Return to Transcripts main page


ISIS Leader Believed to Have Been Killed in U.S. Raid; Former Trump Chief of Staff Warned Him of Impeachment; Two Killed in Mass Shooting at Party near Greenville, Texas. Aired 5-6a ET

Aired October 27, 2019 - 05:00   ET




PAULA NEWTON, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): ISIS leader al-Baghdadi is believed to have been killed in a U.S. raid.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This remarkable feat of taking out the world's most wanted man.

NEWTON: A U.S. Defense official said al-Baghdadi apparently detonated a suicide vest during the operation. President Trump is expected to make a major announcement. Earlier, though, he tweeted, "Something very big has just happened."

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: President Trump is lashing out at John Kelly.

JOHN KELLY, FORMER TRUMP CHIEF OF STAFF: I said whatever you do, don't hire a yes man, someone that won't tell you the truth because, if you do, I believe you will be impeached.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: President Trump saying in a statement, "John Kelly never said that. He never said anything like that. If he would have said that, I would have thrown him out of the office."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): This is CNN breaking news.

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. So glad to have you with us. I'm Christi Paul.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Martin Savidge in for Victor Blackwell.

We want to get to our breaking news this morning. ISIS leader Abu Baker al-Baghdadi believed to have been killed in a U.S. military raid in northwest Syria.

SAVIDGE: Sources tell CNN that he detonated a suicide vest as U.S. Special Forces were closing in. We are told his location was based on CIA intelligence. But we will have to wait for DNA analysis to confirm that it is al-Baghdadi who died.

PAUL: The Islamic cleric and head of the Islamic State has been in hiding for five years. He declared the ISIS caliphate from inside the Great Mosque of Mosul, Iraq, back in 2014.

SAVIDGE: President Trump is expected to make a major foreign policy announcement at 9:00 a.m. Eastern Time. Last night he tweeted, quote, "Something very big has just happened."

We want to show you nighttime video that Syrian activists say show part of the raid targeting al-Baghdadi. CNN cannot confirm the authenticity of this video.


PAUL: Now a witness in Syria described to CNN hearing several helicopters and warplanes and gunfire for about an hour last night in that area.


SAVIDGE: Let's get straight now to our senior international correspondent Nick Paton Walsh in Erbil, Iraq.

Nick, what is the impact of this death, if confirmed, and anything we may know about how this mission was conducted?

WALSH: Yes. At this point we're still waiting for the official details from the White House. Of course Donald Trump will speak hours ahead.

Eyewitnesses hearing sustained gunfire and an hour's worth of explosions near a town called Barisha, not far from the border with Turkey and Syria, a part of Syria which is not controlled by ISIS or has much American presence at all or has had an American presence. This is kind of al Qaeda central. Remember them.

It appears al-Baghdadi was probably hiding out somewhere there. We don't know the precise circumstances of that. But that town is not far from the border, a matter of kilometers, miles merely.

The explosions consistent, sustained in one particular area. We understand that a body is having biometric testing done on it. Special Forces commandos were involved. Also the gunfire suggests a ground force having entered before airstrikes followed in to perhaps clear up the scene behind.

We will hear these details in time. U.S.' longtime allies fighting, the Syrian Kurds, their leader said they were involved in providing intelligence for a historic operation. That's massively complicated because President Trump greenlighted a Turkish incursion against the Kurds, making life very complicated, given how close the Turkish border, this particular raid and quite likely the world's most wanted man, was hiding out.

This will be unpacked in the hours ahead as we learn about who participated in this and how al-Baghdadi was found. But we will see a commander in chief giving a speech in which he will congratulate the armed forces, perhaps himself, too. But the intelligence community that he's been deeply critical of

supplied the information. They may have been given him one of his greatest victories in his first term so far. But here's what we know and what meant the life of the world's most wanted man.


WALSH: The leader of ISIS, believed to be dead now, Abu Baker al- Baghdadi.


WALSH (voice-over): His face in public only once and even then in the presence of a small number. This is the moment at Friday prayers in a freshly conquered Mosul Abu Baker al-Baghdadi, creator of one of the most successful and inhuman terrorist networks in history chose to reveal himself.

Yet, before the infamy at this pulpit, he spent a decade rising quietly. A PhD student said to like football, these Pentagon records show, his capture by U.S. forces in 2004 near Fallujah, his hometown and held for years as a civilian internee at U.S. Camp Bucca. It was there, one expert who knew him that he turned.

HISHAM AL-HASHIMI, ISIS EXPERT (through translator): Al-Baghdadi was not cruel or radical at the time, he just wanted to fight the Americans. However, he leaned toward sectarian violence in Bucca at a school, where he met foreigners and some Iraqis who filled his head with such ideas.

WALSH (voice-over): The officer in charge of the camp remembers the last words of the man they released.

KENNETH KING, FORMER COMMANDER, CAMP BUCCA: As he was leaving -- and he knew my unit was from Long Island, New York -- he looked over toward us and as he left, he said, "See you guys in New York."

Here we are a few years hence and I look at those words in a little bit of a different context right now.

WALSH (voice-over): Then there is silence, a long stretch in the shadows of Iraq's savage civil war before hitting the al Qaeda sanctions list in June 2011. Here as Abu Du'a, he led the Islamic State of Iraq, the al Qaeda franchise in Iraq, whose previous leader, Zarqawi, the U.S. killed.

But as the U.S. left Iraq and the Arab Spring fell apart, the increasingly sectarian violence of Syria's civil war became a magnet for the bloodthirsty. Baghdadi, silently behind an ISIS brutality so extreme even al Qaeda disowned it, leading the extremist groups to split in February of 2014 and months later, the group, to show its fighters breaking the borders of Syria and Iraq, declaring their caliphate.

With Baghdadi at its helm, claiming direct lineage from the Prophet Muhammad, the new caliph. This was Baghdadi's moment, the pinnacle of years of calculation and ISIS rose fast.

Then came the attack on and occupation of Mosul. The atrocities against the Yazidis in Mt. Sinjar, the beheadings of Western hostages, the besieging of Kobani, horrors marked by an obscene worship of violence.

WALSH: In all these, Baghdadi is invisible, yet doubtless the key decision-maker. But one of the more terrifying things about the ISIS he helped create is not its obsession with gruesomely videoing acts of murder but, instead, its harnessing of social media to create a global franchise amongst people it had often never met -- in Libya, Afghanistan, Paris, Brussels, atrocities committed by people who were attracted to ISIS' brand to commit atrocities and even die for it.

WALSH (voice-over): But in November 2014, rumors of an airstrike hitting him and then, within a week, a recording of his florid speech.


WALSH (voice-over): It became a pattern. No public appearances mixed with randomly released audio statements. U.S. officials told CNN that they believe he was injured in May 2017 and had to take five months away from his leadership duties as a result.

Yet from that moment onwards, what was left of ISIS' so-called caliphate collapsed in on itself. Mosul, freed from their grip in July, Raqqa that October.

ISIS reduced to a tiny slip of land on the Iraqi and Syrian border and an idea, infectious, hateful, still capable of inspiring barbaric insanity, yet now without its figurehead, a man willing to lead his followers to death but only from the shadows.


WALSH: It's key, this is an ideology. It doesn't die because its author is dead. Certainly it takes a symbolic body blow and closes a chapter. ISIS which once had a shadowy leader in a large part of Iraq and Syria under its control. Its own police force, its currency, its ability to project through social media terror across the world, it is now massively reduced to thousands of fighters in detention camps.

Tens of thousands of family members and sympathizers in camps in southeastern Syria. But make no mistake, the grievances, the unhappiness, the massive sense of persecution felt by Sunni Arabs in both Syria and Iraq, that's still there and possibly around the world.


WALSH: Sympathizers drawn to this warped version of Islam, a very small and nasty and particular interpretation, they still exist. They may react to Baghdadi's death in predictable ways, possibly.

What is important to remember is that this is the man whose freedom, whose consistent presence at large, evading U.S. justice, symbolized ISIS' strength. His death will be a huge blow to the ideology. It will not end it.

It will leave many asking how on Earth was the United States military and CIA able to pull this off at the most complicated time it had in Syria?

They were moving out of main bases, pulling back, having their position constantly changed by the commander in chief, changing strategy. Still they achieved this, their most important goal in the ISIS capitalizing. America has had a scattered history here in the Middle East, frankly often negative. But this is undoubtedly, even to its critics, an extraordinary feat. Back to you.

PAUL: Nick Paton Walsh, such great context for us. Thank you so much.

SAVIDGE: The White House announced the president will be addressing the nation shortly in the aftermath of this military raid. Let's bring in Kristen Holmes.

Any idea, Kristen, what the president will say?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They are being very cagey about this. That's no surprise. They said it will be foreign policy related in the Diplomatic Room.

They will want the president, the commander in chief, to be the one who sets the narrative, the tone on this. They will want to take a step back and let him do the talking.

Of course we have a cryptic tweet from Donald Trump last night saying, "Something very big has just happened." But that is about the most detail we have.

If this is confirmed this will be a huge win for President Trump. His foreign policy has been called into question not just by Democrats but Republicans, who slammed him for suggesting that U.S. troops should be withdrawing from Syria, for withdrawing the troops, saying we were leaving our allies there, the Kurds, to die.

Now you have the most wanted man being killed in a raid that would have been confirmed by President Trump. And not only that, we see the Kurds, a general of the Kurds is tweeting out that they helped the U.S., they were working with the U.S. on this.

So this really changes the narrative here, particularly at a critical time for President Trump, when he was getting it from all sides, Democratic and Republican, and with the impeachment probe. So again, a very big win for President Trump.

PAUL: Kristen Holmes, thank you very much.

We want to bring in our military analyst, retired Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling.

Thank you for being with us.

Your gut reaction, first of all, to this news?

LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, a couple of things. First of all, good morning to you and Martin.

Number one, congratulations to the team from JSOC and his teammates with the CIA and other agencies that contributed for probably weeks, months or perhaps even years of intelligence analysis, collection of human intelligence, signals intelligence and all the things that led to this.

This may have occurred yesterday, last night. But it was probably months or years in the making to track this individual down. He has been wanted for a while. The strike was a good one.

Secondly, what I would say is, I'm confused, watching the actions, what was al-Baghdadi doing in this town?

This is about five kilometers from the Turkish border. It's someplace where the Russians outside Idlib said there was no way he was here. In fact this town is considered the home of Al-Nusra and an element of al Qaeda.

Baghdadi has not been cooperating very well with al Qaeda.

So what was he doing here?

Who knew he was there?

What coordination was made with the Kurdish SDF commander?

And how did this play a part with conducting this strike now?

The other thing I will say, too, having fought these kinds of guys and targeted them with my partners from JSOC when I was in the military, is what happens next?

The last time a strike was conducted against bin Laden and before that with Zarqawi, there were indicators that the organization wasn't depleted, wasn't hurt that bad. It in fact grew. And Baghdadi has been saying for years in his "Dabiq" magazine.


HERTLING: They said they are preparing for the time of his death and the fact that he will be a martyr. That has a significant influence when you call someone that in these Islamist radical groups.

So all of these things -- this will be portrayed as a great victory. It is a good strike, good jackpot, as JSOC calls it. But there are going to be some second and third order effects. This is certainly not the end of the ideology of these radical extremists and, in fact, could be some advancement of it in terms of the area and other places around the world.

SAVIDGE: General, if I could, let me ask you a couple of quick questions about timing on this. No doubt there will be critics of the president who will say he carried this out in part to distract from what is going on domestically.

The president, first of all, would have signed off on a mission like this, correct?

HERTLING: Correct.

SAVIDGE: On top of that, this is not a mission you just call up on a Saturday night.

HERTLING: Right. And you're getting to a very good point, Martin. This is not necessarily something the president drove. He was presented with intelligence from the CIA or his staff and more than likely the Special Operations commander, saying, hey, we have really good intelligence. We can strike this target right now.

That's how it happened with Osama bin Laden and Zarqawi. There was good target information and they had high confidence going in against the target with a whole lot of information. He certainly blessed the mission, as all commanders in chief do. But this has been percolating for days, weeks or even months.

SAVIDGE: Who makes the final call of timing?

Like we go tonight?

We don't go?

HERTLING: That's in cooperation between the commander on the scene, probably JSOC commander, saying we have good intelligence that al- Baghdadi is at this location. He may have been with other people. In fact, Gilani, who was the HDS commander, his enemy, an al Qaeda operative, may have been on the scene. They may have been meeting --

Early indicators were quite a few people were struck in the raid. They're trying to get the collection from Baghdadi. But the final go is from the commander in chief but it comes from the commander on the ground, saying we have high intelligence on this. We can strike without extreme danger to our troops.

SAVIDGE: Do you think Turkey was involved in any way with this?

HERTLING: Good question, Martin. What I'm concerned about is, was Turkey involved in the operation passing intelligence?

Or were Turkish forces involved in the hiding of al-Baghdadi for several months?

Again, I go to the point, this is a Turkish-controlled area. It is five kilometers from the border. Just like the bin Laden raid, going back to that, we knew Pakistanis knew he was there. So this guy can't be that secretive. There are things that allow you to get information.

I'm not casting aspersions on Turkey but that is a question that needs to be answered. How much did Turkey know? How much information did they pass? Were they ally or foe in this operation?

SAVIDGE: Maybe when the president speaks we will get more insight on that. Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling, thank you very much. I know we will talk later

PAUL: Thank you, General.

HERTLING: Thank you.

PAUL: The White House is lashing out at President Trump's former chief of staff John Kelly this morning. Kelly said he warned President Trump the president might face impeachment if he was replaced with a yes man. Coming up, pretty blistering response from the White House about that.

SAVIDGE: Plus, we are following the breaking news out of Syria, where it is believed that ISIS leader al-Baghdadi has been killed in a U.S. military raid. What it will mean for the once formidable terror group.





PAUL: It's 21 minutes past the hour now. We are staying on top of breaking news. Sources telling CNN it is believed ISIS leader Abu Baker al-Baghdadi is dead, killed in a U.S. raid near the Turkey-Syria border overnight.

SAVIDGE: We want to show you nighttime video taken by Syrian activist as a military operation got underway. Now CNN cannot confirm this is the raid that targeted al-Baghdadi.

According to a senior American military official, al-Baghdadi detonated a suicide vest as they carried out the raid. President Trump expected to announce the details in a news conference which will take place later this morning.

PAUL: The death of the leader would be a major blow to ISIS, which lost its last physical stronghold in Syria back in March.

SAVIDGE: Sam Kiley joins us now.

What is the recollection there where you are?

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The defense ministry of Turkey has confirmed there was prior coordination with the ministry of defense and U.S. forces prior to this operation.

So that is proof positive they were in the know in the broadest sense that an operation would be conducted in that area, which is an area right on the doorstep of Turkey, just about three miles into Syria from Turkey, where this operation was conducted.

Now as you had local eyewitnesses reporting a battle for about an hour with aircraft. Clearly the movement of aircraft through an airspace that is complex but at the moment dominated in that area by Turkey but also shared quite often with Russia and Assad, the government in Damascus. Interesting to see if they were given any prior warning.

A very complex environment but a huge success in symbolic terms for the United States and their ongoing battle against the so-called Islamic State. Claims coming from the government in Baghdad and the Syrian Democratic Forces that they were involved in providing intelligence that ultimately to this strike.

In the end, the future of the Islamic State has gone from the size of Great Britain, tearing up the colonial borders as they saw them, declaring a caliphate, now crushed militarily. But the idea of it remains. Now they will be competing with al Qaeda for the international jihadi franchise.

While it's a little odd, al-Baghdadi, if he was killed in this village, was hiding there because that is firmly inside al Qaeda- dominated area and extremely densely populated with people from the Syrian civil war.


KILEY: An extremely uncomfortable place to be maintained a secret location for any period of time. It will also raise the question whether or not he or his family was trying to escape perhaps into Turkey.

PAUL: All right. Sam Kiley, great information for us. Thank you so much.

Breaking news in Texas. This just coming in. Reports of a shooting at a college event outside Greenville. The Texas A&M University Commerce police department tweeting there was, quote, an event that may or may not have involved students.

SAVIDGE: Police say that there is no active shooter. We will follow the situation closely. We will give you more information as soon as we get it.

And we continue, of course, to follow the news out of Syria. ISIS leader al-Baghdadi believed to be killed.




SAVIDGE: And we are following breaking news out of Syria. ISIS leader al-Baghdadi is believed to have been killed in a U.S. military raid in northwest Syria. It happened overnight. Defense officials say it appears that al-Baghdadi detonated a suicide

vest as Special Forces were moving in. This morning President Trump is expected to make a major announcement. He tweeted last night, "Something very big has just happened."

And in light of all of this, we want to tell you more about Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi before ISIS existed. He was detained back in 2004 for several months at a U.S.-run prison in southern Iraq. He was later released.


PAUL: Two years after that, ISIS was created. And in 2010, he ascended to the leadership after his predecessors were killed in a U.S.-Iraqi operation.

In 2014, ISIS announced the creation of a caliphate. And al-Baghdadi declared himself the ruler of more than a billion Muslims. Since then, he has kept a low profile. He is believed to have been wounded in an airstrike last year and conceded control of the terror network for several months due to injury.

In April of this year, ISIS released what was purportedly a new video message from al-Baghdadi. Now sources telling CNN he is believed to be dead after a U.S. Special Operations raid in Syria. Martin?

SAVIDGE: We want to turn to Ben Wedeman. Ben has been following ISIS for quite a while. He was covering the major battle for Mosul that took place in Iraq. He has spoken to many of the former fighters of the ISIS network, as well as their wives and children.

Ben, this is a perfect time to sort of ask you what the death of al- Baghdadi would signify and how is this going to impact ISIS, which as we know exists mostly as an ideology.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It is highly significant that the leader of the organization has been killed. But ISIS is more than just an ideology. It no longer controls any significant territory in Syria, in Iraq where, just a few years ago, it ruled over an area the size of Britain with 12 million people.

But it still operates in West Africa, in Libya, Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, in Afghanistan, in the Philippines. It is still very much out there. The difference is that it has become sort of a diffused organization, where each local branch operates on its own.

So the elimination of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi takes away a symbolic head. But the organization is still there. Osama bin Laden, the now dead head of al Qaeda, he was in a well-known public figure going back to the 1980s when he led the Arab Mujahidin in the fight against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was largely unknown until he became the head of ISIS and appeared in public in July 2014 in that mosque in Mosul. Before that, he was only known to a very small number of people. He didn't have a cult of personality around him the way Osama bin Laden did.

When we were interviewing dozens of ISIS fighters, who just surrendered in Eastern Syria, and their wives and their children, very few people actually mentioned actually al-Baghdadi by name. Most of them stressed their loyalty, their affiliation to the Islamic State, not to the figure, the personality, of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Martin, Christie?

SAVIDGE: I'm wondering do you have any reason why he was at least reportedly killed in Idlib province.

It is not an area they are known to have a strong connection to. In fact, just the opposite. I'm wondering with all your experience, any idea why he would be there?

WEDEMAN: Idlib province is largely controlled by an affiliate of al Qaeda. Fundamentally, al Qaeda and ISIS, although they have their differences, ISIS grew out of al Qaeda.

Therefore, it's not altogether surprising that, given that he has been on the run for quite some time, that he might have decided to go to Idlib sort of as a last-ditch effort to stay alive himself but perhaps to make an alliance. They have had their differences in the past. But their fundamental ideologies aren't really that different. Martin?

SAVIDGE: OK. Really appreciate your insight and your expertise. Ben, thank you very much.

PAUL: Ahead, we have more on this huge development in the hunt for ISIS leader of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. The White House saying Trump is making a major announcement this morning in a couple of hours.





PAUL: We want to let you know the breaking news. Sources telling CNN it is believed ISIS leader Abu Baker al-Baghdadi was killed overnight.

SAVIDGE: Syrian activists say this video shows the operation near the Turkish border. CNN cannot confirm this was Saturday's raid. Iraqi state TV reports this is video of the aftermath. A Defense official said it appears al-Baghdadi detonated a suicide vest as Special Operations commandos closed in.

PAUL: President Trump will speak at 9:00 am. We expect it to be about this issue. The White House will say only that the president is making a major announcement. That is coming in just a few hours.

SAVIDGE: It came after the president stoked some speculation with a tweet, writing last night, quote, "Something very big has just happened." Joining us now to discuss is Brian Stelter, chief media correspondent and anchor of "Reliable Sources."

Thinking back to the announcement on the raid that killed Osama bin Laden and I'm wondering, what do you make of the messaging?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Certainly this plays into one of the most important, most effective rhetorical devices. When he talks about ending the endless wars. He uses this line at rallies, on Twitter and in speeches. It resonates on the Right and the Left. That is a message he will be reinforcing later today.

He can meet an important moment with an audience not just in the United States but around the world. When you read what President Obama said on the bin Laden raid, you barely saw the word "I."


STELTER: It was all about we. We are safer as a result. This president has a tendency to talk in the first person, to take credit himself, talk about himself. This is a chance for him to think bigger, move beyond that. We will see if he does in a few hours.

In 2011, it was in the 9:00 p.m. hour when the White House said the president was going to address the nation. It was a complete surprise up until an hour before the president's speech.

What we are seeing in this case is a little bit different. President Trump's tweet stirred speculation. Now people will wake up and learn the news about the U.S. believing that al-Baghdadi has been killed. It will the president who will confirm it but it will be a little bit less of a surprise by the time the president speaks.

PAUL: What is interesting about this, Brian, is the timing. The president is facing this incredible pressure from the ongoing impeachment inquiry. There has been a lot of criticism regarding his strategy in Syria.

How does all of that factor into this moment that we're in now?

STELTER: My sense is that everything that was true yesterday with regard to the impeachment inquiry will be true today and will be true tomorrow. The alleged abuses of power that were being investigated yesterday are just as relevant today and tomorrow.

That said, the president, whoever is president, of course will gain some credit and deservedly so. When the country has a success, when the military has a success, that's true today.

What's really important is this credibility issue. The president has squandered his credibility. That's very clear. However, the American people need to be able to trust government announcements, government information.

In this case it is the U.S. military doing the vetting, the analysis to be able to say that this is in fact, al-Baghdadi. Of course as Ryan Browne said, that's what is happening right now. A verification process is happening as we speak. So the president's credibility is one thing; he has given that up,

lost that credibility. However, the U.S. military's statements still do hold a lot of credibility and that's important today, especially today of all days.

PAUL: Stelter, we appreciate you always. Thank you, sir.

Be sure to watch Brian later on "Reliable Sources" here on CNN.

SAVIDGE: We continue to follow the breaking news. The leader of ISIS believed to have been killed in a U.S. Special Operations raid.






SAVIDGE: We are staying on top of breaking news. Sources tell CNN it is believed that ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed in a U.S. raid in northwest Syria.

PAUL: This Iraqi state TV video shows the aftermath of the raid. A Defense official says it appears al-Baghdadi detonated a suicide vest as Special Operations commandos went in. The White House says the president will speak at 9 o'clock this morning Eastern Time.

One of President Trump's former advisers for the White House says the White House staff is to blame for the impeachment inquiry going into the House.

SAVIDGE: President Trump's former chief of staff John Kelly said he advised the president against hiring a yes man as his replacement, saying it could lead him to impeachment.

In a statement to CNN, President Trump said Kelly never said anything like that. And if he had, he would have been thrown out of the office.

Kelly, a former Marine Corps general, left the White House last December amid criticism that he did not do enough to rein in the president's impulses.

That is happening as House Democrats are threatening to hold former national security official Charles Kupperman in contempt. He worked closely with former national security adviser John Bolton is been scheduled to give a deposition tomorrow. But there was a lawsuit asking a judge if he had to comply with his subpoena.

PAUL: House investigators held their first Saturday deposition questioning Phillip Reeker, the top diplomat in charge of U.S. policy for Europe. It went on eight hours. Then House Intelligence chair Adam Schiff said he believed they were making progress. Republican Scott Perry sounded unimpressed with the testimony. Take a listen.


REP. SCOTT PERRY (R-PA): Well, it's the same old situation. Honestly, I haven't heard anything that has been earth-shattering or really anything different than what we have heard over and over again. So we're just going through it methodically and see if there's anything different.

But there is no difference in process. And there's been no earth- shattering revelations or otherwise as far as I can tell so far today.


SAVIDGE: And we want to check back in with CNN's Kristen Holmes, covering the White House.

The White House has been pushing pack against John Kelly's claims that we were talking about a moment ago.

HOLMES: That's right, Martin. No surprise the White House doesn't want to be able to say if he pushed back more on the president, he wouldn't be going through this. I want to play this clip, an interview during a forum. Take a listen to John Kelly.


JOHN KELLY, FORMER TRUMP CHIEF OF STAFF: Whatever you do, don't hire a yes man, someone that's going to tell you -- won't tell you the truth. Don't do that. Because if you do, I believe you'll be impeached.


HOLMES: Then he went on to say if he had stayed on as chief of staff this wouldn't have happened. He said he regretted sometimes. He looked back and thought maybe he shouldn't have left. As you said, the president really pushing pack on this. But what might be even more interesting here is the statement that we got from the press secretary.


HOLMES: I want to pull it up for you. She said I worked with John Kelly and he was totally unequipped to handle the genius of our great president.

This is a very interesting statement from the press secretary. First of all he is a four-star former Marine general, highly respected. Interesting to see that kind of pushback. It sounds something President Trump would have said, saying he wasn't smart enough to deal with Trump.

All of this is happening just about a week and a half after that disastrous press conference we saw with the acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, where he admitted to a quid pro quo and then had to pull back. It is interesting to see this all unfold, what is going on behind the scenes.

SAVIDGE: Kristen Holmes, thank you so much for that.

Let's bring in General Mark Hertling, a CNN military analyst.

Let me ask about this whole John Kelly thing. I'm wondering on two points.

First of all, that Kelly would speak out at the time that he did and that he was totally unequipped.

HERTLING: I will comment on John Kelly because I served with him in Northern Iraq. He was in the western part of Iraq commanding Marines there. So we had quite an opportunity to coordinate, cooperate in our conduct of operations.

He was a very good Marine, a good partner, a good soldier. In his case, a good Marine. Tactically savvy. Operationally gifted. We conducted a lot of operations together during some tough times in combat.

What I want to say is I don't want to comment on his abilities as chief of staff, other than to say I know he had held those roles in the military and had done very well as chief of staff of organizations.

He was in fact, the deputy to the Secretary of Defense at one time. This is a guy who is pretty doggone smart. He knows how to bring rigor and discipline to staffs. Those are the kinds of things, as you recall, were needed in the White House when chief of staff Kelly, former cabinet member Kelly took over.

So I'm assuming there was a lot of churn and a lot of chaos and dysfunction in the White House staff. And he tried to bring some discipline to it.

This whole commentary back and forth between him and the president and the press secretary, it seems to me the press secretary probably has not commanded any large organizations or been the staff director for any staffs. In fact, she doesn't even show her face when it comes time to have a press conference. So I'm not sure what she's talking about.

The president saying he would have thrown him out of the office. This sounds like something John Kelly would say or I would say if I was in that staff role. Make sure you don't get a yes man.

But, Martin, I would also comment there were quite a few scandals when Kelly was the chief of staff. So I'm not sure how much he brought it together, he says he wishes he was back there to bring a little more discipline to it. That's all well and good but there were a lot of things going wrong that various members of the press reported on while he was there.

So I don't want to comment on his actions as chief of staff. But those are my thoughts not as a military analyst but as an American citizen.

PAUL: I want to ask you about this. What John Kelly said in some ways correlates with something Rex Tillerson said back in December 2008. He would say so often the president would say here's what I want to do and here is how I want to do it. And I would say, Mr. President, I understand what you want to do but you can't do it that way. It violates the law.

Do both of these statements establish a pattern of sorts, maybe from President Trump, and do you think that he is surrounding himself with yes men?

HERTLING: Well, one comment like that from Rex Tillerson is an anecdote. We have heard it from more than Rex Tillerson. We have heard it from Mattis, McMaster, several other cabinet members, now Kelly. When multiple people say the same kind of thing about the leadership role, it quits being an anecdote and becomes a trend line.


HERTLING: Yes, I think there's substance to this as well as many tell-all books written about the president and now the anonymous writer for "The New York Times" now has a book out, who I'm sure will share more about this.

So a lot of these things seem to be going back to various people on the staff making comment about the way the leader, the commander in chief runs his operation. And, again, it's troubling. It seems to be a little bit chaotic and dysfunctional. There is a whole bunch of people saying it. So I lend credence to that.

SAVIDGE: I wanted to ask quick. A good commander would want to hear someone push back against him. You don't always want to hear someone agreeing with you.

HERTLING: Yes. Martin, there's a comment about that. You always have a Napoleon's corporal on your staff. Napoleon had a rider with him who would tell him what orders was done from the viewpoint of the soldiers before they gave them to the marshals. So you want that in a staff. You don't want yes men. That's for sure.

PAUL: General Hertling, we so appreciate you and your expertise. Thank you for waking with up with us this morning.

HERTLING: Thank you both.

PAUL: Thank you.

If you're just joining us, we have breaking news we want to let you know about. We know at least two people are dead and at least 10 injured in a shooting in Greenville, Texas.

SAVIDGE: Hunt County Sheriff Randy Meeks said they are currently looking for the shooter. Overnight, Texas A&M University Commerce said there was a shooting but not on their campus. We are live on the scene next hour. PAUL: Do stay with us pause our breaking news coverage continues after the break.