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Secret Iran Nuke Program; Clerical Error in Statement; Trump Delays Tariffs; Pence Physician and Jackson; Migrants being Processed. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired May 1, 2018 - 09:30   ET


[09:32:02] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: New this morning, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Iran is lying about its plans for its nuclear program.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: You know, he says, if the world new in 2015 the information that Israel just uncovered and presented that the Iran deal would never have happened.

Joining us now live from Jerusalem, CNN's Oren Liebermann.

This was high drama but clearly met for the rest of the world, Oren.

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. He started speaking in English, which gives you an indication of who his intended audience was in this case. It wasn't meant for a local, domestic, Israeli audience. It was very much meant for America, for the west and for President Donald Trump, as Netanyahu, the prime minister, tries to build this case to nix the Iran nuclear deal. He's been its outspoken critic and this has been his biggest strike against the Iran deal to date.

But you're right, as you point out, it was very big on theatrics. But the question we're asking is, what there was new? What's the new material here? We've learned that the International Atomic Energy Agency has seen much of what Netanyahu highlighted in his speech last night and has included it in some of their reports over previous years.

So, what is new here? Netanyahu's argument is that they held on -- that Iran held on to their documents, their knowhow when it comes to developing Iran nuclear weapons from decades ago and that they could then take that to try to develop a nuclear weapon once again.


BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: They have the wherewithal, the stored up preserved knowledge to make a bomb very quickly if they wanted to do it. We could -- if you put all these three things together, the enriched uranium, bomb, missiles together, that's a prescription for catastrophe.

(END VIDEO CLIP) LIEBERMANN: One of the biggest questions here is, who has he actually convinced? Shortly after this presentation, he spoke with the leaders of the other signatories to the deal, the leaders of France, Germany, U.K., Russia and China, trying to convince them that this is a bad deal and they said -- should -- that they should nix it in his own words.

But we've already heard from Russian President Vladimir Putin, who said he sees the deal as good as is. He doesn't want to see it changed. The French and the British have said, look, your argument is a stronger case to have the deal, to have the inspections and to see what's there. It's the best mechanism to date to keep Iran's nuclear ambitions in check.

However, it is quite clear, he seems to have convinced the Americans, Trump calling it -- saying it confirms 100 percent what he suspected.

What's interesting here is a statement put out by the White House, and I'll read this to you quickly here. It said, these facts are consistent with what the United States has long known, Iran has a robust, clandestine nuclear weapons program that it has tried and failed to hide from the world and from its own people. But the White House then called it a clerical error and said it should have been Iran had a robust clandestine nuclear weapons program.

John and Poppy, has versus had, past tense versus present tense, it's a very big difference here.

HARLOW: To say the least. Oren Lieberman, thank you.

With us now is Sam Vinograd, CNN national security analyst and former senior adviser to President Obama's National Security Council. She also helped work -- lay the groundwork for the Iran deal, worked extensively with the Israelis on the reaction and response to the Iran's nuclear program.

[09:35:14] Let's just go to that clerical error.


HARLOW: I mean huge significance. I mean huge mistake, if that's what it was. But you say there's also significance here in what "had" shows.

VINOGRAD: Indeed. I think the tense here is the money point. "Had" implies that Iran lied. We know that. They said that they didn't have a nuclear program in the --

HARLOW: Yes. They did.

VINOGRAD: They did, which is why we had the JCPOA, the Iran agreement.

The "had" means, though, that it was in the past. What Prime Minister Netanyahu I think was saying yesterday is that they may be lying about whether they have one now. The White House seemingly disagrees because, again, it puts that program in the past. So the takeaway for me is, there is no indication for the White House that Iran has -- or that Iran has violated the terms of the Iran deal. So we're back to the same question, if Iran hasn't violated the terms of the Iran deal --

HARLOW: Right.

VINOGRAD: Why are we withdrawing?

BERMAN: Yes, it's hard to believe it's a clerical error, by the way. They say a clerical error. It's the most important consonant in the entire statement. I mean either --

HARLOW: Not just word, the most important consonant.

BERMAN: It is.


BERMAN: If they have a nuclear program, then they're in violation. But Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, he didn't present any evidence that they're now in violation. The White House, the State Department, the Pentagon, they say they have no evidence that Iran's in current violation, correct?

VINOGRAD: Correct. And the other thing is, John, there is a mechanism under the Iran agreement, if there are any indications at all that Iran is not keeping its commitments to never seek --

HARLOW: Right.

VINOGRAD: Develop or acquire nuclear weapon. It's in Annex II. So I think we either have selective reading by Prime Minister Netanyahu and Donald Trump, or a case of purposeful misrepresentation.

HARLOW: And just for people reading about this, this morning and trying to digest it and get their heads around it. When the president said this week that Iran will be free to make nuclear weapons again in seven years, that's just flat out wrong. It's completely wrong. I mean this deal bans them from ever making nuclear weapons again.

VINOGRAD: Correct. It's just fake news. Again, I think it is purposeful misrepresentation because the preamble of the agreement says again, Iran will never seek, acquire or develop a nuclear weapon.

HARLOW: Never.

VINOGRAD: It never goes away. There is no sunset on the prohibition against Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon.

BERMAN: And with all the language about renegotiating or discussing a possible new deal, is that a real possibility?

VINOGRAD: I don't think so, particularly if we rip up this deal. If we rip up this deal, if you're Iran, why would you say, OK, you didn't keep your agreement last time, but I'm going to trust you this time? I think it completely shoots us in the foot. I think there is a question about whether we want a supplemental deals

on things --

HARLOW: Right, to deal like with ballistic missiles, et cetera.

VINOGRAD: Or funding of terrorism, for example.

HARLOW: But even -- go ahead.

BERMAN: No, I was just going to say, it's not nothing that Iran still has these plans and documents that the Israeli found, though. That would be a cause for concern. It shows, what, that they want to have the possibility of restarting a program if things go awry?

VINOGRAD: I think that they probably, if this is true, want to keep some kind of edge in case, for example, somebody rips up a deal and walks away from the table. They want to have some ability and some leverage going forward.

HARLOW: Right. We've got to leave it there. But just to be clear, if the U.S. pulls out, all the other signatories are still in, correct?

VINOGRAD: They are, but I think you -- it's very likely Iran will withdraw at that point.

HARLOW: All right. Thank you.

VINOGRAD: Thank you.

BERMAN: Thanks so much, Sam.

All right, the doctor is out, but new allegations against Ronny Jackson, the admiral, are in. CNN's exclusive report, next.


[09:42:34] BERMAN: All right, President Trump has delayed hitting key U.S. allies with tariffs.

HARLOW: The European Union, Canada, Mexico, all facing pretty hefty tariffs on steel and aluminum imports to the United States if they don't reach an agreement in the next month. The president just gave them a last minute 30 day runway.

Our chief business correspondent, Christine Romans, is here.

Why did he do that?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: You know, it's either a reprieve or else it's just 30 more days of uncertainty. And that's the way the E.U. looks at it, 30 more days of uncertainty when businesses aren't making decisions because they don't know what it's going to be like at the end of 30 days.

Why did he do it? Well, they're still negotiating on NAFTA. So for Canada and Mexico, it makes sense to really push it down the line. And there are big differences with the E.U. The E.U. negotiators,

quite frankly, are pretty ticked off that they're even in this position and they're threatening $8 billion of retaliation in tariffs in places like Wisconsin, Harley-Davidsons, and Kentucky, whiskey, bourbon. So, watch this space. There's a lot of negotiation to be done there. But they did give some permanent tariff exemptions to Argentina, Australia, Brazil and South Korea.

Now, South Korea said that it would cut its steel shipments by 30 percent from last year in exchange for not being subject to the tariffs. It is still subject to those tariffs on aluminum. That's quotas. We're hearing that the administration is really trying to focus in here on quotas, getting companies to limit their shipments in exchange for dropping the tariffs.

The big -- you know, the big problem here is that so much of this oversupply is coming from China in the first place, right? And so you still have to tackle that part of the story. And, again, a bunch of these trade negotiators for the White House will be going to China this week. The president's top money men. And when you look at the list there, what strikes me is these guys are not necessarily all on the same page about how we should be handling trade negotiations with the United States. They will speak all in the same voice for the president and the president's been very clear that he wants tariffs and he wants the U.S. to fight back after he thinks the U.S. has not been fighting at all on the trade front in many, many years. But you've got a couple of globalists in that -- you know, and globalist is not a dirty word, folks, but globalists in that group. So we'll see how that turns out.

BERMAN: China knows that too.


BERMAN: I mean the Chinese negotiators will know that when they sit down.

ROMANS: Oh, yes. Oh, yes.

BERMAN: All right, Christine Romans, thanks very much.

HARLOW: Romans, thank you.

ROMANS: Thanks very much.

HARLOW: New allegations coming forward against the president's now former personal doctor, but also former pick for VA chief, Ronny Jackson.

BERMAN: Yes, CNN has learned that Mike Pence's doctor, the vice president's doctor, tipped off the White House last year about potential issues with then President Trump's personal physician.

[09:45:03] Joining us now, Manu Raju, senior congressional reporter, with your exclusive reporting.

Manu, what have you learned?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, President Trump has contend that all of the criticism against Ronny Jackson has been nothing but vicious rumors. But we are learning for the first time that there were serious concerns about Jackson's conduct that were raised by Vice President Pence's doctor last September when the doctor wrote a series of detailed memos that were provided to the vice president's chief of staff, Nick Ayers, and to the White House chief of staff, John Kelly, and that CNN has now obtained.

Now, Pence's doctor accused Jackson at the time of violating the patient privacy rights under the HIPAA law for Karen Pence, the second lady of the United States, who had a medical situation last fall at Walter Reed Hospital. Now, after Pence's doctor raised alarms about this to senior officials and to Mrs. Pence, the doctor had a very contentious confrontations, tow of them, with Jackson, where the physician wrote in those memos that he was, quote, intimidating and was engaging in, quote, aggressive behavior that made the physician feel uncomfortable and allegedly Jackson dismissed concerns that Mrs. Pence's privacy was violated, even suggesting that HIPAA does not always need to be followed at the White House. Now, that's according to the memos. Now, Jackson allegedly told the physician to, quote, let things go over the matter, to help the physician's career and that this physician had considered resigning because things had gotten so unpleasant in their dealings with the president's doctor, Ronny Jackson.

Now, the other issues -- this is -- these are also consistent with the allegations raised by unnamed individuals who came forward and talked to Democratic Senator Jon Tester, something that the president has dismissed, calling on Tester to resign over this whole controversy.

Now, in response to all of this, John and Poppy, the White House declined to comment for our story. The vice president's office said the vice president's chief of staff referred the doctor's concerns to the appropriate chains of command. But the big question is, what happened afterwards is really unclear about whether or not anyone acted on any of these concerns that were raised by the vice president's doctor, guys.

HARLOW: Right, before he was nominated for such a big position.

Manu, thank you for the reporting.

Ahead, the long journey may be over. They're American dream, though, is far from certain. The migrant caravan of 150 or so people that are now sitting right at the doorstep of the United States, right on the border, what is the latest for them?


[09:51:59] BERMAN: All right, happening now, we're told that U.S. Border Patrol agents are now processing eight of the more than 100 people seeking asylum on the Mexico/U.S. border.

HARLOW: We do know that 11 other migrants that were part of that caravan were arrested for trying to illegally enter the United States.

Let's go straight to our senior national correspondent Kyung Lah. She joins us right there on the border in Tijuana, Mexico.

So, look, eight being processed out of 100. Not a big number. Eleven arrested. What is the latest?

KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Let's bring you up to date on that eight, because that's where I really want to start, John and Poppy. It's three moms, their four children and one 18-year-old. This happened in the overnight hours. They were brought in by border patrol. They're in the process of the asylum process. At the very beginning, where they're going through a credible fear interview, trying to figure out if their country of origin, if they have a legitimate reason for applying for asylum.

One of the people we've been following is a woman named Gabriela (ph), following her for weeks. She came from Honduras. She's pregnant. She's traveling with her two young children. She is one of the eight. And so that now all begins. But starting from here, what happens now, it could be weeks, if not years, before there is some end, some answer for this asylum process.

As far as what happens here at the border, I want you to walk with me over this way. This is a fenced in area. But if you look at how large this is, there are about 100 people who are still here waiting at the U.S. border. This has turned into an encampment. And they're sleeping under tents. It's been pretty cold overnight. And we're going to try not to zoom in too closely because all these blankets that you're looking at, there are many women and children still sleeping here on concrete, trying to wait, hoping that they too will be one of the eight people who will be processed, brought in, begin the questioning process by border patrol. And even though it's very uncertain, John and Poppy, what happens from that point, once you're allowed in, they say at least that puts them on the track, hoping that they will be able to be admitted legally into the United States under asylum.

John and Poppy.

BERMAN: And what's the situation with arrests that have started to happen, we're told, at the border?

LAH: The -- you're talking about the 11 people?


LAH: From what we understand, according to our Laura Jarrett, they are people who got frustrated and decided to make a break for it. They were arrested about four miles from where we're standing. They are not part of this group that's staying together any longer. And they were brought in. Ten of them are facing misdemeanor charges, the other, felony, because that person did try to make it across the border more than once, according to U.S. authorities. That's the very latest that we have on that.

HARLOW: OK. BERMAN: Kyung Lah, thanks very much. Appreciate it.

HARLOW: Thank you.

[09:54:46] BERMAN: Special Counsel Robert Mueller has questions for President Trump. A lot of them. This morning, the president is slamming the leak of those questions, even though there's every reason to believe that it comes from somewhere inside Trump world. We're following all the latest developments. Stay with us.


BERMAN: All right, good morning, everyone. I'm John Berman.

HARLOW: And I'm Poppy Harlow.

In the Russia investigation, questions on obstruction, questions on collusion, questions on leaking and firing and intent and, for now, the same two word response from President Trump, witch hunt.

BERMAN: So, this morning, the president is fuming, or at least he claims to be, that more than 40 questions that the special counsel passed on to his legal team were leaked to "The New York Times," even though really it does appear that it was leaked by someone connected to the president. The president says there are no questions about collusion. There are. And he declared it's very hard to obstruct justice for a crime that never happened. Actually, it's not.

[10:00:08] CNN's Kaitlan Collins at the White House.

Whatever he's saying, though, it is clear he's responding at least in some way, Kaitlan.