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Sanders Apologizes To Clinton For Data Breach; Democrats Blast Trump At Debate; Clinton On ISIS Fight: We Are Where We Need To Be. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired December 20, 2015 - 06:00   ET




VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to everyone here. I'm Victor Blackwell. Good to be with you.

AMARA WALKER, CNN GUEST ANCHOR: Thanks for being with us. I'm Amara Walker in for Christi Paul.

BLACKWELL: Bernie Sanders is apologizing to Hillary Clinton and all of his supporters. And this morning, he is staying true to his word. Breaking overnight, the Bernie Sanders campaign has suspended two more staffers amid the ongoing investigation into their campaigns, a DNC data breach.

Sanders' campaign manager believed that as many as half a dozen staffers could have been involved in wrongly accessing voter data from the Hillary Clinton campaign. All of these controversy amping up the drama going into the final Democratic debate of the year.

WALKER: Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton came face-to-face for the first time since that dispute over a breach of voter files exploded. The topic came up moments into the debate, really right off the top of the debate. The Vermont senator wasted no time apologizing on behalf of his campaign.

CNN's Athena Jones shows us the most compelling moments from the debate in Manchester, New Hampshire -- Athena.

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Victor and Amara. The debate kicked off with a question about the very issue we spent the last couple of days talking about, this dustup over the Democratic National Committee's voter database after the Sanders campaign admitted that staffers inappropriately accessed Clinton campaign data.

Sanders explained what happened and then was asked if he owed Clinton and apology. Take a listen to what Sanders had to say to that and Clinton's response.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Secretary Clinton, do you accept?

SANDERS: No. Not only -- not only do I apologize to Secretary Clinton, and I hope we can work together on an independent investigation from day one. I want to apologize to my supporters. This is not the type of campaign that we run and if I find anybody else involved in this, they will also be fired.

HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Now that I think, you know, we have resolved your data, we have agreed on an independent inquiry, we should move on, because I don't think the American people are all that interested in this. I think they are more interested in what we have to say about all of the big issues facing us.


JONES: Clinton accepting Sanders' apology and saying they should move on to other issues, echoes Sanders in that first debate saying Americans are tired of hearing about Clinton's e-mails. So that was an interesting moment that seemed to diffuse that issue, at least on the candidate level.

Another important theme that emerged during the debate was this divide between Sanders and Clinton over America's intervention in overseas conflicts.

Sanders said that Clinton was more of a proponent of regime change than he is and argued that the U.S. doesn't have to be the policemen of the world and that divide echoes what we have seen also on the Republican side among candidates like Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio and Donald Trump.

Trump, in fact, was used almost that exact same terminology saying the U.S. doesn't have to be the policemen of the world. And speaking of Donald Trump, he was mentioned over and over again in the debate and he is the only GOP candidate to be mentioned by name. Back to you guys.

BLACKWELL: All right, Athena, thank you so much. Joining us now is CNN politics senior reporter, Stephen Collinson. Let's talk with the apology from Sanders and the acceptance of that apology by Hillary Clinton. Is this over or at least fading as a primary issue?

STEPHEN COLLINSON, CNN POLITICS SENIOR REPORTER: I think, Victor, it's suddenly fading. The political impact of it is fading and we don't know what is going to happen with this investigation. As you said, another couple of Sanders' employees have been suspended pending that investigation.

[06:05:02]I think what it shows us is that Hillary Clinton has no political incentive to wage this with Bernie Sanders in public and doesn't want to do anything to enrage Bernie Sanders supporters and give him more momentum into this race as we head into the first vote, seven weeks or so away.

So I think smart politics for Hillary Clinton to get on with the issues and animating the Democratic base. BLACKWELL: Speaking of animating the Democratic base, one man is doing that. We heard his name over and over. Watch.


CLINTON: I worry greatly that the rhetoric coming from the Republicans, particularly Donald Trump --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fascist pleas of billionaires with big mouths.

SANDERS: Somebody like Trump comes along and says I know the answers! The answer is that all of the Mexicans, they are criminals and rapists.

CLINTON: He is becoming ISIS's best recruiter.


BLACKWELL: Fascist and big-mouth billionaire and ISIS's biggest recruiter, Democrats have clearly identified their target and his name is Donald Trump.

COLLINSON: Exactly. As Athena said, no other name of any other Republican presidential candidate was mentioned in the debate. What I think Hillary Clinton was trying to do is portray Donald Trump as a spokesman for all Republicans.

And even if he is not the nominee and she has to go up against somebody else, assuming she wins the Democratic nomination, she will try and paint the Republican Party as the party of Donald Trump trying to win over centrist moderate voters might find his statements troubling.

At one point, Hillary Clinton said that ISIS had used videos of Donald Trump to recruit supporters. The CNN reality check team looked into that. They couldn't find any specific evidence of that.

But it's clear and experts would support the view that the kind of anti-Muslim rhetoric that Donald Trump has been indulging within this campaign plays into radical groups in the Middle East are at war with the civil war with the United States.

BLACKWELL: We are going to have DNC Chairwoman Congresswoman Debbie Wassermann-Schultz on the show later. We'll ask her about that claim that ISIS is showing the videos of Trump and using it as a recruiting tool.

But for this moment, what is the residual effect, if there is any, on the GOP primary now that we see that the only candidate named in the Democratic primary debate is Donald Trump?

COLLINSON: I'm sure you'll see Donald Trump as he comes out on the political shows today saying that this just proves that the Democrats fear him more than any other candidate and that is he the legitimate frontrunner. And it will play into the feelings of some in the GOP and hierarchy that Donald Trump is damaging the brand of the party whether he wins the nomination or not.

So I think in some ways Democrats believe that Donald Trump is a gift to them and Donald Trump will see this focus on him on the Democratic debate as a validation of his own campaign, I think.

BLACKWELL: All right, Stephen Collinson, always good to have with us.

A lot more coming up on last night's democratic debate including CNN's fact check, checking on everything the Democrats said on guns and Wall Street, the war on terror. We will be sharing those with you throughout the morning so be with us for that.

WALKER: In the meantime, they are back. Overnight, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler revived their classic Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin characters on "Saturday Night Live." Take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can we focus? Because I'm running for president again and I'm getting advice from the smartest woman I know.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Geez, I should be giving you advice because in 2008 I got closer to the White House than this gal did. Here is my advice. You got to do what you believe in your spirit, but also, America.

But not teachers and their fat liberal books, but also, an even why worry about fast food wages with their status quo, which is another Latin word, status quo. Meanwhile, Americans are being taken for a ride and only the man can only ride you when your back is bent, so!


WALKER: She is so spot-on. We will have more funny moments from "SNL" later in the show.

BLACKWELL: Yes. I'm glad that -- they got a new movie out together. Tina Fey and Amy Poehler are so good together.

Still to come, major moves to overseas. Turkey closes troops in Iraq after massive protests make it clear they are not welcome.

WALKER: Also terrorism, a top concern of Americans right now. The Democratic presidential candidates tell how they would fight ISIS and keep America safe.


CLINTON: They want American troops back in the Middle East. They want American soldiers on the ground fighting them, giving them many more targets and giving them a great recruiting opportunity.




CLINTON: We also need to make sure that the really discriminatory messages that Trump is sending around the world don't fall on receptive ears. He is becoming ISIS's best recruiter. They are going to people showing videos of Donald Trump insulting Islam and Muslims in order to recruit more radical Jihadists.

I want to explain why this is not in America's interest to react with this kind of fear and respond to this sort of bigotry.


WALKER: That is a CNN reality check on last night's debate. We will have more throughout the morning.

The war against ISIS was one of the topics that took stage at the Democratic debate. Hillary Clinton slammed Republican frontrunner, Donald Trump, and accused him of being ISIS's best recruiter.

And not just that, she claimed the U.S. is where we need to be in the fight against the terror group. Take a listen.


CLINTON: When we look at these complex problems, I wish it could be either/or. I wish we could say, yes, let's go destroy ISIS and let Assad continue to destroy Syria, which creates more terrorists, more extremists by the minute. No. We now finally are where we need to be. We have a strategy and a commitment to go after ISIS, which is a danger to us, as well as the region.


WALKER: Let's bring in CNN military analyst, Lieutenant General Mark Hertling. General, great to see you again this morning. So first off, do you agree with Hillary Clinton when she says we are exactly where we need to be when it comes to this fight against ISIS?

LT. GENERAL MARK HERTLING, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Good morning, Amara, first of all. Secondly, I have many things to both agree and disagree with Secretary Clinton on. She basically said we are where we need to be and I think that is close to being correct.

We have had some stumbles in the current administration and what they have attempted to do, but I think we are starting to get our act together. She said a couple of things I think were important.

First of all, I agree with her that it would be a strategic mistake to put ground troops in Syria. Secondly, she said that she named particularly Mr. Trump. [06:15:07]But I think anyone who is putting the narrative that Muslims are the problem is counter to what our American values are and also contributing to the strategic narrative of this group.

Third, she mentioned the no-fly zone and I can't agree with her on that, and I think she was providing hopeful methods, saying that she knew it would work when, in fact, that is a very dangerous situation requiring a lot of forces.

WALKER: Yes, especially when she talks about de-conflicting with Russia and Russia is specifically flying in that air space. You mentioned boots on the ground. I want you to hear the sound bite from Hillary Clinton last night where she was saying why she is opposed to U.S. boots on the ground. First, take a listen to that.


CLINTON: They want American troops back in the Middle East. They want American soldiers on the ground fighting them, giving them many more targets and giving them a great recruiting opportunity.


WALKER: Now, Bernie Sanders also reiterated that viewpoint, U.S. ground troops should not be fighting the fight on the ground. You were just mentioning your take on that.

HERTLING: Yes, it's a strategic intelligence mistake. And again, I disagree with Mrs. Clinton where it gives them many more targets. That's what the military does. They are sent someplace and they fight and win where they are sent, but it's not the target issue.

It's the problem of being put right in the middle of a battle for Islam and it will cause -- ISIS has said this -- it will cause them to grow more recruits.

It is exactly what they want from the standpoint of generating more recruits and claiming that what they are fighting for is exactly true, and it will sway many people in the Islamism dialogue to come closer to their side.

WALKER: Bernie Sanders also brought up this point last night, you know, that Muslim nations also need to get more involved. And of course, just a few weeks ago, you had the Saudi coalition being announced ago about common nations.

You know the battlefield, especially in Iraq, how much of a difference this Saudi-led coalition is going to make on the battlefield when you have Pakistan saying they had no idea they were a part of this coalition.

HERTLING: Yes, that's an interesting point, Amara. I thought that was somewhat interesting, especially when he cited King Abdullah of Jordan and how we needed to have him join the fight. He's been in the fight. The interesting issue is it's extremely difficult to get the nations around there to counter what they believe are their national objectives to do what we want them to do. Nations don't work that way and that is where I have problems on both the Republican and Democratic side.

There has been repeated comments about here is what we need, the kingdom of Saudi Arabia to do and what we need Jordan and Turkey to do. Guess what. They have their own ideas what they need to do and that is what diplomacy is all about.

We have been working on that from the State Department standpoint and I think we are getting closer, but it's still very challenging to get these nations to go against their national objectives.

WALKER: A debate unfolded over ISIS and Assad and if the strategy should include both or as Bernie Sanders and O'Malley were saying that the main focus should only be ISIS, but the overarching question let's say Assad were to go, who would fill that vacuum?

Of course, this is a divided country, what will be left after the Syrian war and, of course, is would definitely try to take advantage of such a vacuum.

HERTLING: You and I have talked about this many times before, Amara. It is not an either/or point as Mrs. Clinton said and it's not sequential as Senator Sanders said. You can't do it that way. It has to be -- it has to be collateral and come together and complimentary in the effects that you're attempting to do a military action.

And that is continuing the efforts against ISIS while, at the same time, attempting to find a diplomatic solution. I, again, quote on this by saying that war is an extension of politics by other means. We have, in fact, attempted to do both things at the same time and that is very, very challenging.

WALKER: It sure has shown to be very challenging. Lieutenant General Mark Hertling, great to get your expertise, thank you so much.

HERTLING: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: Thousands of Iraqis protest in the streets demanding Turkey to pull their troops out of Iraq and the government responds.

Plus Russia's president gives his biggest signal yet that he'll stay the course to fight terrorists in Syria.

Did a break in an all-time record at the box office? A good chance you saw this over the weekend. We are talking, of course about "Star Wars: The Force Awakens." That is ahead.



(VIDEO CLIP) BLACKWELL: That is another CNN reality check. We will have those throughout the morning. We are going to have more on the debate in a moment.

First, other top stories, it's 23 minutes after the hour now. An Air France flight headed to Paris had to make an emergency landing in Kenya after a suspicious device was reported on board. Police say the plane departed on Saturday with 473 people on board.

It requested permission to land in Mombasa after a passenger found the device in the restroom. Everybody was safely evacuated. Bomb experts are trying to figure out if the device contained explosives.

WALKER: Hezbollah says one of its senior members have been killed known for the killings of three Israelis. This past September he was on a terror blacklist for his role to help building Hezbollah's infrastructure.

BLACKWELL: Turkey moving troops from Northern Iraq. The move a day after President Obama called Turkey's president urging him to do so. Turkey has said it deployed the troops to help protect its own advisers who were training Iraqi forces to fight ISIS, but Iraq insists it never invited Turkish forces in and claims Turkey violated international law.

[06:25:05]WALKER: Russian President Vladimir Putin says his country is ready to increase its military role in Syria if necessary. He made the comments to a group of security agency employees at a reception on Saturday. It comes after Russia signed off on a U.N. peace plan for Syria.

BLACKWELL: If Hillary Clinton becomes president, her husband, former President Clinton, would be the first gentleman. A look into what the White House would be if that were to happen.

Bowe Bergdahl is in court this week facing court-martial and possible life in prison. We have a look at the army sergeant's five years in captivity and the charges he faces.


WALKER: After the fed raise the short-term interest rates, mortgage rates inched higher this week. Here is a look.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are on the verge, on the verge of pulling off the biggest political upset in the modern history of the United States of America.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you tell us why you won this debate?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. I believe I won this debate because I've always been about getting things done. My politics is the politics of action of actually bringing people together to get important things done that makes our economy grow and that makes wages go up and I offer a new generational perspective on this world of ours and our country.


WALKER: You just heard there with a lot of confidence two candidates claiming victory after last night's debate. Bernie Sanders celebrating even after this week's controversy about spying on --