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Biden Says, We Shall Respond After Troops Killed in Jordan; Biden Pivots to General Election, Amps Up Trump Attacks; Calls for A.I. Regulation Grow as Election Year Underway. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired January 29, 2024 - 07:00   ET


MEG TIRRELL, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Majority of survivors don't report rape.


There are gestational limits as well. And so all of these really are contributing to the fact that even in states with exceptions, the exceptions are not working.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: But sort of what we saw play out in the case of Kate Cox in Texas, different, totally different scenario, but where the exceptions have limits, different exceptions.

TIRRELL: Yes, we're hearing over and over at medical exceptions, really not exceptions.

HARLOW: Yes, medical. Thank you very much for following that.

CNN This Morning continues right now.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Three American soldiers were killed and more than 30 injured in a drone attack in Jordan.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is the first time that U.S. service members have actually been killed from hostile fire since the war in Gaza began.

JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: We shall respond.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Former President Donald Trump has been pushing U.S. lawmakers to torpedo a bipartisan deal to help fix the crisis at the U.S. border with Mexico.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: I'd rather have no bills in a bad law.

BIDEN: If that bill were the law today, I'd shut down the border right now and fix it quickly.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The question is whether Republicans are going to listen to Donald Trump or whether we are going to pass the biggest bipartisan reform in 40 years.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The 49ers and the Chiefs in the Super Bowl for a second time in four seasons.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm just proud to be a 49er. We got one more.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's go Faithful. We're back baby.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Chiefs are still the Chiefs and believe it. You got to fight for your rights to party.


PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN ANCHOR: Well, a good Monday morning, everyone. It's the top of the hour. I'm Phil Mattingly with Poppy Harlow in New York.

And President Biden is now vowing to respond after a drone attack killed three U.S. soldiers in Jordan. The big question this morning, what will that response look like?


BIDEN: We had a tough day and last night in the Middle East. We lost three brave souls in an attack at one of our base. And I'd ask for a moment of silence for all three of those fallen soldiers. And we shall respond.


HARLOW: The president is saying we shall respond. Iran this morning denying any involvement in the deadly attack on that military outpost, but U.S. officials are blaming Iran-backed militants and say the drone appeared to have been launched from Syria.

President Biden is facing pressure from some Republicans to strike back. Senator Lindsey Graham telling him to, quote, hit Iran now, hit them hard. And Senator John Cornyn urging President Biden to, quote, target Tehran.

MATTINGLY: The White House has been dreading this exact thing for several months now as the U.S. tries to prevent the war from Gaza, from spilling into an even wider regional conflict. What President Biden decides to do here will be hugely consequential. And the situation is complicated by ongoing hostage negotiations with Hamas to release captives.

CNN's Arlette Saenz leads us off this morning from the White House. Arlette, this incident is without question a significant escalation. The president has vowed to respond. Do we have any sense of when or what that response might look like?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, not yet, Phil, and that's really the big question facing the White House this morning. President Biden yesterday called this attack on those U.S. forces despicable and wholly unjust. And now he and his team are working towards deciding how exactly the U.S. will respond.

In a statement morning, the death of those three U.S. service members, the president said, quote, we will hold all those responsible to account at a time and in a manner of our choosing.

Now, the president so far has said that it was Iran-backed militant groups based in Syria and Iraq that were responsible for this attack, but the U.S. is still working to determine which specific group carried out this attack on U.S. forces.

Overnight, Iran denied any involvement or responsibility for this attack, according to Iran's state news agency, and it really speaks to one of the challenges facing President Biden going forward, as he and his team have really tried to sought to prevent this conflict from widening into an even broader conflict in the Middle East.

Now, while more than 100 -- while U.S. and coalition forces have been attacked more than 150 times since the October 7th attack, this is the first incident that marked and included the deaths of U.S. service members, which is really raising the stakes for President Biden as he is charting the course of action as he is vowing to respond.

HARLOW: And, Arlette, the big question is how does the U.S. respond in a way that will be a deterrent, because all the responses so far have not deterred these Iran-backed groups, but at the same time, not do anything that would further exacerbate this to an even broader regional crisis in the Middle East?

SAENZ: Yes, that's something President Biden and his team will spend part of the day trying to work to figure out is how exactly to respond. A lot of the U.S. response that we've seen so far has been targeting weapons and buildings used by some of these groups, but it is possible that the U.S. could decide to take things a step further.


Now, the president has been under extreme pressure to act already, including from some Republican lawmakers up on Capitol Hill. As you mentioned, Senator Lindsey Graham is one of those who has been pushing for the U.S. to strike targets inside Iran, but at this time, it remains unclear what exact course of action the president will decide to take, but he has vowed that the U.S. will be responding in this incident, especially now that they have seen the loss of these U.S. service members.

But one of the key imperatives for this White House has really been trying to prevent this from broadening into a regional -- more of a regional conflict.

HARLOW: And therefore the president saying, at a time and manner of our choosing, that's when we will respond. Arlette, thank you very much. Phil?

MATTINGLY: Well, joining us now, former Defense Secretary in the Trump administration Mark Esper, we appreciate your time, sir. I want to start with, is it possible when you think about the options that you would be considering in a moment like this, that you can strike the balance of increasing deterrence while not escalating more widely in the region? What would that look like?

MARK ESPER, FORMER TRUMP DEFENSE SECRETARY: Hey, good morning, Phil. First of all, I want to express my thoughts and prayers for the service members who were killed in this horrible attack. So, look, yes, because I've had to do this a few times with President Trump. I think what you should present is a range of options that begin with striking Iranian targets outside Iran and now escalating up a ladder toward targets within Iran.

And my view at this point, the starting point is attacking IRGC, that's the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps personnel and sites in Iraq and Syria. And I would start there, because I do think this demands a really tough response directly targeted at Iran, which is supporting, inspiring, funding all of these attacks throughout the region.

As your reporter said, there have been over 150 attacks against U.S. forces, and we've only responded fewer than ten times. So, regrettably, this incident was inevitable.

MATTINGLY: You mentioned that you've dealt with very similar circumstances, or at least somewhat similar. You were defense secretary when Iranian-backed militias killed two U.S. troops in a rocket attack in Iraq in 2020. In terms of how things are at the moment, how would you compare now, the environment now, versus back then?

ESPER: I think it is more complex now and obviously more tense given what's happened with regard to Gaza, Israeli attacks against Gaza. You have the Israel standoff with Hezbollah in Southern Lebanon continuing. And, of course, you have the Houthi attacks against the shipping and the Red Sea. So, I think it is more complex, more dangerous.

But, again, if you look at each of these hotspots, it all goes back to Tehran. Tehran is funding, supporting, supplying arms, training all these elements. So, you have to go back to where this is all coming from. It's Tehran. And we've reached a point that it's now we have to attack them directly. And, frankly, I think that our response over the last few months has not been sufficient, and I've said that several times.

MATTINGLY: Yes, you have on this show as well. You know, there are some in the Republican Party that, and this isn't a new position for some of these lawmakers that want to go even further than what you're suggesting. Lindsey Graham, strike targets with significance inside Iran, John Cornyn, target Tehran, Tom Cotton, devastating military retaliation against Iran's terrorist forces. Is a direct strike within Iran something that should be on the table right now?

ESPER: I would not take those options off the table, but that's not where I would begin. I would begin against, like I said, IRGC forces. The IRGC is the actually Iranian force that supplies, trains, helps plan these attacks. I would start them. I would target their personnel and their sites in Iraq and Syria. I'd hit them fairly hard, and I'd see how that works. If the attacks continue, then I'd work my way up those options and eventually work your way into striking targets within Iran.

At the same time, though, I think you have to balance that with diplomacy. You have to begin getting your allies on board in the region to include the Europeans and the Arab states, because, look, everybody is going to watch very closely what we're doing, and they're going to see whether the United States will respond forcefully.

This affects not just the U.S.-Iran relationship, but how the Arab states view it, how other countries in the region view this, because they know, look, Iran has been sponsoring this bad behavior in the region for four-plus decades.

MATTINGLY: Yes, it's an important point. This isn't happening in a vacuum.

Last one before I let you go, I want to play something that we heard from the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. It was an interview that was taped before the attack that killed the three U.S. military personnel. But the point, I think, probably stands for the administration. Take a listen.


GEN. C.Q. BROWN, JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: As I provide advice and we think about the approach we take, we want to ensure that we take away capability while we protect our forces, at the same time not have this brought into a much wider conflict.


MATTINGLY: That, of course, is General C.Q. Brown. I think this is the point that you're making. How do you thread that needle in this moment in time given the complexity of all the dynamics at play here?


Do you think it's possible?

ESPER: Yes, I do think it's possible. I think, you know, General Brown made a very thoughtful reason statement there. We don't want a wider regional war, at least not right now. We need to be prepared. We need to get our allies on board, et cetera.

But I do think it's possible to do that. Iran doesn't want a regional war either. But we have to take it to them, because otherwise -- look, the proxy militia groups don't care. They're not deterred in the sense that they like this conflict. It was notable that the Islamic resistance in Iraq quickly took credit for these attacks. But Iran likes to keep it at arm's length, and so they don't want a broader war. So, that's why I think at this point, starting with the IRGC in Iraq and Syria, and then working your way up that escalation ladder to include targets in Iran, if necessary, I think that's the way we need to go.

MATTINGLY: Former Defense Secretary Mark Esper, I appreciate your expertise as always, sir. Thank you.

ESPER: Thank you, Phil.

HARLOW: And President Biden calling Donald Trump a, quote, loser and un-American. Congressman Ro Khanna was with President Biden on the trail and he joins us next.

MATTINGLY: And just into CNN, Princess Kate has returned home after her recent abdominal surgery. What we're learning about her recovery, that's ahead.



HARLOW: President Biden taking his 2024 campaign message to South Carolina over the weekend, as he works to shore up support, especially among black voters ahead of this Saturday's -- ahead of the Democratic primary there.

The president ratcheted up his attacks on his likely November opponent, Donald Trump, with a series of harsh criticism. Here's a sampling.


BIDEN: You're the reason Donald Trump is a loser. And you're the reason we're going to win and beat him again.

Donald Trump, when he was commander-in-chief, refused to visit a cemetery, U.S. cemetery outside of Paris for fallen American soldiers. And he referred to those heroes, and I quote, as suckers and losers. He actually said that. He said that. How dare he say that? How dare he talk about my son and all of us like that? Look, I call them patriots and heroes. The only loser I see is Donald Trump.

How can anyone, especially a former president, wish for an economic crash that would devastate millions of Americans?

There are only two presidents of American history who left office with fewer jobs than they took office, Herbert Hoover and yes, Donald Herbert Hoover, Trump.

Have you noticed he's a little confused these days? He apparently can't tell the difference between Nikki Haley and Nancy Pelosi.


HARLOW: Well, you heard it there. Joining us now is Congressman Ro Khanna, Democrat from California. He, of course, campaigned with the president this weekend in South Carolina, a real change in tone, really stepping it up against the former president.

Let's start with one of his goals there in the state is obviously to increase support where he's seen softness this time around among black voters. You've seen the numbers. I don't have to repeat them for you. He's especially seeing softness with younger black voters. What should he do differently to try to ensure that that critical base is behind him?

REP. RO KHANNA (D-CA): First of all, the president brought the house down on Saturday night. This is the first time that he's really drawn a contrast with Donald Trump. And it was very effective to say that he has delivered for working and middle class Americans. Donald Trump's economy, lost jobs, was just tax cuts for the very wealthy.

Jim Clyburn also made one of the best cases for the president's re- election, and that was being very specific of what he's done and forgiving student loans and funding for infrastructure and how he's helped communities, and we need to do more of that.

HARLOW: One of the things we did see was, once again, protesters interrupting the president at times this weekend in South Carolina, their opposition to how Israel is handling its war against Hamas, the Palestinian civilian victims, and the president's refusal to call for a ceasefire.

That was really interesting over the weekend. The New York Times talked to a number of black pastors. They're reporting more than 1,000 black pastors are calling on Biden to push for a ceasefire. Let me just read you some of the reasoning why, Congressman.

The Reverend Frederick Haynes says, what they're witnessing from the administration in Gaza is a glaring contradiction to what we thought the president and his administration was about. Reverend Cynthia Hale from Georgia says, we see them, Palestinian civilians in Gaza, as part of us. They are oppressed people. We are oppressed people.

Are you concerned -- because you've been calling for a ceasefire since November, are you concerned that this is really going to hurt the president's chances?

KHANNA: Well, first of all, I think we have to look to morality and the substance. And I appreciate the young people who are speaking out for a ceasefire and release of all hostages. I appreciate faith leaders who are speaking out for that. My heart today goes out to our three service members who were killed.

And, of course, the president needs to take appropriate action to bring the perpetrators to justice. But we also need to deescalate in that region. And having a ceasefire with the release of all hostages would do that.

I spoke to that candidly when I spoke after the president. And I said, I am for a ceasefire and release of all hostages, but this president is our best chance to get two states, to get a Palestinian state of equal rights and to get peace.

HARLOW: Look, and you have said how blunt you've been with the administration calling for a ceasefire. You said, quote, we're isolating ourselves from the moral leadership of the world. We see this really at almost most, if not every event that he is speaking at, Congressman. Do you get a sense from the administration, maybe the president in private, that he is more open to a ceasefire now than perhaps even a month ago, or do you not think this happens?

KHANNA: Well, I certainly don't want to speak for president in terms of his policy, but I will say this.


In my conversations with him and the White House, that he understands the pain and the anger of young people and what's going on. He understands the devastation taking place in Gaza with over 20,000 killed, homes destroyed and the humanitarian crisis. And he's committed to trying to bring peace in the region.

And I -- look, I applaud young people. Some people in my party say, oh, why are they coming out? It's a political event. You have the right in this country to speak your mind. And I think we have to listen to them. I think we have to engage them. And then we have to make the case for why we need to unify around this president and why that's the best for peace and for the economy.

HARLOW: You mentioned the three U.S. service members and more that were killed in that drone attack over the weekend in Jordan and more than 34 injured. A handful of Republicans, especially in the Senate, are saying it is time for this administration to strike Iran, not just the proxies, but to strike Iran. John Cornyn saying target Tehran. You have others like Lindsey Graham and Roger Wicker not mincing words, being very clear. What do you think an appropriate response is? Are those Republican senators wrong or is it time to hit Iran?

KHANNA: And, you know who hasn't said that is Donald Trump, because this country doesn't want us in another Middle East war. I can't imagine that that would be a popular platform for Trump to run on. I mean, this country is weary of after the Iraq war, of after 20 years in Afghanistan of getting into another war.

Now, my view is that the president will be judicious. He has said clearly that the people who killed our service members need to be brought to justice, and he will take appropriate action without escalating this into getting us into a long Middle East war.

HARLOW: He's also been clear answering a reporter last week that, so far, the strikes have not been a deterrent. So the question is, what can you do differently now that would be?

Before you go, I do want to get you on the immigration deal. Your Democratic counterpart in the Senate, Chris Murphy, told Dana Bash on CNN yesterday that we may be able to see the legislative text of a bipartisan border security bill this week. A couple of things that sources tell us that it would do, give the president a lot more authority to shut down the border. If border crossings hit a certain threshold, it would do other things, like reforming the asylum process.

House Speaker Mike Johnson says it is, quote, dead on arrival in the House. Do you think this thing is dead on arrival in the House if it can get through the Senate?

KHANNA: I have concerns. Look, we need border security, but that means putting more Border Patrol agents there, having more immigration judges, having more immigration lawyers. And the fact that the Hispanic caucus has not been involved in the conversations, the fact that many of the Democratic caucus haven't been involved gives me concern.

And what I'll tell you is that the House Democratic caucus isn't just going to a rubber stamp --

HARLOW: Concern, meaning you don't support it?

KHANNA: Well, I don't know what's in the deal, but from what the public reporting is, I have concerns that it's not going to be effective.

Now, and I would want to make sure that the House Democratic caucus gets involved, I think it would be a mistake to assume that we would just rubber stamp it. This is very different than infrastructure or other things coming out of the Senate. And I would encourage the Hispanic caucus, Latino senators, progressive caucus, others of the House caucus to be involved in the conversation.

HARLOW: Congresswoman Ro Khanna, thanks very much for your time this morning.

KHANNA: Thank you.

MATTINGLY: Donald Trump is staying quiet for once after a jury ruled he must pay E. Jean Carroll more than $83 million in damages. She's going to join us live here next hour to discuss the verdict.

HARLOW: And X, formerly Twitter, banning Taylor Swift searches after an explicit A.I.-generated photos of her went viral. Why the man who's front and center in the A.I. world is sounding the alarm on Deepfakes.




SAM ALTMAN, CEO, OPENAI: This is a technology that is clearly very powerful and that we don't know -- we cannot say with certainty exactly what's going to happen. It could go very wrong. The technological direction that we've been trying to push it in is one that we think we can make safe. (END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTINGLY: OpenAI CEO Sam Altman, arguably the face of artificial intelligence at this point, expressing the ongoing concerns about the technology which has the power to impact the economy, politics and now, of course, pop culture.

Platforms, like X, are taking action after an explicit A.I.-generated images of Taylor Swift spread across social media last week. They were viewed tens of millions of times before they were removed. And the search function for Taylor Swift was blocked.

X writing in a statement, quote, we have a zero tolerance policy towards such content. Our teams are actively removing all identified images and taking appropriate actions against the accounts responsible for them.

The Biden administration calls the circulation of these images alarming.

HARLOW: And it's not just that. It's politics too. Remember, New Hampshire voters targeted by that Deepfake technology ahead of the state's primary, people got this fake robocall claiming to be from President Biden, telling them not to vote.


BIDEN: It's important that you save your vote for the November election.

Voting this Tuesday only enables the Republicans in their quest to elect Donald Trump again.


HARLOW : It actually wasn't the president. And authorities in New Hampshire are investigating where that call came from and how.

Joining us now is future tech entrepreneur and founder of tech education company, WAYE, Sinead Bovell. Thank you for being here.

One of the issues is the damage is already done, right? Not all voters in New Hampshire would have seen the report saying, by the way, that's not real. The damage to Taylor Swift and others, countless others, is already done.

You talk about the fact that there is a significant gap in preparedness. There's like no regulation yet, not much.

SINEAD BOVELL, FUTURIST TECH ENTREPRENEUR: Yes, I think that that's what's most alarming. I hope nobody is surprised by what's happened because these capabilities have existed when it comes to Deepfake audio for over a year, but Deepfake pornography and non-consensual imagery, that's listed and been in existence for years.

But there is no federal ban against this type of action. And I think at the very minimum, that should be in place. And I think Taylor Swift's fans were quite alarmed to realize that there is no consistent federal legislation against this type of behavior.


HARLOW: A lawmaker from New York just proposed that actually like a week ago. We'll see if it goes anywhere. But you're right, shocking that there's nothing yet.