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AT THIS HOUR WITH BERMAN AND MICHAELA
Pope Francis Arriving in U.S.; Secret Service on High Alert for Pope Visit; Carson Tries to Clarify Muslim Remarks; Russia Adds Drones, Jets in Syria Buildup. Aired 11-11:30a ET
Aired September 22, 2015 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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[11:00:00] CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Petraeus resigned nearly three years ago when it was revealed he had an affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell. Petraeus offered that apology earlier today in front of lawmakers at the Senate Armed Services hearing.
That does it for me today. Thank you so much for joining me. I'm Carol Costello.
AT THIS HOUR with Berman and Bolduan starts now.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Coming to America, the pope just hours away from his historic visit and the Secret Service on high alert ahead of one of the largest security events in U.S. history.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: So who can and cannot be U.S. president, according to Ben Carson? Moments ago, he tried to clarify his stance on Muslims. So did he?
BOLDUAN: A game-changer. On one of the most dangerous battlefields on earth. Drones, fighter jets and troops, Russia rapidly building up forces in Syria as ISIS advances.
BERMAN: Hello, I'm John Berman.
BOLDUAN: I'm Kate Bolduan.
Hours from now, Pope Francis will begin his historic visit to the United States. Arriving first in Washington, D.C., before coming to New York and then off to Philadelphia. Five days of history expected to draw crowds by the hundreds of thousands. Taking a look right now at the pope --
BERMAN: Somewhere in there. Behind that camera.
BOLDUAN: Right behind that camera. We promise you, he is there, wrapping up his visit to Cuba, blessing the city, Santiago de Cuba, delivering a speech, and meeting the people there.
BERMAN: This is a sign of what's to come. Everyone wants to get a picture of him in Cuba and United States. He'll land at Joint Base Andrews about 4:00 p.m. He'll be greeted in person by the president, vice president and their families. This is a sign of respect almost never granted to world leaders when they arrive in Washington.
Our Michelle Kosinski joins us live from Washington right now.
This is a reminder, Michelle, this pope from the Americas has never actually been to the United States of America.
MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Right. Some of these preparations, just the arrival, from the moment he steps foot in Washington, you can see how momentous an occasion it is. The president himself is going to travel to Andrews Air Force Base to greet him personally as he gets off the plane. It will not only be the president, but the first lady. We now know Sasha and Malia Obama will be there, the vice president and Dr. Jill Biden.
We'll have a lot more detail on what each of these stops are actually going to look like. For example, at the air force base, we described they are -- you know, who's going to be on the tarmac along with dozens of church officials, but there's also going to be a fence line where more than 1,000 people will be lined up. Most of them invited by the archdiocese here, but also some invited by the air force base itself. Next step then, the next day -- so this is Wednesday now, tomorrow -- here at the White House, between 14,000 and 15,000 people are expected to gather to await the pope's arrival on the south lawn. That includes many members of the Congress, also members of the president's cabinet. The pope himself will arrive on that South Lawn. Usually we see dignitaries arrive here in the front. But he'll arrive there. There will be a Marine Corps band that will play both national anthems. Yes, there is a Vatican national anthem. After that, then there is the bilateral meeting in the Oval Office between the president and the pope.
For days, we've been trying to get more detail, more of a sense of how this meeting will play out. What is it like in that room? Now we're finding out from senior administration officials, this is going to be a one-on-one between the two leaders. There will be two translators in the room, if need. But we're told that the pope will want to speak English. It's not his strongest language, but that he's been practicing for months. So, much of the conversation is expected to be in English. Again, just the two leaders with two translators. No other members of administration. That's expected to last 45 minutes to an hour. It's described as being personable, very relaxed. Not like a formal meeting. But very warm and friendly between these two, who, remember, met once before at the Vatican last year. Concurrently to that, there will be a meeting between other White House officials, the vice president, Secretary Kerry, meeting with other Vatican officials. That's going to go on at the same time. And from there, the pope leaves the White House.
Back to you guys.
BERMAN: A very big few days, to be sure. Some complicated, you know, protocol at the White House.
BOLDUAN: And choreography. BERMAN: All right, Michelle Kosinski, thank you so much.
With stops in Washington, New York, Philadelphia, and we're talking big places, Capitol Hill, Madison Square Garden. This is one of the largest and most complicated security operations the U.S. has ever seen.
[11:05:00] BOLDUAN: Let's discuss this and all of the history around this visit with Jonathan Wackirow, a former Secret Service agent, who served on President Obama's detail; as well as CNN political commentator, Carl Bernstein, the author of "His Holiness: John Paul II and the History of our Time."
I mean, Michelle laid it out there, everything at stake, if you will. Just the few additional details she laid out, Jonathan. More than 1,000 people will be gathered at Andrews to see the arrival. And then 14,000 to 15,000 people expected at the White House. That's just two of the stops for the pope. You say that protecting the pope is like no other protectee. Why?
JONATHAN WACKIROW, FORMER SECRET SERVICE AGENT: Absolutely. Because he doesn't follow the same mold that traditional Secret Service protectees have. He's not a politician. Really the pope is the nexus between the public and the church. His responsibility is to go out into the crowd and embrace the public and really touch the people.
WACKIROW: Literally, touch the people. We've seen that during his time in Cuba and all of his travels, he's constantly going into the crowds, unsecure. And really throwing his own security teams off- balance. The Secret Service has to be prepared for that and has to have a plan in place for when the pope does make those, you know, unscheduled movements.
BERMAN: Carl, I grew up in Boston and Pope John Paul II visited there on his first trip to the United States in 1979. It was huge. To this day there are still photos of his visit there. I wonder if you can compare this visit from Pope Francis to Pope John Paul II.
CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR & AUTHOR: They have the same message about the poor, the marginalized, the responsibility of rich nations to their people and those who are forgotten. That's the gospel. That's the gospel of Christ. Both John Paul II and Francis are masters of preaching this gospel and both preeminent leaders of their time in many ways because they transcend national leadership. They have the biggest following, certainly, of any particular leader in the world today. And so this is going to be really fascinating to see if this pope can keep his visit from becoming politicized. He doesn't want it politicized. There are those who wants it politicized, particularly those who oppose his message and think somehow it's, quote, too liberal or progressive.
BOLDUAN: To that point, with these historic meetings, sitting down with the president, speaking before Congress, just to name a couple, what then is the goal, do you think, for the pope in these meetings?
BERNSTEIN: The pope wants the agenda of the world to focus on what the world preaches, on Catholic social teaching, which is one of the great contributions to mankind. And the Catholic Church is responsible for this idea we must look out for our brother and sister, to those who are not as fortunate as we are, that we must show respect for all points of view. He's going to, indeed, continue to preach about the unborn and about more tolerance for those views within the church that have been considered heretical before. As we've heard him preach so many times, he wants a church of openness. A little bit like John who called that Ecumenical Council to bring the church into a modern world, in that papacy, he's going to do it without an Ecumenical Council, but through his own preaching, just like John Paul ii did as well. Remember, the huge crowds. He appealed to youth is the other aspect of this that we should be looking at.
BERMAN: Jonathan, this is a national special security event.
BERMAN: Which means the Secret Service is in charge right now.
WACKIROW: Correct. The Secret Service is the overarching coordinating agency for this visit. Whenever there's a designation of an NNSE, National Special Security Event, Secret Service is placed in charge of the coordination, FBI is in charge of counterterrorism and intelligence. And then it opens up the door for a lot of other federal resources to be put towards a visit.
BOLDUAN: How do they balance it? You kind of touched on it. He touches the people. He gets out in the crowds. The head of the Secret Service kind of talked about how difficult that balance is, getting it right. Not overreacting when people want to come to the pope or throw things at the pope, not in a bad way, but they throw things at the pope. But also not missing anything.
WACKIROW: Absolutely. So, I mean, it's always the balance between, you know, access to a protectee and security, and finding that leveling point. Here what we have to do with Pope Francis is we have to understand that he is going to do this. So, there is different areas along parade routes and at different sites that he's going to where we know he's going to go into the crowd so that having that advance knowledge, then we make those areas secure.
BERMAN: Planned spontaneity, in other words.
[11:10:04] WACKIROW: Exactly.
BOLDUAN: No selfie sticks, one thing I saw, oddly enough, was pointed out.
BOLDUAN: I'm big on the selfie stick.
BERNSTEIN: There's a terrible precedent of the attempted assassination of John Paul II. Obviously, those in the security business, the police in New York as well as the Secret Service, are terribly aware of the enmity of certain people towards this figure.
BERMAN: You can see the barriers and precautions taking place in Central Park.
BERMAN: Carl Bernstein, Jonathan Wackirow, thanks so much. Appreciate it.
BOLDUAN: Reminder to all of you, tonight, CNN is taking an inside look at Pope Francis. The CNN special report, "The People's Pope," airs tonight at 9:00 eastern.
BERMAN: Jeb Bush, Carly Fiorina, Mitt Romney, all rejecting what Ben Carson had to say about Muslims and if they should or should not be in the White House. Moments ago, Ben Carson just clarified his remarks, blaming the media, largely. See what else happened.
BOLDUAN: It's a place spiraling out of control, where terrorists, a dictator and other nations are fighting for power. Now Russia is making moves that could change everything.
BERMAN: Just a short time ago, Ben Carson addressed the controversy he stirred up with his comments when he said he didn't believe a Muslim should be president, he would not advocate for that. Today, he backed off a little bit saying it would be OK if these Muslims swear off Sharia Law and put the Constitution first.
BOLDUAN: Carson has drawn criticism from many corners, from nearly all of his Republican rivals. Now he is trying to clarify further what he meant.
Here's what he said just minutes ago at a campaign stop in Ohio.
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[11:15:06] BEN CARSON, (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE & RETIRED NEUROSURGEON: It has nothing to do with being a Muslim. That was the question that was specifically asked. If the question had been asked about a Christian, and they had said, you know, would you support a Christian who believes in establishing a theocracy, I would have said no. And some people would say he's against Christians. No. You have to be able to look at the context in which I'm saying that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is the context? Obviously, it's not discriminatory.
CARSON: The context, as I said before that question was asked, anybody of any religious faith whatsoever, if they embrace American values and they place our constitution at the top level, above their religious beliefs, I have no problem with them.
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BOLDUAN: Let's talk about this with Katie Packer Gage, deputy campaign manager for Mitt Romney's presidential bid; and Harris Zafar, a Muslim activist, author of the book "Demystifying Islam."
Great to see both of you.
Harris, give us your take. You obviously know -- heard what Carson originally said that sparked all of this. What do you make of his qualification or clarification that he made just now in Ohio?
HARRIS ZAFAR, NATIONAL SPOKESMAN, AHMADIYYA MUSLIM COMMUNITY & AUTHOR: Thank you. First of all, it seems like someone finally educated him on the Constitution and what Article VI says, which is why he's changing his point of view. It's still a qualification, right, that I can only support a Muslim for president if he or she takes a special oath of allegiance to condemn Sharia Law. It's still a unique position to put Muslims in since nobody has - ever expected a candidate who believes in the Bible to reject stoning for adultery or shaving a woman's head if she doesn't cover her head, the same way you don't expect a Muslim to have to reject beliefs that are harbored by extremists in different parts of the world. We have to understand first what is Sharia, because he talks about that. It's supposed to be how you lay in compliance with following Islam in your life. It's not meant to be a system of governance because Islam doesn't legislate religion. It only talks about man's relationship with god. So, I think his unawareness and ignorance of Islam and Sharia still exists. What he knows is based on hearsay, not on facts.
BERMAN: There are many different interpretations of Sharia Law. When anyone takes the oath of office as president or any other office, they swear to uphold the Constitution. By definition, they're swearing to make everybody else subservient to that.
Katie, what's remarkable is the universal condemnation from Republican candidates, current and past. Your boss, he says, "No religious test for the presidency. Every faith adds to our national character."
It's been interesting to me to watch all the Republican candidates, one after another, in a tight race where there is a diversity of opinion here, essentially come out and say, Ben Carson got it wrong here.
KATIE PACKER GAGE, MITT ROMNEY DEPUTY CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Well, I think that it's a very dangerous thing when we start deciding what other people believe, aside from what they have actually communicated. I think this long-time debate we've had about the president's faith when, you know, he has said publicly what his faith is, I think is a dangerous thing is. This was something that particularly in 2008, you know, Governor Romney, you know, came under a lot of criticism from people because of his Mormon faith. And, you know, leaving aside the things he communicated about what he wanted to do as -- do for the country and what he had done historically as governor of Massachusetts, you know, there were all kinds of interpretations about what he must believe because that was his faith. I just think that's a dangerous road to go down. Candidates, they have to communicate, you know, what their plans are, what their vision is and they should be evaluated on those things.
BOLDUAN: Also, when you just look at it through the purely political lens, Katie, how much of an impact, if at all, do you think this could have in terms of Ben Carson's support? Joe Johns was saying, when he was talking to folks going into the event today, Carson had -- was getting -- it was all support. It was all support from the folks going into that event. You look at surveys, look at "The New York Times"/CBS survey from 2013, 16 percent of Republicans had an unfavorable view of Islam. Even more recent studies kind of say the same thing. How much of an impact do you think this will have, what he said?
PACKER GAGE: Well, I don't think it necessarily -- you know, unfortunately, has a dramatic impact on, you know, the people that may or may not support him because there are a lot of voters that share that view. But the role of leadership is to show leadership, and to inform people when they're incorrect about things. A lot of Americans, the only exposure they've had to Islam is what happened on 9/11 or other terrorist attacks. It is important, I think, for our country's leaders to, you know, to bring some reason and some wisdom to the debate. And, you know, say that something's wrong when it just is wrong.
[11:20:12] BOLDUAN: Seeing condemnation from other presidential candidates. We'll see what Ben Carson has to say and if he'll continue to clarify or qualify his remarks as we go forward.
Katie, great to see you. Thank you.
Harris, thank you very much.
Coming up for us, speaking of Republicans, Scott Walker is out. He's also telling his fellow candidates to follow him, to take -- in order to take out a Donald Trump. So, which Republican will listen, if any of them?
BERMAN: And then Russian planes, warplanes, weaponry, drones, now on the ground and in the air in Syria. What is Russia up to here? Do they have designs in this part of the world?
BOLDUAN: After weeks of military buildup in Syria, Russia appears to be escalating tensions there even further, now launching surveillance operations in the country. U.S. officials are not able to say if the drones -- the drone operations are -- if those drones are armed with weapons, but the drone operations follow a massive buildup of Russian military equipment, and at least 500 personnel on the ground there.
BERMAN: Yes. Satellite images show two dozen Russian fighter jets, more than a dozen helicopters, as well as tanks and missile systems.
CNN's senior international correspondent, Matthew Chance, is in Moscow for us. And we're also joined by former NATO supreme allied commander, Wesley Clark.
First to you, Matthew.
Give us a sense of what Russia says they are doing in Syria, essentially establishing a new base there.
[11:25:12] MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Actually, not even officially confirming they're establishing a new base but satellite images revealed the Latakia air base in a stronghold by the Syrian government is being built up. We see satellite images of very advanced Russian equipment deployed on the ground, including high-tech warplanes, SR-30s, which are a multiple role air strike, other aircraft as well, maybe several dozen high-tech advanced Russian fighter jets on the ground there, along with tanks, surface-to-air missile systems for protection and what U.S. officials estimate to be about 500 Marines, or the Russian equivalent. It certainly does appear to be a major foothold that the Russians are trying to establish inside Syria. Obviously, that's of a great deal of concern.
Matthew, thanks so much.
Let's bring in General Clark now.
General, Matthew laid out exactly everything these satellite images have shown. What do you think of this buildup by Russia in Syria?
GENERAL WESLEY CLARK, FORMER NATO ALLIED COMMANDER, U.S. ARMY: Well, I think it's -- from Putin's perspective, a smart gambit. It's a geostrategic move and he's going to portray it to us as, hey, let's cooperate against is. And ISIS is a potential problem for Russia. But the major part of this is to buttress Bashar Assad, to work with the Iranians, to strengthen Russia's influence in the region, to gain leverage against Saudi Arabia on oil pricing, to box in Turkey and bring a more cooperative economic relationship with Turkey through leverage in Syria. So, it's got multiple advantages that Putin is going after in this. For the United States, of course, it's a risk because this poses the risk of a proxy war. We're arming the Syrian rebels. And if Russia's really serious on fighting for Bashar Assad, he's going to -- Russia's going to go not only against is, but against our Syrian rebels who are fighting Bashar Assad. We've called for Bashar Assad to give up power. Russia says, no, he's the key to preserving stability in the region. So, we have divergent aims, both with Bashar Assad and also geo-strategically.
BERMAN: General, you call it a risk. I think it may be more serious than that. It's a conundrum, an unsolvable for the United States, because if the Russian warplanes and drones and equipment want to keep Assad in power, it's clear whether the U.S. can do anything about it. Secondly, if it conflict ever ends in Syria, that Russian stuff, the equipment and the people, they're not leaving.
CLARK: Well, this is a case where got a couple of outcomes, and both of them are bad. One of them is that the Russian intervention will probably provoke intense reaction from ISIS. And it will probably draw more recruits to ISIS, because the Russians, after all, are infidels. This will intensify the fighting. Russia's not going to have an easy time with this. But on the other hand, if we're going to do anything to help stabilize the region by working with the moderate Syrian opposition, such as it is, and such as we can train it, this is a real -- Russia's presence is a really complicater.
This should all be done under the auspices of the United Nations but Russia has refused to authorize the United Nations get involved in a constructive way in this problem. They vetoed Security Council resolutions on this. Ultimately, we're going to have to take Russia back to the United Nations on this to get the solution we want.
BERMAN: They don't seem willing to listen to that.
General Wesley Clark, Matthew Chance before, thank you so much for being with us. Appreciate it.
CLARK: Thank you.
BERMAN: So, Scott Walker, out. Carly Fiorina, on the rise. Her former campaign manager joins us next to talk about what she will do next in this race to take on Donald Trump.
BOLDUAN: And we're all Mexicans. Some of the music industry's biggest stars teaming up for a new song and video. Ahead, Emilio Estefan, the man behind this song and a movement, he's here to discuss.
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