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U.S. Troops Injured in Iran Missile Attack; Conservatives Argued for Witnesses in Clinton Impeachment Trial; Douglas London Shares Briefing Experience with Trump. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired January 17, 2020 - 08:30   ET

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


[08:30:00]

CASSANDRA WILLIAMS RUSH, SOUTH CAROLINA DEMOCRAT: I do like him a lot, yes. I -- I like his environmental standpoints because I'm an environmentalist. SO, at the moment, I am leaning towards Tom Steyer.

ALEX BELK, SOUTH CAROLINA DEMOCRAT: I'm big on his philanthropy also.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Tom Steyer?

BELK: Tom Steyer.

I like the fact that, you know, he's contributed $22.5 million to underprivileged in education. He's using a lot of his own money to campaign.

CAMEROTA: He's a billionaire.

BELK: Right. Exactly.

CAMEROTA: He can use his own money.

BELK: Exactly. But he --

CAMEROTA: Is he buying his way into your heart?

BELK: I don't think he's buying his way because, hey, he doesn't have to do it. He has a choice.

VANITY DETERVILLE, SOUTH CAROLINA DEMOCRAT: I disagree. I have seen Tom Steyer personally in firsthand experience pander to the black vote.

CAMEROTA: How?

DETERVILLE: And I -- well, bringing in a marching band from an historically black university to the Blue Jamboree hosted by the Charleston County Democratic Party. I thought that the notion was disingenuous and ever since then it's put a really bad taste in my mouth.

DARION MCCLOUD, SOUTH CAROLINA DEMOCRAT: You know, all the progressive arguments and all the moderate arguments and that -- everything means nothing if you don't win.

RUSH: The bottom line, and in simple terms is, we want to elect a Democratic candidate that can beat Trump. I mean that's -- that's just the bottom line.

CAMEROTA: Let's talk about this. Let's go around and everybody just tell me who you will vote for in the primary.

So who's your first choice?

BENNY STARR, SOUTH CAROLINA DEMOCRAT: Elizabeth Warren.

CAMEROTA: Vanity.

DETERVILLE: Elizabeth Warren, by far.

MCCLOUD: Elizabeth Warren was actually my first choice.

CAMEROTA: And then what happened?

MCCLOUD: I think her misstep on health care was kind of telling.

CAMEROTA: Jennifer, who are you leaning towards?

JENNIFER WINSTON, SOUTH CAROLINA DEMOCRAT: Bernie Sanders.

CAMEROTA: Why does Bernie most appeal to you?

WINSTON: Because I really embrace the way that he is addressing the millennials and also college, you know, tuition, student loan debt.

CAMEROTA: Help us understand why Joe Biden or Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders would get your votes over some of the African-American candidates who were running or are running, like Cory Booker, Governor Deval Patrick, Kamala Harris.

DETERVILLE: I found Kamala Harris abrasive from the beginning. I thought that she assumed to have achieved the black vote, which when you assume which way my support should go, it shows that you have commodified my interest.

WINSTON: For me, I didn't see a consistency with her in her campaign team. I mean if you can't lead your campaign team, you may not be able to lead the country.

STARR: Blackness is not a monolith, but I expect your blackness, that experience, that shared experience that you will bring forth plans or policies that show me you understand all the things that black people are going through.

MCCLOUD: When Obama won, you know, it was easy for people, well, black people voted for him just because he's black. I like to think of pragmatic -- what it really means. We considered the situation because the costs are high for everyone, but especially for us.

BELK: We don't agree with you just because of the color of your skin. That's one thing America has to understand about the black race.

MCCLOUD: And it's kind of insulting.

DETERVILLE: Yes.

MCCLOUD: It's insulting.

BELK: It really is because it's almost like you're saying we don't have our own ideas and views, which we do, beyond race.

STARR: I need to see that you're thinking about me, and I need a candidate who can speak to race, not just class.

CAMEROTA: That brings us to Pete Buttigieg. As you guys may know, he is polling at the top, but there's all sorts of pundits who feel that he has a problem with black voters. So do any of you have thoughts on what Pete Buttigieg is doing right or wrong?

MCCLOUD: I'm a little skeptical of his experience on the big stage. I think he's a gifted politician. I think he seems to be a person of high character. I think he's short on the experience end. He's got some well-publicized issues with the black community. I don't know if he can right that mid-campaign.

CAMEROTA: And what about Joe Biden's previous, I guess he would say missteps, with the black community. Will you hold that against him, any of you?

DETERVILLE: I have held especially criticism towards Mr. Biden specifically for those reasons. Talking about things like, you know, poor children being as smart as white children, and subscribing an entire race to poverty, I think is a very dangerous situation.

CAMEROTA: If it's Joe Biden who wins the primary or Elizabeth Warren, or Bernie Sanders, must they choose a person of color as their running mate?

BELK: I think it's time for a female to move up and be in a power position.

CAMEROTA: You feel more strongly about there being a female on the ticket than a person of color on the ticket?

[08:35:00]

BELK: I do.

MCCLOUD: I don't think it's an either/or. I think, once again, I think the Democratic Party is blessed with a lot of gifted women.

BELK: It doesn't matter if the woman is an African-American or a white American or Asian American. Just say female with a different voice. That's what we need.

(END VIDEO CLIP) JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: This is really interesting and really important as these primaries move forward. And to hear this group of black voters say the costs are high for everyone, but especially us. That informs how these decisions are being made. And to hear them, and they aren't all supporting Joe Biden now, and that might change, but --

CAMEROTA: No. At the moment, one of them is.

BERMAN: But -- but to hear them explain why they think he's a strong candidate, even the ones who aren't supporting him, was very interesting.

CAMEROTA: And Darion, the guy in the middle on the top row, kept using the word "pragmatic." That he believes black voters are pragmatic. They will make the choice based on who can be elected ultimately.

BERMAN: And I think one of the most important things they said is there's this notion, you know, black voters, we don't have our own ideas, we're just going to vote for a candidate because he's black or worked for Obama. They're like, that's crazy.

CAMEROTA: Yes. They disabused (ph) everybody of that.

BERMAN: They're thinking about this really hard, that group of voters you just talked to.

And there's more of that coming up?

CAMEROTA: There's more coming up on Monday.

BERMAN: Excellent.

CAMEROTA: You're going to have to wait the whole weekend to see part two where they talk about the issues.

BERMAN: Fantastic.

All right, developing overnight, 11 U.S. service members are being treated for injuries after the Iranian missile strikes at an air base in Iraq. Remember, the administration initially told us there were no casualties. It appears now there were. Dr. Sanjay Gupta explains what we're learning and what it means, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:40:43]

BERMAN: We're learning that 11 U.S. service members were injured during Iran's missile strike at an Iraqi air base. You'll remember the Pentagon and the president initially said there were no U.S. casualties.

CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta joins us now.

Sanjay, this says a lot about what we've learned about brain injuries since the invasion of Iraq all those years ago, but how is it that this is just coming to light now?

DE. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, no question, over the last 20 years, we've learned a lot about these brain injuries and they are brain injuries, John, that's the correct term as opposed to concussion. We've learned a lot about how to diagnose and treat them.

But let me just show you the statement -- read you the statement for a second in terms of what's happened overnight. They're talking about these troops and they specifically say that several were treated for concussion symptoms from the blast and are still being assessed. As a standard procedure, all personnel in the vicinity of a blast are screened for traumatic brain injury, and if deemed appropriate are transported to a higher level of care.

So it's still not entirely clear just reading the statement and some of the other statements as well. Had these troops had symptoms since the time of the blast, nine days ago? Did they find these as a result of screening? Or are these truly delayed symptoms, meaning, there weren't symptoms initially, they came about over the last couple of days?

That can happen, John. You can have delayed symptoms, days or weeks later. But I'll tell you, typically, those are more mild brain injuries that cause the delayed symptoms. The severe brain injuries are going to have more immediate symptoms, like the ones you see there on the screen, dizziness, balance problems, memory loss, difficulty sleeping, headache, all those things, you know, will be more severe the more severe the brain injury, obviously.

BERMAN: All right, Sanjay, thanks very much for helping us understand this. Appreciate it.

GUPTA: You got it. Thank you.

CAMEROTA: OK, John, "The Wall Street Journal" once wrote of a, quote, presidency defined by the suspension of disbelief with a president who spent years, quote, telling us what we saw with our own eyes was not true. But if you think you know who "The Journal" was talking about, you were wrong.

BERMAN: Curveball.

CAMEROTA: Curveball. And that's why we bring in John Avlon for our "Reality Check."

Who was that, John?

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: That was Bill Clinton.

Let's fast forward to today for a second.

So the Senate trial for the impeachment of President Donald J. Trump began yesterday with an oath.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CHIEF JUSTICE JOHN ROBERTS, SUPREME COURT: You will do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

AVLON: Of course, we've seen a lot of senators disregard the idea of impartial justice. And just in case anyone violated their oath out of the gate, here's a helpful definition of the word impartial, not partial or biased, treating or affecting all equally.

Now, this may seem like a lofty standard for our low times, but it's the essence of equal justice. The idea that true principles should apply no matter who's in power.

Now, politicians have a well-deserved reputation for situational ethics, but there are places we expect to find continuity of principles regardless of whether you agree with them. And "The Wall Street Journal" editorial page is one of those places, saying they stand for free markets and free people. The ideas of Thomas Jefferson and Adam Smith. And here's the kicker. They say they stand against the ukases, that's edicts of kings and other collectivists, and for individual autonomy against dictators, bullies, and the tempers of momentary majorities. In other words, they say they're going to be consistent.

Which is why I've been struck by a recent editorial in which they argued strenuously for no new witnesses and no new evidence allowed in the Senate impeachment trial. But as you might have guessed, that's the exact opposite of the arguments "The Journal" made during the Clinton impeachment.

For example, an editorial called "a compelling case," "The Journal" board wrote, justice requires getting the facts on the table. And the White House defense makes more obvious than ever that witnesses must be heard. They argued for a broad but disciplined witness list, making the case that lawmakers deserve the witnesses they want up to and including the president himself.

Well, what about the need for new evidence? Well, back in '99, "The Journal" cautioned that senators of both parties may also want to think about the ever-present possibility of new evidence popping up. Likewise, they argued there was a clear constitutional duty to proceed with the impeachment regardless of the likely outcome. Whether or not their votes for impeachment, whether Democrats in Congress choose to cast themselves in history as complicit during these years, we still need to make a record. Without a complete accounting, they said, we're leaving an awful legacy of acceptably low conduct.

Perhaps most of all, though, "The Journal's" editorial page condemned what they saw as the president's pattern of lies, obstruction of Congress and conduct unbecoming of the office, arguing that Clinton stonewalled away conduct that wouldn't be tolerated in any other position of authority in this society.

[08:45:13] They also said that impeachment should address the larger complicit issue. Quote, how did someone of this character come to hold our highest office?

I'm pointing out these ethical 180s not to make the case that hypocrisy is inevitable in Washington or that editorial positions serve as a straitjacket across the ages. Simply as a reminder that principles don't mean anything if they're abandoned when your party is in power.

If witnesses were a moral imperative in the search for the truth back in Bill Clinton's time, then that standard should apply to Donald Trump today.

And back in the 1990s, "The Journal" argued that a Senate impeachment trial could actually be constructive for our society, stating that the current proceedings offer the hope that our institutions will come away awakened and that next time around everyone will take a much closer look at the man to whom they would entrust our highest office. That's still good advice.

And that's your "Reality Check."

CAMEROTA: John is our moral compass.

BERMAN: He's the ukases of the "Reality Check."

AVLON: I -- the ukases, you know, just had to define that for everyone, including myself.

BERMAN: The moral edict of the "Reality Check." I love it.

CAMEROTA: Thank you, John.

AVLON: Thanks, guys.

CAMEROTA: President Trump has a complicated relationship with the intelligence community, as you know. Now, one former CIA officer is coming forward to reveal the challenges he had when sharing national security intel with the president. What does this mean for all of our national security?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:50:36]

CAMEROTA: A former CIA officer says when it comes to intelligence threats, President Trump prefers big names, celebrities, headlines, immediate gratification over any substance or impact.

Joining us now is Douglas London, whose team was involved in preparing the president's classified intelligence briefings.

Mr. London, thank you very much for being here.

I was so interested to read what you wrote in your op-ed about the experience of preparing the intelligence for the president. He would then be briefed, and you would get feedback from those sessions. And those -- the feedback that you would get after he was briefed with your intelligence was -- left you, I think, with the impression that he didn't, what, fully kind of understand what the impact was in this?

DOUGLAS LONDON, FORMER SENIOR CIA OPERATIONS OFFICER : Well, thank you for having me this morning. And it's a good opportunity to talk about it. And it's an important conversation.

You know, we say at the agency and throughout the community that intelligence informs decision-making. And the relationship between the leadership and the intelligence communities is critical in that dialogue.

Working to support the president has been a challenge. And I believe it remains one for my colleagues who are still in the service.

The president does focus a great deal on headlines and celebrity and certainly messaging is an important component of foreign policy, national security. But the challenge is often aligning the intelligence with the president's release, which is not the design. It's supposed to inform his consideration. And the president tends to have very hard views and prefers the splashes of headlines as opposed to sometimes the quiet diplomacy, the back channel and the very quiet clandestine operational activity we work at to try to secure the nation's interest.

CAMEROTA: But give us some examples. When you say that the president wanted a celebrity, he wanted a big killing, like who?

LONDON: Well, in my experience, the al Qaeda hunt was critical. We kept the president informed on where we were in terms of disrupting threats and preempting possible attacks against the homeland and such. And the president was very fixated on Hamza bin Laden. Bin Laden being the son of Osama bin Laden.

Now, he certainly had become a public voice. Hamza was putting out articles and propaganda and such like that, which got the president's attention. But he wasn't in our estimate the most critical threat to the United States. We had others who we were pursuing.

Now, when the president keeps obsessing over particular individuals, as he did with Hamza, it's going to necessarily impact your alignment of resources and focus. And that's kind of what happened to us.

So we, obviously, continued to persevere, but you take your command from the top.

CAMEROTA: So it sounded -- it seemed to you that he wanted to be able to kill a bin Laden basically because he knew that name. And I think that you also said that he wasn't that familiar with the names of terrorists or the history of terror organizations or some of the substance and that also made it a challenge.

LONDON: Yes. And to be fair, you don't expect the leader of the free world to know that sort of detail, but you expect him to be responsive to your briefings and to try to get him to understand why one path may be leading to different consequences than another. And that was a bit of a challenge when the president would have sort of fixed opinions.

We saw it after the Abu Baghdadi raid. And when that occurred, he made a point of saying, you know, I kept telling them, I wanted Baghdadi. They kept bringing these other names to me and I said, no, I want Baghdadi. And certainly the work that the intelligence community, with its partners, did to preempt ISIS threats by going after key operatives and leaders, names that he didn't recognize was of vital importance to the nation.

CAMEROTA: So was General Soleimani an imminent threat or just a big name?

LONDON: It would be my opinion that he was a persistent threat, but the question of imminence and severity is really how you judge your actions. Soleimani was a problem for us, no doubt. And, in fact, if you wanted to pursue some way to disrupt Soleimani, then as well why choose sort of an overt approach, which forces the Iranians' hands. There are other options.

CAMEROTA: I want to ask you while I have you about this new information that's coming out about the worldwide threat assessment. And for some reason, some in the intel community don't want the public to hear that this year, though they always do get this through Congress.

[08:55:03]

So here's the CNN reporting on it from yesterday.

U.S. intelligence officials have quietly asked the Senate and House Intelligence Committees not to hold public hearings on this year's worldwide threat assessment after testimony from agency chiefs last year prompted an angry response from President Trump.

So what does that mean? Why can't Congress update Americans?

LONDON: You know, the intelligence leaders are in a difficult position. We saw last year when they represented the views of their analysts and essentially spoke in clear terms of where we stood on various threats, including Iran. And the president largely undermined them publicly. So that's difficult for them because they're in a tough position between supporting their boss, the president, representing their workforce and speaking truth to power. I think it's interesting that what has always been traditionally a very low key event, where the intelligence community leaders come before Congress and present open information, has turned into something where now we sort of can see the tea leaves where, are they going to telegraph what their position is going to be in forming the president's decision-making in the future.

CAMEROTA: Douglas London, we really appreciate your expertise in this and sharing what it was like on the inside. Thanks so much for being on NEW DAY.

LONDON: Thanks for having me.

CAMEROTA: John.

BERMAN: All right, we have new developments in the impeachment trial of President Trump. Our coverage picks up right after a quick break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:00:00]