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Prince Harry, Obama Radio Interview; Russia Accuses U.S. of Training Former ISIS Fighters; Nippon Airlines Flight Returns to LAX with Unexpected Passenger. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired December 27, 2017 - 11:30   ET



[11:33:19] DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: A prince and a president may seem like an unlikely duo for a radio interview, but you know what, the British royal, Prince Harry, and former President Obama, they're not unlikely when you listen to them at all. The two recently met to discuss a few different topics, including life after the Oval Office and social media etiquette, alluding to Obama's take on President Trump's Twitter use.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES (voice-over): The question, I think, really has to do with how do we harness this technology that allows a multiplicity of voices, allows a diversity of views, but doesn't lead to a balkanization of our society, but rather continues to promote ways of finding common ground. And I'm not sure government can legislate that, but what I do believe is that all of us in leadership have to find ways in which we can recreate a common space on the Internet. One of the dangers of the Internet is that people can have entirely different realities. They can be just cocooned in information that reinforces their current biases.


BASH: CNN correspondent, Melissa Bell, joins me now to go over the interview highlights.

And, Melissa, that was, you know, more serious part of the discussion. But they got into a whole range of topics.

[11:34:47] MELISSA BELL, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It was an extraordinary interview, Dana, 14 minutes, and largely a politics-free zone, which doesn't mean that much of American politics wasn't alluded to, in a sense. There was almost more freedom to read into it so much more perhaps than you might have, if the former president had been asked specifically about his successor. So you have the sense of an interview in which the questions had been carefully prepared, in which Barack Obama had decided not to speak about his successor. And yet with all that extra freedom, you really got a sense and a reminder of the very different styles that the former president brought to the American presidency, compared to his successor. And we'll give you an example. At one point, the former president was asked about how free he felt, what had been liberating about leaving the Oval Office. He gave the very specific examples of the hurricanes that hit the United States over the course of 2017. Houston, he mentioned, Florida, and of course, Puerto Rico, pointing out that it was no longer his responsibility to see to the essential help that the Americans needed in the aftermath of such catastrophes. He now had the leisure, the freedom, the time to concentrate on the fundamental causes that is climate change, that is causing these sorts of weather incidences. A fascinating interview, although the name "Donald Trump" wasn't mentioned a single time.

BASH: It wasn't mentioned, but that social media clip, it was very clear who President Obama was talking about. I'm sure you'll agree. And so many, you know, fun facts that we go from the lightning round that Prince Harry put in there.

They seem pretty chummy. And so everybody is wondering, will the Obamas make the invite list for Prince Harry and American Actress Meghan Markle's much-anticipated wedding? What do you think?

BELL: That was the other interesting thing. He said, although this interview was recorded back in September, it was now one man who had been in the public eye over the course of two American administrations being interviewed by another man who had been in the public eye, of course, all his life, Prince Harry, third in line to the British throne. But all the more since his announcement to the engagement of Meghan Markle. The British really do have Meghan fever. It is on the front page of all the British newspapers, day-in, day out adds we approach that day, May 19th, with a number of questions still unresolved, in particular, how the guest list will look, which is why Prince Harry was asked whether the man he enjoyed interviewing with would be invited.


PRINCE HARRY (voice-over): We share the same kind of mind-set and outlook on the charitable sector, on foundations, and mainly on the youth of today. The young people of this world are incredibly inspirational.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): Well enough to invite him to your wedding?

PRINCE HARRY: Well, I don't know -- I don't know about that. That's -- we haven't put the invites or the guest list together yet, so who knows whether he's going to be invited or not. I wouldn't want to ruin that surprise.


BELL: And so even over that question, of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry's wedding, the specter of Donald Trump hung heavy. The fact is that the current American president has yet to make a visit to the United Kingdom. Will the Obamas be invited to this wedding when the current American president has yet to undertake a visit that was, of course, offered -- the invitation was extended just after his inauguration, but with all the controversies and the fuss over the course of the last few months, it's unclear if or when it's going to happen.

BASH: Melissa Bell, thank you so much for bringing us our favorite story of the day. Appreciate it.

And coming up, a new jab from the Kremlin at the U.S. military in Syria. This time accusing the U.S. of training former ISIS fighters in an effort to destabilize the region.


[11:42:17] BASH: Welcome back. Russia says this morning that it has made decisive stroke against is terrorists inside Syria, yet Moscow claims there's one big problem. A top Russian general says the United States is harboring former ISIS fighters and retraining them to keep Syria on the brink of collapse.

CNN's Fred Pleitgen is live in Moscow.

Fred, the big question is, has the Kremlin provided any evidence to back up this charge that the U.S. is training former ISIS fighters?

FRED PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Dayna. This comes from the chief of staff of the Russian military. He didn't offer much in the way of evidence. He said there were satellite images and other intelligence that the Russians say that they do have. Hour, didn't make any of that available or public. But it is quite a stark claim. And it certainly plays into a pattern we've been seeing over the past days and weeks of the Russians becoming more hostile towards the U.S. In Syria, specifically in that part of Syria. The southeast of the country, near Deir Ezzor in the desert near Iraq and near Jordan, as well. The U.S. has one outpost left there, where it is training some fighters, they say, and the U.S. Has made this clear in the past couple of days, they say this is to prevent any sort of remnants of is who might be in that region from coming back. And the U.S. Says it will continue to have that presence there. The Russians have offered some quite hostile words towards al of this. They have said, look, there's no reason for the Russians to have any presence there or anywhere else in Syria. So you can feel after how the U.S. and Russia have had their claims to certain parts of Syria, how they have supported groups to fight ISIS there, that compact really seems to be falling apart and the Russians are becoming a lot more hostile to the U.S. presence there in Syria, which certainly has to be quite troubling for some officials in the Trump administration -- Dana?

BASH: I would assume so.

Thank you so much for that report, Fred Pleitgen.

And I want to add Kimberly Dozier to this conversation. She is CNN's global affairs analyst and the executive editor of Cyber Brief.

Thank you so much for joining me.

What's your sense? What is your sense of what the Russians -- well, first of all, do you think that there's any truth to it? KIMBERLY DOZIER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Of course not. But this

is straight out of General Gerasimov's (ph) playbook. He's the author of the doctrine, the law of ambiguous war, where you muddy the waters by putting out disinformation about your adversary to make the people who are undecided in the middle doubt what the United States is doing there, especially at this crucial stage. A lot of the ISIS fighters have either taken off their uniforms and melted back into the population or they've left. And the population left behind has a decision to make. Do they stay in the loosely governed area that is controlled by U.S.-backed forces, do they give in to Assad's forces? They're being menaced by Iranian and Russian proxy forces in between. So when you put this out there, that the U.S. and anyone working with the U.S. isn't to be trusted, because allegedly they're still working with ISIS, that helps win in this information war.

[11:45:33] BASH: Right. And that is -- that is really the key. Now, Putin's envoy, you mentioned -- excuse me, not the general, you mentioned Putin's envoy to Syria says that the U.S. has no reason to be there. Part of the information war?

DOZIER: Part of the information war. And also, part of trying to minimize the U.S. role in the U.N.-brokered peace talks, minimize the possibility of any success there. Look, Russia wants Bashar Assad to stay in power, because Assad owes his regime to them. He will give the Russians the run of the area. There was already an announcement on Russian media that they're establishing permanent military bases in Syria, which is something they'd always wanted to keep that footprint in the Middle East. So they want the U.S. Out of the way. The other thing they would like to do is close to Tompf, because Tompf is located in one of these areas that are near a lot of what they call the rat lines, the smuggling routes that go from Syria to Iraq that facilitate Iranian proxies, Russian proxies, supplies, people going in and out. Tompf provides the U.S. A place where they have personnel that can gather intelligence as well as train local forces.

BASH: Let's take this conversation up to 10,000 feet. You did a little bit there. You know, Syria and the conflict was so much in the news here in the U.S., in the Obama administration, when he was contemplating whether or not to send forces, you know, so on and so forth, getting a lot of pressure from Republicans, like John McCain and Lindsay Graham. Where do things stand, big picture now? We know that obviously Bashar Assad is still there. He's getting help from the Russian who is want him to stay there.

DOZIER: Well, the U.S. presence is drawing down. And since you haven't seen in the headlines many reports of an is-inspired attack in Europe or the United States, that also means the importance of the area draws down. You have the U.S. military saying that there are fewer than a thousand fighters now in Iraq and Syria. That's partly based on intelligence, partly guesstimate, and maybe partly wishful thinking.

BASH: But it doesn't mean it's anymore safe or peaceful or stable.

DOZIER: Absolutely. And we know from intelligence that a lot of those ISIS fighters, they knew a year ago they were going to be driven out, and the top leadership and the brain trust of ISIS simply migrated to other parts of Africa and the Middle East to fight another day. Just like al Qaeda and Iraq did before them. So it might be off the front pages right now and on the news bac backburner, so the Trump administration can quietly work behind the scenes or ignore it. I know it's not being ignored in the Pentagon and State Department, but you done see a lot of political capital from the White House, from President Trump invested in this right now.

BASH: But still extremely, extremely important.

Thank you so much for everything, Kimberly. It's good to see you.

And still ahead, call it a flight to nowhere. After hours in the air, a plane has to turn back after the crew found out someone got onboard who wasn't supposed to be there. Those details, next.


[11:52:49] BASH: Confusion in the skies as a plane headed to Japan is forced to turn around midflight. After crews found an unauthorized person on board. The all Nippon Airways flight opted to make a U-turn back to Los Angeles, essentially take an eight-hour trip to nowhere. Hollywood couple, singer, John Legend and his wife model, Chrissy Teigen, were on board for the mayhem. You see there, they shot some selfie video live tweeting the whole ordeal and Teigen wrote in part, "Flying first for me. Four hours into an 11-hour flight and we are turning around because we have a passenger who isn't supposed to be on this plane."

Joining me now is aviation correspondent, Rene Marsh.

Rene, you're learning more about why the pilot decided to turn around after four hours in the sky.

RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION & GOVERNMENT REGULATIONS CORRESPONDENT: That is the question. They waited some four hours into it before they decided to turn around. Everyone was wondering why not go to the destination and handle that one passenger once it got to Tokyo. I did ask the airline this, and they finally got a response to me today essentially a short time ago saying that the pilot made the right decision. They went on to say that at the time during the flight, the information that the pilot in command had was that there was some sort of discrepancy with the manifest and for security concerns, they wanted to get back to LAX. But at this point, doesn't seem like there was anything nefarious here. That's not the indication I'm getting. There was some sort of mix-up where someone, perhaps they were on a different flight or supposed to be on a different flight but ended up on the wrong plane. But I've been trying to figure out, what is this administrative mix-up that the airline is saying caused there. And they will not say.


BASH: What does that mean? We all fly. You get on the plane. Many times, the pilot says we're going to, in this case, Tokyo. If you're not bound for Tokyo, now is the time to get off the plane. If there wasn't anything nefarious, which you say there wasn't, did he wander onto the wrong jet bridge?

[11:55:06] MARSH: And I don't want to speculate. As you point out, not only does the pilot often say this is where we're headed but your boarding pass is scanned at the gate before you board the plane.

BASH: There's that.

MARSH: So here's a couple things also kind of to put this in context. All Nippon Airlines also has a code share with united airlines. That airline can be listed. You can buy your ticket under united or you can buy it under al Nippon. There was another code share with these two flights leaving at the same time from the same airport. Could it be perhaps they went to the wrong gate? Perhaps. I'm speculating because the airline isn't telling us what the mix-up was.

BASH: I assume they're trying to figure out the answers.


BASH: I know you'll get the answer once they have it.

Rene, thank you so much.

Still ahead, new details on the president's first big legislative push of the new year. He would have to work across the aisle to get it done. But will Democrats want to work with President Trump? Especially in an election year? That's coming up.