Return to Transcripts main page


Democrat Candidates Left of Party Competing Tonight; Trump Ready to Talk as Israel Says Iran Should Be "Vanished from the World"; Why Saudi Arabia Is Declaring Diplomatic War on Canada; Pence in Past Writings: President Can Be Impeached Over Moral Issues; Paul Ryan: Worked with Trump to Prevent "Tragedies". Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired August 7, 2018 - 13:30   ET


[13:30:00] A.B. STODDARD, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: -- Democratic establishment is worried if he prevails, they'll lose the seat anyway to the incumbent, Ken Yoder. Cori Bush is running in Missouri against a family legacy, Lacy Clay (ph), in that seat since 2001. His father, Bill Clay, one of the founding members of the Congressional Black Caucus. It will take a lot for Cori Bush to prevail and do what Alexandria in New York 14. Abdul El-Sayed, very popular among liberals because they want him to prevail against the Democratic establishment. She's a former state Senate majority leader, who is ahead of him in the polls, but he becomes the first Muslim governor of the nation if he wins the primary and prevails in November. Very much support coming for El-Sayed from Bernie Sanders as well as --


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: We'll have a lot of extensive coverage of these races.

A.B., thanks.

STODDARD: Thank you.

BLITZER: Excellent analysis.

Coming up, ramping up the pressure on Iran. The president signing what he calls the most-biting sanctions ever imposed on the country, as Israel says it would be best if the Iranian regime would simply vanish from the world.

Plus, why is Saudi Arabia declaring diplomatic war on Canada? The Saudis expel Canadian diplomats, cancel flights, freeze trade, and now telling Saudi students who study in Canada to return home and go study someplace else. You're going to hear why. Stay with us.


[13:35:53] BLITZER: Putting the pressure on Iran, President Trump is touting tough sanctions on Iran, saying they are the most-biting ever imposed and warning that other countries had better also turn their backs on Tehran.

Israeli officials say it would be best if the Iranian regime, quote, "vanished from the world."

While Republican Senator Lindsey Graham sees the goal this way.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: The sanctions today, issued by President Trump through executive order against Iran, are crippling, and I think our goal should be, as a nation, to drive this regime into the ground without firing a shot, stand behind the Iranian people.


BLITZER: All right. Joining us now, Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, the former White House coordinator for defense policy, NSC director in Europe, and served during the Obama administration, I should point out.

As you know, Liz, a senior Trump administration official say regime change is not necessarily the goal, but they want to modify the regime's behavior. Is that a realistic goal with these renewed sanctions?

ELIZABETH SHERWOOD-RANDALL, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COORDINATOR FOR DEFENSE POLICY & NSC DIRECTOR IN EUROPE: Thanks, Wolf. You know, this decision the president has taken to reimpose sanctions has huge costs for our leadership and the world, for our national security and for our economic security. And so my view of this decision to reimpose sanctions when Iran is verifiably dismantling its nuclear weapons, and, in fact, it takes us closer to war. So we have a president who has been accusing the media of causing war when, in fact, the decisions he is taking put us at greater risk, because the most likely scenario is that the Iranians return to a nuclear program. That could cause us to have to take a decision to go to war with Iran.

BLITZER: You don't think that these kinds of economic sanctions and telling the Europeans, the Japanese, the Chinese, you either are with the United States, you can have trade with the U.S., or you can have trade with Iran, but you can't have trade with both? You don't think that'll have a huge impact domestically, internally, on the economy and the fallout within Iran?

SHERWOOD-RANDALL: I think it will have a huge impact but, unfortunately, not a positive impact. One of the important aspects of the agreement that was put in place was to give benefits to the Iranian people for supporting a regime that made the difficult decision to give up its nuclear program. Now that we're re-imposing sanctions, which makes life harder for the Iranian people, that emboldens the hardliners in Iran who are always opposed to this agreement and who want to foment the kind of instability that the Trump decision supposedly is going to stop. So the president says he wants to stop Iranian malfeasance. In fact, what we had done previously was take nuclear weapons off the table, encourage the Iranian people to move in the direction of engagement with the world, and over time, to create more incentives for the Iranians to stop their bad behavior in other dimensions. That is now all being blown up. What it does is isolate the United States. It diminishes our standing in the world, the credibility of our word, and puts our allies and partners at risk. So what we're doing is also harming their economies, multinationals that are both American and European and Asian, and creating the kind of risk that we don't need right now. It gives strategic opportunity to those who are competing with us and, indeed, hands an economic win to both China and Russia.

So let me give you some concrete examples --


BLITZER: Hold on. Hold on for one moment. I want to point out that the Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, says he would welcome talks with the United States and said he's ready to start those talks right now. As you know, last week, the president, President Trump, said he's ready to meet with the Iranian leadership with no preconditions. So what are the chances we see a summit between the U.S. and Iran emerging like the summit we saw between the U.S. and North Korea in Singapore?

SHERWOOD-RANDALL: Well, it's certainly part of President Trump's playbook. We could see a conversation take place. The question there is, what are we willing to do? We have taken an action that's unwarranted. The Iranians were implementing an agreement. What will be on the table for such a discussion? What's the credibility of President Trump's word? What is the credibility of the United States at this time when we've ripped up an agreement that's successfully stopping a nuclear program?

[13:40:11] BLITZER: Israel says the European Union, which, of course, supports the Iran nuclear deal, is, quote, "morally bankrupt" for wanting to keep the Iran nuclear deal in place. So why are the European leaders still trying to save the deal after the U.S. ripped it up?

SHERWOOD-RANDALL: This is an inexplicable stance on the part of the Israelis. The Israelis are far more secure with an Iran that does not have nuclear weapons than an Iran that restarts its nuclear program. What the Europeans are correctly doing is looking for mechanisms that will allow them in concert with others to continue to provide the benefits to the Iranian people that would lead the regime to decide to stay in the agreement, despite America's withdrawal and despite America's re-imposition of very substantial sanctions. This makes it much harder for our companies to do business successfully. Boeing, for example, has a $20 billion civil aviation deal with the Iranians right now, which has to be put on hold. That affects our workers, our economy. European companies as well. A company had a $5 billion deal to develop the south oil field in Iran. They're most likely to hand it off to its partner, the Chinese National Petroleum Company, which will benefit from Europe pulling out.

BLITZER: Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, thanks for joining us.


BLITZER: Despite the president declaring that North Korea is no longer a nuclear threat, his national security adviser says Kim Jong- Un is not, repeat not, living up to his promise to denuke. This as we learn what the president is telling Kim Jong-Un in a new letter.

Also, CNN uncovers past writings by the Vice President Mike Pence in which he argues that a sitting president of the United States can be impeached over morals. We'll discuss.


[13:46:23] BLITZER: Despite President Trump's declaring North Korea is no longer a nuclear threat, his administration is once again accusing the North of not living up to its commitments on denuclearization made at the June summit between President Trump and the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-Un.

The president's national security adviser, John Bolton, has been out there hammering that message home in the last couple days.


JOHN BOLTON, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: So if the Iranians are really willing to come and talk about all of their malign behavior in the region and around the world, I think they'd find the president willing to do it. But once again, this is a question less of what their propaganda is and what their real intentions are.


BLITZER: Joining us now is Max Boot, a CNN global affairs analyst. He's with the Council on Foreign Relations as well.

So what do you think? Because there's an exchange of letters between President Trump and Kim Jong-Un, talk of a second summit, maybe before the end of this year. But you hear John Bolton saying the North Koreans are not doing what they were supposed to be doing.

MAX BOOT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: There's a clear clash here between the president and his national security adviser because Bolton is speaking the truth, that the emperor has no close. It this agreement is not resulting in denuclearization, U.S. intelligence suggests they're expanding those programs and, yet, Donald Trump is not willing to admit that. He says he's, quote, "very happy" with the results of the Singapore summit. Bolton is basically calling him out here. I wonder what conversation they had back in the White House.

BLITZER: You think there's going to be a second meeting?

BOOT: There could well be. Trump is just determined to ignore all the evidence that the North Koreans are not actually denuclearizing and to make this the deal of the century, essentially. He wants to play along, especially going into the midterm elections. He's basically trying to put a happy face on a non-deal where the North Koreans are not making significant concessions.

BLITZER: Yes, he's had very nice words to say about -- he calls him Chairman Kim of North Korea. BOOT: Remember, this is a guy who keeps like 200,000 of his own

citizens in slave labor camps. This is a guy who killed his own half- brother with weapons of mass destruction in a national airport, killed his own uncle. This is a brutal, deadly dictator. It's disgusting Donald Trump slavishes all this praise on him when he's not doing anything to earn it.

BLITZER: Let's talk about another sensitive diplomatic issue that's developed. A real crisis between Canada and Saudi Arabia. The Saudis pulling out, telling the Canadian ambassador he's got to leave, telling Saudi students studying in Canada on Saudi scholarships they have to leave. We're talking about a lot of students. Saudi airlines no longer flying to Toronto and other places in Canada. Give us some background on what's going on right now. This is a really,

BOOT: Right. Not normally one of the hot flashpoints of the world but it is today. This is the crown prince of Saudi Arabia who likes to portray himself as a modernizer, liberalizer, very young man trying to remake the kingdom. He is allowing women to drive. He's opening up movie theaters, doing positive things. But at the same time, he is a brutal authoritarian who does not want challenges against his rule. He's allowing women to drive. He's actually putting some of the female activists in jail, the very people calling for the right to drive, and Canada called him out on that. Now you see this hyperbolic reaction. He bullies at home and abroad. He tried to bully Qatar. He tried to enhance Saudi standing in the region, not very successfully.

One of the things that troubles me about this confrontation, Wolf, is that the United States is not standing by our Canadian allies. The U.S. takes a hands-off approach, saying Canada and Saudi Arabia, you sort it out. Ignoring the fact that Canada is a NATO ally and they are standing up for human rights the way the United States used to do before the Trump administration.

[13:50:26] BLITZER: It's a real crisis in Canadian and Saudi relations. We'll see what happens.

BOOT: Right.

BLITZER: Max, thank you very much.

BOOT: Thank you.

BLITZER: There's more news we're following. The outgoing speaker of the House of Representatives, Paul Ryan, now opening up about his time in the Trump era in a new tell-all interview with the "New York Times," saying he's helped avoid tragedies, but what kind of tragedies is he talking about? We'll discuss that when we come back.


[13:55:34] BLITZER: So what is the standard for president of the United States to resign or be impeached? The current vice president, Mike Pence, wrote in the late 1990s that he believes a president could be removed from office over morals. CNN's "K-FILE" uncovered two columns where Pence argued that then-

President Bill Clinton's admission of an affair with White House intern and prior lies to the American public about the matter, possibly also under oath, meant Clinton should be removed from office. He also argued, in general, about the importance of morality and integrity to the office of the presidency.

The White House correspondent for Reuters, Jeff Mason, is joining us right now.

Jeff, so that's what he said then. Vice President Pence has apparently a different view right now.

JEFF MASON, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, REUTERS: He doesn't talk about it much now. When he made those comments he was not a politician, he was a radio host in Indiana. If you look back at his sort of tenure with President Trump during the 2016 campaign, he did criticize then- Candidate Trump after the "Access Hollywood" tape came out. Since then, he has absolutely aligned himself with the president on everything from policy to moral issues. He stands behind the president. He gives his support to everything that he does. It's pretty much his -- that's who he is now is President Trump's number two.

BLITZER: Even when he's been asked about Stormy Daniels, Karen McDougal and so-called hush money and all that was paid --


BLITZER: -- what does he say?

MASON: Yes, he's dismissive of that. He questions the allegations that have been made. He does not come out and talk about moral arguments. If imagine if this was a Democrat in office and he were either in Congress or still governor in Indiana, that his tone and criticism would be much different.

BLITZER: Fascinating new article the "New York Times" posted today that will be in the "New York Times" magazine about the outgoing speaker of the House, Paul Ryan. It's really revealing article and, among other, things, Ryan suggests that he's been relatively quiet in public because he wants to make sure he can prevent, quote, "tragedies" by working with the president and avoiding any serious criticism.

MASON: In fact, he said he had prevented some tragedies. Then when the reporter followed up and asked what sort of tragedies, he didn't expand on that. Yes, it was a very interesting interview. Interesting to compare the two, Mike Pence and Paul Ryan. Both are, to some extent now, whether they like it or not, tied up or connected to President Trump. Ryan, of course, is leaving office, but his legacy will be connected to this president.

BLITZER: Very good article in the "New York Times."

Quickly, you were in Helsinki. I was in Helsinki. MASON: Uh-huh.

BLITZER: The president of the United States called on you for a question. It generated a lot of buzz. Let me play the exchange.


MASON: President Putin, did you want President Trump to win the election? And did you direct any of your officials to help him do that?

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translation): Yes, I did. Yes, I did, because he talked about bringing the U.S./Russia relationship back to normal.


BLITZER: So, tell me what happened after the question. It was a good question. Clearly President Trump was not very happy with your question or your colleague from A.P., his question either.

MASON: Yes. It was an extraordinary press conference. The last question, that was the third one I got, and I was still holding on to a microphone even though somebody was trying to pull it away from you.

BLITZER: Who was trying to pull it away from you?

MASON: A staff member.

BLITZER: Really?

MASON: Yes. I think they were ready to move on. We're not sure if Putin heard the second part about my question, whether he directed staff to help President Trump win the election. It was just an extraordinary moment. And the reaction to it, both to the answers that the president of the United States gave and the president of Russia, continue to reverberate today.

BLITZER: Putin confirmed that, yes, he clearly said what a lot of people suspected, including the U.S. Intelligence Community, that, yes, he wanted Donald Trump to be president and Hillary Clinton not to be president.

MASON: Absolutely. It negates subsequent tweets from the president, which he has done since then, that Russia would have liked Clinton to win. Russia doesn't want Republicans to be in office, Russia doesn't want me to be in office. President Putin admitted on live television to all of us there and the millions of people watching that that's exactly what he wanted, indeed.

BLITZER: Good point. Good question.

Jeff, thanks very much for coming in.

MASON: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Keep up the good work at the White House.

That's it for me. I'll be back 5:00 p.m. Eastern in "THE SITUATION ROOM."

For our international viewers, "AMANPOUR" is coming up next.

For our viewers in North America, "NEWSROOM" with Brooke Baldwin starts right now.

[14:00:13] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, there. I'm Brooke Baldwin. You're watching CNN.