Return to Transcripts main page

AT THIS HOUR WITH BERMAN AND MICHAELA

More U.S. Special Forces Heading to Iraq, Syria; Baghdadi's Ex- wife, Daughter Released in Lebanese Prisoner Exchange; Officer Accused of Killing Laquan McDonald Out of Jail; Donald Trump Comes Out Swinging; Ted Cruz: Most Violent Criminals are Democrats; Protests at Officer's Trial in Freddie Gray Death Case. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired December 1, 2015 - 11:00   ET

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


[11:00:00] CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: I would like to make a quick point that today is Tuesday, #givingtuesday. A lot of charities would like you to give money to charity today and maybe stop all the spending on yourself and your loved ones.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: That would be terrific.

Christine Romans, many thanks.

Thank you for joining me today. I'm Carol Costello.

AT THIS HOUR with Berman and Bolduan starts now.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Hi there. I'm Brianna Keilar.

We have breaking news in the war against ISIS. More U.S. Special Forces are heading to Iraq and Syria. And this expands the U.S. military effort to defeat terrorists there.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Joint Chiefs of Staff chair, General Joseph Dunford, testifying before the House Armed Services Committee. Here's Secretary Carter just moments ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ASH CARTER, DEFENSE SECRETARY: In full coordination with the government of Iraq, we're deploying a specialized expeditionary targeting force to assist Iraqi and Kurdish Peshmerga forces and put even more pressure on ISIL. These Special Operators will over time be able to conduct raids, free hostages, gather intelligence, and capture ISIL leaders.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: I want to bring in Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr.

Barbara, the Pentagon last month announced there would be 50 Special Forces troops who would be sent to northern Syria to advise the battle of ISIS there. Now they're talking about more. Tell us what's happening there.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: The keyword you heard Secretary Carter say there, Brianna, was "expeditionary." That means ground forces. No way around it, we are told. They will be very mobile, starting off with a relatively small number that the Pentagon's not disclosing. But Special Operations forces being put into Iraq with the potential they, as well as those 50 already headed to northern Syria, these additional forces will go to Syria.

Some of this could come from troops already there. Some may be new troops. But the crew thing is, what are they going to be doing? They will go on raids. They will look for high-value individuals, ISIS leadership they can capture or kill. They will be going on intelligence-gathering missions.

Secretary Carter is saying the intelligence has improved a good deal in recent months but they're looking for more gains in intelligence.

All of this today, behind the scenes, is really an effort by the secretary of defense to show progress in the war against ISIS, to show new additional initiatives, to show accelerated progress, accelerated effort, because the administration has come under withering criticism that it's simply not doing enough. So Carter spelling out some of these ideas, spelling out some of these initiatives, but it will be a change. More Special Operations forces on the ground, outside the wire, so to speak. Not sitting on bays in Iraq. They will be out there. They will be on the front lines.

KEILAR: And many, Barbara, look at this and they wonder if this is going to lead to even more expanded deployments. What is your sense there?

STARR: Well, the Pentagon has been holding pretty firm that Special Operations, small, mobile, covert, lethal, is they feel the way to go for U.S. Troops. There is a lot of opposition even within the -- mainly within the Pentagon, I should say. Not looking at large combat formations, as we've seen over the last 14 years. Not looking at battalions, brigade brigades, you know, tanks, Bradley fighting vehicles. Not looking at the very traditional large combat formations. But looking at this small, lethality capability that Special Operations can bring. But very risky, very dangerous. We saw just several weeks ago the first U.S. Special Operations soldier killed in that raid in Iraq to try and free some hostages. So, this can be very difficult business. Very dangerous.

KEILAR: And we are monitoring this live hearing on Capitol Hill with Secretary Carter and Joint Chiefs Chairman Dunford. We know you'll continue to watch that for us.

Barbara, thanks so much.

Amazing images just into CNN. The ex-wife and daughter of ISIS chief, Abu Bakr al Baghdadi being released as part of a prisoner swap. This happened a short time ago on the Lebanese border. They were part of 13 Islamists handed over to al Qaeda's Syrian affiliate, the al Nusra Front. You can see black flags with the white inscription on those pickup trucks as well. This terror group freed 16 Lebanese security personnel as well as the remains of their soldier in exchange for 13 Islamists.

CNN terror analyst, Paul Cruickshank, joining us.

Paul, you have Lebanese security officials who described the arrest of al Baghdadi's wife as a high-value catch, and one year later, she's freed. Baghdadi's daughter is free. What happened here?

[11:05:01] PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Those sources are now saying that she was only married to him briefly and married to him six years ago, that they became estranged, they became divorced. She now has a new husband. And her family relations are related to al Nusra, this al Qaeda-affiliated group that organized this prisoner swap. Her brother is a senior commander in al Nusra and her new husband is also expected to be involved. That's why she's involved in this prisoner exchange in the northern Bekka Valley near the Syrian border today -- Brianna?

KEILAR: Tell us about her ties to terrorism and how extensive they are beyond Baghdadi being her ex-husband?

CRUICKSHANK: Well, she may not have any sort of ties to terrorist active involvement. It may just be the case that she was married to al Baghdadi rather than herself getting involved in terrorist operations in any way. But she does come from a family of -- that have a pedigree of involvement in jihad in Iraq, fighting against U.S. forces in Iraq. She's got all these relations and her new husband, who is suspected to be part of al Nusra and al Qaeda affiliate. This prisoner exchange was brokered by Qatar, between the Lebanese government on the one side and al Nusra, the al Qaeda affiliate, on the other side. The Lebanese soldiers being released were captured in the northern Bekka Valley in August of 2014. This is a part of Lebanon with a lot of militant groups. And al Nusra and ISIS and others have a presence in the hills around this area.

All this comes at a time when there's growing concern about the ISIS threat to Lebanon. There was, of course, that twin suicide bombing in Beirut last month by a cell which was dispatched from Syria to Lebanon to launch the attack in a Hezbollah neighborhood. ISIS trying to provoke increasing sectarian tension in Lebanon. They want the Syrian civil war to come to Beirut.

KEILAR: ISIS is not believed to have been a part of the exchange talks here, but how does this exchange relate to the terror group?

CRUICKSHANK: Well, it only relates to them inasmuch as a daughter of al Baghdadi is going to be freed, allowed to go to Turkey as part of this with her mother. The Lebanese did DNA testing on this girl. They got a DNA sample from al Baghdadi and established it was his daughter. It's not like she grew up with him. Her brother was only briefly married to al Baghdadi. For reasons we do not know, they became divorced and estranged. Her family links now, at the very least, are to al Nusra, the rival al Qaeda affiliate, that is operating in Syria -- Brianna?

KEILAR: Paul Cruickshank, thanks for your insight. We do appreciate it. I want to go to Chicago now, and allegations of a cover-up involving

the video showing the police shooting of African-American teenager, Laquan McDonald. Mayor Rahm Emanuel is expected to speak in a few minutes. The backlash is coming as the officer accused of murdering Laquan McDonald is now out of jail. After watching the video showing Jason Van Dyke shooting McDonald 16 times, a judge set his bail at $1.5 million. Several hours later, Van Dyke posted a $150,000 cash bond and he walked out of the Cook County jail. Chicago leaders -- and that includes Mayor Rahm Emanuel, as well as police superintendent, Gary McCarthy -- are facing questions of why it took more than a year for charges to be filed in this case. In just a few minutes, Emanuel is expected to announce the creation of a task force on police accountability.

Joining me now to discuss all of this is CNN national correspondent, Ryan Young.

How much do you know, Ryan, about this task force and really the scope of what it's going to consider?

RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's what we're all wondering right now, how far will this task force go? Gary McCarthy has said over and over again, he didn't have the power to fire this officer. Will this change anything? What will be the steps? People want to hear the Benchmarks for this new task force that will be formed. Of course, that news conference coming in about an hour from now. We hope to learn some details.

There's already two citizen review boards involved in the process when it comes to officers. Gary McCarthy said over and over that what he did with this officer is he suspended his police powers and had him on a desk for quite some time. You have people in the community who -- when they watch that video, they were very upset. They said this is the kind of thing they want to see changed in the city of Chicago. When you see video like that, they believe this officer should have been fired immediately. There's a political process and a court process that has to happen. Now, we do know the state's attorney here said she did a thorough investigation by bringing in other outside entities, like the federal authorities, to help go alongside with this investigation. When she did bring charges, everything was buttoned up. People don't want to hear that. They want to hear and see results and they're hoping for benchmarks from the top brass. In fact, in today's paper, they're calling for the firing of Superintendent Gary McCarthy.

[11:10:31] KEILAR: And they also -- people want to know, Ryan, why it took more than a year for this video to be released and for charges to be filed. What's the explanation there?

YOUNG: You know, again, they keep going to the fact of the investigation. But when you have all these things swirling around this one, whether or not video was deleted, they say that did not happen. When you have people -- there are people there who were witnesses and told not to speak. People want to know why that at every stop, why was the video blocked from coming out? You have a visceral reaction from people on the streets, and as they were marching on Black Friday up and down Michigan Avenue, that's all they kept talking about, if someone had opened fire 16 times on someone like this, they would have been charged immediately. Why did that happen for the police officer? Look, all the people at the top now have to answer this because people are engaged in the process. They want to know what's going to be the next step. Of course, hopefully, in a few minutes from now, we'll hear how this process will change in the city of Chicago. People believe this is going on all the time. We have other people coming forward, talking about how their families were treated, and they're hoping for a change here, especially with the top brass.

KEILAR: Ryan, we'll be checking back in with you.

Ryan Young for us in Chicago.

Next, Ted Cruz says that most violent felons are Democrats. But he doesn't stop there. What the rising Republican said about condoms, birth control, and what he did in college.

Plus, pilot's now getting the blame for the AirAsia crash that killed more than 160 people on board. Hear what the investigation found and what the passengers went through during their final moments.

And they're jurors who could set the tone for the Baltimore cops accused in Freddie Gray's death, but who will lawyers choose? We'll be taking you there live.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:16:17] KEILAR: Republican front-runner, Donald Trump, came out swinging in Macon, Georgia, last night where he left no candidate untouched.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE & CEO, TRUMP ORGANIZATION: She doesn't have the strength or the stamina to be president.

Governor Bush, I mean, honestly?

(BOOING)

TRUMP: It's over. Lindsey Graham, disaster.

Let's see, Christie hasn't hit me yet. He will. He has to. He has no choice. He's at two or three.

Cruz is going to have to hit me because -- you know, he's a nice guy. He's been so supportive. Everything I've said, he's supported, but at some point, he has to hit me, right? It will be a sad day, but we will hit back, I promise.

Biggest crowds, by far, so much bigger than Bernie Sanders. You always hear about Bernie Sanders. Our crowd --

(BOOING) TRUMP: No. May he rest in peace.

(LAUGHTER)

You know he had an operation today. I think it was a hernia operation.

(LAUGHTER)

You know? You know why? Carrying around too much tax problems.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: Former New York City Mayor Giuliani had this to say about Trump's tactics.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED CNN ANCHOR: Had you said that when you were running, what would have happened?

RUDY GIULIANI, (R), FORMER NEW YORK CITY MAYOR: I would have been thrown out of the race. He's judged by a different standard. Maybe it's because of his background on "The Apprentice," an entertainer.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: Joining me now to discuss this is former deputy chief of staff -- pardon me -- let's see, deputy chief of staff under majority leader, Eric Cantor -- my bad, Doug Heye -- so sorry. He's also former RNC communications director. And we also have Errol Lewis, a CNN political contributor and political anchor at Time Warner Cable News.

Errol, you weren't even save here. Donald Trump tweeted this yesterday. He said, "When will CNN get some real political talent rather than political commentators, like Errol Lewis, who doesn't have a clue? Others bad also."

OK, so Errol, here's your chance to respond to that. Also, just how far you think he's going to take this attack mode. Possibly to the White House?

ERROL LEWIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I guess lots of people are bad in Donald Trump's eyes. Among those doing commentary on CNN. I'm glad he spelled my name right and sent it to five million people. I had a sit-down with Trump in Trump Tower five years ago back when he was talking about running for president in the past. I would love to have a sit-down again. I don't take it too seriously. As Giuliani put it, there's a lot of entertaining going on here. No so much campaigning as entertaining. I'll play along. I'll wear my Trump tie. I actually have a few of them. But there are some series issues as well and, hopefully, we can get to those.

KEILAR: Doug, what do you think about this? You saw all these comments he made last night. It was back-to-back insults. What's your reaction?

DOUG HEYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yeah, I'd actually echo Errol's last point. As a long-time Don Rickles fan, that's not what we need. Everything you showed was an insult about this candidate or that candidate. We didn't hear any solution for growing jobs or wages. We didn't hear any talk about how he's actually going to defeat is, how he's going to build a wall, make Mexico pay for it, what to do with illegal immigrants who are already here. It's nothing but insults. He doesn't have any answers.

KEILAR: Ted Cruz said something yesterday that grabbed headlines. He said yesterday that "most violent criminals are Democrats." Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. TED CRUZ, (R), TEXAS & PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Every time you have some sort of violent crime or mass killing, you can almost see the media salivating, hoping, hoping desperately that the murderer happens to be a Republican.

Here's the simple and undeniable fact, the overwhelming majority of violent criminals are Democrats.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[11:20:08] Doug, what do you think about that, especially the timing of where you see Cruz trying to seize this moment to get some attention?

HEYE: You know, I look back at my Twitter feed after the awful, awful, condemnable attacks in Colorado Springs happened. Before we even knew exactly what happened, we saw blame trying to be assigned. My Twitter feed from journalists, from activists, was all filled with people trying to place blame on Republicans, place blame on pro- lifers. That's not what we need in our American politics right now. We need to find issues where we can come together, issues where we can find solutions. Obviously, there are a lot of disagreements. But trying to cast political blame on every difference we have in this country really isn't a path forward.

KEILAR: What do you think, Errol?

LEWIS: Having covered a lot of crimes and crime scenes over the last 30 years, my impression is that people who are violent criminals are sociopaths. They're not the kinds who are going to wait in line on Election Day and declare allegiance to one party or the other. To the extent there's any meaningful content to what Ted Cruz is saying, I think he was sort of getting his facts backwards. He cited a study showing that most people after they get out of prison, if they are allowed to return to voting, which is a patchwork of different laws around the country, many of them end up registering as Democrats. That's somewhat understandable, I guess. There's an old saying that Republican's a Democrat who's been mugged. The opposite is a Democrat is a Republican who's been to prison. You feel the heavy hand of government on you, maybe you're a little more skeptical, maybe a little more respectful toward civil and human rights after that. KEILAR: I have room for one more here, so I want to ask you about

this, Doug. This is something Cruz said yesterday, that "The GOP isn't the condom police."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CRUZ: Last I checked, we don't have a rubber shortage in America.

(LAUGHTER)

But, look, when I was in college, we had a machine in the bathroom. You put 50 cents in --

(LAUGHTER)

CRUZ: -- and, voila!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: OK. What is going on here, Doug Heye?

HEYE: You know, I'm on a university campus right now. I hope those kinds of activities aren't necessarily happening. But, look, when Republicans talk about serious issues with access to contraceptive and Obamacare, we're talking very specifically about religious freedoms, protecting the rights of the Little Sisters for the Poor, where Kevin Walsh is doing some really significant legal work, but we're not talking about trying to take things away from anybody. We're not talking about limiting access to contraceptives. I think that's where Republicans need to keep the focus on.

KEILAR: Errol Lewis and Doug Heye, who I should mention is a Harvard fellow, this semester, thank you for being on.

LEWIS: Thank you.

HEYE: Thank you.

KEILAR: Next story, pastors clash over a meeting with Donald Trump. One slamming some of the leaders who went, comparing them to prostitutes. But all Donald Trump sees is love in the room. We'll explain that.

Plus, jury selection under way in the trial for one of the Baltimore police officers involved in the Freddie Gray death. Potential jurors are being questioned. The big question, can the officer receive a fair trial?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:27:30] KEILAR: In Baltimore --

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Black lives matter!

(SHOUTING)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Black lives matter!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: There are more protests expected today as the first of six police officers prepares to go on trial in the death last April -- in the case of the death last April of Freddie Gray. He died in police custody, you may recall. Jury selection resumes for William Porter, one of the officers who responded after Gray was already in custody. And he's pleaded not guilty to manslaughter, assault and reckless endangerment.

CNN's Jean Casarez is covering this for us today.

Are we expecting the jury to actually be seated today, Jean?

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No, I don't think so. The judge just said to the potential jurors that we should have a jury and the trial should begin in the next couple of days, which is interesting language right there. Right now, jury selection continues. 75 are in the brand-new pool that are in the courthouse. They've been doing general questions. We have some facts and figures that I think are interesting. First of all, 75 potential jurors, 44 of them are African-Americans, 27 of them are white. Two of them personally knew Freddie Gray. All of them knew of Freddie Gray and know about this trial. All of them but one knew about the civil settlement, $6.4 million that was awarded to his family several months ago. They all knew about the curfew. They were all under the curfew that happened in May.

Another interesting statistic, 46 of them, that would be 61 percent, so over half, have either been a victim of a crime, investigated by law enforcement, charged with a crime, convicted of a crime, incarcerated or have current charges. 61 percent of them. And, of course, various answers in regard to, do you tend to take and listen to law enforcement testimony more or less? It was both sides of the plate on that.

Right now, Brianna, they're in individual questioning, so that's probably what will happen the rest of the day. That's where the attorneys and the defendant, William Porter, and the judge go into a conference room and, one by one, jurors go in there.

I want to say William Porter -- Miguel Marquez, my colleague is in the courtroom right now, and he says William Porter, the defendant, police officer in Baltimore, so serious with his lawyers. He's taking notes, he talks with his lawyers, he goes up to every side bar. That's exactly what I saw yesterday afternoon in court.

[11:30:02] KEILAR: Jean, this is going to be ongoing. We know you're following it for us. Thank you so much.

Jean Casarez for us in Baltimore.

CASAREZ: Thank you. KEILAR: Coming up, new endorsements and a new beef with Donald Trump.