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Pentagon Revises Timeline of Deadly Niger Ambush; Trump-Corker Feud Reignites Before High Stakes GOP Lunch; How Effective is the Wall in Stopping Drugs?; Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired October 24, 2017 - 10:30   ET


[10:30:00] RYAN BROWNE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: And now of course this attack left four U.S. soldiers dead and two wounded as well as five Nigerian troops killed. But even after providing this timeline General Dunford acknowledged that there were additional questions that remained unanswered.


GEN. JOSEPH DUNFORD JR., CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: Did the mission of U.S. forces change during the operation? Did our forces have adequate intelligence, equipment and training? Was there a pre- mission assessment of the threat in the area accurate? Did they decide to do something different than the original patrol with their partner forces?

Those are the -- those are some of the key questions that the investigation is looking to uncover.


BROWNE: Now one of the biggest unanswered questions is how Sergeant La David Johnson became separated from the rest of his team by up to a mile officials tell CNN. So this is something that will be looked at in the investigation as it unfolds and there are additional questions as well. But remains to be seen exactly what happened during that fire fight that left four U.S. soldiers dead and two wounded -- John.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Ryan Browne at the Pentagon, thanks so much.

Joining me now to discuss, CNN military analyst, retired Colonel Cedric Leighton, and Jason Beardsley, former U.S. Army Special Operations.

Jason, I want to start with you. You were deployed under both CENTCOM and AFRICOM, you've done similar operations in West and Central Africa. You know, what are the biggest unanswered questions you have?

JASON BEARDSLEY, FORMER U.S. ARMY SPECIAL OPERATIONS: Well, we're going to get -- thank you, by the way, John. We're going to get some of those answered questions after the investigation is done and we've got the soldiers there.

Remember, we've got Green Berets that are in contact, we've got these support soldiers. This was a chaotic ambush out in a remote austere environment. So these guys were operating at some level of risk anyways. This is kind of a continuation of a mission that we've run relatively routinely.

So I'm not sure that right now we have anything to really be concerned about except that when that information comes in, we'll know precisely how our forces were dispositioned and what the enemy forces were there. This was a chaotic scene so it's going to take a little bit of time but we will get there.

BERMAN: Colonel Leighton, talk to me about the investigation right now. The investigators on the ground, what are they doing?

COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: So right now, John, what they're doing is they're looking at what they can possibly see from the standpoint of why, what types of weapons were used against the U.S. Special Forces, they're looking at what the angle of attack was, where did the ISIS fighters or alleged ISIS fighters come from. And also they're going to be piecing together things such as the intelligence picture.

What did the special forces team actually know? How were they prepared from an intelligence perspective? And then how were they trained to handle these various types of missions?

The other thing that they'll do, John, is they'll look at exactly how the Nigerian forces were dealing with this and how much of a partnership there really was between the forces involved.

BERMAN: Well, and to that point, Jason, one of the concerns might be that the village that the servicemen were meeting in, that the villagers somehow stalled the soldiers to give the insurgents more of a chance to stage their attack. That would be a cause for serious concern if the people that U.S. soldiers are working amongst can't be trusted.

BEARDSLEY: Right. This is a very difficult area. Again it's an austere environment on the border of Mali. You've got Boko Haram in the south, you've got Islamic State elements in the north. It's (INAUDIBLE), so the villagers are going to have all these split loyalties.

Our special forces are going to be cooperative with our host nation forces but that doesn't mean that the villagers on the ground are always trustworthy.

Remember let's not forget the names of Sergeant Bryan Black, Jeremiah Johnson, and, of course, you have Dustin Wright and La David Johnson as well. So we have special forces that are trained well, they're going to have a good partnership with the Nigerian forces. We're going to get this information but things like you just asked, yes, how much do we trust the villagers, that's going to come out in the end and we're going to find out what the operational tempo was there.

But remember, there's two forms of intelligence. There's the strategic, what's happening in general, the environment, but there's also the tactical. When this mission unfolded, it went dynamic, explosive, very fast. So having that tactical intelligence, there might have been a gaffe there but that does not mean there was a general gap in the strategic intelligence.

BERMAN: You know, Colonel Leighton, you're an Air Force guy, talk to me about what the air support concern or lessons might be a better word, might be going forward. There was a drone on the site very, very quickly. We don't know if it even had the capacity to fire. There were French Mirages, French air support but they did not fire for whatever reason. So how can you change or address this concern going forward?

LEIGHTON: Well, part of it I think would be how you engage the air forces involved and what kinds of air forces do you have that are at the disposition of troops like these special forces units. So in this particular case, you've got a drone like you said, John, that was overhead, and very quickly overhead, and that tells me that they could very easily have positioned the drone if they had known that there was a troop in contact, troops in contact type situation.

[10:35:09] The French forces, they clearly responded. Perhaps there's a way to make that response quicker, although the distances involved are very, very large.

BERMAN: And, of course, the most important thing here is to make sure something like this does not happen again to improve --

BEARDSLEY: Don't forget those troops in contact --

BERMAN: -- the situation. Go ahead.

BEARDSLEY: -- were very close to the enemy forces.

BERMAN: Absolutely.

BEARDSLEY: So, you know, getting close air support, requires a little bit of distance between our forces and theirs. We don't think they had that in this incident. That's something we'll find out.

BERMAN: As you said, though, the facts are what's so important here and learning is what's so important here to make sure again things like this can be prevented if they can be prevented.

Colonel Cedric Leighton and Jason Beardsley, thanks so much for being with us. Appreciate it.

LEIGHTON: You bet, John.

BEARDSLEY: Thank you.

BERMAN: So this could be awkward, the president heading to Capitol Hill for a big meeting with Republican senators, but all morning long he's been in a brutal, bitter feud with a very powerful Republican senator.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [10:40:21] BERMAN: President Trump is headed to Capitol Hill for lunch with Republican senators. They're supposed to be talking about tax cuts. They want to hammer out a deal to cut taxes for millions of Americans.

But before this lunch a brutal, bitter back and forth between the president of the United States and the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Bob Corker, you see him on the screen right there. Senator Corker says of the president, "The debasement of our nation is what he will be remembered for," says he would not support the president again. The president responded calling Senator Corker "liddle Bob Corker" and said the senator could not get elected dog catcher in Tennessee.

Seems like a good basis to hammer out a tax deal.

Joining me now is Daniel Shapiro, founder and director of the Harvard International Negotiation Program.

Professor, thanks so much for being with us. I want to start with the back and forth today. Where in your syllabus do you cover the utility of insults, you know, calling people "liddle Bob Corker"? How does that help in a negotiation?

DANIEL SHAPIRO, FOUNDER AND DIRECTOR, HARVARD INTERNATIONAL NEGOTIATION PROGRAM: How does it help? Well, typically, an insult leads to another insult. It invites an escalation, a conflict of tension. At the end of the day I think it really depends what is your purpose in a negotiation. If it's to enlist somebody else's support, then insult probably isn't the best strategy forward.

BERMAN: In other words, probably not covered specifically in the foreword of your syllabus or in your book in how to make friends and influence people.

Look, the president considers himself one of the great deal-makers in the history of the universe. Up until this point in his presidency he hasn't been able to hammer out many deals.

You wrote that the things that made him a deal-maker, a good deal maker in the real estate community, if you believe that to be the case, don't necessarily work in politics, why?

SHAPIRO: President Trump tends to approach negotiation like a positional bargainer, and the rules of positional bargaining are very clear. You start with an extreme demand, sometimes an outrageous demand. You concede stubbornly and you demonstrate a greater willingness than the other side to walk away from the negotiation table. And this is classic Trump doctrine around negotiation.

Now it can work under certain conditions. If I'm negotiating in a suit in Morocco, that approach might work, but when we're dealing with extremely complicated issues, when relationship is incredibly important, and when the long-term interactions are also extremely important, positional bargaining tends not to work well. You know, you create enemies, information isn't transferred

effectively and ultimately the deals that you want to get done tend not to be done.

BERMAN: I think that's a great point here. When you're dealing with the U.S. Senate these lawmakers will be there tomorrow, the day after and the day after. So when you call Bob Corker "liddle Bob Corker," even though he's leaving the Senate he's there for another 14 months, so the way you negotiate this deal has ramifications even after the deal is struck.

I want to get you on another aspect of the president's deal-making. It's something called the mad man theory of international relations. Henry Kissinger said of Richard Nixon, he was so unpredictable it would leave the Vietnamese and others wondering what he might do. He might launch a nuclear weapon, for instance, and it might cause him to strike a better deal.

The president likes to use his unpredictability in all aspects of his negotiation, does that -- is there a value in unpredictability?

SHAPIRO: You know, I mean there absolutely is a value but I think in the long run, in the big scheme of things, it's not an effective strategy. I mean you put it down to a practical -- you know, to simplify the situation, every time my wife and I get into a conflict, if I threaten to walk out of the relationship or to sue her family, that's not going to help us come to good solutions to the problems that we might have.

I think in the international arena, the same basic concept holds true. Constantly threatening does not allow people to feel comfortable enough to share information, you're not building value, you're holding on to a position, threatening that, you know, if the other side does not follow through with that commission, you're going to commit an awful act on them.

It doesn't help with problem solving when what our world needs right now, I think, is much more dialog, much more problem solving.

BERMAN: Daniel Shapiro, professor, expert on negotiation, thanks so much for joining us. You're our first guest from Norway, so you made history with us here this morning.

SHAPIRO: You're welcome.

BERMAN: Thanks so much. Really appreciate it.

SHAPIRO: Thank you so much. Thank you.

BERMAN: All right. The president says he is certain not only will his wall be built but it will stop drugs from coming across the U.S.- Mexico border.

[10:45:03] Next, would drug smugglers even care if the wall was built?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BERMAN: Within days President Trump is expected to declare the opioid epidemic a national emergency. One of the tools he most often says is crucial in fighting the war on drugs is to build a wall on the border with Mexico. But here's the question, when it comes to opioids, what would this wall actually do?

Joining us now CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta has take a really close look at all these issues -- Sanjay.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, John, it's a great question and I will start off by saying, you know, look, the war on drugs as people know it is a totally different war nowadays.

[10:50:05] The drugs are so different as you're about to see in terms of potency, in terms of size, in terms of quantity, you can decide what you think if a wall would actually make a difference.


GUPTA: What is the first thing that sort of flags this?

SCOTT BROWN, SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE, HOMELAND SECURITY INVESTIGATIONS: Sometimes it's the driver's behavior. They're unnaturally nervous for crossing the border. Sometimes it's the car that hasn't crossed the border a lot or sometimes the car has crossed the border, you know, too often.

GUPTA (voice-over): What you're witnessing here are efforts in stopping drugs from coming through the U.S.-Mexican border?

BROWN: Now with almost every car crossing is crossing for a legitimate reason. It's a very small percentage that comes in carrying contraband but I think when the inspectors pick up on something their success rate is pretty high. When you saw the dog sit down at the back of the car that's how that dog alerts.

GUPTA: The special agent in charge Scott Brown oversees the Tucson field office for Homeland Security investigations and drugs are a big part of what he does.

(On camera): This is how it happens. I mean, what we're witnessing here is --

BROWN: Is what happens every day along the southwest border of the U.S. and, you know, the officers at the ports of entry are phenomenal, they're fantastic in identifying fresh tool marks that shouldn't be there. So a screw that's been recently turned, that there wouldn't be a reason for it to be turned. They can pick up on that. I mean, they are experts on what they do.

GUPTA: Was it human art and intelligence together?

BROWN: Yes. Absolutely.

GUPTA (voice-over): What they find? About 24 kilos of hard drugs. Minutes later, field testing reveals cocaine. (On camera): This is a win today.

BROWN: This is definitely a win.

GUPTA (voice-over): In the midst of the country's opioid epidemic, President Trump has made building up the wall a cornerstone of his agenda.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The wall is going to get built. Just in case anybody has any question, the wall is going to get built and the wall is going to stop drugs.

GUPTA: But I wanted to learn just how effective the wall would be at accomplishing that.

(On camera): This literally is a physical wall between two countries that we're looking at here.

BROWN: The vast amount of hard narcotics don't come through in places like this. The vast amount of hard narcotics come through at the ports of entry where we just were.

GUPTA (voice-over): And besides meth, cocaine, heroin or marijuana, it's fentanyl which is 50 times stronger than heroin, it's the biggest challenge nowadays. The most recent numbers for the Centers for Disease Control found that overdose deaths from synthetic opioids like fentanyl rose over 72 percent in just a year.

(On camera): In the past cartels might try and smuggle 100 kilograms of drugs across the border. It wasn't easy to do. They were likely to get caught. But here's part of the problem. Nowadays, they can smuggle across something that looks like this.

This is just a one kilogram bag of flour but if this were street fentanyl it would cost about $8,000 to make, could be turned into a million pills and then sold for $20 million to $30 million on the black market. All of that from a small container that looks like this.

BROWN: The vast majority of fentanyl is produced in China. It comes into the U.S. two ways. You know, it comes into Mexico where it's easy to pressed into pill form or combined with heroin. The other way it comes in is American consumers buying it direct oftentimes from vendors out of China.

GUPTA: So then it gets mailed in?

BROWN: U.S. mail, which is the most common, a very small quantity of fentanyl. It's very hard to detect in the masses of letters that come into the U.S. every day.

GUPTA: How effective is a wall at preventing drugs from getting into the United States?

BROWN: In terms of hard narcotics, no, I don't know that we will get immediately safer over hard narcotics. As of right now the vast majority of hard narcotics come in through the ports of entry in deep concealment or come in through, you know, the mail or express consignments.


GUPTA: And John, I should point out when it comes to the mail, you may know this, but there's about a million pieces of mail that come in every day that have no electronic record. We don't know exactly where it came from, how many places that piece of mail may have visited beforehand, so that's the real concern. It's the drugs are so small as you saw there, John, sending the mail has become a real option for people who are trying to get this into the country.

BERMAN: Sanjay, you're holding that two pound bag of flour which if that were a package of fentanyl, you know, a million pain pills, how potent is that?

GUPTA: It's so potent, John. When I was in medical school in training, there was nothing that you'd say is 100 times more powerful than morphine but it is. It's 100 times more powerful than morphine and they're constantly manipulating it to make it even more powerful than that as well. You've heard about car fentanyl, probably. Some people have referred to it as an elephant tranquilizer. It's nuts.

And people who think about experimentation in any way, you know, experimenting with drugs, trying it once, those days are over, John.

[10:55:03] Because people who would experiment with something like this are literally putting their lives on the line nowadays given how powerful this stuff is. And again the economics as you point out, $8,000 worth of raw ingredients could be turned into $30 million. They're just going to keep trying over and over and over again with an incentive like that.

BERMAN: And again, the wall, not exactly a line of defense according to the officials you talked to against that coming into the country.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thanks so much for being with us. An important look as we face this, this week.

In the meantime, a stunning rebuke, Republican Senator Bob Corker slamming the president just before the two men will have lunch. This is getting ugly.