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Crowds Mourn Iranian Commander's Death; Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D- NJ) is Interviewed about Iran and War Powers Resolution. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired January 6, 2020 - 07:00   ET

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


[07:00:00]

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Trump issues a warning, tweeting that if Iran attacks any American asset, the U.S. will hit them harder than they have ever been hit before.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Cultural centers are fair targets in your view?

MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: We're going to do the things that are right and the things that are consistent with American (INAUDIBLE). If the Iranian leadership makes a bad decision, hope that they won't, but when they do, America will respond.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think the intelligence supports the conclusion that killing a top Iranian official is going to either stop platting or improve American security.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): If they hit us again, I would not want to be working in an Iranian oil field, because I think the president is determined to bring this regime to its knees.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY. And we do begin with breaking news.

You're looking at live pictures, you're about to, of these huge crowds that have flooding the streets in Iran's capital at this hour. This is Tehran. Hundreds of thousands of people are mourning the death of General Qasem Soleimani who was killed by the U.S. air strike in Baghdad last week. Iran now announcing that they will abandon their obligations under that 2015 nuclear deal.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump has renewed his threat to attack cultural sites if Iran retaliates. That would be a war crime. The president is also threatening to impose, quote, very big sanctions on Iraq if the Iraqis follow through with a parliamentary vote to expel U.S. troops from the country.

Congress returns to this escalating crisis with Iran today and an impeachment trial against President Trump looms in the Senate.

Want to begin our coverage with CNN's senior international correspondent Frederik Pleitgen, who is live on the streets in Tehran.

Fred, we've been just looking at these remarkable pictures, this flood of humanity mourning the death of General Soleimani.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, good morning, John.

And I've been in the thick of all of this pretty much all morning. And, you know, obviously there's a lot of grief that's being expressed here. You can see that on those remarkable, live pictures. There's actually some people who have come out earlier today by official estimates who have said that they believe that well over a million people have come out into the streets. And that certainly is something that is pretty remarkable and bigger than anything that I've ever seen here. And this is about my 15th or 16th time reporting from Iran. I've been in a lot of demonstrations here in this country as well.

The people here, obviously, in a state of mourning, but also very much, John, in a state of anger as well. The bodies of Qasem Soleimani and the others who were killed in that air strike in Baghdad were this morning eulogized here in Tehran at the Tehran University. And it was the supreme leader himself who said the prayers over the bodies. That's something that is an honor that is not bestowed on very many people here in this country and it shows how important Qasem Soleimani is to many Iranians. Obviously he's very controversy in western countries, but here in Iran he indeed is someone who is very much revered.

Now, the people here on the one hand obviously very much in a state of mourning, but they also are in a state of anger. One of the things that we heard earlier today was people chanting "death to America." Also as we were going live on TV and many of them saying what they want what they call a hard revenge. They want their nation to hit back at the U.S. and do so quite quickly as well, John.

BERMAN: It's interesting, Fred, because over the last few months we've seen protests on the streets in Iran, but they've been against the Iranian government.

PLEITGEN: Yes.

BERMAN: It seems as if this U.S. action, in a way, has unified the Iranian people in a way that they weren't unified before.

PLEITGEN: You know what, I would definitely say so. It's a really interesting point that you raise because there are people who have actually been coming to us and saying, look, of course we have problems here in this country, of course they had those demonstrations, not just here in Tehran, but really all throughout the country. And, of course, those protests in part were met with violence by the authorities. But they said, now, in this moment, the country is unified. It took the killing of Qasem Soleimani really to unify this country and it was interesting to see also the makeup of the crowd that's here on the ground. You have a lot of religious people, of course, but you also have a lot of secular and moderate people as well who are very much united in their mourning and united in their anger at the killing that took place.

And it's not just the killing of Qasem Soleimani itself that's angered a lot of people, but then they also say that President Trump poured even more gasoline over that fire when he said that the U.S. now has in its crosshairs 52 sites in Iran, some of them being sites that are important to Iranian culture. And certainly while there are deep divisions here in the fabric of this nation, there's one thing that all Iranians can agree on, and that is that their culture is certainly something that should not be attacked, John.

CAMEROTA: Fred, thank you for all of that context and for being on the ground there for us. We will check back with you.

So joining us now to talk about this, we have CNN political analyst David Gregory, CNN's senior global affairs analyst Bianna Golodryga, and CNN global affairs analyst Max Boot.

[07:05:04]

He's a senior fellow on the Council on Foreign Relations.

Great to have all of you here.

So, Max, when you look at these live pictures there on the screen, I mean Fred Pleitgen was saying that some estimates there are a million people. Does that give us any indication of what Iran plans to do next?

MAX BOOT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, it certainly indicates that the attack on Soleimani is not leading to dancing in the streets as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo suggested would be the case. As John was just pointing out, we've seen a complete turnaround from a month ago where you had anti-regime protests in Iran and Iraq, protests against the Iranian regime in both countries, and now in both countries you're seeing this surge of nationalism and anti-Americanism because of the death of General Soleimani.

And it's -- you know, it's still possible we will see that the killing of Soleimani may deter Iran from some actions. That may, in fact, be the case. We have certainly seen no indication of that so far. What we've seen is entirely negative with the Iraqi parliament voting to kick U.S. forces out of Iraq, with this massive surge of anti- Americanism in both countries. And Donald Trump seems -- and, of course, with Iran exiting the nuclear deal. And if Donald Trump wants Iranians and Iraqis to hate us, he's doing a good job of it by threatening to attack cultural sites in Iran, by threatening to somehow hold Iraq hostage to shake them down for money to pay for a U.S. air base. This is not the way that we win friends and influence people in the region.

BERMAN: It is interesting because whatever the impact -- positive impact of killing General Soleimani might be, there have already been negative repercussions in terms of U.S. interests. As Max was saying, it's unifying the Iranians. It has caused Iran to pull out completely from the Iran nuclear deal. They will begin producing uranium and building centrifuges immediately. The Iraqis have voted to expel all U.S. troops from that country. And the United States had to pause, literally pause the fight against ISIS in the region because the troops have to take measures to stay safe.

BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN SENIOR GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: And now you have the president threatening not only Iranians but Iraqis as well. It's distanced us with the European allies. And we saw Secretary of State Mike Pompeo over the weekend say multiple times that they could have done more, sort of blaming them.

European allies were still in a very tight situation in terms of wanting to retain any hopes of keeping the Iran nuclear deal on the table. Now saying we weren't even given a heads up about this assassination.

And, look, it's coming when we're hearing more and more information about Secretary of State, in particular, Mike Pompeo pushing for this route going back to early days of summer and when the U.S. drone was shot down by Iranians and there was no forcible response from the president of the United States.

And the question is, what comes next? There are actually two questions. If there was imminent attack, if we were going to be exposing our troops or Americans in the region to harm, show us that data, one. And, two, if this had been something that at least had been on the table for an option for the president to make, that was the day two response going to be? What does day two, day three, month three look like down the road? We have yet to see any evidence of that.

CAMEROTA: Right. And David Gregory, I mean from the reporting that we know, it's hard to see how the Trump administration gamed this out completely. You know, the president is known for more impulsive decisions, not sort of being a long-term chess player. And so of course it's impossible to know what the Iranians are going to do next or what the U.S. response will be to their retaliatory response.

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, on -- in our conversations over the past four years, my biggest concern has always been this kind of scenario, an international crisis with an untested president, an impulsive person who doesn't have top advisers around him. A lot of the military, more seasoned experience, has left the administration. And he doesn't listen to a lot of people anyway. So your ability to ratchet up a response, there has been tension between the United States and Iran for months now. He has now ratcheted up, escalated it to such a degree there's not a lot of room to maneuver now.

And so there's no identifiable strategy here, only an impulsive president. And that impulsivity being seen by threatening cultural sites in Iran, which are only going to inflame tensions. You look at what's happening on the streets.

It may be, as General David Petraeus was quoted as saying over the weekend, that there is some deterrence that is restored to this relationship because the president did something that was so brazen, something his predecessors had an opportunity to do and would not do. And so there's an outcome here that may be extremely positive that is difficult to see at the moment beyond the dangers of the present. We simply don't know.

[07:10:00]

What we do know is that this now marks a return of the United States having to insert itself into the volatility of the Middle East. Something the president said he never wanted to do. And on the nuclear question alone, now it returns the United States to a posture before the joint agreement of 2015 where they may have to take provocative actions to try to set the program back that might be covert, it might be overt, but it really does return the United States to a position of great responsibility without a lot of allies on his quest.

BERMAN: I want to pick up on what David was just talking about, the impulsiveness of President Trump. And we saw that on Air Force One last night as he was returning from Mar-a-Lago to the White House. Number one, he threatened sanctions on Iraq. Threatened sanctions on a U.S. ally, Iraq, if Iraq kicks out the U.S. troops. And then he made that statement reiterating his feeling that the United States should go after Iranian cultural sites if Iran retaliates. That would, of course, be a war crime. The president said it this way, Max, 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.

I wonder if you could talk about the impact of statements like that around the world.

BOOT: Well, my first reaction, J.B., was to say, it does work that way because Iran is an outlaw regime. They support terrorism. We are a rule of law country. So it doesn't matter what atrocities they commit, we will abide by the rule of law. And I can't imagine our military targeting cultural sites in Iran in defiance of international law. But that doesn't seem to matter to Donald Trump. He doesn't seem to care about international law.

And the reality is, look, we're very unlikely to do this, but the fact that he is saying that we will do this, that is a black eye for the United States. That is reducing us to the level of the Taliban. Those are the kind of people who blow up cultural sites. That is not something the United States does.

Remember the movie "The Monuments Men." Our army was out there saving cultural sites from the barbarians out there. And so Donald Trump is losing the battle for public opinion around the world. This does not help us anywhere. It certainly does not help us in places like Iran and Iraq where a lot of people hate the Iranian regime and now he is solidifying their support for that very regime by threatening to commit crimes against the Iranian people. And it doesn't matter if you're a reformer or a hardliner in Iran, everybody treasures those cultural sites. CAMEROTA: And, by the way, I'm not sure the secretary of state, Mike

Pompeo, made many people feel better yesterday when he was asked directly about this by George Papadopoulos -- George Stephanopoulos -- wow --

GOLODRYGA: (INAUDIBLE).

CAMEROTA: George Stephanopoulos on one of the Sunday shows. Listen to how the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, explained why people should feel better.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: We'll behave lawfully. We'll behave inside the system. We always have and we always will, George, you know that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: We always have and always will behave inside the system? Two weeks ago the president was impeached by the House of Representatives for behaving outside of the system in terms of whatever they're doing in Ukraine.

GOLODRYGA: And yet the president designated Mike Pompeo to be the face of all of this on all of the talk shows over the weekend and he has remained steadfast in saying that we are going to be following the law. And here we are at a place where we've grown accustomed to these erratic tweets from the president of the United States. Republicans, I haven't seen many speaking out in outrage following his tweet about threatening to blow up sites -- cultural sites in Iran. And it's sort of become the new normal.

But you also had Secretary of State Pompeo suggesting that this war was started with Iran as soon as the U.S. got into the JCPOA and that is just not factually accurate, whatever you want to say about fringe and proxy attacks and rocket launches. Look, Iran has always been a bad actor and malevolent, but the JCPOA was strictly talking about nuclear proliferation and Iran was actually complying within that. So, if anything, the argument can be made that once the U.S. and the president got out of the JCPOA, with no backup plan, right, that that's when things really started to become heated.

We're not taking Iran's defense here. They were always a bad actor. The question was, how do you contain them.

BERMAN: David.

GREGORY: Can I just underline the gravity here? I think it's obvious because we have so many levels of threat now between the United States and Iran. We also don't have diplomacy between the United States and Iran. And, to me, it's an obvious point, but a really frightening point is, miscalculation. Leaders make mistakes in a cycle of attack and response. And that's what everybody has to have their eyes open to now is a cycle of mistakes. If Iran responds in some fashion, what comes next? Miscalculation has led to such horrible outcomes throughout history.

CAMEROTA: All right. Everyone, thank you.

BERMAN: Sobering. It really is a sobering thought, David. Important to bring up.

CAMEROTA: All of this, this has been a sobering conversation. Thank you all for your expertise with this.

So Democrats in Congress are trying to rein in the president's military actions with Iran. How can they do that?

[07:15:01]

Well, next, a member of the Armed Services Committee.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says her chamber will vote on a war powers resolution this week aimed at limiting President Trump's military actions with Iran going forward.

Joining me now is Democratic Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill. She's a member of the House Armed Services Committee and a former Navy pilot who did fly in the Middle East.

Congresswoman, thank you so much for being with us.

REP. MIKIE SHERRILL (D-NJ): Thanks for having me.

BERMAN: I wouldn't be at all surprised if you know people who suffered at the hands of General Soleimani. I do. There are, you know, countless, hundreds of service members in Iraq who suffered in attacks that he planned or sponsored and the technology. That is one thing.

I am struck by the consequences in just the last three days since this attack, Iran saying it's pulling out completely from the nuclear deal, Iraq voting to remove U.S. troops from that country, the United States saying it has hit the pause button on operations against ISIS.

Where do you think things stand this morning?

SHERRILL: You know, that's exactly right. I was a policy office in my final tour in the Navy, a Russian policy officer, and we were always thinking about our interactions and how they would affect the country 10, 20 years from now.

[07:20:04]

What was the goal of any action we took?

And when you think of the Middle East, you're thinking of, you know, how do I make sure Iran moves away from a nuclear program? How do we make sure that we root out terrorism and form a more stable Middle East ripe for democracy? And when you look at this action, taken alone it doesn't achieve those goals. However, with a long term strategy, it certainly could help. And that's what we're all asking for is, you know, what is the longer term strategy? How does this fit into that piece of the puzzle?

BERMAN: Why is the vote that Nancy Pelosi is now pushing for important in your mind?

SHERRILL: Well, I think we're all uneasy in Congress. This administration has taken its time briefing Congress on exactly what threat was posed, why we needed to move forward right now with this attack. We haven't heard the long-term strategy. In fact, the president said he didn't need a strategy, which I really disagree with in this region. And so I think we want to make sure that this administration realizes that if it's going to move forward into a conflict with Iran, it cannot do so without the approval of Congress.

BERMAN: You're on the Armed Services Committee. Have you seen any of this intelligence yet or information that Mike Pompeo told me on Friday that there was an imminent attack that killing Soleimani would somehow thwart?

SHERRILL: So I am headed down tomorrow to look at some of the specific intelligence information. But I have been in touch with the chairman. I have been talking to members of HASC and from what I understand, there is still some question over how imminent the threat was.

BERMAN: Do you trust their word?

SHERRILL: I -- you know, I certainly want to see the information. I think we have had some question about some of the information we've received in the past. So I would want to see the firsthand information.

BERMAN: And that's not a question just for this administration. Look, I think Americans are rightly skeptical of any intelligence when it comes to this part of the world given that there was an invasion staged on intelligence that appeared to be faulty or was faulty and then there are questions about the voracity of this administration overall.

Which brings me to impeachment. When do you think Nancy Pelosi should deliver the articles of impeachment to the Senate?

SHERRILL: Well, as you know, we -- that was one of the last votes we took of last year. We'll just be back in session Tuesday. I would anticipate it wouldn't be very long. But we really do need to see now what the procedure is. That's what I hear in my district, what are the procedures going to be? Are they going to be fair procedures? This is a trial. And you want people going into a trial -- I was a federal prosecutor -- I would want and expect people going into a trial to not have preconceived notions, although that would be very hard, but to look at the evidence and weigh it as a fact finder.

BERMAN: You said you'd expect that it will not be very long. What do you want as a member of the freshman caucus who's gone in there? And it was a tough vote for you. Do you want Nancy Pelosi to deliver these articles soon? SHERRILL: I do. I think I want, I think my district wants, I think the

nation wants some resolution to this.

BERMAN: How do you think the military action against Iran will factor into this?

SHERRILL: Well, it's certainly a separate issue, but -- so I don't -- I really do look at these as two very separate things. There has been some concern that they are related. That's, again, why we want to look at what the threat was, what the imminent threat was.

BERMAN: What kind of concern that they are related?

SHERRILL: Well, you know, why -- why was this determined -- why was it determined that we needed to strike Soleimani now? The president said this will make it safer. The president's had plans to do this for almost four years now. So I think we just want to make sure that we're all coming up and understanding the long-term strategy to best promote U.S. interests worldwide.

BERMAN: Do you fear that having an impeachment trial, while there is an international crisis going on, somehow undermines his authority and the ability of the commander in chief to carry out those actions?

SHERRILL: I don't think that would undermine his authority. I think he has moved forward as a commander in chief in the way he is determined he would like to do.

What we want to understand is how is this in the best interests of the people of the United States and our values abroad? How does this make sure that we further deter Iranian nuclear programming? How do we make sure that this enables us to further deter terrorism across the world and here at home? How does this make us more safe in the long term?

BERMAN: Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill, thanks so much for being with us today. When you go down and get a look at some of that information and intelligence, please share what you can with us because I think we're all interested in seeing exactly what's there.

SHERRILL: Well, certainly. I hope it will be public soon. I know, as Senator Menendez has asked that it be made public.

BERMAN: Appreciate it.

SHERRILL: Thank you.

BERMAN: Thank you very much.

Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: OK, John, Iran's new military commander is pledging revenge for the U.S. killing their top general.

[07:25:04]

Is the U.S. prepared for whatever comes next? (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: When you say the attacks were imminent, how imminent were they? Are we talking about days? Are we talking about weeks?

MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: If you're an American in the region, days and weeks, this is not something that's relevant. We have to prepare. We have to be ready. And we took a bad guy off the battlefield.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: All right, that was Secretary of State Mike Pompeo not revealing information about how imminent any potential attacks on the U.S. were that led to President Trump ordering the killing of Iran's top military commander. So, how will Iran retaliate now and what should the U.S. do to protect the national security?

Joining us now is CNN's senior national security analyst Lisa Monaco. She is the former Homeland Security adviser to President Obama.

Lisa, it is so great to have you here. I know you spent countless hours in the situation room in the White House analyzing intelligence, trying to figure out the chess moves involved in protecting national security.

[07:30:01]

So -- so do you think that -- what do you -- what do you think of the administration's claim that this was because --