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Wildfires Continue to Burn in Southern and Northern California; ISIS Leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi Reportedly Killed in U.S. Air Strike. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired October 28, 2019 - 08:00   ET

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


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: And we do begin with breaking news. Wildfires raging out of control in southern California. Look at these aerials right now. This fire is burning right near the 405 freeway, and the Getty Museum in Brentwood.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Thousands of residents have been ordered to evacuate from their homes this morning, including NBA star LeBron James. California's governor has declared a statewide emergency as the situation in northern California worsens as well.

So joining us now on the phone is CNN's Omar Jimenez. He is live in Los Angeles with more. What's the situation around you, Omar?

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John and Alisyn, we're making our way to the scene right now. This is a fire, a brush fire that broke out in the overnight hours that really just ballooned very, very quickly. We just heard from the Los Angeles Fire Department literally a few minutes ago who told us about 33 homes are now being evacuated just in that area alone. As you mentioned it's right along the 405 freeway near the Getty Center here in Los Angeles.

And one of the reasons this is so concerning is that, one, southern California had already been dealing with another wildfire, the Tick fire, that's been burning over the course of the past few days, but also that there's not any -- nature isn't doing these fires any favors as far as getting put out. We saw 70 to 80-mile-per-hour winds over the course of yesterday in this area, which, as you know, can spread along these embers and sometimes start fires miles away from where they were burning in the first place. And we're expecting some of the winds to continue into today. And then around midway through this week, we're expecting another uptick in high winds as well.

So as far as that goes, that's one thing that is very concerning for officials, especially as you see a fire like this break out so quickly and powerful just in a matter of minutes really in the overnight hours here.

CAMEROTA: OK.

BERMAN: All right, Omar, thank you very much for that report. Please stay on this for us. Again, this video, this is from a little while. You can see the helicopter there dumping water on that fire which is raging out of control in the hills right near the Getty Museum, which is a lovely museum. Getty put out a statement saying the fire is moving away from the museum itself, let's hope, but obviously we're watching this very, very closely.

Now to our other top story this morning. It involves the death of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. We have new video from overnight reportedly showing the facility where al-Baghdadi died, being destroyed by air strikes from U.S. forces. President Trump says the terror leader blew himself up in a tunnel inside the compound as U.S. forces closed in. This is also new video we received overnight, ground video showing a burnt out car there, remnants of al-Baghdadi's life, clothing, pots and pans, even children's toys. Democrats and Republicans praising the raid, but some Democrats are criticizing the president for giving the Russians advance notice while Democratic leaders, congressional leaders, were left in the dark.

CAMEROTA: Baghdadi's death, of course, is a win for Trump and the Trump administration at a time when, as you know, he is under this impeachment inquiry. That inquiry is accelerating with six witnesses schedule to testify this week. CNN has just learned that today's witness, Charles Kupperman, a deputy to John Bolton, will not appear today, as he had been scheduled to, because he is awaiting instructions from a federal judge.

Joining us is Lisa Monaco, former homeland security adviser for President Obama and CNN senior national security analyst, and Andrew McCabe, former FBI deputy director and a CNN contributor. Great to have both of you in studio with us. Lisa, your thoughts when you heard that Baghdadi was killed.

LISA MONACO, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: This is a win for U.S. national security. This a significant blow to ISIS, and this is a real testament to the long arm of American justice and to the dedication, the professionalism, and the unrelenting focus of counterterrorism professionals for the last many years. And this is just a terrific, a terrific thing for U.S. national security.

But we should be clear that the death of Baghdadi does not mean the death of the brutal ideology that he really was the leader of. We now have high ISIS in more than a dozen provinces, or affiliates around the world, and they've pivoted over the last several years to really focusing now on, now that they've had their territory taken away, their digital caliphate is still, unfortunately, alive and well, and they are pursuing and trying to project power inspiring others to violence.

BERMAN: They committed so many horrific acts directly, in some cases, in the Middle East, and also here in the United States, Andy, which is something you dealt with every days for years and years, which was ISIS inspired attacks. I'm wondering what you think the impact of his death will be on that latter, the ISIS inspired attacks?

ANDREW MCCABE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: That's always our biggest concern on the day after any major operation, and certainly this was a major operation, a huge victory for counterterrorism forces here in the United States and across the globe. I can tell you that today, starting yesterday, and continuing today, and for the next several days, FBI agents, surveillance specialists, analysts are watching closely every one of the targets they have in this country who they believe fall into that gap, folks who are inspired by ISIS, who follow their statements and their propaganda online.

[08:05:20]

And any one of those people might feel that now is their time to step up, to strike out, to stage an operation, in response to the death of Baghdadi. So it is a very sensitive time in the FBI right now, and people are putting in a lot of work.

CAMEROTA: This is just great police work. When you read the reporting of how long this has been in the works. And obviously he is a needle in a haystack, and he is a moving target. Baghdadi was moving target, and they had to -- just all of the intel they gathered from the ground, all the surveillance they did, all the people that they talked to without giving up their cover, all of that stuff, it's still coming out even as we speak.

And this, I couldn't help but think yesterday as the president was celebrating the victory, how denigrated the intel services have been under this administration. For the past three years the president has insulted them, and they have kept their nose to the grindstone and continued to look for Baghdadi, et cetera, et cetera.

MONACO: Yes. Again, this is a testament to the professionalism, the dedication, the focus of the men and women of the U.S. national security community, in particular the intelligence community. They have kept their head down. They have focused. They have not been distracted by the politics and everything swirling around them and the attacks on them. And that's what we need. That's what we need.

CAMEROTA: But when you're being insulted, how can you not be distracted? Doesn't it take a toll on your morale somehow?

MONACO: Well, I think it probably does take a toll at some level, but these are folks who are professionals, who are trained. And this operation, as you noted, has been in the works in some sense for many, many years. When I was still the president's counterterrorism adviser in the Obama administration, we were very focused on gathering as much intelligence and understanding as much as we could about his movements. I think the critical point here is to have this type of operation, you need to be working with partners on the ground. You need to be able to develop that exquisite type of intelligence that allows our special forces to go in there and conduct the operation that they did to develop those relationships with those partners, the brave Kurdish fighters who have been the pointy end of the spear for us against ISIS for the last many years. That really -- this operation exposes the importance of those relationships and those partnerships, and unfortunately, we've abandoned our partners there.

BERMAN: Andy, I kind of feel like you might have something to add on both fronts that Lisa and Alisyn were just talking about there, the intelligence and criminal justice being under attack from the president and the professionalism, and even that latter point, the idea of the importance of our counterintelligence resources around the world that some people feel are being diminished now.

MCCABE: Sure. So first point first. It is absolutely distracting when you're being attacked publicly and personally. However, Lisa is absolutely right. The professionals in this community develop the capacity to compartmentalize. They have to do that with the work they do. They have to be able to really focus very intently on sensitive and critical intelligence every day and then leave that at work when the rare instances they're able to go home and enjoy time with their families. So it is that same sort of compartmentalization that allows them to stay focused on the objective and not get caught up in the politics, and thank God for that. They do a terrific job.

As for our work with partners, I have bad news for anybody who thinks otherwise. We cannot do this work alone. The safety and security of the U.S. citizens depends on our government, our intelligence community, the White House's ability to maintain effective partnerships around the globe. If we learned anything from yesterday's successful mission, it is how important it is to have an effective, small, tactical, intelligence-driven, counterterrorism force in the parts of the world where terrorists reside.

CAMEROTA: Lisa, we know the president is mad at the Democrats in Congress, everyone knows that. Do you think that it is strange, as Nancy Pelosi was saying, that the Kremlin was alerted about this operation before House leadership?

MONACO: Absolutely. It's a real departure from normal practice in sensitive operations like these. When I was serving in the White House as the president's counterterrorism adviser around sensitive operations, very close in time, I regularly contacted both Democrats and Republican members of Congress to give them a head's up, to brief them in detail about the operation either as it was ongoing, immediately after, as soon as our people were out of harm's way, and then had a regular conversation with both Democrats and Republican members of Congress, particularly on the Intelligence Committees, because that is their job.

[08:10:01]

Their job is to do oversight. They are entitled by law to be kept fully and currently informed. That's the actual requirement about intelligence activities. And this certainly qualified as a significant intelligence activity.

BERMAN: Just historically speaking, we've got to go here, but when the Gang of Eight is informed about things like this, this is not the type of stuff that leaks historically, correct? They keep this secret.

MCCABE: That's correct. That was our experience. They were very tightly controlled group.

BERMAN: Right. Andy, Lisa, thank you.

Breaking news, a key witness in the impeachment probe, we just learned, has been advised by his lawyer not to appear this morning. The latest in the legal battle to speak to these witnesses next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: Six administration officials were set to testify this week in the impeachment inquiry, but CNN just learned moments ago that John Bolton's deputy Charles Kupperman has been advised by his attorney not to appear today as he awaits instructions from a federal judge on whether he should comply with a House subpoena to testify.

[08:15:00]

Here to discuss, CNN Senior political analyst, John Avalon; senior global affairs analyst, Bianna Golodryga; and CNN chief legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: I win.

BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN SENIOR GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: You win.

BERMAN: Kupperman is not coming today to testify.

TOOBIN: Correct.

BERMAN: His lawyer says he wants to wait for a judge. Frankly, I think we all thought we were going to see many more fights like this from the witnesses who've been called the testified before Congress. But now that this fight has begun, how does it resolve itself?

TOOBIN: Well, it's sort of a clever move, I think, by Kupperman's legal team, which is I'm not fighting it, I'm just asking for a judicial resolution of the conflicting advice that I'm getting.

Now, the real answer is, it's probably going to delay his testimony, perhaps into oblivion, because the courts just don't work very fast. And you know, he will have if, he wins or if he loses, there will be an appeal to the D.C. circuit, all of which could easily eat up a month and the Democrats want to be done in a month.

CAMEROTA: Charles Kupperman, of course, is not a household name. However, he is seen, Bianna, as a test case for John Bolton, because he was John Bolton's adviser, and so people were watching this one closely, because if he doesn't have to go or he has some legal maneuvering, where he doesn't have to go, maybe John Bolton will do the very same thing.

BERMAN: And they share a lawyer.

GOLODRYGA: Yes, that's -- they share a lawyer, so he is the test case -- John Bolton was his attorney, and this is a situation where A, you see how unprecedented everything really is, right? Where there's not a definitive answer as to whether he can testify or not. You're right. It's going to now be kicked to the courts and it's going to buy time for this administration, which they want. They want to deflect away from this investigation, and Democrats want to speed things along.

I think that if he wanted to really testify, he probably could have.

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes.

GOLODRYGA: But yes, all eyes are now on John Bolton and whether we will hear from him. Remember he teased that you'll hear from me when I'm ready, but I think he's going to be watching what happens with Kupperman first. He is a test case.

AVLON: Yes. But look, I mean, this is also sort of legal Hail Mary, right? I mean, this is not a tough call, you got subpoenaed, you go forward, and if you want to take the fifth, you take the fifth. This is really -- he is hoping for like a legal equivalent of a doctor's note to say that there's an out here.

CAMEROTA: And it's working by the way.

AVLON: It's working in terms of denial and delay, and that has been a core White House strategy from the beginning. And it also I think, is a function of the politicization of the courts.

Increasingly, partisans feel like maybe they'll get lucky in the judge they draw, and maybe they can see it through a different circuit. So it's part of the downstream effect of the politicization of our courts.

TOOBIN: As a legal matter, I think Kupperman has to testify. I mean, I think the courts will ultimately decide that he has to testify as Judge Beryl Howell found last Friday, or was it Thursday? It was a Friday. I don't know. It's hard to keep track -- that this is a legitimate inquiry. Given that it's a legitimate inquiry, you have to answer a subpoena. End of story.

BERMAN: To the Republican in place, she said smack of farce.

TOOBIN: Smack of farce.

BERMAN: Smack of farce. That was a read out.

AVLON: Judge is no coward -- yes.

TOOBIN: Yes, I know. It's almost as hard to say as quid pro quo. You know, that's it.

BERMAN: The question -- the bigger question here is Bolton worth the legal fight? If Kupperman is the test case for Bolton and the idea is -- if this is really a figure out of John Bolton, he will testify. Is Bolton worth the legal fight? And is he worth the time?

GOLODRYGA: And Democrats don't necessarily know. Any Democrat that thinks that Bolton's testimony will help their case really doesn't know Bolton's history that well, and it really could be a factor where he could help the President or he could hurt the President. And that's the big unknown with what his testimony will be.

But we shouldn't lose sight of what we already know and that is damning testimony from multiple officials, including the Ambassador to Ukraine. Republicans will say, well, he didn't have direct knowledge. He wasn't in conversation with the President, given what we read in those 15 pages from Bill Taylor. That by far is the most incriminating piece of evidence that Democrats have and that's what they'll be running with.

AVLON: Notably, also, Bolton wasn't on the call.

CAMEROTA: But Kupperman was.

AVLON: Kupperman was. And that's why in some ways, he is more high value specifically. And then there's the X factor of how much bad blood exists between the President and Bolton.

TOOBIN: But just to answer your question, Bolton is worth it. I mean, absolutely. Because, look, if you look at how the evidence has come in for the -- you know, for the pro-impeachment forces, everything has pointed towards a quid pro quo here.

Why would Bolton's testimony, assuming he told the truth and I don't think there'd be any reason that he wouldn't, would be consistent with that. And what makes Poland so significant is that unlike Bill Taylor, Bolton saw the President all the time and would be able to talk about the President's to meet -- you know, comments and statements about the whole Ukraine situation.

CAMEROTA: Also, it seems like Bolton has a lot to say. So I think, I am not sure that he would say he doesn't want to comment.

TOOBIN: And I mean, I think it would be distasteful, if you know, here, this is major national inquiry. He won't cooperate, but he saves this for part.

GOLODRYGA: But yes, you can just predict the President's tweet that he had a vendetta against the President, that he was the most overrated National Security adviser.

AVLON: Ever.

GOLODRYGA: Ever. So that will be a complicated situation, but I think you can definitely see where the Republicans -- their attack is coming from.

[08:20:18]

BERMAN: Can I just break -- while we were sleeping this weekend or resting or Sunday and were watching football, Gordon Sondland's lawyer told "The Wall Street Journal," and we've confirmed that Sondland believed that there was a quid pro quo. That seems like a big deal.

AVLON: That is objectively a big deal. And it shows how much the administration's denials of quid pro quo and even Sondland carrying water for the President in the text messaging to Taylor, really is just you know, sometimes we cannot ignore the obvious, no matter how much partisan spin is forced upon us.

GOLODRYGA: Not to mention that -- the more and more we're learning about Zelensky knowing that this was a quid pro quo.

AVLON: Yes.

GOLODRYGA: Going back to just weeks after he won election.

CAMEROTA: I mean, I don't know, does it take a genius to figure out that there was something big asked of you. But speaking of geniuses --

AVLON: The more stable ones.

CAMEROTA: Let's talk -- so let's talk about what happened on Saturday. And you know --

BERMAN: You just have to know where you're going to with that.

CAMEROTA: And that is John Kelly, former Chief of Staff spoke out about the warning that he gave, he says he gave the President before he left that position. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN KERRY, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: I said, whatever you do -- and we were still in the process of trying to find someone to take my place -- I said, whatever you do, don't -- don't hire a yes man. Someone that's going to tell you, it won't tell you the truth. Don't do that. Because if you do, I believe you'll be impeached.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: Prophetic. Here comes the genius part. This is what Stephanie Grisham, the White House Press Secretary said about John Kelly. "I worked with John Kelly and he was totally unequipped to handle the genius of our great President."

AVLON: Is that real? That's a full face palm.

CAMEROTA: I think it's real. Unless she -- unless you don't consider her Press Secretary, you consider her fake news secretary. Or politburo secretary.

AVLON: I mean, seriously. That is straight out of the politburo. That is sort of auditioning for North Korea's, you know.

TOOBIN: Yes, I think it's more North Korean than politburo myself.

CAMEROTA: It's too on the nose for politburo. It's North Korea. The genius of our great President.

BERMAN: I will say, as ridiculous as that is, don't lose sight of what John Kelly seemed to suggest, which is that the President's not up to the job without being restrained or held within boundaries?

TOOBIN: Well, maybe that's also, he is just saying everybody needs that. I mean, you know, I don't think it's a criticism of someone to say you need advisers who will tell you the truth. CAMEROTA: Or you'll be impeached?

TOOBIN: Oh, that's a good point.

AVLON: But the standards of that -- the standards of that.

GOLODRYGA: There were fires that needed to be put out when John Kelly was Chief of Staff, too so let's not be a Monday morning quarterback and just assume that everything was stable in the White House while he was there.

TOOBIN: Most of the obstruction of justice in the Mueller report took place, you know, while Kelly was Chief of Staff, so I mean --

AVLON: But in part because folks were not actually executing the President's wishes. And this is always the danger when an executive higher sort of a mini me and a yes man, things get worse, not better. And that's especially true with this President in this Oval Office.

CAMEROTA: Friends, thank you very much. You're all geniuses in our book. Thank you very much.

TOOBIN: But I am the chief --

AVLON: Yes, we're just the senior.

CAMEROTA: Yes, we got that.

BERMAN: Global genius.

AVLON: I'll go with that.

CAMEROTA: All right, thank you very much for getting new information that we need to bring to you right now because we've just learned new details about what the U.S. did to find the ISIS leader al Baghdadi.

President Trump will be leaving the White House shortly, so we will bring you all have the breaking news, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CAMEROTA: Breaking news. A senior Iraqi officials tell CNN that one of al-Baghdadi's closest collaborators, who was captured about two months ago near Baghdad is the person who provided authorities with key information that led to al-Baghdadi's discovery.

The man served as a guide to al-Baghdadi, helping him avoid authorities as he traveled. This guide pointed officials to a courier whose wife ultimately led the Iraqis to Baghdadi's location.

Joining us now is Democratic Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin. She serves on the Armed Services and Homeland Security Committee. She is also a former C.I.A. officer. Congresswoman, great to have you of all people with us. You are obviously steeped in National Security. You were in the C.I.A., so tell us from your unique perspective, what you now know about all of the -- for lack of a better word -- great police work that led into getting him.

REP. ELISSA SLOTKIN (D-MI): Sure. So we don't know -- I don't have any special knowledge of the specifics yet because I'm on the Armed Services Committee and hopefully, we'll get a briefing today or this week.

But I think first and foremost, it just -- it pulls together what has got to be months, if not years of work by targeters in the C.I.A., in the military, both uniformed and non-uniformed, pulling together threads to follow this guy and to get him.

It's a huge amount of work, and I have to say, I praise President Trump for making that really tough decision. I've been in the room when similar type decisions have had to be made. It's always difficult if you're going to put U.S. forces at harm's way.

So I think, you know, it's the culmination of what must have been a massive effort and I just sort of really celebrate everyone who participated.

CAMEROTA: Do you worry that without U.S. troops in that -- in Syria -- in that area that we will lose the ability to have this kind of Intel sharing?

SLOTKIN: Now, it's clear that the things that led this raid, you know, they're pretty typical, right?

[08:30:09]