tv CNN Newsroom With Brooke Baldwin CNN January 7, 2020 11:00am-12:00pm PST
all right. i'm brooke baldwin. any minute now we're hear from president trump as pressure increases to explain the decision to kill iran's top military general in a drone strike last week. and while officials maintain that there was this imminent threat, they have still yet to provide definitive proof and today there was no difference. and mike pompeo answered the question this way earlier. >> there's been much made about this question of intelligence and imminence. any time a president makes this a decision of this magnitude,
not only had soleimani done all of the things that we have recounted, hundreds of thousands of massacres in syria, enormous destruction of lebanon and iraq where they have denied then sovereignty and denied the people in the countries what they want and we watch this with the continuing terror campaign in the region. we know what happened at the end of last year in december. ultimately leading to the death of an american. so if you're looking for imminence, you need look no further than to the days leading up to the strike of soleimani. >> and he said eliminating soleimani was part of a broader u.s. plan of action regarding iran. >> so it's the right decision. we got it right. the department of defense did excellent work and the president had a entirely legal, appropriate and a basis as well as a decision that fit perfectly within our strategy and how to counter the threat of malign
activity from iran more broadly. >> all of that as "the new york times" reports that see ran's supreme leader wants any response to be handled by the iranian forces and not a proxy. and the ayatollah was there and he led the mourners in prayer at the funeral and mark esper said that the nation's military will be ready for any retaliation. >> i would like to say we're not looking to start a war with iran but we are prepared to finish one. >> okay. while we do not how iran will retaliate, thousands of u.s. troops throughout the middle east are on high alert. we have a foreign policy expert who worked with the state department's u.s. mission in the obama administration and she's an army combat veteran and is a new york congressional
candidate. they for being with -- thank you for being with me. i wanted to quote, i was reading one of the articles in "the times" this morning and they quoted an iranian scholar. even iranians don't know what the retaliation will look like, but there's a blood lust in the revolutionary guards. you know, u.s. troops are on high alert. what sort of targets could be in iran's sights? >> well, you look at their retaliation, what would be more of a -- looking at targets within iraq where we have been positioned for the u.s. isis mission within iraq and then we have some vulnerabilities too where if you look at the gulf region where we have a lot of troops stationed at. especially in bahrain, where there's an iranian militia proxy support there. there's some vulnerabilities and
in bahrain and in the iraq area as well. >> looking at the map i believe all of the numbers in red those are the u.s. troops. so roughly it adds up to 50,000 u.s. troops in the middle east region at this moment. walk us through just their various locations. >> right. based on -- this is cencom's area of responsibility, so with regards to troop presence there has always been some significant presence especially in places like in kuwait, saudi, especially and we saw that increase after the maximum pressure campaign where they have been able to increase our augment their presence there in response to iranian aggression when iran shot down the u.s. drone at that time. so yes, there's a lot of presence in terms of kuwait's saudi, qatar, as well as uae. >> and what about the u.s. intelligence who said they observed military equipment? >> right. >> moving around in the recent days. iran moving this military equipment. hang on one second.
let's go straight to the secretary of defense mark esper. >> -- but i was in the snow so you decided to stay around and weather the d.c. roads as they become snowier. good afternoon. i would like to begin by offering my deepest condolences to the families of the three americans who lost their lives on sunday in ken ya. and an attack by al qaeda affiliate al shabaab resulted in the death of the contractor and wounded two other american personnel. on behalf of the entire department our thoughts are with the family and friends of our army specialist henry mayfield jr. he was there in support of octave shield working to protect american interests in the region and working alongside our kenyan partners. we honor him and his colleagues who lost their lives and assure you that the perpetrators of
this attack will be brought to justice. the united states conducted over 60 air strikes against al shabaab's safe havens and we're providing counterterrorism support to help kenya in the fight. moving to iran. at this time, our top priorities remain first the safety and security of american personnel and our partners. and second, our readiness to respond to iranian aggression. since the strike i have spoken with the commanders on the ground and ensure they have the resources they need to protect their people and prepare for any contingencies. as a result, we have increased our force protection postures across the region and will continue to reposition and bolster our forces as necessary to protect our people, our interests and our facilities. as i mentioned to you yesterday, we had received widespread support from the partners in the region and we'll continue to work with them to protect our gains against isis.
i have been in constant communication with our counterparts and i have called on them to stand with us in the defense of coalition forces in iraq. working through nato, the defeat isis coalition, we continue to bolster the iraqi institutions to ensure the lasting defeat of isis. as we defend our people and interests he me say that the u.s. is not seeking a war with iran but ber prepared to finish one. first this will require iran to de-escalate and the regime to come to the table with the goal of preventing further bloodshed. and it will require them to cease their maligned activities throughout the region. we have open to having this discussion with them but we're prepared to defend our interests. finally, the american people should know that their safety is in the hands of the strongest, most capable military in the world. the men and women of our armed forces should know we're standing with them and will
continue to support them as they meet and overcome today's threats from maligned actors including iran and its proxy militias. our partners should know we remain committed to the middle east and deterring iranian bad behavior, sustaining the defeat of isis and supporting iraq as it becomes a strong and independent nation. and the architects of terror should know we won't tolerate attacks against american's people and interests and will exercise our right to self-defense should that become necessary once again. with that i'll open this up for some questions. thank you. >> thank you, mr. secretary. i wanted to clarify one thing you said earlier that the u.s. continues to engage isis in syria. has the anti-isis campaign been affected at all by this and secondly there seems to be continued confusion among iraqi officials about the draft
letter. there was a televised appearance by mahdi earlier today in which he sort of laid out what he said was a signed letter that the iraqis got. those are his words. and he suggested that another letter should be sent. what are you doing to clear up what you said yesterday was a mistake? >> our policy has not changed we are not leaving iraq and a draft unsigned letter does not constitute a policy change. there's no signed letter so there may be people trying to create confusion but what i said a few times now. our policy has not changed. we are in iraq. and we are there to support iraqi forces and iraqi government, become a strong, independent and prosperous country. >> and in syria -- isis in syria? >> i have gotten no report from the commander saying we have had a material impact on the ability to engage isis along with our
sds partners. >> what if the iraqis don't want you to stay? if the prime minister says you need to go will the u.s. troops pull out and nato allies are pulling out? >> so we'll take those one step at a time. there are a few hurdles that the iraqi government would need to go through. we remain in constant contact with them on that. i think it's fair to say that many iraqis recognize the strategic partnership whether it's training their military to become more effective in battle. i think the vote the other day shows the support of most iraqis in the country. most kurds and sunnis did not show and many of the shiias who voted did vote at the threat of their open lives by shiia militia groups. we still see iraqis on the streets protesting their government due to corruption and
those sentiments have not gone away. at the end of the day, working with the iraqi people you'll find that our presence is important for both their country and ours. and you also asked about partners i have talked to many of the partners in iraq who are part of the deisis coalition and many europeans. they're supportive of us. they're with us. i have been told by them that some of the movements they're taking are simply with regard to force protection. we are doing some of that as well. it does not signal any sort of withdraw from iraq or the mission writ large. >> can i follow up on that? >> sir, can you state the range of options that were under consideration? any sense of, you know, how many other options were under consideration? did you support any other ones an was one option to not take this strike inside iraq which would have -- >> i won't speak to any options
or anything we presented to the president as you know that's kind of how i approach things. i will tell you that options we presented were all options that we supported and believe we could deliver on and would be effective and with any time we deliver an option we list the pros and cons and pluses and minuses. that's how we approach it. >> were there multiple actions that you would have considered? >> i'm not sure i understand the question. >> any options that you supported in addition to this one? >> well, look there are a wide range of options. our duty is to narrow them down to president's guidance. and so again we had a full panoply of options available. we present them and portray them as we do. >> about the allies moving their troops, does it mean that you
couldn't guarantee their security especially with air protection or ask them to move? >> i don't think so. i know in one case in particular it was a matter of us being able to move in additional u.s. forces into the confined space. that was being occupied by some of the international trainers, partners on the ground. it was a logistical issue. >> can you clarify the attacks soleimani was planning? was that days or weeks away? >> i think it's more fair to say days for sure. >> and is the u.s. ellie obliged to withdraw from iraq if told by the iraqi government to two? >> i'm not going to speculate. none of that has happened to the best of my knowledge. as those events unfold we'll have the right legal experts to advice us. >> you said the u.s. is not seeking war with iran. i think the question most people want an answer to is how close are we to war with iran and specifically how would you
characterize iranian military movements over the past several days? >> yeah, it is true. we're not seeking war with iran. i think what happens next depends on them. i think we should expect that they will retaliate in some way, shape or form even through the proxies and they have been doing for how many years or by -- and/or with by their own hand. so we take this one step at a time. we're prepared for any contingency and then we'll respond appropriately to whatever they do. >> how would you characterize their military movements so far? >> oh, you know, we watch them very closely. we see their movements. i don't want to get more into that because it starts to get into the intelligence issues so i'll just leave it at that. >> mr. secretary, you talked about being ready for potential conflict here in case iran retaliates. but if they don't retaliate against american targets in the middle east but instead target
our partners in the region, is that enough to warrant a u.s. response? >> look, you know, i won't comment -- i won't hypothesize but we're standing there not only to defend our interests but the partners and allies and i want to reassure we're there with them. >> you have talked about iran needs to de-escalate. the first question is does the u.s. have any obligation to de-escalate or is that solely in iran's court? my second question, you have said several times in the past couple of days that you will follow international law on potential war crimes. i think -- let me set that aside, i think everyone would expect you would do exactly that. the president is out there with his position. if you get an order, would you resign from office rather than violate the law? >> barbara, i won't get into some hypothetical that you're portraying here.
i'm fully confident that the president is -- that the commander in chief won't give this illegal order. as i said the united states military will as it always has obey the laws of the armed conflict. >> and does the u.s. have an obligation to de-escalate? >> we're not the ones who have escalated this over the past arguably 40 years and certainly over the past several months. it has been iran through the proxies, and has consistently escalated this in terms of the size, scale, scope of their attacks. so we reached the point where we had to act in self-defense. we had to take appropriate actions so at this point the ball is in their court. what they do next will determine what happens in the subsequent moves. >> thank you. mr. secretary, i would like to ask you before the attack against qassem soleimani, have you been in consultations with your partners in the region? i mean, the gcc countries or
israel? if you have informed them that this operation is going to take place today, at this moment. >> yeah, i won't get into the details of our consultations on any matter with other countries. obviously we have been talking about our force posture in iraq for some time. our concerns about iranian actions or the actions that they're inspiring. resourcing or directing through its militias. i won't get into any details. >> so to follow-up up on your remarks about the parliamentary vote. you had raised questions about the kind of people who did or didn't vote yesterday and today. do you believe that vote was legitimate, that that resolution calling on the u.s. forces to leave was legitimate? and then separately on the issue of -- you said that you expect iran to retaliate. any off ramps to this crisis or do you expect that we're heading towards this military confrontation? >> on the first question i won't
characterize it any different than, many experts have characterized it, nonbinding. there are mechanisms by they'd have to -- by which they'd have to act. i characterize it with you as nonbinding. with regard to the off ramps there's a big one sitting in front of tehran right now and that's to message us that they want to sit down and talk without precondition to the united states about a better way forward. a way forward which would constitute a new -- a new mode of behavior by iran where they behave more like a normal country. and one could presume free them up from economic sanctions an allow the iranian people to pursue the life they want to live and that's with freedom and prosperity and most things that human beings want. >> thanks for doing this, sir. after pressure from iran has the
iraqi government prevented the u.s. military from using certain capabilities within the country and hampering operations? >> they have taken some actions in the past with regard to air space, but nothing we weren't able to work through with them. >> is that happening currently? >> there's nothing they're doing right now that's hampering our operations to the best of my knowledge. >> i want to follow-up on phil's earlier question. what would -- what would constitute a binding order from the iraqi order? it seems like there's a disconnect about implementing this resolution to the iraqi parliament and what the pentagon says has been communicated or hasn't been communicated. >> i think it's a great question for the iraqi prime minister. >> but does that mean you're not taking his communication about the implementation of that parliamentary resolution on its face in terms of what he's saying? >> to the best of my knowledge i
haven't received any communication from him or the iraqi government about an order request to withdraw u.s. forces. >> thank you. mr. secretary, can you please explain to us how the killing of one of iran's top generals would contribute to the case of the e dees canlation? >> well, let's look at history. soleimani was a terrorist leader. he's been conducting terrorist activities against us and our coalition partners for over 20 years. he has the blood of hundreds of americans, soldiers, on his hands and wounded thousands more. and then we could talk about all of the mayhem he's caused against the syrian people, the people of lebanon. even his own people in iran. he is responsible in the quds
force for the killing of iranian people. so this sense that somehow taking somebody who, by the way, over the last few months had planned, orchestrated and/or resourced attacks against the united states that resulted in the siege of our embassy in baghdad and was in baghdad to coordinate additional attacks to somehow suggest that he wasn't a legitimate target i think is fanciful. he was clearly on the battlefield. he was preparing military operations, he was a legitimate target. his time was due. >> one final question. to jeff -- oh, tony. >> can you give me the preview of what you'll tell congress tomorrow in terms of how much detail will you be giving -- will any given members that you have told the public in terms of the size, scope and imminence? you're aware of how people are
skeptical of the imminence threat. so temper expectations what are you prepared to disclose to congress? >> much of my messaging to congress will be the same as what i'm delivering to you all here in terms of my views on the policy, the broader regional situation. and we can go into the classified -- we'll be in the classified setting and will share more. but the exquisite intelligence we are talking about that led to the decision to -- that was i should say one of the factors that led to the decision to strike at soleimani is is only shared with a handful of members the so-called gang of eight. they are getting that briefing this afternoon. they will access to that but most members won't have access to that. >> you talked about increasing the force posture in the region. what about force protection levels? have you gone up to the highest level? >> the commanders in the region globally are taking appropriate
force protection measures relevant to their situation, the threat that they're receiving. the readiness of the troops, et cetera. so i'm confident that our commanders will do the right thing on the ground. okay. thank you all very much. >> okay. this you have it, the secretary of defense mark esper. we heard him live with christiane amanpour and now answering some questions from some pentagon correspondents and producers and that was really the first time we have heard this administration specify in terms of this being an imminent threat. thus they needed to take out soleimani and he specified the threat would have been in days. so he talked to christiane, he said that soleimani was caught head handed with the terrorist leader planning to kill americans so that's the first time that we heard that the attack would be imminent within days. so fred pleitgen, i want to go you there in tehran because you
had an interview with zarif saying that iran would deliver that response. when we hear days that seems to define the threat. how will this all sit with the regime over there and with their plans for retaliation? >> well, certainly not very well. it's quite interesting what we have been picking up from the iranians over the past couple of days. i sat down with the foreign minister and some of the things that the u.s. secretary of defense was talking about there, obviously iranians see that very differently. the iranians continue to say that he was there on diplomatic mission to meet with the prime minister of iraq to talk about trying to de-escalate tensions with saudi arabia. so therefore, this is directly with the foreign minister -- what the foreign minister said today, they see this as a direct attack on iran and say they're going to retaliate. now the foreign minister says they're going to retaliate in their own time and in the way
they see fit. one of the things to keep in mind about the iranians they believe in the conflict with the u.s. that time is essentially on their side. they believe this is their region, the country is situated there, so they believe they can do this any time they want to and in any way they want to. they obviously fight wars very differently than the u.s. does. they have a lot of proxy forces in the region, they have the bllistic missile program and the main thing that the foreign minister said there will be a response. he didn't want to say what that is going to be. but they're extremely angry and one other thing, brooke that the iranians have been telling me which is important, i think. there was this notion by the secretary of defense that the u.s. had decapitated the quds force, the foreign operation wing and they have named a successor to qassem soleimani and they say they're not going to miss a beat because of the proxy forces and all of the
connections still very much in place, brooke. >> i have one more for you, i want to come back to you, fred pleitgen, but christiane amanpour. i was hanging on to your every word and the secretary of defense secretary of defense's every word and you hit on the themes that the reporters were asking him beyond what defined the imminent threat and you know, you asked about would this pull the u.s.'s eye off the ball of the isis fight. then also this draft letter that was mistakenly saying, yes, the u.s. is withdrawing troops from iraq. what was your biggest takeaway? >> well, he said the same thing that he did to me but he was more insistent because he understands this confusion is indeed quite prevalent right now. the confusion about the way iraq is taking this letter. >> yeah. >> you know, you can't affect the way they're doing it. of course the u.s. says well no, we're not -- it wasn't signed. it was just a draft letter. they shouldn't be taking it seriously, but sit yourself in the prime minister's position in
iraq. and wonder what is going on. so anyway, we'll see how that plays out. it may be posturing at this time in these early days under pressure from iran. but certainly i talked to the vice president of iran and you heard from fred's interviews from zarif's and others that our goal is to get the u.s. out of the region. i think they see this as a turning point. as much as the u.s. sees this as a potential turning point, to deter iran, the iranians see this as a turning point to get the u.s. out of the region and particularly out of iraq. i think it's going to be really interesting to see how this plays out. you know, furthermore, secretary esper would not say to me that it was an imminent threat in the way that we understand what imminent means. imminent is imminent. when you target for killing somebody you believe it's a ticking time bomb as they say in the intel speak so to speak.
but he would not say that to me. >> i was listening, he says days or weeks, christiane, and he said now today days is that not a ticking time bomb? >> well, i mean, you have to get the definition but it's usually something is going to happen now. we have to take action now. and how different was this to that, but to be honest with you, that argument is over. this action has happened and the question is what is the strategy ahead? secretary pompeo used the strategy of confront and contain to which the representative slotkin in congress who represents michigan and who was a cia analyst, three tours in iraq alongside the military says those are two conflicting statements. confront and contain don't happen together. it's either confront or contain. you heard the administration -- the reason they wanted to do this interview and no want to do this briefing is to send out two
messages. one they do not want a war and they want to de-escalate and two to assure the americans that the united states can survive and protect them and their force is unparalleled. but as slotkin said, look, we have seen before what happens in the situations. the current language between iran and the united states, each side calling the other terrorists, state terrorists, et cetera, both sid doing that. this is the language of escalation i was told. and you have to really work hard to get off and out of that language and find some kind of off ramp. even if it means taking a deep breath. iran is already retaliating. the millions of people on the street and there are millions, i have covered those -- that area before, and i know how much -- how many people that long road takes. and this is unseen demonstrations of power that have rallied around a flag but also somebody who they were
protesting against a few weeks ago. so they have sent a message and the iranian leaders are going to have to respond in some way. the question is whether there can be any sort of de-escalation. >> that's the question and he said it's up to tehran, they could de-escalate. send us a back channel message and say they want to talk, but it sounds like the foreign minister according to fred they plan on retaliating. christiane, the question is how. barbara starr asked two excellent questions of the secretary of defense, so barbara, i jotted down -- you asked about, you know, does the u.s. have the obligation to de-escalate and if you were given an order by the commander in chief by this president as we have been talking as he's been talking potentially about hitting cultural sites, you know, would you be willing to resign if you were asked to
break the law in doing so what did you make of his answers to you? >> he made very clear that it's iran's responsibility, the ball in their court, to de-escalate the situation. iran clearly, you know, not feeling the same way. it was part of the reason as christiane and fred said for this briefing to send a message to iran. the secretary said how could they de-escalate? they were willing to sit down with the united states to talk about any preconditions. sit down and talk without preconditions. that may or may not happen any time soon. it's not looking like it right now because the secretary does say for the first time he pinned it down and said, this threat, this imminent threat was possibly in a matter of days. and that's the first time we have quite heard it narrowed down to that. until now it was days or weeks so it's very interesting he narrowed that down and he said that the u.s. continues to expect iran to retaliate.
we know that, you know, overnight the u.s. was quite concerned that there might be a drone threat, an imminent drone threat against several locations in the middle east. this is a situation that, you know, is becoming very clear. it will last for some time. it will ebb and flow. they'll get intelligence that indicates that threats are on the rise they'll react to that. and maybe those threats materialize. hopefully they do not. so we're a long way away really from seeing a clear road ahead at this point i think. >> barbara, thank you so much for jumping on after that briefing. now to iraq and ar what damon and we're talking about how the u.s. wouldn't withdraw from iraq if asked to. >> look, there's so much confusion here right now because
of the letter that was sent that initially was taken by the iraqi government to mean that the u.s. was in fact beginning its withdrawal. we heard from the prime minister addressing the cabinet we got one draft of the letter and the text of the trations did not match up so we sent it back and then it was sent back to us once again. he's trying to make the point that he doesn't quite understand how this all happened somehow by accident and then he says after they notified the relevant departments within the iraqi government and the security forces, they also notified the iraqi embassy in d.c. that all of a sudden four to five hours later they hear this is a mistake. they said how are we supposed to take anything seriously moving forward? any time we get a notification, are we supposed to call the americans and double check it's okay? these kind of mistakes in today's iraq given the tensions
can have severe repercussions. we have heard from the iranian backed groups if the u.s. does not leave, we'll form what they're calling a resistance movement. who is going to be part of that movement? the very same shiia militias that fought the americans when they were here during the years of the u.s. led occupation of iraq and then that's something else that the u.s. is missing at least if we look at what is being said publicly and that's the nuance of how iraqis feel. yes, there's anti-government demonstrations going on for months now. yes, the very same demonstrators are calling for an end to iranian influence, but they're calling to an end to the american influence. when it comes to, you know, the members of the iraqi government or political parties, the sunnis or the kurds or the security forces who don't want to see the u.s. leave because they still need american support. because they need american
assets because they know the threat against isis is ongoing. this does not mean they support what the united states did. and in killing qassem soleimani on iraqi territory america put this country in an impossible position. if u.s. forces stay, there is going to be bloodshed here. if the americans leave, there is going to be bloodshed here as well. >> just listening to everything you're saying and all i can think is the road ahead is uncertain on so many fronts. you know, our special coverage continues. the president is facing reporters right now as the pentagon contradicts him and the intelligence up to the strike is questioned. i'll talk with a veteran of the iraq war. do not miss that. you're watching cnn. we'll be right back. he wanted a man cave in our new home. but she wanted to be close to nature. so, we met in the middle.
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just a short time from now, the top lawmakers and congress known as the gang as eight are set to receive a briefing on the rising crisis in iran. will lawmakers get the information that the public is still seeking despite the secretary of state speaking out today and now the secretary of defense. what they're seeking is the specific intelligence that led to the u.s. drone strike that killed general soleimani. democratic congressman ruben guy aye goes served in iraq and is sitting on the armed services committee so thank you so much for being on with me. >> thank you for having me. >> so we actually heard from defense secretary mark esper and he said to christiane amanpour
when asked what was the planned attacks and he went, you know he was very specific in talking to the press corps saying that the attack was days away. does that constitute an imminent threat to you, congressman? >> well, first to begin, there are always threats upon our forces in the middle east. as a matter of fact, i had received briefings about similar threats that had occurred about a month ago. so obviously, the interpretation that this white house is giving is that the threat was so imminent they have to do and do a decapitation move against soleimani. it may in the end may bring us more harm than good. i think that's why this is a mistake on the whole grand scale of how we look at this.
>> am i hearing you correctly, that the u.s. faces an imminent threat with regard to iran all the time? >> all the time. we know that iran is consistently trying to come up with ways to affect our actions in the middle east or try to pressure us to move. as a matter of fact, one of the main goal is to have us out of iraq to be able to have more direct impact on israel. ironically enough because of our actions we may end up being pushed out by the iraqi government and being able to fulfill iran's long term goals. >> we'll get to that in a second but all right, sir, what's the off ramp? he was saying that certainly not up to the u.s. to de-escalate and that the off ramp would be sitting with tehran to come to the u.s. to message us to sit with the united states and to talk, though, you know, when you listen to iran, they're planning on retaliating. to you see any sort of off ramp,
any way of de-escalatation here? >> the first thing we have to understand, you can't escalate and de-escalate quickly. but iran has to be part of this solution. i think it will take both sides to do it. iran is a very bad actor in that region. has targeted the united states and our allies for many years and they actually have to step up to this game too. but, you know, we do need to recognize that this was particularly a strategic mistake. is that man -- obviously. i'm glad he's dead, but i as a you know a young man in the marine corps had to choose whether or not i had to shoot at someone or not shoot at someone and a lot of times i chose not to and i think we took our eye off the ball and really messed up. >> what about looking ahead to, you know, the president has threatened to target cultural sites in iran. so the president right now is
sitting at the white house and reporters are listening -- i have to make sure i get this quote correct. i like to obey the law, quote, but they're allowed to kill our people. what do you make of that? >> well, the president doesn't have any choice. the law is the law. targeting cultural sites and targeting innocent people is a war crime and it goes against the best interests of the united states. you know, every 17, 18-year-old man or woman that now carries a rifle understands that. and they show a lot of personal courage every day withholding, you know, doing some really horrific things that sometimes they feel like doing. and when you have the president of the united states somebody who avoided the draft by lying about his feet and bone spurs trying to act like a tough guy it's not a good way for us to really project the view of the united states around the world. let's think about this. the last two entities that actually have targeted cultural sites are isis and the taliban
and i don't think we want to be known as a third group that was part of that really unsavory group of people. >> listening to you talk to me, you know, obviously you're a sitting member of congress but you can tell this as a veteran this is so personal to you. you mentioned how you've been in iraq, you could have shot the enemy and you chose not to. >> that's not true, i chose not to shoot innocent people, i want to make that clear. >> but you have to war, you have lost friend, you have been open about it. you know what it's like to have the enemy eyes on you. but you don't want president trump to define who america is. however, however, president trump is the commander in chief. he is the one calling the shots. so how can he not define this moment? >> well, i think that's up to the united states to block him. i think it belongs to every service member right now to hold their own honor and everyone in the pentagon to basically refuse
the unlawful orders should they come down. i think that's how we define america. by our resistance to a president that wants to basically go against the grain and what we understand. and if we do that, i think we can really, you know, go along in a good pace to show the world who we are not who this president wants us to be. and there are ways for us to lawfully execute a war without violating, you know, civilian and human rights. without violating, you know, general war crimes. i think this president thinks that he can do that. i know for a fact that we can. i have seen it done and i think we as a country and as a military still have that standard to carry and we should carry into the future as long as we can. >> okay. congressman, thank you for your time serving this country and thank you for joining me today. i appreciate it. >> thank you. as we wait on the brink of promised retaliation from iran the issue is now the main focus on the campaign trail. looking ahead to the election
this year. we'll talk to one analyst about the two words he says could really change this debate. ♪ hey. hey. you must be steven's phone. now you can take control of your home wifi and get a notification the instant someone new joins your network... only with xfinity xfi. download the xfi app today.
this crisis with iran and the president's foreign policy approach will no doubt be major talking points in the next weeks. democratic presidential debate, senior political analyst ron brownstein is with me. and ron, reading your piece, you know, you basically say there are two words that could change
the debate on iran -- decisive and impulsive. how will each side make the case? >> look, if you look at the praise that republicans have given to the attack, the most common word they use is it was decisive. that the president acted decisively and made a decision that other presidents would not and have not. if you look at the principal criticism of democrats, it was that it was impulsive or reckless, he didn't think through the implications of what he did. this really i think fits in with a long-standing kind of division between the way the parties present themselves to the country on national security. if you think of reagan or george w. bush, they didn't sell themselves as people who had mastered the intricacies of international diplomacy. they saw themselves as someone with a clear moral compass who acted sdief eed decisively. clinton and obama, they're -- their calling card is they're deliberative, they think through what this means. i believe that ultimately whether this is seen as something that was decisive, pi the who would do what others did
not, or volatile, taking a risk that proved too costly will be the determinative of how the country ultimately acessions this act and probably foreign policy in general. >> using that notion -- hang on one second. we've got to go to the president of the united states. >> suleimani was planning attacks again american targets, what can you tell us about what you knew prior to ordering the attack? >> well, number one, i knew the past, his past was horrible. he was a terrorist. he was so designated by president obama, as you know. and he wasn't even supposed to be outside of his own country. he was. so right there. but that's in a way the least of it. we had an attack very recently that he was in charge of where we had people horribly wounded, one dead. in fact, the number now as of this morning i believe is two dead. and that was his. he was traveling with the head of hezbollah. they weren't there to discuss a vacation. they weren't there to go to a
nice resort someplace in baghdad. they were there to discuss bad business, and we saved a lot of lives by terminating his life. a lot of lives saved. they were planning something, and you're going to be hearing about it or at least various people in congress are going to be hearing about it tomorrow. our secretary of state covered it very well a little while ago. i saw him, i saw his news conference, mike. and if you want to mention a couple of things in addition to what i've just said, but we had tremendous information. we've been following him for a long time. and we followed his path for those three days, and they were not good stops. we didn't like where he was stopping. they were not good stops. we saved a lot of lives. mike? >> we had intelligence indicating there was active plotting that put american lives at risk. i'm confident, i think the president is confident, too, that the actions that the president took saved american lives, saved lives of iraqi muslims, as well. it was the right thing to do, and our department of defense
did an excellent job executing the mission. >> mr. president -- >> and as you know he killed at least 608 americans, but the number is much higher than that. he's rodside bombs and -- roadside bombs and all of the horrible explosives you see. he was a big believer and sent them everywhere. he was somebody that we did ourselves, we did a lot of countries a big favor. i've been hearing from countries, they were extremely happy with what we did. and if you look inside iran itself, there were plenty of those leaders that were happy because they feared him and didn't like him in many cases. >> could you also clear up, mr. president, whether iranian cultural sites would be on any future target list? >> as i said yesterday, it was very interesting, they're allowed to kill our people, they're allowed to maim our people, they're allowed to blow up everything that we have -- and there's nothing that stops them. and we are according to various laws supposed to be very careful
with their cultural heritage. and you know what, if that's what the law is, i -- i like to obey the law. but think of it -- they kill our people. they blow up our people, then we have to be gentle with their cultural institutions. but i'm okay with it. it's okay with me. i will say this -- if iran does anything that they shouldn't be doing, they're going to be suffering the consequences and very strongly. all right -- >> retaliation from -- [ inaudible ] >> don't forget, in our case it was retaliation because they were there first. they killed -- look, i don't have to talk about him for 18 to 20 years. he was a monster. but just in the very short period of time, two people dead. people badly injured. and then before that, there were other attacks. and look at what he was planning. so that will be discussed tomorrow morning. right now it's classified. that will be discussed tomorrow
with mike pompeo and the joint chiefs. >> is the u.s. prepared for an iranian attack? >> we're prepared. we're totally prepared. and likewise, we're prepared to attack if we have to as retribution. >> mr. president, if iran's leader said that any response to the suleimani killing would be, quote, proportionate, what would the united states do in the event of any iranian -- >> so, again, john, if you look at what's going on, ours was an attack based on what they did. we weren't the first one out. he killed an american, now two people are dead from the same attack. and some people very badly wounded. and that was one of his smaller endeavors. you look over his past, his past -- he's been called a monster, and he was a monster. and he's no longer a monster. he's dead. that's a good thing for a lot of countries.
he was planning a very big attack and a very bad attack for us and other people. and we stopped him. and i don't think anybody can complain about it. i don't hear too many p other than politicians who are trying to win the presidency. those are the ones that are complaining. but i don't hear anybody else complaining. >> you call him a monster, b but -- >> to each his own. i disgraagree 100%. he has a public to take care of, that's his reason. i'm surprised to hear it, but that's okay. >> are you willing to -- >> say it -- >> are you willing to make a deal with greece -- >> so greece and i and my people, we have a group of people, as you saw they brought a lot of great representatives from greece that we've been dealing with. we have a tremendous greek population, over three million
people as i understand it. that's fantastic. i think i -- i feel i know most of them. i think i know all of them come to think of it. it's a great population in the united states. we're going to be meeting. we're going to be talking. we're going to be negotiating, and we're going to be making a lot of deals. >> let me ask -- >> we have a really great relationship with greece. >> let me add to that, greece is interested, mr. president, in participating in the f-35 program. as you know, we are already upgrading our f-16s -- >> yeah -- >> and that program will be completed in 2023, 2024. we're very much interested in participating in the f-35 program after that. i'm sure that the u.s. will take into consideration the fact that this country is coming out of an economic crisis in terms of structuring the program in the best possible way for my country. >> that's true. you know, they just signed a very big renovation of existing aircraft. they had great aircraft. but it's gotten a little bit tired, and they've done a renovation that's going to bring it up to brand new. and we look forward to doing
that. couple of our great companies are doing it. >> how do you feel about the idea of a supposed withdrawal and the possibility -- isn't that something suleimani wanted? >> well, it's something that i want, too. i mean, eventually they have to be able to defend themselves and take care of themselves. and it's something ultimately that i want to see. we don't want to be there forever. we want to be able to get out. i didn't want to be there in the first place to be honest, and everybody knows it. when i was a civilian i said it. we were there, and they made a decision. and i disagreed with that decision very strongly. but we're there now. we've done a great job. we've gotten rid of the caliphate, 100% of the caliphate is gone. which is isis. we have thousands of isis prisoners that we're keeping right now under lock and key. and we want europe to take many of these prisoners because they came from germany, france, and other places, probably