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Trump Called White House Staffer; Don Lemon Speaks to Ex-Oath Keeper; Biden Comments on Iran Nuclear Deal; Top Gun Surpasses Titanic. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired July 14, 2022 - 08:30   ET



ASTEAD HERNDON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Away from that, so that decision is coming just from the Department of Justice. But there is increasing pressure from folks looking at the Department of Justice to act. And we recently had stories from other outlets saying that, you know, some people are fearful, particularly when it comes to Mark Meadows and chief of staff that that is where some of that attention could be focused. That all comes from the Department of Justice.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: You know, Maggie, you point out there's a lot we do not know about this particular call. But you know as well as anyone from all your reporting, plus a book I know you're writing that's coming out in the fall, that there is history that you do know about Donald Trump placing phone calls and having conversations with people who were involved with different aspects of an investigation and testimony.

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: The big one that comes to mind, obviously, is Michael Cohen. Donald Trump reached out to Michael Cohen, his former personal lawyer, in April of 2018, right after Michael Cohen's apartment, hotel room and office were searched by the FBI. And, you know, that basically a message of, stay strong. And so it's obviously not out of character to think that Donald Trump would do something like this. He has been, I'm told, telling aides, you know, he doesn't know what this is all about. There was a mad scramble within his world in the last day and a half to try to figure out what this could be.

The problem for Donald Trump's aides, as it was in the White House, as it is now, as it ever was, is that he is not always, shall we say, candid with them about what he is doing. It's also possible he did something and doesn't remember. It's equally possible that he did something and just doesn't want to tell them.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Does this speak as well, Astead, to how much Donald Trump is paying attention to this testimony and how irritating he finds these hearings?

HERNDON: I mean, it's clear that he is irritated by these hearings. That's made explicit by this recent action. That's implicit from his posts on Truth Social all through these hearings. He is consistently reacting in real time to these and he is clearly feeling the pressure from them.

You know, in our latest "New York Times"/Siena polling on this, you do see that it is taking root with some even Republicans who are then rethinking their relationship to Donald Trump. His approval rating among Republicans has dipped somewhat. He still has a plurality of support relative to other people. But you are seeing this take root among some.

And so there's both an outside perception that Trump is trying to beat back to say that these January 6th hearings are not a kind of -- or not -- should not change the way his supporters view him or others view him, but there's also a kind of what he is doing for himself. He is just defending himself in the same way we have seen Donald Trump do this for the last five or six years. If anyone says anything against the good name of Donald Trump, he's going to attack them.

And so that is explicit by this reach out to this witness, but we know that he has done that through tweets, through posts, privately and publicly for the entirety that he has been on the political stage.

BERMAN: All right, Astead Herndon, Maggie Haberman, thank you both so much for being here this morning.

So, the former Oath Keeper propagandist who testified about a new civil war is warning America, pay attention to the rise of extremism. Don Lemon joins us, and he brought the morning papers.




KEILAR: The January 6th committee hearings shedding new light on the rising radicalization of far right groups in America. Watch this clip from Don Lemon's show.


RUTH BEN-GHIAT, HISTORY PROFESSOR, NEW YORK UNIVERSITY: One of the benefits of the hearings is to put awareness on how radicalized the GOP has become because January 6th happened because of radicalization already, but it was in itself a highly -- it was like an accelerant. It's where -- it was like a recruiting place.

And I think that awareness is our watch word to make sure that we can do things to prevent this from festering further. I don't think a lot of people know that on the local and state level there's a lot of intermingling and fusion between extremists and the GOP. And I really see the GOP as an extremist entity now.

So, it's not just that Oath Keepers or Proud Boys can become the militia wing or the paramilitary wing of the party. The party itself is morphing into an extremist force. And so going forward that's what I'm really worried about.

DON LEMON, CNN HOST, "DON LEMON TONIGHT": Do you agree with that, Jason?

JASON VAN TATENHOVE, FORMER OATH KEEPERS SPOKESPERSON: I do. I do. I think we're seeing it in Idaho. We're seeing it in the Pacific Northwest, where more and more candidates are running that have close ties or, you know, outright encouraged to run. You know, we've seen people like Matt Shea (ph) and others who really have a world view that I don't want to live in.

LEMON: So, what's the fix?

VAN TATENHOVE: The fix is us. Like, we've got to have these conversations. We've got to be talking about this. We've got to stop mincing words. We've got to -- you know, we've all had these conversations on our - on our couches with our family about how crazy things have gotten, but we've got to figure it out. We can't stop.


KEILAR: Joining us now is the anchor of CNN's "DON LEMON TONIGHT" and the author of "This Is the Fire: What I Say To My Friends About Racism," Don Lemon.

And that was fascinating.


KEILAR: Especially what Jason Van Tatenhove was nodding along with as we heard that professor speaking.

LEMON: The entire interview. And I said to him on the set and to the audience, that it was really surreal sitting there with someone who identified in some way with the Oath Keepers, whether he was a member or worked for them, a spokesperson, what have you. But sitting there with this guy who is, you know, worked with a group who was part of the insurrection, who's been part of the tearing down of democracy, who has been demonizing people like me and you who work for the media, people of color, women, and, you know, going into the Capitol and trying to steal a free and fair election. It was, you know, one of the most surreal moments I think I've ever had on CNN when he walked into the studio. I said that.

But speaking very soberly about the realities of America and American politics right now. We sit around and we talk about these things and we want to give this false equivalence to Democrats and Republicans. That is not where we are right now. Republicans are doing something that is very dangerous to our society.


And we have to acknowledge that. We have to acknowledge that as Americans. We must acknowledge that as journalists because if we don't we're not doing our jobs. We cannot sit here and pretend like, well, Republicans, it's a -- cut them a break. Let's -- we want to hear, whatever.

They have a lot to answer for in this moment. A lot to answer for what happened with the former president of the United States, why they allowed his antics to go on for so long. Why he is not accountable. Why they go along with it and don't say anything. They've got to answer for that. Why they are -- whether you agree with abortion rights or not -- why they have taken back a right that was -- that was granted to American women for 50 years. They have to answer for those questions.

If they come here on CNN, they must answer for that. If they go on MSNBC, they must answer for that. If they go on ABC, they must answer for that. And they cannot expect to be coddled when they go on to a news organization or if they step in front of a crowd of supporters. And so -- or of voters or of Americans. So we've got to be so - we have a former member of the Oath Keepers who is saying, we are in very dangerous territories -- territory. We have a history professor who is telling us right now that the GOP is becoming more and more associated with extremists and radicals.

BERMAN: And that's what -- and that's specifically what they were talking about that was interesting and notable, the suggestion that there's bleed over -

LEMON: Right.

BERMAN: Between the Oath Keepers and they talked about -- I think they brought up Idaho, the Pacific Northwest.

LEMON: It's not bleed over. It's merging. It's an - they're - they're merging. And we can -- let's not pretend. I think people - I think people, even the former president, I think even people who are in charge of what we -- of what the American press puts out, they want to believe that we are living in 1987, this sort of Reagan-esque Republican.

That's not where we are right now. And if we continue to allow that, we are going to go off of a cliff. And I'm not sure that we can return. People -- you know, President Biden did an interview and said, you know, I want to unite the American people. OK, that's great. Is it pollyannish? Probably. Would most people like that to happen? Yes. But that is not why -- I think that's a misrepresentation of why Joe Biden was elected.

Joe Biden wasn't elected -- there aren't Democrats going, oh, I want to be more - you know, come more to the center and be more like a Republican. You don't have Republicans going, I want to be more like a Democrat.

The reason that Joe Biden was elected is because people wanted sanity. They were tired of the crazy headlines every day. They were tired of every moment looking at their social media accounts or getting a headline saying -- not knowing what was going to happen, that some crazy thing was going to happen, like the possibility of an insurrection at the United States Capitol.

KEILAR: Well, I think one of the dirty little secrets here in recent years pre-Trump was the Republican Party playing footsie with some of these elements and trying to channel some of the power of folks who identified with some beliefs.

LEMON: They wanted their votes.

KEILAR: They wanted their votes.

LEMON: Power.

KEILAR: I -- trying to channel that enthusiasm without coopting the points of views, right, of those folks. But now you actually have the cart leading the horse.


KEILAR: Now it's switched on who's channeling who, who's leading.

LEMON: You had the inmates running the asylum basically. You had the extremists, because I know there are Republicans who are sitting out there now going, oh, Don Lemon, that's not what we are. Maybe it's not what you are, but it's what party has become. It is what you have allowed to happen.

KEILAR: But there are Republicans who - I mean we've had Tim Miller on here recently, right? There are Republicans who will completely say, Don Lemon, you are correct, the origins of that are just what you're talking about.

LEMON: Yes. You'll have Adam Kinzinger, you have Liz Cheney who will say it. You'll have Tom Duncan of - you'll have the former -- excuse me, the former lieutenant governor --

BERMAN: Jeff Duncan.

LEMON: Jeff Duncan, the lieutenant governor of Georgia, who will say that, but there are very few Republicans who will say that.

And I have to say something to Democrats. When Liz Cheney, you know, said a couple weeks ago that she actually agreed with -- in part -- the overturning of Roe v. Wade, liberals and Democrats were so upset with her. They'd say, oh, Liz Cheney, it was going so great for such a long time. You cannot expect Liz Cheney or Adam Kinzinger or Jeff Duncan to become Democrats overnight.


LEMON: They're not -- they are Republican. And you must allow them to be who they are. They just happen to be sober and smart and they understand what's happening in the country right now, and that no one should be trying to overturn a free and fair election, especially a president of the United States. He should be upholding the Constitution instead of trying to tear that -- down the Constitution.

BERMAN: So police in Montgomery County, Maryland, say they are now going to start enforcing what they call disturbing the peace laws outside of the homes of Supreme Court justices. They're going to say you can protest quietly or silently, but no bull horns, drums or any loud behavior. [08:45:04]

What's important here, in your mind, Don?

LEMON: It's important that -- well, it's important. It's why I'm not an elected official because - and when you're an elected official you open yourself up to those things. And I don't mean violence. And no one -- there should not be violence in any of this.

But when you're an elected official, part of the First Amendment is for people to protest. And we say peacefully.

BERMAN: Supreme Court justices are not elected.

LEMON: Yes. Well, OK. Well, they're public officials. Let me put it that way.


LEMON: So, part of it is that you can -- that you open yourself up to the First Amendment, which is freedom of expression, there's the freedom of protest. Again, no violent. Would I like people in front of my home? Absolutely not. Would I like people come -- do I like people coming into my face and threatening me or intimidating me and my family members and my loved ones? No, I don't like that. When that happened to - you remember when Tucker Carlson was on a fishing trip and it happened to him and I defended Tucker Carlson. I said, no one should be doing that.

But as far as protesting, people do have the right to protest. And they do have the right to do it on public streets. And, you know, I wouldn't like people disturbing me, but that is an American right. So, I think it's a slippery slope when you try to curtail that. Again, no violence. I wouldn't if -- listen, if my neighbor was a public official, an elected official, would I want people outside of my home, the noise in my neighborhood, I would not. But we have to understand, as Americans, that's part of being an American. That's the First Amendment of the Constitution.

KEILAR: Don, it is always wonderful to have you with us in the morning.

LEMON: It's good to see you as well. It's good to see you in person.

And you know you.

BERMAN: I know. I know. I mean you always go there (ph).

KEILAR: Every time.

BERMAN: There was a zero percent chance that that wasn't going to happen right there.

KEILAR: Does that hurt your feelings that he does that (INAUDIBLE)?

BERMAN: I do have feelings. I just want everyone to know I have feelings.

LEMON: No. We kid because we love. You know that, John Berman.

KEILAR: I think he likes you more.

LEMON: And, by the way, John Berman and I had a date and he stood me up two weeks ago.

BERMAN: I did -

LEMON: We were supposed to have coffee after the show.

BERMAN: There's a back story here. No one needs to know the back story.

KEILAR: We'll get to the bottom of it and let you know.

Don Lemon, thank you so much.

LEMON: Thank you, Brianna.

KEILAR: And you can, of course, catch Don tonight at 10:00 p.m. Eastern.

So, this morning, President Biden emphasizing that the U.S. will not allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon. So, what are the chances of a new nuclear deal with Iran? Your "Reality Check," next.

BERMAN: And controversy, did "Top Gun" really just sink "Titanic" at the box office?

KEILAR: Should have.

BERMAN: Harry Enten here with an important fact check. Important fact check.

KEILAR: Should happen.


TOM CRUISE, ACTOR: Good morning, aviators.

Here we go. In three, two, one.




JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Today, you and I also discussed America's commitment to ensuring Iran never obtains a nuclear weapon. This is a vital security interest to both Israel and the United States, and I would add for the rest of the world as well.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KEILAR: That was moments ago, President Biden doubling down on America's commitment to shudder Iran's nuclear weapons program. So, how can he do it?

John Avlon with our "Reality Check."

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Consensus is famously hard to come by in the Middle East, but there's one thing almost everyone outside of Tehran agrees on, the Islamic Republic of Iran cannot about allowed to have nuclear weapons. But how to achieve that goal is the subject of bitter debate and even alternative facts.

Even before he landed in Israel, President Joe Biden was slamming former President Trump's withdrawal from the Obama-era Iran Nuclear Deal, calling it a gigantic mistake. But what's interesting is that a growing number of prominent Israeli hawks, including members of ex- Prime Minister Netanyahu cabinet, now seem to agree with Biden. Even the new centrist Israeli PM, Yair Lapid, has supported to strengthen (ph) Iran deal, even as he talks tough against that country. It's all a big deal because it was Netanyahu and Israel who pressed Trump the hardest to unilaterally pull out of the multinational agreement the previous administration had negotiated.

Now, look, good people can disagree on policy. And there were plenty of rational reasons to criticize the deal, not least because it began to sunset after ten years. Other folks didn't like the fact that the U.S. handed $400 million plus interest in Iranian assets that had been frozen since the Sha (ph) fled more than four decades ago.

And then there was the fundamental fact that Iran remains a bad actor on the world stage, funding terrorist groups and regional proxy wars.

But for all its flaws, the deal was working. It significantly slowed Iran's progress toward a nuclear weapon. It required them to reduce uranium enrichment to a fraction of what it had been, consistent with nuclear power, not weapons. And it enforced international inspections.

Get this, the Trump administration even certified twice that Iran was actually holding up its end of the deal. But that wasn't good for Trump, who famously proclaimed it the worst deal ever. Post withdrawal, his secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, played height (ph) man, falsely claiming that, quote, the previous administration chose Iran to be its primary security partner in the Middle East while calling the deal a glide path for Iran to have a nuclear weapon, when, in fact, it was the opposite.


MIKE POMPEO, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: Its states goal was to deter Iran from being able to have a nuclear weapon systems, when, in fact, it was guarantee that there was a glide path for Iran to have a nuclear weapon.


AVLON: Well, now we have the data. And four years later, we can see that Trump's decision to ditch the deal in favor of new sanctions failed to achieve its goals. Iran ratcheted up its enrichment of uranium to the brink of having enough for a ball (ph). And instead of the Iranian people rising up and toppling the regime because of the sanctions, Iran ended up with an even more hard line government than before.

Now, perhaps that's why in recent months we've seen Israeli national security hawks call out the withdrawal as a failure. Netanyahu's former defense minister said the Iran deal was a mistake, but withdrawing from it was even worse. His ex-Mossad intelligence chief admitted that Iran is now enriching more uranium than it was under the nuclear deal. While another former head of Mossad said that because Iran is now closer to a bomb than before, the entire policy of the former government was a dismal failure. It was an unfortunate failure, and it might be an historic failure.


That's a stark reminder that opposition is easier than proposition. Once a deal is destroyed, building it back can be more difficult than winning it in the first place. And attempts to revive what the economists dubbed the "zombie nuclear deal" have stalled in negotiations despite the Biden team's best efforts. Months of talks have hit stalemate. President Biden outright rejecting Iran's request that their Islamic Revolutionary Guard be removed from a list of terrorist organizations, while any reduction in sanctions to resume the deal will be pounced on by Republicans for political advance.

Now, the alternative, a nuclear Iran, would escalate nuclear proliferation in the region and create a much more dangerous world. Recognition that the original deal was better than where we are now is cold comfort, though. That opportunity was squandered while weakening America's diplomatic reputation by causing our allies to wonder whether we'll meet our obligations across administrations.

But at least oppositions to Iran's nuclear ambitions unites the west and much of the Middle East, from Israel to Saudi Arabia. So now it's up to the Biden team to harness that opposition in a constructive, rather than destructive direction on its watch. As with all things in the Middle East, it's easier said than done.

And that's your "Reality Check."

KEILAR: John Avlon, thank you.

BERMAN: All right, shifting gears here in a big way. "Top Gun: Maverick" making money at the box office.


TOM CRUISE ACTOR: Good morning, aviators. This is your captain speaking.


BERMAN: And making controversial headlines, suggesting that "Top Gun: Maverick" has beat out "Titanic" to become Paramount Pictures highest grossing film in history.

But, is that really the case?

One man has the answer, CNN senior data reporter Harry Enten,

And I say to you, really? Really?


OK, so where is this math coming from, right? I'm a math guy, even though, I'll be honest with you, I haven't actually seen this film.

So, "Top Gun: Maverick," $602 million. Domestic box office, initial run, "Titanic," in its initial run, was just $601 million. And, unbelievably, Paramount was founded in 1912. So this is the highest grossing film by current -- by dollars, at the time, in the 110-year history of Paramount.


ENTEN: But -- but, you know me, I have to make things far more complicated.

OK, so "Top Gun: Maverick" versus "Titanic." Domestic box office. Look at this. Including the re-releases. In 2022 dollars, right, so we're going to take into account inflation. Inflation's a big thing right now. Look at that, $1.2 billion. For "Titanic," "Titanic" just in its 1997 run, taking into account inflation, $1.1 billion. "Titanic," including the releases in original dollar amount, so not even taking into account inflation, $659 million. "Top Gun: Maverick," in 2022, $602 million. So, by pretty much any metric in which you take into account inflation or include all of "Titanic's" run, "Titanic" still number one. I'll never let go.

KEILAR: But you haven't seen it?

ENTEN: No, I haven't seen "Top Gun." I like comedies. I --

KEILAR: You know, I've seen it -- I've seen it for you, Harry. I've seen it twice.

ENTEN: Oh, nice. That's so nice of you. I really appreciate it.

KEILAR: It's really great.

ENTEN: You know, you'll never let go of that.

But here's some other interesting kind of nuggets that I think are interesting. So, top domestic box office inflation adjusted since 1977. Look where "Top Gun: Maverick" is. It's all the way down at 30th.

BERMAN: Is falls woefully short.

ENTEN: Woefully short.

BERMAN: Embarrassingly short.

ENTEN: Embarrassingly short. This is not anywhere close. This is what I like to do, I like to rip films that are at their peak. Maybe because I just like ripping Tom Cruise. I don't know.

But, look, "Star Wars," number one. "Titanic," number two. "Titanic," way up there. "E.T. the Extraterrestrial" at $1.2 billion. "Top Gun: Maverick," not anywhere close to any of these films.

BERMAN: What's the top box office of the last year here?

ENTEN: Well, this is, I think, I'm going to give Tom Cruise a little bit of credit, right? We're in the Covid era. So, look, if we look at the top films, inflation adjust in 2021, 2022, "Top Gun: Maverick" at $602 million, that's number two. So that's not half bad. But "Spider- Man" still beats it at $805 million.

BERMAN: Well, that's interesting, so it's not even the number one film, "Top Gun: Maverick," in the last year?

ENTEN: It's not even the number one. No, no, no, it's not.

BERMAN: Oh, OK. Well, be that as it may.

There is one actor who actually appears in a great number of the 30 films that are the top grossing of all-time that's having an important birthday.

ENTEN: He is. He turned 80 yesterday.

BERMAN: Harrison Ford.

ENTEN: Harrison Ford. Harrison Ford. If you look, what is Harry's favorite Ford film. How about this, the "Star Wars" holiday special.


OK, maybe not. But, otherwise, I think I like "Working Girl," which was a great late '80s flick.

BERMAN: "Let the River Run."

ENTEN: Let that river run. I do -- you know the writer of that song actually grew up where I did, in Riverdale, in the Bronx.

But I have to ask, John and Brianna, what are your favorite Ford films?

BERMAN: Brianna, you first.

KEILAR: "Patriot Games."

BERMAN: Very good.


BERMAN: I'm going to go with little known "Frisco Kid," starring Gene Wilder, 1979.


BERMAN: Harrison Ford, cowboy helps a rabbi across the country to set up a synagogue in the west.

ENTEN: It sounds like my biography.

BERMAN: Harry Enten, thank you very much.


BERMAN: And CNN's coverage continues now.