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THE SITUATION ROOM

New U.S. Airstrikes in Iraq; Will Maliki Go Quietly in Iraq?; Interview With State Department Spokeswoman Marie Harf; Rockets Fired Into Israel as Truce Expires; U.S. Special Forces in Sinjar Mountain; Woman's Body Found in Suitcase

Aired August 13, 2014 - 17:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news -- the first images of a deadly helicopter crash in Iraq underscoring the danger, as the U.S. considers a daring rescue mission for thousands of refugees trapped by ISIS forces.

Cease-fire extended -- Israel and Hamas have agreed to a five day truce, just as their last deal was about to expire and as sirens actually went off in Israel.

And hugging it out -- Hillary Clinton about to make amends with President Obama after slamming his foreign policy.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: We're following the breaking news, including the worsening plight of tens of thousands of Iraqi refugees stranded by ISIS forces. The United Nations has just declared the situation the highest level of emergency, calling it a humanitarian catastrophe.

And now the United States is considering mounting a massive rescue operation. And that would mean more U.S. troops on the ground in Iraq under the most dangerous conditions.

We're also getting word of new U.S. air strikes against ISIS militants.

We have complete coverage this hour of all of the breaking news with our correspondents, our special guests here in Washington and around the world.

But let's begin with our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr.

What are you finding out -- Barbara, first of all, about a possible U.S.-led rescue mission? BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, and, you know, that is unfolding at this hour. Let me just bring everybody quickly up to date.

There has been another U.S. air strike. A U.S. drone struck an ISIS position just west of Sinjar. Now that is pretty interesting, because it is on Sinjar Mountain that the focus now is on a rescue operation for what may be up to 20,000 people still stranded on that mountaintop.

U.S. officials are saying President Obama could have options to begin to look at within 48 hours. That does not mean a rescue mission will be underway in 48 hours, but they are beginning to assess the situation.

Two options remain on the table. Basically, there's only two ways out of there, either by ground over transport vehicles, or by air.

Some officials are saying the air option may look better at this point. It is quicker. Some of those people are in such desperate shape, they may not be able to make a long journey over land. But there is a lot of work to be done to figure out how to do this.

The big issues still, how many people are exactly there?

What will it take?

Where will they take them?

What refugee camp, what U.N. camp in the region will take these people once they're brought off the mountain?

All of this remains to be worked out.

But -- and they, also, of course, want international help. They want the Kurds, the Iraqis and other countries to weigh in and assist with all of this.

But this is going to be very problematic. It's really only the U.S. military that's going to have the muscle power to really generate the aircraft to undertake a large evacuation from the mountain.

And that means one way or the other, U.S. boots on the ground. They may not be in the combat role. The White House says they are not putting U.S. troops back into a combat position.

But make no mistake, there will be U.S. troops there and they will have the right to defend themselves if ISIS comes after them. That could -- that could well qualify as combat.

The U.S. says they're not looking for it, but it may result in that.

BLITZER: If it's by air, either by helicopter or aircraft, is there a landing strip on top of that mountain?

STARR: Well, that's the reconnaissance work that has to be done right now, Wolf, to go up there at some point, look at what the situation is. It appears to be fairly flat, enough of an area to land helicopters, to land V-22 aircraft, because we have seen, of course, the Iraqis and the Kurds land helicopters up there over the last couple of days to toss out some aid and bring people on board in very small numbers.

But there's going to have to be a real understanding of how the U.S. military might do that. And I think it's very fair to say that's one of the reasons you may have to have some U.S. troops on that ground on top of that mountain. They're going to have to secure it and they're going to have to keep this process orderly.

These people are desperate. They've been rushing every helicopter that comes up there. So if the U.S. military is going to land helicopters on top of this mountain, it is going to take some security element on the ground, possibly beyond the Iraqis and the Peshmerga fighters, some U.S. personnel, to secure that mountaintop -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Barbara Starr at the Pentagon.

Thanks, Barbara, very much.

And it would be very dangerous. Those ISIS forces have shoulder fired anti-aircraft missiles, surface-to-air missiles. Those aircraft, whether helicopters or fixed wing planes, could very, very vulnerable.

Let's get some more now on what the United Nations is calling a humanitarian catastrophe and the highest level of emergency.

Our senior international correspondent, Ivan Watson, is joining us from Northern Iraq right now -- Ivan, you've been to the area, what will it take to save thousands and thousands of these people?

IVAN WATSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, again, as Barbara was just saying, there is no kind of organization on the ground on that mountain for the people there. It's -- the description we heard from people is that every time a chopper would come, they would rush it. And many described how they failed to get on board.

And it was really first come, first serve. And the situation up there is so dire, that people are sharing what water they have with bottle caps, pouring a little bit of water into that and sharing it and saving their food and water for their children first. So people up there are desperate. There is more food and water arriving, as we've seen.

But certainly, you would need some kind of security force to organize these desperate people, some of whom have watched their loved ones die as a result of dehydration and exposure to the extreme August heat.

But presumably, if U.S. forces were to be there, they could do that.

Now -- now, let's add another factor that's important to consider. One of the military forces that has been active there helping the desperate, trapped Yazidis is the Kurdistan Workers Party. Every survivor I've talked to says that it is those militants who have protected them and brought them supplies that they shipped over land.

The U.S. government officially labels the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, a terrorist organization, because it has been fighting against the American NATO ally, Turkey, for 30 years.

So U.S. forces would presumably have to coordinate on that mountain with PKK fighters that their government considers terrorists. They may have to waive that, considering how many thousands of people the PKK has saved off that mountain over the course of the last nine desperate days -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, that's -- that's a major, major complication.

What about that Iraqi military helicopter that crashed yesterday?

We know it was trying to save people, help bring some food?

A "New York Times" journalist, Alissa Rubin, she was severely injured in that crash.

What's the latest?

WATSON: We know that it happened, the crash happened after it took passengers on board, after it took these frightened civilians who have been trapped in such terrible conditions there. And from our experience of flying on one of those helicopters, it was clear that they were making multiple flights a day. They were sucking dust into their engines. Some of the pilots had told us that they were having some malfunctions, with at least one of the aircraft. So either overloading the aircraft or engine malfunctions led to that crash.

They're lucky that it didn't get very high off the ground and that there was only one fatality, the pilot, this Iraqi general, who was killed on this heroic mission -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Ivan Watson.

He had been on a similar military helicopter just the day before. And fortunately, he's OK. We know Alissa Rubin and the others who were injured have been airlifted to an American hospital in Turkey right now. We heard "The New York Times" say she's in intensive care in an intensive care unit right now.

Ivan, thanks very much for your reporting.

Meanwhile, there's another chilling development. A top ISIS commander tells CNN his forces are holding more than 100 Yazidi women and children who were taken after many of the men of their town were simply massacred.

Our senior international correspondent, Nick Paton Walsh, is in Baghdad.

He's got more on this part of the story.

So what do we know -- Nick? NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it is limited, Wolf. This ISIS commander was spoke to our producer, Roger Isaac (ph), was willing to confirm. But it is the first confirmation we're aware of ISIS saying they have at least 100 women and children who were, they say, taken to Mosul. They're not saying precisely which location or locations in Mosul, but after their militants had entered the town of Sinjar and killed, in their words, a large number of the men there.

They're now saying that these women and children are, quote, "being called upon to convert to Islam." Now, that is common when ISIS take people they consider to be infidels into their detention. They often give them a chance, a period, a window to convert to their way of thinking. And If they don't do that, then, obviously, significantly worse consequences follow.

But deeply chilling now to hearing ISIS openly admitting to the fact they have an unspecified number that's greater than 100 of women and children in their custody -- Wolf.

BLITZER: The whole nature of what's going on in Baghdad right now, Nick, is pretty murky.

Is Nouri al-Maliki going to step -- walk away quietly?

Is he going to organize some sort of coup?

What's the latest of that front?

Because so much of the U.S. policy in Iraq depends on some sort of stable government that tries to bring unity to all the various factions.

PATON WALSH: Wolf, absolutely. The writing is on the wall for Nouri al-Maliki. Everybody from Iran to Saudi Arabia to Washington to Paris I saw saying it's time to go. All of his Shia allies, really, are echoing that.

But Baghdad waiting for his final word to actually step back from power is in a sense, in a state -- a state of real fear right now -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Nick Paton Walsh reporting for us from Baghdad.

Nick, thanks very much.

We'll, of course, get back to you.

Coming up, we're going to talk about all the breaking news with the deputy State Department spokeswoman, Marie Harf. She is here with me in THE SITUATION ROOM.

And we're watching the breaking news in the Middle East, where the cease-fire between Israel and Hamas has just been extended, we hope. We're going to go there live.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We're following the breaking news. The United States now considering a massive rescue mission to save tens of thousands of Iraqi religious minorities who are stranded on a mountain after fleeing ISIS forces.

Adding to the crisis, a power struggle underway in Baghdad where Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is resisting efforts to replace him, despite his waning support.

Let's talk about all of this and more with the deputy State Department spokeswoman, Marie Harf, who's in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Marie, thanks very much for coming in.

MARIE HARF, DEPUTY STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESWOMAN: Quite happy to be here.

BLITZER: Is Nouri al Maliki, the longtime prime minister, going to go quietly into the night? Will he resist? Will the new prime minister- elect or designate Haider al-Abadi, will he take charge? What do we know?

HARF: Well, this is what we know: first, that Iraqi politics is never quiet. So we never expected this to be a process that would just move forward without any complications.

But what's important is that there is a council of representatives speaker. There is a president. And now we have a prime minister designate who has broad support, including from Prime Minister's Maliki's own party, the Shia bloc, in parliament.

So there's a process. He has 30 days to form a government. He's moving forward with it, and that's exactly what we need to see happen. We hope that process will continue, but they are on track here, Wolf, to have a new government in place, an inclusive one, very shortly.

BLITZER: Because he says, Nouri al-Maliki, there's a conspiracy. His word, conspiracy against him, and he will resist. What happens if he does?

HARF: Well, we've heard words like this before from Prime Minister Maliki, and what we're really focused on is the process that's under way.

The prime minister designate, Haider al-Abadi, has a lot of support. He's working to form a government. And we hope that that process will move forward. We know that there is a path forward here for the Iraqis to come together, and given this incredibly urgent security situation, to form a government quickly so they can move forward in fighting against ISIL.

BLITZER: The immediate need is to rescue these thousands and thousands of people who are stranded on this mountain, the Yazidis, a religious minority. Where does that stand, from the U.S. perspective right now? HARF: Well, the president authorized a group of 130 advisors to go in and assess the best and the safest way to get these people off of the mountain, because dropping food and water is not a long-term solution here.

Those advisers are on the ground. They will make assessments and present them to the president very shortly, given again, how urgent the situation is. And he'll be making decisions about the best way to do this.

We have unique capabilities we can bring to bear, and when there's a situation approaching genocide, we're going to do so. We're going to help here.

BLITZER: So these 129 advisers, military -- mostly Marines, Special Operations, they're going to go on top of this mountain and take a look and see if there's a landing strip, if there's an area where U.S. military aircraft, helicopters and planes can actually land and start taking these folks out of there?

HARF: Well, they're going to be doing a full assessment of what the best way to do that might be. They're going to be looking at possible airlift routes. They'll be looking at possible humanitarian land corridors. They're going to be looking at all of this. They're going to be looking at the surveillance and reconnaissance we have of the area.

And I would point out that these strikes, the kinetic action the U.S. military has taken around the mountain over the past probably 36 to 48 hours has really helped set the stage for a possible rescue mission here. It's been really successful in hitting ISIL around the mountain.

BLITZER: How much of a complication is the fact that this one group of Kurdish fighters, the PKK is listed by the State Department as a terrorist organization, even though they are deeply involved in saving lives right now. How much of a problem is that for the U.S.?

HARF: Well, Wolf, what we've been focused on is working with the Peshmerga and the Kurdish security forces who are really deeply engaged in this effort. That's who we're working with, and we are bringing unique capabilities to bear. But this really is a team effort here. We need to figure out the best way to solve this immediate crisis on the mountain but also work with them on a long- term strategy to fight ISIL.

BLITZER: The Kurdish Peshmerga fighters, will you provide weapons to them directly or do they have to go through the central government in Baghdad?

HARF: Well, it's all coordinated, and right now the central government in Iraq is directly providing their own weapons to the Kurds. We're working to find our own weapons and our own stockpiles in coordination with the Iraqi government. But to be able to do that directly, as well, just given that it really needs to get to them quickly. We need to see how much we can get to them again, as quickly as possible, and we're all working on it together right now.

BLITZER: You want to cooperate with the Peshmerga?

HARF: Absolutely. And we have been cooperating with them.

BLITZER: They need more than just ammunition. They -- if they're going to fight these ISIS forces, who are well-armed, they've got armored personnel carriers. They've got battle tanks stolen from the Iraqi military. Usually, U.S. equipment. They can't compete with that state-of-the-art military equipment unless the U.S. provides some similar stuff to the Peshmerga.

HARF: Or the Iraqi security forces.

BLITZER: Iraqi security forces. Let's be honest. They're MIA. They're missing in action. They deserted their bases and left behind tons of stuff.

They just -- they saw a few ISIS guys coming in. They put their hands up and ran away.

HARF: I think they had a very challenging situation a few months ago when they first confronted this threat. But I do think, in all fairness, some of the best units have gotten back on their feet.

And one thing we've seen that I think is actually a good sign and could be very good going forward is the Iraqi security forces have been working with the Kurdish forces in a way they never had before. Really unprecedented in Iraq here. So they are fighting this threat together. We hadn't seen the Iraqi security forces providing air support to the Kurds, giving them ammo. There's something that shows there is an inclusive way forward here that they can work together.

BLITZER: And you heard the report that these ISIS militants, terrorists, whatever you want to call them, they've abducted a hundred women and children, these Yazidis, killed men; taken the women and children, basically making the women sex slaves of whatever, unless they convert to their brand of Islam. What do we know about this?

HARF: Well, obviously, we're looking into this situation, but this is unfortunately the latest in a long line of incredibly barbaric, nihilistic actions that this group has taken.

Not only are they trying to take territory with heavy weapons about we're pushing back on, which we've been pushing back on, but they are really terrorizing whole populations in Iraq: not just Christians, not just Yazidis, but Kurds, Shia, moderate Sunnis.

So in addition to what we've been doing recently with the humanitarian aid, the strikes around Erbil, we are working with the Iraqis on a long-term counterterrorism strategy to take out their leadership, to cut off their funding, to take off -- take away their operational capabilities so they can't terrorize Iraqis.

But let's be clear. This is a really tough challenge. They were able to flourish in Syria. They're really a really tough group to fight right now, but we will help the Iraqis do that.

BLITZER: What do we know about the cease-fire extension between Israel and Hamas?

HARF: Well, we're getting reports from our team on the ground that there may be an extension and we're awaiting for final confirmation of that, but that's really what we want to happen.

We want to get an extension here so we can continue working towards a sustainable cease-fire, so then eventually we can help begin rebuilding Gaza, and Israel won't be a threat from these rockets anymore. So our team is still there.

BLITZER: When you say your team, you mean your team in Cairo?

HARF: In Cairo.

BLITZER: They're participating or just observing?

HARF: They're somewhat in the middle there. They are on the ground advising the parties if they can provide help. Obviously, we don't talk to Hamas, but they've been on the ground monitoring and really advising if there's a role the U.S. can play. We are not a direct party to these negotiations.

The Egyptians have really played a key, crucial role here in getting the parties to the table and hopefully, if the reports are true, getting an extension.

BLITZER: We know the prime minister of Israel had a conversation with the president of the United States. Has the secretary of state directly -- I know he's coming back to the United States. He's in Hawaii right now.

HARF: He is.

BLITZER: Has he been involved at all behind the scenes?

HARF: He is. He spoke with Prime Minister Netanyahu yesterday and the day before and has talked to a number of Israeli officials, as well, over the past few days. He's been very deeply engaged on the Israeli side in helping to get them to a place where we can all accept a cease-fire, because again, that's what's in the best interests of Israel's security, which is always at the forefront of the secretary's line.

BLITZER: So there is a five-day extension. We hope that happens. Has there have been any progress, anything of substance on issues of both what Hamas wants, what the Palestinian delegation wants, and what the Israelis want?

HARF: Well, Wolf, that's what they're working on in Cairo right now. Obviously, an extension of the humanitarian cease-fire is good, but what we really want to see is the sustainable cease-fire that addresses those issues you're talking about. We haven't seen that be able to come into effect yet. But that's really what we need to see. They need to begin rebuilding Gaza and really move forward here in a very different way.

BLITZER: Marie Harf, thanks very much for coming in. Marie is the deputy spokeswoman at the State Department. Thanks very much.

HARF: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Coming up, we'll have more on the breaking news in the Middle East. Israel's Iron Dome intercepts a rocket just as a truce expires. We're going live to Jerusalem and to Gaza for much more.

And later this hour, the shocking end to an exotic vacation as authorities in Bali find a U.S. woman's body stuffed in a suitcase.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Following the breaking news in the Middle East where it's just past midnight. The official end of the truce between Israel and Hamas. There's been some trouble already. The Palestinians just announced, though, that the peace talks in Egypt need more time.

Let's get the very latest, starting with CNN's John Vause. He's in Jerusalem. What is the latest as far as an extension of the cease- fire?

JOHN VAUSE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, nothing official coming from the Israeli side. Everything coming from the Palestinians, saying that that humanitarian cease-fire, which has been under way for 72 hours, will be extended for five more days, and as you say, Wolf, that cease-fire deadline just came about 20, 30 minutes ago.

Now before that deadline there was rocket fire coming from Gaza, according to the Israeli military, in the two and a half hours leading up to that deadline. Five rockets were fired from Gaza into Israel, most of them landing in empty areas, causing no death, no damage. No one was hurt.

But of course, this now is a very difficult political calculation for the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

When we thought it was just one rocket fired from Gaza into Israel. A senior Israeli source told me they could probably move on from that, that they just didn't really understand what was going on.

Five, though, it could be a different calculation -- Benjamin Netanyahu under a lot of political pressure from within his own government about accepting this cease-fire deal. And we have not heard a word from the Israelis. So, what is the political calculation here? Will they accept this five-day deal? We are just going to have to wait and see, Wolf.

BLITZER: It's a half-hour after the 72-hour cease-fire ended, and it's about 12:30 a.m. over there. John Vause, stand by.

I want to go to Gaza right now.

CNN's Fred Pleitgen is standing by over there.

Moments ago, we saw Israel's Iron Dome intercept a rocket. You now heard five rockets have come in. What is the latest over there? What are you hearing and what are you seeing, Fred?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf.

Well, at this point in time, it seems to be fairly quiet. However, the -- the mood here is one that is still very tense here on the ground. As you said, we did about an hour ago see the Iron Dome intercept a rocket that was coming here. It was actually right over my shoulder where you being hear the boom of the rocket outgoing.

And then you could see that typical sign of the Iron Dome interceptor rising up. It's sort of like a fireball in the sky that rises up, and then you see and you hear the explosion in the sky. It seemed as though that rocket was going to the Eshkol region. We later have gotten confirmation from the Israeli Defense Forces that in fact one rocket was picked off.

And as John was saying, it's not the only one. We saw another or heard another rocket outgoing earlier today and then got confirmation from the Israeli Defense Forces that that rocket had hit in Hof Ashkelon, which is of course in Southern Israel on the border with Gaza.

So right now, Gaza is waiting to see whether or not there will be some sort of Israeli retaliation for all of this, but certainly it is something that makes everything more difficult here on the ground, Wolf.

BLITZER: It would be encouraging if they can implement a five-day extension of this cease-fire.

Fred Pleitgen in Gaza, be careful over there.

John Vause is in Jerusalem. We will stay in close touch with both of you.

Coming up, Hillary Clinton says she's looking forward to hugging it out with President Obama when they see each other later tonight on Martha's Vineyard, their first meeting since she slammed his foreign policy. We're going to get the latest on the uproar, the fallout when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: All political eyes right now on Martha's Vineyard, where Hillary Clinton and President Obama will meet face to face tonight for the first time since she slammed his foreign policy in an interview with "The Atlantic." The former secretary of state said her former boss' world plan lacks an organizing principle and she called his policy on Syria a failure.

But, tonight, it seems all will be forgiven.

Let's bring in our senior political correspondent, Brianna Keilar. She's working the story.

So, we're already hearing a little bit from Hillary Clinton right now.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: We did.

We heard from her, Wolf, ahead of her book signing. She was obviously concerned enough about this appearance of a rift with President Obama to address this before this event on Martha's Vineyard.

And this is a book tour, but it's not all about selling books. This was also Hillary Clinton's chance to show that she's ready to run for president. And what we have learned instead is that she needs a lot of work.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KEILAR (voice-over): The most anticipated hug in American politics. No, not those, a hug still to come tonight on Martha's Vineyard.

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Great to see you all.

KEILAR: Where Hillary Clinton is holding a book signing today and will meet up with President Obama at a party tonight as he vacations on the island.

QUESTION: Are you going to hug it out with the president?

CLINTON: Absolutely. Yes, we're looking forward to it. Going to be there tonight.

KEILAR: That after Clinton skewered the president's foreign policy in an interview with "The Atlantic." It prompted an uproar from liberal activists and Obama supporters alike and an apology phone call from Clinton.

ERIC SCHULTZ, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: The president indeed appreciated Secretary Clinton's call, as he does every opportunity to chat with the former secretary of state. They have a close and resilient relationship.

KEILAR: It's not the first cleanup on Clinton's book tour and apparent rehearsal for a presidential campaign.

CLINTON: We came out of the White House not only dead broke, but in debt.

KEILAR: Right out of the gate, she seemed out of touch, lamenting her family's struggle to pay mortgages, plural. Those comments dogged her for weeks as she struggled to explain herself in interviews.

Even before the book was out back in March, she described Vladimir Putin's actions in Ukraine to Hitler's in the 1930s, and quickly backpedaled.

CLINTON: I'm not making a comparison, certainly, but I am recommending that we perhaps can learn from this tactic that has been used before.

KEILAR: But, today, given the chance to dig herself deeper, Clinton declined.

QUESTION: Do you think he's handling the situation in Iraq right now? Would you be doing it differently?

CLINTON: I'm excited about signing books.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KEILAR: Excited about signing books there.

And we have learned, Wolf, that this hug tonight, which is in a private party on Martha's Vineyard, it's not expected to be on camera. We don't expect to see it. We do expect that it will happen.

And maybe we will find out some details about this, but Hillary Clinton and the White House, I would say both of them eager to put this behind them.

BLITZER: I suspect somebody will have a little camera there and take a picture.

KEILAR: That would be great.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: Put it out on social media. And we will all see a little picture, at least a still photo, if not a little video of the hug that we're all waiting for.

Brianna, stand by.

I want to bring in our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger.

Is there a the pattern where Hillary Clinton says something and then all of a sudden she has got to try to clean it up a little bit?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I think Hillary Clinton is a probable presidential candidate whom a lot of people are saying to her, you know what? You have to be more authentic.

If you actually behave as the person we really know you to be, the American public will embrace you. And I think in this interview, as she did in a couple of other interviews in her efforts to appear more authentic, she stepped in it and she went a step too far.

It's well known to all of us that she and the president have had some distance on Syria policy. They disagree, obviously, over whether arming the Syrian rebels would have stopped ISIS. But when she said, you know, that don't do stupid stuff is not an organizing principle for a foreign policy, I think that took it to a level of insulting the president of the United States.

I am told by people close to him that he doesn't take this stuff personally, but I think a lot of people around him do.

BLITZER: How concerned are her advisers about this, because you speak to them, Brianna, all of the time?

KEILAR: Well, I think they had a pretty bad week this week, I would say.

I think right now what they're sort of focused on is not making any news. I think that they initially -- I think her intention was not to make news on this in this interview with "The Atlantic."

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Why would she give an interview like that for a major magazine?

KEILAR: I think she was trying to talk about foreign policy.

And I think actually the transcript, which a lot of people have not read the entire transcript -- you read the sort of the pull-apart -- the pullouts of it. But she does go on. And it certainly is -- there is some more nuance in there, where she starts to say that this is more of a political message than it is necessarily a -- the sort of governing premise behind his foreign policy.

But it's just too late. She sort of buries the lede, there and she comes out with something very blunt. And that was really the problem there. I think at this point, her team is concentrating on not making news and putting this behind them. And that's why you saw her come out there on Martha's Vineyard and say that and then when she was asked about his Iraq policy, I'm ready to sign some books.

BORGER: But if this were a calculated political move, by the way, to her advantage in a Democratic primary against someone who would clearly be running to her left, this is not exactly what she would say, because this reminds everybody that she is more hawkish than the president is on foreign policy.

And so I think, you know, this was clumsy. She's been clumsy, as Brianna points out, on the book tour so far. She's rusty. Clearly, she is distancing herself from the president to a degree on foreign policy, but I don't think it's because he's at 30 percent in the polls or 36 percent of the polls, because he's actually pretty popular with the base of the Democratic Party, which, by my last calculation, she has to win with if she's going to get the nomination.

BLITZER: Because when it comes to foreign policy, her -- job approval number is, as Gloria says, what, 36 percent, 37 percent, according to the NBC/"Wall Street Journal" poll, which is not very good. The suggestion is, she's trying, if you read Maureen Dowd in "The New York Times" today, if you read some other columnists, what they're saying is because her -- his numbers are so low, she wants to distance herself from the president.

KEILAR: Yes.

And I don't really know that that was necessary. At some point, she is going to do that. I think we know that. She has to and in some ways -- but I think in this sense she felt that Syria, it's on the record. They have very differing views on this. I think she felt like it was a safe spot. She kind of relaxed.

And she stepped in it, but I also think -- I have been talking to a lot of Democrats today, and I think the feeling there is, OK, yes. What has all of this revealed? She is rusty, as you mentioned. She has a lot of work to do. She has these weaknesses.

I think sort of what they would say is, OK, you have these lemons, make some lemonade. You have a couple of years here and you need to figure out how to fix the problems.

The problem, though, is for Republicans, they are seeing openings. I think if you said, let's look at this, not just these comments, but the comments about her wealth -- three months ago, if you had said to Republicans, do you think that Hillary Clinton's wealth is going to be a big issue, I don't know that they would have thought that it was.

BORGER: But this is somebody who has been saying, I don't participate in politics. I'm secretary of state.

Now she's in the political arena. She's clearly trying to sell books, but she is somebody that people have criticized for not being herself. She happens to be married to, like, the best politician we have ever seen in our lifetime. She is not a natural transactional politician in the way that Bill Clinton is.

And as we have seen on this book tour, she's either rusty or she is going to have to go back to being scripted, because she creates problems for herself.

BLITZER: Gloria, Gloria Borger, Brianna Keilar, guys, thanks very much.

We will see if she does that hug later. We will see if we get a picture, if somebody tweets a picture or whatever. We will show it to our viewers.

In the next hour of THE SITUATION ROOM, we are going to catch up with the girl who has become the face of the refugee crisis in Iraq.

Also, an exotic location, an upscale hotel and a body in a suitcase, followed by a shocking arrest.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: The breaking news about the deployment of U.S. special forces in Iraq. Let's go straight to our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr.

What are you learning, Barbara?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, CNN has now confirmed and learned, in fact, that about a dozen or so U.S. Special Forces have spent the last 24 hours on Sinjar Mountain, that mountain in Iraq where about 20,000 Yazidis are trapped, and the U.S. is now contemplating a rescue mission.

The U.S. Special Forces went there about 24 hours ago, spent overnight there to assess the situation to try and get a fix on how many people are there, what the ground looks like, could they land helicopters there, how would they get people down off the mountain, exactly what the situation is.

I want everybody to know that CNN was aware of this information 24 hours ago, but we've made a decision to withhold it out of concern when U.S. officials asked us to withhold it until the troops were off the mountain. They were picked up a short time ago by U.S. helicopters.

There's a good deal of concern, a good deal of uncertainty about the security situation there so they wanted us to withhold it and not reveal what we knew for the last 24 hours out of concern for the security of the U.S. Special Forces that went there. They went from Irbil, of course. It is public knowledge now. That is where the U.S. has sent additional forces to conduct this assessment.

But these Special Forces are very particularly trained to go into uncertain situations like that mountain top, have a look around, see what's going on and come back and report. What they found there, whatever they have learned will be formed the basis for the eventual recommendations and (INAUDIBLE) to President Obama about the best way forward. They are the first American eyes substantively to have a look at the top of that mountain -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I know you're working your sources, Barbara. We're going to get back to you right at the top of the hour. You're working your sources, you'll get more information. Thanks very much.

A dozen U.S. Special Forces now out of that Mountain Sinjar area. Stand by, we'll get some more information.

In the meantime, there's another story we're following. It's a bizarre story. A Chicago area family's getaway into Indonesian resort of Bali ended with a gruesome discovery and a shocking pair of arrests.

Let's bring in Brian Todd. He's got the details -- Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, new information tonight on this bizarre and horrifying case in Bali, Indonesia. We are learning of domestic problems within this family which could have culminated in the murder of a 62-year-old American woman, the arrest of her daughter and the daughter's boyfriend, and shocking images of what the perpetrators did with the body.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): A grotesque discover brings strong suspicion toward the family of an American woman who was likely murdered at the St. Regis Hotel in Bali, Indonesia. The body of the 62-year-old Sheila Mack was found stuffed inside this hard-shell suitcase.

IDA BAGUS PUTU ALIT, FORENSIC DOCTOR, SANGLAH HOSPITAL (Through Translator): From the existing wound, we found that the victim was hit by a blunt object on her face and forehead.

TODD: In custody the victim's daughter, Heather Mack, and the daughter's boyfriend, Tommy Schaefer. The couple told police an armed gang took them captive and killed Sheila Mack. They said they escaped, but police are skeptical. A taxi driver told authorities he was flagged down by the couple at the hotel. Police showed this frame grab of video they say shows the couple talking to the driver.

The driver says they placed the suitcase in the trunk. Then the couple went back into the hotel and disappeared. And according to police, they were later found at another hotel six miles away.

CHIEF DJOKO HARI UTOMO, DENPASAR, INDONESIA POLICE (Through Translator): Both suspects were sleeping when we arrested them.

TODD: The daughter and her boyfriend were not immediately named as suspects, but there's an apparent history of conflict in the family. In Sheila Mack's hometown of Oak Park, Illinois, officials tell us police were called to her home 86 times between 2004 and 2013. Most of the calls were for domestic trouble. Still there's no record of arrest for the mother or daughter. But back in Bali, there's mounting evidence. The forensic doctor says Sheila Mack's body had bruises on both wrists, at least one broken finger, and a broken fingernail.

DR VICTOR WEEDN, FORENSIC PATHOLOGIST, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: I really believe that's sign or evidence of struggle. Both hands are involved. There's substantial force involved such as broken nail and then broken bone.

TODD: Top forensic pathologist Victor Weedn says by stuffing the body in the suitcase, the perpetrators created a second crime scene full of potential clues.

WEEDN: They are folding up the body. Now blood can be distributed, disseminated more widely. They are putting their hands all over furniture or things trying to get the body into the case.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: A lawyer appointed for the couple says the daughter Heather Mack did not want to comment on the incident and didn't give any information. He said she kept asking to be represented by an attorney from the U.S. -- Wolf. BLITZER: Do you have additional details on the victim Sheila Mack and

her daughter?

TODD: That's right. A longtime family friend has told our Pamela Brown that Sheila Mack had a tumultuous relationship with her daughter Heather, that Sheila Mack had to call the police several times over the years because of her daughter's reckless behavior. On another note we've also learned Sheila Mack was a former aid to the late Senator Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts.

BLITZER: What a story. All right. Thanks very much, Brian Todd, for that report.

Coming up, she's the face of the humanitarian crisis in northern Iraq. Right now her plight move people around the world. Now a surprise twist to her story.

Plus fierce fighting in Ukraine. The battle between rebels and government troops intensifying. The humanitarian crisis worsening. We're going there live.

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