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ISIS Commander Killed in U.S. Raid; FBI Probing Reports Objects Hit Three Trains; Clinton's Wealth Under Fire Ahead of Iowa Swing. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired May 17, 2015 - 07:30   ET


[07:30:00] NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: -- was behind the money, was behind the oil, was used to make ISIS so much of its money and was increasingly involved in their military operation. We don't know his real name. And, in fact, Abu Sayyaf just means the father of Sayyaf and his wife who was captured who was killed in this raid, Umm Sayyaf means the mother of Sayyaf.

So, more details I think. People will be looking for the U.S. to provide why this man was so important because they endured an enormous risk in going to get to him. We are told this was a capture mission, not a kill mission. Had it been a kill mission they could have simply used a drone.

They were after intelligence. They were after the things that he knew and the things his computers and phones perhaps had on them as well. So, very complex indeed and they decided to take this risk because they flew into one of the most dangerous parts of ISIS territory deep inside of Syria.

The al Amal (ph) oil field known to be an ISIS military base had a 3 to 5 millimeter perimeter around it. Airstrikes, witnesses speaking, some activists we've spoken to, softening there beforehand, and then Delta Forces came on in. Hand-to-hand fighting, bloody knuckles amongst those soldiers and an extraordinary vicious fight for this man Abu Sayyaf who they hoped they could capture alive, despite the lengthy history of ISIS leadership, worshipping death in their jihad.

So, a complex task certainly for U.S. commandos here and one that leaves them with, they say, substantial intelligence about how ISIS works and this detainee, Umm Sayyaf. But 19 ISIS fighters killed in this, some of them said to be foreign and questions, of course, being asked as to why the U.S. is willing to endure this substantial risk and a difficult operation to explain to the American public. Had it tragically gone wrong, given the promises Barack Obama has made that he wouldn't put U.S. boots on the ground in the Middle East during his tenure.

And perhaps we are seeing maybe a high risk tolerance from the White House in what they're willing to do when going after ISIS leaders. But a spark intervention here, one in which the White House said it was successful in killing a man they had in fact hoped to capture, but so many questions as to what exactly was entirely in the U.S. crosshairs during this raid.

Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, Beirut.


VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: And tonight, CNN takes a unique look inside ISIS, who are they? What do they want? How are they funded? Fareed Zakaria hosts, "Blindsided: How ISIS Shocked the World." It's tonight at 7:00 Eastern, right here on CNN.

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Also developing this morning, Amtrak could run at full capacity on the Northeast Corridor as early as tomorrow. That, of course, following last week's deadly derailment. But the schedule depends entirely on whether new speed controls are fully installed and in place.

This weekend, workers are busy installing the automatic train control system while Amtrak assesses the risk of all curves on that corridor which, you know, where the approach speed is higher than the curve speed it seems.

This morning, though, let's talk about the legal angle here. Investigators are focusing on what happened in the second leading up to derailment, of course the possibility the train may have been struck by an object before hurdling off the tracks. The FBI is investigating a fist-sized crack on the left side of the windshield.

Let's talk to CNN legal analyst Mel Robbins, and HLN legal analyst Joey Jackson about this.

Good morning to both of you.

Mel, I want to start with you. Throwing projectiles at trains, apparently, we have been told is common. So much so it has a nickname "getting rocked." And the Amtrak train might be one of three trains that were hit by somebody right before this crash. We still don't know what caused the derailment obviously.

But looking at what we know up to this point, what does this mean for the engineer's liability?

MEL ROBBINS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Oh, it's a great question. And this is going to be a puzzle that all of these agencies are going to be needing to figure out. You know, the thing that is interesting to me about this and you got the FBI involved, while it does sound, at first watch, like it could be something that is common, you know, that projectiles are being hurled at trains all time, I think the FBI is involved because they are concerned it might be something more nefarious than simply a kid chucking rock outside of Philadelphia at a train, given the convergence of other trains, that had had the same thing happened in the same vicinity around the same time.

So, they just want to make sure to rule out that it wasn't something more awful. But what, you know, is interesting in this is that as you probably know, Congress passed the Amtrak Reform and Accountability Act in 1997 and their liability on a civil side is capped at $200 million, and I'm sure the claims will far exceed that, Christi.

But as far as criminal liability or liability on part of the engineer, they are going to be looking at not only whether or not he remembers anything, what the black box says, what the source of this particular projectile was to the train, how that impacted his actions, whether or not those actions were reasonable from a criminal setting. What you're going to be looking at is whether or not he acted reasonably or if he was reckless or criminally negligent, Christi.

[07:35:06] PAUL: OK. So, you mentioned his memory.

And, Joey, that could be an issue here, because investigators say that engineer Brian Bostian, he is being incredibly cooperative but he can't recall anything about the crash. They asked him specifically about that projectile. He didn't remember anything about it.

I want to point that even Sanjay Gupta -- Dr. Sanjay Gupta says traumatic injury could have caused post-traumatic amnesia. What bearing does this have now on the investigation?

JOEY JACKSON, HLN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, good morning, Christi. Good morning. Mel.

In any investigation that's undertaken, obviously, the person who is at issue in that investigation and what they say, what they remember, is critical. But remember that you don't base an investigation on what someone tells you. You base it on the surrounding circumstances.

And so as you mentioned, certainly, his memory, it's typical when you get involved in a crash of this magnitude, you're going to have some type of memory loss and potentially that memory will come back.

And so, I think what he remembers, if anything, could be important to the investigation. But they are not going to overly rely upon that investigation. Just as to a couple of other matters. In terms of a projectile hitting that Amtrak train, if it does, we don't know. That is something suggested as a possibility. I think it could affect certainly any criminal responsibility that the engineer has.

From a civil perspective, I don't know that it makes much of a difference. Obviously, you know, people will beg to differ with me along those lines. But I think what the argument will be if a projectile hit it, if it is so common, certainly there should be features on the train that could guard against it.

Number two, if you weren't going 102 miles an hour, I'm not blaming the conductor, we don't know what accounted for that rate. Potentially, there was a mechanical failure. Potentially, there was something wrong with the track, I don't know. But the issue would be if you weren't going at that rate, if something hit it at a slower rate, then it would not come off the trails.

And so, there's still a lot to be determined, a lot to be digested in this case. But I think if a projectile hit it that could alter the criminal element of it. The civil element I think, the attorneys will still the argument, the positive track controls if they were in place and if it was going slower potentially, we would not have this disaster.

PAUL: All right. Well -- I want to talk about that a little bit, real quickly. We only had about a minute left. But, you know, officials say that trains getting hit by rocks, bricks, even bullets -- it's a longstanding problem. And some of the fences near these scenes apparently are not in the best shape.

So, the question is, could Amtrak be held liable in some way for not proactively implementing some sort of prevention if they knew this was a problem, Mel?

ROBBINS: Well, you think -- what would happen is you discount that argument in letting them off hook for this. I mean, look, they are responsible for their passengers. They operate these trains all day long. They carry almost a million people up and down the corridor. They know what they are doing.

And if this is a common occurrence, it basically goes against their argument that it somehow puts them off the hook. They are going to be found liable in this. I mean, because it's a civil standard.

But I agree with Joey. I think that the projectile issue has more to do with the engineer's criminal liability, not the civil case.

PAUL: All righty. Mel Robbins -- Joey, go ahead, last word.

JACKSON: Just very quickly to Mel's prior point about the $200 million and certainly people don't think it's enough. I think it could be fixed, though, by Congress. You could see potentially a fund in place and you could also see -- and again I'm speculating, but I think it may be reasonable for Congress to set up a fund saying, you know, this accident was tragic and most unfortunate and set up a pot of money to compensate, because we know the wrongful actions maybe $7 million or $8 million they give out, $200 million there. But for somebody's long term care, we are talking $20 million over a lifetime and those people who had nothing to do with this certainly should not have that loss.

And so, we could look to Congress to set up some kind of fund to compensate fairly and appropriately people who have been injured in this tragedy.

PAUL: All right. Mel and Joey, great thoughts this morning. Thank you for being with us.

JACKSON: Thank you, Christi. Have a great day.

ROBBINS: Great to see you.

JACKSON: Bye, Mel.

PAUL: You too.

BLACKWELL: The top Republican presidential candidates are in Iowa this weekend, but with Jeb Bush's poll numbers sagging? He's at the back of the pack in Iowa. Should he, will he skip Iowa and focus on New Hampshire?


[07:42:49] BLACKWELL: Hillary Clinton is heading to Iowa tomorrow, and this comes just days after new disclosure forms have been revealed that she and former President Clinton had made $30 million since January of last year. Now, most of that money comes from paid speaking engagements.

Now, Republicans were also in Iowa last night making their pitches for the presidency and taking shots at the former secretary of state.

We've got with us, CNN politics digital reporter Eric Bradner. He's joining us.

Let's start with former Secretary Clinton because she is trying to make this case and present herself as a candidate who is about income equality and looking out for the poor, but she pulled in more than $30 million in 16 months. That's going to be difficult to reconcile.

ERIC BRADNER, CNN POLITICS, DIGIAL REPORTER: Right. Now, keep in mind, Hillary Clinton has taken very few questions from the press and she has clearly made the decision to suffer the swings and arrows off these sorts of stories throughout her campaign, at least in the early stages, in order to stay focused on the issues she wants to talk about.

Hillary Clinton is never going to be able to come off as, you know, an average Joe type of candidate. And so she is trying to let her style do the talking. She is going back to Iowa and she's going to hold a couple of more of these roundtable type events where she hears from regular people, does more listening than talking, and the hope is she can at least portray herself as someone who is in touch with the concerns of regular people, even if her personal finances show that she can't personally share those concerns.

But these stories have created a pressure buildup. I mean, she hasn't addressed questions not only about her personal finances, but also about where she stands on issues like trade and there's an expectation that she will deliver a big policy speech here at some point soon with a bigger crowd.

BLACKWELL: Yes. Moving away from the van and getting into the larger, I guess, more traditional -- of the presidential campaign and still more than a year in the primary season at least.

Let's move to Jeb Bush now. He is also in Iowa this weekend. He has said he will skip the Iowa straw poll.

[07:45:01] But if you look at his numbers of the declared candidates, he is still undeclared. The Quinnipiac poll, let's put it up. Bush is in seventh place here of the declared or potential 2016.

Is there an expectation, although he says he is going to campaign hard in Iowa, that, in fact, he is going to skip Iowa and move on to New Hampshire?

BRADNER: Yes. I mean, right now, it's all about momentum and managing expectations. Listen, Iowa caucus-goers are much more conservative than Republicans nationally. And so, the dream scenario for Jeb Bush here is that he can do basically what Mitt Romney did in 2012 which is sort of skip Iowa and make connections there and make a late push and come in with a surprisingly strong finish. I mean, Mitt Romney very nearly won the state even though he looked sort out of the running and skipped the straw poll and things like that.

So, the problem for Jeb Bush, this is a much stronger field than Mitt Romney faced in 2012 but he knows that he is not going to be able to compete in Iowa in the same way he is going to compete in states like New Hampshire or perhaps Nevada which is considering moving from a caucus like Iowa has to a primary process.

So, for Jeb Bush, it's all about making some connections, easing some concerns from Iowa Republicans who think he is paying no attention to the state in order to sort of position himself for a late push there.

BLACKWELL: All right. We'll watch both sides carefully.

Eric Bradner, thanks so much.

BRADNER: Thank you.


PAUL: Well, the end of an era this week. David Letterman is saying good-bye to "The Late Show"! What does it mean for late night TV without Dave? Really?


[07:50:27] PAUL: Carson, Leno, and now, Letterman. The world of late-night television saying good-bye to another legend.

David Letterman is set to host his final shows this week -- and you know they are going to be good.

And also waiting in the wings, also good, Stephen Colbert, who is going to take over Letterman's desk, of course, in September.

Let's get more insight from CNN senior media correspondent and host of "RELIABLE SOURCES", Brian Stelter.

Brian, good to see you. So, what --


PAUL: What are you hearing? What's the rumble about what Letterman's legacy is going to be?

STELTER: Wednesday's show is being kept a very big secret. It's final show. It's going to be an hour filled with surprises. But we do know that Tom Hanks, and Bill Murray and Bob Dylan will be among his final guests in his musical act this week.

Letterman really is responsible for an entire new generation of comedians. You know, guys like Jimmy Kimmel and Jimmy Fallon all say they were influenced by Letterman growing up and are really trying to carry on Letterman's legacy. Maybe that will be one of Letterman's best legacies in the future. All of these comedians now all across television who have looked up to him for decades.

PAUL: Yes, those guys have to have Letterman on as a guest is what I think they need to do, when it's all said and done. You know, when he is done.

STELTER: I hope Letterman would say yes.

PAUL: He is going to pop up somewhere. Yes, I would love to see that.

STELTER: Well, exactly. You know, Letterman has started to hint that he doesn't want to be disappearing entirely, and he says he is retiring from "The Late Show." But he is not retiring altogether. So, maybe we will see him once in a while on television.

And, by the way, CBS says he's getting the Walter Cronkite treatment. What does that mean? When he stepped down, he kept an office at CBS for the rest of his life. So, he was provided with that kind of support, because CBS wanted to say how important he was. Obviously, Letterman is just as important to CBS in some ways.

PAUL: I love it.

All right. Let's talk about Colbert, is it Colbert or Colbert? Because we've been having this conversation here. Is he going to change his name, is he not?


PAUL: How is he going to distance himself from Letterman?

STELTER: It's Colbert, and he has been in hiding for several months now. You know, he signed off the "Comedy Central" show, where he did play that different character. He has been taking a break for a few months, getting ready for the new show, which won't start until September, by the way, so he has all summer off as well.

But he's not entirely off. He's already meeting with advertisers, trying to warm them up to the show, and he was here in New York onstage in front of all the advertisers, and he paid tribute to Letterman. He said he's going to strive to honor Letterman by making the network mad at him. That was the joke referring back to Letterman's days, especially at NBC, when Letterman would do this innovative things, they would occasionally make the network bosses very angry at him.

So, Colbert is saying all the right things, getting ready to take over, but it's going to be a different show. I think everybody knows it's going to be a different show than Letterman, because Colbert, not only is a different comic, but of a different generation. You know, this is really generational change happening with Letterman, a baby boomer stepping aside.

PAUL: OK. So, what are you talking about this morning?

STELTER: Well, we're going to be looking at the future of "Late Show", and also "Mad Men" signing off tonight.

PAUL: Yes.

STELTER: But the big story for us on "RELIABLE SOURCES" is George Stephanopoulos. You know, he's been sort of encircled on this scandal because he donated to the Clinton Foundation without disclosing it. So, we're going to be talking about whether his apology is going to be enough, whether the scandal is going to kind of fade away, or whether it's going to be with him for a long time to come.

PAUL: All righty. Brian, always good to have your perspective. Thanks for being here.

STELTER: Thank you.

PAUL: Sure.

Don't miss Brian's show, by the way. "RELIABLE SOURCES" today at 11:00 Eastern.

And just remember to watch the special report, "David Letterman Says Goodnight". That's hosted by Jake Tapper. And it airs Tuesday at 9:00 p.m., right here on CN.

We'll be right back.


[07:57:33] PAUL: He's just a high school senior when Max Gomez lost a leg after a motocross competition.

BLACKWELL: But just a few years later, he is back at the top of the sport he loves. CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta has his story.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Nothing can stop Max Gomez from motocross racing, even when the sport cost him part of his right leg. Max was a high school senior in 2012, competing in a national race.

MAX GOMEZ, AMPUTEE MOTOCROSS RACER: I was coming up to one of these jumps. So, I came up a little short and it kicked me forward and off the bike. It was a 30-foot drop and then the impact just exploded my ankle.

GUPTA: Five operations later, doctors gave Max a choice.

GOMEZ: They said you can either keep this foot and you will not be able to do anything with it, or you can amputate it and live the rest of your life.

GUPTA: After losing his leg, Max thought he would never ride again and his dad even sold his bikes. But he was inspired by another amputee who was still racing.

GOMEZ: If said if he could do it, I should be able to do it, too.

GUPTA: With some adjustments to his bike, like moving the brake to the handlebars and a specifically-designed prosthetic foot, Max was back on the track, just six months after his accident. He took home gold at the Extremity Games, a competition for athletes with physical disabilities, and he just missed the bronze in an adaptive moto at the 2013 X Games.

The 21-year-old nursing student also recently qualified for a regional race with able-bodied racers.

GOMEZ: I lost my leg but I did not lose my drive. If there is a will, there is a way.

GUPTA: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN reporting.



PAUL: Good morning to you. So grateful to have your company here. I'm Christi Paul.

BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell. Good to be with you this Sunday.

PAUL: Yes. we want to begin this morning with new information on that daring U.S. missing to capture ISIS commander Abu Sayyaf. The U.S. now has computers seized in the raid loaded with data on how ISIS operates, communicates and earns its money. And over the next few days, officials are going to be analyzing that data.

BLACKWELL: Also, an FBI led high value interrogation group will be interrogating his wife Umm Sayyaf, to find out more about the hostage taking operations. The operations we know that took the life of Abu Sayyaf was led by the U.S. Army's Delta Force and had been in the planning stages since March.

PAUL: CNN's Sunlen Serfaty is at the White House.

Sunlen, a lot of people had been wondering if Abu Sayyaf was indeed the target of this raid. What are lawmakers in Washington saying about that and the mission itself?

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Christi, the administration is characterizing this mission as one that is a significant blow to ISIS.