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Spicer Says Tape Could Be Released During No Video, No Audio Press Briefing; Georgia House Race Ads Turn Ugly; 7 U.S. Sailors Dead after Collision at Sea; Dems to Block Senate Business over Health Bill Secrecy; Lawyer: Trump Not "Under Investigation" Despite Tweet. Aired 2:30-3p ET
Aired June 19, 2017 - 14:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[14:30:00] JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. He was asked, because the president said this more than a week, he was going to answer this question, where are these tapes? The president said, you would find out about that shortly. More than a week has gone by. And Sean Spicer said, off camera, no audio, perhaps, we'll have an answer this week. He said in the past he would get an answer whether the president believes in climate change. The question was asked, have you gone back and asked the question to that? He did not have an answer to that question, on a matter that happened a couple weeks ago. So the White House press secretary is getting to a point, Brooke, where he has kind of useless, you know, if he can't come out and answer the questions. And if they're not going to do the audio, why even have the briefings?
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: It he not even having conversations with the president? Does he simply not know?
ACOSTA: It's a really good question, Brooke, a question I would ask, but unfortunately at this White House, we wouldn't have the video or audio to show you the answer to that question because of the stonewalls we're getting. That's the White House behind me. The White House. And it's just -- it's bizarre, I don't know what world we're living in where we're standing at the White House, and they bring us into the briefing ream here and they won't answer these questions on camera, or let us record the audio. I don't know why everybody is going along with this. It doesn't make sense, and it feels like we're sort of slowly but sure by being dragged into a new normal where the president of the United States is allowed to insulate himself from answering hard questions. He hasn't had a full-blown press conference since February. He has the two plus two press conferences with a foreign head of state where he may take a question from a conservative media, and maybe somebody from the mainstream. For whatever reason, we're all going along with it. I don't understand why we covered that gaggle today, quite honestly, Brooke. If they can't give us answers on camera or where we can report the audio, they're basically pointless. You're not getting the chance to see, are they evading the question? The transcript doesn't really show that, and I think smart people who have been doing this for a long time on both sides of the camera understand that.
BALDWIN: I got you.
Jim Acosta, you are a White House correspondent and you want to cover the White House.
ACOSTA: Exactly. It would be nice.
BALDWIN: I understand why you're irked.
Jim, don't move. Keep asking the question.
David Chalian, is with me now, our CNN political director.
I don't think I've ever seen Jim Acosta quite as irked.
Where is the transparency? He makes a great point. It's one thing when you see somebody pause versus reading it in a transcript. What's going on over there?
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICS DIRECTOR: Bravo to Jim doing his job. He should be fights for that every second of the day, this is what he does for a living. I totally agree with this analysis. There's no other reason except don't want to see it played over and over again. That's clearly the reason. We should say, White Houses long before this one have complained about the briefings and feel that, you know, confrontation between the television reporters and the press secretary are good theater that get drummed up. You know, we have heard those complaints before, but to Jim's fundamental point, these people work on behalf of the American people, watching them, hearing them be held accountable for their positions is a good thing for democracy. And so I certainly agree, but this is not a new problem that White Houses have grappled with on how to deal with de-emphasizing the theater of the press briefing and the information exchange.
BALDWIN: I appreciate his frustration and it's not OK.
Let me move off of that. Let me ask you about this hugely important race in Georgia, Georgia's sixth congressional district, to fill Tom Price's seat. Jon Ossoff, Democrat, sizable lead over Republican Karen Handel. This poll was more than 10 days ago when it was taken. This is a ruby red district. Even before Price. This is Newt Gingrich's seat.
I want to play this new ad that's been condemned. Let me make this clear, the ad has been condemned by both sides, trying Democrats to that congressional baseball shooting.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: The unhinged left is endorsing and applauding shooting Republicans. When will it stop?
ANNOUNCER: It won't if John Ossoff wins on Tuesday.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[14:35:07] BALDWIN: As grotesque as the ad is, let me read you this quote. Quote, "I'll tell you what, I think the shooting is going to win this election for us, because moderates and Independents in this district are tired of left-wing extremism. I get there's extremists on both sides, but we are not seeing them." This is a quote from "The Washington Post."
It's disgusting, but is this something you think might help Republicans win the sixth?
CHALIAN: I think it's impossible to say. That quote was startling, to see that kind of political analysis, someone "The Washington Post" spoke to, I believe, is what that quote is.
BALDWIN: That's correct.
CHALIAN: But it's impossible to say what could impact it so close to the election at the end here. Obviously, that was a big story and there was some developments that sort of bled over into part of the terrible use of words, sorry -- there were ancillary stories about them receiving some envelopes with white powder in it as well, so that whole notion of sort of violence and polarization of politics has part of the conversation here. But let's not connect the shooting at all to this campaign, because, at the end of the day, that's not what this kame campaign is going to be about. And both sides corn Democrat it, because it was totally beyond the pale.
BALDWIN: David Chalian, thank you. And polls open 7:00 a.m. tomorrow.
Up next, how did it happen. The seven U.S. soldiers killed after a state-of-the-art Navy destroyer collided at sea with a cargo ship. Now we're learning what happened in the moments before the crash and the heroic efforts afterwards to save lives and keep the ship from sinking.
[14:41:12] BALDWIN: Just briefly here for the sake of transparency and the conversation we were just having with David Chalian talking about the Georgia sixth congressional district, the race is tomorrow. People will be voting tomorrow. We read this quote from "The Washington Post." I want to be specific as far as who said this quote about connecting the shooting to maybe the Republicans' fate. It was Brad Carver. He's the Republican chairman of Georgia's eleventh district. Apparently, the bottom piece of that tear-away got cut off. I want everyone to know it was who said that.
Let's move on and talk about this absolutely awful story from the U.S. Navy. The frantic search for seven soldiers is over after their bodies were found in flooded sleeping compartments onboard the "USS Fitzgerald." The vessel had been out as a routine operation when, in the overnight hours, it collided with a Philippines container ship and quickly started taking on water. It happened around 2:30 a.m. The heroic actions of the crew, who immediately started patching the holes, are being credited for keeping the ship from sinking completely.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VICE ADM. JOSEPH AUCOIN, COMMANDER, SEVENTH FLEET: The significant part of the crew was sleeping. Two compartments that house 160 of the crew were in those compartments. It was a significant impact to the side of the ship. And you can't see most of the damage. The damage is mostly underneath the waterline. It's a large gash near the keel of the ship. So the water flow was tremendous. There wasn't a lot of time in those spaces that were open to the sea.
The ship is still listing, and so they had to fight the ship to keep it above the surface.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: The Navy has announced an investigation into how one of its own destroyers could collide with this massive container ship in the heavily trafficked, highly regulated waters off of Japan's coast.
Joining me now, Christopher Harmer, a retired Navy commander and senior naval analyst at the Institute for the Study of War.
Commander, thank you so much for being with me.
Of course, our thoughts go out to the Navy community and these families who are getting these phone calls.
Help me understand. This is a $1.8 billion "USS Fitzgerald," one of the most-modern technologically advanced warships out there. How can this happen?
CHRISTOPHER HARMER, SENIOR NAVAL ANLAYST, INSTITUTE FOR THE STUDY OF WAR & RETIRED NAVY COMMANDER: It's very frustrating to see a small part of the story. We want the whole story. This is an investigation that's going to take several months before the public gets the full story. So I would caution viewers to withhold judgment until we get more than of the story.
Let me give one personal example. 27 years ago, June of 1990, 0i was a navigator for a small training vessel operating out of the United States Navy Academy. We were traveling down the east coast. We ran into a very, very heavy rainstorm, so heavy it, washed out our radar scope. We couldn't see anything, could see more than 50 yards. Out of that storm, a huge container ship came straight towards us. We avoided a collision by less than five seconds.
So you think this stuff is impossible to happen, but meteorologist conditions, mechanical malfunctions, radar failures, equipment failures, all of that adds up, and there's a perfect storm with bad circumstances that can lead to something like this.
BALDWIN: They'll be looking into maybe potentially what was a bad storm. From what I understand, you know, whatever a ship navigates by, it's my understanding that a ship should never get hit on the starboard, or the right side. HARMER: Yes, so all the things being equal, the ship to the right
should -- this should never happen. There are specific rules of the road that regulate how ships are supposed to interact. There's so many caveats. I don't want to go to the specific details, other than to say, it's possibly both ships are at fault. It's also possible only the container ship was at fault. One of the things the Navy investigation will look into is whether the container ship had the appropriate lights at night, whether or not the bridge was manned. I've dealt with a number of container ships in the western pacific when I was stationed there as a Navy helicopter pilot that were in the unfortunate habit of leaving their bridge unmanned. That would never happen with a U.S. Navy ship. So there's a lot of unanswered questions. I think your viewers are right to be concerned, first, about the fate of the seven sailors who died, but beyond that, about how a U.S. Navy multibillion warship came to be put in an inoperative condition. But multiple investigations being led by the Navy now will give us those answers.
[14:45:46] BALDWIN: You mentioned the bridge. I've been on a bridge of a destroyer as well. All different hours, there was always different people manning it, even at 2:30 in the morning. Can you explain to me, for these different sailors who would have been on the overnight mid watch, the crucial decision that they are there to make?
HARMER: Yes, you always have at least one officer on the desk, plus a junior officer on the deck. Plus, you have multiple personnel, one running the helm, security the ship, one running the lean-home (ph), maneuvering the engines. You also have multiple lookouts. Commercial ships will often sail with one or no people on the bridge when they're sailing under autopilot control. The U.S. Navy doesn't do that as a matter of tradition and safety and professionalism. We always have people on the bridge. We always have lookouts. The exact number is dependent on where they're operating, what type of mission they're doing. It's extremely unlikely there were less than five or six people on the bridge, even at 2:30 in the morning. In fact, at nighttime, you always make sure you have extra lookouts out, because you're obviously dealing with decreased a visibility scenario.
BALDWIN: Christopher Harmer, thank you so very much. And our hearts go out to all the families in the Navy community. I appreciate your time.
We'll be right back.
[14:51:09] BALDWIN: Moments from now, the U.S. Senate is back in session, but all eyes are on tonight, when the Senate Democrats are planning to bring the Senate to a halt, to put pressure on Republicans to open up the process surrounding health care. Democrats are angry that the Republicans are working to craft this bill shrouded in secrecy, behind closed doors. Republicans facing a narrow window to come up with a health care bill. Republicans are hoping to have a Senate vote on this legislation before Fourth of July recess.
CNN national politics reporter, M.J. Lee is with me now. Nine legislative days remaining if they have to hit this McConnell deadline. Tonight, though, what can the Democrats do to shut them down?
M.J. LEE, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: What Senate Democrats are hoping to do is inflict as much pain on Republicans as possible.
LEE: We're talking about things like calling for hearings, making extended speeches on the Senate floor, and basically objecting to routine things that they're going to get from Republicans, really just to slow thing down, because Democrats understand, as you said, McConnell would like to see a vote happen before the July 4 recess. The bad news for Republicans is that even without Democrats putting up a fight, things were not looking good for Republicans. There is no bill right now. As far as we know, and we've talked to many Senate Republicans and their aides, and we've been bugging every office that we can, and so far, not a single lawmaker has told us a bill exists and they've seen the language.
The other issue is there's no CBI scoring, not in its full form. There's been talk the leadership maybe submitted bits and pieces of the health care bill to the CBO to be scored. What we need is an interactive, comprehensive score from the CBO before the Senate can vote. Brooke, the calendar there
BALDWIN: Just to remind everyone what little time they have.
LEE: There's not a lot of time. If there's going to be a vote before the Fourth of July recess, that means a vote probably needs to happen next week. And so, a CBO report needs to come out before next week. That means not a lot of time for Senate Republicans to consider the details and the consequences of what this bill would do before they make up an important political decision.
BALDWIN: If they get something together, then what happens with regard to the Republicans in the House, because this would be a different iteration from what we watched go through the House. That's the next chapter I guess.
M.J. Lee, thank you so very much, on all things health care.
Coming up next, Jared Kushner has a top role in the White House, yet few people have actually heard him speak on camera. Moments ago, rare public remarks from Jared Kushner ahead of his big overseas trip focusing on Middle East peace. What he had to say, coming up.
And we're back to our breaking news. Terror investigations in both London and Paris, both involving drivers using cars as weapons. We're back in a moment.
[14:58:15] BALDWIN: Top of the hour. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.
Several breaking stories hitting this hour, including two new terror investigations.
But first, to this continuing contradiction out of the White House about this Russia probe. Moments ago, the president kept silent about it during his photo op with the president of Panama.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Mr. President, are you under investigation by the special counsel? Mr. President, are you under investigation by the special counsel?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: And no answer.
That's in contrast to what his personal attorney has been saying on TV today. Jay Sekulow went on against the president's own words in regard to what Special Counsel Robert Mueller is investigating. Sekulow repeated that President Trump is not under investigation despite the president's tweets on Friday, which read, quote, "I am being investigated by the man who told me to fire the FBI director. Witch hunt."
We now know the president was reacting not to any direct knowledge but to that report from "The Washington Post" from a couple days ago.
That was a point that Sekulow kept repeating with my colleague, Chris Cuomo. Here's just a piece of their conversation on "New Day."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS CUOMO, CO-HOST, NEW DAY: Do you think that Bob Mueller is looking at the circumstance surrounding Comey's firing? Do you think that's part of the purview of his probe?
JAY SEKULOW, TRUMP ATTORNEY: I have no idea if he's looking at that or not.
CUOMO: Would you be surprised if he is?
SEKULOW: There is a - there is a fundamental threshold question there that the president's authority to terminate the FBI director is based on the Constitution. So --
CUOMO: But that's a conclusion. That's a conclusion.
SEKULOW: That's actually the predicate. You don't even go to that if - you don't even go to looking at whatever the facts are based on if, in fact, the president has the authority to begin with. So the way it works is you look at the Constitution --
CUOMO: Let's me --
CUOMO: Hold on a second. This matters, OK? And I respect you very much as a counsel. I've researched you a lot. I know who you are. You're a good attorney. But the president hired --