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French Media: Suspect is Ayoub El Khazzani; North, South Korea Resume Talks Amid Tension, Biden's Last Minute Meeting with Rising Liberal Star. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired August 23, 2015 - 08:00   ET


CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: All right. It is just about 8:00, in case you haven't checked the clock lately.

[08:00:03] We are so grateful for your company. I'm Christi Paul.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Victor Blackwell. It's good to be with you.

PAUL: Let's talk about North Korea. We've learned this morning it's doubling its artillery forces on the front lines this morning, as both North and South Korea go back to the negotiating table. Can the two sides avoid a full scale military and we are monitoring close to the border there.

BLACKWELL: First, though, we are starting with the new details about the man accused of trying to attack passengers on a European train, but he was stopped by three Americans and a Briton. French media is identifying this man as Ayoub el Khazzani. He is now being interrogated by French anti-terror forces. Officials say he is likely linked to French ISIS fighters in Turkey, and now, they are trying to determine whether or not he received training in Syria.

Senior international correspondent Nic Robertson is following the story. He's live in Paris for us.

Nic, what are you learning about the investigation?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Sure. One of the things that they're concerned about here is, did he get training in Syria, or was he simply connected to or connecting with a French ISIS group that's now based in Turkey, that earlier this year had tried to convince a young Algerian student living here in France to attack a church. That attack was thwarted back in April by the police here.

But the concern is, is there a French ISIS group now operating in Turkey, redirecting people like Khazzani to come and attack in France. That's what they are working on. And now, apparently, according to local investigators, he has told investigators here that actually, he wasn't on the train for terrorism at all, he was there for robbery, and found the weapon in the park. But no one is buying that, because the track record from Spain to

France to Belgium, he associating with radical terrorists and he's been on the counterterrorism record here for some number of years, Victor.

BLACKWELL: And if they get some cooperation, considering these links, if they are indeed links that are accurate, he could be a wealth of information for the investigators there. But let's talk about the men on the train who prevented what many believe would have been a massacre.

ROBERTSON: Sure. Spencer Stone who was most badly injured there of the three young Americans, Air Force man, he was the first one to go in and tackle the attacker on the train. He got his thumb badly, badly cut and almost cut off, we are told, and he was in surgery yesterday in a clinic, a specialist hand clinic in northern France, but he was released later in the day as were his two friends Anthony Sadler and Alek Skarlatos who've been helping the police of investigation.

We were outside the police station in Northern France when they came out, driven in convoy back to Paris. As they came out, there was a round of applause from the people standing on the street outside, just average, if you will French people, but they are sort of a debt of gratitude here runs right from the street all of the way to the top here, Francois Hollande, the president, will meet and bring these young Americans into the presidential palace, the Elysee Palace, to meet with him Monday morning with the prime minister, and the foreign minister and the minister of transport.

This shows you how much people in France believe that these young men are heroes, because they interrupted and stopped what could have been absolute carnage on the train. So, right now, they are in Paris, and we don't know precisely what they are doing, but I think, we can be reasonably believed that they are being well taken care of and having a good time here.

BLACKWELL: Yes, I'm sure they have not paid for a drink or meal since they have left the police station there.

Nic, I want to ask you one other element as this investigation developed. We've known for sometime that ISIS fighters have gone through Turkey, an effort to get to Syria. But what's the significance of this growing concern of the use of Turkey as a base by some of these ISIS operatives?

ROBERTSON: It's massively significant, massively. And that absolutely cannot be understated. Look, I mean, initially the people, the assessment was that ISIS was taking all of the people from Europe and the United States as well, lead in them in the fight inside Syria, inside Iraq to grow its territory there, there was always the concern that ISIS would do what al Qaeda did, which is to turn fighters around, young men, coming from these normal western countries, to turn them around to go back to attack the countries.

If you remember, we are talking about a less than a decade ago, young men going to join the al Qaeda fight in Afghanistan. What happened? When they got to Pakistan, the border country, Pakistan, they could easily get into, al Qaeda picked them up and said, don't bother with Afghanistan, go home and attack at your own countries. That was the root of attacks in Britain and attempted attacks in the United States.

Now, you have the same situation apparently emerging with ISIS. They are not just taken people into the fight inside Iraq and Syria.

[08:05:00] In this country, Turkey, that is completely easy for anyone to get into, ISIS have people there who are now meeting the recruits saying, don't come and fight in Iraq and Syria, we just want you to be quiet and take a low profile and go back to the your own countries in Europe or the United States and perpetrate attacks there, and that is hugely worrying as we are have seen, if it is the case with this guy on the train, Victor.

BLACKWELL: All right. And we will learn as much as we can, and hopefully more soon from this investigation involving al Khazzani.

Nic Robertson in Paris for us -- Nic, thank you.

PAUL: And new this morning, we've learned three Americans killed in a suicide attack in Afghanistan, worked for the U.S. contractor DynCorp International. Police say a bomber blew up his car in front of a medical clinic in Kabul during yesterday's rush hour. They say a convoy carrying the U.S. contractors and Afghan citizens was indeed the target, and at least 12 people died in the attack and 66 other people were injured. The Taliban is denying are responsibility.

Let's talk about the developing story that we are following from the Korean Peninsula. North and South Korea seem to be flexing their military muscles. Pyongyang sending more artillery forces to the border with the south, an estimated 70 percent of their submarines unit also have left their bases, the south is taking its own precautions, calling back six of their fighter jets for military drills ahead of schedule. So, at this moment, we know that the high level officials are e negotiating in an attempt, we believe, to prevent an all-out war after the two sides traded fire on Thursday.

CNN military analyst, Lieutenant General Mark Hertling joining us.

So, General, when you hear about some of the buildup along the DMZ this morning by both sides, what did that tell you?

LT. GENERAL MARK HERTLING, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: It is typical, Christi. I think the artillery especially. But the North Koreans have a massive amount of artillery. In fact, that's their key doctrinal implication on how they fight. They're prepared to launch multiple raids and a lot of artillery into the south.

I don't think that's going to happen. I think the South Koreans have all of the military points pinpointed. Nothing like that would occur. But it's part of the provocation to deploy the forces. The thing that concerns me a little bit more, though, is the deployment of the submarines. North Korea has about a 700-ship navy. It's not modernized, but it's still a bunch of ships in the submarine ship classes. They have a total of 70 submarines and 20 of those are what we would consider when you think about a submarine, it looks like a submarine.

But the rest of them, the other 50 of them are smaller versions to include these small mini submarines that could wreak all kinds of havoc, and perhaps place people in the South Korean landing sites.

So, all of these are just disconcerting actions by a very erratic regime, and it's all part of the provocation. We don't know what's going on in Panmunjom, they've been talking for two days now. The question might be if you're not in the room, are they are trying to solve the current issue or is it more expansive? Are they looking at more things to approach?

So, all of this is under consideration as we watch these talks continue under this very erratic North Korean leader.

PAUL: Well, I want to ask you something that is being reported to CNN that the South Korean defense ministry official said, and I'm quoting here, "The joint forces between South Korea and the U.S. are putting the best responses forward to responding to this," referring to the build up.

Is there -- is there a predetermined goal or job for the U.S. if war breaks out?

HERTLING: Well, listen, Christy, this is the worst time possible for North Korea to do these types of actions, because as we have been reporting in the last few days, the South Koreans and the Americans and about ten other coalitions in South Korea are in the middle of this exercise Ulchi Freedom guardian, which is a yearly event. You have a lot of people are prepared to go to war right now, that's part of the provocation as well.

But I think the combined force in Korea is tracking all of this information. They're watching intelligence very closely. It is typical. It always occurs during these kinds of exercises that there is back and forth dialogue, and so, yes, I wouldn't be that concerned, the South Koreans and the Americans and the rest of the alliance in South Korea are very prepared for anything that the North might do.

PAUL: But what would the U.S. role be? Is there a predetermined role for the U.S.?

HERTLING: Well, we're a signatories to a treaty that if North Korea attacks the South, we would certainly fight alongside our South Korean and the rest of the allied coalitions. That's typical. We have close to 30,000 forces in Korea, that's not just ground, but it's also air.

[08:10:00] We provide a significant -- the 2nd infantry Division, a major force, is in Korea, and is partnering alongside and they interchange personnel. There are some rock soldiers in the U.S. division, there are some U.S. soldiers in the Republic of Korea unit. So, this is something that we practice a lot. Those soldiers know they are always in the middle of the conflict, this conflict has gone on for over 60 years. So, they are prepared to conduct any operations which would confront any sort of North Korean aggression, if it did come over the border.

But the more disconcerting piece is the number of civilians around the demilitarized zone. And Seoul, their capital of South Korea, has expanded significantly in the last few years, and it is now well within the artillery range, the outskirts of this urban sprawl is in artillery range of the north. That's the most concerning piece of this and the South Koreans have brought people out of that area.

PAUL: You're right. I was just about to say the same thing, that we have reports that some of the areas have already been evacuated.

General Hertling, always so good to have you with us. Thank you, sir.

HERTLING: Thank you, Christi.

BLACKWELL: All right. If you are paying close a attention to the 2016 race, this is the meeting that you are talking about and all of the political insiders are talking about it -- Vice President Joe Biden sit-down with Elizabeth Warren. Could this signal a presidential campaign, a run in the making?

And speaking of president, former President Jimmy Carter teaches Sunday school this morning for the first time since announcing details about his cancer diagnosis. We'll take you to his hometown of Plains, Georgia.


[08:15:23] BLACKWELL: All right. Let's start with the story that you saw first on CNN, a meeting that is fueling the speculations about a 2016 run by Vice President Joe Biden.

Sources say that Biden met privately with Senator Elizabeth Warren and this sit-down could be one of the more important consultations that the vice president makes before deciding if he's going to run.

We've got with us CNN political commentator Charles Blow with us to discuss.

Charles, good morning to you.


BLACKWELL: And I want to start with something you tweeted and you put out the story and tweeted, "Hmm, pinky on lips like Dr. Evil." I appreciate the good Austin Powers reference. So, let's start there. What do you make of this?

BLOW: I don't know what to make it. Everyone on the Democratic side wants Elizabeth Warren's blessing, and she is withholding it. I think last week, she said that, you know, there is no Democratic candidate has been anointed. Anointed was a very interesting phrase. Was that a dig at Hillary or making sure that people know that she has not necessarily lined up behind Hillary yet?

But, you know, Biden would need that actually. You need -- everybody on that side needs some sort of outsider enthusiasm. No one generates enthusiasm on the left like Elizabeth Warren, and when you look at the crowds like the ones that Bernie Sanders is getting, you want that kind of level of enthusiasm, because what is going to end up happening is that if you get Biden in the race with Hillary Clinton, that they will split the establishment support which is better for Bernie to win a couple more states if he is competitive in the states.

What I think that Democrats are worried about is, you know, whether or not Sanders, you know, even if you like him, could he even win, because of the way that the map is built with the swing south, and he does not have a lot of minority support, there's no way the do the South as it stands right now, but you have the Hillary Clinton and her issues, you know, kind of the e-mail issues --

BLACKWELL: The email problem, yes.

BLOW: -- and the scandals. And it reminds you that the Clintons have baggage. They are political survivors and no one can take that away from them, but there is always the baggage, and they are always fighting something.

BLACKWELL: Yes, there are a lot of people concerned.

Let me ask you specifically about the Clintons -- we know that Senator Warren met with Hillary Clinton in 2014 and it is clear that some of the views, they don't line up neatly.

Do they line up better when you put Biden next to Elizabeth Warren?

BLOW: You know, she is still much more liberal than Biden could ever claim to be, and her message is much more crystal.

What Biden is going to -- there is no way for Biden to escape the idea that he was part of the Obama administration. And so, if you are going to the support and vote for Joe Biden, you are specifically supporting and voting for an extension of the Obama administration. There is no way to get around that.

Hillary can offer some distance. You know, she was the secretary of state, but that is a non-political role, and in fact, they have completely stayed out of politics when you are the secretary of state. Biden did not have that much distance.

BLACKWELL: And the question is also, what is the safe distance politically that Vice President Biden will have to strike if he is going to run, because as you said, people will see him as a continuation of the Obama administration in some ways.

Charles Blow, we've got to wrap it up, because we are up against the clock.


BLACKWELL: But I appreciate the insight.

BLOW: My pleasure.

BLACKWELL: All right.

Jim Acosta is sitting in for Jake Tapper in "STATE OF THE UNION" today. They will be talking with presidential candidates Republican Ben Carson and Democrat Jim Webb. That's at 9:00 a.m. Eastern, right here on CNN.


PAUL: And you know what? Former President Jimmy Carter is teaching Sunday school since talking about his battle with cancer. We are going to take you to his hometown, next.


[08:23:23] PAUL: You know, Jimmy Carter has been teaching Sunday school since he was 18 years old, and he is teaching this morning despite his cancer diagnosis. And so, that means the routine is really becoming extraordinary today when the 90-year-old former president hold his weekly bible talks and this just three days after beginning treatment for cancer as well.

CNN's Nick Valencia is there with the very latest.

Nick, I am sure that you've been talking to people there. What are they saying this morning?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Good morning, Christi. We are here inside of the Maranatha Baptist Church here in Plains, Georgia, where hundreds are anticipated to attend Sunday church service with President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn Carter. We've been here for a few hours already, by 7:00 a.m., more than 150 people were lined up outside to get the best seats inside.

In fact, at 8:00 p.m., we met a man, last night I should say, we met a man named Ron White, a 59-year-old who had traveled from Columbia, South Carolina, with his wife for her 60th birthday and he said he was going to camp outside in order to be the first person in line. The church took a little bit of mercy on him and end him back to his hotel, and let him inside early this morning anyway.

But it just really speaks to what people are willing to go through as they tried to get their last glimpse, or what they may feel is their last glimpse or chance of seeing of President Carter. For the Carters this weekend at Plains, Georgia, it has been a celebratory weekend, even while President Carter goes through his cancer treatment. We saw him yesterday at his wife's 88th birthday party, with the people of Plains, Georgia.

And both the president and first lady were smiling, greeting people, probably more than 150 people were inside that auditorium yesterday for her birthday celebration.

[08:25:05] And for a man just a few days ago, as you mentioned, went through his first treatment of radiation. There was absolutely no indication that he was in pain, and he was smiling and really in high spirits -- Christi.

PAUL: I am so glad to hear that about Rosalynn, because I was thinking about her when I he made the announcement. They have been married for 69 year, I think he said. So, certainly, I think a lot of thoughts and prayers going to her as well.

Nick Valencia, thank you so much. And we'll be right back.


PAUL: Well, recovery teams are removing bodies from the scene of a crash at a military air show in Sussex, England. And authorities say there is, quote, "every possibility" that they're going to find more victims.

BLACKWELL: Seven people are confirmed dead after this vintage airplane crash unto a busy highway. That happened Saturday. The pilot somehow survived, but is critically injured. Now, today's session of the air show understandably has been canceled.

PAUL: And we'll keep you posted on what's happening with that. But we are so grateful, as we always say, for your company. It's true.

BLACKWELL: "STATE OF THE UNION" starts at the top of hour.