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INSIDE POLITICS

Donald Trump Speaks Amid Iran Crisis, Impeachment Standoff; Donald Trump Open To Some Witnesses In Senate Impeachment Trial; Sources: U.S. Increasingly Believes Iran Mistakenly Shot Down Ukrainian Airliner; House Speaker Nancy Pelosi: Trump Administration "Cavalier Attitude" is "Stunning"; Donald Trump: "I Don't Have To" Seek Congressional Approval To Strike Iran. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired January 9, 2020 - 12:00   ET

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


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DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: --light and then you have ME Middle East you got NATO, I said what a beautiful name. They told me I'm really good at names. USMCA like the song YMCA everybody - nobody could remember USMCA I said think of the song YMCA now everybody says it.

You know remember the previous name of the bad deal okay, commonly known as NAFTA. Now if you add the words, if you add the two words Middle East at the end of it because that's a big problem, that's a big source of problems. NATO-ME, doesn't worked beautifully John think of that NATO plus me. Obviously he's not getting it. He's not smiling. He used to smile. Before I ran, now he is not smiling. You know what I'm talking about.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is there NATO personnel in the region?

TRUMP: As opposed to us, to be honest with you, because this is an international problem. We can come home or largely come home and use NATO. This is an international problem. We caught ISIS; we did Europe a big favor. We got 100 percent of the caliphate. We have thousands and thousands of ISIS fighters are killed and thousands and thousands, tens of thousands, are in prison right now.

And Europe doesn't want them. It's not right. They want to go to France. They want to go to Germany, they want to go to U.K. they want to go to these countries they come from. That's their home. The U.S. is not their home. They want to go, it's not fair that we're holding these people and other countries aren't taking, because we're bearing the cost.

So I think that NATO should be expanded and we should include the Middle East absolutely. We pay for a big percentage of NATO. By the way, if you look at and speak to Secretary General Stoltenberg, who is doing a terrific job, by the way, he will tell you that I raised $130 billion more than they were getting. It was going down from past administrations every single year. It was down to a very low number. I came in, I said, got to pay, folks, got to pay. We're working with you, we're protecting you, you have got to pay. We don't want to be the fools like we have been for so many years.

We raised 130 billion almost immediately. We had a meeting with all the countries. I said you got to pay. I mean, I can imagine they don't like me as much as Obama and other people. But they got to pay. We're protecting, you got to pay. We got 130 billion more. Not 130 billion, 130 billion more.

In fact my biggest fan of the world is Secretary General Stoltenberg because he can't believe it. And now he just announced $530 billon we've gotten under my watch and we're in great shape with that whole situation. And I think NATO should be helping us now with the Middle East. Having an international flavor there is good.

Plus you had a deal signed with many of these countries that are in NATO. So the economic deal with Iran. I have actually said that I think the scope of NATO should be increased, and they should be looking for ISIS. We'll help. But right now the burden is on us and that hasn't been fair.

But we've done a great job with ISIS. When I came in three years ago, ISIS was all over the place. It was a disaster. And now ISIS is the caliphate. 100 percent of the caliphate is gone. 100 percent and we have tens of thousands of prisoners well we have them in prison. They should be taken and Europe should be helping with that burden. But I like the idea of NATO expanding their views.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Since the environment is part of the issue you're talking about today? Since the environment is something that is on the table here today, what is your position on global warming? Do you think it's a hoax?

TRUMP: No, not at all. Nothing is a hoax about that. It's a very serious subject. I want clean air, I want clean water. I want the cleanest air, I want the cleanest water. The environment is very important to me. Somebody wrote a book that's an environmentalist that actually called the environmentalist before I did this. They wrote a book.

I'd like to get it I had it in the other office some. I'll bring it to my next news conference, perhaps. I'm sure you'll be thrilled to see it. I'm sure you'll report all about it. But I'm a big believer in that word, the environment. I'm a big believer. But I want clean air, I want clean water, and I also want jobs.

I don't want to close up our industry because somebody said, you know, you have to go with wind or you have to go with something else that's not going to be able to have the capacity to do what we have to do. We have the best employment numbers we've ever had. We have the best unemployment numbers we've ever had, so that's very important. One more.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How much of your own money are you prepared to spend on your reelection campaign?

TRUMP: I literally haven't thought about it. I spent a lot on the first one, and I say it I did the primaries, and obviously that came out to be very successful. And I have not thought about it. I will say this, because of the impeachment hoax we're taking in numbers that nobody ever expected.

You saw the kind of numbers we're reporting. We're blowing everybody away. Nobody has ever taken in the money that we're taking in from the public, and it's good because it's an investment they're making. They're making that investment. It's better than the big donors. We're taking in numbers that nobody has ever seen before, frankly, and it's a great thing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In 2016 by saying that you wouldn't take donor money.

TRUMP: Well, I don't know, I put in a lot. Do you know the number that I put in for the primaries and the first election? Do you know that number?

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TRUMP: It's a big number. And to this day, I say I wonder if it mattered, because I never noticed myself get any credit for that. I did, I spent a lot of my own money. You know, tens of millions of dollars times a lot. I spent a lot of my own money. I always asked the question, I wonder if it was necessary.

Because I don't think anybody even knew that I was spending it. I would mention it every once in a while. For instance, I would give up my salary. It's approximately 450,000 Presidential Salary I give it up. It goes to - usually I give it to drugs, I give someone to Elaine sometimes for transportation, but every quarter, I think it's paid on a quarterly basis I give up 100 percent of my salary that make as President.

I don't think anyone has written that kind of a story. You guys don't want to write that kind of a story but that's okay with me. Look, I'm going to Ohio some of you are coming with me and we look forward to it. I want to congratulate all of you because I think this is going to make a tremendous difference in your unions and for your workers and for your investments and for everything. This is going to be a fantastic thing. We'll bring numbers down--

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JOHN KING, CNN HOST, INSIDE POLITICS: You've been listening to the President of the United States at the White House in an event about environmental policy rollbacks a lot of news in that event.

The President talking about the military showdown with Iran, the President talking about the impeachment debate up on Capitol Hill, we'll get back to that in a moment. First some dramatic breaking news just in to CNN on that Ukrainian airlines flight that crashed killing 176 people. Remember this happened just after it took off in Iran on Wednesday. Let's get straight to the Pentagon and CNN's Barbara Starr. Barbara, what do we know?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, U.S. officials across the administration are telling CNN including our own Pamela Brown and Jim Scheudo that the working theory now is that Iran mistakenly did shoot down that Iranian Boeing 737 - pardon me, the Ukrainian 737 civilian airliner that was flying through Iranian air space, that it was mistakenly shot down, most likely by an Iranian missile.

Mistakenly, no evidence that Iran deliberately did this and in the President's appearance just now in the White House, he was asked about this very question, and it was most telling what he said. He said that it could have been a mistake by someone in Iran. He said he did not believe there was another scenario that he very much believed it was a mistake and did not believe.

He said it wasn't a question to him of being a mechanical error. Why is this scenario of a mistaken shoot down by an Iranian missile of this Ukrainian Civilian Airliner, what could be the possible evidence behind this?

Well, the U.S. intelligence community and the U.S. military over that area, especially as events were unfolding with the attack on the U.S. bases by Iranian missiles in the hours before that were collecting satellite data, radar data, and they went back certainly and looked and scrubbed every piece of that data for any evidence of a so-called external event, something that would have been flying through the air that could have hit the civilian airliner of Ukraine or could have exploded so close to the airliner that it proved to be catastrophic.

Apparently they have found some data indicating this. It could be very possible, CNN is told, that this is a fog of war incident that the Iranian Missile Unit, the troops on the ground in Iran at that point perhaps saw something on their own radar returned, perhaps thought they were under attack and fired.

This is why of course I think the International Aviation Community is so anxious to see the black boxes from that airliner, to get as much data as they can. But at least for today right now, Iranian Civilian Aviation Authorities are still not willing to share those black boxes with the International Aviation Safety Community, so at the moment what it appears to be is what intelligence agencies can derive from looking at the data.

We should add that we now know, of course, that the U.S. Intelligence Community in close cooperation with Canadian Intelligence services, because they, of course, had a number of their own citizens on board that commercial airliner. John?

KING: Very important breaking news from our Barbara Starr at the Pentagon. Barbara, thank you very much. Come back to us if more comes in. Let's go straight now to Tehran and CNN's Fred Pleitgen. Fred, as our Barbara noted and as you know from the reporting there, the Iranian government has said we have the black box. We will not turn it over. Is this likely to add pressure if to not give it to Boeing to at least give it to some international authority? [12:10:00]

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Absolutely you're right, John. It certainly is going to add some pressure on the Iranians with the U.S. now coming out with this. We were actually able to get in touch with the head of the Iranian Civil Aviation Organization. I have to add, this was before this news broke, and we specifically asked him about what's going to happen with the black boxes.

Now, he says that Ukrainian investigators have arrived here in Iran. They're working together with Iranians, apparently. He says that Iranians have the technology to decipher these black boxes. He says one of the black boxes is damaged and some of the data may have been lost. He also claimed that the Ukrainian investigators are going to be able to download the information from those black boxes tomorrow, he put it and he says that anything on those black boxes would then be available to the world, as he said.

Now, again, I have to add that this phone conversation that we had with him took place before this new news broke, so we are trying to get obviously back in touch with him as well. There have been several news outlets here John and officials who have dismissed the theory that the plane would have been shot down by an Iranian missile.

Some of them saying that this is a distraction generally saying that it was not the case another official by the way saying there was no debris of a missile found at the crash site. Of course unclear of whether or not that is indeed the case. We do know, John, that there is Ukrainian investigators also on the ground here in Tehran.

It's unclear whether they have been able to actually go to the crash site itself. Of course we do know that the Ukrainians have said that there are several things that they are looking at to see whether or not or how this plane was taken down, that they are not ruling out that it could have been a missile strike.

One of the things that they keep talking about is the tour surface to air missile system, which is a Russian-built surface to air missile system which is short-range low altitude, obviously used for planes flying at a very low altitude. It's built by the Russians, but from what I've seen in the past, it's also in use by the Iranian military as well.

Again, so far these are only indications. The Iranians are saying they're conducting this investigation, but certainly we're going to obviously wait and see what they come up with in the next couple days, John.

KING: CNN's Fred Pleitgen on the ground in Tehran again grateful to have you there Fred at this important time. Let's bring in CNN's Transportation Analyst Mary Schiavo joining us now from Charleston South Carolina. Mary, I just want to emphasize the Pentagon the U.S. officials are telling CNN this is an operating theory that they don't have definitive evidence yet, but they clearly believe they have some clues that it is possible that an anti-aircraft missile some surface to air missile could have been responsible for this. Help me with your expertise. Would the black boxes prove or disprove that?

MARY SCHIAVO, CNN TRANSPORTATION ANALYST: It could but unfortunately for a missile strike and it appears in this case whatever happened - spontaneously the black box would not capture a missile striking, it would just capture that all of the data seeds flowing that the plane stopped functioning correctly, that it stopped transmitting data.

The cockpit voice recording could certainly capture the noises of a strike and the pilots might have had time to say a few words, but an external strike of a missile on the flight data recorder would not be captured in any way to say this is a missile.

However, from the MH-17 shoot down, we know that it's readily available to test the pieces for the explosives from a missile, and that signature is different than any explosion from aviation fuel. Same thing they did with TW-800 way back in 1996, they tested for explosives.

KING: Mary obviously not a lot of trust between Washington and Tehran at the moment. But help me step back if you will. Iran is a major power, it is a major economy, it is major air traffic. When the Iranians say, we got this. The Ukrainians are here, we've got this, we'll give them the information. Is it an aviation administration, absent the event of the last couple days and weeks that can be trusted in a situation like this?

SCHIAVO: Well, you know, the trust will have to come in how they conduct the investigation, but we are all signatories to the United Nations treaties, and one of those treaties includes the International Civil Aviation Organization ANNEX 13 is to how to conduct an air crash investigation?

I've read the Iran preliminary report actually; they put it out very quickly, usually its 30 days. They have given notice to all nations. United States wasn't mentioned as United States, they only referenced the U.S. as NTSB, National Transportation Safety Board. They invited in Ukraine as a co-lead or co-participant in the investigation, and their preliminary report does follow the treaty that the U.S. has signed and others have signed as to how to conduct?

So at this point, they under our treaties and laws are allowed to conduct the investigation. The important thing will be if they bring in Canada 63 Canadians on board. Canada is completely up to speed and up to date on the 737 playing a major role in the 737 Max 8 grounding.

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SCHIAVO: This is not a Max 8 but they studied the plane. And transport Canada and the TSB are very capable. So my hope would be if the U.S. can't play a role that Canada would quickly step into one of the lead roles. They will do a great job.

KING: Important insights, Mary Schiavo I appreciate it on this important day. Again operating theory across agencies of United States government though it is quite possible, not confirmed, not definitive, but possible that an Iranian anti-aircraft missile could be responsible for the downing of that Ukrainian airliner jet as it took off from Tehran.

More than 170 people killed. We'll continue to track that breaking news. When we come back the President speaks about his confrontation with Iran and now a big debate in Congress over the President and his war powers.

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KING: President Trump pushing back today against a war powers resolution about to be brought to the floor of the House. Members set to vote on a rule for that resolution at the end of this hour.

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KING: The resolution itself voted on later. It directs President Trump to halt U.S. military action related to Iran unless or until he comes to Congress first for authorization. The President today insisting he can against Iran any time without congressional approval.

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TRUMP: It would all depend on the circumstance. I don't have to and you shouldn't have to be able to because you have to make split second decisions.

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KING: CNN's Kaitlan Collins joins us now live from the White House. Kaitlan, the President pushing back and pushing back pretty hard there, but also still insisting he has to keep the intelligence that people are mad about still close to his vest.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. That is not an answer that is going to please people like Mike Lee and Rand Paul. Two Republican Senators yesterday who were complaining about that briefing saying, mike lee saying it was one of the worst intelligence briefings he's ever had in the nine years that he's been in the Senate.

Essentially saying that there are arguments were not sufficient and pretty much talking about exactly what the President was asked about there. When he was saying may be he would not be able to go to Congress before an authorization of a strike in the future, if it was for hypothetically for something because you have to make split second decisions.

That's exactly what Mike Lee was saying yesterday coming out of that saying that they posed a hypothetical question to those top national security aides to the President yesterday, asking that if the President made a decision he wanted to strike Iran's leader, would they have to come to Congress before that, and they were saying they did not get good answers on that.

The President there said he knows Mike Lee, he said he's never seen him like that, talking about that angry outburst you saw coming from Mike Lee yesterday, clearly unsatisfied with how the briefing went down? Though the President didn't really get into exactly what he thinks about the war powers vote, though we know earlier he tweeted that he doesn't think any of those House Republicans should vote with the Democrats on that measure, though we're going to find out soon if they will.

Now that wasn't the only thing the President weighed in there while he was speaking with reporters. The impeachment also obviously came up. And the President said he still wants to see some of those witnesses he said in the past though. Our reporting has shown that behind the scenes the President has come to an agreement, it seems, like with some of his White House Counsel and team of lawyers on this about not having any witnesses at the trial whenever they do have it.

The President was saying there he would still like to see some of those Democrats. When he was asked what about John Bolton going to testify, the President said he would not stop John Bolton, but then he said and it was a big caveat you would have to check with the lawyer's first job because he said he wants to protect presidential privilege.

AKA, that's a way for the President to say he wants John Bolton to come and testify, but be able to say well the lawyers said he couldn't. Of course that's still a big hypothetical about whether or not that could even happen.

KING: A hypothetical at a minimum. Kaitlan Collins live at the White House, appreciate that. With me here in the studio to share their reporting and their insights Francesca Chambers with McClatchy CNN's Jeff Zeleny Paul Kane with "The Washington Post" and Katie Bo Williams with "Defense One"

You heard the President in his remarks he also said there were some circumstances where he would love to consult with Congress. But he said Presidents often don't get the time, they have to make split second decisions. The House Speaker a bit earlier this morning making clear she disagrees.

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REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): This is with real teeth. This is a statement of the Congress of the United States, and I will not have that statement be diminished by whether the President will veto it or not. The cavalier attitude of this administration, it's stunning. I don't spend a whole lot of time telling him anything because I don't know what the basis of their judgment is to receive information.

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KING: You can see from that, this is your wheelhouse. Part of this is a constitutional assertion by Congress saying, we're tired of getting steamrolled by Presidents of both parties who decide this is their power, they don't have to consult with us. Some of it clearly is Nancy Pelosi and the House Democrats just have such disdain for this President.

KATIE BO WILLIAMS, SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT, DEFENSE ONE: Well, I mean, we've seen for years the legislature has been sort of unable to step up and reassert its authority over making war, over declaring war, and we've seen this in the Obama Administration and under the Trump Administration.

And this sort of idea that the Congress needs to step up and actually have a vote to either reauthorize a new authorization for the use of military force to introduce a war powers resolution that would constrain the President, that's something they haven't been able to do and have tried multiple times under multiple administrations and have failed to do.

And you know the other thing that I think I would say about the House measure versus the Senate measure in particular is the House measure does not have the force of law. It's not - it doesn't actually have the teeth that the Senate one does, so even if they go on and pass this, even if by some strange miracle the Senate also takes it up and passes it, what does that do?

KING: It wouldn't be by a margin that would survive a veto anyway, that which is what the Speaker eluded to there. You do have this; you have the Speaker who has long-time experience in intelligence matters, scoffing at the administration. She's also referencing all the Republicans who have complained.

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Among them, Mike Lee, now let's be clear for the record Rand Paul and Mike Lee they're libertarians they have long been skeptics of Presidential power. They believe in the constitution and that Congress should be consulted on these things, but it is still rare at a moment of a big global crisis to have usually loyal Republican Senators come out and look at the administration. Listen to Mike Lee here saying stop treating me like a child.

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SEN. MIKE LEE, (R-UT): They're appearing before a coordinate branch of government, a coordinate branch of government responsible for their funding, for their confirmation, for any approval of any military action they might undertake, and they had to leave after 75 minutes while they're in the process of telling us that we need to be good little boys and girls and run along and not debate this in public. I find that absolutely insane.

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KING: How real is it in the context of Katie is right, the resolution passes the House, it doesn't have huge teeth but still it will kick at the President to a degree? You need four in the Senate. If you have Rand Paul and Mike Lee Susan Collins has said she is working to read the language. She is a possible, she's not there yet. Is there enough Republican frustration that being told essentially what they all came out of the meetings as if Pompeo, Esper, came out and essentially said, just trust us, go away.

PAUL KANE, SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT, THE WASHINGTON POST: It was even tougher than that. I was standing next to Rand Paul. Mike Lee and Rand Paul walked up and waited for several minutes as Democrats were finishing up. They waited and waited. They wanted to get out. Mike lee's face was bright red by the end of that. It wasn't that they were just saying trust us. The briefers were saying debate would be division, and that would be helping Iraq and that really set Mike Lee off. It was like just having the debate on the Senate floor - I wrote them all down. He said the briefers were un-American, unconstitutional, insulting and completely unacceptable.

KING: That is stunning because if you take the flip side, now you hear from the administration that it's un-American or unpatriotic to question them at this moment. Listen to this is not quite in those words, but listen to the Vice President this morning.

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MIKE PENCE, UNITED STATES VICE PRESIDENT: I know Mike and Senator Rand Paul opposed the self-defense actions that we've taken in Yemen, and we'll continue to discuss those honest differences of opinion with them. To protect sources and methods, we're simply not able to share with every member of the House and Senate the intelligence that supported the President's decision to take out Qasem Soleimani.

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KING: People with a lot more experience than I have in these matters say you don't have to give them the sources and methods you can distill it in a way that doesn't disclose those sources and methods. And part of this is we went through this in the Bush Administration and the Iraq War. You had Democrats and Republicans saying, sorry Mike Pence on television essentially saying this is a slam-dunk is not good enough. We need to see it.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: That is what is so eerie about all this discussion. It is so reminiscent in some respects to what was happening right after 9/11 and the year before the Iraq invasion.

Of course, the circumstances were different. But I was standing next to Senator Mike Lee as well. I was struck by his visible anger. You're right he did wait to speak he wanted this to get out. And it was not just about the substance yes; of course he'll have questions about the substance. It's how the administration was conveying this.

But the question here is credibility. We always said there is going to be a moment where we're going to look to the White House for accurate and credible information, and now even some Senators from their own party don't believe them. There's not going to be a groundswell of other people following him because they're still afraid of this White House. But the fact that they spoke so frankly about this is telling.

KING: That is important in the sense but the President is absolutely right, sometimes a President does have to make a snap decision has to act in national security interest. But the trust is gone by all parties across the board.

FRANCESCA CHAMBERS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, MCCLATCHY DC: And the White House feels really strongly, sources were telling me today, that they should have the ability to be able to do that. They are going to oppose anything that would restrict their ability to do that.

But it comes back around to what you said in the very beginning about this separation of powers. The White House believes that the President it is within his power to make those decisions and there are people in Congress, and there are Senators who believe that it is their decision to be able to pass the war powers act, and he should have to come to them. What you're seeing this break happening right now is the Senators who were on the right were often allies of the President saying, this is where we draw the line.

KING: And the White House saying it's a sign of weakness to debate this right now. Other people saying no it is actually a sign of strength to have a public debate about this right now in a democracy. That debate will play out on the House floor today. We'll see where it goes in the Senate.

Up next, for us new pressure on the House Speaker to send those impeachment articles over to the Senate some of that pressure coming Democrats.

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