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Trump Nomination Leaves Republicans Divided; Iraq Grapples with Fresh Political Crisis; Imagine a World. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired May 5, 2016 - 14:00:00   ET




MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN HOST (voice-over): Tonight on the program, the death of a U.S. Navy SEAL in Iraq has underlined yet again the danger of

ISIS. But political payoff in the country could prove just as dangerous. Former U.N. deputy representative Feisal Istrabadi joins the show live.

Also ahead, Trump, the last man standing for the U.S. Republicans.

But will his own party unite behind him?

And from the sound of gunfire to the sound of music, a concert like no other in the ancient city of Palmyra, liberated from ISIS.


HOLMES: And welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Michael Holmes, sitting in for Christiane tonight.

Well, he's been called a pathological liar, a narcissist, utterly amoral, phony, a con man and being compared to a choice between being shot

or poisoned. And all of that is just from members of his own party.

And yet Donald Trump is the last man standing from a field of 17 Republican presidential candidates. Once treated as something of a joke,

the billionaire businessman and reality TV star is, whether his party likes it or not, their presumptive nominee to run for President of the United


Now forget some nervousness among some foreign leaders; even some in his own party say they can't support him. Big donors are for now sewing

their pockets shut. Trump's unfavorability numbers are huge.

But what is indisputable is a man who has been a serial offender of everyone from Muslims to women to Hispanics has become the choice of a

majority of Republican voters, who have gone to the polls in this most bizarre of U.S. election cycles.

So how did he get there and why?

Joining me now from London to discuss the phenomenon that is Donald Trump is Kate Andrews, spokesperson for Republicans Overseas U.K.

And from Washington, CNN Politics' Chris moody.

Thank you to you both.

Kate, let's start with you. Given that he is the presumptive nominee, the notion of President Donald Trump is not the joke many thought it might

have been six months ago. It is, by definition, possible.

What is this billionaire's appeal, especially to the working class?

KATE ANDREWS, REPUBLICANS OVERSEAS U.K.: Well, so much of the working class feels completely forgotten by Washington, D.C. They're frustrated

with President Obama. They feel like his policies have either not helped them or, in some cases, made their taxes go up and made things worse.

But a lot of Republican voters are mad at Republican elites. They promised that if they got the House, that they would repeal ObamaCare.

Then they said, oh, give us the House and the Senate.

And voters didn't see much change. And I think they're fed up. They don't feel like Washington, D.C., is looking out for them and they wanted

to blow up the system.

HOLMES: And still with you, Kate, after we saw Ted Cruz pull out and then Kasich, Republicans, I don't know, woke up to a different GOP that

they went to bed with the next morning.

Where stands the Republican Party in the U.S.?

Does it even recognize itself?

ANDREWS: It's completely divided. You have the base and you have the elite just on the fringes with each other, really. And Donald Trump's

unfavorability ratings are very high, as are Hillary Clinton's historically, at least in modern history.

Both of these candidates now have very high unapproval ratings. Donald Trump's got a real problem on his hands, though; 31 percent of

Republican voters say that they prefer to vote for Clinton, stay home or vote for a third party if he ended up being the nominee. And here we are.

So Donald Trump doesn't just need to pander to the center to win over people in a general election. He's going to need to win back his own

party. And I think it's going to be tough, especially given some of the very offensive comments that I don't think he can roll back.

HOLMES: And, Chris, let's bring you into the conversation now. After its defeat to President Obama back in 2012, the GOP sat down, they did some

soul-searching, they decided they need to reach out to women; they needed to reach out to minorities, socially moderate voters.

Now on the face of it, if you look at and listen to Donald Trump, it's done none of those things or done them successfully.

CHRIS MOODY, CNN POLITICS SENIOR DIGITAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you said it. They did do some real soul-searching. Several top Republicans

got together for a special commission to issue this report that was called an autopsy of what went wrong over basically the corpse of the campaign

that had lost.

And you're right, they did suggest investing millions of dollars to outreach to minority communities, to stop saying certain things about the

gay and --


MOODY: -- lesbian community in the United States and so on and so forth. And the party did adopt several of those reforms.

Reince Priebus, he's the head of the Republican Party, the chairman, he invested literally millions of dollars in communities where the

Republicans were not spending enough time.

And if you talk to a lot of them today, they feel very strongly that much of that investment has gone kind of to waste, that it is all for

nothing, not just within the Republican Party but also the outside groups, the donors that are funding through so-called super PACs and other


They have invested especially in minority communities.

And you talk to the people that have been working on that effort for years after Donald Trump said the things he did about Mexican immigrants

and about other types of people, they say, what did we do all this work for?

It's going to be very difficult. And we're seeing that now in the polling going into the general election, where Donald Trump is underwater

with several of those groups, including women and minorities.

HOLMES: OK. So a question for both of you.

And, Chris, you kicked this off. There has been this argument that Donald Trump is really the birth child of or product of how the party

itself has acted over recent years, stoking fear, anger among the base; blocking Obama to the point where Congress became a joke in terms of


Is it a fair criticism -- you first, Chris -- that Trump is a product of that?

MOODY: I think you can draw a lot of narratives out of what we've seen happen. For years and years, Donald Trump was encouraged. He was put

at the prime top stage at many conservative conferences. He held court with Republicans. He endorsed Mitt Romney in 2012 and Romney came and

stood on stage with him.

And I think you're right in a way, when you say that members of the Republican Party and Congress kind of sent certain dog whistles to voters

or they degraded certain types of Americans to the point where they created a pretty fertile ground for someone like Donald Trump to say, well, you've

been saying it for so long but you haven't been doing anything about it.

Donald Trump insists that he will. And a lot of Republican voters look and see not a lot of accomplishments.

And, as they say, why are we trying the same thing over and over?

I think that's at least part of why you see a lot of people supporting Donald Trump and the Republican Party.

HOLMES: Kate, what do you think of that, I mean, that Donald Trump is a product of the party?

ANDREWS: Yes. I resonate with a lot of that and, at the end of the day, the Republican Party needs to be responsible for itself. What happens

within the party Republicans need to stand up and own and respond to.

And I really do think that the elite haven't been listening to their base and there has been some fearmongering within the party, which doesn't

help. I do buy partly into the idea that Obama's stagnant economy hasn't helped things. But I also think what we can't ignore the rise of PC

cultural and the rise of also the liberal elite, which have been telling a lot of working-class people, Republican and otherwise, that if they had any

qualms about immigration, if they're even nervous about it, that's fundamentally racist.

Or if they hold a pro-life opinion, that that's fundamentally sexist. We've been telling people for some years now that certain ideas that they

might hold for perfectly legitimate reasons that aren't founded in any kind of hatred are hatred.

And I think people don't necessarily resonate with everything that Donald Trump says. I sure hope they don't. But they're happy to see that

somebody is standing up to that liberal elite.

Now I don't think Donald Trump's doing it the right way. Going and making severely offensive comments about minority groups, billions of

people around the world that aren't minorities, they're just minorities in the United States, is not the way to go about combating PC culture.

But I think people are resonating with someone who is brutish and blunt in many ways and just isn't part of that political elite.

HOLMES: Kate, you're going to vote for him?

ANDREWS: Oh, gosh, I really have not made up my mind there. I am so disenchanted with what's happening in the Republican and Democratic Party

right now.

And, especially for me, as a Republican but as a pragmatic Republican, it's hard to see the party move, you know, against things like free trade

and things that have really helped America's economy over the years.

HOLMES: Chris Moody, let's bring you back into this. You know, the political machinations here and how this is going to play out in the

general election, a lot of people understandably who have supported Bernie Sanders, a lot of people would think, well, they're going to vote for

Hillary Clinton.

But, by definition, a lot of those people are independent. Many of them are economically disenfranchised. They're angry at the establishment

and may see Clinton as part of the establishment, a friend of Wall Street, a bit of a hawk in the eyes of many.

Is there a chance that a lot of those Sanders independents become Trump independents?

MOODY: We're going to have to let that play out and see. But here's what people think could happen.

You're right; there is an independent type of voter, who is very disenchanted with Clinton, angry with Clinton for the way she's handled the

campaign and they might go to Trump out of spite.

But I don't think you're going to see anything like this happening en masse. Bernie Sanders was on CNN on Tuesday night. And he was asked about

this. And he pointed out all of the big policy differences that are vast with Donald Trump. And he said --


MOODY: -- if the people support me for what I believe in, I can't possibly see them going to Donald Trump.

So we're going to have to look at the polling data and see what happens but I don't know if you're going to see anything, if I may make a

prediction, of any large, sweeping gains for Trump from the pool of Sanders voters.

However, Donald Trump and his campaign is making a play for them, so they do believe that they have a message that could possibly resonate.

But, like I said, we're going to have to wait and see.

HOLMES: All right. And very quickly, Chris, before I let you go, you've been doing this a while.

Can you think of another election cycle where the two leading candidates both have such a high dislike factor?

MOODY: This has not happened since I've been following this. Both Clinton and Trump are underwater in key issues like trust and things like

that. It's kind of remarkable to see what has happened.

Also I think what is even more remarkable is the tone on the Republican side, of how they talk about Donald Trump or how they have in

the past, calling him names like, you know, con artist or utterly immoral.

Look, primaries are nasty business and everybody kind of comes together afterwards.

But I've never seen language like this. It's going to be really hard for them to come back and say, oh, about that utterly immoral con artist, I

endorse him. That's going to be quite a day.

HOLMES: Well put.

Kate, I did see you nodding there for some of that. But we've got to leave it there. Kate Andrews, spokesperson for Republicans Overseas U.K.

and our own Chris Moody from CNN Politics, thanks so much to you both.

MOODY: Thank you.

ANDREWS: Thank you.

HOLMES: Well, Trump's win has been food for thought for many Republicans but for "Washington Post" columnist, Dana Milbank, it's going

to be more than that. Back in October, the journalist promised to eat his column if the New York billionaire took the nomination.

So now he's having to eat his words -- literally -- receiving recipes even from his readers. We'll only know whether it's been pureed, sauteed

or fricasseed when dinner is served.

And when we come back, we turn to Iraq, division within a nation struggling with ISIS and itself. We'll go there -- next.




HOLMES: And welcome back to the program.

A rare glimpse into the war against ISIS in Iraq. Tonight, brand-new footage from right in the middle of an intense firefight against militants

near Mosul. Have a look.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking foreign language).

HOLMES (voice-over): It is our first look at the gun battle that killed a U.S. Navy SEAL, who was trying to save his outnumbered colleagues

from an attack.

Away from the battlefield, though, Iraq is once again descending into political chaos. A rift between Shia factions is stoking fresh instability

in the country, as the Shiite cleric, Muqtada al Sadr, calls for what he describes as a peaceful revolution, although some fear peace is what's at

stake at the moment.

Let's discuss this and more with Feisal Istrabadi. He is Iraq's former deputy U.N. representative and founding director of the Indiana

University Center for the Study of the Middle East, joining us live from Bloomington.

And good to see you. Now Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, of course, the man meant to heal, unite, he promised to tackle critical things like

services, corruption. And essentially, largely because of a dysfunctional --


HOLMES: -- parliament and cabinet, he has failed.

How fragile is the government today?

FEISAL ISTRABADI, IRAQ'S FORMER DEPUTY U.N. REPRESENTATIVE: Well, first let me say that our thoughts here go to the Keating family; the young

man you mentioned had been a student at Indiana University. And flags are flying at half-staff in the state of Indiana and across this campus.

Yes, the government is extremely fragile. The entire post-2003 dispensation is fragile. And what is at stake is utter and total chaos.

And frankly, it is very difficult to see a clear way out of these problems in the absence of goodwill and good faith amongst the Iraqi political

elite, who have shown very little of those qualities in the last 13 years.

HOLMES: Let's talk a bit about just one of the players. I was in Baghdad back in 2007, when the Mahdi army fought and killed American troops

in Haifa street. Now that militia's leader, Muqtada al Sadr, still a powerful cleric, a cagey politician and a man who can still call on people

to take over parliament, as we saw.

How do you see his role in all of this evolving?

ISTRABADI: Well, he has a very odd sort of split personality. On the one hand, as you're suggesting, he has been a part of the sectarian

dispensation. He has been a militant Shia leader, who, at one time, led a militia, which was responsible for ethnic cleansing of Sunna in Iraq.

On the other hand, he also has a kind of pan-nationalist discourse, an Iraqi discourse, and he is now emphasizing the latter. I don't think he

will have many Sunni followers.

But I think many in the Sunni community will be sympathetic to the frustrations of the demonstrators who took over parliament. So it is --

the situation is in flux, very difficult to know how it's going to play out.

HOLMES: Now we often talk in the national sense of Sunni and Shia divides in Iraq but, of course, neither group is monolithic. And here we

are talking about a Shia split politically.

Now if that were to get worse, hit the streets, if you like, you've got politicians who still control militias.

What would a Shia split in a place like Baghdad look like?

ISTRABADI: Well, I'm afraid we're seeing the seeds of it already beginning. We haven't seen violence yet. But it would be an extremely

bloody and violent affair.

The militias are well armed and highly motivated. And it is, again, a fear that violence between them could spread. It could indeed spread

throughout the country. We are at a moment in Iraq, in which neither the Shia are united nor the Sunna nor the Kurds. It is -- we are on the

precipice of the pre-Hobbesian state of all against all.

HOLMES: And the politics of this is crucial to all of what you talk about there.

How much of what we're seeing now can be laid at the feet of the U.S. and the system that they pushed back in 2003, the quota systems and the

like, that seemed to have really just served the same old political class?

The U.S. notion of democratic ideals perhaps might not be suited to the Iraqi system.

How has that played out, the U.S. involvement, in that sense, politically?

ISTRABADI: Well it's very difficult to create a democratic system when it's based upon ethnoconfessional identity because, by definition,

somebody is in the majority and that means somebody else becomes a second- class citizen.

So while I think that democracy could have been more promising in 2003 than it has played out to be over the last 13 years, I think that the basic

system was wrong.

And individuals were initially appointed by the Americans to what was called the Iraqi governing council exactly based upon what

ethnoconfessional identity they had.

And, unfortunately, those individuals, by and large, then carried that system over into the electoral process that we've had. So what we've

really had is identity politics.

We have not debated issues in any of Iraq's elections. We have held almost a census each time that we've had and election. And this is not --

you know, this is not productive of a consensus which Iraq needs. We're not Iran. We're a very diverse country, ethnoconfessionally. And an

ethnoconfessional system simply cannot work.

HOLMES: And I'm wondering how much all of this political divide is a threat to the plans for retaking Mosul in the north, plans with

complexities of their own that are, frankly, yet to be tested. You've got Shia militia; you've got Shia regulars; you've got Sunni tribes, Kurds all

wanting a piece, A, of the action and, B, a say in what happens afterwards, which, in turn, worries the people inside Mosul.

ISTRABADI: Well, that's right. And I think that's the biggest problem, is that we don't have a clear consensus.


ISTRABADI: We don't have a clear view. We've never had a clear view amongst the new elites, the post-2003 elites, of what Iraq should actually

look like, how it should be governed.

And what are the basic premises of the state, the foundations of the state?

We've never had those discussions in my view. And so we're asking the people of Mosul to join the fight.

But a fight for what?

That is a question that should have been answered long before we got to this point now. And we're in a position now, where we have to do the

military aspect of this, the fight itself, at the same time that we're trying to resolve deep-seated political issues.

It's an unfortunate hand that we've been dealt. But we no longer have the option of prioritizing over this or that over the political

reconciliation process. Everything must occur simultaneously.

HOLMES: It's an excellent point. I was reading that Iraq ranks 161 out of 168 nations in Transparency International's corruption list. And

that brings me to another potential complication.

To get desperately needed IMF loans, Iraq's going to have to deliver on reforms that will include inevitably austerity. Now you've got here

this talk of corruption. You've got a climate of a population already angry by a lack of services and service, for that matter, from their


Austerity's not going to go down well.

ISTRABADI: No, indeed. You can imagine, to get the IMF loans, we are going to have to cut subsidies to fuel and to foods. That's -- I mean, the

IMF formula is well known.

So on top of these deep-seated dissatisfactions of the electorate in the capital, which has a history -- not recently but has a history of

turning on the political class and, unfortunately, quite literally dragging them through the streets of Baghdad -- on top of that, you may have the

risk of bread riots.

Now that should focus the minds of the Iraqi political class and, indeed, the international community and U.S. policymakers. That should

focus their mind, to paraphrase Dr. Johnson, wonderfully.

HOLMES: One final -- and briefly, if you will, I mean, briefly, it's a heck of a question.

What has to happen, particularly in terms of the political system?

It seems the system is the problem.

ISTRABADI: The system is the problem and, of course, everyone who's in a position to fix the system is within the system and is a product of

the system. And that's the basic trouble.

You could imagine, from the Shia side, the religious authority in Najaf taking a position that the system is not working and that we need a

different system.

But for it to do that, this is the system it wanted. It wanted religious parties running the country. It would have to admit whether, you

know, by saying so or by inference, that it made a mistake.

Iraq cannot be governed by a sectarian system. Unfortunately, as one of the now late politicians in Iraq said, Ahmad Chalabi, you can't get

elected in post-2003 Iraq if you're not sectarian. But if you are a sectarian, you can't govern in Iraq. And that's the conundrum.

HOLMES: Well put; pessimistic view, perhaps, but a very realistic one.

Great to get your thoughts, Feisal Istrabadi, there of Indiana University Center for the Study of the Middle East, thank you so much.

ISTRABADI: Thank you. It's a pleasure to be with you again.

HOLMES: Well, there has been one unlikely source of agreement in a divided Iraq when President Abadi shared this solemn photo -- Prime

Minister Abadi -- shared this solemn photo after his officers were stormed by protesters. It outraged Iraqis, who believed that blood on that seat

there took precedent over suffering on the street.

Now since that picture hit the Web, #MyCouchMyHonor began trending on social media as Iraqis posted the photos of themselves concerned for their


And when we come back, imagine a world where Syria and Russia find harmony in the desert, bringing new life to Palmyra's ancient ruins.

That's next.





HOLMES: Finally tonight, once haunted by the sounds of bloodshed and gunfire, Syria's Palmyra now rings with a beautiful melody.



HOLMES (voice-over): As we imagine a world where one of Russia's musical jewels goes to Syria's pearl in the desert, in a propaganda coup,

Russia has deployed world-renowned conductor, Valery Gergiev, and the Mariinsky Theater Orchestra to perform a triumphal concert in an ancient


It was entitled "With a Prayer from Palmyra: Music Revives the Ancient Remains."

The ground was once riddled with thousands of mines. But today a huge audience of soldiers and Syrian dignitaries occupied the space and saw

Russian President Vladimir Putin make a cameo on the concert's big screens, dedicating it to those lost in the fight against ISIS.

As well as Palmyra's regeneration, now, regardless of the political machinations behind the concert, the music has brought undeniable beauty to

a spot that, just six months ago, was host to mass executions.



HOLMES: And that is it for our program tonight. Do remember you can listen to the podcast, see us online at, follow me on Twitter

@HolmesCNN. Thanks for watching and goodbye for now from the CNN Center.