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Father of Kidnapped Girls Speaks Out; Pentagon Begins Work on Nigeria Plan; Lewinsky Talks About Consensual Affair; White House Security Breach; Putin Helps Defuse in Ukraine

Aired May 7, 2014 - 13:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Right now, another horrible attack in Nigeria. This one killing 150 people. And it was carried out by the same terrorist group that's still holding more than 200 schoolgirls.

Also right now, the Monica Lewinsky factor. Will the former intern's reemergence hurt Hillary Clinton's 2016 prospects?

And right now, new polls on the disappearances of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. Nearly half of the people surveyed think searchers are looking in the wrong place.

Hello, I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting from Washington. In Nigeria, they just want their daughters back. The parents of kidnapped school girls are speaking out about the horrifying ordeal. In an exclusive interview with our own Vladimir Duthiers, a father describes looking for his two daughters and realizing they were gone.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When I went into the school compound, nobody will ever stand it. You will see their dresses cut up all over. And the hostel at the dormitory, everything was burned into ashes. So, the watchman told us that they have gone with our daughters. We couldn't believe him.


BLITZER: We're not revealing the father's identity because of concerns about his safety. He says the community is living in fear since the abductions.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Life is very dangerous in Chibok right now. Since on 14th of April, to date, we don't sleep at home. In the evening, right from -- as from 6:00, it will be the same people coming into the town. But around 5:00, 6:00 people will disappear to the bush because there is no security. There is no security. We sleep in the bush with all our little ones.


BLITZER: The terrorist group behind the kidnappings has unleashed a new and deadly attack in northern Nigeria. Witnesses say Boko Haram militants attacked the town near the border with Cameroon, killing at least 150 people. They say the attackers tossed bomb, fired grenades into a crowded marketplace. They also set fire into buildings where people tried to take cover. This latest violence comes as the U.S. military begins to work on a plan to try to help search for the kidnapped girls.

Our Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr has details on that. Also, our Correspondent Zain Asher is joining us with a personal perspective on the kidnapping. She grew up in Nigeria. Barbara, let's start with you. What does the Pentagon planning entail right now?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, what the Pentagon is looking at is assembling a team of about 10 people, military personnel, that are expected to fly to Nigeria in the next couple of days, part of a broader administration effort, including law enforcement and possibly intelligence personnel. The key -- the key here is they are going to offer assistance and help to the Nigerians. But Pentagon officials flat-out say, don't look for a U.S. military rescue operation. This simply would be too difficult to do, at this point.

Why would it be difficult? Well, look, first you've got to have Nigeria's agreement to take the help. Those girls may be across international borders. You would have to have every country's permission. But the bottom line is you have to have perfect, iron- clad intelligence. Where are they? Who is holding them? If they are dispersed now in multiple locations, how do you strike those locations simultaneously so you give the terrorists no warning that someone is coming after them? The problems just mount up -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Enormous problems. And there are calls though, Barbara, as you know, for a direct U.S. military operation in Nigeria. I want you to listen to what Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine told our own Dana Bash.


SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: More can be done by this administration. I would like to see Special Forces deploy to help rescue these young girls.


BLITZER: So, what do the folks over there at the Pentagon say about using Special Forces to go in there? How feasible is that?

STARR: Well, let's say you could solve all the problems and you even had perfect ironclad intelligence which is extremely unlikely at this point. Then you are really talking about assembling a major operation. It would have to be a helicopter assault. That is the only way you're going to get into these remote areas, quickly in, quickly out.

But think of this problem. You go into a village. You go into a town. How do you know, in advance, who is Boko Haram and who may be simply innocent civilian villagers that are not going to take very kindly to U.S. military helicopters descending upon them. And what if some of these girls, as we just said a moment ago, are dispersed? What if they are in major cities, in different buildings, different locations? How -- you know, so many days have gone by now. The opportunities may, may be slipping away -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, hold on for moment, Barbara. Zain, I want to bring you in. You actually grew up in Nigeria. You know the country. Give us a sense, first of all, of what the Nigerian government is up against in this battle against Boko Haram.

ZAIN ASHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf. Yes, so one of the ways you destroy a group like Boko Haram is, of course, through cutting off funding. Part of the problem with Boko Haram in Nigeria is the way they raise their money. So, aside from drug trafficking and other illegal activities, they raise their money through kidnapping and holding people ransom. That is a huge source of income for them.

So, for example, they might hold someone ransom for a few hundred thousand dollars to several million dollars. And now, you have the situation whereby because of that, Boko Haram can be better funded, better armed, better equipped than the Nigerian soldiers themselves. So, that's one issue.

Another issue is, really, this is a third-world country. So, they don't have the same surveillance capabilities as the Americans. Plus, their hideout in the Zambia (ph) Forest, the size of that forest is three type times the size of New Jersey.

So, they do need help, in terms of tracking down this group. You know, it's not as if you can just sort of walk through the forest with a torch file and look for these girls. They certainly do need help -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Tell us about your personal experiences in Nigeria, Zain. I know so many Nigerians. And I know many who live here in the United States are so angry. They're so upset about what's going on there. But what about your family members, situations like these kidnappings, how are they dealing with all of this?

ASHER: Right. So, I'm actually from the southern part of Nigeria. It's a -- it's a state called Enugu. It's on the opposite end of the country from where Boko Haram has their stronghold in the north. But kidnappings in my section of the country are extremely rife. It's for a different reason. It's usually for ransoms as opposed to terrorism.

But, you know, I have a personal experience with it. My uncle, three years ago, was actually coming home late at night and he was kidnapped. He was driven five hours into the middle of the night. But, fortunately enough, the car they used broke down. The kidnappers panicked and they let him go.

But, in Nigeria, for westerners -- Nigerians who are westerners, who sort of live in the western world and then come back to Nigeria every Christmas, there is certainly a general fear about kidnapping just because it's so rife. A lot of Nigerians come back to Nigeria every Christmas. And that is a huge sort of source of revenue almost for the kidnappers, because they know that there are going to be a lot of Nigerians coming back and that is when kidnappings sort of start to increase -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Zain Asher in New York. Barbara Starr at the Pentagon. Zain, give our best wishes to your family --


BLITZER: -- over there. Obviously, we're going to stay on top of this story. A very personal story for you but it's becoming increasingly personal for so many of our viewers here in the United States and around the world. Guys, thanks very much.

These Nigerian kidnappings are highlighting the problems for girls around the world, in fact, trying to overcome barriers to education. You can help make a difference. Go to You will be able to impact your world.

Coming up, Ukrainian troops claim victory in one overrun city but their declaration may be a bit premature.

Also, Hillary Clinton and the Monica Lewinsky effect. One day after new revelations by Monica Lewinsky herself, we'll discuss what it could mean for Hillary Clinton's possible presidential run.


BLITZER: Shame and Survival, that's the title of Monica Lewinsky's essay in the new issue of "Vanity Fair." In it, she talks about her, quote, "consensual affair with President Bill Clinton." But some are questioning the timing of her reentry into the spotlight. Lynne Cheney, the wife of the former vice president, Dick Cheney, thinks the Clintons are actually behind it. Monica Lewinsky says that is not true.

Let's discuss what's going on. Our Political Commentator Ana Navarro is here. What do you think about the assertion by Lynne Cheney that maybe the Clintons are all behind this, some sort of big, grand conspiratorial theory to get it out the way before Hillary Clinton runs in 2016, if she wants to run?

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Gee, it sounds like a vast left wing conspiracy.

BLITZER: Something like that.

NAVARRO: Something like that. I think it sounds crazy. I think anybody who has ever known anybody or been through the pain of, you know, a spouse that had an affair would know that this is not something that you drug up willingly. I don't think it's being drug up by Republicans. I don't think it's being drug up by the Clintons.

I think this is 40-year-old woman, and 40 is a big number for women; it makes a lot of us take stock of our lives, who has decided to take back her narrative. We've heard more about Monica Lewinsky this year between the question that got asked of Senator Rand Paul, between her 40th birthday. And now with this and the possible election of a nomination of Hillary Clinton than we have in the last 10 years. So, I think she wants to tell her story and her side of the story.

BLITZER: Is it smart for someone like Senator Rand Paul, who is potentially a Republican presidential candidate, to start talking about Bill Clinton, who is widely admired, as a sexual predator or whatever words he used?

NAVARRO: Well, in fairness to Rand Paul, he was answering a question that was posed to his wife. And so then, he was asked to respond to what his wife had said. It was not something that he brought out proactively. I think it's toxic politically. And I think it's run its natural life. It is, what, 15, 16 years ago. We haven't seen it harm the Clintons politically in all of that time. Hillary Clinton was re-elected since then. Bill Clinton is the most popular Democrat out there today, the most popular Democrat surrogate certainly. I think that horse has been beat to death.

Certainly, Hillary Clinton, if she runs, needs to be scrutinized. She needs to be scrutinized for her record, and she's got one. She does not need to be put over the coals for something her husband did decades ago.

BLITZER: A lot of us remember Barbara Walters' interview with Monica Lewinsky many years ago after the scandal broke. Here's what Barbara Walters she said today on "The View." Listen to this.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, but you know rumors.

BARBARA WALTERS, HOST, "THE VIEW": The Republican Party loves her story, because they can attack Hillary. Hillary has behaved with the greatest dignity. She has not talked about it. But whatever the Republican Party does, if they want to dredge this up to hurt Hillary, that's a different story.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, her timing had nothing to do --

WALTERS: Monica did not do this now because she's trying to help or hurt Hillary.


BLITZER: What do you think about what Barbara Walters is saying?

NAVARRO: I think there is as little evidence regarding Barbara Walters' statement that it's been a Republican motivated thing as there is behind Lynne Cheney's statement that it was a Hillary thing. Frankly, I think this was a Monica thing. And, you know, she has been quiet for all of this time, Monica Lewinsky, and I think she's chosen this time, in part, because she's anticipating a Hillary nomination, a Hillary candidacy, and she wants to get this out of the way for herself. And, you know what, Wolf, if it helps her move forward, if it helps her as a person, if this gives her some sort of closure and she can let go of this emotional baggage she's been carrying for all this time, girl, get it done. Everybody else has moved forward. Bill Clinton has. Hillary Clinton has. The country has. Let's get it past you.

BLITZER: And when you read that excerpt in "Vanity Fair" that was released yesterday -- an a big chunk is going to -- additional chunk is going to be released tomorrow, what was your -- did you feel sorry for Monica Lewinsky? What was your immediate gut reaction?

NAVARRO: My immediate gut reaction was that we probably haven't thought enough on the -- of the effect on her. We've thought of the political effect on Bill Clinton and on Hillary and on his legacy and the country and what it means for history. But, you know, how many of us really have stopped to think, what did this mean in the life of this 24-year-old girl who is now 40 and how has this affected her life long term? I think it's something she needs to come to terms with. And she needs not to let it define her. Bill Clinton didn't let this affair define his presidency. Hillary Clinton didn't let that affair define her as a woman, as a wife, as a senator. Monica, don't let it define you.

BLITZER: I was, you know, very moved when she writes very emotionally she was so publicly, internationally humiliated that for weeks on end she really maybe once or twice thought about suicide. But her mother was so worried that she might try to commit suicide, she watched her at night every single night. That's a moving segment right there and it speaks a lot about what this woman has gone through.

NAVARRO: I thought it was very introspective and very honest and frankly very revealing. I think she, you know, put her soul and feelings out.

BLITZER: Ana Navarro offering good advice to Monica Lewinsky. Thanks very much, Ana, for coming --

NAVARRO: Move forward.

BLITZER: Yes. All right. That's it. All right, thanks, Ana, thanks very much.

Up next, Ukraine, and an offer from Russia's president, Vladimir Putin. But will he follow through on promises of peace? We're going live to Ukraine and to Russia.


BLITZER: Want to go to White House correspondent Michelle Kosinski right now. Michelle's got some new information on that driver who caused a nearly more than one hour lockdown at the White House yesterday.

Michelle, tell us what you're learning. Remind our viewers who weren't watching us yesterday what happened and what's the new information.

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Yes, this was such a weird situation. I mean people who have worked here for decades say they've never seen anything quite like it. But this car, in the middle of the day, was able to follow a motorcade into the White House secure area. It was the street right outside the White House. And to make matters worse and more alarming at the time, it was the Obama daughters' motorcade.

This was about 4:30 in the afternoon. Locked down the area for more than an hour. But it turned out to be this 55-year-old man who works for the IRS. So everybody questioned, well, was he trying to cut through to the Treasury building, which is on the other side of the White House, or what was he thinking?

Well, now a source inside the Secret Service explains this. It says that he was at an appointment in the afternoon and he usually isn't downtown. He's try to get on a major roadway after his appointment. He's confused by the D.C. traffic around here, to which many of us have to admit can relate. He missed his turn. He panics in traffic around one of those traffic circles and cuts a hard turn right behind the traffic in front of him. Well, he has no idea, according to the Secret Service, that this was an official motorcade, let alone the Obama girls. So he's traveling directly behind these cars. The barriers that block off the street in front of the White House are down and he's able to roll right in behind the motorcade.

So the question is, well, why didn't those barriers go right back up? I mean what would happen in the case if this was a real, say, terrorist? Well, the Secret Service says that it was really a timing issue. That, first all, the agents on duty had to react and decide whether to try to put those barriers right back up. But it does take a second or two for them to go up. So Secret Service says that it did react immediately once the car was inside. They stopped it. They arrested the man. He's now charged with a misdemeanor. But they do think that this was an honest mistake, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, it does underline, though, a potential serious problem. You have a motorcade. Let's say two cars, two vehicle, going into a secure area.

KOSINSKI: Exactly.

BLITZER: The third car just starts following them.

KOSINSKI: Right. Right.

BLITZER: I mean I've covered the White House for a long time. I never - I don't remember an incident like this. You're absolutely right. It could be pretty terrifying.

KOSINSKI: Right. So -

BLITZER: They had to spend an hour just going through that car to make sure there was no bomb inside.

KOSINSKI: Right. And this, you know, confused man outside, you have to feel for him, just making this mistake. That, you know, you think about it, really, any of us might have done that. You're following traffic. You don't even realize maybe that the barriers are there in the first place and they happen to be down right at that moment.

But, you know, we did ask that question, well, what if this were some kind of malicious intent and that's how they get in, they follow the motorcade? Well, you have to expect that if a car, you know, an unidentified car and the Secret Service did see and it was very obvious in this case that this car was not part of the motorcade, all they can really do is react immediately. And if that car did have a malicious intent and tried to speed through, you know that they would have taken more severe measures.

But it is now, you know, something that's being looked at, they say, that there is a timing issue there, clearly. This makes it very clear to the public that those barriers can really only react so quickly and there's a human then having to react behind that sort of technical side of things, Wolf.

BLITZER: Well, at least it was not a big issue this time. Let's hope they fix it to make sure that if there is a malicious intent, it doesn't succeed. Michelle, thanks very much for that update. I myself was curious overnight what exactly was this guy doing following that motorcade into the White House.

Other news we're following. Let's go to Ukraine right now. The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, says he's ready to help defuse the situation. He's urging pro-Russian rebels to postpone a Sunday referendum on joining Russia. That planned referendum has withdrawn more threats of sanctions from the United States. He also says he's pulling troops back from the Ukrainian border, but the White House says they've seen no evidence of a withdrawal, at least not yet.

Inside Ukraine, the fighting continues between government troops and pro-Russian forces. Our own Arwa Damon is on the scene for us in eastern Ukraine, Matthew Chance is in Moscow.

Matthew, first to you. Putin says his troops are going or already have started moving away from the border. They've had 40,000 to 50,000 according to U.S. officials. What is the latest information you're getting there? What's he doing?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, well, it's interesting, isn't it, because the west is -- the United States and others are treating this with a large degree of skepticism. But in a meeting with the Swiss president earlier today, after that meeting, Vladimir Putin came out and said he understands there's lots of concerns about the tens of thousands of troops that have been stationed along the Ukrainian border on the Russian side. And because of those concerns, he's ordered them back to their barracks and to their regular training grounds as an attempt to sort of deescalate the situation.

You know, it's not very often or rather Vladimir Putin isn't particularly known for his flip-flopping, but he has undertaken what seems to be a significant u-turn in his policy towards Ukraine over the course of the past couple of hours but saying, for instance, that he now supports essentially a presidential election to take place in Ukraine on the 25th of May as a step in the right direction. Just a few days ago he spoke saying it was absurd for any kind of presidential elections to take place given the security situation there.

He's also called on the separatist pro-Russian groups in eastern and southern Ukraine to postpone their plans for a series of referendums on independence over the course of the upcoming weekend. That's a significant departure from the kremlin's policy as well. So it does seem that, you know, despite the skepticism, it is the first possible sign we've seen in some time that the situation may be deescalating.


BLITZER: And U.S. officials are telling me they think the sanctions - the U.S., the European sanctions -- are beginning to bite and bite personally for Putin and his top aides and maybe that's one of the reasons we see this blink coming from Vladimir Putin right now, beginning to sound very, very different. But we shall see in the coming hours what unfolds. Matthew, stand by Arwa Damon is in eastern Ukraine for us, as she has been over these past several weeks.

What are you seeing, A, on the ground?

ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we were in Mariupol earlier today and that is where overnight Ukrainian troops had tried to move in and they had clashed with pro-Russian militants on the outskirts according to a spokeswoman for the pro-Russian camp, killing five of them. But they did manage to regain control of city hall after pro-Russian protesters evacuated it. So, surprisingly, when we arrived there this morning, it was, in fact, the Ukrainian flag that was flying.

But then with no reason given to anyone whatsoever, the Russian troops that were occupying the building evacuated it and within seconds that Ukrainian flag was down, the Russian flag and the regional one right back up. The crowd there then moving to the police station, where they were trying to free detainees. The police firing shots over their heads to try to disperse them.

And we've been seeing this growing anger at a checkpoint, Wolf, for example, that is along one of the routes from Mariupol to the Russian border. There people gathered yelling at the military, and at one point even forming something of a human chain to try to prevent military armor from moving forward. So it's still a very tense and volatile situation.

BLITZER: In a Senate hearing yesterday, the assistant secretary of state, Victoria Nuland, testified that if elections were held today, they would go off without a hitch, including in places like where you are, in Mariupol, Donetsk, Odessa (ph), other places. Based on what you're seeing, Arwa, do you think that's accurate?

DAMON: To be held today, that would be very difficult to fathom, Wolf, because the Ukrainian government has little to no authority in large parts of eastern Ukraine, nor do they control key buildings like the main administration centers, like their main security services buildings. And also, the access, the lists of voter, the locations of polling sites, all of those vital documents, they're in the hands of the pro-Russian camp. So it's difficult to see how, if an election were to be held today, a presidential election, that is, it would be even feasible in this part of the country.

BLITZER: Arwa Damon in eastern Ukraine, thank you. Matthew Chance in Moscow for us, thanks to you as well.

A meeting of the minds in Australia over the next big phase in the search for Flight 370. You're going to find out what officials are considering as they map out the unprecedented new mission.