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Rep. Adam Smith (D-WASHINGTON) On Iran Briefing And Articles Of Impeachment; Harry And Meghan To Step Back As Senior Royals; Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) Discusses Today's House Vote On War Powers Resolution. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired January 9, 2020 - 07:30   ET

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


[07:30:00]

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Support the claim that the Iranians did or did not intend to kill Americans in this strike.

REP. ADAM SMITH (D-WASHINGTON): We have not seen any evidence about it. I have heard other administration officials assert what the vice president just said, but I can't believe that it's true. These missiles are very precise.

When Iran did the attack on the Aramco facility, one of the things that people noticed was they hit exactly what they wanted to hit -- in some cases, within mere feet of what they were trying to hit, taking out certain aspects of the oil-producing mechanisms there. So I can't believe that if Iran wanted to kill Americans they would have.

This strike looks like an empty show of force and it is very curious why Iran has reacted the way they have to this killing, but I'd be interested to see the evidence. But I can't believe that if Iran wanted to kill Americans in that part of the world that they couldn't have done it with the ballistic missiles that they launched. It just doesn't --

BERMAN: You say --

SMITH: -- add up.

BERMAN: You say it's very curious.

SMITH: Yes.

BERMAN: Why do you think Iran might have acted the way they did?

SMITH: Well, you know, I'm trying to figure out exactly what their reaction is. To a certain extent, the killing of Soleimani doesn't really undermine Iranian interests. Their primary interest is to get us out of the Middle East and to also get the sanctions lifted, and to get the pressure off of their regime.

Remember, there have been protests throughout Iraq, throughout Iran, focused on the Iranian regime and they have been under a lot of pressure. Well, after the killing of Soleimani, the people are now united in their hatred of the U.S. for doing this strike.

So it's going to be really interesting to see how this plays out going forward. I'm happy right now that both sides seem to have eased tensions and war seems less likely. But it's going to be really interesting to see what Iran does over the course of the next several months and what we do, quite frankly.

BERMAN: In terms of setting Iran back, supporters of the president, including Congressman Michael Waltz who sits on your committee -- a Republican --

SMITH: Yes.

BERMAN: -- who was with us moments ago -- he says that he believes killing Soleimani limits the ability of the Iranians to attack U.S. interests overseas.

And this gets to the whole briefing that you received and that every member of Congress received yesterday --

SMITH: Right.

BERMAN: -- and you've heard more than is just in the briefing -- about the justifications for this attack.

What did you hear? What answers did you get about just how imminent or specific Soleimani's threats to the United States were?

SMITH: So there's two big questions here.

The first one, before you got to the second one, was limiting the ability of Iranians to attack U.S. persons abroad. Iranians weren't really doing that even before this. They were attacking Saudi Arabia and they've certainly been active in Yemen and Lebanon and elsewhere, but this doesn't really change that equation.

Iran, now, with our pullout in Syria, has Syria as a safe place to be. They're going through there into Lebanon and wants -- you know, continuing to support Hezbollah, threatening Israel, active in Yemen. So I don't know that killing Soleimani changed any of that. Iran was always sort of calculating when to hit U.S. people and when not to, so I don't know that that's changed.

And as far as the imminence is concerned, other than the rather strong assertion of the Pentagon that it was an imminent threat, they have not specifically told us what did you hear that made you think it was imminent. In fact, when pressed, they said they did not have specific targets. They didn't know what specifically the Iranians were targeting nor did they have a precise timeline. They said days, maybe weeks.

And also, critically, there was never any evidence that anyone in Iran leadership had said go -- do the attack. They said that order had not yet been given when this killing was done. So there's still considerable doubt about just how imminent this was.

BERMAN: Will you support the war powers measure that will be brought to the floor today?

SMITH: Absolutely. That's the other big issue here.

Congress has, for years -- not just with this president but for many presidents going back a long time -- been effectively sidelined from the debate of when to commit U.S. military forces to military action. That needs to change.

Congress is the voice of the people and we need to have a say when we do something this dramatic and this impactful to U.S. security. So I think it's crucial that we reassert that authority and tell not just this president but all presidents if you're going to commit military action you need to obey the Constitution, obey the war powers resolution, and come to the United States Congress for approval.

BERMAN: Have you seen the language of exactly what this measure will say? What will it require the president to do?

SMITH: I've seen a lot of language. I don't know specifically what ultimately was introduced. The bottom line is it basically says no funds will be made available for any military action against Iran without congressional approval. It does always have an exception for self-defense --

BERMAN: I do --

SMITH: -- if there is, in fact, an imminent attack -- something coming they need to protect us from. This would not restrict the president's ability to do that.

BERMAN: I do want to ask you one question about impeachment, having to do with the articles of impeachment that have yet to be delivered to the Senate.

[07:35:01]

There are now some Democratic senators who are suggesting it's time. I want you to listen to Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin and Independent, Angus King.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): I think it's time to turn the articles over and let's see where the Senate can take it.

SEN. ANGUS KING (I-ME): I think it is time for the speaker to send the articles over.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Is it time, chairman?

SMITH: I think it is. I mean, I understand what the speaker was trying to do -- basically, trying to use the leverage of that to work with Democratic and Republican senators to try to get a reasonable trial -- a trial that would actually show evidence and bring out witnesses.

But at the end of the day, just like we control it in the House, Mitch McConnell controls it in the Senate. I don't -- I think it was perfectly advisable for the speaker to try to leverage that and get a better deal. At this point, it doesn't look like that's going to happen.

And, yes, I think it is time to send the impeachment to the Senate and let Mitch McConnell be responsible for the fairness of the trial. He, ultimately, is.

BERMAN: Mr. Chairman, great to have you on the show this morning. Thanks so much for joining us.

SMITH: Thanks for the chance.

BERMAN: Alisyn.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: OK, John, royal bombshell. Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are making a big move that caught even the queen off guard. What is it, what does it mean, why now, whose idea was this? We have a lot of questions, next.

BERMAN: More than mine (ph).

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:40:35]

BERMAN: Huge royal drama in the United Kingdom.

CAMEROTA: I don't think that's fair.

BERMAN: Genuine bombshell. Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, as they are called --

CAMEROTA: I know them -- oh, yes.

BERMAN: -- announced on Instagram their plan to step back as senior members of the royal family and work to become financially independent while continuing to fully support Her Majesty, the Queen.

They go on to write, "We now plan to balance our time between the United Kingdom and North America, continuing to honor our duty to the queen, the commonwealth, and our patronages."

CNN has learned they did not consult other royals before making this announcement. They didn't even tell the queen.

Joining us now is CNN royal commentator Kate Williams. Kate, thanks so much for being with us. First big global question, what's going on here?

KATE WILLIAMS, CNN ROYAL COMMENTATOR AND HISTORIAN, LECTURER, UNIVERSITY OF LONDON: This is a huge move. I mean, it's absolutely taken Britain by surprise. It's a bombshell here. Every newspaper is covering it, even the ones that don't normally cover royal matters. Twitter, social media -- it's gone wild.

This has taken everyone by surprise -- the palace, the public -- and I really think although it's a big surprise, Harry and Meghan have been thinking about this for a long time and clearly, during the six-week Christmas sabbatical they took in Canada.

They've been trying to work out a new way. The old way wasn't suiting them. They were struggling with the level of press intrusion.

Some of the coverage of Meghan has been very unfair. There's been -- you know, it has to be said, racist coverage and a lot of cruel coverage. And also, Harry's always felt constrained by being a member of the royal family -- what you can and cannot say. He's always wanted a bigger and more global role.

So I think for them, this is two in one. They get their freedom and they get this bigger global role, and they really get to be outside the royal goldfish bowl. But it's certainly shocked a lot of people and really has made a -- really put the cat among the pigeons.

CAMEROTA: Cat among the pigeons.

Kate, I remember when I came over to cover their wedding when you and I hung out at that --

WILLIAMS: Great assignment days.

CAMEROTA: I remember that some locals that would -- that would approach us at -- in, say, the airport or stores, were quite suspicious of Meghan and they felt --

WILLIAMS: I think --

CAMEROTA: -- that she was basically going to steal Harry. And that she was going to move -- she had this grand scheme, they felt, and that she was going to steal Harry back and they were going to move back to the United States. And I, at that time, chalked it up to this old sexist saw that they were relying on.

But now that some of this is playing out, is there a feeling in Britain that this is actually Harry's idea or that Meghan has done something?

WILLIAMS: You're so right, Alisyn. There was a lot of suspicion about Meghan -- people saying this kind of thing.

And there is -- almost immediately, the news broke, people were saying oh, it's Meghan's fault. She's separating Harry from her family -- from his family. What is she doing? It's really a bit like this is Yoko Ono dialogue about the Beatles and John Lennon.

But it has to be said that anyone who even knows Harry a tiny bit, he does exactly what he wants. He does what he wants, he says what he wants. This is all driven by him.

And I think that one of the reasons why he chose Meghan -- he adores her, he's passionately in love with her -- was that she has got this global status -- this global engagement because that's what he's always wanted.

And I think their idea about -- what we'll see them doing -- they said they're going to earn their own living. We're not going to see Meghan going back to acting. They're not going to sit at a restaurant.

What they're going to do, I think, is set up a big global foundation in the way that we've seen ex-presidents or the Bill Gates Foundation, and be a big charitable endeavor for good, and that's what Harry's always wanted.

BERMAN: I have to say, that sentiment that you heard, which I've heard as well, I find repugnant. And you've heard it today. One of the things you've heard today is that Meghan Markle's the second American divorcee to cause issues within the royal family after Wallace Simpson. And again, I find that strain to be something that's distasteful.

Let me read you Buckingham Palace's statement because this is interesting, too. "Discussions with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex are at an early stage. We understand their desire to take a different approach, but these are complicated issues that will take time to work through."

Kate, financially speaking, how do the Duke and Duchess extricate themselves from the royal family?

WILLIAMS: It's a big job.

And you're right, John. I agree with you talking about -- I mean, why are they saying that Meghan's divorced when actually, our future king is a divorcee and many people in the royal family are divorced?

[07:45:06]

Simply, I think that there will be complicated financial questions but they already have -- they've been made clear are quite financially independent. Meghan has money, Harry has money from Diana. They take 95 percent of their money from Prince Charles. I believe if they set up this global foundation that this will cover their expenses.

So there are complicated questions but it's not impossible. And I have to say I was surprised by that statement from the palace because it makes it very clear there's a difference of opinion and if they hadn't put it out we wouldn't know.

So big changes afoot for the royals and certainly, it's a huge story here in Britain. I don't think it has any chance of going away.

CAMEROTA: No, and it is still developing.

Kate Williams, thank you very much --

WILLIAMS: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: -- for all of your expertise on this.

All right, it's time for "CNN Business Now." Markets are rallying and oil is settling after tensions between the U.S. and Iran to be deescalating.

So, chief business correspondent Christine Romans joins us now with more. What do we know?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT, ANCHOR, "EARLY START": We got through that unscathed. I mean, the feeling here is that the overt military conflict is over. Oil prices fell after it became clear the president found an off-ramp to the Iran crisis, at least for now.

There's also a feeling, you guys, that the U.S. is not quite as tied to Middle East oil -- Middle East tension as, say, a generation ago.

President Trump said this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: America has achieved energy independence. We are now the number-one producer of oil and natural gas anywhere in the world. We are independent and we do not need Middle East oil.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Now, the president is overstating America's energy independence, of course. It's not that simple.

Yes, the U.S. is the world's leading oil producer. That's why recent supply disruptions haven't had a more dramatic impact on oil prices. But the U.S. is still dependent on the Middle East, particularly Saudi Arabia.

Oil is a globally traded commodity. That means a disruption -- a supply disruption somewhere like in the Strait of Hormuz, that could cause a response everywhere.

The U.S. refinery system, by the way, was built decades ago. It runs most efficiently with heavy oil. The boom in U.S. production has been shale oil, a light crude, right?

The U.S. imports that heavy oil from overseas, including the Middle East, to process in its heavy oil refineries. Now, the largest refinery in the U.S. -- Port Arthur, Texas -- it's owned by Saudi Arabia.

Now, the president can claim the U.S. is independent of the Middle East but the fact is Iran is still a significant new factor in the election-year economy.

Meantime, progress in the U.S.-China trade war to tell you about. China's commerce ministry confirming the vice premier Liu He will lead a delegation to the U.S. next week. They're going to sign that phase one trade deal. And last week, you guys, the president said he will travel to Beijing at a later day for talks on phase two -- John.

BERMAN: All right, very interesting, Romans. Thank you very much.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

BERMAN: So in the midst of this standoff with Iran, we have heard reports of dozens of Iranian-American citizens detained at the border. We'll speak with one member of Congress who has been fighting to get answers from the Trump administration, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:52:15]

BERMAN: In just hours, House Democrats will vote on a war powers resolution to limit President Trump's military actions going forward against Iran. This comes a day after top administration officials briefed Congress, which sparked some bipartisan criticism. Members on both sides of the aisle not particularly happy with that briefing.

Joining me is Democratic Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal. She is a member of the Judiciary Committee. Congresswoman, thank you very much for being with us.

What did you hear in that briefing to help explain or justify the attack that killed Gen. Soleimani? Any evidence of a specific imminent threat?

REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D-WA): Unfortunately, John, we really didn't get much new information at all. We heard that there was an imminent threat but we kept asking what is the raw intelligence. Let us see the raw intelligence.

We have had too many instances in the past, going back to the Iraq War in 2002, where there was statements made that there were weapons of mass destruction. And guess what, there no weapons of mass destruction and this long after that we are still in a war in that region.

And so we kept asking what is the raw evidence. There wasn't any given to us. There was no evidence given to us of an imminent threat that justified this level of action from the president.

BERMAN: So after you made a statement much like this following the briefing, you were severely criticized by Congressman John Rutherford of Florida. I want to read you what he wrote on Twitter.

He says, "I was in the same briefing as you, Rep. Jayapal, and this is absolutely false. You and your squad of Ayatollah sympathizers are spreading propaganda that divides our nation and strengthens our enemies."

How would you respond to Congressman Rutherford?

JAYAPAL: Well, I would just -- I would just say, first of all, John F. Kennedy said civility is never a sign of weakness. And I would say, by the way, that neither is striving for peace and diplomacy. I'm disappointed that John Rutherford used those words.

But let's just talk about what we are talking about here. Bipartisan groups of people said those briefings were completely unsatisfactory.

And, in fact, Mike Lee and Rand Paul used lots of words that were much worse than anything I said about the briefings. They said they were insane, they said they were completely unsatisfactory. They said that they were insulted by the briefings.

Because look, let's -- this is about sending U.S. troops into war. This is about destabilizing diplomacy that has been in the works for many decades now. And it doesn't start with the killing of Soleimani.

We are in the position that we are in because Donald Trump, after five years of successfully being in the Iran deal and seeing some improvements -- getting our inspectors into Iran to make sure that they did not have nuclear capacity.

[07:55:07]

All of a sudden, now, Donald Trump pulls us out -- when he gets into office he pulls us out of the JCPOA. He engages us in something that he calls a maximum pressure strategy, which clearly has not worked.

And then, all of a sudden, an impeached president on the eve of a trial for his removal in the Senate, decides he's going to go to war and use a justification that is the 2002 authorization for use of military force. Let's be clear about that 2002 authorization, John. It was around Saddam Hussein --

BERMAN: I understand, I understand.

JAYAPAL: -- and now it is against Iran just because the general happened to be in Iraq.

BERMAN: And I do understand you will support that war powers resolution.

JAYAPAL: I will.

BERMAN: Just one more question on this general subject. Aside from the nuclear agreement -- the JCPOA -- how would you have contained Gen. Soleimani and his maligned activities in the region? How will you contain or propose containing Iran's maligned activities going forward?

JAYAPAL: Well, I think the important thing is -- and we heard this actually in the briefing, but we've heard it publicly -- Gen. Soleimani has been engaging in these kinds of activities for a very long time and we know that. This was not -- this -- you know, we are not protesting because we like Gen. Soleimani. He was a bad guy.

But the question is if you take him out, do you actually make things better or do you make them worse? And what is the risk to American lives and what is the risk to diplomacy? So I would continue diplomatic channels. I would have stayed in the JCPOA. I would have used all of our diplomatic channels, both backchannels and direct channels.

At this point, we have no direct channels with Iran. My understanding is if they want to talk to us they go through two other countries.

BERMAN: Yes, we go through the Swiss.

JAYAPAL: That is absurd.

And so, we have done this all wrong. It goes back to 2002, frankly, with the Iraq War. But even in this situation, we were making progress with the JCPOA and now we're not.

BERMAN: I want to ask you something that is of specific local interest to you and this has to do with Americans -- Iranian-Americans who were detained, they say, for several hours while coming back into the United States on the Washington State-Canada border.

You've asked a lot of questions about what went on there. What answers have you received from the administration to date?

JAYAPAL: Well, what's really important is that last night we got notice from the Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Division Department at the Department of Homeland Security that they would investigate this, essentially, detaining of anywhere from 60 to 200 Iranian- Americans who were coming across the Washington-Canada border at the Blaine port of entry. We found out about it sometime on -- late Saturday night.

These were American citizens and permanent resident holders. Some of them had gone through expedited screening -- prescreening to get a NEXUS card and all of a sudden they were pulled aside simply, it appears, because of their heritage. We think there was some sort of a directive either from the Blaine port of entry director or from the CBP director, but it was absolutely outrageous.

Iranian-Americans are terrified and I say to them that finally, with the investigation, they can go -- and we have a Web site up on our Twitter account -- and file a formal complaint so that the CRCL division can actually look into this and get us the answers that we want.

BERMAN: Let us know what you hear.

Let me just read the non-specific statement we -- that we got from CBP overnight. "CBP officers facilitate lawful trade and travel and process more than one million travelers a day at U.S. ports of entry. Our officers are trained to enforce U.S. laws uniformly and fairly and do not discriminate based on religion, race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation."

That said, you've noted there is an investigation. Please let us know what you hear.

JAYAPAL: I will.

BERMAN: Congressman Jayapal, thanks for being with us this morning. Happy New Year.

JAYAPAL: Thanks, John. Happy New Year to you, too.

BERMAN: And thank you to our international viewers for watching. For you, "CNN NEWSROOM" is next.

For our U.S. viewers, a live report where one of the ballistic missiles actually hit inside Iraq. NEW DAY continues now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: On the cusp of war with Iran, President Trump stepped back.

TRUMP: Iran appears to be standing down, which is a good thing for all parties concerned.

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

SEN. MIKE LEE (R-UT): Probably the worst briefing I've seen, at least on a military issue.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was extraordinary to hear the administration tell Congress that we can't debate war and peace.

SEN. RAND PAUL (R-KY): They have justified the killing of an Iranian general as being something that Congress gave them permission to do in 2002. That is absurd, that's an insult.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

CAMEROTA: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to your NEW DAY. It is Thursday, January ninth, 8:00 now in the east.

The U.S. and Iran stepping back from the brink of war but the risk is not over. While you were sleeping, a commander with Iran's Revolutionary Guard warned of quote "harsher revenge" against the United States.

END