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Unrest In Puerto Rico; Interview With Former U.S. Secretary Of Defense Leon Panetta; Warren Says Financial Crash Is Coming, Unveils New Plan; Biden Says He Supports $15 Minimum Wage For Campaign Staffers Jabbing Sanders Amid Pay Controversy; Avengers: Endgame Passes Avatar As Highest Grossing Movie Ever. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired July 22, 2019 - 16:30   ET



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: After minutes of being pressed by Fox News' Shepard Smith, he finally, resistantly, apologized.


SHEPARD SMITH, FOX NEWS: And is it even safe for you to continue to attempt to govern?

GOV. RICARDO ROSSELLO, PUERTO RICO: Well, again, I have apologized for that.

I'm making amends for all those efforts. I'm talking to people.

SMITH: You have apologized for what specifically, Governor?

ROSSELLO: For all of the comments that I made on the chats.


KEILAR: All right, they have had enough, these hundreds of thousands filling the streets in Puerto Rico. We're going to continue to cover this story.

And, next, we're also going to be speaking with former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta about the situation in Iran.



KEILAR: We're back with breaking news in our world lead.

President Trump this afternoon saying he is prepared for the worst- case scenario with Iran and claiming the United States is -- quote -- "geared up. We are ready for the absolute worst" is what he said.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are ready for the absolute worst. And we're ready for sense, too.


KEILAR: Ready for sense too.

As CNN's Barbara Starr is reporting from the Pentagon, the president is also now casting doubt on reaching any kind of possible compromise.


BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Iranian state TV announcing it has captured 17 Iranian citizens accused of acting as CIA spies, even releasing photos of what they say are covert CIA officers who recruited the accused.

CNN is blurring their identities. The CIA not commenting, but President Trump pushing back hard.

TRUMP: I read a report today about CIA. That's totally a false story. That's another lie. It's a religious country or religious leaders, but they lie a lot.

STARR: And as tensions keep escalating with Iran, the commander in chief sounded downbeat about the prospects for diplomacy.

TRUMP: Frankly, it's getting hard to want to make a deal with Iran. Let's see what happens with Iran.

STARR: Iran in an all-out information war involving America's closest ally, the U.K., releasing this seemingly staged video of the crew of the British-flagged tanker Stena Impero, which was seized by Iran Friday, the crew appearing nervous and forced to take part in the filming.

Iran also releasing this dramatic video showing Iranian commandos roping down on to the deck of the tanker when it was seized. In London, the British foreign secretary announcing to Parliament the military is responding.

JEREMY HUNT, BRITISH FOREIGN SECRETARY: It is with a heavy heart that we are announcing this increased international presence in the Gulf.

STARR: Several U.S. cargo vessels are expected to transit through the Strait of Hormuz in the coming days. The Pentagon is now considering flying fighter jets overhead to make sure those American ships stay safe.

And the president, who says he doesn't want war, still making a threat.

TRUMP: And we are ready for the absolute worst, and we're ready for sense, too. But we are very geared up.


STARR: And the real test of just how far the Iranians may be willing to go is what happens if the U.S. in the coming days decides to put the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln through the Strait of Hormuz and on into the Persian Gulf, Brianna?

KEILAR: All right. Barbara Starr at the Pentagon, thank you.

And joining me now to discuss this is former Defense Secretary under President Obama Leon Panetta. He's also a former director of the CIA.

Mr. Secretary, thank you so much for being with us.

And, well, you just tell us, what is the absolute worst-case scenario with Iran, and is America actually ready to deal with it?

LEON PANETTA, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: We're involved in a very dangerous game right now.

And both sides are poking at each other, waiting to see whether the other side blinks. And the reality is, neither side is going to blink. We're not going to get Iran to suddenly change their ways, and the United States isn't going to lift sanctions or suddenly become a partner in the nuclear agreement again.

So they're both poking at each other. And the problem is that, the more these tensions increase, the greater the danger that some kind of miscalculation is going to take place. There's a lot of pressure as a result of, I'm sure, a high level of alert that is taking place in the Persian Gulf.

And the higher that alert, the more the chances are that some kind of miscalculation will lead to some kind of military confrontation. I think that's the reality.

KEILAR: You have said the best way to handle the tensions with Iran is for leaders of both countries to sit down at a table together. Let's listen to what President Trump said about his approach today.


TRUMP: I'm just going to sit back and wait. Let's see what happens. But I will say they are doing poorly as a country. And we will see what happens.


KEILAR: Do you think that is the approach he's actually taking, and what do you think will happen if this is the approach that he's married to?

PANETTA: Well, you know, the options are pretty clear at this point.

The first is war with Iran and the United States. And neither side, I think, wants that to happen. The second is, we continue the current stalemate of each side poking at the other, trying to see if something changes them. And that's not going to happen either.

[16:40:15] And there's a danger, as I said, of miscalculation and the possibility of war.

I don't think either side wants that either. So there's only one alternative. Whether they want to admit it or not, there's only one alternative, which is negotiations.

And it just seems to me that the president suggested negotiating without any preconditions. I think that's a pretty good approach that Iran ought to seriously consider, so that they can at least sit down and begin a dialogue, which is absolutely essential to trying to find some way out of this mess.

KEILAR: All right. That's how you read this, that he's saying, let's sit down without preconditions?


No, I think it's a good idea, because, frankly, neither side is going to accept the conditions that both sides are asking of the other. That's just not going to happen.

So why not go ahead and negotiate without preconditions? And in addition to that, it just seems to me it makes sense. And it's something that the United States has not been very good at recently, which is to build greater leverage by working with our allies.

If we work with Britain, with France, with Germany, with Russia, with China to try to build that alliance, so that we can engage in talks with Iran, very frankly, that will increase the leverage of the United States in those discussions, and that's what we should be doing.

KEILAR: Iran claimed today that it captured 17 Iranians accused of spying for the CIA. President Trump says that's a lie. You're the former CIA director. What's your reaction?

PANETTA: I think the president's probably in the right place with that, because, you know, my sense is these countries, if they're going after spies, they don't usually announce to the world the fact that they have gone after spies.

To do it this way is basically part of the show that Iran is involved in. And so they have obviously picked up a group of people. I suspect many of them have no relationship to spying whatever.

But they're going to announce that as a way to indicate that the U.S. is spying on them. I'm sure we are. But, at the same time, I think what they have done today is basically just tried to show the world that somehow they're aware of these intelligence operations.

I don't think there is any reality to what they announced today. And I think the president's correct that right now what they have done does not really represent what's really happening on the ground.

KEILAR: Secretary Panetta, thank you so much for being on THE LEAD.

PANETTA: Good to be with you.

KEILAR: So, are we on the verge of another financial collapse? A stark warning from one of the 2020 presidential candidates.


[16:45:00] KEILAR: In our "2020 LEAD," it is a warning that no American wants to hear, but today Senator Elizabeth Warren says there will be another financial crisis writing: "I warned about an economic crash years before the 2008 crisis but the people in power wouldn't listen. The country's economic foundation is fragile. A single shock could bring it all down. And the Trump administration's reckless behavior is increasing the odds of just such a shock."

And in this same post, she unveiled her plan to prevent all of that from happening. Let's open up this discussion. I wonder, does this resonate with voters this raising the specter of a global financial crisis?

MARIA CARDONA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think it does because you still have a lot of voters who remember what it's like. I think we all remember what it's like. The Millennial Generation grew up in it and a lot of them really felt it personally. And she was right. She did actually ring the alarm before it happened and she wasn't listened to.

And look there was a study from the Federal Reserve recently that said that almost 50 % of American households could not afford a $400 emergency. They would either have to not pay it or have to give up something else in order to pay it. So that is not a situation where you see oh we really do have all of the financial well-being and play.

KEILAR: But one little jolt in the economy and does it really send that shockwave of fear?

LANHEE CHEN, FELLOW, HOOVER INSTITUTION: The notion that the economy is so fragile even the most left-leaning economists I think would have a tough time with that one. I mean, look, you can say that there are problems with the economy, we have problems with wealth inequality, we have problems with a lot of people feeling like maybe they'd like to be more economically secure. But the notion that the economy is going to collapse like if you tap it is patently ridiculous.

And given the current performance of the economy, it's not a smart argument to be making politically.

KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Actually, I think it's a smart argument to be making the week before the debate, right? Because it puts her in a very different camp -- it allows her as she has said to defend capitalism. She's on the stage with Bernie Sanders who will be -- and there are not a lot of differences between them.

And so to be able to say I'm for capitalism and here's how I want to save it, whether you agree with her ideas or not, it does put her in an interesting position going into the debate and to call out the president's erratic behavior which is something we get to see on display every day. That you know, again, starts to continue to undermine people's confidence in the president. And again she's got a plan for that so I think it's a smart strategy going into the debate.

[16:50:15] KEILAR: That is a good point as we wonder how they're going to differentiate themselves, perhaps that is the answer. But if there is as some economists are predicting, David, some type of downturns, whatever degree it's going to be, is this a good strategy for her? And what if there isn't one and she's hinging her campaign this?

DAVID URBAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, so if you said that her campaign, she's -- well, she's already kind of in dire straits in my opinion. But look, the economy is churning along very strongly. As long as the economy continues to do well, you know, I like our chances, the president's chances against any one of these folks.

To argue that you know this is going to collapse with a tap is just -- is foolish. But it's a smart move for her a week before the debate. I'll give her that.

CARDONA: I also think -- I also think it taps into a lot of those voters. Yes, the economy is going gangbusters but it's not going gangbusters for everybody. You know, when you --

URBAN: Almost everybody.

CARDONA: No. When you say that, that also puts you in the Republican Party out of touch with those families who have to have two or three jobs in order to make ends meet, David.

URBAN: I understand that.

CARDONA: And no one is -- no one on your side is talking to those people.

URBAN: I think the president it talking to those people.

CARDONA: No, he's not.

URBAN: I think a lot of those people didn't have -- I think a lot of those people have zero job --

CARDONA: He thinks he is -- he thinks he is but he's not. He's not talking because he's only talking to like 33 percent of the American people.

KEILAR: That's his problem.

FINNEY: There's another dynamic in this that we saw in 2018 and we continue to see in polling and that is people are still afraid that we could have another crash. I mean, one of the challenges that President Obama actually even had when the -- when the economy was doing well was that people were afraid and so they were you know, trying to hold on to whatever they could. They weren't buying like a second car or things that they might have been able to afford. So whether it's real or not, you've got to actually also address the concerns and the fears that people have. And I agree with Maria, there are plenty of people who are living pretty close to the edge.

CARDONA: They're not feeling it.

KEILAR: Former Vice President Joe Biden told reporters he thinks campaign staff should be making $15.00 an hour. His campaign spokesman back that up and said: interns on the staffer paid that rate. And of course, this is a comment that comes as unionized campaign workers for Bernie Sanders say they are not making that despite the fact that for years $15.00 an hour the senator has said should be the minimum wage. Is this going to hurt Senator Sanders?

CHEN: There was a time when working on a presidential campaign was an honor and you didn't have to get paid. I don't -- how do we get to this conversation when we're talking about unionizing campaign workers and having a minimum wage on a camp -- I mean, I to me it's just kind of ridiculous. But it signals to me the politics --

CARDONA: At least you're practicing what you preach.

CHEN: Well, but it signals to me where the politics of the Democratic Party are on this issue.

CARDONA: That everybody should make a living wage? I think that's a point --

CHEN: Well, no, that we ought to have -- that we ought to have a --

KEILAR: But Lanhee, Democrats would say they want people on their campaign who can't afford to donate their time.

CARDONA: That's right.

CHEN: Well, and the reality is they can pay some people that amount. But the question is do you really want to be setting a minimum wage on a -- on a presidential campaign. To me it's this kind of a silly conversation to be having because I think most people get involved in these campaigns precisely because they believe in the candidate. And if that candidate wants to do that, that's fine. I'm just saying, it's just a strange conversation to be having in a campaign setting.

FINNEY: It's not saying that people don't believe -- but that's not something that people don't believe in the candidate, it's saying -- I mean, I remember when I first worked on the Clinton campaign, I was very fortunate to have parents who could help me for six months. That was it.

My dad was like if he loses, you got to get a job because we can only do it for this period of time. And I have to tell you particularly for people of color, it's a really big deal. I mean, the audition with interns --

CARDONA: The argument -- the argument that he just made is incredibly elitist. And yes would that everybody that would want to work on a presidential campaign, their parents could allow them to do that without them having to make any money. And yes, when you do it, it is all about the candidates.

KEILAR: So is it a problem for Bernie Sanders?

CARDONA: Yes, I absolutely believe it's a problem for Bernie Sanders. The you know, 15 minimum -- $15.00 an hour minimum wage thing, absolutely it's going to be a problem for him.

CHEN: Why not 20, why not 25. I mean, this is -- this is precisely the problem. You'll never -- this is a bidding war where there are no winners.

FINNEY: But if you're campaigning on $15.00 --


CHEN: People can, I believe, they can work on a campaign and they can do other stuff while they work on that campaign. I've been -- I've been involved on four presidential campaigns --

CARDONA: Not in the campaign I worked on.

CHEN: Oh I've been involved in plenty where people are working on the campaign and they're working other jobs as well. My point is simply this. I don't know why we're having the context -- this conversation and the context of this I think is more about the politics of the minimum wage than about whether and how much people should be getting paid.

KEILAR: Changing the subject a little bit not since the Wizard of Oz has a lion and a Tin Man had such a weekend at the movies. The record-setting weekend for Simba and Ironman.


[16:55:00] KEILAR: In our "MONEY LEAD," first the Avengers beat Thanos, now they are beating Avatar. Avengers: End Game becoming the highest-grossing movie of all time. As of this weekend, it made $2.7 billion worldwide. The director of Avatar, James Cameron congratulating Marvel with this picture here.

And Disney's The Lion King live-action remake also feeling the love this weekend coming in first in the box office, pulling in $185 million in North America. It's a record for a July opening and for a P.G.-rated movie.

You can follow me on Facebook and Twitter @BRIKEILARCNN or tweet the show @THELEADCNN. Our coverage on CNN continues right now.