because now you have to own the optics of President Trump, your figure head, your party's head bathing in a racist chant of send her home in front of incredible patriots, good luck.

ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: When we talk about incredible strategy, Wajahat, going into 2020 of course, David Brooks wrote something I thought that really stood out in "The New York Times." He says, "So apparently Donald Trump wants to make this an election about what it means to be an American. He's got his vision of what it means to be American. And he's challenging the rest of us to come up with a better one. Is President Trump, Wajahat, redefining what it means to be American?

ALI: It's a nativist playbook. It's old school, it goes back to the 18th century and the 19th century, the No Nothing Party, right. The first invaders weren't us, Ana, Muslims and Latinas, it was the Irish Catholics, the eastern European Jews. This is a remake. He thinks that you know, I can go back to this country and get the angry white vote. And speaking about vision, it gives a great opportunity for any Democrat or a Republican challenger to say, you may disagree with my policies, we might be a little too left for you, but guess what, my policies are for all Americans.

I want to give you affordable health care, I want to give you affordable education, and I want you to have a seat at the table. Whereas, Donald Trump is saying, you can have a seat at the table, you can be a Somali refugee as long as you wear a MAGA hat. That's what Lindsey Graham says. So Lindsey Graham is defending Trump's racism but also, this is the frightening part, he says Trump will like you and invite you to the White House if you're a Somali refugee wearing a MAGA hat.

Which means it's also fascist. We'll like you and accept you as an American only if you're part of our tribe. And last time I checked, Ana, the President is supposed to be the President of all Americans, even the people who voted against him. CABRERA: Tim, I spoke with former House Speaker John Boehner

yesterday about the Republican Party's lack of condemnation. Let's watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: Mr. Speaker, while we have you, do you recognize this Republican party?

JOHN BOEHNER, (R) FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER: Well, it clearly has changed in the year since I left.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ALI: Understatement.

CABRERA: It's changed in the year since. Yes, it kind of sounds like, it's, no biggie. Tim.

TIM MILLER, FORMER COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, JEB BUSH 2016 CAMPAIGN: I have to tell you, I was shook to my core watching that speech, watching the video of that speech on social media with the send her home, and I hate to continue to be disappointed. It's just like deja vu all over again. Right, I get disappointed with my fellow Republicans in DC. And I do not know how you can watch that, a rally that looked like the worst of a Viktor Orban rally in Hungary or Marine Le Pen rally and not stand up and say, that we need to preach to our higher -- our better angels here.

I mean look, patriotism, you can argue for patriotism, and argue for conservative policies, right, patriotism does not mean we're sending somebody back that is a refugee. Patriotism is saying that in America, we welcome refugees, this is what Ronald Reagan's announcement speech of his campaign and his final speech in the White House was about welcoming immigrants, about being the shining city on the hill.

These used to be compatible ideas. Welcoming immigrants, even if they disagree with you, and being a patriot. And that is not a compatible idea in Trump's Republican party. And I know that there are a lot of people that quietly and privately in Washington or Republicans elected officials and staffers who agree with me on that, but they're also afraid of him that they're not willing to go out and say and it, it's just absolutely disheartening to me.

ALI: And that's why they're complicit. I don't want to blame the Republican Party because this is a southern strategy, Ana. They're saying the quiet parts out loud. Lee Atwater, 40 years ago openly said it. It goes our strategy to win over the angry white voters, is you can no longer say the N word, so you have to use coded language. Right, you have to talk about urban crime or the welfare queen.

So the Republicans who are the moderates tolerated this for 40 years and now the Frankenstein has escaped the laboratory and is now turning on the monsters, and the makers of the monsters, excuse me. And so the quiet parts are being said out loud for the first time. We have a 13 second clip of it, this is going to define the Republican party unless Republicans step up, own it, claim it, disavow it. But all we get are these mushy tweets from Mitt Romney who is now the Ben Sass of Jeff Flakes and that's all we're going to get. So good luck America.

CABRERA: Gentlemen, I really appreciate the conversation. Wajahat Ali and Tim Miller. Let's listen in to President Trump now.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Hello, everybody. How are you? Very good numbers, economically. The country is doing really well. We expect great things, and we have a lot of potential. A lot of way to go. We're the hottest economy now -- definitely, actually, for the last quite a bit, period of time.

[15:35:00] And I think we have tremendous potential for a lot of growth. Europe is not doing well. A lot of places are not doing very well; we're doing very well. So, I just want to let you know.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, Iran seized at least one oil tanker today with British oil. What is your reaction? Have they crossed the line? You said that would be a foolish thing to do.

TRUMP: Well, as you know, we have a very close alliance with the U.K., and we always have. We heard that. The United States has very few tankers going in because we're using our own energy now. We've made a lot of progress over the last two and half years. So we don't have very many tankers going in, but we have a lot of ships there that are war ships. And we'll talk to the U.K. And we have no written agreement, but we have an agreement. They've been a very great ally of ours.

So, we heard about it. We heard it was one, we heard it was two. And we'll be working with the U.K. They'll have a new Prime Minister soon, which is a good thing. And we'll be working with the U.K. But we have no written agreement, but I think we have an agreement which is longstanding.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, thank you very much. It's clear you are standing by your tweet about going back to the original country. How would you feel if somebody asked the first lady to go back to her country? And what has she said to you about the chant, the tweet, about this entire episode?

TRUMP: Yes. If you go back in to the four Congresswomen, the things they've said about our country are terrible. What they've said about Israel are just terrible. I don't know -- I can't say for sure -- but certainly a lot of people say they hate our country. And I think it's a disgrace what they've said. I think you can't talk that way about the United States.

So I think, frankly, to say that about Israel -- you know, we just gave the embassy in Jerusalem, making Jerusalem the capital of Israel. I just gave Golan Heights -- recognized Golan Heights for Israel. I've done all of this for Israel. And then you have these people -- I think that Omar -- I find it hard to believe -- but I hear Omar today put in, or yesterday put in a sanctions bill against Israel, and other things beyond sanctions. So, when I hear that, you just can't talk about our country that way. And when people are angry at them, I fully understand them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, (inaudible) political feud that you're having with Congresswoman Omar and the rest of those Democrats, is it a good thing politically for you? Or do you think it turns people off?

TRUMP: I don't know if it's good or bad politically. I don't care. But when people are speaking so badly, when they call our country "garbage" -- think of that. That's worse than "deplorable." When they call our country "garbage," I don't care about politics. I don't care if it's good or bad about politics. Many people say it's good. I don't know if it's good or bad. I can tell you this: You can't talk that way about our country, not when I'm the President.

So I think they've said horrible things, and they're anti-Semitic. And if you look at the kind of statements they've made about Israel, it's a disgrace.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, they have a First Amendment rights to say what they want about our country. That's what the Constitution guarantees. Do you see not agreeing with you as the same thing as hating the country, sir?

TRUMP: Yes, they have First Amendment rights but that doesn't mean I'm happy about them saying. And when they say bad things about us, we can certainly feel -- and again, we have First Amendment rights also -- we can certainly feel what and say what we want.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you mean one or two sanctions this evening?

TRUMP: Say it, Steve.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you mean one or two sanctions this evening? What are you talking about -- an agreement with the U.K.? Is that like a mutual defense agreement?

TRUMP: So we're going to be speaking with the U.K. And this only goes to show what I'm saying about Iran, trouble. Nothing but trouble. And remember this, the agreement -- the ridiculous agreement made by President Obama expires in a very short period of time. It was a short-term agreement.

When you're dealing in countries, you have to deal in 50 years and 100 years. You don't deal in the short term. That was a ridiculous agreement. And it goes to show you I was right about Iran. And let's see what happens. But I know that it's not an American ship, it's U.K. I guess it could be one, could be two. And we'll be speaking to them. They have a new Prime Minister coming soon, and that's a good thing for the U.K.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, in the past, you said --

TRUMP: Go ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In the past, you've said that America is the "laughingstock of the world," that you don't believe in American exceptionalism. Why is it OK for you to criticize America but not the Democratic Congresswomen?

[15:40:01] TRUMP: I believe all people are great people. I believe everyone is great. But I love our country, and I'm representing our country. And people can't --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But you've criticized our country in the past yourself, Mr. President.

TRUMP: -- go around speaking about our country and saying "garbage." This is the greatest country in the world. We now have the strongest military by far. We had a depleted military when I took over. We spent $716 billion last year, $700 billion the year before. We have a great, powerful military. More powerful than we've ever had before. We have the greatest economy on Earth. Not even close.

You can't speak about our country the way those four Congresswomen -- they said, "garbage." They say things about Israel that's so bad I'm not even going to repeat them right now. They can't get away with that act. Not the right (inaudible).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, are you trying to backtrack on disavowing the chant of "send her back," by saying that these are "incredible patriots" that were chanting?

TRUMP: These women have said horrible things about our country and the people of our country. Nobody should be able to do that. And if they want to do that, that's up to them. But I can't imagine they're going to do very well at the polls. And I say this, if the Democrats want to embrace people that hate our country, people that are far -- so far-left that nobody has even seen anything like it, if they want to embrace people that are so anti-Semitic and anti-Israel, if they want to do that, that's up to them. But I don't have to do that.

I think what they say and what they've said is a disgrace to them, to the Democrats, and, frankly, to our country.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, why did you have a falling out with Jeffrey Epstein? You said you hadn't talked to him in 10, 15 years.

TRUMP: A long time ago, yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why not?

TRUMP: Fifteen years ago, I had a falling out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What happened? Why did you have a falling out?

TRUMP: Well, I didn't get along with him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President --

TRUMP: Wait, wait.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- can you explain why you were on the phone with Michael Cohen in October of 2015 -- with Michael and Hope? Why were you on a phone call? What was that about?

TRUMP: I don't really know. I'd have to look into it. That's a long time ago.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you in favor of banning plastic straws?

TRUMP: I do think we have bigger problems than plastic straws. You know, it's interesting about plastic straws. So, you have a little straw, but what about the plates, the wrappers, and everything else that are much bigger and they're made of the same material? So, the straws are interesting. Everybody focuses on the straws. There's a lot of other things to focus on. But it's an -- it's an interesting question.

Go ahead. Talk up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Secretary Mnuchin just did a phone call with his Chinese counterpart. So how did the phone call go? And will you send him to China to talk?

TRUMP: Secretary Mnuchin did have a call with the Chinese counterpart. They had a very good talk. We'll see what happens. We're dealing with China. We're doing very well. They are not doing very well. They had the worst year they've had in 27 years. And we're having the best year we ever had. So we're doing well. But let's see what happens.

And our farmers are doing very well because I've taken some of the billions of dollars of tariffs that we collect from China. We collect billions and billions of dollars of fees and tariffs, and I gave it to our farmers.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What did the first lady and Ivanka advise you about the chant? I know you guys talked about it and --

TRUMP: False information. It was fake news.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You never talked about it with her?

TRUMP: Nope. We -- I talked about it, but they didn't advise me. They told me, but I didn't --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm sorry. What did they say? What did they tell you?

TRUMP: By the way, what you're saying -- fake news.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What did they tell --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Rand Paul -- what does Rand Paul want to do for you on Iran? Or what do you want him to do?

TRUMP: Well, Rand is a friend of mine, but I have, really, 53 very good friends, and they're in the Senate. I also have a lot of friends -- you saw that the other day when they brought a ridiculous vote up, and only four Republicans out of hundreds voted against. So I have a lot of great friends. I'm 94 percent in the Republican Party approval rating.

Rand is a friend of mine. And Rand asked me if he could get involved. The answer is yes. And if other Senators ask me to get involved, I'd probably say yes depending on who they were. We'll see what happens. But I have many people involved. And Iran is going to work out very nicely. Iran is showing their colors. It's going to work out very nicely. Iran is in big trouble right now. Their economy is crashing. It's coming to a crash.

They're trying to bring soldiers back home because they can't pay them. A lot of bad things are happening to them. And it's very easy to straighten out or it's very easy for us to make it a lot worse.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, thank you. The chant, "Send her home," is it racist to you?

TRUMP: Say it?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The chant, "Send her home" --

[15:45:02] TRUMP: No, you know what's racist to me? When somebody goes out and says the horrible things about our country -- the people of our country -- that are anti-Semitic, that hate everybody, that speak with scorn and hate. That, to me, is really a very dangerous thing.

I think these four Congresswomen -- and I could say some worse than others -- but if you look at the statements they've made, when they call the people of our country and our country "garbage," when they hit Israel the way they've hit Israel so hard, so horrible -- I think, to me, that's a disgrace. And we should never forget it. We're dealing with people that hate our country.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, are you going to watch -- are you going to watch Mueller, Mr. President? Do you plan on watching the Mueller testimony?

TRUMP: No, I don't. I don't.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And are you concerned about -- Democrats have said they're going to try to --

TRUMP: Let me tell you. They had an impeachment vote the other day. Just a big waste of time. It's a disgrace. No other President should ever have to go through it. And the vote was a totally lopsided vote with many Democrats voting in favor. As far as I'm concerned, they already took their impeachment vote. And the impeachment vote was so lopsided, it was a -- it was a massive victory. And you know what? At some point, they have to stop playing games because they're just playing games. No, I won't be watching Muller.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, a follow-up. Your initiative called "Prosper Africa" was launched. And I have the opportunity to speak to with many African leaders. They say that's a good opportunity --

TRUMP: Good.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- for African countries to engage more --

TRUMP: Right.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- and work with the United States. But the President of Zimbabwe, he said that because of the sanctions that U.S. imposed on Zimbabwe, they cannot -- it will be hard for them to work with you guys.

TRUMP: We're looking at Zimbabwe right now. Go ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, did the first lady approve your tweets about the Congresswomen?

TRUMP: The first lady feels very strongly about our country. The first lady thinks that it's horrible what they've said about Israel and horrible what they've said about our country -- these Congresswomen. They can't call our country and our people "garbage." They can't be anti-Semitic. They can't talk about "evil Jews," which is what they say: "evil Jews." That's what the first lady (inaudible).

CABRERA: OK, let's go to Abby Phillip at the White House there, the President was just gearing up for his weekend trip to New Jersey to spend the weekend in Bedminster at his golf course. Two big topics there, Abby, Iran seizing two oil tankers and once again, attacking four Congresswomen of color. Defending his own racist attacks saying, you can't talk that way about our country. Abby, so he's allowed to complain about the country but they aren't?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly my question to him today, was given that he is focusing so much on their comments, criticizing America, I asked him about his comments. Criticizing America, he said he doesn't believe in American exceptionalism, he said America is the laughingstock of the world, why can he criticize America but others can't. And frankly Ana, he did not answer the question, he didn't answer virtually any question that was asked to him about this topic.

He kept returning to his effort to paint these women as unacceptable, these lawmakers as unacceptable. And to paint the Democratic party with that same brush. He deflected all kinds of questions about, for example, one of my colleagues over at CBS asked the President, what if Melania Trump who was not born in the United States -- was told to go back to her country. The President didn't answer that question either.

So I think what we saw here today was President Trump doubling down on his strategy of trying to paint these four lawmakers in the squad, as anti-Semitic and socialist and critical of America. But he's not willing to answer questions about the racist history behind his attacks on them when he said go back to your country, the President isn't answering any questions about that issue at all.

He's ready to pivot. And frankly, even though yesterday he tried to distance himself from his supporters, today he was asked multiple times if he would what he would tell his supporters about that chant. The President refused to address it at all. It seems very much that he is no longer willing to even disavow the chant that broke out at his campaign rally on Wednesday night, like he did yesterday.

CABRERA: OK, Abby Phillips at the White House for us, thank you, let's go to Barbara Starr now with new information on these two Iranian seizures, of two different tankers. Barbara, what are you learning?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ana, U.S. officials now really are assessing that this was a preplanned very well coordinated operation by Iranian forces seizing two commercial tankers just half an hour apart, two incidents, 30 minutes apart.

[15:50:04] One in the Straits of Hormuz and one inside the Persian Gulf. One is known to be a British tanker, and the other one we're still trying to determine the exact ownership and flagging of that commercial tanker.

Both at this hour are said to be inside Iranian waters after they were boarded by small Iranian armed boats and directed into those Iranian waters. But there is -- a lot more to this story that is unfolding hour by hour. We are also told at this hour there is a U.S. cargo ship moving through this region and because of the great concern that has really escalated about Iranian provocations, that U.S. ship, the military is not willing to say exactly where it is of course for its own safety.

But that ship, there are armed aircraft overhead keeping an eye on that ship, monitoring its transit through this region of water. And of course they want to do everything they can to keep their eyes on it, but not divulge too much information to keep it safe, nonetheless, they want the Iranians to know they are watching them. Right now the British government has not yet asked for any U.S.

military assistance in this matter we're told.

But, in fact, the U.S. military has a number of surveillance aircraft overhead in international air space in the Gulf region, not in Iranian air space, and they are also monitoring the situation trying to keep an eye on exactly what is happening. So you know to say tensions are high at the moment would be possibly an understatement because the concern obviously is the safety of the massive cargo shipping market that moves through this area -- Ana.

CABRERA: Right, Barbara Starr, thank you. And as the President was just leaving for his weekend retreat to New Jersey, he did mention the close alliance the U.S. and the U.K. have as the situation is obviously developing. Much more on these two breaking stories, these fast-moving situations. This is CNN's special live coverage. I'm Ana Cabrera, you're watching CNN.

[15:55:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CABRERA: Today, American astronauts, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins were invited to the White House to mark the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 landing on the moon. The President welcomed them as he talked about the next phase of U.S. space travel.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Considered one of the great achievements ever. And we're going a lot further now. We're going to the moon but we're then going to Mars, and I think very importantly and all of you folks know that from a standpoint of defense it is so important. We're going to be doing the space force. I assume you guys are all in favor of the space force, right? I would be very surprised if you weren't but that is where it is at.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: CNN business innovation and space correspondent Rachel Crane is covering the anniversary of the moon landing at Johnson Space Center in Houston. Rachel, how is NASA celebrating this big moment?

RACHEL CRANE, CNN BUSINESS INNOVATION AND SPACE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ana, it is important to remember that of course the moon landing was an American victory. But it really was a victory for all of humanity. So there are people all over the globe celebrating this 50th anniversary here at Johnson Space Center, people from over 45 countries have gathered to participate in celebrations, in concerts and galas. So there is a bevy of activity here to commemorate this 50th anniversary. Ana, let's talk about the incredible rocket behind me.

Now this is the Saturn Five. It's the type of rocket that flew all of the Apollo missions and of course brought Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong to the moon nearly 50 years ago and it is an incredible beast of a rocket. Truly an engineering feat in and of itself.

When it is standing upright, of course, right now it is on the side, it is over 35 stories tall. When fully fueled up it weighs over 6 million pounds and had over 7 million pounds of thrust.

So really just an incredible, incredible rocket. They are no longer flying. But, Ana, as you just heard the President say, there are new plans to go to the moon, the Artemis program, they have sped up the timeline from 2028 to 2024. They plan to not to just put a man on the moon, but also a woman. So if all goes as planned, that will be plenty to celebrate soon -- Ana.

CABRERA: Wow. That is quite the setup they have there. And is this going to stay in place for a while, Rachel? We are only have a few seconds but I'm curious how long it will be there for people to come visit.

CRANE: Well, this Saturn Five has been on display for decades now, Ana. It is one of three that's still on display for the public to see but have been tons of people coming to pay homage today. But it will be here for many years to come.

CABRERA: Wonderful, Rachel Crane, thank you. Don't miss the CNN film "APOLLO 11" with newly discovered footage of the moon landing. That is tonight -- or rather Sunday night -- tomorrow night, excuse me, at 9 Eastern here on CNN. "THE LEAD" with Jake Tapper

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