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Cold Thanksgiving for Millions; U.S. Military Bases are Soft Targets; General Carries Assault Rifle; Trump Teleconference with Military Members. Aired 9:30-10a

Aired November 22, 2018 - 09:30   ET



[09:30:50] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAJOR PAUL SEIVERT, HOMETOWN: ROUND LAKE, ILLINOIS: Hello, I'm Major Paul Seivert at Camp Lemonnier Djibouti. I'd like to wish my wife Jen (ph), my daughter Mattie (ph), my son Zach (ph) and the great people of the United States of America, a Happy Thanksgiving. Hooyah (ph).


JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Remember, we have thousands of service men and women stationed around the country -- around the world, rather, today. We hope everyone watching the parade in person is bundled up because this will be the coldest Thanksgiving on record for many here in the Northeast.

CNN meteorologist Chad Myers is here with a look at the record setting cold.

It's cold where I am, Chad. What's going on?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: It is. And certainly anyone that's in that crowd has never seen a colder New Years, Christmas, Thanksgiving. This is a really chilly one. Temperatures are somewhere in the windchill factor around 6 degrees above zero. It gets to 27. The good news is, it was not windy enough to ground the balloons. They are flying here.

Look at Montpelier, 17 degrees below zero. Now, I just got a tweet from Ottawa and it said, hey, enough with your 17 below, it's 25 below up here. They are in the middle of the dark purple there. Rochester right now you feel like 6 degrees.

Coming up tonight, another cold night. New York City will get all the way down to 17 and 20 or so cities will break new record low temperatures for tomorrow morning. New York City gets to 17, but by Sunday the low is 46. So, yes, we are certainly going up from here. This is the bottom.

And then it starts to cool back. We should be 52 in New York today and it's going to be nowhere near that. It's going to be 27. So 25 degrees below normal for today.

Warmer in Denver, though, 61. How about that? Billings, 49. Twenty-two degrees warmer in Montana than New York City.

Now, this is the (INAUDIBLE) we'll call it, Jim. This is where we are right here in the northeast United States, in Canada, and all the way up toward Newfoundland and Ottawa, Atlanta Canada, but the rest of the world pretty warm today. So we have one little bit of cold air and it's only going to last a couple days. It will be out to sea. We'll warm up by the rest of the week.


SCIUTTO: Chad Myers, thanks very much.

We want to take a moment this morning to highlight the president's deliberate denial of scientific fact. The president tweeted yesterday, brutal and extended cold blast could shatter all records. Whatever happened to global warming? The answer, two words, average temperatures. That's the only figure that matters, and average global temperatures are only going up. According to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA as it's known, 2018 is on pace to be the fourth hottest year on record. What are the three hottest? 2015, 2016 and 2017.

Since recordkeeping began in 1880, the four hottest years on record are the last four years. Those rising average temperatures have an immediate, intangible effect on our lives. Michael Mann (ph), a climate scientist and director of the Earth System Science Center at Penn State University told CNN earlier this year, quote, we are seeing them play out in real time in the form of unprecedented heat waves, floods, droughts and wildfires, and we've seen them all this summer.

Noting a cold snap in the midst of that rise is silly. About as silly as, say, bringing a snowball onto the Senate floor during one of the previous hottest years on record to somehow question the hard data of a warming earth, which you may remember is exactly what Republican Senator Jim Inhofe, then chairman of the Senate's Environment and Public Works Committee did in 2015.

Don't believe the tweets. Don't believe the stunts. Focus on two words, average temperatures, and they are rising.

Well, coming up, a new warning from an Iranian general as tensions mount between the U.S. and Iran. U.S. bases are soft targets? We're going to take a look.


[09:38:42] SCIUTTO: This morning as tensions between the U.S. and Iran rise, an Iranian general has issued a sharp warning to the U.S. He is calling American bases near Iran, quote, soft targets for their missiles. That general also said that U.S. aircraft carriers in the region are like, quote, shooting targets.

CNN Pentagon reporter Barbara Starr is following the latest there. Barbara, what bases and assets are in the region that could be

vulnerable to Iranian missiles?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, let's start with just a quick notion about what's a soft target. Typically you think of a shopping mall or a sports stadium that is not defended. U.S. troops indeed are across that region. And let's take a look at a map for a minute.

There are U.S. troops in Kuwait, in Bahrain, in Qatar, in Dubai and, of course, those U.S. ships, those U.S. Navy ships that go up and down the Persian Gulf waters all the time.

There are defenses for these bases and these troops. Ships carry self- defense systems, for example. There are patriot missiles in various areas of this Middle East region.

So when you look at the Iranians, you have to look at capabilities and intentions. Do they have the capability to strike out with their missiles? Probably they do. Can the U.S. defend? Yes. Could they get through with a single missile? They could perhaps.

[09:40:01] But it is the intentions. Why are the Iranians saying this? Why are they ratcheting up tensions? Do they really have any reasonable intention, if you will, of striking the United States? Right now I think most U.S. military experts would tell you they don't see it that way, but they watch all the time.


SCIUTTO: Yes, with the expectation of an enormous U.S. military response.

Barbara, another issue, look -- turning to Afghanistan. Really a disturbing photo or a striking one emerged of the top U.S. general in Afghanistan walking to a meeting there, carrying a weapon. I believe that's an M-4 assault rifle. What does that say about security in Afghanistan today?

STARR: Yes. An extraordinary photo. Let's put it up and all take a look at it. That is General Scott Miller, the head of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan. And in his left hand he is clutching a fully loaded M-4 carbine assault rifle. This is not what you typically see the top commander doing. His security personnel, who have to protect him, around him, they are fully armed. But General Miller was, of course, in the middle of a fire fight essentially in a Kandahar compound last month. So there is concern about these so-called insider attacks, concern about these areas of Afghanistan where the Taliban is resurgent.

General Miller is somebody, though, a long decorated combat veteran. And I think the message he's sending is he will go anywhere, anytime in Afghanistan that he wants to go and he'll protect himself and other Afghans around him.

Jim. SCIUTTO: And quite a statement about the state of security there 17 years later.

Barbara Starr, thanks very much.

STARR: Sure.

SCIUTTO: Well, Ray Chavez, the oldest survivor of the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, has died. He was 106 years old. Chavez was stationed in Pearl Harbor when the Japanese attacked the United States naval base in Hawaii. He went on to serve on a transport ship. In May, Chavez reflected on his service in an interview with CNN.


RAY CHAVEZ, OLDEST SURVIVOR OF THE PEARL HARBOR ATTACK: And it never goes away. (INAUDIBLE). And that's the way I am. I remember. And then I forget and remember again because it's very important that the younger generation know and learn at the beginning of war. I would do it again if I was called to active duty.


SCIUTTO: The last survivor now passed away, 106 years old. The last survivor of Pearl Harbor.

Want to go now to live pictures. These are President Trump in a video conference long distance with U.S. troops stationed abroad. Let's have a listen.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Over in the United States, as you know, and you're celebrating it wherever you are in all parts of the world and we'll be talking to you individually. We're honored to be joined on today's call by great patriots. You are really great patriots representing each branch of the American armed services.

Melania and I want to express our profound gratitude for the extraordinary sacrifices you make to defend your nation. While you're away from your family and loved ones, I hope that you'll take solace in knowing that all of the American families that you hold close to your heart, we're all doing well. The nation is doing well economically, better than anybody in the world. We're the hot nation of the world. And it's nice to know you're fighting and you're fighting for something that's doing well, and that's our country.

I want to begin by welcoming Colonel Stephanie Barton (ph) and the men and women of the 101st Airborne Division. These are real warriors. And you have the Resolute Support Sustainment Brigade, and they are joining us from Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan, where our soldiers are providing invaluable aid and combined joint area operations throughout Afghanistan. You are doing an incredible job. A lot of progress has been made and your courage truly inspires us all. We know what you're doing and we watch it. Oftentimes we're watching it every night during the news. And we know it's dangerous, and we also know that you've had an unbelievable impact. Joining us from al-Jaber Air Base in Kuwait is the Central Command

First Response and Crisis Response Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force. Lieutenant Colonel Sam Howie (ph). You are really great Marines and you're the embodiment of honor and courage and commitment. It's incredible the job you're doing. I particularly want to congratulate you on the work you've done to crush ISIS form the air and from the ground and really it's -- big, big progress has been made. They're very close to being gone, and we like it that way. But you have shown incredible courage. And, I have to say, you've shown great, great leadership. So thank you very much. And, lieutenant colonel, thank you very much and we'll be talking to you in a little while.

[09:45:14] Happy Thanksgiving as well to Captain Pat Anafin (ph) and all of the sailors aboard the USS Ronald Reagan. A great ship. Your ship's motto is one that we embrace every day, peace through strength. That's what the motto is and we have that motto at home. Everywhere the Seventh Fleet sails, the USS Ronald Reagan is an enduring symbol of American might, American strength, American power and really American goodness in so many ways.

From the United States Air Force we're joined by the 455th Air Expeditionary Wing, which is supporting Operation Freedom's Sentinel (ph) and NATO's Resolute Support. Brigadier General David Lions (ph). Thank you very much, David, as the commander. And I want to congratulate you on every minute of the 455th for your outstanding work. Not only have you destroyed hundreds of ISIS, and actually far more than hundreds, and many, many Taliban targets, but you protect coalition ground forces throughout the region. And you protect them like nobody else. It's incredible the job you do, and I just want to thank you all for being on. And I have to say, general, it's great to speak to you by teleconference and by phone because your reputation is an incredible one.

Representing the U.S. Coast Guard, are crew members from six Coast Guard Cutters from the shore support teams that are part of patrol forces, southwest Asia, which is the largest Coast Guard unit outside of the United States. And I'm actually going right now, I'm in Palm Beach, Florida, and I'm going over to your local Coast Guard station and we're going to spend some great time with the men and women of the Coast Guard. They have, from a lot of standpoints, you could call it branding, you could call it whatever you want. The job they've done on hurricanes in this country, they've saved thousands and thousands of people.

In fact, in Texas, they saved over 12,000 people. If you think of what that means, over 12,000 people. They went into seas and they went into areas that nobody else would go into, and it was incredible what they've done in Texas, what they did in Florida, what they did in Puerto Rico. The Coast Guard has really become a symbol of strength and perseverance and toughness and genius, actually, it's purely genius.

So hello to Lieutenant Nicholas Hartman (ph), who is the commanding officer of the Cutter Aquidneck. And I also want to congratulate Seaman Christopher Wilson (ph) on being selected for A School (ph). That's A, like in A. That's the best, right? Seaman Wilson, you truly make us proud. Congratulations. That's a big deal. Going to that school is like going to the Wharton School of Finance if you happen to be doing what you do.

And to everyone on today's video conference, also, I want to thank you all for serving. Today we thank God for the blessings of having you people be our heroes and you really are our heroes. And your families are back here, and they love you and they respect you and they look forward to seeing you because you're the ones who keep America safe and strong and free. You do a job like nobody else. And it is really great respect that we all have. You are very much appreciated, like you wouldn't believe, by the American public, by the citizens of our country.

I want to maybe start with the Air Force, and I know that Brigadier General David Lions is on the phone.

And, David, tell me a little bit about what you're doing.

BRIGADIER GENERAL DAVID LIONS (ph) (via telephone): Our mission here, we defend the two busiest airfields in Afghanistan, Kandahar and Bagram. We support our teammates in our mission sets and then we deliver decisive combat air power across the entire country of Afghanistan.

Mr. President, I know you can't see us right now, but you've got 150 airmen in this room that would love to say happy Thanksgiving to you.

Bulgers (ph), what do you say to the president?

CROWD: Happy Thanksgiving!

TRUMP: That's great. Well, that's really fantastic.

How are things going over there? Are they -- are you looking up? How is it looking to you? You've seen it. You've been there a while and you've seen what's going on. You know what's happening better than anybody. How do you find things going?

LIONS: Well, the -- both the Taliban and ISIS are resilient adversaries, but I think that we're doing well. We get after them every single day. Our objective here is to fight the away game. And so what I mean by that is we never want this adversary to reach our shores again. And so every airman here is dedicated to keeping this fight away from our shores. A stable Afghanistan is good for Afghanistan, but we do what we do for America, sir.

[09:50:18] TRUMP: Well, you said it better than anybody could have said. Keep them away from our shores. And that's why we're doing the strong borders. You probably see over the news what's happening in our southern border, and our southern border territory. Large numbers of people, and in many cases we have no idea who they are, and in many cases they are not good people. They're bad people. But large numbers of people are forming at our border.

And I don't have to even ask you, I know what you want to do. You want to make sure that you know who we're letting in. And we're not letting in anybody, essentially, because we want to be very, very careful.

So, you're right, you're doing it over there. We're doing it over here. And your people at the border, we have the military at the border for the first time. I don't know if it's ever or certainly there's never been a presence like this, but we have a very powerful border now. We have the (INAUDIBLE) fencing and we have things that people don't even believe.

We took an old, broken wall and we wrapped it with barb wire plus. I guess you could really call it barb wire plus. This is the ultimate. And nobody's getting through these walls. And we're going to make sure they're the right people because that's what you and your family want and all of your families. That's what they want. And that's why we're all fighting. You know, we're fighting for borders. We're fighting for our country. If we don't have borders, we don't have a country.

So we're doing very well on the southern border. We're very tough. We get a lot of bad court decisions from the Ninth Circuit, which has become a big thorn in our side. We always lose, and then you lose again and again, and then you hopefully win at the Supreme Court, which we've done. But it's a terrible thing when judges take over your protective services, when they tell you how to protect your border. It's a disgrace.

So we're winning. And you're winning. And I appreciate very much.

And, general, your reputation is an incredible one. Thank you very much for doing the job and I'll see you back when you're in the United States, or maybe I'll even see you over there. You never know what's going to happen.

LIONS: Thank you, Mr. President. We appreciate that.

TRUMP: Thank you very much. Really great. And thank all the men and women with you. Really spectacular people.

Well next let's talk to the U.S. coast Guard Commanding Officer Coast Guard Cutter Aquidneck and it would be Lieutenant Nick Hartman.

And so, Nick, tell me a little bit about what you're doing, where you are, and how's it going?

LIEUTENANT NICK HARTMAN (ph) (via telephone): Good morning, Mr. President.

This is Nicolas Hartman (ph), like you mentioned, from Coast Guard Cutter Aquidneck.

Here in the room we have 14 members from Patrol Forces Southwest Asia. And we're located in the kingdom of Bahrain, Mr. President.

Our mission out here is to patrol the Arabian Gulf, Strait of Hormuz, and conduct our central -- U.S. Central Command and Nav Cent (ph) objectives here in the Gulf. A lot of our work is partnering in building relationships with the Gulf Coast countries and so that we have a good standing and resolve here in the Arabian Gulf and Central Command AOR.

Things, in my opinion, Mr. President, are going very well for us.

TRUMP: And what do you see in the region? What's going on in the region? How are they feeling about things? How are they feeling about trade? Because, you know, trade for me is a very big subject all over. We've been taken advantage of for many, many years by bad trade deals. We don't have any good trade deals. How are you finding things in the region, Nick?

HARTMAN: Mr. President, from our perspective out on the water, sir, we're seeing that there is an abundance of trade happening in the region. There are vessels moving through the Straits of Hormuz and across the Arabian Gulf on a daily basis, carrying cargo to and fro, and we don't see any issues in terms of trade right now, sir.

TRUMP: OK. Well, you'll keep it that way. And, you know, we want to have good free trade. And we also want to have fair deals where we can do well, too. Not just everybody else. Right now every nations in the world does well with us. We don't do well with them. So that's changing and it's changing fast. And where you are is a big factor in that, as you know. You've been told and you've been briefed.

Well, I want to thank you very much, Nick, and great job. And, again, as I said, there's no brand that's gone up like the Coast Guard over the last couple of years because of what you've done with the hurricanes in this country. People saw things that they've never seen before. The bravery of those -- of your people going out in waves like, you know, record setting. It's been record setting.

[09:55:03] The one hurricane in Texas, they say, dumped more water and it was more violent in terms of water than anything we've ever had in the country. And you guys went out there and you did it like just a day in the office. And I really appreciate it. We all really appreciate it, Nick. And thank you very much. Thank you very much.

HARTMAN: Thank you, Mr. President, and Happy Thanksgiving.

TRUMP: Thank you. You take care of yourself.

Let's go to the Army. Yes, the good old Army. We love the Army. We have Colonel Stephanie Barton of the U.S. Army.

And, Stephanie, tell us a little bit about yourself and where you are and what you're focused on, what you're doing.

COLONEL STEPHANIE BARTON (ph) (via telephone): Sir, first and foremost, good morning and Happy Thanksgiving on behalf of the 101st Sustainment Brigade. We're currently located in Bagram, Afghanistan.

Sir, and what we do for the country of Afghanistan, we're the senior logistics headquarters in theater. And it is an away game. And I will tell you, in order to fight and win the nation's wars, it's because of sustainment and logistics. And you've got highly motivated, true professionals in this room and outside this room that are truly making it happen. We support -- if it's in the hands of the war fighter, it comes

through us to them. So we support everything from coalition to joint forces, from border to border here in the country, sir.

TRUMP: Good. And how you finding things in Afghanistan right now?

BARTON: Sir, it's good. We're truly making the mission happen. When it comes to sustainment, we're responsible for all the strategic operation and tactical logistics. (INAUDIBLE) If it comes in the theater, we get it in the war fighters' hands. But we have a phenomenal team, and I can't speak enough about that because a lot of the times in the sustainment (ph) community, we're behind the scenes, which is fine, but it's a good team effort and it takes the support by all to make it happen.

TRUMP: So, colonel, how many people are you commanding right now, would you say?

BARTON: There are 10,000.

TRUMP: Wow. That's a lot of people. That's fantastic, Stephanie. That's beautiful. That's beautiful. And not only is it important what you're doing, but you're enjoying what you're doing, is that right?

BARTON: Sir, absolutely. We truly love it. And I will tell you, our formation is a great mixture. We have all the Army combos from the active duty, National Guard, Reserve --


BARTON: We have Army DOD civilians and civilian contractors that literally we all come together and make the mission happen. So we do hate that we're not with our family and friends today, but I tell you, we are a close family here and I'm truly happy to be a part of it. It takes the whole community from green suitors to civilians to make it happen. And, sir, you would be very proud because we truly are.

TRUMP: It's fantastic. We're proud of you. And I'll tell you what, we're proud of your people. And please say hello to everybody. Have an incredible Thanksgiving. And we're taking good care of you. You know the budget's now at $716 billion, Stephanie, right? So we're getting rid of some of that old equipment they -- you see what's going in, the best in the world, right? So you see a big difference. An awfully big difference from what we had before. And it's only getting better. We'll be stronger than ever before. And with people like you, we feel very confident.

So, Stephanie, thank you very much. Happy Thanksgiving to all. And I will see you when you're back.

BARTON: Sir, it sounds great. We have one last message if that's OK?


BARTON: One, two, three.


TRUMP: That's great. I really appreciate that. I really do. I appreciate it. Take care of yourself. We'll see you all soon. Thank you.

From the U.S. Marine Corps, we have Colonel George Schleffler (ph).

And, George, are you on?

LIEUTENANT COLONEL SAM HOWIE (ph) (via telephone): Sir, this is Lieutenant Colonel Sam Howie. Colonel Schleffler is doing a battlefield circulation right now.

TRUMP: Oh. Oh.

HOWIE: I'm the executive officer. And I'm here with -- with several (ph) Marines.

TRUMP: Good. That's great. That's great, Sam. Good. How's it going over there?

HOWIE: It's going great, sir.

Right now the Special Purpose (INAUDIBLE), we're based in Kuwait, but we have Marines from Jordan all the way to Afghanistan and up into Iraq and Syria. And every day those Marines are insuring that those who do us harm pay for it. It's pretty amazing watching these young men and women, Sailors and Marines, and what they do with a smile on their face every day.

TRUMP: And how is the progress coming, would you say?

HOWIE: I would say the progress is excellent, sir. We've moved throughout those areas and cleared the vast majority of those enemy forces (INAUDIBLE). And right now I think we're in a good position to continue that for the rest of the year or foreseeable future.

[10:00:03] TRUMP: That's great. That's great. I'm hearing very good things. And they treat you very good over there, I imagine, right?