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Today: Biden Spoke To Families Of The 3 Soldiers Killed In Jordan; Biden Says He Has Decided How To Respond To Deadly Attack; Today: House GOP Moving Ahead With Effort To Impeach Mayorkas; Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) Discusses About Alejandro Mayorkas' Impeachment Effort By House Republicans. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired January 30, 2024 - 15:00   ET




BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: The decision has been made. President Biden says he knows how the U.S. will respond after a drone strike killed three U.S. service members. Ahead, hear why the President holds Iran responsible for the attack.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN HOST: Plus, a potential breakthrough with huge implications for the opioid crisis. Clinical trials suggesting a new drug can relieve pain without the risk of addiction. We're going to take a closer look.

Plus, it's a story that we know too well. It's ripe for parody at this point, bogus conspiracy theories in the far-right that somehow go mainstream. This one involving Taylor Swift, Joe Biden, Travis Kelce and Pfizer. We're playing conspiracy Mad Libs as we take a live look at Allegiant Stadium where the Super Bowl is going to be played in less than two weeks.

We're following these major developing stories and many more all coming in right here to CNN NEWS CENTRAL.

KEILAR: President Biden is pointing the finger squarely at Iran as he readies a response to the drone attack that killed three American service members and injured more than 40 others in Jordan. Biden now says he has decided on a course of action. He has to thread an exceedingly small needle here, take action that is forceful enough to get Iranian proxies to back down after dozens and dozens of attacks on U.S. military facilities in the region. And at the same time, the President wants to avoid a direct conflict with Iran.

CNN's MJ Lee is live for us at the White House. MJ, it's a bit of an inflection point for the Biden administration when it comes to the Middle East, what are you hearing from the administration?

MJ LEE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it comes at such a fragile and volatile moment in the Middle East too, Brianna. The President confirming earlier today that he has in fact made a decision on how exactly the U.S. is going to retaliate after the deaths of these three U.S. service members. But, of course, as you can imagine, the White House has been otherwise incredibly careful to avoid telegraphing any moves that it might make in the future. But we do know that U.S. officials have been weighing a range of options, including options that could be multi-pronged, that could take place in stages.

And the President, when he was speaking with reporters earlier at the White House, he made clear that it is very, very, very much clear in his mind who exactly is responsible for the attack over the weekend, take a listen.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I do hold them responsible in a sense that they're supplying the weapons to the people who did it. I don't think we need a wider war in the Middle East. That's not what I'm looking for.


LEE: And the tough reality, Brianna, for the President right now is that these attacks in the past clearly have not worked to serve as a successful deterrence. When he was asked by our colleague, Arlette Saenz, what is going to be different about these attacks, he simply said, we'll see.

So I think it's just hard to overstate the different pressures that the President is facing, particularly since he has made so clear from the very beginning that he doesn't want to engage in another more or get the conflict that is currently in the Middle East, basically to expand into a bigger regional conflict.

So the question for him and you were saying this, about how difficult of a needle this is to thread, is to balance the desire to have a forceful response but also to prevent this conflict from broadening out into a bigger regional. That is going to be a very difficult task ahead for the President, Brianna.

KEILAR: And MJ, what can you tell us about these conversations that he had with the families of these three service members?

LEE: Yes, Brianna, we're just learning that the President just this morning spoke on the phone with the families of each of these three American soldiers that were killed. We're told that the President expressed gratitude to these families and sorrow as well and promised these families that the country is going to continue honoring their work and their service. We're also learning that on Friday, the President is set to participate in the dignified transfer of their remains at Dover Air Force Base.


This, we are told, is something that the President actually asked each of the three families, whether they would be okay with it and they all expressed that they would be. Of course, we're talking about Sgt. William Rivers and Spc. Kennedy Sanders, Specialist Breonna Moffett. All three of them will be returning home in the coming days. Their death have fundamentally changed so much in terms of the Biden White House's thinking about the ongoing conflict in the Middle East and has really clarified what has been at stake for the United States in this ongoing conflict as well, Brianna.

KEILAR: Yes, it certainly has. MJ, thank you for that.

I want to bring in CNN's Oren Liebermann now. He is at the Pentagon for us.

And Oren, officials there are giving updates. What have we learned?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, just a moment ago, the Defense Department announced that Spc. Kennedy Sanders and Spc. Breonna Moffett would be posthumously promoted to sergeant as we expect the dignified transfer of remains on Friday. And not only President Joe Biden expected to attend, but Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin as well. So that was one of the key points that was made just before the press briefing we had just a moment ago.

Of course, one of the other key questions, how is it that a single one-way attack drone got through U.S. air defenses at Tower 22 that led to this deadly attack? That is something U.S. Central Command is still looking at.

On the key question of what changes will be made, the Pentagon Press Secretary, Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder wouldn't say definitively that there would be updates to force protection measures or air defenses, but that is certainly something Central Command is looking at because of the number of U.S. forces spread across the Middle East, many of them in smaller bases that rely on air defenses for protection, so that's a key question there as well.

We also learned earlier in the day that three of the U.S. members who were injured were flown from Baghdad medevac to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, one of them in critical condition there. They'll be evaluated. Then the question of whether they need further treatment in the U.S., that will be answered. We're waiting for them to reach Landstuhl Medical Center sometime, I think, in the next few hours here.

KEILAR: All right. We're looking for an update on that. Oren, thank you for the very latest from the Pentagon for us, Boris?

SANCHEZ: Let's get some perspective now from Washington Post columnist Josh Rogin.

Josh, thanks for being with us.

So President Biden says he's made a decision on the U.S. response. He wouldn't go into detail. What do you anticipate this will look like?

JOSH ROGIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. Well, reading the tea leaves, based on what President Biden said and what he was indicating, it seems as if he's backing away from the most aggressive option, which would be a direct, at least overt attack inside of Iran. If you had to guess, it would be that they've decided to attack Iranian- backed militias in places like Syria and Iraq, but not actually cross that Rubicon and attack inside Iran. I think that makes sense considering what he said and what we know about what's going on inside of the administration.

Now, the good news, I guess you could say, is that there's plenty of good targets, plenty of Iranian-backed Shia militiamen trying to kill Americans all over the region. Syria is the easiest place to attack them. Iraq is a little bit more tricky; Lebanon, a little bit more tricky; Yemen.

So I think you'll see a wide array of attacks, but I don't think they're going to go attack Iran. I could be wrong, but it seems to be what Biden's telling us.

SANCHEZ: What do you make of this passive-aggressive foreign policy by Iran? They don't want a direct conflict with the United States, but they're happy to see their proxies kill Americans and others in the region. What do you think it would actually take to deter Tehran?

ROGIN: Right. Well, there's two things going on. One is can the response stop the attacks and that's a mix of deterrence and actually killing the people who are trying to kill Americans and one way is to scare Iran into telling the proxies to stop. The other way is to kill the guys who are trying to kill Americans.

So I think you need a combination of those things, frankly. More broadly, I think, the administration is going to have to recognize that these attacks are coordinated and related to what's going on in Israel and Gaza there's just no two ways about it the Iraqi, the Islamic resistance of Iraq, which is what these groups now call themselves is expressly stating when they claim credit for these attacks that it's related to Israel and Gaza.

So in their minds it is, so yes deterrence is important like sort of mowing the lawn of the terrorists and getting rid of a few of them that are attacking us, that's important, but also finding a larger solution to the regional war that would be also be a really big help.

SANCHEZ: You hit on a significant point and that is this sort of semantics game that the administration wants to put forward. They don't want to explicitly say that these incidents are all tied to what's going on in Gaza, why is that? Why not just acknowledge that this is part of a proxy battle that's been going on even before October 7th?


ROGIN: Right. I mean, I don't think anyone's buying it anymore. I think when the attackers say this is related to Israel and Gaza, you have to sort of take their word on that.

SANCHEZ: Yes. ROGIN: I guess the administration doesn't want to do it, acknowledge it because it means that they would have to think about how their policy of supporting the Israeli actions in Gaza is affecting the security of U.S. troops in other countries and that relationship is there whether they like it or not. But once you - they admit it, well then they're sort of acknowledging that in order to fix one, they sort of have to fix the other. They don't have answers for either one.

So I get why they don't want to admit it but it seems kind of silly, frankly, because obviously they're related.

SANCHEZ: On that point, you published an op-ed arguing that President Biden pulling funding from UNRWA is inhumane and a mistake. The White House is responding to allegations that a dozen members of that relief agency participated in the October 7th attacks against Israel. How do you think the White House should then approach this?

ROGIN: Right. I mean, to be clear you know anybody including U.N. employees who participated in acts of terror other crimes on October 7th deserve to be punished. What I'm arguing here is that the action that the administration took before the investigation is complete will definitely result in a lot less food medicine and health supplies and water going to a million starving children in southern Gaza, they didn't do anything wrong, 13,000 U.N. employees, 12 of them may very well be guilty and deserve whatever they - punishment they've earned. But the other 12 900 employees so far we don't know that they did anything wrong and all of the Gazan children definitely didn't do anything wrong.

So I argue that defunding the aid organization that's keeping thousands of people alive is not only kind of cruel but will have the opposite effect because it'll just make the problem worse and push the burden onto other countries like Israel, and Jordan, and Lebanon and make - solving all these problems much harder and deepening the suffering of these people. One in four people in Gaza is starving and so I don't think this is the time to pull the rug out from under their safety net despite the fact that these 12 U.N. employees deserve to answer for their actions.

SANCHEZ: Josh, while we have you, I want to get your take on this exclusive reporting to CNN that that Chinese leader Xi Jinping told President Biden that Beijing would not interfere in the 2024 election. Biden apparently the one who brought it up in conversation.

You have extensively covered Xi and the CCP and their aggressiveness over the last a few decades. Should President Biden put any stock into those assurances?

ROGIN: Right. I mean it's like - it's kind of what you - it's an interesting detail of their inside meetings, great reporting but isn't that kind of what you would expect them to say? What's he going to say? Oh, yes I'm definitely going to interfere. As far as like are you going to interfere, absolutely. No, I mean he's going to deny it.

And let's remember that Xi Jinping has a long track record of lying to American presidents. He lied to President Obama about militarizing the South China Sea. He lied to president Trump about there's no genocide.

And so yes, I think you have to, based on all of the evidence, assume that he's lying. And, of course, Chinese government's already interfering in American politics in a number of ways on both sides to promote chaos and undermine our democracy to advance their cause of reshaping global order to make it safe for their system, for the autocratic system. So I think that ship has kind of sailed but interesting that he's still claiming that it's not true.

SANCHEZ: Josh Rogin, always great to chat, man.

ROGIN: Anytime.

SANCHEZ: Of course. Coming up, new video revealed in court of the interaction between the oxford high school shooter and his parents when they first saw him after the shooting, what it could mean for the case to hold them criminally responsible for his actions.

Plus, a new drug cut off a drug for the same pain relief as opioids without the added risk of addiction and it could soon get FDA approval. We'll break down the implication.

And look at this terrifying ride through the streets of L.A. We'll tell you what made this woman hop onto the car as it sped away these stories and much more coming up in just a few moments.



SANCHEZ: Right now on Capitol Hill, members of the House Homeland Security Committee are holding a contentious hearing on a Republican plan to impeach Homeland chief Alejandro Mayorkas. They claim that he committed high crimes and misdemeanors for his handling of the southern border. They're preparing to move ahead with a resolution today that could make him the first cabinet secretary to be impeached in 150 years.

CNN's Lauren Fox joins us now live from Capitol Hill.

Lauren, we're at hour five now of this hearing. What's the update? What's going on?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Yes. And Boris, there's going to be several more hours ahead. Mark Green, the chairman of this committee, told me just a few minutes ago that he expects that this could go late into the evening.

What you are seeing right now from House Republicans is they are trying to make their case for why these two articles of impeachment are needed, for why, in their eyes, Mayorkas has violated the law and why they say these are high crimes and misdemeanors.

Their argument is that he is defying immigration law, that he has misled Congress when he said that the administration had operational control of the border.


But what you are hearing from Democrats is what you've heard from many constitutional experts, that these are not high crimes and misdemeanors. These are not rising to that level. Instead, they argue these are simply policy disagreements, and that is not a reason to impeach someone.

We do expect that this is going to pass along party lines in the committee whenever that takes place. We expect it will be late in the evening. But it is important to point out that this is not happening in a vacuum. This is happening as House Republicans are rejecting an emerging Senate border deal, a deal that we do not have legislative text of right now, but a deal that we do have some details of, and a deal that many Senate Republicans have argued is the best opportunity that Republicans have had in decades to try to make some of the changes to the border that House Republicans have been saying are so essential.

But still, all of these dynamics are playing out and there's going to be a very, very narrow majority in the House in order to actually get this Mayorkas' two articles of impeachment passed in that chamber. In fact, they just have two votes, a two-vote margin. That means they cannot lose more than two members and still get this across the finish line.

I asked Green earlier if he was confident that the votes would be there. He said that they are still working through that, that they are still having conversations. And he said that his view is that he has to do his job as the chairman and he views that as moving this along in the markup today, Boris?

SANCHEZ: Yes. A slim chance potentially of not passing in the House and zero chance of it being actually passed in the Senate, of him being convicted in the Senate.

Lauren Fox, thank you so much. Brianna?

KEILAR: All right. Let's talk more about this impeachment effort with Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell. He is a member of the House Homeland Security Committee.

Sir, thanks for being with us. Is it clear to you ...


KEILAR: ... what crime Republicans are alleging Mayorkas committed?

SWALWELL: No, not at all. In fact, the crime is that that committee should be spending its time to come up with a deal that would mirror what's happening in the Senate. The Senate, led by James Lankford, the second most conservative member of the Senate, works with Democrats and the White House to try and address the surge at the border.

And instead, you hear from Republicans that we don't want to take that deal because it helps President Biden. They are choosing to go with the fiction rather than to go with the fix and I think we have shown that we want to govern. And if you have an issue with Secretary Mayorkas, it's because his hands are tied unless policies are changed to address the continued surge.

KEILAR: Well, they're hearing from former President Trump, right? He's exacting pressure on them. I wonder if you're hearing from any Republican colleagues of yours ...

SWALWELL: (Inaudible) ...

KEILAR: ... who would like to entertain this deal in the Senate, especially considering Biden is in a position of looking at some changes to asylum that a lot of progressives don't like. What are you hearing from Republican colleagues?

SWALWELL: Well, Brianna, I'll tell you, one Republican, as this deal was announced just before Christmas, told me on the House floor, he said, I don't even know why we are going along with this because it only ends up helping you guys. So that has been the mindset here in the House, is that they would rather have the issue than bring a solution.

And this would be a big solution, Sen. John Thune even said, we would not get this deal under. President Trump. And this is just in the spirit of President Biden on infrastructure, on the CHIPS Act, on the Safer Community Act around gun violence, of working with Republicans to get things done.

But Donald Trump, this House has turned into a law firm that just does his bidding every day. He's the only client of the firm. And right now, he doesn't want them to do anything that would help President Biden. And so instead, we're going to work on this insane impeachment of the secretary who's working every day to try and secure the border.

KEILAR: Clearly, Republican claims, about Mayorkas here, are dubious. But there are significant problems at the border. They are affecting ...

SWALWELL: Oh, yes.

KEILAR: ... Democratic-led cities. I mean, you're hearing from council members and mayors in these cities who are upset with President Biden. Should Biden and Democrats in Congress, like yourself, have addressed this when Biden came into office and you guys had both the White House and the Senate and House.

SWALWELL: Well, again, we didn't have senators who would break the filibuster to make reforms because you had in the past 68 Republicans led by Rubio and Graham who would have voted to put more agents at the border, who would have had earned citizenship and pathway for the dreamers. Again, the House wouldn't take that up.

So I want the border secured. I want a means of earned citizenship, where barriers make sense ...

KEILAR: But let me ask you this, did the House try?

SWALWELL: ... yes.

KEILAR: Did the House try? Because there have other issues in the past where the House ...


KEILAR: ... has passed a bill knowing it would have a tougher road in the Senate, but they went ahead ...


KEILAR: ... in the hopes that they would put some pressure on the Senate to do something.


SWALWELL: Well, we're trying now, right? The best time to take a deal is when it's in front of you, right? And so let's, let's take that deal now. What's happened in the past doesn't do anything about where we are right now. I'm ready as a Democrat in a Bay Area congressional district to say I'm going to support compromises to bring security to the border, because I want to fix things. I want to govern. But I see too many people who just want the chaos and they want to ruin them.

KEILAR: You - and you may not get that, because you have former President Trump who is putting this pressure on a number of your Republican colleagues in the House. What is the lesson then for the future when perhaps Democrats do have both chambers again? What are you hoping then that Democrats will do when it comes to immigration?

SWALWELL: Yes, collaborate and get things done. That's what people sent us to do. And I think President Biden with very narrow majorities through his now three years in government on jobs, on chips, on health care, on gun safety, and now trying to do it in the border. He's trying to unite and get things done.

So it's the difference, as I said, between chaos and competence and the American people want competence to win because competence keeps us safer at the border and in our own communities.

KEILAR: Congressman, thank you so much for being with us.

SWALWELL: My pleasure. Thanks, Brianna.

KEILAR: Obviously, we're looking to see what this committee does. So many Americans concerned about this issue and we appreciate your time.

SWALWELL: So next, some more testimony in the trial of Jennifer Crumbley, the mother of the Oxford, Michigan high school shooter. What investigators found in the teen's bedroom shortly after the attack.

Plus, one of the largest counties in the U.S. has become the target of a mass cyber attack, including the office that is investigating former President Trump. We'll have details right after this.