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Six More Administration Officials to Testify This Week; Trump Announces Death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in Raid; New Fire Erupts Near Major Freeway in Los Angeles; Trump Demands Credit for al-Baghdadi Death, Slams Obama in Process; Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) is Interviewed about ISIS Leader's Death. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired October 28, 2019 - 07:00   ET


MICHAEL SMERCONISH, HOST, "THE MICHAEL SMERCONISH SHOW": -- you have the July 25 telephone conversation, the so-called memorandum. And you have Ambassador Taylor and, frankly, according to NBC and "The Wall Street Journal," if you have Ambassador Sondland confirming there was a quid pro quo, do you really need anything else?


Is it worth the time necessary to litigate this to try and get that testimony?

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Great point, Michael. Therein lies the question. Thank you very much. Great to talk with you for all the insight.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: NEW DAY continues right now.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY, and we do begin with breaking news. New video of the Syria compound where U.S. Special Forces cornered ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. President Trump says al-Baghdadi blew himself up with a suicide vest.

That building, as you can see, where he was hiding is now flattened. Ground video shows remnants of al-Baghdadi's life: clothing, pots and pans, even children's toys.

A sources tells CNN that al-Baghdadi's body will be disposed of at sea. This footage, shot by Syrian activists, reportedly shows the compound being destroyed after the terror leader's death.

President Trump announced al-Baghdadi's demise with an unusually detailed description of the operation.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He died after running into a dead-end tunnel, whimpering and crying and screaming all the way. He died like a dog. He died like a coward.

But we had absolutely perfect, as though you were watching a movie.


BERMAN: Democrats are praising the raid but criticizing the president for giving the Russians advanced notice of the mission while they were left in the dark.

Last night, President Trump attended game five of the World Series in Washington. He was greeted by a round of boos there, and there were chants of "Lock him up" from the Washington, D.C., crowd.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lock him up! Lock him up! Lock him up!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lock him up! Lock him up! Lock him up!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lock him up! Lock him up! Lock him up!


BERMAN: Baghdadi's death comes at a critical time for the president. The impeachment inquiry is accelerating, with six witnesses scheduled to testify this week.

OK. Let's bring in our guests. We have CNN global affairs analyst Max Boot. He's a columnist for "The Washington Post." CNN senior global affairs analyst Bianna Golodryga and CNN counterterrorism analyst Phil Mudd, he is a former CIA official.

So Phil, we start with you. Even if there's a succession plan in place, as we've heard there is, in ISIS, when you kill someone as big as al-Baghdadi, does it throw the organization and even the ideology into tumult for a while?

PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: It does. Remember, you're not just talking about somebody who's organizing plots. You're talking about someone who's a figurehead to recruit people into the organization and to go to people who might donate to the organization in places like the Middle East.

So if you look at bin Laden, if you look at al-Baghdadi, you're going to lose a figurehead who's not just the head of a group. He's the head of a movement where he's identified as the ISIS guy. Who can lead the movement? There might be somebody who can lead the group. Who can lead the movement? I don't think -- I don't see anyone who can yet.

BERMAN: And as we wake up this morning, the questions are, what lessons can be learned from this operation and what do we know from the U.S. position in Syria?

"The New York Times," Bianna, reports this morning, talking to military officials, they say Mr. al-Baghdadi's death in the raid on Saturday occurred largely in spite of, and not because of, Mr. Trump's actions. Is that, A, fair and, B, important?

BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN SENIOR GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, it does appear fair, because it appears that we were able to locate where he was through cooperation with other regional allies and partners on the ground and also through investigative work through our intelligence community, right, who he continues to bash repeatedly.

So you see the fruits of working with others, of having coalitions, of well-thought-out planning. This was supposedly in the works for a few months, and this happened with the president, as we now know, knowing about this raid, knowing about this raid, knowing about this mission, and still deciding to greenlight Turkey's incursion.

And Brett McGurk made a really good point in "The Washington Post" by saying that Turkey has a lot to answer for here, because they found him just within miles of the Turkish border. So was Turkey aware of his being there, and why wasn't Turkey notified? We made this raid via Iraq, not through Turkey, which is a U.S. ally.

And yet, we've greenlit Turkey's invasion. We lifted sanctions for that incursion that was greenlit by the president and, as we know, there's still going to be a meeting at the White House between President Trump and President Erdogan.

CAMEROTA: And Max, obviously, all of that said said is really important. But he is the commander in chief, and he gave the command to do this. And he didn't have to do that. It's obviously the most probably anxiety-ridden moment for any U.S. president and so he gave the command. That's a victory.

But what Bianna is talking about is that we also relied on the Kurds a lot to find them for intel, as we're finding out. So now what?


MAX BOOT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Right. Well, there's no question that President Trump can bask in the reflected glory of what the Special Operators pulled off, just as President Obama did in the case of Osama bin Laden. And you know, all credit to President Trump for giving the authorization, and he certainly deserves credit for that.

But you know, to the point that Bianna was just making, right now President Trump is dismantling the infrastructure that made this raid possible and, in fact, made all the success that we've enjoyed against ISIS since 2015. Made that possible. Now he's dismantling it by pulling our forces out of the partnership, both the Kurds, betraying the Kurds, and you know, he's mysteriously leaving some U.S. troops to guard Syrian oil fields? Why? I mean, why are we abandoning our allies, the Kurds, and guarding these inconsequential oil fields?

CAMEROTA: Well, I mean, you know the reporting on this. The reporting on this, the people that are around him, his advisers around him at the Pentagon, did want to leave U.S. troops on the ground and had to couch it to President Trump as we're protecting the oil fields, because that is something that is important to him.

BOOT: Right. But that's -- it's a bad message to send to the region, because it kind of confirms these conspiracy theories that all the Unite States cares about is stealing the oil, which is not the case. We don't need the oil. We don't -- we're not -- we don't benefit from Syrian oil. It doesn't make a lot of sense.

And you know, even before this happened, there were reports from the intelligence community that ISIS was, in fact, reviving, that they still have about 18,000 fighters in Iraq and Syria. And now you're seeing escapes from prison by ISIS detainees.

So my concern is that all of this is a great day, and I'm very glad that Baghdadi is dead. My concern is that you could actually see the organization that he led revived under new leadership.

GOLODRYGA: Maybe it's just a messaging problem. Because you could make the point that, if it's about the oil, it's because you want to keep ISIS away from retaining the oil, because that's where they get their funding. If that's the point the president's trying to make, that's not coming across. The point that's coming across is we don't care about spreading democracy in the Middle East. We don't care about restoring any peace in the region. We don't care about the Kurds, at some point, getting their own territory and homeland. We care about Syrian oil, which we don't need, as Max just said.

BERMAN: So Phil, you've been on the front lines in the war against terror. What are you looking for today from ISIS in terms of its response? And what are you looking for from the administration in terms of following up on this raid?

MUDD: This raid happened yesterday. That's a million years ago. I'm looking at docex (ph). I'm looking at the stuff coming out of the raid, along with other intelligence, for example, whether its laptops, documents, interrogations of people who were picked up. We know some people who were picked up.

And I want a quick understanding not only of who the new hierarchy is going to be. The intel guys probably going know that already. But are you getting intel that allows you to identify new courier networks, new locations that you can raid.

I want to keep going. Keep grinding. This should not stop yesterday. That's a start, not an end.

CAMEROTA: And do you think that President Trump now expresses more respect for the intelligence agencies as a result of this?

MUDD: No, of course not. He's going to come out and say they're out to investigate me inappropriately. It's illegal. I suspect we're going to learn more things about how the intel guys started the investigation back during the campaign. He's going to go after them again. They have got to sit down and do the job. He'll critique them. Let it go.

BERMAN: It was interesting. Yesterday, in the midst of announcing the success of this operation, he went out of his way to say this is what intelligence officials should be focused on, when in fact, it's the same pot, right, Max. I mean, these are same people. This is the same intelligence organization that investigated the Russian attack on the U.S. election that is out there battling ISIS every day.

BOOT: Absolutely. And the notion that the intelligence community should not be investigating the biggest attack ever on a U.S. election is just preposterous. The only reason that Trump can possibly say that is because, of course, he was the beneficiary of Russian interference. That's the bottom line.

He doesn't want the intelligence community investigating a foreign attack that benefited him. And of course, he's perfectly happy to have investigating looking into ISIS or other things will -- that will redoubt to his benefit. So this is a flagrant double standard.

And you know, the success of the ISIS raid just shows that this is not a deep state. These are not these evil conspirators, you know, plotting against the president. These are dedicated professionals in service to our nation. And I'm very proud of those dedicated professionals who are now standing up and telling the truth, whether it's the whistle-blower or the diplomats or others. They are standing up for the protecting the Constitution of the United States, and they understand they have a higher duty than simply to protect the president.

GOLODRYGA: That's a reminder that you can't cherry-pick your intelligence. Right? If you're a commander in chief, you're not going to believe intelligence that you want to believe and not that that you don't. And I think that's one of the takeaways here. And it's an important reminder that all of our intelligence officials are doing what they do and do it successfully, because they have partners around the world.

And by the president constantly berating them, it undermines the missions that they're cooperating with many allies around the world on.

CAMEROTA: Friends --

MUDD: I was just going to say, one thing, because I'm slightly irritated this morning. I know that shot.

CAMEROTA: This morning?


MUDD: I am so tired of politicians, and I include the president, coming in, saying, And I had to tell them, you really need to prioritize Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the head of ISIS.

I really need the president to tell me, as an intel professional, wow, you should go after, and I'm responsible as president, reminding me -- reminding you that you should go after the head of the largest terror organization on the planet. Thanks for that guidance. I needed that. Really? BOOT: The only thing more preposterous was Trump repeating his assertion that he was the only guy who knew about Osama bin Laden before 9/11, which is just so ridiculous.

BERMAN: All right, guys. Thank you very much for being with us this morning.

We are following breaking news. This huge wildfire raging out of control in Los Angeles. These are live pictures. Very close to the 405 Freeway. We have a live report on the dangerous situation next.



BERMAN: All right, breaking news. This is a new wildfire raging out of control in Los Angeles. This is near the Getty Center.

CAMEROTA: Oh, my gosh. It looks horrible. Look at -- look at what's your screen.

BERMAN: Very near the 405 Freeway in Brentwood. It's only 4 in the morning on the West Coast.

And I do want to note that NBA star LeBron James tweeted moments ago that he evacuated his home. He now does say he's safe. But he was driving around for a while, looking for a hotel room.

In the meantime, the situation in Northern California's wine country is getting worse, as well. CNN's Dan Simon is live in Sonoma County with a look at what's going on there -- Dan.

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John and Alisyn, first of all, those pictures very frightening in terms of what we are seeing in Southern California, that fire growing very fast, now up to 75 acres. And we're seeing a lot of evacuations there in Los Angeles near the Brentwood area.

In the meantime, we are in front of what was a winery. It had been here for 150 years. About all you can see now is this brick facade. And we are seeing devastation like this throughout the community.

What makes this fire, though, so impactful is the amount of people involved. You're talking about 200,000 folks who have been forced to evacuate because of the strong winds that you saw over the weekend.

And on top of that, you have about 2 million people who have been in the dark because the utility PG&E cut off the power to prevent other wildfires from breaking out.

We should point out, though, that PG&E apparently might be responsible for this catastrophic Kincade Fire, because one of its transmission lines went down near where this fire started.

In the meantime, fire crews hope to make some progress on this fire today, because the winds have died down, but it is still growing, 55,000 acres. You've got about 3,000 firefighters on -- 3,000 firefighters on the line.

At this point, John and Alisyn, just 5 percent containment. In fact, the containment numbers went down over the weekend. We'll see what happens today. Winds dying down but expected to pick up again tomorrow. We'll send it back to you.

CAMEROTA: Oh, my gosh, Dan. Just 5 percent, less than 5 percent contained. The herculean task that these firefighters have every day we've been reporting on, John.

BERMAN: And a picture on the screen right now. This is Los Angeles. We just saw a helicopter dumping water on that fire right near the 405, right near the Getty Center, which if you haven't been, is one of the most beautiful museums in America. But it's up on a hillside. It's up on this hillside with all this brush nearby. I can't imagine what will happen as the fire moves closer to it.

Again, I think we have the video of this helicopter dumping the water just moments ago.

CAMEROTA: Gosh, look at this. I mean, again, it feels as though as every day for the past two weeks, three weeks --


CAMEROTA: -- we've been reporting on fires somewhere in California. It just feels as though the state can't get out ahead of this, given the conditions, given the wind that's been whipping up. We feel for all of the firefighters and everyone who is displaced this morning there.

BERMAN: We'll stay on it throughout the morning.

CAMEROTA: Well, in the history of American presidents announcing the deaths of enemies, President Trump's speech about Baghdadi this weekend sticks out. John Avlon has our "Reality Check."

John, tell us what you've heard.


Well, look, this is good news, the leader of ISIS dead after a raid by American Special Forces. And it will be regarded as one of the great milestones of the Trump administration, just as the killing of Osama bin Laden is regarded as one of the great milestones of the Obama administration.

In both cases, the president gave the greenlight to a gutsy raid that brought a mass murderer to justice, without the death of any American servicemen.

But, because there's a tweet for everything, we can't help but notice that President Trump refused to give credit to President Obama at the time, tweeting, among other things, "Stop congratulating Obama for killing bin Laden." That's not the only stark departure from presidential norms we saw

yesterday. Trump recounted the death of Baghdadi's in, shall we say, colorful terms, describing him as whimpering, crying, screaming. He died like a dog, Trump said. It's not typically the kind of rhetoric we hear from U.S. presidents.

In contrast, President Obama took pains to emphasize that both he and President Bush believe that the war on terror and al Qaeda, in particular, was not a war against Islam. We even learned that later, Obama called former presidents Bush and Clinton before the announcement, according to "The Washington Post."

Trump notably did not do that. He apparently didn't call Obama or any Democratic congressional leaders who would typically get a heads-up. He did, however, give a heads-up to Putin, who he seems to trust with national security information more than the Democrats.

He even thanked Russia twice over the Kurdish troops who've been fighting alongside the U.S. against ISIS for years.

Now, we know that size matters a lot to this president, but we didn't know it extended to the killing of terrorists.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: 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.



AVLON: Big with the World Trade Center. That's true that bin Laden never conquered a self-styled caliphate, but ISIS hadn't executed anything resembling 9/11 on U.S. soil.

And then there's the question of personal credit. Trump seemed to be angling for it, repeating an absurd riff about one line in a ghost- written book.


TRUMP: To this day, I get people coming up to me. They said, you know what? One of the most amazing things I've ever seen about you, is that you predicted that Osama bin Laden had to be killed before he knocked down the World Trade Center? But it is true. If you go back, look at my book.


AVLON: Look at the book. So we did. And it's not in the book.

Presidents deserve credit for decisions they make. But of course, the real credit belongs to the troops who executed the raid at direct personal, rather than political, risk. It belongs to the intelligence community and military leaders who have been working on this for years.

The end of the Cold War, for example, President George H.W. Bush notably refused to crow about the fall of the Soviet Union.

When Harry Truman announced the death of Hitler, he did it in a decidedly Midwestern understated manner.

And in the annals of American war, there's perhaps no president who can claim for victory more than President Lincoln. He'd been near the front lines at the end of the war and, after the surrender at Appomattox, he acknowledged the cheering crowd on the White House lawn that, while he had the pleasure of transmitting much of the good news to you as president, but he said, "No part of the honor for plan or execution is mine. To General Grant, his skillful officers and brave men, all belongs."

And that's your "Reality Check."

BERMAN: John, my question is, why doesn't someone write a book about the final days of the Civil War and Abraham Lincoln's handling of those final days?

CAMEROTA: Would that be a good idea?

AVLON: It's a good question. It's a good idea, and I appreciate the product promotion for the future book.

BERMAN: You're writing a book on that?

AVLON: As luck would have it. Lincoln's plan to win the peace by winning the war.

BERMAN: We look forward to that very much.

CAMEROTA: He is so ahead of you. That's so great.

John, thank you.

So Democrats say they were kept in the dark during and after the raid in Syria that got Baghdadi. Nancy Pelosi says the Kremlin was told before she was. What's that about?




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you inform Speaker Pelosi ahead of time?

TRUMP: No, I didn't. I didn't do it. I didn't do that. I wanted to make sure this was kept secret. I don't have to have men lost and women. I don't want to have people lost.


CAMEROTA: No, I know.

BERMAN: The president taking heat from Democrats on Capitol Hill this morning for not informing them about the raid that killed the leader of ISIS before addressing the nation yesterday.

Joining us now is Democratic Senator Chris Coons. He serves on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Senator, we'll get to that in just a moment. But first, in the president's statement, he said the world is in a safer place today because of the death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Do you agree with that statement?

SEN. CHRIS COONS (D-DE): I do, John. I think this is an important and a significant development. And if the president wants to take credit for the strike that killed al-Baghdadi, that's certainly appropriate. He ordered the strike; it was successful.

But frankly, he also should take credit and responsibility for ordering the abrupt withdrawal of our troops from being on the ground; for betraying our Kurdish allies; and for dismissing or denigrating our intelligence community.

This raid would only have been successful, was only successful because of intelligence we got from the Kurds, because of the brave work of our Special Forces, and frankly, because of our network of alliances around the world, all things that President Trump has at times either disparaged or undermined.

So this was a great development. It is good that al-Baghdadi has met a justified, violent end after leading one of the worst terrorist organizations in human history. But I think this was a successful raid in spite of, not because of Donald Trump's abrupt withdrawal of our forces and betrayal of our Kurdish allies.

BERMAN: Well, that is a quote that's inside "The New York Times" this morning from military officials. In spite of, not because of.

COONS: Correct.

BERMAN: CNN has been told by some military officials it would only have been successful, as you said, with the presence of U.S. troops on the ground in Syria; and the existence of the alliance with the Kurds.

Overall, though, what lessons do you take from the success of this raid and perhaps the intelligence that was provided?

COONS: Well, first, it's important that we protect the operational details of a raid like this if we're going to be able to carry out more of them in the future and have them be as successful as this one was. There was no loss of American life.

These are exceptionally difficult raids to carry out, because we had quite a few Special Forces operators flying on a number of platforms a very long distance across air space that is controlled by Russian and Syrian forces. And to both insert them and remove them from that operation and do so successfully is a challenging operation.

Our options in the region are becoming fewer and fewer, as we have fewer and fewer places from which to launch these operations. And frankly, the loss of the northeastern third of Syria at exactly the moment when ISIS will make its probably strongest effort to try and reform, I think is an unfortunate development.

BERMAN: What are you expecting from ISIS. And I ask specifically in regards to what you just said, because some were surprised to find Baghdadi in the Idlib province, which is known as a hotbed for al Qaeda --

COONS: Correct.

BERMAN: -- activity, which had been seen as a rival to ISIS. So do you have concerns that there could be some kind of alliance?

COONS: Yes, I have concerns first that they were so close to the Turkish border in an area of Syria where Turkey has long had some real influence.