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ISIS Has Returned to Guerilla Warfare Tactics; Dan Coats and Christopher Wray Testify before Senate Intelligence Committee This Morning; Venezuelan Military Conditions on the Ground; Highlights from Super Bowl LIII Opening Night. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired January 29, 2019 - 10:30   ET



DAN COATS, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: While ISIS is nearing territorial defeat in Iraq and Syria, the group has returned to its guerilla warfare roots while continuing to plot attacks and direct its supporters worldwide.

ISIS is intent on resurging, and still commands thousands of fighters in Iraq and Syria.


JIM SCIUTTO: CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: You can't put too fine a point on it because you have the nation's senior-most intelligence chiefs, all of them appointed by this president, contradicting the president on virtually all the national security priorities here.

On ISIS being defeated, no. On North Korea no longer being a nuclear threat, no. Says the Iran deal may lead Iran to resume nuclear activities, and that Russia is still attempting to interfere in elections.

I mean, it's -- Barbara Starr, you've covered this for a long time. At the start of the hearing, Dan Coats said, "They're going to speak truth here." And it struck me that that was a message, perhaps to the president. But these assessments contradict the president, do they not?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, let's just take the question of ISIS for the moment. Look, ISIS is an ideology. Bombs and troops do not kill off ideologies. We all know that. We've known that since the days of 9/11.

So there may be some type of reduction in the physical caliphate, but this is a movement that is still very much alive.

And when he talks about a guerilla movement, look, you only have to remember, it was just a couple of weeks ago that very sadly, four Americans were killed in northern Syria in a suspected ISIS suicide attack outside that restaurant in Manbij. So we already see ISIS in this guerilla mode.

But what's so interesting about what the director of national intelligence is not saying but hinting at, what is the actual strength of ISIS?

So they have thousands of fighters. But what do they have in terms of money, communications, organizations, ability to inspire people via cyber or in a -- in a literal sense, what kind of networks do they have? That's the real question, here, of course.

Just to have thousands of fighters, very serious. They can launch local attacks, they can do all sorts of things. But from the standpoint -- for the security of the United States, what is their capability to inspire, organize and launch an attack against the United States?

Do they have communications, does ISIS leadership have communications with ISIS adherents, ISIS loyalists here in the United States, in Europe? People that might attack against U.S. interests. That's really one of the very central questions in this assessment.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: And let's take a moment, as we look at sort of the broad global threat assessment here, to the FBI director, Christopher Wray, speaking just moments ago about Russia.


CHRISTOPHER WRAY, DIRECTOR OF THE FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION: Not only have the Russians continued to do it in 2018, but we've seen indications that they're continuing to adapt their model, and that other countries are taking a very interested eye in that approach.


HARLOW: Alex Marquardt, the concerns here about election security, once again.

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Poppy, what was really interesting here is that right out of the gate, election security was the first thing that the director of national intelligence, Dan Coats, mentioned.

This was before he -- before he got into Russia, Iran, North Korea and China. Election security was something that he wanted to hit right off the bat.

And he said that countries -- not just Russia -- are looking at 2016, 2018, at what was accomplished then, and are looking ahead to 2020, at what could be a very different landscape, suggesting that they -- that they liked what they saw in 2016 and 2018, that they're either going to refine what he called their "toolbox."

Twenty-sixteen, of course, a very dramatic election in which we saw the Democratic e-mails hacked into. Of course, a massive disinformation campaign from Russia.

Twenty-eighteen, they note, the midterms did go relatively smoothly. And Coats did make an effort to note that there has been no evidence that any of the voting infrastructure has been hacked into. But he is very much sounding a warning here, as we look ahead to 2020,

not just saying that the landscape could look very different, that the tactics that are going to be used could look very different, but that it might not just be Russia.

That Russia will not only expand the tactics that they've used before, but that China is also getting involved. Certainly from an economic perspective. And we could also see Iran getting involved, using what influence they can -- certainly social media -- to try to influence the election.

So certainly, a very forward-looking part of this report, to 2020, sounding the alarm there, that the playbooks, essentially, are being ripped up by Russia and the others, and rebuilt. But what that's actually going to look like, we don't really know.

SCIUTTO Barbara Starr, North Korea, the president's preparing for a second summit with the North Korean leader. And you -- and the president has claimed, after his first summit, that North Korea's no longer a nuclear threat --

[10:35:01] HARLOW: Right.

SCIUTTO: -- and yet Dan Coats, the president's appointee as director of national intelligence, says that North Korea is, quote, "unlikely to give up all of its WMD stockpiles, delivery systems and production capabilities." He goes on to say that some activity, currently inconsistent with full denuclearization.

What does that do to the -- to the president, to the administration's goals for a second summit here, if his intelligence community is telling him, "They're not going to do what you say they're going to do"?

STARR: Well, I think one of the key questions -- perhaps one of the key concerns that many people in the administration are signaling is, will the United States, will President Trump make some sort of agreement with Kim Jong Un at this second summit?

Will the U.S. essentially give something up before getting that full, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization, which is where this all started?

Surprised? Don't be surprised. I don't think anybody in the intelligence community thought Kim Jong Un was either going to make a full disclosure of his capabilities, right off the bat, and that he had any intention of giving it all up right off the bat.

So if the president is going to stick to full, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization, there's an awful long way to go. They are going to have to hold Kim Jong Un's -- you know, literally, his feet to the fire --


HARLOW: Yes. STARR: -- to make him declare everything he's got. Right now, what

the director of national intelligence is saying is, he doesn't think Kim is going to give it all up. And that makes the second summit a very interesting prospect. How far will President Trump really go on this.

SCIUTTO: Barbara Starr, Alex Marquardt, a lot to digest there.

The U.S. ramping up its efforts to remove Venezuela's president, Nicolas Maduro. Coming up, we hear from two army defectors about their hopes for a peaceful transition of power in their home country.


[10:41:22] SCIUTTO: The Trump administration has now hit Venezuela's state-owned oil company with sanctions, trying to stop billions of dollars from flowing into the hands of the sitting president, Nicolas Maduro.

Transferring control of the company could, if it works, break Maduro's grip on power and help the self-proclaimed interim president who the U.S. has now recognized, Juan Guaido.

HARLOW: And Guaido told CNN that Maduro must be pressured into leaving peacefully, right? Peacefully being a key work there.

Nick Paton Walsh joins us live -- Nick, you've been on the ground, you're reporting this out. You're seeing what none of us are seeing and experiencing.

Guaido says his movement to oust Maduro is gaining momentum. There's talk about potential amnesty here. What can you tell us?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: He is able to project a clear project, I think, of where he wants this to go. The question is, can he take those billions of dollars, which are potentially at his disposal, and use them inside the country to alleviate hunger, to potentially erode some of the hold that Maduro has on the military and the civil elite there?

We've heard talk, and the White House is doing nothing to dampen these rumors of possible military options. I have to say, that's the last thing beleaguered Venezuela needs. But we have heard from Venezuelan army defectors -- who have long called for the army to rise up -- that they want American weapons. Here's our report.


PATON WALSH (voice-over): Hunger often explodes as rage on Venezuela's streets. But it's not ousted Maduro's government, as the military generals have their backs.


PATON WALSH (voice-over): The defense minister tweeted, his soldiers would die for the government. Yet while the rank and file express support in videos like this, they tell us they're suffering like everyone else.



PATON WALSH (voice-over): Some Venezuelan officers have even defected and, outside the country, have appealed on TV for a military uprising.


PATON WALSH (voice-over): But their supporters haven't reached critical mass. And now they tell us, they want the White House to arm them.


PATON WALSH (voice-over): "As Venezuelan soldiers, we're making a request to the U.S.," he says, "to support us in logistical terms, with communication, with weapons, so we can realize Venezuelan freedom."


PATON WALSH (voice-over): We're not saying we need only U.S. support, but also from Brazil, Colombia, Peru, all brother countries that are against this dictatorship.

They show me the WhatsApp groups plotting rebellion, they hope reach thousands of soldiers. But they also rejected any possible military intervention by U.S. forces themselves.


PATON WALSH (voice-over): "We don't want a foreign government invading our country," he says. "If we lead in incursion, it has to be by Venezuelan soldiers who really want to free Venezuela. Now we're unifying all those military groups working towards freedom, to create a really big one that can be decisive."


PATON WALSH (voice-over): The appeal for U.S. help comes after military uprisings have seen little success so far.


PATON WALSH (voice-over): This group of soldiers in Caracas, over a week ago, staged a rebellion that was short-lived and ended in their reported arrest.

In a basement car park in Caracas, I meet a serving soldier afraid to be identified as he spoke of the chance of an uprising. "There are soldiers in every unit," he says, "that are willing to rise

up in arms. They're preparing themselves and learning from past mistakes. They're waiting for the right moment so they can hit even harder, so people feel it.

[10:44:53] "A few units are missing weapons and ammunition, too, taken for this purpose. Past operations have failed because the higher- ranking officers were against it. They control every area, still. And if an uprising happens, it's swiftly neutralized."


PATON WALSH (voice-over): But he's heard messages to rise up from defectors, and says they do inspire.

"It's a very positive message," he says. "Because somehow, they give us hope. They are outside Venezuela, but feed our soul, inspire us."

Yet in the army for now, as elsewhere in Venezuela, it's a handful of elite keeping down many below them.


PATON WALSH: Now, a lot of speculation because National Security Advisor John Bolton was seen with a yellow pad with the phrase, "5,000 troops to Colombia," on it yesterday. Nobody in Washington really dampening speculation about what that potentially means, but Colombian officials here, clear that they're not expecting any massive new influx of American military here.

We do have the head of U.S. Southern Command in Bogota right now, in what we're told is a routine meeting. I think many in Washington and the Trump administration, trying to continue to foment the idea that military options are being looked at, in the hope maybe that will erode Maduro's support.

All eyes, really, on the people. What are they going to do? They've been called out to protest on Wednesday and Sunday. Is that going to change the nature of Maduro's support -- Poppy, Jim.

HARLOW: Nick, Jim and I were just saying, it is remarkable reporting that you are your team are doing on the ground. So important, and we're very thankful for you, bringing us that.

Nick Paton Walsh, live in Bogota, Colombia, on the -- on the crisis in Venezuela.

SCIUTTO: Yes. No question.

HARLOW: OK. Switching gears in a major way, the countdown is on for Super Bowl LIII. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady says he has a few haters, just a few, but he knows how to handle them.


[10:51:04] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN, the most-trusted name in news.

HARLOW: This is -- this is all Jim can talk about. Every morning, he walks into my office and says, "Can you wait for Super Bowl LIII?"

SCIUTTO: Well, listen, listen. Last year, this New York Giants fan became an Eagles fan for a good Super Bowl, right? And --

HARLOW: To (ph) this (ph) depressed Vikings fan.

SCIUTTO: -- now I'm a Los Angeles Rams fan --

HARLOW: There you --

SCIUTTO: -- just because I want a good football game, right?

HARLOW: And I'm with the Pats because they always win. Let the trash-talking begin. The Rams and the Patriots kicked off Super Bowl Week with Opening Night last night.

SCIUTTO: Andy Scholes, outside Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.

So, Andy, is it going to be a game?


SCIUTTO: Is it going to be a close one?

SCHOLES: Well, you know, Jim, whenever Tom Brady plays in the Super Bowl, it's always a good, close game. So, I mean, if he's done it the previous eight times, no reason to expect him not to do it in this ninth time, here in Atlanta.

But, you know, Super Bowl Week always gets kicked off now with Opening Night. It's really turned into a primetime event, and the Rams and Patriots are meeting with over the 2,000 members of the media from all over the world last night. As always, it's quite the scene. There was a clown, there were some sombreros, there were fans wearing goat masks.

And when the Patriots came out, Gronk made a grand entrance, impressing everyone including Tom Brady with his dance moves. And speaking of number 12, he of course had the biggest crowd around him during the media session.

But 8-year-old Camdyn Clancy, this year's PLAY 60 kid, made his way through that horde of media and he asked Brady, how does he deal with all the haters?


TOM BRADY, QUATERBACK, NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS: How are you able to focus despite the negative fan base?

CAMDYN CLANCY, NFL PLAY 60 SUPER KID: A.k.a. the haters.

BRADY: A.k.a. the haters. I don't know. What do we do about the haters? We love them. We love them. We love them back because we don't hate back. We appreciate it, and we love them, and we wish them the best in their life.


SCHOLES: Now, Brady, also taking the stage with Rams quarterback, Jared Goff, last night. Brady, 41 years old. This is his ninth Super Bowl. Goff, meanwhile, just 24, playing in his first.

And Brady, well, he's not willing to give Goff any pointers before playing the biggest game of his life.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What sort of advice would you give this guy as he gets ready to take on the big, bad Patriots?

BRADY: I'm not giving him any advice.



SCHOLES: Now, there's also a huge age difference between the two coaches, Bill Belichick, 66 years old. Sean McVay, half his age, just 33. But get this, they've been exchanging texts all season long. According to "ProFootballTalk."

They met at the combine last season, developed a mutual admiration for each other. And McVay said the fact that Belichick, who's considered arguably the greatest coach ever, that he takes the time to text him, that's pretty cool.


SEAN MCVAY, COACH, LOS ANGELES RAMS: I got a change to meet him last year. And, really, I think, you know, there was a lot made of the texts. But it was more me really saying how much I appreciated the way he's treated me.


MCVAY: And, you know, for him to even take the time to text me after a game --


MCVAY: -- it means a lot because of the respect that I have for him. You know, he's been doing it at such a high level for so long, and it means a lot. And you respect your peers, and he's somebody that I have a lot of respect for.


SCHOLES: And we were expecting to get some snow, here in downtown Atlanta, today, guys. But it hasn't showed up yet. You know, they shut down the city as a precaution. No school. Most people stayed home from work. But, you know, it's just rain right now and it looks like --


SCHOLES: -- Super Bowl events is not going to be affected at all --

HARLOW: All right.

SCHOLES: -- by the weather.

HARLOW: Two notes. Our whole team came to work in Atlanta today, every single one.


HARLOW: The second note, Washington could learn something from how Tom Brady answered the haters, and how those coaches are getting along.

SCIUTTO: That's true.

HARLOW: Right?

SCIUTTO: No question.

HARLOW: My thoughts.

SCIUTTO: It's going to be a good game. I'll watch it, Andy. If you tell me to watch it --

SCHOLES: Oh, yes. OK.

SCIUTTO: -- I'll watch it. I'll listen to you.

[10:54:49] We'll be right back.


SCIUTTO: There's quite a scene playing out on Capitol Hill right now. Those are the nation's senior-most intelligence officials, six of them, all appointed by this president. And contradicting the president on a number of claims he's made about North Korea, about ISIS being defeated, about climate change, about continuing Russian interference in the elections. It's quite a moment there, on Capitol Hill, playing out.

HARLOW: Yes. Politics, not part of this. This is about giving direct, important answers to lawmakers, senators there.

[10:59:52] One interesting note. Christopher Wray, the head of the FBI, just talked about China and just said that the Chinese counterintelligence threat is more deep, more diverse, more vexing, more challenging, more comprehensive and more concerning --


HARLOW: -- than any counterintelligence threat I can think of. China.

SCIUTTO: Folks will often put China up there. China and Russia, but --