Trump approved cyber strike on Iran, decided against military attack

Twenty presidential candidates spoke at the Democratic Convention in South Carolina and addressed the president's latest sanctions on Iran.
8:56 | 06/23/19

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Transcript for Trump approved cyber strike on Iran, decided against military attack
the U.S. And Iran. A source telling ABC news president trump approved a cyber strike on Iran as he decided against a military one. ABC's Rachel Scott is at the white house with the very latest. Rachel, good morning. Reporter: Good morning, whit. Yes, we are learning that plan was in the works for weeks if not months. The news comes as president trump keeps military action on the table and announces additional sanctions against Iran set to begin tomorrow. This morning ABC news confirming a report that president trump gave the okay for that cyber strike on Iranian computer systems. The attack aimed at disabling software used to control rocket and missile launches. The president remaining optimistic about keeping nuclear weapons out of Iran's hands. We're not going to have Iran have a nuclear weapon, and when they agree to that, they are going to have a wealthy country. They're going to be so happy and I'm going to be their best friend. I hope that happens. Reporter: Overnight president trump applying more pressure, tweeting, quote, we are putting major additional sanctions on Iran on Monday. The president also not ruling out military action, even though just days before he made the last minute decision to call off a strike in the region to avoid potential casualties. Mr. President, are you still considering military action with Iran? Is it still on the table? It's always on the table until we get this solved. Reporter: 24 hours after Iran downed an unmanned U.S. Drone which the Iranian government says is shown in this video, the U.S. Military was ready to strike back but with minutes to spare, the president made a sudden reversal. I don't want to kill 150 Iranians. I understand it. I don't want to kill 150 of anything or anybody unless it's absolutely necessary. Reporter: Sources say president trump went against the advice of his own national security adviser, John Bolton. I have John Bolton who I would definitely say is a hawk, and I have other people that are on the other side of the equation and ultimately I make the decision so it doesn't matter. Rachel Scott back with us from the white house. As we just heard, president trump there calling his own national security adviser John Bolton a hawk, but this morning Bolton made clear that trump only stopped the strike from going forward at this time. Reporter: Exactly, whit. A strong message from the president's national security adviser this morning. John Bolton saying, make no mistake about it, the U.S. Still reserves the right to attack. He also says Iran shouldn't confuse the administration's discretion for weakness. Whit. Rachel Scott at the white house for us, thank you. Dan? Thank you, whit, thank you, Rachel. Excellent content, according to the north Korean central news agency, that is what Kim Jong-un is saying of a letter he reportedly received from president Donald Trump. The agency releasing this picture of the north Korean leader reading that letter. Kim is quoted as saying he would seriously contemplate the interesting content. The white house has not confirmed that letter. Eva. To the race for president now and the democratic presidential candidates very vocal overnight about president trump's original announcement of massive I.C.E. Raids and his last-minute decision to postpone them. Tara Palmeri is in south Carolina where most of the 2020 hopefuls are courting votes this weekend. Good morning, Tara. Reporter: Those candidates played nice with each other this weekend even as they tried to stand out from a crowd of more than 20. Instead, they saved their attacks for president trump. We'll make it to the mountain top! Reporter: On the campaign trail, 2020 democratic candidates fired up after president Donald Trump delayed mass raids across the country set to take place this morning, all part of a plan to deport more than 2,000 undocumented immigrants in as many as ten cities. Everybody that came into the country illegally will be brought out of the country very legally. Reporter: At the democratic convention in South Carolina where candidates have been focused on African-American voters, congressman Eric Swalwell launching this attack on the president. For many Latino families, there is nothing this president will not do to break up your family. Reporter: Others saying it's just a political stunt. Do people see a pattern here? He said over Twitter that he called off a strike on Iran ten minutes before it was supposed to happen. He said today that at the last minute he called off I.C.E. Raids across the country. This is . This is another example of the president's successful attempts to distract us from what's really happening in this country under his watch. Reporter: Senator Bernie Sanders briefly praising the president for calling off the raids. I'm glad that trump made this decision but that's not good enough. What we need to do is move toward real immigration reform. Reporter: Meanwhile, mayor Pete buttigieg back in south Carolina after pausing his campaign to address the community crisis in South Bend. A fatal shooting of a black man by a white police officer. Protestors demanding answers. Did you ask me if black lives matter? We want to hear you say it! Of course black lives matter. Then fire your cops! Reporter: Buttigieg says he's not worried about the message it sends to black voters. Mayor Pete. Hi. Are you worried about how the protests at home are playing in South Carolina, especially among African-American voters? It's not really something to think about in terms of politics. It's something we think about in terms of community. I'm extremely concerned about the anguish that our community is feeling and we'll continue to work through it together, but I also think that we can take an extremely difficult moment and show the best of our community and how we respond to it. Reporter: Mayor Pete is back off the campaign trail today. He's heading home to South Bend to hold a town hall with members of his own community as they deal with this crisis. Dan? And then another shooting overnight. A lot going on with mayor Pete buttigieg. Tara, thank you very much. A lot to talk about here this morning so let's bring in our chief foreign affairs correspondent Martha Raddatz who's in Washington D.C. Where she'll be hosting "This week" later this morning. Martha, good morning to you. I think the big news in the democratic race this week is likely to be the first televised debates which they're going to hold over two nights because there are so many candidates. You know very well what a crowded debate stage is like. Back in 2016 you and ABC's David Muir moderated a large group of Republicans including then candidate Donald Trump. For the Democrats, when you have all these candidates up there, how can anybody stand out? I think the one thing they have to do is remember why they want to be president of the United States. Stick to their message. Stick to why they think they're better than any other candidate and say that again and again. On the other hand, you don't want to get too married to your talking points. I remember Marco Rubio making talking points over and over again to the point Chris Christie interjected, and Chris Christie really ruled that debate because he pointed out that Marco Rubio was saying the same thing over and over again. So there are always these moments in debates. There's always something, but I really do think you just, as a candidate, have to remember why you're there, why you want to be president, and you'll stand out in that way. It's going to be tough. So let's loop back to Iran, speaking of tough. President trump is simultaneously extending an olive branch. We saw him talking about making Iran great again, while also announcing these new sanctions overnight but Iran has shown no appetite for talking so where do we go from here? You know he's going to put on stronger sanctions. I think we don't know, Dan, where it goes from here. This crisis is far from over. The immediate crisis was over. There was no military strike, but what if something else happens? And I know we say this again and again but the big danger is miscalculation, something goes wrong, somebody does take a rogue shot at something and then what does president trump do? Does he once again say I'm not going to do a military strike? We lost a $130 million drone. The president clearly concerned about civilian casualties. This cyber attack, does that do it, this offensive cyber attack against Iran that the president authorized? But I think at this point we just don't know what's going to happen. As you said, so much room for miscalculation and the stakes are incredibly high. Martha, thank you very much. I want to remind everybody Martha's got a big show this morning. She's going to go one-on-one with presidential candidate, senator Cory booker from new Jersey. Plus former joint chiefs of staff chairman admiral Mike Mullin discussing the escalating tensions between the U.S. And Iran. That's all coming up on "This week" later this morning right here on ABC.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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