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Democrats Prepare for Testimony of Robert Mueller Before Congress; Presidential Candidate Elizabeth Warren Warns of Looming Financial Crisis; Iran Detains 17 Citizens It Claims are CIA Spies. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired July 22, 2019 - 08:00   ET

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


[08:00:00] DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: And we want to thank our international viewers for tuning to us this morning. CNN's Newsroom with Max Foster is coming up next. For our U.S. viewers, a crucial week for Democrats during Special Counsel Mueller's testimony. Let's get right to it.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Well done.

GREGORY: Thank you.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lawmakers are intensely preparing for the most anticipated hearing in decades.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When people hear what was in the Mueller report, we'll be in a position to begin holding the president accountable.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have got a lot of questions about how Robert Mueller's team was assembled.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here you're going to have five minutes of Democrats, five minutes of Republicans. It's going to be very hard to tell a story that way.

DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: These women have said horrible things about our country.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a guy who is worse than a racist. He is actually using racial language for political gain.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The term "racist" has become a label that is too often deployed by left, Democrats in this country, to try to silence and punish people they disagree with.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

CAMEROTA: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to your NEW DAY. It is Monday, July 22nd, 8:00 in the east. David Gregory joins me this morning. Great to have you.

GREGORY: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: OK, just 20 -- no, 48 hours from now -- I was getting ahead of myself -- 48 hours from now Special Counsel Robert Mueller will testify before two House panels in a make or break week for Democrats. They are trying to prove that President Trump committed impeachable crimes, and Mueller could be their best hope to convince Americans as well. Democratic lawmakers themselves are still deeply divided about whether to move forward on impeachment.

GREGORY: House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler claims there is, quote, very substantial evidence the president is guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors, escalating the rhetoric a bit. But Mueller has already said that he will not go beyond the conclusions of his Russia report. And Republicans are hoping to show Mueller's investigation was biased from the very beginning.

CAMEROTA: Joining us now is M.J. Lee, CNN political correspondent, Jonathan Martin, CNN political analyst and national coordinator for "The New York Times," and Sahil Kapur. He's a political reporter for Bloomberg News. I hope I said that right, Sahil.

SAHIL KAPUR, POLITICAL REPORTER, BLOOMBERG: Pretty much.

CAMEROTA: OK, I'll take it. OK, Sahil, what are you looking for this Wednesday? What should people be keeping their eyes on?

KAPUR: The whole goal of this is for Democrats to try to build public support for taking action against President Trump. They are reading the same polls that everyone else is. They are wary of moving down the road to impeachment.

The thing that I would keep my eye on is, is this hearing with Robert Mueller going to move that needle? The last time Mueller spoke out, which is the only time he's publicly spoken out, we saw an outpouring of Democrats, particularly on the presidential level, coming out for impeachment because they thought his statement was powerful, because he reviewed some new information.

Mueller has said he's not going to reveal new information. But the fact is if millions and millions of Americans tune in and hear the details of his findings, could that convince more people that the president has committed impeachable offenses and deserves to be impeached? And could that move some Democrats. That's what I'm going to be keeping my eye on.

GREGORY: It's a big if, Jonathan, because we've heard from Mueller. We know what we're getting essentially. And the idea that somehow that's going to change is highly doubtful. I keep coming back to two points. One is the campaign you're covering so closely, all these Democratic candidates are not making a big issue of this. This is not the hill to die on based on what they are saying or not saying. And because we're on the eve of election, every impeachment we've seen in the modern era has been after election. I just feel like it undercuts its possibilities. JONATHAN MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think if this was a year,

year-and-a-half ago, different story. But for a lot of Democrats, we're on the doorstep of the election. There's going to be a chance to remove the president. So there's not the urgency to force him out of office through this method because they are engaged in the usual way, which is obviously voting him out at the ballot box. And you don't see the urgency.

And to your point, David, I totally agree that the country is so polarized, it's hard to imagine what a few hours' testimony from Mueller are going to do to kind of change that. How many hearings have we seen over the last couple of years? Cohen was going to do it, Comey was going to do it. And it doesn't change the equation because people are locked in their corners here. There's not a lot of people in the middle who have uncertain feelings about this president.

M.J. LEE, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: And in terms of I think what just a few hours could do, it would be a different situation I think if we had a reason to believe that Mueller was going to make drastic news. But based on everything that we know so far, he has clearly communicated that he wants to stick to being a very, very apolitical and impartial person and that he is going to stick to the script, the script being hundreds of pages of the report that he has already put out. And in that report, and in the very little that we have heard from him so far, he said if I could have cleared the president, I would have, but I didn't.

But at the same time, he did not determine, or make a determination on the question of obstruction of justice because he didn't see this report as the fitting forum for doing so.

[08:05:06] So just because he's going to be taking the stand and speaking publicly, we have no expectation to believe that he is going to sort of go off script when it comes to that.

GREGORY: But he seems like he was holding back.

LEE: That's true.

GREGORY: That will be the question. You seemed like you were holding back. You seemed like you did find a crime. Why did you hold back? And did the attorney general hold you back? Did he jump the gun by interpreting your report to kind of poison the well? That's what I think Democrats want to unearth. I'm just not sure Mueller will go there.

LEE: And they will be asking him questions about that, right. And what they are betting on, I think, is that because this is a different kind of setting and because they have more of his time than they ever have before, that he will be able to put a little bit of flesh on the bones. But again, I think if he is repetitive and continues to say, look, you can ask this in 100 different ways but this is going to be the answer that I stick to, then what is actually the headline that the Democrats get that's different from what they have always had?

CAMEROTA: Sahil, we just had former deputy attorney general under George H. W. Bush, he basically said that he thinks Robert Mueller needs to finish the job. He left everyone hanging. He didn't draw a conclusion. And so if Democrats just say what, sir, in your judgment should be the conclusion, wouldn't that be a blockbuster headline?

KAPUR: I think that's absolutely where Democrats are going to try to go. I think Democrats are certainly going to ask Robert Mueller if he would have charged the president with the crime but for that OLC memo that prohibited the Justice Department from going down that road. I think that was such a key part of Mueller's public statement, which was the insinuation that he could not clear the president from a crime. He debunked some of the things that Attorney General Barr said in the way he explained the report and explained the way it all came about.

Democrats are eager, extremely eager to know whether this Special Counsel would have charged the president with a crime if his hands weren't tied. I expect Mueller is not going to go there. He said it's unfair for the Justice Department to accused someone of a crime if they can't be tried and defend themselves. So he's in a box here. He's not interested in the politics of the situation. As far as he's concerned, he's doing his job to lay the facts out there. It's not clear to me he's going to say anything new there.

GREGORY: To your point, Jonathan, Mueller's testimony, which will get a lot of attention, is the real test, is the final test for Democrats whether they pick that up in the debate? I'm sure they will be asked about it on our debate?

MARTIN: Sure. And there is upside. There's evidence that Democrats talking about this does help some of their fundraising online, because Democratic activists obviously feel strongly about this. Senator Warren got a huge bump in April when she was one of the first to come out for impeachment. It really juiced her numbers in terms of raising money online. So there is some upside to it. But look for them to mention it in the debate and the next day go back to their message, which is about policy, it's about this president, his conduct, but it's not about the impeachment process.

CAMEROTA: Let's talk about Senator Warren, who you've been covering out on the trail so much. So she's talking, as she always does, about our financial health and the health of the economy, and she sees storm clouds.

LEE: That's right. This is a pretty bleak message, to say the least. She says that there is another financial crisis that's coming. She's reminding her supporters that she was one of the people who warned about the 2008 financial crisis. She says Washington didn't listen, and so she is ringing the alarm bells again. She's pointing to a couple of things that we're already aware of, things like household debt going up, corporate debt going up. She says that the manufacturing industry is in a recession, and she says tha tshe has a plan to try to prevent it.

What I think is interesting is that a lot of the plans that she's putting forward this morning, even though she's packaging it as a new plan, these are proposals that we've actually heard from her throughout the year. So I see this as a big political move. The fact that she's been talking so much and leaning so heavily into this economic message I think tells us something. Whether it's the economic patriotism message, whether it's her manufacturing plan, just last week we saw her put out a new plan on Wall Street and private equity, she's clearly starting to make a big bet on wanting to emerge from this large field as the economy candidate on the chance that the economy actually doesn't actually help the president come next year.

GREGORY: But it's interesting, Jonathan. I've heard of Democratic candidates in fundraisers with Democrats getting hit hard on how anti- business they are sounding, which is -- it's not good for the party. It's certainly not good for a general election.

MARTIN: There's real heartburn among the Democratic establishment donors, certainly, who don't like some of the populist tones that they are hearing. But so far it's helping candidates like Warren because it does appeal to a lot of rank and file.

What is striking about the Warren I have a plan messages is people like the idea of having a plan. And they don't even know all of the ins and outs of all of our plans, they just like the idea that she has a plan. And if you talk to voters, Alisyn, I'm sure you do, too, at the events, they always cite the fact she has plans. They don't anything about the actual plans themselves, it's just the idea of having something in store come 2021.

[08:10:08] CAMEROTA: I get that. It's like she has a plan so we don't have to. Who wants to be steeped in all of the minutiae of the policy but they trust somebody has a plan?

MARTIN: There's something to that, yes.

CAMEROTA: Interesting. Reporters, thank you very much for sharing all of this with us.

MARTIN: Thank you.

Now to this. Iran is accusing 17 of its own citizens of acting as spies for the CIA. So we discussed that and the latest aggressive actions against foreign vessels in the Strait of Hormuz, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GREGORY: Breaking this morning, Iran claims it has detained 17 Iranian citizens, accusing them of spying for CIA. It comes amid escalating tensions between Iran and Britain after Iran seized a U.K. flagged oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz. No audio reveals the British Royal Navy tried to stop Iran from seizing their vessel. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is British warship Foxtro 236. Sir, I reiterate that as you are conducting transit passage in a recognized international strait, under international law, your passage must not be impaired, impeded, obstructed or hampered. Please confirm that you are conducting (INAUDIBLE) under the auspices of recognized international trade, over.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Foxtrot 236, this is (INAUDIBLE) Navy Patrol Boat. No challenge is intended. No challenge is intended. I want to inspect the ship for security reason, over.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

GREGORY: Joining us now to discuss, Ian Bremmer. He is the President of the Eurasia Group and an editor-at- large at "Time" Magazine. He is also the author of "Us Versus Them: The Failure of Globalism." Ian, good morning.

IAN BREMMER, PRESIDENT, EURASIA GROUP: Good morning.

GREGORY: It's good to see you. So, how do you interpret this? We have all of these developments with Iran, between the United States and Iran, and now the U.K. that are these kind of tit-for-tat, you know, experiences some escalation, now accusing Iranians of spying for the C.I.A. Where are we with this level of tension?

BREMMER: We see it as escalation, they see it as response and tit- for-tat. The Brits have seized an Iranian tanker. And there have been negotiations about when they're going to let it go recently. It's in Gibraltar right now and the Brits have held it. It's going to be at least another month.

The Iranians have tried unsuccessfully once to seize a British tanker. Now, they've succeeded. The Americans have actually offered all of our allies that our military ships would escort tankers going through. And so far, our allies have been very reluctant to say, yes to the Americans because they normally linked to the harder Us Iranian policy

So yes, we have escalation. But as long as President Trump is the one saying, I don't want any part of direct military intervention with the Iranians, and he is indeed saying that, then what we have is the American squeezing the Iranian economy really hard and the Iranians saying, if you're saying we can't get oil out of the Persian Gulf -- Persian Gulf -- then we are not going to allow others to have the same access. And that's kind of where we are.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: That's really interesting, because so many people have been wondering, how can this keep happening in the Strait of Hormuz? How is it possible that the Iranians can seize a British tanker, when we know that there are U.S. ships who are supposed to be monitoring aggressive activity, but you're saying that there's basically having to be hands off?

BREMMER: There are an awful lot of tankers. There are only so many ships -- military ships. And so far the Americans have not shown any inclination to send more. We've known this as a threat, we could increase our military presence. We haven't wanted to. The Brits, I mean, have much less capacity, radically less capacity than we do. If you're going to escort them, you can't escort them one on one,

there just aren't enough military ships. You have to put a whole bunch of ships in a convoy. It's expensive, it requires coordination, and a whole bunch of allies would have to support the U.S. and on Iran policy, where we're the ones that have unilaterally pulled out of the deal, it's about 15 months ago now.

This escalation only hitting now because the Iranians have been really loathed to do anything that could lead to military confrontation, but their economy is really taking it hard. That's kind of where we are.

GREGORY: Do you think their calculation is that they can -- they can trigger on the on the nuclear deal? They could maybe trigger new negotiation rather than any other kind of response? Do they want to go as far -- obviously, they're feeling the economic pain. Do they want to go as far as thinking, hey, maybe we get, you know, we get as good or better of a deal with President Trump?

BREMMER: So, David, I think that it depends on -- there are two different groups of actors in Iran, and I think that the Iranian President and the Iranian Foreign Minister, who are the ones that were the architects of this deal, they want to show their nationalist bona fides to allow for direct negotiations with the Americans.

I've spoken with Foreign Minister Zarif, you have as well on this network. It's been very clear that he'd like to have a way to engage with the Americans, but they can't do it, unless they show that they're in a position of strength as well.

The Supreme Leader who is in charge of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, they don't call it the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, it is the Islamic -- the Supreme leader, he has been skeptical of the deal. And it's not at all clear that he would be solicitous.

When Japanese Prime Minister Abe went over a couple months ago to meet with the Supreme Leader. Right after that trip, the Supreme Leader tweeted out, "I refuse to talk to the Americans." So you know -- and that undermined Prime Minister Abe. It didn't make him look good, frankly.

So I know, this isn't like North Korea where Trump has a person he can deal with. The person Trump really wants to deal with right now is in a stronger position than the so-called reformist in Iran.

[15:20:07] CAMEROTA: Let's move on to the U.K.

BREMMER: Sure.

CAMEROTA: Boris Johnson. You know, there was a picture that "The New York Times" used online this weekend of Boris Johnson that I thought was Donald Trump. But I guess that was by design to -- I mean, I guess that sort of subliminally that might have been a suggestion because so many people have drawn parallels between Boris Johnson and Donald Trump in terms of sometimes their factory claims, their xenophobic remarks, and things like that. So what is going to happen in with Brexit and in the U.K. if Boris Johnson takes the helm? BREMMER: Well, they're both, you know, ostensibly, right wing

populists that don't really have an ideological anchor. Right? So, it's more about them individually, Trump and Johnson than it is about the policy, which makes Brexit interesting because Boris Johnson, remember before the Brexit referendum, he had actually penned an op-ed that was strongly making the remain case. He never published it.

And later on, he said, "Oh, I was just trying to sort out the arguments in my mind." I can tell you someone like Boris Johnson, when he pens an op-ed, he was planning on publishing the op-ed if it was politically expedient for him.

So, the interesting thing about Johnson becoming Prime Minister is if it turns out that he thinks that a softer Brexit would be in his interest, he would pursue one. If it turns out that he thinks a no- deal Brexit, which would be devastating for the British economy would be in his interest, he would pursue one. If it turned out that an engagement with Nigel Farage of the Brexit Party, allowing for new elections to be put forward, losing some of the conservative MPs would be in Boris Johnson's interest, he would pursue that, not good for the Brits.

But I mean, Boris Johnson as Prime Minister I think is absolutely going to be all about Boris Johnson. The most interesting thing to me about Boris Johnson becoming Prime Minister is I don't think he is going to have an easy relationship with Trump.

CAMEROTA: Why is that?

BREMMER: Because when you see these two men in a room at the G7 or the G20, you know, what they're most into is dominating the conversation, their charisma, they eat up all the air space. And I think that's going to be problematic for someone like Trump. He is not going to like someone who he sees as a competitor, as a threat in that way, not in terms of the power of the U.K., which is comparatively nothing, but rather the media influence of Boris Johnson and Trump is going to hate that.

I think that has the potential to be really explosive, when the two of them actually meet, especially in the context of other leaders.

CAMEROTA: Really interesting, as always, Ian Bremmer, thank you very much for being with us.

BREMMER: Good to see you, guys.

CAMEROTA: Okay, President Trump is ramping up his attacks on four Congresswomen of color, and once again, questioning their patriotism. So what impact does this rhetoric have on regular Americans? We discuss next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D-MD): You see I am scared and I have not -- I have never in my total of 37 years in public service, ever heard a constituents say that they were scared of their leader.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: Well, that was Democratic Congressman Elijah Cummings describing what he says he is hearing from his constituents since President Trump launched those -- the racist attack on those four Congresswomen of color last week.

So joining us to talk about all of this and what's happened over the past week is Wesley Lowery. He's a CNN contributor and national reporter for "The Washington Post." Also, we have Charlie Dent, CNN political commentator and former Republican Member of Congress, and Maysoon Zayid, writer, producer and disability advocate. Great to have all of you here.

Maysoon, I want to start with you because it was exactly a week ago that we were here on this very set after the Sunday tweets that President had sent out against the Congresswomen of color and you used that same language that we just heard from Congressman Cummings. You said that you too felt scared. I think the word you used was terrorized.

MAYSOON ZAYID, WRITER, PRODUCER AND DISABILITY ADVOCATE: Yes, it's terrifying. It feels like being terrorized. And as I sat down, I said, I can't believe a week later, that it's actually gotten worse because we think this is the moment, this is when enough is enough. This is when people are going to say, stop.

Instead, what I saw as an American citizen, was only four GOP members voting against this. What I saw was a President who is pouring water on Gremlins retweeting Katie Hopkins. It takes a certain kind of just disastrous thinking to retweet a hateful anti-Semite.

I know that people don't care that she is violently against Muslims. But amplifying hate speech, doubling down on hate speech, saying that this is going to be a tactic for the campaign and then listening to Rep. Cummings say, "I'm not the only one." People are scared of the President. Did you ever think we'd be sitting here as Americans saying, "We are terrified of our own President."

GREGORY: Charlie Dent, the Republican response. Well, there have been members of Congress who are Republicans who have spoken out, it is still relatively few. We asked this question a lot. Why the fear? Why the trepidation? Why the avoidance of saying, condemning what the President may do, and still saying, you know, you can have disagreements with other people and take them on policy. Why is there so much room that he has given for this kind of talk?

CHARLIE DENT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, David, the answer is always the same. It is that many are fearful of a presidential backlash and a primary threat. Now, I often would argue with my Republican colleagues at the time, that the way we change the President's behavior, if enough of us speak up, we can change the narrative.

I mean, the President was clearly worried about this vote last week. I mean, he was calling members of the House trying to make sure they stayed in line. I mean, he worries about this stuff.

So the point is, if you get a critical mass, I don't know what that number should be 20 to 40, maybe who started pushing back. I think that can help change behavior and then the leadership, the elected Republic --

[08:30:09]