Return to Transcripts main page
THE SITUATION ROOM
Trump Calls For Senate To Dismiss Impeachment Charges; Shifting Explanations On Iran Strike; Interview With Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA); Trump Says, Totally Consistent On Intel Ahead Of Soleimani Killing; Sources Say, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) Told Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D- MA) In Private 2018 Meeting That A Woman Can't Win; Queen Announces "Period Of Transition" For Harry And Meghan Following Royal Family Crisis Meeting; Justice Department: Pensacola Naval Base Attack "An Act Of Terrorism". Aired 6-7p ET
Aired January 13, 2020 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And the fire season still has many weeks to go -- Jake.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: All right, Will Ripley, thank you so much. Stay safe, my friend.
You can follow me on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter @JakeTapper. You can tweet show @THELEADCNN.
Our coverage continues right now.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Happening now: Dismiss the charges.
CNN has learned that the White House is pressing for an impeachment trial rule that could let Senate Republicans end of the case against President Trump almost as soon as it begins. We will look at key impeachment developments that begin tomorrow.
Imminent insistence. As the Trump team struggles to justify the killing of Iran's top general, the president himself just said the intelligence has been consistent, even though Defense Secretary Mark Esper says he hasn't seen evidence of any imminent threat to U.S. embassies.
And now sources say State Department security officials were never told about any imminent embassy threats.
On the attack. On the eve of CNN's Iowa Democratic presidential debate, friction between top contenders, including attacks by Bernie Sanders on Joe Biden, and Sanders allegedly telling Elizabeth Warren a woman can't win.
And royal summit. An emergency meeting convened by Britain's Queen Elizabeth to contain the crisis sparked by Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan, and their plans to step back from royal duties. Tonight, the queen herself speaks out about what she calls complex matters. We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the
world. Wolf Blitzer is on assignment in Iowa preparing for tomorrow night's debate.
I'm Brianna Keilar. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
We're expecting movement this week on President Trump's impeachment trial, after weeks of stalemate. But, tonight, sources are telling CNN that the White House is pressing Senate Republicans for a rule that would let them simply dismiss the charges against the president after opening arguments.
Pelosi meets with her caucus tomorrow, when we could learn more about the appointment of House managers and when they will deliver the impeachment articles to the Senate.
We will be talking about that and more with Congressman Eric Swalwell of the House Intelligence and Judiciary committees. And our correspondents and analysts are also standing by.
First, let's bring in CNN political correspondent Sara Murray.
And, Sara, this is the week that impeachment is going to heat up again.
SARA MURRAY, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Brianna. It has been a lengthy limbo, but now we may finally get these answers to when these articles are finally going to the Senate and what a Senate trial might look like.
MURRAY (voice-over): After nearly a month of sitting on the articles of impeachment, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is ready to take the next step -- almost.
Tomorrow, Pelosi meets with her caucus to decide when to vote on House impeachment managers, a vote that could come as soon as Wednesday.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): We will determine in our meeting when we send them over. But we have never -- I have always said I would send them over, so there shouldn't be any mystery to that.
MURRAY: After the impeachment managers are named, the House can formally transmit the articles of impeachment to the Senate, where a trial can begin after some procedural steps take place.
But it's still a mystery who the impeachment managers will be even to the Democratic lawmakers jockeying for the job.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): Well, that will be the speaker's decision.
REP. RAJA KRISHNAMOORTHI (D-IL): I really can't comment on any of this. I really have zero information.
MURRAY: It's also unclear when a Senate trial will actually begin, what it will look like, and whether Democrats will succeed in their demand for witnesses.
Senator Susan Collins says she's working with GOP colleagues on a potential agreement to call witnesses.
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R-ME): I am working with a group of Republican senators and our leaders to see if we can come to an agreement on some language that would include an opportunity for the House to call witnesses and the president's counsel to also call witnesses.
MURRAY: Former National Security Adviser John Bolton's offer to testify in the Senate has added another wrinkle to the fight over witnesses, even prompting the White House to adjust its plans for the president's defense.
Over the weekend, Pelosi took aim at Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for supporting a resolution to dismiss the two articles of impeachment against President Trump.
PELOSI: Dismissing is a cover-up. Dismissing is a cover-up. If they want to go that route, again, the senators who are thinking now about voting for witnesses or not, they will have to be accountable for not having a fair trial.
MURRAY: At the White House, the president expressed his support for an outright dismissal, tweeting: "Many believe that by the Senate giving credence to a trial based on the no evidence, no crime, read the transcripts, no pressure impeachment hoax, rather than an outright dismissal, it gives the partisan Democrat witch-hunt credibility that it otherwise does not have. I agree."
Trump's attorneys, meantime, are laying out the main arguments in Trump's defense in a brief that is nearly completed.
White House counsel Pat Cipollone, who is expected to take the lead on the president's defense, spent the weekend working from his West Wing office. While he will represent the president, along with outside counsel Jay Sekulow, on the Senate floor, Trump is already asking who will defend him on television, and making it clear he expects House Republicans to hit the airwaves on his behalf.
MURRAY: Now, the president's allies want this all to be over with by the State of the Union, which is February 4.
And in case there aren't enough moving parts, Brianna, member Lev Parnas, that indicted Rudy Giuliani associate?
KEILAR: That's right.
His attorney says they have handed over photos, text messages, thousands of documents to House impeachment investigators. Lev wants this audience with lawmakers. But what is in these documents? The attorney is not saying, so keep an eye on how that plays out.
KEILAR: Yes, he's in trouble, and maybe looking for a way out too there.
CNN's Sara Murray, thank you.
And let's get more now from Capitol Hill.
CNN Congressional Correspondent, Phil Mattingly is there for us tonight.
So, Phil, this all kicks off tomorrow, perhaps? What are you expecting?
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's the expectation right now.
Look, Brianna, tomorrow morning, at 9:00 a.m., all House Democrats will meet behind closed doors in the basement of the House side of the Capitol, where Speaker Pelosi is expected to lay out the next steps.
And those next steps will include scheduling the vote to name the House managers, essentially the House Democrats who will prosecute the case over in the Senate. Once that vote takes place -- right now, the expectation is on Wednesday -- the managers will be able to physically walk the two articles of impeachment over to the United States Senate floor.
And when they get there, there are no shortage of questions in that chamber either, a number of things senators are still trying to chew over in terms of what the trial will actually look like.
Sara reported in her piece about the idea of a motion to dismiss. We reported earlier today sources saying the White House is pushing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to keep the opportunity to vote on a motion to dismiss in the initial trial organizing rules.
But we are told by multiple GOP senators tonight that that has almost no bandwidth amongst Republican senators on Capitol Hill, Senator Susan Collins saying she would vote immediately against that, Senator Roy Blunt, a member of Republican leadership, saying there's almost no will in the Republican Conference to consider that.
But there are also the longer-range ideas that people are kicking around right now. And that is, most notably, the idea of hearing from witnesses. You heard Senator Susan Collins, somebody who said she is open to witnesses.
This is what Senator Mitt Romney said about discussions that may be ongoing between some Republicans.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITT ROMNEY (R-UT): You know, a lot of people are talking amongst themselves. I have spoken with several of my colleagues. I have let Senator Collins know where I stand, which is that I support the Clinton impeachment model, which is a vote on witnesses later.
But as to which witnesses I'd want to hear from and so forth, that's something which I'm open until to until after the opening arguments.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTINGLY: And Senator Romney really laying out the initial structure of the trial we expect.
Likely to kind of kick off at least the real meat of the trial, early next week, you're going to have opening arguments from the defense team, from the House managers. But, again, on that question of witnesses, here's the only thing, Brianna, you really need to focus on, the number 51.
If you have 51 votes in the United States Senate, whatever combination of Democrats and Republicans you can find, you can essentially dictate how this trial goes, whether you subpoena witnesses, whether you subpoena documents.
That's what Democrats have been aiming for. That's why they have been trying to reach out or at least kind of lay the groundwork to have people like Romney, Collins, perhaps Senator Lisa Murkowski, to come on board.
However, Democrats control 47 seats in the United States Senate. That means they need four Republicans to cross over. And at this moment in time, only three Republicans have really opened the door to the possibility of voting for witnesses. That's something to keep a close eye on as this moves forward.
Again, opening arguments from both sides, then questions from senators then likely votes on those witnesses, with a number, 51. That's what you need to keep an eye on, Brianna.
KEILAR: Focus on 51.
Phil Mattingly, thank you.
It is 11 days of contradictions and mixed messages about the intelligence behind the targeted U.S. killing of Iran's top general, but President Trump insists his administration has been, in his words, totally consistent.
Let's go now to CNN Chief White House Correspondent, Jim Acosta.
And, Jim, we're being told that officials in charge of embassy security were never told that there was an imminent threat that the president cites.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Brianna.
And before we get to that, I should point out we are hearing from our sources just in the last several minutes that the president's outside attorney Rudy Giuliani has been lobbying Mr. Trump to be a part of his impeachment trial legal team.
At this point, it is not seen as a likely scenario to take place. As one source close to the White House told me just a short while ago, Giuliani is seen by the president as potentially a witness in this trial. So that is not likely to happen at this point, but notable that Giuliani has been apparently lobbying the president on that front.
Now, as for Iran, President Trump is leveling some very harsh attacks at Democratic leaders in response to their criticism of the administration's targeted killing of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani.
The president just spoke with reporters just a short while ago, and defended his administration's handling of the Soleimani strike, describing the intelligence laid out to the public as consistent.
ACOSTA (voice-over): Facing persistent questions about his decision to take out Iranian General Qasem Soleimani, President Trump blasted away at Democrats with one of his most offensive social media posts yet.
The president retweeted a Photoshopped anti-Muslim image showing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer in front of an Iranian flag wearing traditional Islamic clothing.
White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham defended Mr. Trump's swipe, doubling down on his false attack.
STEPHANIE GRISHAM, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think the president is making clear that the Democrats are -- have been parroting Iranian talking points and almost taking the side of terrorists and those who were out to kill the Americans.
ACOSTA: The Trump administration is back to ramping up the rhetoric with Iran, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo standing by the decision to kill Soleimani, while warning leaders in Tehran to behave themselves.
MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: On the military side, we have warned the Iranians repeatedly, done so personally myself, that an attack that took American lives would not be tolerated. If Iran escalates, we will end it on our terms.
ACOSTA: Top officials are still struggling to state why Soleimani was targeted, with the president claiming the administration's explanations have been consistent.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think it's been totally consistent. But here's what's been consistent: We killed Soleimani, the number one terrorist in the world by every account. Bad person. Killed a lot of Americans. Killed a lot of people. We killed him. And when the Democrats try and defend him, it's a disgrace to our country. ACOSTA: Defense Secretary Mark Esper wavered on the president's claim
that there was an Iranian threat to attack four embassies.
MARK ESPER, U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: I didn't see one with regard to four embassies. What I'm saying is, I share the president's view that probably my expectation was they were going to go after our embassies.
I'm not going to discuss intelligence matters here on the show.
Let me just say...
TAPPER: The president did, though.
ESPER: He was -- it's the president's prerogative.
ACOSTA: Same for National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien.
ROBERT O'BRIEN, U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: We know there were threats to American facilities. Now, whether they were bases, embassies, it's always hard until the attack happens.
ACOSTA: The president tried to clean it all up with a tweet, insisting the thread by Soleimani was imminent and that his team was in agreement on the decision to strike.
Still, State Department officials tell CNN that personnel involved in embassy security were not told about an imminent threat and therefore did not warn embassies.
As demonstrators took to the streets in Iran protesting Tehran's downing of a Ukrainian airliner, the president issued a warning, tweeting: "Do not kill your protesters. The USA is watching. Turn your Internet back on and let reporters roam free."
Democrats are accusing the president and his team of misleading the public to justify their actions after the fact.
REP. GERRY CONNOLLY (D-VA): well, I think they're making it up as they go along to try to provide cover for the president. I really believe what happened here was, it was not about intelligence. It was about opportunity.
ACOSTA: Now, during the president's remarks to reporters just a short while ago, he did not offer any new evidence or intelligence pointing to an imminent threat posed by Qasem Soleimani.
The president only said that the information coming from the administration has been consistent, when it hasn't been. Brianna, the only consistency has been the inconsistency -- Brianna.
Jim, thank you so much for that report. Let's get more now on all of this with Democratic Congressman Eric
Swalwell of California. He is a member of the Intelligence and the Judiciary committees.
Sir, thanks for joining us.
REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA): Of course. Good evening, Brianna.
KEILAR: So let's start with impeachment.
You have this caucus meeting tomorrow at this critical time. Are you expecting to learn who the impeachment managers will be at this meeting?
SWALWELL: Can't say. I don't know the answer to that.
But I can say, the expectation is that the majority leader, Mitch McConnell, will tell us what the parameters are, what arena we're going to be in when we go over to the Senate, and assure the American people that they will have a fair trial.
And I just saw a Quinnipiac poll today where 66 percent of Americans are saying they want John Bolton to testify. He's a relevant witness. And in trials, relevant witnesses testify. So don't give us anything less than that.
KEILAR: Well, you sit on the House Intelligence Committee.
And the chairman of your committee, Adam Schiff, actually said he's considering a subpoena for the former National Security Adviser John Bolton.
Do you think that's going to happen from the House side?
SWALWELL: Well, he and I and the committee don't want it to come to that. We would like to see assurances that John Bolton would be called in the Senate.
KEILAR: So, is he not really considering it, then? Did he just say that?
SWALWELL: No, no, he is. Yes. No, he is.
But what he is saying is that, ideally, John Bolton would be called in the Senate, the proper venue once impeachment is sent there. But, if not, we're not going to rule out getting John Bolton's testimony.
But first things first. Just declare to the American people that we will get a fair trial. That's what we're asking of Mitch McConnell.
KEILAR: So when are you, when are Democrats going to vote on these impeachment managers, do you expect?
SWALWELL: This week.
I can't say the day. I don't know. But I know the speaker's intention is to do that this week.
And do you have any indication of who will be named, of maybe what the speaker has been looking for? Has she already decided?
SWALWELL: I don't.
But what she has said is that, if Mitch McConnell would tell her, what are the parameters, what are we going into, that would help her decide what types of managers she would send over.
For example, we have constitutional experts in our caucus. We have people who are great at laying out the evidence. We have people who have cross-examined witnesses in the past.
But he will give us no information about what she should send. And so, at the very least, she's not going to send people over there into an ambush, and I think has already been able to get John Bolton to come forward, has been able to see these Just Security documents come forward to show this shakedown scheme the president had with the Ukrainians.
And the public sentiment has never been higher that they want a fair trial. So we have achieved all of that by holding back on the articles.
One of Rudy Giuliani's indicted associates, as you're familiar with, Lev Parnas, has turned over thousands of documents to your committee. Can you tell us anything about what's in those?
I know the committee is reviewing those. And, again, our priority is to hear from John Bolton, Mick Mulvaney, other witnesses who we have corroborated around them that they know information about the president's shakedown scheme of the Ukrainians.
It's too early, I think, to tell as to whether there's anything relevant with the Parnas information.
KEILAR: But your -- so your focus is on John Bolton.
KEILAR: But, I mean, Lev Parnas, who is a Soviet-born American citizen, was actually bankrolling Rudy Giuliani at the time that he was going through this process to try to get information or an investigation from Ukraine.
KEILAR: He -- they had similarly aligned motives.
Would you expect that this could be very helpful? And if it is, then what? What do you do with it?
SWALWELL: Well, that's what we're reviewing right now.
And, again, ideally, you would have a Senate that would say, yes, we will look at all relevant witnesses, and we will bring them forward if we deem them relevant.
You don't have that right now. You have a rigged outcome being given by Senate Majority Leader McConnell.
But, Brianna, to answer your question, yes, we will, of course, continue to review those, but we're focused primarily on the president's conduct. And we know, from John Bolton and Mick Mulvaney and what others have said about them, that they saw the president's corrupt conduct.
That's why, first and foremost, they should be called as witnesses.
KEILAR: We just heard our Jim Acosta reporting that the president's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, who obviously these dealings are what we're talking about -- they're so key to this impeachment case.
He's been lobbying the president to join his legal team on the Senate floor during his upcoming trial. That seems unlikely. But what are you expecting? Are you expecting a spectacle? Are you expecting this to be serious? Do you know?
SWALWELL: We expect the president to continue to obstruct, to continue to intimidate witnesses, and also to just continue to outright lie to the American people about his conduct.
He can call whoever he would like as his lawyer. I don't think that's going to change what he has done and what he continues to do.
And, Brianna, shifting to Iran, what the president did with Ukraine, putting his own interests over our national interest, is exactly what we're starting to see play out now with what it looks like happened in Iran, that the president put his own political agenda ahead of national security concerns for people at our embassies, who should have apparently been warned, if there really was a threat, and troops, who could have been retaliated against for such escalatory conduct by the president.
KEILAR: If I can ask you really quickly, before I let you go here, Mark Esper, the defense secretary, has said he believes President Trump's assessment, the assessment being that there were four embassies under threat, even after Esper had said that he didn't see intelligence that that was the case.
Do you believe Esper is being honest?
SWALWELL: I will say, I have not seen that evidence. And I have been in multiple briefings about this strike. I have not seen evidence to suggest that there was an imminent threat to the United States. This was a bad terrorist in Soleimani. No one mourns his loss.
However, there are a lot of bad people in the world. And if we just start picking them off worldwide, that's going to make our troops and Americans much less safe.
And so, right now, what we should focus on, again, why did the president do this at this time, and were there political factors that motivated him to do so?
KEILAR: Congressman, thank you so much.
SWALWELL: Of course. My pleasure.
KEILAR: Congressman Eric Swalwell joining us from the Capitol.
And just ahead, Bernie Sanders allegedly telling Elizabeth Warren that women presidential candidates can't win. We will have the latest on the 2020 Democrats ahead of tomorrow's CNN Iowa Presidential Debate.
KEILAR: It is a critical week ahead, as the impeachment process begins moving forward again starting tomorrow.
So let's talk about this now with our legal analysts.
Jeffrey Toobin, to you first.
One of the big questions we have had is, are there going to be witnesses in the Senate trial? And it was very interesting over the weekend to hear a key Republican, Susan Collins, say this:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: I am working with a group of Republican senators and our leaders to see if we can come to an agreement on some language that would include an opportunity for the House to call witnesses and the president's counsel to also call witnesses.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: So, do you think we're going to see witnesses, Jeff?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: You know, my basic rule when it comes to the United States Senate is, what Mitch McConnell wants, Mitch McConnell gets.
He doesn't want witnesses. The only way I can see even a resolution passing is one with a kind of poison pill attached, where Republicans say the only consider -- the only chance we will have witnesses is if the Democrats get to call a witness and we get to call Hunter Biden, who is completely irrelevant and simply an attack on a Democratic presidential candidate who would simply throw -- throw the trial -- I mean, has nothing to do with the trial and, I think, lead to no witnesses.
So I think, notwithstanding the efforts of Susan Collins, which I assume to be in good faith, I think the odds are still against any witnesses testifying in this trial.
KEILAR: Michael Gerhardt, you are nodding there.
MICHAEL GERHARDT, PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA SCHOOL OF LAW: Yes.
I mean, I agree with Jeff. I think that it's hard to imagine that there's going to be any effort even to call witnesses, unless Mitch McConnell gets what he wants in return. And I don't think that's going to happen.
Mitch McConnell will call the shots here, unless 51 senators revolt against him.
KEILAR: It could happen in any way. Do you think that Susan Collins is being earnest?
JIM BAKER, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Sure. I'm sure she's being earnest, but whether it works or not is another matter.
I mean, I guess I'm also a pessimist on whether there will be witnesses. But I think Mitch McConnell needs to think about the institution of the Senate and the impression that the American people will have with respect to this trial.
If people conclude that this was not a fair trial with respect to the American people, then I think that will not help either the Senate or the president at the end of the day. If people think this is a farce, I don't think that will help the president achieve his goal of being cleared or exonerated.
KEILAR: Jim Baker, our Manu Raju -- sorry -- you wanted to add something, Jeffrey?
TOOBIN: Well, I just -- the idea that Mitch McConnell cares a lot about how the Senate is perceived, you might ask Judge Merrick Garland about that, and whether he could get a vote 11 months ahead of the end of Barack Obama's term.
Mitch McConnell is about winning, and he is about getting what he wants, and I don't think he cares about public perception very much. And the way to win is to get this trial over quickly. And the votes are clearly not there to get the president thrown out of office.
KEILAR: Michael, I wonder. We just we just heard from Congressman Eric Swalwell, where he said holding these articles has gotten this, that and the other thing, that Democrats have really gained some things in doing -- in doing this and withholding these.
We just heard that the House majority leader, Steny Hoyer, he said to our Manu Raju the impeachment managers could be on Wednesday, could be, he said. He added that the vote would occur relatively soon.
Do you think that this is the time for things to pick up? And do you think that Democrats did gain anything?
GERHARDT: It is definitely the time that things will pick up.
At some point, the House has to actually call the -- pick the managers, send the articles over. And then, once they send the articles over, the House's function here is completely over, and the ball literally is in the Senate's ballpark.
Whether or not there's going to be anything that Democrats really picked up in the meantime will depend on what happens in the Senate. It seems like the Democrats may have picked up a little bit. That is to say, they may have coalesced themselves around certain things.
Time has gone by, which has allowed for revelations to be made about other evidence pertaining to other officials in the Trump administration which support the facts, which themselves -- and the foundation for the articles.
But, beyond that, I think we basically have been -- I'm here at UNC, where it used to be famous for the four corners offense, where nothing happened. That's basically what we're seeing right now, is this -- the ball is being passed around, but there's no action yet.
KEILAR: All right, thank you so much, all of you, if you will stand by for just a moment.
Coming up, Queen Elizabeth summons Princes Charles, William and Harry for an emergency meeting, as Britain's royal family tries to contain a new crisis.
KEILAR: President Trump is insisting tonight that his administration has been totally consistent on the intelligence behind the U.S. killing of Iran's top general. But that's not what we have been seeing here over the last 11 days.
Let's bring in our experts to talk about this. And one of the examples of this, you guys, is Secretary of Defense Mark Esper. This was over the weekend when he was really trying to walk a fine line between telling the truth and backing up his boss. Let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARK ESPER, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: What the president said was he believed there probably could have been. He didn't cite intelligence. I didn't see one with regard to four embassies. What I'm saying is I share the president's view that probably my expectation was there were going to go after our embassies.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: Mike Rogers, what did you think hearing that?
MIKE ROGERS, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: I don't know why these people can't get the same room in and get their stories straight. It's just absolutely maddening to me. What I think happened is they had a body of analytics with some recent intelligence that said they are getting to ramp it up including diplomats with if you're not a sophisticated consumer, you could walk away from that briefing going, oh, my God, they're going to hit us in the embassy.
I really do think that's exactly how it got to where we are. But with the way they're talking, it gives you less and less faith that they made the right decision every day, and that's unfortunate, I think.
SUSAN HENNESSEY, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY AND LEGAL ANALYST: And, look, there actually is an expanse of legal definition of the term, imminence. It could actually encompass some of the things that we're hearing where there wasn't actually a firm plot. The fact that there is a legal theory available doesn't mean that the administration gets to lie about. It doesn't mean they get to mislead the public or to mislead United States Congress. That is undemocratic and actually is corrosive of basic accountability mechanisms.
And so I think one thing we're seeing here is an administration that's essentially saying, don't worry about what happened because there's some constitutional theory we can come up with for why this is okay and actually sort of having the audacity to appear to be annoyed that people would dare to ask questions, including that members of Congress would dare to ask questions.
DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. Bri, when the president told Laura Ingraham that he believed there was imminence last week, I said to myself, look, this is the kind of thing President Trump says all the time. But that Secretary Esper sort of ran with it on Jake's show on Sunday really surprised me. Because, again, as Congressman Rogers is saying, there is intelligence out there, and as Susan is saying, there is a definition of imminence and they are just going with this belief messaging which doesn't make any legal sense.
KEILAR: And we know, Bianna -- sorry. I was going to say, Bianna, we know that the issue for the secretary is that the president expects that he's going to get backed up by no matter what he says, that he's going to get backed up by the people around him. And I wonder what you think about this tweet that he put out, the fake news media and their Democrat partners are working hard to determine whether or not the future attack by terrorist Soleimani was imminent or not and was my team in agreement. The answer to both is a strong yes. But it doesn't really matter because of his horrible past. What do you think, Bianna? BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN SENIOR GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, look, this is all unfortunate given the circumstances. And what this administration could have done whether Democrats or others disagreed, it's in the administration's prerogative if, in fact, they said, look, Soleimani not only was a bad guy but he was an overall threat to the United States and, of course, considering his past where there're hundreds of U.S. servicemen's blood on his hands.
But having now the reaction be it was imminent, there were four embassies that were imminently within threat of attack and, by the way, if you're making such a big deal out of this, this means that you don't think he should have died and you're siding with him, all of this could have been avoided.
And it does seem a bit confusing as to why Esper had over 24 hours to at least confer with those around him and in the White House following the president's statement on Friday that four embassies were going to be targeted and he did look like the best that he could while trying to be truthful but not undermine the president. But that's becoming increasingly harder to do.
KEILAR: It's very difficult.
Bianna Golodryga, Chairman Rogers, David Swerdlick, Susan Hennessey, thank you so much to all of you.
And just ahead, did Bernie Sanders tell Elizabeth Warren that a woman can't win? Tonight, he calls that allegation ludicrous.
Plus, what Britain's Queen Elizabeth is saying tonight about the family crisis meeting she convened over Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.
KEILAR: On the eve of CNN's Democratic Presidential Debate live from Iowa, there is growing friction between some of the top 2020 Democrats. We have CNN Political Correspondent, M.J. Lee here with the latest.
And, M.J., sources tell CNN that Bernie Sanders previously told Elizabeth Warren, what is this, that a woman can't win?
M.J. LEE, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. Well, Brianna, for much of the election, Senator Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders have managed to stay on
good terms. But over the past few days, tensions have spilled out into the open. And CNN is now learning that this kind of bad blood was exactly what the two senators hoped to avoid when they met in private over a year ago.
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Let's bring out my friend, Bernie Sanders.
LEE: In December 2018, Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren were getting ready to launch their presidential campaigns. The two friends knew they could soon be competing for the Democratic nomination in 2020 when they met privately at Warren's Washington, D.C. apartment.
The pair believed tearing each other down could hurt the progressive movement and agree to avoid attacking one another. Warren telling Sanders she would be a strong candidate to beat President Trump by making a case about the economy and earning broad support among women.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think that there are certain number of people who would like to see a woman elected. I understand that.
LEE: Still, Sanders told Warren he did not believe a woman could win according to four sources, two people Warren spoke with directly and two others familiar with the meeting. Sanders himself forcefully denying the characterization as ludicrous, saying in a statement to CNN, it's sad that three weeks before the Iowa caucus and a year after that private conversation, staff who weren't in the room are lying about what happened.
Do I believe a woman can win in 2020? Of course. After all, Hllary Clinton beat Donald Trump by 3 million votes in 2016.
FAIZ SHAKIR, SANDERS CAMPAIGN MANAGER: I don't believe Elizabeth Warren has commented on it or said it directly, it is because it is a lie. Bernie Sanders has always fought and stood for women.
LEE: The details of this conversation surfacing amid revelations first reported by Politico that volunteers for the Sanders campaign were given scripted talking points criticizing Warren and suggesting her supporters are elitist.
SANDERS: I have never said a negative word about Elizabeth Warren, who is a friend of mine. We have differences on issues. That's what campaign is about. But no one is going to be attacking Elizabeth Warren.
LEE: Warren responding over the weekend that she was disappointed that Sanders sent out volunteers to, quote, trash her. And her campaign is now fundraising off of the report.
WARREN: We need someone who will excite every part of the Democratic Party, someone that every Democrat can believe in.
I hope Bernie reconsiders and turns his campaign in a different direction.
LEE (voice-over): With only three weeks until the Iowa caucuses, the Sanders campaign is going on offence, lobbing attacks against Joe Biden. Sanders senior campaign adviser Jeff Weaver releasing a statement
targeting Biden's record on the Iraq, writing: It is appalling that after 18 years, Joe Biden still refuses to admit he was dead wrong on the Iraq war.
And Sanders national co-chair, Nina Turner, penning a South Carolina op-ed, bashing Biden's record with African-Americans, claiming Biden has repeatedly betrayed black voters to side with Republican lawmakers and undermine our progress.
LEE: And with all of this brewing, the 2020 Democratic field shrunk by one candidate today, Senator Cory Booker announcing that he is ending his presidential campaign, saying his campaign no longer has the cash to continue -- Brianna.
KEILAR: M.J. Lee, great reporting. Thank you for sharing it with us.
It is the last debate before the first vote and it's only on CNN. The top Democrats head to Iowa for a live CNN presidential debate. This is in partisanship with "The Des Moines Register". That is tomorrow night at 9:00 Eastern, only here on CNN.
And just ahead, Britain's Queen Elizabeth calls a family meeting to deal with the crisis sparked by Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Will they be allowed to step back from their royal duties?
Plus, new details of the attack on a New Jersey kosher market and the bomb investigators now say could have killed people more than a quarter mile away.
KEILAR: New developments tonight in the royal crisis sparked by Britain's Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, the duke and duchess of Sussex, and the surprise announcement that they want to step back from their roles as senior members of the royal family.
CNN's Brian Todd is here with the latest.
And, Brian, there was this emergency royal family meeting today. What happened here?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CNN CORRESPONDENT: What happened, Brianna, was that right after that meeting, a tense meeting from what we're hearing, is that Queen Elizabeth came out and said publicly she's OK with Prince Harry and Meghan stepping away from the royal family. And she called on all sides basically to just get this done quickly.
TODD (voice-over): Tonight, Queen Elizabeth the second is presiding over the breaking away at least partially of her widely popular grandson Prince Harry and his wife Meghan. The queen issuing a statement saying: My family and I are entirely supportive of Harry and Meghan's desire to create a new life as a young family and that although the Windsors would have preferred to have Harry and Meghan stay in the fold, quote, we respect and understand their wish to live a more independent life as a family, while remaining a valued part of my family.
VICTORIA ARBITER, CNN ROYAL COMMENTATOR: I think the queen is less frustrated, more sad. I think she very much hopes that Harry and Meghan would have a change of heart and remain in the royal family. Perhaps they could have carved out a role that give them the privacy they so crave.
TODD: But that was not meant to be. The queen's statement came moments after a remarkable family summit at a royal Sandringham estate, north of London, attended by the queen, Prince Harry and his older brother Prince William and their father, Prince Charles. Meghan called in from Canada.
DIANE CLEHANE, ROYALS EDITOR, BEST LIFE: I think the meeting between the queen, Prince Charles and William facing off against Harry was extremely uncomfortable at first. Harry showed up in Range Rover with blacked out windows. William came 15 minutes before the talks were set to begin.
So, I can't imagine it being, hey, great to see you. I think there was a lot of tension in the room.
TODD: The meeting at Sandringham came less than a week after Harry and Meghan also known as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex announced plans to step back from their roles as senior members of the royal family, to split time between Britain and North America, and to become partially financially independent, an announcement that was said to have blindsided and upset the queen.
But royal experts say this was a long time coming. That since their wedding in May of 2018, the couple have been distressed by the swarming media coverage of them, which Meghan alluded to in an ITV documentary.
MEGHAN MARKLE, DUCHESS OF SUSSEX: Thanks for asking, because not many people have asked if I'm OK.
TODD: The couple claim some media coverage contained racism toward Meghan, which became a subject of heated debate in Britain.
ARBITER: The press has definitely played its part, but there's also been some squabbles behind the scenes. It's become more and more apparent that Harry and Meghan felt they weren't supported by members of the royal family.
TODD: The tension has led to a rift between the two brothers, which Harry spoke about in that ITV documentary.
PRINCE HARRY, DUKE OF SUSSEX: We don't see each other as much as we used to because we're so busy. As brothers, you have good days, you have bad days.
TODD: Just this week, Prince Williams expressed his sadness over the rift. A British newspaper saying he told a friend: I put my arm around my brother all our lives and I can't do that anymore. We're separate entities.
TODD: Queen Elizabeth now says there's going to be a period of transition when Harry and Meghan will spend time in Canada and Britain. There are also serious questions tonight about their partial financial independence. Royal analysts asking aloud, how are they going to make money? Whether the couple is going to take on commercial sponsorships and how all of that might play inside the royal family -- Brianna.
KEILAR: And people wonder, this tension that we hear about between the two high profile young women in the royal family, is that real or is that conjecture, Brian?
TODD: Brianna, one royal expert told us today that Kate Middleton early on was willing to show Meghan Markle the ropes as far as what it's like being a member of the royal family, but that Meghan turned her down.
This expert says, though, this is really more about the rift between Harry and Prince William. They have both just denied a report in "The Times of London", saying that Harry felt pushed away from the family by William's so called bullying attitude toward him.
KEILAR: All right. Brian Todd, thank you so much.
Just ahead, the shooting at a Florida naval base now being called an act of terror.
KEILAR: The Justice Department today labeled last month's deadly attack on a Pensacola naval base an act of terrorism. Attorney General William Barr says investigators determined the Saudi armed forces officer who killed three U.S. sailors was motivated by Jihadist ideology. Twenty-one Saudi trainees on U.S. bases were expelled today.
I'm Brianna Keilar.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.