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Trump Calls Of Iran Strike With 10 Minutes To Spare; Rep. John Garamendi, (D-CA) Talks About Congress Action To Prevent Trump From Calling Out War With Iran; Senior Official On The President's National Security Council Has Appeared On A Podcast Whose Host Has Interviewed White Nationalists, And Touted Race Pseudoscience. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired June 21, 2019 - 14:00   ET


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, there. You are watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you for being with me.

We are getting new details right now about why the President called off a pending military strike in Iran, after Iran shot down a massive U.S. drone in the Strait of Hormuz just a day ago.

President Trump in his own words, says planes and ships were quote unquote, "cocked and loaded" after sending out this candid explanation on Twitter, the President revealed why he stopped short with just 10 minutes to spare.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They came in they said "Sir, we're ready to go. We'd like your decision." I said, "I want to know something before you go. How many people will be killed?" In this case Iranians. I said, "How many people are willing to be killed?" "Sir, I'd like to get back to you on that." Great people, these Generals. They said -- came back and said, "Sir, approximately 150."

And I thought about it for a second. I said, "You know what? They shot down an unmanned drone, a plane ..." whatever you want to call it. " ... and here we are sitting with 150 dead people." That would have taken place probably within a half an hour after I said, "Go ahead." And I didn't like it. I didn't think it was -- I didn't think it was proportionate.


BALDWIN: But a source tells CNN that just because the administration didn't follow through with the strike, it doesn't mean there will not be a response.

This as Iran continues to broadcast imagery of the drone's wreckage on its state run media. A Commander in its Air Force says the incident could have been a lot worse. He says they had a U.S. Navy plane with 35 crew members on board in their sights, and they didn't take the shot. CNN's Ryan Browne is live for us at the Pentagon. So Ryan, you tell

me. What are you hearing about these conversations between the White House and DoD?

RYAN BROWNE, CNN PENTAGON REPORTER: Well, Brooke, the Pentagon remains very much engaged on this issue continually -- continuing to watch the region for any signs of any additional Iranian provocations.

Now, the shoot down of the drone was just the latest in a series of what the U.S. says had been provocative Iranian moves. Of course, we remember the attacks against those tankers in the Gulf of Oman. Something the U.S. blamed squarely on Iran. There have been other instances where Iranian proxy groups have been accused of shelling areas where U.S. troops are operating.

So it's just kind of been a series of events that the U.S. military planners have been watching and because of that had already postured a number of additional U.S. military assets, additional troops, additional surveillance drones, like the one that was recently shot down, fighter jets, bombers, and things of that nature.

So the U.S. military in position to act if ordered. So that kind of while no go ahead order was given, they remain very much in position to do so should President Trump change his mind, but of course, there's been a major shake up here at the most senior levels at the Pentagon.

The current acting Secretary of Defense Pat Shanahan is due to step down to Sunday night at midnight. He will be replaced by the Army Secretary Mark Esper, so you had that shake up complicating things a little bit, and officials telling us now that President Trump will indeed formally nominate Secretary Esper to take over full time leadership at the Pentagon.

So against some attempt to create some kind of stability here in the building as a counter is a deal with this Iran situation, which is really tense right now, despite the order not to go ahead with that strike.

BALDWIN: Really, really tense is certainly one way to put it. Ryan, thank you very much. Retired Navy Captain Lawrence Brennan is a former State Department adviser and a Professor of Morality and International Maritime Law at Fordham University. So Larry, a pleasure. Thank you so much for rolling by.

When you hear the President say the strike was, quote, "not proportional to shooting down an unmanned drone." Do you agree?

CAPTAIN LAWRENCE BRENNAN (RET), U.S. NAVY: I agree in that limited instance. But this is an occasion where there have been seven nonlethal attacks by Iran in the last couple of weeks, in the last five weeks, and that needs to be considered.

And this is a different type of instance than the tank of war in the 1980s, where there were non-existential issues involved. If you separated the argument from Iran's constant desire, stated desire to have nuclear weapons, it's a different story.

[14:05:07] BRENNAN: If this is mere retaliation for the attacks on the tankers and the drone, that's one thing. But if it's a bigger picture, at some time, the President is going to have to face a choice, and it's a dilemma. It's a dilemma that we've been talking about in the United States for 40 years since the hostages were taken and that's a big problem.

BALDWIN: So my next question would be if you commend him for his restraint, but it sounds like based upon everything you've explained, leading up to this point, he may have to go there.

BRENNAN: He may have to go there. His predecessors may have had to go there, and maybe they didn't. I was involved in the Iranian hostage rescue mission almost 40 years ago, and some could argue that if things had worked differently, and not necessarily that mission, but if the U.S. policy at the time of the Carter administration had been different, we would not be faced with the problem we have.

We've inherited the British Empire Easter Suez in the late 1960s, early 70s. I don't think we've ever had a coherent, global strategy where the British Empire did for the century plus before that, and this is a major worldwide problem. Its environmental problems. It is fuel problems, and its economic problems plus the warfare problem. And the President said the right words.

The one good thing to remember about litigation and warfare is you may be late, but if you're wrong, you're wrong forever. So the President's deferral as to say, taking the card off is different.

BALDWIN: On the point of stopping short, a source tells CNN that just because the Commander-in-Chief stopped short, it doesn't mean there will still -- won't still be a response. How do you interpret that?

BRENNAN: I interpret that as the table is open. The next move is Iran's. Hopefully, there's quiet discussions directly or indirectly between the United States and Iran, maybe through an intermediary. And if Iran recognizes that its seven non-lethal steps could lead to lethal action and kinetic response. There are a lot of non-kinetic, non-direct military responses that this administration, its allies, friends, and the United Nations could bring to suggest and to direct Iran.

If Iran takes the radical step and goes militarily against Iraq that would be a catastrophically wrong decision.

BALDWIN: Okay. So the world is watching Iran now, as to their next move. Larry Brennan, thank you very much for coming by. And clearly your knowledge and expertise there.

The most defensive military action typical requires congressional approval, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says that her conversations with the President never indicated that he would come this close to a strike.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): We're left with the idea that the President

was going to consider some options. I did not receive any heads up that there was a strike that was in the works.

Maybe the other leaders did have an insight, but I did not receive any of that. And that would be a departure if the President has informed us and for example, on Syria before we went in.

QUESTION: Have you spoken to the President today about --

PELOSI: No, I haven't spoken to the President about that, no.


BALDWIN: My next guest is one of the lawmakers working to prevent President Trump from doing that in Iran. Democratic Congressman John Garamendi is a senior member of the Armed Services Committee. Congressman Garamendi, a pleasure, sir. Welcome.


BALDWIN: Listen, we just got a bit of a history lesson from this retired Navy Captain sitting to my right, you know, history has taught us that, also that Presidents don't always comply with seeking congressional approval. You heard the President, you heard how close this came -- 10 minutes. Did you expect him to come to you all first?

GARAMENDI: I really do not expect President Trump to obey either the Constitution or the law. There's plenty of indication in his recent histories that that's the case. However, in this situation, we're talking about war. We're not just talking about a border wall and moving money, with or without the approval of Congress.

Clearly, the Constitution says that only Congress can declare war. That doesn't mean that the Department of Defense, the Army, Navy Air Force, cannot defend themselves against an attack. However, we're now talking about a retaliation, not a defense.

Therefore, the President must come to Congress if he intends to carry out a kinetic that is offensive military action against Iran. No questions. It is the Constitution. It's time for him to obey the Constitution, make the case, argue it before us. Obviously, there is time available. We've discovered that last night, and let's do the right thing at the right time. Meaning, bring it to Congress.

BALDWIN: We know that this President likes to govern from the gut. Hillary Clinton famously said he can't be trusted with the nuclear codes because he could be baited by a tweet after a handful of attacks. Congressman, do you commend him for having some restraint last night?

[14:10:10] GARAMENDI: I think the problem is not to whether commend him or not, but to take a look at the chaos that exists within this administration. Take a look at the fact that the entire leadership of the Department of Defense is turning over. Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force, all of it is turning over at this time to say nothing of the Secretary of Defense. That's a chaotic situation.

Many of us have said for some time, that the President is creating an extraordinarily dangerous situation with the chaos in the administration. The fact that he decided publicly, which is, in my view, a mistake to delay a reaction or response is, okay, it's good; to do it publicly is bad. And, as your guest suggested a moment ago, there are many, many different kinds of responses, all of them need to be clearly telegraphed to Iran ahead of time that you're going to be held accountable; multiple ways that could be done.

And also, we need to bring our allies into this. Going this alone without the Allies not only in the region, but in Europe is a serious mistake. The President stepped back, avoided that. I wish he had done it quietly. It didn't happen. And now we're going to have to move forward. But keep in mind, he must come to Congress.

BALDWIN: You talk about, you know, our allies in that part of the world. What about just your colleagues, you know, there on Capitol Hill, some of your Republican colleagues actually wanted this strike to happen. To them, you would say what?

GARAMENDI: Lindsey Graham? Lindsey Graham has more moves than the clock. It makes no sense. Lindsey, one day is quiet; the next day wants to go to war. My suggestion for Lindsey Graham is okay, Lindsey, you be the first one over the trench.

BALDWIN: What if -- if there were a scenario where DoD could come up with a strike zone that would not have any casualties, would you support that kind of military response given how provocative Iran has been?

GARAMENDI: Clearly there has to be a response. There are many different kinds of responses. Your Captain sitting next to you, retired, said, elicited probably five or six, within three or four seconds, I don't need to repeat all of them.

There are many different ways to go about this. Clearly, there has to be an accountability here, no doubt about that. Is that a military response? What we call kinetic? That's things that go boom. You have to plan if it's going to go boom, somebody might very well die. Keep that in mind.

That is, it may or may not be collateral damage, it may or may not be a military death in the way. But yes, if you're going to do kinetic, and that is one of the options, and it may be appropriate, depending upon where the design is and what the implications are.

But I think -- and this is extremely important. What is the second and third effect? What is going to happen after America takes a response? If it's a kinetic response, what then could happen? Are we prepared for that?

BALDWIN: What are the possibilities, Congressman? For Americans sitting there thinking, "My God, are we about to go to a war with Iran?" What would those ripple effects be?

GARAMENDI: That is why the President must bring his plan to the Congress.

BALDWIN: Got it.

GARAMENDI: It is quite possible that a kinetic -- that is a military action that goes boom -- could very well lead to second order effect, and that is back and forth, and pretty soon we have a full scale war. The President has to come here. He has to explain what it is his strategy is -- short term and long term. And in doing so seek the consent of Congress for what could very, very well be a war.

Now, among the actions that are possible are ones that are not kinetic, not warfare. And there could be some very strong actions that could be taken in that regard. Among those were just stated by the by the retired Captain a moment ago, and certainly there could be continued isolation, additional sanctions, and many, many other things could be done that are short of war.

BALDWIN: Sure, sure. Congressman Garamendi, thank you very much.

GARAMENDI: You've got it. Thank you.

BALDWIN: Thank you. Right now we are learning a White House official once appeared on a podcast with someone who had serious racist ideas. A CNN KFile report exposes that. Coming up next.

And a heartbreaking look at what life is like for children in detention on the border, including kids forced to take care of toddlers, and a brutal assault at an American airport. Five TSA agents hurt by this one man trying to fight his way through security. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.


[14:19:46] BALDWIN: This just in to CNN, House Judiciary Chair Jerry Nadler tell CNN that he -- his words -- just screwed up when he refer to former White House aide Hope Hicks as Miss Lewandowski.

Nadler says he misspoke on three separate occasions during this week's closed door meeting with Hicks, and that he meant quote "nothing by that." Congressman Nadler said that he was running through a series of questions with Hicks that included some about former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski. He said that he had quote "two different counsels" who were whispering in my ear, quote, "While he was seeking to question her," and erroneously referred to her as Miss Lewandowski three times.

Now to a CNN KFile investigation. William Happer, a senior official on the President's National Security Council, and a climate crisis denier has appeared on a podcast whose host has interviewed white nationalists, and touted race pseudoscience, which is a belief that some races are scientifically inferior to others.

Andrew Kaczynski is our CNN senior editor of the KFile. He has got more on what they've uncovered. And so tell me more about this podcast and why this is so important. ANDREW KACZYNSKI, CNN "KFILE" SENIOR EDITOR: So you have to know a

little bit actually about Happer's background, which is that he is a prominent skeptic, some might call him a denier of the scientific consensus around climate change. He's called it a cult.

Now, he made these appearances first on this podcast where the host has pushed race pseudoscience, some call it scientific racism, and it was ahead of this conference he spoke at. And this was sort of a controversial conference.

The person who organized it is a prominent denier of HIV, meaning he doesn't believe HIV exists, or that he is also a 9/11 truther. And he actually went on a 9/11 truth podcast while he was there.

So it's sort of not the place you would expect a scientific adviser for the White House to appear.

BALDWIN: So what is the White House saying?

KACZYNSKI: And so the White House, we reached out to them a couple of days, and they actually, they didn't say anything. So we have not heard back from them.

BALDWIN: What about Happer?

KACZYNSKI: Happer -- so when we reached out to the National Security Council, Happer actually responded and said, "You know, I have appeared on a lot of the sort of places, but I don't endorse the views of the hosts or the conferences."

BALDWIN: Andrew Kaczynski and his KFile team, always digging. We check out your reporting on Thank you very much for that.

We are getting some breaking news on that threat that the President made that his administration will soon deport millions of people. We are told this operation will target migrant families. More on that.

Also a pretty extraordinary situation developing in Oregon, why the Governor of Oregon has sent police looking for missing Republicans. Yes, who skipped out on this climate vote. Plus --


[14:27:08] BALDWIN: Now, to Missouri where the State Health Department has refused to renew the license for a Planned Parenthood clinic, one that provides abortions in that state.

CNN's Ryan Young is live in St. Louis and Ryan, so despite the Health Department's decision, the clinic can still continue to perform abortions. Tell me why?

RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, absolutely. Look, that's an important point to make here. There is one abortion clinic here in the state, they still have a sign on the front that says, "We are still open." And the reason why is because there's an injunction that was put in place June 10th. And we are told because of that injunction, the judge has decided that they can operate as normal, as long as that injunction is in place.

So today, when they went to court with denying that permit, it didn't affect the day to day operations. But I can tell you for advocates who are here in the state, they believe today was a victory. Take a listen.


M'EVIE MEAD, MISSOURI DIRECTOR OF POLICY AND ORGANIZING, PLANNED PARENTHOOD: Today is a victory for women and people of Missouri to access their full range of reproductive healthcare, including safe and legal abortion in their state.

So Missouri is on the precipice of becoming the first state to eliminate access to abortion through the weaponization of the regulatory process. And the court has stepped in and put an injunction on the state's action of attempting to deny the license for political reasons.


YOUNG: Yes, the advocates were actually telling us they believe some of the procedures that the State is trying to put into place is making it hard for women.

In fact, the second public exam is something they talked about. They said doctors felt uncomfortable performing that and that's something they stopped doing.

So moving forward, we'll have to see what the judge decides. In fact, he told us today we would not get that ruling. It will have to happen sometime later on.

But so far, the folks in this state who are connected to Planned Parenthood believe this is a step forward. Hopefully, see what happens next, Brooke. But there's still a lot of questions going on about how this will move forward on whether or not that center can stay open long term.

BALDWIN: We'll stay on it. Ryan, thank you very much. Justin to CNN, a new reporting shows Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids targeting as many as 2,000 migrants. They are set to start this Sunday. This was triggered by President Trump's tweet.

So breaking this new reporting for us, CNN's justice correspondent, Jessica Schneider. Jessica, tell me more.

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Brooke. This is all starting in just a few days, Sunday. That's when Immigration and Customs Enforcement, they're set to start their latest operation. They'll be arresting and deporting families who have been ordered by a court to be removed from this country. So essentially accelerating what's already been ordered by a judge.

Now this operation, as you mentioned, it's set to begin just days after the President's tweet on Monday, where he warned that millions of illegal aliens will be removed and we're learning of course, that it won't be millions off the bat. But instead, this I.C.E. operation will target approximately 2,000 people and Brooke, that corresponds with the 2,000 and people that I.C.E. sent letters to in February, asking them to essentially self-report to I.C.E. offices to comply with those court ordered removal order.