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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Day of Mourning in Beirut After Suicide Blasts; Report: Several People Killed in Paris Shooting; Interview With California Congressman Adam Schiff; Trump Tirade; Supreme Court to Hear Abortion Case; Jihadi John Killed?. Aired 4-4:30p ET
Aired November 13, 2015 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: If Jihadi John ever wondered if there was any place that got hotter than Syria in the summer, well, he might have gotten his answer by now.
THE LEAD starts right now.
Is in retreat from a key Iraqi city, as the Pentagon says it is almost certain a missile incinerated the human animal known as Jihadi John, the masked ISIS terrorist with American blood on his hands and his knife.
Trumpnado, his stunning, relentless tirade and blistering attack on Dr. Ben Carson among others. The speech clocked in longer than some feature films. Did the race just change again?
Plus, some breaking news, the U.S. Supreme Court about to leap into the national debate over abortion for the first time in eight years. A decision could come in the thick of the 2016 presidential race.
Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.
Some major developments in the last 24 hours in the war against ISIS to catch you up to speed on. Jihadi John, the stone-cold killer and coward who from behind a mask is seen in those barbaric ISIS beheading videos, is now suspected dead, killed in a U.S. drone strike. And now we're learning exactly how the U.S. carried out that airstrike near Raqqa, Syria, targeting the English-speaking star of the sick propaganda videos.
Also, today in Eastern Syria, the U.S. is destroying a main revenue stream for ISIS, the oil fields in Syria that the terrorist group has seized. In Northern Iraq, Kurdish troops claiming victory and control of a key Iraqi city situated between other ISIS-controlled towns, and a big question lingering in Beirut, Lebanon. Was it truly ISIS behind those brutal twin bombings, killing 43 people and wounding hundreds more in a busy marketplace yesterday?
We begin, of course, with new information on the airstrike on Jihadi John.
CNN's Jim Sciutto joins me now. Jim, walk us through how your sources are saying this strike went
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: This appears to be -- been a pretty remarkable intelligence operation. The U.S. had Jihadi John under continuous surveillance from the air for some 36 hours, following his every move on a series of stops around Raqqa, Syria, that is the ISIS stronghold, until they had what the U.S. said is confident now a successful strike from a drone.
And Jihadi John, just to be clear, not just a public face of the terror group. He was an operational leader too, in the words of one official, a very active terrorist.
MOHAMMED EMWAZI, ISIS: You now have 72 hours.
SCIUTTO (voice-over): He's been one of the most haunting voices and brutal killers in all of ISIS.
EMWAZI: It's only right we continue to strike the necks of your people.
SCIUTTO: And now it appears that Jihadi John's reign of terror is over. Tonight, the U.S. military says it is confident that a drone strike in Raqqa, Syria, killed the British born Mohammed Emwazi.
COL. STEVE WARREN, U.S. SPOKESMAN FOR OPERATION AGAINST ISIS: This guy was a human animal. And killing him is probably making the world a little bit better place.
SCIUTTO: CNN has learned that the U.S. had been secretly tracking the infamous ISIS front man in Raqqa for several days, using three MQ-9 Reaper drones, American and British, like this one, to track his movements and listen in on his conversations.
By Wednesday, the intelligence was firm, and the mission was a go. After zeroing in on him in Raqqa, the U.S. watched as he walked out of a building and got into a vehicle. Three drones overhead fired two missiles into the vehicle, killing the man believed to be Jihadi John.
JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Certainly, the role that Mr. Emwazi has played in radicalizing individuals around the world and inspiring individuals to join their cause made him a threat not just to the region, but to countries around the world.
SCIUTTO: If confirmed, the strike would be a significant intelligence victory in a country where, until recently, the U.S. had thin intelligence assets. However, recent operations have killed three senior ISIS leaders, Abu Sayyaf in a special forces raid, recruiter Junaid Hussain in an airstrike, and now apparently Jihadi John.
COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON (RET.), U.S. AIR FORCE: There will always be somebody to take these people's place. And, yes, we should go after them, but we also have to realize that they're going to regenerate their leadership cadre and they're going to bring people in that we have never heard of before. Then the process starts over again.
SCIUTTO: Syria is what the intelligence community refers to as a hard target, not a lot of intelligence assets on the ground for the U.S., but they do still have a great deal of capability, surveillance from the air, drones, satellites, intercepted communications.
We saw both of them in action here, the latest in a series of successful strikes against high-value targets. You have seen that in Syria. You have seen it in places like Yemen, again, another hard target. Of course, the question is, what effect does this have on the operational capability of a group like ISIS?
TAPPER: Fascinating. Jim Sciutto, thanks so much.
Joining me to discuss this all is Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff. He's the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee.
Congressman, thanks so much for being here.
Let me ask you, just how confident are U.S. officials that Jihadi John was in fact killed, when there are not U.S. troops gathering DNA and testing it out?
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: Certainly sounds like, from the statement -- the Defense Department statements, that they're pretty confident.
They usually won't come out this early this hard unless they have a lot of certainty. But, again, that's going to be based on what we can see from the air. It's going to be based on our signals intelligence. We won't be able to gather DNA. And so we will be looking now to see what the militants are saying among themselves.
But you have to be careful even there, because we have been thrown off before, where they have falsely staged a death when we missed the target. So it will probably be some time, maybe even weeks, before we're sure.
TAPPER: And Jim said this is not just a symbolic victory in terms of Jihadi John being the face, even though he cowardly hid his face, of ISIS, but that he actually had some operational responsibility; is that right?
SCHIFF: You know, we're still trying to determine exactly what his role was, apart from being this mouthpiece to Western audiences.
But, plainly, he was a great resource for ISIS. He understood the West. He understood the culture of the West. He helped in the recruiting. So, in that sense, this is broader than just taking out one symbolic target.
Nonetheless, I don't think any of us expect it will have a real operational impact. Probably, the more significant event of the week was the operation still ongoing in Sinjar. That could cut off that road from Raqqa out to Mosul that could have a real tactical significance and be a much more serious setback to ISIS.
TAPPER: Let's talk about Sinjar right now. Stay right there, Congressman. We want to talk specifically about how -- this key city where Kurdish forces claimed to have liberated an ISIS stronghold after just two days of intense fighting.
This morning, Kurdish Peshmerga troops proudly raising their flag over that city, Sinjar, which had been held by the terrorist group for more than a year.
CNN senior international correspondent Nick Paton Walsh is embedded with Kurdish forces on the front lines near Sinjar. He joins us now live.
Nick, what are you seeing on the ground there?
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it has been a remarkably swift move by the Peshmerga to take their city. It started yesterday. We saw moving to the east and western flanks to cut that road off the congressman was just talking about there.
But, today, they moved in from the north straight into the city center, hundreds of them on foot, in fact, meeting initially heavy resistance, a lot of automatic gunfire as they moved in there, but that slowly turned into it seemed ISIS melting away and leaving in their wake a remarkable number of booby traps, roadside bombs, in fact even tunnels dug under some of the roads linked up to explosive devices.
A fear that maybe ISIS fighters had disguised themselves as Peshmerga and gone literally underground. In fact, we were there with Peshmerga. They said an ISIS sniper fired over their heads. We heard that round move. The Peshmerga fired back. They have two injuries in their ranks. Still deeply volatile inside that city, but it's definitely in Peshmerga hands now. No doubt about that.
Very little to live off, though, barely a building that hasn't been damaged, rendered unusable by the violence wrought upon the city, and those mines too mean the time when the Yazidis who once lived there can actually come back is still distant, but all the same, the Peshmerga are in control.
They have torn huge trenches and laid big earth berms across that main Route 47 between Raqqa and Mosul. No one's going to be using that in the foreseeable future without their permission, so at least one strategic goal accomplished, and the symbolic fact of over 24-hours- long this offensive has kicked ISIS out of an important city for them.
TAPPER: Nick Paton Walsh, thanks so much for your great reporting. Please stay safe.
Congressman Schiff, ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, President Obama said in an interview with ABC News that ISIS has been -- quote -- "contained in Iraq and Syria," contained and is not gaining strength.
How can the president say that, considering the fact that we see ISIS expanding in Egypt and now maybe even in Lebanon?
SCHIFF: Well, I think the president was probably referring to the stalemated battlefield within Iraq and Syria. ISIS isn't really for the most part broadening its reach there. It's not capturing any major cities.
You do see this dynamic where the Peshmerga will capture Sinjar back, and yet ISIS in Syria may capture a few small towns. Frankly, they were given a boost by the Russians going in and bombing some of the other forces. That gave them leeway, but, nonetheless, not much movement. They are largely contained within that battlefield.
But, certainly, outside of Iraq and Syria, they're not the least bit contained. We see their growth in places like Afghanistan. We have deep worries about Libya, where if we're not careful you could see ISIS controlling a large part of territory some time down the road.
So, Egypt in the Sinai, as you point out, the bombing in Beirut, they're very much growing and continue to recruit people around the world.
TAPPER: So, contained except for where they're not contained.
But let's move onto the new coalition campaign, the airstrikes against the ISIS-controlled oil fields in Syria. Why now? Why do that now?
SCHIFF: I think the administration has been wanting to take more aggressive action to go against ISIS finances.
The challenge here is that you only have so many targets without the risk of civilian casualties. We could decimate pretty much all the oil revenues if we wanted to, but that would require not only going after these massive facilities, but going after the distribution network of these small trucks that they use to transport fuel.
And there is a real risk of civilian casualties. So, this may be a greater willingness to risk that to cut off these finances, an appreciation the fact that because the battlefield there is stalemated, they have to do something to break that stalemate.
TAPPER: If -- assuming that the Kurdish hold on Sinjar remains and there isn't some big ISIS counterattack in the next few days, is the U.S. and are the Kurds preparing to launch a campaign to retake Mosul?
SCHIFF: I don't think that's going on now.
And I don't think it's within the capacity of the Peshmerga, as well- trained as they are, to go and take Mosul. The big challenge there is who's going to hold the place. And, here, it's not sufficient to have the Peshmerga forces or American forces go into Mosul. You need Sunnis who are willing to hold onto Mosul. And the Sunnis right now are faced with an awful choice of being part
of ISIS or being part of what they consider to be a Tehran-led Shia government out of Baghdad. We have to work with the Iraqis to give them another alternative. The Iraqis have not been willing to do that. And until they do, I think taking Mosul is going to be impossible.
TAPPER: Congressman Adam Schiff, always a pleasure. Thank you so much for your time. I appreciate it.
SCHIFF: Thank you.
TAPPER: ISIS claiming responsibility for that deadly double bombing that left more than 40 dead and hundreds wounded. And now another terrorist group is vowing retaliation against ISIS. We will go live to Beirut next.
[16:16:46] JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to THE LEAD. Continuing with our world lead, ISIS terrorists taking responsibility for even more deadly violence. It was a somber day of mourning in Beirut, Lebanon, today as families defiantly filled the streets to say good-bye to their loved ones.
Killed in twin suicide bombings yesterday, at least 43 people were killed, more than 200 were wounded.
CNN's senior international correspondent Clarissa Ward is in Beirut. She visited the blast site earlier today.
CLARISSA WARD, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is the scene where that second suicide bomber detonated his explosive vest. More than 40 people were killed, and more than 200 injured. And if you walk around here, you can see the streets here are still covered with broken glass and the blood of all the people who were killed and injured in this attack.
Now, ISIS is claiming responsibility. They say because this is a Shiite Muslim neighborhood. And most of the people living here support Hezbollah. And actually if you look at these yellow flags around this neighborhood, these are the flags of Hezbollah. And Hezbollah has been fighting with the regime of Bashar al Assad inside Syria in that country's civil war.
TAPPER: And Clarissa joins me now live.
Clarissa, what's the mood in Beirut tonight?
WARD: Well, Jake, you know, the mood is somber. But I would also say there's a great deal of anxiety. This is the first time in nearly two years that we've seen an attack of this magnitude here inside Lebanon. And beyond that this is really the first time we've seen ISIS claiming responsibility so stridently for such a bloody attack.
And if you look at the language that ISIS used, Jake, in their claim of responsibility, they weren't making demands. They weren't saying you must do this and then we'll do that. They were just basically declaring war. They were saying we will continue to attack these Shiite neighborhoods wherever we find them as long as this continues.
There was no sense of if you do this we'll back off, no give and take. So people here in Lebanon, you know, they've been through their sectarian problems over the years. Had a long, long civil war, more than a decade long here. So there's a great deal of apprehension that Lebanon could be going down that road again.
TAPPER: And, Clarissa, Lebanon as you mentioned, it's a stronghold of Hezbollah, it's a political party also considered by the U.S. to be a terrorist group. How is Hezbollah vowing to respond to ISIS?
WARD: Well, this is again what is fueling people's fears here, Jake. Hezbollah is showing no signs of saying, OK, let's pull back from the brink or let's talk about this or let's try to avert, you know, further violence. In fact, they're saying, and I quote, "Brace yourself for a long war". And that has many people here deeply concerned.
What you're seeing across this region, Jake, really is ISIS trying to capitalize on countries that are already racked and plagued by sectarian divisions and fan the flames of that sectarian hatred with the hopes of creating chaos that they can then exploit.
TAPPER: Clarissa Ward, live in Beirut, Lebanon -- stay safe. Great reporting, thank you.
In our politics lead, Donald Trump takes it up a notch even by Trump standards.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[16:20:02] DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: How stupid are the people of Iowa? How stupid are the people of the country to believe this crap?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Trump's full takedown of Ben Carson and his profanity-laced tirade about ISIS, coming up next.
Plus, Dr. Ben Carson making his own headlines today saying his sources might be better than the White House's when it comes to Syria.
ANNNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
TAPPER: Welcome back. We have some breaking news for you out of Paris, France. [16:25:04] Several people have been killed and seven others injured physical following a shooting in central Paris late Friday, according to CNN affiliate BFMTV. Police are at the scene outside a restaurant where the incident took place, at least in one of the locations that's been identified.
A witness told BFMTV that firefighters are also on the scene to treat the injured. We are going to follow this story -- actually, we are going to go now to Paul Cruickshank, our terrorism analyst, to talk about what we know.
Paul, are you there?
PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Yes, hey, Jake.
This is obviously very early stages here. This is a developing, fast moving situation in Paris. There are reports of a shooting at a restaurant in the 10th arrondissement. And there are also unconfirmed reports of explosions at the national football stadium in Paris as well. Unconfirmed reports that President Hollande of France being evacuated because of all this from that area.
I was speaking to one French national security reporter. You can imagine the moment they're sort of racing to get information. The worry at this very early hour is that this may be some kind of terrorist event, but it's at a very, very early hour here. But the worry is that there may be something coordinated going on right now in Paris.
I have to emphasize, again, we really do not yet know what is going on whether this is some kind of terrorism event or there is some other explanation for these early reports coming in from Paris, Jake.
TAPPER: Paul Cruickshank, our terrorism analyst with this breaking news story that we're getting out of Paris, France, about an incident, a shootout leaving some people dead, at least ten wounded. Is there anything you can tell us about the location of this event in the restaurant and also in the stadium that you referred to as possibly being the location of some other event?
CRUICKSHANK: Well, the reports are that there was a soccer game going on France, Germany, that several reporters have been tweeting out that they heard explosions outside the stadium. Some reporting suggesting perhaps a grenade was thrown.
But around the same time, these two different events happening with casualties reported in both cases. That leads to a lot of concern that there could be some kind of terrorist event here. But we do not know that at this point. It's very, very early in terms of gathering information on this, Jake.
French national security reporters here are racing to get information. Do not exactly know what is going on yet. I think the French authorities are trying to grapple with this as well right now trying to figure out what's going on. Will there be more events in other parts of Paris? Of course, everybody thinks back to those terrible days in January
when there were those attacks on the "Charlie Hebdo" satirical magazine, also attacks as well on a kosher in Paris some days later, and the killing of a French policewoman as well -- those were coordinated strikes between two brothers, the Kouachi and Amedy Coulibaly who was doing it on the behalf of ISIS, Jake.
TAPPER: All right. Paul Cruickshank, I'll let you work your sources right now while we catch up and talk about this with our national security correspondent Jim Sciutto, who joins me live in studio.
And, Paul references the "Charlie Hebdo" shootings in which 11 people were killed, another 11 wounded. The killing by the Coulibaly brothers of the French policewoman and then, of course, the other is dent in the kosher supermarket where five were killed, 11 were wounded. I think what is so striking is that shootings are rather rare in France.
And that is why something like this happens, people immediately suspect that it might be terrorism as opposed to the United States where there are tens of thousands of homicides and suicides and another accidental death due to firearms.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: So, listen, there are parallels here. In fact, we don't know the cause behind it yet. So, as you and I know well, we have to be careful.
But you do have -- as Paul said, you have attacks at roughly at the same time at two different locations. One a restaurant, one a bar outside of France, which is their national stadium, where you have this France-Germany match. That at least is a parallel to past attacks we've seen. But, again, no information. I have reached out to U.S. counterterror officials. They were appear of the reports and they are checking now to see whether they get any information from their partners about what French authorities believe.
But some background here when we talk about "Charlie Hebdo" and the possibility which is all this is right now, that this is somehow related to terrorism. When we compare the scale of the problem to what we face here in the U.S., and what countries in Europe, particularly a country like France faces, I mean, we're talking about an order of magnitude different.