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Senators Grill Pompeo On Trump Meetings With Putin And Kim Jong Un; Cowboys' Owner Jerry Jones: "You Stand At The Anthem"; Trump Administration Plans To Mine On Pristine Alaska Wilderness; Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired July 26, 2018 - 07:30   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: There was no one inside the room besides interpreters.

You had the chance to ask the secretary about this extensively yesterday. Do you have any better sense as to what was agreed to?

SEN. JEFF MERKLEY (D-OR), MEMBER, FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE, APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE: No, absolutely not, and I'm not sure Sec. Pompeo even knows. He only knows what the president told him.

He obviously was doing a good job of playing his role as secretary, defending the president. But really, what he did was spend three hours yesterday playing dodgeball.

BERMAN: One of the things he suggested, and we have heard this before, is that look at the actions from this administration. You're all paying too much attention to what the President of the United States says.

But yesterday, the government put out a statement saying it does not recognize the Russian occupation of Crimea. That is a big, fast part of action right there.

The White House -- the government has sanctioned Russia for election interference. The government has expelled Russian diplomats and Russian visitors to the United States.

So the Secretary says look at the actions, not at the words.

Is that a compelling argument?

MERKLEY: No, it sure isn't when it takes a year and a half for the president to say that they don't recognize the annexation of Crimea.

When folks on Capitol Hill on both sides of the aisle have been saying take clear action on this, be fierce in regard to the occupation of Eastern Ukraine, be fierce in terms of Russia attacking people within Britain, of Russia supporting the Syrian government barrel-bombing and gassing its own people, and certainly be fierce in terms of Russia launching a cyberattack against the United States and its election.

And we haven't seen a fierce president at all and so that's been deeply disturbing. BERMAN: One of the things that also did happen yesterday -- again, if you're looking for action -- is that the administration delayed this second summit with Vladimir Putin. The president invited Vladimir Putin to come to the United States in the fall. Vladimir Putin didn't answer -- didn't give an answer which is sort of superpower passive aggressive.

But now, the White House National Security Adviser John Bolton puts out a statement saying, "The president believes that the next bilateral meeting with President Trump should take place after the Russia witch hunt is over, so we've agreed that it will be after the first of the year."

Leave aside the witch hunt politics there for a second, but are you encouraged that this meeting has at least been delayed?

MERKLEY: Well, I do think it was the right thing to postpone such a meeting. For one thing, before there's another meeting, the United States should have a plan.


MERKLEY: Putin had a very clear plan going into that summit and unfortunately, President Trump didn't. And it just liked like President Trump was being completely manipulated by the Russians, which it seems that he was. So, best to put it off.

BERMAN: You had an exchange with the secretary about North Korea and if I heard it correctly over the course of the hearing, I believe for the first time, the secretary confirmed out loud that North Korea is still producing fissile material -- still engaged in its nuclear program.

What's your take on that?

MERKLEY: That's right, he did declare that. He said he wouldn't answer about other advances in their program, whether those had ended or not.

But what became very clear was that he was confirming that there is not yet any sort of agreement in terms of getting an inventory of their materials -- their ballistic missiles, their warheads. Not yet a plan for how those things might be reduced. Not yet a plan for verification.

In other words, all we have so far is all sizzle, no stink.

BERMAN: Well, you do have a meeting.

You do have a pause in missile testing at least. Kim Jong Un hasn't fired any rockets in a while. He doesn't seem to have the same aggressive posture he had for a while so there is that development, correct?

MERKLEY: Yes, but that is identical to what North Korea has done. That's their game. They have done that with each of our presidents in the past.

They lay off for a while, wait until the heat is off, and then they quietly or secretly continue their program.

BERMAN: You've been deeply involved with the border situation in the United States and the Trump administration decision to separate parents from their children when they cross the border. Obviously, they've gone back on that decision now in their process of reuniting these families.

The deadline is today. Let me put some numbers up on the screen so people can see where we are right now -- the status of family separations.

More than 200 -- 2,500 parents separated from children. More than 1,000 have been reunited by the government.

Four hundred sixty-three parents are believed no longer to be in the United States. They were sent back to their countries.

One hundred and ninety-one will not be reunified because of a criminal record. Two hundred sixty cases await further investigation.

What do you make of those numbers?

MERKLEY: Well, what becomes very clear is that the administration did not track the connection between the children and the parents. The separation itself was a horrific, dark act of injuring children in order to take a political position.

But then, the administration was incompetent on top of it -- or callous -- and didn't track the connection between the parents and the children, so it's having an enormously difficult time reuniting the families.

BERMAN: The judge, though, overseeing the lawsuit between the ACLU and the government in this case -- Judge Dana Sabraw does say that the reunification process -- he says, "This is a remarkable achievement. The government should be commended."

MERKLEY: Yes. Well, we were puzzling over that comment yesterday thinking there's a little bit of a diplomat in that judge.

[07:35:00] BERMAN: Well, look, this judge has seen the inside -- the underbelly of this situation. And obviously, the administration did not have a plan when they separated the parents from their children. It has taken a long time to get them.

However, the judge has seen the effort the government has made to bring them back together and based on the words from the judge, is impressed even as he says, he is deeply troubled by the effects of the original policy.

MERKLEY: Well, yes, and look at the situation with all the individual parents who were deported, many of them deported under false pretenses. That's still being looked at very thoroughly by the press to figure out how they were coerced into those actions. There's a lot to worry about here.

But I am glad the family separations have ended. That's what I was pushing for.

I am glad we don't have internment camps, which is what the president's next plan was. We've been able to stop that so far.

But we need to make sure that this sort of dehumanization of immigrants -- it really has kind of a racist, bigoted bias -- doesn't happen again.

We had a perfectly good program that I.G. said did a 100 percent of the time -- it got families, who were treated respectfully, to their hearings. Let's return to that family case management program and never again dehumanize individuals fleeing persecution.

BERMAN: Senator, you had a chance, I think at this point along with the rest of us, to hear the audio recording of Michael Cohen speaking to then-candidate Donald Trump.

Anything on that tape that indicates you feel that the president broke any law?

MERKLEY: Well, it doesn't appear he broke any law as far as I can tell, but it's certainly just one more case in which he clearly lied to the American public. And the fact that that's no longer surprised anyone says a great deal.

BERMAN: Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon, thanks so much for being with us this morning.

MERKLEY: Oh, you're welcome.

BERMAN: We do appreciate it.

MERKLEY: Good to be with you.

BERMAN: Alisyn --


There's this wildfire burning out of control in Southern California. Police now say it's arson. We'll bring you the latest on this investigation.


[07:40:32] CAMEROTA: There's a man in custody this morning accused of intentionally setting a number of California wildfires, including the out-of-control Cranston fire.

Brandon McGlover now faces five counts of arson. The Cranston fire has scorched 4,700 acres. Firefighters have not yet been able to contain the flames. More than 500 firefighters are still battling it.

Close to 2,200 homes are evacuated because of this fire. BERMAN: Two off-duty New Orleans police officers have been arrested for allegedly assaulting a man outside a bar Tuesday morning. Officers John Galman and Spencer Sutton face battery charges and termination.

The victim, Jorge Gomez, says the two officers called him a fake American, questioning his service in the National Guard and tour of duty in Iraq.

The superintendent of police says the officers were the aggressors based on eyewitness accounts and video evidence.

CAMEROTA: Oh my gosh, what a hideous story. We'll follow that one for you.

Meanwhile, Toronto's city council is voting to push the Canadian federal government to ban the sale of handguns in the city. This comes after the mass shooting this week in which two people were killed and 13 others were injured.

The council also calls on the provincial government to ban handgun ammunition sales in Toronto.

BERMAN: Interesting to see. That case obviously getting a lot of attention because of information about the shooter perhaps having ties to ISIS. This is something that's deeply concerning, I think, for people in Canada.

CAMEROTA: Yes. Obviously, we have to follow what's happening there in Toronto.

BERMAN: All right. Cowboys' owner Jerry Jones says his players will stand for the National Anthem.

Andy Scholes has more in this morning's "Bleacher Report" -- Andy.


You know, Jerry Jones giving his annual state of the Cowboys address yesterday and, of course, he was asked plenty of questions about the National Anthem controversy.

This "Bleacher Report" is brought to you by Ford, going further so you can.

Now, Jones is the first owner to come out and say before this season that his players will, in fact, stand for the Anthem. And he also said President Trump's involvement in the controversy, it's not helping the situation.


JERRY JONES, OWNER, DALLAS COWBOYS: His interest in what we're doing is problematic from my chair and I would say, in general, the owner's chair. It's unprecedented if you really think about. We feel strongly about how we deal with it and we'll do so accordingly. But, yes, I'd like -- everybody would like for it to go away.

Our policy is that you stand at the Anthem, toe on the line.


SCHOLES: Now, NFL owners had put a National Anthem policy in place back in May, but after backlash over how teams were going to discipline players for protesting during the Anthem occurred, the NFL and Players Association announced they were putting that Anthem policy on hold while they come up with a solution.

Now, the preseason kicks off a week from today, Alisyn. It will be interesting to see if the NFL can get something in place before that starts.

CAMEROTA: This has been a thornier issue than anybody expected when it started. So is the policy that still, they just stay in the locker room or is that over now?

BERMAN: That was the one they agreed to beforehand Andy, right?


BERMAN: But now that there might be some additional pushback it's unclear what happens next.

SCHOLES: They said everything is on hold and right now, the players and the owners are discussing what to do next. And like I just said though, like the preseason starts a week from today so there's not much time to put something on paper in place.

CAMEROTA: OK, thank you very much, Andy. Great to talk to you.

So, it's a massive area of untouched wilderness in Alaska but all that could change. What the Trump administration and big business are now proposing.


[07:48:48] CAMEROTA: There is a huge controversial mining project that would tear through this untouched habitat in Alaska.

BERMAN: The Trump administration sees the project as a literal gold mine, but mining there could put the state's salmon population and the surrounding ecosystem at risk. For now, the project is on.

CNN's Bill Weir is here with more on this Alaskan odyssey.

BILL WEIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and it's not just gold, it's copper, and silver. And if you use one of these or if you watch a T.V. or you have an airbag in your car, these are minerals the world craves. There isn't enough. They can't mine it fast enough. The key to this debate though is they've found what may be the biggest deposit of all these precious minerals in one of the most sensitive areas and it's really pit neighbor against neighbor, Republican against Republican, up in the Last Frontier.


WEIR (voice-over): This is a beach landing on a battleground. No bombs or bullets, thankfully, just gorgeous quiet. That little camp holds a band of brothers determined to defend it from invasion.

WEIR (on camera): What happens if a bear comes for a drink right now?


WEIR (voice-over): Among them is Drew Hamilton, a biologist and guide for the World Wildlife Fund who makes a living getting cozy with grizzlies.

HAMILTON: It takes a couple of days out here to really ease into it and realize that the bears are just part of the landscape and they're going about their business.

WEIR (on camera): Yes.

HAMILTON: And as long as you don't mess with them they're going to leave you alone.

WEIR (voice-over): In nearby Katmai National Park, my team learned firsthand that this part of Alaska is nirvana for bears and wolves, whales and eagles.

A wonderland all made possible by salmon -- tens of millions surge into southern Alaska each summer to spawn, feeding every form of life including a multibillion-dollar fishing and tourism industry dependent on the health of this landscape.

HAMILTON: We've had bear tracks, we've had wolf tracks, fox tracks.

WEIR: Which is why Drew worries less about wild animals and more about the human beings coming towards us on the beach.

HAMILTON: What are you guys up to?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We work for a surveying company up in Anchorage.

WEIR: They are hesitant to admit they're doing work for the Pebble Mine, one of the most controversial projects in Alaska history.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This red spot right here. This is it. This is where it all started. This is where it all started.

WEIR: About 80 miles from the beach, a Canadian mining company called Northern Dynasty discovered enough buried treasure to propose the biggest gold and copper mine in the world. But when the EPA, under Barack Obama, determined that blasting it open and digging it open would threaten the fishery, stock in Northern Dynasty tanked, partners bailed, the company sued. But then --


WEIR: -- a reversal of fortune.

In one of his very first acts running Trump's EPA, Scott Pruitt met with Pebble and then settled the lawsuits.

When CNN revealed that meeting there was an outcry in Alaska. Most fisherman, tribes, even Gov. Bill Walker are opposed to the mine. And, Sen. Lisa Murkowski said she would never trade salmon for gold.

But, Northern Dynasty refuses to give up.

WEIR (on camera): The latest plan includes a 100-mile natural gas pipeline to power the mine. It would run past that active volcano into a massive port system here on this beach.

Imagine ships and semi trucks instead of bears and foxes. And then, a 35-mile road through some of the most pristine wilderness in the state.

WEIR (voice-over): Since Scott Pruitt resigned amid scandal, the new man in charge of the EPA is Andrew Wheeler, a former lobbyist at one of Pebble Mine's law firms. He declined our request for an interview.

TOM COLLIER, CEO, PEBBLE PARTNERSHIP: This is in the Roosevelt Room and that's Gore and Clinton.

WEIR (voice-over): But the CEO of Pebble was happy to talk.

COLLIER: Nobody can guarantee there won't be an accident, right, but we've done a hell of a lot to minimize the possibility of there being an accident on this site.

WEIR: Pebble Mine would sit in a wetland prone to earthquakes, so the biggest worry is a tailings dam failure like this one in British Columbia which sent a lake full of acidic waste downstream.

But, Collier says the mine site is so far from Bristol Bay that is a risk he could live with.

COLLIER: If there is an accident, it will kill fish for about 20 miles down the north fork of the Koktuli and that's it -- and for 10 years. It will come back naturally.

WEIR: Utah's Bingham Canyon is the biggest mine in the world. Pebble has enough wealth to dig one three times bigger. But after all the resistance, those plans have been cut in half.

WEIR (on camera): And there are some theories that you shrink the footprint of the mine in order to get the permit and then once you spend billions to build the port, and the pipelines, and the roads and all of that, you say well, we need to expand.

COLLIER: There's a lot of gold, and copper, and silver, and molybdenum in the ground out there and we do not have any current plans to expand beyond what we're talking about with this permit. But it wouldn't surprise me if somebody -- us or someone else -- doesn't do that at some point in the future.

HAMILTON: I mean, they're basically talking about putting a 175-mile gash across this pristine habitat.

WEIR (voice-over): Plans and promises aside, Drew sees this first piece of survey equipment as the beginning of the end of this wilderness as we know it.

WEIR (on camera): What do you say to the argument that this means jobs, this means an infusion into the Alaskan economy?

HAMILTON: I say there are already jobs here. You look at the town of Homer and the bear-viewing industry. There are millions of dollars being made here already in its current wilderness state.

You look at the other side of the mountain. There are tens of millions of dollars already being generated in a fashion that can be sustained for decades and decades and decades. Why can't we just keep that going?

WEIR (voice-over): So he and his fellow bear lovers will try to stop the invasion to persuasion, but the clock is ticking.

[07:55:03] As Army engineers rush to review their plans, Pebble hopes to get their permit and a wave of new investors by the fall of 2020 right before Donald Trump's next election.


CAMEROTA: Oh my gosh, Bill, so fascinating that you're bringing us to this area that so many of us have never been.

WEIR: Yes.

CAMEROTA: How can the CEO of a company be so confident what the repercussions of an accident would be?

WEIR: Well, he's -- they've done exhaustive science. They've spent almost $850 million just going into permitting.

And he is -- he actually worked in the Interior Department under Bruce Babbitt in the Bill Clinton White House. He's a blue dog Democrat turned Independent.

And he really thinks that Alaska can have both. That this can be done safely, that it will provide jobs to people who need them in that remote part. It's far enough away from the fishery.

And so, they can have the red-gold that swims up in the form of these salmon and the yellow-gold and the copper and all of that as well. But even sort of pro-mining, pro-development dyed in the wool bright- red Republicans say it's too close for comfort. We don't want to mess with this last pure -- the last, best salmon who are left on the planet.

BERMAN: I'm so happy you had a chance to go up there and spend the time you did for this series and I hope everyone has a chance to see the several stories you've product because it's fascinating.

This is your second trip to Alaska.

WEIR: Yes.

BERMAN: The first one was a few years ago and then you went back now during the Trump administration.

How much of a change have you noticed over the last couple of years?

WEIR: It's very similar to what's happening in the lower 48.

Like, we were in Homer, Alaska, which is known as sort of the Berkeley of southern Alaska. There's artists and hippies up there and that town was really torn apart by the election.

A couple of city councilmen put out a resolution that all folks are welcome in Homer. And there was a recall count and it -- so that same division we're seeing there.

But Alaska is this really, special, quirky, interesting place. The people up there, they love the outdoors very much.

But a lot of them went there for oil and gas or minerals. The richness of that state has come out of the ground.

But now as the climate is changing, it's getting warmer up there. They have now -- they have avian malaria they've discovered in Alaska. It's gotten so warm in Anchorage that the next century it's anybody's guess what's going to happen.

But it's a beautiful, wonderful place and we just saw it as sort of a test kitchen for this fight we have as seven billion people on the planet decide what's more important. What do we need, what do we need to save?

CAMEROTA: Oh my gosh. Well, thanks so much for explaining the debate and bringing us all of those beautiful pictures.

WEIR: My pleasure. Thanks for having me.

CAMEROTA: Great to talk to you.

WEIR: Good to see you, friends.

CAMEROTA: All right, time now for five things to know for your new day. The Trump administration refusing to reveal details of the president's secret meeting with Vladimir Putin last week. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stonewalled senators as the White House postpones that second Putin-Trump summit at the White House until next year.

BERMAN: An investigation is underway following a small explosion outside the U.S. Embassy in Beijing. Police tell CNN that a 26-year- old man set off an explosive device and injured just his own hand. No one else, luckily, was hurt.

CAMEROTA: In Arizona, one state trooper was killed and another injured late Wednesday during a traffic stop. Authorities say the suspect resisted arrested and during a struggle grabbed one of the trooper's guns and fired at least two rounds.

BERMAN: Facebook's stock taking a nosedive and dragging down other tech stocks. Facebook shares plunged more than 20 percent overnight -- that is a ton -- after the company lost $120 billion in the second quarter. This, after an earnings report showed lower than expected growth and revenue.

CAMEROTA: The trailblazing female aviator has died. Mary Ellis was one of the last surviving female pilots from World War II, flying about 1,000 planes over four years for Britain's Royal Air Force. She was 101 years old.

BERMAN: Oh, that's amazing. Look at her.

All right, for more on the five things to know, go to for the very latest.

CAMEROTA: OK. We're following a lot of news this morning so let's get right to it.


SEN. BOB CORKER (R-TN), CHAIRMAN, SENATE FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: The president's public statements create concern on both sides of the aisle.

MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: What matters is what President Trump has directed us to do.

CAMEROTA: The Trump administration delaying that second meeting with Vladimir Putin.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: While the president's under investigation it doesn't feel right.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't see the government meeting their deadline.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nearly 500 parents were possibly deported without their kids.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We want to make sure that the adult is safe for the child.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president has institutionalized the idea of it being OK to tell a lie.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It just isn't something that I think is that important.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The real thing that's happened here is is that the president's lawyer has gone rogue.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

BERMAN: Good morning. Welcome to your NEW DAY. It is Thursday, July 26th. It is 8:00 in the east.

The White House has apparently now caved to the mounting criticism and postponed that second meeting with Vladimir Putin.

The president, as you know, had invited the Russian leader to Washington. He said come over here in November, despite the blistering criticism he'd been taking for accepting Vladimir Putin's word over that of his own intelligence agencies.