Return to Transcripts main page
Pelosi: She'll Send Impeachment Articles "Soon" to Senate; U.S. and Canadian Governments Claim Iran Shot Down Ukrainian Commercial Jet over Tehran; Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI) Interviewed on Intelligence Briefing Providing Reasons to Believe Qasem Soleimani was Imminent Threat to U.S. Aired 8-8:30a ET
Aired January 10, 2020 - 08:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning and Welcome to your New Day. It is Friday, January 10, its' 8:00 in the east. And we're following several big developments in the plane crash that killed 176 people in Tehran. U.S. officials and the prime ministers of Canada and the United Kingdom say they believe that Iran shot down this Ukrainian passenger plane with two surface-to-air missiles likely by accident. We've just learned that the United States has handed over important data to Ukraine, and that country's leader is expected to speak with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at any moment. Video obtained by CNN appears to show a missile hitting the jetliner over Tehran shortly after takeoff. CNN has not been able to independently verify the authenticity of the video.
Iran has just released video of the black boxes as they deny shooting down the plane. An eyewitness tells CNN that large pieces of debris have already been removed from the crash site, and our aviation experts say that could be cause for concern.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We're also following developments out of Washington. The House voted to prevent President Trump from taking additional military action against Iran. President Trump is reportedly furious about that vote, and sources tell CNN he is 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 correspondents in Iran and Ukraine with the latest on the investigation. Frederik Pleitgen is live in Tehran, Clarissa Ward is live in Kiev. Let's start with Fred in Tehran. Tell us everything we need to know, particularly about the debris field, et cetera.
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Alisyn. Yes, we were focusing on the debris field earlier today because of those reports that apparently large and small parts have been taken away from that debris field very, very quickly, which some people believe is quite a strange thing to be happening. And we actually got in touch, Alisyn, with the head of Iran's civil aviation authority, and he confirmed to us that indeed big and small parts of that plane had been taken away.
He said the reason for that is that the Iranian authorities are bringing these parts to a hangar, as he put it, to try and piece those parts together, again, as part of the forensic work to then better determine whether or not the plane may have been hit by some outside object or what else may have happened to that plane. They said it's something that's very important for investigators to do.
Nevertheless, as far as that crash site is concerned, we do have some eyewitness accounts that we have been getting, including one eyewitness who said that yesterday, the scene there, he described it as chaotic, saying there were not just forensic workers but also some other people there as well. It was very difficult for the authorities to keep tabs on who was actually coming and going from that debris field.
We do know that today things have changed. The authorities have locked that place down and no one can get close to that area. We also asked what's going on with, obviously, the bodies of the people who perished on that flight. And the civil aviation authority telling us that they have been brought to a forensics unit for DNA testing, obviously, for the loved ones. That is something that's extremely important.
John was talking earlier about video of the black box now being released by the Iranians. That is correct. The Iranians are saying they're going to try today to start extracting data from those two black boxes. They say one of those black boxes is damaged. They're going to try and do that together with the Ukrainians. They say, in general, they have the technology to do that, but because it's damaged, it may be difficult. They might ask outside countries, including Russia, France, and Canada for help. But they also say, Alisyn, that that process could take up to two months.
And you are absolutely right. The Iranians continuing to say they did not shoot down the plane. The civil aviation authority this morning saying that they believe that that theory is, as they put it, invalid. They say if the plane would have been shot down, the debris field would be much larger, guys.
BERMAN: And obviously, there was a lot of international concern and interest in all of this. And Clarissa Ward, you're in Kiev right now, which is in itself remarkable considering we were talking to you yesterday from northern Iraq when you were standing inside a missile crater. But from a Ukrainian perspective, not to mention the Canadian perspective, so many Canadians on that plane, people want answers about what happened. How much blame at this point are they putting on Iran, and what are they going to do about it?
CLARISSA WARD, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's interesting, John. If you talk to ordinary people here, very few of them are buying the story that this was some kind of a technical failure that resulted in the downing of this plane. It seems clear to many people here that something more pernicious took place. The government, on the other hand, is keeping pretty tight lipped.
They are saying that they don't want to really come out with any categorical accusations, that they're aware that it's a possibility that the Iranians downed this plane. But they don't want to say categorically what happened one way or the other until they get some information.
Now finally, it appears they are beginning to get some of that information. We know the Ukrainian foreign minister tweeted just in the last hour that he sat down with the U.S. charge d'affaires at the embassy here, that she shared some data with them about exactly what led them to believe that, indeed, the plane was downed by the Iranians.
We also note that the president, Volodymyr Zelensky, is supposed to be talking to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo any moment now and having a sort of in-depth conversation with him about what exactly the U.S. views in terms of how this investigation is going, what direction it's going in, and what leads them to believe that it was, indeed shot down.
You may remember yesterday, President Zelensky was appealing, basically, to Canada, to France, to the U.S., to anyone for more information. He was learning about these accusations that the plane had been downed by an Iranian missile from media statements. So certainly, some sense of progress in that some information is starting to trickle in. But here at this very somber scene when you talk to people, very few people buying the idea this was some random, technical failure. John, Alisyn?
CAMEROTA: Clarissa, thank you for all that reporting. Fred, thank you for the reporting. Obviously, CNN will stay with both of you throughout the day on this developing story.
Joining us now is Republican Congressman Mike Gallagher. He's is a member of the armed services committee and a Marine Corps veteran who served in Iraq. Congressman, great to have you here. Thanks so much for being here. About what our correspondents were just reporting, if it is proven that Iran -- that an Iran missile brought down that passenger jet by accident or on purpose, does that require a response?
REP. MIKE GALLAGHER, (R-WI): Well, it is, if proven, an undeniable tragedy for the Canadian citizens on board and for the Iranian citizens that were on board. And I think it's further proof of what we've long known, which is that the primary victims of the brutality, the recklessness, the sheer incompetence of the Iranian regime are the Iranian people themselves.
And so if there is a response, I hope it's twofold. One, I hope our European partners will unite with us in imposing maximum economic pressure on a regime that threatens really the world's safety. And secondarily, I hope we'll seize the opportunity to drive a wedge between the Iranian people and their regime, people who have been in the streets for the better part of the last two years protesting their regime's support for terrorism. Soleimani's death squads recently gunned down 1,200 Iranian citizens because what the regime fears more than anything else, more than American missiles, more than President Donald Trump, are its own people, and therein lies our opportunity to bring some semblance of stability and order to the region.
CAMEROTA: Are you surprised that Soleimani's death seems to have united the people? We saw something like a million people turn out on the street there to commemorate him.
GALLAGHER: Well, I would dispute the premise that it has united the people, certainly not on the streets of Iraq. You'd have to only believe Iranian state reporting to think that's true. Indeed, for the 73rd day in a row, Iraqis have come to the streets of Iraq to protest Iranian influence in that country, to demand an end to Iranian-led corruption in that country. And similarly, they are joined by protesters within Iran itself who do so at risk of their own lives. And the reason you're not seeing them on the streets is because likely if they come on the streets, they will get killed by the Iranian regime. And also we've had protesters in Lebanon.
So I spent a good deal of my adult life in the Middle East, and I can assure you that the picture is a bit more complicated than that which Iranian state media would suggest.
CAMEROTA: I hear you. But we have seen with our own eyes the crowds, the crowd size that did turn out for Soleimani's funeral. Did that surprise you?
GALLAGHER: Well, in one of the enduring ironies of life we now have the Iranian supreme leader talking about crowd sizes in his own country. No doubt the hardliners in Iran will be angered by the death of Soleimani, but he was simply irreplaceable. There's no one that can immediately replace him.
And also, think about the chain of anxiety and recrimination and suspicion his death will set off within the entire Iranian national security apparatus. And indeed, I think the reason you saw such a tepid de-escalatory response from the Iranian regime is that they now know if they kill more Americans, we will respond more forcefully.
So my hope, and the dust is still settling, I will grant you that, is that we have been able with this bold action to restore a little bit of deterrence in the region, and we're going to have to do that. Incredible military deterrence, combined with maximum economic pressure, in my opinion, gives us the best chance to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon over the long term, and ultimately reduce our force posture in the region and focus on more important regions of the world, like INDOPACOM.
CAMEROTA: Just to be clear, are you saying you don't believe the video of the million people who turned out for his funeral?
GALLAGHER: No. I have no doubt there are many in Iran who are wailing at the death of Soleimani. And there are certainly many who support the supreme leader's vision of alidefachi (ph) and exporting terrorisms and the revolution across the Middle East. I am merely saying there are an even greater number of people in the region who oppose that vision. Those are our allies. And those are the primary victims of Iranian aggression.
I am merely saying that the millions who have died in Syria, the hundreds of Americans who have died in Iraq at the hands of a terrorist sponsoring regime are our enemies, and our task is to unite our allies on the ground in opposition to the brutal, evil, terrorist- sponsoring Iranian regime.
CAMEROTA: Last night at a rally, President Trump claimed that Soleimani was actively plotting attacks against U.S. embassies, and not just one, not Baghdad. Did you see that in the intelligence that you were presented?
GALLAGHER: Everything that I have seen, both in that briefing, in my discussions in a classified setting at the White House, has confirmed for me the belief that Soleimani was actively plotting attacks against the U.S., and further confirming that is Soleimani's recent and long history of trying to kill Americans. Indeed, Soleimani woke up every day asking himself, how can I kill Americans? And how can I get America out of Iraq and the Middle East more broadly?
CAMEROTA: We understand he posed an existential threat, that part I think has been made. But in terms of an immediate, an imminent threat, which is what the president has said, did you see intelligence suggesting that it was at our embassies, and not just the embassy in Baghdad?
GALLAGHER: Yes, and I believe Chairman Milley in his characterization of the intelligence as imminent. I understand a lot of my colleagues were not satisfied with the nature of the brief they received. I can tell you as an intelligence officer by training, intelligence is never 100 percent certain. You're always making a hard call, particularly battlefield intelligence involving the fog of war. But certainly, we don't even need that to understand what happened because the Iranian proxies, Kataeb Hezbollah, had killed an American in Iraq recently and attacked our embassy.
CAMEROTA: But just to be clear. Again, I don't think that Americans are comfortable being fed intelligence that isn't spot on. In what you saw, was it specifically about U.S. embassies?
GALLAGHER: The Iranians attacked the U.S. embassy. So, clearly --
CAMEROTA: In Baghdad.
GALLAGHER: -- you don't even need classified intelligence to suggest --
CAMEROTA: They demonstrated at the embassy in Baghdad.
GALLAGHER: -- that the Iranians were attacking us in the country.
CAMEROTA: Plural, did you see intelligence that there were going to be attacks, imminent attacks, on U.S. embassies, plural, outside of Baghdad?
GALLAGHER: As a counterintelligence officer, I'm not going to reveal to you the specifics of classified intelligence.
CAMEROTA: The president declassified it last night. Just to be clear, the president talked about it, which means that it was declassified last night at a rally.
GALLAGHER: Here is what you need to know. Qasem Soleimani, the world's top terrorist mastermind was on an active battlefield where we had U.S. troops who were there pursuant to a 2002 AUMF, considered legal reasoning of the Obama administration. If Qasem Soleimani did not want to get taken out after killing Americans, he should not have been a uniformed military officer on an active battlefield. I think the world is much safer without the world's top terrorist mastermind on that battlefield.
CAMEROTA: And it may be true the world is safer without Saddam Hussein also, but Americans generally don't take kindly at this point after what we've gone through to being fed some sort of intelligence that isn't accurate. And so just one more time, did you hear plural embassies were under imminent attack or threat from Soleimani?
GALLAGHER: I have told you, in my discussions at the White House, in the briefing that we received this week, I believe that the administration had enough information and certainly had clear, legal authority to take Qasem Soleimani off the battlefield. And beyond that, I'm not going to divulge aspects of classified information where we know we have very sensitive sources that are helping right now keep Americans safe.
CAMEROTA: Do you think it was wrong for President Trump to divulge that last night?
GALLAGHER: I don't know specifically what the president said last night.
CAMEROTA: I have it. I'll play it for you just so we're on the same page. Here's what the president said last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, (R) 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)
CAMEROTA: Did you hear our -- the intelligence, our embassies and not just the embassy in Baghdad.
GALLAGHER: Perhaps the president was talking about the fact that Soleimani via Shiite proxies had attacked our embassy in Baghdad. Whether he's linking that with a broader threat to our embassies in the region, I can't disclose that right now. But the president, of course, has the ability to declassify intelligence as he sees fit. But beyond that, as I'm not a member of the Intelligence Committee, I can't tell you if there were additional briefings.
CAMEROTA: OK, it sounds like the president was talking about something in the future was actively planning new attacks he said, so that would be future attacks. But --
GALLAGHER: Well, certainly, he was planning attacks against U.S. forces in Iraq and his broader goal was to get our forces to leave the region and turn Iraq into a forward operating base from which to threaten Israel and Saudi Arabia. Again, I think -- yes, go ahead.
CAMEROTA: I'm just trying to be precise in terms of the intelligence --
CAMEROTA: -- just because, you know, we've all learned a lesson of what happens with imprecise intelligence.
But, Congressman Mike Gallagher, we appreciate you coming on NEW DAY. We certainly appreciate your service.
Thank you very much.
GALLAGHER: Thank you.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Really interesting to hear the president's exact words there. The president went somewhere where the congressman was not willing to go or perhaps not able to go based on the information he actually read. There could be a discrepancy there.
All right. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi now signaling a possible end to the impeachment standoff with the Senate. How soon is soon? That big question, next.
BERMAN: So, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is signaling that a possible end to the standoff with Senate Republicans over articles of impeachment could be coming, and soon.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): I'm not holding them indefinitely. I'll send them over when I'm ready, and that will probably be soon.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: "I will send them over when I'm ready" is probably the most true statement that's ever been spoken. Nancy Pelosi will decide when this is going to happen. She says soon. How soon? Probably very. Joining us now, CNN political commentators Ana Navarro and Joe
Lockhart, he was President Clinton's White House press secretary; and CNN senior global affairs analyst Bianna Golodryga.
Joe, first off, because we've heard a lot of people question why Nancy Pelosi held on to the articles. Did she achieve what she wanted to achieve. You were a member of a group who thinks it was a good move and she got what she wanted. Why?
JOE LOCKHART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Because she focused the main issue for the Senate trial. The Senate trial is not necessarily going to be about what is the White House defense going to be? It's going to be, will there be witnesses? And she's created a litmus test for this trial.
If there are no witnesses, then a lot of people are going to be able to say, this is a cover-up. This is a sham trial. And again, I think she had a very weak hand and she played it as well as she could have.
CAMEROTA: Do you think her gambit worked?
ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You know, I think she -- I think it has. And I think she also got the unexpected gift of John Bolton announcing in the midst of all of this that he was willing to testify. I really don't understand how any Republican can go back to their home district, their home state -- I got two -- and justify not wanting to hear from John Bolton. I got how most of them enthusiastically endorsed for this position, really pushed for this position and who was in the room, which is something that has been, you know, the key missing to so much of this testimony.
So I really think that puts added pressure on Mitch McConnell and Republicans because as an American voter, I want to know went on in there and John Bolton can tell me.
BERMAN: Well, if that was the goal, maybe she got that. She didn't get a promise from Mitch McConnell that there would be witnesses which some suggest she was going after. We did see maybe the extent of her power or how much she looms over the Democratic caucus yesterday.
On this show yesterday morning, Adam Smith, who was the chair of the House Armed Services Committee, answered a very simple question. Do you think that Nancy Pelosi should send the articles over to the Senate? This is what he told us at about 8:00 a.m. yesterday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ADAM SMITH (D-WA): But at the end of the day, just like we control it in the House, Mitch McConnell controls it in the Senate. I think it was perfectly advisable for the speaker to try to leverage that, get a better deal. At this point, it doesn't look like that's going to happen. And, yes, I think it is time to send the impeachment to the Senate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: That's pretty clear when he says, yes, I think it's time.
CAMEROTA: That's clear.
BERMAN: That was about 8:00 a.m. At 10:00 a.m. --
CAMEROTA: It was less clear.
BERMAN: -- it was less clear.
He wrote: I misspoke this morning. I do believe we should do everything we can to force the Senate to have a fair trial. If the speaker believes holding on to the articles for a longer time will force a fair trial in the Senate, then I wholeheartedly support that decision.
NAVARRO: Did that come with a bow?
BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: It was quite a reversal, and he ultimately and Dana Bash reported this, that it happened not because he heard from Speaker Pelosi or any of those around her but from his own constituents who were not happy with what he said at 8:00 a.m.
That having been said, I agree. I think Nancy Pelosi knows that once she transfers over those articles of impeachment, it's not in her hands anymore, and she's not in control.
And Mitch McConnell was always going to play the argument that he has been playing, that he's been steadfast and he said, I'm absolutely not going to change the rules, and we're not going to have witnesses, and we're going to make this short and sweet.
That having been said, in the course of those few weeks, think about the information that's come forward. New reporting on emails and conversations and infighting between various departments of the administration about what transpired over the course of these few weeks in regards to the Ukraine aid.
And as you said, the fact that Bolton now came forward and said he's willing to testify, remember, the reason that we didn't hear from him when this was in Congress' hands wasn't because they just decided not to reach out to him. We had heard, and they had heard that he would defy any subpoena and would actually take it up to the courts. So, something happened in the last few weeks that triggered him to come forward and say, if I am subpoenaed, I will speak, and I think that does put more pressure on Republicans.
NAVARRO: I hope that what happened was he watched so many of his staffers go in there and bravely answer questions, despite the consequences that they were going to bear as a result of that. And, you know, and that he looked in the mirror and said what kind of coward am I if I was their boss, if I was their leader and I am staying silent and hidden. Oh, and by the way, it's also good for book sales.
GOLODRYGA: Right. And, clearly, what they said was truthful because he has access to reporters. He would have spoken out. And we would have heard from his camp if what they had spoken to was not true.
BERMAN: Joe, when is the Senate trial starting?
LOCKHART: I think -- my prediction is the articles will go over today, at latest, Monday. I think McConnell wants to get going and wants to get going next week. He has his resolution ready and he won't show it to anyone. But it's written.
The only thing that could delay this, I think, is if the White House feels like they need more time to prepare their defense.
You know, one of the things that's going to happen is they're going to see who the House managers are. The House managers just the selection of who they are going to dictate some of the Democrats' strategy. The White House may say, we need three or four days extra to prepare.
This could start Tuesday.
CAMEROTA: Wow. OK, you heard it here first.
Bianna, Joe, Ana, great to see you.
BERMAN: If it starts Tuesday, it's a huge problem for some Democratic senators who are also running for president, because there's a big debate Tuesday night in Iowa.
LOCKHART: One of the other reasons it could start Tuesday.
BERMAN: Very interesting. Watch this space.
All right. President Trump claims the Iranian general killed by the United States was plotting attacks on U.S. embassies.
We just heard from one lawmaker who wouldn't confirm he saw that same intelligence exactly. We'll speak to another lawmaker who has seen the intelligence. What will she say? That's next.
BERMAN: President Trump making a new claim about the threat an Iranian general posed before he was killed in a U.S. airstrike.
(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. END