Return to Transcripts main page
AT THIS HOUR WITH BERMAN AND MICHAELA
State Department: $400 Million to Iran was "Leverage"; Lochte Apologizes for Drama in Rio; Changes at Clinton Foundation; Syrian Boy's Image Becomes Symbol of Suffering in Syria. Aired 11:30-12p ET
Aired August 19, 2016 - 11:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[11:31:51] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: The Iran deal, the American hostages held in Iran and the $400 million payment to Iran, was it leverage or ransom? The State Department says it is leverage. It was leverage. But is acknowledging for the first time they held up the cash to make sure the Americans were released. But critics, including presidential nominee, Donald Trump, say that's exactly what ransom sounds like. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE & CEO, TRUMP ORGANIZATION: We now know from the State Department just announced that President Obama lied about the $400 million in cash --
TRUMP: -- that was flown to Iran. He denied it was for the hostages but it was.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: CNN White House correspondent, Michelle Kosinski, is in Martha's Vineyard traveling with the president.
Michelle, we talked last night. What's the White House saying about this today?
MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, they're not responding to what Trump has said. They're basically saying the same thing that the State Department said or we should say that the State Department is now saying. Because, you know, you look back at what we've heard surrounding this. First, you ask the White House, there at the same time the prisoners were released? Would the prisoners have been released if that cash wasn't there? The White House didn't want to answer that. Then the State Department says, yes, those prisoners would have been released anyway. It's just that the timing coincided because everything was coming together surrounding the Iran nuclear deal.
The State Department is saying, OK, well, we were so worried that Iran would not release those prisoners that we waited until they did and then we gave them the cash which was originally for something else and was owed Iran.
But they're using a new word now. You mentioned it. It's "leverage." Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ADM JOHN KIRBY, SPOKESMAN, U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT: The way I think ransom works is you have to pay first and then you get your hostages back. And that's not what happened here. We got our American citizens out first and then, because we wanted to make sure we had the leverage to get them out safely, then the $400 million that was Iran's was released to them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KOSINSKI: You know, they're giving this detail now. There was a question there, why didn't they describe it that way when all these questions came out surrounding this a couple weeks ago? Why didn't they give that detail? Why didn't they call it leverage then?
Republicans now are jumping all over this. They're calling it a ransom payment. The White House, though, says, no, it's not. They say that nothing has changed. The cash and prisoners were two separate things, and the timing came together because of the Iran nuclear deal -- Kate?
[11:34:41] BOLDUAN: Very interesting.
Michelle Kosinski, great to see you. Michelle, thank you.
Coming up for us, Ryan Lochte issues an apology for the fiasco in Rio. His statement, after sparking an international incident, coming up.
BOLDUAN: Well, the saga continues days after the international controversy over a robbery that turned out to be a non robbery, it appears, in Rio. U.S. Olympic swimmer, Ryan Lochte, is now offering up a mea culpa, taking to social media and apologizing for his behavior that night.
For more, CNN senior international correspondent, Nick Paton Walsh, live in Rio.
Nick, what all is Ryan saying?
[11:39:43] NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, he begins to say he wants to apologize to his behavior last weekend, "for not being more careful and candid in how I described the events of early that morning." That is pretty close to saying he wasn't giving an accurate picture in the story we heard initially from NBC News. It was tweaked slightly to NBC News. It was heavily contradicted by Brazilian police.
Let me take you to the most salient next point, which is, "It's traumatic to be out late with your friends in a foreign country -- with a language barrier --and have a stranger point a gun at you and demand money to let you leave."
This goes to the heart of the issue. I think everybody accepts there were firearms on display during the talk between the security guards and these four young men who, even the representatives accept, were pretty seriously inebriated or had been drinking certainly at that particular stage. So you have to imagine a situation where these security guards, 6:00 in the morning, see these men arrive, vandalize the place, urinate behind the building, then a confrontation occurs. Mr. Lochte still insists that it was traumatic for him. But I think many wonder what it was like for the security guards to see these men turn up out of nowhere and be, in the words of Brazilian police, "reasonably aggressive."
We will never get down to the detail of what happened in that moment, what was the truth, and who felt what fear with the firearms pointing at who, and who felt they needed to hand over what money.
It's taken four or five days for Mr. Lochte to step forward and say, OK, maybe, I could have been, quote, "more candid." Candor is something many equate with truth or at least acknowledging the uncomfortable fact about what necessarily occurs. That hasn't happened until this point.
Let me give you an extra element, too, that does seem to draw a line slightly under this story. We're getting to that point. James Feigen, the fourth swimmer, will pay $11,000 to a judo facility here. A nice happy ending. Potentially, he'll get his passport back, enable him leave the country. I think many then hope they can draw a line under this remarkably embarrassing story.
BOLDUAN: To say the least.
Nick, thank you. Following every twist and turn. We appreciate it.
Joining me now, Doug Burns, a defense attorney and former federal prosecutor.
Doug, thank you very much for being here.
DOUG BURNS, DEFENSE ATTORNEY & FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: My pleasure.
BOLDUAN: Thank you.
BOLDUAN: You heard Nick lay out the salient points of the apology. He also said this, "I waited to share my thoughts until it was confirmed the legal situation was addressed and it was clear my team would be arriving home from safely." Are they out of legal trouble now?
BURNS: Probably. I mean, that, first of all, is a carefully worded lawyer-like statement. BOLDUAN: You could have written this.
BURNS: It's almost like I wrote it.
Joking aside, look, the problem with it, on some level, is that people -- and I analogize this to jurors. I've been trying cases for 30 years -- they know a full-on apology and a tentative one. This is tentative. The correct one, maybe I being a little presumptuous, is I'm very sorry, I was not truthful about what took place, and I apologize, period, the end. Here, you know, "I wasn't candid, I wasn't careful." They throw in a little spin about being in a foreign country. Though, admittedly, I was an exchange student in 1970, 20 years old in South America, and it can be a difficult, language barrier, fear, et cetera. But the reality is, in my humble opinion, he could have been clearer in that apology.
Now to your question, are they in trouble. No, not really. From a legal standpoint, this is criminal mischief, let's start with that, which is kicking the door in and ostensibly damaging it. That's not a serious offense.
BOLDUAN: So, Doug, if they're not in legal trouble, if it's --
BOLDUAN: -- will end up being just an embarrassing, and legal trouble aside, maybe troubling to their brands.
BOLDUAN: One of the swimmers, Jimmy Feigen, reportedly is giving $11,000 to a Rio charity. It confuses me why this money is going to a charity. What does that tell you?
BURNS: That's a great question. I mean, in the United States, you know, for the most part, you don't see that. I mean, look, I've been in places where sometimes, look, if you pay this much restitution, you'll have this disposition. We chuckle and say, are you paying your way out of the case. But generally, we don't see that.
But apparently, in Brazil -- I'm not a Brazilian lawyer. I'm not trained there -- but, you know, they have a custom, apparently -- I just reading this myself for the first time -- where you ask somebody to donate to a charity, you know. But I can't understand theoretically how that's in return for not -- and I think this is your question, and you're right -- how is that theoretically in return for not pursing a charge against somebody. That's troubling. We can default back to the fact this is not a serious criminal case.
Even the making up the story wouldn't have been that serious, but for the fact of the integrity and safety of the games. That was the problem. Let's say hypothetically they made up some other story, which isn't we were robbed at gunpoint, but something else -- I can't even think of what it would be -- it would not have had this reaction from the Brazilians. The point is they came up with a story -- and, remember, this story -- (CROSSTALK)
BOLDUAN: That gets right to the heart of what the Brazilians did not want in terms of public relations.
BURNS: Exactly. That's why it hit a raw nerve, and that's why you saw this reaction.
BOLDUAN: Doug, thank you very much.
BURNS: My pleasure.
[11:45:11] BOLDUAN: We appreciate it, Doug Burns.
Coming up for us, a big shift at the Clinton Foundation. The group vows to ban all foreign and corporate donations to the foundation if Hillary Clinton is elected president. Why didn't that happen, then, when she was secretary of state? We'll discuss. We'll look into it.
BOLDUAN: Our breaking news today has focused on the latest shakeup of the Trump campaign with campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, resigning this morning.
Let's talk about other shakeups, if you will. Changes under way with Hillary Clinton. New rules for the Clinton Foundation. It will no longer accept donations if she is elected president, and former President Bill Clinton says he will no longer give any paid speeches if his wife becomes president. And he also doesn't plan to do any more speeches before Election Day, all aimed at preventing any perceived conflict of interest. What does that decision now say about then, when she was secretary of state?
Here with me now, Ron Brownstein, CNN senor political analyst and senor editor for "The Atlantic," CNN political commentator, Patti Solis Doyle, also a campaign manager for Hillary Clinton's 2008 presidential bid. And bad with us, CNN political commentators, John Phillips and Margaret Hoover.
Patti, if it's to avoid -- is there is a fear of even a perceived conflict of interest going forward and now, why didn't that exist when she was secretary of state?
[11:50:32] PATTI SOLIS DOYLE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, look, there were processes in place for transparency when she was secretary of state that the Obama administration wanted in there. But the Clinton Foundation does a lot of great work. In order to do that, it needs to raise money. They have given HIV treatment to people in Africa for the last five years, gotten our kids healthier here by promoting healthy living and not having soda in schools.
BOLDUAN: No one disputes they do good work but it's where the donations are coming from and why the applications when she becomes president don't apply when she was secretary of states. MARGARET HOOVER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Kate, when she was the
chief diplomat to the United States, more than a third of the donations for the Clinton Foundation were from foreign governments or foreign entities, over a million dollars or more, a third of them from foreign governments or foreign entities. It is not Pay to Play because that has not been proved. But an incredible perception and optics problem. Politics is perception. If we had had a competent Republican nominee running against Hillary Clinton, this would be the bane of her campaign. Politics is perception and the perception is that she cares more about wealthy donors and foreign interests than the middle class of America.
BOLDUAN: Ron, as Margaret lays that out, if they make this decision now, make this announcement now, does it erase any damage that is done by showing there is a discrepancy here in how they're applying the policy when she was chief diplomat of the United States, or is the damage done?
RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think the damage is done. If you look at the percentage of Americans that don't consider her trustworthy, it is extraordinarily high. Now Bill, in 1996, in the election polls, said they did not necessarily trust him. So it's not a fatal judgment. And it's taken a big toll on her. But there's not a question that it is a big problem. One, running for president of the United States is different than anything else. It requires a way to look at this in a way not done before. Second, we are in unchartered waters. The spouse of a former president who has kind of a globe-trotting operation of his own and it's something they do need to button down. This really underscores the need --
BROWNSTEIN: -- if she is elected, she needs an independent chief of staff that is not part of her cadre. One thing that's come through in all these examples, e-mails or anything else, is someone who can say no to her. That's what Clinton needs.
BOLDUAN: John, running out of time. John, does this take away your ammo now, now that they have made this announcement?
JOHN PHILLIPS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No. It was a conflict of interest. It was a conflict of interest. And it brings back to what was in those e-mails. She made the determination that it was better to delete them than allowing the public to see what was in them.
BOLDUAN: Guys, thanks for weighing in.
Coming up, the picture that has sparked new cries for a solution in Syria. Will this moving story, will this boy's face, will it wake people up? Will it change anything?
We'll be right back.
[11:56:17] BOLDUAN: This week's "CNN Hero" is using his love of horses to help others. Harry Swimmer discovered how animals could connect with special needs children. He transformed his North Carolina horse farm into a free therapy camp, helping hundreds of boys and girls. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HARRY SWIMMER, CNN HERO: Horses are very special animals. People just don't realize it.
What do you say now?
UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: Walk on.
SWIMMER: That's my girl.
We had a child on a horse who had a seizure and that horse stopped dead in its tracks. When nobody else noticed it, the horse caught it first.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: You can watch the full story at CNNheroes.com.
I want to move to this. If you have not seen this image. It is time you did. The five year old face of Omran. He's bloody. He's covered in dust after his home was destroyed in an air strike in Aleppo, Syria. That face quickly becoming the face of the human suffering of Syria's five-year long war.
CNN senior international correspondent, Nima Elbagir, tracked down the man who captured the stunning image.
NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL COMMENTATOR (voice-over): A little boy carried out of rubble into a waiting ambulance. A moment amidst the mayhem, a moment like so many others here in Aleppo.
5-year-old Omran Daqneesh unable to even cry, still unsure if his family survived.
ELBAGIR: The activist who took this video of Omran described to us over Skype how it took nearly an hour to pull Omran out from beneath the chaos, all the while, watching for the return of the plane that carried out the strike.
MUSTAFA AL SAROUQ, ACTIVIST (through translation): When we go to a place that has been bombed, raging planes circle around and bomb it again to kill rescue workers who help civilians.
ELBAGIR (on camera): This is, of course, daily reality for you in Aleppo. SAROUQ (through translation): We live these moments every day in
Aleppo. Right now regime planes are shelling nearby as I speak. The whole world is silent to these crimes in Aleppo against women and children. There are thousands of children like Omran who are bombed daily, killed daily. Everyone accepts their families being bombed and homes being destroyed.
ELBAGIR (voice-over): These images have now reverberated around the world. But will anything really change?
U.N. special envoy, Stefan de Mistura, is hoping it will. He is asking for a 48-hour humanitarian ceasefire.
STEFAN DE MISTURA, U.N. SPECIAL ENVOY TO IRAQ: And I again insist on behalf of the inspector-general of the U.N. --
ELBAGIR: This, though, is not the first time an image of a suffering child gave the world pause. Toddler Aylan Kurdi's lifeless body carried out of the treacherous Mediterranean Sea. 40 years ago, Kim Phuk's (ph) naked agony became emblematic of the ravaging of Vietnam. The world paused, shed tears, but ultimately moved on.
Another little boy joins Omran in the ambulance as, one by one, the injured and dead are retrieved. They will not be last children to be pulled out of their wreckage of their homes tonight or on any of the many nights to come here in Aleppo.
Nima Elbagir, CNN, London.
[11:49:51]BOLDUAN: The thing here is it's not too late for Omran.
Thank you so much for joining me AT THIS HOUR. Thank you for joining us this week.
"Legal View" with Ashleigh Banfield starts right now.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Ashleigh Banfield. Welcome to "Legal View."
We're going to begin this hour with breaking news out of the Donald Trump campaign. 81 days before Election Day and two --