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ISIS Leader Appears for First Time in Five Years; Biden Hits Back at Trump; Payment to North Korea for Otto Warmbier; Rise of White Nationalism; Synagogue Suspect May be Linked to Mosque Arson. Aired 1- 1:30p ET

Aired April 29, 2019 - 13:00   ET


[13:00:00] PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN ANCHOR: Nine, 10 months away from the Iowa caucuses.

All right, much more to come on all of this. Thanks for joining us, as always, on INSIDE POLITICS.

Brianna Keilar starts right now.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Brianna Keilar, live from CNN's Washington headquarters.

And we begin with breaking news.

ISIS has released a video purported to be of its leader, Abu Bakr al Baghdadi. And he has not been seen for years, for five years, since 2014.

We have Clarissa Ward with me from London now and Barbara Starr is with us at the Pentagon.

I want to start with you, Clarissa. Tell us about this video and how we know that this is something that is timely.

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we know it's timely because there are references to the recent battle of Bahuse (ph), that was the vicious protracted battle that took place in Syria near the Iraqi border to essentially completely crush the caliphate. But Abu Bakr al Baghdadi also mentions in this video the attack on Sri Lanka. That, of course, was just over a week ago.

It's not clear, though, Brianna, whether the video was potentially made in different chunks. There are a couple of cuts in the video where the audio quality changes, potentially indicating that perhaps this was shot or filmed over a series of different episodes.

What is interesting to note is the difference in Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, if indeed it is confirmed to be him, in his physical appearance. He is much heavier than he was when we saw him last in 2014, in June, when he gave that now infamous sermon on the pulpit of the Mosul mosque. He also has a different beard now, Brianna. It is much whiter and then also with henna at the tips of the beard. And he -- he doesn't look, frankly, particularly well or in good health, other than being heavier. Although I would say he seems very calm, as you see him in this video, he's sitting on the floor surrounded by men in Arab style, sitting on the floor, guns nearby, having a conversation, and then it goes into some portions of the tape which are covered with video.

But this is very significant. No one has heard from Abu Bakr al Baghdadi in a long time. And people have been waiting to see, how will ISIS respond to the crushing are of the physical caliphate in Syria and Iraq. And here, Brianna, I think you're getting a glimpse of what that response will be with a bold and horrendous attaining in Sri Lanka being fold up by a bold video in which the ISIS leader appears on camera for the first time, as you said, in nearly five years.


KEILAR: And, Barbara, what does this mean for -- and here we see a picture from the latest -- this is a screen grab that we have of the latest video of Abu Bakr al Baghdadi. To your description, Clarissa, as you say, he has a different beard. He appears more heavy-set. His beard is certainly more white or gray.

And, Barbara, as U.S. officials are going to be looking at this video, listening to its contents, what is this going to mean for the U.S. fight against ISIS?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, bottom line up front, the U.S. military, the U.S. intelligence community has really been work on the assumption for some time that Baghdadi is alive because they basically have no evidence that he's dead. So led by Iraqi forces who believe he most likely might -- and there's a big maybe there -- might be hating somewhere in western Iraq near the Syrian border. This is a very remote area. This is an area that the Iraqis have been leading the effort to scour and see what leads they can develop on where he might be.

If they are able to mount some kind of mission eventually to try and go get him, we also know that one of the most logical questions right now is, would it be a capture or kill mission? Just like with Osama bin Laden, both the Iraqis and the U.S. will want to show the world evidence that they have found him, whether they show a dead body or a captured detainee. That question has already been debated inside the U.S. and Iraqi circles about how they might go after him.

I think one thing that is very interesting here is the recent reference to the attacks in Sri Lanka. This means, if this is confirmed to be Baghdadi, no reason to think it's not, he at least has the communications capabilities still from hiding to communicate and get a video out fairly quickly for an ISIS on the run. So this is going to be something they're definitely going to look at, all the clues, how could this video have been made, how would it be transferred, how would it be sent? Would it be sent somewhere on the dark web? Is that possibly how this happened? They're going to be looking for all of the clues and working their way backwards to see what else they can learn about where he might be. [13:05:03] But to go to Clarissa's point, perhaps not focused on enough is what about ISIS now? Sri Lanka, U.S. officials will tell you, was a wake-up call. ISIS not -- may not have its physical caliphate, but they are able to inspire attacks around the world and attacks that are just horrific and deadly. The scope of what they were able to support by all accounts inside Sri Lanka is something that the U.S. intelligence community just has not seen so far.


KEILAR: Yes, this timing certainly no coincidence following that -- those attacks in Sri Lanka.

Barbara Starr, Clarissa Ward, thank you so much for joining us on this breaking news, the leader of ISIS appearing in a video for the first time in five years.

President Trump doing exactly what his advisers asked him not to. A source telling CNN, the president has been warned against inciting tweet wars with potential 2020 opponents and unwittingly elevating their candidacy. But just hours before Joe Biden kicks off his very first campaign rally in Pittsburgh, President Trump is launching a tirade against the former vice president, attacking his record in the Obama White House and lashing out at a firefighters' union that recently endorsed Biden. The president calling it membership a rip-off with, quote, particularly high dues.

And now Biden is hitting back, tweeting, quote, I'm sick of this president bad-mouthing unions. Labor built the middle class in this country and, quote, we need a president who honors them and their work.

Biden hopes that his rally in Pittsburgh is a launch willing pad for his appeal in his original home state of Pennsylvania. This is, of course, a big union state, a steel worker state. And much to Democrats' dismay, it's a state that President Trump won in 2016.

We have CNN political director David Chalian, who's here with us.

And the president kind of taunting Biden this morning talking about Pennsylvania's economy.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes. No doubt about that. I -- what is amazing here, you said his advisers -- the president's advisers warned against elevating. You don't have to elevate Joe Biden. He is the frontrunner in the Democratic nomination race. He's already elevated.

But what the president is doing here, Brianna, is helping Joe Biden, because what did Joe Biden do out of the gate, he talked about Charlottesville and said right after -- he went right at Trump, right? He wants to advance beyond this primary. And he doesn't want to be in a fight with 19 other Democrats. His whole rational for running is that he's the one that can defeat President Trump and President Trump is actually helping Joe Biden make that argument by choosing a one on one fight with him. KEILAR: And -- and Biden coming back with the -- that -- about unions,

right, because he's criticized this firefighter union head.

So there have been four tweets actually about Biden within a half hour. Is -- what do you attribute that to? Is -- does he feel challenged?

CHALIAN: Yes. I -- I mean --

KEILAR: Is -- is he getting under his skin?

CHALIAN: He is. I think all those things. I mean I -- we know from our reporting that team Trump is very wary about Joe Biden. They do think he poses the biggest threat to winning some of those voters that went from Obama/Biden in 2012, right, to Donald Trump in 2016. And that he perhaps has the unique appeal among the 20 Democrats to actually win some of those back.

You mentioned the firefighters union. Perfect example. It dovetails into the Biden strategy.

The president is right, that the leadership of a union and the union members are not always aligned politically, he did win a lot of union members, but it's exactly that case that Joe Biden is making is that he's the one getting that endorsement today, that he can win those members back for the Democrats. Donald Trump is keenly aware of that threat.

KEILAR: We're going to have the president of that firefighters union on here this hour.

David Chalian, thank you so much.

CHALIAN: Thank you.

KEILAR: Joseph Yun, the former U.S. special representative for North Korean policy, confirming to CNN that the Trump administration did agree to pay a $2 million hospital bill to North Korea for the care of American detainee Otto Warmbier.

Yun was the diplomat who was sent to North Korea in 2017 to bring Warmbier home. And here's what he said this morning.


JOSEPH YUN, FORMER U.S. SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE FOR NORTH KOREAN POLICY: Well, as soon as the North Korean side told me that his bill for $2 million would have to be paid, of course, I contacted my boss, then Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, to ask him. And he got back to me very quickly thereafter to say, yes, go ahead and sign.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR, "NEWSROOM": Was it your understanding that Secretary Tillerson had the president's approval for that OK?

YUN: That was my understanding. I never asked him. But that was my understanding. (END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: Warmbier was held as a prisoner in North Korea for more than a year and returned to the U.S. in a coma. He died a few days later when -- and when asked if the U.S. paid ransom for him, this is what the president said just last week.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We did not pay money for our great Otto. There was no money paid. There was a fake news report that money was paid. I haven't paid money for any hostage.


[13:10:08] KEILAR: We have Admiral John Kirby. He's a former spokesman for the Pentagon and the State Department.

And you heard what the president said there.


KEILAR: Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state, says it is still the policy to not pay ransoms.

KIRBY: Right.

KEILAR: So what is your interpretation of what happened here then?

KIRBY: Well, they certainly agreed to pay a ransom. You can't call it anything other than that. Now, they'll say they didn't change policy because they never paid it, but they certainly agreed to it. It's extortion and it's not atypical for the North Korean regime to demand sort of exorbitant payments for these kinds of things.

DNI Clapper was on Don Lemon the other night saying that he had to pay this incredibly high ramp fee just to park his plane at the airport. This is typical for them to get cash inflow.

But, look, the policy is important because you don't want to encourage other terrorist regimes or nation states to likewise hold Americans hostage in their country that then it just encourages the hostage- taking regime all the more.

KEILAR: So then what does it mean if it's not paid, that there's this agreement to pay it? How -- how does the administration hang its hat on, oh, we agreed to, but then we didn't actually pay it?

KIRBY: Yes, look, they're damned if they do, damned if they don't, right, I mean, because now if they don't pay, and I don't think that they should, obviously, but if they don't, now they're going to have to factor that into their ability -- the credibility of their negotiating tactics to get future Americans out of North Korea should Pyongyang, you know, take anymore, or other terrorist groups for that matter. KEILAR: We heard Yun there say that he understood -- he didn't ask the

president specifically himself. There was no conversation. But his understanding was that the president signed off on this. We spoke with him late last week and he said sort of theoretically when he wasn't confirming this at that point in time that the understanding coming from the president was, do everything you can to get Otto Warmbier out.

KIRBY: Right.

KEILAR: Would this have required presidential approval?

KIRBY: I think so. Even in a White House as dysfunctional as this one, this is the kind of decision that would go right to the top. And it should.

And, look, I -- I gave at the time, and I -- I think still we should give them credit for getting Otto home. And it's ridiculous that the North Koreans would want to charge us medical bills for basically killing that young man.

But, yes, this kind of decision would go all the way to the White House. I have no trouble believing that whatsoever.

KEILAR: All right, John Kirby, thank you so much.

KIRBY: Thank you.

KEILAR: And Joe Biden landing a politically coveted endorsement from a firefighters' union. We will talk to the president of the group who President Trump criticized personally in a tweet this morning.

Plus, the NRA in turmoil as the group's internal drama prompt an investigation.

And after yet another hate attack in America, what is the Trump administration doing to fight the rise of white nationalism?


[13:17:03] KEILAR: Funeral services are being held today for 60-year- old Lori Kaye, who died in the shooting at the Chabad Synagogue near San Diego. Kaye was between the shooter and the synagogue's rabbi. And Kaye's husband, a doctor, began performing CPR on her during the chaos, unaware that it was his own wife that he was trying to help. Three other people, including an 8-year-old girl, were injured when a gunmen opened fire during services on the last day of Passover. A 19- year-old man is charged with one country of first-degree murder and three counts of first-degree attempted murder.

And the tragedy at this southern California synagogue is part of a much larger problem. Hate crimes are on the rise for the third year in a row. That's according to the FBI. So what is the Trump administration doing to address it?

We have Jessica Schneider here. You've been looking into this. What did you find?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you know, in addition to hate crime being on the rise, the FBI director, Christopher Wray, he talked about it at a forum on Friday. He said that domestic terrorism that's related to white supremacists as well as anarchist ideology, that is also on the rise, saying that last year there were more domestic terrorism related arrests than international terrorism related arrests. And really the statistics point to this rise.

So the most recent annual report by the Anti-Defamation League, which has long tracked extremist activity, showed that 39 of the 50 extremists related murders tracked by the group in 2018 were committed by white supremacists. Now that was up from 2017 when white supremacists were responsible for 18 out of the 34 extremist-related murders.

OK, so the question is, what is being done to count this kind of crime? Well, the Department of Homeland Security actually recently announced its newest office earlier this month. It's the Office for Targeted Violence and Terrorism Prevention. It will be focused on preventing both international and domestic terrorism and any other racially motivated violence.

Now, the announcement does come after DHS received some criticism in the past for its handling of domestic extremism prevention since it has cut some grand money to organizations that work to counter violent extremism and has not renewed that grant money.

But, Brianna, now DHS is setting up this new office perhaps to battle some of that bad press that they got, but also to really focus in on the fact that hate crimes have increased, as well as these instances of domestic terrorism propelled by these white supremacists group.

KEILAR: That was just stunning, the number that you showed for 2018.

SCHNEIDER: Going up.

KEILAR: So 39 out of 50 white supremacy. But then the year before, 18 out of 34. So you're just -- you're seeing this proportion is huge, and then you're seeing the number of these extremist-related murders are huge. Is there any -- is there any sense -- and they may not have been able to do this research, but have they been able to determine any causality here?

SCHNEIDER: No. And one thing that the FBI says is, look, hate crimes, our numbers, the statistics, they are on the rise. But one thing that they caution is sometimes these things aren't necessarily reported. Sometimes the local agencies don't report that they are hate crimes. So there's a little bit of caution there, saying, OK, the numbers we have may be on the rise here, is it the result of increased reporting, which, of course, is a good thing because it allows us to track better, but there's nothing really pointing to exactly what is causing what seems to be a rise here and a spike.

[13:20:25] KEILAR: very interesting.

Jessica Schneider, thank you so much for that.

Investigators are looking into a note the synagogue shooting suspect posted online before the attack. It mentioned other hate crimes, including one at a nearby mosque which was set on fire and vandalized last month. This included graffiti that referenced the mass shootings at two mosques in New Zealand.

We have Yusef Miller. He's a member of that mosque that was vandalized in Escondido. He's also a board member of the Islamic Society of North County in San Diego.

Yusef, thank you so much for joining us from Poway, California.

And you're aware -- law enforcement thinks that there's a link here. Have you been informed at all about this?

YUSEF MILLER, MEMBER OF MOSQUE TARGETED IN ARSON ATTACK: No. They haven't said anything directly about the connection. But, you know, from reading the manifesto and things like that, we all have our suspicions.

KEILAR: So what are the conversations that you are having right now with your friends, with your family, with people in your community there?

MILLER: Well, there's a -- well, first of all, the tragedy and the sorrow for what happened at the synagogue, that's primary that -- what we're talking about, the loss of life, Sister Kaye and the other people who were injured, the rabbi lost his finger, so we're mostly talking about that and giving our solidarity and -- and our love and support.

And, on the other hand, we're relieved that this person has been caught and apprehended and that it may point to he was the same one that vandalized our mosque. That way we -- we feel less of a need to look over our shoulder every day. What's going to happen next? We're already hypervigilant and if we're going to have to go further than that. We've increased our security and things of that nature. It doesn't make the community feel too much safer, but we are vigilant, we'll never let this type of hate deter us from our worship or from who we are. But the conversation that we're having with the community is one of vigilance still, but a little bit of relief that this may be the person who done the vandalizing at the mosque.

KEILAR: When you look at this rise in hate crimes, we've been talking about this, on the rise for the third year in a row, and especially when you look at the reporting of white nationalists -- white nationalist hate crimes, that's significant. Is there -- do you think there's a reason for that?

MILLER: Well, I -- I tie it into the rhetoric that comes from the administration. I think we -- we're in a period -- an administration of xenophobia and a lot of rhetoric that people find themselves emboldened when they think -- when they live in this kind of bubble. And I think it's the emboldening of these people that is making it appear to have this spike and a rise. They've always been here, but they've been in the shell. And I want to make that clear, none of us feel that because of the administration they exists. We don't believe that at all. We believe that they've been here continuously and they've been emboldened by the current administration.

KEILAR: You say, Yusef, that you're not going to be deterred from worshiping, but I wonder if you and other members of your mosque, if you look at this, really, it's become a long list of houses of worship, the synagogue in Poway, the churches in Sri Lanka, the mosques in New Zealand, the synagogue in Pittsburgh. How can people in your mosque, how can people, worshippers in general of any religion, feel like they can do this safely? Can they?

MILLER: Well, we're a tradition of resilience. And we -- we may have our fears about what may happen day to day, but we can't let the people push us into a bubble out of fear. We have a belief in a supreme creator who has chosen our destiny. And matter -- no matter if we hide at home or at a super market or at the mosque, that that destination is already determined. So we carry on. We go to our mosque. We pray. And we take care of our family the best we can and the rest we put in the hands of our creator.

KEILAR: All right Yusef, thank you so much. Yusef Miller joining us. We really appreciate you speaking with us today.

MILLER: Thank you very much.

KEILAR: As we hear more revelations from whistleblower after whistleblower, Boeing CEOs are now suggesting the pilot was to blame in the deadly Ethiopian crash.

[13:24:55] And former Vice President Joe Biden winning a high-profile endorsement from the firefighters union. President Trump isn't too happy about that. The firefighter union president is going to join me live to discuss, next.


[13:29:51] KEILAR: The CEO of Boeing is suggesting that pilot error may have been a contributing factor in the Ethiopian Airlines crash last month that killed all 157 people on board. He says anti-stall software known at MCAS was a common link between the Ethiopia crash and the earlier Lion Air crash.