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NEW DAY

Debris Removed from Crash Site; Trump Furious over War Powers Vote; Kushner Shifting Focus; Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) is Interviewed About Iran Information. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired January 10, 2020 - 07:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[07:00:00]

JUSTIN TRUDEAU, CANADIAN PRIME MINISTER: The need for a thorough investigation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If any president wants to drag our nation into another forever Middle East war, they require the approval of the United States Congress.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Congress putting forth their own resolutions to limit President Donald Trump's power to use military force against Iran.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The resolution is misplaced.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): America and the world cannot afford war.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY.

There is new evidence in the crash of a Ukrainian passenger plane that killed all 176 people on board. Video obtained by CNN appears to show a missile hitting the jetliner over Tehran. CNN has not yet been able to independently verify what happened.

Moments ago we received this video of the black boxes that were recovered by Iranian authorities. That -- these are from the crash site, obviously. The United States, Canada, and Great Britain all believe the flight to Kiev was shot down by two Iranian surface to air missiles, likely by mistake, but Iran disputes that.

This morning we have learned the United States has given important data about the crash to the Ukrainian government. And about an hour from now, Ukraine's president is expected to speak with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: The downing of the jet came just after Iran launched missile strikes at U.S. forces in Iraq. That followed a drone attack by the United States that killed Iran's top general. Last night, the House of Representatives passed a resolution to limit

to president from carrying out further military action against Iran. The bill passed with the support of three Republicans. Eight Democrats voted against the measure. Sources who spoke with the president say he was furious over the resolution, but White House aides are more concerned about the Senate version, which could be more legally binding.

I want to get right to CNN's Frederik Pleitgen, who's live in Tehran with new information on the crash investigation and what's been going on at the crash site, Fred.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Yes, you're absolutely right, John. We managed to get in touch with the head of Iran's Civil Aviation Authority and we, quite frankly, asked, look, there's these reports out there saying that the crash site has already been cleared. That apparently a lot of the debris has already been taken away when it's unclear whether or not any sort of international investigators have already actually been at that site. Of course we know there's Ukrainian investigators who are on the ground here. And the head of the aviation authority actually confirmed that to us. He said that the Iranians have taken away bigger and also smaller pieces of the debris. He says the reason why they're doing that is because they're bringing those pieces to a large hangar, he says, where they're trying to reconstruct the entire plane to then try and find out what exactly happened to that plane.

We do know that that crash site is now completely cordoned off by the security forces here. We've heard from some eyewitnesses on the ground who were there in the past couple of days and they said that there were a lot of regular folks also at that crash site. One eyewitness describing the scene there yesterday at anarchy. So clearly the authorities trying to get that under control now.

We also asked about what's going on with the bodies that were there. The head of the aviation authority is saying those were being brought to a forensic unit for DNA testing.

Meanwhile, the other new information that we have for you guys, that apparently the black box has now been delivered and is being opened. The Iranians are saying that today they're going to try and start extracting data from that black box. Ukrainian investigators also on the ground there. The Iranians saying they want to do that together with the Ukrainians. They say it could take up to two months to actually get all the data off that black box because they say one of the black boxes is damaged and they might have to ask outside countries like, for instance, Russia, France, and Canada for help in doing that.

And finally, guys, press conference earlier today by the Iranian authorities where they continue, as you put it, to deny that they shot down that aircraft. The head of the aviation authority saying he believe that the -- if the plane would have been hit by a missile, that it would have impacted and the impact site would be a lot larger than it was. Also saying that he believes the plane would not have been able to maneuver to try and get back to Imam Khomeini Airport if indeed it had been struck by a missile, John.

BERMAN: All right, Frederik Pleitgen for us in Tehran with some important, new information.

Fred, please keep us posted.

In the meantime, joining me, CNN aviation analyst Miles O'Brien. He's the science correspondent for PBS "NewsHour."

Miles, first, that bit of reporting from Fred, that the Iranians, he says, are starting to remove debris from that debris field and put it apparently in a warehouse. The significance of the debris field to that investigation, first of all, how significant? Number two, what does it tell you and does it hamper the investigation if it's being moved?

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Well, I'm going to keep the jury out here, John. I will tell you this, it's unusual to move pieces this quickly. The entire team is not even assembled and on site. However, if the goal is to move the pieces and preserve them from, say, a chaotic scene where they haven't cordoned it off well, and put those pieces in a hanger where it will, in fact, be reassembled to come up with a scenario that helps it understand how it came down, where the explosion took place, et cetera, as they did in 1996 subsequent to the TWA 800 crash out of JFK, that's OK.

[07:05:14]

So the issue really is transparency. If they're removing it and we never see those pieces again, that's really bad. If it goes to a hangar and it's reassembled, the evidence of what happened will be preserved. So let's wait and see on this one.

BERMAN: Now, you heard the Iranians make the claims that it was not shot out of the sky. They make the claims that had that happened, the flight trajectory would have been different.

But what evidence have you seen from the intelligence that has been presented and the public data that convinces you one way or the other?

O'BRIEN: Well, it started with the initial pictures of the wreckage, John. There's shrapnel all over the pieces of this aircraft. That shrapnel appears to be coming from an explosion outside the aircraft. The way the metal is bent tells you where there -- the explosion occurred on the inside or the outside. Way more shrapnel than you might have if you had an uncontained engine failure.

And then you look, of course, at that video, which everybody has seen. You don't have to be an expert to look at that and see what is happening there.

And then look at kind of the forensics of the flight itself. If there had been a mechanical failure, an engine failure, it's almost certain that the crew could have gotten a radio call out at least to indicate what the problem was. The turn back to the aircraft, if that aircraft had, in fact, been

struck on the right side -- and these missiles do go after heat, so they tend to go after the engine. If it hit the right side, it would have banked sharply to the right and appeared to be, you know, navigating toward the airport when, in fact, they may not have had control.

BERMAN: Interesting that the black boxes are now being analyzed. Interesting that Boeing has been invited and an NTSB official might be invited as well. What does that tell you?

O'BRIEN: Well, we should applaud that. It looked very early on like the U.S. would not have a seat at the table at this. The treaties and customs are for the country which manufactures the aircraft to be a part of the investigation and, of course, the company itself. So that's a good sign.

I wouldn't expect those black boxes ever reaching U.S. soil, but there are experts in other parts of the world. France seems to be at the top of the list, Canada obviously has a big stake in all of this, where the expertise is to even recover data from heavily damaged black boxes.

So it's important, again, the issue is transparency here. Let's watch those boxes. Where are they going? Whose hands are they in? If they remain in Iranian hands and the verdict is there was no shoot down, I think we should be very skeptical of that.

BERMAN: Miles, I just have one last, quick question here. One of the odd things here is, this was not the only plane to take off from this airport in this time frame. A couple dozen flights apparently had taken off beforehand. So one wonders, if this plane hit by missiles, why this one?

O'BRIEN: Yes, that's the big one, was there something that aircraft did that was slightly unusual? I've looked at the flight path it took leaving the airport. It's exactly on the standard departure routes.

So what happened? We don't know. Was there some other contributing factor here? Maybe something wrong with its transponder. Maybe some other failure that we don't know about yet which might have alerted that crew and made them think that was an enemy aircraft as opposed to a civilian airliner. Or maybe it was just, you know, complete incompetence and a hair trigger alert.

BERMAN: Miles O'Brien, thank you very much for being with us this morning.

O'BRIEN: You're welcome, John.

CAMEROTA: OK, President Trump is reportedly furious over the House vote on the Iran war powers resolution. This is according to multiple people who have spoken with him. The House voted last night to approve the measure to restrain the president's ability to use military action against Iran without congressional approval. Joining us now to talk about this and more, we have CNN political

analyst David Gregory and CNN political analyst Maggie Haberman. She's a White House correspondent for "The New York Times."

Great to see both of you.

So, Maggie, the president, we hear, is angry. Was he surprised that the House took that vote?

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: He actually was surprised this was not more of a unifying event for the country, which is what he expected it was going to be. Something more along the lines of what you saw around the Iraq War lead-up. However, that lead-up came after a massive attack on U.S. soil. It's not remotely the same. It's not as if General Soleimani's name rolls off of most voter's tongues very easily.

He also -- look, he's -- he's not separating this from impeachment politics, right? This has roiled impeachment politics. He recognizes that this is all related.

I think that he is aware that there's questions about how legally binding this is, even once it goes to the Senate, and even if it passes. But he does not want it highlighted that he is taking an act that could be seen as continuing these forever wars. That speech from Matt Gaetz, the Republican who supports the president, on the floor yesterday was very, very important. This is a president who ran against the Iraq War, ran, you know, as somebody who was going to get us out of the Middle East, who opposed George W. Bush's use of intelligence.

[07:10:05]

And those are some of the same questions being raised about his administration right now.

BERMAN: Interesting. So that speech hit him where it hurts.

Another thing that you suggest, Maggie, and I want to get more explanation here, is that advisers say it's not clear that the president understands that the fallout here will take weeks to fully understand.

HABERMAN: He's been very focused on the current time frame, which is the other night they were in the Situation Room, first in the afternoon for a few hours and then in the evening as there were these missile attacks. He was very relieved to see that there were no casualties. They all were very relieved, obviously, that there were no casualties.

He saw it, according to multiple people, as a chance for a reset. I can go in there. I'm going to have this off-ramp where I'm not having heightened escalated tensions and, yes, I will be tough if need be. But he was not speaking, according to multiple people, in the long- term of what this might mean as Iran starts to sort itself out post- Soleimani, how they will react to the U.S., whether there will need to be sanctions. It's going to take a very long time to know whether this event is over and there was a desire to just see this as sort of a mission accomplished. And it's not clear to people close to him whether he recognizes that there's a long arc to go here.

CAMEROTA: Yes, but I was also surprised to see this morning this "USA Today" poll, I'm not sure if we have it, but that a majority of Americans, as of this moment, and, of course, these things change and, you know, hindsight is 20/20, but feel that the attack on Soleimani made America less safe. And so I'm not sure that the president was predicting that -- how rattled Americans would feel by this.

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I mean, I think it's as Maggie says, I think people don't know who Soleimani is. I don't think Americans are focused on the kind of threat to U.S. interests and maybe a direct threat to the United States that Iran could pose. That's the job of making the case for what Iran represents.

And, of course, Iran has been out there as a threat going back for decade now. And there's been an effort to mostly contain Iran and, in fact, the Iraq War emboldened Iran and made Iran stronger in the region.

I also think there's a perception around this president that he's not a stable leader. So taking out Soleimani and then threatening war, his past comments about, you know, being so unpredictable on the foreign stage that, you know, kind of theory of crazy on the world stage is something that could benefit the United States, could benefit him. So all of that plays into it. I think any -- this was -- I felt this way. I felt this was a very frightening moment given some of the stabilizing forces in foreign policy and national security who have left the administration and given the fact that the president has a temperament of impulsivity, to say the least.

So I think, you know, at the moment the president's looking at all of this thinking as Maggie said, we can have a reset here. You know, he likes to just do something and then move on. The world does not move on as quickly. This may turn out to have been strategically smart. We don't know the result of this. Or it could go very badly. There's no reason to believe that Iran is done because Iran says it's done. There's a lot to this yet to go.

BERMAN: Interesting given the questions about the briefings provided to Congress and the feeling among some members of both parties that they were not presented with enough evidence of an imminent attack, that the president, at a political rally, Maggie, made this claim.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Look, we're going to speak to some members of Congress throughout the show and ask them directly if they've seen that evidence. There are questions -- as soon as he said that, the questions aren't, well, is he revealing something that he's not supposed to --

HABERMAN: Right.

BERMAN: Or is he making it up? And that's just his reality now given his relationship with the truth.

HABERMAN: No, that's right. And, look, you know, given that he's the president, if that actually is the intelligence, he's basically just declassified that, right? So there's no reason that we keep hearing that it can't be told.

This is the first time we have heard this. He referenced the embassy, just one embassy, which I took to mean Baghdad earlier in the day, and then he expanded it, as he often does, at the rally.

Look, again, there remain huge questions about the intelligence. "The Times" reported over the weekend that there were serious questions about the significance of this intelligence, whether this just represented sort of normal chatter around Iran or whether this actually was a dramatic increase.

And again, you know, it -- however many years we are, I think it was 16 now past the vote to authorize the Iraq War, there is a reason why -- it's 17 almost -- there is a reason why people are going to question the intelligence and this president more than anyone really ought to understand why that is. And just saying take our word for it we're the government is not going to work.

[07:15:05]

CAMEROTA: Guys, stick around, if you would. We have more questions for you.

BERMAN: So, will we get a date as soon as maybe even today about the beginning of the Senate impeachment trial? When will Nancy Pelosi send the articles of impeachment over? We might be getting some clues, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says she will hand over the articles of impeachment to the Senate when she's ready. And don't you dare question when that is. No, she actually says it will be soon. And once she does, the Senate trial could start. And this could happen as soon as next week.

Back with us, Maggie Haberman and David Gregory.

And, David, the reason I was saying that is because Adam Smith, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, was on this show yesterday saying that he wants Nancy Pelosi to hand over the articles, and then he had to back track and more or less apologize for it.

CAMEROTA: Oopsy-daisy.

BERMAN: But she does say soon. It looks like this is going to happen. What does all this tell you now?

GREGORY: Well, she's been trying to extract some leverage, which has always been curious to me, from the Senate. And as Mitch McConnell said, you know, they're threatening to withhold something we don't want in the first place.

[07:20:00]

I do think the leverage she's seeking is among Republicans who -- more moderate Republicans, Mitt Romney, Murkowski, Collins, who say, yes, we should actually vote to have witnesses, which is still possible. And with the specter of John Bolton, the former national security adviser, saying that he would testify if subpoenaed, we may have some winding roads on the way to what looks like an acquittal in the Senate. So I don't know what's going to hold this back now and the Senate looks like they've got a path that they want to follow, which will be rather fast.

And, again, the only question is whether there are some Republicans who would -- who would cross the aisle to force McConnell's hand to call some witnesses.

BERMAN: Yes, if she created anything, what she created is a tense, political moment that has yet to come, which is that if and when that moment comes, Republicans will have to actively vote no on hearing from John Bolton.

GREGORY: Right.

BERMAN: And that didn't quite exist before she held the articles, but John Bolton had a big part to do with that also.

CAMEROTA: Well, yes. No, but to your point, she created the room for John Bolton to come forward, which he hadn't done before this --

BERMAN: Right.

CAMEROTA: To say that he's ready to testify. So that's the one --

HABERMAN: But he's not testifying before the House.

BERMAN: Right.

HABERMAN: So, I mean, I think it's fine that he said, yes, I will testify, but he's not -- the House -- Schiff has made clear that they're not going to file a subpoena to try to compel Bolton. So I don't know what space she created --

CAMEROTA: Why not? I mean why not? John Bolton wants to testify.

HABERMAN: I'm not clear on that. I don't -- I don't know the answer to that. But I do know that it doesn't create much space when McConnell has already said he doesn't want to do it. So I don't -- I remain as confused as David does as to what the long-term calculation is here. I understand it -- it roiled the president for several days and clearly got under his skin. And that may have been the only goal is to say you're not the only one who can abandon normal process. But when process has been their argument as to why they had to move forward in the first place and do this fast, in fairness, I don't understand what they're doing.

BERMAN: May have given breathing room for a Democratic debate in Iowa next week, which will take place here on CNN. I don't know that that was a calculation, but that may be a net effect.

Maggie, what you do know is what role Jared Kushner is currently playing inside the White House. And one of the reasons this came to light in a terrific article you wrote overnight is because of how, I guess, uninvolved he's been in the tension with Iran. Explain.

HABERMAN: Sure.

So Jared Kushner is somebody who, as you know well, in 2017, when they first came into the White House, the Trump family, he had chosen to make the Middle East a broad part of his sort of nebulous and floating portfolio. He was not a part of the formal process that were a bunch of meetings convened by Mike Pence in the lead-up to that strike against Soleimani. He was not in the situation room for either session on Tuesday.

BERMAN: Where was he?

HABERMAN: Well, for one of them he was sitting for the "Time" magazine shoot for a cover piece about his portfolio, which domestically has gotten much larger. I mean what we have seen him do since 2019 and the investigations into Russia-related matters ended, which he had gotten embroiled in, you have seen him sort of coming out publicly more and trying to be more of a face. He made an appearance at a campaign briefing a couple of weeks ago. That was sort of a first where he is actively taking ownership of these things. The criticism of him has always been that he's sort of everywhere and nowhere and doesn't get blamed. But it is interesting that he was not involved in the Soleimani (INAUDIBLE).

CAMEROTA: And do we know why he wasn't?

HABERMAN: We do not. Other than that he keeps his portfolio narrowed to Israel and Palestinian relationships now is what we were told.

BERMAN: Not Saudis anymore?

HABERMAN: Well, interesting that you mention that given there was a meeting with a member of the Saudi royal family that was not on the president's schedule that Jared Kushner sat in on. So, I guess it's situational.

CAMEROTA: Maggie Haberman, David Gregory, thank you both very much.

So President Trump is claiming that the Iranian general the U.S. killed was plotting to blow up U.S. embassies. That was a new claim that he made last night at a rally. Is that true? We discuss, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:27:44]

CAMEROTA: President Trump told a crowd at a campaign rally last night that Iran was plotted to blow up U.S. embassies, or at least attack them, and not just in Baghdad.

Joining us now to talk about this and more, we have Democratic Senator Mazie Hirono. She's a member of the Senate Armed Services and Judiciary Committees.

Senator, great to have you.

SEN. MAZIE HIRONO (D-HI): Good morning.

CAMEROTA: So, just to be clear, President Trump claimed that Soleimani was actively planning new attacks and looking at attacking U.S. embassies, not just in Baghdad.

Did you see intelligence saying that?

HIRONO: No. So this is an example of the president embellishing as he goes. I have no idea where he got that from. But that's par for the course for this president. I think that --

CAMEROTA: Embellishing as he goes?

HIRONO: Yes.

CAMEROTA: I mean just so that I'm clear, so the intelligence you saw did or did not suggest an imminent attack?

HIRONO: It did not suggest to my -- I concluded, after the -- after the fact briefing that was done, after the president's basically impulsive decision to kill Soleimani, that there was no imminent threat. That is not to say that Soleimani did not present an ongoing threat, but the first argument that the administration made was that there was an imminent threat. So, there you go. But --

CAMEROTA: Well, I mean, but --

HIRONO: Go ahead.

CAMEROTA: I'm not sure where that does actually leave us. Because if the president is lying or embellishing or trumping up, pardon the pun, intelligence, we've seen that movie before. It doesn't go over well ultimately with Americans.

So what are we supposed to take away from that?

HIRONO: Well, we should take from this is that the president engages in impulsive actions. This is why it is very important that the House pass the war powers resolution yesterday and for the Senate to address the same resolution, which is Tim Kaine's resolution, joined by Rand Paul and Mike Lee. It is important for us to send a strong message to the president that if he's going to go to war with Iran, that he needs congressional authority. That is the constitutional requirement.

CAMEROTA: But even if you get Rand Paul and Mike Lee, who have said that they will go along with it, won't the president just veto that?

[07:30:02]

HIRONO: It's a resolution, so he cannot veto it.

And this is why, you know, it's a strong message, but it is not -- does not --