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Iran Sends Warning after U.S. Airstrikes Hit Iran-Backed Militia in Iraq & Syria; White House Releases Trump/Putin Call Summary Hours after Kremlin; Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH) Interviewed about Biden Being Target of Democratic Rivals, Impeachment & White House Delay in Releasing Trump/Putin Call Summary; Singer/Songwriter J.D. Souther Talks Music Legend Linda Ronstadt. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired December 30, 2019 - 11:30   ET



RYAN BROWNE, CNN PENTAGON REPORTER: Again, the U.S. military felt it necessary to conduct these strikes, hoping that it will deter Iran and its local allies from conducting any additional strikes.

But again, this has really complicated the situation. It's unclear. As you said, Iran has warned of consequences. Some of these militia groups have threatened to strike back. The Iraqi government has criticized attacks, saying it was a violation of their sovereignty.

That calls into question, there are some 5,000 U.S. troops still in Iraq, where they work with the Iraqi government and help fight ISIS.

What's going to become of them? Is Iraq going to put pressure on them? Try to get some of them removed from the country over this fallout?

Senior leaders concerned about where this was going to go, but they're going to watch Iran closely and its allies to make sure they don't try anything in retaliation of their own -- Ryan?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN ANCHOR: Ryan Browne, thank you for that update. Appreciate it.

Let's talk more about it now. CNN's national security analyst, Sam Vinograd, she was a senior adviser to President Obama as a national security adviser.

Sam, tell me, the significance of the U.S. military launching an air strike like this right now.

SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, this is a clear message that the United States is prepared to really erode what's been an asymmetric advantage for Iran and its proxies throughout the region.

The United States military has been attacked by Iranian proxies since we invaded Iraq. This is nothing new. I've ducked and covered from far more Iranian rockets than I care to remember, all the way back in 2010. These strikes really show that the United States is no longer willing

to tolerate this onslaught of Iranian rockets against U.S. forces. And is willing to take additional action to try to degrade capabilities. That's the force protection piece of this.

More broadly, we have to consider this in the context of the administration's countering Iran initiatives. Iran is not just meddling through militias like in Iraq, it's also meddling politically. We've just sanctioned several officials for their involvement in these protests in Iraq and links to Iran as well.

So it's the forced protection aspect as well as the countering Iran more broadly piece.

NOBLES: Let's shift gears and talk now about Russia. Russian President Vladimir Putin and President Trump spoke on the phone yesterday. According to both sides, they talked about a potentially terrorism attacks in Russia over the holidays.

One of the things I'm struck by, Sam, is that the Kremlin released the information about this call before the White House did. In fact, the White House just officially acknowledged it about an hour ago. What does that tell you about Russia getting the information out first?

VINOGRAD: We should never outsource our P.R. to Putin. Before every foreign leader call, the national security team normally actually prepares a draft statement, so that it's ready to go after the call concludes.

And part of the reason for that is so that the foreign official, the other government, doesn't control the narrative about what happens. That's for any call, Ryan.

With a rival, and by the way, a rival that excels at informat warfare, a rival that is involved in an information warfare against the American people as we speak, that becomes even more important.

What happened in this case is the Russians were able to really sew doubt about what actually happened on the call, because the White House did not release the statement. That is a self-inflicted wound.

At the same time, I'm really wondering who got an internal readout of the call. We have reporting indicating that the president and his sinner circle have been restricting access to call readouts.

So as important as the external piece of this is, we should be really asking questions about which members of the team internally know what happened on the call.

NOBLES: There certainly was not much information on that external release. Only about a paragraph and not much substance at all.

Sam Vinograd, thank you for being here.

VINOGRAD: Thank you.

NOBLES: We appreciate it.

Coming up, it is Joe Biden versus everybody else. The former vice president becomes the latest target on the campaign trail. Is it a winning strategy?

Stay with us.




PETE BUTTIGIEG, (D), SOUTH BEND MAYOR & PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, certainly respect the vice president, but this is an example of why years in Washington is not always the same thing as judgment. He supported the worst foreign policy decision made by the United States in my lifetime, which was the decision to invade Iraq.


NOBLES: That is Democratic presidential candidate, Pete Buttigieg, a war veteran, on the attack there against frontrunner, Joe Biden.

It comes just days after Senator Bernie Sanders offered his own critical take on Biden's record.

Sanders telling the "Los Angeles Times" editorial board, quote, "If you're a Donald Trump and you got Biden, having voted for the war in Iraq, Biden having voted for these terrible, in my view, trade agreements, Biden having voted for the bankruptcy bill, Trump will eat his lunch," end quote.

Joining me now, Democratic Congressman Tim Ryan, of Ohio. He, of course, a former 2020 presidential candidate. And last month, he endorsed the former vice president for president.

Congressman Ryan, you know, Biden laughed off the Sanders' quote, saying that he'll give Sanders some desert at the White House after he's elected. But I have to ask you, do Senator Sanders and Mayor Buttigieg have a point? Is this vote to authorize the war in Iraq a problem for the former vice president?

REP. TIM RYAN (D-OH): Well, I think there's a lot of votes, when you have a career as long as Vice President Biden, that people are going to nitpick at.

But the reality of it is that he was part and parcel of a very successful Democratic administration with President Obama.

You want to talk about the Iran deal, you want to talk about passing universal health care for the first time in the history of the country, Joe Biden was in the middle of all of that. He has a great record that he's going to run on.

[11:40:13] He's still enjoying a lot of support here in the industrial Midwest, significant support in the African-American and Latino community. So he's doing well and this is not to be -- this is expected at this point of the race.

NOBLES: So you probably saw over the weekend the vice president going back and forth about the situation regarding the Senate impeachment trial, initially saying that he would refuse a Senate subpoena, then saying that he would comply with the law.

How do you think he should handle this situation? It seems unlikely that he would be called to testify as a witness, but at the very least, this is President Trump attempting to drag him in to the controversy surrounding impeachment.

RYAN: It's pretty sad. I mean, I think it's consistent with President Trump, you know, creating a reality show out of our democracy.

I think it's consistent with what Mitch McConnell has been doing, saying he is working hand in glove with the White House, when he's supposed to be an impartial jury or head of an impartial jury in the United States Senate.

They're going to do everything and continue to try to do what they can to try to dirty up Joe Biden.

But if there's an Independent voter, an open-minded Republican voter out there, just ask yourself, isn't this exactly what Donald Trump was trying to do in the Ukraine? Trying to figure out any which way he can to muddy up Joe Biden and now he's trying to use the United States Senate to be able to do it?

And I think this trial over the holidays, I think there have been a lot of conversations about specific Senators needing to step up and at least when it comes to who the witnesses are or what the evidence is and should be to come forward, this trial may end up being a little different than the Republicans expected.

NOBLES: So to that end, how long should House Speaker Nancy Pelosi hold on to these articles of impeachment until she gets the kind of trial she's looking for? Your colleague, Congressman Dan Kildee says it could take until February before those articles get handed over. What's your view?

RYAN: I think that's right. I think Congressman Kildee may be right. He is in House leadership. He probably has a good bead on this stuff. And I think we just want a fair trial. The American people deserve a fair, impartial trial in the United States Senate.

And look, this is real! The president asked a foreign leader to get involved in an American election, to try to dirty up a political opponent. Those are the facts, undisputed.

I listened to an earlier interview you had with a Republican Congressman. He was living in fantasyland. I mean, that is delusion! This is about the facts of the case. Let the facts come forward.

If President Trump is so innocent, let his people testify. Bring them forward, bring all the transcripts forward. Let the American people make their own political decisions and let the Senate make their decision.

NOBLES: So this could drag on for quite some time in your view, Congressman.

Before I let you go, I do want to get your reaction to your colleague, Congressman John Lewis. Of course, a civil rights icon, announcing he's battling pancreatic cancer. Just your thoughts about Congressman Lewis and this struggle he is now facing.

RYAN: He's been an inspiration to every single member of Congress in the 18 years that I've been there. To see him now face a terrific battle ahead of him, he has a lot of people praying for him. If anybody has the strength and the courage to beat this, it's John Lewis.

And, you know, he's an icon and a leader and an inspiration to all of us. And my wife, Andrea, and I, our thoughts and prayers go out to him and his family. And we just hope for the best.

NOBLES: Congressman Tim Ryan, we appreciate your thoughts on that. Thank you very much for joining us, sir, on this holiday week.

RYAN: Thanks.

NOBLES: A happy new year to you and your family.

RYAN: Happy new year. Thanks.


NOBLES: All right, coming up, one weekend, two horrific attacks on people on faith. Next, the latest on the Texas church shooting and what we know about the suspect in the Hanukkah stabbing attack in New York.


NOBLES: Ten Grammys, 11 platinum albums, and the first artist to simultaneously top the pop, country, and R&B charts. Now the new CNN film, "LINDA RONSTADT: THE SOUND OF MY VOICE," tells the story of her meteoric rise to fame, and how millions became her fans.

Here's a preview.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you will read --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK, and the winner is Linda Ronstadt.

(MUSIC) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Linda was the queen. She was like what Beyonce

is now.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She was the first female rock 'n' roll star.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She was the only female artist to have five platinum albums in a row, and most of them multi-platinum.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Favorite female in rock and pop.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Favorite country single, "Blue Bayou" by Linda Ronstadt.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And the winner is Linda Ronstadt.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the winner is Linda Ronstadt.


NOBLES: Recently, Kate Bolduan sat down with the music legend who's known Ronstadt for decades, J.D. Souther. Here's their conversation.


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Joining me now, J.D. Souther, singer, songwriter, with more also a close friend of Linda Ronstadt.

J.D., it's great to see you.

J.D. SOUTHER, SINGER & SONGWRITER: Thank you, Kate. Very nice to see you.

BOLDUAN: Thank you so much for being here.

Linda was the ultimate crossover artist, the first artist to have hits on pop, R&B and country at the same time. Just one of the amazing things about her.

You knew her so well. What allowed her to move through these genres so successfully?

SOUTHER: That's a long answer, but to make it fit within this time frame, I would say she probably has the biggest music vocabulary of anyone I ever met. She already knew those types of music intimately.

Then when you add that to an instrument that's just probably -- I mean, I think she's the greatest singer of my generation, and I'm very picky about singers.

I grew up with basically two or three favorite singers, Ray Charles and Frank Sinatra, and Ella Fitzgerald, and the combinations of Lennon and McCartney together. When I met her, I thought, this is as good a singer as I've heard.

BOLDUAN: She literally can sing anything, everything, any genre you could throw at her. That was apparent in what she put out.

One of the things that comes across really clearly in this film that I didn't know, and we also saw it during the Kennedy Center Honors earlier this month, is her very real and close relationships with other female artists who became huge stars in their own right, Bonnie Raitt, Emmy Lou Harris, Dolly Parton.

Did Linda ever talk about that with you, because this is a cutthroat business you're in, and this was women lifting other women up professionally, which wasn't something anyone really talked about.

SOUTHER: I knew those women as well. They were within our group of friends. I never had to be convinced of anything.

I'm trying to think of a girl singer that she introduced me to who wasn't great, and I can't think of one. The time was just right.

You have to know when the moment is right for something. And emotionally, politically, spiritually, I think the world was just ready to hear the gender that is more than half the population singing.

BOLDUAN: You wrote, I think it was almost a dozen songs for Linda. Is there a favorite for you to hear her sing or something that surprised you after writing it and hearing her sing it, how it turned out?

SOUTHER: I say this in the most flattering way possible. I was almost never surprised by the results. She could very often sing a song better than the person that wrote it, and it was not a source of embarrassment but a real delight.

It's a song writer's dream is to have her or someone of her talent recording her songs because they often made us look better. I think some of her versions, I much prefer them to my versions.

BOLDUAN: J.D., in the film, Linda talks about her diagnosis with Parkinson's and how that ended her singing career. Knowing her the way that you do, what do you think it means to her to not be able to sing anymore? I have family who have suffered with Parkinson's, and it's really powerful to have her speaking about it in such a way.


BOLDUAN: But taking away her art form, I just -- I'm really wondering what that meant to her.

SOUTHER: I know exactly what it meant to her, and it was heartbreaking. I mean, she will tell you in an instant that she still hears herself singing. She can hear the music in her head and she can hear songs that she wants to sing. She just actually doesn't have the physical strength in her larynx to

control the waver of the note. Anything less than great for her is not great enough.

BOLDUAN: She's still perfection.

It's great to talk to you.

SOUTHER: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Thank you so much for being here, J.D.

SOUTHER: Thank you, it's my pleasure. I hope everybody sees this documentary about her, because it's a beautiful film about a beautiful and powerful woman.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely.

J.D. Souther, great to meet

SOUTHER: Thank you. Nice to meet you.



NOBLES: Our thanks to Kate and J.D. for that interview.

Turn in, "LINDA RONSTADT: THE SOUND OF MY VOICE," premieres New Year's Day, at 9:00 p.m. Eastern and Pacific, only on CNN.

Coming up, the Democratic candidates clash on the campaign trail. Joe Biden now the latest target of attacks. Why he's facing new scrutiny and new questions over his Iraq War vote.