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President Trump Threatens To Strip Security Clearances Of Former Intel Chiefs; Georgia Lawmaker Condemned For Using Racial Slur; Trump's Push To Drill In Alaska Sparks Heated Debate. Aired 7:30-8a ET
Aired July 24, 2018 - 07:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[07:30:21] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump is going after the U.S. Intelligence Community again, threatening to pull security clearances of several former intel officials who have been critical of him.
Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY (via telephone): I really do wonder whether the Russians have something on him. I think that his behavior was just unbelievable.
JOHN BRENNAN, FORMER DIRECTOR, CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY: I don't think he has full appreciation of Russian capabilities, Russia's intentions and actions that they are undertaking in many parts of the world.
SUSAN RICE, FORMER ADVISER, U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY: What his motivations are, I think, is a legitimate question, one that I trust that the special counsel is investigating. But the policies that this president has pursued globally have served Vladimir Putin's interests.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: All right, so that's a little sample of the criticism of what may have motivated President Trump.
Let's discuss now with CNN's Josh Campbell who was an FBI supervisory agent. And, former House Intelligence chairman Mike Rogers, who was also a special agent in the FBI.
Gentlemen, it's great to have your vast expertise that we can call upon, as well as your own intelligence and institutional memory, the very things that President Trump doesn't seem to want to use.
Congressman Rogers, what does President Trump have against intelligence?
MIKE ROGERS, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY COMMENTATOR, (R) FORMER HOUSE INTELLIGENCE CHAIRMAN, FORMER SPECIAL AGENT, FBI: Well, I think this is all about narrative for the president. It doesn't fit his narrative.
And he's got a legal case where people are accusing him publicly of collusion, accusing him of obstruction of justice. And I think to the president, all of this conflates together, even if the Intelligence Community walks in and says Mr. President, here's the evidence we have that the Russians attempted to influence U.S. elections.
Republicans and Democrats agree, the Intelligence Community on a wholesale value agrees that that's happening. I will tell you it's still happening.
And I think that the president cannot separate the fact that he doesn't believe there's collusion. And candidly, I don't think he'll ever be charged with collusion but he can't get over the fact that if the Russians did that, then he won for president.
And so, anything that comes of those organizations just can't be right and he won't believe it. That's -- and that's what's troubling about this.
So, Josh, he -- the president is personally affronted by this, as I think that all of the sourcing and reporting has shown and proven. So, what's lost, OK?
These weren't -- I mean, James Clapper, John Brennan -- these weren't people that the White House was calling upon for their institutional knowledge as -- you know, Michael Hayden -- Gen. Michael Hayden.
I mean, as impressive as these men have been -- they've served in different administrations, not just for Democrats, but they weren't being called upon by the White House. So if he revokes their security clearances, what's lost?
JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST, FORMER SUPERVISORY AGENT, FBI: So I would agree that this is one gigantic distraction and that's been a narrative that we've heard since this came out yesterday that they're just attempting to now gaslight and distract from something else.
The problem for them is that we can all walk and chew gum so we're going to get back to Russia, we're going to get back to Cohen. Those issues aren't going away.
But the issue here that we -- and I would agree with you that the top level officials probably aren't reaching out to these formers to get their advice but that doesn't mean that the men and women in the Intelligence Community can't use them as a resource.
And I think the big loser here is the Intelligence Community, is American national security because if you think about these CIA directors and DNI directors that are former and had access to this information, that had programs that were run under their purview, this is a wealth of information. These people have decades and decades of institutional knowledge. And if you're an analyst sitting at NSA or CIA and you're working on a program that may be informed by something that a former director did, basically the White House is now saying that that's off limits. This hurts national security.
And I'll just say Alisyn, what I think is that it's a fundamental misunderstanding of the security clearance process. They cannot distinguish between misusing classified information, which no one's been accused of, and criticism.
If you look at the Rob Porter scandal, if you look at Jared Kushner and his issues with security clearances it kind of shows that continued narrative.
And I would -- I would say and I would submit that this is a case of ultimate projection by paranoid politicians. They probably wonder what they would do if they were in the situation where they had access to secrets and dirt on someone that can use it.
But they don't understand how civil servants work. Civil servants know that when you sign up and when you take an oath you protect that information.
CAMEROTA: That -- all of that said, Congressman Rogers, I was stunned to hear the numbers. I mean, according to the office of the DNI, 4.1 million Americans, at the moment, hold a security clearance. One point three million of them have a top secret clearance. You, I think, are one of the people who still has your security clearance.
[07:35:00] I mean, do we need that many? That sounds -- that's amazing that many people are walking around with access to -- it sounds like to highly-sensitive intelligence.
ROGERS: Well, and there's -- that's to varying degrees, as you just talked about.
So there is top secret, then there's compartmentalized information and that group continues to get smaller, so that really sensitive information that can get people in trouble on sources and methods gets net down.
If you think about it, every FBI agent starts out with a secret clearance and they'll get, sometimes, top secret or above depending on the work that they're doing in the Bureau. And that goes across every investigative agency in the -- in the federal government -- all the people in intelligence. So there are quite a few people that are doing it.
And one of the things that it does is it allows the government to safeguard pieces of information from getting both out in the public and to our adversaries.
So it's a process and it reminds people -- this is why I like the clearance process. It reminds them you have an obligation and, by the way, it will be criminal if you disclose this information unauthorized for the protection of the information of the U.S. government. So yes, there's a lot of them but yes, there's lots of work that goes across the government that you need to at least safeguard to some degree, and I think that's probably wholly appropriate.
I think we are going to relook -- the government, I should say, is going to relook at the security clearance process -- how you get one, how you maintain one. All of that is really important, I think, to the future protection of information that needs to be kept again, away from adversaries and sometimes the press. The government does need to do activities that the press is not aware of.
CAMEROTA: Yes, I am aware of that, though it could be frustrating to the press.
But Josh, I think the big overarching question is what happens when the Intelligence Community, today, gets some sort of information about an impending terror attack? I mean, worst case scenario, they get information.
Will President Trump believe them? Will he trust them?
CAMPBELL: So that's the problem if you go back to Russia when the president was -- or the president was sitting there next to Vladimir Putin in Helsinki and essentially undercutting the U.S. Intelligence Community and saying that my people are saying one thing and this guy says something else, essentially equalizing these two views.
What he's essentially doing is undercutting the credibility of the U.S. Intelligence Community not only on the world stage -- so when you have an FBI agent that's overseas, a CIA station chief who's now pushing a foreign counterpart and trying to convince him of something, it's going to be a lot harder. They might say well, aha, your president says that you guys don't know what you're talking about.
But the issue you talk about is the fundamental issue. If the president cannot be approached with information that he may disagree with and he may disbelieve, then that makes a lot difficult for the Intelligence Community to actually convince him of anything.
If he can pick and choose and say well, I agree with this, I disagree with this based on how it impacts me personally -- again, the whole system breaks down.
And to your point, the most serious issue would be something involving terrorism, something involving national security, maybe some type of nuclear issue. But if the Intelligence Community knows going in that the president doesn't believe them based -- essentially, unless there's some kind of political benefit to him, it makes it a lot harder to do their job and to convince him that they need to be trusted.
CAMEROTA: Does that worry you, Congressman?
ROGERS: Well, yes, of course. Anytime that the president stands on a world stage with a very aggressive intelligence service adversary as president and says guess what, the U.S. Intelligence Community isn't right and maybe the problems with Russia is the United States' fault, in the FBI we would call that a clue.
That's a problem and it's a significant problem because one of the things you do is you feed the information operation campaign that Vladimir Putin has put together that not only targets the United States, it targets other European countries.
And that the information coming right out of the president's mouth will be used against us, I guarantee you, and it's being used against us today. And that's where I think the president misses the boat about how dangerous an adversary in the intelligence business Vladimir Putin and his folks are.
CAMEROTA: Mike Rogers, Josh Campbell, thank you very much for sharing your expertise with us -- John.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: So, the Georgia lawmaker who was so badly fooled by Sacha Baron Cohen, yelled what he yelled, did what he did with his pants, and did that. Now there are calls for him to step down. We'll give you an update on this, next.
[07:43:00] CAMEROTA: We are following some breaking news for you.
The Tour de France was temporarily stopped earlier this morning after police had to break up a protest that had fired tear gas at the cyclists. You can see the aftermath here. The disturbance started as a protest by farmers who put bales of hay in the cyclists' path.
Some of the riders did get tear gas in their eyes, as you can see. Medical services helped some of the riders flush their eyes with water.
After a 10-minute delay, we can report the cyclists are back on the road.
BERMAN: Yes, and the photos of this are terrifying.
BERMAN: They're all over Twitter right now.
And it's really dangerous. I mean, these cyclists are going very, very fast. Imagine what it's like then to have tear gas in your eyes when you're barreling down a road like that.
A suspect is in custody following the deadly stabbing of a teenager in a train station in Oakland.
Authorities say Nia Wilson was walking on the subway platform with her sister Sunday night when a man stabbed her and one of her sisters in an unprovoked attack. Her sister is recovering from serious injuries.
The suspect is described as a violent felon who was on parole. Police have not established a motive here.
On Monday evening, marchers held a vigil for Wilson, drawing nearly 1,000 people to downtown Oakland.
This is the third death in a Bay Area transit station in less than a week.
CAMEROTA: OK, here's a really important story for you.
The House overwhelming voting to designate a new national 3-digit hotline for mental health issues and suicide prevention. This proposal was led by Republican Congressman Chris Stewart.
BERMAN: Good for him.
CAMEROTA: Yes, it prompts the Federal Communications Commission to study the feasibility of designating a new, easy-to-remember 3-digit hotline very similar to 911. I mean, can you imagine how helpful that would be to people?
Stewart says that following the deaths of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, calls to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline jumped 25 percent.
BERMAN: I do think there's a national discussion and understanding about mental health issues that we have not seen before.
CAMEROTA: Absolutely. I mean, look, you and I remember that morning and I was wondering what would happen to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
And I didn't know it was 25 percent but that means something is working. If people are reaching out and calling, we should build on that as the Congressman is saying.
[07:45:09] BERMAN: It's nice to see them coming together in Washington.
So, Georgia's House speaker is calling for the resignation of a state lawmaker who repeatedly used the n-word and dropped his pants on the Showtime series "WHO IS AMERICA?"
CAMEROTA: Why did he do that?
BERMAN: Republican State Rep. Jason Spencer -- he was pranked --
BERMAN: -- into believing that Sacha Baron Cohen was an Israeli anti- terror expert.
BERMAN: And when you're with an Israel anti-terror expert, apparently you yell the n-word and drop your pants.
CAMEROTA: Well --
BERMAN: I guess it's just something that happens. CAMEROTA: I don't know.
BERMAN: In the sketch, Cohen convinces the lawmaker to yell these racial slurs to protect himself against attackers. I guess you need to see it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SACHA BARON COHEN, COMEDIAN, SHOWTIME "WHO IS AMERICA?": In America, there is one forbidden word. It is the n-word.
Now, I am going to be the terrorist. You have three seconds to attract attention -- go.
STATE REP. JASON SPENCER (R), WOODBINE, GEORGIA: N-word, n-word, n- word, n-word.
COHEN: Are you crazy? The n-word is nooni.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: I cannot cringe enough.
You can see Spencer also pulled his pants down in another part of the sketch after Cohen told him it was a self-defense tactic against terrorists.
Spencer accuses Cohen of taking advantage of his fear that he or his family could be attacked.
CAMEROTA: Listen, that's entrapment. He thinks that he's working with a terror expert on how to fight a terror attack.
BERMAN: You had me up until the pull your pants down thing. I'm not sure that pulling your pants down prevents a terror attack qualifies as entrapment. I read the law carefully and I'm not sure that it's there.
Look, it makes you just cringe and shudder in agony for everyone involved in watching that.
It is worth noting that this state representative, I believe, lost in a primary. He is no longer going to serve after this term anyway.
CAMEROTA: All right. There -- all's well that ends well.
An addition to last year's tax bill could forever change this untouched section of Alaska. We'll explain.
[07:51:10] CAMEROTA: A fierce battle is raging over one of the last untouched areas of the U.S. It's called the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge or ANWR.
BERMAN: So a controversial provision was put into last year's tax bill opening it up to oil and gas drilling, but conservationists and native tribes are not giving up without a fight.
Our Bill Weir traveled there to speak with them. He joins us now -- and clean-shaven, by the way.
BILL WEIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Clean-shaven, yes. So, I'm coming out of the wild here.
This is a really epic period when it comes to conservation in the United States. President Trump ran on this anti-regulation platform and so oil drillers, and gas frackers, and gold miners are delighted. There's almost a modern gold rush going on in Alaska these days, trying to get as much wealth out of the ground up there before the next election.
WEIR (on camera): This is magnificent, wow.
WEIR (voice-over): Way up at the tip-top of Alaska an airplane can feel like a time machine --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You see up there? A bunch of little babies running around.
WEIR: -- because the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, commonly known as ANWR, is the kind of pure wilderness most of America paved over long ago.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is it. We are in the heart of the Arctic Refuge.
WEIR (on camera): Welcome to one of the last truly wild places on earth.
WEIR (voice-over): The coastal plain brims with life from musk oxen to bears, both grizzly and polar. Birds that will migrate to the backyards of all 50 states.
But, as Florian Schulz has captured over the years, the most common creature is the caribou, and not just a few but hundreds of thousands. The kind of herd unseen since the Plains' buffalo were wiped away. And when Florian is here with his family he can't help but wonder how long it will last.
FLORIAN SCHULZ, FILMMAKER, WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHER: And we need to keep some of these places untouched. We are changing the world everywhere so fast but why not leave a few places unspoiled?
WEIR: For almost 60 years, that was the rationale that protected ANWR from this. These are the oil fields of Prudhoe Bay that fill the famous pipeline and power countless lives.
But since there are billions are barrels elsewhere, nature lovers have long argued there is no need to drill here. And for decades, that argument held until -- DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: One day, a friend of mine who is in the oil business called. Is it true that you have ANWR in the bill? I said, I don't know, who cares. What is that?
And he said well, you know, Reagan tried. Every single president tried.
I said you've got to be kidding. I love it now. And after that, we fought like hell to get ANWR. He talked me into it.
WEIR: December's tax cut bill also opened ANWR to drilling, thanks to Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski who slipped in the provision knowing that it would only need 51 instead of 60 votes to pass.
SEN. LISA MURKOWSKI (R), ALASKA: It is wrong for those from the outside looking in who have taken a nice trip into an area and said this must be protected.
WEIR: But conservationists point out there is already a huge glut of American oil.
WEIR (on camera): And oil companies are laying people off up here, right, because prices are so low.
NICOLE WHITTINGTON-EVANS, THE WILDERNESS SOCIETY: Oil companies have been laying people off and for the first time in the last five years I was seeing more oil company workers leaving the state of Alaska and going to places like North Dakota --
WHITTINGTON-EVANS: -- than coming into the state.
WEIR (voice-over): But much like Trump's efforts to revive dying coal mines, the rush to drill here seems to have been more about politics than economics.
WEIR (on camera): The former speaker of the House, Tom DeLay, once said if we could drill in ANWR it will break the back of the environmental lobby.
[07:55:02] DAN RITZMAN, SIERRA CLUB: Well, they haven't -- they haven't drilled in ANWR yet. We know that the arctic regions are heating twice as fast as any other part of the world and it just makes zero sense to come here and look for more oil that's just going to exacerbate that problem.
WEIR (voice-over): And among those opposed is the Gwich'in Nation, the northernmost tribe of Native Americans.
WEIR (on camera): How many people live here?
FAITH GEMMILL, NEETS'AII GWICH'IN TRIBAL MEMBER, ARCTIC VILLAGE: About 150 year-round.
WEIR: Wow. I think about 150 people live on my floor of my apartment building.
WEIR (voice-over): The numbers may be tiny but they are definitely not outsiders.
GEMMILL: Archeological evidence shows we have been here over 25,000 years.
WEIR: And the only reason they survived is caribou. Back in the day, they would trap the animals in these handmade corrals. These days they use guns and snowmobiles but still need the animals to survive in one of the most expensive neighborhoods in America.
WEIR (on camera): Groceries at the Midnight Sun can cost twice as much as the Whole Foods in Manhattan. Gasoline up here runs $10 a gallon.
But still, given the choice between oil money and caribou, there is no debate. These folks will stick with the one animal that has kept them alive for thousands of years and they cannot imagine drills and trucks and pipelines across what they call the sacred place where life begins.
GEMMILL: Look what happened to the Plains Indians and the buffalo. That's not going to happen to my people. We're not going to allow that to happen again.
WEIR (voice-over): To the Gwich'in, they are a Native American David against a Goliath -- oil companies, Republican lawmakers, and the Inupiat, a coastal tribe of Native Alaskans eager to drill and cash in.
EDWARD REXFORD, UNALAKLEET, ALASKA: Now that the U.S. is saying we can finally do this, now we have the other side -- the environmentalists saying we can't do this. What's wrong with this picture?
WEIR: As the government rushes towards development, community meetings lay bare the fight -- tribe versus tribe, neighbor against neighbor.
ADRIENNE TITUS, UNALAKLEET, ALASKA: We have thousands of gallons discovered in places that have already seen destruction, but restraint is what we lack. When did we all become owners of the land? It has always owned us.
CAMEROTA: Oh my gosh, Bill. I mean, first of all, the shooting -- the videography or whatever -- the filming is -- showed the majesty --
CAMEROTA: -- of that place is so striking that so many of us haven't seen.
WEIR: Right. CAMEROTA: So, when can the drilling begin?
WEIR: Well, maybe as early as next year. They want to sell off two 400,000-acre plots to the highest bidder out there.
But what's interesting is that the U.S. Geological Survey found nine billion barrels outside the refuge but they suppressed that report until the vote in December. So --
CAMEROTA: Why? Isn't that valuable information?
WEIR: You'd think so -- you would think so but this is part of this rush. We're seeing it with the rollback of the Endangered Species Act which is happening from Republican lawmakers and this administration as well. Air and water regulations being pulled back.
And tonight we're going to get into, for part two, the climate change piece of this, right, because the Arctic is warming up at twice the rate as the rest of the earth. They're seeing freakish rainstorms in the winter and blizzards in the summer. Hungry polar bears are coming to town because their hunting grounds are melting.
And yet, some folks who have a stake in this want to keep drilling for the same product that's literally changing their land forever.
BERMAN: I think you told me you had an encounter with a polar bear --
WEIR: We did.
BERMAN: -- I think as a tease. You have to watch tonight because I can't wait to see that. You're here so we know it ended at least well for you.
CAMEROTA: For you.
WEIR: For me. I'll show you the footage of my crew.
BERMAN: OK. I don't have to be faster than the polar bear, I just have to be faster than you.
BERMAN: All right, Bill Weir. Thanks so much.
CAMEROTA: Thanks so much for bringing us --
WEIR: My pleasure.
CAMEROTA: -- this story.
All right. We're following a lot of news this morning. Let's get right to it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think U.S. intelligence agencies are out to get you?
TRUMP: Certainly, in the past. You look at Brennan, you look at Clapper.
SEN. RON WYDEN (D), OREGON: Donald Trump is talking about building an enemies list.
SEN. MARCI RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: They are not actively contributing to our national security.
SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: When you're the person that holds the nation's deepest secrets and you go out and you make false accusations, he thinks that's something to be very concerned with.
CLAPPER: Is that now going to become a criterion -- a pledge of deity or loyalty to President Trump?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They deserve answers and they deserve justice.
MICHAEL MCGLOCKTON, FATHER OF MARKEIS MCGLOCKTON, SHOT AND KILLED IN CONVENIENCE STORE PARKING LOT: The video that I saw, my son stepped back.
BOB GUALTIERI, SHERIFF, PINELLAS COUNTY, FLORIDA: He had to shoot to defend himself and that's the law.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.
BERMAN: Good morning. Welcome to your NEW DAY. It is Tuesday, July 24th, 8:00 here in the east.
So, is President Trump trying to silence his critics and perhaps distract us all from his meetings with Vladimir Putin? The president is threatening to revoke security clearances of some top intelligence officials from the Obama and Bush administrations who have questioned and criticized his refusal to confront Russia with the intelligence that says the Russians attacked the 2016 election.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SANDERS: And not only is the president looking to take away Brennan's security clearance, he's also looking into the clearances of Comey, Clapper, Hayden, Rice, and McCabe.