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Carlos Ghosn Interviewed by Richard Quest; Hacking Attempts From Iran Triple Following Soleimani Death; Interview with Sen. Jim Risch (R-ID). Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired January 9, 2020 - 10:30   ET

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


[10:30:00] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: -- and crew.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: Yes.

SCIUTTO: CNN business editor at large Richard Quest is with us now. Richard, as you look at this -- and, again, it is early, but -- how seriously are investigators taking the possibility that this was not mechanical, but that this aircraft was shot down?

RICHARD QUEST, CNN BUSINESS EDITOR AT LARGE: Oh, I think very seriously -- I know very seriously. Because, in the absence of any other evidence, you have the extreme coincidence that this incident happened at the same time as military activity between Iran, Iraq, et cetera.

Now, the point -- the facts you were just saying are all coming from an Iraqi -- sorry, an Iranian initial report. Not the official preliminary report, but they put out a statement of what they believe has happened, and that includes the fact that witnesses say they saw the fireball of the plane being on fire -- and we've seen that in the video you were showing -- also, that it was returning to the Tehran airport. And they don't say any more about the wreckage or anything learned from the wreckage.

But they do tell us the the NTSB, the U.S. investigator of course, has been informed, has been notified. There's no word from the Iranians, whether they will allow the NTSB to take part in the investigation. So far, they've refused to hand over the black boxes to the U.S. or to Boeing.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

HARLOW: Richard, how important is it for countries like Canada, like Sweden to be allowed to participate in this investigation?

QUEST: OK. So the norm is that the state of occurrence, where the accident happened, takes the lead. And they invite all the others to participate, it's under the treaty. And they will investigate the plane manufacturers, the plane's designers and those countries where the people came from, the passengers were from.

This is normal. And they will all participate throughout the entire investigation and have representatives chipping in. If the Iranians do not let this happen, then it will be abnormal and we'll be criticized.

SCIUTTO: Yes. I mean, it'd be remarkable because of course, there was a passenger jet shot down over --

HARLOW: Of course.

SCIUTTO: -- of all countries, Ukraine, MH-17, a number of years ago. And that was a Russian missile that took it down.

HARLOW: Richard, before you go, you are in Beirut because you just did a fascinating newsy interview with ousted, imprisoned, on-trial Nissan chairman and CEO Carlos Ghosn, the first time we're hearing from him since he escaped justice in -- or he would differ with that -- in Japan. What did he tell you?

QUEST: He was full-throated, he attacked viciously the Japanese legal system, but he wouldn't answer questions about how he got out. Remember the rumor. The rumor and suggestion. It was by train, hotel, in a musical case, on a private jet via Turkey to Beirut. I asked him, how did he do it?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUEST: I'm just going to go for this, and hope that you'll give me an answer. What was it like in the packing case?

(LAUGHTER)

CARLOS GHOSN, FORMER NISSAN CEO: No comment. Look, freedom -- freedom, no matter the way it happens, is always sweet.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

QUEST: The man is facing legal problems for years ahead. Just today, for instance, the Lebanese prosecutors have put a travel ban on him from Lebanon -- not that he was going anywhere, by the way -- because Interpol has red notices for his arrest. He won't be sent away from Lebanon. And the man is even being investigated here in Lebanon because he went to Israel when he was CEO of Nissan.

HARLOW: Right.

QUEST: Lebanese citizens are not allowed to go to Israel.

HARLOW: Very, very true. It is a fascinating interview. I'd urge everyone to watch the full interview --

QUEST: Thank you.

HARLOW: -- you can see that, of course, on CNN.com and Richard's show. Richard, thank you very, very much.

SCIUTTO: Just a quick correction. In the last segment, we listed on the screen that Adam Smith, as a GOP congressman. He's, of course, a Democratic congressman --

HARLOW: Yes.

SCIUTTO: -- that's since been corrected.

HARLOW: He's made a lot of news today, we wanted to get that straight.

[10:34:18]

OK, coming up, new warnings about terror and cyber-threats coming out after the killing of Iran's top general. We'll talk about what the threats really are, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARLOW: So the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security are both issuing new warnings about terror and cyber-threats as CNN learns new details about hacking attempts following the killing of General Soleimani.

TEXT: Hacking Attempts Intensify After Soleimani Killing: Attempts to hack govt. sites jumped 50 percent following Soleimani's death; Attacks traced to Iranian I.P. addresses nearly tripled over 48-hour period; Hackers have had limited success

HARLOW: Overall, hacking attempts, I guess, since then, they're reporting, have nearly tripled. Iran-based attempts to hack government websites, up 50 percent soon after the U.S. took out Soleimani.

SCIUTTO: According to network security company Cloudflare, over a 48- hour period, attacks traced to Iranian I.P. addresses nearly tripled against targets around the world.

Let's discuss now. Joining us, John Hultquist. He's a cyber-espionage expert, intelligence analysis manager at the cyber-security firm FireEye. John, good to have you on this morning. When you see a jump like this, a tripling of attacks internationally, in your view and based on your experience, not by accident?

JOHN HULTQUIST, INTELLIGENCE ANALYSIS MANAGER, FIREEYE: Well, it isn't by accident. We see, often, in cases like this, where tensions rise, sort of a reaction by civil society, young hackers with access to automated tools who may not be the most technically sophisticated and may not be sponsored by the state, carrying out attacks as a result of the situation. This doesn't necessarily mean that the state has sponsored all of these incidents.

[10:40:23]

SCIUTTO: Yes, I see. Because if the -- particularly if they're using Iranian I.P. addresses because I imagine Iranian state actors have the ability to mask where the attacks would be coming from.

HULTQUIST: Absolutely. And they have a variety of other capabilities that they might bring to bear. But that doesn't mean necessarily that some of these -- some of this probing isn't coming from state actors -- HARLOW: Yes.

HULTQUIST: -- they are, for instance, probing VPN vulnerabilities that are used by businesses all over the world. Several state actors -- not just the Iranians, Chinese -- have been going after a series of vulnerabilities. And they've used that in the Middle East to actually break into organizations and attempt to carry out destructive attacks.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

HARLOW: John, you make a really interesting point that I just hadn't considered because I'm not an expert in this like you are. And that is that what -- like the biggest risk factor right now in terms of hacking could be cyber-espionage. So not just disruptive, right? And costing companies perhaps a lot of money or the U.S. government, but spying.

HULTQUIST: Absolutely. So when situations like this get dynamic, there's a lot of questions that need to be answered. The policymakers, the leadership in Iran need someone to answer these questions, and they task their intelligence services to do that.

And the intelligence services are the people who direct this capability. So one of the things that we're going to see is these actors going after government policymakers, diplomats, military. And they're going to try to start answering some of these questions and understand what our next move is going to be.

We're also concerned that they are using this capacity for surveillance against individuals. We know that they are breaking into places like telecommunications firms, hospitality, also travel. This would allow them to track people individually --

SCIUTTO: Yes.

HULTQUIST: -- and of course there's some physical risk with the concept of an organization --

HARLOW: Yes.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

HULTQUIST: -- that has a history of terrorism, targeting specific individuals.

SCIUTTO: Exactly. And I've spoken to U.S. officials who are worried about the safety, potentially, of U.S. diplomats overseas.

The point has been made that via cyber-attack, that that's a way Iran could attack the U.S. homeland, in effect. And I'm curious what the vulnerabilities are. We've spoken about how Russia and China had planted malware in critical infrastructure here in the U.S., that they could turn on in the event of an attack. Do we believe that Iran has done that? And where? I mean, are we talking electrical grids, financial markets? What are the vulnerabilities? HULTQUIST: So we don't have good evidence that Iran has implants sort of sleeping or -- sleeper agents or something along those lines, waiting to be -- to be detonated. We think that they'll probably actually have to make an effort to get into those sorts of systems now. And there will be a period where we may well detect that as it happens.

But we don't think that they're going to turn out the lights like we have seen Russia do in some countries --

SCIUTTO: Yes.

HULTQUIST: -- or necessarily create explosions or some sort of disaster scenario.

The more likely scenario is exactly what we're seeing right now in the Middle East from them. We've been watching them carry out destructive attacks on oil and gas companies and other critical infrastructure --

SCIUTTO: Yes.

HULTQUIST: -- where they've just taken down that company's ability to operate, thousands -- tens of thousands of machines, wiped overnight. And the company kind of grinds to a halt.

SCIUTTO: Yes, yes. And that has an immediate economic cost --

HARLOW: Yes.

HULTQUIST: Absolutely.

SCIUTTO: -- as well, oil markets, et cetera. John Hultquist, great to have your expertise. Thanks very much.

HULTQUIST: Thanks for having me.

[10:43:55]

SCIUTTO: Republican Senator Mike Lee says that the White House briefing for senators on Iran was, in his words, insulting and demeaning. I'm going to speak to another Republican senator to see if he agrees; also more broadly about the Iran issue. That's coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCIUTTO: Lots of news in Iran and with impeachment. Republican Senator Jim Risch of Idaho, he serves on the Intelligence and he's also chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. Senator, thanks so much for taking the time this morning.

SEN. JIM RISCH (R-ID): Jim, thank you. Thank you for having me.

SCIUTTO: Let me begin with the intelligence that led to this attack on Soleimani. Two Republican senators are questioning the administration's justification for this: Rand Paul, saying there was no specific information given to us of a specific attack; Mike Lee, saying that the briefing they got from the White House on this treated senators, in effect, like good little boys and girls.

If this was an imminent attack, why wasn't the evidence shown? And are you convinced it was an imminent threat?

RISCH: Well, first of all, Jim, the background is I'm chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee --

SCIUTTO: Yes.

RISCH: -- I'm number two on the Intelligence Committee. I spent almost a dozen years on both of them.

The day before this general briefing that was given to all senators, those of us on the Intelligence Committee received hours of briefings from various intelligence organizations -- we have 17 of them. I was absolutely convinced, 100 percent convinced, clearly convinced that there was imminent danger to Americans when the president took a strike.

Now, the -- I think we're getting a little mixed up in our -- in the criticism that Mike Lee has of that particular hearing. Mike's a dear friend. He is a bright, bright guy. His frustration came from the fact that he and Rand Paul all -- both have a view that is more restrictive about when the president can use force.

[10:50:13]

The president can reach into three buckets to use force. Number one is inherent power under the second article of the Constitution. Number two, the War Powers Act. And number three, the specific authorization that's given to use force in Iraq --

SCIUTTO: Right.

RISCH: -- that is the law of this land right now, in 2002. They don't like that. They want a more restrictive view of that. And their frustration was, they couldn't get the witnesses that were there to tell them exactly when we were at war, what is the definition of that.

SCIUTTO: OK.

RISCH: Look, that's a serious debate that we should have.

SCIUTTO: Understood. Let me ask you about this, though, because this is, of course, a president who has repeatedly disparaged the intel agencies you just cited there, and the intelligence specifically. He's questioned the intelligence on Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Notably, with Iran, he dismissed the U.S. intelligence community's assessment that Iran had been complying with the nuclear deal before he pulled out of it. So for Americans at home, why should they believe this intelligence today in this case, when the one delivering it, the president, is someone who has repeatedly questioned intelligence?

RISCH: Well, first of all, on the specific basis, obviously, the intelligence that was there, the kinds of things that we had that I can't go into certainly lead to that conclusion. But in addition to that, look at the facts that led up to this, the actual facts of what Soleimani was engaged in that led to his being taken out.

But, look, this argument over use of intelligence, both political parties have used it to their advantage. And with all due respect, you guys in the national media have done the same thing. If it plays to your narrative, you use it. If it doesn't play to your narrative, you don't use it.

So, look, I'm in a different position, I'm on the committee. We've got to use these things to advise the president. I -- it's unfortunate we're in that position, but we are. You're going to have to deal with it.

SCIUTTO: Well, with due respect, I do cover intelligence and I will say from my own perspective --

RISCH: I know you do.

SCIUTTO: -- I do my best to present it as best I can.

RISCH: I hope you do.

SCIUTTO: But a difficult subject area.

RISCH: It is.

SCIUTTO: A question on negotiations with Iran. Because the president was notable in his comments yesterday, following this attack. He said he's willing to negotiate with Iran.

RISCH: Right.

SCIUTTO: It was almost reminiscent of President Obama. You'll remember, you know, unclenching the fist, which then it led --

RISCH: Right.

SCIUTTO: -- to a negotiation. Would you support the U.S. negotiating with Iran, including on its nuclear program?

RISCH: Yes, Jim, that is a great question. One thing that's been lost in the national media on all of this is, prior to this, we've had the Democrats and part of the national media, whine about the fact that this president, this administration doesn't have a strategy on Iran, they're just -- they're discombobulated, they're shooting from the hip.

What you need to do is take the president's speech yesterday. First of all, note that it was textual. He gave that from text, he did not give it from the hip.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

RISCH: That speech that he gave yesterday was a clear, clear statement of this administration's policy, the United States' policy on Iran, both before this week, during this week and going forward from this week. Clearly, in there, we don't want war with Iran. We want them to get rid of the bad behavior that they have, which is pursuing a nuclear weapon, which is supporting terrorists all over the world, being the largest exporter of terrorism that there is, mucking around in everybody's business in the Middle East and --

SCIUTTO: Yes.

RISCH: -- causing trouble wherever they can. If they don't do that, look, they can be like America, they can have the kinds of things that we have here. Right now they're starving to death because of the --

SCIUTTO: Yes.

RISCH: -- of the sanctions we've put on them.

SCIUTTO: And it's interesting because it's a similar offer he's made, in effect, to North Korea there. I do want to ask you, before you go, about impeachment because very soon, you're going to be sitting as a juror, in effect, of this president in a Senate trial on impeachment.

As you know, John Bolton, the president's former national security advisor, has now publicly raised his hand, saying he's willing to testify. Of course, he was blocked as well as other senior administration officials by this White House, from testifying in the House.

As a senator and as a lawmaker, an elected lawmaker, shouldn't you have the right to hear his testimony?

RISCH: Well, Jim, I'm -- as you just pointed out, I'm a juror. Look, I've tried hundreds of cases, I know how to be a juror, I'm going to act as a juror.

First thing we need to do is hear the opening arguments of the -- of each of the parties. They can tell us what -- what they have. But, look, it's not up to the jury to help the prosecution put on its case. The prosecution had every ability to get people in and get their testimony while they were over in the House. If they couldn't get them, they could go to the court and force them to come in.

I'm absolutely, with an open mind, willing to listen to what they have to say. We'll proceed with a trial and we'll do -- each of us will cast a vote that we believe is the -- is the right thing to do. I fall in that camp.

SCIUTTO: Would you vote for the right to hear witnesses? Because that's going to --

RISCH: Can't answer that yet.

SCIUTTO: -- likely come up to vote (ph).

RISCH: I want to hear the opening statements and hear what they --

SCIUTTO: OK.

RISCH: -- have right now and what they believe they can dig out if they have other witnesses. But --

[10:55:05]

SCIUTTO: OK.

RISCH: -- we'll cross that bridge when we get there.

SCIUTTO: Understood. Senator Jim Risch, pleasure to have you on the program this morning.

RISCH: Jim, fair interview. Thank you. I appreciate it.

SCIUTTO: Take care.

HARLOW: Notable, that he said he is beyond convinced that the intelligence was there.

SCIUTTO: True. And also, leaving the door open to a yes vote on calling --

HARLOW: That's true.

SCIUTTO: -- witnesses.

HARLOW: No, absolutely.

SCIUTTO: That's -- he didn't close the door.

HARLOW: Yes. Important to hear from his voice.

OK, so we're waiting for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. At any moment, she will address reporters. You'll see it all live, right here. Stay there.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): -- we're very proud of her experience in terms of national security under Democratic and Republican presidents, now a member of Congress, putting forth a resolution this week.

[10:59:56]

Last week, in our view, the president -- the administration conducted a provocative disproportionate airstrike against Iran, which endangered Americans. And did so without consulting Congress.