Published January 05, 2020
This is a rush transcript from "Fox News Sunday," January 5, 2020. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
Chris Wallace: I'm Chris Wallace. A potential turning point in the Middle East as President Trump orders an airstrike that kills Iran's top general.
[begin video clip]
Donald Trump: He was plotting attacks against Americans but now we've ensured that his atrocities have been stopped for good.
Chris Wallace: Tehran vows a hard revenge after a drone strike takes out General Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran's elite Quds force.
Male Speaker: When this general is martyred, the whole U.S. army is put on alert in the entire region.
Chris Wallace: Now as more U.S. forces head to the region, what happens next in the Middle East?
Mike Pompeo: We don't seek war with Iran but we at the same time are not going to stand by and watch the Iranians escalate and continue to put American lives at risk.
Chris Wallace: We'll ask Secretary of State Mike Pompeo live only on Fox News Sunday. And get reaction from Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen. Then Congress returns from break to its standoff over impeachment.
Mitch McConnell: We can't hold a trial without the articles.
Chuck Schumer: We are no closer to establishing the rules for a Senate trial than when we last met.
Chris Wallace: We'll ask our Sunday panel where the process stands more than two weeks after the House vote. And our power player of the week, the true Hollywood story of the head of the Motion Picture Association.
Male Speaker: I went from working from Kermit and Miss Piggy to the president of the United States.
Chris Wallace: All right now on Fox News Sunday.
[end video clip]
Chris Wallace: And hello again from Fox News in Washington. The deadly strike on Iranian general Qassem Soleimani marks a major escalation in the standoff between Washington and Tehran raising fears of all-out war, the U.S. sending more than 4,000 additional troops to the Middle East this week as Iran promises to seek revenge. In a moment we'll speak live with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. But first let's get the latest from Kevin Corke at the president's Mar-A-Lago retreat in Florida. Kevin.
Kevin Corke: Chris, the Iraqi parliament convenes an extraordinary session this Sunday. They're considering whether to ask the U.S. to withdraw troops from their country. Now that consideration comes just a couple of days after that American drone strike took out an Iranian general on Iraqi soil, sparking fears of a wider regional conflict. [begin video clip]
Kevin Corke: Over the weekend, Iraq's prime minister strongly criticized the U.S. drone strike that killed Iranian general Qassem Soleimani and prominently took part in the massive anti-U.S. protest in Baghdad. White House officials said it was Soleimani who directed the recent assault on the U.S. embassy in Baghdad and was responsible for killing hundreds of Americans worldwide. In Iran, a massive funeral procession through several cities to honor the slain general who many considered the second-most powerful man in the Islamic Republic. Overnight, President Trump tweeting, "If Iran attacks an American base or any American, we will be sending some of that brand new beautiful equipment their way." And threatening to strike 52 Iranian sites representing the 52 American hostages taken by Iran many years ago. Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif responding, "Targeting cultural sites is a war crime," and Iran's telecommunications minister called Trump a terrorist in a suit.
[end video clip]
After a two-week vacation here in Florida, the president makes his way back home, where he'll be considering entanglements abroad and a possible impeachment trial here in the states. Chris.
Chris Wallace: Kevin Corke reporting from Mar-A-Lago. Kevin, thank you. Joining us now here in Washington, the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo. Welcome back to Fox News Sunday, sir.
Mike Pompeo: Chris, it's great to be with you. Thanks for having me on this morning.
Chris Wallace: Do you know that the Iraqi parliament is holding an emergency session today to discuss the question as to whether U.S. troops, the 5,000 troops we have there, should remain in country? It has just come across the wires the Iraqi prime minister says, "It is in the interest of both Iraq and the U.S. to end foreign troop presence in Iraq," and he also says that the killing of General Soleimani and also a top militia leader who was backed by Iran, Muhandis, were political assassinations. Your reaction, sir.
Mike Pompeo: Chris, the American people should know that President Trump will never shy away from protecting and defending America. It's what we've done over these past weeks and days. It's what we've done over our entire three years with our Middle East strategy. The activity that you're seeing today is fully consistent with that. The American people should know we will continue. The president tweeted it again last night. We will take the actions necessary to keep Americans safe. You know, as for the activity today with respect to Iraq, we've been in their country. We've been supporting Iraqi sovereignty. We've been continuing to take down the terrorist threat against the Iraqi people. The prime minister is the resigned prime minister. He's the acting prime minister. He's under enormous threats from the very Iranian leadership that it is that we are pushing back against. We are confident that the Iraqi people want the United States to continue to be there to fight the counterterror campaign. And we'll continue to do all the things we need to do to keep America safe.
Chris Wallace: But if Iraq, it is a sovereign country, if they demand that we leave, one, will we leave? And if we do, won't that dramatically hurt the fight against ISIS and stability in the region?
Mike Pompeo: So, we'll have to take a look at what we do when the Iraqi leadership and government makes a decision, but the American people should know we'll make the right decision. We will take actions that, frankly, the previous administration refused to take to do just that.
Chris Wallace: President Trump says that General Soleimani was planning a "imminent attack against Americans." You have said it was a "big action that could potentially kill hundreds of American diplomats and soldiers." What was the plan? Who were the targets? And how soon?
Mike Pompeo: Yes. President Trump was right in what he said. So was I. We’ll share all the intelligence if we can. I was the CIA director for a little while, Chris. There's things we simply cannot make public about what it is we knew at that time and what in fact we know today about the continuing activity. I think General Miller got it right when he said we would have been culpably negligent had we not gone after Soleimani when we had the opportunity. He was actively engaged and plotting against American interests. We need to look no further than what he had personally done over the days before that where an American was killed on December 27th. There's no surprise. There's plenty of public evidence about the bad behavior of Qassem Soleimani. He was a designated terrorist and we did the right thing.
Chris Wallace: I just want to press to this degree. The -- he had been targeting Americans and other people around the region for decades. The blood of 600 Americans was on his hands for -- during the Iraq war. The question is, that there are some intelligence agents who are talking to media outlets who are saying yes, he was doing bad things but it was another day in the Middle East and some congressional leaders who have been briefed now say that the intelligence was not of an imminent attack that was bigger, more worrisome. Don't the American people have the right to some understanding of what it was, why it was so urgent to take out Soleimani now?
Mike Pompeo: It's interesting. I haven't heard any of the congressional leaders who have seen the full set of intelligence make the comments that you just described. I think any reasonable person who saw the intelligence that the senior American leaders had in their possession would've come to the same conclusion that President Trump and our leadership team did about the fact that there would have been more risk to America, more risk through inaction than there was through the action that we took. I think it's very clear. I think it's very plain. We'll do everything we can to share this information with the American people, but I think the American people understand too, there's certain things you just can't -- you can't put out in public. You got to protect Americans who are out collecting the intelligence. The intelligence we will need in the days and weeks ahead to continue to defend and protect them.
Chris Wallace: Iran's leaders are vowing a crushing response using words like a "hard revenge." What do we do if they strike back, if they retaliate? Is there a plan and is there -- because of the fact that we went after Soleimani -- has there been a change in U.S. response where we're no longer going to go after the enemy in the field we're now going to go after Iran's command and control.
Mike Pompeo: Well, Chris, the American people know that there's a strategy. There's a strategy that has been several years in the making now, that we've been working on. It's been a diplomatic strategy. It's been an economic strategy. You're now seeing elements of the military strategy. And with respect to targets, President Trump talked about 52 targets last night. That's not new in the following sense: we've made clear to the theocrats and kleptocrats that are running Iran today, running it into the ground against the will of their own people -- we made clear to them that we would not respond just against these proxy forces that they run, in Yemen, and in Syria, and in Iraq, and in Lebanon. We made clear that this cost would be brought home to them, to the leadership regime in Iran, and that we would raise costs. We wouldn't just attack their asymmetric efforts; we would respond in a way that imposes costs on the decision-makers who are putting American lives at risk.
Chris Wallace: So, you're saying to the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, you're saying to President Rouhani, you're saying to leaders of the Revolutionary Guard, "Don't think that you're off limits?"
Mike Pompeo: What I'm saying is exactly what President Trump has said. We will take responses that are appropriate and commensurate with actions that threaten American lives. That's what we've done so far, Chris. There's no reason that the American people or the Iranian regime should ever expect we'll do anything different.
Chris Wallace: You talk about the strategy. The president has been pushing what he calls the maximum pressure strategy since he took office. He pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal in May of 2018. He imposed tough economic sanctions. And this summer, he suggested that the strategy was working. Take a look.
[begin video clip]
President Trump: Iran is a much different country than two-and-a-half years ago. When I took over, Iran was all over. They had 14 to 18 different sights of confliction. They were all over. And now, they just want to -- oh, they want to negotiate a deal so badly.
[end video clip]
Chris Wallace: But in 2019 alone, Iran hit six ships, shot down a U.S. drone, launched an attack against Saudi oil facilities -- a damaging attack. And for all the talk of isolating Iran, they just conducted joint exercises with China and Russia. So, the question is, has the president's maximum pressure strategy made Iran less aggressive or more?
Mike Pompeo: Panicked aggression on the part of the Iranian leadership, because they know that the Iranian people are demanding enormous change. And they know that the Iranian people are supported by America in that demand for change. Yeah. We've built out a huge coalition, Chris. Gulf states, Israel, countries all across the whole world who are joining us. They are joining us not only in the efforts in the Strait of Hormuz, but in air defense efforts all across the region. The malign actor of Iran has been identified. Remember where we came in, Chris. Remember where we came in. In 2015, the Obama-Biden administration essentially handed power to the Iranian leadership and acted as a quasi-ally of theirs, by underwriting them -- underwriting the very malicious -- that killed Americans. Those resources, the money that they had to build out those forces throughout the Shi'a Crescent was provided to them by the nuclear deal. We allowed Europeans to go do business there. We provided them $150 billion, pallets of cash. All of these things are the very challenge that the Trump administration has had to correct. The strategy is working. We're going to stay the course. And we will protect and defend the American people at every step, Chris.
Chris Wallace: Just so you know, I will be asking Senator Van Hollen about that in the next segment. President Trump also says that he is keeping his campaign promise to pull U.S. troops out of the Middle East. Here's what he had to say in October.
[begin video clip]
Donald Trump: The plan is to get out of endless wars, to bring our soldiers back home, to not be policing agents all over the world. It was a quick hit, except they stayed for almost 10 years. Let someone else fight over this long, blood-stained sand.
[end video clip]
Chris Wallace: But just this week, this week, the U.S. deployed 100 Marines to the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, plus 750 to the region, and now another 3,500. Is the president pulling us out of endless wars in the Middle East, or with this action this week, did he take a big step back in?
Mike Pompeo: Endless wars are the direct result of weakness, and President Trump will never let that happen. We're going to get it right. We're going to get the force posture right. We're going to get our facilities as hardened as we can possibly get them, to defend against what Iran may potentially do. But make no mistake: America's mission is to have our footprint in the Middle East reduced while still keeping America safe -- safe from rogue regimes like the Islamic Republic of Iran, and from terrorist activity, broadly, throughout the region.
Chris Wallace: So, is it fair to say that while the big strategy is to pull the U.S. out of endless wars, at least in the short term, there could be more of a commitment?
Mike Pompeo: The Obama administration created enormous risks to the American people in Iran. This administration is working to reduce that risk.
Chris Wallace: Finally, some analysts suggest that the impeachment of President Trump has emboldened enemies like Iran and North Korea to think that they can confront him. Do you think that, as misguided as it may be, that some of our enemies think that this president is more vulnerable because of the impeachment effort?
Mike Pompeo: You should ask Mr. Soleimani.
Chris Wallace: I understand that. But he was going ahead before you killed him. And the question is, do you think that impeachment is emboldening our enemies?
Mike Pompeo: I don't. I think that our adversaries understand that President Trump and our administration will do the right thing to protect American people, every place that we find risk.
Chris Wallace: Secretary Pompeo, thank you.
Mike Pompeo: Thank you, Chris.
Chris Wallace: Thanks for coming in on a very busy weekend, sir.
Mike Pompeo: You bet. Yes, sir. Thank you.
Chris Wallace: When we come back, Democrats raise questions about the wisdom and legality of the president's decision to take out Soleimani. We'll talk with a top Democratic senator, Chris Van Hollen. That's next.
Chris Wallace: The Senate returned, Friday, to its continuing stand-off over how and when to hold a trial after the impeachment of President Trump. And now, that's further complicated by the explosive developments with Iran. Joining us now here in Washington, Democrat Chris Van Hollen of Maryland. Senator, welcome back to Fox News Sunday.
Chris Van Hollen: Good to be with you, Chris.
Chris Wallace: As soon as the drone strike took out Soleimani, you and other Democrats started criticizing the action. President Trump and his top officials say that there was an imminent attack, and that that taking out Soleimani prevented it. You just heard Secretary Pompeo say that again on this program. Don't you believe them?
Chris Van Hollen: I think we learned the hard way, Chris, in Iraq, in the Iraq war, that administrations sometimes manipulate and cherry-pick intelligence to further their political goals. That's what got us into the Iraq War. There was no WMD -- and --
Chris Wallace: Let me just interrupt. I understand that that's happened in the past. Are you saying it's happening now?
Chris Van Hollen: I'm saying that they have an obligation to present the evidence. They did not notify the Gang of 8. The one opportunity they had, just two days ago, to brief senior staff at the top secret level, they provided no evidence to support their claim of an imminent threat. Look, everybody knows that Soleimani was a very bad, despicable guy. There's no debate there. But the claim of an imminent threat they have not supported. And what we do know is this dramatic escalation is now putting Americans at greater risk. In fact, Secretary Pompeo's own State Department, right after these attacks, urged Americans to leave Iraq. So, obviously, they thought it was a more dangerous situation there the day after than the day before, and as you’ve just reported, we sent 4,000 additional troops to Iraq, this from a president claiming he wants to get out of wars in the Middle East.
Chris Wallace: All right, but there’s no question, and you certainly would agree, that Soleimani was our enemy. He had been responsible, directly or indirectly, for the deaths of hundreds of American soldiers during the Iraq war. There’s no question that he was -- he wasn’t taking a vacation as he was traveling around the Middle East this last week. He was making more plans for terror attacks, spreading Iran’s malign influence. Why not kill him?
Chris Van Hollen: Well, because you have to look at what the consequences are, right? We don’t go around killing all the very bad people in the world. We have President Trump embracing Kim Jong-un, the leader of North Korea who’s got a lot of blood on his hands and is responsible for the death of Otto Warmbier, an American citizen, and yet he’s getting love letters from the president of the United States. So, the question is, do we further our interests by killing Soleimani? And everything we’ve seen is we’ve actually increased the risks of war dramatically, we’ve put Americans at greater threat, and we seem to have accomplished Soleimani and the Iranians’ main goal, which is to undermine our influence and support in Iraq. We now have the top Iraqi leadership, the president and the prime minister, condemning the United States’ action. We have Parliament meeting to talk about expelling U.S. forces. What was Soleimani’s main goal in Iraq? It was to get the Americans out, to undermine our influence. So, we seem to have accomplished what Soleimani was trying to do but couldn’t, so in death he’s actually accomplished his goal. That is a -- that turns back U.S. interests in the region.
Chris Wallace: You have been tweeting ever since the Soleimani takedown. Here’s one of them. “The Constitution makes clear that a president may not go to war without authorization from Congress, and we have not authorized war with Iran.” But, Senator, the White House says this is not war, that Soleimani was a terrorist, and this was an act of self-defense, which a commander-in-chief can always take.
Chris Van Hollen: My point, Chris, is we’re now headed very close to the precipice of war. You just heard the president this morning talk about targeting Iranian sites, including cultural sites, which is, in fact, a war crime if the president was to carry that out. The point we’re making is that the president is not entitled under the Constitution to continue this escalation and take us to war without congressional action. That’s what the Constitution requires. Look, I heard Secretary Pompeo talk about this. You asked him about the maximum pressure strategy. They’ve not accomplished any of their goals. They had very unrealistic goals. All they have done under maximum pressure is escalate the chance of war with Iran, something President Trump said he wanted to avoid, but a lot of people around him, like Secretary Pompeo, have been urging a confrontation with Iran for a very long time, including when he was a member of Congress.
Chris Wallace: I want to pick up on this, because here was another one of your tweets in the last couple of days. “The administration's reckless policy over the last three years has brought us to the brink,” but the president -- and you just heard Secretary Pompeo say, no, it was President Obama who brought us to the brink; it was the Obama nuclear deal which funneled billions of dollars back into the regime that they used to spread their brand of terror across the Middle East, and also, it was the Obama administration’s decision to focus exclusively on the nuclear program and to ignore all the other malign activity by Iran throughout the region.
Chris Van Hollen: Well, first of all, they didn’t ignore it, but the Obama administration correctly observed that a nuclear-armed Iran would be even more dangerous than an Iran that did not have nuclear weapons. And so, what this administration did was they ripped up that agreement, essentially divided us from our allies, and the result has been this increased actual activity from Iran in the region.
Chris Wallace: Well, not necessarily. I mean, you look at the reports that because of the fact that there are economic sanctions and Iran is economically strapped, that Hezbollah is starved for money, Hamas is starved for money. Isn’t that a good thing?
Chris Van Hollen: So, look, there’s no doubt that the maximum pressure campaign is putting pressure on Iran, but to what end? Secretary Pompeo had a list of, like, 11 things the Iranian regime had to do, and it was never realistic, and that’s why they’ve got no endgame. And that’s why we’re here right now, after this latest escalation, at much greater risk of going to war with Iran, which would be very damaging to the United States. Obviously, it would be damaging to Iran, but it would be very damaging to the United States.
Chris Wallace: All right --
Chris Van Hollen: Iran has continued to prosecute its efforts in Syria throughout the time of this administration, so the notion that they’ve succeeded in doing anything to stop Iran’s malign influence is nonsense. What they have done is dramatically escalate the chance of war.
Chris Wallace: All right, I want to switch dramatically -- different subject. How long do you think that Speaker Pelosi should hold on to the articles of impeachment? Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader, has made it very clear, he’s not going to be cowed by her, he’s not going to be pressured by her; the Senate is going to run its own trial. At some point, doesn’t she have to hand over the articles, and for the good of the country, doesn’t the Senate have to get on with a trial?
Chris Van Hollen: Well, Speaker Pelosi has made very clear she will send over the articles of impeachment.
Chris Wallace: When?
Chris Van Hollen: She’s also been --
Chris Wallace: Wait, wait. When?
Chris Van Hollen: When she feels it’s appropriate, and I think that, you know, that will happen. But the issue, Chris, is that we have a constitutional duty in the Senate to have a trial, and it needs to be a fair trial, and every American recognizes that a fair trial means you get to call witnesses, you get to have relevant documents. We’ve seen in the last two weeks more emails that have surfaced that show this Trump administration trying to cover up key emails showing that the president of the United States -- confirming again, he ordered the hold on vital U.S. Ukrainian military assistance. And so, why not get those documents? President Trump himself said that he wants Mulvaney to testify. He said that months ago. Why shouldn’t we have witnesses? That is the question.
Chris Wallace: Okay, I’ve got one last question. I’ve got less than a minute for you to answer. Do you have any concerns about holding this trial right now with the president in this growing confrontation with Iran and potentially an international crisis? Is that a good thing for the Senate to be trying whether or not to remove the president at this particular moment?
Chris Van Hollen: We have a constitutional duty -- when it comes to the issues of war, Congress and the Constitution has the power to declare war despite what the president may think, and we have a constitutional duty to try the president in an impeachment trial when the House of Representatives sends us the articles of impeachment.
Chris Wallace: Even --
Chris Van Hollen: I think our system is strong enough that we can do both. I very much worry about what the president is doing right now to escalate tensions and the likelihood of war in Iran, but our country will have to deal with both these issues at the same time.
Chris Wallace: Senator Van Hollen, thank you. Thanks for coming in today, sir.
Chris Van Hollen: Thank you.
Chris Wallace: Up next, we’ll bring in our Sunday group to discuss what happens next in the growing confrontation with Iran. Plus, what would you like to ask the panel about President Trump’s decision to kill General Soleimani? Just go to Facebook or Twitter at Fox News Sunday, and we may use your question on the air.
Chris Wallace: With the world on edge over possible retaliation after the U.S. killed Iran's top military leader, we want to replay part of an interview we conducted with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani back in September. He said then, "It's not Iran that's the main sponsor of terrorism, but the U.S."
[begin video clip]
Male Translator: Today America unfortunately is the supporter of terrorism in our region and wherever America has gone terrorism has expanded in the wake. Wherever we have gone on the other side we have defeated terrorism.
Chris Wallace: You have given hundreds of millions, perhaps a billion dollars to Hezbollah, to Hamas, to various groups. That is not a support of terrorism? Hassan Rouhani Well, when you label people who fight for the defense of their country and their lands as terrorism. So, those who are the subjects of occupation what should they do? Be passive and just look?
[end video clip]
Chris Wallace: And it's time now for our Sunday group. Josh Holmes, former chief of staff to Senator Mitch McConnell, Mo Elleithee of Georgetown's Institute of Politics and Public Service, former Democratic Congresswoman Donna Edwards, and former Trump national security council spokesperson, Michael Anton. Michael, does the decision to escalate dramatically and I think we would agree it was a dramatic escalation to take out Qassem Soleimani, does it make the U.S. more safe or less safe and if Iran decides as -- keeps its promise to retaliate dramatically, does the Trump administration have a strategy?
Michael Anton: I don't know that I necessarily agree that this was a dramatic escalation. You could interpret it as justified retaliation for all kinds of things that you've talked about earlier in the program that Iran has been doing without much of a response. So the main point I would want to make here is the Iranian regime since 1979 has a history of getting very aggressive, getting used to not facing pushback, not getting retaliation, and when they finally do get pushback, they tend to back down and go into the turtle mode for a little while and that may yet happen again. We've seen that happen in the past. They haven't faced much retaliation for, as you said, spending the enormous windfall they got out of the Iran deal all around the Middle East, creating proxies, creating little colonies, building out their empire, and they, I think, got overconfident and to some extent that overconfidence is exemplified by the fact that Soleimani went right into Iran and the airport -- sorry, into Iraq in the airport completely confident that he owned the place and that nothing would happen to him. So, I think this stuns the regime and is as likely as not to maybe make the regime retreat a little bit and lick its wounds and reassess.
Chris Wallace: All right. We asked you for questions for the panel and on the issue of the president's decision to take out Soleimani we got this on Facebook from Phil Martin. What is the difference between what President Trump did and what former President Obama did to Osama bin Laden? Congresswoman Edwards, how do you answer Phil?
Donna Edwards: Well, I mean, there are two main differences and one is that Osama bin Laden was a non-state actor and here you have an attack directly in the Iraqi -- Iranian hierarchy and look, nobody's out there, you know, saying that Soleimani was not a bad guy. He was a bad actor, had been for a couple of decades, but the question is whether this was the smartest way in which to conduct an overall foreign policy in the region and whether -- and I believe it has actually made the region and the United States interests a lot more vulnerable.
Chris Wallace: Well, let me just pose this then. So, they -- Iranian-backed militias in Iraq launch a number of strikes last -- the week before last, I think it was a week ago Friday and kill an American contractor and hurt a number of American soldiers. We respond with a number of strikes that kill about two dozen of those militia men. They then attack our embassy. No, they didn't kill anybody, but it was pretty shocking what they did to the U.S. embassy in Baghdad. Are we supposed to just let it go?
Donna Edwards: Well, what I'm saying to you is that I think among the options, the range of options, that the president has, the question is, do you take one and I believe they did in taking the action in killing Soleimani that actually, you know, the downstream puts us in a much more difficult position and I don't -- and I think right now, it's not really clear to me that just like pulling out of the Iran deal, that this administration has said -- has mapped out what the end game is, what's the next part of this strategy.
Chris Wallace: All right.
Donna Edwards: And I think without that, then the United States interest and our ability of our allies to stand with us in this becomes much more complicated.
Chris Wallace: Josh, I want to move to a different aspect of the questions that people are asking this week. President Trump very publicly and has reaffirmed it as recently as this fall that the situation in Syria ran on getting the U.S. out of endless wars in the Middle East. But as I discussed with Secretary Pompeo, this week alone he sent more than 4,000 U.S. troops into the region. So, are we getting out? Are we getting deeper?
Josh Holmes: Well, I don't think that's inconsistent at all. I mean, I think his overarching policy as Secretary Pompeo articulated very clearly is to remove America from these endless wars and these conflicts in Syria, the conflicts in Iraq and beyond, but that also cannot override immediate security threats. You need to be responsive to that and I will just say, I'm totally stunned at the notion that somehow America is the one that is bringing this to a higher escalation level. The president's critics may not have been paying attention to what's happened over the last couple of years, but just because they're more focused on trying to impeach the president of the United States than the health and well-being of American soldiers in Iraq, doesn't mean that things aren't happening. This guy has tried -- has killed over 600 American soldiers, all right? Just last week, we watched him storm the embassy in Baghdad. Now, how America is the aggressor here is beyond me but what they did is for the first time in a long time, and I'll argue that the president has been extremely reluctant to engage in this kind of thing, but first time in a long time tell Iran “not anymore. You're not going to be attacking American assets or American personnel without severe repercussions” and I think that's a great thing for this country.
Chris Wallace: Well, here is how the president described and explained his action on Friday.
[begin video clip]
Donald Trump: We took action last night to stop a war. We did not take action to start a war.
[end video clip]
Chris Wallace: Mo, what about the argument that, as I've recited in the interviews with the two previous guests, that there are a number of actions that Iran has taken this year going after ships, shooting down a drone, attacking Saudi oil facilities; just in the last week they killed an American contractor, hurt -- badly injured a number of American soldiers, and then stormed the U.S. embassy. What about the argument that President Trump needed to stand up to this Iranian aggression and show resolve?
Mo Elleithee: Yeah, it's interesting. One of the president's rationales for withdrawing from the Iran deal was that by doing so and imposing these crippling economic sanctions on the regime, it would bring the regime to its knees. In fact, the exact opposite has happened. The regime has become more and more emboldened and has done -- has been escalating its rhetoric. Look, my concern here is, and as others have said, is what are the ramifications regionally? This was not our first opportunity to go after this guy. Stan McChrystal, who was no -- you know, who was fired by President Obama, he was no fan of Obama foreign policy.
Chris Wallace: He was one of the top generals and he was at one point leading our effort in Afghanistan.
Mo Elleithee: Talks openly about the time he had an opportunity to take him out but that there were bigger regional concerns. We're going to --
Chris Wallace: He now says he thinks the president -- President Trump made the right decision.
Mo Elleithee: Well, we'll see, right? I mean, if you look at what just happened moments before this panel came on the air where the Iraqi prime minister standing before the Iraqi parliament called this a political assassination and that the United States should withdraw all troops from the country. This is -- there is now a huge mess on the ground in the Middle East. And the United States is going to have to be ready for that. The fact that --
Chris Wallace: Okay.
Male Speaker: -- the government -- the president has to be ready for all these unknown --
Chris Wallace: I --
Male Speaker: -- moving pieces --
Chris Wallace: He absolutely does. I've got about a minute left in this segment. And Michael, I want to leave it with you. You've posited that, maybe, they needed a punch in the nose, and now they're going to pull back. And they've gotten too aggressive. There's a flip side of that. What if Iraq goes ahead and expels U.S. troops? What if Iran -- and that certainly is much of a possibility as your scenario -- strikes back? What do we do then?
Michael Anton: Well, if the Iraqis decide they want U.S. troops to lead, one thing I could say with confidence is President Trump will not be on the phone begging them to say, "Please let us stay." He'll call their bluff. And I think the Iraqi leadership knows that the big winners of that will not be Iraq, necessarily; it'll be Iran. And so --
Chris Wallace: I understand. But that --
Michael Anton: -- so --
Chris Wallace: -- would hurt us, wouldn't it, if Iran is -- takes more over control of Iraq?
Michael Anton: Well, as you said earlier, the president really would like to get as much out of the Middle East as possible. But he didn't run as an isolationist. It's important to remember: he ran as kind of a Jacksonian. His philosophy of foreign policy is very simple. "Live and let live. We will live and let live as much as possible. But if you hit us, if you mess with us, if you strike us, if you kill our people, we will hit back very, very hard.” That's why, what he -- what he's doing is essentially retaliatory. It's not long-term nation building. He has no interest in staying in the Middle East, or rebuilding it, or transforming it for the long term.
Josh Holmes: But does that mean we would cede control of Iraq, after all we've put into that and all we've lost --
Male Speaker: We can't [unintelligible] --
Michael Anton: It is a sovereign country, as you have -- and others have said. If the Iraqi-elected government says, "We don't want you there," we don't have a way to stay, and the president's not going to beg them to say.
Chris Wallace: We have to take a break here, panel, because we've got more to talk about. When we come back: Democrats’ state of play on trying to remove President Trump. How long can Nancy Pelosi hang onto the articles of impeachment and hold up a Senate trial?
[begin video clip]
Mitch McConnell: Their turn is over. They've done enough damage. It's the Senate's turn now to render sober judgment as the framers envisioned.
Chuck Schumer: There has never, never, in the history of our country, been an impeachment trial of the president in which the Senate was denied the ability to hear from witnesses.
[end video clip]
Chris Wallace: With the Senate back in session, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer making no progress in agreeing on ground rules for an impeachment trial of President Trump. And we're back now with the panel. So, Josh, where are we on a Senate trial? Is your former boss there, Mitch McConnell, is he going to hold firm and say, "Nancy Pelosi, you're not going to dictate what's going to happen here?" And secondly, you had -- over the recess, you had two Republican senators -- Collins and Murkowski -- both express concerns about McConnell's hardline stance. What do you think of the chances that McConnell holds firm, that you could get them and maybe two other Republicans -- which would give Democrats, potentially, a majority -- to call witnesses and basically run the kind of trial the Democrats want to?
Josh Holmes: Well, first off, this whole thing is kind of confusing to me, as to why Nancy Pelosi believes that it increases her leverage, by holding the papers. I mean, every day that she holds them, they look more and more bizarre. And the closer and closer that they get to the Iowa caucuses -- which, of course, throws off the closing arguments for every 2020 Democrat running against President Trump, ultimately -- but secondly, she has no leverage here. This is not about trying to control the contours of the Senate. She's never going to be able to do that. So, this ends only one way; and that's when she sends the papers over without any kind of preconditions. That's basically what McConnell said this week.
Chris Wallace: Okay. And what about my second question, which is, if you -- you've got 47 Democrats. If they were to get four Republicans, they'd have 51. They'd have a majority -- assuming they all vote together. And then they could call Mick Mulvaney. They could call John Bolton. What's the prospect of that?
Josh Holmes: Yeah. I mean, that's, like, the if and -- ifs and buts, and candy and nuts, [unintelligible] Christmas in every day. There's no chance of that happening. Let me tell you why -- specifically because what McConnell was advocating for is an imminently reasonable process, one that was adopted 100 to nothing in the Clinton impeachment trial in the 1990s. And what that does is provide the impeachment managers from the House and the president's defense team the opportunity to lay out their cases. And what is agreed to at the front end is that framework. After you get through that framework, then senators are -- after they go through a series of questioning, are able to look at what's missing. And at that point, you can have a discussion about whether you bring in different pieces of evidence, whether you bring --
Chris Wallace: Like witnesses.
Josh Holmes: Right. And so, the question is, as -- are we concerned -- is there a concern that senators are ultimately going to back a Democratic proposal to lay out this entire thing on the front end?
Chris Wallace: Right.
Josh Holmes: No, no. Absolutely not, because what it does it create complete chaos. And I've got to tell you: Democrats don't want it either because they're a lot closer to getting 51 for Hunter Biden than they are for anybody in the Trump administration.
Chris Wallace: Congresswoman Edwards, how long can Nancy Pelosi hang on to these articles of impeachment? I mean, it was the Democrats -- it was Pelosi, it was Schiff -- who said "Donald Trump -- we've got to move forward because he is a clear and present danger." Now they are the ones holding up the process to remove him.
Donna Edwards: Well, no. I mean, I think we should examine that where we are right now is precisely because Mitch McConnell openly said that he wasn't going to have a fair process. And I think it's legitimate for Speaker Pelosi to actually keep open this process as long as she needs to. I mean, she's going to turn over the articles of impeachment, but she does want assurances, given that McConnell came out straightforwardly and said he wasn't going to have a fair process and that he was coordinating with the president. And so, you know, and I think that she actually has created leverage, because, in fact, she opened up the space for Murkowski and Collins. And I'm waiting for this phase -- for Mitt Romney, who stands nothing to gain in this process by aligning himself with the administration, with the president -- to make sure that there is, indeed, a fair process.
Chris Wallace: All right. We're going to continue. We'll have plenty of time to continue that conversation. Let's turn to the Democratic presidential campaign, because we just got the fourth quarter, the end of 2019 fundraising numbers for all of the Democratic candidates, and they’re pretty interesting. Put them up on the screen. Bernie Sanders led the field in the fourth quarter, raising $34.5 million. Pete Buttigieg, Joe Biden, and Elizabeth Warren are closely bunched about $10 million behind, and then it’s another $5 million back to Andrew Yang. Mo, how do you handicap the race at this point?
Mo Elleithee: It’s jump ball. I mean, look, Iowa is going to winnow the field to some extent. You know, typically people historically have talked about two or three tickets out of Iowa. You could have as many as four or five out of Iowa this next time, and it’s anybody’s game. Those are tremendous numbers for Bernie Sanders, but they’re tremendous numbers for everyone in the field. The biggest question heading into Iowa just under 30 days from now is, will those senators that are running -- Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Amy Klobuchar, Cory Booker -- will they be able to be on the ground in Iowa, or are they going to be stuck here in Washington? And for someone like an Amy Klobuchar or an Elizabeth Warren who are, like, right there, right? They’re right there to get one of those tickets. They can’t afford to cede weeks of ground to someone like Vice President Biden or Mayor Buttigieg.
Chris Wallace: So, maybe this is Nancy Pelosi’s strategy. Hold up the Senate trial so they can campaign.
Mo Elleithee: My guess is it’s not that. That’s not it. But it is going to be a real issue.
Chris Wallace: We should point out that while they were raising that amount of money, Donald Trump in the fourth quarter raised $46 million, far more than any of the others. He’s built up a huge campaign war chest, has more than $100 million cash on hand, which raises the question, Michael, how big an advantage for the president, how big a disadvantage for the Democrats, that he’s building up this war chest, just sitting there, basically? He’s got a couple of people running against him, but nobody serious, while the Democrats, with the money they’ve raised, which is impressive, are going to spend all of it going after each other.
Michael Anton: Well, it’s been a long time since an incumbent president was defeated for reelection: 1992. There’s enormous advantages to incumbency.
Chris Wallace: And he faced a primary challenger.
Michael Anton: And he faced a primary challenger, and it also took a third-party independent, who got the highest independent vote in U.S. history, at least in the 20th century. So --
Chris Wallace: [unintelligible]
Michael Anton: -- it was an extraordinary confluence of circumstances that don’t look to be repeated, and President Bush, who was defeated in 1992, also faced a very bad economy, which is -- remember, it’s the economy, stupid -- the number-one issue Bill Clinton ran against him on and was able to seize on. The Democrats don’t have that right now. I think, you know, anything is possible. The economy could turn sour sometime during this year, but at this point in the 1992 campaign the economy had already been in recession for a while, and people were very discontented. That’s not the case right now. So, President Trump looks very strong to me.
Chris Wallace: Congresswoman Edwards, when you look at not just the money but also the polls, I mean, the thing that I have to say surprised me, Bernie Sanders had a heart attack in the fourth quarter, and there was a lot of talk about that the party wasn’t going to go as far left, that they were pulling the voters; they were pulling back to the center. You saw the rise of Buttigieg, Biden with considerable strength. There are a lot of people out there that still support and are giving money to Bernie Sanders.
Donna Edwards: Well, there are. I mean, he’s shown, you know, resilience and energy. But I would say that Joe Biden has actually shown a lot of resiliency, too, for all the attacks and for all the talks of the demise of his campaign. I look to see a resurgence, frankly, of somebody like an Elizabeth Warren. She’s got money on hand, she’s got a ground game in states like Iowa and New Hampshire, and has the ability to organize that forward. And then Amy Klobuchar, I think you’re right. I mean, she’s on the rise, but she can’t afford to be taken off the field.
Chris Wallace: You realize you haven’t winnowed at all. [laughter]
Donna Edwards: I haven’t at all.
Chris Wallace: You haven’t winnowed out; you’ve winnowed in.
Donna Edwards: I’m not ready -- I’m like most voters. I’m not ready to do that quite yet. But I do look at the collective energy in the Democratic field. You can see that in the fundraising, where collectively the field still seems to be able to demonstrate that, from small donors across the board, that Democrats do still have the, you know, wind at their sails.
Chris Wallace: Thirty seconds, Josh. Who in that field is the biggest threat to Donald Trump and the reelection campaign?
Josh Holmes: Oh, I don't think we know yet. I think they all have vulnerabilities, I think some unique vulnerabilities. I think the Bernie Sanders-Elizabeth Warren wing in the midst of a really good economy is absolutely devastating for Democrats. I don’t know how you make the case that you change the American economy when you’re doing this [unintelligible].
Chris Wallace: So, basically, they’re all going to lose, right?
Josh Holmes: So, that’s what I’m saying.
Chris Wallace: [laughs] All right. Thank you, panel. See you next Sunday. Up next, our Power Player of the Week, the man who serves as the ambassador from Hollywood to right here in the nation’s capital.
Chris Wallace: Hollywood’s awards season kicks off tonight with the Golden Globe Awards, and it’s shaping up to be a big year for Netflix, the streaming service that used to be an outsider in the movie industry. We spoke with an insider who’s working to change that. He’s our Power Player of the Week.
[begin video clip]
Charles Rivkin: This is the place in Washington, D.C. where Hollywood meets Washington.
Chris Wallace: Charlie Rivkin is talking about the Motion Picture Association, one of D.C.’s most powerful lobbying groups --
Male Speaker: Action.
Chris Wallace: -- which advocates for the film, TV, and streaming industry.
Chris Wallace: Two-point-six million Americans wake up every single day and go to jobs that are supported by this business.
Chris Wallace: The MPA’s members are Hollywood’s elite studios like Disney and Warner Brothers, and now, Netflix. Why did you push so hard for Netflix to join the MPA?
Charles Rivkin: I believe the MPA should be the home of the leading content creators on the planet, and clearly Netflix is.
Female Speaker: Netflix.
Male Speaker: Netflix.
Female Speaker: Netflix.
Chris Wallace: This year Netflix scored 17 Golden Globe nominations.
Male Speaker: Would you like to be a part of history?
Male Speaker: Yes.
Chris Wallace: More than double any other studio.
Male Speaker: It’s what it is.
Chris Wallace: But Rivkin says the streaming giant is a partner, not a rival of the silver screen.
Female Speaker: Enjoy your movie.
Chris Wallace: What about the owners of movie theaters?
Charles Rivkin: The more technologically savvy the consumer is, the more he’s likely to go to the movies. So, I don’t believe there’s cannibalization.
Chris Wallace: For decades, the MPA was led by power broker and our first-ever Power Player. Jack Valenti.
Jack Valenti: I thought, “Movies, television, wow. That’s what I’d like to do for the rest of my life,” and by jingoes, I’ve darn near done it.
Chris Wallace: The industry has changed dramatically since then, and so has the MPA. The headquarters reopened this fall and now features iconic movie props.
Charles Rivkin: This is Elton John’s Gucci jacket, signed by Elton John, and it was worn in the film. And here, the original Aqua Man outfit. Here’s our new theater --
Chris Wallace: But the MPA’s secret weapon has always been its movie theater --
Charles Rivkin: This is state of the art.
Chris Wallace: -- where Washington politicians enjoy private screenings of new releases.
Charles Rivkin: The last theater was -- when it was built, was good for its time. This is 120 seats. We had to have the best screening room in all of D.C.
Chris Wallace: Rivkin’s father was an ambassador; his godfather, former senator and then Vice President Hubert Humphrey. But Rivkin chose entertainment over politics, becoming the first person to run the Jim Henson Company outside of that family.
Multiple Speakers: Yippee.
Chris Wallace: But Washington called, President Obama appointing him ambassador to France. He brought Hollywood with him, hosting stars like Clint Eastwood, Jodie Foster, and Samuel L. Jackson, who met with young immigrants there.
Charles Rivkin: He talked about his story, the American story. He’s the embodiment of the American dream.
Chris Wallace: Rivkin says he’s lived his own dream. Charles Rivkin: I went from working from Kermit and Miss Piggy to the president of the United States. For me, joining a hundred-year-old institution and helping to modernize it for our new era, this new incredible golden age of content, is very satisfying. [end video clip]
Chris Wallace: Despite the popularity of home streaming, movie theaters remain packed. The domestic box office for 2019 is projected to be more than $11 billion. And that's it for today. Have a great week and we'll see you next Fox News Sunday.
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