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Vladimir Putin Calls for Russian Plan to Counter New U.S. Intermediate Missile Testing; President Trump Prepares to Leave for G7 Summit; Dozens Arrested Across U.S. for Mass Shooting Threats. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired August 23, 2019 - 08:00   ET


[08:00:00] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN breaking news.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to your New Day. It is Friday, August 23rd, 8:00 in the east. John Berman is off this morning. John Avlon joins me. Great to have you.

We have been following breaking news all morning because there are new fears that the U.S. and Russia are headed towards another arms race. Vladimir Putin just ordered this morning his military to prepare a response to a recent missile test.

JOHN AVLON, CNN ANCHOR: The Pentagon tested a ground launch cruise missile of the coast of California on Sunday. President Trump withdrew the United States from the landmark INF treaty which banned such tests. We have reports from Moscow and Washington ahead. Let's begin with CNN International Correspondent Fred Pleitgen with the breaking details.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, John. Yes, the Kremlin extremely angry about that missile test that took place of land-based Tomahawk cruise missiles. The Russians are saying the fact this test took place only 16 days after the U.S. officially went out of the INF Treaty, the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, shows that the U.S. had been planning this for a very long time and was trying to shift the blame for the demise of that treaty on Russia.

Now, Vladimir Putin today announced that these new measures would take place. It was quite interesting because he actually made that announcement on Russian state TV where he, again, ripped into the U.S., and then said that he had told all ministries here in Russia that are relevant, the Foreign Ministry, but especially of course the Defense Ministry, to come up with what he calls that comprehensive and symmetrical response.

He didn't mention the word "arms race," but it is something that the Russians certainly have been talking about over the past couple of really months since the demise of this treaty has been talked about. They of course blame all this on the U.S. Of course, one of the things that we always have to keep in mind is that it's not just America that's blaming Russia for this treaty essentially coming to an end, but it's also other U.S. allies in NATO as well who are saying that the Russians themselves have developed similar weapons and have already deployed similar weapons. We're going to wait and see whether or not this is going to be an escalation.

The Russian president not saying whether or not this means he's actually going to deploy new missiles somewhere near a NATO territory, but it certainly is a very, very clear threat spoken here out of Moscow today, John.

AVLON: Thank you, Fred. To add to your reporting in this breaking situation, we've got CNN's Barbara Starr who has been talking to her sources inside the Pentagon since the news broke. She joins us now live. Barbara, what are you hearing?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John. U.S. officials and military commanders are well aware of these Russian developments and do believe that this is signal that Vladimir Putin does want some kind of arms race. The U.S. tests now, the Russians test, and this will go on.

But there are several developments behind the scenes. The U.S. knows that Russian military strategy that is underpinning all of this is to try and develop and deploy weapons that could deny the U.S. military quick access to Europe in a crisis. And to that point the Russians are deploying, the U.S. says, missiles pointed at Europe. Significant new language just yesterday from the new Defense Secretary Mark Esper when he publicly said that the Russians have possible nuclear tipped missiles pointing to Europe. In the past the U.S. has only said nuclear capable Russian missiles. Now he's saying possible nuclear tipped missiles pointing at Europe. So that is significant development of new language from the Pentagon.

U.S. officials are also telling me that they believe now the Russians are working on an effort to try and develop a way to test nuclear weapons, test nuclear warheads without any radiation emissions into the atmosphere. That means if the Russians can do that, secret nuclear testing that the U.S. may find very difficult to detect.

All of this, of course, as President Trump is about to depart for the G7 where Russia will be one of the major topics if not at the top of the list. And U.S. military commanders headed to NATO in the next couple of weeks for a NATO military meeting, long scheduled. But once again, Russian military developments to be at the top of that list. Back to you guys.

CAMEROTA: Barbara, thank you for all of your reporting from the Pentagon for us.

Joining us now, we have Maggie Haberman, CNN political analyst and White House correspondent for "The New York Times," Van Jones, CNN political commentator and former special advisor to President Obama, and Jeffrey Toobin, CNN chief legal analyst and staff writer for "The New Yorker." Great to have all of you.

I know none of us are military experts, so I'll go with the political question of what's happening, because it's very unsettling to wake up to the news that we could be involved already to an arms race now that the INF is dead. So, Maggie, the president has put so much political stock in cultivating a relationship with Vladimir Putin, he's been so solicitous of Vladimir Putin, and this is what we get, an arms race?

[08:05:02] MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. There has always been a dichotomy between President Trump's approach to Russia and the Trump administration's approach to Russia particularly in terms to military and national security. As he heads to the G7 where he has already said he thinks Russia should be readmitted and make it the G8, I don't know he is going to make these two things stand together. He has seemed pretty sanguine about the idea of an arms race in the past. I don't think he actually is given his obsession when he first came into office with North Korea getting nukes. So I don't expect a necessarily linear reaction from him because we don't usually get one, but I do think he's going to be pressed aggressively on this issue in the next couple of days.

AVLON: But Jeff, I alone can fix it. Part of his pitch was, the great deal maker, if you put him on the international stage, he's going to be able to make great progress against U.S. adversaries, Russia being prime example number one. Here we're seeing some results of the escalation to deescalate strategy with the INF. Are we right to question whether this is a wise strategy at all, because who could have seen this coming? Lots of people.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Lots of people could have seen it, especially once John Bolton became the national security adviser because he has built his entire career around criticism of international agreements like the INF Treaty. He was very behind getting out of that treaty. We're now out of the Paris global climate agreement. That is one of the touchstones of this administration, which is no international agreements, except trade, which haven't happened yet. This is what you get. If you don't have agreements with your adversaries, you get an arms race. And that doesn't sound very good to me. We'll see where it goes.

CAMEROTA: What's John Bolton, and for that matter, Vladimir Putin's endgame here?

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: What's anybody's endgame? And part of the problem is he always does a good job, Trump, making the case about what's wrong with the status quo. And that's his big strength. This is bad, that's bad, this should be better, things should be great. It's when you get to, well, now what are we going to do? We pull out of the Paris agreement, we pull out of the TPP. So now we're in a trade war with China. We had every set up. We had every country in that region lined up with us for the TPP. I didn't like some part of that deal, but at least it was a strategy. You tear that up, and now you want one-on-one, mano-a-mano with China. You want to get out of the relationship with Russia, but there's no plan.

And I think that's part of the problem. We have four big threats externally to the American people. There's the economic threat from China, no real plan just, we're just spit-balling on tariffs. You've got an external threat from Russia. You've got external threat with climate crisis with no plan, and then also artificial intelligence technology, what's going to happen with the American workforce going forward. In a normal situation, any one of these would be enough to bring the best people together to come up with a plan. Right now, you've got four major threats, climate change, artificial intelligence, Russia, and China, no plan, no unity. Never seen anything like it.

AVLON: But Maggie, the president had an erratic week, shall we say, in his press conference outside the White House. He invoked President Obama 20 times. There's still this obsession with blaming things on President Obama. But what we're seeing, including today's news, this is the result of the policies he's put in place. So given that a lot of things are not working out as advertised, trade deal, INF, as he goes to the G7, have you heard from your White House sources anything resembling a proactive, positive plan, something they want to accomplish?

HABERMAN: No, the goal of all of these trips, to be clear, has generally been we have no idea what he hopes to accomplish. I think the clearest goal was when he went to the U.K. for a state dinner, and that was a pretty obvious one. They don't really have a clear goal for this. They know that they're in the middle of headwinds both here and abroad because of the economy. They do not have a clear message, to your point, coming out of the White House. It's not just the president press conference. It's that there are conflicting statements made by Larry Kudlow or by other economic advisers.

And it's because they are, and Van can speak to this much better than I can having served in the White House, there's not advised to the president, but there's always different advisors giving opinions to a president. But in this case, they're all rowing in opposite directions. It's at the end of the day, it's not as if they all decide to push in the same way. This is president who has a habit of not taking responsibility for things when they go wrong. He has typically pushed it off on other people. That is going to be a lot harder for him when he heads into a reelection where he has been in office for three years, and I think that accounts in part for some of the erratic behavior that you're seeing.

JONES: Because usually, to your point, usually there's a process. There's always factions, there's always intrigue. That's not unusual. But usually there's a disciplined process by which all of those ideas get boiled up to a set of recommendations, and then a president makes a decision, then everybody falls in line. When you don't have a process internally to make sure everything gets pulled up together, then everything gets pulled apart in public, and that's what's going on.

[08:10:01] INGRAHAM: So international leaders and diplomats are holding their breath, Jeffrey, because they have no idea what to expect tomorrow at the G7, and that's captured in this "The Washington Post" reporting. They spoke without being named to some diplomats. Here's the first one. "When countries like Denmark are in the firing line, you just try to get through the summit without any damage. Every one of these, you just hope it ends without any problem. It just gets harder and harder." Second diplomat, "You have to plan going into the summit that he is going to try to divide and conquer.

JONES: Like the worst Thanksgiving dinner ever.


TOOBIN: But this stuff, it sounds funny, but it actually matters. It really matters that the economies around the world are heading in the wrong direction. There are things that these governments can do to point things in a different direction. If we spend all our time fighting with Denmark over Greenland, that's not going to address a refugee crisis. That's not going to address an economic downturn. And that stuff has an impact on people's lives.

AVLON: And you're seeing the downstream effect. A bad Thanksgiving dinner, you don't talk to aunt Matilda. If allies don't talk to each other, a global recession and worse can occur.

And you're already starting to see that impact domestic politics. Maggie, brand new polls out from a number of different places showing an overall downward trend. And those come on the heels of a CNN poll showing that the economy, part of this is being driven by Trump taking a hit on the economy, the one pillar he had to look at. And it's fueling not just a top line decline but a real enthusiasm gap.

One of the things that struck me, this one APNRC poll, and I think it's P-109, was this gap in enthusiasm, not only the overall decline but a gap of enthusiasm. Only 26 percent of his supporters say they're very focused on his re-election, where 46 percent of the opposition say they're very enthusiastic to get him out of office. Is the president reacting to a fear that it may all be coming undone? Does that account for some of the anxiety out of the White House?

HABERMAN: That's certainly what his advisers both current and former think. The think that there is, basically, everything is spiraling away from him. In the past, he has been able in his mind -- I don't think it's really been this way, but he's been able to think about getting through these small increments of time without thinking about the repercussions.

There are clear repercussions now. Even when the economy, the indicators were better, a lot of his voters still were not actually crediting him with it. And his own advisers were seeing a bit of gap in that, and they were contending with how to do it. Now that it's taking a downturn, potentially, we don't know what it will look like, they're not sure how to handle that either.

And at the end of the day this president has believed and his advisers have believed that his core of supporters will be animated enough to turn out and rescue him no matter what happens. His own behavior might make that very hard. People have to be motivated to come out, and he has to, this is their plan, torch the opposition enough to not make people not want to come out. They think it's going to be easier when there's a binary and there's one nominee. But his own behavior is just having a lot of splash back on him in ways I think we had assumed it was baked in and couldn't necessarily get lower, but I'm not sure that's true.

CAMEROTA: Van, you brought up the climate crisis. As we sit here and speak this morning, the Amazon rain forest is on fire in a bigger wildfire than people have seen there. We rely on the Amazon rain forest for so much that people --

JONES: Like oxygen.

CAMEROTA: Like oxygen, for instance, like oxygen, like medicine. There are all sorts of things that we aren't even conscious of that we rely on. And if we don't like the refugee crisis right now, wait until climate gets worse.

JONES: One of things that's very interesting is that the climate crisis, there really could be a bipartisan deal there. You now have generals, the military, there's not one scenario that the Pentagon has that doesn't have already baked in massive climate disruption. They're very concerned about that.

You've got farmers who are watching their land either bake or burn or be under water. There's real concern now. You have people who are concerned about the fact we don't have a smart enough grid to deal with either renewable energy if you're on the left but also just terrorist strikes the right. You could do smart grid. You could do climate resilience. You could do a bunch of stuff. The reality is that we're not doing the basic stuff we could be doing because of the cult of personality around Trump and the fact the Republican Party has gone off the rails.

TOOBIN: But the chance for bipartisanship only exists if you have a Republican Party that even acknowledges that climate change is happening, which we don't.

CAMEROTA: That would be a good start.

JONES: Don't believe your lying eyes.

CAMEROTA: Thank you all.

AVLON: Thank you to that all-star hall of fame panel.

And coming up on CNN, by the way --

TOOBIN: All-star and hall of fame.

AVLON: Both. It's a gradation. Jim Sciutto is going to be talking to White House trade advisor Peter Navarro about the economy in the 9:00 hour. You don't want to miss that.


CAMEROTA: All right. Meanwhile, dozens of people have been arrested for threatened mass shootings just since the El Paso and Dayton mass shootings. What's going on in this country?

We talk to former acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe who spent his career fighting these things, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) CAMEROTA: There have been a spate of mass shootings in the past few weeks and a spate of foiled mass shooting plots. More than two dozen people have been arrested for making threats to commit attacks since the massacres this month in El Paso and Dayton.

So joining us now is the former acting director of the FBI, Andrew McCabe. He's also the newest member of the CNN team. So we welcome him. He is joining us for his first appearance as a CNN contributor.

Also, as our viewers know, I should get this in, Andrew, you were fired by the FBI 48 hours before your pension. You're now suing the FBI and DOJ to get your pension back.

[08:20:04] However, today, right now, we want to talk about what your spent your career doing and that's counterterrorism. You oversaw all the counterterrorism efforts during your time in the FBI.

And I want to start by saying what do you think is happening in the country that every single day since the Gilroy Garlic Festival attack on this program, we have reported on a mass shooting or its aftermath or a foiled mass shooting plot?

ANDREW MCCABE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, well, thank you, Alisyn, and it's great to be here.

I think what we're seeing across the country right now is renewed awareness not just at the FBI, but across law enforcement, state and local and tribal levels as well. And that is a kind of elevated threshold for the sort of threats and online menacing activity that maybe a few months ago law enforcement leaders and investigators would have seen but considered to be unactionable exercises of First Amendment rights.

I think in the wake of all these shootings you're seeing a much higher degree of sensitivity on the part of law enforcement to these statements which are now seen as predictors of potentially mass shootings.

CAMEROTA: In several of these cases, they -- the culprits are young men who have some tie to white supremacists or white nationalist ideology. How big of a threat is that in the country?

MCCABE: It's a very big threat, Alisyn. I think as the FBI has said in the last few months, more people in the United States have died as a result of domestic terrorist activity that international terroristic activity in this country.

So, again, I think the FBI appears to be refocusing and augmenting their efforts on the domestic terrorist threat. Look, we saw this in the area of international terrorism. International terrorism and Islamic extremism didn't start with 9/11. But after 9/11, we did everything we needed to do to focus new resources, new partnerships, new levels of information sharing, new legislation to address that threat.

I hope that's what we now see on the domestic terrorist side. CAMEROTA: I've been so impressed with law enforcement, local police

departments up through the FBI who have been seeing these things online and have been able to go and foil them. I mean, they go to these suspects houses, they find a before they pull the trigger often.

But what does it do to the local police department? I mean, how hard is it for what we're seeing nationally? It seems to me they are working overtime to try to stop these. And just tell us what goes on inside all these departments when you have this threat?

MCCABE: It is incredibly hard. And it's certainly beyond the day to day responsibilities of every local police department to be essentially online in extremist forums and watching for these sorts of signs and tips that they might have someone plotting a terrible act within their jurisdiction.

But that's where information with the FBI comes in. That's the sort of predictive work, the sort of investigations that the bureau does well and has the responsibility of handing that information off very quickly to state and local authorities so they can get the boots on the ground, get the search warrants they need and interdict that activity before something takes place.

CAMEROTA: Obviously, this week we've seen President Trump all over the map about background checks, expanding background checks. His time in office hasn't done anything to curtail mass shootings, the four worst mass shootings -- I should say four of the 10 worst mass shootings have happened during his time in office. So the problem is not getting any better.

But do you think expanded background checks or universal background checks would stop some of these?

MCCABE: There's all kinds of things that we could do to the current background check regime to make it more effective, more efficient. It's a better position of the FBI to utilize their resources in an effective way.

The background check system, people tend to talk about background checks as if it's a consistent and easily done activity. It is not. It's a bit of a patchwork. The FBI conducts the background checks for only about 30 of our states. The states do the work entirely themselves. Some have different levels of partnership with the bureau.

The legal restrictions around background checks are so particular that they impose some I believe unnecessary burdens merchandise so for instance if you have a name match, somebody tries to buy a firearm and you have a name match with that person in your system but it's not perfectly conclusive that that person should be denied the firearm, the FBI only has three business days in which to conduct that research to determine whether or not that person should actually have a firearm.

[08:25:15] At the end of the third day, the firearms dealer is legally entitled to let that sale go through even if they haven't gotten the all clear from the background check. So simply expanding the time period that work is done would be a huge help in enabling the bureau to do that work well.

CAMEROTA: We saw that in Charleston. I mean, we saw that in that mass shooting in Charleston.

MCCABE: We did.

CAMEROTA: But I want to ask you about these claims the CEO or the former CEO of has been making. He made them last night on CNN. He's resigned from his position after it was revealed he had a romantic relationship with Maria Butina, who is the accused Russian spy.

He says, I guess I had to have a relationship with her because the FBI needed him to gather intel, and that you guys forced him to have the romantic relationship with Maria Butina. Did you do that?

MCCABE: No, I saw him last night. There are a number of things that Mr. Byrne said that certainly are not consistent with my own experiences in the FBI.

Let me first say, I have never heard of Patrick Byrne until about two, three days ago when he revealed his prior relationship with Maria Butina. So, his allegation his potential cooperation with the FBI was somehow discussed at the highest levels certainly never happened when I was there.

Is it possible that Mr. Byrne came to the FBI and volunteered information on people he knew, that's certainly possible. Many people do that with the FBI every day. Thank God because that's what helps them do the work that we do.

But his references to things like a nonstandard relationship with the FBI and certainly the fact he was told to engage in a romantic relationship with a suspected Russian intelligence agent, that is simply not the sort of thing that the FBI does.

CAMEROTA: Andrew McCabe, great to have you here at CNN. Thanks so much for all the information today.

MCCABE: Thank you, Alisyn. It's great to be here. Thank you.


JOHN AVLON, CNN ANCHOR: We've got breaking news, U.S. stock futures are down sharply ahead of the open on news China retaliating with new tariffs on U.S. imports. The breaking details, next.