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Trump Changes His Mind and Calls Off Strikes Against Iran; Witness Takes Blame for Murder in Navy SEAL Trial; Joe Biden Calls Cory Booker After CNN Interview. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired June 21, 2019 - 04:00   ET


[04:01:48] DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking overnight, "The New York Times" says President Trump ordered then called off strikes against Iran.

A witness makes a stunning courtroom confession at the trial of a Navy SEAL charged with murder.

And newly released video shows one man's wild attack on TSA agents at an Arizona airport.


ADAM SILVER, NBA COMMISSIONER: The New Orleans Pelicans select Zion Williamson.


BRIGGS: The number one pick in the NBA draft shares an emotional moment with mom after his longtime dream comes true. It was a huge night for the folks in the Big Easy.

Good morning, everyone. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Dave Briggs. It is Friday, June 21st. Happy Friday. It's 4:00 a.m. in the East, 12:30 p.m. in Tehran. And that's where we begin this morning with breaking news overnight.

The president steps back from the brink. "The New York Times" reporting that President Trump authorized military strikes against Iran, then abruptly called them off. The strikes were in retaliation for Iran shooting down a U.S. military drone. The "Times" says the president initially approved attacks on a handful of Iranian targets like radar and missile batteries. The "Times" reports there were ships in position and planes in the air when the president walked the whole thing back.

It was not clear whether he simply changed his mind or whether logistics or strategy caused the pull back. Also unknown whether the attacks may still occur. What is clear, though, is that the president's public response has seesawed since the drone shoot down Thursday morning. Mr. Trump seemed inclined to give Iran the benefit of the doubt at the same time leaving open the possibility of war.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I find it hard to believe it was intentional, if you want to know the truth. I think that it could have been somebody who was loose and stupid that did it, but we'll be able to report back and you'll understand exactly what happened, but it was a very foolish move, that I can tell you.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Mr. President, how will you respond?

TRUMP: You'll find out.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Are you willing to --


BRIGGS: "You'll find out." For the latest, let's go live to Tehran and find out ourselves. Senior national correspondent Fred Pleitgen joining us.

Hi there, Fred. A lot of this has to do with the location, the coordinates of where this drone was shot down. But first, any reaction from the Iranians about these strikes being planned then called off.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Dave. Well, early this morning so far there hasn't been any specific reactions to the "New York Times" article of the U.S. possibly calling off those airstrikes after President Trump approved those airstrikes. You have to keep in mind, today is Friday. It's sort of like the Sunday for this part of the world. What's going on right now? Actually starting right now is the Friday prayer sermon. So those are often very political. And it could very well be that we might get some reactions sort of in the vicinity of that. So we are standing by and we are going to see if anything and what was going to come out of that if there's going to be any reactions coming from the Iranian side.

But you're absolutely right. All of this is about location. And you know we just had that sound bite from President Trump in your the lead in where he said he believes this could have been some sort of rogue commander, some sort of loose cannon, someone making a mistake.

[04:05:03] The Iranians are unequivocally saying this was not a mistake. They are saying they deliberately shot down the drone because they say it went into their airspace. Now that's where the conflict starts. The U.S. says that the drone was shot down outside of Iranian airspace about 20 miles off the Iranian coast. However, Iran's Foreign minister then came out with a tweet and he even put coordinates in that tweet. And we checked those out.

Those would put the site of where the drone was hit about nine miles off Iranian territorial waters which obviously would be inside Iranian airspace. So that is really where the dispute lies. The Iranians continue to take a very hard line, saying they will defend their airspace, continuing to say that the U.S. violated the airspace. The Iranians, by the way, Dave, even lodged a complaint with the U.N. where they also said, and I just picked this up a couple of minutes ago, where they also said that they apparently tried to give the drone several radio warnings before shooting it down.

So as you can see, this whole conflict is continuing. So far no reaction yet to that alleged strike that the U.S. had planned but the tensions here still extremely high in this part of the region. One of the things that we always have to keep saying is that the Iranians saying again and again and again they don't want any sort of war to occur. They don't want an escalation to take place but they do say that they are ready if one does take place -- Dave.

BRIGGS: Yes. We continue to ask, Fred, what is the off ramp here? It's really hard to see it at this juncture. We'll check back with you next half hour. Thank you, Fred.

Well, earlier Thursday before word of the planned strike broke, reaction on Capitol Hill was falling along party lines. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said he spoke with the president about Iran Wednesday night and Thursday morning.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): He believes that we're going into a -- we're getting into a bad space, that his options are running out, that he's not going to be intimidated.


BRIGGS: The Democrats on the Hill, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer calling for the president to lower the temperature with Iran.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): We know that the high tension wires are up there and we must do everything we can not to escalate the situation but also to make sure that our personnel in the region are safe.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): I told the president that these conflicts have a way of escalating. The president may not intend to go to a war here but we're worried that he and the administration may bumble into a war.


BRIGGS: Schumer also said Democrats told the president in a situation room meeting Thursday that he needs to get congressional authorization before taking military action against Iran.

Meanwhile, a stunning twist at the end of a Navy SEAL's trial in San Diego. Chief Petty Officer Eddie Gallagher on trial for murdering an Iraqi prisoner, another battlefield crimes, but a SEAL team medic in Gallagher's deployment shocked the courtroom yesterday testifying that he, not Gallagher, killed the prisoner. Medic Cory Scott backed up other witnesses who said Gallagher stabbed the prisoner but Scott said he then covered the prisoner's tracheotomy tube with his thumb suffocating him because he knew the prisoner would die anyway.


TIM PARLATORE, CPO EDDIE GALLAGHER'S DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Today for the first time, somebody went to one of these witnesses and actually asked the real question. What is the cause of death?


BRIGGS: The medic testified he was only admitting the murder now because he'd been granted immunity and cannot be charged. An outraged military prosecutors much as accused Scott of lying on the stand. Scott replied, quote, "He's got a wife and family. I don't think he should spend the rest of his jail -- left the rest of his life in jail." Excuse me.

The Navy says it will not be dropping murder charges against Gallagher. It says, quote, "The credibility of a witness is for the jury to decide."

Seems cooler heads are prevailing for the moment in a heated spat between former vice president Joe Biden and his 2020 rival Cory Booker. Biden called Booker late Wednesday following the New Jersey senator's appearance on "CNN TONIGHT." Booker had demanded Biden apologize for touting his ability to cooperate with segregationist senators. Booker revealing only portions of that call.


SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't want to characterize a private conversation. I think that Joe Biden should explain to people that it's not about me. I don't feel like I want an apology to me. I think that this is something that he should speak to the public about and I think he has an opportunity here. And I understood where his contentions 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. My belief he should be apologizing to the American people and having this discussion with all of us.


BRIGGS: Biden met with members of the Congressional Black Caucus last night. A sit-down planned prior to his controversial remarks.

[04:10:04] Caucus members had already publicly defended Biden before the meeting, some wishing he had chosen better words but claiming his remarks overall did not offend them.


REP. HANK JOHNSON (D-GA): Not at all. I mean, the honest truth is we have to work with people who we disagree with on moral grounds every day. And that's politics.

REP. KAREN BASS (D-CA): You know that we have some members of Congress right now that would be a 2019 version of what he experienced in the 1970s. The point he was trying to make is that you do have to work with people who have polar opposite politics. I certainly wished he would not have used that example.


BRIGGS: Republicans also weighing in on this potentially divisive issue for the Democratic Party. Senator Lindsey Graham was blunt.


GRAHAM: Now I don't want Joe Biden to be president for a lot of reasons, but one of the things that I like about Joe Biden, he's a decent man. There's not a racist bone in his body. He is my friend. And what he did back then and what he will do in the future is try to find common ground with people he disagrees with. If that can't be done, America's best days are behind us.


BRIGGS: Unusual alliances. The Biden campaign is yet to comment on these new developments. Biden and Booker are scheduled to appear tonight at a fish-fry in South Carolina.

Check on CNN Business now. Tech companies don't like tariffs and they really don't like tariffs on their products. Apple, Dell, Microsoft and others warned against further Chinese tariffs in letters to the U.S. Trade Representative. And they asked that their devices, including laptops and other tech, be left off the list of products facing the duties. Apple reminded the administration that after the 2017 tax reform it pledged to contribute over $350 billion to the U.S. economy over five years. They said it's on track to meet that goal, but the tariffs would cut into its ability to contribute.

Other tech companies said small business and consumers would be hurt. And tariffs wouldn't solve the underlying Chinese trade practices the president is trying to fight against. President Trump is set to meet with Chinese president Xi Jinping at the G-20 next week where they are expected to talk trade. Markets are hoping they'll be able to reach some sort of agreement. Trump has said he will set a good deal or there will be no deal at all.

Draft night in America and what had been inevitable since the NBA Draft lottery last month finally became official.


SILVER: With the first pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, the New Orleans Pelicans select Zion Williamson.


BRIGGS: Rocking the all whites there, Zion is thought to be a generational talent. Played just one year for the Blue Devils before turning pro. Zion and his mom overcome with emotion.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Mom, we can see that Zion visibly emotional as are you. What are you feeling right now in this moment?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We worked -- he's worked to aspire for this moment.

ZION WILLIAMSON, NUMBER ONE PICK IN NBA DRAFT: I dreamed about this since I was 4 and for it to actually happen, I just thank God for it.


BRIGGS: Good stuff. Like Zion, the draft's second and third picks went according to plan. Murray State point guard Joe Morant went second to the Memphis Grizzlies and R.J. Barrett, Williamson's freshman teammate at Duke, was taken third by the New York Knicks. Yet another Duke freshman went 10th in the draft. That is three Duke freshmen in the top 10. Remarkable.

Ahead, the governor of Oregon has ordered the state police to track down a group of state lawmakers. More on this strange political standoff next.


[04:18:25] BRIGGS: A standoff in Oregon over the climate crisis. Democratic Governor Kate Brown ordering state police to locate Senate Republicans and bring them back to the state capitol. Some left the state to block Senate proceedings after eight hours of fruitless talks on a cap-and-trade climate bill. The wife of one told CNN they were in Idaho at an undisclosed location. Governor Brown called their absence, quote, "absolutely unacceptable."


GOV. KATE BROWN (D-OR): Unfortunately, Senate Republicans failed to show up and failed to do their jobs. Future generations will judge us not on the fact of global climate change but what we've done to tackle it.


BRIGGS: Tempers flaring among the Republicans. Senator Brian Boquist warned the governor she should, quote, listen to this, "send bachelors and come heavily armed." Not making that up.

Roy Moore is back and hoping for a rematch against Alabama Democratic Senator Doug Jones. The 2017 arch conservative Moore lost to Jones by two points in the ruby red state after three women claimed Moore had sexually abused them when they were teenagers decades ago. President Trump endorsed Moore in 2017 but has since dismissed his bid this time saying Moore cannot win. At his announcement Moore was asked about defying the president.


ROY MOORE (R), ALABAMA SENATE CANDIDATE: Go against -- I'm not going against President Trump at all. I support President Trump. I'll vote for President Trump. Whether he votes for me or not, we'll see. I'm sure he will when I get in the general election.


[04:20:03] BRIGGS: Just in case Roy Moore forgot, the president can't vote for Moore. He's not an Alabama resident. Technicality there.

Donald Trump Jr. also attacking Moore's run on Twitter, writing, quote, "I can assure everyone that by running Roy Moore is going against my father and is doing a disservice to all conservatives in the process."

Just released surveillance video shows a man attacking a group of TSA agents at a security checkpoint at Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix. Look at this. The incident happened Tuesday morning. A TSA spokesperson says the man was immediately subdued and arrested. One officer was taken to the hospital, four others were treated at an urgent care facility. Phoenix Police say the suspect is charged with criminal trespass, resisting arrest and misdemeanor assault.

Coming up, could one Major League Baseball team end up calling two cities in two countries home? We'll explain next.


[04:25:54] BRIGGS: The U.S. Supreme Court ruling that a giant 40-foot peace cross on public land in Maryland can remain standing. The court says the monument was built to honor fallen soldiers in World War I and does not violate the separation between church and state. Justice Alito writing the majority opinion says, while the cross is undoubtedly a Christian symbol it should not, quote, "blind us to everything else it has come to represent." He says it's a place for the Bladensburg, Maryland, community to gather and honor all veterans and their sacrifices for this country.

A bold step by Major League Baseball giving the Tampa Bay Rays the go ahead to explore playing a split season in both Tampa and Montreal. Commissioner Rob Manfred says it's meant to help preserve baseball in Tampa which has struggled mightily to attract fans in recent years. One idea said to be under consideration is for the Rays to play home games early in the season in Tampa and finish up in Montreal. Major League Baseball has not had a team in Montreal since the Expos moved to Washington, D.C., and became the Nationals after the 2004 season.

It is on to the round of 16 for the U.S. at the Women's World Cup. U.S. women's national team beating Sweden 2-0 in their final group stage match. Look at that beauty. Their 18-goal total in the group stage setting a record for scoring for one team in either the men's or women's world cup. And just check out this one from Tobin Heath. We could drop that Apollo 11 banner. That is ridiculous. They'll take on Spain Monday in the tournament's knockout phase.

Remarkable play by this U.S. women's national team.

Coming up here on EARLY START, how close did the U.S. come to launching a strike against Iran over the past several hours. The "New York Times" says ships were in position and planes were in the air when the president changed his mind.

The breaking details straight ahead.