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Pressure Builds on Putin After MH17 Disaster; Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu One-on-One; Interview with Congressman Mike Rogers
Aired July 21, 2014 - 08:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: This is the final resting place of MH17 that you see over my shoulder. The news here this morning involves what's going on with this investigation, or the lack thereof.
But also violence, fighting has broken out again in the nearby city of Donetsk. We have reports of heavy artillery fire, shelling going on, there is active fighting at the airport. Ukraine has put out reports that it is trying to retake checkpoints around the city.
We know there are casualties. We don't know how many fires have broken out. There is a lot of signs of explosion.
The local militia here have left, which is probably a sign of retreating to the source of that violence. So, we will take you through that.
Back here, though, so in the middle of all of this fighting you have MH17, it literally crashed in the middle of a battle zone -- a place scarred by violence and now stained with the blood of 298 victims, who had nothing to do with this conflict. A scene so raw and so unmanaged that the first instinct when we came here was to say a prayer for the victims and that there would be some dignity afforded to them at some point before we even started reporting.
There is a lot to tell you about and show you. But let me get you back to New York for what else is going on -- Kate, John.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Absolutely, Chris. We're getting back to you on the ground in Ukraine in just a moment.
We're also gong to be talking about the other big story that we're following out of Israel.
Wolf Blitzer is on the ground in Jerusalem. He spoke with the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about the escalating violence. He's going to have that interview in just a few minutes.
But, first, of course, the political tensions are rising over the attack on Flight 17.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: The Russian President Vladimir Putin pushing back against criticism that he supports the armed rebels accused of shooting down that jet. He is now accusing Western nations of exploiting the tragedy. But the U.S. says there is growing proof the Russians trained and equipped the rebels who allegedly shot down that plane. Chris?
CUOMO: All right, John, thank you very much. There is no question that there is a big raging debate about who did this and mounting evidence.
Later on, we'll have an interview with the self-appointed prime minister here, the man who would be in charge of those who may have shot down this plane and he has very defiant answers to the hard questions that we will put to him.
But, again, the main story is about the dignity of the victims. And when the militia just left because of the re-starting of the fighting, people just walked right in to the zone, whether they're media or locals, they're all around this crime scene, who knows about the chain of custody of what's needed in here. The dignity of the dead left for days in the hot sun here. Who knows what answers are being lost by the minute.
CUOMO (voice-over): A show of force by those controlling MH17's crash site, the devastation seen here surrounded by hostility as those in control are the very people suspected of shooting the plane down over Eastern Ukraine. Startling satellite photos show acres of ground scorched by the explosion at the point of impact.
On the ground we're told hundreds of bodies removed at the hands of government emergency workers along with a group of coal miners, inexperienced but allowed in by pro-Russian rebels. The remains of more than 250 loaded into two refrigerated trains.
The Ukrainian government negotiating with militants for the bodies to be transported with no information about when they will be identified or where they'll end up. The scene here exposed, fuelling international concerns of tampered evidence.
(on camera): You can tell that this piece hit, rolled and then was moved. That's going to be a really big distinction for investigators.
(voice-over): Russian President Vladimir Putin insisted a team of international experts conduct work on the site to ensure security. Rebel leaders claim to have the plane's cockpit voice and data recorders, which may hold critical information about MH17's last moments.
In audio intercepts released by the Ukrainian government, the alleged commander says Moscow is very interested in the black boxes and urges his subordinate to find them. CNN cannot independently confirm the authenticity of that audio.
Meanwhile, U.S. intelligence points to the mounting evidence of Russia's involvement, including evidence that pro-Russian rebels secretly moved a heavy arsenal of weapons into place days before the crash. JOHN KERRY, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We have a video showing a launcher moving back through a particular area there out into Russia with a missing -- at least one missing missile on it. So, we have enormous sort of input about this which points fingers.
CUOMO: This is that video posted by Ukraine's interior ministry of a BUK missile launcher heading back into Russia, suggesting it conducted a launch according to the U.S. embassy in Kiev.
I spoke with the rebel prime minister about those accusations.
(on camera): The belief of western community and of Ukraine is that a Russian missile brought down this plane and there is suspicion it had something to do with fighters from your region. What do you want to say to people who believe that?
ALEXANDER BORODAI, DONETSK PEOPLE'S REPUBLIC PRIME MINISTER (through translator): I don't know what to say because the world community doesn't want to hear it. We had no reason to take down this plane and Ukraine had this reason to destroy our government.
CUOMO: We had a lot more questions for this self-appointed prime minister, we'll play you that portion of the interview later in the show.
Right now, let's bring in Fareed Zakaria.
Fareed, obviously, you're well aware of what is going on with the politics and the violence in this country right now. As you heard us report, it is renewed. There are reports of civilian casualties as Ukraine says it's trying to take back checkpoints on the outside of Donetsk.
Curious timing for them, don't you think, in the middle of trying to deal with MH17 and what has to be an embarrassment for them as well, they're not in control here, shelling resumes, civilian casualties going on. What do you think the strategy is there?
FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST, "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS": Chris, your reporting on this is fascinating. We didn't have real knowledge of that until now.
What it could suggest is that the government of Ukraine, the government in Kiev, has begun an offensive to try to take control of this part of Ukraine as you keep pointing out, people need to understand. This part of Ukraine is not under the control of the government in Kiev. It is under the control of the pro-Russian separatists.
One of the things that Kiev government has kept insisting on is that they need to get control of their own country. They may have seen this as an opportune moment because the rebels are on the defensive, they understand that the world is watching them and perhaps most importantly their patron, Vladimir Putin, is on the defensive. So, this would not be a moment where you would imagine Russia would be
sending in advisers, streaming across the border at night, sending in heavy equipment, heavy machinery. So, it may well be that the Ukrainian government decided this is the moment to act, and as you say, these thugs have fled the crime scene, which suggests that they're going to reinforce their comrades in Donetsk itself.
CUOMO: Only problem with them fleeing, while it is good for us, is that now anybody can traipse through this crime scene again. It's been an ongoing problem.
Two questions for you, Fareed, is that, one, if Russia is so in control, why would Russia -- why would Vladimir Putin allow this shameful act to go on that's behind me right now and the indignity of all of these bodies?
And the other question is, a lot of talk from the Western world about now is the time, now we must press, nobody is here, Fareed. There are no representatives from the Western world except the OSCE, which is an international monitoring group. Nobody is on the ground. Where is everybody if they care so much?
ZAKARIA: Well, great questions. On the second one, as you know, the problem is the place is dangerous as you have been pointing out. It has been very dangerous until really a few hours ago and my guess is people are trying to figure out exactly when they can go without creating an incident or some kind of violence.
But to your broader question, I think it is very important for us to try to figure out what is going on in answer to your question, why did Putin let this happen. This strikes me as a special op gone awry. If you think of Crimea, Putin seemed like a genius because what he did was got he these special operations forces without uniforms, with no discernible trace to Russia to wrest Crimea away from Ukraine in an exit. And he can then say I don't know what you're talking about, I had nothing to do with this, we had nothing to do with this, these were locals.
Well, that looked great. Here you see the dark side to that -- those kind of KGB operations. You're using rogues, mercenaries, thugs, you're using people with limited training and my guess is what happened is this operation went awry, the Russians may not have, you know, had as much control and direction over it, though they clearly trained these forces, and now, everyone is scrambling and perhaps these locals are not listening to their Russian handlers or masters as carefully as we think.
But it's a predictable consequence of trying to do this kind of special ops foreign policy where your goal is to produce chaos on the cheap.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: So, what's the game now for the Russian president Vladimir Putin? Does he have the guts? Because I think that's what it might take to stand up and say, yes, these were the pro-Russian separatists there. Can he do that?
ZAKARIA: I don't think he can. He's locked himself into a corner.
If you watch Russian TV and I've done it a little bit of it with people who can help guide me through the language, they're in an alternate universe. The Russians are hearing a story about how the Ukrainian military is responsible because this happened in Ukraine, omitting the fact that the part of Ukraine it happened in is not controlled by the Ukrainian military.
They are hearing the Ukrainian military was trying to assassinate Vladimir Putin, trying to shoot his plane and missed and hit the civilian jetliner. So, that's the context in which that -- those statements that Putin made have to be considered. He is defending Russia against the evil west, defending Russia against this evil Ukrainian government.
BOLDUAN: We often talked about, throughout this Ukrainian crisis, how you often said he is maintained plausible deniability in all of the machinations of Russian involvement in Ukraine. At this point, you say he's kind of back into a corner. Then, he's got two options -- double down in the path he's been taking or turn the corner and help.
Which one is going to choose? And how does the U.S. influence that at all at this point?
ZAKARIA: I don't think there is any evidence he's turning around, because -- look, domestically, he remains very popular. And as I've said, they've created this alternative narrative of Russian nationalism, which is --
BOLDUAN: Not really based on reality.
ZAKARIA: No, it's not based in reality. But very few -- I mean, you would be surprised, Russia is a big country, television is the only method that connects the country together. So there are newspapers in Russia that are saying different things, but not on TV since it is all state controlled.
I think that what the West has to do, what President Obama has to do is seize the opportunity and there are two things. The first is, push for the Ukrainian government to be able to take control of its own country. You know, that doesn't solve every problem in the short- term, but it is in the long run, you cannot have a government that is not in control of its own territory.
ZAKARIA: And the second is to get the Europeans to go along with stiffer sanctions. They're meeting in the next couple of days, that is on the table. You know, I've had a few meetings with people like Chancellor Merkel and other leaders where it's clear to me, they're not where the United States is, they are more reluctant, they're more dependent on Russia for energy, but they understand that this kind of behavior in the 21st century has to have some consequences.
BOLDUAN: If this doesn't change minds of the leaders of Western Europe, what is? I mean, if you got 298 innocent people who have been killed, and you've got fingers pointing, you know, really directly to Russia at this point, what's going to change it? I don't know what.
ZAKARIA: Think about the point Chris is making about the dignity of the dead and so many of them coming from this one small proud country, you know. I haven't done the math, but if you were to have 190 people in a small country like the Netherlands, I think it's 7 million or 8 million people, you know, multiply that many, many fold to get a sense of how many Americans would die.
BOLDUAN: Exactly right.
Fareed, stay with us.
Wolf Blitzer, he is -- he is in Israel for us. He's got -- he spoke -- sat down with the Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a lot of questions on that crisis as well -- Wolf.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR, THE SITUATION ROOM: Kate, thanks very much.
In the Middle East, the war and I call it a war, because it really is a war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. The Israelis clearly seem to be expanding its offensive inside the Gaza Strip.
Sunday was by far the deadliest day of the conflict. And despite the death of innocent Palestinians, the prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu is adamant. He's strongly defending Israel's military operation.
BLITZER: Some of your Cabinet members think that the only way to do that is to reoccupy Gaza, which you evacuated and gave it up back in 2005. Do you support reoccupying Gaza?
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: Well, I support taking whatever action is necessary to stop this insane situation. Just imagine. I mean, imagine what Israel is going through.
Imagine that 75 percent of the U.S. population is under rocket fire, and they have to be in bomb shelters within 60 to 90 seconds. So, I'm not just talking about New York. New York, Washington, Chicago, Detroit, San Francisco, Miami, you name it. That's impossible, you can't live like that.
So I think we have to bring back, restore reasonable, sustained quiet and security, and we'll take whatever action is necessary to achieve that.
BLITZER: But that includes possibly reoccupying Gaza? Because a lot of your military planners are afraid of what they would call a quagmire, a dangerous quagmire.
NETANYAHU: Nobody wants to go to excessive military lengths, but what is happening here is excessive. They're not only targeting our cities, they're deliberately firing thousands of rockets. They've already fired 2,000 rockets on our cities in the past few days on our cities. You can imagine this. It's not only that, and they've wanted to kill as many of our 6 million Israelis who are targeted as they could. They haven't succeeded, not for lack of trying. It's because we've developed with American help, and I appreciate the help that President Obama and the U.S. Congress have given us to develop these Iron Dome fantastic systems, but some of the missiles perforate, and they hit our schools. So, we have to stop that.
But in addition to the rockets, they've got now terror tunnels that they build in Palestinian homes in Gaza, they penetrate underground into Israeli territory, terrorists pop up there, try to murder civilians, kidnap Israelis, as they did with Gilad Shalit, and we'll continue the action as long as it's necessary.
BLITZER: As we speak now, the Secretary of State John Kerry is on his way to Cairo, should be landing in a few hours. We we'll see if he can make some progress toward achieving a cease-fire.
Kate, back to you.
BOLDUAN: All right. Wolf, thanks so much. That was an important moment to be speaking with the prime minister himself. Thank you so much for bringing that to us.
Let's look at more of your headlines. Let's get it from Michaela.
MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, let's do. We'll get back to both stories in a moment. But here are those local headlines, here are states side at least.
Cooler temperatures today could help fire crews that are battling 21 uncontrolled wildfires in Washington state and in Oregon. Nearly a million acres have already burned, at least 150 homes have been destroyed. We're told one person died, trying to save his home.
Officials tell us some 35 hot shot crews are battling the flames. They hope for better weather to help with that. There's obviously a concern about air quality there as well.
Another violent weekend in Chicago. At least 40 people shot, four of them fatally. One of those killed, an 11-year-old girl attending a slumber party. More than half of the shootings happened between Friday evening and early Saturday morning.
Texas Governor Rick Perry is expected to announce today he's deploying a thousand National Guard troops to help with border protection. There has been an influx, massive influx of Central American immigrants crossing over from Mexico. Speaking in Iowa Sunday, Governor Perry says if President Obama cannot act fast enough to secure the border, he will.
Sixteen minutes past the hour. Those are your headlines.
BOLDUAN: All right, Michaela. BERMAN: Thanks so much.
Next up for us on NEW DAY, the U.S. says there is mounting evidence that Russian missiles brought down MH17. We're going to speak to the House Intelligence Committee, Congressman Mike Rogers, about the latest evidence.
BOLDUAN: And Chris goes one on one with the leaders of the pro- Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine. You're going to hear who he says is responsible for shooting down Flight 17.
BOLDUAN: Welcome back to NEW DAY, everyone.
U.S. officials say the evidence is clear on this point: MH17 was blown out of the sky by pro-Russian separatists. Secretary of State John Kerry, he says the United States has been tracking a major flow of Russian weapons into eastern Ukraine for months now. The Russian president, though, blaming the West for exploiting this tragedy.
So, is the U.S. -- what more is the U.S. going to do? And will the U.S. call Putin's bluff?
Let's bring in the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Congressman Mike Rogers. Chris and Wolf will be joining us in this conversation as well.
Mr. Chairman, thank you so much for your time. There is so much to get through. We're in the middle of so many crises to be quite honest.
REP. MIKE ROGERS (R-MI), HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Right.
BOLDUAN: I think it has been suggested as much by the administration, but to be clear, are you prepared at this point to say that Russia is responsible for the missile that brought down Flight 17?
ROGERS: Well, they certainly have blood on their hands at the very least. So, this is a very sophisticated weapons system, it takes maintenance, really almost on a daily basis. And it takes an intense amount of training. This is not a fire-and-forget kind of a weapons system. There is a lot that goes into it, to target an aircraft, especially at that height.
So, it would lend one to believe, given everything that we know about the weapons flow back across from Russia into eastern Ukraine that they at least had some part of training, maybe even supervision of this particular weapons system. And that's what's so concerning.
I think the president -- excuse me, President Putin has lost his plausible deniability that we're just not involved in eastern Ukraine. I think that story is gone. And I think this is a real new day in his culpability and what happened.
BERMAN: Chairman, we're thrilled to have you with us. You have access to intelligence here that most of us don't get to see. And I understand you can't tell us everything you have seen.
But you say Russia at the least has blood on their hands -- blood, we're talking about now, of 298 innocent souls, that has nothing to do with the conflict right now in Ukraine. So, if Russia does have this blood on their hands, if the Russian leader has this blood on his hands, what should the U.S. do about it today?
ROGERS: Well, I think there is several things we ought to do. You have to look at this holistically, why Putin believes he can continue to do what he's doing. He just believes no one cares enough to get involved at the level that would push him back.
So, remember, he spent the last ten years trying to modernize this military and been successful in doing it. He has spent the last 10 years modernizing his special forces and as they will call them in Ukraine, the little green men, the folks who are operating in eastern Ukraine, formenting chaos and supporting the rebels.
This is the time for the United States, I think, to finally bring in Europe in a very wholesome way, on sanctions. We have led the way, give the president credit last week, for stepping up on the financial -- his financial sanctions, especially using banks, arms dealers, those kinds of things, very, very important. But we need the rest of Europe with us to make this important. So I would do that, bring them along.
I would show some strength here. I would renounce that we're going to move forward with missile defense plans, both in Poland and the Czech Republic. Obviously, we need to sit down and talk to our allies and I would do fairly significant operations in Poland, just the way we used to do in Germany. They called it reforger when I was in the military.
Now, you have the opportunity to show Putin we're serious about standing with our NATO partners to push back against this blatant aggressive behavior. And the longer we let this go, the more mistakes like this that are going to happen and the massacre of more innocent civilians. That's why we need to take certain action today.
BOLDUAN: Certain action -- but certain action today, I think, is really the operative word. That's what John was trying to get at. I mean, we're four days into this absolute tragedy. What you're talking about bringing European leaders along, doing more military operations, joint operations in Poland and so on and so forth, that seems long- term, that seems look a holistic approach, but that also doesn't seem like it's going to get the rebels to back down today.
Is there anything that the United States can do to change the situation on the ground right now?
ROGERS: You know, being aggressive in those announcements and putting date certains on our pushing forward missile defense, that is something you can do today that sends a very clear message.
Remember why Putin is doing so much of this. He's trying to prevent Ukraine as he did the nation state of Georgia, when he invaded Georgia, to keep them out of NATO. Well, he succeeded. He succeeded in Georgia and now, he's succeeding in Ukraine. That's why this is so important.
Remember, his -- we need to change his calculus here. That's the first step.
The second step is we need to be more aggressive about providing the kinds of things that Ukraine military and intelligence services are asking for -- better shared intelligence, better training, which means we can robustly train their special forces and others to be more impactful against the rebels. And give them the kinds of weapons systems they need, not like the Russians are giving, tanks, and antiaircraft missiles, but the kind of weapons they need to be effective against the rebels, in a way we can do that very quickly.
And that all needs to happen all at the same time. We can't just do a one off or a one day here and one day there, which is what we have been doing, because it's in effective. It doesn't change Putin's calculus.
This is about making him change his mind about how aggressive he wants to be, in eastern Ukraine.
CUOMO: Well, Mr. Chairman, it is Chris Cuomo in Ukraine. Where we're standing now, it makes it very clear that Mr. Putin hasn't had a change of mind.
Let me ask you two quick things. Do you have intelligence to confirm that Ukraine did not shoot down this plane, because obviously the allegation here in Ukraine by the self-appointed prime minister is that Ukraine had access to the Russian weapons as well? Can you shoot that down, excuse the pun, as a theory?
ROGERS: Right. So what the analysts will say is that the nation state of Ukraine does have these SA-11s, which are so sophisticated antiaircraft missiles. But they didn't have them in the region to be impactful on this particular flight. So, that's one kind of clue in the box, if you will.
There is nothing definitive and certain yet. But the evidence is mounting that it was, (a), separatists involved, and, (b), that maybe even the Russians had a greater role in the actual operation of this system. Remember, very sophisticated, takes lots of training, lots of maintenance, lots of solutions, understanding, in order to reach its target.
CUOMO: As you know, you don't have to be the chairman of the Senate -- of the House Intelligence Committee to understand that this is a hot area, the fighting has been resumed here. It is going on right now as we speak. But the U.S. sends a lot of people into hot areas. Not just troops, but, you know, U.S. aid organizations and the like, investigative types. They push the U.N. to get involved in a lot of situations.
Why is no one here, Congressman Rogers? Why hasn't the U.S. stepped in days in or getting Western partners -- why is no one here at MH17 yet? ROGERS: And that is a great question. For those of us who have been
concerned about why the United States isn't playing a more robust role in supporting the Ukrainian government asked the same question.
And remembering, we've been calling for this for months, knowing the more this goes on, the more chaos that is allowed to ensue, the more weapons that Russia is allowed to pour in to Ukraine, there is going to be some civilian deaths that are unconscionable. Well, we have seen that.
And so, now, I hope this is the catalyst that gets us more involved in supporting the Ukrainian government to push back on Putin's Ukrainian disaster. And so in order to do that, I think the -- we have to rally our European friends and listen, those relationships have been frayed between the United States and Europe. They need to be repaired. They need to be repaired immediately so we can have a unified front on sanctions and other things in Ukraine.
And, again, we can do that by leading the way on these intelligence packages, training packages. We should have had investigators on the ground with our European friends, with the Netherlands, to help them in this investigation. We have some of the best crash investigators in the world. We should have had folks there already.
And we need to, again, we need to continue to push so we send a signal to Putin, you're not going to get away with this.
BLITZER: In Jerusalem, you speak about strengthening U.S. anti- missile systems in Europe. Here in Israel, that Iron Dome anti- missile system has worked very well, almost 90 percent. Israeli military says accuracy, some 2,000 rockets and missiles have come in from Hamas in Gaza and causing relatively minor damage in part because of the Iron Dome.
So, here is the question: what is the major intelligence lesson for the U.S., from what has happened here in Israel over the past two weeks?
ROGERS: Well, clearly, these missile defense systems worked, and they're worth our investment.