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Dennis Rodman Arrives in North Korea; New Details on Navy SEALs Killed in Yemen & Somalia; Warriors Beat Cavs for Second NBA Title in 3 Years; Friend: Trump is Considering Firing Robert Mueller. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired June 13, 2017 - 06:30   ET



[06:32:08] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Dennis Rodman arriving in North Korea just hours ago. It is not clear whether the eccentric NBA hall of famer was sent there by the White House. There's actually no indication that he was. But we do know that Rodman is hinting his old pal President Donald Trump is happy about the trip.

CNN's Will Ripley live from Pyongyang with more.

This is a little bit bizarre even on the Rodman scale, the sponsor of the trip, timing of the trip. What do we know about any, any White House involvement at all?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We don't know anything about White House involvement. In fact, the State Department is saying that this is absolutely not official visit in any capacity, although they were aware the trip was happening, but probably because we called them and told them. And initially on the phone, they were quite surprised about the trip.

Dennis Rodman is friends with Donald Trump. He appeared on "Celebrity Apprentice" twice. He endorsed him for president in 2015. He's also he says that he's friends with North Korea's Supreme Leader Kim Jong- un.

He's been to this country. This is now his fifth visit. He put together a basketball game. He sang happy birthday to the leader. It's not clear if the leader are going to agree to meet with him this time.

But what is clear it's sponsored by U.S. digital currency company that specializes in marijuana industry, a company that he's been repeatedly pitching numerous times throughout the trip. And he's even wearing the company t-shirt. He wore it yesterday at the airport in Beijing when CNN spoke to him there. Listen.


REPORTER: Are you here just a private citizen? Have you spoken to President Trump at all? DENNIS RODMAN, FORMER NBA PLAYER: Well, I'm pretty sure he's pretty

much happy with the fact that I'm over here.


RODMAN: Trying to accomplish something that we both need.

REPORTER: And what are you trying to accomplish, sir? From this dialogue?

RODMAN: Just open the door, to open the door, that's it.

REPORTER: Are you going to talk at all about the detained Americans?

RODMAN: Well, that's not my purpose right now.


RIPLEY: So, is there some back channel diplomacy or is this just a publicity stunt? We don't know the answer to that, Alisyn, but it certainly should be an interesting few days here in North Korea.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: It certainly will be. And we're glad that you are on the ground to bring all of the theater of the absurd to us, Will. Thank you very much. We'll check back.

Meanwhile, we have to tell you about this story. Two Navy SEALs killed earlier this year during secret high-risk operations overseas. How they died and details about their mission have not been discussed until now. A CNN exclusive, next.


[06:38:35] CAMEROTA: Vice President Mike Pence attending dignified transfer of three U.S. service members at Dover Air Force Base gunned down in an insider attack in Afghanistan. The Pentagon named the three soldiers as Sergeant Eric Houck, Sergeant William Bays, and Corporal Dillon Baldridge, all members of the 101st Airborne Division.

This comes as we learn new details about the service and the death of two Navy SEALs who were killed in action earlier this year. And CNN's Barbara has an exclusive report live from the Pentagon.

What have you learned, Barbara?


One Navy SEAL, his 12-man against 400 militants and that is just the beginning.


STARR (voice-over): Navy SEAL Ryan Owens, 36, killed in action in January in Yemen during a nighttime raid targeting al Qaeda operatives. It's one of the most dangerous missions that Special Operations Forces are called upon to carry out. Navy SEAL Kyle Milliken, 38, also killed but in Somalia last month,

also during a raid while serving as a military adviser to Somali forces.

The two navy SEALs spent years on secret missions in dangers few knew anything about.

Congressman Scott Taylor, a former Navy SEAL sniper, knew them.

[06:40:00] REP. SCOTT TAYLOR (R), VIRGINIA: It's a big tragedy that we lost both of those men, because they were outstanding heroes for our nation.

STARR: CNN has obtained the battlefield citations for both Owens and Milliken, both of whom served for years on high risk classified combat missions, new details now revealed of their extraordinary service.

Owens was posthumously awarded the Silver Star, the nation's third highest medal for valor, in a never disclosed battle against 400 al Qaeda militants in 2015. U.S. officials say it all happened deep inside war-torn Somalia.

This secret battle raged for three days in July of 2015. Owens leading a 12-man team alongside African forces targeting 400 enemy militants, constantly ambushed and attacked with small arms, machine- guns, anti-aircraft guns, rocket propelled grenades, mortars and improvised explosive devices, according to his citation.

Owens repeatedly exposed himself to enemy fire. The citation says eventually the team securing a town that had been in enemy hands for ten years.

On earlier tours, he helped rescue buddies who were pinned down and wounded and guided in medevac choppers under fire.

TAYLOR: From everything I know about him, he's a great, great guy, highly committed, highly talented.

STARR: From Somalia to Yemen, Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan, it's largely fallen on special operations forces to wage battle against ISIS, al Qaeda and their affiliates, and they are increasingly paying with their lives. Five killed in action in 2017, 22 since June 2014, when the war against ISIS began.

Taylor, like so many who have served on the front lines, rejects the controversial Pentagon view that when troops are military advisors, they must stay out of the direct line of fire.

TAYLOR: There's no boots on the ground. They're just advisors. Well, we know that's B.S. Of course, they're all boots on the ground.

STARR: On Milliken's final, he was an advisor to Somali forces, alongside them in the line of fire.

TAYLOR: You certainly can't blame the operator for wanting to get into the fight. They're there on the ground with the force that they're helping.

STARR: Scott Taylor recalls his own first mission in Iraq, which was alongside Milliken.

TAYLOR: Everyone loved Kyle. Everyone loved him.

STARR: Milliken also had years of combat. In 2017 alone, 48 combat missions in Iraq. On the one mission, he helped evacuate three wounded SEALs under fire.

There was one clue on how secret their work was. In 2015, Milliken was awarded the Navy Achievement Medal for developing ground-breaking procedures for future national mission taskings. In the world of Special Operations, national missions are the most classified, requiring presidential approval and remaining secret for decades.


STARR: And in the final testament to their service, after both men were killed, the Pentagon quietly did acknowledge that both have served with SEAL Team Six, of course, the secretive unit that killed Osama bin Laden -- Alisyn, Chris.

CUOMO: And, Barbara, obviously our hearts do out to their families who also serve alongside them. And as Barbara often makes a point, it doesn't matter how you term the involvement, putting America's fighting men and women on the ground in war theater is going to result in casualties and deaths. Their sacrifice has to be remembered and reported. Thank you to Barbara Starr for that.

All right. So, big news out of the sports world. We have a new world champion. The Warriors for the second time in three years. The "Bleacher Report" has all the details. Is this the dynasty of the current era?


[06:47:57] CUOMO: Now, the line says the Warriors steal the crown from King James and the Cavs, but they didn't steal a dang thing. They trounced the Cleveland Cavaliers to win their second title in three years.

What do you say, Coy Wire? You're good looking, do you think this is it is new dynasty of the current era?

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: They are looking tough and they're all in their 20s are the Warriors, Chris. So, this could be the case. They blew that 3-1 series lead to the Cavs last year in the finals. So, they have been on a mission ever since. They only lost one game in these playoffs, looking incredible.

The Warriors picked up Kevin Durant in the offseason to bolster their squad. Some say that the Warriors needed him, but I'm not so sure they could have won it without him the way they did. He's the first player since Shaquille O'Neal back in 2000 to post five straight 30- point games in an NBA final. Durant was the unanimous choice as finals MVP. LeBron James showing some love and respect.

And, you know, all this time, Durant on a mission to get his first ever title, his mother has been there with him the entire time. Here is Durant after the game talking about the win and his mom.


KEVIN DURANT, WARRIORS FORWARD: I just wanted to lay it all out there. I put in work. I just had had to trust in it. We were really good tonight. You got to tip your hat to Cleveland, man.

We did it. I told you when we were 8 years old. We did it. Yes.


WIRE: In the locker room after, a reported 150 bottles of champagne costing $1,200. That's about $180 grand, I do believe. What a celebration. The fans will get to celebrate with the Warriors as well. The parade already planned for Thursday in Oakland -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: I'd drink champagne with goggles on also, just in case.

WIRE: You crack me up.

CAMEROTA: Thanks to you, Coy. Thanks so much. Great to see you.

So, Robert Mueller's appointment last month drew praise from both sides of the aisle but now Republicans are changing their tune. We discuss next.


[06:53:12] CUOMO: There is so much on the table this morning. The president tweeting once again in a way that is doing to drive the news cycle. Let's get into it.

We have big issues whether or not Bob Mueller is going to stay in his job. We just had a big court decision on the travel ban and the president tweeted about all of it.

First, he started off with a shot at the media. Fake news, never been so wrong or so dirty, purposefully incorrect stories and phony sources to meet their agenda of hate. Sad.

I hope he's not talking about his media friend Chris Ruddy, always driving the news cycle by saying the president is considering something preposterous, getting rid of special counsel.

He's also tweeting, as I said, about the Ninth Circuit, the travel ban, the Ninth Circuit once again held this travel ban in abeyance, can't go into effect yet. They said, he says what you're seeing right there. As predicted, Ninth Circuit ruled against travel ban, such a dangerous time in the history of our country, S.C. I'm assuming that means Supreme Court, usually abbreviated SCOTUS but, you know, Twitter is shorter. It could mean special counsel as a code. Let's discuss. Chairman of the American Conservative Union, Matt Schlapp, and Tim O'Brien, executive editor of "Bloomberg View" and author of "Trump Nation: The Art of Being the Donald.

Brother Schlapp, do you believe the president should seriously consider getting rid of Bob Mueller, a man who was lionized by Republicans just a couple of weeks ago, now being somewhat savaged.

MATT SCHLAPP, FORMER GEORGE W. BUSH POLITICAL DIRECTOR: No, not at all, not with -- no, what I know, he's simply putting his team together. He's looking over the information that Jim Comey has given him. And we ought to let him do his job.

And besides, I think Rod Rosenstein, the number two at Trump's DOJ, has said, unlike Peter Fitzgerald, a previous special counsel who was also a U.S. attorney, Bob Mueller is not U.S. attorney, picked as special counsel, and is in a little bit of a protected class for that reason.

[06:55:08] COMEY: Hmm, good.

All right. Other headline that we're seeing this morning. Tim, you've been talking about this a little bit. But now, you have some new fodder. You have the tapes.

Do you have a take on why Trump is playing with us about whether or not he has tapes or taped conversations?


CUOMO: I want to hear about that. But you see the travel ban tweet as code as well. What is he expressing in that travel ban?

O'BRIEN: I think it's -- again, it's his lack of either understanding or respect for checks and balances, and it's in keeping with a long tradition with Trump, of taking potshots at the judiciary and law enforcement officials. And I think he's got a powerful perch, but he's yet to show that he understands he should use it in a more judicious way.

CUOMO: You've been involved in litigation with him in the past.


CUOMO: The threat/suggestion of tapes of the conversations came up in that litigation as a way of pushing you back a little bit. What happened there?

O'BRIEN: I was a reporter at the "New York Times" at the time. I was reporting there and wrote a book about him. He sued me for the book. He sued for libel for "Trump Nation".

And during the course of the reporting over a year, we were in regular contact. And sometimes in our telephone conversations, he'd finish off the conversation with saying, you don't mind if I'm taping this, do you? I would say, no, no. That's fine. I would be in his office and he'd say, you don't mind if I turn on my taping system, do you? I'd say no, on and on.

So, when litigation rolled around, we wanted access to his tape because we thought that the tapes would reflect well on our side of the conversation. So, he was asked under a deposition, have you taped Mr. O'Brien? He said, No, I haven't. Actually, I don't have a taping system.

And my lawyer said, why did you say this to him? And he basically said, I wanted to intimidate him. I thought it would make him nervous.

And I think that's exactly what's going on with Jim Comey. I don't think Trump has tapes. I think he's probably unnerved by the fact that Comey kept a record of the conversations and he wants to put out this red herring out there that he has tapes, which I don't think exist.

CUOMO: Matt Schlapp, what do you take of this tactic about not answering the question about whether or not tapes exist? There's somewhat of an imposed deadline for this Friday, but what do you make of this?

SCHLAPP: I don't know. I guess, Chris, there's so much happening with Jeff sessions testifying and everything else. I think we should talk about tapes if he shows tapes. Everyone I talked to, people I worked with in the White House tell me the chances of any tapes, they just can't imagine that there are any tapes.

I do think Donald Trump has had to forego so much leaking from the executive branch in an unprecedented way that I think everyone is a little spooked on when something is taped, when there's a deposition. Even people who have been doing this a long time wonder with all the new technology and our digital devices, what actually does get taped. So, I think we should cover it when and if they're exposed. And if not, let's talk about something that's going on.

CUOMO: Right. What about the tactic of intentionally not saying whether or not there were tapes?

SCHLAPP: But what about the tactic James Comey did, where he said, it's the first time ever I wrote down an account with a president?

And I went on Twitter last night and read another account of his interaction with George W. Bush which had to come from Jim Comey, which was eerily similar. He talked about the grandfather's clock. He talked about trying to slip out the door by the grandfather clock.

It's like, there's so many problems with James Comey. I can see why it's unnerving for the White House.

O'BRIEN: A law enforcement official making a record of conversation isn't a tactic. It's good law enforcement.

SCHLAPP: Well, then, why did he say it was the only time he's ever done it when it was also in the book "The Angler", where he's one-on- one account with George W. Bush was written about. Now, that to me is a problem.

CUOMO: Matt, all right, let's -- that's your opinion. It's fine for you to have it. Here's what I don't get --

SCHLAPP: No, no, no. It's a book. It's not my opinion.

CUOMO: I'm saying based on what you read in a book, this is your opinion whether or not he was being truthful about whether he's done this before.

SCHLAPP: Or maybe he forgot.

CUOMO: What I'm saying, why is that the answer to the question that I asked, which is what do you make of the tactic of pretending there are tapes and stringing it out for over a week when you are the White House and the president of the United States. Do you bless that tactic?

SCHLAPP: All right. What I bless and don't bless doesn't matter.

CUOMO: It does. You're on my show and I'm asking your opinion as someone who is relevant.

SCHLAPP: OK, Chris, if there are no tapes to talk about the potential presence of tapes, as I said to Alisyn yesterday, it doesn't make sense to me. I think it's a failed tactic. But that being said, I don't know until he says definitively, yes, there are, or no, there are not. He says he's going to tell us. Until that happens, all I can say is the people I talked to the chances of tapes are next to zero, if not zero, and I just think he felt snake bit by Jim Comey and I don't blame him.

CUOMO: Listen, I get where you're coming from. I'm just saying, you know, you have to police tactics, because what happens when it's about whether or not he's going to tell people if they're getting tax relief in a certain class (ph), as I tell you next week. So, you want to police these tactics.

Matt Schlapp, you matter, my brother, that's why I have you on the show.

SCHLAPP: Thanks, Chris.

CUOMO: Your opinion matters.

Timothy O'Brien, value added, as always. Thank you for being with us.

O'BRIEN: Thank you, Chris.

CUOMO: Hey and thanks to you, our international viewers. Thank you for watching us. For you, "CNN NEWSROOM" is next.

For our U.S. viewers, the president is tweeting. He is making news. And guess what?