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Iran Readying Massive Military Exercise in Persian Gulf; Trump Blames China for Farmers' Tariff Troubles; Presumed Remains of 55 U.S. Servicemembers on Their Way to U.S.; Trump Calls on Attorney General to End Russia Probe as Manafort Trial Begins. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired August 1, 2018 - 14:30   ET


[14:30:00] BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Brooke, good afternoon. What we are learning at this hour, U.S. military intelligence keeping a laser focus on the Strait of Hormuz, where much of the world's petroleum trade flows through that critical chokepoint. What they are seeing is a buildup of Iranian forces from the most- militant wing of Iran's military, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. They are seeing perhaps more than 100 boats assembling, coastal defense missiles, air assets. They believe the IRGC is ready to conduct a major military exercise in the area of the Strait of Hormuz as soon as 24 hours from now. That is what the intelligence is showing. That's enough of a concern. But this exercise is usual in the U.S.'s view because it's taking place right now. Usually, they conduct these exercises much later in the year.

As you pointed out, rhetoric between the U.S. and Tehran at an all- time high. The militant wing of the Iranian military very vocal about the U.S. in recent days. President Trump very vocal. So there's a good deal of concern about this exercise.

In fact, how concerned? The U.S. Central Command, which oversees military operations in that region, U.S. operations, took the extraordinary step a short time ago of giving us an actual on-the- record statement. They don't really do that. Let me read to you what Captain Bill Urban, the chief spokesman, told CNN. Quote, "We are aware of the increase in Iranian naval operations within the Arabian Gulf, Strait of Hormuz and the Gulf of Oman. We are monitoring it closely and will continue to work with our partners to ensure freedom of navigation and free flow of commerce in international waters."

You can take that statement to be a message from the U.S. military back to the Iranian military, we're watching, we're seeing what you're doing, do not mess with international oil trade -- Brooke?

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Happening in the next 48 hours.

Barbara Starr, I know you'll be watching it closely. We'll talk again. Thank you so much.

Just ahead here, President Trump escalating the trade war, proposing a tariff hike on $200 billion in Chinese goods. This, as he said at that rally last night, speaking to farmers who had been really hit by these tariffs, quote, "They can take it." What I want to ask is, can they? An Iowa soybean farmer joins me next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:36:34] BALDWIN: Tensions are escalating between U.S. and China over what is a full-blown trade war. CNN is learning the White House plans to more than double tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese goods raising them from 10 percent to 25 percent. President Trump, you know, listen, he bragged about a soaring U.S. stock market, economy has been solid, low unemployment rates at that rally last night in Tampa. But American farmers lost access to foreign markets because of this trade war. And the president stood up there last night and praised our nation's farmers, called them patriots a week after announcing this $12 million bailout for a lot of farmers hit by retaliatory tariffs from China.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And I want to thank our farmers. Our farmers are true patriots.


TRUMP: Because China and others have targeted -- China and others, remember this -- have targeted our farmers. Not good. Not nice. You know what our farmers are saying? It's OK. We can take it. These are incredible people. We can take it.


BALDWIN: Let's ask a farmer. Iowa soybean farmer, Mark Jackson, with me from Iowa.

Mark, you heard the president say, American farmers, you guys can take it. Can you take it?

MARK JACKSON, SOYBEAN FARMER: I think agriculture is in a very strong position. Five years ago, we had some of the record historic high prices, whether on soybeans. That has carried through a lot in the situation. We have to understand, since 2012, 2013, prices have declined virtually 50 percent to where we are today. I think -- agriculture is a very resilient industry, unique within itself. I am personally a fifth-generation farmer living in this county. I have a brother and a son I farm with. So is it a good situation dealing with trade wars? History has shown us it's always a struggle. What we need to do is move forward in positive framework, structure where we work together to resolve this situation.

BALDWIN: All right. So I hear you. Historically, yes, a struggle. Everyone wants to jump in and work forward. But when we were looking how strong GDP was and they were talking about how farmers have been stockpiling, I'm curious, I was reading the statistics today, soybean experts, Rowe, projected 300 percent annualized in Q2 as companies were racing to beat tariffs. I'm curious, Mark, did you, did your family stockpile soybeans ahead of the tariffs?

JACKSON: Stockpile is not the right terminology. Most farmers have the ability to carry their crops from year to year in storage, allowing us to sell at the most timely and profitable margin. For myself, personally, I have sold my 2017 crop prior to planting it almost a year ago. So a lot of the profit was in the markets using the Chicago Board of Trade as a future source to price with. A lot of my friends and neighbors have sold at a profit. I pretty much have or better my 2018 soybean crop sold in advance as well. Not so much to beat the deadline of the tariff struggle but I think it was just the normal process that farmers typically use year to year.

[14:40:10] BALDWIN: OK. Are you supportive of what the president is doing? We talked to a lot -- I talked to a pork farmer last week about this whole $15 billion bailout for a lot of farmers who have need it. Are you in support of the president and do you have any concerns that he's fighting this on multiple fronts? Are you worried about this hitting you long-term?

JACKSON: Yes. Everyone is concerned as far as the direction it's going now. As far as whether we support the president or not, it's a matter that the hand has been dealt. I think, at this point in time, let's look at the bigger picture that China is -- they are abusing the intellectual property rights. There are a lot of factors involved here. Soybeans are just a $14 billion element in a $300 billion-plus maneuver here. So I think, from that respect, we are probably the biggest target because we are the smallest population, given that 99 percent of the people in the United States do not farm.

BALDWIN: But, Mark, let me jump in quickly. The last question, you say the hand you've been dealt, the hand of this president. Do you support this president and what he's doing?

JACKSON: At this point in time, yes, I definitely support what he's doing. I think, moving forward, for a long-term solution to a better agriculture, I think that effort is there. There's only one source of food in this world and that's the farmer producing it. Nearly half, 43 percent of the soybeans grown in this world are produced in the United States. So China needs soybeans. They do need ours. It's just a matter of what the final price will be that we receive.

BALDWIN: We're grateful for you. We need you.

Mark Jackson, thanks for talking to me.

JACKSON: Thank you for the opportunity.

BALDWIN: You got it.

Right now, the remains believed to be that of 55 U.S. servicemembers killed in the Korean War are finally on their way home. But for many more families of POWs, they still have no idea what happened to their loved ones. Coming up next, the son of one of those servicemembers, who was just 2 years old when his father was captured, joins me live.


[14:46:48] BALDWIN: Fifty-five flag-draped caskets believed to contain the remains of U.S. servicemembers killed in the Korean War are finally on their way home. Vice President Mike Pence will be there to receive the remains as they touch down later in Hawaii. He will take part in a special ceremony before those remains are set to undergo further analysis and identification. The North Korean government providing only a single dog tag to help identify the fallen, a process, according to the Defense Department, could take not just months but years.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They are quite a lot. In fact, one of the largest unilateral turnovers we've ever received.

We can't just assume any particular item, such as a dog tag, goes with any particular set of remains. We do hope that the individual, whose dog tag that is, is somewhere amongst these remains we're taking back.


BALDWIN: It is a moment of hope 65 years in the making for these Gold Star families. But it's also the moment that underscores the mystery and anguish of their unanswered questions.

The Pentagon says more than 7800 American personnel are still unaccounted for. And the Kim regime has still never explained what happened to many prisoners of war.

One of those servicemen is Major Samuel P. Logan. This is video from what is believed to be his capture way back in September of 1950 after his aircraft was shot down. It is one of the only shreds of detail that the Logan family has to explain what happened to him.

Major Logan's son, Mike, was just 2 years old when his father was captured. He's good enough to join me today to share more of his story.

Mr. Logan, thank you for being with me. We're so grateful to your father and his service to this country.

MIKE LOGAN, SON OF MAJOR SAMUEL P. LOGAN: Thank you, Brooke. Thank you on behalf of all the Gold Star family and family of POWs and MIAs in North Korea.

BALDWIN: You and your family have fought really hard for answers about your father's capture. Tell me what you believe happened to your dad.

LOGAN: Because of the video evidence and the pictures that were taken and released by the Russians, the Soviet Union, we've always believed, because of who he was, what he was, a B29 pilot, his intelligence was very valuable to the Soviet Union and not really too much to the North Koreans, so he was probably shipped through China to the Soviet Union for interrogation. He probably died there in a prisoner-of-war camp. They never would admit they had him. And neither would the North Koreans, for that matter.

BALDWIN: I had read that your grandmother, she was 91 years of age when she passed away without knowing and still wondering if her son might still walk back in that door. What do you remember about that?

LOGAN: Well, actually my grandmother was 98 years old.


BALDWIN: Forgive me, 98.

[14:50:00] LOGAN: My mother was 91 years of age. They fought hard to find out what happened to their husband and son. It really -- my grandmother was just a real tyrant to press the government for information. But it wasn't until 1954 that she and a band of fellow POW mothers went to Washington and demanded that the files be released and the information be turned over to them. It was only then that she found out that he was not an MIA but, in fact, a POW. And they had a lot of frustration about that.

BALDWIN: So can you just talk to me about that. Is it frustration, sadness, anger toward even the U.S. government that he has not been viewed in their eyes properly as a POW?

LOGAN: I wouldn't say it was anger, but it definitely was frustration. His whereabouts were never released or the knowledge they had about his whereabouts was never released to us, or to anyone, for that matter. It was a real battle to get that information. I don't think they really wanted to continue it, because the war was over. It was costing a lot of money to pursue it. I think Truman, president at the time, and Eisenhower, thereafter, had other fish to fry, so to speak, and really wanted to move on from that issue.

BALDWIN: Now, Mr. Logan, the story today is that North Korea has said there are about 200 remains that they could return, just a fraction of the number of Americans who are unaccounted for. They reported they provided this one dog tag among these remains. Do you have any doubt, first and foremost, that North Korea is finally making good on its promise, that the remains in those caskets are, indeed, the remains of the American military?

LOGAN: I have every doubt those remains are of American military. This is not the first time they turned over remains. There were all kinds of things in those remains. They even allowed us, years and years ago, before nuclear proliferation, to go to sites and dig, only to find out those sites were salted with remains just to collect money and, you know, to get the money the United States would pay them to allow them to come and look for remains. So I don't trust them at all.

BALDWIN: You don't trust them at all. There are a lot of Gold Star families praising President Trump for going all the way to Singapore and meeting with Kim Jong-Un. I just want to know how you felt, not having these answers for 68 years, and watching this moment where you see the president shake hands with Kim. How do you feel about that?

LOGAN: I think it's great. I appreciate his efforts and those of his staff, Mike Pompeo, and others to meet with him. Otherwise, what has been done with the 55 would never have been done. Any chance of getting any more would never have been done. So I really appreciate President Trump and his staff for their efforts in this issue.

BALDWIN: Are you hopeful that your father's remains will ever be found?

LOGAN: Sure. I'm hopeful, but very doubtful. I don't think he's in North Korea. I don't think he's ever been in North Korea since the late 1950s. I think he's been in Russia since probably December, January of 1950.

BALDWIN: Mike Logan, thank you.

LOGAN: Thank you, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Coming up next, back to our breaking news. President Trump launching his most aggressive attack on this whole Russia investigation, telling his attorney general over Twitter to end this investigation right now. Is this obstruction of justice in plain sight? Let's talk about that.


[14:58:32] BALDWIN: You are watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

Here is breaking news. The White House is denying the president is obstructing justice in this Russia investigations but it appears something has suddenly and deeply disturbed this president. Because we are watching this outburst on his Twitter feed as Trump launches his most aggressive attack yet against the Russia investigation, telling his Attorney General Jeff Sessions to end the investigation right now.

I'll read the tweet for you. This is a key piece. "Attorney General Jeff Sessions should stop this rigged witch hunt right now before it continues to stain our country any further."

It should be noted, however, that Sessions has recused him from all Russia-related matter, and it is Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, who is overseeing this entire thing.

The president's direct attack on his own attorney general comes despite his aides saying they aren't worried about the trial under way of former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort.

Here is what the White House said today.


SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: It's not an order. It's the president's opinion. And it's ridiculous that all of the corruption and dishonesty that's gone on with the launching of the witch hunt, the president has watched this process play out, but he also wants to see it come to an end, as he stated many times. We look forward to that happening.

Look, the president is not obstructing. He's fighting back. The president is stating his opinion. He's stating it clearly. He's certainly expressing the frustration that he has with the level of corruption that we've seen from people like Jim Comey, Peter Strzok, Andrew McCabe. There's a reason the president is angry. And frankly, most of America is angry as well. And there's no reason he shouldn't be able to voice that opinion.


SANDERS: Once again, as I said earlier, the president --