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Trump Orders Remaining Troops Out Of Northern Syria; Saudi Foreign Minister Refuses To Criticize Trump's Decision In Syria; Trump Threatens To Sue Top Democrats Adam Schiff And Nancy Pelosi; Two Killed, One Missing After New Orleans Hotel Collapse; Twelve Democratic Candidates To Face Off In Ohio Debate Tuesday; Sanders: "I'm Not A Quitter," Looking Forward To Campaigning; Evacuations At Florida Mall After Reports Of A Shooting; U.K. Says U.S. Diplomat's Wife No Longer Has Immunity; Simone Biles Sets Record For Most World Gymnastics Championship Medals, Winning A Total of 25 Medals; Non- profit Helps Seniors Live Out Their Dreams. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired October 13, 2019 - 16:00   ET




MARK ESPER, DEFENSE SECRETARY: It looks like the SDF is cutting a deal with the Syrians and Russians --

CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS HOST: The SDF, those are the -- the Syrian Democracy Forces.

ESPER: Defense Forces. That's right. They're cutting a deal and now what we're facing is U.S. forces in a -- trapped between a Syrian- Russian army moving north to take on the Turkish army that's moving south. It's puts us in a terrible position and the protection safety of our service members comes first to me.


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST: A U.S. official tells CNN the withdrawal of U.S. troops won't happen immediately, but could takes day days to weeks. Fighting in northern Syria is intensifying as Turkish forces are pushing further into Syrian territory occupied by Kurds.

This incursion started Wednesday, just three days after President Trump ordered a pullout of U.S. troops in the area.

Kurdish leaders responded with fury saying the U.S. had abandoned them and left them to be killed. The Kurds had been a key U.S. ally in the defeat of ISIS militants. CNN has confirmed one Kurdish journalist has been killed in a Turkish air strike.

Barbara Starr is at the Pentagon for us. Nick Paton Walsh is on the ground in northern Syria.

Barbara, let me go to you first. Tell us how this is being executed. How U.S. troops are being pulled out? BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, the Pentagon is

starting from the point that it says it wants to do a deliberate and orderly withdrawal. That could take days or weeks to get nearly 1,000 U.S. forces out of northern Syria, that general area. But whether they will be able to do it on that orderly time frame very much remains a question because violence on the ground, the security situation, certainly as Nick knows better than anybody, has deteriorated significantly in the last few days.

What this means now is the forces, the Syrian forces that the U.S. had partnered with have cast their lot with the Russians to try to protect them. Whether the Russians really do that I think remains to be seen. The Russian interest here, something the White House is well aware of and has opened the door to now, the Russia interest is Kurdish oil fields. The Russians will be able now to have more access, more ready access to all of that.

Bashar al-Assad's forces also back on the move now that the U.S. is getting out of the way. And the Turkish forces, we are seeing both Turkish forces pound positions from the air and we are seeing them use their local forces, militias, violent extremist organizations on the ground to conduct operations that many in the U.S. are already calling war crimes.

So right now, whether if all of that continue, it may be difficult in the coming few days to see whether or not U.S. forces can really execute an orderly planned-out withdrawal by air and land from Syria or whether this will move much more rapidly -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: And Nick, what are you experiencing there? What are you witnessing there?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Must be an extraordinary day, Fred, because we started it with -- perhaps go to Kabani, the town where some U.S. troops are based near, simply to see what was happening, but the key highway, the only real way that connects the west and the east of Syrian Kurdish held territory was cut. We encountered gunfire and we saw civilians fleeing in panic. And then a Turkish jet -- we think Turkish -- flew very low and buzzed an American convoy of four armored personnel carriers that were leaving a town there. They also flew very near to us, too.

The Americans responded by sending two of their apaches to circle the area, providing defense for that convoy. But then as we left, startlingly, Turkish military vehicles appeared alongside that main highway. Startling because this is so much further into Syrian Kurdish territory than Turkey ever said it intended it to go, suggesting they have much wider ambitions in terms of pushing those Syrian Kurds back.

Now I heard it from a U.S. official that the security really today has just tumbled, frankly, collapsed utterly. They are concerned that some of the -- what they call mostly extremist, former ISIS, former al Qaeda Syrian rebels that are fighting on behalf of Turkey in much of the area, that in fact some of them are wearing Syrian Kurdish uniforms to confuse masses on the battlefield, and really we've seen many reports of civilians being hit by shelling or air strikes.

It is disastrous, frankly what's happened to Syrian Kurds here and they're pulling back exceptionally fast. This explains how we heard in the last few hours suggestions that they are reaching out to the Syrian regime in Damascus, perhaps inviting their forces in to some of the cities in the far west to perhaps assist them from holding back pro-Turkish forces.

This is a startling new development frankly. I spoke to one U.S. official speaking very much from personal perspective, but said really American policy here has failed. This has given ISIS a second life and that there are 100,000 jihadis potentially welcome to go back to their ranks waiting here.


We'll see in the days ahead how the prisons were holding on. Those detainees hold up. The big issue here really is the people doing the fighting on behalf of Turkey. Those Syrian rebel fighters. Very close to ISIS it seems, certainly in some U.S. officials' perspective. They're not the moderates, the Turkey sold them as pigs. When they come anywhere near these ISIS detainees, well, that's actually not really necessarily Turkey taking them immediately into custody as President Erdogan promised President Trump.

It may be something different. It may be a little bit more alarming. And this could be the reason why the U.S. is suddenly sounding the alarm bells. We saw it today. They seemed to go from reasonably relaxed to we're leaving in a specs of about six hours. It's really slipped that fast -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: Wow, this is incredibly comprehensive. Thank you so much, Nick Paton Walsh and Barbara Starr. Very complicated.

President Trump is threatening economic sanctions against Turkey. Just hours ago tweeting out that he's working with Congress on coming up with measures and that Turkey has asked that it not be done.

Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan expressed some skepticism over the effectiveness of sanctions in this case.


REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R-IL): I think it is not necessarily going to prevent Turkey from doing what they're doing. This has been Turkey's dream for a long time and the president basically gave the green light to do it.

They're going to be important but I think we also have to continue to say this, which is when the United States backs away, chaos follows through and we had a situation of stability there. It wasn't perfect. Erdogan probably didn't want to have to do joint patrols with the U.S. because he wanted to attack.

But we're the United States of America and we can prevent things like that. We have to remember the strength we have.


WHITFIELD: All right. Let's talk more about all this from a different angle. I want to bring in CNN's Matthew Chance. He's in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, the capital there.

Matthew, you've been talking to Saudi leaders about Turkey's actions and this is one of the U.S.' strongest allies in the region. And what is Saudi Arabia, what are the leaders there saying about this situation in northern Syria?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fred, they're just as alarmed as so many others around the region, around the globe here, you know, frankly, about what's taking place in northern Syria and this Turkish action. The Saudi Arabian government has been extremely critical of Turkey's actions describing it as an illegal invasion.

At the same time, they're very reluctant to criticize Washington's policy on this issue. They know that United States and President Trump in particular is their most important ally and remains a strong ally despite, you know, dissent in the U.S. Congress perhaps, and they're reluctant, say, to criticize what he is doing.

Even though when I met the minister of State for Foreign Affairs of Saudi Arabia earlier today, Adel al-Jubeir, I tried to get him to -- you know, to, you know, talk to me about what he felt about what Washington was doing with its Kurdish allies. Take a listen.


CHANCE: You condemned the Turkish operation there and that Kurds are fighting this overwhelming force. Do you think it was right for the United States to abandon its Kurdish allies in this way?

ADEL AL-JUBEIR, SAUDI MINISTER OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS: I don't think I would describe it as such. I believe that the U.S. is still working with the Kurdish forces in the northeast of Syria. And the U.S. has to decide what it's policy should or should not be.

I won't be presumptuous to sit here and say it's the right approach or it's not -- this is an American issue, but we are in close consultations with our friends in Washington and we are in close consultation with our friends in -- the ones we support in Syria. And we -- and we're looking for what the best way is to try to support --

CHANCE: Do you agree with the Kurdish leadership that the U.S. has a moral responsibility to protect the people it's been fighting (INAUDIBLE)?

AL-JUBEIR: I -- I haven't seen that so I'm not going to comment on it.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CHANCE: Well, there you have it there. The Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs refusing to criticize Washington for its stance in northern Syria with regard to its formerly Kurdish allies -- Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: Wow, that is extraordinary. All right, thank you so much, Matthew Chance.

Still ahead, a busy week ahead as the impeachment inquiry rolls along on Capitol Hill. Does the White House have a new strategy to combat the allegations against President Trump? Plus, searching for survivors after a deadly building collapsed in New Orleans. The latest on the ground as rescue crews dig through that debris.



WHITFIELD: All right. Welcome back. President Trump, you're about to see him golfing today. He's taking a swing at top Democrats as the impeachment inquiry hangs over the White House. He's now threatening to do some impeaching himself, specifically against speaker -- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Adam Schiff, the chairman of one of the House committees conducting the impeachment probe.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Adam Schiff made a statement, long, beautiful statement, and was a fraud. He has to pay a big price. We're going to take a look at it. We're going after these people. These are bad, bad people.


TRUMP: Sue them anyway, even if we lose, the American public will understand.


TRUMP: And soon Nancy Pelosi, or maybe we should just impeach them. Because they're lying. And what they're doing is a terrible thing for our country.


WHITFIELD: All right. Impeach the House speaker, impeach the House Intel chair? We may see the president's attacks only intensify as the president faces a major week of testimony in the investigation. And that includes Thursday's appearance of the president's pick as the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland. He donated a million dollars to Trump's inaugural committee and texts show Sondland played a key role in Trump's pressuring of Ukraine to investigate the Bidens.

Joining me right now CNN Crime and Justice Reporter, Shimon Prokupecz and CNN Legal Analyst, Ross Garber. He teaches impeachment law and political investigations at Tulane Law School.

Good to see you both. All right, Shimon, you first. You know, we're learning about some of the details Ambassador Sondland just might tell Congress. Talk to me about his plan.


SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Yes, details published in "The Washington Post" and the quotes that they referred to in their story really go to the heart of the text messages that you -- that are talked about in this issue of what was going on. These words -- the words he used, quid pro quo. And essentially what "The Washington Post" is reporting is that Mr. Sondland is going to come in and say that it was at the direction of the president.

The president relayed to him in a phone conversation following these text messages. There was a five-hour gap between Bill Taylor and Gordon Sondland, and during that five-hour gap between their text messages, Mr. Sondland called the president and it is at that time that the president relayed to him, no quid pro quo, and that is what "The Washington Post" says Mr. Sondland is going to testify to.

A couple other things that they say he's going to say is that it's not only that the president said it, but that -- that he's not sure. He's not sure whether or not the president was telling the truth when he told him that there was no quid pro quo. And then the other thing that stuck out to me is when he talked about the fact that yes, he's going to say, Mr. Sondland is going to say that if it was a quid pro quo, but not a corrupt one.

Unclear exactly what that means and how do you have a noncorrupt one. I guess that's something that members of Congress are going to have to dive into. But these are all very specific to do with the whole issue of this quid pro quo and what was going on, and I think there's a lot of questions that members of Congress are going to have for him. He's a very important witness here. A key witness now in all of this.

WHITFIELD: So, Ross, I mean, this could be critical testimony. What are some of the questions that you want asked?

ROSS GARBER, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, so actually, the quid pro quo issue I think is going to be very important. What did Sondland know about that besides what the president told him. I think he's going to be asked about his conversation with the president.

What did he say? What did the president say? And for all of the details about that conversation. About whether there were other conversations. About whether there were other conversations with the president, whether there were other conversations with the president's advisers.

Whether there were conversations and what happened in them with Rudy. And in addition to the question of quid pro quo, I think Shimon actually hit on what I think is going to be the key issue, which is the why. So even if there were a quid pro quo, the real question is why. Did the president or did anybody else tell Sondland why the president

was taking these positions? Because there wouldn't be anything unlawful, illegal and certainly not impeachable if the president was taking these positions in the best interest of the American people and the U.S. government.

WHITFIELD: Because it would seem natural that even Sondland himself would ask. I mean, when you're being -- if you're getting a request to carry out something, naturally you're going to say why, because you want some details of what it is that you were actually doing, right?

GARBER: Yes. Yes. Exactly. And you know, if I were asking the questions, I'd also be curious about whether the president actually started speaking Latin. Did he use the words, quid pro quo? Something unusual to say in a phone call. I'm not sure I'd ever said it outside of a legal context.

WHITFIELD: Especially if it's five hours later of pause, too.


PROKUPECZ: Well, you know, Fred, just to that point --



PROKUPECZ: In the story in "The Washington Post," it said that the president, when Gordon Sondland spoke to him, that the president was in a bad mood. So something else was going on. I think they were starting to realize that this was going to be a problem for them and perhaps when Gordon Sondland called them and heard what Bill Taylor was saying in these text messages, I think that perhaps could explain why the president reacted the way he reacted.

WHITFIELD: So House Intel Committee Chairman, Adam Schiff, said this about impeachment today.


REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): There doesn't need to be a quid pro quo. But it is clear already I think from the text messages that this meeting that the Ukraine president sought was being conditioned on their willingness to interfere in the U.S. election to help the president. That is a terrible abuse of the president's power.


WHITFIELD: So, Ross, it sounds like Schiff is saying, you know, abuse of power can be substantiated even without that terminology -- a form of terminology of quid pro quo.

GARBER: Yes. So the whole quid pro quo thing, where that, I think everybody's getting that, is from the bribery concept. A bribery concept. It involves a this for that.

WHITFIELD: Withholding aid.

GARBER: I will give you -- yes, I'll give you this. Whatever the context. I will give you this if you give me that. That's sort of traditional bribery talk. And it's necessary for somebody to be guilty of bribery. And so, I think what Schiff is saying there is it doesn't have to technically be a violation of the bribery statute to be impeachable, and in that sense, he's right.


On the other hand, sort of an amorphous abuse of power has not traditionally, you know, been the heartland of the impeachment provision. There has to be something really egregious.

You know, treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors, the framers of the Constitution said mal-administration, you know, being bad at governance isn't enough. So Schiff is right. Doesn't have to technically be bribery, but the further we get away from sort of the criminal issue, the further we get away from the heartland sort of impeachable concept.

WHITFIELD: And Shimon, of course all eyes on Sondland, but who else will be the testifying this week that could be critical?

PROKUPECZ: So, Monday, tomorrow, Fiona Hill, she was Trump's former Russia adviser. And according to reports, she's going to talk about the work that Rudy Giuliani and Sondland were conducting, going around White House procedures, trying to get Ukraine to essentially do what the president wanted them to do.

You have George Kent is -- could come in on Tuesday. He's the deputy assistant secretary of State. He oversees Russia, Ukraine, the Eurasian region. And of course the big day is going to be Thursday, as we've been talking, and that's Gordon Sondland, who's going to appear.

And then you have -- there are other requests obviously. The other big request out there as you see on your screen there is Bill Taylor. He's that career diplomat who was having text messages with Gordon Sondland where he raises the issue that, you know, are you withholding money because of political reasons, because of the campaign. And that sets off the whole quid pro quo issue. So, we'll see. They want to talk to him obviously. Bill Taylor is the other very key witness and important for these proceedings for members of Congress.

WHITFIELD: All right, thanks so much, gentlemen. Shimon Prokupecz, Ross Garber, thank you.

All right, still to come. Search teams racing to find one person still missing after an under-construction building collapses in New Orleans. The latest on the situation next.


[16:26:08] WHITFIELD: Right now rescue workers are scrambling to find a construction worker trapped beneath the piles of rubble and debris after a hotel that was under construction collapsed in New Orleans yesterday. Authorities say two people died and at least 30 others were injured.

CNN's Rosa Flores is at the site of that collapse.

So, Rosa, what are we learning about the search and rescue efforts?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, those are ongoing but according to local officials, their concern has been stabilizing this structure to allow search and rescue teams to get to the missing and the dead.

Take a look over my shoulder and let me show you the scene because beyond the barricade, you could see the pile of debris that is right by that collapsed structure. So imagine the horror. According to the builder, there were about 100 workers at the site at the time of the collapse.

Now all of this was captured with aerial footage and you can see the cascading of that building as those floors cascade down and collapse and you can see a plume of dust, and if you look closely, you're able to see workers running for their lives.

Here's what one of those workers had to say.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can't explain. And it was like --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hearing it, it was just crazy. That sound, like watching the floor hit and watching guys go over the side like -- I don't know, man, it's just crazy.


FLORES: Two cranes were brought in overnight. Each weighing 110 tons. Each are going to take at least three hours to assemble.

Now according to local authorities, their focus is trying to get the search and rescue teams to this building so that they can get access to that one worker that is still missing. That is their focus, but they also say that OSHA is on scene ready to investigate.

And Fred, I want to leave you with this picture. This is from CNN affiliate WVUE. This is of the family of that missing worker. They told our affiliate that they are not leaving this site until their loved one is found -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: My goodness. So sad. We're all praying for the best possible outcome and hopefully the search and rescue teams will be able to deliver some hopeful news. Rosa Flores, thank you so much.

Coming up, the stage is set for a big night in politics. The fourth Democratic presidential debate happening in just two days right here on CNN. How are the candidates preparing in what could be a make-or- break moment for their campaigns? That and more right after this.



WHITFIELD: We are just two days away from the CNN/"New York Times" Democratic presidential debate. Twelve candidates will share the stage for the biggest presidential primary debate in history.

The House impeachment inquiry into President Trump will likely loom large as the candidates face off in the battle ground state of Ohio. CNN's Abby Phillip is in Westerville, Ohio outside the debate hall at Otterbein University. So, Abby, a lot has changed since the last debate. Kind of set the stage for us.


ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly right. There have been a number of developments since this last debate. But principal among them is that there may very well be a new front runner in the Democratic field.

Senator Elizabeth Warren is vying for that spot, trying to take over from former Vice President Joe Biden who has been atop this field since nearly the very beginning. And according to several polls both nationally and statewide, Elizabeth Warren is gaining momentum.

So, that puts her right in the center of attention on this what will be a very crowded debate stage on Tuesday night, lots of candidates preparing potentially to really go after her or at least engage with her more directly than perhaps they might have been before.

But in addition to that, there is also Senator Bernie Sanders, who just a couple of weeks ago, suffered a heart attack. This will be his opportunity to be on that stage. He did skip last week's LGBT town hall that was hosted by CNN. But he has said he will be there on Tuesday night and will show his supporters that he is back in action.

But of course, looming over all of this is this impeachment inquiry that really has consumed Washington. And nearly every candidate on this stage agrees they believe President Trump should be subject to an impeachment inquiry.

But the question remains on Tuesday night whether any of them will be able to stand out on this issue. Will they be able to convince Democratic voters they are the ones who will be taking on or should take on Donald Trump in November of 2020. Fred?



WHITFIELD: All right, of course we're all going to be watching. Abby Phillip, thank you so much.

All right, let's talk further now about the upcoming Democratic debate. Osita Nwanevu, a staffer writer for "The New Republic" is with us; also with me, Ron Brownstein, a senior editor for "The Atlantic" and a CNN senior political analyst. Good to see both of you.


WHITFIELD: All right. So Ron, you first. Should the candidates focus on the president's impeachment inquiry, you know, and use this as opportunity to make a case for why voters should vote for Democrats in 2020 or should they stick with the issues?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, first of all, I think it's going to be hard for them to separate from each other by focusing on impeachment since as Abby noted that, you know, it's pretty much a unified position to the Democratic Party at this point that there should be an inquiry.

One of the complaints about the earlier debates from some Democratic strategists and activists has been that it really -- they really have not focused enough on making the case against President Trump. And that they really have kind of emphasized, for understandable reasons, their differences among each other.

I don't know if impeachment per se is the issue. But I do think that there is a sense in the party that they would be better off spending at least some more of this national air time and these big audiences trying to preview the general election case rather than just kind of, you know, the head of the pin distinctions that you sometimes get into on each other's climate plans for example.

WHITFIELD: And so, Osita, you know, you wrote a piece for "The New Republic" arguing that Joe Biden's, you know, case for presidency is actually collapsing in your view. Explain what you mean.

NWANEVU: Well, Joe Biden's theory of change from the beginning of this campaign has been that once Trump gets out and Joe Biden gets in, Republicans are going to step back from the fringes and really work with Democrats again to achieve some of the policy changes that have been talked about so much in this primary from healthcare to climate and so on.

But I think it's been hard for anybody who's watched the past couple of weeks to this impeachment situation of the president attacking Joe Biden and his family and Senate Republicans not really doing anything to challenge the president on that.

I think it's hard for primary voters to see in that a model of Republican Party being willing to work with Biden or anybody else the Democrats are going to nominate well after this election is over. I think that, you know, Joe Biden is certainly somebody who knows firsthand from the Obama Administration how difficult it was to get Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans to agree with the president on anything.

Now, we have compounded on top of that a party that's really been transformed by Trump and a party that Trump is still going to affect presumably once he's out of the White House. And he's still going to be walking around his political figure.

So, I think that in this impeachment situation to the extent that you want to connect what's happening now with policy, you should understand that Senate Republicans, Republicans in the House are demonstrating in their unwillingness to challenge the president here that the Republican Party is not going to just play along with Joe Biden just because he's built these relationships over the course of his career and just because he's been in Washington for a long time.

WHITFIELD: So Ron, it's taking a toll because, you know, Joe Biden is no longer the, you know, front runner, you know, with, you know, 20 points ahead. I mean look at this.


WHITFIELD: It's Elizabeth Warren who, you know, is -- has charged up to the top. And so, do you believe that now this puts her in a position where she might be the target come debate night so that these candidates can better distinguish themselves?

BROWNSTEIN: Yes, I think she will be more of target as she has been in the past. Look, I mean you have some clear divisions that are emerging consistently in both the state and national polling in this Democratic race.

Elizabeth Warren really has -- is consolidating an advantage among well-educated white liberals. I mean, she is now consistently leading by double digits among college-educated white voters what I've called in the past kind of the wine track of the democratic primary.

There have also been worrying for Biden. Some recent poll showing her more competitive as well with blue collar white voters where he has led consistently throughout.

The challenge she still faces and the challenge that everyone else in the field still faces is that Biden, at this point, remains in a much stronger position than anyone else among African-American voters. And you see this playing out geographically with polling showing Warren basically even with Biden in Iowa, ahead in New Hampshire. But the Biden is still holding a commanding lead in South Carolina, the first place where African-Americans really will weigh in big numbers.

Now, whether that can survive losses in those first two states obviously is unclear. But if Biden does hold the base that he's now established and Warren does as well, you could have a long, grinding fight to the nomination. WHITFIELD: Wow. Osita, Bernie Sanders, he, of course, will be in the spotlight too especially after his, you know, heart attack. He is trying to down play anyone's concerns about his health. Take a listen.


SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Was there any point when you said, you know what, I think the best course of action may be to drop out?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No. When you hear the word heart attack, you're thinking of somebody lying on the ground in terrible pain. Wasn't the case.

OK, the day I woke up after the procedure, no pain. Zero pain. No pain right now. I feel really good. We've struggled really hard to get to where we are right now, bring millions of people together in the fight for justice. And I'm not a quitter.



WHITFIELD: So Osita, is there considerable pressure on him during this debate night to kind of reassure voters that, you know, he can go the long haul here? Campaigning is really hard, hard on the body.

NWANEVU: Right. And that is something that voters are thinking about. There's a CBS poll of early state primary voters that came out today that showed that plurality of voters, I think, think that Sanders is too old, certainly more than the people who think that Biden is too old.

An interesting thing is that when you look at why people think the two candidates are too old. People who say Sanders is too old focus on his health. And people who say Biden is too old focus on his positions and the idea being he's out of touch.

But really, I think the most important thing Sanders can do to demonstrate to voters that he's ready for this is to have a good debate performance and to keep going on the campaign trail.

I think it would be a mistake to really dwell on this for any longer than -- I suppose the moderators are going to have him talk about it during the debate. I think he should just sort of turn the page on this, hope that voters forget, and keep pressing on the issues that have made him such a -- such a contender so far.

And I think most of his time should really be spent sharpening distinctions between him and Elizabeth Warren. We've already heard him do that a little bit this week -- on the show this week. He said that -- he referenced both with Warren calling herself a capitalists who are [bones].

I think that we might see him try to sharpen that distinction even more in policy before the debates. But, you know, I think that that's what he really needs to be spending his time talking about.

WHITFIELD: All right, well of course, we will all be watching. We expect everyone to be there at the table. Osita Nwanevu, Ron Brownstein, thank you so much.

NWANEVU: Thank you.

BROWNSTEIN: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: All right, be sure to join us all. Don't miss a minute of the CNN/"New York Times" Democratic presidential debate live right here on CNN, Tuesday night starting at 8:00.



WHITFIELD: And this just in to the CNN NEWSROOM. Police have evacuated a mall in Boca Raton, Florida after report of a shooting there. This Twitter user taking video of the scene at the Town Center Mall.

Officials say there is no active shooter. But people are being told to shelter in place. S.W.A.T. teams are now searching the mall. Listen to this witness seeing people trying to escape.


JEN FOGLIA, WITNESS: I was clearly standing in the middle of the store. And I just saw like a hoard of people running in. And I heard somebody yell bomb. And I was like, [mm-mm]. So, I turned around and I was just like, everybody get the -- out. Run, run, run, run.


WHITFIELD: So, you just heard her say bomb. But again, it is still not clear what has happened at the Town Center Mall in Boca, Raton, Florida. Police have received reports of shots fired.

Tonight, go inside the discovery of a Hezbollah terrorist cell in North Carolina and the unprecedented case investigators built against it to bring its members to justice before they could carry out an attack on U.S. soil. It's an all-new episode of "Declassified: Untold Stories of American Spies". Here's a preview.


ROBERT CLIFFORD, FORMER ASST. SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE, FBI: So, when you look at this case in its pieces, it's cigarette smuggling, so what. They had credit card fraud and the identity fraud, yawn, and that's by design. It allows this organization to fly below the radar.

But when you realize that you're dealing with terrorists, that they're going to exploit this innocuous criminal activity with lethal effectiveness, it changes the entire perspective of this.

They're taking the proceeds from these crimes and sending it to a terrorist organization, that prior to 9/11, killed more Americans than any terrorist organization.

We continued to watch them for a long period of time without moving against them to ensure that this case was successful. My concern was that sleeper cells could be activated to conduct an attack based on something totally unrelated to where they are.

When you're trained to think in terms of worst case, worst case is an attack on the homeland.


WHITFIELD: All right, joining us right now, Robert Clifford. He's a former assistant special agent in charge for the FBI. And he was one of the key investigators in this Hezbollah sleeper cell case.

Good to see you.

CLIFFORD: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: So, this episode takes us inside the investigation of a Hezbollah terrorist cell in North Carolina of all places. That's very unlikely for most to think where a terrorist cell would be operating. So, how did -- how did you discover them?

CLIFFORD: Well, in 1995, as chief of the Hezbollah unit at FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C., I knew that Hezbollah had sent a dangerous operative to Charlotte, North Carolina.

When I arrived in Charlotte as the supervisor for counterterrorism, we made a concerted investigation on this individual. And what did we find, seven other individuals known and suspected Hezbollah members in Charlotte. What we found was a Hezbollah sleeper cell.

WHITFIELD: So, what was the cell tasked to do out of Charlotte?

CLIFFORD: The cell had two missions; the first, to embed themselves deep into the community and to engage in criminal activity to raise funds to send to Hezbollah to further attacks overseas. Their second mission was to standby and if activated, to conduct a terrorist attack in the United States.

WHITFIELD: So, it was that low level, you know, kind of criminal activity that really, you know, gave you a hook to go after this terror cell. You ended up approaching the case like you would a motorcycle gang or the mafia. Those are some examples we're told about. Explain how that worked.

CLIFFORD: Thank you. Yes. They're involved in the activity. It was violent or robbery that would attract the attention of the local police nor was it of such a level that would attract the attention of the FBI.

It was credit card fraud, cigarette tax evasion, insurance fraud, immigration fraud. And we knew that if we could conduct an investigation on them, we would be able to build criminal cases, but not individually. We had to build it as an organization and then attack the group as one and take it out with one hit.


WHITFIELD: Robert Clifford, all so fascinating, thank you so much for your time and explaining. We're looking forward to watching this all- new episode of "Declassified: Untold Stories of American Spies," tonight, 9:00 Eastern and Pacific only on CNN.


WHITFIELD: All right, welcome back. We're learning more about the wife of an American diplomat accused of killing a teenage boy in a car accident while in the United Kingdom.

The U.K. government now says that 42-year-old, Anne Sacoolas, does not have diplomatic immunity. And according to the British foreign secretary, the U.S. is also considering that immunity is no longer pertinent in this case.

Police say that Sacoolas was driving on the wrong side of the road when she ran into 19-year-old, Harry Dunn, who was on a motorcycle. At first, Sacoolas told British authorities that she would stay in the country as police investigated.

But then shortly thereafter, she returned home to the U.S. And now, Sacoolas could be extradited to the U.K. to face prosecution.


An American gymnast, Simone Biles, has done it again. Today, the 22- year-old won back-to-back gold medals at the Artistic Gymnastics World Championship in Germany making her the most decorated gymnast in the tournament's history with a total of 25 career medals.

Biles says she is now preparing for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, which she says will be her last. Amazing.

All right. We all have our bucket lists, right? And this week CNN's "Hero" is helping senior citizens to embark on those exciting adventures this way.


WEBB WEIMAN, CNN HERO: The reality of living in isolation is out there and it's real. And that's really one of the driving forces for us to keep going, for us to take those people out of isolation and make an example of them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, we're moving.

WEIMAN: I looked at it like much more than a hot air balloon ride. There is a sense of accomplishment, a story that they get to take back to their community. It lifts their spirits.


WHITFIELD: And for the full story, go to

Thank you so much for being with us today. I'm Fredericka Whitfield. We have so much more straight ahead in the NEWSROOM with Alex Marquardt right after this.