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Trump Speaks to Reporters En Route to Camp David; 2020 Dems Make Pitch to Voters at South Carolina Convention; Trump Defends Plan to Roundup Undocumented Families tomorrow; New Sexual Assault Claim against Trump. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired June 22, 2019 - 11:00   ET



[11:00:44] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.


We're following breaking news. Just moments ago before departing for Camp David, President Donald Trump weighing in on the growing tension between the U.S. and Iran just after aborting that military strike.

Here is the President speaking just moments ago.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What are you doing at Camp David?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So we're going to Camp David. We're going to have meetings and a lot of work. Coming back sometime tomorrow, but we're heading out right now to Camp David.

I want to say the stock market is on pace to have its best year, I mean, since, I guess over 50 years. And the Dow is on pace to have its best year in 80 years. It's been 80 years since the Dow has hit.

Tariffs are obviously doing very well because we're taking in billions and billions of dollars from China. We would be from others, and we might be from others, but billions of dollars are coming in from China, and frankly, look at what's happening with the stock market, which is pretty much what I've been saying.

Also, an article came out this morning that the tariffs are having very little effect on costs going up and in some cases no effect, that the countries that the products come from, they are bearing the costs, which is also what I've said.

So the Dow is up. Looks like it could be an 80-year high. It's on track for an 80-year high, and the stock market itself is at a 50-year high, so I'm sure you're all very happy about that, right?


TRUMP: I don't know unintentional or not, it was probably intentional as I said, but regardless they targeted something without a person in it, without a man or a woman, and certainly without anybody from the United States in it, so we want to be proportionate.

We're getting a lot of praise for what I did, and we have people on both sides. Some like it and some probably not as much. My expression is we have plenty of time. We have plenty of time. You understand.


TRUMP: Yes, these are people that came into the country illegally. They've been served. They've gone through a process. A process of the courts, and they have to be removed from the country. They will be removed from the country.

It's having a very big effect on the border, the fact that we're taking them out. The people that came into the country illegally are going to be removed from the country. Everybody knows that.

It starts, you know, during the course of this next week, maybe even a little bit earlier than that, and again, everybody that came into the country illegally will be brought out of the country very legally.

Now with that being said, the border is in much better shape. Mexico is doing a good job. We need Congress to fix the loopholes and fix asylum, and we will have the cleanest border there is.




TRUMP: We don't know. We're going to -- we'll see.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sanctions -- are you moving forward with sanctions against Iran?

TRUMP: Well, some cities are going to fight it, but if you notice they're generally high crime cities. If you look at Chicago, they're fighting it. If you look at other cities they're fighting it. Many of those cities are high crime cities and they're sanctuary cities. The state of Florida is now ending all sanctuary cities.

He's doing a very smart thing. Governor DeSantis, he's ending all sanctuary cities in the state of Florida. And I'll tell you, Governor DeSantis has been -- he has been fantastic. He's right on the ball. And we have others that are following. You'll be seeing a lot of that.

People are tired of sanctuary cities and what it does and the crime it brings. They're very tired of it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, what are the next steps with Iran? Is a possible strike off the table? TRUMP: Well, we'll see with Iran. Everybody was saying I'm a

warmonger. and now they say I'm a dove, and I think I'm neither. You want to know the truth.

[11:05:05] I'm a man with common sense. And that's what we need in this country is common sense, but I didn't like the idea of them knowingly shooting down an unmanned drone and then we kill 150 people. I didn't like that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sir, your national -- Sir --

TRUMP: I can't hear.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Will you move forward with sanctions against Iran?

TRUMP: Yes, we're moving forward with additional sanctions on Iran -- good question. And some of them -- as you know, we have about as strong a sanction grouping as you can possibly have on any country, but we're -- we're putting additional sanctions on -- they're going on slowly and in some cases actually pretty rapidly, but Iran, additional sanctions are being put on Iran.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President. Mr. President --


TRUMP: Very little. That's what it's all about. You know, we have built -- and right now if you look at the United States very importantly, we are the number one oil producer, oil and gas in the world by far. We're way ahead of Russia. We're way ahead of Saudi Arabia.

We don't really need the straits anymore. We take some, but we don't need it. The biggest beneficiary of the straits is China -- 91 percent of their energy comes out of the straits.

Japan, Indonesia -- many other countries need it, so we're doing them a very big service by keeping the straits open, but this is not about the straits. This is about Iran cannot have a nuclear weapon. Very simple.


TRUMP: Because we don't need it, just so you understand. We don't need it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But is a possible strike on the table?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your national security adviser came under some harsh criticism from Tucker Carlson and others for pushing too hard on Iran. You said you're not a warmonger, but do you have confidence in the judgment of your national security advisor John Bolton?

TRUMP: Yes, I do. Because I have John Bolton who I would definitely say is a hawk, and I have other people that are on the other side of the equation. And ultimately I make the decision so it doesn't matter.

But I want, for instance, I disagreed very much with John Bolton, his attitude on the Middle East and Iraq was going into Iraq. I think that was a big mistake. I think I've been proven right, but I've been against that forever.

John Bolton is doing a very good job, but he takes generally a tough posture. But I have other people that don't take that posture. But the only one that matters is me because I'll listen to everybody. And I want people on both sides, having people on both sides to me is very important.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At what point were you briefed about the potential casualties of an Iran air strike? Were you briefed in the initial planning stages? At what point were you --

TRUMP: No, I started to hear that it was a lot. But again, no decision was made. I said you come and see me, and they came and see me at the time. We hadn't done anything. And I asked the question and I said I want to know that answer before I make a decision, so we hadn't made a decision to go forward.

I said everybody we will meet, one thing I want to know and I want to know it accurately, as accurately as possible. How many people will die? Just so you know,

I come from New York City. In New York City we have a lot of Iranians, and they're great people. I have friends that are Iranian, many friends. Living in New York City you meet many Iranians. They're very smart. They're very ambitious, they have tremendous -- they're high quality people. But I have many friends that are Iranian.

I don't want to kill 150 Iranians. I understand it. I don't want to kill 150 of anything or anybody unless it's absolutely necessary. And most people very much agree with what I -- what I'm doing.

Now, if the leadership of Iran behaves badly, then it's going to be a very, very bad day for them. But hopefully they're smart and hopefully they really care for their people and not themselves. And hopefully we can get Iran back onto an economic track that's fantastic where they're a really wealthy nation, which would be a wonderful thing. All those things I want to do.

But if they're going to be foolish, that's never going to happen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President -- you said earlier you've never met E. Jean Carroll. There was a photograph of you and her in the late 1980s.

TRUMP: I have no idea who this woman is. This is a woman who's also accused other men of things, as you know. It is a totally false accusation. [11:09:58] I think she was married, as I read, I have no idea who she is, but she was married to a -- actually nice guy, Johnson, a newscaster.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's a photograph of her.

TRUMP: Standing with my coat on in a line, give me a break, with my back to the camera. I have no idea who she is. What she did is terrible. What's going on.

So it's a total false accusation. And I don't know anything about her. And she's made this charge against others. And you know, people have to be careful because they're playing with very dangerous territory.

And when they do that and it's happening more and more. When you look at what happened to Justice Kavanaugh and you look at what's happening to others, you can't do that for the sake of publicity. "New York Magazine" is a failing magazine. It's ready to go out of business from what I hear.

They'll do anything they can, but this is about many men, and I was one of the many men that she wrote about. It's a totally false accusation. I have absolutely no idea who she is.

There's some picture where we're shaking hands it looks like at some kind of event. I have my coat on. I have my wife standing next to me. And I didn't know her husband, but he was a newscaster. But I have no idea who she is, none whatsoever.

It's a false accusation, and it's a disgrace that a magazine like "New York" -- which is one of the reasons it's failing -- People don't read it anymore. So they're trying to get readership by using me. It's not good.

You know, there were cases that the mainstream media didn't pick up, and I don't know if you've seen them and they were put on Fox. But there were numerous cases where women were paid money to say bad things about me. You can't do that. You can't do that.

And those women did wrong things, that women were actually paid money to say bad things about me. But here's the case, it's an absolute disgrace that she's allowed to do that.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- starts tomorrow. And what would you do if cities are saying that they will not comply?

TRUMP: The deportation rates as you call them are really a group of very, very good law enforcement people going by the law, going by the rules, going by our court system and taking people out of our country who came into our country illegally.

They came into our country illegally and we're taking them out legally. We're bringing them back to their country. (CROSSTALKING)

TRUMP: I want to thank -- while I'm here, I want to thank Mexico. So far Mexico has been really good. They made an agreement probably -- not probably -- because of tariffs. They've made an agreement, and so far they've really honored the agreement.

A lot of things are changing, but again, if Congress gave us something quickly on asylum, something quickly on loopholes where we get rid of the loopholes, the border would be so beautiful. But the Democrats just won't do it.

But maybe now they will because there's no question you have a national emergency. They said that in the last caravan they had hundreds of people that commit crimes trying to come into our country. We're not letting them, and now Mexico is bringing them back.

But they had hundreds of people, hundreds that were criminals in the last caravan. We cannot allow that to happen. We're not letting them in our country.

One other thing, we're very focused on Ms-13, getting them out, and I hope you're not going to stick up too much for Ms-13. But we're very focused. ICE -- these are fantastic people. We're very, very focused on getting MS-13 out of this country.

How are you?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you concerned about the conditions --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- the estimate that you got you got late on Thursday night. Why would that differ from the estimate you got earlier in the day?

TRUMP: It wasn't really. I didn't talk too much about that. Again, no decision to go forward was made because I said we'll meet at a certain time and nothing goes forward until we meet. I didn't want anybody doing anything.

and when we met, and when we met, they gave me a rough estimate earlier, but I wanted a more accurate estimate. The more accurate estimates were I won't go into the number of sites but you guessed that pretty much, right. You have in particular, all right.

But it was the number of sites, and it was on average 40 to 50 people in each site, and when they shot down an unmanned plane or drone, I didn't like it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That came from an attorney in the Pentagon and to the White House?

TRUMP: No, that came from me. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, the estimate --


[11:15:04] TRUMP: It did but it was given to me by a general. I had a long talk with him.

Pretty good -- great general.


TRUMP: He was, Dunford did a great job. Dunford is a terrific man and is a terrific general. Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Will you talk about Iran --

TRUMP: I'll be talking about Iran at Camp David, yes, we have a series of meetings and more importantly a series of very well- connected phone calls. We have a great phone system up there, as you know, so I'll be doing a lot of work.

(CROSSTALKING) TRUMP: We may release it later. We may.


TRUMP: Look, Iran right now is an economic mess. They're going through hell. The sanctions have hit them hard. More sanctions are going to be put on, a lot more. It's hard to believe you can even put on, but it's a mess.

All I want is no nuclear weapons. Under the horrible Obama deal, we gave them 150 billion. We gave them $1.8 billion in cash, think of that, in cash. Many plane loads of cash. Gave them $1.8 billion in cash, and he got nothing.

But the thing he really didn't get was good inspection rights because the most primary places you couldn't go to, you couldn't inspect. We haven't seen them in years.

The other thing you didn't get is time because in a very short number of years they will legally be able to make a nuclear weapon. That's unacceptable, and remember this, the deal bunt wasn't even ratified in Congress. It never got proper -- in terms of treaty, it never got proper authorization from Congress.

So with all of that, it was very important to me, so we'll start all over. We could have a deal with them very quickly if they want to do it. It's up to them.

But if Iran wants to become a wealthy nation again, become a prosperous nation, we'll call it "let's make Iran great again". Does that make sense? Make Iran great again. It's ok with me, but they're never going to do it if they think in five or six years they're going to have a nuclear weapon. I know too much about nuclear, a lot about nuclear, and let me just tell you, they're not going to have a nuclear weapon.

I know too much about nuclear, a lot about nuclear. And let me just tell you, they're not going to have a nuclear weapon. And it has very little to do with the oil because again, China gets its oil 91 percent. Japan gets its oil 60 percent. Indonesia, so many other countries.

What it has to do with very simply is the fact is we're not going to have Iran have a nuclear weapon, and when they agree to that, they are going to have a wealthy country. They're going to be so happy, and I'm going to be their best friend. I hope that happens. I hope that happens, but it may not.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- difference if it was 10 to 15 casualties instead of 100 to 150 casualties?

TRUMP: Anything is a lot when they shoot down an unmanned, ok? So anything's a lot. I didn't like it. I didn't.


TRUMP: Say it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If they shoot down another unmanned drone, will you also (INAUDIBLE)?

TRUMP: We'll see. But I don't think that will happen. I don't think that's happened. And if you noticed there was a plane with 38 people yesterday, did you see that? I think that's a big story.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is that accurate?

TRUMP: They had it in their sights, and they didn't shoot it down.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That was accurate?

TRUMP: I think they were very wise not to do that, and we appreciate that they didn't do that. But they had a plane in their sights, 38 people on the plane, and they didn't shoot it down. And I think that was a very wise decision. And I think that's something that we very much appreciate.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- planned strikes and didn't have a fully formed estimate on casualties?

TRUMP: No. No, they brought me a great plan, but I wanted to know at the end, I wanted an accurate count. They gave me very odd numbers. I wanted an accurate account as to how many people would be killed, how many Iranians would be killed. And as I said coming from New York, I know a lot of Iranians they're great people.

Thank you very much. Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is it still on the table? TRUMP: It's always on the table until we get this solved, yes. We

have a tremendously powerful military force in that area. It's always on the table until we get this solved. Thank you.


WHITFIELD: All right. President Trump there moments ago before he's to board there Marine One on his way to Camp David touching on a number of things based on all the questions being asked on Iran. We got a little bit of a window into the sequence of events. He said he learned that there would be about 150 people Iranians who would killed. And so he didn't think that would be proportionate.

He said they were targeting something without anyone on it, meaning the U.S. unmanned drone. We want to be proportionate. However, he did promise that more sanctions might be coming.

[11:20:04] And then of course he also touched on the ICE rounding up of illegal immigrants in the new week. He gave very little detail about how that was going to be carried out. But he said simply if they came into the country illegally, they will be taken out of the country.

And then he also responded to the 16th now woman with allegations of either sexual assault or inappropriate behavior. He said, quote, "I have no idea who this woman is."

Let's bring in CNN's Sarah Westwood at the White House now.

So the President, rather loquacious there, a little over 20 minutes to answer a little over 20 minutes to answer all of those questions giving us a very tiny window into his thinking on all of those topics.

SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right -- Fred. Filling out the time line a little bit more as to what happened the day that he was considering a military strike against Iran.

There had been some questions as to how in the President's retelling he didn't learn until ten minutes before the attack was to be initiated that the anticipated casualties ranged as high as 150. So President Trump saying that, in fact, he did get other estimates of potential casualties from his attack throughout the da, but that 150 number was given to him later in the day because he says that he pressed for a more accurate accounting of the number of Iranians that could have died in that attack.

President Trump repurposing his campaign phrase claiming he would like to make Iran great again economically by removing the sanctions if they would just agree not to make more progress on nuclear weapons.

I asked President Trump how much more progress he was willing to let Iran make toward a nuclear weapon before he intervened? He said very little suggesting that he wants to negotiate his own version of a nuclear deal with Iran, if they would just be willing to come to the table. It's a very similar argument by the way, that he's using with the North Koreans which is that they could unlock a certain level of economic prosperity if they were to give up their nuclear weapons arsenal.

And the President also as you mentioned touching on those accusations from the columnist E. Jean Carroll, the allegations of a sexual assault that took place more than two decades ago, President Trump continuing his emphatic denials that that ever took place claiming that this woman has also accused other men and indeed in that "New York Magazine" piece she also former CBS head Les Moonves of sexual misconduct. He's also denying that.

President Trump touching on those ICE raids saying that those would take place over the next several days into next week. He would not give an estimate of how many undocumented immigrants that Immigration and Customs Enforcement will remove, but he also called on Congress to address immigration laws so that there wouldn't be a need to remove as many undocumented immigrants in the future -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: And Sarah, quickly -- I'm not sure if there was more clarity or more confusion on the sequence of events about this Iran operation based on what we heard the President say because it almost sounds as though he was underscoring that the decision had already been made and then the question was asked how many people. And then he was briefed on how many potentially would die. And then he stopped this operation from happening.

Is that what he was saying?

WESTWOOD: Well, he sort of muddied the waters a little bit, Fred, in his initial telling when he came out on Twitter, and he acknowledged that this has happened. He first said that he had ordered the attack, ten minutes before it was set to start he said that he learned the number of casualties.

In this new retelling he said that no decision was made, that he continued to press for accounts of the casualties and got different updates throughout the day. When he received that 150 number he decided not to make a decision at all, so a little bit different telling of events here -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. Sarah Westwood thank you so much. Hopefully we get a little bit more clarity on that because we know so many of our military experts have said usually when a president is briefed about an operation first off the bat is what the potential casualty. It wouldn't be something that a president would have to request later.

But we're going to try and get some more clarity on that. Thanks so much, Sarah.

All right. Still to come, the race for 2020 heats up in South Carolina, the Palmetto State -- nearly all of the Democrats are there to shore up the black vote. You're seeing the mayor -- Mayor Pete Buttigieg right now speaking. who exactly will be standing out. That's next. [11:24:28] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: All right. Welcome back.

This is the biggest weekend so far for the 2020 presidential hopefuls -- 21 of the 23 Democratic candidates are in South Carolina making their pitches in the crucial early primary state. Just moments ago South Bend Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg was on the stage. Let's listen in.


MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: To get any of it done, we've got to insist on democracy and recognize that our Democratic Republic is not Democratic enough. We need fair districts. We need to get money out of politics. And yes, we need to elect our president in a way where your vote and my vote counts by adding up all the votes into a national popular vote and choosing our president that way.

I stand before you as an admittedly nontraditional candidate. But I think it just might do some good to send a mayor to Washington when we need Washington to look more like our best-run cities and towns instead of the other way around.

And I would argue we need a new generation of leadership to step up at the highest levels in our country. We are not going to win by going on the President's show. I know it's massively entertaining.

I don't know what kind of show to call it. Is it a game show? Is it a reality show? It's a horror show. So we're not going to go on his show because if you're on the show, you're already losing.

[11:29:54] What are we going to do? We're going to change the channel.

Running for office is an act of hope that we can make a difference. Do you have hope that we can make a difference?

Are you ready to stand with me and change the channel?

Then we will turn states blue from Indiana to South Carolina on to the White House and beyond, and I will be with you every step of the way.

Thank you, South Carolina. Thank you.


WHITFIELD: Also in Columbia, South Carolina earlier today Senators Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris with their messages.


SENATOR KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I know that we have in this White House a president who says he wants to make America great again. Well, what does that mean? Does that mean he wants to take us back to before schools were integrated? Does that mean he wants to take us back before the Voting Rights Act was enacted? Does that mean he wants to take us back before the Civil Rights Act was enacted? Does he mean he wants to take us back before Roe v. Wade was enacted?

Because we're not going back. We're not going back.



SENATOR ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The times of small ideas is over. No here's how I see it. It's time for big plans and, yes, I got some big plans.

Be part of this fight. This is our chance in 2020, our chance to dream big, to fight hard, and to win.


WHITFIELD: All right, let me bring in my guests right now: David Swerdlick, assistant editor for the "Washington Post"; and Anita Kumar, White House correspondent and associate editor for "Politico". Good to see you both.

I have so many questions on that campaign trail in South Carolina, but first I do want to ask you about what we heard from the President at the very top, over 20 minutes there on the White House lawn before, you know, boarding Marine One.

And most notable was, you know, his little bit of conveyance to the sequence of events on Iran. You know, he ultimately he says -- you know, he made the decision not to carry on with the military strike when it was already underway.

But now, David -- we're hearing from the President who says in large part he ended it because he inquired, he pressed on the issue of how many Iranians would be killed. Does that sequence of events make sense that he would, you know, make the order for that kind of military strike and then while it's underway get some clarity on how many people could potentially die from it, and then call it off?


so yes, I did raise an eyebrow at that same statement from the President just there and I was jotting notes.

Yesterday, of course, the "Washington Post, "New York Times", I believe CNN also were all reporting that a decision had been made. An attack was just launched and planes were in the air, and then the President made a decision to call it off.

So what he said there gaggling out in front of the White House today contradicts that a little, but the White House did not really push back on that a lot yesterday, but just then as you noted he said -- and I was jotting notes -- he said that no decision had been made, and that he did it because he didn't want up to 150 Iranians to be killed.

Now, let's be clear. It's better that 150 Iranians are not dead, and it's better that we're not in a war today than we might have been in a shooting war. So the President, the fact that he exercised restraint there I think is worth noting, but I do think that he's sort of revising history.

If I can make just one more quick point about Iran. He also changed his answer on whether or not this was intentional on the part of the Iranians to shoot down versus intentional.

On Friday of course he was saying, you know, maybe someone made a mistake.

WHITFIELD: There was a mistake.

SWERDLICK: They were loose. And now he was saying -- he said I don't know whether it was unintentional or not. Probably intentional as I said. But that's not what he said yesterday -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: So Anita -- this method gives us a window into what about how he's making decisions, how he's processing, how he's using the responsibility that he has. How do you see this?

ANITA KUMAR, POLITICO: I think in the last day or so obviously we've seen people question his decision-making, whether it was just done so quickly, did he have all the right information, and he's clearly seeing some of that reporting.

He's changing his story a little bit. It's a little bit confusing as to what he's saying, but David's exactly right. I heard that one piece that was exactly opposite of what he had said before. He said it was probably not on purpose, and now he is saying it is.

Clearly he's getting information about that. We don't know all the information he is getting, but he's clearly heard that criticism.

I think the other thing that we have to be mindful of now looking forward is he's not ruling out that he's not doing anything. He's clearly still talking about it. He's still looking at what that response should be, what kind of retaliation should be.

He wouldn't say that there would be no strike. He's just merely talking about it, and still looking for it. So I think that in the next few days we should be hearing something about what that response will be.

[11:35:07] WHITFIELD: And almost, you know, leading to a promise of more sanctions and at the same time saying that perhaps there's going to be an opportunity in which to talk to Iran about all of this -- David.

SWERDLICK: Oh, yes. No, that's right. Look, the President I think is trying to set up a situation where he's putting pressure on Iran to come to the negotiating table. The problem in this situation is that of course we had a deal with

Iran that President Obama negotiated, which was meant to forestall exactly the situation that we're in now. That deal was, yes, as the President noted in that gaggle going to sunset at the end of 2030, but that was essentially a 15-year window with some bench marks along the way where they had agreed to monitoring in exchange for yes, us, he pointed out the $1.8 billion repatriating money that the prerevolutionary Iranian government had paid to us.

So the President was really trying to set this up as he's trying to fix a situation but I think a lot of experts at this point would have said it was already at least temporarily fixed.

WHITFIELD: Right, so many critics have said this actually helped lay the groundwork, perhaps, getting, you know, walking away from the deal helped provoke this kind of tension underway.

All right. So now let's go back to South Carolina and these 21 of 23 candidates that are there stumping, you know, stating their case.

And I wonder, you know, Anita, do these candidates really sound very similar? It's just an issue of how they're delivering their messages, trying to appeal to the South Carolina electorate by way of their style and, you know, their charisma?

KUMAR: I think they're actually -- a lot of them are really just trying to introduce themselves. Some of them are not very well-known particularly in South Carolina. If you look at some of the polls, the former vice president Joe Biden is by far the front runner.

But you can also see polls that show a majority of African-Americans r particularly are saying that they're open to changing their mind. It's still early, we haven't had a debate yet.

And so I think there's a lot of room for them to kind of introduce themselves how they want. You've seen in the last few days, a lot of them coming out with platforms, different issues that -- policies that might appeal to those in South Carolina.

You heard Senator Elizabeth Warren reference that, obviously, there's been a lot of reporting about how she has so many policy issues.

So I think there's a lot of room there, and I think that this weekend and particularly next week's debates are really going to give them a chance to kind of see if others, you know, can kind of push Joe Biden out of the front runner status.

WHITFIELD: And for voters there particularly, David -- I wonder how much of king maker is, you know, Congressman Clyburn there. I mean he had the fish fry last night. Almost all the candidates wanted to be there wearing his t-shirts even with his name on it --


WHITFIELD: -- and you know, singing his praises. How much weight will his endorsement be for my candidates? Because he has thus far thrown a lot of support behind Biden, but he hasn't necessarily, you know, anointed any, you know, singular candidate as the one?

SWERDLICK: Yes, Fred -- so I agree with Anita. Look, Biden is in the poll position right now but voters are still open minded heading into the debates and the primary season.

Representative Clyburn is a king maker to the degree that he's respected sort of across the length and breadth of the Democratic Party. He is the House Majority Whip, and he's a prominent politician in an early primary state.

But I do think this is still going to be quite a competition, and what I see there from some of the tape that you've played and that Victor played earlier on South Carolina, this sort of feels like the opening up of the real campaign. We're out of the warmup stage.

You know, you go down to South Carolina, you go to Clyburn's fish fry. You eat the fried whiting. You had Senator Harris there second-lining with the band in Columbia. Two debates including a CNN debate are coming up this month. It's really on and the candidates are really competing now.

Everybody sort of knows where their lane is, and they're trying to jockey for position vis-a-vis the front runners including Biden, Harris, Warren, Buttigieg and Sanders.

WHITFIELD: All talking about their love of sweet tea, and at the same time gloves are off.


WHITFIELD: All right, David Swerdlick, Anita Kumar -- thanks so much to both of you. Appreciate it.

SWERDLICK: Thanks -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. Still ahead, undocumented families bracing for a showdown as ICE gets ready to raid ten major cities tomorrow. I'll speak to Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms about what her city plans to do in response.


WHITFIELD: All right. You heard just moments ago the President defending his plans to round up undocumented families starting as early as tomorrow. The President tweeting this morning as well, "The people that ICE will apprehend have already been ordered to be deported. This means that they have run from the law and run from the courts. These are people that are supposed to go back to their home country. They broke the law by coming into the country, and now by staying."

So 10 cities and thousands of people are being targeted. The announcement has been met with a lot of opposition in many parts.

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms joining me right now. Yours, Atlanta, is one of the cities that could be targeted, but certainly there wouldn't be any coordination between ICE And notification of Atlanta PD or any law enforcement, so what do you anticipate might start happening as early as tomorrow in the city?

MAYOR KEISHA LANCE BOTTOMS, ATLANTA GEORGIA: Well, we actually would at least expect that we would be given a heads-up because it puts our officers in danger if we don't know that these raids are happening in our city, and we don't coordinate with ICE In terms of asking about immigration status, et cetera.

But if you have agents going into homes in the middle of the night, which is planned with this raid, and you've not even given local law enforcement the courtesy of notifying us that it's coming, you're putting our officers in danger. What happens when we start --

WHITFIELD: So you anticipate that people would call 911, say something's going on, you know, please come, help, et cetera, and then that puts your law enforcement you're saying, you know, in peril, in danger.

[11:45:04] BOTTOMS: We don't know what we're responding to because you've not given us the courtesy of a notification. We also have to anticipate that when you have something of this magnitude being executed, when they have quotas that they are when you have something of this magnitude being executed, when they have quotas that they are going to round up 2,000 folks, then we should anticipate that there maybe be protests or civil disobedience or any number of things that may impact the streets of Atlanta. You've not given us an opportunity to at least be informed.

WHITFIELD: Well, can't the President now say he was just on the White House lawn, he's tweeted it, that he has sign posted, he has given fair warning that it's coming. He said so days ago?

BOTTOMS: He did it via tweet. Is that the way that we now coordinate law enforcement in this country?

WHITFIELD: It is the way -- that is the way this president operates.

BOTTOMS: And that's a sad commentary on where we are in America right now. There's been no coordination, no official notification prior to the President's tweet to give us ample opportunity.

We coordinate with our federal partners to bring the Super Bowl to the city, can we not at least coordinate in terms of being notified and having our police department on notice so that we will know what we are responding to.

And again, we would not coordinate with this roundup or whatever it is the President is calling it, but to put our officers in danger by not having our law enforcement at least be aware of what we should be prepared to respond to is irresponsible.

WHITFIELD: So there was a similar junction, juncture I should say last year when ICE Or, you know, federal customs, law enforcement said they wanted to send people that were apprehended at the southern border to Atlanta. You came out strongly and said we're not going to accept people, and so, you know, you stood up so to speak to federal authorities.

Did that change the dynamic of the relationship between any kind of coordination to be expected between your city and federal law enforcement, federal ICE?

BOTTOMS: No, that was a different situation. We had a long-standing agreement with the U.S. Marshals agency to accept ICE Detainees into our city jail. We ended that via executive order that I signed during the family separation crisis, but when you have a situation like this, it is just simple responsible behavior to notify local law enforcement to give us a heads-up that this is happening.

We shouldn't have to learn about something like this via a tweet, and then to hear the President say that this is about addressing crime, and you're targeting high crime cities, Atlanta is not a high crime city. We have our fair share of crime as does any urban area, but if you call yourself assisting us, how about you at least ask us what we need your assistance with. This is not something that we need in Atlanta.

WHITFIELD: So what are you going to do? What can you do given that this might be the best kind of notification that you're going to be getting? There will not be potentially any further coordination from a federal level, but the President has sign posted this is what's going to happen and it could impact your city?

BOTTOMS: So now that we've been made aware with the rest of the country, then we are prepared to respond accordingly in terms of will there be unrest on our streets? Will there be 911 calls that are calling in, how can we at least train our 911 operators to respond to people?

It would even be helpful if we had some of these addresses so that we could at least know if we start getting phone calls in a certain area of the city, we know what we are responding to. So as of now, we won't know when someone says someone is breaking down my door. Is this ICE breaking down the door, or is this a robber breaking down the door, and I would imagine some of the families that may be impacted won't know this as well.

They're coming in the middle of the night. This is unnecessary. This does not address any crime issues in Atlanta, and it's a political stunt, and it is at the expense of families. It's at the expense of children.

And what I would say for parents, put yourself in this situation. You tuck your children into bed at night, and then you are anticipating that someone is going to come and literally break down your door in the middle of the night. This is traumatic. It will be traumatic.

It is unnecessary, and I think it's irresponsible, and I think it is a shame that the President is playing political theater with the lives of families.

WHITFIELD: We'll leave it there for now, Atlanta City Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms. Thank you so much. BOTTOMS: Thank you.

[11:50:08] WHITFIELD: All right, still ahead, a columnist claims Donald Trump sexually assaulted her in the 90s. What she said happened and how President Trump is responding straight ahead.


Moments ago President Trump responded to allegations in a "New York Magazine" article of sexual assault. Advice columnist E. Jean Carroll claims Trump assaulted her 23 years ago in an upscale New York City department store. Here's what the President said moments ago on the White House lawn.


TRUMP: It's a totally false accusation. I have absolutely no idea who she is. There's some picture where we're shaking hands it looks like at some kind of event. I have my coat on, I have my wife standing next to me. I didn't know her husband but he was a newscaster, but I have no idea who she is. None whatsoever.


WHITFIELD: CNN political correspondent Sara Murray joining us right now. So Sara-- take us through these allegations.

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, hi there. You see the President denying the latest sexual assault accuser and allegations he's facing, insisting he doesn't know the latest accuser and say a photo event together is simply happenstance.


MURRAY: President Trump is denying accusations that he forced himself on author and advice columnist E. Jean Carroll in a Manhattan department store dressing room more than 20 years ago.

[11:55:00] Carroll raised the allegations in her forthcoming book, "What Do We Need Men For? A Modest Proposal," excerpts of which were published Friday in "New York Magazine." She describes the incident in an interview with NBC News.

E. JEAN CARROLL, ADVICE COLUMNIST: He was like this. I walked in. He shut the door behind us and threw me up against the wall and kissed me. I couldn't believe it.

MURRAY: According to Carroll she attempted to laugh off the incident in an effort to diffuse the situation, but that didn't work. She says that's when she realized how serious it was.

CARROLL: It was a work of a second to reach in under my -- open in the front and through the Donna Karan dress and pull down my tights.

That's when my brain went on. That's when the adrenaline started, and it became -- it became a fight. MURRAY: In graphic detail, Carroll describes what happens next,

writing in "New York Magazine", quote, "He opens the overcoat, unzips his pants, and forcing his fingers around my private area thrusts he has penis halfway or completely, I'm not certain, inside me".

Carroll says she was eventually able to push him away and make her way out of the store.

President Trump is denying this ever happened, saying in a statement, "I've never met this person in my life," adding "Shame on those who make up false stories of assault to try to get publicity for themselves or sell a book or carry out a political agenda."

The President also pointing to a lack of evidence, writing "No pictures, no surveillance, no video, no reports, no sales attendants around. I would like to thank Bergdorf Goodman for confirming they have no video footage of any such incident, because it never happened."

Despite Trump saying they never met, Carroll published a picture showing the two chatting during a holiday party in the 1980s. "New York Magazine" tells CNN they spoke with two of Carroll's friends who corroborated their story.

GENEVIEVE SMITH, FEATURES DIRECTOR, "NEW YORK MAGAZINE": We did talk to the two women that she says that she told at the time. They were able to corroborate that they do remember being told that at the time. They also provided details of the conversation that she hadn't written about that they remembered.

MURRAY: CNN has reached out to Carroll, but she has yet to respond.


MURRAY: Now at least 15 other women have accused Trump of sexual harassment, assault, some other kind of lewd behavior, all of these other activities before he became president. And remember this all came out during the 2016 presidential campaign when this old "Access Hollywood" tape emerged and it was Donald Trump bragging on tape how he could grab women by their genitals and of course, he said when you're a star, they let do you it. Back to you.

WHITFIELD: Sara Murray -- thank you so much.

We've got so much more straight ahead in the NEWSROOM and it all starts right after a quick break.


[11:59:57] WHITFIELD: Hello again, everyone. Thank you so much for being with me. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

All right. We begin this hour with breaking news on the growing tension between the U.S. and Iran.

A short time ago, before departing for camp David, President Trump explained his last-minute decision to back off --