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Erin Burnett Outfront
Source: U.S. Strikes Houthi Positions In Yemen As Militants Defy Demands To Stop Red Sea Attacks; Judge Cuts Off Trump's Courtroom Rant: "Control Your Client". Aired 7-8p ET
Aired January 11, 2024 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next:
The breaking news, U.S. airstrikes in the Middle East tonight. U.S. fighter jets right now striking part parts of Yemen with Tomahawk missiles. We are waiting to hear directly from President Biden as the entire Middle East and the world right now are on edge.
And more breaking news tonight. Trump's tirade, a judge shutting the former president down after an outburst at his fraud on trial in New York. Could this be the beginning of the end for Trump's business empire?
And Christie's hot mic moment that everyone's been talking about. We have the man who is on the other end, who was speaking to Christie on that mic. What else did he say? Was it really an accident?
Let's go OUTFRONT
And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett.
And we do begin OUTFRONT tonight with the breaking news. The United States striking the Middle East this hour. A U.S. official telling CNN that right now, the U.S. military is carrying out strikes with fighter jets and Tomahawk missiles on Yemen. Their target, Iranian-backed militia, Houthis.
And these strikes come after an emergency cabinet meeting in the United Kingdom, America's closest ally. To be clear, these strikes in the Middle East are very significant. The United States is now finally taking action and it could change the Israel-Hamas war into something much bigger.
The Houthis have been relentlessly attacking ships in the Red Sea since November. Reports today of another attack, the 27th by the group in the area under two months, according to the Pentagon.
Now, the Houthis are already vowing to retaliate to any strikes. A senior member moments ago saying and I quote: We will confront America, make it kneel down and burn its battleships and all its bases, and everyone who cooperates with it no matter the cost.
And as we said, a very significant moment here, the United States launching multiple strikes in Yemen tonight.
So much to get to with this breaking development. I want to start with MJ Lee OUTFRONT live outside the White House.
And, MJ, a tense situation tonight. It is, of course, the darkest hours of the night, just coming up before dawn in Yemen, and now, a series of strikes. What are you learning?
MJ LEE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Erin, we are certainly waiting for that official word from the White House on these attacks in Yemen against these Houthi positions. But a U.S. official telling me and confirming that this isn't just the U.S. military, but these are actions that are being taken with other countries, including the U.K.
What we should make clear is that U.S. officials have telecast in recent days very clearly that the situation in the Red Sea had become intolerable and unacceptable. And in recent days, U.S. officials had gone as far to say that they were issuing their final warnings to the Houthi.
So it was certainly expected that in the coming days, given that the Houthi provocations and the attacks had continued on these shipping vessels in the Red Sea that some kind of a different response could be coming again from the U.S. and its allies.
Now, striking in Yemen is something that the U.S. had hoped that it could very much avoid. This was almost a last resort situation, given that the U.S. is so set on trying to prevent the situation in the Middle East from escalating. They also just do not want to disturb the current truth in the Yemen civil war.
But, again, I think it's very much expected given the gravity of the situation and the significance of this action by the U.S. and others that we should be hearing in some form from the president directly at later this evening, Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, MJ Lee.
And you heard MJ say in some form, we should hear from the president later this evening. It is a grave and deeply serious moment and a significant development here. And as MJ said, indications, allies involved.
I mentioned that emergency the cabinet meeting in the darkness of night in London. Rishi Sunak holding and we do understand now that the U.K. was part of these strikes. Oren Liebermann joins me now from the Pentagon.
And, Oren, you're learning about the U.K. involvement. What more are you learning about these strikes tonight?
OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: We've just learned quite a bit from a U.S. official about the types of targets that were struck here by the U.S. And we've now just learned the U.K. We have also learned that the U.S. strikes came from a variety of
different platforms, including as we've said, fighter jets and Tomahawk missiles, which are land attack missiles launched from the sea. But it's not just surface vessels. There was also submarines that were used in part of this attack, targeting 12 or more than 12, I should say, different sites in Yemen belonging to the Houthis.
Those targets included radar sites, as well as storage and launch sites for ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, and UAVs.
That's significant because it's those three types of weapons that the Houthis have used to target international shipping in the Red Sea, obviously, one of the world's most critical waterways. So, the U.S. and the U.K. very much trying to send a message here that this needs to stop. We have seen according to the U.S., 27 times where the Houthis have launched attacks on shipping in the Red Sea.
At first, they were trying to target ships that had some sort of connection to Israel either coming or going from, or part ownership. But according to the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet which operates in the region, many of the last dozen attacks had no connection at all to Israel. The U.S. feeling compelled because of the threats to international shipping. They setup Operation Prosperity Guardian, and protect shipping in the Red Sea. But that was purely defensive. This obviously goes well beyond that.
After multiple warnings to both the Houthis and to Iran, the Houthis, of course, an Iranian proxy, that these attacks had to stop, the U.S. and the U.K. feeling compelled to take action here. So again, more than a dozen targets struck, including radar systems, as well as storage and launched platforms and sites for ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, and UAVs. And the U.S. using not just fighter jets, but also surface ships and submarines to carry out what appears to be a broad array of strikes on Houthi targets in Yemen, Erin.
BURNETT: All right. A broad assault.
Oren, thank you very much.
And always important to note, 90 percent of the world's trade goes by ship. And then these attacks have gone on unanswered now for three months until this mass assault, this broad assault that were talking about happening at this hour.
Barak Ravid is our political and global affairs analyst and retired U.S. Army Major General James "Spider" Marks also joins me.
So, General, here we are, finally, 27 strikes on shipping. Many of them U.S. ships targeted. The U.S. now, tonight, responding, hitting more than a dozen Houthi targets in Yemen. Houthis, of course, an Iranian-backed militia, Iranian proxy, and coming from the air, coming from under the sea, coming from ships on the sea.
Your reaction? MAJ. GEN. JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS (RET.), U.S. ARMY: I think it's well overdue that the timing of this is important. The United States has previously been very, very precise and its attack against the Houthis. It's kind of been a tit for tat. This is an escalation. And I think that's appropriate.
It's not an expansion. Look, there's proportionality, you know, legal requirements that I think this would exceed certainly at a minimum, would meet those prescriptions for proportionality. And you have to go after as Oren has just reported, both the archers as well as the arrows in military terms, go after the inventory, go after the capabilities, go after the leadership, go after the launch capabilities as well. That's what were seeing right now.
And important, the message needs to be -- there's no sanctuary for the Houthis where they are in Yemen. The only sanctuary that exists is within the border of Iran. Nobody is going to conduct operations across the border into Iran. But the Houthis need to understand, unacceptable. This needs to be a crushing blow.
BURNETT: Well, that's the crucial question, Barak. Is it a crushing blow? Obviously, there's a statement being made in the fact that there's an emergency cabinet meeting in the U.K., and the U.K.'s involved and its more than a dozen targets and it's coming from three different sources. There's a statement being made there.
But how will it be received?
BARAK RAVID, CNN POLITICAL & FOREIGN POLICY ANALYST: Well, it's definitely not a crushing blow. It's a beginning. It's the first step. You don't crush amid a strong militia like the Houthis with airstrikes on 10 targets around the country. They have a robust military infrastructure all over the country's, with vast military capabilities.
And they're going to respond. It's pretty clear. They said that they're going to respond. They will do it.
And now the question is, how far will they go? Will they just attack U.S. vessels in the Red Sea or are they going to start attacking U.S. forces in the region?
BURNETT: And, General, that's -- that's the question here. So the statement from the senior member of the Houthis tonight and this statement came just before we learn to strikes were launched.
So there was anticipation that it was going to happen. You know, we knew about the cabinet meeting. We knew it was eminent, and then they happen. The quote, we will confront America, make it kneel down and burn its battleships and all its bases and everyone who cooperates with it, no matter the cost.
Now, of course, there's some bellicosity within that, but what are they really capable of doing?
MARKS: Yeah. As you said, look, we're not surprised by any of that type of narrative that they would release. What we're seeing right now needs to be the first step, and what must become a much larger type of engagement with the Houthis, or we're going to be here forever putting up with this.
The planning that goes into these type of operations gets into what's known as an action-reaction-counteraction type scenario. So the United States and its allies that are participating have obviously gone through this.
I don't see this as a potential snowballing out of control or the United States and the U.K. wouldn't be there. There has to be able to be a very precise as I've described, an initial crushing blow against the Houthis. And if they go after -- they've already indicated that they're going to go after U.S. forces.
MARKS: And there are other proxies that have gone after U.S. forces. So, that's a given. We have to be able to put a lid on that.
BURNETT: Well, the comment was made a moment ago, right, that there wouldn't be a strike within Iran, Barak, but that is the real question here, right? How will around back react, right? The Houthis are an Iranian proxy. They are Iranian-backed. And here we are.
RAVID: Yes, first, they're definitely an Iranian proxy. They're definitely Iranian-backed, but it's not clear that they are 100 percent Iranian controlled. Meaning, it's not like an on-off switch that the Iranians can just tell them, okay, now, you start shooting and now, you stop shooting. It's more complicated than that.
RAVID: And you have to add to that, that for the Iranians, that's the best-case scenario, that the Houthis and the U.S. will have those skirmishes now and the Iranians will sit on the sidelines and as if they have nothing to do with it.
And, obviously, the U.S. tried in recent days to send messages to Iran, to stop the Houthis. It didn't happen. And I'm not sure the U.S. is ready at the moment to go after Iran in order to stop this.
BURNETT: All right. Please stay with me. Both of you.
I want to bring in Jason Crow, the Democratic congressman and former army ranger, who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan and sits on the foreign affairs committee.
So, Congressman, here we are tonight. These are the first real strikes from the United States and the U.K. we understand against this Iranian backed militia. What more are you learning about these strikes tonight?
REP. JASON CROW (D-CO): Hi, Erin. Well, we're paying close attention to this on Capitol Hill. There's really three things going on here. The first is the president has the authority and the responsibility to protect U.S. service members and U.S. facilities in the Middle East. There have been well over 130 attacks on U.S. service members and facilities in the last few months throughout the Middle East, from the Houthis, from Iranian-backed militias and proxies. And we just can't sit back and let those attacks come wave after wave.
We have to make sure so there were reaching out, that we're hitting those forces in those weapon systems that are putting our personnel at great risk. That appears to be what this attack was about. It's a defensive attack, but as reaching in to attack those forces. But before they attack us, that's number one.
Number two is making sure that we don't let this escalate played into a broader conflict so that it's proportional. That is controlled, that we're looking very closely what Iran is doing and were not creating an escalation here.
Number three is congress's role, making sure that this is a self- defense attack, that we're not being pulled into a broader conflict. I would not support us being pulled into a broader conflict against the Houthis. We should not be doing that.
We just ended our nation's longest war. We should not be pulling but it pulled into another one. So we have an obligation in the weeks ahead to conduct oversight on Capitol Hill.
BURNETT: On the one hand, the Biden administration has been criticized for its tepid response, its lack of response to Houthi attacks, repeated attacks, more than 25 of them, right? Twenty-seven, I believe on shipping interests.
On the other hand, you have the -- one of the chief operators of the Houthis saying, we will confront America, make it kneel down and burn its battleships tonight. As that statement coming out, do you, Congressman, take that seriously? Do you think they have the ability to do any sort of an action that would cause this to escalate into something significantly bigger?
CROW: Well, I don't take seriously those who are mounting criticism saying that we should strike back, that we should be more aggressive, nor do I take those folks seriously. On the other side, the terrorists and the Houthis that are saber-rattling and saying things that they don't have the capability to do.
The simple fact of the matter is these are challenging things. That's why you have clear-eyed, smart, intelligence, national security professionals that the administration, making sure that we are smart, that we have a proportionate response, that we are defending ourselves, but we're not escalating either. And that takes calculation. That takes intelligence, that takes the ability to look at the various streams of intelligence and risk that we are facing and that were responding in a proportional way.
So that's what they're doing. I have a great confidence in this administration to do that in the right and reasonable way. BURNETT: And have you gotten any briefing for them or understanding about where this is? You hear more than a dozen targets, is that your understanding of that's it, and then you see what they do and then there's going to be more? Or what's your understanding about where we are in this?
CROW: Well, I sat on the House Intelligence Committee and that the House Intelligence Committee is briefed regularly on the conflict in the Middle East. The threat from Iranian proxies or any of militias, Houthi militias, and everything going on in Gaza as well.
So we pay very close attention to this. These strikes, of course, just happened. We haven't been briefed on the specifics of these strikes, but I expect to be will be in the days ahead.
BURNETT: All right. Well, I appreciate your time, Congressman. Thank you very much.
And as we try to get more information about exactly what is happening here, with these significant strikes within Yemen by the United States in the U.K., Oren Liebermann has some more breaking details here that you're learning. What do you know now, Oren?
LEIBERMANN: Erin, we're learning more about how this strike was carried out. I told you just a few minutes ago that it was U.S. fighter jets, as well as surface ships and a submarine that carried out these strikes. We have learned more about the submarine.
It is the USS Florida a ballistic missile submarine capable of carrying out and firing Tomahawk missiles as well. Those are land attack missiles. And that according to a U.S. official is what was used in this attack.
What's noteworthy here is that first, the U.S. rarely talks about where its subs. They are very closely held secret. So, anytime there's a public statement about them, it is a significant statement. And this is the sub that U.S. Central Command announced that entered the Red Sea from the Suez Canal in early November.
So, we now have learned that this is the submarine that has been their operating in the Red Sea, perhaps not all of this time, but that was a part of this strike using the tomahawk missiles that's capable of launching as the U.S. carried out a strike along with the U.K. on more than a dozen or so targets in Yemen.
So interesting that now, too, we learn about the operations of U.S. submarine as it relates to this very significant moment and this significant attack, Erin.
BURNETT: Oren, thank you very much.
And, Barak Ravid, Major General Spider Marks are back with me.
In this significant moment, with a significant attack as Oren describes it, General, we've now learned that the USS Florida, that that is the sub that was responsible for launching some of these Tomahawks. When you hear that and then releasing this information, sharing this information, saying the name of the vessel, what do you take away from it?
MARKS: Well, attacks, you got different manner of submarines. You've got boomers, those that are going to launch your ICBMs, your nuke capability. The Navy is never going to let you know where those babies are. The attack submarines on the other hand, make themselves known. This is a very specific announcement by the Department of Defense, saying we have capabilities, look at what they can do, very precise attack and were going to do some very significant bomb damage assessment in terms of what the -- you know, what the damage was against the target. Was there any collateral damage as a result of that? And they'll alter their attack platform accordingly.
This makes perfect sense when you look at all the array of capabilities that the DOD has available. They will use everything in their kitbag bag to make sure this happens
BURNETT: And, Barak, what's your understanding about the length of lead time they would have had to plan the time of this. And I say that in the context of we know the U.K.'s involved. We know there was a cabinet meeting, emergency all cabinet meeting a few hours ago in London, led by the Prime Minister Sunak but that this was done in coordination, right? There were so many targets. What's your understanding about what went into it in terms of planning and how long they knew that they were going to do this at this time on this day?
RAVID: I think this strike was planned for at least two to three weeks. I think the White House was very hesitant when the Pentagon first brought the initial plans for military retaliation to what the Houthis have been have been doing since mid-November. And U.S. officials told me in recent days that what was important to the White House was first to try and mobilize some sort of an international coalition so that it wont be seen as the U.S. going at it alone or even the U.S. and the U.K.
And behind the U.S. and U.K. strike are at least two dozen other countries that are involved in this task force in the Red Sea.
RAVID: And it's signed the statement warning the Houthis.
So I think this was the main point to start this airstrike after you have some sort of international support for it. And we also saw the Security Council resolution just yesterday condemning the Houthis, calling them to stop those missile strikes. And now, we saw those airstrikes.
And one interesting thing that I hear now from Israeli officials is that they got an early notice from the U.S. about this operation in Yemen. And now, they are preparing for some sort of retaliation from Yemen against Israel. BURNETT: Yes.
RAVID: Not only against U.S. forces in the region.
BURNETT: And, Barak, you just said two or three times there in that sentence a word we haven't said so far, but as the core of all of this in general, that's Israel, right? This is, this is all happening because of the conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.
And yet, you had America and the U.K. striking an Iranian-backed group in Yemen. And the response of that group is, we will confront America, make it kneel down and burn its battleships.
Is anyone right to be concerned with the fact that what seems to just have become something now -- Barak, get you back in a second, but, General, that this is really has turned into being about the United States?
MARKS: Well, we shouldn't be surprised by any of this. Look, the United States has got capability and they're going to use that capability to go after terrorist organizations that have made their intentions very, very clear. Nor should we be surprised by any declaration by the Houthis or by Iran, which means Israel now is it greater risk.
I mean, this isn't a black swan event. This is a white swan swimming in a pond of white swans. It's totally predictable.
MARKS: This needs to be done and we understand the cost.
BURNETT: Barak, I want to play for you some video that we just have in of one of these strikes. While were going to get in a moment, I'll explain what it is when we got it. I'll play it, but we do have video coming in of a strike, Barak, north of Sana'a, of course, the capital, of Sana'a, Yemen, in the Saada province. So were going to show that as soon as we get it.
But that will show here it is. So you -- go ahead and watch this, Barak, show that we actually have video of these. Obviously, this is taken from the ground because you can hear the dogs, multiple plumes of smoke and fires.
(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)
BURNETT: It looks like I've been shot on, you know, basically like on an iPhone up and down. That's in Saada province.
Barak, take a look at this and tell me what you see again. I want to emphasize, this isn't coming from the U.K. or the U.S., you know, in the actual strike. This is coming from the ground. You hear someone speaking in Arabic and you had the dogs. RAVID: Yeah. I think what well have to see is how this looks in the morning, meaning when the sun comes up, well be able to see exactly what was hit, how big is the damage and we will also know if there are any casualties among the Houthis.
Just last week, the U.S. helicopters fire that some small boats that the Houthis sent to try and kidnap a commercial ship, ten Houthi rebels were killed. And an interesting question to me is whether the U.S. did this air strikes on targets that had Houthi militants in them or it was just empty targets that only had a weapon caches or a missile positions.
And I think this is a big, big question because this will determine what will be the Houthi response to this.
BURNETT: General Marks, what do you see in this video that we have taken from the ground in the distance looking at -- it's hard to say, right? Its multiple plumes of fire, looks like multiple explosions lighting up the sky. But what do you see when you watch this.
MARKS: Yeah. To Barak's comment, those are -- that looks like these are secondary explosions. That's significant. Frankly, if there aren't any Houthi fighters co-located with where those immunization depots might be or some of their capabilities might be located, I'm okay with that.
Let's get rid of all of their inventory, that they have a much diluted capacity to do what they've been doing. Let's go after their helicopters so that they can't raid the ships that are cruising through the Red Sea. Let's go after their ability to launch over the horizon, their drones, their ballistic missiles or cruise missiles.
Let's get rid of all of those, and then you end up with a formation of Houthis with no capability, no kit to do anything that they want to try to do.
This is a long process. We can't view this as a video game. We don't turn it on. There are no consequences. And then it's over when we want it to be over.
MARKS: This is the matter of diligence and presence. That's what the U.S. Navy, that's what the Air Force, that's what -- I mean, that's what our services do. We shouldn't be surprised that this directed attack took place probably in a very truncated amount of time. That's what our Navy does. So, we asked them to do.
BURNETT: Oren is with me back from the Pentagon. And, Oren, as were looking at this first video that we have of strikes, these are north of Sana'a in Yemen. What more can you tell us about this?
LIEBERMANN: Well, it certainly looks like these are the results of the U.S. airstrikes we know from U.S. officials now that the U.S. targeted along with the U.K., more than a dozen sites. It's difficult looking at knowing exactly what this is. Although we've now learned from U.S. officials what the U.S. is targeting. That includes weapons inventories.
It appears there may be secondary explosions there.
LIEBERMANN: You can see obviously one explosion would also like the flash-bulbs almost going off of what appear to be other explosions, in which case that's an indication that the U.S. may have well hit their targets and going after stockpiles of weapons.
And the weapons listed are those that the Houthis have used to target international shipping. And that's been the point of this, not to defeat the Houthis, not to start a war with the Houthis, but to send a much stronger kinetic message with force that the attacks on international shipping either will stop or these attacks were a possibility. And in the future remain a possibility.
So given the reports of explosions we have seen coming out of Yemen, again, these are just social media reports, but given the number of reports we have seen --
LIEBERMANN: -- it wouldn't surprise me if we see more of these videos coming out giving us a better sense of the scale and scope of the U.S. and U.K. operation here, and perhaps other countries participating as well.
BURNETT: Right. We -- an important what you say there. We don't know other countries at this point, if and if so, who, and we also don't know, at least as far as I understand, Oren, correct me if I'm wrong, the exact number of targets. We know more than a dozen, but that's the description at this point.
I just want to follow up with you on a couple of points and also with Barak and the general, but you talk about the specificity of these strikes and it looks like those could be secondary explosions indicating that they had hit some sort of a weapons depot or something along those lines, Oren. How good is the U.S. intel?
When you're striking more than a dozen precise targets, it would indicate it is very good. Is that right? Do they feel that they really know where every single thing is there?
LIEBERMANN: Certainly, we'll get a better sense of that if and when we get briefed by senior administration officials and then hopefully at some point, U.S. Central Command to understand how they knew what they were going for, how long they'd been monitoring it. The U.S. has known this is a potential flashpoint.
It's also worth noting that because this is a multinational operation, the U.S.-U.K. and perhaps others, there is the potential of sharing intel and that shores up what you're able to know and gives us many sort of input feeds into the intel picture, as you can get. The U.S. is obviously worked sort of both on and off with the Saudis is they had a years-long war with the Houthis. So there's certainly knowledge of the capabilities that the Houthis have and that perhaps gave them a picture of where exactly the Houthis have it to know where to strike.
Obviously, the U.S. has all sorts of other ways of gathering intelligence from satellite to signals intelligence. So, these are all feeding into the picture here and then in the course of the next hours and days, we'll get a better sense of what they hit, what they didn't hit, perhaps, of course, intel is imperfect and it has holes in it and gaps in it.
So, well get a better picture of that. These are all questions as we see the first videos of these explosions here.
BURNETT: And as we're watching this, when you talk about, we'll find out what they did hit and what they didn't hit.
Barak Ravid, let me ask to you about that because you had indicated that even if were talking about more than a dozen strikes and I understand that that is not as precise as many viewers may want to hear, it's not as precise as we want. We want more information, but that's what we have right now, that that would -- you didn't use the word tip of the iceberg, but you did seem to indicate that that's -- that's a little bit -- there's a lot.
Can you contextualize this as everyone tries to understand this war, is a significant strike. It's a significant step. But as it, as it could escalate, how much more is there?
RAVID: Yeah, I think there's much more. Again, the Houthis are a well-equipped, well-trained militia. They have I think equipment that only several non-state actors around the world have, maybe the actor is Hezbollah in Lebanon. Both of them are supported and backed by Iran.
And, but, Erin, just -- I think just an update and interesting update because President Biden just issued a statement about this airstrike and he said there's something interesting that while the U.S. and U.K. were the ones who actually conducted the strike, they had support of several kinds of support from Australia, Bahrain, Canada and the Netherlands, something that we did not know until now.
And President Biden says in his statement that the main goal of those airstrikes were to try and end this threat by the Houthi rebels to a freedom of navigation in the Red Sea.
BURNETT: General, try and end, seems to be at hopeful at best. I mean, it appears very clear that's not what this is -- this is actually while it is the first response, it is the beginning of the next step
MARKS: This is an attrition of their capabilities, but that's what the president is saying. This is a long-term engagement. There are a couple of things to keep in mind and Oren mentioned one of them in particular, and that is that intelligence is not perfect.
We will find out that there will be some damage that was absolutely spot on and they will the other there will be misses in this attack, which means that you're going to be there for awhile.
And the second part is that we do have a coalition of willing.
We do have other partners as Barak has indicated. That's important and not every one of those needs to be a shooter. Look, when you have operations like this, you have folks that have to support the have to watch your back. They got to make sure that nobody is trying to conduct these little small patrol boats that are going to try to ram or go after that main shooters.
So, the fact that the U.K. and the U.S. probably conducted the strikes, the other players, the other participants, had a significant and important role, but they may not have brought the damage against the short targets that the Houthis have.
BURNETT: And, Oren, what do you understand in terms of how broad this may be going off of what Barack just said? Barak mentioned Australia and others as some sort of a coalition, to use the word.
LIEBERMAN: We expected there were other countries involved and were now seeing effectively the White House confirmed that and say it wasn't just the us and U.K. here. There was international backing and that was very much something the U.S. was looking for.
You can see it not just in this operation, the U.N. Security Council resolution condemning the Houthi attacks in the Red Sea. That's part of this as well. It gives international legitimacy to the need to protect international shipping, and if the threat continues, to respond to that threat.
And that's what the U.S. is trying to do here. Not start a war with the Houthis, but tried to send a message that these attacks have to stop. It's a message not just directed at the Houthis, but also one directed at Iran, as we see them season their vessel earlier today, according to both the U.S. and Iranian media.
It is that threat to commercial shipping that has been one of the big goals here because its such a critical waterway, the U.S. was looking for and as we learn now, got international backing for how critical of a threat this was, backing this action tonight by the U.S. and the U.K.
BURNETT: General, you've talked about how obviously there threats to burn battleships and destroy -- burn U.S. bases express that as a bit of hyperbole and certainly, we've seen obviously them launched missiles at ships, right? That have been repelled by U.S. air defense.
But have we seen their full capability in the context of what we know and what Barak is speaking of, that they have the capability that they and perhaps only Hezbollah have as non-state actors. MARKS: Yeah, they have some tremendous capabilities. So, we -- we've seen those. What we're not going to see is what I would describe as any form of -- it's a terrorist organization. We're not going to see the operational org at play here. We're not going to see some synchronized type of operations.
What we're going to see is terrorist acts activity, pin-point targeting. They're going to go after the morale of those nations and those corporations. Erin, if you've already indicated. You know, 90- plus percent of the world's commerce goes through the -- passes through the Suez, into the Red Sea.
So the message that the Houthis want to get across with these kinds of pinpoint attacks very consistent. They're not going to give up on it unless, of course, this is successful. It's those organizations are going to say, I'm going to go elsewhere, which means the cost -- you're going to bear the cost of my rerouting my distribution requirements.
So the Houthis have demonstrated what they're up to, but there is not going to be a magnificent change in terms of their capabilities. We're not going to have the images that we have right now of what we see in Gaza.
BURNETT: And, Oren, as we look at this video and there's going to be more. We understand here from Houthi official posting on Twitter, which is where some of this plays out, that there were raids in four places in at least this is what they're saying.
One of which were looking at right here in Saada in Yemen, north of Sana'a, Sana'a itself, or they govern it, and Damar. So when -- when you think about Yemen itself and where we now understand these strikes were at least coming off from the Houthi side where they're saying they were struck, what does that say to you?
LIEBERMANN: Well, first, it speaks to the level of planning that went into this. This wasn't -- let's compare it to Iraq and Syria when the U.S. carries out a strike there, that's normally one target or just a couple of targets. This was on a much broader scale than that, which requires a level of coordination, especially when you're doing this with an ally and with other partners backing you up?
This isn't something you can plan on your own. You can try to plan it quickly, but that of course, all takes time. Knowing where your targets are, knowing what kind of assets you have to use, then coordinating that between different assets, launching your attack, and that is fighter jets, surface vessels, as well as submarines, and using an ally to attack that as well, there's a tremendous level of coordination required to carry out a strike like this, and having the confidence to do that.
And perhaps we'll get a better sense of how much planning went into this, how much monitoring. But, that's a key part of this here. The level of preparation, the level of integration, frankly, that was required to carry out a wide scale operation on multiple targets like this. It is not a strike against all of the Houthis. It is specifically
intended to try to limit their ability to threaten international shipping.
But, of course --
LIEBERMANN: -- now we see how the Houthis respond here and where this goes. The Houthis promising very much to respond to any American action.
BURNETT: All right. Well, the White House, breaking its silence now with a formal statement updating.
MJ Lee is at the White House.
And, MJ, what are you learning?
LEE: Yeah. Erin, we've gotten that official confirmation from President Biden himself, confirming these airstrikes on Houthi- controlled areas in Yemen. He says part of this lengthy statement that at my direction, U.S. military forces together with the United Kingdom and with support from a number of other countries, he names Australia, Bahrain, Canada, and the Netherlands successfully conducted strikes against a number of targets in Yemen used by Houthi rebels to endanger freedom of navigation, and one of the world's most vital waterways.
The statement goes on to say, and lists some of the ways in which the president says these attacks by the Houthis have endangered U.S. personnel, civilian mariners, and other partners, jeopardized trade and threatened freedom of navigation.
The end of the statement that we just got from the president is also worth highlighting because he talks about the potential for future action from the us and other allied nations. He says, these targeted strikes or a clear message that the United States and our partners will not tolerate attacks on our personnel or allow hostile actors to imperil freedom of navigation in one of the worlds most critical commercial routes.
He says, I will not hesitate to direct further measures to protect our people and the free flow of international commerce as necessary.
Erin, as we've talked about in a lot of ways, this kind of action that we didn't know, again, until in real time, until the attacks had happened, that these attacks had been led by the U.S. and the U.K., targeting Houthi assets in Yemen. In so many ways, U.S. officials had been warning publicly that the Houthis essentially were not going to get another warning.
And what we can report is that after the spate of attacks that we saw on Tuesday, that sort of served as the final warning in the final straw for President Biden who greenlit his team to go ahead and go into preparing for these airstrikes that we are seeing on our screen, right now.
But again, those preparations in many ways have been underway for a while now given for how long, for how many weeks these the attacks have been ongoing in the Red Sea, Erin.
BURNETT: All right. MJ, thank you.
And, General Marks, just as MJ is going through the broader list here of whose in this coalition, Canada, the Netherlands, U.K., Australia, Bahrain -- Bahrain obviously the home of Fifth Fleet. And yet in the context of this and where this came from, of course, which originated with the October 7th attacks and then the Israeli response in the war in Gaza, the Hamas-Israeli war, you don't see the UAE or Saudi on that list.
Of course, you see Bahrain, home of the U.S. Fifth Fleet.
But what do you make of this list of countries and who is and who is not on it, especially in that region?
MARKS: Well, the fact that Bahrain is on it -- I mean, that's a good sign and before they agreed to join this coalition, in some capacity, and it's not described what that looks like.
MARKS: I would guarantee you it probably includes a level of intelligence sharing and they have a capability that allows them to provide what id call a port security could a literal security. So they increase their force protection posture. In terms of what the Aussies have done and the Canadians have done, it's important that they joined primarily because those are incredibly strong allies. They've been with the United States, has been with them. They've been with the United States. And by the way, they've got a vested interest in that part of the world. It's not surprising at all.
We haven't heard anything about the French participation. We haven't heard anything about other NATO types of nations that are participating. I don't -- I don't know that we would see any other nations step up.
I think what you're seeing is that collision came together pretty quickly. They have done some damage, will be determined what that looks like. And well see what the next steps are going forward, which means this thing could morph.
This could be an amoeba. It could grow a little bit in terms of what this coalition looks like and what their contributions are going forward.
BURNETT: Significant though, Barack, who is on it and who is not on it. You see Bahrain on it, the significance there. You also see who isn't and who isn't are obviously state actors in the Middle East who view who Houthis as their enemies as well.
So what do you take away from that? RAVID: So, first, I think the two main players that you do not see a here is Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
BURNETT: That's right.
RAVID: Each of them for different reason, for an opposite reason, actually. The Saudis have been negotiating with the Houthis, some sort of a peace plan to end the war in Yemen, and to end -- and, you know, there was a very long truce, more than a year of a truce between Saudi Arabia and the Houthis.
And the Saudis want to continue that. They don't want to throw that into the trash. This is why they're not part of this. The Emiratis is the other way around, because the Emiratis, when the Houthis started firing at Israel and firing at ships in the Red Sea, the Emiratis told the U.S., we told you so. Why? Because in January 2022, the Houthis attacked Abu Dhabi several times with ballistic missiles and then the U.S. had a very delayed and what the Emirati saw as weak response.
And now, the Emirati is attending to the U.S. You see, we told you so. We're not going to be -- we are not going to join you now. But, but after this strike now, I think maybe well see the Emiratis joining in the second phase, if there will be a second phase, now that they saw that the U.S. is serious about this.
BURNETT: And, Barak, what complications though play into this when Houthis are going to say their reason for this is Israeli massacre of Palestinian civilians in Gaza, right? That -- that's they're going to say.
RAVID: Yeah, well, they've been saying this from day one and, you know, at the beginning, that when they started firing at ships in the Bab-el-Mandeb in the Red Sea, in the crossing there, it was ships that had some sort of even vague affiliation with Israel. But then they just started firing it at any ship, even if it had nothing to do with Israel, and I think that's shown to everybody that, you know, Gaza was just an excuse for the Houthis and that there's a much bigger picture here.
And you know, if we can talk for a few seconds about this big picture, you know, the war in Gaza is between Israel and Hamas. Hamas is backed by Iran. We see tensions between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon. Hezbollah is backed by Iran.
We saw rocket fire from Syria towards Israel by pro-Iranian militias. And we have the Houthis were also backed by Iran. There is a common denominator here, and this common denominator here right now sits in Tehran, eats popcorn and enjoying the show.
BURNETT: And I want to bring in Jeremy Diamond, who is live in Tel Aviv for us tonight.
Of course, what -- the heart and center of all of this and why we are here with these strikes tonight. So, Jeremy, what are you learning about the Israeli response and I
guess what their readiness is? I do understand that -- from Oren's reporting that they were given a heads up. I'm sorry, Barak's reporting, that they were given a heads-up. That they were aware that this was going to happen, but nonetheless, this, of course, puts Tel- Aviv where you are directly in the crosshairs, yet again, for the Houthis.
DIAMOND: Yeah. Well, I think it was clear as the secretary of state was here in Tel Aviv just yesterday, that as he delivered a very stark and stern warning to the Houthis, perhaps even more than a -- than a warning, perhaps even a preview of what was sure to come, it was clear that this was in the works over the last two days after the Houthis launched that very significant barrage of missiles and drones at those -- that shipping lane in the Red Sea of prompting the United States and Britain to intercept nearly two dozen of those projectiles aim there.
I think it has been clear over the -- since those attacks happened, and in the wake of the warnings from the secretary of state that there was going to be some kind of a significant U.S. response. And I suspect that that response was something that the secretary of state discussed with his Israeli counterparts, with other counterparts in the region during his trip.
I think it is important to underscore the fact that the secretary of state started off this trip to the region, hope being to try and tamp down to try and avoid an escalation of this war. But instead, what we are seeing right after he returns to Washington following this multi- country trip throughout the region aimed at trying to prevent this Israel-Hamas war from escalating into a broader regional conflict, we are indeed seeing this conflict broaden.
Now, what the secretary of state said in the point that he made was that if the U.S. responded, if there was some kind of a more forceful military response from the United States, that that would be aimed at trying to avoid a broader regional conflict. The rationale there being that strength and force from the United States, sending a clear message to the Houthis and to Iran as well, in the U.S.'s view, would be the only way to actually prevent this from escalating into a full- on regional war.
BURNETT: Right. Of course, the fear of that and something even broader on everyone's minds tonight as we watch these developments and see videos like the one on our screen coming in from Yemen on the heels of those mass U.S. strikes.
All right. We're going to continue with our breaking news coverage after this. The U.S. striking, as we understand more than a dozen across Yemen and tensions, of course, across the Middle East now at an all-time high.
Also breaking, Trump's attorneys told to control their client after he went on tirade during his New York fraud trial today. Trump's business empire tonight, hanging in the balance. We are waiting for word from the judge.
BURNETT: We are continuing to follow the breaking news out of the Middle East where the United States is striking more than a dozen Iranian-backed militant targets across Yemen. According to officials, those targets include radar systems, drone storage, launch sites as well as ballistic and cruise missiles storage and launch sites.
In a statement, President Biden has just said the attacks are in direct response to the unprecedented Houthi attacks against international ships in the Red Sea. Biden warning, there could be more strikes.
The Houthis have been relentlessly attacking ships in the Red Sea since November. On the heels, of course of the beginning of the Israel-Hamas war.
There reports of another attack -- the 27th by the group in the area and under two months, according to the Pentagon, just in the past day. So, we're going to continue to monitor the breaking news out of Yemen. We're starting to get video some of these explosions and strikes bring you developments as they come in, and the world has a chance to react. It is, of course, just before dawn in the Middle East, where these strikes happened.
And I want to get to the other breaking news were following as we await more details on that story. And that is the judge in Trump's New York civil fraud trial shutting down the former president late today, telling Trumps attorneys to get a hold of Trump after he went on a tirade about his long list of grievances, he went on and attack the attorney general, Letitia James of New York, saying she hates him and is using them to get elected. He went after the judge, accusing Arthur Engoron of having his own agenda, and he demanded that New York pay him damages for what he said to go through.
Now, his rant was cut short in the courtroom, but that did not stop him from doing what he ultimately had planned to do in the first place, which was go out of the courtroom to the cameras for a political speech after he got outside.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDETN: The anger -- she's got serious Trump derangement syndrome. There's no question about Letitia James, the corrupt attorney general of New York
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: And when I say that's what he plans to do, I mean, you see the flags behind him, right? Trying to look as if he's the president. That was -- he was prepared to do that.
The judge, of course, has already ruled Trump was liable for fraud and inflated his wealth by billions and is now merrily deciding whether Trump should be forced to pay nearly $370 million, which is the amount the New York attorney general has been seeking.
Paula Reid is OUTFRONT live outside the courthouse in New York.
So, Paula -- I mean, as all this went down, when obviously Trump afterwards plan to go in front of those flags and make a statement. But in the courtroom, the judge had said Trump couldn't speak if he wasn't going to respect the court's parameters and he spoke anyway.
Was it effective?
PAULA REID, CNN CHIEF LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: No, Erin, it's very unlikely to be legally effective to attack the judge who is currently contemplating the possibility of hundreds of millions of dollars in penalties in addition to other charges. But as you know, this is as much about the personal and the political as it is about the legal.
And that's part of why we heard from Trump four times today, he spoke to reporters on his way in. He addressed the court. He spoke to reporters on his way out, and then had that press conference.
That's notable because its real contrast what we saw on Tuesday when Trump showed up to federal court, we didn't see him at all. He pulled me into a garage. There are no reporters to talk to. He certainly didn't participate in the proceedings.
But today, he appeared to seize on every opportunity to amplify his message that he is the target of political persecution. He managed to get a lot of attention and traction. And it's likely we will see him adopt this playbook going forward.
His next because opportunity to do something like this will be next week, in the next phase of the E. Jean Carroll defamation case. Now, I covered the first E. Jean Carroll defamation trial. Trump did not participate in that at all, which is why it was notable today during his press conference that he said, he -- if he intends to show up next week, just a few blocks from where I'm standing the next phase of that case.
It appears he is once again going to try to participate in the proceedings or seize on the media attention to amplify his political message. And that may work for him politically. But legally, because we could soon see the consequences as the judge overseeing the civil case, does he expects to issue his decision by the end of the month.
BURNETT: All right. Paula, thank you very much, outside that courtroom.
And, of course, she'll be covering that next trial as well, as well Erik Larson, "Bloomberg News" legal reporter, who's covered Trumps trials and business extensively.
I know, Erik, you were in the courtroom today. Jamie Gangel is with us, CNN special correspondent, and Ryan Goodman,
former special counsel at the Department of Defense, I'm sorry. It's been -- it's been an hour.
Erik, okay. So you were there. Trump makes a statement in the court. He had been told he couldn't talk, and then he gets up and tries to anyway, is admonished, has to sit down. What was the moment like inside the courtroom when he's sitting there trying to --
ERIK LARSON, LEGAL REPORTER, BLOOMBERG NEWS: I think everyone -- I think everyone was pretty surprised because there had been this email exchange between the judge and his lawyers that was made public the day before where they'd clearly been negotiating for Trump to be able to give this statement. And the judge flat-out refused because he wouldn't agree to these guardrails for what he could say, just typical rules about what you can say during a closing argument like this. And he just refused to agree to it.
So, it's pretty surprising when the judge, even at the last moment, gave him one more opportunities, like, do you agree to this? And he instead of answering, he just started talking.
I think what was most surprising though, is that the judge let him speak for several minutes before finally shutting them down. The judge has not shied away from cutting and Trump off before. So it was a little surprising that he let him speak for several minutes.
BURNETT: Yeah. I mean -- I have to say, Ryan, like they negotiate your lawyers and then your lawyers actually have no power, no influence, and mean nothing is just going to stand up and do whatever you want. I mean, what are the implications of that, especially when you come to a situation where the judge has already ruled the guilt? It's a matter of the penalties.
RYAN GOODMAN, JUST SECURITY CO-EDITOR-IN-CHIEF: Yeah, it's not in Trumps own self-interest, at least in terms of if he cares about how this is going to turn out in the New York courts to do something like this. And it's a clear signal to the judge that he's not being controlled by his lawyers. So the judge is trying to say to Trump's own lawyers, like control your client in some sense.
BURNETT: He says, Mr. Kise, control your client.
BURNETT: (INAUDIBLE) going on.
GOODMAN: Yeah. And that's for your clients own self-interest to control your client. And I think that's just a really bad situation to be in -- it's almost like the last thing you'd want to do against lawyers advice at the closing argument when they tried to make the final summation of their case.
BURNETT: And who knows whether he lost his temper. He just wanted that moment, Jamie, but obviously he was prepared for the other moments. I mean, its flags are up. JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Right.
BURNETT: He's ready to come out and you pretend and say -- you know, he's the president and give his statement. Did he get what he wanted?
GANGEL: I think that he did. Look, no question that Donald Trump is also using this as a political platform, as a campaign platform. And there's been a lot of talk about, is he missing out with these cases about traveling? I would say he's getting both done very effectively.
He doesn't have to travel, which he doesn't much like to do. We know he doesn't like to sleep away from home, right?
GANGEL: It costs a lot of money to campaign. And remember those rallies with 10,000, 12,000 people, he is sitting on the courthouse steps campaigning, not literally on the courthouse steps, but --
GANGEL: But figuratively, and he doesn't have to spend money. He doesn't have to fill the seats. He's getting the message out.
What did we hear over and over again? Witch hunt, election interference. He has a big platform and he's campaigning.
BURNETT: He's deciding its better to spend his time there than in Iowa because they see it. Everybody sees it.
GANGEL: No question
BURNETT: So, Erik, you know, but the thing is, is there could be a huge cost to him for this.
LARSON: Yeah, absolutely. And I think that the --
BURNETT: At $370 million
LARSON: Right? Exactly. I think in addition to the campaign, this does -- it is very serious case for him.
And his lawyers have said -- they've told me that the reason he's been attending this trial even when he doesn't have to is because he finds a huge threat to his business. Of course, it's a lot of money like you said. It's threatening his control of his entire company. They want to ban him from the real estate industry in New York for life.
So it could be a huge defeat for him if the judge rules against him completely. And I think that he sees the risks to his business. That's how he built his reputation was with his business and have a crushing defeat that could be coming here, I think he wants to find some way around it.
He did express some hope today that press conference that maybe the judge would potentially rule in his favor, at least on some of the claims.
BURNETT: And, again, guilt or innocence has already been ruled, so that when you talk about that, I mean, you're talking --
LARSON: Well, there's still six other claims in the case that's still have to be decided, plus --
BURNETT: In terms of guilt or innocence?
LARSON: Right. Insurance fraud and conspiracy, it -- a lot of it relates to whether or not there was intent to defraud. So, the fraud claim is the biggest claim and yes, he ruled against them before the trial on that, but there is still six other claims and a lot of that relates to whether or not he actually misled the banks intentionally.
BURNETT: Okay. So that's significant. What -- where do you see that? And how does his behavior, his conduct or does it play into how the judge rules there?
GOODMAN: At some other things, some of his statements even today play into it in a way because he comes across a bit as a fabulous. You know, he's saying in the courtroom, all of my properties are perfect and beyond compare and our unit worth even more than I said they were, like I lie about how much they worth?
BURNETT: Yeah, tripling down, yeah.
GOODMAN: Yeah. And that's what is a big part of this, like what is his credibility as a witness? What is his credibility and making these kinds of statements? Because these are the kinds of statements in which he's inflating his wealth for ulterior purposes. That's kind of the heart of the case. The alternative purposes in the instance of the cases to get lower interest loans, will get loans at all from the banks.
So, at the end of the day that really is part of the case, and that's what the -- that's what the judge is going to have to rule. How much of this in a certain sense he get away with because it's to disgorge him of $370 million to take away unjust enrichment from these kinds of --
BURNETT: You would assume you'd have to pay enough where he could still say that he was persecuted and witch hunted and all those things.
BURNETT: But nonetheless, it is an interesting window into how much he cares, Jamie, that he actually is, as Eric indicates still having some sort of hope are hoping this doesn't go against him, because this is real.
GANGEL: This -- no question. This one is personal, in a weird way different from all of the other cases because it's about the money, it's about the business, it's about the brand and this hits home. But I think what we saw here today, you and I've covered Donald Trump
for a long time. This was classic Donald Trump in a certain way. He fights, he spins, he delays and even when he loses, which on one county already has, he says he's won, but no question, this one's personal.
BURNETT: Deeply -- deeply personal.
BURNETT: And the money, I mean, his entire brand is picked me because I'm a businessman, I'm a billionaire, right? It goes to the heart of absolutely everything he says he has.
When do you think we'll know?
GOODMAN: Well, the judge says that he'll rule probably by the end of the month. And then the question is it's going to be appealed. The appeals might take years.
BURNETT: Why is it always that that's case? I always come to my hoping and then I see the look in his eye, and I know it's years.
All right. Well, thank you all so very much. We appreciate your time.
And all of yours as our coverage of the breaking news out of the Middle East and the U.S. strikes continues with "AC360".