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UK Couple Exposed to Military-Grade Nerve Agent Novichok; CNN: Trump Completes Interviews with Supreme Court Candidates. Aired 8- 8:30a ET

Aired July 5, 2018 - 08:00   ET


[08:00:00] MICHAEL ERIC DYSON, AUTHOR, "WHAT TRUTH SOUNDS LIKE": I find it repugnant and reprehensible, and he should be repudiated, and yet you come on to try to say I disagree with you in the past. That's part of the problem we're confronting here in America, and until white folk like you can stand up and find your spine, you will continue to be complicit in the racist animus of this country.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Scott, you want the last word?

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Sure. Look, you obviously have strong feelings on this. I appreciate everything you do. I'm a fan of your work in some cases, and I think you've raised many, many good issues over the course of your career. I disagree with you on this because I think what is happening right now is that the American left in this country is willing to ascribe racist motivations to virtually every Republican or conservative in this country no matter what they do, and that is absolutely wrong.

DYSON: We're only talking about one.

JENNINGS: I've been a Republican and a conservative my entire life. I have not agreed with President Trump on everything, but I can tell you this. I have never pulled a lever or supported a politician out of a racist motivation, and for you to come on here and say otherwise is absolutely wrong. I would ask you to look into your heart and wonder, could it possibly be true that every Republican holds racial views? I think you would find that that is not true.

DYSON: I did not say that. We are talking about one in particular. We're talking about the president of the United States of America who made egregious statements, sir. So we're not talking about in general, we're talking about a particular person. And you can't even acknowledge that --

JENNINGS: You're not familiar with my work on this network.

DYSON: I'm talking about Donald Trump. I'm speaking about Donald Trump.

JENNINGS: You're not familiar with what I've said on this network.

DYSON: You can't acknowledge that Donald Trump has made racially inflammatory comments. CAMEROTA: Gentlemen, I understand. Yelling over each other isn't

helpful. Scott, yes, you have repudiated what he said in Charlottesville, we remember, we have your words from that.

DYSON: We're talking about now.

CAMEROTA: Well, we're talking about the body of evidence however you saw it, and we invited you on to share how you saw it. You did so. Michael Eric Dyson, thank you for sharing how you saw it. We appreciate both of you.

We're following a lot of news. Let's get right to it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN breaking news.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to your NEW DAY. It is Thursday, July 5th, 8:00 in the east. John Avlon here with us.

We do have breaking news this morning, an international mystery that seems to be turning into an international incident. Counterterror investigators say a couple in England has been exposed to the same military nerve agent that was used to poison a former Russian spy and his daughter in March. Officials do not know if they were exposed to the same batch of nerve agent, if it was somehow left over from the first attack or if this is a new standalone deliberate attack. The Russians were accused of plotting that first attack. There are questions about this one.

CAMEROTA: This development comes days before President Trump heads to the U.K. and before his summit with Russian president Vladimir Putin. So will President Trump bring this up with the Russian leader, this latest incident?

British Prime Minister Theresa May says her thoughts are with the victims and the people of Salisbury as the top terror official in Britain is addressing the situation right now before parliament. So we have lots of developments. Let's get to CNN international diplomatic editor Nic Robertson. He is live at the scene in Amesbury, England. What is the latest there, Nic?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Good morning, Alisyn. The very latest from here, Sajid Javid, British home secretary who just chaired a cabinet security level emergency meeting this morning, has now just announced that in fact the latest two victims of Novichok here in Amesbury, just eight miles from where the Skripals were poisoned in March, that was in the town of Salisbury, Sajid Javid now says that they were poisoned, this couple was poisoned by the same batch of Novichok, an indication there that perhaps the cleanup operation following that poisoning in March wasn't thorough enough. This is how the British home secretary explained it.


SAJID JAVID, BRITISH HOME SECRETARY: Our strong working assumption is that the couple came into contact with the nerve agent in a different location to the sights which have been part of the original cleanup operation. The police have also set up two dedicated phone numbers for anyone with concerns relating to this incident. Salisbury district hospital remains open as usual, and it is advising people to attend routine operations unless they are contacted and they are told otherwise.


ROBERTSON: So there are five areas, five different locations, three here in the town of Amesbury where the couple were picked up ill on Saturday by the British ambulance service and two in that town in Salisbury. Five areas the police are currently scrutinizing. However, what the home secretary said there was that the areas that this couple went to were none of the areas visited by Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia after they'd contracted the nerve agent Novichok, meaning therefore that the areas scrutinized and cleaned up by police during their earlier operations had been thoroughly cleaned up. However, it leaves open now the possibility that something was missed, something was thrown away, something was hidden in a bush.

[08:05:02] All of this is unclear. The investigation is ongoing. But the police are still advising residents here in they visited any of those five sights from Friday until Saturday afternoon they should wash their clothes, they should scrub their mobile phones, glasses, handbags, anything that they may have had with them when they visited those areas. This is causing concern here. We've also heard from the Kremlin who are denying again any responsibility or involvement in the poisoning of Sergei Skripal and any involvement responsibility or involvement in this current poisoning. John, Alisyn?

CAMEROTA: Oh, my gosh, it just gets more and more mysterious and more frightening, Nic. Thank you very much for the update.

So how is the Kremlin reacting to this latest poisoning case? CNN's Matthew Chance is live in Moscow with that. What are they saying, Matthew?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: As you heard from Robertson there, they're categorically denying it. This is the standard procedure that we've seen from Russia, whether it's Novichok poisoning, whether it's the shooting down of mH-17, whether it's supporting gas attacks carried out by the Syrian government in that country's conflict, they deny it and they distort it. And the latest statement from the Kremlin is that they have nothing to do with the Novichok poisoning, either the Skripals back in March or this latest incident. They say they've offered a joint investigation with the British authority which the British have rejected. That's true. The British say they have got their own experts, plus they don't want to share sensitive intelligence material with the Russians.

Also we've seen Russian diplomats engage in what I can only describe as trolling when it comes to this incident. We have got the Netherlands embassy saying how dumb do they think we are to again use the so-called Novichok situation in the middle of the FIFA World Cup? Of course Russia is stationed the World Cup Championships, and it's often said by the Russians that this Novichok crisis is an attempt to make Russia look bad during that tournament.

Another embassy in South Africa in fact saying the military facilities very close to where these two chemical poisonings took place, the implication being it was the British. This is something we've heard a lot from the Russians, the British carried out this poisoning of their own subjects in order, again, to make Russia look bad. But the timing of all this is absolutely significant because it comes ahead of the NATO summit, as you say, plus ahead of that crucial summit between Trump and Putin 11 days from now.

BERMAN: Matthew Chance for us in Moscow. Matthew, thanks very much.

I want to tell our audience that Theresa May, the British prime minister, making comments on this just moments ago. We're trying to get the tape of that. We'll play that for the minute we have that ready.

In the meantime, joining me is Hamish de Bretton-Gordon. He is the former commander of British chemical and biological counterterrorism forces. Commander, thank you so much for being with us. I do want to tell you what the home secretary said just moments ago. It's unacceptable for British citizens to be deliberate or accidental targets of a nerve agent attack. And that seems to be what they're suggesting happened here. There was the deliberate attack in March of the former Russian spy and his daughter, and now this accidental attack from this residual substance that took place over the last two days. How do you see it?

HAMISH DE BRETTON-GORDON, FORMER COMMANDER, BRITISH CHEMICAL AND BIOLOGICAL COUNTERTERRORISM FORCES: That's right. As I am very close to Amesbury, that's what it's looking like. There was the deliberate Novichok attack, the assassination attempt on Colonel Skripal four months ago, and I think what Sajid Javid has said and other information coming out of the British government today, this appears to be a contamination rather than an attack. It's a place that has not been part of the investigation thus far.

The most plausible working assumption at the moment is that a syringe or some container was discarded there, perhaps the container used to transport the Novichok from Russia or whence it came, and after the event the assailants threw it. It's possible they tried to throw it into the river. There's quite a large river running through Salisbury which would have taken it to the sea fairly quickly, but it seems to have remained in a place called Queen Elizabeth Gardens, and these two people appear to have touched it, handled it on Friday evening, and received a large dose of Novichok and are both critically ill in Salisbury hospital at the moment.

BERMAN: Based on your knowledge of this substance, again, Novichok is a nerve agent only produced as far as we know by the former Soviet Union and now the Russian spy services. Based on what you know from Novichok, how long can it remain active? How high should the level of concern be around Amesbury and Salisbury?

DE BRETTON-GORDON: Well, this is an absolute key question, and lots of people in Salisbury are worried. Nerve agents are not usually persistent. They usually last for hours or days.

[08:10:00] But we do know the Novichok is a secret program that has been uncovered that the Russians have been working on for 20 or 30 years. We believe it's very persistent. It's been around on the ground for four months now and still has the potential to create serious injury. How much longer it will be persistent we don't know.

And I think one thing a lot of people are suggesting and I support is that the Russians could rather than putting out all this ridiculous propaganda could actually help and tell us exactly what these Novichoks are, what they're made of, how persistent they are, and is it a threat in the future. I do agree with the chief medical officer here in the U.K. that the threat to the population of Salisbury is low, but people are concerned, and certainly I've been requesting the British government give more information to the people of Salisbury to allay their fears, because I agree. I don't think there's a lot of threat going forward but we just don't know at the moment.

BERMAN: Commander, if you will stand by for a moment because we did just hear from the British prime minister Theresa May moments ago on this incident. Let's hear what she said.


THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: Two people this week again affected by this nerve agent. To see two more people exposed to Novichok in the U.K. is obviously deeply disturbing, and the police I know will be leaving no stone unturned in their investigation in relation to what has happened. We also have an opportunity to look ahead to the NATO summit next week, and we can talk about modernizing the alliance for the future.


BERMAN: It's notable that Theresa May brought up the NATO summit. Of course President Trump will be there before he meets with the Russian leader Vladimir Putin, and now I think it's in more stark terms than ever before, the relationship between the traditional west, the United States and their allies, and Russia, and this incident only puts that in sharper perspective.

You mentioned, commander, that you think the Russians could be more helpful if they come clean on what is in this agent, come clean perhaps on to how it was used here, although I would never expect them to do that. Do you feel the Russians be trusted here?

DE BRETTON-GORDON: That's a very good question because, of course, Novichok was developed by the Russians to overmatch the U.S., U.K., and NATO capability to defend against it. And as we've seen it's a very potent weapon, and perhaps the Russians feel that they have a slight advantage. Conventionally, militarily they're no match for the U.S. and the rest of NATO, but in this weapon they potentially do have something that overmatches our capability, so no doubt Putin will want to milk it for all that he can. But if they're serious about being helpful then they could give some of the information that would make treating the people who are seriously ill help with that and also help the cleanup of Salisbury.

BERMAN: We haven't seen any signs that they'd be willing to do that. The initial attack, the one that took place on Skripal, the former Russian spy and his daughter, the choice to use this nerve agent, it seems deliberate. It seems you use it to send a message. What message do you think that is? Is it to frighten other, perhaps, double agents around the world?

DE BRETTON-GORDON: I think initially that's the case. That's a good assessment. We can attack you, we can kill you anywhere we like, anywhere in the world, with any sort of weapon. It's rather backfired because this is now a failed assassination attempt and NATO now knows that Russia has been developing this secret super WMD for many years now. And by the amount of Russian disinformation and propaganda that we're seeing on a daily basis, I feel the Russians are trying to claw back on this.

But it's challenging times, and hopefully with the president meeting Putin shortly they can discuss these issues and take some heat out of this, which is developing into a new cold war and a new east/west confrontation which I don't think anybody wants.

BERMAN: Hammish de Bretton-Gordon, thanks so much for being with us, helping understand what's happening on the ground there. Thank you, sir. Alisyn?


CAMEROTA: OK, now to this story. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is heading back to North Korea. Will he get more out of the North Korean leader than President Trump did? What will he accomplish?


[08:18:00] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. The breaking news, British officials say that two people sickened over the weekend were sickened by the same nerve agent used in an attack on a former Russian spy back in March. That initial attack was blamed on the Russian government. This one they think appears to be the residual effects from that first attack. Nerve agent left over.

The British home secretary said it's unacceptable for British citizens to be a deliberate or accidental target of the Russian government so this mystery turning into an international incident.

Joining us now is Perry Bacon, senior political writer from FiveThirtyEight, and former Republican Congressman Charlie Dent.

Charlie, Congressman, I want to start with you here. President Trump on his way to NATO shortly, on his way to meet with Theresa May and on his way then to meet with Russian leader Vladimir Putin. Theresa May who spoke about how this is unacceptable made specific note of the NATO meeting to talk about the idea of joint security. I don't think that was an accident.

I think she's saying she believes the alliance needs to stand firm in the face of Russia. Does President Trump need to walk into the meeting with a stern message?

CHARLIE DENT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Absolutely, President Trump needs to walk in with a stern message. He needs to not only raise the issue of meddling, Ukraine, but, of course, these attacks in the U.K. Russia is a bad actor under Putin. There's no doubt about it.

I mean, their whole foreign policy objective is to undermine American power and influence anywhere in the world. They want to break up NATO. They want to unravel the European Union.

And President Trump needs to go in there and push back very hard, instead of trying be conciliatory with this autocrat. He needs to represent the western alliance forcefully.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: I don't know, Perry, it's so scary to hear about this stuff. It's so frightening. I mean, this is -- this is 20 minutes away from where the attack was on the former Russian double agent and this couple has no Russian ties as far as we know and the idea that they were in a park?

I mean, imagine parents right now in Amesbury, the little town in Britain.

[08:20:05] They were in a park and somehow got this very specific nerve agent on them and were foaming at the mouth and became in a zombie-like state as we speak in critical condition. I mean, this is obviously stuff that a United States president would want to immediately address with Russia since that's the only place of origin that this nerve agent was ever made.

But how do we see this playing between Putin and Trump?

PERRY BACON, FIVETHIRTYEIGHT: I don't think what the congressman laid out is going to happen, where the president sits down with Vladimir Putin and is critical of him in this action or the Russian meddling or so on. I think the question at this point is not how will Trump treat Russia? I think we have some evidence of that.

My question should be, like, at this point, how will Trump treat the rest of the allies? At the G7 meeting, his behavior toward Justin Trudeau and toward Angela Merkel was surprisingly rude and surprisingly direct and surprisingly controversy even by Trump's standards. And I'll be curious at this next NATO meeting if he continues in that direction of some ways trying to break up the alliance or questioning the motives of traditional U.S. allies or he backs down to be somewhat more conciliatory than he was at the G7?

I don't think he will be, but I think incidents like this will maybe change the dynamics of how Trump goes -- my guess is Trump's staff would like him to not behave the way he did at the G7, but I'll be curious if they have any influence at all on him this time next week.

BERMAN: John, stand by. We actually have a bit of breaking news here. Our Jeff Zeleny, senior White House reporter, says that President Trump has completed his scheduled interviews for the Supreme Court vacancy he is done talking to contenders. We believe he's spoken either in person or by phone within seven contenders. All the reporting is he's narrowed the list down to two or three candidates.

We see six on your screen. We believe the top three, Amy Coney Barrett, Brett Kavanaugh, Raymond Kethledge.

But, John Avlon, the notion that he is done talking makes you think he is getting very, very close.

JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: This whole thing has been scheduled to be done, announced prime time Monday night before he goes overseas, on a series of very high-stakes trips. So, whether that's an artificial urgency, the president apparently has narrowed it down. And this whole process is made easier, streamlined, if you will, by the fact that it was outsourced to the Federalist Society.

I think the question I have for Charlie Dent is, is there anyone in the list who broadly fits the model of a Justice Kennedy, that long- lost centrist Republican? Kavanaugh, very experienced, coming under some criticism for being perhaps too establishment. How do you see it?

DENT: Well, that was my immediate reaction, John. One, who is being criticized, being somewhat, maybe, I don't want to use the term moderate, maybe somewhat pragmatic or a bit flexible is Kavanaugh, and he also happens to be as, according to press reports, the man at the top of the president's list because of his vast experience.

So, it seems to me that Kavanaugh is the one who is coming under attack for being too establishment, maybe too John Roberts-like, and heaven forbid if I suggest too, Anthony Kennedy-like.


DENT: And, of course, Barrett is the one who is being seen as the darling of the social conservatives. So it seems like Kavanaugh is the one who's taking the fire right now from the hard right.

BERMAN: I will say, if the president is watching NEW DAY as we know he does, I think Charlie Dent just spiked Kavanaugh's chances right there.

AVLON: Great job, Charlie.

BERMAN: Sinking Brett Kavanaugh.

DENT: I didn't mean to do that.


CAMEROTA: So, Perry, I mean, do we have any more indication how the people in Congress, at least the two women who all eyes are on Senator Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, how they feel about these candidates? Or which ones they would definitely not vote for?

BACON: We haven't heard that they would not vote for anybody yet. Senator Collins seems to be saying she doesn't want a candidate who has expressedly on the record said they would get rid of Roe v. Wade. I don't think any of these candidates have said that, the candidates are not stupid so they have not said that so clearly.

But I think Kavanaugh's record on this is vague. I think that's why he's the top of the list. The assumption is he's someone who might be willing to strike down Roe v. Wade, but has very little record on that versus Judge Barrett's comments about abortion and her Catholic faith are more explicit and on the record, so that will make it a harder pick.

Either way ultimately, though, is there really a way Susan Collins or Lisa Murkowski could vote against the Republican nominee for the Supreme Court, considering how much the party cares about judicial nominations? I really don't think see a scenario in which they can vote against this nominee and I think right now, they're lobbying and hoping it's a Kavanaugh-style, more establishment pick but I don't think it matters. They will end up voting for whoever is picked.

[08:25:00] BERMAN: There is a back door way which would be Heidi Heitkamp, Joe Manchin, Joe Donnelly make their views clear pretty early, in which case, Susan Collins, her vote doesn't matter as much and she would get political cover if she wants it. I don't know that she does in Maine, but I can see that being a narrow back door path.

CAMEROTA: All right. Guys, thank you for your insights into this breaking news.

Meanwhile this, of course, we're following the fate of the 2,000-plus children who have been separated from their parents at the border now. We have word the government is doing DNA testing on them as part of trying to figure out who and where their parents are.


BERMAN: CNN has learned that the U.S. government is DNA testing children and parents separated at the border. Could this help reunite families sooner?

Our Nick Valencia is live in McAllen, Texas, with the very latest -- Nick.

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, we were first made aware of this information by an immigration attorney who represents clients inside the Port Isabel Detention Center. Sofia Greg, an immigration attorney, says her clients were approached late last week by officials in blue military-like uniforms who are asking for blood and saliva samples for mothers to match the DNA with children.