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ISIS Leader Believed Dead After U.S. Special Operations Raid; Two Dead, At Least 14 Injured in Greenville, Texas Shooting. Aired 7- 8a ET

Aired October 27, 2019 - 07:00   ET

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


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[07:00:40]

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

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

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A U.S. 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 anything like that. He never said anything like that. If he would have said that, I would have thrown him out of the office.

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ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaks news.

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Always so great to have you with us. I'm Christi Paul.

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

PAUL: Our breaking news today, ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi believed to have been killed in a U.S. military raid in northwest Syria overnight.

SAVIDGE: Sources tell CNN that he detonated a suicide vest as U.S. Special Forces closed 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: Now, the head of the Islamic State has been in hiding for five years. He's 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, that's the wording of the White House. That will be at 9:00 a.m. Eastern Time.

Last night, he tweeted, quote, something very big has happened, unquote.

We want to show you a video that Syrian activists show part of the raid targeting al Baghdadi. CNN cannot confirm the authenticity of this video. Take a look.

(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)

PAUL: You see those -- those big burst of light and the explosions you hear. There is a witness in Syria who described to CNN describing several helicopters and war planes and gunfire they said for about an hour last night.

SAVIDGE: And now we have this video from Iraqi state TV 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. You can see there is not much left.

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

We want to start with our Pentagon reporter Ryan Browne who is getting new information about the special ops raid here.

What are you learning, Ryan?

RYAN BROWNE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Christi, we are learning how dangerous and high risk this raid was in northwest Syria where the U.S. military doesn't really have a presence. Now, we're told that the CIA was the one who provided the critical intelligence about where al Baghdadi was located leading the U.S. military to have confidence of this high-risk raid. Now, the U.S. military presence in eastern Syria but doesn't usually operate in the northwest, say, a few drone strikes the last few months.

So, again, there are a lot of other actors in that area. There are Russian forces and regime forces, there are various rebel groups close to the regime, some of which have strong extremist ties. So they have to have very high confidence in the intelligence in order to launch this raid.

Now, the U.S. military carried the raid out we're being told with some intelligence support from the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, the U.S. allies in the area. Turkey was notified of the operation for the purposes of deconfliction because it took place close to the Turkey board. We're being told by one U.S. official that Turkey did not participate in the operation itself. And again, really underscores how a complex, dangerous environment that this operation took place, and sending in a U.S. special operations team deep into unknown hostile territory.

So, again, they had to have very high confidence. Now, we are being told during the operation, the target al Baghdadi detonated an explosive believed to be a suicide vest which is going to make the identification, of course, more challenging as they attempt DNA or biometric verification that he was, in fact, killed.

[07:05:02]

But the U.S. officials we have talked to have high confidence at this stage that he was the intended target and that he was killed in this operation.

SAVIDGE: Ryan, do we have any indication as to how the U.S. forces are? In other words, is everyone accounted for and were there any injuries?

BROWNE: We haven't heard anything official yet and we are still working to get that information. One of the key factors is the officials we talked to have underscored the reason this operation was able to be carried out successfully was the presence of the U.S. military in Syria, something has been in question, given President Trump's view of the U.S. military's role there. He has expressed the desire to pull troops out. He seems to partially reverse that.

But the U.S. underscoring without that foot print, without those working with those Kurdish allies, without having that presence in the region, this kind of operation would have been impossible. So, really underscoring from the U.S. military's point of view the value of having at least some sort of military presence in Syria to carry out operations like this.

SAVIDGE: OK. Ryan Brown joining us there, giving us an update from the vantage point of the Pentagon, thank you very much.

BROWNE: You bet.

PAUL: We want to go to our White House correspondent Kristen Holmes right now because the president is expected to address the nation in a couple of hours at this point.

You know, back in October of 2012, seven years ago, the president had tweeted, stop congratulating Obama for killing Bin Laden. The navy SEALs killed Bin Laden.

Is there any expectation as to how the president will frame this killing? Because at the end of the day, a lot of people are saying this is a victory here.

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right, Christi. And I want to stretch. Just to start at the top here, White House officials are being very cagey. They're keeping the details of this announcement close to the vest. That is not surprising with something of this magnitude. They want the information to come from President Trump, to come from the commander in chief.

And during that, we're going to learn when he learned about this raid, when he signed if he signed off on this raid. But President Trump, himself, all he will has said so far is a very cryptic tweet saying something very big has just happened. So, as we will wait for details of that, we are also starting to piece together what his day looked like yesterday and I do want to note something that I found very interesting. President Trump went golfing yesterday at one of his resorts in Sterling, Virginia. The White House often does not say whether or not he is golfing when he goes to the resort.

Around 9:00 p.m. last night, they sent out that he went golfing and with his partners, two of them of note, Senators Lindsey Graham and David Perdue. Why is that interesting? Lindsey Graham has been a trusted adviser on foreign policy, David Perdue is a senator who sits on the Armed Services Committee and is also a close ally of President Trump. So we will see if they knew, when they knew and reached out to their offices and I'm waiting to hear back.

But, Christi, as you said, if this is confirmed, this would be a win for President Trump. This comes at a time in which his foreign policy has really come under scrutiny and attack, not just from Democrats, but from members of his own party, really slamming his decision to pull troops out of Syria, troops that were conduct the counterterrorism missions in that region.

So, again,, you know, we're going to hear nick say it later and say it all morning this is a huge year's long manhunt and President Trump is going to announce, if it is confirmed, it will be viewed as a win. And the White House, again, wants this to be viewed as a win.

SAVIDGE: Still, it's interesting as you point out that president likely signed off on this mission at a time when he was receiving so much criticism even from members of his own party. Yet, he apparently kept his mouth closed and his Twitter account silent on this particular issue until last night, of course.

HOLMES: Yes, absolutely. I do want to point out there that Senator Lindsey Graham is one of the biggest critics of President Trump's decision to withdraw troops from Syria saying we were leaving the Kurds Republican senators. So President Trump taking this, taking this criticism, hitting back, saying he thought he was to go the right thing, while potentially knowing about this raid at the same time or knowing this was going to happen in the near future.

We know, of course, usually operation of this magnitude it takes weeks in advance, if not longer, to prepare for but, of course, we are still learning details how this came together and we expect to know more once the president takes the stage at 9:00 a.m.

SAVIDGE: And, of course, knowing about that raid does not necessarily mean he knows the outcome. It could have gone either way.

Kristen Holmes, thank you very much. We appreciate it. CNN international correspondent Nick Paton Walsh is in Iraq.

And, Nick, have you learned anymore details about the raid from your perspective there and what people are telling you?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we're certainly piecing together what we know from social media videos which I understand are relatively accurate of what seems to be the scene that we are talking about, a raid which seems to have begun with helicopters to some degree, the sound of heavy gunfire suggesting that possible U.S. ground forces were initially deployed as a part of this assault and then eyewitnesses are describing an hour of persistent bombardment in an area, most likely to clean up whatever occurred after the killing of Abu Bakr al Baghdadi.

[07:10:14]

That body taken away for biometric identification most likely and it seems from the video we are seeing nothing left much in its wake. So that will be possibly the job in the hours and days ahead of U.S. officials precisely working out what they can glean from what they retrieve from that particular area and now, the bigger questions come about how did he end up being there, so close to the Turkish border, and why is it that U.S. officials say they informed Turkey ahead of the raid that it was happening, but Turkey didn't participate in that raid?

Now, that suggests to me, yes, certainly the Turkish and U.S. relationship have sustained the damage that we publicly have seen it sustain over the past few weeks because of the Turkish incursion against the Syrian Kurds, which have been the U.S.'s ally in the fight against ISIS. And you have to imagine the vision of dozen or so possibly U.S. aircraft flying along or through or around or near the Turkish border, with the Turkish simply being told that the Americans are doing more in detail about it and we don't know how much they were told and when.

And then them continuing on the doorstep of their NATO ally, fellow NATO member, to kill the world's most wanted man, as Ryan was saying, an extraordinarily perilous circumstances. You have to remember, this is an al Qaeda hotbed where there are Russians in the air space, where the regime occasionally is bombing with the Turkish military is just across the border and could mistake you for somebody hostile. A lot of risks potentially here but still, that man was eventual got.

And what is the death of al Baghdadi essentially mean for ISIS? That would be the broad question, the answer to which we probably won't know for the months ahead as it slowly evolves. But, certainly, he was the author of the group's twisted ideology, he was the man who encouraged its members to spread brutalized videos of massacres of murders across the interpret using social media. He saw the possibility that their message is more infectious like a virus online encouraging those sickening videos that we saw for a number of years.

As he died, he probably looked back on a massively reduced ISIS caliphate the area they controlled. It was more or less reduced to zero. They still had fighters in the deserts of Syria, they had thousands in detention by the Syrian Kurds, and tens of thousands of supporters in displacement camps. But they were fractured, and they were broken, and frankly even attacks they claimed the opportunistically responsibility for in the West were beginning to look a little bit more fractured.

But still, the author of that ideology no longer with us and the U.S. in the hours ahead more likely to reveal details of how they pulled off this extraordinary military defeat.

Back to you.

PAUL: Nick, thank you. You framed it so well last hour saying ISIS had an obscene worship of violence and we have to remember, they are still operating in Libya and Africa and Iraq and so, yes, what this means to that group is yet to be seen.

But, Nick Paton Walsh, we so appreciate your insight. Thank you.

The White House, by the way, lashing out, at President Trump's former chief of staff John Kelly. Now, Kelly says he warned President Trump that he might face impeachment if Kelly was replaced with, quote, a yes man. Coming up, a pretty blistering response from the White House to that.

SAVIDGE: Plus, police in Texas are on the hunt for a shooter who opened fire in an on-campus homecoming party in Greenville. Two people are dead and at least 14 hurt. We'll give a live update from the scene. That's next.

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[07:17:12]

SAVIDGE: And we are staying on top of the breaking news. Sources telling CNN it's believed that ISIS leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi is dead, killed in a U.S. raid near the Turkish-Syrian border.

PAUL: Yes. I want to show you some nighttime video here, taking by Syrian activists as a military operation got underway near the Turkish border. Apparently, it's not running yet but CNN can't confirm that is the raid that targeted al Baghdadi.

But according to a senior American military official, Baghdadi detonated a suicide vest that he was wearing as those forces carried out the raid. President Trump is expected to make a major announcement about foreign policy coming from the White House in a news conference that is happening in a couple of hours now. Actually, less than two hours.

But al Baghdadi's death is a major blow to ISIS when lost its last physical stronghold in Syria back in March.

SAVIDGE: CNN's Sam Kiley joins us from the border there.

And, Sam, what's the reaction been where you are? SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the Turkish

authorities, Martin, have said they were involved in this and confirmed by the Pentagon in deconflicting with the United States but not directly involved in this raid. In terms of the reaction inside Syria, most people would be somewhat relieved with the death of the head of the snake, if you like, of the so-called Islamic State, unusual place for him to have been hiding, though.

The area that he was in just a few miles inside Syrian territory from the Turkish border is heavily controlled by al Qaeda affiliates. Now, those affiliates actually split when ISIS was formed from ISIS back in 2014 and, indeed, engaged in quite a bit of combat around Raqqa with ISIS.

But that said, human relationships in this maelstrom, this alphabet soup of different militant and jihadi groups really can't count for much more than who officially is fighting for whom and it's possible that Mr. al Baghdadi was actually with friends or connections, even though in a rival or enemy group as he was hiding.

The other question to be asked is really whether being so close to Turkey on a smuggling route, whether himself or his family were actually trying to get out of the region and try to go anonymous at least for a while inside Turkish territory. That, of course, would have been highly problematic for Turkey.

But, nonetheless, I think what is really important about understanding this is that while the head of the snake has been cut off, this is a hydra-headed creature. The creature that was the Islamic State, a caliphate once held territory, the size of the United Kingdom 12 million people under the rule of the so-called caliph, Baghdadi, himself. He is now dead and the territory has gone largely from ISIS rule, but the ideas that underpinned remain.

[07:20:05]

But that makes them, once again, direct kind of brand competitors, if you like, with the previously formed al Qaeda which is never intended to control territory. So, ultimately, with the death of the so-called caliph, this does represent a very symbolic, powerful body blow to the so-called Islamic State but not in any way lightly to undermine its ideological infestation, that just across this region, but around the globe.

The audiotape that he put out in April, exhorting his followers to break out of prison where many thousands of fighters and many, many more family and children of the fighters are still being guarded by the Kurdish allies, former allies of the United States, now largely abandon. So those people still remain a potent threat.

SAVIDGE: That is an extremely important point to keep in mind, especially in the weeks and months coming forward.

Sam Kiley, thank you very much there, along the Syria Turkish border.

PAUL: There's another element of breaking news that we're following. This is Texas this morning. Police are looking right now for the man who started shooting at people at an off-campus college party in Greenville, Texas.

This happened overnight. We know two people are dead, at least 14 people are hurt, three of whom are in critical condition.

SAVIDGE: Let's get right to CNN correspondents Ed Lavandera. He is near the scene in Greenville, Texas, for us this morning with the very latest -- Ed.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Marty.

Well, investigators here in Hunt County, Texas, tell us just before midnight about 750 people inside this party venue outside of Greenville, Texas, and that authorities have been called to the area because of parking complaints along this remote stretch of highway and they're already two deputies, sheriff's deputies here handling that situation when the gunshots erupted. Authorities here in Greenville tell us that two people were killed, 14 people have been wounded or being treated in area hospitals. We have heard from one hospital saying three of those patients are in critical condition.

Now, investigators here in Hunt County say that most of the people attending this party have not been cooperative so far with investigators to kind of get some information on who this gunman might have been. Investigators say the gunman in the chaos was able to get away from the scene so the manhunt for that person still continues here this morning. Investigators say they don't know what the motive might have been or what led the shooting to erupt here at this party venue and that, so far, the people who are here are not cooperating -- Martin and Christi.

PAUL: So, Ed, can I ask you do they have anyone, not in custody necessarily, but anybody that they are talking to or have all of these college students been able to leave and now they are just trying to talk to some of the people that are in the hospital?

LAVANDERA: Well, investigators say they are trying to talk with the people who were here at this party and what we have been told here initially is that they are not getting much cooperation from the witnesses who were here at this crime scene. Now, whether or not they have been able to talk to, you know, just how many of those people they have been able talk to is not exactly clear but in the initial of hours of this investigation and hunt for this killer, it sounds like investigators are struggling to get concrete information to get clues who might be behind the shooting.

PAUL: Yes, so surprising when you got 750 people there as well.

SAVIDGE: Sure.

PAUL: Ed Lavandera, thank you so much. Appreciate the update.

SAVIDGE: We continue to follow the breaking news out of Syria as we learn more about the U.S. raid that is believed to have killed ISIS leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi. Next, we look at the history of that terror organization.

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[07:27:33]

SAVIDGE: And we are continuing to follow the remarkable news that is breaking out of Syria this morning. Sources tell CNN that ISIS leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi is believed to have been killed in a U.S. military raid in northwest Syria.

PAUL: Now, defense officials are saying it appears that Baghdadi detonated a suicide vest as U.S. forces moved in. We know this morning, President Trump is expected to make a major announcement. That's happening in just about an hour and a half. He tweeted last night, quote: Something very big has just happened!

SAVIDGE: I want to turn now to CNN senior international correspondent Ben Wedeman because Ben has been following ISIS really and has spoken to dozens of captured ISIS fighters, along with many of their wives and children, the families.

And, Ben, I'm wondering -- you know, as far as the significance to the overall twisted cause of ISIS, does this change the trajectory of those people you have spoken to? I mean, they were -- they still bought into the whole thing, right?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Many of them, most of them did express loyalty to the Islamic State. Few of them, however, Martin and Christi, actually mentioned Abu Bakr al Baghdadi by name. He was elusive figure and only appeared once in public and July 2014 when in Mosul, in the Grand Mosque, he delivered a sermon. Other than that, unlike bin Laden, he didn't make frequent audio or video messages. He didn't even give messages to ISIS's online publication.

So he was a very low profile figure. And ISIS, as an organization, as a group, has affiliates all over. For instance, it's got them in West Africa, in Libya, Egypt Sinai Peninsula, in Afghanistan, and Philippines, essentially operate independently of the leadership of what was known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, which at its height was about the size of Great Britain and rolled over as many as 12 million people. So, that is gone.

But even in the absence of the so-called state that actually controlled territory, back in August, the inspector general of the Pentagon put out a report saying that they still believed there were between 14,000 and 18,000 ISIS fighters still on the loose between Iraq and Syria.

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BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So, removing one man symbolically is extremely important, but in practical terms, we will have to see. But it's clear that ISIS -- for instance, Baghdadi was wounded in May of 2017, U.S. officials believe, and it's plausible that starting back then, a succession process was already in place. MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, they would have been, obviously,

realizing he was a target and you have to have a chain of command and they probably have a second who is now in command.

Ben Wedeman, thank you very much for the insight.

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you, Ben.

The White House pushing back today on claims from former chief John Kelly that he warned President Trump he risked being impeached. Coming up the words of advice that Kelly says president Trump ignored.

SAVIDGE: And, of course, we continue to follow the news. We were just talking about the leader of ISIS is believed to be killed in a U.S. special operations raid. We will have the latest after this break.

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SAVIDGE: Welcome back.

Well, sources are telling CNN that ISIS leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi is believed dead after a U.S. raid in northwest Syria.

[7:35:01]

PAUL: Yes, Iraqi state TV, in fact, reports -- say video like this, this video shows the aftermath of the raid.

Defense officials says it appears Baghdadi detonated a suicide vest as Special Operations commandos were closing in there. And the White House says the president is making a major announcement. That's happening in just about an hour and a half, 9:00 a.m. this morning Eastern Time, and we'll bring that to you when it happens.

SAVIDGE: All right. Looking at other news. One of the president's former advisers says the White House staff is to blame for the impeachment inquiry that is going on on in the house.

PAUL: President Trump's former chief of staff John Kelly says he advised the president hiring a, quote, a yes man, as his replacement, saying it could lead to 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.

CNN's Kristen Holmes joins us now.

So, I know the White House is pushing back against these claims by Kelly and is doing so pretty abrasively.

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right, Christi.

And no surprise there. President and Kelly did not part ways on the best of terms. Now, these remarks came in a rare interview that Kelly gave and I want to play exactly what he said. Take a listen. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOLMES: Then he goes on to lament about leaving, saying that if he had stayed in the chief of staff's position, that President Trump would probably not be in this situation.

And while he never mentions the acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, by the name, it is very clear and very pointed that he is essentially blaming in part for this impeachment probe. Now, of course, this comes after that disastrous press conference that Mick Mulvaney gave a week and a half ago he did admit to a quid pro quo with Ukraine after months or weeks, excuse me, of President Trump saying there was no quid pro quo.

But the White House pushing back hard here, President Trump, himself, saying Kelly never said anything like that to him and if he had he would have been kicked off.

But perhaps the more interesting statement came from the Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham. I'm going to pull it out for you here so I can read it to you.

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

Now, this is a pretty outstanding remark to make about a four-star retired marine general who is widely respected with intelligence agencies, with the military. But it also sounds a lot like something President Trump would say. Not clear exactly what she is implying about General Kelly's intelligence here, but, clearly, hitting back and hitting back hard.

SAVIDGE: And he's hitting back against a general on the day before a military operation he knew was going to be targeting an enemy of the United States. There are a lot of things that sort of put the president in a good frame of mind when it came to confronting the general here.

But, all right, Kristen Holmes, thanks very much.

PAUL: House Democrats say they are making some rapid progress after a round of testimony on Capitol Hill yesterday.

SAVIDGE: Yesterday, Acting Assistant Secretary of the State Philip Reeker reportedly told the committee that he was unaware of the push by the White House to have Ukraine investigate a campaign rival and the 2016 election.

CNN's Kylie Atwood has the latest for us. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: At the conclusion of this eight-hour testimony, lawmakers are not providing specific details in terms of what this top State Department official for European affairs Philip Reeker said to them. But Chairman Schiff came out of this testimony behind closed doors, saying that he was hopeful in terms of the direction that the impeachment inquiry is headed.

Here is what he said. Quote: We're trying to work expeditiously but we're also trying to be methodical in our work and I think we're making rapid progress against our goal.

Now, we also heard from Congressman Mark Meadows who said this was a good day for president Trump. He is a Republican. He said that the testimony today provided even more of a reason that the Republican argument stands up, saying that there is no reason that President Trump should be impeached based on what happened.

He also spoke specifically about quid pro quo. Let's listen to that.

REP. MARK MEADOWS (R-NC): I think it was certainly a number of questions they continued to try to convey, is there an impeachable offense here? Was there some quid pro quo? And now you have another high ranking State Department official that didn't provide any support for that allegation.

ATWOOD: Now, the question, of course, is what did Philip Reeker even know about the elements that would constitute quid pro quo? Our reporting is that he was planning to tell lawmakers behind closed doors that he had no idea that the Trump administration was pushing Ukraine to publicly announce that it was -- that it would be investigating Joe Biden in 2016.

[07:40:07]

Therefore, there are elements of the impeachment inquiry that he could not provide new details on. But we are hearing from Democrats who said that he did provide some new details. Congressman Lynch said this, quote: A much richer reservoir of information than we originally expected, indicating there that they didn't go into the testimony with high expectations but there are still new details that Philip Reeker was able to present them.

Kylie Atwood, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PAUL: Kylie, thank you.

SAVIDGE: And still to come, more on the major developments of this morning, the hunt for ISIS leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi seems to have come to a bloody end. And we'll take a closer look at the significance of the location in Syria where he was reportedly found and where he died.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:45:02]

PAUL: Breaking news this morning here. If you're just joining us, sources telling CNN it is believed ISIS leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi is dead, killed in a U.S. raid in northwest Syria overnight.

SAVIDGE: Syrian activists say this video shows the military operation near the Turkish border but CNN cannot this is, in fact, Saturday's raid. Iraqi state TV reports this is video of the aftermath of the raid and defense officials say it appears Baghdadi detonated a suicide vest as U.S. operations commandoes closed in.

A senior defense official and sources with knowledge say Baghdadi was hiding in the northwest Syria. That area is close to the border of Turkey, but a U.S. official familiar with the operation tells CNN that Turkey did not play a role in the operation or provide assistance.

PAUL: We want to get to CNN chief international correspondent Clarissa Ward.

Because, Clarissa, I know you spent a lot of time in Idlib. It's only 13 miles from the Turkish border. What was your reaction when you learned that that's where Baghdadi was hiding out?

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think many of us were surprised to hear that al Baghdadi was hiding out in Idlib. This would not be an obvious place for him to hide out, and that's because it's under the control of a group called Hay'at Tahrir al- Sham. This is a group that has strong ties to al Qaeda, Idlib province is well known to be the sort of seat of power of al Qaeda in the Syrian conflict.

And while, of course, al Qaeda and ISIS have a lot in common ideologically, as militant jihadist organizations, they also have been fighting each other on the ground in Syria for many years and see each other as bitter adversaries. So, it's interesting to me that is where al Baghdadi was hiding out, presumably in the sort of quagmire of the jihadist groups and old allegiances potentially between people and someone was clearly looking after him and helping him to move through this area.

But it's also worth noting that this is a very long ways away from where it had initially been believed that Baghdadi was hiding out, which was somewhere along the Iraqi/Syrian border near the Euphrates Valley. Ostensibly or potentially, he would have had to cross through the territory of Kurdish and Turkish held areas or regime held areas in order to traverse that vast swath of territory to get into Idlib province, also unclear where he would be trying to go from Idlib, essentially kind of a dead-end. The only go from there really is three miles into Turkey, but can't see or it seems unlikely that that would have been his plan going ahead from Idlib province.

So, certainly, a lot of questions but a very interesting revelation that this ended up being the final hiding place of a notorious ISIS leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi. SAVIDGE: Yes. You're absolutely right, Clarissa. And again, so many

questions. One of them being like, for instance, do you think that Turkey could have possibly known where Baghdadi was? And I don't want to say complicit, but, you know, just somehow was not necessarily telling what they knew to the U.S.?

WARD: Well, you know, it's an interesting question, Marty. I think you're right to ask it, because Idlib is a province where Turkey has a number of fighters or forces that are loyal to Turkey and work with Turkey, particularly in the Kurdish operation to the east of them. So, they certainly have a serious presence inside Idlib. They also have a number of outposts there if, indeed, Abu Bakr al-Baghdad was hiding out there for sometime, it's not unreasonable to assume or suppose that Turkey might have had some knowledge about it.

For the Turkish officials' part they are being coy and saying they don't comment on the intelligence sharing, but the U.S. has been a little more forthcoming and said that Turkey had nothing to do with providing the intelligence that led to this operation. But certainly, a question as to whether it will be possible that they did, indeed, know, or have some sense he might have been hiding out there. The other question is how long was he there for? And who else knew, Marty?

SAVIDGE: Uh-huh. All right. Clarissa Ward, thank you very much. We appreciate the insight greatly.

PAUL: And speaking of Turkey, we have this just in. A CNN Turkish official saying al Baghdadi arrived at that location of the raid just 48 hours before the raid was carried out. And the official also said, quote, it's a good day for the good guys, unquote.

SAVIDGE: Just to the point that Clarissa was making there. So we know according to that, 48 hours before that strike.

PAUL: Uh-huh.

SAVIDGE: When we come back, two people are dead and at least 14 have been treated for gunshot wounds after a shooting in Greenville, Texas.

More on that after this.

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[07:43:47]

PAUL: Breaking news out of Texas this morning as well. Police we know are looking for the person who shot two people dead, and at least 14 others who are injured after a shooting at an off-campus homecoming party. This is in Greenville, Texas.

SAVIDGE: The Hunt County sheriff's office said they were called to the scene after a complaint about park vehicles and soon after the deputies arrived, shots were fired. Officials say the party may have involved one of fraternities at Texas A&M University Commerce, but that the event was not sanctioned by the university. And we are of course also following the breaking news out of Syria

this morning. Sources telling CNN that ISIS leader Abu Bakr al- Baghdadi is believed to have been killed in a U.S. military raid in northwest Syria. Defense officials say it appears that Baghdadi detonated a suicide vest as Special Forces moved in.

This morning, President Trump is expected to make a major announcement. He seemed to tip his hand last night. He tweeted: Something very big has just happened.

PAUL: And we want to tell you more about Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. First of all, before ISIS even existed, he was detained in 2004 for several months at a U.S.-run prison in southern Iraq. He was later released. Two years after that, ISIS, or the Islamic State of Iraq, was created.

[07:55:02]

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 Baghdadi declared himself the ruler of more than a billion Muslims. Since then, he's kept a low profile. He was believed to have been wounded in a 2017 air strike and said to have ceded control at that time for several months due to injury.

And then in April of this year, ISIS released what was purported to be a new video message from al Baghdadi, which brings us to this moment. And sources telling CNN he's believed to be dead after a U.S. special operations raid in northwest Syria overnight.

SAVIDGE: And as we have been saying, President Trump is expected to make a major announcement about foreign policy. The White House has been a bit cagey on exactly what the president will talk about. But, clearly, it's in the aftermath of this raid, so we'll possibly get more of an explanation from the president himself.

PAUL: That's happening in just about an hour from now. We want to thank you so much for being with us.

"INSIDE POLITICSW WITH JOHN KING" is up next.

SAVIDGE: Have a great day.

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