Return to Transcripts main page


U.S., U.K. & Canada: Iran Shot Down Ukraine Passenger Jet; House Votes to Limit Trump's War Powers Against Iran. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired January 10, 2020 - 06:00   ET



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Evidence indicates that the plane was shot down by an Iranian missile.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Iranians saying that they have invited both Ukraine and Boeing to take part in the investigation.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Soleimani was looking very seriously at our embassies.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): We are passing a war powers resolution to limit the president's military actions.

REP. DOUG COLLINS (R-GA): Nancy Pelosi does it again, and her Democrats fall right in line. They're in love with terrorists.

REP. ELISSA SLOTKIN (D-MI): This bill was to remind everybody that we should be debating things like war and peace.


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

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY. It's Friday, January 10. It's 6 a.m. here in New York, and we are waking up to new developments in a tragedy that took 176 lives and raised questions the minute it happened.

Multiple U.S. officials, the prime ministers of Canada and now the United Kingdom now say they believe that Iran shout down a Ukrainian passenger plane with two surface-to-air missiles, likely by accident. Ukraine's president is expected to speak with the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, today.

Just a short time ago, Iran took exception to this notion, accusing the United States of lying about the cause of the crash. But officials all point to what they see as solid evidence. One U.S. official tells CNN American intelligence witnessed Iranian radar locking onto the jetliner before it went down. And then, there's that video right there, sent to CNN, that appears to show a missile fired into the sky early Wednesday morning being striking an object and exploding. CNN cannot verify the authenticity of the video, but the buildings are similar to the ones in the suburb where the jetliner crashed.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We're also following developments out of Washington. The House voting to prevent President Trump from taking additional military action against Iran.

Three Republicans broke with the president and voted in favor of that resolution. Eight Democrats broke with their party to oppose it.

President Trump is reportedly furious about the vote and sources tell CNN he's even more wary of a similar measure that will be taken up by the Senate as early as next week.

But let's begin with our reporters in Iran and Ukraine with the latest on the crash investigation. We go to Fred Pleitgen. He is live in Tehran with new details in this investigation. What have you learned, Fred?

FRED PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. You're absolutely right, Alisyn. We have new details that we literally just got.

We just got off the phone with the head of the Iranian civil aviation authority. And the main thing that we asked him is, look, is it true that the Iranians have already cleared the entire debris of the plane from that crash site? And he actually confirmed that yes, that was true. He said the Iranians had cleared both big and small pieces from that crash site over the past day and a half or two days since that crash happened. He claimed that that is being brought -- all being brought to a big hangar for the reconstruction of that destroyed plane. And obviously they say is going to -- supposed to help them with the forensics in trying to find out what happened to that plane.

He also says that the bodies of the victims from that crash site were being taken to a forensics unit to help with identification there. And as you mentioned, the Iranians taking exception with what U.S. intelligence and many other intelligence services are saying, namely that the Iranians apparently shot that plane out of the sky.

The head of the aviation authority saying that he believes that that theory, as he put it, is not valid. He said he believes that if the plane would have been hit by a missile, that the impact site would have been a lot bigger than it actually was. He believes it would have fallen apart in the middle of the -- in mid-air.

And he also says he doesn't believe that the pilot would have been able to try and make a move to get back to Imam Khomeini Airport. Apparently, that plane tried to turn around and get back to the airport.

Some pretty harrowing details, actually. The Iranians saying they find out in the preliminary investigation that the plane was on fire for at least 60 to 70 seconds before impacting the ground. They say that comes from eyewitnesses.

Finally, the investigation moving forward. You were saying international investigators were supposed to come in, including experts from the NTSB. The Iranians are saying they're going to start today, together with the Ukrainians, to try and read the data from the flight data recorder, from the black boxes. They say it could take up to two months, because apparently, one of those black boxes badly damaged.

The Iranians are saying generally, they have the technology to read black boxes, but they also say, with that box being damaged, their technology might not be sufficient. They would then ask -- this comes from them again -- to -- for the French, the Canadians, or the Russians to help them out with that, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: OK, Fred. Thank you very much for all of that new reporting. You'll be with us all morning, and we'll follow the developments from there.

Now, overnight Ukraine's president says it's possible that a missile downed the plane, but says they have not yet confirmed the cause of the crash. Ukraine has dozens of investigators on the ground in Tehran. President Zelensky and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo are expected to talk today.

Meanwhile, the families are mourning the victims of the crash.

CNN's Scott McLean is live at the airport in Kiev, where the flight was headed before it crashed -- Scott.


You have United States, Canada, now the U.K. all citing intel and evidence that they have that this plane was shot down by a missile. You have the Iranians saying that's -- those claims are fraudulent and a big lie.

And you have the Ukrainians urging some caution, trying to be the voice of reason, the adults in the room, saying, let's wait for the evidence before making any assumptions.

As you said, the Ukrainian president, Vladimir Zelensky, says that it is possible that this plane was shot down by a missile, but he wants to wait and see all of the evidence. In a new statement, he said we call on all international partners, especially the governments of the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom, to submit data and evidence relating to the disaster. Our goal is to establish the undeniable truth."

Now, he said that it's the responsibility of the entire international community to get to the bottom of this. He also added, "The value of human life is higher than any political motives." That is perhaps aimed at the United States and Iran.

Now, obviously, when it comes to the victims, the vast majority of them had some connection to either Iran or Canada. Many of them, both -- they were transiting through Kiev here in the Ukraine.

There were 11 victims from this country. Nine of them were flight crew. I spoke to one of the flight attendants who came through yesterday this memorial to pay her respects. She said that her aviation family has not lost not just colleagues, but really a part of themselves.

Now, given the experience levels of these pilots, neither the airline nor any of their colleagues thought that human error could really be to blame.

The airline didn't return our calls yesterday. But they did say on Wednesday that they -- that if they had even a hint that there was any danger, that they would not have gone ahead with this flight. I think that's the question that they're going to be having to ask or having to answer in the coming days, as well.

We've also just gotten a little bit of new information. And that's that the -- the Ukrainians will be having that call with Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state, in the next two hours or so -- Alisyn, John.

BERMAN: Yes, Scott, you point out one of the key questions here. Why was the plane flying at all given the conflict there? But a couple dozen other flights had already taken off before this one went down.

Scott McLean, thanks so much for being with us.

Iran is calling on the United States and Canada to release data proving that this jetliner was shot down. What would that information look like and what could the consequences be to all of this? Our Richard Quest joins us next.



BERMAN: Developing overnight, Iran is denying western intelligence from the United States, Canada, and the U.K. that they say unintentionally -- that say -- that says that Iran unintentionally shot down a passenger plane over Tehran with surface-to-air missiles.

CNN Frederik Pleitgen just reported that the Iranians are clearing the debris field.

Joining us now, CNN anchor Richard Quest, who covers aviation for us.

Richard, the debris field itself, I know you think this is a key area of evidence. Why is it so important? And what does it tell you if the Iranians are clearing it?

RICHARD QUEST, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT/ANCHOR: It is shocking that this field is being cleared in some indiscriminate way less than 48 hours after the incident. And way before any international investigators, the NTSB or TSB from Canada, have been allowed to get there and see it for themselves. That debris field, John, is the evidence field. That's the field

that's going to tell you what happened. Those pieces of wreckage need to be poured over by highly-qualified forensic engineers and scientists who will be able to extrapolate from the tears and the moves and the way they look.

Let me read you one line from MH-17. Remember, the plane that crashed -- that was brought down over Ukraine. That investigation says, the exterior side of the fuselage showed evidence of perforation from the outside. So that small example shows you every piece of metal, the clothing that the passengers are wearing, they will all have individual stories to tell that collectively will build a picture of what happened.

And to just clear the field, put the debris and wreckage into a hangar, it's breathtaking.

CAMEROTA: So Richard, if investigators can't see the debris field intact because of what the Iranians are doing, will they be able to definitively figure out what happened here? Particularly from that video that we've all seen that looks very damning.

QUEST: The video will only take you so far. The video has no corroborative evidence to go with it. The doctor could be doctored, invented, whatever you want to say.

The thing you need is to get your hands of the wreckage and get your hands on the evidence. Because there, you -- as I quote, there you will see evidence of missile debris, shrapnel that would have been inside. It's distasteful to discuss these things at breakfast, I realize, but one thing they discovered with MH-17 was that the human remains had evidence of the shrapnel that was in the missile the way it was designed to explode. And it was a similar missile that we're talking about in this case.

So you are going to want to have the world's top experts looking at that wreckage.

Now, I said before that there is a very easy way, of course, that we can establish that Iran can admit what it may have done. But since they are flatly denying it, flatly denying it, for the rest of the aviation community and that credible -- that credible report that the Canadian prime minister insisted upon the only way is to have their accredited representatives examine the wreckage and remains.

Really helpful, Richard. Thank you very much for all of your expertise in this. That certainly paints an important picture for us.

So back here last night, President Trump offered a new explanation for why he ordered the killing of Iran's top general. Are his claims true? That's next.


CAMEROTA: President Trump lashing out at a rally in Ohio last night after the House voting largely along party lines, but not completely, to stop him from taking further military action against Iran without approval from Congress. The Senate could take up a similar measure as early as next week.

CNN's Athena Jones is live on Capitol Hill. Athena, what do we need to know?


Well, in a whirlwind week and just a day after President Trump signaled tensions with Iran are de-escalating, the House passed a war powers resolution. Now, the move is largely symbolic, but the House Democratic leadership says it was necessary.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The current resolution is adopted.

JONES (voice-over): The House sending a strong message to President Trump, approving a war powers resolution to limit future military action against Iran without congressional approval.

SLOTKIN: This bill was just something to remind everybody that we should be debating things like war and peace.

JONES: Some lawmakers from both sides of the aisle crossing party lines on their vote. Three Republicans voting yes, including Congressman Matt Gaetz, one of President Trump's strongest allies in the House.

REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): I did not say he was wrong in killing Soleimani. It did say that if any president wants to drag our nation into another forever Middle East war, that they require the approval of the United States Congress. That's something I deeply believe.

JONES: Multiple people who have spoken with President Trump say he's furious over Thursday's vote. The president defended his decision to kill Iran's top military leader at a rally last night.

TRUMP: They're all trying to say, How dare you take him out that way? You should get permission from Congress. These are split-second decisions. You have to make a decision.

JONES: Trump going directly after top Democrats, arguing they can't be trusted.

TRUMP: We didn't have time to call up Nancy, who is not operating with a full deck.

Now they want us to call -- Can you imagine calling Crooked Adam Schiff? He's so crooked. He's so crooked. Shifty Schiff.

They want us to tell them so that they can leak it to their friends in the corrupt media.

JONES: House Democrats choosing a resolution that will never be presented to the president for his signature.

PELOSI: This is a statement of the Congress of the United States, and I will not have that statement be diminished by whether the president will veto it or not.

JONES: Meanwhile, Democrats are also pushing to pass similar legislation, which a senior White House official tells CNN that the president vows to veto. Democrats already gaining support from at least two Republican senators frustrated by the Trump administration's handling of the situation.

SEN. CHRIS COONS (D-DE): The core issue here is making sure before President Trump takes us into a war with Iran, that he recognizes he must come to Congress to get authorization.


JONES: Now, there's disagreement between the parties about whether the House resolution is legally binding. And in any case, the resolution faces a much tougher test in the Republican-controlled Senate.

Meanwhile, a new poll by "USA Today" shows 55 percent of people believe that killing General Soleimani has made the U.S. less safe, compared with 24 percent of people who believe it's made us more safe.

CAMEROTA: Those are interesting numbers, Athena. Thank you very much for that reporting.

Joining us now, we have CNN political commentator and former Republican Congressman Charlie Dent; and CNN political analyst Margaret Talev. She's the politics and White House editor for Axios. Great to have both of you.

Margaret, is it notable that eight Democrats abandoned their party to not vote for this resolution and that three Republicans voted with Democrats?

MARGARET TALEV, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, they're both interesting, Alisyn, for different reasons.

I mean, I think with these Democrats, largely you're seeing these are lawmakers they're in more conservative districts with potentially tight reelection contests. Also, for some of them, they may actually believe this is not the right way to try to constrain a president's authority.

In the Republicans' case, like, I don't think you get a much stronger, more loyal ally than Matt Gaetz if you're the president. But even so, he's in a district with more military members than any other House member in the country. And it's important for him to send his message to constituents that he's most concerned that they're protected and that war resolutions, war actions happen in the right way.

So you saw some of these interesting cross currents. But at the end of the day, what you really have is the Congress's sort of ability to rebuke here, even if it doesn't have the force of law. And this isn't going to have the force of law, even if the Senate were to take the same action. This is a political signal. This is a message to the president. It's a message to the American public. But ultimately, the commander in chief in the American system has a lot of authority to make foreign policy decisions, including military ones.

BERMAN: Right. And he can veto the bill if it ever does get to his desk, as he almost certainly will.

But that doesn't mean it's not an important discussion. It's a foundational discussion, Charlie, as you note, about how this country is supposed to operate during war. And it's a discussion that should be sober and honest and not filled with the kind of invective that we've seen.

I want to play the sound from Doug Collins, congressman from Georgia, from a few days ago that I think has outraged so many people. Listen to this.



COLLINS: Nancy Pelosi does it again and her Democrats fall right in line. One, they're in love with terrorists. We see that. They mourn Soleimani more than they mourn our Gold Star families who are the ones who suffered under Soleimani. That's a problem.


BERMAN: Now, Tammy Duckworth, a Democrat who supports this war powers resolution, says, "I left literal parts of my body in Iraq where I was fighting terrorists" and then goes on.

So Charlie, again, you can oppose this measure. You can think the president has large powers as commander in chief, but you don't need to go where Doug Collins went.

CHARLIE DENT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. John, I would -- I would agree with that. I think everybody's got to take a step back from this inflammatory rhetoric.

Look, I felt that this resolution was as much a debate about the president's volatile style than it was about the delicate balance between the legislative and executive branch in terms of the ability to make war.

Congress, if they really want to amend this War Powers Act, they should change the law. And I think they need to have that kind of a sober discussion.

We had this discussion, you may remember, when Obama took out, justifiably, Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen, in Yemen. I supported Obama at that time. We had a big debate about whether or not you should be able to take out an American citizen. And I think President Trump was justified to take out Soleimani. But we should have a real debate about the War Powers Act. I don't think doing a joint or concurrent resolution is the -- is the best way to do this. Change the law.

But this is hard. Because this is -- this is a tough question about the actual limits and the ability of the president to wage war. He has some authority for a limited duration of time under the current War Powers Act.

CAMEROTA: Obviously, we're still trying to figure out exactly what happened with that plane where 176 passengers were killed. Iran has a different explanation at the moment than Canada, the U.S., U.K.

But you're already, Margaret, hearing lawmakers -- well, I mean, casting blame for how -- why this happened. So listen to this moment.


REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D-CA): This is yet another example of collateral damage from the actions that have been taken in a provocative way by the president of the United States.

REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R-IL): Blaming the president for the Iranian airliner shootdown, we are broken as a country if this is the level of our debate going forward.


CAMEROTA: I mean, they both make interesting points, but I also think that it's fair to say this would not have happened if there were not tensions between the U.S. and Iran.

TALEV: Well, guess what? We are broken as a country. That's what we're all talking about right now.

But yes, it's -- it's actually really uncomfortable to watch how quickly and highly this tragedy has been politicized on both sides of the partisan fence. And now Justin Trudeau's comments are being picked apart for why isn't he defending the U.S.? You know, what's the implications of what he's not saying?

Like, this happened and it's a tragedy. And it's connected. It's all part of it, and as investigators are struggling to find out what really happened.

I think a lot of U.S. officials are kind of surprised that it didn't inflame matters more, the fact that the U.S. and Iran both have been able to sort of step back quickly. The political rhetoric continues to heat up, but at least, in terms of on the ground and in terms of the countries' behaviors, this was a potentially much more disruptive tragedy in tells of its spillover implications.

BERMAN: You know, one thing I do want to say is that Adam Kinzinger also said that Doug Collins should apologize for his comments and was also critical of Jackie Speier for suggesting the U.S. was somehow to blame for the collateral damage of this Iranian jetliner being shot down.

Kinzinger's point, Charlie, is that if the Iranians shot the missiles, they shot the missiles.

DENT: Yes, look, I think Kinzinger is absolutely right. He was right to -- you know, he was right to criticize both lawmakers for making, I thought, rhetorically excessive statements.

I don't think it's right to blame the United States for the Iranian -- for probably an unintentional taking down of that jetliner. But I think Kinzinger's right.

Again, we're back, it's sad that in this country we need to have this debate on the War Powers Act. And again, it's kind of -- it's become so -- so horribly partisan.

I can tell you, having served in the House, there were plenty of Republicans, thoughtful Republicans who wanted to look at these authorizations to use military force, and they think they have been taken too far.

But you can't have this debate in this kind of supercharged partisan atmosphere. Which is really the tragedy.

CAMEROTA: Congressman Charlie Dent, Margaret Talev, thank you, both, very much.

BERMAN: All right. Coming up, we're going to look at where the impeachment trial might be going next. We saw a remarkable backflip that began right here on NEW DAY yesterday.


BERMAN: What does this tell us about when the articles of impeachment might be sent to the Senate?