Return to Transcripts main page


Militants Take Another Iraqi City; U.S. Sends In Marines To Protect Embassy; Hillary Bests Obama in New CNN/ORC Poll

Aired June 16, 2014 - 06:00   ET


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to NEW DAY. It is Monday, June 16th, 6:00 in the east. Iraq may be conquered by a militant group. That's not just a startling headline. It is an ever increasing reality. Overnight, ISIS has taken over another city and two villages. Iraq's government is striking back, launching air strikes against the group. American marines are now heading in to help protect the U.S. Embassy. We're going to check to see how safe Americans are there.

The Obama administration is now facing even more pressure to get involved and is even considering speaking with a long-time enemy. We have complete coverage on this story beginning with senior international correspondent, Nic Robertson live in Baghdad. Nic, what's the latest?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Chris, ISIS has taken the town of Tel Afar in the north of Iraq, important because it shows the type of smart thinking military type strategy they've used. They bypassed that town because they knew it would put up resistance.

They swept south, then went back to deal with it and have taken control of it. This comes at the same time they're releasing horrific images they say are their fighters killing Iraq's security forces.


ROBERTSON (voice-over): Chilling images inside the country on the brink of another civil war. The radical Islamist terrorist group, ISIS apparently capturing dozens of Iraqi soldiers dressed in civilian clothes, lining them up for execution. The bloodshed leaving no doubt about their brutality as ISIS seizes Tel Afar, another major city in Iraq.

The terrorists possibly gaining control over its army base which would mean more armored vehicles, weapons, and ammunition up for grabs, some of the weaponry provided by the U.S. Asking his identity be concealed, CNN's Arwa Damon interviewing an Iraqi colonel who says his unit alone left behind 25 Humvees, 10 sniper rifles and 20 rocket launchers when they fled.

ISIS already well into Baquba overrunning another army base just 37 miles northeast of Baghdad. The terrorists edging closer than ever to the capital.

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: If Baghdad falls, if the central government falls, a disaster awaits us of monumental proportions.

ROBERTSON: The U.S. partially evacuating Baghdad's embassy and beefing up security. The imminent threat from the north leaves the Iraqi government desperate for soldiers calling on volunteers. Hundreds of civilians, young and old, marching through the streets of Baghdad, now having to defend their country. With minimal resources or little control on the ground, the Iraqi military uses aerial strikes to target ISIS positions in Mosul, Iraq's second largest city.

AYAD ALLAWI, FORMER PRIME MINISTER OF IRAQ: Now it's more dangerous than before. This one definitely would not be restricted to the boundaries of these countries, it will spill over to Europe and the terrorism could spread to the world at large.


ROBERTSON: Well, the government claims to have killed 200 ISIS fighters, but in the videos that we've seen that the Ministry of Defense here has released so far, they show helicopters targeting buildings. But you don't actually see any people that are being hit so far -- Chris.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Nic, I'll take it, on the ground in Baghdad for us. So let's talk about the potential U.S. response to all of this. An American aircraft carrier and two other Navy ships are in the Persian Gulf as this crisis in Iraq heats up, this as the military provides extra security for diplomatic facilities in Baghdad.

CNN's Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr is joining us with more on the U.S. military assets. They are really are in play in the region and what are the next steps could be -- Barbara.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Kate. Here is where we are at the Pentagon at this moment. The aircraft carrier "George H.W. Bush" plus two additional warships are in the Persian Gulf. Dozens of Army and Marine Corps personnel have moved into the embassy in Baghdad to provide security even as some diplomats have been moved out to safer areas.

So the carrier, "The Bush," what could it do if security deteriorates further? It's got three basic jobs. It could use its aircraft to conduct surveillance, to provide intelligence about where some ISIS targets are. It could begin air strikes if President Obama were to order them.

But right now the intelligence, that crucial intelligence about where the ISIS targets exactly, precisely are on the ground is very spotty. Of course, its third job could be to evacuate Americans if the security situation deteriorates further. It could use its helicopters to ferry them out of the embassy area -- Chris.

CUOMO: All right, Barbara, obviously that's a source of considerable concern, what happens to the Americans there, are they supported enough, one of the pressing questions. The headline, of course, question wise is, can ISIS overtake the country? Should the U.S. send troops? Should they work with Iran?

Do we have another embassy vulnerable to attack? Those are the big questions. We have a man with answers to these most important questions. Retired General Anthony Zinni. In the years leading up to the invasion of Iraq, he was commander-in-chief of the U.S. Central Command in charge of all American troops in the Middle East.

Thank you very much for joining us, General. Let's leave the past in the past because we have pressing concerns in the present. But fair to say someone who is a critic of the strategy over there and now the decision to leave Iraq, are we being haunted by that decision, General?

GENERAL ANTHONY ZINNI, USMC (RETIRED), FORMER CENTCOM COMMANDER IN CHIEF: I think definitely, we're being haunted from our initial intervention there, which was done in a very poor fashion and we face this situation now that we've created.

CUOMO: Now, I would love for you to say no, you're exaggerating it, Chris. But the information we have on the ground is that ISIS can, in fact, overtake the country if things continue in this way. Why are they advancing so quickly? What do you believe in terms of their numbers and capabilities?

ZINNI: I think there's several reasons. One, you have a disenfranchised Sunni population in the north. They may be playing on the fears and the apathy and maybe even gaining some support because the Maliki government wasn't as responsive to their needs. I think you can see that the Iraqi military didn't have the backbone or motivation despite all the effort and money we poured into training them and providing them with the equipment.

I think the resistance from the Iraqis in the south will harden because obviously you have Shia now confronting the Sunnis in the north and the militia. But that makes for a messy civil war in street fighting down in the cities of Baghdad and further south which I think will lead to the deterioration of the entire country.

CUOMO: Is it fair to say, building on your last point, deterioration of the entire country. If what it takes is to beat back ISIS is to have a mix militia of definite ethnic groups who are not united under Nouri Al-Maliki, the current leader in Iraq. Even if you win against ISIS, do you still lose in terms of having a stable country?

ZINNI: I think whatever comes out of this, this Maliki government has to change and reform. Maliki himself may have to step down. Something needs to follow up with a more inclusive government that reaches out certainly to the Sunni population, makes them feel part of the country and able to share in the resources that are being centrally controlled in Baghdad now that they feel they have no access to.

CUOMO: General, let's focus on the U.S. now. The Obama administration very strong. No boots, no boots, no boots on the ground. Are they playing politics? Do you believe the U.S. can have an impact on this situation that can be decisive without boots on the ground?

ZINNI: First of all, I think it's a mistake to tell the enemy what you won't do. There was no need to say that. I do believe we ought to put Special Forces teams on the ground with Iraqi forces, certainly with the Kurds and the Peshmerg (ph) in the north and also the Jordanians. They can provide ground intelligence that Barbara mentioned that we're lacking.

They also can control air strikes, if necessary. They can function as advisers, and if we decide we want to further equip these forces to counter ISIS, then I think they're a conduit for us putting more equipment and capability on the ground. We need eyes on the ground. I think these are ideally trained units.

I also think we ought to have a more robust capability to evacuate Americans if necessary. I don't believe just the carrier itself. I would like to see an amphibious ready group in there. More helicopters, more marines. What we have right now in the embassy is fine for a point defense of the embassy itself, but it's not enough for an evacuation if necessary.

CUOMO: Well, that's an important point. With the specter of Benghazi looming, when you hear there are 50 to 100 Marines on the ground and they have a carrier, maybe two in the area, you do have legitimate concerns that if these hoards of ISIS make it through that we could be in trouble there?

ZINNI: I do. And I believe it's not necessarily hoards of ISIS, but if the street fighting and the suicide bombing inside Baghdad gets worse, and I'm sure central command has a plan for this, but I'd like to see a more robust force capable of doing this. I would also add this can't just be America's concern.

I would hope we have people at the U.N. working towards a resolution authorizing the use of force as George Bush 41 did before the first gulf war. I also think we need a creative coalition of the Arab countries that are our allies in the region, particularly the gulf cooperation council in the south.

If we make this a Shia versus Sunni, legitimize it as a religious war, it's going to spread throughout the region. We need the Sunni Arabs with us to make a statement this doesn't represent a religious faction supported by Sunnis.

CUOMO: Let's follow that through in terms of what that would mean for U.S. strategy politically. You were an outspoken critic of not getting that U.N. resolution before starting this current conflict that led us to where we are. I understand the sensitivity to getting that. On the political level, do you think the U.S. should open direct talks with Iran to help in this situation, to work together?

ZINNI: No. First of all, don't make deals with the devil here. Iran represents really the Shia factions. That would legitimize the religious war that I'm sure ISIS and others would like to see. I would be more concerned about developing a coalition to support. It comes from the Arab nations, Jordan, the Kurds, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and those in the south. That's a more important coalition to put together right now.

CUOMO: Of course, to the Iraqis, knowing the Iranians are involved at all, after the years of war they had with them would be a mixed bag of reception also. General Anthony Zinni, thank you so much for the perspective. As this continues, we'll be calling on you for guidance. Thank you for being with us on NEW DAY.

ZINNI: Thank you, Chris.

CUOMO: All right, so there are several other stories you'll want to watch as you start your NEW DAY. Let's get to John Berman in for Michaela -- John.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Officials blaming the al Shabaab terrorist group for a deadly attack overnight in Kenya. The Red Cross says 48 people were shot and hacked to death as attackers went door-to-door in a small coastal town. It happened as many residents were watching the World Cup on TV.

As Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl continues his recovery in a Texas military hospital, the army has appointed an unnamed two star general to investigate the soldier's disappearance five years ago. It's thought he was captured after he left his post. The departure brought accusations of desertion from some of the soldiers who served with Bergdahl.

Republican lawmakers now demanding answers from the IRS for losing former agency official, Lois Lerner's e-mails. Several lawmakers now calling for an immediate investigation. The agency notified Congress Friday that it couldn't recover Lerner's e-mails from January 2009 through April 2011 because of a computer crash. She is the central figure in the IRS controversy over flagging Tea Party and other interest groups tax exemption applications.

Cash registers at Target stores are back to normal this morning after a payment glitch led to long checkout delays at some stores across the country. Look at these unhappy lines. Customers say they were told the stores couldn't process debit card transactions. Target is not confirming that, but does say the glitch was not related to any data security issues.

This comes as Target tried to win customers back after hackers stole personal data from millions of customers. We'll have more on that later in the show. That does not look like a happy Father's Day line -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: If it's not related to security issues, maybe if they're putting new security measures in place that the system couldn't handle.

BERMAN: I.T. problems at Target.

CUOMO: Issues versus problems versus I.T., sounds like all the same thing to me. They've got trouble.

BOLDUAN: Can't swipe my card, can't get my goods.

CUOMO: Customers isn't happy.

BOLDUAN: Let's get over to meteorologist, Indra Petersons now taking a look at the forecast. How is our week going to start out, my dear?

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: As we go into the workweek it's ugly again. All these showers and humidity comes back. You want the weekend to be nice. Right now, we still have that pattern. We are talking about high pressure in the east, low pressure in the west. Let me translate that for you. We have severe weather threat.

We're talking about Minneapolis, Madison, Des Moines, even back in through Omaha about 14 million of you looking for that heightened risk especially as we go through the afternoon. That's going to be the biggest concern. We're looking at all this humidity coming back. It felt so good.

Once again, here comes the humidity, here comes the low. That's the reason we'll see a lot of thunderstorms triggering as we go through the afternoon today. What are we looking at? The heaviest rain, of course. We have the severe weather. It's not to say we're dry on the east coast either. Temperatures goes up, humidity goes up. You have scattered showers over the next several days. That's the big story.

What you're all going to be talking about is going to be these temperatures. They're going to get ugly. We are talking about 90s, 92 in D.C. today. That is the starting point. By Wednesday, we'll be talking 97 degrees. That's the definition of ugly, 97 and high humidity.

BOLDUAN: Quickly it has gone up. So nice over the weekend.

PETERSONS: It's like almost summer. So close.

BOLDUAN: We are in the middle of it now. Thanks, Indra.

CUOMO: Coming up on NEW DAY, a new CNN/ORC poll this morning showing strong support for Hillary Clinton on a range of issues, actually stronger than support for her former boss, President Obama. Is that really a surprise? Is there anything in the numbers that shows she may lose? We're going to break down the poll.

BOLDUAN: And the San Antonio Spurs throwing serious ice on the Miami Heat's championship game. We're going to take a look at the game that gave the Spurs their fifth NBA title.


BOLDUAN: It appears Hillary Clinton's path to 2016 might be blocked by the troubles facing the current administration or maybe not. A just released CNN/ORC poll finds Hillary Clinton's approval ratings are much higher than her former boss, President Obama, on a wide range on issues. Here to talk about all of it, Neera Tanden, the president of the

Center for American Progress and former domestic director -- policy director for Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign, and Margaret Hoover, Republican strategist and CNN political commentator.

Good morning to both of you.



BOLDUAN: If you take a look at these issues. You can list through it. Foreign affairs, health care, economy, terrorism, Hillary Clinton outpacing President Obama. Huge gap on some of these numbers. But let's dig into these numbers, just came out in the CNN/ORC poll.

Look at this foreign policy question. Hillary Clinton, 63 of people think she would do a good job. Look at President Obama's, a 23-point gap. What is going on Neera?

TANDEN: Well, look, I think it's a little harder when you're in office.

BOLDUAN: A little grass is greener.

TANDEN: Yes. A little bit tough. But the truth is, people have a good sense of Hillary when she's been in public life a long time. She's a really established relationship with voters. And I know where she stands on a lot of issues, those great numbers for her.

BOLDUAN: Aren't those issues close to where the president is when we're talking about foreign policy?

TANDEN: Absolutely. And I think if you look at her book, you'll see that there's -- you know, you'll see it's really a partnership there. But it is the case that when you're in office, you take a lot of the blame as well as the good side. Right now, it seems the president is taking a lot of the blame for a lot of issues.

BOLDUAN: What do you think, Margaret?

HOOVER: I think Hillary Clinton has benefited for being out of the hot seat for the majority of the Obama administration, in a sense she was on a plane traveling -- you know, pounding the pavement but stayed out of the fray. She hasn't suffered some of the blows, the domestic political blows that the president has suffered and she's frankly benefited from an enhance reputation of being a good team player, by joining the Obama administration, putting a smile on and being a good soldier in the Obama administration.

So, frankly, I think that's what this is about. I think it's way too early to put to much stock in these polls.


HOOVER: Because you know what? These polls are so high, any candidate would want to start out this way, but maybe not. Because there's only one way to go here, which is down. These numbers are going to soften.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: She's only considering running. We're not sure --


HOOVER: Slip of the tongue, forgive me.

BERMAN: Neera, you've seen a lot of Senate candidates around the country, like Alison Grimes, for instance, just doing all they can do run away from this administration. You know, that's not me, I'm not the White House right now. Hillary Clinton can't do that as she considers a possible run for the White House in 2016.

So, how does she handle that?

TANDEN: Look, I think the benefit to Hillary is that she's been in public life a long time. People have a sense of her. If you look at these numbers, it's not that they're saying they don't know what her positions are. They actually think they do know. They have a good sense of where she stands, what her values are. They give her wide approval.

I actually disagree. She's not a new candidate. She's not a new person in public life. She's a well-established person. The truth is people have a good sense of where she is and they like what they see. So, you know, I think that these things -- I'm not saying they can never go down, obviously.

CUOMO: They're going to go down.

TANDEN: They go down. It's not like -- it's not like she's like just entered public life.

HOOVER: It's true. She has entered public life, which I think actually is her largest vulnerability. She's not a Washington outsider. She's a Washington insider.

Nobody who's coming to the ticket who wants a fresh face in Washington who is part of this throw the bums out who got Eric Cantor think Hillary Clinton is going to shake up Obamacare. Hillary Clinton is really going to shake the surveillance state --

CUOMO: She's got a glow on her from what could have been, right? I mean, there are a lot of people who have regrets.

BERMAN: Democrats, buyers' remorse among Democrats on her voters.

CUOMO: That's exactly what I'm talking about, thank you for saying it better than I can. I noted the media is giving Hillary a pass right now because we're coaxing her to run, right? We want her to run because she makes the race more exciting. She's not getting hit with a lot of heavy artillery yet. You can say she's not candidate yet. That's fine.

But do you feel that some of the things she's said even in this treatment she's gotten, the stuff about the money, what they had to do when they got out, separating herself from the president in convenient ways, do you think she's hurting herself a little bit by trying to be too perfect, trying to find every perfect answer?

TANDEN: So -- I don't know what the criticism of trying to have every perfect answer is, I mean, I think the truth is she's actually had a great run this last week. Her book is doing really well.

And these are national numbers. These aren't Democratic primary numbers. These are national numbers, definitely Republicans, independents who are supporting her.

It's not -- you know, you're absolutely -- she's not going to win the Republican base, the people who threw out Eric Cantor aren't going to vote for Hillary Clinton.

CUOMO: Those may have been Democrats, right? That's another story.

HOOVER: There's an anti incumbent sentiment, though, that I think she's a known figure and she's an insider, not an outsider.

TANDEN: That is possible. That is definitely possible. On the other hand, I think as you're seeing in these numbers, there are moderates.

BOLDUAN: Take a look at one of these numbers that I think Republicans need to pay a lot of attention to, the question of terrorism. On that question, Hillary Clinton, would Clinton do a good job? Sixty-one percent said yes, she would do a good job on the issue of terrorism. Obama's approval rating 49 percent.

That kind of speaks to or fights against what a lot of Republicans think they can attack her on when you look at this question looming about her involvement or what she knew surrounding Benghazi. Does this show that this might not be such a problem for her, the Benghazi issue when you look at this number?

HOOVER: Look, I think it's going to be difficult to say what the sticking points and the vulnerabilities of Hillary Clinton are going to be. Should she declare that she's a candidate?

I think part of the problem is, look, distancing herself from President Obama is a necessary step. John McCain distanced himself from President Bush. Al Gore distanced himself from Bill Clinton.

BERMAN: But she can't do as much as they did. She can't do that.

HOOVER: You know what? She's certainly going to try and (INAUDIBLE). She's laid the groundwork in her book. I mean, she's tried to distance herself from the decisions in Syria, the line in the sand, remember? I mean, she is the face of the Russian reset, which is, you know, going to be a huge vulnerability for her in terms of making the case in foreign policy as our relationship with Russia is as bad as it's ever been, since the end of the Cold War. CUOMO: You don't like it?

TANDEN: On Benghazi, I think, you know, there have been polls about whether Hillary and trustworthy, she has 60 percent. I think this Republican attack line, both on terrorism and honest and trustworthy don't work with the majority of the American people. It's definitely a good fund-raising strategy for the Republican base. It's not something that's going to talk to people.

Actually in the Russian reset, if you read the book, I think it's a great explanation of the issue because she talks about how 2011, she was the one who was really vocal, attacking Putin around human rights and what he was doing to Democratic activists. If you've seen him in the last week, he clearly -- he clearly has (INAUDIBLE) by Hillary Clinton.

BOLDUAN: So, Margaret, real quick on the Cantor question. Because you brought up Eric -- you both brought up Eric Cantor. What do you think the postmortem is going to show going forward for Republicans?

HOOVER: There are dueling narrative even within the Republican Party about the takeaway is. I mean, Steve Cain, very conservative representative from Iowa wants this to be about amnesty, wants this to be about immigration. There's another faction that frankly just I think this bears out in the polls, Eric Cantor simply didn't do the fence mending and tending to the shop at home.

BOLDUAN: He's sure not looking back in that interview with "STATE OF THE UNION." He's not looking back. He's all about looking forward.

CUOMO: What about the sneak attack evolving. You know, we keep saying, low turnout, low turnout. It was actually 30 percent higher. This theory that Democrats may have rallied people to vote against Cantor. It's very interesting --


BOLDUAN: Do you think it's possible?

HOOVER: No, I mean, it's a fun theory. He didn't do basic questionnaires for conservative groups in his district. They put 26,000 -- you know, they put robocalls to 26,000 voters who support guns because he wouldn't simply fill out a questionnaire about why he's a gun supporter, why he's a Second Amendment supporter.

I mean, really basic things like that. I think he was focused on his constituency in Washington and trying to become speaker of the House and not focused on his --

CUOMO: I love when the people still matter. Isn't it nice?

TANDEN: They always do.

CUOMO: All of a sudden, bites one of the biggest guys right in the hiney.

BOLDUAN: Right in the hiney.

Neera, great to see you. Margaret, thank you guys so much.

A reminder to all of you: be sure to tune in tomorrow night as Hillary Clinton answers your questions in CNN's town hall moderated by our own Christiane Amanpour. That's tomorrow night at 5:00 p.m. Eastern and airs again at 9:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN.

Coming up on the show known as NEW DAY, the crisis in Iraq getting worse this morning, for sure. More cities fall to ISIS. The U.S. pulling staff out of the embassy in Baghdad. We'll tell you the latest.

BOLDUAN: And remembering legendary DJ Casey Kasem, a look back at his life, as new details emerge about his final days and the feud that bitterly divided his family.