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Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) Speaks About U.S. Response To Alleged Iran's Attack On Saudi Arabia's Oil Facilities; Conflict of Interest Investigations Plagues Secretary Elaine Chao; Escalating Feud Between Trump And California Governor. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired September 18, 2019 - 07:30   ET



SEN. TIM KAINE (D-VA): ... was unprovoked. The U.S. is provoking Iran, we were in a diplomatic deal with them that allowed them to sell their oil. We pulled out of the deal, the U.S. pulled out, and we've punished their oil economy.

And so Iran, and again, Iran is not a good actor. You don't have to like this. But we are provoking Iran every day with the sanctions and with military action, and they're responding. We need to stop the provocation, and the United States needs to return to trying to be a diplomatic broker.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Are you suggesting that Iran had to do this attack, when you're saying the attack ...


BERMAN: ... or we somehow provoked? Are you somehow victim blaming here for this?

KAINE: No, what I'm saying is, I don't -- I have voted for sanctions on Iran in the past and they're a bad actor. But when the administration says the attack was unprovoked, that's what LBJ said about the Gulf of Tonkin back in Vietnam, and it was a lie. And the administration is lying to the American public by saying this was an unprovoked attack.

BERMAN: But the Iranians didn't have to do it -- or you know, yes, believe me, I understand the United States pulled out of the Iran Nuclear Deal, but that in and of itself doesn't mean that Iran had to do this.

KAINE: Well, did we out of the nuclear deal, Iran's economic sector is based on energy and we blocked them from selling oil. So there's a reason that Iran is poking at tankers and at Saudi Arabia. You know, I'm not excusing their behavior. But I'm saying when the administration says it's an unprovoked attack -- that is a lie.

We need to return to diplomacy in the region, and when the President pulled us out of a diplomatic deal sort of historically, I don't know of another instance in American history where it was America who broke a diplomatic deal, you see escalating tension and military action all over the region that's directly a result of the U.S. backing away from the table.

BERMAN: So you say we have no obligation to respond on behalf of Saudi Arabia or alongside Saudi Arabia. They are a U.S. ally, correct?

KAINE: We should not be engaged in a war to protect Saudi oil period. We sell them weapons, we give them advice, we can give them advice about how to protect themselves. Why was their energy infrastructure so vulnerable to this attack, we may be able to help them harden their infrastructure protected from attacks, that's all fine. They are an ally, and that's what you do for now ally.

But to engage -- to be locked and loaded and talk about another war in the Middle East. Are you kidding me? The American public, our military, I come from a military state, I have a son in the military, another war in the Middle East to protect the Saudi oil? It would be ridiculous.

BERMAN: I can hear critics saying though, what message does that send to other U.S. allies in the region who might fall victim to Iran provocations? Does that mean the U.S. will never respond to Iran?

KAINE: Again, we can help our allies. We can help them defend their assets, but the burden of defense has to be on them. Iran and Saudi Arabia are neighbors. They're engaged in a proxy war throughout the region that's crushing people everywhere. They have to figure out a way to get along together and deescalate tension and we should be playing a role in that.

But we shouldn't be raising tensions and ourselves contemplating getting involved in another war in the Middle East.

BERMAN: We've been talking all morning about something Corey Lewandowski said, which is completely in the political realm, which he said, I'm under no obligation to be candid. He was saying with the media, but he really said I am under no obligation to tell the truth, period, when I'm not under oath, which gets to a larger credibility issue within Trump world now.

And I think it might have implications on what's going on in the world stage because when you have a President who has said things that are untrue, what is the effect now, as he may try to sell action to the world here in response to this attack?

KAINE: I do think this is problematic when you say I have no obligation to be candid and when Corey Lewandowski said that, of course it was -- it was like dog bites man. We all are aware that the administration does not place a value on being truthful and honest.

And so it was nice that he would come out and state it so bluntly, but it was no big surprise. But you're right, it weakens people's ability to trust what they're hearing. And so again, I just used the Vietnam incident. LBJ told the American public that North Vietnamese attacked U.S. shipping, and that's what escalated the Vietnam War. And it was a lie. And so if the -- and we were told before the Iraq War, we have to go

to war to stop Iraq's weapons of mass destruction program when the International Atomic Energy Agency said, they don't have a WMD program.

So we've seen what happens when an administration tries to sell America on a war based on a lie. So I'm very, very worried. I'm very worried that what the administration is doing is they're engaged in provocations every day against Iran.

And again, I'm not defending Iran. But when the administration goes out and says, oh, we have to do this because Iran has carried out an unprovoked attack. That is a lie. And I don't want to see America get into another war based on a lie.

BERMAN: I understand the unprovoked attacked, but just in closing, if the administration says that Iran was responsible for this attack, do you have reason to doubt that claim?


KAINE: I don't have a reason to doubt that, and so I've looked at the Intel and I would say there was some responsibility either the attack was likely from Iran or it could have been carried out by Houthi rebels who had, you know, technology that Iran provided them.

I don't question the Intel. What I question is whether the U.S. should try to put military action in place to defend Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia can defend itself.

BERMAN: And I also know that you would never want them to do it without getting authorization from Congress, which is effectively what we read ...

KAINE: That's exactly right.

BERMAN: ... before many times. Senator Tim Kaine, thanks for being with us this morning.

KAINE: You bet you.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: All right, John. She is a globe- trotting, climate crusader, and she is only 16 years old. Her message to Congress and former President Obama that's getting a lot of attention. Next.


CAMEROTA: The latest Trump official to be swept up in a cloud of ethical issues is Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao.


BERMAN: But she's a lot more than that role might indicate. She has some other relationships and those just may be the problem.

John Avlon here with "Reality Check," -- John.

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Hey guys. So look, Democrats in the House may just found out a way to nick the administration on corruption allegations and tick off Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell at the same time, but they're doing it in a very unorthodox way by investigating McConnell's wife, which would normally be way out of bounds, except in this case, his wife is also a Trump Cabinet official, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao

Now, the Oversight Committee is digging in accusations that Chao has used her role to elevate and influence the status of an international shipping company founded by her father and run by her sister, who also sits on the Board of the State Bank of China.

The company itself is a classic American immigrant success story and that is always something to celebrate. The problem is that the Transportation Department oversees the shipping industry and as House Oversight Chair Elijah Cummings warned Chao, Federal laws prohibit Federal employees from using their public offices for the gain of friends or relatives. And that's why Chao is getting called out for appearing with her father in interviews, photo shoots and high profile events.

Get this. Chao's first trip to China as a Trump Cabinet member, in which he actually requested members of her family participate in high level meetings was deemed so unusual that even the Trump State Department felt compelled to speak up.

So Democrats aren't the only folks who have noticed this potential conflict of interest. And that's not all. The Oversight Committee is also looking as to why Chao dragged her feet divesting from a construction materials company that makes concrete crushed stone and asphalt. You know, the stuff that make roads out of, which would seem relevant to the portfolio of a Transportation Secretary.

Chao's family connections with the Chinese government are also troubling at a time when the Trump administration has been getting admirably tough with China over issues ranging from unfair trade practices to widespread espionage and hacking to expansionist policies in the South China Sea and the detention of Uyghur minorities in internment camps.

While Chao doesn't have an active interest in her family's businesses, McConnell accepted a gift from his father-in-law somewhere between $5 million and $25 million, which made him one of the richest men in the Senate. McConnell is also taking heating after a Russian company invested $200 million in a Kentucky aluminum plant just a few months after McConnell voted to remove sanctions on that company related to 2016 election interference.

All these accusations are unproven to date, but there's clearly reason to investigate. Because it's all happening against the backdrop and of administration that's eroding ethical norms and possibly profiting off the presidency.

Now, Chao's actions would also seem to violate a clear rule from the Office of Government Ethics that says, "Executive Branch employees may not use their government positions to endorse an organization, product service or person." Someone should tell that to the President next time his pitches hotels as an ideal place to host the next G-7. And that's your "Reality Check."

BERMAN: Uh-huh.

CAMEROTA: Ah-ha-ha.

BERMAN: Ha-ha-ha.

CAMEROTA: Thank you for the reality, John, we need it. President Trump continues his fundraising blitz in California today, along with a visit to the U.S.-Mexico border, all while escalating his feud with California's Governor.

CNN's Kyung Lah last spoke with Governor Gavin Newsom about this relationship with the President.


GAVIN NEWSOM (D-CA), GOVERNOR: One thing I won't do is roll over. One thing I won't do is capitulate.

KYUNG LAH, SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): California's Governor Gavin Newsom, unofficial leader of the Trump resistance.

NEWSOM: We are nothing less than a progressive answer to a transgressive President.


LAH (voice over): Now entering another battle with President Trump as he fundraises in Newsom's backyard this week. A source tells CNN, the Trump administration will attempt to pull the state waiver letting California develop its own emission standards.

The Trump administration wants to roll back Obama era rules, but Newsom won't bend.


NEWSOM: Yes, well, checkmate. I mean, we actually did something he didn't see coming. We negotiated with private industry, and they agreed to voluntary standards that went beyond what the Trump administration was demanding.

And for Trump, it was a realization, a rationalization that he doesn't get everything he wants.


LAH (voice over): This fight is familiar territory. Under Newsom's administration, California is now involved in nearly 60 lawsuits against the Trump White House jamming the proverbial crowbar in Trump's agenda. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LAH (on camera): Governor, are you able to succeed in wielding your power in a way that Democrats in Washington are unable to do?

NEWSOM: In some ways, that's true, outperforming the Federal government, running record surpluses as the Trump administration is running historic record deficits.

All of that as we're reducing our greenhouse gas emissions and protecting and preserving and promoting our values. That makes us a formidable -- a formidable challenge to Trump and Trumpism.


LAH (voice over): Their battles -- part policy, part theater.


LAH (on camera): If you look at some of the barbs, you both have shared on Twitter.

NEWSOM: There's a few.

LAH: There's a few. There's a good bit.


LAH (voice over): And it's offline, too.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: How about this clown in California ...



LAH (voice over): Newsom responded by tweet saying Trump is literally locking up kids like Pennywise, the scary clown from the movie "It."


LAH (on camera): Do you relish that fight?

NEWSOM: No, but if he calls me a clown, I called him Pennywise, forgive me. Yes, that's a little bit of a sideshow. The fact is, interestingly, we have a relationship. Interestingly, we communicate, not in public -- on the phone, in person. And he is very gracious in those calls. And I hope in turn, I am as well.


LAH (voice over): They have shared some gracious public moments. They walked through a fire ravaged California town, praising each other's leadership, but remain unafraid to spar on their litany of disagreements.


NEWSOM: Look, stay out of our way. Let California continue not to survive, but thrive despite the headwinds, despite everything you're doing to try to put sand in the gears of our success.


LAH (voice over): Kyung La, CNN, Los Angeles.


CAMEROTA: Always interesting to hear what happens behind the scenes versus what we see in public. Our thanks to Kyung there.

So a teenage climate activist, Greta Thunberg is in Washington this week to promote environmental issues and she got to meet with former President Obama.




OBAMA: Thank you so much for stopping by to say hello.


CAMEROTA: The 16-year-old from Sweden told President Obama the young people she has met on her trip here seem eager to combat the climate crisis.


THUNBERG: No one is too small to have an impact and change the world. So just do everything you can and be creative.


CAMEROTA: Well, Thunberg staged weekly school strike for climate sit- ins outside the Swedish Parliament and sparked a Global Youth Movement.

Following their meeting, President Obama tweeted that at just 16, Greta is already one of our planet's greatest advocates.

BERMAN: They're the ones -- we're going to have to carry the bag on this.

CAMEROTA: ... I tell my 14 and 12 year olds all the time, this is up to you, guys.

BERMAN: I say that about everything. CAMEROTA: I say, we screwed this up. Now, you guys do this business.

BERMAN: I say that about dinner. All right, for all the back and forth in this campaign, all the heat, all the fire what's the one issue that the candidates think could change the trajectory of the race We will tell you that.



BERMAN: New this morning, presidential candidate Senator Michael Bennett out with some brand new campaign ads today in Iowa with a loud, stark statement that might raise some eyebrows.


SEN. MICHAEL BENNET (D-CO), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The truth is a healthcare plan that starts by kicking people off their coverage makes no sense. We all know it.

As President, I'll get everyone covered with a public option or keeping the health plans they already have.


BERMAN: Joining me now is Colorado Democratic Senator Michael Bennet. Senator, thank you very much for being with us. You tell us what you think the truth is that kicking people off their healthcare plan makes no sense. If that's the truth, what's not the truth that people are hearing in Iowa right now?

BENNET: Well, there are candidates running for President who are proposing a plan that would make private insurance illegal and raise taxes on the American people by $33 trillion. I think that's a lousy policy, and I think it's terrible politics if we're trying to win the presidential election.

Donald Trump is the first President in American history to take insurance away from millions of Americans, and the Democrats have been fighting hard to make sure that doesn't happen.

We were able to prevent the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. And I think it just makes sense to have a public option to give everybody in America the chance to make a choice for themselves and their families about whether they want that public option or they keep their private insurance if they have it.

BERMAN: Who is not telling the truth?

BENNET: I think candidates that have signed up to Bernie's plan and are saying that we're not making illegal all private insurance in this country. Bernie SANDERS: -- I want to be very clear about this -- has told the truth from the very beginning. And the talking points that I repeated in that ad are not Republican talking points, they are Bernie's talking points about his own plan, as he says, he wrote the damn Bill. And I wrote the damn Bill when it comes to the public option.

I think my proposal would get Americans covered -- everybody covered -- within three years and I think Bernie's proposal would leave us fighting a losing battle for Medicare-for-All for the next 10 years, instead of dealing with the fact that our economy doesn't work for everybody, instead of dealing with climate change, instead of dealing with the other issues that we need to confront.

BERMAN: You say Bernie Sanders has always told the truth about this. Elizabeth Warren supports Bernie Sanders' plan. Is she not telling the truth?

BENNET: I wouldn't say that. I think she could be clearer about what the plan does. And if she said what Bernie said about it, that would be clear enough for me.

BERMAN: Does their plan, in your mind, do more for the American people, then what Donald Trump would do with healthcare? In other words, would you support their ideas over Trump's ideas on health?

BENNET: No question about it, as I said, Donald Trump is the only President in American history to take insurance away from millions of people, and it's shameful.

He ran for office saying that he was going to repeal the Affordable Care Act, give us all a plan that we'd love much better than that. It would be cheaper and that everybody would get it, and instead he has done the reverse of that. I think it's important for us going into this election to make very clear that that's his record -- taking insurance away from everybody.


BENNET: Every single Democrat believes that we should have universal health care coverage. And so of course, I wouldn't support his plans over there. He has no plan.

BERMAN: This I understand is a seven-figure ad in Iowa, which is a substantial amount of money, even more so given and I'm not telling you anything you don't know, your current standing in the national poll. This is the NBC-News Wall Street Journal poll, which has you at, I'm looking at it -- at just one percent.

Is this throwing good money after bad in a campaign sense, do you think -- why do you think this money will make a difference in your campaign?

BENNET: Well, it's an opportunity to talk to voters in Iowa. I had a decision to make, as you kindly pointed out, I'm at one percent of the polls, and I also don't have unlimited resources and so I had to decide whether to spend the money that I had, you know, money laundering on Facebook, to get contributions to make the debate stage or communicating with voters in Iowa, just at a moment when they're beginning to pay attention to this race, and I decided that I wanted to talk to the voters in Iowa. And that's what I'm doing, is spending time in Iowa and New Hampshire

because they're going to make the early decision about who they want to move forward in this race.

BERMAN: You say money laundering on Facebook, what do you mean?

BENNET: Well, the DNC for the debate require that we have 130,000 individual contributions and what you've seen is candidates who are having to spend $70.00 in order to get $1.00 worth of contributions. I think that's a terrible way to run this primary and I didn't want any part of that.

BERMAN: Senator, I want to ask you about something Corey Lewandowski said yesterday during the hearing in which he has no obligation to be candid to the media, but he really expanded on that suggesting that unless that he is under oath, there's no reason for him or obligation for him to tell the truth, as someone who is in public office, what do you see as your obligation to the truth?

BENNET: Well, I can tell you, "The Des Moines Register" in an editorial, the title of which was -- or the headline of which was "Michael Bennet pounds truth into this campaign." And that's the reason I'm running for President.

My oldest daughter said to me, you know, dad, if you run and tell the truth, and you lose, nobody can fault you for it. And I said to her, that's good, because there's no other reason for me to run, and there's no other way for me to win. And I think it's critical at this moment in our history for politicians to tell the truth to the American people.

We've accepted a President in the White House, who lies day after day after day. He has told more than 12,000 lies since he has been President of the United States, and I don't care what Corey Lewandowski has to say about this. Of course, you should tell the truth if you're an elected official or somebody who has got the public trust or frankly, somebody who is going on television.

The odd -- the issues are too important for us not to do that, and if we continue down the road we're headed, we're going to be the first generation of Americans to leave less opportunity, not more to the people coming after us. That's the truth. And it's painful.

As somebody who's been a former school superintendent, somebody who knows that today, as you and I are talking, there are kids showing up in schools all over America that aren't good enough for them, but they're willing to come do their work and tell the truth. We owe it to them to get our politics back to a place where we're focused on them, focused on the future. And where we put this three-ring circus including Corey Lewandowski behind us.

This great nation can't put up with this anymore, and that's why I'm running for President.

BERMAN: Senator Michael Bennett, thanks for being with us this morning. BENNET: Thanks for having me.

BERMAN: And thank you to our international viewers for watching, for you, CNN "Newsroom" with Max Foster is next. For our U.S. viewers, we are following the breaking news out of Israel. They are counting votes. Benjamin Netanyahu hangs in the balance and we have former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, live just moments away.

NEW DAY continues right now.


COREY LEWANDOWSKI, FORMER CAMPAIGN MANAGER OF TRUMP 2016 CAMPAIGN: The White House has directed that I do not disclose the substance of any discussions with the President or his advisers.

REP. STEVE COHEN (D-TN): You didn't think that was illegal to obstruct justice?

LEWANDOWSKI: The President asked me to do nothing illegal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He lied to their faces. He has no privileges. He has no immunity.

REP. JERROLD NADLER (D-NY): We subpoenaed three witnesses to this hearing. The White House is blocking the first two, and tightly limiting the third.

LEWANDOWSKI: I recognize this is not my privilege, but I am respecting the White House's decision.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was a very bad day for the House Democrats. They just looked desperate and looked pathetic.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Lewandowski intended to obstruct justice once again.

REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): You have a thought as to why we continue to engage in a charade that is overwhelmingly opposed and fundamentally misunderstood by my Democratic colleagues.

LEWANDOWSKI: I think they hate this President more than they love their country.


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

BERMAN: All right. Good morning, everyone. Welcome to your NEW DAY. It is Wednesday --