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Hawaii Faces Two Major Storms; U.S. Airstrikes Authorized for Iraq; Fortieth Anniversary of Nixon's Resignation; U.S. Air Strike on ISIS

Aired August 8, 2014 - 08:30   ET



MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: All right, welcome back to NEW DAY.

Parts of Hawaii are in the path of two big storms. Tropical Storm Iselle has now weakened from a hurricane but is still bringing all sorts of heavy rain. Look at that wind, rain. Up to a foot of rain in some areas. Obviously concerns about flooding.

Meanwhile, Hurricane Julio 900 miles behind with winds over 120 miles an hour. We want to turn it our Indra Petersons with more.

Because we know Julio right now, it looks as though it's going to skirt the islands, but this is such a rare thing to have a one-two punch.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: I mean, Michaela, you're talking about since 1959 only two storms have made landfall on the Hawaiian islands and now you're talking about two storms already out there, very easy to see. Iselle continues to break apart.

But look at the defined eye of Julio right now with winds at 120 miles per hour. Keep in mind, Iselle has not made landfall just yet. You need the eye itself to come ashore to see that. But the effects are definitely being felt. As you look at the radar, you're seeing some of the heavier rain and those outer bands are making their way ashore. Also currently we're seeing some other strong winds, about 37-mile- per-hour right around Hilo (ph). We're starting to pick up some of those stronger gusts out there.

The big concern is going to be that it's expected to move across the islands throughout the day and then exiting off by Saturday. But before that all happens, we're going to be talking about heavy amounts of rain inundating the area. I mean up to a foot of rain is expected not only in the big island but also out towards Maui, if you go towards Oahu and Kauai, still, four to seven inches of rain. And this is key, because, remember, this is a mountainous area. When you talk about the direct impact going right towards Hilo, all those mountains get the heaviest amounts of rainfall. That's where the biggest threat will be those mudslides and it looks like that will go directly in line for Hilo. They're only going to have one day to recover before the next storm, a stronger system. Julio comes right in behind it. Still expected to be a category one hurricane, but staying now, at least the eventual (ph) path, north of the island. But we're going to be watching that very closely, guys.

PEREIRA: Great to know that Iselle isn't a hurricane anymore, but still, as you said, it is still creating a mess and then Julio right behind it. Indra, thanks.

A short break here on NEW DAY. President Obama is now preparing the military for air strikes in Iraq. Will those strikes achieve anything? And what about fears of so-called mission creep? Ahead we speak with a former U.S. ambassador to Iraq.



JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: ISIL's campaign of terror against the innocent, including the Yazidi and Christian minorities, and its grotesque targeted acts of violence show all the warning signs of genocide. For anyone who needed a wake-up call, this is it.


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Warning signs have become actual genocide. That was Secretary of State John Kerry speaking just moments ago with harsh condemnation of ISIS militants in Iraq. Now, ISIS, or ISIL, or now called the caliphate, we're all discussing the same group and they're a bunch of terrorists bent on making Iraq and other areas part of an extremist religious stronghold and they're going to kill people in their path, now including Christians.

So, that's why the president has authorized air strikes against these terrorists and assures Americans that that is as far as the U.S. military will go. But what if it's not far enough to help these civilians who are being killed, to help stabilize Iraq?

Let's get some perspective. Joining us now, Ambassador James Jeffrey, U.S. envoy of Baghdad from 2010 to 2012.

Thank you very much, Mr. Ambassador, for joining us.

We're hearing a lot of the typical U.S. political chatter. I told you so, I told you so, I knew this would happen. But for whatever reason, through Republican and Democratic administrations, we've wound up here. What needs to happen to stabilize Iraq?

JAMES JEFFREY, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO IRAQ: Well, first of all, the president needs to carry through the authorization to use military force with actual military force. We're not talking about ground troops here. We're talking about air strikes. As you just showed in your film clip, ISIS is a highly mobile, motorized force driving around in pickup trucks in open terrain. This is classic targets for air strikes, be they drones, be they Apache helicopters, be they manned air. But it is imperative that we start doing this right now or we're going to see massacre after massacre and advance after advance. We have seen this movie since Fallujah in January, and it's just getting worse.

CUOMO: But if he has already referred authority to the military, isn't it now their call for what happens and when?

JEFFREY: No. First of all, from my experience in the White House, something like this, before the first trigger is pulled, the president will be informed and he will be on board. The problem is, he's left this as only protecting the Americans in Irbil, which is important, and possibly to stop a genocide on Sinjar Mountain, where the Yazidi Kurds are. But ISIS is a - ISIL is a threat not only to those people, it's a threat to Baghdad, it's a threat to the Sunni Arabs at the Haditha Dam, it's a threat to the entire country at the Mosul Dam. And again, nothing's going to stop them if you don't have American air supporting Iraqi forces on the ground.

CUOMO: Well, isn't it true that the Iraqi forces on the ground have failed and that the Kurdish fighters, who are historically friends of the U.S., and that would be legitimate aid, they need desperate aid to maintain the fight against ISIS because right now they're all losing the fight. Isn't that true that air strikes are not enough by themselves?

JEFFREY: Well, they are all losing the fight in areas that are not majority Shia Arab or Kurdish. The Shia -- or the Iraqi army has fought better around Baghdad. But nonetheless, they do need logistics. They do need advice. They do need intelligence and they do need better weapon, particularly the Kurds. But in addition, they do need air strikes. They have hundreds of thousands of ground troops but they are demobilized because of the way ISIL fights. And the answer to that is American support. It not only has military value, it has tremendous psychological value. I saw that in Vietnam in 1972 when U.S. air strikes turned around the South Vietnamese Army within days.

CUOMO: Now, people back here at home they'll say we don't care about this. This is their fight. But isn't it true that the intentions of the organization of terrorists, now calling themselves the caliphate, are training for strikes abroad, including in the United States?

JEFFREY: Of course. And President Obama made that clear on the 19th of June when he first said he was putting troops in. There's the oil flow from the Middle East. They want to threaten that and they're already moving towards it. There is our allies, be it Jordan, be it Israel, be it Turkey and, most importantly, there is a threat of an even bigger Afghanistan under the control of an even more lethal al Qaeda element and that's what we're facing right now.

CUOMO: Now there is a right way and a wrong way to do this for the U.S. The right way, people suggest, and I want your take on it, is help the Kurds. You've helped them before. They're friendly to you and you would not be emboldening the Shia minority, because you don't want to do that because the wrong way would be if you don't help the Kurds and you help the Shia, you are opening the door to Iran and that could make the situation exponentially worse. Your thoughts?

JEFFREY: Well, first it's the Shia are the majority in Iraq. Secondly, the president should not, and he made this clear, do massive air strikes for the Iraqi army until we get a more inclusive government. We're moving towards that. The present prime minister, Maliki, has to go for the Sunnis and the Kurds to participate in any kind of joint effort. And that is an important point and the president, I think, will hold to that. But right now we have an emergency situation, not only near Irbil and on Sinjar Mountain, frankly at the Haditha Dam, at the Baiji refinery. We have strategic targets that ISIL is surrounding and attacking. And if we do take action in the air for these limited objectives, I think we'll find allies on the ground.

CUOMO: Well, and also, you couldn't have a more high ground moral position than the fact that these Christians are being hunted down and killed by ISIS. When I refer to the Shia minority, I'm saying those who have chosen to fight so far. There's no question that they are the ethnic majority in Iraq, but those who have decided to fight back are a small number. That opens the door for Iran. Do you see a possibility for the U.S. to work with Iran to help stabilize Iraq?

JEFFREY: Absolutely not. The moment we cooperate with Iran and the moment Iranian forces go in, and I fear they will go in if the United States doesn't provide air support, we lose the Sunni Arab Middle East, we lose the Sunni tribes and (inaudible), some of whom are fighting against ISIL and we would be in an extremely confusing position, given the situation in Syria, given the situation in Gaza where, in all of these areas, Iran is doing everything in its power to expand its evil influence and to undercut our allies.

CUOMO: But it is interesting that you do have joint purposes right now, at least in fighting back this organization with the U.S. and Iran. It makes it more interesting. Ambassador Jeffrey, thank you so much for the perspective. Appreciate it. Look forward to calling on you again in this situation.

JEFFREY: Thank you very much.

CUOMO: Let's take one little break here on NEW DAY. When we come back, the legacy of Watergate. 40 years it's been since Nixon resigned. Can you imagine that? Has the scandal changed this country? We're going to talk with Carl Bernstein, one of the reporters, of course, who broke the scandal that ended that presidency, about what happens next.


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to NEW DAY. Today marks 40 years since President Nixon resigned in the wake of, of course, the Watergate scandal. He chose to resign instead of facing impeachment.


BOLDUAN (voice-over): His resignation rocked the country and permanently altered the relationship of politics and journalism in America. Let's discuss further with none other than Carl Bernstein.


BOLDUAN (on camera): Carl's investigating reporting, as everyone remembers and knows, at the "Washington Post" helped expose the Watergate scandal. He's now a CNN political commentator. Carl, its great to see you.


BOLDUAN: So, on a day like this, some people make a lot of anniversaries, some people make a little bit out of it. But n this day 40 years ago, when Nixon announced his resignation, do you remember that moment for you, what that was like to watch that happen?

BERNSTEIN: Yes. Bob Woodward myself were in the "Washington Post" newsroom and I think we both felt absolute awe. Awe that the system had worked in Watergate, that Richard Nixon was leaving office, a criminal president of the United States had been forced to resign his office. And also, we were aware that the "Washington Post" had had a real role in this. The press had done its job. The Congress had done its job, the Supreme Court, and it was a time for real reflection.

BOLDUAN: Talk about reflection, but has over time, has your view of the Nixon presidency changed at all?

BERNSTEIN: It has and in the 40th anniversary edition of "All the President's Men" we wrote a new afterward to the book in which we say Watergate was far worse than we even imagined it at the time. This was a criminal presidency from the first days of the Nixon presidency, until the resignation. We hear on these tapes how "Watergate" began, the illegalities, the break-ins, the criminal mentality, led by the president, began in the first days of the Nixon presidency, and continued wiretapping illegal of reporters of political enemies, using the IRS against enemies, break-in after break-in, sabotage and espionage to undermine the very free electoral system of the United States, ordered from the White House.

There's never been anything in our history like this, and it's interesting to reflect today people talking about impeaching President Obama for overstepping his powers. It's outrageous. If he's overstepped his powers, and there have been frequent clashes about the authority of the presidency, the courts and the Supreme Court are the place to adjudicate this, but to somehow equate this with high crimes and misdemeanors is a grave misreading of history and a mistake.

BOLDUAN: Carl Bernstein, it's always great to have you on especially on a day like today, marking the 40th anniversary of the resignation of President Nixon. Thank you so much, Carl. We'll talk to you soon.

BERNSTEIN: Good to be here.

BOLDUAN: Alight, we're going to be sure to watch the documentary on Nixon on CNN tonight. That is at 9:00 p.m. eastern and also be sure to check out Carl's latest book, "A Woman Incharge: The Life of Hillary Rodham Clinton." We are going to be back right after this breaking news coming at you.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

CUOMO: We do have breaking news, we had heard the president say last night that air strikes were authorized, and we have understood now that they may be ongoing. The goal was obvious, to slow down ISIS as it is trying to claim area and now trying to hunt down and kill Christians and other minority groups. Let's go to Jim Acosta at the White House. What do we know, Jim?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Chris, the Pentagon press secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby just tweeted a few moments ago what the Pentagon is now announcing, what the White House is now announcing, and that is that the U.S. has conducted air strikes in Iraq according to this tweet from John Kirby. It says U.S. military aircraft conduct strike on ISIL artillery. The artillery was used against Kurdish forces defending Irbil near U.S. personnel.

Chris, that has been one of the thresholds for the White House, for the Obama administration for launching air strikes as U.S. military advisers in Irbil, the diplomatic consulate that is also there, the president, White House officials were saying yesterday. If that was being threatened, if those personnel were being threatened, that the U.S. would launch air strikes and Rear Admiral John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, announcing on Twitter that those air strikes have happened and so the second part of this operation, the president announced last night, one being those humanitarian air drops, the second being to authorize air strikes. The second part of that mission has now begun, Chris

CUOMO: We had heard, Jim, from the ground that it's not enough just to feed these people. You have to do that, but otherwise if that's all you do, you'd be fattening them up for slaughter. These attacks, these strikes are not a surprise, but the way they're worded is also interesting. That they were coming to the defense of Kurd positions, defending the city of Irbil and surrounding situations. That matters, right? Because the U.S. has a history with the Kurds and this would be seen as an extension of that relationship. Yes?

ACOSTA: That's right. If there's any pro-U.S. or the most pro-U.S. part of the Iraqi population it would be the Kurds in the north. The U.S. has always had, really, the most confidence in that part of the country. The Kurdish defense forces up there and so forth, but make no mistake, this is really about preventing and stopping genocide. You've heard this from the U.N. Ambassador, Samantha Power. Valerie Jarrett tweeted it last night. John Kerry who is traveling overseas right now talked about it in the wee hours of the morning, he was at a press conference in Afghanistan and said this is about preventing genocide and that those Yezidis who are taking refuge up in those mountains in Northern Iraq, they basically have no defense at this point.

They could be slaughtered, and what the president said last night is that in the face of that, the United States is not going to turn a blind eye and allow that to happen, and so that is partly why this is happening. But one thing I want to point out, Chris, I talked to a senior White House official last night who said that the president's top priority in Iraq is protecting U.S. personnel, and so this was really a line that ISIL crossed, if you want to call it a red line, that ISIL crossed. That is what triggered these air strikes. Now, the one thing we should point out is that at this point, the president is making no plans to alter his trip up to Martha's Vineyard. That is supposed to happen tomorrow and I've been told by White House officials that he is taking his national security team or members of his national security team with him so this may be something that's developing minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day, Chris.

CUOMO: And once the authority is given by the president, the call is the military's anyway. They'll be carrying out these strikes. The question is, how effective are they being? We're going to have to learn more about that. Jim, please stand by, see what you can figure out. We'll be back to you.

BOLDUAN: Let's get over to the Pentagon where Barbara Starr has been standing by. Barbara, as we've talked about all morning the president has approved these air strikes. Well, now we know they have been ordered and executed. What are you hearing from your sources?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Kate, what we know is U.S. war planes have been flying over Iraq looking for any situation where those military and diplomatic personnel in Irbil might have come under threat and they were ready to go. They have the authorization, they were looking for any situation where they needed to take action and they found it this morning our time. Artillery shelling into Irbil, ISIS artillery, way too much of a threat to U.S. personnel in Irbil, so the U.S. took action.

Two F-18s flying off the deck of the aircraft carrier George Bush out in the Persian Gulf. They came in over Iraqi air space. We will get the laydown of exactly what weapons were dropped perhaps, but that is still to come. The F-18s fly obviously in pairs over any combat zone. Once the president had authorized air strikes, it was perhaps simply a matter of time before action was going to be taken, but let's be clear. There are two situations here, related but two situations.

Air strikes in Irbil to protect U.S. diplomatic and military personnel there. The potential for air strikes to protect those tens of thousands of Iraqi minorities who are stranded on that mountaintop, and of course as Ivan Watson has been reporting we are seeing more Iraqi civilians, Kurds, fleeing the area from Irbil, going up into the mountains, going to the countryside out of fear of an ISIS advance. We have not yet seen air strikes in those mountains to protect those people. Very much what Jim Acosta was just saying, this is about the U.S. view that this is a potential genocide in those mountains, and they want to act to prevent it. The air strikes are aimed in either case at going after ISIS military formations, military personnel weapons. Very tough business for them to be able to distinguish in large areas where there's civilian populations who may be ISIS, who may be not ISIS, but in this case this morning, there was a clear artillery position outside of Irbil, and that is what they went after. Kate?

BOLDUAN: Alright, Barbara, thank you very much. Barbara Starr is going to be continuing her great reporting at the Pentagon for us.

As you see, though, the breaking news, the president approved airstrikes last night, but now we have learned at least the very first of what would probably not be the last of those airstrikes had been ordered and executed in Iraq.

CUOMO: Two F-18s sent off the aircraft carrier George Bush. No small irony that the aircraft carrier named after President Bush, that's how long we've been in this situation in Iraq.

Stay with CNN for this breaking news and how effective it is. We'll get you to the "NEWSROOM" right now with Carol Costello -- Carol.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Thanks, Chris and Kate.

NEWSROOM starts now.