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U.K. Conservatives Select Boris Johnson as New Party Leader; Justice Department Letter Warns Mueller to Stick to Report When Testifying to Congress; Rep. Jim Himes (D-CT) is Interviewed About Mueller Hearing. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired July 23, 2019 - 07:00   ET


PETER WESTMACOTT, FORMER U.K. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.S.: Has been very keen on Brexit. Boris Johnson says he's determined to drive Brexit through. That may be helpful, although personally, I've never taken the view that the promise that a nice free trade agreement with America the day after we leave the European Union is very realistic. It's going to take years to negotiate, and it will be -- it will be a really very difficult process.


WESTMACOTT: And the president, I think, will hope Boris (AUDIO GAP) -- the very difficult relationship with Iran at the moment, where we have this standoff on the two tankers.

GREGORY: Right. Ambassador, let me just interject for a moment, because that is what we're watching. Boris Johnson, the two candidates being brought onto the stage, Jeremy Hunt and Boris Johnson, as they're preparing to make this official at this point. And I don't imagine, Ambassador, there's -- there's much drama here, there's much intrigue. Boris Johnson appears to have the support, yes?

WESTMACOTT: Well, there will only be drama and intrigue and surprise if it is not Boris Johnson. That really would be a turn out for the books. Everyone expects him to win and to win quite comfortably.

GREGORY: There is a measure of disappointment, though, isn't there, among a lot of Britons, that they're feeling that they're not getting their voice heard, particularly on Brexit. That there's so few people in the end who are actually making the selection.

WESTMACOTT: Well, there is that sense. It is the first time we have ever had a prime minister of the United Kingdom chosen by just a 150,000 members of the Conservative Party. You know, it's not Parliament choosing this prime minister; it's not the people.

So it's a big challenge on the prime minister-elect, because he won't have a popular mandate, and of course, he is having to drive through Brexit of a rather different kind of the sort of (AUDIO GAP) -- Brexit referendum campaign three years ago. Going to be much harder (AUDIO GAP) single market and (AUDIO GAP) -- which is not -- on the ballot paper, if you like, three years ago. GREGORY: All right. Ambassador Westmacott, we're having some

difficulties with the satellite, some interference. We apologize for those technical difficulties.

We do have Bianca Nobilo, who is also standing by outside of the proceedings that you're watching on your screen as the Conservative Party prepares to announce that Boris Johnson will be the prime minister. Both candidates, Jeremy Hunt and Boris Johnson, were introduced and are sitting there. And Bianca, so we're waiting for the formality here.

But as you were hearing Ambassador Westmacott saying, there is some measure of controversy, as there's relatively few members of the Conservative Party who are making the selection at such a controversial time, such a delicate time in British politics.

BIANCA NOBILO, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, so that's some 160,000 members of the Conservative Party within the United Kingdom that have the ability to vote in this leadership contest.

Now, there's nothing new about that. That is the protocol. That's the way that things are done in the Conservative Party, but at a time when this country is facing such division and polarization of politics, Brexit is still in a state of utter confusion. It's obvious, too, political tensions now in the Gulf. There's so much that's going to challenge the next prime minister, that many wanted more people to be involved in that decision-making process.

But it is going to be those people who ultimately made the decision today, and as your guests were saying, it is likely to be Boris Johnson.

It's interesting as well. I saw within the exhibition center behind me, three members of Boris Johnson's family sitting in the audience. His father, Stanley Johnson, who -- he looks very much like, who himself was the politician, spent many years in the European Union. His sister, who comes from the other side of the political spectrum, also sitting there. And his brother, Joe Johnson, who is actually a minister in Theresa May's government. So he comes from this rich political background of varied opinion.

But today, all three of them are sitting there in support of what's likely to be the announcement that their brother, or son, is going to become the next prime minister of the United Kingdom, the 77th prime minister of the U.K., who's likely to face just as many difficulties and predicaments as Theresa May, if not more.

Because you see now, Britain's in a situation where tensions which remained under the surface within the early premiership of Theresa May have now erupted full-scale. So whoever it is that wins this leadership contest is going to have to hit the ground running to deal with all of those things.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. Bianca, hold on a second. Here's the announcement, we believe. Let's listen in for a moment. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Zero point four percent. The total number of

ballot papers rejected was 509. And the total number of votes given to each candidate was as follows: Jeremy Hunt, 46,656; Boris Johnson 92,153. And therefore, I give notice that Boris Johnson is elected as the leader of the Conservative and Unionist Party.

BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER-ELECT: Thank you very much. Thank you very much. Thank you very much. Thank you very much. Thank you very much. Good morning, everybody. Thank you. Thank you, everybody. Thank you, everybody.

Good morning. OK, right. Thank you so much. Thank you, Cyril. Thank you, Charles. Thank you very much, Brandon, for fantastic -- fantastic, well-organized campaign. I think it did a lot of credit, as Brandon has just said, to our party, to our values and to our ideals.

But I want to begin by thanking my opponent, Jeremy. By common consent, an absolutely formidable campaigner and a great leader and a great politician. And Jeremy in the course of 20 hustings or more, 20 hustings or hustings-style events -- it was more than 3,000, by the way, it was about 7,000 miles that we did crisscrossing the country. You've been friendly, you've been good natured. You've been a font of excellent ideas, all of which I propose to steal forthwith.

And above all, I want to thank our outgoing leader, Theresa May, for her extraordinary service to this party, and to this country. It was a privilege.

It was a privilege to serve in her cabinet and to see the passion and determination that she brought to the many causes that are her legacy: from equal pay for men and women, to tackling the problems of mental health and racial discrimination in the criminal justice system. Thank you, Theresa. Thank you.

And I want to thank all of you, all of you here today, and obviously, everybody in the Conservative Party for your hard work, for your campaigning, for your public spirit and, obviously, for the extraordinary honor and privilege that you have just conferred on me.

And I know that there will be people around the place who will question the wisdom of your decision. And there may even be some people here who still wonder quite what they have done. And I would just point out to you that, of course, nobody, no one party, no one person has a monopoly of wisdom. But if you look at the history of the last 200 years of this party's existence, you will see that it is we conservatives who have had the best insights, I think, into human nature and in -- the best insights into how to manage the jostling sets of instincts in the human heart.

And time and again, it is to us that the people of this country have turned to get that balance right. Between the instincts to own your own house, your own home, to earn and spend your own money, to look after your own family. Good instincts, proper instincts, noble instincts. And the equally noble instinct to share and to give everyone a fair chance in life, and to look after the poorest and the neediest and to build a great society. And on the whole, in the last 200 years, it is we conservatives who have understood best how to encourage those instincts to work together in harmony to promote the good of the whole country.

And today, at this pivotal moment in our history, we again have to reconcile two sets of instincts, two noble sets of instincts: between the deep desire for friendship and free trade and mutual support in security and defense between Britain and our European partners; and the simultaneous desire, equally deep and heartfelt, for democratic self-government in this country.

And of course, there's some people who say that they're irreconcilable, and it just can't be done. And indeed, I read in my "Financial Times" this morning, devoted reader that I am, seriously, it's a great, great, great British -- great British brand. I read in my "Financial Times" this morning that there are no incoming leader, no incoming leader has ever faced such a daunting set of circumstances, it said.

Well, I look at you this morning, and I ask myself, "Do you look daunted? Do you feel daunted?" I don't think -- I don't think you look remotely daunted to me. And I think that we know that we can do it and to the people of this country, are trusting in us to do it, and we know that we will do it.

And we know the mantra of the campaign that has just gone by. In case you've forgotten it, you probably have. It is deliver Brexit, unite the country and defeat Jeremy Corbyn, and that is what we're going to do. We're going to defeat Jeremy Corbyn.

And I know -- I know some wag has already pointed out that "Deliver, Unite and Defeat" was not the perfect acronym for an election campaign, since unfortunately, it spells "dud." But they forgot the final "E," my friends. "E" for energize. And I say -- I say to the doubters, dude, we are going to energize the country. We're going to get Brexit done on October the 31st. We're going to take advantage of all the opportunities that it will bring in a new spirit of can-do. And we are once again going to believe in ourselves and what we can achieve.

And like some slumbering giant, we are going to rise and ping off the guide ropes of self-doubt and negativity with better education, better infrastructure, more police, fantastic, full-fiber broadband sprouting in every household. We are going to unite this amazing country, and we are going to take it forward.

And I thank you all very much for the incredible honor that you have just done me. I will work flat-out from now on with my team that I will build, I hope, in the next few days to repay your confidence.

But in the meantime, the campaign is over, and the work begins. Thank you all very much.

CAMEROTA: We have been watching this very colorful.

GREGORY: Dude. CAMEROTA: The dude is an acronym of his campaign. Boris Johnson has

just been named the head of the Conservative Party, and that probably will lead to him becoming the prime minister of Britain tomorrow. That vote hasn't happened yet.

But you could see, he bounded up to the stage. He was excited.

GREGORY: Charming, funny.

CAMEROTA: Charming and funny. And may I say that so many people liken him to Donald Trump in his colorful, unconventional take. But I would say that he was quite gracious towards his opponents and towards Theresa May, and he was self-effacing in a way that we sometimes don't hear, of saying that he knows that some people think perhaps this was misguided or the wrong decision, but he would win them over.

So it's been interesting to watch those few moments with him.


Now we've got joining us Frank Bruni, CNN contributor, "New York Times" opinion columnist; Laura Barron-Lopez, national political reporter reporter for "Politico"; and Jeffrey Toobin, our chief legal analyst and former federal prosecutor.

So Frank, Boris Johnson, I mean, the obviously take, beyond how colorful, and you heard Ambassador Westmacott say he's something of a chameleon, he's got a lot of challenges, but he's going to have a fan in the White House.


GREGORY: And what that dynamic is going to be like is going to be very interesting to watch, because Trump was quite critical of Theresa May and how she handled Brexit. Is he going to find an ideological soul mate here or not?

BRUNI: Well, he seems to have. And they have been a mutual admiration society, as you said.

But I -- Alisyn, you -- you hit some points I thought were really, really interesting, in that there are differences here. As I was listening to him speak, the graciousness, the wit. You don't get a lot of wit from Donald Trump.

And he said, interestingly, and this is what I think makes him such an effective politician, and I don't say that admiringly. I say that just, you know, analytically. He said no one person or one party has a monopoly on wisdom.

Contrast that with "I alone can fix it."

GREGORY: I alone, yes.

BRUNI: They're very, very different men, but yes, they're ideological soul mates. I think you're going to see a lot of compliments traded across the Atlantic, at least in the short term, and then we'll see what happens as this goes forward.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: And I think both of them have, at the core of their appeal, opposition to immigration. I mean, that is something that has -- is sort of the international populist movement, whether it's in the U.K. with Johnson or in Italy or in -- here in the United States with President Trump. This is an international success.

Now, it hasn't succeeded everywhere. It didn't succeed in Spain, hasn't succeeded yet in Germany, didn't win in France. But this is part of a big moment in the international political world, and we'll see if it succeeds. We'll see if Donald Trump gets reelected. We'll see if Boris Johnson manages to engineer Brexit in a way that doesn't destroy the British economy.

But it's a big international movement, and both the president and Johnson are part of it.

GREGORY: And Nic Robertson back with us from 10 Downing Street. The obvious question will be what does Boris Johnson do to get Britain out of the European Union, Brexit? How does he make that happen in a way? Can it be done without a major blow to the British economy?

[07:15:11] The other key issue will be Iran, and whether there's any distance between him and the Trump administration on how to deal with Iran, given that the U.K. has been a little bit more angled toward Europe in its response on how to deal with some of this escalation that we're seeing.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Sure. In the speech that he just gave, Boris Johnson didn't really give any clues on the Iran issue or what its foreign aims might be, specifically.

Perhaps, if he does turn towards President Trump, it would be the death knell for his current foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, who was his challenger in this leadership bid that he just won by 2/3 of the vote. And so Jeremy Hunt might be out of a job. Because he was the one announcing in Parliament just yesterday that Britain would be turning to look to his European partners.

And it asks us to answer the first part of your question, how does he deliver Brexit, which is part of his mandate? He said it is to energize: to energize the people of the country, to energize the ideas, to energize the negotiations with the European Union.

You know, everyone expected him, perhaps, to come out quoting Winston Churchill or perhaps to come out quoting one of the Greek authors that he is so much in awe of. But he didn't. He came up with the oddest of expressions, but this might allude, ever so slightly, to the direction of travel when it comes to foreign policy.

You know, he talked about the aim of what they have to do right now, is deliver on Brexit, unite the party and defeat Jeremy Corbyn, the opposition. And of course, the acronym for that is D-U-D, dud. And he said, "No, it's not dud. It is energize, as well, DUDE." So here's a dude who might just want to hop over the pond and shake hands with his other pal in Washington, President Trump, so maybe that was the clue.

CAMEROTA: From dud to dude, there is an American feel to that, you're right, Nic. Thank you very much for all of that insight into what we just watched, which was obviously an historic moment.

OK. We want to talk about the historic moment that is happening here in the U.S. tomorrow, and that is when Robert Mueller testifies.

We welcome in Laura Barron-Lopez. Thank you for being patient with us as we watched all of that.

Jeffrey, I want to ask you about what happened last night. A letter arrived to the Department of Justice to Robert Mueller, telling him that he better stay within the confines. It was an advisement, I guess, an admonishment to stay within the confines of the report. I'm wondering if you think that that changes the equation for tomorrow.

TOOBIN: I think -- That letter struck me as a finger wag, like "Be a good boy. Don't -- don't go outside your mandate."

Robert Mueller is going to say what Robert Mueller wants to say. The Justice Department is not going to dictate the terms. However, Mueller has given every indication that those were the rules he was playing by anyway. I mean, the -- this -- this struck me as an unnecessary sort of shot at Mueller.

CAMEROTA: I think he asked for that. I think he asked them what the rules were and they responded with that letter.

TOOBIN: Yes, he did ask for -- but if you read the letter, the letter is a very -- it could have been written many different ways, and it is written in a way that tries to narrowly circumscribe what he is going to say.

But, you know, Mueller has a lot of options, even within that -- the confines of his instructions. He could say, when he's asked about the facts of the case, "Well, see my report. Period."

Or he could, as the Democrats certainly want him to do, describe what's in the report.

And to me, the most interesting thing about tomorrow is which way Mueller is going to go. Is he going to elaborate or at least explain what's in his report? Or is he simply going to blow the Congress -- members of the Congress off and say, "I'm just not going to repeat what's in my report"?

GREGORY: So Laura, pick it up from there. What's best-case scenario for Democrats with witness Mueller?

LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, "POLITICO": So the goal for Democrats here is pretty much to bring the Mueller report to life. They are hopeful that, even if Mueller just goes through and repeats what's in Volume Two, which is what -- which is the part of the document that has the ten examples of potential obstruction committed by the president, they're hopeful that, because of the fact that the majority of the American public has not read this report, that just being able to watch Mueller go through that could be enough to sway some public sentiment.

On top of that, yes, they are going to try to get some more info out of him. And so far Mueller and his team have repeatedly said that the report is going to be his testimony.

But there are questions that they can ask concerning Volume One, questions about the overall scope of the probe, why Mueller -- Mueller's justification for the limited scope of it, as well as questions about whether or not there was anyone from the White House or any people within the DOJ such as former A.G., acting A.G. Rosenstein, who tried to influence or tried to say that he needed to wrap up the probe at any point.

[07:20:07] GREGORY: But you were also saying last night, Frank, and I heard you, that the other question is a lot of Americans might look up and say, "Why are we talking about this still?"

BRUNI: Yes, no, I think that's a danger here. A lot of time has passed since we first heard the name Robert Mueller. A lot of time has passed since the report came out. A lot of time has passed since the attorney general, I think, did great damage to this, and really kind of dictated the curve of it by coming out with that -- that four- page letter that was so flattering to the president. I'm not sure how many Americans are still paying close attention.

And let's remember something else we don't talk about. We talk about what questions the Democrats are going to ask. Republicans are going to get to ask questions, too, and they are going to play Donald Trump's game of painting Mueller and his investigation as a partisan witch hunt. That is ridiculous. But Americans are going to hear that, too.

So a lot of people are just going to end up where they are, their positions baked in.

TOOBIN: But even if the Republicans don't attack Mueller, they're going to say, "You didn't find any collusion here. You didn't find any crimes. You didn't charge the president with any crimes." I mean, they are going to use the report in -- to make their points, as well. So this is not just a Democratic show.

BRUNI: We keep -- and we keep talking about the Democratic show.

TOOBIN: Right.

BRUNI: But the Republicans are coming prepared, as well.

CAMEROTA: Good point. They've been having their own mock trials, as well.

BRUNI: Yes. CAMEROTA: All right. Panel, thank you very much for all of this breaking news that we've been talking about.

So the Justice Department is warning Robert Mueller to stay within the boundaries of his report when he testifies. What does that development mean for the lawmakers who had planned some questions for him? Well, we have one next to tell us.


[07:25:33] CAMEROTA: Special Counsel Robert Mueller will testify tomorrow in one of the most anticipated congressional hearings in decades. The Justice Department has just warned him, in a letter, to stay within the boundary of his public report and not talk about anything else, or anyone who was investigated but not charged in his probe.

So joining us now about how this changes the equation is Democratic Congressman Jim Himes. He serves on the Intelligence Committee and will be questioning Robert Mueller tomorrow.

Congressman, great to have you here.

REP. JIM HIMES (D-CT): Good morning, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: How did that letter that arrived from the Department of Justice last night change everything for tomorrow?

HIMES: Well, I don't think it changes anything for tomorrow. I mean, one of the challenges here has been if you watch Mueller's testimony to Congress, historically, he is a man of very, very few words. And so, of course, one of the challenges that we have will be to -- to sort of give the questions that bring the report to life.

Look, the letter is not rooted in any law. It's not rooted in anything. Mueller can pretty much say anything he wants, other than obviously disclosing classified information. So I don't think the letter means a lot.

What means a lot is the fact that Mueller has said, and Mueller is a guy who says what he means and means what he says, he says that he's staying inside the four corners of the report.

CAMEROTA: So he's no longer a Department of Justice employee, so he doesn't really have to comply, you're saying, with the letter.

HIMES: Well, that's exactly right. And I mean, you know, this is a long tradition of this particular White House of sort of making up privileges out of whole cloth. I mean, the notion that somehow an investigation of the -- of the president and the president's people is subject to executive privilege or any other privilege is absurd.

By the way, Mueller is talking to Congress. Congress doesn't need to recognize any privileges, other than the Fifth Amendment constitutional privilege, so the letter is meaningless.

What is more of a challenge is, you know, whether Mueller is going to do anything other than stick to the words of the report.

CAMEROTA: Right. His own self-imposed boundaries are going to be a big challenge for you. Because let's be honest, you want him to stray from the report. You have questions that the report didn't answer.

HIMES: Yes. That's right, and I think we're talking a lot about, you know, hopefully, Mueller saying the report. That's information being conveyed to the American people who, by and large, have not read the report.

Secondarily, he's got some questions to answer. For the first time ever in the investigation of a president, he chose not to interview that president. Anybody who's been in or around or is a prosecutor would know that you always interview people to try to determine what they were thinking.

And then, most interestingly -- and I think here's the challenge with Mueller -- the report, when you read it, is a series of historical events. George Papadopoulos, on to Dmitriev (ph), on to Carter Page. People don't absorb information that way. They absorb a narrative thread. And the narrative thread in this report, even if it isn't obvious, is that the Russians, in dozens of ways, reached out to the Trump campaign to help.

The Trump campaign welcomed that Russian help, most notably with Don Jr. saying, "If this is what I think it is, I love it," and then they used that help.

Now, that didn't rise, apparently, to the level of a criminal conspiracy. But the Russians offered; the Trump campaign said, "Bring it on." And then they used the information that came through WikiLeaks in their campaign.

The American people need to understand that, if for no other reason to make sure it never happens again.

CAMEROTA: Here's how it's going to look tomorrow. From 8:30 to 11:30 a.m., the House Judiciary Committee will get their chance to interview him, and they will focus on obstruction, as we understand.

Then your committee, from noon to 2 p.m., the House Intel Committee, and you all will focus on Russian interference.

So in your precious few minutes with him, what's your most burning question you're going to ask him?

HIMES: I think, generally, my committee is going to focus on episodes in Volume One, which as you point out, is about the Russian attack on the election, and the Trump campaign's welcoming of that election [SIC].

Each of us, I think, will take a portion of that report and try to bring it to life.

I do think it's going to be different than the Judiciary hearing. You know, the Judiciary Committee is much larger. The Judiciary Committee on both sides have people like Jim Jordan, more activist, more aggressive people. I think you're going to find that the Intelligence hearing is a little calmer. Because it will, again, be on -- largely on Russia.

CAMEROTA: What if every single answer he gives you is "I'd like to refer to my report. See my report"?

HIMES: Well, that's OK. I mean, for example, somebody like me, I could say, you know, "Mr. Mueller, according to the report, you know, Don Trump Jr. said he loved the idea of receiving help from the Russians. Is that correct, Mr. Mueller?"

And he, of course, would have to say, "Yes."

So no, I don't imagine that he's going to do a dramatic reading. But I do think it's -- you know, again, there's a -- one of my colleagues said it best. There's a difference between reading the book and seeing the movie, and part of the objective here is that Bob Mueller --