Return to Transcripts main page


Trump: Iran "Made a Very Big Mistake" Shooting Down U.S. Drone; Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA) Discusses Escalating Tensions with Iran, Legislation Requiring Authorization from Congress for President to Wage War; Soon Roy Moore to Announce If He'll Make Another Senate Run; Supreme Court Rules 40-Foot Memorial Cross in Maryland Can Stay. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired June 20, 2019 - 11:30   ET



[11:30:25] ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: More now on our breaking news. The ominous tweet a short time ago from President Trump, quote, "Iran made a very big mistake."

That comes after Iran shot down an unmanned U.S. surveillance drone, like the one you see here, about the size of an airliner. CENTCOM said it was an unprovoked attack in international airspace near the Strait of Hormuz.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the briefing on Iran is being held this hour with a gang of 20 leaders from the House and Senate. She also called this a dangerous situation and stressed the U.S. can't be reckless in its response.

Joining us now, Democratic Congressman John Garamendi, of California. He's also, of course, a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee.

Sir, good to have you with us.


HILL: Just a couple of days ago, you were talking to my colleague, Wolf Blitzer, and when talking about Iran, you said to him is you made clear, an attack on a U.S. ship would be considered an attack on America. Is an attack on a U.S. drone an attack on America?

GARAMENDI: It certainly is an attack on America. And the question is, where do we go from here?

This has been the thing that I and many others have feared. The maximum pressure campaign that the administration has pursued for the last year now, year and a half, has created a very tense situation.

It's always been tough with Iran. Iran's always been bay bad actor. They've always been troublesome and caused enormous problems in the Middle East. Now, with this attack, shooting down an American military asset, it is

very serious. Where do we go? If the president wants to attack in retaliation, the question rises, is that a defensive move, or is that now an offensive move.

In either case, I believe he needs to come to Congress and very clearly explain to Congress what his next step is going to be in that process, asking Congress for appropriations, as well as an authorization to use force if he intends to take kinetic, that is, offensive action, against Iran.

HILL: And I know that's something you've been working on, to prevent the president from waging war without authorization from Congress, without going to Congress first. There's, of course, an amendment that is attached to the defense spending bill to repeal the Authorization for Use of Military Force from 2001.


HILL: Even if this makes it to the House and the Senate, what is your sense of what ultimately may happen in the Senate, especially while this is playing out while tensions escalate in Iran?

GARAMENDI: We actually have two things. One is the 2001 Authorization for the Use Force in Afghanistan, which is now the legal justification for military action in 16 countries in that area, as well as, as far away as Indonesia, Philippines. So, the question here -- that's one question.

The other question is a requirement, that if the president believes he has to go to war with Iran, that he come to Congress and get authority to do so. That's what the Constitution would require.

We're kind of betwixt and between here. The government and the United States military and the president always, always have authority to take defensive action as necessary to protect Americans, whether that be a drone or a ship or a plane, whatever.

Now that this has happened, is a defensive action the next thing? Or is it to protect our assets and, if Iran were to ever attempt again, do the appropriate defensive action, which might be taking out the missile system that is attempting to take down an American plane, drone or ship. That would clearly be defensive.

HILL: That would be a significant move.

GARAMENDI: Absolutely, it would. But we've never, ever prohibited the president or any military defensive action. We need to have that. That has to be available. Otherwise, we're sitting ducks.

Now, where do we go from here? The briefings that are under way, the discussions that are under way, are very important.

From my position, it remains the same, that if the president believes it is necessary to take offensive kinetic action, that is, military strikes against Iran, that would require authorization from Congress. If, however, he moves -- and I would hope he would make whatever moves

are necessary to defend American lives and assets, and if that requires a kinetic, that is, a strike against an Iranian position, if it's defensive, then, in my view, that's justified.

[11:35:16] So, as you mentioned the briefings, you're expecting to be briefed later today. The president, as we understand it, is being briefed at the White House along with the acting defense secretary, the incoming defense secretary, John Bolton, as well, national security adviser.

We put up a tweet from the president earlier: "Iran had made a very big mistake." That is all we've heard from the president. Hopefully, we'll hear more after this briefing.

But apparently, he did speak with Senator Lindsey Graham. And this is what Graham had to say about the president's mindset. Take a listen.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): He believes that we're getting into a bad -- we're getting into a bad space, that his options are running out.

He does want to try to get a better deal but not this way.


HILL: Real quickly, what do you make of that?

GARAMENDI: I'm confused. And I suspect it is a confusing situation.

Since the president moved the United States out of the JCPOA, which was the way in which Iran's nuclear ambitions were delayed and actually stopped, the president has proceeded with what he calls maximum pressure. And that's sanctions and more recently the ramp-up -- the ramp-up of American military presence in the area, creating a very tense and dangerous situation. It is not fair or correct to say it's only America. Iran has similarly done that.

The JCPOA and the inability of this country to maintain our alliance with Europe and others that were behind the development and the implementation of that joint agreement has created a problem, which we've been now split from our normal allies.

So, it's a dicey situation. It's a situation in which we need to be very thoughtful, very calm, and look to the long term. What exactly is our goal here? Is it a new version of the original agreement to stifle Iran's nuclear ambitions or is it more? Those goals need to be clearly articulated by the president. Thus far, it's been vague.

Similarly --

HILL: And again --

-- we need to be very clear about what we intend to do about response to this. HILL: Questions, answers that many are looking forward to hearing

more on.

Congressman John Garamendi, I appreciate you being on with us. Thank you.

GARAMENDI: Thank you.

HILL: You may remember Roy Moore. Turns out, he's trying to make a comeback. In fact, in a matter of hours, we will find out if he plans to take another stab at running for Senate. Those details, next.


[11:42:37] HILL: Is Roy Moore coming back for more? Well, we'll know that answer in a couple of hours. Moore is set to announce whether he will run for the Senate seat he lost to Doug Jones in 2017. In the runup for that election, three women accused Moore of sexually abusing them when they were teenagers. Moore has denied the allegations. He even claimed there was a criminal conspiracy against him.

Just yesterday, he blamed Republican Senator Richard Shelby for his loss.

One person hoping Moore won't run, President Trump, who, last month, tweeted, "Moore cannot win." Donald Trump Jr a bit more biting in his assessment with a tweet that said, "It's time to ride off into the sunset, Judge."

Joining me now, David Mowery, an independent political and public affairs consultant in Alabama.

Good to you have back today.

Where are you at? What do you think? Is he going to run?

DAVID MOWERY, POLITICAL & PUBLIC AFFAIRS CONSULTANT, MOWERY CONSULTING GROUP, LLC: Yes, I think he's definitely in. He's a guy, he's in it for his ego. And he wants some sort of a revenge or comeuppance. You know, he wants to prove that he's not the bad guy he was made to be out in 2017. I don't see him calling a press conference just to say I'm not going to run.

HILL: What are his chances at this point?

MOWERY: I don't think they're very good. I think it's hilarious that he wants to start out a campaign by insulting the most senior Republican and the longest-serving office holder in Alabama, Richard Shelby. That's not a good look.

I do think he gets out of the American primary but he appends it a little bit, he changes the calculus. And I know the Jones group is probably saying, please let him win. (INAUDIBLE)

HILL: We'll be watching for all of it and we'll be calling on you once again.

David Mowery, good to see you. Thank you.

MOWERY: All right, thanks.

HILL: Just ahead, the Supreme Court handing down a decision today in a case involving a religious memorial. Plus, details on a rare move by the court.

But first, one in five people suffer from mental illness, yet most don't seek help. In this week's "IMPACT YOUR WORLD," a national program, The Mental Health First Aid Program, is training the public to recognize symptoms, learn what to say, and to get people the help they need.


BETSY SCHWARTZ, NATIONAL COUNCIL FOR BEHAVIORAL HEALTH: Our goal for mental health for this state is to make it as common as CPR.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I would like to you draw me a picture of what does anxiety look like.

SCHWARTZ: Mental Health First Aid teaches people the basic signs and symptoms for major mental health and addiction problems.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is your heart racing, sweaty palms, shaking, racing thoughts?

[11:45:08] SCHWARTZ: For example, it might be depression or panic attacks, or even psychosis.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In your groups of three, one person is going to be a hallucination.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How do we ask questions? How do we tech on suicidal at all?

This class is not teaching people how to be a professional.

SCHWARTZ: We're only teaching people how to be an empathetic friend, a family member or co-worker.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You can see somebody utilizing the skills.

SCHWARTZ: Classes are offered in every community around this country.

We've trained almost two million Americans.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I lost my brother to suicide. I was very uninformed. I was one of those people who said, get over it, pull up your bootstraps and go on. If you know anybody that's struggling, it will give you confidence in how to show them the resources.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Almost immediately, both times I took classes, I encountered people who needed help. There was a person who was contemplating suicide. I knew enough what to say. I think anybody in any position can use this. Because it's so practical.


HILL: For more information on mental health, just logon to our Web site at


[11:51:30] HILL: This morning, the Supreme Court issuing another set of opinions, one of its most anticipated, involving a 40-foot cross that is part of a war memorial on public land in Maryland. The court ruling 7-2 the cross may stay.

CNN's Jessica Schneider is at the court.

Break this down for us. What more did we hear?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Erica, this decision generating a lot of feedback from all nine justices, including Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who read her dissent from the bench, something that's saved for when justices strongly disagree with the ruling.

But this was a 7-2 decision. The Supreme Court saying that a 40-foot Peace Cross that's on state land in Maryland may continue standing and that it is not a violation of the separation between church and state.

Now, Justice Alito wrote this opinion. And it stressed that while this is a cross, it also serves a historical purpose. And, as he put it, he said carries special significance in commemorating World War I.

That was the key here. This was a historical monument built in 1925 to honor 49 fallen servicemembers from World War I.

It was only in 2012 when a group of residents sued, saying that since this cross was on public land, maintained by taxpayer money, that it was a violation of the Establishment Clause of the Constitution.

Justice Ginsburg, in her dissent, shared some of that same sentiment. She said, "Just as a Star of David is not suitable to honor Christians, a cross is not suitable to honor those of other faiths."

So, Erica, some strong dissent from Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. But this was a 7-2 decision to allow the cross to remain standing.

But we do have a ways to go here. We're in the final days of the Supreme Court, the home stretch here, awaiting very big opinions on partisan gerrymandering and whether or not the Trump administration can add that citizenship question to the 2020 census. A still a lot more to come. We'll have opinions at 10:00 tomorrow morning -- Erica?

HILL: All right, we'll look for those.

Jessica Schneider, thank you.

Any moment now, we are expecting an update regarding the escalation with Iran. We'll bring that to you, that briefing for you, live, as soon as it starts.

[11:53:36] Stay with us.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Welcome to "INSIDE POLITICS." I'm John King, in Washington.

We're standing by for a Pentagon briefing, led by the lieutenant general from the U.S. Central Command, about a dangerous escalation in the Persian Gulf. Iran confirming, acknowledging that it shot down a U.S. unmanned drone over the Persian Gulf. We're waiting for a briefing any moment to see.

There's an urgent meeting under way at the White House. President Trump tweeting six quite ominous words, "Iran made a very big mistake."

As we wait for the briefing, the question is, how will the United States government respond.

Again, the Central Command giving this briefing. One of the big questions, will it release any data proving, as the Pentagon says, this unmanned drone was in international airspace.

[12:00:05] Iran says it shot it down. The Revolutionary Guard said it shot it down because it crossed the line and violated Iranian airspace.