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NEW DAY

Trump & Allies Mobilize Against GOP Rep's Impeachment Revolt; Trump Threatens Iran after Days of De-Escalation; 'Game of Thrones' Ends after Eight Seasons; Billionaire Pays Off Loan Debt for Hundreds of Morehouse Grads; Sen. Kamala Harris Unveils Plan to Close Gender Pay Gap; Buttigieg Slams FOX News Hosts at FOX News Town Hall. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired May 20, 2019 - 06:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA): We're on a road to impeachment, and now it's a bipartisan road.

[05:59:22] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The first sitting Republican member of Congress to call his behavior impeachable.

SEN. MITT ROMNEY (R-AZ): Justin Amash has reached a different conclusion than I have.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): Can an impeachment be even potentially successful in the Senate? We see no signs of that yet.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If Iran attacks, it will be up to America to take the last strike.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're at a greater risk of nuclear war now than ever before.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't want to fight. But you do have situations like Iran. You can't let them have nuclear weapons.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: An era of television history closes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: "Game of Thrones" ended leaving somebody new on the iron throne.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY. It's Monday, May 20, 6 a.m. here in New York. And we're coming to you live from our brand- new studio in Hudson Yards, fully equipped with Aromavision.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: This is not smell-o-vision. But we are very bright and shiny this morning. Our new digs are so impressive. Our studio is beautiful. Let's show you around a little bit. You can see that we have all these beautiful colors. There's more red in the studio.

You're going to look at our new seating area over here for our interviews. We have a beautiful couch area. And I just feel like it's having a whole kind of renewal effect on us.

BERMAN: And we have foot-TV which is a -- which is a new invention. Yes, we have a TV at our feet.

CAMEROTA: We do?

BERMAN: The pedestal here lights up, and we can watch ourselves at our feet.

CAMEROTA: Huh.

BERMAN: That's true.

CAMEROTA: That sounds like we'd have to be contortionists.

BERMAN: See? I don't know -- look, see? It says "CNN." That stuff at your feet is a TV. They can put pictures on that.

CAMEROTA: Oh, my gosh. I didn't know that we had that technology.

BERMAN: Yes.

CAMEROTA: No, it's great. I mean, it's -- I feel like you all will see a marked improvement in our performance in this studio.

BERMAN: No one told me that. No one told me that.

All right. This morning a Republican congressman has broken ranks, saying the president has engaged in impeachable conduct; and a second Republican member of Congress has called that stance courageous. The question this morning, will more follow? Well, don't bet the farm.

Congressman Justin Amash is already facing a coordinated backlash from the president and the Republican Party. Congressman Amash seemed to know this was coming. He suggested that many of his Republican colleagues have not actually read the Mueller report.

CAMEROTA: Meanwhile, President Trump is turning up the rhetoric towards Iran with a tweet warning if Iran wants to fight, quote, "that will be the official end of Iran," end quote. He's also telling Iranian leaders to, quote, "never threaten the United States again," end quote. The stern words from the president come after days of de- escalation between the U.S. and Iran.

So we have it all covered for you. Let's begin with CNN's Joe Johns. He is live for us at the White House -- Joe.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: So much going on here. You know, all of that really underscores the continuing question of what Republicans in Congress are thinking while the process plays out.

Justin Amash, of course, is a Republican in the United States Congress, a frequent critic of the quest -- of the president. His public position on the Mueller report certainly is something worth taking a look at, because in large part, the president and Republicans in Congress need this the least.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHNS (voice-over): President Trump hitting back at a Republican congressman who says the president's behavior meets the threshold for impeachment. Trump tweeting at Congressman Justin Amash, writing, "He's a total lightweight," adding, "If he actually read the biased Mueller report, he would see that it was nevertheless strong on NO COLLUSION and ultimately NO OBSTRUCTION."

Special Counsel Robert Mueller did not make a determination on obstruction of justice. The Michigan congressman took a page out of the president's playbook, firing off a tweetstorm, saying he's "read Mueller's redacted report carefully and completely, unlike colleagues," and saying Mueller's investigation "identifies multiple examples of conduct satisfying all the elements of obstruction of justice."

Mueller cites at least ten episodes of potential obstruction by Mr. Trump.

Attorney General William Barr tried to effectively clear the president, a decision which Amash slams, tweeting, "It is clear that Barr intended to mislead the public."

The Republican National Committee, in a statement, quickly condemning the lawmaker, writing, "It was sad to see him parroting the Democrats' talking points on Russia."

Top GOP lawmakers, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, also questioning Amash's allegiance to the party.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): He wants attention. He votes more with Nancy Pelosi than he ever votes with me.

JOHNS: Senator Mitt Romney doesn't agree.

ROMNEY: I think it's a courageous statement. But I believe that to make a case for obstruction of justice, you just don't have the elements that are evidenced in this document.

JOHNS: Amash's tweets are reigniting the debate over impeachment among Democrats.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): Let's not leapfrog over what we think should be the path that should be taken.

JOHNS: Some feel this is a watershed moment.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Justin Amash coming on board means that there is now bipartisan support for really understanding the seriousness of what is in the Mueller report.

JOHNS: Others understand it would take more than one Republican to make impeachment matter.

SCHIFF: Can an impeachment even be potentially successful in the Senate? We see no signs of that yet.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

JOHNS: Against this backdrop, we have all the international brush fires that continue. The White House, of course, is still focused on the issue of Iran. Not clear so far where the president is going on that.

Back to you.

[06:05:02] BERMAN: All right. Joe Johns for us at the White House. Joe, thank you.

This morning President Trump is lobbing rhetorical bombs, threatening the end of Iran, even as there are signs from the region that tensions might be decreasing a bit.

CNN's Nic Robertson is live in Abu Dhabi with the very latest. Nic, what's the difference between the language and the actions at this point?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: The language seems to be very clear that President Trump appears to put himself over the weekend on a war footing. The actions seem to be somewhat different.

And indeed, it does seem, as you say, like lobbing a bomb into what was sort of a calming situation here. You have the Iranian foreign minister over the weekend saying, "We don't want war," but he also said that one would dare -- essentially dare go to war with us.

You have a senior Iranian commander saying, "We don't want war, but we will defend ourselves."

And the protagonists on the other side, the Saudis, saying, "Look, we don't want war either, but if there's -- if we're attacked, then we're going to defend ourselves." You know, this language was coming down.

So President Trump's tweet, saying if Iran wants to fight, then that's officially the end of Iran, just seemed to come out of left field.

And even if you compare it to what the president had said in an -- in an interview with FOX News that was recorded on Thursday, a couple of days before this, even his language then seemed to indicate that he's not inclined to go to war. He doesn't want to because of human and economic costs. This is how he put it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I just don't want them to have nuclear weapons. And they can't be threatening us. And you know, with all of --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just want to read you something --

TRUMP: With all that's going on -- and I'm not one that believes -- you know, I'm not somebody that wants to go into war. Because war hurts economies. War kills people, most importantly.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.

TRUMP: By far most importantly.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTSON: So President Trump went on to say that he believes he can do what he wants in Iran, essentially, through economic means only.

But of course, the big key moment to come here, expected in the next few days, is when the Emiratis here announce who they think were responsible for the attacks on those four ships off their coast just a few days ago. The Saudis already hinting it may be Iran. The temperature on this may spike up again -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: OK, understood. Nic Robertson, thank you very much for that report.

So President Trump is putting some distance between his views and the restrictive abortion bill just passed in Alabama. In a tweet, the president says he is pro-life but makes exceptions for rape, incest and protecting the life of the mother. Alabama's bill does not make exceptions for rape or incest.

Abortion rights activists are preparing for the court challenges which they hope will eventually go before the U.S. Supreme Court in a challenge to the Roe v. Wade decision.

BERMAN: "Game" over. The pop cultural phenomenon "Game of Thrones" ended last night after eight epic seasons. So did they stick the landing with the season finale?

Now, we want to warn you, we are going to talk about what happened on the show last night, and there will be spoilers. So if you don't want to hear what happened, you know, put on the earmuffs or something.

CNN chief media correspondent Brian Stelter joins us now. And Brian, the only question worthy of asking is was it good? Was it worth it?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN CHIEF MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: I think most viewers did feel satisfied. But on Twitter, there was a lot of outrage about the conclusion of "Game of Thrones." I think what critics feel is that the show, the final season was so rushed. It was almost that the producers and the stars were trying to get everything done, everything wrapped up in the final few chapters.

That's because viewers wanted even more. Maybe the producers were trying to leave you wanting more. So in the very end, Bran Stark, the Three-Eyed Raven who was kicked out of the tower in episode one was made king. I don't want to give everything away. There were a lot of twists and turns. But it was a momentous conclusion to the series.

And this is, in some ways, the most loved, most watched series in the world. That's why it matters so much. "Game of Thrones" proved this was about more than fantasy, more than television. It was about a kind of storytelling that you rarely see in any form of media.

I think that's why a lot of fans were in mourning afterwards, both last night and this morning. These shows don't come along very often. These shows only come around once in a generation.

CAMEROTA: For sure. But I mean, are you saying, when you say most beloved, you know, show in the world, where does it rank in terms of, say, like, "The Sopranos" or even go back farther, I mean, what, "MASH," you know, "Seinfeld," things like that?

STELTER: Right. Viewership-wise, you can never get back to the '60s and '70s when everybody was watching the same thing. But "Game of Thrones" is the closest to it. Forty, 50 million viewers have been watching this every week. I think the finale will be even higher, because everybody who wanted to see what happened had to watch live, because they knew it was going to be spoiled today. So that is something special in this era of television, where most people are watching most things on demand.

But here's the thing about "Game of Thrones." You can still catch up. Right? Most people who have never seen the show, it's not too late to start from the very beginning.

CAMEROTA: I just this weekend watched the first two episodes every, because I had missed the entire cultural phenomenon. I felt like I wanted to be in on it. I watched the first two episodes. I think this could really take off.

BERMAN: You've got to set aside --

CAMEROTA: It's really good.

BERMAN: Set aside 85 hours.

CAMEROTA: I will, I will.

STELTER: But be prepared. A lot of people die.

[06:10:04] BERMAN: How many people watched last night, do we think?

STELTER: I'm expecting at least 20 million live and 40 million by the end of the week. But, you know, this thing is seen around the world, and that's what makes it extraordinary. HBO has been planning for this for years, because they know we're going to need a lot more shows after this to top "Game of Thrones."

BERMAN: One thing you will not like, they come out against hereditary monetary in the show last night. Which I know you are against.

CAMEROTA: I'm a fan of.

BERMAN: You're a fan of the monarchy.

CAMEROTA: Yes.

BERMAN: Seriously. That was a big part of the show.

STELTER: That is true.

CAMEROTA: Brian, thank you very much.

STELTER: All right. Thanks.

CAMEROTA: OK. It was a heck of a commencement speech. A speaker gives a graduation gift to every student, and it will change their lives.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[06:15:27] CAMEROTA: A billionaire investor gives a truly life- changing commencement speech. He promised the entire graduating class at Morehouse College that he will pay off all of their student loans.

CNN's Victor Blackwell is live at Morehouse College in Atlanta with more.

Victor, it almost seemed as though the administration of Morehouse didn't see that coming either.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They didn't. Alisyn, if Robert F. Smith had pledged to pay off the student loans of just one graduate, that would have been enough to qualify for the good stuff segment, right? But to do it for nearly 400 graduates, it's almost unbelievable.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLACKWELL (voice-over): What seemed like a typical commencement address at Morehouse College --

ROBERT F. SMITH, BILLIONAIRE PHILANTHROPIST: Classmates, class of 2019, you look beautiful.

BLACKWELL: -- turned out to be an unprecedented gift to graduates.

SMITH: This is my class, 2019. My family is making a grant to eliminate their student loans.

BLACKWELL: Billionaire investor Robert F. Smith announces that he is paying off all of the student debt for the 396 graduates of the historically black college, estimated to be tens of millions of dollars. The stunning announcement leaves students speechless at first.

ELIJAH NESLY DORMEUS, 2019 MOREHOUSE COLLEGE GRADUATE: We were like, "I don't think he really said that. Let's try again." But then when we thought about it, we're like, "Oh, yes. Yes, sir, yes, sir. He said it." (CHANTING)

BLACKWELL: Then they erupt in chants. The announcement even surprises the faculty and staff on stage.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: MVP!

DAVID A. THOMAS, PRESIDENT, MOREHOUSE COLLEGE: I've seen lots of graduations. I've raised 100 percent of millions of dollars. And I've never seen a gift like this.

BLACKWELL: In a speech, Smith stresses the importance of community, especially the many people who helped him along the way. And it is in that spirit that he says he chose to wipe away the students' debt.

SMITH: We will all be measured by how much we contribute to the success of the people around us.

BLACKWELL: Graduate Elijah Nesly Dormeus is taking that advice to heart. He is one of nine children and is using his newfound freedom from student debt to help his family, specifically his mother.

DORMEUS: She's diligently worked year after year, year after year, fought for jobs year after year. Even when she didn't get it, she came back and she said, "Son, you have to continue pushing." So now it's like, I can actually do that.

BLACKWELL: Smith also tells the students that nothing can replace hard work and encourages them to embrace the grind.

SMITH: Our world is getting smaller by the day, and you are equipped with every tool to make it your own.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLACKWELL: The college president says average debt is somewhere between $26,000 and $30,000 per student, although one student has roughly $90,000 worth of debt.

And no doubt those -- those men are grateful for what was announced yesterday. But what those of us who graduated with five figures of student loan debt know -- hello -- that the people who have been paying student debts back for five, ten, 15 years appreciate is that this is a type of liberation for these young men that they can start businesses earlier, buy homes sooner, start their families, take risks. John and Alisyn, absolutely life-changing, life-changing what happened here at Morehouse yesterday.

BERMAN: The burden that was lifted for those young men cannot be overstated at this point. I agree 100 percent, Victor.

BLACKWELL: Absolutely.

CAMEROTA: Yes. He set their lives on a different trajectory yesterday. They will be have -- they will be able to make different choices, different job choices, different life choices, because they are not saddled with that albatross. It was such a -- I mean, it's such a life-altering gift.

BLACKWELL: A real freedom.

CAMEROTA: Yes.

BERMAN: Thanks, Victor.

CAMEROTA: Thank you.

We're -- he's going to join us. The president of Morehouse, not the -- not the donor. The president of Morehouse is going to join us in our 8 a.m. hour, along with a student whose life has just been changed.

BERMAN: I can't wait to hear what he thinks that he will do now with this burden lifted.

New this morning, presidential hopeful Senator Kamala Harris is unveiling her plan to close the gender pay gap. She says it would shift the burden from working women to large corporations.

CNN's Kyung Lah spoke with Senator Harris, and she has the exclusive details here. Kyung, what did she tell you?

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: She had this exclusive interview with CNN as she went through each of the policy points, John. There have been so many attempts to try to correct this, so many laws. But what has always been the same is that the burden has been on the employees.

The employees have had to complain. They've had to file the lawsuits. She says what's changing in her proposal is that she's going to target corporate America first.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

[06:20:07] SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There will be penalties if they don't.

LAH (voice-over): Enough is enough, says Senator Kamala Harris, unveiling a policy to close the gender pay gap.

HARRIS: Show us what you got. That's it.

LAH: That's the starting point, Harris explained to CNN. She'd require companies to get an equal pay certification.

HARRIS: What I am proposing is we shift the burden. It should not be on that working woman to prove it. It should instead be on that large corporation to prove they're paying people for equal work equally. It's that simple. It's literally that simple.

LAH: Companies would have to open their books, disclosing what they pay to employees, prove women and men are paid equally for equal work. And if disparities exist, show the gap is based on merit, performance or seniority, not gender. For every 1 percent pay gap, the Harris administration would fine companies 1 percent of their daily profits. Harris cites the latest census data.

HARRIS: Women, for the same work, for the equal work, on average make 80 cents on the dollar. And this has got to end.

LAH: Harris would boost funding and enforcement power to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. And like her previous gun violence proposal, if Congress doesn't act on equal pay, Harris says she'll enact her plan by executive action.

(on camera): Were this to come through in a Harris administration, you would hear from banks, FROM tech companies across the board. JPMorgan. Would you be willing to take off your earrings and engage in this sort of fight? You're looking --

HARRIS: I've been in those fights before. I come at it with a spirit of believing that, when large corporations are required to do this, that they will understand that it is something they actually should concern themselves with.

LAH: Harris was targeted boosting teacher pay, and a middle-class tax cut was raised by a working single mother and wants to flip the script for working Americans.

HARRIS: We were often there before she came home from school, before she came home from work. She would cook dinner, and she would stay up at the kitchen table doing work, figuring out how to pay the bills. So it is my intention to correct what has been wrong about the way we have designed the system.

LAH: Now the Harris campaign says before critics say that this absolutely cannot be done, the campaign is pointing out that they are borrowing from examples of programs already up and running in Iceland and in the U.K.

These are laws already in place, Alisyn.

And this is her third policy roll-out targeting justice and women and women of color. That's where she believes is her path to the nomination -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Kyung, thank you very much for all of that reporting.

Well, more 2020 news. Mayor Pete Buttigieg took his presidential campaign to FOX TV. And he did not mince words about some of their hosts. His message to viewers next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[06:27:35] BERMAN: Overnight, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg clearly looking to make a statement. He appeared in a FOX TV town hall and took the opportunity to slam some of the network's hosts.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Tucker Carlson saying that immigrants make America dirty. When you've got Laura Ingraham comparing detention centers with children in cages to summer camps. Summer camps?

Then there is a reason why anybody has to swallow hard and think twice before participating in this media eco-system. But I also believe that, even though some of the hosts are not always there in good faith, I think a lot of people tune into this network who do it in good faith.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: All right. Joining us now, Toluse Olorunnipa, White House correspondent for "The Washington Post"; Laura Barron-Lopez, national political reporter for "Politico"; and John Avlon, CNN senior political analyst.

And John, Mayor Pete Buttigieg trying to have his FOX and eat it, too. Right?

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, and I -- but I do think he handled it deftly. In some ways, better than Elizabeth Warren. Because, as opposed to simply giving the entire network a Heisman, he engaged. He said, "I'm speaking to the audience."

But he called out the hosts who are opinion hosts, who have been, you know, leading to a toxic environment, in Buttigieg's words. And so I think he actually handled it very well. Because Democrats do need to reach beyond the base. In politics, politicians need to do that. And they've gotten out of the habit.

CAMEROTA: And it's a blueprint, Laura, for how other Democratic candidates should do it. Because going after the president's voters or FOX News viewers doesn't help.

I mean, I think that he really threaded that needle well, that people tune in because they are interested in what FOX is saying or what the president is saying. But it doesn't that they necessarily are in lockstep with their right-wing hosts.

But one viewer, I'd say pretty much their No. 1 viewer, did not like it. Here is what President Trump tweeted about it. He said, "Hard to believe that FOX News is wasting air time on Mayor Pete, as Chris Wallace likes to call him. FOX is moving more and more to the losing, wrong side in covering Dems. They got dumped from the Democrats' boring debates, and they just want in. They forgot the people who got them there. Chris Wallace said, 'I actually think, whether you like his opinions or not, that Mayor Pete has a lot of substance. Fascinating biography.' Gee, he never speaks well of me. I like Mike Wallace better."

And Laura, therein lies the rub. I mean, FOX is going to have a predicament. They're going to be a predicament of how to continue to placate Donald Trump as they have, because they know that they've made a mint on this for the past three years.

END