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Inside Newly Liberated City of Raqqa; North Korea Warns Unimaginable Strike at Unimaginable Time; Obama Hits Campaign Trail for Virginia and New Jersey Governor Races; Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired October 19, 2017 - 10:30   ET



[10:31:41] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Just days after it was liberated from years of ISIS control, CNN is on the ground inside of Raqqa, Syria, getting a first look at what is left behind.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Now U.S. backed forces celebrating a victory on the streets but danger still remains.

CNN's Arwa Damon inside Raqqa for us with the latest -- Arwa.

ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: John and Poppy, just take a look at the destruction around us. This is one of the main squares in Raqqa and it was here where ISIS would carry out its public beheadings, its executions, and in fact in some cases put the heads of its victims on to these spikes.

A gruesome, chilling reminder to anyone who walked by what their fate could be if they even dared to try to defy ISIS' rule. There's a handful of fighters around us. They're actually from the female unit of the Syrian Democratic Forces. That is a forced that is being backed by the U.S.-led coalition, and they're very proud of their role in this.

They say that women had to play and did play a significant role in the liberation of Raqqa because ISIS was so oppressive towards women and, in fact, this very square is where they would often have the open air slave market, the woman slave market, where they would sell and buy the Yazidis who they have captured or others who they even considered to be infidels.

They described the battle and the final battle was waged in these neighborhoods as being multilayered. You had the fighting that was taking place in the sky, the drone war. Both sides were actually using drones to drop grenades on each other. You had the fight that took place, that we can actually see here on the ground, and then another fight that was taking place underground in the very complex tunnel system that ISIS had established.

Now they have to try to clear this entire city of explosives. Something that they say might take up to three months, if not even longer. They're telling all civilians to still stay away. When they do come, this is what they're going to be coming back to. But as we keep being told, John and Poppy, it's not just about

physically rebuilding the city. If they want to prevent ISIS from returning or ever gaining a foothold in a place like Raqqa again, they really have to rebuild the fabric of society.

BERMAN: All right. Arwa Damon for us inside Raqqa, a remarkable work inside that city.

HARLOW: Incredible.

BERMAN: At great risk we might add as well. Our thanks to Arwa.

A new threat from North Korea this morning. That country says the United States should expect an unimaginable strike at an unimaginable time.

HARLOW: All right. This statement comes as the United States and South Korea are carrying out more of these joint military drills over the peninsula.

The language that John just gave you is similar to what we've heard from them previous state=run media reports threatening to attack the United States and destroy the U.S.

Elise Labott joins us with the very latest.

They use language like this all the time. Anything significant that stands out to you this time?

ELISE LABOTT, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Not really, Poppy. I mean, look, as you said, this is typical fare from South Korea. They always get very excited, very angry when those exercises between the U.S. and South Korea take place on the Korean peninsula, so you always expect some kind of rhetoric and this rhetoric is coming from a group that opposes the military drills.

It's called the Pan-Korean Emergency Measure Committee for opposing nuclear war drills against North Korea.

[10:35:04] And this is not coming from the government, although we've heard that kind of stuff before. Ironically, I think when you get this kind of bombastic language, it kind of harkens back to what we've heard before. So I don't think it really kind of ticks up the tensions between the U.S. and North Korea. It's really when they get more specific, talking about Guam, talking about hitting a specific U.S. target, that I think U.S. officials get very excited.

HARLOW: Indeed. But, of course, we're watching very closely.

Elise Labott, thank you for the reporting.

Meantime the governor of Puerto Rico is in Washington today. He was on Capitol Hill. He's also heading to the White House in a little bit to meet with the president. He did speak on Capitol Hill after this meeting with Senator Marco Rubio. Some significant statements coming. BERMAN: Right now, 79 percent of the island is still without power

and given that statistic, interesting, that just moments ago, Marco Rubio says he has new concerns that the U.S. military response to that lack of power has not been fast.


SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: One of the things that we just learned today and I've been hearing for the last couple of days is, for example, the Army Corps of Engineers has been on the ground there now for three weeks. They apparently, according to the government of Puerto Rico, have yet to execute on a power restoration contract to begin the power restoration work. Even the immediate work. And so that's concerning. So we need to see what are the impediments for things like that happening.


HARLOW: Hugely concerning. The governor of Puerto Rico also asked for, quote, "equal treatment," of course, for these American citizens when it comes to hurricane response efforts.

And President Obama is back in the spotlight today on the trail for two gubernatorial races.

BERMAN: One of them is not Hillary Clinton.

HARLOW: This is true. This is true.

BERMAN: She is not running for anything as far as we know.

HARLOW: Breaking news. We'll have more ahead.


[10:40:59] BERMAN: All right. A major political milestone today. The former president of the United States, Barack Obama, hits the campaign trail for the first time since leaving office. He'll be in New Jersey and Virginia, stumping in the Democratic governor races there.

HARLOW: The question, though, is how much of an impact will it have? Does he have the star power to really help? Obviously, he was on the trail for Hillary Clinton and in a murky state didn't exactly work out.

Joining us now senior political analyst for CNN, Ron Brownstein, and CNN political commentator Brian Fallon.

Nice to have you both here.


HARLOW: We had Richard Branson on the show -- good morning -- earlier this week talking about the time with the Obamas on Necker Island. So they've had their time to relax. They've moved on. He's back on the trail.

Ron, how do you think that he will -- if he will address the current political climate and especially the allegations made by the current president, President Trump, about him saying he didn't call these family members of the fallen soldiers. Will he talk about that as he hits the trail today?

BROWNSTEIN: I'm guessing very limited, if at all. I don't think he wants to be the story. I mean, he doesn't want -- he knows if he says anything about President Trump that is the message from his visit. I think he wants the message to be about the Democratic candidate because, you know, it is -- these are two fascinating races.

I mean, New Jersey and Virginia are both states that completely embody the modern Democratic coalition built around minorities, young people and socially liberal college educated whites, and the challenge they have in both states, but especially Virginia, which is much more competitive, is can they turn that coalition out in a nonpresidential year?

And so this is kind of an important -- you know, an early marker to some extent for 2018 when the question will be faced all around the country and certainly I think he wants the focus to be on the races and doing what he can to kind of energize the African-American community in particular, which their indications have not been as engaged as Democrats would hope.

BERMAN: Brian Fallon, chances that he mentions the word Trump at all.

BRIAN FALLON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I tend to agree with Ron's take. I think that the president realizes that's not his job today. His job is to go out and help these two candidates and I think he's uniquely positioned to do that. I think for a lot of Democrats, his arrival back on the campaign trail is coming not a moment too soon.

He is someone who remains very popular with those exact constituencies that Ron mentioned where we have an enthusiasm problem now. I think earlier this week you saw a CNN poll that showed in the generic ballot in terms of the contest for control of Congress in 2018 Democrats have their biggest lead over Republicans since 2006.

On the one hand that's very promising but that will mean nothing if we don't turn out these young people, these African-Americans, that quite frankly did not turn out at the levels we needed to see in 2016.


FALLON: If the Northam people were honest with you, I think African- American turnout is going to be the difference maker in Virginia. Terry McAuliffe lost white voters I think in 2013 by 20 points, still beat Ken Cuccinelli, thanks to African-American voters. So that's going to loom huge for him today --

BERMAN: You know --

FALLON: -- with having Obama in Richmond. HARLOW: Ron --

BROWNSTEIN: Poppy, there is one place --


BROWNSTEIN: There is one place where I can imagine him kind of intersecting with the Trump administration because in both states, but especially in Virginia, Ed Gillespie, who is a Republican, and he used to talk about a more inclusive Republican Party, has run on very Trump-like themes, particularly on immigration, you know, arguing that his opponents favor sanctuary cities, favors MS-13, and he's really kind of gone in a Trump-like direction.

I can imagine the president taking a swipe at that and linking it indirectly to -- to President Trump because I think that is a real -- Democrats view this as a real threat. If the Gillespie tactic works and he is in fact leading big in rural areas and among non-college educated whites, if that works, they can expect to see a lot more of that in 2018, and I think Democrats very much want to make him pay a price for that among minority communities and socially liberal whites.

BERMAN: So you guys both talking as if in your mind you're convinced this will help but I'm old enough to remember President Obama going out on the campaign trail on states that included --


BERMAN: -- Ohio, Florida, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania, for Hillary Clinton, and it didn't work out so well for the Clinton campaign, Brian.

[10:50:07] So why will it work now when it didn't work then? And remember, you know, President Obama for a long time, while he's been considered a great campaigner for himself, there's always been the question of any coattails, Brian?

FALLON: Well, I think this just goes to the nature of the limit of what endorsements can get you in a campaign. Every candidate has to generate their own level of enthusiasm. There's no transitive property here that means because people like Obama and Obama endorses a candidate, that all those voters will turn out for that candidate that Obama has endorsed. That's just the nature of endorsements across the board.

We give attention to them because Barack Obama is returning to the trail, but there's a natural limit on what any candidate that's getting an endorsement is -- can expect to reap from that. In the case of Hillary Clinton, I don't think that we viewed Barack Obama's presence out there on the campaign trail as anything other than an asset. If anything, I think they would have loved to have him out there even more.

If you remember he was supposed to actually campaign with Hillary Clinton -- his first appearance with her was supposed to happen in Green Bay, Wisconsin. It got canceled because of the Pulse Nightclub shooting, and we all saw what happened in Wisconsin.

So I think that the president being out there is unquestionably an asset for these two gubernatorial candidates today but again the limits of any endorsement are what they are.

HARLOW: Are there lessons learned, though, Brian? Just a quick follow-up, lessons learned from maybe what didn't work with him, other than wanting him on the trail more? Are there other lessons there?

FALLON: I think that the lesson is not necessarily about Barack Obama. I think that the lesson is that Democrats cannot take these base voters for granted. We refer to them as our base, but we really have to work for it to earn their support and get them to turn out.

One of the organizations I work with, Priorities USA, just did two focus groups earlier this month in Philadelphia and St. Louis of young African-American voters that did not turn out in 2016. They're very informed, they know all about all the outrageous that Donald Trump is spewing out there, and they're inflamed by it but they want to see Democrats stand up and fight for them.

They want to know what Democrats are going to do for them. And if we don't communicate those messages then those voters are not going to turn out despite all the outrages that Donald Trump injects into the news cycle.

BERMAN: And I'll remind you, I'll remind you that Philadelphia, one of the cities you mentioned, was one of the last stops for not just President Obama but Michelle Obama, the whole team.

FALLON: Right.

BERMAN: Your whole team was out there the night before the election. Again not enough, you know, to tip the scales.

Ron Brownstein, I want to shift gears completely if I can for one second here.


BERMAN: The president was writing this morning, talking again about the FBI -- well, about the various investigations into Russian meddling and he wrote this on Twitter, "Workers affirm involved with the discredited and fake dossier take the Fifth. Who paid for it, Russia, the FBI or the Dems or all?"

Again, it just struck us that --


BERMAN: That he seems to be accusing the FBI of plotting against him there which is unusual from a sitting president.

HARLOW: To say the least.

BROWNSTEIN: Needless to say. Right? But not so unusual from this sitting president.

Look, I mean, I think we're getting to the point where we have to almost say there is a conscious division of responsibility in this administration between a president who picks and cites, ignites, an endless series of personal and institutional conflicts that portray him as fighting against every elite institution or elite American life while his executive agencies and the Congress pursue an agenda that on regulation and taxes and most issues give that elite exactly what it wants.

I mean, you know, we're arguing about this on the same day that they're about to pass a budget with a massive tax cut for the top paid for in part by big cuts in Medicare and Medicaid, which he explicitly promised to protect during the campaign and yet we are wrapped around the axle of whatever today's, you know, conflict and confrontation is. There will be a new one tomorrow. There will be a new set, you know, whether it's John McCain or James Comey, it -- the wheel keeps spinning, meanwhile the government is going on in a very different direction.

HARLOW: Wow. The budget resolution may pass, but I don't know -- I'm not convinced that that tax --


HARLOW: You know, proposal plan is going to be the one that actually makes it for a vote. We'll see.

Guys, thank you.

BERMAN: All right. Still ahead for us, the Chicago Cubs, they will live to fight another day. Despite the fact that their manager got tossed following a call that was awful.

"Bleacher Report" is next.

HARLOW: So much for own bias.


[10:53:45] HARLOW: The Chicago Cubs avoid elimination all thanks to an unexpected hero.

BERMAN: Coy Wire has more in the "Bleacher Report." Hey, Coy.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Ad good morning to you. This "Bleacher Report" brought to you by the new 2018 Ford F-150. I'm talking about Cubs' Javier Baez was in a serious postseason slump, zero hits in 20 at-bats, the 24-year-old from Puerto Rico broke the slump with two homeruns just in time to save the Cubs' season. In front of the home crowd, rallying he helped his team as he's rallied to help his home island.

Then there was a bizarre moment in the eighth inning, the Cubs up by one and the pitcher Wade Davis strikes out a Dodgers batter so everyone thought. But the umpire said the bat touched the ball ruling a foul ball. Well, that gave the Dodgers' batter another chance.

Cubs manager Joe Maddon goes ballistic. He gets ejected from the game for arguing that the call could have cost his team the game. Well, thankfully for Chicago the batter struck out on the very next pitch. Cubs would go on to win 3-2, and after the game the umpire admitted he blew the call and Maddon admitted he was still furious.


JOE MADDON, CHICAGO CUBS MANAGER: That can't happen. That -- the process was horrible to have that change and if Granderson hits a next pitch out, you know, I might come running out of the clubhouse, you know, in my jockstrap. I mean, that was like really that bad.


WIRE: I've been giggling at that sound bite all morning. Love Joe Maddon.

[10:55:04] Game five tonight at 8:00 Eastern on our sister channel TBS.

Masahiro the hero, the Yankees have rallied to win three in a row against the Astros and now just one win away from the World Series. The ace from Itami, Japan owned Yankee Stadium. Eight strikeouts, seven scoreless innings last night. Well, then in the bottom of the seventh Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez hits a homerun to help New York stay unbeaten at home this postseason. They win 5-0 over the Astros. Game six tomorrow night in Houston. They can get it done then.

Now powerful follow-up from the NBA. Watch.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's up, everybody. Just wanted to say thank you to everyone whose for your thoughts and prayers. I'm going to be all right.


WIRE: Celtics star Gordon Hayward addressing Boston faithful from his hospital bed just before going into surgery to repair that gruesome injury he suffered Tuesday night. Fans lined up to sign a huge card urging the all-star to come back stronger than ever.

Poppy, you may have to give John his handkerchief there. I know he's a big Boston fan.

HARLOW: I know. He's OK. He's finally OK.

WIRE: He's all right.

BERMAN: I hate sports, Coy. I absolutely hate sports.

HARLOW: Clearly.

BERMAN: Thank you.

HARLOW: Clearly sore loser over here. Coy --

BERMAN: Thank you for bringing that up.

HARLOW: Thank you. We love you. We love sports and we love you. Thank you for being here.

BERMAN: All right. Coming up, we're learning more this morning about the deadly ambush in Niger that cost the lives of four U.S. soldiers. The very latest next.