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Sources: ISIS Leader Believed To Have Been Killed In U.S. Special Operations Raid; Two Dead, 14 Wounded In Greenville Texas Shooting; Former Trump Chief Of Staff: I Warned Him He'd Be Impeached. Aired 6-7a ET

Aired October 27, 2019 - 06:00   ET




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is believed to have been killed in a U.S. raid.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This remarkable feat of taking out the world's most wanted man --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A U.S. defense official says 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 WHITE HOUSE 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'll 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.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Six a.m. right now. 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 are following the breaking news this morning.

ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is believed to have been killed in a U.S. military raid in northwest Syria.

PAUL: Sources tell CNN he detonated a suicide vest as U.S. special forces closed in. We are told his location was based on CIA intelligence but we are going to have to wait for DNA analysis to confirm that it is, indeed, al-Baghdadi who died. SAVIDGE: The 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 in 2014.

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

We have some night time video we want to share with you from a Syrian activist that they say show part of the raid targeting al-Baghdadi. Just to let you know CNN cannot confirm the authenticity of this video but here it is.


SAVIDGE: A witness in Syria described to CNN hearing several helicopters, war planes and gunfire for about an hour last night. This day -- day time video rather is from Iraqi state T.V. and they say that it shows the aftermath of the raid in northern Syria that is believed to have led to the death of the ISIS leader.

PAUL: We're covering this from all angles for you. CNN's Kristen Holmes and Ryan Browne in Washington this morning. Our senior international correspondent Nick Paton Walsh in Erbil, Iraq. We want to start there with Nick.

So, Nick, if al-Baghdadi is dead help us understand what it means for the future of ISIS. ISIS is not like al-Qaeda. There are a lot of individuals who are radicalized over the Web. So what kind of impact does his death have?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It certainly ends a chapter and this is an author of an ideology that spread globally through the internet, through social media to inspire twisted individuals elsewhere to commit acts of terror often against the innocent indiscriminately.

Let me tell you a little bit more though about what we know has happened so far today. Still awaiting official confirmation from the White House but the signs are from hearing eyewitnesses, from seeing that social media video that some sort of ground elements, U.S. special forces ground element moved in it seems towards this village of Barisha, very close to the Turkish border. Then a firefight ensued. We hear the eyewitnesses listened to heavy gunfire and then about an hour's worth of heavy explosions. Day light video showing what purports to be the scene where some of this occurred.

Now, it's unclear whether or not Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, if indeed that it is finally confirmed it was him, was traveling in a convoy then moved to a house or quite how this unfolded. But clearly a substantial incursion there of U.S. special forces. One which the Syrian Kurds, the ally of the United States, through its long fight against ISIS, they've lost over 10,000 of their sons and daughters well their chief have stepped forward and said that they supplied intelligence in what they refer to as historic operation here. The further complicates matters for America's relationship with Turkey. Turkey thinks those Syrian Kurds are terrorists. Although Turkey has stepped forward and said that it was informed prior to this raid that it would be occurring. Not much more detail of how much Turkey knew in advance.

But it's extraordinary that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, if it indeed was him, was killed so close to Turkey's border. Possibly in a stronghold of a group that is a rival to ISIS. Isis waiting. Al-Qaeda though still strong in this Idlib province near the Turkish border.

This will certainly be the discussions people have, the points they analyze as we learn more details slowly over time. But here is a look at Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi's life, what it meant and where his death leads us.



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 Bakr al-Baghdadi, creator of one of the most successful and inhuman terrorist networks in history chose to reveal himself.

Yet, before the infamy of this pulpit, he spent a decade rising quietly. A Ph.D. 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 towards sectarian violence in Bucca, a school where he met foreigners and some Iraqis who filled his head with such ideas.

WALSH: The office in charge of the camp remembers the last words of the man they released.

KENNETH KING, FORMER COMMANDER AT CAMP BUCCA: As he was leaving and he knew my unit was from Long Island, New York. He looked over to 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 different context right now.

WALSH: 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 Dua he led the Islamic State of Iraq, the al- Qaeda franchise in Iraq whose previously 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 to the extremist groups to split in February 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 an occupation of Mosul. The atrocities against the Yazidis in Mount Sinjar, the beheadings of Western hostages, the besieging of Kobani, horrors marked by an obscene worship of violence.

(on camera): In all these Baghdadi is invisible, yet doubtless a key decision maker. But one of the more testifying 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's brand to commit atrocities and even die from it.

(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 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's 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: So what is the death of the author of ISIS's ideology mean for the group itself? Well, it is obviously a substantial blow, deeply symbolic and symbolism is what ISIS was all about. And certainly if you're looking to find a way of slowing the projection of that particular horror through social media, killing the man who fermented that, who channeled it, who inspired it is a way of slowing all that down.

But like the Soviet Union, for example, the communism there didn't die with the death of Vladimir Lenin. Still you will see elements of ISIS continue to spread over social media because as I say it's more a virus online, frankly.

There may be cells of ISIS who are waiting for a moment like this to attack. That is speculation but you cannot take away from the fact that this was a man who came up with the idea, who brought people together, who encourage this savage, brutal kind of ideology and projected it globally and now he does appear to be no more.


I have to remark though how extraordinarily potent this U.S. operation has been. Now U.S. has a messy track record, frankly, in the last decade or so in the Middle East here, but this undoubtedly even as critics will say is an extraordinary victory. Over the past two or three days U.S. special forces intelligence have been on a backward foot posture pulling out of their key bases across northeastern Syria because of Turkish incursion that was green lighted by the White House whatever they say because of the damage with their relationship with their Syrian Kurdish allies.

Now it appears or at least the Syrian Kurds are saying that they assisted with the U.S. still going after achieving their main goal in the fight against ISIS. The death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi frankly extraordinary but as they see parts of their operation collapse around them they still managed to achieve this absolutely seminal task.

Now also it's a key moment for President Donald Trump who has long shall we say have a patchy relationship with the intelligence community because of allegations of interference by Russia in the 2016 election. But here he owes probably one of the most substantial victories or achievements of first term to that same intelligence community.

Back to you.

SAVIDGE: Yes. Very interesting contrast. Nick Paton Walsh, thank you very much for the insights.

We want to bring in now our CNN Pentagon Reporter, Ryan Browne. Ryan, a source apparently tells us that the raid was carried out by special operation's commandos. What else have we learned about this?

RYAN BROWNE, CNN PENTAGON REPORTER: Well, that's right, Martin. We are being told that this special operations raid was -- came about, in part, because of the Central Intelligence Agency, the CIA through a very complex collection effort was able to identify a target that they believed was al-Baghdadi leading to the U.S. military launching its special operations forces into this area of northwest Syria.

Now it's important to note that this is a very challenging area to operate in. The U.S. military actually is mostly in eastern Syria. In western Syria, you have a range of dangerous actors. You have various armed militia groups many of which are associated with extremist groups like al-Qaeda. You have regime forces. You have Russian forces. You have Turkish forces.

So, the U.S. would have had to have very high confidence that Baghdadi was in fact there to launch this very risky military operation deep into this dangerous area, very far from where the U.S. military presence is. And as Nick mentioned, the U.S. is actually pulling back from other areas in Syria as we speak making this even more complex operation. Now official telling us that the pullback of U.S. troops would make this kind of operation very difficult in the future and this is why the U.S. military needs to keep some presence on the ground despite President Trump's -- President Trump's desires to pull U.S. forces out of Syria entirely, something that he seems to be in the process of reversing. But, again, a very complex operation, a very risky operation that seemed to have been success.

Now we are being told during the operation that al-Baghdadi detonated an explosive, possible a suicide vest in the hopes of avoiding -- avoiding being captured. So, again, just showing how high risk this was with all these moving parts as they launch this very, very risky operation deep into enemy territory.

PAUL: So, Ryan, what are you learning specifically about a presence on the ground there? Reports of that?

BROWNE: Well, the U.S. military has long said that it needs troops on the ground to help develop this kind of targets, gather intelligence, work with local forces like the Syrian Democratic Forces, the Kurdish groups there. So, again, without that presence on the ground, we are being told this operation could have never happened.

And so as the president weighs pulling U.S. forces out, if that withdrawal had happened, it's not too far of a stretch to say that this kind of operation would have been impossible to launch without some kind of U.S. military presence in Syria. So, those in the administration, those at the Pentagon advocating for some kind of enduring U.S. military presences will point to this operation as evidence as to why the U.S. military needs a footprint in Syria in the future.

PAUL: All right. Ryan Browne, great reporting for us today. Thank you.

BROWNE: You bet.

PAUL: I want to bring in CNN Correspondent, Kristen Holmes as well because we are expecting to hear from the president this morning around 9:00 a.m. Any indication, Kristen, of what he is going to say about this?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, look. White House officials are being very cagey about that and this is not really a surprise. With an announcement of this size and magnitude they want the words to come from President Trump, from the commander in chief. We have likely learn whether or not he signed off on this military raid, when exactly he learned about it, was he watching it unfold last night? Those are the -- some big questions here.

Last night, President Trump tweeting out a very cryptic message saying, "Something very big has just happened!" Leaving a lot of people speculating what it could be.

But I want to make one thing very clear here. If this is confirmed, this will be a big win for President Trump. This is coming at a time in which his foreign policy has been called into question, not just by Democrats but by members of his own party, particularly about withdrawing U.S. troops from Syria, troops who were conducting counterterrorism missions in the region.


So a capture of this size, this huge manhunt, this would be viewed as a win by the Trump administration and President Trump, himself, particularly given the timing of all of this. And I want to mention something Nick said but I want to stress it again.

A lot of these Republicans were slamming the president saying that we were leaving the Kurds to die, that they were being massacred. Then you have this raid, this potential death, if confirmed. And then you have a general of the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Forces saying that they were working with the White House, working with the United States military to achieve this sharing intel.

So, again, this is all looking very good for President Trump which is likely why we are not hearing from White House officials kind of framing this. They want the president to be the one to deliver the message himself.

SAVIDGE: Kristen, another thing that is interesting is that of course as you point out the president would have probably -- would have given advance notice on this, at least permission to the military, possibly a week out. That means the president knew this was going to happen or had at least good sense even as he is being blasted by both members of his own party, as well as Democrats how he was handling the situation in Syria.

HOLMES: Yes. And that is very interesting because -- also look at who exactly was slamming him. You're looking at Senator Lindsey Graham. You're looking at Mitch McConnell. People who we know in the past particularly Senator Graham who he has talked to foreign policy about.

So, likely he was keeping this very close to the vest, even though the people that he was consulting or has in the past consulted on foreign policy were slamming him out in the public. So it's very interesting to see these dynamics at play here. We really do want to find out exactly when he knew, exactly what transpired here, how this unfolded.

Was this a last-minute decision? Of course, we know that there was time for a setup but it's going to be very interesting to see how the president lays this out and then what his Republican allies who were critical of him have to say about this.

SAVIDGE: Yes. And of course, some we may never know. Kristen Holmes, thank you very much. Appreciate the insights.

The White House is lashing out also at President Trump's former chief of staff John Kelly. Kelly says that he warned President Trump he might face impeachment if Kelly was replaced with a -- quote -- unquote -- "yes man." Coming up the blistering response the White House gave Kelly. PAUL: And again following the breaking news out of the Syria where it's believed ISIS leader al-Baghdadi has been killed in a U.S. military raid. What his death could mean for this once formidable terror group.

Also breaking overnight. We now know at least two people are dead and at least 14 have been treated for gunshot wounds after a shooting in Greenville, Texas. We are live on that scene for you next.



SAVIDGE: And we are staying on top of the breaking news. Iraqi state T.V. reports this video of what they say is the aftermath of the raid near the Turkish Syrian border where officials tell CNN it is believed that ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed.

According to a senior American military official Baghdadi detonated a suicide vest he was wearing as U.S. special forces carried out a raid. Kurdish fighters with the Syrian Democratic Forces claimed that the raid was a joint operation while Turkish military officials say they exchanged information with the U.S. before the attack.

The ISIS leader has been in hiding for five years and we are told that locating him was based on CIA intelligence, DNA analysis. Now we will have to confirm whether it is, in fact, al- Baghdadi. President Trump is expected to make a major announcement about foreign policy in a news conference that is expected later this morning.

We want to turn now to CNN International Correspondent, Ben Wedeman because Ben has been following ISIS for a long time for us and he has also spoken to dozens of captured ISIS fighters along with many of their families. And, Ben, we are wondering this morning just what does the death of al-Baghdadi signify, if it's confirmed, signify and how is it going to impact ISIS overall?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's another major defeat, Martin, for this terrorist organization. I remember being in Baghdad just a few years ago when ISIS was on the edges of the city. There was a time not long ago back in 2014 when it seemed that ISIS was unstoppable.

And, of course, now we see that just earlier this year, they lost their final bit of territory. Now they have lost their leader. So it certainly is a serious blow but it is not a death blow for this organization.

They still operate or their affiliates are operating in West Africa, in Libya, in Egypt, Sinai Peninsula, in Iraq, in Syria, in Afghanistan, in the Philippines. So they are certainly, in no sense, out of the game.

And it's also important to keep in mind that the torture chambers and dungeons in Damascus, in Riyadh, in Baghdad and Cairo continue to produce people who are likely recruits for organizations like al- Qaeda, like ISIS. Keep it in mind that in many of the police states of the Middle East the common template is for the generals, the dictators to create a situation where the populous has a choice -- either side with the police state, the dictatorship, or your only other option because of the political middle has been eliminated, exiled, jailed or executed. So, the only choice is either the extremist or the regime. And, therefore, there is still fertile territory, fertile ground for groups like ISIS to come back. Martin, Christi.

SAVIDGE: Ben, let me ask you this. A lot of Americans are going to equate this to the death of Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda. They are not the same here, are they?

WEDEMAN: No. Osama bin Laden was really a well-known figure, Martin, going back to the 1980s when he led this so-called Arab Mujahideen in the fight against the soviet occupation of Afghanistan. He remained a prominent public figure from back then to his death.


Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was a much more secretive person who had a very low public profile. He never really had the sort of cultive personality that Osama bin Laden actually encouraged. And when earlier this year, we were in eastern Syria for two months, we interviewed dozens of captured fighters, ISIS wives and their children, and very few of them had much to say about a Abu Bakr al- Baghdadi, himself. Their loyalty was to the Islamic State rather than the person who was actually leading it. Martin, Christi.

SAVIDGE: Yes, which could be troubling in the days and weeks to come. Ben Wedeman, thank you very much.

PAUL: We have other breaking news to tell you overnight. We now know at least two people are dead and 14 have been treated for gunshot wounds after a shooting in Greenville, Texas. We are live on that scene for you next.


PAUL: So we are staying on top of the breaking news. Sources telling CNN it is believed the ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is dead, killed in a U.S. raid in northwest Syria overnight. A Syrian activist say this video that you're looking at here shows the military operation near the Turkish border. A witness in Syria described to CNN hearing several helicopters, war planes, gunfire for about an hour last night.


Now, CNN cannot confirm this is, in fact, from Saturday's raid that has reported, though Iraqi State T.V. reports that this is video of the aftermath of the raid. A defense official saying, it appears Baghdadi detonated a suicide vest as special operations commandos closed in.

SAVIDGE: We want to take a moment and sort of tell you more about the impact Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and the impact he's had on not just the lives in the Middle East but around the world.

Before ISIS even existed, he was detained in 2004 for several months at a U.S.-run prison in Southern Iraq but he was later released. Two years later, ISI or the Islamic State of Iraq was created. And then in 2010, he ascended to the leadership after his predecessors were killed in a U.S.-Iraqi operation.

2014, ISIS announced the creation of a caliphate and Baghdadi declared himself the ruler of more than a billion Muslims. Since then, he's kept a low profile.

Last year, he was believed to have been wounded in an air strike and then said to have (INAUDIBLE) controlled the terror network for several months due to injury.

Then in April of this year, ISIS released what was reported to be a new video message from al-Baghdadi, which brings us right up to now. And sources are telling to CNN that he is believed dead after a U.S. special operations raid Northwest Syria that took place overnight.

PAUL: Juliette Kayyem, CNN National Security Analyst and former Secretary of the Department Homeland Security is with us now. Juliette, thank you so much for being with us.

The thing about ISIS is that although they do not hold any more territory or any large swaths of territory any longer, a lot of their power seemed to come from individuals who are radicalized online.

So with that said, what does the death of its leader mean to the group and the future of it?

JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, certainly short-term and even medium-term. This is a body blow to ISIS and exceptionally good news, not just because you killed the head of an organization that has just wreaked havoc throughout the Middle East, and, of course, sent terror attacks throughout the world, but also because, as a recruitment effort, ISIS was in a bit of challenge right now.

They had obviously lost the caliphate, the events of the last couple of weeks regarding the United States and our decisions in Turkey and Syria, meant that ISIS, for the last couple of weeks, had actually been relatively active. They sort of viewed it as an opening that they might be able to reassert themselves.

Now with the death of Baghdadi, that narrative is gone and terrorist groups like ISIS feed off of narratives of success and this is a big blow to them, at least for the short and medium-term. We certainly don't know what the legacy or succession is of ISIS at this stage.

PAUL: One of the things that stood out to a lot of people who have heard about this today was the location that this happened. It's only about three miles from Turkey. Does that tell you that there was involvement from Turkey?

KAYYEM: Yes. The Turks are taking credit for it or at least saying that they shared information.

So here is the questions I have. I want to be very, very careful about what is valid reporting. But what the questions I have are certainly did the events of the last couple of weeks with both the United States and then also Turkey and Syria in that area mean that Baghdadi either had to move and, therefore, was exposed, became careless and therefore was exposed?

I find it just too much of a coincidence to believe that he was found in a -- at least he was targeted in the last week given all the events in the area. So that's something I'm looking at just from, just sort of the operational perspective.

And then, of course, did Turkey assist? How much information did they have about Baghdadi and when? And then, of course, the events of last night in terms of actually finding him.

So the last couple of weeks have been very, very -- there's been a lot of movement, as we know, and that means that he may have exposed himself in ways that he hadn't to intelligence agencies in ways he hadn't before.

PAUL: So General Hertling made a point that Baghdadi says that they have been preparing for his death for a while, that he was a martyr, which made me think that perhaps that's why he went ahead and killed himself, essentially, with a suicide vest prior to actually being taken out by U.S. forces, at least that's the reporting that that's how he died.

What happens next though? Is there a number of two guy in the process?

KAYYEM: Right. So there are two's and three's and four's at this stage. We don't know exactly who may rise. I think we should anticipate that there will be a statement either through a video or something with ISIS, because they want to prove to themselves or prove to the world they are not decapitated by the death of Baghdadi.

But I have to say one thing. Baghdadi was the leader in a way -- I know we are making Al Qaeda and Bin Laden comparisons, but he reasserted earlier this year, April 2019. He hadn't been seen for five years.


He wanted to make it clear to ISIS adherence as well as potential recruits that he was in charge. In some ways, that kind of hurts ISIS right now because they have not cultivated sort of another cult.

On the other hand, ISIS has existed without Baghdadi being sort of the operational leader for a long time. It is a network. It is not like Al Qaeda where everyone showed allegiance to Bin Laden. So it still exists, the ideology still exists. But certainly it is exceptionally wounded at this stage. The third thing I'd add is a wounded terrorist organization needs to prove itself relevance. So, of course, Western Europe and the United States will be on increased alert because they need to make themselves relevant right now and that may show itself in terms of a western attack either in Western Europe or the United States. We would anticipate that regardless.

PAUL: All right. Juliette, we appreciate so much your insight. Thank you.

KAYYEM: See you later.

PAUL: Okay.

We are following breaking news out of Texas this morning. Police say two people are dead, at least 14 have been wounded in a shooting at an off-campus college party. This is in Greenville, Texas.

Overnight, the Hunt County sheriff says they are still trying to find the shooter right now.

SAVIDGE: Let's get right now to CNN Correspondent, Ed Lavandera. He is in Greenville, Texas for the very latest, and good morning to you, Ed.


Well, we are along a remote stretch of highway outside of Greenville, Texas. This shed that you see behind me is the party venue where all of this unfolded just about six hours ago where authorities in Texas say it was an off-campus Texas A&M University of Commerce off-campus homecoming party, where there were some 750 people last night. Most of the people at the party were from the Dallas area. And that is where investigators say just before midnight, someone approached this party and started shooting.


CHIEF DEPUTY BUDDY OXFORD, HUNT COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT: 14 that received treatment at local hospital, area hospitals, and we have two deceased.

We are not getting cooperation from the people that were attending the party. They saw nothing.


LAVANDERA: So right now, investigators are saying that the gunman is still at large. They did not capture the gunman at the shooting scene.

What is interesting is that about 15 minutes before the shooting took place, sheriff's deputies were called to the area because of complaints of the parking along the highway. So there were two sheriff deputies here when the shooting erupted and then we are told it turned into chaos here as people were scrambling, running for their lives from the scene. And in that chaos, the gunman appears to have been able to get away. So that search continues here this morning. Marty?

SAVIDGE: All right. Ed Lavandera, thank you very much for that update. We'll continue to stay in touch with you.

PAUL: Ed, thank you so much.

CNN continuing to follow the breaking news this morning that the leader of ISIS believed to be killed in a U.S. special operations raid. We are waiting as the president is preparing to address the nation in just a couple of hours.



SAVIDGE: One of President Trump's former advisers says that the White House staff is to blame for the impeachment inquiry that's going on in the House.

PAUL: President Trump's former Chief of Staff John Kelly says he advised the president against hiring a yes man as his replacement, saying it could lead to his impeachment. Kelly, a former Marine Corps General, left the White House last December amid criticism that he didn't do enough to rein in the president's impulses.

SAVIDGE: Kristen Holmes joins us now. And, Kristen, the White House didn't exactly take Kelly's words too kindly.

HOLMES: No, they certainly did not, Martin, and I'll get to that in one second.

So these remarks were made during a sea island summit, which is overall summit where he was interviewed. And this is a rare thing for the former chief of staff to sit down for an interview. He hasn't spoken up that much.

But I want you to take a listen to exactly how he said it.


JOHN KELLY, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF ST AFF: I said, whatever you do, don't hire a yes man, someone that is going to tell you -- it won't tell you the truth. Don't do that. Because if you do, I believe he'll be impeached.


HOLMES: Okay. So he doesn't mention the acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, at all there, but it's a very pointed remark. He goes on to say that if he had stayed, the president probably wouldn't be in this situation.

Now, of course, this is coming about a week-and-a-half after that disastrous press conference with Mick Mulvaney, where he admitted to a quid pro quo with Ukraine. And then the entire White House had to recant the statement, backpedal, say that it was a misunderstanding in the way he spoke.

But the general's comments here are very clear. Now, President Trump weighed in. He said that John Kelly never said that, that he wouldn't say anything like that. And if he had, he would have been kicked out.

But the more interesting response here comes from the press secretary, Stephanie Grisham, and I want to pull it up for you.

She says, I worked with John Kelly and he was totally unequipped to handle the genius of our great president.

This is a pretty outstanding statement. First of all, John Kelly was a four-star former Marine General, a very well-respected in multiple communities here, military, intelligence. But, again, that statement sounds like something President Trump would say. So a lot of questions here as to how that came to be and what exactly she is saying about John Kelly's intelligence.


But as always, you know, the day that ends in why. There are there is some sort of behind the scenes drama at the White House.

SAVIDGE: Yes. That quote definitely raised a lot of eyebrows. Kristen Holmes, thank you very much.

PAUL: Thanks, Kristen.

Still to come, we have more on the huge development this morning in a hunt for ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. We're going to take a closer look at the significance of the location in Syria, where he was reportedly found and killed overnight.


PAUL: 49 minutes past the hour right now, and the breaking news this morning, sources telling CNN, it is believed the ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is dead, killed in a U.S. raid in Northwest Syria overnight.

SAVIDGE: Syrian activists say that this video shows the military operation near the Turkish border. CNN can't confirm this is, in fact, Saturday's raid. Iraqi State T.V. reports this is video of the aftermath of the raid. But defense officials says, it appears that Baghdadi detonated a suicide vest as special operations commandos closed in.

PAUL: Now, a senior defense official and sources with knowledge say Baghdadi was hiding in Northwest Syria, in Idlib specifically. That area is close to the border of Syria, in fact, just about three miles from the border.

But a source tells CNN Turkey did not play an operational role in the raid, though they were given notice ahead of time that this raid was going to happen.


SAVIDGE: I want to get to CNN Chief International Correspondent, Clarissa Ward.

And, Clarissa, tell us about the significance of where it is reported that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was found.

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think the first thing everybody thought as they learned the news of this, Marty, was exactly that, how on earth did Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi ended up in Idlib Province?

And just to underscore for our viewers who maybe don't know that terrain that well, this is many, many miles to the west of where Baghdadi had believed to have been along the Iraqi/Syrian border. We know as recently as just a few month ago that that's where U.S. forces had really been, and special operatives, as well as intelligence services have really been focusing their search.

So it is going to be an interesting question to try to understand how it is that Baghdadi was able to move, apparently, from the Euphrates Valley he was last believed to be all the way over to the Idlib Province.

Important also for our viewers to understand that Idlib Province is under the control of a group called Hayat Tahrir al-Sham. This is a group that historical has connections to Al Qaeda. This is a province that is essentially the seat of Al Qaeda's power in Syria. And, of course, Al Qaeda and ISIS, while they share a lot ideologically, have been fighting each other for years and years. So this would not have been an area where one would expect Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi to find a lot of friendly faces.

Now, that said, of course, there are ISIS sleeper cells throughout the entire country. But, certainly, there will be a lot of questions as to how he was able to get there, why he was there just three miles away, as you said, from the Turkish border, certainly something of a mystery. Christi, Marty?

PAUL: Clarissa Ward, always appreciate your insights, thank you so much.

When we come back, we want to tell you about something else that's been breaking overnight. Two people are dead and at least 14 have been treated for gunshot wounds after a shooting in Greenville, Texas. We have more on the other side of the break. Just stay close.



PAUL: There is breaking news out of Texas this morning. We know police say two people are dead, at least 14 are hurt, three in critical condition after a shooting at an off-campus homecoming party that happened in Greenville, Texas.

SAVIDGE: Yes. The Hunt County Sheriff's Office says that they were called to the scene over a complaint about parked vehicles. Soon after deputies arrived, shots were fired. Investigators are still trying to find the shooter. Officials say the party may have involved one of the fraternities at Texas A&M University of Commerce, but that the event was not sanctioned by the university.

We, of course, are live on the scene next hour.

PAUL: And, of course, we are monitoring the breaking news out of the Syria this morning. Officials believe ISIS leader Abu Bakr al- Baghdadi was killed in a U.S. raid.

Now, President Trump is expected to make a major announcement about foreign policy. That's in a news conference at 9:00 this morning, so just a couple of hours away. We'll bring that to you when it happens. Stay close.