LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel.
And when you combine the president`s tweet you just reported which begins with "all as well", that came after Iranian government statements saying that -- saying we do not seek escalation or war, saying that they will not launch any other attacks if the United States doesn`t launch any attacks, this could be over. The president -- it`s inconceivable the president would, his only written statement, only words coming from the White House if from him tonight saying "all is well" if there were any American casualties.
We still don`t have a casualty assessment at this now five hours after the fact of this attack, which is pretty extraordinary.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, "TRMS": Nor do we have any expectation we are going to hear from the president or the White House tonight. Nor do we have any expectation, at least, according to Courtney Kube in the last hour, that we are going to hear any official capacity from the Pentagon tonight. So, apparently, it is going to be a number of hours before we get anything.
That`s -- so, I sort of feel comfortable with that in terms of hearing what the U.S. response is going to be. As far as I`m concerned, the longer they take to consider their response, probably the better. But in terms of getting a damage assessment, getting a casualty assessment, it`s odd to think we`re going to get through the overnight without hearing what damage was done.
O`DONNELL: Well, apparently some reporters at other news organizations made the mistake of thinking and reporting apparently that the president was going to do what any other president would do, which is address the nation on this night of worldwide confusion and fear about what was happening, especially when we got to the point where Iran was issuing possible threats to -- if the United States responded, that Iran`s threats included attacks on other countries, including Israel. Iran was threatening war crimes tonight, saying that they would destroy Dubai, saying they would destroy the Israeli city of Haifa. And the president of the United States did not make any public statements whatsoever until this tweet, just saying all is well.
MADDOW: All is well. It is, you know, what a time to be alive.
O`DONNELL: It really is. Thank you very much, Rachel.
MADDOW: Thank you, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: We are joined now straight from Tehran by Ali Arouzi. He is NBC News Tehran bureau chief. He is joining us live from Iran.
And, Ali, the president has tweeted, I`m going to read you this entire tweet because it`s just come out recently. He said: All is well. Missiles launched from Iran at two military bases located in Iraq. Assessment of casualties and damages taking place now. So far, so good.
Now, that would seem to indicate that so far he has no reports of any American casualties. He then ends it by saying -- I will be making a statement tomorrow morning.
As you have been reporting, the Iranian government has had much more to say about this than president Trump just said in that short tweet, including prior to the president`s statement tonight, president`s tweet tonight, the Iranian government saying that they would not conduct any other attacks if the United States does not retaliate. Is that where it stands now?
ALI AROUZI, NBC NEWS TEHRAN BUREAU CHIEF: That`s right, Lawrence. That`s exactly where it stands. Iran took full responsibility directly by the IRGC for two waves of attacks into those bases you mentioned in Iraq. Now they are releasing statements, saying that if there is no reprisal from the United States over these attacks, they will stop their attacks.
But that is also coming with another warning. They`re saying if the United States does decide to respond to Iran`s avenging of Soleimani`s death, then all bets are off. They said that they will, as you mentioned, attack Dubai because they say U.S. planes could fly from Dubai. They say that they will attack Haifa in Israel.
They are also putting out on state media constantly that all of Iran`s militias are battle ready, and that they are waiting for orders from Tehran. Militias as big as Hezbollah in Lebanon giving statements via Iran in media they are ready to attack Israel if there is a reprisal on Iran. They want to show here that they are battle-ready.
The state media is constantly issuing reports saying that all of Iran`s underground depots that launch -- that have missile bases in them are battle ready and are ready to fire away if they are attacked on. But these are all just warnings right now from Iran. They`re saying that they don`t need to launch any of these things if they`re not attacked.
I mean, you have to remember, Lawrence, there was almost certainty that Iran was going to launch back against Qasem Soleimani`s death. And the funny thing is there was a general feeling here in Iran that once Qasem Soleimani was buried, then the reprisals would begin. In Shia culture, once a martyr dies, he needs to be buried in the ground then you can continue battle.
So that`s exactly what they have done, but they are sending a clear message that this can de-escalate right now if there`s no reprisal. The tweet you just read out from Donald Trump seems to --
O`DONNELL: What we are just showing is we have live imagery of the funeral going on right now as you speak. But please, go ahead. I just wanted the audience to know what they were seeing there.
AROUZI: That ties into exactly what we were talking about, Qasem Soleimani is buried now. The reprisal has taken place. Iran is saying we have had a proportionate attack on the United States. The ball is now in America`s court if they want to escalate this.
But there is also a lot of tough talk coming out of here at the same time, Lawrence. State media just released a statement from the man that stepped out of the shadows and replaced Qasem Soleimani, General Ghani. He said: We have heard the screams of the Americans, we have crushed their bones, they should now leave this region.
We have to also understand, a lot of this is for domestic consumption. There was a large cross-section of this country. They were expecting Iran to strike back for the death of arguably the second most powerful man in this country.
They have now. They`re saying, let`s put it aside. We`ve hit each other and let`s de-escalate. So, let`s hope that does happen, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Ali Arouzi, thank you very much for your reporting from Tehran.
We are joined now by Richard Engel. He`s the NBC News chief foreign correspondent. He`s reporting tonight from northern Iraq.
Richard, is there any word from the Iraqi government about a damage assessment or a casualty assessment?
RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: No, the Iraqi government has been remarkably silent. We have been reaching out to the Iraqi security forces. They have not been putting out any statements that -- as far as we are aware. They are trying as best they can to stay out of this.
Iraq does not want to get sucked into the middle of a war between Iran and the United States. This country has already just come under attack from Iran. Iran is threatening to escalate it dramatically. Iran is threatening to mobilize militias in this country that have a significant presence here, including a significant presence inside the Iraqi security forces. If those militias are activated, you could see a new phase of a civil war break out in Iraq.
So, Iraq is watching this with tremendous concern and a desire to see this de-escalate because they know what could happen if the 5,000 troops here go to war with the militias in this country. And more U.S. troops come in and they go to war with Iran. This country will quickly go up in flames.
O`DONNELL: Richard, I cannot begin to describe my shock tonight when I first saw Ali Arouzi`s reporting and your reporting from the region about Iran`s threats, next-stage threats to attack an Israeli city to, as they put it, destroy Dubai. Those would both be war crimes. That would be Iraq targeting non-combatant, other nations not involved in any of this so far. That would have widened and exploded the Middle East into a war like we`ve never seen.
ENGEL: And I think that was exactly what Iran was trying to signal. That if this escalates, it will go to a place where the entire region is consumed in conflict. Iran was saying it is prepared to widen the campaign to include Israel, to include the Gulf, to include shipping lanes, to empower and unleash groups like Hezbollah, which is a very powerful organization, perhaps the most powerful nonofficial militant group in the world.
So, Iran, while it launched what I think you could describe is a fairly limited strike with 12 or so ballistic missiles targeting two military facilities here in Iraq, it was signaling it can do a lot more if the U.S. wants to take it that way, but then also adding that that very important caveat, that if the U.S. does not respond and leaves things as they were, so to speak, that Iran will also de-escalate. And then the Iranian foreign minister came out with a -- quite a detailed tweet, if such a thing can exist, saying that what they did was proportionate, that it was in line with self-defense, and that Iran does not seek war and does not seek to escalate.
So they were speaking with a variety of languages saying the option is either de-escalation or a much, much wider war that involves the entire region and involves cities like Haifa and Dubai and includes Hezbollah and militias in this country and takes us down a path that I think nobody really wants to go down.
O`DONNELL: Richard Engel, thank you for your reporting from Iraq tonight. I just want to read that tweet from the Iranian foreign minister that Richard just referenced. It says: Iran took and concluded proportionate measures in self-defense under Article 51 of U.N. charter targeting base from which cowardly armed attack against our citizens and senior officials were launched. We do not seek escalation or war, but will defend ourselves against aggression.
We are joined now by Courtney Kube. She is NBC News correspondent covering national security and the Pentagon.
Courtney, we are still waiting a casualty assessment, a damage assessment. Is this an unusually long period of time to wait for this kind of information?
COURTNEY KUBE, NBC NEWS NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: No. And you also have to keep in mind, Lawrence, that it`s been nighttime there, so it makes it a little bit harder to see exactly what`s been hit and see the extent of the damage. You know, usually it`s been about nearly four hours now since the first incoming hit at Al-Asad.
Usually we would be getting some indications of any casualties, specifically American casualties. We don`t always get as good a sense from the U.S. military about other coalition or even Iraqi casualties. Usually we would know something by now. And so far, we`re hearing there are no reports of any. So, we aren`t at a point where we`re ready to say that there have been no American casualties, but so far, there are no reported - - reports of any.
What still remains unclear is exactly what was targeted on Al-Asad Base, but what was targeted in Erbil and what actually was hit. We don`t have any good sense of where any of the missiles that flew into Erbil, what they actually struck and whether any of them were successful, whether they were duds. We`re not getting any real info on that at this point still, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Courtney, is there any indication the Iranians would have the intelligence and the targeting ability to actually deliberately minimize or try to avoid American casualties in these attacks?
KUBE: Absolutely, especially when you look at the targets, OK? So if, in fact, they were targeting where the U.S. military is in Erbil at a base, they have a base that`s collocated with the commercial airport. It`s a very -- it`s an urban populated area literally that sits right up against the commercial airport there. If they wanted to hit, they could inflict a large number of casualties and destruction with one strike on that location if that`s what they were trying to hit. We still don`t quite know that yet.
And the fact that they didn`t, now, is it possible the targeting was off? We don`t really know. But Al-Asad, it`s this large sprawling base, there`s vast areas. It has a huge air field there that really is desert and concrete.
And especially when you`re talking -- it was the middle of the night, after 1:00 in the morning local time. It is very possible that if they were to strike, you can look at satellite images and get a sense of where the airfields are, commercial satellite images. So if they were to target those or areas of the expansive part of the base, they could go after that and be pretty assured of not injuring or killing anyone, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Courtney Kube, thank you very much for joining us.
And we are now joined by Ambassador Wendy Sherman. She`s a former under secretary of state in the Obama administration. She was the lead negotiator on the Iran nuclear deal along with Secretary of State John Kerry.
Ben Rhodes is with us, a former national security advisor for President Obama.
Malcolm Nance is joining us. He`s an MSNBC counterterrorism and intelligence analyst.
And Daniel Benaim, a former Middle East policy advisor in the Obama White House and State Department.
Wendy Sherman, let me start with you and get your reaction to what you`re seeing in the Trump administration`s response so far tonight.
WENDY SHERMAN, FORMER UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR POLITICAL AFFAIRS: Well, I think this is the first time in such a dire set of circumstances that a president has addressed the country by tweet. And he did it with chest thumping about how great we are, all as well. If anyone else had used those words, he would have humiliated them for saying it.
I`m very glad if it turns out there were not American casualties. I also hope there weren`t Iraqi or coalition casualties. But this is a time for seriousness and serious purpose. It`s not a time for raw impulse and chest thumping.
We still have a lot in front us that we have to unpack, that we have to understand, that we have to de-escalate, that we have to stop and think.
I quite frankly am glad he didn`t address the country tonight because what we needed was someone to say, we`re assessing what`s happened, we`re going to be very deliberative about this. We understand the country`s security is at stake. We`re going to be careful.
None of us could imagine him giving such a speech, so better he say nothing.
O`DONNELL: Yes, Ben Rhodes, the president`s last line of the tweet tonight, I will be making a statement tomorrow morning. That`s kind of inconceivable from any other president who -- and any other president would have had the capacity, the ability to address the nation in a situation like this. Clearly, Donald Trump`s advisors didn`t think that he could, and he himself obviously did not think that he could. He`s obviously preferring -- and we know he`s doing this -- he would prefer to spend the night watching Fox News to gather his thoughts for what he will say tomorrow.
BEN RHODES, FORMER OBAMA DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: Yes, Lawrence. And we`re only here at this moment, this very dangerous moment because of Donald Trump`s impulses, his impulsive decision to pull out of the Iran nuclear agreement that had rolled back the Iranian program and averted this type of conflict.
The impulsive decision to kill Qasem Soleimani and thus far we`ve seen no evidence that that was based on an imminent threat. The administration hasn`t provided that evidence.
And right now, we`re dealing with the fog of war. We`re waiting for those casualty assessments, frankly not just Americans, but we should be thinking about the Iraqi people who suffered so much in this conflict, other coalition partners who are co-located on those bases. This is a very precarious moment. This is now an opportunity to de-escalate, an opportunity to avert a much wider war that could have grave, grave consequence for American lives, for American interests, and for the entire region.
This is a time where we should be looking to open up diplomatic channels with the Iranians, perhaps working through third countries like Oman who hosted some of those secret discussions that led to the nuclear agreement, or some of our European allies that talk to the Iranians. It`s a time really for sobriety.
And part of what concerns me is Iranians have put forward essentially this offer of de-escalation, which I hope is real, and might be something of a performance for the international community. They still have proxies who could carry out attacks that the Iranians could claim were not at their direction. So, to me, it`s still a very precarious moment and if Donald Trump comes out tomorrow and seeks to humiliate the Iranians, seeks to beat his chest, we could be back in a more precarious situation.
So, unfortunately, we`re counting on Donald Trump and the supreme leader of Iran to be the once who can de-escalate. I hope that take that opportunity.
O`DONNELL: Malcolm Nance, for almost the five hours of silence, total silence from the Trump administration which was broken only by this tweet in which the president says "all is well. So far, so good". That`s all we know in the way of damage assessment.
The only hope we have is from an NBC News report, NBC News reporting about the missile detection system that the national security agency runs in Maryland which tracks the possible launching of missiles around the world. And that report indicated that if that tracking had worked well enough, there could have been enough minutes to alert the American troops in Iraq to take a kind of cover that could have protected them in this event. That might have happened.
But for five hours, that was the only hope that we had that there was some reason to hope that American troops could have avoided this danger tonight. The president tweeting "all is well" in a sane world can only mean that he already has a report indicating that there are no American casualties.
MALCOLM NANCE, MSNBC COUNTERTERRORISM AND INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: Yes, it`s pretty clear that the battle damage assessment, the initial one that would have been taken right after the bombardment when the all-clear was sounded would have immediately mustered up the troops and you would have seen whether there were facilities hit or people injured. And for the most part, we didn`t get any indications of that.
Back to the ballistic missile warning system which we have had in operation for decades, it is a highly sensitive system. I don`t want to get into the details of it, but we have the ability -- and I have been bombarded by intermediate range ballistic missiles in the Persian Gulf, and that system gives you a lot of warning time. In the first Gulf War, we had as many as 30 minutes` warning between the time that a missile launched, went ballistic into space and came back down onto its target.
So, if they had been at a measure of alert, which we`re sure that they were, they would have seen the initial boost phase of that missile. It would have gone through the alert system, Al-Asad airbase, which is a very large facility, would have gotten a ballistic missile defense alert, and everyone would have gone to their, to their shelter, their duck and cover shelters, which are concrete, you know, bunkers for each of these. And it would have minimized the casualties.
But you have to understand the type of weapon that they were firing were not traditional rockets. These things were short range ballistic missiles, battle field weapons carried around on mobile erector launchers. And they had the ability to fly 300 kilometers if the Fateh-110 missile which the Iranians claimed that they were using did. We usually get hit by rockets much smaller than that and usually happen one to four at a time. This was waves of missiles. And fortunately our service members most likely had a lot of warning and managed to avoid those casualties.
O`DONNELL: Daniel Benaim, the Iranians said tonight that they were willing to attack. Their next move is to attack Israel, attack the city of Haifa, attack Dubai. These are two non-combatant nations in this situation. They basically announced, here are our plans to commit war crimes if Donald Trump retaliates to our retaliation.
The president had already announced what his retaliation would be, 52 sites that would include cultural sites, all of those things. He`d already made his announcement what his retaliation would be. That is not his retaliation. That`s not his choice so far tonight.
If the president does retaliate, is Iran -- is the Iran threat as possibly empty as the Trump 52 sites threat turned out to be? May turnout to be?
DANIEL BENAIM, FORMER MIDDLE AST POLICYMAKER OBAMA ADMINISTRATION: Look, let`s hope so. I think that what the Iranians were trying to signal was essentially, we`re going to lob some missiles and if you retaliate, we`re going to have a catastrophe on our hands. They were trying, I think, to find a way to de-escalate.
Now, if when the president says "all is well" what he means is no Americans -- and hopefully also no Iraqis and no coalition forces were killed, at the best case, that is an incredibly gratuitously dangerous position to be in. It is remarkable to think that tonight in the Middle East, the line between war and peace was the precision of Iranian missiles fired from hundreds of kilometers away and the restraint of Donald Trump.
The reason that we got to this moment is the failure to ask three of the most fundamental under rated words in American foreign policy, and then what? OK, say we do this. Then what happens?
The reason you need to ask those questions, because escalation and miscalculation are real. Just look at Qasem Soleimani. When he launched those -- when his Iraqi proxies launched those rocket strikes that killed that American, he didn`t think three chess moves later, he would be dead. That`s what miscalculation and escalation looks like and there is a real chance that this could have gone incredibly sideways, incredibly fast.
What we have now is a very narrow window to do two things of paramount importance. The first is to figure out a way to get off this track, take this olive branch in the form of an offer to -- that that will be the end of these retaliations, which I have my doubts about. Take that and find a way to de-escalate and find a way to get directly in touch and start talking because that`s the way this is going to end.
The second thing they urgently need to do is start talking to the Iraqis and start talking to them with a bit of respect because this has been a disaster for the country of Iraq as well. We have a valuable partnership with them and it would be really quite something, not exactly the art of the deal for this president to get one guy and lose a whole country this past week in the country of Iraq.
O`DONNELL: Wendy Sherman, let me go to you on this trading of threats between the president and Iran. We know President Trump has issued many empty threats. He`s threatened to just obliterate North Korea and then that completely disappears as a threat.
So, when Donald Trump threatens 52 sites in Iran, I know that might actually be zero sites. It might be 52. It might be 102.
It`s Donald Trump. So it has no meaning. It could be zero. That`s a distinct possibility and that`s what it might turn out to be.
I don`t know how to interpret a threat from Iran saying, we will target an Israeli city, we will target Dubai. Are their threats as possibly empty as Trump threats sometimes turnout to be?
SHERMAN: I think Daniel made a very good point. I think that, in part, Iran is saying, this can end in a catastrophe and it can end in a catastrophe as horrific as the one you laid out with your 52 sites. They also reminded America that we, I believe, accidentally shot down an Iranian airplane that cost 209 Iranian lives which Iran has never forgiven us for by one of our navy ships.
So, there is a lot of back and forth here. Whenever you have a negotiation -- oddly, I was talking to one of the classes at Harvard about this today. You have intent and you have impact. The intent of Donald Trump`s tweet, which is to really thump his chest and to say, we are great, we are phenomenal America, we can crush you and impact.
How is that received by the other side? And I think in Iran`s case, they are playing against Donald Trump. They are very good at rhetoric and propaganda and threats. And as Ali Arouzi pointed out quite rightly, a lot of this is for domestic constituency and domestic propaganda.
So, it remains to be seen if we can begin those diplomatic channels to talk with each other quietly and seriously.
O`DONNELL: Wendy Sherman, Ben Rhodes, Malcolm Nance, Daniel Benaim, thank you.
We are joined now by Democratic Congressman Jim Himes of Connecticut. He`s a member of the House Intelligence Committee.
Congressman Himes, we have no intelligence from the administration tonight on what happened, absolutely none. All we have is Donald Trump saying "all is well, so far so good".
REP. JIM HIMES (D-CT): Yes, that`s right. Although I will tell you it`s too early to know for sure, but indications are that the damage was not overly severe. I suspect that if we`d had a catastrophe in terms of casualties, the president would have known about it a long time ago and probably wouldn`t have sent out the tweet that he did.
So I don`t usually do this, and I`m not sure I`ve ever done it in the many years I`ve watched the Middle East very carefully, but this may be a remarkably positive opening in what I thought was going to be a period of a couple of weeks in which the Congress of the United States, the people of the United States, and the president were going to be involved in a slippery slide to what could be a disastrous war. But maybe, just maybe, Lawrence, based on the tweets -- I can`t believe I`m saying that -- that we saw from the president of the United States and Foreign Minister Zarif, both of which were optimistic, both of which were calm and carefully worded, maybe both sides stared into the abyss and said, let`s figure out a way to step back from what could have been a very ugly situation for both sides.
O`DONNELL: So, you`re taking some encouragement or hope in the Iranian foreign minister when he tweeted tonight, we do not seek escalation or war, but will defend ourselves against any aggression. That line about, we do not seek escalation or war. That`s what signals that this could be the end?
HIMES: Well, actually, Lawrence, the word in that tweet that matters the most to me is the word "concluded." That`s the third word in that tweet, we took and concluded.
Now, maybe that`s not true. The Iranians are often not honest in the way they project themselves abroad. But that word "concluded" suggests maybe what we`ve seen, and again, let`s keep praying that no one died in the attack on Al-Asad, but that word concluded suggests that they are saying, we did what you knew we had to do. There was no way the Iranian regime was not going to retaliate here, but that now we`re done.
That gives us an opportunity -- and look, I`m not in the habit of praising Donald Trump. I think we`re in this scary situation because I`m not sure he thought through what he was doing. But even his tweet, which was optimistic, which was unusually carefully worded, again, this is a moment where maybe we can step back from the abyss.
Remember Lawrence, there`s a thousand scenarios far, far worse and again, I want to say, we don`t know that everyone is safe in Al-Asad but look, the Iranians could`ve committed an atrocious terrorist attack in a western European city.
They could have attacked Israel. They could`ve you know attacked the fifth fleet that we have in Bahrain. That did not happen and I again, I`m not used to having outcomes that are perhaps surprisingly measured and better than expected in this region of the world.
O`DONNELL: And the President actually having nothing to say tonight, deciding that in the midst of all this confusion that the country was facing he could not or chose not to come out to a camera to address the nation in anyway. What`s your reaction to that?
HIMES: Well, I work really hard Lawrence and in situations like this one, I think we still are on the brink of war to be - to try to subsume whatever political point I would make so let me just say this, which is that I`m glad that Donald Trump and a lot of his people I think have the opportunity to take a bunch of hours to think through their response.
Because again, if the foreign ministers being honest and what they did at Al-Asad is all they are going to do, this is a really surprisingly optimistic possibility - possibility that we could just say, OK guys, you hit me, I hit you, let`s step back from the brink.
Let`s figure out how to you know how to have this and a lot more peacefully than it might have. So I`m - I`m kind of glad that Donald Trump is both sounding optimistic and perhaps maybe watching a little TV before he goes to bed tonight.
O`DONNELL: Congressman Jim Himes, thank you very much for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it.
HIMES: Thank you Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: And when we come back, we`ll get reaction from Presidential candidate, Sen. Amy Klobuchar.
O`DONNELL: Joining our discussion now is Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar, Minnesota Senator Klobuchar is a candidate now for President of the United States. Sen. Klobuchar, as a senator in Washington, do you have any more information about this tonight than we do? Have you gotten any early reports about possible casualties in this Iran missile strike in Iraq?
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR ( D-MI), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I haven`t Lawrence. We were in actually classified briefing with the Acting Head of Homeland Security when all of this went down and there`s going to be a major meeting tomorrow that I will be attending with the Trump administration and all of the Senate.
So we can ask questions about was there really an eminent threat that lead to this series of events that brought us here tonight. Like everyone else, I would be relieved and so happy if we did not see casualties but that doesn`t mean like the President said in his tweet that all is well.
I think we all know all is not well because we have an escalating situation with Iran and I hope that we`re going to be able to step back now and use this precious moment to work with our allies, our Arab allies from Emiratis, to Oman, to the Kuwaitis, to our European allies that have some relationships with Iran from the Swiss, to the German, to the French, to the British, to try to get to a point to where we can de-escalate this and take that step back.
Because to me, this looks like situation and we all know this that started developing a long time ago but got so much worse when the President made the decision to bring us out of the Iranian nuclear agreement.
O`DONNELL: The President`s tweet tonight saying "All is well." came after a series of public communications from the Iranian government beginning with first of all, taking clear credit for what they did tonight for the missile strike that they launch tonight they wanted that to be very clear, obviously.
And then this extraordinary period of time were out there in the world was this threat from the Iranian government to commit the war crimes of attacking Israel, attacking the city of Haifa, attacking Dubai, wiping out Dubai they said but then saying, we won`t do that, we won`t do that, we won`t do anything more if the United States does not retaliate.
And it took a few hours for us to get through to that space where the Iranian government was finally saying through the foreign minister, I`ll quote it again, "We do not seek escalation or war but we`ll defend ourselves."
Then only then did we get the President`s tweet saying all is well, so far so good and it does seem like a fair interpretation doesn`t it? That the President has some information that there are no American casualties or it`s hard to believe.
KLOBUCHAR: I hope, I pray that that is the case but of course, there`s others that may have been on that base, coalition partners, Iraqis. When you think about the fact, I oppose going into Iraq in the first place. I didn`t think we should get involved in that war but we have now been there for years.
We`ve had aid workers there. We`ve worked with their fledgling government and this thought that we have now put this country in this precarious position because of the moves and not thinking ahead is something that should also really concern us.
There are so many things going on right now in terms of this cycle of escalating consequences and those are the questions that I will be asking tomorrow, my colleagues will be asking tomorrow because this administration better have a strategy and of course, this is going to be debated in this Presidential election.
But right now the page we should be on is to de-escalate this and to try to tamp down this rhetoric and do everything we can to control an administration and a President that seems like he just cannot resist the opportunity to you know, do everything from beat his chest to send out the latest tweets that threatens going after cultural sites and the like.
Like everyone else, I`m glad we`re taking this breath but tomorrow will be a new day and he is completely unpredictable.
O`DONNELL: And tomorrow morning according to the President will begin with a statement that he will make about this tomorrow morning and it seems like he`s a long way away from his 52 target threats and the Iranians seemed to have pulled back from their threats as long as there`s no more action after this.
Let me - let me bring you to the impeachment question and the impeachment trial in the United States Senate which you`re going to be dealing with very soon because apparently we`re at the end of the line of any kind of negotiations with Mitch McConnell.
Mitch McConnell says that he has enough votes including Senator Mitt Romney for example, to start the Senate impeachment trial using the same rules that started the Clinton impeachment trial but Senator Romney himself made it very clear today that he does want to hear from witnesses.
He made very clear in an interview with NBC News Kasie Hunt that he would vote for John Bolton being a witness and possibly other witnesses. He used the word `witnesses` plural and so we may end up eventually with witnesses in the senate trial.
KLOBUCHAR: I hope that we do Lawrence. It`s supposed to be a trial and at a trial you have witnesses. I mean as you know President Nixon allowed his top people to come and testify and even in the Clinton case, there were depositions of many of the top witnesses and so I do not understand how people can talk but talk about saying they want to hear from witnesses and then have no rules in place to allow for those witnesses.
And remember, we`re simply asking for four witnesses and each and every day, new revelations come out. We now know that John Bolton wants to testify. We know that one of the witnesses Mr. Duffy was in 90 minutes after the President made that call to the head of Ukraine, he then sends out an email and says hold the aid and he also has another email where he talks about POTUS` role in holding the aid.
To me, these are as a former prosecutor, I see these as smoking guns and we have a constitutional duty as jurors and we`re not just jurors sitting in a regular juror boxes you know. We really are representing the United States of America and the people want a fair trial. That`s what we should have and we should be able to have these witnesses.
O`DONNELL: Presidential candidate Sen. Amy Klobuchar, thank you very much for joining us. I really appreciate it.
KLOBUCHAR: Thank you Lawrence. Thank you for your thoughtful program tonight.
O`DONNELL: Thank you and we are back with Wendy Sherman and Ben Rhodes and Wendy Sherman, I just want to get your assessment of where you believe we are at this hour tonight?
AMB. WENDY SHERMAN, WAS LEAD NEGOTIATOR ON THE IRAN NUCLEAR DEAL: I think that we all hope that we`re we are is at an opening for de-escalate - de- escalation of this extraordinary crisis that we have pulled back from the brink. There is a space here for the diplomacy that Ben spoke about earlier in the broadcast, where the United States could find its way to having conversations probably through a third party first and ultimately, sitting down with Iran.
It is also a night where I hope when the President speaks tomorrow, he doesn`t need to humiliate Iran. I hope Iran does not feel it needs to humiliate the United States. I thought foreign minister Zarif`s statement tonight was an attempt to stand down and just say that it`s time for a different way forward.
So I think tonight, we`re all taking a deep breath in hopes that we have escaped a horrible moment but finally Lawrence, a horrible moment that we never needed to get to. We only got here because the President of United States in May of 2018 walked out of the Iran nuclear deal, started on a path of maximum pressure that has only brought us terror, heart ache and the brink of war.
O`DONNELL: Ben Rhodes, your assessment of where we are at this hour.
BEN RHODES, FMR. OBAMA DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: Well, I obviously agree with what Wendy said. I do think that while we might, might have the opportunity to avert the worst case scenario here in terms of what could have unfolded today in terms of American or Iraqi and other coalition casualties, there is still a lot to be concerned about.
We don`t know what President Trump`s actual response is going to be but in addition, you know the Iranians have made some comments that they might not be able to control what their proxies do, that the emotions might be so high over Qasem Soleimani`s death that those proxies may act on their own.
And so I think we have to be very wary at taking a complete face value the notion that this fully concludes the Iranian response. We may still see it was Iranian proxies in the weeks ahead seek to engage in acts of violence against Americans and American interests.
We still have the unresolved questions of whether we can maintain our troop presence in Iraq which has clearly been the target of the Iranians both through these missiles but also through that vote in the Iraqi parliament to try to evict us which clearly was supported by Iran.
We have the question of whether we can resume our counter-ISIS operations which have been suspended in the wake of that a Iraqi vote. We have the question of whether our partners in that coalition will want to stay with us, given the fact that this assassination took place without notification to them.
So there are a lot of unresolved questions right now and the hope has to be that there are some cooler heads that can prevail in averting an action by President Trump they will re-ignite real potentially virulent crisis in the Middle East.
O`DONNELL: Ben Rhodes and Wendy Sherman, thank you for your invaluable guidance on this very important night. I really appreciate it.
SHERMAN: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: And when we come back, we`ll be joined by Congressman Jason Crow, a member of the House Armed Services Committee who served in combat in Iraq.
O`DONNELL: And joining us now is Congressman Jason Crow. He`s a Democrat from Colorado and a member of the House Armed Services Committee. He served a combat tour of duty in Iraq with the 80 second airborne division earning a bronze star. He also served two combat tours in Afghanistan as an army ranger.
Congressman Crow, your reaction to where things seem to stand at this moment? The President United States saying all as well so far, so good. It seems reasonable to interpret that if as possibly no American casualties.
CROW: Well, first off or just take a step back and actually think about what`s happening at these bases I`ve been at how many of these basis both Iraq and Afghan.
Well, first off Lawrence, let`s take a step back and actually think about what`s happening at these bases. I`ve been at many of these basis, both in Iraq and Afghanistan. I`ve been on the receiving end, rocket and mortar attacks, I know what it`s like to be at a base when these types of things are happening.
They`re terrifying. You know, the soldiers, the troops that are at these bases are under attack right now. They`re scared. Their families are scared. You know what happens when these attacks happen is the commander is shut off, the phones, they shut off the internet access and the families back home are on pins and needles waiting for good word or news from the command structure, from the military that all is well and for that the President to circumvent that and say that you know, the battle damage assessments are ongoing, they haven`t been completed yet.
But all is well in his estimation, you know really shows that he doesn`t understand what`s going through the minds of these troops right now.
O`DONNELL: Talk about that. Talk about what the - what it`s like for the families tonight who are wondering what has happened. Do they have a way of getting this information before the news media does?
CROW: Well, that`s the idea and that`s why we have processes in place to make sure that you know, they shut off internet, they shut off phones, that if there are any casualties or any problems, that the families get bored of it first.
That needs to happen and for the President to go outside of that prison, that process and just start tweeting things before that assessment is even done is really again a terrible circumvention of the command structure in the way that we set this up.
They really protect families and protect troops in situations like this.
O`DONNELL: And in your experience, how long does it take to get this full casualty assessment?
CROW: You know, it really depends on the situation. You know, the size of the area hit, what types of weapons were used. I can`t really say in this instance but for the President to say all is well when I`ve received reports that there might be Iraqi casualties.
These are people that are living and working in fighting at the bases with us, our coalition partners may have suffered casualties, there`s also disregard for our partners in the situation so again, I don`t think he really comprehends nor does he seem to care the impact of the troops on this - in this region.
And you know, the focus must continue to be on the protection of these soldiers. You know, the next 24 to 48 hours, you know we need information in Congress that the administration is taking measures to actually respond to this and put resources in place to protect these folks.
O`DONNELL: What is the future for the American military in Iraq you have the parliament voting to expel them?
CROW: Well, this is one of the many by-products of what I believe was a very impulsive decision to kill General Soleimani. There`s no doubt in my mind that General Soleimani was a bad guy. He`s a bad actor but we don`t go around shooting missiles at all of the bad actors out there because there are consequences of doing it.
You know, General Soleimani has been spending the better part of the last two decades trying to drive U.S. forces from Iraq. That is one of Iran`s primary goals here is to remove U.S. forces from the region because they know if they can accomplish that, that they will have relatively unchecked power in the region.
And if there are impulsive actions to the President not consulting with our allies, not consulting with Iraq, our partners on the ground and violating their sovereignty by conducting the attack not only in the country without their notification but in their capital, if that ultimately drives us out of Iraq and achieves Iran goals, we will be less safe.
Iraq will be less safe and all of our partners in the region will be less safe as a result of it.
O`DONNELL: If you can get a briefing from the Trump defense department, Trump administration tomorrow, what would you want to know? What would you be asking?
CROW: Well, the first concern is what are - are they doing to make sure that our troops are safe? Do we have the resources in place have remove their rapid response forces up forward in operating area quickly enough and sufficiently enough to accomplish that.
I`ve been concerned for many months since I - took my last trip to the region in October about our protection for unmanned drones. You know, we have severe risks for aerial drones. Iran has a very aggressive drone technology. They`ve been doing surveillance over our forward operating bases.
We have to make sure that we have things in place to protect our troops, going forward. The second is what are we doing to engage with Iraq. We have to make sure that we`re addressing their political concerns, engaging with the leadership of military and political in Baghdad to make sure that we are not going to be expelled from that region because our counter ISIS mission relies on our presence there and we`re not in a place where we can pull out because that mission is not done.
Then the third is how are we going to de-escalate the situation - the situation with Iran. You know, as your prior guest indicated, this is an opportunity for us to take a step back and say there`s a better way. You know, there`s something in combat called a tactical pause because combat situations have their own inertia.
They will just go on and on and sides will respond to each other in a tit for tat type of fashion. Now is an opportunity for us to take a step back, take that tackle pause and say you know, this isn`t an opportunity now for us to come to the table and figure out a diplomatic way of solving this.
O`DONNELL: Congressman Jason Crow. Thank you very much for lending your voice to our discussions and I really appreciate it.
CROW: Thanks so much.
O`DONNELL: And joining us now Nicholas Kristof, Pulitzer prize winning columnist for The New York Times who has written extensively about the Middle East. He`s the co-author of the new book, `Tightrope.`
And Rick Stengel is with us. He`s the former Undersecretary of State in the Obama administration. He`s an MSNBC political analyst. His latest book is, `Information Wars.` How is Vladimir Putin feeling tonight?
NICHOLAS KRISTOF, PULITZER PRIZE WINNING COLUMNIST, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, to the extent that we have a crisis that is going to raise oil prices, I suppose, that is going to benefit Russia more broadly.
But I mean I do think that everybody is concerned about where this heads and whether this is going to continue to bubble up and I`m, I think more concerned than some of your guests have been, that while there may be a pause here, that this - that there are lot of risks ahead.
And you know Javed Zarif`s statement was encouraging. President Trump`s statement was encouraging. I am apprehensive though that there will be other Iranian responses. I don`t think Javed Zarif speaks for that entire Iranian leadership.
I think that partly because Zarif once gave me a visa in Iran and I was entertained by Iranian hardliners, trying to embarrass Zarif and so I think there`s going to be more to come and even if there isn`t, we have a new nuclear crisis that is going to be a source of tensions and I must say, on Twitter tonight, I don`t know if you had this reaction but there were a lot of people kind of crowing about the opportunity to teach Iran a lesson.
There was kind of a zest war in some quarters in the U.S. that reminded me of 2003 and maybe deeply nervous.
O`DONNELL: Yes and Rick, we have seen that that believe before that this is the moment. We saw it in in 2003 with Iraq where there are people who believe this - Iraq has in effect offered itself up for us to intervene this way by defying what the President is asking Iraq to do in terms of exposing weapons of mass destruction and all of that sort of thing.
This does as Nick said, have that very similar feel.
RICHARD STENGEL, FMR UNDERSECRETARY OF STATE & MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, you know when we were negotiating the Iran deal, political scientist were writing about is Iran a rational actor? Can you make a deal with them?
The question now is whether the United States is the rational actor? Whether Donald Trump is a rational actor? The fact that you had the Iranian foreign minister use the word proportionate in his sentence tonight, that`s a rational thing to do. That`s an encouraging thing to do.
Can we be equally proportionate? Are we rational enough to do that? The - as Nick`s point too is, with the Iranians, they have a lot of other actors that they can`t control. Proxies, they have a lot of divisions within their government. You know probably even more than we do.
We just have - we just have something in our government which is not always rational and not always competent and that is dangerous.
O`DONNELL: Yes and so far I mean each side has issued just stunningly wild tweets. Donald Trump beginning with the 52 sites where he`s saying here`s the war crime. Iran tonight saying, we`ll attack Israel, we will attack Dubai, basically announcing here`s our plan for war crimes to elevate this and to expand that into what could become an explosive war and certainly would be involve parties like Putin and others beyond the region.
KRISTOF: True. I mean to some extent I think each side is engaging domestic politics and if that`s what it is you know, and now the adults are showing real restraint in their actions, that`s great.
But I would say - I would note sort of ominously that there is a pattern here of miscalculation. It`s pretty clear that President Trump did not realize on December 27 when he killed these two dozen backers of Iran, that the U.S. embassy was going to be attacked.
I don`t think he appreciated that when he killed General Soleimani that there was going to be as much reaction as there was and certainly Iran did not understand where things were going because General Soleimani is dead and that was a miscalculation.
O`DONNELL: And Rick, there`s reason to believe that there are people possibly Mike Pompeo in the Trump administration who did know how much of a provocation it would be. They wanted that provocation because they do want this to go to war.
STENGEL: Yes, I think it was actually irresponsible for them to give him that extreme option because they - with other - with other reasonable actors you know, you`re not going to choose it and he did unfortunately.
O`DONNELL: Rick Stengel and Nick Kristof, thank you both for joining us tonight. I really appreciate it. That is tonight`s LAST WORD. "THE 11TH HOUR" with Brian Williams starts now.
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