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Pentagon: ISIS Resurging in Syria Following Troop Withdrawal; Video of California High School Students Giving Nazi Salute, Singing Nazi War Song; Trump Spreads False Claims of 2016 Vote Manipulation by Google; Italian P.M. Giuseppe Conte to Resign. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired August 20, 2019 - 11:30   ET


[11:30:00] REAR ADM. JOHN KIRBY, CNN MILITARY & DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: They were always also a network. And we're seeing that that network is still viable and still able to metastasize it's ideology and its resources well beyond Iraq and Syria and, as Barbara said, and into North Africa, Somalia and Afghanistan, as we saw over the weekend.

But the report also, if you look at it, offers some very worrisome signs for Iraq and for Syria. Iraq, in particular, where it notes that the Iraqi defense forces have not been able to contain ISIS in the northern parts of the country and that ISIS is actually trying to exacerbate the tensions that exist between the Iraqi security forces and the Peshmerga, the Kurdish forces up in the north.

So I'm deeply concerned about where they're going to Iraq as well.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Both of you have mentioned Afghanistan. This comes at a time when the president is considering the future of U.S. involvement in Afghanistan, withdrawing from Afghanistan where ISIS has become a really threat there as well.

How, Barbara, is this impacting, do you think, those conversations?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, the president has made it very clear that, after some 18 years, he wants to see that forever war, as some people might call it, end. And he wants to bring U.S. troops home. And he's talked about bringing them home before the 2020 presidential election.

But for -- most presidents have learned over the years that politics doesn't always dictate the best military policy. And he's being told by Pentagon officials, don't bring all the troops home just yet, leave some there to deal with this counterterrorism threat presented by ISIS.

And that attack over the weekend in Kabul that killed and injured so many in that wedding party hall, that was a clear indicator that ISIS still, once again, can reach out where it chooses to. And that means they have people, they have money, they have organization and they are able to muster their fighters. That would be very concerning.

Afghanistan remembers the place where the 9/11 attacks emanated from.

BOLDUAN: That man walking into the wedding with the suicide vest on and you can see just from the aftermath video of how much death and destruction he was able to pull out.

John, we've also learned here that one refugee camp in northeast Syria, a huge camp of 70,000 people --

KIRBY: Right.

BOLDUAN: -- that ISIS has started infiltrating that. That's the population -- just trying to put it in some perspective, that's the population of Wilmington, Delaware. It would be that many people.

KIRBY: Right.

BOLDUAN: What are the options for the U.S. military there?

KIRBY: Well, right now, very limited. In fact, one of the things the report notes, and our own reporting at CNN notes, is that because we pulled more troops out of Syria, we have decreased our ability to monitor security at that camp. And it's being largely done by Syrian democratic forces, who we used to be supporting and we're no longer able to do that. So there's virtually no security.

As a matter of fact, ISIS elements inside that camp are, in fact, providing security. Police forcing, they're conducting beheadings and assassinations at will, they're instructing the young people there in Sharia Law. So it's a really worrisome development there in that camp.

And it speaks to the degree to which ISIS is not just about physical ground, but it is about ideology, and it is about the ability to recruit both online and face to face, which they are obviously taking the advantage of in that camp.

And it's not just that they've recently infiltrated it.


KIRBY: We had indications that they were part of the camp population almost from the very beginning. So they're simply growing that force on the ground.

BOLDUAN: It's not hard to understand. If you have lost all hope, you've lost your home and your family and you have no one helping you, you have no one supporting you, you have been left there alone, that you're going to look for hope or at least security somewhere. And we see a vicious cycle that could be playing out once again.

Barbara, it's great to see you. Thank you.

John, thank you so much.

KIRBY: Thanks, Kate.

Up next for us, an alarming video popping up. High school students doing a Nazi salute while listening to a Nazi march. What is going on here and what the school says it's done about it.


[11:38:36] BOLDUAN: There are clear signs hate crimes and white supremacist on the rise in the country. From the Anti-Defamation League to the FBI, all sounding the alarm. Which makes videos like this one all the more concerning. We'll show you.

It's only eight seconds long, but it shows a group of high school students joining in a Nazi salute, singing a Nazi song at an off- campus athletic banquet in southern California.

The video was first obtained by "The Daily Beast." And it's the first time high school students in the region have been caught doing the very same.

CNN national correspondent, Sara Sidner, has done extensive reporting of the rise of hate in America. She joins me now.

Sara, what are you learning about this?

SARA SIDNER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Watching the video tells you pretty much everything you need to know.

What's so disturbing about it, beyond the fact that they're doing a hail, you've got several students, not one, not two, several students there who are student athletes - they're from the water polo team at Pacifica High School in the Garden Grove Unified School District. And this was apparently, according to the school district, put on Snapchat.

It was put up in 2018 and it's just coming to light now. As you said, it was first highlighted on "The Daily Beast."

What is extra disturbing about this, a lot of people talk about, well, students, especially young students like high school students and younger, need to be educated about the Holocaust and the fact that six million Jews were exterminated in Nazi, Germany.

[11:40:04] But what you're seeing is that there's certainly some education, because they're singing an obscure Nazi marching song in German. The music is being played perhaps from someone's phone.

This was at an off-campus sports ceremony that was related to their sport. There was some sort of sports ceremony that was off campus. And the school district says it was kind of before the ceremony got under way.

But you have these students, one of them singing the words of this song in German. So clearly, they have been educated about Nazi-ism and have decided that that's perfectly fine and funny. You can hear them laughing.

This is a very disturbing thing. For anyone who covers hate or for anyone who looks and is an expert and looks at what's happening with hate in this country, it's especially disturbing to see that they're making fun of this, that they're joking around about this. And that it is normalizing this kind of behavior. That is exactly what Neo- Nazis want.

Listen to what the rabbi with the ADL in that area has said about this incident.


PETER LEVI, RABBI, ANTI-DEFAMATION LEAGUE: It's, unfortunately, becoming part of our environment, which is why we have to stop it before it escalates.

Where did they discover that? Are they on Neo-Nazi Web sites?


SIDNER: That's always the question. Where are they learning this?

The Garden Grove School District has sent out a statement saying, "The Pacifica High School strongly condemned this video as soon as they found out about it," which was actually four months after it was posted.

It was filmed, like they said, in 2018, before there was any sort of adult in the room at a banquet. The video was then shared on Snapchat.

Now, school administrators say they took immediate action when they found out about it and addressed the situation with all students and families involved.

But there's a big concern in the community, which is why they're having a community meeting where this will certainly come up tonight.

BOLDUAN: One part of the statement falls completely flat to me when they say it happened before or after school hours. That makes no difference to me when I see something as hateful as that.



BOLDUAN: Thank you, Sara. One thing to do is shine on light on it. And that is what is happening. We'll definitely see what happens from the school meeting. Thank you so much.

Coming up, President Trump floating another conspiracy theory about the 2016 election. This time he blames Google. A fact-check, next.


[11:47:17] BOLDUAN: It is no secret President Trump has no problem pedaling conspiracy theories when especially it comes to the 2016 election. First, it was three to five million illegal votes that lost him the popular vote. Then it was out-of-state voters flooding New Hampshire that lost him the popular vote, neither of which is supported by any actual evidence. We've gone over this many times. Even his Voter Fraud Commission that he put together couldn't find, didn't find any widespread conspiracy or widespread voter fraud before it disbanded.

Now he apparently is saying it's Google's fault. The president putting out a statement yesterday saying -- well, you see it: "Wow, report just out Google manipulated from 2.6 million to 16 million votes for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election."

He also goes on to say, "Google should be sued. My victory was even bigger than thought."

Where did this come from? Not the Intelligence Community and not even from a new report, as he puts it, but rather congressional testimony from last month in the Senate, which was largely ignored. But worth noting that FOX Business did discuss this in a segment yesterday.

So where are the facts? If there are any.

Joining me right now the CNN's Daniel Dale.

Daniel, this demands fact-checking. What have you found?

DANIEL DALE, CNN REPORTER: The author of the study says that President Trump got his findings wrong. And a whole bunch of other people say that the study itself is highly flawed.

So the author of the study says that he never alleged Google manipulated anything, even in search results much less votes.

What the author is alleging is that there was bias in Google's search results that was sufficient to have potentially affected millions of votes.

Now, there are a ton of questions about this author's methodology but that's what he says.

BOLDUAN: I think we've almost lost count maybe of how many voter fraud theories, conspiracy theories that the president has jumped on since 2016. Can you remind folks, has there been any evidence to back any of the claims up?

DALE: No, there hasn't been. He's alleged mass voter fraud in California. There's no evidence for that. He's generally alleged that illegal immigrants have donned disguises, put on different hates and shirts to vote multiple times. There's no evidence for that.

There's no evidence for his conspiracy theory about thousands of people being bussed from Massachusetts to New Hampshire to vote illegally. And there's no evidence for this one.

This is a highly flawed study with lots of holes in methodology. And, again, even the author of it says the president was describing it incorrectly.

BOLDUAN: Daniel, thank you so much, as always. DALE: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: We're also following some breaking news overseas. Italy's prime minister has just announced he's resigning, sparking a new political crisis in the country as now the most-nationalist government that that country has seen in decades is facing collapse.

Joining me Barbie Nadeau, Rome bureau chief for "The Daily Beast" and a CNN contributor.

Barbie, what's happening there?

[11:50:07] BARBIE NADEAU, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, it's chaos multiplied. We're used to seeing chaos in Italian politics, but Matteo Salvini is a right-wing leader, very much a product of Steve Bannon, who spent a lot of time in Italy with this campaign, very much a fan of Donald Trump, who he attended some political rallies a couple of years ago in the United States.

Matteo Salvini wants full power in this country. A couple of weeks ago, he pulled the plug on this coalition government, wanting to go it alone, trying to push snap elections.

The Italian prime minister is playing a little bit of hardball with him saying, I'm going to resign, this is going to have to go to the president of the country to try to cobble together new government.

But it could all pave the way for Matteo Salvini to end up being the ruler in this country. And that's the kind of politics we haven't seen in this country for a very long time.

It's worrying to a lot of Europeans but it should be a concern, I think, across the world -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: Barbie, thank you so many. A lot more to come from this.

Coming up, Sir Elton John coming to the defense of the royal family. Why he is warning the media to back off Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.

But first, this Sunday, don't miss the premier of the new CNN film "Halston." Take a look.



ROY "HALSTON" FROWICK, FASHION DESIGNER: Oh, sure, it's fun and it's not fun. And as my mother says, it's the price you have to pay.

ANNOUNCER: The most successful individual in the history of American fashion, Halston.


FROWICK: I am Halston. I made it in New York. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: His clothes dance with you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Halston felt that he had to design everything.

FROWICK: Rugs, sheets, perfume, bags, gloves.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You wanted to get publicity. The problem was, he began to believe it all.

FROWICK: I'm the all-time optimist.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'd see Halston at Studio 54.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He fell in love with it right away.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They lived out a lot of their fantasies.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Drugs, sex, and rock and roll.




[11:57:02] BOLDUAN: He was one of the Princess Diana's closest friends, and now he's coming to the defense of her youngest son. Prince Harry and Meghan Markle were being attacked as hypocrites in the British press for flying private jets while also sounding the alarm on the environmental crisis. Sir Elton John is having none of it.

CNN's Melissa Bell is joining me now for more on this.

Melissa, what's going on here?

MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, the level of vitriol that the Duchess of Sussex and Prince Harry have seen over the course of the last few months really has been quite exceptional. The British tabloid press consider them a fodder, essentially.

What we've seen over the course of the last weeks is that the attack that their summer holiday didn't chime with their fight against climate change.

Elton John, who is hosting them in the south of France, came to the rescue. First of all, explaining that he was the one who paid for that private jet flight, but also that he ensured that it was carbon neutral to try to put an end to that controversy.

But he then went further with this tweet that spoke specifically about that friendship that he had with Prince Harry's mother. They were very close. He referred to that obligation that he felt now as a result of that friendship to try and protect Meghan and Harry from the sort of press intrusion that, in the end, Kate, had contributed to Princess Diana's death. BOLDUAN: Melissa, do you think this, in the end, this statement -- I

mean, this isn't the first time that Meghan Markle has faced some -- Meghan Markle and Prince Harry have faced some rough headlines. And it's also not the first time that there's been an ask for the press to back off.

Do you think this, coming from Elton John, do you think -- is it having an impact?

BELL: You're right, it's been said before. Buckingham Palace itself, Kate, just a few months ago, chiming in to say that the press should stop and reflect about the nature of its coverage and the nature of what it was printing about Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex.

Now Elton John has chimed in. We've heard from other celebrities, by the way. Ellen DeGeneres since then. But also Pink, who tweeted that the level of abuse she had seen Meghan Markle put to was beyond anything she had seen before.

I think the fact that a few people are coming to the couple's defense makes a change from what we've heard over the course of the last few weeks, a one-sided set of attacks on almost, it seems, anything Meghan Markle can do.

BOLDUAN: Melissa Bell, thank you so much.

Some scary breaking news happened this morning. Some new details we're getting in right now about a bus hijacking in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It happened this morning. It has finally ended with the police shooting and killing the suspect.

Police say an armed man held 37 commuters aboard that bus hostage and threatened to set the bus on fire. It played out. There's video playing all morning of it. Police shot the hijacker when he stepped off the bus and threw something at them. The standoff lasted for about three hours. The hijacker said he was a military policeman.

[12:00:04] All the hostages were freed, unharmed. But you can see one woman fainted as she was actually getting off the bus. Poor thing. We don't know what the hijacker wanted, of course.