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tv   Washington Week  PBS  June 22, 2019 1:30am-2:01am PDT

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robert: on the brink. i'm robert costa. welcomeo "washington week." iran shoots down an amer drone. and the president for now backs off a military response. president trump: this drone was in international waters clearly. dwe have it allumented. it's documented scientifically not just words. : robeanian officials insist the aircraft violated its air space. inside the president's cire, hawks hover. >> i would encourage forceful action to stop this behavior before it leads to a wider conflict. oing nothing has its own consequence. zpwr democrats seek restraint. >> the president may not intend go to war here. but we're worried that he and the ad nistration may bumble into a war. robert: and the race for the
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white house heats up. next. announcer: this is "washington week." funding is provided by -- >> kevin. >> kevin! >> kevin. >> advice for life. life well planned. learn more at ble. a language program that teesms conversaons -- spanish, french, german, italian and more. babble's 10 to5-nute lessons are available as an app or online. morema infon on announcer: additional funding is pvided by -- kaiser permanente. through the yuen foundation,
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committed to bridging cultural differences in our communities. the corporaon for public broadcasting and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. once again, f moderator robert costa. robert: the united states was minute away fromaunching a strike against iran when president trump abruptly called off the. missi the operation would have been a response to iran shooting down a u.s.ilitary drone. "the new york times" broke the story and reported that thees ent had initially approved a -- tarkse on a handful of iranige t. on friday the president then said he shelved the plan after 150 eral told him that people could die in an attack. ls an interview with nbc news, the president said he had not given final approval to strike that no planes were in the air. joining me tonight, elisabeth bumiller, washington bureau chief for "the new yrk times."
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kaitlan collins, white house correspondent for cnn. jake sherman, senior writer for litico. an co-ed tore of playbook and toluse olorunnipa.ho white reporter for "the washington post." elisabeth, the times broke the story. why d the president back away? >> a lot of he says b way that the planes were not in the air. ory s very much contradi to what we've heard from senior administration officials who would know. he i think one reason is because he was told that there would be -- there could be as many as 150 deaths. what's curious is that is not something you generally tell the 1 preside minutes before an attack. it's something that should have been told to him perhaps it was told to him long before. there are other reasons as well. he was a -- political advisors were telling him this would be zast russ for his re-election chances. and there was also some talk that the americans really did think that the iranians had made a mistake and there was a rogue commander whoad shot
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down the drone and that the iranians were upset with him. the president hinted at that the other day. so it's a little bit of a mystery. it cld be all of the above. robert: and kaitlan collins was in the oval office with the president on thursday asked him some tough questions about iran. let's take a listen. president trump: iran made a mistake. i find it hard to believe it was intentional if you want to know the truth. i think that it could have been somebody who was loose andup that did it. robert: kaitlan, they're in the room with him. what was your read on the president? he's getting intelligence as elisabeth was saying. what else is on his mind when o you talkedis advisors? >> that was the first time we really saw his reaction to this. because other than that, he had just been saying that they made a mldtake and we w find out how he was going to respond. but i asked, do you still f il thn is a different country? because that's something he said repeatedly saying essentially that since he's been inffice, he feels that they've changed their ways. and he said it just a few days agd o there the president seemed to be minimizing what they did. shooting this over $100 million
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military drone out of the sky. and leaving some leeway that essentially could have been a rogue general. en though the iranians were saying this was intentional. we did this to send a message to the. preside so i think that was actually our first indication they weren't going to strike. or at lea showed the president's ambivalence about doing so. robert: so he's not going to usey a milit strike at this moment what about other action? could he add on additionalnc ons? >> sure. and the administration officials say that they have a sanction that they cou do if they wanted to. the president claimed this morning when he was explaining his decision that sanctions were added last night.e that is not t based on what we've been reporting because the treasury department hasn't announced any new sanctions today and though steve minchin said if they wanted to they could impose additional count measures they have notone so yet. robert: what about the president's advisors? secretary of state pompeec nationurity advisor john he driver? s is >> the president says he likes to put differing views around him and this is a very clear example of that. the president has hawks in his administration, people that aref sort of pinin war and pining for regime change in
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iran and president also has people who are saying politically t for you if you decide to go to war with iran. and his own instincts are not to get involved in another conflagration in the middle east and taybe wants do the same thing he did with north korea which is get to theof bri potential military conflict td then de-escalate and have discussions or haks and he's been sort of pining for these discussions with the iranians saying that you know, when they're ready to talk i'm ready to talk. and i think he wants to have a similar situation that he h with kim jong-un where he gets a lot of cameras and really great ratings where he's having discussions that previous presidents have not had directly with the iranians and shting t even though previous thingses have struggled with iran, i'm able to sit down across the table with them and not clear that other advisors that are close to the president are supporting that people like john bolton are not in favor of that kind ofy. diplom but right now the president seems to be calling the shots. robert: the president is not the only stakeholder. what does congress want? do they want more talks with iran >> they're worried about the president being in the mushy
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middle so to spea not taking action after an american asset was shot down in the region. adam kinsinger from said if i'm a pilot in the middle east today i'm worried. he was a pilot in the middle east because you're in danger. he said just as well could have been anircraft wit human beings on it. and the president said he has a different relationship with dan and iran doesn't want to talk toald trump and they made that abundantly clear and did talk to the obama administration. and i think that by and large you can't paint coress with a oad brush. but by and large, republicans do not support an additional round of talks with iran at the moment. they believe iran is a malign actor and don't believe that anyort of deal beyond the iran agreement reached obama will be reached. robert: will the congress have any authorization over a strike? >> probably not. this administration made clear they believe they have the leeway to conduct strikes
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without an additional aumf authorization for using military force. robert: jake brought up adam kinzinger a hawk from illinois. and the president this is such a test for him. is he leaninghe toward hawk, toward senator graham or senator pauhe noninterventionist? >> right now a struggle within the president. he talks a very tou waves a big stick but in the end he is not an interventionist. hes an isolationist in a lot of different ways. and i think he was pulled and pulled and pulled in this direcon for a strike by pompeo and by john bolton. and s the end, as h done a number of times, he just changed his minding. it's a -- it was interesting he got some praise fromiberal quarters today for doing that. it was very interesting to see. robert: so what about john bolton the national security advisor? is he overestimated and is he is person perch on the president's ear influencing him toward war? >> i think it depends on wthre
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president stands but lately we've seen him really discount john bolton's advice on several occasions. and the president has dismissed him at times in meetings that they've had. eeing a nk we're little bit of a change with john bolton. but i think a lot of that has to do with the president doesn't like this idea that john bolton is goading him into conflict. and you saw that in the oval office when the presideke was are some of your advisors, pompeo and john bolton are standing over hisdi shoulder g you into conflict? and he said no, i actually think it's the opposite sometimes. but that's because the president doesn't like this narrative that any person no matter john bolton or whoever is telling him what do. robert: and one person we're not talking about is the acting secretary of defense. all this turnover at the pentagon. what does that mean for these discussions inside the administration? >> yeah. we're told and some of our reporting that thursda while top military officials were trying to decide what military options the president should be looking at, he had the -- theid prt had both his outgoing acting defense secretary and hisct incomingg defense secretary, both in the room, very clearly showing that there
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is noua acabinet -- senate-confirmed cabinet level defense secretary in the last six months since jim mattis left the administration. and that's showing how much this administrationas sort o in turmoil having a lot of acting officials not having people who have been confirmed by the senate who can really show that they have the full confiden of the senate t carry out foreign policy and to carry out defense operations. this is an administration that is struggling to fills he top ra the cabinet and that's clear from some of the decision making that is having an impact. kebert: and who fills the void a person tom cotton who told politico this week, he's for bombing iran. he said it very outwardly, he said he's for mility action in iran. as we know from three years of l experience d trump is talking to these members of congress daily. somemes multiple times a day. and when there's no kind of commanding figure in the room, people are goin to fill his mind and fill his brain with all sorts of ideas. which in the normal white house
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happening. >> receipt now there's a power vacuum at the pentagon and right now the secretary ofst e is filling it. he seems to be playing the role of both secretary of state, secretary of defense little bit of c.i.a. director which was his job before he got to state. and so pompeo i think is the one to watch here. robert: there are other vces here. you have the hawks like secretary pompeo. but when you're on capitol hill, some democrats are war weary. republicans some of them are war weary. do we know anythetg about sey esper, the army acting secretary of defense? >> wre told by sources he was actually in favor of some kind of action against iran. now, whethers it the strike that john bolton wanted we don't know about the varying degrees of that.ll but he act was in favor of it. and so it's interesting how he ses involved in these discussions becunday night at midnight is when he assumes the power as the acting defense secretary. of course, whether or not the prident nominat him formally that's going to throw a whole loop for that because he can't serve as the defense secretary if he's been formally questions about how that leadership is going to go.
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robert: you're heading to the japan for the g-20? >> yes. robert: where is the rest of the world as the president heads abroad wextk? is europe trying to maybe cut their own deals with ira on oil? the rest of the world are they on edge about war?he >>'s a lot of concern from other countries that aren't necessarily onboard with th u.s. intelligence about what iran has done even before this drone shooting. we had a situation where the u.s. sas basicallying that iran was responsible for a number of tanker attacks. and it wasn't clear that the rest of the world was along and rt of supporting the u.s. intelligence on that front. so they're asking for more they're asking to make sure that the u.s. is sort of crossing all of its t's andts dotting's to make sure the intelligence is clear before moving forward with any type of war and you have to member that a lot of these countries support the iran deal oat the u.s. and the president pulled out and they're not in favor of the idea that the president and the ofu.s. is sor leading to more tension with iran when they felt like they had a good deal to de-escalate some of those tensions.
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robert: saudi arabia, we have seen senateakepublicans action against the arms deal this week. >> yes. it was a real show of force si against the pnt. it was a bipartisan vote. against h there was seven republicans who voted with the democrats not to sell arms to saudi arabia. now, it's a -- largely symbolic vote because the president is going to veto it and he' got a veto prooch majority. robert: and where does it play in theran discussion? >> they've been largely silent. we've heard again from randm paul and f -- from lindsey graham but not from a lot of other peopl on the hill. generally they stick with the ident or don't say new england because they don't want to -- don't say anythin t becausy don't want to get rovolved with antagonizing trump rt: based on your reporting are we heading toward war? >> no. >> i think the president's impulses are not to get involved in a war. you have to remember this is a political animal herk and you thbout the president of the his instincts are not to get involved in a war that
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would be pol dicallyaging for his prospects in 2020. >> remember, he wantls d and everything we've seen, we've seen the president tweet probably a dozen times iran, call me. and he said this. many times that he thinks he can do the deal. and he's urged iran to come to the table. now,ran has saidhanks but no thanks. and last night reuters reported sent message through oman that he wanted to talk to iran smeeled and iran said no -- immediately and iran said no thanks. this might be a tough one to crhek. >> that's question here because essentially he's at the brink i got to follow through on this pmise not t get more involved in the middle east or just not going to respond to them consistentlng provo me? they don't want to talk to him but it's likely they'll keep up with flair antics so question is going to be what does he do the next thing that bethey do? use we were very close to a strike in a military strike so the question is what oes he do the negotiation time they try to provoke? >> the real -- when they reach nuclea threshold what they're concerned to close to next
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month and that's what they're really concerned about in thest admition. it's not -- shooting down unmanned drones. thiss bad but getting close to a nuclear weapon is the real -- the real concern at thewh e house. robert: let's turn to the race for the white house. president trump kicked off hse nd bid for a term in office in orlando this week and former vice president joe biden who leads the latest polls faced criticism from rivals over remarks he made about hisrk pas ith senators who supported segregation. toulouse and kaitlanoved the rally. president trump: the only thing these corruns politic will understand is an earthquake at the ballot box. tthat's whaty will understand. and they're going to see it. we did it once. and nowll we do it again. and thim we're going -- this time we're going to finish the tob. our radical democpponents are driven by hatred, prejudice and rage. they want to destroy you. and they want to destroy our
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untry as we know it. not acceptable. it's not goingn. to hap robert: the trump campaign announced wednesday that mr. trump raised nearly25 million in the 24 hours after his rally. at all gives the president a financial advantage over his democratic challengers. mr. biden for his part is dealing with the fallout from those comments about finding common ground with others, even se hegationists. defended his record on civil rights. >> the point i'm making is you don't have to agree. you don't have to like t people in terms of their views. but you just simply make these nd you beat them. robert: toulouse, inside the arena iorlando, grievances, immigration, trade, is this a revival of 2016? >> this is a complete douing wn on the president's base. he thinks that they helped him win inen016. hough he's raising all this money that would would presumably allow him too each outw voters and reach out to moderates, he's focusing specifical on his base and
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even heard him say that he was going to go after hillarynd clintonead chants of lock her up and it was really a throwback to 2016 because he believes that whipping up his voters and getting them sort of aggrieved and angry gets them oting for ic about him, gives them an enemy to focus on. and he tnks -- he said in the past that he thinks fear is much more of a motivator than hope. and that's what he's campaigning on and that's how he's going to run in >> and he ta about hillary clinton before he got to anyone who is running against in 2020. it doew that not only is it a revival of 2016, he's consistently carried that same message throughout. so the question isoing to be, if he's just settling old scores and talking about his grievances nd not setting forth a new agenda, is that going to be enough for the voters? but we were there. it was 20,000 people. in orlando. and the question is if they're going to care or if they're t fine with president repeating his old statements. robert: what do they really into when you'realking to those voters, toulouse and kaitlan? >> they think the president has kept his promises. that he said he was going to be a fighter and said he was going
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to be a disrupter and he's done that over the past two years in washington. and they're also focused on not only breadue and butter i like the economy and taxes but some of these cultural flash points and everything fro the mueller investigation to abortion to immigration, the president is reaony touchin some of those issues and he's getting a lot of support from his base voters who wanted him to shake things up in washington on those specific issues and he's doing so. >> what's interesting is we did talk to voters and we asked w them if the one democrat that you think is worrisome for the president. they all said the s'se one theen on his mind. so much and occupied so much of his headhi space is of course joe biden. robert: what do we think about how vice president biden handled the controversy this week, not apologizing, defiant, he faces a debate next week in front of many contends. is this a senator biden, vice president biden you've covered? is this in character for him? >> he's taken f a pagem donald trump. take no prisoners and apologize for nothing. and i would have to say that i think -- you know, he -- biden
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is being helda different standard than the president is being held to. heu know, given president's record on race. and i think there's something to b said for biden saying i can work across the ool and work with people. yotdon't have to like w they stand for. and i thought also when he said you know i'm not a racist, you know my record ocivil rights. get real. i thought it s a different kind of joe biden and very much taking a page from trump. >> the number three democrat in the house of representatives jim clyburn came to t speaker's lobby behind the house floor and asked him about the episode and he immediately leap to biden's defense. robert: why? >> you would have to ask him. i think that he believes -- he said this -- this reminds me of my work with strom thurmond who i -- vehemently disagreed with. this is clyburn saying it not me. and you hadbao -- hic point and didn't say this directly but you have to work with people you don't agree with and you findbhorrent at different times. now, a lot -- we read in the post, and weeard from other people, that the president -- p
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visident biden's advisors basically said don't do this. this is a bad message. you don't need to talkut a these people who -- you know are really out of step with not only these times but last 50 years. and he did it anyway. so that andkshe l from the campaign throwing biden under the bus should be concerning ig for the cam >> there's a concern that biden and his past presidential mpaigns was a gaffe machine. and even though he started this time around with a much more organized operation, he was able to raise a lot of money and stay on message and not take questions from reporters, sort of reverting into that be gaffe mode and getting into trouble and with unforced errors. and he's had some help from some senior black lawmakers who haome out and -- in his support and talked about how they don't think what he said s offensive. but this was definitely an see ed error and you did people like cory booker come out and use it as an opportunity to drawontrast between himself and biden. a number of democratic candidates are looking for ways to draw a contrast with biden
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beuse he's a frontrunner and will likely see that during the debates. them showing how they cff be ent from biden. robert: let's go back to orlando for a second. you had the president have -- had a pretty ragtag campaign in 2016. now brad parscale is running it and raised mless and millions of dollars. what's the difference this timn arehind the scenes? >> well, they're touting it as a completely different machine. that they know what they're doing this time. they've got the power the incumbency and got a lot of money which is true. they do hav a lot of money that they have raised. just evident in what they raised in the 24-hour period in orlando. but the question is going to r be, is thislly going to be any different? because you saw what happened with that poll episode recently where the negative numbers leaked out that he was trailing people like joe biden. and when it first leaked out the campaign was not that worried about it. they didn't deny the numbers. they just downplayed them. but then when the president read it on the front page of "the new york times" and it really got under his skin, that's when you saw them come out. so sure, it can be a new campaign. they have a lot of money. they're still dealing with the same candidate. robert: the f immigrationus
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by the president, he's now pledging to have all these ackdown, and many reports from the a.p. and others and the times about migrant children at the border facing really difficult, terrible issues does the president pay a political cost or does he see in his -- and his team see as a political winner? >> he certainly pays a political cost with suburban voters, suburban women particularly who were horrified by the separation of children rom their parents at the border. but he believes that immigration plays really well with his be. he certainly played well last time. you talk to people who support the president and the terrible about a family separation. but they're crossing the border illegally what do they expect? and strategy has always been to hold the base really close and to annihilate your opponent. and that seems to be where they're going. certainly in 2020. krobert: when you t to lawmakers on capitol hill does the economy matter, the federalt reserve ind on wednesday it's likely to cut rates, is the economy much more of aor fahan maybe some of the issues we heard at the rally?
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>> i think people who want to wi back the house representatives, republicans, think it's a concern and are very nervous about the saber rattling with china and what might come out of the g-20weext and if there's a deal with china, more tariffs and more tariffs with mexico? people are very concerned about tat. and tng that's concerning and this was concerning in 2018, too, the president, republicans say -- the president has all these great things to talk about. he has an economy that's pretty healthy. he has a tax bill which he thought was good and republicans thought was good. why aren't -e- why isn't talking about any of these things that most republicans agree with? instead he's gough down some of these rabbit holes. >> this is a president that likes to talk about things that makee angry and more divisive issues and said it himself. robert: is that a strategy?is >> it is strategy. he thinks that it's much more interesting to talk about things that are and you've seen him reading from a teleprompter or reading from a prepared speech in the pastnd he stopped himself and said this is boring and let's talk about something else and talkhebout hot topic of the
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day. we've seen this president weigh in on anything from nfl protests to thecademy awards to -- celebrities in hollywood. he connects with someatvoters ay. he's able to gin up his base at way and get people to think this guy is on my side and a layman and talking about the issues that i can maybe vocalize but e-saying that things that everyone else is thinking. so this is a president that would much rather talk about those hot button issueslkhan g about the economy or using the same speech, the same stump speech that people write for him aut how good the economy is. >> it's funny because the congressional peck nick he talked about the economy f a good six or seven minutes which is probably the longest he's talked about it han a campaign rally. but it's because he's in front of all these republicans there on the south lthn. bu isn't a traditional president. i don't think he's going to win or lose in a tditional way and traditionally they would win on the economy. so i don't really think that's going to play a factor. >>nd polls show he doesn't get much credit for the economy and started before he came into office. i also think tha in orlando,
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the e -- when he tells people the elites are looking down on and you they hate you, and he d reallys play up that culture war in a way in a i've never seen with any forepresident. and just -- just this anger and it -- it seems tore ly work. you guys were there and seemed to really work. >> yeah. one thing that's fascinating to me is how he talks about draining the w swamp ave seen so many scandals out of his administration and clear that he's vulnerable on that issue. robert: thanks, everybody, for being here on a friday night. much appreciat we will ten our discussion on election 2020 on the "washington week" extra. watch it on our website. book or youtube starting at y night. every fri i'm robert costa. have a great weekend. announcer: corporate funding for "washington week" is provided by --
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>> babbel. a rang program that teaches reel lafe conversations in spanish, french, germa italian, and more. babbel 10 to 15-minute lessons are available as an app or online. more information on oksuke. kaiser permanente. financial services firm raymond james. additional funding is provided by ku and patricia yuen through the yueen foundatio committed to bridging cultural differences in our communities. thecorporation for pub broadcasting and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. announcer: you're watching announcer: you're watching pshes.
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