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Van Plows into Muslim Worshippers near Mosque; Senate GOP Intensifies Push to Repeal Obamacare; Russia to Treat U.S.-Led Planes in Syria as "Targets"; Start of Interview with Sen. Ron Wyden. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired June 19, 2017 - 10:00   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. I'm John Berman. Poppy is off. Extra police visible on the streets of London this morning with a special focus on protecting the city's Muslim communities. This after a man plowed a van through a crowd of worshippers outside a mosque as they left late night prayers.

One man is dead, eight people seriously injured. Witnesses say, survivors pulled the 48-year-old driver from the vehicle and held him for police as he hurled anti-Muslim insults. Now, this case is being investigated as terrorism. And London's mayor visited the site just moments ago to reassure his city are already on edge.


MAYOR SADIQ KHAN, LONDON: This attack behind me in Seven Sisters, the attack in Manchester, the attack on London Bridge, the attack on Westminster Bridge are all an attack on our shared values, our shared values of tolerance and freedom and respect. And we will not allow these terrorists to succeed.


BERMAN: A message from the mayor of London who has had to speak after attacks too much in the last few months. CNN's Frederik Pleitgen is in London with the very latest on this attack. Fred, what are you learning?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, John. Well, one of the things that we have been seeing just a couple of minutes ago is actually Sadiq Khan, the mayor that you just heard there in that sound bite. He's been out here and he's been meeting with some of the first responders here to this incident.

And of course, one of the things that we found out is that the authorities were very, very quick to respond to this incident, about ten minutes after the first call came in, they were on the scene and then apprehended the suspect. But of course, the really remarkable thing is what you mentioned, is that this man who is 48 years old, plowed into the crowd at around 20 minutes past midnight. At some point, his van stopped and he was then dragged from the van by some of the people who were around here who of course, were the victims of this attack.

And it was then the local imam here who came and actually protected the suspect to make sure that people wouldn't take out their very understandable anger at him. And that's something that has been hailed by many here, from the mayor to Britain's prime minister. So, certainly, something that really shows the strength of the community here.

However, of course, it was harrowing moments that many of the folks who went to worship that night on what is Ramadan of course went through. Listen in to what one eyewitness had to say.


SAEED HASHI, WITNESS: Suddenly, he turned right to the mosque. So - then I was shocked and we were screaming. First a woman, a Somalian woman was in her 60's and then another to a Moroccan or a Nigerian guy. Then he drove a bus, he hit another three, four, five, six, seven. And suddenly, the car stopped. So we ran after him. We manage to get him off of the car.


PLEITGEN: So, John, there you could see some of those eyewitness accounts of those people who went through those horrifying moments when that car plowed into those people. And of course, many of them were out. It was a very warm night. It was right after a prayer service at one of the many mosques here, so really, a harrowing experience for the many people that has certainly has shaken this community. John?

BERMAN: In a city very much on edge all around. Frederik Pleitgen in London, thank you so much. Keep us abreast of any new developments there.

This morning, a new White House effort to explain what the president said or explain what he meant despite what he has said, the confusion all stems from this statement he made on Friday. "I am being investigated for firing the FBI director by the man who told me to fire the FBI director. Witch hunt."

Over the weekend, member of the president's legal team said multiple times that his client, the president, is not under investigation, which of course is a contradiction of the president's own words. This morning, his lawyer says, the White House has not been notified of an investigation. He doesn't know if one is going on. Let's bring in CNN's senior Washington Correspondent Joe Johns with the very latest. Good morning, Joe.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John. A couple of takeaways from that interview on CNN this morning, Jay Sekulow, the president's personal lawyer saying, among other things, that you can't really make an obstruction of justice case against the president for the firing of the FBI director because the president essentially has almost unchecked power to get rid of the FBI director as he sees fit. Sekulow, also making the point that the president had recommendations for the firing of James Comey, both from the attorney general as well as the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein. Of course, there's a problem there because as this investigation moves forward, if obstruction of justice becomes an issue and the firing of James Comey is in the middle of that, Rod Rosenstein might have to recuse himself from the investigation, the second person who would have to do so.

The attorney general always has out. It is because Rosenstein, having written that memo could potentially become a witness in any case involving the president, so all of these things adding up to some more challenges for the administration. Also, Jay Sekulow on TV, on CNN this morning, once again, indicating, in his view, there's no investigation of the president right now.

[10:05:04] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAY SEKULOW, MEMBER PRESIDENT TRUMP'S LEGAL TEAM: As I said all weekend, there's been no notification to any of us that the president is under any investigation and, as I said, James Comey has said on three separate occasions that the president was not under investigation.

So, here is where this was manufactured, if you want to call it manufactured. It was manufactured from "The Washington Post." All the president did was respond to "The Washington Post" through social media platform.


JOHNS: Another tantalizing question out there, are there tapes, are there recordings of conversations between the president of the United States and the FBI director James Comey, now fired. Sekulow indicating today, also over the weekend, that we may find out an answer to that from the president himself sometime this week. John, back to you.

BERMAN: He's doing stretching exercises to get ready to utter the words either yes or no, which have been very difficult to say apparently for the last month. Joe Johns at the White House thanks so much.

Let's discuss now with Jackie Kucinich, CNN political analyst, Washington bureau chief for "The Daily Beast," Symone Sanders, CNN political commentator, former national press secretary for the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign and Alice Stewart, CNN political commentator, Republican strategist.

Alice, I want to start with you. From a communications standpoint, how is Jay Sekulow, the lawyer for the president doing right now? Is he sending a message you are comfortable with? Saying, you know what don't listen to what the president said. He's not under investigation. I haven't been told he is under investigation, no investigation. Is this helpful to the president?

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR AND REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: No, it's not. Anytime you have a mixed message, you have a communications problem. And the two statements, in my view, contradict each other. But the bottom line is, certainly, there's an investigation underway.

Robert Mueller wasn't when a special counsel to plan 4th of July festivities in Washington, he was there to look into the Russian probe. And as part of that, we know that it is more than likely that President Trump will be a part of the investigation but it's important not to jump to conclusions. It's important for us to let the facts play out and not have a conviction without the evidence to back it up.

And to date, we haven't seen any hard evidence that there's been collusion or there's been obstruction of justice. And I think we need to let the facts play out and see where they go from here. But it's important, in my view, for the president and the administration to get on offense and off defense and push their message.

They had some great message last week with regards to jobs and certainly on the Cuba policy. This week, we are going to focus on technology and what we can do to improve technology for the economy of America in the future. That's what they need to do.

And the president did right this morning, an hour ago, tweeting about Democrat obstruction with regard to health care and border security and encouraging people to vote in Georgia. That's what he needs to do on Twitter and push the legislative agenda moving forward.

BERMAN: I'll let Symone respond in the notion of Democratic obstruction in just a second here. But first, Jackie, I want to point out what I thought was a really revealing moment in an interview that Senator Marco Rubio, the Republican from Florida did with our Jake Tapper over the weekend. And it speaks to the point that Alice Stewart was just making about communications from the White House. Listen carefully to Marco Rubio and see if you can see what jumped out to me. Listen.


SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: What I would communicate to the White House and to the world through this broadcast is, let this thing work its way through. Let it be thorough and complete so that no one will have any doubt.


BERMAN: Now, what struck me was actually the first part of that statement, not the second part, when he said, "What I would communicate to the White House and the world through this broadcast." Essentially Marco Rubio saying, look at me, Mr. President. Stop it. Stop with the tweets right now. If you would only stop, we could get out here and defend you more.

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST AND WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF "THE DAILY BEAST": Well - and he is not the first one to do that. You see, Marco Rubio obviously isn't a surrogate for the president but you have seen even surrogates for the president go on television and try to get messages to him because they know that he watches a lot of television. But the kind of mixed messaging is sort of the rule, not the exception for this White House. They are not great at just pushing one message. And we have seen it on a range of issues. This one is particularly important.

And it's causing a lot of heart burn on the Hill, where particularly in the Senate. They are trying to put together a health care bill. Yes, right now it is behind closed doors. But they want to be talking about what they are doing for the country rather than the president, whether or not he is going to fire the special counsel, which is another thing Marco Rubio is asked. He doesn't think it's going to happen.

But can you imagine if that happens, what would happen on the Hill? You would have a lot of senators running to the trains, not wanting to talk to anybody about it, because they don't want to have to stand-up for something that would be wildly unpopular. So, you know, we don't know if the president heard Marco Rubio, but you have to imagine, his colleagues are going to follow the suit, should this get any worse that the president keeps tweeting about it.

And the other thing I just want to add, the president has lots of ways to communicate. -- And so, this idea that he only had 140 characters, he has an entire press shop that can push his message in addition to all of the other surrogates. He doesn't have to use Twitter. He just does.

[10:10:05] BERMAN: He's got a microphone and a podium with the presidential seal on it --


BERMAN: -- that he can speak from anytime he chooses. Symone Sanders the flip side of all these though, is Democrats. And there are some Democrats who do say, they are focusing too much on the Russia investigation in the absence of focusing on things such as health care, which both Jackie, you know and Alice has spoken about, all be it in different terms and perhaps, you see.

Today, Ron Wyden is coming on the show on little bit. He won't even answer questions about Russia until he's allowed to speak about health care first. Do you think that important issues for Democrats are being obscured now by the Russia investigation?

SYMONE SANDERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR AND NATIONAL PRESS SECRETARY BERNIE 2016: I don't think they are being obscured, but I think Democrats should take note from Senator Wyden. We have to keep the pressure up on Russia. There are some really fishy things going on. And it seems like there's smoke. And usually, where there's smoke, there's fire.

But in the midst of all of this happening and the midst of the president tweeting about quote unquote, "being under investigation," Republicans are trying to pass a health care bill in secret. There have been no hearings. And so, this notion of obstruction from the Democrats is laughable where health care is concerned because the Democrats haven't even seen the bill. Republican legislatures, Republican senators won't even discuss the bill in public. No one will come on air and do interviews about this health care bill. Why? Because it's dangerous, it is unpopular and it's not what the American people want.

So I definitely think, it is incumbent upon Democrats to continue to talk about the issues that affect real people, -- not move the Russia investigation to the side because it's not going anywhere. It's a very long process. But when you talk to voters and people -

BERMAN: Alice -

SANDERS: -- all over America, it is health care they are talking about, jobs, education.

BERMAN: Alice, what would you be saying if Democrats were having these health care discussions behind closed doors right now?

STEWART: Well, I would say, open up the doors and talk with Republicans. I would say that to both sides. We need to get on the same page if we are going to have meaningful health care reform and that's critical. That goes with Republicans talking amongst themselves, getting the House plan through was successful. I know that there's a lot of talk in the Senate.

But the only way we are going to do this and bring about the real change that we need is for both sides to be talking to each other. -

BERMAN: Jackie -

STEWART: And Republicans have a lot at stake. Many of them campaigned and won on repealing and replacing Obamacare. Now, we all understand maybe there just needs to be some changes. But in order for Republicans to be successful in midterms and moving forward, they have to get some meaningful legislation on the table. And the best way to do that is talking with Democrats.

BERMAN: And Jackie, one of the things some Republicans are suggesting is, stick around in August. You know, they need to cancel their vacation basically, cancel the recess in August to get work done. You have heard this before. Do you think there's any possibility it can happen?

KUCINICH: There's always a possibility. But they always threaten to cancel recess and to keep everybody in after class. That is a very typical leadership tool in order to pressure their members to get together and actually vote on this. Whether it will work in this case, this is a big vote. It's an important vote for the Senate but it is a particularly important vote for those senators who are up for re- election because this is going to come back to haunt them no matter what.

BERMAN: Speaking of important votes, Symone Sanders. Final question here, Georgia's 6th, the special election outside Atlanta is tomorrow. At this point, is this really a must win for Democrats? No more moral victories here, you need to put one up on the score board. SANDERS: I think every race is a must win with the Democratic Party is concerned. We've lost over 1,000 legislative seats over the last ten years. We want to make up the majority. We want to make up and close that gap in Congress in the House and in the Senate. So, every race is a must win here, John.

Look, I think the Democrats in Georgia have done their due diligence. It's about turnout. The race is running really close. We just have to see if people go to the polls.

BERMAN: The only poll that counts is the one on Election Day, I'm told. Symone Sanders, Jackie Kucinich, Alice Stewart, great to have the three of you with us, I really appreciate it.

Breaking this hour, Russia says, it will now treat U.S.-led planes in Syria as targets, this after calling the U.S. shoot down on the Syrian warplane, an act of aggression.

Plus, can Republicans master the art of the deal in their scramble to repeal and replace Obamacare? This is a crucial week to hash out their plan, also maybe to reveal their plan. Will Democrats stand in the way?

And just terrible few weeks for London, those words from the city's mayor after a new attack overnight.


[10:18:29] BERMAN: We have breaking news. Russia says it will treat all U.S. backed jets or drones flying over Western Syria as targets. Now, this warning comes after a U.S. jet shot down a Syrian warplane over the weekend.

CNN's Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr joins us as well as CNN military analyst, retired Lieutenant Colonel Rick Francona. Thank you both so much for being with us. Barbara Starr, first to you, what does this mean from Russia, exactly?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think we have to see how it unfolds. It was just a few hours ago when the Russian Ministry of Defense in Moscow made this announcement. They're seeing somewhat here as a political announcement by the Russian government that they don't want to talk on this so-called deconfliction line.

That's a communications line that's been going for months now between the U.S. and the Russian military over air operations in Syria. So, they deconflicted on flying in the same air space. They broadly let each other know where they are going to be and the Russians saying that they would treat anything flying in Western Syria as a target.

What the U.S. says right now, the deconfliction line remains open and they don't think they are being targeted by the Russians. But things are very unsettled these days. So, I think it is very fair to say they are keeping a very sharp eye on it. All of this appears to be the Russian response to the U.S. shooting down that Syrian fighter over the weekend. John? BERMAN: Colonel, what is your reaction in what so far are just words from Russia, albeit, pretty heated words.

LT. COL. RICK FRANCONA (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: We've seen this in the past. If you remember, after the U.S. missile strike on Shira'at Air Base, the Russians did the same thing.

[10:20:04] And it lasted for a very short period of time. Because I think the Russians realized, it's in their best interest to maintain that deconfliction line, those lines of communications because it's not only used for deconfliction. It's also used - it was used yesterday for warning - they were trying to defuse the situation. So, I think it's important. I think the Russians know that. So, I think, as Barbara said, the deconfliction line will stay open.

BERMAN: And Colonel, you have been looking at what happened over the weekend from the outside, not the inside where you used to be but the U.S. shooting down this Syrian jet. Now, a lot of the details still have yet to come out. But you have some notions, when all is said and done of what it may have been.

FRANCONA: Well, I think it may have been a mistake, a miscommunication, a pilot not getting the right commands, it maybe not knowing where he was. The problem here is that over the past several weeks, we have seen cooperation between the U.S. backed force, the Syrian Democratic Force, the SDF and the Syrian government because they both are operating on parallel tracks, moving east.

Of course the SDF is the primary force going after rocket. They've got at almost encircled. And they are actually assaulting the city. At the same time, the Syrian forces are just a little to the south and they are moving down near the Fray Tease River toward their besieged city of their resort. So, they have been actually talking to each other and cooperating, because it's not just to fight each other.

BERMAN: Barbara, one quick question. Even if it wasn't a mistake, you make the point that the shooting down of this Syrian jet would not necessarily constitute an escalation of hostilities there.

STARR: No, the U.S. is characterizing this very much as self-defense of the U.S. backed forces on the ground, those SDF force. They have come under attack during the day they had bombs dropped on them. And you have to protect the forces you are supporting on the ground or they are not going to fight for you. They're not going to fight to push ISIS out. John?

BERMAN: Barbara Starr, for us. Colonel Francona thanks so much for being with us, appreciate it.

New this morning, we are now learning the identities of the seven sailors killed after a U.S. destroyer collided with a cargo ship. The men were found trapped in a flood compartment on the ship. They were all between the ages of 19 and 37.

President Trump wrote well wishes to the families. But the White House has not issued a formal statement. The president's statement came on Twitter. The big question still remains, how does a high-tech naval ship crashed into a cargo ship. We will follow the multiple investigations into the cause of this crash.

Other news, if Republicans want health care to happen, this is going to be the week to get the job done. But Democrats say, they have some ideas about how to fight it. Stay with us.


[10:26:49] BERMAN: All right, breaking news. Just moments ago, the Supreme Court ruled on two very important cases. The first, deals with trademarks that could have football implications. Joining us now live, CNN's Jessica Schneider outside the Supreme Court, let's start with trademarks, Jessica.

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, you mentioned it, a free speech case that actually could have a lot of implications for the Washington redskins and I'll explain how in a second. This case actually ruled that the Lanham Act to which does not allow trademark registration if they disparage people or groups. It said that that was overbroad, that it violated portions of free speech in the first amendment.

What's interesting about this case is that this involved a ban called the slant. They wanted to register their trademark, but the trademark office said that the slant was disparaging to Asian Americans. So they took this through the court system, they're getting in 2011.

And today, the Supreme Court saying that no, this is part of free speech. The trademark office cannot reject trademark applications on this basis of merely disparaging people. What's interesting about it and what the implications could be is the Washington Redskins, they had their trademark revoked in 2014 because of a similar issue.

Of course, the Redskins or groups challenging this saying the Redskins disparage Native Americans. So, this case put a point on it saying that no, you cannot reject these trademark registrations, these applications. So of course, it will be interesting to see exactly how the redskins move forward in the wake of this interesting and important free speech decision today by the Supreme Court. John?

BERMAN: And then the second important case this morning, Jessica, involves the use of social media by registering sex offenders.

SCHNEIDER: Yes, exactly. This was a North Carolina law that actually did not allow registered sex offenders to use social media at all. That includes everything from Facebook, to Twitter, to Instagram. The Supreme Court today, ruling that that North Carolina law was just overbroad, violated portions of free speech saying that it is not acceptable, not constitutional to ban all registered sex offenders from any social media whatsoever you know.

In part of the arguments, it argued that really social media has become a way of life, a way of communication. It is really sort of the modern day square where people go out to voice their opinions so the Supreme Court today, saying this North Carolina law that said that sex offenders could not go on social media. They're saying that that law is unconstitutional because of its over broadness. John?

BERMAN: All right, Jessica Schneider outside the Supreme Court. Jessica thanks so much.

It is a critical week for Republicans in a push to get their health care bill forward. Many lawmakers though in the dark about details of the plan, there have not been any hearings. No legislative text has been made available. So, this morning, Democrats in the Senate sent a letter to the Republican counterparts listing 31 rooms available for hearings. My next guest signed that letter.

Joining me now, Oregon senator, Ron Wyden. Senator Wyden thanks so much for being with us. You are trolling Senate Republican. I don't think you really believe they need to know where these rooms are.

SEN. RON WYDEN (D), OREGON: Well, look, the fact is, this is go time on the battle to save American health care. I'm just glad you are starting off with health care because folks usually talk to me about Russia. I'm happy to do it, but it's going to be all health care, all the time this week.

BERMAN: Well, a lot of that depends on what we hear from the president and his legal team, I imagine. Sometimes, he has a way of injecting himself into that discussion. I will stay on health --