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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Biden Vows to Respond After 3 U.S. Troops were Killed By a Drone in the Middle East; Biden and Senators on the Verge of Striking Immigration Deal Aimed at Clamping Down on Illegal Border Crossings; Donald Trump Promises to Restore World Peace if He's Elected President. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired January 29, 2024 - 05:00   ET



KASIE HUNT, ANCHOR, EARLY START: Right now on EARLY START, President Biden vowing to respond after three U.S. troops were killed by a drone in the Middle East. Plus, a bipartisan deal in Congress could lead to the first major immigration overhaul in decades. And what might be the broadest campaign promise we've heard in a while, Donald Trump claims that he'll deliver nothing short of world peace.

Good morning to our viewers in the United States and around the world, I'm Kasie Hunt, it's Monday, January 29th, 5:00 a.m. here in Washington where Intelligence agencies are working to determine exactly which Iran-backed militia to hold responsible for a drone attack on a small U.S. outpost in Jordan near the Syrian border that killed three American soldiers.

Officials say at least 34 more troops were injured in the attack, it's a number likely to rise as soldiers report symptoms of possible traumatic brain injury. President Biden vowed that the U.S., quote, "will hold all those responsible to account at a time and in a manner of our choosing."


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We had a tough day last night in the Middle East. We lost three brave souls in an attack at one of our bases.


BIDEN: And I'd ask --


BIDEN: A moment of silence for all three of those fallen soldiers.


BIDEN: And we shall respond.

(END VIDEO CLIP) HUNT: Iran is denying any involvement in the Jordan attack on the outpost, it's known as Tower 22. The denial came after an Iran-backed militia group had already taken responsibility for attacking targets nearby. Let's bring in CNN global affairs analyst Kim Dozier. Kim, good morning, it's wonderful to have you on the show.

So, how much credence is the U.S. going to give these Iranian denials? How much control do they actually have over these militias?

KIM DOZIER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, that's how the game is played. Deny until there's some sort of Intelligence smoking gun to tie them to ordering this attack. The fact of the matter is with these Iranian-backed militia groups, we say they're Iranian-backed because U.S. and other Intelligence agencies have over time tracked weapons, material and also training by Iran.

So, the problem with this particular incident though is which group -- who ordered it, that can take time to figure out. And I don't think you're going to see the U.S. strike an Iranian target, say inside Iranian territory unless they can provide to the whole world that sort of case, unless they can make the case that Tehran itself ordered this attack.

HUNT: So on that question, Kim, I mean, congressional Republicans, Senate Republicans, kind of at the top of things are reacting pretty hawkishly, and there are suggestions that perhaps a strike inside Iran would be the way to go. I mean, this was Senator Graham.

"The Biden administration can take out all the Iranian proxies they like, it will not deter Iranian aggression. I'm calling on the Biden administration to strike targets of significance inside Iran." And then John Cornyn was direct in a post on act, he just said, "Target Tehran". He later clarified he was talking about the Quds Force and the militant wings.

But I mean, these are pretty, you know, saber-rattling calls. What's the calculation for the Biden administration especially in the middle of a re-election campaign where, you know, Donald Trump is using this to try to paint Joe Biden as weak?

DOZIER: Well, the -- yes, it's an election year and the Pentagon and the national security community will be giving Biden a menu of options. And from previous reporting, we know that when the Biden administration was faced with increasing violence from the Iranian- backed Houthi army, attacking ships going through the Red Sea, that he chose one of the more strenuous options on offer.

But still I think what you're going to see is hitting Iranian proxy groups inside Syria, perhaps inside Iraq, hitting ammunition shipments heading towards them, hitting command and control centers, possibly even hitting troops.


Maybe you'll see a wider number of strikes, but to hit inside Iran or to hit an Iranian Quds Force, you know, Iranian Revolutionary Guard Force target, that is to invite an escalation which the Biden administration doesn't want, getting the U.S. into a wider war isn't going to make the Biden administration look good.

We see this more on a continuum, one strike isn't going to stop it, it's sort of this horrible, deadly tennis match where they've got to keep the pressure on to keep dissuading these groups from attacking.

HUNT: Fair enough. I mean, I guess, the challenge seems to be that it doesn't seem to be working in terms of, you know, they've -- this has been going on -- this war between Israel and Hamas, which does kind of play into the dynamics here. I mean, how much of that is what we're seeing on display in terms of this?

And I mean, if it keeps going, if more U.S. troops continue to be killed or injured, at what point does -- do they run out of options?

DOZIER: Well, you know, the war in Gaza, as long as it goes on, it gives these various militia groups and any Iranian proxy a reason to strike. And that's going to continue until there is some sort of truce or temporary pause negotiated. But you also have to look at this in terms of the wider war for influence between Iran and its ally Russia and even China versus the United States.

Iran will continue to carry on anything that will give the U.S. administration a black eye and win more of the global south to its side, especially when it's facing economic and political turmoil inside its country when it can blame an outside enemy for that turmoil, that helps protect the regime.

So in a sense, this is a self-perpetuating stream of violence. I don't see anyone being able to turn off the tap anytime soon.

HUNT: All right, Kim Dozier for us, Kim, thank you very much. Still ahead here, a bipartisan border deal might be within reach on Capitol Hill. What it entails and how it could change immigration into the United States. Plus, the White House pressing to get Gaza hostages home and renew Israel-Hamas ceasefire talks.

Plus, a retired judge in Illinois recommends that Trump should stay on the ballot despite acknowledging he engaged in insurrection.



HUNT: Welcome back. Israel says a new push to secure a hostage deal at a meeting in Europe was constructive but left significant gaps. The statement comes after a flurry of diplomacy on Sunday when the White House dispatched CIA Director Bill Burns to Paris to meet with Intelligence officials from Israel, Qatar and Egypt with the hopes of negotiating a pause in fighting in Gaza in exchange for the hostages still being held.

Let's bring in CNN's Max Foster, he is live for us in London. Max, good morning, always good to see you.


HUNT: So, the White House has been pressing for this new deal, but so far, Israel and Hamas seem pretty far apart here in terms of trying to find a compromise, even as of course the death toll continues to climb in Gaza. I mean, who was at the meeting, what are the gaps, and what are the hopes for -- you know, moving forward on this?

FOSTER: Well, it was an Intelligence meeting, so we're not getting much official information about it. But through the Prime Minister's office in Israel, we were told that it was a multi-party Intelligence meeting between Qatar, Israel, the U.S., Egypt -- and Egypt in Europe.

So, the key party is really working towards any sort of deal that would occur if there were one between Hamas and Israel. So hopes are high along the diplomatic wording we're getting seems quite positive. A lot of the movements -- so, just the fact this meeting is taking place which, you know, suggests that there is something to at least discuss. It's just -- you know, always getting over that final hurdle, isn't it?

HUNT: Always. So Max, a diplomatic source tells us that Qatar's Prime Minister is going to be in Washington this week. There obviously has been a lot of back-and-forth around Qatar's role in this process, you know, BiBi Netanyahu was caught on tape criticizing them, they have been very prickly about some media reports in the U.S. as well. What do you make of that visit and what role does that play in all of this?

FOSTER: Well, it does suggest something in relation to the deal, doesn't it? Because the Prime Minister has been involved in these talks in Europe as well. So going there seems to suggest -- if we're right, a lot of local media -- Qatari local media also suggesting that he's on his way over there does suggest, you know, it could be, you know, a regular official visit, but because of the timing, meeting officials at the White House, meeting senior lawmakers does suggest there's some hope behind the talks as we move towards it.

But there are so many, you know, details that could go wrong, isn't there, at that point? You know, there could be gaps, we've heard there are some gaps in the negotiation, perhaps, you know, which Palestinian prisoners will be released and whether or not those who have killed Israelis are released on the other side, which hostages will be released and whether or not those hostages are serving IDF members.

These are all things, are hugely sensitive, and can be an issue beyond the length of the ceasefire, and whether or not aid is allowed to go in.


HUNT: So, Max, on a slightly different topic, although I mean, it does relate to aid, the main relief agency with the U.N., they fired employees late last week over participation in the October 7th attacks. How has that been rippling through the weekend and what does it mean for future aid to Gaza?

FOSTER: Well, it's bad for aid to Gaza because UNRWA is the biggest aid provider in Gaza, and the head of the United Nations has said this could be a huge disaster for the people of Gaza who are already suffering already. But you've got to look at what happened here.

You know, UNRWA has fired these people, which is an extraordinary step to take. I'm told that UNRWA hasn't actually seen this Intelligence report coming from the Israelis, even though allies appear to have seen it. And they've seen it, and it's been enough for them to pull their monies.

So, the U.K. for example doing that where I am right now. So, you know, on one level, you know, a horrible situation for people in Palestine -- in the Palestinian area sort of relying on this aid, but also, extraordinary, very serious accusations about members of the United Nations or at least are under the United Nations payroll being involved in the October 7th attacks.

I mean, how on earth did that happen? Why didn't the U.N. have that Intelligence if Israel was able to get that Intelligence? Suggestions that they've just gone through the mobile phones of those people. So, and the accusations are absolutely immense against United Nations.

So in terms of reputation, they had to do something far and the most quite extreme. But there's now an investigation which has been carried out at a higher level of the U.N., but of course, the accusation there is the U.N. investigating itself?

HUNT: For sure. All right, Max Foster for us in London, Max, thank you very much. All right, still ahead here, one Democratic senator tries to ban another one from classified briefings. We'll tell you who and why? And House Republicans unveil articles of impeachment in a bid to oust Homeland Security chief Alejandro Mayorkas.



HUNT: Welcome back. Quick hits across America now. A 17-year-old murder suspect has been captured in Philadelphia after he escaped custody five days ago. U.S. Marshals say Shane Pryor broke free while being transferred to a hospital on Wednesday. He is accused of killing a woman in 2020.

A retired Republican judge recommending to the State Elections Board that Donald Trump be allowed to stay on the state ballot even though he did engage in the January 6th insurrection. It comes ahead of a vote by the Board of Elections set for Tuesday.

Senator John Fetterman says he plans to force a vote on banning indicted Senator Bob Menendez from classified briefings if the Senate doesn't deal with the matter internally. The two Democrats have been trading barbs over bribery and fraud charges that are now facing Menendez.

All right, let's get now to the weather. Snow and rain across the northeast and Appalachians expected to wrap up by the end of the day today, while we've got another atmospheric river bringing record warm temperatures and heavy rain to parts of the Pacific northwest. Our weatherman Derek Van Dam been tracking all and joins us now. Derek, good morning.

DEREK VAN DAM, METEOROLOGIST: Never a dull moment, right?

HUNT: I bet --

VAN DAM: Whether it's politics or weather. And today, if you're located across northeast, you'll probably see a few snowflakes falling from the sky especially if you're in the Catskills, right? That's where we anticipate some of the snowfall this morning, inland across Worcester, Massachusetts for instance, southern Vermont, New Hampshire, that's where we have roughly 8 million people impacted by Winter alerts.

By the way, there is some snowfall noted across the southern Appalachians into western-north Carolina. By and large, this storm is coming to an end, it is exiting off the east coast, maybe some light drizzle or light showers for Long Island and the I-95 Corridor going through New York City.

But with the exception of Nantucket, Cape Cod, this storm will come to an end by mid-morning. We've got a clipper that will impact the Great Lakes through the middle part of the week. And then we focus our attention on the west coast, because this is where it gets interesting, very busy, lots of moisture, and that is attached to the Pacific Ocean.

So it is warm and it is filled with rain, and it will impact much of the west coast. It already is, radar very busy across the state of Washington at the moment where we've picked up nearly 7 inches of rain. Sea tack has already received about just over an inch and a half of rain. So you'll see more precipitation in the forecast. The middle part of the work week, we're going to focus our attention across San Francisco northward.

That's where we anticipate the heaviest rainfall, only the highest of elevations across the sea here in Nevada will receive snowfall, because again, this is an atmospheric river with connections to the Pacific Ocean, so it will be generally warmer than average.

Now, we see that rainfall shift to the southern sections of California, so the potential here exists for stream and urban flooding, even some mud and debris flows on recent burned scars, and don't forget about the wind factor that could take down some trees and power lines. So very active over the west to say the least --

HUNT: All right, be careful out there everyone. Our weatherman --

VAN DAM: Right --

HUNT: Derek Van Dam, Derek, thank you.

VAN DAM: Have a great day --

HUNT: I'll see you tomorrow. All right, just ahead, President Biden vowing to retaliate after a deadly strike against U.S. troops in Jordan. And a bipartisan border deal on the horizon. How Republicans are responding to pressure from Donald Trump to seek it.



HUNT: Good morning. Thanks for being up early with us, I'm Kasie Hunt just before 5:30 here on the east coast. For the first time since the start of the Israel-Hamas war, hostile fire has killed American military personnel in the Middle East.

Three U.S. Army soldiers are dead and more than 30 are injured after a drone attack on a small U.S. outpost in Jordan. Officials say that some of the wounded American soldiers suffered traumatic brain injury. Officials say the drone was fired by an Iran-backed militants and appeared to come from Syria.

But Intelligence agencies are still trying to determine specifically which militia group to hold responsible. President Biden has called the attack despicable and is vowing revenge.


BIDEN: We lost three brave souls in an attack at one of our bases.


BIDEN: And I'd ask --


BIDEN: A moment of silence for all three of those fallen soldiers.


BIDEN: And we shall respond.


HUNT: U.S. forces have faced a near daily barrage of drone and missile strikes in Iraq and Syria since the October 7th attack on Israel by Hamas. This latest incident draws the U.S. closer to direct conflict with Iran. CNN's Paula Hancocks is live in Abu Dhabi for us with more.