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Interview With Rep. Chris Stewart (R-UT); Trump's Anti- Baltimore Tweets; Alexei Navalny Returned to Prison From Hospital. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired July 29, 2019 - 10:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[10:30:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: This just in, President Trump has signed the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund. The fund was created to provide compensation to anyone injured or killed in the terror attacks and the aftermath: rescuing people, removing debris under what turned out to be hazardous conditions.

Without reauthorization, the funding was set to run out next year. But you may remember, comedian Jon Stewart, dozens of first responders lobbied Congress hard to make the fund permanent.

And this morning, we also have news a major Trump cabinet shake-up. The president nominated Texas congressman John Ratcliffe to be the senior-most intelligence official in the country, the director of National Intelligence.

Ratcliffe is a Trump loyalist, a fierce critic of Robert Mueller's handling of the Russia investigation. That is spurring questions about Ratcliffe's nomination, given what is supposed to be a nonpolitical role of the DNI chief.

Let's discuss now with Republican Congressman Chris Stewart of Utah. He sits on the House Intelligence Committee.

Congressman, we appreciate you taking the time this morning.

REP. CHRIS STEWART (R-UT): Good morning.

SCIUTTO: As you know, you sit on the Intelligence Committee. The director of National Intelligence Committee -- the director of National Intelligence position, created after 9/11, the senior most intelligence official in the country.

If you look at the resumes of prior DNIs -- James Clapper, he had served as director of two intelligence agencies, the DIA, the NGA, been in intelligence for 50 years.

[10:35:01] The DNI will oversee the heads of all the other intelligence agencies -- Gina Haspel, she's been at the CIA for decades. The head of the NSA, Paul Nakasone. He was with DOD. He commanded Cyber Command, he commanded the U.S. Second Army. You compare those resumes to Congressman Ratcliffe, he's been on the

Intelligence Committee for six months. Is that the experience necessary for this role?

STEWART: Well, I think it is. And you have to remember, he has a very different role in the DNI. He's not a technician. He's not -- it's like the CEO of Home Depot isn't a plumber or an electrician. He's a business leader. And the DNI is essentially someone who works with Congress, works with the president. It's important that he has the president's trust. And he coordinates with all of these agencies.

TEXT: Rep. John Ratcliffe: Elected to Congress in 2014; Member of House Judiciary and Intelligence committees; Former U.S. attorney, Eastern District of Texas

STEWART: So it is a very different role. And I think Dan Coats, who did a remarkable job -- and let me take a moment just to thank him for his service. I met with him for an hour last Friday, and --

SCIUTTO: To your --

STEWART: -- the conversation we had reinforced what a great job he did. And he had a similar --

SCIUTTO: And to your credit --

STEWART: -- similar background to Mr. Ratcliffe.

SCIUTTO: Well, but to be fair, he was a sitting -- he was a sitting senator for a number of years --

STEWART: Yes.

SCIUTTO: -- Ratcliffe, only a couple of years. Let's ask about the politics here. Because as you know, you saw during the Mueller hearings. Ratcliffe, Congressman Ratcliffe delivered a very critical speech, you might say, of Bob Mueller. There wasn't really so much a question at the end. It's CNN's reporting that the president was impressed with that performance last Wednesday, and that put him over the top for this role.

Again, I mean, you say it's an overseeing role. But listen, they're senior to the directors of 17 intelligence agencies with a great deal of experience. He needs their respect and their credibility. Are you concerned that politics made the difference here as opposed to experience? This is not supposed to be a political position.

STEWART: Yes. No, I understand that. And I promise you this. I know John. He won't make it a political position. And his role in Congress is different than it will be at DNI. And people adapt to different roles.

My friend Mike Pompeo, for example, who sat with me again on the Intelligence Committee, went to the CIA, now secretary of state. In each of those three positions, he has a different role and he's intelligent enough and adaptable enough that he understands his role (ph) and then he begins to fill his role (ph).

I think John is the same way. His role and responsibilities as a member of Congress, member of the Intelligence Committee is very different than it will be at DNI. But he's very, very bright. He -- again, he has the president's trust. He understands how Congress works. And he understands the overall picture of how these 17 agencies work. And I'm very confident he'll be able to provide the leadership.

And one other thing -- if I could, Jim, just very quickly -- I don't believe at all that it was his performance on Wednesday that made the difference. I think this is a conversation that's been going on for quite a while. And I think John has impressed the president for a number of months.

SCIUTTO: Well, it's CNN's reporting. We can disagree on how the president made this decision.

STEWART: OK.

SCIUTTO: I do want to get to the role of the DNI and the other intelligence officials. Because you deal with classified intelligence in your role on the committee. You and I have spoken about it. I know how seriously you take that role as part of the function of keeping this country safe.

You know that in these positions, these officials have to have the confidence and the ability and the courage to sometimes tell the commander in chief things he doesn't want to hear. And there's a great deal of reporting from inside this White House -- Mick Mulvaney, we know, told Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen when she was at DHS, not to bring up Russian interference in the election because the president didn't like to talk about that subject.

Is that something you're concerned about, that this president doesn't assign people to these roles who are willing to say, "Listen, Mr. -- I know you don't want to hear this, but this is a big deal." And do you believe that Ratcliffe --

STEWART: Yes.

SCIUTTO: -- is the guy who can do that?

STEWART: Well, I -- once again, I believe that he will. Look, his loyalty, there's no question his loyalty is to the United States of America and the American people, and protecting and defending these people. And he's not going to ever turn that aside for any political considerations. And if you know John Ratcliffe, you know that that is true.

And the second thing is, he does have the courage. And frankly, once again, all of these individuals do. Mick Mulvaney is a good example. He was a member of Congress. He was a partisan member of Congress. But he has served the president well in several roles. Mike Pompeo has done the same thing. There's a number of people who, while they're in Congress, they may

take on a little bit more of a partisan -- a partisan tone and a partisan voice. But they adapt to that, to their new responsibilities.

At the end of the day, it's about leadership. It's about serving the American people. It's about protecting the freedoms of the Americans. And I'm confident, John's going to be -- just serve that very, very well.

SCIUTTO: Well, you're right. That's the right standard. We'll see where the confirmation hearing goes. Congressman Chris Stewart, always good to have you on the program.

STEWART: Thank you, sir.

[10:39:45] SCIUTTO: And we'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: All right. Welcome back, everyone. So this morning, for some reason, the president is continuing his attacks on the city of Baltimore, therefore on its people and on Congressman Elijah Cummings.

The president, prompting widespread backlash over the weekend, after calling Baltimore "a disgusting rat- and rodent-infested mess." And by the way, if you have not watched my colleague Victor Blackwell talking about this and what it means to people from Baltimore, you should.

With me now, not only someone from Baltimore but also White House correspondent for American Urban Radio, April Ryan.

Thank you for being here.

APRIL RYAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Thanks, Poppy. Thank you. Thank you so much.

[10:45:00] HARLOW: As a Baltimore native --

RYAN: We call ourselves Baltimoreans.

HARLOW: And you're the one who got the hashtag, #WeAreBaltimore, trending --

RYAN: Yes. I couldn't believe it. I couldn't believe it.

HARLOW: But you're someone who knows this White House. You've been in that press briefing room how many times? You're a White House correspondent.

RYAN: I've been there 22 years.

HARLOW: Well, there you go. Is this a play to the base? Is this a pure election strategy, or is this a president lashing out because he didn't like Cummings' questioning of Kevin McAleenan?

RYAN: All of the above. We have a president who is limited in his approach when it comes to people. He believes in scaffoldings and concrete, things without a heart. This is heartless. This is not politics. It's about humanity.

He could change the dynamic instead of throwing the ball to someone else to catch. He is the president of the United States, who could declare a state of emergency if it's that bad. Do something about it.

But, yes, he is playing to his base. If we remember, how did he become a politician? By calling then-President Barack Obama illegitimate because he wanted to believe, in his mind, that he was born somewhere else, other than in the United States.

HARLOW: You know, by the way, when a city is struggling -- and I've spent a lot of time in Baltimore. I've seen what a number of corporations have done in Baltimore. Look at Under Armour, really building up --

RYAN: Yes.

HARLOW: -- a lot of Baltimore there. I've seen the beauty and the vibrant -- the vibrancy that Baltimore has --

RYAN: The resiliency as well --

HARLOW: They're (ph) resilient (ph).

RYAN: -- and survival.

HARLOW: Isn't it incumbent on those beyond the congressman for the district, in the White House --

RYAN: Exactly.

HARLOW: -- to do whatever you can, then --

RYAN: Exactly.

HARLOW: -- to help.

RYAN: When we look at cities like Baltimore or Flint, or even Detroit, where we are, Motor City, you know, I remember a couple of years ago, that Detroit was going through some serious problems. Financial, just -- they were going through a crisis for the city.

So the government stepped in, the White House stepped in and made it a special case. And they're building the city from the inside-out. The tentacles haven't gone as far as they would like --

HARLOW: Yes.

RYAN: -- but they're building. The White House took that on. Now, Mr. President (ph), what (ph) are (ph) you (ph) going (ph) to (ph) do (ph)? (CROSSTALK)

HARLOW: But you note in one of your tweets, Jared Kushner for example --

RYAN: Oh, yes. You know, when this administration came in, there were rumors that I was hearing, and now it's solidified that the Kushner family has houses in Baltimore that are not well-kept, let's say. And that is part of the blight of Baltimore. It takes a bunch of people to either create goodness or let it fall. So that is part of the problem.

So when the president is talking about Baltimore, he's actually throwing his own son-in-law and their family, his family, under the bus.

HARLOW: We'll never forget that moment -- I think we have it, just to show people -- when Elijah Cummings really stood up for his friend, Mark Meadow. Yes, they're in different parties, but they are friends --

RYAN: Yes.

HARLOW: -- first and foremost. CNN has questioned Mark Meadows multiple times over the weekend about his response to the president's attacks on Cummings and Baltimore. Meadows has declined to comment. Are you surprised?

RYAN: Mark Meadows' silence is deafening. And if you look at this, Elijah Cummings -- that's who Elijah Cummings is. He is this inclusive man who will stand up for what's right. He stood up for this Republican who is in the leadership of the Freedom Caucus, who is an ally of this president. But yet he called him his best friend. And he stood up for him. Where is Mark Meadows today? He is silent.

And I'll say this. Elijah Cummings -- and I'm going to give you a little bit of personal perspective on Elijah Cummings. Again, the reporter hat is off. I am from Baltimore, I've known Elijah Cummings for decades, before we even came to Baltimore -- before we even -- I mean, came to Washington, before we even thought about Washington, D.C. So we knew each other. I knew him when he was an attorney and when he was in the state house in Maryland.

And you know, knowing him and knowing each other -- I know his wife, you know? We're all good friends -- but knowing him and him knowing me and the friendship that we've gained -- when Lynne Patton, who works for HUD, was very irate with me for whatever reason and called me "Miss Piggy" on social media, Elijah Cummings had had it.

He went to HUD secretary, Ben Carson, who also gained his fame from Baltimore at Johns Hopkins --

HARLOW: Yes.

RYAN: -- and told him to stop it. And Ben Carson called me.

HARLOW: Wow.

RYAN: This is who Elijah Cummings is --

HARLOW: Speaks to his character, right? It's what you do when no one is looking.

RYAN: Exactly.

HARLOW: April, thank you.

RYAN: I appreciate it, Poppy (ph).

HARLOW: So good to have you here. All right. Quick break. We'll be right back.

[10:49:22] RYAN: Thank you.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCIUTTO: Italian officials say that two young American men, arrested in the killing of an Italian police officer, will remain in custody while the investigation is under way. 19-year-old Finnegan Elder and 18-year-old Gabriel Natale-Hjorth were arrested inside their hotel rooms in Rome, where they were on vacation at the time.

According to investigators, they had stolen a man's backpack and demanded money and a gram of cocaine for its return. That man called police. And it was during a confrontation that one of the plainclothes officers was stabbed -- that's a picture of him there -- 11 times. A second officer was also assaulted. He is expected to be OK.

Meanwhile, Italian authorities say they are looking into this photo of Hjorth. Authorities are investigating why he was blindfolded, as well as who leaked the photo.

[10:55:05] A prominent Russian opposition leader has been discharged from the hospital and returned to jail. This, against the wishes of his doctor.

Alexei Navalny was rushed to hospital yesterday from a Moscow jail. Russian state media have downplayed his hospitalization, but Navalny's doctors say he may have been exposed to some sort of chemical agent.

Massive protests in Moscow this weekend. You see them there, the police reaction violent at times. Navalny was sentenced to 30 days in prison after calling for those protests, as a response to the disqualification of opposition candidates for Russian municipal elections.

And other stories we're following. Police in California have now identified the gunman who opened fire at a crowded festival there, killing three people including a child, and injuring a dozen others as the search continues for a possible second suspect. Stay with us. We're on top of the news.

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