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Vice President Mike Pence Claims Intelligence Shows Iran Meant to Kill Americans with Recent Missile Attack; House to Vote on Limiting President Trump's Military Powers; Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA) States Nancy Pelosi Should Release Articles of Impeachment to Senate; Senators Criticizes Trump Administration Briefing on Need to Kill Iranian General Soleimani; Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) is Interviewed About the Iran Briefing, the War Powers Resolution to Limit Trump, and Pelosi's Refusal to Turn Over Impeachment Articles; Ukraine Investigating If Missile Bomb Brought Down Plane; FBI, Homeland Security Warns of Iran Terror & Cyber Threat. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired January 9, 2020 - 08:00   ET



ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: 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. And just moments ago, Vice President Mike Pence dismissed the idea that Iran fired its missiles just to send a message. Listen to this.


MIKE PENCE, U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: The ballistic missiles fired at American bases al Asad and Erbil, we believe were intended to kill Americans. We have intelligence to support that was the intention of the Iranians.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: In a matter of hours, House Democrats will vote on a resolution to limit President Trump's military powers against Iran. At least two Republican senators say they will support this. Those Republican senators, Mike Lee and Rand Paul, they're furious about the way the Trump administration officials briefed them yesterday, the lack of evidence produced about the intelligence that led to the killing of Iran's top general.

And all this comes as pressure builds among Senate Democrats on a different subject, for Nancy Pelosi to hand over the articles of impeachment to the Senate.

We're going to begin on the ground with CNN's Clarissa Ward, our chief international correspondent. She's at the site where one of the Iranian missiles hit in northern Iraq. Clarissa?

CLARISSA WARD, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, John. So as you can see, this is a very rural area. We have been talking to local security officials who tell us there's no real American presence here. There's no military base here. We've spoken to a shepherd who lives about 100 yards away who says that his house literally rocked from the force of the boom, that there were flames. His children were crying. But other than that house and a refugee camp less than a mile away, there really is nothing here that could make a target, if you like, for the Iranians.

This is the kind of remnants of the impact. You can see here we've got quite a bit of shrapnel around on the ground. A few craters here. I should say it's been raining a lot. The ground is very soft, so it's difficult to get a sense of the actual impact. But it would appear that this is less about showing precision and power for the Iranians than potentially about showing reach. This is one of the furthest spots that one of those missiles actually hit. So it could be a reminder to U.S. forces on the ground across Iraq that they can reach all different areas of Iraq.

It is important to remind our viewers that even though this missile clearly did not hit its intended target, and, frankly, it's not clear what the intended target was, more broadly speaking, northern Iraq, Erbil, these Kurdish areas have been a very important strategic hub for special forces operations. This has been basically where the war and the fight against ISIS has been headquartered out of. And that fight now, of course, has been placed on hold indefinitely as people wait to see what, if any, will be the continued fallout from heightened escalation between the U.S. and Iran. John, Alisyn?

CAMEROTA: Clarissa, really important and interesting to have you there for us right at the sand.

Joining us now, we have CNN chief political correspondent Dana Bash and CNN senior political commentator David Axelrod, host of "The Axe Files." Great to have both of you. I just want to talk about for one second what Vice President Mike Pence just said, Dana. He just said on a different morning show that they have the intelligence to support that Iran fired those missiles intending to kill Americans. How can we trust that what he is saying there, since they have presented none of the intelligence to the American public, and many of the lawmakers who have seen it dismiss the intelligence as being woefully scant?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Not just that, I've seen reporting, including especially at CNN, that says the opposite, that what Iran was doing was, and you heard Clarissa talk about it. She's there. She's on the ground. And you see how it's kind of a wasteland where they are and where the missiles hit. That they intended to send a message and not to kill anybody, to de-escalate. So if they are saying that, that will be important to back up, but it's curious that he would say that because it's the opposite of the message that the president and everybody else from the administration were trying to send yesterday, which is reel it back. Reel it back.

BERMAN: Axe, if I can go to you, from a 30,000-foot political perspective, I'm curious where you think things stand this morning. The house will vote later today on this war powers resolution. Democrats probably have the votes to get it through at least the house. Unclear in the Senate. But where does this go?

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It's a really good question. My feeling was, as of yesterday morning, that there probably was a great deal of relief that this hadn't escalated and that we weren't involved in a war.


This would be very perilous for the president if it resulted in a war or in more combat. The fact alone that he had to send 3,500 troops back to a region that he said he wanted to get out of is problematic. But on the other hand, I think that all these arguments, critical arguments about process and about briefing and about the pretext for the hit and so on, I don't know how much that means to particularly the president's base. The argument that they got a bad guy who killed a lot of Americans, maimed a lot of American soldiers, probably resonates with them.

If this thing escalates further, then I think it becomes a problem, which may be why the president is so -- tried in his remarks yesterday to declare de-escalation and get out of this particular episode.

BASH: I agree with you, David, on the fact that the American people likely don't care so much about the process, and even though constitutionally it matters a lot for Congress to be notified and involved, maybe it doesn't matter out there in the real world.

However, what I think is going to be fascinating starting today is a real debate, first in the House, and then in the Senate, on the war powers and the question of the war powers. We haven't seen that in years and years and years. And the reason it is interesting is it is not just the Democratic-led house that will vote on it. It's the Republican-led Senate that because of the rules will be forced to take this up because of its resolution. The War Powers Resolution is not just authorization of force. So you're going to see a debate that we haven't seen in so long about these very important questions of sending troops anywhere, but particularly the region.

And as you well know because you remember from the Obama White House, there's a reason these debates don't happen very much. It's because most members of Congress don't have the political stomach to have them, because then they own the issue.

CAMEROTA: What about that, David? Does it mean that Congress is tired of shirking their responsibility or ceding their authority to the president?

AXELROD: Well, look, I think the two Republicans who spoke out yesterday were the ones you would expect to speak out on this. They're libertarians, they're anti-interventionists. But clearly the way the administration handled the briefing of the Congress was irritating, not just to Democratic members but to Republican members. And I do think this is an historically important event, and it may reflect some nervousness about the incoherence of the administration's policy and the possibility of blundering into a war on the basis of incomplete intelligence or on the whim of a president. So this is going to be very, very important.

This war power -- Dana is quite right. This debate has been going on since 2002 when the resolution was passed. Succeeding administrations have been using this war powers resolution to justify actions in the Middle East. And increasingly, there is uneasiness among members of Congress as these wars wear on about their lack of input and about the lack of finality. So this is going to be an important discussion.

BERMAN: I want to ask you another question about Congress and about what Congress will do. There was some news made about nine minutes ago, right here on NEW DAY. We had House Armed Services Chair Adam Smith, Democrat, say that he thinks it is time for Nancy Pelosi to send the articles of impeachment to the Senate. Listen to what Chairman Smith just said.


REP. ADAM SMITH, (D-WA) CHAIRMAN ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: But at the end of the day, just like we control it in the House, Mitch McConnell controls it in the Senate. I think it was perfectly advisable for the speaker to try to leverage that to 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.


BERMAN: We heard from Democratic senators suggesting the same thing. But I thought it was interesting to hear it from a Democratic House chair.

BASH: Can I tell you that it's not just interesting, it's a little bit perilous for him to be saying that politically, internally. And the reason I say that is Phil Mattingly has some great reporting which I have heard similar to this morning and yesterday, which is that this is -- he's not a lone voice on this. There's a growing frustration inside, not just the Senate Democratic caucus, but the House Democratic caucus, Pelosi's caucus, to say, get on with it. We're done with this impeachment thing. Send it over. Let's move on, let's talk about something else.


And the fact that Adam Smith said that publicly is noteworthy because I got a text from a House Democrat who explained why they're not saying it publicly, and the reason is people are being careful about being public because she, Nancy Pelosi, never forgets.

CAMEROTA: Really interesting. Thank you very much for that reporting. Dana and David, great to see you.

So Republican Senator Mike Lee ripped the Trump administration's Iran briefing as, quote, the worst. We'll talk to another senator who was at that briefing and get her impressions.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) CAMEROTA: Two Republican senators, Mike Lee and Rand Paul, say they will support the Democrats' resolution to limit President Trump's military power against Iran. Both senators ripped the Trump administration's briefing on Iran. Senator lee calling it the worst military briefing he's had.


SEN. MIKE LEE, (R-UT): 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.

SEN. RAND PAUL, (R-KY): I didn't learn anything in the hearing that I hadn't seen in a newspaper already, and none of it was overwhelming that x was going to happen.


CAMEROTA: Joining us now is Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. She serves on the Armed Services Committee and was at that briefing yesterday. Good morning, senator.


CAMEROTA: Were you satisfied with the intelligence presented to you yesterday?

GILLIBRAND: I was not satisfied. I believe the briefing was inadequate, and I actually don't believe they met the legal definition of an imminent threat.


I left the briefing feeling deeply concerned that the White House again acted rationally. He should have consulted with Congress, and I'm very concerned that this president continues to govern by chaos.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: If there was no imminent threat from Soleimani, but there was an existential threat from him, since we know he does have blood on his hands of at least hundreds of Americans, should President Trump not have killed him?

GILLIBRAND: We know that Soleimani has been a threat to America and Americans and our allies for a very long time. He has blood on his hands. He is not a good actor under any definition, and he controls the Quds Force, which is a terrorist organization.

So we know that he was not someone that should be praised or protected. However, when you take out the number two of another country, the most significant military leader, that country could easily take that military action as a declaration of war. And it is Congress' responsibility to declare war.

President Trump should not have taken that action without consulting with Congress first, and that's why we are having a debate right now about a War Powers Resolution. It's why I've authored a reform measure to change how we deal with War Powers in the future, not just with this Iranian example.

But President Trump continues to show us that he governs by chaos, and the only people that are benefiting from this is ISIS.

CAMEROTA: One more thing before we get to that War Powers Resolution. Vice President Pence was just on the "Today" show and he said that they have intelligence to support the idea that Iran fired those ballistic missiles intending to kill Americans.

Should we believe that?

GILLIBRAND: Again -- well, they certainly didn't explain why they believe that in the briefing. They did not give us the details that we would expect to explain to us why they believe that to be the case.

However, I'm more concerned with the lack of detail on the specific reasons behind taking out Soleimani when they did.

CAMEROTA: OK, now to the War Powers Act. As you said, back in November, you introduced a War Powers reform resolution, but today you, I believe, will vote for Tim Kaine, Senator Tim Kaine's version of the War Powers Resolution.

Are you surprised that Senators Mike Lee and Rand Paul are going to, it sounds like, go along?

GILLIBRAND: I'm not surprised at all. I spoke with Mike Lee after the briefing, and I talked to him about what our views were of that briefing. And both of us were deeply dissatisfied by the lack of information, the lack of respect for co-equal branch of government. And he's going to look at my broader War Powers Resolution.

The one we're going to vote on right now is specific to Iran. It gives us authority to demand redeployment of troops out of Iran, out of any kinetic action, out of any military action within 30 days. And so that, I think, is an important reassertion of our war powers authority with regard to Iran specifically.

My reform is much broader and forward looking. It requires future presidents and this president to name their enemy, the country they are going to oppose, the strategy and has to come back to Congress every two years to get continued authorization to continue that engagement.

We have forever wars now. We have been in 20 countries under the AUMFs passed in 2001 and 2002. Those military actions have metastasized against various terrorist groups that didn't even exist when the resolutions were passed in 2001 and 2002.

So we need to reclaim our authority under the Constitution to decide when we go to war and against whom.

CAMEROTA: Yes. About the Senate impeachment trial, do you think that it is time for Speaker Pelosi to send over those articles of impeachment? GILLIBRAND: I think Speaker Pelosi has given this very thoughtful

consideration. I appreciate the fact that she has tried to push Leader McConnell into an appropriate proceeding where we can call witnesses. I think she's elevated the debate over the last couple of weeks to discuss what a fair impeachment trial would look like. Why witnesses should be called and what the purpose of the trial in the Senate actually is.

And so, I'm grateful that she's taken the time that she has and when she sees fit she'll send them over and we will begin our proceedings.


CAMEROTA: What Senator Dianne Feinstein says about this is the longer it goes on, the less urgent it becomes. So if it's serious and urgent, send them over, meaning the articles. If it isn't, don't send it over.

Do you agree with her?

GILLIBRAND: I believe that it is serious and urgent, and I also believe that Speaker Pelosi will be sending them over shortly.


GILLIBRAND: Shortly. Within days, I would suspect, but we'll see.

CAMEROTA: So within days. So, basically, your feeling is that it -- whatever the ploy was, she's made her point, and that's it. I mean, basically, Mitch McConnell has sort of won this one. He's the one who controls it.

GILLIBRAND: Oh, I wouldn't -- I wouldn't say that.

The American people's attention has been drawn to the fact that Senator McConnell isn't playing fair, that he is hiding testimony and afraid to call witnesses. Many of my colleagues have used the word cover-up. That's not something that is appropriate when we are dealing with something so urgent and something so serious.

I think Senator McConnell's on notice that witnesses are willing to testify such as John Bolton and that his testimony should be allowed and American people deserve the facts.

CAMEROTA: Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, great to talk to you. Thanks so much for being on NEW DAY.

GILLIBRAND: Thank you.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: The FBI and homeland security officials are warning about the threat of Iranian cyberattacks and the potential for an attack here in the United States. The FBI's former deputy director joins us next.


CAMEROTA: Breaking overnight, officials are investigating multiple potential causes of the crash of that passenger plane that killed all 176 people in Tehran, including whether a missile or a bomb could have brought it down.

CNN's Fred Pleitgen is live in Tehran. He's been covering this for us.

Fred, what have you learned?


Yes, we're getting a lot of new information this morning. First of all, we know that U.S. intelligence is apparently also looking at what the possible cause of that crash could be.

But on the firsthand, it's Ukrainians who are now getting more involved as well. A team of Ukrainian investigators landed here in Iran overnight. They've already had their first meet with the Iranians.

And the head of the Ukrainian Security Council, keep in mind, it was a Ukrainian airliner that crashed, has indeed said that multiple causes of this -- or potential causes of this crash are being investigated, including a possible missile strike to the aircraft.

The national security adviser in -- of Ukraine was saying, was referencing a tore missile. That's something the U.S. called the SA- 15. That's a short-range low altitude missile that's used for low- flying aircraft. That's one of the theories out there, but not necessarily the only one.

The Ukrainians also investigating whether some sort of foreign object might have struck the plane, something like a bird strike. Whether there might have been a catastrophic engine failure or whether or not, as you said, a bomb may have been placed on board that aircraft. Of course, the investigators right now still very much at the beginning of their work.

Meanwhile, these Iranians have released their initial report on all of this, and they say that the plane was on fire before it crashed and tried to make its way back to the airport.

Now, of course, Alisyn, we've seen that video of that night imagery (ph), seeming to show a fireball in the sky. Eyewitnesses said that that appeared to be the plane as it was struggling to stay in the air and then obviously ultimately failed to stay in the air.

The Iranians have also now categorically said they're not going to allow Boeing to have the black boxes of that crashed airplane. They say they found the black boxes. They say at least one of them has some damage. Some of the data may have been lost.

They don't want to hand that over to Boeing or the United States. They say the Iranians are saying that it is the country where the crash happened that has the authority to investigate it, John.

BERMAN: All right. Frederik Pleitgen for us in Tehran, Fred, thanks so much for being on this for us. Keep us posted.

In the meantime, as tensions between the United States and Iran appear to be de-escalating, some, the FBI and Department of Homeland Security, are warning law enforcement of the threat Iran poses here in the United States, cyberattacks or even proxies trying to assassinate American officials.

Joining me now is CNN contributor Andrew McCabe. He's the former deputy director of the FBI.

And, Andy, let me read you this bulletin that went out. It says, in the event Iran were determined to conduct a homeland attack, potential targets and methods of attack in the homeland could range from cyber operations to targeted assassinations of individuals deemed threats to the Iranian regime, the sabotage of public or private infrastructure, including U.S. military bases, oil and gas facilities and public landmarks.

Can you put on your security decoder ring here, and tell us exactly what that means and the significance it was released at all?


So, the first three examples they list in that sentence you just read have already happened in the United States. In 2011, the Iranians tried to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States by instructing a proxy to blow up a restaurant in northern Virginia.

The Iranians target us in the cyber realm every single day. They're not quite as effective as the Russians or Chinese in that targeting but they are persistent and they are getting better every day.

And they've also had folks working on their behalf or for their terrorist proxy Hezbollah working here in the United States, producing targeting packages on military and law enforcement installations. We know that from two individuals who were arrested for doing exactly that just last year.

BERMAN: What are their capabilities in terms of cyber warfare?

MCCABE: Their capabilities are constant. They are persistently hitting our private sector entities with things like denial of service attacks in which they bombard a bank or financial institution's website with so many requests that it essentially takes the institution offline for some period of time.

They have also infiltrated public -- public infrastructure.