Return to Transcripts main page


Killed Sailors Remembered; Republicans Continue Crafting Secret Health Care Bill; U.S. Holds Talks With China. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired June 21, 2017 - 15:00   ET



SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: There was no ability to defend himself. The officer is in stable condition.

We're also told that, during the attack, the suspect allegedly uttered some words. You know, these are words that are commonly used by terrorists and have been used in other terrorist incidents. So that obviously is playing a role in this investigation also.

And, really, I think, also, the FBI right now is trying to learn more about the alleged stabber here, the suspect. They're still working through his identity, through his contacts to see what he was doing in this area and that is all still part of the investigation.

But, hopefully, you know, within the hour, we will at least have some basic facts, some sort of timeline perhaps surrounding these events. You know, and you also have to remember, this is an airport, so there are surveillance cameras there, so you know, his movement, the FBI and the police there certainly will be able to backtrack, to look and see how he got to the airport.

So that is all part of what they're doing now in preparation for the press conference.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: So, Juliette, judging by what we know -- and we don't know a lot at this point in time -- what's your takeaway?

JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, we don't actually know the motive yet, but are hearing as well that words were uttered at the moment of the attack that would suggest maybe there was a terrorist motivation.

I think we should wait on that one, but targeting a police officer is something that terrorist organizations want to do, because they not only are focusing on people who protect the public, but it actually destabilizes the public. If police officers are not safe, people feel destabilized.


BALDWIN: That's also what's happening in Europe.

KAYYEM: Exactly, and just adding into the mix on Europe. Right? So we have literally seen three attacks in Europe in a 48-hour period,

three European cities. Look at what one individual can do to destabilize flow. I mean, we have an airport closed. In London, you had a major thoroughway -- fare closed. In Belgium, you had the train station closed.

This is the asymmetric aspect of terrorism, that one person with a knife closed down a relatively, you know, sort of medium-level airport.

BALDWIN: We will watch and wait for that news conference. We will talk again. Juliette and Shimon, thank you so, so much on Michigan.

Now to this, to the investigation into the links between the Trump campaign and Russia. We will play some video. It's quick. You will blink and you will miss it, but you are going to see the special counsel, Robert Mueller, is actually now leaving the Capitol, just met with the leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee to coordinate their respective investigations.

So far, the Judiciary is the only congressional panel that is specifically looking into allegations that the president may have obstructed justice.

Now, just a couple hours before Mueller's arrival came a development on another major investigation involving Russian election meddling. You had the former homeland security chief, Jeh Johnson, testifying there to a House panel that in no uncertain terms Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential election.


JEH JOHNSON, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: In 2016, the Russian government at the direction of Vladimir Putin himself orchestrated cyber-attacks on our nation for the purpose of influencing our election. That is a fact, plain and simple.


BALDWIN: Johnson joins the rest of the intelligence community who say Russia is, in fact, behind the election hacking and this goes against what just happened at the White House 24 hours ago. We watched Press Secretary Sean Spicer as he would not say, definitively, that the president believes Russia was behind this unprecedented infiltration.

So let me bring in Julie Myers Wood, a former assistant homeland security secretary, and CNN national security analyst Matt Rosenberg. He's also a national security correspondent for "The New York Times."

So, welcome to both of you.

And, Matthew, first to you just on why do you think -- I mean, we heard all these different intel chiefs, both previous and current, saying, yes, indeed, it was Russia who meddled. Why is the White House refusing to admit this? MATTHEW ROSENBERG, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Look, I can't get

into the president's mind or what Sean Spicer are thinking at any given moment.

But I think we do know that there is not a serious kind of national security or intelligence official in the United States who believes that Russia didn't do this. I mean, the belief is near unanimous.

We have seen some evidence. There's a wealth of kind of circumstantial evidence out in public, and they say they have a tremendous amount of classified intelligence that includes intercepts. It includes human intelligence. It includes all kinds of reports and tracking of Russian and Russian officials.

And their nearly unanimous assessment has been that, at the order of Russian President Vladimir Putin, there was an attempt to disrupt the election. Now, the big issue is the contours that took, what shape it took, the actual details of how it was executed, whether it was successful and whether there was possible cooperation from anyone in the U.S., mostly from the people around President Trump.


And those are still major outstanding questions. But the idea that this election was hacked by Russia, there was an attempt, is not something that anybody in the intelligence community or in the national security establishment disputes at this point.

BALDWIN: So, on hacks, and, Julie, this is for you, you know, we listened to former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson say that the DNC, upon learning about their hack, refused his help last summer.

Why -- and listening to some of the exchange, it wasn't like this was the Republican administration looking to maybe try to impede. This was, you know, impartial, trying to help. Why didn't the Democrats take the help, in your opinion?

JULIE MYERS WOOD, FORMER ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY FOR U.S. IMMIGRATION AND CUSTOMS ENFORCEMENT: Well, I'm sure they're second-guessing their decision now not to take that help.

But I think, sometimes, when the government reaches out and they say they want to help, there's skepticism in the private sector. I think the hacking last fall certainly shows for all private sector entities that, when the government reaches out, it's best to engage with them. It's best to try to find out what's going on, and certainly when there's hacking involved, to make sure you have private sector experts also to help you kind of fix or resolve any issues.

BALDWIN: Let's move on, Matthew, to your piece in "The New York Times." Talk to me about what you discovered with regard to the CIA chief, Mike Pompeo, allowing -- as he was briefing the president on classified information, allowed the now-fired national security adviser to sit around the table, it sounds like, knowing that he was vulnerable to Russia blackmail.

ROSENBERG: Well, we actually don't know what Pompeo knew at any given moment.

BALDWIN: We don't.

ROSENBERG: And that's one of the big outstanding questions here.

We don't. We know that the CIA had serious concerns, basically shared the concerns that the Justice Department and the FBI shared about Michael Flynn, that because of conversations Flynn had had with the Russian ambassador of the United States and had not fully told his colleagues about, that he now was exposed, at risk of blackmail, I guess, by the Russians.

And we know the CIA shared these concerns. We know the DOJ, that the former deputy attorney general, Sally Yates, the acting attorney general at the time, went to Trump and said this. What we don't know and what we still, the CIA refuses to answer, we can't get a satisfactory answer on, is, did the CIA not tell Mr. Pompeo about its concerns? Did other people in the CIA not share them because he had just been confirmed?

Or were they shared and he decided there was no gain in telling the president this? Either way, what we do know is that for 21 days in between when Pompeo was confirmed and when Flynn was fired, Pompeo was doing a presidential daily brief almost every day, Flynn was in the room and there were real secrets being shared there, and that his agency at that time had serious concerns about whether Michael Flynn had been -- basically was now at risk of being blackmailed by the Russians.

BALDWIN: OK. So, the takeaway is we don't know what Pompeo knew.

So given that, Julie, still, given Matthew's reporting, what do you make of Flynn sitting around that table?

WOOD: Well, it's very troubling from the get-go, that if he was sitting around the table, if in fact Pompeo knew.

But, you know, there are a lot of investigations going on right now. Obviously, we saw former Director Mueller talking with the Senate Judiciary Committee. Both the special counsel and multiple committees of Congress are looking into these items and I think we will have answers.

I think it's very good to see Director Mueller up talking to the Hill, making sure that these investigations are deconflicting. And we need to get to the bottom of this to find out what happened and then to move on, to make sure our national security apparatus is safe and keeps us safe.

BALDWIN: Speaking of national security, let me thank both of you.

We're going to pull away and go straight to the briefing with secretary of state, secretary of defense briefing. Let's listen.


is the American people's frustration with a regime that provokes and provokes and provokes and basically plays outside the rules, plays fast and loose with the truth, that sort of thing.

As far as, you know, China's role, China continues to work these issues. We -- the reason for this dialogue that we had today was to have an open and frank dialogue about what more can be done in areas of common interest.

And I would point out to you that China's end state on the Korean Peninsula in terms of nuclear weapons is the same as ours. And we continue to work towards that end state.

On the South China Sea, this is a dialogue where we identify areas where we can work together and to understand those areas where we have, I would call them disconnects, where our understanding of the problem is very different from theirs. And we had that discussion here today. And we will continue to work to close gaps in our understanding and to work some kind of manner in the future that removes these irritants.

But I would say, for right now, that's the whole purpose for the dialogue that we held here today, and we will be holding more in the future.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you, everyone.



BALDWIN: All right, so, important news conference there. You have tensions escalating between North Korea, the U.S., and its allies. This is just days after this 22-year-old American returns from detention in North Korea and dies.

U.S. spy satellites have detected new activity at North Korea's underground nuclear test site. So, all of this as U.S. and Chinese officials meet in Washington today.

Now, China is the main ally, keep in mind, and trading partner of North Korea. But even before these talks began, President Trump might have complicated things with a tweet. Let me read it for you -- quote -- "While I greatly appreciate the efforts of President Xi and China to help with North Korea, it has not worked out. At least I know China tried."

Joining me now, George Mitchell, former senator, former United States special envoy for Middle East peace in the Obama administration.

So, Senator Mitchell, always a pleasure to have you. Welcome back.

GEORGE MITCHELL, FORMER SPECIAL U.S. ENVOY FOR THE MIDDLE EAST: Thank you, Brooke. BALDWIN: You know, you just heard the secretary talking about those

conversations with China, wanting open and frank dialogue. I read the tweet from the president. Do you think that tweet made Secretary Tillerson's job a tad tougher today?

MITCHELL: Well, I think all of the commentary is correct in suggesting that the short-term interests of the United States and China with respect to North Korea coincide.

Neither wants an immediate collapse of the regime, particularly with the uncertainty about their nuclear arsenal. The difficulty is that the long-term interests, the strategic interests of the United States and China are diametrically opposite with respect to the Korean Peninsula.

We would like to see a unified Korea with a democratic system. The Chinese don't want that. They don't want this regime to be as unstable and disruptive as it is, but the last thing they want is a unified democracy on the Korean Peninsula, which would place a major American ally and American troops on their border.



MITCHELL: So they play a different game than we do on this issue.

BALDWIN: But speaking of disruptive, I mean, we're hearing from two U.S. officials that there has been activity again near North Korea's test site.

We know, Senator, that North Korea tries to time its nuclear tests to send some sort of message out to the world. What would the message be if they conducted that test during these high-level talks in Washington between the U.S. and China?

MITCHELL: Well, it will be the same message that they have conveyed for a very long time, calling attention to themselves, using the possibility of a nuclear arsenal and the potential use of a nuclear arsenal to gain what they seek, which is international recognition.

They want some assistance to deal with their many problems brought on by their repugnant and oppressive regime. It's a difficult issue with no easy answer. No course of action has been successful so far in deterring them. I think we should seek Chinese assistance, but I think it's a mistake to think that China is going to solve the problem for us.

BALDWIN: On this tragic story with Otto Warmbier, it looks like his official cause of death could remain a mystery, right, all the big questions, what happened to him in North Korea.

We know his family, Senator, declined an autopsy. And I just wanted to ask you, does not having an autopsy, not having some of those questions answered, does that impede any kind of investigation?

MITCHELL: Well, I think it obviously makes it more difficult to comprehend what happened, how, when, and by who.

But I think none of it absolves the North Korean regime of the responsibility for the brutal manner in which this young man was handled and ultimately died.

BALDWIN: Since you were a former special envoy for Middle East peace, let me just pivot and talk to you about the president's son-in-law, Jared Kushner. We know he's visiting with the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, before he heads to the West Bank in the evening to meet with President Abbas.

You know how difficult -- you have written the book -- how difficult these conversations can be. If you were advising Kushner on these meetings, what would you tell him?

MITCHELL: Well, first, I commend him and the president for making the effort.

Obviously, in the immediate future, the prospects are difficult. But I think it is very important that the United States continue the effort. In the end, the decisions will be made by Israelis and Palestinians.

I wrote the book, along with a colleague of mine, Alon Sachar, in defense of the two-state solution because support for it has been declining in both Israel, among the Palestinians, and in the United States.


But we believe there is no feasible alternative to it, although increasing numbers of Israelis have become comfortable with the sort of status quo that exists, but that ultimately will not be satisfactory to the vast majority of Palestinians.

And I think it's ultimately going to be leadership on both sides that's willing to take the risks for peace, and there will be serious risks, because there are those on both sides who don't want a two- state solution, that will be necessary. We can encourage, we can lead, we can assist, but only they, ultimately, can make peace.

BALDWIN: Senator Mitchell, we love having you on, all your experience. Thank you so much for lending the voice today.

MITCHELL: Thank you, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Coming up next, Republicans set to release this secretive health care bill, the one that President Trump wants to make sure has heart. What exactly does that look like? We will talk to the president's special adviser.

Also ahead, I will speak with the father of one of the American sailors killed in that mysterious collision at sea. We will talk about his son's life, the heroism. Please don't miss this. That's moments away.



BALDWIN: Welcome back. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

I really just want to take some time to shine a light on this tragedy that unfolded half-a-world away. But military families across the U.S. are all asking the same question. How could this happen?

Just 24 hours ago, loved ones stood at Dover Air Force Base and watched as seven caskets, cloaked in American flags, made their final journeys home.

On the day before Father's Day, these seven Navy sailors were found in the flooded sleeping compartments of their Navy destroyer. All we know is that the USS Fitzgerald collided with a container ship. This was off the coast of Japan. And the damage caused major flooding below deck.

And one of those sailors was Personnel Specialist 1st Class Xavier Martin. He was 24 years old. We're told Xavier joined the Navy to follow in the footsteps of his father.

Darrold Martin joins me now from his home in Halethorpe, Maryland, where Xavier grew up.

Mr. Martin, my deepest, most heartfelt condolences to you in this difficult time. Just thank you for your service. I thank your son for his service. And thank you for taking the time with me.


BALDWIN: I want to ask you all about your son, but, first, can we just begin with, sir, how -- how did you find out about Xavier's passing, this day before Father's Day?

MARTIN: Well, that -- actually, I found out that Friday -- I'm sorry -- Saturday morning at a quarter to 3:00, when the Navy came and left a card on my door that they're -- I wasn't aware that -- I was aware that someone was knocking, but I didn't think it was my home.

Then, when I opened up the door, no one is there, and the card dropped. And it was pretty much just like in the movie what you see, just so I notified the Navy and they came back and they told me he was one of the seven.

And that was a quarter to 3:00 that Saturday morning, and then just waited all day, and then I guess around 10:30 that Saturday evening, the Navy returned again with the chaplain. And I knew then that he was one of the ones that had perished.

BALDWIN: How did they deliver the news?

MARTIN: Pretty much like in the movie: Department of Defense wishes to express our deepest condolences that your son was one of the seven that drowned in their berthing area. BALDWIN: Were you alone?


BALDWIN: I understand that, you know, this USS Fitzgerald, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, and, what, hours after this crash, your son tried to contact you. Can you tell me about that?

MARTIN: Well, we -- the way we communicated was with the WhatsApp, and last time I had actually spoke or heard his voice was the previous -- well, that Tuesday.

And, you know, throughout the week, you know, we were texting, but I never -- well, I was texting him, but didn't hear anything. And what I understood that the crash actually happened at 2:20 a.m. And just looking at -- I'm looking at my phone, and at the top, where it actually said his last time of activity, and that's how we communicated, it actually said 2:56, which was 36 minutes after the fact.

BALDWIN: So, on this what -- on WhatsApp, your son, after his ship has been hit, and the water is filling in, he goes to his phone...

MARTIN: Yes. Yes.

BALDWIN: ... to reach out to you.


BALDWIN: How does that make you feel?

MARTIN: Unfortunately, I can't help but thinking and I would think any parent would never want to hear the last recording of their children or their child perishing.

So, thank God I wasn't able to hear that. But I try to block out the visualization that my son is perishing and he's crying and screaming. And I'm dad.


I -- it's pretty hard to imagine.

BALDWIN: It's my understanding he was your only son. And you have been a single dad.

You, sir, have raised him since he was, what, 10 years old?


BALDWIN: Can you just -- you tell me, because you know best, why did he come to you one day and say, dad, I want to join the Navy?

MARTIN: He was working at the -- well, initially, he was enrolled in high school. The National Security Agency invited him to be in the internship. He was in 11th grade, did a year. Then they brought him on full-time. And I guess around six months later, he just came to me and said, dad -- actually, he joined the Navy. I didn't even know. He told me he actually joined.

And I said, "Well, Xavier, what -- what is going on?"

And he said, "Well, dad, you always told me you thought that every male should join some branch of the service because it rounds off the rough edges and gets them ready for life."

And I couldn't argue with that, because that is my belief. And I could not argue with that.

BALDWIN: How proud of your son are you?


MARTIN: Words can't describe how proud I am.

Gosh, I have kept every text from the time he's joined the Navy, and there's just numerous texts that I have expressed how proud of I am. I am so proud to be his father. I could not ask for a better child, never.

BALDWIN: I understand the two of you have matching tattoos? Can you tell me about that?


I want to say maybe June -- maybe around April. Actually, he had -- actually, after -- as a matter of fact, it was right after the Fitzgerald had came -- pulled back into port. And he was saying that he was going to get a tattoo and he actually sent me the font. And he was trying to decide which font he was going to use.

And he said that, "Well, I'm going to use the verbiage. We will figure it out," because, as a child, he would always come to me with whatever. "Dad, I need tennis shoes. Dad, I need to go here. You need to go to PTA."

And I'm sure every says that, look, we will figure it out, because they're doing something else. And I didn't realize that, until later on, when he told me years after the fact, that he said, "When you told me that, it just gave me a sense of calmness, knowing that my dad had me."

So, he got the ink put on his left wrist. And I was telling him I was thinking about doing it. And he said: "Really? Because I know how much you hate needles."

And I waited until the Saturday after Mother's Day, and I went and had the ink put on my forearm as well. And I sent him a picture of it. And he said: "I cannot believe you did that. I am so proud of you."

And he was just so ecstatic and he was showing his fellow shipmates and friends. "My dad is 60 years old, and he's got his first tattoo."

BALDWIN: So, you have matching tattoos. It sounds like you have this incredible bond. You are so proud of him.

And then, Mr. Martin, the moment that no parent ever wants to think about is not only getting that doorstep visit, but then going to Dover and welcoming a son or a daughter home in a casket. Can you just walk me through what that was like yesterday?

MARTIN: Certain times, it hit me.

I remember, when we got out to Dover and they had provided us rooms, my parents, just to relax, because we had arrived. The plane was delayed like three hours. And I just went out back, and I was just sitting in a rocking chair. And, actually, I was contacting one of his friends.

And her and I, we have been -- I knew of her, because there were four young ladies that, when he was in Guam, that actually looked out for him. They just met him. And they told me the whole story.

He was sitting at a bar and one just walked up and said, "Look like you're in a dark place." And they were talking. And they just all four just became pretty much older sisters to him.

And since then, you know, we have communicated, because I -- one of his friends came by Sunday.