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Trump: We're Moving Forward with News Sanctions on Iran; Trump: "Make Iran Great Again" by Ending Pursuit of a Nuclear Weapon; What Iran Might Do if U.S. Attacked; Bernie Sanders Speaks to Voters at South Carolina Convention; 21 Democratic Presidential Candidates Hit South Carolina; Joe Biden on Criticism: "No One Should Apologize". Aired 1-2p ET
Aired June 22, 2019 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[13:00:00] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: This morning, the president said military action is still on the table but, for now, he plans to retaliate by imposing new sanctions on Iran for shooting down a U.S. unmanned military drone.
The president also explaining more about why he called off a pending military strike.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Everybody was saying I'm a warmonger and now they say I'm a dove. I think I'm neither, if you want to know the truth. 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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: CNN's Sarah Westwood is at the White House.
Sarah, the president saying a lot there. And now he's saying he didn't like Iran knowingly shooting it down, whereas, a few days ago it was it's got to be a mistake.
SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HIOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Fred. I asked President Trump if he still believed that that was an unintentional move by the Iran Iranians. He said, no, now he believes this was something that the Iranians intentionally did, targeting this American drone.
The president saying that he doesn't want to respond militarily, citing the fact there were no American casualties, which is why he wasn't comfortable initiating a military response to Iran's provocation. Instead, he is focusing on an economic response, and that's imposing new sanctions.
Even though the president claimed in a tweet yesterday that he put sanctions on Iran on Thursday evening, that's not true, but the administration is working on new sanctions. The president said today that some would be imposed rapidly, some more slowly. Sources tell CNN that those sanctions could start going into effect as soon as next week.
President Trump also saying that he would tolerate very little progress, not much more, from Iran towards obtaining a nuclear weapon. Although the president was continuing to criticize President Obama's nuclear deal, he was advocating for something similar in saying he wants Iran to come to the negotiating table, wants to start from scratch and negotiate some sort of nuclear disarmament agreement.
He also repurposed his campaign phrase, saying he'd like to Make Iran Great Again, hinting at the economic prosperity that Iran could obtain if they were to end its pursuit of a nuclear weapon. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: 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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WESTWOOD: This is a really similar argument to what President Trump has been making when it comes to North Korean disarmament talks. He's been arguing that North Korea could unlock a certain level of economic prosperity if they were to abandon their nuclear weapons arsenal.
President Trump also muddying the waters on the timeline of how his decision ultimately not to initiate that military strike against Iran came about. On Thursday, the president suggesting that no decision was made, sort of downplaying how close he really was to pulling the trigger on that military strike, when he decided not to move forward with it.
He also said that he was given estimations of how many Iranians would die if he went through with the strike earlier in the day. But he said that final number, 150 potential casualties, was given to him fairly close to decision time. The president claims, at late as 10 minutes before pulling the trigger and he was still citing the reason why he viewed that strike as a disproportionate response -- Fred?
WHITFIELD: Sarah Westwood, at the White House, thank you so much.
What if that military plan had been executed? How might Iran have responded if it came under attack like that?
CNN international diplomatic editor, Nic Robertson, takes a look.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR (voice-over): The last time the U.S. went to war in the Mideast, Iraq 2003, this is what it looked like.
ROBERTSON: Shock and awe.
ROBERTSON: The dictator fell in weeks, followed by years of terrorist insurgency.
The war with Iran won't be the same. It risks spreading to the whole region and fast.
Here's why -- Iran will fight an asymmetric war, use its network of regional proxies to target the U.S. and its allies far from Iran.
Shia militia in Iraq could target U.S. forces. Hezbollah and Lebanon could fire missiles on Israeli cities, as could Hamas from Gaza. Hezbollah and Shia militias in Syria could target U.S. forces there. Houthi rebels in Yemen could target U.S. and Saudi forces in Saudi and the UAE. Even in Afghanistan, Iran has loyal fighters who could attack the U.S. there. The U.S. would suddenly be threatened on many fronts far from Iran.
[13:05:18] Iran would also use its conventional forces, currently close to one million service personnel, to target U.S. allies and bases in the region.
Its navy would likely shut down vital oil shipping routes in the Strait of Hormuz, cutting the world from one-fifth of its energy supplies.
And Iran may very possibly fire missiles at Emirate and Saudi cities, as well as Israel, too. Not to mention attack U.S. military bases in Qatar, Saudi, the UAE, Iraq and even Afghanistan.
Turning off this war would not be fast. Iran is not small, nearly two and a half times the size of Texas. Remember Jimmy Carter's ill-fated 1980 helicopter mission to rescue the 52 U.S. hostages in Tehran.
It has mountains and desert. Think a combo of Iraq and Afghanistan, searingly hot in the summer, subzero in the winter.
By every conventional metric, the U.S. will outgun Iran. Along with its allies, it should have the upper hand.
But its Achilles heel will be regional stability and the cost to the global economy. And that's what Iran is counting on.
Nic Robertson, CNN, London.
WHITFIELD: And still ahead, the race for 2020 heats up in South Carolina. Nearly all of the Democrats are there to shore up the black vote, including Senator Bernie Sanders, who is slated to speak at any moment. Who will stand out? That's next.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [13:10:39] WHITFIELD: This is the biggest weekend so far for the 2020 presidential hopefuls. Twenty-one of the 23 Democratic candidates are in South Carolina making their pitches in the crucial early primary state.
And just approaching the stage right there, Senator Bernie Sanders. Let's listen in.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT): Let me thank South Carolina Democrats for their success in building the Democratic Party in this state. And god knows the U.S. Senate needs Jamie Harrison!
SANDERS: And we're going to see that he gets elected.
I also, on a personal note, want to thank the nine members of the South Carolina legislature for their support, State Representatives Alexander Bamberg, Juilliard, Howard, McKnight, Rivers, Simmons, Thigpen and Williams. Thank you for your support.
SANDERS; I want to do something a little bit different. I want to say a few words about an interesting event that was held in Charleston earlier this week, sponsored by a national organization, called Third Way, that represents the corporate wing of the Democratic Party, a group that receives a substantial amount of their support from Wall Street.
At this Third Way meeting, I was called, quote, "An existential threat to the Democratic Party."
SANDERS: Now, why am I an existential threat? Well, maybe it's because my administration will finally take on the insurance companies and the drug companies and pass a Medicare-for-All single-payer program.
SANDERS: Maybe it's because we're going to break up the major banks on Wall Street and lower interest rates for consumers.
SANDERS: Maybe it's because we're going to take on the fossil fuel industry --
SANDERS: -- and transform our energy system into sustainable energy.
Maybe it's because we will demand that the wealthy and large corporations start paying their fair share of taxes (APPLAUSE)
SANDERS: -- so that we can make public colleges and universities tuition free and substantially reduce student debt in this country.
SANDERS: And maybe it's because we're going to take on the military industrial complex --
SANDERS: -- and end -- and end endless wars in this country and not get into a war in Iran.
SANDERS: Now existential threats notwithstanding, let me say a few words about how we defeat Donald Trump, the most dangerous president in American history. We defeat Trump by running a campaign of energy and enthusiasm that substantially grows voter turnout, that gets young people, minorities and working people involved in the political process in a way we have never seen.
SANDERS: And that means not only do we attack the obscene levels of income and wealth inequality in America, in which three people own more wealth than the bottom half of America, but we also take on the grotesque level of racial disparities in America.
SANDERS: We recently celebrated Juneteenth, but 154 years after that day, we see a racial gap that leaves the average black family with 10 times less wealth than the average white family.
[13:15:08] We see the infant mortality rate in black communities more than double for white communities.
We see young people, African-Americans, graduating college $7,000 more in debt than white graduates.
We see black women making 61 percent of what white men make. And you know what? We're going to end that absurdity.
SANDERS: We have a criminal justice system plagued by racism. We have seen an increase in hate crimes, including the horrific massacre at the Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston. This is unacceptable.
And as president, I will make it my priority not only to eliminate national economic disparities but racial disparities once and for all.
SANDERS: We're going to stop spending $80 billion a year on mass incarceration. We're going to crack down on police brutality and primarily at people of color.
SANDERS: We're going to shut down private prisons and eliminate cash bail.
SANDERS: We are going to pass Congressman Jim Clyburn's 10, 20, 30 legislation to invest in distressed communities that for too long have been left behind.
SANDERS: We're going to increase support for HBCUs.
We are going to end red lining and put a stop to gentrification --
SANDERS: -- and build the affordable housing this country desperately needs.
SANDERS: I have always believed that good public policy is good politics, and good public policy is to understand that in the richest country in the history of the world, all of our people are entitled to economic, racial, social and environmental justice. And that, in America, we need an economy and a government that works for all of us, not just wealthy campaign contributors and the 1 percent.
Thank you all very much.
WHITFIELD: All right. Rather short-and-sweet messaging coming from Senator Bernie Sanders there right out of the gate. However, often criticism to a centrist think tank, Third Way, calling him an existential threat with his candidacy for president. But then he laid out his ideas and plans to try to focus in on the disparities, economic and social disparities in this country.
CNN's senior Washington correspondent, Jeff Zeleny, is at the convention.
Let's talk about how Bernie Sanders immediately went to target those who are critical of his existence in the campaign long after he's announced that he is a Democratic Socialist.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Fredricka, that was interesting. Certainly, Senator Sanders lobbing a grenade, if you will, at the moderate group, the Third Way.
It is a centrist organization based in Washington. They were having a conference down here in South Carolina and they were talking about the need to put forth a nominee who they believe can be electable. And there were members of the group who said that Bernie Sanders's views are simply too extreme, too progressive, if you will. So Senator Sanders brought at that here into the room.
He was surrounded by some supporters on stage, as you could see there, African-American supporters. That has always been one of Senator Sanders' challenges here. He he's not been able to diversify his group of supporters. So he certainly has been working on that.
But his words, going directly after the Third Way group, going directly after this somewhat influential group in the Democratic Party. Certainly interesting.
What he did not say was Senator Elizabeth Warren. The Third Way group said she would, indeed, be more electable. She has talked about capitalism, how she, indeed, is a Capitalist. That was the subtext of Senator Sanders' remarks there.
And, Fredricka, that is something bubbling just beneath the surface in this Democratic primary fight. Yes, Joe Biden is the front-runner. He is leading the way. It is that race between Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren that is animating and perhaps dividing some Democrats. So Senator Sanders going directly after that group.
Given, what he didn't say was that they said they would prefer Senator Elizabeth Warren. And there's no doubt she has been encroaching on Senator Sanders, eating into some of his support.
[13:20:16] So that's a bit of a subtext here. Senator Sanders going directly after that. We'll see how the audience receives his message.
Of course, he has his staunch supporters here. But others do believe he's not a true Democrat. It always been his challenge. But he certainly has vocal supporters. We'll see how this plays out -- Fredricka?
WHITFIELD: Quickly, Jeff, is this also kind of a microcosm of an identity shift of the Democratic Party?
ZELENY: Well, there's no doubt the Democratic Party has shifted more toward the left, more progressive, really campaign by campaign. Senator Sanders, in many ways, has been leading that charge. Many of the issues he put forward in the 2016 campaign are front and center in the Democratic Party. So, yes, there has been a leftward shift but some groups are warning against that overall in terms of beating Donald Trump.
So Bernie Sanders trying to double down on that here inside the room at the Democratic Party convention here in South Carolina. It's not the Democratic Socialist convention -- Fredricka?
WHITFIELD: Jeff Zeleny, thank you so much, in Columbia.
Let's talk more about all of this. With me now, former director of communications outreach for Hillary Clinton's campaign, Jess McIntosh, and former South Carolina Democratic House member, Bakari Sellers.
Good to see both of you.
JESS MCINTOSH, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Thanks.
BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Thank you.
Bakari, you first.
I'd love to get your impressions of, overall, what is catching your attention. But let's first address what Bernie Sanders is doing here. While he has gotten a lot of credit, you know, for this kind of more progressive approach to the Democratic Party, he's also the center of criticism about that.
SELLERS: Well, listen, I think Bernie Sanders is out here in South Carolina, and he's focusing on expanding his base. He can have these fights with Elizabeth Warren, he can have these fights with the "moderate," air quote, part of the Democratic Party, but he's going to have to build a more diverse coalition.
I'm not sure lobbing a grenade at Third Way here in South Carolina is necessarily the way to do that because most of the people in the room will shrug their shoulders and say, who in the hell is the Third Way anyway.
You'll see Bernie Sanders do what all the candidates here are doing, which is, for the first time, not necessarily in Iowa and Nevada or New Hampshire, but here go to where you can win the Democratic nomination.
I tell everyone, and I'll tell you again, Fredricka, the people who elect the Democratic nominee are my mom and her friends. They are black women throughout the south, not only here in South Carolina, but on Super Tuesday, when you have to go to Alabama, Arkansas, North Carolina, Georgia. That's going to be where the Democratic nomination is won.
You can have battles with Third Way all you want, but if you don't have black women supporting you, it ain't really going to matter.
WHITFIELD: All right. So, Bakari, you know this state well. It's yours. What is it that your mom and other South Carolinians want to hear? What are the issues and the promises of tackling those issues that they want to hear? SELLERS: Before you even get to the issues, and this is what I tell
every candidate who asks, before you get to the issues, you have to build these relationships.
That's why Hillary Clinton did so well in 2016, that's why Barack Obama did so well in 2008. It's very hard to parachute into black communities and go a church and have a fish fry. You have to have sustained relationship with the community and build trust first.
Yes, we talk about issues such as infrastructure and education, investing in HBCUs.
Having a, quote, unquote, "black agenda" is important and essential, but you have to have those personal relationships first. That has been Bernie Sanders' problem. That's some of the things he's trying to fix now.
I know his supporters are going to blow me up on Twitter and say he marched with Dr. King. I get that. But what have you done since then, is the better question.
WHITFIELD: Who has done it well, in your view, building those relationships right now?
SELLERS: I mean, Barack Obama has given Joe Biden what I call this Obama curve. A lot of people are grading him on that. It's the Obama halo. Joe Biden is doing extremely well and he's the frontrunner.
I think Cory Booker, Beto O'Rourke and Kamala Harris have built a foundation in South Carolina. They're introducing themselves to voters.
It going to be a long race. I remind people that Barack Obama was behind Hillary Clinton and John Edwards in polls at this time. We'll see what happens.
I'm very pleased with Cory and Beto. I'm very pleased with Kamala. But right now, it's to Joe Biden's advantage. I do think the frontrunner will slip as we go.
The question that most people have, is Joe Biden Hillary Clinton '08 or is Joe Biden Hillary Clinton 2016?
WHITFIELD: All right, South Carolina is pivotal, Jess. James Clyburn, representative, had his fish fry last night and the majority of the candidates were there.
How important is his endorsement of a candidate and at what stage? He's not endorsing anybody right now but he has -- you know, he does celebrate Joe Biden.
JESS MCINTOSH, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I think at this point Clyburn's response with the Joe Biden/Cory Booker flap, where Biden sort of weirdly said that Cory was the one who should apologize when Biden talked about being friends with segregationists a long time ago in Congress. (CROSSTALK)
[13:25:17] WHITFIELD: We've seen video. They seem like they were amicable. Wasn't like hugs and high fives. And looked to be some chattiness and maybe they've figured out a way to move beyond that. Nobody apologized.
Go ahead, Jess.
MCINTOSH: Yes, I think that's right. And I think there's pretty much respect for every member of this field for every other member of this field.
Clyburn helped Joe Biden out saying this was not the problem that Cory Booker was making it out to be.
I think that's where his influence right now is really important. It's not so much about endorsements. It's about being able to quell minor controversies, to talk about gaffs. To support what they're saying, even without the endorsement means a little bit more at this stage.
I was really pleased to hear what Bernie Sanders said today and what I've been hearing out of the candidates in South Carolina.
Sanders used to fall into this trap where he would just talk about criminal justice reform if he was going to talk to black Americans. And we're hearing more of an inclusive agenda where he's talking about housing discrimination, about the racial wealth gap, about HBCUs. That's really exciting to hear from him, that he understands that it needs to be more than that. All the candidates need to be doing it.
WHITFIELD: That combination of Clyburn saying there was a level of understanding with Biden, et cetera.
Bakari, does this underscore a generational divide in terms of understand approach that may have worked 40 years ago but then judging that approach is a new generation who is, you know, perhaps much more apt to or much more -- yes, willing to have a confrontation as opposed to a more amicable, gentlemanly kind of approach that was described between Biden and segregationists and how he was able to get things done?
SELLERS: So, I mean, first and foremost, I have the utmost respect for Jim Clyburn. He gave me my first political job as an intern on Capitol Hill. Our families go way back.
When I say Congressman Clyburn has tacitly endorsed Joe Biden and when I talk about the fact that a lot of people were disappointed for Congressman Clyburn not only jumping on the grenade for Joe Biden with the crime bill but also with segregationists, it does highlight a generational divide.
What we're seeing now is a wide swath of Democrats who want to stop talking about Talmadge, Eastland and Strom Thurmond. That was not provoked. No one asked Joe Biden a question about nostalgia. So that was unprovoked. There are a lot of people looking for candidates who are talking about the future.
Yes, it is generational. There were some problems with the verbiage, no doubt, that Joe Biden had.
But even more importantly, to be in 2019, 2020, and want to represent a Democratic Party that was just led by Barack Obama, and still talk about those issues and dig up those old ghosts of yesterday, instead of talking about those issues and wasting a week of our time, why don't you talk about creating a criminal justice reform package that's going to unravel the damage you did with '84 asset forfeitures and '86 and '88 and '94 crime bills.
That's what people should be talking about. That's what Joe Biden should be talking about. Not the days of yesterday.
WHITFIELD: So, Jess, would Joe Biden or his camp be worried that doing that would mean, you know, an admission of mistakes and it would be difficult for him to dig himself out of that? Why wouldn't that be the approach that he and his camp would want to take?
MCINTOSH: There has to be an admission of mistakes. Every Democrat who was active in the '90s and is still running today has to be able to address policies that were deeply harmful that we are still feeling the after-effects of. That's everybody who voted for the crime bill and everybody that supported it. And even Kamala Harris --
WHITFIELD: That changing the thinking that an apology
WHITFIELD: Changing the thinking that an apology is not a sign of weakness but perhaps it can be a strength.
WHITFIELD: And acknowledge it.
MCINTOSH: And it can be growth.
I think Joe Biden has had a really hard time looking back on the things that he's done and saying, this is where I erred. He tends to say, instead, that norms have changed. They have. But we have been disgusted by certain kinds of behavior for a very long time. it's not that norms changed. It's that people are really listening now.
I think black Americans were rightfully pretty upset in the '90s when this was going on in the '90s and they're upset now. So it's not that norms have change. It's that we need to talk about --
MCINTOSH: -- what we did wrong and how we're going to fix it going forward. It about the future.
WHITFIELD: All right, we'll leave there for now.
Jess McIntosh, Bakari Sellers, always good to see you both. Thank you so much.
SELLERS: Thank you. Thank you.
[13:29:57] WHITFIELD: We'll be right back.
[13:33:42] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Presidential candidates, Joe Biden and Cory Booker, appear to be making amends. They're not necessarily apologizing after that contentious week on the trail.
Last night, they were seen, right there, kind of in close quarters there, appeared to be talking, even smiling, interacting in some way at the fish fry of Congressman Clyburn in South Carolina.
So all this comes after Booker called on Biden to apologize for Biden's word choice when talking about him working with segregationist Senators decades ago. Biden also wanted an apology himself from Booker for taking his comments out of context. But now we understand no one -- or Biden has said no one really should be apologizing.
Let's bring in Cornell Brooks, a civil rights attorney and former president of the NAACP.
Good to see you, Cornell.
CORNELL BROOKS, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY & FORMER PRESIDENT, NAACP: Thank you.
WHITFIELD: Both Biden and Booker are expected to take the stand -- or go to the podium at this Democratic convention in South Carolina in later on. Do you see that it's necessary for either one of them to just address what it is they meant, put it to bed if at all possible, or do you see the picture of them looking somewhat amicable is enough?
BROOKS: Let me just say this. This is not about rhetorical apologies but rather an acknowledgement that America is not the America of Obama in 2008 or Trump in 2016, or where we are in 2019.
[13:35:20] So both candidates should acknowledge that the electorate has come through and lives under a White House that engages in racial and ethnic vulcanization, that uses xenophobia as a campaign theme to divide the country. So invoking and using two segregationist Senators as a mark and a measure of civility is not the right note, not the right message for this time.
So both candidates can direct us toward the future but also acknowledge that that's not the theme of the moment.
WHITFIELD: But it certainly is upstaging what themes should be addressed or what themes should be coming out of the Democratic Party, as you have 23 candidates.
BROOKS: That's right.
WHITFIELD: And there was, you know, quite the piling on of points of view about whether people were in support of how Biden was using his record to convey, you know, himself or whether there were other candidates who were saying, you know, you're applying practice of yesteryear to today's standards.
So how does this party get beyond it? Because right now there's a kind of cannibalistic approach going on.
BROOKS: I think it's incredibly important for the Democratic Party to speak to the issues that people are concerned about.
They're less concerned about Vice President Biden invoking two segregationist Senators than the racial hate crimes in this country being up for the third year in a row.
They're less concerned about an exchange of apologies and acknowledgements of a rhetorical mistake than they are about the racial wealth gap, about the fact that the average African-American home is undervalued by $48,000, to the tune of a multi-billion-dollar loss of wealth to the black community.
They're very concerned about this president taking us to the brink of war.
So it's about focusing on the future. But in focusing on the future and the present, one must speak in ways that resonate with the present and with this present generation.
Be clear, civility is important. Civility is a political necessity. But for many people, having lived under this president, President Trump, civility can come off as political docility and that's not something I think younger voters are open to.
WHITFIELD: If a primary objective -- and we know a primary objective among Democrats is to unseat the incumbent president, this dispute amongst each other has -- is that an indicator that they have just become distracted from the ultimate mission?
BROOKS: I don't think so. I can imagine this being discussed a few days from now because people are really, really concerned about the damage that President Trump has done and is doing to this country.
And so these candidates are going to focus on the bread-and-butter issues that concern people. And they're going to focus on the present and the future. So I don't really see this playing out for much longer.
But it does expose a racial fissure and a generational fault line in this country that all the candidates really have to speak to. That is to say, we have a president that is engaged in the practice of dividing the country in order to advance himself politically and you have young people that are particularly sensitive to that. WHITFIELD: Fissures that remain constants.
Cornell Brooks, thank you so much.
BROOKS: It's good to be with you.
[13:39:08] WHITFIELD: Still ahead, a stunning courtroom twist in the murder trial of a Navy SEAL accused of war crimes. But now that another SEAL has testified that he, not the defendant, is the real killer, how will that trial be impacted?
WHITFIELD: Welcome back.
Two witnesses describing disturbing scenes during the murder trial of a Navy SEAL accused of war crimes. Friday, a fellow SEAL of defendant Edward Gallagher said he heard Gallagher admit to killing an old man.
And another SEAL testified he heard shots being fired from Gallagher's position on a sniper mission towards a group of young girls and saw one of them fall to the ground.
Gallagher is also accused of killed a teenage ISIS fighter in 2017. But earlier this week, there was a stunning twist involving that case.
Here's CNN's Dan Simon.
DAN SIMON, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As a decorated Navy SEAL, Eddie Gallagher was tasked with defending freedom around the world. But now it's his own freedom at stake. The 40-year-old platoon chief is on trial for the murder of a captured alleged ISIS fight while serving in Mosul, Iraq, in 2017.
Fellow SEALs testified they witnessed Gallagher plunge a knife into the neck of the prisoner, a teenager.
But in a stunning twist, one witness, SEAL Medic Corey Scott, testified he ultimately killed the ISIS fighter, not Gallagher.
"I suffocated him," Scott said. "I held my thumb over his trach tube until he asphyxiated. I knew he was going to die anyway and wanted to save him from waking up to whatever would have happened to him." Adding that he had seen Iraqi force torture their prisoners.
TIM PARLATORE, ATTORNEY FOR EDWARD GALLAGHER: The best defense for Chief Gallagher is the truth. Today, the truth started to come out.
SIMON: Gallagher's lawyer says the admission proves his client is no murderer. He says those testifying against him are driven by personal animosity.
PARLATORE: This is a small group of SEALs that wanted to get rid of their chief and they went through -- they went through to try to find a way to do that.
SIMON: Despite the setback, prosecutors say they won't drop the murder charges. "You can stand up there and you can lie about how you killed the ISIS prisoner so Chief Gallagher does not have to go to jail." Scott's response? "He's got a wife and family. I don't think he should spend the rest of his life in prison."
[13:45:07] ANDREA GALLAGHER, WIFE OF EDWARD GALLAGHER: Well, we've been patiently waiting for the truth to come out.
SIMON: Gallagher's wife, Andrea, and his children have been present in the courtroom listening to what has been graphic and disturbing testimony.
GALLAGHER: We don't hide our children from the realities of facing evil in other countries. And I'm not at all going to shield them from the fact that their father is a hero and that he's innocent in this.
SIMON: A conviction could land Gallagher in prison for life.
But if that were to happen, President Trump has hinted at a pardon.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We teach them how to be great fighters, and then when they fight, sometimes they get really treated very unfairly.
SIMON (on camera): Gallagher is also accused of shooting an elderly man, two women, and at a crowd of civilians, as well as posing with the corpse of the teenager he allegedly killed. A military jury of seven will ultimately decide his fate.
Dan Simon, CNN, San Diego.
WHITFIELD: Let's bring in our legal guys, Avery Friedman, a civil right attorney and law professor, and criminal defense attorney, Richard Herman.
Good to see you both.
AVERY FRIEDMAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Good to see you, Fredricka.
RICHARD HERMAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Hey, Fred.
So, Richard, you first.
How does the confession from one of the witnesses potentially impact this case? Does it mean mistrial potentially?
HERMAN: It's not a mistrial, Fred. It goes to the credibility of the testimony. And the judge will instruct the jurors at the end of the trial that just because a witness testifies to something under oath, it's up to you to determine whether or not that testimony is credible and believable. For that there's no magic formula. You rely on everyday experience in your life.
And what the prosecution is going to argue is that, with respect to this particular witness, we worked with him and sat with him and listened to his story over and over again, and then gave him immunity. Not one time did he ever tell us this version of events. So they're going to attack his credibility.
FRIEDMAN: That's right.
HERMAN: But Fred, still, it's beyond a reasonable doubt. There are a lot of active servicemen on this jury. And the attorney, Tim Parlatore, is a friend of mine from New York and he's doing an incredible job here busting up witnesses and their credibility and their recollection.
FRIEDMAN: Well, let's see.
HERMAN: The problem, Fred, is that, in military trials. there's no prosecutorial discretion to do anything, to plea down, to do anything. They either take the deal or take a verdict. It's black and white. That's what's horrible here because any other court there would have been a deal based on this brilliant cross-examination.
Avery, this medic, this witness, was considered credible, you know, until now changing of the testimony based on what the previous testimony was. So how will it be established whether this latest version is the more believable one or whether it's the previous one?
FRIEDMAN: Well, that's a wonderful question. It also demonstrates the very important difference between courts martial and civil defense cases. In civilian cases. And that's that, in civil cases, in civilian cases, an assistant county prosecutor, for example, or U.S. attorney is not going to give immunity unless she or he knows every detail. It it's very different in courts martial.
What happened here had to be a surprise to the military prosecutors. And this judge has already removed the chief prosecutor when they found out that the prosecutor put spyware on the defense team. This has really been a very dramatic undertaking.
The bottom line here is that prosecutors assumed that because Corey Scott was a medic, he was there to save a life. They never asked the question, it seems to me, about whether or not you involved in the death of this detainee. I don't think they ever asked the question.
FRIEDMAN: So that's what the surprise was. They weren't prepared and that's why it came out that way.
Frankly, in courts martial, there's a seven-person jury, it's not unanimous. They only need five to convict. I think that testimony may likely result in an acquittal of Eddie Gallagher, at least based on the murder charge. WHITFIELD: Richard?
HERMAN: Fred, the problem here is this, this is not just a prisoner. This is a terrorist. It's an ISIS terrorist, even though he's 15 years old. He was hit by two hellfire missiles. His life expectancy at this point was probably 30 minutes. There was no helicopter on the way for him because there's no funding for that. So his future was not looking too good there.
You have the testimony of the medic saying he put his finger over the trach and asphyxiated him as a mercy killing. If the jury believes him, that's reasonable doubt there, Fred.
FRIEDMAN: That's right.
HERMAN: As far as shooting into the crowd, there was testimony that other SEALs in the crowd were shooting but they say they were shooting in the air. Gallagher was perched in a booth in a sniper station off to the side. He didn't know that. There was nothing going on in his ear saying we're doing warning shots here.
[13:50:08] HERMAN: And there's no one to say they saw him pull the trigger on the rifle.
Fred, all I'm saying is they're punching holes in the prosecution's case. It's beyond a reasonable doubt, the burden of proof, and you have a lot of active military on this jury, which I think bodes well for the defense.
WHITFIELD: Avery, when someone has immunity -- in this case, the medic had immunity -- but then changes the story, is that immunity waived?
FRIEDMAN: Under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, it's a very different thing. There's something called 39A Section, in which the prosecutor has to make an immediate request to the judge to revoke the immunity. And guess what? They forgot to do it. They didn't do it. I think they were so flummoxed with the testimony they threw it away.
FRIEDMAN: So that's the big difference. That's what this trial is all about.
HERMAN: All they did was ask to be able to treat him as a hostile witness, be able to lead him questioning. If it is determined he lied to the government --
HERMAN: -- all the other charges are brought back and a charge of perjury. He has a lot to lose. (CROSSTALK)
WHITFIELD: Gentlemen, always a pleasure to see you no matter what the case is.
WHITFIELD: All right, Richard, Avery --
HERMAN: Thanks, Fred.
WHITFIELD: -- have a great weekend.
Still ahead, undocumented families bracing for a crackdown as ICE gets ready to raid 10 major cities tomorrow. We're live, next.
[13:55:29] WHITFIELD: President Trump is defending the plan to round up undocumented families in 10 U.S. cities starting tomorrow.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: They have to be removed from the country. They will be removed from the country. It is having a 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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: ICE planning to arrest and deport families with court ordered removals in 10 U.S. cities.
CNN's Polo Sandoval joining me right now with reaction from some of the mayors of those cities -- Polo?
POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: First, Fred, let's talk about what we expect to happen come tomorrow morning here. The White House and Immigration and Customs Enforcement have maintained who they will specifically be targeting, some of the undocumented families that have pending orders for removal. That's families that didn't show up to hearings or whose asylum cases didn't succeed in court.
So the president is making it clear in a tweet this morning that that's who the operation is supposed to be geared at.
But it is being met with a lot of opposition and criticism. Keep in mind, this was announced Monday by the president, so it certainly does eliminate the element of surprise. It goes to the question of not only how this will work but if it will work.
What is for sure, it is presenting an opportunity for the president's critics, including Atlanta's mayor, to speak out about this saying that this appears to be politically motivated.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KEISHA LANCE BOTTOMS, (D), MAYOR OF ATLANTA: You tuck your children into bed at night and then you are anticipating that someone is going to come and literally breakdown your door in the middle of the night. This is traumatic. It will be traumatic. It is unnecessary. And it is irresponsible. And I think it is a shame that the president is playing political theater with the lives of families.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SANDOVAL: If this ICE removal operation proceeds as planned tomorrow morning, then the ICE officers will face a challenge, which is, for some of the mixed families, when it comes to some mothers, for example, that may be undocumented, but their children are U.S. born.
In those particular cases, we're told they have to potentially have those parents fitted with ankle monitors while they continue to work out what would happen to their children.
So it certainly is what is fueling some of the criticism in this. Just yesterday, L.A..'s mayor called President Trump's hardline immigration approach extremely inhumane.
WHITFIELD: Polo Sandoval, thanks so much.
Much more straight ahead in the NEWSROOM after this.