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NEW DAY

Huge Crowds Mourn Iranian Commander Killed by U.S.; Iraqi Parliament Votes to Expel U.S. Troops; Trump Doubles Down on Threat to Strike Iranian Cultural Sites; Three Americans Killed in al-Shabaab Attack in Kenya. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired January 6, 2020 - 06:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Iran continues to be in a state of mourning but at the same time is vowing retaliation after the killing of Qasem Soleimani.

[05:59:20]

MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We took a bad guy off the battlefield. We made the right decision. There is less risk today to American forces in the region.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The president threatened to hit Iranian cultural sites if Iran struck any American or any American asset.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): I really worry that the actions the president took will get us into what he calls another endless war in the Middle East.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL): Iran needs to understand that if we are attacked, we will respond.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY. It's Monday, January 6. It's 6 a.m. here in New York, and we do begin with breaking news.

Growing anger and fallout from President Trump's decision to kill Iran's top general. We have remarkable live pictures that you can see of hundreds of thousands of people on the streets in Iran, lining the streets of Tehran to mourn the death of Qasem Soleimani. Earlier this morning, Iran's supreme leader praying over the slain general's body as Soleimani's daughter directly threatened an attack on the U.S. military.

Iran is also abandoning what is left of the 2015 agreement to contain its nuclear weapons program, while Iraqi lawmakers have voted to expel American forces from their country, a vote U.S. officials tried to keep from happening. ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: All of this as President Trump repeats

his threat to hit Iran's cultural sites if Iran retaliates. Doing so would be considered a war crime under international law. Two senior U.S. officials describe widespread opposition to that idea within the Trump administration.

President Trump is also threatening to impose, quote, "very big sanctions," end quote, on Iraq if they force out American troops.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says the House will vote this week on a resolution to limit President Trump's military actions against Iran.

So we have the global resources to bring you the most comprehensive coverage of this huge story.

Let's begin with Fred Pleitgen. He is live on the streets of Tehran. Tell us what you're seeing, Fred.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Alisyn.

Yes, we've been in the thick of things here on the streets in Tehran since the early morning hours, and I can tell you, I've been in this country almost 20 times and I've never seen a crowd this large.

It was really in the early morning hours that some say over a million people gathered here on the streets of Tehran as Qasem Soleimani and the bodies of the others who were killed in that airstrike were, first of all, eulogized by Iran's supreme leader himself, who of course, was very close to Qasem Soleimani, and then taken here to the -- through the streets to one of the main monuments in Tehran.

The crowds on the ground were extremely angry at the United States, extremely angry at President Trump. They kept breaking out in chants of "death to America" as we were reporting here from the scene but basically, the entire time. It's a level of anger that we haven't seen here in a very long time.

The one thing that they kept saying, Alisyn, is that they want revenge. Now, the Iranians, of course, said they want to take revenge. They want to take revenge on American military sites. They haven't said when that's going to be. But certainly, judging from the anger that we've been seeing on the streets here in Tehran, people want that here as fast as possible.

So a dangerous situation for the U.S. and its forces here in this region, Alisyn.

BERMAN: Hey, Fred, I'll take it. I have a question for you. We talk about the unintended consequences of killing Soleimani. The Trump administration has been working to sow dissent within Iran for months, if not years, even stoking protests. But these demonstrations --

PLEITGEN: Yes.

BERMAN: -- that you're seeing, you're in the middle of today, do they indicate that the U.S. actions have actually worked to unify the Iranian people behind the government there?

PLEITGEN: Yes, you know what? It's interesting, John, because there's a lot of people here who have actually come to us and said that the killing of Qasem Soleimani and, of course, the aftermath that you're seeing on those live pictures and that we've been witnessing here first-hand, that that has been one of the biggest unifiers that Iran has seen in a very long time.

There was one gentleman who came up to me and said, Look, of course, you've seen we have our problems here in Iran. We have protests here in Iran. However, now everybody is united.

And obviously, the majority of the population here is very much united. Even the hardliners and the religious hardliners here in this country could not have thought that so many people would turn up today. So many people have been turning up in the past day and a half.

And that's the fact that Qasem Soleimani, who's obviously internationally seen quite critically, does have a lot of followers and is very revered here inside Iran. So it certainly is something that has unified a nation.

The other thing, John, that's very important to point out was the fact that President Trump said that apparently cultural sites in Iran could also be in the crosshairs of the U.S. military. That has not gone down well at all. Because there's one thing Iranians can -- Iranians can agree on, it's not politics or anything like that. But it's certainly that they want to protect and preserve their culture, which of course, is several thousand years old -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Fred, these pictures are just stunning. I mean, as far as the eye can see, we're looking at protesters there on the street. Thank you very much for being on the ground for us to tell us what's really happening. We'll check back with you throughout the program.

President Trump is threatening to sanction Iraq after its parliament voted to expel American troops following the airstrike that killed Iran's top commander.

CNN's Jomana Karadsheh is live in Baghdad with more on that. What's the situation, Jomana?

JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Alisyn, remarkable developments here over the past 72 hours or so. We saw on Sunday the Iraqi parliament passing that vote, basically asking the government here to find a way to ask U.S. forces and coalition forces to leave the country.

And, you know, there are some legal questions, procedural questions and issues here, because this is a caretaker government. Questions about how this is going to actually be implemented.

[06:05:06]

But what is really stunning is we heard from the Iraqi prime minister. When he addressed parliament, he actually made the argument for why parliament should go ahead with this vote saying that U.S. forces should leave. He said that he's concerned that Iraq is turning into a battleground between Iran and the United States, something they don't want to see.

But most importantly, he says this is in the interest of the U.S. and -- and Iraq, because they cannot guarantee protecting U.S. forces when they are here on the ground, considering the current situation.

And we've heard from President Trump, responding in comments to reporters yesterday on Air Force One, saying -- speaking about Iraq's decision, saying, "If they do ask us to leave, if we don't do it in a very friendly basis, we will charge them sanctions like they've never seen before ever. It'll make Iranian sanctions look somewhat tame. If there's any hostility, that they do anything we think is inappropriate, we are going to put sanctions on Iraq, very big sanctions."

He's talking about Iraq, one of the U.S.'s key allies in this region. We haven't had reaction yet from the Iraqi government, but you don't expect them to be happy hearing these kinds of threats coming from the United States.

And of course, many would say that this really shows disregard for Iraq's sovereignty; and some would question if the president actually knows Iraq's history and that they've had devastating sanctions here in the '90s under Saddam Hussein. Many are worried that this will only enflame anti-American sentiments, John.

BERMAN: Indeed. And when you talk unintended consequences, because Qasem Soleimani, the Iranian general, what he wanted was U.S. troops out of Iraq. So fascinating to watch this develop before our eyes. Jomana Karadsheh in Baghdad, thank you very much.

Meanwhile this morning, President Trump is reiterating his threat to target Iranian cultural sites if Tehran retaliates. That, in fact, would be a war crime.

CNN's Boris Sanchez is live at the White House with more on what the president said last night.

And you know, Boris, this fits a regular pattern. The president tweets something. His aides and advisers, administration officials deny that he said it. And the president, given the chance, says, No, no, no, no, that's exactly what I meant. Bomb Iranian cultural sites.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You're absolutely right, John. The president here flirting with the potential of committing war crimes against Iran.

He was adamant in his discussion with reporters about Air Force One yesterday when returning from his Mar-a-Lago estate to Washington, D.C. He contradicted his own secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, who said that bombing Iranian cultural heritage sites was not on the table.

He's already facing resistance within his own administration, several officials telling CNN that they're opposed to such a measure; and the president will face some kind of resistance inside.

Nevertheless, this is what he said. He's standing by this. He says, quote, "They're allowed to kill our people. They're allowed to torture and maim our people. They're allowed to use roadside bombs and blow up our people. And we're not allowed to touch their cultural sites? It doesn't work that way."

Now, the president effectively accusing Iran of committing atrocities themselves.

The White House also dealing with news from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Yesterday she put out a statement announcing that he should present a resolution to her caucus to try to limit some of the president's abilities to respond to an Iranian attack. This coming on the heels of a tweet by the president, declaring that he is going to respond to any Iranian aggression, with -- take a look -- quote, "a disproportionate manner."

Now, the president saying this tweet is an attempt to notify Congress of his intent. He adds, quote, "Such legal notice is not required but is given nevertheless."

Of course, we've asked the White House to respond to this news coming from the House speaker. They have yet to - - Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: OK. Sounds like a lot could happen this morning. Boris, thank you very much. Please keep us posted.

So what does Iran's decision to stop complying with the 2015 nuclear deal mean for the world? We discuss that next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[06:13:10]

BERMAN: We've been looking at these remarkable live pictures from the streets of Tehran. Hundreds of thousands of Iranians are mourning the loss of their top general, who was killed by the U.S. last week. And it comes after Iran announced it will abandon its commitments to the 2015 nuclear deal and no longer limit uranium enrichment.

Joining us now, CNN political and national security analyst David Sanger. He's a national security correspondent for "The New York Times." And CNN counterterrorism analyst Phil Mudd.

David, you have a terrific piece in "The Times" this morning. You note one of the criticisms that the Trump administration had of the Iran nuclear deal was that it would expire after ten years. In ten years, the Iranians could develop nuclear weapons. Well, forget ten years. They're doing it today.

DAVID SANGER, CNN POLITICAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yes, so the key to this agreement signed in 2015 was that the Iranians could not produce enough fuel to make a nuclear weapon until 2030. And that even beyond that, they were restricted from doing anything that would lead to a weapon, and then there were all kinds of inspection provisions.

When the president started running and he began to talk about the nuclear deal, he said its biggest problem is it runs out.

So what has he done? By pulling out, the Iranians, predictably, were headed toward a moment where they, too, were going to go pull out. Now they've done it even faster.

So what's that leave you on? It gets you into a cycle where they're going to start things up. They may begin enriching to a level that we're concerned is near bomb-grade uranium. And then the United States and Israel are going to be right back where we were ten years ago. We have to decide do we want to take military action against those sites? We'll remember at that time that's led to Stuxnet, the big cyber act.

CAMEROTA: But David, were they in compliance up until now? I mean, I think that the Trump administration has always made it sound as though Iran was breaking the international deal in some ways.

SANGER: They were in compliance in May of 2018 when the president pulled out. Then they spent a little less than a year trying to stay in compliance but trying to get the Europeans to counteract the sanctions the U.S. had imposed.

[06:15:12]

When the Europeans were not capable of doing that -- and you couldn't, and there was really no way to compensate for that -- the Iranians started bit by bit to pull out. Yesterday's announcement was, we have no limits.

BERMAN: Phil Mudd, I want to go to you with the other major development over the last 24 hours, which is the president reiterating his threat to hit Iranian cultural sites. That is, if Iran retaliates against the United States. What's the impact of that? As someone who has been in the middle of the intelligence operations for decades, what would the impact of that be, and what does that threat really mean?

PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Well, I think there's a couple questions you have to raise here. First, globally, if we're trying to isolate Iran with things like sanctions by the strike against Soleimani, and if we do, which I doubt will happen, but if we do ever hit a cultural site, the prospect that we can continue to squeeze, for example, the Europeans to isolate Iran, you give Iran an excuse to say, we can't trust the Americans.

I do think there's one question here that, if I were on the inside, I would be asking. And that is lawyers. If you're at the Pentagon and you get an order to strike a site, some people's international lawyers say that is a violation of international criminal law, it's a war crime. Does a lawyer tell the secretary of defense, if you go through with this, you are violating international law?

I think the secretary of defense has an interesting role in this, if the president ever wants to go forward with striking cultural sites. I don't think it's going to happen. I'd be shocked.

CAMEROTA: You know, the way President Trump sees it, David, I mean, if we can go by his tweet, is that there's sort of asymmetrical warfare: that we shouldn't have to comply with some sort of higher standard, if the Iranians aren't. He said, "They're allowed to kill our people. They're allowed to torture and maim our people. They're allowed to use roadside bombs and blow up our people. And we're not allowed to touch their cultural sites? It doesn't work that way."

SANGER: Well, they are not allowed to do those things. Obviously, all of those are huge violations of human rights and other things.

But there's a reason this cultural sites norm is there. And the reason is that we're trying to show -- all nations are trying to show that you're going after a regime that is conducting crimes. That you're not going after people.

There's no strategic value to going after these sites. And we have a long history of stopping ourselves from doing this. When Truman had to make the decision to bomb Japan, obviously a highly controversial decision at the time, they decided not to hit Kyoto, the key cultural site.

In 2017 during the Trump administration, the U.S. supported a U.N. resolution, a Security Council resolution condemning ISIS for going after cultural sites. That was during the Trump administration.

BERMAN: Talking about ISIS, Phil, very quickly, where is the battle against ISIS this morning? Because we talk about the one-off consequences. The U.S. has officially paused -- paused -- the battle against ISIS in that region. And of course, we know the Iraqis have voted to remove U.S. troops. So what does that do to the fight against ISIS?

MUDD: I give you one quick answer on this. And that is when you face terrorists, they will go to places where there is the least pressure. If you remove pressure, people who believe that they're inspired by God to oppose the Americans will return.

I think if the Americans move out, you can anticipate that local forces may not have the capability to go after ISIS. They're going to try to come back. They're never, never going to go home unless you take them off the battlefield.

CAMEROTA: Phil Mudd, David Sanger, thank you very much for all of your expertise on this.

MUDD: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: Great to talk to both of you.

BERMAN: All right. We can see the tensions escalating before our very eyes in the Middle East. And as that's happening, three Americans were killed in a separate terror attack, this one in East Africa. A live report next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[06:23:12]

CAMEROTA: OK. Developing overnight, new details about the attack on a military base used by U.S. forces in Kenya that killed three Americans. CNN's Farai Sevenzo is live in Nairobi, Kenya, with more.

What's the latest?

FARAI SEVENZO, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Alisyn, this horrific attack is -- is not only being seen today as a brazen, audacious attack on what is a very heavily-fortified camp up in Manda Bay. Remember, this is a base where American troops, U.S. Special Forces, train their African partners, including the Kenya Defense Forces.

And of course, what we are -- what we are learning right now is that this attack occurred before dawn, before the sun was up. The sun comes up around about 6 a.m. around here. And at 5:30, the Kenya Defense Forces reported hearing explosions. And there then ensued a kind of fire fight in which of course, those one serviceman, two contractors were killed on the American side.

We are still waiting to hear news of what the Kenya Defense Forces have suffered in terms of casualties. But certainly, the audaciousness of the attack, attacking such a big base, is ramping up al-Shabaab's attacks into this region, Alisyn.

And of course, we also know that several airstrikes, drone strikes by the United States military have been hitting this group. But despite this, they have killed 85 people in Mogadishu last week. They continue to attack the region.

And I just tell you what General Stephen Townsend, commander of the U.S. Africa Command, said. He said, "Let's harden our -- as we honor their sacrifice, let's harden our resolve. Alongside our African partners, we will pursue those responsible for this attack, and al Shabaab who will seek to harm American and U.S. interests."

[06:25:02]

BERMAN: A big story around the world. Farai Sevenzo for us in Nairobi. Thank you so much for watching it. Please keep us posted.

Parts of the Northeast United States could see snow and rain this week. It comes after five people were killed in this huge pileup on the Pennsylvania turnpike involving a tour bus and three tractor trailers.

CNN meteorologist Chad Myers now with the forecast -- Chad.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: A band of lake-effect snow rolled right across that interstate, and the weather went downhill as people were driving there. And we're still seeing some snow right now.

The snow is upstate, all the way even from about Albany, Schenectady, all the way into Buffalo. But that's really the worst of it for right now.

This weather is brought to you by Celebrity Cruises. Go to Celebrity.com to book your award-winning vacation today.

So where's the snow? Well, it goes to New England. You'll even get a little snow in the Berkshires, maybe even toward Boston. But temperatures will be 37, so nothing's really sticking today.

Now, tomorrow, we'll get some more snow in the mountains west of D.C. We'll probably pick up 3 to 6.

D.C., right at 4 p.m., the evening rush, you're going to be warm enough. They'll probably not wreck the roads. But there'll be some snow in the air. And then it moves on.

And we're going to have to watch where that low goes. If it's closer to the U.S., closer to the coast, we'll get more snow than this. But for now, we're just seeing those areas inland. Because look at the temperatures here, Alisyn. Temperatures in the 40s and even some spots, 50s for the next couple of days. So we're not going to see a lot of sticking snow with temperatures like this.

CAMEROTA: OK, Chad. Very good to know. Thank you.

MYERS: Yes.

BERMAN: Congress is back, but the stalemate over the Senate impeachment trial continues. Now, Senator Lindsey Graham, he's got an idea of how to break the impasse. We'll tell you all about it next.

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