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Trump: "We Were Locked And Loaded" Before I Called Off Iran Strike; Iran Says They Refrained From Striking Plane Accompanying Drone; Trump Giving Details Of Canceling Iran Strike At Last Minute Didn't Sit Well On Capitol Hill; Pelosi Speaks After Trump Scrubs Iran Strikes At Last Minute; Monitor: Filthy Onesies, Few Beds, Lack Of Soap For Migrant Children; Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) Discusses Filthy Conditions Of Border Patrol Stations, Hope Hick's Testimony, Impeachment. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired June 21, 2019 - 13:00   ET


[13:00:00] JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Thanks for joining us for "INSIDE POLITICS." Hope to see you here Sunday morning.

Brianna Keilar starts right now. Have a great day.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: I'm Brianna Keilar, live from CNN's Washington headquarters.

Under way right now, "cocked and loaded" but not worth it. A blunt explanation from the president on why he called off striking Iran with just 10 minutes to spare.

The testimony, the subpoenas, the photo ops. Are Democrats really getting anywhere in their pursuit of the president?

Plus, a young child forced to take care of a toddler. No soap, limited showers and far too few beds. Heart-breaking conscience inside U.S. immigration facilities.

And a courtroom stunner. A Navy SEAL admits he was the one who killed an ISIS prisoner, not his fellow SEAL who is on trial for murder.

We start with the strike on Iran that did not happen. President Trump tweeting today that the U.S. was, quote, "cocked and loaded" last night on three different sites but he called off the strike to save lives.

The tweet, quote, "I asked how many will die. One-hundred and fifty people, sir, was the answer from a general. Ten minutes before the strike, I stopped it. Not proportionate to shooting down an unmanned drone. I am in no hurry."

The three targets were radar installations and missile sites, the types of facilities Iran used to shoot down an unmanned surveillance aircraft yesterday.

Now we're learning that the U.S. has asked for and will get a special United Nations Security Council meeting on Monday.

But the U.S. still has no confirmed ambassador to the U.N. or a secretary of defense.

Let's go to CNN's Kaitlan Collins who is at the White House.

What are your sources telling you, Kaitlan? We're hearing from the president in tweets. Are they saying anything else behind the scenes?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, we're hearing more from the president himself, explaining his decision to call off that strike at the last minute, which the president said he made about 30 minutes before that was supposed to happen. He says that it was before the planes were in the air.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They came and they said, sir, we're ready to go. We'd like a 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 going 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, and I said, you know what, they shot down an unmanned drone, 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 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.


COLLINS: So, Brianna, the president is saying he didn't think a strike was what was called for after they shot down that U.S. military drone.

What you're hearing essentially as the president does explain that decision is how he's weighing his own instincts against what his national security advisers were telling him. Because based on our reporting over the last 24 hours or so, essentially, everyone was favoring the president striking Iran. That includes his secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, and his national security advisor, John Bolton. So there the president was going with his instincts, saying this wasn't the right response to Iran.

One thing he did telegraph in his tweets earlier this morning, he said more sanctions were added against Iran last night, something that I'm told privately the president was favoring when they were weighing what to do this on-again, off-again strike. But the president didn't elaborate what those sanctions will look like, when they'll go into effect.

So far, we haven't gotten a response from the Treasury Department or from the administration overall on those.

KEILAR: Kaitlin Collins, at the White House, thank you.

Iran, meantime, issued an ominous warning. Its defense minister saying U.S. actions in the region are, quote, "aimed at creating another September 11th."

CNN's Fred Pleitgen is in Tehran.

Fred, do you have a sense why the defense minister would have invoked 9/11?

FRED PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it was absolutely unclear when he said it. We've been looking into why he would have said something like that or whether or not he might have been calling for something like terror attacks against the United States.

It seems though looking at some of the remarks that he made afterward that he was essentially talking about the aftermath of 9/11, talking about, for instance, the U.S. invasion in Afghanistan, but specifically talking about this region, the invasion of Iraq and the regime change there, essentially saying he believes that's what the U.S. was aiming for in the run-up to the current situation that the U.S. has with Iran right now.

He spoke about a very difficult situation here in the Middle East. He talked about, for instance, Saudi Arabia following the United States. So there seems to be some ominous signs about that.

It was very interesting to see, Brianna, though, today the messaging coming from the Iranians. Because, today, for the first time, the Iranians showed some of the debris from that drone that they shot down. It was very small pieces of debris. They say they shot it down at about 50,000 feet, so a very, very high altitude. They say the debris that they found was swimming in their territorial waters. The Iranians maintain this drone was violating Iranian airspace when they shot it down.

[13:05:14] Then they said something, which was quite troubling. Because the Iranians were saying that they could have shot down and they were looking at shooting down a P-8 American spy plane that they say was flying in the vicinity of the same area but decided not to do that. Also because there was a crew onboard.

That of course, Brianna, in almost every way, dispels the things that President Trump was saying yesterday when he said he believes that the Iranians accidentally shot down the drone, that it was some sort of rogue commander.

The Iranians today saying absolutely, unequivocally that was not the case. They know exactly what they're seeing up in the skies and they say shooting down the drone was a clear message to the United States about the capabilities that their air systems have Brianna?

KEILAR: All right, Fred Pleitgen, in Tehran, thank you for that report.

President Trump offered surprising details in this statement about his decision. He said he called off the strike 10 minutes before launch. The release of details like that did not sit well on Capitol Hill.


REP. ADAM SMITH (D-WA): That's not the kind of thing that I think the president should say publicly. This is not -- this is a decision that he should keep to himself. He should not say stuff like that publicly because it gives the impression of a level of indecision that I don't think is helpful to us.


SMITH: I wish he was more discreet about what he shared with everybody.


KEILAR: I want to bring in CNN Military Analyst and Retired Air Force Colonel, Cedric Leighton, and Ramin Asgard, who is a former foreign policy advisor at Central Command and director of the U.S. government's Iran Regional Presence Office.

Colonel, what we're hearing, that's a Democrat on Capitol Hill who is critical of the president revealing operational details. In general, Republicans also don't like these released. Do they have a point?

CEDRIC LEIGHTON, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: They absolutely do. What you want to do, Brianna, is make sure that you maintain what they call operational security.

You want to make sure that all kinds of operational issues that could become part of a present or a future operation are kept under wraps so that we could have the element of surprise, we could have the maximum effectiveness possible of our weapons systems and we can achieve the goals that we need to achieve.

If you start talking about things that are part of these operations and you do it in an unauthorized manner or in a manner that is inconsistent with operational security principles, you risk spilling the beans and that's a real problem.

KEILAR: Ramin, as you look at the president saying, 10 minutes beforehand I called this off, do you have concerns that it got to that point, that the strike was coming and what the Iranian response could have been?

RAMIN ASGARD, FORMER FOREIGN POLICY ADVISOR, CENTRAL COMMAND & DIRECTOR OF U.S. GOVERNMENT'S IRAN REGIONAL PRESENCE OFFICE: Kaitlan (sic), absolutely. That -- pulling the trigger on the first step of what could easily be a cascade and the fact that it was 10 minutes away is a sobering thought.

As the colonel said, operational security is paramount. However, I hope that the point was received in Tehran that they were 10 minutes away.

KEILAR: So tell us more about Tehran and what that telegraphs to them. ASGARD: I think it telegraphs to them that this is not bluffing, this

is not posing, that there's a great deal of support for taking concrete measures to respond, and that the military is absolutely ready to go whenever the balloon goes up.

KEILAR: In general, there's not a lot of support militarily speaking among the general populous of America, I think that's clear. This is a war-weary nation that we're looking at. Is Iran aware of that, Colonel?

LEIGHTON: Well, Brianna, the real situation with the Iranians is that they live in their own little world. In some cases, they think that if they try to divide up the American body politic into different areas, they believe they can divide and conquer.

In other words, they can have people do things that are not really in concert with U.S. interests.

The fact of the matter is, as we see with the Congress coming together with the president doing what he did, really, there was a lot of support for doing something against Iran, maybe not at this time, maybe not at this juncture in history, but at some point in the future most certainly.

KEILAR: And maybe not doing something that cascades into all-out war would certainly be the preference, I think, when you look at polls.

The president cited the loss of life as the reason for waiving off. Is that something Ramin, that you look at and say that's the president's red line. If there's loss of American life in some action that Iran takes, that there are going to be some consequences?

ASGARD: Absolutely, Brianna. Not only did he talk about loss of life, but he talked about proportionality. He said that an unmanned drone, which shows that the United States is committed to not risking U.S. lives, if not absolutely necessary, and the fact that it was an unmanned drone and it was downed, he equated it to 150 human lives.

[13:10:18] And what that would mean in Iran, because all those people would become martyrs, and would definitely escalate the situation considerably. And He made a decision as commander-in-chief that that is not the way he wanted to take this at this point.

But he established that the United States is at least looking at and considering proportionality in its responses.

KEILAR: Ramin Asgard, Colonel Cedric Leighton, thank you so much to both of you.

Some disturbing scenes from inside immigration facilities at the border. No soap, no showers, and children forced to take care of toddlers.

Plus, why this weekend is a big one for the 2020 candidates who are going to be colliding all in one place. And the surprising twist in the trial of the Navy SEAL accused of war

crimes. What his fellow SEAL revealed on the stand about the murder of an ISIS prisoner.



REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I think the message was bipartisan in terms of de-escalating based on a couple of things. First of all, we have no illusions about Iran. It's a very dangerous country. And there are divisions within the country about hard-liners versus others.

There was bipartisan consensus that we didn't want to do anything that would strengthen the hand of hard-liners in Iran because that just makes matters worse.

Consensus that we should be working with our allies in whatever we do in calibrating a response that is strategic and serious about the challenge we face.

And bipartisanship as to what are our objectives in the region. We have to protect American interests, but how do we define what they are?

And so we 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 on the Republican side. But I did not receive any of that. And that would be a departure. A president has informed us, for example, in Syria before we went in.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Have you spoke to the president today at all?

PELOSI: No. I haven't spoke to the president today, no.


PELOSI: Absolutely. No, no. I don't know how imminent the strike was. You hear different things. But a strike of that amount of collateral damage would be very provocative. And I'm glad the president did not take that.

We think there are many options that are not what they call kinetic, that is to say a strike on the country that might be more useful, but those are options the president is considering.

Let me be very clear, the Democrats in the meeting, House and Senate Democrats, were very clear that Congress must act -- must have the authority of Congress before we initiate military hostilities in Iran.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: The president seems to suggest that he found out about the apparently death toll if they had gone through with the strike just moments before they would have conducted the strike. Isn't that something you think he should have known about beforehand?

PELOSI: You know, I don't know the timing of when the president learned the consequences of it. I don't even know how off-the-ground these planes were. That's something you just have to ask the White House.

But it would make sense if you are considering options that you know what the consequences are before you make a decision to go forward.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you all. Thank you. Thank you.

KEILAR: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi there answering questions on Iran, agreeing with the president calling off the strikes on Iran. Saying you don't want to do anything that strengthens the hard-liners in Iran. There also needs to be work done with allies. So clearly saying not to go unilaterally into this.

She also did have an answer to the question at the ending. The president has said he called off this strike with 10 minutes to go when he learned that 150 people -- according to a general, 150 Iranians would be killed in the strike. She basically said right there you should know this information before that.

Let's talk about another story, a stunning story we're covering here an CNN. Babies wearing only diapers, or filthy Onesies, unsanitary conditions, no soap, not enough beds, kids sleeping on the hard floor. Those are just some of the conditions reported at U.S. Customs and Border Protection facilities in Texas by a team of monitors, independent monitors who went in there.

One team member describes the situation as a, quote, "pervasive health crisis."

Correspondent Nick Valencia has been on this story.

Walk us through some of the main concerns that were reported. And one of the ones that stuck out to me, Nick, was that all of the kids appeared to be sick.

[13:20:04] NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: All of the children, nearly all of them that they interviewed, and they interviewed more than 30 of them, appeared to be ill in some way.

I had a chance to speak with several of the monitors, inspectors that are part of this mission, four-day trip to the southern border, where they visited three facilities.

It was specifically one facility, Brianna, the Clint border patrol station, that they described the conditions as unconscionable. They said there's a pervasive health crisis currently happening along the southern border.

Here's some of the things that they took off, a shortage of beds, kids sleeping on the ground, some of them without mattresses. In other situations and instances, kids were in the interview room showing up in dirty diapers or filthy Onesies. One teenager said he hadn't taken a shower in nearly three weeks.

These are dangerous conditions, according to these legal monitors who went in.

Among them was Clara Long, a senior researcher at Human Rights Watch. She's also a parent. Leaving this facility, she said she left heart broken.


CLARA LONG, SENIOR RESEARCHER, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH: Well, it just makes me -- my heart hurt to think about what kind of lasting damage these experiences might have for these kids.

You know, I came home and was hanging out with my 2-year-old and he's playing around and so happy. I couldn't help but think about all the 3-year-ol who I spoke with over the past couple of days who were shut down, not speaking, crying, obviously very traumatized.


VALENCIA: Now, this team of 10, part of them were doctors, lawyers and other volunteers there as inspectors to make sure that the government is held accountable for this Flores settlement, which says that a child should not be held unnecessarily long or delayed in their release.

I did reach out to Customs and Border Protection. One official, with intimate knowledge of these Border Patrol stations in El Paso, says the conditions migrants are being held in are better than they were a year ago and even better than they were just three months ago.

Brianna, very quickly, another Customs and Border Protection official tells me this is the reason why Congress must act and approve $4.6 million in emergency funding so kids aren't being held in conditions like this -- Brianna?

KEILAR: Nick Valencia, thank you so much.

VALENCIA: Thank you.

KEILAR: Let's talk to a member of Congress about this. Democratic Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal is with us. She is on the Judiciary Committee.

Congresswoman, you hear this report. I mean, it's hard to hear the details of what these kids are facing.

I'm sorry, it really bothers me as a parent.

But when you see this and also when you hear border patrol saying that they need this money, is that going to solve the problem?

REP. JAYAPAL, (D-WA): Brianna, no. I mean, it is so heart breaking and I think it is worse than unconscionable, if that's possible.

And the problem is that these conditions have been there. We have not been complying with Flores for some time.

And so just approving money to a lawless administration, who is creating these conditions at the border -- you know, you've seen the administration is willing to take money from other places for a border wall. But they certainly are not willing to actually put money into these conditions.

It's been a longer standing issue than just the last several months, as your reporter said.

And I think on top of that, we have to think about how this happened. There are many ways to deal with this.

Number one, dealing with the conditions in these migrating countries that are sending people here. For people to be in those conditions, you can only imagine how afraid they are for their lives in fleeing. And the Trump administration has cut off aid to Central American countries.

Number two, they have stopped all legal processing of -- I shouldn't say all, it's at a trickle for legal processing of asylum seekers through this metering process that they have.

And number three, they are not putting resources into getting agents to the border to process people and get them out of those conditions.

And the money that is in the supplemental that is being requested by the administration, there are pieces of that that I think, particularly for Health and Human Services, that I think Democrats, somebody like me who's been to those conditions and been in those heart breaking situations, I would be willing to support that.

But they're also asking for money for other pieces at the same time that they're declaring raids on families across the country.

They are not using the money we give them for the purposes that we give it to them for, and so that has been a real concern for us. So that has been a real concern for us. And we believe that they could immediately address many of the humanitarian crises.

I know that many of my colleagues have put together a border supplemental. But I think our concern for some of us is what are they going to do with the money? Are they going to put it towards the border wall or use it for something that makes a difference?

KEILAR: So you visited, is that right? You have visited?

JAYAPAL: I have.

KEILAR: What have you -- when you hear this description, these descriptions -- and this is not just one facility, we're talking about multiple -- is that in line with what you saw or did you see a different degree of issue?

[13:25:10] JAYAPAL: No, it is -- I think it's gotten worse, for sure, because the last time I was there was several months ago. And I think it has gotten increasingly worse.

But this has been a problem in terms of conditions of meeting the Flores guidelines, the Flores obligations. These facilities have not been doing that. And we, in Congress, need to do a better job of tying their obligation to meet Flores with funding.

And so this is the box that we're being put in because they're not meeting those guidelines. And you can see that from all of these people that are going in.

But, yes, I saw kids, sick kids. I saw -- and then, of course, we had the family separation, kids taken away from their parents.

I think that the reporter or the individual who said, you know, what this does for children long term is -- I don't even have the words to describe it. These kids and these families are going to be affected for the very long term in terrible, terrible ways.

And we, the United States government, is doing that to people.

KEILAR: Yes, it's neglect that we're seeing.

I do want to talk to you, as a member of the House Judiciary Committee, about the testimony of former Trump aide, Hope Hicks. She had a closed-door hearing with you.

Let's talk about some of the revelations here. She believed -- or she revealed that she does not believe the president was joking last week when he said he'd accept dirt on a political opponent from a foreign government.

She does, however, think he was joking when he asked Russia during the election to find Hillary Clinton's missing emails.

She also said the campaign was relieved when WikiLeaks published damaging information about Clinton.

She said that she called Michael Cohen during the campaign to see if he could look into rumors that TMZ had access to a tape of Donald Trump in Moscow, Russia, with prostitutes.

Also in the 273 pages of testimony, she testified that she had dinner with President Trump in April, just two months ago. She said that they just reminisced about the campaign. They did not talk about congressional investigations.

Of course, as you're aware, because you were there, she didn't say a lot, right?

JAYAPAL: Correct.

KEILAR: In all, attorneys, mostly from the White House counsel's office, blocked Hicks from answering 155 questions. Most of those related to her time in the White House. Some as mundane as where her office was located in the west wing.

So I want to ask you, as you were looking at this, how would you overall describe what went on during this hearing?

JAYAPAL: Well, I think the main lesson is the White House is continuing to obstruct justice by not allowing Hope Hicks to testify.

She did come forward, but every minute, as you saw in the testimony, with very few exceptions that you've mentioned, they objected. They objected to her saying where she sat. They objected to her saying whether or not she told the truth to special counsel Mueller. They literally objected to everything.

The interesting thing, Brianna, is they did not claim executive privilege, because they know they can't. They already waived executive privilege for her to talk to the Mueller team.

They claimed something called absolute immunity, which I'm having a hard time saying with a straight face because it's a ludicrous claim. And that is the unfortunate thing.

But I think what it did do is it showed to the judge as we go into the courtroom, you know, for Hope Hicks but also for others, that the Trump administration is engaged in ongoing frivolous claims of absolute immunity and trying to stop and cover up what is happening and stop people from testifying to us. That much was clear.

There were a tiny few pieces of nugget information that I think we did get out of Hope Hicks. There were a few times when she tried to answer a question and the White House immediately stopped her and jumped in and said objection, objection, objection.

KEILAR: But what are you really learning? What are Democrats really learning in a way that these investigations you're doing, these interviews you're doing behind closed doors --


-- that it's actually bringing forth information as you have?


KEILAR: You know, some of your colleagues are arguing, I guess yourself included --


KEILAR: -- that an impeachment inquiry could actually do away with all of these challenges to getting information?

JAYAPAL: Well, they wouldn't do away with all of the challenges, but what it would do is give us the ability to use those Article I powers. And if we did have to go to the courts, it would make it much, much harder for the administration to oppose us because these are critical issues.

And I think that what we have to do now, because we haven't done -- we haven't declared a formal impeachment inquiry, is the administration is continuing to use the argument that we don't have legislative authority over this information. Now these are spurious claims. We believe courts will see it in our favor.