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Shanahan Withdraws Nomination; Dallas Photographer Close to Encounter with Gunman; Ninth American Dies in Dominican Republic. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired June 19, 2019 - 08:30   ET



[08:31:50] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: This morning, new questions about who is serving in the president's cabinet and how they got there. Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan is on the way out with Army Secretary Mark Esper set to replace him. This is all happening as the tensions are escalating with Iran at the very time you need a strong secretary of defense. So, what challenges does this pose at the Pentagon?

Joining me now, Lieutenant General Mark Hertling, former Army commanding general of Europe and the Seventh Army and a CNN military analyst, and Rear Admiral John Kirby, former Pentagon press secretary and a CNN military and diplomatic analyst.

To say I am outranked this morning is the biggest understatement of the morning.

General, I do want to start with you here just on the confirmation process. And you've both been through background checks. I just don't understand how it got this far. He is already a Senate confirmed deputy defense secretary. And the episodes in the family -- and I'm not assigning blame to him here -- but the episodes in the family are something that absolutely would or should have come up in an FBI background check and absolutely should have been at least considered by the Senate, correct, general?

GEN. MARK HERTLING, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Yes, absolutely, John. And I'll tell you, having filled out the forms that you're required to fill out for background checks, for financial disclosure, done that many times. I'm sure Admiral Kirby has to. You're concerned about making sure you get everything on those documents because you know if an FBI agent or a security investigator comes back later on and says, hey, you forgot to tell us about x, y or z, you're in trouble. And other people will tell that or they'll do a check in terms of arrest record. So, yes, it concerned me. I was confused as to why it didn't come up. And even then, if you're going for a high level position in the U.S. government, you make sure your bosses know all the dark things that occurred in your past just to give them the information.

BERMAN: Yes. And I just also want to not that domestic abuse is not some abstract issue in the United States military.


BERMAN: It is a fundamental primary concern for the Pentagon right now. And if there's any -- I don't know if I want to use the word conflict here, it's something that should have been known going in.

Bigger, macro issue, admiral, we now have a former acting defense secretary. We haven't had a defense secretary since Jim Mattis left, General Mattis left before Christmas.


BERMAN: There are serious issues around the world right now. Of how much concern is this to you?

KIRBY: It's of -- it's of deep concern to me because the -- because our allies and adversaries, when they see that there's an acting in front of somebody's name, they know that that person could be temporary, that it's a -- that it's in an ephemeral position and that that maybe they'll be dealing with somebody else a couple of months later if Donald Trump decides to fire him or her. It also makes it hard for them to appreciate the degree to which that acting individual has the ear of the president, has the influence over the president and is actually involved deeply in the policymaking process, policies that affect them, again, our allies and our adversaries.

It also makes it hard for the institution, John, because the bureaucrats know that any reforms or any changes, any change that the acting secretary wants to lead are also ephemeral, and they can wait it out. So it's very hard for an acting individual to make any meaningful change inside an institution, much less hire, recruit and retain real talented individuals. And we have not seen many Pentagon posts filled. And I think part of the reason why there's so -- a lack of civilian appointees in the Pentagon is because they don't want to come aboard because they don't know who the heck the next leader's going to be.

[08:35:22] BERMAN: If we could put up on the screen here --


BERMAN: Go ahead -- go ahead, general.

HERTLING: No, if I can add to that, John brings up a very good point, John, and that is, there's not only this churn within the appointee positions and the actings and how people perceive that, but there's also the normal procedures that are taking place. The Central Command commander and the special operations command commander, who Secretary Pompeo visited yesterday, are both brand new. We will turn over the chairman of the Joint Chiefs and all of the service chiefs and the vice chairmen this summer. So all of that church within the Defense Department, when you have other signals going out to our friends and allies saying, hey, we're -- we're more worried about the tactics of things than we are about the strategies and the policies associated, in an organization, the Defense Department, that is huge. It's the biggest bureaucracy in the world. So all of those things contribute to this kind of churn that -- that is concerning, especially when things are happening around the world.

BERMAN: Just a couple of points here we have up on the screen. The secretary of the Army, Mark Esper, will become it new acting defense secretary, which, again, is a phrase that you really shouldn't have in the U.S. government for very long, to have an old acting defense secretary and a new acting defense secretary.

Secretary Esper here, we should note, seems to be widely respected and have bipartisan support if he were to become the eventual nominee.

But that aside, admiral, let me put up on the screen here the number of acting, you know, senior government officials and cabinet officials here. It just goes on and on and on here.

KIRBY: Right.

BERMAN: And it does seem to allow for a vacuum, again, and we're watching hot spots in Iran for instance. And as secretary of state, you worked both in the Pentagon and in the State Department --

KIRBY: Right.

BERMAN: The secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, seems more involved than I believe I've seen with military issues. He was down at CENTCOM. He seem to be taking the point on the military action involved with Iran now, and I'm not sure if that's normal or a result of the fact there's only been an acting Pentagon leader.

KIRBY: I think it's partly that. I mean clearly it was an indication that Mr. Shanahan was considered weak and maybe on his way out. But I really think yesterday was all about sending a message to Iran. It was a photo-op. And I think Pompeo liked that optic of him being down there in Central Command. But it was wholly inappropriate for the secretary of state. His job is diplomacy. And he's not in the chain of command, John. He has no accountable for military decisions one way or another.

So the argument that I needed to go down there to make sure we were coordinated was a specious argument at best. He could have done that easily by just picking up the phone, calling Shanahan or calling the Joint Chiefs Chairman General Dunford. That was a wholly unnecessary and again all about -- all about visual messaging.

But I am concerned about the degree to which this administration has a cohesive policy on how to deal with Iran. They keep saying -- Pompeo keeps saying it's about economics and about diplomatic efforts, but yet he's down at CENTCOM talking to the military about military options. It seems like the president's on one side, hey, let's cut a deal on nukes, and Pompeo and Bolton are on the other side saying, you know, regime change. So I think -- and the Iranians understand this and they're driving a truck right through those differences between our own administration.

BERMAN: Admiral Kirby, General Hertling, always a pleasure to have you with us. Thanks very much.

KIRBY: Thanks.

HERTLING: Thanks, John.

BERMAN: Alisyn.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: OK, John, wait until you see this. A news photographer find himself feet away from an armed gunman.


TOM FOX, PHOTOGRAPHER WHO HID FEET FROM GUNMAN: I was just praying that he couldn't see me. If he would have saw me, he would have shot me, no doubt.


CAMEROTA: OK, we have the story behind this chilling photo.


[08:42:45] CAMEROTA: When a masked gunman tried to storm a federal courthouse in Dallas, a "Dallas Morning News" photographer stayed put, and he captured this chilling image.

CNN's Dianne Gallagher has the backstory.


TOM FOX, PHOTOGRAPHER WHO HID FEET FROM GUNMAN: I was just praying that he couldn't see me. If he would have saw me, he would have shot me, no doubt.

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): That terrifying scene as a 22-year-old Army veteran, heavily armed and seemingly dressed for battle, opened fire outside the federal building and courthouse in downtown Dallas.

FOX: I heard three pops, thinking it was just some backfire from a car. After the third shot, I knew it wasn't.

GALLAGHER: "Dallas Morning News" photographer Tom Fox was standing outside waiting to photograph a defendant arriving for jury selection when the bullets started flying.

FOX: I noticed somebody on the sidewalk near the corner, so when I didn't know what it was, so I just pulled up a long lens and looked through the viewfinder and saw the muzzle of the gun and the guy with the mask on.

GALLAGHER: Fox snapped this chilling photo of the gunman, Brian Isaack Clyde.

FOX: I just went into, OK, this is my job. This is what I've been doing for almost 30 years. Just stay close to the story but not in danger.

GALLAGHER: But didn't realize he needed to take cover.

FOX: Got to get out of harm's way. He's coming this way. I didn't want to be shot in the back. And so I just ducked into the first alcove.

GALLAGHER: Cellphone video filmed by Tim Brown from his apartment just across the street shows Fox just a few feet from Clyde during those chaotic moments.

FOX: I'm in plain sight. And if he saw me sitting there with a camera, he would -- I have no doubt he would have shot me.

GALLAGHER: Federal protective service officers shot and killed Clyde before he ever got a chance to go into the building or hurt anyone.

FOX: You think about friends. You think about things that are important to you. This is not the way I want to go.

GALLAGHER: Dianne Gallagher, CNN, Dallas, Texas.


BERMAN: I've got to say, an amazing story behind an amazing picture.

All right, two fishermen in New Jersey, they were in a terrifying encounter. Captain Jeff Crilly (ph) and his crew were fishing 30 miles off the coast of New Jersey when this happened.






[08:45:02] BERMAN: All right.

CAMEROTA: I guess that was scary when Jaws pulls up next to you.

BERMAN: Actually, that was me screaming right then just watching this.

That's a great white shark ripping the chum bag off the side of Crilly's 31-foot boat. You never want to lose your chum bag.

CAMEROTA: But, I mean, what do you want a great white to do, you know?

BERMAN: Um, I mean, just leave me alone. Leave me alone. . CAMEROTA: Well then don't go 30 miles out into its neighborhood.

BERMAN: Don't ever go in the ocean. It left teeth marks on the hull. The shark was 16 to 18 feet long, an estimated 3,000 pounds, and we're looking for an update on what happened to the chum bag. CAMEROTA: I mean I -- when I heard that it was in New Jersey, I was very terrified. But then I heard it was 30 miles offshore and I feel better.

BERMAN: It's New Jersey. It's New Jersey.

CAMEROTA: I'm not blaming New Jersey for this.

BERMAN: It's a New Jersey story.

CAMEROTA: That is not because -- New Jersey's fault.

BERMAN: Here is what to watch today.


ON SCREEN TEXT: Soon, Hope Hicks testifies on Capitol Hill.

2:30 p.m. ET, Fed chair speaks on interest rates.

4:45 p.m. ET, Presidential Medal of Freedom ceremony.


CAMEROTA: Ok, now to the mystery of what is happening in the Dominican Republic. A New Jersey man has become the ninth American tourist to die in the Dominican Republic this year. His brother is demanding answers this morning and you'll hear from him, next.


[08:50:35] CAMEROTA: A New Jersey man died suddenly on vacation last week in the Dominican Republic. He is the ninth American tourist to die there this year under mysterious circumstances. Fifty-five-year- old Joseph Allen was found dead last Thursday in his hotel room. His family is demanding answers as to exactly what happened.

So joining us now is Joseph's brother, Jason Allen.

Jason, we're glad that you're here, but we're so sorry for your loss and how sudden and what a shock it was.


CAMEROTA: What do you think happened to your brother there?

ALLEN: I think that maybe my brother was either -- he either was given something to drink or he ate something that didn't -- wasn't what it was supposed to be. And that might have caused his death.

CAMEROTA: Was your brother sick? Did your brother have any health issues, any heart issues of any kind?

ALLEN: No, ma'am. He had just gotten a physical prior to his trip. He had a clean bill of health. And there's no reason -- we have no reason to believe that his death was of natural causes.

CAMEROTA: You know, there's been this spate of mysterious deaths in the Dominican Republic. And these are not deaths that have easy answers. I mean, for instance, there was this couple just a couple of weeks ago who both died at their resort. There have been other visitors to the Dominican Republic who had said that they felt that they were poisoned somehow, not intentionally, but when they came -- they got so sick that they felt that they were even unintentionally poisoned.

Is that the theory -- your working theory?

ALLEN: That's what I'm thinking. You know, I know that my brother had a fever. He complained about being really hot. His friend looked at him. He was sweating bullets. Took a shower, cooled off, said he felt a lot better.

He was going to hang out that night, decided, you know what, I feel better but I don't feel well enough to hang -- you know, to go hand out, so I'm just going to relax in the room and read. And, so, like you said, I don't believe it was something intentional per say, but there's something that's off. I have no reason to believe -- my brother was very healthy, just got a clean bill of health from his physician, and I have no reason to believe that he just dropped dead for no reason.

CAMEROTA: Did all of the news reports of what had been happening in the Dominican Republic for the past few weeks, did that give your brother any pause?

ALLEN: It's funny you ask that. I had mentioned this to him, and because he had been to this place so many different times --

CAMEROTA: This resort in particular?

ALLEN: This resort in particular. He knew the owners. This was like his "Cheers." Like, he knew the owners. He knew the workers. My brother was a working man. He treated the workers kindly, with respect. So everyone knew my brother, loved my brother.

So he -- and I mentioned it to him. I even sent him -- and he was in the DR at the time when David Ortiz got shot. I said, man, the DR's kind of crazy right now, you sure you want to be there? And he just assured me that nothing would happen to him. He knows everybody. He's not a tourist. He's going to be here. He's going to be in this place and this is -- and he'll be fine.

CAMEROTA: So you're asking for help. You -- you need the embassy's help. I mean what are you -- I know the State Department has reached out to you now. What do you need their help with?

ALLEN: Right now my goal is to, one, get my -- my brother back -- get my brother's body back to the United States.

CAMEROTA: So you can do an autopsy?

ALLEN: Well, they actually performed an autopsy when -- on the Friday.

CAMEROTA: And what did they find?

ALLEN: We don't know. We haven't gotten any information as far as their -- the findings of the autopsy, and they actually were told that they had to embalm -- they told us that we -- they had to embalm my brother so that he could be sent back to the states. We later learned that that was not accurate, that there's other ways to transport a body from the states -- to the states from the Dominican Republic. So we'd like to try to -- if -- if we don't feel like we're getting the help we need from them and answers that we need from them, we'd like to get some kind of testing done on American soil by American doctors to help us to understand what could have been the cause of my brother's death.

CAMEROTA: Understood. Of course you just want answers and you need help with the investigation.

Jason Allen, thank you so much for being here. We're really sorry about the loss of Joseph. Please keep us posted as to what you find out.

ALLEN: We'll do. Thank you so much.

CAMEROTA: OK, we'll be right back.

BERMAN: Our heart goes out to that family.

[08:54:36] Some news just into us, Hope Hicks, the president's former aide, just arrived on Capitol Hill. She will testify behind closed doors to the House Judiciary Committee. There is a conflict already over claims of executive privilege. We'll bring you the very latest developments as we get them in, next.


BERMAN: It is time now for "The Good Stuff."

People from across the country pitching in to lift a South Carolina's boy spirits. That's Freddy Taylor. He's nearly three and he is battling leukemia. His family asked people to send him some cards.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He loves to -- to read. He reads the paper. He reads his labs that come in, in the morning. And so we open the cards and we read them together.


BERMAN: Well, that's so great. So great. Hope he gets bajillions of them. Freddy's family is overwhelmed by the outpouring of love they have received from complete strangers and they are hoping the positive energy will help him beat cancer.

CAMEROTA: Look at Freddy's wonderful smile. All right, everybody, please send cards.

Meanwhile, it is time for CNN "NEWSROOM" with Poppy Harlow and Jim Sciutto. We'll see you tomorrow.

[09:00:06] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: All right, good morning, everyone. Top of the hour. I'm Poppy Harlow.