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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Team USA Advances in World Cup; Investigators: Flight 370 Crew Likely Unconscious; Iraq in Crisis; Interview with Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson

Aired June 26, 2014 - 16:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Spain out, Italy out, England out, but the U.S. moves ahead. Guess the sport.

I'm Jim Sciutto. And this is THE LEAD.

And the world lead. He rejected calls for a salvation government in Iraq, like the U.S. wants to see. Now a growing consensus that, if Iraq wants American firepower unleashed on extremists, the country's leader must go.

The sports lead. When is a loss really a win? When team USA drops its World Cup game to Germany without a single goal and still makes it to the next round. So who's up next?

And the money lead. They can go wherever humans dare and places where humans dare not. Now you can own a piece of the GoPro craze. But is there really big money in these tiny cameras?

I'm Jim Sciutto, filling in today for Jake Tapper.

And we begin with the world lead. With very simple terms, Iraq is falling apart. Islamic extremists are seizing entire regions inside the country. Among the many, many issues concerning President Obama right now, this one is paramount, except when the World Cup is on.

Clearly, you weren't the only one skipping work this afternoon, like me, to watch the USA drop its game with Germany, 1-0, but still advance to the next round. OK, well, he's the president. He's got plenty of underlings to monitor Iraq, like those at the State Department, such as spokeswoman Marie Harf, who wore a USA sweatshirt today to the briefing, which was moved up in order to show the game right there in the briefing room.

OK, well, at least Congress is in on the Iraq problem, right? That's House Speaker John Boehner with his back to the camera and his eyes on the World Cup.

OK, nothing wrong with a little patriotic cheering for America's team. Trust me, we're obsessed, too. We will talk about that in a minute.

But returning now to our focus on Iraq, how much longer can Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki stay in power as his country slips further into chaos? Senior U.S. officials and Arab diplomats tell CNN that his ouster may

be a foregone conclusion, especially after he rejected U.S. appeals to form an emergency unity a government right now, opening it up to the Sunnis that he's kept locked out for eight years, with the hope of subduing those Sunni militants who are seizing entire portions of Iraq and Syria. They are terrorist militia group called the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS.

Our sources say that unless a new, more inclusive government is formed in Iraq, the U.S. most likely will not launch any airstrikes yet, as the Iraqis have repeatedly requested. But do they need the U.S. if they now have Syria?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SCIUTTO (voice-over): Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki welcomed Syrian airstrikes like this one targeting ISIS militants now threatening his country.

NOURI AL-MALIKI, IRAQI PRIME MINISTER (through translator): We actually welcome any Syrian strike against ISIS, but we didn't make any request to Syria. They carry out their strikes and we carry out ours, and the final winners are our two countries.

SCIUTTO: But the deadly risks were immediately clear, 57 Iraqi civilians killed in the Syrian air assault this week, more than 120 others wounded.

Traveling in Iraq this week, Secretary of State John Kerry vowed intense and sustained support. With 90 American servicemen arriving today, 220 U.S. military advisers are now on the ground, though, so far, the U.S. has avoided airstrikes.

(on camera): You said sustained and intense would be -- U.S. military action would be sustained and intense if the president decides to go forward. I wonder if you could better define the time frame, but also the measure of success of military action. Is it ISIS destroyed, ISIS retreating? Is it a partial retreat?

JOHN KERRY, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, that's precisely the strategy that needs to be defined as we go forward.

What I said would be intense would be the support to the government of Iraq and our efforts to try to help rebuild the military structure, as well as hopefully support a new unity government.

SCIUTTO (voice-over): ISIS militants are now warning that any U.S. strikes will be met by attacks on Americans. Sitting on a terrace at the U.S. ambassador's residence in Paris, Kerry met with the foreign ministers of Jordan, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, pulling the Gulf leaders together to reinforce the point that ISIS is not just a threat to Iraq, but to the entire region and in fact the globe.

KERRY: Iraq obviously is one of the predominant ones. The move of ISIL concerns every single country here. (END VIDEOTAPE)

SCIUTTO: Iraq's Parliament has been called to meet next week, but is this a meaningful first step in forming that unity government, as the U.S. has been asking Maliki to do? Right now, that's still unclear.

So, let's head to Capitol Hill and talk to Republican Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin. He serves on the Foreign Relations and Homeland Security Committee.

Senator Johnson, I was traveling with Secretary Kerry this week. Clearly, a lot is riding on Prime Minister Maliki to form this unity government. Is the administration placing too much faith in him? Do you have any confidence that Maliki will deliver?

SEN. RON JOHNSON (R), WISCONSIN: Well, Jim, no, I don't.

What we're witnessing here is a real tragedy. It's a tragedy that I don't think had to happen. We have lost the influence we had. And we would have had influence if we would have left behind a stabilizing force.

So I'm afraid Humpty Dumpty is broken now. I think, unfortunately, what we are witnessing is the establishment of a new state. Al Qaeda- istan is what "The Wall Street Journal" termed it. It's very sad and it's very tragic.

What we need to do now is we need to assess the situation. We have to not deny reality, actually understand what's happening here. As you said, we are witnessing the breakup of Iraq. We have got a stable regions region right now, Kurdistan in the north. We certainly have -- we need to make sure that we protect our friends and allies, Jordan. We need to make sure that ISIS cannot attack Jordan.

We need to do everything we can to help stabilize Israel. So, this is a tragedy. This never had to happen. But we're in a pretty bad state right now.

SCIUTTO: Senator Johnson, I want to ask you, because as the U.S. is waiting, the Syrians have carried out airstrikes along the border, and some signs that they have carried inside Iraqi territory, the Iranians moving a great deal of military equipment in.

They have got forces on the ground, even drones flying over the U.S. as the -- over Iraq, as the U.S. does as well. But, as this is happening, is the U.S. in effect ceding Iraq to its neighbors, Syria and Iran, ones with, frankly, totally different motivations than the U.S. here?

JOHNSON: Well, we ceded it when we bugged out in the end of 2011, when President Obama made that historic strategic blunder of not leaving -- leaving a stabilizing force behind.

So, now, right now, our primary -- our primary goal in Baghdad is to protect the Americans that are there in our embassy. I'm highly concerned about that. I have not heard a plan of this administration. They better come up with one fast.

They better start acting. They better start acting to stabilize Jordan. They better start acting to stabilize Kurdistan. And let's not force Israel into any kind of destabilizing agreements.

SCIUTTO: But I have to ask you, Senator Johnson, how far -- I'm familiar with this criticism. It's come from you, other Republican senators as well, that President Obama did not negotiate a status of forces agreement to keep U.S. troops in Iraq after 2011.

But how far would you be willing to go in this current situation? Would you authorize U.S. combat troops going on -- into the ground in Iraq again, three years after they left there? How far would you be willing to go?

JOHNSON: It depends on what the administration puts forth as a plan.

(CROSSTALK)

JOHNSON: I would be happy to send American military personnel into the Kurdistan region, so we can help stabilize that.

I would be happy to send American military personnel into Jordan to make sure that that doesn't fall to ISIS. In terms of Baghdad, look at the choices we face right now. Are we going to ally with Iran? Are we going to ally with Syria's Assad?

All the choices at this point are bad because of this administration's historic strategic blunder. So what we're looking for out of this administration is a game plan. We have had the briefings. It's absolutely grim. You were there in Iraq.

Do you think Humpty Dumpty can be put back together again? Now it's about stabilizing what is stable in that reason -- in that region, and hopefully you learn from the past mistakes.

SCIUTTO: But, just to be clear, you would authorize, you would be in favor of, if the administration presented this option, of sending combat troops into Kurdistan and to defend Baghdad, back into Iraq, back into the line of fire?

JOHNSON: I'm not so sure about Baghdad, because I don't know what plan can do that at this point in time.

I'm happy -- I absolutely support sending troops to protect Americans and evacuate them if it comes to that. And it may be coming to that sooner than we think. I'm highly concerned about Americans in Baghdad because of this rolling disaster now. But I want to see a game plan from this administration. We haven't seen that yet.

SCIUTTO: But what about -- because another concern of intelligence officials, they have reminded us repeatedly, there are Americans fighting now for ISIS, some 50, 60 some-odd in Syria. Presumably, some have crossed the border into Iraq, great fear about them returning home, carrying out acts of terrorism. Is there an argument here to go to Iraq to protect the homeland --

you're a member of the Homeland Security Committee -- from attacks emanating from ISIS?

JOHNSON: You're just describing the geopolitical disaster that is currently now Iraq.

You know, so, yes, we realize that al Qaeda is not on the run. It has metastasized. It's gaining strength. It represents a real threat to our national security.

We had a debate. President Obama declared the war on terror over a year ago. He wanted to repeal the authorization for use of military force against al Qaeda and associated groups. He wanted to repeal that. We had a hearing asking, well, what does the president want to do now? What authority does he need from Congress? Crickets.

This administration had no input whatsoever in terms of what they wanted to do. So, we -- President Obama is the commander in chief. What is his plan? What is his strategy? He's certainly not telling Congress, he's certainly not telling the American people. And he's the only one that can do it.

SCIUTTO: Well, Senator Johnson, a call, a bold call for more U.S. military action in Iraq. Thank you very much for your time.

He was a famous practitioner of the lost art of compromise in Washington and a towering figure in the Republican Party for decade upon decade.

Today, Howard Baker, former Senate majority leader and chief of staff to President Reagan, died at the age of 88. Baker, who hailed from Tennessee, was first elected to the Senate in 1964, joined the Reagan White House in 1987 during the Iran-Contra scandal.

Former first lady Nancy Reagan released a statement a short time ago, reading in part: "Howard was one of Ronnie's most valued advisers. His integrity and ability to create cooperation between the Congress and the White House was unparalleled. Most importantly, though, he was a good and trusted friend" -- and certainly a throwback to more compromising times.

Coming up on THE LEAD: Nobody thought they could do it, but the U.S. team survived the group of death. So, what's in store for them when they move into the knockout round? I will ask former USA goalkeeper Tony Meola next.

Plus, another government agency admits to losing e-mails that should have been kept. What's the excuse this time?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCIUTTO: Welcome back to THE LEAD and the sports lead.

And good news, America. Most you get to slack off work and pretend to like soccer for one more game now even though team USA fell to a very tough German team today in a punishing 1-nil match, a fitting farewell to the so-called group of death. But we are still alive, thanks in part to a little help from Portugal. Yes, that Portugal who beat Ghana and sprung the U.S. to the round of 16, off the foot of Cristiano Ronaldo, who you may remember was public enemy one only a few days ago and now be the dreamiest dude on Mount Rushmore.

Lara Baldesarra joins us live from Recife, Brazil, where the game was played today, hot rainy.

Lara, the U.S. moves on. No one expected them when this group of death was announced, but how excited were the fans down there. I'm jealous of you that you were right in the middle of it.

LARA BALDESARRA, CNN SPORTS: It was a pretty intense match, I will tell you that much. But you're absolutely right, no one expected the USA to progress from the group stage. In fact, people were saying if the USA managed to progress from the group stage, that would purely be the biggest success for this American squad, no matter what happens moving forward from here.

Now, at the actual match, I was actually surprised because there seemed to be a lot more German fans and much louder German fans than there were American fans. There were a lot of American fans, don't me get wrong. But the Germans were out-singing, out-chanting them, out- pretty much everything. But in the end, with that result that we saw today, the USA is progressing, defying all of our expectations and now moving forward, it would it be either Belgium or Algeria the USA will play.

I've got to tell you, I like these next matches simply because if the USA can get through what they already did, playing Belgium or Algeria, that's a walk in the park for them pretty much.

So, I'm projecting that the USA is moving through the round of 16 and right into the quarter finals.

SCIUTTO: I'm with you. A lot tougher teams they could be facing in the next round, Brazil, Argentina, you name it.

Thanks very much, Lara Baldesarra. She's the lucky one. She's right down there in the middle of it.

I want to bring in now, three-time World Cup goalkeeper and member of the National Soccer Hall of Fame, he's Tony Meola. He played 20 years ago in 1994 when the World Cup was here in the U.S.

Tony, they came out of the group of death. A lot -- there were a lot of doubters out there. How are you feeling right now? I know you're very connected to this team.

TONY MEOLA, FORMER MLS GOALKEEPER: Yes, certainly from a U.S. soccer standpoint, we should be proud of this group. I'm one of the crazy ones, I guess, because when the draw came out, I thought this was a group they could go through. It's very difficult group, but I looked and said, can Ghana beat us three times? I watch Portugal play, I thought they could get at Portugal and they did and I thought it would come down to the Germany game. Of course, they got the result they need.

So, kudos to Jurgen Klinsmann, his boys. Yes, I am connected like most of the former players are. This is a big day for U.S. soccer as we continue to grow the sport here domestically both with major league soccer and the national team.

SCIUTTO: Let's talk about Tim Howard because he had a tough game. Germany took 13 shots on goal. The U.S. took just four. You know, he had some great saves in there.

What's it feel like for a goalkeeper like that in a game like this under pressure every shot? And really, a U.S. team that looked outmatch for a lot of the game.

MEOLA: Yes, there were periods of time especially the first 20 minutes, where it was a little bit shaky. I listened to Jurgen Klinsmann's comment after the game. He talked about he gave Germany a little bit too much respect, which I agree with.

Timmy for me had a clean game today. Not a heck of a lot of spectacular stuff that one save, the first save which eventually led to the goal on the restart was a super save, but it was very clean today. And when you're in a game and you're under pressure, you're defending with 10 players and a team like Germany's pressing you, you always want to know you have a guy behind you that's solid.

I said going into this World Cup, I thought this would be Tim Howard's World Cup. This is probably the last one he'll play in at 35 years old. And he's come up in spades for the U.S. team. And we're going to need him moving forward.

SCIUTTO: Let me ask you about the next round. Probably going to face Belgium if Belgium wins group H, a possibility of Algeria that it played four years ago. What do you think of their chances there? There's certainly, as I said to Lara, there are a lot of tougher teams they could have ended up facing in the round of 16.

MEOLA: Yes, there are. Belgium is an excellent team. I think most people, most experts pick as the surprise team of this World Cup, very talented although very young at the international stage. But players like Eden Hazard, Courtois that goal plays for Atletico Madrid, the list goes on and on.

It's going to be a difficult task. There's no question. It looks like it's going to be Belgium at the end of the day. But I look at it and say you look at the Germany result, you look at the Portugal result, and there's no reason why this team can't go and compete. I'm convinced in knowing this group fairly well that they will go and compete.

SCIUTTO: I've got to ask you, because 20 years ago when the World Cup was played here in the U.S., there were a lot of soccer fans. I was one of them. You were a big star at the time.

But soccer has grown in that time period. That USA-Portugal game, there were 25 million people who watched it, more than the NBA finals, more than some of the World Series baseball games. Are you amazed to see how much the sports fan base has grown for international soccer in the U.S.?

MEOLA: Yes, no question -- 25 million people and some estimate with all these watch parties around the country, it was closer to 30 million people.

It just goes to show we're growing. We're growing as a soccer nation. We continue to grow. We grow in different markets around the country through Major League Soccer, whether it's Seattle or Portland or Kansas City or any of the other markets in the league, and we continue to grow as a national team.

And this is, you know, really the definition of soccer nation is what you want to put it at. As if 25 million is the number, is it 50 million, or whatever it is it just continues to grow. And from someone who promotes it every day, it's nice to see.

SCIUTTO: How much difference does that make on the field? Knowing, I mean, you certainly hear the crowd, but just knowing that you really have the country behind you, that they're living and dying by every goal scored and every penalty called? I mean, how much of a driver is that for players on the field?

MEOLA: Well, it's huge. Believe me, the players feel it. They feel the -- when the fans ramp it up a little bit. And we have a great supporters group in the country. It's called the American Outlaws. It's a group that just amazingly continues to grow and grow and grow and the things they do to support this team, the distances they travel, I'm guessing the money that they spend is astronomical for them.

But they continue to support. They continue to bring people on. And I tell them all the time when I see them but I might, as well say it here, the players realize it and it's much appreciated.

SCIUTTO: Well, we got another game to watch I think it's next Tuesday against Belgium or Algeria. Thanks very much to Tony Meola, soccer legend in his own right. Thanks for joining us.

Coming up next, investigators examining new clues into the disappearance of Flight 370. Could this finally explain how the plane vanished?

Plus, a supreme court ruling that could seriously limit the power of the president when Congress fails to act. Will this cause even more Washington gridlock?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCIUTTO: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

In other world news, a stunning theory in the investigation into the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. A new report by Australian authorities says it's likely the 777 became a so-called "ghost plane", gliding through the air on autopilot after the crew and passengers somehow lost consciousness. A theory has led them to a new search area much further south than the last search zone and, sadly, much larger, about 23,000 square miles.

CNN aviation correspondent Rene Marsh is here to explain.

So, Rene, looking at this, no new information in here. It's really just a new analysis of the information, the satellites, et cetera, they already had.

RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. They're relying on new theories. They have a new search area, but the data remains the same.

And what has changed is the way that they're looking at it. And what is stunning is for the first time in a very detailed report, we get some insight on what teams doing the analysis think about what happened on Flight 370.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARSH (voice-over): A startling scenario, the pilots of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 unconscious, the plane not under human control, as it flew more than five hours across the Indian Ocean.

WARREN TRUSS, DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER OF AUSTRALIA: It is highly, highly likely that the aircraft was on autopilot. Otherwise, it could not have followed the orderly path that has -- that has been identified through the satellite sightings.

MARSH: A 64-page report details the assumptions leading to a new search area. The plane still flying if somehow sucked of oxygen. Everyone on board passed out. It happened on golfer Payne Stewart's Learjet in 1999 and again in 2005 on a Greek passenger flight. All 121 people killed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you get above 35,000 feet, we're talking five to 10 seconds of useful consciousness. As a pilot suffers hypoxia, the motor skills decrease, the judgment decreases.

MARSH: The Australian government is only focused on finding the plane. The cause is being left up to Malaysian investigators.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But the questions as to why this occurred are not ones that we need to address in determining the search area which has been our focus.

MARSH: The assumptions lead here, the new search area highlighted in orange still along the seventh arc where Flight 370 made its final satellite connection.

TRUSS: This site is the best available and most likely place where the aircraft is resting.

MARSH: But we've heard that before, when the focus was 500 miles northeast, where Bluefin-21 searched with no sign of Flight 370. This new search zone is massive, roughly the size of West Virginia.

Search crews were here before months ago looking for floating debris. But nothing was found.

Now, the search returns to go miles underwater.

TRUSS: The search will still be painstaking. Of course, we could be fortunate and find it in the first hour, or the first day.