Return to Transcripts main page
THE BRIEF WITH BIANCA NOBILO
Queen Agrees To "Period Of Transition" For Harry And Meghan; Crisis In Iran: Protestors Vent Their Fury Over Downing Of Plane; Story Shifts In Intelligence Behind Soleimani Strike; U.S.: Naval Base Shooting Was An Act Of Terrorism; Officials Urge "Total Evacuation" Near Taal Volcano In The Philippines; Australia Bushfires: Vegetables Dropped To Wildlife Affected By Fires; 92nd Academy Awards: "Joker" Leads The Pack With 11 Nominations; Ex-Pope Clashes With Current Pope Over Priest Celibacy. Aired 5-5:30p ET
Aired January 13, 2020 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BIANCA NOBILO, CNN HOST: Live from London, I'm Bianca Nobilo. Welcome to the show. We begin with the dramatic turn for one of Europe's most
traditional institutions. Britain's top royals huddled for an emergency family meeting today. They were talking about Prince Harry and his wife
Meghan's plan for independence. And afterwards Queen Elizabeth released a statement agreeing to a quote, "Period of transition," while all the
details are settled.
But it doesn't take much to read between the lines of the Queen's statement. Our Royal Correspondent Max Foster tells us that she clearly
wanted her grandson and his wife to stay.
MAX FOSTER, CNN ROYAL CORRESPONDENT: A huge build up to this royal face-to- face, but a positive tone coming out of it. The Queen saying the talks were very constructive and they had agreed to a period of transition for the
Sussexes where they'll split their time between Canada and the U.K.
KATE WILLIAMS, CNN ROYAL COMMENTATOR: The Queen is sending a clear and certain message to the country, to her family, and it's we are going to
find a solution and it's going to be one that will work. Because the more she feels this story drags on, the more there'll be speculation, rumor,
gossip about arguments in the family. That's the last thing she wants.
FOSTER: There was an unusually personal tone to this statement from the Queen. She writes, "My family and I are entirely supportive of Harry and
Meghan's desire to create a new life as a young family." But she also says, she would have preferred them to remain fulltime working members of the
There are a few days left before she wants a final decision. What isn't clear at this point is, whether or not the couple will retain any royal
duties at all or are going to break away entirely and forge private sector careers, effectively cashing in on that very valuable royal brand.
The Queen says these are very complex matters and they are, we've got to work out how any of this will be workable, how will they finance
themselves, how will they combine private and public financing without being accused of conflicts of interest.
There are lots of things to iron out here. But it seems as though they have got over the first hurdle, which is all agreeing that the Sussexes are on
their way out as working royals. Max Foster, CNN, Sandringham, England.
NOBILO: Now to Iran where riot police are out in force as anti-government protesters take to the streets for the third day straight. Demonstrators
are furious about the Government's delayed admission that it shot down a Ukrainian passenger jet by mistake, killing everyone on board.
CNN's Nic Robertson shows us how police in Iran crackdown over the weekend as outrage on the streets escalates.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR (voice over): On the second night of protesting, violence in Iran is escalating and spreading.
In Tehran, security forces shoot into crowds of protesters. People scream, they're shooting at us, go down. Many people are hit.
A woman shouts, "My foot, my foot." A man nearby sees her yells, "Oh, my God, she was hit." Iran denying it fired at protesters saying, it only used
tear gas. Chaos and confusion as crowds rail on Iran's leaders in bitter response to the downing of the Ukrainian passenger jet last week.
The protests spreading across the country to Kermanshah in Western Iran and to the northern city of Babol where police arrested protesters, loading
them into large vans. Clashes with police were reported in more than a dozen cities, where chants of "Death to the Supreme Leader" have become
And in contrast to pro-Soleimani crowds last week, protesters now burning his picture, calling him and the supreme leader murderers. These protests
are a throwback to a few months ago. Protesters clashed with police over price hikes. The anger now, the same.
Protesters believing the leadership does not care about the people could have saved lives by grounding civilian flights the night of their attack on
U.S. bases. In an incredibly rare admission, one of Iran's top commanders apologized for the mistake said, "He wished he had died on the plane."
But on the streets his apparent contrition seems to count for nothing. The regime intent on crushing these protests, despite President Trump's
warnings not to, just as they have in the past. Nic Robertson CNN, Abu Dhabi.
NOBILO: The U.S. killing of Iran's top military commander brought the two countries to the brink of war last week. But the Trump administration still
hasn't settled on a unified message about the intelligence that was behind the attack.
At first we heard that Soleimani was planning imminent attacks, though no details were provided. Then President Trump said that four U.S. embassies
have been targeted. But lawmakers briefed on the intelligence say that that aspect was news to them, although U.S. defense secretary may have only
added to the confusion over the weekend.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Was there specific intelligence the Iranians were plotting to target four U.S. embassies?
MARK ESPER, U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: There was intelligence that they - there was an intent to target the U.S. embassy in Baghdad. What the
president said with regard to the four embassies is what I believe as well. He said, he believed that they probably, that they could have been
targeting the embassies in the region.
TAPPER: Well, the president didn't say that it was a - he didn't cite a specific piece of evidence. What he said is he probably - he believed that-
MARGARET BRENNAN, CBS NEWS SENIOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Are you saying goodbye isn't one?
ESPER: I didn't see one.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NOBILO: Now, Mr. Trump's claim about the embassies is being further undermined by U.S. State Department officials. They've told CNN that no one
involved in embassy security at the State Department was made aware of imminent threats to force specific embassies. And we're also hearing a new
line today from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: And I want to lay this out in context of what we've been trying to do. There's a bigger strategy to this. President
Trump and those of us in his national security team are reestablishing deterrence - real deterrence against the Islamic Republic.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NOBILO: We're joined now by White House Correspondent Kaitlan Collins.
Kaitlan, the administration's explanation of this imminent threat that Soleimani posed to the United States has evolved a lot since the strike
itself. And, obviously, sometimes government have to be very cautious with what intelligence they do let out, but are we getting any closer to clarity
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: No. And the questions have been well are they just bad at communicating what the intelligence was or
was that intelligence simply not there to back up their claims about the imminence of this threat that you've heard initially from Secretary of
State Pompeo, as you've just heard him repeating it there, like he did today. But then that trickled on down to the president and other officials.
Though, we should note, some of our sources at the Pentagon told us, they actually preferred if the secretary of state had not used that word
initially because it wasn't necessarily connected to the intelligence they've seen. And that's why you've seen such blowback to these claims from
Also, it's because of the shifting reasons for the attack is not just the imminence of the threat, but also they've said at times it was about
retaliation for the death of that American contractor.
If you look at the president's Twitter feed today, he is talking about this criticism of whether or not it was imminent. He insists that yes it was.
But he says in the end, it doesn't really matter because in his view, General Soleimani was a horrible person with a bad past and that is what
essentially led to the decision for that strike.
Now, it's also not just about the imminence claim that they've been making, it's also about these four embassies that the president says were part of
this broader target. And then, of course, you saw yesterday, even the defense secretary could not cite any intelligence to back up that claim.
And that is why there have been so many questions about what the administration has been saying.
NOBILO: Thank you, Kaitlan. Kaitlan Collins for us there.
CNN has obtained exclusive access to the U.S. airbase that was attacked by Iranian ballistic missiles last week. As you can see here, the damage to
the Iraqi base is extensive. The missiles left huge craters in the ground and destroyed buildings and equipment. The images are quite stark there.
And thanks to advance warning, all of the U.S. troops and civilian contractors who would have been there survived, because they took shelter
in bunkers built during Saddam Hussein's rule. But as our Arwa Damon shows us that didn't necessarily guarantee their safety.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: These kinds of small bunkers exist throughout the base, but they're meant to protect against
rockets and mortars. The ballistic missiles that were fired are about 3,000 times more powerful than that.
The blast from this one knocked over a four-ton T-wall, but if that hadn't happened, those who were sheltering here probably would not have survived.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NOBILO: Arwa Damon there for us. The U.S. attorney general has announced that the deadly shooting at a Florida naval base is now considered an act
of terrorism. William Barr says the attacker, a Saudi military trainee, was inspired by jihadist ideology and posted anti-American and anti-Israeli
Investigators still need help, though, from Apple to access the data on the shooter's phone. Last month the attacker killed three U.S. sailors on the
base before he was then shot dead. In the wake of the shooting, the U.S. is expelling 21 other Saudi cadets from a training program.
One of the world's most dangerous volcanoes is threatening to erupt again at any moment. Authorities in the Philippines are urging the evacuation of
almost half a million people near the capital Manila. And they're warning of an explosive eruption from the tall Taal Volcano. CNN's Blake Essig
BLAKE ESSIG, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): After more than 40 years of relative peace and quiet, Taal Volcano, one of the smallest in
the world, started making a whole lot of noise.
ARMANDO MENDOZA, PHILIPPINE RESIDENT (via translator): We were afraid and in a panic. We're thinking of how we can save our lives.
ESSIG (voice over): It all started Sunday afternoon, about 60 kilometers south of the Philippine capital of Manila. A violent eruption, sending
steam, ash and rock roughly 15 kilometers into the sky, raining down on the roughly 25 million people like Noel Suarez living below.
NOEL SUAREZ, AFFECTED RESIDENT (via translator): It's difficult to get food, because it's difficult to move. We cannot use the vehicle since it's
muddy and we cannot even clean it since there's no water. Almost everything is a problem now. And then you have the volcano spewing again.
ESSIG (voice over): And after nearly 150 small earthquakes, Philippine officials believe it's going to get worse before it gets better. Nearly
half a million residents have been ordered to evacuate immediately, believing another much larger eruption and possible tsunami could be
ERIK KLEMETTI, VOLCANOLOGIST (via telephone): The real hazard is that it has the potential for explosions, a lot of ash.
ESSIG (voice over): That's Volcanologist Erik Klemetti. He says that despite Taal's small stature, it's one of the most dangerous volcanoes in
the world. A volcano with a deadly past, claiming more than 1,300 lives in 1911 and another 190 in 1965.
KLEMETTI (via telephone): The people living nearby, the combination of explosions and a large population can really - are the things that
volcanologists really hope don't get combined.
ESSIG (voice over): A combination that could be fatal and has already proven to be destructive.
MENDOZA (via translator): There are many destroyed houses. It's almost like a desert there, because of the thickness of the mud.
ESSIG (voice over): Leaving those like Armando Mendoza to wonder what might be left of his community when he returns home, a decision ultimately
decided by Taal. Blake Essig, CNN.
NOBILO: Australia's bushfires have killed wildlife in the millions, consuming unthinkable swathes of habitat. Wildlife officials loaded up a
thousand kilograms of sweet potatoes and carrots and then dropped them to impacted areas and animals in the fires of New South Wales.
Like this endangered brush-tailed rock-wallaby there, which you can see on the other side of the screen. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Scott Morrison, is
under massive amounts of public pressure and he says that he regrets his initial response to those fires.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT MORRISON, AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER: There are things that I could have handled on the ground much better. These are very raw emotional
environments. I've got to say that 95 percent or thereabouts of the responses I've had in these cases have been very positive and very
But, David, these are sensitive environments. They are very emotional environments. Prime ministers are flesh and blood too and how they engage
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NOBILO: Mr. Morrison says that he will propose a National Review to study the government's response.
Tom Sater joins me now to discuss what the weather might have in store for Australia. Tom, is there any indication that there might be some respite,
some cooler temperatures or perhaps some rain coming their way?
TOM SATER, CNN METEOROLOGIST: We are looking at the possibility, Bianca, of one of the better chances of rain, we have seen not just in days or weeks,
but possibly months. I mean, this has been one horrific fire season, decimating wildlife, as you mentioned, the loss of property, and of course
the loss of life.
We've got fires everywhere. The monsoon rains have been delayed to the North. But watch the number of fires disappear. Firefighters just four days
ago were battling over 200 fires in parts of New South Wales and Victoria, so they've dropped this down now a good 50 fires.
But what we're watching now is a good, not just one, two, but maybe three weather systems that could really affect Queensland, New South Wales,
Victoria. Rain on the top end as well. And, again, most of the rain, I think, for New South Wales could be Thursday, Friday and then we'll see it
Saturday and Sunday in Victoria.
There are some areas that haven't had rainfall in over a year that may get their first amount. If this holds true, this is going to be fabulous news,
because we've got record rain from what we have cyclone the other day and another one off the coast.
So, if we break it down for you it might get a little rough ahead of the storm system in Adelaide, which isn't looking at rainfall, but there up to
33, Melbourne up to 34. But then we're really going to start to see it take hold.
Now, Adelaide drops down nicely. Melbourne looks at a warm day with thunderstorms. So things are looking better. This would be fabulous news in
the days ahead if we get what could be best rain we've seen in several, several months.
NOBILO: Fingers crossed.
NOBILO: Tom, thank you very much. Tom Sater there for us at the Weather Center.
The nominations are out for this year's Academy Awards.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ARTHUR FLECK: One small thing.
MURRAY FRANKLIN: Yes.
ARTHUR FLECK: When you bring me out, can you introduce me as Joker?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NOBILO: "Joker" is leading the bunch with 11 nominations, including Best Director and Best Actor for its stalwart Joaquin Phoenix. It's also just
one of the nine movies up for best picture, along with Martin Scorsese's "The Irishman". Well World I drama, 1917; and the surprise hit from South
Korea, Parasite, among others.
But one thing getting a lot of talk online is the filmmakers who didn't make the shortlist. The Oscars shut out women from the Best Director
category and only nominated two actors of color.
CNN's Frank Pallotta is in New York to discuss this with me. Frank, great to have you on the program. What of these nominations surprises you, snubs
that stood out to you and where do you think that representation is still sorely lacking?
FRANK PALLOTTA, CNN BUSINESS MEDIA WRITER: So it's really a tale of haves and have nots. Let's look at the Best Picture lineup, as you said, we have
"Joker," which was a billion-dollar movie, a comic book movie that was nominated. You have to from the streamers with Netflix's "Marriage Story"
and Netflix's "The Irishman," two big movies there.
You have two movies from Disney via Fox with "Ford v Ferrari" and "Jojo Rabbit". Then you have some studio pictures in there from Sony and then you
have a foreign film. Lot of diversity there.
But then on the other side, you have Best Director, the nominations there are all white guys. And this is not just diversity for diversity sake. You
know, everyone here is deserving, but so is Greta Gerwig, so is the director Lulu Wang of "The Farewell," so is the Director of "Hustlers."
These are female directors who are deserving of this as well.
NOBILO: Frank, thanks for joining us. Good to hear from you, Frank Pallotta there.
PALLOTTA: Thank you.
NOBILO: Still ahead on the program, with public anger spilling out onto the streets of Tehran, we're taking a deeper look at the risks that everyday
Iranians face by expressing their dissent.
NOBILO: As we reported earlier, protesters in Iran are demanding that the supreme leader stepped down and they're risking their lives doing it.
Iran's government has suppressed political dissent before. We saw evidence of that just a few months ago. The human rights organization Amnesty
International estimates at least 208 Iranians were killed during antigovernment protests last November.
United Nations says Iranian security forces were quote, "shooting to kill." The Iran - "Debrief," let's bring in Jamal Abdi. He's the President of the
National Iranian American Council and he joins me now from Sarasota in Florida. Jamal, great to have you on the program. Thank you for joining us.
JAMAL ABDI, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL IRANIAN AMERICAN COUNCIL: My pleasure.
NOBILO: When you see the footage of the protests in Tehran, and you hear reports and see evidence as well as the government response, how worried
does that make you about these Iranians who are protesting the government, particularly in response to the shooting down of Ukrainian Airlines flight?
ABDI: It's very worrying. Iranians have been fed up, frankly, with the policies of their own government and the policies of outside powers, like
the U.S., for years. And this is - you know, it's hard to summarize what an entire population feels. But they've been stripped of agency.
They went and elected a moderate who wanted to negotiate with the United States in 2013, and got a nuclear deal and celebrated in the streets and
thought this was going to be the turning point for the economy and for opportunities. And lo and behold, the economy didn't improve. They had
sanctions slapped back on them.
And so now we're seeing this protest movement, that I fear, has really invited the IRGC to occupy this space and respond with violence. And so my
fear is that where does this go? Where does this lead to? This is not necessarily going to lead to reforms or a toppling of the Iranian regime.
It's going to entrench these hardline powers and lead to more and more violence.
NOBILO: And Jamal, you've mentioned in your answer just then how you can't generalize what entire country of 80 million plus people are thinking. Does
it frustrate you as an Iranian American to hear, I guess, news anchors and others trying to understand Iran suddenly and sometimes refer to the people
as homogenous entity. What assumptions, if any, would you want to clear up when you hear people talking about Iranian people at the moment?
ABDI: Well, I think the major failing of U.S. policy has been depriving Iranians of their own agency. And the Trump policy, maximum pressure, is
predicated on this notion that the U.S. needs to punish ordinary Iranians to make them realize that they need to turn out and protest their regime,
which is fine if you want people to protest and be frustrated, it's not fine if you want to build a democracy movement.
And I think that instead of allowing Iranians to be the - you know, guide their own destiny to whether it's working through the system or organizing
through civil society, instead, we have this conversation about having to put pressure on them to force them to do things. And then you get
situations like what we have now, which is these protests and violence and not an answer about, OK, what comes next, because Iranian haven't been able
to decide that for themselves.
NOBILO: As an Iranian American yourself, I believe, your father was Iranian, your mother was European - American, I think. What are some of the
challenges that you face given that the U.S. and Iran have had this tortured relationship for decades now?
ABDI: Well, there's the fears of the moment, which are that - we have reports of Iranian Americans being detained at the border with Canada. Last
week, we have examples of people being held for secondary screening.
And, in the first weeks of the Trump administration, he banned all Iranians from coming here. You know, my family members are banned from coming to
this country. And that was at a time when we had a deal with Iran. We had diplomacy. We weren't in a state of war.
The fear is, if we go to war with Iran, what is this President going to do? And we have seen gradually how our rights have been infringed upon. I mean,
with the Muslim ban, with sanctions, I can't put - if I go out to a Persian restaurant with my friends, and I want to reimburse them on Venmo, if I put
Iran or Persian in the in the note that gets flagged. And I have people who have had their bank accounts shut down.
So there's really - there's been this pressure that has been amassing over time. And it really feels like we risk reaching this breaking point right
NOBILO: And despite those challenges, which are obviously felt more acutely for Iranians who are in their country as well, we saw footage today of the
fact that Iranian protesters chose not to trample on representations of the U.S. and Israeli flags. How would you interpret?
Is that the fact that Iranians are just trying to say to the regime as well, we don't want you to deflect our frustrations on to U.S. and Israel
in this instance, because we're angry about the shooting down of the plane in the response or what do you make of that demonstration?
ABDI: Yes, I think that's a poignant image and it's not necessarily something new. I mean, I have friends who, when they were in school in
Iran, actually organized fellow students to not walk over the American flag as they exited the building and actually made a point of doing that.
And so there have been iterations of these types of really rejections of the ideology of having to be opposed to the United States and having, the
Islamic Republic being a resistance movement to the United States.
So I think that is what people are doing, but it's not necessarily something new. And it still begs this question of, how is the government
going to respond? Is there a way to actually have evolution inside of Iran? Like many Iranians wanted for so long because they saw what happened with
the revolution and how badly that turned out.
But it's hard to see what comes next. And you see actors, you know, you see people like Mike Pompeo or even Donald Trump, on one hand, saying that they
stand with the Iranian people and acting like they're in support of a freedom movement.
And then on the other hand, banning us, talking about bombing cultural sites and completely stripping Iranians of their dignity. So I think that
Iranians are fed up just like the Americans were fed up in 2016 when they went to polls. It's not quite the same thing. But people are fed up and
they're not buying into the same old propaganda that motivates governments to - the authority that comes from them.
NOBILO: Jamal Abdi, thank you very much for your time today. Appreciate it.
ABDI: Thank you. My pleasure.
NOBILO: When THE BRIEF returns, how the former pope is undercutting his successor over the issue of clerical celibacy
NOBILO: For the last six years the Catholic Church has been living with something extremely unusual - two popes on Earth at the same time. The
retired Pope Benedict, is now 92 and he's attacking his successor over the issue of priests and
He's coauthored a book where he says that he quote, "cannot remain silent." That he believes celibacy carries a great significance. The Vatican has
responded, suggesting the pope agreed in principle, but that at times other factors just have to be considered.
This comes as Pope Francis considers easing the prohibitions on married men serving as priests in certain circumstances. When Benedict shocked the
world and retired in 2013, he vowed to remain hidden from the world. But this shows how much of a lightning rod the issue of celibacy remains within
the church that he's decided to speak up now.
That's THE BRIEF. I'm Bianca Nobilo. "WORLD SPORT" is next.