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Images Show Iranians Removing Mine From Ship; Federal Watchdog Calls For Firing Of Kellyanne Conway; Sarah Sanders Stepping Down As White House Press Secretary. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired June 14, 2019 - 05:30   ET



[05:31:36] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Islamic Republic of Iran is responsible for the attacks that occurred in the Gulf.


DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: The U.S. says surveillance video of the damaged oil tanker points straight to Iran.


SEN. MITT ROMNEY (R-UT): That would be, simply, unthinkable for a candidate for president.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): He gets picked at every day over every different aspect of it.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Republicans slamming, spinning or defending President Trump's comments about foreign dirt on political rivals.


LARRY KUDLOW, DIRECTOR, U.S. NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL: They are on the wrong side of history. We will win this battle.


BRIGGS: The president's economic adviser defiant as hundreds of companies take a stand against the trade war with China.


NBA FINALS ANNOUNCER: There's a new NBA champion and it's a team from Toronto, Canada.


ROMANS: The Raptors capture the NBA title in a nail-biter.

Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. Congrats, Canada. But, Golden State goes from three superstars to one overnight.


BRIGGS: More on that ahead.

We start in Iran. The U.S. military releasing video last night that it says shows an Iranian Navy crew removing an unexploded mine attached to one of the two tanker ships attacked in the Gulf of Oman. The tankers were attacked in international waters near the Strait of Hormuz.

U.S. officials believe the Iranians were trying to recover evidence of their involvement in the attack.

Our senior international correspondent Ben Wedeman joining us live from Abu Dhabi with the very latest. Ben, good morning.


What this video -- this black and white video released by the Pentagon shows is a ship that we presume is Iranian, in which the men on board are removing what's called a limpet mine. That's a mine that's attached via magnets from that ship.

And the Americans certainly are treating this video as fairly damning evidence of Iranian involvement in these attacks.

However, the Japanese owners of this tanker, the Kokuka Courageous, are saying that as far as they know it was not mines that caused damage to that tanker yesterday, early morning, but rather what they're describing as a flying shell. They are denying that the damage was caused by either a mine or some sort of torpedo.

Now, we're hearing the Iranians, of course, denying any involvement in these attacks. The Iranian foreign minister, Javad Zarif, saying that this is part of an American campaign of diplomatic sabotage by what he is describing as "Team B."

Of course, the attacks taking place when Shinzo Abe, the Japanese prime minister, was on a visit to Tehran -- a visit that some had hoped would somehow diffuse the tensions that are now at their highest levels in many years -- Dave.

BRIGGS: Soon to be spiking, and directly tweeting at Shinzo Abe and that B-team sabotage diplomacy tweet.

Ben Wedeman live for us in Abu Dhabi. Thank you, sir.

ROMANS: All right. Back here, Republicans have begun to respond to President Trump's comment that he would accept dirt on an opponent from a foreign government -- a possible violation of U.S. law. The president telling ABC News he might -- he might go to the FBI if he received such an offer and casting doubt on the idea that it would be election interference.

[05:35:07] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's not an interference, they have information. I think I'd take it. If I thought there was something wrong I'd go, maybe, to the FBI.


ROMANS: On Thursday, some Republicans joined Democrats in opposing the president's comments.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): If a foreign government comes to you as a public official and offers to help your campaign, giving you anything of value, whether it be money or information on your opponent, the right answer is no.

ROMNEY: In circumstances where a foreign government attempts to be involved in an American election, that would be, simply, unthinkable for a candidate for president to accept that involvement, to encourage it, to participate with it in any way, shape or form. It would strike at the very heart of our democracy.


ROMANS: And many more offered no comment or deflected with the dubious, misleading claim that Hillary Clinton's campaign did the same thing.

CNN's Sunlen Serfaty has more from Capitol Hill.



And, lawmakers up here on Capitol Hill responding to that admission from President Trump -- his willingness to take dirt from foreign adversaries, potentially. And much of the reaction rather predictably falling down party lines with Democrats outraged and blasting President Trump for saying he would not immediately report that to the FBI.

Here is Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): Yesterday, the president gave us, once again, evidence that he does not know right from wrong. SERFATY: And, Republicans, as we have seen in the past, have been very hesitant to wade into this. Here's Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham.

GRAHAM: And I think it's a mistake. I think -- I think it's a mistake of law. I don't want to send a signal to encourage this.

And I hope my Democratic colleagues will be equally offended by the fact that this actually did happen in 2016 where a foreign agent was paid for by a political party to gather opposition research. All of those things are wrong.

SERFATY: And that is very similar to what we are hearing from many Republicans up here on Capitol Hill. The ones that would take a question and answer this, they said that they personally would not take oppo from a foreign adversary, but tried to steer and stay very far away from being very critical of President Trump's comments, himself, and tried to quickly pivot to redirect attention to the Democrats.

Republicans, Christine and Dave, very clearly walking a political tightrope in their response to this.


BRIGGS: Indeed. Sunlen, thanks.

The Trump administration coming to the defense of White House counselor Kellyanne Conway. They are rejecting calls from a federal agency for her to be fired for criticizing political opponents while in her official government capacity.

Conway's violations center around T.V. interviews in the run-up to a special election in Alabama in 2018 when she said this about Democrat Doug Jones.


KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Doug Jones, in Alabama -- folks, don't be fooled.

He'll be a vote against tax cuts. He's weak on crime, weak on borders. He's strong on raising your taxes. He's terrible for property owners.


CONWAY: And, Doug Jones is a doctrinaire liberal, which is why he's not saying anything and why the media are trying --


CONWAY: -- boost him.

KILMEADE: So, vote Roy Moore?

CONWAY: I'm telling you that we want the votes in the Senate to get this tax -- this tax bill through.


BRIGGS: All right. More now from Abby Phillip at the White House.


ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: A federal watchdog is recommending that President Trump fire counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway, claiming that she repeatedly violated the Hatch Act, which prohibits government employees from using their official offices to do political work.

Now, this office -- the Office of Special Counsel, which is not related to the Mueller report office, is saying that Kellyanne Conway has repeatedly used her office to disparage political candidates, to promote other candidates. And even on one occasion she flouted this in the face of that office and said, essentially, "When does the jail time start?"

Listen to what she said a couple of weeks ago.

REPORTER 1: ...the Office of Special Counsel, which says that you impermissibly mixed official government business --

CONWAY: I don't know if you can -- listen -- that's great.

REPORTER 1: -- with political dirt --

CONWAY: Blah, blah. Listen --

REPORTER 1: -- about candidates in the Alabama --

CONWAY: Great.

REPORTER 1: -- special election.

CONWAY: OK. I'm sorry, are you talking about something from a year and a half ago. So, if you're trying to silence me through the Hatch Act, it's not going to work.

REPORTER 1: I'm not trying to silence you. The Office of Special Counsel said you violated it.

REPORTER 2: Kellyanne, is (INAUDIBLE).

CONWAY: Let me know when the jail sentence starts.

PHILLIP: But, the White House is pushing back on this ruling. The deputy press secretary, Steve Groves, said in a statement that the Office's ruling is deeply flawed and violates Kellyanne Conway's constitutional rights to free speech and due process.

The White House is rejecting the notion that she did anything improper in her role as counselor to the president when she made these statements on social media and even on television appearances from the White House north lawn.

But, ultimately, none of this might actually matter because the Hatch Act is one of those provisions that is rarely enforced. And, in fact, President Trump, himself, is responsible for enforcing it.

Sources say that the president is very unlikely to fire Kellyanne as a result of something like this, particularly when it comes to these sorts of ethical violations, which multiple White House officials, at this point, have been dinged by this very same office over the last several months -- Christine and Dave.


[05:40:15] ROMANS: All right, Abby Phillip. Thank you so much for that.

Let's bring in "CNN POLITICS" digital director Zach Wolf, live this morning in Washington. Happy Friday.


BRIGGS: Good morning.

ROMANS: Let's stay here on this outcry, really, since the president's interview with ABC when George Stephanopoulos asked him about taking help from a foreign government.

The president, essentially, equating it also with just diplomacy. He says, you know, taking help from a foreign government on the election is the same as going to London and having tea with the Queen. Those are two --

BRIGGS: Or the Prince of Whales (sic) -- like a humpback whale --

ROMANS: Right.

BRIGGS: -- for those of you who missed that.

ROMANS: Those are two very different things.

Here's what Mitch McConnell says -- the senator -- as he is defending the president.


MCCONNELL: He gets picked at every day over every different aspect of it. But the fundamental point is they're trying to keep the 2016 election alive.

I would ask the Democrats in the House this. Is there anything you're willing to do other than harass the president for the next two years? Anything at all?


ROMANS: You know, he gets picked at about it -- BRIGGS: That's a doozy.

ROMANS: -- every different aspect. Well, there's a lot of aspects there that are just absolutely out of the norm for a President of the United States.

And the idea of trying to keep the 2016 election alive -- this is about looking forward and making sure that this White House --

WOLF: Right.

ROMANS: -- does not accept help from a foreign government and essentially, election meddling.

WOLF: What I got from Donald Trump in the George Stephanopoulos interview was hey, guys, you know, give me some more dirt. I didn't get let's look back at 2016.

This was Donald Trump talking --

ROMANS: Looking forward.

WOLF: -- about this, it wasn't Democrats. It was looking forward to the next thing to -- well, if you guys do it again, I'd love to get some dirt from you. That, sort of, was sub-rosa, I think, what was there.

And what's a little bit lost in all of this, he was trying to defend his son.


WOLF: And I think that that is like the one place that Donald --


WOLF: There are absolutely no rules for Donald Trump, anyway, but when it comes to his children --



WOLF: -- I think that they are extremely important to him and in the context of what he was saying, he was defending his son. That doesn't make what he said right and it doesn't mean that anybody should be taking information from foreign governments, but I think it's important to remember that.

BRIGGS: Well, Mitch McConnell should probably read this statement from the head of the Federal Election Commission. She was very clear. In fact, 100 percent clear in this statement " the American public and anyone running for public office: It is illegal for any person to solicit, accept, or receive anything of value from a foreign national in connection with a U.S. election."

She added, on Twitter, "I would not have thought that I needed to say this," just to add clarity.

You make a good point in your piece though, Zach. This isn't just being open to committing a felony to win reelection. It also could leave the president open to blackmail.

WOLF: Yes, open to blackmail. If you are sort of taking something secretly from a foreign government, you owe them something.


WOLF: I mean, you are essentially at their -- they could come to you and say well, if -- we could tell everybody that we're in cahoots. This is sort of espionage 101. You want to get something on someone.

You don't want to have a foreign government with power over a president. That is -- that is like -- that would be horrible, it seems to me. And for Trump, however, he doesn't seem to -- seem to think it's a problem. It's a remarkable thing.

ROMANS: In that interview, he did -- he did drop the word "maybe" after talking about this for several minutes. "Maybe, I would go to the FBI."

And so, that's one thing that Kayleigh McEnany, for example, who is the president's spokesperson for his reelection campaign, pointed to, saying well, he did say -- he did say maybe he would go to the FBI on a case-by-case basis.

But also what you're hearing from some of the president's staunchest supporters, including Kayleigh, is that they immediately switched it back to the Steele dossier and the Clintons -- Steele dossier and Clinton.

Listen to Kayleigh McEnany yesterday.


KAYLEIGH MCENANCY, NATIONAL PRESS SECRETARY, TRUMP 2020 CAMPAIGN: The president's directive, as he said, a case-by-case basis. He said he would likely do both and listen to what they have to say, but also report it to the FBI. That's what he ended it on in sound bites.

And his directive right now is look at what the Democrats have done -- they're the ones who have done this. And it's notable that there is media outrage and no discussion of the Steele dossier written by a foreign spy, paid for by the DNC and Hillary Clinton, and that information being from Russian sources given to a British spy perpetuated through the FBI.


ROMANS: Zach, clear this record here on this -- putting these two things together. That somehow --

WOLF: Yes.

ROMANS: -- accepting foreign dirt from the President of the United States from a government is the same as the Steele dossier.

WOLF: The hypothetical that was presented was a foreign government coming to you offering dirt on your political opponent.

BRIGGS: Right.

WOLF: What the Steele dossier was a U.S. company hiring a former foreign agent to do their dirty work. Is that a good thing? No.

[05:45:01] ROMANS: No.

WOLF: Is it the same as Russia or China --


WOLF: -- coming to a U.S. leader and saying here's this dirt we have on your political opponent? No, absolutely not.

And I would point out what happened with the Steele dossier when it was given to John McCain? He gave it to the FBI.

ROMANS: Went to the FBI.

WOLF: So, I mean -- you know, it just doesn't work in any sense there.

BRIGGS: One hundred percent clarity.

ROMANS: Shades of shady. All different shades of shady in the American --

WOLF: Right.

ROMANS: -- political system.

BRIGGS: Zach Wolf, thank you, sir. Enjoy the weekend. Appreciate it.

WOLF: Have a good one.

ROMANS: All right.

Summer travel getting more expensive. Find out which airlines are raising their fares in "CNN Business," next.


BRIGGS: White House press secretary Sarah Sanders stepping down at the end of the month after just shy of two years on the job. President Trump heaping praise on Sanders.

[05:50:00] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: She has been so great. She has such heart. She is strong, but with great, great heart. And I want to thank you for an outstanding job -- SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Thank you, sir.

TRUMP: -- and thank you.


ROMANS: Sanders was an unapologetic defender of the president on cable T.V. She also stayed behind the scenes far more than any modern press secretary.

Her resignation coming on the 94th consecutive day without a White House briefing, longer than any stretch in the last two decades. She told reporters off-camera she has no regrets about that.


SANDERS: No, I don't. I still contend that we are the most accessible White House and certainly, the president is the most accessible president. And I think it's far more important for me to have played a role in facilitating direct contact with the President of the United States to the American people to hear from him and in his own voice than it is to hear from me in mine.


BRIGGS: Sanders also took plenty of heat for some of the answers she gave to reporters. Last March, she contradicted herself about hush money paid to women who alleged affairs with the president.


SANDERS (March 7, 2018): There was no knowledge of any payments from the president and he's denied all of these allegations.

SANDERS (May 3, 2018): The first awareness I had was during the interview last night. And I've given the best information I had at the time.


BRIGGS: Sanders caught in another major contradiction. The Mueller report says Sanders admitted to feeding reporters a falsehood about the firing of FBI director James Comey. She told investigators she had no basis for saying countless members of the FBI had lost faith in Comey.

Sanders will return to her native Arkansas where the president said he hopes she runs for governor in 2022.

The Toronto Raptors are NBA champs for the first time in NBA history.


NBA FINALS ANNOUNCER: There's a new NBA champion and it's a team from Toronto, Canada. "We, the North" are now "We, the champions."


BRIGGS: Toronto beating the two-time defending champion Golden State Warriors 114-110 in an incredible game last night to win the NBA Finals in six games. They are the first Canadian team to win the NBA title.

The Raptors' Kawhi Leonard the first MVP in both conferences.

ROMANS: All right, let's get a check on "CNN Business" this morning.

Taking a look at global markets around the world, you can see a mixed performance in Asia, and European markets opening slightly lower here. In Asia, mixed there amid that tension following the incident in the Gulf of Oman. Oil prices spiked yesterday on that news and now, they are down slightly.

In U.S. markets, the Dow jumped yesterday, really led by energy companies and higher energy prices. Also, confidence increasing that the Fed may cut rates. Both the Nasdaq and the S&P 500 closed up a little bit as well.

Mortgage rates, by the way, also held near 2-year lows, yesterday.

Summer travel plans might be getting a little more expensive. Airlines, including American, Southwest, and Hawaiian, are raising prices on tickets.

The hike might be an issue for consumers, but guess what? Investors loved that news. It is the second hike in less than a month.

Investors could see that as a sign that yes, maybe the U.S. economy here is slowing or at least peaking, but demand is still holding up. Stocks across the industry rose yesterday on that news.

AT&T is canceling preorders for Samsung's Galaxy Fold. Samsung delayed the launch of the foldable phone after many of them broke when sent to reviewers. AT&T, CNN's parent company, said it would refund customers who had ordered the phone and throw in a $100 gift card for their trouble.

Samsung has not said when the nearly $2,000 phone will ship.

We'll be right back.


[05:58:00] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TAYLOR SWIFT, SINGER-SONGWRITER: Singing "You Need to Calm Down."

ROMANS: Taylor Swift --

BRIGGS: Is she talking to me?

ROMANS: Yes. Taylor Swift releasing a new song at midnight called "You Need to Calm Down." BRIGGS: Yes.

ROMANS: She also announced her new album called "Lover" will be released on August 23rd.

BRIGGS: I will try.

Stephen Colbert had a "whale" of a time knocking President Trump over his typo on Twitter.

Here, now, are your "Late-Night Laughs."



The Prince of Whales, a fantastic guy. I threatened him with plankton tariffs, OK? I mean, I scared this guy. I got right up in his krill. But, he says wonderful things about me, like (making blowfish sound).


ROMANS: Right up in his krill -- well done.

BRIGGS: I thought there might be a blowhole reference there from Stephen -- well done.

ROMANS: Thanks for joining us. I'm Christine Romans. Happy Friday, everybody. Hope you have a great weekend.

BRIGGS: We do. I'm Dave Briggs. "NEW DAY" starts right now. Enjoy that weekend.


POMPEO: The Islamic Republic of Iran is responsible for the attacks that occurred in the Gulf of Oman.

ADEL BIN AHMED AL-JUBEIR, MINISTER OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS, SAUDI ARABIA: We have no reason to disagree with the Secretary of State. Iran has a history of doing this.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: The Iranians admitting nothing -- the foreign minister -- and calling the attacks suspicious.

TRUMP: If somebody called from a country -- Norway -- we have information on your opponent. Oh, I think I'd want to hear it.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): I've listened to this president. He does not want foreign governments interfering in our election.

SEN. MARK WARNER (D-VA): Russia and others will be back. Shame on all of us if we don't do more to protect our democracy.

(END VIDEO CLIP) 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 Friday, June 14th, 6:00 here in New York.

And we do have breaking news. As we are coming on the air this morning, we're analyzing this new video obtained by CNN that the Pentagon says implicates Iran in the attacks on two tankers in the Gulf of Oman.