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Mueller Says Russian Attacks Are Most Serious Challenge To Democracy; Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: "I Am Very Much Alive"; Puerto Rico Governor Resigns Amid Massive Protests. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired July 25, 2019 - 07:30   ET



[07:32:05] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: So there were some topics Robert Mueller seemed reluctant to talk about during his testimony. The threat of Russian interference in the 2020 election not one of them.

Listen to his warning.


ROBERT MUELLER, FORMER SPECIAL COUNSEL, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE: Over the course of my career, I have seen a number of challenges to our democracy. The Russian government's effort to interfere in our election is among the most serious.

REP. WILL HURD (R-TX): Did you find evidence that suggests they'll try to do this again?

MUELLER: It wasn't a single attempt. They're doing it as we sit here and they expect to do it during the next campaign.


BERMAN: "They're doing it as we sit here" -- a stern warning from the former special counsel.

Joining us now, Mike Rogers, former chair of the House Intelligence Committee and a CNN national security commentator. And, Jane Harman, former ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee and currently, the director, president, and CEO at the Wilson Center.

And I have to warn everyone, though, we have a Republican and a Democrat here who served together.



BERMAN: They actually got along on this committee --

HARMAN: And still do.

ROGERS: And still do, yes.

BERMAN: -- and still do. So that's an upset victory for America right there.


BERMAN: Mike, I want to start with you --


BERMAN: -- because you heard from Robert Mueller there and one of the few times he spoke at length, really warning don't take your eye off the ball here. The ball here is that Russia is attacking us now.

ROGERS: No, absolutely, and he also added another provision in there. It didn't get a lot of attention, but he said, "...and other nation- states are following suit."

So if you watch countries, like China, who were trying to do in the Pacific Rim what Russia did to us in 2016, that's -- wait soon -- coming to your inbox is going to be this Chinese --


ROGERS: -- effort to do the same thing, and other nation-states as well.

So, it is as serious as it gets and the consequences were low enough that that's why the Russians haven't stopped. They continue to do it. They're going to -- they tried it in 2018 after the 2016 election. They're going to try it again in 2020.

BERMAN: Well, you say the consequences were low enough. As far as I can tell, the consequences, virtually nonexistent because one of the things that was stated yesterday or, at least, the special counsel agreed with was that Russia helped, that the Trump campaign welcomed it, and then, to an extent, people lied about it after the fact.

And, Congressman Peter Welch, from Vermont, in a line of questioning there, Jane, was suggesting is this the new normal that campaigns can just accept this with no consequence? And the special counsel said, "Yes, I fear it is."

HARMAN: Yes, he did.

And to pick up something Mike said, it's not just other nation-states. Let's think North Korea and others that have good cyber capacity. But it's rogue actors, too. I mean, a lot of people are really good at disinformation activity and offensive cyber and I worry a lot.

So back to what's going on now, there is a little bit of good news. The Homeland Security Department has no confirmed leadership at the top but it does have some capacity focused on this problem. [07:35:06] When Jeh Johnson was secretary of Homeland Security in 19 -- in 2016, right before the election he announced that they -- that election machinery was critical infrastructure.

And so, last week, in Aspen, something called the Homeland Security Experts Group -- which I co-chair with Mike Chertoff, former Homeland Security secretary -- was briefed by the Homeland -- were briefed by the Homeland Security Department about what they're doing -- and it's good stuff -- with the states. The states run election machinery. But it's not just machinery, it's disinformation.

And, Congress is not doing anything -- hello -- and this is blinking red. The whole Intelligence Community knows that this happened.

And I really worry, by the way, John, about all the chatter about replacing Dan Coats as the director of National Intelligence because that will destabilize the entire --


HARMAN: -- Intelligence Community.

BERMAN: Well, let's talk about that since you brought it up.

One of the possible replacements is rumored to be Devin Nunes, the current ranking member of the Intelligence Committee. We saw him yesterday. We know he's a close ally of the president.

HARMAN: He's a wrecking ball. I mean, Mike and I served on a bipartisan committee. I was a ranking member when Pete Hoekstra and before him, Porter Goss, were chairmen.

But, Mike was a member of the committee. He did a superb job as chairman after I left. I take full credit for him.

But seriously, the committee functioned. One is aware committees function on a bipartisan basis. And, Nunes, I think most people would agree, just shattered it -- shattered any semblance of bipartisanship.

And --

BERMAN: And so, you don't think he'd be a good DNI?

HARMAN: I -- well, I think the DNI is the joint commander across a whole bunch of intelligence agencies -- 16 -- I had a lot to do with the legislation -- and they're supposed to speak truth to power. They're not supposed to line up with one side.

BERMAN: Mike, would he be an appropriate choice as DNI?

ROGERS: I -- a) I don't think he could get confirmed by the Senate and b) I think it would cause huge disruption. I think there would be senior executive resignations.


ROGERS: I mean, his attitude toward the community is not one that would build on a leadership platform in the community.

And I will say that Dan Coats, who has actually done a pretty good job --

HARMAN: Good job.

ROGERS: -- he's also named an executive to handle -- in the Intelligence Community, to handle election security issues.

And, the NSA just came out yesterday and said that they're going to create this new director that focuses on these outside activities for U.S. --

BERMAN: Just to remind people, we're talking about Nunes who, of course, went over to the White House and delivered some kind of political information about the investigation as it was ongoing, and that's always been controversial.

I want to go back to the hearing yesterday. I think a big part of this -- and you've noted the institutions are doing what they should and have the concerns that they should about new Russian attacks on the U.S. election, but you often don't hear the political leaders giving it voice, and that's so important.


BERMAN: We haven't heard it from the president, who most of the time fails to even acknowledge that Russia attacked the United States. But we didn't hear it yesterday from Republicans, Mike.

Will Hurd, to his credit --

HARMAN: Right.

BERMAN: -- was the sole Republican who asked any probing questions about Russian attacks on the U.S. --

HARMAN: Former CIA analyst.

BERMAN: -- and he got some great answers.


BERMAN: He elicited some long sentences from Robert Mueller, which wasn't easy.

But the other Republicans, including Jim Jordan, had what I think in retrospect, almost shocking statements about the Russian attacks.

Listen to what Jordan said.


REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): What's interesting, you can charge 13 Russians no one's ever heard of, no one's ever seen, no one's ever going to hear of them, no one's ever going to see them -- you can charge them -- you can charge all kinds of people who were around the president with false statements.

But the guy who launches everything -- the guy who puts this whole story in motion, you can't charge him. I think that's amazing.


BERMAN: So, he was moaning about Joseph Mifsud, which in some ways was a Republican fixation yesterday. But his lead-up to it, Mike, was really interesting -- you can charge 13 Russians that no one's ever heard of or will hear from again. Well, these 13 Russians attacked --


BERMAN: -- the United States.

ROGERS: Oh, I know. This was serious. I was a little disappointed in his tact there.

The whole reason the investigation got started was a counterintelligence investigation and that's why those indictments of those Russians was so important to that investigation. That was the purpose of this specific investigation, in it highlights specifically the concerted effort by Russian intelligence. This was an active operation targeting the United States of America.

And remember, what's so scary about this, it wasn't just that they tried to get into 2016 election systems -- meaning trying to get to voters, themselves, which they weren't able to do, but they tried --


ROGERS: -- they were very successful in social media chaos.

They took a kernel of truth, they pitted black activist groups against white supremacist groups, and then they tried to get and drive a wedge and get some chaos started. And unfortunately, they were successful online and social media.

[07:40:01] And remember, they've been doing this for 70 years but what changed is the Russians have figured out I can now get at you with my iPhone on your laptop and I can talk to you. I don't have to go around and --

HARMAN: Right.

ROGERS: -- try to bribe a journalist somewhere, which they used to do in the 70s.

They have now gone after the social media campaign that has proven really effective and that's why they're coming at us again.

HARMAN: This is a direct threat to our democracy --


HARMAN: -- to fair and free elections -- a core of the United States for 250 years. And if we don't get at this we're going to lose it.

BERMAN: Yes, start acting like it. If it's that much of a threat, start acting like it --

ROGERS: Oh, and it is.

BERMAN: -- which I think is the message we're getting from both of you.

Thank you for being here --

ROGERS: Thanks.

BERMAN: -- and thank you for your long careers and public service. And thanks for getting along.



BERMAN: -- for goodness sake.

All right, Alisyn.


Now to this scary story. A toddler sneaks onto an airport baggage belt. Cameras capture the whole dangerous ride, next.


[07:45:12] CAMEROTA: Bernie Madoff is asking President Trump to reduce his prison term. The 81-year-old Madoff is 10 years into a 150-year sentence for financial fraud. He filed a clemency petition with the Justice Department that is currently pending.

Madoff was behind what is believed to be the largest Ponzi scheme in history, swindling billions of dollars from thousands of people.

No comment yet from the White House.

Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson making a surprise appearance in Hawaii, joining protesters who are blocking the construction of a giant telescope at the Mauna Kea summit. That's the highest peak in the state.

Native Hawaiians say the 30-meter telescope is set to be built on a sacred site. This week, a judge denied a request for a temporary restraining order that would have halted the project.

OK, now to this story. Surveillance cameras capture a dangerous ride -- watch this -- as a toddler climbed onto an airport baggage conveyor belt. This is in Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson Airport.

You can see the child's mother while she -- you actually can't see her. The child's mother told police that she set the child down just for a second to print her boarding pass at a kiosk. The child then snuck past the ticket counter, onto the conveyor belt, and through restricted areas -- I mean, look at how far he got, John -- before being rescued minutes later by TSA workers in the baggage room.

Now, officials did say that the toddler broke --


CAMEROTA: -- his hand during this incident.

I mean, it always seems like oh, well, that would be a fun ride. No. Back there it actually gets dangerous.

BERMAN: No. I mean, what kid has not dreamed --


BERMAN: -- of getting on the belt?

CAMEROTA: -- of course.

BERMAN: But I've never seen the footage --

CAMEROTA: Me neither.

BERMAN: -- of what could happen.

CAMEROTA: Or of how -- and how it happens --


CAMEROTA: -- also. Just one little leg over and you're off to the races. That's scary.

BERMAN: Very scary.

All right. Eighty-six-year-old Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has a message for her critics.




BERMAN: And that's not all. Hear what she says about the critics who constantly speculate about her death. That's next.


[07:51:23] BERMAN: Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg not holding back in a new interview with NPR. The 86-year-old justice has a message for critics who keep trolling her about her health.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GINSBURG: There was a senator -- I think it was after the pancreatic cancer -- who announced with great glee that I was going to be dead within six months. That senator, whose name I've forgotten, is now, himself, dead --


GINSBURG: -- and I am very much alive.


BERMAN: They're talking about Sen. Jim Bunning of Kentucky.

I want to bring in Irin Carmon, co-author of "Notorious RBG" and a CNN contributor. Also, Jeffrey Toobin, CNN chief legal analyst.

Irin, I thought the fact of this interview was interesting in and of itself. It seemed that Justice Ginsburg wanted to send a message.

IRIN CARMON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR, CO-AUTHOR, "NOTORIOUS RBG": Right, John. I think that this interview had a few audiences.

It had the audience of people like President Trump, who have also in the past couple of years gleefully speculated about filling Justice Ginsburg's seat.

It had the audience of anxious progressives, both her fans and people who wish that she had retired during the Obama administration, who are really, really worried about the fact that she's had three bouts with cancer.

And, I hate to even legitimize these people by mentioning them on the air, but every day I hear from people who falsely claim that Justice Ginsburg has died or has a body double.

And so I think that the reason that not only did she do this interview with Nina Totenberg on NPR, she did a video to make sure that everybody knows she's alive and well.

BERMAN: And not going anywhere, Jeffrey. I think she was making that clear.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST, STAFF WRITER, THE NEW YORKER, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: You know, Ruth Bader Ginsburg is about this tall. I would be surprised if she weighed 100 pounds. She's had cancer three times. She's basically had every disease known to humanity and she is as tough as any NFL linebacker.

I mean, this woman keeps coming back and back and she is committed to that court. She's committed to the values, which are not ascendant at the -- at the court, at the moment. And she's going to stay there until there's a president to her liking.

BERMAN: But she, you know -- by the way, be committed to the court. She's also committed to the other justices. She went out of her way to say nice things about Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, which is something that all the justices tend to when on air.

TOOBIN: Exactly. I mean, there is a culture of comedy of getting along --


TOOBIN: -- that wasn't always true at the Supreme Court. I mean, they -- it has been a nest --

BERMAN: Right.

TOOBIN: -- of vipers in the past. But basically, since Rehnquist, the court makes a real effort to be collegial with each other and that continues today.

BERMAN: You know, in terms of her plans and her tenure, there was an exchange. We learned over the last few days that she went on vacation with John Paul Stevens, who just passed away at age 99. They went to a conference overseas in Portugal.

And she talked about this conversation with John Paul Stevens. And I want to play this sound where she talks about telling Stevens about a dream she had about staying on the court as long as him -- listen.


GINSBURG: I said that my dream is that I will stay at the court as long as he did. And his immediate response was, 'Stay longer!'"


BERMAN: And again, I don't think you tell that story unless you are sending the message to everybody, both fans and critics, that look, I'm not going to quit. You know, I can't predict what my health will be in a year, two years, three years from now, but I'm not going anywhere.

CARMON: John, I think the work is really what sustains her. She also told Nina Totenberg that that's what got her through her last bout with cancer.

I think the reason she hasn't retired is because she loves being a Supreme Court justice. Her job is her life. At the same time that she is working at full steam and putting out opinions at a fast clip, she's traveling the world.

[07:55:09] Justice Stevens retired at the age of 90. As you said, Justice Ginsburg is 86. Staying even longer would be -- if the potential of a Trump second term, you know -- she's saying I'm in it for the long haul. Of course, actuarially, it's a little scary but that's her intention for sure.


TOOBIN: Eighty-six is not the new anything, you know? Eighty-six is still -- is still 86. But, you know, John Paul Stevens retired at 90 --

BERMAN: Right.

TOOBIN: -- and wrote three books during his 90s, and died at 99.

CARMON: And played tennis.

TOOBIN: Yes, and played -- I mean, the -- there is something about the water at the Supreme Court that adds to longevity. There's no question.

BERMAN: I talked to John Paul Stevens. I went down and interviewed him --

TOOBIN: Right, you have.

BERMAN: -- at the end of April and he was still bragging about how good he was at ping pong.

CARMON: Oh, man -- challenge.

BERMAN: One of the things I -- right. One of the things that Stevens also said to me, in terms of policy, Justice Stevens told me he was against the idea of expanding the court beyond nine justices.

And, Justice Ginsburg weighed in also -- listen.


GINSBURG: Nine seems to be a good number and it's been that way for a long time. I have heard that there are some people on the Democratic side who would like to increase the number of judges. If anything would make the court appear partisan, it would be that.


BERMAN: You know, it's interesting, Jeffrey. Both Stevens and Ginsburg basically saying this is not the way to change the court.

TOOBIN: And, you know, Franklin Roosevelt tried to change the number of justices. I think a lot of people don't realize that the number of justices is not set in the Constitution. It's -- Congress can change it. But ever since Ulysses S. Grant was president it's been at nine justices and I just don't see that changing under -- regardless of what happens at the court.

BERMAN: So, Irin, one other thing and we don't have the sound here. And I want to ask you this and give you credit for it because in your work on Justice Ginsburg you've really brought this to light.

She was asked directly what her greatest achievement is in her life, and you would think someone who sits on the Supreme Court would say my time on the court or this decision or that dissent. But, no -- she referred back to her time as a lawyer -- as an advocate in the 70s and 80s. I'm sure you were not surprised by that. CARMON: Well, I think even if she hadn't become a Supreme Court justice she would still be someone who transformed our constitutional understanding of what it means to be a woman and what it means to be a man. She always said it's not just women's liberation, it's also men's liberation. And I think that that work of making sure that the Constitution recognizes that we're all human beings regardless of gender is going to endure.

BERMAN: All right. Irin Carmon, Jeffrey Toobin --

TOOBIN: Well, I was just going to say, you know, as Thurgood Marshall was to the civil rights movement as a litigator, Ruth Bader Ginsburg was to feminism. And even if she had never been appointed a judge of any kind she would be a major, major figure in our history.

BERMAN: The most successful lawyer sitting on the Supreme Court.

TOOBIN: By leaps and bounds compared to anyone else on the court.

BERMAN: All right. Jeffrey Toobin, Irin Carmon, thank you very much.

CARMON: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: And she can bench press more than me.

All right, meanwhile --

CARMON: Or me.

CAMEROTA: Right, exactly. All right.

Thanks to our international viewers for watching. For you, "CNN NEWSROOM WITH MAX FOSTER" is next.

For our U.S. viewers, breaking news in Puerto Rico. Let's get right to it.


GOV. RICARDO ROSSELLO (through translator): Today, I announce that I will be resigning from the position of governor.

RAFAEL ROMO, CNN SENIOR LATIN AMERICAN AFFAIRS EDITOR, "CNN WORLDWIDE": An explosion of joy from the people here in Old San Juan after they learned Gov. Ricardo Rossello will be resigning.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It will be victory for the people of Puerto Rico.

MUELLER: I don't think you will review a report that is as thorough, as fair, as consistent as the report that we have in front of us.

REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): Did you actually totally exonerate the president?


REP. JOHN RATCLIFFE (R-TX): Donald Trump is not above the law -- he's not -- but he damn sure shouldn't be below the law.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): The American people have now realized more fully the crimes that were committed against our Constitution.


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

BERMAN: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to your NEW DAY. It is Thursday, July 25th.

It's 8:00 here in Washington, D.C. the morning after Robert Mueller's testimony. We will get to that.

We do have important breaking news, though, first, from overnight.

Celebrations -- you can see it right here -- erupting the streets of San Juan in Puerto Rico after the island's embattled governor, Ricardo Rossello, announced he is resigning. The news was made in a video. It was played in overhead speakers for hundreds of thousands of people to hear.

CAMEROTA: So, the governor says he will step down next Friday. This, after weeks of massive protests touched off by a corruption scandal in his administration and those leaked communications between the governor and his deputies.

CNN's Rafael Romo has been live for us all morning in San Juan with the breaking details. What's the situation at this hour?

ROMO: Hi, Alisyn. Good morning.

Here at the governor's mansion, which will have a new occupant very soon after the resignation of Gov. Ricardo Rossello -- which, by the way, won't be effective immediately. It will be on August second.

But it.