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Democrats Take Over Las Vegas; Ex-Benghazi Investigator: Panel Targeting Clinton; Iran: Test-Fire of New Missile a Success; Dozens Demonstrate at Turkey Bombing Site. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired October 11, 2015 - 07:00   ET


COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR: The Dodgers went on a four-run roll in that inning and would eventually win the game 5-2.

[07:00:08] Dodgers manager Don Mattingly supported his player and said he is just playing hard. A lot of people on social media saying this is dirty.

We want to know what you think. Use the #NewDayCNN and use @NewDay on Twitter and we're going to use your comments coming up.


WIRE: Crazy stuff.

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, thank you, Coy.

WIRE: All right.

BLACKWELL: All right. Looking ahead to Las Vegas. The Democrats are starting to take over the Strip. Just two days away from --

PAUL: Good point.

BLACKWELL: Yes. Just two days away from their first debate of the season. We are covering all of the angles.

PAUL: A part of the investigation. That claim from a former Republican staff member on the Benghazi committee. Now, Hillary Clinton's camp is firing back.

BLACKWELL: And nearly one year later, a new report says Cleveland police were justified in the shooting of Tamir Rice. But the family of the 12-year-old, they're not buying it.

PAUL: Good morning and happy Sunday to you. We are so grateful for your company as always. I'm Christi Paul.

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

Two days -- just two days until the first Democratic debate here on CNN for the five presidential hopefuls. The race for the White House runs through the bright lights of Las Vegas. Former Maryland Governor O'Malley and Bernie Sanders, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Lincoln Chafee and Jim Webb, they all take the stage on Tuesday night.

PAUL: Those candidates are hunkering down now, though. Honing in on their messages, preparing to stand out in front of a national audience.

We want to start our live coverage this week from Las Vegas with CNN senior White House Jim Acosta.

Jim, good morning to you. Set the scene for us, won't you?


We are inside the debate hall right now. If you're wondering why we got up so darn a early Las Vegas time to bring this to you, it's because this is your first chance to see inside the debate hall for the first Democratic debate on CNN and just over 48 hours from now. I'm standing right next to the podiums. Here they are.

This is, obviously, going to be Hillary Clinton's podium that I'm standing next to you right now. Bernie Sanders will be next to her, and then the other candidates next to them. As you mentioned, Lincoln Chafee, Martin O'Malley, Jim Webb.

We should mention, though, that there is another space if they want to add another candidate, hint, hint, Vice President Joe Biden. Of course, the vice president has not said whether or not he is running for president. But the rules are such that Vice President Biden could join this debate at the last minute if he decides to do that.

Let me show you the rest of the debate hall here. On the far side of the debate hall, you could see this giant screen behind me. It's not lit up right now, but that will be where Don Lemon who is helping host this debate, he'll be taking Facebook questions from people at home who want to ask questions of the candidates. This will be prescreened questions before the debate starts.

And right over there, this is where moderator Anderson Cooper and other questioners Dana Bash and Juan Carlos Lopez, they'll be seated here.

So, you know, the pieces of the puzzle are coming together guys. I've been to a number of these debates over the years. It is always cool when CNN puts on a show because they put on a big, big show and that is definitely the case here. You can see the video walls behind me. There's going to be a lot of bells and whistles for this debate.

Now, as for what these candidates are going to be talking about, I mean, this is the first Democratic debate, right? So this will be the first time that we hear Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton who are really going at each other, you know, when it comes to issues like the Iraq war, when it comes to issues like trade, Trans Pacific Partnership, that the president is trying to get through. There are differences of opinion here that are going to be flushed out on this debate stage.

And, of course, you're going to have people like Martin O'Malley, Lincoln Chafee, Jim Webb, all trying to vie for attention, trying to create a moment, if you will, where they can sort of distinguish themselves and perhaps gain some traction in this race, because as you know right now, those candidates have struggled to do that.

But, obviously, the big story I think of this campaign so far, besides Hillary Clinton and what she has had to go through to this point so far some struggles along the way, is Bernie Sanders. He's filling stadiums. He's filling arenas. He's seeing 10,000 people, 20,000 people along the way. It's been kind of incredible to see the self- described socialist senator from Vermont do so well in this campaign to far.

My colleague Sunlen Miller is -- Sunlen Serfaty, I should say, excuse me, Sunlen, I know you so long, I call you by your maiden name -- Sunlen is covering the Bernie Sanders campaign.

And from what I understand listening to all of your reports, Sunlen, it's been one heck of a ride so far?


You know, for Bernie Sanders, it really is about creating this image of momentum and energy heading into the debate stage on Tuesday. So, he held two big rallies over this weekend. He drew 13,000 in Tucson on Friday, 9,000 here last night in Boulder. And it was here at his last big rally before heading into the debate where he really telegraphed, tipped his hand a bit at the lines of attacks he is trying to ready for Hillary Clinton, reminding the voters, deviating from his stump speech, that it was he who voted against the Iraq war in 2002.

[07:05:13] This is going to be a big line of attack, it's clear. Here is more of what he told the crowd last night.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I didn't believe them and I voted against the war in Iraq.


In my view, a major military power, which is what we are, has got to do everything that he can to resolve international conflict without going to war.

SERFATY: Now, this is drawing, without mentioning her by name, a very clear contrast with Hillary Clinton. She voted for the war. She said later she regrets that vote.

But aides to Bernie Sanders say this is really part of his strategy going into the debate. He wants to drill down on the issues, really draw those clear distinctions between the two.

Now, at the same time, aides say he is preparing for all sorts of lines of attack against him. He is preparing and aides they say that he is ready to really defend himself. That said, don't expect any one-line zingers from Bernie Sanders. He says he wants to keep it focused on the policy -- Jim. ACOSTA: That's right, Sunlen. I guess the big question whether we

see these candidates go at each other. We have seen Bernie Sanders really not go after Hillary Clinton that hard in the run-up to this debate, but people like Martin O'Malley, the former Maryland governor, who has struggled to rise in the polls, he is looking for a moment like that where he can really go after these candidates and see if he can gain some traction in this race.

We won't see much of the candidates in the next 48 hours because they are in intense debate prep so far. But you can see the stage is almost set here. It is all starting to come together here in Las Vegas, and it is a big thrill being here. It's a lot of fun when you get inside this theater. You realize this is about to go on. The show is about to go on.

Hillary Clinton has a lot riding on this debate. Her first debate since way back in the 2008 campaign since she clashed with Barack Obama, so it will be some interesting political television to watch coming up on Tuesday night, guys.

PAUL: No doubt about it. You know where we will all be.

Jim Acosta, we appreciate it so much. Thank you, sir.

ACOSTA: That's right.

PAUL: And remember, you can watch the first Democratic debate Tuesday night, 8:30 eastern, only on CNN. We are going to have more on the debate from our political experts a little later in the hour as well.

Stay close for that.

BLACKWELL: Right. Staying with politics.

A CNN exclusive this morning, a former investigator is accusing the Benghazi Committee of targeting Hillary Clinton. Major Bradley Podliska says the Republican-led congressional panel is trying to derail her presidential bid. His claim comes days before the panel gets ready to hear Mrs. Clinton's testimony and nearly four months after he was fired from his job. You'll remember four Americans, including two U.S. diplomats, were killed in Benghazi, Libya, when militants attack the American diplomatic compound. That was September 11th, 2012.

Chris Frates has the details for us.

And, Chris, there are some who are asking, Chris, if this sudden revelation, coming just days before the debate, is politically motivated.


It is a politically explosive charge and it sure to resonate both the debate and on the campaign trail as Clinton runs for president. Major Bradley Podliska, an Air Force intelligence officer, says that after news broke earlier this year that Clinton used the private email server, the Republican-controlled committee set its sights almost exclusively on Clinton. Podliska says he was fired because as a committee investigator because he resisted pressure to focus on Clinton and because he took military leave. He says he plans to file a lawsuit over his firing and ask a court to give him back his job with back pay.

Podliska, a self-described conservative, tells CNN's Jake Tapper in an exclusively television interview that what was a broad probe into the attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi became a, quote, "partisan investigation".

Here's what he told Jake Tapper.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR, STATE OF THE UNION: What do you say to any viewers out there who think you might have an ax to grind, but you're only talking because you were fired?

BRADLEY PODLISKA, FORMER STAFFER, BENGHAZI COMMITTEE: As I said earlier, I have a conscience. There is wrongdoing here and I think it needs to stop. I do not want the investigation tor refocused back to its original purpose. The victims' families are owed the truth. Hillary Clinton has a lot of explaining to do.

We, however, did not need to shift resources to hyper-focus on Hillary Clinton. We didn't need to deemphasize and in some cases drop the investigation on different agencies and different organizations and different individuals.


[07:10:03] FRATES: A spokesman for the committee said in a statement that Podliska's claims are transparently false. Podliska, the statement said, was terminated for cause, including trying to put together a hit piece on administration officials, including Clinton. The statement said, quote, "Thus, directly contrary to his brand new assertion, the employee actually was terminated in part because he himself manifested improper partiality and animus in his investigative work" -- Victor.

BLACKWELL: All right. Chris Frates, of course, we will learn more about this today as we're going to catch Jake's entire interview on "STATE OF THE UNION". That's coming up this morning at 9:00 a.m. Eastern, right here on CNN.

And now, top Democrats are calling for the Benghazi commission -- that investigation rather to end. They have for sometime called it a sham.

And the Clinton campaign released this statement. "These are explosive allegations," they write. "This Republican whistle-blower's account from inside the Benghazi Committee may provide the most definitive proof to date that this taxpayer-funded investigation has been a partisan sham from the start."

Let's bring in CNN political commentator Marc Lamont Hill. Marc, good morning to you.

First, your reaction to what we are hearing from Bradley Podliska.

MARC LAMONT HILL, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I wish I could say that I was stunned by it. But this is fairly consistent what many of us have been saying for a long time now. That is, sure, we need information. We need a precise investigation but we need a nonpartisan investigation, not one that has essentially become a Hillary Clinton witch hunt.

A few weeks ago, the secretary of state expressed the same frustration. She said, hey, there's nothing wrong with investigating, but you've gotten your answers but this is purely about partisanship right now and that's a problem because as you said, it's taxpayer- funded project right now.

BLACKWELL: So, what do you say to those who questioned the timing, just a little too perfect, two days before the first Democratic debate, that this is a man who was fired from his job, those who -- with this committee say it was for a cause who criticize not only the message but the messenger.

HILL: Well, I would say two things.

One, that's entirely reasonable. He could be a disgruntled employee with an ax to grind, who has absolutely no merit to his claims. That could be true.

It's important for us therefore to investigate his claims, to figure that out. Plenty of disgruntled employees say things that they otherwise would not have said.

But the second thing I'd say is, it doesn't mean that it's not true. He could be doing it out of angry. He could be doing it out of pettiness. You know, he could be doing it out of scorn. It could still all be true.

And the timing of it is important. Yet, he might be leveraging the timing. He might be leveraging the power that he has right now so that people pay attention to it so that his employment demands can be met. But again, it doesn't mean what he is saying isn't true.

And we're not just relying on his claims. We are situating this against the backdrop of years of partisan attacks on Hillary Clinton. Some of them may be reasonable but a whole lot of them are not.

BLACKWELL: All right. Marc Lamont Hill, we've to cut this one short. We've got a breaking news this morning we got to get to. Thank you so much, Marc.

HILL: Pleasure.

PAUL: And we want to apprise you of what some of that breaking news is that we're following. Police and protesters clashing in Turkey as tear gas is used on anti-government protesters marching to remember the nearly one hundred who were killed just yesterday in twin bombings. We are live for you with the latest. Stay close.


[07:16:27] PAUL: New this morning: a potential development in Iran's closely watched weapons program. State-run media reporting Iran has successfully test-fired a new long-range ballistic missile. This is the country's first long-range missile that can be precision-guided until it reaches a target.

Earlier this year, the U.S. described Iran's missile program as a threat to the region.

And I want to get you some other breaking news as well that we're watching this morning.

We are following in Ankara, Turkey, nearly a hundred people who are holding a demonstration near the site of yesterday's twin bombings. The government has declared three days of mourning here. But 95 people were killed, 246 others wounded. The peace rally involved, among others, a pro-Kurdish group.

CNN senior international correspondent Arwa Damon is live from Ankara.

Arwa, what's happening on the ground there right now because as I understand it, there is more unrest this morning -- or has been.

ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Just to lay the scene for you as to where we are right now, though, inside behind us is that where the bodies are being autopsied and the vast majority of those who are here are waiting for their loved ones who perished in yesterday's attack, waiting to lay them to rest. There are also people have come in solidarity. This is a nation that is still reeling from the shock of what it was.

There are many people struggling to come to terms with their emotions and what it was that they witness and the losses they have suffered yesterday. But the backdrop of all of this too is that there have been demonstrations throughout the entire day, across the country, where angry crowds are gathering and blaming the government for the violence, saying that at the very least, the state had responsibility to try to protect the people. The sharpest critic, of course, is the leader of the pro-Kurdish opposition party.

The government, for its part, the prime minister coming out and saying that this was an attack on the state, trying to calm the situation down, calling for people to try to stay away from inflammatory rhetoric. But we're already seeing tensions rising. It's not something that is very surprising at this stage, because Turkey is very politically polarized.

But earlier in the day, in the morning when the leader of the pro- opposition Kurdish party and a number of other MPs tried to reach the scene of the attack to lay down red carnations they were stop by riot police. Scuffles broke out in the form of tear gas to try to break the nut. They were eventually let through. But that incident and other smaller incidents we are hearing about are

clear examples of the rising tensions, the fact that this was supposed to be a peace rally but ended up being the most devastating attack, single attack in Turkey's history. And now, the country is really trying to figure out how to navigate its own politics and its own polarization.

One of the women that we were talking to here perhaps put it best. She had it is most critical for Turkey at this stage to learn from what has just happened and to learn that it needs to stay united.

PAUL: Arwa Damon, thank you so much for bringing us the very latest from the region there. We appreciate it.

BLACKWELL: All right. Let's talk about this with CNN national security analyst Peter Bergen.

First, Peter, no claim of responsibility here. We had an analyst on earlier who said that this appears to have the markings of some internal clash within Turkey. Of course, there is a question of is. A day later, we talked about this yesterday, are there any indicators to you now of who is likely responsible for the attack yesterday?

PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: No, there aren't, Victor. We have seen other terror attacks in Turkey where there is no claim of responsibility, although sometimes an attribution by the government.

[07:20:03] There was an attack earlier this year on the border which the government attributed to ISIS, but ISIS didn't actually claim responsibility. So, in the absence of claim of responsibility and absence of forensic work by the government determining attribution, we don't have much and explains the discontent that Arwa was referring to in her report.

It was not clear if it was an attack by Kurdish separatists. It's no clear if it was an attack by ISIS, who are the two main potential suspects. And, of course, it could be just somebody else we are not thinking about, although it seems much more likely that it's the work of one of those groups.

BLACKWELL: Yes, so many questions there in Turkey as there is more unrest today. But I want to take a moment and ask you about the Iran missile test, the first missile test in more than a year and a half. Who was the intended audience for this? And what's the message to the Sunni neighbors there?

BERGEN: I think the intended -- Iran has tested all sorts of missiles and drones throughout recent years. And I think the message is sort of twofold.

First of all, the nuclear deal will not prevent them from going forward with, you know, doing these kind of missile tests on more sophisticated missiles. The intended audiences, you know, Israeli, the Gulf neighbors, as you refer to them, and the world at large, which is that the nuclear deal is not going to prevent Iran from developing the kind of missiles that makes it a major regional player and prevented by the sanctions regime creating missiles available to carry nuclear warheads and we don't know much about the missile test yet because the regime has not said exactly the range of these missiles or the precise capabilities.

But it would obviously be in contravention of U.S. sanctions if this missile was capable of carrying nuclear missiles, Victor.

BLACKWELL: Yes, and some of the very specific details. We may not know.

Peter Bergen, thanks so much for being with us this morning.

BERGEN: Thank you.


PAUL: And the violence seems to be amping up around Israeli and Gaza -- car bombs, missile attacks, several killed, and a police officer injured. What is behind this new wave of violence? We're going to talk about that.

Also, it was a tragic accident. Dozens of doctors and patients killed during an air strike by American war planes. Now, the U.S. has a plane -- a plan I should say to help the families of the wounded and killed.


[07:26:07] PAUL: Twenty-six minutes past the hour.

A significant development in the case of accused army deserter, Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl. The officer who oversaw Bergdahl's hearing last month recommends he not do any jail time and also recommending the lowest level of disciplinary action. Remember, this is just a recommendation. Bergdahl went AWOL from his Army unit in Afghanistan in 2009 and was captured by the Taliban.

BLACKWELL: The Pentagon will play injured victims and families of those killed in the U.S. airstrike against the Doctors Without Borders hospital. The amount of the payment, that's not yet been decided. The strike in Afghanistan's embattled city of Kunduz killed 22 people, 37 others were wounded. President Obama apologized for the strike earlier this week.

PAUL: And aviation officials have issued safety alerts to airlines flying over Iran, Iraq, and the Caspian Sea. This is after Russia says that it fired long range cruise missiles from the Caspian Sea against Syrian targets. Nearly a thousand miles away.

Well, an online airline tracking service says some airlines have shifted their planes to fly over Egypt and Syria rather than Iran now.

BLACKWELL: The sister-in-law of Martin Luther King Jr. says she holds no ill will against two people who tried to carjack her. Naomi King was attacked Friday afternoon outside her retirement home in Atlanta. Police say one of the suspects hit her in the mouth when she refused to get out of the car. She is 83 years old. She suffered minor injuries. No one has been arrested.

PAUL: Goodness.

Well, Bernie Sanders seems to be ride ago wave of momentum going into Tuesday's Democratic debate, while Hillary Clinton, some say may find the road to Las Vegas a bit more rocky than she expected. But there is your picture of what is to come on Tuesday and we are taking a look ahead with you.

BLACKWELL: Also ahead, the family of Tamir Rice with strong words against two reports that back the Cleveland police officers responsible for killing their 12-year-old son.