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Prince Harry and Meghan Markle Stepping Back; Ukraine Investigating Downed Plane; Rep. Michael Waltz (R-FL) is Interviewed Regarding Iran and War Powers Resolution; Trump's Impeachment Defense Team. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired January 9, 2020 - 06:30   ET

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


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[06:32:09]

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: The British tabloid headlines capture this bombshell news. Quote, they didn't even tell the queen. Next one, Megxit. Prince Harry and Meghan Markle announcing their plans to step back from their royal roles. CNN has learned the royal family, including the queen, was caught off guard by this.

CNN's Max Foster is live at Buckingham Palace with the royal drama.

Max, what does this mean? Why are they doing this?

MAX FOSTER, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: They're doing this because they've had enough of their current roles. There are two pressures they've been finding pretty unbearable over the last few years. One is the external pressure, the pressure on their private life. They feel they have a right to a private life. The media feels they should be more open about their private life because they're public figures and they're public funded and they want to fight that. They've had enough of it. They're going to court with the papers. That's one element.

The other element is an internal pressure, an internal tension, frankly, with the rest of the family with the palace system, with this lot (ph) behind me. At the end of last year, I was being briefed that the Sussexs really felt that they weren't being supported by the rest of the system and they were undervalued. I think they've just had enough. The tension has become too much. They want their own, new hybrid role and they defined that yesterday with extraordinary effect, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Max, why didn't they, according to reports, alert Buckingham Place and the queen that they were going to do this? Why did they do it via Instagram?

FOSTER: Well, I've got some indications from sources in recent months that there's tension within the family and people within the palace at least aren't happy with the way the Sussexs are running things.

On the Sussex side, they feel that they aren't getting supported by the rest of the system. So there is a tension there. There are tensions in organizations. There are tensions in family organizations in particular.

But I think we all underestimated how major those tensions are. Effectively, what Meghan and Harry did was completely undermine the rest of the family. They said, we don't want this role anymore. We want to cherry pick the bits that we want and we want to basically get rid of the bits that we don't want. We're going to design a website in intricate detail about what our new roles will be and how we will carry things forward.

The problem is, is the family institution, it's called the firm. You need to speak to the boss about those sort of things. She needs to agree to that. And that's a tradition that goes back a thousand years. They decided not to do that, not to speak to Charles or William about it either and just say, right, this is what we're doing.

Can they do it? Well, that's the big question, Alisyn, because how can they have royal roles without the say so from the head of state, the head of the family? It's extraordinary, really.

CAMEROTA: And explain to me the financial underpinning of all of this, because they said in their announcement that they want financial independence. And does that mean that they will no longer be bank rolled by the monarchy?

[06:35:02]

They're truly breaking out on their own? They're going to make their own income?

FOSTER: This is sort of where that initial statement sort of unwinds itself, really, because what they're saying is that they don't want to take public money in the sense of the sovereign grant. That's only 5 percent of the money that they receive. So they're going to give that up. That allows them to have this argument to say we're not the same sort of publically funded figures any more. But it's not a huge amount.

But they do want to keep the 95 percent that they get from Prince Charles. Prince Charles wasn't consulted about this. He hasn't agreed to that yet. That's the point I'm hearing form his side.

Also, they want to keep the cottage. Make that their official residence in Windsor. The queen hasn't agreed to that.

So there's lots of assumptions in what they're putting out there, which the rest of the family are, frankly, upset about and deeply disappointed about. And the statement they put out saying we're in the early stages of this. We -- there's a lot -- it's a complex matter. We're going to look into this. What's basically saying to the couple, you know, hold on, we haven't agreed to this. So let's just see how this goes in terms of negotiations.

But I think, frankly, the couple are negotiating. But they're doing so in public instead of behind palace walls which, of course, is the tradition. But some extraordinary language coming out. Might not sound that extraordinary, but in terms of palace reporting, it really is. CAMEROTA: Oh, I think it sounds extraordinary, even here to our ears.

Max Foster, thank you for your deep reporting and relationships and experience in this subject. Obviously we have many more questions.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Look, I think it's extraordinary. Even critical of my view of the royal family in general.

CAMEROTA: Yes.

BERMAN: But I think this is incredibly intriguing.

CAMEROTA: If you think it's intriguing ---

BERMAN: Yes.

CAMEROTA: It's intriguing.

BERMAN: Also, how do you quit your family? I mean, I want advice on that. I mean, how do you quit your family?

CAMEROTA: That sounded personal somehow.

BERMAN: All right, so what caused a Ukrainian passenger plane to crash in Iran killing 176 people on board? This happened minutes after the Iranians launched missiles -- or hours -- into Iraq. Ukraine now says it is investigating if a missile or a bomb brought it down. That's next.

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[06:40:56]

BERMAN: Breaking news.

So Ukrainian officials just announced that they are investigating multiple possible causes of the plane crash that killed 176 passengers in Tehran, including the possibility of a missile strike. This comes as Iran's aviation authority says the plane was on fire and the crew tried to turn back to the airport before it went down.

CNN's Richard Quest is live for us with the very latest on this.

Obviously investigators asking all kinds of open-ended questions at this point, Richard.

RICHARD QUEST, CNN BUSINESS EDITOR AT LARGE: Yes, because at this stage in an investigation, one would imagine you'd have all the experts together combing over the wreckage by Tehran and coming up with some common agreements. But that's not going to happen here, John, because the U.S., for example, which has Boeing as the state of manufacture and design, has been banned, is not being allowed to participate in the investigation because the main investigator is Iran.

And that also means that the black boxes, which would normally have been read out by the country concerned, or would be sent to another country such as the U.K., France, the United States, well, we don't know what's going to happen to them either.

Iran has the black boxes, but it's doubtful that they have the sophisticated equipment necessary to read them out. So where are they going to send them? Are they going to send them to Russia?

Substantially, John, what people are saying is, you know, now Ukraine is casting doubt on the reason. Now Ukraine is saying, did a missile or something else bring down this plane? The question shifts quite dramatically to whether we can be assured that Iran will do a fair, transparent, and decent job of an investigation.

BERMAN: And why are they asking those questions to Ukrainians? Well, number one, the lack of answers. Number two, because of the reports that the plane was on fire before it hit the ground. Now, that could be for a variety of reasons. But one of them could, in theory, be a missile strike. And the third thing, Richard, and this is unconfirmed, but there are all these Internet reports that they're seeing fragments of what perhaps could be missiles on the ground there.

QUEST: Yes. I mean that's very difficult, as you know, to distinguish, unless you're very experienced. But also, John, the telemetry from the aircraft apparently just stopped. Plane takes off. No sign of distress. All of a sudden apparently all the signals, according to some reports, all the signals from the plane suddenly stop. That would suggest an instantaneous -- a serious, main single event. No mayday from the pilots, just -- and this confusion over whether they did say there were technical difficulties.

Now, why it's all significant, again, pulling this back, is because in any investigation, you would hope that the investigating authorities would be pulling all this together, making statements to the press and public as necessary and required and providing under international treaties the necessary reports. We don't know whether we can have confidence in Iran to do that.

BERMAN: Richard Quest, thank you very much for helping us understand what's going on. Still so many questions there.

Thanks, Richard.

CAMEROTA: OK, Republican Senator Rand Paul says the Trump administration has not presented convincing evidence of an imminent threat from Iran. So we will ask a decorated Green Beret Republican lawmaker if he agrees, next.

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[06:48:46]

BERMAN: The House will vote today on a war powers resolution to limit President Trump's ability to take further military action against Iran. This comes a day after top administration officials briefed lawmakers about the intelligence that led the U.S. to kill Iran's top military general. A briefing that some Republicans, at least two, called inadequate.

Joining me now is Republican Congressman Michael Waltz. He's a member of the House Armed Services Committee, and the first retired Green Beret elected to the House of Representatives.

Congressman, thank you for being with us. Happy New Year.

I'll get to the House vote in just a moment.

REP. MICHAEL WALTZ (R-FL): Yes.

BERMAN: First, just a short time ago, we heard from a senior leader in Iran's Revolutionary Guard who said that Iran will exact harsher revenge than it did yesterday.

What concerns you about the possible harsher revenge from Iran?

WALTZ: Yes, well, I think the strike that we saw a few nights ago was the Iranian -- something the Iranian government felt like it had to do for its own domestic, political concerns and to -- and to send a message to it proxies around the region that it would respond with force. But, frankly, it looks like so far it was a check the block.

That said, Iran, I think, will continue through its proxies, although that ability has now been degraded by taking out the mastermind of them all, Soleimani, to continue as it always has done, to spread its malign influence through terrorism and through its proxies throughout the region.

[06:50:15]

That is in keeping with what it's done historically. And I wouldn't be surprised to see it continue to try to do that.

BERMAN: Which gets to the issue of, what should or can the U.S. do if that does happen? Which gets to the congressional briefings yesterday from the administration.

WALTZ: Yes.

BERMAN: Now, after the Senate was briefed, Senator Mike Lee, Republican of Utah, he wasn't happy at all.

Let's listen briefly to what Senator Lee said.

WALTZ: Sure.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MIKE LEE (R-UT): Probably the worst briefing I've seen, at least on a military issue, in the nine years I've served in the United States Senate.

To come in and tell us that we can't debate and discuss the appropriateness of military intervention against Iran. It's un- American. It's unconstitutional. And it's wrong. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Now, you received the same type of briefing that Senator Lee did. Why do you think he was so upset about it?

WALTZ: Yes, I obviously wasn't there on the Senate side. I can surmise or read the tea leaves. I think what, you know, what may have been said, maybe in artfully, is that the Iranians could, in the intelligence community's assessment, view the highly partisan environment in Washington and view debates to limit the president's ability to respond to increasing Iranian provocations as an opportunity or as something they may take advantage of. But, otherwise, I'm speculating. That certainly wasn't conveyed during our briefing.

BERMAN: You don't think the debate itself is any kind of threat to U.S. security.

WALTZ: No, of course not. No, of course not.

BERMAN: And where are you on the overall discussion here? Because one can support the removal -- the general idea of the removal of General Soleimani and still think that Congress should assert its authority more when it comes to military action.

WALTZ: Yes, that's fine. If we can -- if we can look past the politics for just a moment, which I know is hard in Washington, but look at what's actually occurred, you had Iran, in keeping with what it's historically done, attack shipping, shoot down a drone, attack a refinery on its neighbor with cruise missiles, attack our embassy and kill an American, and time after time the president showed restraint. When he finally did respond, it was killing one known terrorist -- actually two, on foreign soil, plotting and planning to kill additional Americans, a known declared terrorist, not in Tehran but in Baghdad. Iran has responded. At the end of the day, we have one Iranian killed, one American killed. And how did the president respond? With economic sanctions.

So I think to say this is disproportionate is just not looking -- is just ignoring the facts. This seems to me to be pretty restrained and it certainly is not the president warmongering.

BERMAN: Well, one issue that Senator Lee and Senator Paul have, and some Democrats have, is they say they did not see evidence or they were not presented with evidence of a specific imminent threat.

What evidence did you see of a specific, imminent threat from General Soleimani?

WALTZ: Well, at least on the House side, I think to expect the intelligence community to pass out 435 reports is probably unrealistic. They have briefed the Gang of Eight specifically. They are making them available. I can tell you from -- look, from my time on the ground, if you have someone like Soleimani who has a long history of directing attacks, killing Americans, there are many gold star families, many wounded warriors as a result of his actions and he has -- we have indication that he is actively plotting and planning to do it again, in the wake of our embassy being attacked, in the wake of another American being killed, frankly, if I found out from an oversight perspective we had that actionable intelligence and didn't take action, I would be screaming from the rooftops for accountability. Inaction has consequences as well. And from what we were told, that's what the intelligence --

BERMAN: Does it matter to you, though -- does it matter to you, though, whether there was a specific threat? Because the general threat from Soleimani I don't think people are quibbling with.

WALTZ: No, he was specifically -- when we were briefed, he was specifically planning for specific operations. That's why he was in Baghdad. And they were to be conducted within days and weeks, not months. In my mind, that's imminent. In my mind, the president had a responsibility as commander in chief to stop that threat, not wait until there are even more body bags to then respond.

BERMAN: I have to let you go, Congressman, but will you vote yes or no on this war powers resolution?

WALTZ: Well, I haven't -- I haven't seen -- I haven't seen the language. My understanding, it's just a sense of the Congress. It doesn't -- it isn't binding. So, John, I'll look in -- I'll look at it today.

BERMAN: Congressman Waltz, always a pleasure to have you on NEW DAY. Happy New Year again.

WALTZ: All right. Thanks a lot. Happy New Year.

BERMAN: Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: All right, sources tell CNN that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell met with President Trump at the White House yesterday to discuss the upcoming Senate impeachment trial.

[06:55:06]

And there's a new report in "The Washington Post" that McConnell is resisting adding some of the president's most aggressive supporters from the House to the president's defense team.

Joining us now is CNN political analyst Seung Min Kim. She's a White House reporter for "The Washington Post."

Seung Min, great to have you.

Let me just read to you, if I can find it here, what "The Post" says. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his fellow GOP senators have expressed concern to President Trump that a House-led defense could offend moderates, including Senators Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski. McConnell has been advising Trump and his legal team not to think of the trial as a made for TV type house setting.

How's that going over with the president? He generally likes made for TV events.

SEUNG MIN KIM, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, the thing to remember about the dynamics between the Republicans here at play is that President Trump has Republicans like a show. Mitch McConnell, not so much. And right now Mitch McConnell, it -- this trial is in his chamber. He does gets to have a -- have a little bit more discretion into how the trial is run a little bit. And right now he's persuading -- he's trying to persuade the president and the administration that perhaps having kind of the circus-like atmosphere, that perhaps was emblematic of the House, would not be the best way to run a solemn impeachment trial in the Senate. What leadership both -- both Democratic leaders and Republican leaders have been trying to stress is that this is a serious matter, a sober matter and having kind of these very vibrant characters who --

CAMEROTA: Such as?

KIM: Such as, you know, you were talking about the Jim Jordans of the world, and John Ratcliffes, the Mark Meadows, the people who are out there on Fox News defending the president every day who can really -- who can really make that camera -- who can really bring that camera- worthy moment. That kind of tone, that kind of vibe doesn't really set in the Senate chamber. The Senate has this -- kind of this air of decorum that they really treasure. And I think a lot of senators, particularly Republican senators, think that adding kind of those big TV personalities may not be such a good idea in a Senate trial.

BERMAN: So one of the unusual or interesting things that's happened here is this has created some intra-party chafing on both sides of the aisle. That's the Republican-on-Republican warfare. There's some Democrat-on-Democrat tension also there because you're now starting to hear from some Democratic senators who say, it's time for Nancy Pelosi to send over the articles of impeachment.

Listen to Dianne Feinstein, who is Nancy Pelosi's co-Californian on this.

CAMEROTA: Would you like me to act this out?

BERMAN: Oh, is it -- is it -- it's a statement.

CAMEROTA: Yes.

BERMAN: Act it out.

CAMEROTA: OK. The longer it goes on, the less urgent it becomes. So if it's serious and urgent, send them over. If it isn't, don't send it over.

Scene.

KIM: Exactly. And I think that's kind of been the flaw in Pelosi's plan since she announced that she would hold on at least for a period of time these articles of impeachment because the strategy didn't really make any sense. The Democrats had been emphasizing for a while that this was a serious matter. You had to vote to impeach the president very quickly before Christmas. And then you're holding on to prevent the second major phase of the impeachment process from starting. And I think Senate Democrats were getting that idea.

And, you know, we started talking to Democratic senators on Tuesday how they felt about Nancy Pelosi' refusal to transmit these articles. And the reactions that we got were really interesting. It wasn't just maybe the Joe Manchins of the world or the Doug Jones of the world who kind of want to be seen as in the middle and be fair in terms of process, but it also came from the liberal flank too. You know, Chris Murphy, Richard Blumenthal, they all said, look, it's time to get on and get on with the trial. We know the kind of trial that Mitch McConnell is going to produce.

And just logistically, senators like to be able to plan their schedules. They want to know if they have to be here in Washington from Monday through Saturday, like an impeachment trial would mandate. They'd like to know what they're going to be doing on the floor. And I think we know, sense -- since we broadly know the kind of trail that Mitch McConnell is planning on running and he has the votes to do it without any support from Democrats, Senate Democrats are saying, the writing's on the wall, let's get this going.

CAMEROTA: Very interesting developments.

Seung Min Kim, thank you very much.

BERMAN: So how close did the United States and Iran come to the brink of war? We have some new reporting on this.

NEW DAY continues right now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president announcing a de-escalation in the crisis with Iran.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We must all work together toward making a deal with Iran that makes the world a safer and more peaceful place.

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I believe we are safer today than before President Trump ordered our military to take out Qasem Soleimani.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle slammed a briefing on the White House decision to take out Iran's top military commander.

[07:00:00]

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They gave us the most general conclusions about threats to the United States. But when it came to any specificity, it just wasn't there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Constitution said the power to declare war.

END