Return to Transcripts main page


Three Americans Help Prevent Massacre; Korean Leaders Meet in Truce Village; Dow Plunges 532 Points; Trump Draws 30,000 at Alabama Rally; RPT: Israeli Leaders Planned Iran Attack; U.S.: ISIS No.2 Leader Killed in Drone Strike. Aired 7-8a ET

Aired August 22, 2015 - 07:00   ET




[07:00:28] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Spencer ran a good ten meters to get to the guy and we didn't know his gun wasn't working or anything like that. Spencer just ran any way and if anybody would have gotten shot, it would have been Spencer for sure.


CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Those are two of the three Americans who helped prevent an attack speeding through Europe. Officials say they took down a gunman who was armed with several weapons and a lot of ammunition.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: The propaganda blasting from loud speakers from North Korea and South Korea toward the other. Right now, the leaders from the two countries are meeting in this so-called Truce Village. Will they be able to avoid a shooting war?


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Wow, wow, wow! Unbelievable. Unbelievable.


PAUL: Even Donald Trump is wowed by the crowd in Alabama. Thirty thousand people at that football stadium. The latest sign that the GOP front-runner's popularity and reach is resonating and growing, it seems.

And good morning to you on this Saturday. We're always so grateful for your company. I'm Christi Paul.

BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Paul. Good to be with you.

This morning, we starting with the three Americans who were credited with preventing what could have been a terror attack on a Paris-bound train. One source tells CNN the suspect appeared to be sympathetic to ISIS. CNN has exclusive new video captured by one of the men who took down that gunman, showing the aftermath of this potentially deadly attack.

You can see the suspect on the floor there. His hands tied behind his back and the rifle there he carried is lying next to him there on the floor of that train. These are the three men being called heroes this morning -- their bravery being praised from Europe, all the way to the White House.

We are covering this story across the globe this morning. Nic Robertson is following the investigation in Lille, France. And Nick Valencia has details on those American men being praised for saving lives.

And I want to start with Nic.

We know this investigation has been opened by the Belgians. What else do we know?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we have also heard from the French interior minister today who says the belief at the moment is the suspect, the attacker is Moroccan, a relatively young man. They say they believe he may have been living in Spain last year and that he may have been living in Belgium this year. Of course, the train was en route from Amsterdam in Hollywood, through Brussels and Belgium, on its way to Paris. The attack actually took place in Belgian territory. That's why the Belgians have also started this terrorism investigation. The train brought to a halt and routed to a station here in northern France.

Spencer Stone, who was the first of those three Americans to rush towards the gunman and bring him down was injured. He -- right now, we are told by a nurse in the hospital here is going -- undergoing surgery for an injury sustained to his hand. This is a specialist hand clinic that medical work going on right now, we are told.

BLACKWELL: All right. Nic Robertson getting us the latest there from Lille, France.

For more on those three Americans who stepped in to take down the attacker, let's bring in Nick Valencia.

Nick, everyone hopes, if they have the opportunity to prevent an attack, they will summon the courage to do it. These men did.

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This could have gone the other way and could have been a very -- a big massacre, a carnage there, no doubt about that, Victor. This all started on Friday there in Europe, high-speed train speeding from Amsterdam to Paris, France.

These three Americans, Alek Skarlatos, Anthony Sadler, Spencer Stone, were in Europe to visit friends. They say they were sitting on that train when they noticed a train conductor running through that carriage frantically, and behind that conductor, a man shirtless with a rifle slung over his shoulder. Those two Americans accompanied by another witness who was on that train descried what happened on Friday at the time of this incident.


ANTHONY SADLER, SUBDUED ATTACKER ON TRAIN: Really proud of my friend that he just reacted so quickly and so bravely. He was really the first one over there. Even after being injured himself, he went to go help the other man who was bleeding also. Without his help, he would have died. That man was bleeding from his neck profusely.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The amount of blood he was losing.

SADLER: He went over there and saved his life as he was bleeding himself. So --

[07:05:00] ALEK SKARLATOS, SUBDUED ATTACKER ON TRAIN: Spencer ran a good ten meters to get to the guy and we didn't know that his gun wasn't working or anything like that. Spencer just ran any way and if anybody would have gotten shot, it would have been Spencer for sure, and we are very lucky that nobody got killed, especially Spencer.


VALENCIA: Just incredible there. That description of what happened, they were casual about it actually. That raw press conference we listened to just a little while ago. One guy said he was there in Europe for the first time and he ends up stopping a terrorist, calls it crazy, someone called it more heroic.

Now, Spencer Stone, he is recovering in the hospital. He nearly lost his thumb. He was also stabbed in the neck by a box cutter by that suspected terrorist. He is expected to make a full recovery. We should mention that he is a member of the U.S. Air Force and another one of those Americans, Alek Skarlatos, he's a national guardsman. They are credited for stopping what could have been a major terrorist attack -- Victor, Christi.

BLACKWELL: All right. Nick Valencia, thanks so much.

VALENCIA: You bet.

PAUL: I want to get you now to the Korean Peninsula where we may soon know if an all-out war is going to begin. We're talking about North and South Korean officials who are meeting behind closed doors right now.

This, of course, after North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un threatened to attack the South if they didn't stop blasting anti-Pyongyang propaganda over loud speakers near the border. The two sides exchange fire on Thursday. The U.S. and China, though, monitoring this situation closely.

We want to begin with Kathy Novak, who is near the demilitarized zone, near exactly where these talks are being held.

Kathy, what have you heard so far this morning?

KATHY NOVAK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Christi, you remember, these are two countries still technical at war. They have no diplomatic relation, so it is important that they have agreed to hold these meetings, high-level talks. Two representatives from both sides, the head of national security from South Korea, the unification minister and his North Korean counterpart and also the head of the political bureau of the Korean people's army, a man said to be close to Kim Jong-un.

So, we will wait to see if they can come together and reach an agreement, because it would involve someone making some kind of concession and stepping back because it has been this game of brinkmanship the past few days with this deadline coming and going for Pyongyang. It said South Korea had to stop the propaganda broadcast coming out of the loud broadcast on the borders or it would take military action -- South Korea's military remains on high alert. And South Korea is continuing those broadcasts that so anger North Korea.

So, this is the situation now. A small sign of hope is being read into the way that North Korea reported the fact this meeting was happening at all. The official news agency KCNA referred to South Korea by its official name, the Republic of Korea. This is a state news agency calls it the puppet state or the puppet regime.

So, quite unusual to hear it be that respectful towards South Korea. So, we are hoping that maybe a small sign may be things will calm down here on the peninsula. But certainly, no sign of that just yet, still a very tense situation here, Christi.

PAUL: Kathy, what do you think each side needs to come away with in order to save face, so to speak?

NOVAK: Well, that is the big question really, because when we are talking about these propaganda speakers, it is the issue of saving face. These propaganda speakers are poking fun, basically, at the regime of Kim Jong-un. It is something that it will just not put with. This is a leader who is treated like a god and people are told he is a god more so than a leader and certainly they are fed their own diet of propaganda in the form of television and radio and being told what to think.

So the fact that another government could be deliberately broadcasting anti-regime messages into North Korea is something that really makes them angry. So, they can't seem to be putting up with this.

On the other hand, South Korea is under a lot of pressure not putting up with provocation from North Korea. Remember, this all stems back to land mine attacks that South Korea is blaming on North Korea. Two of its soldiers almost died of this land mine attacks and pressure here in the South Korea for the government to not to put up with that kind of provocation, that both South Korea and the United Nations blamed on North Korea.

So, whether either side will back down, we'll just have to wait and see, but it certainly is the big question.

PAUL: Well, and the big question if they don't come to some solution, what happens at that point?

Kathy Novak, we appreciate it. Thank you so much.

CNN's Athena Jones is joining us live with the latest from the Washington.

We know U.S., as we said, and China watching this situation very closely. I mean, there are 28,000 troops stationed in South Korea from the U.S.

What are the conversations that reasonable care had in Washington this morning over this?


Those U.S. troops are actually a big part of this. We know that the Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, General Martin Dempsey, spoke with his South Korean counterpart about this last night.

[07:10:03] Of course, the U.S. and South Korea important allies in the region -- important ally of U.S. in the region.

I want to read for you part of the statement put out about that conversation. Dempsey and General Admiral Choi, his counterpart, concurred they would watch North Korea's actions closely in the coming days and would insure that the U.S. and the Republic of Korea continue to work closely with one another to deter further North Korean provocations and diffuse tensions.

Part of this tension is the fact that the U.S. and South Korea are in the middle of their annual joint military exercises. These take place every year and every year, they anger the North Koreans.

I want to play for you what the assistant secretary of defense, David Shear, had to say about those exercises. Take a listen.

DAVID SHEAR, ASST. SECY. OF DEFENSE FOR ASIAN AND PACIFIC SECURITY AFFAIRS: U.S. forces went on an enhanced status as part of the exercise. They are remaining in enhanced status as part of the exercise and, of course, to ensure adequate deterrence on the peninsula.


JONES: And Shear, as well as Dempsey, of course, emphasized the commitment the U.S. has to the defense of South Korea. I should mention, though, those exercises were temporarily suspended just so that the U.S. and South Korea could coordinator on that change of artillery fire that took place at the DMZ, the demilitarized zone. Those exercises have since restarted.

But, again, as I said, North Korea is always angered by these exercises and sees them as preparations for war. And so, it's not unusual to see them step up propaganda, provocations, posturing and threats each time those exercises occur. Of course, the hope now is that an all-out shooting war can be avoided and this brinksmanship that Kathy Novak mentioned can come to an end -- Christi.

PAUL: All right. Athena Jones, thank you so much.

BLACKWELL: And as Athena just mentioned, the tensions between North and South Korea, nothing new there. But its young leader is relatively new and so little is known about him. Will Kim Jong-un pull back from this quasi-state of the war and what will it take.

Plus, protesters upset in North Carolina, taking to the streets after a jury is unable to come to on a decision in the trial of a cop charged with shooting and killing a former college football player.

Also, Friday night under the lights. You see Donald Trump here. Thousands, tens of thousands packing an Alabama football stadium to see and hear from the GOP front-runner.


TRUMP: I am going to be the greatest jobs president that God ever created. I will tell you that.



[07:15:59] PAUL: Back now to our breaking news on the ongoing standoff in the Korean peninsula this hour. Some one million troops are bracing for all-out war here. Top level officials from both North and South Korea hold high-level talks this hour inside that demilitarized zone. Now, the sides have been racing to end the standoff that took a frightening step Thursday when the North exchanged fire with the South over the heavily fortified DMZ area separating the two.

Joining us is CNN military analyst and retired Army Lieutenant General Mark Hertling, as well as Gordon Chang, columnist, also the author of "Nuclear Showdown: North Korea Takes on the World."

Gentlemen, so glad to have both of you with us.

Lieutenant General, I'd like to start with you, because we know that you participated in these annual joint military exercises between the U.S. and South Korea that really North Korea claims started this whole thing. They see it as a precursor to war, these drills. And we know that is the point of ongoing contention there. North Korea's regime is known for being thin-skinned, fond of saber rattling, let's say, and he made a lot of threats over there.

What do you see in this particular case that might feel different this time around? Because this kind of conflict between North and South is not unusual.

RET. GEN. MARK HERTLING (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, the most important thing, Christi, is this time around, there has been the actual maiming of South Korean soldiers and the potential for taking a live with artillery shoots. There has always been a propaganda war whenever the Ulchi series of exercises takes place. There's always things back and forth between the North and the South. But in this case, it actually resulted in two soldiers being wounded and more artillery falling in the South.

PAUL: So, Gordon, you say things are different for the U.S. this time around because of North Korea's relationship with China?

GORDON CHANG, FORTUNE.COM: Yes. Right now, we did not get up on the phone to call Beijing and say, please rein in your North Korean ally, because Kim Jong-un, starting in September of 2013, deliberately cut the civilian-to-civilian diplomatic contacts. And with the execution of a four-star general about five or six months ago, he has really made it clear that he wants to also cut the military-to-military ties between Beijing and Pyongyang. That means North Korea is on its own. We don't have the ability to influence China, to influence North Korea. That, of course, for us is a concern.

PAUL: And, Lieutenant General, there's a mystery here, isn't there, in Kim Jong-un. Is it more dangerous because he is more unknown than his father was?

HERTLING: Well, not only more unknown, although he is becoming more and more known throughout the world recently because of some of his very erratic action. But, Christi, he is young and he is somewhat inexperienced.

And when you put someone like that in a position where a lot of military leaders around him want to please him and he wants to prove himself, not only to his military leaders as being forceful, but also to the population as being someone who is contributing to the defense of North Korea and, again, the propaganda is always that the South and America are trying to attack the north. He might do some irrational things. It becomes a free floating electron here and we really don't have a history of knowing what he is going to do in a situation like this. So, that's the difference between what's occurring now and in the past.

PAUL: Well, Gordon, the thing that cannot be overlooked certainly is that North Korea is a nuclear-armed regime. Does the U.S., do you think, and U.S. allies have a good gauge of what the capabilities are of North Korea?

CHANG: Well, our assessments are certainly more optimistic than the Chinese, who believe that the North Koreans have a bigger arsenal. But it's not really the nukes that concern me so much. It's really the regime infighting in Pyongyang, where you have Kim Jong-un executing at least 85 senior officials since December 2011, probably killing 300 to 400 junior officials as well.

[07:20:04] And many of the people who have been executed have been generals, which means there really is a struggle between the Kim family and the Korean people's army. That can't be good in a situation like this. And that is this whole concept of a free floating electron, well, this is a real problem because we don't know what is going on in Pyongyang at this point, but we do know that it's deadly and that's not a good sign.

PAUL: Lieutenant General, we know that yesterday, there were 83 South Koreans in Pyongyang, attending a youth soccer event. We're talking about players and coaches. How troublesome is that in the midst of these talks?

HERTLING: Well, there are these exchanges going on all the time close to the border, where they are having youth go across and, in some cases, farmers going across to the north to farmland. So, it always becomes problematic when you have the population base from the other side going over. So, they could certainly become hostages in one way or another.

But that's not what the most troublesome thing is, and I think Mr. Chang brings it up very succinctly. If you're a North Korean general and you've seen all of -- many of your friends executed for maybe given bad advice, you're going to hesitate in terms of the advice that you're going to give the young great leaders too. So, again, this is isolation of a very young leader who is trying to gain the well and the popularity of his population, and it's very difficult, troublesome and also very dangerous.

PAUL: Hard to engage how what do or how he'll do it. Lieutenant General Mark Hertling and Gordon Chang, so appreciate your voices on this, gentlemen -- thank you.

HERTLING: Thank you, Christi.

CHANG: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: All right. We're going to take you to North Carolina, where a mistrial for a cop in the shooting death of a former college football player led to this. Take a look at the video. Protests there in the state. And they did get violent. We will give you an update on the conditions there.

Plus, wildfires spark a state of emergency in Washington. Why the government is now deploying soldiers to help douse those flames.


[07:25:36] PAUL: Yes, it got nasty. Two people in jail after a peaceful protest became violent. This was in Charlotte, North Carolina. Protesters were outrage that a jury could not reach a verdict on charges against Officer Randall Kerrick. He'd been charged in the shooting death of college football player John Farrell after a 2013 car wreck.

BLACKWELL: You know, this case became part of a national conversation about the killings of several was after the cases of several unarmed African-Americans by police officers. Now, Officer Randall Kerrick was on trial for that voluntary manslaughter allegedly using excessive force when he fatally shot Farrell 10 times. Kerrick said that he feared that his life was in danger and he had no choice but to fire after Farrell ran towards him.

The jury saw this video, this is dash cam video but the shooting, that occurred off camera.

PAUL: Yes, it doesn't sound good, does it? That's the reaction when the Dow Jones plunged 531 points yesterday. This is the worst weekly selloff since 2011. The U.S. joins European and Asian markets in really just a miserable week in stocks.

BLACKWELL: President Obama has approved an emergency declaration to grant more resources to the West Coast. You know, they are dealing with these wildfires.

Let's go to Washington state, where there, there are nearly 400,000 acres that have burned. Two hundred active duty soldiers are heading to fire line this morning and federal officials say they will not put the troops in dangerous, complex fire situations. We will have a live report from Washington, one of the hardest hit states here.

PAUL: You know, Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, they are drawing really significant crowds wherever they go. Thousands turn out to see the two candidates. So why is it that only -- that is only translating into top polling numbers for one of them?

Plus, the U.S. strikes ISIS. The terror group's number two, eliminated. What effect could this have on the fight against terror?


[07:31:28] PAUL: Thirty-one minutes past the hour right now.

Donald Trump drew a crowd of 30,000 supporters during a rally in Mobile, Alabama. Look at this.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Wow, wow, wow! Unbelievable. Unbelievable! Thank you.


PAUL: One city official called it the greatest event mobile has ever put on besides Mardi Gras.

In the meantime, during his stop, Trump spoke about recent controversy and his opponents and shared the spotlight with an Alabama lawmaker.

CNN's Ryan Nobles was there.

So, first of all, the 30,000 people that showed up? Do we know of those were all supporters of Trump. Were they people who are curiosity speakers? What was your take?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Christi, certainly there were people there just to see Donald Trump because he is a celebrity, maybe to gawk a little bit, but they were very positive.

And the lion's share of the people in this crowd yesterday had to be his supporters. I talked to many people here who said they view him as a serious candidate and they truly want him to be the next president of the United States. And you can't ignore this crowd that was here last night. This is the biggest rally that's been held to this point in the campaign for president. And keep in mind, we are more than a year away before voters go to the

polls in the general election. We are still several months away before even the first primary takes place. Now, it was a typical Trump rally, a long rambling speech at times, but very rowdy reception from the crowd that was listening to him.

One of the surprise moments of the night, though, was when Alabama's popular Senator Jeff Sessions came on to the stage. Now, Sessions has been a supporter of Donald Trump's plan for immigration. In fact, he helped Trump craft that plan for a certain degree.

Now, he stopped short of giving Trump his full endorsement, but he had many positive things to say about the candidate.


SEN. JEFF SESSIONS (R), ALABAMA: Donald, welcome to my hometown, Mobile, Alabama.

The American people, these people want somebody in the presidency who stands up for them, defends their interest and the laws and traditions of this country. We welcome you here. Thank you for the work you've put into the immigration issue. I'm really impressed with your plan. I know it will make a difference and this crowd shows a lot of people agree with that.


NOBLES: Sessions even out put on the make America great again hat for just a very brief moment while he was on stage. Now, as for Trump's speech itself, as he's done throughout this campaign, he did not back away from any of the controversial statements that he's made up upon this point. He talked about his term anchor baby. He made some really strong statements about like immigration, Obamacare and, of course, his signature issue on the campaign trail which has been jobs.


TRUMP: You look at Baltimore. You look at Ferguson. You look at St. Louis last night, over the last week.

You look at all of the things that are happening. We are sitting on powder kegs. There's no spirit. There's no jobs. There's no anything.

We are going to take this country. I am going to be the greatest jobs president that God ever created. I will tell you that. I will tell you.


[07:35:04] NOBLES: And Alabama has become a pretty popular state for Republicans, probably because it will now be an early primary state and they will vote with a group of southern states in march which will be very crucial, especially with so many candidates come in this field. In fact, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker will be here in Alabama tonight -- Christi.

PAUL: All right. Ryan Nobles, appreciate it very much. Thank you.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Let's talk more about Trump and the 2016 race with Democratic strategist Maria Cardona, along with Republican strategist Lisa Boothe.

Good to have both of you back.


MARIA CARDONA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Good morning to both of you.

BLACKWELL: Good morning to both of you.

So, Lisa, we heard Trump say he will be the best jobs president God ever created. He also talked about his book, "The Art of the Deal." But he said we will take the Bible over that. And started I know how Billy Graham feels.

How is this being received? He is opening up religion or is this being perceived as something else?

BOOTHE: Well, look, I think that Donald Trump, you know, obviously, has this bombastic personality that people respect because they, you know, are sort of over this political correctness.

But, look, here is the thing. Republicans have an incredibly deep bench right now. We have 16 other candidates that are running right now. So, look, I mean, I think the support we are seeing that is because of this distribution among those candidates.

But, look, Donald Trump should be talking about jobs. You look the latest poll numbers from CNN about President Obama's approval ratings, the majority of the country believes the country is heading on the wrong track. They disapprove of President Obama's handling of the economy, they disapprove of his handling of issues like terrorism. So, I think it's important for all Republicans to get out there, all 17 of them, and talk about jobs and the economy and talk -- differentiate their policies from the policies President Obama that have really failed the middle class.

BLACKWELL: And, Maria, let me asked something else to that. What we saw this week, the selloff on Wall Street, 530 points on Friday, and a lot of the concerns based on what is happening in China, the manipulation of the currency, their struggles there.

Is what we are seeing in the stock market there on the floor bolster the criticisms we have heard from Trump about China and really attract people to his message or do you think there will be any impact here?

CARDONA: Well, I think it actually does make people listen to him more about China because that is the one -- one of his big talking points in terms of criticism.

But I also think that it underlies the fact that his supporters aren't really listening to the details of any of his policies right now. And he is using incredibly offensive language. You know, Republicans love to call it un-PC language, but it is language that is offending key constituencies across the country.

And the problem for the Republican Party is that the more that he rises in the polls, the more that he is seen as the standard bearer of their party, the more it denigrates the Republican brand. And I've talked many times about this, that the eventual nominee, no matter who it is, is not going to be able to get to the White House if they don't attract at least 40 percent of the Hispanics vote, if they don't start putting -- if they don't start closing the gender gap and with somebody like Donald Trump at the top, there's no way that they're going to be able to do that.

BLACKWELL: Well, Lisa, it's not just Donald Trump. I mean, I think one of the terms Maria is referring to is the term "anchor babies" which has become part of the central narrative as of late, referring to children of non-U.S. citizens born here in the United States.

I want to listen to what Donald Trump said about that term yesterday and then talk on the other side.


TRUMP: When Jeb Bush -- when Jeb Bush, who is totally in favor of Common Core, weak on immigration, right? Very weak on immigration. Wants to let people come in. Although now he is using anchor baby. You know, he put out a memo, you cannot use anchor baby. Now because I used it, he's using it.


BLACKWELL: Now, let's put the memo aside. We know Jeb Bush defended his use of the term anchor baby. Lisa, the question to you, most of the rhetoric we are hearing, at least rhetorically from Jeb Bush is inclusive. Why commit to that term?

BOOTHE: Well, look, I find it a little bit hilarious that Maria is talking about eroding the Republican brand when Democrats' coronated nominee is facing a federal investigation.

BLACKWELL: Let's go back to the question, the question, Lisa. Let's go back t the question

BOOTHE: And the other candidate -- the other candidate is a self- avowed socialist --

BLACKWELL: Back to the question! Hold on, hold on.

Lisa, the question is --

BOOTHE: I will get to that.

BLACKWELL: -- why is Jeb committing to this term? BOOTHE: I will get to that but I think that is a little ironic there.

Look. What Donald Trump is bringing up talking about the ending of birthright citizenship is something that Harry Reid once supported. If you remember, Hillary Clinton once said she was adamantly against illegal immigration in this country.

[07:40:00] So, you know, look, I think what they are bringing up is the fact we do have a real problem in this country with illegal immigration. Just look at the border surge last summer that cost our country great deal financially and what Democrats want to do is conflate the two issues between illegal immigration and immigration.

We are seeing a problem with the illegal immigration in this country. Just look at sanctuary cities with the murder of that young girl in California and, most recently, in Ohio. So, we absolutely do have a problem with illegal immigration and it's important to talk about that subject.

BLACKWELL: But, Lisa, you know the numbers, you know the numbers. You know the numbers that George Bush got a larger percentage of Latino vote than McCain did, who got a larger percent than what Romney did. So, in order, to take back the White House is it defeating the cause by using a term so many find defensive?

BOOTHE: Well, Victor, let's look at polls and the top issues that Latinos care about in this country. They care about jobs and the economy. And going back to the survey, from the poll from CNN the other day showing that the majority of Americans, especially 58 percent of independents who believe, they disapprove of President Obama right now, they disapprove of his handling of the economy.

I think Republicans have a real opportunity to talk about creating opportunities for all Americans in this country, which is something that we have not seen from President Obama and we will not see from Hillary Clinton.

BLACKWELL: We got to wrap it there.

CARDONA: And all of that will fall flat to Latinos because of the offensive language that you're using. So --

BLACKWELL: Maria, Lisa, thank you both.

BOOTHE: No, that's all you want to talk about that because you don't have any ideas.

BLACKWELL: Thank you both.

BOOTHE: Thank you, Victor.

CARDONA: Thanks.


PAUL: I know we are going to commercial. I think they will still be debating during the break. Well, certainly. New this morning, want to let you know we learning Israeli plans to

attack Iran. Not just once, but several times. What caused Israeli to push the pause button on its plans?

Also, the U.S. is claiming it has taken out ISIS' number two man. So, what effect could that have on the fight against the terrorists? We're going to discuss all of it.

Stay close.


[07:45:35] BLACKWELL: Quarter until the top of the hour: new this morning, CNN is learning that Israeli leaders were making plans to attack Iran. Israeli media is reporting that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu drew up plans to strike Iranian military facilities in 2010, 2011 and 2012, but there was not enough support and the plans were nixed.

Oren Lieberman is in Jerusalem this morning for us with reaction over there.

Oren, what are you hearing over there? Because I'm sure the reaction is split?

OREN LIEBERMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, there is a lot of buzz on this report that comes from Israeli's Channel 2 and a lot of that buzz is also generated by the fact that during that time, that 2010 to 2012 time period here in Israeli, there was a feeling there could be a unilateral strike on Iran and on Iran's nuclear facilities and now, with this report we find out just how high level those conversations were.

Now, the strikes in 2010, 2011 and 2012 were nixed for different reasons. In 2010, it was because of the IDF chief of staff, the military chief of staff said the IDF doesn't have the operational capability to carry out a strike on Iran. One year later, same plan called off for different reason. Two high level ministers backed out of supporting the plan when they found out the risks and the potential loss of life.

One year later, same plan called off for a very different reason because the Israeli military and American military had a scheduled exercise which complicated trying to coordinate a unilaterally strike. Now, the IDF defense minister at the time tried to push back the exercise did, but it was still too complicated at that point to carry out a strike.

Of course, the question where did this come from? Again, this is Israeli's Channel 2, obtained recordings from Ehud Barak, who is the defense minister at the time, who would have had high level access and would have known of these plans. Barak says he supported the plans at the time. He tried to -- he opposed or tried to stop these recordings from coming out, but the censor here approved it, Victor, and that has generated quite a bit of buzz from these plans from just a few years ago. BLACKWELL: So, Oren, with that context, considering the Iran nuclear

deal that's on the table now, any indicators that there are plans in the works or that could possibly be plans ordered in the next short term, considering the opposition to this deal in Israeli?

LIEBERMAN: Well, the leaders I've spoken with, and certainly is pretty broad opposition to this deal. Leaders I've spoken with say that everything is on the table, all options are on the table and that, of course, they will tell you, includes a military option.

But the feeling is, and having spoken with analysts, they say now that this deal is on the table, a diplomatic deal, a military strike now is far less likely.

BLACKWELL: All right. Oren Lieberman there for us in Jerusalem for us -- thanks so much.

PAUL: We are continuing our coverage of the major attack aboard a European train that was thwarted. Three Americans being called heroes this morning for what they did. We have got new video from what happened inside that train. Stay close.


[07:52:09] PAUL: Fifty-two minutes past the hour.

A big win in the fight against ISIS. The White House issuing a statement that a U.S. drone strike killed a high-value target.

CNN's Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr has the details.


BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: ISIS' number two was killed this week in a U.S. drone strike near Mosul, Iraq, a stronghold of the terror group according to U.S. officials.

A senior U.S. official tells CNN the U.S. had, quote, "actionable intelligence" on this man, Haji Mutazz. It knew Mutazz was in a vehicle when a drone launched its missile.

Critical intelligence as the U.S. is trying to collect every scrap of information on ISIS leaders using overhead reconnaissance, eavesdropping and spies on the ground.

Haji Mutazz, a long-time deputy to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the ISIS leader. Mutazz oversaw ISIS operations across Iraq, and was a top financier.

The White House called Mutazz the primary coordinator for moving large amounts of weapons, explosives and people between Iraq and Syria. He planned the ISIS offensive that overtook Mosul in June of last year, Iraq's second largest city of nearly 2 million people, and was the so- called emir of Baghdad.

Barbara Starr, CNN, the Pentagon. (END VIDEOTAPE)

PAUL: So, let's talk more with CNN military analyst, retired Major General James "Spider" Marks.

General, thank you for being with us.

First of all, how significant is this elimination, so to speak?

MAJ. GEN. JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS (RET), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, it's very significant. It's another step, if you will, on the process of how the United States and coalition partners are going to try to contain ISIS. Look, this is a general engagement that we're part of so this very slow bleed on the part of ISIS done by the U.S. and coalition forces is absolutely a good strategy, and we're going to see more of this going forward. So, a very significant step.

PAUL: And what about the possibility they will be able to replace him quite seamlessly?

MARKS: Sure. Absolutely, Christi. I mean, look, this is an organization that's got some resilience to it as we have seen over the course of the last couple of years. It has morphed and changed. So, absolutely, somebody else's -- you know, there's a next man up. Somebody is going to step up, and this was a pretty capable guy. Wasn't he?

And if you look at Barbara's report, really significant. Operational experience on the ground, both as a military guy, a chief financier, he's into the economics and the commerce of ISIS and how it can sustain itself. So, this was a big guy who now is gone, but there will be others that will step up. No lack of desire, there maybe a reduction in terms of the skill sets they bring to the table, but there are more folks who will step up.

[07:55:02] PAUL: In relation to this air strike, the phrase that officials used, and this stood out to me and a lot of people I think, is they said actionable intelligence is what helped them locate Mutazz and kill him. How confident are you that the U.S. in progressing in their ability to obtain intelligence about ISIS specifically?

MARKS: Yes. You know, Christie, that is the defining factor in terms of the United States and its ability to go after ISIS with precision and achieving results. The intelligence is multi-modal. It involves signal intelligence. It involves human intelligence. You bring those together to create a picture.

And then, what we found in this case is that the information that became intelligence was potentially perishable, which means it was actionable. It's good. We've got it now. It's going to be irrelevant if we don't do something about it right now.

So, what that really tells you is the linkage between intelligence and our operational arms in order to achieve these results.

PAUL: All right. Retired Major General Spider Marks, so appreciate you. Thank you.

MARKS: Thanks, Christi.

BLACKWELL: We'll continue to follow new developments in that attack aboard a train in New York that was thwarted partially by three Americans on board. But there's a lot going on as you can see. We're going to have it all in your next hour of NEW DAY, that starts after the break.