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Sources: Sergeant Johnson's Body Found Nearly A Mile From Attack; Sources: FBI Helping To Gather, Evaluate Evidence; Pentagon Reviewing Timeline Of Attack On U.S Soldiers; Graham Warns Americans: "The War Is Headed To Africa"; White House Clarifies Comments On Questioning General Kelly; Steve Bannon Delivers Blistering Attack on George W. Bush; ISIS Capital Liberated But Humanitarian Crisis Remains, Aired 6-7a ET

Aired October 21, 2017 - 06:00   ET





UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sergeant La David Johnson was found nearly a mile away from the central scene of the ambush.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The U.S. military does not leave its troops behind.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The war is morphing. You are going to see more actions in Africa not less.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The military dictatorship that appears to be what the White House thinks the United States is.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you want to get into a debate with a four- star Marine general, I think that that's something highly inappropriate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Even for someone that's empty, we were stunned.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you don't understand that reference, I will put it a little more simply as we say in the south, all hat and no cattle.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There is a credibility issue with the president. Now there's a possible credibility issue with the chief of staff.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: The Russia investigation, more about who has been interviewed by the Senate Intelligence Committee.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The fact that they've interviewed several of these Russians suggest they are getting closer to bringing in Donald Trump Jr.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ISIS no longer rules here. Once again left behind a city scoured by their occupation.


DIANE GALLAGHER, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. I'm Diane Gallagher in for Christi Paul.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Martin Savidge in for Victor Blackwell. Great to be with you and great to be with you as well.

Final goodbyes today for a soldier who sacrificed his life for the war on ISIS. Sergeant La David Johnson just 25 years old will be laid to rest in his Florida hometown.

GALLAGHER: CNN has learned that Johnson's body was found nearly a mile from the site of the ambush in Niger. But there is still no word right now on how he was separated from the 12-member team or why his body was not recovered two days after those of the three other soldiers who were killed in that attack.

SAVIDGE: Meanwhile, the president is standing by his chief of staff, John Kelly's attack on a Florida congresswoman. Representative Frederica Wilson is a close friend of the Johnson's family and was with the family when Johnson's widow, Myeshia, took Trump's condolence call on speakerphone.

Wilson said he was incentive. In an interview with Fox News, the president says that Kelly was outraged Wilson was even listening in.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: He was so offended that a woman would be -- that somebody would be listening to that call. He was -- he actually could not believe it. Actually, he said to me, sir, this is not acceptable.


GALLAGHER: Meanwhile, Steve Bannon has delivered a blistering attack on former President George W. Bush questioning his intelligence and whether or not he fully grasps the nature of the speech that he gave on rejecting Trump-era nationalism earlier this week.

We want to begin first, though, with that investigation into Niger ambush. The FBI has joined in as the Pentagon tries to pin down the exact timeline of what happened. Our Elise Labott is following those new details.


ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: CNN has learned Sergeant La David Johnson was found nearly a mile away from the central scene of the ambush. According to four administration officials familiar with the early assessment, the Pentagon is still looking at the exact circumstances of how Johnson became separated.

Officials say the entire team led by Green Berets has been interviewed about the last time they saw Johnson. Nigerian forces found his body 48 hours after he had become separated.

Defense Secretary James Mattis was on Capitol Hill today to meet with Senator John McCain, a day after he threatened to issue subpoenas for the information on the ambush.

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: I felt that we are not getting sufficient amount of information and we are clearing a lot of that up now.

JAMES MATTIS, DEFENSE SECRETARY: We can do better at communication. We can always improve on communication and that's exactly what we'll do.

LABOTT: Mattis is defending his troops in the face of criticism.

MATTIS: Having seen some of the news report, U.S. military do not leave its troops behind. I would just ask that you do not question of the troops who were caught in the firefight and question whether or not they gave everything they could in order to bring everyone out at once.

LABOTT: U.S. officials are starting to provide a clearer picture of the circumstances surrounding the attack. The U.S. team stopped in a town on the Niger-Mali border so the Nigerian they were working with could pick up supplies including food and water and then meet with the village elders.

Investigators believed the ambush may have started when the U.S. soldiers were back at their vehicles perhaps even driving. With four Americans dead, the FBI is assisting Nigerian authorities with the investigation providing technical assistance and helping to gather evidence, a routine step when U.S. citizens are killed overseas.

[06:05:04] TOM FUENTES, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: First thing they're going to do is speak with the military personnel who survived the attack. They'll be analyzing every bit of electronic evidence, any kind of e-mail traffic that may have come and gone from that region and talk to all of the security forces throughout West Africa, who may have information regarding the movement of the people who attacked them.

LABOTT: About a thousand U.S. troops are in Niger supporting a French-led campaign against extremists. Senator Lindsay Graham now saying the war on terror is morphing and We could see more U.S. actions in Africa.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don't want the next 9/11 comes from Niger.

LABOTT: At the Pentagon today, France's defense minister received full military honors and a thanks from Mattis.

MATTIS: Following the ambush of the U.S. troops in Niger last week, thank you for your support.

LABOTT: French fighter jets arrived on the scene to help the U.S. troops, but CNN has learned they did not fire on the militants because they could not I.D. targets and risk hitting the U.S. and Nigerian forces on the ground.


GALLAGHER: And that was Elise Labott reporting. Now the terror threat in Africa is large enough for Senator Graham to suggest more aggressive counterterrorism operation.


SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: You're going to have decisions being made in the White House but out in the field now support that entire construct. So, the rules of engagement are going to change when it comes to counterterrorism operation.

We are going to move the status-based targeting so if you found somebody who is a member of a terrorist organization, then we can use lethal force. They don't have to present an immediate threat.


SAVIDGE: CNN's David McKenzie joins us now live from Johannesburg. David, what can you tells us about the terror threat, first of all, in Africa and more importantly the U.S. operations there.

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Martin. Yes, you know, there is, of course, that threat in different parts of Africa, in the west of Africa, centered around Niger where the U.S. has those operations. A pretty large and growing operation it must be said.

That is a focus of the U.S. to help the local authorities to stand up a threat of a group loosely affiliated with ISIS and al Qaeda that in the past might have helped territory, but now, it kind of pushed into rural areas and causing chaos and striking its soft targets where they can.

This is not the first attack on Nigerian troops in that border region (inaudible) it must be said. Of course, now it has come to the public's attention in a big way because of U.S. special forces involved.

But the U.S. have been quietly building its presence in that region as well as in the other half of Africa, in Somalia and elsewhere. At the most, you know, they are mostly involved in advice assist and intelligence gathering, but you do see that they get involve in direct action when it happens -- Martin.

HOWELL: David, you said that the U.S. have been quietly building its presence, but Senator Graham says the war is heading that way. It's heading to Africa. Any idea of the number of U.S. troops that would be needed?

MCKENZIE: Well, certainly it depends on how the U.S. government wants to treat this threat. In the past, what they have done is having small groups, special forces and of course, drone operations both out of west and out of East Africa. The U.S. forces centered out of Africom, the Africa Command, have been building back capacity to both assist the local government and they have been very successful on that with the issue of Boko Haram in Northeast Nigeria and in the Sahel (ph), but as they increase those troop numbers, there is, of course, the risk of getting directly involved in the fighting -- Diane.

GALLAGHER: David McKenzie, thank you.

SAVIDGE: Well, as you heard, there is a lot to discuss so joining me now, Errol Louis, CNN political commentator and political anchor for Spectrum News and Sarah Westwood, White House correspondent for the "Washington Examiner."

Errol, let me start with you. Sergeant Johnson's body we know was found nearly a mile away from the site of that ambush. So, I'm wondering how critical is that piece of information for the Pentagon as it tries to piece together a timeline?

ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, it is certainly critical for the Pentagon as they try and put their investigation together and figure out in all of the confusion exactly what happened.

More importantly, though, I think, you know, you've got people like Senator McCain and a broader public that has gotten a real jolt of a wakeup call about what had been going on and what kind of exposure of the men and women who serve under the military are really expose to.

What is actually going on there? Why does what was supposed to be a training and sort of counterintelligence mission suddenly now turning something where 50 ISIS fighters popped up out of seemingly nowhere? There seems to be nowhere, no way even with French fighter jets overhead to actually really engage them in a way that could have saved lives.

[06:10:10] I mean, we are all going to have to really get up to speed about what's going on in West Africa and Central Africa.

SAVIDGE: Sarah, I am wondering how forthcoming with the new details around this ambush do you expect this administration to be especially when you have two generals that are pretty heavily involved?

SARAH WESTWOOD, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, "WASHINGTON EXAMINER": Well, there is still so much we don't know at least from the public perspective of what happened with this attack, what's the specific purpose of this mission was? Why La David Johnson, the Army sergeant was supposedly separated from the group and his remains weren't recovered for two days?

These are pretty major questions, let alone some of the more minor details about what could have been done and some of the more tactical decisions that could have been made differently.

But the uncertainty surrounding this even may explain why we didn't see the president of the White House come out and talk about this event immediately afterwards like we've seen President Trump weigh in on so many other issues.

Keep in mind that President Trump's silence is what sparked the scrutiny of this event that took place on October 4th. This is not something that just happened the other day. Actually, a significant window of time had passed.

But the longer President Trump in the White House stayed silent on the event, the more the public and the Congress started to increase their scrutiny of what may have happened and why the president was so reluctant to talk about this.

SAVIDGE: Right, when you don't have answers, it raises a lot of questions. So, do you expect, Errol, that this administration is going to play say push back from lawmakers or maybe even the public when it comes to possibly sending more troops into Africa, the war on terror, even though it appears that Africa could be the next staging area.

LOUIS: Well, I think they're going to have to really make a case and this is going to be very difficult for this president in particular. If you remember back in 2016, Martin, as a candidate, Donald Trump made a big show saying we got to re-examine why we've got commitments all over the world.

We got to bring people back here. We've going to stop fighting the battles of other countries and so forth and so on. On the other hand, there is always been even since 9/11, frankly, this question of is there going to be some sort of area like Afghanistan.

Where because we are not watching what's going on, terrorist form a base from which to actually attack the mainland. If that's the case in Africa and we've certainly already heard a number of people saying that's the stakes in Central Africa.

If that's going to go on, we're going to have a national conversation and the president will have to maybe change some of what he thought was going to be his defense doctrine when it comes to the stationing of troops overseas.

SAVIDGE: Like it or not, that conversation is already underway. Errol Louis and Sarah Westwood, stick around. We will be talking more later.

GALLAGHER: All right. The White House backtracking after saying that it is, quote, "highly inappropriate" to question a four-star general. Next, some called the comment shocking and others pointed to someone who has criticized generals in the past, the president himself.



GALLAGHER: President Trump is defending Chief of Staff John Kelly over his response to criticisms from a Florida lawmaker.

SAVIDGE: Democratic representative and Johnson family friend, Fredricka Wilson, said that Trump's words on a call to Sergeant Johnson's widow were insensitive. Trump said he and John Kelly were surprised by the reaction to his call and the fact that a lawmaker overheard the conversation.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: He was so offended. He was in the room when I made the call and so were other people. The call was a very nice call. He was so offended that a woman would be and that somebody would be listening to that call. He actually could not believe it.

Actually, he said to me, sir, this is not acceptable. This is really not. I was so nice and look, I have called many people and, I would think that every one of them appreciated it. I was very surprised to see this to be honest with you.


GALLAGHER: Now the White House is clarifying what Spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said about questioning General Michael Kelly. Kelly took the White House podium this week to criticize Representative Frederica Wilson.

SAVIDGE: He recalled the speech that she made in 2015 for the dedication of an FBI field office in Miami. Kelly said that he was stunned to hear Wilson bragging about how she secured funding for the building.

But in the full video of that event that was released by the "Sun Sentinel" on Friday, Wilson said no such thing instead, she praised the dedication of law enforcement officers honored the two FBI agents killed in a 1986 gunfight and talked about working with Republican leadership to pass a bill to name the building after the agents.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders was questioned about Kelly's words.


SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think he's addressed that pretty thoroughly yesterday.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am not saying he's wrong yesterday in talking about getting the money. The money --

SANDERS: If you want to go after General Kelly, that's up to you. But I think that if you want to get into a debate with a four-star Marine general, I think that that's highly inappropriate.


SAVIDGE: Later, Sanders issued a new statement, saying in an e-mail to CNN, quote, "Of course, everyone can be questioned, but after witnessing General Kelly's heartfelt and somber account, we should all be able to agree that impugning his credibility on how best to honor fallen heroes is not appropriate.

GALLAGHER: All right. Joining me now to discuss, Errol Louis, CNN political commentator and political anchor at Spectrum News and Sarah Westwood, White House correspondent for the "Washington Examiner." Welcome back, guys.

So, Errol, when Sanders said that it was inappropriate to question a general, alarm bells went off for many, what was your reaction?

LOUIS: Yes, I was watching that live and I was a little startled by it actually. I mean, look, I understand the politics of wanting to put a question to rest by, you know, sort of bringing out your most impressive character witness and certainly General Kelly was very impressive from the podium the day before.

[06:20:04] On the other hand, you know, that does not give him a pass, it doesn't mean he gets to sort of makeup stuff as he apparently did when it comes to his memories of what Congresswoman Wilson said.

You know, and it's certainly is the press' job to explore those kinds of mistakes and ambiguities or outright erroneous statements. I mean, that's just simply what we do. The more the White House tries to tamp this stuff down by saying it's not appropriate to ask.

You know, for anybody who's been a journalist, I've been doing this since I'm 19 years old. It's like well, OK, now we have got a target and now it is time to go to work.

GALLAGHER: Yes. And Sarah, you know, this is also another case of the White House saying one thing and then on the president's Twitter history saying quite another. I want you to look at some of the president's passed tweets here criticizing General Martin Dempsey, John Allen, and Colin Powell. Is the president out of line with his press secretary again?

WESTWOOD: Well, I think this is actually a rare instance where Sarah Sanders made a mistake. She is usually very disciplined from behind the podium. She's usually very controlled in what she said, good at deflecting questions.

Here I think in a tense exchange with this reporter, she slips something that clearly did not come out right. Her second statement made a lot more sense on the issue of Goldstar families of the loss of military heroes.

General Kelly, it would be inappropriate to question his authority on that issue. It is clearly very appropriate to question the veracity of his statements in every other arena. A lot of even supporters of General Kelly's thought the mention of Frederica Wilson's comments from 2015 was a bit of a gratuitous swipe.

Because Kelly had landed a lot of legitimate criticisms on the congresswoman up to that point in his statement. He was questioning the motivations behind Congresswoman Wilson embarking on this media tour and giving every interview she could to publicize this controversy. She since referred to herself as a rock star for getting so much attention. So, those are legitimate questions to be raised by the White House. Then he took it one step too far by going after her for something that was easily fact checkable and sort of undermine the credibility of the rest of the statement. So that was clearly a bit of an error on General Kelly's part.

GALLAGHER: Well, yes. I mean, in Errol, in standing up to that Goldstar, saying that Goldstar families should not be politicized and then weighing in to then criticize a politician. Did General Kelly basically do the very thing that he was speaking out against sort of like what Sarah was saying there?

LOUIS: Well, look, General Kelly went from being a soldier and a soldier's soldier talking about his personal loss of what goes on in the military. It was riveting. It was important and needed to be said.

On the other hand, we should not be confused. He's a primary political operative at the highest level of American government and he did his duty in that regard as well. He's the chief of staff at the White House. He's no longer involved in his military in his former role.

He knows a lot about it. He certainly experienced a lot of it personally, but he went on a political attack because that is what the situation called for. I think he's a much better soldier than a politician.

The reality is you don't go after a high-profile target unless you have your facts absolutely lined up and in a roll. He made some other errors in the course of that attack as a matter of fact.

He missed named one of the people for whom the building were being named after, which was supposed to be the whole sacred point that he wanted to make. So not a very good political performance. He should probably be a little bit more careful about that in the future.

GALLAGHER: Well, real quick, Sarah, just to wrap this up here, I want to say Trump's chief of staff, he's a Marine general. He's very respected. He's been portrayed kind of the so-called adult in the room. In telling the story that was preferably false, did General Kelly get a bit of a black eye this week?

WESTWOOD: You know, I think in the grand scheme of things that statement definitely reframes the controversy for President Trump as a dispute between him and a Democratic congresswoman not a dispute between him and a Goldstar family. That was important.

I think General Kelly did give President Trump overall the upper hand in the conversation even if he did make this one minor error that drawn some attention in the long run, I think that would be remembered as a good moment for General Kelly.

GALLAGHER: All right. Errol Louis, Sarah Westwood, thank you both. SAVIDGE: Five former leaders uniting to help hurricane victims, but one president is going to be missing, the current one. The world's most exclusive club appearing to turn on its newest member over the current state of politics.

GALLAGHER: Plus, Steve Bannon fighting back with a scathing attack on George W. Bush even questioning the former president's intelligence.



GALLAGHER: Welcome back. I am Diane Gallegher in for Christi Paul.

SAVIDGE: And I am Martin Savidge in for Victor Blackwell. So, all five former living U.S. presidents will come together in Texas tonight for a relief concert. They are raising money for hurricane victims in Texas, Florida and the Caribbean.


SAVIDGE: It is part of their one America appeal campaign. The concert will also feature country and rock artists including Alabama. President Trump, however, is not slated to attend. The show comes just days after both Obama and Bush took thinly veil swipes at President Trump without ever directly mentioning his name.

[06:30:00] President Bush declined what he called nationalism distorted by into nativism. The White House meanwhile denying that those criticism were directed at Trump.

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN ANCHOR: Meanwhile, President Trump's former chief strategists not mincing words, delivering a blistering takedown of former President George W. Bush.

SAVIDGE: Steve Bannon spoke at the California GOP convention last night and bluntly questioned President Bush's intelligence and whether he even understood his own speech.


STEVE BANNON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: President Bush to me embarrassed himself. Speechwriter wrote a highfaluting speech. It's clear he didn't understand anything he was talking about. He equates the industrial revolution, the agriculture revolution, globalization. He has no earthy idea where he's coming or going, just like it was when he was president of the United States.

I want to apologize up front to any of the Bush folks outside, in this audience, OK, because there has not been a more destructive presidency than George Bush's.


SAVIDGE: All right, lets discuss this and joining us now is A. Scott Bolden. He's the former chairman of the Washington, D.C. Democratic Party. And Paris Dennard, CNN political commentator and former Bush White House, director of black outreach.

Thank you, both, for joining me this morning.


SAVIDGE: Good morning. Paris, let me start with you. Scathing words coming from Steve Bannon there. And I'm wondering he said that there has not been a more destructive presidency than George Bush's and even questioning Bush's intelligence. What's your reaction to that?

PARIS DENNARD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You know what, I disagree with Steve Bannon's characterization of President George W. Bush who I had the honor and privilege of working for for four years in the White House.

I do want to say that there are a lot of people on both sides of the aisle who disagree -- who disagree with how President Bush led on certain issues. There are many in their own -- in our own party, the Republican Party, who are more on the conservative side who disagreed with things that President Bush did as it relates to bailouts and his focus on some of the interventions that we got in as it relates to the global war on terror.

But that does not mean that we have to attack them negatively. Like President Reagan said we are all Republicans and we should not attack each other. And so I don't agree that -- in his characterization of the president but I do understand that people within our own party, it's an open tent, big party, with a lot of diverse opinions, have diverse opinions as it relates to political -- the political spectrum of conservative to more moderate, to more liberal Republicans, and the politics of it. So that happens and that's OK.

SAVIDGE: All right. Well, A. Scott, let me bring you into this conversation. We haven't heard a whole lot from Presidents Obama and Bush since they left office. Why now? Why do you think they're speaking out now?

BOLDEN: Well, I think you haven't heard from them because they've tried to respect in the tradition of past presidents this current presidency. But these are abnormal times, these are uncommon times. The political divisiveness, the divisions being caused by race politics and the negative narrative being driven by the White House and this president.

I'll be honest with you, I think they feel compelled beyond belief in regards to stepping up and reminding us of what presidential values are, what national and American values really are because we hear very little about that coming from the Trump supporters and from the Trump White House.


SAVIDGE: Well, if they may feel strongly about that, why didn't they name the president by name? Why is it always this thinly veiled kind of speech? Why not say President Trump? BOLDEN: I don't think it's thinly veiled at all. And I'm not their

speechwriter but I will say this, why name him and why get into a swearing match with him in regards to what his response will be or get into personal attacks when the real issue isn't Donald Trump, it's about our American and political values and where we are as a country.

Their politics are about inclusiveness, tolerance, justice and equality, and Donald Trump's politics are about divisiveness and everything but that. So the message is really clear, and, you know, we needed to hear that I think. As a country I need to hear more from them and I expect it because the Republicans are so divided within their home despite the fact they controlled all three Houses.

SAVIDGE: All right. Paris, let me ask you this, do you think what Bush and Obama speaking out, what kind of impact do you think it's going to have on this administration, on the president? Do you think it will embolden him or do you think he'll sort of take heed?

DENNARD: I think the president of the United States is focused on doing the best he can for the American people through his campaign slogan which is now the mantra, make America great again for everyone. When he looks at tax reform, when he looks at trying to cut the corporate tax rate, when he's trying to do things like help middle class Americans increase the child income credit, child credit, these are positive things for the American people, $49,000 in their pocket, allowing you to keep more of your own money.

[06:35:04] That's what he's focused on. He's focusing on infrastructure spending. He's focused on eradicating ISIS. He is not focused on --


SAVIDGE: I'm not (INAUDIBLE) coming from the president.

BOLDEN: He's focused on fighting everybody in the White House and in the GOP quite frankly.

DENNARD: He's not focused on fighting everyone in the White House.

BOLDEN: Well, that's what he does publicly and private.

DENNARD: Who is he fighting in the White House?

BOLDEN: The evidence is there.

DENNARD: He is fighting for the American people.

BOLDEN: (INAUDIBLE) criticized our institutions. He criticizes GOP leadership.

DENNARD: And he's not focused on --

BOLDEN: And he needs them to get something done. And by the way, if Donald Trump stands for all of that, then why hasn't he accomplished any of it? He couldn't accomplish health care reform. DENNARD: Because of the Democratic structure.

BOLDEN: He's not going to get tax reform.

DENNARD: Tell your party, Scott.

BOLDEN: Because he won't come to the table with Democrats to solve these issues.

SAVIDGE: Hold on a second.

BOLDEN: He simply won't do it.

SAVIDGE: Let's have Paris respond and then I'll let you respond to that. So hold on, Scott.

Paris, please.

DENNARD: Scott knows that there is separation of powers and the president sets the agenda, the Congress has to act. And so a lot of the things that had been going on in the Congress is due in great part because Democrats refused to come to the table and do the right thing.

BOLDEN: Democrats aren't invited to the table. That's nonsense.

DENNARD: When it comes to -- when it comes to voting.

BOLDEN: That's a nonsensical response, Paris. They're not invited.

DENNARD: When it comes to voting --

SAVIDGE: Hold on. Hold on.

BOLDEN: It's us versus them.

SAVIDGE: Scott --

BOLDEN: It's Republicans, we got the majority of them, and that's how we're going to get it done and they are failing America because of that divisiveness.

SAVIDGE: All right.

DENNARD: You're right, the Democrats are failing because they don't want to do something.


BOLDEN: Because they're in control? And we're failing --

SAVIDGE: Hold on, hold on, both of you. Let's just wait a minute. Let's try and take it one at a time because it's the only way you're going to be heard.

So, Scott, I understand your criticism. And really I have the same question to Paris which is, if the president feels so strongly on all of those issues that you have brought up, he's misdirecting everyone with his tweet battle that he is having, whether it's over Gold Star families or whether it's over other feuds that he's having with former presidents?

BOLDEN: Exactly. Exactly.

DENNARD: The president isn't having a feud with anybody. He reacts to what people say to him. And I'm -- on the notion that these presidents are excluding President Trump, no one has that criticism when President Bush and President Clinton in 2010 created the Haiti Relief Fund and asked why they excluded President Obama.

Nobody asked the question when President George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush and Presidents Clinton and the Johnson Library created the Presidential Leadership Scholar Program and excluded President Obama. So now all of a sudden when the five presidents get together the former presidents get together and do what they should do as former president. Now all of a sudden we are creating this narrative that they are excluding President Trump. He didn't say that. We didn't say that.


DENNARD: We didn't say that before. Now we're saying it now.

SAVIDGE: All right, Scott. Scott, you got 15 seconds real quick to sort of summarize.

BOLDEN: I think what it highlights here whether he was invited or not is that he's not a lover, he's a fighter. He's not a consoler, he's an instigator. And the manifest evidence of that we get it every day whether his tweets or whether it's the statements from the White House or whether he's picking fights with Gold Star families or congresspersons who are heroes in their communities who want to move this country forward.

SAVIDGE: OK. We got to leave it there.

BOLDEN: And Republicans simply can't get it done.

SAVIDGE: Paris Dennard, thank you very much. A. Scott Bolden, as always thank you, both, for joining us.

DENNARD: I'm glad the president is fighting for all of us. Thank you.

BOLDEN: I wish.

GALLAGHER: All right. Coming up, soldiers and civilians literally dancing in the streets as the ISIS capital of Raqqa is liberated. And CNN on the ground for this landmark moment in the war on terror. We have a live report from Syria coming up.


[06:42:27] SAVIDGE: Now to a landmark moment in the war on terror. ISIS' de facto capital Raqqa, Syria have been liberated. Now family members of the terrorists are headed to refugee camps.

GALLAGHER: Yes. CNN is on the ground amid the rubble and the rebuilding to witness firsthand just what is going to happen next.

CNN senior international correspondent Arwa Damon joins us from northern Syrian and, Arwa, how are these camps handling these families. It's got to be difficult for camp coordinators to kind of walk the line between giving mercy but also maintaining security?

ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And it is extremely difficult. What they have done here at least is separate the families who they suspect of having direct ties to ISIS fighters and they've kept them in this smaller camp that is right beneath us.

Now they're not entirely certain that these are all ISIS families. There are some civilian families. Among them remember ISIS was holding civilian hostages throughout this entire campaign but these are individual families who they want to keep separate from the rest of this sprawling camps population because they are not entirely sure of what their affiliations are.

These families are also being kept under armed guards. No one is allowed to come in and out freely. They go through search the tents regularly. They've removed all sorts of sharp objects such as knives and other things from their possession.

We're not allowed to film inside the actual location because they're concerned for their own security at this stage.

Now the authorities here are telling us that no one here necessarily admits to being an ISIS family. But what they try to do is observe how the women especially interact with each other. As I was saying there are some families amongst them who have been vetted, who are eventually hoping to move out of here and either into the general population or into relative's homes.

But if you just look at the sheer scale of this camp site, these organizations on the ground, they can't handle the volume of refugees that they have gotten and that they continue to get. Because remember even though Raqqa have fallen, the fighting isn't done yet. The front line has shifted towards Deir ez-Zor. And eight organizations are estimating that around 10,000 people a day are fleeing from there and there is a recognition that they do need to get these families assistance very quickly.

Because they won't be able to go back home at least, if we look at Raqqa as an example, just in Raqqa, the leadership there says that it's going to take them three to four months to clear that city of rubble.

[06:45:02] And even when it -- and of explosives, more importantly, and even when it is cleared, there isn't really anything left per se for these families to eventually go back to.

GALLAGHER: And so the cycle does continue.

Arwa, real quick, where is the regime of Syria's leader, Bashar al- Assad, fit into all of this here?

DAMON: Well, for now the regime, it would seem, has been quite content to let the -- to let the coalition backed Syrian Democratic Forces take over Raqqa. What they are doing down in Deir ez-Zor is potentially going to be much more complicated because you have the regime advancing on Deir ez-Zor from one front and then you have the Syrian Democratic Forces advancing from another.

But Bashar al-Assad is right now fairly confident in his own position. He has managed to re-take control of large chunks of the country from other rebel opposition groups, rebel fighters. He does still have solid backing when it comes to the Russians and the Iranians. And what's been quite interesting actually in talking to the Syrian Democratic Forces fighter is that they are looking at what's happening in Iraq and how the U.S. did not necessarily stand behind the Iraqi Kurds with the conflict happening there with Baghdad over the oil-rich city of Kirkuk.

They are worried that America is going to pull its support of their efforts and that then either the regime or another entities is going move in and they are going to basically lose everything that they've managed to gain here.

SAVIDGE: Wow. Arwa Damon, thank you very much for that perspective on the ground there.

We wanted to share this moment and it is the scene that was captured on Friday. U.S.-backed forces dancing in the streets with the locals as Raqqa was declared totally liberated. Syrian Democratic Forces celebrated at the stadium where ISIS fighters made their last stand. That was just a few days earlier.

GALLAGHER: Now of course Raqqa was the de facto ISIS capital for more than three years. The terror group is not completely finished in Iraq and Syria, but ISIS is losing its grip.

This map is showing the territory that ISIS has had overtime and look, we always want to talk about -- we've got coming up here a big win for the Astros last night.

Andy Scholes has more.


ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Hey, good morning, guys. You know, Justin Verlander is throwing another gem for the Astros. And we're going to show you how they force a winner-take-all game seven against the Yankees, coming up in this morning's "Bleacher Report."


[10:52:12] GALLAGHER: All right. The Houston Astros staying alive in the American League Championship series forcing a winner-take-all game seven tonight against the Yankees.

SAVIDGE: Yes. Their own version of "Saturday Night Fever." Andy Scholes is in Austin for the U.S. Grand Prix. I guess we have to

explain why he's not in Houston. Andy joins us more with the "Bleacher Report."

A lot going on in Texas, sports wise, Andy.

SCHOLES: There certainly is, Martin. And good morning to you guys, and this "Bleacher Report" is brought to you by the new 2018 Ford F- 50.

Now, first, let's talk about Formula One. They hold, you know, races all over the world and they hold one big one in the U.S. every year, and it's always here in Austin, Texas. It's going to be a big weekend here at the track. We'll have more on that in a moment but first let's talk about those Houston Astros.

Pitcher Justin Verlander, what could you say? He's just been incredible ever since he's become an Astro. He's pitched nine games for Houston. He's won every single one of them. He pitched seven scoreless last night getting a little help from his center fielder George Springer right there in the seventh inning, there making that amazing catch. Verlander happy about that. The Astros are finally waking up in this series and take game six for a final 7-1. So now we get one of the greatest things in of all sports, a game seven tonight.


AJ HINCH, HOUSTON ASTROS MANAGER: As much talk as there was in this series of we go up 2-0 and the series are in our hands. We go to New York, they went three and the series is in their hands. It's all adjusted. We get to a game seven and by the way, it's in Houston.

CC SABATHIA, YANKEES STARTING PITCHER: You never take these opportunities for granted. So that's why it's so special to be able to pitch and play. It is going to feel good to get out there tomorrow and having the opportunity to pitch the team to the World Series.


SCHOLES: First pitch from Houston tonight at 8:00 Eastern. The NFL, meanwhile, announcing yesterday that Raiders' running back Marshawn Lynch has been suspended for one game for making contact with an official during Thursday night's game. That happened after Chiefs quarterback Marcus Peters hit Derek Carr and a bunch of Raiders went after Peters to defend their QB. Well, Lynch ran in from the bench, made contact with that official. Apparently he was trying to defend Peters who was his cousin.

Now Lynch was also seen watching the game from the stands after he was ejected. The picture surfaced on social media. Lynch has reportedly appealed his suspension.

And back here in Austin, Texas, which is the home for Formula One here in the United States and we are expecting a big race here this weekend. They are expecting more than 250,000 fans here over the next three days. And for those not familiar with F-1 racing, it's the world's premier open wheel racing circuit. And you know the saying is, they do everything big in Texas, well, they are doing it big for this race.

Justin Timberlake is holding a concert here at the track tonight. Stevie Wonder is going to hold one tomorrow night. Famous boxing hype man Michael Buffer is going to be here to introduce all the drivers.

[06:55:02] The Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders are going to be on hand, and the world's fastest man, Usain Bolt, is going to be here tomorrow as the official starter for the race, guys. So this is definitely a star-studded event. And it's something that I talked to a lot of people around here yesterday and I talked to people Connecticut, Kentucky, Boise, Idaho, people from all over the country come here to Austin for this weekend.

SAVIDGE: Yes. It's going to be a great weekend. No doubt and we are going to root for Houston given the bad weather they've had to deal with down there.

Thanks very much, Andy.


SAVIDGE: We'll have more right after this.


SAVIDGE: This week's CNN Hero was shocked when she saw brand new children's books going to waste. So Rebecca Constantino started an organization that has donated books to poor children for nearly 20 years.

GALLAGHER: And she has even transformed now the place where they go to read them.