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Navy Ship Fires Warning Shots; Kushner Testifies on Russia; Russia May be Arming Taliban; Manafort Expected to Meet with Senate; Trump Holds Rally in Ohio. Aired 9:30-10:00a ET

Aired July 25, 2017 - 09:30   ET



[09:31:38] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, we do have some breaking news. U.S. officials tell us that a U.S. Navy ship has fired warning shots at an armed Iranian patrol boat.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: So we're hearing this happened in the northern end of the Arabian Gulf.

Our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr has the details.

I know this is just coming in, but what have you learned?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning to both of you.

Never exactly a calm day when the U.S. Navy has to fire warning shots at anybody. It happened just several hours ago at the northern end of the Persian Gulf. A number of U.S. Navy ships operating up there in international waters when they were approached by an Iranian patrol boat believed to be operated by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. That's the most militant wing of the Iranian national security structure.

And this ship came within 150 yards of the Navy ship's operating up there. The Navy says -- they said they called the Iranians on the radio. They fired warning flares. They sounded five blasts of their whistle system, which is an international navigation sign for danger. The Iranians did not stop.

At that point, the U.S. Navy ship fired warning shots into the water. The Iranian ship then did stop, but stayed in the area for several hours, we are told.

John. Poppy.

HARLOW: Barbara Starr at the Pentagon, thank you for that reporting and that update.

Meantime, President Trump's attacks on his own attorney general fueling speculation, a lot of it, that he wants Sessions out soon.

BERMAN: Yes, moments ago we spoke with Democratic Congressman Denny Heck of Washington. He is a member of the House Intelligence Committee. And what he asked him -- we asked him what he made of the apparent efforts by the president to force the attorney general out.


REP. DENNY HECK (D), WASHINGTON: Well, here we go again, the 3-D movie of deception, deflection and distraction. This is no management style that I've ever been exposed to. If President Trump thinks that the American public's not being well served by his attorney general, he alone has the authority to dismiss him. And I don't know why he doesn't do that outright. Except for the fact that he would be doing it over a manner -- a matter in which Attorney General Sessions actually took an action, namely recusing himself from the Russian investigation, as a matter of ethical principle. And so I know -- I think on some level he knows that wouldn't go over very well with the American public. So instead, he's engaged in this -- evidently effort to kind of force him out, embarrass him out, shame him out, who knows what.

HARLOW: Congressman, if Sessions goes, whether he is shamed out, as you put it, or whether the president directly fires him, does it concern you about what happens then next (INAUDIBLE) to the Special Council Bob Mueller?

HECK: Absolutely, Poppy. In fact, I -- I think we're already heading pell-mell toward a constitutional crisis over this entire matter. If he, in fact, is using this as a grace note or a grace step in order to discharge Director Mueller, there's no doubt in my mind that Congress will react swiftly, strongly, immediately. And there's no doubt in my mind that this will constitute a constitutional crisis.

BERMAN: Why do you think Congress will act, you know, swiftly, as you put it? Congress didn't act particularly swiftly when the president fired James Comey.

HECK: No, they didn't at all, John, and that's a really good point. But I think especially on today, which is essentially in the broader context kind of a good news day. Look, we're having Mr. Kushner in to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. We're taking that step forward.

[09:35:06] And when you actually think about how much more we know today than we did six months ago, we have made slow but steady progress. And when you think about the fact that the House today, on the suspension calendar, is going to overwhelmingly enact and increase sanctions on Russia, we're making progress.

Congress will respond eventually. Not as quickly as the American public would like, I think. Not as quickly as I would like. But we will do it, we are doing it, and we will continue to do it. And we will do it in this instance.

HARLOW: So, as you heard, Jared Kushner in the Rose Garden yesterday said, I did not collude nor did anyone else on the campaign with any foreign government. You said to our colleague Kate Bolduan earlier this month, quote, we are far past collusion. Both can't be right. Make the case. HECK: So I would ask Mr. Kushner how it is he can even look the

American public in the eye and maintain that there's been no collusion when he met with the Russian government lawyer, he met with a Russian money launderer, he met with the CEO of a Russian bank that was under sanction. The CEO, by the way, having been a graduate of, in effect, their KGB school. And that he, in fact, had not one, not two, not three but four meetings with Russian officials during the course of last year and the transition, failed according to open sources to acknowledge that in his first standard form 86, his security application, his second one.

HARLOW: But, congressman, any good --

HECK: Let -- Poppy --

HARLOW: Any good attorney would tell you that meetings, as many as there are and as questionable as they may be, do not collusion make without the evidence. Have you seen something?

HECK: So why did he leave them off his standard form 86, Poppy?

This is not -- he's not golfing on one of his father-in-law's courses where he gets a mulligan in every hole.

Look, naivety is an excuse, it's not a defense. Incompetence is an excuse, it's not a defense. He met with the people on the issue presumably of adoption, which is inextricably linked to the issue of lifting sanctions on Russia. Naivety is not an excuse.

BERMAN: But you -- I understand the argument you're making, but he, in his 11-page written statement, lays out point by point an explanation for his view of each and every one of these meetings. The explanation for that meeting with Don Jr. and the Russian lawyer was that he never read the full list of the e-mails and he left because the meeting was so boring. He seemed to indicate he wasn't part of any collusion about information regarding Hillary Clinton.

And then the other meetings he has explanations for too. I understand that you don't buy those explanations. But have you seen direct evidence that he did anything that was improper?

HECK: John --

BERMAN: Go ahead.

HECK: John, this is not a question of me not buying his latest explanation. This is a question of his explanation keeps changing. His story, his brother-in-law's story, his father-in-law's story, changes at every turn. First there were no meetings and then there were. And then there was no discussion of issues relating to the sanctions, and then there were. His story changes more often than the Republican health care bill and it keeps getting worse just like that bill.

BERMAN: Covered a lot of ground. Congressman Denny Heck, we know you will be questioning Jared Kushner very shortly. Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us. HECK: Thank you, John.


HARLOW: All right, thanks to the congressman for his time.

As the war in Afghanistan rages on, the Taliban is now fighting with new weapons. But who is providing them? Is it the Russians? This new video seems to hold clues. A live report ahead.


[09:42:33] BERMAN: All right, we have new developments this morning from Afghanistan that could only complicate the U.S. relationship with Russia. Evidence that the Taliban is using new improved weaponry provided by the Russians.

HARLOW: So, in the past, Russia has called those allegations, quote, utterly false. But two videos, exclusively obtained by CNN, appear to bolster those claims. Our senior international correspondent Nick Paton Walsh reports.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Decades of war in Afghanistan mean enemies have turned friends and back again. But one, new devastating alliance risks redrawing the map here. The Russians once fought the Taliban here, then called the Mujahideen, the loss brought down the Soviet empire.

But now Moscow may actually be arming their old enemies, the Taliban, according to American and Afghan officials, bolstered by exclusive images obtained by CNN. This is a breakaway Taliban group in the west with what they say are Russian government supplied weapons they've seized from a mainstream Taliban group they defeated.

WALSH: "These were given by the fighters of Mulahypatula (ph) by the Russians, by Iran," he says. "The Russians giving them these weapons to fight ISIS in Afghanistan, but they're using them against us too. We captured six of them with these guns when they attacked."

And these weapons too, the Taliban fighter in the mask claims are supplied free by neighboring (INAUDIBLE) by the Russians. "These pistols have been brought to us recently," he says. "They're made in Russia and they're very good stuff."

Small arms experts told us there's nothing here tying the guns to the Russian state. There aren't new or rare. Various markings missing or scratched off. Even this Chinese made scope is readily available online.

But the American commander here was outspoken on the Russian threat.

GEN. JOHN NICHOLSON, COMMANDER, RESOLVE SUPPORT MISSION, AFGHANISTAN: By arming belligerents or legitimizing belligerents who perpetuate attacks, like we saw two days ago in Mazar-i-Sharif is not the best way forward to a peaceful reconciliation.

QUESTION: So to be clear, you're not refuting that they're sending weapons (INAUDIBLE).

NICHOLSON: Oh, no. Not refuting that.

WALSH: Afghan officials suspect Russian deliveries for at least two months.

SEDIQ SEDIQI, DIRECTOR, AFGHAN GOVERNMENT MEDIA & INFORMATION CENTER: The Russians have said that they are -- you know, they maintain contact with the Taliban. But we have lots of valid reports from people that they are arming the Taliban.

WALSH (on camera): There's no smoke without fire, is there?

SEDIQI: Absolutely. We believe that there's no smoke without fire.

WALSH: These pictures aren't incontrovertible proof. The Russians, if they did this, will try to hide their tracks. And in Afghanistan, war- torn as it is, the truth is often masked behind countless agendas. But these pictures will spark questions as to the true extent of Moscow's involvement here in a country where, as the Soviets, they suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of American-back the fighter.

[09:45:19] WALSH (voice-over): Russia said claims they're arming the Taliban are, quote, utterly false and made to cover up for American failure. They talked to the Taliban they say purely to promote peace talks.

WALSH (on camera): And they've denied to you that they are arming the Taliban?

SEDIQI: Absolutely they are denying that. The issue of contact with the Taliban by the Russians, that was something that really concerned us as well. So no contacts would be made with non-state groups.

WALSH (voice-over): Another new agenda, another new fuel to Afghanistan's endless fire.


WALSH: So if the Russians are doing this, then why? Well, there are some who say their interest is getting the Taliban comparatively moderate to fight ISIS. Those two, obviously, both extremist groups because Russian sees ISIS to be a bigger threat.

But there are others too who see a lot broader political gain here. At first Vladimir Putin, the Russian president himself, a child of the fallen Soviet empire, a KGB agent, perhaps he'd like to see some elements of history repeating itself by the Russians arming America's enemy as it struggles to maintain security here. Remember, the Soviets lost heavily to Afghan rebels assisted by the United States.

Back to you.

BERMAN: All right, Nick Paton Walsh for us in Kabul.

Thanks so much, Nick.

HARLOW: All right, we do have some breaking news. Let's get straight to Manu Raju, who has some information on the former campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

What are you hearing?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Yes, that's right. Paul Manafort, the former campaign chairman for President Trump, expected to testify behind closed doors with the Senate Intelligence Committee this week. We are hearing from a source close to Manafort that within the next 48 hours he's expected to go behind closed doors for an interview to give his side of the story about all the Russian contacts, his relationships with Russians over the years and, of course, that now infamous Trump Tower meeting that he attended with Donald Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner.

Now, this would be the most -- second most significant witness to come before the Senate Intelligence Committee. Earlier this week, of course, Jared Kushner talked to the staff yesterday. Jared Kushner at the House Intelligence Committee today.

Paul Manafort now going to the Senate Intelligence Committee. He's in the center of a number of investigations. The Senate Judiciary Committee also wants to talk to him. No dates set on that yet, as well as the House Intelligence Committee wants him as well. No date on that. And, of course, Special Counsel Bob Mueller almost certainly will want to talk to Paul Manafort as well. So a very significant witness coming forward this week. But this is going to be a classified session. So it will be uncertain what we learn from that. But significant nonetheless, guys.

BERMAN: Oh, very significant, especially on the heels of Jared Kushner. And it will be fascinating to see how Paul Manafort's version of events, how it coincides --


BERMAN: Or doesn't from that of Jared Kushner.

All right, Manu Raju on Capitol Hill, very busy, thank you so much.

While that's going on, President Trump is on the attack and on the road. How will he sell his new apparent effort to push out the attorney general?


[09:52:38] BERMAN: Later today, President Trump goes home, at least in the metaphorical, political sense. He will go to rally part of his coalition, white, working class voters in the rust belt who helped him win.

HARLOW: Tonight, in Youngstown, Ohio, President Trump will hold a big rally and do what even his critics admit he does very well, fire up his base. They may already be fired up, even before he begins speaking. Police say 20,000 people have registered to attend tonight at a venue that only holds about 7,000.

Joining us now, Mayor John McNally of Youngstown.

It is nice to have you here.

And as a Democrat, you know well that there will be some Democrats in that room cheering on the president -- or shall I say former Democrats who switched over and voted for President Trump. His message still resonates with them in Ohio. You see his approval rating ten points higher than it is nationally. What are you expecting and what are they saying to you about the president?

MAYOR JOHN MCNALLY (D), YOUNGSTOWN, OHIO: Well, I'm expecting to have a pretty ruckus and lively crowd at our Covelli Centre tonight in downtown Youngstown.

As you said, it only fits about 7,000. They've got 20,000 ticket requests. We're expecting a large crowd to gather outside the Covelli Centre as well.

I don't think the president's popularity has been diminished over the past six months, not only here in Mahoning County, in Youngstown, but also in Trumbull County to the north. Pretty much, you know, the folks who voted for him, the folks that switched over, have held their support for the president. No matter how wild may I think the past six months have really been, no matter the tweet storm that went out this morning on a variety of subjects, I think the people in Youngstown and Mahoney County and Trumbull County really appreciate the president's no holds barred mentality toward those who he thinks oppose him.

And I think when they get here tonight, though, I'm really hoping the president's going to talk about jobs, talk about the jobs he said would be created in areas like ours. I hope he talks about the health care. I hope he talks about a bipartisan health care approach. And I hope he talks about infrastructure improvements across the whole country.

BERMAN: You know, you just made a point that the White House likes to make, which is that all the focus on the Russian investigations and questions and controversies swirling around this White House, that people who voted for Donald Trump don't care about that. Is that what you're saying?

[09:55:02] MCNALLY: I pretty much think that's what I'm saying. I think some of that stuff gets up into the stratosphere of political thought, of Washington D.C., that folks here in Youngstown, on a daily basis, really aren't focused in on. Those of us who, you know, pay attention to the news a lot more, who might watch a lot more, that cable news programs may know what's going on. But for everybody else who supports him, everybody else who wants to see job creation occur, everybody who appreciates the fact that he tells people what he thinks, I think it's, to me, it's reminiscent of former Congressman Jim Trafficant (ph), in an attitude that people in this area really liked back in the '80s and '90s and early 2000.

So no matter what else is circulating around the president, his attitude of basically telling people the way he thinks it is I think resonates here in our area.

HARLOW: So then do you agree with some of your fellow Democrats, some like Congressman Dan Kildee of Michigan, who was on the program last week, who say we, as a party, are focusing far, far too much on Russia and we can't run and win on that.

MCNALLY: I think it will be tough to run and win on that particular issue. I think it's important to focus on that issue. I still think there's lots of questions that are out there on those particular issues and it seems like every day something new is popping up.

But, in terms of 2018 and winning races, or even, you know, God forbid we're already talking about 2020 and the next presidential election, focusing continually on Russia, I'm not sure will be more -- will be enough for the Democratic Party to be successful. They need to focused on the fact that we don't see the job creation that I think President Trump was expecting and was promising areas like ours.

If you're talking to mayors across the country, you need to address the issue of infrastructure, to try to improve our nation's roads, our nation's ports. And I think you really need, at some point in time, we've got to get to a bipartisan focus on the issue of health care. I'm just not sure if ramming it through and throwing up, you know, vote after vote is going to solve that issue.

But the folks in our area and a lot of this stuff, they don't pay attention to on a daily basis.

BERMAN: Right.

MCNALLY: They're busy with their own lives, getting their kids where they need to be, working one or two or three jobs. So it's going to be an interesting night her in Youngstown.

BERMAN: All right, Mayor John McNally of Youngstown, thank you so much for your time. Really interesting perspective.


BERMAN: We got some breaking news just in --


BERMAN: Which could be a major development. We understand that the former Trump campaign chair, Paul Manafort, receiving a subpoena now to testify in public before the Senate Judiciary Committee. What does this mean and how did it happen? All the new details, next.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

HARLOW: All right, a lot of breaking news for you this hour. Top of the hour.

And you are looking at Jared Kushner walking there into the Capitol for his second day of testimony. This one in front of members of the House Intelligence Committee. This came after his testimony yesterday and statement in the Rose Garden that he did not colluded. Some tough questions headed his way.