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Trump's Words: "You'll Find Out," If U.S. Will Strike Iran; Surprising News Out Of The Trial Of The Navy SEAL Accused Of War Crimes; Rivals Are Pouncing On Joe Biden Over His Remarks About Segregationist Senators. Aired: 2-2:30p ET

Aired June 20, 2019 - 14:00   ET


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Hi there. I'm Brooke Baldwin. You're watching CNN. Thanks for being with me. Three words, "You'll find out." That is the message from President Trump this hour as Americans question whether the U.S. will retaliate after Iran shot down a U.S. military drone less than 24 hours ago. You are looking at new video just into us from the Defense Department.

CENTCOM says this was an unprovoked attack in international airspace. This is near the Strait of Hormuz. It happened in the very same region where two tankers were attacked last week.

Now Iran is disputing the claim saying the aircraft was in fact over Iran. Look at what the drone actually looks like here. It's the size of an aircraft worth about $180 million, and the President says he believes what happened was a mistake.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Iran made a big mistake. This drone was in international waters. Clearly, we have it all documented. It's documented scientifically, not just words. And they made a very bad mistake. Okay.

QUESTION: How will you respond, Mr. President? How will you respond?

TRUMP: You'll find out.

QUESTION: Are you willing to go to war with Iran?

TRUMP: You'll find out. You'll find out.


BALDWIN: CNN Senior national correspondent Alex Marquardt is with me and Alex, just how did this even happen?

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is fairly routine, Brooke. This drone was flying, as you mentioned over the Strait of Hormuz, obviously a very sensitive area and what the squabbling, the fighting now is about is where this incident actually took place.

Now, let's not lose sight of the fact that this was as you mentioned, a $180 million U.S. drone that was shot down by the Iranians. No one is fighting over that. What they are fighting over is where this happened.

The Pentagon gave a briefing from CENTCOM in Qatar, saying that this was an unprovoked attack because it took place over international waters. Iran, as you mentioned, said that it took place over Iranian airspace. The Pentagon is saying that is categorically untrue.

Brooke, this Strait of Hormuz, the Persian Gulf, this is a very, very crowded area. You have Iran, you have the United Arab Emirates, you have Oman, and you have all this international shipping traffic there. There's a lot that can go wrong.

The Iranian Foreign Minister, in addition to saying that this did happen in Iranian airspace, has tweeted saying that Iran will zealously defend our skies, land and waters. Now, of course, Brooke, the question becomes what is the response? You mentioned that those two tankers were attacked in the Gulf of Oman, those were not American assets, those were not American lives that were lost.

Now we have an American asset, as a senior White House official told me that was taken down by the Iranians -- it is expensive, there aren't very many of them. But at the same time, there was no American life lost.

So they have to walk this line of defending and deterring without provoking because if there is an overstep by the U.S. military, if there's a strike that is taken, we don't know how the Iranian response - what the response will be. Then, of course, Brooke, thinks could very quickly get out of control.

BALDWIN: Alex, thank you for that. Let's go to the White House to CNN's Kaitlan Collins and Kaitlan, listening to the Q&A, I heard your incredibly important question to the President and his response. You tell me, was President Trump saying Iran shooting down this drone, literally a mistake?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Brooke. The President had been calling it a big mistake all morning. But then when we were in the Oval Office, he seemed to signal he thought it was an actual mistake, not just a crossing of the lines.

We were speaking with the President, he said that it seems that whoever did shoot down this U.S. military drone was acting without the orders of Iranian leadership, because he said, I think it might have been a general or somebody that was acting quote, "loose and stupid."

So the President seem to be minimizing it in a way saying he doesn't believe it was supposed to be this intentional incitement from Iranian leadership. Now, of course, the question is whether or not his military advisers or his defense advisers agree with that, and the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was in the Oval Office when the President made that remark, as well as the National Security adviser, John Bolton.

When the President was asked by one reporter does he feel that he is being goaded into conflict by some of those advisers, it has been reported where there's been this essential split between how the President feels about how they should treat Iran and how some of his advisers feel they should? And Brooke, he said, "No, I don't think that he said, in fact, sometimes it's the opposite, " seeming to be saying it would be him that was talking about conflict.

Now, of course, there's still a lot of questions about how the United States is going to respond to this, and the President wasn't telegraphing any of those moves earlier, just saying that we will see in the future what they are going to do. We do know that at 3:00, congressional leadership is going to be coming over here to the White House for a briefing on Iran.

[14:05:18] BALDWIN: We will listen for that. Kaitlan Collins, thank you so much. Let me just step back here, relations between Iran and United States have deteriorated really since May of 2018 when the Trump administration pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal, but since April of this year, the threats and coded messaging have escalated again and again.

So let's just start there. The U.S. declared the Iran Islamic Revolutionary Guard as a foreign terrorist organization that on May 1st, the U.S. imposed a round of new sanctions against other countries who purchase Iranian oil is a massive blow to the Iranian economy.

Days later, two U.S. officials told CNN that the Pentagon received intelligence of a possible threat again U.S. forces in the region and sent a Carrier Strike Group and Bomber Task Force to the Middle East.

Then fast forward to May 12th, four international commercial ships were attacked off the coast of the UAE, the U.S. and the Saudis suspect Iran was behind the blast, which Tehran denied.

Just one day later, a major escalation. Saudi Arabia says two oil pumping stations were attacked by armed drones. The Iranian-backed Houthi militia claims responsibility for that and President Trump delivers an intensified threat. He said, "If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran." That's a quote. Which brings us up to last week when two oil tankers were attacked in the Gulf of Oman.

The U.S. released video in which it says -- it shows this Iranian boat retrieving an unexploded mine from one of the ships with Iran dismissing that as unfounded. Monday, the U.S. deployed 1,000 additional troops to the region, and on that very same day, Iran announces it will violate the nuclear deals uranium limit if Europe does not help them circumvent U.S. sanctions.

Tensions now peaking after Iran shoots down this U.S. drone, here was the President once again.


TRUMP: Iran made a big mistake. This drone was in international waters. Clearly, we have it all documented. It's documented scientifically, not just words, and they made a very bad mistake. QUESTION: How will you respond, Mr. President? How will you respond?

TRUMP: You'll find out.

QUESTION: Are you willing to go to war with Iran?

TRUMP: You'll find out. You'll find out. Obviously, you know, we're not going to be talking too much about it, you're going to find out. They made a very big mistake.


BALDWIN: Asha Castleberry is a U.S. Army combat vet and national security and foreign policy expert. Asha, welcome to CNN. Thanks for coming through.


BALDWIN: So let's just start with some of the comments we heard from the President just a little bit ago, including, you know, "You'll see" or "This was a mistake." How do you interpret those comments?

CASTLEBERRY: Well, the way I interpreted is that as a result of President Trump implementing his maximum pressure strategy right now, I think he was caught by surprise that one of his largest on unarmed aircraft was shot down by Iran. And at the same time, we have to look at it in terms of Iran, that they feel that their backs are against the wall.


CASTLEBERRY: So in terms of the buildup of rhetoric, as we've seen on Twitter, and also, you know, as you mentioned before, you know, mentioning the Iranian Revolutionary Guard is a state sponsor, making sure that, you know, they're accusing them of building up their nuclear proliferation, I mean, just an array of things that's crossing that.

BALDWIN: So how can it be proven -- when I was listening to the Pentagon briefing a bit ago, with the general coming in from Qatar, essentially saying, obviously, the U.S. stance is that the drone was an international airspace and Iran is disputing that. How can it be proven beyond dots on a map that in fact, the drone was an international airspace?

CASTLEBERRY: Well, there is a possibility it could have been in their territory, but by the time it was shot down, it ended up in international waters. So there's a lot of speculation here, but the CENTCOM Commander, as of now, says that, "Hey, it was not over their territory. It was in international airspace."

BALDWIN: Is this the kind of drone that could be detected by governments on the ground?


CASTLEBERRY: Absolutely. I mean, if you look at it, it is one of the largest drones we've had. We're using it for ISRs, which is, you know, Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance.

So you could definitely detect this. I mean, this is a major situation when we're dealing with a large capability.

BALDWIN: And when you're looking at the map, just orient everyone to this part of the world, which I know, you know, really well, the Strait of Hormuz, you know, highly trafficked area, talk about the importance of the region and of course, the oil.

CASTLEBERRY: Right. Since after the oil change situation, John Bolton have put out that we are going to expand our military deterrence in the Strait of Hormuz. So that's visible right now.

[14:10:10] CASTLEBERRY: So in terms of moving forward, the Iranians know that and they know that, okay, now they have this maximum military deterrence going on in the Strait of Hormuz. They know that we also have enablers in the region as well. We have a huge military posture in the Gulf.

So Iran knows that we are -- as far as capabilities -- more advanced. We have more boots on the ground in the region. And so for that, you know, there would definitely be a lot more concern to where they feel that their backs are against the wall.

BALDWIN: Okay. Asha Castleberry, thank you very much.

CASTLEBERRY: You're welcome.

BALDWIN: Appreciate that, and we have more on the breaking news now, including more on what the President's options are here when we talk about Iran. Plus, we are frankly getting some surprising news out of the trial of the Navy SEAL accused of war crimes, so stand by for that. You are watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.


BALDWIN: Just in to CNN. We are now learning new details from that trial of former Navy SEAL accused of war crimes. Let's go straight to CNN Sara Sidner. Sara, who has testified and what can you tell us?

SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, there was more dramatic testimony today in the trial against Navy Edward Gallagher. He stands accused of murder and attempted murder in the stabbing death of an ISIS prisoner in Mosul, Iraq.

What was dramatic about today, Navy SEAL and medic Corey Scott testified that he was the one who actually killed the ISIS prisoner, not Gallagher admitting that in open court.

When prosecutors began cross examining him. They basically said "Look, you now have testimonial immunity. So you're saying that you now have killed this person. But you know, you cannot be prosecuted for killing the prisoner. You can only be prosecuted for lying." And he said, "Yes." He says that he actually ended the prisoners life by asphyxiating him.

How did this all happen? Well, we heard yesterday from two Navy SEALs who had a very different story that said it was Gallagher who actually stabbed this prisoner in the neck in the jugular vein, and that there was you know, a lot of bleeding, and they say he did that. He killed the man and then later on just said, "Well, he's just a dirt bag member of ISIS."

But now we're hearing from this medic and the defense has put the medic on the stand, obviously, who says actually, what was happening as Gallagher has said in the past, he was actually trying to perform a medical procedure to save his life by putting in a tracheotomy. That means cutting near the neck. And, indeed, this medic says he was the person who actually put his finger on that tracheotomy to keep him from being able to breathe and asphyxiating the prisoner.

Incredible testimony because you don't usually hear someone who was not accused of a crime especially the crime of murder and war crimes, admitting in court that he was actually the person who ended someone's life, not the person who was actually on trial -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: Stunning, stunning testimony. Keep listening for us, Sara Sidner. Thank you very much.

More on are breaking news. Very soon, the White House will brief lawmakers after Iran shot down a U.S. drone and the President says, we will soon find out if the U.S. strikes Iran. Plus rivals are pouncing on Joe Biden over his remarks about segregationist senators, but Biden is defiant. I will speak live with his campaign senior adviser, next.


[14:22:42] BALDWIN: The Democrats hoping to become the next President don't formally face off until next week when they hold their first debate, but Joe Biden and Cory Booker are getting a head start as this backlash intensifies over Biden's remarks about his time working with two segregationist senators during the 1970s.

Biden called it an era of civility where lawmakers got things done despite their disagreements, butt Booker urged Biden to issue an apology noting that the word "boy" which Biden said one of the senators used in their conversations was also used by those same segregationist to, quote, "perpetuate white supremacy." Booker's suggestion did not sit very well with the former Vice President.


QUESTION: Are you going to apologize like Cory Booker has called for?


QUESTION: Cory Booker has called for it. BIDEN: Cory should apologize. He knows better. There is not a

racist bone in my body. I've been involved in Civil Rights my whole career, period. Period. Period.


BALDWIN: Hours later, in an interview right here on CNN, the New Jersey senator offered this response.


SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I know that I was raised to speak truth to power, and that I shall never apologize for doing that, and Vice President Biden shouldn't need this lesson. And at a time when we have from the highest of offices in the land, divisiveness, racial hatred, and bigotry being spewed he should have the sensitivity to know that this is a time I need to be an ally. I need to be a healer. I need to not engage in usage of words that will harm folks.

For his posture to be to me, "I've done nothing wrong. You should apologize. I'm not a racist," is so insulting. And so missing the larger point that he should not have to have explained to him that this should not be a lesson that someone who is running for President of the United States should have to be given.


BALDWIN: Symone Sanders is a senior adviser for the Biden campaign. Symone, welcome.

SYMONE SANDERS, SENIOR ADVISER FOR BIDEN CAMPAIGN: Hi, Brooke. Thanks for having me today.

BALDWIN: Thank you. So let's begin. What is the former Vice President's response to Senator Booker saying that he is insulted and that he will not apologize?

SANDERS: Well, look, Brooke, I want to take a step back. Look, I know a lot has been going on this week.

BALDWIN: Before -- hang on, just before we take a step back. Just the question -- have you spoken with the Vice President and what is his response to what Senator Booker told Don last night?

[14:25:10] SANDERS: I'm not going to get into what I specifically said to the Vice President today, but I want to tell you this, okay, because I understand and I get it. A lot -- I want to say, a lot has been going on this week. But I do want to be clear that we don't conflate with everything that's gone on this week from the President relaunching his campaign with the divisive rhetoric that we've heard since 2015 to Mitch McConnell, basically alluding that the election of Barack Obama was somehow reparations to these very pointed conversations we've been having about race on the Hill -- on Capitol Hill, but also in the media. I don't -- I want to make sure we don't conflate that with the

comments that Vice President Biden made in his example at the fundraiser. So I want to be clear here, Brooke.

The Vice President did not embrace segregationists. He doesn't praise. I was not praising segregationist. He agrees that their views are repugnant and that the language that they had used and were using during that time is unacceptable, and understands it is hurtful to millions of Americans.

But what I'm hearing, Brooke and in conversations I've had with a number, as you can imagine, I've talked to a number of people. The question that's really on the table for a lot of folks is folks want to know, if Joe Biden gets it. Right? They want to know if he -- if they can trust him to be an ally for communities of color, but especially for black and brown communities, and I think they can.

BALDWIN: We know. We know. Let me jump in because we know that -- we know Biden's record, right? We know, as you've pointed out, he was at the forefront of you know, marriage equality early on. We know that he is a longtime supporter of the Voting Rights Act. And we know that, you know, he cited the Civil Rights Movement as his motivation for getting into politics.

But that said, Symone, Senator Booker, I've got to get you back to this, Senator Booker did not suggest that Biden is embracing segregationists or he is not saying that he is racist, but what he is saying is that he is upset over Biden's choice of words. And my question to you is, is Booker wrong to feel that way?

SANDERS: So I want to be clear, Brooke. One, I have immense respect for Senator Booker. Our campaign has immense respect for Senator Booker. But most importantly, the Vice President has immense respect for Senator Cory Booker, and it's not on anyone to say how Senator Booker should or should not feel.

You know, he is entitled to his own feelings and his own thoughts as is everyone else. But I think what's important here to note, now, I'll just point you to the comments from the Chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, Karen Bass today and her words are that, you know, she doesn't think the Vice President needs to apologize, and she wishes folks would stop the arguing, you know, get back to the issues. And those are her comments, not mine.

And so I think, again, what this is really about is can -- I think people have a question. They want to know these folks that are running for President, can I trust them to be in my corner? And I think when it comes to Vice President Biden, I think the answer to that question is yes.

Now, Brooke, this is what campaigns are about, though, you have to go out there, and you have to make your case to the American people. This is going to be a long primary. And we are going to South Carolina tomorrow, and we're going to have these conversations, we're going to listen to folks. But Vice President Biden is also going to share his vision and what he

thinks, and I'm sure questions like this are going to come up and he is going to be ready to answer them, and then a week from today, actually, we will be on the debate stage, and the Vice President will have his opportunity to speak directly to the American people to get some of his vision, to not just talk about the past, but we want to talk about the future, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Of course.

SANDERS: And I know it's a long primary, I really do know, but you know, Brooke, I like to adhere to the Carter family values, okay. And as Uncle Jay Z was saying, nobody wins in the family feuds. So I just hope that, you know, we can get through this primary and have a respectful debate of ideas. And I know we're going to have to have sensitive conversations.


SANDERS: But I just hope we can all come out of the conversation. It's much better for it and move forward.

BALDWIN: As we have the conversation though, do you agree with Biden that Booker should apologize?

SANDERS: Well, Brooke, again, it's not about what I think. It's about what the American people think.

BALDWIN: But you're representing a man who would like to be the next President of the United States. So I do happen to care what you think, I think a lot of other people do.

SANDERS: I think I'm here to maybe shed light on the Vice President's thought process and I think what he would say is --

BALDWIN: Do you think he should apologize?

SANDERS: Brooke, it's not about what I think. Brooke, if you want to know what I think here's this, I think Joe Biden is the person that launched his campaign that says he got into this race because of what he saw in Charlottesville, white supremacism, neo Nazis, marching with torches saying "Blood not soil," and a President, Donald Trump, equating that there are good people on both sides of that event.

That is what vaulted Joe Biden into the 2020 race. That is -- he believes that this crazy abuse of power that we're seeing from the White House from this Trump administration is something that has to be checked.

And so if you ask me am because what I'm really hearing is people wondering, am I comfortable? I am comfortable with somebody like Joe Biden, because I know what he believes. I know his character. I know his values. And I know what kind of campaign we're running and I'm excited for folks, for us to continue to be out there on the campaign trail and make that case.

I know people have questions Brooke and he is ready to answer.