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White House Confirms Hamza bin Laden Killed in U.S. Military Operation; Democratic Candidates Talk Health Care; O'Rourke's Gun Confiscation Remarks Examined; Can Democrats Win Georgia?; Dems Aim to Flip Key States in Battle to Win Senate Majority; Bahamas Islands Devastated By Dorian Brace for Another Storm; Judge Sentences Actress Felicity Huffman to 2 Weeks in Prison; Otto Warmbier's Parents Will Have Dinner At White House Tonight. Aired 12-1p ET
Aired September 14, 2019 - 12:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST: Hello again, everyone, thank you so much for joining me. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. We continue to follow this breaking news today. President Trump is confirming the death of Hamza bin Laden in a U.S. military operation. He is the son of Osama bin Laden and was seen as an emerging leader of the terror group Al Qaeda. The president releasing a statement today that said bin Laden had been killed in a United States counterterrorism operation in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region. CNN has team coverage on this breaking story. Let's begin with Sarah Westwood at the White House. So Sarah, what more are you learning about this development?
SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well Fred, this is significant because the White House is confirming for the first time that Hamza bin Laden is dead and acknowledging the U.S. played a role in that. It was a counterterrorism operation according to the White House that took place in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region. But this does not appear to be necessarily a new or recent development. CNN reported on July 31 that the administration had intelligence that led officials to believe that Hamza bin Laden had been killed and just a couple of weeks ago in late August, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said during an appearance on Fox News, he said a comment that appeared to confirm that Hamza bin Laden had been killed. But I want to read you part of the statement the White House released this morning that seems to explain what the White House viewed as Hamza's view in Al Qaeda.
The loss of Hamza bin Laden not only deprives Al Qaeda of important leadership skills and the symbolic connection to this father but undermines important operational activities of the group. Hamza bin Laden was responsible for planning and dealing with various terrorist groups.
Now the State Department back in March had labeled Hamza bin Laden an emerging leader of Al Qaeda and had offered a $1 million reward for information that could have lead to his capture. The documents collected from the compound in Pakistan where his father Osama bin Laden was killed 2011 by Navy Seals seemed to suggest that Osama bin Laden was grooming his son to replace him as the leader of Al Qaeda, to take the reins of that group but it's unclear, Fred, why the White House chose today to confirm the death of Hamza bin Laden and what gave White House officials this certainty to circulate the statement from President Trump.
WHITFIELD: All right Sarah, let me also bring in CNN Pentagon reporter Ryan Browne. And so Ryan that it was a counterterrorism operation does not necessarily mean it was a military operation but what are the distinctions of the ways in which he could have been taken out?
RYAN BROWNE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well that's absolutely correct Fred. I mean if you look at the statement, it's fairly vague and there's couple of interesting items there. One, that the site the Afghanistan - Pakistan region. Now the U.S. military does not operate in Pakistan at all except for that, of course, 2011 raid against Osama bin Laden. So it's possible that this was a CIA operation. The Pentagon not commenting on the operation referring all comments - all questions to the White House and again, also what's interesting, we're being told by defense officials that they've had this intelligence for some time.
We reported in July but even before that for months, U.S. intelligence officials have been poring over intel trying to assess whether or not Hazma bin Laden was in fact killed. They've been looking into it. Now there's a lot of difficulty. There have been no official announcement by Al Qaeda that Hazma bin Laden was killed. That's unusual. Usually the terror group does announce an obituary when high profile leaders are killed. So there's been no official announcement by Al Qaeda. U.S. intelligence trying to make the assessments, trying to go over through the analysis to confirm that he was, in fact, killed in this counterterrorism operation, details of which are still not forthcoming.
WHITFIELD: All right Ryan Browne, Sarah Westwood, thanks to both of you; appreciate it. All right, let me bring in now CNN senior international correspondent Ben Wedeman, so what kind of reaction is coming from this report that Hamza bin Laden is dead?
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'll be honest with you Fred, not much. Al Qaeda is sort of a thing of the past in this part of the world, which for the last five years has been dealing with ISIS. Al Qaeda hasn't carried out any significant operations in years. And it is important to keep in mind that the Hamza bin Laden, the reward for him was a million dollars. Ayman al-Zawahiri, the actual current leader of Al Qaeda, the reward for him, $25 million. So I dare to suggest that perhaps the White House is making more of a deal out of this killing of Hamza bin Laden who is 30 years old the 15th of 20 children of Osama bin Laden, the third to be killed. He may not have been really quite as important as all this attention warrants. Fred.
WHITFIELD: Any idea what kind of role he may have had in the operation then?
WEDEMAN: We're simply depending on what we're being told by the White House, that somehow he was involved in Al Qaeda planning and coordination with other terrorists organizations but in terms of how Al Qaeda currently operates, you have it in parts of West Africa. You have it in parts of Syria and Iraq and Afghanistan but they're all working fairly independently and separately. It's no longer this sort of global network of terrorists that we were accustomed to say 10 or 15 years ago. So it's not at all clear really what role he played beyond what we're begin told by largely unnamed American officials.
WHITFIELD: All right, Ben Wedeman, thank you so much.
All right, still ahead, as democrats debate over healthcare in this country, Senator Bernie Sanders faces the real life consequences some Americans face with mounting medical debts.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: How are you going to pay off ...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can't. I can't. I'm going to kill myself.
SANDERS: Hold it. Stop it. Stop it, John. You're not going to kill yourself.
WHITFIELD: How the Vermont Senator handled that situation plus the Bahamas bracing for a second major storm in just two weeks. We're tracking Tropical Storm Humberto coming up.
WHITFIELD: All right, the third democratic primary debate in Houston laid bare the internal rift over the number one issue for democrats -- healthcare. That is what poll after poll shows including our latest CNN poll taken days ago finding that 89 percent consider the issue extremely or very important. Interestingly we're still waiting on one top tier candidate to release a healthcare plan of her own, Elizabeth Warren. CNN political correspondent MJ Lee is in Springfield, Massachusetts, where Warrant will be speaking momentarily and might there be a mention of a healthcare plan that she's thinking of?
MJ LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well Fred, it is really interesting that Elizabeth Warren is the candidate who has fashioned herself as the candidate with a plan for everything. But when it comes to healthcare, she doesn't have a plan of her own. As you know, she has fully gotten behind Bernie Sander's Medicare for All plan. She has said, "I'm with Bernie" a couple of times in recent months when asked about her own vision for the healthcare system in America. And we saw this come up (ph) at the debate just this week and one of the criticisms that she has gotten as a supporter of Medicare for All is that it might be too expensive, that's it's not a realistic plan and also just the question of will this plan raise taxes on the middle class. Here's how she answered that question to reporters after the debate.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You didn't answer the question about the middle class tax hike on your healthcare plan.
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Sure I did. I talked about how we're paying for healthcare in America.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But will there be a tax hike on the middle class. That was the question.
WARREN: What matters - what matters is how people pay and how much they're paying. When -when we pass Medicare for All, it's going to mean that the very richest in this country, wealthy individuals and big corporations are going to pay more but middle class families are going to pay less.
LEE: So Fred, it seems pretty clear there that Elizabeth Warren doesn't plan to answer that question with a yes or no answer. Instead she wants to talk about the total cost for patients under Medicare for All and healthcare of course. We expect to continue to be a big dividing line in the democratic contest. Fred.
WHITFIELD: All right, MJ Lee, thank you so much. We'll check back with you. All right, let's talk more about all this. Alex Thompson is now with me now, the national political reporter of "Politico" and Toluse Olorunnipa who covers the White House for the "Washington Post." Good to see you both. All right, so Alex you first. You know you've been following Warren. To hear that she is backing Bernie's Medicare for All but no concrete plan of her own. What does that mean in your view about she and her campaign?
ALEX THOMPSON, "POLITICO" REPORTER: I mean honestly this has been an issue that she's struggled with for eight months. The first six months on the campaign trail, you know she would talk very generally about making sure everyone was on the table, that she both wanted to build on Obamacare and go for Medicare for All and she was getting a lot of flak from the left. Not from Bernie directly but from a lot of Bernie supporters who said that she was not sufficiently committed to the issue and then she went to the answer with I'm with Bernie.
But that was new. When she went to the debate in June, it was the first time that I had ever heard it and it was a way of sort of hugging Bernie a bit and making herself the viable progressive alternative and not giving them a clear way to attack her from the left. And now, you know, it's a few months later and some people are wondering, well are you actually going to give us a plan of your own or are you just going to stick with Bernie on this and we honestly don't know the answer but I would expect her to still just continue to hug Bernie on this issue unless it becomes completely unviable over the next five months.
WHITFIELD: OK, so on that issue of healthcare, you know Toluse, a voter actually challenged Bernie Sanders head on on his Medicare for All plan in a very emotional exchange last night. Take a listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO) "JOHN" U.S. VETERAN: Now they're saying that I - you know - I didn't resign or do something or...
SANDERS: How are you going to pay off...
"JOHN" U.S. VETERAN: I can't. I can't I'm going to kill myself.
SANDERS: Hold it. Hold it, John, stop it. You're not going to kill yourself. Stop it.
"JOHN" U.S. VETERAN: I can't deal with this. I have Huntington's Disease. Do you know how hard it is? You know you probably don't do you? I can't drive. I can barely take care of myself.
SANDERS: All right, let's chat later at the end of the meeting, OK?
"JOHN" U.S. VETERAN: Thank you. Thanks for listening.
WHITFIELD: But Toluse, this just underscores how serious, how big a concern healthcare, lack thereof, the cost of it, debt from healthcare is for so many voters. And they're looking to these candidates with some real concrete answers. I mean the pressure is really on isn't it?
TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER FOR "THE WASHINGTON POST": That is exactly right. According to a number of polls, health care is the number one issue that voters are thinking about as they prepare to vote in a primary and then prepare to vote in next November's general election and the fact that democrats are really still having this internal struggle over what they want to do with the healthcare system means that voters are going to be somewhat concerned about whether or not they have to give up their private insurance.
With Senator Warren saying that she is with Bernie, that allows her to support his universal healthcare plan but it also means that she has to take some of the baggage of that plan. Bernie Sanders has been among the most blunt when it comes to saying that yes, he's going to have to raise taxes. Yes, people are going to have to pay more. Yes, it's going to cost from $30 to $40 trillion over 10 years and those are numbers that are just huge in the minds of voters who are trying to figure out how this exactly is going to get paid for.
So what Senator Sanders sticking - Senator Warren sticking with Senator Sanders it means that she has to take some of that baggage and when voters confront Senator Sanders over very personal issues concerning their own personal healthcare, they're bringing their own personal concerns about what his plan would do and what the other plans might do to reshape a very fragile healthcare system that's caused concern among a large number of Americans who are struggling to pay their healthcare bills, struggling to cover their - their symptoms and cover the lack of insurance that so many millions of Americans have.
WHITFIELD: Gun control, too, you know, is another issue that is really defining this 2020 race and the White House is seething on polarizing comments from Beto O'Rourke at the debate this week. Take a listen.
BETO O'ROURKE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Hell yes we're going to take your AR-15, your AK-47. We're not going to allow it to be used against fellow Americans any more.
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When they weren't talking about higher taxes, they were talking about gun control and not just gun control, you had leading candidates for the highest office in the land talking about taking firearms away from law abiding citizens. Well, the American people deserve to know, this president, this vice president, and these House republicans will always stand for the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.
WHITFIELD: So then Alex, you know how does the administration take that approach and how does a democratic candidate take the approach that O'Rourke did, especially in light of, and on the heels, of a deadly month of August -- mass shootings taking place.
THOMPSON: Well the usual battle lines of gun control are really expanding. You know it used to just be that Barak Obama was just asking for background checks and could not get it through. But after the combination of a democratic primary where people are trying to get attention and also just mass shooting after mass shooting after mass shooting have really expanded the parameters of this debate and so you're having candidates like Beto O'Rourke and others in the contest not just talking about banning assault rifles but - or not even doing a voluntary buy back but a mandatory one where people would have to give their assault rifles back to the government, would be compensated but would be forced to give them. And so really what we're seeing is the White House believes this is a winning issue for them. But we're really outside the normal bounds of the conversation and so it will be fascinating to see how it plays out.
WHITFIELD: And Toluse, O'Rourke and his camp is very proud of that moment. I mean there are tee shirts being made with his quote now. Do you see that other candidates, and there it is, do you see that other democratic candidates will be coming out as forcefully as O'Rourke did? As passionally as he did.
OLORUNNIPA: Well the politics of this issue are changing significantly. If you look at some of the polling, there is actually majority support for an assault weapons ban in a number of polls and there are people who believe that these weapons should not be on the streets. And what the O'Rourke campaign is doing is sort of fully leaning into this trying to rekindle some of the magic from his 2018 Senate campaign where he was willing to go bold; willing to say things that other candidates hadn't and willing to sort of lead the charge and lead the fight and sort of try to inspire enthusiasm among voters by going far on various issues and I think you will see other candidates try to follow that pathway. They may not go as far as he has but they do see that there is energy in the party specifically on the left link of the party for action, for a very strong action on gun control measures and O'Rourke is leading the charge on that after the El Passo shooting and I wouldn't be surprised if other candidates followed suit.
WHITFIELD: Yes, so I mean candidates are taking a stand in a variety of ways but now Alex, you've got NASCAR that's making a serious shift on its position on guns - no longer accepting ads for assault weapons which has angered the NRA so is this an indication or is this in step with what is happening across the country politically, culturally that there is great pressure for even a big industry like NASCAR to say this is where we stand on this.
THOMPSON: Yes, I think you're seeing two things especially with the rise of school shootings in particular, and also just young people dying in these mass shootings. Plus I think you see it - you know Michael Bloomberg in particular but there's been a lot of money and a lot of volunteers and real movement building on the left on the issue of gun control. There really wasn't in the past and as a result I think you are seeing a lot more businesses being pressured whether or not its NASCAR or Wal-Mart or if you add just this week over 100 businesses signed a letter to Congress raising concerns about guns. You really are seeing a little bit of a shift as the left really begins to assemble a coalition and a little bit of movement building to counter the NRA.
WHITFIELD: All right, Alex Thompson, Toluse Olorunnipa, good to see you both. Thank you.
WHITFIELD: All right, still ahead, it is not just the presidential race getting the focus of voters for 2020, democrats are trying to swing the Senate back to blue. I will speak with democrat John Ossoff about how he hopes to win Georgia, next.
WHITFIELD: All right, as the nation watches the presidential battlefield take shape ahead of 2020, democrats are facing a uphill climb. That's because even if they're able to win the keys to the White House their ambitious legislative plans will only be put into action if they have both. The House and the Senate maintain the House majority and flip the Senate. For that to happen, the party will need to win seats in key hard-to-win battleground states and that includes Georgia.
And my next guest thinks he is the right candidate to help turn this state blue. Jon Ossoff ran in Georgia's 2017 for a congressional special election and while he didn't win, it marked the most expensive House race ever in the country drawing national attention. Jon Ossoff is with me now.
Good to see you.
JON OSSOFF (D), GEORGIA CANDIDATE FOR SENATE: Good to see you. Thank you for having me.
WHITFIELD: OK, so you are doing it again this time for a Senate seat. Are you using that momentum from that Congressional race or are you reshaping things to gain new momentum for this Senate seat?
OSSOFF: Well we've built a huge grassroots organization here in Georgia in 2017 and Stacey Abrams built in 2018 an army of her own that made history here in Georgia. So there's so much momentum in this state and for folks who are listening at home, if ending Mitch McConnell's reign as the Majority Leader in the U.S. Senate, if restoring integrity to Washington, if rooting out this corruption, ending the daily outrage that we experience every day under this administration is your highest priority, you've got to be looking at Georgia. The Senate majority will be decided here in Georgia.
WHITFIELD: What are Georgians telling you about what used to be a very stronghold red, nearly coming - you know becoming blue or at least purple particularly in the last governor's race and then in other Congressional and Senate races, what is that telling you about the direction that people want you to take if indeed you become Senator?
OSSOFF: I think across the political spectrum there's outrage at the level of corruption in our politics and just like 9 out of 10 Americans support for example universal background checks for firearm purchases. Most Georgians support universal background checks for firearm purchases. Most Georgians like most Americans believe every citizen should have healthcare. Most Georgians like most Americans believe we need to solve this environmental crisis and revolutionize our infrastructure. So the question is, why aren't these things getting done? And people are crying out for clean government.
WHITFIELD: Why aren't they getting done by seating or perhaps even, you know, seating a democrat with your position in say the last congressional race or even now potentially in the senate race?
OSSOFF: I think people recognize that the solutions to our problems are not mysterious. We know how to solve the environmental crisis. We agree every American needs healthcare. We agree you should have to pass a simple background check to buy a gun but it's corruption that is rooted deep in our political system that prevents the people's will from being expressed through their elected representatives.
WHITFIELD: Thirty million dollars, right, spent on your last candidacy. That's a pretty significant number.
OSSOFF: Between both sides I think it was more than $60.
WHITFIELD: Pretty - pretty significant. You've maintained or you have been able to maintain a pretty strong volunteer front. You told me you had 13,000 volunteers who are still behind you on this. What will you do differently, however, to get the attention of voters in Georgia?
OSSOFF: Well, I'm honored to launch this campaign this week with the support of my hero and mentor Congressman John Lewis. And Congressman Lewis and I are going to go to every corner of this state to register voters, to inform people about their voting rights here on the front line of voting right.
WHITFIELD: How does his endorsement of your campaign change things for you or influence your direction I mean.
OSSOFF: I think it -- I feel a heavy obligation to live up to the values that he embodies -- human rights, civil rights, basic decency, a compassion, the dignity of every individual. My message for folks listening across the country, if you're at home, in a hotel, you're in an airport on your way somewhere, it doesn't have to be this way. We can still find unity; we can still find values that bring us together and priorities that we share and can pursue.
WHITFIELD: Are you taking any particular cues while watching the race for the White House? Are you seeing anything whether it be a candidate's approach to a particular issue whether it is healthcare which is a you know, a top priority for Georgians just as gun violence is a top priority for Georgians.
Is there a cue or is there anything that you're watching in that landscape borrowing from in your race?
OSSOFF: I try honestly not to take my cues from any other candidate for office. Let's get very specific about healthcare. As I said, most Georgians and most Americans agree every single citizen should have health insurance and healthcare. Why do we put ourselves with the needless anxiety, the bankruptcy, the pain from treatable or preventable illness?
And I'll tell you what I think we should do, we should extend an optional public health insurance plan nationally that is comprehensive, that is dental, vision, preventative care prenatal, post-natal. By the way, Georgia, the highest maternal mortality rate in the country. And let folks choose between that option and a private insurance option.
WHITFIELD: On the issue of gun violence, here is the latest example. Beto O'Rourke on the campaign trail in the Thursday night debate, getting a lot of attention, a lot of ink. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BETO O'ROURKE (D-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I met the mother of a 15-year-old girl who is shot by an AR-15, and that mother watched her bleed to death over the course of an hour because so many other people were shot by that AR-15 in Odessa and Midland. There weren't enough ambulances to get to them in time. Hell, yes, we're going to take your AR-15, your AK-47. We're not going to allow it to be used against our fellow Americans anymore.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: Are you among the Democrats who are worried that there are voters who see that as you're infringing on my Second Amendment rights, taking all of my guns away?
OSSOFF: Well, let's take put aside the politics and focus on the substance of the policy. Most Americans as I said, nine out of 10 want universal background checks. Most Americans believe that adding some specific need and high qualification assault weapon should not be available to the general public. Most Americans agree that semi- automatic weapons should require licenses. So I think there is common ground on this issue and there are so many people who are hurting and who are afraid because of this epidemic of gun violence. There's no need I think to antagonize marksman, hunters, people who are qualified serious owners and operators of firearms.
WHITFIELD: Because the vice president is already seizing on that saying, you know -- he wasn't just talking about the AR-15, he said taking your guns away. That was the translation of and the reiteration by the vice president.
OSSOFF: Well, Vice President Mike Pence as a congressman and now has been bought and paid for by the National Rifle Association for his entire career. And my message for the vice president is, take every dollar that you received from the NRA and give it to victims of gun violence.
WHITFIELD: And many Georgians who are listening to the vice president's message are saying, yes, those are my fears too. So how do you appeal to them?
OSSOFF: Because as I said, there is broad consensus on this issue. There is a clear public will for common-sense gun safety reform and universal background checks. I know I'm repeating myself but I'm repeating myself because again the solutions are not mysterious. We agree on these issues.
WHITFIELD: And you don't see any of those -- or any changes coming from this White House or the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell at this juncture?
OSSOFF: Look, I always leave open the possibility that people can change, people can do the right thing. But Mitch McConnell is at the root of so much that is wrong with American politics. And here in Georgia in 2020, we can remove Mitch McConnell from power by taking back the U.S. Senate. And if folks want to help me do that, it's electjon.com, electjon.com.
WHITFIELD: All right, Jon Ossoff in the race for the U.S. Senate seat here in Georgia.
OSSOFF: Thanks for having me. WHITFIELD: All right, all the best.
OSSOFF: Thank you.
WHITFIELD: All right, we'll be right back right after this.
[12:37:46] WHITFIELD: All right, right now, the Bahamas are bracing for yet another powerful storm as hundreds are still missing and thousands remain homeless in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian. Today, Tropical Storm Humberto could hit the northern Bahamian islands. Those islands are still trying to clean up the destruction left behind by Dorian and right now the death toll from Dorian stands at 50, a number that is expected to rise significantly.
CNN Meteorologist Alison Chinchar joins me now from the CNN Weather Center. So Allison, what can the Bahamas expect from Humberto?
ALLISON CHINCHAR, CNN METEOROLOGIST: All right, they could expect conditions to deteriorate quickly over the next several hours as the storm continues to make its way across. Winds are sustained at 50 miles-per-hour. The stationary movement though, that's the biggest concern because a lot of these areas that are getting some of these outer bands are going to continue to get them until the storm can finally begin to exit the area.
Here's the thing, it is expected to push off to the north and west before making a very sharp turn to the north and east away from the Freeport, away from Florida, and heading towards Bermuda. Now, one thing that is of concern, especially for Bermuda, is the storm is expected to intensify once it makes that sharp turn to the right. It's not out of the question we could perhaps get upwards of a category two storm out of this.
Now, in the short term, tropical storm warnings are issued for areas of the Bahamas because we do expect those wind gusts. Forty, 50, if not even 60 miles-per-hour, and also rain. Rain is going to be a huge concern with this particular storm as those bands continue to wrap around areas of the Bahamas.
Now, widespread totals for this particular area, we're looking at say mainly about two to four inches of rain. But there will be some areas that could pick up in excess of six inches of rain total. Another area of concern, guys, is going to be this cluster of storms over the Gulf of Mexico. We'll have to keep a close eye on that as it continues to its westward track towards Texas in the next few days.
But again, Fred, the biggest concern is going to be the wind and the rain for a lot of those areas that are really just continuing the clean-up process from Dorian.
WHITFIELD: What a mess. All right, Allison Chinchar, thank you so much. We're hoping for the best, of course.
All right, still to come, actress Felicity Huffman learned her fate after buying her daughter's way into college, but some say it's not enough. More right after this.
[12:44:06] WHITFIELD: All Right, welcome back. Oscar-nominated actress Felicity Huffman is heading to prison next month. After a tearful apology, a Boston judge handed her a 14-day sentence for her part in the nation's largest college admission scam. Huffman pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit fraud after she paid $15,000 to boost her daughter's SAT scores. She is the first parent to be sentenced in this historic scandal.
CNN's Miguel Marquez has more.
MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Felicity Huffman hand-in-hand with her husband, actor William H. Macy entering a federal courthouse in Boston to learn her fate. Huffman addressing the court through tears. She apologized to the judge, her daughters, and husband saying she's ashamed of her behavior recounting how one of her daughters told her, I don't know who you are anymore, Mom. She also said when she was driving her daughter to the testing center, she thought to herself, turn around, just turn around. And to my eternal shame she says, I didn't.
[12:45:10] Huffman concluded by saying she takes full responsibility.
Prosecutors wanted her to spend a month in prison. Her lawyers wanted probation for a year. In sentencing Huffman to 14 days in prison and a $30,000 fine, the judge saying despite Huffman taking responsibility, the outrage isn't the harm to the colleges. The outrage is a system that is already so distorted by money and privilege in the first place.
In May, the "Desperate Housewives" star pleaded guilty to one count of fraud for paying $15,000 to Rick Singer who got her daughter extra time on a college entrance exam and bribed the administrator at the location where she took it. In a three-page letter to the judge explaining herself, Huffman wrote, "In my desperation to be a good mother, I talked myself into believing that all I was doing was giving my daughter a fair shot. I see the irony in that statement now because what I have done is the opposite of fair."
Huffman is the first parent sentence in the sprawling federal investigation into college admissions cheating dubbed "Operation Varsity Blues". Dozens of wealthy, prominent and connected parents, coaches, and administrations have been charged in the scam masterminded by Rick Singer.
His front charity Key Worldwide Foundation purported to help disadvantaged kids in the U.S. and abroad. Singer who is cooperating with investigators has since confessed to taking tens of millions of dollars for helping kids of wealthy parents cheat on college entrance exams and bribing coaches to falsely designate students as athletes paving the way for their admissions.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi!
MARQUEZ (voice-over): Also caught up in the scandal, "Full House" actress Lori Loughlin whose two daughters were admitted to the University of Southern California as competitive rowers even though they never participated in the sport. Prosecutors say she and her husband fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli paid Singer a half-million dollars and even sent photos of both of their daughters on rowing machines to bolster their false claims. Loughlin and Giannulli have both pleaded not guilty to fraud and money laundering. The charges carry a sentence of up to 20 years in prison.
MARQUEZ: Huffman has been ordered to report to prison on October 25th. It's not clear where she will do that time. She asked for California, it's not clear that she'll get it. The judge at the end of the sentencing said she thought it was the right sentence. She said to Huffman, you can rebuild your life from here on out, you had paid your dues.
Miguel Marquez, CNN, New York.
WHITFIELD: All right, joining me now to discuss is CNN legal analyst and former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti. Good to see you, Renato. So, was she given leniency in your view because of her admission, because of her impassioned plea, because of the letters from her husband and even friends, famous friends?
RENATO MARIOTTI, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It certainly had an impact, there is no question that the judge took all of that into account. But it's worth noting here that the prosecutor has only asked for 30 days in prison, so it's not like she was given a very small fraction of what the prosecutors asked for. What happened here is she pled guilty very early. She was the first person, I think the first of the parents to plead guilty. And the amount of money involved was only $15,000. So in the federal system, you know, that drives the sentence for a type of crime like this is the amount of money involved, sot it was fairly small.
But certainly --
WHITFIELD: Go ahead.
MARIOTTI: But certainly there is a lot of -- I think there's been a lot of discussion about disparities for Ms. Huffman and other types of defendants and other types of cases. And I think those are fair as the first person to talk.
WHITFIELD: OK, namely actress Lori Loughlin. I mean, contrast her situation where, you know, Lori Loughlin allegedly paid hundreds of thousands of dollars, and then, you know, pictures of her daughter were sent and her sister -- you know, her daughter was not the athlete that, you know, the applicant, you know, they pledged to be. So do you that think the judge is sending a message potentially to a Lori Loughlin case where, you know, there was a plea of not guilty? MARIOTTI: Yes. There's no question that Ms. Loughlin is engaged in a very high-risk strategy. She's gambling that she can go to trial and beat the charges. And if she can't, she is going to face a much more stiffed sentence. I mean, I think she should be prepared to spend potentially years in prison if she's convicted not just the reality of the situation she's in.
WHITFIELD: Oh boy. All right, Renato Mariotti, thank you so much. Appreciate it.
MARIOTTI: Thank you.
WHITFIELD: All right, his death at the hands of North Korea shocked the world. Now the parents of Otto Warmbier are set to sit down with President Trump even after the president of the United States said Kim Jong-un was not responsible.
[12:50:05] So why they get together now? And what is potentially next?
WHITFIELD: All right, loved ones are remembering civil rights icon and activist Juanita Abernathy after she passed away this week. Her family tells CNN that she died Thursday in Atlanta from complications related to a stroke. Abernathy alongside her husband Reverend Ralph Abernathy worked closely with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Her work helped African-Americans achieve equal rights on a range of issues from voting rights to school desegregation. She was 87-years-old.
The parents of an American college student who died after being imprisoned in North Korea will have dinner at the White House tonight. Fred and Cindy Warmbier's son Otto died shortly after he returned home in a comatose state in 2017. The Warmbiers blamed North Korea for his death and are still waiting to collect money from a lawsuit that found North Korea responsible for his death.
CNN's Will Ripley has the story.
WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Right now, it's not exactly clear how this dinner came together. A dinner that two administration sources tell CNN will be at the White House with President Trump and Fred and Cindy Warmbier, the parents of Otto Warmbier, the American student who died after more than a year in North Korean custody.
[12:55:06] Also attending the dinner is Ambassador Richard Grenell, currently the U.S. ambassador to Germany and somebody who is being considered reportedly to replace National Security Adviser John Bolton who was forced to resign by President Trump. Of course, Bolton was a real North Korea hawk. So it's interesting that Ambassador Grenell who is eyeing that job is going to be having dinner with the Warmbiers and with President Trump.
The Warmbiers obviously have been very hardline on their view toward North Korea even at times that President Trump has lavished praise on North Korea's leader Kim Jong-Un. The Warmbiers have fired back, have fiercely insisted that the Kim regime is evil and responsible for their son's, they call torture and death. The Warmbiers are still trying to collect from a $500 million lawsuit that they won in U.S. federal court, a lawsuit that North Korea has not responded to. The Warmbiers are trying to seize assets from North Korea like ships and other items that may be seized as a result of international sanctions over North Korea's nuclear program.
So perhaps the Warmbiers will use their time at the White House to discuss that with President Trump and also to continue to make their case that Kim should not be a friend of the United States but in fact should be punished for the death of an American student who went into Pyongyang healthy and came out in a vegetative state.
Will Ripley, CNN, Hong Kong.
WHITFIELD: All right, coming up next, the son of Osama bin Laden killed by a U.S. counterterrorism operation. The White House just confirming some of the details. What we're learning, straight ahead.