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U.S. Troops In Syria Leave For Iraq; Acting Chief Of Staff, Mick Mulvaney, Trying Once Again To Walk Back Quid Pro Quo Admission In Ukraine Scandal; More Diplomats Set To Testify After A Week Of Critical Testimony; V.P. Pence, Sec. Perry Won't Comply With Impeachment Subpoena; Three Soldiers Killed, Three Injured In Training Accident At Fort Stewart; Felicity Huffman Spotted In Green Prison Jumpsuit; Scheme And Scandal: Inside The College Admissions Crisis; Lawyer Does "Dirty Work" To Keep Plastics Out Of Ocean; Declassified Airs Tonight At 11PM ET/PT. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired October 20, 2019 - 16:00   ET



ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST: Hello, again, everyone. Thank you so much for joining me this Sunday, I'm Fredricka Whitfield. We're following breaking news and a CNN exclusive out of northern Syria where the largest U.S. troop withdrawal is underway.

This is new video from CNN's cameras on the ground as troops withdraw from eastern Syria and in a surprise visit to Afghanistan today, U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said about a thousand troops are withdrawing on the ground and in the air there in Syria and quote, "are being repositioned in western Iraq," end quote.

The troops are not headed home to the U.S. contrary to how the president has been selling it. Secretary Esper said they will be in operations to defend Iraq and conduct counter ISIS missions. According to Esper, a U.S.-brokered cease fire in northern Syria, I'm quoting now, "generally seems to be holding," end quote. However, one Turkish soldier and more than a dozen Syrian Democratic Forces have been killed in the past 24 hours and both sides are accusing the other of violating the agreement.

Under the agreement, Syrian Kurds have until Tuesday to abandon a large piece of land in a buffer zone along Turkish border.

Speaking today, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo depended the agreement.


MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: This was about getting a ceasefire, a secure area and that this in fact will save lives in that very space. That was our mission set. We accomplished it. And now we need to make sure that the commitments that were made in that statement are honored.

(END VIDEO CLIP) WHITFIELD: Earlier this month, President Trump announced the pullout of U.S. troops in the area and then just days later, Turkey launched a military offensive to force Kurds out of the area.

Our Nick Paton Walsh is live for us in northeastern Syria.

So, Nick, you're seeing about 500 troops on the move right now?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: As we understand it, yes, nearly 500 troops on the move inside that convoy. The exact numbers, though, how many will remain, how many are going out, not entirely clear at this point. You did refer to how Secretary of Defense Mark Esper says that about 1,000 will relocate to Iraqi Kurdistan.

Now I understand the movements we saw beginning today involve this convoy, possibly close to 200 vehicles maybe involved in it at the end, but getting to develop, you can see the rallying point there at a base near Hasakah. That's where they came together during today and we understand in the hours and days ahead, they will move east through this area still controlled by the Syrian Kurds and then out to Iraq Kurdistan.

A deeply symbolic moment for both the Syrian Kurds who've had the U.S. as their ally during the fight against ISIS and which the Syrian Kurds lost over 10,000 people. And of course, the U.S. troops who I think it's fair to say mostly reluctantly are finding themselves managed this hasty withdrawal.

This has been a very difficult few weeks in which they've gone from trying to manage a peace between Turkey and the Syrian Kurds through the a complex mechanism to finding themselves forced to withdraw to enable a Turkish invasion and then as the Syrian rebels that Turkey is backing rolled almost out of control through the territory here, U.S. troops were given to order to withdraw simply because last Sunday, in a matter of hours, the security situation deteriorated so fast.

The order to withdraw was given frankly before they could execute that move. That's never what any real military strategist wants to find themselves caught doing, but still you're seeing brave men and women of these forces here putting themselves together in their vehicles and slowly making that journey out.

They say a deeply symbolic moment. This is a largest land movement they've made inside of Syria. It's important moment for American power in the Middle East. Frankly given the complicated political posture here, frankly the confusion about what Trump's policy is here inside of Syria and really the men and women on the ground having to execute this hasty move.

Back to you.

WHITFIELD: Nick, stick around with me. I want to bring in Colonel Cedric Leighton into the conversation. He's a CNN military analyst, a retired Air Force colonel who served in the Middle East and the Defense secretary. Good to see you, Colonel. The Defense secretary is saying these U.S.

troops are headed to western Iraq for missions against ISIS. So, what could that entail and does it make sense to you that this counter ISIS strategy would be moved to Iraq?

COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, this time, Fred, no, it doesn't make sense to me because what we're doing is we're removing ourselves from the fight and doing this is, you know, something that really shouldn't be done until it makes military and strategic sense to do so.

You know, from a tactical standpoint, it's necessary to do this because we're not willing to put a stop to the Turkish incursion into Syria, but from a strategic standpoint, it makes absolutely no sense because what we're doing is we are giving away the ground that we've gained in the fight against ISIS with our Kurdish allies as Nick so correctly points out.


And that is something that we really can ill-afford to do right now.

WHITFIELD: And then, Nick, you know, we're hearing reports that during this U.S. troop, you know, pullout, some of which you've witnessed, that there's also heavy air support involved. Have you seen that as well?

PATON WALSH: Yes, we've not actually seen much ourselves, but we've told that there were substantial aircraft and you would expect that for a troop movement of this extraordinary size. We've seen air cover in the past. The smaller American convoy movements here as security has slowly collapsed here.

I've got to point out to you, you know, we're into a very dangerous 72-hour period ahead of us here. This American departure takes away one of the key kind of buffer forces. Yes, they were not involved, the Americans, in policing the ceasefire. Yes, they pulled back under the orders of President Trump to enable the Turkish incursion into Syria, but they were still some sort of sense of stability here. A kind of (INAUDIBLE) in the background.

People thought they would potentially watch their moves in case the Americans decided to get involved despite their orders to stay well out of all of this. Their departure leaves a larger vacuum here and concerns about what may come out of the deadline for the ceasefire to end on Tuesday. That coincides with a key meeting in Sochi between President Erdogan of Turkey and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

He's the backer of the Syrian regime who the Syrian Kurds here abandoned, they feel, by the United States and moving towards as their next ally. Can Russia and Turkey divide this up amongst themselves? Can they create a mechanism that makes both happy and the Syrian regime and the Syrian Kurds? Unclear.

President Erdogan has said, if he doesn't see the Syrian Kurds pull out of the enormous area which Turkey has interpreted as being the area affected by the ceasefire from which they believe the Syrian Kurds should withdraw, America has a very different interpretation of what that ceasefire actually means, then President Erdogan has said he will move full speed ahead with his offensive here.

And people, frankly, are very concerned about what that may mean given the impact this offensive has already had on civilians -- Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: Yes. And Colonel, look at the images. I mean, you know, Kurds are not just feeling abandoned, but by the thousands they're being displaced. You know, and this troop pullout we're hearing from current, retired military -- U.S. Military generals who say at a minimum, U.S. credibility is damaged and now the president is misrepresenting the truth about ceasefire, about this stabilization or lack thereof.

So what in your view is likely happening among the rank-and-file on trust in the commander-in-chief?

LEIGHTON: Well, I think it's really detrimental to that trust, Fredricka, and what we're seeing is it's very quiet within the military ranks in terms of overt discussions of this, but behind the scenes, the military is really angry about this generally speaking.

This is a betrayal of trust not only vis-a-vis the Kurds, but also up and down the chain of command within the U.S. Military and that betrayal of trust is something that is very, very difficult to regain. It's bad enough externally. It's also going to be difficult internal to the U.S. Military.

WHITFIELD: And, Nick, Senator Lindsey Graham, you know, said that even if President Trump, in his view, didn't give a green light to Turkey, he did give a yellow light and that you just don't do that in the Middle East. Take a listen to what he had to say.


JEANINE PIRRO, FOX NEWS HOST: The president indicated he was going pull out whatever number of troops there were in that buffer zone, which as I understand, it was far less than 50. Is that what it was?

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): It's not so much the 28. What I was concerned about is, number one, the president did not give Turkey a green light to invade Syria, but he didn't red either. He said -- he gave a yellow light and you don't give yellow lights in the Mideast.


WHITFIELD: So, Nick, the incursion did happen whether it's yellow or green light, it did happen. So what are the long-term repercussions potentially?

PATON WALSH: Just another point of fact. This incursion occurred because troops were withdrawn from the area which Turkey needed to move into and those troops were sat there purposely as part of a security mechanism that Turkey agreed to, to prevent this from happening. So it is a falsity, frankly, to suggest that that departure was not connected to Turkey moving forward.

But where does this leave the region? It leaves the region with the notion that America is frankly an unstable ally, certainly under this political leadership, and it leaves, I think, as you heard there, a number of American soldiers who have sacrificed a lot of time and friends here, potentially very aggrieved. Their commander-in-chief, it leaves a region not quite sure whether America can be called upon in the hour of need.

You've seen the Saudi Arabians, for example, remarkably closed to Vladimir Putin, just in the last couple of weeks after they felt threatened.


But U.S. officials say by Iran, Iran denied attacking their oil field. So we have, because of this precipitous withdrawal, how badly it's been handled, how clumsily, frankly, the green light or yellow light or whatever you want to call it, the Trump administration gave to Turkey to mount this incursion, we have a crisis in faith in American leadership after decades of them really keeping the peace in this region -- Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: Nick Paton Walsh in Northeastern Syria, Colonel Cedric Leighton in Washington, thanks to both of you. Really appreciate it.

LEIGHTON: You bet.

WHITFIELD: All right. Still ahead, White House acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney is still playing cleanup over his admission there was a quid pro quo on the call between Trump and Ukraine.

This as CNN learned of an inside effort to push Mulvaney out. We're live from the White House next.


WHITFIELD: All right. We're following new developments in the expanding impeachment inquiry. Today, the president's Acting Chief of Staff, Mick Mulvaney, trying once again to walk back his quid pro quo admission last Thursday in the Ukraine scandal.


MICK MULVANEY, ACTING WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: That's what people are saying that I said, but I didn't say that. Can I say how people took that the wrong way? Absolutely. But I never said there was a quid pro quo because there isn't.


WHITFIELD: All right, this coming as multiple sources tell CNN Mulvaney faced internal efforts to oust him from the White House before Democrats moved ahead on the impeachment inquiry.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) [16:15:01]

CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS HOST: Did you ever offer or think to offer the president your resignation?

MULVANEY: Absolutely not.

WALLACE: Was that ever discussed?

MULVANEY: Absolutely positively not.


MULVANEY: I'm -- listen, I'm very happy working there. Did I have the perfect press conference? No. But, again, the facts are on our side.


WHITFIELD: CNN's Jeremy Diamond is at the White House for us.

So, Jeremy, you know, how is Mulvaney, you know, now explaining this quid pro quo admission? I mean, how is this new explanation going over?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, Fredricka, if you think back to that briefing on Thursday at the White House, that's why we held up the money. We do this all the time with foreign policy.

Those were the words used by the White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney to describe the fact, to make that stunning admission frankly that the president's desire for an investigation into 2016 matters into the DNC server, this debunked conspiracy theory, was part of the reason why that security aid to Ukraine nearly $400 million of it was withheld and today the White House chief of staff was repeatedly confronted with those words in an interview and he insisted that he was simply being misconstrued.


MULVANEY: One of the things you, again, said just a few seconds ago that I said there was a quid pro quo, never used that language because there is not a quid pro quo.

WALLACE: You were asked by Jonathan Karl, is there -- you described a quid pro quo and you said that happens all the time.

MULVANEY: Again, reporters will use their language all the time. So my language never said quit pro quo. But let's get to the heart of the matter. Go back and look at that list of three things. What was I talking about? Things that it was legitimate for the president to do.


DIAMOND: And in that very interview, Fred, one of those three things that he named once again was again the president's interest in this investigation into 2016 matters related to the Democratic National Committee.

Now Mick Mulvaney's defense it seems, the latest twist of it, appears to be that he's saying, look, I didn't use the words quid pro quo even if that is what he admitted to.

WHITFIELD: So, what more do we know about these threats of some, you know, machinery behind him about removing him from his post?

DIAMOND: Well, look, nobody's ever on fully solid ground it seems at this White House when it comes to staff. Everyone is expendable and that much was very clear when the Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney had egg on his face as a result of the president pulling this decision to hold the G-7 at Doral next year, and we're also told that before this impeachment matter, before this Doral question, that the White House chief of staff -- there were top aides at the White House who were reaching out to potential replacements for the chief of staff and he was apparently on shaky ground.

Now this impeachment saga seems to have really captured the White House's attention, but nonetheless questions were raised again this morning in that interview about whether the chief of staff had considered resigning in the wake of this press conference. He insisted that he did not and was not asked to -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right, Jeremy Diamond at the White House, thank you so much.

Let's talk a little bit more about all this with Francesca Chambers, McClatchy White House correspondent, and Julian Zelizer, historian and professor at Princeton University.

Good to see you both.


WHITFIELD: All right. So, Julian, you first, you know, your reaction to this White House and rumors about, you know, constant maneuvering of shaking up that perhaps even this acting chief of staff was not, you know, on solid ground. What does this say about this White House or what it takes to continue to work in this environment?

ZELIZER: Well look, it's always been an unstable White House with a lot of turnover. Many people who are in there without even being confirmed. And then you take that and you layer on a major investigation, an impeachment investigation, with a president who says all sorts of things, there's going to be a lot of instability like this, and key members are going to get caught up in front of the cameras saying things that are not beneficial to the president and not beneficial to themselves.

WHITFIELD: And so, Francesca, we understand that, you know, Mulvaney was prepped, you know, prior to that press conference on Thursday about, you know, talking points. What they perhaps wanted him to, you know, get out in front. Is there a better explanation about what happened and, you know, did he go rogue or you know did he have his own agenda or was he just speaking the truth and maybe they didn't want that?

FRANCESCA CHAMBERS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, MCCLATCHY: Well, as he acknowledged this morning, he misspoke and before he said it was reporters who misconstrued his words, that's what he said in a statement after that press briefing, but on multiple opportunities this morning in that interview that you aired, he said he can see how people may have taken it a different way, including the Department of Justice.

And certainly there's also other people who took it the wrong way, including the president's own attorneys which sought to distance themselves from that press briefing which went from bad to worse for Mick Mulvaney because first it started with problems over Doral, then over his Ukraine answers and now we're back to Doral is a problem for Mick Mulvaney in that press briefing.

WHITFIELD: Right, and so, on Doral now, there's an about-face. I mean, you know Mulvaney made the announcement. There wasn't a better place and so it's going to be the Trump Doral property in Miami. And now today, you know, Trump says it will no longer be Doral, so it's back to the drawing board.


And even Mulvaney saying or at least the conventional wisdom is now the White House is reconsidering thinking about Camp David. So where's that list, you know, that Mulvaney spoke of that it was Doral that just kind of was, you know, on top of the list. It was untouchable based on of the other sites.

CHAMBERS: And there were -- he said that there were 12 sites that they initially reviewed and considered. There were 10 that they said they went to look at. Among those on the short list was Doral he said. He also cited California and Utah as potential places where it could be at.

So, it's unclear at this point if the White House is looking at the same short list of places or if they're looking at somewhere else. But it's worth noting that the president cited Camp David as somewhere it could potentially be at, but in that press briefing, Mick Mulvaney said that that was a miserable place to have had when it was there last time so it's hard to see how that would be at the top of the list this time despite what the president said.

WHITFIELD: OK. And while Republicans have been fairly quiet on the whole Ukraine issue, but then, you know, this G-7, Doral and even Syria has inspired a lot of Republicans, Julian, to speak out now. Among them, outgoing -- now outgoing Republican Congressman Francis Rooney who had this to say.


REP. FRANCIS ROONEY (R-FL): I'm going to be looking at myself in the mirror and my children a lot longer than anybody in the Capitol and it's important to have integrity in what you say and do. And I can't imagine how they would say it's good to have Trump use his hotel for the G-7.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Do they not have integrity?

ROONEY: Well, I just don't understand why they would say that. To me, it doesn't respect -- it doesn't seem a very honest statement when you know what the Emoluments Clause is. And you're just setting yourself up for people to say he's abusing the office.


WHITFIELD: So is this his conscience speaking and perhaps, you know, for other Republicans, Julian, you know, might this be a turning point?

ZELIZER: Well, we're still not at a turning point. The good news for the administration is he is outgoing, and that's symbolic of where the Republicans on Capitol Hill are. Meaning those who remain in office are still defending the president. They're loyal to the president. They're withstanding all the political heat they are taking because of every story that comes out.

That said, clearly, the mood quietly on Capitol Hill is not the same. Republicans really are having trouble not simply with impeachment, but many other decisions like this decision about where to hold G-7 or the decision in Syria and that's where there's a vulnerability. It's not a question of conscience. It's a question of politics. And does the president push Republicans too far to the point they see a risk in continuing to support him?

WHITFIELD: All right. We'll leave it there for now. And Julian Zelizer, Francesca Chambers, thanks to both of you.

ZELIZER: Thank you.


WHITFIELD: We could learn a lot this week as several key witnesses head to Capitol Hill as part of the impeachment probe into President Trump. Could they bolster the whistleblower's claims?



WHITFIELD: All right. Democrats are preparing the ratchet up the impeachment inquiry again this week. Several diplomats and Trump administration officials are expected to testify and give depositions. This comes after a full week of testimony by diplomats and ambassadors who bolstered many of the whistleblower's claims.

With me right now, Shan Wu, a former federal prosecutor and a CNN legal analyst.

Good to see you. SHAN WU, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Good to see you.

WHITFIELD: So, if you were able to question perhaps the acting ambassador to Ukraine, Bill Taylor, who had in text, you know, said it would be crazy to withhold U.S. aid for political purposes, what would you want to know when he appears on Tuesday?

WU: I think two things, Fred. First, I want to have him explain. I'd want to know what was crazy about it. What is his concern about that possibility because that would be part of educating eventually the American people as to what kind of damage is really done by these kinds of things? So I'd ask him to explain why was it crazy. What does that mean, what repercussions could there be for diplomacy, for the security of the United States.

And secondly, as any good investigator would do, I'd want to know who told you that, who else knew, and basically develop other witnesses from him.

WHITFIELD: And then, Shan, you know, the acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, you know, says he never used the words quid pro quo and so thereby that's not what he meant, and people are misconstruing his thoughts, but what kind of potential trouble has that admission on Thursday created for the White House?

WU: The admission has further confirmed what actually happened, which was the president did offer a quid pro quo. He wanted something in return for the aid. What Mulvaney, and we may see other Trump supporters trying to do this, too, is they're trying to latch on to the phrase quid pro quo as some sort of magical incantation that if I didn't say, then the stone wasn't cast.

WHITFIELD: Must not be.

WU: Exactly right. But quid pro quo just means something for something. There's nothing inherently criminal about quid pro quo. What the crime is, is selling taxpayer dollars in return for helping the president's influence in the election and then lying about it. So that's really what the crime is and that's what they're trying to take the focus off of.

WHITFIELD: There are a lot of people ensnared in this now. And the House impeachment investigators have also, you know, subpoenaed the outgoing Energy Secretary Rick Perry, who says he won't comply. How much more difficult has he made it for perhaps himself or has the administration made it for himself by either encouraging, you know, blocking any subpoenas or honoring any requests?

WU: Well, he's certainly making it more difficult for himself. I mean, the right thing, the honorable thing to do would be to comply with the subpoena. Depending on the timing of matters, if he's no longer a federal employee, it's a little bit harder for him to lean on the federal government or the Trump administration to protect him.

16:30:00] But the Trump Administration -- Trump's folks have no choice here. I mean they only have two things to do. They have to delay as long as possible so they want to basically tell everyone don't cooperate. Let's slow it down as long as we can.

And then ultimately, when they get through the court battles trying to raise his immunity or second (ph) privilege then they're just going to have to lean into it and say, this is what happened but we didn't do anything wrong.

But for him personally, Perry is basically choosing sides at this point. And he's hoping the administration will save him. He'll expose himself to legal jeopardy for contempt by not cooperating.

WHITFIELD: Yet not cooperating doesn't -- it only send the signal that, you know, there's something to hide.

WU: Oh, absolutely. And those signals are coming fast and furious for us right now. I mean by telling everybody not to cooperate, it signals that you're trying to hide an enormous amount and of course, legally, it totally undercuts the strength of whatever --

WHITFIELD: Whatever your defense is.

WU: -- legal argument you might actually have. Right. Yes.

WHITFIELD: All right. I'm no attorney, but I'm learning a lot from all of you attorneys. All right, Shan Wu, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

WU: Good to see you. Thanks, Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right, next, an update on breaking news. Three soldiers in Fort Stewart, Georgia, killed in a training accident, a live report next.



WHITFIELD: Welcome back. This breaking news out of Fort Stewart, Georgia. There are deaths and injuries during a training exercise. Polo Sandoval has more. Polo.

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Authorities updating us just a short while ago providing more information on that deadly incident that took place earlier this morning. A training exercise that left three soldiers dead and three of them injured.

We now know that a Bradley Fighting Vehicle, according to the army, rolled over at about 3:20 this morning, this happening at Fort Stewart Hunter Army Airfield. The website of that installation describes it as the largest East of the Mississippi.

The army only saying that three of them died at the scene and then three others soldiers were evacuate and treated for their injuries. We still don't know what kind of exercises was being conducted at the time. We also don't know the identities of the dead quite yet. The army does have a process.

The Department of Defense goes through a process and we usually don't hear the -- or learn the identities until the next of kin have been notified at least 24 hours after.

What - this is really just the latest in these kinds of incidents. Now, remind you, it was earlier this summer that I was reporting on a West Point cadet that lost his life during a training accident not long from here - not far from here. Not long after that happened, Congressional report then revealed that about 32 percent of active duty deaths are directly linked to accidents between 2006 and 2018.

When you compare the number of actual service members killed in action is 16 percent. So, this is really just going to be the latest example and the latest reminder Fred of the broader safety concerns that come with military training as of course authorities continue to investigate this latest one in Georgia.

WHITFIELD: All right, Polo Sandoval, thank you so much.

SANDOVAL: Thanks, Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right, next, new images into CNN of actress, Felicity Huffman, wearing a dark green jail jumpsuit as she serves time for her role in the college admissions scandal. Details coming up.



WHITFIELD: From ball gowns on the red carpet to prison garb in the jail yard. Picture surfacing online this weekend show "Desperate Housewives" actress, Felicity Huffman, wearing dark green jail jumpsuit as she serves prison time in Dublin, California for her role in the college admissions scandal.

Huffman began her 14-day sentence after pleading guilty to paying $15,000 to improve her daughter's SAT scores. In all, more than 50 people have been charged in the biggest cheating scandal in U.S. history. CNN's Fareed Zakaria examines how the college admissions process became so broken in a new CNN's Special Report, "Scheme and Scandal", inside the college admissions crisis. Here's a clip.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Meredith), what do you want to say to your former players? Do you have any remorse, Mr. Meredith, your former players who trusted you?

FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST, FAREED ZAKARIA GPS: Yale's soccer coach took over $400,000.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: John Vandemoer pleaded guilty to taking hundreds of thousands of dollars in funds. ZAKARIA: Stanford's sailing coach agreed to take over $600,000 for the sailing team.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you have anything to say about your part?

ZAKARIA: The FBI believed that UT tennis head coach was paid more than $90,000.



ZAKARIA: In all, 10 coaches and athletic officials were accused in Rick Singer's scheme. Five have pleaded guilty and five not guilty.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Singer, do you have anything to say?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How about all the students that were qualified and were cheated out of those funds?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Students were kept out of school because of what you did? What's your reaction to (INAUDIBLE)?

ZAKARIA: It's no coincidence that college sports is at the heart of the biggest college admissions scandal in history.

Singer worked with the parents to fabricate impressive athletic profiles for their kids. Singer knew that the recruitment of athletes was a weak link in the admissions process.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The students' athletic credentials had been fabricated.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Charging documents say Ernst accepted millions of dollars in bribes.

ZAKARIA: Coaches had enormous power to choose their recruits.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What made you want to plead guilty?

ZAKARIA: It was tough to bribe a whole committee, but you could bribe one person.

Schools say they're addressing a problem, stressing that they were victims in Rick Singer's scheme. But the system they created lives on where some kids get huge advantages in admissions through the side door of athletics.


WHITFIELD: I'm joined now by Fareed Zakaria. So, Fareed, this scandal allegedly involved dozens of people, millions of dollars in bribes. We know it involved some celebrities and powerful people. But you also spent time looking into another scandal involving legal ways of finding a side door into college? Tell us about that. ZAKARIA: Yes. To me, the most interesting thing about examining this issue was the scandal is not so much what's illegal, which is what we heard about, but what's legal.

You think of the American college admissions system as this great meritocracy where really the best and brightest are let in. But the truth is, there are many elements of the old system of kind of the aristocratic system, if you will, that remained.

For example, recruited athletes. It is still very much a part of the American college admissions process to seek out talented athletes and to bring them in. It's a process that circumvents the normal admissions process. So, the coaches, in effect, give the admissions office a list.

And so, what the guy who did this scandal, his great genius and this is I suppose a kind of genius of capitalism is that they found the weak door. The weak door into college admissions is through recruited athletes, because otherwise, you'd have to bribe the entire admissions committee. That's how these decisions are made, right?

You've got seven, eight, ten people in the room. How do you get them all to agree on letting one person in?


Recruited athletes doesn't work like that. Essentially, the coach gives a list to the admissions office and those people -- most of those people get in. So, you just have to just bribe one person. And that -- what that shows you is that the whole system doesn't make sense.

You should not in colleges like the fanciest, most difficult college in the world to get into you should not have this side door that really lowers academic standards substantially.

It's something most people across the world will find particularly strange because no other country has it. You know, Oxford, Cambridge, do not have anything like a recruited athletes program. University of Tokyo, it's one of the best universities in the world. This is a peculiarly American system and it was particularly vulnerable to abuse.

WHITFIELD: And there's big money involved particularly when you're talking about colleges, universities that have sports, very lucrative sports programs.

ZAKARIA: And some of these colleges you could just say that there are huge sports franchises with the little college attached to them.

WHITFIELD: All right, Fareed Zakaria, thank you so much. Of course, we'll be watching "Scheme and Scandal" inside the college admissions crisis that premieres tonight, 9:00 Eastern right here on CNN.



WHITFIELD: All right. More than eight million tons of plastic ends up in the world's oceans every year. And that's the equivalent of a garbage truck dumped every minute.

Well, this week's CNN hero is a lawyer in Mumbai who took it upon himself to tackle this global problem after visiting a beloved beach from his childhood. Meet Afroz Shah.


AFROZ SHAH, CNN HERO: The whole beach was like a carpet of plastic. For the first time in my life, I didn't want to be near the water because the garbage was like five and a half feet.

This problem of pollution is created by us. And with this in my mind, I started to clean the beach. Then I told myself it would be difficult for a single man to do it. So, I said, why not take this personal journey to others?

If this huge ocean is in a problem, we'll have to rise up in huge numbers. When you have a complicated problem sometimes solutions are simple.


WHITFIELD: Wow. To see how that first beach he began cleaning looks today, go to right now.

All right, "Declassified: Untold Stories of American Spies" is back tonight with an all-new episode. And this week, host Mike Rogers takes us inside the manhunt for one of the most notorious war criminals of all time. Here's a preview.


MAJ. GEN. JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS (RET); HEAD OF GEOPOLITICAL STRATEGY, ACADEMY SECURITIES: Bear in mind what happened, the Dayton accords stopped the warring elements. It did not include people who were war criminals to take off your uniform, give yourself up. You need to be arrested. None of that took place.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You had a job like General Krstic who committed atrocities. But after the Dayton peace accords wipe the slate clean and now he's a credible commanding general and he committed genocide.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Give me my sister back.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, the Muslims kept asking themselves, where is the justice?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And what we recognized and what they were insisting on was you couldn't have peace without justice. And so the justice meant identifying the perpetrators of the war crimes so they could be turned over to the criminal tribunal in The Haig.


WHITFIELD: Wow. Joining us right now, CNN Military Analyst, retired Army Major General "Spider" Marks. Good to see you. He's featured, as you just saw --

MARKS: Hi, Fred.

WHITFIELD: -- in tonight's special. Also, he served as the commanding general of the U.S. Army Intelligence Center during the missions to track down Serbian war criminals. So, tell us more about this General Krstic and why it was so important to bring him down.

MARKS: He was an extremely bad guy to put it in the vernacular. He was the commander of the Drina Corps. And he was in charge and in fact, facilitated and authorized the killing of close to 8,000 Serb- Bosniaks, which are Serb Muslims, and really to set the stage of all of that.

Why did that ethnic cleansing take place? Why did this ancient and almost inexplicable deep sense of hatred suddenly let loose? And why did we have what occurred in the -- in the Balkans back in the late '90s?

It was simply, you know, the stage was set when the Soviet Union collapsed in '91 and the United States was now the world's sole superpower. But we're giving out Russia an opportunity, which had really kind of put a thumb over everything in that part of the world for the past -- the previous four decades.

And now, all of this was -- suddenly the rules are changing. And the United States was trying to figure out what it role was going to be vis-a -vis Russia. And then, Russia was trying to figure out its role, et cetera, et cetera.

All of the recidivist behavior, all of this ethnic violence just exploded in terms of what we saw very specifically in the summer of 1995 when Krstic and his corps conducted this incredible, unbelievable atrocity.

WHITFIELD: Wow. And then, it was, you know, the common knowledge that these atrocities were happening. And that he was largely responsible. It was another thing to try to capture him.

MARKS: Right.

WHITFIELD: How did that happen?

MARKS: Well, as described, he continued to exercise a position of authority in plain sight. We went through the Dayton peace accords that the United States had really pushed through the leadership. The United States was absolutely imperative to achieve this level of peace.

But Krstic was allowed to continue to act as a commander. So, he was -- he was in plain sight. Well, what happened is the intelligence community continued to track his whereabouts. We're talking about all elements of intelligence to include partnerships with those in the region, other allies and partners in the region. But simultaneously, the international tribunal for criminal war criminals in The Hague, the ICTY, International Criminal Tribunal of the former Yugoslavia -- excuse me.

What they were doing is they were --


MARKS: -- they were conducting -- they were conducting all of the legal efforts to see if they could bring this case to the -- to the surface. And they did. But that remained a classified or what's called a sealed indictment.


When that was suddenly released, we were in the Balkans at the time. The intelligence was at a really high level. The authorization, the green light to go after him suddenly came in. Those two were married up and we were able to get the guy.

WHITFIELD: Yes, the U.S. involvement, however, was delayed, right?

MARKS: Yes, it was until we got the green light. And then, it took some time to build up the -- what I would call a clear understanding of his pattern of life. And when that was established, it was executed incredibly well. Amazing precision.

What's important is that what was learned in the Balkans at this time was then evolved over the course of time, Fred, in terms of what we saw --


MARKS: -- in the past 18 years since we've been in combat going after terrorists in both Afghanistan and Iraq.

WHITFIELD: It's an incredible story to be told. Major General "Spider" Marks, thank you so much.

MARKS: Thanks, Fred.

WHITFIELD: Of course, we'll be watching. Looking for more of your input in this all-new episode of "Declassified: Untold Stories of American Spies" that airs tonight, 11:00 Eastern only on CNN.

And thank you so much for being with me today. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. The "Newsroom" continues with Ana Cabrera right after this.


ANA CABRERA; CNN HOST: We're live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York. Thanks for being with us.