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Democrats Are Determined To Prove That President Trump Committed Impeachable Crimes; Iran Has Detained 17 Iranian Citizens Who Are Accused Of Spying For The CIA; The President's Aides Are Quickly Trying To Tamp Down Criticism That He's A Racist. Aired 6- 6:30a ET

Aired July 22, 2019 - 06:00   ET



ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Viewers in the United States and around the world, this is NEW DAY. It is Monday, July 22, 2019, 6:00 o'clock here in New York. John Berman is off today. David Gregory joins me. Welcome.

DAVID GREGORY, CNN ANCHOR: I was in a mall in Paramus and they said ...

CAMEROTA: We need you.

GREGORY: ... we need you. No, because Berman says when the heat index gets above 100 cannot do it ...

CAMEROTA: He can't work.

GREGORY: He cannot be here.

CAMEROTA: No, he can't work. And by the way, I like that you've already dropped my homeland, a mall in New Jersey.

GREGORY: Yes. We'll I'm trying to ...

CAMEROTA: A (ph) current (ph) favorite.

GREGORY: ... trying to appeal.

CAMEROTA: Well done. This is shaping up to be a make or break week for Democrats who are determined to prove that President Trump committed impeachable crimes. So, Special Counsel Robert Mueller will testify before two Houses -- House committees on Wednesday and Democrats are hoping that his testimony will somehow sway the minds of Americans.

Democrats, of course, remain deeply divided about whether to move forward with impeachment.

GREGORY: Mueller's long awaited testimony does come with risks. House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler claims there is, quote, very substantial the president is guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors, but Mueller has already said he would not go beyond the conclusions of his Russia report.

Meanwhile, Republicans are hoping to show that Mueller's probe was biased from the very start. Let's begin our coverage with CNN's Lauren Fox, she's live on Capitol Hill with our top story this morning.

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Good morning. That's right, we got a clear picture over the weekend of precisely how the top chairmen of those two committees, the Intelligence Committee and the Judiciary Committee are preparing their members for this high stakes hearing in which they hope to change public opinion given how most Americans haven't actually read the full Mueller Report.


REP. JERRY NADLER (D) JUDICIARY COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: The report presents very substantial evidence that the president is guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors and we have to present the -- or let 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 -- can be above the law.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Well, since most Americans in their busy lives haven't had the opportunity to read that report, and it's a pretty dry prosecutorial work product, we want Bob Mueller to bring it to life, to talk about what's in that report.


FOX: And Democrats, of course, voted overwhelmingly last week to stop a resolution that would advance impeachment in the House of Representatives. There's a lot of questions about whether the dynamics on impeachment change, after Wednesday, a lot of Democrats hoping that they will.

Meanwhile, Republicans also preparing to ask a series of questions, trying to prove the president's point that there's no collusion. Jim Jordan, a top Republican on the committee said, quote, "The obvious first question will be," quote, "when did you know there was no coordination and no conspiracy, that, of course, coming from Jim Jordan to the "New York Times."

So the game plan for both sides here, on the Republican and Democratic side, coming into clear view. David.

GREGORY: Lauren Fox on Capitol Hill for us this morning. Thank you so much.

Meantime, Puerto Rico's embattled governor says he will not seek re- election next year and is resigning as president of his party. But Governor Ricardo Rossello is refusing to resign. In just hours hundreds of thousands are expected to protest in the streets of San Juan. That's where CNN's Leyla Santiago is this morning. She's joining us with the very latest.

Good morning, Leyla. LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning. So, what we should expect today is hundreds of thousands of protestors taking over this expressway that will cut off traffic into San Juan as well as heading south. This is a major artery, so they are hoping to really make an impact, not only in their statements, but also in the imagery that will come from that and on the businesses as well.

So, you know, listen, after an announcement last night from the Governor, in which he says, I welcome the impeachment process. I will step down as the president of the party. A lot of people said that just added fuel to the fire.

One senator is spoke with had an interesting way of saying it and I'll read exactly what he said. He said, "Puerto Ricans are scared to death. We feel that we are on a plane and that the pilot has lost control. We want to get rid of the pilot." That was Senator Eduardo Bhatia.

Now some of the protests that we've seen out here in the days that we've been here observing have been peaceful. I would even say festive, but there have been clashes including some last night in Guanabo.

So, what is this all about? As you mentioned, they are calling for resignation of Rossello after nearly 900 pages of a chat were leaked between the governor and his inner circle, very offensive language and insults were exchanged there.

But, Puerto Ricans will tell you, this is about way more than the offensive language of those chats. This is about what they say is corruption that was seen in those chats. They say that they've had enough; they are going to show that today and until the governor steps down, they say, it will not be enough. Alisyn?

CAMEROTA: Leyla Santiago, thank you very much for all of that reporting.

We're also following breaking news.


Iran says it has detained 17 Iranian citizens who are accused of spying for the CIA. The Iranian Intelligence Ministry claims it broke up a spy ring and that all suspects have confessed to working for the CIA. The ministry says, some of those 17 will be executed. The U.S. Government has yet to comment on this report.

GREGORY: At the same time, there is new audio of the time that Iran seized a U.K. flagged oil tanker last week. A British military warship tried to stop it. We want to get the latest now from CNN's Matthew Chance. He's live in the United Arab Emirates this morning.

Matthew, what do you have?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning Dave. So many issues ratcheting up tensions in this poor (ph) Persian Gulf region this morning.

The ship, the British tanker, the Stena Impero is currently just a few miles from where I'm speaking to you right now. It is in the southern Iranian Port of Bandar Abbas and the close Iranian Revolutionary Guard Security, it has, according to the most recent television pictures broadcast on Iranian television, an Iranian flag flying over it and there is absolutely no sign at this stage of any moves underway to either release the vessel or the 23 crew members that have been taken into custody.

This is the moment Iran seized a British oil tanker in one of the world's most important shipping lanes, pushing tensions in the Persian Gulf to dangerous new highs.

Iranians state, media broadcast these dramatics images of what seems to have been a carefully planned military operation. Fast naval patrol boats surrounding the British flagged Stena Impero, before it's boarded by masked troops from a helicopter hovering above its deck.

Iran says the tanker violated navigation rules.


JEREMY HUNT, BRITISH FOREIGN SECRETARY: The Stena Impero was seized in Omani waters in clear contravention of international law. It was then forced to sail into Iran. This is totally and utterly unacceptable.

IRANIAN NAVY: If you obey you will be safe.


CHANCE: And now, audio recordings of radio transmissions have emerged of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards ordering the British tanker to change course.


IRANIAN NAVY: If you obey you will be safe. Alter your course to 360 degrees immediately, over.


CHANCE: A British warship too far away to intervene, advises the tanker not to comply, then addresses the Iranian Navy directly.


BRITISH NAVY: You must not impair, impede, obstruct or hamper the passage of the MV Stena Impero. Please confirm that you are not intending to violate international law by unlawfully attempting to board the MV Stena Impero.

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


CHANCE: But there are British suspicions the real reason was this. A tanker carrying Iranian oil seized by British forces off the coast of Gibraltar earlier this month. Officials say they suspected it was heading to Syria, in violation of E.U. sanctions. For weeks, a furious Iran has vowed a response. Now, the Islamic Republic seems to have retaliated.

Well, the British authorities have promised a robust response to the seizure of the tanker. What exactly that means is being discussed by British officials as we speak, in the British Capital. But the British are saying, they want a diplomatic, not a military solution.

Alisyn, back to you.

CAMEROTA: Matthew, thank you very much. Obviously, we'll keep an eye on that all morning.

Meanwhile, President Trump is keeping up his attacks on those four Congresswomen of color, and his top aides are not only defending him, they are preparing for more of the same throughout the 2020 campaign.

CNN's Boris Sanchez is live at the White House with more on what that means. Boris?

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning Alisyn. Yes, President Trump is digging in on his attacks on the squad. There's some question as to whether this is strategy or just the president's impulse.

But it appears to be clear, the president wants to elevate these four Democrats, to make them the face of the Democratic Party, to make them appear too extreme and too un-American going into 2020. Alisyn.

Trump stepping up his attacks on four Democratic Congresswomen of color in a tweet writing, quote, "I don't believe the four Congresswomen are capable of loving our country. They should apologize to American." And calling them, quote, "weak and insecure people."

The president's aides quickly trying to tamp down criticism that he's a racist.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have worked with President Trump for two years and he is not a racist.

CHANCE: Trump's Senior Policy Advisor, Stephen Miller, dismissing the accusation as just a political tactic.



STEPHEN MILLER, WHITE HOUSE SENIOR ADVISOR: 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.

SANCHEZ: But top Democrats are not letting President Trump off the hook.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, CHIEF ANCHOR, ABC NEWS: Do you believe President Trump is a racist?

REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), M.D.: I believe he is - yes, no doubt about it.

SANCHEZ: Congressman Elijah Cummings saying the president's behavior is extremely divisive.

CUMMINGS: When the president does these things, it brings up the same feelings that I had over 50 some years ago and it's very, very painful.

SANCHEZ: Democratic presidential candidate Cory Booker taking it one step further.

SEN. CORY BOOKER (D), 2020 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: 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.

SANCHEZ: Last week, President Trump claimed he tried to stop chants against Congresswoman Ilhan Omar --

ALL: Send her back. Send her back.

SANCHEZ: -- despite staying silent during the chants for 13 seconds. Vice President Mike Pence saying Trump may not stay tight lipped next time.



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

SANCHEZ: But Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, one of the president's targets, rejecting Trump's claim.

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO CORTEZ (D), N.Y.: He said oh I stopped it immediately, roll the tape, he didn't. He kind of presided over the situation, he relished it, he took it in. And - and he's doing this intentionally.


SANCHEZ: Now Republicans have largely side stepped the question of the president's racist attacks, they've put virtually no pressure on this White House. And this is a fight that the president has said he believes he is winning, so it's unlikely we'll see him soft in this line of attack, David.

GREGORY: Boris, thanks so much. Meanwhile, hard to focus on anything right now but the heat that has been gripping the East, a lot of the Midwest as well. Maybe there is some relief in sight after we had broken records throughout the weekend.

Overnight about 50,000 customers in New York in this area had no lights or air conditioning at one point, some 33,000 customers in Brooklyn were taken off the grid deliberately to protect vital equipment.

So CNN meteorologist Chad Myers has your forecast now and are we going to get a little something to smile about?


CAMEROTA: No we don't, Chad. Thank you very much for those warnings. All right so could Robert Mueller's testimony on Capital Hill this week be a political game changer?

We'll break down what could happen next.



CAMEROTA: OK, former Special Counsel Robert Mueller will testify before two House panels on Wednesday and the stakes are quite high for Democrats and Republicans. So joining us now with how this is going to go is our Elie Honig former federal prosecutor and CNN legal analyst, John Avlon CNN senior political analyst and Jess McIntosh, a CNN political commentator and former director of communications of outreach for the Hillary Clinton campaign.

JOHN AVLON, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST, CNN NEWS: And I'm here on set actually, it's so great, yes.

CAMEROTA: I know, that's so great, playing a slightly different role.

AVLON: Slightly different roll.

CAMEROTA: OK meanwhile so we keep hearing that Robert Mueller hates partisanship, he hates politics, he hates showboating. Uh oh, what's going to happen, John? This week - I mean the whole thing is whether or not he's a reluctant or even hostile witness and what Democrats think they can illicit from him.

AVLON: Yes, that's really the key question. He has said he wants the report to speak for itself.


Here's the problem, the report hasn't really spoken for itself. He basically acknowledged that when he came out and gave that eight minute presser which added a lot of sort of new context and information and emphasis. So I think Democrats who are hoping for a game changer may be hoping

for too much. Republicans are going to try to politicize this in their own way. And they need to - if they are too hostile towards him, it could - it could really blow back.

The key question for this and all of their hearings isn't just whether you can elevate the debate, but whether you can get new information out there, because god knows there's still a lot of open questions even in that 440 page report which too many members of even Congress haven't read, which is a damn dereliction of duty.

GREGORY: You know, the problem is in a court room and on Capital Hill sometimes the question is more important than the answer. But in this case, it's the answer that they want to rely on because they want him, the special prosecutor, to carry the ball. I'm talking about Democrats here, and now you have Jerry Nadler as the chairman of the committee saying there's quite clearly high crimes and misdemeanor, are they going to be able to back that up?

ELIE HONIG, LEGAL ANALYST, CNN NEWS: They better, and I think that was a really interesting sort of escalation in rhetoric that we saw from Jerry Nadler yesterday, those are magic words, high crimes and misdemeanors, right that Nancy Pelosi and others have sort of studiously avoided saying.

But that's what the constitution says under impeachment, for high crimes and misdemeanors. And I think by saying that, Nadler has really raised the stakes here and put himself and the Democrats in a box where they either have to acknowledge there's been high crimes and misdemeanors but our legacy will be we did nothing about it or high crimes and misdemeanors and here we go.

And I think we're going to get a good sense of how that goes on a Wednesday. They're going to have to get the facts out like John said. It's a 448 page report, it's dense, but they also need to go for some big moments.

They need to take some homerun swings, there needs to be some pop.

GREGORY: Well and they can do some of that, but again they have to rely on Mueller to do something to advance it.

CAMEROTA: Absolutely because remember here is what Mueller said, OK, when he gave his - his little press conference, OK.

GREGORY: You have to (ph) call it a little (inaudible).

CAMEROTA: Well it was a short - it was a press conference, but it wasn't - he didn't expound as much as people would have hoped. So here was one of the headlines.


ROBERT MUELLER, FORMER SPECIAL COUNSEL: If we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so. We did not however make a determination as to whether the president did commit a crime.


Jess, he could put a finer point on that one.

JESS MCINTOSH, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, CNN NEWS: Yes, yes he could. In fact the report was about as explicit a recommendation that Congress pursue impeachment as you can get from Robert Mueller. So having him come on just to testify as to the contents of the report, we don't actually need new facts to come to light.

The report was really very clear, Americans just didn't read it. It was 484 pages long and we have many Republican congressman as John said who are just sort of gleefully admitting that they haven't read it.

We know how important public hearings were to Watergate, and at this point there is considerably more damning evidence against the current president than there was even at that point. So I think the stakes are really incredibly high this week.

But there's almost no way he can't deliver, it's already in the report.

GREGORY: Well but you say that, but my - I think the pushback would be what - why didn't he make a determination? Why couldn't he make a determination to - as to whether he committed a crime?

And then you have the Republicans who are going to sit back and by all accounts they were originally going to be more aggressive, now they're going to hang back and Jim Jordan was quoted in the New York Times, Republican on the Judiciary Committee saying the obvious first question will be when did you know there was no coordination and no conspiracy, which is really the bottom line that they want to advance and get out there.

HONIG: So I agree with the criticism of Robert Mueller that he should have been more direct, just tell us what you thought, enough with this double speak and all the riddles, I would have if I could have but I didn't, right.

And hopefully he'll come clean. I don't think he will, but that said, as Jess was saying, there are ways to create that big moment even within the confines of the report.

CAMEROTA: Like how?

HONIG: So the president has repeatedly said you found no obstruction, Director Mueller. Did you find no obstruction? He has to answer that, no I did not. The president has said you granted him total exoneration, do you totally exonerate the president? Let Robert Mueller say no I do not, that's not my finding. That's a big moment.

CAMEROTA: Let's hope they keep their questions that tight.

HONIG: I'll right them - I'll right them if they need.


AVLON: (Inaudible) members of Congress know how to ask questions, they can take a note from Prosecutor Honig here. There's too much of an impulse to grand stand, there's too much of an impulse not to take a direct shot and Republicans really are going to be going at this aggressively.

I think the tone right now is, you know, we're going to calm it down. But you already have Matt Gaetz and other folks say their number one purpose is to reelect the president from this hearing.

The purpose of this hearing should be to find the truth, that should be the purpose of all hearings and how far we've veered off from that. The lack of interest in actually finding out more information about its principal conclusion, which is Russians tried to in fact meddle in our election on Donald Trump's behalf.

GREGORY: Well there's no question about that, but I - but I - just to me the question is where does the momentum come from? If there's going to be a change of heart as a political matter in terms of pursuing impeachment.

One of the things I keep looking at is the fact that we do have a presidential race and I always question, you know, in Watergate, if this had gone on closer to the election, it would have been harder to move forward. And the presidential candidates are not picking up this mantle.


MCINTOSH: They don't have to, this doesn't have to be about politics. This should not be about politics. This should be about crime and whether we can reasonably expect that the president is acting in our interests and not undermining our democracy.

I know that sounds naive in this political climate, but that is what these investigations need to be about.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Crazy dreamer (ph).

MCINTOSH: And right now it's important ...

GREGORY: But, it's a political process. You cannot divorce politics from it.

MCINTOSH: I mean, everything could be a political process right now, but we're literally ...

GREGORY: In an election year, you can't really ...

MCINTOSH: ... talking about whether or not the president accepted foreign help to get elected and is continuing to do so next time around. It could not be more relevant to 2020, while also being completely divorced from the political circus that 2020 is. AVLON: That's right. Look, the president opened the door to

accepting more information from foreign sources.


AVLON: The -- image the thought experiment if a Democratic candidate had benefited from Russian help. The firestorm we'd continue to see. The lack of concern and follow-through on that is actually one of the greatest outrages of this.

That there hasn't been enough focus on the principle finding, separate from the question of the president, which is that the campaign benefitted of -- from and expected to benefit from Russian interference.

We've got more information out since about Julian Assange and the role he played. There are plenty of questions and open questions still. Cambridge Analytica being one of them to ask Robert Mueller.

CAMEROTA: All right, we will see if Robert Mueller can bring all of this to life on Wednesday. John, Jess, Elie, thank you all very much.

So, one week after President Trump ignited that firestorm with his racist attack on the four Congresswomen, he is back at it.

So, what are Democrats supposed to do about this? We discuss next.