Return to Transcripts main page


Polls Show Trump Holding His Lead; Ohio Governor to Join Republican 2016 Presidential Candidate; U.K. Man Charged Over Plans to Attack U.S. Military; Friend: Chattanooga Gunman Told Me ISIS Was "Stupid"; D.A.: Texas Jail Death To Be Investigated as Murder. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired July 21, 2015 - 09:00   ET


[09:00:01] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And a landscape professional to give back on these hallowed grounds caring for trees and turf. Those things that come for those, that come visit, it really means a lot to these professionals.


CUOMO: Again this year many more landscapers volunteered, men and women, just to do the right thing.

CAMEROTA: Thanks for showing us that. Great stuff.

Let's get to "NEWSROOM" with Carol Costello.

Good morning, Carol.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Have a great day.

NEWSROOM starts now.


COSTELLO: Happening now on the NEWSROOM, bloviating side show.


FRANK LUNTZ, MODERATOR: He's a war hero.

TRUMP: He is a war hero --

LUNTZ: Five and a half years as a POW.

TRUMP: He's a war hero because he was captured.

COSTELLO: G.I. joke.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What he said about John, I think was offensive. He's becoming a jackass.

COSTELLO: A lot of names for Donald Trump and this morning a new one -- front runner. But what would he actually do as president? We drill down on his policy. Also, new details about the Chattanooga gunman's troubled history and

his feelings about ISIS.


JAMES PETTY, MOHAMMAD ABDULAZEEZ'S FRIEND: That it was a stupid group and it was completely against Islam.

COSTELLO: So what inspired the rampage that left five service members dead? His writings may offer some insight.

Plus, what happened to Sandra bland, the young woman found dead in her Texas jail cell? Now her death is being investigated as a homicide.

SHARON COOPER, SANDRA BLAND'S SISTER: There is something more here than what was initially reported.

COSTELLO: What clues could there be in this jail surveillance video?

Let's talk. Live in the CNN NEWSROOM.


COSTELLO: And good morning. I'm Carol Costello. Thank you so much for joining me.

Donald Trump sits atop a real estate empire. But one newspaper prominent in the presidential race says this emperor has no clothes. The "Des Moines Register," the largest newspaper in a critical caucus state, dismisses Trump as a feckless blowhard. The opinion piece demanding he drop out of the presidential race.

Ironically the body slam may bolster support among Iowa's most conservative voter who shun the newspaper. In fact a new ABC- "Washington Post" poll gives Trump a double-digit lead over the rest of the pack. And it's no fluke. A new CNN Poll of Polls shows Trump has a three-point lead over Jeb Bush, a seven-point lead over Scott Walker, and has nearly triple the support of fourth place candidate Ben Carson.

CNN's chief congressional correspondent Dana Bash has more for you this morning.

Good morning.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Carol, Donald Trump's whole campaign philosophy is that he's tapping into a very real part of the Republican electorate with his politically incorrect rhetoric. Parts that the media and the Republican establishment simply don't understand. So far polls appear to be backing him up. The question is, how long it will last?


BASH (voice-over): In a brutal editorial Iowa's biggest newspaper the "Des Moines Register" is demanding Donald Trump, quote, "pull the plug on his bloviating side show," calling him a feckless blowhard who can generate headlines, name recognition and polling numbers not by provoking thought, but by provoking outrage."

His Republican competitors agree.

GRAHAM: He's becoming a jackass.

TRUMP: I have respect for Senator McCain.

BASH: Trump is still not apologizing for criticizing John McCain's war service but did come closer than before.

TRUMP: I supported him. I raised a lot of money for his campaign against President Obama. And certainly if there was a misunderstanding, I would totally take that back. But hopefully I said it correctly .

BASH: Even for the bombastic Trump, who appears to crave controversy, the bipartisan backlash from his weekend remarks about McCain's five years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam was intense.

TRUMP: He's not a war hero. He's a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren't captured, OK. Perhaps he's a war hero but right now he said some very bad things about a lot of people.

BASH: Still a new national poll shows Trump isn't just leading the crowded GOP presidential field, but leading big at 24 percent, with second place Scott Walker and third Jeb Bush trailing by double digits. But that same survey may signal trouble for Trump. He got 28 percent on three consecutive nights. But on Sunday after his controversial comments his support dipped.

McCain himself is determined to take the high road. But McCain's son Jack, a fourth generation McCain Naval officer, currently on active duty, didn't hold back about what he thinks.

JACK MCCAIN, SON OF JOHN MCCAIN: My father, he's a public figure, he's a politician, he's open to attack. But prisoners of war in general, I mean, Donald Trump has to understand that he's running for -- to be the commander-in-chief of the United States military. If an individual gets rolled up, becomes a prisoner of war, then is he going to abandon them simply because he doesn't like people that are captured?


[09:05:02] BASH: Today will be Donald Trump's very first campaign stop here in South Carolina which of course is the first in the south primary states. It is the home of eight military bases and about 25 percent of the Republican electorate is a veteran. So the question is whether or not his comments about veterans are going to hurt him -- Carol.

COSTELLO: We'll see. Dana Bash reporting. Thank you.

Want to focus on something novel? What kind of president would Donald Trump actually be? We know he wants to build a 1900 mile long wall to keep illegal immigrants out. He wants to hire a General McArthur type to blow up Middle East oil fields and choke off ISIS. As president he vows to bring back jobs from China but won't say exactly how. He vows to repeal Obamacare but won't say what he'll replace it with.

As for education he's End Common Core. Tough guy proposals from well, the guy who thinks he's pretty tough.

Larry Sabato was the director at the University of Virginia Center for Politics. He also wrote the surge, 2014's big GOP win and what it means for the next presidential election.

Welcome, Larry.


COSTELLO: Thanks for being here. So what kind of president would Donald Trump be?

SABATO: In a word, a disaster. He would not really be able to govern because of his bombastic style. He's a billionaire. He's used to calling the shots. Under our system, the president must work with members of Congress, must work with governors and many other actors in the political system.

But what kind of president would he make? It's really impossible to know based on the positions that he's actually taken so far, Carol, because he really hasn't taken that many. He stressed that he's opposed to illegal immigration. He's pro-veterans. He's against ISIS. Well, you know, what president wouldn't be against ISIS and for veterans? But you have to look at style. You have to look at personality. Because those things really matter in the most personal office of all, the presidency.

COSTELLO: You know, the "Des Moines Register," they wrote back scathing editorial, right, asking for Donald Trump to drop out of the race. But within that op-ed was this, "Being electable is not the same thing as being qualified. And Trump has proven himself not only unfit to hold office, but unfit to stand on the same stage as his Republican opponents."

The thing that surprised me the most about this little passage was the "Des Moines Register" says he's electable.

SABATO: Well, I think they're wrong there and of course as you mentioned earlier, if the "Des Moines Register" attacks Republicans it generally helps that Republican. They're a liberal and Democratic newspaper. Or at least they're seen that way by conservative Republicans in Iowa.

Look, Carol, do you remember President Michelle Obama -- excuse, remember President Michele Bachmann, very different Michelles. From the summer of 2011? She was leading at one point. And at other points it was President Rick Perry and President Newt Gingrich and President Herman Cain. This is a message sending season. That's all it is. It's the Trump

summer. But when people get close to voting, they'll get serious because both of our major parties want to win, Carol. They want to win. And in the case of Donald Trump were he to be nominated, it would be a landslide in the Democratic direction. In fact Trump is probably the Democrats' best and only chance to bring back Congress.

COSTELLO: So when do you think the enthusiasm for Donald Trump will end? I mean, he's going to be -- he's going to take part in that first debate on August 6th, right?

SABATO: Oh, he'll be there. He's fairly high up in the polls. And he'll be at that debate. He'll probably be at your debate, the CNN debate, in September. But the first real votes are cast February 1st in the Iowa caucuses. February 1st. It's July. Think about how many days -- no, how many hours, how many minutes there are for Donald Trump to say more outrageous things between now and then.

COSTELLO: Larry Sabato, thanks for your insight. I appreciate it, as always.

And if elbow room in the GOP field wasn't already tight enough for Trump, it's about to get a little tighter. Another Republican is now hours away from officially entering the race. So who needs one more candidate? Well, according to the Ohio governor, John Kasich, we do.


GOV. JOHN KASICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What are we going to do about America? And how did we end up with 20 people running for president? I don't think a good leader really reads polls or listens to focus groups or who yells the loudest. A good leader has a sense intuition about what's good for the country.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Who needs one more person running for president? We do.


COSTELLO: And here's the company Kasich will be keeping as he becomes the 16th Republican with eyes on the White House. Kasich's official announcement is expected later this morning at Ohio State University, or should I say the Ohio State University.

[09:10:09] CNN's Athena Jones live in Columbus to tell us more. Good morning, Athena.

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Carol. That's right. Governor Kasich will be adding his name to the already very long list of Republican candidates. Here he is on SnapChat, the social media app that's popular with the young folks, making a pitch for his candidacy. Take a listen.


KASICH: No one running for president has helped balance the federal budget, saved the state from near bankruptcy or served on the Defense Committee for 18 years. Maybe I ought to run.


JONES: And of course in about two hours from now he'll be changing that "Maybe I ought to run" into "I am running." Making a bit longer of a speech, 15 or 20 minutes we expect. And look, Governor Kasich's resume looks like it's tailor made for someone who should be running for the White House. He spent nearly two decades in Congress. He was on the Budget Committee and has patterned his work helping to balance the federal budget. He was on the Armed Services Committee.

Later he was a commentator on FOX News. And now he's in his second term as governor in this crucial swing state. This is a state that Republicans have historically had to win in order to win the White House. You know, he won reelection by a landslide getting nearly two- third of the vote, doing well with independents, with women, with moderates. He even won about a quarter of the black vote and a quarter of Democrats.

This is someone who you'd expect people to be giving a good look to. But his challenge of course is breaking through in this very crowded field. And I should mention, he touts his conservative credentials but he has made some decisions and he has some stance that could anger some conservatives. I believe we have a graphic we can put up on the screen and go through that.

He accepted the expansion of the Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act. So he accepted money to expand Medicaid here in the state to help the poor. He's come under fire for that. He also supports the Common Core Education Standards, these national education standards that a lot of conservatives are now railing against, even some who used to support it.

And also he -- when it comes to immigration reform, he hasn't ruled out the possibility of a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. That's another provision that might not serve him well among conservatives. But when it comes to moderates he's made the case. You know, you have to be a moderate. You can't be extremist to win in a state of Ohio. And he said he isn't going to change his views to bend to the political wind.

But as I mentioned again, Carol, the challenge for him is going to be rising above his right now very low poll numbers. Of course he hasn't announced. He's standing at about 2 percent, 3 percent in the polls. Many candidates get a bump from their announcements. So we'll see if that happens to him and gives him enough of a boost to put him in that first presidential debate, the Republican debate happening less than a month away -- Carol.

COSTELLO: All right. Athena Jones, we'll check back in the next hour of NEWSROOM. Thanks so much.

Still to come, the Chattanooga shooter called ISIS a stupid group. That's according to this friend. But the gunman's own writings show he was upset with the U.S. government. So what motivated him to go on that deadly rampage? (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:17:15] COSTELLO: This just in to CNN: a U.K. man is now facing charges over plans to attack the U.S. military. The man was arrested along with his uncle, both were allegedly attempting to join ISIS in Syria.

Our senior international correspondent Frederik Pleitgen in London with more for you.

Good morning.


Yes, the two men have been named here by the authorities in England. One of them is Junead Khan. He is 24 years old. He is the man who was charged both with trying to go to Syria, as well as attacking U.S. military personnel here in Britain.

We don't have any information at this point as to what these attacks might have been or what they might have been plotting.

And then the other man is named as Shazib Ahmed Khan who's only 22 years old. He's only charged with trying to go to Syria.

Now, we do have a little bit of information in that the authorities here are saying that these two men were arrested north of London. The arrest apparently took place on July 14th. However, the investigation is one that has been going on for a while. They called this an ongoing counterterrorism investigation that is going on. Both of them are set to appear in magistrate court today. We'll wait and see what happens then.

So, so far, very little information except that one of these men, Junead Kahn, who's 24 years old, was apparently plotting terror attacks on U.S. military personnel here in Britain, Carol.

COSTELLO: All right. Frederik Pleitgen, reporting live from London this morning, thank you.

Federal investigators here in the United States are trying to piece together why Mohammad Youssuf Abdulazeez gunned down four marines and a sailor in Chattanooga. One possible clue, those who knew the mindset of the young man turned apparent killer. But even what they're saying is deepening the mystery. A friend telling CNN that Abdulazeez told him ISIS was stupid and did not represent Islam.

CNN senior investigative correspondent Drew Griffin sat down with that friend for an exclusive interview.


DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): James Petty considered Mohammad Abdulazeez's as spiritual supporter in his recent conversion to Islam. Constantly texting each other, they hiked the Appalachian Mountains, played sports, even slept over at Abdulazeez's home.

He says he never once saw Abdulazeez angry and the only conversations they had about radical Islam was to oppose it.

JAMES PETTY, ABDULAZEEZ'S FRIEND: ISIS mainly. Groups, any terror groups kind of like ISIS.

GRIFFIN (on camera): What did he say?

PETTY: It was a stupid group and it was completely against Islam, and not to even think about going towards them. And I felt like it wasn't in kind of a sense I'm with their group so I don't want you to do like me. It was more like, just stay away.

[09:20:02] This is not where you should be going toward.

GRIFFIN: You felt he truly believed in his heart at that moment that what ISIS is doing was wrong?

PETTY: Yes, sir.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): Petty describes Abdulazeez as more American than he was and the self described redneck Muslim also liked to shoot guns.

PETTY: One day, he said he had a gun. And he was showing me pictures on his phone. I'm like, hey, I never shot a gun before. He's like, do you want to shoot this one? And I said sure. Like I don't see why not? I have never shot one.

GRIFFIN: The gun an AR-15 military style assault rifle like this one.

PETTY: He taught me what the safety was. He told me how to put it together. He taught me not to point it at people, just to have it always down. And he showed me how to shoot it.

GRIFFIN (on camera): And was he a good shot?

PETTY: He was.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): Contrary to reports from the Abdulazeez family that their son was battling depression, Petty says he's never saw it.

PETTY: The depression was a big surprise to me, because he showed no sign of that towards me. He was always happy with me. Always has something really not to say, he never showed any type of anger. Like not once did I ever see him angry.

GRIFFIN: They last met Friday July 10th at this mosque days before the shooting.

PETTY: He was happier than ever. He had -- it was the biggest smile on his face he ever had.

GRIFFIN: The investigators still searching for answers, so are Abdulazeez's friends and wondering if they really knew this person at all.

(on camera): He snapped.

PETTY: He did, in a horrible way. What he did is not Islamic, not at all.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): Drew Griffin, CNN, Chattanooga.


COSTELLO: Checking some other top stories for you at 21 minutes past the hour:

The immigration debate reignites in Washington. Next hour, the father of Kate Steinle, the young woman killed in San Francisco by an undocumented immigrant, is expected to testify in this morning's Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the controversy. The head of U.S. immigration and custom enforcement agency is also expected to speak.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem as Congress prepares to debate the Iran nuclear deal. Netanyahu, an outspoken critic of the agreement, has called the deal a historic mistake.

In the meantime, the U.N. Security Council has already endorsed the deal.

Western Texas gets hit with heavy rain causing major flash flooding. Take a look at these pictures. Overnight, storms rolled through cities like Amarillo. You can see the drivers. They're stranded in their cars. Emergency teams were forced to shutdown several parts of the city.

Still to come in THE NEWSROOM: how did a woman arrested after a minor traffic violation wind up dead in a jail cell? Was it suicide? Or murder?


[09:27:18] COSTELLO: A Texas district attorney wants to know how a woman arrested for a minor traffic violation ended up dead in her jail cell. Newly released surveillance footage shows jail staff scrambling to rescue Sandra Bland, just three days after his arrest. Police say she killed herself. But not everyone's buying it.

The 28-year-old's family says she was anything but suicidal. They also say the circumstances of the arrest don't add up.

A witness caught the arrest on her cell phone.


SANDRA BLAND: I can't even (EXPLETIVE DELETED) feel my arm! You just slammed my head into the ground, do you not even care about that? I can't even hear! (INAUDIBLE)


COSTELLO: All right. In response to all of this, the Waller County sheriff's office issued the following statement, quote, "Any loss of life is a tragic incident and while the investigation is being conducted by outside agencies, the Waller County sheriff's office will continue to observe the daily operations of the jail to always look for improvements and prevention of these incidents."

So, let's talk about this, HLN legal analyst and criminal defense attorney Joey Jackson joins us.

Good morning, Joey. Thanks for being here.

JOEY JACKSON., HLN LEGAL ANALYST: A pleasure, Carol. Good morning to you.

COSTELLO: Good morning.

What do you make of that cell phone video?

JACKSON: Well, you know, it doesn't tell the whole story because it appears to be several feet away from the car, Carol. But I'll tell you what's going to happen. It's really going to be a three-prong investigation in addition to an investigation about the surrounding circumstances.

What am I referring to? Number one, I think they'll analyze the stop. What was the basis of the stop? We understand it to be apparently a lane change.

And as a former prosecutor, what you do with those as you look at them, you know, in a very thorough way? Was that a pretext? In other words, was there an actual change of lane without signaling? And if so, were there other things going on?

You know, there are people doing a lot more than changing lanes without signaling. And so, you always as a former prosecutor look at the basis of the stop. Was that just to get the officer to the car?

After they look at whether the stop was legitimate, they'll then look to circumstances involved in that encounter with the police officer. What escalated it to that point? Was there probable cause for the arrest? Why did the police officer pull her out of the car? Were protocols followed with regard to the use of force used in getting her out of the car? And was the arrest legitimate?

And I'll tell you this, when they analyze and match the video that we see in addition to the dash cam, it had better match the officer -- what the officer says in a written report.

And then, finally, Carol, what they'll do is they'll look at the actual jail encounter.