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Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-MI) is Interview on the Killing of al- Baghdadi; One-Year since Tree of Life Synagogue Massacre; Kelly Warned of Impeachment. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired October 28, 2019 - 08:30   ET



REP. ELISSA SLOTKIN (D-MI): To this raid. You know, they're pretty typical, right? It's a really strong relationship within our intelligence community and our military. It's partners and allies, you know, of all sorts that help us piece together the story. And then it's our power projection around the world, our ability to maneuver and get these kinds of operations done very, very far from the United States, our power projection.

And, for me, those three things are key to any of these operations. And it is clear that as we pull out of Syria, that some of that power projection, some of that ability to piece together the story is going to go away. And I think we're going to understand the role of the Kurds here as we -- the story develops, but there's no way to get around this idea that the reason that we see al-Baghdadi in a place like Idlib, which is a pretty dangerous part of Syria for him to be in, and not in Raqqa, right, not in his capital, is because the Kurds kicked him out of that area. The Kurds made it impossible for him to settle in that huge area of Syria that would have been a natural home for him.

So they played a part in this. It's all -- it's a team effort and I just don't understand the decision to sort of kick one part of the team under the curb.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: That's really interesting context about where -- why he was in that particular location.

You said that you're on the Armed Services Committee, of course, and you expect to get a briefing very soon to learn more details. Do you think that Congress should have been briefed before they were about this operation?

SLOTKIN: So, you know, there's a lot of traditions that go on when it comes to the executive branch notifying the legislative branch about these kinds of operations. And, for me, the gang of eight, sort of the top eight congressional leaders, should have been notified as the operation was starting so that they're not taken by surprise, so that it's a bipartisan approach to understanding what our military is doing.

And I think about it, about the soldiers on the ground, the forces that were involved if this operation. You know, when they took off from Iraq there is no way that they looked at each other and said, hey, are you a Democrat, are you a Republican, that makes a difference in this operation. No, there's no way they did that.

So I think it was the president's responsibility to inform the gang of eight. I hope that we get the full briefings this week. But I just don't think it sets the right tone and it certainly doesn't reflect what our forces on the ground would ever, ever do.

CAMEROTA: Nancy Pelosi says that Vladimir Putin was briefed before she was. Do you think that's possible? Do you think it's possible that the president briefed the Kremlin before the gang of eight?

SLOTKIN: You know, I don't have any special knowledge. I think what's going on here, just from my experience working on similar issues, is that, you know, we were traversing air space that is a very, very complicated part of the world. You have Russians flying around. You have Syrians flying around. You have now Turks flying near their border and over into this, you know, safe zone. So it's the right thing to do to notify operationally those different forces so that there's no confusion, so we don't get fired on. I mean think of that scenario, right, Russian planes or helicopters engaging with American planes and helicopters. You just -- you don't want that scenario. So deconfliction is something different than briefing Vladimir Putin. And it's something that the Obama administration did just as much as the Trump administration.

CAMEROTA: That's really interesting and maybe that is what happened. We'll find out more, as you say, obviously.

Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin, thank you very much for your unique perspective and expertise in this department.

SLOTKIN: Thank you.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, the breaking news this morning, this huge wildfire in southern California prompting widespread evacuations. This is a home burning in Los Angeles county right before our eyes. We're going to have the latest on this growing emergency, next.



CAMEROTA: Breaking news.

A wildfire has broken out near Brentwood in southern California. You can see a home burning at this hour. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti says some homes have already been damaged.

We should note, John, that this -- it's 5:30 in the morning there, so people are still sleeping. They may not know that overnight fire has begun to engulf some of their neighbors' homes and their neighborhoods. At least 400 acres have burned in just the last couple of hours, basically while we've been on the air here.

BERMAN: Some people have been forced from their homes overnight, including, we should say, LeBron James, who was tweeting that his family had to evacuate their house. They ultimately did find shelter. But it gives you a sense of just how many people are being affected by this.


BERMAN: So it has been one year since the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in U.S. history. The doors to the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh still remain closed after 11 people were killed there.

CNN's Sara Sidner spoke with survivors as they continued their prayers for healing.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Cecil Rosenthal, David Rosenthal, Bernice Simon, Sylvan Simon, Daniel Stein.

SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Every day for the past year the names of the 11 Jews shot to death in their Pittsburgh synagogue are recited before the mourner's Kaddish, the Jewish prayer for the dead.

Joe Charny has attended the daily service five days a week for one year. The 91-year-old is a visitor here at Beth Shalom (ph) congregation. But he often leads the prayer. His home synagogue remains closed. He was inside it on October 27, 2018, when a hate- filled gunman entered his place of worship.


JOE CHARNY, SURVIVOR, TREE OF LIFE SYNAGOGUE: So we hear a noise and I didn't pay much attention initially. He didn't shoot me. He started with the people who were seated.

SIDNER: The gunman commenced slaughtering seven of his friends at Tree of Life, killing three worshipping at New Light (ph) and one at Dor ha Dash (ph). All three of the congregations are housed in the same building.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That the suspect keeps telling them about killing Jews. He doesn't want any of them to live.

SIDNER: The suspect recently offered to plead guilty in exchange for spending life in prison, but federal prosecutors rejected the offer and are seeking the death penalty. In this community, that is one of two decisions being questioned. The other was what to do with the building after such a tragedy, make this a memorial or reopen as a synagogue and community center. They decided to combine the ideas. The reminders of the deadliest anti-Semitic attack on American soil are scattered throughout this place. The outpouring of love and gifts from around the country have been gathered up, cataloged, and some featured on the fence that now surrounding the synagogue, including artwork from students who survived the massacre in Parkland.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And we also remember Joyce Feinberg, Richard Gottfried, Rose Mallinger, Jerry Rabinowitz.

SIDNER: All the while, the prayers for the dead have never stopped.

SIDNER (on camera): What does it feel like reciting those names?

CHARNY: It feels good to recite those names, because I know I'm doing the right thing and I know that I'm doing something for me and for them at the same time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Melvin Wax and Irving Younger.

SIDNER (voice over): Joining Charny throughout the year, Tree of Life Rabbi Jeffrey Myers (ph) and Charny's friend of 50 years, Judah Samet.

Samet says he narrowly escaped death. He was about to walk in when a man stopped him.

JUDAH SAMET, SURVIVOR, TREE OF LIFE SYNAGOGUE: I would be right in the middle of the shooting. So he's the one who really saved my life.

SIDNER: It isn't the first time he escaped death. This is Samet as a young boy after seeing more death than life inside a Nazi death camp in Germany.

SAMET: Hinberg (ph) to see somebody dead, you walk around me out of respect. But eventually we were weakening. We stepped on them. We could hear their bones cracking. Didn't mean anything. By the age of -- by the age of seven, I have seen more death than life.

You see Irving Younger, he was the first one to get killed.

SIDNER: At 80, the targeting of Jews yet again changed the way he looked at his synagogue for a while.

SAMET: And I looked at that and I said, this looks like a tombstone. There is no holiness emanating from this building. Had 11 bodies in it. It's a cemetery.

SIDNER: But a year later.

SAMET: Everything passes.

SIDNER: All he wants to do is to go back to his sanctuary.

SIDNER (on camera): How long have you been going to this synagogue?

SAMET: Fifty-four years.

SIDNER: Fifty-four years.


SIDNER: That is a long time. No wonder you feel like this is home. SAMET: It's home. It's home.

SIDNER (voice over): Survivor Joe Charny agrees.

SIDNER (on camera): Do you want to go back?

CHARNY: Oh, yes. Oh, very much.


CHARNY: Why? Because it's the right thing to do. Because if you don't, the other side wins.

SIDNER: The anti-Semites?


SIDNER (voice over): For many it's a beacon showing the Jewish faithful will endure and the dead will never be forgotten.

SIDNER (on camera): What is it you want people to know about those people who were your friends, who prayed with you at the -- at the synagogue?

CHARNY: I want them to know that their lives meant something, that their -- that -- that they were the epitome of how we should be.

SIDNER: I mean you were forced to remember every weekday.

CHARNY: Right.

SIDNER: You say the names.

CHARNY: Yes. That was great. Still is great. I'm glad we do it. I like to hear the names. I think they make a difference and I don't want them forgotten.

SIDNER (voice over): Sara Sidner, CNN, Pittsburgh.


BERMAN: Keep saying the names. Keep saying them.

CAMEROTA: Those are the beacons. Those -- those people who show up every single day and say the mourner's Kaddish and say the names, those are the beacons. And I remember being there I mean exactly a year ago really there at the Tree of Life and the bullet holes were still in the door and I don't think that people knew that for a year -- that it would be still a year before they would go back in. I think that at that time they were hoping that they would be able to resume their services there before a year. And, you know, obviously they've had to move and other temples have taken them in and embraced them.

BERMAN: We're thinking about all of them today.

CAMEROTA: Here's what else to watch today. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ON SCREEN TEXT: 11:25 a.m. ET, President Trump speaks in Chicago.

1:00 p.m. ET, Criminal justice town hall.

5:45 p.m. ET, White House Halloween.



BERMAN: President Trump frequently says he only hires the best people. So what about the cabinet of his closest advisors? We'll get "The Bottom Line," next.


BERMAN: Since taking office, President Trump has regularly touted and praised his cabinet members, despite the multiple ethics scandals that have rocked the administration. But not everyone agrees. For the second time this year, "The New York Times" is asking readers to vote for the president's worst cabinet member currently in office.

Joining us now is Gail Collins, "New York Times" op-ed columnist. She is the author of the new book, "No Stopping Us Now."


Gail, great to have you here.

And this is such an interesting subject given especially what the president's former chief of staff and a former cabinet secretary, John Kelly, said over the weekend about who replaced him.



JOHN KELLY, 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 -- won't tell you the truth. Don't do that. Because, if you do, I believe you'll be impeached.


BERMAN: So as you look for what readers think and who readers think is the worst cabinet member, it does seem apparent that whoever is in there, haven't really kept the president from being impeached because it seems like that's where Congress is headed.

GAIL COLLINS, OP-ED COLUMNIST, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, if that's the criteria, then everybody is failing. It's not working out. Everybody. It doesn't happen. CAMEROTA: Gail, you -- your column, you laid out all of the cabinet

members and then you said what you felt were some of their shortcomings. And, I mean, it struck me as sort of a very kind of Trump-esque reality show that you're suggesting of getting readers to write in and, you know, give you their vote of who they think should be eliminated from the island.

COLLINS: It is very strange. I find it astonishing that people care so much about the cabinet members and that they know who they are and they write with great passion about this one is -- oh, my God, the worst of all, the worst of all. I mean I -- I've never -- even baseball I don't think is getting as much passion with some of these people as the cabinet.

BERMAN: Well, it's because the Nationals keep on losing, first of all, so I think the passion is slipping from that aspect of it.

You write, ineptitude is an important consideration here. There are lots of cabinet members who would cause immeasurable harm if they weren't so incompetent.

What do you mean there?

COLLINS: Well, it's interesting, there are sort of two divisions there. There are people, for instance, the secretary of education, Betsy DeVos is -- does not like public schools. That's sort of been her life mission. And so, of course, when she came in, the public school teachers and parents of public school students got very nervous. But she doesn't seem to be really up to actually doing anything much. So I think things have called down a bit, although, you know, she's certainly getting votes.

CAMEROTA: OK, so let's talk about that. I mean in your reality show model, who are readers saying is their favorite worse cabinet member?

COLLINS: Well, I can't tell you. We're still counting. It's going on and on and on. But it will -- we'll let you know on Thursday. But I can tell you that the passion is really there. I'm just astonished at how much regular, normal people, get up in the morning, suddenly say to the world, oh, the secretary of the interior. Oh, no, I mean it's just -- it's wonderful, it's great that people care this much.

CAMEROTA: Civic engagement. I mean I really feel that that's what you've brought out here with the contest.

COLLINS: Who knew?

BERMAN: What did Stephanie Grisham say? Read the Stephanie Grisham response.

CAMEROTA: OK, Stephanie Grisham said about John Kelly, and so John Kelly's comments that it were -- it was him who was preventing the president basically from an impeachment inquiry. So, Stephanie Grisham, the press secretary, said this weekend, I worked with John Kelly and he was totally unequipped to handle the genius of our great president. Your thoughts?

COLLINS: I really love this woman. She comes up with the most amazing quotes. I just -- it's just incredible.

But, yes, maybe that was the problem there, the genius of the president was just too much for him. But it -- he's -- nobody can keep him from doing anything that he feels like doing. And if you're a serious member of the cabinet, one of the major people, then it's your responsibility to try to lead him in the right direction. But most of these people are not great status guys coming in here who -- and women who just know a lot of stuff and have a lot of stature of their own who could argue him out of things, certainly.

BERMAN: All right, Gail Collins, thank you for being with us. We wish we could get some hints from you. Is there a top tier?

COLLINS: There's a top tier, yes, yes, but that -- OK, I'll give you a hint, there's one person that drives everybody nuts, and that person is getting stupendous waves of votes. And I will let you -- you guess until Thursday which one that is.

CAMEROTA: I feel like I can -- I feel like I can guess. I feel like I can guess because I feel like you may have telegraphed it in our interview, but I'll leave it for Thursday for you to come back and do the big reveal of the winner.

COLLINS: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: Gail, thanks so much.

BERMAN: "The Good Stuff" is next.



BERMAN: It's time now for "The Good Stuff."

Dozens of parents and students surprised a school crossing guard and Washington Nationals super fan with World Series tickets.

CAMEROTA: Oh, my gosh.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You need World Series tickets.


CAMEROTA: That's awesome.

BERMAN: So -- it even caused him to put the sign down for a second there, he was so excited. That's Jeff Covel (ph). Mr. Jeff to the kids. He works at the Nottingham Elementary School in Arlington, Virginia. And you can see the group surprised him Wednesday with tickets to game four. That's so nice. I mean, unfortunately, it didn't go the Nationals' way.

CAMEROTA: I'm sure he still had fun.

BERMAN: I'm sure he had a great time.

CAMEROTA: There's still beer there and hot dogs and stuff.

BERMAN: I just love seeing this, the gratitude, the community there. Good for Mr. Jeff. Good for all of them.

Game six, by the way, tomorrow night in Houston.


CAMEROTA: OK, we have some breaking details on what led the U.S. to find the leader of ISIS. CNN has it all covered right now.