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Pelosi on Sending Impeachment Articles: "Will Probably Be Soon"; House to Vote Soon on War Powers Resolution; Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) Discusses Briefing on Iran Crisis, Doug Collins Saying Democrats Mourn Soleimani; Impeachment Impasse; Trump Speaks Amid Iran Crisis, Impeachment Standoff. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired January 9, 2020 - 11:30   ET

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


[11:30:00]

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: But the most telling part of her discussion about -- the fact she was prepared for the questions about when to send the impeachment articles -- is that she pulled out a piece of paper and she had a list of things that she called, quote, "collateral benefit," the collateral benefit that she insists has happened by holding the articles of --

(CROSSTALK)

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: She thought were the successes --

(CROSSTALK)

BASH: Right, going and talking about the fact we have now -- the -- we have seen an e-mail suggesting that, you know, that the money was being held up and a couple of other things and then ending with, of course, John Bolton telling the Senate he's willing to testify.

So the fact that she was prepared for that is a very big indicator that she is hearing, seeing and feeling the pressure that we have been reporting on since yesterday, led by Phil Mattingly. I've been hearing things as well from not just Senate Democrats, but members of her own caucus, saying, OK, we made our point, and enough already, bye-bye, impeachment, let's move on to other things.

BOLDUAN: And, yes, telling, but still not -- what is it telling us? She's not there yet. She's not budging. I feel like I heard her say that before they left for break.

Let's go to -- Dana, stay with me.

Let's go to Manu Raju who is joining us.

Manu, you asked a key question on the urgency of it. Where is the urgency of it? What was her quote? She said, she wants to move smartly and strategically. What does that mean?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good question. It is unclear. That is part of the concern that Democrats have been raising that withholding the articles for too long undercuts the message they have been delivering for quite some time, the president is a clear and present danger to the democracy.

That was the message along the articles of impeachment approved by the House in late December. The question is how to reconcile the delay in transmitting the article over to the Senate with the message that the president needs to be removed from office in order to prevent him from affecting the next election.

But what she is saying she's not too concerned about that potentially undercutting that message and she said that to me in that exchange, "I want to move smartly and efficiently."

So that is a clear sign that she doesn't feel too concerned about the pressure she is hearing, the feeling from her members, who do want this to get moving.

But I did think it was -- it was a sign that this is probably coming to an end sometime soon. When she did indicate that she would deliver the message soon, she would not be going to hold on to the articles indefinitely. There was slightly a different message than before, but how she gets to that point is uncertain.

She wants to see all of the procedures that will be detailed in the Senate, Senate trial be conducted. Unclear when Mitch McConnell will do just that.

And if you would -- he's saying he's not going to be forced into doing something that the House wants the Senate to do. Will he put out the issue, that resolution that will force her to send the articles over? Unclear how that dance is going to play out.

But she is indicating this is going to happen soon. I think there's an expectation on Capitol Hill that we could be in the trial by next week. And I still have that expectation in talking to Democrats this morning and last night, that is still the plan.

But the way Pelosi plays it, things very close, not indicating exactly what she is thinking. She said she'll deliver the articles when she's ready, it will be soon. And she doesn't seem to be concerned if it undercuts Democrats' message here -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: And, Dana, the other major topic, Iran, what did you make of her answer when asked about the briefing she received and what she thinks of the strike?

BASH: As we were listening to it, Kate -- you and I, who have covered her, the way Manu does now, sort of speak Pelosi, if you will -- she sidestepped the -- one of the fundamental questions that members of Congress across the board have been asking and wanted to know in these briefing briefings they got yesterday, which is did we really need to do this, was there an imminent threat, she didn't answer that question.

Because, as she likes to say intel isn't her wheelhouse. She came up through the Intelligence Committee, she -- not all of the members of the so-called Gang of Eight don't take their jobs -- take it seriously and have a responsibility. She really does.

So it doesn't necessarily mean that she feels satisfied with the intelligence, that it does prove that there was an imminent threat.

But here is how she said it. She said, "I don't believe what is in the public domain means that they made us safer."

So I read that as her way of grasping at what we know publicly, without having to say what she learned privately and in a classified setting to give that answer.

BOLDUAN: And, Manu, I hope you're with me, because she is -- as Dana points out, a member of the Gang of Eight. She's one of the few members of Congress who have received the more in-depth sensitive intelligence briefing on what they knew that they say the administration said led to the imminent threat they took out Soleimani.

[11:35:13]

What did you think of her answer?

RAJU: Yes, and she has not commented yet after the briefing that she had received. She left that Gang of Eight briefing not discussing whether or not she still had the same level of concern going in.

And her comments here were interesting because they didn't go, as Dana noted, as far as a lot of the other Democrats who did come out and raise some serious concerns.

It is uncertain how much more detailed they did get in that Gang of Eight briefing about the imminent nature of the threat, if it existed or not, or if it was, as Democrats and Republicans put it yesterday, in more of a general nature that was provided, general level of intelligence.

Saying that a strike could occur in a matter of days, saying that this was not approved by the Ayatollah Khamenei in Iran, that this was -- whether it be carried out by Soleimani is still a question. All of those things perhaps were discussed in the Gang of Eight briefing. Not a clear sense of that.

But it is clear she is concerned about a military conflict escalating, which is why they're pushing forward on the war powers resolution that will be approved in the House in a matter of hours. And the Senate will move on that, too, in a matter of days -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: Manu, thank you.

Dana, thank you so much.

Appreciate you guys.

Coming up, 24 hours after President Trump declared Iran appears to be standing down, as he said it, are they? I'll talk to two veteran diplomats about what happens next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:41:02]

BOLDUAN: In just a few hours, the House will take the first steps to limit President Trump's war powers, voting on a measure that would move to rein in his authority to take military action in Iran, military action without approval from Congress. After the House, the Senate could take up the same. Democrats and even some Republicans left the briefings on those strikes enraged, still, searching for answers.

Let's talk to one of them. Joining me now, top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Bob Menendez.

Senator, thanks for coming in.

SEN. BOB MENENDEZ (D-NJ): Good to be with you, Kate.

BOLDUAN: From what I have seen, you left the Iran briefing skeptical and no more won over, if you will. Do you agree with Mike Lee when he -- Republican Mike Lee when he came out to say it was the worst briefing he had ever received? He called it insulting. And -- he even called it an unmitigated disaster this morning on NPR.

Are you going that far?

MENENDEZ: Well, look, you know, to the extent that members went in to get answers to critical questions and didn't get them, I would say yes.

I went in with three specific questions. Number one, what was the specific intelligence to lead you to believe that there was an imminent threat? Two, what was the specific intelligence in terms of to the nature of the threat? What were the targets? And, three, what was the specific intelligence that led you to believe eliminating Soleimani alone, singularly, would eliminate the threat?

The answer is, after pressing them really hard, I got no substantive answers to those three critical questions.

BOLDUAN: Some of the reasoning, at least according to the Vice President Mike Pence -- he was asked about that, this morning, why they couldn't give more, if you will. Here's what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have to protect sources and methods and so there's only a certain amount that we can share with every member of Congress. But those of us who have seen all of the evidence know that there's a compelling case of an imminent threat.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: Senator, do you accept that some of the intelligence is too sensitive for you all to see?

MENENDEZ: I don't accept that the Intelligence Community cannot distill the critical intelligence away from the sources and methods in a way that can be conveyed to Congress. I don't accept that. Otherwise, we have to rely on faith.

And we see that faith, for some, years ago, you know, in Iraq, where we were told there were weapons of mass destruction, was an ill placed fate. I didn't place my faith in that. I voted against the war in Iraq. But it taught me a lesson, you cannot accept the word of any administration, this or any other one. You have to verify for yourself.

I believe they can distill the intelligence in a way that can be convincing if they have it, but that doesn't ultimately betray source and methods.

BOLDUAN: Speaker Pelosi sidestepped a question on -- if she received -- if she's convinced from the more in-depth briefing she received. Have you spoken to Pelosi, Schumer, Adam Schiff or Mark Warner, any of Democrats on the Gang of Eight, who received that deeper briefing on Iran? Where are they on this? Do they say they're convinced?

MENENDEZ: Well, I have spoken to one or two of them. And, of course, the -- they're not free to give the same in-depth briefing that they got as a Gang of Eight but --

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: But do you agree they can say I am convinced of an imminent threat?

MENENDEZ: Yes, and I think that my takeaway from my conversation with them is that they're not convinced that, number one, that uniquely eliminating Soleimani was the solution to any potential threat. And the question of eminency is a question of definition that the administration seems to have a broad definition of.

BOLDUAN: Republican Congressman Doug Collins, top Republican on House Judiciary, he said something last night I want to ask you about. Asked about the Democrats' response to the killing of Soleimani, here's what he said. Let me play it for you.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[11:45:07]

REP. DOUG COLLINS (R-GA): They're in love with terrorists. We see that. They mourn Soleimani more than they mourn our Gold Star families, who are the ones who suffered under Soleimani. That's a problem.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: Do you want to respond to that? MENENDEZ: Yes. It is pretty outrageous. No one mourns the death of

Soleimani. What we are concerned about is the risk to greater American lives, including those of our men and women in uniform, in Iraq and in the region.

Our concern is for them, first and foremost. Our concern is for the national security of the United States.

It is pretty outrageous for anyone to suggest that we are coddling, you know, those who are terrorists. I mean, it was Barack Obama who took out Osama bin Laden. And many of us have supported the administration's resources in the war against terror.

So, you know, this is where we turn from patriotism to partisanship. And I believe that these moments on questions of war and peace and national security are moments of patriotism, not partisanship.

BOLDUAN: Senator, on impeachment, there's a growing number of Democrats saying it is time for Pelosi to send the articles of impeachment over, including Senator Manchin, Senator Murphy. And just this morning, the chair of House Armed Services, Adam Smith, he told John Berman that he thought it was time to hand it over, but he says he misspoke when he said that repeatedly.

You have given Pelosi space here up until now. What do you say to Democrats who say it is time?

MENENDEZ: Well, listen, each member has to make his own judgment. I trust Speaker Pelosi to send over the articles of impeachment at the appropriate time. I don't think there's going to be a lot more time involved. Think about --

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: Do you think you're going to have a trial started by next week?

MENENDEZ: That will depend upon a lot of things. Number one, sending over the articles of impeachment and then passing a resolution that the majority leader wants to pass, that will be amendable.

So whether or not we start a trial next week or start the process next week, it is possible. It would depend when the articles are sent over.

Look, the result of having waited has now shown us a whole series of emails that have come to light through FOIA requests, public information requests, the comments of Ambassador Bolton that he's ready to testify before the Senate, not before the House.

I mean, this continues the drum of what most Americans believe, that a fair trial involves witnesses and documents. No American who has ever served on a jury, ever been involved in any action similar or otherwise, under -- knows that -- every American, I should say, knows that a fair trial, a trial involves witnesses and documents.

BOLDUAN: Senator, thank you for coming in. MENENDEZ: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: -- the greatest presentation they ever had. Mike and Rand Paul disagree because they want information that, honestly, I think is very hard to get. It is OK if the military wants to give it, but they didn't to give it. And it had to do with sources and information we had that really should remain at a very high level.

Could we individually maybe give one or two of them some information? Possibly, if we can do that.

I get along great with Mike Lee. I've never seen him like that. But other people have called and they've said it was the best presentation they've ever seen.

And let me tell you what was the best. Forget about presentation, the result.

We killed a man who killed many, many Americans and many, many people, thousands and thousands of people. And when I go over to Walter Reed and I meet these young incredible folks, mostly -- it just seems mostly men, but also women -- where their legs are gone, their arms are gone, in some cases, both the legs and the arms are gone and the face and the body is badly damaged, and frankly, five years ago, they couldn't have lived and today they can live because of the wonders of medicine and the wonders of Walter Reed and the people over there, what -- the job they do, the medical doctors.

But I will say this: We caught a total monster, and we took him out. And that should have happened a long time ago.

TRUMP: We did it because they were looking to blow up our embassy. We also did it for other reasons that were very obvious. Somebody died, one of our military people did, people were badly wounded just a week before. And we did it. We had a shot at him, and I took it, and that shot was pinpoint-accurate and that was the end of a monster.

Then -- and that was really, that was the second attack. It was not -- we didn't start it. They started it by killing one of our people and wounding badly other of our people. So that you call retribution.

Ukraine -- if you look at what happened with Ukraine, that's a hoax. Well, this is a hoax too.

Iran went in and they hit us with missiles. Shouldn't have done that, but they hit us. Fortunately for them, nobody was hurt, nobody was killed, nothing happened. They landed -- very little damage, even, to the base. They landed.

But we had a chance to take out a monster. We took him out. And it should have been done a long time ago.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) Congress to take further military action against Iran? Would you seek congressional approval?

TRUMP: It would all depend on the circumstance. I don't have to, and you shouldn't have to be able because you have to make split-second decisions sometimes. Sometimes you have to move very, very quickly, John (ph). But in certain cases, I wouldn't even mind doing it.

You know what I -- what bothers me? When I see Nancy Pelosi trying to defend this monster from Iran, who's killed so many people, who's -- so badly. I mean, so many people are walking around now without legs and without arms, because he was the big roadside bomb guy. He was the one that'd send them to Afghanistan, he'd send them to Iraq. He was big. That was his favorite thing. He thought it was wonderful. He doesn't think it's wonderful any more.

When Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats want to defend him, I think that's a very bad thing for this country. I think that's a big losing argument politically too.

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: Yeah?

QUESTION: So anyway, outside the JCPOA and also with total sanctions implemented, what's left? If (ph) Iran...

TRUMP: Well, just so you understand on JCPOA, it's close to expiring. In other words, if I didn't terminate it, it expires in a very short period of time.

One of the problems -- of which there was many -- $150 billion, $1.8 billion in cash. All of that money -- and then that money was used for terror. Because if you look at Iran, it wasn't so bad until they got all that money. They used that money for terror, that's when it became really bad. You just take a look. I mean, it really got bad when they had $150 billion, $1.8 billion in cash.

The JP -- the agreement -- I always call it the Iran nuclear deal that didn't work -- the Iran deal -- it was just something that -- it was -- is no - is no good for our country. It expires in a short time. That means they would be on their path to nuclear weapons.

And for me, it's about nuclear weapons more than anything else. Iran cannot have a nuclear weapon. Iran will never have a nuclear weapon. They understand that. We have told them very strongly.

Iran now is not wealthy like it was when President Obama handed them $150 billion. They're a much different country. We'll see whether or not they want to negotiate.

Maybe they want to wait 'til after the election and negotiate with a weak Democrat, somebody like a Biden or a Pocahontas or Buttitedge (sic) or one of these characters, OK? Maybe they want to wait. But I think they're probably well-off doing it now, because if you look at the polls and if you look at what's going on, we're doing very well.

They're losing a tremendous amount, they're getting hurt very badly by the sanctions. It all can end very quickly. But as to whether or not they want, that's up to them. Not up to me, it's totally up to them. They can straighten out their country. Iran right now is a mess. They can straighten out the economics of their country very, very quickly. Let's see whether or not they negotiate.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: What's our leverage today?

QUESTION: On these sanctions, when should we expect to see sanctions on Iran following the attacks?

TRUMP: Immediately.

QUESTION: Tomorrow (ph)?

TRUMP: It's already been done, yeah. We've -- we've increased them. They were very severe, but now it's increased substantially. I just approved it a little while ago with Treasury, OK?

QUESTION: And who will they be against and what sort of sanctions...

TRUMP: Well, you'll see. I mean, we'll put out a minor announcement. It's actually a major event.

It's like this. This is, to me, a major event. And so far, I have had no -- I have had no questions on the fact that we can build a highway in, you know, a small fraction of the time; that we can build all of these beautiful bridges that we want to build, but they can't get approvals. I've had no questions on that.

Are you shocked, Sean (ph), when you hear that?

(UNKNOWN): No, Mr. President.

TRUMP: I mean, honestly, they -- they should be having some questions.

OK. Yeah, John (ph)? Go ahead.

QUESTION: Mr. President, the plane that went down came from Iran...

TRUMP: Yeah, terrible.

QUESTION: ... what do you think happened to that plane?

TRUMP: Well, I have my suspicions.

QUESTION: What are those (ph)...

TRUMP: It was very -- I don't want to say that because other people have those suspicions also.

It's a tragic thing, when I see that. It's a tragic thing. But somebody could have made a mistake on the other side, could have -- could have made a mistake. It was flying...

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: ... defense system?

TRUMP: ... it was -- it was flying in -- not our system. No, it has nothing to do with us.

It was flying in a pretty rough neighborhood, and somebody could have made a mistake. Some people say it was mechanical. I personally don't think that's even a question, personally.

So we'll see what happens.

QUESTION: Do you think it was shot down by accident?

TRUMP: I don't know. I really don't know. I don't want to get -- that's up to them. At some point they'll release the black box. Ideally, they'd get it to Boeing, but if they gave it to France or if they gave it to some other country, that would be OK, too. I think, you know, ideally that will be released.

I have a feeling that it's just some very terrible -- something very terrible happened. Very devastating.

QUESTION: Mr. -- Mr. President...

TRUMP: Yeah.

QUESTION: ... the situation in Venezuela has not gone as smoothly as some people, likely even yourself, have -- have -- have hoped. What are you prepared to do? Do you...

TRUMP: Well, I never thought it would go smoothly. Venezuela hasn't gone smoothly since it became a socialist, or worse than that, country. So I never expected anything to go smoothly.

We'll see what happens with Venezuela. They're doing poorly. I mean, there's a great case. When I say this country will never be a socialist nation, there's a great case. It was a wealthy country 15 years ago, 20 years ago. That was like a really wealthy country. And now they don't have water, they don't have food. We're supplying a lot of food. We're supplying a lot of water.

So, no, it takes a period of time. It's been -- you know, I've only been here a relatively short period of time. We'll see what happens.

QUESTION: Are you prepared to do anything else, changes (inaudible)?

TRUMP: No, I'm not going to -- no, I have -- we have a good strategy.

But we're taking care of people. We're helping people. Colombia's helping a lot of people. Some of the nations surrounding are helping people.

But we're -- I think we're doing a good job. They have a system that right now is very broken. We'll see what happens. Stay tuned.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: Mr. President, you (inaudible) blow up the embassy in Baghdad. Can you provide more details on what that plot was?

TRUMP: Well, I think it was obvious.

If you look at the protests -- and this was the anti-Benghazi. This was -- Benghazi was a disaster. They showed up a long time after it took place. They saw burning embers from days before. I said, "Get out today. Immediately." They were saying, "We think we can have them tomorrow." I said, "Nope. They've got to go right now." And they were on their way very quickly, and they got there almost -- I mean, they got there quickly.

They could have done that with Benghazi, too, by the way. Same -- same thing. Had they gotten there -- had they done what I did, you wouldn't have had -- you wouldn't know the name Benghazi. It would not be a very famous name. Now it's a very famous name.

This was the anti-Benghazi. We got the Apaches there very quickly. They were doing the flares. People didn't know what was happening.

But if you look at those protesters, they were rough warriors. They weren't protesters. They were Iranian-backed. Some were from Iraq, but they were Iranian-backed, absolutely. And they were looking to do damage. And they were breaking the windows, and you know, those are very structurally strong windows, as you know, and they were almost through. And had they gotten through, I believe we would've either had a hostage situation or we would have had a -- worse, we would have had a lot of people killed.

Those people were going to do very serious harm. They were soldiers. They were warriors. And we stopped it. We stopped it.

That was a totally organized plot, and you know who organized it. That man right now is not around any longer, OK? And he had more than that particular embassy in mind.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: Do you have a problem with John Bolton testifying in the Senate trial?

TRUMP: Always got along with him. He didn't get along with some of our people. But that's really going to be up to the Senate. It's really -- it's...

QUESTION: (inaudible)

TRUMP: It's always up -- I don't stop it, no. But he would -- it would be -- no, I -- I do have to -- I'd have to ask the lawyers because we do have to -- to me, for the future. We have to protect presidential privilege. When we start allowing national security advisors to just go up and say whatever they want to say, we can't do that. So we have to protect presidential privilege for me, but for future presidents. That's very important.

I would have no problem other than we have to protect -- we have to be able to protect. People can't go up and say whatever my thoughts are, whatever your thoughts are about us, countries, views. You don't want that to be out. So we have to protect presidential privilege.

Yeah?

QUESTION: So Mr. President, you said yesterday you want NATO to do more. Could you be a little more -- could (inaudible)...

TRUMP: I did. I spoke...

QUESTION: ... about what you wanted to say to them?

TRUMP: Right, I spoke to...

QUESTION: (inaudible) indication from them that (inaudible).

TRUMP: Yeah, I spoke to them yesterday. I spoke to secretary general yesterday, and we had a great conversation. He was very -- I think he was actually excited by it.

And I actually had a name. NATO, right, then you have M.E. -- Middle East. You'll call it NATOME. I said, "What a beautiful name -- NATOME." I'm good at names, right? USMCA, like the song, "YMCA".

(LAUGHTER)

TRUMP: Everybody -- nobody would remember USMCA. I said, "Think of the song 'YMCA'." Now everybody says it. They don't remember the previous name of the bad deal, OK, commonly known as NAFTA.

[11:59:39]

No, if you add the two words Middle East at the end of it -- because that's a big problem --