tv Situation Room With Wolf Blitzer CNN September 20, 2019 3:00pm-4:00pm PDT
hundreds of rescues as parts of texas are swamped by more than three feet of rain. cnn is in the disaster zone, where the water is high and the damage is worse. we want to welcome our viewers in the united states and around the world. i'm wolf blitzer. you're in "the situation room." we're following breaking news on president trump's contacts with ukraine under scrutiny right now, after a secret whistleblower complaint. tonight, cnn has confirmed that mr. trump pressured ukraine's president to investigate joe biden's son during a july phone call. "the wall street journal" reporting that the president broached the subject about eight times. president trump is refusing to say what he discussed with the ukrainian leader, claiming it doesn't matter, and calling the controversy "ridiculous." democrats see it very differently, as they investigate whether mr. trump used his
presidential power to pressure a foreign leader in hopes of hurting a potential 2020 opponent and helping his own campaign. this hour, i'll talk with congressman peter welch. he's a democrat on the house intelligence committee. and our correspondents and analysts are also standing by. first, let's go to our chief white house correspondent, jim acosta. jim, president trump is refusing to give a straight answer about his contacts with the ukrainian president. >> that's right, wolf. but as you said, cnn has confirmed president trump pressed the president of ukraine to investigate joe biden's son in a call over the summer, and that the call, according to our david shoretel was part of the whistleblower complaint that has rocked the white house this week. the white house is still not commenting on these latest revelations, but earlier in the day, the president did not deny that biden came up during that phone call. all of this is raising questions for democrats as to whether the president attempted to collude with a foreign government, this time ukraine, to impact the 2020 election. >> reporter: sitting in the oval
office with australia's prime minister, the president struggled to give straight answers about the mysterious government official trying to blow the whistle on mr. trump's interactions with a foreign leader. first, the president described the whistleblower as partisan. >> ridiculous story. it's a partisan whistleblower. shouldn't even have information. >> reporter: then mr. trump said he didn't know the whistleblower. >> i don't know the identity of the whistleblower. i just hear it's a partisan person, meaning it comes out from another party. but i don't have any idea -- but i can say that it was a totally appropriate conversation. it was actually a beautiful conversation. >> reporter: democrats want to know if the complaint is about mr. trump's conversation with ukraine's president over the summer and whether it delved into potential 2020 rival, former vice president, joe biden. "the wall street journal" reports mr. trump repeatedly pressured the ukrainian president to investigate biden during that discussion. asked directly about that conversation earlier in the day, the president wouldn't answer the question. >> did you discuss joe biden,
his son, or his family with the leader -- >> it doesn't matter what i discussed, but i will say this, somebody ought to look into joe biden's statement. >> reporter: but the president seemed to invite a biden inquiry. >> somebody ought to look into that. and you wouldn't, because he's a democrat. and the fake news doesn't look into things like that. it's a disgrace. >> reporter: reminiscent of mr. trump's call on russia to find hillary clinton's e-mails in 2016. >> i will tell you this, russia, if you're listening, i hope you're able to find the 30,000 e-mails that are missing. >> reporter: biden's ties to ukraine have been a subject of interest inside trump world for months. the president's personal attorney, rudy giuliani, admitted on cnn that he had spoken to ukrainian officials about biden after first denying it. >> did you ask the ukraine to investigate joe biden? >> no. actually, i didn't. >> you never asked anything about hunter biden? you never asked anything about joe biden? >> the only thing i asked about joe biden is to get to the bottom of who it was that
yushchenko, who was appointed, dismissed the case against antac. >> so you did ask ukraine to look into joe biden? >> of course i did! >> reporter: russian have raised questions about the obama administration, and alleged that had something to do with biden's son hunter's business dealings inside the country. an unproven accusation. >> i said, i'm leaving in five hours. and they put in place someone who was solid at the time. >> democrats fear the president or his associates have essentially invited ukraine to meddle in the 2020 lerks. not unlike donald trump jr.'s meeting with a russian attorney at trump tower in 2016. in 2017, the president defended his son's actions. >> most people would have taken that meeting. it's called opposition research or even research into your opponent, but it's very standard where they have information and you take the information. >> reporter: and just like the
russia probe, there are inconsistencies in the president's comments on the whistleblower. the president claimed that he hadn't read the whistleblower complaint, while saying others have. >> no, i haven't. >> who in your white house -- >> everybody's read it. they laugh at it. >> reporter: the president tried to subject the today and announced that the administration is imposing new sanctions on iran's national bank to punish tehran for an alleged strike on an oil refinery in saudi arabia. as for the matter that has overshadowed the white house all this week as it prepares for a state dinner this evening with australia's prime minister, even the president's own supporters are concerned about these new questions about the whistleblower and these apparent connections to ukraine. three different sources close to the white house told me, wolf, that the president's personal attorney, rudy giuliani, only made matters worse and unlike what we saw during the 2016 campaign, when these russia questions were emerging toward the end of that campaign, we're finding out about this ukraine matter well ahead of the general election campaign. that means many more revelations
to come. wolf? >> all right. jim acosta at the white house, thank you. tonight, joe biden is responding to president trump's call for an investigation of his family's connections to ukraine. biden denying any wrong doing and slamming the president. >> wait, wait a second, wait a second. not one single credible outlet has given any credibility to his assertion. not one single one. and so i have no comment except the president should start to be president. >> let's dig deeper into president trump's interest in the biden family's ukraine connections. our political correspondent, sara murray, is here in "the situation room." this goes back to when joe biden was vice president. >> that's right, wolf, and essentially what the president and his allies are saying that they believe as vice president, joe biden tried to use his political influence to help his son's business interests. now, there's not a lot of evidence that actually backs that up, but that's not stopping the president from pushing ukrainian officials to keep
investigating. years after joe biden ousted a corrupt ukrainian prosecutor, he was still touting his accomplishment. >> i look at him and say, i'm leaving in six hours, if the prosecutor is not fired, you're not getting the money. well, son of a bitch. he got fired. >> reporter: as vice president biden threatened to withhold a $1 billion in u.s. aid if the country refused to oust its top prosecutor. by 2015, the obama administration, the international monetary fund, and other western leaders had grown frustrated that the prosecutor, victor showkkin failed to crack down on corruption in ukraine. after biden's ultimatum, shokin stepped down. but this is what rudy giuliani all riled up. at the same time biden was cracking down on that ukrainian prosecutor, his son, hunter biden, was serving on the board of a ukrainian natural gas company. trump's allies claim that biden wanted that ukrainian prosecutor out because hi son's company was under investigation. >> i found out this incredible
story about joe biden, that he bribed the president of the ukraine insider to fire a prosecutor that was investigating his son. that is an astounding scandal. >> reporter: for a time, barisma was under investigation, but at least one former official in the prosecutor's office said the investigation into barisma had already been shelved by the time that biden threatened to withhold u.s. aid. and there's no evidence that joe biden or hunter biden did anything wrong, even if the optics are not that great. >> there's not been one scintilla of evidence that my son ever interfered, that he ever asked me to do anything that i ever got involved in anything other than doing the job i was supposed to do. so i'm proud of him. i just think it's the way these guys play. >> reporter: hunter biden told "the new york times" earlier this year that he never discussed company business or his decision to join the board with his father. he added, i have had no role
whatsoever in relation to any investigation of burrisma or any of its officers. hunter biden also said he left bu burisma's border earlier this year saying where my qualifications and work are being attacked by rudy giuliani and his minions for transparent political purposes. of course, that hasn't stopped giuliani from digging for dirt. >> it's a case that's crying out to be investigated. >> reporter: earlier this year, giuliani planned and then canceled a trip to ukraine to press officials about biden-related investigations. he later met with a representative for ukraine's president to discuss biden. meanwhile, ukraine prosecutor general luri utsenko said he had no proof that they had done anything wrong. from my point of view, a board member can be paid whatever a company decides. they didn't violate any ukrainian laws, lutsenco said.
whether burisma's board members violated u.s. law is not for me to judge. so he's saying it's totally inappropriate for a president to try to get a foreign leader say something that is untrue about any political opponent and that congress is looking into it. >> sara murray, thank you very much for that report. joining us now, democratic congressman, peter welch on the house intelligence committee that's been fighting with the trump administration to obtain that whistleblower complaint. congressman, thanks so much for joining us. cnn has confirmed that president trump pressured his ukrainian counterpart to investigate joe biden's son in that july phone call. and according to the "wall street journal," the president made this request about eight times. what's your reaction? >> wolf, first of all, as a member of the intelligence committee, i can't confirm it. we heard nothing about that in our interview with the inspector
general. but second, i know what you have reported, and it's shocking, because essentially you have the president whose principle responsibility in relationship to foreign leaders is to protect the national security of the united states, injecting his own personal campaign into those discussions. and that is yet another example of trying to bring foreign interference into a decision that should be made solely by american citizens. >> you heard yesterday, as you point out from the intelligence community's inspector general, but he's been barred from sharing any details from the whistleblower complaint. barred by his boss, the director of the -- the acting director of national intelligence, who's relying on a justice department memorandum. if the complaint is actually what "the wall street journal" is now reporting, does the administration's rationale for withholding the complaint from your committee, the intelligence committee, hold up? >> no, it doesn't, at all. i mean, this law is very, very clear. if a whistleblower comes
forward, they have to follow a careful statutory procedure. otherwise, they're in jeopardy because what they're presenting is information that may have classified content. they present that as they did to the inspector general. the inspector general has two weeks to review it, where in order to forward it, he has to make a finding that it's urgent and it is a matter of -- and it's credible. and our inspector general made that finding, sends it to the director of national intelligence, who then has a ministerial responsibility within seven days to refer that the intelligence committee for our review. and we're talking about classified information. we're talking about secrets, and we're talking about protecting whistleblowers who can actually present evidence that allows us to do oversight. and that process was short circuited. we don't know why, exactly, but obviously, it was someone who had more authority than the director of national intelligence. this is the first time it's happened to our knowledge. >> do you think there's an
actual audio reporting of this phone conversation that the president had with the president of ukraine or at least the transcript out there? >> i would think so. i think that's standard operating procedure when you're having presidential discussions with foreign leaders. >> i suspect you're right. so the question then becomes, is that audio tape something your committee, the intelligence committee, will try to get ahold of? >> well, that's something, frankly, that ping all of congress would want to see. i mean, we've got two issues here. one is the content of this report. and again, i'm emphasizing that we in the intelligence committee don't have knowledge of this, so we can't confirm it or deny it, but it's a very serious allegation that the president in a conversation with a foreign leader was essentially injecting his own personal political fortunes into the mix. no place for that whatsoever. if donald trump and his campaign wants to go after joe biden and his son, he can do that. what he can't do is, as president, leverage a situation
where there's $250 million in aid to ukraine that congress has approved as a quid pro quo for getting something on -- that will help his campaign. but what's really at stake for us in the intelligence community is the integrity of the whistleblower system. with intelligence, if a whistleblower is going come forward, they have to be very careful, because if they present information without authorization, then they're subject to prosecution and losing their job. and by definition, with classified information, it's got to be done according to the law. and we set this up to protect whistleblowers and now as a result of what the director of national intelligence did, not refer that information to us, we don't know -- we're in the dark about this. so the report from the "wall street journal" very important on the content, but the whistleblower protection system the absolutely vital, whether it's a republican or a
democratic president. >> do you want to see the intelligence committee chairman, adam schiff, pursue this battle in court? >> yes, i do. i want to get -- i want to stand for the integrity of the whistleblower system. and frankly, this is a question that should concern all of us in congress. i mean, what is happening now, and it's a really dire situation for our country, is the separation of powers, the equal branches of government is under assault. the president has a tendency in this case and in others, to just do whatever he wants. and whether you're a republican or democrat, you've got to stand up for that constitutional principle of co-equal branchs of government. i mean, when you have a president who does an end around, it appears, on this statute, or where he diverts funds that were appropriated for a day care center to a military base and uses them to construct a wall on the southern border, that should be a concern to anyone who wants to preserve our constitutional order. >> but if this goes to court,
that would certainly give the administration the opportunity to drag this out in a lengthy legal battle, right? >> well, that's true. and this is, i think, a matter of great concern to us. but also, i think to the american people. because the m.o. of the trump administration is to stall, delay, go to court, refusing to provide documents, to be in denial mode, not present witnesses. and i think that's a challenge to our constitutional order. i think it's very dire and it's unique with this administration. wolf, there's always been tension between the legislative branch and the executive. the legislative branch wants information because it has a duty of oversight. sometimes it gets political. but the bottom line is, in the past, by and large, it's been worked out. the trump administration is on strike. the article i powers of congress don't exist as far as the trump administration is concerned. >> would you encourage the
whistleblower, the intelligence official to come directly before your committee? >> well, i would be hesitant to do that, i would like it, but keep in mind, this whistleblower followed the rules and the rules give that person someretaliatio. and there's real apprehension if they come forward without the protections of the statute that they'll be making an unauthorized disclosure, and therefore be subject to prosecution and firing from their job. so that's the tragedy here. we need a strong whistleblower statute to allow people to bring forward information that would be of concern to the committee. republicans and democrats. >> what can you do to protect the whistleblower from potential retaliation? because you're absolutely right, this whistleblower acted according to the regular, legal channels.
>> that's right. the whistleblower acted according to the rules. and by the way, the inspector general acted according to the rules. this is a career person, had private practice, but then a justice department prosecutor appointed by the trump administration in a scrupulously is following the letter of the law in the carrying out of his duties. and by the way, that's a humbling experience, to see a civil servant who at great jeopardy, personal jeopardy, and clearly no personal political interest, doing his job. and the whistleblower is in the same category. but the bottom line here is that we've got to enforce the whistleblower statute. and i'm really hopeful that my republican colleagues are going to share with us concern about the upholding of our whistleblower system. >> congressman peter welch, thanks so much for joining us. >> thank you. >> i want to bring in our senior
legal analyst, former u.s. attorney, preet bharara to continue this conversation. preet, thanks so much for joining us. does the acting director of national intelligence need to turn this whistleblower complaint over donto congress? >> that's the controversy we're trying to figure out. there's been something that's sort of an astonishing battle of letters and legal conclusions between the intelligence committee's inspectori inand th acting dni. the deni has taken the position that this doesn't need to be turned over because it doesn't relate to someone in the intelligence community and doesn't relate to intelligence activity. in an extraordinary letter, i think, that was sent by the inspector general for the intelligence community to adam schiff, he says, i respectfully disagree with that analysis. i have sent a letter setting forth chapter and verse to the doj as to why i disagree with that analysis and that, in fact, not only does it relate to
intelligence activity, it goes to the core of what the dni's responsibilities are to the american people. that's pretty strong language. you and i are not yet privy to what the legal arguments back and forth. based on the reporting, we understand what's at issue here is conversations between the president of the united states and the president of ukraine with this shady business. whether it technically meets the requirement of the statute, i'm not sure. the legal answer is, we don't know how good the arguments are on either side. i'll give you a pragmatic answer, though. and that is, it's very alarming to see if you're sitting as an american citizen or member of the public in any capacity that the president on the one hand will say, look into the camera and say, no conversation i had was inappropriate, everything was hunky-dory, it was all wonderful and great, because that's the only kind of conversations i have, and on the other hand, try to enforce a strict, narrow, legalistic interpretation of the statute to
hide that information from the public. if it's not a big deal, if nothing bad happened, then, you know, call for its disclosure. and we see this over and over and over again. this is not a new thing. it's a pattern. >> if the president did ask the ukrainian president to investigate joe biden's son, would that be illegal? >> so, you know, we've been down this road for a couple of years now. and i think the answer, as i always think it is, when we don't have all the information is, it could be. there are various statutes that would be complicaimplicated. but i want to say, one thing that i think is important to remember, and i don't want to be a former prosecutor who naturally opines on whether or not something violates a statute, because that's the business i used to be in. to create a climate in which the only way that someone can cast aspersions on the conduct of the president is if the technical elements of any statute were violated with proof of without a reasonable doubt after an exhaustive inquiry. the standard is not, is the
president okay as long as he didn't violate a statute? the president is not okay if it turns out that the fundamentals of this reporting are correct. and that is for a second time, as a -- shall we say, recidivist, the president of the united states, after having gone through, you know, what he calls presidential harassment over the course of two years appears to have asked a foreign power to do something or give him something of value in order to win an election against a possible opponent in the next election, that is very clearly, whether it violates a criminal statute or not, i think, if you're an american and you see what we've gone through over the last two years, that is an abuse of power and that is a violation of ethics, that is a violation of the oath of office. and you can't let that stand. in fact, if you were to say that it's okay, again, assuming that the facts are true and we get more information about it, then what is the president not permitted to do? is the president then permitted to call any leader in the world, any offer or inducement of aid or something else for them to do something damaging to a
potential opponent and/or extort in a manner of speaking and say, we will take this negative action on you unless you do this damaging thing to my opponent? if we don't say this is bad and wrong, whether or not it violates a criminal statute. and by the way, whether it violates a criminal statute or not, as we all know and i think was saying from the beginning, there's an office of legal counsel opinion that says that you cannot prosecute a president. so i appreciate the issue. i'll probably be spending a lot of time answering questions and speaking on my own podcast about the issue of wether or not a criminal statute an violated. but i want to be careful that we don't think that that's the only thi thing that matters here. there could be conspiracy to violate campaign finance laws. it depends what the other information is. it could be conspiracy to violate bribery statutes and/or extortion. it depends on what the quid pro quo was, if there was one. it depends on what was offered, how clear it was offered, and what the party's understandings are. i think we're way too early in the process to understand what those things are.
we are not too early in the process, to repeat again, to be very, very alarmed and in fact horrified that multiple outlets have now reported and confirmed that the president of the united states reached out to a foreign power for aid in winning an election next year. >> strategically, preet, what is the house intelligence committee need to do to try to get their hands on this whistleblower complaint? >> so i think adam schiff, as any member of congress, and we've seen this for the last couple of years, also, is a little bit of a disadvantage, because this president, with his counsel and the department of justice have taken the position basically on most things that they're not going to be transparent, even when they say there's nothing to see here, they're like, there's nothing to see here, but you also can't see it. it's a little bit difficult. what i do think bodes well for how adam schiff is conducting himself is, i think he's been strategically smart to this point. the only reason we know about any of this is because the exchange of letters between the inspector general for the intelligence community and adam
schiff have made that public. the reason we are all speaking in this way and lots of people are trying to follow up on the reporting is because he's undertaken an appropriate public strategy so that there's momentum to the issue. and people can express, you know, in the public and in the world generally, how strongly they want to have answers about this. because in congressional investigations, sometimes it's not the law that carries the day, but public sentiment. he has already subpoenaed the document, the complaint that they don't want to provide, and we'll see where it goes from here. but so far, he's been strategically smart. >> and we'll see if there's some type of audio tape of that conversation between the president of the united states and the president of ukraine. preet, thank you so much for joining us. >> thanks, wolf. just ahead, we'll have more on the breaking news. cnn has confirmed that president trump's pressure on ukraine's president to investigate joe biden's son prompted a whistleblower complaint. also, we're getting new additions into the situation
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we have more now from our legal and political experts on the breaking news that we're covering. let's go to susan hennessey right now. susan, as you know, "the wall street journal" is reporting that the president in a phone conversation over the summer with the president of ukraine raised the issue of joe biden's son, that ukraine should investigate what joe biden's son was up to in ukraine about eight times. if that's true, about eight times, we've confirmed that he raised the issue several times. how inappropriate would that be? >> so let's set aside for a minute the question of an explicit quid pro quo. for the president of the united states to pressure a foreign leader to investigate a united states citizen absent a criminal predicate when that country's law enforcement has determined it is not appropriate to investigate, for the purpose of benefiting him personallily and politically, and influencing a
u.s. election, that is an egregious civil liberties violation. it is impeachable conduct right then and there, full stop. then we go on to the aggregating factors of whether or not the president in the course of doing this actually threatened or suggested that he might withhold congressionally authorized funds to that foreign nation in order to effectively extort them into performing this civil liberties violation in order to benefit him politically for the purpose of influencing an election. the -- it's hard to fully capture the scope of how big a violation, how big a breach this would be. there's a little bit of a risk here of getting overly focused on sort of the specific criminal elements. was there a quid pro quo? did he make a promise. of course, we can infer quid pro quo from the context and circumstances, but honestly, that's almost besides the point. what we're seeing reported already is really beyond the pale. >> where's the legal line, jeffrey toobin, here? >> i don't know.
but what i keep thinking about is like what kind of country do we live in? like, could anyone even conceive of a president of the united states doing something like this? i couldn't. it didn't occur to me, even, you know, the possibility that this existed until this story arose. you know, i actually don't think, based on the "wall street journal's" story, that there is a crime in the sense of a violation of federal law, described there. this conduct, if true, is simply a violation of his oath of office. it is a violation of every norm, every rule. it is a complete abuse of power. it is an impeachable offense, because there is no requirement under the constitution for an actual crime to be committed. but i don't think this is a crime, as far as i -- as far as i can tell, based on the limited information available to me. >> maybe inappropriate, but
maybe not necessarily -- >> wolf, wait a second. inappropriate is not -- >> all right. >> inappropriate is like, you know, spitting on the sidewalk. you know, this is not inappropriate. >> it's beyond inappropriate. >> in my opinion. >> i'm not disagreeing. >> in my opinion. >> i'm not disagreeing with you at all. you know, it's interesting, we're getting a statement from joe biden himself, a lengthy statement. we've got a graphic. i want to put it up on the screen. part of the statement. here it is. if these reports are true, then there is truly no bottom to president trump's willingness to abuse his power and abase our country. this behavior is particularly abhorrent because it exploits the foreign policy of our country and undermines our national security for political purposes. it means that he used the power and resources of the united states to pressure a sovereign nation, a partner that is still under direct assault from russia, pushing ukraine to subvert the rule of law in the express hope of extracting a political favor. very tough statement. >> it is. and he goes on to say that the
full transcript of this conversation should be released and that, you know, the dni should stop stonewalling and they should make this whistleblower available to share this information with congress. so joe biden's not happy, as you might imagine. i'm sure it's not a comfortable place to be that realize that, you know, as toobin was just saying, that this president doesn't really care about what norms are. look, we would be alarmed if donald trump was using the justice department in the united states to investigate his political foes and using that his own sort of tool of political retribution, so obviously we should be alarmed that he's going to foreign governments and say, hey, by the way, would you mind looking into again this case you've already closed, this investigation you've already closed into the former vice president's son? >> shaun, you used to work in the intelligence community. how do you see it? >> well, look, i think what the president said today really kind of sheds a light on what his thinking is. when the president looks at this and says, it doesn't matter what
i said, in addition to what everyone else here has said, that really does matter, because what the president basically is saying is, if he is tying military aid to ukraine, reopening this investigation, what he's basically saying is, not only do i want you to reopen the investigation, but you've got to find something. we have to remember that ukraine's prosecutor has already looked into this. and has said very clearly, that he doesn't see any evidence of any wrongdoing on the part of vice president biden. so the president is aware of that. he knows what the answer is. and so if he actually said to the ukrainian president, look, i want you to open this investigation, i want you to look into this a little more, what he's saying is, you've got to come back with a better answer. certainly, it's not the case that ukraine can call up and say, hey, mr. president, we looked into it, we didn't find anything, now go ahead and put that check in the mail. so i think that this is -- as jeffrey said -- beyond inappropriate, it may not be a violation of law, but people really need to understand what
the president is doing here, because ultimately it will be the public who have to hold him accountable. >> and by the way, there's also a journalistic issue here. because now that this issue of biden's son and ukraine, we're going to -- a lot of journalists are going to feel obligated to start investigating this and talk about unanswered questions and then we're back into hillary clinton's e-mails again, to create false equivalency between a closed, ridiculous investigation in ukraine and the incredible string of corruption that's gone on in the trump administration. >> all right, everybody hold on for a moment. there's breaking news. the chairman of the joint chiefs, the secretary of defense, in a hastily arranged news conference are about to make a major announcement. >> we have just returned from the white house where we met with the president and his national security team to discuss options to deter iran's continued aggressive behavior. as we have seen, the iranian regime is waging a deliberate
campaign to destabilize the middle east and impose costs on international economy. in recent months, iran has increased its military activity through direct attacks and support to its proxies in the region. in the persian gulf and gulf of aym amman, iran has threatened the safe passage of ships by attacking commercial vessels and illegally seizing a british oil tanker. in yemen, iran is perpetuating war by providing sustained financial support and advanced weapons to the houthi insurgency. and on june 20th, iran shot down a united states unmanned aircraft that was flying over international water. despite repeated calls for president trump to begin diplomatic talks, iranian aggression continues to increase. in the face of this sustained maligned behavior, the united states and other countries have demonstrated great restraint in hopes that iranian leadership would choose peace and reverse
iran's steep decline into isolation and economic collapse. but the attack on september 14th against saudi arabian oil facilities represents a dramatic escalation of iranian aggression. it is clear, based on detailed exploitation conducted by saudi, united states, and other international investigative teams, that the weapons used in the attack were iranian produced and were not launched from yemen, as was initially claimed. all indications are that iran was responsible for the attack. the united states has a responsibility to protect our citizens and our interests in the region. and the international community has a responsibility to protect the global economy and international rules and norms. all of this is threatened by iran's significant escalation of violence. this week, i have been in dialogue with the saudi defense minister and other partners about this latest attack. to prevent further escalation, saudi arabia requested
international support to help protect the kingdom's critical infrastructure. the united arab emirates has also requested assistance. and response to the kingdom's request, the president has approved the deployment of u.s. forces, which will be defensive in nature, and primarily focused on air and missile defense. we will also work to accelerate the delivery of military equipment to the kingdom of saudi arabia and the uae to enhance their ability to defend themselves. the purpose of the additional defensive support we will provide is as follows. first, to send a clear message that the united states supports our partners in the region. second, to ensure the free flow of resources necessary to support the global economy. and third, to demonstrate our commitment to upholding the international rules-based order that have we long called on iran to obey. as the president has made clear, the united states does not seek conflict with iran. that said, we have many other military options available
should they be necessary. we urge the iranian leadership to cease their destructive and destabilizing activities and to move forward on a peaceful diplomatic path. general dunford and i will now take your questions. thank you. >> mr. secretary, thank you. you said air and missile defenses primarily. could you be a little more specific about, are you talking about patriot missiles and what number of troops are you talking about sending? >> yeah, so, bob, secretary pompeo just came back this morning and the saudis asked for enhanced defensive capabilities, so what we will do now is take the president's decision, i'll talk to centcom over the week, talk with our saudi partners and work the details of deployment and be able to share that you next week. >> so there have been no decision on specific numbers? >> we haven't decided on specific units. as the secretary said, capabilities to enhance their air, military, defense. it's now my job to come back to the secretary with details on what we believe would meet the saudis' requirements and is
sustainable. >> just a follow up. we're not talking about thousands of troops, we're talking about hundreds of troops? and also just to the secretary, do you think this is going to be enough or why do you think this would be enough to deter iran from further attacks? >> we think given the state of play now and based on whatever assessments we get from central command, what the joint staff and the chairman do and other discussions we're having with partners, we have to continually assess that. we think for now, that would be sufficient, but that doesn't mean there could be additional deployments as needed, based on the changing situation. >> and on troop numbers? >> i would say at this point, a moderate deployment, phil. we'll have more details for you next week, but not ready to share the details. >> but not thousands? thousands would be not moderate? >> that's fair to say, not thousands. >> lucas? >> are there any plans to hold the lincoln strike group any longer than currently planned?
>> we're not going to discuss any operational details at this time. >> barbara? >> either of you, does this now represent a full u.s. commitment to defend saudi arabia and to defend the oil infrastructure of saudi arabia and for general dunford in particular, what is your concern about the iranian ability to launch swarms of drones at very great distances without any air defense detection of this incoming attack? >> so, what i would say, barbara, in terms of what we're doing is we're contributing to saudi arabia's defense. we would be looking, as the secretary said, for other international partners to also contribute to saudi arabia's defense. and with regard to dealing with a specific threat like you just spoke about, you know, no single system is going to be able to defend against a threat like that, but a layered system of defensive capabilities would mitigate the risk of swarms of
drones or other attacks that may come from iran. >> i want to double down on the chairman's comments two ways. first of all, i agree, what we would be deploying to the theater would be what would be a necessary to help support and contribute to the kingdom's defenses. and at the same time, we are calling on many other countries who would also have these capabilities to do two things. first of all, stand up and condemn these attacks. and secondly, look to also contribute defensive capabilities so we could defend those things that i outlined in my remarks, whether it's the infrastructure in saudi arabia and then the broader issues with regard to freedom of the seas, navigation in the strait, and the international rules and norms that iran is clearly violating. >> so should we take this as, this is the president's decision about the response to the attack in saudi arabia and there's not a kinetic response that we should expect from the united states? >> this is first step we're taking with regard to responding to these attacks. and again, for the reasons i outlined, to help bolster the
defenses of vaish and provide equipment to both the saudis and the uae. second, to ensure the free flow of commerce through the strait. and third, to ensure we protect and defend the international rules-based order. and try and convince the iranians to get back on a diplomatic path. >> but the deployment of these kind of assets can often take days and weeks. should we expect any other kind of more immediate response from the united states? >> the united states has a robust presence in the gulf already. we bolstered it further in may, so we feel quite capability -- quite confident in terms of our own defensive posture and our ability to do anything else as necessary. but that's nowhere we are right now. right now we're focused on helping the saudis improve their defenses of that infrastructure. >> last question, nancy? >> mr. secretary, chairman dunford, you mentioned that the international community should get involved, but i know some allies have questioned whether the attacks were, in fact, launched in iraq. i was wondering if you could give us any sense if you would
declassify any evidence that shows that those attacks were launched from iran? and if you could give a sense of timeline in terms of when these deployments could start? >> first of all, the united states is on the ground in saudi arabia. the saudi arabians are leading this investigation. and we will keep them in lead with regard to the forensics. so we need to let that play out and let the evidence play out. with regard to the partners and allies, first of all, i would commend secretary pompeo. he's been on the phone and on the road the past few days, speaking to numerous allies and partners about this incident. and regardless of where you think it came from, the fact is, the saudis were attacked by both drones and cruise missiles and are still vulnerable to attack. so asking allies and partners to contribute resources to help defend themselves and defend those things i spoke about is i don't think is too much of an ask given the situation. >> and we'll work the details over the weekend and i'll come back early next week with some specific recommendations. >> can you confirm that the strike was launched from southwest iran?
>> thank you, everyone. >> so there's the secretary of defense and the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff with a major announcement that the united states is about to deploy troops to both saudi arabia and the united arab emirates, the uae, in the aftermath of the saudi attack on the oil facilities. the secretary of defense saying it is clear that the weapons were iranian produced, they were not launched, he said, from yemen. all indications, the secretary of defense, said, was that iran was responsible for the attack. barbara starr is joining us from the pentagon. barbara, they came to the briefing room pretty extraordinary development following over a meeting over at the white house, the national security counsel met to consider various steps. so they are about to deploy troops. about to deploy and give the saudis and the uae some more sophisticated air defense systems. these are significant developments, but they're only initial steps. >> well, that's right, wolf.
and what general dunford said, he will be back here next week to brief reporters on some of the details. he is calling ate moderate deployment of u.s. troops and weapons, saying that u.s. forces and air and missile defenses will be sent to protect saudi arabia and the united arab emirates. we should expect, i think it's fair to say, that this will involve patriot missiles, which we have seen repeatedly deployed to the middle east for so many years to defend against ballistic missiles. but this deployment is different. this, the secretary of defense, mark esper said, is helping saudi arabia improve their defenses. remember, the u.s. has sold them billions of dollars in weapons over the years. and after this attack, it showed the vulnerability. they need additional help now. they are asking for that help. this attack came against oil facility in northern saudi arabia. that they did not expect to be attacked by these iranian
weapons. it is requiring a very different look at saudi arabia's air defenses to protect its oil infrastructure and to protect the country. this attack is being viewed here at the pentagon very differently. swarms of cruise missiles, swarms of drones were able to get to these critical saudi oil facilities without any detection. and just yesterday, a senior official said to me, that is something that is very worrisome. that the iranians were able to pull this off without any detection that these missiles and drones were aiming at this critical oil facility. it disrupted oil markets, it was a very strategic attack. and it now basically internationalizes the iranian threat, because it impacts oil supplies to so many countries that are dependent on middle eastern-owned saudi oil. that is why you heard both secretary esper and general dunford just moments ago talk
about trying to get other countries involved. tonight, the trump administration has made this commitment to try and help saudi arabia and to protect the kingdom. but it's a modest effort right now and they want other countries to join in. the trump administration doesn't want to go this alone. you have heard the president talk already about wanting this to be a coalition effort. it remains to be seen, very much remains to be seen if other countries will join in with the u.s. >> the secretary of defense and the chairman of the joint chiefs have both said this is the first step that has been approved by the president of the united states and the national security council. stand by. i want to go to jim acosta, our white house correspondent. we know the president is not very happy when they have to deploy to the middle east and certainly doesn't like the fact that the u.s. has thousands of troops still in afghanistan and iraq, some troops still in
syria. >> reporter: right. >> he has approved the deployment of troops, maybe hundreds of u.s. troops to saudi arabia and the united arab emirates. >> we heard the president urging caution in the oval office when he was there with the australian prime minister. he essentially said that showing restraint is showing a sign of strength and the president is trying to get that point across, but underlining what barbara was staying a few moments ago when the secretary of defense and the chairman of the joint chiefs come out and talk about sending u.s. troops to saudi arabia as a defensive maneuver. it sounds as though this is an admission on the part of the trump administration, wolf, that the saudi air defenses are just not adequate at this point to repel these sorts of attacks from the iranians if they come in the future. and so this is the beginning and this is, i guess, the first step as the secretary of defense was saying just a few moments ago, but wolf, as you know, there is such a thing as mission creep and this is just the beginning and less of thousands of troops
and the chairman of the joint chiefs were just talking a moment ago and this has the potential to escalate over time and that, of course, is something that the president has been wary of. we've heard him talk about the campaign and in recent days he was going after one of his favorite senators up on capitol hill, south kwarl carcarolina l graham for wanting to start wars in the middle east and that's not where he's at right now ask certainly, wolf, this is a move in a much more militaristic direction by sending these defense forces, u.s. forces in a defense posture to that part of the world. >> and see the iranians have not hesitated to escalate this crisis over the past few weeks. stand by. we will have a lot more on all of the breaking news right after this. employees need more than just a paycheck. you definitely want to take advantage of all the benefits you can get. 2/3 of employees said that the workplace is an important source
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>> tonight southern texas recovering from heavy rains, as the rains slow the receding floodwaters revealing a glimpse of the damage. houston's fire department responding to over 2,000 emergency calls with sheriff's officers rescuing more than 400 people trapped in the water. friday morning people were still being rescued. this family living north of houston spent the night in their attic waiting for help. in kingwood, texas, john igo's house is in rubble on his front lawn. his family is drying out after escaping water that rose surprisingly fast. >> it came half way to the driveway. my wife, my child, my son and the dog had to swim out. >> the national weather service reporting dramatic differences in rain totals with the remnants of tropical depression imelda and paris county, at least two people are dead including one man who reportedly drowned after he drove his car into this
flooded intersection. >> we always tell folks turn around, don't drown. in this case it seems he didn't heed that warning. >> chaos on the major highways as hundred of vehicles are abandoned, swallowed by the water. police say they've towed more than 1600 cars and are working to reunite them with their owners. >> interstate 10 shut down over the san jacinto river. a loose barge crashed into the bridge causing severe damage, smashing the support beams. underpasses under feet of roads like this also cracking to the pressure. some texans who lived through hurricane harvey's devastation just two years ago starting over again. >> it's heartbreaking, you know? to lose everything twice. >> you can really understand the pain tonight, wolf. some people haven't had the chance to go back in their homes and you can see the water at that door right now. the good news right now is there are no rescues currently going on, but if there's a bit of bad news we are told the water behind us could have another two
feet to crest before this is all over. it will be a long few hours for the people who live in this area. >> good luck to all of them. ryan young on the scene for us, thank you very much and to our viewers, thank you very much for watching. i'm wolf blitzer in "the situation room." erin burnett "out front" starts right now. "out front" next, breaking news, cnn learning president trump pressed a foreign government president to investigate joe biden's son not just once, but about eight times. biden goes all in ramping up resources in iowa. his campaign insists it's not a must win, but can he win the nominati nomination without it? the pentagon just announcing the u.s. is sending more troops to the middle east after an attack on saudi arabia's oil. let's go out front. >> good evening. i'm erin burnett. out front tonight, the breaking news. trump asking a foreign leader for joe biden. the whistle-blower complaint about an