Return to Transcripts main page


Trump Ignores Congress, Vetoes Bill Blocking Saudi Arms Deal; Mueller Did Seem to Have Command of Report Content at Hearing; Mueller: Russian Attacks Most Serious Challenge to Democracy; Mueller Concerned Getting Dirt from Foreign Entities the New Normal; 16 Marines Arrested for Human Trafficking, Other Crimes; Navy SEALS Kicked Out of Iraq for Drinking; New South Carolina Poll Shows Biden as Clear Frontrunner; Joe Biden Fighting Back Against Democratic Opponents. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired July 25, 2019 - 13:30   ET


[13:30:00] JAMES CLAPPER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: So, yes, implicitly, at least, we're implicit when we aid and abet that.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: The chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Eliot Engel, says the president's veto, quote, "sends a grim message that America's foreign policy is no longer rooted in our core values."

Of course, when you look, and you know from your time, the U.S. relationship with Saudi Arabia is so complicated because Saudi Arabia -- there's this interest for the U.S. having this alliance with Saudi Arabia, and yet they have done, as we have seen recently and even before that, very bad things. So what is there for the Trump administration to navigate right now on this?

CLAPPER: Well, there's -- there's --

KEILAR: Or how should they be navigating it?

CLAPPER: That's a great question. I personally am still bothered by giving them a pass on the murder of Khashoggi. I think that was really a terrible message to the world about where our values are.

The president is much more interested in the business aspects. He thinks they're going to make fantastic profits by selling Saudis arms. So it's all about the money, rather than what had been our traditional values. So I think the Congressman has a point.

KEILAR: I want to talk about Robert Mueller's testimony on the Hill yesterday. The former special counsel.

You know him, you've worked professionally with him in past years very often. He did not have a -- he did not have the command of the contents of the report that I think universally people were expecting him to have. What did you make of that?

CLAPPER: Well, Brianna, somebody who is just south of 80 years old myself -- and I'm a little older than Bob Mueller actually -- and also someone who like him doesn't like to testify, so I'm a little reluctant to be critical.

I think he's operating under tremendous pressure. I think his role as the special prosecutor was more of a CEO where he oversaw the operations but did not engage directly in, say, interrogating witnesses or actually writing the report.

I think the notion of having an encyclopedic, photographic memory- level of fluency in terms of the detail, the 448 pages, was a bit much anyway.

So I think he -- he did pretty well. He made some points that I think needed to be made. I think he brought life to the report by virtue of the fact that he was appearing live on television and people could watch that. I do think he made some points.

It might have been better had the House Intelligence Committee session gone first, which dealt with Russian interference, which I think is something he is both passionate about and knows about more.

It did seem as though he warmed up as the day wore on. But as I say, I'm sympathetic.

KEILAR: But you think that he had probably more personal -- we know, we know listening to Mueller that his main concern here is what Russia has done because of what Russia continues to do. And that was the alarm that he sounded yesterday. He said that Russia is currently meddling in the 2020 race. Do you think that we're going to see a repeat of 2016?

CLAPPER: Absolutely. And I was very glad he made that point in the manner in which he did. That was one of the -- on Bob Mueller's passion scale, that was pretty passionate about Russian interference.

And I have been harping on that from the get-go, since I left the government, about the profound threat Russia poses to our basic system and given the magnitude of their interference in the 2016 election, which eclipsed anything in our history. Sure, they have interfered before, but not on the scale they did.

They're going to continue to do it. As Director Wray pointed out, appropriately and correctly, what we've done so far has not thwarted them. So I think it's a real concern that all Americans ought to have for the 2020 election.

KEILAR: What do you make then of the way Republicans on the Hill are handling election security?

CLAPPER: Well, I was very disappointed in the thwarting of this bill, which was designed to enhance election security. Apparently, it's more important not to incur the wrath of the president than it is to secure our election apparatus.

And this, you know, is characteristic of the president. When we briefed him in January of '17 on the Intelligence Committee about the Russian meddling, skepticism then, because acknowledging Russian interference casts doubt on the legitimacy of his election. And that theme continues yet today. And it's regrettable because the bigger issue here is the threat to our system.

KEILAR: And that was certainly what Robert Mueller was hammering home yesterday.

He also seemed concerned that dirt from foreign entities or countries is going to become the new normal. Do you worry that there's a precedent that's been set?

[13:35:06] CLAPPER: Yes, I do. If that is a part of the new normal. And this isn't just, you know, like domestic derived dirt, if I can use that phrase.

When a foreign entity does it, particularly a foreign adversary, you've got to wonder, what are their ulterior motives. And this may not serve the interests of the candidate that they're supplying dirt to. You never know about these things. That's why it's important to report any such contacts, particularly for adversary sources, to the FBI.

KEILAR: General Clapper, thank you so much.

CLAPPER: Thanks, Brianna. Thanks for having me.

KEILAR: Joe Biden is on the attack, saying that he's not going to be polite anymore just days before he takes the stage with two of his biggest rivals at the CNN presidential debate.

Plus, we have breaking news. Sixteen Marines have just been arrested in, quote, "dramatic fashion" for a variety of offenses. We are live from the Pentagon, next.


[13:40:37] KEILAR: Breaking news. Sixteen Marines are under arrest, taken into custody while in formation at Camp Pendleton in California.

Let's go to CNN's Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr.

Tell us what you know here, Barbara.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, we've just gotten word from the Marine Corps. It was morning formation at Camp Pendleton, California, just north of San Diego when 16 Marines were arrested by NCIS, Naval Criminal Investigative Service, on charges apparently of human smuggling and charges related to drugs.

The information is just the first facts coming in from the Marine Corps. The charges are human smuggling. Because it's north of San Diego, pretty fair assumption that we are talking about the smuggling of Mexicans across the border, which is just not a very long drive away.

Because we are told that this operation was based on some information they got from previous Marine Corps arrests for human smuggling earlier this month. Two Marines also arrested for human smuggling across that border. And now apparently 16 more.

On this latest round of arrests, the Marines are saying that these individuals were not part of the mission to protect the southwest border, that this was something different. They were not part of that border protection mission.

But even so, at the same time, they were arrested for this, 16 Marines. An additional eight Marines were taken aside, in the words of the Marine Corps, and are under questioning for drug offenses.

So a very, very disturbing morning out at Camp Pendleton in California -- Brianna?

KEILAR: We're also learning about something else, a rare move by the military. Navy SEALs, a platoon of Navy SEALs has been kicked out of Iraq for drinking while deployed. Apparently, their commander lost -- or in the chain of command, they lost confidence that they could carry out the mission. What can you tell us?

STARR: Another huge case of alleged potential misconduct, very significant misconduct. A platoon of Navy SEALs, that's about 20 elite Navy SEALs, sent home summarily from their mission in Iraq to their base back in California in San Diego.

They are under investigation for consumption of alcohol, which of course is completely against the rules, completely illegal when you are deployed to a front line.

The allegation is not that they were drinking while they were on counterterrorism missions, but during their downtime that they were consuming alcohol.

A full investigation into those 20 Navy SEALs under way to see what they can prove against them, what the allegations really are. Was it simply alcohol? Could there be broader allegations against them. That is a full investigation under way at this time.

Very -- obviously, not related, but this is very tough news for military commanders. Twenty Navy SEALs kicked out of the front lines for alcohol consumption. Sixteen Marines under arrest for smuggling immigrants across the border. It's going to raise a lot of questions about unit discipline and what is really going on.

The incidents may be unconnected, but this is all very definitely getting the attention of top commanders -- Brianna?

KEILAR: Barbara Starr, at the Pentagon, thank you.

No more Mr. Polite guy. Why Joe Biden said he's had enough and will get aggressive against his Democratic rivals.

[13:44:14] Plus, a manhunt in Canada intensifies as the father of a teen wanted for murdering three people, including an American, says his son plans to go out in a blaze of glory.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KEILAR: This just into CNN. A new 2020 Monmouth University poll is out. It shows a clear frontrunner among Democrats in South Carolina. It's not even close here. Former Vice President Joe Biden leading the pack at 39 percent. Who is trailing way behind is Senator Kamala Harris at 12 percent. Bernie Sanders, 10 percent. Elizabeth Warren, 9 percent. Neck and neck with Bernie Sanders. There you have it. Joe Biden very much in the lead.

So to discuss this with me, we have the director of Monmouth University Polling Institute, Patrick Murray.

Patrick, Biden holds a strong lead among black voters in South Carolina with 51 percent. Tell us why this is so significant.

[13:50:03] PATRICK MURRAY, FOUNDING DIRECTOR, MONMOUTH UNIVERSITY POLLING INSTITUTE: Significant, because South Carolina is the first state in the primary calendar, with a majority black electorate in the primary.

We've had these attacks now on Joe Biden, that he's not woke enough on black issues, issues of race. First, from Kamala Harris, and now Cory Booker. They're going to fighting during the debate next week right on the stage.

What we're finding is that those attacks don't work, because black voters aren't the liberals that are looking for Medicare-for-All and Green New Deal and reparations. Black voters are moderate. They're looking for someone who can win, and they're not looking for the sky. These attacks on Joe Biden just aren't really working for them.

KEILAR: What are Democratic voters in South Carolina saying about the general election and a potential matchup against President Trump.

MURRAY: They're saying the same thing of voters everywhere where we ask this question of say, we will forgo a candidate who we agree with, if we have to, to beat Donald Trump. And 65 percent are saying that, where 22 percent are sticking with the candidate that they prefer.

The problem we're finding when I talk to these voters -- and I've been to early states like New Hampshire and talked one on one with voters there -- is that they think their candidate is the one that can beat Donald Trump.

The only voters who said, I don't care about any other issue, other than beating Donald Trump, are those Joe Biden voters. So Joe Biden is really winning that particular part.

We'll see if that coalesces as voters really get a better sense of electability than they have right now.

KEILAR: Patrick Murray, thank you so much for explaining that to us.

MURRAY: Hey, my pleasure.

KEILAR: Meantime, Biden is warming up for the debate stage next week. His campaign telling CNN the former vice president thinks he was too polite in his first debate appearance. Biden is dishing out fresh attacks, vowing to take a more assertive approach in defending his record from other candidates while also going after theirs. Starting with Senator Cory Booker and his criminal justice record.


JOE BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES & DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: To look at the mayor's record in Newark, one of the provisions I wrote in the crime bill is his police department was stocking and frisking people, mostly American men. We took action against them, the Justice Department took action against them, held the police department accountable.


KEILAR: Biden is also going after Senator Kamala Harris in a veiled shot at her health care plan, implying it's illogical.


BIDEN: You have to find $30 to $40 trillion somewhere. How are you going to do it? People saying Medicare-for-All but they're not going to tax the middle class, because you don't need to do that. Come on, man. What is this a fantasy world here?


KEILAR: Jackie Kucinich, "The Daily Beast," Washington bureau chief, is here.

He learned a lesson clearly from the first debate.


KEILAR: What's his calculous going into the next one?

KUCINICH: He's going to have to respond to these candidates who are going to come at him. He's going to be on stage with Kamala Harris and Cory Booker. Everyone is telegraphing he's the main event and they're going to hit him on his record on civil rights on the crime bill, for example, which Cory Booker has made a huge issue of.

But welcome to the 2020 campaign, everybody, especially Joe Biden. Your record is going to be under scrutiny. That's just how this works.

KEILAR: What are the risks of his approach?

KUCINICH: Getting pulled down into the fray. But on the other hand, it's kind of unavoidable. What he's risking, his approach now, he's telegraphing what he's going to do. The candidates, who have shown themselves a lot more active than perhaps Biden has, they're going to be ready for it. What they're going to do, how they can respond to that, that remains to be seen.

KEILAR: Listen to what Biden said about Kamala Harris. This was an interview this morning.


BIDEN (voice-over): I thought we were friends. I hope we still will be. She asked me to go out and call me and ask me to go to her convention and be the guy from outside of California, to nominate her at her convention for the Senate seat. I did. We've talked, we've worked a lot together. She and my son, Beau, were attorneys general that took on the banks.


KEILAR: What's he telegraphing here? It seems when he talked right after the debates, he did take it personally. Now this seems to be a little more calculated in how he's trying to paint her.

KUCINICH: You can't trust her, she stabbed me in the back. Look at this history we had and look what she did. That's what I'm seeing there.

Joe Biden has started -- from the beginning, his pitch has been, you know me. You know where I came from. You know where I'm going. And right now, he's painting Kamala Harris as this villain. Not attacking her, based on her record. And we did see him start to get at that. She's opened herself up to the Medicare-for-All attacks. I'm sure he's not going to be the only one to question her on that. But what he did there is much more subtle.

[13:55:08] KEILAR: Interesting.

Jackie, thank you so much.

KUCINICH: Thank you.

KEILAR: CNN is going to host the next Democratic debates next Tuesday and Wednesday at 8:00 p.m. Eastern on CNN.

An E-cigarette company coming under fire after they sent a rep into a 9th-grade classroom to tell students that vaping as totally safe.

Plus, a massive heatwave hits Europe and may force the ceiling at Notre Dame to collapse.