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ISIS Leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi Killed in Syria by U.S. Forces; Leader is Dead but the Ideology is Still Alive; Argentina With a New Leader; The Death of ISIS Leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi; Tough Crowd; Trump Impeachment Inquiry; Legacy of Terror; California Wildfires Forced Thousands to Flee; Taking on "The Money Team." Aired 3-4a ET

Aired October 28, 2019 - 03:00   ET




ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to our viewers here in the United States and of course, from all around the world. I'm Rosemary Church. And this is CNN Newsroom.

The hunt for the leader of ISIS came to a dramatic end. New details on how the raid to kill Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi unfolded.

Plus, President Trump has taken heat for his policies in Syria, but will a murder of the ISIS leader give the president a political boost? We will discuss.

And Russian officials were some of the first to get the news about the Baghdadi raid. But they are questioning the U.S. account of what happened. We are live in Moscow.

Good to have you with us.

So, the death of the ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is being hailed as a blow against terrorism. But we are being reminded that ISIS is still a very real threat in much of the world.

U.S. President Donald Trump made the dramatic announcement of Baghdadi's death on Sunday, providing what he described as the details of the raid by U.S. Special Forces. Mr. Trump says Baghdadi who was chased into a tunnel and blew himself up.

This drone footage shows you the destruction left behind from that raid. Terror experts warn that there will now be a scramble among Baghdadi's next in command to fill that vacuum.

A U.S. defense official says to CNN they must be dealt with immediately before U.S. troops withdraw from Syria.

CNN's Nick Paton Walsh takes a look at the scene after the U.S. raid.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The parts of Syria where Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi chose to hide out was an extraordinary choice in the deepest heartland of ISIS is ideological rival, Al-Qaeda and it seems also somewhat remote yet also well defended. Startling images of the destruction of that compound, some of which we have obtained.

It was the hardest of places to get into and hardest to get you'd be hiding in. This is all that's left of where the world's most wanted man hid possibly four weeks, much of intelligence value whisked away flattened into rubble by repeated airstrikes, cleared up it seems by the Islamists who control the area.

We obtain these images from a local cameraman able to function in a region where Al-Qaeda is strong but where elsewhere civilians are bombed too often for lives to be normal. Two of the dead here collected and taken away.

Shelves litter the area, perhaps from the eight helicopters that arrive here in the dead of night before U.S. commanders blew halls through the compound walls.

Ahmed was woken just before 11 p.m. local time and was shocked to see helicopters hovering about 150 meters up, 90 minutes later a blast follows. "Doors and windows of houses as far as one kilometer away were completely shattered," he said.

"We waited until sunrise before we came here and we saw the bodies of the martyrs, women and children, and body parts, about six to seven dead. In the morning we heard that Baghdadi was here but people living here thought displaced people from Aleppo lived in the house working in the Catalan grain trade. No one knows, he said, exactly what happened."

Somewhat below this dust is the tunnel where President Donald Trump said Baghdadi blew himself up killing his three children with him. But by dawn there was so little left to pick over here, Baghdadi's sudden end is fleeting as his appearances in the world he cursed with radicalized violence.

Although outstanding questions from that raid there are a number of children, Donald Trump said, which seem to have been left with locals there, but also to a key one about who exactly was it that sheltered Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, possibly for weeks and possibly for months, further questions to be answered.

You heard there a local said that these were thought to be displaced from Aleppo, essentially farmers, but it may be more complex story, and one possibility too where one of the many Islamist radical groups that function in Idlib province may have provided some infrastructure.

It's hard frankly to operate there without some sort of broader militia providing sponsorship. That will be a key question to answer and it may also assist how come the world's most wanted man hid out for so long so close to Turkey's southern border.


Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, Erbil, Northern Iraq.

CHURCH: President Trump is haling the Baghdadi raid as both a strategic and symbolic victory. When he announced the news at the White House on Sunday, the president described the final moments of the ISIS leader's life.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I got to watch much of it. No personnel were lost in the operation, while a large number of Baghdadi's fighters and companions were killed with him. He died after running into a dead-end tunnel whimpering and crying and screaming all the way.


CHURCH: CNN's Jeremy Diamond has more now on the U.S. operation to kill Baghdadi.

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Stepping out into the White House diplomatic reception room on Sunday, President Trump savoring a rare foreign policy victory, announcing the death of ISIS' founder and leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

It came after weeks of criticism that the president has faced from Democrats and Republicans over his policy in Syria, his abrupt withdrawal of U.S. troops from that country. But on Sunday the president enjoying this victory, very much taking a victory lap as he talked about Baghdadi's death, and he really tried to put this in terms of the importance of the moment.

The president talking about the fact that this was a top foreign policy priority for him since he became president, talking about the fact that it took U.S. officials years to try and capture or kill Baghdadi.

But the president also went into fairly extraordinary detail in talking about this raid. He laid out the timeline from the moments of weeks of surveillance that it took to actually get to the point where U.S. Special Forces arrived at Baghdadi's compound late Saturday night to carry out this raid. And the president also describing in detail Baghdadi's final moments.


TRUMP: He ignited his vest killing himself and the three children. His body was mutilated by the blast, the tunnel had caved in on it in addition, but test results gave certain immediate and totally positive identification. It was him. The thug who tried so hard to intimidate others spent his last moments in utter fear, in total panic and dread, terrified of the American forces bearing down on him.


DIAMOND: And the president repeatedly emphasized that Baghdadi was whimpering and crying in his final moments, even as he declined to say exactly how he knew that, he wouldn't say whether that was something he could hear from inside the White House's situation room.

But it was very much a moment for the president as he took down the head of ISIS, decapitating that organization effectively whose territorial caliphate has already been destroyed, that the president took a moment to really try and send a message here by not trying to glorify these terrorists leaders, but instead, focusing on the fact that he was nothing more than a coward in his final moments. That was certainly really the message from the president on Sunday.

Jeremy Diamond, CNN, the White House.

CHURCH: But Russia's military is questioning the U.S. account of the raid. A defense ministry spokesman says Moscow received conflicting accounts of the operation that raised doubts about its existence and the level of its success.

And despite President Trump thanking Russia for providing help, Moscow says it's not aware of providing any assistance.

So, for more on this we turn to Matthew Chance who joins us now live from Moscow. Good to see you, Matthew. So why is Russia denying any involvement, even doubting the raid took place, even as President Trump thanks Moscow for its help.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean, it's a strange one definitely, I mean, it maybe because the Russians like to cast themselves as the main victor along with their Syrian allies against ISIS in Syria, and so would be seeking to sort of undermine the significance of this, you know, Americana victory. That's one aspect.

Or there might really be, you know, distinct differences, real differences in the description that we just heard so colorfully from President Trump to the actual situation that took place on the ground.

But nevertheless, there are significant sort of differences in what the Russians say took place or didn't take place in the area compared to what the American say happened.

For instance, the Russians say there were absolutely no air strikes in that region where the compound where Baghdadi was allegedly killed took place. You can see from this video the whole area has been completely flattened by airstrikes.


The Russians who control the air space out there say they didn't recall any U.S. airstrikes in the area. They also say they didn't open the air space for any American aircraft and that's a direct contradiction to what President Trump said, I mean, he actually thanked the Russians for making the airspace available to the, I think he said eight American helicopters carrying special forces to that compound.

And so, that's another significant departure in the -- from the American sort of version of this narrative compared to the Russian narrative.

The other issue that the Russians bring up is that, you know, this area where the compound was located is controlled by the Al-Qaeda affiliate, Al-Nusra.

Al-Nusra and ISIS are, you know, ferocious enemies on the battlefield, they kill each other at sites, essentially is what the Russians are saying. And so, any sense that the ISIS leader sort of stayed there for any length of time, now the Russians say requires some evidence from the United States, Rosemary.

CHURCH: Intriguing, indeed. Matthew Chance joining us live from Moscow with those details. I appreciate it.

Well Turkey welcomes the outcome of the raid but it's prompting Ankara to ask questions about how al-Baghdadi was able to get so close to its border. We'll have the details for you on Turkey's call for an investigation into his movements. That's next.



CHURCH: Welcome back everyone.

Well Turkey is calling for a thorough investigation into ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi's movements within Syria prior to the U.S. raid which killed him.

Turkey's communications director tweeted, those responsible for helping, abetting and tolerating such movements need to be investigated and brought to justice.

Baghdadi was killed in Syria's Idlib province far west of Raqqa which was once the capital of his so-called caliphate. Turkey calls the raid a great success but says the fight to wipe out terrorism needs to continue without interruption.

So, let's get more now on this from Jomana Karadsheh. She is near the Syria-Turkey border, and joins us now live. Good to see you again, Jomana.

So more -- what more is Turkey saying about this raid that ended in the death of Baghdadi?

JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, on the one hand, Rosemary, you've got Turkey like other countries that have suffered from ISIS attacks welcoming the killing of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

We saw President Erdogan tweeting, calling this a turning point in the fight against ISIS, and you've also heard from Turkish officials calling this a great success but no one is under any illusion that this is the end of the fight against ISIS.

Yes, it's a significant blow to the group, yes, it couldn't have come at a worse time. But everyone realizes that the ideology is still alive and there are so many sleeper cells around in this region, you've got affiliates around the group -- around the world and more than 10,000 ISIS fighters who have gone underground since the defeat of that so-called caliphate, that territorial caliphate that ISIS once ruled.

Now on the other hand the reaction from Turkey here as you mentioned is that they are asking these questions. They say there once was an investigation into the movements of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi inside Syria and how he managed to get to that part of the country.

Of course, here they're alluding to the fact that he may have gone through areas controlled by the Syrian Kurds, the Syrian Democratic Forces or the Syrian regime.

You know, as you recall, there was a lot of speculation on where he might be, people believed that he could be somewhere along the border between Iraq and Syria, in western Iraq, in eastern Syria but not many expected that he would be in what is considered to be this hostile territory where you've got other rival Jihadist groups.

But at the same time while Turkey is asking these questions you've others who are pointing the finger at Turkey, also blaming Turkey like the Syrian Kurds who were asking the question of how did Turkey not know that he was that close to its border, just a few kilometers away from Turkey's border, Rosemary.

CHURCH: All right, Jomana Karadsheh joining us with that live from the Syria-Turkey border. Many thanks.

And for more on the security implications of this operation, Sajjan Gohel joins us now from London. He is the international security director for the Asia Pacific Foundation and a terrorism expert. Good to have you with us.


CHURCH: So how significant is this death of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al- Baghdadi and is it bigger than the killing of Osama Bin Laden as President Trump has suggested.

GOHEL: Well, Rosemary, only time will tell ultimately if al- Baghdadi's death is more significant than Osama Bin Laden. Symbolically, it is very important as your correspondent was just mentioning that ISIS had already taken a number of heads, its territorial land mass had decreased, fighters had been arrested, captured or killed. Their ability to plot transnational attacks has not been to the level that it once was.

But let's also look at the fact that you can kill an individual but the ideology, the doctrine lives on.

One of the key leaders of the Jihadist movement in Iraq, Abu Musab al- Zarqawi, who was head of al-Qaeda in Iraq that was killed many years ago, everyone thought that was the end of the insurgency in Iraq but it evolves to ISIS. We don't know how this movement will now evolved and what tentacles

may spread and what new entities it may morphed into. So, it's premature to write ISIS' obituary, al-Baghdadi may be dead but his movement potentially still lives on in different manifestations.

CHURCH: Indeed. I mean, as you pointed out, that despite the death of Baghdadi ISIS is still very much alive. So, who will likely take his place and what impact might his death have on ISIS overall going forward?


GOHEL: Well, ISIS has a number of affiliates that already operate independently from the group in Egypt, in Libya, in Afghanistan and they have their own command cell structure, their own ability to carry out coordinated attacks with quite devastating effect.

We already know also that there were divisions within ISIS earlier this year. In fact, that almost seem to be munity against al-Baghdadi. The other aspect is that ISIS' control over Iraq and Syria has in many ways splintered into smaller entities. So, there are separate groups in Syria and in Iraq.

The question also guess -- I guess remains is that will these groups align in the future. We are seeing tensions in Iraq against the government. There are protest taking place, and whenever there is dissatisfaction, terrorist groups try and tap into that.

And in Syria, the civil war continues, there is instability in northeast Syria with the Turkish incursion there, the Assad forces, the role of Russia, all these different factors in the instability that follows means that terrorists could potentially exploit the situation, especially if the west takes its eye off the ball as it happened in the past unfortunately.

CHURCH: Right. And who do you think aided Baghdadi in Idlib province in northwestern Syria far from his ISIS stronghold and so close to Turkey's border?

GOHEL: Well, this is a very important question. Certainly, we know that al-Baghdadi had a lot of resources. There are still people loyal to him. Now there is believe that he was carrying a huge amount of cash. Cash can buy friends temporarily.

I guess what's also interesting is where he was caught in Idlib. This is not in northeast Syria. This is not near Raqqa which was the de facto capital of ISIS at one time.

Idlib is, in many ways, controlled and influenced by Turkey. They have observation posts there. The operation against al-Baghdadi could not have happened without Turkish consent.

And we know that in the past, many of the terrorist foreign fighters from the west who travel through Turkey into Syria, so the Turks can provide a lot of information and answers to potentially what transpired. And I guess it's also significant as to how much they know and how much they are willing to share with the west because there's always been question marks about that.

CHURCH: Sajjan Gohel, thank you so much for joining. I appreciate it.

GOHEL: Pleasure.

CHURCH: Well the truck driver charged in the deaths of 39 people in the U.K. is due to appear in court in the coming hours.

Twenty-five-year-old Maurice Robinson of Northern Ireland faces multiple charges including manslaughter and conspiracy to traffic people. Some Vietnamese families fear their loved ones are among the dead.

Well, in British politics Prime Minister Boris Johnson plans to ask members of parliament in the coming hours to approve a general election on December 12th. For it to pass he will need two-thirds of the M.P.'s support.

Mr. Johnson says if they back the election it gives them more time to scrutinize his Brexit deal. And E.U. officials are expected to announce soon whether to accept a proposed three-month Brexit extension.

Argentina's central bank has placed restrictions on dollar purchases after the outcome of Sunday's presidential election. That limit is now $200 a month down from 10,000 dollars a month previously. The goal is to preserve the reserves of the central bank.

Incumbent President Mauricio Macri conceded defeat after voting results show the challenger Alberto Fernandez had a commanding lead.

Stefano Pozzebon is in Buenos Aires with more.

STEFANO POZZEBON, JOURNALIST: The scenes of jubilant joy here at the headquarters of the center-left party coalition, the headquarters of the new president-elect of Argentina, Alberto Fernandez. Late on Sunday the current incumbent president Mauricio Macri said that he spoke on the phone with Fernandez to concede the victory and invite him for a breakfast to smooth out the transition as much as possible.

But now that these results are very expected in the last few weeks have finally become official; the page can turn to the consequences.

And there's still many questions about how will this new administration in Buenos Aires govern and rule in the next four years with a, perhaps a new opportune economy from the liberal free market policies of Mauricio Macri, to the return of populism with Alberto Hernandez.


And his radical and former presidents of Argentina, his radical vice president of Argentina, Christina Fernandez that he presents. Still many questions to be answered here in Buenos Aires, question that will take place starting from tomorrow morning when the sudden change of exchange houses will open.

For CNN, this is Stefano Pozzebon, Buenos Aires.

CHURCH: Well, let's just return to our top story, the death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is drawing reaction from leaders around the word. Here's what a few of them had to say.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted this. "The death of Baghdadi is an important moment in our fights terror but the battle against the evil of Daesh is not yet over."

French President Emmanuel Macron weighed in as well, calling it a big blow but just one step against ISIS.

And if you're watching internationally, thanks for being with us. Destination Egypt is up next for you. And if you are joining us from here in the United States, do stay tuned, we have more news for you on the other side of the break.


CHURCH: Welcome back to CNN Newsroom. I'm Rosemary Church.

I want to check the headlines for you this hour.

U.S. President Donald Trump says ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is dead. But now there's a vacuum at the top of the terror group's leadership that tops ISIS members will try to fill.

Mr. Trump told the world in detail how Baghdadi died during a U.S. military raid in Syria. A source tells CNN that his body may be disposed of at sea.


Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called Baghdadi's death a turning point in the fight against ISIS. However, the Kurdish-led Syrian democratic forces say Turkish offensive in Syria delayed the raid by more than a month.

Russia is questioning whether the raid even happened. Defense Ministry spokesman says conflicting accounts about the operation raised questions and doubts about its existence and success. President Trump had thanked Russia for its help while announcing the raid but Moscow says it's unaware of providing any assistance.

President Trump did not mince words in describing Baghdadi's death on Sunday, saying the ISIS leader was whimpering, crying, and screaming as U.S. forces closed in. This video shows what the scene looked like after the raid, nothing but rubble and debris. Here's the U.S. defense secretary with more on the raid.


MARK ESPER, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: The president approved a raid on to the target. The aim was to capture Abu Bakr al- Baghdadi. And if we couldn't capture him, then of course, we were going to kill him. We tried to call him out and asked him to surrender himself. He refused. He went down to subterranean area and in the process of trying to get him out, he detonated a suicide vest, we believe, and killed himself.


CHURCH: CNN's Barbara Starr has more details now on how this operation unfolded.


BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: President Trump offered explicit details about how Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi met his fate when U.S. Special Forces landed at the compound in northwest Syria, where he had been hiding out.

About 100 troops were coming in on eight helicopters with overwhelming fire power. They called for Baghdadi to come out. He did not. He apparently fled into an underground tunnel. It was at this point that he detonated a suicide vest, killing himself and three children he had dragged down there with him.

U.S. forces then spent about two hours at the compound gathering intelligence. The kind of thing they typically look for are computers, laptop computers, cell phone with data of addresses or contacts, any documents, any photographs, anything that might give them clues about who Baghdadi had been communicating with, what the network looked like, whether there are operatives even potentially outside of Syria and Iraq, other clues that might take them to additional raids, additional hiding places of other terror targets.

For now, the U.S. troops had a very successful mission. Two were slightly injured, already returned to duty. But with U.S. troops coming out of Syria, the real question at hand is whether they will be able to readily continue these kinds of raids. They had to depend clearly on intelligence on the ground. And if U.S. troops are not on the ground, getting that intelligence to be able to conduct these types of raids may be increasingly hard.


CHURCH: Democrats are criticizing President Trump for not telling congressional leaders about the plans for the Baghdadi raid. Here's how House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff responded after revealing that he and other lawmakers usually briefed on intelligence matters had not been notified by the president.


REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): The reason to notify the Gang of Eight is frankly more important when things go wrong. If you know, the president said, it was dangerous flying in, the Russians could have shut down American planes --

MARTHA RADDATZ, ABC NEWS CHIEF GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: And the Gang of Eight was told about bin Laden raid --

SCHIFF: That's my understanding.

RADDATZ: -- back in 2011?

SCHIFF: I wasn't part of the Gang of Eight at that time but that's my understanding. But had this escalated, had something gone wrong, had we gotten into a firefight with the Russians, it's to the administration's advantage to be able to say, we informed Congress we were going in, they were aware of the risks. We at least gave them the chance to provide feedback, that wasn't done here. I think that's a mistake.


CHURCH: Joining me now is Scott Lucas, a professor of international politics at the University of Birmingham. It is good to have you with us.


CHURCH: So let's look at the politics of this raid that ended in the death of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Why didn't President Trump tell key Democrats and some Republicans about this operation even after it was completed and no U.S. lives were at risk, and why would he not tell them but talk to Russia about it instead?

LUCAS: Well, according to Donald Trump in his conference yesterday, he didn't tell House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and presumably the other congressional leaders because he didn't believe that Pelosi would keep the raid secret. In other words, he effectively accused her of being willing to jeopardize the operation by going out and telling the media.


LUCAS: Now, Pelosi immediately made a statement which said that it is important that Congress be consulted not only about these operations but about Trump's strategy in Syria. I think that points to the wider issue on two fronts.

The first is Trump has faced criticism from Democrats and Republicans for his sudden order to withdraw American troops from Syria, effectively in the eyes of many abandoning Kurdish allies. He has endorsed Turkish offensive in the Kurdish-held areas. I think Trump is sensitive to that criticism.

And secondly, let's be honest here, Donald Trump likes Vladimir Putin. Donald Trump likes to be liked by Vladimir Putin. And that is why he praised Russia repeatedly during his conference yesterday even as Moscow said, hey, we didn't know anything about this.

CHURCH: Well, yeah, let's look at that because Russia is a big slap in the face to President Trump. Why do you think Russia is denying any knowledge of this raid, even questioning whether it happened at all despite President Trump saying he consulted with Russia?

LUCAS: Because Russia wants to keep Trump on a string. I mean, you will notice this isn't just true about yesterday, that whenever Trump praises Russia, they will stay back and say, well, we're not quite sure about this, we're not quite sure about his policy, because it has the effect of making him try even harder to appeal to Moscow.

But secondly, Russia wants to keep the Americans on a string on Syria not just during the Trump administration but during the Obama administration. Russia has taken the initiative not only in defending the Assad regime which has been responsible for most of the killings there but in taking advantage of the political process and pushing the Americans to the sidelines.

The Russians do not want Washington to come back to the center of Syrian politics through the claim that they have killed Baghdadi, and therefore they are the leading military force in Syria right now.

CHURCH: Interesting. Presidential hopeful and former Vice President Joe Biden was asked if he thought President Trump deserves credit for the raid that killed Baghdadi, and this is what he had to say. Let's bring that up.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't know what part the president played in it, and I'm not being facetious. I don't know. And if he were part of the planning, if he were part of the execution, then yeah.

I think the president should spend more time like President Obama did. Giving credit to the incredible military and intelligence community that planned it. And so if he was an integral part of that and he was -- and he listened to these folks, then yes, it's a good thing.


CHURCH: So Joe Biden admits the death of Baghdadi is a good thing but says the military should be getting more credit for this along with the Intelligence Community. But doesn't every president take credit for raids like this and will at least give Mr. Trump a boost politically, do you think?

LUCAS: Well, I would just ask viewers to compare the tone of Trump's statement yesterday with the tone of Barack Obama's statement eight years ago upon the killing of Osama bin Laden. They can make up their own mind about which statement in effect gives credit or not just credit. In other words, reflects the operation, reflects its significance, and reflects what it means for American agencies.

And I'll add this fact. American officials said yesterday after the press conference to outlets like The New York Times that Donald Trump almost led to the operation to be cancelled because his sudden order to withdraw American forces from Syria put that operation in jeopardy. Indeed, it had to be rushed this past weekend to make sure it took place before that withdrawal occurred. CHURCH: Scott Lucas, we thank you for your analysis. I appreciate it.

LUCAS: Thank you, Rosemary.

CHURCH: President Trump received a less than cordial reception at a major league baseball game on Sunday.



CHURCH (voice-over): Mr. Trump was greeted by boos and chants of "lock him up" after his picture appeared on the jumbotron. He and the first lady were attending game five of the World Series in Washington. This is the first baseball game Mr. Trump has attended as president. Yet he did not throw out the first pitch which is usually a tradition. Instead, that honor went to Trump critic and chef Jose Andres.


CHURCH: President Trump is facing anger like that all over the United States, fuelled in part by the ongoing impeachment inquiry into him, focusing on his administration's dealings with Ukraine. But in Ukraine, some Ukrainians tell CNN's Clarissa Ward it's not their problem.


CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Ukraine is still front and center in the U.S.'s political crisis more than a month after the impeachment inquiry began. The country has gone to lengths not to take sides and risk much-needed bipartisan support from the U.S. But Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky admits it is an uncomfortable decision to be in.


WARD (voice-over): During a recent press conference, he joked to journalists that he really wanted to be world famous, but not for this. At the English language Kyiv Post, the political scandal is very much front page news. The paper recently made waves with this headline that quickly went viral.

(On camera): I mean this one is so striking to me because you are talking about a shady cast of characters. Here they are and there is the president of the United States. Did you know that it would create such waves online when you came out with this cover?

OLGA RUDENKO, DEPUTY CHIEF EDITOR, KYIV POST: No, we did not seeing it coming. We did not expect it. We wouldn't make it at all.

WARD (on camera): Did you have a moment at all of thinking, are we going to get in trouble at all for having a picture of President Trump right under the word "shady?"

RUDENKO: Not really. I mean, we are not making anything up here. Here is his personal attorney who is being -- making this deal on Ukraine and here was Trump. It's not farfetched. It's all very clear. They're all connected.

WARD (voice-over): Anti-corruption activist Daria Kaleniuk has spent years investigating many of the figures on the Ukrainian side and was disturbed to see the White House dealing with such dubious characters.

DARIA KALENIUK, ANTI-CORRUPTION ACTIVIST: Then I'll see more less the clear picture what was happening during the last half a year. It is outrageous.

WARD (on camera): Outrageous.

KALENIUK: It's absolutely outrageous. It's very disappointing. I could never believe that something like that could happen.

WARD (on camera): On the streets of Kyiv, few Ukrainians have such strong opinions about America's political turmoil.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you care about story?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Me, too. We don't care so much about the story.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Problems of the president of the United States is not about us. We have our own problems.

WARD (voice-over): Chief among them for President Zelensky, the war against Russian-backed separatists in the east of the country. Ukraine depends heavily on U.S. Military aid in that fight. Kaleniuk says that those who understand what's at stake here are uneasy.

(On camera): Do you think people are angry?

KALENIUK: Absolutely. People are angry and scared. And I will explain why people are scared. It is existential need for Ukraine to have the support of the United States. We want to live under the rest and (ph) values, under the values of liberal democracy. But in order to resist the pressure from Russia, we need to rely on the support of public (INAUDIBLE).

WARD (voice-over): But as America's political crisis deepens, Russia's hand is only strengthened, leaving Ukraine with few good options but to try to ride out the storm.

Clarissa Ward, CNN, Kyiv.


CHURCH: The leader of ISIS may be dead but his brutal brand of violence remains. When we return, we will look at the legacy of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and the atrocities he inspired. We will be back with that in just a moment.



CHURCH: We want to return to our top story now. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi may be dead but his legacy brutality lives on. His reign of terror was felt around the world as he inspired others to kill in the name of ISIS. CNN's Robyn Curnow has more now on the violence Baghdadi inspired and the threat it still poses.


ROBYN CURNOW, CNN HOST AND CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The shear brutality that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi exploited is still difficult to comprehend.

This is the aftermath of the ISIS terror attacks in Paris in 2015. One hundred thirty people were killed, 90 of them at the Bataclan concert hall.

Months later, Brussels Airport was attacked. In deluge of horror, so too was the Istanbul Airport.

Then France was again struck, this time in Nice during a Bastille Day celebration where a large truck driven by a man inspired by ISIS plowed through dozens of people walking on a seaside promenade.

(On camera): The scope of Baghdadi's influence is also being felt from the Philippines to Jordan to Egypt and Bangladesh and beyond. In the U.S., the attack in San Bernardino and the massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando were all inspired by ISIS and Baghdadi's call to kill. The methods ISIS used to cause maximum terror were all amplified by social media.

(Voice-over): For Baghdadi, it was not enough to just kill, to behead, to crucify. He tried to make sure as many people as possible saw ISIS's evil acts. Horrifying videos made sure the terror was replayed again and again.

He snatched Western hostages, journalists, aid workers and flaunted them and their deaths often by beheading on camera. And he killed thousands of people at home in the Middle East.

The United Nations determined ISIS's actions against the Yazidis and other minority groups in Iraq and Syria constituted genocide. Women in particular were targeted and used as sex slaves, brutalized by rape and torture.

He didn't just destroy lives across the world but also precious ruins and relics of previous civilizations. His brand of violence was also carefully nurtured and exported. Baghdadi might be dead, but a specific type of violence and hate is not.


CHURCH: CNN's Robyn Curnow with that report. The U.S. Military operation that killed Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was named after American Kayla Mueller. She was held hostage by ISIS and killed in 2015. White House national security adviser Robert O'Brien explains why her name was chosen.


ROBERT O'BRIEN, WHITE HOUSE NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: We finally brought justice to a man that beheaded the three Americans: two journalists and humanitarian worker. And then Kayla Mueller, who was working as a humanitarian -- great young American, idealistic young girl. And one of the things that General Milley did is General Milley named the operation -- the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff named the operation that took down al-Baghdadi after Kayla Mueller, after what she had suffered.


CHURCH: Mueller's family wants Kayla to be remembered as someone with a tender heart and her gift to always have time to help people.





UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): The fire is over here now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Oh, my God.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): It's on fire. The road is on fire.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): I'm getting over. I'm getting over. Oh, my God.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): It's all around us. Oh, my God.


CHURCH: These are the destructive scenes playing out across California. Dry conditions and heavy winds are fueling wildfires that have scorched thousands of hectares. The governor has declared a state of emergency and California's largest utility has cut power to nearly million customers to prevent more fires.

Let's turn now to our meteorologist Pedram Javaheri, joining us from the International Weather Center with more on what people in California can expect in the coming hours and days. So what are you seeing, Pedram?

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Rosemary, currently, the lull in the action here is taking place and still, of course, we are talking about an entire state event whether you're across the northern tier of the state or the southern tier of the state, the fire risks are extremely high.

We know the winds pushed up over 100 miles per hour in a few spots in the past couple of days which would be Category 2 equivalent of a hurricane. So really speaks to the significant of this particular wind event and of course some nine active wires widespread across the state of California at this hour.

A lot of these fires now are not only beginning to threaten and damage historic landmarks across the region but also the old growth forests and the redwoods are now threatened by these fires as well across the areas to the north where the Kincade fire is in place.

In fact, look at that, upwards of 55,000 acres of land consumed in a matter of three days. Containment for that northern fire is only at five percent. Well, to the south, the much smaller Tick fire containment number is closer to 70 percent. But notice this particular region, again very rapid expansion with fires.


JAVAHERI: We know some 3,400 personnel are on this fire right now. We know 94 structures have also been destroyed as a result of it. In fact, the past 12 hours or so, wind gusts of 93 miles per hour have been observed across the region and noticed the red flag warnings are still in place not only for the northern tier of the state but also to the south.

That's an area we are watching carefully now here, Rosemary, because winds are expected to gust as much as 70 miles per hour by this afternoon and this evening. Still across Southern California now, looking for another Santa Ana wind event to develop later into the week with potentially stronger winds going in towards this weekend. Rosemary?

CHURCH: Not good news at all. Pedram, many thanks to you for keeping a close eye on all of those details.


CHURCH: One of the richest men in the world is hoping to lure one of the best boxers in the world back into the ring. Alibaba founder Jack Ma and boxing icon Manny Pacquiao have apparently challenged Floyd Mayweather to a fight. Pacquiao posted this video on Twitter that shows him sparring with Ma and issuing this challenge to Mayweather.


MANNY PACQUIAO, PROFESSIONAL BOXER: Floyd Mayweather, if you want a real fight, fight me. If you want an exhibition, my guy and my friend Jack Ma will take care of you, the real Manny team.


CHURCH (voice-over): That's the message. So Ma retired from Alibaba last month, saying he wanted to pursue other passions. Mayweather is technically retired as well, but he has returned over the years for big fights. We will see what happens.

Thanks so much for your company this hour. I'm Rosemary Church. Remember to connect with me any time on Twitter. You're watching CNN, the world's news leader. Have yourselves a great day.