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Seized Iranian Ship Leaves Gibraltar Despite U.S. Request; Potential GOP Challenger, Mark Sanford Says He'd Still Vote For Trump Over A Democrat; Report: Trump Cuts Off One Of His Closest Friends Amid Inauguration Fund Probe. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired August 19, 2019 - 14:30   ET

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


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[14:33:14] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: The Iranian tanker at the center of an international standoff is back on move after being detained in the British territory of Gibraltar for over a month. British Marines seized the ship after suspecting they were transporting oil to Syria, which is in violation of European Union sanctions. The U.S. tried but failed to block the ship's release.

Iran has warned the U.S. not to seize the tanker as it makes its way. Despite the threats, President Trump says Iran wants to talk.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Iran would like to talk. They just don't know quite how to get there. Look, they're very proud people. But their economy is crashing. It's crashing. Inflation is through the roof. They're doing really badly. They're not selling oil.

Even -- I mean, we put the sanctions on the oil is selling much less -- I mean much less than we thought. It's like a trickle.

And they very much want to make a deal. They just don't know how to call. Because they're proud people. I understand that. But I have a feeling that maybe things with Iran could work out and maybe not.

If you notice, they haven't taken any of our boats. They haven't taken our ships. They have taken ships. But they haven't taken our ships. And they better not.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Let's go to Clarissa Ward, live with us in the Strait of Hormuz, with the latest.

Clarissa, is there any indication that Iran actually wants to talk to the U.S.?

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Brooke, I think the president is right about one thing, which is that Iran's economy is in free fall, and Iranians are definitely feeling the pinch, with soaring inflation, the reinstatement of sanctions. But where I think he may not be right is this idea that Iran is ready

to talk.

Because the reality is that Iran has survived for decades under very painful sanctions up until now. And I think there's kind of a sort of reluctance acceptance that it's back to the status quo ante now for people.

[14:35:12] We've been talking to people on the different sides of the political divide. They seem to feel pretty strongly that Iran is in the right here. Iran was upholding its end of the nuclear deal. And there's no reason that Iran should be punished.

You talked about the tanker. You know, this -- Gibraltar had -- British Navy took this Iranian tanker. The Iranians retaliated two weeks later by taking a British tanker. It is still here in the port. The expectation is that Iranians might release it, given that the Gibraltar authorities ultimately made the decision to release their tanker.

One thing you won't find here, Brook, is anyone criticizing the Iranian's decision to seize that tanker. They see this as being a fair reciprocity. And no indication that's we have seen that they're ready to start negotiating again.

BALDWIN: You mentioned some of the conversations you were having with everyday Iranians. What more are they saying?

WARD: It's interesting, Brooke. This is a big country. We've had the good fortune in the last few days, we were in Tehran, and in the city of Koln (ph), which is a very could be very conservative city, traditionally a bastion of support for the supreme leader. A lot of hard-liners there.

No matter who you talk to, on whatever side of the political divide they may be -- and there are a lot of Iranians by the way who are extremely critical of the Iranian government -- there seems to be a kind of united front at the moment in feeling imbittered and betrayed.

Take a listen to one man, Ali Reza, and what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALIREZA BANDER (ph), IRANIAN CITIZEN: This is your culture that you captured out ship. We captured your ship.

WARD: Do you think the people here in Iran, they want to see a war with the United States?

BANDER (ph): You know, the people of Iran believe in their leaders. Our leader, al Khamenei, as he said, that we don't like war but we are ready for war.

WARD: Do you have a message for President Trump?

BANDER (ph): Mr. Trump, you know, you're an unpredictable person. You are a liar. You have lied more than 2,000 lies during your, you know, short time of presidency. So you are dangerous. Of course, you're dangerous. And we don't believe -- and we don't trust talking to you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WARD: And, you know, we were talking also to people in the bazaars of Tehran. It's a cosmopolitan city. A lot of opposition to the government there. But still, we didn't hear any kind words for the U.S. or for the president or for this policy of punishing sanctions, of breaking the nuclear deal.

And they say they're reluctant to even consider renegotiating a deal because they don't trust, Brooke, that the U.S. wouldn't break that deal again.

BALDWIN: I'm glad you were able to be there and be safe and get these extraordinary perspectives from Iranians all over the country.

Clarissa Ward, thank you so much for sharing that.

Elizabeth Warren starting off a speech today to Native Americans with an apology.

[14:38:23] Plus, he is apparently so fed up with President Trump, a Republican says he may challenge him in 2020. So why would he still vote for the president?

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[14:44:11] BALDWIN: Economists are increasingly divided over whether the president is steering the U.S. into a recession. But a former Republican governor and congressman says this uncertainty makes the president unworthy of re-election.

Mark Sanford says he is closer to deciding if he'll challenge President Trump in the Republican primary, despite one glaring caveat.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARK SANFORD, (R), FORMER CONGRESSMAN & FORMER SOUTH CAROLINA GOVERNOR: If you look at the business investment numbers over the last couple months, they've been cratering. That's reality.

And in part, the reason they're cratering is because nobody knows what is going to come back in terms of trade and nobody knows what's going to come next out the White House in terms of policy. That is not the kind of environment where businesses do best.

And so I think that there are any number of different things where you say, no, we need a course correction. We need to have a conversation about that course correction.

CHUCK TODD, MSNBC ANCHOR: You are still going to support him for president?

SANFORD: Yes. I'm a Republican.

TODD: So you realize those two things -- you just said you don't think he deserves re-election because he's taking us in the wrong direction.

(CROSSTALK)

TODD: But you're still going to vote for him over Joe Biden?

[14:45:08] SANFORD: Yes, everything is relative in politics.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Everything is relative in politics.

OK, Caitlin Byrd, a political reporter from the South Carolina "Post and Courier."

So let me get this straight, Mark Sanford, you know, he is so opposed to the president that he considered going for all the time and money to challenge the guy. Said Trump doesn't deserve to be re-elected. But in the end, he'll still vote for him. How do you make sense of that?

CAITLIN BYRD, POLITICAL REPORTER, THE POST & COURIER: Right. Well, it's really interesting. It may seem those two ideas are in conflict. But if you know Mark Sanford and talk to him. like we do at "The Post and Courier," the fact is this is him publicly wrestling with, what does it mean to be a good Republican these days. For him, that means the course correction, as he said. A return to talking about the debt, deficit and government spending.

At the same time, he called for concerns that he has about this cult of personality that he sees in the Republican Party and it's fealty to Donald Trump. However, when push comes to shove, he wants to be a, quote, unquote, "good Republican" and vote for his party's pick.

So it's really interesting to see him like publicly wrestling with this decision even as he's wrestling with his own decision of whether or not to run against President Trump.

BALDWIN: How about South Carolinians wrestling? You have new reporting that folks in South Carolina are not too receptive of a Sanford run. What are people saying to you, Caitlin?

BYRD: Right. We actually just had a poll that was done out in the field earlier this month. And we surveyed about 568 likely Republicans and the results came in and they said -- 95 percent of them said they would vote for President Trump if he was on the ballot today with Mark Sanford. Only to 2 percent said they would vote for Mark Sanford, a former South Carolina governor and a former South Carolina congressman.

On the one hand, again, we're getting back to that duality question that is really interesting. You would think that Sanford would fare better here than maybe any other early presidential primary state, given his high name I.D., given the fact that people know him and, for some Republicans, that they trust and like him.

But that name I.D. comes as a double-edge sword. People remember him most for his most infamous moment in 2009 when he disappeared and was hiking the Appalachian Trail. We know that's not what he was doing. He was actually with his Argentinian mistress.

On the one hand, Republicans are saying here, don't do it, don't waste your time.

But then, another duality, we see 62 percent of the same Republicans want to see the South Carolina Republican Party hold a presidential primary as opposed to 24 who say that's not needed. And that 62 percent question those Republicans who say they want that primary, even if Donald Trump is the only name on the ballot.

Because here's the thing. South Carolina Republicans are very proud of their tradition in presidential politics. Every year since 1980, with one exception, 2012, they picked the ultimate nominee. In 2012, they picked Newt Gingrich, the party went with somebody else. But every other year since 1980, they got it right.

BALDWIN: So we watch South Carolina very, very closely. You have a big job there.

"Post and Courier's" Caitlin Byrd, thank you.

BYRD: Thanks.

BALDWIN: Staying on the president here. Why is President Trump cutting off one of his closest friends? We'll talk to the reporter who got the scoop.

And a mother of three detained during ICE raids in Mississippi despite the fact she is breast-feeding a 4-month-old baby. Her attorney joins me live.

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[14:52:59] BALDWIN: After more than three decades of friendship, President Trump apparently had a falling out with one of his closest friends. According to "Politico,", the president has cut off his relationship with Tom Barrack and no longer speaks to his long-time ally.

The wealthy California investors was not only a close confidante but he served as chairman of the president's inauguration fund, which is currently under investigation. And that is apparently a key reason for the now-troubled friendship.

Sources telling "Politico" the president was really upset when he read reports that Barrack's involvement in allegedly making it easier for foreigners to buy access to Trump and his inner circle, as well as allegations of misspent inauguration funds.

A spokesman for Tom Barrack says he has fully cooperated with the investigation. But Daniel Lippman, who has the scoop, is the White House reporter for

"Politico" and wrote the inside story about the president's feud with his close friend.

So how exactly did his role with the inauguration create this rift with the president?

DANIEL LIPPMAN, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, POLITICO: Trump was reading articles in top papers and journals about all of the investigations into Barrack's role and how there were not many controls during this process, which raised $107 million. And so there are allegations that Middle Eastern donors, they gave money through American straw donors to the inauguration and Trump was not happy about that.

But, ironically, Trump has a hotel right next to the White House, which he promotes sometimes and foreign governments love to stay there. There are diplomatic delegations. You can be sure that sometimes they mention, oh, I stayed in that great Trump hotel when they're meeting with the president. It's a little rich for him to be complaining that Barrack didn't stop people trying to access the president.

How far back do they -- their friendship goes way far back. He was calling him, what, when he was first in the White House for advice?

LIPPMAN: Multiple times a day. And their friendship goes back to when Trump bought the Plaza Hotel which Barrack helped arrange.

And what is funny is that Barrack said during the convention in 2016 that Trump played him like a Steinway piano.

[14:55:07] LIPPMAN: But if you actually look at the record, Trump took a full-page ad out in the "New York" magazine, saying he had overpaid, the deal was not economic.

And Barrack -- I talked to sources who know both men and he was one of the few people in Trump's ear in the early days who was telling him when Trump was going off the rails. And he even said that Trump was better than this with the Muslim ban. Barrack is Lebanese-American.

And Trump's inner circle has kind of become tighter. And it's not like Trump is a big man who loves to have friends. He is kind of a lonely wolf out there and there are fewer people who are actually telling him who is --

(CROSSTALK)

LIPPMAN: -- who are candid with him.

BALDWIN: Yes.

We all need folks like that in our lives.

LIPPMAN: Not the yes men.

BALDWIN: Exactly. Which is what he sort of surrounds himself with. Daniel Lippman, thank you very much --

LIPPMAN: Thank you.

BALDWIN: -- from "Politico." Good to you have in.

Let's continue on with this. Breaking news in the case of Eric Garner. Five years later, the NYPD has fired the officer involved with his death. Hear what Garner's children say about today's decision.

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