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Terrorist Group Threatens Baghdad; Defense Secretary Defends U.S. Prisoner Swap with Taliban Before Congress; Interview with Milton Wolf, Obama Cousin & Tea Partier; Politics After Cantor's Loss

Aired June 12, 2014 - 07:00   ET


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The United States considering its options. At the moment, doesn't seem likely that anyone's rushing to get back in, but more the view that the Iraqis can get trained by the United States, and that's sort of the limit. That's where we're at right now, Brooke.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Nic Robertson, thank you so much for us in Jordan this morning. Let's stay on this, because Iraq is a huge story, bringing in retired Major General James "Spider" Marks, CNN military analyst. He's also former commanding general of the Army Intelligence Center and was the top intelligence officer during the 2003 invasion in Iraq. So good morning to you, and welcome back here.

This is perfect just for everyone watching at home because we just want to show everyone the lay of the land. Let's begin here. You can see the map here, Iraq, Syria. I know much of the issue here, the porous border and the ability to cross back and forth. Let's begin, as we talk specifically about ISIS. And just on a personal level off the top, having been the senior intel officer, one of them, in Iraq, with everything happening here, do you feel like we're multiple steps back?

MAJ. GEN. JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS (RET), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: We are, yes. It's personally devastating. You have to --

BALDWIN: It's devastating?

MARKS: You can have to put it in the perspective at lives that we lost. I don't care about the money. I care about the lives that we've lost. Now, is this intractable, is there an opportunity for Iraq to get this right? The short answer is yes. This is not good though.

BALDWIN: It's not good?


BALDWIN: And it's interesting though, too, as we're going to talk about Mosul and Tikrit on the way potentially to Baghdad, you say it's less about speed and more about momentum.

MARKS: It really is. When you talk about speed and the speed of the operations, the speed that concerns me was the collapse of the Iraqi military in the vicinity of Mosul and en route Tikrit. This is a major line of communications. You have to control this if you're eventually going to get to Baghdad, conducting operations from this location. So once you gain some speed vis-a-vis the enemy, it's all about momentum, and you're not going to stop. That's what we see right now is ISIS increasing its rate of momentum.

BALDWIN: Let's talk about Tikrit, right, because Tikrit, the next town really away from Baghdad, and looking at the situation there, it's interesting because we were reporting yesterday in talking about this that this was being held by ISIS, the new report today from Iraqi TV and from the government is that the Iraqis got it back. We can't 100 percent confirm that, you know the deal, how it works. But the fact that it's this back and forth --

MARKS: Hugely fluid. What that speaks to is that maybe the Iraqi military has some capabilities that we provided them and they brought on board.

BALDWIN: But you haven't been very impressed with them.

MARKS: No, not -- up to date, those that have been engaged in this fight have not acquitted themselves well at all. Any time you have a unit or you have soldiers who abandon their post, take off their uniforms and say I got to get out of here, this is nothing but a dark outcome to me, that speaks to leadership, lack of leadership. That's the major concern.

BALDWIN: Mosul, we talked about this as well because this is the second largest city. This is the aftermath, these are the pictures. Second largest city which in history, a symbolic prize for ISIS. We're hearing part of the issue is the U.S. had weaponry and helicopters that apparently one of the --

MARKS: This is a U.S. kit right here.


MARKS: All right.

BALDWIN: So that's an issue because they're jumping in on our weapons and our helicopters.

MARKS: We provided --

BALDWIN: Allegedly.

MARKS: Not allegedly. We provided this kit to the Iraqi military. We trained them. They brought it on board. They have now abandoned their primary mission, which is to execute their tasks. And so ISIS says, I'll take that.


MARKS: I'll take your kit. That will be great. The real issue with Mosul is that's where oil comes from out of the Kurdish region and heads over to Turkey for export. And 15 percent of the oil in Iraq goes through Mosul. This is the confluence -- this is a commercial center.

BALDWIN: Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki, he, according to the "New York Times" this morning, had asked the White House secretly in the last month for U.S. assistance, airstrikes, be it unmanned or manned. At what point should the U.S. step in?

MARKS: I wish he wouldn't have asked secretly. I wish he would come out and say, look, we need help here. We're not going down the right path. The United States, my view is the United States has an obligation to Iraq. It goes beyond sacred. It's just we have made a huge commitment.

BALDWIN: You know so many Americans are saying over it, don't want involvement.

MARKS: But we have relationships with nations all over the world. We need to establish a more robust relationship with Iraq in a way that can help them over this challenging -- this incredible challenge they have right now. I'm not suggesting we put troops on the ground. What I'm saying is there is some stuff we can do in terms of providing additional assistance, in terms of advice, maybe some additional training, and maybe even possibly, with the help of others in the region, not just U.S. only, some air support, because ISIS kicks up a lot of dust. This is a conventional fight. We can target them without too many problems and maybe have an effect.

BALDWIN: At what point though if you look at first you have starting withes Mosul heading this way toward Baghdad, that I have to imagine is the prize for ISIS.

MARKS: Very much so. Also, you know, they are over here in the area of Fallujah. So if you look at it from that perspective, Baghdad really is vulnerable.

Now, the best military is in the vicinity of Baghdad. Those are the ones that are loyal, what we would call the king's guards, the ones who are loyal to Maliki. They're probably predominantly Shia. They have not been involved in this fight yet. We need to really make sure that this does not collapse or crumble.

BALDWIN: General Spider Marks, thank you so much for your expertise this morning.

MARKS: Thanks.

BALDWIN: Appreciate it. Chris, over to you.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Brooke, this morning the question of whether Bowe Bergdahl deserted demands an answer in many minds, and we have some new clues to what was in the young soldier's mind in the days before he was captured in Afghanistan. New journals and e-mails coming to light, this as the defense secretary gives the most aggressive defense yet of the deal that freed Bergdahl. Let's bring in CNN's Barbara Starr joining us from the Pentagon. Good morning, Barbara. BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Chris. It

was an outright defiant Chuck Hagel on Capitol Hill talking about the deal that freed Bowe Bergdahl even as we are learning new details about who this young man may really be.


STARR: Defending the deal to get Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl back, it was perhaps the angriest Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has ever been in public when questioned why Bergdahl is still in the hospital 12 days after being released from five years in Taliban captivity.

REP. JEFF MILLER, (R) FLORIDA: You're trying to tell me that he's being held at Landstuhl, Germany, because of his medical condition?

CHUCK HAGEL, DEFENSE SECRETARY: Congressman, I hope you're not implying anything other than that. The fact that --

MILLER: I'm just asking the question, Mr. Secretary, that you won't answer.

HAGEL: I'm going to answer it.

MILLER: Answer it.

HAGEL: I don't like the implication.

STARR: Hagel offering a mea culpa to Congress, saying --

HAGEL: We could have done a better job, could have done a better job of keeping you informed. I know that trust has been broken.

STARR: But drawing the line.

HAGEL: By the way, I never said that I don't trust Congress. That's your words.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, you did. Yes, you have, over and over.

HAGEL: I never said I don't trust Congress. You ought to check our answer.


STARR: There was a moment suggesting everyone take a deep breath.

REP. JACKIE SPEIER, (D) CALIFORNIA: I really fear for his return to this country with the kind of rhetoric that is being spewed in this very room.

STARR: New details about Bergdahl are still emerging. Before joining the army he served for less than a month in the coast guard. Friends tell "The Washington Post" psychological issues were the reason he left. CNN has not confirmed that, sources saying only that he received an administrative discharge. The "Post" says Bergdahl's journals and e-mail paint a picture of what

it calls a complicated and fragile young man struggling to maintain mental stability, Bergdahl writing at one point, "I've spent a lot of my life thinking blackness was all I had in front of me."


In the latest U.S. official is telling me that now all the pieces are in place, all of the travel arrangements have been made for Bowe Bergdahl to fly from that hospital in Germany back to a U.S. military hospital in Texas. The doctors still have to make the final decision about when he will make that journey, but with the pieces in place, it looks like it could be getting closer. Michaela?

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: And then he will have many, many questions to face. Barbara Starr, thank you for that.

Here's a look at more of your headlines right now. New details emerging in Tuesday's deadly school shooting in Oregon. Police have identified the suspect, this young man, 15-year-old Jared Michael Padgett. They say he was heavily harmed carrying a military style rifle in a guitar case along with a handgun and several hundred rounds of ammunition when he opened fire at his school. Padgett ambushed and killed 14-year-old Emilio Hoffman. He also wounded a teacher before turning a gun on himself.

New developments in the ongoing Donald Sterling saga. A California court will now get to decide if sterling was properly removed from controlling the family trust that owns the Los Angeles Clippers. That trial will begin in July. Last month Shelly Sterling assumed the role of sole trustee and negotiated the sale of the team to form Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. Donald Sterling's lawyer will join us right here on NEW DAY next hour.

And how about this, a bride, a groom, and Bill Murray? The legendary comedian stopping to mess around, clown around with a young couple as they pose for engagement photos on the streets of Charleston, North Carolina, stayed for this shot which of course has blown up online. Just the latest in the string of random sightings of the somewhat enigmatic star, who recently crashed a bachelor party over Memorial Day weekend. You just never know where he's going to show up. Somewhat -- you have a Bill Murray story?

BALDWIN: I wish I did have a Bill Murray story, but I loved his advice at the bachelor party, how he said, listen, if you're really serious about getting married you should travel all of the way around the world with someone. And if you come back on the airplane and you still love that person --

PEREIRA: Marry them.

BALDWIN: -- marry them in the airport, in the airport. I love that. I love that.

PEREIRA: Good advice.

BALDWIN: I'm big fan of his.

PEREIRA: You just chuckle.

BALDWIN: You're quiet.

CUOMO: I'm a big fan.

BALDWIN: He's a married man, too. He's like, zip.

CUOMO: Married man, never speak of marriage.

Coming up on NEW DAY, you're going to meet a candidate out of Kansas who is a distant cousin of President Obama. But that is where the familiarity ends. The president's cousin compares him to Hitler, and is hoping to ride the Tea Party momentum to a Senate seat. You will hear from him coming up.


CUOMO: Welcome back to NEW DAY. Some wacky turns in politics. The big shocker, of course, Eric Cantor being unseated by a little known arch conservative. Now Cantor being forced to give up his powerful job as House Majority Leader long before he has to leave office. Question becomes: will this conservative wave continue to sweep across the nation?

Our next guest thinks and hopes it will. His name, Dr. Milton Wolf, running for the Senate in Kansas, challenging sitting Senator Pat Roberts in the Republican primary. Another reason he hit the radar is because he happens to be President Obama's cousin. Doctor, thank you for joining us on NEW DAY.

DR. MILTON WOLF (R), SENATE CANDIDATE: Chris, thanks for having me.

CUOMO: Let us discuss the familiarity first. How is it that you are President Obama's relative?

WOLF: It's true, they say you cannot choose your family. But one thing you can do is you can choose to rise up and stop your family from destroying America.

Look, it's nothing personal, but I think Barack Obama is the worst president in our lifetimes. In fact, I think he may be the worse president in our country's history. And I'm running from the United States Senate to put a stop to his failed policies. This is a man who does not understand or appreciate American exceptionalism and Americans deserve better than that.

CUOMO: Doctor, I hear you, and these are not unusual criticisms of the president, certainly from the right, but does it complicate things for you that you are, what, second cousins with the man?

WOLF: It doesn't complicate the fact that I'm here to fight for America. Look, our country is in trouble. And in some ways we're heading towards a cliff. And we better do something about it. This is not a personal thing between me and Barack Obama. But if I

must, I will launch the mother of all family feuds to save America. America deserves somebody who will stand up and fight for our values. Our country is in so much trouble we're looking into the abyss of a $17.5 trillion debt. That's putting a burden on our children that they don't deserve and it's putting an anchor on our economy today.

And if we don't get this right, we may lose the chance to fight, because this is going rapidly. But what this takes is people who will stand up and offer bold, positive, conservative solutions. That's why I'm running for the United States Senate.

CUOMO: Have you met the president? Have you ever discussed your grievances with him?

WOLF: I've stood toe to toe with this president. I've looked him in the eye. And I've told him that he's wrong, because he is wrong for what he's doing to America. And I knew when I did I'd pay a price, and believe me, I surely have. They've harassed me, they've harassed my family, they've sent the IRS after us to harass us. When that finished, by the way, the IRS ended up paying us an interest penalty. I don't think that happens too often. And then they audited my business and then the White House tried to get me fired. And I'll tell you something, al that did was fire me up.

CUOMO: How did the White House try to get you fired?

WOLF: Because the servant government - a servant government should never treat a sovereign citizen that way. And we better stand up to this.

CUOMO: Hold on a second, Doctor. You're getting ahead of me. I don't understand what sovereign citizen means, but how did the White House try to get you fired?

WOLF: I would be happy to explain what a sovereign citizen is. That's what makes America exceptional. That we lend our power to the government. We, as citizens, lend our power to the government, not the other way around. They are our servant, not our master.

CUOMO: All right, OK.

WOLF: How did the White House try to get me fired?

CUOMO: Yes, how did they try to get you fired?

WOLF: They actually came to my editor, when I was writing a column for "The Washington Times," and suggested that they get rid of me. Now, think about that for a minute. A president trying to get rid of a columnist because they don't like the views they expressing.

Well, he may not like the views I'm expressing, but they're right. They're the views of embracing our Constitution, the views of embracing the American idea itself. Individual liberty, limited government, free market values. This is what made America great. In fact, this is what made America in the first place. And when we lost sight of this, we've suffered. That's what's going on in America right now. We have got to re-embrace what made us great.

CUOMO: So then you have the troubles with the White House you've had to overcome. You've had troubles of your own as well, right? There were some questionable practices on Facebook where you were putting up X-rays of patients and kind of making jokes about them. How do you justify that kind of behavior?

WOLF: Hey, look, I'm a doctor. I am not a politician. I do not live my life trying to figure out how to win an election because, frankly, I don't want a career in politics. I think my calling is to serve patients.

And what you're talking about now is exactly why we're going to win this election. Because Pat Roberts has been in Washington for 47 years. And no one should be in Washington for 47 years. God expected Moses to get things sorted out in 40. He cannot defend his record of voting for Barack Obama's tax increases and debt ceiling increases. He can't explain why he voted for Kathleen Sebelius to run Obamacare or Hillary Clinton to run foreign policy. All he can do is attack. Personal, vicious attacks. That's all he's got because he's of Washington.

This is why Eric Cantor is reading the help wanted ads today. They don't get it. Something big is happening in America.

CUOMO: Doctor --

WOLF: Americans are hungry for bold, positive, conservative solutions. Not these vicious personal attacks.

CUOMO: I got you. They're not a vicious personal attack. For someone who is not a politician, you sure did slip that question deftly. What I'm asking is you posted the X-rays on Facebook. You know that's true. I'm just asking you why did you do it?

WOLF: Well, you know, the real question would be why is it that when we're looking into a $17.5 trillion abyss, all Pat Roberts cares to do

CUOMO: Doctor, the real question -

WOLF: -- is attack me personally.

CUOMO: -- is the one I asked, because who you are matters. Like your relationship to the president makes you interesting. And what you put as X-rays online are interesting. If you have an answer for it, give it. If you don't want to answer it, say I don't want to answer it. I don't have a good answer.

WOLF: I'll tell you something. I'm a published author in radiology. They may have found a few comments they didn't like. But here's the thing -- the complaints have never come from my patients. My patients don't complain about me. Politicians complain about me. They're worried because they cannot defend themselves.

Pat Roberts cannot defend his 47-year Washington record, and so what he wants to do is attack me. A $17 1/2 trillion debt and what matters to Pat Roberts are photos on - or X-rays, actually, on Facebook that were done years ago. Now, that is why Eric Cantor is reading the help wanted ads today.

CUOMO: I don't know the relationship between what you did on Facebook and what happened to Eric Cantor, but I DO understand you don't want to obsess on the personal. I get that. Especially when you have something that's uncomfortable to discuss.

But do you think that it is a little bit hypocritical of you when you've likened the president to Hitler in certain regards and you've been very biting in your attacks of the senator you tried to unseat to have it both ways and say they're attacking me, I want to stick to policy, and yet you're very personal in your campaigning against them?

WOLF: I've never said a personal disparaging word about Pat Roberts. These are matters of fact. He's been in Washington for 47 years. If you think Washington is doing just fine, you should probably vote for him because you're guaranteed to get more of the same.

Now, what I offer are bold, positive, conservative solutions. I wrote a health care plan called Patientcare to replace Obamacare. It's been described as by far the best alternative to Obamacare. I would urge your viewers to go on our website, Look at the top of the page: Patientcare. It's understandable. You can read it yourself. It's about putting patients first instead of politicians. It's free market solutions to the problems created by government.

CUOMO: If elected --

WOLF: Now, these are the kind of issues voters care about. And yet what the politicians want to do is have these campaigns about personal attacks. That's fine. I've got thick skin. I can put up with it. But America cannot survive if we allow the career politicians to have these campaigns based purely on personal attacks.

CUOMO: Amen to that, Doctor. The personal has had too much dominance in politics. That's for sure. And it is a distraction of what matters most.

Let me ask you this. If you get in and you're able to start fighting with what you see is the good fight -- you say you're not a politician, that you're really about being a doctor. Are you going to be someone, if you get in, will you pledge to serve for only one term or a specific time so you can get back to doing what you think really matters in your life? Or you think, once you're in there, you're just like everybody else?

WOLF: No, I believe in term limits. I've limited myself to two terms.

CUOMO: Two terms.

WOLF: While I serve, while I serve my mission, I will continue to practice medicine here in Kansas as a volunteer and part time, of course, so that when I'm finished I can practice medicine full time again. That's my calling. I think we need more citizen legislators rather than career

politicians, and I will work to have term limits placed on the entire Congress. In fact, I want Congress to have to live by the same rules that they impose on the rest of us. This era of the career politician must end.

CUOMO: Dr. Wolf, thank you very much for joining us on NEW DAY. Good luck on the election and good luck at any upcoming family get- togethers. Certain to be some very spicy table talk.

WOLF: I think I have fallen off the Christmas card list at the White House, but I certainly urge your viewers to come to to check things out.

CUOMO: All right, thank you very much, Doctor. Apreciate your appearance here.


BALDWIN: All right, Chris Cuomo, thank you so much.

Coming up on NEW DAY, Washington is just coming to terms with that stunning downfall. One of the most powerful Republicans in Congress on "Inside Politics" to look at how the Republicans in the House are already fighting over how to replace Eric Cantor.

Also ahead this morning, the truck driver accused of causing that accident that injured comedian Tracy Morgan appears in court. Here he was. How will claims that he did not get enough sleep factor into the case?


PEREIRA: Welcome back to NEW DAY. Here's a look at your headlines.

More intense fighting in morning in Iraq as Islamic militants siege major cities. They are threatening to not stop until they reach Baghdad. Half a million people have already been forced to flee their homes to escape violence. U.S. officials are now considering options to help Iraq with the fight.

New details are emerging about Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl. "The Washington Post" has published parts of his personal journals and other writings. In those writings, he describes struggling with his mental state during his military service. The writings also mention vague plans to walk away from base in Afghanistan. The military hospital in Germany where Bergdahl is recovering says his condition is improving.

Pakistan says at least ten militants were killed overnight by U.S. drone strikes along the country's border with Afghanistan, a region known as the home of numerous militant groups. These are the first U.S. drone strikes in the border region in at least six months and comes days after the Pakistani Taliban attack on the international airport in Karachi. 36 people died in that attack. CUOMO: Situation even more important to watch now as Iraq becomes

further destabilized. The group in Iraq related to what's going on in Syria. The hostilities there could possibly destabilize Afghanistan with U.S. pulling out. It all matters; that's why we've got to keep covering it..

BALDWIN: We'll talk to (inaudible) spokesman, coming up. A lot of good questions on Iraq specifically.

CUOMO: A lot of political implications as well, so let's get "Inside Politics" on NEW DAY with John King. John, I must ask, is it proof positive that you are in trouble when your cousin comes out and starts giving you a whooping?

JOHN KING, CNN HOST, "INSIDE POLITICS": Well, that's an interesting race. Nice try there, trying to get him off those talking points.

BALDWIN: He tried, didn't he?

KING: Yes, that's an interesting race. So we'll see if Doctor -- that is one of the big questions after the Eric Cantor defeat. Can other Tea Party candidates who have been struggling, and Dr. Wolf is one of them, do they somehow get a burst of grassroots momentum? So we'll keep an eye on that race. We'll watch Mississippi next Tuesday.

And let's continue the conversation that Brooke and Chris and Michaela. With me this morning, Nia-Malika Henderson of "The Washington Post," Manu Raju of "Politico". What next and who next is the big question for House Republicans, and for the Republican Party, because as they choose a replacement for Eric Cantor, they're also choosing temperamentally what will the House Republican leadership be like? Will they have the courage to bring immigration to the floor or will they run from that issue?

Let's start with Eric Cantor. On the way out yesterday, he was asked the question about who he would like to take his job as Majority Leader and he endorsed - not sure his friend will like this or not -- Kevin McCarthy.


REP. ERIC CANTOR (R-VA), OUTGOING HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: I can tell you if my dear friend and colleague Kevin McCarthy does decide to run, I'd think he'd make an out standing Majority Leader and I will be backing him with my full support.


KING: I don't know that the day after the grassroots beats you, and when you have the Tea Party then trying to seize the moment and saying we don't want anybody from the existing leadership to get this job, I'm not sure if he's doing Kevin McCarthy a favor or not. Let's just, as we continue this discussion -- the one other candidate who we know is Pete Sessions, he's a Congressman from Texas who has a long simmering rivalry with Kevin McCarthy. Kevin McCarthy is from California. Does that help or hurt when Eric Cantor comes out so publicly?