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Hillary Clinton Holds Town Hall; ISIS Seizes Iraq Refinery; Is Iraq's Maliki a Failed Leader?; New Theory on Location of Flight 370

Aired June 18, 2014 - 11:00   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN CO-ANCHOR: So is it radical candor or more like calculating candidate?

Hillary Clinton with new comments on Benghazi, immigration, even grandparenthood, we will dissect her remarkable town meeting.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN CO-ANCHOR: The Redskins icon getting the ax, the team's trademarks have been canceled by the U.S. Patent Office. Does this mean the end of the franchise as we know it.

BERMAN: And then right ocean, wrong spot, a group of experts saying the search for Malaysia airlines flight 370 missed the mark by hundreds of miles.

Hello, everyone, I'm John Berman.

PEREIRA: I like this man a lot. I don't know why I felt compelled to say that, but why not?

I'm Michaela Pereira. It's 11:00 a.m. in the East, 8:00 a.m. out West, those stories and much more, right now, @THISHOUR.

We begin with the suspect in the deadly attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi. He is expected to travel now to the U.S. by Navy ship. Ahmed Abu Khatallah has been in custody on a Navy vessel in the Mediterranean since shortly after his capture Tuesday in Libya.

The Navy plans to transport him by sea rather than by air to give investigators maximum time to question him. The Obama administration wants him to stand trial in federal court.

BERMAN: And, of course, the arrest of Abu Khatallah lands smack dab in the middle of the white-hot debate about Benghazi, and right in the debate or discussion or controversy or whatever you want to call it sits Hillary Clinton.

She, of course, was secretary of state during the attack them, and now, well, she may or may not be running for president, but she did face new questions in the riveting CNN town hall with Christiana Amanpour.


HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: We want to know who was behind it, what the motivation of the leaders and the attackers happened to be.

There are still some unanswered questions. It was, after all, the fog of war, but I'm absolutely convinced that the United States and all of our various agencies, with all of our professionals, including the Congress, is, you know, piecing together the best information we can find.


PEREIRA: That was Hillary Clinton sounding measured but firm, open minded yet decisive, almost like a candidate perhaps, maybe if, at last night's CNN town hall event.

BERMAN: Honestly it was fascinating. It did cover a whole range of topic. And every word will be picked apart by supporters and critics, alike.

Joining us to talk about this are political contributors Marc Lamont Hill and Reihan Salam. Reihan, I want to start with you right now.

We just heard Mrs. Clinton talk about Benghazi, and she said there are still some unanswered questions. I was watching the town hall kind of split-screen on Twitter, and on Twitter, as soon as she said still some unanswered questions, a whole lot of people whole lot of people from the right, conservatives, said, yeah, that's why we want these committees investigating.

REIHAN SALAM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yeah, that's true, and I think that it's to her credit that she acknowledged that and she recognizes that it's a real vulnerability. And I look forward to hearing more from her as more information unfolds.

PEREIRA: We were talking about the fact that it's interesting how much attention has been paid. She's on a book tour, by the way. I don't know if we've forgotten to mention that.

She's on a book tour, Marc. Let's bring into the conversation this notion that one of questions that was asked on Tumblr, she talked about the impending birth -- they covered a wide range of discussions -- talked about the impending birth of her first grandchild and the decision she's going to have to make about running for president.

I want you to listen to this because there was an interesting point to this.


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Ultimate hard choice, grandmother or the possibility of being the first female president of United States of America?

CLINTON: Well, let's -- you know, there have been a lot --

AMANPOUR: Hard choice.

CLINTON: There have been a lot of grandfathers who have done it. AMANPOR: Precisely. So maybe it's not a hard choice.

CLINTON: It's a personal hard choice.


PEREIRA: I love that Christiane -- precisely. I love that point, Marc.

So, look, I keep talking about the fact this is a book tour, but, gosh, she sounded like this was paving the road for a run in 2016, all the ways that she handled this, even Christiane pushing back on her.

MARC LAMONT HILL, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: First of all, this is nothing more than a campaign tour, a proto-campaign tour. The book was a campaign book similar to President Obama's book when it came out, "The Audacity of Hope," you know, eight years ago or six years ago.

Her answer was perfect, and it does two things. One, it challenges the conventional logic that women can't have it all. That's something that's important. But, beyond that, it speaks to her base.

Hillary Clinton did a masterful job yesterday of pushing back against critics, of answering some tough questions, of acknowledging her mistakes, but also playing to her base. That answer speaks to that female base that's going to love to see her in office.

BERMAN: She was on several sides, though, of some issues. It was interesting as you listen to some of the answers.

There was joking last night, Reihan, between Christiane and Mrs. Clinton about radical candor, Mrs. Clinton kind of saying, this is going to be "Hillary unplugged." You're going to see the real, unvarnished, unplugged Mrs. Clinton if she does run or as she goes forward in this stage of her life.

If you look at the polls, and there's a new "Wall Street Journal"/NBC poll out today, it still says that Mrs. Clinton suffers on the issue of being honest and straightforward. Look at that. More people say no to the question than yes.

So what do you think? Do you think the radical candor notion is believable?

SALAM: I think that it's what you do when you are a tested person who's been around for a long time. Will it help her? I doubt it.

Here's the problem. Right now, Hillary Clinton looks absolutely invulnerable. She looked invulnerable the last time around too, and then suddenly out of nowhere comes Barack Obama.

I think that she's a lot more vulnerable than people think. Look at what happened to Eric Cantor recently. This is not about Democrats or Republicans. There's a lot of anger and distrust and frustration, and Hillary Clinton, more than almost anyone else in our political life, reflects this establishment, this entrenched establishment that's been around for a very long time. She and her husband hobnob with a lot of very rich and powerful people. It's what they've been doing for the better part of 25 years.

BERMAN: They are now rich and powerful people.

SALAM: They're very rich and powerful people at this point, and I think that when you are looking at the Democratic Party, right now it looks like they are ready for a coronation.

That's why she's coming out so big in such full-force right now, to see to it that she doesn't have any rival. And that's not how it's going to turn out in practice.

PEREIRA: So, Marc, final thought, with you, more vulnerable, yes, but more candid? Was she more candid? This is kind of a safe place to be.

She isn't a declared candidate at this point, but she was able to have some freedom in answering questions in a town hall forum.

HILL: There's no such thing as true candor when you're running for a office, particularly a presidential office, if you want to win.

But I do want to say that I think, Hillary, she's not invulnerable. I think there's no such thing as an invulnerable candidate, but I think she does have a pretty clear path. at least to the nomination.

Not because -- I agree with Reihan in the abstract. There's no such thing as inevitably. But there's just nobody in the bullpen here for the Dems, and I don't see anyone on the right, right now yet, who can challenge her.

That's not to say it won't happen, but I don't see it yet, and I think that's why you see the confidence and regulated candor that you see from here right now.

BERMAN: So, no such thing as inevitability and no such thing as candor when you're running for office.

Marc Lamont Hill, Reihan Salam, thank you for that cynical view of our political system.

HILL: That's what we're here for.

PEREIRA: Appreciate it, guys.

All right, ahead @THISHOUR, I want to turn to Iraq. Is it on the brink of an all-out sectarian war? And what might that mean for possible U.S. involvement?

President Obama meeting today with congressional leaders to discuss the escalating crisis.

BERMAN: And then doctors didn't believe that this woman had a stroke, so she took a selfie when the next one hit.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BERMAN: Dramatic new developments in Iraq, the country's largest oil refinery under attack by the ISIS militants, Reuters news agency reports that the insurgents may now control almost the entire Baiji facility. But Iraq's military claims it has prevented the takeover.

The militants inching ever closer now to Baghdad, they are battling Iraqi military forces as well as some Shiite militiamen in Baquba, which is less than 40 miles from the capital.

PEREIRA: President Obama, in the meantime, is still weighing his options. He's set to meet with congressional leaders just a few hours from now to discuss the crisis in Iraq.

I want to bring in our Jim Sciutto. He is live in Washington. Good morning to you, Jim.

So --


PEREIRA: -- here's the question. Baquba, if it falls, the implications, we know, obviously are dire, to say the least, for the Iraqi capital.

Do we get any sense that there's going to be an imminent decision from the president anytime soon if the U.S. is going to do anything?

SCIUTTO: That's with the president right now. We've been told since the beginning the president is going to act, he's going to decide and act with urgency, but he and his team want to make sure that whatever they do has an actual impact on the ground and limits the costs as well.

Now I'm told from the military side that they have discussed options, specific options, with the president, but they haven't prepared or finished a final target list for potential air strikes, so that's something -- a step that still needs to be completed.

But there's another issue here as well. The administration clearly believes, and I've been told the same thing by intelligence officials, that Baghdad will hold.

As quickly as ISIS has made gains in the north and the west, that Baghdad, because it's a largely Shiite city, because the military units there protecting the government are more loyal to the government, more likely to stand up as opposed to run away, because of that, they believe that Baghdad will hold and that in reality that gives them some time.

It's kind of a -- it's a dire thought to imagine that only a third of the country has been taken over by ISIS, and as long as Baghdad holds, that gives us some time to decide on next steps.

It's amazing how the calculus has changed in just the last week, really.

PEREIRA: Interesting indeed. Jim Sciutto, big thanks to you.

One thing we know is clear, Iraq is spiraling toward all-out war between Shiites and Sunnis.

Let's bring in our military analyst retired Major General "Spider" Marks. He's the executive dean of the University of Phoenix. Michael O'Hanlon also joins us, a senior fellow and director of foreign policy research at the Brookings Institute. Gentlemen, thanks so much for joining us @THISHOUR.

Michael, I'm going to start with you. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al- Maliki seems to be a big part of this problem. When you talk to various people, that's what they are saying.

President Obama has told the Iraqi leader that he's got to be more inclusive of the people in his country, the different factions, but you go a step further in your op-ed. You flat out say he should go. Isn't that a nonstarter?

MICHAEL O'HANLON, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: That's a good point. It really is going to be hard to pull off, but I still think it's worth confronting the basic reality.

I think it's going to be extremely difficult to make Iraq work as a country and pull together the different groups as long as Maliki is in charge.

My guess is that he has squandered permanently any hope of being able to be a unifying figure in that country, and so I'd rather begin with that conversation.

Now I think we probably should have tried to persuade him not to run for a third term for prime minister. It would have tough; you're right. But when you begin with that conversation, you at least dramatize the stakes and the seriousness of the problem.

And then I think that helps you with the next step of the negotiation if necessary. If he won't step down, at least now he knows we're not going to provide him a whole lot of additional help until he's quite serious about restoring the proper functioning of the ministries of interior, defense, and justice, all of which he's essentially taken over and run out of his office.

And he's basically excommunicated and expelled any Sunni, whether they be fair minded or not, in the process, as well as firing a lot of the good Sunni generals in the Iraqi army.

A lot of those steps have to be undone or reversed or there's really no hope here that I can see of ever taking back that northwestern third of the country.

BERMAN: So, "Spider" Marks with us also, "Spider," as you point out, was the senior intelligence officer during the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003.

"Spider," you've heard Michael's comments about the politics in Baghdad, that Nouri al-Maliki is essentially a failed leader with no hope for redemption. But you don't think that should be a consideration right now. You think the military advances of ISIS need to be stopped, really, now no matter what.

MAJ. GEN. JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: That's a precondition. Maliki is totally irrelevant if Baghdad falls. I agree with the assessments that Baghdad is a very difficult mission for ISIS to take over. That is a Shia city, that's 8 plus million people, it is 80 percent of them are Shia's.

This is a very tough mission for ISIS. So I think ISIS will be stalled. The problem is the government of Iraq is really on the brink of total collapse. We can't afford, and I think Michael would agree, we can't afford to have a failed state of Iraq. This is a rich country, an educated country and it cannot be a breeding ground for further terrorism. So Maliki has to be able to get some support so he can stop what looks like an inevitable collapse of his government.

Then everything that Michael said is absolutely spot on. We have to have a robust conversation that talks about the government after next, that does not include Maliki, and is more inclusive. If Maliki is a patriot of Iraq, that's a serious conversation he is willing to have. If it's just purely political and purely sectarian, Michael is correct again. We've got a larger problem and there might some additional pressures we have to put on him.

BERMAN: "Spider", forgive me, you say we can't have a failed state in Iraq, but Michael couldn't you make a case that we do have a failed state in Iraq right now? Essentially two or three separate countries within a country that seem to be moving apart not together.

O'HANLON: My concern would be -- I agree with "Spider". My concern would be the sanctuary that's been created in the north and west of the country where al Qaeda affiliates, and most notably ISIS, can now take root and operate with impunity. Plan attacks, initially perhaps around places like Baghdad and other parts of the Middle East, but eventually even in Europe and the United States.

That's exactly the kind of concern we have to address. It's not so much that I'm worried about Iraq collapsing. I think the more likely thing is civil war where there is a divided country and in the north and west, the Sunni held area's, ISIS is able to operate with a lot more freedom of maneuver then is good for our security.

That is the real concern, which means we have to get to the point where Maliki not just stems this particular advancement, but develops the means of retaking the north and the west. I doubt that he can do it. Which gets to the issue of how do you create a new coalition government that could do it. But that has to be the longer term agenda. The short term agenda is to stop the south ward movement of this ISIS insurgency.

PEREIRA: Michael O'Hanlon and "Spider" Marks, thank you so much for lending your expertise and knowledge to this. This is obviously a massive story that U.S. and certainly we at CNN are going to keeping our eyes on. Seventeen minutes past the hour. Ahead, some experts say new computer

models could tell us where to find Flight 370 and the 239 people who were on board. They think the previous search was hundreds of miles off the mark. We'll take a look.


BERMAN: @THISHOUR, a new theory about Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 and just where it might be. An independent group of experts says five separate computer models put the plane in the southern Indian ocean, but it's in a stretch of water hundreds of miles southwest of the previous search area.

PEREIRA: The group says the plane's equipment was programmed with certain assumptions about a satellite which ended up being false. I want to bring in our aviation analyst Mary Schiavo. We haven't talked to you in so long Mary, I miss your face. Nice to see you with us.


PEREIRA: What do you make of this? Does this seem sound to you? Is this a theory worth exploring? What are your thoughts?

SCHIAVO: It certainly is a theory worth exploring and it does seem sound. If anything it backs up the Inmarsat data. I don't take it an attack on the Inmarsat data, I think it is pretty interesting and to me it validates it. What they are saying is the plane's computers were programmed to believe that the satellite was stationary. It's like playing Marco Polo when you were on the pool, you know the other entity is on the diving board, but is he on the low diving board or the high diving board or jumping up and down ready to dive. The plane thought it was stationary, and in fact it was moving.

So it certainly makes a lot of sense, to me, just being a couple hundreds of miles from the Inmarset calculations, the original calculations, that's pretty close if you look at where it could be with eight hours of flying time. So it certainly looks valid, these are ten very brilliant gentlemen who have come up with this. I think it's worth exploring.

BERMAN: There's the sense now Mary, and you hear it from different people, that maybe those pings that they thought heard and they now believe were not connected to the flight may have led them off course for a long time in this investigation.

SCHIAVO: I think that's exactly right. You know, and we all remember because we were watching with the rest of the world with bated breath. When those pings were achieved on the very first day, when we got the Inmarsat data, Inmarsat said it took the southern mark, and it appears that Inmarsat was right, but then they got the pinning the very first day, and people were so excited and then they got three more.

But they were too far apart and they were wrong kilohertz, the wrong frequency, and to this day I don't think anyone has ever really determined if a pinger can degrade from 3.5 KHz down to 33.5 or 33.3. And I think that threw everyone off and they thought they were on the location. I still think this new data, when you think about how big the earth is, being a couple hundred miles from where Inmarsat, Boeing and Australians saying it is, it's pretty close. So it is worth checking out.

PEREIRA: That's an interesting point. It is pretty close. I was thinking about it. I was doing the calculation earlier today, it's 103 days and the fact that we talked early on in those early days, we've had these very conversations with you, about this was like a needle in a hay stack, we have not even found the hay stack yet. What do you make of it at 103 days in? We're not closer to solving this mystery.

SCHIAVO: Well, exactly. And you know what I make of it. There's the one mile look and then the 100 mile look. At the one-mile look it's just anguish and utter pain for these families but at the 100 mile look it's something that shouldn't be. There are capabilities in modern aircraft and with the satellite systems that we have, I mean, whether it is Inmarsat or some other satellite company, there are many.

This is a situation that should never be, shouldn't have been. Since the disappearance of air France 447, there have been ten black boxes that haven't been found in the ocean, and so we knew that leading up even to this. This plane was manufactured, was sold to Malaysia in 2002. There have been a lot of advances since then but even at 2002, there was more equipment this plane should have had. So never should this happen again.

PEREIRA: Still stupefying to think Mary, 103 days in Mary Schiavo, good to have you back with us today.

BERMAN: Twenty-five minutes after the hour right now. Head for us @THIS HOUR, canceled, the Washington Redskins' trademarks canceled? What does that mean now for the identity of the franchise? Will they keep this controversial name? Stay with us.