Return to Transcripts main page


Iraq Asks for U.S. Help As Militants Surge; Hagel Defends Bergdahl Deal; Eric Cantor to Step Down As Majority Leader

Aired June 12, 2014 - 08:00   ET


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Welcome back to NEW DAY. We're very happy to be with you this Thursday, June 12th, 8:00 in the east. Ms. Brooke Baldwin, in for Kate. A pleasure to have you.

BALDWIN: Thank you.

CUOMO: The news certainly not as pleasurable. Chaos in Iraq. Militants continue to grab major cities, crippling the Iraqi military and displacing half a million people so far. Now, the terrorists' next stop, Baghdad. This morning, the Iraqi government in crisis asking for help from a familiar friend known as you, the United States.

Senior international correspondent Nic Robertson is live in Amman, Jordan, with the latest.

How dire is the situation, Nic?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTENATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Just got worse again today, Chris. The Iraqi government failed to get together to vote to declare a state of emergency. It was boycotted by some MPs and shows the depths of division, the government says on state TV it is making some gains. Those have yet to be clearly shown and articulated to be true.

What we do see is how fast this terror group is making progress.


ROBERTSON: "The battle is not yet raging," says an ISIS spokesman in a chilling new message, purportedly uploaded by the terrorist group. "Don't give up a hand's width of ground, you've liberated," he says. "Only over your dead bodies and march towards Baghdad because we have scores to settle there."

ISIS is already closing in, 100 miles north seizing Tikrit, the hometown of Saddam Hussein. Mosul, Iraq's second largest city. And parts of Baiji, an oil refining town. Iraqi's foreign minister said urgent action is need.

Iraq's foreign minister said urgent is needed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I hope this incidents leads all Iraqi leaders to come together.

ROBERTSON: The strategic and swift surge suggesting a wider aim by the terrorists. Seizing Baiji means control over the main highway leading into Mosul, making it more difficult for the Iraqi government to reinforce its troops. And in Tikrit, the terrorist group overran a military base. American-supplied Humvees, weapons and ammunition now in their hands. The former American ambassador to Iraq says if the fight reaches Baghdad, it will destabilize the country and undercut global oil supplies.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is no longer a messy situation. That is a catastrophe for the people of Iraq, for American policy and for the entire region.

ROBERTSON: A country in crisis. Two and a half years after American troops lowered the flag of command over Baghdad, officially ending the U.S. military's presence in Iraq, an operation that took the lives of over 4,000 U.S. troops.


ROBERTSON: So, right now the Iraqi government cannot get itself together to agree a state of emergency. Yet they are saying that they would support U.S. air strikes on the al Qaeda splinter group -- Brooke.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Thank you so much there.

Let's bring in the Pentagon's press secretary, Rear Admiral John Kirby, for much more on this.

First, Admiral, just good morning. Thank you so much for being with us on NEW DAY.


BALDWIN: Out of the gate, are there any preliminary plans for U.S. air strikes, manned or unmanned, in Iraq?

KIRBY: Look. What I can tell you is our focus continues to be on helping Iraq. We have been doing a lot. Since the American troops left Iraq. So that's the focus is a continued, sustained effort helping them with the counterterrorism operations and we went get into the details on that.

BALDWIN: This is different. As we have been watching this al Qaeda offshoot ISIS taking over, you know, Mosul, when you look at the map, heading toward Baghdad which would be a huge, huge get for them, what would help look like from the U.S.?

KIRBY: Well, we're -- look. We're monitoring the situation in Iraq as closely as we possibly can. Certainly the country team there in Baghdad in constant touch with the Iraqi government there.

So, there's dialogue on this. Everybody's watching it closely. I think there's a shared understanding of the threat that ISIS poses to the people of Iraq and the people there. We understand that. And that dialogue, that cooperation continues, our focus is on helping them. That's what we're focused on right now.

BALDWIN: You know, Admiral, I was talking to General Spider Marks, who was a senior intelligence officer, during those years we were in Iraq. And the word he used that still echoes is devastating, thinking of the lives lost, all of our U.S. men and women serving in Iraq.

What worries you the most about this situation?

KIRBY: Well, look. I mean, we continue to maintain a focus on counterterrorism around the world so when you ask me what worries us, I mean, it is not so much worry as a sustained focus on the threat which is clearly changing and growing in certain ways. This threat of extremism and not just in Iraq. It's throughout the Middle East and North Africa.

And this is not something that we have ever not lost our focus on, whether it's Iraq or Afghanistan or areas like Africa. So, I mean, it's not so much worry, Kate, as constant, steady focus on the very real threat.

BALDWIN: It's Brooke. I'm in for Kate today.

KIRBY: I'm sorry.

BALDWIN: No worries.

What about the quick nature of the cities taken over by this particular group? The speed of this surprise you, Admiral?

KIRBY: Well, look, again. We are watching it very, very closely. Clearly, is has got some organization to it. They have momentum and watching that very, very closely and we are in touch as I said on the ground with the team there in Baghdad.

BALDWIN: Is there a fear, because I was talking to Bobby Ghosh, he's "TIME" magazine's world editor and said to me, Brooke, when's happening currently in Iraq with the offshoot of al Qaeda is likely to happen in Afghanistan once we fully wind down.

How is the U.S. prepared to prevent this from happening there?

KIRBY: Well, look, I think the commander in chief made it clear what our mission going forward in Afghanistan is going to be. Assuming a bilateral security agreement, you have Americans in there for the next two years. Now, they'll be drawing down geographically and numerically but the focus of that effort, as it's been for the last couple of years, is to prepare the Afghanistan national security forces to combat these threat themselves, defend their own country.

The strategy has always been one of transition and helping them defend their people, defend their institutions.

BALDWIN: OK. Let's totally switch gears since I have you to get you on record talk specifically about Bowe Bergdahl. We know Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel testifying on Capitol Hill with a grilling and anticipated by certain members of Congress. Take a listen to this particular exchange.


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 that you're not implying anything other than that.

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

HAGEL: I'm going to give an answer, too.

MILLER: Answer it.

HAGEL: I don't like the implications.

MILLER: Answer it, answer it.

HAGEL: He's being held there because our medical professionals don't believe he's ready. Until they believe he is ready --


BALDWIN: I won't ask you to get into the politics of that become and forth, let me ask you this. Do you have any idea when Bowe Bergdahl will leave Landstuhl and head back to the U.S.?

KIRBY: That's a decision that team will make and a decision to make and make it in concert with Sergeant Bergdahl and his desires and his readiness to move forward and there is not any pressure applied from the military, the Pentagon or anybody to advance that process faster than it needs to go.

This young man was in captivity nearly five years. What we have to assume were brutal, harsh conditions. He's going to need time to re- assimilate to get control of the emotions, to get healthy again and we're going to give him all the time he needs to do this.

BALDWIN: What about the fascinating and phenomenal reporting from "The Washington Post" -- I'm sure you saw the piece -- detailing some of what Bowe Bergdahl wrote in the journal? I wanted to ask you about how they're reporting that he was discharged I believe the phrase is uncharacterized discharge from the Coast Guard. He had served some 26 days of basic training. He left and then ultimately enlisted in the Army.

What can you tell me about that process and how often that kind of thing happens?

KIRBY: Well, I'm not an expert on recruiting processes across the service. Each service handles recruits differently and frankly practices change given the environment. When the economy's stronger, recruiting is tougher and they have flexibility in how they handle this.

The Army has certainly acknowledged that Sergeant Bergdahl did spend a short bit of time in the Coast Guard before he came in the Army and they have acknowledged that they enlisted him anyway.

KIRBY: I'm not familiar with the exact enlistment contract he signed --


KIRBY: -- or what the Army had to say, but I mean, clearly, this was something the army knew about and recruited him any way and I think it's -- I think, again, I just wanted to hit one point, we've got to be careful not to rush to judgment about the character and quality of this young man. He just came out five years of captivity. We're going to get a chance to talk to him. We're going to get a chance to find out what was in his head there that day when he was taken captive and then we'll go from there.

BALDWIN: OK. Admiral John Kirby from the Pentagon for us this morning -- really appreciate the time this morning.

KIRBY: Thanks for having me. Appreciate it, Brooke.

BALDWIN: You got it.

Chris, to you.

CUOMO: All right. Many called Eric Cantor's primary defeat a political earthquake. If so, then the aftershock came yesterday when he announced that he's stepping down as House majority leader. Continuing that metaphor, are Republicans in for more tremors between now and November?

CNN's Athena Jones is following the developments from Capitol Hill.

What do we think? Is it going along, this seismic level? Is that the way it's seen down there?

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning, Chris.

Certainly, a lot of change going on, a lot of jockeying already to replace Congressman Cantor as majority leader. He was seen as the most conservative member of the House leadership team and a possible successor to Speaker John Boehner and now, you have a scramble already underway to see who becomes the new number two.

We heard Congressman Cantor give his full support to his friend, California Congressman Kevin McCarthy. He is number three right now, the majority whip. He's also from California, a blue state. He's seen as moderate and because Cantor was the most conservative member of the leadership team, there's a lot of pressure to potentially replace him with a red state conservative.

So, some of the other names are Texas Republicans Pete Sessions and Jeb Hensarling popular with the base. But it all is going to come down to, folks around here say, personal relationships and you've got to remember that Congressman McCarthy was key in recruiting a lot of tea party candidates back in 2010 who ended up winning.

So, it's going to come down to relationships. It's going to come down to a little bit of red state or moderate state. And so, we'll have to see what happens but we'll be watching closely -- Michaela.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: Certainly will, Athena. Thanks so much for that.

Let's give you a look at more of your headlines right now.

Criminal investigation is now under way into the scandal the Department of Veterans Affairs. FBI will now work with the agency's inspector general to see if anyone should go to jail over the long wait times for veterans at facilities across the nation. This move comes as the Senate is approved an overhaul at the V.A. The House has given its okay to a similar measure.

PEREIRA: It's being called inadvertent, the result of a White House investigation into the accidental public release of the name of the CIA's top officer in Afghanistan. During a presidential visit to Bagram air base last month, journalists were given a list that contained the station chief's name. The white house says no disciplinary action will be taken for that leak. And that new procedures are in place to keep national security staff names from being made public.

New video shows the desperate last moments of the couple that killed three people in Las Vegas Sunday. Jerard and Amanda Miller were seen on the floor of the Wal-Mart where they faced off with police, pointing guns at each other but not firing.

Officials say the video proves that the shots that kill them were fired by officers, not by his wife. The tape ends just before police say Amanda turned the gun on herself.

Got to show you this -- heroism at a gas station in White Plains, New York. An off duty state police officer pumping gas and a car, slams into the pump and set everything on fire. That officer, John Vescio, ran away at first to clear the area and then ran back, pulled the driver from the car, likely saved his life because just seconds after, boom. That happens and a huge explosion. Fire everywhere.

Vescio insists that he is not a hero. He was merely doing what he was trained to do.

CUOMO: Now, Mick and I discussed earlier and he says he is no hero. We would obviously say that he is and maybe there's some kind of a version of that word now and overused and need a new word.

PEREIRA: Nope. That's the word we use. People true heroes never say they are and that makes them more profound and beautiful and amazing.

BALDWIN: The fact that he missed the explosion. A matter of seconds before it -- CUOMO: And it also shows the difference between someone who's a first

responder and let's say the average person. You run away. OK. You're smart. There's danger. I run.

He then runs back into the danger to help somebody else.

BALDWIN: Phenomenal about the first responders. Something just clicks in.

PEREIRA: Absolutely, thank God for them.

CUOMO: Early dose of the good stuff right there for all involved.

Now, coming up on NEW DAY, Donald Sterling. Is he out of his mind? His wife says two doctors say, yes. His lawyer will make the case for his sanity and his right to keep his team. We'll put him to the test. Please come watch.


CUOMO: What can only be described as a defiant Donald Sterling is swinging at the NBA, calling the league hypocrites, bullies and despicable monsters. Sterling says he will fight the sale of the Clippers and keep his suit against the NBA for $1 billion.

What is his case? Why's he so confident? Why's he still existing in the dialogue? To make the case, Donald Sterling's attorney, Mr. Bobby Samini.

Counselor, thank you for joining us this morning.


CUOMO: Counselor, we begin with the personal. Donald Sterling's estranged slash fill in your own description wife says doctors look at him. He is not in his right mind. Don't listen to him. What do you say about his competency?

SAMINI: Well, Chris, obviously, I don't have the medical expertise but I do have the benefit of having spent a lot of time with Donald. I don't think there will be any question as to his competency.

As you know, Shelly Sterling's lawyers went to court yesterday. The court denied their motion seeking extraordinary relief and the court set the matter for a hearing on July 7th. At that hearing, we'll have an opportunity to present our own evidence, our own medical experts and I think that this was not a very well played tactic.

I think the timing of it was very suspect and I think most people can see it for what it is.

CUOMO: All right. Let's do this. The most helpful thing for the viewer is first to kind of go back and forth and the points and counterpoints of what exists in the current landscape of litigation. You ready for that?

SAMINI: I'm ready, yes.

CUOMO: All right. So, I'll be the NBA. This is a clear franchise agreement. You signed it. You know it very well. You're the most veteran owner in the league right now and you know that just like an AmEx card membership has privileges and it's also revocable any time by me. I'm taking it back. You have agreed not to litigate unless it's an anti-trust issue. This is not an anti-trust issue. This is a done deal. Go away.

Your response?

SAMINI: That's a very good approach, Chris. And I think you're right. It is a franchise issue but that doesn't mean that you can throw the laws of the state of California, the federal government out the window.

As you know, even private organizations have to abide by the law and I think there's a fair amount of case law out there saying private organizations have to act reasonably.

Part of that also is consistent action. And I think if you look at the NBA's own conduct, you see their action is not consistent. If they're going to apply a standard to Donald Sterling, they need to apply the same standard first to themselves and then to all the other members.

And you can see by the conduct of the NBA that they don't apply that standard to themselves. In fact, and you don't have to look very far. In 1999, the NBA got sued. There was a punitive damages award and you know, Chris, punitive damages are not handed out very easily by courts. The subject of that case was gender discrimination and sexual harassment. There are three other cases that are along the same lines where they have exercised their power to not tell the public.

CUOMO: Right. But they have a mechanism.

SAMINI: There have been several claims.

CUOMO: But they have a mechanism. They have a mechanism.

The mechanism is, we'll have the owners vote. And if they want to vote in three quarters of them agree that's what done in this particular instance is so damaging to the brand as to threaten the commercial value of the enterprise, then they can take back your franchise and here they look at what he said and the damage it did, how players were thinking about quitting, how advertisers ran away. The resulting negative media and they have said this passes our test for someone who's hurt the brand. They're going to vote. If they vote three quarters then it's done and can't compare it to other cases because each one is handled individually.

SAMINI: Chris, that's true. But the problem is the standard is not applied to the NBA itself. Nobody's talking about the other cases. There was no discussion about the other cases.

So what you're basically saying is, it's OK for the NBA itself to create a culture of systemic gender discrimination and discrimination of other sorts. They have no judge. Nobody can pass judgment on them. Nobody can review their conduct and here what we have done is singled out Donald Sterling and said we're going to apply the standard to him. We're not going to apply it to ourselves. We're not going to apply to anybody else.

CUOMO: But even if you're right --

SAMINI: It's absurd.

CUOMO: Even if you're right that there's hypocrisy on the part of the NBA, I don't see the analogy to Donald Sterling's situation and why that would in any way hinder their ability to move on him. Even if they're hypocrites, either he did what they say he did and the owners feel about what they feel and vote accordingly or they don't. Who cares if they're hypocritical? What does it have to do with the situation?

SAMINI: Well, Chris, it's actually very important, Chris. In that, if you're going to have a standard, in an organization, in which you're going to apply to any one member, it has to be applied equally to all the members and to the organization. That's going to be a real problem for the NBA.

And if they don't see that, I think they're going to -- you know, they're going to be in for a surprise and I think aside from the legal aspect of it, the American public is smarter than that. You know, the other day Adam Silver was quoted as saying, this is not about the NBA. This is not about us. This is about Donald Sterling.

That's a pretty convenient way to dismiss the greater issue. Let's talk about Donald Sterling.

My client made some comments in private. He's come out. He's been apologetic. He's reasserted his apology.

He's explained that he made those comments. They were in private. He was angry. He was upset. He was very emotional at the time. Those comments don't represent who he is. He made a mistake.

CUOMO: Here's the thing. I hear you. And again, you're presenting your side. I'm giving you the counter to it, that it absolutely presents who he is, because it was in private, because the integrity test is what happens when no one's watching and he didn't know that this is something made available to the public.

It's even a more true reflection of who he is and the resulting interview done here as you know on CNN with Mr. Anderson Cooper, many would assert put him even deeper in the hole of definition as something that's detrimental to the league, he actually wasn't apologetic. He was upset about the implications to himself but what he said about minorities, what he said about Magic Johnson, he only compounded in that interview and why the league is moving on him.

SAMINI: Well, Chris, I don't think that's the reality of what's occurring. I mean, as to these issues of what he said in private, I think that's a really unfair standard to apply. Not only to Donald Sterling but to any American.

I'm pretty certain that the American public believes that in the privacy of their own home, they should have that right of privacy.

CUOMO: Counselor, if in your firm --

SAMINI: Not to defend --

CUOMO: If I worked for you as an associate and you found out for whatever -- however you found out that when I was in my house I said some really ugly things about minorities that showed where my heart and head are on those issues, what would you do?

SAMINI: Well, Chris, that's not the same analogy. It's not the same set of circumstances.


SAMINI: What we do in my firm as a private industry, it's not a matter of public disclosure. I don't have the right to go into my employees' private home and ask them what they do.

CUOMO: They didn't go in. The league didn't go in. The league had nothing to do with the procurement of this recording. Other people may have done something wrong but not the league.

SAMINI: Well, I'm not saying what the league did was illegally obtained it. I think it's pretty well understood that the tapes were obtained illegally. That's something in which law enforcement will address, I'm sure, at some point.

But my point is that the tapes were obtained illegally. For the league to use those as a basis to exit my client from the organization, I think, is inappropriate. And I think that every American recognizes that fact. I don't think there's any American that says, it's OK if I work at a job somewhere for somebody to come, get my private conversation which was taken without my consent and then later use that against me.

I think that's a fundamental right as Americans we respect. You have the right of privacy.

Again, it's not to defend what he said. I think he's been pretty clear, especially in the last few days, to really make as many people as he can understand that he's apologized for what he said and he feels terribly about it. But it doesn't change the fact that you're taking his private conduct and now you are exposing it to the world and saying, we're going to come after you for this.

When I talk about the NBA, I'm not talking about cases where there were trials, where their conduct was public, where they demonstrated this systematic culture of gender discrimination and sexual harassment.

CUOMO: Well, we look forward --

SAMINI: Why can't we have that conversation?

CUOMO: Well, we are having it right now and we look forward to how you make the case and having you back on. If this litigation takes another step, it is interesting to see how it develops, of course. You are welcome to make the case as it proceeds.

Counselor, Mr. Samini, thank you very much for being with us.

SAMINI: Thank you very much.

CUOMO: All right. Brooke, over to you.

SAMINI: All right. Gentlemen, thank you very much.

Coming up next on NEW DAY, shocking new details on a deadly school shooting in Oregon. This morning, police have now identified the gunman and we are learning new information about the minutes leading up to the attack.

Also, the chaos continuing this morning in Iraq. A man who's no stranger to covering major world events joins us live. Dan Rather is here to break it all down.