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The Lead with Jake Tapper
Judge Orders Top Trump Aides To Testify In Jan. 6 Probe; Trump Lashes Out At New York D.A. Head Of Possible Indictment; Pentagon: Rocket Attack On U.S. Base Believed To Be Carried Out By Iran- Affiliated Groups; Reports: New Explosions Near Iranian Militia Sites In Syria; Biden, Trudeau To Speak After U.S. Targets Attacked In Syria. Aired 4-5p ET
Aired March 24, 2023 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: A judge orders several former Trump aides to testify.
THE LEAD starts right now.
Claims of executive privilege rejected by a judge. Now, at least eight former top Trump White House aides, including his former chief of staff, Mark Meadows, along with top aides, Stephen Miller and Dan Scavino, all must testify in that criminal investigation into efforts to overturn the 2020 election.
And a barrage of rockets targeting a U.S. base in Syria. New attacks only one day after a drone affiliated with Iran killed a U.S. contractor and wounded six others. We'll ask the Pentagon press secretary. What is going on.
Plus, Russian troops regrouping after steep losses in a key city in Ukraine.
TAPPER: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.
And we start today with our world lead. Any moment, President Biden is set to hold a news conference along with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. They are both in the capital of Canada, Ottawa. The pair is expected to take questions from reporters. We will cover that live. One topic likely to come up, tensions with Iran after that suspected Iranian drone strike killed an American contractor and wounded five service members in Syria just yesterday.
President Biden ordered a retaliatory airstrike, although the Pentagon clarified the U.S. is not looking for war with Iran. Again, we'll bring that news conference to you as soon as it begins, but until then, let's turn to our politics, lead and our other major story of the day, a federal judge handing a significant blow to Donald Trump today, rejecting the former president's claims of executive privilege in that January 6th investigation. The judge ordering a number of Trump's former top White House aides to
testify before a grand jury, sources tell CNN. The list includes, former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, former director of national intelligence, John Ratcliffe, former national security adviser Robert O'Brien and others. Some of these aides have already testified, but now they're likely before forced to appear before the grand jury once again for even more testimony and ordered to turn over more documents.
But as CNN's Jessica Schneider reports, Trump's legal team is expected to try to appeal this decision.
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Trump's closest advisers ordered to testify in two Justice Department probes a federal judge rejecting Trump's claim of executive privilege ordering former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, senior aide Stephen Miller and others to answer questions from a grand jury investigating efforts to overturn the 2020 election.
CASSIDY HUTCHINSON, FORMER AIDE TO TRUMP WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF MARK MEADOWS: I remember leaning against the doorway and saying, I had an interesting conversation with Brody, Mark. Sounds like we're going to go to the Capitol.
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: We're going to walk down to the Capitol.
HUTCHINSON: He didn't look up from his phone and said, something to the effect of, there's a lot going on, Cass, but I don't know. Things might get real, real bad.
SCHNEIDER: Separately, Evan Corcoran, a top Trump attorney, and a crucial witness in special counsel Jack Smith's classified documents, probe, spending nearly four hours testifying behind closed doors to a federal grand jury on Friday. Trump also fought in court to stop his testimony. But several judges ruling Corcoran must divulge information about the conversations he had with former President Trump. Leading up to the FBI search of Mar-a-Lago last summer and that Corcoran must turn over handwritten notes documenting their interactions.
FBI agents seized more than 100 classified documents from Mar-a-Lago in August.
TRUMP: They should give me immediately back everything that they've taken from because it's mine. It's mine.
SCHNEIDER: FBI agents seized more than 100 classified documents from Mar-a-Lago in August, and in November, the attorney general appointed special counsel Jack Smith, to investigate, among other things, whether Trump obstructed the government's attempts to get back all the classified material still in his possession after he left office.
Evan Corcoran crafted a statement in June 2022, claiming a diligent search had been conducted at Mar-a-Lago, and that all classified documents had been returned. A source tells CNN prosecutors wanted to ask Corcoran about that statement and a June phone call between him and Trump that took place the same day as subpoena was issued for Mar- a-Lago surveillance footage that showed boxes being moved out of a storage room.
SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: You still have the surveillance tape. Is that correct?
ERIC TRUMP, SON OF FORMER PRESIDENT TRUMP: Absolutely, Sean.
SCHNEIDER: Sources tell CNN prosecutors have made clear that they believe Trump used Corcoran to advance a crime. A Trump spokesperson has fired back, accusing the Justice Department of continuously stepping far outside the standard norms and an attempt to destroy the long accepted, long held constitutionally based standards of attorney- client privilege and executive privilege.
TIM PARLATORE, TRUMP ATTORNEY: From the beginning, he has tried to cooperate.
SCHNEIDER: Trump attorney Tim Parlatore tells CNN. He also testified before the grand jury in December, divulging details about additional searches for classified documents he organized at several Trump properties last year.
PARLATORE: They would rather make this into an adversarial fight and try to make it into a criminal case.
SCHNEIDER (on camera): So special counsel Jack Smith will now be getting an influx of new information, both from Evan Corcoran, who was forced to testify in front of the grand jury today and also from that array of top Trump administration officials, who will now have to testify to the grand jury about what transpired on and around January 6th.
And, Jake, our team is told that Trump's legal team is expected to appeal this decision and not let these officials assert executive privilege. And interestingly, it does mean that some of these officials who have already been subpoenaed like the former national security advisor Robert O'Brien, also Ken Cuccinelli from homeland security, it's likely they'll have to go back and testify more now that they can assert that privilege.
TAPPER: All right, Jessica Schneider, thank you so much.
Let's talk about this now with CNN senior legal analyst and former federal prosecutor, Elie Honig.
Elie, a lot to talk about here. Let's talk about the start, with the judge telling all these Trump people that they have to testify, sources say Trump's legal team they're expected to appeal. Do they have a case to make an executive privilege case? ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: No, they don't. Jake. They
certainly have the right to appeal, but they're not going to win. They've got two major problems.
First of all, executive privilege is meant to design to protect governmental conversations about legitimate policy, legitimate strategy. It's not designed to cover up for disclosure about malfeasance or wrongdoing or criminality. This is a criminal grand jury subpoena. Judges are very likely to enforce those subpoenas, very unlikely to allow an assertion of his executive privilege.
And second of all, Trumps a former president. And while a former president can exert executive privilege in very narrow circumstances. It is a stark uphill climb to do that.
TAPPER: So Trump is also trying to assert executive privilege to stop Vice President Pence from being forced to testify. Do you think this ruling signals that that will also fail?
HONIG: I do think so, Jake. Yesterday on this show, I said that Trump had virtually no chance to succeed on the Mike Pence case. I guess I'll downgrade that even further now.
But it's important to keep in mind. There's a separate argument on the pence case because Mike Pence himself is arguing that he's protected by a different legal doctrine, this idea of speech and debate because, as vice president, he was president of the Senate. I think there's a better basis for that, and that might enable Pence to avoid answering some questions about what he did in his role as Senate president.
TAPPER: If Trump loses these appeals, is there any way that Meadows and these other top Trump aides can get out of testifying? Can they plead the Fifth?
HONIG: There's only one way and you just said it. They can take the Fifth. That means that any testimony they give might be used against them. They have that absolute right to take the Fifth.
But if they do that, DOJ prosecutors do have a countermove available, they can go to a judge and ask for an order of immunity, meaning your testimony is not going to be used against you. But now you have to testify.
That's a strategic decision to be made by prosecutors. I made that kind of decision quite frequently, but it means they get the testimony. It also means they're very unlikely to be able to prosecute, whether it's Mark Meadows or whoever the witness is.
TAPPER: So, just a game this out, so let's say I'm Mark Meadows and I say, and I lose all the appeals and I'm forced to testify, say, I'm going to assert my Fifth Amendment right against self incrimination. You're the prosecutor, you says, we're giving you complete immunity. You won't be incriminating yourself.
And then you go to and then what do I do if I'm Mark Meadows and what do you do as the prosecutor? HONIG: So this is not optional. If a prosecutor gives Mark Meadows
immunity, he has to testify. It doesn't matter whether he wants immunity or not. And if he refuses, if he just says, you can't force the words out of my mouth. Then we're in a contempt of court situation and you made those who remember history may think of Susan McDougal, who was a witness in the Clinton investigation, the Whitewater investigation. She went to prison for 18 months for refusing to testify.
So if it comes down to it, if DOJ says you're immunized, Meadows, and he says, you can't make me talk, then a judge can absolutely throw Mark Meadows or whoever it is into prison until he does.
TAPPER: Take us behind the scenes. If you're a prosecutor about the question, Meadow, Scavino, Miller, all these people who have had one- on-one conversations with Donald Trump around January 6th.
How are you preparing for that?
TAPPER: Well, first of all, it's just a gold mine to be able to go in and ask them. These are the key questions that you want to know. I'm looking at certainly all the documents we know that prosecutors have sent out several documents for subpoenas. I want to look at everything that January, 6th committee did.
And most importantly, we just heard a clip. Cassidy Hutchinson, I would review every word that Cassidy Hutchinson said, because she was one of Mark Meadows' aides. She was by his side. She's already testified about conversations that she had with Meadows but also conversations that she knows Meadows had with Trump.
So I would go through that testimony very carefully and get out of red pen and circle all those pieces of testimony.
TAPPER: Why has it taken so long to get to this point? I mean, is it Meadows we know is that the White House in January 6th, one of the first witnesses, you would have tried to secure?
HONIG: I completely agree with that sentiment, Jake. I think it's been a failure by Merrick Garland that it's taken until mid 2023 from Mark Meadows to be compelled to testify. There was never any mystery. Mark Meadows and the others were at the center of this.
Garland has said all along, we start at the bottom, and then we work our way up. But that's a bureaucratic approach. That's not a strong prosecutorial approach.
The reality is good prosecutors started the highest point you can and so I think, an aggressive prosecutor on day one or perhaps a few months in in 2021 would have immediately subpoenaed Mark Meadows and the other people were talking about and if that had happened, they would have had this testimony long ago.
TAPPER: All right, Elie Honig, thanks so much for your insights as always.
Turning to another Trump investigation now, the hush money investigation. That's in New York City. The grand jury is not meeting today.
But Donald Trump seems to be encouraging, threatening discussing violence if he is indicted. He wrote on his social media platform Truth Social today, quote, what kind of person can charge another person, in this case a former president of the United States who got more votes than any sitting president in history and leading candidate by far for the Republican Party nomination with a crime, when it is known by all that no crime has been committed, and also known that potential death and destruction in such a false charge could be catastrophic for our country, unquote.
Shocking comments from Donald Trump, which led the House Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries to say this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES (D-NY): Well, the twice impeached former president's rhetoric is reckless, reprehensible and irresponsible. It's dangerous. And if he keeps it up, he's going to get someone killed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Well, past as prologue.
CNN's Kara Scannell is in New York for us.
Kara, what do we expect to happen next in this hush money case?
KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, the grand jury is scheduled to meet again on Monday. And it's possible that prosecutors bring at least one more witness before the grand jury for testimony. You know, a lot of this is all held behind closed doors. It's a secret proceeding and process.
But all indications leave that we're nearing towards the end of this investigation, and everyone is looking to -- to the -- for Alvin Bragg, the D.A., to answer the question of will he move forward with an indictment of the former president? And as you just read, that Trump has been really ratcheting up his rhetoric. He not only is calling for death and destruction, but he's calling for protests in the event that he is indicted.
Now, there will be protests around the courthouse this weekend, but they are not for the former president. Instead, there will be -- it's for a movie shoot, the sequel to "The Joker" is going to be filming around the protests and their -- excuse me, around the courthouse and they're going to have a large protest scene. There also be cars on fire, and maybe even a sighting of Lady Gaga. She stars in the movie, which is being produced by the parent company of CNN -- Jake.
TAPPER: All right. Kara Scannell, thanks so much. Appreciate it. We're standing by for that joint news conference with President Biden
and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. We'll bring that to you live when it happens.
And it's likely he will be asked about our other big story President Biden, his decision to authorize an airstrike in Syria after a drone attack killed the U.S. contractor. The latest from the Pentagon is next.
TAPPER: Topping our world lead, 10 rockets hit a base in Syria this morning where U.S. troops are stationed, 10. The Pentagon believes the rockets were fired by Iranian affiliated groups. It comes just one day after an Iranian affiliated drone hit a facility housing U.S. personnel. And that killed a U.S. contractor and wounded six others, another U.S. contractor and five U.S. service members.
In response to that drone attack, President Biden launched a retaliatory strike, which hit facilities used by groups affiliated with Iran's Islamic Revolutionary guards.
CNN's Oren Liebermann joins us now from the Pentagon.
And, Oren, were U.S. troops injured in this latest rocket attack and tell us about the effect on any U.S. military equipment?
OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Jake, this barrage of 10 rockets towards Green Village, a base that houses U.S. troops in sort of central eastern Syria did not injure any U.S. or coalition troops. It did not damage any facilities or infrastructure at the base, either, according to U.S. Central Command.
But one of those rockets fired was about three miles off target and actually hit a civilian home there, wounding two women and two children, according to U.S. Central Command. So certainly not the intended target, but result of this strike.
It comes as part of this larger and very rapid sort of escalation and conflict we've seen right in Syria over the course of the past 24, 48 hours or so that began with a one-way UAV attack or a suicide drone attack on a facility in far north east Syria in Hasakah. That, as you said, led to the deaths of a U.S. contractor, an American citizen, as well as the injuries of five U.S. troops and another contractor, all of whom at this point are in stable condition.
Question: What happens at this point? General Eric Kurilla, the commander of U.S. Central Command, said the U.S. has the option and the capability to strike if there is a continuation here and more attacks by Iranian proxies or groups affiliated with Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps moving forward here.
TAPPER: What are you hearing about the possibility that President Biden could order the launch of another retaliatory attack? LIEBERMANN: That possibility is very much on the table, the U.S. said
its previous strike, the one carried out in response to the drone attack struck facilities used for ammunition and intelligence by groups associated with Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. They're still waiting to see if there was anyone killed or casualties in that strike, but the U.S. has made it clear that if this continues, though, the U.S. doesn't seek to escalate here, it will protect its troops here. It will protect its forces.
And if President Joe Biden or other commanders deem unnecessary, there may be a follow on strike.
[16:20:02] And, frankly, after 10 rockets fired at Green Village, it would not be much of a surprise, Jake.
TAPPER: All right. Oren Liebermann at the Pentagon for us, thanks so much.
Let's bring in the former secretary of defense under President Trump, Mark Esper.
Mark, good to see you.
First off, I'm sure there are viewers right now who are wondering, why do we have service members and U.S. contractors in Syria? So why do we?
MARK ESPER, FORMER SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Well, first of all, good afternoon, Jake. It's good to be back with you.
Look, we have and have had nearly 1,000 troops in Syria for several years. Now they were the follow on force, if you will, that stayed behind once we do fight, defeated ISIS in Syria. If you recall during the Trump administration, ISIS was rolled back considerably, and the caliphate was largely destroyed.
So those 900 troops or so on the ground there are working with our partners, and ensuring that ISIS doesn't rise back up and attack our allies and partners in the region or eventually trying to strike our homeland.
TAPPER: So one of the rockets lobbed at U.S. forces in Syria this morning, missed the facility by about three miles. Is the technology from these Iranian-affiliated groups, is it not good? Or do you think the groups did that on purpose to send a message that they could have hit the U.S., but they didn't this time?
ESPER: Well, who knows, Jake? I -- you know, sometimes you have misfires, right? That happens in conflicts.
But it's clear that for the most part, Shia militia groups are funded and resourced and in many cases directed by Tehran. And so, the question is, why is this -- why is this escalating at this point in time? Now, on the other hand, we've heard from DOD that since January 20th, 2021, we were attacked nearly every 10 days or so. There's been nearly 80 attacks in this two-year period.
So this is ongoing in many ways, and now we've had an American killed six or seven others injured and I give the Biden administration credit for responding, for retaliating, retaliating. It's exactly what they should do.
TAPPER: And who are these Iranian-affiliated groups.
ESPER: Right. I mean, there are a variety of Shia militia groups, each led by different people, all connected and interlinked in different ways and, in many cases trying to have influence in Syria or in the case of Iraq, there are there in Iraq as well.
And Syria is important for Iran because it's -- it provides Syria a good deal of weapons. It is also a transit point for Iran to provide weapons to Lebanese Hezbollah. And so again, Syria is a very important transit country for the United States -- I'm sorry -- for Iran, and it's -- it's a place by which the United States can keep a close eye on what Iran is also doing in the region. So that's another reason for our presence there.
TAPPER: What are your concerns when it comes to retaliation? And obviously the fact that the United States does not want to get into a full scale war with Iran?
ESPER: Well, my concern would be is that we don't respond appropriately and deterrence slowly weakens to the point where Iranians begin striking us with impunity, and then we become self- deterred in some ways. I think we need to stand up to these militia groups. We need to respond appropriately and push back.
I think the bigger question looming out there, though, Jake, is what's going on with Iran and its nuclear efforts, and we heard some disturbing news today that they may be moving closer and closer to having highly enriched uranium and may have even closed the timeline to being able to produce a device.
So that is the bigger thing looming in the background for I think all folks focused on this issue.
TAPPER: So, the U.S. troops are there. The U.S. service members are there based on the authorization for use of military force from the war in Iraq or from the war in Afghanistan, or which is it?
ESPER: You know, I wish I could recall exactly what authorities there used. It could be under the president's Article 2 authority. I just don't recall Jake, which authorities it is used under, but I know that's being considered in the Senate and maybe in the House as well, but that is an authority that needs to be extended if we want to continue to conduct this mission, which I think we should.
TAPPER: Do you think this is the kind of thing that theoretically the U.S. Congress should vote on? I mean, if we have almost 1,000 troops stationed in Syria. They've been there for years now. Obviously, there are risks inherent.
Should the U.S. Congress have some skin in the game here and vote on whether or not they approve of this?
ESPER: Well, one can certainly make the case since Congress has authority to declare war. Now, this is clearly not a case of war. It's a place of a deployment, but we are engaged, if you will. That said, Congress is known about this for many years. They've been briefed many, many times on our presence there. What happens, the threats we face, the challenges, et cetera.
So it's not like Congress is not aware and has not condoned it. The question is, should they take a more active role, and I think it's always good to have congressional oversight in these types of matters.
TAPPER: Oh, yeah. No, I'm not saying that there's -- anything was hidden from Congress. They don't like -- they don't like to take votes in which they have to actually expand any political capital. It's more criticism of them.
Not, not the Pentagon.
But as you note, according to the commander of Central Command since 2021, Iranian proxy forces have carried out literally dozens of attacks against U.S. personnel.
How dangerous is it for U.S. service members and contractors in Syria? And how does the U.S. address these nonstop attacks?
ESPER: Look, it is very serious. It's a dangerous place to be. You have a malevolent Iranian actions and activities all throughout the region. So you have to be careful.
You know, the U.S. military puts self force protection number one, and I'm sure we're taking every possible precaution. You know, there are probably new technologies that we should be deploying out there to make sure we can further protect our troops.
But I think the bigger issue beyond self protection -- force protection is to make sure again that we respond and do so proactively where need to be, if we're aware of Iranian designs or Shia militia designs against our forces, because we -- look, we cannot afford to lose Americans at all, and we also cannot afford to let something escalate unless we wanted to escalate and there and are prepared to do so in a deliberate fashion.
TAPPER: All right. Former Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, thank you so much for your time. I appreciate it.
ESPER: Thanks, Jake.
TAPPER: As we stand by for President Biden and Prime Minister Trudeau coming up, I'm going to talk to someone who has spent years reporting on activity in Syria and the sensitivities of the U.S.-Iranian relationship.
Stay with us.
TAPPER: In our world lead, President Joe Biden and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau are about to hold a joint news conference in Ottawa, Canada's capital city. It's Biden's first trip across America's northern border during his presidency.
CNN's chief White House correspondent Phil Mattingly joins us now.
And, Phil, we anticipate President Biden is going to be asked about this drone attack on U.S. troops and contractors in Syria.
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Jake, that's the expectation, not just that he'll probably get asked about it. There's a good chance I'm told that he will address it himself at the beginning of his remarks before this press conference, and that would be his first public response to the drone attack that killed an American contractor and wounded U.S. service members.
I think the real question right now as this is kind of loomed throughout this 27-hour trip into Canada, it was a packed schedule throughout, but on the president's way up here on air force one is when he was first briefed about these attacks, was given the options to respond and ended up choosing the option that he did with the F-35 last night is what happens next. And I think that is a looming question has been out there. His national security team has obviously been engaged throughout the course of the day in a series of meetings with their Canadian counterparts, but this has still been a significant issue that they've been dealing with as well.
Now, he will be standing side by side with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau coming after lengthy remarks to the Canadian parliament, where he really underscored the warmth and to some degree that necessity of the relationship with the brother to the north if you will. But underneath, there certainly have been a series of policy issues that they've been trying to figure out resolutions.
Though the president making clear, though, to some degree that those challenges that they face in the bilateral side of things are challenges that are addressed through the mode of friendship, not necessarily adversarially. You might not reach agreements on everything, but the relationship remains intact and the broader state of the relationship with which one has officials made clear they really wanted to elevate the importance of in the steadfast nature of it during this trip was certainly laid out in great detail by the president in his remarks.
But I think, again, looming over everything has been these strikes and I thought would Secretary Esper said prior is also a critical question at this moment as the president deals with this series of geopolitical issues right now, the fact that Iranian proxies have conducted more than 78 attacks since 2021 on U.S. service members. At the same time, Iran itself has rapidly advanced in terms of their ability to weaponize -- enrich weaponized uranium certainly creates a significant issue that has been looming over. Not just this visit, but really the entire administration, national security team, Jake.
TAPPER: Phil, what do we know about President Biden's order to carry out the strike? Was he on route to Canada when he authorized it?
MATTINGLY: Yeah. He was actually on Air Force One when he was first briefed about that when he was given the options from the Pentagon and when he gave the green light on the option that ended up playing out. Again, this was a trip that the president very much wanted to elevate the relationship of Canada. And yet this issue has certainly been kind of front and center at least talk to the side a little bit throughout the course of his more than a day here, and certainly something he'll have to address not just at this press conference, but in the days and weeks ahead.
And as you noted earlier in the show, that's whether or not there will be another response. Give and what we've seen since the initial drone attack is still very much a live question right now as they weigh options, even in the midst of these very serious and significant bipartisan bilateral talks, Jake.
TAPPER: All right. Phil Mattingly in Ottawa, thanks so much. Appreciate it.
We're going to bring you President Biden live as soon as that starts. But first, signs of Russia possibly regrouping in a key part of Ukraine.
Stay with us.
TAPPER: Some new news in our world lead. Reports of explosions within the last hour in Syria, in the same city that the U.S. military struck yesterday.
CNN's Oren Liebermann is at the Pentagon.
And, Oren, what are you learning about those explosions? Is that another retaliatory strike by the U.S.?
OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Jake, at this point, all we know is the location of the explosions and the challenge there is that it's both as you mentioned the site where the U.S. conducted its own air strikes against facilities used by groups linked to Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. But there is also a U.S. presence not far from that city at all, the city of Deir Az Zor in central eastern Syria, or thereabouts.
That U.S. presence there at a base housing U.S. troops means this could go either way. This could be U.S. strikes in response to 10 rockets on Green Village, or it could be more rocket attacks from groups linked to Iranian proxies or other groups there. So that's the challenge here.
What does seem to be clear at this point, given the course of the last 24 to 36 hours is this is very much a continuation of what we saw. First, a drone attack against the facility in northeast Syria that killed one U.S. contractor and wounded six other U.S. personnel, or retaliatory strike in this city that we're talking about now in Deir Az Zor against facilities and munition and intelligence used by groups linked to Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, and then 10 rockets fired at Green Village, which houses us troops that occurring this morning, and now, we're looking at this latest attack.
And, Jake, we're waiting to get more information clarity on who was firing at whom here but it seems very much like Syria and stable as it always is.
We're very much getting a sense of that right now.
TAPPER: All right. Oren Liebermann at the Pentagon for us, thanks so much.
With us now to discuss David Sanger, he's a "New York Times" White House and national security correspondent. And, of course, CNN's Abby Phillip, the host of "INSIDE POLITICS".
What do you want to hear from President Biden about the strikes this back and forth going on here?
DAVID SANGER, WHITE HOUSE AND NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, the first thing we want to hear Jake is what exactly is happening? Obviously, it's unclear right now, whether this is U.S. retaliation continued or something else.
But you know, the president now has a three part Iran problem. Part. One is what you've just seen with the drones. That's an older problem. Part two is Iran's supply of weapons to Russia, which seems to be continuing, in fact, more aggressively than, say, the Chinese --
TAPPER: For us against Ukrainians, we should point out.
SANGER: For use against the Ukrainians, that's right, but an active clear alliance in this war.
And then the third part is the part that worries the United States the most, which is the nuclear program. And yesterday, Mark Milley, the chairman of the joint chiefs, made some news. He said something we knew, which is it would only take about two weeks for the Iranians to take the fuel they have and enrich it to bomb grade.
But then he said, something we didn't know, which he said is, he thinks it would only take about two or three months for the Iranians to actually fabricate that into a weapon. The Israeli and American positions until now has been that's a year or two. That means that the president would have relatively little decision space. If the Iranian things turn bad here in the Iranians decided to move forward.
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN HOST, INSIDE POLITICS SUNDAY: Yeah, I mean, that's a really terrifying prospect, but it also highlights just how far we've come on this issue. I mean, Biden campaigned remember on going back to the Iran nuclear deal, and that seems very much off the table for a number of reasons. There is the issue of Iran, providing drones and weapons to Russia.
There's also those -- those protests that we've seen in Iran over human rights and women's rights that have really tied his hands and pushed even Democratic allies to say we can't be at the table with Iran and now what you're describing, David, a very short timeline for Iran to have an potentially have a nuclear weapon, I think really also just shows how constrained the Biden administration is right now with dealing with Iran, and they don't really have any tools. It seems in their toolbox to deal with it, except for what we are seeing here on the ground in Syria, which is airstrikes to fire back at some of these attacks.
But that's not a containment strategy. That's not necessarily a deterrent strategy. That's a reaction to what is going on.
SANGER: It's not even an anti-Iran strategy because these are proxy groups that are, you know, using these drones and doing these attacks, but they're not Iranians themselves.
TAPPER: Although we should note when President Trump ordered the assassination of General Soleimani, the Iranian general, and I believe that took place in Iraq, the United States, not just President Trump, the United States intelligence apparatus, and the pentagon said the General Soleimani was responsible for the killing and maiming of dozens, if not hundreds of American service members because he would provide these parts for these Iraq for these -- Iranian linked to militias, the Shia militias to attack American soldiers when they were in Iraq.
So you could argue that there has been a war going on between the United States and Iran or proxies for Iran for years now.
SANGER: That's right. The testimony yesterday, General Kurilla, who runs Central Command, which is responsible for this region, said there had been about 70 attacks since Biden came to office using drones on Americans, but almost all of them have been unsuccessful.
So what happened yesterday was the U.S. got very unlucky, tragically, a contractor was killed. Others were injured, and that's what's driving the president's response. He hasn't really responded or talked very much about unsuccessful attacks.
SANGER: That one has.
TAPPER: But as David noted, Abby, I mean, Iran is one of the countries providing weaponry for Russia to kill Ukrainians. That's a step that we haven't even seen the Chinese go so far as to do. PHILLIP: Right, exactly. It's allowed Russia in cases where they haven't had the manpower or the ammunition to do certain things that's given them the ability to bomb Ukraine and also to bomb Ukrainian civilians.
PHILLIP: I mean, I think this is a really key part is that Russia is using these drones to carry out what a lot of people considered to be human rights violations and Iran is responsible for that.
So if we see China, adding to that, I think that's one of the reasons you're seeing the Biden administration so strongly warning China against taking that step.
And here is President Biden and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. They're in Ottawa, the capital of Canada.
They're going to make remarks and then will take questions from reporters.
Let's listen and I'm sure that President Biden will address this.
JUSTIN TRUDEAU, CANADIAN PRIME MINISTER (through translator): Good afternoon, everyone.
It is a real pleasure to welcome my friend President Biden, Joe, to Canada this week.
We had the opportunity to discuss the progress made under the February 2021 Roadmap for a Renewed U.S.-Canada Partnership, a plan our countries put forward a month after the President was sworn in.
(through translator): Today, with President Biden, we've made progress on several important files. And I'd like to mention some of our common priorities: growing the middle class, strengthening the economy, making life more affordable for people, fighting climate change and protecting the environment, protecting our citizens and our values.
In this serious time, with all the challenges we face, we're doubling down on our partnership and on our friendship.
As I said earlier today, economic policy, climate policy, and security policy aren't just connected; they're one in the same. Both the President and I agree on this, and that's why we launched a joint Energy Transformation Task Force that will accelerate our work on clean energy and clean tech.
This will include securing and strengthening electric vehicle and critical mineral supply chains, and other areas to advance our collective energy security. Of course, an integrated approach means creating good middle-class jobs for workers on both sides of the border, and it will make our collective economic growth stronger and more resilient.
Securing and developing critical mineral supply chains is essential to making things like batteries, computers, phones, and semiconductors.
(through translator): Canada and the United States have agreed to put in force a system for building semiconductors. And so, I'd like to announce today that we have signed an agreement with IBM to extend to the ability and capacity for the installations in Bromont, Quebec, to develop new capacity.
Demand is on the rise, as is competition. Canada's investment in semiconductors, which will be up to $250 million, will make it possible to enhance the competitivity of the North American economy, create jobs for the middle class, and to draw on Canadian talent, in addition to reducing pollution.
In addition to cutting pollution and fighting climate change, the President and I also worked on protection -- protecting more nature as well.
Canada and the U.S. share the longest land border in the world. We share three oceans and the Great Lakes. The Great Lakes are a source of drinking water for 40 million people, and this shared resource needs to be protected. This is why Canada will make a major new investment of $420 million to continue safeguarding the Great Lakes for generations to come.
Whether it's on protecting our shared waters, including in the Arctic, conserving biodiversity, or building strong net-zero economies, Canada and the U.S. will continue to work together as partners.
We'll also continue to work together as partners to keep our people safe. Keeping people safe also includes keeping asylum seekers safe, keeping our borders secure, and keeping our immigration system strong.
Both of our countries believe in safe, fair, and orderly migration; refugee protection; and border security. This is why we will now apply the Safe Third Country Agreement to asylum seekers who cross between official points of entry.
After midnight tonight, police and border officers will enforce the agreement and return irregular border crossers to the closest port of entry with the United States.
(through translator): When the agreement comes into force as of midnight tonight, border officers will return people crossing the border to the closest Canada-U.S. border crossing.
Our teams have worked hard to achieve this agreement. All of the work will make it possible to deter irregular immigration at our borders while at the same time we increase regular migration and immigration.
Keeping people safe is always our top priority.
Last year, I had the opportunity to visit NORAD personnel in Colorado. NORAD plays a central role in detecting, deterring, and defending against aerospace threats to our shared continent.
NORAD has protected North America for over 60 years, and we're continuing our work to meet the evolving security challenges we face today.
Canada is making major investments to modernize surveillance systems. And on top of that, we will invest to modernize and build new infrastructure to support the arrival of our 88 new F-35 fighter jets so that, most importantly, we can support our men and women in uniform who keep us safe. This bolsters Canada's defense abilities for the coming decades.
Of course, protecting our countries also means continuing our work to make our borders more secure and keep people safe. The opioid overdose crisis is having devastating consequences in our communities. We're going to disrupt the cross-border movement of chemicals used in the illegal production of fentanyl.
Canada and the United States will build a global coalition against synthetic drugs. We must stop the traffic of synthetic opioids while at the same time focusing on a public health response.
If we want to keep Canadians and Americans safe at home, we have to continue defending our values around the world, values like democracy, the rule of law, and respect for the international rules-based order.
Today, we reaffirmed our steadfast support for the Ukrainian people as they defend themselves against Putin's brutal, barbaric invasion.
(through translator): We also talked about other parts of the world that are experiencing difficulties, like Haiti. As I said, Canada will keep Haiti in the heart of the solution for resolving this crisis.
Today, I'm announcing that Canada will invest an additional $100 million to provide better police support to the National Police Force in Haiti. We will also impose additional sanctions on two other members of the Haitian elite who are benefiting from insecurity and violence.
We are determined to increase international support for Haiti, including through humanitarian assistance.
President Biden and I had very productive meetings. As I said a little earlier, our economic measures are also climate measures, security measures. The President recognizes the importance of acting on all of these fronts.
Mr. President, the last time we stood together in this very room, you were the outgoing Vice President, and we were embarking upon some challenging times in our relationship as a country -- as two friends and countries.
I have to say, through our conversations back then, through the work we've been able to do over these past two years, it has truly been an honor to be able to work with you for the benefit of Canadians and Americans, but also to continue to have a positive impact on the world in a very uncertain time.
And your speech in Parliament a few minutes ago was filled with optimism, grounded in a deep faith in people and the character of the citizens we serve and their ability to step up and meet the challenges before us.
Like we have for many years, we will continue to work shoulder to shoulder as allies and friends to build a better future for Canadians and Americans alike.
It is always a pleasure to stand beside you. It is always a pleasure to work with you. Right now, it's a pleasure to hand it over to you, Joe.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STASTES: Well, thank you very much, Mr. Prime Minister. And I can't think of a challenge we haven't met together when we sought to do it together.
Before I speak of the progress of this trip, I was informed by my national security team, on the way over here, that -- about an attack in Syria yesterday. An Iranian-backed militant group used an unmanned aerial vehicle to strike one of our facilities, causing several American casualties. One of our citizens tragically died in that attack.
And on the flight up yesterday, I spoke with our national security team and ordered an immediate response.
Last night, U.S. military forces carried out a series of airstrikes in Syria targeting those responsible for attacking our personnel.
My heart and deepest condolences go out to the family of the American we lost, and we wish a speedy recovery for those who are wounded.
But I'm also grateful for the professionalism of our service members who so ably carried out this response.
And to make no mistake: The United States does not -- does not, I emphasize -- seek conflict with Iran, but be prepared for us to act forcefully to protect our people.
That's exactly what happened last night. And we're going to continue to keep up our efforts to counter terrorist threats in the region, in partnerships with Canada and other members of the coalition, to defeat ISIS.
Now, let me get to today's business.
It's wonderful to be back in Canada. I'm honored I had a chance to address parliament this afternoon. They were very patient, and I appreciate it.
And, you know, a little over 75 years ago, in his own address to Parliament, President Truman said: No two nations are called upon to make great contributions to the world's rehabilitation.
And, well, we are making great contributions to the world's rehabilitation, in my view.
Today, as we stand at -- as I said today -- an inflection point in history, our nations are once again called upon to lead. And together, I believe we're answering the call.
First, we've unleashed an economic potential of our people and our partnership -- a partnership that generates more than $2.5 billion in trade every single day.
Secondly, we're transforming our hemisphere into a clean energy powerhouse, including extending the Inflation Reduction Act tax credits to electric vehicles assembled in Canada.
And as we discussed over the last two days, we're also strengthening our supply chains for critical minerals and semiconductors that power our everyday lives.
And today, we're making a -- $50 million available through the Defense Production Act to incentivize more U.S. and Canadian companies to invest in packaging of these semiconductors and printed circuit boards.
I also want to emphasize what I said earlier in Parliament, that Canada and the United States always will have each other's backs. And we see this through NORAD as we work to modernize the world's only -- and I emphasize it again -- the only bi-national military command. There's none other in the world.
And we see it through NATO, where we're ensuring that we can meet any threat.
And over the last year, we've seen it through our strong and unified support for the brave people of Ukraine, to which the Prime Minister spoke so masterfully today in the Parliament. And stepping into -- up to provide critical humanitarian aid, as well as security assistance. And for Canada's embrace of Ukrainian refugees.
And as we head into the second year of Russia's brutal invasion, our unity is not going to break. We're going to keep the pressure on Putin through our historic sanctions and tariffs. And we're going to continue providing Ukraine with training, equipment, the humanitarian assistance it needs and to defend itself against Russian aggression.
And finally, as we deepen the global cooperation, we're also expanding our regional collaboration.
As we discussed today, we're doubling down on our work to disrupt synthetic drugs, which have claimed too many American and Canadian lives. By bolstering our work together in the North American Drug Dialogue
with Mexico and building a new global coalition against synthetic opioids, we're working to get these killer drugs like fentanyl out of our communities.
And together, under the Los Angeles Declaration on Migration and Protection -- and the Prime Minister has already spoken to it -- we're also making good on our commitment to address the historic levels of migration in our hemisphere.
Since we created dedicated pathways in the United States, the number of migrants arriving on our southern border has dropped precipitously. And I commend Canada for stepping up with a similar program, opening new legal pathways for up to 15,000 migrants to come to Canada from countries in the Western Hemisphere.
Mr. Prime Minister, Canada and the United States has always been partners in progress. And today, we're once again called to lead.
I know that the United States can count on Canada to be our friend, doing the hard work, doing the historic work, doing the work that matters, and we're doing it together.
I truly believe we'll only make -- we're going to make some great contributions. And I -- I am optimistic about the future. And that's not hyperbole. I'm optimistic. I really am.
We're going to make a better future for the people of Canada and the American people and, in consequence, for the whole hemisphere and around the world.
MODERATOR: Thank you, Mr. President, Prime Minister.
We'll be taking two questions from the American delegation, two questions from the Canadian delegation. One question and one follow- up.
Mr. President, first question over to you.
BIDEN: All right. I guess the first person I'm calling on is Josh. Josh Boak. Josh?
REPORTER: Thank you, Mr. President. Two questions, one for each of you.
Mr. President, you talked today about the security and economic partnership with Canada. President Xi just went to Russia and expanded China's economic commitment with that country.