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tv   Anderson Cooper 360  CNN  January 3, 2020 6:00pm-7:00pm PST

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chris cuomo is off tonight. next, what comes next in the world in the wake of the killing of qasem soleimani. clarissa ward said his killing marks an inflexion point for the region. leon panetta goes further and calls this the closest we've been to war with iran in four decades. today the president said this -- he said we took action last night to stop a war, did not take action to start the war. iran begs to differ calling the strike on soleimani an act of war, vowing revenge on the strike. and tehran has numerous ways for making life difficult for america and allies.
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we begin with the latest on the decision to take him down. cnn's boris sanchez joins us with that. what do we know about how the strike came about, the details of it? >> reporter: we're told it had been -- the president had been going over all potential options to respond to the strike by that iranian-backed militia. we're told there was a robust debate, president trump being confronted with the harsh realities of going to war with iran. we're told the president was questioned on his policy in the middle east and how he would retaliate to retaliation from iran. the president, we're told, was clearly aware of the gravity of
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what he was facing, but he was adamant, even defensive that this had to be done and we heard that today when he spoke with the press saying this should have been carried out a long time ago and that he's trying to prevent a war, not start one. >> has the president said anything about next step, about possible retaliation by the iranians? >> he's obviously aware of the gravity of the situation. this is probably the most consequential step he's taken when it comes to foreign policy in his tenure as president. we're told the president actually skipped golf today, breaking from his usual routine. the president uncertain about how iran will respond. the range of options are broad but the president talked about the u.s. military and how prepared they are to respond in any attack. the president say if any americans are threatened, he's ready and prepared to take whatever action is necessary.
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>> the white house is also saying that the president is also still open to diplomacy with iran. is that right? >> reporter: this is really one of the surprising things that we heard today from robert o'brien, the national security adviser on a call with reporters, he told us that president trump is still open to a dialogue with tehran, one without preconditions. of course it would be shocking if iran came to the table to have a dialogue with the united states at this point. the administration had been trying to engage on some level for months with iran basically balking, saying they would not speak to the united states unless some sort of sanctions relief was provided. it would be absolutely surreal to see iran come to the table now considering trump had one of their top generals executed. anderson? >> boris sanchez, appreciate it. the president did not notify the four top democrats in the so-called gang of eight before launching the drone strike, speaker of the house pelosi and senate minority leader chuck
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schumer. presidents until this president havetraditionally notified top lawmakers. now senators are upset about that. joining us is senator richard blumenthal, democrat of connecticut. president trump said he ordered this to, quote, stop a war. is that your view of the strike? >> what really alarms me is this step clearly seems to be an escalation towards war. in fact, the administration seems to be stumbling into war head first without a strategy that has been defined or communicated to congress or the public. and what's also alarming is the lack of consultation with our allies, which further creates the danger that these additional strikes, which have been reported tonight, will lead to
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the misperception, perhaps m miscalculation that there will be continuing escalation. so rather than stopping a war, what is so deeply alarming here is the fact that the administration seems to be moving toward it. >> there's plenty of people once you learn about soleimani and you hear about he has the blood of american soldiers on his hands, many of them in iraq through funding these shi'a militias, he has the blood of probably hundreds of thousands of people on his hands in syria and iraq of civilians, what is strong with the administration killing him? >> there is no question, anderson, that soleimani is responsible for sending to their grave countless americans. he has american blood on his hands. he has real enmity toward the united states. but the question is why now.
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and we lack facts because the administration has failed to come to congress, as it must do, we need the american public and the congress to be fully and fairly informed. and let's remember as well that as mythically powerful as he may have been, he is one general. there will be somebody else to replace him, in fact already has been. and iran is going to use its proxies, its surrogates, its militia around the region and maybe the globe to continue fighting this malign war of terror. it is terror war and he was a terrorist, no question about it. but the question is what the ramifications will be, what retaliation will be. and it will be probably asymmetric to disrupt the global economy and the world's oil supply. we need to be prepared with proportionality and restraint to
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meet that retaliation. >> the secretary of defense esper is planning to give a detailed briefing to all members of congress about the soleimani strike i think it's next week. what gaps does he need to fill in for you about this? >> the question of why now and what's next. there's no clear path here, no apparent strategy. the administration seems to be lurching from day to day. reports tonight of these militia strikes create additional dangers of miscalculation and misperception on both sides. that's classically the way wars begin tragically and unfortunately, and the administration also owes it to do a public hearing. i think as a member of the armed services committee, i'm going to be calling for secretary esper to be coming to the committee, talking in public under oath about what is the rational and the strategy here and what is the path forward and the end game. that's the kind of gap that needs to be filled.
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>> the times, "the new york times" is reporting now, and i'm quoting, one defense department official speaking on conditionin of anonymity said there was nothing new in the threat tre presented by the iranian general. if that ends up being the case, that there wasn't a major attack, very major attack imminently about to be planned and it was just soleimani, he planned actions against the united states and others on a daily basis. if there wasn't something specific, intelligence, would that matter to you? >> it would matter if there was no specific intelligence indicating an imminent threat. certainly that was the public rationa rationale. but this administration is hardly known for its consistent veracity and that's a very troubling threat to our credibility around the world and most especially to our allies. we have rarely, if ever, in
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fighting terrorism acted without our allies at our side. they have had our back. and now the alienation of them, not just our potential ejection from iraq is a very grave threat to our being successful. i emphasize about congress. the president needs congress, more important, he needs the american people to support him. there are very few wars that our nation cannot win. in fact, i would say no war that america cannot win if our people are united. winning a divided nation is much more difficult and only congress can give the support. we have an obligation to exercise oversight, checks and balances. it's our constitutional job. we need to do it. >> senator blumenthal, appreciate it. thank you very. >> thank you. >> we mentioned leon panetta at the top, cia director and few
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people bring the perspective he brings in moments like this. i spoke to him just before air time. secretary panetta, what's your reaction to the killing of qasem soleimani? >> i think it's important not to mourn the death of general soleimani because he was a bad actor and somebody who was involved in killing thousands of innocent people, as well as u.s. military personnel. but i think the principle question is whether or not the killing of soleimani has increased or lessened the chances of war. and i think frankly they've increased the chances of war and the chances that iran will now respond with a -- what it calls a crushing response. >> in terms of a response, you're not talking about a ground war the likes of which we
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saw in iraq with u.s. forces. you're talking about more asymmetrical strikes by iran in a variety of places potentially? >> look, i think we're now in a cycle of punch and counterpunch. i think to a large extent both countries failed in the way they approached each other. they both thought they could bully each other to somehow get them to do what they wanted to do. and that just did not happen. and so the end result now is that we're in this cycle of punch and counterpunch, in which one side hits back and the other side responds. how long that cycle goes on and whether it ultimately leads to a full-scale war is the question that i think concerns everyone. >> if you're going to do something like this, you would think any administration would
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try to kind of, you know, think two or three steps beyond this to prepare. do you have the sense that there is that level of preparation with this, or is it too soon to tell? >> well, it obviously raises concerns about whether or not there's a process in the white house to fully evaluate the consequences of taking this kind of action. normally in the presidencies i've been involved with when you face something like this, it goes through the national security process. you evaluate different options. you evaluate the consequences of those options. ultimately it's the president's decision, but it's usually an informed decision. whether or not that takes place in this white house is difficult to know because it's pretty clear that the consequences of killing somebody like general soleimani would clearly have
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repercussions in iran and would clearly lead to some kind of response. >> former obama administration officials have said that discussions to take out soleimani never reached yonbeyo an operational phase. why was that? what's your memory of the rationale? >> well, i don't -- frankly, i don't remember any discussion about, you know, potentially targeting general soleimani because, you know, we're dealing with iran. there are a number of generals that operate in their military, just as there are a number of generals in north korea, in russia and in china. so you focus on the political leadership to determine whether or not you're going to be able to deal with that country or not. you don't focus on whether or not you can start killing individual generals. that's not the case. the people we did focus on killing were the terrorists who
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were involved obviously in 9/11 because they were clearly devoted to killing americans. and that's -- those were the targets that we cared about. >> there are many reports, soleimani is said to have had the blood of hundreds, if not several thousand americans, on his hands in iraq specifically, that they provided -- through him they pro vivided training, y provided equipment for explosive devices that militias used in and other forces used against american forces in iraq. so would you consider soleimani a terrorist? >> look, there's no question he's a bad actor and he was involved in those kinds of attacks, but the real question that i think everyone has to ask is whether or not we have
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increased the chances of war with iran as a result of what happened. and i don't think there's any question the chances for war are more serious now than they have been in the last 40 years, that we could ultimately escalate what's happening now into a full-scale war with iran. >> secretary panetta, i appreciate your time. thank you. >> thank you. >> there's a lot more in the second live hour of "360." we have some top military minds joining us with their perspective on the strike and how the u.s. might prepare on what could be the next steps from iran. and a live report from the only western tv crew in iran tonight. that and more when we continue.
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i'm finding it hard to stay on a faster laptop could help. plus, tech support to stay worry free woory free.... boom! boom! get free business day shipping... office depot, officemax and we've been talking about what comes next now that a u.s. drone strike has taken the life of a key irani general. the president says he launched the strike to stop a war, not start one. iran is saying the opposite. a third contingent of u.s.
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troops is heading to the region. it could all get dicey very soon, including in iraq where americans are being told to leave. a lot of media outlets are reporting on what seems to be another air strike. do we have any independent confirmation? who allegedly was the target? >> reporter: well, we don't have independent confirmation of this alleged air strike, anderson, but what we do know is that the popular mobilization forces, the umbrella group made up mostly the iranian-backed shi'a militias here put out a statement saying one of their convoys was targeted in an air strike in the town of taji in the town of baghdad on saturday. they say none of their leaders were in that convoy but it was a medical unit that was hit and they say that several of their members were killed and wounded in this alleged air strike.
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now, we have no indication, no confirmation that this was a u.s. air strike at this point but of course this is coming at such a tense time. everyone here is on edge. really expecting further escalation, anderson. >> iraq is obviously incredibly complex place with a lot of different competing groups and ideologies. what's the reaction been kind of across iraq today to the killing of soleimani? >> well, you know, anderson, mixed reaction as you would expect but for the most part, everyone has been witnessing this rising tensions that we have seen over the past few months between the united states and iran. but at the same time, i don't think anyone was expecting this kind of unprecedented escalation. so you've got people here in a state of shock, not just in iraq, of course also in the region. also there's a lot of anger here. while you have some who are obviously happy to see the end
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of qasem soleimani, at the same time, there's scores to settle here. and essentially, a top commander in what is considered to be the iraqi security forces and this is going to have major consequences here. you have the iraqi government caught between two allies, between iran and the united states, pretty much backed into a corner to try and act now because we're seeing more and more calls in the past 24 hours pushing the iraqi government to reassess its relationship with the united states, to reassess the presence of u.s. forces here, to reassess its security agreement with the united states and that certainly is going to be the main focus of the
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parliamentary session, that exceptional session expected to take place on sunday, anderson. >> thanks very much. appreciate it. >> richard blumenthal said the irani response would likely be asymmetric, in other words, not conventional looking and potentially involving terrorist attacks on soft targets or cyber warfare. whatever form it may take, it will be a challenge american allies will have to be prepared to meet. i want to talk about that our guests. and joining us is peter bergen, author of identify trump and his generals, the cost of chaos." your new piece is titled president trump's biggest foreign policy crisis yet. peter, why do you say this at
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this stage? >> the iranians began sort of harassing america and its allies with things like shooting down an american drone, attacking saudi oil facilities, restarting their enrichment program, not to the point for nuclear weapons but certainly past what was allowed in the agreement. so i this i that's point one. and then point two is by taking the strike against soleimani and everybody's agreeing this was a very bad guy, you know, what are the results that we're going to see? and really no one knows, probably including the iranians they're probably having some of the same discussions that we're having here on cnn and other fora to think about what are their options that the iranians might exploit. and they have proxies in syria, iraq, yemen, lebanon, they have one of the more virulent terror groups in the world, hezbollah, which has branches in latin america and has attempted a terrorist attack in washington,
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d.c. so they have a lot of options on the table. what can they do? at the end of the day, anderson, i think neither iran nor the united states want a shooting war because the outcome of that would be so -- would be bad for all concerned. >> general clark, do you think it was at this time appropriate, wise, to kill soleimani? >> well, i understand i think how the administration or least president trump must have looked at it. look at it this way -- iran's under severe economic sanctions. there's demonstrations and anti-government actions all over iran. they're coming at us militarily because they can't do anything economically against our economic sanctions. and so i guess maybe to speculate, maybe the administration thought, bang, hit them hard and that will knock them right out of the arena and they'll come crawling to us. but, you know, nothing in 40 years of our struggle against
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this regime has ever given us any indication that when you apply force they ever back off. they took a million casualties in the iran/iraq war. they used children as martyr brigades to walk through mine fields. they retaliated against iraqi chemical weapons with their own chemical weapons. so this is a tough bunch of people. soleimani was a bad guy. better to have him out of there. but what's the price and how does it relate to the strategy? this is the thing that so many of us are trying to understand. if you want the diplomacy to restart, then how is it that you talked your way into this knockout blow against soleimani and maybe some of his lieutenants? most military organizations, and we don't think iran is any different, if you kill the commander, the number two guy, the number three guy, the number four guy, they step up. maybe they're not as good the first day, but within a couple
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of weeks the organization picks itself back together. and what nation have we seen in recent times when it was attacked people said, oh, okay, okay, they're attacking us, let's surrender to them. no. usually the population gets mad and supports the government. so this is a hard strategy to understand right now. i'm hoping the administration has a strategy. >> commander liphold, how do you see it? >> right now, anderson, i think this was taken similar to what we always wondered. post- 9/11 we said how did this happen, why didn't we do anything to prevent it? we had enough intelligence and indicators that iran was planning something beyond that little run they done the embassy to something much larger. i think we took a look at iran and said there's no such thing as a non-state sponsor of terrorism. this guy is the number one fomenter of terror in the region
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and we took an aim at him and took him out. if not now when? there was never going to be a good time to -- why should we be operating in a defensive posture? we have put up with over 600 americans dead and essentially nothing done by the previous administration, two of them as a matter of fact. now this administration finally said we're not going to afford that anymore. we have drawn lines, we're going to stand by them, there are going to be consequences and there have been. >> i want to continue the discussion. we've got to take a quick break. we have a lot more to come, including what the president's strategy might be now that he's launched an air strike against soleimani. we'll be right back. sh way longer than detergent alone. pour a cap of downy unstopables into your washing machine before each load and enjoy fresher smelling laundry for up to 12-weeks.
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. we're talking tonight about the future of u.s. security in the wake of the air strike that killed qasem soleimani. back with us general wesley clark, retired navy commander kirk liphold and peter bergen. general clark, just in terms of what u.s. forces and installations and civilians should be prepared for in the
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region and elsewhere, what happens now? >> well, we'll tighten up security, we'll be working with host nation governments and their security forces and we'll deploy additional intelligence assets. we'll be on guard on this. these are the purely defensive measures. we've had this in place since the first bin laden strikes in the 1990s. we're much better at defending ourselves now than we were then so we've got a reasonable chance. there's nothing that's going to stop a couple of missiles flying into the american embassy in baghdad if that's what the rackies -- rac iraqis -- we don't have any anti-missile defense system if we got an early warning, maybe we would teake action. we're going to certainly be more alert. we're reinforcing our troop
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presence so we can deploy security forces these are pru prudent measures tactically. but the question is strategic, where is this going? >> commander liphold, where do you this i this nk this is goin vis-a-vis iran and iraq as well? does this lead to deescalation or -- it apeepears to be escalating right now. >> i think what you're seeing is what we would call an operational pause. the united states is going to continue to reinforce the area around the embassy and in our forces in the region itself in case there is a buildup. i think that the yawiranians ar going to look and say this was a terrible blow to us but what kind of fight do we want to get in and what fight might
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jeopardize the livelihood of the mullahs themselves. i think you will see a reaction by them. in regard to general clark's supposition that there may be missiles shot, if anything like that were to come out of iran, that's an indication that they want war. at that point in time, we have to look at what our options are available in order to prevent it. let's hope it doesn't get to that point. >> peter, both presidents obama and george w. bush, it's reported, had opportunities to strike at soleimani. certainly george w. bush reportedly did but chose not to fearing that at that point there were a lot of american troops in iraq and they would be targeted through the shi'a militia forces that soleimani was funneling wpwp
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-- weaponry and money toward. >> this goes to some of the schizophrenia we've seen from the president. on one hand he's saying rest get out of the middle east and then he's sending more troops. and he's saying let's negotiate with the taliban and then he says we shouldn't. he goes back and forth and he's consistently inconsistent. it's a problem for our allies and our enemies. both want to know really what our red lines are. one red line he has established to his credit here is if an american life is killed or we have american servicemen lives on the line, he will respond and i think that's appropriate and that is defensive and i think that obviously killing soleimani, hundreds of americans have died and that's appropriate. the question is what next. and i think that even in this area he's being schizophrenic because the state department is suddenly talking about having negotiations with the iranians, which is the last thing they want to have right now.
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so what is our policy? going back to what general clark has said, what is our strategy here? it's not clear. >> commander lippold, do you think it's clear? >> i think right now we're still developing the strategy. to be quite honest, anderson, i think the long-term impact of what this operation did, especially because it's a clearly a step up in taking someone out as high order as soleimani but by the same token, if not now when. sometimes you have to bring it right down to the tactical level. we wanted to take him for a long time, previous administrations have been hesitant to do that. at this point in time, president trump said we're going to make a decision, we're going to do it. yes, there may be and will be consequences as a result, we will deal with this pem to peter bergen's point, i think there's still going to be negotiations that will go on.
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both sides will seek an offramp so we do not have a full-blown war in the middle east. >> just ahead, i'll talk to retired military intelligence officer and trump critic about even why some anti- trutrump conservatives are praising the president for the air strike that killed soleimani. ♪ work so hard ♪ give it everything you got ♪ strength of a lioness ♪ tough as a knot ♪ rocking the stage ♪ and we never gonna stop ♪ all strength, no sweat. ♪ just in case you forgot ♪ all strength. ♪ no sweat secret. all strength. no sweat.
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the air strike president trump ordered that led to the death of a notorious iranian
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general who divided americans has provided the president the unique opportunity to earn applause from those who do not approve of his administration. lieutenant ralph peters serves as a strategic analyst and author. colonel, as someone who has been critical of this president, what do you make of his decision to take out soleimani? >> i think it was absolutely the right decision and i was disappointed from the reaction from the other side of the aisle today, which seemed awfully petty. general soleimani was -- he was the ace, the ace of spades that our enemies in the middle east had. soleimani was a visionary strategist, he was a brilliant mastermind of terror. here's a man who with a paucity of resources was able to build while fighting the u.s. military, however
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surreptitiously, he was able to build the most expansive persian empire in 25 years. iran's influence stretches from western afghanistan, touches central asia, goes west through iraq, syria, lebanon, through the mediterranean sea, down to gaza. it's a remarkable achievement and we are very, very, very lucky this man is dead. i, for one, am grateful and have no reservations about it. >> he is a general but he is a terrorist. he has killed hundreds of -- or is responsible ultimately for the killing and murder of hundreds of american forces, american men and women but also probably hundreds of thousands of others in syria and beyond. >> that's an absolutely critical point that people forget. he's got the blood of thousands of americans dead and wounded on his hands but plenty of iraqi blood and certainly an
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incredible amount of syrian blood as he and the russians have supported and at times spearheaded assad's campaign against the civilians of syria. don't forget here is a man dedicated not on to killing americans burr to tt to the desn of israel. during his rampage, we've seen up to 40,000 missiles built up, an estimated 10,000 in gaza and in israel. i just cannot understand how people can be reluctant to see this guy go. you know, we've all heard a lot of hysteria it today. we've heard a replacement has already been named. you can't replace high school with a high school science teacher. he may be impossible to replace. as far as repercussions go, yes, there will be some.
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you've also heard the question all day, are we safer now? no. but in the mid to long term we may well be. so iran has to respond but it's not going to be world war iii. there are ways to deal with it. in the meantime, we have taken just prevent -- we have inflicted justice on a monster and we're very, very fortunate that he is dead. >> i guess the question is strategically does it make sense to have done is it now. i understand why target this person and the justice to it from a strategic standpoint, does it make sense in the region? >> i suggest killing him 15 years agriculture when he was killing americans in iraq and maiming them. actions will have consequences. this action will have consequences but inaction also has consequences and the consequence of inaction 15 years ago, 10 years ago, 5 years ago was dead americans, dead
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seeshianseesh i -- syrians, attacks on israel. you're right, this charismatic man had incredible influence in iran, often considered the number two most powerful man in theory kri. in some fields of operations, probably the most powerful man. in the short term you'll see death to america protests. the hard core acty americans will rally to him. in the long term we don't know exactly what will happen. somebody said to this network today, we're now in unchartered waters. when have we been in chartered waters? as yogi bera said, the hardest thing to predict is the future. we cannot say where we'll be in five years, but we can now say with certainty that soleimani is dead and we have many a brave
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american. >> colonel ralph peters. i appreciate your perspective. thank you. >> coming up, how the white house is defying a court order and withholding 20 emails on ukraine aid. unstopables in-wash scent booster ♪ downy unstopables
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late impeachment breaking news. it centers on internal administration emails and comes in the wake of a prior batch that provided a clear and unfiltered look at the freeze on
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aid to ukraine and the president's direct involvement in it. "the new york times" is reporting on another batch we've yet to see that the white house is fighting despite a court order to withhold. eric lipton shares a by line in the story. walk us through your reporting. who are these emails between, and why is the white house holding them? >> these are emails between an aide to the chief of staff. his name is robert blair. he works directly for mick mulvaney, and he was corresponding with a gentleman named michael duffey, who works in the office of management and budget. they were writing back and forth this summer discussing the president's order that they put a hold on aid to ukraine. so charlie savage, my colleague from the washington bureau of the "new york times" asked for all correspondence between rob blair and michael duffey, and rob blair from the chief of staff's office and michael duffey from the office and management of budget relating to the freeze. so there was a freedom of information request, and then there was litigation to try to
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force the white house to release these emails. there was a deadline set for 5:00 p.m. this evening for them to release the materials. >> so a judge has said that they should release them. the white house, what is their argument? is this the argument essentially saying these are internal communications and those should remain private in order to, in the future, allow people to have a free exchange of ideas? >> well, the judge ordered the white house to conduct an expeditious search to review the materials and gave them a deadline of 5:00 p.m. then when we were anticipating some form of documents, we thought -- we knew they would be heavily redacted, but we anticipated getting at least some emails. instead we got a one-page letter that said there are 20 emails that have been identified that represent approximately 40 pajz of documents, and we are withholding all of them because we consider them to be privileged, a, because they are deliberationle. they consider -- they consist of, you know, staff going back
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and forth, contemplating what they should do. and, secondly, they involve presidential communications, so therefore they're not subject to release under the freedom of information act. >> so what happens now? >> well, the "times" can then go back to the judge in the federal court and say, you know, at least some of this material should be subject to release, and there's an urgent need for the public to have access to this material so that it can -- you know, it can evaluate just what was going on in the white house in this period when, you know, we're moving towards a trial in the senate. so there's an urgent public interest in this matter, so i expect the court should move pretty quickly to take this up. >> there was new reporting that broke yesterday from the group just security that showed some of the emails the white house had previously redacted regarding ukraine. they got a look at what was behind some of the redactions and. they reviewed some of the parts that were redacted, and they were pretty damning. is this in any way a response to
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that? >> there's been, you know, a steady stream of things that are coming out and different freedom of information requests that are pending. so this is like the fourth batch of emails that are in play right now. so the center for public integrity has gotten about 400 pages worth of documents. american oversight, a nonprofit group, has gotten a certain number. but most of the emails so far have come from the department of defense. so the "times" asked for emails that have to do with the office of management and budget and the white house. so it's a slightly harder thing to get because the white house has some exemptions from the freedom of information agent. the bottom line, there is a trickle of emails emerging that show there was a great -- this intense dispute going on about whether or not it's legal to be holding up the release of this aid. we've seen some of those emails as well. what we were blocked from getting tonight were emails that were entirely within the white house itself. >> i want to bring in our legal
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analyst, carrie cordero on the phone. carrie, i'm wondering what your reaction is to this reporting. is the white house's argument valid to withhold all the emails, you know, not even considering redactions? >> well, i think it's consistent with the positions that they've been taking in their congressional interactions. so in other words, i think if they started to release -- what they might be concerned about is if they started to release these pursuant to foia, then they would have to release more information that they don't want to release to congress. so i think just following this quickly as it's tracking, i think it's possible that their foia litigation strategy might be related to their congressional strategy, and what's very clear is that they don't want the content of these emails to get out. >> but is that legal? i mean is that -- would a judge ultimately say you have to -- you have to at least, you know, turn over something? >> well, we're going to find out. i mean this is going to test the
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bounds of foia litigation. i think from "the new york times" report, it looks like the general counsel, dave mcgraw, and "the new york times" obviously has a history with being able to push through these types of conflicts with the government. and so they're going to take this as far as they can, i think, to see if they can justify breaking through the white house's obfuscation on it. >> so, eric, this goes back to court. i mean the "times" is going to continue on this? >> yeah, that's right. i mean one of the complicating factors is that the white house itself has this somewhat different status than the rest of the federal government, similar to congress. i mean congress is actually exempt from foia. the office of management and budget is part of the white house, but it is not exempt from foia. so that's why this is a little more complicated than a standard freedom of information lawsuit. >> is there any sense of how long this process would take? i mean you go back to court.
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is it all on a rush theed sched or could it be months and months and years? >> it's unclear. if the senate were to vote with 51 votes to demand documents and witnesses, then i think there's a pretty good -- and then it would be up to perhaps even the supreme -- you know, the supreme court justice to decide on this if there's a dispute. but i mean the senate could ask for documents or witnesses, and so that would be a faster route to get these documents most likely than a newspaper suing in federal court. >> eric lipton, fascinating reporting. appreciate it. carrie cordero as well. we'll be right back. fact is, every insurance company hopes you drive safely.
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the news continues. i want to hand things over to victor blackwell for "cnn tonight." >> announcer: this is cnn breaking news. this is "cnn tonight." i'm victor blackwell sitting in for don lemon. breaking news. reports of a new air strike near baghdad targeting a militia convoy. cnn has not confirmed those reports. there's been no claim of responsibility. we'll bring you more details as soon as we get them. but we are learning much more tonight about the u.s. air strike that killed iran's top general. tensions are rising as the pentagon orders roughly 3,000 additional troops to the region and iran vows harsh revenge. iran's ambassador t