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U.S. Working On A Way Out of Afghanistan; Hundreds Of Thousands Of People Marching In San Juan, Puerto Rico; Formal Rebuke From Congress As Donald Trump Continues To Attack Four Democratic Lawmakers. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired July 22, 2019 - 14:00   ET


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: That is it for me. NEWSROOM starts right now.

ERICA HILL, CNN HOST: Hello, I'm Erica Hill, in today for Brooke Baldwin. And we begin with President Trump speaking just moments ago, about U.S. troops in Afghanistan and his desire to bring them home. The President had a meeting with Pakistan's Prime Minister at the White House.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: ... we're like policemen, we're not afraid to go to war, if we wanted to fight a war in Afghanistan and win it, I could win that war in a week. I just don't want to kill 10 million people. Does that make sense to you? I don't want to kill the 10 million people.

I have plans on Afghanistan, that if I wanted to win that war, Afghanistan would be wiped off the face of the Earth, it would be gone. It would be over in literally in 10 days. And I don't want to do that. I don't want to go that route. So we're working with Pakistan and others to extricate ourselves, nor do we want to be policemen because basically, we're policemen right now. And we're not supposed to be policemen.


HILL: The President also weighing in on Iran, calling Iran's claim today that it has busted a CIA spy ring -- lies.


TRUMP: I read a report today about C.I.A., that's totally a false story. That's another lie. They put out propaganda, they put out lies. I don't think Pakistan would ever do anything like that, right?


TRTUMP: Pakistan never lies.

KHAN: Definitely not.

TRUMP: But Iran does, unfortunately. So let's see what happens with Iran. We are ready for the absolute worst. And we're ready for sense, too, that we are very geared up and if they are -- they are really the number one state of terror in the world.


HILL: A lot to get to on this Monday and we're covering it from all the angles. CNN's senior international correspondent, Matthew Chance in the United Arab Emirates. But I want to begin with CNN's Kaitlan Collins who's at the White House. So Kaitlan, the President speaking pretty clearly about Afghanistan, but does he have a plan there?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, with Afghanistan, the President is essentially repeating what he's been saying. He wants to this quick exit. But now the President is claiming that Pakistan hasn't been as willing to help the United States in the past because of past presidents. Even though, of course, you'll remember just last year when the President cut off that security aid to Pakistan talking about that they weren't doing enough to essentially help the United States against the Taliban.

The President is making those comments, of course, while sitting next to the Pakistani Prime Minister. But he also was weighing in on Iran and confirming what CNN reported on Friday, which is that the President is reverting to that more hawkish tone on Iran.

Now, that was a position he once held. But you saw him change his mind open up to a potentially diplomatic solution after he called off that strike at the last minute after Iran downed the U.S. drone. But now we're seeing behind the scenes, the President is moving back in the other direction toward a more hawkish solution. Where he's saying, essentially, he doesn't see an easy way to make a diplomatic deal with Iran.

Now, of course, that comes as the President has been pretty public about his proposals to try to sit down with Iranian leadership, something that has been met with a very chilly reception over there. But now, the President is saying that he doesn't know if that is something that's still on the table.

Of course, he's accusing them of lying when they denied that report that just last week, the United States downed an Iranian drone. But of course, he's also saying that that report that they've detained 17 of their own citizens, accusing them of having ties to U.S. intelligence and spying for the United States. The President says flat out that he does not believe that report is true.

Of course, the President is leaving all of these on the table. But those aides, those allies of the President who were warning him to take on a more diplomatic solution with Iran, not move in the direction that he had once been, is certainly something that we were seeing a big change in tone from the President there in the Oval Office.

HILL: Kaitlan Collins, with the latest of course from the White House. Kaitlan, thank you. Also with us, former CIA operative, and CNN security analyst. Bob

Baer, always good to have you with us. As we look at this, you have Iran saying one thing with this elaborate video as well. You have the President and the Secretary of State saying something else, who do you believe?

BOB BAER, CNN SECURITY ANALYST: I don't believe either one. What I do know is the Iranians have cornered this White House, taking that tanker on Friday was essentially an act of war and act of piracy. They cannot withstand sanctions, Iran cannot withstand them too much longer. And they want to force a confrontation with the United States hoping they'll come out at the better end of it. And, you know, it's almost as if they want a war.

HILL: Almost as if they want a war. Do you think this administration sees that on the part of Iran?

BAER: Look, here's the problem, the President cannot take on Iran militarily and win without more forces in the Gulf. Also, going into an election 2020, can he really afford to go into what would look like World War III in the Persian Gulf? I don't think so.

[14:05:06] BAER: And I think that Iranians know that he is cornered and what they want to do is force him back to the table and give up all of his demands since abrogating the 2015 Nuclear Accord.

HILL: There is a lot to take in today, that is for sure. Bob, stay with us. We want to head to Matthew Chance now, who is joining us from the Middle East with more on what is happening, the developments that we've seen, especially just in the last 24 hours -- Matthew.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Erica, thanks very much. Well, you join me about 200 nautical miles or so, from the place where that British tanker, the Stena Impero, is currently being impounded in the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas. It's under close military guard but we have received the first images of the 23 crew members or at least some of them from inside the ship. It would be a huge relief to some of the families around the world that have been concerned about their loved ones, caught up as pawns almost in this geopolitical game for which there doesn't seem to be an end, anywhere near in sight.

The British authorities -- there's been a lot of anticipation about what they would do. They've announced their next steps the British Foreign Minister, Jeremy Hunt, saying that he had put together a European led Naval force to police the waterways over here near the Strait of Hormuz where the British flag tanker was intercepted.

But he said that that military force would have nothing to do with the maximum pressure policy that is out there by the United States because Britain, he said, along with its allies, still thought there was room, and I'm paraphrasing him, still thought there was a possibility of the Iranian Nuclear Deal being resurrected in some way.

So, he's not completely throwing all diplomatic relationships with Iran out of the window. But clearly, Britain is determined to bolster its military presence in this Persian Gulf region, along with other European countries to at least protect its shipping and the shipping of other countries from Iranian assault.

HILL: And Matthew, as you know, we just heard from the President. So I don't know if Iran has had time to respond yet to the President's latest comments. Have we seen anything out of Tehran at this point in response?

CHANCE: Well, the latest comments that I've seen, I mean, I'm slightly isolated from the outside world to some extent here being right on the coast of the Persian Gulf, but I did see the tweet that President Trump issued a few hours ago about denying that there were any CIA operatives that had been arrested by the Iranians. Is that the reaction that you're referring to?

HILL: Matthew Chance, always appreciate it, Matthew, thank you. I want to bring back now Bob Baer. Bob, as we look at, not only what Matthew laid out for us, but we also have -- there's so many moving pieces, moving parts here, including Russia, chiming in now, saying that when it comes to seizing this U.K. oil tanker, they believe that Iran actually acted perhaps in its best interest there, they're siding with Iran.

When we add all of this up, as you said, just before we spoke to Matthew, it seems as if Iran is trying to push the U.S. closer to war. Where is your main focus, looking at each one of these pieces?

BAER: My main focus is what's the next Iranian play? I don't believe that that tanker was taken for a good reason. I mean, they could have easily released it or put it back on course, any number of things. I think the Iranians are going to keep pushing.

The real question is, how bad are things in Iran? I think that the worst things get, the more the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which is conducting this orchestra is going to panic and hit the United States.

Iran has a long history of tit-for-tat attacks against the United States. And that goes way back to the Marines in 1983 hostage taking, all sorts of things and that's their modus operandi. They do not intend to give up.

This administration would like the Iranians out of Lebanon, out of Syria, out of Iraq. I just don't see them doing it. I mean, this is truly a standoff. And I think everybody is worried about in the military, is some sort of accident that's going to escalate very quickly. And we'll be into a war, we're not prepared for it and we really don't want to be in.

HILL: A sobering thought to say the least. Really quickly before we let you go, I'm just curious, your take on what we just heard from the President about getting out of Afghanistan that the President does not want to be the policeman of the world.

BAER: He's absolutely right. We can't win that and he's been telling his generals for the last six months, we're out of there. We're going to get out if we have to deal with the Pakistanis, if we have to deal with the Taliban, I'm tired of this war. We've spent billions upon billions of dollars with no end in sight. The Taliban is taking more ground. I want out, find a way out. And I think he's determined to do this and he's absolutely right.

HILL: Bob Baer, always good to have your perspective. Thank you.

BAER: Thank you.

HILL: Breaking news this hour, out of Puerto Rico, hundreds of thousands of people marching in San Juan. The demonstrators demand -- have a change.

[14:10:08] HILL: They want the governor gone. Plus, President Trump continuing his attacks on four Democratic Congresswomen. Just moments ago, those attacks coming from the Oval Office. The President also saying there is no racial tension. And, just two days from now, Robert Mueller will be questioned by Congress. What kind of answers can you expect?


[14:15:21] HILL: Hundreds of thousands of protesters in Puerto Rico say they're very clear about what they want -- the resignation of Governor Ricardo Rossello, and they want that now.


PROTESTERS: (Chanting in foreign language.)


HILL: Massive crowds packing the streets of San Juan, after the Governor said, he would not step down following the leak of sexist and homophobic messages between him and members of his inner circle. Protesters, including the Mayor of San Juan, who is also running for governor, say they also want, Rossello gone because of years of alleged corruption and economic instability.


CARMEN YULIN CRUZ, MAYOR OF SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO: The mood is a mood of fighting. It's a mood of ensuring that the people's voices are heard. Hundreds of thousands of people using their voice as their most important weapon and there's one and one claim only, is "Ricky Renuncia," which means Ricky, you have to go.

The crimes committed by the Governor are so horrendous that it cannot wait.

QUESTION: So, it is impeachment or is just --

CRUZ: It is impeachment -- it is impeachment time. He is obstinate, his mental health isn't there. He doesn't want to resign. It's impeachment time.


HILL: CNN's Leyla Santiago is on the scene for us in San Juan. So we know that many of people in Puerto Rico have said they are disillusioned with the Governor, Leyla. That is only part of it.

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, you know, it was these chats that came out, that is the boiling point from years and years of what people have felt as suffering from corruption.

I can tell you, this is a very impassioned crowd. It is raining right now. People are getting soaked and that has not stopped them from marching forward. You still hear the trucks that are honking their horns. You still hear people out in the streets chanting "resign" and chanting about the corruption of this island.

So, it seems like last night when the Governor announced that he was stepping down as the leader of the party and that he would not run for reelection that really didn't do anything to calm the protesters down.

In fact, it sort of fueled them in their efforts to call for his resignation. Now, for his part, the Governor says that he has no plans to resign as the Governor of Puerto Rico. And so, the protesters that we have talked to, who say the chants just started off a week of protest, they are saying, if he is not backing off, we're not backing off either.

In fact, and this is sort of an interesting note, one of the chants that I heard just a few minutes ago, Erica, they were saying, "We are drenched, we are drenched but nothing will get us on our knees," and they are continuing in their demand asking for the Governor's resignation.

But there's one key thing here, they are now -- a lot of eyes are now on the legislature to see if they will begin impeachment proceedings -- Erica.

HILL: And we will be watching for that along with you. Leyla Santiago, with the latest for us from San Juan. Leyla, thank you.

Also joining us this hour, Marisol LeBron is an assistant professor of Latinx Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. She's written extensively about the effects of Hurricane Maria and the social inequities and government structures in Puerto Rico.

It's so good to have you with us. I know you've said that what you're seeing here, what we're all watching happen in Puerto Rico is actually, in your words, trauma spilling into the streets. Tell me a little bit more. What do you mean by that -- trauma? How so?

MARISOL LEBRON, LATINA/O STUDIES PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS: Yes. So one of the things that we're seeing is that even though the chants really were a catalyst for these protests, the grievances that protesters have on the streets are really dating back to the start of the financial crisis and the debt crisis in Puerto Rico, but particularly compounded by the effects of Hurricane Maria. So, right before Hurricane Maria struck in Puerto Rico, we were

actually witnessing a period of revitalization on the left and the radical left, in particular. In Puerto Rico, we're seeing a lot of protests against the Fiscal Control Board. And those protests were cut short, as a result of the devastation of Hurricane Maria.

And as people scrambled to deal with just how to survive. They were not able to get into the streets. And so what we're seeing now is to about almost two years later after Hurricane Maria. The chants actually prompted people to take to the streets and denounce the corruption of both the local and the Federal governments and their role in making people's lives more difficult in Puerto Rico.

HILL: The way that corruption has impacted people to your point, it impacts their lives.

[14:20:08] HILL: But you know, as we heard from the Mayor, just a few minutes ago, it's the mood of people's voices being heard. Each one of those voices though is a little bit different. They may be united in some of what is bringing them out today, but it's not just one thing at this point, is it?

LEBRON: That's correct. One of the things that Ricky has succeeded in, if anything, has been bringing together a broad cross section of Puerto Rican society, which we haven't seen for years -- perhaps the last time we saw the number of people both in the island and the diaspora getting together like this was the fight to eject the Navy from the island of Vieques.

So, one of the things that we're seeing with these protests is just the sheer mass in number. So, the estimates from the other day are about half a million people. We are getting estimates today of hundreds of thousands of people are taking to the streets. And we're not seeing the usual kind of actors of these protests, right.

So, we're seeing labor unions, folks on the left, pro-independence activists, but we're also seeing folks who have said that they've never participated in political protests before. They've never been out on the streets protesting.

And we're also seeing that these new sectors emerging such as the prominence of the feminist movement in Puerto Rico, which played a huge role in actually mobilizing folks for that protest that had half a million people -- people focused on Bad Bunny and Ricky Martin, but they were the ones who actually, "La Colectiva Femenista," The Feminist Collective in Puerto Rico is actually the ones that called that protest and artists joined.

So, we're seeing career folks, folks from public housing, which have typically been ignored by both the left and traditional politics in Puerto Rico, being centered in these protests in a way that has not been the case in the past.

HILL: It is remarkable just to see the numbers. Just for a practical standpoint, we know Rossello said he's not stepping down. As Leyla pointed out, the legislature now needs to decide what to do about impeachment. But again, practically speaking, let's say he's gone. What's next? I mean, what happens and who is waiting in the wings?

LEBRON: Yes, I think that's the issue that protesters themselves are actually trying to grapple with right now. Because one of the points that folks are making there is if Rossello steps down, another member of his administration, who is just as corrupt is going to be the one that steps up.

So, folks are actually making more ample demands. Some folks are actually calling for brand new elections -- brand new open elections. And other -- as we know, one of the biggest chants from these protests has actually been, you know, "Renuncia Ricky," but also take "la junta," take the fiscal control board with you.

So folks, they're not only asking for this resignation to take place, but they're also asking for a fundamental reshaping of the political sphere in Puerto Rico. So, asking for that colonial relationship or what folks feel is a colonial relationship between Puerto Rico and the U.S. to be re-evaluated because that's precisely what folks are arguing is fostering this high level of corruption and abuse that people are suffering in Puerto Rico.

HILL: Marisol LeBron, great to have you with us today, thank you.

LEBRON: Thanks for having me.

HILL: A disturbing story of student shaming. Stay with me on this one. There's a school district now threatening parents over lunch debts for their children either pay up or your kids will be taken away from you and put into foster care. You heard me correctly. Is that even legal? That's just one of the many questions that we have.

Plus, a make or break moment. Robert Mueller serves as a star witness on Capitol Hill. Will Wednesday's real life TV drama though give Democrats what they want?


[14:28:16] HILL: Renewed signals from the White House today. The President wants to keep it going with that divided rhetoric that brought him a formal rebuke from Congress as he continues to attack four Democratic lawmakers.


TRUMP: Congresswomen, what they've said about Israel, what they've said about our country when they talk about disgusting people, when they talk the way they talk, when the one mentioned that brown people should speak for brown people and Muslim people should speak for Muslim people -- and you hear all this, it's not what our country is all about.

Now, I think they're very bad for our country. I think they're very bad for the Democrat Party. I think you see that and they're pulling the Democrats way left. Nobody knows how to handle them. I feel they're easy to handle. To me they're easy to handle because they're just out there. They're very bad for our country. Absolutely. (INCOMPREHENSIBLE CONVERSATION)

TRUMP: No, I don't think -- no, no, racial tension. There's no racial tension.


HILL: Today, one of those Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib spoke at the annual NAACP Convention in Detroit. Take a listen.


REP. RASHIDA TLAIB (D-MI): We need bold action, folks. And I know what's happening out there you know, there's all of these young women and it's beyond just the four of us, the squad is all of you. And I can tell you there's -- you are all the squad. Trust me if you support equity, you support justice. You are one of us.

Yes, I am not going nowhere. Not until I impeach this President.

Nia-Malika Henderson is a CNN senior political reporter, senior political analyst Eliana Johnson is also White House reporter for POLITICO. Good to have both of you with us.

So, Nia-Malika, look, we know that this is working for the President -- it's working for his supporters. Are Democrats handling these continued attacks the right way?