tv CNN Tonight With Don Lemon CNN January 3, 2020 7:00pm-8:00pm PST
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 to the u.n.
tells cnn this tonight. >> we shall not just close our eyes to what happened last night. definitely there will be revenge. there will be harsh revenge. last night they started a military war by assassinating -- by an act of terror against one of our top generals. so what else can we expect iran to do? we cannot just remain silent. we have to act, and we will act. >> and tonight the president bluntly tells his supporters in miami this. >> he was planning a very major attack, and we got him. >> but as the world watches and waits, the question tonight is, what is the next move? will iran get revenge? what could that revenge look like? attacks in the region, cyberattacks anywhere in the world? will thousands more american troops be a deterrent? and as the state department urges american citizens to get out of iraq immediately, what
will the america first, go it alone president do now that he needs support from allies? democrats are questioning whether -- >> -- took action last night to stop a war. we did not take action to start a war. >> democrats are questioning whether the administration has a plan tofor what comes next. >> this is how you -- when nobody seeks war, end up in a war. so if the administration has a broader strategy, they have yet to articulate it, have yet to explain to the congress why that strategy lacks the support of our own allies. >> at this crucial moment for the trump presidency, we are covering every aspect of this story from iraq to washington. jomana karadsheh is in baghdad. nick paton walsh is in beirut. pamela brown and alex marquardt are in washington. jomana, let me start with you. we're hearing reports of air strikes on iranian backed forces
in iraq. what can you tell us? >> reporter: well, victor, we have not been able to independently verify these reports. what we do have is a statement from the popular mobilization forces -- that is the umbrella group that is made up mainly of the iranian-backed shia militias here -- and they say that one of their convoys was targeted in an air strike to the north of baghdad in the early hours saturday, just a few hours ago. they say that none of their leaders were killed in this alleged air strike. they say that it was a medical unit that was in that convoy and that a number of casualties resulted in this air strike. now, just to give you an idea of how tense the situation is here, how everyone is really on edge, a short time after the reports of that air strike came out, there were also rumors circulating that a senior figure within these iranian-backed shia militias was killed in the air
strikes. the militia leader himself had to come out in a statement denying that he was killed. you've got everyone here on edge, anticipating and expecting further escalation, victor. >> a lot of confusion and questions there on the ground. alex, let's go to you in washington. you're getting new details tonight about the drone strike that killed soleimani. what are you learning about how all this went down? >> reporter: new details and new answers to the big question of why now. i mean this is a guy who has been well known to the united states for decades. this is someone who engaged in a campaign of terror against u.s. forces across the middle east. u.s. officials accuse him of killing hundreds of american service members, of maiming thousands more. so what the senior most members of the trump administration have been -- is why kill qasem soleimani now. in one word, the answer is imminent. an imminent series of attacks
that the intelligence community, according to secretary of state mike pompeo and others, say that they saw coming adrcross a numb of different countries in the region. we are hearing from the chairman of joint chiefs of staff, general mark milley. he said there was compelling intelligence that soleimani was planning a significant campaign of violence. now, one of the other questions -- and this is something that we're really hearing from democrats, is what is the plan going forward. what strategy does the trump administration have to deal with the consequences of this? now, we haven't gotten a direct answer to that, but milley did respond to those accusations that they aren't taking into account that significant level of risk. milley said today, telling reporters including cnn's barbara star, damn right there is risk. we would be culpably negligent, though, if no action is taken.
they said according to milley they understood the consequences of taking out someone as important as qasem solemani, but the risk of inaction exceeded the risk of action. >> we also heard from the president earlier today about the strike. let's watch. >> he was plotting attacks against americans, but now we've ensured that his atrocities have been stopped for good. they are stopped for good. he was planning a very major attack, and we got him. >> pamela, as alex pointed out, the major term here being used, imminent. but how long has president trump been weighing this decision? >> reporter: well, it's interesting because this administration has been weighing this decision for several months. in fact, the president's former national security adviser john bolton said this was a long time in the making. and even past administrations have looked at taking out soleimani. he's been a designated foreign terrorist by the u.s. more than ten years ago he was
designated that way. so this is certainly something the administration has been weighing for some time, we're told. but the officials -- publicly administration officials are saying what sort of moved the needle was this imminent threat from soleimani. they're not saying exactly what that is. robert o'brien, the current national security adviser, would only say that soleimani had been traveling in the region in recent days, concocting this plan to target u.s. interests, including military personnel and diplomats. and i'm told from sources that when top national security officials visited the president at mar-a-lago earlier this week, including mike pompeo, this is really when the wheels were set in motion. they presented this new intelligence to the president, and in the last couple of days, the president made this decision to move ahead with this strike. but i can tell you in talking to sources, there is real concern about how iran is going to respond to this. people i've been speaking with say it's not a matter of if but when. you heard the president say
today that this act, this strike was meant to prevent a war. but behind the scenes, there is a lot of concern about how iran is going to respond to this and whether there will be further escalation. >> nick, to you, and i want to stay with this question about an imminent attack. the administration says this killing was to prevent planned attacks. but how does this deter future attacks by iran or even iranian proxies or prevent the specific imminent attack that the administration says was planned? he's one man. powerful man at the head of the quds force, but how does this prevent that imminent attack? >> reporter: well, until we have real transparency over exactly what information u.s. officials were weighing before the strike, we won't know whether removing qasem soleimani prevents the key decision maker from implementing a plan that couldn't have happened without his presence or whether actually by killing if you like the chief of a plan
like that, you simply foment further anger, still allow what he was already planning to occur, and possibly implement other plans going forward as well. so that's a key thing. we probably won't get much transparency at the moment. one interesting thing a senior state department official suggested in a briefing a matter of hours ago was that they were concerned about possible attacks against u.s. military and diplomatic personnel in iraq, syria, and here, lebanon, as well. now, while there are diplomatic facilities in iraq, military personnel in syria, here in lebanon, there's only really much one diplomatic presence, not much military, and that's the embassy here in beirut. so you get a sort of slight steer as to where they may be more concerned things possibly could have played out. and the fact that they referred to three separate countries suggest that qasem soleimani in his travels was meeting a number of individuals and leaving u.s. officials deeply concerned. i have to point out if it is indeed the case that u.s. officials had this much knowledge about his future
plans, it's extraordinary breach of the secrecy, privacy and planning of what frankly should be iran's most secretive individual, and the fact that he was taken out just outside the main airport of the capital of the country, he's supposed to frankly feel second safest in, iraq, is another extraordinary breach of iran's operational security. but does this make the region safer? highly difficult to see that. i think the calculus given this was a more calculated decision, it seems u.s. officials are briefing that by the trump administration is they simply felt taking him off the board made u.s. assets safer than leaving him in play. they may have weighed the fact that whatever chaos response iran was label able to unleash be the same the u.s. is experiencing over the past months. >> the discussion of making the region safer, we know thousands more u.s. troops are being deployed to the 345emiddle east. alex, what are we hearing from the pentagon and their role there and the expectation of the effectiveness of those troops as
a deterntd? >> reporter: we got word today there is yet another wave of u.s. troops that is heading to the middle east. that is the third time this week that that has been announced. this latest traufrn is from a brigade called the immediate response force. they will be heading to kuwait, not to iraq, for what the pentagon says a precautionary action in response to that increased threat level against u.s. personnel. now, we had seen the first of those 82nd airborne troops go a couple days ago. there were 750 of them. that was in response to those violent protests that were sparked on tuesday at the u.s. embassy in baghdad. there was also a third sending of -- a third detachment of u.s. troops. those were 100 u.s. marines who went directly to baghdad unlike
those u.s. soldiers who went to kuwait. they went to baghdad to reinforce the security at the u.s. embassy. victor, as you know well, u.s. marines guard u.s. embassies and consulates all around the world. so they were sent in to further secure that embassy in baghdad, which is the most expensive, one of the most elaborate in the world. when it comes to u.s. troops, victor, there's also one other question. there are some 5,000 u.s. troops that are in iraq, and frankly their situation right now is rather precarious in light of this strike against qasem soleimani. there are a lot of senior iraqi official who's are very angry about the u.s. infringing on iraqi sovereignty, carrying out a strike like that with absolutely no communication or coordination with the iraqi government. the iraqi prime minister said that it violated the security agreement between the u.s. and iraq. one other thing, victor, that we should also note is the force protection level -- so that's the least level against u.s. forces -- have been raised for
those u.s. forces in the middle east to a level called charlie. that means that they are aware of a threat that is likely. so that has been raised. so of course, victor, this is a president who has talked about bringing troops home, ending wars in the middle east, and now what we're seeing is more troops going to the middle east and the prospect of yet another war in the middle east. victor. >> pamela, quickly before we go, what's the president saying about the next steps and the possible retaliation by the iranians, the expectation that many have that this will be -- that there will be a response as we heard from the top iranian official in the u.s.? >> reporter: even the president is unsure exactly of how iran is going to respond to this. one administration official i spoke with today said, look, everybody in the administration is concerned about the next steps here. the administration is doing what it can to prepare for what this possible retaliation could be, including as alex laid out, sending thousands of troops to the region there, pulling u.s.
officials out of the area, doing what it can in that regard. but there's a number of different ways that iran can retaliate, and it's sort of a wait and see approach at the administration right now. >> thank you. jomana, nick, and alex, i'm going to bring you back later in the show. coming up, the president who's attacked his own intelligence community -- you've heard it for years now -- is now relying on them. former director of national intelligence james clapper weighs in next. uhh, excuse me, is there a problem here? you're in a no parking zone. oh, i... i didn't know. you didn't see the sign? that... that wasn't there when i was here earlier. (whimper) really? you know, in italy, they let you park anywhere. have a good day, sir. with geico, the savings keep on going. just like this sequel. 15 minutes could save you 15% or more on car insurance. (glass shattering) (frustrated yell) (car horn blast) (yelp)
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iran is threatening revenge against the united states tonight after president trump ordered the killing of iran's top military general. listen again to what iran's ambassador to the united nations told erin burnett. >> we cannot just close our eyes to what happened last night. definitely there will be revenge. there will be harsh revenge. last night they started a military war by assassinating -- by an act of terror against one
of our top generals. so what else can they expect iran to do? we cannot just remain silent. we have to act, and we will act. >> here to discuss, former director of national intelligence, james clapper. director, you just heard there from the ambassador. he says there will be harsh revenge against the u.s. are you more concerned tonight than you were last night about an all-out war with iran? >> well, yes. i think just about everybody is concerned about, you know, what are the consequences of this. and a lot of discussion, victor, has been in the range between whether this is a bold, courageous act, or it was reckless. and in truth, we're not going to know because that's very dependent on how the iranians react to this. i think it's completely unrealistic to think they won't react in some way. and the problem for us and, i suspect, the iranians is they're looking at a very target-rich
environment, and they get to determine the timing and the tactics that might be used, which can range from overt assault to more subtle cyberattacks. so, yeah, i am more concerned about the general situation now than i was before they took out soleimani, qasem soleimani, which i completely agree with, by the way. i think it was the right thing to do. >> so national security adviser robert o'brien, he says that the u.s. is prepared to talk with iran without preconditions. is that plausible now? >> well, i think it's going to be ever more difficult to engage in diplomacy. it would be nice if the iranians kind of sub missively came to the table and, oh, yeah, now we want to talk. but i don't think that's in the
cards frankly. >> yeah. so let's listen together to what secretary of state mike pompeo said on cnn earlier today about soleimani. >> -- actively plotting in the region to take action, a big action as he described it, that would have put dozens if not hundreds of americans lives at risk. we know it was imminent. this was an intelligence-based assessment that drove our decision-making process. >> secretary pompeo has not disclosed certain details of conversations with rudy giuliani and other matters. "the washington post" fact checker has counted the president making more than 15,000 false or misleading statements. should the american people just trust the administration's word on this? >> well, i do think, victor, the administration got a bit of a credibility challenge here because now we're just supposed to accept this intelligence
provided by an intelligence community which the president has frequently and roundly discredited over the last three years. so i think if this is to be believed, there is going to have to be somehow a bit more transparency for people to believe, particularly the aspect about the imminence of an attack and how broad-gauged it was just based on assurances. now, i personally put a lot of stock in the world of general milley, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, who appare apparently is under the impression that there was solid intelligence here. the word "imminence" is critical because that gets to actually the legality of this action, which is the purview of lawyers, not me. >> we've got members of congress on the show later tonight, and we'll have that conversation with them as well. let me put to you the question i put to nick paton walsh, who is
there in the region. i want it from your perspective. how does this attack deter future attacks as the justification came from the pentagon or even the specific attack on which the president says that the strike was based? taking out one man, does that take what was planned off the table? >> well, you know, victor, we have a history, the history of our counterterrorism efforts, to place great stock in taking out notorious, well-known leaders as a way of curbing terrorism, and that actually hasn't been necessarily the result. so it's true that soleimani has orchestrated, planned, overseen a lot of attacks which have
resulted in the death and maiming of a lot of americans and coalition forces for that matter and lots and lots of other innocent people. so, you know, i think it was the right thing to do, but whether this is really going to serve as a deterrent, i'm not so sure. i think for the iranians, this is probably going to have the opposite effect. >> the effectiveness and how this fits into a larger strategy with iran and the region, those are the overriding questions tonight in addition to what will be the response from iran and their proxies. director clapper, thank you. >> thanks, victor. democrats are demanding more information about the strike against iran's top general after the president took action without consulting congress. with thousands of troops said to be ge employed, will they get the information they want? ♪ new fixodent ultra dual power
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the pentagon is ordering thousands of additional u.s. troops to the middle east in the wake of the killing of iran's top general. the troops are coming from the army's 82nd airborne division. it's the same division my next guest served in before he was elected to congress. joining me now, congressman jason crow, a democrat from colorado. congressman, first thank you for your service and for joining us tonight. senator chris van hollen, maryland, he told
cnn earlier tonight that we are in a very, very dangerous place -- his words -- and there will be this briefing for senators on this air strike on monday. that's 3 1/2 days later. are you comfortable with the length of time between the
strike and the congressional briefing? >> well, there isn't much that i'm comfortable about this situation, and i mean the briefing obviously was not given in advance to the leaders of the intelligence committees and foreign affairs committee, the gang of eight as they're called. there was no conferral as is kuft mary. we're working on the house side. i don't believe that's been finalized yet on our end. there's a lack of information, but that is kind of pattern and practice with this administration. it's not conferring with congress, not telling congressional leaders what's going on, and certainly not telling our
allies either. that seems to be the trend. that's what happened in northern syria. that's what's happening throughout the world and certainly what's happening with respect to iraq right now as well. >> you point out that there is the gang of eight typically, which is notified of these types of strikes, was not notified. but we heard from senator
lindsey graham on fox news that he was notified. he was briefed while he was at the president's golf club there in south florida. pull the thread for me. what is the national security implication of this flouting of the norms as it relates to these types of operations. >> so the issue, victor, is not just about the notification, right? the notification serves a larger purpose. >> yeah. >> it serves this purpose that we are trying to coordinate our national security, our foreign policy across branches of government to make sure that we have the funding and resources that our state department, that our military needs. obviously we're doing our constitutional obligation to do oversight of the executive branch. that's why you do the notification, and the fact that congress continues to be kept in the dark on that is, you know, part of a larger disturbing trend. but let's not lose sight into what's actually going on here right now. the next 48 to 72 hours is going to be very critical. we have to make sure that we're securing our embassies, that
we're securing our troops and their families in the region. we're going to have to deal with the basing issues. in one fell swoop, the administration has started to turn public sentiment in iraq against us, and now there are calls for us to be pushed out of iraq and for us to lose our basing rights in the region, which are really important for counterterrorist operations as well. there's a lot of dominos that are starting to fall as a result of this one missile strike. >> let me ask you more about the decision to deploy thousands more american servicemen to the middle east. having served in the region yourself. are additional troops -- and we know we have to protect the embassies and protect those assets in the region. but are additional troops an effective deterrent for iran? >> yeah, i think so. certainly in the short term. you know, the fact that we did this strike, you know, we're going to debate the wisdom of this strike. i think it was ill conceived. we have a lot of foes around the
world. we have a lot of enemies around the world. we don't kill all of them with missiles because there are consequences of doing that. and we're going to see in the days and weeks to come some of those consequences. but what we do have to do right now is make sure that our embassy is secure, that our bases are secure, and our interests are secure. and it is prudent in my view to make sure that we're sending additional resources there right now to do that. you know, and actually the president kind of cuts against his own case. he says that we're safing now as a result of this missile strike. well, that's clearly not the case if we're nearly doubling our military footprint in iraq by sending thousands of troops on an emergency basis there to reinforce our embassy and other soldiers there. clearly there's a much larger threat that has arisen as a result of this. >> there will be this briefing, as we mentioned, on monday for members of congress. the president spoke briefly today about the strike. but beyond the members of congress and those in washington, what would you like to hear from the president, from
the administration to support the justification that there was an imminent threat. of course there are some things that cannot be disclosed, but how should the president approach the american people about justifying what was ordered on thursday? >> well, what congress needs to hear, and even more importantly what the american people need to hear and deserve to hear is what is the overall policy with respect to iran? what is the end game here? are we going to stumble from just one ad hoc decision to another, to deciding to pull troops out of syria, moving them to iraq, and then deciding to move them back into northern syria, you know, killing commanders of foreign militaries with drone strikes? are we just going to stumble from one event to the next and continue to do that like we have the last 18 years that we've been at war in the region, or are we going to have a clear, concise policy with end goals so that our actions actually drive that policy? that's what i want to hear, and
that's what america deserves to hear. you know, we can't just continue to bumble, you know, in this region. the consequences are too big. we're facing enemies that are too dangerous to not have a larger policy. the president has not articulate t ed that to me, and it's time we push him to say what we're trying to achieve here. >> congressman crow, thank you so much. new reports tonight of another air strike near baghdad targeting iran-backed militias. we'll have a live report from iraq next. i'm your curious cat,
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in baghdad after the one that killed soleimani, what do we know about those? >> reporter: well, victor, we have not been able to verify these reports of a new air strike ourselves, but what we do have -- and that's very little information coming from the popular mobilization units. that's the umbrella group that is predominantly made up of these iranian-backed shia militias. in a statement in the early hours on saturday just a few hours ago, they released a statement saying that one of their convoys was targeted by an air strike in the taji to the north of baghdad. they say that none of their leaders were in that convoy, that it was a medical unit that was hit. they say that there were several casualties. at this point there's no indication, no confirmation that this was a u.s. air strike. but i can tell you, victor, people here are on edge. the situation is very tense, and they're just anticipating
further escalation. >> hopefully we'll get something from the pentagon. nick, to you. soleimani was one of the most powerful men in the region. you're in beirut now, an area that certainly felt his influence given his connection to easy bow hezbollah. what's the latest reaction beyond iraq, beyond iran, throughout the region to this strike and his death? >> reporter: well, clearly we're in uncharted territory because this was a man outside possibly the leader of isis, also killed by a u.s. air strike, who was probably one of the most influential individuals in the region over the past decade. and his departure, particularly through such a strong and frankly unprecedented u.s. signal like this, does put us, as a say, into uncharted territory. what is interesting to try and divine at this point is exactly what it was that qasem soleimani was thought to be planning or integral to implementing that
the u.s. felt they had to act. state department officials suggesting they were concerned about attacks against u.s. and diplomatic personnel in iraq and syria, but also here in lebanon where there's only one major u.s. facility and that's the diplomatic one of the embassy. possible indications about that, particularly given too that soleimani was said to be meeting with people from hezbollah, the key pro-iranian lebanese group here that's political and military in its intentions as well. it's a whole new era we're facing here. iran may choose to use its proxies to retaliate in some open way possibly that's more predictable but some analysts are saying the iran's game could be longer here, by not responding immediately and wait for a more convenient time when perhaps the u.s.'s posture is more relaxed to retaliate some point in the months down the line. remember, key u.s. assets in the region here are already going to be on lockdown.
the u.s. military quite capable of defending themselves here as well. you have to also put into the calculus as well, if you are the trump administration and you're not frankly that interested in the middle east, you've made that very clear as well, but you do want to send a signal of unequivocal strength. taking out one of your most influential 23 not frankly your most influential enemy in the region here and then still beginning to continue that withdrawal is very compatible with not being that invested in what happens next in the future of your middle east. you'll be leaving your allies certainly to perhaps pick up the pieces, but certainly we're waking up here to a saturday in the middle east to entirely new, uncharted territory for america and its allies and, frankly, those who relied upon the iranian quds leader, soleimani, for guidance and assistance. >> alex, i want to jump off something that nick said there, that the president has -- and i'm paraphrasing the president -- saying that he wants to get out of these
endless war, these forever wars as he's said and rallies and tweeted. the secretary of state, mike pompeo, said the goal is to de-escalate the situation in the region. is there a plan at the pentagon to do just that, to de-escalate this before this ratchets up, or do they believe that's even possible now that we've heard this promise of a harsh response from iran? >> well, to some excompetetent they were doing in their eyes and not in the opinion of very many others, was some sort of de-escalation from the current state of tensions. we'd seen a bit of a back and forth, a tit for tat if you will, with the iranian-backed militia group in iraq killing a u.s. contractor. then there were air strikes against that militia group, and then there were attacks on the embassy. so what the u.s. is now saying it is doing is carrying out or this strike against qasem soleimani was an act of
deterrence to defuse the situation. that is certainly not the way the iranians see it. victor, we did hear from the national security adviser robert o'brien earlier. he was down at mar-a-lago with the president. he's been traveling with him during his christmas vacation. he said right now the iranians have two choices. they can escalate -- and he called that a very poor decision that will lead nowhere for the iranian people -- or they can come to the table. they can sit down, he said. they can give up their nuclear program. they can end what he called their escapades across the region and act, as he said, behave like a normal nation. i think we know which path the iranians are going to go down. you just spoke with former dni james clapper. every indication from all the top experts is that the iranians certainly will look to retaliate. the question is not if but when. victor? >> jomana, quickly to you before we wrap this up. let's go to the iraqi parliament and this emergency session that's going to happen on sunday to talk about the strike. is the u.s.'s presence in iraq
in serious jeopardy? >> reporter: absolutely. i think that's a very -- that's the big question right now because as we've seen, victor, over the past 24 hours and recent days, but of course over the past 24 hours there has been increasing calls on the iraqi government to take action, raising questions about the u.s.'s presence here, its relationship with the iraqi government. they're really pushing the government here to reassess its relationship with the united states, its security agreement with the united states, the presence of u.s. forces. and if you look at the statements that we have heard coming from the iraqi political leadership, really strong words. the iraqi prime minister describing the strike against soleimani as flagrant aggression and a violation of iraqi sovereignty, and that is something that many here would
agree on, that this was a violation of iraqi sovereignty. so we will have to wait and see what happens during that extraordinary session of parliament on sunday where that will definitely be the focus of the debate, victor. >> important conversation. jomana, nick, alex, thank you all. new revelations tonight on the ukraine aid freeze. "the new york times" reporting the white house is stonewalling again, refusing to turn over 20 emails between two trump aides. we'll have more on that next. is there a problem here? you're in a no parking zone. oh, i... i didn't know. you didn't see the sign? that... that wasn't there when i was here earlier. (whimper) really? you know, in italy, they let you park anywhere. have a good day, sir. with geico, the savings keep on going. just like this sequel. 15 minutes could save you 15% or more on car insurance. (glass shattering) (frustrated yell) (car horn blast) (yelp)
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oral-b just cleans better. it's the one inspired by dentists... with the round brush head. oral-b's gentle rounded brush head removes more plaque along the gumline... for cleaner teeth and healthier gums. oral-b. brush like a pro. breaking news tonight the reporting from the "new york times" that the trump add mirs is refusing a court order and with holding 20 e-mails between two trump aids on ukraine aide. joining me now -- what can you tell us about the 20 e-mails between a top aid to mick mulvaney. acting chief of staff. and the official at the office of manage and budget. >> tw aids that is that right schumer and democrats want to call as witnesses. the e-mails detail concerns they had about the aide freeze. we know there have been other e-mails released. including one of the officials.
in which he is reported to have said this was directly ordered by the president. and in which pentagon officials express concern about this aide freeze. and so the 20 e-mails are thought to contain more details and information. we don't know the white house isn't -- they're not redacting it all. the times has gone to court to overcome that. this denial was a response to a lawsuit brought to the times and my colleagues. we'll see what happens. >> senator schumer said the aide should testify in the senate impeachment trial. what questions do you have for them? >> i think i'd start right away with what's in the e-mails. i don't think the judge will let this pass by. the times is going to file for
expedited hearing on this blocking of the information and judge jackson who is has been involved in a lot of the cases understands the issues very well. so she may well grant it. the briefing and argument. i think the content is obviously important or it wouldn't be with held. if you're innocent you don't try to hide this information. this is reminiscence of water gate and what nixon did with the tapes. he did everything to block access to them. >> the omb sent a letter to the times saying it woul not turn over any e-mails and even with the redaction. let's remind people some of the releases from the administration with redactions are simply the sender the resilient. date and subject line and full body of the messages are redacted. this seems to be a new level of stone walling. what's the justification from the office?
>> the justification is that if we turn over the e-mails it would impede the president's ability to have a frank and open discussions with the staff. that's a standard justification for denying reporters or anyone access to white house documents. e-mails. you can even learn things from a name a date and recipient. the more you have the more you learn. we're kind of really curious to see what's in the e-mails. >> can the senate get these e-mails if they want them? can mcconnell get them? >> theoretically they could. issue a subpoena. they'd end up in court. if the president is going to go to the end of the earth to block this stuff as it seems the case he's claiming a weak privilege. called the deliberative
privilege. the white house is not covered by the freedom of act law. it's a split issue. it's not an absolute privilege like the white house might have. i think this is going to be well litigated and the white house could lose. >> an e-mail from duffy to the pentagon that said the freeze on ukraine aide was quote clear direction from potus. is the expectation that this is more revealing than that? >> that's the expectation. we can't say what's in there. we don't know. given that there have been other e-mails involved duffy and others that have said this is clearly directed by the president. pentagon officials were worried. want expectation is there are more details about who directed this. who was concerned. why they were concerned and what the motives might have been for
this is "cnn tonight." we have major developments at this hour. tensions heat up between the united states and iran. over the killing of top general soleimani. the reports of deadly air strike near baghdad targeted a convoy. backed by iran. cnn hasn't confirmed reports and no claim on responsibility so far. the president is defending his decision ordering the pentagon to take out the top iranian