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Rove Clarifies Hillary "Brain Injury" Remark; Is Bush Family Divided over Jeb Bush for 2016; Man Rams TV Station, Barricades Himself Inside; Report: All Planes Should Have Full-Time Tracking; Brother, Sister Live Through War in Syria; Kyle White to Receive Medal of Honor

Aired May 13, 2014 - 13:30   ET


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: And she actually spent three days in the hospital at New York Presbyterian. It was very serious at the time. I think even caught some of her aides off guard. But many people close to her now will say she is 100 percent, there were no lasting effects.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Maggie, you spent a lot of time covering Hillary Clinton. This issue all of a sudden coming to the surface, long after she did suffer that blood clot.

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST & SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER, POLITICO: Karl Rove said something that a lot of conservatives have been buzzing about for a while, questions about whether there were lingering effects from this health issue. I do think this was an effort to put it into the foreground. I don't think it went the way he wanted it to go. He is adamantly insisting he didn't use the words "brain damage." That is a very serious thing to say.

It is justifiable with any presidential candidate. This came up with John McCain. It came up with Bob Dole. It has come up with everyone who has run, you know, whether they are fit to serve. This always gets asked. There's a difference between asking that question and stating that somebody has brain damage. That takes it a tad over the line.

I do think that the Clintons, the statement that came from her spokesman is correct, that this is an effort to try to put it into the atmosphere and get people focused on it. There is -- there are legitimate questions to ask. The way in which this was framed only serves to look like she is being attacked, which is going to rev up Democrats very strongly, and did last night all over Twitter.

BLITZER: It certainly will.

Guys, I want to move on to another subject. The former Florida governor, Jeb Bush. He's long been consider a possible GOP presidential candidate in 2016 but some members of the Bush family seem less than enthusiastic about him running for the White House.

Maggie, you have a new piece in today's "Politico," portraying the Bushes as sort of a house divided on this issue of a possible Jeb Bush candidacy. You write this, you write this about his mother Barbara, quote, "Jeb Bush seemed stunned by his mother's comments made over the past year, ones she repeated at a recent George W. Bush Presidential Library event where she declared there have been enough Bushes for the country."

So you've been doing some reporting on this. I know others have as well. What do the other members of the family say about this? Gloria Borger spoke with one of his brothers. He made it clear he would like Bush to run. Jake Tapper spoke with George W. Bush. He said he's open to him running. What's going on?

HABERMAN: Open to him running and wanting him to run are two different things. People who have spoken with George W. Bush walked away with the impression he is not exactly a one-man drafting committee. That's something George W. Bush's spokesman denied, saying he is very much for his brother running and he's very proud of his record, has no concerns about that getting debated in another campaign.

Jeb Bush's father, most importantly, his former-president father, would like him to run. But his mother has been more tepid about it. People around her and a spokesman for H.W. Bush and Barbara says, in part, that's because she doesn't want people to think there's a sense of entitlement that comes with being a Bush and he has a prerogative to do this. His wife is also another major concern.

BLITZER: Neil Bush, the other brother, told Gloria yes, he thinks he should run. George W. Bush told Jake Tapper he thinks he should run as well. We'll see what happens.

Brianna, you've been covering the Clinton camp. How do they feel about a possible Jeb Bush run for the White House?

KEILAR: I don't know how Hillary Clinton would feel about this. I think there are a lot of Democrats who would actually like this. They feel like it would be more of an issue-based campaign. But I also heard from some who wonder if he's really in fighting form. You know, we've been seeing Hillary Clinton in a way -- she was out of the political spotlight for quite a while as secretary of state. She's getting back into it. Maggie and I have talked about this. Sort of flexing those muscles that she hasn't in a while.

You know, is Jeb Bush really there? And also, I've spoken with Republicans who say, of all the potential Republican candidates, they, by and large, would want Jeb Bush to be the Republican candidate. But even they say, you know what, I just don't know if it's possible with that last name.

BLITZER: We don't know if Jeb Bush is going to run. We don't know if Hillary Clinton is going to run. But we will find out over the course of the next several months.

Maggie, thanks very much for joining us. Always good to have you here.

Brianna, thanks to you as well. When we get back, we have breaking news. A man has reportedly barricaded himself inside a Baltimore TV station after ramming the building with a truck. We're taking you to the scene. That's coming up.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: I want to get back to the breaking news in Towson, Maryland, outside of Baltimore. A man rammed a truck into a TV station, WMAR. That's a CNN affiliate. Apparently, still inside.

Larry Carney is joining us on the phone. He's an executive producer of the investigation unit at WMAR.

What can you share with us, Larry? What do we know?

LARRY CARNEY, EXECUTIVE PRODUCER, INVESTIGATIVE UNIT, WMAR (voice- over): The man came to the door originally, screamed that he was God. He wanted to get in. Our security guard wouldn't allow it. He left, or so we thought. He came back, got in his truck and rammed all the way through the lobby.

BLITZER: Do you know if anyone was injured during that ramming of the truck through the lobby?

CARNEY: No, everyone got out from the crash safely. We believe we have everyone accounted for. We're fairly certain of that.

BLITZER: The assumption is the man is armed, is that right?

CARNEY: We know the man had several guns in his car, in his truck. It's more of a landscaping truck. And he is apparently on the second floor of the building somewhere right now.

BLITZER: So police -- Baltimore County police and others are going through the building. Is that's what's going on right now?

CARNEY: That is what's going on.

BLITZER: And as far as you know, Larry.


BLITZER: -- everyone is out of the building, so no one is -- at least immediately, is in harm's way?

CARNEY: That's what we believe right now. We believe everybody's accounted for. As you know, in a news situation, crews come and go throughout the day. So getting a hard number is a little bit more difficult.

BLITZER: The assumption is this man took the weapons he had in the truck and ran inside, in the building up to that second floor, and he might be loaded with a lot of weapons and ammunition, that's the fear? CARNEY: That is the fear.

BLITZER: And so what's happening outside? What's it like over there?

CARNEY: Right now, the area is blocked off. We're being kept about 100 yards away. I'm actually with a CNN crew right now. And they have surrounded the building. The SWAT team is in there right now.

BLITZER: And they're obviously trying to establish some sort of contact, some communication with this individual. As you say, when he went in there earlier, he said he was God, is that right?

CARNEY: Yes. And we asked him why he wanted to come inside and talk to somebody. He would not tell us. Because of that, our security guard would not let him in.

BLITZER: He left and then he came back with the truck and rammed --


CARNEY: -- and got in his truck --

BLITZER: And no one was hurt. No one was hurt. I take it the station -- your station, WMAR, is in taped programming right now, right?

CARNEY: We are.



CARNEY: But we're covering it online, and that's how we're handling this in the new age of new media.

BLITZER: Larry Carney, the executive producer of WMAR.

Good luck over there. We'll stay in close touch with you. Let's hope this thing ends quickly and peacefully. That would be excellent news for all of us.

Thank you very much.

We're continuing to follow other important news, including this question. Should all commercial airplanes around the world have full- time tracking? We have a new report from an industry watchdog. We'll share it with you when we come back.


BLITZER: The disappearance of flight 370 could now have a big effect on how commercial planes are tracked around the world. Just a little while ago, the United Nations agency that overseas international aircraft navigation was supposed to issue a report. In it, we're told, it says that "global tracking of airplanes is needed and has the full support of various industry groups to make it happen." Again, the report coming out just a few minutes ago. We should be getting a copy of it fairly soon.

Let's bring in our plane panel to discuss what's going on. Peter Goelz is a CNN aviation analyst, former NTSB managing director. Tom Fuentes is our law enforcement analyst, former assistant director of the FBI. And aviation correspondent, Richard Quest is joining us from South Africa right now.

Richard, what do you make of this new directive from this international organization that we've never should have to go through what the world has been going through these past several weeks with a plane simply disappearing?

RICHARD QUEST, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: A classic phrase that you'll be familiar with, "a day late and a dollar short." They should have done this after Air France 447. That's when it was also called for.

What I'm expecting is a short-term solution, an immediate, if you like, this is what is possible, let's get on and do it. And then a medium and a long-term solution that will not only encompass real-time tracking, but also some sort of black box in the sky.

And to put it into perspective, Wolf, Inmarsat, the main satellite provider of this sort of data, has short-circuited the process. They've said there are -- well, you know there are 11,000 planes flying long haul that have Inmarsat capability, and I would expect to see that incorporated quite quickly into any final proposals. But the fact that ICAO has finally moved itself on this crucial issue will be welcomed.

BLITZER: But Richard makes a good point, Peter, an excellent point. There were similar calls after that Air France plane disappeared in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Brazil in 2009, but nothing was done, why?

PETER GOELZ, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Well, the industry is slow to react. They see an event like the Air France accident like an once- in-a-lifetime occurrence. They don't want to spend a lot of money on what they see as unneeded avionics. They don't want to take a step that has unwanted, you know, consequences. They are simply slow. But Malaysian flight 370 is going to change the way we do business.

BLITZER: On that front -- and you're a former -- Tom, you're a former FBI assistant director -- what other lessons should they be learning from this? Assuming we don't find the plane for months, maybe years. We don't know what happened. But there should be other security- related steps that are taken if, in fact, it was a criminal act on the part of an individual or individuals. Shouldn't there be some security decisions made now to preclude this kind of event from occurring again?

TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: You're right, Wolf, but there won't be. My experience in 30 years in the federal government is you can decide all you want that we have to do something immediately and take action, but actually taking that action and implementing the proposals are two different things. So they can talk about these planes are going to get tracked real-time around the world when they go across oceans. When's that going to happen? Any time soon? No, we could be dealing with this a year from now, maybe five years from now. I'm not optimistic that anybody is doing anything in the short run.

BLITZER: Richard, we're no closer, correct me if I'm wrong, to knowing whether it was some sort of catastrophic mechanical failure or it was a criminal act on the part of individuals -- or an individual or individuals, are we?

QUEST: I will go further than that, Wolf. We are further away from knowing. Because now, of course, we've got this entire canopy of questioning over the Inmarsat handshakes and, now, in the last 24 hours, questions over the pings under water.

Now, Angus Houston told Anna Coren he's still hopeful. We know they're searching around ping one today. But it just shows the unique nature of this incident and the ferocious complexity to bring it to anything like fruition.

BLITZER: Let's not forget, 239 people were on board that plane. Let's also not forget this is a U.S.-made Boeing 777. It cost about $250 million. There are more than 1200 of them flying around the world right now. If there was a mechanical problem, they've got to figure it out so it doesn't happen again. If it was a security related problem, they need to figure that out as well.

Guys, thanks very, very much.

Living through constant danger while on the brink of starvation. Up next, how a brother and sister survived for more than 700 days in a town under siege in Syria.


BLITZER: There's been another major blow to efforts to get some sort of peaceful arrangement under way in Syria. The U.N. special envoy in charge of the mediating talks between the government there and rebels has resigned, effective May 31st. Comes on the same day the group Human Rights Watch said the Syrian government is using so-called barrel bombs that contain chlorine gas. These bombs are metal containers, filled with explosives. Just watch the impact of one of these alleged barrel bombs.




BLITZER: A report released today alleges Syria used this kind of a weapon three times in two northern provinces last month, each containing the chemical that's banned by an international treaty Syria joined last year.

Meanwhile, people are returning to the Syrian city of Homs where a declared truce between government forces and rebel troops are holding. But there's a brother and sister who never left despite the constant danger and the desperate conditions.

CNN's Fred Pleitgen has their story.


FRED PLEITGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The massive destruction in the old town of Homs shows the whole tragedy of Syria's civil war. But in the middle of the sad scene --


PLEITGEN: -- some are beaming with joy.

Zeinat Akhras, one of only a handful of civilians who lived through the nearly 2.5-year siege of old Homs.

"I don't even want to think about it," she says. "The last three months were the toughest because we could only eat grass and leaves all the time."

The Syrian army sealed off homes after it fell into rebel hands. Supplies of food and medicine quickly depleted.

Zeinat's brother, Ayman, was trapped with her the whole time. He tried to find food and gather firewood for the little stove in their apartment.

"I took wood inside," he said. "It's some of the wood rebels broke out of homes to burn."

Ayman used the leftovers.

When virtually all their food had run out, they were forced to eat leaves. He said, of all places, he found the best ones in a graveyard. He asked me to try one.

(on camera): It's OK. It's OK. Every day?


PLEITGEN (voice-over): "For breakfast, lunch and dinner," he says. And each meal was just a tiny bowlful.

"For breakfast we cut it up and ate it fresh with one or two spoons of olive oil and spices," says Zeinat. For lunch, we did the same thing, but we tried to fry it over the stove. We also put some water on it just to change the taste a little."

(voice-over): We always have to keep in mind the people who were stranded here were not only starving, they were also subjected to intense shelling that laid waste to large parts of the historic town of Homs.

(GUNFIRE) PLEITGEN: With its use of heavy weapons and the siege of this and other districts in Homs, the Assad regime is accused of using starvation as a weapon in the civil war.

Zeinat and Ayman say their apartment was raided by opposition fighters dozens of times. The rebels took most of their few remaining supplies.

"They took everything," he says, "marmalade, five canisters of olive oil, honey, tea. They didn't leave anything."

After more than two years of hunger, Zeinat is weak. She weighs only 34 kilos, around 68 pounds. These photos from a family celebration show her before the conflict began.

Both Zeinat and Ayman are survivors. The siege of Homs may have left them frail and thin, but strong in spirit and determination and hopeful about the future.

Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Homs, Syria.


BLITZER: Let's return to Eastern Ukraine right now where six Ukrainian soldiers were killed in an attack by separatist forces. The government of Kiev calling it a terrorist attack. Meanwhile, this man, a separatist leader in one of the two breakaway regions, who voted for independence over the weekend, was shot in a suspected assassination attempt. His injuries are said to be non-life- threatening.

In a little more than an hour from now, President Obama will award an American soldier with the highest American military honor. Wounded and braving enemy fire, this young man risked his own life to save the men around him.

Here's our senior Washington correspondent, Joe Johns.


JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For radio telephone operator, Kyle White, and soldiers of Chosen Company 2nd Battalion Airborne, the mission to meet with village elders in northeastern Afghanistan had red flags from the very start. They suspected the villagers of collusion with the enemy.

SGT. KYLE WHITE, U.S. ARMY, RETIRED: A lot of us, we had that gut feeling, right before we left, that something wasn't right.

JOHNS: More alarms, it seemed like every male of fighting age and above was at the meeting. Radio communications were coming in a language the interpreter did not understand. And then when they left, the shooting started.

WHITE: One, and then two shots, and then the echo, and then just fully automatic fire. Rocket-propelled grenades coming in from what seemed like everywhere.

JOHNS: White was knocked unconscious. When he woke up 10 of the 14 Americans were nowhere to be found. Among those White could see was Marine Sergeant Phillip Box, by now, now severely wounded. White repeatedly braved enemy fire to drag Box to safety. Box later died, along with five other Americans.

The Medal of Honor is being awarded to White for what he did to try to save his comrades and get them out of there, though he said he never expected to make it home himself.

WHITE: I told myself from the beginning of that ambush that I was going to be killed. Just the amount of fire, I'm not going to make it through this.

JOHNS: But he did, along with Specialist Kain Schilling, of Iowa, who said he owes his life to White.

SPC. KAIN SCHILLING, U.S. ARMY, RETIRED: I was probably more excited than he was. It just shows he absolutely saved my life that day, and many others.

JOHNS: Those who survived wear wrist bands of those who did not. White sees the Medal of Honor as a tribute to them.

WHITE: To me, the heroes are those that lost their lives that day because they gave their lives in defense of all of us and all of America.

JOHNS: Joe Johns, CNN, the White House.


BLITZER: CNN will bring the Medal of Honor ceremony live to you. It starts an hour from now, 3:00 p.m. eastern.

That's it for me. Thanks for watching. 5:00 p.m., I'll be back in "The Situation Room."

NEWSROOM with Brooke Baldwin starts now.