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CNN NEWSROOM

How Iran's Retaliation Unfolded Behind the Scenes in U.S.; Against Queen's Wishes, Harry & Meghan Announce Stepping Back from Roles as Senior Royals; Mnuchin Delaying Release of Secret Service Costs for Trump & Family Travel; U.S. Increasingly Believes Iran Shot Down Ukrainian Jet by Accident. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired January 9, 2020 - 14:30   ET

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


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[14:31:41]

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: We heard President Trump crediting the early warning systems that were in place that helped alert Iraqi and American officials of those retaliatory missiles and mitigate danger. But new CNN reporting is revealing just how early those warnings came in.

On Tuesday, Brian Hook, America's top diplomat for Iran, was actually giving a speech in Los Angeles when he was handed this urgent note, and he quickly concluded his Q&A.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRIAN HOOK, STATE DEPARTMENT SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE FOR IRAN: The people of Iraq and Syria -- sorry -- the people of Iraq, Lebanon and Iran, they want their country back. They are tired of Iran being unable to stay within its own borders.

Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What is your biggest worry?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: We now know that, just minutes earlier, U.S. intelligence satellites had picked up heat signatures from Iran suggesting the country had just launched short-range ballistic missiles.

Let's go to our CNN senior White House correspondent, Pamela Brown, with more on this chronology of the day.

And so you tell me what you know about the Intel that allowed U.S. personnel to take cover before the strike.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, our team has learned, Brooke, that there was really a confluence of intelligence coming in on Tuesday indicating that Iran had launched ballistic missiles that were heading to two air bases that housed U.S. personnel. There was, of course, the picking up of the heat signatures, as you

pointed out, by U.S. satellites that indicated these missiles had been launched. Aircraft in the area had intercepted Iranian communications that also told U.S. intelligence analysts that these two air bases could be hit.

And so within minutes, U.S. personnel scrambled. They went into bunkers. They took cover.

And in fact, I was told, Brooke, that the day before they were already on heightened alert, of course, in the aftermath of the killing of Soleimani. They had gone into bunkers the day before because of concern of an attack, but here the threat was imminent.

Back here in Washington, there was also a lot going on, a scramble to put the pieces of the puzzle together, figure out the intelligence. And the president huddled with his national security team in the Situation Room.

And I'm told there was a sense of surprise initially that Iran didn't launch more missiles out of its arsenal of thousands of missiles. At the same time, I'm told the mood in the room was one of restraint and calm because the initial intelligence coming in was that there were no U.S. casualties.

That was the biggest factor. In fact, sources tell CNN that the president was prepared to launch a counterstrike against Iran had there been even one American death.

And so all of these factors led to this sense of calm and caution and the administration ultimately taking the route of imposing sanctions on Iran rather than escalating the situation.

Now, there has been internal debate within this administration about Iran's intent, whether it intended to kill U.S. personnel and just wasn't able to do so or whether it intended not to in order to send more of a message.

So administration officials have told CNN, several of them that the initial belief was that it was more of a message sending than actually intending to kill personnel. Others have come out publicly, like the top U.S. General Mark Milley, saying, no, he believes that the intent was to kill U.S. personnel.

But either way, as one source told me, the view was the Iranians took a step back and then the U.S. also took a step back in response - Brooke?

[14:35:03]

BALDWIN: And we were all sitting with bated breath Tuesday night hoping for the best and hoping --

BROWN: Yes.

BALDWIN: -- every life was spared on the American side and the Iraqi side.

Pamela, with this incredible behind-the-scenes take. Pamela, thank you.

Also, our breaking news, the U.S. increasingly believes that it was Iran that mistakenly shot down that passenger jet that crashed in Iran this week killing all 176 people on board. We'll tell you why they think this.

Also, how Prince Harry and Meghan Markle snubbed the queen when they announced that they will be stepping back from the royal family. We've got the scoop.

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BALDWIN: The U.K. and the royal palace are in a tailspin, still reeling from the shocker from the duke and duchess of Sussex, Harry and Meghan, that they are stepping back as senior members of the royal family and working to become financially independent.

Social media has been on fire with memes both slamming and praising the couple. One meme even likened Harry to a clown.

[14:40:04]

The British tabloids are calling this Mexit and blasting Harry, who CNN learned defied the queen's order not to make the announcement. And then he didn't tell her he would do it anyway.

And 2019 was a tough year for the royal couple. After Meghan gave birth, remember this emotional moment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: The impact on your physical and mental health and all the pressure you clearly feel.

MEGHAN, DUCHESS OF SUSSEX: Any woman, especially when they're pregnant, you're really vulnerable. And so that was made challenging, and then when you have a newborn, you know.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: It's a long time ago --

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: -- but I remember, yes.

MEGHAN, DUCHESS OF SUSSEX: And especially, as a woman, it's really -- it's a lot.

So you add this on top of just trying to be a new mom or trying to be a newlywed, it's -- yes, well, I guess -- and also, thank you for asking because not many people have asked if I'm OK. But it's -- it's a very real thing to be going through behind the scenes.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BALDWIN: Max Foster, CNN royal correspondent, and Kate Williams, CNN royal commentator, historian, lecturer at the University of London, are both with me.

Welcome to both of you.

And lots of questions, you guys.

So, Max, starting with -- so the queen knew that this was something they wanted and Prince Harry just did it anyway making this announcement to the world essentially on Instagram, is that right?

MAX FOSTER, CNN ROYAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I have to say, you know, hearing those clips again -- and I spoke to Meghan and Harry on that tour, as well as Africa. There's sympathy obviously for the huge amount of pressure the couple have felt. And they do find it unbearable. So that's fair enough.

But that part of the interview was really part of the publicly where she said thank you for asking. That was a dig. It was seen as a dig at the royal family for not asking how she was. So that -- you know, that is part of this story.

And it led on to some briefings that I had that we put on a Web site where the Sussex felt undervalued by the rest of the family. And they felt they weren't getting the right support.

So this has all built up to this moment where Harry basically says to the rest of the family, I want to define a new role for us. This is what it's going to be. We still want to be in the royal family carrying out public duties, but only the ones that we like. Meanwhile, we're going to go off and set up our own private foundation and take in private money.

So that's what he did. He put it all on this big Web site last night, very well thought through.

The problem was he didn't speak to the royal family, critically, the queen about it. We were then told that the palace was concerned about this.

But also, crucially, that the senior members, including, the queen were upset. Today, I discovered that she was upset. She actually asked him not to put that statement out and set up the Web site. He did it anyway.

That's a red line, as Kate will tell you, as a historian, that's looked back on a thousand years of history. I don't want to speak for her, but that was a red line. And it's unprecedented as well.

BALDWIN: Tell me about this a red line, Kate, to just not only defy your grandmother, but the monarch.

KATE WILLIAMS, CNN ROYAL COMMENTATOR: Well, this is unprecedented. We've never seen anything like it. Really, before, you've either been in the royal family or you've been out like as Edward VIII abdicated for Wallis Simpson.

But what Harry and Meghan want is this very different model. It's like a flexi model, a flexi royal. Sometimes when they're doing their royal duty but not for other times when they're doing their own private work.

And it's really very interesting because, obviously, it took everyone by surprise, clearly, took the palace by surprise. It was a red line.

But there's been an avalanche of support among the young people. You see it on social media. A lot of Millennials, really, I think, have suggested to the royal family that they need to find a way of working with this.

And no matter how much they believe that they're not happy, Harry has decided, so they need to find way of working with this.

That's the news that we have been told, that there's been these conversations, that they're working together because some of Harry is better than no Harry I think.

BALDWIN: Before we get to the working through this, the real question to me why, right? Why?

Max, why are they doing this? Obviously, there's some sort of tension in this family. Some are placing the blame entirely on Meghan. Others are saying, no, you know, Harry has always blamed the royal family for the death of his mother, Diana, and he's wanted out. Which is it?

FOSTER: Well, I've had conversations with them and, in recent months, they really do care deeply, passionately about the issues that they promote. And you know, the duchess on her female empowerment, you know, Harry on mental health. They literally want to change the world.

They are very, very ambitious, and they have high hopes. And they've all been accentuated since Archie came along. They feel too constrained under the current system. They can't do what they want to do.

[14:45:05]

I do think they genuinely want to support the queen. If you do want to be within the royal family and serve the queen, you have to put her first, and they're not actually doing that now. They're putting their family first.

And when we talk about these -- I mean, the talks that Kate was discussing there, she's underplaying them really because these are crisis talks. You've got Charles's team, Williams' team, and the queen's team, coming together in an emergency set of discussions basically to find a way forward.

And what they're saying is we need to work with the Sussex's, with the government involved in these talks, as a mediation role, would you believe, to try to find a way forward. And I've been speaking to people in the palace. They're basically not happy with what's up on that Web site, the other three, so that Web site is going to have to change.

If Meghan and Harry decide they're not going to change this, then there's no future for them in the royal family. They either need to leave or they're going to get kicked out by the other three.

BALDWIN: Whoa, whoa, whoa. That is a possibility? They could essentially be fired royals? That is a real possibility?

FOSTER: I don't know what the way out is. As Kate said, this is unprecedented. But it's been made very clear to me that what's on that Web site, it's not acceptable to the wider royal family, which includes the monarch.

BALDWIN: Kate, what do you think, final thought, moving forward in terms of the monarchy?

WILLIAMS: I think if they can work together, make a way in accommodating Harry and Meghan's ambitions and desires, it will look to history like a watershed moment for the monarchy. Perhaps this can be the model for other minor royals.

The whole idea that you give everything, you sacrifice everything to serve the crown, this perhaps will come to see outdated and this may be the beginning of a new style a new way for the monarchy. Let's see.

BALDWIN: That's what everyone, I'm sure, is talking about where you are.

Kate and Max, thank you so much.

WILLIAMS: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Just ahead, CNN's Clarissa Ward gets extraordinary access to one of the sites that an Iranian missile hit there in Iraq. We'll show you what she found.

And why is the Trump administration trying to hide what it costs to protect the president and his family as they travel around the world? That's next.

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[14:51:42]

BALDWIN: It is certainly no secret that protecting the president costs money. So why is Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin trying to delay the release of Secret Service costs related to the president and his family's travel until after the 2020 election?

A Democratic presidential -- excuse me -- congressional aide tells CNN that Secretary Mnuchin held that proposed legislation to move the Secret Service from the Homeland Security Department back to the Treasury Department in order to avoid disclosing those travel costs. Matthew Rosenberg is our CNN national security analyst and an

investigative correspondent with the "New York Times."

Matt, why the lack of transparency?

MATTHEW ROSENBERG, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I mean, simply put, it's really expensive. You know, I mean, it's extraordinarily expensive is what it looks like.

In the entire eight years that Barack Obama was president, I think they spent maybe $6 million on his travel, his family's travel. In one month that we know of, of the Trump kind of presidency in 2017, it was $13.7 million.

Golf carts alone, renting golf carts at Mar-a-Lago to follow Trump around as he plays golf has cost the Secret Service nearly $600,000.

If you're in an election year, you don't want your opponents running around saying, you know, you spent all this time at your golf course, and you're costing us millions of dollars, you're costing the taxpayers millions of dollars.

It's a great talking point for Democrats, and the Republicans clearly want to avoid it.

BALDWIN: So ultimately, who is it up to in terms of releasing the money figures?

ROSENBERG: I mean, that's the complicated bit.

So you know, we're in a situation where this legislation passes the way it's -- it could be released within 120 days, but the Treasury secretary is trying to hold that up and say we don't want it released until December 2020 which of course is a month after the election.

BALDWIN: Got you.

And so what do Democrats specifically want? They just want those cost figures, and they want them, you know, for political purposes before the election?

ROSENBERG: Of course, I mean, like, look, there's a legitimate oversight purpose here, too. In any democracy, you want to know what you're spending to keep the people you've elected in office kind of doing their jobs, taking vacations, whatever it is. It also is an incredibly useful talking point for any Democratic candidate.

BALDWIN: And you already, off the top, explained the difference between the Obamas and the Trumps. That was quite a different number.

Matt Rosenberg, we'll stay on it along with you. Thank you very much.

We'll get you back to our breaking news now. There's a growing belief among U.S. officials that Iran may have accidentally shot down that passenger jet that crashed in Tehran killing everyone on board. We have new details on that ahead. [14:54:16]

And the U.S. House getting ready to vote whether to limit the president's war powers against Iran. Stand by for that.

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ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BALDWIN: We continue. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you for being with me.

Here's the breaking news. U.S. officials now increasingly believe that it was Iran who mistakenly shot down that Ukrainian passenger jet that crashed Tuesday.

Moments ago, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he thinks the suspicions are correct.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JUSTIN TRUDEAU, CANADIAN PRIME MINISTER: We have intelligence from multiple sources, including our allies and our own intelligence. The evidence indicates that the plane was shot down by an Iranian surface- to-air missile. This may well have been unintentional.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: We know that the doomed flight took off a couple of hours after Iran launched its offensive against the U.S., forces in Iraq. It crashed just minutes later. And video shows the plane was on fire before it came down. In all, 176 people were killed.

[15:00:04]

An official with Iran's civil air organization dismisses the theory as an illogical rumor, saying it is quote, "Scientifically impossible that a missile hit the Ukrainian plane."