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Trump: Four Dem Congresswomen Not "Capable Of Loving Our Country"; Booker: Trump "Using Racist Tropes" For Political Gain; Search Warrant Documents Reveal Trump Spoke With Cohen Multiple Times On Day Stormy Daniels' Hush Money Was Sent; New Audio Reveals Iran- U.K. Captured Tanker Confrontation; Iran's Foreign Minister Warns Of Escalation In Persian Gulf Area; What To Expect From Robert Mueller's Testimony; Bernie Sanders Defends Unionized Staffers' Salaries Amid Clash Over $15 Minimum Wage; Swedish PM Tells Trump Rapper Won't Get Special Treatment. Aired 3-4p ET

Aired July 21, 2019 - 15:00   ET

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


[15:00:00] BARBIE LATZA NADEAU, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: FURTHER studies next week will have stir the direction for everyone involved in this puzzling mystery.

Barbie Latza Nadeau, CNN, Rome.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN HOST: Hello, thanks for joining me. I'm Martin Savidge in for Fredricka Whitfield.

President Trump is launching a fresh assault on four Democratic congresswomen of color. This comes in one week after his tweeted a racist attack against the Democratic lawmakers that sparked racist chants at his rally. Today, he is questioning their patriotism and distorting what the four lawmakers have said.

The President twitting, "I don't believe the four congresswomen are capable of loving our country. They should apologize to America and Israel for the horrible, hateful things they have said. They are destroying the Democratic Party, but are weak and insecure people who can never destroy our great nation."

Today, a top Democrat and civil rights icon accused the President of stoking racial fears and division, while many Republicans tried to move on from the controversy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D-MD): I've never, in my total of 37 years in public service, ever heard a constituent say that they were scared of their leader.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS CHIEF ANCHOR: Scared of their leader? Scared of the President of the United States?

CUMMINGS: Of the -- President of the United States, that's exactly right.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you believe President Trump is a racist?

CUMMINGS: And I've been in politics 37 years. Go ahead, what did you say?

STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you believe President Trump is a racist?

CUMMINGS: I believe he is -- yes, no doubt about it.

SEN. RON JOHNSON (R-WI): I would say in general the whole America love it or leave it is not a new sentiment. You know, back in the '60s that wasn't considered racist. I just find it very unfortunate that so many parts of our public debate right now get immediately stuck inside a racial framework, when what I would like to see is us moving toward that colorblind society. I was hoping when President Obama was elected it would really go a long way toward healing the racial divide.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAVIDGE: Vice President Pence also coming to President Trump's defense, vowing that the President will not stay silent if another racist chant breaks out at one of his rallies.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Such a major. The President was very clear.

MAJOR GARRETT, CBS NEWS CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Was he?

PENCE: That he wasn't happy about it. And that if it happened again, he might -- he'd make an effort to speak out about it.

GARRETT: He will make an effort to speak out about it?

PENCE: That's what he's already said.

GARRETT: OK.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAVIDGE: CNN White House Reporter, Sarah Westwood is in New Jersey where the President is spending the weekend.

And, Sarah, the White House went out or sent our, rather, one of the President's most, I would say, divisive advisers today to defend the President, Stephen Miller. What was he saying?

SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: That's right, Martin. A relatively rare public appearance from Stephen Miller today in defense of the President's attacks on the so-called squad, that those four progressive House Democratic freshmen.

Now, Stephen Miller is one of the most vocal aides. Internally, he's very influential when it comes to immigration and pushing the President's populist national agenda on immigration throughout the administration.

Now, Miller made the argument that just because the President is criticizing these four Democratic congresswomen of color, that doesn't automatically mean that that criticism is racist, although President Trump initially said that these women should go back to where they came from.

Miller also argued that Democrats throw around the word racist too often to silence their critics. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS WALLACE, "FOX NEWS SUNDAY" HOST: Why shouldn't someone see all of that as racist?

STEPHEN MILLER, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE POLICY ADVISER: I think the term racist, Chris, has become a label that is too often deployed by the left, Democrats in this country simply to try to silence and punish and suppress people they disagree with, speech that they don't want to hear.

The reality is that this President has been a President for all Americans. All the people in that audience and millions of patriotic Americans all across this country are tired of being beat up, condescended to, looked down upon, talked down to by members of Congress on the left in Washington, D.C., and their allies in many corridors of the media.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WESTWOOD: And Miller also highlighted the fact that President Trump has disavowed the racist chant of send her back that broke out at his rally in North Carolina on Wednesday night.

Vice President Mike Pence, as we just saw, also pointing to the fact Trump has tried to distance himself from those chants, although Trump has sent some mixed messages, for example, defending the people who started those chants as incredible patriots.

Now, sources tell CNN that aides and allies, even the President's own daughter, Ivanka Trump, had pressured the President to distance himself from those chants amid a backlash from Democrats and Republicans were having a hard time defending them.

Trump, though, showing no signs of walking away from his attacks on those Democratic House freshmen. Sources tell CNN Trump even views that, Martin, as a political success.

SAVIDGE: Sarah Westwood following the President in New Jersey today. Thank you very much for that.

[15:05:00] With me now is Democratic strategist Aisha Moodie-Mills and Brendan Buck, a former top aide for Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan. And thanks to both of you for joining me today.

AISHA MOODIE-MILLS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Thanks for having me.

SAVIDGE: Aisha, let me start with you. What do you make of the President who's now not trying to -- he has changed the narrative somewhat to turn this controversy from his initial comments of -- racist comments to now patriotism and anti-Semitism. He's literally steering the conversation.

MOODIE-MILLS: Here's the thing, changing meaning lying is what he's doing. He's back pedaling because he's lying. Donald Trump is a racist, the tweets were racist. This pivot try to be "patriotic" is also very fascist and we need to really talk about that because Donald Trump's idea of patriotism suggests that you are white and somehow native born white, which is what makes this country your country.

And that in and of itself is problematic given the fact that the United States of America is -- was designed to be a "melting pot" and certainly is on its course to be majority people of color.

The idea that this President would continue to stoke this racist attitude that the only thing that makes you American is if you happen to be a white person who was born here is just wrong. And by the way, that means that his wife isn't an American either under those -- in terms of the way that he defines it.

SAVIDGE: And that actually has been brought up. Senator Cory Booker is running for president and earlier today he accused the President of using race to divide. And he says that these attacks may define the 2020 election. Let's just take a listen to what he had to say, strong stuff.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN.CORY BOOKER (D-NJ) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Reality is this is a guy who is worse than a racist. He is actually using racist tropes and racial language for political gain. He's trying to use this as a weapon to divide our nation against itself. We have a demagogue, fear mongering person who is using race to divide. And this is a referendum not on him, it's actually a referendum on the heart and soul of our country. Who are we going to be, and who are we going to be to each other?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAVIDGE: Brendan, my question to you is, if the 2020 election does turn into a referendum on Trump and race instead of the economy, how might that impact not only the presidential election, but the GOP efforts to take back the House and hold on to the Senate?

BRENDAN BUCK, FORMER TOP AIDE TO HOUSE SPEAKER PAUL RYAN: Yes. We saw that two years ago in the 2018 election or less than that. We wanted to make the election in 2018 about the economy, a referendum on how much people were seeing in their paychecks and how much people were doing better in their lives, but the President didn't feel the same way and really tried to make that election about immigration and about some of these more nationalist policies that he have and you saw the result.

We lost really big in areas like suburban areas where you've got more educated people and we got wiped out with women. And at this point, it seems that the President either believes that those groups are lost causes or he just isn't interested in trying to win them back.

What they're clearly trying to do is drive up the white vote in areas that were really important to him last time. That's that upper Midwest area, the Rust Belt. And they have decided that they need to drive up numbers, drive up their base there, and that's how they're hoping anyway to come back.

It's not the kind of conversation I would hope that they would have. Hopefully the referendum should be on the economy or other things that have been accomplished, but that's obviously not the direction they're heading.

SAVIDGEG: You know, it could be a very dangerous strategy. Aisha, the President claims that he is attacking these Democratic congresswomen because of their views, not because that they are all women of color.

If it is because of the views, then my question is why isn't he attacking Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren? They've expressed similar views and that they're running for president.

MOODIE-MILLS: Yes, because he's lying. I mean here's the thing, this President has never actually had any real conversation, debates, or attacks that are based on issues, facts, analysis around policy. So to completely, you know, suggest that that's what he's doing is obviously a lie and there's no precedent for it because he doesn't talk about anything of substance.

What he is doing is he is trying to really make these women of color be standard bearers for a certain type of democracy that he believes that his constituents do not want and are fearful of. And he's doing that as a way to really bring white nationalist to the fore of the party to help get him reelection.

When you have a guy in the White House who is proud of the fact that he got there by frankly a significant amount of white nationalist and racist support, then you know what he's doing, who is playing to, and who is pondering to, and who he believes American -- who he believes the Americans are that deserve his attention.

And so, you know, there's no way to dice it, there's no way to back pedal it. The fact is, is that all the President cares about is how he can get his white nationalist base to put him back in office and that's not going to happen in 2020.

SAVIDGE: Brendan, I want to switch subjects a little bit. You worked with House Speaker Paul Ryan and the President attacked Ryan after a new book came out showing Ryan speaking critical of him. But there are many who have said, "Well, why didn't Speaker Ryan speak out against the President when he was in office, when he had the real podium to do so?"

[15:10:03] BUCK: Well, for a little context, these comments came about six months ago, a couple of weeks after he had left office. You know, I think that there is a misperception that the Speaker never spoke out when the President was saying things that he was uncomfortable with.

The truth is there's a long list of things that he did and some of the things that were highlighted in this book, whether it's the horse face comment or claiming the President was being -- President Obama was being wiretapped, those are things that the Speaker did actually come out and talk about at the time.

But the reality is, when you are Speaker of the House, it's easy for a pundit or a blogger to, you know, say how you should handle it. When you're there, you have to be able to work with the person who is president. And the Speaker thought that the best way to do that was to develop a level of trust.

When he had concerns, often deliver those concerns privately to him, because if the Speaker was out there constantly attacking him, there's no way that they would be able to work together and get anything done.

And he believes that this President actually responds best and I think we've seen lots of examples of this where he doesn't respond well to public criticism. He actually responds pretty well if you talk to him privately and explain to him why -- what he's doing is not the right approach.

SAVIDGE: So you're saying that you have to work with him even if you disagree him fundamentally?

BUCK: I think when you're Speaker of the House and you have a president, you don't really have a choice but to work with him, I guess, other than resigning and I don't know if that's really a great option for anything. I think he worked with him to the extent that he could.

He spoke out when there were issues that arose where he had to and generally tried to have a good private relationship with him where there was a level of trust, where the President understood when he came to him and said, "Hey, you're not really doing this, you know, the right way or here's how people are hearing this."

He understood that it was coming perhaps from a place where he was trying to help and not trying to hurt him.

SAVIDGE: All right. We have to leave it there, I'm sorry. Aisha Moodie-Mills, thank for you joining us. And Brendan Buck, thank you as well.

Still ahead, Robert Mueller, he is preparing for a crucial week on Capitol Hill, so are Democrats. He will be testifying about his report to Congress. But, will that testimony sway public opinions of the President? Plus, stoking tensions with Iran, the United Kingdom warns of serious consequences after Iran seizes a British tanker. Why Iran's foreign minister is blaming the U.S. for getting the British involved?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:15:54] SAVIDGE: New court papers that were released last week shed new light on some of the back room activities of the 2016 Trump campaign. CNN Political Correspondent, Sara Murray says the documents show how the chaos of hush money, the payments that were made, unfolded between then-Trump attorney, Michael Cohen, and other close advisers.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: New court filings reveal how Donald Trump and his campaign scrambled to keep allegations of Trump's alleged sexual indiscretions under wraps. After the "Access Hollywood" tape surfaced in October 2016 --

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Just kiss. I don't even wait. And when you're a star, they let you do it.

MURRAY: -- the Trump campaign went into damage control. According to phone records obtained by the FBI, Michael Cohen, Trump's former personal attorney and fixer, spoke to candidate Trump and Hope Hicks, the campaign spokeswoman. Then he reached out to David Pecker, the chief executive of American Media, which owns the "National Enquirer."

Over a series of at least 10 frenzied calls, Cohen played middleman, seeking to keep Stephanie Clifford, A.K.A. adult film star Stormy Daniels, quiet about the affair she allegedly had with Trump.

"I believe that at least some of these communications concern the need to prevent Clifford from going public, particularly in the wake of the 'Access Hollywood' story," an FBI agent wrote in the documents.

Two weeks before the general election, Cohen initiated the $130,000 wire transfer to pay off Daniels. The same day, he spoke with Trump over the phone at least twice. As president, Trump has insisted he had no knowledge of the hush money payments.

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

TRUMP: No, no.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Then why -- 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 attorney and you'll have to ask Michael.

MURRAY: But Cohen, who is now serving three years in prison, implicated the President when he pleaded guilty to eight counts of financial crimes, including campaign finance violations. New court filings reaffirm what prosecutors previously alleged, that Cohen acted at Trump's direction in making illegal payments to silence women.

This week, the judge demanded that less redacted versions of search warrants and other materials related to the campaign finance violations be made public, calling them a matter of national importance.

The filings show prosecutors have effectively concluded their investigation, a sign they're unlikely to bring charges against anyone else. When it comes to Trump, they can't. Justice Department guidelines say a sitting president can't be charged.

During the Trump campaign's final sprint after Daniels was paid off, Karen McDougal's story was about to burst into public view. The unredacted documents reveal another scramble with Cohen, American Media and Hicks.

A fourth coming "Wall Street Journal" story was about to reveal that McDougal, former Playboy playmate, allegedly had an affair with Trump and American Media tried to suppress her story. Months earlier in September 2016, Trump and Cohen had discussed paying McDougal off, a conversation that was secretly recorded by Cohen.

MICHAEL COHEN, TRUMP'S FORMER PERSONAL ATTORNEY AND FIXER: So, I'm all over that. And I spoke to Allen about it. When it comes time for the financing, which will be --

TRUMP: Wait a sec, what financing.

COHEN: Well, I'll have to pay something

TRUMP: (INAUDIBLE) pay with cash --

COHEN: No, no, no, no, no. I got it. No, no, no.

TRUMP: -- check.

MURRAY: When "The Wall Street Journal" story was about to publish, an American media official texted Cohen, "I think it will be OK, pal. I think it will fade into the distance." Cohen responded, "He's pissed," an apparent reference to Trump.

McDougal's story came after a number of women came forward with allegations that Trump had groped or sexually assaulted them. And some aides were relieved to see McDougal's story getting relatively little attention.

"So far I see only six stories. Getting little to no traction," Cohen texted Hicks. According to court filing, Hicks responded, "Same, keep praying. It's working."

Sara Murray, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SAVIDGE: And there's much more ahead, including this, growing fears in the Persian Gulf after Iran seizes a British tanker. We're hearing the dramatic moments unfold in real time with newly released audio. We'll have that update, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:23:43] SAVIDGE: Dramatic new audio has surfaced of that confrontation between Iranian forces and the British navy right before a British flagged oil tanker was boarded. Here's a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you obey, you will be safe. If you obey, you will be safe.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I reiterate that as you are conducting transit passage in a recognized international strait, under international law, your passage must not be impaired."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No challenge is intended. No challenge is intended. I want to inspect the ship for security reasons, over.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAVIDGE: Now, Iran seized that ship last week in the critical shipping area of the Strait of Hormuz. It was in apparent retaliation after Britain captured an Iranian ship it accused of trying to smuggle oil to Syria. It also came just a few days after the U.S. claimed it shot down an Iranian drone.

Our CNN Matthew Chance is in the United Arab Emirate, near the Strait of Hormuz. And, Matthew, do we know where the ship is now and any updates on how the crew is?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: As a matter of fact, we do, yes. It's in a port called Bandar Abbas, which is in Southern Iran and it's just a few miles to the North of where I'm talking to you from right now on the Gulf of Oman right next to the Persian Gulf, one of the main and most important -- strategically important shipping routes in the world.

[15:25:13] And so much of the world's oil supply goes through this region. In terms of the ship, Press Television, which is a state- funded Iranian broadcaster, has had one of its correspondents on the deck of the ship and has been broadcasting images of it in port.

We understand the crews are safely inside the ship still, inside the quarters of the ship, and the managers or the owners of the vessel have requested the Iranian authorities to gain access to the crew members, although there's been no Iranian response on that.

One little detail from the television pictures that were broadcast on Iranian television earlier today is that the British flag that would normally fly above that ship has been taken down and an Iranian flag is now flying on it, as the Iranians hold it inside that port of Bandar Abbas, Martin.

SAVIDGE: Interesting. So, I'm wondering a strategy here on the part of Iran. Is it simply to get back its ship that it believes was wrongfully detained by the British or is there maybe a broader strategy?

CHANCE: No, I think it probably is that. I mean, who knows what the Iranians are thinking, it's such a sort of multi-polled country. But certainly what they've achieved is they've managed to secure a very potent bargaining chip so if there are negotiations in the future, they can swap this oil tanker essentially for the oil and for the tanker that's being held by British authorities over the coast overseas (ph), over the coast of Gibraltar. So that's one possibility.

The problem is, of course, it's a very risky strategy when you set it against the escalating tensions that have been under way in this Persian Gulf region for the past several months, particularly between Iran and the United States.

Well, earlier, our own Fareed Zakaria sat down with Javad Zarif, who is the foreign minister of Iran, and put it to him the question about whether he was concerned about this turning into an outright conflict. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF, IRAN FOREIGN MINISTER: The United States is intervening in order to make these waters in secure for Iran. You cannot make these waters in secure for one country and secure for others.

FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST: Do you believe that as a result of this, whoever is to blame, you could have an escalation which could result in a military incident?

ZARIF: Well, in such a small body of water, if you have so many foreign vessels, I mean accidents will happen.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHANCE: But it's like this incident, the seizure of the British tanker showing the Iranians are prepared to assert their power, certainly in this Persian Gulf region, Martin.

SAVIDGE: Matthew Chance, thank you very much for the update.

Still ahead, all eyes will be glued to Capitol Hill this week as former Special Counsel Robert Mueller is set to testify before, not one, but two congressional committees. What Democrats and Republicans hope to hear, that's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:31:53] SAVIDGE: Both parties have a lot riding on the upcoming testimony of Special Counsel Robert Mueller. For Republicans, it could be a chance to chip away at an investigation that has dogged them for the last 22 months.

For Democrats, it's their chance to turn a 448-page legal report into essentially a bottom line for the American public. The chairman of the House, that's chairmen of the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees have high expectations for the hearings. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): The report presents very substantial evidence that the President is guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors. And we have to present -- or that Mueller present those facts to the American people and then see where we go from there, because the administration must be held accountable and no president can be above the law.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): We want Bob Mueller to bring it to life to talk about what's in that report. It's a pretty damning set of facts that involve a presidential campaign in a close race, welcoming help from a hostile foreign power, not reporting it but eagerly embracing it, building it into their campaign strategy, lying about it to cover up, then obstructing an investigation into interference again to try cover up.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SAVIDGE: It sounds like Democrats want more than what Bob Mueller has delivered. Joining me now to talk more about that is former Federal Prosecutor Lis Wiehl. And she is also -- Wiehl is also part of the counsel for Democrats on impeachment of President Clinton.

We know from CNN reporting that the Democrats are heavily preparing, even trials apparently for Wednesday. You've helped lawmakers to prepare for testimony like this. So, what kind of strategy would you recommend when it comes to questioning somebody like Bob Mueller?

LIS WIEHL, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: First of all, extreme discipline. They've got to be very linear in their questioning here. No grandstanding. Because Mueller has already said that he's going to stay within the four corners of the document. As you said, it's an extremely large document and they got to assume that the American public -- I mean, let's be honest, really hasn't read the four corners of the document.

So the first order of business is to really make sure that at the end of these hours, and it's really not that many hours when you think about it that he has to testify, that the American public comes away with a greater knowledge of really the high points of what's in that document.

So if Mueller is going to stay within the four corners of the document, get to have -- to have him elicit for the public what really the Democrats want, the high points in that document. How do you do that?

We've got to look at Mueller as almost -- as I would say a hostile witness really because he doesn't want to be there, right, he didn't want to testify. He's going to be there begrudgingly.

SAVIDGE: Right.

WIEHL: But, you know, he wants to tell the truth. He's a prosecutor. He's been a prosecutor. He's been the director of the FBI. He wants to tell the truth. He will tell the truth.

SAVIDGE: Let me just stop you real quick, because we're going to run out of time and I want to ask you few other things. What are Republicans going to bring up? How do you think they are going to focus on Mueller?

WIEHL: OK. With Mueller, they're going to try and say, look, you didn't--, you know, this was bungled from the beginning. They're going to really try to attack the report.

[15:35:06] But they have to do that very carefully because they don't want to get the ire of Mueller up to the point that he's going to give the Democrats more than he would have, i.e. go into hypotheticals with the Democrats and really play into the Democratic hands, because Republicans are really walking a tight rope here.

Their best strategy really would be to hold back and almost ask nothing. That would be their best strategy. They're not going to do that, of course, because the Republicans are going to, you know, grandstand a little bit.

SAVIDGE: And really quick here, the format, five minutes for each person to begin the line of questioning and you bounce back and forth, Republican and Democrats. How do you establish any real thorough timeline or line of questioning with that?

WIEHL: OK. Here's what you do. I mean, I think the best strategy with the Democrats, and this would take the staffers to really rein in their Democrats and that's like herding cats, it's very difficult, is for the Democrats to say we're going to go five minutes each, but we're going to go, again, in a linear fashion.

With Democrats, you're going to go one question after the other and it's going to take a linear form of going from the report one statement from another, so there's no duplication, right, because in the report Mueller goes through different, let's say, indictment points really that (INAUDIBLE) Trump.

And each Democrat take one point or parts of one point, so there's no duplication. No grandstanding to make sure that each Democrat then takes only one of those points and so by the time you get to the end of the round, all of the points, the highlights have been covered.

SAVIDGE: Right.

WIEHL: And only then at the end do they ask, "Hey, Mr. Mueller, you at -- in the background of all of this, did you always know that you could not indict a sitting president?" That is very important.

SAVIDGE: All right. We have to -- we got to leave it there, Lis Wiehl. I appreciate it greatly. Clearly, Democrats going to have to be very disciplined for this.

WIEHL: Yes.

SAVIDGE: Don't forget CNN will have special coverage of the Mueller hearings, that will on Wednesday. And of course, it all starts t 8:00 a.m. Eastern Time right here.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:41:10] SAVIDGE: This afternoon, 2020 contender Bernie Sanders held a rally to close out what has been a very busy campaign weekend in Iowa. He is trying to focus on policies like Medicare for all, but his competition is focusing on complaints on how much Sanders is paying his campaign staffers.

The issue is creating an interesting dilemma, you could say, for a candidate who says that he supports $15 minimum wage, $15 an hour. This morning, 2020 candidate Cory Booker told our Dana Bash that his campaign makes sure to give its staffers and interns at least that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOOKER: We've said in our campaign that we're not only going to pay our campaign staff with that, but we're going to pay interns as well. So, I'm very proud of the House that we have. Not only do we pay our campaign staff wages that reflect what my values are, but we actually make sure that we have inclusive campaigns, diverse campaigns.

DANA BASH, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: So it's $15 an hour, minimum?

BOOKER: It's $15 an hour or more than that, yes.

BASH: OK.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAVIDGE: CNN Correspondent, Ryan Nobles is at that rally in Fort Madison, Iowa. And, Ryan, what are we hearing from the Vermont senator today?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT REPORTER: Well, there's no doubt, Martin, that this puts Bernie Sanders in a difficult position. And we should point out that the only reason that this is happening is because his union took the historic step or I should say his campaign took the historic step of allowing their employees to unionize.

And it was through these union negotiations that they settled on a salary of $36,000 a year for field staff, and based on a 40-hour workweek that does work out to $15 an hour. But the problem is, as this campaign ramps up, they've got to work a lot more than 40 hours a week, and when you work a 60-hour a week, then that's a little bit under $15 an hour.

For Sanders, a $15 minimum wage is one of the big things he's fought for. In fact, he spoke about it just a few minutes ago right here in Fort Madison, Iowa. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Four years ago when I came here and I said, "We're got to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour," people said, "Bernie, you are crazy. You can't more than double the minimum wage." So four years ago they told us it could not be done, well, it is being done right now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBLES: So you see the rub for Sanders. He believes very, very much that $15 should be the standard across the country, but he's in a situation now where that might not necessarily reflect what's happening in his campaign.

His campaign says they are working to iron out these issues with their union. There's a negotiating process within their collective bargaining agreement and as it stands right now, those workers will not work more than 40 hours a week so they can meet that $15 an hour standard. Martin?

SAVIDGE: That's one solution. All right, Ryan Nobles, thanks very much for that.

I'm joined again now by Democratic strategist Aisha Moodie-Mills and Brendan Buck, a former top aide to former Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan. Nice to have you both back.

And, Aisha, how much of a problem is this for Bernie Sanders? It is -- it's clearly an embarrassment and it's probably a distraction for the message he wants to deliver. But is it really a detriment long- term?

MOODIE-MILLS: I think that it's a situation where to your point it's a distraction. I think it gives him an opportunity to do better at practicing what he preaches. I believe that people know where Bernie Sanders' values are, where his heart is in terms of the policy.

Now, how that plays out in practice is really just a testament of America and policy making, right? So even though he may say one thing, it might not manifest that way as we just heard on the campaign depending on how many hours folks work.

But, yes, I think that, you know, if I were his competitors on that debate stage, I would call him out on this because it's not OK to say this is what I fundamentally and idealistically want when it's not actually playing out that way in his own universe that he can control.

SAVIDGE: Brendan, many of, you know, of these candidates have been quite vocal in their attacks on President Trump. But in the upcoming CNN debate, Sanders will share the stage with progressive rival Elizabeth Warren.

[15:45:01] So, do they really need to start to turn attention on one another to -- you know, potentially they're going to avoid splitting votes here in the primaries.

BUCK: Yes. And I actually think that pairing is one of the most interesting ones that you have for this CNN debate.

SAVIDGE: I agree.

BUCK: Because really four years ago Senator Sanders was the ideas candidate. He was the champion of progressive ideas. And at this point, he is sort of losing that mantle to Elizabeth Warren.

I think at this point she has overtaken that as the ideas candidate. You know, they run around saying she's got a plan for that. And when you -- when Bernie Sanders loses that mantle, there's not a lot left that's incredibly appealing to him.

You can get all of the progressive ideas if you're a Democrat and you get someone who is actually a little more articulate on stage, can connect with people better than Bernie Sanders does. So I think that he really is going to have to go after Elizabeth Warren, because she in particular is a threat to him.

SAVIDGE: Right. He has competition. Aisha, Sanders is the only Democratic candidate who is self-described as a Democratic socialist. But President Trump and Republicans alike are basically using that label to describe everybody in the entire party.

Here's contender Pete Buttigieg as he was asked this weekend about what do you do about that. Here, listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If we adopt a platform this way out to the left, they're going to say we're socialists. If we adopt a more moderate or conservative platform, they're going to say we're socialists. So, we might as well just do what we think is right, make the case for it and then let them do what they want.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAVIDGE: Aisha, I'm going to ask you this because you're the strategist here. Is that a wise approach?

MOODIE-MILLS: Yes, absolutely. I totally agree with Mayor Pete on this one. The reality is that Republicans are going to -- they are running a race. This is competition, right? So they are going to try to defame the Democrats and frankly suppress the vote of Democratic supporters based upon the language and the nasty rhetoric that they use.

So what the Democrats in the field need to do is they need to actually run on their values, they need to run on aspiration of who America could be, who we should be as a way to counter the nastiness and hatefulness and despicableness, frankly, that's coming out of the Republican camp and certainly out of the President's tweets and mouth, and the White House.

So I totally agree with Mayor Pete that we need to actually run on our values, our policy ideas, and the people will respond to that. We can't keep getting in the muck and in the mud with this tit for tat around things that frankly don't matter.

SAVIDGE: Brendan, let me ask you first, do you agree with that? I mean, is that the way it's going to work or Republicans always going to define the -- BUCK: I mean, I think that is a risky proposition and I don't think it gives a whole lot of credit to the American people who are quite capable of looking at the policies that are being discussed here.

And let's be honest, other than maybe Joe Biden, Democrats are not running as old school traditional Democrats. They're talking about universal health care and free college, and decriminalizing border crossings. These are the types of things that I think can put enough doubt in voters' heads.

Look at the fact four years ago, Donald Trump was not particularly popular in a lot of these states. He had low favorability. But what he was able to do is put enough doubt and enough voters that they didn't want to vote for Hillary Clinton.

And what's happening now is I think Democrats are giving a lot of ammunition to which Donald Trump can put doubt in voters' heads and potentially push the President over the top for another reelection.

SAVIDGE: That is an interesting point, and it was the way it worked in 2016 from the conversations I had with many, many voters. Brendan Buck, thanks very much. Aisha Moodie-Mills, thank you very much for joining me as well.

MOODIE-MILLS: Thanks.

SAVIDGE: All right. You don't want to miss the two big nights of the Democratic presidential debates. They are live from Detroit and they are, mark your calendar, July 30th and the 31st. And, of course, they're only going to be here on CNN.

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[15:52:09] SAVIDGE: President Trump is calling for an international diplomatic effort to free an imprisoned American rapper A$AP Rocky.

After apparently being tipped off by the First Lady, President Trump has been negotiating directly with the Swedish prime minister. Despite the President's intervention, the Swedish PM says the rapper will not get special treatment.

A$AP Rocky has been held for weeks after a street fight in Stockholm. CNN's Melissa Bell is in Stockholm. And, Melissa, what is the Swedish government saying about all of this?

MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, very little, Martin, frankly because it can't. In fact, the only person that we've heard from directly on this matter is the spokesman of the prime minister who did confirm what Donald Trump had tweeted. That he and the Swedish prime minister had had a friendly and respectful conversation about A$AP Rocky, but that the Swedish prime minister would not and could not do anything to intervene in what is a proudly independent judicial system.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) BELL: Free A$AP Rocky, A$AP. The sign just outside the Stockholm remand prison, the only indication of the controversy over the American rapper currently being held inside. On Thursday, the American resident weighed in.

TRUMP: I personally don't know A$AP Rocky, but I can tell you that he has tremendous support from the African-American community.

BELL: A$AP's more than 10 million followers haven't heard from the man himself in nearly three weeks, ever since he was jailed in Sweden on suspicion of assault in connection with a brawl in June 30th.

These were the images posted by TMZ that appear to show A$AP Rocky caught up in a street fight. Other videos posted by the rapper on his Instagram paint a different picture, one of harassment.

A$AP ROCKY, RAPPER: Look, just for the cameras, we don't want no problems with these boys. They keep following us.

BELL: Both sides are now being investigated, although the Swedish man allegedly involved remains free since the judiciary does not consider him a flight risk. A$AP Rocky on the other hand learned on Friday that he would remain in custody while the prosecutor continues to investigate claiming that he does present a flight risk.

Afterwards, the rapper's lawyer told journalists that the prosecutor's decision was unfair but expected, and that his client is innocent, adding that he believed he was assaulted and acted in self-defense. A$AP Rocky's lawyer and his media representatives have not responded to CNN for comment.

On Saturday, the American president tweeted that he had been in touch with the Swedish prime minister saying that A$AP was not a flight risk and offering to personally vouch for his bail, but that is not how things work in Sweden.

DENNIS MARTINSSON, SENIOR LAW LECTURER, STOCKHOLM UNIVERSITY: If you know the Swedish legal system, you know that there's no bail system.

[15:55:01] But then he also said something like the Swedish prime minister will get involved in the case. Actually, the Swedish constitution forbids any minister, even the prime minister to get involved or even state anything about it, an individual case.

BELL: Indeed, the Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said that he neither could nor would try to influence the judicial process.

Celebrities have also weighed in. Justin Bieber thanking Donald Trump for helping his friend, but asking whether he could also let the kids out of cages, referencing the migrant crisis on the U.S.-Mexico border.

The former Swedish prime minister, Carl Bildt, also tweeted that Donald Trump needs to understand that Sweden has an independent judiciary with any political meddling distinctly off-limits. That independent judiciary gives the prosecutor until Thursday to rule whether A$AP Rocky and two members of his entourage should be charged, released or held here a little longer.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BELL: And so, Martin, it is here in that remand prison in the heart of Stockholm that A$AP Rocky remains in custody and will until the prosecutor gives her ruling.

Now, we have reached out in the last couple of hours to prosecuting authorities here in Sweden. They have said that they will not be influenced by anything that any politicians of any country have had to say about the matter. This will be a decision, they said, that will be for the prosecutor and the prosecutor alone, Martin.

SAVIDGE: Thanks, Melissa. Appreciate it. And we'll be right back.

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