Return to Transcripts main page
CNN This Morning
House GOP Moves to Impeach Mayorkas While Opposing Border Deal; Biden Says He's Decided How to Respond to Attack in Jordan; CIA Chief Says, Ending Support Would Be Mistake of Historic Proportions. Aired 7-7:30a ET
Aired January 31, 2024 - 07:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ELIZABETH WAGMEISTER, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: -- whose father Puerto Rican became a triple-threat performer as an actor, singer, and dancer, blazing a trail for other Latinas.
In 2002 she was the first Latina to earn a Kennedy Center honor and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor in 2009.
Rivera worked into her 80s, most recently appearing in Netflix's Tick, Tick, Boom, a 2021 film directed by Lin-Manuel Miranda who told CNN Rivera was the trailblazer for Puerto Rico on Broadway. She was an absolute original.
She was magnificent. She is magnificent. Not ready for the past tense just yet, a legacy that will live forever.
Elizabeth Wagmeister, CNN, Los Angeles.
POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: What a woman.
CNN This Morning continues right now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Secretary Mayorkas has had three years to protect our borders. Since he's failed to do his job, it's time to impeach.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It requires a high crime or misdemeanor. In my view, Secretary Mayorkas has not committed that.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: There might not be a bipartisan border deal at all.
REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-GA): I just heard Speaker Johnson saying it's absolutely dead, which is what I wanted to hear.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: MAGA Republicans are walking away from a bipartisan deal because Donald Trump ordered them to do so.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: President Biden says he's decided how the U.S. will respond to the deadly drone attack that killed three Americans in Jordan.
OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Every expectation is that this will be more powerful than the U.S. strikes we've seen in Iraq and Syria to this point.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The question, of course, is how he can do that without further escalating the situation in the Middle East.
COLLINS: Trump has spent approximately $50 million in donor money on legal bills and investigation-related expenses.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: These numbers are not going to get smaller. So, how much he is going to be able to continue to pay remains to be seen.
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN ANCHOR: A good Wednesday morning, everyone. It's the top of the hour. I'm Phil Matting with Poppy Harlow in New York.
And brand new this morning, House Republicans late overnight plowing ahead with trying to impeach President Biden's border chief, all while simultaneously lining up to try and kill the most substantial bipartisan border security package in decades.
Now, in that early morning vote, House Republicans advanced two articles of impeachment against Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas. It's an effort, some constitutional scholars say, is questionable at best, Democrats calling it a sham.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. DANIEL GOLDMAN (D-NY): The real reason we are here, as we all know, is because Donald Trump wants to run on immigration.
REP. ROB MENENDEZ (D-NJ): Because you bend your knee to the Orange Jesus, as you refer to him.
REP. BENNIE THOMPSON (D-MS): And they don't want progress, they don't want solutions, they want a political issue, and most of all, they want to please their disgraced former president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: House Speaker Mike Johnson is pushing back on the notion that he would kill the Senate's border deal to help Trump and his presidential run, but Trump keeps saying the quiet part out loud.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: There is zero chance I will support this horrible open borders betrayal of America.
A lot of the senators are trying to say respectfully they're blaming it on me. I said, that's okay, please blame it on me, please.
MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Are you simply trying to kill this to help him on the campaign?
REP. MIKE JOHNSON (R-LA): No, Manu, that's absurd. Our majority is small. We only have it in one chamber, but we're trying to use every ounce of leverage that we have to make sure that this issue is addressed.
I have talked to former President Trump about this issue at length, and he understands that. He understands that we have a responsibility to do here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: One note, no question Manu asks is ever absurd.
We have team coverage this morning. Let's start with Congressional Correspondent Lauren Fox on the Hill. All right, what does this all mean, Lauren? Where are we?
LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean, obviously House Republicans marching toward trying to impeach Mayorkas. The question now is do they have the votes. They have that narrow two-seat majority, which means they do have some work to do to ensure that they have Republicans lining up backing this effort.
I asked Mark Green, the chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, about this yesterday, and he acknowledged that there was still some work to do.
But then, on the other side of the Capitol, you have sort of a critical day today, as Senate Republicans are trying to decide how they want to move forward with what was described in the last several weeks by Republican leadership as the best opportunity they've had in decades to do something on the southern border. We still do not have bill text right now of that emerging bipartisan immigration deal.
And I asked Chris Murphy about this yesterday on Capitol Hill, and he said, right now, Republicans need to decide if they want to move forward or if they don't.
And he said, Lankford is sticking by the deal that they have been working on.
But he said Republican leadership does need to make a decision, and we do know from our reporting from colleagues, Ted Barrett and Manu Raju, that last night, in McConnell's office, Republican leaders were grappling with this essential question. Do they try to continue to link Ukraine aid, Taiwan aid, Israel aid with this border security provisions that they want to include, or, given the backlash against this border deal, do they cut it out of the deal and basically move forward with just the Ukraine aid, Israel aid and Taiwan-aid? Those are the questions that Republican leadership has to answer this morning.
MATTINGLY: Right. And it doesn't seem like they have clear answers, at least at the moment.
Priscilla, over to you at the White House, in terms of where DHS is, where the White House is, both on the impeachment effort, but also on that bipartisan effort related to immigration, what are you hearing from advisers right now about their strategy moving forward?
PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, they were prepared for this moment to happen. There have been meetings between senior White House aides and senior Homeland Security officials for weeks, leading up to this impeachment vote, including conversations between Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and Biden advisors.
And the White House has slammed these efforts, saying that there's no crimes or misdemeanors, no high crimes or misdemeanors here, and also citing legal experts who say there's no there, there.
But this conversation over border security and the potential unraveling of this border deal, of which we've seen no text yet, has opened up a window of opportunity for Democrats. In conversations that Lauren and I have had with sources, they say that they see an opportunity here to seize on border security, go on the offensive on border security. That's something that we haven't seen Democrats do, and, frankly, probably wouldn't have been a thought just three months ago.
But now they see an opportunity to hammer Republicans in deciding not to take what they say is a tough deal. This is a deal that includes conservative wish list items, but that now they're backing off of.
And President Biden has said and has asked Congress to move on immigration reform over the weekend. He said that he'd be willing to shut down the border if given the authority. All of these are notable moments that speak to Democrats really seizing on an issue that up until this point, they had not been this tough on publicly. Phil, Poppy?
HARLOW: Priscilla, thank you, Lauren, we appreciate it. We'll get back to you soon.
Coming up in just a few minutes, House Majority Whip Tom Emmer joins us with his perspective on all this and votes are for there on Mayorkas, and there's a lot to talk to him about.
So, President Biden told reporters yesterday that he's made up his mind on how the U.S. will respond to that drone attack that killed three American service members in Jordan over the weekend. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Have you made a decision on how you'll respond to the attack?
JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: Yes. (END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTINGLY: But the president didn't really elaborate on what that response might look like.
For that, let's turn to retired U.S. Army Brigadier General Steve Anderson. Steve, we appreciate your time this morning.
Can you walk us through what options may be on the table right now?
BRIG. GEN. STEVE ANDERSON (RET.), U.S. ARMY: Well, thank you, Phil and Poppy. And whatever military options we execute, we also need to combine that with economic and political sanctions that haven't worked. But thus far, we need to make sure it's a collaborative effort.
But if we're looking at military options, I see four significant military options. The first would be a one-day attack, very similar to what we did in Yemen a couple of weeks ago. This would be an attack in which we would essentially target within Syria and within Iraq these Iranian proxies that are out there that we know they're out there.
This would be a significant attack. We'd use F-16s from IUD to air base, F-18s from the Mediterranean Sea, and we'd use Tomahawk missiles, precision attacks against single targets.
Now, the second option I see is that same approach, but now multiple attacks over several days, perhaps even weeks. This would be an intent to destroy all military capabilities.
Now, the attacks that we did back in Yemen, we saw weren't particularly effective. You see, you have to execute a campaign, and this would be extensive. This would involve perhaps hundreds of precision guided munitions and hundreds of aircraft over multiple days, perhaps even weeks.
The third option that I see would be to attack Iranian assets outside of Iran. Now, there is historic precedent for this. Operation Praying Mantis 36 years ago, in which President Reagan ordered the United States to attack Iranian sea assets in the Persian Gulf, they actually succeeded in sinking five ships to include a frigate.
This is the first time since World War II that the Navy actually sunk a large sea craft. And this would be a response that we could execute in the Persian Gulf.
And then finally, option four, this is attacking Iranian assets within Iran. And there's all kinds of assets that we could go after, but I would suspect that we would go after the Revolutionary Guard headquarters, we'd go after perhaps some oil assets, maybe even some nuclear production assets.
But this means we're at war with Iran. And this would be a very, very serious option. It would have all kinds of implications. HARLOW: So, then what one do you think would be most effective in terms of serving as an actual deterrent while not putting the U.S. at war with Iran?
ANDERSON: My recommendation is option two. I think this achieves the most military impact, what we're looking for objectively, militarily, but at the lowest risk at expanding the war. We cannot afford to have another war in the Middle East. I mean, I fought over in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the United States is not ready for this.
But when you get right down to it, these attacks against Iran and their responses to us are going to continue until we find a solution on the Gaza Strip. That's why I support a two-party solution. This is really the only way that this is going to end this little tit-for-tat that no doubt we're going to find ourselves in over the coming weeks and months.
MATTINGLY: Yes, something the administration has been working towards, not with a lot of help from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
General Steve Anderson, we appreciate your time, sir. Thank you.
Well, the warnings from top officials increasing on the damage abandoning Ukraine would have at this point in the war. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg joins us next to discuss.
HARLOW: Also breaking news into CNN, a man has been arrested for murder in Pennsylvania after a very troubling video was posted on social media. The details just coming in, we'll bring you the latest.
HARLOW: Welcome back. CIA Director Bill Burns issuing a new warning about the tough battle Ukraine faces this year in the war against Russia and the danger of the United States abandoning its support for Ukraine.
Burns writing in a new column, quote, for the U.S. to walk away from the conflict at this crucial moment and cut off support to Ukraine would be an own goal of historic proportions.
This is a decisive week for Ukraine funding as lawmakers battle over a border deal that would unlock $60 billion in critical assistance to Ukraine.
Hours after Speaker Mike Johnson told House Republicans that the border deal has, quote, no way forward, he and other Congressional leaders met with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. We will speak to him in just a moment.
Stoltenberg is in Washington this week trying to convince lawmakers and Donald Trump's allies to approve funding for Ukraine. And this morning, he is set to give a speech at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank that is closely aligned with Trump. And there he will face a pretty skeptical audience. Heritage's president wrote to Speaker Johnson last month, quote, the House should strongly oppose aid to Ukraine when the European Union, which lags far behind the U.S. in its military assistance to Ukraine, should be required to fund greater levels of aid for Ukraine.
Just a point of fact, the U.S. has given more military aid to Ukraine than its E.U. counterparts. But since this conflict started, the E.U. has given more total aid to Ukraine by about 59 billion euros more.
But Speaker Johnson and other Republicans have made similar arguments against the aid. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHNSON: There are important questions that must be answered so that we can continue with these negotiations. Among those is, what is the objective? What is the endgame in Ukraine?
SEN. J.D. VANCE (R-OH): They have made no significant progress despite hundreds of billions of dollars of American aid. Is another hundred billion dollars really going to accomplish anything or will it take Ukraine further down the pathway of becoming effectively dependent of the United States of America?
RAJU: Are you worried about the implications of Russia wins?
SEN. TOMMY TUBERVILLE (R-AL): Well, everybody keeps saying they're going to continue to go across Europe. I mean, they can't beat Ukraine on the eastern side. How are they going to continue to go the rest of the way through Europe? I've never believed that scenario.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg joins us now. Welcome to the program.
Just earlier this week you said, quote, I'm confident that all NATO allies, including the United States, will continue to provide support to Ukraine. And I wonder if you are still confident in that after your meeting with Speaker Johnson yesterday.
JENS STOLTENBERG, NATO SECRETARY GENERAL: Yes, I continue to expect that also the United States will find a way to support Ukraine, because that is in the security interest of the United States. If President Putin wins in Ukraine, it will embolden him, but also other authoritarian leaders to use military force. Today, it is Ukraine, tomorrow it could be Taiwan.
And when I visited the Hill yesterday, I met many politicians from both parties, and I saw broad support for Ukraine, but then, of course, there is this link to the border issue, which I respect is an important and difficult issue, but I believe it's possible to find a way forward to support Ukraine, regardless of how the border issue is handled. HARLOW: If you could take us inside that meeting with Speaker Johnson, what did he say that made you so confident, like that this would be separated and he thinks the border deal has no path forward, so it would be separate and that funding would come for Ukraine?
STOLTENBERG: Well, the speaker and I, we agreed a joint statement where we clearly stated that President Putin must not win the war in Ukraine. And the only way to prevent President Putin from winning is to provide support.
And we all hoped for more advances in the offensive the Ukrainians launched last year, but we need to also remember where the whole thing started when the full-fledged invasion happened in 2022. Most experts expected that Russia would take control over Kyiv within days, and the rest of Ukraine within weeks. That did not happen.
The Ukrainians have liberated 50 percent of the land Russia occupied in the beginning. They have opened the corridor in the Black Sea, pushing back the Russian fleet. And they are inflicting heavy losses on the Russian Armed Forces.
So, with a fraction of the U.S. defense budget, significant combat capabilities of the Russian army has been destroyed.
So, our support is making a difference on the ground every day.
HARLOW: How long -- you just met with President Zelenskyy last month. How long do you estimate Ukraine has on the battlefield if more U.S. support does not come?
STOLTENBERG: It's very hard to predict. And, of course, they have the will, they have the commitment to defend their own land. And the European allies are ready to continue to support. If you add military and economic aid, European allies and Canada have provided much more support than the United States and measured as presented of GDP.
Almost all allies are providing more support than the U.S. But, of course, the U.S. is essential and therefore it is important that also the U.S. make a decision to continue to support. Also knowing that most of this money is actually spent in the United States, procuring weapons ammunition from U.S. defense producers and thereby both strengthening the U.S. defense industry and making us all more secure by supporting Ukraine.
HARLOW: It would also explain why one of your stops on this trip is going to be Lockheed Martin, one of the major weapons suppliers and builders, where a lot of that money would be spent.
Two questions for you just on the future of NATO. We just saw Turkey ratify Sweden's bid to join NATO. The only thing standing in the way now is Hungary. I know you spoke with the prime minister of Hungary, Viktor Orban. Are you confident after that conversation that Hungary will approve? STOLTENBERG: Yes, he was very clear and he also stated that publicly after my conversation with Prime Minister Orban and that he supports the ratification of the Swedish membership in NATO. So, I'm confident that Sweden soon will become a full member, making NATO stronger and all of us more secure.
NATO is a good deal for Europe, but NATO is also a good deal for the United States. The United States represents 25 percent of the world's GDP. Together with NATO Allies, we represent 50 percent of the world's economic might and 50 percent of the world's military might.
So, in NATO, the United States has something no other major power has, and that is more than 30 friends and allies, and that makes all of us stronger also in the United States.
HARLOW: Former President Trump is likely the Republican nominee for president. He has been very clear how he feels about NATO. He reiterated that feeling just a couple days ago. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We're paying for NATO, and we don't get so much out of it. And, you know, I hate to tell you this about NATO. If we ever needed their help, let's say we were attacked, I don't believe they'd be there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: You look at the Trump campaign website, Mr. Secretary General, it says, quote, we have to finish the process that we began under my administration of fundamentally re-evaluating NATO's purpose and NATO's mission.
Would a second Trump presidency concern you about the future of U.S. membership in NATO?
STOLTENBERG: I believe that the United States will continue to be a staunch NATO ally regardless of the outcome of the U.S. elections because it is in the U.S. interest to have a strong --
HARLOW: Even under President Trump?
STOLTENBERG: Well, I worked with him for four years and I listened carefully because the main criticism has been about NATO allies spending too little on NATO. And the message has been taken across the alliance in Europe and Canada.
So, over the last years, NATO allies have significantly increased defense spending. More and more allies meet the NATO guideline on spending 2 percent of GDP on defense. Poland is actually spending 4 percent of GDP, no other allies spending more than that. And in total, they have added 450 billion extra for defense.
So, the message from the United States that the European allies have to step up has been understood and they are now really moving in the right direction and that strengthens also the transatlantic bond within the alliance.
HARLOW: Certainly, there has been a commitment of more money from those members. But to hear the former president say, let's say we were attacked, I don't believe they'd be there, is questioning whether they would abide by Article 5.
So, I really appreciate you weighing in on all of this and wish you success in the rest of your week in Washington and down at Lockheed Martin. Thanks very much.
STOLTENBERG: Thank you.
MATTINGLY: We do have breaking news just into CNN. We want to warn you this is very disturbing. A Pennsylvania man was charged with murder and abuse of a corpse after police say he posted a YouTube video in which he claims to show his father's decapitated head while ranting about the Biden administration and the border crisis.
Now, this video circulated online for hours before being taken down. The father of the individual was a federal employee. The son called him a traitor.
With us now, former FBI Deputy Director and CNN Senior Law Enforcement Analyst Andrew McCabe and CNN's Danny Freeman.
Danny, I want to start with you. This is breaking right now. What more do we know about what actually happened here?
DANNY FREEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Phil. And just to state the obvious, obviously, as you said, this is an incredibly disturbing story. I watched part of this video last night, and it's one of those things that it's an image you just can't get out of your head.
Yesterday, this is when this all started. This video was posted on YouTube. The suspect here is Justin Mohn. He's 32 years old. He's from Middletown Township in Pennsylvania. That's in Bucks County.
And as you said, this video contains a number of rantings, basically, about the Biden administration, about the border, at one point, even declaring himself the acting president under martial law. But then there's this horrific moment when he appears to show the head of his deceased father on camera, saying that his father was a traitor to the country because he was a federal employee.
Now, that video, like you said, Phil, stayed up for a long time. Eventually, later into the evening, YouTube was able to take it down. Even X seemed to be taking down videos that people were just reposting and reposting.
But then in the evening, police were able to apprehend Mr. Mohn about 100 miles away from his home in Bucks County in Fort Indian Town Gap in Pennsylvania. Again, that's 100 miles to the west of where he was and where this crime is alleged to have been committed. Now, I will say, just to give you a sample of one of the things that Mr. Mohn said, and I'm quoting here from the video, he said, in part, the federal government of America has declared war on its citizens and the American states. America is rotting from the inside out as far left woke mobs rampage or once prosperous city.
Now, Phil, the thing that law enforcement are trying to make clear at this moment is that this suspect is in custody. The threat to the larger community is over right now. But, truly, a community on edge, you can imagine after hearing this news. We're going to hear a press conference from the Bucks County District Attorney later on today on this subject.
HARLOW: Andy, this video was -- it references President Biden. It was up on YouTube, as I understand it, for several hours before it was taken down. Talk about the bigger picture here, if you could.
ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Sure, yes. So, the bigger picture is extremely concerning, I think, as do most security officials, as we go into what will be an incredibly heated political season.
You know, obviously, this guy, we don't know -- we're waiting on additional facts from the investigation to understand his specific motives. You can make some assumptions based on his claims in the video that he's been motivated by politics.
But I think that the bigger picture here is that this is another example of the fact that the kind of overheated, deeply politicized, extreme rhetoric that you hear sometimes in this country from politically elected officials and leaders actually has an impact on these marginalized people with extremist views who might be because of their mental illness or their disturbance or their unbelievably strong beliefs in some of these things driven to embark in acts of violence.
You know, some of the things that he has said on the video, allegedly referring to woke mobs and things like that. That's not dissimilar from rhetoric that you hear from some politicians that we've heard recently in the primary season from some folks specifically.
So, this kind of language has an effect on the extremist, on the most extreme, most vulnerable, most potentially dangerous part of our population. And I think it's something that most security officials are really concerned about.
You know, Poppy, like the odds are if we experience political violence in this year around the presidential election, it's not going to look like January 6th. It's not going to look like a massive mob of people that's organized and compelled to come together at our nation's capital or any state capital. It's going to look like individuals who decide that, based on their extreme beliefs, they have to act out on their own. And that seems to be what we have here.
MATTINGLY: It's an incredibly disturbing story. Andrew McCabe, Danny Freeman, I know you'll keep reporting on this. Please keep us posted. Well, after months of negotiations, the Senate's emerging bipartisan immigration deal appears to be, quote, absolutely dead, at least according to House Republicans. House Majority Whip Tom Emmer is going to join us next to discuss the state of immigration, impeachment, all the things going on on Capitol Hill, next.