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NEW DAY

Trump Tweets after Missile Strike; Ukraine Plane Crashes near Tehran; Pelosi Wants Senate Trial Rules; Iran Fires Missiles at U.S. Forces; Emergency Declaration for Puerto Rico. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired January 8, 2020 - 06:30   ET

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


[06:30:00]

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: President is using suggests some sort of strategic pause, I think, where he says, all is well, President Trump says, exclamation point. This was yesterday. So far, so good, exclamation point.

Do you think we're in a strategic pause, Colonel?

CEDRIC LEIGHTON, CNN MILITARY ANALYST; Oh, I think so, Alisyn, because, you know, first of all, that language, but also I think what they looked at was the fact that no casualties are being reported. And that, I think, is the primary triggering event, if you will. If there is a casualty or a series of casualties, we would be having a whole different conversation today about this. But in this particular case, no casualties, off ramps are possible for both sides. And this is, I think, where they're going. A strategic pause, then we'll see what happens next.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, guys, stand by for a moment here.

The other major development overnight from Tehran, a passenger jet crashed just after takeoff killing all 176 people on board. Again, this happened just hours after the missile strike. So what do we know about the crash? That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: Breaking overnight, a Ukrainian passenger jet crashed near Tehran in Iran just minutes after takeoff killing all 176 people on board.

[06:35:10]

Obviously, so many questions giving the timing of all this. This crash happened just hours after the Iranian missile strike on those Iraqi bases housing U.S. troops.

Joining us now to discuss, CNN's anchor Richard Quest, who covers aviation for us.

Obviously, Richard, people are looking at this, a tragic loss of life. We don't know if there are connections this morning. What questions do you have?

RICHARD QUEST, CNN BUSINESS EDITOR-AT-LARGE: We don't know, and the Ukrainian government initially, their embassy suggested that it was not any -- there was no missile or rocket attack that brought down the plane. But since then, they've withdrawn that statement.

There are some unconfirmed reports that Iran is refusing to let the United States have access to the black box recorder. But that's not been confirmed either.

No, this is going to be an extremely difficult investigation bearing in mind the position the parties involved don't even talk to each other and the ferocity of the incident itself. This plane was fueled, was about -- was -- had just taken off, was two or three minutes into the flight at 8,000 feet or so when it slammed back into the ground. While the Ukrainians are believing to say were technical difficulties. But we know nothing more than that.

CAMEROTA: Did the pilots report that they were having technical difficulties, or is that just what we're surmising now?

QUEST: Yes. Well, it's believed -- it's believed, but we don't know because we haven't got the air traffic control reports -- it's believed that the pilots did report that they were having technical difficulties. Some people on the ground said they saw an engine on fire. That would certainly make some sense.

You know, one can -- in normal situations, such as they are, one can sketch a scenario of an engine fire and a variety of other problems that eventually overwhelm the flight crew. But in this case, it would be very dodgy to actually go down that road because we don't know coming so soon after an attack. We don't know who was involved and where (INAUDIBLE).

Interesting to note, under international law and treaty, it will fall to the Iranians to launch the investigation. They are the state of occurrence. However, the United States should be allowed to participate. Note I say should, because they are the state of manufacturer and design on behalf of Boeing.

BERMAN: Richard, let me ask you, because there have been a number of nations and airlines now suggesting that they will pause or halt flights in and out of Tehran. Why do you think that precaution is being taken? What does that tell you?

QUEST: There's lots of airlines that are now saying either they will halt flights to Tehran itself. Ukraine has said that. Many airlines now are skirting Iraqi and Iranian air space for the very simple reason, do you want to be flying your plane with its precious cargo of passengers over air space where there are military, perceived or otherwise, where there's likely to be at any stage some form of military activity? The answer is no. The wise airline says, now, we're going to go around it.

Look, even if you're flying a plane, at 30,000 odd, 35,000 feet, we learned from MH-17, the Malaysia plane, on eastern Ukraine, that that is no guarantee against either an intended or stray ground to air missile. So I would expect, until things calm down, many airlines will simply say, we're going around. It's not worth the risk.

CAMEROTA: Richard Quest, thank you very much. Always very good to get your reporting on these things. We, of course, will check back with you.

So while all of this is happening internationally, we do need to check in on what's happening in Washington. We have the latest on the impeachment standoff. In the Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell seems to have a new plan.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[06:43:20]

BERMAN: So what is the status of the Senate impeachment trial this morning?

CAMEROTA: Oh, I look forward to hearing this.

BERMAN: I'm going to tell you. Republican Leader Mitch McConnell has announced that he has the votes to set the ground rules for the trial without Democratic support and, most importantly, with no guarantee of witnesses. The House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, has responded by insisting that McConnell detail the rules before she sends the impeachment articles over.

Joining us now, CNN political analyst Rachael Bade. She's a congressional reporter for "The Washington Post."

So what now, Rachael?

RACHAEL BADE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: What now? I mean, I think that the key question here, everybody's looking at Pelosi, what is she going to do with these articles of impeachment? Last night she told her caucus in a private meeting that she's still going to hold onto them. She wants to see this resolution that McConnell is putting together that basically lays out the procedures for the Senate impeachment trial.

But, see, I don't know that McConnell is going to give her that. She's clearly looking for a way out, a concession to send over these articles. And she wants to see the rules in the Senate.

But, I mean, McConnell kind of -- he kind of seems to be relishing this almost. I mean she doesn't have a lot of leverage. He knows that. And he's sort of blasting her for playing politics from the Senate floor right now. And, you know, seems to be sort of enjoying putting her in this position.

CAMEROTA: But just so I'm clear, is Mitch McConnell saying that he has enough votes to begin a Senate trial without the articles of impeachment?

BADE: It sounds like he's not going to -- he's not interested in doing that at this point. There are some Senate Republicans who discussed that this week in their lunch. They've been talking about that even last week before they were coming back.

[06:45:00]

But it sounds like McConnell wants the articles of impeachment before he actually begins this trial.

The point he was trying to make was, look, you know, we know John Bolton came out and said he's ready to testify. McConnell appears privately still wants to do no witnesses. He doesn't really want to bring in John Bolton. But he wanted to make sure he had enough votes to start the trial without making any promises to call in John Bolton.

And even though there are moderate Republicans who do want to hear from him, they are not willing to sort of buck McConnell's leadership and say, we're not willing to vote to begin the trial until we actually hear -- get a commitment to hear from John Bolton.

So I think the point McConnell was just making was that, I don't need to make a commitment on witnesses. I have the votes ready to go. But we're still waiting on Nancy Pelosi and nobody seems to know when she's going to send those articles.

BERMAN: And I do think it is important to note that this only delays what might be the ultimate major standoff, which is the debate or the vote about witnesses, because that can -- and by definition, if 51 senators want it in the middle of the impeachment trial, or, frankly, at any time in the impeachment trial, it would have to happen. So those four Republicans who are willing to vote with McConnell now, Murkowski, Susan Collins, Mitt Romney and some combination of the others, if they stand up in the middle of the trial and say we want witnesses, there will be witnesses. And so far we don't really know if that will happen.

BADE: That's exactly right. I mean the thing to watch will be the long-term strategy. I mean McConnell and sort of his people were very much touting his ability to keep his moderates on board with not making a witness commitment right now. But the question again is going to be what happens in two weeks after they have opening arguments, after they have, you know, opening questioning rounds. Are these moderates like you mentioned, McConnell, Murkowski, are they going to want to hear from Bolton?

I do think, just to go back to Pelosi for one more minute, you know, her saying she is not going to move at this point, she's sort of losing leverage here. And we started to see something happening in the Senate yesterday that I think is really important and really undercuts her hand, and that is that a number of Senate Democrats are saying, time's up, come on, give us these articles. I mean I've got a list here. Angus King, an independent from Maine, Chris Murphy, who's a liberal from Connecticut, Joe Manchin, a moderate from West Virginal, all on record saying it's time, Nancy Pelosi, to send us the articles. And without, you know, the support of her party in terms of holding the line on this, it looks like she's holding an increasingly losing hand. CAMEROTA: And we do have Senator Joe Manchin on our program later. We

have a lot of questions for him.

Rachael, thank you very much.

BADE: Thank you.

BERMAN: So the 3 million Americans in Puerto Rico on edge this morning after a series of powerful earthquakes. Experts say there could be more to come. We have a live report from the island, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[06:51:55]

CAMEROTA: This morning, President Trump will address the nation about Iran striking back, firing ballistic missiles at two military bases in Iraq that house American troops. There are no reports of any American or Iraqi casualties at this hour.

So what will President Trump do next?

Joining us now is CNN chief international anchor Christiane Amanpour.

Christine, it's great to have you here.

Americans are waking up this morning hungry for news of what happened last night and wondering if we are at war with Iran. How do you assess where we are this morning?

CHRISTINE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Well, I think in the back and forth tit for tat that has happened over the last several days, we are now back in America's court. And, really, everybody should be listening to what President Trump says and how he assesses this response from Iran.

You know that all the American officials were bracing and planning for a retaliation. They knew that that was going to come. The Iranians have said this is our proportionate and concluded retaliation in terms of military terms, and it is pretty limited depending on what the battle damage assessment formally actually says. So will that be sufficient for President Trump to accept that we've done this action and now let's leave it and see what else can happen next.

The Iranian foreign minister and president have said that Soleimani fought heroically against ISIS terrorists. If it weren't for them, European capitals would be in great danger.

But they also say, and Khomeini, the supreme leader, has also said, our final answer will be to kick out all U.S. forces in that region.

And that is now their political strategy being espoused. We know that they've wanted that, but this seems to be solidifying as their eventual goal. And that will present issues for the United States.

Here's what Secretary Esper told me in the interview yesterday. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARK ESPER, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: The United States is not withdrawing from Iraq. In fact, in my conversations with my counterpart, the Iraqi defense minister, I conveyed to him that we do want to stay in Iraq, we want to continue the important defeat ISIS mission that we are there partnering with them by helping train and assist them, which also has a salutary benefit of also helping enable more strong and more independent, a more prosperous Iraq.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

AMANPOUR: So now the United States has to decide whether it has a strategy to go forward and whether, if it wants, as Esper said, a, not to have a war, and, b, to keep forces in Iraq and, c, to actually open the page to more negotiation and dialogue to resolve this issue, will the U.S. continue its maximum pressure strategy? And, in that case, there's bound to be further skirmishes and this kind of action going forward.

But, for the moment, it seems, depending on what President Trump says, that this particular phase of the military back and forth may be -- may be what they expected and what they can tolerate.

CAMEROTA: And that's why this moment is so crucial --

AMANPOUR: Yes.

CAMEROTA: And why all Americans and people around the world are waiting to hear what happens because this is a moment where things could be de-escalating --

AMANPOUR: Yes.

[06:55:04]

CAMEROTA: Or where there could be some sort of next retaliation. I mean our military experts this morning are calling it a strategic pause. And so --

AMANPOUR: Well --

CAMEROTA: So you're listening very closely for what language President Trump uses?

AMANPOUR: I'm looking very closely for what President Trump says and I'm listening very closely to what the Iranians are saying because yesterday the vice president from Iran said, look, the street has given us and America and the world a message, that the nation is revitalized, that the revolution is revitalized, and that the people actually want U.S. forces out of the region. And not only that, that they're putting pressure on our leaders to -- for that strategic goal.

And this is very, very significant because it has been Iran's goal for a long, long time. And Soleimani was the architect of that. But this is their political strategy. The military, the overt Iranian claimed military retaliation against the United States, that base, was the first time they've ever done that from Iranian soil and claimed it openly. They say that ends our military retaliation.

But this political effort to finally somehow, in the future, get U.S. forces out is something that is going to have to be taken seriously, it's going to take a lot of diplomacy and we're going to have to see, again, whether the U.S. keeps up its pressure of maximum pressure, which is the sanctions, and what that will force Iran to do in the future.

So, yes, it's not over yet and it's going to take a long time.

CAMEROTA: That is really helpful, Christine, thank you very much for helping us understand what's happening today.

BERMAN: All right, also breaking overnight, other really important news, President Trump signed an emergency declaration for federal aid to Puerto Rico. This after a series of powerful earthquakes on the island. At least one person is dead. The damage is extensive. And many are without power.

Our Leyla Santiago is live on the island with the very latest, in the midst of the rubble there, Leyla.

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, John, this is a church that is historic, more than 100 years old, and you can see the rubble. The pews still in the very rows where you would typically see them every Sunday. But I just talked to the priest and he says he's not sure where they will hold their next mass.

Folks are waking up this morning having not slept at all given the anxiety they're feeling on this island with the ground constantly shaking.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SANTIAGO (voice over): Puerto Rico reeling after a powerful 6.4 magnitude earthquake rocked the island Tuesday morning, leaving hundreds of thousands without power. Puerto Rico's governor declaring a state of emergency, activating the Puerto Rico National Guard. President Trump signing an emergency declaration late Tuesday night.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're talking about a situation Puerto Rico had never been exposed to in 102 years.

SANTIAGO: Several aftershocks rocked the island throughout the day Tuesday.

Including this powerful one that rattled television anchors at CNN affiliate WAPA.

On Monday, Puerto Rico experienced a 5.8 magnitude quake left houses in ruins and destroyed countless structures on the island. Since December 28th, Puerto Rico has experienced dozens of earthquakes. This catholic church in Guayanilla torn in half with walls ripped off the foundation and bricks strewn about. Also in Guayanilla, a popular rock formation and arch on the coast collapsed. And in Guanica, residents evacuating a shelter in the southern town after inspectors deemed the structure unsafe, leaving people sleeping in tents.

The extensive damage from all these earthquakes come as Puerto Rico is still struggling to rebuilt from Hurricane Maria more than two years ago. Many residents fear now they will not be able to recover.

SANTIAGO (on camera): He's saying after Hurricane Maria he still had hope and they were able to recover. But not with this, he says.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SANTIAGO: And the mayor here, I spoke with him this morning. He tells me they have about 600 people in shelters right now here in Guayanilla. His biggest concern, he tells me, is the mental health of people given the anxiety they're feeling, as well as schools. He says we now have no more schools in Guayanilla for children to attend.

You know, I've got to say, the National Guard has been activated. The president signed the disaster declaration. But having been here now on the southern part of the island for two days, I have yet to see any help from FEMA or the National Guard on the ground here in Guayanilla.

Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Oh, my gosh, that picture and your video just speaks a thousand words, and thank you for the update from there. We'll check back in with you, Leyla.

If you're just waking up, we have all the new developments in the crisis with Iran.

[07:00:02]

NEW DAY continues right now.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

CAMEROTA: OK, we want to welcome our viewers.

END