PBS NewsHour full episode Jan. 3, 2020

PBS NewsHour full episode Jan. 3, 2020


JUDY WOODRUFF: Good evening. I’m Judy Woodruff. On the “NewsHour” tonight: DONALD TRUMP, President of the United States:
Last night, at my direction, the United States military successfully executed a flawless
precision strike that killed the number one terrorist anywhere in the world, Qasem Soleimani. JUDY WOODRUFF: A U.S. airstrike kills one
of Iran’s top military leaders, escalating tensions to a new level. As Tehran vows to retaliate, we consider what
the strike means for U.S. interests and allies in the Middle East and around the world. And it’s Friday. Mark Shields and David Brooks are here to
analyze today’s Iran news and the Democratic presidential campaign with exactly one month
to go before the Iowa caucuses. All that and more on tonight’s “PBS NewsHour.” (BREAK) JUDY WOODRUFF: An elite Iranian general is
dead, and the United States and Iran are closer to conflict. The U.S. military killed Qasem Soleimani in
Iraq today. Washington called it self-defense. Tehran called it a crime and vowed vengeance. Foreign affairs correspondent Nick Schifrin
begins our coverage. NICK SCHIFRIN: He was the Middle East’s most
recognized military commander, the strategist and operational chief of Iran’s militant network,
the symbol of Iran’s regional ambitions. And Qasem Soleimani died last night, when
an American drone fired missiles into his car at Baghdad’s airport. Today, U.S. officials told “PBS NewsHour”
it was a target of opportunity. The president pre-authorized the strike. Military and intelligence officials tracked
Soleimani, and waited for him to land and meet with this man, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis,
the deputy commander of Iraqi militias closely aligned with Iran. The U.S. blames Soleimani and those militias
for the siege of the U.S. Embassy this week, and for launching nearly a dozen attacks on
U.S. bases, including one last Friday that killed a U.S. contractor. Today, President Trump said Soleimani’s death
prevented more attacks. DONALD TRUMP, President of the United States:
Soleimani was plotting imminent and sinister attacks on American diplomats and military
personnel. NICK SCHIFRIN: In Iran, Soleimani’s death
sparked widespread anger. During Friday prayers, congregants chanted
“Death to America.” Outside, they burned U.S. and Israeli flags. And a local commander delivered a threat. MOHAMMAD REZA YAZDI, Commander, Islamic Revolutionary
Guard Corps (through translator): The Americans must know now that, due to the crime they
have committed, they will face no safety or peace anywhere. NICK SCHIFRIN: The protesters also filed in
front of our cameras with less anger than sorrow. They beat their chests and mourned a man they
called MAN (through translator): When I heard the
news of the general’s assassination today, I got very sad. I got sad because we lost a blessing, a son
of God, a man the whole world knew so well. NICK SCHIFRIN: Soleimani was one of Iran’s
most popular figures, outside the supreme leader, who rose through the ranks of the
military to become an icon of ruthless resistance. As commander of the elite paramilitary Quds
Force, he confronted U.S. allies around the region and warned U.S. presidents. QASEM SOLEIMANI, Commander, Iranian Revolutionary
Guards Corps Quds Force (through translator): Hereby, I tell you, the gambling Mr. Trump,
be aware that we are near you, where you do not even imagine. NICK SCHIFRIN: Soleimani helped build what
he called an axis of resistance, militant Shia Muslim groups in half-a-dozen countries
or territories across the region. In Yemen, Shia Houthi militants who receive
arms from Iran fight against a coalition led by Iran’s longtime enemy Saudi Arabia. In Syria, Soleimani personally helped convince
Russia to intervene in the war, and, today, Russia and Iranian-backed fighters have helped
President Bashar al-Assad largely win the war. Every time Soleimani arrived in Syria, he
was greeted as a hero. In Lebanon, Iranian-founded and -backed Hezbollah
threatens Israel with tens of thousands of Iranian-provided rockets and missiles. Today, Hezbollah supporters vowed revenge. MAN (through translator): Call upon us. We are here to strike the oppressors and to
fight. NICK SCHIFRIN: And in Iraq, the U.S. says
fighters loyal to Soleimani killed more than 600 American troops during the Iraq War. But despite targeting the U.S., in the war
on ISIS, Soleimani provided many of the ground troops who pushed ISIS out. Those troops are today integrated into the
Iraqi military. And his supporters now fill Iraq’s Parliament
and vow to evict U.S. troops from the country. But, today, longtime Soleimani adversary Israeli
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the U.S. BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, Israeli Prime Minister:
President Trump deserves all the credit for acting swiftly, forcefully, decisively. NICK SCHIFRIN: In Washington, the response
to the strike fell largely on party lines. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell: SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): For too long, this
evil man operated without constraint, and countless innocents have suffered for it. NICK SCHIFRIN: Top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer: SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): This action may well
have brought our nation closer to another endless war. NICK SCHIFRIN: But President Trump today described
the attack as defensive. DONALD TRUMP: We took action last night to
stop a war. We didn’t take action to start a war. NICK SCHIFRIN: For 15 years, U.S. officials
have been following Soleimani, accusing him of global terrorism. DONALD TRUMP: Today, we remember and honor
the victims of Soleimani’s many atrocities, and we take comfort in knowing that his reign
of terror is over. NICK SCHIFRIN: Today, what was left of the
car where Soleimani died sat in the morning sun. The symbol of Iran’s regional ambitions is
dead, but the ambitions themselves are very much alive and unchanged. JUDY WOODRUFF: And Nick joins me here in the
studio, along with, from Beirut, our special correspondent, Jane Ferguson. Jane, I want to come to you first. What are you learning about reaction in the
region, especially from the Iranian-backed Hezbollah? JANE FERGUSON: Well, of course, Judy, from
Hezbollah, we have seen some of the strongest reaction in terms of rhetoric so far. They released a statement earlier on today,
saying that this was a huge crime and — quote — “It will be the responsibility, duty and
action of all mujahideen brothers throughout the world to take harsh revenge.” It’s worth noting that it’s believed he — Soleimani
was flying back to Baghdad from Beirut. He, of course, had very strong relations here
with the Iranian proxy Hezbollah. And he had been advising both the Iraqi government
and the Lebanese group Hezbollah on how to deal with protests that were affecting them,
protests that, yes, were about domestic politics, but threatened Iranian hegemony and Iranian
influence in the region. JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Nick, separately, what
are you learning from the administration about the legal justification for what happened? NICK SCHIFRIN: White House officials are very
clear there’s two justifications, one, self-defense. And they say that comes both from the Constitution
and also international law. And, two, they cite the 2001 post-9/11 authorization
to use military force, which, of course, Judy, was about 9/11. We should note that the Quds Force, that Iran
had nothing to do with 9/11. But now Presidents Trump, Obama and Bush all
have used that AUMF, all used that military force authorization to pursue military interventions
across the world since 9/11. JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Jane, back to you. We know Iran involved in so many conflicts
around the region. What are you hearing about what the repercussions
from this could be. JANE FERGUSON: Like you say, Judy, their tentacles
have spread so far across the region, that the repercussions could be huge, on two sides,
on both the conflicts that they are involved in — and that’s, of course, in places like
Syria, where the Iranian — special Iranian forces, as well as Soleimani himself, were
advising and helping with the Syrian government there — and across Iraq, as well as here
in Lebanon. Thinking about the reaction that Iran could
possibly basically invoke in the coming days and weeks, there are so many possibilities,
whether it’s Hezbollah here in Lebanon, who are one of the strongest armed groups in the
region, or in Iraq in terms of mobilizing politicians who have been already calling
for U.S. troops to be pulled out of Iraq. There are about 5,000 troops there at the
moment. And if politicians were to come to the rare
moment of agreement in Iraq to vote to push American troops out, then that, in turn, would
also have a knock-on effect of basically making U.S. troops in Syria less viable, because
they are, of course, supported by bases in Iraq. JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Nick, just finally, you
have been talking to officials inside and outside the administration. What concerns are they expressing? NICK SCHIFRIN: One of them is exactly where
Jane ended, the concern that Iraq will decide to evict U.S. troops from Iraq. And the Council of Representatives, the group
that will decide that, will meet this weekend. And so there is some concern that this strike
will inhibit the U.S. presence in Iraq moving forward. Escalation, as Jane said, across the region,
absolutely possible, in many ways. The Trump administration today announced 3,000
more troops to the region. That’s 18,000 troops in the last — over the
last year or so, Judy. That’s quite a few troops for a president
who says he’s wanted to leave the Middle East. And, three, some fears that I have been talking
to people about, a more extreme successor. Jane mentioned the fact that Soleimani went
to Beirut, went to Damascus, went to Baghdad. They were working on governments. He was largely a diplomat, in addition to
being a military commander. There are people who are even more extreme
than him behind him. The administration officials I talk to, though,
say, look, we had the chance. We had to kill this person. He’s got too much blood on his hands. We couldn’t give this shot up. JUDY WOODRUFF: So many threads to this story. Nick Schifrin, Jane Ferguson, thank you both. NICK SCHIFRIN: Thank you. JUDY WOODRUFF: Members of Congress were quick
to respond to the news of Soleimani’s death, and their reactions were mixed. A short time ago, I spoke with two key members
of the Senate, first Senator Tim Kaine, Democrat of Virginia. He serves on both the Foreign Relations and
the Armed Services committees. Senator Tim Kaine, thank you very much for
joining us. What about the killing of General Soleimani? Was this the right thing to do? SEN. TIM KAINE (D-VA): Well, look, I think the
president, President Trump, has pushed the United States essentially to the brink of
an unnecessary war with Iran in the killing of General Soleimani. Is he a despicable killer? Absolutely, he was. Is Iran a bad actor? Absolutely, it is, and it remains a bad actor. But the question that we have to grapple with
is, should the United States be engaged in a war with Iran? Should we get involved in another war in the
Middle East? And that’s what President Trump has pushed
us to with the maximum pressure campaign that he has announced that has involved diplomatic
and economic and military pressure against Iran. JUDY WOODRUFF: Well… SEN. TIM KAINE: And so, today, I filed a resolution
to force the debate onto the floor of the Senate, so that the Senate can weigh in, because
whatever you think about whether the U.S. should be at war with Iran or not, that decision
should be made by Congress, not by a president acting on his own. JUDY WOODRUFF: Before I ask you about that
resolution, though, what about the administration argument that this was a necessary move because
General Soleimani, what he represented was an imminent threat, he was planning more attacks,
he had already been responsible for the deaths of many Americans, and was plotting more? SEN. TIM KAINE: That is what the administration
says, Judy. They have not briefed Congress on that. The leader of the House and the Democratic
leader of the Senate were not briefed about it. They were told after they read about the attack
in the newspaper. And the Constitution makes very, very plain
that, if we’re going to be engaged in a war, it should be Congress making that decision,
not the president doing it on his own. So, now the president has brought us to the
brink of hostilities, our embassy being invaded, an American contractor being killed. The president tore up a diplomatic deal with
Iran. The president ordered this strike on his own,
without briefing key congressional leaders. It’s time for this president to not just act
on his own, but to do what the Constitution says, and let’s have a debate about whether
the U.S. should be engaged in war with Iran or not. There may be some who believe we should. I happen to believe that that war would be
unnecessary at this point, but let’s at least have a debate in front of the American public
and actually have a vote on it. JUDY WOODRUFF: What are you concerned about
in terms of an Iranian response right now, Senator? SEN. TIM KAINE: Beginning last October, Judy, October
of 2018, the Pentagon started to warn the president that the actions that the president
was ordering, diplomatic, economic and military, were raising the threat of retaliation against
the United States. The Defense Department has warned the president
of this now for well over a year. And their warnings have proven correct. So when the U.S. takes actions, in airstrikes
that kill 25 Iranians last week, obviously, that raised the threat level. When the U.S. takes action against Soleimani,
again, a despicable killer, but when that action is taken, it raises the threat level
for Americans. The embassy is closed now. The U.S. is telling Americans to get out of
the country of Iraq. And, as you know, if the U.S. presence dwindles
in Iraq, what that means is that Iran gets more and more powerful in Iraq. By taking military strikes in Iraq over the
objections of the Iraqi government, we are pushing Iraq more and more into Iran’s hands,
and we’re also pushing our adversaries Iran, Russia and China, closer and closer together. I know you are aware, as I was, that those
nations did joint naval exercises last week. We’re hurting our allies. We’re pushing our adversaries closer together. And that’s because the president acts on his
own, without meaningfully engaging in Congress, especially on this matter of war. JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Senator, are you saying
with this resolution that Congress would have to authorize any military action against Iran? SEN. TIM KAINE: What my resolution makes plain
— and it’s a resolution that’s filed in connection with the War Powers Act of 1974 — is that
there would be just two routes for war against Iran, that Congress would authorize military
action, either by an authorization or a declaration of war, or there would be a demonstrated imminent
threat. And the U.S. can always protect itself against
a demonstrated imminent threat. But the notion the president can just say
that without briefing Congress and engage in military strikes to of the kind that the
U.S. has now been engaged in for some time, it’s time to put this out on the table, explain
the facts to the American public, and have an open discussion about whether we should
be in another war in the Middle East. I don’t think that war is necessary right
now. Some may disagree, but at least we shouldn’t
allow this president or any president — and, as you know, I said the same thing about President
Obama as I’m saying about President Trump. Don’t start with war without coming to Congress,
submitting it for a debate and a vote that the American public can see. JUDY WOODRUFF: Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia,
we thank you. SEN. TIM KAINE: Absolutely. JUDY WOODRUFF: And now, for a Republican view,
we turn to Senator James Risch of Idaho. He’s the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations
Committee. Senator, thank you very much for joining us. I know that you agree with the president that
this targeted killing of General Soleimani was warranted. Why? SEN. JAMES RISCH (R-ID): This man is as well-known
— was as well-known as Osama bin Laden. Certainly, the case can be made that he was
more dangerous than Osama bin Laden, if you take just the number of people that he killed
vs. what Osama bin Laden did. He’s done terrible things. He heads up a terrorist organization, the
Quds Force. He has — he was the person who was responsible
for executing the program of manufacturing and deploying IEDs. They’re the terrible roadside bomb that killed
and maimed so many of our men and women who fought in Iraq. This was a bad person. Just recently, there is very strong and clear
intelligence information that he was ratcheting up and getting ready to commit some acts that
would have resulted and most likely resulted in a loss of very significant American life. JUDY WOODRUFF: And that’s what I wanted to
ask you about, because we just heard Senator Kaine say there was no evidence that Congress
had of an imminent threat and that, in effect, what the president has done is drive the U.S.
and Iran, in his words, to the brink of an unnecessary war now. SEN. JAMES RISCH: Well, Tim’s a bright guy. And I really respect his judgment. But Tim knows as well as I do that Iran has
been doing this for a long time. They shot down that drone just recently. They attacked the Saudi Arabia oil plant. They have been for — over the last 60 days,
they have committed a dozen attacks on our troops in Iraq by lobbing rockets onto the
grounds. They hadn’t killed anybody until just recently
and, of course, killed an American and an injured four. I think, really, the — they have been notorious
for miscalculating in the past. They looked at what I think was reasonable
forbearance on the president’s part when he made the decision the drone in the second
attack that he would forbear at that moment. I think they mistook that for weakness. Myself and others have been sending the message
to the Iranians, both publicly and through the usual back channels, that they shouldn’t
mistake reasonable forbearance for weakness… JUDY WOODRUFF: But, Senator… SEN. JAMES RISCH: … that this man is… JUDY WOODRUFF: But, Senator, if I could just
step in, given the fact that there’s every expectation Iran will now retaliate, was it
worth whatever they’re going to do to take him down? SEN. JAMES RISCH: Well, clearly, this had to be
done. Judy, can you imagine if we were holding this
interview after the intelligence information that we had clearly showed that Soleimani
was going to do these attacks and killing Americans, and then the word got out that
the president knew about it and didn’t do anything? That would be horrendous. Can you imagine what the Democrats would be
saying under those circumstances? JUDY WOODRUFF: Senator, one other point Senator
Kaine made had to do with how this pushes, in his words, Iraq into the arms of Iran,
that carrying this out on Iraqi soil — we know the Iraqi prime minister has criticized
the U.S. for doing this. Is that another repercussion the U.S. would
rather not have seen? SEN. JAMES RISCH: Easy charge to make. The difficulty is, is the Iranians have been
infiltrating Iraq for a long time. Soleimani himself was commanding Iranian troops
that were present in Iraq. This — there’s no pushing needed. The Shia who live in Iraq are perfectly happy
to be in bed with the Iranians, the Sunnis not so much. And as with most of these conflicts in the
Middle East, it is very, very deeply tied to the religious difference between those
two sects. JUDY WOODRUFF: And, finally, Senator, what
about the role of Congress in this? Should Congress be required to have an authorization,
a sign-off before the president takes this kind of military action in the future? SEN. JAMES RISCH: You know, we have the War Powers
Act that the president has. And the president also has powers under Article
2 of the Constitution. This wasn’t a political action. This was a military action that the president
took to protect American people and American interests. Under the law, he is required to report to
Congress within 48 hours of the action he took and the basis for it. And I have been assured in the numerous calls
I have had, including talking with the president this morning, that — that report will be
coming. And this was a military action. It wasn’t a legislative action. JUDY WOODRUFF: And going forward? SEN. JAMES RISCH: Same thing. I think that the — there’s not going to be
any military action on our part at this point, unless, of course, more — we get information
or the president gets information from the intelligence community that we have an imminent
attack. He will defend American troops. I’m absolutely convinced of it. He hates doing this. He doesn’t like using kinetic action, but
he is deeply committed to protecting American lives. JUDY WOODRUFF: Chairman James Risch of the
Senate Foreign Relations Committee, thank you, Senator. SEN. JAMES RISCH: Judy, thank you very much for
having me. JUDY WOODRUFF: One question now, how may Iran
respond to today’s American military strike, and how well-prepared is the U.S. military
to withstand Iran’s retaliation? Nick Schifrin is back with more on that. NICK SCHIFRIN: We now get two views from people
who watch or have dealt with Iran over the years. Retired Admiral Michael Mullen was chairman
of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 2007 to 2011, at a time when the U.S. significantly
increased the number of troops in Iraq and the war in Iraq intensified. And here with me is Karim Sadjadpour, an Iran
expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a global bipartisan think tank. Welcome back to you both to the “NewsHour.” Thank you very much. Karim Sadjadpour, let me start with you. How irreplaceable is Qasem Soleimani? KARIM SADJADPOUR, Carnegie Endowment For International
Peace: Well, Nick, Iran is the only country in the world which is simultaneously fighting
three proxy wars with the United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia. And Soleimani has been managing these proxy
wars for the last two decades. He has been leading Iran’s fight in places
like Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Yemen. And he had very effectively built up a Shiite
foreign legion to project Iranian power throughout the Middle East. He was a figure who was widely respected within
the Iranian regime and with Iran’s regional allies. If you talk to U.S. military commanders, they
would say he’s enemy number one for the United States, far greater than al-Qaida, Osama bin
Laden, Baghdadi, and others. So I would say he’s as close to being irreplaceable
to Iran as any other individual in that regime. NICK SCHIFRIN: Admiral Mullen, do you believe
he is as irreplaceable as anyone is in Iran, outside of the leaders of the country itself? ADM. MICHAEL MULLEN (RET.), Former Joints Chiefs
Chairman: Well, it’s not a perfect comparison, Nick, but I do agree. I think the loss of Soleimani is the equivalent
of the loss of bin Laden or Baghdadi to the organization in which each of them — in which
each of them represents. And Soleimani has been a brilliant strategist. He has been the controlling entity inside
Iran for two decades. And this is a huge loss for the national security
apparatus inside Iran. I know we often talk, someone will come in
behind him. I’m sure that. But it will not be somebody that has the same
kind of capability as Soleimani. So it’s good riddance to him after a long
period of time. NICK SCHIFRIN: I’m reminded that Soleimani
would go to — could go to Moscow, could go to Beirut, could go to Damascus. Karim Sadjadpour, the fact that he could do
that means that Iran has the ability to respond across the region, as you said, a foreign
legion of Shia militia groups. What’s the most likely Iranian response, given
how high-profile, given how important he was to the country? KARIM SADJADPOUR: Well, the regime has to
respond, or else they will lose face. But if they respond excessively, they could
risk losing their heads. And for the Iranian regime, what is paramount
is their own survival. Ayatollah Khamenei, the supreme leader, is
80 years old. He’s been ruling for 30 years. He’s not a gambler. I think that Iran has plenty of means at its
disposal to respond, both regionally and internationally. They like to operate via proxy. They like to have plausible deniability. These days, in the era of drones and cyberattacks,
they will be sure to employ that. And we know the old expression that revenge
is a dish best served cold. I don’t think that they’re not likely to launch
all hell in the next 48 hours. But this is going to be a sustained proxy
war against the United States and U.S. allies for many months to come. NICK SCHIFRIN: And even more intense than
it already is? KARIM SADJADPOUR: More intense, certainly. NICK SCHIFRIN: Admiral Mullen, I want to come
back to something that you said, the fact that Soleimani has been kind of the controlling
entity for two decades for some of these efforts that Iran — take me back to your time as
chairman. You served both in the Bush administration,
at the end of it, and into the Obama administration. In both of those administrations, there were
opportunities to kill Soleimani. Why were those opportunities not taken back
then? ADM. MICHAEL MULLEN: I think the — the target
list, if you will, in those — in those times didn’t include Soleimani. And that’s different from the terrorist organizations
of al-Qaida in Iraq and ISIS over time. That said, he was somebody that we kept a
very close eye on and knew where he was and still felt, the sooner he was gone, the better. I think the fact that he’s a government representative,
an official, spent a lot of time obviously in Iran. So it’s a different approach in terms of assassinating
somebody. In this case, he’s a military commander on
the ground in Iraq with what appears to be exquisite intelligence on our part. And he’s planning to kill more Americans. He’s a legitimate target now. And for that — those reasons, actually, I’m
very supportive of taking him out. I recognize there’s significant risk here. I think the Trump administration, since it
left the nuclear deal, has been ratcheting it up. I worry that there’s no off-ramp for Iran,
and there’s no off-ramp for the U.S. for a diplomatic solution. So the risks are high. I just think, from the standpoint of eliminating
somebody who really was the strategic link for — for Iran’s national security was, at
this particular point, worth that risk. NICK SCHIFRIN: Karim Sadjadpour, there are
critics of this strike. And as, Admiral Mullen says, one of them is
about escalation. But he also brought up the nuclear deal. On Monday, Iran has promised to step away
a little bit more from the Iran nuclear deal. Could they actually do even something more
dramatic when it comes to nuclear for a response? KARIM SADJADPOUR: Well, I will expect Iran
to put its foot on the accelerator again in the nuclear context. Now, they’re very careful not to go from zero
to 100. They will try to go from zero to 20. The goal is to really further split the international
community. They’re not going to announce that they’re
moving full speed ahead for a bomb, something that would unite China, Russia and Europe
with the Trump administration. They want to move deliberately, in a way that
the world will essentially blame the Trump administration for provoking Iran, rather
than blaming Iran. And so they will restart their nuclear program. They will continue to launch proxy attacks
on the region. And, pretty soon, there will be pressure from
Israel. As Iran is inching towards nuclear weapons
capability, there will be pressure from Israel on the United States to take preemptive military
action. NICK SCHIFRIN: And, Admiral Mullen, you mentioned
no off-ramp. In the time we have left, how concerned are
you about the chances of escalation, the cycle of escalation, and the fact, as you put it,
that there is no off-ramp to that escalation right now? ADM. MICHAEL MULLEN: It’s been very difficult to
see what the endgame is for the Trump administration with respect to Iran, and specifically the
diplomatic channel that needs to be created, so that we can both step down from this ladder,
if you will, before something really bad happens. We are in a situation where escalation has
taken place. And, in that, miscalculation can take place,
in which case it could really, really result in a disastrous outcome and another war in
the Middle East, which is the last thing in the world we need. NICK SCHIFRIN: And a war that President Trump
has promised not to actually get into, right? ADM. MICHAEL MULLEN: He has. But it’s very clear — and this strike is
an example — that he will — he will take action to defend U.S. interests and U.S. citizens. So it’s — I mean, the options or the space
to maneuver here is just getting smaller and smaller. Someone needs to take a step to get us off
this path before something really bad happens. NICK SCHIFRIN: Mike Mullen, former chairman
of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Karim Sadjadpour, Carnegie Endowment, here with me, thank you
very much to both. KARIM SADJADPOUR: Thanks, Nick. JUDY WOODRUFF: In the day’s other news: The
confrontation with Iran sent U.S. oil prices surging 3 percent. But stock prices sank, as investors sought
safety in U.S. government bonds. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 234
points to close below 28635. The Nasdaq fell 71 points, and the S&P 500
slipped 23. The U.S. Senate officially returned to business
today, still at odds over how to run an impeachment trial of President Trump. Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell
refused again to commit to calling additional witnesses. But Democratic Minority Leader Chuck Schumer
insisted that hearing from top White House aides is critical. They spoke on the Senate floor. SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): Impartial justice
means making up our minds on the right basis. It means seeing clearly, not what some might
wish the House of Representatives had proven, but what they actually have or have not proven. SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): Leader McConnell has
been clear and vocal that he has no intention to be impartial in this process. Leader McConnell reminds us today, and in
previous days, that, rather than acting like a judge and a juror, he intends to act as
the executioner of a fair trial. JUDY WOODRUFF: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi
has balked at submitting the impeachment articles until the Senate decides if it will hear from
more witnesses. A federal appeals court heard arguments today
on whether White House officials have total legal immunity against testifying before Congress. Former White House counsel Don McGahn was
subpoenaed last April about the special counsel’s Russia investigation, but he was directed
from above not to comply from. In Washington today, judges pressed the issue. JUDGE THOMAS B. GRIFFITH, D.C. Circuit Court
of Appeals: Has there ever been an instance of such a broad-scale defiance of a congressional
request for information, in the history of the republic? HASHIM MOOPPAN, Deputy Assistant Attorney
General: Never before in history has the Congress engaged in the sort of illegitimate inquiry
that it’s doing. I don’t want to get into that fight, because
— precisely because that is the sort of political dispute that this court shouldn’t be engaged
in. JUDY WOODRUFF: The outcome of the McGahn case
could have implications for other Trump aides who refused to testify at impeachment hearings. The appeals court also held arguments today
over a congressional subpoena for grand jury materials from the Russia investigation. In Australia, officials rushed today to complete
a mass evacuation of historic scope, before wildfire conditions worsen again. Several coastal towns are facing imminent
danger. Dan Rivers of Independent Television News
reports from Moruya in New South Wales. DAN RIVERS: The edge of this town used to
be a green calm wildlife refuge but not anymore. Now it is thick with smoke, and constantly
patrolled by pilots who risk their lives to save others. They are throwing everything they have at
this disaster, but the wall of flames keeps advancing. This town, like so many others down the coast,
is literally in the line of fire, with very little left to protect it. In the hands of these pilots, the fate of
so many depends. In Mallacoota, it felt like the fire was winning
this war. Tourists turned into evacuees, rescued by
the Australian navy, aboard, a helping hand, a hot meal and a huge sense of relief. HMAS Choules usually accommodates 700 troops,
but its commander said it can cope with many more evacuees. Up in the hills of Victoria, the tourist town
of Bright is one of just dozens left almost deserted by the hasty mass evacuation. MAN: here’s tents and caravans and all sorts
of things scattered around there. There’s a lot of food in all the villas, and
probably seen what happened over the coast, and they have said, OK, we’re out of here. DAN RIVERS: Now those who are left are braced
for the worst. Winds of more than 90 miles an hour tomorrow
and temperatures soaring to more than 40 degrees Celsius threaten to make Saturday the most
dangerous day so far, with three separate fires all possibly converging into one potentially
deadly conflagration. JUDY WOODRUFF: That report from Dan Rivers
of Independent Television News. The death toll has reached 43 in monsoon flooding
around Indonesia’s capital, with nearly 400,000 people forced to flee. Today, just outside Jakarta, waters receded
to reveal streets turned to wastelands. Residents struggled to push damaged vehicles
off muddy roads littered with debris. Back in this country, downpours across the
Deep South put parts of five states under flood warnings and watches. The National Weather Service said that flood
advisories covered parts of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, and Georgia, as the storm
system moved east. The region faced flooded roads and overflowing
rivers. Tennessee Congressman Phil Roe has joined
a wave of House Republicans who are retiring at the end of this year. He said today that he always planned to serve
only five or six terms after his initial election in 2008; 25 other House Republicans have already
decided not to run for reelection. And leaders of the United Methodist Church
say they are splitting in two over allowing gay marriage and gay clergy. They announced today that one branch will
endorse both practices. The other will oppose both. A church conference will vote on the plan
in May. Still to come on the “NewsHour”: a doctored
video of Joe Biden goes viral, drawing attention to the threat of disinformation on the 2020
campaign trail; plus, Mark Shields and David Brooks break down the top headlines from the
first week of the new year. As the 2020 campaign heats up, candidates
are facing an historic challenge, an unprecedented scale and variety of disinformation online. John Yang has that story. Hey, folks. JOHN YANG: The latest example? This selectively edited 19-second viral video
of former Vice President Joe Biden. JOSEPH BIDEN (D), Presidential Candidate:
Our culture, our culture, it’s not imported from some African nation or some Asian nation. It’s our English jurisprudential culture,
our European culture. JOHN YANG: An anonymous Twitter user posted
the video, saying: “Biden proclaims European identity of America. Our culture is not imported from some African
nation.” QUESTION: Could you speak to your work with
women in sexual assault, domestic violence? JOSEPH BIDEN: Yes. JOHN YANG: But missing from the edited video? The context of Biden’s full remarks. In his more than 10-minute answer, Biden called
domestic violence a cultural problem from English common law of the 1300s that allowed
men to abuse their wives. Then, Biden said: JOSEPH BIDEN: Folks, this is about changing
the culture, our culture, our culture. It’s not imported from some African nation
or some Asian nation. It’s our English jurisprudential culture,
our European culture that says it’s all right. JOAN DONOVAN, Harvard Kennedy School: Right
now, we’re in no way prepared for what’s to come. JOHN YANG: The ease of creating this kind
of misinformation is the scariest part, says Joan Donovan of the Harvard Kennedy School. JOAN DONOVAN: It’s difficult to see why a
video like this might be a problem, because it is not using any fancy editing technology. The issue is, is that we have no mechanism
for retraction, nor correction on these platforms. So, anybody who saw that video before there
were any articles written by journalists debunking it may still believe it’s true. JOHN YANG: Biden later responded at a campaign
event in Iowa, partly blaming President Trump. JOSEPH BIDEN: Because that’s how this guy
operates. JOHN YANG: While the president didn’t share
that video of Biden, he’s shared similar edited videos including this one of Biden: JOAN DONOVAN: When someone who is a newsworthy
individual, be it the president or someone from his Cabinet, as well as other political
candidates, shares different pieces of media, and some of these are decontextualized videos
or other kinds of rumors and scandals, we have to be especially careful, as both experts
and journalists, not to take the bait. JOHN YANG: Another example of misinformation? A doctored photo that accused the campaign
of Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren of replacing a Black Lives Matter sign with
one reading “African Americans With Warren.” SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D-NY): We need comprehensive
immigration reform. JOHN YANG: And in March, the Republican National
Committee posted a video of New York Senator and then-presidential candidate Kirsten Gillibrand
touting comprehensive immigration reform, with the misleading headline “Senator Gillibrand:
Expand Social Security to all illegal immigrants.” Misinformation comes from both sides. This clip of President Trump telling a story
about a World War II soldier on Veterans Day was taken out of context. DONALD TRUMP, President of the United States:
Roddie responded, “Major, you can shoot me, but you will have to kill us all.” That’s something. JOHN YANG: A journalist at the media outlet
Vox clipped that sound bite to: DONALD TRUMP: You can shoot me, but you will
have to kill us all. JOHN YANG: Harvard’s Joan Donovan. JOAN DONOVAN: Unfortunately, right now, the
onus falls on audiences to be careful sharers. Is there another way in which I can look into
and verify this piece of information? And, in most cases, waiting is the — is one
of the best ways to deal with this. JOHN YANG: Valuable advice for 2020. For the “PBS NewsHour,” I’m John Yang. JUDY WOODRUFF: Between the escalating conflict
with Iran and the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, 2020 has already
been a busy year for American politics. Here to help us make sense of it all, Shields
and Brooks. That’s syndicated columnist Mark Shields and
New York Times columnist David Brooks. Hello to both of you, and happy new year. MARK SHIELDS: Happy new year. JUDY WOODRUFF: Although, as we have been reporting,
the new year has gotten off to a sobering start. Mark, what do you make of the Trump administration
decision to target and kill this senior Iranian general? MARK SHIELDS: I don’t know. Every act like this has risk and reward, and
I don’t know anybody who can predict what will happen, Judy. I mean, it violates all of the rules that
we have about going into armed conflict with disproportionate force and with fully understood
objectives and with an exit strategy and with backing of our allies and so forth. None of those was met. And the president doesn’t have the benefit
of the doubt. He treats truth like a second home. He only lives there occasionally, and, therefore,
he doesn’t have the natural credibility that American presidents — and it has been hurt. The Afghan papers, most recently The Washington
Post, revealed 18 years of deception and deceit and self-delusion about the United States
in Afghanistan, the lying that we have had and the evasion. So, you know, I don’t see it — I see it more
impulsive than strategic, just like the entire Trump administration. It doesn’t appear to be thought out. JUDY WOODRUFF: How do you respond to that? DAVID BROOKS: Yes. Well, first, like the other 7.5 billion inhabitants
of this Earth, I don’t know either. But I do see it sort of on three levels, first,
in the near term, the immediate term, which is, I think it’s a reasonably good thing that
somebody who was responsible for the deaths of 600 Americans and hundreds of thousands
of people in the Middle East meet some justice. I do think that’s a good thing. The fact that there were rallies around the
Middle East celebrating his death is a sign of the destruction he has wrought. Then there is the middle term, and that’s
somewhere between anxiety-inducing and terrifying, because we just — I don’t think either Iraq
or Iran or the U.S. want to have a war, but they have got to show they do something, and
then we do something. And it could escalate into something. I think it’s extremely unlikely. But they play this game. I have been covering the Middle East for 30
years. And they play this game. And, sometimes, it goes fine and somebody
just finally quiet — walks away, but, sometimes, it doesn’t. And so, in the middle term, I think we’re
overall right to be worried about that. And then, in the long term, I think talent
doesn’t grow on trees, and this guy was their best guy. And so getting rid of your enemy’s best guy
probably in the long term yields some benefit. And, second, his strategic — his basic signature
move was to create militias around the Middle East, extragovernmental militias, in a sometimes
hostile country. And to the extent that we can weaken that
there should be militias all around the Middle East, then we have stabilized the Middle East
long-term. The middle term is what you have to worry
about. JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Mark, do you get the idea
the administration is prepared for what may come from this, as a result of this? MARK SHIELDS: No. No. And I guess where take some — depart from
David is, we have been down this road before. We had a major Republican leader address the
Veterans of Foreign Wars Convention and assure us that the foreign leader has weapons of
mass destruction, there’s no doubt he’s amassing them to use against us, against our allies,
I’m confident that he’s on the verge of having nuclear weapons. That was Dick Cheney. That was 18 years ago. And that was hundreds of thousand of deaths
ago. As a consequence of this act, the Iraqi Parliament
may very well do what it hasn’t done. And that is act in concert and ask us to leave. If they ask us to leave, now, what does that
mean for our troops in Syria? What does that mean for any of our influence
in the area? Now, I just — I do not see any coherent,
thoughtful policy emanating from this. It’s almost like the administration has been
scrambling to come up with a rationalization. They did it, and now, well, we’re going to
brief you on Tuesday. We’re going to brief you 120 hours after the
event as to what happened. We’re going to do it from a resort in Florida,
I mean, suggesting the gravity of the moment — all of that. I mean, for a man who’s sensitive to theatrics
and optics, like Donald Trump is, none of this makes any sense. DAVID BROOKS: Yes, I guess the only — the
first thing I would say was, what Mark raised, all those are real possibilities. And, frankly, it’s above my pay grade to know
all the different details of this. But a lot of people I admire, like Mike Mullen,
who we just had on the show, or General Stan McChrystal, who was head of special ops, before
running the Afghan war, they say, on balance, they see the risks and it’s worth the risks. And so these are really professional operators,
and so you have to have some respect for that. As for the Trump administration, I sort of
agree. I often ask the administration officials from
past administration, what did you learn inside that you didn’t learn outside? And how is it going to affect your career
as a pundit afterwards? And they always say, you never know the actual
information that is going on inside. In most administrations, there’s all these
backroom signals they’re all sending even to their adversaries. And so you have some confidence, well, these
people know what they’re doing. I don’t have that confidence right now. And so I do agree with Mark that I don’t think
there is a policy process in anything realm of the Trump administration. And so, therefore, the thought they have sketched
out scenarios B, C, D, and Q, that’s probably not happened. And so that’s where the anxiety comes from. JUDY WOODRUFF: Are you discouraged? MARK SHIELDS: Judy, on the eve of going to
war in Iraq, Jim Webb had been secretary of the Navy and later be secretary — senator
from Virginia, asked a very straightforward question, which the administration, Bush administration,
refused to confront. Are we as a nation prepared to be an occupying
country and force in the Middle East for the next 30 to 50 years? And he was — oh, what do you mean? What do you mean? I mean, war begins with unintended consequences. Admiral Mullen referred to that. I mean, on the eve of World War I, the German
general staff was absolutely convinced 42 days to conquer France and France’s army. I mean, and here we have 75 years after Victory
in Europe Day, and we have troops in Europe, and we have American troops in Japan, and
67 years after the armistice in Korea, we’re on the front lines in Korea. I mean, so… DAVID BROOKS: I don’t think anyone wants to
do boots on the ground. I certainly would find that appalling. But the Middle East fights their wars differently. They — it’s like a little shot here and then
a little shot there. And it’s choreographed. You go up here. You go there. And so they have been doing this. And they’re professionals at it, which is
— and we’re not. So that should be faced. JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, a lot of conversation
around it and reaction, David, by the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates. We are today exactly one month away from the
first votes being cast, the Iowa — the Iowa caucuses. Do you see this Iran event having a real effect
in some way on the presidential contest? Does it favor one candidate? DAVID BROOKS: Well, you would think would
favor Biden, because he’s been there in foreign policy, and a lot of the others have barely
spoken about foreign policy. I think it favors them all to some degree. I think it hurts Donald Trump. I think the idea that we may get sucked into
a war in the Middle East is something that nobody wants. And I think a lot of people, certainly in
my texting early this morning, said, are we going to war, are we going to war? There’s, A, a sense of great danger and, B,
no faith that the U.S. can conduct this. And that’s a fallout from the Iraq War. And the second — but on the general election,
I do think the Democrats have to come up with some sort of defense policy. It’s not enough to say, we’re going to have
no war, because every president in all of our lifetimes has had to get conduct military
operations. And so you have to give some sense of when
you would use military force and when you wouldn’t. It’s not enough just to say, no endless wars,
which is what they’re all falling back to right now. JUDY WOODRUFF: How do you see the candidates? (CROSSTALK) JUDY WOODRUFF: … campaign? MARK SHIELDS: I think the beneficiary, initial
beneficiary, is Joe Biden. I think the question is, is the United States
four years into this a more respected, a more trusted and safer nation than it was four
years ago? And I think Biden can make the case that it
is not. The case makes itself that it is not under
Donald Trump. And I think he offers stability and maturity
and knowledge. I mean, for one thing, we’re dealing with
someone who his arrogance is only matched by his lack of information. And that — so I think, in that sense… JUDY WOODRUFF: You’re speaking about the president. MARK SHIELDS: The president. I’m speaking of the president, the commander
in chief. So, I do think that it benefits Biden more
than anybody else. Bernie Sanders has obviously trumpeted the
fact that he was opposed to it initially in 2002. And that’s the card he will play. I don’t see how the others benefit, quite
frankly, at this point. JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, it’s war and peace, and
I hate to bring up something crass, but money is something that makes the wheels turn in
American politics. And, David, this week was the end of the — the
end of December, the end of the last cycle of counting how much money. And we have got — we can show our audience
and you just quickly. Here is what it looked like, President Trump
hauling in $46 million, but right behind him, Bernie Sanders $34.5 million, Pete Buttigieg
more than 24.5, Joe Biden 22. We learned today Elizabeth Warren coming in
behind. She didn’t raise as much as she had the previous
quarter. And then you see Amy Klobuchar, Cory Booker
and others. What is this telling us about the race, if
anything? DAVID BROOKS: I think they’re all doing very
well, exceptionally well. There’s a lot of money there, even Sanders. She went down, but she shouldn’t go down hugely. And so there’s just a lot of money there. JUDY WOODRUFF: You mean Warren. DAVID BROOKS: Warren, I’m sorry, yes. Sorry. JUDY WOODRUFF: Yes. DAVID BROOKS: Sanders is the most impressive
of the group. The one thing I’d highlight, sort of perversely,
is the amount of money Yang and Klobuchar raised, which is very high. For the big candidates, they’re getting a
lot of free media. They’re — they’re sort of established. But this kind of money means that Yang and
Klobuchar can be in the game. MARK SHIELDS: Yes. DAVID BROOKS: And, to me, money diminishes
in value the more of it you have. You need enough to be in the game, but, after
that, it sort of doesn’t matter as much. And so the fact that those two are staying
in the game, to me, is a significant part of the race. JUDY WOODRUFF: A minute. What do you see? MARK SHIELDS: In a minute. (LAUGHTER) MARK SHIELDS: What I do think is that the
two beneficiaries were two who had the bad news this past quarter. Bernie Sanders had a heart attack and raised
$36 million. I mean, it’s a great tribute to his support
and the intensity of it. And Donald Trump was impeached, and he got
small contributions. There is enough. What you have to have is enough to get through
Iowa and New Hampshire, and to do it comfortably and competitively. And every one of the people on that list does
have that money. And if they finish second in New Hampshire
or in the top three in Iowa, they will go on. If they don’t, they can say good night and
return to their day job. JUDY WOODRUFF: And I think they’re all listening
to you right now. And they know — they know what their future
is. All right, fourth-quarter fund-raising, and
so much more. Mark Shields, David Brooks, thank you. MARK SHIELDS: Thank you. JUDY WOODRUFF: And we will be back right here
on Monday. We hope you will join us. That’s the “NewsHour” for tonight. I’m Judy Woodruff. Have a great weekend. Thank you, and good night.

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