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Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) is Interviewed on the Russian Bounty Intel; Stimulus Program for Businesses Winding Down; Small Business Owners Face Uncertainty; EU Bans Americans From Travel to Europe. Aired 9:30-10a

Aired June 30, 2020 - 09:30   ET




JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Right now, Democrats are being briefed on the intelligence that Russia offered bounties to the Taliban to kill U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan. The president says he never knew about it, was never briefed on it, but a U.S. official says that the intel was in fact included in one of the president's daily intelligence briefings sometime this spring.

The veracity of that intel in question, but the official also said, quote, this was a big deal. When it's about U.S. troops, you go after it 100 percent with everything you've got. National Security Council staff even held a meeting in the spring to discuss possible response options.

Joining me now is Republican Congressman, and U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Adam Kinzinger, who served in Afghanistan and was briefed on the intelligence, joining me now.

Congressman, we appreciate you taking the time this morning.


SCIUTTO: So CNN has now confirmed that this intelligence was included in the president's PDB, as it's known, presidential daily brief. The written version of the PDB. Are you satisfied that the White House's explanation that the president knew nothing about this intelligence?

KINZINGER: Well, I am satisfied that he didn't know. And here's why. So -- so the -- the gist of what happened, as I understand it, so presidential daily brief, it's not something just for the president. It's all senior level people.

So cabinet secretaries, et cetera, usually 50 to 60 pages a day. And typically what happens -- and from what I understand, this is the administration's prior, is during the week then they are briefed kind of on the top line. It's a CIA or whoever executive that comes in, that says, here's what you need to be aware of, can drill into anything more, and that person made the decision that since there's conflicting evidence, to leave that out.

Anything maybe that he was advised or happened before that, I don't know. But in terms of that moment, that's what I understand. And I think the biggest issue here, now hopefully the president's been spun up, the -- the whole -- the evidence is still being gathered in essence by the intelligence agencies. And if it's found out that this is true, then, obviously, there needs to be a pretty harsh response to that.

SCIUTTO: I do want to get to the response, but you served in Afghanistan. You've maintained contact with U.S. forces and commanders on the ground there. If you were commander in chief, would you not want to know even about early intelligence that Russia was paying the Taliban to kill U.S. forces on the ground? As you know, that information was shared with U.S. commanders on the ground and they took measures to increase force protection. So they were taking it seriously.

KINZINGER: Yes, and it was shared with our allies too. You know, it's basically like, hey, we have -- we have indications this may be happening. Be aware. Be prepared. We're going to see what more information we can get.

If I was president, I absolutely would want to know. If I was briefing the president, I would probably brief him to that extent. But I don't think that necessarily means that whatever decisions were made at the moment, that the president, based on that, absolutely knew. So I don't necessarily see a scandal in that is my point.

The bigger issue though is, when we do -- if we get corroborating evidence, what is that?

Now, the fact that the story is out there can do one of two things. It could potentially flush out more evidence or it could make the whole trail of evidence go cold. So, you know, who knows from here out.

SCIUTTO: Let me ask you this. The president said a lot of things. He's tweeted a lot of things since this story broke. He has said he didn't know anything about it. He's attacked "The New York Times" and he's -- he's attacked protesters repeatedly. He has not uttered one word critical of Russia or the Russian president, which U.S. intelligence show, and, again, not confirmed but some did, he was targeting U.S. forces in Afghanistan. Why is that?

KINZINGER: Yes, I don't know. I mean that -- that bothers me that, you know, what it's Xi of China, whether it's Putin, you don't get bad words against them from the Twitter handle. You'll get it, you know, about Germany, for instance.

I don't know why that is. I can look at -- and I won't go through all of it, but you can look at the reaction we've had to Russian and it's been pretty Russian hawk administration. You look at the 300 Russians soldiers and mercenaries that were killed just a year and a half ago as an example. But why he doesn't say it, I don't know.

I think there's a lot of people confused by that, but I don't think that necessarily means that the administration itself has not been hawkish against Russia. And I'm -- I'm actually broadly concerned about the policy in Afghanistan. I think a precipitous pullout would be dangerous long term for this country.

SCIUTTO: I want to show you the number of times that the president has spoken to Vladimir Putin since this intelligence was included in his PDB. We have a calendar. March 30th, April 9th, April 10th, April 12th, May 7th, June 1st. Six times. Not once did he raise a threat to U.S. forces with the Russian president here. Not even a warning.

Shouldn't the president have said to Putin, you better not be targeting our service members on the ground in Afghanistan?

KINZINGER: I mean, again, yes, I would. There's a lot of questions about was, you know -- why wasn't he briefed on this?


There will probably be a lot more information to come out. So if he wasn't, then, obviously, he's not going to bring that up with Vladimir Putin.

That said, you know, I was upset that he had mentioned that Vladimir Putin should be included in the G-8 again. Absolutely not. He hadn't left, you know, the Crimea -- Crimea. So, it is what it is.

I just think -- I don't know if the scandal is that the president knew and did anything. I'm not sure he did know. I don't think he did. And then the scandal then would be, well, why didn't he know? And then, ultimately, what are we going to do if we find out it's true?


I want to ask you about another topic because, as you know, there's, of course, a push to remove confederate names from U.S. military bases and you serve and still serve your country as a lieutenant colonel in the Air Force. And this has become part now of the next defense package here. Do you support renaming those bases, taking the names of confederate generals off those bases, and should it be part of the next defense spending measure?

KINZINGER: Yes, I do support it. Here's my concern. I haven't actually seen the language of what's in this -- in this bill. Supposedly it has anybody that's ever been associated with the confederacy, any room, any name of a boardroom, or anybody that has ever basically done untoward behavior. So it depends how broad this is.

But I have -- I absolutely think we -- I had no idea that these bases were named after confederate generals. But I think we can modernize it. Think of the heroes that have died in war, you know, since the Civil War that we can now honor with the name of a base. I think it's the right thing to do.

What my hope is, is the people putting this amendment forward are not trying to make it a political thing, you know, so that Republicans vote against this because it's too broad, and we can just actually get this problem fixed.

SCIUTTO: Yes, just quickly, before we go, because you mentioned response to Russia. If it is confirmed that Russia offered these bounties, what does the president need to order in terms of retaliation against Russia?

KINZINGER: Well, you know, Russia needs to be aware that we killed Soleimani, who killed 600 U.S. soldiers. There's a lot of people that said it would start World War III. It didn't, by the way. It was the right move.

So I think, you know, whether it may be targeted action against any units on the ground, increased sanctions against any units specifically on the ground, because most of the Russian military and operatives are sanctioned anyway, you know, there's a lot of sanctions levied on Russian. To the extent we can do more, we should. And, obviously, be aware of their action there and defend American interests and our ally's interest in the region.

SCIUTTO: Congressman Adam Kinzinger, thanks for taking the hard questions this morning.


SCIUTTO: Well, some businesses face another shutdown as coronavirus cases rise. It could be the crushing blow for those businesses in this pandemic and now there are just hours left to apply for a loan from the government to save those businesses.



SCIUTTO: Well, if you own a small business, the Paycheck Protection Program ends today. Small business owners who want to apply for loans have until a minute before midnight to do it. With more than $500 billion already distributed, has the program worked?

With me now, CNN business correspondent Alison Kosik.

Alison, good to have you on.

One initial question is, there's still $134 billion that has not been spent yet. Why is that? What happens to that money?

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Well, from what I'm hearing, lawmakers have committed to rolling that $134 billion, if it's unused by midnight of course, into the next stimulus program.

Now, you asked whether or not this was a success. Well, you know what, you asked lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, you ask economists, they say, yes, this -- for all -- for all intents and purposes this was a success because what it wound up doing is giving money to small businesses so they can keep their employees on their payrolls.

So we're talking about millions of employees at small businesses, small businesses, by the way, are the backbone of this economy, so propping then up is vital. But the reality is, more aid is going to be necessary.

Now, I've had a lot of time to be at home lately, so I've gone around to a lot of small businesses here on Long Island who took PPP loans, asking them, like dry cleaners, optical stores, liquor stores, how are you doing? And they say, you know what, the PPP loans helped, but the reality is, that money is going to run out. We're now looking at August.

We've got that rent. We've got those expenses and payroll. Their hope is, is that there's going to be another tranche of aid. There's no guarantee, though, despite, Jim, bipartisan support for more aid that could be on the way. I'm not seeing that urgency that we saw in April. Also, it looks like Congress isn't even going to take up the issue until after their July 4th recess.


SCIUTTO: Alison Kosik, thanks very much.

Joining me now, one of those small business owner, Paul Medrano. He owns two bars in Tampa, Florida. He's had to shut them down for a second time as coronavirus cases spike in the state.

Mr. Medrano, thank you for taking the time this morning.


SCIUTTO: So you followed the guidelines when you reopened. You provided masks for customers. You rearranged the tables to put the space -- recommended space between them. But you say other bars did not.

Is that what you blame in part for this resurgence?

MEDRANO: I -- I -- there's -- just like any other situation, there's 20 percent that make it terrible for the rest of us. And, yes, there was offenders. And I'm -- I'm upset about that because we have too much to lose as a society and too much to lose as businesses. And, yes, I am upset. It's the same offenders. I just -- I want code enforcement to go out there and put these people in their place, in line, you know, and stop the violations.

So, yes, we --

SCIUTTO: Do you believe --


SCIUTTO: Understood.

Listen, it's a tough balancing act, right, that communities have to do here, right, because they want to control the spread, but they also want businesses like yours to be able to do business, right?


They don't want you to have to close down here.

You're aware of the attention focused on bars given that by their nature they bring people together, often indoors, and in closed, confined spaces. Is there a safe way, in your view, to reopen a business like your own?

MEDRANO: Well, yes. I mean, you've just got to follow the guidelines. I mean, the problem is some of these bars are overflowing. They're absolutely not in compliance. And there's no code enforcement. If one of these bars gets shut down, it sends a message to everybody else. And by closing the bars down, you're not really solving the problem because restaurants then turn into bars.

They're not -- they're not enforcing the 51 percent food versus liquor, so all you're doing is relocating the people and not solving the problem. There's got to be some common sense stuff that's in play if you want to solve the problems. And there isn't.

SCIUTTO: There has been a lot of debate in Florida, right, about the idea of statewide versus tailored, local responses to this. And that's created a lot of confusion. We've talked to politicians. We've talked to business owners like yourself.

In your view, does there -- does there have to be at least a statewide, perhaps a national policy so everybody knows what the rules are and they follow them?

MEDRANO: Well, that's a big problem because, you know, this is a -- this is a gut punch, you know. You've got no notice, no information going forward. You know, what do we tell our creditors? What do we tell our employees? You know, we're going to have to borrow some money to survive. And a lot of bars aren't going to survive. So at least give us some -- some parameters that everybody has to adhere to and, yes, that would help. That would help. I don't know what to do. I don't know what to tell my employees.


MEDRANO: I mean, like, direct them back to unemployment, which they didn't get in the first place? So, yes, I mean, maybe something concrete and I'll work with them. And I think everybody would.

SCIUTTO: So I understand, you were able to get some of this PPP funding, paycheck protection funding. But, of course, that runs out, right? I mean all this stuff has a time limit on it. As Congress debates another round of stimulus and, as you know, there's some opposition to that, for a business like yours, do you need more help and what kind of help?

MEDRANO: Absolutely. And I'm not the only one. I'm talking about bars in general because, I mean, you guys just -- you guys just cut us off. I mean we were doing OK. We were about 70 percent of our old numbers. We were very happy with that. Tips were coming in good for my employees. And we were open three weeks. I need more time to pay my employees. The PPP in a small bar doesn't go far. And when -- now we're back to -- again, we're going to have to borrow some money.

So I'm going to have to come out of pocket, which was a thriving business, to survive. And there's some people that aren't in the position I'm in. So, yes, there's got to be -- I don't know, nobody's bailing us out, bro (ph). Somebody might consider it.


MEDRANO: You know, they bail everybody else out and what about the small guys? We need help too.


You know the importance of masks and by your own example because you, listen, you required -- you provided masks for customers when they came in. As you know, the president and other national leaders have resisted setting that example. How important is wearing a mask to your customers and to keeping a business like yours open?

MEDRANO: It's very important. I don't understand the pushback. It's common sense. You know, common sense just makes sense in a lot of different situations. This is obvious, you know, you don't want to spread the disease. We have had -- it's tough to turn people away when you have a business that needs money. You know, we've had people that come to the front door without a mask, we tell them, you can't come in. And they're not happy. As a matter of fact, they say a couple of things and they walk away. That is rare, but it happens.

So everybody wear a mask. It's just common sense. It's something that we will always -- you know, our bartenders wear a mask, our customers wear masks. Once you sit down in Florida, you can take the mask off, but you've got to come in here and you've got to put it on when you walk around. Please put a mask on, it's common sense.

SCIUTTO: Fair enough.

Well, we've said listen to your doctor. Now I'll say listen to your bartender.

Paul Medrano, thanks very much. We wish you and your business the best of luck.

MEDRANO: Thank you. Thank you so much. You guys take care and be safe.

SCIUTTO: We'll be right back.



SCIUTTO: This just in to CNN. Truly remarkable news.

The EU has published its list of countries with which it will start lifting travel restrictions on them following the outbreak of coronavirus. The U.S., notably, not on that list.

Let's go to CNN's Fred Pleitgen. He is in Brussels.

Fred, this is remarkable when you look at the list of countries, and the U.S., well, one of the most richest countries in the world excluded because of the continuing outbreak here.

FRED PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, absolutely, Jim. It certainly is quite remarkable news that American travelers will continue to be banned from coming into the European Union. The EU just literally came out with this list a couple of minutes ago, and it's 15 countries that are on the list. There certainly is some notable ones on there.

For instance, China is on the list despite the fact that, obviously, the virus originally started in China. There's a little bit of reciprocity there, though. The European Union saying that China does need to let Europeans in if they are going to let Chinese tourists in -- from coming here.

But one of the things that you just said is absolutely correct, there are a lot of countries on this list who are a lot less wealthy than the United States and whose health care systems are a lot less funded than the ones in the United States and who have still managed to beat back the coronavirus pandemic.

You go through the list, for instance, Algeria, Georgia, Montenegro, Morocco, Tunisia, Serbia, and Rwanda have all been deemed by the European Union essentially to be doing a more efficient job in beating back the pandemic than the United States has been doing so far.


Now, there's very little in the way of statements in all of this, but the European Union has said from the very beginning that this is not a political decision on their part. This is all simply rooted in scientific data. They say they want to see the cases go down significantly in countries to let the tourists back in. So far they say the U.S. simply isn't doing a good enough job at that and certainly the Trump administration as well, Jim.


It's in the numbers. And, in fact, the numbers are going up in this country, not going down.


SCIUTTO: Fred Pleitgen, remarkable developments there. Thanks very much.

In just minutes, Dr. Anthony Fauci and CDC Director Robert Redfield will testify on The Hill as coronavirus cases across the country continue to climb. We're going to bring you their comments as they happen live. Notice they're wearing masks there.