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Sr. Admin Official: Saudi Attack "Likely Originated In Iran Or Iraq"; Joe Biden Talks Race In America; Texas Congressman Switches Endorsement From Julian Castro To Joe Biden; Yang Wades Into Controversy Over SNL Comic's Anti-Asian Slurs; 46,000 G.M. Workers Threaten Strike Tonight; Detroit Nurse Has Helped 250,000-Plus Families In Poverty; Georgia Fans Stage "Pink Out" To Honor Coach's Wife Of Opposing Team. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired September 15, 2019 - 16:00   ET



FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST: Hello, again, everyone, and thank you so much for joining me this Sunday. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

We begin with oil prices expected to go up and flaring tensions in the Middle East over a massive drone attack on Saudi Arabia's oil facilities, and now the U.S. is pointing its finger at Iran. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is leading the accusations. He tweeted this with zero publicized evidence to support his claim saying, quote, "Iran has now launched an unprecedented attack on the world's energy supply. There is no evidence the attacks came from Yemen."

Houthi rebels in Yemen initially took responsibility for the attacks, however that quickly raised suspicions that this large-scale operation might have been too much of a technological feat for that group. The fires have cut off half of Saudi Arabia's oil supply and have halted 5 percent of oil production worldwide. And just to put it into perspective the sheer magnitude of the attacks, here are satellite images released from NASA where you can see the smoke from the fires at the Saudi oil facilities all the way from space.

Joining me right now to discuss is CNN International Correspondents, Ben Wedeman in Beirut and Nick Paton Walsh in Tehran.

So, Nick, you first. The Iranian government is calling the Secretary of State Pompeo's claims against them baseless. What is Iran saying about who would be responsible for this attack on Saudi Arabia's oil refineries?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Iran has gone along with the Houthi rebels of Yemen who claimed responsibility for this by suggesting some of its officials that actually those Yemeni rebels have the capability to carry out this attack.

Remember the Houthis, those Yemeni rebels, said they launched 10 drones from their territory and flew through hundreds of miles of Saudi Arabian territory with their tens of billions of dollars spent on air defenses and then hit these prized oil refineries inside Saudi Arabia causing a startling amount of damage and potentially putting at risk about a 20th of the world's oil supply.

So, a massive feat frankly for them technologically. Yes, as you say. Iran has heard of course Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's statement that this was them. His two tweets released very starkly, painting an extraordinary allegation in a region already aflame with deep tension here and they've responded saying, from their Foreign minister, Javad Zarif, saying that this is rather maximum pressure, with we've heard characterized as being the U.S. response towards Iran, ratcheting up sanctions. Javad Zarif said this is instead maximum deceit.

So, they're entirely rejecting the idea. And I have to say, we are still waiting for the evidence, for the details of this extraordinarily extreme allegation that we've heard from the United States. Now geographically, if you look at where these attacks occurred, they are nearer Iraq where some U.S. officials anonymously have suggested may -- they may have emanated from than they are Yemen. And there is a point to be made, does the Houthis have the technology to fly that far across Saudi Arabia?

Some say yes, they do, potentially. They've gone in leaps and bound of late, but we're into a whole new episode here where for the past months, it seems like Saudi Arabia and Iran regional adversaries through their proxies have been nipping at each other, doing small things to perhaps exacerbate the tensions or establish their position, particularly given American pressure on Iran. We're in a different place here now. Many parts of the evidence, though, still missing -- Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: OK. Thanks, Nick.

And then, Ben, you know, there clearly is a lot of confusion as to where these joint attacks originated from, who might be behind them. In fact, a source is telling CNN that it could have come from Iraq.

What are you hearing about now all of these discrepancies and even the U.S. placing blame on Iran without also publicly sharing any evidence?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fred, having covered the lead up to the Iraq war I'm always hesitant when it comes to unnamed sources. Now, as far as Iraq goes, certainly on the 14th of May this year, there was a drone attack on the east-west pipeline, two pumping stations in Saudi Arabia. U.S. officials at the time said they believed that perhaps the attack could have come from southern Iraq.


Now in southern Iraq, you have what's known as the Hashd Shaabi, that's the predominantly Shia popular mobilization units which are trained and supplied by Iran, so perhaps it's possible that they could come -- they could have come from Iraq. That part of Iraq.

Also the Kuwaiti news agency is reporting that the authorities there are investigating reports the drones flew through Kuwaiti territory in the -- yesterday, Saturday morning, so there are indications that perhaps it's possible that these drones came from Iraq and in addition to that, there is reporting circulating in the Middle East at the moment that this attack on the Saudi oil facilities was not from Yemen, but rather from these Iraqi groups supported by Iran in revenge for Israeli attacks on their bases over the last three months, few months. So, it's a confusing situation and in the absence of any evidence from anywhere, the confusion certainly thickens -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: Oh, boy. And so, Nick, while this is being sorted out and if Saudi Arabia or the U.S. definitively determines from where this came, what kind of retaliation should be expected from Saudi Arabia?

WALSH: Well, it's interesting to hear so far that Saudi Arabia has not publicly accused Iran in the same way that the United States has so openly. Is that, some analysts say, because if they did that, they would potentially be drawn into retaliating against Iran? We simply don't know. And as Ben said, this is all still speculation frankly. Claiming, counter claim, until we see the evidence. It's vitally important to work out who carried out these attacks.

They mark a sea change, frankly, as I've said in the tension in the region. But we were living a world that was entirely different really 48 hours ago. When I came into Tehran, the major question was what's going to happen with U.S.-Iran policy.

Now, National Security Adviser, John Bolton, the ultimate Iran hawk, has been fired, according to U.S. President Trump. Many people thought perhaps diplomacy might get a chance. There was talk maybe of a meeting at the U.N. general assembly in a couple of weeks' time between Iranian president Hassan Rouhani and President Trump.

Donald Trump has said he might potentially have been willing to indulge that. Iran have said they won't go to meet until they saw sanctions softened, although has suggested possibly they might meet if it was in the benefit of the Iranian people.

A lot of moving parts in diplomacy, but suddenly this morning, we're in a different world where the United States is saying Iran's behind an attack without any evidence. And many I think are concerned that we're being set back or was this brinkmanship ahead of some possible deal. Back to you.

WHITFIELD: All right. All fascinating and very complex.

Nick Paton Walsh, Ben Wedeman, thank you so much.

All right. Let's talk more now, with me now, Aaron David Miller. He spent more than two decades. OK, Aaron David Miller is not with us, actually. All right. We have a little confusion here. Yes, there you are. I see you now. I'm glad you're here.

Aaron David Miller is with us. He spent more than two decades as adviser and negotiator for both Republican and Democratic administrations and Bob Baer is former CIA operative who served in several Middle East countries and is a CNN intelligence and security analysts.

Good to see you both. Thank you so much. All right, so, Bob, you first, because I mean listening to our

reporting coming from our fabulous correspondents there, I mean, it really paints the picture of just how unbelievably complicated and still mysterious all of this is. So, you've got the U.S. secretary of State who's willing to tweet out that it is Iran that is responsible here without also supplying any kind of evidence. But Saudi Arabia has not publicly placed blame. What does that mean to you?

ROBERT BAER, CNN INTELLIGENCE AND SECURITY ANALYST: Well, the last thing the Saudis want to do is get into a confrontation with Iran at this point. I mean they are very vulnerable to Iranian rockets. They share a border with Iraq. They could be attacked from there. And they also have Yemen. And you don't threaten Iran unless you can really back it up. And neither the United States nor Saudi Arabia can. We just simply cannot go to war with Iran. We could strategically bomb it, but at the end of the day, we'd be in real mess.


WHITFIELD: Is there a danger --

BAER: A conflict that would look like a --

WHITFIELD: Is there a danger in saying this without providing some evidence publicly?

BAER: It's a huge danger. People don't understand the Iranians. They have been at the same foreign policy since 1979. It's pretty much been tit-for-tat. Goes back to Lebanon.


It goes back to Argentina. Attacks there. And on and on and on. And so our backing out of this nuclear agreement and imposing sanctions, it was 100 percent certain that the Iranians would come back. They've come back with small attacks. They used proxies. It's very difficult to pin blame on them, obviously with these drone attacks. As far as I'm concerned, they are winning this confrontation and this administration, I don't see an easy way out for it.

WHITFIELD: So, Aaron, why wouldn't the U.S. wait on saying something publicly, you know, like it just did? I mean, how is this beneficial for the U.S. to via tweet secretary of State say Iran but then we're left with all these questions and then other sources who are saying perhaps it's retaliation. May involve, you know, Israel, perhaps it's Iraq. I mean who is this benefitting all of this now?

AARON DAVID MILLER, FORMER STATE DEPARTMENT NEGOTIATOR: It's not benefiting, certainly it's not benefiting American national interests and here's where the administration's impulse, lack of impulse control and strange relationship with the truth comes back to hurt it. If in fact we end up in a crisis where the projection of American military power is actually happening, we decide and Bob's right.

I mean, I think striking Iran frankly is insane. It's going to create consequences, implications for which we have no answers, but if we did, president did take the country into another military conflict, his credibility, his believability is critically important to the trust and confidence not only of Congress, but the American public.

And frankly, I've voted and worked for Republicans and Democrats. That credibility has been badly undermined. The question I guess, Fred, is -- and Bob again is right. There are no good options here. You have a new norm now created which demonstrates real vulnerability.

Can you imagine if the Iranians decided to do serious damage with their rockets and ballistic missiles to Saudi oil infrastructure? I mean these were Houthis. 15,000 bucks. Low investment. Every time the Saudis launch a Patriot missile in response to Houthis, it's $1 million. So we --

WHITFIELD: So it sounds like -- so you do believe that from Yemen, the Houthis who first claimed responsibility did launch these 10 drones and that's where the responsibility lies?

MILLER: Don't know. I think there's a high probability, though, that the road, whether it's Iraq or Yemen, leads back at least to Iranian support whether the Houthis have that kind of technology. Without Iran, I frankly doubt. So, the question is, what to do about all this and all roads I think lead back to the rational coherent answer which is trying to find a way into a negotiation with Iranians, minimum to deconflict and then hopefully to try to deal with a critically difficult challenges that divide us.

WHITFIELD: So. Bob, what do you hope or expect is happening behind the scenes as it pertains to U.S. intelligence, security, to I guess calm things down or help investigate what really is happening here as opposed to reading the posture of the U.S. by way of tweet?

BAER: Well, I mean I wish Aaron were in the White House at this point. I mean, there is, there's nobody I know in the White House who understands the Iranians. Bolton certainly didn't. This president doesn't. I don't know of any policy adviser that can talk him down. You know, there's no experience. He's gotten rid of everybody, McMaster, and on and on and on.

So we are flying blind at this point, and going back to pulling out of this nuclear agreement, he didn't have a plan. Nothing. And you don't do that with the Iranians. We're playing checkers. They play chess. And, you know, we've got to get some expertise in the White House advising this president and he's got to start listening or I really do fear an escalation because the Iranians are not going to stop whether they use proxies or go directly.

Next thing they're going to do is start hitting desalinization plans and then Saudi Arabia goes under. And there's all sorts of scenarios this could go very bad very quickly and you have a very erasable president who might strike out. I just don't know at this point. Your guess is as good as mine.

WHITFIELD: All right. Bob Baer, Aaron David Miller, we will leave it there for now. Thank you so much. MILLER: Thank you, Fred.

BAER: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: All right. Next, Vice President Biden tells a packed church hate is on the rise again. His impassioned speech to African- American voters from the historic Birmingham's 16th Street Church. Coming up. This as Biden gains support from a Texas congressman who is now refusing to back Democratic candidate Julian Castro. Why?


Details straight ahead.


WHITFIELD: Democratic presidential frontrunner Joe Biden delivering an impassioned speech earlier today in Birmingham, Alabama, at the 16th Street Baptist Church on the 56th anniversary of the church bombing carried out by Klan members who killed four little black girls. The former vice president warned that racism and white supremacy are once again on the rise in this country.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I know there's nothing we can't accomplish if we stand together. Stand against hate. Stand up for what our best our nation believes. Honesty, decency. Treating everyone with dignity and respect. Giving anyone a fair shot.

Leaving nobody behind. Giving hate no safe harbor. Demonizing no one. Not the poor, the powerless, the immigrant or the other. Standing as a beacon for the world. Being part of something bigger than ourselves. That's who we are and who we're supposed to be. And that's why I believe so passionately that we have got to work to bring this country together.


WHITFIELD: CNN Political Reporter, Arlette Saenz is in Birmingham and is joining us right now.

So, Arlette, you know, Biden linked the racism that fueled this bombing nearly 60 years ago to the same racially charged attacks that we have seen in this country, in Ohio and Texas most recently.


How were his comments received?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, Fred, Joe Biden stood at the pulpit at the front of this church and spoke in very emotional terms as he recounted that bombing that occurred here 56 years ago and also warned of the current racism and white supremacy that existed in the country. Referring to those massacres in El Paso, in Charleston just a few years ago, and also talking about the clashes in Charlottesville.

Take a listen to what he had to tell the congregation here this morning.


BIDEN: Hate only hides. It doesn't go away. If you give it oxygen, it comes out from under the rocks. It can be defeated or drowned out, but it can never be totally vanquished. But we also should realize that the revulsion of hate at its ugliest can summon us as a nation to do better.


SAENZ: Now Biden was here in Birmingham courting that critical black vote. Right now, that makes up a core constituency of Biden support. A recent poll that CNN released found out 42 percent of black Democratic voters support the former vice president. He'll be heading to South Carolina tomorrow to continue courting black voters -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right, Arlette Saenz, in Birmingham. Thank you so much.

All right. Straight ahead, did Julian Castro's debate fight with Joe Biden just cost him an endorsement? Why a sitting congressman from Castro's own state is switching sides.



WHITFIELD: 2020 candidate Julian Castro loses a key supporter after his attack on Joe Biden in the third Democratic debate. A Texas congressman pulling his endorsement just days after this exchange.


JULIAN CASTRO (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My plan would do that, yours would not.

BIDEN: They do not have to buy in. They do not have to buy in.


CASTRO: You just said that.


CASTRO: You just said that two minutes ago. You just said two minutes ago that they would have to buy in.

BIDEN: You do not have to buy in if you can't afford it.

CASTRO: You said they would have to buy in.

BIDEN: Your grandmother wouldn't have to buy in. If she qualifies for Medicare it's automatic to do.

CASTRO: Are you forgetting what you said two minutes ago? Are you forgetting already what you said just two minutes ago? I mean, I can't believe that you said two minutes ago that they had to buy in and now you're saying they don't have to buy in.


CASTRO: You're forgetting that.

BIDEN: I said --


WHITFIELD: Castro says his comments were not veiled attacks on the frontrunner's age. Regardless, Democratic Congressman Vicente Gonzalez is now backing Biden. Gonzalez explained his decision this morning to our Jake Tapper.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Do you stand by your endorsement of Secretary Castro?

REP. VICENTE GONZALEZ (D-TX): Well, I think at this point in time, we need to narrow the field and unite as Democrats to defeat trump in November 2020 and that's why I believe I'm moving my support to Vice President Joe Biden. I think he's certainly showed the statesmanship throughout every single debate. He's been the steady ship. He has eight years' experience in the White House already. He had a distinguished career in the Senate.

He has a story that resonates with the American people and I clearly believe that he is the candidate that can get us past the finish line and clearly Secretary Castro is a qualified candidate. We have an amazing array of qualified candidates but I think it's time to narrow the field and unite and get ready to defeat Trump in 2020.


WHITFIELD: All right. Joining me right now, BuzzFeed Political Reporter, Darren Sands and CNN Political Analyst and Washington Bureau Chief for The Associated Press, Julie Pace.

Good to see you both. All right, Julie, you first.


WHITFIELD: How difficult, Julie, will this be for Castro to bounce back from this?

PACE: Well, when you're someone like Castro, you don't have a ton of endorsements to begin with. And so, seeing one of those walk away from you after this debate certainly isn't a signal of confidence or strength in your candidacy and I do think it speaks to some of what the response has been to Castro's performance in that debate. It was read -- regardless of what he said in the aftermath, it was

read by a lot of Democrats as a shot at Joe Biden's age and several Democrats that I've talked to said hey, this actually might be an issue that we should be talking about as a party. Is Joe Biden too old to serve as president? But if you're going to do it, let's have a real debate about it. Let's not take this sort of underhanded dig in a debate. Let's have a constructive conversation about it.

WHITFIELD: And so, Darren, Beto O'Rourke was pressed on this same issue of Biden's age earlier on "Meet the Press." Take a listen.


CHUCK TODD, MSNBC ANCHOR: Is the debate about Vice President Biden and the concern about his fitness to take the fight to President Trump, A, is it a legitimate debate and do you have concerns?

BETO O'ROURKE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Oh, no, I could care less about that to be honest with you. I was listening to your opening package. I mean, who the hell cares, right? You've got tens of millions of people who cannot see a doctor. In Texas where I am right now, largest provider of mental health care services is the county jail system. You've got 10 years left within which to confront climate change or it is all over for all of us.

You've got kids in cages. Families who have been separated. I mean, there's some really urgent issues that we've got to be addressing in this country right now. The thing I care about is Joe Biden's age or some inter-party fight between candidates up on that stage. We've got to be talking about the big things that people in this country care about.


WHITFIELD: Darren, did he nail it?

DARREN SANDS, POLITICAL REPORTER, BUZZFEED: I mean, I think so. I think that's the right answer at this at this point. Especially -- and I think you know Beto O'Rourke is someone who understands almost as much if not more than anyone that this is the party that in a lot of ways is still belongs to Barack Obama in terms of that winning coalition that he was able to put together in 2008.

And there are lots of candidates on that stage a couple of days ago who I think had every right to sort of articulate in what ways they think they have sort of they are the rightful heirs to that legacy.


So, I do think that whether it's O'Rourke or someone like Julian Castro, they have a responsibility I think to voters to explain why they think they are the rightful per -- the rightful person to uphold that legacy. And I think Mr. Castro made it pretty it clear during the debate that he definitely wanted to begin a conversation about that with the American people. WHITFIELD: All right. And then turning to one of Castro's rivals, another of his rivals, Andrew Yang, you know, he weighed into the controversy of SNL's recent hire of Shane Gillis; and in particular, Gillis's past bigoted comments about Asians. And Jake Tapper, you know, pressed Yang on his willingness to forgive Gillis the way he did. Listen.


ANDREW YANG, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, there've been a number of reactions to my call for forgiving Shane Gillis. And I've experienced a lot of anti-Asian racism throughout my upbringing. And it hurts, you know. And it's something that's very real. And I do think anti-Asian racial epithets are not taken as seriously as slurs against other groups.

But at the same time, bigger picture, I believe that our country has become excessively punitive and vindictive about remarks that people find offensive or racist and that we need to try and move beyond that if we can, particularly in a case where the person, you know, is in this case, to me, like a comedian who's words should be taken in a slightly different light.


WHITFIELD: So, (Julie), is Yang's message resonating?

PACE: Yes. I think it's a pretty thoughtful and clearly, for him, a personal message, you know. He's talking not just about his response to this one incident, but just his history as an Asian American having heard slurs and comments like this for quite some time.

And I do think he makes an interesting point. We do sort of live in this culture right now, this kind of outrage culture, where every outrage is sort of met by, you know, another higher level of outrage in the response. And he's trying say, hey, let's have a conversation. I'm willing to have that conversation.

I think, you know, sometimes having responses like that might end up just being more productive if you actually -- if the goal is to actually try to explain to people why the comments are hurtful and are not warranted.


SANDS: Yes. I think, you know, Andrew Yang has run a really smart campaign. Obviously, he's focused on one issue. But I think this was an opportunity for him to obviously sort of wade into a conversation that our country is having about race. And I think it was deeply personal to him to be able to sort of talk about how those comments have affected him in the past.

I thought it was a really sort of a smart idea. You think about someone like Rep. Dan Crenshaw who used his sort of feud back door. I think it was this last season with Pete -- the comic, Pete Davidson. And that was an opportunity for Crenshaw and Davidson to so sort of come together. It was kind of an interesting time, an interesting thing to see.

So, I think Yang understands in a lot of ways that he's not going to be able to continue to harp on these sort of cultural issues. But I do think that one thing that he is going to be able to do is continue to have sort of a nuance conversation in a way that isn't going to alienate a lot of the people he's attracting.

A lot of the people he's attracting to this conversation are Trump voters who like his ideas, who like the way that he's being direct. And I really do I think appreciate the way that he is sort of bucking the more progressive liberal pattern of how you run for president.

So, I think it's smart on his behalf. I think that he's someone who the party needs to continue to watch. And dealing with this idea of political correctness is something that I think lots of folks, you know, have dealt with.

WHITFIELD: All Right. Darren Sands, Julie Pace, thanks to both of you. I appreciate it.

SANDS: Thanks.

PACE: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: All right. Next, we're now just a few hours away from what could be the first major auto strike in more than a decade. Why one of the country's biggest unions says General Motors is not meeting their demands.



WHITFIELD: Nearly 50,000 United Auto Workers are planning to go on strike tonight if General Motors does not meet their demands. The union's contract with G.M. expired today. But members are waiting until midnight to see if the two sides can reach an agreement.

Workers are threatening to walk off the job at 31 G.M. factories and 21 other facilities. CNN's Scott McClain joins us now with more on this possible strike. So, Scott, what do we know about any last minute potential contract talks?

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, as of this moment, the United Auto Workers are saying, look, our 46,000 members who work at G.M. will walk off the job at midnight tonight.

The two sides have actually been negotiating since July. They've tried to make a deal. They were talking last night and even into this morning. But there haven't really been any substantial talks today though G.M. is saying they're people are standing by. They are ready to talk and try to hammer out a deal if it is possible.

If they do walk off the job though, this would be the first time that a U.S. auto union has walked out since 2007 when G.M. workers went on strike for about three days. Neither sides has been real clear as to what they want though the union is saying they want things like better wages, better healthcare, profit sharing, and job security.

A statement from the UAW Vice President read, "We stood up for General Motors when they needed us most. Now, we are standing together in unity and solidarity for our members, their families, and the communities where we work and live."

Now, the company says it's offering more money in each year of the contract, an $8,000 signing bonus, and the same healthcare that members already have. G.M. said the statement that read in part, "We presented a strong offer that improves wages, benefits, and grows U.S. jobs in substantive ways. And it is disappointing that the UAW leadership has chosen to strike at midnight tonight. We have negotiated in good faith and with a sense of urgency."

Now, a person familiar with the G.M. proposal says that the company is also offering to restart production at two plants that are scheduled to close; one in Michigan, one in Ohio. One of those plants would be building batteries for electric vehicles and the other one would be building electric trucks.

But here's another problem for the union. This is all taking place against the backdrop of a pretty big scandal involving some high- ranking union officials who are accused of misappropriating funds or even taking bribes.

Last month, the IRS and the FBI actually raided the home of the UAW President Gary Jones. He hasn't stepped down. In fact, he was quoted in the latest union press release one, one of the problem for G.M. is, well, their business -- the sales have slowed. Their business is shifting. They're trying to free up some capital to invest in things like self-driving cars and electric vehicles as well.


WHITFIELD: Wow. But this is now, you know, at the doorstep of so many people. All right, Scott McLean, thank you so much.

MCLEAN: You bet.

WHITFIELD: Appreciate it. All right, we'll be right back.



WHITFIELD: All right. This breaking news into CNN on the Saudi oil facility attack. We're now learning, according to a senior administration official says Saudi Arabia -- the Saudi Arabia attack likely originated in Iran or Iraq.

CNN's Jeremy Diamond is at the White House for us with more on this to bring us some clarity on what's being said. JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: That's right, Fredricka. Well, yesterday, you hear or you saw, rather, the Tweets from the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo saying that there is no evidence that this attack originated in Yemen after those Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen claimed responsibility for this attack.

And he also directly blamed Iran for this. Now, a senior administration official I spoke with moments ago is trying put a little bit of meat on the bones of the Secretary of State's statement saying that it is quote, very difficult to see how these things could have come from anywhere but Iran or Iraq. So, very much suggesting that this attack originated from in either Iran or Iraq, not in Yemen, as those Houthi rebels have claimed.

Now, this official did point to a number of factors in trying to make this case. One of those points is that most of these facilities that were attacked, they were attacked on the northwest point suggesting, in the words of this senior administration official, that the attack, therefore, originated either in Iraq or in Iran, not from the south, which is where Yemen is.

And this official is also pointing out, again, the angle of the attack but also the fact that the drones that were used in this, the Yemen Houthi rebels have said that ten drones were used. Nineteen targets were attacked according to the senior administration official who argued that it's not possible to hit 19 targets with these ten drones.

So again, this is just a view so far of one senior administration official trying to provide a little bit of context and meat on the bones for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's statements. But we are still awaiting more information, more evidence from the U.S. government at this hour, Fred.

WHITFIELD: And it is still interesting, however, Jeremy, because Mike Pompeo, the Secretary of State, his Tweet was much more certain about Iran as opposed to this statement now saying either/or -- either Iraq or Iran.

And this was Mike Pompeo's Tweet yesterday. "Tehran is behind nearly 100 attacks on Saudi Arabia while Rouhani and Zarif pretend to engage in diplomacy amid all the calls for de-escalation. Iran has now launched an unprecedented attack on the world's energy supply."

So, is this information now coming from the senior administration official now trying to refute what Pompeo has said or trying to potentially quiet tensions as a result of what Pompeo said more definitively that it was Iran that was responsible?

DIAMOND: I think this is the best way to read it. Look, the senior administration official is very much also laying the blame at Iran's feet saying that Iran is to blame for this because even if the attack did originate in Iraq, the belief in this administration is that it would, therefore, have been carried out likely by Shi'a militants who are directly backed by Iran.

And there is, you know, there are a lot of folks in the administration who would saying that any attacks from Iran back to militias in the region would, therefore, be under some kind of direct or indirect control by Iran and particularly its reigning revolutionary guard force.

WHITFIELD: Jeremy Diamond at the White House. Thank you so much for bringing that to us. Appreciate it. We have so much more straight ahead the "Newsroom" after this.



WHITFIELD: All right. We want to take a moment to honor this week's "CNN Hero". She is a nurse in Detroit where nearly half of the city's children live in poverty. Najah Bazzy has been working to change that since she made a house call more than 20 years ago.


NAJAH BAZZY, FOUNDER, ZAMAN INTERNATIONAL: Working as a nurse, I went to visit this Iraqi refugee family and an infant that was dying. And they're at the house. They absolutely had nothing. There was no refrigerator. There was no stove. There was no crib. The baby was in a laundry basket. I decided that this wasn't going to happen on my watch.

How's your apprenticeship going?


BAZZY: Nurses are supposed to fix things. We are healers. And this is just a place that heals the world.


WHITFIELD: All right. To learn more, go to All right, a touching tribute at a college football game for a grieving head coach from the opposing team.

Fans at Saturday's University of Georgia game swapped their bulldog red for pink in support of Arkansas State Coach Blake Anderson who lost his wife, (Wendy), to breast cancer last month. The idea started on Tuesday when a UGA alum Tweeted a call to fans saying, "It's bigger than a football game." And boy, was it.

Georgia fans answered with body paint, signs, and shirts in memory of Wendy Anderson who was just 49 years old. Coach Blake Anderson joins me right now. Coach, wow. This must have blown you away. How did you feel when you walked in and saw all this pink? Did you know what it meant right away?

BLAKE ANDERSON, HEAD COACH, ARKANSAS STATE RED WOLVES: You know, I had heard about it earlier in the week and had done my best to try to digest it. First message I got was on Tuesday and it brought me to tears to be honest with you. I talked to my kids about it, let them know kind of what was going to happen. WHITFIELD: Wow.

ANDERSON: I mentioned it to the team as well. But it's hard to truly prepare for something quite that big and that massive. And I also just a bunch of people that don't know us to do something so foreign.


WHITNEY: Oh my gosh. That was incredibly touching. And I mean, how did you keep it together, you know? How did you -- how could have any other focus except, you know, for the memory of your beautiful wife, Wendy?

ANDERSON: It's hard. It is. Just try to -- to try to compartmentalize as best I could and give it its moment. Again, like I said, it's just a very emotional week, tears throughout the week. But also, I wanted to be able to kind of lift myself back up and do the job I needed to do. It caught my eye throughout the TV media breaks during the game of just seeing different people. And the student section was unbelievable.

And so, you just had to kind of bring yourself back to center and get back to the game when it played and then enjoy it and really honor and respect it when you had your chance to do so.

WHITFIELD: Wow. And then, what about for your team, you know? What was that like and how has this probably brought all of even closer together?

ANDERSON: Well, we've been a family for quite a while. This is just the way we've always put this thing together for six years. And the team has done an amazing job. It's been a lot to go through.

They truly felt and treated Wendy like mom. They called her Mama Wendy. Kids by the house. Kids check in on her. It's hit some of them very, very hard especially the young men that have been here for four and five years and truly have gotten to know us that closely.

And I think they've done an amazing job of handling it, been very supportive. They've lifted me up, lifted my family up. They were great in my absence for a little bit. But I think they're really excited to have me back. And we're just kind of pulled together. It's made us stronger. It's not easy to go through.


ANDERSON: It's not easy to go through especially when you're 17, 18, 19 years old. But I've been so proud of how they responded.

WHITFIELD: Wow. You all married 27 years. Coach Blake Anderson, thank you so much for being with us. And thank you for allowing us to help celebrate your wife, Wendy, your union, and how just so many people came together to just give you a big giant hug. I really appreciate your time.

ANDERSON: Thank you. I appreciate you for having me. WHITFIELD: My heart goes out to you. All right. Thank you so much for joining me this Sunday. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. CNN's NEWSROOM continues with Ana Cabrera right after this.