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Backlash Against Budget Deal Between Trump & Congressional Leaders; Trump, Devin Nunes Meeting Over Replacing DNI Dan Coats; Afghanistan Demands Trump Clarify "Wipe Off The Map" Remarks; Tensions With Iran Could Lead To Dangerous Miscalculation; Trump Proposal May Kick Millions Off Food Stamps. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired July 23, 2019 - 13:30   ET



[13:33:13] BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: A sweeping new budget deal between congressional leaders and President Trump takes the threat of a fiscal crisis off the table until well after the 2020 election.

The agreement also suspends the debt ceiling for two years, which means there will not be a need for a contentious vote every few months over raising the debt ceiling to pay the federal government's bills and, of course, no government shutdown.

President Trump tweeting, calling it a compromise and saying that it's a win for the military, is how he's framing it.

But there's already been a bit of a backlash against the agreement, particularly from some more conservative parts of the GOP where folks are concerned about $320 billion in additional spending over the next two years.

We have Eliana Johnson with us, a White House reporter for "Politico" and a CNN political analyst.

So what are you watching for? I mean, the president has spoken glowingly about this but he could always change his mind.

ELIANA JOHNSON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: That's right. He's given indications that he's -- private indications that he's likely to support this deal. But already today we saw some of the president's closest allies on Capitol Hill, Mark Meadows and Jim Jordan, say they just can't support a deal that raises spending like this.

This is greater spending increases than happened under the Obama administration and doesn't make cuts to entitlements, which are something that conservatives in previous eras insisted on.

So what I'm watching for is how negative does the coverage on the FOX News channel get and does the president respond to that if the coverage is negative. I think that's the concern of a lot of people in the White House.

KEILAR: How far away is this from the Republican roots of fiscal conservatism, and is there any concern that they could pay for this when, if not this next election, the election after that? Historically, there are issues when they go wild with spending.

[13:35:04] JOHNSON: You know, I think if you look at this budget, you can really see that this is a change that Trump has had on the party. One of the things he identified was that Republican voters really don't care about entitlement cuts. They actually like entitlements.

So I think you can look at this budget and see a way that Trump has transformed the Republican Party, though the party itself has always been more bark than bite when it comes to cutting spending. That's always been something that's tremendously difficult to do.

But now when the president puts forward a budget like this, you really see only muted complaints from conservatives. And it does look like Republican leadership, Senator majority leader, Mitch McConnell, House minority leader, Kevin McCarthy, are going to go along with this budget, which I think you would have heard far more vigorous complaints had President Obama's name been on something like this.

KEILAR: I want to talk about some great reporting you have out. You've reported that the president met with Devin Nunes, the top Republican on the House Intel Committee. We are very familiar with him. This was about discussing a replacement for Dan Coats, who's the director of National Intelligence.

Coats has been there since the early days of the administration. He's been seen as somewhat of a straight shooter. Is this signaling an end for him?

JOHNSON: I think it is. The president has been grumbling about Dan Coats since back at the Aspen Security Forum a year ago when Coats had that visible reaction to the president saying that he would welcome a visit from Vladimir Putin to the White House.

But Coats is also somebody who's never really gelled with the president. He's a former Senator. He's somebody who embodies kind of old-time Washington, something the president vowed to shake up.

So I think the president consulting with more and more people, including Devin Nunes, about who should replace Coats, does indicate that he's probably likely to tap somebody for that post in the coming weeks. Though, as always when talking about personnel in the Trump administration, anything could happen.

KEILAR: Could Devin Nunes be saying maybe you should pick Devin Nunes?

JOHNSON: That's something that's been talked about but a lot of people think it's unlikely because Nunes is now the senior Republican on the Intelligence Committee and the senior Republican on Ways and Means Committee. A lot of people say maybe he'd like to go into the administration.

He also has a promising future in Congress should Republicans take back the House and he would be chairman one of those committees, which would put him in a strong position should the president win re- election or a Democrat win the White House.

KEILAR: Maybe more stable employment, too, than working in the Trump administration.

Eliana Johnson, great reporting.

JOHNSON: Thank you.

KEILAR: Thank you so much.

Afghanistan is asking President Trump to clear up exactly what he meant when he said the country could be, quote, "wiped off the face of the earth."

And growing concern that a serial killer is targeting victims in Canada, including an American woman who was found shot to death along with her boyfriend.


[13:42:27] KEILAR: A tense military confrontation as warplanes faced off near the coast of South Korea in the Sea of Japan. South Korea saying that it had to fire more than 300 warning shots at a Russian military aircraft for violating its airspace.

Russia has its own version of events, saying that South Korea, quote, "dangerously intercepted two of its bombers that were on a planned flight over neutral waters."

And all of this took place near some disputed islands in the Sea of Japan.

In the meantime, Afghan leaders are left stunned and demanding a clarification after President Trump said this about the war in Afghanistan.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: 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.


KEILAR: During his meeting with Pakistan's Prime Minister, Imran Khan, President Trump said the U.S. has made a lot of progress in their talks to end the 18-year war with the Taliban without offering any specifics.

Jane Harman is the director of the Wilson Center, a former congresswoman and former head of the House, ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.

The Afghan government is an ally of the U.S.


KEILAR: But the president raised this specter of wiping them off the map, of killing millions of people. What was your reaction to hearing that?

HARMAN: Stunned. I can't imagine how that fits into any U.S. strategy that we are currently pursuing.

We have a special envoy to Afghanistan named Zaad, Kahlil Zaad, former ambassador there, Afghan-born American, who has been working his heart out to broker a peace between the Taliban and Afghan government. There are some issues around who's in the peace talks and all the rest of it. But nonetheless, he issued a statement yesterday trying to clarify the president's comments.

There's a Democratic election there in a few months with a number of parties running. The present head of Afghanistan, Ashraf Ghani, is somebody who is an ally of the U.S. So I cannot figure that one out.

KEILAR: Does it change the dynamics of discussions when the Afghan government feels already marginalized in the discussions, as the U.S. has been talking directly to the Taliban? Does it affect that in a real way or not?

HARMAN: Sure it does. Sure it does.

It also -- another party that's aggrieved is women who have made enormous progress in Afghanistan who aren't part of these peace talks and are worried about whether, if the Taliban is part of a government, their rights will be rolled back.

[13:45:11] But it also communicates something else as we're having these increased tensions with Iran over Iran's nuclear program. We have possibly the specter of the U.S. using nukes to obliterate a country that's a neighbor and a former -- or present ally of Iran.

So I would like to think that this was -- this comment was inartful and not consistent with U.S. policy and will be put in some different context quickly, because I worry about the stakes both in Afghanistan, but also in Iran where the dangers are escalating.

KEILAR: And in Iran, as the dangers are escalating, what is your utmost concern as there's this brinksmanship and this game of chicken that's going on?

HARMAN: Well, the danger is miscalculation. We're 101 years away from the armistice in World War I, Woodrow Wilson's war. He campaigned in 1916 against the war and then changed his mind and helped us get into the war.

But most people looking back on that history think it was based on a miscalculation, the bloodiest war in our history. We didn't have nukes. We didn't have defensive cyber. We didn't have artificial intelligence. We didn't have all these modern tools that are absolutely devastating, way beyond anything we could imagine then. So I worry about the danger of miscalculation. Interesting report, I don't know if it's true, but the report by

Reuters is that all the parties to the JCPOA, the nuclear deal with Iran, are meeting, excluding us, in Vienna this Sunday. That means it includes Iran. And Russia and China and Europe are all meeting to discuss how to stay in that deal, the one that President Trump pulled out of.

Looking back on that, if we'd stayed in the deal, I think the chances would be much greater that we could have strengthened the deal. Maybe that still can happen. And Trump could take a victory lap for doing that.

A stronger deal would be better and a deal against curbing Iran's malign behavior in the neighborhood would obviously be much better. But the decision was made at the time was that all we could get was a nuclear containment deal. Most members in Congress, after we were in it, thought we should stay in.

KEILAR: Before I let you go, really quickly, I just want to ask you about the director of National Intelligence, Dan Coats. Seen as a straight shooter in the Trump administration.


KEILAR: "Politico" is reporting that there are discussions about a replacement for him. What do you -- what's your reaction?

HARMAN: Well, I'm a huge fan of Dan Coats. I knew him as a Senator. He served on the Senate Intelligence Committee when I was on the House Intelligence Committee. He did a great turn as ambassador to Germany. He then came back as a Senator.

This is a job he didn't need. But as one of the great grandparents of the director of National Intelligence position -- I was one of the co- sponsors, co-authors of the legislation that set up the DNI -- he fits the bill. He's a steadying force in the Trump administration.

He made a comment in Aspen last summer that no one seems to have forgotten, because he was blindsided by the fact that the president might want to have another meeting with Vladimir Putin. And I think that sort of soured his relationship with the president.

But he's a steady hand. He's a good guy. He doesn't need the job, but I think we need him in the job.

KEILAR: All right, Jane Harman, former ranking Democrat on House Intel, director of the Woodrow Wilson Center.

HARMAN: Thank you.

KEILAR: Thank you so much.

The Trump administration releasing a new proposal for food stamps that could kick millions out of the program.

[14:58:53] Also, just in, ahead of tomorrow's blockbuster hearing, Robert Mueller makes a last-minute request to the committee. Hear who Mueller would like to bring along with him.


[14:53:58] More than three million people, that is how many Americans could lose access to food stamps under a new Trump administration proposal.

Joining me now is CNN Government Regulation Correspondent, Rene Marsh.

Tell us about this proposal and who we're talking about.

RENE MARSH, CNN GOVERNMENT REGULATION CORRESPONDENT: This proposal would strip food stamps from low-income Americans who have savings or some sort of assets. We're talking about people who own a home. And who would be hit the hardest would be the working poor, people who have slightly more gross income than your typical person who's considered low income.

The concern is these people would be discouraged from working extra shifts, extra hours, saving money, because it would put them over the limit.

What the Trump administration wants to do is get rid of automatic eligibility, which essentially says, if you already get federal or state benefits, you're automatically enrolled to get food stamps. The Trump administration says that's a loophole. They want to get rid of that. They say would save some $2.5 billion.

But again, we're talking about three million people who would be kicked off of food stamps. And many people say this is no loophole, these are people who need the benefit -- Brianna?

[14:55:09] KEILAR: All right, Rene, we know you'll continue to dig into this story. We really appreciate the story.

MARSH: Sure.

KEILAR: Any moment now, it's sure to be an emotional moment on Capitol Hill when Senators vote on a bill to permanently compensate 9/11 first responders.


[14:00:10] ERICA HILL, CNN HOST: Hello. I'm Erica Hill, in for Brooke Baldwin.