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10 Missing, 5 Hurt after USS McCain Collides with Oil Tanker; President Trump to Address Nation Regarding Afghanistan. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired August 21, 2017 - 07:00   ET


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- USS John McCain collided with a merchant ship.

[07:00:05] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is not looking good. The longer the time goes, you know, the less the chances are.

REAR ADMIRAL JOHN KIRBY (RET.), CNN DIPLOMATIC AND MILITARY ANALYST: You now have ten families who are going through hell. They don't know where their young sailors are.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What does success look like in Afghanistan? That's a question the president is going to have to answer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a whole lot easier to get into these wars than it is to get out of them.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump giving his first major national security address amid growing fallout over his Charlottesville remarks.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We would never allow any other president in the country to act and behave as this president has.

SEN. TIM SCOTT (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: It will be very difficult for this president to lead if, in fact, that moral authority remains compromised.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Welcome to your NEW DAY. We begin with breaking news. An intense search is under way to find ten missing sailors. A U.S. Navy destroyer collided with an oil tanker just east of Singapore. This is the fourth crash involving a U.S. Navy warship in the Pacific in recent memory.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Meanwhile, President Trump is back at the White House from vacation, preparing to address the nation tonight. The president will unveil his strategy for the nearly 16- year-long war in Afghanistan. He is expected to send more troops to the region.

So let's begin with CNN's Ryan Brown. He's live at the Pentagon for us with all of the breaking details. What have you learned, Ryan? RYAN BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Alisyn, we're learning a little

bit more about the circumstances of this crash, again, taking place just east of Singapore, just east of the straits of Malacca, a very heavily-trafficked area, a lot of maritime traffic. The John McCain colliding against a much larger oil tanker, suffering severe damage, a hole being torn in the side of the ship. Compartments, a sleeping compartment, a communications compartment flooded. The crew had to battle the flooding, conduct damage control to keep the ship going. And they were able to safely get it back to port.

But as you mentioned earlier, there are ten sailors missing. Five additional sailors suffered injuries. Four of them were evacuated via helicopter. They're being treated now. We're told none of those injuries are life-threatening.

And with regards to the ten missing sailors, there is a large search effort under way. U.S. aircraft are in the area, looking for them. There's also aircraft and Navy ships from the Republic of Singapore conducting a search over a wide area in the hopes of trying to locate these sailors. Again, their families have been notified, beginning to be notified that these sailors are missing.

And this all comes just two months after a similar collision with the USS Fitzgerald which cost the life of seven U.S. sailors. And again, there was some fallout from that collision. And the command, the leaders of that vessel were relieved of duty in the recent weeks. So again, several of these instances, the U.S. Navy definitely going to conduct an investigation as to what went wrong there -- Chris.

CUOMO: So Ryan, we have the Antietam that ran aground, but the other three, including what just happened with the USS McCain, they all involved other ships, private vessels. So I'm sure the Navy is looking at this pattern, as well. Thank you for the reporting.

So the president is going to have a chance to address you and the entire nation about what happened with these sailors in prime time tonight, but he's really there to give you his long-awaited strategy for the nearly 16-year-long war in Afghanistan.

CNN's Sara Murray live at the White House with more. A lot of political implications with this one tonight.

SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Chris. A big moment for the president. It's one of the rare addresses he will be giving to the nation since taking office, and it comes at a point where his credibility, his character, his ability to lead the country has all come under question, under criticism. He's going to have to stand up in front of the American public tonight and make the case that they can trust him and his path forward when it comes to Afghanistan.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's a very big decision for me. I took over a mess, and we're going to make it a lot less messy. MURRAY (voice-over): President Trump set to outline his strategy for

America's path forward in Afghanistan. A major test for the new commander in chief, one that could put more American troops in harm's way. After meeting with top administration officials at Camp David on Friday, the president announcing Saturday he had made a decision after months of deliberation and delays.

JAMES MATTIS, U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: The president has made a decision. As he said, he wants to be the one to announce it to the American people. It is a South Asia strategy. It's not just an Afghanistan strategy.

MURRAY: The president has been presented with a wide range of options. Everything from a full withdrawal to the deployment of up to 4,000 more soldiers, adding to the more than 8,000 American forces already there. That's an option recently ousted chief strategist Steve Bannon opposed.

The founder of the controversial security firm Blackwater has also lobbied the White House to begin relying more heavily on private contractors. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis remaining tight-lipped about the details, but he gave this sobering assessment in June on the state of the nearly 16-year-long war.

MATTIS: We are not winning in Afghanistan right now.

MURRAY: Trump has questioned the purpose of America's continued involvement in Afghanistan, repeatedly advocating for full withdrawal on Twitter, before running for president. Officials say he remains deeply skeptical, but his doubts have come up against hawkish generals in his inner circle. Any troop increase, sure to meet at least some resistance from Democrats.

SEN. BEN CARDIN (D), MARYLAND: I don't believe putting more American soldiers in Afghanistan is the answer.

MURRAY: This crucial national security decision comes amid questions about the president's leadership capability and mounting backlash to Trump's defense of white supremacists in Charlottesville last week.

TRUMP: You had some very bad people in that group, but you also had people that were very fine people on both sides.

SEN. TIM SCOTT (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: It's going to be very difficult for this president to lead if, in fact, that moral authority remains compromised.

MURRAY: The president's approval ratings taking a hit, dipping below 40 percent in three key Midwest states that helped Trump win the presidency, with six in ten Americans saying they're embarrassed by the president's conduct.


MURRAY: Now, tonight we will be seeing Teleprompter Trump, carefully crafted statements as the president takes on the somber role of commander in chief, but tomorrow, we could see a very different President Trump, but that is when he's going to be traveling to Arizona. He's going to be holding a campaign-style rally in Phoenix. This is a state where both of the senators, John McCain and Jeff Flake, have been harshly critical of the president.

Back to you guys.

CUOMO: Sara, let's be honest. We don't know what we're going to get tonight. That's one reason people are going to watch. You never know what you're going to get with this president.

Sara, thank you very much.

Let's bring in our panel: CNN political analyst David Drucker, Karoun Demirjian and April Ryan. Karoun, great to have you here in studio.


CUOMO: You're even better looking in person.

DEMIRJIAN: Indeed. Exactly.

CAMEROTA: Charmer.

CUOMO: Just to get that matter of fact out.

DEMIRJIAN: Stated out there. It's important.

CUOMO: So one of the first things that happens with the president heading in tonight is how is he going to deal with the sailors? His -- let's play a piece of sound that he's getting heat for in his initial response to what had happened. Play it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's too bad.

TRUMP: That's too bad.


CUOMO: "That's too bad." He said it twice. The question is this. Do we believe that he knew what had happened, and that was just his response? Or do you think that the president was hearing that for the first time?

DEMIRJIAN: If he hadn't been briefed yet that, I guess, is a knee- jerk response that he could make, but you'd assume that something like this, that the president would be briefed fairly quickly. And maybe, he should have a little bit more to say in that sort of situation.

However, I mean, this is kind of a normal-sounding Trump response to a lot of things. It's a little bit off the cuff, and then he's leapt on for that, because these are very serious things, especially when you're talking about missing sailors that you would want him to take, of each, I guess, and say something a little bit more -- more in- depth.

But you know, this is what being president is. Things come at you from all different directions, and then you have to be able to have that sort of position where you can have that authority to say something that's informative. And this has been where he's tripped up many different times.

CAMEROTA: Yes. Then he got it right. You know, analysts say then with the tweet, David Drucker, that the tone was more presidential. His thoughts and prayers are with the U.S. Navy sailors aboard the USS John McCain, where search and rescue efforts are under way.

So, look, you know, we've always seen the difference between Teleprompter President Trump and off-the-cuff President Trump; and that's what we're going to see again tonight with Afghanistan.

One of the questions about what he's doing tonight with Afghanistan, why now? You know, it's long overdue. I mean, I think that Mattis had promised there would be an Afghanistan strategy mid-July, but why today? Is there some sort of effort to divert from everything that happened last week with Charlottesville, et cetera?

DAVID DRUCKER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I mean, look, that could be one of the reasons. And I'm sure at the White House they'd like to have a reset and get past what happened in Charlottesville, but the president has made a decision. They have been debating this for months, trying to figure out what to do about Afghanistan.

I think the important thing here is that it appears as though the president is not just making a knee-jerk decision based on a campaign promise. He has taken a look at the geopolitical reality of what we're facing in Afghanistan, what pulling out of the country would mean in terms of giving terrorists a place to plan, giving them a haven, which they could plot against the United States. I mean, the whole reason we're there, and we forget this because it's been so long. That's something some people forget.

CUOMO: So does he...

DRUCKER: The whole reason we're there is because of what happened on 9/11. This is where they -- this is where they plotted. And so we could bug out, and the last president and this president, neither of them wanted to be involved overseas. They wanted to minimize that as much as possible, but if you pull out and you give the terrorists a place to plan, you're dealing with the same problem all over again.

I think it's actually very interesting that the president has listened to his commanders and understands -- appears to understand what he's dealing with and is willing to go against a campaign promise when they have been so -- it's been such a big deal for this president to check things off the board in terms of promises delivered...

[07:10:07] CUOMO: How he explains this, David, is going to matter. This is different than other things, April Ryan, because he spent so much time over the last few years going on and on about what a mistake this was. And it was a big deal. It was a big deal for Bannon. And now Bannon is on the outside, and he's going to be listening. And it's important how the president changes this position tonight.

If he just goes into it and says, "Well, here is what I've been told and here is what we're going to do," I don't think he can ignore everything he's said before, can he?

APRIL RYAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: This president is so unpredictable, he will say one thing during the campaign, but as president he changes his tune.

But, Chris, one thing we have to remember, we know that this president will bash President -- former President Obama and his efforts in Afghanistan. We also have to remember, Chris, that then President Obama did diminish al Qaeda in Afghanistan.

But right now, Afghanistan is still a place where it's a breeding ground for terrorism, for reconstituting, for having new people come in, possibly to -- to wreak havoc somewhere in the world and maybe even in the United States.

So President Trump is actually right to think about and focus in on Afghanistan, but the question is what is the motive? What is the motive for now? Why now?

DEMIRJIAN: Well, one thing I would just add is, as much as it is certainly going to take the tension away away from Charlottesville, which the president definitely needs politically, I think it's important that you're seeing Mattis looking fairly satisfied with this. Right?

So if he sticks to the Teleprompter, if he really does talk not just about troop numbers but a regional strategy which is important. You've seen spillover into Central Asia, then people criticize, why aren't we focusing on Pakistan, too?

And if Mattis actually is satisfied with what the script is, and he sticks to that script, it could actually be a legitimate thing. Because the country does need answers about this question, as well as it's advantageous for the president to look presidential when a lot of people are telling him he really doesn't right now.

DRUCKER: I think the policy here, Chris, is what's most important and the fact that he's doing this in a very conventional way. You cannot have the country's support for military action if all you do is tweet. You need to lay out the stakes for them, explain why you're investing and give them a reason to follow you.

And obviously, Trump has been compromised in the past ten days, but he's still president. He still has a job to do. We still have things to deal with overseas and I think the way he's choosing to address this -- we'll see what he says but at least for now, this appears to be a good course of action.

CUOMO: What about the backdrop, April, of Charlottesville, though?

RYAN: The backdrop is not pretty at all. And I'm thinking about the military action and these men, you know, possibly ramping up, putting more troops in and these men fighting for the rights of everyone in America when the president just a few weeks ago talked about it was everyone's fault. And as these men go to -- possibly go to Afghanistan, there will not be a military win. There will be fighting. There will be attempts to try to help the government there sustain and just support of the government and also try to stabilize the situation there.

But Charlottesville still hangs over the president's head. Charlottesville is an albatross around this administration's neck. This was the breaking point for Republicans, many who hadn't really spoken, to come out publicly against this president. This is a nation that is still hurting, and we're wondering what he's going to say because he's so unpredictable.

CAMEROTA: So it was Charlottesville that allowed some people who hadn't spoken out publicly against the president or not as forcefully to begin doing so, and there was a new -- well, I don't know how new it is, but certainly, people were talking for the first time publicly, more loudly, about the president's mental fitness.


CAMEROTA: Let me give you an example. Jackie Speier, congresswoman, tweeted out this: "POTUS is showing signs of erratic behavior and mental instability that place the country in great danger. Time to invoke the 25th Amendment." That went further.

DEMIRJIAN: Right. I mean, that is definitely going further than people like Bob Corker, who questioned Trump's stability and competence, which are fighting words. And I think Adam Schiff questioned his capability, as well. Neither of them went so far as to say we should try to invoke the 25th Amendment and force the president out of office.

There is a question right now for Democrats about how hard to play this and are you going to overplay your hand if you start to paint Trump as somebody who's, you know, mentally unstable. There's been a debate in this country, as well, about whether that's even fair to diagnose somebody from arm's length like that.

So certainly, you're seeing this come out at all points of the political spectrum. Bob Corker is saying things like not competent is not a job. He's actually tried to work with the president before. So the discussion is out there, and it's happening. How far they take it, I don't think there's enough support in the Democratic Party right now to actually try to oust him from office over these impressions.

CUOMO: They couldn't do it alone anyway. And they don't have the votes.

DEMIRJIAN: Right. Exactly. Certainly, there's a lot of people who want impeachment, but there are certain leaders that are saying don't touch it. We don't need to overplay this political political football. And just -- you know, stick with what we can control, which is that the president doesn't look good right now, and let him keep not looking good. CAMEROTA: Panel, thank you very much.

But there is a real --

CUOMO: Go ahead, April. Button it up for us.

RYAN: But there's a real -- there's a real question here. How many Republicans really believe that he will be the candidate for 2020? It's not about 2018 for a lot of people anymore. It's about 2020, and that's a whole new story or a whole new story line we have to talk about later on.

CAMEROTA: Impossible to know. That is a lifetime away in this news cycle, as is tomorrow. But thank you, guys, very much for all of the analysis.

CUOMO: All right. So because of what happened before and all of the extension of what will happen after, tonight is a big deal. We're going to bring you live coverage of President Trump's address to the nation tonight at 9 p.m. Eastern. And right after it, 9:30 p.m., you're going to have a live town hall event with House Speaker Paul Ryan, one of the people who has been conspicuously absent from scrutiny of the president. Jake Tapper is going to be hosting that. And important night to have the speaker of the House on.

CAMEROTA: For sure. All right. Well, with President Trump's address to the nation tonight, members of his own party are questioning his ability to lead. What about the president's moral authority? Has that somehow been compromised? We have a debate for you next.


[07:20:24] CAMEROTA: President Trump will address the nation tonight on his plan for the war in Afghanistan. This after a tough week following the violence in Charlottesville that had even some Republican senators questioning President Trump's ability to lead.


SCOTT: As we look to the future, it's going to be very difficult for this president to lead if, in fact, that moral authority remains compromised. His comments on Tuesday that erased his positive comments on Monday started to compromise that moral authority that we need the president to have for this nation to be the beacon of light to all mankind.


CAMEROTA: All right. Joining us now to talk about this is CNN senior political commentator and former Republican U.S. Senator Rick Santorum; and CNN political commentator and former Democratic Ohio State senator, Nina Turner. Great to have both of you.

Rick Santorum, I'll start with you. Do you think that the president's moral authority has been compromised? RICK SANTORUM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I would say that if

Tim Scott is out there, saying that that's serious. Tim is a -- you know, a terrific man who has a pretty good barometer, pretty good feeling for these types of things. And the fact that he has expressed that should cause concern to the president and to the White House. And it just shows the imperative that this president, you know, get back on message, get back tonight obviously on Afghanistan. Very important speech...

CAMEROTA: But -- sorry to interrupt you, Senator, but what do you think? I mean, do you feel that the president has lost some credibility?

SANTORUM: Well, obviously, the firestorm from Charlottesville has been probably more intense than anything we've seen, and that obviously raises some serious questions.

I mean, the fact that he continues to -- to sort of go through staff, there's a lot of instability there. I think people are -- people are very concerned about this president right now. And he's got -- he's got a window of opportunity to try to -- try to right the ship here. Obviously, tonight he's going to try to do that with Afghanistan.

He's also got some things he has to do when we get back -- when the Senate and the House get back in session. He's got a healthcare bill that I know they're still working on, trying to get something done there to pull that out of the fire.


SANTORUM: So he's got to start having accomplishments. He's to start showing that he's actually -- can govern and can bring people together to get things done.

CAMEROTA: Nina, what do you think? In terms of what Senator Tim Scott said about the moral authority, the credibility to lead us through international crises like we'll see on stage tonight?

NINA TURNER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, Senator Tim Scott is absolutely right, Alisyn. This is not just about filling the void with the other things on the president's to-do list. He has got to be unequivocal about being against white supremacy, neo-Nazi, KKK- inspired type demonstrations that we saw in Charlottesville, Virginia. He can't equivocate on it.

And Senator Scott also had a very strong recommendation which I think this -- the president should follow, which is to sit down and talk to people who have endured this type of racial pain and bigotry in this country. It's not a lifetime ago. It's not people who, like Congressman John Lewis and others, who lived through that are still here today. He can sit down and talk to them.

And Alisyn, it's also about cultural competency, the ability to learn and grow, the ability to understand your own culture and that of other folks and how they intersect and intertwine and what that means in America. And the president has not done that; and he still -- I mean, I'm still holding out hope that he will do the right thing. I'm probably among very few Democrats who do that, but in order for this country to be successful, in order for us to move forward. This president has to understand that and not go backwards on that and also push policies that then lift people in this country.

That is his moral imperative. That is his duty as the president of the United States of America to not just brush this kind of pain aside. This is real. The trauma that African-Americans and other people of color, our Native American sisters and brothers have faced in this country at the hands of bigotry and racism, systemic bigotry and racism, not just what we saw in Charlottesville, is real.

CAMEROTA: Rick, do you think the president was brushing aside the pain that Nina was talking about?

SANTORUM: Look, the president clearly made a huge mistake last week in the way he addressed this issue. There are -- there's only a few ways to go about resolving that. No. 1, you do what Nina suggests, which is go out and talk, talk with people and then talk about that experience, but it's also to try to show that he can bring people together.

This is -- you know, this is not just about what happened in Charlottesville. This is -- this is a broader issue for the president. He has to show that he has the ability to coalesce and bring people together on a variety of different areas; and having some successes would, I think, help in that regard.

[07:25:16] I don't mean to equate the two, but, look, the president has not had a whole lot of successes here in Capitol Hill and, unless he starts to show that he can lead in that way, people -- people will take the president's mistake at its face value.

But if it shows that he can't move from that point and actually be a productive president, that's going to have more longer term impact on him than -- than last week's, you know, press conference.

CAMEROTA: Nina, let me just read for you and everyone what Congresswoman Jackie Speier of California, Democrat, is saying. She thinks POTUS, the president, is showing signs of erratic behavior and mental instability that place the country in grave danger. Time to invoke the 25th Amendment. Does that go too far?

TURNER: Yes, I think it does. I mean, unless that she -- I mean, this is -- we shouldn't play games with mental illness. Many people either have family members, I do, or know someone who has a mental illness, and so this is serious business.

But if there is a real concern about the among of Congress in both the Senate and the House that this president is not mentally capable, then they need to have that conversation, a bipartisan conversation. But for Democrats or for anybody to cavalierly use mental illness as some political football, it is -- it's wrong, and it shouldn't be accepted. So a real threat. Yes, have that debate, but to play political games with this is not acceptable.

CAMEROTA: Rick, go ahead.

SANTORUM: Yes, I would just say that all of this talk, whether it's from Bob Corker or whether it's from, you know, the congresswoman you just suggested, Donald Trump -- let's just be honest. I mean, Donald Trump really hasn't changed. I mean, the Donald Trump you're seeing is the Donald Trump you saw throughout the course of the campaign and, frankly, throughout the course of his presidency.

I mean, this is -- this is what the country elected. They elected someone who was dramatically politically incorrect and off-the-cuff and -- and crude and a whole lot of other things that I know a lot of folks on both sides of the aisle are very uncomfortable with. But that's who he is. That's what we elected. That's what we knew we were electing.

And so the idea that somehow or another we have now arrived at the fact that this is -- this is a problem, no, this is who Donald Trump is. And they -- whether you like it or not, obviously, I think comes back to whether he's going to be successful in getting things done as president.

CAMEROTA: Yes, I mean.

SANTORUM: That's what they thought was going to bring -- bring change to Washington, stir things up.


SANTORUM: And the question is, yes, he's stirring things up, but is he getting things done? So far, the cover is pretty bare.

CAMEROTA: I don't know, Rick. It does goes beyond effectiveness. It goes to embarrassment. There was a new NBC/Marist poll, and it asked people in the states that pushed President Trump over the top. I mean, these were the -- this is the Blue Wall, you know. These were the states he wasn't expected to win: Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin.

Does the president's behavior make you feel embarrassed, and the results here are surprisingly consistent, Nina. And 64 percent Michigan, 63 percent Pennsylvania, 64 percent Wisconsin all say yes. We only have a few seconds left. What do you think this means going forward?

TURNER: I mean, there is a fine line between having a mental illness and lacking the discipline necessary to be the president of the United States of America. If voters are having buyer's remorse, then voters will have another bite at this apple in 2020.

But if the members of Congress really do believe that there is something wrong with the president, then they have to address that. But this cannot be used as a cavalier thing, because so many people are suffering from mental illness in this country, and it's unfair to them.

SANTORUM: My two cents is, if he had passed a healthcare bill, are we on the verge of passing a tax bill, had we passed an infrastructure bill, none of those polls would show what they're showing.

CAMEROTA: Rick Santorum, Nina Turner, thank you very much for the analysis, Chris.

CUOMO: What the president didn't do any of those things that Santorum is referring to, and that's why tonight is yet another moment that is heavy with importance for the president. He has spent years, Donald Trump, saying the United States needs to get out of Afghanistan. What will he say tonight? We're going to ask former director of national intelligence James Clapper, next.