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EARLY START

Russia Says It May Have Killed ISIS Leader; Washington Post: Mueller Investigating Trump For Obstruction; GOP & Dems Project Unity At Ball Field; Cosby Jurors Told To Keep Deliberating. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired June 16, 2017 - 05:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[05:30:00] DIANA MAGNAY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And also, there has been various ISIS leaders killed in the last few months so really, the organization has unraveled and is very much on the back foot. So, al-Baghdadi's death, yes, will matter symbolically and it is very, very unclear who might assume the leadership -- whether there are people who can step into his shoes. I mean, all that is a matter of speculation if indeed, of course, he was killed, which is not confirmed at this stage.

But it you look at his power, he built ISIS into this group -- this incredibly brutal terrorist organization. It was his culture which permeated the organization. He had -- you know, we have reports of the American aid worker who he personally was supposed to have raped over and over again, and this is a methodology which he had permeated amongst his fighters. Look at the plight of the Yazidi people --

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN HOST: Yes.

MAGNAY: -- enslavement of whole populations, and that was all done at his command. But his death, yes, it would matter symbolically but at this stage ISIS is so much on the back foot, turning once again from an organization that has held a huge amount of territory to something that really is going back to being the underground terror group that it originated as. Actually, in practical terms, what difference will it make? Perhaps not that all much and, again, with the caveat that we don't yet know --

ROMANS: Right.

MAGNAY: -- whether he was killed.

ROMANS: I'm so glad you mentioned that American aid worker, Kayla Mueller. Just a horrific story and this is -- -- this is -- this is a man whose penchant for torture, rape, public executions, crucifixions was spread through social media and the internet and just found these willing and eager adherences to ISIS.

We know you say they're on their back foot. We know that, you know, they've been -- they've been -- they've really been squeezed into just a very few places. We know also that al-Baghdadi, we haven't seen him really in public. It would be unlikely, we think, that he would be, you know, with a big military council -- a council of fighters because he is the most wanted man in the world but there really aren't a lot of places for him to hide anymore, right?

MAGNAY: Absolutely, and there are so many different theories as to where he might be in those areas of Iraq and Syria. I mean, it would seem unlikely that he would have been close to Raqqa given the fact that Raqqa is absolutely the focus of coalition airstrikes and, you know, that the city is effectively encircled. What Russian state media are saying is that this happened -- this military council meeting within a command post south of Raqqa. Now, we don't know how far south that was. Is it a location where he might have thought it safe to be, especially with 330 other Iraqi -- sorry, ISIS militants who Russian state media were also killed in that attack? It all begs a lot of questions and it will all depend on the kind of evidence that Russia is able to --

ROMANS: OK.

MAGNAY: -- produce into how compelling their argument is that he was, in fact, killed.

ROMANS: All right. Diana Magnay, thank you so much for breaking that down for us. Keep us posted of any new developments from the Defense Ministry there in Moscow.

Let's discuss this some more with CNN political analyst and columnist for the Washington Post, Josh Rogin. A lot to get to this morning but let's start here with this al-Baghdadi report. You know, certainly, the list of his atrocities is too long to list right here. Do we trust the Russians that they got him?

JOSH ROGIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST, COLUMNIST, WASHINGTON POST: No. Listen, let's look at the Russian track record when talking about Syria. This is a government that has aligned itself with the Assad regime and defended the Assad regime, denying that they perpetrated chemical weapons attacks against their own people, denying that they're committing mass atrocities, which they are.

The Russians have been involved in their own atrocities in Syria targeting hospitals according to aid groups, the U.S. government and the U.S. Intelligence Community.So, the Russian record in Syria is really an atrocious one and, you know, it's true that at times the Russians have targeted ISIS, but overall their drive has been to target the Syrian opposition and the Syrian rebels and to protect the Assad regime and to protect their interests in Syria.

Now, what's so interesting about this latest claim, and I think Diana alluded to this, is that the Russians are expanding their efforts in Syria into this very region, right in between Raqqa and the city below it which is called Darazor. That's where the action is. Iranians are pouring thousands of fighters into that area. The U.S. has clashed with the regime twice in the last three weeks. I mean, we went six years without hitting the regime and now we've hit them three times in the last few months. So, there's a battle going on for control of this exact area and a claim like this would be a perfect pretext for the Russians to drastically increase their operations in the area south of Raqqa near Darazor, which will be the main battle space for the next few months, at least, and that's a -- that's the huge story in Syria.

[05:35:43] And, of course, if it's true that the Russians killed Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, that's great, you know. The guy deserved that fate. But we shouldn't lose sight of the larger, sort of tactical and also strategic dynamics going on here in eastern and south -- southern Syria because the Russian game is surely being played on more than one level.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN HOST: Yes, and to that point, "The New York Times" account of this says, "The Russian military does not draw a sharp separation between its psychological warfare operations and its state media offices" to give you some context on how skeptical to be of these reports.

ROMANS: That's right.

BRIGGS: But, do you agree with Diana that this is more symbolic in terms of -- if it was, in fact, true that on May 28th he was killed in a Russian airstrike -- because of the fact that Syria is, in your estimation, too, are they on their heels at this juncture?

ROGIN: Yes. No, I agree that it would be a huge symbolic thing. I don't necessarily agree that ISIS is on its heels. I mean, what we see is a transformation of the group, OK? Yes, they're losing territory in Iraq and Syria but at the same time they're expanding to literally dozens of countries around the world -- Southeast Asia, North Africa, you name it. There are now ISIS chapters everywhere. We just heard last week that ISIS took over Tora Bora, which is that mountain enclave cave network in the -- on the Afghan-Pakistan border. You know, think about that. So, you know, what we have is a metastization of ISIS that will continue whether or not al-Baghdadi is alive or dead.

Now, he was the spiritual head of the group but, you know, it's unclear how much he was really running day-to-day operations, you know. We just don't know.

BRIGGS: Yes.

ROGIN: And, you know, now what they've done is they've franchised and all of these various ISIS-affiliated groups in all of these countries will be fine to operate with or without Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. In a sense, his mission to establish ISIS as the most powerful and most dangerous --

ROMANS: Right.

ROGIN: -- terrorist organization in the world has succeeded, even, and it will outlive him one way or the other.

ROMANS: Josh, let's talk about -- the number two in the Department of Justice, Rod Rosenstein, issued a statement yesterday in response to some of these latest developments -- latest reporting from "The Washington Post" in particular. Jared Kushner's finances under the microscope in this Russia probe. There have been a lot of -- a lot of unnamed sources used in a lot of these by a lot of news organizations, quite frankly, and then this.

Rod Rosenstein issues this. "Americans should exercise caution before accepting as true any stories attributed to anonymous officials, particularly when they do not identify the country, let alone the branch or agency of government with which the alleged sources supposedly are affiliated." This, from the deputy attorney general. The use of the word "country" really struck me there.

ROGIN: Right.

ROMANS: What do you make of this statement?

ROGIN: Yes. Well, first of all, I should say I work at "The Washington Post" but I wasn't involved in the reporting of any of the stories that Rod Rosenstein seems to be talking about here, but -- right, is he suggesting that the articles are sources to foreign officials? Well, that doesn't seem to apply to the most recent "Washington Post" report because that was updated to clarify that it was U.S. officials being quoted. Is he suggesting that there's going to be some more stories coming out that are going to be sourced to foreign intelligence organizations? We know that a lot of the Russia allegations have been supported by some collection from some foreign intelligence agencies although it's unclear where the lines are.

Overall, it's just a very weird and cryptic statement and very, very unusual. I mean, we know that the U.S. government uses the cloak of anonymity to talk to reporters all the time. White House officials do it literally all day, every day. And we also know that, you know, there -- you know, the process of reporting these stories, especially on sensitive and classified topics, requires the use of anonymous sources, right? It's important to remind people because if we were only limiting ourselves to reporting what government officials were willing to say on the record, which means they would never say anything that contradicted the official line, we would be living in a world of spin and the government would have complete control over our understanding of their actions, and that's a recipe for disaster.

[05:40:08] BRIGGS: And that statement particularly unusual from a guy perceived as totally apolitical -- a career Justice official highly respected --

ROGIN: Yes, but isn't --

BRIGGS: -- on both sides of the aisle. I don't know. We shall see given the -- how the Comey firing played out. But let's turn now to the unity that we saw in Washington -- in the nation's capital last night, in particular at that Congressional baseball game. Yes, Democrats won the game but they want the trophy to go in Steve Scalise's office. Both teams joined on the field for a prayer --

(Video playing)

ROMANS: Look at that.

BRIGGS: -- and that moment really stood out. The first-ever interview Jake Tapper conducted with Nancy Pelosi and Paul Ryan, a moment of unity for sure. They laughed, they joked, they smiled. That was nice to see.

But what preceded all of that is a number of tweets from the president. In particular, I bring your attention to this one about the witch hunt. "You are witnessing the single greatest witch hunt in American political history" -- this, from the president -- "led by some" -- here's the key -- "very bad and conflicted people" -- presumably talking about Bob Mueller's counsel team. How do we achieve unity with tweets like that, Josh?

ROGIN: Yes, it's a good sign and a good thing that Nancy Pelosi and Paul Ryan have decided to put aside their differences in order to mark this sort of horrible and sad event. You know, it doesn't seem like there's going to be a lot of follow-up. It doesn't seem like its' going to stick and that's a shame because, you know, this represents an opportunity to sort of, you know, take a step back and take a deep breath and, you know, realize that there should be some sort of, you know, limits to what's permissible in not only in political discourse but in civic, you know, action --

ROMANS: True.

ROGIN: -- related to our political discourse. And then, realize that, you know, our leaders and the media and everyone else who the public turns to for information and guidance has a responsibility to uphold that sort of civic spirit. You know, the President of the United States has never been one to really emphasize that. Now, I don't think his tweets are related to that, you know. I don't think that he -- that's he's necessarily responding to one thing or the other, but what we've seen is a pattern of actions and statements by the president, you know, that are prioritized, self-defense, and sort of going on offense against his enemies above --

ROMANS: Right.

ROGIN: -- sort of finding some sort of common ground. That's not like to change anytime soon.

ROMANS: All right, Josh Rogin. Have a great weekend. Nice to see you this morning.

ROGIN: Thank you. You, too.

ROMANS: Thanks for your expertise. Great to have him on board --

BRIGGS: Indeed, it is.

ROMANS: -- when we have so many breaking stories this morning. All right, President Trump touted his business skills during the campaign but guess what? Some business leaders worry about his political achievements since he took office. Their grade of the Trump presidency so far, that's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[05:47:08] BRIGGS: All right. Time now for a look at what's coming up on "NEW DAY." Chris Cuomo joining us on a -- ROMANS: Hi, Chris.

BRIGGS: -- big breaking news Friday. Hey, Chris.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: Good morning, my good-looking friends. We do have breaking news in the fight against ISIS. We are taking it very slowly on this reporting but Russia is investigating whether it has killed the leader of ISIS in an airstrike in Syria, but even Russia is being very careful about the wording. They're saying in an airstrike in late May they may have taken out al-Baghdadi. Now, this was not a concerted action with allied forces, certainly with the United States, so what does this mean? How does it get verified? We are pressing U.S. military sources and governmental sources for any information. It is unconfirmed at this point but what would it mean? We have reports from CNN senior international correspondent Clarissa Ward and CNN's Barbara Starr at the Pentagon.

We're also following the latest out of the White House. President Trump lashing out on Twitter once again. So much for a new spirit of unity. And, once again, it is personal about special counsel Robert Mueller, calling it, once again, a "witch hunt." Calling the people involved in this "bad."

But there was a big moment of unity in Washington. That Congressional baseball game went on and the teams came together in a way that was beautiful. It was played in honor of their colleague, Congressman Steve Scalise. Scalise is still in a big fight in the hospital after that shooting on Wednesday. So, that was beautiful to see.

ROMANS: Sure.

CUOMO: The Democrats won but gave the trophy to the GOP to put in the office of the House Whip Steve Scalise. That was beautiful, and they raised more money than ever for needy kids.

ROMANS: Yes, it was cool to see, you know, Steven Mnuchin and Ivanka Trump in the -- in the -- in the dugout for the Democrats, you know -- bipartisanship.

BRIGGS: A $50,000 check.

ROMANS: A great moment. All right.

BRIGGS: All right, Chris, thanks. We'll see you in a bit. And again, that condition -- Steve Scalise still in critical condition.

CUOMO: Yes.

BRIGGS: Not out of the woods yet.

ROMANS: All right, thanks, Chris.

BRIGGS: We'll see you in a bit, Chris.

ROMANS: All right. President Trump says American business is booming. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Job enthusiasm and manufacturing, business enthusiasm is at record levels, never been higher.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: But some of America's top CEOs give his presidency a failing grade. Check this out. A stunning 50 percent of business executives grade him an "F" for his first 130 days. That's according to a survey at the annual Yale CEO summit. Just one percent gave him an "A". There's some pretty big names who were surveyed here including Blackstone CEO Steve Schwarzman and IBM boss Ginni Rometty. Both of them, by the way, sit on Trump's advisory council.

The survey's overarching message, stop distracting from the economic agenda, especially tax reform. Now, the investor class is doing very well, of course, under President Trump. You just have to at the stock market to see that. Stocks and corporate profits are at highs. Former labor secretary Robert Reich says he's actually failing the working class.

[05:50:15] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT REICH, FORMER LABOR SECRETARY: The working class, particularly the white working class that supported Donald Trump, they don't want Wall Street to run rampant again and they don't want to lose their Medicaid and they don't want to lose their health insurance. You know, a lot of people are going to suffer because of the tax cuts and the Dodd-Frank watering down, and also the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, and they are Donald Trump voters.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Reich also said turning back regulations on things like overtime pay directly hurts the president's base, and it will be fascinating to see how that plays out. You know, Robert Reich, no fan of Donald Trump --

BRIGGS: True.

ROMANS: -- and Donald Trump, no fan of Robert Reich. But he does -- Robert Reich says there's one thing he agrees with Donald Trump on. Donald Trump, earlier this week, said that he thought the House health care bill was mean. Robert Reich says yes, I agree with Donald Trump, it is mean. And that's where their --

BRIGGS: There's some common ground.

ROMANS: And that's where their agreement ends.

BRIGGS: That community -- the business community wants to see tax reform.

ROMANS: They want tax reform. BRIGGS: Will we get it?

ROMANS: I don't know. The clock is ticking on that. They've got to move quickly on that.

BRIGGS: It should be tricky. All right. Ahead, the jury in the Bill Cosby trial says it's deadlocked but still going back to work today. Can they reach a consensus after the judge said to keep on trying? That's next on EARLY START.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[05:55:40] BRIGGS: All right. Jurors in the Bill Cosby trial set to return for another day of deliberations even though they've told the judge they're deadlocked. The sequestered jury has been ordered to continue after 40 hours of deliberation so far. There is no limit to how many times a judge can ask jurors to keep trying to reach a verdict. The comedian has pleaded not guilty to drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand at his Philadelphia home in 2004.

ROMANS: All right, 56 minutes past the hour this Friday morning. Let's get a check on CNN Money Stream. Global stock markets higher but U.S. tech stocks fell again yesterday. You know, tech had been on a tear, driving the markets to a record with an 18 percent spike. But recently, investors have been worried they may have run too fast, so we saw big names like Facebook, Amazon, Apple, and Netflix all fall and that dragged all three indices lower. Right now, though, it looks like you're going to see a bounce back. U.S. futures higher to end the week.

Facebook is under intense pressure to not be a safe haven anymore for terrorist ideology, so the new big job there at Facebook, counterterrorism specialist. Facebook greatly expanded its team that combats terrorism. This mix of new jobs includes more than 150 academics, analysts, and former law enforcement agents. Facebook also using cutting-edge tech like artificial intelligence and special algorithms to mine all of the data and images there to try to find this stuff. Now, the company has said before it wants to be hostile to terrorist content.

Law enforcement around the world have complained Facebook is too slow to identify and take hateful and violent terrorist propaganda down and that terrorists can hide their conversations. A lot of the social media companies have been under fire from law enforcement officials around the world because this is how terrorist talk --

BRIGGS: Yes.

ROMANS: -- secretly via social media with these encrypted algorithms. That's all part of the story.

BRIGGS: Well, speaking of terrorism, "NEW DAY" has the latest developments on reports that the leader of ISIS was killed in a May 28th Russian airstrike. Alisyn Camerota and Chris Cuomo have all the latest developments on that story right now. Thanks for joining us. Have a great weekend. ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: And we do want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. You're watching NEW DAY. It's Friday, June 16th, 6:00 here in New York, and we do begin with breaking news.

Russia claims it may have killed one of the most-wanted terrorists in the world, ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Russia's Defense Ministry says it is investigating whether an airstrike killed al- Baghdadi in Syria.

CUOMO: And we're going to slow on this report, and even Russia is going slow on this. There have been multiple reports of al-Baghdadi's death that turned out not to be true. His whereabouts have been unknown for some time. If his death is confirmed it would be, obviously, a huge blow against the terror group. We have it all covered. Let's begin with CNN's senior international correspondent Clarissa Ward, live in London. She, of course, has reported extensively from war-torn Syria and other war theaters. What would this news mean, Clarissa?

CLARISSA WARD, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Chris, if, indeed,Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has been killed in a Russian airstrike it would be a huge coup for the Russians who have come up against a lot of criticism for not focusing their efforts in Syria against ISIS but, instead, focusing on the opposition that is fighting Bashar al- Assad, but at this stage that's a really big if.

Let's just take a look at what we're hearing from the Russians. The Defense Ministry is saying it is investigating the possibility that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed. They say there was an airstrike carried out by them on May 28th in the evening that targeted, south of Raqqa, a military council ISIS meeting. They said that there were 300 ISIS soldiers at the meeting, also 30 ISIS senior leaders. And they say according to various channels -- or corroborated through various channels, they also believe that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was at the meeting, too.

Now this raises a few red flags, I would say, Chris, because simply put, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi takes his security very seriously. He does not move around in large groups like that so it would be highly unusual for the leader of ISIS to be attending a meeting with 300 ISIS soldiers. In fact, even senior ISIS personnel simply do not meet in large groupings like that because of drone strikes, because they are constantly being bombarded.

So, the Russians themselves are saying they're still doing some investigating here. They're still trying to get more information. We haven't heard anything yet from ISIS, themselves. But I would just say if he has been killed, of course, it would deal a big blow to the group, but let's just look at the past few weeks.