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Clinton Meeting with Senate Democrats; 28-Pages on 9/11 Could be Released Tomorrow; Kerry Meets with Putin on Syria; RNC Reaching Out to Hispanics. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired July 14, 2016 - 13:30   ET


[13:30:00] JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: I asked him about it. He said he had no clue what was going to happen here. He said he was watching television just like everybody else.

Meanwhile, on the Clinton side, they're handling it much as a policy wonk would, looking for individuals whose background and history matches the story Hillary Clinton is going to try to tell in the race for November. Again, on that side, the Democratic side as well, no idea which way she's going to go.

I saw Senator Harry Reid, the Democratic leader, at a news conference a little while ago. I asked him if he had any advice for Hillary Clinton and what they planned to talk about in that meeting at the capitol. Listen.


SEN. HARRY REID, (D-NV), SENATE MINORITY LEADER: This is going to be, for lack of a better word, a celebration, a celebration for a number of things. First of all, it seems appropriate to me after 240 years that we're going to have a woman be president of the United States. We're going to have a good time with her today.


JOHNS: The other thing to point out about a Hillary Clinton running mate, she has the advantage of time. She can go after Trump when he makes his decision. And the campaign has indicated that Hillary Clinton is probably going to take that time to see who Trump chooses and how he rolls it out before she makes her decision public -- Wolf?

BLITZER: Joe, as you know, Virginia Governor Tim Kaine is considered to be very high on the list, if not on the top of that list. She'll be appearing with him later today. But I'm also hearing that the agriculture secretary, Tom Vilsack, the longest-serving member of the Obama cabinet, is seriously being vetted, a two-term governor of Iowa with a compelling personal story. What are you hearing about these various people on the short list, if you will, including Senator Tim Kaine, a former governor, and former Governor Vilsack, now the agriculture secretary?

JOHNS: It's very difficult to say because the campaign is keeping all the information close to the vest. Nonetheless, if you talk to people on Capitol Hill, including Senators involved in the vetting process before, they will tell you their belief is the big favorite right now is Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia. That's because of his experience with guns, handling it as governor of a state that had that terrible tragedy at Virginia Tech in 2007 in April. There's some suggestion Tim Kaine may be on the short list. I spoke not long ago with Senator Richard Durbin, one of the members of the Senate leadership, and he suggested to me he thought Tim Kaine was one of the favorites as well. Nonetheless he says she may be looking for something completely different.

That's when you get into the names like Elizabeth Warren, the labor secretary, and Governor Vilsack. A lot of choices there, including one I think that's really interesting, Sherrod Brown, of course, a personal favorite of Hillary Clinton. The problem with picking Sherrod Brown is that if he were to leave the Senate, he'd be replaced by a Republican Senator who would be appointed by a Republican governor.

There are a lot of factors here for this candidate to consider, and she has a little bit more time than Donald Trump to do it -- Wolf?

BLITZER: We're told she wants to do it also by next Friday, the Friday before the Democratic convention in Philadelphia, the day after the Republican convention is wrapped up.

If Donald Trump and his vice presidential pick do the "60 Minutes" interview, she's being offered the same opportunity the following Friday to tape something with "60 Minutes," and that will air that following Sunday. We'll see if that scenario plays out.

Joe Johns, thank you very much.

Coming up, we have other news we're following right now, including the long-classified pages that detail what the Saudi government became public. What about those documents? Are they going to be public as early as tomorrow?

Stay with us.


[13:38:28] BLITZER: Multiple sources telling CNN a long-classified report detailing alleged ties between the Saudi government and the 9/11 hijackers could be released as soon as tomorrow, the so-called 28-pages document, part of a 2002 congressional investigation. Those 28 pages have been classified since the report was completed and made public.

Joining us now, our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto.

Jim, how soon do you think the 28 page also be released?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Likely before the weekend as long as about to go out of town on recess. It's going to come out of Congress because this was originally a congressional document, produced by the House Intelligence Committee in 2002, and classified since then. The president made a public commitment in April in an interview to declassify and release the pages to the public. Shortly after that, the director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, said that process should be completed around mid June, that's the declassification, because the intelligence community has to take out anything they see as secret. Then you have the political process as to who is going to send it out into the public sphere. The decision was made, because this is a congressional product, originally, back in 2002, that it will be coming out of the Hill, most likely the Senate and House Intelligence Committees.

BLITZER: The question is, Bob Graham, former chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, he and other members of the panel, suggested there's very embarrassing information to the Saudis. What are you hearing?

[13:40:02] SCIUTTO: I've spoken to people who have read the pages. Of course, the information until tomorrow presumably has been classified. So they can't talk much about it at that point. But what it details are connections between two of the 9/11 hijackers in particular and individuals tied to the Saudi government, at least one working for the Saudi government.

Now, to be clear, this was early information. This was as an investigation was being done, initial leads in the investigation which were to be checked out and what, for instance, Saudi officials will say and I'm sure you've heard as well as I have, there were leads, the 9/11 Commission, that came out after that 2002 report, the final report was the Saudi government was not involved.

But, as you know, in investigations like this, some question whether these leads were followed up fully, 100 percent. Senator Bob Graham, for instance, says, listen, there are leads that weren't fully followed. We've waited this long. It has to be out in the public sphere. We need a full airing of this. You have that view. Frankly, in part, to serve that purpose, the administration, the Hill, intelligence agencies are getting it out there, getting the full light of day.

BLITZER: I've spoken to Saudi officials, the former Saudi ambassador to the United States. He says, release the 28 pages. We have nothing to hide. We know 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudis. All that is well known.

What really worries the Saudis right now, pending legislation on Capitol Hill that would allow family members, victims of 9/11, to sue the Saudi government for literally billions of dollars, remove their diplomatic immunity, if you will. The president says he'll veto that legislation.

SCIUTTO: No question, that is the context. 9/11 is always going to be an issue. On any other day, this would be a big deal. On the Hill, you have debates of whether the families can sue the Saudi government for involvement. Now you have the pages being thrown into this as Congress makes that decision.

And, listen, as you and I know, the lawsuits will be referencing any information -- whether it's been checked out or not or whether those leads have been followed up or not, those lawyers will be bringing up this information in those lawsuits with possible consequences. That's the sensitivity.

One other note for our viewers, these pages have been referred to as the 28 pages. I told actually by a number of people who read them that there actually are 29 pages. Tomorrow, you and I and the rest of the world will get a chance to read them.

BLITZER: We'll see what they say and have a good opportunity to go through them line by line.

Thanks, Jim, for that report.

SCIUTTO: Thanks.

BLITZER: Coming up, Secretary of State John Kerry lands in Moscow as the United States tries to partner up with Vladimir Putin with a new strategy for Syria. But can Russia and Putin be trusted to keep their promises? That's what a lot of U.S. officials are wondering. Some in the Pentagon think it's a big risk.

We'll be right back.


[13:47:00] BLITZER: A deal between the United States and Russia on Syria appears to be in the works at this hour. The secretary of the United States, John Kerry, arrived in Moscow earlier today. He's meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. They're expected to discuss a possible agreement to share intelligence and targeting data for air strikes in Syria. We'll see if that emerges.

Joining us is Colonel Chris Garver, the spokesman for Operation Inherent Revolve, the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

Thanks for joining us.

What, if anything, can you tell us about this new initiative, the new effort for the U.S. and Russia to work together to expand this war against ISIS and destroy ISIS jointly?

COL. CHRIS GARVER, SPOKESMAN, OPERATION INHERENT RESOLVE IN IRAQ & SYRIA: Wolf, as you know, Secretary Kerry is negotiating that right now. We'll let him do that.

What I can tell you is the coalition is focused on defeating ISIS. And anybody else that wants to come in fighting ISIS as well will be welcome to do that. We've seen Russians in the past who said they were here to defeat is, but we've seen them do other things as well. If you're going to come into the coalition, you're going to work with us, we'd want you to be 100 percent focused on fighting ISIS.

BLITZER: The media wing, as it's called, of ISIS claims a high- ranking ISIS commander, an individual by the name of Umar el Shashani (ph), was killed in fighting near Mosul, a city of almost two million Iraqis that ISIS still controls, that he was killed four months ago. Actually, four months ago, the U.S. thought they had killed him in Syria. Is this guy dead?

GARVER: Well, we certainly hope so. That was certainly the target of the attack, as it was, four months ago. But because of what happened, clearly, we're being very conservative in our assessment. We won't to make sure before we announce it we know for sure. We're still working through that assessment piece right now. But it will have a significant impact on the ISIS-led operation -- the ISIS fight around that area, around the south side of Mosul if we, indeed, did get him.

BLITZER: Mosul, a key target for the coalition right now. ISIS took over Mosul two years ago. They've been in control ever since. This is the second-largest city in Iraq. How does it look for the liberation of Mosul? Is that operation by the Iraqi military, back by the U.S., going to begin this year?

GARVER: The operation is on going, Wolf. We've been shaping the fight in Mosul with stripes for several months. The Iraqi forces conducting that attack are in route now. They just took the Kiara Air Base over the weekend. We'll turn that into a platform from which they can launch the attack into Mosul. We definitely will see the operation continue forward. The Iraqis are making good progress. We're seeing them fight well on the ground, and they're defeating Daesh, defeating ISIS, as we call them, Daesh. They're defeating ISIS as they fight them on the ground. So we're looking forward to the fight in Mosul itself.

BLITZER: Besides the U.S., who else is launching air strikes against ISIS in Mosul, in that area?

[13:50:12] GARVER: Well, there are 16 members of the coalition that are providing strikes inside Iraq. So you've got the British, the French, a wide variety of the coalition members that are here, contributing nations to the coalition that are conducting those strikes inside Mosul. And the Iraqi air force itself is attacking inside Mosul as well.

BLITZER: I just want to be precise. The French, the British, the other partners that the U.S. has, their warplanes are involved, they're actually engaged in air strikes against ISIS? Is that right?

GARVER: Absolutely. We're all tied together in one coalition air operation. So they all participate as part of that. And we appreciate their efforts in what they bring to the coalition.

BLITZER: So when do you think Mosul will be liberated?

GARVER: That's the question right now. The prime minister has said he wants to do that by the end of the year. We're going to do everything we can to help make that come true.

BLITZER: Colonel Chris Garver, spokesman for the anti-ISIS coalition, U.S.-led, in Iraq, thanks for joining us.

GARVER: Thank you for having me, Wolf.

BLITZER: Coming up, the Republican National Committee is working on its outreach to Latino voters here in the United States. We'll talk to the new director for Hispanic communications. There she is. We'll talk with her right after this.


[13:55:41] BLITZER: The Republican National Committee is gearing up for its huge convention starting Monday in Cleveland, releasing its list of convention speakers and prepping for the debut of Trump's running mate. But will this choice help with the Hispanic support for the Republican Party in November?

Helen Aguirre Ferre, the director of Hispanic communications for the Republican National Committee, joins us now live from Cleveland.

Helen, thanks very much for joining us.


BLITZER: You know the Hispanic community here in the United States. Governor Pence, if he the vice presidential running mate, how is that going to play?

AGUIRRE FERRE: Well, you know, we don't know hot vice presidential running mate's going to be. Certainly that they are very strong contenders. Only Mr. Trump knows who that is going to be. I'm sure that when he makes his announcement it is going to be someone that we're all going to be able to get our arms around.

What makes a really good running mate is someone who really works well with the presumptive nominee. When you've got a really strong team, that's what you're going to really need to get the message across. That's what we're waiting to hear for tomorrow when Mr. Trump makes that announcement.

BLITZER: As you know better than anyone, a presidential candidate like Donald Trump, who keeps saying he wants to build a wall along the southern border, Mexico will pay for it. There's been language, very controversial language, a year ago, from the day he announced he's running. The platform's got some controversial language now on the wall.

Let's play a clip of what he said a year ago and let's talk about how that is playing with Hispanic voters. Listen to this.


DONALD TRUMP, (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE & CEO, TRUMP ORGANIZATION: They're sending people that have lots of problems and they're bringing those problems with us. They're bringing drugs, they're bringing crime. They're rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: You're in charge of the RNC's outreach to Hispanic voters. How are you doing?

AGUIRRE FERRE: Well, I have to say that, first of all, when you look at Mr. Trump's polls with the Hispanic community, he's polling at around 24 percent to 26 percent, which, considering how some of the comments have been on the harsh side towards the Hispanic Mexican- American community, those numbers are actually pretty strong. But there's no question about it that there are people who are good people and bad people in any community, and there's no question about it that Hispanics are wary when people address them because they're so used to be pandered to by both sides. I think when you look at Mr. Trump and you see Mr. Trump speak, you see somebody who's plain spoken, who's clearly outspoken, and someone who really has the better interest for the country and mind. He's not going to pander to you. He's going to tell you exactly what he feels. I think that's something Hispanics are really looking forward to. I think that's something that you really hear.

You heard Hillary Clinton today speak at a convention talking about immigration reform. Well, Hillary Clinton has zero credibility when it comes to any community. And her unfavorables are so high and they show that. And Hispanics are tired of being pandered to.

For Hispanics, the real issue that's critical comes in one word. It is called security, be it job security, our national security, that's what we're really interested about. Donald Trump understands one thing for sure, that regardless of our heritage or background, we're all Americans first. And that was the message that he was going to give last Friday --


BLITZER: But you acknowledge, he's --


BLITZER: Helen, but you acknowledge, he's got an uphill struggle in winning over Hispanic support in the United States, especially in those key battleground states --

AGUIRRE FERRE: Oh, well, there's no question.

BLITZER: -- where there are significant Hispanic vote.

AGUIRRE FERRE: There's no question we have our work cut out for us. That's considering that even though we have our work cut out for us -- and I think the Hispanic community is one worth fighting for, and I'm so excited that we're going to have that opportunity. Mr. Trump is at 24 percent, 25 percent according to the polls, and he hasn't really even begun to campaign nationwide.

And I'll give you one poll that's pretty significant.

BLITZER: You've got to do it pretty quickly. AGUIRRE FERRE: Quinnipiac came out with a poll -- Quinnipiac came out

with a poll yesterday that shows that Donald Trump is ahead in the state of Florida, a battleground state that we need to win.

BLITZER: All right.

AGUIRRE FERRE: Strong Hispanic support there. I-4 corridor is critical. And in the GOP platform, Puerto Rico is being pushed as being our 51st state. Well, that's not so bad.

BLITZER: We've got to go, unfortunately. We'll continue this conversation. I'll see you in --