CNN "Erin Burnett Outfront" - Transcript: Rep. Justin Amash (I-MI) Discusses About The U.S., Canada And U.K. Claim That Iran Shot Down Boeing 737



BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Jim Sciutto. And I want to go OUTFRONT now to Independent Congressman Justin Amash. He left the Republican Party in July.

Congressman, I wanted to start by asking you about this. Iranian officials are trying to say that they didn't do this. Their missile did not take down that Ukrainian passenger plane despite intelligence services from the U.K. and Canada concluding that and the United States officials also saying they have all of this information indicating that. What do you think possibly happened here?

REP. JUSTIN AMASH, (I-MI): Well, I suspect U.S. officials and Canadian officials and other officials are correct on this. And it's an unimaginable tragedy. And my prayers go out to the families and my condolences go out to them.

BURNETT: I wanted to play again for you, Congressman Amash, the exchange that the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had with a reporter today.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think that the United States is at least partially responsible for this tragedy?

TRUDEAU: I think it is too soon to be drawing conclusions or assigning blame or responsibility in whatever proportions.


BURNETT: What do you make of that? AMASH: Well, I don't think it's a good idea to assign blame like this

to say it's on the United States right now or anyone else without knowing the full facts. Right now investigators think that it was Iran that shot it down and I think we'll have to leave it there and find out what more they have to say.

BURNETT: Do you think that there should be any repercussions to Iran?

AMASH: Well, we'll have to go through this investigation and find out what happened. And, of course, I think that the Iranians will have a lot to answer for if, in fact, they shut down a passenger airline.

BURNETT: So this all, of course, started with President Trump's decision to strike Iran's top General, General Soleimani, as he was going to the airport in Baghdad. You just voted with most of the Democrats and three Republicans, Congressman, including loyal Trump supporter, Matt Gaetz, to limit President Trump's ability or any President's ability to use military action.

So in this case, it was to limit the President's ability to use military action against Iran without first getting congressional approval. Do you believe that Trump abused his power in the strike that killed General Soleimani?

AMASH: Based on the information I have from the classified briefing I attended, I do you think so. Every military action that is non- defensive has to have congressional authorization under our Constitution. So we have a 2001 authorization, for example, to go after the 9/11 perpetrators. We have a 2002 authorization to go after Saddam Hussein's regime.

But there's no authorization that is pertinent to this particular circumstance. So the only way the President can act is defensively. So there has to be eminence and if there's no eminence, then it's not authorized.

BURNETT: So just to be clear, in the briefing that you received, you're using some crucial words here, eminence is one of them, right? You did not receive satisfactory intelligence in your briefing that at whatever attack was imminent and thus justify presidential action without congressional approval.


AMASH: No, I didn't. I didn't receive any more in the briefing than the kinds of things we hear on TV. So if officials have been talking to the press, we heard the same kinds of things in the briefing. And when members asked for more information, there was a real reluctance to provide information.

And in fact, we had members who asked, well, can we read this information somewhere and they weren't even sure that we'd have the authority to read the information. Maybe some of the members of Congress like the Gang of Eight, but not everyone.

BURNETT: So we're still waiting tonight for Speaker Pelosi to send over the impeachment articles to the Senate. We anticipate this could literally happen at any point. She did say today that it will be soon. Do you think that it's time, Congressman Amash?

AMASH: Well, I think that it's been appropriate to wait during the break. There was no congressional action happening over Christmas and over the New Year, so that was appropriate. I think it's appropriate in the near future to send them over.

I mean at some point, there's action that happens in the House and that action has to be transmitted to the Senate. But I'll leave it to the Speaker to make that decision. I don't think this is going to go on for a very long period of time, but I imagine she wants to see what more she can get out of this in negotiation.

And even though there's a lot of talk from the Senate that nothing is happening and we're not getting anything on the House side. I'm not sure that's really the case. I think the Senators have given a little bit. They've admitted that we may have witnesses later on, whereas before, they were talking about no witnesses at all. So I think they are getting something out of this negotiation.

BURNETT: So you're in a position here, obviously, the extensive experience as a lawyer and a litigator. There have been suggestions from Democrats of you serving as an impeachment manager, that you would be one of the people charged with that crucial position of making the case for those articles to the Senate. Now that we're there, something that is imminent is the naming of managers. Is that something that you would want to do?

AMASH: It's something that I've told my Democratic colleagues who have asked me that I'd be happy to talk to the Speaker about. But I haven't had that discussion, if the speaker wants to have that discussion, of course, I'd be honored to have that conversation. But it's not something I could decide without knowing what my role would be and having that conversation with the Speaker.

BURNETT: All right. Well, I appreciate your time, Congressman Amash. It's good to see you.

AMASH: Thanks so much, Erin.