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Iowa College Student Missing For Three Weeks; Is California Really Wasting Water That Could Be Used To Fight Fires?; Graham: Trump Brought Up Ending Mueller Probe "About 20 Times." Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired August 8, 2018 - 07:30   ET



[07:32:15] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: The search for 20-year-old Mollie Tibbetts continues today. The University of Iowa student was last seen jogging on July 18th, three weeks ago today, near her hometown of Brooklyn, Iowa where she was living with her boyfriend.

The reward for finding Mollie is now up to $300,000. But despite hundreds of tips, investigators have not made any arrests or publicly identified any suspects.

Her father, Rob Tibbetts, joins us now. Mr. Tibbetts, thank you very much for taking the time to be with us. We can only imagine what a living hell these past three weeks have been for you and your family.

Have the police shared with you any of their theories on what happened?

ROB TIBBETTS, FATHER OF MOLLIE TIBBETTS: No, they haven't, and we have an agreement with them from the outset that all that information would be kept to the law enforcement for two reasons. One, they don't want to compromise the search; and two, they don't want to endanger Mollie.

CAMEROTA: Yes. I know that you have your own theory and I know it's speculation, but your intuition has told you you believe she's with someone she knows. Can you just expound on that and why you think that?

TIBBETTS: Well, I do want to point out that it really is just speculation on a father's part that has lots of time and imagination and I'm looking for a logical way to bring Mollie home. And so it's just that and I think it's taken on a little bit of a life of its own the last couple of days.

But it isn't inconceivable that Mollie left with someone that she knows and that that person or persons are with her now.

CAMEROTA: Was she last seen jogging? Is that what you understand?

TIBBETTS: That is the last time she was seen. Neighbors have reported that they saw her jogging which was her routine every evening. And everybody in the town like Brooklyn saw Mollie jog every night. CAMEROTA: What time was she doing that?

TIBBETTS: To the best of our knowledge, she took off to run at about 7:30.

CAMEROTA: Had she lived with her -- as I understand it she lived with her boyfriend. Have you spoken to her boyfriend?

TIBBETTS: Oh, all the time. I see him every day -- Dalton's family. We love Dalton. We knew Dalton --

CAMEROTA: And you find him to be trustworthy? I mean --

TIBBETTS: Go ahead.

CAMEROTA: You find -- look, I mean, I'm telling you anything you don't know. Some of the -- when someone goes missing obviously, police look at everybody. They look at the family, they look at --


CAMEROTA: -- the boyfriend. They look at people that Mollie knew.

And so -- but I think it helps people to hear from you that you find the boyfriend trustworthy and he was not in town the night that Mollie went missing.

[07:35:08] TIBBETTS: No, he was well over 100 miles away.

No, we -- Dalton's family. We love Dalton.

When Mollie gets back I've said I can't wait to see them get married. They don't want to hear me say that but they're not ready yet, I think.

But no, we love Dalton. I'm so proud of Dalton.

And one of the silver linings of this whole episode is that I've gotten to spend so much time with him and I am so proud of him. He is just a really great man. I can see why Mollie loves him so much.

CAMEROTA: And, Mollie seems like a really beautiful young woman, inside and out.

We have this video of her speaking, sort of, about her philosophy here. I don't know if we have audio -- I think we do. Let me just listen to this for a second.

I don't think --


MOLLIE TIBBETTS, MISSING FROM IOWA: (INAUDIBLE) -- God give me the strength to get through it. Just tell me what to do to help me out with whatever happened and to know what --


CAMEROTA: What she's doing there, she's talking about how she has prayed for inspiration and she's giving inspiration to other kids that she's talking to. And it's just really helpful to see her in motion there and obviously helpful for our viewers to try to find her.

Tell us what you'd like us to know about Mollie.

TIBBETTS: Well, I think it helps to see those videos because in a situation like this Mollie could become a two-dimensional character -- a picture on a missing poster. And she's a real, live person and I've said before we think she's extraordinary, but everybody thinks their own kids are extraordinary and so we understand.

Mollie's just a normal, terrific young woman well on her way to being a great mother and wife and we just want her back. And she just needs to get back -- get back to school and get on with her life.

CAMEROTA: Of course, of course, we understand.

There is a man named Wayne Cheney who has been questioned five times. The police have not named any suspects but this Wayne Cheney lives near the search area and he has five -- no, he has a few convictions for harassment and stalking.

Do you think that he is connected to this?

TIBBETTS: I don't know but one of the things the authorities have told us is not to read too much into anything that we see them doing. They are running down hundreds of leads like that that we don't know about. That one became public.

I think because of his background that he was an obvious person to look at, and so they needed to exhaust that as a lead thoroughly. But whether or not he has anything to do with this is entirely up to the authorities. But I wouldn't put any more stock into that than I would the other leads that we just don't know about.

CAMEROTA: OK. Mr. Tibbetts, obviously, we are also all praying for Mollie's safe return.

I want to put up the hotline number. It's 1-800-452-1111 -- 1-800- 452-1111. If you don't have a pencil to jot it down you can always call 911. And you can also report anything anonymously.

Mr. Tibbetts, please, please keep us posted of any developments.

TIBBETTS: Thank you very much for having me.

CAMEROTA: Thank you -- John.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: I can't imagine being a father in that position and the poise with which he speaks and I think the dimension with which he wants to provide to his daughter so we all see what kind of a woman she really is. CAMEROTA: The waiting is the most torturous part is what families of missing kids always say. And so, sometimes there's a happy ending and we are praying that somebody comes forward with information.

BERMAN: All right.

The White House will not defend the president's claims about the California wildfires, but what is the reality behind what he's saying? We get a "CNN Reality Check" next.


[07:43:04] BERMAN: Record-breaking wildfires scorching California and President Trump blaming the victim, accusing the state of intentionally wasting water that could go to fighting the fires. But is that true?

Our John Avlon with our "Reality Check." Hey, John.


All right, so four of the five largest wildfires in California history have just occurred since 2012, but they have never seen anything quite like this.

The wildfires burning around beautiful Mendocino in Northern California are the biggest in state history. They cover nearly 300,000 acres. Now, to put that in perspective that's roughly the size of Los Angeles or for you East Coasters, that's larger than all five boroughs of New York City.

In all, 17 major wildfires are torching the Golden State right now, killing at least nine people and destroying more than 1,000 homes.

Now, faced with this inferno, President Trump could have responded by comforting the displaced, offering condolences for the dead, or cheering on the thousands of brave firefighters working around the clock.

He chose differently. Here's a tweet.

"Governor Jerry Brown must allow the free flow of the vast amounts of water coming from the north and foolishly being diverted into the Pacific Ocean. Can be used for fires, farming, and everything else."

And then this. "California wildfires are being magnified and made so much worse by the bad environmental laws which aren't allowing massive amounts of readily available water to be properly utilized. It is being diverted into the Pacific Ocean."

Now, his tweets are utterly irrelevant. Worse yet, nobody really understands what the president was talking about.

Here's one tale. The White House didn't even bother trying to explain. The president seems to be fixating on an entirely unrelated partisan

political issue, farmers' frustrations over diverting irrigation water into local rivers and streams. Now, some of those protected endangered species -- much of it feeds the needs of coastal communities.

And all of this has precisely nothing to do with the wildfires.

[07:45:02] Don't take my word for it. CAL FIRE confirms, quote, "We're having no issues with water supplies."

But a local expert put a finer point on it. Quote, "The idea that there isn't enough water is the craziest thing in the world."

In fact, one of the glimmers of good news here is that many of the fires burning are near major reservoirs. They're all full and that's the water firefighters are using.

Now, the underlying issue driving historic wildfires in California and around the world this summer isn't environmental regulation, it's actually the opposite -- a failure to confront climate change.

Now, President Trump has called climate change a hoax and a con job in rejection of the overwhelming scientific consensus. Federal agencies scrubbed the phrase "climate change" from their Web sites and the president pulled us out of the Paris Climate Accords.

Now, according to a 2016 Interior Department report, it is precisely because of this climate change that California wildfires are breaking all the wrong records.

But the Interior Department of 2018, led by Ryan Zinke, has a very different idea.

Zinke has an op-ed out today calling for more logging, the corporate- friendly solution that doesn't fully address the larger issues. That requires a comprehensive plan combining an understanding of nature, respect for science, and government action.

Meanwhile, California firefighters don't have time to deal with politically-inspired climate change denial or half-baked tweets from the president. They're working around the clock to put out the fires that an action helped start.

And that's your "Reality Check."

BERMAN: Yes, they're working around the clock to put out the fires and they all say they have plenty of water to do so, John. I think the most important you say there is that the president's claim -- it has nothing to do with the problem at hand.

AVLON: Nada.

CAMEROTA: John, that is so helpful because so many people were so confused by the tweets and didn't know what it meant. So having you spell it out and also to know that they are near major reservoirs that have an abundance of water.

Thank you very much for all of those facts.

BERMAN: Senator Lindsey Graham says the president's talked about the Mueller investigation a lot -- a whole lot during their round of golf. Maggie Haberman joins us with what this tells us about the president's state of mind.

CAMEROTA: Then we're talking to Trump voters about the president's relationship with Vladimir Putin.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's a suck-up to Vladimir Putin because I think obviously, that country has something on him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you not think that if there was something that was detrimental to President Trump's legitimacy or overall candidacy or fitness for office -- do you not think that that would not have been leaked by now?


CAMEROTA: All right, that was a calm moment. We will get the pulse of the people coming up in our next hour.


[07:51:37] CAMEROTA: Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, fresh off a round of golf with President Trump, giving Americans a glimpse into President Trump's state of mind while answering questions at a town hall in his home state of South Carolina.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why don't the two of you step up and stop the Mueller investigation?

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Well, did Trump ask that question? He must have mentioned that about 20 times.

So I told the president I know you don't like it, I know you feel put upon. You've just got to ride it out.

I want to win in November. If we stop the Mueller probe tomorrow you wouldn't be able to talk about anything else.


CAMEROTA: Let's bring in Maggie Haberman, CNN political analyst and White House correspondent for "The New York Times." She joins us now.

Life coaching from Lindsey Graham to the President of the United States.

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Taking place all out in the open, as we do everything these days, apparently.

CAMEROTA: That's right -- oh, yes.

And so, to the president's mind -- and it is interesting to hear Lindsey Graham -- Sen. Graham say that President Trump brought it up about 20 times --


CAMEROTA: -- so it is bedeviling him, obviously.

And is it your reporting and your understanding that in -- mostly this is because it's encroaching on Don, Jr.?

HABERMAN: Now, I know that that is a meme right now or a theme or whatever word we use. I think it is certainly true that he is concerned that it will touch his son.

And I think that has become more concerning simply not because of some new fact-set but because you have Michael Cohen making statements that are -- you know, his lawyer making statements that I think became of concern to the president.

But I don't think it's because there was some new piece of independent information. I don't think it's that Mueller made some move toward Don, Jr. that's not different.

I don't think the president -- just from my reporting -- is in any different state of mind than he was a year ago. I think he might be talking more about his son getting picked on.

But one of the things to remember about this president is he often doesn't say these things directly and he doesn't say these things flatly. So he's not running around saying to aides I'm very worried about Don, Jr. I think that people are surmising that must be what he is thinking about.

And he has displayed, as one person put it to me, a level of anxiety about this probe for a very long time that the facts don't seem to explain. So people are left guessing as to what that is.

I do think he is bothered by the probe's existence for a variety of reasons, one of which is that he generally believes that prosecutions are bad and that is a lifelong belief of his. But also, it does make it harder for him to get certain -- in his mind to get certain things done.

And because he has a total inability to see that interference in an election would be probed on its own and it's not all about him, he conflates the two things.

BERMAN: The Lindsey Graham odyssey is a thing in and of itself where sometimes you get those brief quips --


BERMAN: -- there when he said out loud for the world to hear the president brought it up about 20 times when they played golf.

HABERMAN: I appreciate his candor.

BERMAN: It was revelatory.

And your reporting is that while there has been this level of anxiety for some time from the president about this probe that recently it has reached what you call a fever pitch. That would seem to go hand-in- hand with Lindsey Graham's 20 times in one golf game.

HABERMAN: I think this is a president who obsesses and I think that it is only -- it's very hard to know sometimes why he's doing that.

But yes, I think that he is clearly -- he goes -- I don't think the Mueller probe was ever actually not somewhere on his mind, right? But I think it's episodic as to how intense that is for him. And I think over the last two weeks it's been quite intense and I think it's a confluence of events.

[07:55:12] I think there is the Michael Cohen tape that emerged. I think that -- I understand that he will tell people he's not really worried about Michael Cohen. I do -- I think that strains fragility quite a bit.

I think he is worried about what Cohen might know and what else there might be there. I think that he was less than thrilled the tapes existed.

And I think that he's watching the Paul Manafort trial.

And I think that all of those things are anxiety-producing.

CAMEROTA: Mueller -- Maggie, tell us about this --

HABERMAN: Mueller.

CAMEROTA: Yes, Mueller. That's what I call you now.

Tell us about this cat and mouse game that appears to be going on and on and on about the interview and whether or not President Trump will ever sit with Mueller's investigators. It seems like there's a lot of letters being exchanged back and forth.

HABERMAN: There are.

CAMEROTA: But, I mean, is there really ever going to happen?

HABERMAN: I think it's very unlikely and I think I've been pretty consistent about that on this show and elsewhere on this network.

I think that -- I think that some of it is legitimately just trying to do what they can. I think some of it is a form of stonewalling on the part of the president's lawyers.

And I think that Mueller's folks see an advantage in letting this play out because I'm not -- I think if they really felt they needed this interview -- that it was crucial -- I think there would likely be a subpoena. And I think that the fact that they have given the president ample running room to demonstrate he's not going to do it, I think they think that only helps them.

I don't think Mueller -- while he might not make decisions based on it, I don't think he is operating unaware of the public opinion game that's going on here in terms of how the president and his team -- and they've been effective at it -- have tried to undermine the probe in the eyes of the voting public because they believe that -- and the reason why is that believe that Mueller is not going to indict a sitting president.

That is the DOJ guideline and they believe he is going to follow that based on things his investigators have said.

And so instead, this becomes about a potential impeachment battle which is about the votes of members of Congress which -- who will be swayed by their voters.

BERMAN: And the subpoena battle is something that maybe the Mueller team just doesn't think is worth the effort --


BERMAN: -- based on whether or not --

HABERMAN: That's right.

BERMAN: -- the need that you seem to think that maybe they're under the impression they don't need it.

But then it gets to the other side with Rudy Giuliani and what that team is doing. And you call that a cat and mouse game. That's charitable, right?

They're just -- they're just stringing this out as long as they can and playing these games --


BERMAN: -- with the press publicly. And also, apparently, with the special counsel's team.

Now, Giuliani is telling people that we're going to respond --

HABERMAN: This week, yes.

BERMAN: -- this week.

What's your reporting on that and what does he mean when he says it's not our final offer?

HABERMAN: Well, I think that you're going to see likely today, but possibly tomorrow or Friday, some kind of a counteroffer. My understanding is it's not going to be an outright we're not doing this because then that closes the door. Remember, there is a -- under DOJ guidelines there is a window where you are not supposed to engage in certain activities within a window close to an election. So that's -- I think it's 60 days.

That gets us to the very beginning of September. So between now and then, you are in the window where Mueller could issue a report.

And then the question becomes is there anything that the Giuliani team does that incensed Mueller to put out a report? I think that they would rather not see a report if you are the president and you are the Republicans ahead of the midterms. That just becomes something else the Democrats are going to debate.

So I think that you are seeing -- the string is being played out just to eat up as much of the clock as possible while also letting them say look, we really have come up with efforts here that are good faith. There's a path where we would do it, it's just not what you're asking for.

BERMAN: I want to come back to that point if we can -- Maggie's going to stick around here -- because I think it's fascinating that's sort of a new notion right now that perhaps they're trying to thread this needle to get this report to come out after the midterms because that -- they're that concerned about it.

Hang on to that thought. Much more just ahead.

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


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is a district that has not had a Democratic representative in almost 40 years.

DANNY O'CONNOR, DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATE FOR SPECIAL ELECTION IN OHIO'S 12TH CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT: We feel great about the conversations we're having right now. We need new leadership desperately in Washington, D.C.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A win for Balderson is also a win for Donald Trump.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This race should not have even been a contest.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Donald Trump has been a dream for the Republican National Committee. He gets involved in primaries, he cares about what's going on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It just doesn't seem to me that the president's endorsement had much of an effect at all.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Last week, police raided this property in a remote part of northern New Mexico and found 11 children living in absolute squalor.

JERRY HOGREFE, SHERIFF, TAOS COUNTY, NEW MEXICO: We discovered the remains yesterday on (INAUDIBLE) birthday.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He needs medication. He needs everything. I don't know now if he's alive.


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

BERMAN: Good morning. Welcome to your NEW DAY. It is Wednesday, August eighth, 8:00 in the east.

The breaking news -- it is too close to call and certainly, way too close for comfort. Way, way too close for comfort for Republicans this morning. This major warning sign for them for the midterm elections.

The marquee race in Ohio in what should be a strong Republican red district, the Republican Troy Balderson is clinging to this razor-thin lead over Democrat Danny O'Connor.