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No Survivors After Ukrainian Jet Plunges to the Ground in Iran; Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) is Interviewed About Growing Number of Democrats Asking Pelosi Hand Over Articles of Impeachment to Senate; Megxit: Prince Harry & Meghan Markle Step Back From Royal Family; Top U.S. General: Iran Intended To Kill U.S. Troops; Some Admin Officials Believe Iran Purposely Missed; Top U.S. General Expects Iran-Backed Militias To Continue Attack; Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) Discusses About The Briefing On Iran's Attack; GOP Senator Says Iran Briefing Was The "Worst" He's Heard On A Military Issue, Calls It Un-American; Rockets Explode Near U.S. Embassy In Baghdad As Top U.S. General Warns Of More Attacks; Trump Accuses Obama Of Funding Missiles Used By Iran; Former Obama Aides Defend Against Trump's Claim Iran Nuclear Deal Funded Missiles Used In Attack. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired January 8, 2020 - 19:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Thank you very much. And to our viewers, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. Erin Burnett OUTFRONT starts right now.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next breaking news, targeting Americans. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff telling reporters Iran meant to kill U.S. troops.

Plus, on edge, two rockets landing near the United States embassy in Iraq. Tonight, we are learning more about that strike at this hour.

And why did a Boeing 737 crash in Tehran, killing 176 onboard just hours after Iran launched an attack on the United States? Let's go OUTFRONT.

And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, the breaking news, Iran was targeting U.S. troops. This according to the top U.S. General who tells CNN tonight that Iran meant to kill U.S. troops when it fired 16 ballistic missiles at two Iraqi bases housing American forces.

The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Staff, General Mark Milley, telling reporters tonight, "I believe based on what I saw and what I know that they were intended to cause structural damage, destroy vehicles and equipment and aircraft, and to kill personnel, that's my own personal assessment."

General Milley's assessment is in stark contrast though to what has others in the administration have been telling CNN, which is that they believe Iran did not intend for its rockets to hit American troops at either base they struck in Iraq. And that could be the reason why Trump didn't have to strike back, sending the United States closer to all-out war. Milley's jarring and blunt statement about Iran's intent to target

American troops comes as we're learning the White House did consider hitting Iran back after the missile attack last night. A source telling CNN Iran sent multiple messages to the United States through three different back channels through the night last night with the message of the attacks are done. The President repeated that message today.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Iran appears to be standing down, which is a good thing for all parties concerned and a very good thing for the world.


BURNETT: President Trump also standing down, doing a complete about face of his promise on Twitter, when he said, quote, "Should Iran strike any U.S. person or target, the United States will quickly and fully strike back, and perhaps in a disproportionate manner." The President also doing 180 on using state-of-the-art military equipment against Iran. Listen to what Trump said today about the U.S. military.


TRUMP: The fact that we have this great military and equipment, however, does not mean we have to use it. We do not want to use it.


BURNETT: Well, that is good and is a total about face from what Trump tweeted just days ago. This is the same person. "If Iran attacks an American Base, or any American, we will be sending some of that brand new beautiful equipment their way and without hesitation."

Luckily, he hesitated. He didn't mean what he said. But how does the world know that the Trump of tomorrow won't reverse course again? Barbara Starr is OUTFRONT live at the Pentagon. And Barbara, General Milley with stark contrast here to what we've heard from others in the administration in terms of targeting U.S. troops. And also tonight, your reporting is still very concerned about the threat from Iranian proxies.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Look, General Milley says he still wants to see more intelligence about all of this. But this is a four-star general with decades of experience on the front line. So he does not make these statements lightly by any stretch. He is basically saying you have to assume he believes the Iranians were out to kill Americans, despite these background briefings from administration officials today, claiming that the Iranians had some unusual extraordinary capability to target bases and avoid any place where an American troop might be.

What really happened is the U.S. got intelligence through satellites and radars that those missiles were on their way and they had enough time to move U.S. troops out of the way. That is a very typical U.S. Military strategy. They move troops out of the way. They send them to bunkers. They disperse them to safe locations. That's how in the view of General Milley no U.S. troops were killed.

There's no evidence at this point in his view by virtue of what he's saying that the Iranians had some extraordinary ability to avoid hitting U.S. troops. He also, as you mentioned, Erin, is extraordinarily blunt on the way ahead. He says that those in U.S. military uniform, the uniform commanders, they believe that Iranian- backed Shia militia still very much are interested in further attacks. That is a matter of great concern to them.

So he is not by any stretch tonight endorsing the notion that this is all over. He, in fact, perhaps has more concern than ever before, Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Barbara Starr very sobering. Thank you.


And the contradictions that we are hearing from some on the administration and the top General in the country, General Milley, comes as the Secretaries of Defense and State along with the Head of the CIA and Milley, the Head of the Joint Chiefs briefed Congress about the intelligence that President Trump used to justify killing the second most powerful person in Iran. And there was bipartisan outrage from some about the briefing.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): We had 97 senators there, 15 got to ask questions as the questions began to get tough, they walked out.

SEN. MIKE LEE (R-UT): Probably the worst briefing I've seen, at least on a military issue in the nine years I've served in the United States Senate.


BURNETT: OUTFRONT tonight, Democratic Senator Ron Wyden. He's on the Senate Intelligence Committee. He's also the ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee. And I appreciate your time. Senator, thank you for being with me.

SEN. RON WYDEN (D-OR): Thanks, Erin.

BURNETT: What was your reaction to the briefing today?

WYDEN: I've been to these briefings and I will tell you there just have been so little content from this administration. And what they're doing, I don't think it's their intent, is they're building support for those of us who think it's time on a bipartisan basis for the Congress to draw a line in the sand and finally rein in executive power. Under Article Two, the President view that he's above the law just isn't a good policy for America. BURNETT: So the Secretary of Defense, Mark Esper, he's pushing back

on some of the complaints we heard. Obviously, that was Senator Schumer and Lee. We heard similar from Senators Paul and Blumenthal and others.

Esper says most members of Congress don't have access to the intelligence that I think was the most compelling. He said, "Oh, only the gang of eight got to see that." Now, you got to see more than most in your capacity on the Intelligence Committee. Obviously, not as much as the gang of eight, but more than anyone in the room saw today. What do you say to Secretary Esper when he says there's just something so compelling out there that he can't show everybody?

WYDEN: Erin, my view is, and I can't get into classified matters, is this administration has not made the case that there was an imminent threat. Now, the President spoke to the nation today. He did not make things worse. And I'll just tell you that that is an embarrassingly low bar to set for the most powerful country in the world.

BURNETT: So when we hear the briefing was extremely contentious, what was it like? Would you agree with that?

WYDEN: Again, you can't get into details about classified briefings. But what I will tell you is yes, I do think that senators are getting increasingly frustrated at the lack of content. And there are some tough questions that need to be answered.

I had a community meeting on Saturday in Oregon, a small town in Monmouth, a woman came up to me in tears, an older woman. And she said, "My boy is in Kuwait. Is he going to be safe?" And it's those kinds of questions that the administration has to stop ducking.

BURNETT: So I just pointed out some of the inconsistencies here, Senator. I pointed out that the administration is contradicting itself on something crucial, which is General Milley, the top American General, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs said Iran meant to kill American troops. That is his personal belief and that that was the point and that was their goal.

As you heard Barbara Starr say that contradicts the background briefings that others in the administration have been giving when they have been saying, no, no, no, Iran intentionally missed American troops. Which do you think it is?

WYDEN: What I will tell you is these are the tough questions and we've got to get answers to them. I was one of 23 in the Senate who voted against going to work in Iraq. The night before the vote, I was able to get declassified, a document from the CIA Director to our committee saying Saddam Hussein really wasn't a threat unless you pushed him, unless you provoked him.

So there are a lot of unanswered questions and when you have administration officials, as you've been pointing out and Barbara Starr has been pointing out that can't even agree with each other. What I think is it's time for them to step up and respond to the tough questions like I heard from that mom in Monmouth, Oregon who wants to know if her kid is going to be safe.

BURNETT: So you have called General Soleimani, obviously, the top General in Iran who President Trump killed in that strike. A bad man with a lot of blood on his hands. Of course, you've criticized Trump by saying the decision to assassinate him was a reckless escalation. I'm quoting you there. I want to play some more about what President Trump said today.


TRUMP: The fact that we have this great military and equipment, however, does not mean we have to use it. We do not want to use it.


BURNETT: That is the opposite of what he said the other day on Twitter when he said, "If Iran attacks any American or an American Base, we will be sending some of that brand new beautiful equipment their way without hesitation." I know you're glad that he has completely reversed course. However, do you have any confidence that he won't do so again?


WYDEN: No. And the fact is he is always all over the map. I mean, for example, the quote that you gave where he said we shouldn't use our military equipment reminds me of what he said in the campaign that he was against endless wars. And I believe what we're looking for on the key committees and the Intelligence Committee is the one that I serve on, in some sense that there is a clear strategy, a clear direction.

And I will tell you, as I listen to Donald Trump on a lot of these issues, I hear echoes of both Iraq and I mentioned the Iraq war where I don't think the tough questions were asked. In Vietnam, I hold the Senate seat of Wayne Morse, one of two who voted against going to war in Vietnam. I hear a lot of echoes of those past conflicts.

BURNETT: Senator Wyden, I appreciate your time. Thank you.

WYDEN: Thank you.

BURNETT: And next, two rockets explode tonight and it is right by the U.S. Embassy in Iraq. So we have some new details in terms of what we're learning about those.

Plus, why President Trump simply cannot stop talking about President Obama?


TRUMP: The missiles fired last night at us and our allies were paid for with the funds made available by the last administration.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BURNETT: And a shocking announcement from Prince Harry and Meghan

Markle. They're stepping back from their senior roles in the royal family, moving away. And it appears they did not even consult the royal family.



BURNETT: New tonight, two rockets landing inside the green zone in Baghdad, home of the U.S. Embassy in Iraq. The attacks coming as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs says militias with ties to Iran will continue to attack Americans. Clarissa Ward is OUTFRONT in Erbil, Iraq, which is one where one of the bases are that were hit by Iranian ballistic missiles yesterday.

Clarissa, the President Trump today said, "Iran appears to be standing down." The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs tonight says, "I think it's too early to tell." His quote. What are you hearing tonight, Clarissa, about whether the United States Embassy in Iraq was targeted tonight?

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think precisely because of what we know that two rockets hit the green zone. Neither caused any casualties. They were Katyusha rockets. Of course, the green zone is the heavily fortified area of Baghdad that is home to the U.S. Embassy and this will have a lot of people on high alert, a lot of people very concerned that this was potentially targeting U.S., either embassy workers, civilians who are affiliated with the U.S. mission in Iraq in some way.

At this stage, Erin, we simply don't know exactly what prompted this attack or who was responsible for it. So far, nobody has actually claimed responsibility and it is important to emphasize for our viewers that these types of rocket attacks on the green zone are not uncommon.

But certainly, given the events that have transpired in the last 24 hours and the sort of real shift in the dynamic that we're seeing here in Iraq with this surge of anti U.S. sentiment, this will be a grave concern to a lot of people who believe that while the official Iranian response may be over, it might be more difficult for some of these Shia militias that bear allegiance to Iran, who are big fans of Qasem Soleimani to rein in the passions of some of their supporters and stop these sorts of attacks from happening, Erin.

BURNETT: Clarissa Ward, thank you very much from Erbil tonight. and now retired Air Force Colonel Cedric Leighton joins us along with former BBC State Department Correspondent Kim Ghattas. She's also the author of a new book called Black Wave about the rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran. And David Gergen who advised four presidents including Presidents Nixon and Clinton.

Colonel Leighton, let me start with you. General Milley, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs is saying Iran did intend to kill American troops. If that really was the intent, if he is correct, he's a four-star general, does that alone change things now?

COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON (RET.), FORMER JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF MEMBER: Well, it could, Erin. And it's very interesting that General Milley mentioned that. Obviously, General Milley has access to all kinds of intelligence that we don't have access to. So his assessment could very well be based on something that he's seen in that intelligence.

It would change things because it's a matter of intent. If the Iranians intended not to hit a target and they did, in fact, do it, the result would be very bad even if the intent was not to cause any damage. And the same thing if they intended to do something and they did it, it would also be bad. But regardless, intention does matter in this particular case and that's where the intelligence picture is going to be critical in the assessment of this particular issue.

BURNETT: I mean, David, this is the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs going against what administration officials are saying on background and what they are making. It seems very clear, it has been used to justify why President Trump did not feel the need to strike back, which was Iran needed to get to do this. They were put into a corner, but they didn't try to kill anybody and so we can all, as the President says, they're backing down.


BURNETT: Standing down, right.

GERGEN: I think he used that phrase, which was different from backing down in this term of visible implication. Backing down sounds like, hey, I'm surrendering.


GERGEN: So in any event, I do think it's significant whether, in fact, they did try to kill Americans or not. I don't think it's going to change the dynamics generally where we are now, but it winds into calculations you're making in the future about what we're facing.

BURNETT: That's right. What they're willing to do.

GERGEN: What they're willing to do and it also feeds into this question of who logged those missiles into the green zone, were they people working for the government, were they government military people or were they some kind of rogue militia operation. I think we're going to see more of this in part because this isn't over by any means. And there are going to be continued efforts by people in Iraq to force Americans, to chase Americans out of Iraq.

BURNETT: I mean look, Kim, this also comes as the President today said that he's got a great military and doesn't need to use it, but he was able to take the high road. Let me just play that part again for you, Kim.


TRUMP: The fact that we have this great military and equipment, however, does not mean we have to use it. We do not want to use it.



BURNETT: That's exact opposite sentiment, Kim, that he expressed on Twitter days ago. I read this again, "If Iran attacks an American Base, or any American, we will be sending some of that brand new beautiful equipment their way and without hesitation." So Iran did just that, attacks the base, Trump had said he would attack and he didn't. Obviously, that's something to celebrate, but the question, Kim, is do the Iranians, does anyone trust that he will not change his mind and go right back to where he was for no clear reason tomorrow.

KIM GHATTAS, AUTHOR, "BLACK WAVE: SAUDI ARABIA, IRAN, AND THE FORTY- YEAR RIVALRY": It's very hard to predict how President Trump will react when we see the next Iran move. But waking up this morning in Beirut, in the Middle East it very much felt like we were very close to war. And it was a scary moment to say the least to hear of Iranian missiles being logged at Iraqi bases where there are U.S. forces.

And then, in a few hours later it looked more like a very dangerous dance, but a dance nonetheless where everybody was able to posture to claim that they had the upper hand, that they had struck back, retaliated and that red lines were drawn and that everybody had made their position clear. I mean you saw from President Trump's tweet that all is well, no American lives were lost.

You saw from the Iranian Foreign Minister's tweet as well that everybody understood that there was a limit to this round, that this round is over. But we simply don't know what the next round looks like. And I do want to point out that the worst of this is that the Iraqis are stuck in the middle and it is a very scary moment for them. They've been through so much over the last few decades and they've just started to rebuild their own country.

And this is now coming at a time where they're trying to reclaim their future and build their future. And now they find themselves stuck again in this very dangerous dance between Iran and the United States.

BURNETT: So Colonel, so the term Kim is using, this dangerous dance and wondering whether there is another round, Mike Morell, the former Acting Director of the CIA had a very grim prediction earlier today. Here he is.


MIKE MORELL, FORMER ACTING DIRECTOR OF THE CIA: I still think that down the road we will see an Iranian terrorist attack against the senior officials.


BURNETT: To be clear, he's talking about a senior American official and that would be an eye for an eye, Colonel, when you look at Soleimani. Do you think Director Morell is right? LEIGHTON: I think there's a real big chance that Director Morell is

right, Erin, and that's something that should concern every American official, especially those who are in the Middle East, but it's really anywhere. They can strike anywhere and they've done that in the past. They've tried to assassinate Saudi officials here in Washington.

So that's the kind of thing that we have to expect from the Iranians. We hope it doesn't come to that, but I think it's a distinct possibility.

BURNETT: That is sobering. All of you, please stay with me. Next, it is the name that President Trump continues to repeat again and again and again this week with Iran, but always when talking about foreign policy.


TRUMP: President Obama ...

Obama, you did nothing.


BURNETT: Why the obsession? And what caused a massive horrific plane crash? A Boeing 737 crashing in Tehran every single person onboard dead, nearly 200 people, and it happened just as Iran was launching more than a dozen missiles at U.S. troops.



BURNETT: Tonight, Trump's Obama obsession. In the middle of Trump's address to the nation today, the President blamed his predecessor for Iran's attack on a U.S. airbase in Iraq.


TRUMP: The missiles fired last night at us and our allies were paid for with the funds made available by the last administration.


BURNETT: The President is talking about Iranian funds that were unfrozen as part of the nuclear deal that Obama signed. Former Obama aide, Ben Rhodes, arguing on Twitter, "Iraq did not fire a single rocket at U.S. interests in Iraq during Iran deal. Just look at what Iran has done since Trump pulled out of that deal."

Kaitlan Collins is OUTFRONT. Kaitlan, Trump is trying to put the blame for all of this on Obama.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you see there he's saying that, talking about what has happened with Iran since the President pulled out of the Iran deal. But the President made clear today in his speech that is not something he regrets. And he didn't mention President Obama by name today when he was addressing reporters during those remarks. But it was pretty clear who he was talking about as he was referencing, Erin, that past administration.

And this isn't just the first time that President has done this. Of course, this is something that dates back to the beginning of the President's campaign. And just as recently as Monday when the President did that interview with the radio host, Rush Limbaugh. He brought up President Obama by name at least four times during a pretty quick interview.

And it's not just him in the administration who keeps bringing up President Obama. You saw the Secretary of State do the same thing during his interviews on Sunday. And really, Erin, what you've seen more than anything is Obama has loomed over President Trump's foreign policy at least more than any other president that the President has criticized.

Now, if you speak to aides inside the White House or former National Security aides, they'll say it's not just Obama who counters and factors into the President's decisions when it comes to foreign policy. He also thinks that people like President George W. Bush. But you really see Obama in a way that you don't see any other presidents have influence over President Trump's decisions, especially when it comes to Iran.

And you've seen him talk about the Iran nuclear deal, something he pushed to withdraw from and, of course, ultimately did despite the objections of his own National Security aides at the time and even today as we are in this rising conflict between the United States and Iran. As you saw the President today, it is something he still continues to invoke. And it really is notable to see just how it looms over his foreign policy decisions.

BURNETT: All right. Kaitlan, thank you very much. I want to go OUTFRONT now to our panel. John Gans also joins us, former Chief Speechwriter at the Pentagon during the Obama administration, and author of White House Warriors, a new history of the National Security Council.


So, John, let me start with you. In the middle of this important speech to the nation, President Trump -- he brings up the last administration multiple times, blaming that administration. In the interview with Rush Limbaugh, he mentions Obama by name four times. Your reaction?

JOHN GANS, FORMER CHIEF PENTAGON SPEECHWRITER UNDER OBAMA: Well, I think this was the president's sort of best stab, sort of presidential rhetoric, right, wartime rhetoric that we've grown accustomed to over the years. I've looked at speeches going back to Harry Truman, President Trump kind of forgot the Trump rule, which is the buck stops with the president. And especially on foreign policy, most Americans believe the buck stops with the president and he has to deal with the world and the challenges it faces. I think most Americans would probably -- are well-aware that President

Obama hasn't held the keys to the Situation Room in quite a while, though President Trump seems to be intent on bringing him up. And personally, as someone who served in the Obama administration, I would say most Americans probably might err for a little more President Obama's sort of long-sided, calm, cool, collected approach to foreign policy today. And President Trump keeps bringing him up and reminding them that.

BURNETT: So, David, the president mentioned President Obama every single day this week when discussing Iran. On Monday, he said, I think that the Obama administration was just letting them get away with murder and here are two different days, yesterday and today, and two different comments.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: His past was horrible. He was a terrorist. He was a -- sort of designated by President Obama, as you know.

The missiles fired last night at us and our allies were paid for with the funds made available by the last administration.


BURNETT: Obviously, on a technical basis, there would be no way for him to prove any such thing. But the big question is, David, is President Obama the driving force behind Trump's foreign policy because he brings him up so much? It's always he did this, so I'm going to do that.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I don't know what possesses things like this. This is a moment for statesmanship. He comes out and gives the cheapest of cheap shots at a presser. That just doesn't happen among former presidents usually. One day, he's supposed to be part of this fraternity of former presidents. They support each other. They have a lot of respect for each other.

I think it reflects on Donald Trump much more than Obama himself. I don't know -- beyond the narcissism, I think there was a jealousy there. He thinks he's been the best president ever and Obama is more popular than he is. I'm sure there's an element --

BURNETT: That bothers him.

GERGEN: -- yes, that bothers him. I wouldn't be surprised if there's an element about Michelle and how popular she is. Her book is a wonderful bestseller and he thinks Melania should be the one should be honored. Michelle comes on top in the most admired woman in the United States, she's number one, I think again this year.

So, it's a multitude of things. I don't think it's race. You know, that would be the easy way to go. I think it's much more about --

BURNETT: It's much deeper than that. It's about his ego. GERGEN: I don't want -- I'm me and I want to talk about me and don't

let this shadow come over me.

BURNETT: So, you know, Kim, this is not the only time President Trump attacked Obama on foreign policy and brought it up as sort of he did this so I'm doing this. Listen to this.


TRUMP: President Obama wanted to meet and Chairman Kim would not meet him. The Obama administration was begging for a meeting.

You know, President Obama used to send pillows and sheets. I sent antitank weapons and a lot of things to Ukraine.

Al-Baghdadi created a caliphate bigger than the state of Ohio. And with Obama, you did nothing, you did nothing, but get your ass kicked.


BURNETT: So, Kim in Iran, you know, when we're dealing with a situation we're dealing with now, what do they make of President Trump's obsession with President Obama?

KIM GHATTAS, AUTHOR, "BLACK WAVE: SAUDI ARABIA, IRAN AND FORTY-YEAR RIVALRY..": Well, to start with, President Trump's comment about the missiles being paid for by the Obama administration, I think that's a little bit unfair because of course, you know, the missiles were a response to a decision taken by President Trump which was, you know, to allow the targeted killing of Qasem Soleimani.

So, as other panels have been saying, the buck stops with the president. And obviously the missile program predates the nuclear deal that President Obama signed.

But in the Middle East, I must say that a lot of Americans allies like Saudi Arabia did think that President Obama's policies enabled Iran to become more powerful, enabled Iran to become bolder in its regional expansionist policies. And that was also facilitated by the nuclear deal.

Obama administration officials will tell you that the nuclear deal served its purpose. It boxed in the nuclear program. It curved it. It limited it. And they will insist that the goal was never to curve regional ambitions, that that was a separate thing.

However, Iran under the nuclear did expand in the region as was demonstrated over the last few years particularly in Syria.


GERGEN: Let me come back to this -- Trump repeatedly acts as if the United States sent money, it's its own money to Iran as part of the nuclear deal. It was Iranian money we unfroze and gave back to them. It was their money, not our money.

BURNETT: Which obviously is also true.

And, John, quickly before we go. The obsession, what does president Obama make of it? Do you know?

GANS: I don't know personally. My hunch is he probably thinks that the comparison is going to play to Democrats favor in 2020 and thinks Americans are looking for a little more dose of how Obama handled the world and handled the presidency, looking at the sort of mess President Trump has made in decision making and in the region today.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you all very much.

And next, the plane crash, a jet carrying 176 people crashed in Tehran hours after Iran's initial attack on U.S. troops. Iran says it was a mechanical issue, so why don't they hand over the black boxes?

And a growing number of Democrats saying to Nancy Pelosi, send those articles of impeachment over to the Senate. Will she listen?


BURNETT: Tonight, the mystery growing over what caused a Boeing plane only 3 1/2 years old to crash, as it was departing Tehran's international airport on its way to Kiev, Ukraine.


The crash happening just hours after Iran launched those 16 missiles at U.S. bases in Iraq. All 176 people on board were killed in that crash.

And tonight, Iran says it is not handing over the black boxes.

Tom Foreman is OUTFRONT.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Ukrainian Airlines jet loaded with 176 passengers and crew takes off from Tehran before dawn. Minutes later, an eye witness seemingly records it coming down, a bright streak across the sky trailing flaming debris as it plunges to the ground in a ball of fire with no survivors.

God help us, he says.

Quickly, the Iranians say a mechanical issue was to blame, and the Ukrainians post an online notice saying terrorism was not involved.

But then it all goes sideways. The Ukrainians delete that message and their president says a special investigative team is being sent to establish the truth and those responsible for this terrible catastrophe.

Part of the sudden suspicion may flow from the timing. The plane came down just hours after Iran fires retaliatory missiles at U.S. military posts in Iraq. So, a source tells CNN American intelligence agents while not necessarily drawing any connection are taking a look at the crash. Part of it is also practical.


FOREMAN: Former federal crash investigator Peter Goelz says that eyewitness video in particular just doesn't look normal.

GOELZ: If that were simply an engine failure, it would be a much -- it would be a much less intense light. There's an explosion just before -- in air just before it hits the ground. And to top it off, there were no emergency mayday calls from the crew, apparently. It is very disturbing.

FOREMAN: Other factors, the crew was so experienced the Ukrainians were saying we do not even consider pilot error a chance. The plane was only three years old.

And the Iranians, despite having reportedly recovered the cockpit voice and flight data recorders, so far are not letting anyone else look at them. And they are refusing to allow Boeing which made the jet to join the investigation.


FOREMAN: Boeing, Ukraine, Iran, the United States, it's as if a whole year of tumultuous events some collided around this terrible, terrible moment, potentially complicating the conversations about all of them -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Tom.

As you heard Mr. Goelz say, it gives him the shivers.

I want to go now to former CIA operative Bob Baer.

Bob, how suspicious is this to you?

BOB BAER, CNN INTELLIGENCE & SECURITY ANALYST: Erin, you know, really, the coincidence of these ballistic missiles being fired, shortly after that this plane goes down. I think a rocket probably hit it. Speculation at this point, but in the absence of any other fact, most likely explanation is a rocket of some sort hit an engine, took it down.

The fact that there was no mayday, there's no other explanations. The Iranians came out very quickly and said, look, it's technical. How would they know?

And the fact they're not turning the black box over tells me they're probably guilty.

BURNETT: So, explain to me what you think how in the world this could have happened. It was hours after the initial missile attack. But you're saying -- I mean, that you believe Iran was responsible. I know you used the word "rocket." But what's your theory? BAER: Well, what happens after this is the Iranians are expecting to

be hit, including Tehran airport. They had surface air missile sites, got blips on the radar. It's coming up. They see all this stuff in the sky. There were American airplanes in the sky.

You know, somebody made a mistake. I don't think they did it on purpose. But, you know, in the middle of a combat, sequence like this, this is what happens.

BURNETT: Oh, awful.

All right. Bob Baer, thank you very much. Obviously, a lot of questions and it is unclear what answers, if any, we will get since Iran is refusing to hand over those black boxes. Thank you, Bob Baer.

And next, new calls for Nancy Pelosi. She's getting ready to move a War Powers bill, right, on authorization of force, but there are many who want her to move on the articles of impeachment.


SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): I think it's time to turn the articles over.

SEN. ANGUS KING (I-ME): I think it is time for the speaker to send the articles over.


BURNETT: Will she listen to her own party?

And a royal shake up. Prince Harry and Meghan Markle stepping back, saying sayonara to the royal family.



BURNETT: Tonight, a growing number of Democratic senators urging Nancy Pelosi to end the stalemate with Mitch McConnell and send over the impeachment articles that they need to begin President Trump's impeachment trial.


MANCHIN: I think it's time to turn the articles over. Let's see where this Senate can take it.

KING: I think it is time for the speaker to send the articles over.


BURNETT: Dianne Feinstein telling "Politico", and I quote: The longer it goes on, the less urgent it becomes. So if it is serious and urgent, send them over. If it isn't, don't send them over.

It almost sounds like a Republican speaking. OUTRONT now, Democratic Congresswoman Jackie Speier of California.

She's on the Intelligence and Armed Services Committee/

Congresswoman, does it surprise you to hear this presser coming from your Democratic colleagues in the Senate? They want it, they want it yesterday, and from Dianne Feinstein, even making an argument that Republicans make, which is, hey, i it's surrogate, send them, if you've got something to say.

REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D-CA): Let me say that the speaker of the House is prepared to send the articles over. What we have had happen since we took the action that we did is we have now found out that the administration has once again been part of a cover-up so that documents that were made available because of a Freedom of Information Act request were not disclosed.


And we've also had Mr. Bolton come forward and say that he's willing to testify before the Senate.

So I think her putting a pause has actually helped the Senate in its negotiations for witnesses. And I think that's going to be critical.

BURNETT: So let me ask you on that front. McConnell says witnesses will be considered later in the trial. That's the argument he's been making all the way long.

As you point out, fairly, there have been big developments over the past few weeks, but he has not moved on witnesses being a predicate to a trial. He has said that he'll have the opening statements and then a vote.

And some Senate Democrats are saying that they will have real leverage when that happens, when that vote occurs. So the trial will have technically have begun, but then they vote on witnesses that they have some leverage there.

Do you think they're wrong?

SPEIER: Well, I think that what will happen is that they'll have opening arguments, they'll present their case, and then he will want to close and then they will have the opportunity to seek witnesses.

I don't think that makes sense. When Clinton was impeached, all the witnesses and Clinton himself had complied with the requests made by the House in the investigation. None of that has taken place in the House. We have put this together really with the benefit of Ambassador Volker's text messages and the comments made by the Ambassador Sondland.

So we do need to hear from Bolton. We do need to hear from Duffey. We do need to hear from others who have declined to meet the subpoena requests, because the president has told them to.

BURNETT: Look, anyone who wants to know everything about this, it would be intellectually dishonest to say they didn't want to hear from John Bolton or Mick Mulvaney. I think one has to just be honest and say that. But it may not happen in the Senate. So if it doesn't, can you say that the House of Representatives will subpoena John Bolton? And that he will appear, for the American people to hear what he has to say?

SPEIER: I'm not sure we're in a position right now to make that statement or I think it's frankly premature, because we have see what happens in the Senate. Mr. Bolton has said he will testify in the Senate. If the Senate does not take him up on his offer, then I think the whole question becomes, was that really a trial at all? That oath they take for impartial justice was that, in fact, met?

BURNETT: So, the articles of impeachment. Do you anticipate that they will be sent over by the end of this week?

SPEIER: I can't speak for the speaker. That's a question for her. But I think she has every intention to do it in on junction with the Senate Democrats. She's certainly been in consultation with them. And having heard from a number of Senate Democrats, I'm certain she will take steps as appropriate.

BURNETT: All right. I appreciate your time, as always, Congresswoman. Thank you.

SPEIER: Thank you, Erin.

BURNETT: And next, a royal rift. We found out late today, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are breaking from the royal family and they didn't tell anyone in the family. What is going on?



BURNETT: Tonight, royal exit. A dramatic and shocking announcement from Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, the duchess of Sussex. They released a statement and among many things in it, they said, quote, they will step back as senior members of the royal family and work to become financially independent. And they're not even going to live in the U.K. full-time.

And here's the thing about this. It's not just shocking that they're doing such a thing. It is that sources tell CNN that the duke and duchess did not consult other royals about the decision.

CNN royal correspondent Max Foster is OUTFRONT from London.

Max, I mean, this is stunning. They didn't even consult with the royal family, with the queen, with Prince Harry's own brother, William?

MAX FOSTER, CNN ROYAL CORRESPONDENT: Unheard of, frankly, Erin. And we don't have these sort of breakdowns going public very often. Let's not say that they don't happen. This is a family. It's a working family, as well. There are

breakdowns within the family, but this has been building for some time. And this is a very public breakdown in the family.

So I've been speaking to sources tonight, and they're saying things that they just don't say to reporters normally, because they try to hide these differences between palace walls. They're saying there was no consultation with other senior members of the royal family. There's deep disappointment behind walls. And crucially, senior members of the royal family, William, Charles, and the queen are hurt by this.

The reason they're so upset is because the couple have made this announcement without consulting them. They've also come up with this very intricate website defining exactly what their new roles will be, how they'll be funded, how they'll redefine their relationship with the media, where they're going to live, where they're going to get the money from, all of these things.

But they can't do it without the rest of the royal family. So the Buckingham Palace issued a statement saying shortly after they made their statement, these are complicated issues that will take time to work through, i.e., hold back, Sussexes, none of this has been agreed.

BURNETT: I mean, it is incredible, especially when you think about -- you know, for so many years, the close relationship that was so clear between those two brothers and the sudden and obviously dramatic change in that relationship, a breakdown in that relationship, has been noticed by so many.

I mean, why is this happening now, Max?

FOSTER: It's happening now, I think, because Harry's had a very long- term issue with being a public figure. It goes back to his very troubled childhood and the amount of pressure that was put on his mother, frankly. That has built over time.

And the duchess has really, really struggled with her public role and having to bite her lip all the time and not be herself and having to do things that the royal family expects of them. So, I think it's just built to the point where they got to the end of last year can thought, right, we need some time out to think about this. They took six weeks off, they went to Canada, they came back, and this is their solution. But they haven't really ironed out all the wrinkles just yet, let's say.

BURNETT: It's pretty incredible and pretty sad, on a lot of levels, just to see it all so publicly.

Max, thank you very much.

And thanks to all of you.

Anderson starts now.