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ISIS Founder Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi Killed in a U.S. Operation; Pelosi Slams President Trump for not Alerting Congress About the Baghdadi Raid; Wildfires Force Hundreds of Thousands of People to Flee Parts of California. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired October 28, 2019 - 05:00   ET



DAVE BRIGGS, CO-ANCHOR, EARLY START: The founder of ISIS killed at a U.S. operation in Syria, but big concerns about what's next with U.S. reducing its role in the region.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CO-ANCHOR, EARLY START: The impeachment probe ramps up this week. A key witness on the schedule today, but will he even show up?

BRIGGS: All of California now under a state of emergency. Historic winds feeding these wildfires, 200,000 forced to flee, a million power customers in the dark. Welcome back, our viewers in the United States and around the world, this is EARLY START, I'm Dave Briggs.

ROMANS: Good Monday morning --

BRIGGS: Yes --

ROMANS: I'm Christine Romans, it is Monday, October 28th, it is 5:00 a.m. in the East, and we begin with this. U.S. Special Forces killing one of the world's most wanted men in a daring and dangerous raid.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is dead. He was the founder and leader of ISIS; the most ruthless and violent terror organization anywhere in the world. He died like a dog. He died like a coward. 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.


ROMANS: President Trump and his team watching there as the founder and leader of ISIS was killed, bringing the long search for a ruthless extremist to a dramatic end. Baghdadi grew ISIS from an insurgent gang to a formidable quasi state that spawned copycat groups and inspired lone wolves around the world.

BRIGGS: The raid that killed him was carried out in Northern Syria, just weeks after President Trump pulled U.S. troops out. A source tells CNN, the withdrawal had a major affect on planning the Baghdadi operation. The source said it would have been impossible without U.S. troops stationed in Syria and their partnership with the Kurds. More now from Barbara Starr at the Pentagon.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Dave, Christine, President Trump offering 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 coming in on 8 helicopters with overwhelming firepower.

They called for Baghdadi to come out, he did not. He apparently fled into an underground tunnel, and it was at that 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, computers, laptop computers, cell phones 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.

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. Dave, Christine?

ROMANS: All right, Barbara Starr at the Pentagon, thank you for that. Baghdadi may be gone, but officials warn that ISIS will go on. Two senior sources tell us law enforcement agencies are on alert for potential retaliation from ISIS sympathizers inside the U.S. One defense official suggests there could be more operations targeting high-value terrorists in Idlib, Syria.

A senior defense source says these are targeting operations require a presence on the ground which the official says will be harder to do as we withdraw. For more, let's go live now to CNN's Nick Paton Walsh in Iraq. And Nick, you've covered ISIS and al-Baghdadi for some time. Remarkable, this operation. Any sense that the U.S. decision to withdraw from the region or cede more control of the region to the Russians for example may prevent these kind of operations in the future?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No, there's no doubt that the massively-reduced footprint will have an impact on the U.S. ability to go after what remains of ISIS leadership and what replaces Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. There's a key glaring problem with Donald Trump's statement yesterday in which he openly admitted while he was taking a phone call from President Erdogan of Turkey round about the same time and green-lighting a Turkish incursion into Syria to take on the Syrian Kurds who were the main ground ally of the United States in fighting ISIS.


Round about the same time, he was being briefed about massive progress in the hunt for Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi; the man who he himself said he had been looking for, for three years. Now, obviously, if you are telling your forces they have to pull back, they have to withdraw, and essentially even though allowing the Turkish incursion didn't have built into it, the idea that they will be so strident, pro-Turkish forces that the Americans would have to withdraw from main parts of their territory.

Essentially one thing led to the reduction of the ability of the other. And even as Donald Trump said, we're going to bring our forces home, bring people back, he was also convinced to allow a force to stay, to continue protecting the oil fields and continue to fight against ISIS. There's a glaring contradiction that really shows up possibility questions over Donald Trump's real motivation behind committing the Turkish incursion.

Certainly, now, the border area will be controlled by the Russians. Certainly, now, Turkey is predominantly getting what it wants in that area. That will raise questions, and there's still one outstanding question, too. Given the control that Turkey has in Idlib where Baghdadi was hiding, given the proximity of Baghdadi to the Turkish border, a matter of miles you can count on one hand.

There will be questions asked about what Turkey knew and what it could have known better to get Baghdadi earlier.

ROMANS: All right --

WALSH: Christine --

ROMANS: Thank you so much for that, Nick Paton Walsh for us in Erbil, Iraq. And we're starting to hear from the families of Americans who were -- who were affected by -- you know, murdered by this regime, this ISIS regime. And it's just -- it's just so sad and terrifying, I feel like for them now. You know, as they're waking up --

BRIGGS: Yes, indeed --

ROMANS: And learning about this. So, always remember those victims.

BRIGGS: All right, coming up, Microsoft beats out Amazon for a major defense contract. Was the president's disdain for Jeff Bezos behind the move?



ROMANS: President Trump did not inform any key Democrats about the Baghdadi raid because this was a U.S. military operation and not a covert Intelligence op. He was not required to provide advanced notice. But it does defy the usual protocol for such high profile operations. The president suggesting that by informing Democrats, Baghdadi might have been tipped off. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We were going to notify them last night, but we decided not to do that because Washington leaks like I've never seen before. There's nothing -- there's no country in the world that leaks like we do. And Washington is a leaking machine. And I told my people, we will not notify them until our great people are out. Not just in, but out.


BRIGGS: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi quick to point out that the Russians were notified of the raid in advance but not top congressional leaders. After making his big announcement, the president made a series of dubious claims, even insisting the death of Baghdadi was a bigger deal than Osama bin Laden's assassination.


TRUMP: Bin Laden was a big thing, but this is the biggest there is. This is the worst-ever. Osama bin Laden was very big. But Osama bin Laden became big with the World Trade Center. This is a man who built a whole -- as he would like to call it a country, a caliphate, and was trying to do it again.


BRIGGS: You might recall this 2012 tweet from Donald Trump after bin Laden's death. He wrote, "stop congratulating Obama for killing bin Laden. The Navy SEALs killed bin Laden."

ROMANS: Baghdadi's death may relieve the political pressure on President Trump in some respects. But it's not slowing down the pace of House Democrats' impeachment probe. Testimony set this week from a half-dozen National Security and State Department officials. Much of the intrigue hovering over whether today's witness will even show up.

BRIGGS: Charles Kupperman was the deputy -- the former National Security adviser to John Bolton. He listened in on the infamous July 25th call where Trump pressed the president of Ukraine to investigate the 20 -- the potential 2020 rival Joe Biden. The White House has ordered Kupperman not to testify. Democrats are standing by their subpoena, requiring him to. So, Kupperman has asked a judge to decide what he should do.

ROMANS: California has entered a state-wide emergency as wind whips wildfires in the north and south of the state keeps spreading, destroying homes and forcing almost 200,000 people to flee.

In northern California's wine country, the Kincaid fire has expanded to about 50,000 acres now, only 10 percent contained. Two firefighters suffered burn injuries. Soda Rock Winery; a landmark dating back to 1869 engulfed in flames.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Gee, this is hot. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, it's hot.


BRIGGS: People driving on i-80 terrified as fires roared all around them, close to 1 million. This gas and electric customers lost power and outages, planned to prevent these wildfires. They could be in the dark until Thursday. About 100,000 in the dark after winds knocked down power lines or damaged infrastructure. Governor Gavin Newsom describing a quote, "historic wind event with unprecedented scope." The National Weather Service says winds reaching 70 to 80 miles per hour.


BRIAN VITORELO, DEPARTMENT OF FORESTRY & FIRE PROTECTION, CALIFORNIA: We have done everything that smart planning and firefighter and citizen safety can allow. This is a very difficult event to stop because it exacerbates fire behavior so drastically.


ROMANS: All 40 Sonoma County public school districts are closed today and tomorrow. More than 800 Airbnb hosts in northern California have opened up their homes and their rental properties for free to evacuees and relief workers.

Meantime, in southern California, L.A. county officials say the tick fire has destroyed at least 22 structures and threatens ten thousand more. Fifth-largest economy in the world --

BRIGGS: Yes --

ROMANS: Either on fire or dark this morning --


BRIGGS: Just devastating. All right, ahead, the Houston Astros, one win from their second World Series title in three years. Houston's own Andy Scholes is smiling this morning, he has that story in the "BLEACHER REPORT" next.


ROMANS: Houston Astros owner Jim Crane is apologizing to "Sports Illustrated" Stephanie Apstein. Last week, the Astros trashed a story Apstein wrote criticizing now former Astros executive Brandon Taubman. Now, the story said Taubman yelled at three female reporters, bragging about acquiring a pitcher suspended for domestic violence.


Astros officials called the article misleading and irresponsible. But now in a letter shared by Apstein, Crane tells her, quote, "we were wrong and I am sorry that we initially questioned your professionalism." Dave? BRIGGS: With President Trump on-hand, the Astros beat the Nationals

to take a 3-2 lead in the World Series, Houston's own Andy Scholes was at game five, has more from D.C. this morning in the "BLEACHER REPORT", good morning my friend.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS REPORTER: Yes, good morning, Dave. You know, the Nationals, they came home to D.C., up 2-0 in this Series. The fans here were just so excited to potentially win their first World Series, but the Astros just crushing all their hopes and dreams, winning all three games here in the nation's capital.

Now, before the fourth inning, President Trump was shown on the jumbotron and he received some cheers and many loud boos from the crowd. Yes, you also hear, there were some chants of lock him up. Trump was sitting with the first lady and members of Congress in a suite. Now, as for the game, Max Scherzer was scratched just hours before first pick with back spasms.

Joe Ross started instead, gave up a pair of two-run homeruns for Yordan Alvarez and Carlos Correa. And the Yordan homerun goes right off a fan's chest because he was double-fisting beers -- that's some dedication right there. The Astros ace Gerrit Cole just shutting down the Nationals 7 innings of one run ball, Houston now one win away from the second World Series in three years with the 7-1 win.


DAVE MARTINEZ, MANAGER, WASHINGTON NATIONALS: Oh, we just got to keep battling. You know, these guys, they're not going to quit. I could tell you that right now. They're off tomorrow, come back Tuesday. And you know, I truly believe these guys will come -- get after it again Tuesday. I told myself, I know we're going to go 1-0. I said but we're going to play game 7. I believe that, so keep pushing.


SCHOLES: All right, while Houston fans were celebrating the World Series when there was other bad sports news in the city. Texans star J.J. Watt is going to miss the rest of the season with a torn pectoral muscle. Now, Watt tweeted, the game is beautiful and it can also be brutal. And he's gutted he's not going to be able to finish the season. Texans, they beat the Raiders 27-24.

The Chiefs meanwhile playing without Patrick Mahomes again, taking on the Packers on "Sunday Night Football", this almost was a shoot-out. But the two Aarons just too much. Aaron Rodgers and Aaron Jones hooking up for two touchdowns. The Packers will win this by a final of 31-24.

All right, Tiger Woods once again showing flashes. He still got it. Tiger leading the Zozo Championship in Japan, wire-to-wire to win his 82nd PGA tour event, that ties him with Sam Snead for the most all- time. And check out this pic from when Tiger was 6 years old, meeting Snead. At the time, Snead said, if the kid doesn't burn out, he's going to be the greatest golfer the world has ever seen. BRIGGS: That's just incredible, they had an encounter. I think

played two holes of golf together. But Andy, if the folks at Budlight don't give that Nationals fan a commercial, then -- I mean, the advertising department's got to get on. You cannot drop a beer, take a homerun in the chest? That is the ultimate dedication to your beer.

SCHOLES: And the fact that he watched it come at him for a good 3 or 4 seconds --


SCHOLES: And still decided to not put one of those beers down, impressive. And he got the ball --

BRIGGS: Yes --

SCHOLES: He ended up with the ball, so --

BRIGGS: Oh, he got the ball?

SCHOLES: Good for him, yes.

BRIGGS: There's a happy ending, and he needs a Budlight ad. Thank you, Andy.

SCHOLES: All right --

ROMANS: But you know, a couple of beers at a game sets you back a decent amount of money --

SCHOLES: It's probably 15 bucks, a pop at the World Series if I had to guess --

ROMANS: Let's be honest, I would hold on to that beer, too. All right, 24 minutes past the hour. A U.S. raid takes down the founder of ISIS. But after the president pulls U.S. troops, can operations continue without eyes on the ground?



BRIGGS: Former Congressman John Conyers died Sunday. The Michigan Democrat was a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus. He was elected in 1964, eventually became chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and went on to become the longest-serving African-American member of Congress in history. He resigned in 2017 amid sexual harassment allegations. Conyers was 90 years old.

ROMANS: A North Carolina man's good day got even better when he won a $200,000 lottery prize on his very last day of chemotherapy. Ronnie Foster says he decided to buy two tickets after the first 20 purchase only scored a mere measly 5 bucks.

The first ticket won him nothing, but then, he scratched that lucky second one, after taxes, Foster took home more than 140 grand. He says some of the money will pay off the treatment costs that weren't covered by his insurance. The rest will be saved for the future. EARLY START continues right now.

The founder of ISIS killed in a U.S. operation in Syria. But big concerns about what's next with the U.S. reducing its role in the region.

BRIGGS: The impeachment probe ramps up this week. A key witness on the schedule today, but will he show up?

ROMANS: All of California now under a state of emergency. Historic winds feeding wildfires, 200,000 people forced to flee, a million power customers in the dark. Good morning California, welcome back to EARLY START everyone --

BRIGGS: Yes --

ROMANS: I'm Christine Romans --

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs, 5:29 Eastern Time. We start with U.S. Special Forces killing one of the world's most wanted men in a daring and dangerous raid.


TRUMP: Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is dead. He was the founder and leader of ISIS, the most ruthless and violent terror organization anywhere in the world. He died like a dog. He died like a coward. The thug who tried so hard to intimidate others, spent his last moments in utter fear, in total panic and dread.