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CNN NEWSROOM

Trump Slams Admiral Who Oversaw bin Laden Raid; Nearly a Thousand Unaccounted for in Wildfires, At Least 80 Killed; Trump Changes Tune over Losses, "I Wasn't on the Ballot"; Witness Describes How "El Chapo" Escaped Military Capture. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired November 19, 2018 - 15:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[15:30:00] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Peter Bergen is with me, CNN national security analyst who wrote the book about the ten-year hunt for Bin Laden. He also produced a 1997 CNN interview with Bin Laden. Peter Bergen, welcome. I mean, obviously, we're having you on because of your connection there, but your piece on CNN.com today, calling the President's comments preposterous and I just wanted to start with your fact check, that Admiral McRaven took no position in the 2016 Presidential election.

PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yes, and in his statement, as you know, Brooke, to CNN Admiral McRaven said he took no position. He didn't take a position. It's a fact. And you know, the idea that he's an Obama backer is also not true. President Trump suggested that he backed Obama. He happened to have worked for Obama. The 2 million men and women in uniform today, who the commander in chief is President Trump. It doesn't mean they back Trump, they just acknowledge that he's the commander in chief.

So, you know, the President packed in quite a lot of false claims in a rather short period with Chris Wallace yesterday, Brooke. Amongst them that the Pakistanis knew where bin Laden was. I talked to dozens of people who were involved in the planning of the operation, the intelligence gathering, the decision making, and they all said the Pakistanis didn't know that bin Laden was living in Abbottabad. And it was a surprise to them that he was. They were listening to their conversations that night, as the raid went down.

And then he also should applaud -- said something, I think, which was really unfair about how long it took to find bin Laden. Well, it took a long time to find him, not for a lack of trying, but because bin Laden was very effectively hiding. As you know, Brooke, he was not using cell phones or the internet. He was communicating very infrequently with handheld messages taken by his trusted courier. And it was very hard to find him. And it took ten years. But to say that somehow it should have happened quicker. Of course, it should have happened quicker, on one level. But the fact is, there were dozens and dozens of people at the CIA spent their entire careers looking for him. Not only, by the way, after 9/11, but also before 9/11.

BALDWIN: On that point, Admiral McRaven, was he not -- referred to him as the architect, the man responsible for the capture and kill, and not necessarily tasked, you know, the years and years that didn't take. Obviously, to pinpoint his location.

BERGEN: Absolutely. I mean, you know, Admiral McRaven was brought in in February. The actual operation took place on May 1st. He was brought in at a point where the intelligence was being gathered and there seemed to be a lot of circumstantial evidence, but no direct evidence that bin Laden was in Abbottabad and he was brought in to say, what are our military options. And there were quite a few on the table. And he ended up with a U.S. Navy S.E.A.L. ground operation, which was risky and things went wrong and a helicopter went down. But he had no role in the kind of intelligence gathering that was a CIA function and not a military function.

BALDWIN: And also, back to your point. I know you have talked to all kinds of intelligence on what Pakistan did or didn't know at the time. But did -- I mean, the U.S. did not make Pakistan aware of the raid at the time, correct? I mean, was there not a reason that they did that?

BERGEN: They debated whether or not to bring Pakistan in, in some way, with the intelligence. They were concerned the intelligence would leak. And don't -- if you go backward to that time, our relations -- the United States relations with Pakistan have never been worse. So, a CIA contractor had shot and killed a couple of people in a Pakistani city. He was in jail for much of the planning of this operation. And, you know, relations were really not in a good place. So, there were early discussions about whether to tell the Pakistanis or even to bring them into the planning and they were discounted because of correspondence of leaks.

But by the way, President Obama didn't tell his own wife about the operation. This was extremely tightly held. It wasn't that we didn't -- you know, the number of people who knew about this at the White House was quite limited.

BALDWIN: Sure. You can still see all the faces in the room, in "The Situation Room," watching this whole raid play out. Just waiting with bated breath for some sort of success. Peter Bergen with the fact check. Peter, thank you. Always a pleasure.

Coming up next, hundreds of people still unaccounted for as these two wildfires rage in California. We'll talk to a firefighter who has seen the devastation firsthand. What comes next. And ahead, a stunner in the heart of Reagan country. Has Orange County in California officially turned blue. The latest election results are in.

[15:35:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: Nearly two weeks have passed and California's massive camp fire continues to unleash devastation and destruction, 77 people have been killed. More victims are being discovered beneath the charred ruins. And hundreds more people remain unaccounted for. Firefighters still on those front lines, trying to douse the flames.

Meantime, we are hearing about the heroism within the Paradise community. People are calling this one man the bus driver from heaven. He is Kevin McKay. He drove his school bus full of elementary school kids along gridlocked roads, a fire burning all around them. He says when smoke began to fill the bus, he took off his shirt and with the help of two teachers onboard, tore the shirt into pieces, doused it with water, so the kids could put it over their mouths, just so they could breathe and five hours later, they made it out safely.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KEVIN MCKAY, SCHOOL BUS DRIVER SAVE CHILDREN FROM WILDFIRE: We started getting fire on both sides of the bus. Kids started getting pretty antsy. At a couple points, I think that we had some honest discussions about, is this the time to get out of the bus.

[15:40:00] ABBIE DAVIS, TEACHER: Just being gridlocked, trapped in the road. There was nowhere for us to go. The traffic wasn't moving. And then our last stretch, too, I think that was the -- that was the moment I thought that we might not make it out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: I have with me now, Frank Lima with the International Association of Firefighters. He has just returned from Paradise, California, and Frank, it is nice to have you back. But, you know, we talk about, hundreds of families are still looking for their loved ones who are unaccounted for. It is my understanding that that camp fire is still only 66 percent contained. I say only because that still means people in California have to endure these fires for at least -- what another week? Is that your assessment?

FRANK LIMA, FIREFIGHTER WHO TOWARD CAMPFIRE DEVASTATION: Well, the fire is essentially in the mop-up stage. When we get to 66 percent, that's a good handle on the fire.

BALDWIN: OK. What does mop-up mean?

LIMA: Well, there's not a large flame front on the fire. They're just cleaning up the edges, going around a lot of smoldering places. But the next week, like you talked about is going to be critical and then we've got rains expected. But our firefighters are out there on the line and to see what we saw yesterday. We have supportive elected officials, starting, you know, the city where I come from, Mayor Garcetti to Governor Brown and governor-elect Newsome walked the line with us and Senator Harris yesterday. We got to see the devastation firsthand, they did, that our firefighters went through, fighting for their lives, fighting to get our members, to have them safe, to save -- there's really a lot of acts of heroism in there.

BALDWIN: Tell me some stories, Frank.

LIMA: Well, we got -- we carry fire shelters which are aluminum reflective covers that we're supposed to use in the last minute. And many of our members took those out, wrapped them around civilians, so they basically foregone their own safety equipment, to save the lives of the community. And that's just how our members operate. They're going to be digging through, doing a lot of body recovery

right now. And there's a lot of exposures, because it's both health, both mentally, and physically. Physically, a lot of the stuff that they're going to be breathing. Mentally, a lot of the stuff, the images they're going to be going through, searching bones and human remain, dogs and things of that nature.

But other things that went on, we went to the FEMA command post, where just citizens were there. I went there yesterday with our California professional firefighters, many of our wives, including my own were there, helping people in the community, just really sad, but there's so much good work going on. And there's just people are really good out there, trying to do a lot for a lot of people that are hurting right now.

BALDWIN: Back to your point, I'm so glad you brought up mental health. It's the mental health of these firefighters, it is the grueling day in, day out. And I know a lot of these guys and gals have lost their own home and they keep going back into the front lines. How are they holding up?

LIMA: Some of them good, some of them have finally reached out for help and I'll, you know, quickly lean to the south fire or the Woolsey fire. And before that fire, they had a borderline shooting where some of our members in Ventura County went on. They went straight to the fire, worked up to 144 hours straight and finally just said, hey, that's enough, they have a lot of images in their head. But our International Association of Firefighters we have behavioral healthcare, counselors out there on the line, at the command post. Thanks to Cal Fire and our California professional firefighters making that happen. So, our members have people to talk to and debrief a little bit, because it's a big load and it hits us all at different times.

BALDWIN: California needs you all so much right now, Frank Lima, thank you very much for all that you're doing. Thank you.

LIMA: Thank you, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Coming up next, President Trump is deflecting any blame for Republican losses in the House. But we'll dial in on one part of California that used to be called Reagan county and break down why, as you can see now, it is solid blue.

Plus, you can call him the 1 percent man. Why senator-elect Rick Scott is remarkably consistent with voters from election to election.

[15:45:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: The blue wave just got bigger. House Democrats picked up three more seats over the weekend and have flipped more than three dozen seats thus far. Now the President is trying to distance himself from losing the House.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I didn't run. I wasn't running. My name wasn't on the ballot.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: But if you're a member, that is not what he said on the campaign trail.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I'm not on the ticket, but I am on the ticket. Because this is also a referendum about me. Get out and vote. I want you to vote. Pretend I'm on the ballot.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: With me now, CNN senior political writer and analyst, Harry Enten. Harry, Democrats are on a roll. Talk to me about Reagan country, where I know President Reagan said good Republicans, that's where they go to die.

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL WRITER AND ANALYST: Yes. If you look at the 2016 map, you see that in Orange County, Democrats only have two of the seats, Republicans had four. Orange County historically Republican, Ronald Reagan won by 50 points in 1984. And then look forward to 2018. What happened? A blue sweep in all of the different races. All of them. The 39th, which was Republican, gone. The 45th, which was Republican, gone. The 48th, which is Republican, gone. The 49th, which was Republican, all gone. And so, the land of Reagan is now the land of the new Democratic Party.

BALDWIN: That's California. Republicans obviously fair differently in Florida.

[15:50:00] Let's talk about senator-elect, Rick Scott, who won, what, just by less than one percentage point. And when you look at previous races, he's like the 1 percent guy.

ENTEN: Yes, the story of Rick Scott, he's got to be both the luckiest and best politician in some way. When he ran in 2014 and 2010, when you essentially saw --

BALDWIN: Look at this.

ENTEN: -- was winning by a point and a point in what were very good Republican years. His approval rating very low but he was running against an unpopular President in Barack Obama. This year the script was completely flipped. Right? Donald Trump wasn't that popular nationally, a little more popular in Florida, but a pretty good Dem year. But what happened, he got popular at the right time. Because of his handling of the different hurricanes in the state, his popularity boosted upwards, combined with a lot of money he spent in the race. And so, he was able to sneak by once again. You know, I haven't studied this completely. But I'm fairly sure he is one of the few people who has won three consecutive major races by a point or less each time. And you know what, it doesn't matter how big you one by. It's just a matter of winning and he's managed to do it.

BALDWIN: Go buy a lottery ticket or something.

ENTEN: Maybe I should ask him for the lucky numbers and get out of here.

BALDWIN: Don't leave us too soon. I hear laughter over there, Randy. I hear you.

ENTEN: Don't worry, I will come back for you. Like Gil Cisneros in California's 39th, I like giving back. So, I'll come back.

BALDWIN: Harry Enten, thank you.

ENTEN: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Thank you.

Coming up next. New details about how Mexican cartel leader El Chapo escaped a military operation to capture him back in 2003. We have the highlights from another stunning day of testimony in his trial in Brooklyn.

[15:55:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: One year after it disappeared in the Atlantic Ocean, that missing Argentine submarine has been found. The ARA San Juan vanished last November. There were 44 crew members on board, including the country's first female submarine officer. The wreckage was found nearly 2,800 feet down on the ocean floor. It disappeared about halfway through its mission and two days after crew members red flagged an electrical problem. The Argentina navy says the San Juan suffered an implosion.

El Chapo back in court today as more stunning allegations emerged here. The trial for the accused Mexican drug lord kicked off last week in New York, under heavy security and disturbing tales of bloodshed, bribes and corruption. Today a former high-ranking cartel member delivering more shocking testimony, claiming El Chapo ordered a murder over a snubbed handshake. For the latest on this high-profile trial, we have CNN's Athena Jones. And Athena, this is crazy. Tell me what you've been learning.

ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's fascinating, frightening. It's like a crime drama or a movie. The details we're learning. One thing we're learning from this man who is testifying, Jesus Zambada Garcia, who was one of the leaders of the Sinaloa cartel. He was arrested back in 2008. But he signed a cooperation agreement and hasn't been sentenced. So, he is spilling all the beans about how this massive operation dealing with billions and billions of dollars worked.

One of the things we're learning is about the bribes that were paid. He says that -- El Chapo personally asked him to pay a Mexican general $100,000 to get one of El Chapo's cocaine shipments through the state of Guerreros, Mexico, which is in southern Mexico. And this man who's testifying says that while he controlled the Mexico City part of the operation, the warehouses, the store, the cocaine, et cetera, he estimates he paid $300,000 in bribes a month to state and federal officials, just to keep the drug business going.

One other bribe he talked about was the $250,000 they paid to a captain in the military. This is back in 2003, a couple of years after one of El Chapo's famous escapes from prison. The military was hot on his trail and they were surrounding him and the captain asked for a quarter million dollars to abort the operation, and he did. So, a lot of bribes to all kinds of officials.

We are also learning how easy it was to be ordered killed. We're learning about the war between the Zetas cartels and the Sinaloa cartel that broke out in the early 2000s. At one point, El Chapo ordered the murder of Amado Carrillo Fuentes. Now, "El Mayo", this man testifies that his brother, "El Mayo", who was still running the cartel arranged a peace meeting between El Chapo and this man El Chapo wanted to kill. At the end of the peace meeting, El Chapo extended his hand and said, see you later, my friend. The other guy didn't shake his hand. This angered El Chapo, so he ordered that Carrillo Fuentes be killed, and he was killed. So really fascinating stuff.

BALDWIN: Brutal, brutal. This El Chapo. What about -- you've learned through testimony how they got drugs from a to b.

JONES: Like I said, it was a massive operation. They used all kinds of boats, small boats, fishing boats, merchant ships. They also used planes, small planes and jet airplanes. This man, Jesus Zambada Garcia, testified that in late 2005 -- around then -- El Chapo was operating his own commercial airline.

BALDWIN: Like a passenger jet that you and I would jump on.

JONES: Using a DC-8. I don't think those planes are still in production, but it's a huge plane, four jet engines. If you filled it with passengers it would fit 260 passengers. He was using it to transport cocaine from South America, from Colombia and Central America to Mexico. So, I mean, this was a huge, huge operation. Of course, paying off people at the airports.

BALDWIN: Sure.

JONES: So, a lot of details emerging from this trial, which still has months to go.

BALDWIN: Keep covering it. All these unprecedented security measures. Imagine being a juror sitting in the room with this man. I could go on and on and on. Athena Jones, thank you very much for being with me. And thank you for being with me on this Monday. I'm Brooke Baldwin here in New York. Let's go to Washington. "THE LEAD" with Jake Tapper starts now.