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tv   Smerconish  CNN  January 16, 2016 6:00am-7:01am PST

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>> is that the letter? >> this is the letter. >> you found it? >> very few people will tell you the truth. you do that. >> the person who changed my life. a week-long special event starting tomorrow on cnn. >> we hope you join us for "the person who changed my life." >> that's it for us. smerconish starts now. -- captions by vitac -- i'm michael smerconish. we start with breaking news, my exclusive story about comedian bill cosby and evidence that i believe jeopardizes the criminal case against him. you'll recall that just a few weeks ago the famous comedian was finally hauled into court in suburban philadelphia to face charges for sexually assaulting
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temple university andrea constant. this after 50 different women all had come forward to say bill cosby had molested them. i have learned that this case, the only criminal charge cosby has faced may fall apart. i obtained a document that could blow the case up. i talked about it a bit last night on "ac 360," but now new information. let me back up and tell you the story. back in 2005, the district attorney of montgomery county, pennsylvania, bruce kastor was investigating andrea constand's case. he wanted to prosecute cosby but believed he didn't have enough evidence to sustain criminal charges beyond a reasonable doubt. he thought constand might get justice in a civil suit. he claims he made an unusual deal to create an atmosphere where she could get that justice, telling the comedian's
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attorney, i won't prosecute your client if you promise to testify in a civil case. cosby's attorney agreed. it was a deal. in the deposition, cosby admits he has sexual relationships with at least five women outside his marriage, gave prescription medication to women and tried to hide the affairs from his wife, giving benadryl that can cause drowsiness to relieve stress. he says the sex was always consensual. why would he testify so openly? because he believed it would never be used against him in a criminal court. the civil case was settled and the deposition remained sealed for many years. last year a judge decided to release a transcript of it, and the explosive charges cosby faces now are largely based on that transcript which we now know could very well be thrown out of court when the case has a hearing on february 2nd.
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in the last few days, i obtained an e-mail, this e-mail that i confirm was written by ex-da bruce castor. only those involved in the cosby case have seen this until now. the only record of the deal promising not to prosecute bill cosby. castor wrote, i can see no possibility that cosby's deposition could be used in a state criminal case because i would have to testify as to what happened and the deposition would be subject to suppression. i cannot believe any state court judge would allow that deposition into evidence. knowing this, unless you can make out a case without that deposition and without anything the deposition led you to, i think cosby would have an action against the county and maybe even you personally. bruce castor has been subpoenaed to appear at the hearing on
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february 2nd, at which time i believe the case can fall apart. joining me now, mark o'mara, william j. brennan and defense attorney ariva martin. mark o'mara, what could you as a defense attorney do with the information i just provided? >> no question. i would go to the court and say, look, judge, i this agreement, an immunity agreement which means you can't use my client's testimony against him. it is the only reason why he testified, was because of the agreement, and it needs to be suppressed. i will tell you, michael, there are a lot of problems with the waybill cosby's lawyers handled or failed to handle this ten years ago. why this agreement was not ironclad and in writing kept away in a lawyer's safe somewhere to use for a precise time like this, i have no idea. plus immunity agreements, even if they existed are not ironclad, not 100%. there's a lot of ways this information can still be used against bill cosby if he doesn't act appropriately under that
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supposed agreement. >> bill brennan, give me the view from the ground in suburban philadelphia on this issue of immunity. i know the current da says there's a protocol one must fall for immunity. immunity is provided by the court. i think this is castor in this e-mail saying i exercised my da's discretion. >> absolutely, michael. i think to call this an immunity agreement is really to play into the hands of the current district attorney because in his response he says there are formal protocols for immunity agreements and they weren't followed here. this is a promise by the former district attorney who had the authority to bind the commonwealth in perpetuity not to prosecute. it's very well. i agree with mark. it is curious this was not reduced to writing. but it's a very strong possibility that mr. cosby may
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not have wanted a, quote, unquote, immunity agreement. immunity infers to the public that you have criminal exposure because of the largess of the prosecutor, you're getting a pass on your crime. let's go back to 2004-2005, dr. huxtable was the most popular guy in america. i don't think he wanted an immunity agreement. he wanted what he got, a binding promise not to prosecute. he gave up a valuable write in testifying under oath at the civil deposition. that bell can never be unrung and a subsequent prosecutor should not and hopefully will not be able to invalidate the agreement. >> ariva, i know this is complicated for non-lawyers. let me walk through two steps and i'm ooer eager to hear what you have to say. a petition was filed last week, an excerpt, the commonwealth
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through district attorney bruce castor promised in 2005 that mr. cosby would not be charged in connection with these allegations in exchange for mr. cosby giving testimony in the complainant's civil case, and this line which i've highlighted, mr. castor reminded the district attorney's office about that agreement in 2015 before these charges were brought. ariva, there was no further explanation as to how former d.a. castor had reminded them. now we know he did it in writing on september 23rd, three full months before they charged cosby. here is another excerpt from the e-mail that he sent. with the agreement of the defense lawyer and andrea's lawyers, i intentionally and specifically bound the commonwealth that there would be no state prosecution of cosby in order to remove him from the ability to claim his fifth amendment protection against self incrimination, thus forcing him to sit for a deposition under oath. so castor's side of it which
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will be challenged, i'm sure, by the prosecution, is saying i was trying to do her a favor. i couldn't meet the criminal burden. i tried to set the table for her to get paid in the civil case. your reaction? >> michael, i think this plays very nicely into what cosby's attorneys have been saying over the last couple weeks which is the current d.a. is using cosby's case to fulfill a political promise that he made, not to pursue justice, not to follow where the evidence takes him, but really to just say to the commonwealth, look, i promised you when i was running for d.a. that i would prosecute bill cosby no matter what, and now i'm doing what i promised you. this is very troubling to me as a citizen, and anyone should be very troubled by the fact that a district attorney can use his government power that he possesses to make a promise and a subsequent district attorney
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can try to fulfill his political promises. i hope the case is dismissed because this i think undermines everything we believe in this country about the ability to trust what our government officials tell us and what they do. >> areva, it occurs to me that the emotional fate of 50 different women is now resting on this one case because it's the only case where he faces criminal charges. >> and it's a sad thing. this is a prime example of such incompetence. i cannot believe that the current district attorney didn't have in information able to him before he filed these charges, yet he wants the entire public, he wants this case to rest on this deposition testimony when we now know that the former district attorney made a very specific promise not to ever use this testimony in a court of law. i don't see how he can move forward with any kind of integrity and prosecute bill cosby on the basis of this
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deposition. >> mark o'mara, i don't want to convey to people at home this will be uncontested. i anticipate it will absolutely be contested by the current d.a. who will say we don't believe there was an agreement, or to the extent there was it wasn't binding. or he'll say even the former d.a. left open the door that he would bring charges at a later date. mark o'mara. >> which he did. let's back up a little bit. an immunity agreement is a tool used by prosecutors. i as a prosecutor can say, i won't use this information against you. but the idea that they promise forevermore never to prosecute cosby would be way outside the norm of an immunity agreement and be permanent. what they can't do is use that precise statement against them in their case in chief. meaning, if there's other information out there -- i'll give you an example. we have similar fact evidence. he has a number of other victims out there he could bring in and say the sfakts of that case are so similar to the facts of this
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case that this jury should hear about it. that similar fact evidence was not available ten years ago and is very significant evidence. that's the first thing. second thing, if cosby were to get on the stand and say something in derogation or opposition to what he said in the deposition, it can still be used. if i go in and say the light was red in my deposition. i go to trial and i say the light was green. even with an immunity agreement for which we call impeachment, they could then use my deposition statement. there's a lot of nuances here that are not going to be vetted out. >> understood. >> -- decision. >> can i make one other observation to bill brennan. bill, you know -- we're both lawyers in the philadelphia area. you know there's been a lot of head scratching by attorneys who say why the heck did cosby speak to openly in his civil deposition, especially when he had such a skilled attorney at
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his side. it all fits that cosby spoke so freely because he was testifying without any fear that he wouldn't get charged for that which he was about to say? >> absolutely. at the time the agreement was reached, bruce castor was the elected district attorney of montgomery county, pennsylvania. in that capacity, he had the absolute authority to bind the common wealth, not just during his administration, but through his successor administrations to this agreement, and the problem is, it's fundamentally unfair to renege on the agreement. mr. cosby gave up one of the most valuable rights we possess, the right to protect against self incrimination, based on the promise from mr. castor that he would not prous can you tell. now it becomes hot not ter in the fall of 2015 and the first assistant district attorney, now the d.a., runs basically on this
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issue. similar to the '88 bush-dukakis campaign when the party of willy horton was bandied about. >> i need to ask areva something. i know the current d.a. is going to rely on a press release that bruce castor, the former d.a. issued back? 2005. here is what it looks like, if we could put it on the screen. this is the press release issued february 17 of '05. there's one line that the current d.a. will zero in on. district attorney cautions all parties that he will reconsider this decision should the need arise, which seems to suggest the door was always left open to go after cosby if there were new information coming to light. but i take note of the fact of the preceding sentence, big paragraph. put it up on the screen if you
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wouldn't mind. the district attorney does not intend to expound publicly on the details of his decision for fears that his opinions and analysis might be given undue weight by jurors in any contemplated civil action. here is the point i'm trying to make, i think the old d.a. is saying -- >> i think the former d.a. is double-talking. he has this private agreement he's made with mr. cosby's attorney, but yet he's issuing this press release where he's talking in code. i just think he has a fundamental problem here as william has said. you cannot make a promise to a citizen not to prosecute him and encourage him to talk freely about things that could be prosecutable and then two years, five years, ten years later, find that person in the
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situation being prosecuted on the very issue you said you wouldn't use. when he talked about prosecuting cosby recently, i think that's disingenuous and unfair. i hope the judge sees it that way. >> let's wrap it up as follows. each of you gets a closing statement on the significance of this e-mail sent by the old d.a. to the then d.a. three months before they charged bill cosby saying, hey, you can't do this because we cut a deal. mark o'mara, sum up. >> no question it's going to be significant. i have no idea why it wasn't in writing. i don't know why his civil lawyers back then had him sit for a separation when the plan always was to settle this out. why even have the deposition? i think that was the second mistake they made. the first mistake, this should have been in writing and ironclad. it may trap the present prosecution against cosby. >> you raise a good point. if the fix was in to make the civil case go away, why have him write the check without him
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sitting for it? bill brennan, you wrap up. >> michael, i think it's as simple as this. the commonwealth made a deal with mr. cosby. in reliance now to his detriment he gave testimony he otherwise could have protected himself bibi invoking his fifth amendment rights. that bell cannot be unrung and this case should be dismissed. the commonwealth should honor this deal. >> areva martin, your final thought? >> that district attorney's decision to run for office shouldn't have hinged on whether he could prosecute mr. cosby on evidence that had previously been agreed never to be used in a court of law. >> thank you all three of you. i appreciate your expertise on such an important matter. we attempted to get comment from former bruce castor won't comment. kevin steal replied, quote, there is a specific legal method
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to grant immunity. that was not done in 2005. in fact, as you can see from mr. castor's press release in 2005 where he announced he is not filing charges he states, district attorney castor matter that he will reconsider this decision should the need arise. . del lore yes, sir tree annie who represents andrea constand, she says she was not part of any agreement to release cosby against prosecution. you can tweet me @smerconish and i'll read some later in the show. another crazy week in politics. ted cruz attacked by "the new york times" for his secret million dollar loan responds by using the story to help raise more money. meanwhile, hillary clinton is losing support faster than she
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16 days until the iowa caucuses. donald trump and ted cruz are running neck and neck in the hawkeye state. in new hampshire trump is in tleed. one burning question asks, who among the more establishment candidates might emerge. lots to talk about with nick gillespie editor in chief of crystal wright author of a brand new book called "con job: how democrats gave us crime, sanctuary cities, abortion, profiteering and racial division." i guess just a few things. did you give the country all of those things? >> all of it. >> it was really the cruz and trump show at the debate. did you, mr. beckel, see signs of anyone emerging from that establishment class? >> no.
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i don't think much changed that night except that trump got to be a better debater. >> he did. you've got to give him some props. >> that shows you what happens. 15th of january, a critically important time to start looking at polls and start robbing votes from other people. most people are settled and then the movement starts. they're settled in the polls in december, and then when they really have to make the decision and it gets close, they start to move. you're seeing that in the sanders and clinton race. >> crystal, did you see anyone emerge in the rubio, kasich, christie, cruz class? >> no. i agree that trump learned to be a master debater. cruz owned the night, stood up to donald trump. that's the game-changer. it's between cruz and trump now. i'm not the first person to say this. we all know it. it's not the year for the establishment candidate.
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i think the more john kasich talks, sadly, the worse he sounds. >> oerks come on. i thought kasich was impressive, i thought he was substantive. i looked at the television and i said, this is the guy who could give her a run for the money. doesn't winning factor into the analysis? >> no. but michael, the problem with kasich, his position on immigration, his position on obama kair. he expanded medicaid under obamacare. i think he would wither under hillary clinton? she can say why vote for him when you can vote for me and he represent ps everything i'm running on. >> nick gillespie. >> what i was going to say to follow up, this is the year to run against the establishment. bernie sanders is as insane and bizarre and out of the mainstream as donald trump or ted cruz. he leans extreme to the left.
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his views on economics are completely out of step with most people in the american mainstream. but this is the year to be against the establishment, and that's the main takeaway from the gop debate is people like kasich and people like christie and people like jeb bush really did not achieve any kind of velocity, any kind of momentum. i think on the other side, on the democratic side, this is a part of what we're seeing, hillary is tanking again. she's a very unlikable candidate to begin with. she, more than any other candidate in this entire race, democrat, republican, libertarian, green party, you name it, is the establishment. i think she's really up a creek here. >> let me say one thing. there will be a, quote, establishment candidate who will get a ticket out of iowa and go to new hampshire. the question is who is that going to be? my guess is it will be rubio. at least one, maybe two. yeah, you'll have trump and cruz. but the question is who is number three? that's probably what they're
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fighting about. >> let me show you're wah numbers. we'll start with the republicans if that's okay. we've been talking about republicans. my source here is the 538 block, nate silver. on the gop side of the equation, trump at 27, cruz at 26. they're within the margin of error. yet, i really respect nate silver's analysis when he says here are my odds on whether they win, cruz is all the sudden a 51% chance. i don't know if the three of you remember -- i'll bet you do -- silver drove everybody crazy in the last sielk because even though romney were running neck and neck, silver was saying it's a 90% lock that obama wins. how do you, mr. beckel, see iowa for the republicans? >> i see cruz as somebody organized in the evangelical part of iowa. they work hard, go door to door. what i didn't see was a lot of trump organization. it may be that trump defies
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gravity and people go to these caucuses who have not been there before and they'll stick with them. i don't know the answer to that. rubio has some organization. trump is late in the game. >> if you look at the potential voters in iowa, trum leads the polls. when you look at who are most likely to come out and invest two or three hours on a cold night, cruz is in the lead. >> i think cruz can very well pull iowa off because we know there's a lot of concern whether trump supporters will go out in these primaries and caucuses and vote for him. they like him, show up at the rallies, but will they vote for him? i still think this election cycle is flummoxing everybody because the predictions are not prevailing. i would say to nate silver and all the pollsters out there that we don't know what's going to happen until the fat lady sings. trump can still pull it off. we've all learned that from this cycle. >> take a look at the 538 blog.
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is in iowa. clinton 47, sanders 41, relatively close. look at nate's odds. he gives hillary an 82% chance of being victorious in iowa. your reaction? >> i think that's probably accurate because iowa is two things. one it's ideology and religion on the republican side. as everybody is talking about, it's organization. hillary knows how to win and lose in iowa. she knows how to put together a ground game and she's not going to make the same mistake she made in 2008. but it's probably immaterial because this is the other thing we need to think about. the elections and the primaries and the discourse on both sides so far have pulled each of the parties to their extreme wings, and as a result what happens in iowa and even what happens in new hampshire i think is going to be less indicative of what goes forward as you get to states past south carolina that are actually more
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representative. when you look at iowa, when you look at new hampshire, when you look at south carolina, geographically, demographic cli diverse and not reflective of anything that most people care about. >> i think nate is right about iowa. look who iowa pick phd the 12 psych snl santorum. hello. i don't think they necessarily pick the person who is ultimately going to get the nomination. this thing is going to be super tuesday and much longer it will be dragged out. >> bob, is hillary in trouble? i have tons of data. i hope you appreciate my power into. >> i'm learning a little bit. >> it shows her national lead in '08 versus 2016. the bottom line is she's losing more ground in this cycle at a more rapid pace than was the case back in 2008. there it is. take a look at that. you want to be on the ascent is the bottom line, and she is not. >> let's keep this in mind. hillary clinton is not a likable
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candidate. we know that. that's because she's been on the defensive for 25 years. not necessarily her fault. the other thing we have to factor in some of the late polls, she came out with bernie sanders on single pair health care which among the liberals and me, we loved it. she came out against it. all of a sudden you saw real hard core liberals begin to turn. >> bob beckel, nick gel less spi and crystal wright. but when we come back, we have to get to important news that people are going to want to hear. so i asked my doctor about victoza®. he said victoza® works differently than pills. and comes in a pen. victoza® is proven to lower blood sugar and a1c. it's taken once a day, any time. victoza® is not for weight loss, but it may help you lose some weight. victoza® is an injectable prescription medicine
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breaking news. this just in to cnn. the iran judiciary announced the release of four u.s. prisoners including "washington post" reporter jason rezaian, quoting they ron's prosecutor, more on this story as it develops. now, is ted cruz an american and legal presidential candidate or isn't he? cruz's nationality was the hot topic at the gop debate. >> now, since september the constitution hasn't changed, but the poll numbers have.
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>> but the democrats are going to bring a lawsuit. you have to have certainty. you can't have a question. i can agree with you or not, but you can't have a question over your head. >> donald trump said democrats are going to bring a lawsuit. joining me is one of those democrats pushing for this case to be heard, u.s. congressman also running for marco rubio's senate seat, congressman alan grayson. congressman, what is your plan? >> it's to make certain the constitution is vindicated. i took an oath of office to uphold the constitution. it's a serious matter. the constitution says what it means and means what it says. it says only natural born citizens of at least 35 years of age are eligible to be
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president. ted cruz was born in canada. that's the end of the story. >> do you intend to challenge his eligibility now or wait until he may be the republican nominee? >> wait and see. >> if you have standing the do it when he's the nominee, you have standing to do it now. why not get to snit. >> anybody can run for congress -- for the presidency. anybody can do it. it's the question of whether you can serve and whether you can be elected to the office. it's premature to raise the issue now potentially in my opinion. one could do it. but the fact he mains, it's not so much the running that offends the constitution. it's the serving. >> okay. but to play devil's advocate, if your real objective is not a political objective, but rather you want to make sure someone elected president is eligible to zephyr, why not do it sooner than later? wouldn't it create upheaval for the country if any major nominee
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suddenly had an issue on this matter? >> it's not sudden. it's no secret. we've known it for years. it's not suddenly jumping out of the shadows. what i wouldn't want to do is file a lawsuit and have it dismissed as premature. >> i want to show you something from the harvard law review. they came to this conclusion, despite a happenstance of a birth across the border, there's no question that senator cruz has been a citizen from birth and is thus a natural born citizen within the meaning of the constitution. without making our eyes glaze over, how did they get it wrong? >> first of all, they didn't consider the fact that at the time the constitution was written, at that time heritage and citizenship passed from your father, not your mother. cruz is claiming citizenship based on his mother. second, they failed to address that cruz's mother was a
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canadian citizen. so he can hardly claim citizenship from a mother who was canadian. she was a registered voter in alberta. they completely failed to address that situation in all. that's something that became known -- >> congressman, thank you for being here. we have important breaking news. back to that breaking news about iran releasing four u.s. prisoners including "washington post" reporter jason rezaian as part of a prisoner swap deal. going to cnn investigative correspondent chris frates. chris. do we have thomas? >> sure. thomas is here. >> sorry about that. go ahead, please.
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>> reporter: this is "the new york times" bureau chief. so jason rezaian arrested in 2012, at least the judiciary has announced four iranian americans that had been in prison here have been released under a sort of prisoner swap deal with the united states. they have not released any names, but it seems that "washington post" correspondent jason rezaian is one of them and also possibly a u.s. marine who has been here in prison since 2012. the release of these two people and the two others whose names we don't know is extremely significant because a lot of observers were following the nuclear case were curious and interested why this was not a part of the deal. it turns out that in the final hours -- before the implementation of the nuclear deal in vienna, these four iranian americans had been
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released. i'm pretty sure in the coming minutes we will also know the names of the other two. >> thomas, this has been an active week relative to relations between the u.s. and iran, of course contemporaneous with president obama speaking to the united states through the state of the union address, there were ten sailors briefly held by the iranians. one question i wonder relative to jason rezaian is whether there was more of a global conversation earlier in the week. >> reporter: of course, i have no knowledge of that because i cannot exactly follow what happens in the diplomatic traffic between iran and the united states. but we have certainly seen a very active week. it seems as if many events have let up to this day, the day of the implementation of the nuclear deal, the day in which sanctions against iran will be lifted and it seems with the
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release, both the iranians and americans have wanted to start off with a clean slate and also solve this outstanding issue. >> it also raises for me the question of why this release didn't happen sooner, contemporaneous with the announcement of the deal with the iranians on the basis it sure would have spared the white house a black eye politically here at home, domestically. there was a lot of criticism lodged by the republicans against the obama administration and secretary kerry in particular, people wanting to know, well, how could you negotiate this deal without first protecting that reporter from "the washington post" and others. >> reporter: as it seems now, it seems that mr. rezaian and also the marine have been part of the conversation all along as secretary of state john kerry has been telling reporters. it also seems the iranians' oh
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we must not forget iran has their own demand regarding the prisoner swap. they say they have ten or maybe more iranian nationals stuck in american prisoners. i'm pretty sure we'll hear that some of those have been released by the united states. >> thomas, i apologize for miss identifying you earlier. we will come back with more breaking news on this story. does your makeup remover every kiss-proof,ff? cry-proof, stay-proof look? neutrogena® makeup remover does. it erases 99% of your most stubborn makeup with one towelette. need any more proof than that? neutrogena.
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now back to the breaking news about iran releasing four u.s. prisoners, including "washington post" reporter jason rezaian. now to cnn's vittive reporter chris frates. >> reporter: jason rezaian has been in prison for over 500 days. what we're learning is there's been an agreement between the u.s. and iran to swap seven iranians who are held here in united states prisons for the four americans including jason rezaian who are being detained in iran. this will be really big news. as you remember, president obama when he did the nuclear deal with iran, was criticized for not bringing those americans home as part of that deal. secretary of state john kerry always said they were continuing to work with iran to bring those americans home. so this will be a big victory
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for obama administration on the heels of the iran deal which looks like it will be implemented in a matter of days. >> chris, i'm rewind the clock and thinking about the fact that tuesday night was the "state of the union" address. the president spoke to congress and i can remember we debated this on cnn, should he say something about the ten sailors still being held by iranians. there was a difference of opinion. some of the republicans, including senator cruz, were critical of president obama for not making reference to the ten sailors. now, these things don't happen in a vacuum. it's now clear the president was juggling this transaction at a time when all of a sudden he had the ten sailors being held by the iranians. it had to be a global conversation to resolve all these items before the commencement of the iran nuclear deal. >> reporter: i think you're absolutely right. i think the administration
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hinted about that when they defended their decision not to put the sailors detained by iran into the "state of the union" speech even after getting heat from the republicans. he said we have good relations with iran. because we've been talking to them to get this deal, i think that bared out in why they were quickly released. i think what we'll hear from the white house today that the diplomacy that the president had set out to win has been a big victory for the president here because he's bringing home four americans detained in iran. the sailors who were detained by iran were released within 14 hours, those ten sailors. no international incident happening there. it looks like we're very close to implementing the iran nuclear deal with iran holding up its end of the bargain to shut down some of its nuclear processing
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capabilities, and those sanctions being lifted from iran which they want as well. this will play out on the campaign trail as republicans continue to try to say obama is weak. the administration is going to hit back saying these are three really big victories, all done through diplomacy, not through force, and that has been our plan all along, michael. >> to your point, the photograph of the u.s. sailors with their hands in the air and them being on their knees became a flash point this week for the political conversation relative to 2016. republicans saying what an embarrassment. it occurs to me ted cruz's first response in the debate, regardless of hat the question was, he went out of his way to say it was an appalling scene to see those sailors on their knees. i think you're correct, chris, in saying the white house will be more emboldened to say, diplomacy worked, at least in three instances you made reference to with regard to
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iranians. i'm not sure what the gop response will be because this is good news. >> reporter: this is very good news. i think the gop will continue -- remember, even after the iranians released the ten navy sailors, republicans continued to say, well, it showed that we were weak. they allowed the iranians to get pictures of the sailors on their knees with guns pointed at them, with their hands behind their head. donald trump saying that's humiliating and america should not be put in that situation. i think what the president is going to say is that's why you need somebody who is stable and who is calm under these circumstances, because that could have been a situation that escalated very, very quickly, and administration officials last week were making the case that in prior times it may have escalated and those sailors may have been held for much, much longer as the brinksmanship continued, but because we had relationships are iran, it was president as if john kerry had to call the swiss, the swiss called the iranians, which is
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the way things worked before we got into the nuclear talks. that creates a lot more time for these things to be worked out. the secretary of state could pick up the phone, could talk to the foreign minister in iran and they could sort these things out. the white house says this americans with disabilities act things much more stable. now, of course, they point out and they pointed out pretty regularly last week that there's still it's not as if we're the t of friends now with iran but we do have a working relationship. there is a very much trust but verify relationship. we are seeing that with the iran nuclear deal. we are seeing that there is openings for some of these other issues to work out. also, important to point out here, michael, that josh earnest said, we may be lifting sanctions on the nuclear end of things. we still reserve the right as the united states so sanction them for things like the ballistic missiles program that iran has. these things, it is still very tense. you are seeing at least a
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working relationship between these two countries as they sort out very sensitive issues that are going to play very much politically for the next couple of weeks. chris frates, great job. thanks for the analysis. i want to dpoe to cnn international correspondent, fred pleitgen, recently in iran and now in germany. your reaction to this breaking story? >> well, it is certainly something that did come as a surprise and certainly something that many people in europe will be welcoming as well. i do have some interesting new news that just came in through the forest news agency. they are quoting the tehran prosecutor that put out the statement saying that these four americans had to be released. i want to really quickly read this translation to you. based on an approval of the supreme national security council, the security council of iran and the general interest of islamic republic, four iranian
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prisoners with dual nationality were freed within the framework of a prisoner deal. it says jason rezaian, amir amati and the other one named is syed abadini, an american pastor that went to iran and was detained. a fourth individual that it does not name. one of the recent cases that we have has been an american iranian businessman that was detained in iran late last year thafrmt was a lot of uproar. it happened during the vienna talks around the syria crisis which involved the iranians as well. at this point in time, the news agency naming three of the americans who are now released. in the case of amir, four years and jason rezaian. a lot will say it is diplomacy
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that has won out on this day, has secretary state kerry with the raupp foreign minister. >> what does that mean? >> a semi-official news agency would be a news agency that is not necessarily owned by the government or necessarily officially run. one that is certainly close to the rulers of iran. in this case, the farsi news agency is more the clerics, the position of the supreme leader and the military and the revolutionary guard. they are not necessarily publicly owned or owned by the government. they certainly get a lot of inside information from government sources. usually a lot quicker. specially the fars news agency.
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it takes a little bit longer. you can say if the official one puts it out, it is an official iranian stays. farce news, not completely official but clothes to official sources within iran's clergy, which is very, very powerful in that country as well as the military circles which also wield a lot of power, michael. >> frederik pleitgen, our senior international correspondent. back with more on this breaking news in just a moment. dad, you can just drop me off right here. oh no, i'll take you up to the front of the school. that's where your friends are. seriously, it's, it's really fine. you don't want to be seen with your dad? no, it' this about a boy? dad! stop, please. o, there's tracy. [ horn honks ] what! [ beeps, tires screech ] bye dad! it brakes when you don't. forward collision warning and autonomous emergency braking. available on the newly redesigned passat.
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now, back to the breaking news about iran releasing four u.s. prisoners including washington post reporter, jason rezaian, amir ramadi and pastor syed amadi. back to frederik pleitgen. do we know what the united states is giving, if anything, as their side of this transaction? >> we have heard from the iranian government and they are talking about seven iranian nationals that are apparently being released by the united states in return for these four
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united states nationals. there are other news agencies that are speaking about six dual u.s. iranian nationals that the u.s. would free. there are still some points that need to be cleared. however, the prosecutor, the tehran prosecutor is speaking directly about a prisoner swap. is talking about four dual u.s. iranian citizens being swapped for six or seven dual american/iranian citizens between these two countries. the u.s. is, indeed, giving something in return as well. >> finally, any idea as to timetable? >> reporter: that's a very good question. it is completely unclear at this point in time. one of the things we have to keep in mind when we deal with the iranian judiciary. there usually isn't very much information. the jason rezaian trial, as it was going on. i think jason rezaian was able to meet with his lawyer two or
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three times during the entire time he was on trial e wasn't clear for a lot of the time what he was being accused of. we don't know. i am assuming if he is released, it will be pretty quickly he will be out of the country. >> thank you for your report from germany. more cnn coverage of this breaking news right now. we do have some breaking news. i'm christi paul. i'm victor black well. good to be with you. >> we are welcoming our viewers in the u.s. and around the world. the breaking news this hour, out of iran after nearly 18 months in prison in an iran january jail, american journalist, jason rezaian has been freed. that news reported by iran's semi official farce news agency. >> iran is being released as part of a prisoner swam, along with amir