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@THISHOUR WITH BERMAN AND MICHAELA

3,000 Troops to Battle Ebola; Congress Pushes NFL on Violence as Judge Keeps Job; Defense Leaders Testify on Capitol Hill on ISIS

Aired September 16, 2014 - 11:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


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JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: In a few hours, President Obama will announce a major new effort, including a military effort to battle Ebola. More U.S. troops will be deployed to fight Ebola than are being deployed right now to destroy ISIS terrorists. The president has the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta to discuss how to battle the epidemic. Here is what we expect to hear. The president will send as many as 3,000 military personnel to West Africa. Their command center will be in Liberia where transmission rates are growing exponentially.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: Engineers will see 17 treatment centers. And medical personnel will train as many as 500 workers.

So much to discuss. Let's bring in Elizabeth Cohen; and our national security analyst, Juliette Kayyem.

Ladies, good to have you with us.

Elizabeth, to you first. We know you're there at the CDC. We're learning from the WHO that more than 2,400 people have died there from Ebola in five West African nations, according to the figures they have. Talk about the speed at which this epidemic is spreading and if CDC officials where you are think that the U.S. is doing enough to stop the spread.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Michaela, there's no question this is spreading fast. Experts used the word "exponentially" and there is a reliable estimate that was done by some academicians that said there could be 200,000 cases or even more new cases by the end of the year. And so that's why the president wants to move so quickly.

Now as far as what public health experts think of this, they welcome these measures. They say this is so great and it should have been done many months ago and many lives have been saved. They're concerned that perhaps this -- they want to make sure this happens quickly because everyday it's not done more people are dying and the virus has a chance to keep growing. They're also concerned that this is not in the plan. The U.S. is not sending doctors and nurses to take care of the general Ebola population, to be the there as actual clinicians taking care of these patients. And that bothers people. The WHO and Doctors without Borders, that's what they say is need most is actual doctors and nurses.

BERMAN: So, Juliette, you worked in homeland security dealing with the H1N1 flu virus. You also say you don't fret easily but this Ebola outbreak has you fretting a little bit. Will this new effort from the U.S. deal with the problem that you see?

JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Right, I think it is probably a little later than everyone hoped. Part of that is the unwillingness of African countries to want our military presence. Viewers should understand not all military is alike. These troops are not combat troops. They are about logistics, logistics, logistics. That's what it's about. Build the hospitals, distribute medicine, and most importantly, in this Ebola outbreak, isolate people who might be ill from the general population. If you don't have the capacity to isolate them, that's how the Ebola virus is spreading. So it's welcome news about doing what the military often does best, which is buttressing in terms of logistics, public health tents and public health facilities, recommending what Elizabeth said, that obviously they want doctors and nurses.

PEREIRA: That's the point. Logistics are vital. We know that. The plant and the equipment are vital but they need clinicians there. How concerned you, Juliette, that they are sending in thousands of military personnel into harm's way?

KAYYEM: Well, I'm not that concerned because this is what our military is often trained for these humanitarian type efforts. We saw in the Haiti in 2010 when the administration sent 25,000 troops, not for combat purposes but simply to keep airport runways open, to distribute water, to distribute food to a nation in crisis. This is what we're seeing in Africa, is that unless we kill the virus in its tracks, it will have the capacity to spread to the mega-cities in Africa and then we don't know where, so this is in our national interest let alone our humanitarian interest. This is what the military does very, very well.

BERMAN: Elizabeth, will these troops be at risk from Ebola? We'll talk about that. And also this idea of the virus mutating which has so many people concerned.

COHEN: I just ran into a CDC epidemiologist who just got back from West Africa, and she says there are certain steps to take care of yourself. People who are not taking care of patients are surviving this. But as far as mutating and going air born, it's a huge concern. It hasn't happened to a virus before, I'm told, but with this virus, every time it gets into a new person, it has a chance to mutate. That's the concern that it's growing so quickly, it may get smart and mutate, but still a very small chance.

PEREIRA: Elizabeth, Juliette, thank you so much.

And to you at home, don't forget you can visit CNN.com/impact for ways to fight the Ebola outbreak.

Ahead @THISHOUR, domestic violence and Congress. They are taking a stand when it comes to the NFL. So why is a judge getting a pass? BERMAN: Plus, Rihanna tells CBS "blank you" for yanking her song.

Find out if CBS had some choice words in response.

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The recent events in the NFL have brought the issue of domestic violence front and center. The Ray Rice case, the Greg Hardy case, others as well.

But that's just the NFL.

Joining us, CNN commentator, L.Z. Granderson.

L.Z., you've written a fascinating op-ed about a similar yet different case in Atlanta. This one revolves around a federal judge from Alabama, not a football star. I know this really, really struck a chord with you, as it did me. For the benefit of viewers at home, tell us about the case and tell us why it fired you up so much. I think we know.

L.Z. GRANDERSON, CNN COMMENTATOR: Well, I really wasn't going to write about this case until our members of Congress sent the NFL strongly worded letters suggesting that Ray Rice and other players found to be guilty of domestic violence or accused of domestic violence should never play in the NFL again.

The reason why it struck my interest was because there was that federal judge that you talked about was accused of beating his wife. And he is still in line to not only have this expunged from his record but Mark Fuller is also able to still serve on the bench. And so my question to Congress is, if Ray Rice should not be allowed to play football again because of domestic violence, then why are you turning a blind eye to this judge where you have the authority to remove him?

BERMAN: They have the authority to remove him. Honestly, L.Z., Congress is the only organization with the authority to fully remove a judge.

GRANDERSON: Absolutely.

BERMAN: The House would impeach him. The Senate would convict him and throw him out. Why don't you think that's happening?

GRANDERSON: Well, I think it's a couple of things happening. One, there's typical Congressional grandstanding. There's a hot topic going on right now which is domestic violence in the NFL and a couple of Congressmen and women thought they would jump into the publicity bandwagon as opposed to rolling up their sleeves and doing work. This is the reason we call this Congress the do-nothing Congress. But, two, it's very difficult to remove a federal judge. There is

significant amount of work. It's only happened 15 times in the past 200 years in which a federal judge has been removed by Congress. So it will take significant effort.

But, again, I go back to the question -- if you felt compelled to send out a strong-worded letter to the NFL about domestic violence, be a leader and put in the work to remove this judge.

PEREIRA: Could there be a third thing in terms -- I can't believe I'm saying this -- but is there laziness? Taking the path of least resistance? We know with Ray Rice there was a videotape. It was irrefutable evidence that something terrible went on. There's no videotape evidence of what went on with this judge, so it would require more effort, more work, et cetera.

GRANDERSON: Well, absolutely it's laziness. But we're supposed to be holding the members of Congress, our lawmakers, to a much higher standard than we do for a league of entertainers. At the end of the day, the NFL is an entertaining league. Congress is supposed to lead the nation for issues of morality so, again, there's even a congressman on -- serving right now, Congressman Grayson, who's been accused of domestic violence. His wife accused him this year of hitting her, of pushing her. Did they properly investigate that before they sent a strong-worded letter to the NFL? So I think Congress has a lot to answer for after sending these letters. And it's up to us in the mainstream media to ask Congress, why did you send this letter to the NFL and what are you planning to do, if anything, with Judge Mark Fuller!

BERMAN: We should mention this judge is not hearing cases. Still getting paid but not hearing cases.

GRANDERSON: But he's still getting paid.

BERMAN: He's still getting paid.

GRANDERSON: He's still getting paid.

BERMAN: He also says, L.Z., he's very embarrassed by the situation, he's agreed to undergo counseling and enter a program.

You know, you talk about this more than I do. You're big on second chances and forgiveness.

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PEREIRA: But I think -- here's the thing. I believe in second chances but I believe we have to pay the consequences, especially when you think about this profession of this person, L.Z. He's a judge. He will be casting judgment on others. One has to question his ability to comport his own self if he's going to be casting judgment upon others.

GRANDERSON: And one also has to -- in addition to that -- I agree with you. But in addition to that, we're asking if Ray Rice got some sort of celebrity justice. In other words, did the fact he's a football player allow him to get this plea deal? We have to ask ourselves, did this judge get some sort of celebrity justice as well? What was the proper investigation by Congress to make sure that he did get the proper justice that anyone else would receive and not celebrity justice, because that also impacts his ability to be seen as a credible judge, I would think, by the people that are coming into his courthouse, his courtroom.

PEREIRA: We should point out typical first time offenders don't usually go to jail. Said to be embarrassed and getting counseling.

This is not the last we hear of this story. And we're glad you wrote this op-ed, brought it to many people's attention. Glad we're covering it here.

Thanks so much, L.Z.

BERMAN: You brought up the point, though, it's not about going to jail. It's about hearing cases and deciding on the bench, working as a federal judge.

PEREIRA: Absolutely.

Obviously, you have opinions, too. We want to hear from you. What is your take on the Fuller case and on Congress's responsibility? Weigh in facebook.com, @THISHOUR, or Twitter, @THISHOUR.

BERMAN: And ahead for us, a shocking image meant to make people stop and think about the NFL and domestic violence got a lot of people's attention. We have the story behind this picture, next.

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PEREIRA: We're going to take you back to the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the capitol right now. And right now, the Senator from South Carolina, Senator Lindsay Graham, is talking to or asking questions of Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Joint Chiefs' Martin Dempsey. Let's listen to the comments.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Really, it's mankind against ISIL. It's not just us against ISIL or Arabs against ISIL. If you're a Christian in the region, they will kill you very quickly, is that correct?

GEN. MARTIN DEMPSEY, CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: Unless you convert.

GRAHAM: OK. Now, I guess what I'm trying to persuade my colleagues is these problems only get worse over time. But are they limited to the Middle East? Are there radical Islamists that we should worry about in Africa?

DEMPSEY: Absolutely.

GRAHAM: Does the Authorization to Use Military Force allow this administration to go in to attack AQIP in Yemen without a new authorization?

DEMPSEY: It does, anything affiliated with A.Q.

GRAHAM: I'm going to write you a letter and name the organization that we could not attack without a new AUMF. I want to see how far this goes. I'm a very robust Article II guy but I think this is a pretty robust reading of the current AUMF. But I'm not going to stand in your way. We need to get this right.

Now, areas of agreement, training the Free Syrian Army, you recommend we do that with all of the complications that go with it?

DEMPSEY: And with a coalition, I do.

GRAHAM: OK. Now let's get to Syria. To destroy ISIL, if two-thirds of ISIL is in Syria, do you agree that somebody has to go in on the ground and dig them out eventually?

DEMPSEY: Somebody. Yes, sir.

GRAHAM: OK. And it's better for us to be part of that somebody than just to be the only ones doing it?

DEMPSEY: Absolutely.

GRAHAM: Can you think of an Arab army that you could form in the next year that you would have confidence that could go in and destroy ISIL in Syria, hold the territory without substantial American support?

DEMPSEY: There are partners in the region that have very capable special operating forces. I think the campaign would envision that they would participate. That would certainly be our ask of them to participate in a ground campaign.

GRAHAM: My question is, can you envision a coalition of Arab states that have the capabilities to go into Syria, defeat ISIL, hold the territory without substantial U.S. military support?

DEMPSEY: As long as you'll elaborate on what you mean by substantial U.S. military support.

GRAHAM: Getting them to the battlefield, how do they get there? What does it take to maintain a large Army in the field? Do they have the intelligence capability if we don't help them? Do they have sufficient airpower to win the day without our support? Do they have the Special Forces capabilities to go in and kill the leaders of ISIL without us being on the ground?

DEMPSEY: I was with you until, without us being on the ground. As I mentioned in previous testimony --

GRAHAM: It's easy. If you think they can do it without us being on the ground, just say yes.

DEMPSEY: Yes.

GRAHAM: OK. What if they lose?

DEMPSEY: Any campaign is built on assumptions. I just made one. If the assumption proves invalid, then you have to readjust your --

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GRAHAM: What's the consequences of a Arab army going into Syria virtually on their own and getting beat by ISIL to us?

DEMPSEY: Yeah, I wouldn't suggest on your own. There will be enabling support -- I do think, yes.

GRAHAM: Well, we're having a problem here. But the bottom line is, what does it mean to the world if we take on ISIL and they defeat the people we send in to take them on? That's a bad day for us, do you agree?

DEMPSEY: It's a bad day for the region, yes, sir.

GRAHAM: It's a bad day for the world, isn't it?

DEMPSEY: It is.

GRAHAM: Do you agree with me this is probably our last best chance to put these guys in a box and keep them there?

DEMPSEY: I think it's our last best chance to convince regional governments that if they don't solve their internal problems, we can't do it for them and they better get serious about it.

GRAHAM: What if the following happens -- the regional players say, I don't trust the United States because you've been so unreliable, you've drawn red lines and done nothing, you withdrew from Iraq and left the place in shambles, that I really don't want to follow your leadership because I don't think you're capable of winning the war because you don't have the resolve. What if they tell us, we're not going to do anything other than maybe drop a few bombs? Would you consider the recommendation to the president that allowing ISIL to maintain a safe haven in Syria and to grow in capability over time is a major threat to the United States? Could you envision yourself recommending to the president, if nobody else will help us, that we go in the ground and clean these guys out in Syria? If you had to?

DEMPSEY: I haven't confronted that question yet, Senator. But I'll react to it. I don't think that even if we were to go in on the ground, armored divisions with flags afurl, I don't think we would do anything more than push this problem further to the right. This has got to be -- to your point -- if we don't get the kind of coalition I'm describing, then we're into a very narrow C.T. framework, in my view.

GRAHAM: OK. If I may just follow this point. So our national defense in terms of stopping ISIL from killing thousands or millions of Americans if they get the capability really comes down to whether or not we can convince the Arab world to go in there and defeat these guys? DEMPSEY: It really comes down to building a coalition so that what

the Arab Muslim world sees is them rejecting is, not us --

(CROSSTALK)

GRAHAM: They already reject ISIL. Do you know any major Arab ally that embraces ISIL?

DEMPSEY: I know major Arab allies who fund them.

GRAHAM: Yeah, but do the embrace them? They fund them because the Free Syrian Army couldn't fight Assad. They were trying to beat Assad. I think they realized the folly of their ways.

Let's don't taint the Mideast unfairly. Is it fair to say that most Syrians have two things in common, they don't like ISIL and they don't like Assad, most Syrians?

DEMPSEY: I agree.

GRAHAM: Is it fair to say that most Muslims reject what ISIL does in the name of their religion?

DEMPSEY: Yes.

GRAHAM: Is it fair to say that if we don't contain this threat, it gets worse over time, and a year from now, if they're still flourishing in Syria and this coalition hasn't come about, America is more in danger of a major attack than we are today?

DEMPSEY: Yes.

GRAHAM: Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED SENATOR: Senator Shaheen?

SEN. JEANNE SHAHEEN, (D), NEW HAMPSHIRE: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you both for being here this morning and for your service.

BERMAN: That's Senator Lindsey Graham, of South Carolina, talking to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Martin Dempsey, about the need for a strong coalition in the battle against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. That hearing continues.

We'll be back right after a break.

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