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President Biden to Visit Saudi Arabia and Possibly Meet with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Despite His Campaign Promises to Make Saudi Arabia a Pariah State for Murder of Jamal Khashoggi; House January 6th Select Committee Airs Testimony from Former Trump Administration Officials Criticizing President Trump's Beliefs about 2020 Election being Stolen. Aired 8-8:30a ET
Aired June 14, 2022 - 08:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
TREVOR REED, FORMER U.S. MARINE IMPRISONED IN RUSSIA FOR NEARLY THREE YEARS: They could have taken him to an FSB location. It's extremely concerning obviously.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: It is extremely concerning. Trevor, we appreciate you speaking with us. We're going to continue to follow this path that you are walking as you try to get some accountability and also the plight of these other Americans who are in Russian custody. Thank you so much for being with us this morning.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: He looks great. He has gained 30 pounds. The 30 pounds is 30 pounds of pure muscle, I'll say that, Trevor, at this point.
KEILAR: It certainly is. All right, NEW DAY continues right now.
Good morning to our viewers here in the U.S. and around the world. It is Tuesday, June 14th, and I'm Brianna Keilar alongside John Berman this morning. We do begin with major news just in, President Biden will officially be making a controversial trip to Saudi Arabia. What was really an open secret is now being confirmed by the White House. The Middle East trip next month will include visits to Israel as well as the West Bank.
BERMAN: The controversy surrounds what Biden said as a candidate. He vowed it punish the kingdom and make the Saudi Crown Prince a pariah for the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. CNN's Arlette Saenz live at the White House with this official announcement. Arlette, what are they saying?
ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, those comments from President Biden appear to be in the rearview mirror as he is now preparing to travel to Saudi Arabia next month. The White House saying this will be part of a broader trip to the Middle East spanning from July 13th through July 16th, starting with those stops in Israel and the Palestinian West Bank. The president will then travel on to Saudi Arabia, where he will attend the summit of the Gulf Cooperation Council, and he is expected to engage in some way with Saudi's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who just a little over a year ago, an intelligence report showed ordered that operation that killed "The Washington Post" columnist Jamal Khashoggi.
So far, Biden had simply been engaging with the Crown Prince's father King Salman. And in a statement today, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said, quote, "The president appreciates King Salman's leadership and his innovation. He looks forward to this important visit to Saudi Arabia which has been a strategic partner of the United States for nearly eight decades."
But this really represents a remarkable reversal in President Biden's approach to Saudi Arabia. Officials say that the president approved this trip after initially having some reluctance after those promises he had made as a candidate to make Saudi Arabia pay for the murder -- for their role in the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.
Now, but this also comes as we have seen this really shifting global landscape with Russia's invasion of Ukraine and also those soaring energy prices. Now, the president has said over the weekend that he's not going for energy reasons but for national security reasons. But officials have also determined that they feel this is the right time to pursue warmer relations with Saudi Arabia.
Of course, this trip does come with some criticism. There have been Democrats and others who have criticized the possible meeting between Biden and the Crown Prince with Khashoggi's fiance saying that a possible meeting is, quote, horribly upsetting.
BERMAN: Arlette, to be clear, because I want to make sure we are 100 percent clear on this, they have not announced an official meeting between Biden and the Crown Prince?
SAENZ: No, they have not. They have simply said that there will be some type of engagement, that he will be seeing him, but they haven't said specifically if he will be sitting down one on one with the Crown Prince.
BERMAN: Arlette Saenz at White House, thank you very much for that.
KEILAR: Joining us now, CNN senior political analyst John Avlon, columnist on foreign affairs for "Bloomberg," Bobby Ghosh, and CNN senior global affairs analyst Bianna Golodryga. That's interesting, isn't it, that he's going to have some kind of engagement? They're really trying to they're really trying to distance Biden as much as they can from the Crown Prince, but we can see what's happening here, don't you think?
BOBBY GHOSH, COLUMNIST ON FOREIGN AFFAIRS, "BLOOMBERG": If he goes Saudi Arabia and does not meet with the Crown Prince, then the trip is a failure. The Crown Prince rules that country. They can talk about King Salman as much as they like. King Salman is not running the country. He's aged, he's indisposed. His son Crown Prince Mohammed has been running the country for several years now. If the president is going to that country and doesn't meet the person who rules the country, that's not much of a trip. So yes, they can dress this up as much as they like because Biden painted himself into a corner with the pariah statement. But the rude fact is that oil prices are high, he's going to the world's largest oil producer, he needs them to open the taps, and there is only one man who can do that. That is Crown Prince Mohammad.
JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: The reality is that pariah states don't presidential visits. But foreign policy is always about hierarchy of needs, and right now with Russia invading Ukraine, domestic oil prices rising, one of the open questions has been will OPEC and Saudi in particular either increase its production or can it alleviate some oil prices by redirecting its assets. They have refused to do so. And some people think that's because of political concerns. Not only Biden's criticism of MBS, but the Trump administration's previous refusal to ever criticize the Saudi government, particularly in the wake of Khashoggi. So this is an economic and geopolitical imperative, and that seems to be getting precedent over those campaign promises.
BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN SECURITY GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: And they have announced, OPEC Plus has announced just recently, and they will release and produce more oil for the months of July and August. I would imagine behind the scenes there is some talks going on about deliverables from both sides, right? You don't want to see President Biden with more egg on his face than he already has given his past comments.
Obviously, the world has changed. First of all, he's not a candidate. He's the president of the United States. We have gone through the pandemic. We have seen Russia, another major oil producer, invade a sovereign country, thus sending global oil prices around the world up. The United States is energy independent. Remember, oil is more of a fungible commodity, so when oil prices go up, the United States can't isolate itself without being impacted by this. And there are foreign policy implications out of this trip. The main issue obviously is what we're seeing in terms of oil prices and the president feeling pressure ahead of the midterm elections.
But Saudi Arabia has a lot to gain out of this trip as well. They have been deemed a global pariah. This is an opportunity for MBS to have some sort of reemergence on a global stage. There is that ceasefire right now in Yemen, the temporary ceasefire, and there are talks about President Biden wanting to see more concrete steps perhaps from the Saudis entering the Abraham Accords that were started by President Trump.
GHOSH: I think the twinning it with the Israel trip is very important. That's a signal as well about the changing realities in the Middle East, in the -- particularly Israel's relations with the Gulf countries. For Israel, the big get now is Saudi Arabia. They're waiting for Saudi Arabia to sign up for the Abraham Accords and normalize relations with the two countries. There's a lot of relations between the two countries taking place behind the scenes. The received wisdom is that MBS, the Crown Prince, is keen to make
that deal, but is waiting for his father, who is of another generation and doesn't feel comfortable making that.
BERMAN: And as part of this trip, obviously the Israel part of this trip is equally as important. but I don't think there's any hiding that the major function of this trip, it would not be happening but for the situation in Ukraine, but for the rise in gasoline prices around the world. And I talked to Chris Coons last week, who is as close of an ally as you can get with Joe Biden in the Senate, and Chris Coons says, basically in stark words, you to balance oil prices with human rights, and this is a case where oil is winning out over human rights.
AVLON: It is not just oil prices. It is also strategic alliances that go back to 1945. It is not always apparent on the surface, particularly in recent decades, but the U.S. and the Saudi government have had a long-standing strategic arrangement and relationship. And initially it was oil for security, but really it is being a linchpin in the region. So that's part of the pressure that's being brought to bear on Biden.
GOLODRYGA: And it is also to separate and distance the closeness that we have seen, or further development in relations between the Saudis and China. So I would say geopolitics plays a huge role in all of this. But I agree with you, John, if we didn't have Russia invading Ukraine right now, and if we weren't coming out of the pandemic where we have seen this huge shock to the system in terms of commodity prices, I don't think this trip would be happening right now.
KEILAR: And to your point, why not just be transparent about that? I think that question is going to continue to dog them. Bobby, John, Bianna, thank you so much, all of you. Appreciate it.
BERMAN: So the January 6th committee aired videotaped testimony from members of former President Trump's own inner circle, the very people who were involved with trying to get him reelected. Multiple folks explaining how they had pushed back against Trump's claims about election fraud and saying what they really thought.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAM BARR, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: This stuff that his people were shoveling out to the public was bullshit.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not true.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nuts.
BARR: Complete nonsense. Completely bogus and silly.
I thought, boy, if he really believes this stuff, he has lost contact with -- he's become detached from reality. If he really believes this stuff.
RICHARD DONOGHUE, FORMER ACTING DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: Not supported by the evidence.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They don't pan out.
BARR: Crazy stuff.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I said to him, are you out of your f-ing mind? I said I only want to hear two words coming out of your mouth from now on, "orderly transition."
BARR: On the other hand, when I went into this, and would, you know, tell him how crazy some of these allegations were, there was never -- there was never an indication of interest in what the actual facts were.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: The committee is set to hold its next public hearing tomorrow. Joining us now, CNN political analyst Maggie Haberman and -- who is a senior political correspondent for "The New York Times," I should add -- and Philip Bump, national correspondent at "The Washington Post."
Maggie, I want to start with where the committee really ended yesterday with the claim from Zoe Lofgren that the big lie became a big grift, those were her words, that the Trump campaign or post Trump campaign was trying to raise money off of the big lie. We since learned from her interview with Jake and other people afterwards that the committee found information that Kimberly Guilfoyle was paid $60,000 to speak at the rally on January 6th, $60,000 for a speech that was, what, three minutes --
MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: If that.
BERMAN: If that, three minutes long. And what have you heard over the last several hours since that revelation about how people in Trump world feel about this?
HABERMAN: So I want to say two things about that. People in Trump world are sharing that clip, they are aghast that this is the amount of money she got for a speech to introduce her boyfriend. They couldn't really get over -- I had one former adviser say to me essentially these were folks who were raising money in small amounts from retirees, telling them this was going to some legal fight that didn't really happen, and instead Kimberly Guilfoyle is getting paid. But this is the whole ecosystem. So it is fine that some people are upset about this, but there's some level of this that often goes on around Trump, and it shouldn't be a surprise to anyone.
KEILAR: Sure. We have seen the way he deals with finances before.
HABERMAN: Right, that's right. KEILAR: The way the system around him operates. Do you think Trump supporters care, Phil? Are they going to be mad that retirees who are on a fixed income donating a few dollars, and it goes someplace where they are not expecting it to go?
PHILIP BUMP, NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, "THE WASHINGTON POST": I think there is two aspects to the question. The first is the extent to which they're going to be familiar with the details of this, the broader question about the January 6th committee in general. But secondarily, if you look at actually the timeline here, Donald Trump's Save America PAC raised nine figures last year. It raised tens of millions of dollars well after there was any case to be made for a legal fight against the election results. The last legal fight ended the end of 2020, but he is still raising tens of millions of dollars from folks. So it seems as though a lot of this money is showing -- expressing support for Donald Trump, which is something, I looked, yesterday, he sent out 1,700 emails, right. This is something that has been ongoing for a long period of time. It's totally detached from the election results itself, so I find it hard to believe this will make much of a dent.
BERMAN: The former president put out this 12-page response yesterday, which included more lies about election fraud. Maggie, what are you hearing in terms of his perception of what's happening in these hearings? Are there things that sting more than others?
HABERMAN: There are. I want to say one thing about what we were just saying about whether this will make a difference with his voters. It may not, but it might make a difference with legal officials, right. There is a fraud aspect that they're looking at here. So this is not purely politics. So that's one.
In terms of his response, he put out a 12-page screed, for lack of a better way of putting it, last night, defending himself essentially and saying that he believed all of these things that were being said, because look at what was said in conservative media. This is why I went with this, this is why I went with that. He's clearly setting up a defense, either publicity-wise or possibly legal, to say I really did believe this, therefore I didn't do anything wrong. And we will see where that all goes.
KEILAR: The topic for Wednesday's hearing is Trump corruptly planned to replace the attorney general so the Justice Department would spread his false stolen election claims. How do you see -- I would imagine, of course, Bill Barr is going to factor again very largely in this. How do you see this playing out?
BUMP: This is the story that we heard, right, where there was this effort to try and replace the head of the Justice Department, in order to put more focus, particularly on Georgia, this guy who sort of came up through the ranks out of nowhere to potentially be that person, who all of a sudden is in charge of the Justice Department. I think the important thing to remember about this is what the committee is trying to do is not simply say here's what happened at the Capitol. They are instead trying to say here is this broad push to try and steal a second term in office for Donald Trump, that happened to manifest on January 6th at the Capitol in a riot, but also manifested in all these other ways as well.
And since the committee's focus is in part trying to figure out how do you block this from happening in the future, this is an important part of that. How you to make it so that a president can't simply say, you know what, all of a sudden there is a new head of the Justice Department and we're pointing at fraud in Georgia. How do you keep that from happening? And I think this is an important part of that story.
BERMAN: Can I just pick up on one thing you were saying there about what the president's defense might be going forward and the results of this 12-page thing, because it gets to the Bill Barr testimony yesterday, and the one sentence that a lot of people think was the singular headline from it, which was that Trump was detached from reality.
HABERMAN: What he said is if he really believes this then he is detached from reality. I don't think that he was adjudicating whether Trump believed it or not. I think the other thing you were seeing the committee try to show is he should have known this wasn't true.
Even if he wanted to believe it, even if he really did believe it, there were so many people, part of what was so key about Barr's testimony other than the fact that it was breath taking from a former attorney general, and a person who was seen by a lot of people as doing what Trump wanted throughout that presidency at various points.
But Barr was basically saying, we looked at this. It's not that we just dismissed this outright. The Justice Department went over all of these claims. We ran these things to ground, there was nothing there. And Trump was still insisting it was.
So that if I think was important, I don't know what that if will mean, if anything legally.
BERMAN: Maggie Haberman, Philip Bump, great to see you both in person. Thanks so much.
Senator Dick Durbin will join us, as CNN learns of a cold reception by Republican senators on the gun safety deal.
KEILAR: Plus, Wall Street enters a bear market. Suze Orman will join us live on what Americans should be doing with their money.
BERMAN: The top Republican in the gun safety talks, Senator John Cornyn of Texas, says he hopes to have legislative text on the bipartisan deal by the end of the week so Senator Chuck Schumer can put a bill on the floor next week. This as a gun group has begun its efforts to lobby against the framework.
Joining me now is Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, the Democratic whip and chair of the Judiciary Committee. Mr. Chairman, thank you so much for being with us this morning.
Ten Republicans have signed on to the framework. How confident are you that they will be there once the legislative text comes out?
SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL): I feel very positively about it. I can tell you that there are other Republican senators who are taking a hard look at it. I hope that we can get more than ten to join the Democrats in this effort. The more bipartisan, the better.
BERMAN: You hope. Are you confident?
DURBIN: Well, I can't say at this moment -- at this point. I don't want to overreach. But I will tell you that these ten have shown extraordinary leadership. I think they're going to hear from their constituents in a positive way and I hope others will join them.
BERMAN: You know some of the gun groups are lobbying already against the framework. What impact do you think that will have?
DURBIN: Well, it's going to have some impact. Don't gainsay that development. It was expected they aren't going to go down without a fight. They have really been for almost 30 years in (INAUDIBLE) in terms of the reach of the political class and trying to change the basic laws of this country.
Now we have 400 million firearms in America. We have almost daily repetition of these mass shootings. The American people said for god's sake, do something to Congress. I think this is a step in the right direction and I want to move on it quickly if we can.
BERMAN: Senator, one of the most novel areas inside the framework deals with 18 to 20-year-olds purchasing AR-15 style weapons with an expanded background check, to be able to look into the juvenile records.
Do you have any specifics about exactly how that would work?
DURBIN: Well, that's exactly what we're trying to do in crafting a language this week.
I spoke to Chris Murphy, the senator from Connecticut who headed this on the Democratic side, on Sunday, and made it clear that the resources and the Senate Judiciary Committee on our side are all available to him. So, some of our staff will be working with his staff to put that together.
And this is one of the elements, too. We want to make sure that if we say in the United States you have to be 21 to buy a handgun, what about these military assault weapons? We want to make sure we know people buying them under the age of 21 and whether there is anything in their background that raises a serious question.
BERMAN: There is actually some concern, or questions raised by a Democrat on this measure yesterday. Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio- Cortez, this is what she said about the specific provision.
She says: Particularly with the juveniles criminalization of background checks into juvenile records and once you explore how specifically it's designed, and after Columbine, we hired thousands of police officers into schools, and while it didn't prevent many of the mass shootings that we see now, it has increased the criminalization of teens in communities like mine, so I really want to dig into that.
She's suggesting that opening up these records might open up some new doors into criminalization. How concerned are you about that?
DURBIN: It is a very legitimate concern. And it really calls for some balancing, which is going to be extraordinary.
I think we can rise to the occasion. Listen, we looked at this one individual attacking in Uvalde and you say how did he possibly come into ownership of these weapons at that age? At age 18, to buy $6,000 worth of weapons at a gun store and ammunition.
I mean, it if there's any suggestion in his background, local police department, juvenile records that slows down that process, I think that's what we're trying to achieve. But in order to reach that, we don't want to criminalize young people who might have been detained after school. I'd be in that category myself once and a while in my young life and to be criminalized for that is to step over the bounds we want to set.
BERMAN: If only I had the time to explore how and why you were detained when you were in school, but now right now.
Listen, I want to ask a very serious matter, because the White House just announced that President Biden will be paying a visit to Saudi Arabia.
You have been very critical of the Saudi regime over time. You called for the recall of the Saudi ambassador after the killing of Jamal Khashoggi. And just a few months ago, you wrote, quote: It's been three years since the brutal murder of Jamal Khashoggi and we still wait for real accountability. Saudi Arabia must answer for its premeditated and cowardly crime.
Senator, how do you feel about the president of the United States, a country that candidate Biden said he wanted to make a pariah state, visiting the regime?
DURBIN: Listen, I respect President Biden. I know he has a tough job dealing with gasoline prices, trying to find ways to find new sources and supplies to bring down inflation and the energy sector. And Saudi Arabia is a major player, full stop.
Next point I want to make is that the Saudi Arabia record, particularly when it comes to Khashoggi, is an outrage. It is the type of thing that clearly it was a designed murder, and effort to dispose of the corpse in a way that it could never be discovered. We now know what happened, at least to a large extent, and to say that's the ordinary course of business for a government is outrageous. So I have mixed feelings on this and if the president called me, I'd
say, Mr. President, you can't trust these people.
Their standards are not our standards, their values are not ours.
BERMAN: You would tell him not to go?
DURBIN: Well, I would give them that counsel. But I understand why he's trying to balance this and America is hopeful that he's successful in getting more oil into the pipelines so that we could reduce the price of gasoline and energy.
BERMAN: Senator Dick Durbin, thank you for being with us.
DURBIN: You bet.
BERMAN: We are going to be joined by John Kirby from the White House on this controversial trip.
KEILAR: Plus, a bear market, stocks sliding, 401(k)s getting hammered. Suze Orman is going to join us on the chaotic economy and what you can do about it.
And the river keeps rising. All entrances at Yellowstone National Park closed now for the next two days.
KEILAR: New this morning, the Biden administration confirming that the president will travel to Israel, the West Bank and Saudi Arabia next month. The president set to attend a summit and meet with his counterparts across the region.
Joining us to talk about this is John Kirby, the National Security Council coordinator for strategic communications at the White House.