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CUOMO PRIME TIME

New Video Obtained By CNN Appears To Show Missile Striking Object In Sky Over Tehran; Trump Claims Soleimani Was Planning To Blow Up U.S. Embassies; House Votes To Limit Trump's War Powers In Iran. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired January 9, 2020 - 21:00   ET

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


[21:00:00]

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DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The records must be given by October 31st at 5 o'clock in the afternoon.

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ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: That is called strings attached.

So, Stephanie Grisham, it has been a big week for you. And I see your long game. I see what you're doing. That's why you were so quick to echo the President when he called those Never-Trumpers "Human scum."

You are like a deep cover asset for The Resistance inside the White House. But don't worry. Your secret is safe with us. President Trump never watches CNN. So, keep sending those messages on Fox. He'll never notice how much you're pointing out his own hypocrisy on The Ridiculist.

News continues. Want to hand it over to Chris for CUOMO PRIME TIME. Chris?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: Quick story. When I was at ABC, after you left, I jumped off the Taj Mahal with this stunt device on called this Descender. We're supposed to be facing our fears.

And the President, then citizen Trump, donated $20,000 to charity for me jumping it off. I was told that he offered double the next day if I did it without the rope attached. It's true. But he was charitable even then.

COOPER: He was playing the long game with that one too.

CUOMO: It was literally a string attached that time that he didn't like. Anderson, thank you. I am Chris Cuomo. Welcome to PRIME TIME.

176 innocent people were killed, taking off from Iran, on their way to Ukraine. And we have new evidence that, most likely, missiles shot from and by Iran are to blame. We have the forensics. We also have the analysts to make sense of it and the minds to tell us what this means for the United States. And the President said more at a rally tonight about why he had to take out Soleimani than he did in his national address about imminency. He has yet to prove any good reason why it had to be done at that time.

And yet, the House today voted nowhere near close to unanimously in voting to take back the power this President used without basis. Why?

Time to test, let's get after it.

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TEXT: CUOMO PRIME TIME.

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CUOMO: All right, first, the plane.

Soon after Iran fired missiles, on U.S. forces in Iraq, a passenger plane lit up in Iran's sky, and went down in a ball of flames. Why? New evidence indicates Iran shot down Ukrainian Flight 752 with two surface-to-air missiles made by Russia.

The U.S. apparently saw Iranians' radar signals or radar signatures locking onto the jetliner before it was shot down along with satellite and other data. Canada also says it has Intel that the plane was shot down, but may have been unintentional.

Can something like this happen by accident? The families of the 176 victims, they deserve answers. Iran has gone back-and-forth with the defenses, they did it, they're not going to talk about it, their desire to share data.

Now we have more evidence ourselves. We have new video obtained by CNN.

Joining us now, to help us walk through it, what does it mean, what does it mean going forward, CNN Military Analyst, Major General James "Spider" Marks, Spider, thank you, and CNN Safety Analyst, David Soucie, a former FAA Safety Inspector.

Thank you, David. You walked us through what we knew at the time last night. You said we needed more. Now we have it, specifically this, OK? This is the video of what we have. You guys ready? I'm going to play it full. I also have it in slow.

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(NEW VIDEO OBTAINED BY CNN APPEARS TO SHOW MISSILE STRIKING OBJECT IN SKY OVER TEHRAN)

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CUOMO: All right, quick, again. Let's try it again. Ready? Here it is again, if you're watching at home. Watch for this little blip, which is believed to be something obviously approaching the plane then you'll see impact. Ready? And again.

All right? Now, here it is. We took the time to slow it down for you.

And listen, I'm not trying to show you this in some type of theatrical way. This isn't to be provocative. It is to get to the truth of those 176 deaths, the families that deserve to know, and the polemical - political ramifications of the same.

Here it is, slowed down. This is believed to be some type of incendiary device or missile. Now, you'll watch, as it hits. That's the explosion. The explosion, this explosion is believed to be the airplane.

Now, you'll remember, from the other night, OK, do you remember this that we showed you, the video that someone took? This was believed to be - I hate when I do that. It was believed to be the airplane, OK?

Now, do we still believe it was the airplane? I believe yes. We'll talk to David about it, and then eventually, we saw this descend. All right, so this is the after-impact of it being struck. This is the moment of impact, they believe.

David, first of all, this video, does this, I know you've reviewed it already, does this look like what it appears to be that something approached this aircraft and struck it?

[21:05:00]

DAVID SOUCIE, CNN SAFETY ANALYST: It most definitely does. There's - there's little question about what that is in my mind, if it's actually a valid video, which we have validated it at CNN, so, it does.

CUOMO: All right, so that's what it is. Now we get into what was it and how did this happen. General Marks, the idea of Iranian capabilities, Spider, could they have done this?

MAJ. GEN. JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS, U.S. ARMY (RET), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Oh, absolutely.

They - they have the SA-15, which is a Russian-made surface-to-air missile, made in the early 80s, not particularly overly sophisticated, but it has some capabilities to go after particularly, you know, cruise missiles is why it was developed, which means it has some incredible maneuverability.

Bear in mind, by comparison, this is a slow-moving ascending commercial aircraft--

CUOMO: Right.

MARKS: --with - with passengers.

CUOMO: So, that takes us to the next question. And David, weigh in once I get the take from Spider here. How do you make this mistake? Do you not know what the plane is? Does

the thing launch itself? I mean, what are the variabilities here that make it something other than "Let's shoot down this plane?"

MARKS: Yes. From - from the outside, working in, first of all, you got the context of missiles being fired by the Iranians, into Iraq, almost simultaneously. So, you have a very hot, contested, busy airspace over Iran. That's number one.

Everybody is on a heightened level of alert, concern. There's a lot of chaos. And they have commercial flights still leaving the Tehran Airport, which I - I - I think is just amazingly irresponsible on the part of the--

CUOMO: Good point. Spider, let's hold on that point for a second.

MARKS: --Iranians.

CUOMO: David, the idea that Iran would not clear the airspace during this, does this show how sloppy they are, how they don't really know what they're doing, or is there another explanation?

SOUCIE: I can't think of another explanation, Chris. I'm really outraged about this because of the fact that U.S. has restrictions over this.

But the passengers that were on that airplane had no idea that they were flying into this area. They weren't informed. They didn't know. They went through security. They were on the safest airplanes in the world. And then, we fly it right into a war zone. It's just totally, as - as Spider said, it's just completely irresponsible.

CUOMO: So, the lack of coordination that we would assume between air traffic and military and government just doesn't seem to happen.

Now, Spider, your earlier point about when this was happening, do we know that this plane was taking off during the time of active missile bombardment - bombardment by Iran?

MARKS: I don't - I don't know. I've not seen any of the timelines in the sequencing of all that. But things--

CUOMO: So, does it change, Spider, if it was after? The bombs had landed.

MARKS: It do--

CUOMO: It had been there. And while we were processing, this plane takes off and gets hit.

MARKS: No. It does not matter at all. Look, we've got the context of all of this confusion, heightened levels of alert, people are concerned.

This type of capability can be in an automatic mode, or it can be in a manual mode. So, there's a man either in the loop or there's a man on the loop, and defers to the machine. I don't know which one of those was - was triggered at that time.

But when this thing was launched, clearly, it was probably done in an automatic mode, and the authority - delegated authority to have the launch take place had gone from some higher command and control authority down to the firing battery around the airfield. In other words, why would you delegate that authority?

CUOMO: Right.

MARKS: That's an incredibly aggressive step--

CUOMO: Now, little bit of context.

MARKS: --which talks about command and control. It's crazy command and control.

CUOMO: Little bit of context, Spider, back in June, when they shot down that U.S. drone, they offered up an excuse of "Hey, look, look, this wasn't big - big part of a plan. There was some underling General"--

MARKS: Right.

CUOMO: --"that, you know, made a bad call where - this wasn't supposed to happen."

Could that be the case here that some dope decided to fire a missile in clear error of something that looks nothing like something coming to hit you, right? They're firing up at something that is clearly trying to move away from them, as you see the video, you know.

If we can get the video to play full again, you know, they're obviously aiming at something going up in a way, not coming down, and at them. Is that something that you could just write off to being a dope and doing your job poorly?

MARKS: Doing your job extremely poorly, poor, horrible training, irresponsible command and control type of apparatus. This is a dangerous, dangerous situation that we're talking about, very crowded airspace with a lot of, as I've indicated, a lot of animosity and a lot of kinetic missiles--

CUOMO: Does that sound like the Iranians--

MARKS: --flying back and forth.

CUOMO: --to you?

MARKS: Absolutely. And it also tells you about, you know, having very tight command and control structures is not necessarily what you see.

We see the militias that are associated with the IRGC as a matter of time - matter of routine doing their own thing over time, local commanders making a decision to go execute some particular task.

Well where's the control mechanism that says-- CUOMO: Right.

MARKS: --"Yes, we want to do that." Where's the grander strategic view? Look, we - you might have local perceptions, but what is the overall strategy that we're trying to achieve here, and what's the mechanism in place to ensure that you can control that--

CUOMO: Right.

MARKS: --and moderate that behavior.

[21:10:00]

CUOMO: David, the ability to escape responsibility for this, there's this suggestion, "Oh, they'll probably blame the United States." Well how?

Forensically, are you going to be able to determine where these missiles came from, if they let the NTSB in on the investigation, as has been ping-ponged back and forth? The latest word is that Iran would let Boeing, the manufacturer, have a representative there, which may well be an NTSB rep to go.

Would you be able to rule out that this was anybody, but them, and then how do you escape responsibility?

SOUCIE: Well you would be able to - to rule out who it wasn't.

CUOMO: Right.

SOUCIE: I don't know if you could say who it was or why they did what they did. But it's definitely we can do rebuilds.

If you'd remember the MH17 accident that was - that was a different missile. It was the, I believe, it was the MR-56 Buk missile. But that was a different set. It was much more sophisticated.

But, at the same time, we were able to reconstruct it, show exactly where those penetrations went in, where they came from. And, in fact, we know that it was 3 meters from the cockpit when that explosion happened, and sending shrapnel into the airplane.

So, from this, we can take that shrapnel, take that aircraft, and those pieces, and do a reconstruction, and find out nearly exactly where it - where it exploded, and the direction, and which way it came from.

CUOMO: So, the facts will show who has to own this. Whether it will be owned, and what it means going forward, we're going to take up later in this show.

But for this fact analysis, and taking us through the video, Major General Spider Marks, thank you very much, David Soucie, again--

MARKS: Thank you, Chris.

CUOMO: --two nights in row, appreciate it.

All right, so if the most likely scenario that we showed you here, and the facts triangulate to it being Iran, well then what? What if they own it, say they're sorry? What if they don't?

What does it mean for the United States? There could be implications to our safety from this. How so? Next.

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TEXT: CUOMO PRIME TIME.

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TEXT: LET'S GET AFTER IT.

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CUOMO: All right, just to remind, if Iran shot this plane down, it's not the first time we've had to deal with something like this. There've been more than two dozen instances where civilian planes were shot down. If the Intel is accurate, the Ukraine jet could join that grim list.

Now, here are just a few other ones. And one was kind of like this one. In 2014, Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot out of the sky over Eastern Ukraine. 298 on board, all obviously killed.

I was there. I saw the scattered debris firsthand. More importantly, I heard the denials from Russia-backed rebels. I watched them point guns at us to keep us from investigating the scene. I watched them refuse to accord the dead any respect, being tough even on U.N. investigators.

Ultimately, it was concluded Russia-backed separatists were responsible. What's the point? For political reasons, people can do terrible things to innocents in the air.

1983, a Soviet fighter jet shot down Korean Air Lines Flight 007 after it strayed into its territory. Soviet Union claimed the jet was on a spying mission. 269 on board, all killed, including U.S. Congressman Larry McDonald, an outspoken anti-Communist, and one of 61 Americans on that plane.

Then, in 1988, there was also a piece of notorious history that certainly matters to Iran. A U.S. Navy warship in the Persian Gulf, called the Vincennes, was engaged with Iranian gunboats.

In the midst of it, the United States ship shot down an Iranian passenger jet, mistaking it, it said, for a fighter jet. 290 people killed. Tehran believed the U.S. did it on purpose. And that was a big, big block between the United States and Iran to this day.

Now, if Iran is to blame here, shooting down a passenger jet, in the midst of this standoff with the United States, what are the variables going forward? Let's bring in Vali Nasr, a former State Department official and Middle East scholar at Johns Hopkins University.

It's good to see you.

VALI NASR, FORMER STATE DEPARTMENT SENIOR ADVISER: Thank you.

CUOMO: I wanted to go through the history, which obviously you know Vali. Just to remind people, this is done before, has been done for, and often for different reasons. So, let's just look at removing some types of possibilities here.

What is the chance that Iran did this on purpose thinking it was a way of retaliating against the United States?

NASR: I don't think so, largely because majority of the passengers on this - on this airplane are Iranian. Even the Canadians on this - on this plane were probably, mostly, if not all, dual national - dual citizens.

And ultimately, it's very difficult to show that the - the - that such a low altitude, there was a projectile coming from somewhere else hitting this plane.

And I think the biggest problem right now, the Iranian government has, is to explain to its own people why 176 people died, majority of whom are Iranian. They have families in Iran. There's a lot of grief.

And - and - and they haven't come out immediately saying that this was an attack from the outside. Their initial explanation was that this was a mechanical failure, and the plane was trying to turn around, and - and - and come back. And the--

CUOMO: But how can they not know what it was though? I mean we have the video.

NASR: Yes.

CUOMO: They must have the video. And, in all likelihood, they shot it.

NASR: We - yes, right. But, you know, the - you know, usually the - the - the knee-jerk reaction in these cases is not to come out, and say, "There was the fog of war. We were on hair-trigger or this was on automatic, and it was a mistake," is that, you know, you have - you have people scurrying to deny, and - and then they - they're trying to come up with some kind of an explanation. Then there is silence.

And, as you can see, their position has changed from "No, we're going to handle the black box and - and nobody from the outside can come in"--

CUOMO: Right.

NASR: --first allowing the Ukrainians come, now inviting Boeing and NTSB to come in.

I think, at some point, it's to their own advantage to come out and say that, you know, that - that they made a mistake, and it's the fog of war, and they - they were in the midst of a--

CUOMO: Right.

NASR: --missile launch against the U.S., and they reacted as if they were being attacked.

CUOMO: Now, I would have assumed this was a non-factor in terms of U.S.-Iranian tensions, and the U.S. would just follow suit with the international community, in demanding accountability, and obviously recompense for those 176 lives and their families.

[21:20:00]

But I had State Department officials, you know, off the record, giving me background information that "No, no, no, we have to be very careful here. The ramifications to our own exposure with Iran," how?

NASR: Well, first of all, because there were no Americans on the flight. And even the Canadians on the flight are do - probably all of them were dual nationals, which is in the eyes of Iran, they were Iranians, they were traveling to Iran, probably to visit family.

And so, Iran doesn't see them as - as - as foreigners who had died, but rather as more Iranians who were on that plane, other than Iranian Nationals. And even the number of Ukrainians--

CUOMO: So, even though they shot it down, they would say this is America's fault because they had us on high alert. Is that the tortured reasoning?

NASR: Well that would be a circuitous reason. But then, the Iranian public probably understands what their government is saying is that we're in a situation of war, and this is a consequence of being in a situation of war that even civilian flights are no longer safe.

And that's not, I think, a message necessarily that the Iranian government would benefit giving its population because it can create additional pressure on them. I mean one of the consequences of this shooting down is probably that for some time other airlines are going to cancel their flights to Iran.

CUOMO: Right.

NASR: The - the - and - and that means that it's going to be even more difficult for Iranians to travel. It's going to hurt them economically.

CUOMO: Right.

NASR: It's going to create the - unhappiness within Iran. So, I think this was - this is - this is a headache for the Iranian government that they have to figure out how they're going to handle. CUOMO: Well, you kill 176 people, the least you should have is a headache.

What I'm waiting for, tell me if this is one of the right cues, I'm waiting for the people that the United States needs as allies in the region who were quiet about taking out Soleimani. I mean, even France, you know, and Germany, and the U.K., were talking about de-escalation, not taking America's side, in terms of saying this was a righteous killing.

I'm waiting for allies to come out against what Iran did here because otherwise you really do have the U.S. against Iran, and that's just not good for United States' interests.

NASR: Well even for the United States, even if you listen to the President today, he was very careful to say that this is what we suspect, or strongly suspect. We - we have to see the facts. You have to actually fully establish more than just the video that somebody standing on the side of the road took.

CUOMO: Right.

NASR: And - and say that "Yes, this was a missile. It - this is where it originated." And then I think the case is that was this a mistake, which more than likely it was, or is it something else?

And all countries in the world have to be very careful not to sort of get ahead of themselves and - and - and intercede - intervene and - and then be seen as being too eager to pick on anything possible to - to basically criticize the Iranian government.

And then also, the European governments, they don't have a standing immediately unless they have citizens on this flight. Right now, the country that is most aggrieved is Ukraine.

CUOMO: Right.

NASR: It lost an airplane, which, at some point probably, Iran would have to compensate them for it. A number of their own citizens were killed in this. And then, there is Canada, which had a number of--

CUOMO: Yes.

NASR: --citizens, which are also Iranian, which has a standing here.

But if there were no French, no Germans, no Dutch, Americans, on this, they have to wait and see what is the final verdict on this, and ultimately, once the debris has been looked at, how does Iran respond?

I mean, we have to forget, even when airplanes go down for - for accidents or malfunction in the West, there - there is some pause not to immediately come out and say--

CUOMO: No, absolutely, absolutely.

NASR: --what it was until-- CUOMO: I mean you--

NASR: So, I think this is going to unfold.

CUOMO: --you have to have the right conclusion.

NASR: Right. This is going to--

CUOMO: You have to have right conclusions.

NASR: --unfold for a bit of time. Yes.

CUOMO: Right. But what I'm saying as an analysis that I know you share is that the most likely answer to "Is this over" is "No," in terms of hostilities.

And the most likely answer to where we'll see that answer manifest is in the region with Iranian proxies doing very inflammatory and hostile things, and the United States will need a coalition, will need its friends, to deal with that, to the extent they deal with it at all. That's why I'm looking to see who speaks up now.

Vali Nasr, thank you so much for your perspective. Appreciate it.

NASR: Thank you.

CUOMO: All right, the President was anything but confident when he addressed the nation. He offered you no proof of why the Iranian General posed an imminent threat. All you had to do was watch the speech. I'll show you some of it in a little bit.

But tonight, at the rally, he dropped something he's never said before. I'm going to lay out to you how there is an obvious lacking of strategy and proof of imminency. Once and for all, facts first, so you can decide, next.

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TEXT: CUOMO PRIME TIME.

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TEXT: LET'S GET AFTER IT.

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CUOMO: Remember, this President, Donald Trump, told you U.S. Intel is not to be trusted, classified information, confidential informants, forget it, reveal them when it matters. So, why has he offered you none of that? He limped through his address to the nation when it counted.

But tonight, at the rally, look at him.

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TRUMP: Soleimani was actively planning new attacks, and he was looking very seriously at our embassies, and not just the Embassy in Baghdad. But we stopped him, and we stopped him quickly.

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CUOMO: Look at him all cocksure and candid. Where was that during the national address? Where was that in the briefings as relayed from our lawmakers?

So, it was about another Embassy, multiple embassies? Does not sound like our Members of Congress, members of his own Party were told that to any satisfaction, and he never said it in the address.

Is it true? Would this President lie to these rally people about that too? The Vice President says "Let me answer the question. No, wait a minute, too sensitive."

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PENCE: Some of the most compelling evidence that - that Qasem Soleimani was preparing an imminent attack against American Forces and American personnel also represents some of the most sensitive Intelligence that we have. It - it could compromise those sources and methods.

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[21:30:00]

CUOMO: Boy oh boy! Remember their reaction to the same rationale. It's so good this proof, but I can't tell you. Remember what they said about the same explanation. Listen.

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TRUMP: The Deep State are desperate to stop us.

PENCE: We've got to get to the bottom of how all this started.

TRUMP: They hid it so nobody could see it.

And remember this, that truth is a force of nature.

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CUOMO: It's a force of nature, the truth. But now, we can't share, even when the move is being questioned, even when he has to justify it, and he's President of the United States. And he says they have to guard it because of two things. One, leaks. But remember, Trump pardoned Scooter Libby, the guy convicted for his role in one of this nation's biggest Intel leaks, which in no small irony stemmed from bad Intel that was used to start a war.

Second, you know who's never been convicted of leaking national security Intel? Any Member of Congress, past or present.

And the idea of protecting an Embassy, now, that matters to lawmakers. They give it a lot of weight. You remember Benghazi?

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SEN. MIKE LEE (R-UT): Benghazi, tend to confirm a lot of our worst fears about our government.

SEN. RAND PAUL (R-KY): I believe Hillary Clinton's abdication of responsibility, her refusal to provide an adequate defense for Benghazi, her dereliction of duty, should forever preclude her from higher office.

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CUOMO: Now, he was campaigning. But Mike Lee and Rand Paul, not exactly a couple of anti-Trumpers, and they care about embassies, right? They want that information. They want to protect them.

Yet, for all their concern to protect Demo - diplomats, here is how they came away from the briefing about what made taking out this General imminent.

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LEE: It's unconstitutional, and it's wrong.

PAUL: It's an insult to the Constitution.

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CUOMO: Now, again, Iran, bad when it comes to American interests, Soleimani, bad, terrorist, according to the U.S. government, our embassies in the region, targets, for years.

So, all of that is true. But none of it answers the question of why now. That's what imminent means.

Trump knows this matters. That's why he laid it out to the rally folk. But he can't prove it. Now, when will that sink in to Congress? Do your job and make sure our military is not exposed for no reason. This is your job in the Constitution.

The House has taken action to remind the President that he has to go to Congress first, if he wants to take further action. It wasn't unanimous though. How was it not unanimous? And what does it really even accomplish? Is it only symbolic?

The Chairman of the House Democratic Caucus answers, next.

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TEXT: CUOMO PRIME TIME.

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TEXT: LET'S GET AFTER IT.

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CUOMO: The President tonight, offering a part of what he called obvious reasons for killing one of Iran's top Generals, and the reason is he was planning to blow up more U.S. embassies.

You ever heard that before? Me either. Why does it first come up at a rally?

Congress says it's not so obvious that the briefings were unsatisfying, so they put up a vote today to take back the power that they've been giving to presidents for generations, Republicans and Democrats in Congress, and Republicans and Democrats as President.

The vote, mostly along Party lines, you had a few Democrats cross lines, and a few Republicans cross lines, but it was basically Party vote, and the War Powers Resolution, which aims to limit the President's ability, from 1973, that he can't do things in Iran, or anywhere else, without Congressional approval.

But what is the point of any of this? Is anything going to change? Let's get perspective from the Chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, Congressman Hakeem Jeffries.

Welcome back to PRIME TIME. Happy New Year to you and your family.

REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES (D-NY): Happy New Year. Good evening. Good to be on.

CUOMO: As you well know, I swing at you guys on this, on a regular basis that administration after administration Congress has sidestepped its constitutional duty and let presidents do things, I argue, they should not.

So, here we are again, clear evidence that this is what happens when you leave the Executive all alone, and he doesn't have to consult with you. He can't even explain it, except at a rally.

Now, what can you do to change it? You couldn't even get all the Democrats to vote on it today. JEFFRIES: Well we took an important step today, in a bipartisan fashion, to reassert Congress' sole authority, as you know, as it relates to Article One of the United States Constitution, to declare war on behalf of the American people.

The Framers of the Constitution made a clear decision to vest that authority in Congress, presumably to make sure that all of the views and interests and hopes and dreams and aspirations, fears, concerns, and anxieties, of the American people are thoroughly vetted and debated.

And so, I think we took an important step in the right direction in that regard today. And hopefully, the Senate will do the same.

CUOMO: But how? Because this thing - I know that there was a little bit of a play here is how does the House get the Senate to have to vote on this? And you're right to think about it that way, you, Pelosi, whoever it was.

But by the nature of what you're going to send over there, and this was, you say bipartisan, I'll give it to you, Hakeem, but it was mostly along Party lines. You only had a handful of crossovers.

He doesn't sign this, so there's a big legal debate about whether or not even if the Senate took it up, even if they voted to pass it, you don't even know that it would have the effect that you want it to.

JEFFRIES: Well this is a - initial step in the right direction, as I mentioned.

CUOMO: What does that mean?

JEFFRIES: And the - well the clear assertion by the House, speaking on behalf of the American people, is important.

And hopefully, the Senate will do the same thing. And I think the Senate will act in a bipartisan way. We will see individuals like Mike Lee, and Rand Paul, perhaps a few others, join Democrats, in terms of reasserting our authority, as it relates to matters of war and peace.

[21:40:00]

But the House is also going to take up legislation next week, for instance, I believe, to revisit the 2002 Authorization for the Use of Military Force, which is now being used as a justification by another administration, approximately 18 years later--

CUOMO: Yes.

JEFFRIES: --when the original decision and authorization to go to war related to non-existent Weapons of Mass Destruction--

CUOMO: Right.

JEFFRIES: --resulting in thousands of American lives being lost, and trillions of dollars being wasted. CUOMO: And my argument is that you guys, not you, you know what I mean. I'm talking about Congress. I'm not blaming you Congressman Jeffries.

But the - you got burned in Congress. They said they had the Yellowcake. They said they had the Weapons of Mass Destruction. It was bogus. Now, you know how it works. They try to make it a little bit more legit, the people who were around Bush every year. It was bogus. They voted for it on that basis.

And now, Congress is scared because they got burned on that, and ever since, and really before also, Presidents can do whatever they want. You guys watch, even with Obama.

They crossed the red line, he says, "Oh, they crossed the red line. I'm going to go to Congress." You guys say "Oh, do - do whatever you think is right, do whatever you think was right."

It was your job then. It's your job now. But is the cat out of the bag? Is it too late? Will Presidents just do whatever they want, and you won't be able to come together, because of partisan politics, to stop it?

JEFFRIES: I do not believe that it's too late, in part, because the American people are understandably frustrated at the concept of failed, unnecessary, endless, wars in the Middle East. Having experienced in--

CUOMO: I'm with you.

JEFFRIES: --having experienced the consequences of those wars, particularly as it relates to what's taken place, over the years, in Iraq.

And so, I think, as a result of public sentiment, which as Speaker Pelosi always reminds us, is really the key to driving public policy. I think we are at a moment in time where we can change direction, and hopefully restrain the impulses of the Executive branch, as it relates to matters of war.

CUOMO: I mean, I'll tell you, this question is even clearer than impeachment, in terms of what the Founders wanted. I mean you've heard my arguments about impeachment.

I think impeachment is a vehicle for something that overwhelms bipartisanship. That's why they put the two-thirds vote in there for the Senate to remove that it's got to be where the parties are more worried about the President being toxic than any internecine dispute.

Here, the Founders were so clear, declare war is all on Congress.

So, let's talk a little bit about impeachment.

You have McConnell said today, "You know what? I'm in. If they don't give us the articles of impeachment soon, I'm going to vote that it triggers a dismissal clause that they've been exhibited," means "We know what they are. We're on notice, and we're unimpressed, simple majority," which he could make it.

JEFFRIES: Well let's examine why we're here at this particular moment. The President abused his power in a corrupt fashion by pressuring a foreign government to target an American citizen for personal and political gain.

CUOMO: I accept the argument.

JEFFRIES: And so, we held them accountable. As a result of that, because of the fact that no one is above the law in the United States of America, we're now at this moment where there will be a trial in the Senate.

Our perspective, led by Speaker Pelosi, is that the American people deserve a fair trial. Period! Full stop! And that--

CUOMO: I'm with you.

But if the Senate had been saying about the House, "We don't like your rules. We don't like your rules," you would have said, "Shut up! This is our job. When it's your turn, you do what you want."

But now, Pelosi is saying this is how the Senate should do their job. So, when is she going to deliver the articles?

JEFFRIES: Well that's not what she's saying.

And she's indicated that the articles will be delivered sooner, rather than later, without putting a timeframe on that. But we are at a transition point. And that is why her decision to hold them, to date, has been relevant, because we have to also send over Impeachment Managers.

CUOMO: Right.

JEFFRIES: And how can she determine who are the appropriate individuals to prosecute the case if we have no idea what the rules of engagement are going to be in. That is a reasonable thing that has been suggested.

And what we also have seen, in the interim, since when we voted to impeach this President, on two counts, abuse of power and obstruction of the impeachment--

CUOMO: Right.

JEFFRIES: --inquiry, is that John Bolton has indicated, for instance, that he is willing to testify. We've learned additional information, which makes the concern that we have for a fair trial, on behalf of the American people, even more meaningful.

CUOMO: John Bolton! Can you believe that guy says that he's a patriot? That's what this is all about. Now he says he's willing to testify.

By the way, you're not supposed to choose if you're willing. If you get subpoenaed, you have to go. These guys are just fighting subpoenas. And if you care so much, why didn't he say it three months ago, when you guys actually needed the information?

And I hear your argument about picking the right Managers. The question is, politically, does it present as a legit explanation or as an excuse to delay? And that's what the people are measuring and we'll see it come out in the polls.

[21:45:00]

Congressman Jeffries, as always, appreciate the candor, thank you for coming on the show, best for the New Year.

JEFFRIES: Thank you, Chris, same to you.

CUOMO: Be well. God bless.

All right, so the vote in the House tonight, I'm not happy about it. Should have been unanimous. Why?

Look, the Founders were more clear about this than anything else. "Military action? It's got to be collective, got to be collective, unless it's an emergency." This President hasn't made the case.

So, what's Congress doing right now? The Right is playing politics, toxic politics, when we need to come together more than most. I'll point it out in the argument, next.

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TEXT: CUOMO PRIME TIME.

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TEXT: CLOSING ARGUMENT.

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CUOMO: Tonight, the House voted 224-194, to limit the President's ability to launch an attack against Iran without getting approval first. This is not a new idea. That's what is in the Constitution.

[21:50:00]

My argument, I can't believe it wasn't unanimous. And no, this is not about the GOP just choosing Trump over the truth. There's some of that. But Democrats have been anxious to give war power to Presidents as well.

This has been going on for a long time, and it's gotten worse. And it is the worst example of Congressional cowardice.

Now though we're hearing really obnoxious comments, that is making this partisan, like this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. DOUG COLLINS (R-GA): Nancy Pelosi does it again, and her Democrats fall right in line. One, they're in love with terrorists. We see that. They - they mourn Soleimani more than they mourn our Gold Star families who are the ones who suffered under Soleimani.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Praise you (ph).

COLLINS: That's a problem.

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CUOMO: Wow! They mourn Soleimani more than Gold Star families? That guy was a pastor and a chaplain, in theater, in conflict. Bless his heart, as they say.

Why don't you come on this show, Congressman Collins, Pastor, and show your faith in this sinful suggestion. You won't. Shocking!

Trying to divide Americans, at a time that it is life and death that we come together, shame on you, and every Trumper, and Never-Trumper, who voted against this.

The Right though, especially egregious in this instance, trying to make this not about their own cowardice, but about the Democrats.

Representative Rutherford, calling Jayapal, Congressman Jayapal, an "Ayatollah sympathizer," why? She said the President didn't have evidence of an imminent threat. That's all she said. Go look. And that's what he says?

Meadows, Republican, tweets "Democrats are falling all over themselves equivocating about a terrorist."

Nobody's equivocating about the terrorist on the Right - on the Left. I would say if they were. They're not. But all of it starts at the top.

A week ago, President Trump re-tweeted far-Right author and filmmaker Dinesh D'Souza, the former felon, that he pardoned, who equated Senate Minority Leader Schumer to the Iranians, saying neither deserved advance notice of the strike for pretty much the same reasons. I mean, now look, he's a fringer.

But Nikki Haley, the once hoped for voice of reason, said this.

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NIKKI HALEY, FORMER U.N. AMBASSADOR: The only ones that are mourning the loss of Soleimani are our Democrat leadership--

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: That is sad.

HALEY: --and our Democrat Presidential candidates. No one else in the world. (END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: Can you believe Haley was once hailed for trying to calm toxic tensions?

Haley's office, when pressed as usual, had a questionable clarification. "Democrats are saying it would be better if the General were still around." No, they're not. That equals mourning.

No. You know what mourning is? Mourning is what happened in Charleston, when your community came together, crushed by pain, after the senseless murder of innocents, by a bigoted White punk. That's mourning, OK? Don't mock the word.

Questioning when and why a bad guy is taken out is not mourning, especially when this President won't give you an answer, and his proxies can't even completely satisfy Republicans with their rationale.

And you know why? Because they can't prove it was imminent to anyone, except rally fans there to accept anything Trump says. And so tonight, at the rally, Trump says "Soleimani was planning attacks on other embassies." Neither he nor his people have shown any proof of the same.

And what was the strategy here? "Oh, it'll stop Iran." Really? What proof is there of that? "Well maybe it'll get them back to the table," said the President. Clearly not! Look at what you're empowering.

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TRUMP: He was a bad guy, he was a bloodthirsty terror, and he's no longer a terror. He's dead.

(CROWD CHEERS)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: That's the best that he can do. And here he was, when the world was watching, making the case for why this happened to be. Look at the difference.

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TRUMP: Your campaign of terror, murder, mayhem, will not be tolerated.

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CUOMO: Tolerated - even sniffles knows this was dicey, glued to the prompter, not sure of himself. You know why? Because he knows he's over his head. So, on the Right, stop spreading toxic gossip about who likes terrorists.

This country has been scarred by terror here at home like nothing else has ever done. It scarred a generation. Don't mock that pain. And stop mocking your duty. [21:55:00]

Congress, and you, righteous Righties, in particular, you're supposed to say when we risk our American fighting men and women, and their families, and expose this homeland of risk with military action, except in an emergency. And an AUMF about 9/11 has no bearing on the modern realities, and you know it.

You should have all voted to take the power back that you have wrongfully surrendered. Of course, Presidents will take the power. I don't blame Trump. I mentioned him very rarely in this analysis. It's bigger than him.

And Right and Left have taken the power that you're afraid to keep. But it's not yours to give. We gave it to you in Congress. And, more importantly, the Founders gave it to you in the Constitution, to avoid exactly what just happened.

These decisions must be a function of the collective. The Founders said it. You all know it. But you didn't vote for it. Do your damn job. That is the argument.

Now, the President doesn't want you to see a lot of things like his taxes. And now, he apparently doesn't want you to know how much he's costing you to keep him and his kids safe. BOLO, next.

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TEXT: CUOMO PRIME TIME.

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TEXT: LET'S GET AFTER IT.

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CUOMO: BOLO, that means Be On the Look-Out.

Democrat efforts to require the Secret Service to disclose how much it spends protecting POTUS and his family are being rebuffed by Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin. How odd!

We don't know how much the President has spent, or how much he could be profiting, considering he's made dozens of visits to his own properties. If there's nothing wrong with his spending, why hide it? Familiar question, right, for the most transparent people ever?

Thank you for watching. CNN TONIGHT with D. Lemon starts right now.