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British Conservative Party Elects Boris Johnson to Become New British Prime Minister; Afghanistan Demands Trump Clarify Comments After He Said the U.S. Could Wipe Afghanistan "Off the Face of the Earth"; Investors Watch for Clues on Possible Rate Cut in the U.S. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired July 23, 2019 - 09:00   ET


[09:00:06] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: A very good Tuesday morning to you. I'm Jim Sciutto.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Poppy Harlow. We're happy to be with you from Washington today.

Did you get the memo? We are one day out from Robert Mueller's high stakes hearing and Speaking Pelosi is laying out the game plan for her party. Expose the president's alleged crimes, corruption and cover- up. One thing really interestingly not mentioned in these documents is impeachment.

SCIUTTO: Yes, we know the House speaker not in favor of that for now. Meanwhile, the Justice Department is laying out its own guidelines for Robert Mueller, warning the former special counsel to stay in his lane, stick only to what's included in his public report.

One thing the DOJ cannot control, however, that is the opening statements that Mueller will likely be reading at this time, this very hour, tomorrow morning. He wasn't required to clear it through them and they have not yet seen it.

CNN justice correspondent Jessica Schneider joins us now live in Washington here.

So the DOJ is setting out pretty hard and fast limits here, though Mueller is now a private citizen.

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly right. So they're laying out the bounds of his testimony in this 1 1/2 page letter here. To be fair Robert Mueller did ask for guidance on how exactly he should testify. So the DOJ saying very strictly here that he needs to stay within the bounds of his public report. Really this is something that Robert Mueller was planning to do anyway.

In addition to that the Justice Department is saying, look, you can't talk about any about redacted material from your report. That would include grand jury material, information about ongoing investigations. And then interestingly here and key, you can't talk about any uncharged third parties. And that will really play a role in anything that Robert Mueller would talk about in term of the president. And we know that that's going to be a big line of questioning for Democrats, asking whether or not if the president was not president, would he have been charged with obstruction of justice.

HARLOW: Can I just ask you? He doesn't work for the DOJ anymore. And I get that he asked for guidance but he's not breaking any laws if he breaks that guidance, right?

SCHNEIDER: That's right. I mean, he can technically talk about anything. But, you know, to be fair he has gone in line with the Justice Department throughout this process. He's conferred with them. He's stayed within their boundaries because, of course, he was an employee of the Justice Department as special counsel, and he did ask for this guidance. It's the first thing that the Justice Department said in this letter, is we are responding to your request for guidance on this.

Now, look, we talked about the opening statement. That is not being reviewed by the Justice Department. The attorney general will not be seeing this before Robert Mueller makes these opening statements tomorrow. I'm told that Robert Mueller has been preparing diligently for this. He's been working with the team that he worked with the special counsel's office to make sure he is prepared. So we'll see. I mean, the spokesperson I talked to yesterday wouldn't give me many details on what the content of Robert Mueller's testimony will be but we know it will stay within the bounds of the report.


SCHNEIDER: And also I asked about his demeanor. You know, what can we expect? He's a reluctant witness here. The spokesperson said, well, we'll see on Wednesday.

HARLOW: Yes. Right.

SCIUTTO: The government has a long arm. It leads the intelligence committee, it leads the Defense Department. They can still tell you what not to say after you leave those organizations even if you're no longer with them.

HARLOW: Right.

SCIUTTO: Jessica Schneider, thanks very much.

Later this afternoon House Democrats are preparing for tomorrow's big hearing with Robert Mueller by holding a two-hour mock hearing, a practice session.

HARLOW: CNN has obtained a six-page memo that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is sending out to Democrats this morning, a guide to help coordinate and keep the Democrats on the same page for the hearing.

Let's go to Lauren Fox. She's on Capitol Hill.

What were you hearing about how the Dems are preparing?

LAUREN FOX, CNN POLITICS CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Poppy, you really can't overestimate what is on the line for Democrats when it comes to Robert Mueller's testimony. So behind the scenes they are preparing with gusto. What you have seen over the last couple of days is the House Intelligence Democrats have held their mock hearing, House Republicans have held their mock hearing. Now members of the House Judiciary Committee on the Democratic side will hold their mock hearing this afternoon. They're scripting questions. They are getting ready.

We've also heard that Republicans have looked at some old tape of Mueller's past testimony. He's come up to Capitol Hill more than 80 times since 1990. So a lot on the line tomorrow for Democrats. You can expect that folks like the chairman, Jerry Nadler, are going to be pressing Mueller to answer the questions that they have even despite that guidance that was sent yesterday from the Justice Department.

Here's what the chairman of the Judiciary Committee said earlier today on CNN.


REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): He does not have to comply with that letter. He doesn't work for them, and that letter asks things that are beyond the power of the agency to ask even if he still worked for them.


FOX: The big question, of course, what comes out of this, whether or not Democrats want to be pushing forward with impeachment after this or whether or not they're going to heed that advice from Nancy Pelosi in that six-page memo, basically arguing they should continue with their investigations and try to pass legislation to stop future intervention from foreign governments in the U.S. elections -- Poppy and Jim.

HARLOW: OK. Lauren Fox, thanks so much.

[09:05:02] SCIUTTO: Let's speak more about this now with CNN legal analyst Shan Wu, defense attorney, former federal prosecutor, and CNN political analyst Sabrina Siddiqui, she's White House correspondent for the "Guardian."

So, Shan, I suppose there's two questions here. One, legally does Mueller have to abide by these DOJ regulations? But also knowing what we know about Mueller being a company man, a by the book man, is he likely to?

SHAN WU, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: That's a very good. I think without any regulations he's very unlikely to stray outside what he thinks would be god for DOJ as an institution. Interestingly enough, you know, he asked to be subpoenaed and I think the subpoena actually places some more restrictions on him under the DOJ guidelines. As an ex-employee if he's subpoenaed he still have some restrictions on him. That may be part of what his strategy.

SCIUTTO: Interesting. Interesting. HARLOW: Shan, you wrote a great piece and you framed tomorrow as an

historic opportunity to really demonstrate how a republic should work. Will it? Will he take up that opportunity?

WU: Well, I don't know if he wants that historic role personally. But I think there's an opportunity to elicit that information from him to enlighten the American people. But it's so important how it's done. I think it's really important that the Democrats stick with what we call direct examination questions, who, what, when and how.


WU: If they try to use cross-examination, leading questions it's going to look, A, like grandstanding, and B, he's going to completely stiff on them.


HARLOW: Right.

SCIUTTO: Now, Sabrina, to be fair, Republicans on those committees are going to do their share of grandstanding as well. I imagine you can expect some questions on the Strzok-Page text, you know, a whole host of things. But equally so there Mueller can be unflappable, can he not, in the face of that? If they're going to be charging that, well, you know, 18 angry Democrats or whatever the president's description of the Mueller investigation was.

SABRINA SIDDIQUI, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think that Mueller is going to be very protective about the integrity of his team. And so, while he is very much a cool customer, he's very straight, very of course middle of the road, I think if there's anything that might ruffle his feathers it's Republicans kind of coming at him and saying this was biased, this was politically motivated, and this has all been a plot to undermine the president.

So I think Republicans will have to tread carefully. They want to come off as treating this as a serious hearing, as a fact-finding mission. But, as you know, these congressional hearings are known to be spectacles and partisan theater, so I think important to see what actually comes out of this when you have public opinion very much baked in terms of how the American public perceives the Mueller report.

HARLOW: And that's why he really doesn't like this. I mean, he's been up there over 80 times over his career, testifying before Congress, and he loathes having to do this. A reluctant witness is putting it lightly.

I thought Democratic congressman and presidential candidate Tim Ryan was interesting last night. Here's what he told Erin Burnett about this.


REP. TIM RYAN (D-OH), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If he does stay in the confines of the report, which I'm assuming he will, it may not move the needle.


HARLOW: And the question for Democrats then becomes, Sabrina, if it doesn't move the needle, if that polling doesn't change significantly to get the majority of the American public in the camp of impeachment, what do Dems do?

SIDDIQUI: Well, that's the key question that they're grappling with because at the moment public opinion is not broadly on the side of impeachment. And that's the case House Speaker Pelosi has been making to her caucus. You have roughly a third of House Democrats who have called for a formal impeachment inquiry.

Now it's notable that the last time there was a flurry of Democrats who came out in favor of impeachment it was after Robert Mueller made that one and only public statement he has made thus far kind of reaffirming his principal findings from the report. It's very different to have a really detailed, these 10 episodes of potential obstruction of justice by the president before the cameras, under oath that could have some impact.

But I do think that Democrats are really going to have to look at whether they're going to make a decision that's based on the political climate or if they feel like this is their congressional responsibility to carry out oversight of the executive branch.

SCIUTTO: OK. Shan, so forget Bob Mueller's discomfort. Also forget the DOJ instructions to him. There's a very legitimate question here that was left unclear by the public report, and that is, was it DOJ policy preventing indictment of the sitting president or a lack of evidence that held the special counsel from recommending an indictment? Right? I mean, that's a fair question that requires clarification, is it not?

WU: It does. And he tries to clarify in the report, but I'm hoping if one thing comes out of his testimony it's to clarify for the American people that they felt they could not charge a sitting president because of the DOJ rules. Not lack of evidence.

SCIUTTO: It's a direct question, is it not? Was there enough evidence or was it the policy? He should -- shouldn't he have an obligation to answer that question?

WU: I think he should, although if he's asked, was there enough evidence, I think he's going to say we just couldn't make that decision was there enough evidence. But I think if he's asked, did DOJ policy prevent you from reaching that charging decision, he ought to say yes.

SCIUTTO: Well, that would clear --

HARLOW: Jim should be there asking the question.

SCIUTTO: That would clear up a lot. And let's see if he gets asked.

HARLOW: He would answer --

[09:10:03] SCIUTTO: If anybody's listening now please ask that question for the sake of the American people.

Shan, Sabrina, thanks very much as always.

HARLOW: Thanks, guys.

SCIUTTO: Our special coverage we should note of the Mueller hearings will begin tomorrow morning, 8:00 Eastern Time right here on CNN.

HARLOW: All right, so one of America's closest allies this morning has a new leader. Boris Johnson wins the race to be the U.K.'s next prime minister.

Plus, he's a Republican lawmaker who says those "send her back" chants send, quote, "a dagger" through his heart. He will join us and we'll talk about what he makes of the president's strategy to ramp up those attacks on the so-called Squad since then.

SCIUTTO: And Senator Bernie Sanders' strategy for 2020 goes all-in now on health care. But will help him stand out from the crowded field? The presidential candidate will join us coming up.


SCIUTTO: Now to an important power shift in Britain. At a critical time in the country's history Boris Johnson has won the race to be the new leader of the Conservative Party. That means he will be the next prime minister of the United Kingdom. Strange process there. Now the national election relinquished the Conservative Party membership.



SCIUTTO: Three hundred thousand people makes that -- makes that choice.

HARLOW: It is so different from our process. The current Prime Minister Theresa May resigning tomorrow after failing to deliver on Brexit. Johnson, a driving force in the push to leave the EU has promised to deliver a Brexit deal or no deal by October 31st.

Nic Robertson is with us outside of 10 Downing Street, his rise to power has already been met by resignations from key members of his Conservative Party, and this is the guy who thinks he can do what Theresa May couldn't do with three different attempts. How challenging would these first 100 days be?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Massively challenging. He is going to do it with optimism and energy, that's what he's been telling the party faithful. He won two-thirds of the votes, so his supporters are taking that as a strong mandate. He's already facing a challenge internally in the U.K., leader of the opposition calling for a general election.

Johnson will have to prepare for that, and that will guide him in selecting some of his cabinet ministerial replacements, and he'll have to make -- he is seeing pressure from the Iranians, the Foreign Minister there tweeting essentially, upping the ante of the tensions on the Persian Gulf at the moment and his European partners to negotiate -- wait for that Brexit deal, already tweeting, saying congratulations, however, don't expect any changes from the deal Theresa May has. So pressure already on.

SCIUTTO: So pressure from the continent, but a lot has been made about the relationship across the Atlantic between Trump and Boris Johnson, but if we look at the record, that hasn't always been the case in public comments from Johnson.

ROBERTSON: You know, it's really interesting. I mean, Johnson like President Trump is a man of many contrasts, many shades, many colors. Johnson, you know, some of his advisors that I've spoken to over the years have said you really don't need to explain what President Trump is trying to do when he was Foreign Secretary because he was trying to explain President Trump to the rest of the world.

However, as you say, there are contrasts. President Trump talking about how he supports him, Johnson sometimes critical.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I like Boris Johnson, I always have. He's a different kind of a guy, but they say I'm a different kind of a guy, too. We get along well. I think we'll have a very good relationship.

BORIS JOHNSON, PRIME MINISTER-ELECT OF THE UNITED KINGDOM: I have to say when Donald Trump says that there are parts of London that are no- go areas, I think he's portraying a quite stupefying ignorance that makes him, frankly, unfit to hold the office of president of the United States.


ROBERTSON: However, Johnson does hold Trump in high regard, and Washington could be one of the first international stops that Johnson makes.

HARLOW: From unfit to best buds, I guess.


HARLOW: All right, Nic Robertson, thanks very much for that reporting, wasn't that illuminating. All right, so the Afghan government this morning as you would expect wants some clarification from the president. President Trump's recent remarks that the U.S. could wipe Afghanistan off the face of the earth. Listen to it for yourself.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: 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. Afghanistan would be wiped off the face of the earth, it would be gone -- it would be over literally in ten days.


SCIUTTO: Susan Glasser; CNN global affairs analyst, staff writer for "The New Yorker" joins us now. So, Susan, I know there's a tendency to shake our heads and say, well, this is just presidential bluster. But let's be frank, he's the commander-in-chief --

HARLOW: Yes --

SCIUTTO: The leader of the free world, and he's just spoken lightly as an aside, it seems about nuking a country that happens to be a U.S. ally here. Put that into context, and what -- how it matters to Afghanistan and the region to hear a president speaking like that.

SUSAN GLASSER, STAFF WRITER, THE NEW YORKER: Well, I think it matters even far beyond Afghanistan. I mean, what was striking to me yesterday listening to it as I was on the set here is that he didn't just say it, well, he's actually repeated it a couple of --


GLASSER: Different times --

HARLOW: Yes --

GLASSER: In his photo-op with the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan. And you know, first of all, having been in Afghanistan and watched American fire power, American B-52s during the Battle of Tora Bora, guess what? Even if you bomb the heck out of the Hindu Kush, it actually wouldn't necessarily win the war in ten days.

First of all, the idea of throwing all your fire power at a country that is sparsely populated, and that has been at war since --


GLASSER: The 1980s is an absurd notion, first of all --

SCIUTTO: Remember the Moab early in the administration, mother of all bombs --

GLASSER: Exactly, the bunker buster bomb --

SCIUTTO: Yes, the biggest non-nuclear --

HARLOW: Yes --

SCIUTTO: Bomb that we have, and --

GLASSER: Well --

SCIUTTO: Of course that didn't change the --

GLASSER: But it's --

SCIUTTO: Dynamic at all --

GLASSER: It's shocking to hear a president lately news about not only using what appears to be nuclear power that he's talking about. But also, the idea that it's "I", he said several times, I can do this, I can do this.


GLASSER: That's not really how our system of government is supposed to work. That the president of the United States can just unilaterally decide to nuke a country, of course.

[09:20:00] HARLOW: So the U.S. special representative to Afghanistan obviously had to respond to this, right? And Zalmay Khalilzad tweeted after the president made those remarks, let me read it to you, "POTUS reiterated to the world that there's no reasonable military solution to the war in Afghanistan, and that peace must be achieved through a political settlement."

I mean, that is not what -- those are -- the president chose to use different words that got everyone's attention.

GLASSER: Right, I mean, what's ironic about this is that I do think that President Trump has communicated quite clearly, essentially I'm not interested in being in Afghanistan any longer after 19 years there. You know, took gratuitous pot shots at both Presidents Bush and Obama.

HARLOW: Yes --

GLASSER: And essentially telegraphed, we're going to get out no matter what. In fact, that was the reason for the more conciliatory visit yesterday --

HARLOW: Yes --

GLASSER: With the Pakistani Prime Minister. Essentially, the U.S. has gone from trying to get tough as President Trump was last year, cutting off aid to Pakistan, trying to pressure them to do more to essentially sort of washing its hands of it, saying, we're having these talks with the Taliban now. We want to get out no matter what.

So, I do think that's Trump's policy, but of course he stepped on it --

HARLOW: With the words --

GLASSER: With his shocking and in artful comments.

SCIUTTO: Let me ask you a question. Do you -- the president will sometimes make statements like that with no basis, just off the top of his head. But the fact that he put a number on it, does it strike you that that's a response, a strategy that the president brought up in a situation room meeting or with folks in the Pentagon to say, well, what if we just bomb the heck out of the place.

I mean, does it strike you that, that indicates there's a discussion at least of that.

GLASSER: Absolutely, I was struck by that as well, Jim, I'm glad you brought it up because he used the same number, 10 million. He repeated it a couple of different times, so it wasn't just you know, a sort of passing brain thing. You wonder if it was stuck in his head, and remember, that's not the only major gaff in that one short appearance.

He also kind of shockingly first of all appear to lie about what the Prime Minister of India told him, volunteered himself as a mediator in the long-running dispute between India and Pakistan over Kashmir, and of course, the Indians absolutely don't want the president to be a mediator there. That's been a foundation of their policy.

The president simply appeared to lie and say that the Indians had invited him --


GLASSER: To insert himself --

HARLOW: To do that --

GLASSER: Yes, so basically --

SCIUTTO: Modi very quickly corrected that and --


SCIUTTO: And can happen.


HARLOW: Thank you, Susan --

GLASSER: Thank you --

HARLOW: Good to have you as always. Republican lawmaker says those "send her back" chants at a rally in his home state sent a dagger through his heart. Does he condemn the president's tweets that followed that? We'll ask him, next.

SCIUTTO: We're also moments away from the opening bell on Wall Street, stocks pointing up this morning, see the green arrows there as corporate earnings reports continue. Investors are waiting for a Federal Reserve meeting next week for any clues on a possible rate cut, looks like that's where they're going.


HARLOW: This morning, the president is again attacking Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar along with three other Democratic female members of Congress, women of color. Moments ago, the president wrote that he will win Minnesota in 2020 because of, quote, "America hating anti-Semite rep Omar", those are the president's words.

He also called the squad a quote, "nightmare for America". As the president notes, he did not win the state of Minnesota in the last election.

SCIUTTO: This follows racist tweets from Trump telling the Congresswomen to go back to where they came from. Despite those comments, a new poll taken after those tweets shows that Trump's approval rating has reached a new high for that particular poll, 44 percent.

Though that in line with about the typical average --

HARLOW: Yes --

SCIUTTO: For both approval and disapproval in polling over the last year or so. Republican Congressman Mark Walker of North Carolina joins us now, he is Vice Chairman of the House Republican Conference. That makes him the fourth-ranking Republican in the house. Congressman, we appreciate you joining us --

REP. MARK WALKER (R-NC): Thanks Jim --

SCIUTTO: Thank you for your time --


SCIUTTO: You are in the minority in this party for publicly criticizing the "send her back" comments. And to your credit, you've done so more than once. I want to ask you a question, you have a leadership position, I'm curious, in private, has there been more discussion about this, more disagreement about how to respond than we're aware of? Are you truly a unique -- well, almost unique, but truly in the smaller minorities we've seen?

WALKER: No, I think the majority of the Republicans, whether it's publicly or in most of the time, privately here agree that we do not want to be defined by those kinds of chants. We believe our policies are starting to speak for themselves, specifically in the areas of opportunity zones, criminal justice reform, a great stretch of two and a half years of the economy that's impacted all of our communities.

We want to make sure that we are doing things where that message cuts through and not get caught up on some of the kind of chants that have been offensive to many in our minority communities for decades. So, I felt like as a former minister who's worked in the inner cities, and Poppy, you were just talking about my wife who is a two-time graduate from a historical black college universities.

When those people put their trust in you to go to Washington and do the right thing and then speak out on the right thing, I felt like that was something that we needed to do because I don't want to do anything that ever breaks that trust. SCIUTTO: Well, why aren't more Republicans doing the same thing?

Saying that -- if you're saying that most Republicans feel that they don't want to be defined by this, why aren't more coming out and saying like you did? That this was like a dagger that went through my heart.

WALKER: Yes, immediately sitting there, you could feel the fervor in the crowd -- and listen, these are.