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Protests in Tehran; Israel and Iran on Brink of War; Hawaii's Volcano Eruption; White House Aide Mocks McCain; VA Secretary Nominee. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired May 11, 2018 - 06:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[06:30:00] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Of something very, very ugly? We have live reports from Tehran and Jerusalem, a very big event coming up there for the United States very soon, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CUOMO: Iran is condemning Israel's military strikes in Syria, but they are not acknowledging the rockets that were fired into the Golan Heights from Syria. Now there are anti-American protests in Tehran after President Trump pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal.

CNN's Fred Pleitgen is live in Tehran.

What are you experiencing on the streets, my friend?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Chris.

Yes, those protests just came to an end and they were massive, Chris. I've been at these Friday prayers many, many times and I can tell you, this time the protests were much larger and they were much more directed specifically at President Trump and at Israel as well. There were a lot of people chanting "death to America," burning American flags, stepping on American flags, spitting on American flags. So the hardliners had a clear message for President Trump. No matter how hard the U.S. is going to be on Iran, they are not going to back down.

[06:35:09] But you're absolutely right, they're not acknowledging that military action that took place there in the Golan Heights. The main anger that we're seeing here is that the U.S. pulling out of the nuclear agreements. But if you ask people, Chris, on the Iranian street, they will tell you they are extremely concerned about their economic situation, about rising prices, about being isolated even more than they were before and now possibly being involved in escalation there in the Middle East as well, Alisyn.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: OK, Fred, thank you very much for the update from the ground there.

Meanwhile, the Israeli government claims it destroyed nearly all of Iran's military capabilities in Syria in retaliation for that rocket attack on the Golan Heights. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claims the Iranians have, quote, crossed a red line.

Nic Robertson is live for us from Jerusalem with more.

What's the latest, Nic?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes, Alisyn, good morning.

Prime Minister Netanyahu describes this as an ongoing scenario, that Iran did cross that red line, that a message has been sent to President Assad of Syria that Iran cannot base its military capabilities inside Syria and threaten Israel. He said that if anyone attacks Israel, then they will receive that seven times over. This is what he says we've done in the past, what we're going to continue doing in the future.

So the view from here is, has Iran now withheld its strategic patience, its strategic decision not to strike back at previous Israeli strikes on Iranian positions inside Syria that have killed Syrian forces in the recent months following President Trump's decision to pull out of that agreement. Did they then decide to go ahead and strike? Does it mean the hardliners -- hardline Iranians on the ground inside Syria are now outpacing the more moderates in the political leadership in Tehran? And that is a question that perhaps the Europeans can help solve if they can continue to keep the JCPOA, that nuclear deal, still alive with Iran. But European diplomats don't believe that's possible. Is it shading toward the hardliners in the ascendency? If it is, then that means there really is the potential for increased violence.

Chris.

CUOMO: Boy, it's such an interesting break. You have the European allies saying that this deal is all important to maintaining peace in the region and the president of the United States feels that it is all but meaningless. Delicate. Dangerous.

Nic Robertson, thank you very much.

All right, so this Florida sheriff's deputy trying desperately to save a baby's life after realizing an ambulance just wasn't going to get there in time. It's all captured on video and we bring it to you next. A case for angels among us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[06:41:49] CAMEROTA: A Pentagon investigation says a lack of adequate training and a series of failures and efficiencies contributed to the deadly ambush in Niger last October that killed four American soldiers. The report also finds two junior officers falsified a document to get approval for the mission to track down a local ISIS leader. That mission was never approved by the proper chain of command.

CUOMO: The U.S. government apologizing for a diplomatic incident involving a Canadian cabinet minister at the airport in Detroit last month. The minister, his name is Navdeep Bains, says he was subjected to a discriminatory security check when he was asked to remove his turban. The TSA says the screening officer did not follow standard procedures and has received additional training.

CAMEROTA: OK, so watch this heart-pounding scene in Florida. It was caught on video. You're about to see Deputy Jeremie Nix. He rushes towards the woman and he take the three-month-old baby out of her arms. It turns out the infant was not breathing. Deputy Nix jumps into action and instead of waiting for an ambulance, he takes the baby to the ER himself. Luckily, they got there just in time. And we are happy to report this morning that baby Kingston is doing just fine because of the quick thinking of that deputy.

CUOMO: Boy, oh, boy, I'll tell you, I remember taking the classes on CPR for the babies and which way to turn them and what to do and the compressions and not the breath and I was like always paralyzed with fear. These guys, in the moment, the most fragile situation they can encounter, they go right toward it, they solve it, live saving.

CAMEROTA: Me too. It's bad when all you can do is pray you're never in that situation, which is what I've relied on. But thank God there are deputies like that around.

CUOMO: All right, right now, no volcanic activity reported on Hawaii's big island. But there is an enormous threat looming. Why? Because of this steam-driven explosion phenomenon at the erupting Kilauea volcano. So it's not just the lava, it's the steam. And it can propel all kinds of debris skyward, including huge boulders. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is closed indefinitely due to the threat.

CNN's Chad Myers joins us now.

I mean what a combination of stuff that they've had to deal with there.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes. When you think of Kilauea, you think of the lava that just flows downhill. I've seen it. I've stood on top of it and watched it go by on the big island. You don't expect this, boulders flying out of the top. The last time it happened, 1924. It could happen again this year.

This update is brought to you by Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, packed with goodness.

Now, how do we get to this place? Well, we have a lava lake in Kilauea. It has been full. But it's no longer full. It's draining. The lava's going somewhere else. It's going to Leilani Estates. But now we can't even see it anymore. When it gets down to the water table, that is going to be the problem. The magma going down to the water table. You get down there to where there's no more pressure holding these rocks down here, and there's going to be a cork that flies out of this volcano, if it continues to fall.

Now that -- we're not saying it is going to happen. It still could happen here. This is where the lava has been in the Leilani Estates. About the size of six football fields -- 60 football fields. That volcano, way over here, 20 miles away, this is the area that could see the rocks flying into the sky. [06:45:13] Now, the good news is, the entire -- where we think the

rocks we fall is inside the national park. And that national park is now officially closed.

CAMEROTA: OK, Chad, thank you very much for giving us all of that explanation.

MYERS: You're welcome.

CAMEROTA: All right, so what do veterans think of that horrible or the horrible joke about Senator John McCain made by a White House staffer? Well, an Iraq War vet, who happens to be the CEO of a non-profit veteran's organization is going to join us with reaction, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CUOMO: A White House aide sparking backlash after dismissing Senator John McCain's opposition to the president's CIA nominee by saying, quote, it doesn't matter, he's dying anyway. Bad joke? Really raw and ugly insult? Either way it doesn't matter, it's about the response to it by those in power.

[06:50:04] The White House isn't disputing it, but they didn't say it was wrong. They put out a statement of condolence to the McCain family during this time, praying, wishing well. Nothing from leaders in Congress. Nothing from the president himself.

Does this matter? Are we making too much of it? Let's discuss with Paul Rieckhoff. He's a veteran of the Iraq War, founder and CEO of the non-profit organization Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.

Always good to see you, brother.

PAUL RIECKHOFF, FOUNDER AND CEO, IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN VETERANS OF AMERICA: Good to see you, Chris.

CUOMO: What am I getting wrong about this? Let's say it was a joke. I don't know Ms. Sadler. I don't know the context. She was in some meeting. But she said something that's ugly and stupid. You would expect the boss to own it, the White House to say, we don't talk this way, we don't this this way, we won't allow it this way. But none of that happened.

RIECKHOFF: Right. Right. I mean it's outrageous and it's disgusting. It's shameful. It's bad for America. It's bad for our dialogue.

You know, John McCain, I have had the honor of working with on the G.I. bill and many other pieces of legislation. We don't always agree, but everybody respects him. He really has a reverence in the Senate and I think that's appropriate.

He's a tough guy. He will be able to handle this. But he's got a family, right? Like there are people watching who are beyond him, right? We all have kids. Our kids are watching. So I really think it's about the command climate that's coming out of the White House right now. When you're the president, you set the tone. And you've got to come down on stuff like this because it's just bad for the country. And it's outrageous. It shouldn't be allowed.

CUOMO: Yes, Senator Graham says that Cindy McCain is monitoring a little bit of what media John McCain takes in.

RIECKHOFF: Yes.

CUOMO: And let me tell you something, the White House should be thankful for that if it's true --

RIECKHOFF: Yes.

CUOMO: Because you don't want this guy on the wrong side of you. He is a fighter. They call him --

RIECKHOFF: Yes. Is this what happens when you have a political debate now? Like it's got to go to that little personal attack, right, and that's the problem.

CUOMO: Well, that's the problem, it is. And we saw proof of it.

RIECKHOFF: Yes.

CUOMO: We saw proof of two bad things, right?

So Fox Business has this guy on yesterday. He's a veteran.

RIECKHOFF: Right.

CUOMO: He was a lieutenant, but he's a well-known commentator. And he says really ugly and untrue stuff. We need to do torture. Why? Because it works. Look at John McCain. It worked on him. That's why they call him the songbird. Nobody calls him that. He had a chance to get out of torture. He stayed. We all know the story. It was horrible and ugly.

RIECKHOFF: Yes.

CUOMO: He got thanked for the comments on Fox Business and then they put out a statement.

RIECKHOFF: Yes.

CUOMO: The president doesn't say anything about these things because he's said the same kinds of things himself.

RIECKHOFF: Right. Yes.

CUOMO: So what does it mean to the men and women who fight these wars and who are around those kinds of methods and now have to hear this kind of talk at home?

RIECKHOFF: Well, veterans don't think it's OK, all right. Veterans are outraged. I haven't talked to anybody who said, yes, this is OK, right? Not a single person. I'm sure maybe there's one or two out there, but it doesn't seem to be bubbling up in the community in that way. And I think there's another piece of this. Like we're -- we've got men

and women fighting overseas and they're taking bullets and they're in harm's way and they look back and they say, is this what's happening back home. So it's demoralizing on some level, but I think it's also factually inaccurate. Torture doesn't work. It's been -- I mean unless you've been hiding under a rock for the last 15 years, you should know by now that torture doesn't work. And it's also bad for our military. It puts our troops in harm's way. It sets a bad precedent. Part of why thousands of soldiers gave up in the first Gulf War is because they knew if they were captured they would be treated well by Americans, right?

If you implement a system of torture, people will fight to their dying breath. And that makes it a lot harder for our troops. I want them to go into the battlefield and have everybody give up. That would be awesome. And I think most American troops want the same thing. So why make it harder for them? That's a different angle on torture that I think troops understand, that some of these, you know, policy pundits don't.

CUOMO: It sounds hard so you think it will work, the reality on the ground different, as you would know. Policy concerns for the brothers and sisters who protect this country. Still no VA secretary.

RIECKHOFF: Yes.

CUOMO: The word -- the name Brian Mast, though, veteran, well-known within the Washington circles, respected.

RIECKHOFF: Right.

CUOMO: The president's supposedly considering him. What does that sound like to you guys?

RIECKHOFF: I know Brian Mast. We've worked with him. We actually recently introduced a piece of Burn Pit legislation, which is really important. Burn Pit could be our generation's Agent Orange. He's working with Tulsi Gabbard and the Democrats. We've got two young vets working together. You know, Brian Mast is an amputee. He's been through it. It's a new voice. It's someone that our generation definitely had a lot of --

CUOMO: Qualified? Think he could handle it?

RIECKHOFF: We'll see. I mean that's what the vetting process should be.

CUOMO: But so far so good?

RIECKHOFF: I mean he's a different kind of a candidate. He's a younger candidate, which is what we need. We need energy and focus. We need someone who can work across partisan lines.

But right now the bottom line is that this has been a rotation of names. I mean a guy who was leading in our office pool last week was Kanye because we don't know who it's -- we don't know who it's going to be. We really don't.

CUOMO: (INAUDIBLE).

RIECKHOFF: It's become a circus. And that's bad for veterans. Veterans are walking into VA hospitals right now, and next to President Trump, where there's a picture normally of the VA secretary, there's nobody. There's nobody. We don't have a leader, and that's bad. That's really bad and it's got to get fixed.

CUOMO: All right, so let's talk about the good things that we have coming up. Mother's Day this weekend. God bless the moms. Important for veterans too. So many moms in the service. Memorial Day coming up as well. What do you want people to remember for these occasions?

RIECKHOFF: Well, for this weekend, you know, we've tried to elevate, recognize, and support women veterans. About 20 percent of IAVA members are women. They're fighting, they're dying, they're serving in harm's way.

But the extended family, you know, we all have mothers who waited for us at home. We served with mothers. And it's a really important time to reflect and also focus on action. So we've got a bill called the Deborah Sampson Act that will expand support for women veterans. Ask every member of Congress to support them.

[06:55:14] You know, flowers are nice, but taking lasting action is what we really need. Also, a lot of progress on Burn Pit. This is an issue I hope you'll cover in the next couple years. Over 80 percent of our members feel like they were exposed to toxins while they were overseas. The long-term health impacts are unknown. It could be a cancer causer. It could be our generation's Agent Orange. We've got a bill now. And that's going to be important. We need everybody to support that as well.

CUOMO: We get the word out there, as promised.

Thank you for your service.

RIECKHOFF: Thanks.

CUOMO: Thank you for coming in this morning. Appreciate it.

RIECKHOFF: Thank you, man. Always.

CUOMO: And the best to the moms in your life.

RIECKHOFF: Thank you, sir. Back at you.

CUOMO: All right.

Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: White House staffer Kelly Sadler's comments about Senator John McCain drawing widespread condemnation, but we have not heard from top Republican leaders how they feel about it. Where are Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell? We discuss that ahead. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kelly Sadler, she was on a phone call, said, he's dying anyway.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's too bad that this got out. I'm sure that Kelly is -- didn't mean what she said.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To say something like that about a man who's given this much to his country is just beneath contempt.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So we're building the wall. We're getting it all done. We're going to get rid of catch and release.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He thinks that the head of DHS should be able to push a button and change immigration policy.

[07:00:01] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She was on the verge of resigning and had, in fact, drafted a resignation letter.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president's done a good thing here. We have three detainees back.

TRUMP: We're going to make a great deal for the world with North Korea.