This is a rush transcript from "Fox News Sunday," January 12, 2020. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: I'm Chris Wallace.
President Trump says Iran appears to be standing down in the wake of his
decision to take out its top general. And he is offering Tehran both
carrots and sticks.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The United States is ready
to embrace peace with all who seek it.
MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: We believe the sanctions that we impose
today further that strategic objective.
WALLACE: But does the president have a strategy that will work?
TRUMP: As long as I am president of the United States, Iran will never be
allowed to have a nuclear weapon.
WALLACE: We'll discuss the state of relations with Iran and the prospects
for peace with Robert O'Brien, the White House national security advisor,
in his first appearance on "FOX News Sunday". Then --
SEN. CHRIS COONS (D-DE): Only Congress has the power to declare war and a
critical question that many raised is whether or not consultation with
Congress is a necessary and constructive thing.
WALLACE: We'll ask Democratic Senator Chris Coons about that effort in
Congress to limit the president's military actions against Iran. Plus, House Speaker Pelosi announces she'll send the articles of
impeachment to the Senate this week. We'll ask our Sunday panel what the
impeachment trial will look like.
All, right now, on "FOX News Sunday".
WALLACE: And hello again from FOX News in Washington. The fallout from President Trump's showdown with Iran continues to be felt
across the Middle East. Thousands of Iranians protest as Tehran now admits
shooting down that Ukraine airliner. The president tells FOX News the top
Iranian general he killed was planning attacks against four U.S. embassies. And Senate Democrats pushed for a vote to limit the president's military
powers while also preparing to deal with the articles of impeachment. The
House will send over this week. In a moment, we will discuss the U.S. face-off with national security
advisor Robert O'Brien. But first, let's bring in Kevin Corke with the
latest from the White House -- Kevin.
KEVIN CORKE, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Chris, calls for change echoing
across Tehran once again this weekend, those demands however garnered the
attention of a rather prominent observer half a world away.
CORKE: Protests swept over the Iranian capital over the weekend in
response to the downing of the Ukrainian airliner that killed everyone on
board including many Iranian university students who had been studying
abroad. Some of the protesters even calling for the supreme leader to
resign. After days of denial, Tehran acknowledged it launch the missile strike
calling it a mistake but later claim without evidence that the aircraft
turned towards a sensitive military site. The angry demonstrations were in
sharp contrast to the days of morning following the death of Iranian
General Qassem Soleimani who the president accused of plotting attacks on
several U.S. embassies, justifying his removal from the battle field. The president took his concerns directly to the Iranian people tweeting in
Farsi and in English that the government of Iran must allow human rights
groups to monitor and report facts from the ground, adding that there
cannot be another massacre of peaceful protesters nor an Internet shut
down. The world is watching. Meanwhile, back in Washington, the Senate is watching and waiting for
Speaker Pelosi to transmit articles of impeachment. If she does so on
Tuesday and Wednesday as many expect, a Senate trial could begin soon. But, first, the California Democrat is expected to select four to ten
members of the House to manage the trial period ends
CORKE: Sources tell FOX News, the speaker will likely make her selection
from a diverse group of members, among them the Intel Committee Chair Adam
Schiff of California. He, of course, Chris, ran the Trump Ukraine
WALLACE: Kevin Corke, reporting from the White House -- Kevin, thank you. And joining us now, White House national security adviser, Robert O'Brien. Welcome to "FOX News Sunday".
ROBERT O'BRIEN, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Good to be with you, Chris.
WALLACE: After first denying it, Iran now admits that it accidentally shot
down that Ukraine airliner with 176 people on board. But Iran's foreign
minister says, and we're putting it up: Human error at time of crisis
caused by U.S. adventurism led to disaster. A couple of questions. What does President Trump think of Iran's effort to
shift the blame for the shoot down of a civilian airliner? And is there
anything the president can do beyond tweets to support the thousands of
protesters in the streets?
O'BRIEN: Oh, it's a great question. First of all, our condolences go out
to the families and friends of the folks who were lost on that Ukrainian
Air Flight 752, a tragedy. But the Iranian response is typical. First, they cover it up. And then when
social media came out with photos of the missiles, they couldn't cover it
up. Then they said the plane veered towards sensitive military -- sensitive
military area. That turned out not to be true. And now, Zarif, who's one of the great dissemblers in international
diplomacy, is attempting to shift the blame to the United States. And so,
we -- we'll reject that. The Ukrainians have to have an international investigation has to be
apparent. They have to apologize. They have to pay compensation to the
families, and they need to make sure this never happens again.
WALLACE: And what can we do to help the protesters this week? Some of whom
are calling for the supreme leader, the Ayatollah Khamenei, to step down.
O'BRIEN: What's interesting is they're chanting "death to the dictator".
And when President Trump tweeted yesterday in Farsi, it had 200 times
support of the protesters, it had 200,000 likes. I'm told that's the world
record for the number of likes in social media for a Farsi language tweet. So, unlike past administrations where there hasn't been support
demonstrated to the Iranian people, President Trump has made it clear
throughout his administration that he stands with the people in Iran, not
with the regime, and we're going to continue to do so.
WALLACE: There's been quite a debate this week about the president's
justification for taking out Iranian General Qassem Soleimani. He has said,
top administration officials have said, you have said, that there was an
imminent threat. The president was a little bit more specific about that threat when he sat
down with Laura Ingraham on Friday. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I can reveal that I believe
it would have been four embassies, and I think that probably Baghdad
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: But members of Congress who attended a 75-minute briefing with
the secretaries of State, Defense, the CIA director, say there was not a
single mention during those 75 minutes -- classified briefing, members of
Congress about imminent threats to U.S. Embassies. So why is he saying it on television but that top officials didn't tell
members of Congress?
O'BRIEN: Well, I think something we've been clear on -- I've seen the
intelligence on this, Chris, and it was very strong and -- looking and in
some ways I would love to release the intelligence and show the American
people. And I can tell you, they can trust the administration on this.
Unfortunately, we don't want to lose that valuable stream of intelligence
that will allow us to protect Americans going forward. Going to the briefing Congress -- what we've always said -- well I've said
from day one is that there were severe threats to American diplomats, to
American soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines, and to American facilities in
the region, Iraq, likely Syria, and potentially other countries that I
won't name now. So, you know, I think that -- I think what the president
said is consistent with what we've been saying since day one --
WALLACE: But could you explain because there does seem to be a
contradiction? He's telling Laura Ingraham, our esteemed colleague, but in
a 75-minute classified briefing your top national security people never
mentioned this to members of Congress. Why not?
O'BRIEN: So I wasn't at the briefing, and I don't know how the Q&A went
back and forth. I mean sometimes it depends on the questions that were
asked or how they were (INAUDIBLE). I don't know. I wasn't there. All I can tell you is we've been clear from
the start that there were very significant threats to American facilities
in the region and to American military officials -- officers and men and
women and also the U.S. diplomats. And I think that's consistent with what
the president's saying now.
WALLACE: And would you agree with what the president said that there were
specific imminent threats to four U.S. embassies?
O'BRIEN: I -- look, it's always difficult, even with the exquisite
intelligence that we have to know exactly what the targets are, but it is
certainly consistent with the intelligence to assume that they would have
hit embassies in at least four countries.
O'BRIEN: But again, if we -- we knew there were threats to American
facilities. Now whether they were bases, embassies -- you know, it's always
hard until the attack happens, but we had very strong intelligence that
they were looking to kill and maim Americans at U.S. facilities in the
regions. And -- and so I think the president's absolutely right, you know,
when he talks about the threats to America that they came from Soleimani,
they came from the Quds Force and they came from their proxies.
WALLACE: I want to step back a little bit and talk about the whole
question of the administration's strategy for dealing with Iran. The U.S.
imposed still more sanctions on Iran on Friday and the Secretary of State,
Secretary of Treasury said, you have two goals; you want Iran to behave
like other nations in the world and you want them to stop their nuclear
program. But let's look at the record so far, the administration has now imposed
sanctions on more than 1,000 Iranian companies, organizations, and
individuals. Back in September the Treasury Secretary said basically we
have cut off all funding to Iran. And instead of caving, Iran is moving
step-by-step out of the nuclear deal and in recent months they had six
ships attack Saudi oil facilities and set fire to the U.S. embassy in
Baghdad. You said this weekend in an interview with "Axios" that you think Iran is
now more likely to negotiate but the maximum pressure campaign -- at least
if you look at the last six months, has made Iran less aggressive -- more
aggressive rather, not less aggressive.
O'BRIEN: Look, I think the maximum pressure campaign is working. It's the
demonstrable that it's working. The Iranian economy is contracted by at
least 10 percent. I mean, we haven't seen that with a modern economy in
many, many years. Iran went from producing 3 to 4 million barrels of oil a
day down to 150,000 to 400,000 barrels depending on the day. Iran is being choked off and Iran's going to have no other choice but to
come to the table. We had to get out of the JCPOA, it was a terrible deal.
It had a sunset clause and I don't think a lot of people realize that on
the JCPOA this year, in 2020, Iran would have been permitted to buy
advanced ballistic missiles, main battle tanks, fast attack jets, a whole
range of weapons would have been on the shelf of the Iranian --
WALLACE: I agree with all of that. And you certainly whipped (ph) them,
but they haven't been less aggressive. They haven't indicated that they're
going to come to the table. In fact, they've been more aggressive and
they're pulling out of the nuclear deal. So, why do you say as you've said this weekend, you think that they're more
likely to negotiate?
O'BRIEN: Because Iran is being choked off, and Iran is going to have no
other opportunity. There's no other way for them to get the money they need
to fund the guard, to fund their regime, to fund their malign activities.
And you're seeing protests now breaking out across Iran, and we've seen it
now for several months, people are fed up with this regime. If Iran wants to maintain a modern country, a modern economy, they're going
to have to come to the table and negotiate. I think that's highly likely.
WALLACE: But I remember in September, you were the national security
adviser then, President Trump was at the U.N. I interviewed the Iranian
President Rouhani. The president and the French President Macron were
trying to get him even to get in the phone and talk, and he refused to do
so. I will tell you, he said at that time to me, there was no chance we're
going to negotiate unless and until the U.S. lift sanctions.
O'BRIEN: What's going to cause them to negotiate is the pressure on their
economy and when you got students out chanting "death to the dictator" and
when you have thousands of Iranians out protesting the street, that's the
sort of pressure that's going to bring them to the table. And, listen, the president has made it very clear to Iran, we're not
talking about regime change. We want to see an Iran that forswears nuclear
weapons, that stops taking Americans hostage, that stops supporting proxies
and terrorism in the region, and stops building these ballistic missiles
which we saw them launch last week. We can get there. And I think, by the way, Chris, you're going to see more support from our
allies in the coming days and week in Europe as they realize how dangerous
this Iranian situation is.
WALLACE: All right. Let's change a little bit. Iraq's prime minister has
sent a message to the United States. I want to put it up on the screen. He's asked the U.S. to send representatives to Iraq to put in place a
mechanism for implementing the parliament's decision, implementing
parliament's decision for the safe withdrawal of forces from Iraq. But Secretary of State Pompeo says that we will continue our mission there. Question, on what ground is the U.S. saying we're going to ignore the
request by a sovereign nation to leave?
O'BRIEN: Well, with respect to the resolution you're talking about, that
was a nonbinding resolution. So, it seems like they've learned something
from our democracy, with nonbinding resolutions.
WALLACE: Yes, but this is a specific statement by the prime minister.
O'BRIEN: This is a nonbinding resolution passed by a Shia only group of
legislators. The Sunnis boycotted it, the Kurds boycotted it, and --
WALLACE: But the Shia represents a majority. They can control the
O'BRIEN: It -- yes, we'll see what happens when they have a full vote. But in any event, our goal is to get out of Iraq as well. The president
said, we want to be out of the Middle East, and -- and -- but what we need
to do is leave on our terms and we need to leave in a fashion in which
ISIS, Daesh, is -- has been fully eliminated. We took care of the physical caliphate, and we're working very hard now to
mop up the rest of ISIS. We saw that with the raid that took out al
Baghdadi. We made tremendous progress there. Well, we will certainly work with the Iraqis. We look forward to doing so.
We talk with them every day. We talk with our counterparts there. And I think we're going to have -- you know, we're working on a resolution.
We had a team from NATO here this week. I think you're going to see far
more NATO involvement in Iraq. So, this will be --
WALLACE: But the belief (ph) that we'll leave on our terms, they're a
sovereign country. If they tell us to leave, you're saying we're still
going to leave on our terms?
O'BRIEN: Look, we'll work with the Iraqis and we look forward to leaving
an Iraq that's safe and that's secure and that's independent. And that's
what the Iraqis want as well. And we're going to continue to work with all
our partners in Iraq.
WALLACE: I'm running out of time. I've got a couple of quick questions. There's a report today that the U.S. is expelling a dozen Saudi servicemen
who've been training at U.S. military bases, this after that terrible
shooting at Pensacola, do we have indications that more of these Saudi
servicemen had ties to extremism?
O'BRIEN: Yes, I don't want to say that. I think Secretary Esper has done a
great job over at the Pentagon in reviewing the way we vet foreign troops
that come over and train with Americans. We have a longstanding
relationship with the Saudis to train their pilots. We work with them both
in Saudi Arabia --
O'BRIEN: Well, I think we're being very careful. Obviously Pensacola
showed that there had been errors in the way that we vetted, and I think
out of an abundance of caution Secretary Esper's taking these actions to
protect our service men and women.
WALLACE: Finally, let's talk about Congress. President Trump says he
didn't notify the Congressional leaders -- the Gang of Eight, the majority
and minority leaders, the heads of the Intelligence Committees beforehand
about the attack on Soleimani basically because he didn't trust them. Here he is this week.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So they want us to call
them. Now Schiff is a big leaker. You know he leaks to crazy CNN, off the
record, they've got the number one terrorist in the world Soleimani, and
they're going to get him. They're going to take him out in the next 10
WALLACE: Ambassador O'Brien, can you point to a single instance when
President Trump, your administration, has given sensitive national security
information to top congressional leaders about an ongoing military
operation, and they have leaked that to the media?
O'BRIEN: I think what President Trump is doing there is something very
consistent with what President Obama and other leaders did. President Obama
did not brief the congressional leadership before the sensitive raid on
Osama bin Laden. He did not brief the congressional leadership prior to
taking out Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen. This is --
WALLACE: -- he never said it's because I don't trust them to leak.
O'BRIEN: This is standard procedure and as soon as Soleimani was taken off
the battlefield, the Gang of Eight was notified, the intelligence
committees and key leaders in Congress were notified. I participated in a
number of those calls. And then we had a very long briefing, as you
referenced at the top of your show, 75 minutes with all the members of
Congress, both House and Senate. So we think we've met our obligations in notifying Congress. And we think
we're also very consistent with what the Obama administration, the Bush
administration, the Clinton administration --
WALLACE: Specifically, is there reason to believe that if that information
had been given to Adam Schiff, he would have leaked it?
O'BRIEN: Look, I think there's always a concern when you have an operation
that is this sensitive and the lives of our servicemen and women are in
danger as we go after a leading terrorist, you have to be extraordinarily
careful with that information no matter who it is.
WALLACE: Finally, as you know, the House has voted to limit the
president's war powers, the House -- the Senate is working on that. Under
what circumstances would the administration feel it had to go to Congress
to get approval for action against Iran?
O'BRIEN: Well, I think that's set out in a number of cases. So, under
Article Two of the Constitution the president is allowed to exercise
military power to defend the American people and defend our soldiers,
sailors, airmen, and marines. And if it's in the national interest, and the
action doesn't rise to the level of war -- so that's a long and substantial
involvement, the president has that Article Two power to take action to
protect America. And that's what we did here, and that's what we'll continue to do in the
future. If that changes and there's a situation where there -- what we
expect, a conflict that will have a scope and duration that's similar to
war, certainly, we'd go to Congress, and again I think we're in -- on firm
legal footing here, very similar to President Obama, President Bush,
WALLACE: Ambassador O'Brien, thank you. Your first time on "FOX News
Sunday", I hope we didn't scare you off and that you'll come back.
O'BRIEN: I look forward to it. Thank you, Chris.
WALLACE: Thank you, sir. Up next, Democrats move to rein in President Trump's ability to use
military force against Iran unless he gets approval from Congress. We'll
discuss that, plus what to expect from the impeachment trial in the Senate
with Democrat Chris Coons. That's next.
WALLACE: Democrats in the Senate are looking to drum up bipartisan support
to limit the president's ability to use military force again Iran without
congressional approval. Joining us now here in Washington, Delaware Senator Chris Coons, a top
Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee. And, Senator, welcome back to "FOX News Sunday".
SEN. CHRIS COONS (D-DE): Thanks, Chris. Great to be with you again.
WALLACE: Ever since President Trump took out General Soleimani about a
week ago, Democrats have been calling it a major escalation and have been
warning of dire consequences. But after a pretty ineffectual missile strike, Iran's foreign minister,
Javad Zarif, said this, Iran took and concluded proportionate measures in
self-defense. And here's what President Trump said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Iran appears to be standing
down, which is a good thing for all parties concerned and a very good thing
for the world.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Senator, isn't it possible that President Trump's action,
decision worked, that it took out one of our worst enemies in the Middle
East and re-established American deterrence?
COONS: Well, it certainly took out one of our worst enemies in the Middle
East. Let's start there. None of us are going to mourn the passing of
General Qassem Soleimani. The Quds force, which he commanded, was
responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Americans in Iraq and throughout
the region thousands of civilians. So nobody should be mourning his
passing. But the larger question is, does it make us safer? Did it make our position
in the region more stable? And is there a clear strategy for moving
forward? President Trump ran, in no small part, on ending the forever wars in the
Middle East, but we've got 15,000 more troops in the Middle East today. And
the very real prospect, as you were just discussing with the national
security advisor, of our being expelled from Iraq. Soleimani, that's been one of his core goals for 15 years. He may
accomplish our expulsion from Iraq and the creation of a big vacuum there
in his death in a way he couldn't in his life.
WALLACE: But wouldn't you at least concede that President Trump -- and I
know there was a lot of concern, oh, my gosh, this is going to get us into
a war -- that so far the Iranians have, as the president said, stood down,
said we don't want to escalate this situation and maybe it made things
better, not worse, maybe?
COONS: This is an opening for the president and his whole team to show
that there is a path towards negotiation and towards reengagement with Iran
about what a stronger, better, longer Iran nuclear deal might look like.
And I hope they'll take it. My concern is that Iran has lots of ways that they can take action against
us, both overt and covert, and I don't think they're done trying to seek
revenge. The real question in front of us, I think, Chris, is whether or not
President Trump and his senior administration officials believe that before
taking actions that predictably, over months, over a long period of time
could lead to war with Iran, they have to come to Congress to seek
WALLACE: All right. We're going to get to that in a moment. I want to talk about one of the other issues out there, the debate over how
imminent the threat was that Soleimani represented and why they had to take
him out. Here's what Secretary of State Pompeo said on Friday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
POMPEO: This was going to happen and American lives were at risk and we
would have been culpably negligent, as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of
Staff said, we would have been culpably negligent had we not recommended to
the president that he take this action against Qassem Soleimani. He made
the right call and America is safer as a result of that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Is the secretary of state lying?
COONS: Well, I won't say that. Frankly, in the classified briefing that
lasted 75 minutes and had virtually the entire Senate there, we got less
detailed information than President Trump shared with Laura Ingraham. So we were told repeatedly that there was reliable intelligence of an
imminent threat. That's it. There was no more detail than that. There was
no more specifics than what the president's been comfortable sharing on
cable news. So the larger point about the consultation with Congress, working with
Congress on a bipartisan basis to come up with a strategy that will work in
the Middle East and that gives us some chance of deterring Iran, that's the
big and the larger question. I'll remind you, President Trump taken some very impulsive, even erratic
moves in the Middle East recently. His decision to abandon our Kurdish
allies in Syria led to hundreds of ISIS fighters being released, led to a
number of our close European partners in the counter-ISIS campaign to be
frustrated with us. So some skepticism on the part of Congress about whether or not there
really is a thorough and a deliberate strategy here I think is justified by
WALLACE: OK, let me pick up on that because you heard me question
Ambassador O'Brien, the national security adviser, about the larger
strategy. There is no question that as part of the Iran nuclear deal, the deal that
John Kerry and Barack Obama negotiated, Iran got back billions of dollars
in frozen assets and that it used those assets to spread terror -- give it
to Hezbollah, Hamas, other bad actors -- around the Middle East. Would you be willing to concede that as part of the president's maximum
pressure campaign that at least they turned off the terror money spigot?
COONS: There's been a real impact on the Iranian economy and on the
resources available to the terrible Iranian regime as a result of the
maximum pressure campaign.
WALLACE: So that's a success?
COONS: That's a positive. But here's the negative that's happening at the
same time -- a real weakening of our alliances and our partnerships. What
made the Iran deal possible was getting most of the world aligned with the
United States in putting sanctions pressure on Iran. That's what got them
to the table. Now, we're in a place where, although President Trump, and I appreciate his
saying this, is saying, here's a moment for diplomacy. We need NATO more
engaged in the Middle East. We need our partners in Europe. Lots of other
actions and steps he's taken in the last three years have weakened and
strained those alliances and those partnerships.
This recent incident of killing Qassem Soleimani has further strained some
of our partnerships with Germany, with France, with the U.K. in the region
and we need them if we're going to build a stronger next Iran deal.
WALLACE: In this week's classified briefing, the 75 minutes we've been
talking about, you confronted Secretary of State Pompeo at the end, I
gather, three times.
COONS: Well, I was simply trying to -- to get us to a point of what I
thought would be common agreement, that if there's an instance of imminent
threat, Article Two, commander-in-chief, the president has the power to act
to protect our troops and our interests overseas. But, if there's an instance, as we now seem to be embarking on, where the
president's drawn a clear red line, no nuclear weapons for Iran, and
there's the real risk of months and months of preparation for a military
strike to prevent that, of course, in that fact pattern you have to come
There wasn't a clear commitment to doing that. And I think there has to be.
A democracy, when we go to war, is stronger when the Constitution is
followed and the people's representatives authorize that conflict. I think
that strengthens our resolve as a nation and I think that strengthens our
hand in the world. To ignore Congress, to not even consult with us, let
alone seek authorization, I think weakens us on the world stage.
WALLACE: Finally, Speaker Pelosi will finally send the articles of
impeachment over to the Senate this week. The Senate's going to begin its
trial. How confident are you, if not at the beginning, at some point, that you can
get four Republicans to come over and agree with the Democrat to call key
COONS: Well, that's what this is all going to come down to is Majority
Leader McConnell is going to give us as much of a fair trial as four
Republican senators demand. There's a key difference between trials and
cover-ups. Trials have witnesses. Cover-ups don't. President Trump might have had his reasons for being skeptical of the House
process. In a Republican-controlled Senate, I can't think of any reason he
wouldn't want folks like Secretary of State Pompeo or National Security
Adviser John Bolton, who were in the room, who were on the e-mail chains,
who know what happened to come to the Senate, testify and clear his name.
If he is exonerated in the Senate by a purely partisan vote, I don't think
he will have been exonerated at all.
And this is only the third time, in our nation's history, that we're going
to have an impeachment trial.
WALLACE: Do you have any commitment from senators, Republican senators,
that they will vote to call witnesses?
COONS: No. At this point there's just conversations, trying to find some
reasonable, bipartisan path forward to insist on a fair trial. I respect that there are Republicans who deeply want President Trump to
have a fair trial. I think that's what all of us should want. But to have a
trial where the critical witnesses were blocked by the president from
appearing in front of the House, to have a trial where there's no sworn
testimony available, is unprecedented. President Clinton, even President Nixon, directed his closest advisers and
cabinet officials to cooperate. And in the Clinton impeachment trial, there
was sworn testimony that they were debating about how it would be
WALLACE: I've got about a minute left.
WALLACE: President Trump says if John Bolton is subpoenaed, and if John
Bolton agrees to testify, he won't allow him to discuss their conversations
about Ukraine. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I would love everybody to
testify, but there are things that you can't do from the standpoint of
executive privilege. You have to maintain that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Would any president allow his national security adviser to discuss
the conversations they had over national security in the Oval Office?
COONS: If that national security adviser could clear his name by doing so,
I think most presidents would. The executive privilege doesn't exist to
allow you to cover up a crime. That's what the president's being accused of
here. I think he should want a former national security adviser to testify
truthfully in front of the Senate.
WALLACE: And if he says -- if Bolton -- there are a lot of ifs here.
COONS: There's a lot of ifs.
WALLACE: If Bolton is allowed to testify and the president invokes
executive privilege, your response would be what?
COONS: You can't invoke executive privilege to cover up a crime. Bolton
WALLACE: Senator Coons, thank you. Thanks for coming in.
COONS: Thank you.
WALLACE: We'll be watching what happens this week both on Iran and the
Up next, we'll bring in our Sunday group to discuss whether the showdown
with Iran is over or just taking a short pause.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We caught a total monster and
we took him out. And that should have happened a long time ago. We did it
because they were looking to blow up our embassy.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): We must avoid war. And the cavalier attitude of
this administration -- oh I inform you by reading my tweets, no, that's not
the relationship that our founders had in mind.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Well, President Trump defending his decision to kill Qasem
Soleimani, while House Speaker Pelosi criticizes his handling of the
operation. And it's time now for our Sunday group. Jonah Goldberg, editor in chief of "The Dispatch," Fox News political
analyst Juan Williams, former DNC chair Donna Brazile, and Fox News
correspondent Gillian Turner.
Jonah, there, I think it's fair to say, has been a lot of hand-wringing
from -- about President Trump from Democrats, that he's in the process of
getting us into a war in the Middle East. But after Iran's, I think it's
fair to say, half-hearted missile salvo and then Iranian officials saying
that they have concluded their response, is it fair to say at least so far,
JONAH GOLDBERG, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Absolutely. Look, as you know, I'm a
-- sort of a Trump skeptic, but this seems like an unalloyed -- with the
exception of the shooting down of the Ukrainian plane, this seems like an
unalloyed win for the United States of America. The intended point of this
wasn't to start World War III, as a lot of people screamed. It was, in
fact, to end an escalating cycle where Iran was more and more using its own
forces rather than proxy forces to try to chase us out of the region.
And if the trade-off is killing -- is -- is -- is taking Soleimani off the
board in exchange for some empty barracks, that is an unalloyed win for the
What makes it so perplexing is, this guy needed (ph) killing a thousand
ways from Sunday. Why the president feels the need to talk about this --
these embassy attacks as -- when no one else can confirm it, just -- it
gets in the way of what I think is a perfectly solid case on the merits.
WALLACE: Donna, and I think it's fair to say that there are -- the
Democrats had been a lot of doom saying. Oh, this is going to get us into a
war. This was a risky escalation. Don't Democrats run a risk here when they
raise concerns about the killing of one of the worst people on earth when
they immediately rush to the floor of the House and now to the Senate and
demand war power's limitations, don't they risk running -- looking like
they're weak on national security?
DONNA BRAZILE, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Absolutely not. And -- and here's why. First of all, we have heard four, maybe five different conflicting reasons
of the imminent threat that the general appeared to have made towards the
United States. No one mourned his death. Not a -- not a Democrat or a
Republican. He was a wretched human being.
The problem that Democrats have -- and I think the problem that most
Americans -- is that, what is the strategy? We knew maximum pressure was to
try to get Iran back to the table. That didn't work. And now we have a
situation where the Iraq he prime minister is calling upon the United
States to begin to figure out the mechanisms to withdraw.
So, no, I think the Democrats are absolutely right to put a resolution on
the floor. We know that, you know, since the AUMF was -- was --
WALLACE: Authorization for the Use of Military Force.
BRAZILE: Authorization -- I mean that is as old as my you know what. We
need a new rationale for starting wars, ending wars or being in the Middle
WALLACE: No, wait, wait. I mean George Bush started new wars without
getting a new AUMF. Barack Obama took out Gaddafi in Libya. He didn't get
an authorization for the use of military force. I mean talk about being as
old as --
BRAZILE: But -- but -- but Congress had already -- but Congress had already
approved of those measures. Congress did not have --
WALLACE: They -- they hadn't approve taking out Qaddafi in Libya.
BRAZILE: Congress -- they -- they -- Congress had already -- well -- well,
we can get into Libya. Congress had already authorized that. We need of new resolution, Chris. And -- and what this -- and if Iraq
decides to expel U.S. forces, at a time ISIS is still, you know, active,
this would all have been for not. I -- I just think it was still a huge
WALLACE: Gillian, there's the bigger question, which -- which Donna raised,
which is, does this administration have a strategy for dealing with Iran?
And you heard my conversation with the national security advisor, maximum
pressure, more sanctions, bring them to the table. But although Treasury
Secretary Mnuchin announced still another round of sanctions on Friday,
they we about sanctioned out and Iran is not getting less aggressive,
they're not being more pliable, they're being more aggressive. I mean
they're -- you know, they -- they've gone after tankers in the Persian
Gulf. They went -- went after the Saudi oil facility. They're pulling out
of a nuclear deal. Is -- is there a strategy that's going to work?
GILLIAN TURNER, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well, first of all, there was what
precipitated the last ten days of this crisis. We -- everybody -- I think
it bears a reminder was and Iran-sponsored attack on the U.S. embassy in
Baghdad. It wasn't the killing of Soleimani. That didn't set this chain of
events -- this particular chain of events in motion. It was the attack on
Baghdad, which, according to many defense analysts, in of itself
constitutes an act of war. So I think it's -- that bears a reminder for
The strategy for the Trump administration so far with these sanctions has
been very successful, widespread consensus that they are working -- a lot
of analyst describing them as crippling on the Iranian economy. But as you
mentioned, Chris, the problem now is we are very rapidly reaching the end
of their utility, as was evidenced on Friday when the Trump administration
announces this new round of sanctions, which really were not new sanctions,
but a sort of re-doubling down on industries they've already sanctioned in
I will say about the nuclear deal, looking forward, another alarming thing
for those who want to say mission accomplished and now everything is OK
between the U.S. and Iran is our nuclear scientists, America's best nuclear
scientists are now predicting Iran's seven to 11 months away from
developing its own nuclear weapons capability.
WALLACE: So they're closer to breakout.
TURNER: They're -- they are closer today and they could be even closer if
they instead are able to buy components from other countries, from other
non-state actors, which is still a possibility.
WALLACE: Juan, it was interesting to me this week to see -- and this isn't
a new thing but it just continues -- the degree to which President Trump
wants to be the anti-Obama. His reaction, and I think Gillian's right, the
precipitating cause for taking out Soleimani was the attack of the embassy.
He said we're -- there's not going to be a Benghazi on my watch. And he
continues to attack President Trump's Iran nuclear deal saying that it --
JUAN WILLIAMS, FOX NEWS POLITICAL ANALYST: President Obama did.
WALLACE: President Obama, sorry, nuclear deal because of the fact that it
opened the spigot and released billions of dollars to Iran for them to
spread around the Middle East.
WILLIAMS: You know I call this Obama derangement syndrome, Chris. I mean,
to me, from the racist birther lies that he told, to now the lies about
Obama gave this money that's now being used to fire missiles at Americans,
the fact is that money was unfrozen as part of the nuclear deal. That's the
fact. It's nobody giving any -- and it was their money. So it was unfrozen
WALLACE: Well, but it was frozen.
WALLACE: And -- and the point he's making is it gave a maligned regime more
WILLIAMS: You know what, it was their money and what we got out of it was
that they agreed to stop development of nuclear weaponry. That's the deal
that we entered into. It was a containment plan, not appeasement,
containment of an enemy, and it was quite effective.
Now we're seeing, as we move forward, we don't have the leverage of that
nuclear deal. The sanctions, as you've point out repeatedly on this show,
have not had the effect of slowing Iranian aggression. So now we don't have
the leverage that came from having them in the nuclear deal.
What Gillian just said about the range of time that they could develop
nuclear weaponry puts our key ally in the Middle East, Israel, at greater
risk. We're not in position to fight ISIS at the moment or protect the oil
reserves. All of this at greater risk because of the provocative action
without long-term strategy taken by President Trump.
WALLACE: All right, we're not going to settle this today. we're not going
to settle this in this segment. And we have to take a break here.
But, when we come back, we're now just three weeks from the Iowa caucuses.
The latest on the fast-moving Democratic race.
Plus, what would you like to ask the panel about Speaker Pelosi sending
over the articles of impeachment in the next few days, kicking off the
trial in the Senate? Just go to FaceBook or Twitter at FOX NEWS SUNDAY and
we may use your question on the air.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think it's ridiculous. I --
she should have sent them a long time ago. It -- it just -- it belittles
Nancy Pelosi will go down as probably the least successful speaker of the
House of the history of our nation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: President Trump reaction to House Speaker Pelosi's announcement
she'll finally send the articles of impeachment over to the Senate sometime
And we're back now with the panel.
Well, we asked you for questions for the panel, and on this question of
Pelosi's deciding to finally send over the articles of impeachment, we got
this on Twitter from Mya Voice, which is an interesting name, will the
Senate call relative witnesses with direct knowledge of the president's
actions and conduct a fair trial.
Juan, did Pelosi's delay at least put a focus on this issue of whether or
not to call witnesses and now you hear that Republican Senator Susan
Collins of Maine is working with a few of her other GOP colleagues on
exactly that issue, whether or not to call witnesses?
WILLIAMS: Yes, I think that if you were to say, what's the good of the
delay, you'd say number one is the spotlight on fairness of the trial. A
"Washington Post"/ABC poll this week had 70 percent, including 64 percent
of Republicans saying, if you don't have documents and witnesses, this is
nothing but a cover-up. That whole focus now, I think, is the result of
Pelosi delaying sending over the articles of impeachment.
Remember, on all 15 prior impeachment of federal officials, there have been
witnesses and documents. Clinton had witnesses. Clinton didn't block other
people from testifying. But as you point out, the only hope is Susan
Collins, Lisa Murkowski, maybe Mitt Romney, because you only need 51 votes
to change the rules.
WALLACE: Well, you need -- you need one more than those.
WILLIAMS: Yes, but you don't -- but, yes, they have 53 Republican senators.
You take away a few and suddenly Mitch McConnell, who says he's
coordinating with the White House Council, will be in a position of having
to accept witnesses.
WALLACE: Gillian, what do you make of former National Security Advisor John
Bolton saying, if subpoenaed, he will testify? And we heard earlier
President Trump say he would invoke executive privilege. If he did invoke
it, does John Bolton have to live with that or could he just ignore it and
say what he wanted to say?
TURNER: Well, this is, to me, one of the more interesting plot lines in the
impeachment story, John Bolton's willingness and aversion into going along
with the administration at different points in this process. The president
said Friday, essentially, I will block his testimony because -- not just
because of executive privilege, but because of national security concerns.
And I think for the administration, that's the more powerful line of
argument to get at here. With somebody like a Bolton, unlike with somebody
like a Mick Mulvaney, or some other folks --
WALLACE: But -- but I don't know if you know the answer to this. If -- if -
- I understand it's an excuse for a witness who wants to take it, but if
Bolton wants to testify in the president says, no, executive privilege,
does Bolton have to observe that?
TURNER: Well, unless --
GOLDBERG: No, I think it's up to Justice Roberts to rule on that.
TURNER: It's up -- ultimately he'll have to rule on it, which, ironically,
will give Bolton the outcome he has most desired all along. When he
initially joined -- filed to join the Charles Kupperman lawsuit, what his
attorney said was, he doesn't want to be the man in the middle that has to
choose between following guidance from congressional regulators and from
the commander in chief. So you all in the courts figure this out and let us
know what you want us to do. This is a way for Bolton to get where he
wanted to be anyway.
A lot of conspiracy theories surrounding why he's agreeing to do this now.
I think it's probably simpler than people imagine. I think it's probably
because he's going to get the outcome he wanted. He won't have to make the
WALLACE: Meanwhile, the Iowa caucuses are just three weeks from tomorrow.
We're finally getting there, folks. And the always reliable, often
reliable, I guess nobody's always reliable, new "Des Moines Register" poll
is out this weekend. It shows Bernie Sanders back in the lead at 20
percent. That's up five points from November with Warren and Buttigieg and
Biden all closely bunched, as you can see, with Buttigieg, who was the
leader in the previous November poll, down nine points.
Donna, given his lead in that poll, given how well he's doing in New
Hampshire, given the fact that he is the strong leader in fundraising, is
Bernie Sanders now the frontrunner in the Democratic race?
BRAZILE: Oh, you know, two weeks ago someone said is Mayor Pete the
frontrunner. Four months -- four weeks ago it was Warren.
WALLACE: I understand that. We've got to cover the news.
BRAZILE: Yes. Well -- yes. And, you know what, and he is the frontrunner.
He's the frontrunner at this hour.
I suspect that over the next couple of days, especially as we prepare for
the next debate, he's going to come under a lot of scrutiny. Maybe one of
the second tier candidates will take a aim -- a shot at him. Not literally,
but in terms of politically.
Look, at the end of the day, Chris, we are in no way close to deciding who
the nominee is. I see pluses and minuses in -- in the polls for Bernie, but
I also see Joe Biden as still the -- the frontrunner overall in the race.
And that brings me to Joe Biden, because the other news to me, not just
that Bernie is doing so well, Biden, in that poll -- I understand it's
within the margin of error -- was in fourth place for all of his support
and, yes, he has a lot of support in the African-American community, which
would come into place once we get to South Carolina.
If Joe Biden, the former vice president, the punitive frontrunner, finishes
fourth in Iowa, how damaging?
GOLDBERG: I think it's damaging but it -- unlike a lot of these other
candidates, it wouldn't be fatal because of the firewall he's got in South
Carolina and in Nevada.
This is, in a lot of ways, shaping up to me to be really reminiscent of the
2004 Kerry versus Howard Dean dynamic where a large segment of voters were
basically voting to -- the person they thought most likely to beat George
W. Bush and then another segment, those are the progressive wing, was
voting their hearts and desires and all the rest. And what's interesting
about this time around is that the tiebreaker between these two opposing
forces of sort of moderates versus, you know, progressive, is actually the
African-American vote. And that seems decisively to be going for Biden. So
I still think Biden is a -- is better placed than -- than Bernie Sanders
WALLACE: And let me throw, Juan, another scenario at you, and we've only
got about a minute left. You could end up with different winners -- there
are four early races, Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, South Carolina -- four
different winners in all of them. Wouldn't that set things up, at least
theoretically, perfectly, for Michael Bloomberg, who's sitting there on a
huge war chest, slightly raising -- rising in the polls, for Super Tuesday?
WILLIAMS: You know, it's incredible to me, but it does look like the stars
are aligning for Mike Bloomberg if you're thinking, well, could we go to
the point where on Super Tuesday it's like 40 percent of the delegates,
that's when he gets in. His advertising has been overwhelming. He's even
bought a Super Bowl ad. I think you will see it.
And, to me, the idea that he bought a minute on the Super Bowl, I think $10
million, it's boosted him now to about 6 percent in the polls. He's now
going to, you know -- he can't participate because he hasn't raised enough
money. He just relies on his own. But he has a chance that I didn't think -
- I really didn't see it, but he does have a chance now better than at any
BRAZILE: Juan, he may go up in the polls, but, remember, it's about
delegates. And unless you get to a 15 percent threshold, not only statewide
but per congressional district, you get no delegates.
WILLIAMS: But in an open convention?
WALLACE: Well, and, I've got to say, you cannot watch TV and not see those
ads. Thank you, panel. See you next Sunday. Up next, I'll be back with a big announcement.
WALLACE: Now for my announcement.
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The result is "Countdown 1945: The Extraordinary Story of the 116 Days that
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presidency after the death of FDR and the struggle he faces in making one
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But it's not just Truman. As we countdown the days until the bomb is
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You'll meet giants of the 20th century, like Albert Einstein and Robert
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And that's it for today. Have a great week and we'll see you next FOX NEWS
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