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Trump's Big Bump; Former President Jimmy Carter Has Cancer; ISIS Claims It Beheaded Croatian Captive; EPA: Part of River Returns to Pre-Spill Water Quality; Massive Explosion Rocks Major Port City in China; Army Chief Considers Russia as Most Dangerous Threat to U.S.; Top North Korean Official Vanishes. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired August 12, 2015 - 17:00   ET



BRIANNA KEILAR, HOST: Happening now, breaking news -- Trump's big bump. A new CNN poll just released this hour shows Donald Trump maintaining his massive lead in Iowa despite the latest controversy swirling around his campaign. And tonight, he fires off again in an interview with CNN.

What is he saying about Hillary Clinton?

Most dangerous threat -- a top Pentagon leader says Russia is now the greatest menace facing the US.

With allegations of Russian computer attacks on the U.S. military and attempts to expand in Europe, is Vladimir Putin trying to heat up the cold war?

Wall of flames -- a massive explosion tonight in a major port city. A giant blast seen and felt for miles. Hundreds of people possibly hurt. Right now, a frantic effort to find and treat the injured.

What caused this fiery disaster?

Unrelenting -- growing suspicion that North Korea's Kim Jong-un may have gotten rid of one of his most important political allies. His regime suspected of carrying out mass executions, conducting land mine attacks on South Korea and even creating its own time zone.

Has one of the world's most ruthless leaders become totally unhinged?

Wolf Blitzer is off.

I'm Brianna Keilar.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

KEILAR: We are following breaking news. A new CNN/ORC poll is just out tonight showing Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton leading their respective fields in the key state of Iowa. And Trump weighing in on the controversy of Clinton's use of a private e-mail server while she was secretary of State, a server she's now handing over to the Justice Department. In an interview with CNN's Jake Tapper just a short time ago, Trump called it a criminal situation.

And there's breaking news from the Carter Center in Atlanta. Former President Carter has just announced his cancer has spread and he will be undergoing further medical treatment.

We're covering all of that and more this hour, with our correspondents, our expert analysts and our guests.

And we want to begin with CNN's senior Washington correspondent, Jeff Zeleny.

He's following all the campaign news for us.

What are the latest twists and turns today -- Jeff?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brianna, Hillary Clinton has agreed to turn over her private e-mail server. Like you said, Donald Trump is leading our new poll in Iowa. And Bernie Sanders is soaring in New Hampshire.

Taken together if you're an establishment candidate, it's been a tough day on the campaign trail.


ZELENY (voice-over): Five months after saying no...

HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I believe I have met all of my responsibilities and the server will remain private.

ZELENY: Hillary Clinton finally said yes and agreed to surrender her private e-mail server to the Justice Department. Her campaign says she did nothing wrong, but is cooperating with the investigation into how classified material was handled.

It's an issue that's followed her all summer.

CLINTON: That I am confident that I never sent nor received any information that was classified at the time it was sent and received.

ZELENY: Republicans have been clamoring for this.

REP. TREY GOWDY (R-SC), CHAIRMAN, SELECT COMMITTEE ON BENGHAZI: About damned time was my initial reaction. I can't help but smile at the notion that somebody is voluntarily turning something over to the FBI. They generally don't ask. They generally tell you to do so.

ZELENY: The e-mail controversy has raised questions about her credibility and given an opening to Bernie Sanders. With a populist cry, he's filling arenas across the country, drawing bigger crowds than any 2016 candidate.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have a message to the billionaire class -- you can't have it all. ZELENY: For the first time today, he has 7 point edge over Clinton in New Hampshire, according to a new Franklin Pierce University/poll.

David Spiegal is one of those New Hampshire Democrats who is turning to Sanders. We caught up with him this week at a Clinton campaign stop.

DAVID SIEGAL, DEMOCRATIC VOTER: I think his message resonates with a lot of people who feel that the elections are bought and paid for by very wealthy donors and key corporations.

ZELENY: For Republicans, Donald Trump is still overshadowing the race and overwhelming his GOP rivals. He's taking on Jeb Bush directly.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: So I said what would Jeb Bush do?

He'd probably say this is not a good thing. And if he ever said it strongly, which he wouldn't because there's no energy there, no energy -- we need energy. We need tone, you know, tone.

ZELENY: For his part, Bush is ignoring Trump, focusing instead on Clinton and her foreign policy record as secretary of State.

JEB BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: In all of her record-setting travels, she stopped by Iraq exactly once.


ZELENY: Now, the one bright spot for Hillary Clinton came in Iowa, where our new poll shows her with the lead. But it's also opened a new line of attack for many of her rivals because of that private e- mail server, including from Jeb Bush. In Nevada just a short time ago, he listed her in a series of people who have threatened national security, like Edward Snowden and Bradley Manning...


Brianna, a sign this controversy is certainly not going away.

KEILAR: It certainly is.

Jeff Zeleny, thanks so much.

Now, a key race alert -- the results from a new CNN/ORC poll on the Democratic race in Iowa, where the first caucuses of the 2016 campaign will be held in less than six months.

Our chief national correspondent and the anchor of CNN's "INSIDE POLITICS," John King, is here with the numbers.

And what do they tell you -- John?

JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, more proof, you might say, that the world in politics this year in politics is upside down. Remember, it was Iowa last time that stunned Hillary Clinton. Then she went on to win the New Hampshire primary only to lose in 2008.

This year, our brand new numbers out show Iowa right now telling Hillary Clinton, we want you as our frontrunner. Look at this, 50 percent for Hillary Clinton in Iowa in our brand new poll, 31 percent for Bernie Sanders.

If there's a message to the vice president -- the last couple of weeks, we've talked about he's thinking about getting into the race -- Iowa Democrats don't seem to be clamoring for a Joe Biden candidacy. These are the new Democratic numbers -- O'Malley, Webb and Chaffee, he's an asterisk, at the bottom of the pack. Hillary Clinton with 50 percent. Bernie Sanders at 31 percent, in striking distance, but, as you know, he was leading in the New Hampshire polls. Hillary Clinton happy with Iowa.

Let's also quickly look at our brand new Republican numbers, because some people thought after a controversial debate performance, maybe Donald Trump would suffer. No, he's ahead with 22 percent in our brand new Iowa poll.

But look at the shakeup in the Republican race. Scott Walker, once leading in Iowa, now in our poll in third place, behind Ben Carson, who had a strong finish to the prime time debate.

Carly Fiorina, who was widely viewed as winning the junior varsity, or the earlier debate, now at 7 percent. She has jumped from nowhere into fifth place in Iowa. Jeb Bush never thought Iowa was his state, Brianna, but look at that. He's down at 5 percent, in the bottom of the pack.

I'll quickly go through some of the reasons why. If there's one warning sign in this poll for Donald Trump, it's right here. He does have a big gender gap. Fifteen percent of Iowa Republican women say they're for Trump; 27 percent of men. Men, though, tend to outnumber women when caucus state comes. So if there's one state where this is less of a problem, it would be Iowa.

Here's another one here. Donald Trump, he's a billionaire. He says he went to the best schools. His support is from those who downscale, those under $50,000, those who have not attended college.

Bri, here's one more number I want to show you. Scott Walker and Ted Cruz desperately need Tea Party support.

And look at this, Donald Trump, a man who has spoken favorably about the single payer health care plan, who has an immigration position some Tea Party voters would consider amnesty, is leading among Tea Party voters, blocking Cruz and Walker.

Why do they like Donald Trump?

Look at this, a 35 point advantage over his closest rival.

Will he change Washington?

They think Trump is the guy. Can he handle the economy?

A big edge.

Can he handle immigration?

A big edge over the other Republicans. Even an edge on terrorism. And in Iowa, Iowa Republicans think he is, by 6 points, the candidate most likely, Bri, despite all the polling showing otherwise, they think he's the candidate to win the general election.

KEILAR: Electability is so key.

Fascinating stuff, John.

Thanks so much.

Stand by, along with Jeff.

We want to bring in CNN's political commentator, Ana Navarro.

She is a Bush supporter -- and, Ana, I want to dig into some of these Trump numbers. A lot to look at here.

But I want to ask you, as a supporter of Jeb Bush's, you see him in seventh place with 5 percent of the vote. And as you heard John say, of course, the campaign never thought that this was their state. But knowing that he was also seventh place in a Suffolk University Poll on Iowa that came out this week, this is pretty low, even by the measures that the campaign has set out for itself.


There's 17 people running. He's 10 removed from the bottom. Look at the glass half full.

Listen, I think these are early polls. Polls are going to go up and down. We've got a bunch of debates and forums before the first Iowa Caucus, before the first vote is cast. You know, I think, Jeb is going to be spending more time there. He's got the kind of campaign that is competing everywhere and let's get a little bit of perspective.

He is within the margin of error of every candidate except Trump and Carson. So, you know, it's not like there are wild distances between a lot of these candidates after Trump and Carson.

KEILAR: All right. So that's a lot of optimism, I would say, John.

What do you think about that?

KING: Look, there were some polls a couple of months ago that showed Jeb Bush moving up in Iowa. And his campaign suddenly said, hmmm, maybe there's a chance. Ana is right to the degree that this shows -- this debate shows the shift in the field shows that this could be a little bit like 2012, where after every debate, we had a shuffling of the field.

However, the one constant has been Donald Trump at the top. And so I think Republicans are nearing the point where they've all thought this was going to flame out, this was going to go away. He attacks immigrants, he attacks John McCain, he has a confrontation and some tough comments about women with Megyn Kelly.

Not hurting him.

So whether it's from the super PAC community, the interest group community or the fellow candidates, the conventional weapons of politics -- money on television ads are going to have to be used to try to take Donald Trump down.

KEILAR: It's fascinating, Jeff, when you look at the issues here, that he's leading the GOP field on the economy,


Very far away from the others; terrorism; illegal immigration; electability.

What is it the voters are responding to?

ZELENY: I think they're responding to the fact that they don't like the status quo. They don't like what's happening in Washington.

They don't like if you have a -- you have the title senator in front of your name, governor in front of your name, farming in front of your name. So that's a lot of this here.

I'm not that surprised he's leading in some of these interest -- in these separate areas, because he's leading overall in the poll. And with so many people in the field, it would be difficult for someone else to sort of break ahead in that respect.

But look, I think that it is still summer. We've seen this movie before, not this version of the movie. This is very much different. But we saw candidates of the summer in 2012 -- Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann. Donald Trump is different because he has tapped into something different.

The key question that remains is, what is his second act?

Does he have a serious second act of his candidacy?

Once the leaves begin to change in Iowa and New Hampshire, once, you know, the fields are harvested, voters take a more serious look at candidates and their issues. So all this is a process. It takes time. But it's ridiculous to count him out, as many of us have. I think we know by now that he's here for a while.

KEILAR: Yes, he's here for a while. Ana, take a listen to what Trump said about the Iraq War when he was talking to Jake Tapper this afternoon.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Unlike Jeb Bush, unlike the brother, unlike in the brother, you know, who got us into the whole war, I was totally opposed to the war. You look at 2004, Reuters, in July of 2004, headline "Trump Opposes War in Iraq." And I'm the only one of all of the candidates running, I am the only one, the absolute only one that opposed the war. So, you know, one of those things. And you could call that vision.


KEILAR: Is that an effective argument?

NAVARRO: I think you call it coincidence. And remind me, Brianna, because I don't remember, is that back when he was a Democrat?

Or is that when he was an Independent?

Because it was when -- before he was a Republican, right?

I mean that answer basically puts him to the left of Hillary Clinton. It puts him right there with Bernie Sanders on the Iraq issue. The people who saw the intelligence, that was faulty we know now, you know, decided differently.

So he was basing that opinion on basically, I don't know, instinct, reading the tea leaves, tarot cars. Got knows what Donald Trump uses to form opinions.

And it's interesting because, you know, unless Donald Trump says something outrageous, we really aren't talking about him because he hasn't put out any policies. I'd like to hear Mr. Trump's policies on how we're going to combat ISIS and what we're going to do in the Middle East. I think a lot of Republicans are looking forward to hearing him talk policy.

KEILAR: Interesting that Ana brings that up. He does falter when it comes to Republican values. We see that in this poll.

I wonder, also, with Evangelical Christians, Jeff, because we actually see that he does pretty well with them, and yet he's made comments in the past where he's talking about communion. I get my little cup of wine and my little cracker. And he says that he doesn't think he's ever asked for forgiveness from God.

That's surprising to me, looking that he's doing so well with Evangelical Christians.

ZELENY: Right. No question. And Evangelicals are a critical component of the Iowa -- of the Republicans who participate in the Iowa caucuses.

But I think they don't know enough about him yet. There have been a couple of forums over the summer where he talked about it.

But what John mentioned earlier about TV ads, if TV ads are used as a weapon against him, I promise you every Evangelical on Sunday after church will have a flyer on their windshield and TV and radio ads reminding people that he's not exactly sharing their beliefs.

KING: And the question then will be does it matter?

Does it matter?

Because they know a little bit about his positions. They've heard a lot about his immigration position. And so far, they don't care, because they want him kicking. They want him -- he kicks President Obama. They want a fighter. He kicks Hillary Clinton. They want a fighter. But he also kicks their establishment.

The Republican base doesn't like its own leadership. And Donald -- when Jeb Bush is saying we need to get along, we have to unite people, that's a smart general election message.

But the base of the Republican Party right now wants to break all the glass. They like this.

KEILAR: John, Jeff, Ana, stand by for me.

We'll be back in just a moment and -- after a quick break.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

KEILAR: Breaking news, Jimmy Carter has just announced he has cancer. In a statement released by the Carter Center, the 90-year-old former president says, "Recent liver surgery revealed that I have cancer that now is in other parts of my body. I will be rearranging my schedule as necessary so I can undergo treatment by physicians at Emory Health Care. A more complete public statement will be made when facts are known, possibly next week."

We're back now with CNN's Jeff Zeleny and John King, but first I want to bring in CNN chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, joining us on the phone.

Sanjay, this is a limited statement about the former president's health situation. But what does this diagnosis mean, especially with you're talking about someone of his age?

SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (via phone): Yes, I mean, certainly, he doesn't say specifically what type of cancer this is, whether it's liver cancer specifically or cancer of other organs within that area, gallbladder or the pancreas.

[17:20:12] And certainly to your point, Brianna, he's 90 years old. This is a tough cancer in everybody, and it's more difficult when you're older, in part because of how difficult it is for your body but also the treatment for these types of cancers can be very difficult, as well.

He has said, my understanding, Brianna, is that he is going to pursue treatment. I should point out, you know, that Jimmy Carter and his family has a very strong family history of pancreatic cancer. Many people may not know this, but his father died of pancreatic cancer. Every one of his siblings died of pancreatic cancer. His mother had it, as well. So that is a -- there's a strong genetic family history there for pancreatic cancer.

We'll probably get more information here in the next couple of days about specifically what cancer, has it spread, and where has it spread: other organs in the body, to lymph nodes around the organs? All of that's going to make a difference in terms of his prognosis.

KEILAR: When you read this statement, do you think that doctors are trying to just really get a better sense at this time about what's going on? Do you think they really only have a limited idea at this point?

GUPTA: Well, yes, I think what is happening here, probably given his family history over time, I know that he was looking at getting screenings, to see if he had any masses or anything in his pancreas or around his pancreas. That would be suspicious.

A few years ago he started getting just blood tests as opposed to getting these scans anymore. Something probably showed up that sort of warranted looking and seeing if there was a mass or something suspicious, and that was ten days ago, where he had this operation to remove a small mass from around his liver.

I think just now, they probably did some sampling of tissues around that area. They may have looked at tissues, as well. And they're just now getting that information.

I think you have to put the complete picture together, how big is the mass, how -- if they're talking about this thing that they're calling cancer now, and how much has it really spread?

I don't know it's a -- they're necessarily trying to put a rosier picture on it or not, but I think once you get all that information, you'll have a better idea of what his prognosis is.

A lot of people know, pancreatic cancer, liver cancer that has spread. Obviously, those are signs, but exactly what kind, how far it spread, how big those masses are, that's all going to make a difference.

KEILAR: John, President Carter, he certainly is going to be focusing his attention on his health right now, but in recent years, really in recent decades, he's had such a vibrant post-presidency.

KING: And he's an important person in our political history. We're in this summer of Trump and the summer of Bernie Sanders. It was Jimmy Carter who essentially put the modern-day Iowa caucuses on the map.

If you think somebody -- there's no way he can win, he's got a crazy family, he doesn't have the infrastructure, Jimmy Carter in 1976, post-Watergate, came out of nowhere. The Democratic Party thought that's kind of cute, a southern governor running. And he became the president of the United States.

Now, it was the pre-Internet age. It was post-Watergate, very different mood. But it's proof that a guy who plugs away and a guy who takes advantage of the political mood of the tap, taps into it when the established politicians might not be paying close enough attention, can surprise us.

His presidency, defined by inflation, stagflation, the Iran hostage crisis, Ronald Reagan's history. In the post-presidency, he's been very much an outsider in the former presidents' club. We see Bill Clinton and the Bushes getting along. Bill Clinton beat George H.W. Bush, and they're buddies now. Jimmy Carter has always been an outsider, even in the former presidents club, occasionally raising some eyebrows with Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, or his hugging of the Palestinians and criticism of Israel, but mostly he's remembered for the Carter Center, the reconciliation work, Habitat for Humanity, the charitable work of his post-presidency. It's been quite remarkable.

KEILAR: We'll certainly be thinking of him as he's going through this treatment. Thank you, guys, so much. Dr. Gupta, really appreciate you giving us some information and insight there.

Now coming up, a huge explosion just lights up the sky of a major port city. We're getting new details about what you see right there.


KEILAR: We are following deeply disturbing new developments in the war with ISIS. Pictures posted on jihadist websites today indicate an ISIS offshoot in Egypt has followed through on its threat to behead a Croatian contract worker who was kidnapped last month.

This comes days just after the FBI accused a couple from Mississippi of plotting to use their honeymoon as cover to fly to the Middle East to join ISIS.

Families around the world are coping with the sorrow and the guilt at seeing their children join ISIS and in many cases die in the fighting. Their plight is the subject of an in-depth report on the Huffington Post by Julia Ioffe. She's joining us now, along with CNN counterterrorism analyst and former CIA official Phil Mudd.

Thanks so much to both of you for being here.

Phil, first I want to ask you about this Croatian hostage who appears to have been killed by ISIS is video that we are now seeing. You say that we wouldn't have seen something like this even three years ago. What does that tell you about the impact ISIS is having?

[17:30:04] PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: We talk about operational impact a lot, about how many village ISIS has taken, how many airstrikes we've seen or drone strikes we've seen. I think equally important is the critical impact of ISIS ideology.

Remember, we've seen beheadings of Christians in North Africa, a few years ago you would not have heard about the al Qaeda affiliate in the Sinai, which is where this happened, the Sinai desert. Then you have that al Qaeda affiliate suddenly say, "I'm affiliated with ISIS" just last year. They took off the street, in midsummer this year, this hostage. They made a threat early in August and killed him.

I think the real bottom line of the story here is not that ISIS is expanding operationally, but that other groups are starting to say, "I like this idea. This idea gains international impact. I'm going to sign up."

KEILAR: They're taking part in their strategy.

Julia, you -- your piece that you have out in the "Huffington Post" is fantastic. It's an in-depth report on parents whose kids have joined ISIS or have converted to radical Islam, joint terror groups, al Qaeda, as well.

I want to take a look at a video clip from your piece of video clip.


KAROLINE DAM, MOTHER OF ISIS RECRUIT: I've got a neighbor that won't say hi anymore, on the other side of my drive, and I can see that she's -- well, that's the mother of a terrorist.

Family members can't cope with it, because it's not only losing a kid, but it's the whole terror aspect, you know, how could this happen?


KEILAR: And this is just one of the voices that's in your piece. Tell us about what you found.

JULIA IOFFE, CONTRIBUTOR, "HUFFINGTON POST": So I covered the stories of six mothers in five different countries: Canada, Denmark, Norway, Belgium and France. And all but -- all but two of the kids have been killed, and the mothers are dealing with how this happened.

Some of the mothers had no idea that this -- they were seeing what was happening to their kids, and children were being radicalized, but it was so early on, there was no information about this in the media. They had no idea what they were seeing. They had no idea that what they were seeing was their children being radicalized until one day they disappeared and called them from the Turkish border.

And in some way when these kids go to Syria to fight with ISIS, their mothers, at least in a psychological sense, go with them, because they're mothers, and a lot of times this is the first time these kids have been away from home. And they write back as if, you know, they're college freshman. You know, how are you doing? How's my brother? How's the cat? What are you guys eating for dinner? They're kids. KEILAR: Did you find similarities between these kids in their

experience, something that might have, in retrospect, been a tip-off to the fact that they were vulnerable or at risk?

IOFFE: Well, what I saw was, you know, in the families of western converts, the child is usual usually troubled. The father is usually out of the picture.

In the families of Muslim immigrants to the west, the kid feels that they have -- they cannot access the local identity, the Danish identity, the Norwegian -- the Belgian identity, and so they latch onto the identity they know for sure that they have, which is their Muslim identity. And this provides with a very simple explanation for everything that's wrong in their lives.

But what's super-interesting about this is it's mostly the mothers. The fathers recede into the background. Either they were not there to begin with or they don't want to be public about this. They recede into the shadows with their guilt. The mothers are the ones that are trying desperately to understand why this happened to them, and how they can prevent it from happening to other -- to other mothers.

KEILAR: Provide some clues. Julia Ioffe, it is a great read. I really want to encourage people to check it out.

Phil, thanks so much for sharing your insight.

Coming up, breaking news about the latest water quality test after 3 million gallons of toxic mine waste fills into a pristine river in Colorado.

We're also getting new details about tonight's huge explosion in a major port city.


[17:38:42] KEILAR: Just into THE SITUATION ROOM, breaking news on that toxic spill of three million gallons of polluted mine water in Colorado. The head of the Environmental Protection Agency just announced new data shows the water quality in parts of the Animas River has returned to where it was before last week's spill.

Today the House Oversight Committee demanded an inspector general's investigation of the spill, which is blamed in part on an EPA cleanup effort that went wrong.

With us now on the phone is Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper.

Governor, thanks so much for being with us so we can talk about the update here. We just heard from the EPA. They say that the levels of pollution of these heavy metals have returned to what they call pre- event conditions before this spill. But I wonder, if you were in Durango, would you want to drink from the water there in the river?

GOV. JOHN HICKENLOOPER, COLORADO (via phone): Well, you know, as a matter of fact, you know, we tell people you should never drink from river water in the west, because it's -- you know, we have so much livestock, and you can get intestinal bugs, like giardia and things like that.

KEILAR: Sure, but what you -- but if they're taking it in for use, you know, would that be something you would be comfortable with?

HICKENLOOPER: I wouldn't want to -- I mean, I wouldn't drink the water normally.

KEILAR: Not straight out of the river.

HICKENLOOPER: But that being said, I am happy to take a swig or two of the water now, as long as it's giardia free. If they put iodine in the water, take a swig, happy to do it.

[17:40:09] Again, a small amount like this, these are heavy metals that over a long period of time can cause public health issues, but in a swig or two, it's not going to make a difference.

KEILAR: What about well water, folks who are reliant on wells in the area?

HICKENLOOPER: So this is not a flood event, right? So this was a leak into the river, but the river didn't go over bank, and generally the hydrologic radius -- this is when it comes in handy to have a master's in geology, which I have.

The water grading (ph) usually is from the well into the river. So it's very unlikely. Even if you're quite close to the river, it's very unlikely that you would get pollution from this event if you weren't already getting. This river, while certainly good for rafting, fishing and things like that, does have a higher content of certain heavy metals than you would want to drink on a regular basis. So anyone who's getting pollution from this event is probably getting pollution day to day anyway.

And again, this wasn't a flood event. This didn't push water out over the bank or out from the river. It's unlikely that you would get pollution from this event in a well.

KEILAR: The EPA was supposed to be doing a cleanup of this Golf King Mine when things obviously went awry and there was this giant spill. It turned out the spill was three times what they initially said it was. And there's a lot of folks, I think, who are skeptical of the EPA at this point and how it's responded. Can they trust the EPA when they say this water is safe?

HICKENLOOPER: Well, they can trust it, because the state of Colorado has been doing parallel tests all the way along. And our tests are exactly the same as they are.

We are back to the pre-event water. We're going to recommend, actually, in just a few minutes, we're going to -- about -- I'd say half an hour ago we recommended to the city of Durango they begin intake again of the water into their water facility for all their municipal use. And in a few minutes, we're going to recommend that they reopen the river for rafting. We think it is back to the pre- event conditions.

And you know, there are a lot of small businesses -- raft companies, guides for fishermen -- this affects -- every day more that it's closed affects their livelihood.

KEILAR: All right. Governor Hickenlooper, thank you so much. A lot of questions. Thank you for answering them and being with us.

HICKENLOOPER: I have the chance and appreciate the time to let people know that Durango is open for business.

KEILAR: All right. Thanks, Governor, so much.

Coming up, breaking news. We are getting new details about tonight's huge explosion in a major port city.


... is the unpredictable leader up to now?


[17:47:15] KEILAR: We're following breaking news. It's a massive explosion. It's injured dozens of people in the port city of Tianjin, China. It's about 90 miles southeast of Beijing. Chinese television is reporting that this blast happened at a container port where flammable material was being stored.

CNN's Will Ripley is going to join us right now on the phone.

Give us the latest. What are you hearing?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, I'm standing outside an emergency room at a hospital that's probably closest to the blast site. Just talked to a couple of guys who are here looking for their friend who they say is seriously injured. The latest official number from state media say 180 people have been injured at least, but we've been seeing reports that it may actually be higher as the numbers are scattered in hospitals all around the city of some 15 million people.

The explosion happened far away from the densely populated downtown area. But the blast was felt and heard and smashed in windows from a very great distance away from the actual epicenter. So a lot of these --

KEILAR: I think we're going to try to reconnect -- sorry, Will, pick back up, we lost you there for a few seconds.

RIPLEY: Yes. Sorry. The cell phone signal is a bit weak here. We know, Brianna, seven people are reported dead so far, 180 injured. I don't know if you've heard that. A lot of it from broken glass. This explosion was so big it actually pushed people's windows in and smashed people's windows around the city. And the cause is still under investigation, but we know the fire is still burning right now.

Firefighters are on the scene. 18 fire crews, there are at least two firefighters who are missing at the moment. Seven confirmed fatalities. And people wandering around here, trying to figure out what happened. Pretty much everybody in the city of 15 million people heard the blast. We've seen a lot of smashed windows just driving around here, and a lot of people just standing outside the hospital, not really sure what to do this morning as the sun comes up.

KEILAR: OK. Will, we're going to let you continue reporting and we'll be monitoring this story with you.

Will Ripley for us there.

At the Pentagon today, a new warning about the growing threat posed by Vladimir Putin's Russia.

I want to bring in CNN's chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto -- Jim.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: We've talked a lot about the competing threats between ISIS and Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula from Iran following the nuclear deal, China, but the chairman of the Joint Chiefs -- rather, the Army Chief of Staff saying today that by far it is Russia that is the most dangerous threat, not just in eastern Ukraine but also to key NATO allies of the U.S. and Europe. This is something, he says, that greatly concerns him.


SCIUTTO (voice-over): Ukrainian soldiers locked in battle with Russian backed fighters in eastern Ukraine. Six months into the second attempted cease-fire there, the fighting still raging.

[17:50:02] It is operations like this one that has the outgoing U.S. Army Chief of Staff calling Russia the most dangerous threat to the United States today. More than ISIS. More than China.

GEN. RAY ODIERNO, ARMY CHIEF OF STAFF: I'm concerned. They have shown some significant capability in Ukraine to do operations that are fairly sophisticated. And so for me I think we should pay a lot of attention.

SCIUTTO: NATO is tripling the size of its rapid reaction force to 40,000 troops. And undergoing a series of training exercises in eastern Europe. But General Odierno warns that only a third of U.S. brigades are capable of winning the so-called hybrid warfare Russia is undertaking. With undercover Russian troops backing local fighters.

(On camera): Do you have any evidence that the strategy that the administration policy in terms of deterring Russia is working?

ODIERNO: We have a long way to go. I think there's -- we have to continue to increase our ability to move quickly there because a true deterrent, one where people are worried that if they do conduct operations there will be some level of response. I think we have to improve what that level of response might look like so we can deter.

SCIUTTO (voice-over): With Russia undeterred in Ukraine, U.S. and NATO leaders are concerned that Moscow may attempt to destabilize NATO allies neighboring Russia. Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia.

(On camera): How concerned are you that Russia will try the same strategy in NATO allies bordering Russia?

ODIERNO: Russia is constantly assessing the reaction of NATO to any of their actions. What I worry about is they make a mistake in miscalculating and do something that would violate Article 5 of our NATO agreement.


SCIUTTO: I asked General Odierno if the U.S. and NATO have the deterrent capability today to deter Russia. And he said, in his word, Brianna, that it has some. Not exactly a ringing endorsement of the ability today of NATO to deter Russia from further military action. He said they're just beginning. They've got a lot of work to do.

KEILAR: All right. Jim Sciutto, thanks for your report.

We're also looking into reports that a top North Korean official hasn't been seen in public for months. And this is raising many serious questions.

CNN's Brian Todd has details on this.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, concern tonight that Kim Jong-Un may be eliminating any one who even mildly crosses him. And from Seoul to Washington tonight, officials are scrambling to find out what happened to a man who has served Kim and his father for many years.


TODD (voice-over): A top official in Kim Jong-Un's government vanished from public view. Choe Yong-Gon, a North Korean vice premier, hasn't been seen in eight months. That's according to South Korea's Unification Ministry which tells CNN it is, quote, "watching closely for possible change in the status."

NICK EBERSTADT, AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE: It could mean that he is on hold. It could mean that he is under suspicion or under investigation. It could mean that he is not dead.

TODD: The State Department says if Choe Yong-Gon was executed, this would be yet another example of what it calls the extreme brutality of the North Korean regime.

The vice premiere's public disappearance comes during an extended bloody campaign of purges by Kim Jong-Un. South Korean Intelligence and Foreign Ministry officials say he's executed at least 70 top officials since taking power in late 2011.

KEN GAUSE, NORTH KOREAN LEADERSHIP EXPERT, CNA: I think the inner circle is a very tense place to be right now under Kim Jong-Un. The leaders within that inner circle, and there are only a handful of them, are both looking over their shoulder, looking at Kim Jong-Un. Trying to define what he wants.

TODD: Kim reportedly had his defense minister, Hyon Yong-Chol, executed with an anti-aircraft gun, apparently for pushing back on Kim's orders and nodding off at meetings. There are published reports that the architect of Pyongyang's new airport was executed because Kim didn't like the design.

U.S. officials tell CNN executions are Kim's way of solidifying his position, a way of sending a bone-chilling signal to those closest to him.

JONATHAN POLLACK, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: Don't mess with me. I'm the boss. And if you know what's good for you, you'll stay absolutely loyal to me.

TODD: Kim famously had his very powerful uncle, Jang Song-Thaek, executed. Analysts say that signaled a departure from the way Kim's father and grandfather operated.

EBERSTADT: They ran the most totalitarian system, of course, that's ever been operated by human beings. But during their tenure, the royals always stayed safe. That was one of their rules. If you were in the royal court, you were in pretty good situation no matter what was happening to hundreds of thousands of people in prison and so forth.


TODD: The people close to Kim who are safe? Blood relatives, namely his younger sister, Kim Yo Jong who's rising in power and a shadowy older sister named Kim Sol Song, never seen in public, said to be advising him behind the scenes -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Fascinating. Brian Todd, thanks for your report.

Breaking news straight ahead. Donald Trump slams Hillary Clinton on the e-mail controversy that's dogging her campaign suggesting something criminal took place.

[17:55:03] And Trump solidifies his frontrunner status in a new CNN poll. We will go behind the numbers to see why he tops -- why he's top among Republicans in a key state. Does he have a path to victory?


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: So now let's say it's President Trump, ladies and gentlemen, president of the United States. Donald J. Trump.



KEILAR: Happening now. Criminal attack. Donald Trump is blasting Hillary Clinton and her e-mail controversy, suggesting crimes may have been committed. Something her campaign denies. Stand by for breaking news in the presidential race as the Clinton e-

mail investigation widens.

[18:00:01] Striking ISIS. America launches a new air offensive against the terrorist and a top general says the U.S. may soon need to consider sending in ground troops.

Is President Obama listening?