Return to Transcripts main page


Iranian Lawmakers Designate U.S. Military "Terrorisst"; Bolton Willing to Testify If Subpoenaed; WaPo: Facebook to Ban Deepfakes; Losses Mounting in Aussie Bushfire Crisis. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired January 7, 2020 - 04:30   ET





JAVAD ZARIF, FOREIGN AFFAIRS MINISTER OF IRAN: The United States has to wake up to the reality that the people of this region are enraged.


LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR: A forceful warning from Iran's foreign minister. Iranian lawmakers now designating the U.S. military a terrorist organization.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: He called shadow diplomacy a drug deal. Now, John Bolton says he is willing to testify but Republicans aren't itching to invite him.

JARRETT: And Facebook will ban highly manipulated videos known as deep fakes but critical loopholes still persist.

CNN is live this morning in Tehran, Baghdad, Beirut, Australia, and London.

Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Laura Jarrett.

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans. It is 31 minutes past the hour here in New York.

Breaking overnight, Iranian lawmakers designating the U.S. military a terrorist organization, in response to the killing of top Iranian General Qasem Soleimani.

There are now reports the Trump administration is denying Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif a visa to travel to New York ahead of the U.N. Security Council meeting on Thursday. CNN has not been able to confirm this.

JARRETT: Huge crowds packing into General Soleimani's hometown of Kerman for his burial this morning.

President Trump is standing by his decision to order the strike that killed Soleimani.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He should have been taken out a long time ago, and we had a shot at it and we took him out. And we're a lot safer now because of it.


JARRETT: But questions persist over U.S. claims that intel showed Soleimani was planning an imminent attack on U.S. interests. Joint Chiefs Chairman Mark Milley says very, very few people saw that intelligence, adding it was imminent and it was very, very clear in scale and scope.

ROMANS: A source tells CNN top congressional leaders the so-called Gang of Eight are set to receive an Iran briefing this afternoon. Rank-and-file members of the House and Senate will be briefed tomorrow.

Senior international correspondent Fred Pleitgen is live in Tehran for us.

And, Fred, you just spoke with the foreign minister, Javad Zarif.

Fred, what did he tell you?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. He was obviously still very angry at the killing of Qasem Soleimani, that major general from the Revolutionary Guards' Quds Force, who by the way, also this morning was buried in his hometown of Kerman.

And then, Javad Zarif, the foreign minister, absolutely ripped into President Trump, ripped into the Trump administration, accusing President Trump of disregarding international law, of essentially being willing to commit war crimes by targeting Iranian cultural sites here in this country, and then also saying that the people of this region, of the entire Middle East, were enraged at the United States because of the policy of the Trump administration.

Here's what he said.


ZARIF: He is showing to the international community that he has no respect for international law. That he is prepared to commit war crimes because attacking cultural sites is a war crime -- disproportionate response is a war crime. But he doesn't care, it seems, about international law.

But has he made the U.S. more secure? Do Americans feel more secure? That's the price for arrogance, for ignorance, for lack of respect.

Their days in our region are numbered not because anybody would take any action against them but because they are not welcomed. This is state terrorism, this is an act of aggression against Iraq, and it amounts to an armed attack against Iran and we will respond.

The United States has to wake up to the reality that the people of this region are enraged -- that the people of this region want the United States out. The United States has been in this region for many years and has not brought itself or the region any security. We'll leave it at that.


PLEITGEN: So there you have Iran's foreign minister coming out and saying that there will definitely be a response from the Iranians after that targeted killing of Qasem Soleimani. Of course, the Iranians have been telling us that they plan to target military sites. It seems in the Middle Eastern region so certainly this entire region very much still on high alert. And especially, those U.S. forces here in this region still very much, it appears, in the crosshairs of the Iranians as well, Christine.

ROMANS: And, Fred, we're so glad to have you there for your expert analysis and reporting. Thank you so much.


Stay safe. We'll talk soon. Thanks, Fred.

JARRETT: Well, Defense Secretary Mark Esper contradicting President Trump, insisting that the U.S. will not target cultural sites in Iran. The president has threatened to do it twice now with the backing of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. But Secretary Esper tells CNN we will follow the laws of armed conflict.

It's a war crime to deliberately target cultural sites in a military operation. The Pentagon's policy has long been to avoid striking areas of cultural importance.

ROMANS: It may take some time for Iran to respond to the deadly U.S. air strike. The longer the clock ticks, the higher the tension level.

Nick Paton Walsh joins us live. He's in Beirut, Lebanon, where Hezbollah has been a fighting a proxy on General Soleimani's behalf for years.

What's the view from there, Nick?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: Well, you're right, Christine, that it is exactly at this point a matter of time many believe until Iran formulates some kind of retaliation. We're beginning to see what exactly that may look like from this series of statements emerging from Tehran, from anyone from frankly Qasem Soleimani's daughter to the Foreign Minister Javad Zarif. Not in his interview with Fred just then in which he said there would not be a military response.

Well, the broad thrust seems to want to push the United States out of the region. Now, Hassan Nasrallah, the head of Lebanese Hezbollah on Sunday said they will be sending U.S. troops home in coffins. So it does appear that some kind of military action may be in the offing. But it isn't clear where, when, or how.

As I say, the longer people begin to wait for that and don't see the sort of loud florid response to the killing of Qasem Soleimani in immediate days afterwards, possibly people will begin to get increasingly perturbed in U.S. embassies and bases around the region here. But it's important to remember, too, the only actual concrete thing we've seen Iran do so far is reduce their commitments to the nuclear deal.

Now, that doesn't necessarily mean that they are immediately trying to get a nuclear weapon. They have often denied they want that in the first place. But it does possibly suggest the longer-term consequence of this because before they joined the nuclear deal in 2015, many estimates suggested it would take them about a year if they wanted to break out and pursue a nuclear weapon, possibly, estimates have come down from that. So it could be a shorter period of time.

And it's important to remember the catastrophic nature of the Israelis or the Americans deciding that they believe Iran would like to seek a nuclear weapon or is trying to get one quickly. That would trigger an all-out assault, frankly, on those facilities and, of course, to the arms race the catastrophe triggered in the Middle East if Iran did suddenly have a nuclear weapon.

Remember, too, though, Iran is essentially saying the U.S. has to leave. Donald Trump said he won't do that against his terms. But his longer-term strategy has been to bring the troops home from afar. So we'll have to see whether or not Iran is simply pushing against an open door, Christine.

ROMANS: Interesting.

All right. Nick Paton Walsh for us in Beirut, thanks, Nick.

JARRETT: So, European officials who have sparred with President Trump on several fronts are urging de-escalation. So, how do they view the tensions between the U.S. and Iran now?

CNN's Max Foster is live for us in London.

And, Max, you know, Merkel, Macron, Netanyahu, everyone's distancing themselves from Trump on this.

MAX FOSTER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, they're having to work on the intelligence as well and they're working very closely and they work with the U.S. very closely as well. So, it's an interesting insight that we've got from European officials on how they're looking at this whole affair.

And they certainly think that all options really are on the table. And that's because Iran can't be seen to be pushed around by the U.S. also, because there's never been an attack at this level on the Revolutionary Guard.

So actually, the view from Europe is the Iranian response will be for the long-term. They're not going to rush into anything. It could be if there is a short-term response, it could happen in a matter of weeks as opposed to days. That's sort of the timeline they're looking at.

What sort of responses are we looking at? Well, they don't expect a traditional military confrontation. Although, I have been -- it has been suggested to me that President Trump isn't always predictable. His actions aren't predictable so there might be one. But they don't think that's the first course of option.

They're really looking at the Iranians' funding and equipping proxies across the region, increasing that support, if you like and asking those proxies to target American interests. By doing so across the region, not just Iraq, that's harder to defend.

At the same time, they are looking at cyberattacks. Iran's used these before. They're looking at possibly disruptive cyberattacks on the enemy, as they now see it.

So these are the sort of scenarios European allies are working through, Laura.

JARRETT: Always great to get your perspective. Thanks so much.

ROMANS: All right. Facebook will ban users from posting deepfake videos. The new policy will ban videos edited or synthesized in a way average users would not easily spot.

But these rules do not prohibit all doctored videos. According to "The Washington Post," the new guidelines would not have banned that deceptively edited clip of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that went viral last year because the technology used in that was not advanced enough.


The change comes as the company executive prepares to testify a congressional hearing later this week on manipulation and deception in the digital age.

JARRETT: A potential game changer in the impeachment of President Trump. John Bolton declaring he is willing to testify if he's subpoenaed by the Senate. The former national security advisor has firsthand knowledge of president Trump's conversations about withholding Ukraine military aid.

Here's how top Russia expert Fiona Hill testified about pressuring Ukraine.


FIONA HILL, FORMER NSC SENIOR DIRECTOR: Ambassador Bolton told me that I am not part of the -- this -- whatever drug deal that Mulvaney and Sondland are cooking up.

REP. TERRI SEWELL (D-AL): And did your boss, Dr. Bolton -- I mean, Ambassador Bolton, tell you that Giuliani was, quote, a hand grenade?

HILL: He did. Yes.


ROMANS: Bolton's willingness to testify gives congressional Democrats a big boost. It also ups the pressure on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to allow witnesses at the impeachment trial.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): The Senate has the unanimous bipartisan precedent for when to handle mid-trial questions, such as witnesses -- in the middle of the trial.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): If any Senate Republican opposes issuing subpoenas to the four witnesses and documents we've requested, they would make it absolutely clear they're participating in a cover-up.


ROMANS: And none of this means Bolton is close to testifying. A handful of key Republican senators dodged questions Monday about whether they would back a subpoena for Bolton. Senate Republican aides are downplaying Bolton's announcement speculating Bolton is trying to drum up sales for his upcoming book.

JARRETT: Breaking news, reports of a 6.5 magnitude earthquake off Puerto Rico's coast. The U.S. Geological Survey says it struck about six miles south of Indios, Puerto Rico. A tsunami is not expected. Puerto Rico power company tweeting its plants have activated their auto-protective mechanism and are out of service.

Remember, most of the island was without electricity for months after Hurricane Maria in 2017. This is the island's second quake in as many days. We'll bring you as many details as we can when we get them.

ROMANS: All right. Forty-two minutes past the hour. The very same day Harvey Weinstein trial begins on rape charges in New York, similar charges revealed in Los Angeles.



JARRETT: Pentagon has identified the U.S. soldier killed Sunday in a terrorist attack in Kenya carried out by the al Qaeda affiliate al- Shabaab. He's 23-year-old Army Specialist Henry Mayfield Jr. of Evergreen Park, Illinois.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My son was a great man. I live him and I miss him.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This was a senseless act of violence that has changed our lives forever.


JARRETT: Two civilian contractors were also killed in the attack on that Kenyan air field. No public word yet on any retaliation by the president. Days after he green lit the killing of an Iranian commander blamed for the death of an American contractor in the Middle East.

ROMANS: One of the president's fiercest defenders will stay on in the administration. Multiple sources confirm Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will not run for a Senate seat in his home state of Kansas. A source close to Mitch McConnell said Pompeo informed of his decision on Monday.

There's been concern in the GOP about holding the Kansas seat because the current top polling Republican is considered weak. But a Pompeo departure would be complicated in the fact he's been crucial in this developing Iran crisis. There was also testimony he was constantly in the loop in the Ukraine scandal.

JARRETT: Well, Mexico rejecting a U.S. proposal to send Mexicans seeking asylum in the United States to Guatemala. Last year's agreement between the U.S. and Guatemala was meant to encourage Central Americans to apply for asylum closer to home.

A former homeland security official tells "The New York Times" Mexicans were not originally meant to be included. But "BuzzFeed" reports that has changed. Now, Mexicans, including families who walk ten minutes to the border to apply for asylum, could be, in theory, sent 2,000 miles away to Guatemala.

Last night, Mexico's foreign ministry said it will work to offer better options.

ROMANS: Trade wars are not easy to win and the trade war with China is being felt by American businesses and consumers, not China. New data found approximately 100 percent of tariffs fell on American shoppers despite President Trump repeatedly claiming China pays those tariffs. Tensions between the U.S. and China cooled dramatically at the end of the year. The U.S. agreed to drop new tariffs on Chinese- made consumer goods as part of the phase one trade deal.

The U.S. also lowered some tariffs, a relief for the American companies that pay the tax to the U.S. treasury. But tariffs on billions of dollars worth of Chinese goods will stay in place.

Trump said he will sign the agreement next week and plans to travel to Beijing at a later date. The wild card here, he can slap tariffs back on China if they don't make progress. If that happens, costs will rise further for U.S. companies and consumers.

JARRETT: Just hours after the start of his criminal trial in New York, Harvey Weinstein hit with new sexual assault charges in Los Angeles. Weinstein is charged with raping one woman and sexually assaulting another in separate incidents over a two-day period in 2013. Meantime, jury selection is set to begin this morning in Weinstein's

trial in New York. The disgraced movie mogul faces similar accusations from two women. Prosecutors are out to prove he committed sex crimes against multiple women.


DONNA ROTUNNO, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Here we are looking at a circumstance where she stands up in front of a court and calls my client a predator. Mr. Weinstein, again, has a right to a fair trial. I think she believes he's convicted already. That's not how this works.


JARRETT: Weinstein has denied any criminal wrongdoing and claims any sexual acts he engaged in were consensual.

ROMANS: An American teenager killed in an ambush in Mexico near the U.S. border. Thirteen-year-old Oscar Lopez was traveling with his family back to the United States this weekend after visiting relatives in the Monterrey area for the holidays.


Lopez's father says the boy was shot in both legs and died in the ambush attack. Three other relatives were injured.

It comes nearly two months after nine members of a Mormon family in Mexico, six of them children, were killed in an ambush.

JARRETT: Two children in Milwaukee shot by a passing driver after they threw snowballs at his car. Police say they found the wounded 12-year-old girl and a 13-year-old boy minutes apart on Saturday night. Both are hospitalized with non-life threatening injuries.

Authorities are looking for the driver of a white Toyota. Right now, they are searching for surveillance footage in the area for clues.

ROMANS: It was New York Governor Cuomo to the rescue, helping to free a passenger from a car wreck on a New York City highway. Cuomo helped to cut the man out of his seatbelt and pulled him from a van that it turned on its side. The governor and his staff were leaving an event Monday driving on BQE, the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, to catch a flight when they came across the accident and Cuomo sprang into action.

JARRETT: Wow, look at that.

ROMANS: All right. Fifty minutes past the hour. Vertical TV and a car inspired by avatar. CNN Business has the details from CES in Las Vegas.


[04:55:40] JARRETT: Well, the U.S. is sending reinforcements to help Australia cope with a wildfire crisis. A team of hot shots, 18 men and two women from the Angeles National Forest in California are heading to Australia right now. A state of emergency remains in effect with about 100 fires still active in Victoria and New South Wales.

Anna Coren is live on the ground in New South Wales with the latest.

Anna, you know, California obviously has a lot of experience with this. What are they doing to help out?

ANNA COREN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Laura, they're obviously here assisting in whatever way they can. And as you say, you guys are used to wildfires in the United States. Here in Australia, it's bushfires. So, it's sharing that experience, that expertise, and working out the best ways to tackle more than 200 blazes in southeast Australia. Dozens of them out of control.

Now, we've hit a much cooler period these last few days, rain in the last 24 to 48 hours. But certainly, not enough to put out these fires. Not even close enough.

I spoke to a resident who was battling fires on his property over the weekend. And he said this is not over by a long shot. And that is the reality.

Many people are returning to their homes after having evacuated during those extreme temperatures and ferocious winds, which just wiped out townships. And they're returning to smoldering rubble.

We accompanied a family and it was truly heartbreaking for them. Ten years hard work just -- just gone up in smoke. And this is the case for thousands of Australian families.

Well, the Australian prime minister who received a call from U.S. President Donald Trump overnight, he has announced a bush fire recovery fund of up to US$1.5 billion. That is going to be needed by the people who have lost their homes and have lost their livelihoods -- Laura.

JARRETT: Anna, thank you so much for being on the ground there for us. We'll see you soon.

And for more information on how you can help the victims of Australia's devastating fires, you can go to

And NASA astronaut on the International Space Station sharing this heavenly image of the first meteor shower of the decade, along with the northern lights. Look at that.

Christina Koch tweeted this composite image of bright fireball meteors as they blazed into the atmosphere. Koch recently broke the record for longest running space flight for a woman and she was part of the first-ever all female spacewalk. ROMANS: All right. Back down on Earth, let's get a check on CNN

Business this morning. Take a look at global markets, pretty mixed. Leaning a little higher I would actually say this morning on Wall Street.

You have futures also moving a little bit higher. Look, stocks wobbled on news of escalating tensions between the U.S. and Iran. And actually, ended slightly higher Monday. The Dow closed up 69 points. S&P and the Nasdaq recovered from earlier losses as well.

Where we see uncertainty really prevail here is in gold. Prices hit a seven-year high yesterday. If history is a guide, markets react, consolidate, and finally recover from shocks like killing of General Soleimani over time.

The question is how long does that take with an election just months away?

One of America's oldest and largest milk producers, Borden Dairy Company, has filed for bankruptcy. It's the second major milk producer to do so in the last two months. Borden said it's been hurt by rising cost of milk and wider industry trends. Overall, milk consumption has dropped 6 percent since 2015. Borden says it plans to use the bankruptcy process to get rid of its debt.

Consumer Electronics Show kicks off in Vegas today. And companies are pulling all the stops with their latest innovations. Samsung unveiled its new TV, featuring a vertical display mode appealing to millennials with social media videos in mind.

There are plenty of robots on display, including Groove X's Lovot, a companion robot that moonlights as a home monitoring system.

Mercedes debuted a futuristic concept car inspired by the movie Avatar. And Sony jumped in the auto game with a surprise announcement of a car called the Sony Vision-S, featuring 33 different sensors in and out of the car.

CES runs until Friday.

JARRETT: Well, it's pretty cool.

Well, thanks to our international viewers for joining us. Have a great rest of your day.

For our U.S. viewers, EARLY START continues right now.