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Backlash after Bill Clinton, Attorney General Meet; U.S. Strikes 500-Plus ISIS Vehicles Fleeing Fallujah; Trump Slams Republicans Not Living Up to Pledge to Support Nominee. Aired 11:30- 12p ET

Aired June 30, 2016 - 11:30   ET


[11:30:00] EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: -- didn't stop him, after all, he is a former president. And he decides to launch into a conversation with her, apparently, while her aides were panicking on the tarmac. They didn't really know what to do. You can't stop the former president from doing, frankly, something like this. And so she was kind of trapped on her plane as the former president decided to engage in a series of conversations about golf, about grandkids, about former Attorney General Janet Reno, who both of them know fairly well. He even touched on the coal industry in West Virginia.

Obviously, the optics of this are not good, because Loretta Lynch will be the one who makes the final decision on whether or not any charges are brought in this e-mail scandal that the FBI still is looking into. They still haven't interviewed the former secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, and that's something that we expect to happen in the coming weeks.

Obviously, again, the optics aren't great. And you have to wonder, this is a former president, a former attorney general of Arkansas, a former governor, and a former president, so he should know what the optics look like. And apparently, it didn't really matter to him that day.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Jeff, a narrative fit for television. The attorney general of the United States trapped on her plane by the former president of the United States. Is Clinton headquarters in Brooklyn, are they concerned this?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Look, any time the former president sort of makes a headline like this, there's sort of a collective shrug. The answer always is, well, you know, he's worth it in the long run. The ups are better than the downs. He's always --


BOLDUAN: Bill being Bill.

ZELENY: -- an issue. But it's not that big of a deal.

But, optically, of course it is a big issue. On Capitol Hill, Senators are raising questions about it. Some Democratic Senators say it doesn't look very good. And look, as Evan said, we are awaiting this outcome of this long e-mail investigation. And regardless of the outcome, if there is a recommendation to charge, not charge, indict, not indict, we are going to come back to that meeting on the tarmac in Phoenix and it is going to fuel skepticism on either side here. So is this the biggest deal in the world? Probably not. But optically, it just doesn't look good.

BOLDUAN: Interesting nonetheless.

Guys, great to see you. Thanks.

ZELENY: Thanks, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, the United States dealing ISIS militants a new and deadly blow. Coalition forces hitting a massive ISIS convoy that U.S. officials say could have included up to 250 fighters in that convoy. Are we really making the progress in the fight against the terror group? We'll discuss that ahead.

Plus, Donald Trump slamming members of his own party for not living up to their pledge to support their nominee. What he's saying about that now. That's coming up.


[11:37:12] BOLDUAN: As Turkey tries to come to grips with the deadly attack in Istanbul, they're still facing fallout from U.S. jets targeting an ISIS convoy in Iraq. About 175 vehicles have been destroyed, they say. U.S. officials say the convoy could have been carrying up to 250 militants. Pretty amazing. The operation started Monday night.

We'll get more from CNN Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr.

Barbara, it seems like a huge convoy.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: You look at that video and it's very compelling, Kate. U.S. officials tell us this was a huge convoy, dozens and dozens of vehicles, trucks, cars, pickup trucks, you know, your typical white pickup truck that you see in that part of the world with a machine gun on the back, all coming out of southern Fallujah. Apparently, ISIS was trying to make a run for it, literally, busting through a cordon and making a run into the desert. Now, they had to have been pretty desperate, is the U.S. assessment, because they would have known there are both U.S. and Iraqi war planes overhead keeping watch all the time, and presenting themselves as such a large and distinct target on the move was going to get attention. So these air strikes rolled in. The Iraqis releasing some of this video. Still looking for final count on this. It may actually be, one official says, that an estimated 300 ISIS fighters were killed here south of Fallujah. But there was an additional air strike near Ramadi, also in this same general area. Significant number of ISIS fighters believed killed in that as well.

So the fact that ISIS is, in these two circumstances, assembling large numbers of personnel, knowing they would be seen, the U.S. view is, at least where these fighters are, they are desperate to get away as Fallujah and Ramadi are increasingly are in Iraqi hands -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: Thank you, Barbara. Great to see you.

STARR: Sure.

BOLDUAN: We'll discuss this and more about the attack at the Istanbul airport right now with CNN global affairs analyst, Kimberly Dozier; and former DEA agent, David Katz, here with me.

Guys, thanks for being with me.


BOLDUAN: When you see the successes on the ground, as Barbara was just talking about, it makes you wonder how strong is the connection between the fight on the ground in Iraq and Syria and the planning, the timing, and the determination, and the pursuit of attacks like we're seeing in Istanbul?

[11:39:51] KIMBERLY DOZIER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, ISIS saw this coming months ago, if not a year ago, these forces massed against them. And they knew that they would have to do a couple of things. They've already started moving some of their senior people to places like Libya, places outside the coalition air strike radius. They also sent groups of bombers north. Turkey, Europe. We've heard from U.S. intelligence that they think maybe a dozen or dozens of cells could be in Europe waiting to attack at perhaps a time of their own choosing. So what they do is, they've got our eyes on that airport rather than this impending military conflagration going on inside Syria and Iraq.

BOLDUAN: Fascinating, and terrifying all the same.

David, one of the interesting details coming out is that they say they believe the suicide vests that were used, that they were brought in from outside of Syria, also that they were not made in-country. I found that a fascinating detail. How do you think they know that? What's the evidence of that?

KATZ: Generally, there will be some indications based on the explosive composition and --


BOLDUAN: What they used --


KATZ: Exactly. Everyone has their own style. It's interesting that they feel that they can have their devices manufactured in a place of their own choosing. That's kind of scary, they don't need to make them in-country, they can get them at will.

BOLDUAN: You had an opportunity to ask a question of CIA Director John Brennan, and he said he wouldn't be surprised if ISIS was planning a similar attack here in the United States. He was speaking at a Council on Foreign Relations event. You asked, the way we talk about the fight against ISIS, if it is faulty, if we need to stop talking in terms of winning or losing or that we're slowing them down or they're picking up speed, because in the end those same fighters, they can just continue on fighting under another banner, even if ISIS is taken out. What do we say in response?

DOZIER: He talked about this being an ideology that has changed names and groups several times.



DOZIER: Terrorism being something we've always fought for decades. But he also did address the point that it's easy for a terrorist group to continue to exist. He talked about ISIS having momentum in the past couple of years of military successes that will keep winning it followers, materiel, and money to keep the fight going in other places. He also talked about the fact that it's very cheap to carry out a terrorist attack, maybe $500 to carry out a single act of violence. So it just doesn't take much for this to be a threat, as you hear from many military officials, for generations to come.

BOLDUAN: Especially when you talk about the new front of the war, the inspiration online. And it also plays into this attack, the fact that officials think it was directed from Raqqa, from ISIS leaders, rather than inspired.

Do you see the signs of, it was directed, rather than just inspired, and how that attack played out? Do you see difference?

KATZ: Certainly, The difference is, look, you can have lethality with inspired lone wolves --


KATZ: -- or these directed, coordinated attacks. This one, the indications are it's coordinated. You have multiple attacks, multiple entry points, vests that are manufactured out of country. It suggests a coordinated, controlled effort.

DOZIER: And think about the nationalities. We're hearing that these are foreigners. The foreign fighters that come to join the ISIS cause, there's something like 44,000 total fighters who have come to Syria. A lot of them went to ISIS. As they see forces encircling Raqqa, Russian-backed Syrians, U.S.-backed Syrian rebels, they don't see a way out. The Syrian ISIS members can change their uniform and try to melt back into the population. For the foreigners, this is a death sentence. So why not carry out a suicide attack?

BOLDUAN: David, Kimberly, great to see you. Thank you very much.

KATZ: You're very welcome.

BOLDUAN: Coming up, we'll turn to politics once again. We're less than three weeks away from the Republican national convention, and the Democratic National Convention as well. But Donald Trump is still facing pretty big problems in his own party. Why then is he ripping fellow members of the GOP, saying they should no longer be able to hold office if they don't get behind him? That's next.



[11:48:24] TRUMP: I can totally make that pledge if I'm the nominee. I will pledge I will not run as an Independent. But -- and I am discussing it with everybody. But, you know, I'm talking about a lot of leverage. We want to win. And we will win.


TRUMP: But I want to win as the Republican. I want to run as the Republican nominee.


BOLDUAN: Oh, memories. That was a big moment at the first GOP debate of the primary season, way back in August. Donald Trump, the only candidate on the stage who refused at that time to promise to back whoever wins the nomination. Well, now Donald Trump seems to be crying foul because his former rivals aren't all ling up behind him. Listen.


TRUMP: They signed a pledge saying they will abide, saying they will back the candidate of the party. And now they sit back and the pledge is out there, and the press doesn't even go after them on that. They broke their word. In my opinion, they should never be allowed to run for public office again because what they did was disgraceful.



BOLDUAN: Let's bring in CNN political commentators, Trump supporter, Kayleigh McEnany; Errol Louis, political anchor for Time/Warner Cable News; and Amanda Carpenter, former communications director for Senator Ted Cruz.

One of those former rivals -- Amanda, first to you -- yes, he is talking Ted Cruz in what he was saying to the crowd there. Ted Cruz did take that pledge. Does he have an obligation to stick to it now?

[11:49:57] AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: If Donald Trump has concerns about people changing position on an issue, he should probably bar himself from public office before asking other people to do so. I think it is far better for a candidate, for any office, to break a silly pledge to a political group rather than shred their credibility for a candidate that raises so many concerns. There's been a lot of things that changed in the election since that pledge was made. Certainly it is better to keep your character and your integrity than to endorse Donald Trump when he doesn't deserve that kind of vouching.

A lot of things have changed. That's one thing we can definitely rely on in this election cycle. One of those, seems Donald Trump is one of the things that changed himself, Kayleigh. A few weeks ago, he said, of Republican leaders, if you don't have anything nice to say, just stay quiet. I don't need you. But now it sounds from this he needs them or kind of wants them.

KAYLEIGH MCENANY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think it is an integrity issue. When you put your name on a paper, it means something. When you sign away your integrity and choose to back step from that, that's a big problem, a big character issue. I respect men like Marco Rubio, who said I put my name on a paper, this might not have been my first choice, but I knew it was an option, and I am going to stick by it. I think people respect that. I think he is pointing out hypocrisy of some Washington politicians.

BOLDUAN: Just three weeks out from the convention, this is what party unity looks like, Errol Lewis. One of his other former rivals, Chris Christie, is officially being vetted for running mate. We all knew he was on the short list, now we have the official confirmation that he is officially being looked at.

ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. Up until now, we've known who wasn't being vetted.


LOUIS: Newt Gingrich said nobody called me, nobody asked for my phone number, and he wanted to be asked. But this underscores the entire conversation, how much of a hurdle Donald Trump has bringing the party together. The clock is not his friend. The calendar is not his friend. Every day that goes by without people lining up behind him is a day lost to him that he won't be able to makeup. He might well wish he had in the home stretch in October. People like John Kasich, they're playing the long game. It might not be about 2016, maybe it is about 2020. He is helping other Republicans further down ballot. He's trying to make friends. I imagine Susana Martinez is doing the same, head of the Republican Governors Association.

Amanda is right about principles. The principle at stake is the political principle of not backing someone if you don't think they'll win. That's what this is about. You don't have the right under the rules of the game to ask somebody to back somebody who can't win. This is a sliding scale. Maybe he will get endorsements on November 1st or 5th when it is too late to do anything. For now, they seem to be saying they don't like the way the campaign is going.

BOLDUAN: Amanda, I want to ask you, speaking of running mates, Susan Collins has not endorsed. She said to David Axelrod on his podcast, he makes a lot of news on the post. I am always quoting it. He says her endorsement of Donald Trump could hinge on who Donald Trump picks as his running mate, that that American would need to fill gaps, especially on foreign policy, that she thinks he is lacking. What do you think of that? CARPENTER: People have been interested in what Susan Collins had to

say. In an earlier interview with the "New Yorker," I remember her saying she might be open to voting for Hillary Clinton, although she walked that back. I think she's looking for reasons to get to endorsing Donald Trump. A lot of people aren't there yet.




CARPENTER: Trying to say, if he does this, maybe I could. That's better than what Mitch McConnell is doing, saying, no, he's not credible, but, yes, I'll endorse him anyway. Collins has to have something to look for. I doubt that Donald Trump will probably nominate a V.P., or ask a V.P. that would be acceptable to Susan Collins --


BOLDUAN: Does Chris Christie fit that bill do you think?

CARPENTER: It would be hard to say. This short list is so short for Donald Trump by default because there are so few people willing to defend some of his most controversial comments. Probably two reasons Newt Gingrich was kicked off the list. Number one, he criticized Donald Trump for attacks on women, Heidi Cruz, and also he wouldn't defend the comments on judges. You have to find a V.P. that won't do those things. I don't think Christie has been asked those questions. Donald Trump has to find somebody that will go there on those issues but be acceptable to Susan Collins. I don't see those worlds marrying up.

BOLDUAN: What do you think?

MCENANY: I think there's an ample list of people that would love to be his V.P., take that spot.


BOLDUAN: Chris Christie?

MCENANY: Chris Christie would be fantastic. I would like to see Rudy Giuliani. He is fantastic, what we need. Americans are scared of terrorism. Why not bring in the person that was there, brought this country together with George W. Bush after 9/11. I think he would be an excellent choice. So would Chris Christie.

BOLDUAN: Do you think Chris Christie brings in more people?

LOUIS: Yeah. And as you know, the Constitution bars vice president and president from coming from the same state. That would knock out Rudy Giuliani.

BOLDUAN: Oh, those amendments. LOUIS: Well, you know --

[11:55:13] BOLDUAN: Which one is it, 21, 22?


LOUIS: More to the point, you're looking to bring in different parts of the party not currently behind Donald Trump. Then you start looking carefully. Maybe you want somebody from a more rural state, ideally, somebody from a swing state, from Florida, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania. Those are the considerations you would traditionally look at.


LOUIS: And also I mean it is now, a candidate that he is comfortable with will be one of the main considerations. Donald Trump has signaled that. He is going to pick somebody he feels comfortable with.

BOLDUAN: And loyalty fits directly into that line of thinking.

Great to see you. Thank you very much.

Much more ahead. Officials are stepping up security to airports across the United States, ahead of the busy holiday travel weekend, in the aftermath of the horrific terror attack on the airport in Istanbul. Details next.