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Russia Claims It May Have Killed ISIS Leader Al-Baghdadi; President Trump to Announce New Cuba Policy; Congressman Steve Scalise in Critical Condition; Special Counsel Mueller Expands His Team. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired June 16, 2017 - 10:30   ET



[10:30:33] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, just in, we're getting new images on what Russia says is the aftermath of the airstrike that may have killed the most wanted terrorist in the world. Officials are investigating whether ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi may have been killed in this bombing. If true, it would mark a major milestone in the war against terror.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: At this hour, U.S. military officials are unable to confirm his death. Russia says the strike took place last month in Syria. It targeted a command post where ISIS leaders were reportedly meeting.

Let's go straight to our senior international correspondent, Arwa Damon, with more.

Arwa, I assume people should look at this with some skepticism because it has been reported before that it was thought that Baghdadi had been killed.

ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, a whole lot of skepticism actually, and the Russians themselves are saying that they're investigating the possibility that al-Baghdadi himself was attending that meeting.

A couple of things to take into consideration, given how savvy of an organization ISIS is and how elusive al-Baghdadi himself has been. There's a reason why he's basically referred to as something of a ghost. It seems hard to fathom a scenario where he would actually be attending such a high-profile meeting with so many other of the top leadership, apparently some 300 ISIS fighters, including 30, at least, who were senior ISIS fighters are said to have been at that meeting, according to the Russians.

It just doesn't really make that much sense. And then the location of the meeting in the southern part of Raqqa at the end of May at a time when ISIS was really being forced into smaller territory in Mosul when the Syrian Democratic forces were pushing towards the city of Raqqa itself. So that in and of itself is raising a lot of questions.

Plus, yes, as you mentioned, al-Baghdadi has been reported to have been at least killed or wounded in the past, and in none of those instances has that been confirmed. And just to sum it all up, we also have to remember that even when the leadership of these organizations are taken out, that does not mean an end to the entities themselves.

HARLOW: Indeed. Arwa Damon reporting for us. Thank you very much.

BERMAN: All right, President Trump left moments ago for Miami, where he plans to talk about Cuba policy, delivering on a campaign promise to tighten restrictions.

Our Rosa Flores is in Miami where the president will land in a couple hours -- Rosa.

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, hi. Good afternoon. You can see behind me that this is the place where President Trump will be speaking. We are expecting protests and counter protests. But let me set the scene for you right now. The building with the steeple, that's where President Trump is expected to speak in a few hours. The line to the right side of your screen, these people have been waiting for hours to see and hear President Trump speak. And then there is a group of supporters that has already been rallying for about an hour or so. And then we're expecting a counter protest.

But I have to mention, there is a rift that's emerging in the Cuban- American community here in south Florida. A professor from FIU that's been studying this for a while tells us there's two groups emerging of Cuban Americans. First of all, the old guard, the people who are the Cuban exiles, who want President Trump to sever all ties with the communist island nation, and then there's the younger group, the second and third generation and the new arrivals from the island who want to keep the Obama-era policies.

And Poppy and John, from talking to some of these folks here, they might be a little disappointed if President Trump doesn't roll back all of the Obama policies because in the audience, he's going to have that old guard, those people who want to sever all ties with the island nation. And perhaps President Trump will learn, like he has learned with health care, that the Cuba issue is a complicated one.


FLORES: John and Poppy?

HARLOW: To say the least. Rosa Flores, we're so glad you're there. Thank you very much. We'll watch you and we'll watch the president at 1:00 p.m. Eastern Time. We'll carry his speech from Miami live for you.

Promising news on Congressman Steve Scalise's recovery from his gunshot wounds. He is still in critical condition. He is still in the hospital, but things are looking up, we're hearing.

[10:35:01] What does the road ahead look like for him? More on that next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BERMAN: All right, this morning we are learning that Congressman Steve Scalise is in critical condition. This is according to hospital officials. But they do say his condition has improved over the last 24 hours.

HARLOW: That's good news. Let's talk more with Dr. Devi Nampiaparampil. She's an associate professor of rehabilitation medicine at NYU Medical School.

It's nice to have you here with us.


HARLOW: So we know he's undergone two surgeries, there's more surgeries ahead. He's still in critical condition. They didn't say critical but stable. Critical but that he's improved in the last 24 hours. What does that tell you?

NAMPIAPARAMPIL: So I think it's promising that they said that he's improved. The critical condition could also relate to nursing support. So when someone -- when you want someone by your bedside watching you every second, you will also call that critical condition.

[10:40:06] Now there are several types of injuries that he could have had. So direct injuries from the bullet trauma and then these ripple effects. So if you've ever stood by the highway and felt kind of those cars pass by at high speeds, you feel sort of the breeze. In the same way as the bullet passes through the body it can actually have a ripple effect, the shockwave or enter other organs in the area. And then plus, if he had any medical conditions beforehand, sometimes something like this could precipitate those. So an asthmatic could have an asthma attack, a person who has heart disease could have a heart attack in this setting.

BERMAN: And the key word, though, there is improving. That's the word we are waiting for.


BERMAN: And it's thrilling to hear that this morning. The hip, the place where he was shot, a complicated area. Why?

NAMPIAPARAMPIL: Well, you have the aorta, which is the main branch through which the heart pumps blood, and it branches in the pelvis, so where the two hips are sort of forming. So if that -- if those blood vessels are injured, you can actually lose all your blood volume within a matter of minutes.

Now when surgeons operate to repair that, there's a few different issues. It's not easily repaired. First of all, when you think about suturing, you're making holes in the blood vessels, right? So you might even bleed through the surgical wounds.

And second, while you're operate, if you just imagine all this blood, it's hard to actually see what you're doing. So those are a couple of issues that are going on and then the anesthesiologists have to work on keeping this person alive through the surgery.

HARLOW: You know, he was right after the attack able to speak to his wife on the phone, right, able to drag himself across the field.


HARLOW: And then it seems like he got critically worse in the next 10 minutes that he was airlifted to the hospital. Is that normal?

NAMPIAPARAMPIL: I think it's within the normal range for something like this, right? So if a person's shot, they could have several different injuries, but as long as they have that blood flow to the brain, they can still communicate and stuff, but as soon as you have that loss of blood volume, that loss of blood pressure, then it might be much harder to get that blood flow to the brain and other organs.

BERMAN: What are the coming days and weeks like for Congressman Steve Scalise? My understanding is this type of injury now, the way to go at it, is multiple surgeries over time.

NAMPIAPARAMPIL: Well, there's different specialist involved, different teams that we think of. So there are vascular surgeons that address blood flow issues. So if there's an entry to the blood vessel. You have urologists that work on the reproductive organs, and the ureters, the bladder, the prostate. And then you also have types of surgeons like orthopedic surgeons that might work on the hip joint itself, neurosurgeons if the sciatic nerve is injured which actually goes from the spine kind of flows down the leg.

And then you have plastic surgeons and infectious disease specialist that might work on the skin or any kind of wound so there's risk of infection as well. It's really a lot of different teams that have to work together, all different types of doctors, nurses and other health care providers that have to coordinate to try to help the person through their recovery.

BERMAN: Dr. Devi Nampiaparampil, thanks so much for being with us. Really appreciate your time.


HARLOW: Thank you.

BERMAN: And again, the key word is improving for Steve Scalise, which is wonderful.


BERMAN: President Trump moments ago admitting that he is under investigation. He attacks the people behind the Russia probe. Is he also attacking his deputy attorney general? We've got much more on the breaking news unfolding as we speak. Stay with us.


[10:47:18] HARLOW: Breaking news this morning. The president of the United States is admitting that he is under investigation for firing James Comey. He wrote in a statement, "I am being investigated for firing the FBI director by the man who told me to fire the FBI director. Witch hunt."

BERMAN: It is unclear exactly who he's accusing him of telling him to fire the FBI director. Probably, we think, maybe Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, but his post comes as the man actually leading the Russia investigation, Robert Mueller, beefs up his legal team with more than a dozen new hires.

Here to discuss, someone who knows more about this than anyone, Garrett Graff, journalist and historian and executive director of the Cyber Security and Technology Program at the Aspen Institute. He's also author of "The Threat Matrix: The FBI At War."

Garrett, you just wrote a fascinating piece for "Wired" where you profile this new legal team put together by Bob Mueller. Broadly speaking, without naming names here, broadly speaking, what does, you know, the personnel on this team, what does it tell you?

GARRETT GRAFF, AUTHOR, "THE THREAT MATRIX: THE FBI AT WAR": Well, this is a fascinating team that Bob Mueller is assembling. It may actually be the most experienced and most talented group of FBI investigators ever assembled under a single task force at the Department of Justice.

HARLOW: Talk specifically about the most significant hire.

GRAFF: Sure. So you've got all sorts of names here that matter a great deal to people within the Justice Department community. Michael Dreeben is joining the team from the Solicitor General's Office, the unit that argues in front of the Supreme Court on behalf of the government. It is one of the most experienced criminal appellate lawyers in the United States. But then from there, you also have a series of hires that point in interesting directions to where this investigation may be going.

BERMAN: Such as?

GRAFF: Aaron Zeddley, who is Mueller's right hand for the better part of a decade now, former FBI agent, great experience in overseas investigations. You've got Lisa Paige, who's one of the Justice Department's most experienced organized crime lawyers with a specialty in working on Russian organized crime and Eastern European organized crime. Then you've got James Quarrels, who Mueller has brought over from WilmerHale, his old law firm, who is one of the nation's leading campaign finance violation lawyers.

And then Andrew Weisman, an expert and former general counsel to Bob Mueller at the FBI, who is one of the nation's top money laundering experts. I mean, this is a team of powerhouse attorneys with very unique and telling specialties.

BERMAN: Yes, you can see the breadth of perhaps the investigation that's going on right now. [10:50:03] There has been some criticism of this team. You know, Newt

Gingrich and others have pointed out that many on this team had given almost exclusively to Democrats in the past from their campaign donations. Is that a fair criticism, Garrett?

GRAFF: I mean, it's certainly a criticism. I don't think, though, that there is a name on this team that anyone who knows these people would question their independence and their integrity.

HARLOW: You have written as much or more about Bob Mueller, special counsel, than any other reporter in America. How do you think -- take us in the mind of Bob Mueller looking at these statements on Twitter from the president. What does he make of them, do you believe? And how will he respond to these direct attacks from the president, from the White House, and from its surrogate?

GRAFF: One of the weird things is I don't think that Bob Mueller considers this a particularly high-pressure situation that he is now in. He is certainly leading a high-profile investigation, but this is a ram rod stream former Marine platoon leader, someone who received the Bronze Star with valor for his role in combat and a Purple Heart during Vietnam and then went on to take over the FBI just one week before September 11th.

I mean, this was a guy who on the morning of September 11th was sitting in his first briefing on al Qaeda. I mean, this is someone who has been through the crucible before and come out the other side.

BERMAN: You know, Garrett, do you care to try to help us analyze the most recent statement from the president, where he said, "I'm being investigated for firing the FBI director by the man who told me to fire the FBI director, witch hunt"? If he is talking about Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general there? Where is the gains?

GRAFF: Yes, it sort of does seem that that is likely who he is talking to, which is puzzling on many levels, not the least of which is, as you all know, President Trump had said previously that he was going to fire James Comey regardless of the deputy attorney general and the attorney general's recommendation, that he needed to relieve this pressure on the Russia investigation. But this is a story that seems like it's accelerating in the last 48 hours. I mean, we've seen the president speak on Twitter repeatedly about it in sort of increasingly angry terms, and evidently, we're going to hear a lot more about this from him in the coming hours.

BERMAN: Yes. It would be surprising not to at this point.

Garrett Graff, thank you for coming on with us. Thank you so much. Your books are terrific so we appreciate it.

HARLOW: Interesting he says high-profile, not high-pressure. This man has been through pressure before. Now it's about working slowly and meticulously.

BERMAN: It is really interesting.


BERMAN: You know, to so many people, it seems like the biggest investigation ever. For Bob Mueller, you know, another day at the office.

HARLOW: There you go.

BERMAN: All right. High drama at the U.S. Open. A blimp flying near the golf course crashes to the grounds, burst into flames. We have an update the pilot's condition in this morning's "Bleacher Report."


[10:57:18] HARLOW: The U.S. Open gets under way with a lot of drama on and off the court.

BERMAN: Yes, I'll say. Andy Scholes has more in the "Bleacher Report." Good morning, Andy.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Hey, good morning, John, good morning, Poppy. You know, this is the first major without both Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson since 1994, so perfect timing for one of the golf's youngest stars to put on a show, and that's exactly what Rickie Fowler did in round one, conquering the waist-high rough at Erin Hills. He scored a record-tying 7 under 65 in the first round. You know, some say Fowler the best player in the world without a major championship. Maybe that title goes away this weekend.

Some of the best players in the world may not be sticking around very long. Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy and Jason Day all in danger of missing the cut today.

In the meantime, a blimp pilot is recovering from serious burns after his airship crashed and burst into flames near the course. Investigators say the blimp may have had some mechanical problems. The pilot was trying to return to an airstrip when he went down in a field about a half mile away from the U.S. Open. No one else was hurt in that crash.

All right. Louisville's basketball team could lose its 2013 national championship in the wake of an alleged sex scandal involving prostitutes. The NCAA says the team must vacate all records from December 2010 to July 2014 where ineligible players competed. Coach Rick Pitino also going to be suspended for the first five conference games next season.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not only is it unjust, unfast, over-the-top severe, but I've lost -- personally I've lost a lot of faith in the NCAA and everything I've stood for, for the last 35 years.


SCHOLES: Now Louisville is appealing, calling all of the sanctions excessive. If the Cardinals lose that appeal, they're going to become the first basketball program ever to have to take down a college championship banner.

All right, the Warriors celebrating their NBA title with a parade yesterday, and you've got to check out Draymond Green. He was clearly trolling the Cavs, wearing this T-shirt that said, "Quickie" on it. Now the Cavs' home arena is called the "Q." The logo that he was wearing and the arena almost identical. Now Draymond says he wore that shirt because after winning last year LeBron wore the T-shirt you see there on the left with "Ultimate Warrior" on it?

The whole thing, it kind of turned into an Instagram war between the two. LeBron made fun of the quickie shirt, then Draymond went back at him, reposting this video that LeBron has posted, saying the Warriors finally made LeBron go bald.

So the NBA Finals may be over, guys, but the rivalry between LeBron and the Warriors continues on in the offseason.

BERMAN: Yes. LeBron James doesn't seem to be the type of guy you want to give extra motivation to.


HARLOW: Just a pro tip there from John Berman.

BERMAN: Andy Scholes, thanks so much.

SCHOLES: All right.

HARLOW: Thank you all for joining us today. Have a great weekend. I'm Poppy Harlow.

BERMAN: I'm John Berman. "AT THIS HOUR WITH KATE BOLDUAN" starts now.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.