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Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Family Escape Fiery Plane Crash; Israel to Grant Request of Representative Rashida Tlaib on Humanitarian Grounds; Greenland Government Says Country Not for Sale; Interview with Mark Sanford on Possible Challenger to Trump. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired August 16, 2019 - 07:00   ET



ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: That is very poignant, and I do find the whole notion of pain being a gift to be very poignant, and obviously you can see Anderson, who's still grieving the loss of his mom, being emotional there. And, you know, Stephen Colbert, more than emotional, I see him as philosophical in this.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Well, that's what struck me is that Stephen Colbert is clearly someone who knows himself. He understands what makes him tick and drives him. That was really interesting.

CAMEROTA: Yes, no. I agree. That is a different side and we're going to have more of the Colbert interview for you coming up in our 8:00 hour so stick around for that.

BERMAN: All right. We're following breaking news on multiple fronts so let's get to it.

CAMEROTA: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. You are watching NEW DAY and we do begin with breaking news.

There has been a partial reversal of a reversal. Israel is now planning to allow Democratic Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib to visit her family in the West Bank on humanitarian grounds. This surprise move comes after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blocked Tlaib and Congresswoman Ilhan Omar from entering Israel under intense pressure from President Trump. Netanyahu said he denied them entry because of their support of a movement to boycott Israel.

BERMAN: All right. We'll have a live report from Jerusalem in just a moment. We also have breaking news from Greenland of all places which just announced it is not for sale. That seems to be a message to President Trump. Why is that an issue? We'll tell you in just a moment.

But we begin, though, with a remarkable survival story for a racing superstar. NASCAR's Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his family, they're lucky to be alive. Earnhardt, his wife, and their 1-year-old daughter somehow managed to escape this fiery plane crash. The private jet rolled off the runway in Tennessee. You can see it bursting into flames there after landing. CNN's Diane Gallagher live at the scene. And the news is good to make

crystal clear. The news is good for Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his family -- Dianne.

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Look, John, this is nothing short of a miracle. The Earnhardt family coming down for that race in Bristol about 20 miles from here when their plane crashed upon landing. Absolutely a miracle they are all safe.


GALLAGHER (voice-over): Watch the aftermath of the fiery plane crash in Tennessee sending thick clouds of black smoke into the sky.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's a baby in there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There might be.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. That dude just pulled a baby out of there.

GALLAGHER: Escaping that inferno, retired NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. on board the private jet with his wife, 1-year-old daughter Isla, their dog, and two pilots.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The airplane was fully engulfed. All the people had gotten out of it.

GALLAGHER: The FAA says the jet rolled off the end of the runway while landing at the Elizabethton Municipal Airport bursting into flames. The city's mayor says the plane touched down halfway down the runway before crashing through the airport's fence. Some of the fencing wrapped around the plane's fuselage.

CHIEF BARRY CARRIER, ELIZABETHTON FIRE DEPARTMENT: If that would have been where the door was, it would have been a lot more difficult for them to get the door open. So, it looks like everything worked in their favor instead of against them.

GALLAGHER: Earnhardt's sister Kelley tweeting a thank you to, quote, "The angels among us. Our pilots, first responders, and medical staff."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dale Earnhardt Jr., checkered flag at Talladega.

GALLAGHER: Earnhardt Jr. is one of NASCAR's most popular drivers. He follows on the footsteps of his legendary father who in 2001 died tragically in a crash at the Daytona 500.

DALE EARNHARDT JR., RETIRED NASCAR DRIVER: That's where I got the core base of my fans from is my father's -- you know, all my father's hard work. But I feel like at the same time I've done something right to keep it and build it.

GALLAGHER: And this isn't the first time Dale Jr. survived a fiery crash. His car burst into flames after a crash back in 2004 during a practice session. (END VIDEOTAPE)

GALLAGHER: And if you take a look here, you can see just the sort of charred remains of that plane. The NTSB and the FAA here to investigate today. Sort of figure out what happened here. As far as the Earnhardts go, they went to the hospital, got checked out. They have been released and instead of calling the race in Bristol this weekend, John, NBC has said that Dale should stay home with his family and just kind of recover, and really count their blessings this morning that they were able to get out of this here alive.

BERMAN: I'm sure that that family wants some time to just think through what has happened there. Completely understandable he's not going to work and a huge sigh of relief I think among racing fans around the country.

Dianne Gallagher, thank you so much for bringing us that report.


BERMAN: We have more breaking news this morning. Israel has now agreed to allow Democratic Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib to visit the West Bank. This comes after Israel announced yesterday that she and another lawmaker were barred from visiting. There will be restrictions to Tlaib's visit.

CNN's Oren Liebermann is live in Jerusalem with the breaking details.

[07:05:02] Oren, there's whiplash here because at first Israel said that Tlaib and Ilhan Omar could go. Then yesterday they said they couldn't go. And now Rashida Tlaib at least can go.

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Israel had said that Rashida Tlaib might be allowed on humanitarian visits or on humanitarian grounds to visit her family if she agrees to certain conditions. And she has agreed to those conditions. According to a letter she wrote to Israel's Interior Minister Aryeh Deri who has the final say here, she said, "I will respect any restrictions and will not promote boycotts against Israel during my visit.

Well, in his statement and his response granting her entry to the country and to the Palestinian territories to visit her family, the Interior minister wrote, "In light of that and in accordance with his commitments from yesterday, Mr. Deri decided to allow her entry into Israel and expressed hope she would stand by her commitment that the visit would indeed be for humanitarian needs only."

Now, this comes of course after one day earlier it was Israel that decided to ban Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar from entering the country because of their support for a boycott of Israel. We don't have a clear sense of when they made that decision, but they certainly announced it right after President Donald Trump said Israel would be showing great weakness if they allowed the two into the country.

Shortly thereafter, we got the official decision from Israel that they would not be allowed in. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying that their sole purpose of the visit was to cause damage to Israel and to incite against Israel. And that was part of the reason they decided to make that decision.

We did just hear from the family of Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib in the West Bank and they are furious in what they call a conditional visit. They say it is a natural right to be able to visit your family and your homeland and they are incensed that Israel would impose these conditions on a sitting duly elected congresswoman to be able to visit her family in the West Bank especially since one of those family members is the grandmother of Rashida Tlaib who is in her 90s. Tlaib says it may be her last chance to see her.

But it should be noted that after that tweet in which Trump said it would show great weakness if Israel let them in, that left Netanyahu very little wiggle room. Netanyahu has never publicly disagreed with Trump and this was not about when Netanyahu was about to start doing so. Especially with an election in just a month out and there are always political considerations here.

John and Alisyn, in announcing his decision, Netanyahu also pointed out that it was seven years ago under then President Barack Obama that the U.S. denied entry to a sitting Israeli Knesset member. So that's part of the answer there. I can't wait to see what Trump's response would be when he finds out that Israel has decided to allow Congresswoman Tlaib to enter. And I suspect that response is coming soon.

CAMEROTA: We are monitoring it, Oren. Thank you very much for reporting from Jerusalem.

Here to discuss all of this, we have Karen Finney, she's a former spokeswoman for Hillary for America and CNN political commentator, we have Tara Setmayer, former communications director for Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher and CNN political contributor, and Michael Smerconish, CNN political commentator and host of CNN's "SMERCONISH."

Happy Friday. Great to see all of you.

Karen, let me just start with the historical significance of this. A U.S. president working with, enlisting the help of a foreign power.


CAMEROTA: To block two U.S. lawmakers from traveling somewhere.

FINNEY: To block two U.S. lawmakers who are part of a group of four U.S. lawmakers that he is unsettlingly obsessed with, frankly. His obsession with these four women -- these two women who are part of the "Squad" has really been very disturbing I think to many Americans. You know, the politics of this with Netanyahu having an election coming up in September, the politics of -- I mean, I'm glad to see that Israel has finally -- that they reversed their position. A specific kind of cruelty to say to a woman you cannot go see your 90- year-old grandmother. So, certainly I think they recognize that the, you know, pressure was

mounting. I mean, any time you have everyone from AIPAC to J Street agreeing that Israel had made a bad decision here, you know that something is wrong. And again I would just say that, you know, part of what this shows is this sort of very unsettling obsession that the president has with these women and this obsession that he seems to have with, you know, squashing dissent.

I mean, what would Israel be afraid of to let these women come and -- I mean, they were both intending to go, I think, for peaceful purposes in the first place. But I think we cannot be -- our president should not be someone who is squashing the idea that people can disagree on certain issues and we should just silence those voices.

BERMAN: And the issue is, and "The New York Times" calls it unprecedented, taking his domestic political disputes beyond the U.S. border and giving the appearance of pressuring or ordering somehow Benjamin Netanyahu to block them from coming in, Tara. And Karen's right. We heard Marco Rubio come out and say this is a bad move by Israel. AIPAC, which has had the president's back on a lot of policy with Israel, came out and said this is a bad move. Your take this morning, Tara.

[07:10:05] TARA SETMAYER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, yes, I mean, I was disappointed initially when Israel made the decision. I mean, there is a law in Israel that was controversial that says that anyone that a foreigner who supports the BDS movement isn't allowed in the country so it's not as though they didn't have any basis for denying them. Also the itinerary was rather provocative, you know, and that was a justifiable complaint. I mean, you know, Tlaib and Omar have the opportunity to go over there, with a bipartisan group of lawmakers which have gone over there dozens of them have done that. AIPAC has hosted lawmakers for years in that respect and making it a bipartisan issue.

And instead their itinerary became really more about them and putting forth the BDS -- the boycott movement that they support which was not something that Israel was looking forward to nor obviously allies of Israel. But it was a missed opportunity initially because they could have shown that, you know, given an opportunity to show Tlaib and Omar, listen. It's not what you claim we're doing over here. This is what -- these are the efforts we're making. And it would have given Israel an opportunity really to show why they are the great democracy they are and what's happening and the efforts being made with the Palestinians.

You know, they weren't even -- Tlaib and Omar weren't even going to meet with elected officials from the Palestinian Authority or from the Israeli government. So their itinerary was questionable. And if it was really about a peaceful fact-finding trip then their itinerary didn't quite display that. So I understand the controversy behind it, but it was certainly a missed opportunity I think for Israel to show what they can do there and possibly change the dialogue. At least they have this condition of allowing Tlaib to go under humanitarian auspices, which I think was the right decision to make.

CAMEROTA: Michael, do you have some thoughts on this before we move on?

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Very quickly, I think it was a huge blunder by Bibi Netanyahu to go along with the wishes of the president. I mean, the president, to Karen's point, wants to make the Squad the face of the Democratic Party. More so than any of the 20 presidential candidates. Netanyahu jeopardizes the unique status he's had with the United States. We've said it before. There's more dissent about Israeli politics in Israel than there is in the United States. And I'll bet today a lot of Americans are wondering what is this BDS movement who have no knowledge of it and in the process they've made these two women much more sympathetic than they were yesterday.

SETMAYER: That's right.

BERMAN: All right. We don't get to do a lot of breaking news on Greenland. All right, but we do -- we do have breaking news from Greenland this morning. For real. The government of the autonomous Danish island says that Greenland is not for sale. Now, why this announcement from Greenland? Because "The Wall Street Journal" was the first to report yesterday since everyone else is mashed, the president has been discussing the possibility of buying the island of Greenland. Purchasing it from Denmark.

Now we should note Greenland history experts and eagle-eyed viewers have noted that President Truman wanted to buy Greenland for $100 million after World War II. This has happened before. But President Trump now in 2019 apparently has asked aides to look into it. And the White House Counsel's Office has.

Michael Smerconish, Greenland history expert.


SMERCONISH: Listen, I was -- I was hoping you were going to go to Tara or to Karen on this because I'm sitting here wondering -- I'm sitting here wondering, is Greenland the green one or is Iceland the green one?

CAMEROTA: Well, see? It is confusing. They're the opposite thing you'd think, right?


SMERCONISH: The only serious point I can offer is that he's intent on legacy. I mean, I've long believed that the quest to build the wall with Mexico is as much about border security as it really is him having cemented his place in history. That's really all I can say.

SETMAYER: Well, I can say something real quick about this. Yes. So as ridiculous as it seemed on its face, there is actually some strategic -- global strategic interest in controlling Greenland. We did during the Cold War because of its position in the arctic. China and Russia have both tried to make a play for, you know, a dominance up there in the arctic because it controls shipping routes. With missile defense and things like that for the United States, the Pentagon has eyed Greenland in the past.

But unfortunately, because the president of the United States has also made comments about how wonderful a resort could be in North Korea, people are like, oh, you know, is he eyeing the shores of Greenland now to put a Trump casino up there?

CAMEROTA: We have a picture of what that might look like courtesy of Twitter. That is not what Greenland would look like.


SETMAYER: But I just wanted to add some -- that there is --


SETMAYER: It's not just some random like Trump wants a casino there. There really is a global strategic reason for it and has to do with Russia and China.

FINNEY: But, Tara, that's noble, but come on, guys. Like, in the same moment that we're talking about a president enforcing his own domestic political agenda with regard to, you know, elected members of Congress trying to go to Israel, the president's worried about that.

[07:15:13] He's wanting to buy Greenland. And oh, by the way, I know we're going to talk about this, people are worried about the economy, right? I mean, if you wake up this morning in America and you're thinking, I'm sorry, our president is focused on attacking these women and buying Greenland? What about my job? What about my health care costs? What about -- you know, doesn't he have a few other things he could be worried about right now?

BERMAN: What about global recession concerns?

FINNEY: How about that?

BERMAN: Which do seem to be a very real thing this week. The first time the yield curve -- we're not going to go into that -- has inverted along --

CAMEROTA: I'm all on board now with the yield curve.


BERMAN: You're talking to Peter Navarro in a little bit.

CAMEROTA: Yes. I know everything about this.

BERMAN: You've got a masters in the inverted yield curve there.

But, Michael, it's a serious issue. The economy now is a serious issue. It has been a point the president has wanted to run on, and now it may be a head wind.

SMERCONISH: He's never been above water. His approval rating has never been above 50 percent. And you need to evaluate the approval rating somewhere in the mid-40s as having been earned in the best of times. The point being, if the economic numbers do take a turn, I'm not equipped to know whether this is the beginning of a recession or a blip on the radar screen. This I do think I know. If those numbers take a turn, it will seriously jeopardize any shot that he has at reelection.

SETMAYER: That's right. Combined with what -- combined with what's going on with the tariffs and the trade war with China. You know, he's destroying our farmers out there in the heartland from pork producers to soybean to corn. I mean, our corn producers are looking at losing $3.5 billion. Pork producers have already lost a billion. I mean, this is something that actually hurts people in their everyday lives which is what people respond to.

So, you know, when we talk about an inverted yield curve, this is happening. This is an indicator that's happened every time before a recession for the last 45 years. So, there's reason for people to be concerned and paying attention to what's going on here.

FINNEY: But the problem here, there are a couple of problems, right? Number one, the president is his own enemy on this because he is incapable of staying focused -- I mean, how many Republicans say I wish he'd talk about the economy, I wish he'd talk about the economy. Instead of Greenland and all these other things, right? I mean, he can't stay focused even in one speech where we just saw this a couple of days ago in talking about the economy.

The second piece of this is, you know, in addition to sort of what is happening globally and the very real forces that are impacting our economy, we're looking at Germany, and there's other, you know, places where there's real trouble, he's trying to tell people, I mean, farmers are in trouble. Business leaders are very concerned. You know, most businesses are on a seven-year planning cycle. You cannot plan when you don't know if, are we going to be at war with North Korea? We're going to do this, we're going to -- so his erratic behavior also is a factor in this.

And that is also something he has not been able to get under control. So I suspect that we're going to see more of this throughout this year. And I don't think he's going to be able to run on this economy in the way that I think most Republicans would like to see him do.

BERMAN: It was interesting to hear him talking about it last night at this rally which we'll get into.

CAMEROTA: Yes. He took a different tact.

SETMAYER: He's not honest about it. He's not honest about it.

SMERCONISH: That's right.

SETMAYER: He's lying to people about this, about tariffs, about everything because most people don't really understand economic theory other than what happens to their pockets.

CAMEROTA: That's true. And that's what -- I mean, obviously that's when it becomes real serious for people.

OK. Panel, thank you very much.

BERMAN: And be sure to watch "SMERCONISH" tomorrow at 9:00 a.m. Eastern, tomorrow live from Greenland.

All right, a new national poll this morning paints a sobering picture for President Trump. Will Republican voters actually consider a challenger? We're going to speak to a former congressman who may just do that next.



[07:22:51] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The United States right now has the hottest economy anywhere in the world. The fact that I won lifted our economy greatly. And if I didn't win, it would go down. And frankly, if for some reason that happened in the 2020 election, you'll see this economy go down the tubes.


BERMAN: President Trump talking about the economy trying to convince Americans to vote for him. But "The Washington Post" says this morning that the administration is planning no new steps to attempt to stave off a recession. Interesting.

The president was in New Hampshire yesterday campaigning for reelection and one notable thing about this week, right here on NEW DAY this week, Monday, Anthony Scaramucci, who was for a brief time the White House communications director, says he no longer supports President Trump and wants a primary challenger.

Yesterday Joe Walsh, former Republican congressman, tells us he no longer wants President Trump to win reelection. He would support a primary challenger and he has not ruled out running himself. And this morning, we're joined by former South Carolina Republican congressman and governor, Mark Sanford, who was just in New Hampshire talking to voters there about a possible 2020 challenge to President Trump.

Governor Sanford, thank you so much for being with us this morning. You visited New Hampshire. You listened to the voters there. What did they tell you about a possible Republican primary challenge to President Trump?

MARK SANFORD (R), FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: Well, it was a more inviting visit than I would have thought. You know, I know the waters of South Carolina well. New Hampshire, not so much. And so had a full cross section at different meetings. And some folks were thinking it was not such a good idea, but there were a lot of folks who were open and receptive to it. And so it was a good visit.

BERMAN: A lot of folks open and receptive to it. How does that jive with the fact that 88 percent of Republican voters right now support President Trump? He has an approval rating of 88 percent among Republican voters.

SANFORD: If you actually look at the cross tabs in that poll, what it also discovered was about half of those voters have said that they would like to see the president challenged, which is simply to say they'd love to have a discussion of ideas as to what it means to be a Republican in a way that's now not taking place.

[07:25:13] You know, on the Democratic side, there's a robust debate of different ideas and what it means to be a Democrat. And many of those voters, about half of that 80 percent, have said that they would like to see that same debate taking place on the Republican side.

BERMAN: Have you decided whether or not you were going to run? You gave yourself until Labor Day, I think. Have you reached a decision?

SANFORD: I have not yet. Couple more T's to cross and I's to dot. But I am at this point growing ever closer in that direction.

BERMAN: One of the things that's interesting is you said you heard from a lot of Republicans there who would like to see a Republican challenge. Joe Walsh yesterday, former congressman, claimed he's talked to a lot of Republicans on Capitol Hill who are unhappy with the president. Anthony Scaramucci claims the same thing, but we don't hear it publicly. Why don't we hear more of these voices going public?

SANFORD: Because people don't want to -- I mean, the name of the game is staying in the game for many people in politics. And so, I just left Congress in January and certainly heard any number of different former colleagues talking about things they didn't like. But again, they look at myself. They look at, you know, a variety of -- well, Jeff Flake, for instance, over on the Senate side. A couple other folks who either have left or have gone quiet and said, OK. This is not such a good idea. I'm going to be muted or awfully quiet on the notion of challenging the president. So there's very much a group thing existing on the Republican side right now. And the sun, moon, and stars seem to revolve around the president.

BERMAN: You just earlier this week, before the inverted yield curve, because the market took a hit, before some of these more ominous economic warning signs coming, you said there's a big storm coming in the economy. What do you see?

SANFORD: That in fact that's the case. We're living on borrowed time. You know, the average recession since World War II is about 58 months. We're about double that time. We now have the longest economy recovery in American history. And what's been propping it up in many cases is more in the way of debt. So we're running structural $1 trillion-plus deficits going forward.

You know, that debt package that was just signed added another $300 billion in new spending to the federal rolls and will increase the debt by $2 trillion over the next 10 years. So, what's been happening has been not only has the Fed been, you know, at the tail end of a 40- year lowering of interest rates, but you've had more and more debt added to the system which buys you time. It's the equivalent of that family down the street that looks to be

awfully prosperous. How in the world are they living that great life? But then it turns out, oh, my goodness, they've just been racking up the credit card debt. That's what we've been doing as a country. And, you know, the chickens are going to come home to roost as they say in the country. We are going to pay the piper. And we are nearing the point of economic downturn. And this is going to be a consequential one. A big downturn.

BERMAN: Let me just say, and all of a sudden, Tea Party members in Congress have gone solid over the national debt, where the national debt was something we've heard repeatedly from Republicans before.

You've talked a lot about the president's tone. Do you see it improving over time? Or do you see it like many Americans do as something that's of deep concern?

SANFORD: It's of grave concern. Because, you know, you can say the right thing, but you say it in the wrong way and the message is not received. And that's true in the family. It's true in business. And it's certainly true in the body of politics where you have disparate views which is the way the American system should work, and tone absolutely matters. And the president has proven tone deaf on any number of things that would bring us together as a country. And we've got some immense problems. But we're going to have to have a little bit of humility, a little bit of change of tone to bridge some of those gap that now exist.

BERMAN: All right. You've questioned his tone, you've also questioned some of the economic policies. However, you say that in a general election, you would vote for Donald Trump over a Democrat. How do you justify that given the concerns that you voice?

SANFORD: It's my belief that we need to have a debate within the Republican Party as to what it means to be a Republican. And that means, as you pointed out just a moment ago, wait a minute, a lynchpin, a corner stone to the Republican Party has historically been about fiscal sanity. Not getting ahead of your skis on spending. We're not there right now.

We're challenging long-held assumptions with regard to trading with other countries. We're infusing a degree of uncertainty. You look at the business investment numbers right now. They're trending down last two quarters again which is to say business doesn't know what in the world to do. Are we going this way or that way on any given day from the White House? I could come down with a litany of things that I think ought to be talked about within the Republican Party. But it doesn't mean I'm not a Republican. I am. I simply believe we need to improve what the party stands for and its messaging outside of the party.