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Pentagon Chief Fires Navy Secretary; Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV) is Interviewed on Endorsement of Biden; Trump's Unannounced Hospital Visit; Ginsburg Released from Hospital. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired November 25, 2019 - 08:30   ET




BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN ANCHOR: We are following some breaking news now over in Europe where a manhunt is underway as we speak after what's being called one of the largest art heists in post-war history. Police say the thieves targeted priceless treasures at the 300-year-old Green Vault Museum in Germany's Dresden Castle.

A display case was smashed that contained about 100 pieces. One estimate says the 18th century diamonds, rubies and pearls that were stolen could be worth more than, get this, a billion euros. Police say two suspects were spotted on security camera slipping in through a window. The museum's director says the works are so well-known that it would be impossible to sell them on the open market.


GOLODRYGA: Let's hope they retrieve that as soon as they can.

BERMAN: All right, this morning, an extraordinary controversy at the Pentagon. Varying accounts of why the secretary of the Navy was fired for his handling of a war crimes case involving a Navy SEAL. But on his way out the door, Secretary Richard Spencer is accusing the president of undermining the idea of military discipline. He writes, quote, I no longer share the same understanding with the commander of chief who appointed me in regards to the key principle of good order and discipline. I cannot, in good conscience, obey an order that I believe violates the sacred oath I took.

Joining me now, CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr.

It's a complicated case, Barbara, but at the end of the day, to have a secretary of the Navy say the president doesn't understand or agree with me on military discipline is really stunning.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, it is not something I remember happening around here any time recently. The closest we came, of course, was former Defense Secretary James Mattis resigning because he felt he couldn't follow the president's orders on withdrawing troops from Syria. And that's what happens, if you're a seen official, senior military or

uniformed or civilian, if you cannot follow the president's orders in good conscious, you have to step down.

But this case is so wacky. I don't think there's any other way to put it. Spencer, at the same time, according to Defense Secretary Mark Esper, who fired him yesterday, was engaged in a back channel negotiation with the White House to try and resolve the Gallagher case, to let a review of his status as a Navy SEAL go forward but somehow have a guarantee ahead of time at the end of that review, which was supposed to be impartial, that Gallagher would get to remain a Navy SEAL and retire honorably. You know, if you're following all of that and it's confusing to you, it is confusing up and down the hallways of the Pentagon this morning.

But the real issue, kind of the bottom line, is how did we get here? And there is a good deal of dismay that President Trump, while he had the authority to intervene in these war crimes allegation cases, that maybe he should not have, according to many officials, and he should have just let the military justice system take its course.


BERMAN: In the case of Eddie Gallagher, a Navy SEAL, a petty office with the Navy SEALs, he was accused of war crimes. He was accused of killing an ISIS prisoner, also shooting innocent civilians. He was acquitted on every charge except one, which was taking a picture with a corpse, which is actually a very serious charge inside the Navy SEAL community. But he was acquitted of almost everything. He was demoted.

The president reversed the demotion, right? But then the SEALs said, we want to take away his trident. We want to make a proclamation basically that Eddie Gallagher may not have been guilty of a crime, the court said, but he is not -- he should not be declared a Navy SEAL. He should not have the honor of being considered a Navy SEAL in his retirement.

Now he will be allowed to retire with his trident as a Navy SEAL, which is exactly what the president wanted, correct?

STARR: What the president wanted, and let us be blunt, it is what Fox News wanted. Gallagher and other military personnel involved in these cases have been going to Fox News and have been on their air for a considerable period of time advocating for their cases. The president, we know, listens to Fox News, was listening to what Fox News was saying. This is not an opinion. This is a fact. The president listens to Fox News.

So the bottom line concern this morning is very significant, which is the next time someone misbehaves in the military, if they put their case on Fox News and the president hears it, who is the president of the United States actually going to believe? You know, the issue of good order and discipline in the ranks really is sacrosanct. It is supposed to be maintained independently, impartially without outside influence. Mr. Trump had every right as commander in chief to intervene. He had

the legal right to do so. But the question is, should he have done so and where did he get his information and did it all really come from those troops making their case on Fox News.



BERMAN: Barbara Starr at the Pentagon, thank you very much for being with us this morning and making sense of what is a complicated story.

GOLODRYGA: And Barbara makes such an important point, where else did we hear the president turn to Fox News for information on one of its hosts bashing somebody, Ambassador Yovanovitch, right?


GOLODRYGA: And you saw Mike Pompeo having to reach out to Sean Hannity asking what's going on here. So history repeat itself once again.

Well, the race for president, a big endorsement is coming for Joe Biden today.

BERMAN: Don't say -- OK.


BERMAN: You just gave away the mystery right there.

GOLODRYGA: I'm just reading what's in front of me, John.

BERMAN: You just gave --



BERMAN: So, we have major news for you in the Democratic race for president. Until this moment, right here on NEW DAY, no sitting member of Congress from a key early voting state, one of the four early voting states, has endorsed one of the 18 Democrats running for president. No early state endorsement until right now.

Joining me is Democratic Congresswoman Dina Titus of the state of Nevada, which is the third state to vote along the way here.

Congresswoman, thank you so much for being with us.

And we gave away the mystery on the screen right here, who are you endorsing for president?

REP. DINA TITUS (D-NV): Well, even at 5:30 in the morning Las Vegas time, I'm excited to be endorsing Joe Biden for president. I've seen him up close. I've worked with him in Congress. I've known him for a long time. He's built a broad coalition here in my district. I think he's the best qualified to be president of all the good Democratic candidates and the best position to beat Donald Trump.

BERMAN: You have been on the record expressing concerns that some of the Democratic candidates weren't speaking to people in the suburbs, and some of the moderate areas like the ones you represent that you see as key to flipping the House in 2018.

What specifically are those concerns?

TITUS: Well, our party is a broad party and we have to -- it's like a big tent party. We say that all the time. But I believe that Joe Biden has put together a broad coalition. My district is where most of the Democrats live in Nevada and also is the most ethnically diverse. And if you look at the people he's talking to, they look like the face of the United States and they look like the face of Nevada.

BERMAN: Are you concerned that some of the Democratic candidates are speaking to only the wings of the Democratic Party?

TITUS: Well, I'm not here this morning to criticize the other candidates. I'm here just to talk about what a good candidate I think Joe Biden is. If you look at him and his record over the years, he's been out front on positions that I care about before they were popular. He shepherd Obamacare through the Congress. He was out front on gun violence. I represent the district where the shooting was at the music festival. And, also, he can get things done. He's well respected around the world by foreign leaders and we certainly need to right that ship.

And also he's not just a sound bite guy, he's a sincere person. He's not scripted. And I think that's what you need, that steady hand, to get us moving on the right direction. People trust that, and so I believe he'll win this election.

BERMAN: Well, not scripted and steady hand -- not scripted and steady hand aren't necessarily the same thing here now are they, because when you talk about non-scripted, there is concern amongst some quarters in the Democratic Party about his performance in the debates. And in Iowa there is concern about the energy that he's generating among voters there.

And there was an article today -- and this is -- I know the Biden campaign's excited to get your endorsement today because Nevada is a very important early voting state, but Iowa is the first voting state. And there was concern even among Biden supporters there that he's not generating excitement. One supporter said, in Burlington, Iowa, they are duds, meaning the Biden campaign. I will help, but there's no excitement here. There's nothing. I will do whatever it takes to get him elected, but I can't go down there when there's nothing going on.

So what do you see in Nevada if that's what's happening in Iowa?

TITUS: Well, I don't think that's happening in Iowa either. You may have heard some -- some people say that, but he just got the endorsement from Governor Vilsack, who is very popular and who will generate a lot of excitement. But here in Nevada, he's been here many times over the years

campaigning, even for Senator Reed. He's put together that broad coalition. He's got 40 people on the ground, a number of different offices. He's coming back. Dr. Jill Derby (ph) is coming back. So I think there's a lot of excitement. And I'm glad people are focusing on Nevada because too often they tend to forget that we are the third state. And we look much more like the country at large in terms of our demographics. And that makes a big difference.

BERMAN: That's a really important point right there because Iowa and New Hampshire are not particularly racially diverse, are they? They're fairly white states. And right now it isn't clear who will win those states, but it's possible that Joe Biden doesn't emerge victorious in either Iowa or New Hampshire.

What kind of firewall then do you think that Nevada may provide the vice president?

TITUS: Well, I'm excited about Nevada. We have got a lot of people who are working hard right now to set up the caucuses so we'll be ready.


There's a big turnout machine in the Democratic Party. So there will be people going out to vote. We've got early voting this year. We've got voting in work places so -- to make it easier for people to participate. I'm glad that they're seeing Nevada as third now. You know, Iowa and New Hampshire, they're always close. They may go either way. They've got some favorite sons and daughters in the northeast. But I think Nevada will kind of set the tone for states coming afterwards in Super Tuesday.

BERMAN: Congresswoman Dina Titus of Nevada, thanks for being here. As we said, the first sitting member of Congress from one of the key early voting states to endorse one of the presidential candidates and it happened right here on NEW DAY. Appreciate you being with us.

GOLODRYGA: You were really excited about this build-up to the announcement this morning.

BERMAN: I'm a big fan of firsts. I'm a big fan of firsts.

GOLODRYGA: Yes, I agree.

BERMAN: So it was -- you know, it was a big moment.

GOLODRYGA: I kind of ruined it for you earlier.

Anyway, it still worked. She was excited, right?

BERMAN: Very excited.

GOLODRYGA: Breaking news.

Well, another health scare for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. What will the impact be for the Supreme Court with some major cases on the horizon? We'll speak with Dr. Sanjay Gupta, next.



GOLODRYGA: Well, more than a week after President Trump's unannounced visit to the Walter Reed Medical Center, questions remain about his health.

CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta joins us with more.

Sanjay, great to see you this morning.

And, you're right, we still have no new details. We have the president saying on Tuesday he went for a physical because he had extra time. But as you note, Walter Reed staff was not prepared for his arrival. So that doesn't seem to square.

SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean there's a lot of things here, Bianna, that just don't seem to add up. You know, one of the big things I think medically is when you look at what they say the president had done at Walter Reed, you've got to keep in mind that all those types of laboratory tests, many of these types of testing, can be done at the White House, the White House medical unit. I've seen this before. It's pretty extensive. They can't do all testing, they can't do specialized testing, for example, but a lot of what they say he could have had done was done at the White -- could have been done at the White House.

So, you know, going to Walter Reed for the president is a big deal. You know, it involves -- typically involves an institution wide notice which goes out, if for no other reason, for practical reasons. There's people who do shifts at the hospital. There are certain roads that are closed. There are certain corridors that are closed. That's why people there need to know. That didn't happen this past Saturday. And also we know that there -- it wasn't listed on his public schedule.

So, you know, we don't know. We know he was there under two hours. That's good. It probably means it wasn't something serious or something requiring intensive therapy. But why take the president to Walter Reed? It's a big deal. When the tests they say he could have had done could have been done at the White House itself.

GOLODRYGA: Right. And his doctor, Dr. Sean Conley, issued a letter saying that despite some of the speculation, the president has not had any chest pain, nor was he evaluated or treated for any urgent or acute issues. Specifically, he did not undergo any specialized cardiac or neurologic evaluations.

But as you note, what seems to be striking is that his doctor rode with him in the car to Walter Reed. Why did that interest you and why is that unusual?

GUPTA: Yes, you see the video there. There's Dr. Conley getting in. That doesn't happen, Bianna. I talked to former White House doctors. They say in their entire time there, they never had been in the car with the president. Part of that is just a security protocol. The doctor rides in a separate vehicle.

So, again, it's just unusual. It's strange. It's tough what to make of that.

And, again, I -- you know, I do keep coming back to this point that Dr. Conley himself and the White House staff itself, for this administration, has previously done these tests at the White House, has previously put it on his public schedule, has previously alerted the hospital that they were coming. Many of those things did not happen this time.

GOLODRYGA: And also because his statistics show that he technically does have heart disease, which is something that you finally got the former doctor, Ronny Jackson, to acknowledge previously as well.

GUPTA: Yes, you know, it's interesting, Bianna, you know, people remember Harold Bornstein and the letter that he wrote and it was very, you know, it was very extravagant, floury language, will be the healthiest president ever, his health is astonishingly excellent, stuff like that. That was pretty blatant. And he said after the fact that, you know, he alleges that President Trump dictated that letter to him. But sometimes, to your point, it can be more subtle.


GUPTA: I want you to listen to this exchange.


GUPTA: He does have heart disease, is that what you said?

DR. RONNY JACKSON, PHYSICIAN TO THE PRESIDENT: He does not have heart disease --

GUPTA: No, because he had a CT scan before that showed calcium in his coronary blood vessels.

JACKSON: He does. He did. He had a -- so I think -- so technically he has nonclinical atherosclerotic coronary -- coronary atherosclerosis.


GUPTA: So you can see, Bianna, I mean anything to avoid saying the word disease there. But that's how challenging it can be to get information out of the -- the White House sometimes.

GOLODRYGA: Well, and it's important that you stay on it.

Let me ask you quickly about the latest news out of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. We know that she's at home after checking into the hospital with chills and a fever. She is said to be working from home. That's a positive development. I know you agree with that.

But how concerning is it that she went to the hospital in the first place? GUPTA: Well, you know, it is concerning. She's 86 years old. She was

in the hospital a week and a half ago as well. She started getting sick this past Friday. Ended up going from one hospital to another hospital to Johns Hopkins by ambulance. So they were concerned about her. She did improve with antibiotics and fluids.

But remember, Bianna, you know, she's -- she's had a significant health history these past couple years. Had the fall, cracked her ribs, was found to have cancerous nodules in her lungs. So it is a very positive development that she responded so well to antibiotics.

But, you know, there's -- there's a lot of things that are still going on, so I'm sure they're monitoring her very closely. She was also treated for pancreatic cancer earlier this year. So any of these things, you know, could be -- just things that they've got to keep an eye on.


GOLODRYGA: Yes, well, she is a fighter and we are pulling for her.

Sanjay, thank you. Great to see you this morning, as always.

GUPTA: OK. Thank you.

BERMAN: We are following all kinds of developments this morning.


BERMAN: First you have the situation with the secretary of Navy getting fired, and then criticizing the president in a stunning resignation letter on his way out the door and new details in the impeachment inquiry. Much more right after this.


JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: A very good Monday morning to you. I'm Jim Sciutto. Poppy Harlow has the day off.

This morning, new details on a White House race to rationalize the Ukraine aid freeze after the fact. "The Washington Post" reporting on a confidential review that, quote, turned up hundreds of documents that reveal extensive efforts to generate an after-the-fact justification for the decision and a debate over whether that delay was legal.


White House lawyers are reportedly concerned that internal exchanges could, quote, at minimum embarrass the president. We're going to dig into that.

Also today, a major ruling in the --