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Iraq Holds Funeral Procession For Those Killed By Drone Strike; Top Democratic Leaders Kept In Dark About Soleimani Attack; NATO Suspends Training In Iraq Following Strike On Iran General; Iran Vows Harsh Revenge After U.S. Kills Top General; Democrats Reveal Fundraising Hauls Ahead Of Iowa Caucuses; Iran's President: U.S. Committed Grave Mistake Killing General; Harvey Weinstein Trial Set To Start In New York; Sixth Victim Identified As Rabbi's Son; Australia Bushfires Force Thousands To Flee As Temperatures Soar. Aired 7-8a ET

Aired January 4, 2020 - 07:00   ET




CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: The Iranian president says, the United States committed a grave mistake in killing Qasem Soleimani. Good morning to you. Welcome to our viewers here in the U.S. and around the world. We're glad to have you on. I'm Christi Paul.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Martin Savidge in for Victor Blackwell.

Right now, crowds of people are still taking to the streets for funeral celebrations mourning the military leaders killed in Friday's drone strike.

PAUL: Back here in the states, thousands of additional military troops now are being deployed to that region, adding to the more than 700 that were sent earlier this week.

SAVIDGE: Meanwhile, top leadership in Iran say that they have already named Soleimani's replacement as that country has threatens the U.S. with forceful revenge.

PAUL: President Trump says, he ordered the killing not to start a war but stop one, after learning an Iranian general was plotting "imminent and sinister attacks against the U.S." The President says, he's not seeking a regime change in Iraq. We have reporters and correspondents spread out across the globe covering all angles of the story.

SAVIDGE: Let's begin, though, this morning with CNN's Barbara Starr, she's at the Pentagon. And Barbara, when are those U.S. troops expected to be deployed?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning, Martin and Christi, some already in the region now and the further will be in the coming days -- they could happen very soon. The priority for the Pentagon right now is to get the troops there to mitigate the risk of an Iranian retaliation, something the U.S. is very watchful for. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STARR: President Trump's top Military Adviser General Mark Milley, not ruling out a possible retaliatory attack from Iran. When compelling intelligence in recent days showed Qasem Soleimani, a top Iranian military commander, plan to attack U.S. targets in the Middle East, the Trump administration made the decision to kill him, according to Milley.

The U.S. decided to act because of the size, scale, and scope of the planning by Soleimani, Milley said. "Is there a risk now to U.S. safety in the region? Damn right there is risk," Milley told reporters, but to deal with that risk, the U.S. has stepped up its defenses and plans to send thousands of additional troops to the Middle East.

New video showing the bloody aftermath of the U.S. drone strike near Baghdad's airport. U.S. intelligence learned that Soleimani was planning specific attacks on U.S. interests in multiple countries, including U.S. personnel, a congressional source briefed by the Trump administration tells CNN. Defense Secretary Mark Esper and the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo flew to Mar-a-Lago on Sunday to brief President Trump on the intelligence.

When the U.S. learned Soleimani was in Baghdad, President Trump decided to order the attack despite concerns by some in the administration about potential Iranian escalation. These images obtained by CNN showing the wreckage of Soleimani's vehicle after a U.S. drone targeted it as it left the airport. Pompeo telling CNN, the strike saved American lives.

MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: There was, in fact, an imminent attack taking place. The American people should know that this was an intelligence-based assessment that drove this.


STARR: And, of course, Iran expert always picking a time and place of its choosing for its attacks. This will mean the Pentagon; the Trump administration will have to be very watchful for some time to come. Christi and Martin?

PAUL: Barbara always appreciate it so much. Thank you for the report.

CNN's Kristen Holmes is traveling with the president. We know, Kristen, that he was taking a victory lap last night, essentially. There are several Democrats, though, that are still questioning the necessity of this attack on the general. What are you learning, and what is the president saying to that?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Christi, yes, like everything in Washington, there's a deep divide, mainly among Democrats and Republicans -- and it's a pretty steep one that is right along party lines. You heard the Republicans really praising President Trump where Democrats were more skeptical. And I do want to say, Democrats are being very careful. They know

that Soleimani was a bad guy; they don't want to seem like they are praising him or saying that he shouldn't have been killed.


But where the skepticism comes in here is whether or not President Trump should have consulted Congress. We know he consulted some of his close allies in Congress like Lindsey Graham, like Matt Gaetz, but he didn't talk to the Gang of Eight, he didn't bring in any Democrats and he didn't bring in a lot of Republican leadership on what he was planned on doing.

And now, the question has risen, was this necessary, and if there is going to be some kind of attack or the consequences are going to dramatically escalate, what was the reasoning behind this? Now, this is what President Trump said last night.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He was plotting attacks against Americans, but now we've ensured that his atrocities have been stopped for good. They are stopped for good. I don't know if you know what was happening, but he was planning a very major attack, and we got him.


HOLMES: So, you heard the president there saying you don't know -- you might not know what's happening. And it seems as though no one really knows what that threat was outside of a very small group of people. And Democrats are saying, we want more details. Now, yesterday on Capitol Hill, aides for senators on key committees were briefed, however, Democrats still not convinced. Take a listen to the Democratic senator from Colorado.


SEN. TOM UDALL (D-NM): I don't believe there was an imminent attack based on what I've been briefed on to date. My staff was briefed by a number of people representing a variety of the agencies in the United States government, and they came away with no feeling that there was evidence of an imminent attack. If there is, we should disclose it, and the president should disclose it publicly so that we know what's going on. I'm very suspicious here.


HOLMES: Now, there is going to be another briefing on Monday. We did hear from the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell who essentially said he hopes no one makes any announcements, that he doesn't want members of -- Republican members to go out there and say if this was a good or bad idea until everyone had been fully briefed.

SAVIDGE: Kristen Holmes, thanks very much for that. We are already seeing aftershocks in the region where the strikes on the Iranian general took place. NATO has just said that it is suspending training in Iraq. CNN's Jomana Karadsheh is in Baghdad. And Jomana, how important is this development now?

JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm sorry, Martin, could you repeat that question, please?

SAVIDGE: I was asking, now that we've heard that NATO has canceled this training operation in Iraq, how significant is that?

KARADSHEH: Well, I mean, it is significant. NATO did not have a large-scale training operation here for the Iraqi security forces; this has been going on for a few years. But, of course, it is the message that this sends when you see western allies, the countries that have supported the Iraqis over the years since the overthrow of the Saddam regime back in 2003.

And you know, there's always questions about how capable, how ready the Iraqi security forces. They have certainly failed on multiple occasions when they have been tested. So, you know, when you have any training, any support that they will be getting that is being withdrawn, that certainly is going to have some sort of consequences.

We'll have to see if other nations that are also involved in the training, the equipping, the support of Iraqi forces are going to suspend their operations or react in any way, Martin.

PAUL: So, Jomana, do you get the sense that Iraqis aren't just angry, but they're pretty fearful about what's ahead as well?

KARADSHEH: Absolutely. I mean, you know, the first reaction you see from people here over the past 36 hours or so initially, it was shock. They have seen tensions rising between the United States and Iran over the past few months, but I don't think anyone expected this sort of unprecedent escalation to take place.

And after the shock, of course, comes the anger. So many people saying that, you know, Iraq should not be, you know, a scene for the United States and other regional powers and international powers to settle scores when you have the Iraqis who are in the middle here -- caught up, who will end up paying the price for this confrontation right now.

But almost everyone will tell you, no matter how they feel about this strike, how they feel about the United States' actions, whether -- you know, whether they were opposed to it, whether they were supporters of Qasem Soleimani, of course, there were some who are happy to see the end of that era of Qasem Soleimani who many blame for some of the worst bloodshed here during the sectarian warfare.

People will tell you they are very concerned. They don't know where this is all headed, and they are very, very worried for their country's future and the price that they will end up possibly paying here, Christi.

[07:10:34] PAUL: Jomana Karadsheh, we so appreciate it. Thank you. I want to

take you to CNN's Frederik Pleitgen now. He's reported extensively on Iran; he's in Tehran right now. Iran, we know Frederik, is vowing harsh revenge against the U.S. You said last hour, though, that they believe time is on their side. What do they mean by that?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, they certainly mean, Christi, that they can do this whenever they want to do this. It's quite interesting because, actually, earlier today, the spokesman for Iran's military came out. And so that right now, Iran is no rush -- is in no rush to retaliate against the United States. They say they will take their time.

Another senior revolutionary guard commander, which is, of course, is saying, you know, that Qasem Soleimani was in as well, also said that the Iranians would do this on their own time because, of course, they're situated here in this region. They have those proxy forces in this region, and so they say that they believe they can strike back at will and at any time if they choose to do so.

By the way, they always say, even more so, the more troops the U.S. puts into this region, the more vulnerable they believe those U.S. troops are going to be. What we're seeing on the ground here in Tehran, Christi, there is a lot of mourning that's going on; there's vigils that are going on. The government has put up about 1,500 billboards with the likeness of Qasem Soleimani on it.

And we just got some pretty interesting images as well. Because the President of Iran, Hassan Rouhani, he visited the family of Qasem Soleimani, and they asked that who's going to take the revenge for my father? And in that meeting, Hassan Rouhani said: don't worry, everybody will take revenge.

So, the Iranians right now in a state mourning but certainly saying they will strike back hard and it will be painful for the U.S. here in this region. That, by the way, is the same thing that yesterday on our own Erin Burnett, the U.N. ambassador of Iran said as well. Let's listen in to that.


MAJID TAKHT-RAVANCHI, IRANIAN AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: We cannot just close our eyes to what happened last night, definitely there will be revenge -- there really a harsh revenge. Last night, they started a military war by assassinating, by an act of terror against one of our top generals. So, what else can we expect of Iran to do. We cannot just remain silent. We have to act and we will act.


PLEITGEN: When you talk to Iranian military personnel, you talk to former Iranian military leaders as well, they'll tell you the big key for them is, of course, very much their proxy forces that they have here in this region.

And they look across the region: look to Afghanistan, you look to Iraq, you look to Syria, you look to Lebanon. They say, they obviously have that very big footprint. And you know, one of the things that they keep telling me, is they keep saying the U.S. needs to understand that next to every base that America has in this region, there is an Iranian-backed force or an Iranian-controlled force that's very much nearby.

And one of the things that one Iranian military leaders said today, he said he believes that the U.S. forces here in this region are, as he put it, sitting in a glass house -- obviously in a very fragile position. So, the Iranians, again, vowing revenge, not saying when that's going to be. Right now, however, you do feel that this country or this country leadership very much in a state of mourning.

There's three days' morning that had been ordered by Iran's supreme leader, and he actually tweeted just a couple of minutes ago, talking about how Iranians are coming out and mourning the loss of Qasem Soleimani. Well at the same time, as we keep pointing out, also saying that revenge certainly is going to happen, Christi.

PAUL: All right, Frederik Pleitgen, Barbara Starr, Kristen Holmes, Jomana Karadsheh, we appreciate each and every one of you. Thank you.


So, the impeachment process, is at a standstill in the Senate. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi accusing Senate Majority Leader of taking part "in a cover up." We're going to breakdown the gridlock on Capitol Hill for you. Stay close.


SAVIDGE: This morning, there are new threats from the Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. He said that the United States committed a grave mistake in killing Iranian Commander Qasem Soleimani, and that Americans will face the consequences not only today, but also in the coming years.

PAUL: Meanwhile, yes, there's another crisis looming with North Korea after they announced the world would "witness a new strategic weapon." Here with us, CNN Political and National Security Analyst, David Sanger, and CNN Senior Producer for the Middle East, Yemen and Bahrain, Tim Lister.

Gentlemen, we appreciate both of you being here. Thank you. I want to talk about Iraq first. We're hearing from NATO this morning, just announcing that they're temporarily suspending training activities in Iraq. What does that say about their mission, David?

DAVID SANGER, CNN POLITICAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, I think the first thing that we're learning here is that the administration, while planning ahead, somewhat, for the assassination and killing of General Soleimani, what the administration calls a self-defensive move haven't been fully been able to get their arms around what would follow.

And so, suddenly, we have a lot of Americans stranded there. You have NATO countries that were not told that this operation was under way, not told for understandable operational security reasons, that suddenly have to go and shut down some of their operations.

And I think the continuing question whether the Iraqis will feel under such pressure that they will have to remove the invitation of the United States and NATO to be in the country. You know, these are all the diplomatic forms of fallout from this that you'd like to think went through a pretty careful vetting before the decision was made. There's no evidence right now that they did.

SAVIDGE: Tim, let me ask you this about the unintended consequences. The United States, actually Iran as well, were both working to destroy ISIS, and I'm wondering what happens now? The eye is taken off of ISIS? The focus is no longer there? We've just heard that the NATO training operations that were to help troops in Iraq combat ISIS have now been put on hold. What happens to that battle?

TIM LISTER, CNN SENIOR PRODUCER: That battle becomes much less effective, it has to. Because you have 5,000 U.S. troops based in Iraq. They are now going to be more concerned with self-defense. Their cooperation with the Iraqi security forces is going to be in question. You have a large parliamentary block in Iraq that wants U.S. forces out altogether. You remember 2010 and 2011, the U.S. withdrawal happened and what followed was the rise of ISIS.

You also have, of course, in Syria, another 500 U.S. troops who are (INAUDIBLE) with all sorts of different factions including those that targeted the U.S. embassy in Baghdad. So, altogether is a very difficult situation for U.S. forces remaining. The training, as you say, has already been at least suspended for now.

And it's going to be much more difficult to execute a war against ISIS just as the remnants of ISIS begin to regroup, begin a campaign of assassination, ambush, and so forth, in the provinces north of Baghdad. So, that is, perhaps, an unforeseen consequence of this crisis.


PAUL: China, Russia, and Iran began a four-day joint military exercise in the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Oman yesterday, David. It's the first time Iran has held a joint exercise with these two major world naval powers, certainly at this scale. What does that tell you about any sort of China possibility that maybe China or Russia could come to Iran's defense in some capacity.

SANGER: I doubt they would come to Iran's defense if it got into an actual conflict between the United States and Iran or the west and Iran. But the political implication of that maneuver is probably far greater than the military implication.

You remember that during the 2015 nuclear negotiations, the Europeans, China and Russia were -- and the United States -- were all on one side, trying to get Iran to give up the nuclear program. Since President Trump exited the agreement last year, you've now seen the Europeans breakaway from the U.S. decision and you've certainly seen the Chinese and the Russians breakaway.

And so, now, the Iranians are trying to demonstrate: hey, for all your efforts to isolate us, we're not isolated at all. Two remaining super powers, a rising one in China, a diminishing one in Russia, but two nuclear super powers, are willing to go deal on a military with Iran. And that tells you that the fundamental concept of how the United States would isolate Iran has basically just not worked.

SAVIDGE: Tim, to David's point, you know, President Trump described the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran as a terrible piece of diplomacy with permanent (INAUDIBLE) of Iran's ability to produce nuclear fuel. I'm wondering how has the abandonment of that deal perhaps affected what we're seeing play out now?

LISTER: It's affected it a great deal. In fact, you can almost date this crisis back to May of the 8th, 2018, when President Trump decided that he was going to pull out of the deal altogether. And after that, of course, U.S. sanctions were imposed on Iran in what was called a policy of maximum pressure.

Well, the Iranians responded with a policy of maximum resistance, which has included the attacks on shipping in the gulf, it has included this uptick in attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq, and it has included attacks on Saudi Arabia, including the extraordinary attack in September that took out a great part of Saudi's oil production at a stroke.

So, in a way, the U.S.'s withdrawal from the nuclear pact set off this chain of events. But what really hurt Iran more than anything else are sanctions. And for all China, Russia, Europe can do, the role of U.S. sanctions in hurting the Iranians has driven them much quicker and much more, if you will, more determined fashion towards resisting U.S. policy in the region, and that has brought us to this point now.

SAVIDGE: David Sanger and Tim Lister. Good to see you both. Thank you for joining us today.

PAUL: Thank you, gentlemen.

SANGER: Thank you.

SAVIDGE: Well, the conversation on Iran continues tomorrow on state of the union. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, former Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Senator Elizabeth Warren and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff will join Jake Tapper. State of the Union airs Sunday, at 9:00 Eastern, right here on CNN.

PAUL: Well, the presidential candidates are revealing their latest fund-raising numbers. What does that reveal about the state of the race in 30 days now from the first round of voting in Iowa?

SAVIDGE: Plus, the New York Times says the Trump administration is dismissing a court order and withholding 20 e-mails concerning the freezing of military aid from Ukraine.

[07:23:51] Coming up, is this the stonewalling or is the White House hiding

something significant?


PAUL: Listen, we're just 30 days away from the first votes of the 2020 presidential campaign. And today, several of the top Democratic candidates are bouncing between events in Iowa ahead of the caucuses, they're on February 3rd -- just start marking your calendar there.

Senator Bernie Sanders is heading into the final stretch to Iowa, winning the fund-raising battle -- hauling in more than $34.5 million during the final three months of 2019. All the Democrats still fighting to catch up with President Trump. He raised $46 million in the fourth quarter.

Now, financial issues are forcing Marianne Williamson to lay off her campaign staff nationally. The author telling supporters in an e- mail, she just cannot afford a traditional campaign staff -- she's staying in the race though. She's joining us live later this morning in the 10:00 a.m. hour.

We're going to ask her about the future of her candidacy and so much more. Again, Marianne Williamson with us at 10:00 a.m.

SAVIDGE: The New York Times is reporting that Trump administration is refusing that court order and withholding 20 e-mails discussing frozen military aides to Ukraine. The Times says, the messages were sent to an aide to President Trump's acting chief of staff and an official at the Office of Management and Budget.

And the papers say that, that official was in charge of the handling of the release of nearly $400 million in military aid. $400 million. Yes, that's right to Ukraine. But the Times reports that in response to a court order, the administration swiftly processed those pages.

The White House has refused to do that and turn them over. It won't even do it with redactions. Now, Senator and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is calling for those officials to appear at a senate trial, even as lawmakers fight over whether there will be any witnesses called for the proceedings.

Joining me now to discuss: Toluse Olorunnipa, White House Reporter for the Washington Post and CNN Political Analyst; as well Elie Honig, he is a former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York and CNN Legal Analyst. Welcome to you both, gentlemen.


SAVIDGE: Toluse, let me ask you this: do you think that the e-mails are significant or is the White House just withholding them as part of what has been their pattern of stonewalling?

OLORUNNIPA: Well, they have had a blanket strategy of stonewalling, but they have released some information. They have complied with some court orders to release some e-mails even heavily redacted to the Senate for public integrity where we found out that President Trump was directly involved in deciding to withhold this aid.

So, they have not been completely blanketed when it comes to defying orders to release something. So, it does raise the question about whether or not these e-mails are particularly damaging to the president's case, whether implicate the president's acting chief of staff or other people within the White House.

We have to remember that Acting Chief of Staff, Mick Mulvaney, did come out to the public and spoke before reporters and said that one of the reasons they withheld the aid was because the president was interested with the idea of corruption related to the Ukraine server. This is just conspiracy theory about Ukraine hacking the election in 2016.

So, if there are e-mails that shed light on that, that shows that the president was having this quid pro quo, in which he was withholding the aid in order to get investigations into Democrats, that could make it more difficult for the president and for his allies to say that there's nothing to see here, this was not improper, and that may be one of the reasons they're stonewalling and deciding not even to release redacted emails but completely defying this court order and saying that they're not going to release anything.


SAVIDGE: Right, nothing at all.

Elie, a lot of issues at hand here are tied up in court. What do you think of the idea that some have floated that the House could pass additional articles of impeachment?

ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Martin, I think that's a litigation position. I know the House said that in court yesterday on the Don McGahn case. As -- and as a legal matter, they can pass new articles of impeachment, but I think as a practical and political matter, we are not going to see additional articles of impeachment.

They already had a chance to include the Robert Mueller obstruction of justice findings in the first set of articles of impeachment. Decided against it, we would have to see something completely unexpected emerge for that to happen.

But overall, look, I agree with Toluse. I think when people hide something, they hide it for a reason. It's just you don't have to be a former prosecutor to understand that. It's just a matter of common sense, and I think the administration has shown here that they have a history of holding back the most damaging information.

We saw that e-mail this week when it was unredacted. It turned out the part they had redacted was the most in part -- important part, the part where OMB official said that the hold on aid was a clear direction from the president. So, I think there's good reason to be suspicious about these reactions.

SAVIDGE: Toluse, what about this stalemate that continues between the House and Senate? The House is not sent over the articles of impeachment, because they don't believe that the Senate trial is going to be genuine.

How is this resolved? And who do you think is going to blink first?

OLORUNNIPA: One more, and to use the right term for it, It's a stalemate. It has been for the past several weeks, and there is no sense that anyone is looking to budge.

We just heard from the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the Minority Leader Chuck Schumer on the Senate floor. They both seem pretty steadfast in their positions that they have very different views of how this trial should take place.

And then, you have House Speaker Nancy Pelosi who was in no rush to send these articles over because she believes that the Senate should take a more significant approach where they actually hold a trial and have witnesses. And it doesn't appear that Mitch McConnell is looking to do that.

I think if there is going to be a move from this position, it's going to require some of these moderate Republican senators who are up for reelection in 2020 to push Mitch McConnell and say, this is what we want to see. Whether it's a quick trial or whether it's a trial with witnesses, they are the ones that have the swing votes that can determine what has 51 votes.

And we haven't heard from them publicly, and as time plays out, I do expect them to become more vocal as they see more pressure as they come back into the halls of Congress and face reporter's questions about what they want to see.

And once that happens, I think Mitch McConnell knows that he can only act with the power of his majority. So, he has to do what his majority wants.

SAVIDGE: And Ellie, do you think that Mitch McConnell has any reason to really want to incorporate witnesses into a proceeding like this?

HONIG: No, I think he -- I think he's on the run from witnesses. I think Democrats are absolutely right here to be pushing for a real trial with real witnesses and real evidence, just look at all the things we learned just this week that are new important revelations.

That said, I think Mitch McConnell, probably has the better of the politics and the process here as Toluse was saying. Ultimately, he can just tell Nancy Pelosi, you can hold your articles of impeachment forever. What's going to happen when it becomes February, March, April? You're still holding your articles of impeachment. That's not going to play well, politically.

Ultimately, this will come down to a majority vote. And if Mitch McConnell can keep 51 of his 53 Republican senators in line, then essentially he can dictate the terms of the trial. But if what we end up seeing is a trial with no evidence and no witnesses, that will be an injustice.

SAVIDGE: Toluse, I would like to ask you on the prospect of whether the showdown with Iran is proving to be a distraction, and is that something the White House really would like, at this point?

OLORUNNIPA: Well, you have seen the president his allies, his campaign, try to push this message that the president is taking care of national security. He's carrying out his role of commander in chief, even as Democrats tried to impeach him and do all of these distracting things to make it harder for him to keep the country safe.

You're not really seeing Democrats buckled too much under those types of attacks. They are staying steadfast and saying, you know, we have a constitutional duty as well to keep the country safe to protect and safeguard the elections.

So, I do think that Democrats are trying to keep this separate and keep this in separate lanes. And the fact that President Trump does not have broad support -- bipartisan support for what he did, with a strike, makes it even more partisan and more likely that Democrats will continue to push forward with this impeachment -- with this impeachment process, even as President Trump tries to say that this is something that's distracting from the national security of the country.

SAVIDGE: All right, well, we'll see how that continues to play out. Toluse Olorunnipa and Elie Honig, thank you very much for joining us.

HONIG: Thank you.


PAUL: So, one week after the attack at a Hanukkah celebration in New York, the man accused of stabbing multiple people is facing a list of charges including federal hate crimes. We'll talk about it.


SAVIDGE: Plus, Hollywood movie producer, Harvey Weinstein, heads to court next week. But his lawyer tells CNN, the sex crime charges against him just don't add up. We'll hear from her.

And we'll discuss the case with our legal expert, Joey Jackson when we come back.


SAVIDGE: Today marks one week since that horrific attack on a Hanukkah celebration in New York. The man accused of stabbing several people at a rabbi's home has been indicted on six counts of attempted murder along with other charges.

A sixth victim has been identified is Meyer Rottenberg, the son of the rabbi who was hosting the Hanukkah celebration at his home. Federal prosecutors have also charged the attacker with a federal hate crime.

PAUL: In today's "LEGAL BRIEF", we're previewing what's expected in the trial of media mogul Harvey Weinstein. More than 80 women have accused him of sexual assault. And guess what, we're going to be hearing from several of them through this trial along with a woman who will be cross-examining those witnesses on the stand.

Our legal expert Joey Jackson with us now. Joey, I just want to ask real quickly when we know -- and based on what I read, there are going to be of those 80 women who are accusing him, all of them in the courtroom.

Help us understand what's expected by many to be a spectacle, but what the atmosphere will be in that courtroom with that many women?

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Without question, Christi, good morning to you. You know, we are in a new era, and I think that goes to certainly buttress and to support that notion, right? We're in the era of MeToo, Time's Up, we are in the era of accountability.

And when you match that with the fact that you have 80 accusers, right? Maybe more, maybe a few less, what have you, but there in that courtroom, certainly it adds, you know, to the issue of the prosecution being motivated to get their case and to get a conviction.

But I think what the defense is going to do, notwithstanding the atmosphere, notwithstanding the stakes, I think the defense is going to limit it or attempt to limit it and remind the jury that this is not about MeToo, it's not about Time's Up. It's only about, right?

Even the 80 accusers, the audience, the other people who may be prior bad act witnesses who are expected to testify also, it's about two people. And it's about whether or not you credit what they're saying.

And allegation from 2016 and allegation from 2000 of, excuse me, 2006 and 2013. And I think that's where the defense wants the playing field. Of course, these other issues help the prosecution, and as much as the climate certainly is right, right now for people to want justice.


PAUL: Speaking of the climate, Joey -- and we do want to clarify, you're right. I mean, there are 80 accusers in the courtroom, but only six witnesses and two of them are really the two that hold the credibility of the weight to it.


PAUL: There only charges are only related to two of the witnesses -- these female witnesses. But Weinstein's lead lawyer is Donna Rotunno. She specializes in sex crimes cases. And here's what she said In Variety. She said, "My biggest issue," when we speak about the MeToo movement. "My biggest issue is this notion that because women make a claim it must be true.

This notion that crossing-examination is victim shaming is obscene. Any claim has a right under our system of justice to be questioned and cross-examined. That doesn't mean we're horrible people. But I have a right to do my job."

She also spoke more about this with Michael Smerconish. She's going to be on the show today, but here's a preview of that.


MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Is it easier or more difficult for you as a female defense attorney to cross-examine a female accuser?

DONNA ROTUNNO, LEAD ATTORNEY FOR HARVEY WEINSTEIN: In terms of easier, I mean, my male counterparts are just as qualified and able to do what I'm able to do. But I think my role as a woman is really more important and the effect of the listener.

So, when the listener watches me, cross-examine a female, I think they view that differently. They view the questions I asked differently, I think that they look at men asking the same questions potentially as being bullying or maybe feeling sorry for the women when they're being questioned.

I think for me, a woman speaking to a woman is a different conversation and it a different effect on the listener.


PAUL: Joe, do you agree with that?

JACKSON: I absolutely do. I think it certainly adds value to his defense team that is Harvey Weinstein that he has her there for him. And I think it's important to note that there's a distinction between direct and cross-examination.

And very briefly, that's this: The prosecution certainly will bring up the two witnesses who are the ones at issue, of course, the four other prior bad act witnesses who will testify as to motive is to intent is to this is how Harvey Weinstein always says, been right with the defense, saying, just listen to the two.

But the direct examination is tell us what happened? When it happened? Where were you? Where was he? Where was his home with the lighting conditions? What were you doing? What was he doing?

Cross-examination is a bit different, right? Cross-examination is intensity. Cross-examination is -- so, this happened in 2006. Is that right? And in 2006, certainly, you were upset that this occurred. Did you report in 2006? Did you report in 2007? I'll tell you what, let's talk about this.

After it occurred, did you tell anybody about it? So, what I'm suggesting to you, Christi is that it's pressuring. Cross-examination is challenging the witness. It's the search for the truth.

And when you have someone like -- right, Donna who's doing that, what ultimately happens is, is that the effect on the listener has to be different. When a woman is, you know, certainly being attacked by a man it could be perceived in a different way than for example, his attorney Donna Rotunno, doing it in a way that perhaps it makes it more relatable and understandable to people who are listening and the only people who matter is going to be the 12 people in that -- in that (INAUDIBLE).

PAUL: You know, it's so interesting Joey because this is a man who is accused of sexually assaulting and sexually manipulating women. And I have to think it's no accident that he chose a woman to be his lead attorney. That strategy?

JACKSON: it just -- there's no question about that. Everything you do in a courtroom is strategic. The way your client is dressing, his effect, his comportment, the manner in which the client is speaking to you and not speaking with you. What you do with the elevator? What you do outside the courtroom? What you do when the jury is walking in?

And certainly, I just think that given the nature of these claims, given the climate that we're in, I think it was certainly a good strategic move to have someone who was experienced and well versed in the notion of sexual assault to be the questioner and that's a woman in this case.

I think it will make a world of difference, will it carry the day? That's yet to be seen, they have a lot of evidence in this case.

PAUL: All righty, Joey Jackson, always appreciate your expertise. My friend, thank you.

JACKSON: Thank you very much. Good to see you, Christi.

PAUL: Of course, of course. It's going to be a big case here. Do not forget, you can watch that interview with Harvey Weinstein's attorney in full-on Michael Smerconish. It's coming up at 9:00 a.m. Eastern right here on CNN.

SAVIDGE: Still to come. We talked with some Iranian-Americans living in California about the death of Qasem Soleimani due to a U.S. drone strike. We'll get their reaction in just a bit.



SAVIDGE: Southern California is home to hundreds of thousands of Iranian-Americans. It's the second-largest Iranian population in the world.

PAUL: CNN's Nick Watt is in Los Angeles with their reaction after the death of Qasem Soleimani.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK, citizenship, fill-out this form.

NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: At a citizenship seminar for Iranian immigrants here in L.A., no one would talk to us on camera, no one wanted their face show.

PEYMAN MALAZ, MANAGING DIRECTOR, PARS EQUALITY CENTER: Lots of Iranian still have families over there. Their relatives lives over there. The chances of their security to be in danger is high.

WATT: Many emigres we spoke to say they watched on T.V. the brutal repression of anti-government protests that swept Iran back in November. Human rights organizations say, at least, 400 protesters were killed. Here in L.A. Qasem Soleimani is not mourned.

What's your first reaction?


WATT: We're in Westwood, a.k.a. (INAUDIBLE). There is some jubilation among the older generations who fled here after Iran's Islamic revolution of 1979. Again, they declined to speak on camera even in death, even thousands of miles away, Soleimani's shadow still haunts.

Eeman born and raised here preferred we not use his last name.

EEMAN, RESIDENT OF LOS ANGELES: It was definitely a huge shock just because of the magnitude of who Qasem Soleimani is.

WATT: For those who long for regime change back home, there is now, more hope.

KHODADAI: I'm sure this is the first step for freedom, probably. We're just looking for hope.

WATT: But despite the U.S. president's words.

TRUMP: we did not take action to start a war.

WATT: Now a real fear of war.

MALAZ: So many Iranian have a -- have memory from war. And the memory from the war is still alive.

WATT: In the 1980s, Iran and Iraq fought a brutal protracted conflict that killed more than half a million.

EEMAN: I think a lot of us know what Iran is capable of, and we don't want Iran to have a chance to show the world what that is.


WATT: Nick Watt, CNN, Los Angeles.


PAUL: Temperatures are soaring. Take a look at some of these pictures that's the firefighters in Australia are battling catastrophic bushfires. Coming up, the threatened communities where people are being told, you know what, it's too late for you to get out.



PAUL: So, listen, hundreds of people have evacuated their homes since these wildfires tear through Australia. But here is the thing, authorities now are telling people who did not evacuate. And this isn't about a half dozen communities near Sydney that it's too late to leave now.

The fire burning in New South Wales has ripped through 650,000 acres. And reinforcements have come in, really from as far away as Los Angeles. That fire though is still burning and it's still out of control. Look at these pictures.

SAVIDGE: Meanwhile, firefighters are up against incredible odds as they battled the catastrophic bush fires raging across the State of Victoria. Three fires have now merge there, two form one massive blaze, said to be the size of Manhattan.

CNN's Allison Chinchar joins us now. And Allison, of course, the weather doesn't seem to be helping firefighters either. And why are things so bad down there?

ALLISON CHINCHAR, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Right. So, they're coming off of not only their hottest year on record, but their driest year on record. And that's really what's made the past year so bad in this particular area.

And we talked about the temperatures. Look at some of these high temperatures. From Saturday, it's in these areas Penrith, that's a suburb of Sydney, reaching 120 degrees Fahrenheit. That's about 48.9 degrees Celsius for international viewers.

Even the Sydney Airport reaching a temperature of around 110. Now, there will be a brief reprieve in temperatures on Sunday before the next heatwave kicks back in Tuesday and Wednesday.

This cold front is what's going to give us that brief reprieve. The problem is it's also going to kick those winds up as it passes by. And that's bad news because that takes those fires that already exists and spreads them.

There is a glimmer of hope that we might get some rain out of that same system, but it's not going to be much. Again, most of these areas likely looking maybe an inch of rain total.

Again, you're talking maybe, be about 25, 50 millimeters max. Here is the thing, though, a half an inch of rain can stop the spread of fires from where they already exist, but you need, at least, two inches of rain -- about 15 millimeters to actually extinguish those fires.

So, it's going to take honestly a little bit more than we're actually expecting out of this next system.

Here is a look at all of the fires. Again, you have over 200 of them active in this particular region. To understand how much area has burned, it's about 23,000 square miles or 14.6 million acres. I want people to understand how large that is. That is the equivalent of the States of New Jersey, Maryland and Delaware combined. Think about that. Imagine, in the States, all three of those particular states wiped out, the entire area just burned.

One of the other things we've talked about, pyrocumulus clouds. That is basically when the fires create their own weather. So, what exactly is that? OK? That term is basically talking about the conditions that are already there and how it makes it worse.

So, you have an area where you have fires already ongoing. Heat from those fires begins to rise. We know that, but as that heat rises, it takes the smoke with it. That smoke then condenses and turns into thunderstorm clouds.

Problem is these aren't rain thunderstorm clouds, they are dry. So, you don't get the rain from them, Martin and Christi, but you will get the lightning which in turn then starts new fires.

SAVIDGE: Oh, that is tragically fascinating. Allison Chinchar, thank you very much for that.

PAUL: Just stay close. We're talking about a lot of the anxiety that leaders across the world are facing right now based on what's happening in the Middle East. Stay with us, we're back in a moment.