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Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) Discusses Iran Crisis and Buttigieg & Speier Blaming Trump for Downing of Plane in Iran; DOJ's Probe on Hillary Clinton Fizzles Due to Lack of Evidence; Harry & Meghan's Stunner Rocks British Monarchy; The Tense Moments for Families During an "Almost War". Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired January 10, 2020 - 13:30   ET



SEN. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D-MD): The reality is that the facts they presented indicated, in my mind and anybody who understands what imminent threat means, that there was not an imminent threat.

This is an important distinction, right? It's not just that the facts didn't rise to demonstrate that there was an imminent threat, the information they provided us indicated that there was not an imminent threat.

So the secretary of state is blowing smoke when it comes to the use of the term imminent threat.

And we have seen this kind of games-playing before. It's very dangerous to play these kinds of games when you're talking about sending American men and women into war.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: It certainly is.

After the strike on Soleimani, the "Wall Street Journal" reported, quote, "Mr. Trump, after the strike, told associates he was under pressure to deal with General Soleimani from GOP Senators that he views as important supporters in his coming impeachment trial in the Senate, associates said."

What is your reaction to that?

VAN HOLLEN: Well, this, again, undermines their entire case that this was an imminent threat, because it sounds like it was much more something that rose from political pressure, people pushing the president, telling him this was going to be important politically to get their support.

We've also found out today, by reports, about this other attack that was attempted against a Quds force commander in Yemen, suggesting that this was actually part of a more orchestrated decision.

Again, imminent threat has a very specific meaning when it comes to international law. And the reality is that the facts they presented indicated there was not an imminent threat.

And to the larger point, because of what they did, Americans are less safe today in the region. And there's more instability.

And we just heard today that the Iraqi prime minister officially requested that they begin -- that we begin discussions to entirely get rid of our troops there, which was, of course, Soleimani and Iran's major strategic objective in Iraq.

So President Trump and Secretary Pompeo have accomplished for them what they had been unable to accomplish themselves.

KEILAR: Democratic presidential hopeful, Pete Buttigieg, and Democratic Congresswoman Jackie Speier both implied that the president may be indirectly responsible for the downing of that Ukrainian airline that was leaving Tehran and killed 176 people. Do you agree with that?

VAN HOLLEN: Well, look, this was a terrible, terrible tragedy. This is the kind of thing that happens in the fog of war. These are the kind of accidents and unintended circumstances that occur, which just underscores the recklessness of the decisions that brought us to this point. Because these were choices. There was nothing imminent about the threat.

And the reality is what we've gotten ourselves into is a much, much bigger mess and dangerous situation than before.

Iraq has always been a very difficult place. It's always been a tense situation.

But what President Trump and Secretary Pompeo have done is throw another stick of dynamite into an already very volatile situation. And in the process, put American lives at greater risk and brought us much closer to war, which is why it was so important that the House pass the war powers resolution yesterday. And I hope the Senate will take that up on an expedited basis.

KEILAR: Senator Chris Van Hollen, thank you so much for joining us. And I would be remiss if I did not wish you a happy birthday, sir, so happy birthday.

VAN HOLLEN: Oh, thank you for that. Thank you, Brianna.


KEILAR: The Department of Justice finds no reason to, quote, "lock her up." After President Trump tried to convince everyone that Hillary Clinton is crooked, the Justice Department can't find a reason to investigate her.






KEILAR: After years of Crooked Hillary comments and "lock her up" chants, a Justice Department review of Hillary Clinton's business dealings is now winding down. Officials say they have not found enough evidence to warrant a criminal investigation.

This probe, which was launched in 2017, looked into concerns raised by Trump and his allies in Congress that the FBI did not fully pursue cases of possible corruption at the Clinton Foundation during Hillary Clinton's time as secretary of state.

Let's bring in CNN's Gloria Borger and Evan Perez to discuss this.

So the Justice Department has not actually formally closed the review. That's important to note and raises some questions. Where does this go from here?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: I think, until the Justice Department closes this investigation, nobody has to really give the president the bad news that there was nothing to this.

And, again, this was something that was looked into in 2016 and has been looked into again under the Trump administration and, so far, we see that nothing has emerged.


A lot of this came from, like, opposition research. Remember when Republicans were fans of opposition research, right? A lot of this came from a book called "Clinton Cash" that was published in 2015 and so was looked into by the FBI in 2015 and 2016. So here we are again.

We'll see whether or not finally the Justice Department takes the move to close this, because it appears nothing has come of it.

KEILAR: Still open because they don't want to break bad news to the president. Is that -- I mean -- it's pretty unusual, Gloria.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: I would say it's pretty unusual because then the questions can be raised by Democrats, well, how much did this cost us.

The president was railing about the Mueller investigation, which yielded, at the very least, 199 criminal counts, more than a handful of indictments, et cetera, et cetera.

They say, how much did it cost to hire John Huber, who was of Utah, an outside person, who was handling all of this. And what are going to do now to clear Hillary Clinton's name? Nothing.

But it shows how you can create a conspiracy out of whole cloth if you have a bully pulpit.

KEILAR: What does this say more broadly, Evan, about what folks at the Justice Department and FBI may pursue or not pursue or close or not close? PEREZ: That's a great question. I think things have changed. I think

the attorney general has said that if you're going to look at things having to do with the campaign, you'll have to perhaps get more permissions from the main Justice Department before you do that.

We should not, just like the FBI launched this investigation of the Trump campaign without really getting permission from up above, that's exactly what was happening during 2015 and 2016. They started looking into Hillary Clinton and the foundation and all this stuff, and they didn't really go very far.

And so that's kind of why they took a second look again, and we'll see whether or not they take a third look. We don't know what next they will do.


BORGER: You remember Jeff Sessions asked for this to just sort of get the president off his back, I think.



BORGER: He's no longer there.

KEILAR: There were a few of those things that happened, voting fraud commissions, et cetera.

BORGER: Right.


KEILAR: Gloria, thank you so much.

Evan, thank you.

And the royals are still reeling after Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's explosive decision to scale back their royal duties. The question still not answered, why now and what happens next.

And more on our breaking news. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi signaling that she will send the articles of impeachment to the Senate next week.



KEILAR: Prince Harry and Meghan Markle breaking ranks with the British monarchy this week announcing that they were stepping back as senior members of the royal family. While the duchess of Sussex is in Canada, Prince Harry remains in the U.K. to deal with the fallout from the firm, as it's called.

Diane Clehane is royals editor for "Best Life," and she's the author of "Diana, the Secrets of Her Style."

Diane, thank you for joining us.

DIANE CLEHANE, AUTHOR, "BEST LIFE": Thank you for having me.

KEILAR: So the prince and Meghan Markle reportedly defied the queen when they issued that statement about pulling back from royal duties. Why would they take a step like that? For people who don't follow -- and normally, I don't -- I've come to realize that is a huge no-no.

CLEHANE: Yes, Harry and Meghan have gone completely rogue. At the beginning of the year, I think the queen thought, wow, 2019 is over, it can't be that bad. And guess what, it's going to get a lot worse before it gets better for her, unfortunately.

They have been plotting this for quite some time. My sources have told me that the conversation about changing their roles started many months ago, but they blindsided the queen by going public with it.

She had asked them to put something in writing, which they refused to do because they were afraid it was going to leak, which seems ridiculous because there has to be a plan. And there really is no plan. So right now, the palace is in crisis mode trying to figure out what to do next.

KEILAR: So one of the water cooler conversations that goes on is, who is really the driving force behind this. Just listening to everyday people talk about it, a lot of folks will say it's Meghan. They think it's Meghan.

But where does the truth lie here, because these are two people deciding to make this decision together.

CLEHANE: I think they both come from very different places. Unfortunately, Harry has been struggling with royal life for quite some time. He gave an interview to "Newsweek" several years ago where he said nobody wants to be king. He told his friend on ITV this fall that every time he sees a flashbulb, he goes back to the tragedy of Diana. So he's really been struggling for a long time.

Then along comes Meghan, who wants to reinvent the wheel and has all these great ideas. If people remember, she said she wanted to hit the ground running when she was first engaged.

But it's an institution that's thousands of years old. The changes were not happening fast enough for her. I think also they have this feeling they're not being appreciated enough.

So it was sort of an explosive combination. And I think both of them, obviously, came to this conclusion.

But I think there's a lot of us that can't help but wonder, if Meghan were not in the picture, would Harry have taken such a dramatic step. I'm inclined to think not. I think she is the driving force behind most of it.

KEILAR: So much of this -- they're stressing financial independence.


KEILAR: Explain what that means for us, and also how they would achieve that.

CLEHANE: You know, it's a very carefully worded bunch of statements they have on their new Web site, Sussex Royal, which is really astonishing. Some people in Britain are calling it jaw-dropping arrogance because it's talking about all these plans they have, none of which was sanctioned by the queen, none of it which have any kind of precedent.


So the language that they basically used says that they're being royal doesn't allow them to make their own money. But, P.S., their net worth is over 35 million pounds. So you know, how much money does somebody need? So the idea being that they want to make their money.

Now, what that means, if you still have a royal title, is something that's up for discussion. I mean, it would be unprecedented for a royal to be making money off of effectively being a royal.

So it's really something that is quite complicated and really has put the queen and Charles in a really dire situation because nobody really knows how to handle this.

And the Brits are really screaming for answers. They want to know how this is going to work. They don't want to pay for royals that aren't working royals.

KEILAR: It is -- I mean, it is, wow, Diane.

So thank you for coming on just to explain some of it to us.

Diane Clehane, we appreciate it.

CLEHANE: Thank you.

KEILAR: Back to our breaking news now. Secretary of State Pompeo says he did tell lawmakers about Soleimani's alleged plots against U.S. embassies. Lawmakers who were there say, no, he didn't.



KEILAR: This week we have followed developments in Iraq as the U.S. and Iran have engaged in attacks that have America readying for the possibility of war.

We've seen the funeral of Iranian General Soleimani, killed at the Baghdad Airport by a U.S. drone. We've seen the damage from Iranian missile strikes on Iraqi bases that host U.S. troops.

We've heard the president, flanked by military and civilian leaders, addressing the country. And many Americans watched, and they worried.

But a small sliver of the population, men, women, and children, were turning their lives upside down to meet the demands of this moment, sleepless nights preparing with very little notice to deploy to the Middle East.

This is the friend of one service member who was ready to head out this week.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The 82nd tried to push back his deployment date as much as possible. His wife is a high-risk pregnancy, I believe he's leaving somewhere around Tuesday, and his wife is due Wednesday.


KEILAR: Sleepless nights waiting for word for their service member already deployed to the Middle East, amid news that Iranian missiles were raining down on U.S. targets.

Here's our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr.


BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: I think one thing to reflect on perhaps are the military families, who knew that their loved ones were serving in this area and, all night long, they are not getting official word from the Pentagon or the White House about any potential of casualties.

Even in the middle of the night, once they had a really good idea that there were none, nobody came out on camera and said no casualties, we have no reports even of casualties. I can only imagine it was a long night for so many military families.


KEILAR: There are 5,000 U.S. troops at these bases in Iraq, more than 60,000 currently serving in the Middle East overall. And 3,500 troops from Fort Bragg in North Carolina were mobilized for rapid deployment less than a day's notice for many of them.

For security reasons, soldiers of the 82nd Airborne Division have been told they can't use their cell phones or tell family members where they are.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I had to find out over an article not actually through him, unfortunately, so that was also really stressful. It's hard not to hear it from the person that's really involved there.


KEILAR: You might be thinking this is normal, right, for the military? This is what servicemembers and their families are called to do regularly.

That's not actually true, though. Army officials said this was likely the largest rapid deployment since 1989 when troops invaded Panama to oust Dictator Manuel Noriega.

For thousands of families in the U.S. that means staying up late to help their loved one pack, missing school so they can see mom or dad in the hours before they quickly leave.

For some, it means unexpectedly moving across the country back in with their parents so when they give birth with their partner away they will have a support system.

As we discuss the politics and the strategy of what we are seeing this week, let's just remember all of the people for whom this is not just an academic conversation.

And that is it for me.

"NEWSROOM" with Brooke Baldwin starts right now.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Brianna, thank you, my friend.

Hi there. Happy Friday. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

What a week it's been. Let's begin with how it's been a difficult pursuit of answers on why the president ordered the killing of Iranian military general, Qasem Soleimani, and the administration's evolving explanations in the week of these retaliatory attacks.


Since the killing happened one week ago, the president and his advisers have been using the word "imminent" to describe the threats that they believe were posed.

But in a rally last night in Ohio, the president revealed new, highly specific details about Soleimani's threats.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Soleimani was actively planning new attacks. And he was looking very seriously at our embassies and not just the embassy in Baghdad. But we stopped him, and we stopped him quickly, and we stopped him cold.