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ISIS Claims Series of Bombings in Syria; Operation Underway to Retake Fallujah from ISIS; U.S. General Visits Special Ops Forces in Syria; Flight 804 Data and Cockpit Recorders Still Missing; Mt. Everest Climbing Deaths; Austria Announces Results of Presidential Election; Sanders Feuds with Democratic Establishment. Aired 10-11a ET
Aired May 23, 2016 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ROBYN CURNOW, CNN HOST (voice-over): Ahead at the INTERNATIONAL DESK: ISIS strikes government strongholds in Syria.
Four deaths in four days on Mt. Everest.
And Bernie Sanders keeps up his fight with the Democratic Party.
CURNOW: Hi, there, everyone. Welcome. I'm Robyn Curnow at the CNN Center.
We start with bloodshed in Syria, expanding to areas that have largely escaped the worst of the civil war. ISIS claiming responsibility for the
suicide and car bombings in Tartus and Jableh. They're both government strongholds and far from the main area of ISIS control in Syria.
Dozens are dead; targets included bus stations in Tartus and a hospital in Jableh. Now Russia has military bases in or near both of those cities.
Matthew Chance is in Moscow. He's been to those places. He joins us now with the latest.
So, too, does Barbara Starr, who joins me from Amman, Jordan.
Barbara, to you in just a moment.
Matthew, first, what message does the attacks send and what kind of pressure or influence might it have on Russia?
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think, Robyn, it sends a very powerful message, first and foremost, of course, not
to the Russians but to the regime of Bashar al-Assad.
Yes, it's true that these locations, Tartus and Jableh, are both places where Russia has concentrations of forces. But crucially they are key
strongholds of Bashar al-Assad, they are Alawite areas. They are his traditional family areas.
And up until now, they have been more or less unaffected by the years of civil conflict, of devastating war, that has ravaged Syria and so this
comes as something of a real shock to the Syrian government and their followers that such an atrocity can take place right in the center of their
But as you mentioned, yes, they're also the locations. They could have picked anywhere presumably. But they picked these locations where Russia
has their concentration of forces.
Tartus is Russia's only military base, only naval base, rather, on the Mediterranean Sea. It's on the west coast of Syria. It's crucial because
it's that base, that port that they use to supply their forces that have been carrying out airstrikes in Syria since last September.
The other location, Jableh, is very close to the international airport, where Russia has set up its main air infrastructure as well at the Latakia
airbase. And so both of these locations, very high concentrations of Russian troops, although I have to say, at this point, there's no
indication, either from the Russians or from the Syrians that any Russian interests were affected by these attacks.
There has been a statement, though, both from the Kremlin and within the past few minutes from the Russian foreign ministry as well, the foreign
ministry calling it another bloody crime committed by terrorists on Syrian soil, made with the undisguised goal, they say, to disrupt the cessation of
hostilities, which has been in force since February this year and, in general, to undermine the efforts to find a political solution in Syria.
So the Russians condemning this act --
CURNOW: OK, Matthew Chance, we seem to have lost his signal.
I know we were waiting for Barbara Starr and we appear to also have lost her signal. We will try to get to both of them.
In the meantime, let's move on to Iraq, across the border. The military is preparing to drive ISIS out of a major stronghold. The Iraqi army is on
the outskirts of Fallujah, a highly symbolic city and the first to fall to ISIS. Reports of life under ISIS control say civilians have starved to
death or been barred from leaving.
Now flyers are raining down telling them to prepare to leave. And we know that assault on Fallujah should be beginning today. We're waiting also to
hear from our military -- former military attache, Frank -- General Francona, who was also -- a slightly dodgy connection, it's all happening
in the first five minutes of the show but I'm very happy to see you're up and running.
Either way, let's talk about Fallujah. This is a key city. It's an hour's drive from Baghdad. I mean, it's symbolic but it's also going to be a
LT. COL. RICK FRANCONA (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: It sure is. But this is absolutely essential for the Iraqis to take Fallujah. They've taken
Ramadi, which is even further away and they've taken other cities up the Euphrates Valley.
But if they're going to clear out Anbar Province, get rid of ISIS over there, Fallujah is going to be the key.
Fallujah is probably the base where a lot of this activity in Baghdad has been happening, all these car bombings. They have to originate from
somewhere and --
FRANCONA: -- Fallujah was probably that place.
Then, if the Iraqis are serious about liberating the northern part of the country, if they're going to push up the Tigris Valley, they have to get
this problem out of the way first. So you'll see a concentrated effort over the next week or so. But ISIS is not going to be able to withstand
the force that the Iraqis will bring to bear.
CURNOW: Let's talk about the force that they are going to be withstanding or trying to withstand.
It's not just the Iraqis.
FRANCONA: We've got -- the primary force right now is Iraqi security, the national police; they're being backed up by about 15,000 of the Iraqi army.
But some of the key fighters are going to be the Shia militias.
Much of them are trained and, I think, led and advised by the Iranians, so the Iranians will have their hands in this and of course you're going to
have American airpower there.
So once again, we have this really strange mashup of forces, much like we had in the liberation of Tikrit and Baiji. But there's going to be a lot
of firepower there and we're going to see the results that we saw in Ramadi and Tikrit and Baiji. This is a lot of destruction, a lot of the city is
going to end up just in rubble.
CURNOW: OK. And the sectarian implications of the Shia militia supported by Iran in Anbar Province in the Sunni area?
FRANCONA: Yes, this has been a problem all along. We saw that the Iraqis actually addressed this when they liberated Ramadi. They kept the Shia out
of that and they replaced them with the Sunni militia men, which really worked better.
But, in this instance, they don't think they've got the force structure necessary to do it with the Sunnis. So they're going to bring the Shia in
here. This is always a problem when you introduce the Shia into this area, because it just reinforces that tension that exists. And with this recent
bombing campaign, that tension is higher than ever.
And also, with all the demonstrations in Baghdad, this is a really, really difficult time for the prime minister. He's got to make this work.
CURNOW: He's got to make this work. We also know that he has urged civilians, as we've reported, to leave the city if possible; if they can't,
he said to identify their homes with white flags.
How successful do you think that's going to be?
FRANCONA: I don't think it's going to be successful at all because when you identify your building with white flag, you're not only telling the
people that are coming in there that there's a family in here that wants to surrender or evacuate, it also tells ISIS, hey, there's a family here that
is not toeing the party line.
People have been -- only a very few families have successfully got out. And the ones that have tried are coming under fire from ISIS.
So this is a very dangerous situation for this civilian population. That's the problem when they go into these cities with all of this firepower.
There's going to be a huge amount of collateral damage and, unfortunately, I don't think there's a way around that. If you want to get rid of ISIS,
you're going to have to go in there and clean it out.
CURNOW: OK. Tough words there, Rick Francona, thanks so much on the reality of the situation. Appreciate it.
Well, let's bring in Barbara Starr, back from Amman -- she's in Amman but she's back.
We have established your connection. You have more on the U.S. efforts to fight ISIS, both in Iraq and Syria. You have an exclusive report. Tell us
Hi, there, Barbara.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Robyn, we are back in Amman after spending a day inside Northern Syria with U.S. General Joseph
Votel, the highest ranking U.S. military officer to enter Syria.
STARR (voice-over): These are the first images ever shown publicly from a U.S. special operations training camp in Northern Syria. From here and
other secret nearby locations, the U.S. military is racing time to train enough local Syrian forces so they can push south towards Raqqah, ISIS'
declared capital. CNN was the only television network with General Joseph Votel on a secret day-long trip to Syria. Votel oversees the war against
GEN. JOSEPH VOTEL, CENTCOM COMMANDER: My purpose was to meet with some of the Syrian democratic force leadership in multiple locations and also to
meet with our advisor teams.
STARR (voice-over): General Votel has come to Northern Syria under extraordinary security conditions. In fact, we've been asked not to reveal
a number of details on how we all got here.
But Votel considers this part of the war a top priority. He is here to meet with the U.S. military advisers that are helping some of these local
troops that you see work to defeat ISIS.
Votel went to multiple locations. We've been asked not to disclose, meeting with key local leaders in the Syrian democratic forces, an umbrella
organization overseeing many of these young Arab fighters the U.S. is training.
STARR (voice-over): A spokesman for the Arab forces being trained here is critical of U.S. efforts. He says his group urgently needs more ammunition
and weapons beyond the few ammunition supplies he says the U.S. has delivered.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We've been given a limited number of old rifles.
STARR (voice-over): Due to security concerns, we are not allowed to show details of the base. Our cameras are restricted. Security is so high here
the U.S. advisers want their faces shielded.
But they do want to talk about the training.
You're a military adviser here.
What do you guys do here?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are here, training the Syrian democratic forces. Now when I say training, generally that's consisting of basic level weapons
training, shooting AK-47s and shooting larger machine guns.
STARR (voice-over): Their four-star general taking an extraordinary step to see it all first-hand.
VOTEL: I have responsibility for this mission. I have responsibility for the people that we put here. So it's imperative for me to come and see
what they are dealing with, to share the risks that they are -- they are absorbing on a day-to-day basis.
STARR (voice-over): Even as the Arab fighters here patrol the surrounding fields and stand watch getting ready for whatever their future holds.
STARR: Now U.S. military commanders well remember that their first effort to train Syrian moderate rebels did not work. That program was a failure.
This time, they are taking it slow and that means they know it's going to take a very long time to make it all work -- Robyn.
CURNOW: Barbara Starr, thanks so much. Great reporting.
A submarine has been added to the search for key evidence in the crash of EgyptAir flight 804. The plane's fuselage, flight data and cockpit
recorders are still missing in the waters of the Mediterranean Sea. Nic Robertson joins us from Alexandria, Egypt, with all the details.
Hi, there, Nic.
What more can you tell us?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Robyn, the clock is ticking on finding these black boxes.
Because the locater beacons on them, the pingers, as they're known, they only transmit for about a month after they hit the water. So the clock is
A French patrol vessel has joined the Egyptian vessels out there, is helping in the search. The French patrol vessel brings two specialist
divers, its own mini submarine, a small submarine capable of going to a depth of about 1,000 meters and as well, very importantly, acoustic
These are the detectors that can be used to pick up the signals coming from those transmitters on the black boxes.
But everything now, the focus of everything that's going on, is on the sea bed.
ROBERTSON (voice-over): Thousands of feet below the Mediterranean Sea, the search for EgyptAir 804 continues. Egypt deploying a submarine scouring
the bottom of the ocean floor, 200 miles off the coast of Alexandria, hoping to retrieve the plane's black boxes in waters nearly two miles deep
in some parts.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hello, hello, EgyptAir Flight 804 flight level 370.
ROBERTSON: This is audio recordings of the two men flying the doomed flight, a release, the pilot making this final haunting call to air traffic
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you so much. Good day. Have a good night.
ROBERTSON: Just minutes before falling off radar.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Eight zero four, this is Turkish 814. How do you read me?
ROBERTSON: Flight data obtained by CNN indicate multiple smoke alerts occurring near the cockpit minutes before the crash, the smoke indicators
providing a new clue for investigators. Was it mechanical failure or something deliberate, like terrorism, that made Flight 804 suddenly drop
38,000 feet out of the sky?
SAMEH SHOUKRY, EGYPTIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY: This is certainly an important element in the jigsaw puzzle that has to be fully combined.
ROBERTSON: A French official telling passengers' families that no theory has been ruled out.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We cannot at this stage come up with any conclusions. Stop making, how you call it, speculations, without having facts.
ROBERTSON: Wreckage found over the weekend, reminders of the 66 lives lost, including a purse and a child's pink backpack.
ROBERTSON: The French officials who have sent that patrol vessel a warning that the search could take days, even weeks. Why they say there is some
limited debris recovered but they say more debris really needs to be recovered to give a better focus of where the plane went down.
And they say that's going to be required before they can use those acoustic detectors -- Robyn.
CURNOW: Hi, there.
I mean, Nic, you show there the limitations of the search in many ways and trying to find the wreckage but the --
CURNOW: -- submarine, although it provides much hope, there are also limitations to what it can trawl up, basically.
ROBERTSON: Well, we know that the submarine that the Egyptians are using is capable of operating to a depth of 3,000 meters. Now the maximum depth
in parts of the Mediterranean is two miles. In that particular area it could be as much as 5,000 meters.
So on the surface, that would seem, if you will, that the range of that submarine is not going to be capable. However, I think when we're looking
at this, you know, when we're looking at the scale and scope of the area that's being searched here, there may well be some parts of it that are
within the capacity of that Egyptian submarine, to be able to perform at least a visual search before they're able to use the acoustic detection
Egyptian officials here are saying some equipment we don't have; our partners and allies are going to work with us. We're making arrangements
to get what we need. The French seem to be bringing some part of that to the table, if you will.
So the Egyptian submarine, in some areas of the search, may be able to see the sea bed. Other areas may be too deep. So for the Egyptians they say
the most important thing, though, at the moment, is to find the plane, find the black boxes and return the bodies of the passengers and the crew to
their loved ones -- Robyn.
CURNOW: Yes, indeed. They're looking for answers still. It might take some time, though. Nic Robertson, thanks so much.
You're watching CNN. The U.S. president in Vietnam announces an important shift in policy which will likely impact all of Asia.
Plus, pristine beauty or a terrifying nightmare?
Over the past four days, four climbers have died here. We'll be back with a veteran mountaineer on the perils of Mt. Everest.
CURNOW: I'm Robyn Curnow. You're watching CNN. Thanks for joining me.
The U.S. is building an important friendship in Asia, its former enemy, Vietnam. U.S. President Barack Obama is there and announced that a
decades-old weapons embargo is being lifted.
He dismissed suggestions that the move was aimed at countering China's growing strength in the region.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The decision to lift the ban was not based on China or any other considerations. It was based on our
desire to complete what has been a lengthy process of moving towards normalization with Vietnam.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CURNOW: Vietnam has increased its military spending dramatically in recent years, amid a series of island territorial disputes with China.
Moving on, four climbers have died on Mt. Everest in as many days.
CURNOW: Two more are also missing. Another is in hospital with severe frostbite.
Now it's the first season back since an earthquake tore through Nepal last year. And these climbers died at a very early stage of the route, not the
ones you're seeing now but the ones that I mentioned just a moment ago, after they summitted on the way there and from a terrifying fall.
Veteran climber Kenton Cool has summitted the mountain a whopping 12 times. In fact, he has just summitted this season as well. He joins us via Skype
from the Cotswolds in England.
Kenton, we spoke last week. It was -- so far, when we spoke, been a successful climbing season. But now we're hearing this terrible news of
at least four people who have died.
What's your response?
Just a reminder of how dangerous it is.
KENTON COOL, MOUNTAINEER: Unfortunately, it is. This is Everest as she would normally be. When we spoke a week ago, the climate had been blessed
by a particularly stable weather window with very low winds.
Chatting to my colleagues and friends on the mountain over the last three or four days, it sounds like that stable weather has broken a little bit
and that the winds are -- well, have been picking up.
And that's the crucial thing. The winds are very brutal on Everest and they can make what would be a relatively amenable summit day into something
quite the opposite.
And I think climbers, who are trying to get that very last little bit of the weather window, the season is coming to an end and those climbers are
eking out the very last part of this weather window, are facing quite unpredictable and fierce winds.
CURNOW: You're an expert at this. It's also your job, taking people up Everest.
But, still, at times like this severe criticism of just how many people are trying to summit; traffic jams, essentially, and that, in many ways,
increases the dangers?
COOL: Of course it does. One only needs to look at 2012, 19th of May, 2012, I believe, was the biggest single summit day Everest has ever seen.
And people spent three or even four hours, waiting to ascend the Hillary Step at 8,700 meters.
And that is obviously totally unacceptable in anybody's risk management file that they have for the mountain.
And I think over the last week or so, we haven't seen queues or the numbers of people quite to the same extent but there have been large numbers, I'm
hearing, reports of 60 or 70 climbers at any one time.
And it's -- it is a very interesting conundrum. I summitted Everest just over 10 days ago, May the 12th. We had perfect weather conditions and
there was only six people on the entire mountain above the high camp that day.
So the opportunity for people to summit early, to summit in better weather, it is there. It comes down to the experience of the leaders and the teams
themselves to be able to select perhaps better days or manage the numbers of people in a better manner.
CURNOW: In terms of managing the number of people in a better manner, there is, again, the criticism that there's so many people up there,
because they can buy their way up there, essentially; people are inexperienced, no matter how much prep you put into it.
They're not experienced climbers in the way, perhaps, you are. And that, again, adds to the dangers. Frostbite, for example, slow climbers increase
the possibility of frostbite.
COOL: Indeed they do. The amount of time you spend at that sort of altitude is critical. You need to get up and down early, not just to
combat the dangers of frostbite but also cerebral and pulmonary edema, the two killers of high-altitude mountain sickness.
And it is one of those double-edged swords. The great thing about the sport of mountaineering it that it is open to anybody. There's no real
rules or regulations. If you want to go to climb Everest, well, that's kind of entirely up to you as long as you accept the potential dangers and
pitfalls along the way.
Those are great sport in terms of that point of view.
However, on the flip side, we do hope that most people that go to Everest do understand the dangers. It is a dangerous place. You're climbing, or
in my case, working above 8,000 meters, an area of the atmosphere known as the death zone.
It is not considerably dangerous; it is very, very dangerous. And you do need a depth of experience, you do need the understanding and the skillset
to be able to operate and even survive at such altitudes.
CURNOW: That said, we understand some of these deaths were from altitude sickness, as you say.
CURNOW: And pass that death on your body, basically just breaks down, it's about survival.
But with altitude sickness, it can hit anyone, can't it?
COOL. Oh, of course it can. You can be the fittest Olympic athlete or you can be a so-called couch potato. Altitude is a great leveler. I could go
to Everest next year and be struck down by altitude sickness. It's a fairly little-known part of how the human body adapts to a higher altitude.
It can strike anybody. It's fairly indiscriminate.
And even if you have a climatized world and even if you are a fit, accomplished climber, you can still be struck down by altitude sickness.
So facing the pulmonary and cerebral edema, as I mentioned, the two main types of altitude sickness, they are a killer. They are a very distinct
danger climbing in any high altitude mountain, let alone Everest, which clearly is that much higher than all the rest.
CURNOW: Kenton Cool, thank you so much for your perspective. Appreciate it.
COOL: My pleasure.
CURNOW: The U.S. president, Barack Obama, calls the death of Taliban leader Mullah Aktar Mohamed Mansoor a milestone. Mansoor was killed by a
drone strike in a remote area of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border Saturday. Here's some of what Mr. Obama had to say about the strike.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: He is an individual who, as head of the Taliban, was specifically targeting U.S. personnel and troops inside of Afghanistan. This does not
represent a shift in our approach; we are not re-entering the day-to-day combat operations.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CURNOW: Let's take a look at this blow to the Taliban and what it really means for the group and Afghanistan. We're joined by Nick Paton Walsh from
Nick, you've done extensive reporting from Afghanistan, plotting and reporting on the rise of the Taliban.
What kind of impact do you think this death will have?
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SR. INTL. CORRESPONDENT: I don't think actually at this stage it's necessarily going to reduce their activity in the so-called
fighting season we're in now this summer. It may cause temporary disarray, perhaps, as they experience more infighting to replace Mullah Mansoor.
Remember, he came to power after a lengthy period, in which the original Taliban leader, Mullah Omar's death, was held in secrecy, mysteriously. So
there are a number of different successors being named at the moment as potential new Taliban leaders. None of them really are moderates to some
degree, in all honesty.
Sirajuddin Haqqani is the current deputy for running operations in the Taliban. He is considered by the United States to be Al Qaeda's chief
facilitator in Afghanistan. He's one of the names being considered, as is a son of Mullah Omar, a man called Mohammad Yaqoub and at the same time,
too, another deputy is also being considered.
Now the White House is messaging in this, is an attempt to try and suggest that once Mullah Mansoor, who was, for the most part, wholly against all
sorts of peace talks, that his removal may suddenly enable the Taliban to consider talking peace again to the Afghan government. That's the real
tentative American and Afghan policy, frankly, in combating this insurgency. That does seem highly unlikely.
Mullah Mansoor, when he took over the helm, was sure to establish his prowess on the battlefield, to use military effectiveness as a way of
corralling the many different factions in the Taliban. We're likely to see, I think, something similar from his successor as well.
But there is, I think, sort of a messaging victory, frankly, for the U.S. and Afghanistan here. This has been a long sprawling war, where we've seen
a lot of progress by the Taliban in the past year or so, record casualty figures amongst Afghan security forces of 5,000 in just the last year.
The fact that they were able to locate and kill the head of the Taliban and what really is the most high-profile strike inside of Pakistan, where we
believe this occurred since the death of bin Laden in 2011, well, it shows that U.S. is still able to intervene here, although I have to say it's not
really a sign of positivity here.
Robyn, they killed the man heading the group they wanted to have peace talks with. It really shows they didn't believe peace talks were an
imminent chance at all in the near future -- Robyn.
CURNOW: Yes, you make an excellent point there. Nic Paton Walsh in Beirut, thanks so much.
Still ahead, Bernie Sanders hitting hard at his own party. Why the U.S. Democrat says, if he's elected president, he will boot out a top party
CURNOW: Hello and welcome to the INTERNATIONAL DESK. I'm Robyn Curnow. Here's a check of the headlines.
CURNOW: And we are awaiting official results from Austria's presidential election. It's certainly been very close. And at one point the far right
anti-immigration Freedom Party surged into the lead. The outcome could have had huge consequences for the rest of Europe struggling with the
influx of refugees.
Our Kellie Morgan is keeping an eye on results.
It's unclear what has been confirmed and what is not being confirmed.
Either way, it's been an election on a knife edge, hasn't it?
KELLIE MORGAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Robyn, whichever way this goes, it's an extraordinary result. We're talking about a country that has
been dominated by two parties since the end of the Second World War and now here we are on a knife edge with two candidates, who aren't part of either
of those mainstream parties.
You've got Alexander Van der Bellen, a science professor, on one part, who says that he is pro-European.
On the other side, Norbert Hofer, the Freedom Party candidate, who has campaigned on a platform of euroscepticism, anti-migrant, anti-
establishment. So this is a huge political shift in Austria, whichever way it goes. And it's really resonated with 50 percent of the Austrian
That's what we're looking at here, a party that is anti-migrant, that is nationalist, securing around 50 percent of the vote.
We are still waiting for the final result to come in. But, either way, this is also going to resonate across Europe.
It's going to give those other nationalist-populist parties that are in Germany, France, Greece, the Netherlands, here in the U.K. as well, I guess
some hope that they actually can play some kind of role on the political stage, that they can be at the point where they could be in political power
CURNOW: And as you were talking, Reuters has just confirmed or reporting that Hofer from the anti-immigration Freedom Party has conceded defeat.
CURNOW: What does that mean then?
MORGAN: Well, that means that Alexander Van der Bellen is the new president of Austria.
Now it is --
CURNOW: We need to confirm that but Reuters is reporting that.
MORGAN: We do.
MORGAN: Reporting that. Well, that would mean that Norbert Hofer has not won the presidency, this largely ceremonial role. But what it does do,
regardless of that victory, if, indeed, that is confirmed, Hofer was saying that, regardless of whether he wins or loses, this is seen as success
because we have to remember the history of the Freedom Party.
It's a controversial history. Back in 2000, the party was actually banned by the European Union when it formed a coalition government. After that,
its popularity took a dive; it could only tally around 6 percent of the vote back in 2006.
Now here we are, with it -- almost one in every other person in Austria voting for this party. So, either way you look at it, it is an earthquake
on the political spectrum there in Austria -- Robyn.
CURNOW: Kellie, thanks so much.
And for our viewers, of course, we are still waiting for those official results. However, Reuters is confirming that the anti-immigration Freedom
Party candidate has conceded. However CNN has not independently verified that. And of course we will come back as soon as we know exactly what is
In the meantime, I'm Robyn Curnow. You're watching the IDESK. Animosity growing on the Democratic side of the U.S. presidential race.
Will Donald Trump take advantage?
We're live with CNN's Phil Mattingly next.
CURNOW: The pundits and the pollsters have added up the numbers and they all say the math indicates that Bernie Sanders has almost no chance to win
the U.S. Democratic presidential nomination.
But Sanders isn't going away. He isn't going anywhere and now he's added a top Democrat to his list of opponents.
Joe Johns shows us this new level of party infighting.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you!
JOHNS (voice-over): Bernie Sanders coming out strong over the weekend against the head of the Democratic National Committee, Debbie Wasserman
SANDERS: With all due respect to the current chairperson, if elected president, she would not be reappointed to be chair of the DNC.
JOHNS: Sanders going as far as backing her challenger for her Florida House seat.
SANDERS: Clearly, I favor her opponent. His views are much closer to mine than is -- is Wasserman Schultz's.
JOHNS: The head of the DNC responding, insisting she'll stay unbiased, saying in a statement, "I remain as I have been from the beginning, neutral
in the presidential Democratic primary."
Sanders further challenging the establishment --
JOHNS (voice-over): -- doubling down on charges that the party is unfairly propping up Hillary Clinton's campaign before the primary contests are
SANDERS: You had 400 pledged delegates come onboard Clinton's campaign before anyone else was in the race. That's called an anointment process.
That's called the establishment talking.
JOHNS: Sanders saying he's going to carry the party to victory in November.
SANDERS: Virtually every national poll and every state poll, we defeat Trump by larger numbers than does Secretary Clinton.
JOHNS: Pointing out the unfavorable ratings plaguing both Clinton and Trump.
SANDERS: I don't want to see the American people voting for the lesser of two evils.
JOHNS: But quickly walking back that description when pressed.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS: Is that how you would describe Hillary Clinton against Donald Trump? The lesser of two evils?
SANDERS: No, I wouldn't describe it, but that's what the American people are saying.
JOHNS: Clinton less than 100 delegates shy of clinching the nomination.
CLINTON: There's no way that I won't be.
JOHNS: Taking a jab at Sanders' viability on Sunday.
CLINTON: I have been vetted and tested and I don't think he's had a single negative ad ever run against him.
CURNOW: That was Joe Johns reporting there.
I want to bring in Phil Mattingly from CNN New York.
Hey, there, Phil. This dissension among Democrats comes as new polls forecast -- it's going to be very close in November. That's changed.
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Robyn. I think a lot of people were looking at the polls over the last couple months, where
Hillary Clinton consistently held double-digit leads in head-to-head battles with Donald Trump in assuming there was a chance this could be a
Not so much anymore. Two major polls that have come out, Robyn, show that they're essentially tied within the margin of error and that's primarily
because the Republican Party is coalescing behind Donald Trump.
If you look at his support within the Republican Party, just over the course of the last month, according to one of the polls, it's up 14 points.
So, Robyn, for all those people who said they were never going to get behind Trump, the Never Trump movement, that has started to fritter away a
little bit. And Donald Trump is closely benefiting from a bump as the new presumptive nominee.
CURNOW: OK. So he's benefiting from a bump.
What does that mean, though, for him?
Do you think he's going to take advantage of this?
How will he take advantage of these new polls?
I mean it certainly plays into his Twitter conversations. That's one way you can call it.
MATTINGLY: Yes. He's going to talk about them a lot because that tends to be what he does.
But I think, when you look, Robyn, at the dissension within the Republican Party, what this does is put people at ease a little bit more.
Now clearly a lot of Republican, top Republican officials aren't comfortable with the tone and tenor that Donald Trump uses on the campaign
trail. But a lot of them, the most of the discomfort has come from the fact they didn't think he had any chance of winning in November.
This starts to change that a little bit. It makes -- puts people at ease. But I do think, Robyn, it's important to point out, it's very early on in
the process. There's still a lot of work to be done.
And Hillary Clinton as you just -- as Joe just noted in his piece -- is still in the midst of primary battle. She will get a bump of her own once
she secures the nomination and then we'll start to get a better sense of where these numbers land.
It's more important now going forward, Robyn, to look at the infrastructure for fund-raising, the ground games for both of these teams in swing states
like Ohio and Pennsylvania, places where Hillary Clinton has a major advantage right now.
All of these things put together, well, really kind of decide what happens in November, not necessarily polls coming out in May.
CURNOW: Yes, and it'll also be interesting to see these two deeply disliked candidates, what that means for voter turnout.
Phil Mattingly, thanks so much.
And you can get an inside look at America's remarkable race for the White House on the new show, "STATE OF THE RACE" with Kate Bolduan, weeknights at
7:30 pm in London, Tuesday also to Friday at 2:30 pm in Hong Kong. That's right here on CNN.
Well, that's all from us here at the INTERNATIONAL DESK. Thanks for joining me and my team. But don't go anywhere. "WORLD SPORT" with Alex
Thomas is next.