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U.S.-Iran Tensions; Filthy Conditions at U.S. Border Facilities; Spain's Supreme Court Convicts "Wolf Pack" of Rape; Next U.S. Moon Landing. Aired 3-3:30a ET

Aired June 22, 2019 - 03:00   ET




NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): President Trump says he is not looking for war with Iran but warns obliteration if there was conflict.

Unconscionable, that's how one inspector describes the conditions in which some child migrants are being held which led to a court hearing.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think this could be transformational for young women, not just for the country but all across the world.


ALLEN: The U.S. space agency promises to return astronauts to the moon in five years. This time including the first woman.

Live from CNN Center hello everyone I'm Natalie Allen, this is CNN NEWSROOM. Thanks for joining us.


ALLEN: Praise, criticism and relief and questions after President Trump decided to back down from a planned attack against Iran. It all stems from Iran shooting down a U.S. drone on Thursday. Iran showed off parts of what it said was debris of that drone on Friday.

It says the drone was in Iranian airspace when it was knocked down. The United States says, no, it was in international airspace. In retaliation President Trump ordered a military strike. He said the U.S. was "cocked and loaded" to hit three Iranian missile sites and then he changed his mind. In an interview with NBC Friday, he explained why.


TRUMP: They came and they said: "Sir, we're ready to go. We'd like a decision." I said, "I want to know something before you go.

"How many people will be killed, in this case, Iranians?"

I said, "How many people are going to be killed?"

"Sir, I would like to get back to you on that."

Great people, these generals.

They said -- came back, said, "Sir, approximately 150."

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


ALLEN: One of the Pentagon's most important responsibilities is to lay out the plans and the risks of a military strike. This case, one of the big dangers was the unknown. How would Iran react? Our Barbara Starr looked into that from the Pentagon.


BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: With President Trump calling off strikes against Iran and refocusing his attention on the possibility of additional economic sanctions, the Pentagon is candidly taking a bit of a deep breath. There have not been overwhelming enthusiasm for those strikes against Iran because one of the enduring question that military leaders had here was what Iranian reaction be to a U.S. strike?

They were very clear in their minds that they simply could not predict how Iran might react if the U.S. was to engage in military activity. The plan had been to strike three missile sites along the coastline. There were U.S. aircraft and U.S. warships at the ready when the president called the mission off.

Now those aircraft and ships are likely to stay in the region; tensions still remain very high. What Pentagon officials are telling us, they are going to keep those ships and aircraft there at a very high state of readiness if they are needed, if Iran were to engage in additional provocations, more tanker attacks or something like that, shooting down another drone, that the Pentagon may have to go back to the president and ask him what he wants to do next -- Barbara Starr, CNN, the Pentagon.


ALLEN: Let's see how countries in the region are reacting. Sam Kiley joins us from the United Arab Emirates for the latest.

Hi, Sam. SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Natalie. In terms of the air reaction to the downing of the drone the tensions around the landscape behind me, the Gulf of Oman and the Strait of Hormuz the UAE Aviation Authority has instructed the aircraft that it's responsible to review the routes that they take --


KILEY: -- to avoid these areas and it's consistent now with the FAA ruling coming out of the United States and decisions taken by many, many airlines, all the way from Australia to France and Europe and others.

Essentially, most airlines are now avoiding this area of tension. It's a very busy airspace as it is indeed a busy sea route. The sea routes remain open but again insurance has gone up and industry officials have told us by at least 10 times for ships just to transit the Strait of Hormuz following these mine attacks on the six ships in the last couple months.

Natalie, at the diplomatic level the United States has asked for a closed session of the U.N. Security Council to discuss Iran on Monday. The Saudis have put out repeated statements, saying that they're very much in support of the U.S. position.

And a number of nations have called for an exercise of continued caution, particularly the Emirates, which is still reluctant to point the finger for any kind of activity, violent activity at the Iranians because, of course, we here in this location looks straight across the coast and the sea onto Iranian territory. The two areas are very close to each other, across the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz.

A very tense situation but clearly with the president's decision not to go ahead and shed blood in response over the shooting down of a drone, there has been a collective sigh of relief in this region -- Natalie.

ALLEN: The big question is what happens next?

Is there a sense there that something like this was bound to happen when Iran started provoking the United States allegedly with attacks on these tankers?

Because the United States pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal and put an economic chokehold on the country.

KILEY: Well, in terms of the American allies, that I would include with the Emirates, including Saudi Arabia, Israel especially, they have all been in lockstep with the Trump campaign and then the Trump administration in agreeing, all of them, that the Iran nuclear deal was a bad deal and it suspended Iran's nuclear capabilities but didn't rid the world of any potential return to a nuclear program because it had a 10-year ceiling on it. It didn't have a sunset clause that would rid the world of any danger of Iran developing a nuclear weapon.

They're very strongly opposed by China, Russia, Germany, France, the, United Kingdom. And right across the European Union, the others were signatories to that agreement who believe that bringing Iran in from the cold, establishing and normalizing economic relationship between Iran and the rest of the world was a very good way of downplaying the level of tension over this issue.

So there is a divide on that matter -- Natalie.

ALLEN: We appreciate your reporting, Sam Kiley for us in the UAE, thank you.

Joining me now from Los Angeles is national security analyst Samantha Vinograd.

Good to see you. Thank you for being with us.


ALLEN: Did the president make the right decision on the thwarted strike against Iran?

On one hand, he was being true to himself by refusing to be dragged into another endless war.

But might that decision also spur American adversaries to push Trump further than they might have?

VINOGRAD: It's certainly the right decision to call the strikes off for numerous reasons, the first being that there would've likely been a significant counter response from Iran. We know the president himself and the secretary of state and others that Iran have the capability and the intent to strike Americans in the region.

The United States recently withdrew nonessential staff from embassy consulates in Iraq because of Iranian threats against Americans there. So it's very likely that the United States had struck targets in Iraq and Iran would've responded with attacks in kind that could've harmed Americans as well as our allies.

The other question is, whether the president had any actual legal basis for engaging in the strikes. That will be a significant focus of conversation here in the United States as we now hopefully put the strikes behind us.

The U.S. Congress and Democrats in particular are going to be looking at what President Trump was planning to use as his legal basis for the strikes. Particularly, if there was a feeling that the strikes were called off for now but may be something that President Trump is keeping in his back --


VINOGRAD: -- pocket going forward.

ALLEN: You mentioned Democrats but some Republicans are defend Trump, others criticizing him for not taking action and comparing him to his nemesis, President Obama, who was also criticized for not enforcing red lines.

Is that a fair or significant comparison?

VINOGRAD: Well, it's deeply troubling that even today President Trump was criticizing President Obama rather than criticizing actual enemies, Iran. He was tweeting about Obama's legacy on Iran -- and I worked with him on Iran -- and pillorying his predecessor, which is quite troublesome.

Trump does have blurred lines instead of red lines. What that tells the international community is that being president is hard and making a definitive statement about what a trigger point is, no pun intended, for military action is very difficult when you're the commander in chief and when you actually have to be responsible for the potential loss of American lives.

President Trump has drawn multiple red lines, he has talked about the nuclear program, the drone was ostensibly a red line until it wasn't an hour before he called off the strike. That is why, if we did learn anything from President Obama's red line episode, making these definitive statements is not helpful because now Trump looks indecisive, his policy looks incoherent and, again, I firmly believe calling off the strikes was the right way to go.

He looks very inconsistent. The big problem is, of course, this decision or indecision leaked. There was not a need for this to be public. It is unclear when and why people spoke with "The New York Times" and, of course, when President Trump made it worse and tweeted about this with a really lame excuse about why he called this off, blaming this on military planners and the intelligence community and talking about the casualties and that sort of thing.

So the public nature of this is making this situation more complex.

ALLEN: As far as what's next, he said this in an interview on Friday. He said he would be willing to talk with the Iranian leaders with no preconditions but in the same interview warned, if it comes to war, he said it would be obliteration like you've never seen before.

What do you make of that?

Is that Trump bluster?

Or is there something to it?

VINOGRAD: Well President Trump certainly likes superlatives. I'm not surprised that's his final statement, saying all options are on the table. But let's be clear that President Trump saying that he is willing to talk to Iran with no preconditions, in my opinion, would be the wise move and I'm glad to hear him say that.

But that is a 180 from where he was a year ago. Secretary of state Mike Pompeo laid out 12 conditions that Iran would have to meet before the United States sat back down at the negotiating table. This was after the United States under President Trump withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal. So by saying that there are no preconditions, President Trump may be

saying the most responsible thing for the United States right now, so that we can negotiate on Iran's potential nuclear program or non- peaceful nuclear program if they break the JCPOA commitments, which they say they're going to do, but it is a complete reversal from where he was a year ago.

ALLEN: It does seem Iran has been testing this U.S. president, they have never shown interest in talking since the president yanked the nuclear deal but now any chance Iran, strangled by U.S. economic sanctions, might be ready to talk, at least intermediaries?

VINOGRAD: History may be a guide here. I know -- I have was involved in the early days of the Iran nuclear negotiations under President Obama -- that Iran may say publicly that they don't want to talk while privately they are willing to begin negotiations and start testing U.S. credibility.

So I don't know we can rule out that any private conversations are happening. Two, we know that Iran originally spoke with the United States through and intermediary, the Omanis. The differentiating factor is the Iranians have less reason to trust us.

When we negotiated the Iran nuclear deal, we had not embarrassed the regime publicly by breaking our word and reimposing sanctions. So the situation is different by my sincere hope is that there is something happening behind the scenes and some kind of intermediary, whether the Europeans, Omanis or someone else, telling the Iranians that the only way to relieve this maximum pressure campaign is to sit down with us.

ALLEN: Samantha Vinograd, we always appreciate your expertise, thank you so much.

VINOGRAD: Good night.

ALLEN: Well, Iran sits in the middle of a very volatile political neighborhood and what happens there could have grave repercussions, especially to U.S. troops and U.S. allies in the region. Here is Tom Foreman on that.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: If U.S. forces strike Iran, they will be taking on a robust enemy, about a million people in their military forces there --


FOREMAN: -- guarding an area almost twice the size of Texas.

But more importantly, this fight could easily spill beyond the borders, to places where Iran has, agents and allies, for example Iraq or a Shia militia there backed by Iran could very well go after remaining U.S. troops in that country.

Beyond that, in Syria, same thing; Shia militia and Hezbollah backed by Iran and considered a terrorist group by the U.S., could go after American troops there. There are only a few hundred troops but that could make them particularly vulnerable.

Beyond that, in Lebanon and Israel, same story, Hezbollah could be firing rockets from Lebanon here into Israel, an important U.S. ally. Same thing with Hamas from Gaza.

Go down to Yemen, where the big conflicts have been going on there, Houthi rebels could go after Saudis, who are allies of the U.S., and U.S. troops up here in the United Arab Emirates. And in Afghanistan, there are still fighters loyal to Iran who also might be willing to expand the fight.

Let's not forget, Iran very likely would go after the Strait of Hormuz; one-fifth of the world's petroleum products pass through this area. This could be in some jeopardy and the missiles that Iran have could easily reach U.S. bases all throughout this region.

None of this has to happen if the U.S. strikes Iran. But military and political analysts say all of it could.


ALLEN: The tensions over the shot down drone are creating a nightmare for air travel in the Middle East, the UAE is ordering the country's airlines to avoid operating in dangerous areas altogether.

The FAA administration has banned U.S. flights over parts of the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman. United Airlines has canceled flights from Newark to India until September. Other airlines, such as Qantas, KLM, British Airways and Lufthansa are avoiding that area as well.

The Pentagon is about to see some big changes as it deals with Iran, President Trump plans to nominate Army Secretary Mark Esper to become the next Defense Secretary. Mr. Trump had already tapped Esper to be acting Defense Secretary after Patrick Shanahan announced his resignation.

Once officially nominated Esper will have to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

Well, it is a case seen as a landmark for women's rights in Spain, five men known as the Wolf Pack have been given tougher sentences after more than a year of heated protests. We will tell you about their crime, next.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you don't have a toothbrush, if you don't have soap, if you don't have a blanket, it is not safe and sanitary, wouldn't everybody agree to that?

ALLEN (voice-over): You will hear her answer. A judge wants to know why conditions are U.S. border facilities are reported to be alarmingly filthy. We will tell you what the U.S. government said about it, coming up.






ALLEN: Hong Kong's justice minister has apologized for how a proposed extradition bill was handled. She offered an apology for what she called insufficient work on the government's part. Protesters have rallied against the proposed bill that would allow extradition to Mainland China. It has been suspended but protesters want it completely scrapped.

The FBI confirmed it has people on the ground in the Dominican Republic investigating the deaths of nine Americans while on vacation there this past year. Agents are assisting local authorities and awaiting results of toxicology tests.

These are pictures of some of the American tourists who have died at Dominican Republic resorts. The island's top tourist official is trying to downplay the investigation, calling the spate of deaths exaggerated.

To the U.S. border now, where migrants are reportedly being held in filthy conditions. A group of doctors and lawyers visited Border Protection facilities and they did not get to inspect them but they interviewed children, who told them horror stories apparently of everyone being sick and not having access to soap or showers. And that led to a court hearing. Here is Nick Valencia with that.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I find that inconceivable that the government would say that that is safe and sanitary.

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A contentious court hearing on the awful conditions in which some child migrants are being held, conditions described by one inspector, who this week visited this Texas Border Patrol station, as "unconscionable," calling it a "pervasive health crisis," where toddlers are, quote, "left to fend for themselves," one walking around only in a diaper, another in a filthy onesie, teenagers not faring any better.

"Older kids are taking care of the babies," an inspector tells CNN, adding, "There does not appear to be childcare there."

CLARA LONG, HRW: It just makes me -- my heart hurt to think about what kind of lasting damage these experiences might have for these kids. VALENCIA (voice-over): Before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday, a Justice Department lawyer was put on the spot about those conditions.

JUDGE A. WALLACE TASHIMA, U.S. 9TH CIRCUIT COURT: It's within everybody's common understanding that if you don't have a toothbrush, if you don't have soap, if you don't have a blanket, it is not safe and sanitary.

Wouldn't everybody agree with that?

Do you agree with that?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, I think it's -- I think those are -- there's fair reason to find that those things may be part of safe and --

TASHIMA: Not maybe; are a part.


ALLEN: In a statement, in U.S. Customs and Border Protection says it has noted numerous times that its short term holding facilities are not designed to hold vulnerable populations and it urgently needs additional funding to manage this crisis. It says, all allegations of mistreatment are taken seriously and investigated.

Spain's top court has ruled that five men who call themselves the Wolf Pack are guilty of gang rape. Instead of the lesser crime of sexual abuse. The supreme court sentenced each of them to 15 years in prison for raping an 18-year old. Our Atika Shubert has this report.


ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is a case that has riveted and divided Spain for over a year now. The original crime happened in 2016 during the Pamplona running of the bulls.

A teenage girl reported that she was raped by a gang of five men who called themselves the Wolf Pack in text messages. In fact, some of the incident was actually recorded on one of the defendant's mobile phones and used as evidence in the trial.

In December of last year, they were convicted of sexual assault but cleared of gang rape and that triggered angry street protests across Spain. There was widespread outrage at the Spanish justice system and now it seems the supreme court has reversed its original court decision and has convicted all five men on charges of rape, sentencing them to 15 years.

And the court ruling specifically stated that the victim was so intimidated by the situation, by the men surrounding her, that, quote, "She had no way of consenting to the sexual acts carried out by the accused." -- Atika Shubert, CNN, London.

(END VIDEOTAPE) ALLEN: It has been half a century since humans first stepped on the moon, it was one small step for a man but NASA's next planned mission will be a giant leap for women, that is next.





ALLEN: It has been nearly 50 years since Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. Nearly a dozen astronauts have followed in his footsteps since then but none have been women. NASA wants to change that within the next five years. CNN's Rachel Crane spoke with the man that wants to make that happen.


RACHEL CRANE, CNN BUSINESS INNOVATION AND SPACE CORRESPONDENT: So that first woman that's going to land on the moon, is she already in the astronaut corps right now?

Can you give us any indication of who that lucky lady is going to be?

JIM BRIDENSTINE, NASA ADMINISTRATOR: She is already in the astronaut corps. It will be somebody who's been proven, somebody who has flown, somebody who has been on the International Space Station already.

We're looking for the most qualified candidates and we have some amazingly talented and highly qualified candidates.

I'll tell you why this is important for me personally. I've got an 11 year old daughter and I want her to see herself as having every opportunity that I saw myself having when I was growing up. I think this could be transformational for young women all across not just the country but all across the world.

CRANE: Not that long ago NASA had to cancel a spacewalk because there weren't enough spacesuits to outfit the women who were going to be performing the spacewalk.

That was kind of egg on NASA's face in regards to championing women in space.

How do you ensure that something like that doesn't happen again?

BRIDENSTINE: When we go to the next generation spacesuit, we're going to build everything for the smallest person and we're going to scale up and not the other way. So know this, we are committed to making sure that, at the end of the day, we have all the resources necessary so that every person who sees themselves as being an astronaut one day, they'll be able to participate in our space flight program.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ALLEN: We'll end on that one. Thank you for watching, I'm Natalie Allen. Our top stories come right after this.