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President Trump Announces ISIS Leader Al-Baghdadi Is Dead; Trump Thanks Russia For Support In Al-Baghdadi's Raid; Former Congressman John Conyers Dies At Age of 90; Trump: Al-Baghdadi Died Like A Dog And A Coward; Trump: U.S. Forces Obtained Highly Sensitive Material In Raid; Trump: On-Site DNA Test Confirmed Al-Baghdadi's Death; Source: Al-Baghdadi's Body May Be Buried At Sea; Defense Secretary: Fewer Than 100 Troops On Ground For Raid That Lasted More Than Two Hours, CH-47 Helicopters Used. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired October 27, 2019 - 16:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[16:00:00]

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST: U.S. Special Forces, using the cover of night after tracking him down at a secret compound near the border with Turkey. The White House released this photo showing a moment inside the situation room during the raid. Al-Baghdadi's death is being described as a devastating blow to ISIS and it marks the end of a year's long manhunt.

This morning President Trump went into explicit detail about al- Baghdadi's final moments.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He died after running into a dead-end tunnel, whimpering and crying and screaming all the way. The compound had been cleared by this time with people either surrendering or being shot and killed.

He was a sick and depraved man and now he's gone. Baghdadi was vicious and violent and he died in a vicious and violent way as a coward running and crying. This raid was impeccable and could only have taken place with the acknowledgement and help of certain other nations and people.

I want to thank the nations of Russia, Turkey, Syria, and Iraq, and I also want to thank the Syrian Kurds for certain support they were able to give us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: We have team coverage following the developments around the world. Let's begin with CNN Pentagon Correspondent, Barbara Starr.

So, Barbara, what are you learning about this raid?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, what has emerged over the last several hours is this raid as you say conducted under the cover of darkness, but about 100 Special Forces troops coming in on eight helicopters to this compound in northern Syria. A very unexpected location for Baghdadi to be at because it's known basically this region to be much more oriented towards al Qaeda.

That said, it appears the intelligence came together in the last couple of weeks and they were able to have enough confidence to take it to the president and he made the decision to go ahead and do it. These kinds of raids by the most elite U.S. Special Forces are -- they are very experienced in doing this kind of thing. They've done it for many years. Their tactics, they come in at night with stealth and secrecy. They land on the target with overwhelming violence and fire power basically just overwhelming their targets as fast as they can.

That is what they are really looking to do. They give them the chance to surrender. It's very rare that they do surrender. So now the question is what happens next? Will there be additional raids? There are other ISIS operatives in -- and terror targets in this area of Syria and the U.S. may be making some decisions to go after them in the coming days -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: Barbara Starr, thank you.

So, during the president's statement on the raid this morning, the president, you know, gave several critical details about this operation in Syria.

Let's bring in now Jeremy Diamond live at the White House.

So, Jeremy, the president essentially giving a play-by-play of the operation. Why did he feel the need to do that?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: He really did, Fredricka, and this all came because the president yesterday was in a situation room huddled with his top National Security advisers, the top military brass, and he said that he was watching this raid unfold essentially over the hours during which it took place yesterday afternoon U.S. time. And the president described it as like watching a movie.

And in the same way as he was watching that movie, he sought to describe this to the American public, oftentimes in quite explicit and violent details. including this moment when he repeatedly explained how Baghdadi actually died.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: He died like a dog. He died like a coward. He was whimpering, screaming and crying. And frankly, I think it's something that should be brought out. So that his followers and all of these young kids that want to leave various countries including the United States, they should see how he died. He didn't die a hero. He died a coward, crying, whimpering, screaming and bringing three kids with him to die. Certain death.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DIAMOND: Fredricka, the president was explicit in those remarks and he repeatedly emphasized the fact that Baghdadi did not die a hero, that he died a coward. This goes back to something the president has been talking about for years, decrying any description of these terrorists who carry out these terror attack plots as masterminds, instead calling them losers and he did so repeatedly in referring to Baghdadi.

But there were some of the president's remarks that drew concerns from some former National Security officials who felt like the president was perhaps going into too much detail. Not only into the details about Baghdadi's final moments but also in terms of his description of this raid and the operational details of it.

[16:05:03]

An hour and 10-minute long flight by eight helicopters actually reached this compound. The way in which they knew about the tunnels that existed under Baghdadi's compound. Some of these operational details did draw concerns from some former National Security officials who felt perhaps he was saying too much -- Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: All right. Jeremy Diamond, thank you so much.

So, this morning, President Trump singled out countries that he says provided some level of support in the raid to take out al-Baghdadi and among them Russia.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Russia treated us great. They opened up. We had to fly over certain Russia-areas. Russia held areas. Russia was great.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What did you tell them?

TRUMP: We told them we're coming in. And they said, thank you for telling us. They were very good. They were very cooperative. They really were good. And we did say it would be a mission that they'd like, too, because you know, again, they hate ISIS as much as we do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: But in a statement released this morning Russia's military cast doubt on the entire operation.

CNN's senior international correspondent Fred Pleitgen is live for us now in Moscow.

So, Fred, what's with this denial of that kind of conversation that the president spelled out?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Hi, Fredricka. It was quite interesting, the president obviously spelling out all that thanks that he had there for the Russians and also when he thanked generally nations that he said were helpful. He mentioned Russia first, so seemingly giving the Russians a lot of thanks there from the president. If he thought he was going to get any love from the Russians back he certainly seems to be mistaken. You're absolutely right. The Russians casting doubt on whether or not

this operation even took place and essentially blasting the U.S. in the statement that was put out by the spokesman for the Russian military. First of all, the Russians claimed that they had no evidence of any airstrikes at all taking place in what they call the Idlib de-escalation zone which is that area where that operation took place.

Then they also said that they have absolutely no knowledge of giving the U.S. any sort of assistance. All those things that President Trump was just talking about, about notifying the Russians, about them saying, well, thank you for notifying us. The spokesman for Russia's military says they have absolutely no knowledge of that happening. And then the Russians cast doubt on the operation, the success of the operation as a whole.

I want to read to you a statement or part of the statement from that Russian military official. He said, quote, "The increasing number of direct participants and countries that allegedly took part in this operation, each one giving completely contradictory details, raises legitimate questions and doubts about its existence and especially the level of success."

So the Russians casting doubt on it. And then at the end of their statement coming out and saying, even if this operation took place they don't believe it's going to change anything on the ground because obviously they say that there's other militant groups still operating in that area as well. So certainly, President Trump with some kind words for the Russians. The Russians not so much returning those kind words back -- Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: All right. Fred Pleitgen, thank you so much.

So, as the president was giving details of the raid he even relayed what U.S. troops told him as they were carrying it out. So why the level of detail and how important is it for Americans to know exactly what happened? That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:11:52]

WHITFIELD: All right. Welcome back. We continue to follow this breaking news. The leader of ISIS is dead. Today President Trump not only announced that al-Baghdadi killed himself during a raid by U.S. Special Forces in Northwest Syria but he also went into credible and sometimes graphic detail about the operation and the terrorist's final moments.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: They blasted their way in so quickly, it was incredible. Because this building was quite powerful, strong. They blasted their way in and then all hell broke loose. It's incredible that nobody was killed or hurt. We had nobody even hurt. And that's why the dog was so great. We actually had a robot to go into the tunnel, but we didn't get it

because we were tracking him very closely, but we had a robot just in case because we were afraid he had a suicide vest on and if you get close to him and he blows it up, you're going to die. You're going to die. He had a very powerful suicide vest.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Did you have decisions in the moment while troops were on the ground?

TRUMP: No, they had it -- just incredible. We were getting full reports on literally a minute-by-minute basis. Sir, we just broke in, sir, the wall is down. Sir, you know, we've captured. Sir, two people are coming out right now hands up, fighters. Then the 11 children out. Numerous people were dead within the building that they killed. Then it turned out they gave us a report, sir, there's only one person in the building. We are sure he's in the tunnel trying to escape but it's a dead-end tunnel and it was brutal.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: All right. Let's talk about this. With me now is retired Colonel Cedric Leighton. He is a CNN Military Analyst and a retired Air Force colonel. Also joining me is Paul Cruickshank. He is the editor-in-chief at the "Combatting Terrorism Center Sentinel" and a CNN terrorism analyst.

Good to see you both.

So, Colonel, let me begin with you. You know, what do you make of the detailed, you know, information the president shared today on this al- Baghdadi mission?

CEDRIC LEIGHTON, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, Fredricka, it's -- it was very interesting to hear the play-by-play as it were from the president. It's pretty accurate. Those are the kinds of things that, you know, would happen in a situation like this. All of the reports that have come out of this -- these types of missions generally focus on the kinds of tactics that are used in these cases.

While the president didn't go into very great detail, he did kind of give the color of -- the color commentary toward the situation and it, you know, generally showed how effective our forces are and the forces from Delta Team were, you know, from the other special operations units that may have been involved. Clearly have learned a lot over the past few years dealing with these kinds of targets.

WHITFIELD: And, Paul, the president, you know, talked about it graphically, you know, about al-Baghdadi's final moments, you know, even going as far as, you know, likening him to a dog and a coward, and he also says Baghdadi, al-Baghdadi, you know, killed three young children when he detonated his suicide vest.

[16:15:05]

So how will these kinds of comments play out in the region and particularly with ISIS sympathizers? PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, I think there is some

concern that ISIS sympathizers in the region but also around the world, even here in the United States, may seek to retaliate by launching attacks. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was a beloved figure in these jihadi circles so they may have a desire for vengeance and indeed, ISIS, if they do acknowledge Baghdadi's death, which they have not acknowledged yet, may call for those kinds of attacks.

So, I think in the days ahead, security forces all around the world including here in the United States need to be very, very vigilant. I think in the medium term, in the longer term, this reduces the threat from the ISIS terror organization. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was the dominant figure within ISIS. A key source of their legitimacy, their unity, and their morale, and if he has indeed been removed from the battlefield, this I think will deflate the ISIS terrorist organization.

It could also present some opportunities for their big rival al Qaeda, who have been looking to pick up support from ISIS fighters after ISIS lost all that territory in Syria and Iraq.

WHITFIELD: And, Colonel, you know, the president also took a turn, you know, talking about leaving, you know, some U.S. troops behind in Syria to protect oil fields. Listen to what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I don't want to leave 1,000 or 2,000 or 3,000 soldiers on the border. But, well, Lindsey and I totally agree, it's the oil. The oil is, you know, so valuable for many reasons. It fueled ISIS, number one. And number two, it helps the Kurds. Because it's basically been taken away from the Kurds. They were able to live with that oil. And number three, it can help us because we should be able to take some also.

And what I intend to do perhaps is make a deal with an ExxonMobil or one of our great companies to go in there and do it properly. Right now, it's not big. It's big oil underground but it's not big oil up top. Much of the machinery has been shot and dead. It's been through wars, but -- and spread out the wealth. But no, we're protecting the oil.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: So, Colonel, that may have been a little eyebrow-raising but then it was Republican Senator Lindsey Graham who actually endorsed in part, you know, the president's plan to go after the oil in Syria today. Listen to what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): This doesn't violate any law in my view. What it does is just good commonsense foreign policy. I want to congratulate the president for making sure that the oil revenues never fall into the hands of the bad guys and the way you secure this, this is a win-win. The SDF will get more money if we can modernize the oil fields. We're not going over there to enrich America. We're over there to help our allies. Deny our enemy resources that will allow them to get stronger over time and finally, and this is OK, to lower the cost to us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: So, Colonel, what do you make of that? I mean, were we hearing, you know, taking the oil or finding there are certain rights or profits of the oil as a result of being part of a U.S. Military mission there to help secure the area?

LEIGHTON: Well, we've -- Fredricka, we've heard that a bit before from the president when he's talked about the oil in the region and he talked a little bit about it when ISIS was in control of large portions of Iraq and certainly he's talking about it now. So, there's several things that are problematic with this. Number one, Syria's oil is not as much as you would think if you just listen to the remarks from Senator Graham and President Trump.

Syria produces about -- they are at the 60th level in terms of world oil production right now and their oil reserves are not as big as Saudi Arabia. So, when it comes to what the U.S. Military should do with something like this, it is certainly good that we try to prevent ISIS from getting control of the oil or of any revenue associated with the oil. That's fine. But the other part of this is that we should not be really making money or anything like that off of this and then finally he talked about a company like ExxonMobil going in there?

Well, even before these events occurred, the company that was most involved in Syrian oil production was actually Chinese. So, we're doing a lot of work for China in this regard and that's very different.

WHITFIELD: All right. We'll leave it there for now. Colonel Cedric Leighton, Paul Cruickshank, thank you so much.

LEIGHTON: You bet.

WHITFIELD: All right. This breaking news just in to CNN now.

[16:20:02]

Former Michigan Congressman John Conyers has died. More on his life and legacy right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: All right. Welcome back. This sad breaking news into CNN. We're now learning that former congressman John Conyers Jr. has died. His son confirms to CNN Conyers passed away in his sleep. He was 90 years old. Conyers represented the Detroit area for more than five decades. He was a Korean War vet, a civil rights activist but his career came to a bitter end when he was accused of sexual harassment and accused of misusing taxpayer funds.

CNN Congressional Correspondent, Phil Mattingly has more on his life and career.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He was one of the longest serving members of Congress, an activist in the civil rights era. John Conyers fought on behalf of the African- American community for more than five decades.

REP. JOHN CONYERS (D-MI): Justice in the United States where too often we see people of color and people who are poor still being left behind and ignored.

[16:25:06]

MATTINGLY: It was a lifelong career that came to a bitter end. In 2017 multiple women accused Conyers of sexual misconduct dating back to the '90s. The congressman denied any wrongdoing but admitted he settled one case in 2015 using taxpayer dollars. To preserve his legacy, Conyers chose to retire before the end of his 27th term.

CONYERS: My legacy can't be compromised or diminished in any way. This too shall pass.

MATTINGLY: John James Conyers Jr. was born in Detroit in 1929. By the mid-'60s, he was a Korean War vet with his own law practice. At the height of the Civil Rights Movement, politics came calling. Influenced by the activism of Martin Luther King Jr., Conyers ran for Congress in 1964, won the Detroit seat by a landslide. Civil Rights Movement pioneer Rosa Parks became the congressman's secretary.

As a freshman, Conyers introduced the original Voting Rights Act of 1965, prohibiting racial discrimination in voting. President Lyndon B. Johnson signed it into law. Two years later, Conyers found himself at the center of Detroit's 12th Street riot. One of the most violent and destructive riots in U.S. history. Conyers failed attempts to calm protesters and civil unrest followed were immortalized in the 2017 film "Detroit."

By 1968, like millions of Americans, Conyers mourned the death of his friend, Martin Luther King Jr. Four days later he introduced a bill to mark King's birthday as a national holiday. It took 15 years for it to get passed into law. In 1971, Conyers co-founded the Congressional Black Caucus which seeks equal rights for minorities through legislative efforts.

Then came the Watergate years. As a member of the House Judiciary Committee, Conyers helped draft the Articles of Impeachment against President Richard Nixon. Conyers' congressional career spanned 10 presidencies. His legacy includes landmark reforms such as the Violence Against Women Act and the Hate Crimes Act.

CONYERS: Our concerns are moving all parts of this country out of the circumstances of segregation, discrimination and injustice in our legal system.

MATTINGLY: Conyers was the first African-American to hold the distinction as dean or most senior member of Congress. Widely admired but ultimately disgraced, John Conyers leaves behind a complex legacy, the causes he championed and the country he served.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WHITFIELD: Former Congressman John Conyers was 90 years old. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:32:15]

WHITFIELD: All right. Leaving very little to the imagination, today President Trump described in graphic detail the death of ISIS leader al-Baghdadi. Without mincing words, the president repeatedly referred to al-Baghdadi as a dog and a coward. Listen.

(START VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Last night, the United States brought the world's number one terrorist leader to justice. He died after running into a dead end tunnel, whimpering and crying and screaming all the way. He ignited his vest, killing himself and the three children.

His body was mutilated by the blast. The tunnel had caved in on it in addition. These savage monsters will not escape their fate. We will continue to pursue the remaining ISIS terrorists to their brutal end. In some cases, they were very frightened puppies.

He was a sick and depraved man. And now he's gone. He died like a dog. He died like a coward. They brought body parts back with them, et cetera, et cetera. There wasn't much left.

He was screaming, crying and whimpering. It was brutal. He led his three children to death. He was an animal. And he was a gutless animal.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: All right. Here to discuss is CNN Chief Media Correspondent, "RELIABLE SOURCES" anchor, Brian Stelter. So, Brian, you know, the president also said, you know, this was like watching a movie, you know. His attention, I guess to detail or how he was trying to paint a picture, what does this convey about the president?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN CHIEF MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: I think in many ways this is what his supporters love about him the most. The way that he talks, not as a traditional president but more like a typical person, somebody you're meeting at the bar or at a restaurant who talks in a way that is incredibly casual even when talking about the use of force or the use of violence.

Look, there have been times in the past at the president's rallies where he has glorified violence, where he has encouraged violence in ways that have made critics very, very uncomfortable, very disturbed. When he's talking about violence in this way directed at one of the world's worst terrorists, I think there is maybe perhaps a little less room to criticize. It is still revealing though the way that he was talking about al-Baghdadi and the way that he was describing violence in these grizzly ways, in this very detailed way, very unusual for any president.

And yet again, I think one of those dividing lines where if you're with the president you like this, if you're against him then you think this is part of the problem.

I think it was also revealing that he described it as being like a movie. That he mentioned repeatedly that he was able to watch this live. That's presumably from drone cameras or from body cameras being worn by members of the Special Forces.

I'd be interested in more detail about that because presidents rarely acknowledge that they're able to have this real time access. Of course, what it calls to mind is the day of the bin Laden raid when Barack Obama and others were watching live from the -- from the conference that day. There's a similarity here of course in this case.

I think the president was going out of his way to be so descriptive because this is different from bin Laden in a couple of key respects. Bin Laden was so -- loomed so large in the American psyche, in the American consciousness in a way that al-Baghdad never did.

And I think in some ways perhaps the president was going out of his way to sell this victory for obvious political PR victory -- for PR reasons.

[16:35:46]

WHITFIELD: Yes and he made it very clear. It was his view that this is bigger than Osama bin Laden. He made reference to that, you know, during that press conference. He also -- the president also mentioned possibly releasing the video of al-Baghdadi's death in order to send a message to other terrorists out there.

And it makes some cringe because it also makes them think about the images that ISIS wanted out with people that they killed and tortured in their orange suits, et cetera. And so comparisons are being made about, you know, this kind of gruesome display, how was it different, how was it potentially more harmful.

STELTER: And certainly, from a military standpoint, even showing a photo sometimes has serious consequences about what can be learned about U.S. tactics and U.S. capabilities. A video would be a whole another level.

I always think back to a couple of conversations I had with fellow members of ISIS victims, some of the journalists who were executed by ISIS five years ago. And the one incredibly sore point that really shuts down conversation is about those videos, about the ISIS propaganda videos that were released. WHITFIELD: Yes.

STELTER: The idea of seeing a video like this from this weekend, it does I think -- it would boggle the mind. And by the way, Fred, you know, we're living in a world where people play video games.

They depict war and violence all the time. One of the -- one of the world's biggest video games, "Call of Duty", came out this weekend. We live in a country, in a generation of people that have grown up playing these games. I'm not so sure they need to see the real thing on camera.

WHITFIELD: Brian Stelter, thank you so much.

STELTER: Thanks.

WHITFIELD: So, with Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi's death, what does this mean for ISIS? Does this severely cripple the organization or will another person simply step in to fill the void?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:41:24]

WHITFIELD: All right. Welcome back. Today, we learned ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi died during a U.S. military operation in Northwest Syria. And sources tells CNN that the body of the ISIS leader may be disposed of at sea, which is the same protocol as Osama bin Laden when he was killed in a 2011 raid.

But now that al-Baghdadi is dead, questions remain about the impact in the region. Joining me right now, Fawaz Gerges, Professor of International Relations, London School of Economics and Political Science. He's also the author of "Making the Arab World". Good to see you, Fawaz.

So, the NATO secretary general called al-Baghdadi's death, and I'm quoting now, a significant step against international terrorism. What is the next step in your view?

FAWAZ GERGES, PROFESSOR OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS, LONDON SCHOOL OF ECONOMICS AND POLITICAL SCIENCE: Well, I mean, I think the killing of Baghdadi presents a hard blow to ISIS in the short term and the midterm. But it's not a fatal blow. We need to make a clear distinction between the significance, the operational significance, of the killing of Baghdadi and the resilience of ISIS.

ISIS continues to be very resilient. In fact, I would argue it is extremely foolhardy and premature to pan the obituary of ISIS as President Trump has been doing in the past few hours for domestic political considerations.

Why, Fred? Why do I -- why don't I believe that what happened in the past 24 hours do not really present a fatal blow to ISIS? ISIS still has between 20,000 and 30,000 fighters, active fighters, in Syria and Iraq. ISIS still has a potent ideology. The decision making of ISIS has already devolved to regional and functionary commanders. In fact, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi for the past one year has not been -- had not been in charge of the day-to-day management of ISIS.

WHITFIELD: You think his --

GERGES: The regional commanders --

WHITFIELD: --his lieutenants or deputies or these regional commanders have been the ones carrying out the continued philosophy of ISIS and he has just been laying low in your view?

GERGES: Absolutely. And in fact, the ISIS leadership has already had contingency plans to replace Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in case of his death. And you're going to see --

WHITFIELD: As most terrorist organizations do.

GERGES: Absolutely. I mean, think of Osama bin Laden. Ayman al- Zawahiri -- it took Ayman al-Zawahiri just a few days to replace Osama bin Laden.

But the difference between al-Qaeda and ISIS, al-Qaeda had never had 20,000 fighters in just two theaters not to mention in other theaters as well, in Afghanistan, in Yemen, in Africa, sleeping cells worldwide.

And also, ISIS has already mutated into an insurgency. And an insurgency, it no longer really needs to holds lands. In addition to that, just to give your viewers a glimpse of what I mean, pulling out American forces from Syria creates space and creates chaos which ISIS will most likely the surviving fighters exploit not to mention that during strategic rivalries, Iraq -- Iran and Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Kurds. So, it's a big mess.

[16:45:04]

WHITFIELD: Yes. You see it --

GERGES: And anyone who tells you we're seeing the end of ISIS is mainly -- basically dream -- daydreaming.

WHITFIELD: Wow. You see it as opening up vulnerability. So then, ISIS, not just for influential, of course, in Syria but beyond, but then since we are talking about Syria as well, what does this mean, if anything, for the leadership of the Bashar al-Assad? I mean, he remains in power. And does al-Baghdadi's death influence in anyway influence the kind of power that Assad wills?

GERGES: In fact, the death of Baghdadi plays into the hands of Bashar al-Assad. Bashar al-Assad says, look, I am the only one that's keeping Syria intact. In fact, President Trump's by pulling out the 1,000 American troops from Northeast Syria has really, in fact, empowered Bashar al-Assad. The Syrian -- the government Syrian forces now are on the border of Syria and Turkey. They had never been there for the past eight years, not to mention that the Kurds have been thrown under the bus by President Trump.

It's a big mess in Syria. What President Trump is trying to do in the past few hours is to divert attention from his impulsive, reckless, chaotic and decision in Syria.

Of course, the killing of ISIS is a good thing because al-Baghdadi was a bad guy. He was a very, very bad guy. We all know this. But the reality is we need to make a distinction between the killing of Baghdadi and Americans and President Trump's decisions in Syria and elsewhere that are pouring gasoline on the raging fire.

Syria now is a bigger mess as a result of President Trump. I'm not say he created the mess in Syria but he has poured gasoline on the raging fire there.

WHITFIELD: Wow, powerful words. Professor Fawaz Gerges, always good to see you. Thank you so much. We appreciate your insight.

GERGES: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: Still so much more straight ahead in the "Newsroom". But first, here's an update from someone we met last year whose life has been changed by a top ten CNN "Hero".

(START VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Three years ago, Nate White injured his spine in a kayaking accident and was told he'd never walk again.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You want to try to stack it (INAUDIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But his hard work and determination along with Amanda's incredible help has paid off.

NATE WHITE, CNN HEROES: I'm a robot.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A year ago, he did this. And now, just three years after his accident, he's doing this.

WHITE: Amanda always believed that I was going to be walking again.

AMANDA BOXTEL, FOUNDER AND EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR BRIDGING BIONICS FOUNDATION: He's living the miracle of what we all aspire for. This is the power of technology that everybody should have access to. That's my goal.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: The 2019 top ten CNN "Heroes" will be revealed Wednesday. We'll be right.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [16:51:55]

WHITFIELD: All right. Tonight's episode of the CNN "Original Series", "Declassified", will explore how mysterious radio frequencies led to a shocking discovery that Russian spies have bugged the state department. Here's a preview.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT DAVID BOOTH, FORMER SUPERVISORY SPECIAL AGENT: In late 1999, while working the investigation of Russian technical officer Stanislav Gusev, we discovered a listening device inside the 7th floor conference room of our main state department building.

This was the first time anybody anywhere had seen something like this. The fact that they got a bug in a conference room on the 7th floor just down the hall from the secretary of state is just astounding.

A huge and I mean huge inter-agency IC meeting was held over at the FBI headquarters. The agencies all had their own different preferences and it was debated. One group said, let's disable it and see if they come in at night to fix it and arrest the guys coming at night.

Other people said, rip it out right away so we can technically examine it and do countermeasures. It was finally decided at this big meeting to leave it in place, let's see if we can learn something from it. But we have to monitor it in the conference room 24/7.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP]

WHITFIELD: Wow. Joining us now is Robert David Booth, former supervisory special agent at the Department of States Diplomatic Security Service. Wow, that's a great cliffhanger.

So, you know, monitoring it how? How, you know, did state go about monitoring this bug right there in that building?

BOOTH: Well, what had happened is the intelligence community, once we had determined that something was amiss, they installed countermeasure equipment across the street from the state department. And with those countermeasure equipments, we were able to quickly determine that a listening device had been placed inside a conference room inside the state department main building in Washington, D.C.

WHITFIELD: So, at the end, you know, of the cold war, because this really speaks to the climate at that moment, the U.S. eased restrictions for Russian diplomats in the U.S. And that left the U.S. vulnerable to an espionage attack, maybe vulnerable to that kind of method that we just learned of. So, how did Russians take advantage of these rules? Was that -- was that the opening for them?

BOOTH: It was. It was a misguided attempt by the state department to meet the new Russian government and treat their diplomats like we treated other allies. And therefore, they are Russian diplomats who were allowed to come to the state department unescorted. This also meant that Russian intelligence officers under diplomatic cover were able to come inside the state department. And it was during these visits to the state department that we believed they are able to get access to the conference room and install a listening device.

WHITFIELD: So, what was perhaps the first clue or among the first clues that the U.S. intelligence, you know, got that the state department was a target of this Russian espionage, these visitors even?

[16:55:00]

BOOTH: Don Sullivan (ph), a supervisory special agent of the FBI, contacted me to let me know that his surveillance teams had located an individual, a name of Stanislav Gusev. He was a known technical officer for the Russian intelligence services serving here on a diplomatic cover, was seen walking around the back of the state department with black bags, earphones in his ear, sitting on a seat bench, things that were very suspicious.

WHITFIELD: Wow, right out in the open like that?

BOOTH: Right out on the park bench right behind the state department.

WHITFIELD: Wow, so much was learned. What an incredible adventure. But of course, you know, astute observations led to their demise. Thank you so much, Robert David Booth. Of course, we'll all be watching "Declassified" tonight airing at 11:00 p.m.

And thank you so much for joining me this weekend. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. CNN "Special Coverage" continues right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: You're live in the CNN "NEWSROOM". I'm Ana Cabrera in New York. These words from President Trump; he died like a dog, he died like a coward. He's talking about the man who created ISIS and served as its leader, dead in a U.S. military raid in Syria.

The president hinting last night that quote, something very big had happened. And this morning, he gave some very vivid and very graphic details about how Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi died in a suicide explosion with American troops closing in.