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Iran Says It Seized British Oil Tanker after Accident; Trump Calls Racist Rally Supporters "Incredible Patriots"; U.S. Heat Wave Disrupts New York Subway System; Lawmakers Preparing for Robert Mueller Testimony; Apollo 11 Anniversary. Aired 4-5a ET

Aired July 20, 2019 - 04:00   ET




GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): A new development on the British oil tanker captured in the Strait of Hormuz, Iran claiming that it seized the ship following a fishing accident.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Walking back the walkback. Donald Trump now says supporters at his rally this week where people chanted "send her back" are great patriots.

Also --


NEIL ARMSTRONG, ASTRONAUT, APOLLO 11: Small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.

HOWELL (voice-over): The moon landing: 50 years on, an amazing sight there. You'll hear from one of the men who was on the mission.


ALLEN: One of the greatest accomplishments. It's just so fun to be celebrating this, isn't it?

HOWELL: Gives you chills.

ALLEN: Welcome to our viewers in the U.S. and around the world. I'm Natalie Allen.

HOWELL: And I'm George Howell. From CNN World Headquarters, NEWSROOM starts right now.


ALLEN: We are getting a new explanation from Iran about why it seized a British flagged oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz. Iran says it captured the vessel after it was involved in an accident with an Iranian fishing boat and ignored a distress signal from the boat.

HOWELL: An Iranian news agency reports the tanker is now in port and all 23 crew are to remain on board during the investigation. The British foreign office is advising all U.K. ships to avoid the Strait of Hormuz and it warns there will be major repercussions if the situation is not resolved quickly.


JEREMY HUNT, BRITISH FOREIGN MINISTER: This is completely unacceptable. Freedom of navigation must be maintained. We will respond in a way that is considered but robust and we are absolutely clear that if this situation is not resolved quickly, there will be serious consequences.


ALLEN: U.S. officials say Iran also seized a second ship but Iran's military denies that. It says it did stop a second ship briefly but it was released. The ship's owner confirms that it is no longer in Iranian waters. In Washington, the view from the U.S. president is I told you so.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: 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 to 100 years, you don't deal on the short term. That was a ridiculous agreement. And it goes to show you I was right about Iran.


HOWELL: Let's get a complete look at what is happening now with CNN's Jomana Karadsheh, following the story live from Istanbul, Turkey, and also journalist Ramin Mostaghim, joining from Tehran, Iran.

Good to have you both with us.

Jomana, what are you hearing more about why the tanker was stopped?

JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, George, initially what we heard from the Iranians is that they were saying that the British flagged Stena Impero tanker violated known procedures, that it entered the Strait of Hormuz through the northern exit point, that it did not respond to multiple warnings.

And therefore it was taken to Iranian coastal waters. Now in the past couple of hours or so, we're hearing through Iranian state media, quoting an official with the provincial maritime and port authority there, saying that there was some sort of a fishing accident, saying that the British flagged tanker had entered the Strait of Hormuz in the wrong direction; it collided with a fishing boat. When the fishing boat tried to communicate with it, it did not

respond. So this fishing boat had to report this to the port authorities. And they say, under the direction of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, the ship Stena Impero was taken to the port in Iran.

And they say under law, the incident must be investigated and in the meantime the 23 crew members, 18 Indian and other nationalities, including some from the Philippines and --


KARADSHEH: -- Russia, they must remain on board while this is being investigated.

So while the Iranians are saying this was some sort of a fishing incident, if you look at other events in the past week or so, it is looking more like some sort of a retaliation because, you know, you had another British operated tanker yesterday, that was seized for a short period of time, according to U.S. and British officials, before it was allowed to continue its voyage.

And then a few days ago, you had the Iranians trying to impede the movement of a British tanker in the Strait of Hormuz. And so the feeling is that is some sort of retaliation that the Iranians promised for the seizure of their oil tanker, the Grace 1, by British Marines in Gibraltar earlier this month.

HOWELL: And it does seem to be one incident right after another.

Ramin, I want your thoughts on the overall timing of this over the course really of 12 hours, saying that there was an accident with a fishing boat, that is a very different narrative than stated earlier that could say at least would open the door for some discussion.

RAMIN MOSTAGHIM, "L.A. TIMES": Yes, that is true. Iran is deescalating what has already been escalated, last night, I can say. And now the media outlets are coming back to the technicality of the damage survey.

And we have heard that the damage survey inspectors are rushing in to inspect the damage inflicted on the fishing vessel and probably there's some minor damage on the British oil tanker.

Bear in mind that this British oil tanker is much smaller in capacity, in size and everything than supertanker of the Iranian (INAUDIBLE). So it seems it is not comparable to the supertanker.

And at the same time, (INAUDIBLE) hardliners or conservatives, if you like, media outlet, they are just emphasizing that there was a fishing vessel accident. And so the damage was collateral.

And it seems that they are emphasizing that there was a danger of dumping crude oil residue in the sea and pollution violating the environmental law and also maritime law because the British oil tanker was in wrong pattern movement. And so it is a technicality. And that technicality means deescalating at this moment.

As far as we are observing the developments, from Iranian side, deescalation has started. And bear in mind, Iranian diplomats are dexterous in tapping intention in their own favor. We have seen their dexterity in the past to indicate that there is a flare of tensions and then they try to flare down.


MOSTAGHIM: So this is why we can say --

HOWELL: To your point there, explaining --

MOSTAGHIM: This is why we can say that --

HOWELL: I think that we're having a technical issue there hearing you.

But Ramin Mostaghim, we appreciate you being with us, giving us sort of the indication that you are hearing from in Tehran.

And Jomana Karadsheh following the story for us live in Istanbul.

Thank you both.

ALLEN: Although the U.K. is stressing diplomacy, CNN has learned that President Trump has privately adopted a more hawkish tone on Iran in recent days.

HOWELL: Our Abby Phillip has more on that story.


ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: When President Trump spoke to reporters today outside of the White House, he struck an even tone about the provocations from Iran in the region in the Strait of Hormuz. He emphasized that the U.S. would be talking to their British counterparts and the ships that were seized were not Americans, leading some to wonder whether or not all of this was enough to cross his red line.

But we're also learning that, privately, sources say that President Trump is moving away from the idea that he can talk to the Iranian regime and use diplomacy to ease tensions. Sources say that he has become more hawkish in recent days after Iran has batted --


PHILLIP: -- down his attempts to open the door for diplomacy.

That has worried some of the president's allies, who believe it would be a big political mistake for him to engage in military action against Iran. But we still don't know as of this hour whether the president believes that these latest seizures of the two oil tankers in the region are enough to prompt military action. But it does seem that President Trump is no longer talking -- or at

least not talking as much -- about talking with Iran as he has in the past. And that could very well be because Iran has said that they are not interested -- Abby Phillip, CNN, the White House.


HOWELL: A day after distancing himself from racist chants at a rally, the U.S. president Donald Trump is calling his audience, quote, "incredible patriots."

ALLEN: This caps a week of criticism against four minority female House lawmakers that all started with a tweet. Our Pamela Brown has the details.


PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tonight President Trump has gone full circle again defending his racist attack against four congresswomen.

TRUMP: Well, they call our country garbage, I don't care about politics. I don't care if it is good or bad about politics.

You can't talk that way about our country. Not when I'm the president.

BROWN: And defending his supporters. They chanted ""send her back"" at a North Carolina rally.

TRUMP: Those people in North Carolina, that stadium was packed, it was a record crowd. And I could have filled it 10 times, as you know. Those are incredible people. Those are incredible patriots.

BROWN: This despite concerns raised from aides including his daughter Ivanka Trump, but today the president downplayed their involvement.

TRUMP: I talk about it but they didn't advise me.

BROWN: Vice President Pence also taking heat from Republican lawmakers over the inflammatory chant and there was the president's attempt to clean-up on his own yesterday.

TRUMP: I was not happy with it. I disagree with it. But again I didn't say -- I didn't say that. They did.

BROWN: But now Trump is back where he began, re-tweeting his previous tweets, asking for the congresswomen to apologize to our country. And threatening Democrats he will carry this fight to the ballot box in 2020.

And after Congresswoman Ilhan Omar returned to Minnesota yesterday for a town hall.

REP. ILHAN OMAR (D), MINNESOTA: It sure feels good to be home. We are going to continue to be a nightmare to this president because his policies -- because his policies are a nightmare to us.

BROWN: Trump tweeting today that the welcome was a, quote, "staged crowd."

TRUMP: I'm unhappy when a congresswoman goes and said I'm going to be the president's nightmare. She's going to be the president's nightmare. She's lucky to be where she is, let me tell you. And the things that she has said are a disgrace to our country.

BROWN: The chant fallout spreading to the international stage too. German Chancellor Angela Merkel telling reporters --

ANGELA MERKEL, GERMAN CHANCELLOR (through translator): I distanced myself from this decidedly and stand in solidarity with the women who were attacked.

BROWN: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau denouncing the comments.

JUSTIN TRUDEAU, CANADIAN PRIME MINISTER: I want everyone in Canada to know that those comments are completely unacceptable.

BROWN: And British Prime Minister Theresa May also calling Trump's language "completely unacceptable."

TRUMP: Hopefully we're in good shape with the debt ceiling.

BROWN: The president tonight also taking a firm stance on a debt ceiling telling reporters Democratic leadership shouldn't use it to negotiate.

TRUMP: I can't imagine anybody ever even thinking of using the debt ceiling as a negotiating wedge. That is a sacred element of our country. They can't use the debt ceiling to negotiate.

BROWN: Changing his tune from 2013 when President Obama was the one facing a debt ceiling crisis.

TRUMP: The debt ceiling is a very powerful weapon. I think they should play the debt ceiling card. That is a very powerful card.


ALLEN: Pamela Brown reporting there.

Let's bring in Inderjeet Parmar in London, professor of international politics at City University of London and a frequent guest.

Inderjeet, good to have you with us.


ALLEN: First up, President Trump targeting these women in Congress, progressive Democrats, in a denigrating statement, his audience cheered and then he backed off and said he didn't like the chanting and now he's attacking the congresswomen and calling the crowd patriots.

This is a pattern we've seen before from him in other conflicts, the back and forth, what do you make of it?

PARMAR: As you said, this is a recurring pattern. President Trump has now actually put out right front and center, if it wasn't clear already, that race, the immigrant, the refugee, the people who are designated as un-American or non-American, they are front and center of his campaign for 2020, much as they were in 2016.

Really what he's trying to --


PARMAR: -- do is galvanize his own base which coheres most strongly around a message of exclusion and inclusion. That is, who is a real American.

Is a real American a foreigner, an immigrant, a person of color, a minority?

Or are they really just white Americans only?

And I think that is the kind of -- the divide that he is working on. And it has largely up to now been quite successful with his particular base. And he puts it forward, he rows back a little bit and so on. But he wants to keep the pot boiling because it has very powerful political consequences as far as he is concerned.

And I think that galvanizes a lot of his base. It also alienates many and we'll see what that portends as we go on.

ALLEN: We just saw the international condemnation from world leaders to what he said and certainly he's hearing it from people in the United States.

If he doesn't stop because he thinks this could help him, where will this go?

Is he tapping into something dangerous, something that could rip into the social fabric of this country?

PARMAR: Absolutely. I think if you look at the kinds of things that he said in regard to the four congresswomen and one in particular, Ilhan Omar supporting Al Qaeda, supporting terrorists, who are killing American soldiers even as Trump was tweeting, this is an incitement to violence actually.

And when we look at the kind of violence in Charlottesville, the shooting at synagogues and mosques, the Coast Guard arrested with a cache of weapons, the mail bomber last year, there is a powder keg position in the United States.

And I think that he is constantly playing with fire on that front and he is willing to incite possible increases in political violence in order to drive home his message. And I think that is the biggest problem.

So if we look at some of the effects of this, you have pro-Nazi groups in the United States congratulating the president for saying, send them back and go back to your own country. And he is strengthening all of those kinds of elements and his rallies are increasingly raucous and violent in their tone and content. So he is inflaming very, very deep divisions and they won't be easy to put back into any kind of a box on any short notice.

ALLEN: Absolutely. And you don't see a lot of Republicans stepping out about it and saying very much.

But one Republican did say about the chanting, he said that it would send chills down the spines of our founding fathers. It will be interesting to see how far in Trump takes this. We always appreciate your insights. Thanks very much.

PARMAR: Thank you.

HOWELL: And we're just getting started. The race to 2020. Here we go.

Still ahead, scorching temperatures have put much of the United States on alert. We'll look at which cities are doing their best to beat the heat and how long the tough temperatures will linger.

ALLEN: And also ahead, the latest on Iran's threat to commercial shipping and why Iran now says that it captured that British oil tanker.





ALLEN: Talk about a commuter's worst nightmare. New York City rush hour is in a heat wave and subway passengers were stranded on platforms and trains. Officials wanted to know what happened.

HOWELL: Seven different lines were stopped after the system that tracks their location went down. The city's mayor tweeted that it was unacceptable for this to happen during the dangerous heat wave playing out there.

ALLEN: And in Detroit, thousands are without power. Local officials tell CNN some 230,000 people are without electricity after a storm sent trees into power lines. And, of course, no power means no air conditioning and the city is under excessive heat warning.

HOWELL: And meteorologists say about 85 percent of the U.S. population will swelter through temperatures above 90 degrees Fahrenheit. That prompted officials around the country to take measures to keep people safe from this very dangerous heat. Miguel Marquez takes a look at it.


MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): From New Mexico to New England, intense heat.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm getting too old for this heat.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): Nearly 200 million Americans sweating it out. Roads buckling from the heat in Shawnee, Oklahoma, and Hays, Kansas.

In Chicago, a thermometer inside a car hit 129.6 degrees. In Washington, D.C., tourists wilting in the hot air.

The real stuff: deadly heat; a 32 year-old former NFL offensive lineman Mitch Petrus, dead from heatstroke. Young, elderly and those susceptible to heat gathering in cooling centers in New York City.

ELIZABETH PENNIMAN, AMERICAN RED CROSS: With this kind of heat, we want people to stay inside, to stay in air conditioning if at all possible. If you are not in an air conditioned space, find one.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): Heat and humidity prompting the threat of tornadoes across parts of the Midwest. Heat waves like this becoming more common. Spring nationwide start earlier and earlier over the last three decades compared to earlier centuries, says NOAA.

More troubling: since the 1960s, the number of heat waves have tripled in the nation's largest city. The length of the heat wave season tripling as well. New York City's main supplier of electricity, Con Ed, on high alert after an outage knocked out power to a huge swath of Manhattan's Upper West Side this week.

And in Madison, Wisconsin, two electric substations catching fire, not the day for it. Animals feeling the effect, too, from pets too overheated --


MARQUEZ (voice-over): -- to take another step on New York's Fifth Avenue, to this emu keeping cool at Zoo New England.

At Illinois' Brookfield Zoo, the bears and tigers staying close to their icy treats.

MARQUEZ: Yes, it is absolutely brutal here. Canceling the triathlon, people across the entire city being told just to try to keep cool, like these kids are doing right now. This brutal heat, it is not the last we will see of it. We are likely to see much more in the years ahead.


HOWELL: Still ahead, protests still going on in Puerto Rico, thousands filling the streets, their voices heard. What they say they have completely lost faith in, the governor and the government there. Also it's being called one of Japan's worst mass killings, more details about the suspected arson fire at a famous studio that left 34 dead.





HOWELL: Let's update you on the story we're following this hour, the seizure of a British flagged oil tanker by Iran. Iran says it captured the vessel after it was involved in an accident with an Iranian fishing boat and ignored distress signals from the boat. This is a day after the U.S. says that an Iranian boat was destroyed when it came too close to a U.S. warship.

ALLEN: This is part of a disturbing pattern in the region centered on Iran. There have been numerous provocations, including the shooting down of an American military drone, the seizure of vessels and several attacks on commercial tankers that have been blamed on Iran.

HOWELL: A lot to talk about. And to do so, we have Sanam Vakil, a senior research fellow from Chatham House in London, live with us.

It is a volatile time in the Strait of Hormuz. We're seeing a more assertive Iran at a time when the U.S. and U.K. both ramping up their presence there.

Where do you see this going?

SANAM VAKIL, CHATHAM HOUSE: It is indeed a volatile time. And I think that we should expect this action and reaction, tit-for-tat response that Iran continues to put out there in reaction to the American shooting down of a drone, in reaction to the British seizing of its tanker in Gibraltar.

So this is classic Iranian escalatory behavior, designed to show that it can also push back.

HOWELL: Words here are very important. Let's talk about those words and the timing of this over the course of 12 hours. Iran now saying that the tanker was in an accident with a fishing boat. That is very different than the words Iran's Revolutionary Guard had seized the vessel for disregarding established procedures and turning off its tracker.

VAKIL: Is this a bit of Iran's space, where it can operate quite effectively, sending out mixed messages. On the one hand, signaling that it can be destabilizing and push back against the U.S. and U.K. in response to their perceived threatening behavior.

But at the same time, Iran also likes to operate in the space where it can deny and sort of obfuscate. So this is a bit of Iran's strategy and it is playing quite well to the international community.

HOWELL: The U.K. foreign secretary, we heard from Jeremy Hunt, who said that there could be serious consequences. However, that they are not looking at military options at this point.

So what could serious consequences mean, given that we are seeing Iran and the U.K., we've seen them feud and this continuing back and forth, now Iran flexing its muscle?

VAKIL: Well, this is all very much tied to the British seizing of the tanker in Gibraltar. There were talks that unfortunately broke down. And this could preempt another round of discussions there and some sort of mediation to resolve that situation.

At the same time, the British have to push back on Iran. And the dangerous strategy here for Iran is this could push the U.K. closer to the United States and result in greater coordination in the Gulf between the two allies.

And it could result in the U.K. leaning closer to the United States against Iran with regard to the Iran nuclear agreement breaches and violations.

HOWELL: With regard to the United States, we've seen the U.S. putting pressure, of course, on Iran with sanctions but --


HOWELL: -- does the U.S. now find itself under pressure to avoid an all-out war and the U.S. president Donald Trump, who backed out of that Iran agreement, is he under pressure to somehow find a better deal than the landmark deal that was agreed to under the Obama administration?

VAKIL: Yes, I think that there are some serious questions about the effectiveness of President Trump's maximum pressure campaign because, on the one hand, Iran is definitely encircled and is looking for a way out of this current crisis.

And we can see that through the multiple messaging taking place by foreign minister Zarif on social media, expressing willingness to talk. But Iran is actually looking for a face-saving solution to come back to the negotiating table for those discussions.

President Trump also is looking for a face-saving solution. And they are both backed into a corner.

HOWELL: It does seem that they are backed into a corner and the volatility continues. We'll have to see where it goes. Sanam Vakil, thank you for your time and perspective.

ALLEN: Thousands of protesters in Puerto Rico are demanding that the governor step down from office, this is after hundreds of pages of leaked messages show him and his aides making sexist, homophobic comments along with threats to political opponents and journalists.

HOWELL: Protesters say the leaks woke them up from political apathy. Our Nick Paton Walsh has this story from San Juan.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is the sound Puerto Rican Governor Ricardo Rossello will have to get used to. For the second time, central San Juan, the old town, really shaken by the extraordinary protests. Perhaps less maybe in the number by the end of tonight than we saw a few nights ago but really further down where we saw thousands beginning a march in daylight and made their way peacefully up along the shorefront here, where we've seen an intensely noisy and some degree quite organized protest, standing off with police, now separated by barricades.

But the momentum is really building. The question many are asking is, will the planned march for Monday, potentially hundreds of thousands of people brought out on to the streets from the morning until the end of the day, will that really increase the sense that maybe the governor here, his time is limited?

His press secretary, to some degree the voice of the administration, offered her resignation today, saying that she felt ashamed when she was accused in front of her son of corruption and could no longer carry on in that public role.

Part of the house of representatives here is beginning to debate the process of impeachment. (INAUDIBLE) But the sense that time is changing. And Governor Rossello him on Instagram sounding like he was going about his normal business and not really suggesting that he would heed the calls for him to resign.

The question will be, of course, (INAUDIBLE) Monday and whether this growing sentiment is changing the political calculus around the governor -- Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, Puerto Rico.


HOWELL: Police say the suspect at the center of Japan's worst mass killing in almost 20 years has unspecified mental health issues; 34 people were killed in the suspected arson Thursday at the renowned Kyoto Animation studio.

ALLEN: The 41-year-old suspect told police his work had been plagiarized and he used gasoline to torch the studio. But police say they are not aware yet of a link between Shinji Aoba and the company.

HOWELL: We're just days away from the hearings that Democrats have been waiting for, the former special counsel Robert Mueller will answer questions about his Russia investigation. How the Democrats are preparing for it, still ahead.

ALLEN: And also a look at the Trump administration's -- all right, we'll be right back. Sorry about that.




HOWELL: Welcome back to CNN NEWSROOM.

For the two years Robert Mueller led the Russia investigation, he avoided cameras and the media but on Wednesday that is set to change.

ALLEN: The former special counsel will face back to back hearings on Capitol Hill before two House committees. Democrats are preparing questions that they hope clearly show the U.S. president obstructed justice.

Will that happen when Mueller sits down?

Here is Manu Raju with more.


MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tonight, lawmakers are intensely preparing for the most anticipated hearing in decades when Special Counsel Robert Mueller testifies about the findings of his two-year investigation. Democrats and Republicans both sharpening their questions and their strategy as they hold mock hearings with top aides sitting in as Mueller.

Tonight, CNN has learned that Democrats in the House Judiciary Committee will focus on five our areas of potential obstruction of justice laid out in the Mueller report, including Trump's order to then White House Counsel Don McGahn to fire Mueller, his efforts to have that McGahn denied that the president have ordered him to have the special counsel removed.

Also, Trump's order to former campaign manager Cory Lewandowski to tell the then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions to limit the investigation to exclude the president and later threatening to fire Sessions if he did not meet with Lewandowski.

There were also episodes in the Mueller report of alleged witness tampering, including Trump encouraging former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and Trump's former attorney Michael Cohen not to cooperate with federal prosecutors.

REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY), JUDICIARY CHAIRMAN: Just if he says what was in the report and says it to the American people so they hear it. That will be very, very important.

RAJU: Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee plan to press Mueller about the extent of Russian interference in the 2016 election and contacts between Russians and the Trump campaign. And will ask Mueller about his finding that Trump publicly expressed skepticism that Russia was responsible for the hacks at the same time that he and other campaign officials privately sought information about any further planned "WikiLeaks" release of Clinton campaign emails.

RAJU: We can't go beyond the report.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), INTELLIGENCE CHAIRMAN: Well we're going to ask him questions beyond the report. We're going to expect him to answer.

RAJU: With the stakes enormous, Democrats say they are preparing carefully, re-reading the entire 448-page report.

REP. JIM HIMES (D-CT), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: This is not going to be a whole bunch of numbers freelancing. This will be organized.

RAJU: Republicans, meanwhile, plan to press the special counsel about whether his team was biased as well as anti-Trump texts sent by FBI agent Peter Strzok and FBI attorney Lisa Page.

REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: I mean we've got a lot of questions about how Robert Mueller's team was assembled.

RAJU: And they plan to raise questions about why the investigation started in the first place.

REP. DOUG COLLINS (R-GA), RANKING MEMBER, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: That is the basic questions of understanding the conclusion and --


D. COLLINS: -- you have to understand where it started.

RAJU (voice-over): But Mueller has already indicated he won't go beyond the four corners of his report.

ANDREW MCCABE, FORMER ACTING FBI DIRECTOR: Director Mueller will be impeccably prepared. He's not a verbose and dramatic witness but he knows his stuff.

RAJU: And some Democrats are trying to lower expectations, including Jim Himes, who sits on the Intelligence Committee and told me he doesn't expect much news out of this hearing because of the expectation that the special counsel will simply stick to the report.

And also other Democrats are saying that it could drive more people toward the impeachment camp because of the special counsel even delivering the details from the report, people hearing it for the first time, their views could change about opening up an impeachment inquiry.

The question is where will someone like Nancy Pelosi, the House Speaker, where she will come down. She of course has opposed opening up impeachment proceedings. She has privately told her members that to approach it calmly, seriously, don't raise or lower expectations.

But at the moment, the expectations still oppose opening up an impeachment inquiry even after the special counsel testifies -- Manu Raju, CNN, Capitol Hill.

(END VIDEOTAPE) HOWELL: And clearly it is unclear what Mueller will say but we know a lot of people will be watching to hear exactly how he describes this. So an interesting hearing.

ALLEN: Absolutely.

Well, we'll celebrate a milestone next. The world marking 50 years since humans first set foot on the moon. We look back at this defining moment in history when the U.S. sent men to the moon.






ARMSTRONG: That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.


ALLEN: One of the most famous sentences and it wasn't uttered here on Earth. You've probably heard it before, those were spoken by American astronaut Neil Armstrong, first to set foot on the moon.

HOWELL: What a moment he and fellow astronaut Buzz Aldrin made history by taking those first human steps on the moon and today the world is marking the 50th anniversary of the major milestone.

Let's talk more now with retired NASA astronaut Leroy Chiao, joining us from Houston, Texas.

Great to have you with us, Leroy.

LEROY CHIAO, FORMER NASA ASTRONAUT: Great to be here. Thank you.

HOWELL: What a moment, it opened imaginations, inspired people around the world about the possibilities of space. And correct me if I'm wrong but was instrumental in the trajectory of your own life.

CHIAO: That's right. I was 8 years old when we landed on the moon 50 years ago and that was an event that I can remember like it was yesterday, watching an old black and white TV set and listening to the transmissions coming back from the moon and hearing those famous words from Neil Armstrong, that they had actually landed. That is what started the dream for me of wanting to become an astronaut myself.

HOWELL: And of all the astronauts that you've spoken to during your career, your conversations with Buzz Aldrin, what has he told you about that particular mission and that moment?

CHIAO: I've talked to Buzz a fair amount over the years. And we talk about a variety of different things, including some of his ideas on how we might go to Mars and thing like that.

But specifically about the moon landing, he talked about the fact that with the 30 seconds of fuel left, it doesn't sound like very much but there were only about 10 feet off the surface of the moon and they knew they had it made and they weren't too stressed out about it.

So it was kind of interesting that what sounds like not very much fuel left, they thought that they were in good shape.

HOWELL: What exactly would you say that we learned, as a society, what did we learn from Apollo 11?

CHIAO: We learned that we can accomplish something like that. I think the whole world was just amazed that we had actually done it. And the landing itself, in many ways, was much more complex than the walk.

Even as a kid, I was so impressed by going out later and looking at the moon and realizing, out there, almost a quarter of a million miles away, two astronauts were getting ready to walk.

I even understood back then that the landing was the hard part. And once we had landed, that these guys were going to get the chance to go outside and walk on the moon.

HOWELL: You know, you talk about these moments that really were just events, people would gather around the television. It was a primetime moment. And we don't have that quite as much.

I've been showing my son pictures of the Apollo mission, just got an Endeavor model, Challenger, the space shuttle that he is really excited about. And it is the imagination, the excitement and where we're see things go now, we're seeing the next frontier. NASA saying that we will go to Mars.

What do you think about that?

CHIAO: I like to say that we've been 20 years from Mars since 1969. We -- back then we thought that we would be on Mars certainly by 1990 and have lunar bases. Of course none of that did come to pass. The last time we were on the moon was 1972.

Now the administration has called for a lunar landing with astronauts by 2024. That is a pretty ambitious timeline, even if we did have the funding available today, which, of course, we don't. So that is the challenge, is getting the financial commitment and the political commitment from both sides of the aisle to go ahead and do this program.

But you know, I think it important to note that NASA is moving forward as best it can. The exciting part for me are these commercial efforts like SpaceX and Blue Origin that have entrepreneurial, visionary leaders, who either have the financial resources themselves or access to the financial resources to do their programs.

And they are driving forward, building rockets, building spacecraft. And it is exciting to see if there could be a partnership, an expanded partnership with NASA and see where this all leads.

HOWELL: Leroy Chiao, we appreciate your time. Thank you.

CHIAO: My pleasure. Thank you.

ALLEN: Everyone is getting into the celebration. Tech giant Google is paying tribute to the moon landing with one of their famous doodles on the Google home page.

HOWELL: And clicking it starts an animated video of the mission narrated by command module pilot --


HOWELL: -- Michael Collins. Here is how he described the historic mission for Google.


MICHAEL COLLINS, ASTRONAUT, APOLLO 11: The first time we saw the moon up close, it was a magnificent spectacle. It was huge. The sun was coming around it, cascading and making a golden halo, and filled our entire window.

As impressive as the view was of this alien moon seen up close, it was nothing compared to the sight of the tiny Earth. The Earth was the main show. The Earth was it.

After a tense descent, in which they almost ran out of fuel, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon on July 20th, 1969.

ARMSTRONG: Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed. We're going to step onto land now. That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.

M. COLLINS: Neil and Buzz set up an American flag and a plaque that read, "Here men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the moon, July 1969 A.D. We came in peace for all mankind.


ALLEN: And in our next hour, we talk with a reporter who covered the launch. And he was just 19 at the time. How about that one?

HOWELL: Spectacular to look back at that.

Thanks so much for being with us. CNN NEWSROOM continues after the break.