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Congress To Vote On Impeachment Inquiry On Thursday; ISIS Informant Provided Key Intelligence On al-Baghdadi's Location; Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) Is Interviewed About The Impeachment And al-Baghdadi's Death; Pentagon Will Release Imagery Of al-Baghdadi Raid; ISIS Informant Helped Confirm al-Baghdadi's Location, DNA; The Bloody Legacy Of ISIS Leader Al-Baghdadi. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired October 28, 2019 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: That vote will come Thursday. We'll have much more of that coming right up. You can follow me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, @jaketapper. You can tweet the show, @TheLeadCNN. Our coverage on CNN continues right now. Thanks for watching.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news, full House vote. Speaker Nancy Pelosi announces the full House will vote for the first time on the impeachment inquiry and a Democratic resolution detailing the road map for moving it from behind closed doors into a public phase.
Inside the raid. Kurdish-led forces in Syria reveal an informant led them to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and snatched a piece of his underwear for a DNA test confirming his identity. Images of the deadly operation to take down al-Baghdadi are expected soon.
Legacy of terror. Details of how al-Baghdadi went from a local thug to one of the world's most feared jihadist ordering and inspiring attacks around the world while terrorized millions in a self-proclaimed caliphate.
And yes-man. Former White House chief of staff John Kelly reveals his parting advice to President Trump. Don't replace me with a yes-man or else you'll be impeached. I'm Wolf Blitzer and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
We're following breaking news in the impeachment inquiry. The first public hearings could be just two weeks away. This Thursday, the full House will vote for the first time on the investigation into President Trump as Democrats put up a resolution detailing their plan for moving it from behind closed doors out into the open.
Also breaking, we've just learned that it was an informant who led Syrian Kurdish-led forces and the United States to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi who blew himself up during a weekend raid in his hiding place in Syria.
His identity was confirmed before the operation by DNA from a piece of his underwear and a blood sample obtained by the informant. We'll talk about all of the breaking news much more with Congressman Ro Khanna of the Oversight and Armed Services Committees.
And our correspondents and analysts are also standing by. First, let's go straight to Capitol Hill. Our congressional correspondent, Phil Mattingly, is on the scene for us. Phil, so what will this vote establish?
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is the path forward, Wolf, as Democrats move from what have been closed door proceedings for weeks, which may continue for another couple of weeks into the public sphere. It has a basis in the technical. It has a basis in the political. And it has a basis in the legal. I want to talk about the technical first.
In a letter to the members of Democratic caucus, Speaker Nancy Pelosi saying, "This resolution establishes the procedures for hearings that are open to the American people, authorizes the disclosure of deposition transcripts, outlines procedures to transfer evidence to the Judiciary Committee as it considers potential articles of impeachment and sets forth due process rights for the president and his counsel.'
Now, what that actually means is two-fold. One, this is the technical process going forward. The closed door depositions will move into open hearings. There are three committees conducting the impeachment inquiry at the moment, but the Judiciary Committee, should it get to that point will actually have to draft and consider the articles of impeachment. That lays out the process going forward.
On the political side, it also undercuts some of the criticism we've seen from Republicans, the White House especially, related to how close it has been up to this point, making clear everything is going to be public. Now, there is also the legal aspect of this as well.
Keep in mind this will be the first full House vote on anything related to impeachment. Democrats have resisted having a vote to actually launch the impeachment inquiry saying that there is no legal basis for them needing to do so.
But there are legal filings and we saw on Friday with a court decision, a judge saying that -- that judge believed that Democrats were, in fact, in the middle of an impeachment inquiry, going against what the White House has said was an illegitimate inquiry.
This vote on Thursday will also provide ammunition to that. Pelosi is saying in her letter, "we're taking the step to eliminate any doubt as to whether the Trump administration may withhold documents, prevent witness testimony, disregard duly authorized subpoenas or continue obstructing the House of Representatives."
Obviously, the White House has made very clear their perspective on this, tried to stonewall every way they possibly can. Democrats now doing this saying it may help them in the courts as they move to that facet of things as this process moves forward, Wolf.
BLITZER: Phil, this could be potentially a difficult vote at least for some members, right? MATTINGLY: Yes, it's interesting to consider. One of the reasons
Democrats have been weary of holding a full House vote on this is because not every member of their caucus has been full-throated behind impeachment up to this point.
Keep in mind there are dozens of members who are considered majority makers, members who come from Trump-won districts in 2016 and flipped those seats in 2018 and that is why Nancy Pelosi is currently the Speaker of the House.
But what this reflects is that the caucus is in a different place now. You spend the last couple of weeks talking to Democratic members and you realize even some of those front line members is in fact, most of those front line members are very comfortable with the fact that they are moving forward now. They believe the Ukraine issue specifically.
If Democrats are able to keep it tight and just about the Ukraine issue, it is something that they can explain and something they believe deserves an impeachment inquiry, not necessarily a vote. Now, that said, there are some Democrats that are still weary of this.
You can bet the Republican National Committee, the NRCC, the campaign arm of House Republicans are certainly going to seize on this and dozens of press releases are likely coming.
And you're also hearing Republicans say this underscores the fact that Democrats up to this point have not been in a legitimate inquiry and underscores the fact that it has been entirely political up to this point.
You're going to see more back and forth on that, but bottom line here is, there is going to be a vote, a full House vote on Thursday. And Democrats are making clear, this is moving forward and, Wolf, it will be in public very soon.
BLITZER: Yes it will. All right, Phil Mattingly up on Capitol Hill. Thanks very much. Let's go over to the White House right now. Our chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta is there for us. Jim, first of all, any reactions to the breaking news about this full House vote on Thursday?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf. The White House just reacted to the House Speaker's announcement of a vote on the impeachment inquiry.
We can put this up on screen. The White House statement says, "We won't be able to comment fully until we see the actual text, but Speaker Pelosi is finally admitting what the rest of America already knew, that Democrats were conducting an unauthorized impeachment proceeding, refusing to give the president due process and their secret, shady, closed door depositions are completely and irreversibly and illegitimate."
Now, the president was continuing to comment today on the killing of the leader of ISIS. That happened earlier today in Chicago, but the president during his boast may not have been sticking to the facts in his comments.
ACOSTA (voice-over): One day after the mission that took out ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, President Trump is giving himself another pat on the back.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He's dead. He's dead as a door nail and he didn't die bravely either, I will tell you that. He should have been killed years ago. Another president should have gotten him.
ACOSTA (voice-over): The president is going to great lengths to brag that he's outdone his predecessor, Barack Obama, complete with his own situation room photo.
TRUMP: Osama bin Laden was very big. 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.
ACOSTA (voice-over): But as for a key element of the president's original account of the mission that Baghdadi was whimpering in final moments --
TRUMP: They should see how he died. He didn't die a hero. He died a coward, crying, whimpering, screaming --
ACOSTA (voice-over): Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Mark Milley told reporters he wasn't sure about the source of that claim, adding video from the operation may be released in the coming days.
MARK MILLEY, JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: I know the president had planned to talk down to the unit and unit members, but I don't know what the source of that was, but I assume it was talking directly to unit and unit members. I have not talked to unit members, no, that is correct.
ACOSTA (voice-over): The president defended his decision not to notify Democratic leaders about the mission by slamming the impeachment inquiry, claiming the White House had released a precise transcript of his conversation with the leader of Ukraine. But that's not true. The White House only issued a rough transcript.
TRUMP: It was an exact transcription of the conversation so, in a nutshell, a whistleblower wrote a false narrative of the conversation.
ACOSTA (voice-over): The president is also standing by the White House response to former Chief of Staff John Kelly who emerged over the weekend and said he once warned Mr. Trump he'd be impeached if he surrounded himself with yes men.
JOHN KELLY, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: I said whatever you do don't hire a yes man, someone that's going to tell you or won't tell you the truth. Don't do that, because if you do, I believe you'll be impeached. ACOSTA (voice-over): Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham lashed out in
a statement. "I worked with John Kelly, she said, and he was totally unequipped to handle the genius of our great president." Mr. Trump said he thought Kelly just wanted his old job back.
TRUMP: Oh, I don't think it's aggressive at all. I would be surprised if he made those comments in a negative way.
ACOSTA (voice-over): Vice President Mike Pence is also ducking questions in the impeachment inquiry and whether he was aware of a quid pro quo with the leader of Ukraine.
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm telling you that all of my interactions with the president, all of my conversations with President Zelensky were entirely focused on issues of importance to the American people.
ACOSTA (voice-over): Former Vice President Joe Biden is knocking Mr. Trump's response to Russian interference in the 2016 election.
JOE BIDEN (D), PRESDIENTIAL CANDIDATE: He's an idiot. I'm tired of saying that. Everybody knows this. Everybody knows it. Nobody doubts it.
ACOSTA (voice-over): As for the foul reaction the president received at the World Series, White House officials claimed there were plenty of fans in the crowd.
HOGAN GIDLEY, WHITE HOUSE SPOKESMAN: I didn't talk to him about it. I know that there were some people there cheering as well. But listen, it is Washington, D.C. It is a pretty liberal town.
ACOSTA (on camera): The White House was asked why the president didn't share details about the Baghdadi mission, apparently going against a tradition of briefing key members of Congress from both parties about critical national security operations, the White House spokesman again accused Democrats of leaking information.
But when pressed for examples of when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi leaked details about a counter-terrorism operation, the White House could not provide any to recorders.
But Wolf, ending this on a brighter note, the president is leaving his mark on the news cycle this evening, tweeting out this photograph of the dog that was involved in the al-Baghdadi operation. There it is right there. We don't have the name at this point as the hero dog's name remains classified as of this evening, Wolf.
BLITZER: I wonder why it remains classified, but we'll find out at some point I'm sure.
ACOSTA: We'll find out. BLITZER: Jim Acosta, thank you very much. Let's get some more on all of the breaking news. Democratic Congressman Ro Khanna of California is joining us. He's a member of both the Oversight and the Armed Services Committees. Congressman, thanks for coming in.
REP. RO KHANNA (D-CA): Good to be on, Wolf.
BLITZER: Let's talk about this decision by Nancy Pelosi to have the whole full House of Representatives vote on Thursday on a resolution that when authorized -- authorized this impeachment inquiry.
KHANNA: I support the Speaker's decision. It's important to realize though that a federal judge on Friday had ruled that the House already was conducting a legitimate impeachment inquiry. The resolution is just to clarify the procedures going forward and we will have an overwhelming vote to do that.
BLITZER: What ground rules will she set? Assuming this resolution passes, you need 218 votes in the House and there are a lot more Democrats than that.
KHANNA: I think people are going to say that it's going to be an open process. The president is going to have counsel. The president is going to have the right to examine. The Republicans are going to have a sense. And under the United States versus Nixon, a full House vote has impact legally and it is going to put more pressure on people like Kupperman and Bolton to testify and comply with the subpoenas.
BLITZER: As you know, your Republican colleagues and the president, they've all been pressing for this kind of formal House vote on the House floor authorizing an impeachment inquiry. You're finally doing what they've been asking for.
What do you expect? Do you expect there will be greater cooperation now between the administration and the House of Representatives in this investigation?
KHANNA: Well, if they are true to their word, they're getting what they want. We're giving them a resolution that gives an open process. So, let's see now what excuse they have. I mean, it's interesting, Wolf, that they never have a substantive response. It's always attack the process.
I haven't heard a single Republican say yes, I support the president calling Zelensky and telling Zelensky to call for a public investigation into Biden. The facts, they can't defend the facts.
BLITZER: You think some Democrats will vote against this resolution?
KHANNA: I don't think so. It would surprise me. I do think some Republicans may vote for it. I would be surprised if we don't get a few Republicans voting their conscience.
BLITZER: Including Republicans who are not dropping out who will be seeking reelection? KHANNA: Some may, you know. You don't know that someone like Thomas
Massie or Justin Amash who may run as an independent. I mean, I don't want to speculate, but I think there are members of Congress of conscience who cannot believe the president's conduct was constitutional.
BLITZER: As you know, a former National Security official was scheduled to testify today, he did not testify. His lawyer said they'll let the courts decide whether or not he should be testifying even though he was formally issued a subpoena.
It seemed that Adam Schiff, the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, says you know what, we'll move on, we're not going to waste a whole lot of time going through court proceedings right now.
KHANNA: Well. I think Kupperman is going to be forced to testify. The courts are going to hold that executive privilege doesn't apply.
BLITZER: But that could take a long time before they make a decision with that.
KHANNA: I hope they won't and I hope that they will realize the sensitivity of impeachment that they will make a decision that Kupperman isn't protected by executive privilege. Executive privilege doesn't cover illegal conduct and it's a shame that he didn't testify.
But my hope is the courts will recognize the gravity of the situation and resolve it. But it's important to note, we don't need his testimony. I mean, everyone knows what has happened here. The president has bragged about it on television. He's calling for a foreign leader to investigate Joe Biden.
BLITZER: Let's talk about Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the ISIS leader who died in the U.S.-led raid over the past few days. You're on the Armed Services Committee. Have you and your colleagues already been formally briefed?
KHANNA: We have not, but I do want to salute our troops for their bravery and their courage. It was a successful operation. They deserve a tremendous amount of credit and I don't know a single member of Congress who isn't very, very happy and honored by what they did for America.
BLITZER: Do you give the president credit as well?
KHANNA: I give the president credit for ordering the operation. I don't give him credit for then saying our troops should be taking Syrian oil and going and bragging and calling -- making a mockery of Baghdadi was killed because I think that's just going to help al-Qaeda and ISIS recruit. But sure, he ordered the operation. It was a successful operation. Every American should cheer for that.
BLITZER: Yes because, god forbid if it would have been a failure and American troops would have been killed. He would have been blamed for that. He's the commander-in-chief, he made that decision to go ahead and authorize the operation. BLITZER: Well, we're all patriots. The fact that Baghdadi is dead is
good for American security. I salute the troops. I recognize that it was a successful operation.
I'm very glad that no Americans were killed. That said, I hope the president isn't going to now put our troops in Syria to try to expropriate oil. I hope he will tone down the rhetoric. There is no reason to gloat over it and insult Baghdadi and let that video be a recruiting tool for ISIS or al-Qaeda.
BLITZER: Congressman Ro Khanna, as usual, thanks so much for coming in.
KHANNA: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: We're going to continue this conversation down the road. And stay with us for much more and all the breaking news. Democrats now have scheduled a full House vote affirming the Trump impeachment inquiry and setting procedures for open hearings.
BLITZER: Breaking news, in a letter to her colleagues this afternoon, the Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi announced there will be a full House vote this Thursday on affirming the Trump impeachment inquiry and setting up proceedings for open hearings.
Let's bring in our experts to discuss. Dana, what are you expecting from this decision which does represent a change?
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It does represent a change. I mean, what we are hearing from the leadership is that this is not giving Republicans what they want, which was an explicit vote to start the impeachment inquiry.
This is a resolution laying out the parameters for the future, for the process, for public hearings and so forth. Having said that, there has been a very aggressive strategy by Republicans to attack that process to say that it's not fair and it's not right.
And so, this is a defense mechanism, maybe one that is understandable, although, it's quite different from what we heard before to try to protect the process and get on record with what the process will be. The other thing that I am told, Wolf, is that what happened this morning with Mr. Kupperman, the fact that he refused to come in despite the fact that there was a subpoena.
He defied the subpoena and his lawyer wants to instead let the courts decide who is right, the legislative branch who is subpoenaing him or the White House and the administration, which is saying you can't go. They're hoping that at least saying that there is a vote gives the process a little bit more formality which would help in that court case.
BLITZER: And Nia, in her letter, Pelosi says, "we are taking this step to eliminate any doubt as to whether the Trump administration may withhold documents, prevent witness testimony, disregard duly authorized subpoenas or continue obstructing the House of representatives. Nobody is above the law."
I don't think -- it is going to pass. There are more than 218 Democrats in the House. But it is not going to stop the Republicans and the president from complaining.
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: No, it's not. As Dana talking about it, as that literally is out from Nancy Pelosi, I do think this puts them on firmer legal grounds, maybe it puts them on a firmer sort of P.R. strategy as well in defending against this process argument that Republicans are making.
But the Republicans are still going to make this process hard (ph). We've already heard from a few of them, Mark Meadows, essentially saying this isn't the vote that, you know, that Republicans wanted -- Stephanie Grisham, essentially saying the same thing.
She also made another argument which was to say that whatever comes out of these closed door depositions is essentially tainted, right. It's irrevocably illegitimate. So that's another I think interesting argument that we'll see, but they'll continued to talk about the process and we know why they want to talk about the process.
The facts that are coming out whether it is the summation of the call, whether it's the text messages, they are not good for the president. What the president himself has said publicly, not good for the president so that is why they want to continue to talk about process.
BLITZER: You know, Bianna, this is a step by the Democrats to neutralize some of the Republican talking points but is it -- are they essentially giving the Republicans what they've been demanding?
BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN SENIOR GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, at this point, this was something they were going to have to deal with and I think from their standpoint coming just a few days after a federal judge ruled that this investigation or the inquiry is in fact legal, gives them a little bit of momentum.
Also, given that the president despite what Republicans are saying that their focus or at least Republicans in Congress, that they are focused on the process, the president still believes this is about substance and that he thinks it's a perfect call.
And that is where you're going to start to continue to see -- we're going to continue to see clashes internally within the party because Republicans would love nothing more than for the president to acknowledge at some point sooner rather than later then perhaps the call could have been better but there is was nothing impeachable about it.
If the president continues to maintain that there was nothing wrong with this call, to get Republicans on the record saying yes, they agree there was nothing wrong with the call, takes this to an entirely different level.
And don't forget, there is all this focus on Congress right now. The Senate does seem to be taking this very seriously. They of course would be the jurors and it's going to be very difficult, of course, to get 20 Republican senators to side with Democrats but they are taking it seriously.
Remember, Mitch McConnell laid out a PowerPoint presentation. They are prepared for taking this forward. So, Republicans may be trying multiple gimmicks and trying to walk into the hearings, what have you, but at some point this is going to get much more serious for Republicans in Congress as the Senate seems to be taking it.
BLITZER: You know, Jim Baker, you're our legal analyst and former FBI general counsel.
But assuming this passes on Thursday and all of us assume it will pass.
JIM BAKER, FORMER FBI GENERAL COUNSEL: Right.
BLITZER: The Democrats clearly have the votes. Will it give them more legal leverage to get the documents, to get the testimony, to get the other material from the executive branch of the U.S. government that they're seeking?
BAKER: It probably helps some to some degree. I don't see this as primarily a legal issue. This is more of a political question. I mean, I think the sense is that the Republicans are making some hay in the public with this sort of claim about the improper process.
And so this is an issue -- this is an effort to try to take that off the table. But legally speaking, the House has the sole power of impeachment. The majority gets to call the shots in that regard so long as those actions are otherwise consistent with the Constitution.
And so to me this just seems like an effort by the minority to try to run the show and the Speaker has assessed that this is the appropriate thing to do at this point in time. I'm not going to question her political judgment in terms of how this is playing across the country, but it strikes me as primary political, not legal.
BLITZER: Yes. I'm sure the administration, John Kirby, will say there are national security considerations, intelligence considerations, you can't get certain material and we're not going to give you certain material even if the House does pass this resolution.
JOHN KIRBY, CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: Yes, sure. I think that's right. And it's probably their prerogative to some degree but I think I agree. It's more of a political issue now than it is legal or even perhaps national security. I mean, I wouldn't be surprised if they rely on that a little bit, but it's a razor thin margin. BLITZER: It's going to be interesting for now. We will see what
happens on Thursday. I think we know it will pass and then we'll see what happens after that. A lot more and all of the breaking news right after this.
BLITZER: We're back with our experts.
You know, Admiral Kirby, as you know, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, he is dead now, the ISIS leader. Pentagon had a briefing. The President provided a lot of detailed information.
What do you make of all of the specific information that is being released? Because some in the intelligence community and military community, they think maybe too much information is being released.
KIRBY: I'll be honest, I think some of the -- what the President put out yesterday made me cringe a little bit. I was not at all concerned by what I saw the Pentagon put out.
I think they're being very deliberate now through official channels, trying to release as much information as possible. There -- there is an obligation to let the American people know what happened and how it transpired.
I'm more concerned, Wolf, by the leaks, by the unauthorized disclosure of information, particularly about the intelligence process and the analysis that led to locating him. I don't know that that's very helpful in terms of being able to conduct future missions, I think.
BLITZER: Because the President, today, said they will soon be releasing at least some video of what happened.
BLITZER: Good idea?
KIRBY: Yes, I think the -- the -- and -- and General Milley, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, said they're declassifying that, they're working through that. I'm sure they'll be responsible in what kind of video they release. I'm not -- I'm not concerned by that.
BLITZER: What do you think of the President's victory lap on this?
BASH: I don't think anybody is surprised.
That was vintage Donald Trump, you know, to go out, to have a press conference just as the Sunday shows start, 9:00 a.m. on a Sunday, to -- to own those shows, to own -- own the -- you know, the airwaves at that point, but more importantly, to -- to take credit, to use the -- the word "we" when he talked about going in and -- and -- and actually conducting the raid. Not "they," "we." And I -- I don't think anybody expects anything different from -- from him. BLITZER: Yes, and he set the stage even Saturday night. He tweeted
something very big has just happened, trying to generate a lot of excitement.
HENDERSON: Yes. And, you know, people were waiting, right, on Saturday to see what he was going to tweet, to see what the announcement would be. And, of course, a bit of it leaked out on -- on Saturday night and -- and the buildup, of course, was worth it in terms of what -- what they -- they ended up announcing -- the President ended up announcing.
Of course, he sort of has to compare the -- the -- you know, what -- what the SEALs did in -- in this case to what happened with Obama and -- and Osama bin Laden. But it's -- it's vintage Donald Trump to first build it up and have a sort of a reality show T.V. build-up to what he finally announced on Sunday and then to own the -- the airwaves.
BLITZER: Everybody is happy that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, Bianna, is no longer around. He's a -- he was an awful person, a horrible terrorist, killed a lot of people as a result of what he was preaching. What -- what do you think of the way, though, all of this information was released?
GOLODRYGA: Well, look, I -- I think this is an issue where we have to remind ourselves it's not partisan, right? We, as Americans. And the world is a safer place without him. And, obviously, you know, the President should be applauded for being the Commander-in-Chief who called this.
I -- I do think, however, when you hear reports that this raid was successful perhaps in spite of the President and given the -- the fact that he decided last-minute to pull out U.S. troops from Syria and let Turkey really take over the Kurds, it takes away from -- from some of the momentum that -- that the President had going into his announcement yesterday.
But if you look at the bigger picture, you really see what the -- what role intelligence -- U.S. intelligence has played throughout this process, and you've had a president who's constantly attacked his own intelligence agencies. And, yes, he commended them yesterday, but -- but you really just can't get away with cherry-picking which intelligence you want to believe and which intelligence you don't believe.
And what we're hearing from the reports about this raid was it relied on human intelligence. As anybody in the intelligence community will tell you, that it's sources, it's connections, it's trust that they develop over years with our partners and allies on the ground. That -- that seems to be eroding over the past couple of years given that the President's constantly attacking the intelligence community.
So this was a huge move, very successful, but the job's not over. And just because one man is -- is dead doesn't mean that ISIS is. There's about 18,000 other ISIS militants still in the region.
And as we've heard from the Secretary of Defense, Esper, today that the U.S. troops will remain there. There have been question and ambiguity about what our future role there would be, and I think it's reassuring to know we'll continue to be there.
BLITZER: How significant is the -- the -- the death of Abu Bakr al- Baghdadi from your perspective? You spent a lot of time over at the FBI, and you were clearly concerned about terrorism.
BAKER: Absolutely. It's a huge victory for the United States. And the forces who undertook this operation should be thanked, and all Americans should appreciate what they did. And the President should get credit for authorizing it because it was a legitimate thing -- thing to do.
It's going to have, I think, a significant impact on the organization. But some of the comments yesterday, I -- I was concerned about, the longer that press statement -- press conference went on. I think those statements could be interpreted in the region and misused by some to further embolden people to, you know, be involved in this kind of activity.
BLITZER: Out of an abundance of caution, does the FBI, law enforcement, do they take steps now fearing retaliatory action?
BAKER: I would have expected that they would have done that starting as soon as they heard about this.
BLITZER: You mean --
BAKER: I -- I would expect that that's in place right now.
BLITZER: Because they've got to do it.
BLITZER: Guys, stick around. There is much more we're watching, including wildfires in northern and southern California forcing tens of thousands of people to evacuate.
BLITZER: Breaking news, we're keeping a close eye on the wildfires out in California. In addition to major fires in northern California's wine country and north of Los Angeles, a third major fire called the Getty Fire broke out this morning.
It threatens some of the most exclusive neighborhoods in Los Angeles, obscured the skyline with smoke and forced schools, including UCLA, to cancel classes. Among those forced to evacuate, the actor and former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who sent a tweet praising firefighters as true action heroes. In all, the California fires have forced at least 200,000 people from
their homes. And electricity has been cut off for more than 2 million customers. We'll have much more on the fires coming up later.
Also breaking, new details about the hunt for ISIS leader Abu Bakr al- Baghdadi. Let's go to CNN's senior international correspondent Nick Paton Walsh. He's on the scene for us in northern Iraq. What are you learning, Nick?
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, little learned from that Pentagon press conference apart from the fact the U.S. has two men they detained at the scene of the compound. But we are learning from U.S. allies what they say they contributed in terms of how the U.S. located Baghdadi.
I should point out none of this has been confirmed by the U.S. directly, but we're hearing from the Syrian Kurds, the main ground force that kicked ISIS out of its caliphate with U.S. air power at its back.
Their leaders are saying that, in fact, they managed to have an informant inside Baghdadi's inner circle who not only led them to the compound and gave them detailed plans but -- but also stole from that compound some of Baghdadi's dirty underwear and a blood sample, which enabled them to do DNA tests and be a hundred percent sure that it was Baghdadi in that compound.
Remember, this was a very risky raid, so the U.S. had to be absolutely sure they knew they were going to get Baghdadi when they went it. They probably still had some positive DNA from the time when he was in prison in Iraq.
Secondly, we're also hearing from the Iraqis who are saying -- and this is, again, not confirmed by the U.S. -- that they assisted in locating Baghdadi because one of his advisers was arrested in the outskirts of Baghdad. This man called Muhammad Ali Sajid, in fact, led them to a courier. And -- and the Iraqis killed the courier in a raid, but the courier's wife had documents that showed, in fact, where Baghdadi was.
And let's say none of this confirmed by the U.S. but part, I think, of a scramble we're hearing in the region of American allies trying to show how useful they were in this military success.
On top of that too, though, it seems the raids are continuing. Just hours after the Baghdadi raid, there was another one near a town called Jarabulus also, like Idlib where Baghdadi was, under the influence of Turkish controlled militia and sort of Syrian rebels.
Now, in that raid, it seems that the successor of Abu Bakr al- Baghdadi, a man called Abu Hassan al-Muhajir, rarely seen -- rarely talked of, frankly -- he was also killed. It seems most likely, according to a U.S. official, probably also by U.S. airstrikes at some point, too. So these raids continuing, a reflection of the information that Donald Trump said was gathered in that particular compound and a slow erosion of what remains of ISIS' hierarchy. But U.S. forces here continuing this -- this particular work, knowing
fully well that their footprint in Syria is going to be reduced in the weeks and months ahead, are most likely taking out ISIS leaders they could have been allowing to roam freely in the hope they'd lead them to Baghdadi. Now that Baghdadi is dead, these people are less useful, too, in terms as sources of intelligence, Wolf.
BLITZER: Nick Paton Walsh on the scene for us. Nick, be careful over there. Thank you very much.
Coming up, the bloody legacy of ISIS and its leader.
BLITZER: More now on the breaking news, Kurdish forces revealing that it was an informant who led them and U.S. troops to the hiding place of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who blew himself up in this weekend's raid.
CNN's Brian Todd is here with more on one of the world's most feared terror leaders. Brian, al-Baghdadi, he leaves behind a very grim legacy.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He does, Wolf. And as horrible and shocking as Osama bin Laden's legacy is, analysts tell us tonight that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi possessed characteristics in -- in -- in a terror leader that bin Laden simply did not.
They said bin Laden, in his later years, didn't want his followers to commit acts of extreme brutality. That was never a concern for Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi who reveled in that kind of cruelty.
TODD (voice-over): As a young man, he was shy, withdrawn, said to mumble as he spoke. When he was captured by U.S. forces during the early years of the Iraq war, he was thought of as little more than a local thug. But tonight, in the wake of his violent death at the hands of U.S. Special Forces, experts say there's never been another terrorist leader quite like Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: He created a functioning state in part -- in a part of the world where most states don't function very well. I mean, they collected taxes, they had a DMV. They, you know, acted like a state. He also created a terrorist army, and he also created sort of a death cult.
TODD (voice-over): Under Baghdadi's leadership, ISIS burned a captured Jordanian pilot alive and videotaped it. The terror group crucified some prisoners, displayed the heads of others on spikes in busy public areas of their former capital, Raqqa, Syria. PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: He was looking to shake
people in the West, but he's also looking to energize his supporters. For the most extreme of ISIS supporters, these videos energize them.
TODD (voice-over): Possibly the most enduring and horrifying of Baghdadi's legacies, the holding of at least four American hostages, exhibiting them and other Westerners in orange jumpsuits, and beheading them on camera.
In one of those videos, a tall, masked, stone-cold killer known as Jihadi John trash-talked his enemies by name as he presided over the beheading of American journalist James Foley.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Any attempt by you, Obama, to deny the Muslims their rights of living in safety under the Islamic caliphate will result in the bloodshed of your people.
AKI PERITZ, FORMER COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST, CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY: This was really the video that launched a thousand warships. This -- when he murdered Jim Foley on -- online, he suddenly became this -- this -- the boogeyman that scared the West.
TODD (voice-over): Baghdadi was said to run ISIS almost like a corporation, with spreadsheets on assassinations and operatives' missions. And there were some terrifying missions.
November 2015, a coordinated assault in Paris killed at least 130 people, including about 90 inside the Bataclan Theater. 2016, bombings at the Brussels and Istanbul airports killed more than 70. Other mass killings were ISIS-inspired, like the truck attack in Nice, France which killed 84 people and two mass shootings on American soil killing 14 in San Bernardino, California and 49 at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando.
What does it say about the man who presided over all this destruction that, at the very end, he chose to take the lives of three children with him by detonating a suicide vest right next to them?
CRUICKSHANK: It tells you the -- the only thing that counted in the final moments of his life was Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. That these children, these innocents that were with him, did not matter a jot to him.
TODD: Will another jihadist ever emerge to lead ISIS or another terror group who can strike the same level of fear into the West that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi did? Analysts say other jihadist leaders have learned from Baghdadi how to manipulate the media so that is possible. What is likely not possible is that any militant leader will ever again be able to govern an area the size of Portugal with a population the size of Bulgaria's, Wolf.
BLITZER: Who is being talked about tonight, Brian, as a potential successor to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi? TODD: Well, Wolf, CNN Terrorism Analyst, Paul Cruickshank says U.S.
officials are telling him that one man who could succeed Baghdadi is Muhammad Abdal-Rahman al-Mawla.
Al-Mawla, he says, rose up through ISIS' ranks and was an instrumental player in the abduction and slaughter of the Yazidi religious minority in Iraq and Syria, which the U.N. characterized as genocide. He is, as you would expect, a very unsavory character.
BLITZER: Yes, he is. All right, Brian Todd, thanks for that report.
The breaking news continues. Next, the full House of Representatives now expected to vote on the impeachment inquiry for the first time this Thursday as Democrats prepare to go public with their probe.
BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news. Impeachment vote. House Democrats are about to take a major new step forward in their investigation of the President. The full House of Representatives will be going on the record about the impeachment probe for the first time.
ISIS raid informant. We're getting new information about a secret source who helped the U.S. track down Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and confirm his identity ahead of the attack on the ISIS leader that left him dead.