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ISIS Seizes Iraq Chemical Weapons Complex; Obama Sending 300 Military Advisers To Iraq; Live Anthrax Samples Used In Wrong Labs; New Donald Sterling Tapes; USA Vs. Portugal
Aired June 20, 2014 - 06:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: The sun comes over the river here in New York City. Good morning and welcome to NEW DAY. It's June 20th. You know what day it is, it's Friday, 6:00 in the east. We begin with the new developments for the fight for Iraq. If you think one thing we achieved in Iraq was removing all of Saddam's chemical weapons, prepare for disappointment.
ISIS militants are now in control of a chemical weapons facility still home to hundreds of tons of potentially deadly poisons. This comes as President Obama says he's sending as many as 300 military advisors back to Iraq.
We're tracking every angle of the crisis beginning in Baghdad with senior international correspondent, Nic Robertson. Nic, what's the latest?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The very latest we're hearing, we've been told that if Nouri Al-Maliki, the prime minister, has to go as every western leader wants him to and many Iraqis want him to go, the move is going to come from the religious leaders dropping heavy hints that he should go.
Literally Friday prayers, the spokesman for the top cleric in the country did issue this essential warning, if you will, for politicians to follow the timetable of the constitution for forming a new parliament. Does he mean that that new parliament or that new government shouldn't include Maliki? Not clear.
But he is telling politicians here to stick to the timetable, that's important. As for the chemical weapons, I visited that site with weapons inspectors 12 years ago. When I saw them, those weapons looked -- the chemical weapons looked pretty much aging and deteriorating, but they could still pose a danger, VX, sarin, mustard gas. Remembering some of those people fighting with ISIS were members of the very same army that filled those stockpiles -- Kate.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Sure sounds like trouble no more how antiquated they are. Nic, thank you very much on the ground in Baghdad for us. To continue this story, although sending Special Forces to Iraq, President Obama insists he is still keeping his commitment to not put troops on the ground there. He also is not ruling out air strikes against ISIS at this point. Michelle Kosinski is live at the White House with much more on this side of the story -- Michelle.
MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Right, Kate. The administration emphasizes this is not combat, but we are talking up to 300 special forces in Iraq soon to advise and gather intelligence, a very measured step, but a necessary one if the U.S. were to decide on something like air strikes. Again, the president emphasizes this is all from the perspective of protecting America's national security interests.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: American forces will not be returning to combat in Iraq, but we will help Iraqis as they take the fight to terrorists who threaten the Iraqi people.
KOSINSKI (voice-over): No boots on the ground, but boots on the ground. President Obama and his national security team opt for a sort of middle ground in Iraq. Another step to gaining that sorely needed real intel around the clock on how best to counter ISIS fighters. First, up to 300 military advisors and teams of about a dozen each from American troops already based in the region.
Starting around the perimeter of Baghdad, they will establish joint operations centers with Iraqi Security Forces, gather intelligence that could also be used for potentially U.S. air strikes in Iraq or in Syria not being ruled out. Also on the agenda, more funding and equipment for the Iraqis.
On the home front, the president is barraged daily for not having done more in Syria, the speed of Iraq's deterioration, by Speaker Boehner.
REPRESENTATIVE JOHN BOEHNER (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: The spread of terrorism has increased exponentially under this president's leadership.
KOSINSKI: And Senator McCain.
SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: The president of the United States goes for fundraising and golfing, and now is fiddling while Iraq burns.
KOSINSKI: The president said it's time to vindicate those soldiers who sacrificed in Iraq. Thousands of lives lost and he'll give Iraq a chance at stability, a long-term problem for which a necessary solution is for that country to form an inclusive government now.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Rather than trying to play whack a mole wherever these terrorist organizations may pop up, what we have to do is to be able to build effective partnerships, actual governments on the ground that we can partner with.
(END VIDEOTAPE) KOSINSKI: That's been criticized some, too, questioning whether the president is basing the potential use of military force too much on what happens politically within Iraq. For now though the president is dispatching the secretary of state to Iraq this weekend, and he said that, yes, Iran could play a constructive role in this. He said the key to what happens with Iraq or Syria is what happens with the governments there and building an effective anti-terror platform -- Chris.
CUOMO: Michelle, when you're faced with a bad situation, all your choices are often bad as well, but something had to be done, and let's talk about what it is and what it may mean. We have Lieutenant Colonel Rick Francona here, CNN military analyst, former military liaison officer to the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. He was also assigned to CIA for operations in Northern Iraq. Sorry to be talking about you instead of to you. It's good to have Lieutenant Colonel as always.
Assets, boots on the ground, advisers, call them what you want, Americans are back on the ground and at risk in Iraq, what is the basis for this decision?
LT. COL. RICK FRANCONA, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: They need to get in there and get the Iraqis back on their feet. Talked to the Pentagon last night and they are telling me that what they want to do is get about 30 to 40 people in there immediately and have them assess the situation, see what we need to be doing in there, assess how strong ISIS is and how strong the Iraqis are and then decide from there how many more people need to come in.
CUOMO: Also could be helpful if we go to air strikes, right, because you have to know where to call them in, what all the different contingencies are, and you want to trust Hussein (ph)?
FRANCONA: They are going to be assessing what kind of targeting we are going to need to be doing and what we need to make that happen effectively. This is where we get into problems because how many more people do they need or they are going to say 300 is not enough and then it becomes more and more.
CUOMO: OK. So that gets us to our fears. What are our fears? The first main fear is you can't be standing next to me when I'm fighting and not be exposed to the fight, right? Let's just be realistic. They are not just going to advice. If they are in the bad stuff, they have to get involved.
FRANCONA: What they want to do is push these advisers out to the brigade level, the brigade is your basic combat unit for the Iraqi army. These guys are the ones who were engaging ISIS. So they are going to be right there.
CUOMO: OK. So that starts to feel like 1991 like what -- the term that was birthed called mission creep.
CUOMO: I don't know if you've been watching the '60s, but it was on Vietnam, and it has been suggested this feels like that. You know, we're going to go in. We only need to do this much. This happened in '91 and happened in Vietnam. What's the chance it doesn't happen here?
FRANCONA: And I think the president was very clear he doesn't want that to happen, even used that exact term, I don't want mission creep.
CUOMO: I don't want my kids to use bad words, but it happens every time they don't get what they want. What's the reality here?
FRANCONA: When I spoke with some officials at the Pentagon, they said that they have been told this is it, 300. We'll see.
CUOMO: All right, so that takes us to the next kind of, you know, surprise value here. ISIS has taken over not just an oil refinery, which is important for economic things and it shows control, but a chemical weapons facility. Chemical weapons facility, Isn't that the one virtue of our having gone to Iraq was to get rid of these stockpiles? How do they still exist?
FRANCONA: This was the largest chemical weapons production facility, storage facility and when we got up there in 2003, of course, the weapons weren't used since the Iran/Iraq war. They have all deteriorated and are in bad shape, and my understanding is that the engineers looked at this and said this stuff is too dangerous to even approach.
CUOMO: So all the time we've been there, they were left there.
FRANCONA: I believe this is a bad decision. Somebody should have either buried this stuff or taken steps to --
CUOMO: Where does it go on the list of bad decisions?
FRANCONA: Well, we blew up one of these depots before.
CUOMO: What happened?
FRANCONA: And it exposed a lot of troops, including me to sarin gas, so it's very dangerous to handle this stuff.
CUOMO: What does that mean about their capability to use it? Do they have the technology, and are they even stable enough to be used?
FRANCONA: Well, I don't know. I don't think anybody knows until they get in there, but, remember, these guys that are joining is are former members of the Iraqi army, the former members of the Iraqi army are the ones that built this stuff and used it.
CUOMO: All right, we talked about the refinery already. We have an animation to put up about that. That gives them economic control and gives them leverage in terms of what you have to do with them, right?
FRANCONA: Well, this is a big problem for domestic Iraqi economy because that refinery provides about half of the refined gasoline for Iraq. Doesn't do much for the international scene, but really puts the pressure on the Iraqis.
CUOMO: Right. So this is giving them leverage. Now here's a concern, as they were moving down, all right, yes, they are taking these places in the northeast, but really the Kurds are going to come back in and take their lands back and they will get weaker by the time they get to Baghdad. It's not happening. They are moving along.
They are at equal or greater strength because they are being joined by these members of the Ba'athist party, Saddam Hussein's stronghold, and a lot of these people are fighters, trained by us are now starting to fight with them so how are they set up to take on Baghdad?
FRANCONA: As you said it's like a snowball, getting stronger and stronger. Everybody thought they would string them out and make great air targets, but they are doing is they are concentrating their force around Baghdad and putting pressure on it and you saw they took Baqubah, which is to the northeast of Baghdad. That sets them up around the northeast and northwest part of Baghdad. There's not much else on the other side so they have kind of a base now to move on Baghdad. Can they move on Baghdad? I don't think so.
CUOMO: So that's the good news.
CUOMO: While I want to be realistic about these things and I think the fact that the chemical weapons are still there and they are now in control of them shows a real failure what have we were supposed to be doing in this country all these years, but the reality is still do you believe or do we believe, does the Pentagon believe these guys have what it takes to take on the forces that are in and around Baghdad?
FRANCONA: No, but they could put pressure in the city. They can cause a lot of problems there. The real problem, Chris, is what do we do now? Do we eject these people from Iraq or do we accept the status quo? Do we accept the existence of a radical Islamic group inside a country controlling territory? And I think that's what these advisers are going to be there.
We are going to set up two operations center, one in Baghdad and one further north, and it looks to me what they are going to try to do is cut these guys off and surround them because they have to get out of them. We can't live with these guys in Iraq.
CUOMO: The best word you're hearing from those who know is that do they think they can get rid of them completely, or is it about control?
FRANCONA: That's why they are there to assess to see if the Iraqis are capable of doing this.
CUOMO: So the bad news is our fighting men and women are back on the ground and the good news is they are the best in the world and they will be the best ones to know what can be done about it.
FRANCONA: They will be there probably sometime this week. CUOMO: Colonel, thank you very much. Kate, over to you.
BOLDUAN: All right, let's turn now to a major anthrax scare unfolding in Atlanta. Some 75 workers may have been unintentionally exposed at the Centers for Disease Control. Early reports show a lab didn't properly handle samples, which were then used in different labs not equipped to handle live anthrax.
Senior medical correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen, is tracking all the developments from the CNN Center in Atlanta. I mean, Elizabeth, this has everybody wondering how simply something like this could happen.
ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right, the CDC, they have such strict rules about what happens in their labs, and it is sort of alarming to think that this could happen. Just to give you some more details, Kate. This high-level lab was handling anthrax. Their job, deactivate it, kill it, so that these low level labs can deal with it.
Well, they thought they had deactivate it had, gave it to the lower labs, and the lower level labs said wait a minute, some of this stuff is alive. We're not supposed to have this and so they went back and CDC folks tell me they are trying to figure out how this happened.
I'm told by a source that one of the things that they think know happened is there's supposed to be a 48-hour waiting period. You're supposed to kill this stuff and then wait 48 hours to make sure you really killed this. They didn't wait those 48 hours -- Kate.
BOLDUAN: Which you can only assume there will absolutely be a major review on why something as simple as wait 48 hours that wasn't followed this time around.
BOLDUAN: Most importantly how are the staffers, the employees, 75 of them potentially exposed, are they starting treatment already?
COHEN: Yes, they are. They are being offered antibiotics. Many of them are taking the antibiotics. Now I'm told, and this is really important, that none of them are showing signs of anthrax exposure. That's really important. None of them are sick at this point and the CDC says when you look at how they were exposed to the anthrax, the chances that anything bad is going to happen to them, the chances of infection are very low.
BOLDUAN: Something you can take away from it, but what a scare for them. And everyone who works at that facility, thank you so much, Elizabeth. We'll check back in with you. Thanks -- Michaela.
MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Kate, thanks so much. It's 12 minutes past the hour. Let's take a look at your headlines. Right now, the IRS commissioner is going to face a grilling on Capitol Hill today after it was revealed that the agency lost an unknown number of e-mails wanted in the congressional investigation. The IRS says the computer crashed destroying e-mails to and from former top official, Lois Lerner. The agency has been under fire for allegedly targeting the Tea Party and other conservative groups.
Major announcement today from the White House. It plans to extend a range of marriage benefits to same-sex couples. The changes will require most federal agencies to treat married couples alike, even in states without legalized same-sex marriage. This move comes nearly one year after the Supreme Court struck down a key portion of the Defense of Marriage Act.
General Motors is expanding plans to give compensation related to faulty ignition switch. Claims could be paid to more than just the families of 13 people officially linked to the problem. Details of the program are not final yet, but CEO Mary Barra says the funds to pay victims will not be capped or limited. GM is considering waiving several legal defenses it could use if claims are brought in court.
All right, want to talk weather with Indra Petersons. We know she's been out on the road covering all the storms for us, and apparently she will go to no lengths to capture images of that storm. I see you've been taking some photographs for us?
INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Totally from 65,000 feet. Ever wonder what it looks like when a storm is way up high, not even from space, 65,000 feet. Twice the height of an airport, but -- this is over the Appalachians. Unbelievable storm, actually a month old and NASA is going out there and trying to get observations from the sky to add a little insight to the new science coming our way.
Severe weather, wish I could say it's all over with, but not exactly yet. A little more concentrated out toward Minnesota and Duluth, Fargo and St. Cloud. We do still have that threat for severe weather. But I think what everyone is wondering is it's the weekend, right? Where is it going to be nice? Look at the difference, let's start with the humidity, the hot and sticky factor everyone is complaining about. Northeast, numbers are going down. Southeast, still talking about all that humidity.
So kind of a little insight into what it's going to be feeling like. Nice, dry and sunny if you're out towards New England. However, mid- Atlantic, down to the South, as you go to the weekend. Still looking for some of the pop-up showers and scattered showers especially in the afternoon. You know what it feels like. It's typical this time of year.
By the way it's summer and everybody wants to know when is it officially summer, tomorrow morning, 6:51 in the morning East Coast time. It's official summer. I know it's been feeling like it for a little bit, but no complaints here, but keep in mind maybe a little bit hot in the southeast. Scattered showers and a lot of 90s and above normal temperatures and we're dry and sunny and temperatures also on the milder side.
So, I think you know where you want to be going. Look at that -- D.C., 71, New York City, 74, even as you go through Sunday, still seeing beautiful out towards New England. So, want to guess where I'm going this weekend, try New England.
CUOMO: And tell them why as I checked my calendar here for legion fans of science. What's this weekend?
PEREIRA: Is it somebody's day of birth?
BOLDUAN: Day of birth.
CUOMO: Somebody is turning 29.
PEREIRA: I wonder why the weather was so perfect this weekend.
PETERSONS: I made it happen where I'm going.
BOLDUAN: Happy birthday, girly.
CUOMO: Latvians (ph), known for their witch-like control of weather.
PETERSONS: Indra does mean god of weather. Look it up.
CUOMO: There it is. More proof.
Coming up on NEW DAY, another Donald Sterling rant caught on tape. This time, the target of his bias, doctors. What choice words does he have for those who dare release his medical records, and when do they say and what it may mean for the battle of the L.A. Clippers?
BOLDUAN: Plus, this weekend the U.S. takes on Portugal in the World Cup, the big game, and the game is expected to be a scorcher, seriously. The stadium is in the middle of a rain forest so how is the brutal heat and humidity, how is it going to impact the game?
CUOMO: Welcome back to NEW DAY.
Caught on tape again, this time though Donald Sterling should have known he was being recorded as he was apparently caught allegedly leaving angry voice mails for doctors who diagnosed him as mentally incompetent. This comes just a day after his estranged wife asked a judge to protect attorneys and witnesses from being intimidated by her husband.
Following it all, CNN's Miguel Marquez -- Miguel.
MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That may be the most shocking bit of all of this, is that these were voice mails. You know you're being recorded. Do you think he could keep from shutting up? No, he's recorded on June 9th, earlier this month. They played out in court this week.
DONALD STERLING: I'm not incompetent. You're (EXPLETIVE DELETED) incompetent you stupid (EXPLETIVE DELETED) doctor.
MARQUEZ (voice-over): Apparently nothing can stop the profanity-laden voice mails left by none other than Donald Sterling. A California court ruling the controversial Clippers owner can still contact witnesses as a brutal litigation between Sterling and his wife Shelly moves forward, this after Sterling backed out of a $2 billion deal to sell the team.
STERLING: Nothing but a fraud and liar and cheat and I'm going to see that you lose your license, and I'm suing you for conspiracy.
MARQUEZ: Sterling threatening two physicians, Dr. James Spar and Dr. Meril Platzer who diagnosed him as mentally incapacitated, both presenting their evidence in their court on behalf of Shelly who is vying to uphold the negotiated sale.
STERLING: I'm going to call UCLA now and I'm going to get you fired from UCLA because you're nothing but a tramp.
MARQUEZ: Sterling's attorney says the calls were nothing more than a man upset, angry that he's medical records were made public. And with Dr. Platzer, a neurologist who had diagnosed him with signs of Alzheimer's and dementia, he got personal.
STERLING: How dare you? What a horrible woman you are. All you did was go to the Beverly Hills Hotel and drink liquor. I've got two declarations from people in my house that all did you was cry and drink at complain about your life, and then you lie about me that I'm incompetent.
MARQUEZ: In court papers, Shelly's lawyer, Pierce O'Donnell, even complained Mr. Sterling called him and begin yelling, "You're an a- hole", and then he said in the menacing tone, "I'm going to take you out, O'Donnell."
PIERCE O'DONNELL, ATTORNEY: I took that as a death threat. That hasn't happened in 40 years of being a trial lawyer.
MARQUEZ: Sterling's attorney said his client said no such thing and the billionaire's fierce intimidation caught on tape might not be enough for Shelly to win the fight.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Being rude isn't enough. Being a jerk isn't enough. Having bad judgment isn't enough. It has to be a true mental problem.
MARQUEZ: OK. So, Mr. Sterling's lawyer does admit that he client did make those calls and says he was not threatening. He was just frustrated that his records were made public and this was all part of that frustration. With regard to that $2 billion sale, there's a hearing coming up in July. We can see whether that will go forward, crazy.
CUOMO: I'll tell you, as crazy as it sounds, it's still his trust and if he's in control of it and they can't show that he's not of right mind, he will control who gets to control the asset on his side. It's still the NBA's franchise.
BOLDUAN: That's why he's going after the doctors who made that determination.
MARQUEZ: I don't think he's helping himself clearly.
CUOMO: You think?
CUOMO: Strong stand from Miguel Marquez.
MARQUEZ: Thank you very much.
BOLDUAN: On that, I'll drop the mike.
Miguel, stick around for this one. Let's talk about the World Cup, shall we?
Team USA is gearing up for Sunday's big match-up against Portugal. For days, all the talk has been about Cristiano Ronaldo, possibly not able to suit up for Portugal, but now, the United States is also facing a similar problem.
One of the key American players will have to sit this match out, and even the venue is proving to bring about its own challenges.
CNN's Lara Baldesarra is live in Rio de Janeiro with a look ahead.
Laura, first off, let's talk about the heat. Yes, are you in Brazil, but the fact that they put the stadium in a rain forest, this was not something they could plan for?
LARA BALDESARRA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This was an absolutely horrible decision, Kate. When they first announced that one of the stadiums was going to be right in the Amazon rain forest, people were outraged, no one could believe it because it brings with it a very unique set of playing conditions that no athlete should ever really have to endure, especially in a World Cup.
The humidity alone is so high and the humidity, it just makes it that much more difficult for players to play. We're talking it feels like you're suffocating just trying to stand in this humidity. Now, that's just for us regular people who are going to be there watching the game. For the players that are running for 90 minutes, it really is going to come down to a pure level, a pure question of their questioning, of their fitness, how they are able to cope with actually breathing and taking in oxygen. A lot of this game will be determined by these conditions.
You know, after the England-Italy match, which was played in Manaus, one of the Italy players, Claudio Marchisio, he said that it really felt like he was hallucinating of the pure heat and humidity. And we're talking heat around 88 degrees Fahrenheit, is what it averages in July, or in June, rather. And that's just the heat. That's not the humidity. So, it will be truly a question of fitness that could determine who really wins this match.
BOLDUAN: Maybe it's already having some sort of an impact. I mean, talk about health and fitness. How is the United States expected to fare without Jozy Altidore and also on the Portuguese side, Cristiano Ronaldo?
BALDESARRA: Yes, absolutely. Altidore's loss. It was a huge blow because he was the striker that the U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann was really, really expecting to be that star striker and really lead the U.S. team.
Quite frankly, I think it's a blessing in disguise, Jozy Altidore while he had kind of regained his form, he hadn't really -- this was a question of if he would be able to form. So, now, we're going to be relying on players like Chris Wondolowski who could be that breakthrough player. He scored 9 goals in the past 11 fixtures for the U.S. men's national team. So, if we see him play, he could be that key guy for the U.S.
BOLDUAN: All right. We'll all be watching and rooting for them. Be sure to stay with us thank you so much, Lara. But be sure to stay with us the next hour. We're going to be joined by Alejandro Bedoya of the U.S. national team. Hear what he has to say about the American's chances in the World Cup. I'm going to get his take on the heat factor as well.
CUOMO: That's going to be --
CUOMO: Run all game, especially the Americans.
All right. Let's take a little break here on NEW DAY. When we come back, you know, if that were a plot on "House of Cards", people would say it's too far-fetched. However, it's all too real. The target of the IRS investigation says her emails are missing. Lawmakers are not happy. They're going to grill the IRS commissioner who claims his emails disappeared as they investigate the agency's alleged targeting of Tea Party groups.
BOLDUAN: Plus, talk about a hot mess. This guy's mug shot has blown up on social media. Some say he's too sexy for jail. Pause, think, and then you can react. Others are outraged because bottom line, he's there for a reason. He's getting a mug shot taken for a reason. He's a criminal.