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Trump To Send Troops To Saudi Arabia after Attacks on Oil Fields; Did "Moscow Mitch" Taunt Spark His Reversal On Interference?; Warren Surges As Biden's Lead Fades In New Iowa Poll; Pence Uses Eight-Car Motorcade On Island That Prohibits Cars; First Lady Melania Trump Rings Opening Bell On Wall Street; Thousands Of British Travelers Stranded After Tour Operator Thomas Cook Goes Out Of Business. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired September 23, 2019 - 13:30   ET



CHRISTIAN CARYL, GLOBAL OPINIONS EDITOR, THE WASHINGTON POST: What the paper is arguing is that President Trump really no option here but to escalate. His maximum pressure strategy against Iran, which has basically consisted of piling on more and more sanctions, was designed to push Iran back to the negotiating table.

But, in fact, it's just pushed Iran into a corner where they really have no other options.

And the assumption was they couldn't do anything about it and they showed us that they can.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: The article mentions, 30 years ago, George H.W. Bush made a decision to send troops to Saudi Arabia after Saddam Hussain's troops attacked from Kuwait.

This op-ed says, "Now, for a variety of reasons, including Mr. Trump's reckless and inept behavior, the case for U.S. action is far less clear."

Why is this seen as different?

CARYL: I think it's radically different. That's partly because the whole nature of global oil markets has changed radically.

Back in 1990, Saddam Hussain was actually trying to achieve hegemony over the entire world market by grabbing oil fields in Kuwait. Nowadays, there's no power trying to do that. And Saudi Arabia or Kuwait don't have anything like that share of the market that would make them that influential.

The United States is actually the biggest oil producer today. Saudi Arabia produces about 10 percent of the world's oil.

A lot of other things have changed, too. Most importantly the sectarian war between Saudi Arabia and Iran in the Middle East. The Saudis keep pushing their own very particular Sunni interests against the Iranian Shiite forces in the region. But that's not really a battle that the United States should be deeply involved in.

You can see that same dynamic going on in the civil war in Yemen. And the paper is actually warning against getting too deeply involved in that civil war, precisely for that reason. It's not in the U.S. interest to get that involved there.

KEILAR: We're seeing two of the president's philosophies playing out here. One is, in general, he favors isolationism but he has this penitent for utilizing U.S. troops to show his strength. We've seen him do this at the border, for instance. One of those is winning out over the other right now, the idea of moving troops into this area.

What do you make of him leaning into that philosophy over isolationism?

CARYL: I think one thing we're seeing here is the attempt to beef up troops in Saudi Arabia does send a signal to the Iranians.

But at the same time, I'm not sure it's a signal that they'll take that seriously, because what these latest attacks have shown is the Iranians actually have the capacity to attack oil fields and oil infrastructure in Saudi Arabia, despite all the fantastic air defense equipment that the United States has sold them.

So having more troops on the ground, and even more troops manning air defense batteries in Saudi Arabia sounds a good strong signal but the thing the Iranians have just shown us is that our air defense aren't really protecting the kingdom.

So in this case, that sense of confidence that President Trump is trying to transmit to Iran really doesn't hit the mark.

KEILAR: Christian, thank you so much. Christian Caryl, with "The Washington Post," we really appreciate it.

CARYL: My pleasure.

KEILAR: We have some new details about how Democrats and their taunt of Moscow Mitch may have gotten to Mitch McConnell and forced a reversal.

Plus, a new CNN/"Des Moines Register" poll shows Senator Elizabeth Warren is surging in Iowa now neck and neck with Joe Biden there.



KEILAR: In an abrupt turnaround, Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, is now throwing his support behind an amendment to provide $250 million for U.S. election security. This is a move that's coming as Democrats plan to offer their own amendment to give $500 million to states to improve election security infrastructure.

By backing the additional funds, McConnell may neutralize a key political attack by Democrats heading into the 2020 campaign. But his reversal also comes after he was labeled "Moscow Mitch" by Democrats who were demanding more election security money.

Lauren Fox is on Capitol Hill.

Mitch McConnell, Lauren, isn't known for letting things get to him, but in this era of name calling, very much started by Donald Trump, there's a question if this was effective in his being worried that he might actually be tagged "Moscow Mitch."

LAUREN FOX, CNN POLITICS CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, I was in Kentucky in August and there were T-shirts and buttons at one of the rallies I was at with a picture of Mitch McConnell with "Moscow Mitch." It certainly caught on even back home in his state. And he's up for reelection. That's a big problem.

But Democrats are saying that Majority Leader McConnell reversed his position on this.

McConnell's office is pushing back. They're essentially saying he supported election security funding in the past and he was certainly just waiting for the appropriations process to play out on Capitol Hill. That's why he introduced the amendment last week in committee. That amendment passed.

Now it's a question of what will happen on the Senate floor. And the House, which is controlled by Democrats, they want $600 million for election security. This is a just of fraction of that. So how do they come to put those two differences aside and find a number in the middle.


And the biggest question of all, what does the president of the United States actually sign --Brianna?

Very good point.

Lauren Fox, on Capitol Hill, thank you.

Presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren is surging in Iowa. She is now neck and neck with Joe Biden in a new CNN/"Des Moines Register" poll. Warren picked up seven points since June, distancing herself from Biden and fellow progressive, Bernie Sanders, who both saw their numbers slip.

Sara Isgur is with us. She's a former Republican campaign adviser and spokeswoman at the DOJ during the Trump administration. She's a CNN political analyst.

So Elizabeth Warren, she's where the enthusiasm is for Democratic primary voters right now.


KEILAR: She's seeing the surge.

But you write about this and you say she still has a big challenge. Tell us about that.

ISGUR: You ask Democrats, you ask voters who they like most. It's not even close. They like Elizabeth Warren. When you ask them who their second choice is after Joe Biden, they pick Elizabeth Warren. And all the other candidates, by the way, also their second choice is Elizabeth Warren.

So there's no question on that. Her favorability is high. Much higher than the other candidates.

Here's the problem. That's not the number-one thing Democratic voters are looking for right now. They want someone to beat Donald Trump. When you ask about electability, who is most likely to beat President Trump in 2020, Joe Biden has about half of the Democrats saying he's the most likely to beat him. Only one in 10 say Elizabeth Warren.

KEILAR: I look back to 2008 and think about how, in the primary, there were a lot of people that thought Hillary Clinton was more electable than Barack Obama. There were people who had voted for Hillary Clinton in the primary, and in the general, voted for Obama and said, I'm surprised that I'm casting a vote for Barack Obama.

Can voters really be sure who is electable, or is it just who they think might be electable?

ISGUR: Clearly not. Everyone thought Donald Trump was not electable at all. His numbers were very low. And yet, here we are.

At the same time, Elizabeth Warren also suffers on a problem of electability because there's such a wide field. There's no question that President Obama benefited during that primary, from it being a head to head between purely electable Hillary Clinton and enthusiasm Barack Obama. In that case, enthusiasm won.

We don't have that yet because we've got this huge field. I'm not surprised she's pulling ahead in the polls. You'll have to see people drop out for her to pull away and for there to be that head to head Hillary-Obama moment.

KEILAR: When you ask voters what makes a candidate electable, Democratic voters, their top answer was the candidate represents a new generation of leadership. And yet, look at -- is it a new generation, or you think of how long people have been in politics or just how long they've been around. What do you make about that?

ISGUR: The Democratic field has bit of an issue when the top three are all not a new generation, unless think backward news. That's an issue for all of them.

But Elizabeth Warren has an issue which is she never was able to capture blue-collar working-class voters in Massachusetts, including in her last election. You look at some of these state polls, Wisconsin, for instance, Biden is beating her by nine points in Wisconsin. In a head-to-head matchup with Donald Trump, he beats Trump, she ties him. I do think that voters, whether they look at polling the way we do,

maybe not, but they have a sense for this. Voters tend to be very, very smart about these things.

She's got an issue. She's got to shore up, no, I can really reach working-class voters. It's why at the steak fry you're going to constantly hear her talk about being from Oklahoma, her years as a schoolteacher. You're not going to hear about living in Cambridge for 20 years and being a Harvard law professor.

KEILAR: Very good point.

Sarah Isgur, thank you so much.

Vice President Pence broke a longstanding position this weekend on an historic Michigan island. He brought an eight-car motorcade to Mackinaw Island even though cars are no allowed there. Now people are up in arms. Does it matter? We'll look at that.


Plus, more on our breaking news. A U.S. soldier under arrested, in part, for allegedly discussing plans to target a U.S. news network and a Democratic presidential candidate.


KEILAR: It was a rare sight on Michigan's picturesque Mackinaw Island. Cars because they've been banned there for over 100 years. But Vice President Mike Pence brought along eight vehicles for his motorcade through town. He was there for a local Republican Party meeting.

Kate Bennett is a CNN White House reporter.

The police rode ahead on bicycles, Kate. That kind of drew a contrast to what he was doing.

But there was this shock and anger over the fact that the vice president was there in a vehicle, in so many vehicles. I wonder, though, was this bipartisan outrage, or was this people who already don't like the vice president?


KATE BENNETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Working on this piece, it seems the criticism falls along party lines. We had Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib tweet, saying it, quote, "Turned her stomach to see it."

You have to put it in context. The last time a -- a vice president has never been on Mackinaw. But the last time a president was, was 1975, Gerald Ford rode in a horse-drawn carriage. Times have changed, things have changed, security things have changed.

This is an island with about 470 full-time residents year-round. About a million visitors. Everyone respects the bike rule. You have to figure the Secret Service felt there was a need to use all

eight vehicles. But there's been some push back. People are sort of upset about destroying this tradition that has long been held in Mackinaw Island.

But there's those who understand that with the president or vice president come certain security precautions that have to be preserved. The vice president's office is not commenting, of course. But it was shocking to see.

KEILAR: It was. He does bike. I mean, I've seen he bikes. But there's obviously security precautions here.

BENNETT: And he's been there many times. In the speech that he gave that day, he said he better come home with fudge or else Karen Pence will be mad at him. Certainly, he's been there enough to know this is a tradition.


BENNETT: This is what they're known for.

KEILAR: I'd be mad, too.

Let's talk about the first lady. She was at the New York Stock Exchange. She rang the opening bell this morning. Tell us about that.

BENNETT: She did. I spoke with her office as to why she did -- what was the why behind it. I was told it's an iconic New York tradition. She wanted to promote BeBest. She has some school children there. But really no other real reason.

KEILAR: Is this unusual?

BENNETT: I think it is, covering her, because she doesn't like to do public things. She's not necessarily always volunteering for the thing that's going to put all eyes on her. Nothing says look at me more than standing up over the New York Stock Exchange. It was a little unusual.

She has a low profile for this week. This was her only major event. She'll attend the president's speech tomorrow. That's about it for her. This was a rare New York moment for Melania Trump.

KEILAR: All right, Kate Bennett, thanks so much.

President Trump admits he did talk about investigating the Bidens with Ukraine's leader. A conversation that came to light from a whistleblower. Now the president is questioning the patriotism of that whistleblower.

Plus, a man made a dramatic underwater proposal to his girlfriend and then he never surfaced. We have this heartbreaking story ahead.


KEILAR: Thousands of travelers are stranded around the globe right now. British tour operator, Thomas Cook, went out of business. Completely shutting down. Now the U.K. government is working on getting 150,000 Brits back home. This is the largest peacetime repatriation effort in U.K. history.

Just to get a sense of this, the map shows the reach of Thomas Cook. It stretches into four continents, including North America.

CNN correspondent, Melissa Bell, is at Gatwick Airport.

Melissa, the British citizens aren't the only ones stranded. What happens to them? How do they get home?

MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They are the lucky ones. In all, overnight, with the surprise demise of this giant, it served until it went down overnight. And 19 million customers a year in 16 countries. Overnight it collapsed. And 600,000 tourists found themselves abroad with no way of getting home. Ad 150,000 British tourists are going to benefit from the repatriation efforts.

At Gatwick, we see it's going remarkably smoothly.

We spoke to one couple who left Corfu this morning. They said the replacement flight was practically the time their flight was meant to leave. The consider themselves lucky.

If there are 150,000 British tourists stranded abroad, that means there are 450,000 tourists who are not British citizens from a number of other countries, including American nationals.

What we've been hearing from them especially on social media is a great deal of frustration, not having had much communication, having no idea about when they're going to get home, and perhaps, most importantly, who's going to pay for them to get home -- Brianna?

KEILAR: Very good point.

Melissa Bell, thank you.

That is it for me.

"NEWSROOM" with Brooke Baldwin starts now.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Brianna, thank you, my friend.

Hi, there. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you for being with me. You are watching CNN.

In a few days, President Trump may come face to face with the president of Ukraine at the U.N. General Assembly. It's a meeting that would take place after a July 25 phone call Trump made to his foreign counterpart has sparked intensifying scrutiny.

A claim of treason by at least one of Trump's 2020 challengers and a potential push toward impeachment for reluctant Democrats.


The day after Robert Mueller testified to Congress, which is also the same day Trump claimed no collusion, said he was vindicated from any accusations he conspired with Russia in the 2016 election. The day after, the president of the United States was on the phone with the president of the Ukraine. And Trump is openly admitting that during that call, he discussed former vice president and potential 2020 rival, Joe Biden, and his son, Hunter, and corruption by one or both men.