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Iran Terror and Cyber Threat; History of Iran and U.S. Tensions; Ginsburg on Health and Supreme Court; Prince Harry and Meghan Markle Step Back. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired January 9, 2020 - 08:30   ET



ANDREW MCCABE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Essentially takes the institution offline for some period of time. They have also infiltrated public -- public infrastructure. So there's the somewhat infamous case of the damn in Rye Brook, New York, which -- whose internal control mechanism was infiltrated by Iranian cyber actors. And then, of course, in their most significant attack, they attacked Saudi Aramco with a malicious malware that essentially rendered useless as many as 40,000 computers within the company. So they are -- they are broad-based and a persistent threat.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: You talked about the threat or the attempt on a Saudi official here in the United States. What do you think the concern should be for Americans and American officials traveling abroad?

MCCABE: Look, John, I think the concern should be high. The plot in 2011 was essentially directed from the highest levels of the Iranian Quds force where they instructed a person working on their behalf in the United States to obtain explosives from confederates in Mexico, bring those items into the country, and murder the Saudi ambassador. So that is the exact sort of plot that we would be concerned about happening here.

We also know that they have the ability to use Hezbollah to execute terrorist attacks around the globe. Hezbollah has done that for them before in places like Thailand, Bangkok, the Republic of Georgia. So those sorts of explosive latent attacks could certainly happen here.

BERMAN: And I know you think that public officials should be careful when they travel around the world in the coming days and weeks and months.

I do want to ask you one question on a slightly different subject.

The FBI made a personnel move, which I think you find to be very significant. Jill Sanborn was appointed as the new chief of counterterror operations and issues.

Why is that significant and what can you tell us about her?

MCCABE: It's significant because it's a great choice. Jill Sanborn is a true counterterrorism professional. She's worked at her entire career at every level of the FBI. She occupied a really significant position for us with the CIA, where she was embedded at the CIA for several years. They loved her. And I'll tell you, they are a hard -- they're a hard bunch to convince.

She's just got great experience, terrific judgment, and I think it's an extraordinary, positive move that the FBI has placed such a capable and deserving female in such a significant position of leadership. So the American people should feel comfortable that the FBI's counterterrorism responsibilities are in very good hands.

BERMAN: Andy McCabe, thanks for being with us this morning.


ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: OK, John, stick around for this, if you would. CNN -- because it's your job. CNN has a rare interview with Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. What she reveals about her health, her cancer fight, and her time on the bench, next.

BERMAN: Plus, I have to say, one of the most intriguing stories we've seen in a long time, the royal family apparently hurt after Prince Harry and Meghan Markle rejected their royal roles. A split for a more, I guess, regular life.



BERMAN: So if you were to think the tensions between the United States and Iran are something new, you would just be wrong, you'd be wrong and off by about 100 years.

John Avlon with a "Reality Check."


So, get on your history nerd glasses because you can't understand geopolitics if you don't understand history. And that's especially true with Iran and the United States.

So, to get you up to speed, here's 100 years of U.S./Iran tensions in three minutes.

So, after the chaos of the First World War, an officer named Reza Khan stages a coup and crowns himself king, or shah. But when World War II came, he decided to side with the Nazis. Bad idea. The allies make him abdicate to his son. But in 1951, a nationalist prime minister named Mosaddegh was elected and nationalized British-owned oil fields. This displeased the prince who worked with their friends in the CIA to overthrow Mosaddegh in a 1953 coup, reinstalling the western friendly Shah. And this began Iran's deep suspicion about the long arm of the United States.

But for a time, Iran was an economically thriving, pro-American island of stability in the Middle East. The decadent Shah was holding on to power with a brutal secret police known as the SAVAK. Human rights abuses and the Shah's western ways angered the Muslim street, which rallied around an exiled Islamist cleric named Ayatollah Khomeini.

Now, in January 1979, after months of violent protests, the Shah left on a permanent vacation. And next month Khomeini rived and became supreme ruler of what was then and now the Islamic Republic of Iran. A theocracy bent on overturning all western influence.

In October, Jimmy Carter reluctantly gave the Shah asylum in America to seek cancer treatment. In response, armed thugs stormed the U.S. embassy in Tehran, taking 66 hostages, 52 of them who would be held for what would be 444 days.

An American rescue plane literally crashed and burned in the desert killing eight service members. Carter declared a state of emergency that remains in place to this day ending diplomatic and economic relations and freezing, well, billion dollars of Iranian assets. In a final insult to Carter, the hostages were released minutes after Ronald Reagan took the oath of office.

Now, in the fall of 1980, Iraq invaded Iran and the U.S. tacitly backed Saddam Hussein. During that bloody eight-year war, Iran starts aggressively funding terror groups like Hezbollah, which bombed the marine barracks in Beirut killing 241 U.S. service members in 1983.

Now, things took sort of a weird turn in 1986 when Reagan's administration was caught selling arms to Iran and moving the proceeds to the Nicaraguan Contras fighting the communist regime there. It was a big scandal at the time, but a bigger crisis for Iran occurred in the summer of 1988 when a U.S. Navy cruiser shot down an Iranian passenger jet by mistake, killing all 290 people aboard.

After the attacks of 9/11, Iran proved pretty helpful in toppling the Taliban. But in 2002, their secret nuclear program was revealed. In 2013, the Obama administration brought together negotiators from five countries to try to convince Iran to end its nuclear weapons program.


After fits and starts, a deal was done to reduce its enriched uranium stockpile by 98 percent for 10 years, in exchange for reduced economic sanctions, including those assets that Carter froze back in '79. It was a landmark deal praised by international diplomats but denounced by Donald Trump as the worst deal ever.

In 2018, President Trump withdrew from the Iran deal after clashes with national security advisers who argued the deal should stay in place, even as Iranian forces, led by General Soleimani, continued their deadly influence in the region. After Trump's order to kill Soleimani was executed, Iran announced it would back away further from that nuclear deal. And despite yesterday's apparent step back from the brink of war, U.S./Iranian relations are at their lowest point since at least 1979.

And that's your "Reality Check." CAMEROTA: John, that is so helpful. I mean even though I lived through

much of that history, having it all condensed there in three minutes is extremely helpful.

AVLON: It's a lot to ask you to keep it in the frontal lobe, you know?


AVLON: There's lots -- a lot has happened.

BERMAN: Only since 1985, when you were born.

CAMEROTA: Well, thank you. That's true. I mean not the original Shah during the World War.

BERMAN: All right.


CAMEROTA: Thank you.

All right, new revelations from Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. CNN has snagged a rare interview with the 86-year-old justice in which she talks about her recent cancer battle and her strategy on the court.

So joining us now is CNN's Supreme Court analyst, Joan Biskupic.

Joan, wow, good for you to get this rare interview with her.


CAMEROTA: First of all, she has -- continues -- this 86-year-old continues to beat cancer. How is her health, first of all?

BISKUPIC: Well, it's interesting, she looked good. I was in her chambers. The fire was roaring. She looked relaxed, eager to start the new year, and she said, I'm cancer free. That's good. Think of where she was last year at this exact time. She was surviving serious lung cancer surgery, laid up for several weeks. She returned to the court then in June, finished off the term. She returned to the court, frankly, in February, but was able to finish out the term in June.

And then, in August, we find out that she has a malignancy on her pancreas. And the court announces that she's been treated for that. The cancer is not -- doesn't exist anymore.

But, you know, just any day that Ruth Bader Ginsburg says she's cancer free is a good day given where this court is. She's 86 years old. She survived cancer four times. The court is tightly divided. If Donald Trump were to get another appointee to the bench, we would see a far more conservative court. So her health matters, as you say.

CAMEROTA: It really does. I mean I know she works out, but I kind of need to know what she's eating every day.

But let's talk about the work of the bench and what's upcoming.

So they have some, obviously, very significant cases, reproductive rights, immigration, the president's finances. What did she share with you about her strategy?

BISKUPIC: Well, just so you know, she wouldn't talk specifics of cases. But the reason I was in there to talk to her was about a passion she has about the procedural rules that determine just how far is the court going to go in deciding a case? Who can get in through the court -- into the courthouse and who cannot? And in this case, you know, with a conservative majority, she and the other liberals want the justices not to go far. She'd rather throw up barriers than not. You know, say, maybe the court shouldn't hear this dispute at this time or go so far to decide it. And, you know, that came up in a -- in a major case involving a New York City guns restriction where she said, look, most of the case has gone away. It's moot now. Why does this court need to decide it?

And, Alisyn, I think those are the kinds of things that she'll be asking as we start a new round of arguments next week.

CAMEROTA: We just saw a little bit of a video clip there of her there with famously her close friend Justice Antonin Scalia.


CAMEROTA: And he said in 2013 she has done more to shape the law in this field than any other justice on this court. She will take a lawyer who is making a ridiculous argument and just shake him like a dog with a bone.

Did you get her response to that?

BISKUPIC: Of course. I love that quote. You know, when he says she's a tigress on civil procedure. And what she said to me was, you know, he should have listened to me more often. He respected her, but he did not vote with her a lot. You know, he was a hard-core conservative, but he was her pal. And I loved being able to share that quote with her and to get her rejoineder (ph) as a nice kicker to the whole tale (ph).

CAMEROTA: Joan, thank you for sharing all of this with us. It's really good to know how well she's doing.

BISKUPIC: Thank you, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: OK, Buckingham Palace has been blindsided apparently by Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's announcement that they are quitting their royal roles. What does that mean? Why was the queen left in the dark?


We have so many questions and answers, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) CAMEROTA: Bombshell news out of the royal family. Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, announced this yesterday. Quote, after many months of reflection and internal discussions, we have chosen 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. 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 that they did not consult other royals, even the queen, before this big announcement.

So joining us now are CNN anchor and royal correspondent Max Foster, and CNN royal expert Victoria Arbiter.

Great to have both of you.

Victoria, why not consult the queen first? Why would they blindside the queen?

VICTORIA ARBITER, CNN ROYAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think in this instance they're very keen to control the narrative to do things the way they're choosing to do things.


And perhaps even to get public support on their side.

But I think this is the biggest mistake that they've made throughout this whole bombshell announcement that's caught everyone off guard.

We all knew something had to give. They've made no secret of their recent struggles in months -- in the last few months. We knew that there needed to be a shake-up to some degree, but I don't think anything was -- anyone was expecting anything quite this dramatic. So why they didn't tell the queen remains to be seen because now we've got a very difficult situation where all these finer details, and there are a lot of them, have to be ironed out on a public platform.

CAMEROTA: Let's talk about that, Max. What has the queen's response been to this?

MAX FOSTER, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: The queen's role in this has been zilch, absolutely nothing whatsoever. Normally, and there's a long history of this, when a royal wants to change their role, they go to the boss and discuss it. This is a family business. It's called the firm for a reason. The couple didn't do that.

And as Victoria says, it was a big mistake because they're not saying they want to leave the royal family altogether. They basically created what some people are calling a manifesto online. They've created a website in great detail defining exactly what they want to do, how they want to do it. Their new relationship with the media and how it's all going to be funded. You can't do that without speaking to the head of the family, the head of state, the head of the institution. So all we're hearing from the palace is this is complicated. That's at

best. After that you hear, there's deep disappointment. Then after that you hear the senior royals from the queen down are upset. In palace language, that's pretty extraordinary and you can read into that much stronger language, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: About their wish for financial independence, Vicki do we know how much they get each month for being royal?

ARBITER: When it comes to royal finances, it's all sort of very cloak and dagger. But they do get 5 percent from the sovereign grant, which is used to fund their office at Buckingham Palace. That's their percent that they've said they're happy to do away with. I think their thinking is if they do away with that, they can leave behind the constraints of royal life.

What they've laid out is this manifesto that Max referenced is that they want to maintain the 95 percent of the funding that they receive from Prince Charles. Now, they haven't run this by Prince Charles. He hasn't agreed to this. And I think there's going to be public outcry if they plan to spend a huge percentage of their life live abroad, but they're still getting their funding from Prince Charles.

And this is where the problems now lie because all of these elements are things that should have been sorted out before any kind of public statement was made. Security, financing, where they're going to live, whether the host government of the country they're choosing to live in is prepared to accept them living on their turf, all of this is really -- it stands to cause a lot of problems in the coming months.

CAMEROTA: Max, I don't know if getting 95 percent of your money from your father is financially independent. Do you have any reporting on what they plan to do to -- in the future for their money?

Looks like Max's IP is having a problem.

Oh, but, Vicki, one of the things that I wanted to ask you about was that there were some -- when I was there covering the royal wedding --


CAMEROTA: There were some local Brits who feared this. They feared that Meghan was going to somehow steal Prince Harry and bring him back to the United States.

Do you know if this was always their plan? Is this because of the really shabby racist treatment that she's gotten from the British tabloids or did they always have a plan to split their time between North America and England?

ARBITER: I really don't think this was a long-term goal, but I think they became very disillusioned very quickly in terms of how they were being treated. They've really felt the constraints of royal life.

Meghan, of course, has come from an incredibly smart background. She's a self-made woman. She's highly educated. She had lived a very free existence. And so suddenly, having to be careful about what you say politically, who you meet, what you do, how you conduct yourself, I think they found all of that incredibly difficult to maintain.

So, no, I don't think this was the long-term goal. They are both very aware that in North America there are deep pockets. That's great when it comes to charitable fundraising. But I don't think anyone expected a move quite so permanent as this.

CAMEROTA: Well, Victoria Arbiter, Max Foster, thanks very much. Obviously this story is developing. What a shock to certainly the British system. Thank you very much.

ARBITER: Thank you.


BERMAN: All right, time now for "The Good Stuff," for this morning it's the great stuff, awesome stuff. When I read this yesterday, I screamed with joy. OK, you ready for this?

Our friend, CNN contributor Wajahad Ali, tweeted that his three-year- old daughter is now cancer-free and no longer needs chemo. This is after she's been battling stage four liver cancer for nine months. He posted this video of the girl he calls his warrior princess. She's wearing a Supergirl cape and running into the arms of her liver donor. She received part of a liver from a live liver donor. Wajahad calls his little girl the bravest person I know.


The donor says no words describe this feeling, and my heart is full. I have to say, you watch that video and you just know about this story and all of our hearts are full this morning.

CAMEROTA: Gosh, what a wonderful, wonderful update, because I know so many viewers have been asking me as well how she's doing. And so we're so happy --

BERMAN: She rang the bell. They have one of those cancer bells, when you're cancer-free. She rang the bell at the hospital. And the minute that Waj said that, I was like, oh, so great.

CAMEROTA: Well, Vice President Mike Pence joining military leaders in saying that Iran did not want to kill Americans -- sorry, he's saying the opposite. He is saying the opposite. And that Iranians were intending to attempt to kill U.S. troops.

CNN's coverage continues right after this very quick break.