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House Dems Plan to Focus on Obstruction, Russian Connections During Mueller's Testimony; Joe Biden, Kamala Harris To Face Off Again in Debate; Dangerous Heat Wave Grips Much of U.S.; Trump Tries to Distance Himself from 'Send Her Back' Chants. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired July 19, 2019 - 06:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: The roster is now set for CNN's two-night Democratic presidential debate.

[05:59:23] GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Who's best able to take on Donald Trump? People will be judging them by that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A real ideological difference will be on display. The stakes are really high.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Send her back! Send her back! Send her back!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Send her back! Send her back! Send her back!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Send her back! Send her back! Send her back!

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They started speaking very quickly. I disagree with it.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): The president did not name the individual. He said, if you do not like this country, you can leave.

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT): He allowed the chant to continue. He owns that chant.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY. It is Friday, July 19, 6 a.m. here in New York. What a week we've had.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: It's only been a week?

CAMEROTA: And it's only just beginning to be Friday.

BERMAN: I know.

CAMEROTA: So to begin with, we have breaking news for you. CNN has learned the game plan for House Democrats to get the most out of their time with Special Counsel Robert Mueller when he testifies before Congress next week.

Their strategy is to focus on five episodes of potential obstruction of justice by President Trump as laid out in the Mueller report. Democrats also plan to press Mueller on the contacts the Trump orbit had with Russia and WikiLeaks.

So we have all the reporting, and we will lay it out for you.

BERMAN: Also this morning, we're getting remarkable new reporting about what caused the president to try to distance from the "Send her back" chants at his rally in North Carolina, the ones he paused to allow and, yes, he is clearly and demonstrably lying when he claims he tried to stop the chants.

But we're learning the inside story behind the attempted retreat involves Ivanka Trump, the vice president, senior Republicans in Congress, and there's even one report, the first lady.

Also, we have a rematch. The lineups are set for the CNN debates. Former Vice President Joe Biden will share the stage with Senator Kamala Harris again. Will he be ready this time?

The other night, Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, they go head to head. That will be interesting.

We're going to begin this morning, though, with our exclusive reporting on what Democrats are planning for Robert Mueller when he testifies on Capitol Hill.

Lauren Fox has all these new details for us. Lauren, what have you learned?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right, John. A big week ahead and Democrats really banking on the fact that this shifts public opinion.

Now, the House Judiciary Committee planning to focus on five areas of alleged obstruction of justice, including the president telling Don McGahn to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller, as well as Trump telling McGahn to deny publicly that he told him to fire Mueller; Trump telling Corey Lewandowski to tell the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, to limit the investigation, and telling Lewandowski to tell Sessions he could be fired if he didn't; as well as alleged witness tampering of Paul Manafort, the president's former campaign chairman, and others.

The House Intelligence Committee, they're going to focus on contacts with Russians and WikiLeaks.

And Republicans and Democrats haven't been wasting any time behind the scenes. They've held separate mock hearings, trying to prepare for how they're going to script questions and question Robert Mueller.

And as one Judiciary Committee aide told my colleagues, Manu Raju and Jeremy Herb, quote, "I have been involved in a hundred hearings, and we have never prepared for one the way we have prepared for this one." So obviously, a lot riding on next week as House Democrats are hoping

that this shifts public opinion in a way that the written Mueller report just couldn't -- John and Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Lauren, thank you so much for all that reporting and previewing it for us just now.

So let's talk about it and so much more. Joining us are Errol Louis, CNN political commentator. We also have Frank Bruni, CNN contributor and opinion columnist for "The New York Times"; and Carrie Cordero, CNN legal analyst and former counsel to the U.S. assistant attorney general.

So it's very interesting to see how they are tackling this, Errol. You know? They've been busy behind the scenes, it turns out, these different committees. Because they're having these mock hearings, where somebody is playing Robert Mueller, and they're trying to figure out exactly their strategy for how to elicit something out of him, because you know, he's pretty stone-faced when it comes to sharing things.

So I'll just pull up the full screen one more time. Here's what they plan to highlight in the Judiciary. The time that he told McGahn to fire Mueller. The time that he told McGahn to publicly deny that he told him to fire Mueller. Telling Corey Lewandowski to tell the attorney general, Sessions, to limit the investigation. Telling Corey Lewandowski to tell Sessions that if he does not meet with Lewandowski, the president will fire him. And then alleged witness tampering of Manafort, Cohen, and others.

ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, it sounds like a great idea. I get a queasy feeling about it, I've got to be honest with you.

What they're trying to do, which makes some sense, is to try and bring the public along. They know that most people didn't read through the Mueller report. They know that most people don't necessarily get into the nuances, the back and forth. What did the president do? Is it illegal, and so forth. Can he be held accountable for it?

On the other hand, most hearings, if you've ever sat through one, are deadly dull. And I -- I certainly appreciate them attempting to sort of really make it more palatable to people. I just don't know if it's going to work. You know, because there are going to be a lot of people in this modern age outside of the room. This isn't Watergate. This isn't 1972. This isn't 1974.

This is -- this is going to be all kinds of tweets that are happening. The president might get involved. The people who are aligned with the president might get involved. The Republicans on the committee are going to try and disrupt everything that they try to do. It's going to be really, I think, quite a spectacle.

BERMAN: They have a game plan, though. At least they're trying to make it seem like they have a game plan, and they are rehearsing, which is something new. I haven't seen that from members of Congress before, before a hearing. I can't remember the last time that happened.

[06:05:05] Carrie, the interesting thing to me, that list that Alisyn called for a second ago is very interesting. But also the notion that the Democrats will ask Robert Mueller the question, "If an ordinary citizen had engaged in these activities, would he be indicted?"

Because that's the big question here. That may be the singular question here. But how will Robert Mueller answer it?

CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I mean, that is the big question, is how he'll answer that question, John. All indications based on his public statement so far is that he may not answer that question. He didn't answer the question in the report. He said that, based on a doctrine of fairness, and because a president can't be indicted, for those reasons they would not make the recommendation in the report. And he has said publicly that he is not going to go beyond what is in the report.

So the question is, is No. 1, are they going to really ask that direct question and risk him saying, "I'm not answering the question. I'm not drawing the conclusion"?

Or are they going to simply go through the different specific acts of obstruction that you guys have listed that they've released and then say, "OK. Well, then this is the information that the committee has to make a decision as to whether they're going to open an impeachment hearing."

I think they have to ask the question. You know, we'll see whether or not he goes anything beyond the report. So far, it looks like he won't.

BERMAN: One more thing.

CORDERO: But you never know in a live hearing at the time.

BERMAN: One more thing, Carrie, that I find interesting and perhaps clever, if the Democrats really are going to do this. The fact that -- put up P-101 again -- the fact that several of the questions in areas they want to hone in on deal with Corey Lewandowski, to me. That might be clever, because it -- Corey Lewandowski is one of the few people who can't claim any kind of privilege at all. If Democrats want him to testify, he has to. He never worked in the White House, period.

So if they can get more color surrounding him, that might provide them with some opportunities later on.

CORDERO: It is -- he is someone that could potentially come in and wouldn't be subject to any other privileges, but I tend to think that, if they were going to do that, they should have done it first.

It's going to be hard to overcome whatever happens in Bob Mueller's hearing. I think that the Mueller hearing is the one that is either going to change minds; both among Democrats on the committee and, potentially, if there's -- if there's one or two Republicans who are thinking about it, whether or not to authorize an impeachment inquiry going forward.

I have a hard time seeing that they, you know, might draw out a little bit more information about Lewandowski. And then we'll see what happens if he comes and testifies. I think this is the big decision maker in this hearing.

CAMEROTA: Frank, we've got to move on, but very quickly, will these hearings reanimate the Russia scandal for Americans?

FRANK BRUNI, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I'm doubtful because of the distance of these hearings from when the report came out and from when the attorney general did such masterful spin for the president.

BERMAN: The rematch.


BERMAN: Vice President Joe Biden, Senator Kamala Harris. There was a big draw on CNN last night you might have seen.

CAMEROTA: I did. It was so -- our colleagues who did this. Brianna Keilar, Victor Blackwell, Ana Cabrera were so -- It was so exciting, actually, to watch it. And they were masterful in how they did it without screwing it up, as I might have, actually.

BERMAN: Exactly. And the Knicks still aren't getting Zion Williamson. Even after this draw. That's not happening.


BERMAN: Frank, the rematch. How big of a deal is this for the former vice president, facing Senator Kamala Harris again? What does he need to do?

BRUNI: Well, I mean, it's everything. It's an enormous deal. What he needs to do is not seem so hapless, you know, and surprised and meek, as he did last time.

But I think it's a really tough debate for Joe Biden. Because if he goes after Kamala Harris, I don't think that's a good look for him. But if he is as passive as he was in the first debate, I think the questions that have been raised about him are going to intensify. So I think it's a huge debate for him.

But, you know, it's a huge debate for her, too. Everyone was so excited, was so taken, noticed in such a big way that moment. How does she follow that up? How does she do that again?

And then, of course, on the other night, I think almost as interesting is what happens between senators Warren and Sanders. They are going after many of the same voters. A lot of voters don't understand the distinctions between them, and that is going to be very, very interesting to watch.

CAMEROTA: Errol, what do you see in these lineups? LOUIS: It's going to be interesting to see that -- in that second

panel, what the other candidates do. Everybody's going to want a Kamala Harris moment. Cory Booker is not going to stand there idly, you know. Bill de Blasio is not going to stand there at the end and hope that he gets a chance to speak up.

I think there's going to be a lot of back and forth. There are going to be a lot of people trying to stage those moments, because it paid off so handsomely for her. People are going to say, "Look, if I come in with a designated target, a great line of rhetoric, a line of questioning that's going to lead me right to this point and if I can get them to break format just a little bit, I can have a Kamala Harris moment and then raise millions of dollars."

CAMEROTA: And they're practicing for that. Right? Aren't they?

LOUIS: I'm sure they are. I'm sure they are.

BERMAN: You, sir, are no Kamala Harris. Someone's going to try to say that, I'm sure. By the way, if they butt in, though, they get their time docked and they lose candy (ph). There are new rules.

[06:10:05] LOUIS: That's new. I've done dozens and dozens of debates. I've never heard of that. It's going to be interesting to see.

BERMAN: Does Elizabeth Warren differentiate herself from Bernie Sanders, Frank?

BRUNI: You mean has she or will she? BERMAN: Will she? What happens there?

BRUNI: I think she will, but -- but I don't think people understand exactly what the differences are.

I mean, I think Bernie Sanders is to the left of Elizabeth Warren. And I think there are a lot of people who think she'd be a better general election candidate. And I think one of the best things she can do for herself in this debate is quiet some of the concerns about whether she would be a good general election candidate, whether she has just enough moderation in her, just a little bit enough of the center in her, to go onto that -- to that phase of the contest.

I think if I were her, that's what I would be trying to do. But of course, the temptation is just to kind of squabble over the most progressive wing of the party.

CAMEROTA: All right. Frank, Errol, Carrie, thank you very much.

BERMAN: So this morning a dangerous and potentially deadly heat wave. About 2/3 of the country will suffer temperatures of 95 degrees or higher over the next few days.

CNN meteorologist Chad Myers with the forecast -- Chad.

CHAD MYERS, CNN AMS METEOROLOGIST: You showed the lid just like putting a lid on a pot, John. It is going to be hot. The heat and humidity will not be able to go up into the atmosphere because of this heat dome. And we have millions and millions, over a hundred million people in this warning area.

Feels like this afternoon 117 in Kansas City. It felt like 114 in Omaha. And the heat now is to the northeast.

New York, you had a good day yesterday, but it is not so good today. Feels like 98. Get away from or into the cities, your temperatures are going to feel more like 105.

Twenty or more cities will break record highs today, record highs. Not even heat index. When you add in the heat, it's going to feel like 105 in New York for tomorrow. And we're going to push 110 in Washington, D.C., for this weekend. A lot of festivities going on in D.C. this weekend.

But good news at the end of the tunnel. There is cooler air coming in next week. It is much cooler, to the tune of 20 degrees feel like temperature cooler. We'll take that. But just get through the next couple, because it's going to be a very hot and dangerous weekend in places.

CAMEROTA: Everybody needs to be careful. Thank you very much, Chad.


MYERS: You're welcome.

CAMEROTA: Ivanka Trump, the vice president, even reportedly the first lady, Melania, all connected to the president's retreat over the "Send her back" chants. So we have the inside scoop for you on how this went down, what they said to him. Maggie Haberman from "The New York Times" joins us next.


[06:17:00] BERMAN: This morning new details on the anatomy of a retreat. President Trump stood at the podium for 13 seconds as a crowd chanted "send her back" directed at Somali-born Congresswoman Ilhan Omar. But as more Republicans expressed concern, the president is now trying to claim that he did not support the crowd's chant.


TRUMP: I think I did. I started speaking very quickly. It really was a loud -- I disagree with it, by the way. But it was quite a chant. And I felt a little bit badly about it. But I will say this. I did -- and I started speaking very quickly.


BERMAN: He didn't. He didn't start speaking very quickly. That's not true. That's a lie. He didn't try to stop the chants. That's a lie, if you look at the video. We'll show it to you in a second. But more importantly, we have some new reporting on how it came to

pass that the president backed off like he did, because it's very interesting.

Joining us now, Maggie Haberman, White House correspondent for "The New York Times." And Maggie, you're part of the team in "The New York Times," writing how this came to be. The president sort of buckled to some pressure? What happened here?

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: He did. Except remember: I just think it's really important to underscore that we've seen him do these kinds of retreats repeatedly over the last not just two and a half years but three and a half years, four years. And then it allows everybody to read into what he said, exactly what they want to hear.

In this case, this has been going on for several days. The chant was the culmination of it. And you had a couple of people, including the vice president, who was hearing an earful from Republicans; including Ivanka Trump; including a couple of other top aides after the chant, who said something to the president. So you know, he said what he said. And they were expressing to him that this was becoming problematic.

His top White House officials were hearing from Republican elected officials and other allies of the administration, saying this is a problem. This one is not going away. You're going to have to deal with it.

Others in the president's orbit have been trying to talk to him about this since the tweet. Among the people who had told him this going to be a problem was Dan Scavino, Kellyanne Conway, a couple of others who had said they didn't like the tweet, and they thought this was too far.

The president was supposed to start walking this back, as I understand it from sources, on Monday; and he didn't. He refused to say anything. He stuck with it. He doesn't like admitting a mistake. He doesn't like walking something back.

You had White House officials trying to make clear to other advisers, political advisors, "Don't say this is a strategy. This is not part of a strategy. This is just -- this is something that happened."

Others decided to embrace this as, "Yes, this is what we were intending to do." And so you have had this sort of multifaceted mess that is very reminiscent of the types of things we saw in the 2016 campaign.

CAMEROTA: Part of what's complicated is that President Trump likes this. He believes this. He wouldn't have said this if he didn't believe it. He does think they should go back to where they came from. He's said it more than once. He's said it convincingly.

And so getting him to then disavow it is where there's all this cognitive dissonance, of what does he really fee? How does he -- It's very -- it's hard to believe him now. HABERMAN: Because of -- because of this one thing? It was easy

before this?

CAMEROTA: I mean --

[06:20:04] HABERMAN: I think that -- look. I think that you have the president -- we were being told first when he did this tweet -- I don't know what's in his heart. Right? None of us do. However, we do know what was on his Twitter feed. Not just that one time but several times. He went on to say a version of that again a couple of times, even as aides, including the rapid response person for the Trump campaign was frantically tweeting on Sunday, "Reporters are lying who say that's what he said." And then he went on, and he said it again.

So I mean, this is, again, a pattern we have seen over and over again where people try to publicly defend him, and then he just basically throws them under the bus.

What he, I think, does believe, just to speak to what is in his -- in his mind, he does think that The Squad is -- these four congresswomen are a good target for him, particularly Congresswoman Omar. He sees her as a useful foil.

However, what his advisers have said to him over and over is "Just let their words speak for themselves. Don't do it in this way," which is ugly and which is just not how a sitting president should be talking about a congresswoman, four congresswomen, let alone citizens of this country.

BERMAN: Very quickly, because we haven't show it, let's play the video so you can see for yourselves how the president did not step in to quiet the crowd at all, least of all quickly.


TRUMP: Omar has a history of launching vicious anti-Semitic screeds.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Send her back! Send her back! Send her back! Send her back! Send her back! Send her back! Send her back! Send her back!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Send her back! Send her back! Send her back! Send her back! Send her back! Send her back! Send her back! Send her back!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Send her back! Send her back! Send her back! Send her back! Send her back! Send her back! Send her back! Send her back!


BERMAN: He pauses, he nods. He glances. He waits until it dies down itself, and he starts talking again. So he's lying when he says he stepped in to stop it there. Be that as it may, what's interesting to me here, Maggie, is that is

this evidence -- Republicans often say, "Well, there's nothing we can do. He's going to do what he's going to do here. There's nothing we can do to stop him."

Well, enough leaders spoke up. His daughter, according to her, whoever else is speaking on her behalf, spoke up; maybe even the first lady, according to CBS News. So people can perhaps shape his behavior if enough start saying something.

HABERMAN: They can shape it for a moment. But I mean, I don't know how much durability this has. They did get him to do something, but again, I think we have seen this cycle over and over again. He is mostly going to do what he wants, and he is always going to push things to see what he can get away with for as long as possible. And he pushed this to see what he could get away with, and there was enough pushback that he moved.

But that's moving for this moment. That's not -- you're not changing him. I mean, I think we tend to treat these moments as if they're in isolation. In reality, this is a wash-rinse-repeat cycle that we have been doing since 2016.

BERMAN: And tomorrow he's going to say his voice is not on the "Access Hollywood" tape.

HABERMAN: I mean --

BERMAN: That's -- ends up being what this will be.

HABERMAN: There is -- there is a version, repeatedly, of him telling us that we are not seeing what we are seeing. And with what he did yesterday, it allows Republicans to say, "See? He walked it back."

While his supporters will say, "See? He didn't say anything at that rally." And people will hear where they want to hear.

CAMEROTA: Before we award Mike Pence and Ivanka Trump a profile in courage for -- for talking to him, it was until -- it wasn't until Thursday. This happened -- the tweet happened on Sunday.

HABERMAN: They may have talked to him before that. I don't know the specifics of that.

CAMEROTA: Maybe. Do you --

HABERMAN: But the chant was, I think, a moment that -- that most people around the president realized was going to get very bad very quickly.

CAMEROTA: And I'm just very interested in what their line is. It was very interesting to have Anthony Scaramucci on NEW DAY yesterday. That there, apparently, is a line where enough is enough for some people.

Anthony Scaramucci, you know, he speaks to the TV, telegraphing to the president what he wants to say to him, if he can't speak directly. And he was basically using this metaphor of a glacier where a piece of it was breaking off. And he kept repeating that, trying to say that a piece of support was breaking off for him.

And then President Trump changed his tone a little bit on this.


CAMEROTA: And so we did see a piece of support breaking off, as you're reporting and as we're talking about. And so that was the line, I guess. The line is "Send her back"? That's what they couldn't tolerate after two years?

HABERMAN: I think the line keeps moving. And we're going to, I suspect we'll see the line move again. But for the moment, this was something that Republicans did not want to have to defend in their own districts.

And this was -- look. I do -- this is -- I understand that the president thinks this is good politics for him. And some people around him think that the overall fight with the congresswoman is good politics for him. And I think there are a lot of reasons why they think that.

What he did by just allowing that chant and with the tweet in the first place, but certainly, with the chant is -- how is that going to appeal to voters who rationalized voting for him last time on the idea that, "Well, he's just saying this stuff because it's a campaign?" I don't know that Americans want to feel like there is a president who is the arbiter of who's an American and who's not. And that's what he's been doing all week.

BERMAN: Maggie Haberman told me yesterday there was no swing vote strategy.


BERMAN: Someone named Maggie Haberman told me that yesterday, and I think that plays into this.

Michael Cohen. The Southern District of New York, we've learned, not going to press charges. Not likely want to do anything else in the case involving the hush-money payments to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal.

However, we did learn some new details. Just how many times President Trump spoke with Michael Cohen by telephone around the time that these payments were being discussed. And we know the FBI felt at the time it is likely that they were discussing these payments.

So it shines once again new -- or should I say more -- light on the president's clear lies about what he knew about this. And I'll remind people what he said on that airplane about these payments. Listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, did you know about the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels?

TRUMP: No. No.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why did did Michael -- why did Michael Cohen make this if there was no truth to her allegations?

TRUMP: Well, you'll have to ask Michael Cohen. Michael is my -- an attorney, and you'll have to ask Michael Cohen.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you know where he got the money to make that payment?

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


BERMAN: That does not appear to be true, Maggie. Which we knew, but again, we're learning it was such greater volume now.

HABERMAN: Right. Look, we don't know the content. To be clear, we don't know the contents of any of these conversations, either between Michael Cohen and Donald Trump, or between Michael Cohen and Hope Hicks and between the three of them. But the sheer volume of the number of phone calls that were going on around this.

And this was all spurred by the "Access Hollywood" tape. I think you saw Hope Hicks say last October that publicly -- either in her testimony or something, that this was the "Access Hollywood" tape. Maybe. And maybe that's certainly true on one level. But she's going to really have to clear up for Congress why what she said was true and why what Michael Cohen said is a different version.

Look, Michael Cohen, obviously, is sitting in a jail cell. He has had questions about his credibility for a while. But he is the only person who has been or will be charged in this issue. And it is just clear that he was far from the only person who was involved or even, you know, approving it.

CAMEROTA: And very quickly, the reason we know that is because we do have texts between Cohen and Hope Hicks.


CAMEROTA: And Hope Hicks, of course, as we know, was the president's top confidant during this time. So just quickly, to read it, this is actually in print. OK?

So the next morning on November 5, 2016, three days before the election at approximately 7:35 a.m., Cohen texted Hicks: "So far I see only six stories. Getting little to no traction." This is about Stormy Daniels.

Hicks responds, "Same. Keep praying!! It's working!" Exclamation point.

So that is how they were hoping to keep it from the voters. With prayer.

HABERMAN: Look. This is -- there -- there was a huge overdrive effort right after "Access Hollywood" to try to suppress these stories, to try to suppress, certainly, Stormy Daniels from talking. There were these other efforts to try to keep Karen McDougal's story out of the papers.

So it's not a surprise to me that they were thrilled to see that things were not taking off. But we do see how hard they were working to be dishonest when reporters were asking them questions about this.

CAMEROTA: Maggie Haberman, thank you very much.

BERMAN: High tension in the Middle East this morning. The United States brags about shooting down an Iranian drone. But the new Iranian response tells a much different story. So does this push the countries closer to conflict? That's next.