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Hicks Testified Before Congress; Booker and Biden War of Words; Warren Unveils Plan; Navy SEAL Testifies on Death of ISIS Detainee. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired June 21, 2019 - 09:30   ET



[09:34:25] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: We now know what long time Trump aide and confidant Hope Hicks told the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday. The 273-page transcript of the closed door interview shows that she was asked whether she lied for the president. She says she did not, but only told white lies about what she said in her judgment were small matters.

Meantime, Democrats are focusing on the many questions she did not answer. White House lawyers blocked Hope Hicks from answering more than 150 questions, in fact. Now Democrats are plotting their next move. What is the strategy? What recourse do they have?

With me now to discuss is Toluse Olorunnipa. He is a White House reporter for "The Washington Post" here.

[09:35:04] Listen, I know that Democrats here had to make a demonstration to some degree. I mean they knew coming in that the White House was going to claim a broad immunity executive privilege so that you wouldn't answer questions, even on silly things like where her office was in the White House. So by bringing her forward and seeing that happen, what did they accomplish?

TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Well, they want to be able to show that this is a broad presidential cover- up, as Nancy Pelosi said a few weeks ago. So they want to ask all of these various questions about what was in the Mueller report, events that Hope Hicks was a witness to things that are damning and damaging about the president that paint a negative light about what -- what's happening at the White House in 2017 and 2018, knowing that she's not going to answer questions, but making it look like they're trying to cover something up, they're trying to stonewall, they're trying to delay and push all of this back.

At the same time, the Democrats are pursuing another track, which is in the courts, trying to make sure that they're compelling this testimony from people like Hope Hicks and the former White House Council Don McGahn so that even though, you know, Hope Hicks decided to come in and answer some questions about the campaign, nothing about what happened during the White House, that they would try to bring her back after the courts weigh in to have her answer other questions. SCIUTTO: So she said, yes, she lied, but only white lies. Of course,

we know the president has lied. We know that aides have lied as well on consequential issues.

Do we believe her characterization of the things she lied about as only being white lies.

OLORUNNIPA: And she sort of minimized her role in sort of spinning for the president and providing information to reporters and to the public that were not true. I mean we have multiple examples of information that she provided during the campaign and during her time in the White House that ended up not being true.

SCIUTTO: Give me some examples.

OLORUNNIPA: Well, she denied the fact that President Trump was involved in some ways with various women who have accused him of, you know, having relationships, and she was sort of at the forefront of denying the relationships with Karen McDougal and the hush money arrangements with Stormy Daniels --

SCIUTTO: Not white lies. I mean those payments are currently under investigation and characterized as breaking campaign finance law.

OLORUNNIPA: Right. And she was one of the main people sort of tampering down that story so that it did not become public before the president was. We now saw, after Michael Cohen sort of flipped against the president, that he confirmed all of those payments and it's very true that the president was involved in hush money payments to various women during this crucial point in his campaign where if that information might have come out, it would have had an impact on the election.

So she did have a key role in making sure that negative information about the president didn't get out and it was put in a positive light or, you know, she was a spin master for the president in many ways. So she did admit to making white lies on behalf of the president, but it doesn't help her --

SCIUTTO: But she's spinning the description of those lies now.

I mean, of course, a lot of this is purchase art here. And on the performance side, Democrats weren't exactly sharp. I mean there was the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Jerry Nadler, referring to Hope Hicks as Mrs. Lewandowski. Of course, she's not Mrs. Lewandowski there.

What -- did they not have their ducks in a row before this?

OLORUNNIPA: I think they were a little bit surprised by how much she was going to deny and how much she was not going to answer their questions, so they had trouble trying to figure out the types of questions they could ask to get her to actually say something. She came in there with five lawyers, different people who were objecting to their questions, and they struggled to find questions that she could actually answer, questions about the campaign, that had nothing to do with her time in the White House, and, in some cases, they stumbled, in some cases they spent more time talking to her lawyers and going back and forth about the -- the rules of the hearing and not actually getting information from her. I think this was maybe a trial run, that if they're able to get her to testify publically in the future, they might be able to ask better questions. But, in some cases, they asked a lot of questions that she just couldn't answer.

SCIUTTO: Toluse Olorunnipa, thanks very much. Always good to have you on.

Biden and Booker face-to-face for the first time after clashing over the former vice president's comments on working with segregationist senators.


[09:43:13] SCIUTTO: Former Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Cory Booker are both campaigning for president in South Carolina today. They will come face-to-face for the first time amid the fallout over Biden's comments about his willingness in the past to work with segregationist senators. The two have been fighting over it publicly, very publicly. Neither has apologized personally to the other.

This comes as Biden and Booker had a direct but respectful phone conversation about all this last night.

CNN political reporter Rebecca Buck is following this story for us.

So were they or were they not able to defuse things over the phone?

REBECCA BUCK, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, it sounds like it was, as Booker described it on MSNBC last night, a constructive conversation. They spoke for 15 minutes. It was respectful. Both sides agreed on that. But there were no apologies offered by either side and it seems we're in something of a stalemate.

So listen, if you will, to what Booker said on MSNBC last night.


SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I understood where his intentions were, I understood where his heart was. The fact is, though, it's not about me or him. He said things that are hurtful and are harmful. I believe he should be apologizing to the American people and having this discussion with all of us.


BUCK: And so the question is, what happens now? Booker emphasized that he doesn't want an apology personally from Joe Biden. He wants Joe Biden to have this conversation with the country, to show some understanding of why what he said might have been hurtful or harmful for some people.

But in the meantime, the candidates head this weekend to South Carolina. Cory Booker and Joe Biden will be sharing a stage. And, in fact, on Saturday, when they speak before the South Carolina Democratic convention, they will be back-to-back at the very end of the program setting up quite a contrast.

SCIUTTO: Well, forgive me for imagining this is playing into it, but Cory Booker is also running for president and has an issue that's getting him a very public, national platform.

[09:45:02] BUCK: That's right.

SCIUTTO: I can't imagine him giving it up.

But on Biden's side, it's CNN's reporting that even inside his campaign they didn't want him to go here.

BUCK: That's right. Aides to Biden and people close to the campaign telling CNN this week that his aides had warned him in the past about using these senators as examples, these racist senators, Eastland, for example. And so he had been warned. But Biden does what Biden wants to do, and that's sort of been the theme of this campaign thus far, a lack of discipline. We'll see, though, if it makes a difference because Biden, of course, is the leader in this race and extremely popular among Democrats.

SCIUTTO: Trump did a few things against his campaign's advice too.

BUCK: That's right.

SCIUTTO: Rebecca Buck, thanks very much.

BUCK: Thanks.

SCIUTTO: Also this morning, Senator Elizabeth Warren just unveiling her new plan to ban private prisons and detention facilities should she be elected president in 2020.

MJ Lee has the details.

MJ, so Warren is kind of the candidate of plans this cycle. She's got a plan for everything. This is the latest one. What do we know about it?

MJ LEE, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: This is the latest plan from Elizabeth Warren. She is proposing banning all private prisons and detention centers. And she's saying this is prompted by what she calls the Trump administration's inhumane immigration policies. She's think -- she's talking about things like the separation of children from their families at the border, some of the conditions at these detention centers that CNN and others have reported so widely on.

And I just want walk through some of the highlights from this new plan from Elizabeth Warren. In addition to banning and shutting down all private prisons and detention centers, she's proposing a ban on contractors from charging people who are incarcerated fees for essential services. So we're talking about things like phone calls, health care services. And then also the creation of an independent prison conditions

monitor. This would be created within the DOJ to basically provide more overnight of contractors that work with prison.

And I also just wanted to read a portion of Elizabeth Warren's medium post that just went up on this topic. She writes, Washington hands billions over to corporations profiting off of inhumane detention and incarceration policies while ignoring the families that are destroyed in the process. We need to call that out for what it is, corruption.

Now, Jim, as you know, corruption has sort of been one of the driving theme of Elizabeth Warren's campaign. It is sort of the idea that holds together a lot of these ideas and policy proposals that she has put forward. Just worth noting as we talk about her gaining momentum in the 2020 race recently.

SCIUTTO: MJ Lee on the story. Thanks very much.

Bombshell on the witness stand. A Navy SEAL is on trial for murder, when a fellow SEAL testifying says that he was the one to kill an ISIS detainee.


[09:52:17] SCIUTTO: The government says it will not drop charges against Chief Petty Officer Gallagher. He's the Navy SEAL accused of murdering an ISIS prisoner in Iraq in 2017. We should note that one Navy SEAL just testified that he was actually the one who killed the detainee, not Gallagher.

CNN correspondent Dan Simon has more details.

We should note, Dan, as well, though, that some four fellow Navy SEAL's testified for the prosecution against Gallagher here corroborating those charges. What's the latest?

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's exactly right, Jim.

I have to tell you, though, that this was such a courtroom shocker yesterday. Here you had this decorated Navy SEAL who is on trial for the murder of an ISIS fighter, and the prosecution calls up a witness whom they think is going to bolster their position. We're talking about Navy Medic Corey Scott. And Scott testifies that, nope, he was the guy who actually killed the ISIS fighter, that it was not Gallagher. And he was testifying under immunity. And we should point out that one thing he did say is that he did see Gallagher take a knife and stab the prisoner underneath the collarbone, but he said it was not a fatal wound. And he said when Gallagher walked away, he basically took his hand and put it over the tube that was keeping him alive. And this is a quote, I suffocated him, I held my thumb over his trach tube until he asphyxiated. I knew he was going to die anyway and wanted to save him from walking up to whatever would happen to him.

Essentially, Jim, he's characterizing this as a form of compassion, that he knew that the Iraqi military would essentially torture this prisoner, so he took it upon himself to end his life. Now, this is what the defense lawyer for Chief Petty Officer Gallagher had to say following that testimony. Take a look.


TIM PARLATORE, CPO EDDIE GALLAGHER'S DEFENSE ATTORNEY: The best defense for Chief Gallagher is the truth. And today the truth started to come out. What we've been saying for all this time, this is a shoddy investigation. No investigator, no prosecutor ever asked the question of what is the cause of death.


SIMON: Well, as you can imagine, prosecutors were completely outraged by Scott's testimony. They accused him of lying and basically wanting to spare Gallagher from prison. And then Scott basically paused, looked at Gallagher and his family in the courtroom and then testified, no, he said I -- I really do not think he should spend the rest of his life behind bars. He's got a wife and a family.

We should point out that more prosecution witnesses are expected today and, as you said, Jim, the Navy is not dropping this murder charge. It's going to go forward.

Back to you.

[09:55:02] SCIUTTO: Of course that's a judgment for the court, not for the witness.

Dan Simon, thanks very much.

We are following breaking news. President Trump now explaining, or attempting to, his decision to call off an air strike on Iran minutes -- just minutes before it happened.

Stay with CNN.

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