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State of the Union
Interview With U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo; Interview With Presidential Candidate Pete Buttigieg; Interview With Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA); Interview With Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA). Aired 9-10a ET
Aired January 05, 2020 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST (voice-over): Escalating threats. President Trump warns, the U.S. is targeting dozens of Iranian sites and would -- quote -- "hit very hard" in response to any attack. What is the U.S. strategy?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We took action last night to stop a war. We did not take action to start a war.
TAPPER: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo joins me to discuss in moments.
And foreign focus -- new questions on the 2020 campaign trail about what it takes to be commander in chief.
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We need to stop this endless war.
PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is not a game. Lives are on the line.
TAPPER: Now, with a month until Iowa, who do the Democratic voters want in the job?
I will speak to presidential candidates Senator Elizabeth Warren and former Mayor Pete Buttigieg coming up.
Plus: holding the line. As the Republican-led Senate waits for articles of impeachment, Democrats stand firm on their demand for witnesses.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): That case has gotten stronger, and remarkably so.
TAPPER: How long will Democrats hold out?
I will speak to House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff ahead.
(END VIDEOTAPE) TAPPER: Hello. I'm Jake Tapper in Washington, where the State of the Union is wondering what's next and when.
Tensions between the U.S. and Iran seem to be ratcheting up almost by the hour, as President Trump escalates his threats against the hostile nation days after he ordered a deadly airstrike in Baghdad on Iran's top general.
An Iranian military adviser tells CNN this morning that that country will respond to the strike by targeting U.S. military sites.
President Trump was tweeting threats to the Iranian government up until the wee hours of the morning, including on Saturday evening -- quote -- "Let this serve as a warning that, if Iran strikes any Americans or American assets, we have targeted 52 Iranian sites representing the 52 American hostages taken by Iran many years ago, some at a very high level and important to Iran and the Iranian culture, and those targets in Iran itself," all caps, "will be hit very fast and very hard" -- unquote.
The Trump administration is privately warning members of Congress that Iran's retaliation could come within weeks. Administration officials say the president ordered the airstrike on Qasem Soleimani to head off an imminent attack against Americans.
But the American people have not yet seen any evidence of an imminent attack. And some in Congress who have been briefed say they remain unconvinced the threat was imminent.
TAPPER: Joining me now, the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo.
Mr. Secretary, thanks so much for joining us this morning.
Let's start about this new threat from President Trump.
Is the tweet accurate? Is the U.S. really preparing to hit non- military, cultural targets in Iran, which would obviously possibly result in civilian threats, and almost certainly violate a U.N. resolution that the U.S. voted for in 2017?
MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Jake, thanks for having me on this morning.
President Trump has been resolute. We will continue to be. We will defend America. The strikes we took over this past week, including killing the terrorist Soleimani, we will continue to take if we need to. If we need to defend American interests, we will do so.
What President Trump said last night is consistent in what we have said all along. Iranian proxy forces in Iraq have thought that they could act with impunity and that, if they acted, we wouldn't take strikes against Iran proper.
We've made clear -- we've made clear for months to the Iranian regime that that wouldn't be the case, that we were going to hold responsible the actors, the leaders who took these actions and who orchestrated these actions.
President Trump's tweet last night made clear we will continue to do that. And the American people should know we will always defend them, and we'll do so in a way that is consistent with the international rule of law and the American Constitution. We've done it before. We will do it again.
TAPPER: Well, you're saying two different things there, sir, with all due respect, because President Trump's threat on Iranian cultural centers -- or centers of interest to the Iranian culture, would not be in accordance with international law.
So, which is it?
POMPEO: Jake, they're not two different things.
I've been with President Trump through the entire strategic planning process related to our entire campaign, diplomatic, economic and military. We've built out an enormous coalition to push back against the Islamic Republic of Iran and its kleptocratic regime.
The American people should know that we will not waver. We will be bold in protecting American interests, and we'll do so in a way that's consistent with the rule of law. We've always done that, Jake.
And President Trump's tweet doesn't deviate from that one iota.
TAPPER: So, cultural centers are, theoretically, fair targets, in your view?
POMPEO: Jake, we're going to do the things that are right and the things that are consistent with American lives.
I've been -- I've been part of the discussion and the planning process. Everything I've seen about how we will respond, with great force and great vigor, if the Iranian leadership makes a bad decision -- we hope that they won't. But, when they do, America will respond.
TAPPER: You said you hope that this strike de-escalates the situation.
President Trump is obviously now threatening, in capital letters, to hit Iran very fast and very hard. That does not seem like de- escalation.
POMPEO: Jake, we're trying to restore deterrence that, frankly, is a need that results directly from the fact that the previous administration left us in a terrible place with respect to the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Team Obama appeased Iran, and it led to Shia militias with money, Hamas, the PIJ, hundreds of thousands of Syrians killed by Soleimani himself.
This was the place we found ourselves in when we came in. And we have developed a strategy to attempt -- to convince the Iranian regime to behave like a normal nation. That's what our strategy is about. We've been executing it. We will continue to do so. We have every expectation that we'll ultimately achieve that goal.
TAPPER: Do you think President Trump threatening to attack 52 sites in Iran, one for each of the Iranian hostage -- I mean, the American hostages taken by Iran in 1979, is de-escalating, is providing an off- ramp for the Iranians?
POMPEO: We -- we have provided them clear guidance about what it is we have as an expectation. We have worked with them. We tried to have conversations with them.
It is important that they understand that America will no longer behave the way that it did during the Obama-Biden administration. We will no longer appease. We'll no longer tolerate.
Frankly, this war kicked off -- people talk about the war. This war kicked off when the JCPOA was entered into. It told the Iranians that they had free rein to develop a Shia crescent that extended from Yemen to Iraq to Syria and into Lebanon, surrounding our ally Israel, and threatening American lives as well.
We've taken a very different approach. That approach has been successful. There's obviously more work to do, Jake.
TAPPER: The Trump administration is privately warning members of Congress that Iran is expected to retaliate within weeks.
Here's just some of what's happened in the last 72 hours. The U.S. has told all Americans to immediately leave Iraq. The U.S. is sending thousands of additional U.S. service members from the 82nd Airborne to Kuwait. Soleimani's deputy has been appointed to replace him.
The German government has raised its threat level. The British navy is now accompanying U.K. ships in the Strait of Hormuz. The U.S. is bracing for possible Iranian cyberattacks.
You have said that -- quote -- "The world is a much safer place today" -- unquote.
Now, I can see you making the argument that the world will be safer in the long term, but how can you say we're safer today, given the increased and heightened threat level?
POMPEO: Jake, my reference was very clear to the strategy that the Trump administration -- administration had laid out.
The Middle East was unstable. We are creating a place and an opportunity for that stability. We've done so by building out coalitions. We've done so working alongside our friends and partners. We've done so by making it very clear to the Islamic Republic of Iran that we were not going to accept their rogue behavior, in the way the previous administration did.
We're going to protect and defend the American people.
I am convinced -- and I think General Milley had it right. He said we would have been culpably negligent had we not taken that strike against the terrorist Soleimani. We'll continue to do these things that reduce risks to America.
I know that the risk to America over the long run is much reduced as a result to the actions President Trump and our administration has taken in these last three years.
TAPPER: OK. That's in the long run. But I'm talking about the short term.
Let me ask you just a question. Do you know for a fact that the mission that Soleimani was working on, you say, the attacks that you say he was planning, have they been called off, those attacks?
POMPEO: We're prepared for anything the Islamic Republic of Iran may do, Jake.
There are clearly actors that go beyond Soleimani. We're still doing the work we're doing. And that's why we're still preparing. That's why we're still flowing forces to the region. That's why we're doing all of the things we're doing, building out our coalition, making sure our partners are defending our embassies and diplomatic facilities and military installations all throughout the region.
It's why you saw the statement that was put out by DHS. We're getting prepared in the event that the Islamic Republic of Iran leadership makes a bad decision.
TAPPER: Let's talk about why you carried out the strike, the intelligence behind it all.
Some members of Congress and others who have been briefed on the intelligence say they have not seen sufficient evidence to conclude that the attack you refer to, the attack on Americans, was actually imminent, as you have claimed.
When do you plan to share evidence with Congress, with the American people to clear up any questions here?
POMPEO: Well, the intelligence has been shared with leaders in Congress already, and we'll continue to share that. We'll go up to Capitol Hill and brief them yet again this week, I expect.
But the American people have the evidence right in front of their eyes. We don't have to guess about what Soleimani was up to. We know what he did on December 27. He killed an American. And we know what he's done for years and years and years, killed hundreds of Americans.
There's no need to guess about what Soleimani would have been up to the day after, and the day after, and the day after. This was a bad guy. We took him from the battlefield. We saw that he was plotting further plans to take down Americans, and in some cases many Americans.
We took the right action to defend and protect America. President Trump will never shy away from that.
TAPPER: When you say the attacks were imminent, how imminent were they? We talking about days? We talking about weeks?
POMPEO: If you're an American in the region, days and weeks, this is not something that's relevant.
We have to prepare. We have to be ready. And we took a bad guy off the battlefield. I -- we made the right decision. There is less risk today to American forces in the region as a result of that attack.
I'm proud of the effort that President Trump undertook. And the execution by our military was phenomenal. And the work that's been done by our diplomats in the region to prepare and to work diplomatically in the region has been powerful, important and effective.
TAPPER: I keep coming back to the fact you keep saying it's safer now, even at the same time that the U.S. government is telling all Americans to leave Iraq.
I mean, again, I understand the idea that, in the long term, the region could be safer.
POMPEO: You don't seem to, Jake.
POMPEO: You don't seem -- you don't seem to understand that.
You know, oftentimes, I've heard you say, Jake, America thinks just about the moment and doesn't think about the long-term strategic implications. This administration...
TAPPER: I don't know that I've ever said that about America. I've certainly said that about leaders of this country.
POMPEO: This administration -- this administration -- yes, sir.
This administration is thinking about exactly that. We are setting the conditions for a successful and safe America, prosperous America at home, secure America abroad.
This is our Middle East strategy. It's what we've done over these last three years in Iraq, in pushing back against the Islamic Republic of Iran. We will not stray from that course, Jake.
TAPPER: I do want to ask you, because there does seem to be a disconnect here. President Trump, according to polling, a majority of the American people have never considered him honest, have never considered him trustworthy. This is the American people, not me, OK?
And there is this credibility gap.
In addition, obviously, this nation has heard leaders, whether it's blaming a YouTube video for the attacks on the embassy in Benghazi, or WMD in Iraq, people have heard this government, the government of the United States, say things to them that were not true when it comes to the war.
Do you understand that there might be a special responsibility to provide proof and evidence to the American people of the imminence of the attack, of the need to carry out the mission that you've carried out?
POMPEO: Jake, I -- I do understand the power that we have and the need that we have to try and share with the American people everything we possibly can about why it is we're taking the actions that we take.
And we'll do that. We'll continue to do everything we can, consistent with protecting our sources and our methods and our -- importantly, our capacity to continue to see and to understand what's going on in presenting threats. We don't want to risk that intelligence.
I spent a little bit of time as the director of the Central Intelligence Agency. We never want to put that at risk.
But, as the secretary of state, I also know my solemn obligation to make sure we share with the American people everything we can about why it is we're taking the actions and how it is we expect that we will deliver to protect and defend America each and every day, Jake.
TAPPER: Well, we look forward to learning more about that evidence.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, thanks so much for joining us today.
POMPEO: Jake, thank you, sir. Thanks for having me on today.
TAPPER: We're now just 29 days away from the first 2020 Democratic contest in Iowa, and the escalation of the Iran crisis is suddenly putting a new focus on foreign policy in the Democratic race.
Joining me live from Concord, New Hampshire, is 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, now former Mayor Pete Buttigieg. He served in Afghanistan as a Naval intelligence officer.
Mayor Pete, thanks so much for joining us.
After the strike, you called Qasem Soleimani, the Iranian general who was killed, you called him a threat to the safety and security of the United States. So, are you saying that President Trump deserves some credit for the strike? BUTTIGIEG: No, not until we know whether this was a good decision and
how this decision was made.
And the president has failed to demonstrate that. The secretary of your -- of state just now, when asked whether this strike prevented directly an attack, he did not prove, he did not demonstrate, he did not even claim that the answer was yes.
Now, let's be clear, Qasem Soleimani was a bad figure. He has American blood on his hands. None of us should shed a tear for his death.
But just because he deserved it doesn't mean it was the right strategic move. This is about consequences. This is one of the most volatile places in the world.
And we need answers on how this decision was reached, whether there was an alternative, and whether the president has thought through the consequences, in particular for American lives, not just the troops who are on planes going to the Middle East right now, but U.S. citizens around the world whose lives may be at risk because of the fallout from this action.
Until we get answers on that, then this move is questionable, to say the least.
TAPPER: The chairman of the Joint Chiefs has said that there was compelling intelligence of a significant campaign of violence that was going to be leveled against Americans within days, weeks or months.
If you were commander in chief, and had a chairman of Joint -- the Joint Chiefs who was bringing you information like that, do you think you would have ordered the strike?
BUTTIGIEG: I would never hesitate to use force if it was necessary in order to protect American lives.
The question is, was it necessary, and was it better than the alternative?
It is not hard to believe that General Soleimani was in the middle of a campaign of violence. He was a walking campaign of violence.
But when you're dealing with the Middle East, you need to think about the next and the next and the next move. This is not checkers.
And I'm not sure any of us really believe that this president and the people around him, especially given that he hasn't even filled some of the key national security posts, is really going through all of the consequences of what could happen next.
Even as we speak, it looks like there has been a suspension of anti- ISIS activities in Iraq just to deal with the fallout here. We need answers on whether this is part of a meaningful strategy, what
choices were offered to the president, and why he believed this was the best choice, when we really haven't seen the indication that it even served to prevent whatever attack they're talking about.
BUTTIGIEG: This was not a battlefield maneuver.
We're talking about a senior official. In what way did taking him out prevent an attack?
BUTTIGIEG: And was it better than the alternative?
TAPPER: Well, let's...
BUTTIGIEG: We just haven't seen that, let alone...
TAPPER: Let me just ask you.
Some of your Democratic opponents, including Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, who I will be talking to shortly, called the strike a -- quote -- "assassination." They say it's an assassination.
Do you believe it was an assassination?
BUTTIGIEG: I am not interested in the terminology. I'm interested in the consequences. And I'm interested in the process.
Did the president have legal authority to do this? Why wasn't Congress consulted?
It seems like more people at Mar-a-Lago heard about this than people in the United States Congress, who are a co-equal branch of government with the responsibility to consult. Which of our allies were consulted?
The real-world effects of this are going to go far beyond the things that we're debating today, and we need answers quickly.
TAPPER: I want to ask you.
You talk a lot on the trail about judgment in foreign policy, especially in contrast with the former Vice President Joe Biden.
Take a listen to Biden on the trail just a couple days ago. He said that he did not oppose the raid that killed Osama bin Laden as vice president.
He was asked by a FOX News reporter if he would be willing to pull the trigger in an operation like the one that killed Soleimani. Take a listen. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: Would you pull the trigger?
JOSEPH BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, we did. The guy's name was Osama bin Laden.
QUESTION: And weren't you -- didn't you tell President Obama not to go after bin Laden that day?
BIDEN: No, I didn't. I didn't.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: He said, didn't you tell Obama not to carry out the mission? And he said, "No, I didn't."
The source of the idea that Biden told Obama not to pull the trigger on the OBL raid was Joe Biden himself.
Take a listen to Biden in 2012 describing the conversation he had in the room with President Obama.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, 2012)
BIDEN: I said: "We owe the man a direct answer. Mr. President, my suggestion is, don't go. We have to do two more things to see if he's there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Given Vice President Biden's opposition to the bin Laden raid, according to that earlier version, plus his support for the Iraq War, which you called the worst foreign policy decision made by the U.S. in your lifetime, do you think you have better judgment on foreign policy than Vice President Biden?
BUTTIGIEG: Well, I will let the V.P. speak to his own judgment.
But let me tell you about mine. It is informed by the experience of having been on one of those planes headed into a war zone. It's one of the reasons why I know the gravity of the decisions that are made in the Situation Room.
And when you are in the military, from the moment you raise your right hand to any time that you're sent into theater, you have a level of trust and expectation that the commanders above you know what they're doing, that they are exercising their best judgment, that they are consulting with those that they need to consult with, and that they are never going to play games with your lives.
I still worry about whether this president really understands that this is not a show, this is not a game. Lives are at stake right now.
And my experience has shown me just how much is on the line when we ask our troops to go out and carry out these policies.
My judgment is also informed by belonging to that generation that has lived through conflicts that we were told would be over in days or weeks and are continuing to this day.
Remember, you could be old enough to enlist, you could be old enough to be on one of those planes going to Kuwait right now, and not have been alive when 9/11 happened.
TAPPER: Yes. So...
BUTTIGIEG: We are in a season of endless war. And I have been shaped by that experience.
TAPPER: So, your youth and your service is matched by a different Democrat running for president, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard.
But you disagree with her about a number of matters having to do with foreign policy. So, is that enough?
BUTTIGIEG: Well, certainly safe to say that the congresswoman and I have very different views and very different judgment.
Another thing that I would point to is that I have the support of over 200 very well-respected civilian and military former national security officials, ranging from a former deputy director of the CIA, to a former national security adviser, to a former secretary of the Army.
And they're supporting me because they view me as having the judgment and the capability to make these decisions. They understand national security. They understand the presidency.
And they are the kind of people I am turning to make sure that my campaign and eventually my presidency will be well-informed.
TAPPER: You and your opponent Senator Elizabeth Warren have been disagreeing in recent weeks about whether or not to use big donors to finance your presidential campaigns.
I want to give you the chance to respond to something she said earlier this week. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WARREN: The billionaires, the corporate executives, and their favorite presidential candidates have one clear goal: to convince you that everything you imagine is impossible, to convince you that, because no one is pure, it's pointless to try to make anything better.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: She -- in context of the last few weeks, she really seems to be talking about you there, suggesting you're a favorite presidential candidate of the billionaires and corporate executives, that you want to tell the American people that policies they want are impossible.
What's your response?
BUTTIGIEG: I'm not running based on what's impossible. I'm running based on what's possible, a bold policy agenda that would make me the most progressive president we have had in a half-century, that we can do in a way that will actually unify and not polarize more of the American people.
The things that I am offering up, the things that we have talked about in this campaign would be game-changers, on everything from access to health care, to affordability of college, to the ability to just get ahead, and the basic principle that one job ought to be enough in the United States of America.
I'm running for president based on the opportunity to do big and bold things. And anybody who thinks otherwise should pay attention to what it is that I'm proposing our country do.
TAPPER: Senator Warren has said that she will not appoint any high- dollar donors as ambassadors. Will you make the same commitment?
BUTTIGIEG: Anybody I appoint to any office will be qualified, and they will be there based on their readiness to do the job.
Now, if I'm trying to figure out who ought to be a senior envoy to deal with, let's say, Afghanistan and Pakistan, and somebody emerges as the right person for that job with the best qualifications, are they going to turn out to be disqualified because they came to a house party for my campaign years earlier?
TAPPER: No, no, we're talking about big donors, big-dollar donors.
BUTTIGIEG: We're going to make decisions based on what is best...
TAPPER: Big-dollar donors, not just somebody who has given you money.
BUTTIGIEG: So, the maximum donation allowed is $2,800.
TAPPER: Right, but there's bundlers.
BUTTIGIEG: We're following the same...
TAPPER: There's people who raise moneys for super PACs. I mean, you know how it works.
And how it's going to work in my administration is that any candidate to be appointed to any important position will be there on their merits, and will be neither qualified or disqualified based on the idea that they supported and believed in my campaign.
TAPPER: One last question for you, sir.
You have touted the fact that you have Midwestern roots as an example of how you can beat President Trump.
Senator Klobuchar and others have pointed out that you lost your only bid for statewide office in Indiana by 25 points. So, why should voters buy your argument that you could win Michigan, when you lost Indiana by so much statewide?
BUTTIGIEG: Well, Indiana is a little bit different than Michigan.
Look, I'm big on the idea of Midwesterners running for president. What I'm offering is a Midwesterner who has executive experience building an administration, leading a government, guiding a population, in addition to the military experience and other experiences I bring to the table.
You know, one thing that most presidents and most of our nominees have had in common in modern times is losing an election or two. I was under no illusion what I was up against the first time I ran as an unknown figure in 2010, one of the biggest Republican years in history in Indiana, one of the most conservative states in the nation.
But I'm still proud of the race that we ran back when I was up for state treasurer, because the central issue in that race was about standing up for autoworkers.
It's a long story, but the basic issue in that race was about bringing back the U.S. auto industry. And I knew running in Indiana in a year like that on a platform of defending Barack Obama's economic policy was not very likely to lead to an easy win, but it was still the right thing to do.
And I got to tell you, I have learned as much from the races and the moments in life that didn't go my way as I have from the ones that did. They make me a better candidate, and they would make me a better president.
TAPPER: Former Mayor Pete Buttigieg, thank you so much for joining us this morning. We appreciate it.
BUTTIGIEG: Thanks. Good to be with you.
TAPPER: My next guest is another leading Democratic candidate who will join Buttigieg on the debate stage later this month, as another split may be emerging among the 2020 hopefuls, this time over foreign policy.
Joining me now from Dubuque, Iowa, is Democratic presidential candidate Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren.
Senator, thanks so much for joining us. We really appreciate it.
WARREN: Thank you for having me this morning. It's good to be here.
TAPPER: So, you called the U.S. attack that killed Qasem Soleimani a -- quote -- "assassination."
President Ford issued an executive order in '76 to make political assassinations illegal. Are you saying that this strike was a violation of law?
WARREN: Look, it was a targeted attack on a government official, a high-ranking military official for the government of Iran.
And what it's done has moved this country closer to war. We are not safer today than we were before Donald Trump acted.
I think the question that we ought to focus on is, why now? Why not a month ago? Why not a month from now?
And the answer from the administration seems to be, they can't keep their story straight on this. They have pointed in all different directions.
The last time we watched them do this was the summer over Ukraine. As soon as people started asking about the conversation between Donald Trump and the president of Ukraine and why aid had been held up to Ukraine, the administration did the same thing.
They pointed in all directions about what was going on. And, of course, what emerged then is, this was Donald Trump just trying to advance Donald Trump's own political agenda, not the agenda of the United States of America.
So what happens right now? Next week, the president of the United States could be facing an impeachment trial in the Senate. We know he's deeply upset about that. And I think people are reasonably asking, why this moment? Why does he pick now to take this highly inflammatory, highly dangerous action that moves us closer to war?
We have been at war for 20 years in the Middle East. We need to stop the war in the Middle East, not expand it.
TAPPER: Senator, are you suggesting that President Trump pulled the trigger and had Qasem Soleimani killed as a distraction from -- from impeachment?
WARREN: Look, I think people are reasonably asking about the timing and why it is that the administration seems to have all kinds of different answers.
In the first 48 hours after this attack, what did we hear? Well, we heard it was for an imminent attack. Then we heard, no, no, it was to prevent any kind of future attack. Then we heard from the vice president himself, no, it was related to 9/11.
And then we heard from press reports of people in the intelligence community saying the whole -- that the threat was overblown.
When the administration doesn't seem to have a coherent answer for taking a step like that, and they have taken a step that moves us closer to war, a step that puts everyone at risk, a step that takes our military -- puts our military at risk, puts our diplomats in the region at risk -- we have already paid a huge price for this war, thousands of American lives lost, a cost we have paid domestically and around the world.
And at the same time, look what it's done in the Middle East, millions of people who've been killed, who've been injured, who've been displaced.
This is not a moment when a president should be escalating tensions and moving us to war. The job of the president is to keep us safe. And that means move back from the edge.
TAPPER: One of the explanations that we have heard that you didn't mention is that, on December 27, the Iranian-backed militias ordered a strike that killed an American contractor.
You said yesterday that you would not have ordered the strike against Soleimani, and you described him as a military leader. But we should also point out, the Treasury Department designated the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps that Soleimani was in charge of and the Quds Force as a terrorist group back in 2007.
The U.S. State Department did the same for both groups last year.
As president, would you not prioritize the U.S. military killing the leaders of organizations designated terrorist organizations?
WARREN: Look, the job of the president is to keep us safe.
And we know, in this circumstance, that Donald Trump was presented with a range of options by way of response. But the point is not to try to move us closer to war. The point is to move us away from that.
You know, this problem in large part started back when Donald Trump took us out of the Iranian nuclear deal. Remember, we had worked with our allies and shown that diplomacy can work. We got Iran to the negotiating table. And Iran had ceased work on its nuclear program.
That helps make the region safer. Now, Iran's not a good actor. There's no doubt about that. They're a bad actor. And there's more we needed to do with Iran. But Iran was in compliance with the nuclear deal. Our allies said, stay in the deal.
But Donald Trump, all by himself, said, nope, we're getting out of it. We're tearing it up.
And then it's been a series of more and more provocative acts. And each time that happens, it moves America closer to war in the Middle East. We don't need more war in the Middle East. We need peace in the Middle East.
TAPPER: Take a listen to Vice President Joe Biden last night on the campaign trail.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We need to have a -- provide a steady stable, experienced leadership. With all due respect, I think I'm best prepared than anybody running for president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: A recent CNN poll shows that the Democratic voters agree Biden is head and shoulders above the rest of the Democratic field when it comes to who Democratic primary voters believe can best handle foreign policy. How do you counter that argument that the former vice president is making and seems to be winning?
WARREN: Look, I get out every day and I talk to voters all across Iowa, all across this country, and every piece of this is about judgment. It is about where we have been in the past, what our life experiences are, and how we see the world going forward.
We have been at war for 20 years in the Middle East. And I understand there are people who are running for president who are willing to keep combat troops in the Middle East indefinitely, five years, 10 year. Lindsey Graham, I think, talked about 100 years. That is not in the interest of the United States of America and certainly not in the interest of the Middle East and it's not in the interests of the world.
We need to dial back from that. We face other risks in the world with China, with Russia. We are under increasing economic pressure. The threat from climate change.
We need to work with our allies. There is much we need to do internationally. Staying pinned down and escalating our wars in the Middle East is not in the long term interests of the United States. And I will continue to talk about that with voters all across --
TAPPER: Senator, I just wanted to try to drill down a little on something you said earlier in the interview when you talked about the fact --
TAPPER: -- that people are asking the question about why President Trump carried out this operation when impeachment is about to recommence in the Senate. I know you are saying that people are raising the issue, and the administration has given a number of reasons for the strike against Soleimani, but what do you think? Do you believe that President Trump pulled the trigger on this operation as a way to distract from impeachment? Is that what you think?
WARREN: I think it is a reasonable question to ask particularly when the administration immediately after having taken this decision offers a bunch of contradictory --
TAPPER: But what do you think?
WARREN: -- explanations for what is going on.
Well, I think it is right question to ask. We will get more information as we go forward, but look at the timing on this, and look at what Donald Trump has said afterwards and his administration. They have pointed in multiple directions.
There was a reason that he chose this moment, not a month ago, not a month from now, not a less aggressive, less dangerous response. He had a whole range of responses that were presented to him. He didn't pick one of the other ones, he picked the most aggressive and the one that moves us closer to war.
So what does everybody talk about today? Are we going to war? Are we going to have another five year, 10 years of war in the Middle East? Are we going to be dragged in once again? Are we going to bring another generation of young people into war?
That is every bit of the conversation right now. Donald Trump has taken an extraordinarily reckless step, and we have seen it before, he is using foreign policy, he uses whatever he can to advance the interests of Donald Trump.
TAPPER: I would just again say that, I mean, the Trump administration does say that American contractor was killed on December 27th, obviously there was the attacks on the U.S. embassy in Baghdad. They point to that context as the reason for the strike. But let's turn to impeachment, because you do want to talk about it apparently.
You've said, you have heard enough evidence to vote to convict President Trump in the Senate trial. Take a listen to the number two Senate Democrat, your whip, Senator Dick Durbin, on this show just a couple of weeks ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: It is a mistake for your fellow senators on both sides of the aisle frankly to say how they're going to vote before the trial starts?
SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: I really think it is. I think they have gone too far. You know, how can they hold their hands up and say, I swear impartial justice. You can't do that. They shouldn't have done that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: That is the Democratic leader of the Senate saying that you and others should not have said that you would vote to convict him, is he wrong?
WARREN: Look, I have enormous respect for Senator Durbin. But understand this. What I said is enough evidence has been presented and so far Donald Trump has offered absolutely no defense. It is not like they have come forward and said, oh, wait, we want to present some other evidence. The other evidence is going to show something different. They have done nothing. In fact, they have done worse than nothing.
What they have said is you can't hear from the witnesses who have first-hand information and you can't get the documents that you need to see to have more evidence about what is happening. They are defying a court order.
Remember about separation of powers? They're under an order to release documents and refusing to do it. So, the way I look at this is I see the evidence that is in front of us. I see the fact that they are not putting forward any defense and I see that they are trying to block any access to additional first-hand information.
Boy, that tells me this is someone who has violated the law. And this is someone who needs to be held accountable. No one is above the law, not even the president of the United States, and that is what impeachment is about.
TAPPER: I wanted to turn to Medicare for All, a major issue on the campaign trail. You and Senator Bernie Sanders both support Medicare for All though you have different approaches to how to transition into that. You have a phase in plan for Medicare for All that will require passing a second law halfway through your term. I want you to take a listen to what Bernie Sanders had to say when he was asked about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think that it is not going to be an easy fight, but I think we're going to succeed. So we are going to do it right away. I think that is the difference that we have with Senator Warren.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Senator Sanders also recently said that your transition period to Medicare for All is -- quote -- "quite different" from his own. Why do you think your transition plan is better than his?
WARREN: So, look, I want to get the maximum amount of health to the maximum number of people as quickly as possible, and the reason for that is people are suffering. Thirty-six million Americans last year did not have a prescription filled that the doctor had written, because they couldn't afford it. That shouldn't happen in this nation.
So, my plan is first, do what I can as president on day one. I will defend the Affordable Care Act and strengthen it against the sabotage that the Trump administration has been undergoing.
And second, I'm going to bring down the cost of prescription drugs. I'll use the powers that are already granted by law to the president to come in and reduce the cost of insulin and EpiPens and HIV aids drugs. Key drugs that we can bring down costs by hundreds of millions of dollars for families all across this country.
And then in the first 100 days, I will do what we can do by a vote of 50. And that is, because I have figured out how the pay for Medicare for All by not increasing taxes one thin dime on middle-class families. We have enough money to offer a generous opportunity for people to get full health care coverage. A hundred and thirty-five million people can get full health care coverage, Medicare for All, all of the way through at no cost. And we can have coverage for others at a very subsidized price. So it is only a modest cost.
Let's let Americans experience what this is about. What it is like to have you and -- your health care is between you and your doctor or your mental health professional or your nurse practitioner or your physical therapist --
WARREN: -- without having an insurance company standing in the middle saying no, no, no.
TAPPER: I get all of that, but why is your transition better than his?
WARREN: When we do that then we will be in a position to vote for Medicare for All.
TAPPER: Because you think --
WARREN: I'm sorry?
TAPPER: You think your transition period is better than his because it needs to be built upon and his is too much, too quickly?
WARREN: It gets the most help to the most people the quickest possible. Help starts on day one and then it's full health care coverage for 135 million people to be able to opt-in to it at absolutely no cost. We can do that --
TAPPER: So do you think his is unrealistic?
WARREN: -- on a 50-vote -- we can do that on a 50-vote budget reconciliation, and get help to people. Let people experience it.
I want a lot have a lot of allies in this fight to make health care available to every single American. I am committed to health care for all Americans. Health care is a basic human right. I wanted to do it in a way --
WARREN: -- that gets as many Americans as much help as quickly as we can, build our alliances, and then we can move to Medicare for All for everyone. That's the vote we will take.
TAPPER: So, by the end of your first term, yes or no, would your plan ban most private health insurance by the end of the first term?
WARREN: It would transition everyone to Medicare for All. We will provide health care coverage to everyone. No cost increase to middle- class family and think what that will mean.
The average family last year spent out of pocket about $12,000 on health insurance, premiums, and co-pays and deductibles and uncovered expenses. They don't have to do that. It is like a $12,000 tax cut for millions of people across this country.
TAPPER: So --
WARREN: That's money that they can spend in their local economy. That's money that people can use to save up to buy a home. That means people are free to leave the employer they are with and start their own small business or go to work for a small business. This is real change that will affect families where they live and it's within our reach.
TAPPER: So it sounds like that is a yes, that the private health insurance will be banned by the end of the first term. Go ahead.
WARREN: It's -- it's that we will transition to Medicare for All for everyone.
WARREN: That's the vote we'll have.
WARREN: And I'll be out there fighting for it, because I think it is the right thing to do. But understand this, I'm going to get help to people on the first day. We need to start making changes, we need to have the courage to do that from day one. And that's what I'm going to do.
TAPPER: But let's talk about that -- let's talk about that because if you're going to do this on day one, you would obviously need Democrats to take back the Senate in 2020. If that happens, and that's an if, it would be because of more moderate Democrats in purple states, such as Colorado or Maine or Arizona, the three leading Democratic candidates in those races have all publicly said that they do not support Medicare for All, so how would you get it through the Senate when the Democrats would oppose it?
WARREN: So, remember, Jake, what I said I'll do on day one doesn't take a change in the law. We can do the defense of the Affordable Care Act without any changes in the law and I can reduce the cost of prescription drugs without any changes in the law, but on a budget reconciliation, on 50 votes, I have a way to be able to pay for health care coverage for people all across this country by not increasing taxes on middle-class families. To offer as an option to 135 million people the opportunity to have full health care coverage at no cost --
TAPPER: But this is buying into the public option, right? This is a public option that you would be offering?
WARREN: Well, this is -- it is not buying-in.
TAPPER: Right, right.
WARREN: It's 135 million people who would have the option to have 100 percent health care coverage at no cost. And then offering the rest of America at a modest cost to be able to get 100 percent coverage. That's an opportunity for people all across this country. They don't have to do it, but it gives them a chance, and it gives them a chance to experience what health care is like.
If you don't have an insurance company standing in between saying, I'm sorry, we don't cover that, doctor, we don't cover that prescription, that one is out of network. It is to give people the experience of full health care coverage, and we can pay for it by asking the top 1 percent to pay more, by asking companies like Amazon who made $10 billion in reported profits last year and paid nothing in taxes to pay, and my personal favorite, by cracking down on the tax cheats at the top.
We make those changes, and we have enough money to provide health care for everyone in this country. Let's let people experience that, and then we can vote on the transition for everyone.
TAPPER: You'll have a -- you'll have some salesmanship to do if you are the president and those Democrats actually retake the majority, because I don't know that they are as of right now willing to support that. But let's move on because you released new numbers --
WARREN: You know --
TAPPER: Yes, go ahead. Go ahead.
WARREN: But I just want to say one thing on that though, Jake. This helps the American people, and the bottom line is I believe in democracy.
You know, I was in the Senate back after Donald Trump was elected and the Republicans had the House, had the Senate and had the White House. They had the votes to be able to repeal the Affordable Care Act in the first week. And yet, ultimately, even though the House voted to repeal, we held on in the Senate, and the reason was because people across this nation said, health care matters to me. And I want more health care.
People marched. People who were never political took to the streets. People said, this matters. I believe that's democracy in action and I believe that's the kind of change we're ready to make as Americans. We are ready to hold our government accountable and say enough of the drug companies, enough of the insurance companies.
Make this health care system work for me and for my family. That's what's within our reach.
TAPPER: Senator Elizabeth Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts running for president, thank you so much for joining us. We appreciate it.
WARREN: Thank you for having me.
TAPPER: President Trump said an impeachment still in limbo. Might that change this week? An exclusive with the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Congressman Adam Schiff. That's next. Stay with us.
TAPPER: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Jake Tapper.
Both chambers of Congress will be back in town this week, but there has been no sign of progress over the president's stalled Senate impeachment trial. And now lawmakers are dealing with a pressing new concern, the fallout over a U.S. strike on Iran's top general.
Joining me now is the chairman of House Intelligence Committee, Congressman Adam Schiff. Congressman, we have a lot to get to but I want to start with Iran. You said after the briefing on Friday you're a member of the gang of eight so you would be briefed on such a thing, that you have yet to get an adequate answer about why the strike was necessary right now. You heard Senator Warren suggest that this might politically timed, almost like a "wag the dog" suggestion to change the subject from impeachment. A pretty striking suggestion from the senator, is she right?
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Look, I don't know what the president's motivation here is but I think it was a reckless decision that increased the risk to Americans all around the world, not decreased it.
When Secretary Pompeo says that this decision to take out Qasem Soleimani to save American lives, save European lives, he is expressing a personal opinion, not an intelligence conclusion. Much like his opinion that leaving reneging on the Iran deal improved our security, the evidence has been to the contrary.
And I think the evidence will be the contrary here sadly. I think it will increase the risk to Americans around the world. I haven't seen intelligence that taking out Soleimani was going to either stop the plotting (ph) that's going on or decrease (INAUDIBLE) United States. And in fact we are already seeing serious strategic repercussions.
The Iraqi prime minister now supporting -- throwing American troops out of Iraq. The Iraqi parliament introducing new resolution to remove us in that country. That's going to impede our fight against ISIS. That would be a real coup for Iran to force the United States out of Iraq.
We're going to have to take our eye off the ball when it comes to fighting ISIS in Syria because we are not going to be able to, I think, protect a small number of forces there. So, either we're going to have to send more forces or have to withdraw the forces that we have. So strategically, I think, we have already seen setbacks and I don't know that we're going to see any improvement. Our security, I think quite the contrary we may see an increase risk of war with Iran.
TAPPER: But you acknowledged as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs have said and others in the Trump administration have said that Soleimani was heading a plot to attack American interests in the region. That is accurate?
SCHIFF: It's accurate but it's also true that Soleimani has been plotting against the United States for decades. The question is, did the plotting here rise to the level that requires his elimination from the battlefield and would that elimination stop the plotting or would it accelerated it or would it make the potential attacks to the United States great or not worse? And there I don't think the intelligence supports the conclusion that removing Soleimani increases our security.
There's a big difference when our generals talk about potential plots in days, weeks or months between days and months. And particularly when you have someone like Soleimani who has been at this for so long. So the question is, why now? Is this going to increase or decrease the risk of war? And I think it is going to increase the risk of war with Iran.
TAPPER: So some officials told "The New York Times" that the evidence that this attack was imminent was -- quote -- "razor thin." Do you agree?
SCHIFF: I don't know if I would use that characterization. I would say that there certainly was a lack of detail in terms of the plotting and I don't think we have sufficient guidance on either its imminence or the nature of the attacks to warrant taking out Soleimani. I don't think the intelligence supports the conclusion that killing a top Iranian official is going to either stop plotting or improve America's security.
I do think it is likely to result in strategic losses. I think it's going to result in potentially our being thrown out of Iraq, reducing our ability to fight ISIS. And additional plotting against the United States.
TAPPER: Let's turn to impeachment. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is still holding on the articles of impeachment and preventing the Senate from beginning its trial. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made clear on Friday he said he's in no rush to hold the trial. He's not going to meet her demands for a trial. How long are Democrats -- Democratic leaders prepared to hold on to the articles? Might this go until February? Could this be indefinite?
SCHIFF: I don't think it's going to be indefinite, no. I don't think that's at all the desire and motivation here. The desire is to get a commitment from the Senate that they're going to have a fair trial. Fair to the president, yes, but fair to the American people.
TAPPER: McConnell is not going to do what you guys want him to do.
SCHIFF: Well, McConnell, I think is -- one success that this has already had is flushing out McConnell. Showing that he is working cahoots with the president, that he has made himself an active participant in the president's cover up. So, the American people needed to see that and now they do. We also --
TAPPER: So, you're never going to get what you want though? I mean, isn't that -- isn't that what you are saying?
SCHIFF: No. That's not necessarily the case either because you are also seeing the effect of this is flushing out senators where Democrats and Republicans are now having to go on the record and say, do we want to witnesses? Do we want to see the documents? Do we want the American people to hear the evidence? Do we want a real trial or do we want a cover up?
It is clear, I think, when the president and Mitch McConnell they don't want a trial anymore, they don't want witnesses, they don't want documents, they don't even want -- Jake, they don't even want a verdict. They want a dismissal. They want to have the House measures come in. Make a presentation and then move to dismiss and they could go away before the American people get to see the full extent of the president misconduct.
But, that's not what the American people want. It is not what the founders contemplated. And if you ask even a majority of Republicans around the country, they want the evidence to come out. And so I think that withholding the articles thus far flushed out where Mitch McConnell is coming from it has required Senators to go on record. And it's my hope that that pressure will result in a real trial, fair to the American people as well as fair to the president.
TAPPER: So -- but if you have succeeding in doing that, in flushing out where McConnell and flushing out where people like Murkowski and Collins are, does that mean it's now time to transmit the articles of impeachment to the Senate? I mean, could that happen this week or do you think it's more likely in February?
SCHIFF: Well, that will be decisions speaker has to make and I don't know the answer to that. But I can say that at the end of the day what we all should be pushing for. And I agree with Senator Durbin. I don't think any Senator should be expressing opinions here.
What we should want is a fair trial and what we should want of senators is that they take their oath seriously and that oath requires them to be impartial. You know, I've heard some of the senators like in the Senate proceeding to an appeal, it is not an appeal. It is a trial which means that it ought to involve witnesses. In fact each of these trials that have gone forward with impeaching a president in the past have involved witness testimony, but we ought to also start out by having the documents come out and the documents that had been coming out lately are increasingly in criminating of the president. You can see why they want to cover those up -- those documents ought to be provided as well.
TAPPER: The top House attorney for Democrats told the federal court on Friday, that there may be a third article of impeachment for obstruction of justice during the Mueller investigation. Are you considering impeaching President Trump again?
SCHIFF: Well, we are focused right now on the trial we've got coming up and that's our foremost priority. But what the House council is saying is we have been trying to get testimony from people like Don McGahn. We've been trying to get the grand jury material as part of the impeachment inquiry. And for those senators who say, well, why did the House wait on the Ukraine articles until you exhausted the court remedies? The reason is because on those articles, the president was trying to speak foreign help in the election. It is not sufficient to say let's wait another year or two years to get those witnesses in if the president is trying to cheat in the election.
So we move forward with those articles that had the greatest sense of urgency. We continue to press the case with McGahn, with a grand jury material, with those that weren't as urgent. And I think that makes all the sense in the world.
TAPPER: Chairman Adam Schiff, thanks so much for being here. We really appreciate it.
U.S. officials are currently braising for a cyber attack from Iran and the menacing possibilities are many. A senior manager at the cyber security firm FireEye tells CNN that Iran has been honing its skills at launching social media, disinformation campaigns to aggravate divisions inside the U.S.
We saw again this week that those kinds of lies can be frightening convincing. A deceptively edited video clip of former Vice President Joe Biden just went viral after a Twitter user posted something Biden said about the culture of domestic violence having its sexist roots in Europe. The clip omitted important context and included an inflammatory captions that twisted what Biden was saying.
Twitter will not take down the misleading clips saying it does not violate their rules. As of this morning that clip has been viewed more than 1.8 million times. The morning after it be debunked Bob Salera, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee retweeted the clip alongside a slur against Biden. There used to be a way of shaming political operatives from openly participating in such lies and smears but apparently that's not longer the case.
Tony Shaffer, he's a member of the Trump 2020 campaign advisory board. This week he tweeted a debunked clip that shows altered video of how Speaker Nancy Pelosi falsely depicting her as intoxicated. There's a real recklessness about what folks put out on social media. Some of it is carelessness and journalists often fall to that trap too.
But increasingly folks from the political world are bracingly putting our information on social media that is purposely false. President Trump has pushed out fake information like this on Twitter that says his White House falsely accusing a Democratic member of Congress of dancing on the anniversary of 9/11, pushing out falsely sped up video of a CNN reporter as a White House aide tried to take his microphone away. So while we are all bracing for what the Iranians might do to us as this conflict escalates, let's not lose sight of what Americans are already doing to each other.
Thanks for spending your Sunday morning with us.
Fareed Zakaria has much more on the latest in the crisis with Iran. Stay with us.