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NSA Testifies on Capitol Hill; Trump Weighs More U.S. Troops to Afghanistan; Chaos at Airport After Spirit Cancels Flights; Jimmy Kimmel Fires Back at His Critics; Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired May 9, 2017 - 09:30   ET


[09:30:00] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks so much for being with us.

Ahead for us, again, a possible major shift in U.S. policy in Afghanistan. We'll be right back.


POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Moments from now, NSA director Mike Rogers will testify before Senate lawmakers. You're looking at live pictures from Capitol Hill. Senator John McCain walking in right there.

This hearing on cybersecurity expected to begin any moment.

BERMAN: Yes. As Poppy said, Mike Rogers expected to talk about U.S. Cyber Command, though he's been at the center of so many of the stories breaking over the last six months or so, including Russia's interference in the U.S. election. You might expect that to come up as well.

Let's bring in CNN's Ryan Nobles to get some preview of what we might hear -- Ryan.

[09:35:04] RYAN NOBLES, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John. This is a hearing by the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee. You saw John McCain, the Republican, as the chair of this committee. And as you mentioned the topic is U.S. Cyber Command. But when you look at the make-up of this committee, you have a number of Democrats who may be eyeing runs for president in 2020. You got Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Tim Kaine of Virginia. And it seems up here on Capitol Hill, when Democrats have an opportunity to ask questions about Russia, they usually take advantage of that opportunity.

And it wouldn't be that big of a leap for them to go there today when talking about U.S. Cyber Command because, of course, Russia is accused of trying to intervene in the United States election through the use of cyber means. And Rogers as the NSA director considered to be someone who is a straight shooter. He's answered questions very honestly in these open hearings before. Of course he could be limited by what he can say, depending on whether or not that information is classified. But certainly this is a hearing worth keeping an eye on here this morning on Capitol Hill -- Poppy.

HARLOW: No question about it. We'll do just that. Ryan Nobles, thank you so much.

Also happening right now overseas, the secretary of Defense, James Mattis, holding a news conference. You're looking at -- in a moment you'll be looking at live pictures out of -- there you go -- Copenhagen, Denmark.

BERMAN: The White House looks just like Copenhagen. I don't know they had a White House in Copenhagen.

HARLOW: Some days it does. Mattis is making a stop there as part of this overseas trip to really reassure U.S. allies.

BERMAN: Yes. And while the Defense secretary is in Copenhagen, at the White House, the president is getting ready to review U.S. strategy in Afghanistan where the U.S. has been fighting its longest war ever. Officials say the president expected to weigh sending more troops, maybe as many as 5,000 more. He will be meeting with the National Security adviser H.R. McMaster very shortly.

Want to bring in CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr. Also with us CNN military analyst, retired Lieutenant Colonel Rick Francona.

Barbara, how many troops for how long and to do what?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: All very good questions. No answers just yet. Now let's remember, this is a president who campaigned not necessarily on sending a lot more troops overseas, but it looks like the Pentagon sending these options to the White House wants up to 5,000 troops. There is about 8400 there right now.

So the question is, is, you know, how robust? Is this really going to beef up the operations to fight against the Taliban, which are resurgent in the east and in the south? Is this going to be enough to drive the Taliban to the negotiating table, or is this what we have seen in the past? More troops, more fighting, more risk for those troops. It is going to be a very tall order to be able to say any time soon that the U.S. has won against the Taliban, even if that's the outcome the president wants -- John.

HARLOW: Colonel Francona, as John mentioned, I mean, they are talking about somewhere between 1500 and 5,000 troops. You know, what would a few thousand troops tactically do and accomplish? Is it enough?

LT. COL. RICK FRANCONA, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, that's a good question. But if you look at the numbers that are in there now, this is a -- this is a major increase, if you look at the percent of troop increased. I think it's important there that we realize that this is an indication that what we're doing right now is not sufficient.

We're seeing a deterioration in the Afghan capabilities despite all of the money and training that we put into this. So at one point you have to say, OK, we have to stop withdrawing our troops and beef it up again. But will that solve the problem? I think that's the real question here. What is the goal? We're not going to defeat the Taliban on the battlefield. We need to bring them to the negotiating table.

That's what the goal of this is. Is it enough? I don't know. But the Afghans are solidly behind this, which is a little different than we've seen in the past.

BERMAN: You know, Barbara, there is a domestic political angle to this as well. The question, does this run counter to the president's America first promise during the campaign, his promise not to send or be more careful sending U.S. troops all over the world right now? Is there or are there any divisions inside the White House about whether to get more involved in Afghanistan?

STARR: Well, I think there are divisions, it's fair to say, about the very point that you raised. What is military national security policy under this White House, under General McMaster, the head of National Security Council? All indications are from his own military track record, he would favor more troops, he would favor essentially a counter insurgency campaign where you have U.S. troops taking the leading role and trying to push back the Taliban or ISIS where you find them.

There are others, perhaps led by Steve Bannon in the White House, who are very much of the America first goal. But broadly speaking, the Pentagon has tried to press the White House for more authority. So generals out on the front lines can make those decisions themselves about troops, about more airstrikes, about more operations on the ground. So more decisions to make right on the battlefield. That does give you more flexibility.

[09:40:02] That also means the military has to own it. If they have a bad day, it is going to be their problem and they are going to have to stand up and address it.

HARLOW: Thirty seconds left. Colonel Francona, to you, how do you believe this White House would define success in Afghanistan?

FRANCONA: Well, as we know, the new president is a deal-maker. I think he is looking for -- get everybody to the negotiating table and come up with a solution we could all live with. And how do we do that? I think one of the things, and Barbara alluded to this, is give the commanders on the ground more flexibility. And I think that means more combat operations for American troops under this advise and assist. We know what advise and assist really means.

HARLOW: All right. Barbara Starr, Lieutenant Colonel Rick Francona, thank you both very much.

Ahead, it seems like we can't get enough of these airline stories lately. Look at that. We're talking about a serious passenger revolt. This one against Spirit Airlines. Police called to the airport. Who the airline is blaming next.


[09:45:04] BERMAN: All right. We're getting our first look this morning at mayhem. Passengers in open revolt at the airport in Fort Lauderdale. Watch.

HARLOW: That really happened. That really happened. This is after Spirit Airlines canceled nine flights. Three people were arrested, according to the Broward County Sheriff's Office.

Rene Marsh, our aviation correspondent, has it all figured out. Right, Rene? I mean, what happened?

RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, it's going to be hard to believe that the airline is actually blaming its own pilots for that melee as you saw there. About. 300 Spirit Airline flights have been canceled over the past seven days and it has left thousands of angry passengers just stranded and I think people just had enough by Monday night and that's what you saw happening there in that video.

The airline says that its own pilots are to blame and now Spirit Airline is suing the pilots' union in federal court. Now the airline says that what their pilots are doing is essentially turning down what they call open time flights, which is essentially last-minute flight assignments. The pilots are saying no, thank you, and they are saying that the union is orchestrating this sort of slowdown and because they can't get pilots to fill those open time flights, they are saying that's led to the cancellations.

However, the union is denying that. The union says that they are in no way telling their pilots that they should do this slowdown. The back story here is that both the airline and the pilots, they are in negotiations for a new contract and it appears as if passengers are kind of getting caught in the middle of all of this.

Passengers across the country they face hours-long delays, flight cancellations for days. And again looking at that video by Monday night, some travelers, that's in Florida, they had simply had enough and emotions boiled over. So this continues.

We just checked as far as cancelations goes. We do see some more cancellations for Spirit Airlines today. Unclear if all of that, all 37 of those are related to the situation they're having with their pilots and the pilots' contracts. But clearly, over a string of a week here, things not so good for Spirit Airlines, already an airlines that doesn't have the best record when it comes to service for its customers as far as on time and customer service and things of that sort. So not good for the airline.

BERMAN: No, look, if you're a stranded passenger, you know what you don't care about? You know, union talks with the pilots.

HARLOW: No. Exactly.

BERMAN: You want to get where you're going.

HARLOW: I don't know if suing your pilot, flying your planes, you want to get on the plane and fly them. I don't -- I don't know. We'll see if that works out.

BERMAN: All right, Rene Marsh. Great to have you. HARLOW: Thank you.

BERMAN: Thank you very much.

Jimmy Kimmel was called an elitist creep. And that was some of the nice stuff he was called for his emotional plea for affordable health care. Now he is firing back. Wait until you hear what he said about Newt Gingrich.


[09:52:39] HARLOW: So, overnight, Jimmy Kimmel returns from paternity leave and takes on his loud critics who have blasted him for that emotional monologue that he gave after the birth of his newborn son with real health complications.

BERMAN: Yes, Jimmy Kimmel was calling for affordable access for health care for everyone, including kids with pre-existing conditions. And he talked about it more overnight and he went after one of his fiercest critics, Newt Gingrich.


JIMMY KIMMEL, HOST, "JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE": And I would like to apologize for saying that children in America should have health care. It was insensitive.


KIMMEL: It was offensive, and I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me.

There are some very sick and sad people out there. Here's one of them. His name is Newt Gingrich, he's the former speaker of the House.


NEWT GINGRICH, FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: You show up at a hospital with a brand-new baby and the brand-new baby has a heart problem, the doctors at that hospital do everything they can to save the baby. They don't say, we'll take care of the baby right after you write a check. They try to save the baby's life, and that's true across the board in this country.


KIMMEL: Yes, it is true that if you have an emergency, they will do an operation, and that's terrific if your baby's health problems are all solved during that one visit. The only problem is, that never ever happens. We've had a dozen doctors' appointments since our son had surgery. You've got a cardiologist, the pediatrician, surgeon, some kids need an ambulance to transport them. That doesn't even count the parents who have to miss work for all this stuff.

Those details Newt forgot to mention. I don't know if the double layers of Spanx are restricting the blood flow to his brain.


BERMAN: All right, joining us now to discuss CNN senior media correspondent Brian Stelter, host of "RELIABLE SOURCES."

Look, Jimmy Kimmel told some jokes there, but he was also deadly serious and you get the sense that he is all in.

Y BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Yes. That this is now going to be something he talks about on his program regularly, at least coming back to it because of his family's health scare. Best news of all from last night is that his newborn son is doing well, recovering from the operation, but they're going to have a tough road ahead. So here's something that Kimmel said during the monologue, another emotional monologue here, talking about some of the critics, including the "Washington Times" headline. Here's what Kimmel said.


KIMMEL: "Shut up, Jimmy Kimmel, you elitist creep." I cannot count the number of times I've been called an out-of-touch Hollywood elitist creep, which I have to say, I kind of appreciate, because when I was a kid, we had, like --we had to drink the powdered milk because we couldn't afford the liquid. Our orange juice came frozen out of a can. It would squeeze out.

[09:55:03] My father, on the rare occasion we took a family trip, would hide the dog in the back of the car and then smuggle it into our motel room to avoid paying the $2 pet fee. So I have to say, my dream was to become an out-of-touch Hollywood elitist, and I guess it came true.


STELTER: So Kimmel happy to have a platform now that he is a Hollywood A-lister. Using that platform for this important issue. I think what's notable about this, guys, is that he had Senator Bill Cassidy on his program, of course who coined the term Jimmy Kimmel test with you last week, John. Cassidy was asked very basic questions by Kimmel, like, hey, why does anybody not have insurance if they're working, if they have a job? I think by reframing the issue that way, Kimmel is having an impact on this political debate.

HARLOW: How different is it this time around from Obamacare? I don't remember it being involved in late-night the way that it is this time.

STELTER: I think you're right, it is different, but Kimmel didn't want to be in this position, he didn't want to have this health scare, he didn't want to have to talk about this. Now he's doing it because of that.

HARLOW: Brian Stelter, thank you.

STELTER: Thanks.

HARLOW: We appreciate it.

All right. Coming up next, breaking news on FBI Director Comey's testimony on the Clinton e-mail scandal. Was he accurate when he said those thousands of e-mails were forwarded by Huma Abedin to her husband? Not exactly. The details next.