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QUEST MEANS BUSINESS

Iranian Revolutionary Guard Says It Has Seized A British Oil Tanker In The Strait Of Hormuz; Trump Renews Criticism of U.S. Congresswomen; CNN: Armed U.S. Aircraft Flies Over U.S. Commercial Ship. Aired 3-4p ET

Aired July 19, 2019 - 15:00   ET

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


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

RICHARD QUEST, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST, QUEST MEANS BUSINESS: And a good evening to you. I'm Richard quest in London. The breaking news that we

are following for you and will be for the foreseeable future, I suspect, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, the IRG says, it has seized a British oil

tanker in the Strait of Hormuz. One U.S. Defense official has so far confirmed the story to CNN.

The British say it is urgently seeking further information under Cobra meeting. That is a meeting of their government's Emergency Committee --

the Situation Room if you like -- has been convened.

Now, the ship's owner says it lost contact with the ship, the Stena Bulk and just so everybody know, 23 members of crew are on board, and they can

see it is now heading north towards Iran. If you look at a moving map, you can see it is underway at about 13 knots an hour towards Iran. It is a

significant escalation. Tensions are already running high.

Back on July the 4th, the U.K. seized an Iranian ship of the coast of Gibraltar. Iran's Supreme Leader this week called that a crime and a

vicious act and promised a response.

Bob Seely is with me -- the MP -- Conservative MP joins me now. Bob Seely, can you hear me?

BOB SEELY, BRITISH MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT, CONSERVATIVE PARTY (via phone): Hello. Yes, I can.

QUEST: I was listening very closely to what you were saying to Bianca just before the break at the top of the hour and this is -- this is an

escalation that it is very difficult to see a way out of since we now have, to use your words, a tit-for-tat of both sides having taken tankers.

SEELY: Yes, I think the British are in a bind here because in diplomatic terms, we've strongly sided with the French and the Germans over continuing

the Iran deal. And yet militarily, we are very closely tied with the U.S., especially in the Gulf where there are one or two destroyers now and as

well, several mine sweepers helping the U.S. fleet there.

So, it's clear that whilst Britain is also a target of the Iranians today, which has tried to widen the dispute to try to get resolution for it in

some way or another. At the same time, we are trying to be part of the problem here.

So, I think the British are in a bit of a tough situation, which has become significantly worse this evening.

QUEST: And it is never a good time to have this sort of crisis. But a particularly bad time as the British government seems like it is going to

transfer next week, the Prime Minister will be resigning and probably Boris Johnson, for the purposes of our discussion tonight, let's assume Boris

Johnson, the former Foreign Secretary, who has his own appalling relations with Iran.

SEELY: His relations -- well, his relations with Iran weren't great as Foreign Secretary, but I think you could say pretty much the same to every

U.K. Foreign Secretary. They've had difficult and complicated relationship with Iran, however much we wanted to improve it.

The problem is when dealing with Iran, you're dealing with competing factions within that state, and I think it's noticeable that it's the

Iranian Revolutionary Guard that's making statements this evening. And it seems clear to me certainly at first reading that it is them who are behind

this escalation of the crisis because elements of the Iranian State and certainly the IRG want to try to widen this dispute as quickly as possible.

QUEST: When you say they want to widen this dispute, I mean, there are numerous tentacles to it. Obviously, there's the JCPOA, which is

underneath it all and the issue of Europe and Iran maintaining something even with the U.S., but what do you mean by widen this dispute?

SEELY: I think to put it very simply, the renewed American sanctions are already hurting the Iranians, and the Iranians -- all those making the

decisions now are saying this is going to cause us so much pain, we're going to try to inflict that pain elsewhere.

So, it hasn't happened yet, but there are threats of a tanker war. There are -- there's the potential for Iran to use its many proxies in the region

to heat up conflict. So, the Houthis in Yemen, Hezbollah, Hamas, their respective groups in Syria and Iraq as well.

QUEST: But, Bob, when we look at those tankers that have been damaged, Saudis and the like, the Iranians are said to have been behind this or

proxies of the Iranians behind it, but there's a world of difference between a guerrilla attack on a tanker with limpet mines and the Iranians

actually taking over a vessel which would require considerable military force if -- and I say if -- because I think it's unlikely there was to be

an attempt to retake it.

[15:05:12] SEELY: Well, this is a hostage. They're taking a hostage and the hostage they're taking is a British flagged tanker and they're doing

this either in response to the seizing of Grace 1 by the Marines and it is holding in Gibraltar because that was allegedly legally going to be

supplying oil in Syria or they may be doing it for just that reason, or they may be doing it to widen the tension in the Gulf now, because they

want to bring this conflict or this state of affairs, which is damaging to Iran to a head.

QUEST: Bob, finally, and thank you for giving us time, because I know you'll be wanting to make your own calls since you are a Member of the

Foreign Committee, but Bob was all this entirely foreseeable once the British through Gibraltar had seized the Grace and for alleged smuggling.

Was it absolutely obvious -- bearing in mind what the Ayatollah said that there would be a hostage attempt, and if anything, maybe the coalition

should have been more assiduous in protecting British vessels?

SEELY: Hindsight is a really easy thing to use, nothing is ever obvious. But it became significantly more likely when after the vessel was seized.

I think it was the right to do to seize the vessel, but clearly it was seen as a hostile act by the Iranians, and this is the response.

QUEST: Bob Seely, thank you, sir, for giving us time. If you get more intelligence and information that you think you can share, please do come

back. We'd love to talk to you more. Thank you, sir. It's appreciated.

David Culver of CNN is with us. Good evening, David.

DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Richard.

QUEST: So, what do we know? What do we know about this vessel first for all? Let's start with what we know.

CULVER: All right, here's what we know as of now, and I think it's important to put this in context, Richard, when you put yourself in the

place of those who may have been on board this ship, the Stena Bulk that we're looking at right here, the Impero, and this is a moment of absolute

fear for those 23 crew members on board.

We know that this as you put was not a guerrilla attack. This was Iran and their military might with aircraft, we know a helicopter was used.

QUEST: Right. And this is coming from the company and they put out a statement.

CULVER: This is their statement.

QUEST: What do we have?

CULVER: So the Northern Marine Management, they're confirming this, they say that they were in touch with the vessel. They know it was heading

towards north towards Iran. And they say that, at one point they began to lose communication with that vessel, obviously, it is there in the Strait

of Hormuz. And they then learned shortly thereafter that it had been taken over by the Iranians.

And after that point, they say they had no longer had any communication with those on board. What's more important is they're also saying and it's

not clear how exactly they know this, Richard, and this is what I'm curious about, that there are no reported injuries as of now.

If they don't have contact with them, you've got to wonder if it's something that they are at this point just hopeful about or do in fact,

know. You know --

QUEST: Where's the ship headed now? Do we know? Is the ship underway? What do we know?

CULVER: As of now, we know that it is within the Strait of Hormuz, it's not clear where -- it is headed north. It's not clear where exactly it's

headed to at this moment. But here's where I go back to. And this is something that I covered back in 2009. And this was the Maersk Alabama.

Now that had to do obviously with pirates. It had to do in your words, with guerrilla, not with a country that was going forward with full

military naval might.

But I remember covering that and being in touch with many of the crew members after the fact and I just go back to the fear that many of them

shared in the moments that this was all going down and the unknown, the uncertainty, but put this into a greater context here because here we are

with a global uncertainty.

From the American side, you hear President Trump with rhetoric that many has seen just go as words on his end and yet now we're seeing action and

lives that are in the hands of the Iranians.

QUEST: The statement from the U.K. Chamber of Shipping says it unreservedly condemns the capture of the Stena Impero vessel in the Strait

of Hormuz. In a new statement, it adds, "The incident represents an escalation and demands enhanced security for merchant vessels in the

region."

Forgive me looking down while I read this because obviously it's just coming in at the moment. The U.K. Chamber of Shipping also calls on the

U.K. government to do whatever is necessary to ensure the safe return of the crew.

I want to show you this video from Iranian state TV just a few moments ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Iran's Islamic Revolution Guard Corps course says it has seized a British oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz. According to the

IRGC's official statement, the vessel's name is Stena Impero. It was seized for violating International Naval Regulations as it was passing the

strategic waterway. Press TV will update you as soon as we get more information.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[15:10:10] QUEST: Iranian state TV announcing that the IRG had captured, so now it's official. Well, we knew it was official. But you know what I

mean. Now, they're talking about it openly on Iranian English television for violating International Regulations.

Ramin Mostaghim is a reporter for "The Los Angeles Times." He is with me now via Skype from Tehran. What does that mean? I mean, is this the fig

leaf that is being used for what Bob Seely describes as hostage taking?

RAMIN MOSTAGHIM, REPORTER, THE LOS ANGELES TIMES (via Skype): It is, of course, Iran has a justification for that, because it says that our

supertanker, I mean, Iranian supertanker has been seized somewhere else in Gibraltar. And now, as long as it is, under the seizure of the British

authorities or Gibraltar's authorities, we reserve the right to do the same and retaliate.

And it means, the assumptions here for authority is that British government is in the biggest juncture of the history cannot do anything. They have

their own problem. They are in the quagmire of -- stuck in the quagmire of their own problems and American administration is not able to wage a war,

so sort of they have the guarantee that there won't be a war in the Persian Gulf.

So let's do the tit-for-tat, eye for an eye just to get our supertanker released. That is the perception here -- Richard.

QUEST: So, the end game, if you like, to put it crudely is the release of the Grace 1 in Gibraltar as some sort of negotiated settlement that would

see both sides releasing their tankers, but that could be some days or weeks away.

MOSTAGHIM: That's true. And it may take more than months because as long as we know, the Gibraltar authority have decided to keep one month -- 30

days more -- the Iranian supertanker, so it can't be more than one month. I mean, risky situation and brinkmanship, I mean, I can say brinkmanship

policy of Iran can go for months.

QUEST: Ramin, forgive me interrupting you, sir, but there's more breaking news. According to two U.S. officials, according to maritime intelligence,

another vessel, a second vessel has been detained by Iran's Revolutionary Guard. We think it is the Mesdar, which I am not -- forgive me if I've

mispronounced it.

Apparently the IRG announced it's taking the Stena Impero and we are hearing that the ordered -- the seizure of a second ship. Do you know

anything about a second tanker being detained?

MOSTAGHIM: No, no, no. Not yet proved -- I mean, confirmed by the Iranian authority yet. No. The first one has been officially announced and

confirmed by the IRGC Public Relation, but this one not yet. But we can expect that in a minute, we will have the confirmation of that and that

means worsening and deteriorating and escalating the already high tension in the Persian Gulf. And I think this is going to be a major incident, no

more minor issue then, as we expect.

And it was political, it was political from the beginning. Because an IRGC former Minister said so and so clear with that, frame it as a piracy. So

we should have expected this tit-for-tat policy.

QUEST: But where does the seat of power lie in all of this? Does it lie, obviously to some extent with the IRG, if they are responsible as they seem

to be today -- does it rest with the President who may be a victim of circumstance? Or is it with the Supreme Leader? Amongst these competing

factions, who is driving the bus?

MOSTAGHIM: I think the IRGC is driving and now I think that matters more - - I mean, more than anything else, and President Rouhani and everybody else in the authority -- top authority in play in the hands of IRGC now.

They take the initiative in the Persian Gulf. They don't care what the other says and they now, they suppose that they know how to, perhaps the

end game for all this escalation and they believe, I think they have somehow they have been convinced that there won't be a war, and American

administration and British government are unable to wage a war. That is the guarantee they feel they have whether it is an illusion or not, it's

not a matter. It means they're guaranteed there won't be a war.

[15:15:31] QUEST: Ramin, we are very grateful that you're talking to us this evening from Tehran from "The LA Times." Sir, when you have more

information, please come back particularly on this second ship if and when you hear the confirmation of that from the authorities. We will talk to

you immediately, but very grateful to you and we'll talk again shortly.

MOSTAGHIM: I will.

QUEST: There's never a good time -- there's never a good time to have a crisis. This is a spectacularly bad time in Britain. Cobra, which is the

Situation Room, the emergency meeting if the like, is underway. The last days of the Prime Ministership of Theresa May.

Remember, she is supposed to hand over the keys of Number 10 to a new Prime Minister, largely and widely expected to be the former Foreign Secretary,

Boris Johnson.

Bianca is with me. For the purposes of our discussion, let's assume it's Boris Johnson, please. The British Civil Service will continue. You know,

it's greatest strength is its continuity. Same with the MOD, the top people like permanent secretaries and the like.

But the fact that there is to be this change in government is significant?

BIANCA NOBILO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is because it adds to the instability. Not only is Britain facing a very uncertain future when it

comes to Brexit, and also let's not overlook the fact that there's also a big change of the guard that's going to be happening in the European Union.

But if we're just looking at Britain, next Tuesday, we're going to have the announcement of the next Prime Minister. As you say, likely to be Boris,

but both of the men that are up for the top job are either Foreign Secretary now, Jeremy Hunt or former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, and

during his time as Foreign Secretary, Boris didn't have a particularly good record when it came to Iran.

He misspoke over the Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe incident making her predicament even more difficult in Iran. But on the subject, there was a

leadership debate on Monday night, actually, in the final days of this leadership contest, both of the candidates were pressed on Iran, because of

the escalating tensions.

Boris said that he wouldn't join the United States in any form of military strike, both candidates said they didn't want to fall into an accidental

war. And Boris hammered home the importance of diplomacy and wanting to pursue that route. But obviously, now things have changed.

QUEST: So damned if you do, damned if you don't, because he does need to respond and he's not going to have a grace period or a honeymoon when he

walks through Number 10 on Wednesday, he's got to have a policy of what he is going to do.

And in fact, arguably, tonight, I mean, he will probably say -- he will probably say, the country only has one Prime Minister at a time, which is

Theresa May. She is ruling the country.

NOBILO: Well, both leadership candidates are going to be compelled to make some kind of statement on this in order to prove their worth as the next

Prime Minister to be.

But it's interesting you mention, even tonight, because we know as Donald Trump mentioned in a press conference earlier today, he has already been on

the phone to Boris Johnson, presumably in the last 24 hours from the way that the President phrased it. So, we know that they're in contact and

that is obviously going to be a key relationship when we consider that Grace 1 was seized, because the U.S. suggested it. So, it was seized by

the British Royal Marines.

So that is going to be a key relationship, and this all comes back now to Boris Johnson's character.

QUEST: The former guest, Ramin said, this is no longer a little mess. It's now a very big mess. It's very -- would you agree that this is now

turning into an international crisis of deeply worsening proportions?

NOBILO: Well, ever since the JCPOA, the nuclear deal started to fall apart, relations were obviously getting worse and worse and now with

escalation over military hardware and the seizure of vessels in the Strait of Hormuz in that region, of course, it's developing, and it's getting even

worse, and it's escalating.

What is also concerning is when we look at the leadership in the past, where has the world looked in a situation like this? It's looked to the

United States. It's looked to the United Kingdom. And yes, to some extent, it has looked to Europe, usually buttressing the decisions of both

of those countries.

Well, now we have President Donald Trump who is not the most reliable in terms of the way that he conducts international affairs and diplomacy, and

we know who he is surrounded with, with people who take very hawkish perspective. And then we have Boris Johnson, who, despite having decades

in politics, is still an unknown quantity.

He had a checkered history as Foreign Secretary. It's unclear how he would approach a situation like this. We don't know who his core team are going

to be either.

QUEST: Right, right. Bianca, don't go too far away. When you hear more from either of the parties or any of the leaders, come for them. Thank you

very much.

There are many strands and developments as we move forward. We know one ship has been confirmed to have been taken, there's this second ship the

U.S. says has been taken, but we have not had any confirmation on that.

[15:20:15] QUEST: Let me leave me with the words -- just before we take a break -- of "Lloyd's List" which is the shipping the journal, the editor of

the shipping journal says, "This is probably the highest level security threat we have seen in the region since the late 1980s." On that thought,

we'll take a break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

QUEST: A recap of what we now know this evening. Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard says its Navy has captured a British flag tanker, the

Stena Impero in the Strait of Hormuz.

The ship's owner says that the Steno Impero was attacked by unidentified small crafts and a helicopter while transiting the Strait of Hormuz, while

the vessel was in international water.

The U.K. government is holding crisis meetings at the moment and a few moments ago, U.S. officials tell CNN that as second tanker had been seized.

It's believed to be the Liberian flag, MV Mesdar. Fred Pleitgen is in Berlin monitoring the situation and Fred is extremely familiar with these

waters and the politics of them.

So, we will deal with shouldn't have happened and how they are going to get out of the mess in a moment. Let's first of all just deal with what we

know at the moment -- Fred.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, hi, Richard, according to the shipping company, apparently all this happened in

the evening hours of tonight. They were saying is about 1600 British Standard Time, which Iranian time, I would say is about 1930. So 7:30 p.m.

Iranian time with the Stena Impero according to the shipping company was in international waters when it was then buzzed by these Iranian ships and a

helicopter.

Quite interesting to see also because the Iranians actually released video of what may have been the same helicopter buzzing that USA warship, as it

was going through the Strait of Hormuz, just a little under 24 hours ago.

The ship was then apparently forced into Iranian waters and then apparently brought on shore. Now, the Iranian side of all this is the Revolutionary

Guard Corps, saying that they took this ship because it was not adhering to as they say International Maritime laws. They even claim that they have

some sort of a case from the Hormozgan authorities, which is the local authority bordering the Strait of Hormuz. They say that that tanker was

then brought into -- or was in Iranian waters and then was brought on shore.

[15:25:10] PLEITGEN: So that's that one tanker. And as you mentioned, we've now gotten word from the U.S. that they say that a second tanker has

also been taken by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. That ship seems to be much bigger than the Stena Impero.

So right now, as of right now, it seems the Iranians have two tankers in their hands, of course, in that time that we have this massive escalation

in the Strait of Hormuz, and generally an extremely tense time between the U.S. and Iran, and of course, also between Britain and Iran as well --

Richard.

QUEST: So, I want to take your words and you just -- you said this, you described this as a massive escalation in the way -- what has been a very

ugly spat has now turned into a world diplomatic crisis.

PLEITGEN: Absolutely, I would say it is now certainly a global diplomatic crisis that was going on. I mean, there's no doubt that the Iranians seem

to have been reacting to the authorities of Gibraltar and of course, also British Special Forces taking their tanker in Gibraltar, an Iranian

supertanker.

And I believe it was just today, actually that the government of Gibraltar extended the detention of that tanker by another 30 days, so hard to see

whether that would be a coincidence that the Iranians would then start taking British tankers on the day that that happened.

But of course, all this is happening in this extremely tense time where the U.S. and Iran are facing off over the U.S. having left the nuclear

agreement, massive sanctions ramp up as well.

So yes, I mean, right now, especially in that area, in the Strait of Hormuz, Richard and I point this out every time I talk to people, it's an

extremely narrow area.

It's an area that has a huge amount of American forces and Iranian forces there at any given point in time. We've already seen certain escalations

with those drones being shot out, apparently, from both sides now.

So, it is an extremely dangerous diplomatic situation that is unfolding and one that's going to definitely require a lot of care to not escalate --

Richard.

QUEST: Yes, but who? Who is responsible for sorting out -- or wait -- I mean, Bob Seely, the MP describes it, I think accurately as a tit-for-tat

taking, possibly more of a second ship has been taken.

But in a tit-for-tat that implies that the resolution is the freeing up of both vessels, you release ours, we will release yours.

PLEITGEN: Yes, well, that's exactly -- I think that's exactly what the Iranians have been implying over the past couple of days and certainly seem

to be now showing with this as well.

One of the things the Iranians have said is they want U.K. and then obviously the Gibraltar authorities to release their tanker immediately.

Javad Zarif has talked about this with his British counterpart, he says -- or the Iranian say that there was no reason to take that tanker in the

first place. I think the British authorities were also saying that there are certain circumstances where they would be able to release that tanker.

Now that has not happened yet.

And so certainly, it seems highly possible that if the U.K. would release the tanker that then the other side would as well. But the larger conflict

and this is something we always have to keep in perspective, the larger conflict, the larger diplomatic issues have not been solved.

The main thing that's at the core of all this is that right now, the United States and Iran are not talking to each other and that the U.S. is putting

more and more sanctions on Iran that the nuclear agreement, the U.S. has stopped abiding by, as long as that doesn't happen, incidents like this are

bound to repeat and continue -- Richard.

QUEST: Fred, thank you. I will let you get on with your newsgathering duties to find out more about what is -- what's been happening. We will

take a break.

Let me just -- before we go to break, let me just remind you of what Stena, which is the owners of the Impero say. Now, they said, "The Impero was

approached by unidentified small crafts and a helicopter during transit at the Strait while the vessel was in international waters. We are presently

unable to contact the vessel," which you're seeing on the screen, " ... which is now heading north towards Iran. There are 23 seafarers aboard.

There are no reported injuries and their safety is our primary concern."

This is CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:30:00] RICHARD QUEST, HOST, QUEST MEANS BUSINESS: Welcome back. It's breaking news tonight on CNN. And U.S. officials are telling us that Iran

has seized a second tanker. If this one is a Liberian-flagged vessel, the Mazda. Now, we know, it is confirmed although that one hasn't been

confirmed by the way.

But this one has. Iran has seized a British tanker in the Strait of Hormuz, according to everybody basically. Iranian state TV, U.S. defense

officials, and in fact the actual owner of the ship and the management company admits that it was approached by an unidentified small crafts and

helicopter during transit and taken.

And it's now currently on its way towards that. CNN's Ryan Browne is at the Pentagon. Ryan, a very quick answer from you, please, because I am

awaiting President Trump in just under a minute from now. So, I assume for the Pentagon, everybody is on watching and waiting, and trying to get more

information.

RYAN BROWNE, CNN PENTAGON REPORTER: Absolutely. I mean, the U.S. military has boosted its presence in the region in recent weeks, partly to keep a

better eye on that very critical Strait of Hormuz waterway, that narrow waterway. And there had been concern for some time about the threat to

shipping that Iran could potentially pose.

U.S. officials warning about that for some time. We had an incident not too long ago with other British tankers where the British -- the Royal Navy

had to step in. This time --

QUEST: Right --

BROWNE: It looks like Iranian forces were able to seize the tanker.

QUEST: Ryan, I'll let you get back to answer that phone and to deal with what the news gathering aspects of your duties whiles we wait for President

Trump. It's a minute or so before the president speaks, he was on his way to Bedminster when he spoke to reporters as he left the White House.

Now, remember the scenario here. You have a president who has bellicose relations with Iran where they hurl abuse at each other. The U.S.

withdrawn from the JCPOA, the U.S. has put more resources into the gulf to protect shipping. And now the president is responding.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: 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. With 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.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) --

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-a-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 long-standing.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE), 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 (INAUDIBLE) --

TRUMP: Yes, if you go back into 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, and 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.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, that this political feud you're having with Congresswoman Omar and the rest of those Democratic representatives,

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, they're anti-Semitic, and you look at the kind of statements about Israel, it's a disgrace.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fast one Mr. President, they have 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 as hating the country, sir?

TRUMP: Yes, they have First Amendment rights, but that doesn't mean I'm happy about them saying -- 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.

(CROSSTALK)

Yes, go ahead, Steve, say it, Steve.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) --

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 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 MALE: Mr. President!

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: Go ahead --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In the past you've said that America is the laughing stock of the world, but you don't believe in American exceptionalism. Why

is it OK for you to criticize America, but not Democratic Congress.

[15:40:00] 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 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 way.

(CROSSTALK)

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 so far left that nobody has ever seen anything like it.

If they want to embrace people that are so anti-Semitic and anti-Israel, 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.

(CROSSTALK)

Long time ago, yes, 15 years ago, I had a falling out. Well, I didn't get along with them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President!

TRUMP: David?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President!

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: Wait.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) --

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, but it's an interesting -- it's an interesting question.

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: Go ahead, talk up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Secretary Mnuchin had a phone call with his Chinese counterpart, so, how did the phone call work and (INAUDIBLE).

TRUMP: So 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 there, they're 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 in tariffs, and I gave it to our farmers.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I know, you guys talked about --

TRUMP: False information, it was fake news.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, but you talked about it --

TRUMP: No, I talked about it, but they didn't advise me. They told me, but I didn't -- it's fake -- by the way, what you're saying, fake news.

Next question.

(CROSSTALK)

You?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What does Rand Paul want to do for your -- what do you want Rand --

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, 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.

(CROSSTALK)

[15:45:00] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The chants "send her home", does it appear to you --

TRUMP: Say it --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The chants "send her home" --

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 in 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.

(CROSSTALK)

No, I don't, I don't. 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 Mueller.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just a follow-up. UN mission peace from Strasbourg, Africa, and I have the opportunity to speak with many African leaders.

They say that's a good opportunity --

TRUMP: Good --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: For African countries to engage more than --

TRUMP: Right --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What the United States. But the president of Zimbabwe, he said that because of the sanctions that the U.S. imposed on Zimbabwe,

they cannot do with the odds for them to work with you, guys.

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

(CROSSTALK)

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 --

(CROSSTALK)

QUEST: So nothing new there from the president on the Congresswomen. The same answer seems to be repeated again and again, but we are concerned

tonight with what he said about Iran, and that he said that "we will talk to the U.K., and he said that there will be a new Prime Minister in the

U.K. next week which would be a good thing."

But in what some might see as a lackluster response or support for Britain, he -- the president also said we have no written agreement with the U.K.,

perhaps already telegraphing that the U.S. is not prepared to get involved. And saying of course that the U.S. didn't have any tankers in the area, but

did have a sizable Naval force within the region.

We'll understand and parse that a bit more to see exactly what the president was saying and whether he was -- isn't as lackluster as it

sounded. It certainly was not a full-throated support of the United Kingdom, which he admitted was one of the closest allies. That did not

happen.

Now, while the president was speaking, Iran state TV says the British- flagged oil tanker Stena Impero had turned off its tracker and ignored warnings. The U.K. Chamber of Shipping is demanding more protection from

merchant vessels in the region. The CEO of the Chamber is Bob Sanguinetti who joins me now.

Good evening to you, Bob. So, from your intelligence, what more can you tell us about what's happened tonight?

BOB SANGUINETTI, CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER, U.K. CHAMBER OF SHIPPING: Good evening. Well, what appears to have happened is that the Stena Impero was

transiting through the Straits in international waters when it was approached by a number of small vessels and possibly a helicopter. And

shortly thereafter, communications was lost with the vessel when it was seen to be heading towards Iranian territorial waters.

So, we're obviously extremely concerned by this latest development which represents a clear escalation in the region. And we condemn in the

strongest possible way the capture of this vessel and the crew in a clear violation of international regulations and flouting the principle of

freedom of navigation on which global trade --

[15:50:00] QUEST: Sir, I need to interrupt you, forgive me, I need to interrupt you and joining our correspondent Barbara Starr.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: That's a part, one in the Straits of Hormuz, one inside the Persian Gulf, one is a British, known to

be a British tanker, 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's 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 is 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 airspace in the Gulf region, not in Iranian airspace, and they are also monitoring the

situation, trying to keep an eye on exactly what is happening.

So, there -- 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. Anna?

ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: Right, Barbara Starr, thank you, and as the president was just leaving for his week --

QUEST: So let's leave Barbara Starr, I'm going to go back to Bob Sanguinetti; the CEO of the Chamber of Commerce. You obviously heard there

what Barbara was talking about, and there's this cargo ship that is being watched very closely by the U.S.

This is an indication of the intense tension in this. But if we think about how the Grace was taken or how the Grace was taken by Gibraltar, and

we think about the comments from the Ayatollah, and from the Iranian government, wasn't it foreseeable that there would be an act against a

British vessel?

SANGUINETTI: Well, I'm sure this might have been considered, but I wouldn't draw too many parallels between the arrest of Grace One under

international law for violating EU sanctions on the one hand, and the capture of a vessel or two and their crew as they innocently and

legitimately transit through international waters going about their business.

QUEST: Well, you say that, sir, but the Iranians called it -- the Iranians called the Grace One piracy, which perhaps -- and the U.K. had said it was

sending further Naval forces. So, what I suppose is your organization is calling for more support to be given to shipping going through this crucial

part of the world, aren't you?

SANGUINETTI: Well, what we'd like to see is an easing of the tensions. This latest development clearly represents a significant escalation in the

tension -- in tension in the Persian Gulf. What we would like to see is a de-escalation by diplomatic means, and in particular in the short term, we

would like to see the authorities do whatever they need to do through diplomatic channels to affect the safe and swift return of the seafarers.

QUEST: That I can understand, and that is the goal, I'm sure, of the British government tonight. But it is a forlorn hope, sir, surely, bearing

in mind what would appear to be a tit for tat operation. I guess what I'm saying is I don't see how you get the resolution that you're seeking in any

easy or early way.

SANGUINETTI: Well, I would say that it's going to be first and foremost through our diplomatic channels because I don't think further escalation

would be in anyone's interest, shipping is independent by the freedom of navigation to allow trade to be transported freely throughout the globe,

and the Straits of Hormuz is no exception, particularly as ships are going about their legitimate business in international waters.

[15:55:00] QUEST: So, as they go about that legitimate business, do you call tonight for more resources, and by that, yes, I'm talking about Naval

security forces that will ensure the safety of your ships?

SANGUINETTI: We call for a de-escalation of the situation and in the meantime, in order to allow ships to proceed safely on their legitimate

business for whatever measures need to be taken to protect and secure their ships in international waters and going through international straits.

And if that's required of the deployment of further assets, further ships, then we would support that. But we would stress that they try to explore

concern is for a de-escalation of the situation to allow shipping to continue to do its business legitimately.

QUEST: And tonight, are you in touch with various shippers, various owners, various management companies? I'm sure -- and I'll let you go after

this question, sir, I'm sure everybody is wanting to know exactly what the situation is and is very concerned.

SANGUINETTI: Oh, we are in contact with shipping companies as you expect, and they in turn are in close contact with authorities taking stock over

the latest developments and the situation on the ground and considering what additional measures might --

QUEST: Right --

SANGUINETTI: Need to be taken to ensure the safety of their ships and their people.

QUEST: Thank you, sir, I much appreciate it, I know it's a moving -- literally, a moving target tonight, and we're glad that you gave us time to

talk to us. A reminder of where things stand, and allow me to update you, please. U.S. officials are telling CNN that Iran has seized a second

tanker. This is the Liberian-flagged vessel, the Mazda.

Earlier, Iran confirmed -- that's the Mazda there, it's a much larger vessel. Earlier, Iran confirmed that it had taken the British tanker, the

Impero in the Straits of Hormuz. Iranian state TV said it, U.S. defense officials said and the company that owns the thing says that it was in

international waters when it was approached by unidentified small craft and helicopters, we're presently unable to contact the vessel.

So, that's the situation. The president of the United States says he has no written agreement with the United Kingdom, but they will be talking to

Britain. The British government is holding emergency cobra meetings at the moment. And a British member of parliament describes the taking tonight as

hostage taking in a tit for tat.

Meanwhile, of course, energy prices rising on the back of it. We will join Jake Tapper just in a moment or two as our coverage continues. This is

CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:00:00]

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