Return to Transcripts main page
THE BRIEF WITH BIANCA NOBILO
Secretary Of State Mike Pompeo: "Likely" That Iranian Missile Shot Down Plane; United States Increases Economic Sanction Against Iran; Iraqi Journalist Killed Covering Protest; DOW Crosses 29,000 Mark For The First Time, Then Pulls Back; United States, United Kingdom And Canada Say Iranian Missile May Have Downed Plane. Aired 5-5:30p ET
Aired January 10, 2020 - 17:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST, "THE LEAD": --JAKETAPPER you can tweet @THELEADCNN. Our coverage on CNN continues right now.
BIANCA NOBILO, CNN HOST: Tonight on "The Brief," new questions about that plane crash in Tehran, as wreckage at the site has been cleared away a
video of a Russian warship aggressively pursuing a U.S. destroyer in the Middle East. And tens of thousands of people protest climate change in
Australia as the bush fires rage.
Live from London, I'm Bianca Nobilo. Welcome to the show. Facing increasing accusations that it mistakenly shot down a passenger jet killing everyone
on board Iran is getting ready to release its own explanation of the tragedy. It says it will announce the cause of the Ukrainian airlines crash
The plane went down in Tehran shortly after Iran had fired missiles at bases housing U.S. troops in Iraq. Today U.S. Secretary of State Mike
Pompeo joined other western countries in suggesting that Iran is to blame.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We do believe that it's like that that plane was shot down by an Iranian missile. We are going let the
investigation play out before we make a final determination. It's important that we get to the bottom of it. I have been on the phone I was on the
phone with President Zelensky just before I came here. I was on the phone with my Canadian counterpart.
They are working to get their resources on the ground to conduct that thorough investigation. We'll learn more about what happened to that
aircraft. And when we get the result of that investigation, I'm confident we and the world will take appropriate actions and response.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NOBILO: CNN has obtained new surveillance video that shows the moment of the crash. It is disturbing to watch the as the plane explodes on impact at
least 176 people on board that flight lost their lives. Fragments of the plane have been removed from the crash site and taken to a hangar for
Families across the world are mourning loved ones killed in the crash. Most of the victims were Iranian the others came from six countries, including
Canada and Ukraine. Ukrainian investigators are in Iran trying to piece together exactly what happened to the plane.
Iran's given them access to the black boxes from the crashing but Ukraine's Foreign Minister told CNN's Clarissa Ward that Iran did not secure the
crash site and the investigation is being hampered because parts of wreckage are missing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Have your investigators on the ground come across these allegations that Iranians
have been cleaning the site, basically removing evidence from the site?
VADYM PRYSTAIKO, UKRAINIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: We are unhappy with what we are seeing, especially when we saw that the locals roaming around and
picking things and touching things and taking something from the ground. That's what immediately we had to stop when we came to this point.
Unfortunately, the pieces of the plane also fell on the small settlement where people are just in the streets and in their houses. So this
tragically and the picture is not very good for the TV cameras. But we had to stop and with the preparation of the Iranian site we managed to secure
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NOBILO: The Foreign Minister also told CNN that though there is compelling evidence that a rocket shot down the plane, he wants to see more before
coming to a final conclusion.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRYSTAIKO: The evidence which was presented to us, very, very solid, and what it's missing in the future is how it's supported by the facts on the
ground themselves. If there was a rocket should be the residual of the chemicals which used in explosive parts of the pallets which is used in
this type of work. As of now, we don't have this extremely important info. Without this, theories are just theories.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NOBILO: The Foreign Minister says the last communication from the pilot was peaceful and that everything was okay before something happened to bring
the plane down. So many things about this crash are still unknown, but Iran says that one thing is certain - the plane was not hit by an Iranian
CNN's Frederik Pleitgen is in Tehran to tell us about the government's reaction to all of this.
FREDERIK PLEIGTEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Bianca. The Iranians are continuing to say that it was not an Iranian missile that took
down that aircraft. It was quite interesting, because there was a press conference earlier today by the Head of Iran's Civilian Aviation Authority
and he said that he believed that theory, as he put it, was not valid.
There are two reasons that he gave for that. On the one hand he said that he believed that if the plane would have been hit by a missile it would
have gone down immediately and the pilot wouldn't have been able to try and make a turn back to Imam Khomeini Airport to try and land there.
The Iranians are also saying that they believe that if the plane would have gotten hit by a missile and possibly broken up midair, that the debris
field that was there after the impact would have been a lot larger and the debris would have been scattered over a much bigger area than it actually
One of the interesting things that have been talked about internationally is a fact that apparently a lot of the debris was already cleared from that
debris site only about two days after that crash took place.
PLEIGTEN: We put that question directly to the Head of the Iranian Civil Authority and he said that's true. He said the Iranians have indeed cleared
that area already. He said all that debris is going to a hangar where then forensic experts are going to try and piece all of that together again to
try and see what exactly happened to the aircraft.
The Iranians are saying that Ukrainian experts who are already on the ground are going to have access to that debris as well. At the same time,
the Iranians are also saying that they're going to try and read the data from the black boxes of the plane. The information that we are getting is
at least one of those black boxes was damaged in the crash.
The Iranians saying in general they have the capability to read those boxes but there was a damaged one. They're really not sure if they're going to be
able to do that. They might have to ask some foreign countries for assistance.
However, they do say that the other experts that are taking part in this investigation, the international experts are also going to have access to
that data, but they say it could take up to two months for them to be able to read everything that's on those block boxes. Bianca?
NOBILO: Thanks to Fred Pleitgen for his reporting. We are going to do an in-depth dive into this today in "The Debrief" in about ten minutes time
with a retired U.S. Air Force Colonel Cedric Leighton.
U.S. President Donald Trump is offering new explanations to the attack that killed Iran's top General Qasem Soleimani. He started by telling Fox News
that Soleimani was plotting to blow up a U.S. Embassy and later suggested that the general was planning to attack more.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
INGRAHAM ANGLE, FOX NEWS HOST: Don't the American people have a right to know what specifically was targeted without revealing methods and sources?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I don't think so, but that we will tell you that probably it was going to be the Embassy in
ANGLE: Did he have large-scale attacks planned for other Embassies? And if those were planned, why can't we reveal that to the American people?
Wouldn't that help your case?
TRUMP: I can reveal that I believe it would have been four Embassies.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NOBILO: General Soleimani was killed one week ago. Iran retaliated with the missile attack when U.S. military targets and now the U.S. have responded
by increasing economic sanctions against Iran.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEVEN MNUCHIN, U.S. TREASURY SECRETARY: I think we have 100 percent confidence and we are consistent in our view that the economic sanctions
are working that if we didn't have these sanctions in place, literally Iran would have tens of billions of dollars. They would be using that for
terrorist activities throughout the region.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NOBILO: On Thursday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution that would limit President Trump's war powers. Even though few Republicans
rebelled, it does face an uncertain future in the U.S. Senate.
On the same night that U.S. forces killed Iranian Commander Qasem Soleimani they apparently unsuccessfully targeted another Iranian military official
who was very senior, this time in Yemen. Sources who talked to CNN would not give details about the mission or how the U.S. the attempted to carry
"The Washington Post" reports that the target was a financier and key commander of Iran's elite Quds force. The Pentagon declined to comment on
the alleged military operation. The tensions between the United States and Iran are kindling fear and anger inside Iraq.
Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi is asking the Trump Administration to prepare for U.S. troop withdrawal and as our Arwa Damon reports protesters
are demanding that the U.S. and Iran settle their score somewhere else.
ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The chants are about ending the current government. They are about ending Iran's influence. They
are about ending America at the core of these demonstration is a desire for one Iraq, a unified Iraq, and one that is truly democratic.
These are not the same protesters who tried to storm the U.S. Embassy. These protesters have been out here with these demands for months. Their
situation made even more precarious given everything else that has unfolded made their call for an end to outside interference even stronger.
One of the many hash tags behind these types of protests is we are not our parliament. They say, most of them at least, that they want the Iranians
and their influence out. They want negative American influence out. Many we have spoken to say, they understand why the U.S. did what they did, but do
not agree with it happening on Iraqi soil.
What the population here truly wants, is truly craving, is just to be allowed to live. Arwa Damon, CNN, Baghdad.
NOBILO: Two Iraqi journalists who are covering protest in the post city of Basra have been killed a TV reporter and his camera man were shot by
unknown Iraqi gunman. Iraqi Security forces are now investigating.
The U.S. Navy says a Russian warship aggressively approached an American destroyer in the North Arabian Sea, risking a collision. Russia's Defense
Ministry denies that, but we have some video of the incident so you can decide for yourself. Here's Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: The U.S. destroyer sailing in the North Arabian Sea of course well south of the Persian Gulf was
encountered a Russian warship, a Russian intelligence gathering ship that approached it within 60 yards. The video released by the U.S. shows that
Russian warship coming up behind, so closely.
The U.S. destroyer sounded five radio blasts, we are told, five horn blasts, actually, an international signal to warn the Russians of the
danger of a collision, but it wasn't until there was bridge to bridge radio communications that the Russians then backed off. The U.S. perhaps
releasing this video as the latest indication some of these close encounters they have had with the Russians in various waters around the
NOBILO: For its part, Russia is accusing the U.S. Navy destroyer of quite aggressively violating international rules at sea by maneuvering into the
Russian warship's path.
Australia is beginning another difficult weekend as wildfires ravage the southeastern part of the country. All of this comes as outrage in Australia
is mounting. Much of it directed at the country's Prime Minster. On Friday, the streets of Sydney were filled with activists demanding that the
government take action against climate change. Our Will Ripley has more.
WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm here in Sydney, Australia, one of a number of cities across this country where thousands of people are turning
out for protests against climate change and what they call criminal negligence by their Prime Minster Scott Morrison. They anger out here is
People say that Prime Minster Morrison who has been very vocal in support of Australia's coal industry, fossil fuel in general, saying it's vital for
this country's economy. The point that people out here are making you can't have an economy with a dead planet. They're living the effects of climate
change here in Australia right now.
An unprecedented bush fire season, the fires continuing to burn as we speak. People have died, more than two dozen of them. Millions of animals
have died here in Australia, directly linked to climate change, whether it is their natural habitat drying up and unprecedented historic drought. All
of these things have people out here are saying it's time to wake up and it's time to act.
I'm here with 13-year-old climate activist Isolde Raj-Seppings. You're in 8th grade and you're going into 8th grade and yet you're out here and
you're going to speak in front of all these people. What you do want to tell them?
ISOLDE RAJ-SEPPINGS, CLIMATE ACTIVIST: Basically I'm outlining the inaction of our government and saying that we're tired, we're done it's time for
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is coal. Don't be scared.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RIPLEY: This image is what infuriates so many people out here. That's the Prime Minister Scott Morrison holding up a lump of coal famously in
Australian parliament, telling people they don't need to be afraid of fossil fuels. But saying how important they are to the economy here in
Australia. But what Isolde the activist we just spoke with and many others out here are demanding is a transition immediately from reliance on fossil
fuels to completely renewable energy resources. They say that it's the only way to stop this climate crisis from getting worse.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Scientists predicted this in 2007.
RIPLEY: The point you're making is that Australia you think should be much farther ahead?
JESSICA CAIN, CLIMATE ACTIVIST: We should be at the front of the top lines. We thought all the scientists they could have had the research for 30 years
now we should be the leading person in renewable energy now.
RIPLEY: She and so many others out here say Australia is not at the forefront. They accuse this country of being addicted to coal and in
addition they say that's helping fuelling the climate crisis and putting thousands of people's homes and lives in danger with the bush fires
expected to continue burning throughout the weekend and beyond. Will Ripley, CNN, Sydney.
NOBILO: It was a historic day on Wall Street, though not quite as successful as it may have looked at first. For the first time ever, the DOW
crossed the 29,000 mark. But late in the sessions stocks pulled back. I asked CNN Business Correspondent Alison Kosik about the milestone and if we
might see a market correction.
ALISON KOSIK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Bianca, the DOW crossing the 29,000 mark during the trading day is more of a psychological milestone, but any time
the market surpasses a nice round number it does have a positive effect on investors' sentiment. The index did pulled back at the close to end the
session more than 1,000 points away from that 29,000 mark, but that was because of shares of Boeing dragged down the index.
KOSIK: Still there is some skepticism about the lofty level of stocks. A Deloitte CFO Signals Survey found that chief financial officers at top
North American companies think the stock market is overvalued versus where corporate profits are and there's an expectation that the U.S. economy will
slow this year.
That's as the manufacturing sector remains in a recession due in part to the U.S./China trade war. Still, the U.S. economy remains strong handing in
a solid enough jobs reports showing employers added 145,000 jobs in December. Unemployment held steady at 3.5 percent which is a 50-year low.
But the report showed American wages aren't keeping up and instead fell below 3 percent for the first time since July of 2018. Investors have been
able to shrug off geopolitical tensions between the U.S. and Iran and instead are focusing on the U.S and China moving toward a phase one trade
deal. Fourth quarter earnings season that comes up next week. Bianca?
NOBILO: Thank you to Alison Kosik there for that.
Still to come on the program, we are going take a closer look at the Ukrainian passenger plane that crash in the Iran and the implication of
intelligence reports that it may have accidentally been shot down.
NOBILO: Tonight's "Debrief" we are focusing on the Ukrainian plane that crashed in the Iran. The U.S., Canada, and Britain all say that they have
intelligence to suggest that Iran may have mistakenly shot the aircraft with a surface-to-air missile. Iran denies it, saying that's "A big lie".
But if western intelligence is correct, that begs the question, what could have led to such a colossal error? Let's talk about this with CNN Military
Analyst Cedric Leighton. He is a retired U.S. Air Force Colonel. Very good to have you on the program sir thank you for joining us.
COLONEL CEDRIC LEIGHTON, U.S. AIR FORCE (RET.): It's my pleasure Bianca. Thank you for having me.
NOBILO: Cedric, let's begin with that question. How is it that the Iranians could have possibly, if this intelligence is correct, mistaken a commercial
passenger jet with 176 people on it as a military threat?
LEIGHTON: Well, a lot depends on the experience, Bianca, of the operators of the radar systems and of the missile systems and that were used in this
particular case, so it is possible to mistake those radar blips that you see for one object as opposed to another object.
In this case what probably happened was they looked at an object assuming all of this is correct, all of these intelligence reports that we are
hearing about are correct. They mistook one particular blip for being something that it was not. So when an airplane takes off from an airport,
commercial airplane, like the Ukrainian plane from the Tehran airport.
LEIGHTON: It has a certain signature, it has a transponder on it and it transmits data that says I'm this aircraft, I'm flying at this level, doing
these kinds of things that should have been enough to protect that aircraft, but what it seem like happened is that type of data was not
transmitted to the missile battery and the people at the missile battery the soldiers at the missile battery mistook the aircraft for being a
hostile aircraft and for whatever reason, they thought that this hostile indication was genuine, and then they, of course, launched the missiles
that brought down the plane.
NOBILO: How many checks would there be in that process if indeed this was detected by them and then misinterpreted? How many people do you think that
would have gone through in order for them to make the decision, if so, to launch a surface-to-air missile?
LEIGHTON: Each country is different in the way they handle these kinds of air defense issues, but normally what happens in cases where they use
Russian-made equipment, such as the SA-15 missile that was used in this case, there's a centralized command and control element.
That centralized command and control element has the final authority as to whether or not to engage a target. What they're supposed to do in terms of
checks and balances in this case, there's supposed to be an intelligence feed, plus a radar feed.
The integration of those two elements is key because you also need it in addition to those military aspects you also need to know what the
commercial airline schedule is in your particular area. So if this was done correctly, they would have been able to see that the Ukrainian airlines
plane was due to leave Tehran International Airport at this point in time.
And therefore they would have been able to de-conflict or should have been able to de-conflict that with anything else that was flying in the area.
It's really difficult to determine sometimes one object versus another, but there was no indication that there were any other aircraft in the area that
could have been mistaken for military aircraft or that appeared to be hostile aircraft from what I've seen so far.
So what that means is that, that there were several mistakes made in the chain of custody here and a command was issued that should not have been
NOBILO: Iranians are denying that flight 752 has been - was attacked by a surface-to-air missile, certainly one of their own, and one of the reasons
that they have given for this is that the debris the field of it was too scattered. Now that the debris has been cleared, if not entirely then
suddenly in part, is that going to really complicate the evidence gathering mission for the intelligence services in those trying to piece together
precisely what happened?
LEIGHTON: It could. What we usually base our intelligence assessments on in a situation like this is the type of information that we get through
electronic intelligence that basically what we are doing is we're reading the radar signatures of other countries.
We have a lot of the data that we need in order to do this kind of assessment, but it's always good to be able to go on the ground and have
accident investigators either corroborate or refute what the intelligence agencies have said. So moving this type of evidence to the hangar where
they're supposedly putting everything back together again for the forensic investigation is certainly part of the normal investigation process, but if
it's done incorrectly it could complicate finding the truth in this particular case.
NOBILO: Thank you very much for joining us this evening retired Air Force Colonel Cedric Leighton. We appreciate it.
LEIGHTON: You bet, Bianca, any time.
NOBILO: After nearly a three-week delay, the U.S. House Speaker signals she's ready to make her move. Nancy Pelosi says she's preparing to vote
next week to send two articles of impeachment against President Trump to the Senate.
This week she outlined her plans to fellow Democrats in a letter on Friday morning. She's been holding on to the articles in an attempt to pressure
the Republican-led Senate to hold a fair trial. But as of now, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has not committed to calling witnesses or
admitting any new evidence.
And the programming note for all of you, six Democratic candidates will take part in the next Presidential Debate hosted by CNN and the Des Moines
Register. That's next Tuesday at 9:00 pm eastern time.
When "The Brief" returns from Iran to Washington to Australia to the British Monarchy, it's been a busy week of news. We are going to wrap it
all up for you.
NOBILO: It's been a hectic week of news. Let's bring you up to date with all that happened. The world is on tender hooks after the United States
killed a top Iranian General. Iran responded by attacking a base in Iraq housing U.S. soldier but injuring no one both side remain on high alert for
Meanwhile in Tehran, a Ukrainian airlines flight crashed, killing all 176 on board. The U.S., U.K., and Canada all say that the plane was likely shot
down accidentally by Iran, which it denies. Then after a week of posturing in Congress, it looks like Donald Trump's impeachment trial is a step
closer. Nancy Pelosi says she's preparing to send over the articles next week.
In Australia, bush fires continue to rage across the country, prompting desperate attempts to save lives, homes and wildlife.
Puerto Rico, still recovering from the effects of Hurricane Maria in 2017 is now dealing with a series of earthquakes that caused widespread damage.
And a big change in the British Monarchy as Harry and Meghan say that they want to step back from Royal Duties and achieve financial independence.
That's "The Brief." Have a lovely weekend. I'm Bianca Nobilo. And "World Sport" is up next.