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THE SITUATION ROOM

Trump Declares Himself Chosen One on Trade; Trump Criticizes Democratic Jewish Voters; Interview With Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA); Trump Says Jews Who Vote For Democrats Are Very Disloyal To Israel; Trump Says He Has Appetite For Background Checks But Warns It's A Slippery Slope; Trump Calls For Reinstating Russia To G8, Says Obama Was Outsmarted By Putin; Ocean Plane Crash and Rescue Captured in Dramatic Video; Protesters Mark One Month of Unrest in Hong Kong After Weekend Demonstration Drew 1.7 Million People. Aired on 6-7p ET

Aired August 21, 2019 - 18:00   ET

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


[18:00:00]

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Making Russia G8 again. The president keeps encouraging a key alliance to welcome Vladimir Putin back into the fold, after he was kicked out for invading Crimea. At the same time, he's insulting and alienating one of America's most steadfast global partners.

And miracle crash. A small plane goes down in the ocean with cameras rolling, capturing every moment. We're going to show you the dramatic pictures of the crash and the harrowing rescue of the pilot and a passenger.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Brianna Keilar. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

KEILAR: We're following breaking news on the president's confusing, offending and self-aggrandizing new rant.

Tonight, he's flipping and flailing on two crucial issues, the economy and guns. He says he's not looking at payroll tax cuts, a day after he said he was looking at payroll tax cuts. And he claims that he's still working to tighten gun background checks, even as he repeats the NRA's talking points against them.

When it comes to insults, the president is digging in, accusing the female prime minister of Denmark of having nasty comments when she called his interest in buying Greenland absurd.

And he's doubling down on attempts to use support for Israel as a partisan weapon, calling Jews who vote Democratic very disloyal.

As if all that were not enough, Mr. Trump declared himself the chosen one to take on China over trade.

I will get reaction from Democratic Congressman John Garamendi. And our correspondents and analysts are also standing by.

First, let's go to the White House and CNN chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta.

And, Jim, we heard so many head-spinning lines from the president. There is a lot to track here.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: A lot to unpack, Brianna.

The president sounded as though he has something of a God complex today, declaring himself the chosen one and accepting praise from an ally who dubbed Trump as the second coming. But the president wasn't so charitable when he doubled down on how Jewish Americans should vote against Democrats, in his view, and how he described the prime minister of Denmark as nasty for rejecting his advances on Greenland.

His performance today was one part bully, another part pulpit.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA (voice-over): Taking his questionable rhetoric to new heights, President Trump talked about himself in biblical terms, at one point looking to the sky as he praised his handling of the economy as godlike.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I am the chosen one. Somebody had to do it. So I'm taking on China. I'm taking on China on trade. And you know what? We're winning.

ACOSTA: The president stirred up more outrage, repeating his belief that Jewish Americans face a loyalty test in the upcoming election.

TRUMP: If you vote for a Democrat, you're very, very disloyal to Israel and to the Jewish people.

ACOSTA: After some Jewish-American groups slammed that remark as anti-Semitic, the president accepted the support of conservative commentator and conspiracy theorist Wayne Allyn Root, who portrayed Mr. Trump in messianic terms, tweeting: "Thank you to Wayne Allyn Root for the very nice words. President Trump is the greatest president for Jews and for Israel in the history of the world. And the Jewish people in Israel love him, like he's the king of Israel. They love him like he's the second coming of God."

TRUMP: I have been responsible for a lot of great things for Israel. One of them was moving the embassy to Jerusalem, making Jerusalem the capital of Israel.

ACOSTA: Mr. Trump shifted once again on the topic of tightening background checks, after sources told CNN he all but assured NRA president Wayne LaPierre he was siding with the powerful gun lobby.

TRUMP: Oh, I have an appetite for background checks. We're going to be doing background checks. We're working with Democrats. We're working with Republicans. We already have very strong background checks, but we're going to be filling in some of the loopholes. We just talked about concepts. Wayne agrees things have to be done also.

ACOSTA: The president got testy defending his decision to scrap his upcoming trip to Denmark after that country's prime minister rejected Mr. Trump's expansionist designs on Greenland as absurd.

TRUMP: I thought that the prime minister's statement that it was absurd, that it was an absurd idea was nasty. I thought it was an inappropriate statement. All she had to do is say, no, we wouldn't be interested. Don't say, what an absurd idea that is, because she's not talking to me.

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: Excuse me.

She's not talking to me. She's talking to the United States of America. You don't talk to the United States that way, at least under me.

ACOSTA: On a range of questions, Mr. Trump repeatedly pointed his finger at former President Barack Obama.

TRUMP: Under President Obama.

Russia outsmarted President Obama.

President Obama did that.

ACOSTA: Consider his defense of the Trump administration's new plan to detain migrant families for longer periods at the border.

TRUMP: I am the one that kept the families together. OK? You remember that, right? Just remember I said it. And now it gets even better. President Obama and others brought the families apart, but I'm the one that kept the families together.

[18:05:08]

ACOSTA: But that's not true. It was Mr. Trump who launched a policy of family separations.

Still, the president insists cares about migrant children.

TRUMP: Let me just tell you, very much, I have the children on my mind. It bothers me very greatly.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: And after all of that, the president joked to a group of American veterans today that he would like to give himself the Medal of Honor.

Mr. Trump, who is not a military veteran and avoided service during the Vietnam War, says he was told by his staff that awarding himself the Medal of Honor would not be a good idea.

Brianna, he can't be chosen for that one -- Brianna.

KEILAR: All right, Jim Acosta, thank you so much for that.

Let's get more perspective on what we heard from the president.

We're joined now by CNN political director David Chalian.

What was your reaction, seeing this?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, Brianna, my first reaction was, what is getting to the president?

What is going on here that is providing him enough concern that he's going out to give this kind of performance, if you will. His behavior, his language over the last 24 hours, clearly seems aimed -- and we have seen this before in this presidency -- at consuming all of the oxygen, trying to dictate the narrative in every possible way.

Well, what is it he is concerned about that he would rather not be talked about? Clearly, the concern that's out there about a potential softening in the economy and the electoral impact on him that that may have is clearly something he's concerned about.

And I think that's why you see him all over the map, including today, on this issue of the economy. I mean, on that issue alone, how can you argue that the economy is doing so fantastically well, at the same time arguing for stimulative measures to the economy, like the Fed lowering the interest rates?

Those two things don't go hand in hand. That belies, I think, the confidence he's putting out there. I think there's concern underneath. And if you look at the polls, like ours today showing him 40 percent approval rating 37 percent with independents, he understands that if the economy goes south, his chances of reelection go significantly south.

KEILAR: And he talked so much about President Obama today. He will he will talk about him from time to time, of course, but this was pretty extreme. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: President Obama.

Russia outsmarted President Obama.

President Putin totally outsmarted President Obama.

Outsmarting President Obama.

Obama was upset.

Totally outsmarted Obama.

Obama was upset.

Obama had separation.

President Obama in 2014.

So, President Obama.

But it was President Obama.

President Obama and others.

President Obama did that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: It's so Marcia, Marcia, Marcia, David Chalian.

(LAUGHTER)

CHALIAN: Yes, I mean, it's as if Barack Obama is Donald Trump's North Star in his administration, in the reverse way, in the sense that, if Barack Obama has done something, that is instantly, no matter what, a guidepost for Donald Trump to do the opposite.

I mean, he -- there wasn't one consistent thing there. You just -- this was on Russia, immigration, China, the economy. You name the issue, and he wanted to inject President Obama into it. It's how sometimes people around him can guide him away from places that they don't think he should be from a policy standpoint, if they explain that, oh, wait, Obama did that.

So it is this sort of reverse North Star for him.

KEILAR: As Democrats watch this, as voters who are Democrats watch this, do they think perhaps what they have seen here in the last 24 hours, that it could maybe make Joe Biden, his argument for his presidency, actually appeal to them?

CHALIAN: You know, I do think, and looking these last 24 hours, I go back to this theory that Donald Trump may be Joe Biden's best campaign surrogate right now, because the entire argument -- for instance, Joe Biden just launched his first presidential TV ad in Iowa this week.

How does that ad close? It closes with the entire frame of the argument that Donald Trump is erratic, bullying, that he is vicious. And it poses that Biden, he claims, will provide strong, stable leadership.

Well, when you're making that kind of an argument politically to Democrats as to why they should make you the nominee to go up against Trump, and then the president behaves as he did for the last 24 hours, it completely gives a fact pattern to that Joe Biden argument.

I think Donald Trump is helping Joe Biden in his quest for the Democratic nomination.

KEILAR: All right, David Chalian, thank you so much for your analysis. And joining me now is Democratic Congressman John Garamendi of

California. He serves on the Armed Services Committee.

Thanks for being with us, sir.

REP. JOHN GARAMENDI (D-CA): Good to be with you, Brianna.

KEILAR: So, the president -- something else he said today.

He once again claimed that American Jews who support the Democratic Party are -- quote -- "very disloyal to Israel and the Jewish people."

What is your reaction to that?

GARAMENDI: Well, it's much more than that, Brianna.

If this man was out on the street without the Secret Service around him, some policeman would arrest him and put him on a 72-hour hold. Anybody walking down the street that claims that they're messianic, that they're the chosen one, and then all the ranting that you just had, and much, much more, no, that's the subject matter for a 72-hour psychological hold in some -- one of the mental institutions.

[18:10:18]

We got a very serious problem here. We got a president that is unhinged, that cannot handle himself. We have got a president that has displayed narcissism from the very first day of his campaign and extreme racism, taking on Mexicans, as he did, at his very first moment of his campaign, and then continuing on.

For him to claim that he didn't have -- that he's the one that brought the families back together, his mind isn't working properly. And that is a very, very scary proposition for the president of the United States, the most powerful single person in the world.

And then, with regard to Putin, here we go again.

KEILAR: When he...

GARAMENDI: Putin is his favorite person.

KEILAR: When he talks like that about Israel and about Democratic voters, does he put the U.S.-Israel relationship at risk by politicizing Israel this way?

GARAMENDI: Absolutely. There's no doubt.

But let me make it very, very clear that the Democratic Party, from the very, very first, starting with Harry Truman, has been a strong, consistent supporter of Israel.

From time to time, Democrats, sometimes, the president, sometimes individual, members of Congress, as well as Democrats who are Jewish, have disagreed with the policies of the Jewish government. And that's perfectly legitimate over time. But the Democrats, taken as a whole, have consistently, year in and

year out, issue after issue, stood with Israel. They are our principal ally in an extremely dangerous region.

And for the president to purposely try to divide the support of Israel between Democrats and Republicans, and to suggest that you're -- that Jews would be disloyal that vote for a Democrat, I don't think that's going to sell well with the Jewish population.

KEILAR: I want to talk now about how the president canceled his trip to Denmark after the Danish prime minister called his idea to buy Greenland absurd.

This visit was supposed to include discussion about security issues.

GARAMENDI: Yes.

KEILAR: Denmark provides key intelligence to the United States.

GARAMENDI: Yes.

KEILAR: Denmark has stood shoulder to shoulder with the United States in conflicts overseas.

GARAMENDI: Yes.

KEILAR: Denmark has lost soldiers along with American soldiers.

Does this hurt U.S. national security that he is not going and that he's treating Denmark this way?

GARAMENDI: It's just one more thing.

Think back. From his very earliest days, the president has dismissed, discouraged and otherwise trashed NATO, trashed our allies in Europe, worked very, very hard to break up the European Union, the current Brexit, as well as his support for others that are not positive on the European Union.

The strong alliances, Denmark and others, are absolutely crucial, not only to the defense of Europe, but for the defense of America. And you're quite correct. Danish troops have lost their lives side by side with Americans in countries around the world.

And they will continue to do so, one more example of a president that is simply unhinged. It's all about him. It's all about his personal standard, at least in his own eyes.

If you listen carefully to what he said about the prime minister and about the -- about her comments, it was a -- he took it as a personal affront to himself, and then expanded it to America.

(CROSSTALK)

KEILAR: And he expanded it to NATO.

So I wonder what you think. How do other allies see that? He's using this as a jumping off point to attack NATO.

GARAMENDI: Yes. Well, exactly right.

There are many congressional delegations -- I have done a couple of them -- to the NATO countries. I will do another one this fall, going to the NATO countries. A good portion of the work that I will do as chairman of the Readiness Subcommittee of the Armed Services Committee is to check out the various facilities, the troops over there, are they ready and so forth.

But the more important part of what I and other Congress members and senators do is to really be the diplomats, to talk to the NATO countries, to tell them that the Congress of the United States and Americans stand firmly with NATO, regardless of what this crazy president has been doing and saying.

We're there. We -- this country is there with NATO. And we met that -- we make that message every time we go to a NATO country or to the European countries that are not in NATO at the present time.

It is a real serious problem. We get it from the top political leaders in those countries there that shake their heads, and: What's going on? And the answer is this, too, must pass. Yes, we're going to have to tough it out for the next 18 months, but this man has got to go.

[18:15:05]

KEILAR: The president made a case again for Russia to rejoin the G7, to reconstitute the G8.

GARAMENDI: Yes.

KEILAR: What would it take? I mean, I think there's bipartisan agreement that Russia hasn't done what it needs to do to regain that standing.

But what would it take for Russia to do to regain that standing?

GARAMENDI: Well, first of all, we need a president that knows what the history is.

We need a president that knows that it was Putin, it was Russia that stole Crimea from the Ukraine and inserted their little green men, with all of the heavy armaments of the Russian military, into the Eastern Ukraine, a situation that is today unresolved.

Literally, Russia, using a surrogate force, what we call little green men, actually not little, and -- has tried to invade the Ukraine. They have -- that has to be resolved before Russia should ever be allowed back into the G8.

Yes, they are an important country, but you cannot reward that kind of invasion, a real invasion, by Russia or any other country by inviting them back. Once again, the American public needs to look at this president and

say, what is it that has so infatuated him with Putin? What does Russia have on this man? What's going on here? We may never know that answer.

But what we do know is that this man, the president of the United States, is not fit to serve this nation's long-term, as well as its short-term interests.

KEILAR: Congressman John Garamendi, thank you so much for coming on.

GARAMENDI: Good to be with you.

KEILAR: Just ahead, with 2020 around the corner, will voters choose a president who calls himself the chosen one? We will hear more of Mr. Trump's over-the-top self-absorption, and we will discuss the political impact of it.

And high drama at sea, as a small plane crashes into the ocean with cameras recording all of it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:21:41]

KEILAR: We're following breaking news, including a head-spinning series of flips and flops and flips by President Trump on major policy issues, all coming in a rant in which he praised himself extravagantly.

So let's dig deeper now with our experts and our analysts to try to dissect some of what happened today.

The president, I mean, he's -- he walked back a lot of positions today, and forward, back and forward, back and forward, gun control, payroll tax, whether he's going to visit Denmark. He consistently, though, praised himself. Let's listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: No president has ever done anywhere close to what I have done. I have been responsible for a lot of great things. I'm wonderful for the USA. I am the least racist person ever to serve in office.

The love for me and me, maybe as a representative of the country, but for me.

I was right, and just about everybody admits that. I was put here by people to do a great job. And that's what I'm doing. No president has done what I have done. I am the chosen one.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: And he also retweeted a conspiracy theorist who said that he's like the second coming.

Is this -- is this even weirder than usual?

DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN COMMENTATOR: It is weirder than usual.

Quick aside, Bri. Anyone who says they're the least racist person ever or has not a racist bone in their body, that is a tell that that is not true.

But, to your point, the president has an unquenchable ego. The project of his presidency is to aggrandize himself. And so he is constantly sounding out what position or what statement will make him look like a big man.

If you look at each individual policy or flip-flop or change of direction, you can sometimes come up with a reason for it, even if it's not completely logical. But the big picture reason is, he -- his presidency exists in his mind to aggrandize him. And that's what explains -- that's the through-line between all of these things.

KEILAR: What did you think about this today? And was it something that was -- I mean, is it something that's concerning, do you think?

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: So much.

I have so many thoughts. In terms of the flip-flopping on the issues, we have come to expect this. Until he actually signs something or something gets through Congress, you can't really put your hopes in it, because, be it tax cuts, health care, gun control, it doesn't matter. He will move all sorts of different places.

In terms of this self-aggrandizing, as you nicely put it, you have heard him do this quite a bit lately. I mean, in El Paso, he was talking about -- when he was visiting with the survivors of that shooting, he was speaking that they love the U.S., they love me, and because I am the U.S. this.

So this whole I am the state has become very much a pattern for this president in recent weeks.

KEILAR: What did you think?

SABRINA SIDDIQUI, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, this is one of those classic moments where you have seen the president unravel before the public view, and he was full of contradictions.

At the same time that he's insisting there is nothing to worry about when it comes to the economy, he's talking about a potential payroll tax cut and other measures that would be designed to boost the economy and stave off a potential recession, which is one of the concerns that economists have raised.

He is saying that the trade war with China is working, that we're winning, when the cost of that is being borne by the U.S. consumer and the agriculture industry. He's insisting he's not walking back his support for background checks, when he is parroting what are NRA talking points that they use to argue against expanding background checks. [18:25:16]

And the list goes on and on. And I think it really speaks to a very real concern on the part of the president when it comes to his own reelection and how it might be impacted by recent events, whether it's those mass shootings in El Paso in Dayton, or whether it's an economic downturn.

I do want to say one thing, because, to Jackie's point, his tirade against the president of Denmark, he said that you are talking to the United States.

Well, guess what?

KEILAR: Not just to me, to the United States.

SIDDIQUI: To the United States.

Guess what? When he hits back, he is not just talking to her. He is talking to the people of Denmark.

KEILAR: Who have fought alongside the U.S.

SIDDIQUI: Who have fought alongside the U.S.

KEILAR: Who provide intelligence.

(CROSSTALK)

SIDDIQUI: It's another example him isolating what are traditional longstanding U.S. allies, at the same time that he's showing his support for adversaries like Russia, like trying to get Putin into the G7.

(CROSSTALK)

SIDDIQUI: Jeffrey, what did you think about this? And, also, the president does this sometimes when he's feeling criticized or under fire for some reason.

Right now, he's facing a lot of uncertainty about the economy. Do you see a connection here?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I think he -- his reaction whenever he's criticized is to turn the criticism back on the criticizer to say, no, I'm -- you're worse. You're the one who's racist.

And any time he's accused of racism, he says, no, you're the one who's racist.

Now he's accused of using anti-Semitic languages. He says, no, no, no, I'm the most -- the other people are anti-Semitic. I'm the most pro-Jewish, pro-Israel person.

I mean, it's constant. That's what he always does. The other thing I would just like to point out is the jokes. He

always talks -- like when he's saying, I'm the chosen one, I'm sure his aides would say, of course he was joking about that.

But his jokes are not jokes. Remember when he said, Russia, if you're listening, go get Hillary's e-mails, and Russia did it that day? They went and started spear-phishing in the Clinton campaign's e-mails.

I mean, he's not joking about any of this stuff. He's telling the truth about what he believes about himself. And we just have to understand that.

KEILAR: He did also -- switching gears, but talking about jokes here, he told a joke, and he got a laugh from veterans today about how he wanted to award himself the Medal of Honor.

And his aides said that that's not something he would qualify for. He did get a laugh. But it just struck me, especially knowing that the president recently awarded -- he went through the whole ceremony and the Medal of Honor to someone, and it just -- it strikes me as someone from a military family how somber that was, because there's their sacrifice.

This is very serious when you're talking about what happened. It is an honor. But it is an honor for something unimaginable that someone has gone through. And he's cracking a joke about it, Jackie.

KUCINICH: Empathy isn't really his strong suit.

Remember when he -- someone gave him a Purple Heart at one of his rallies, I think when he was still a candidate, and he said, I have always wanted a Purple Heart.

You don't want a Purple Heart. You get a Purple Heart for being injured in battle.

And so there is this fundamental disconnect where military families would never joke about it. Well, he's not from a military family. He's someone who has a very inauspicious lack of military record.

(CROSSTALK)

SIDDIQUI: I was going to say, let's not forget that, as a candidate, he criticized the late Senator John McCain for being captured during the war. He said, I like -- prefer prisoners who weren't captured.

He picked a fight with a Gold Star family. Remember the Khizr Khan confrontation following the DNC. Even as president, following the ambush in Niger, he questioned the account of the widow of the fallen service member there.

So this is a pattern where he hasn't actually shown genuine empathy for members of the military. He sort of looks at it as more of a talking point.

KEILAR: To politicize. SIDDIQUI: To politicize.

KEILAR: Jeffrey?

TOOBIN: But it's just -- it's not a joke.

KEILAR: It's not a joke.

(CROSSTALK)

TOOBIN: He's not joking that -- well, no, but I mean, he does think he should get a medal. He does believe that. He does think that he's the chosen one.

He does think that Russia should go get Hillary's e-mails and hack into her -- I mean, none of these jokes are jokes. They are serious things that he really believes.

KEILAR: All right, you guys, stand by for me, if you will.

We have a whole lot more to talk about, including, well, a lot of things, the president today insulting Democratic voters who are Jews.

[18:30:02]

We'll talk about that.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KEILAR: Back now with our experts and analysts. And, Jeffrey Toobin, the president went all in again on these comments today that Jewish people who vote for Democrats, well, he had these words for them. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: in my opinion, you vote for a Democrat, you're being very disloyal to Jewish people and you're being very disloyal to Israel.

[18:35:04]

And only weak people would say anything other than that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: I mean, he's talked like this before but it's stunning every time, Jeffrey.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it is. And this, as I said yesterday, is the problem with a president who doesn't read books and doesn't know anything about history.

You know, the charge that Jews like me, for example, have dual loyalty, that they are not loyal to the United States, that they are loyal to Israel or they are loyal to their religion, that their loyalty as Americans is in question is a classic anti-Semitic accusation, anti-Semitic trope. And he is exactly playing into it. He is using to it disparage the vast majority of Jews who have voted against him historically.

And, remember, 70 percent of Jews according to polls voted against him with Hillary Clinton. But, I mean, it is, again, the president appealing to the worst instincts of people and displaying his incredible ignorance of American history.

KEILAR: I want to talk about guns, because the president, after speaking with the head of the NRA, said today he has an appetite for background checks. But then he said that gun control is a slippery slope. Okay, so spoiler alert, anyone who has been around Washington for a minute looks at this and knows that if you want to do what 90 percent of Americans want you to do, it doesn't look like this. So it is not going to happen.

My question then is, could it happen? Could president Trump deliver this?

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: We were just talking about this during the break. Yes. I think if anyone could get this done in terms of the amount of presidential power and juice that he has among Republicans, something like a Manchin/Toomey, I'm not talking about an assault weapon ban or something like that. He could get you over the line because he would be able to bend the arms of enough Republicans to do that and give them political cover, which is also what they would need in certain states to do it. And if anyone could, it's this president.

SABRINA SIDDIQUI, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It's hard to overstate the hold that this president has over Republicans in Congress. Russia was the greatest threat to the country until this president cozied up to Vladimir Putin. They were the pro-free trade party until

the president started launching trade wars with China and even U.S. allies. The deficit has ballooned under his watchful. You're not hearing much from those fiscal conservatives in protest of the reasons why that's happened during his administration.

So I do think if he was willing to use the bully pulpit at his disposal and build the case, not just to Republicans in Congress but also to the American public who are largely in support of background checks, he would be able to do it. What he doesn't want is the blowback from both the NRA and the Republican base.

DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. I take a slightly different view. Yes, it could, in some ways, be a Nixon goes to China moment for him, go against Hyde (ph), here is the problem, I think, for President Trump.

On most issues, Republicans are handcuffed to him. This is one issue where he is handcuffed to his base and handcuffed to the NRA. And when you hear him, like he has done in recent weeks, making statements like slippery slope, like meaningful gun reform, like guns don't kill people, people kill people, it sounds like he's been talking to Wayne LaPierre on the phone day and night. I just think that this is a situation where if he thought he could do it, he would. He's scared and that's why he won't do it.

TOOBIN: But also, you know, he's been president for a long time now, two and a half years. When has he ever pulled the Republican Party towards the center on any issue? He hasn't done it. And is there any reason to think he's going do it on this one? Absolutely not. He's had the chance before on this issue. And every time there is a mass shooting, there's a lot of attention on the issue, and then the attention fades, and then NRA always emerges on top because they run the Republican Party on this issue.

KEILAR: Jeffrey Toobin, thank you so much, David Swerdlick, Jackie Kucinich and Sabrina Siddiqui, great panel, you guys.

Just ahead, Russia celebrates as President Trump says he wants to welcome Vladimir Putin back into the G8.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:40:00]

KEILAR: Russia is welcoming President Trump's call to bring the country back into the G8. And tonight, Mr. Trump is praising Vladimir Putin and slamming President Obama.

CNN Senior International Correspondent Frederik Pleitgen is live for us from Moscow, and I wonder what the reaction is there, Fred.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brianna, the reaction here has been absolutely stage-managed by the Russians. On the one hand, you have Russian officials who are saying, look, we really want an official offer before we even think about this. Some Russian politicians say they would want sanctions relief before joining an organization again, like the G7.

But at the same time, you also see the Russians really pushing that narrative and it's President Trump who is courting Vladimir Putin. Here's what we're learning.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PLEITGEN: Tonight, Kremlin-controlled media is celebrating after President Trump says he wants to see Russia rejoin the group of strongest industrial nations, the G7. A translated version of President Trump's remarks getting massive applause on state T.V.

State T.V. already showing graphics of the G8 logo now with a Russian flag, claiming President Trump made the move because he feels he owes Russia after the U.S. recently tested a land-based Tomahawk cruise missile.

[18:45:09] EVGENY POPOV, HOST, ROSSIYA 1 (through translator): Trump just tested the new tomahawks that's will soon be deployed next to our borders to scare us. So it looks like the American president feels guilty or ashamed. Saddened, Trump decided to unburden himself and agreed with Macron to invite to us to G7. They missed us. PLEITGEN: Russia was kicked out of the group in 2014 after it invaded

Ukraine and annexed Crimea. The decision was made during the Obama administration but was approved by a majority of the member nations. Still, President Trump tonight choosing to praise Putin over his predecessor.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Because Putin outsmarted him, President Obama thought it wasn't a good thing to have Russia in. So, he wanted Russia out.

PLEITGEN: Despite Trump's words, Russia's leader is showing Trump the cold shoulder, today saying that Russia is developing new advanced weaponry and even blaming the U.S. in part for a recent explosion during a botched Russian weapons test that led to a radiation spike.

PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIA (through translator): The tragedy in the White Sea that took lives of our specialists happened during works on advanced weapon. We are not hiding that. The people who suffered were doing critical work to ensure the security of our state because our partners, including the Americans, are testing new systems. So, we also need to pay extra attention to this.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PLEITGEN: And, Brianna, another thing Russians are quite happy to hear from the American president is so far he's unconditionally saying that he would like to see Russia in the G7 once again. Whereas the leaders of Germany and France, for instance, are saying before that would happen, Russia would need to make some serious concessions, like for instance, on the Ukraine issue -- Brianna.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Fred Pleitgen in Moscow, thank you so much.

Just ahead, they survived a small plane crash into the ocean and they recorded their own rescue. Stand by for details in this remarkable video.

And protests in Hong Kong heat up as pro-democracy activists mark a milestone.

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[18:51:55] KEILAR: We're getting some remarkable pictures and video into the situation room. Take a look at this. A private jet slid off the runway during an aborted takeoff in Oroville, California, which is north of Sacramento. All 10 people in this plane escaped without injury.

But according to the FAA, this was a plane that was supposed to fly to Portland, Oregon. It went off the end of the runway into the grass and caught fire. And ten people onboard. But everyone escaped without injury.

Also tonight, dramatic video of another plane crashing into the ocean, and the harrowing rescue all recorded in real time. This happened when an aerial photo shoot went horribly wrong. CNN's Nick Watt is in Los Angeles with the remarkable pictures.

And, Nick, the pilot and his passengers are OK. But they have quite a story to tell.

NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They do, Briana. And being millennial social media savvy people armed I'm presumed with water proof cell phone technology, they don't just have a story but they also have this video.

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WATT (voice-over): Pilot David Lesh and his passenger leapt on the wing at crash landing miles from shore. And that wreckage sank fast.

DAVID LESH, PILOT: There she goes.

WATT: What happened?

LESH: I wonder if there is something in the fuel.

WATT: Even in summer, this water is cold.

LESH: Starting to get a little cold out here. Lots of jelly fish bobbing around.

We were getting stung the whole time. Definitely hypothermic I was doing bad after about half an hour.

WATT: Here's how all this happened. Lesh bought this single engine Beechcraft Bonanza just a couple months and asked his buddy, Owen Leipelt, a fellow pilot, to go on a joint mission.

LESH: We were planning on going up over, you know, San Fran, over the Golden Gate Bridge and stuff, and doing a photo mission to take photos of the new airplane.

WATT: Instead something went wrong. Leipelt flying another plane found himself filming his friend suddenly losing altitude skimming the Pacific.

LESH: I'm just doing everything I can do. Different combination of, you know, throttle and mixture. If you freak out, you know, you can stall and spin into the ground. That's how you die.

WATT: They ditched as Leipelt watched from above not knowing if his friends were OK.

OWEN LEIPELT, PILOT: I've lost them, I've been circling, and I couldn't see them anymore. And David called me on the phone, as he was bobbing in the water.

WATT: Yes, Lesh had saved his phone from the wreckage use to do to call his buddy and film the fix they were in.

LESH: All right. We're floating around now, in the Pacific Ocean. I'm holding my window shade as a flotation device.

WATT: And they called for help.

LEIPELT: I've been circling the past hour. The coast guard is out here now. Oh my god, I can't believe that just happened.

LESH: That's unreal.

WATT: Lifted to safety. A miracle out there on Half Moon Bay.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WATT: Now the video is so good, there are now humors it has to be fake. No way, the pilot tells our San Francisco affiliate, KPIX. Why would I gain my life to gain a thousand Instagram followers? But as KPIX points out, the cause of the crash is still under investigation -- Brianna.

[18:55:01] KEILAR: All right. Nick Watt, thank you so much.

And just ahead, a new protest in Hong Kong marking a month of unrest and violence.

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KEILAR: Pro-democracy protesters staged a silent sit-in at a Hong Kong rail station, marking a month since a group of suspected organized crime group members violently attacked demonstrators there. The initial protest was sparked by an extradition bill that was later shelved but it touched off 11 straight weekends of large demonstrations, demanding full democracy and police accountability in Hong Kong.

The most recent protest drew 1.7 million people.

I'm Brianna Keilar.

And "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.

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