and when youod sugar is a replace one meal... choices. ...or snack a day with glucerna... ...made with carbsteady... ...to help minimize blood sugar spikes... ...you can really feel it. now with 30% less carbs and sugars. glucerna. hello. i'm wolf blitzer. it's 1:00 p.m. here in washington. 8:00 p.m. in raqqah, syria. 1:30 a.m. saturday morning in pyongyang, north korea. wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks very much for joining us. no soldier was left behind, that's the emphasis from the defense secretary james mattis talking about sergeant la david johnson, he's one of four u.s. troops killed in the ambush in niger more than two weeks ago. his body wasn't recovered until 48 hours after the ambush. there's been a question dogging the pentagon.
>> he was abandoned for two days, for 48 hours. why? why didn't they pick him up and put him on their shoulders like they did the other fallen comrades? and put him on a helicopter and take him to safety. he could have still been alive. >> democratic congresswoman frederica wilson is demanding answers. she also wants an apology from president trump for what she says was an insensitive phone call to sergeant johnson's widow. meanwhile, defense secretary mattis is strongly defending the troops and the military code. >> the u.s. military does not leave its troops behind. and i would just ask that you not question the actions of the troops that were caught in the fire fight. sergeant johnson was found later by local nationals and it says something that they would then endeavor to get the body back to us. >> secretary mattis is headed back to capitol hill to talk with senator john mccain, the
chairman of the senate armed services committee. senator mccain complained that the white house was not forthcoming with details on the ambush. here with us right now are our military diplomatic analyst john kirby, spokesman for the pentagon and state department. john, secretary mattis is making a point there that no one was left behind. it's been a key question from this incident. what else are you hearing from the pentagon? >> i'm hearing the same thing, wolf, from pentagon sources about how strongly they're pushing back on this idea that sergeant johnson was left behind or abandoned in any way. now, they're not giving a lot of detail because they're citing an investigation that's ongoing to try to get to the root of what happened here in this ambush. but yesterday director of the joint staff did go up to the podium at the pentagon briefing and also pushed back on this notion that sergeant johnson was left behind. take a listen. >> from the moment of contact no one was left behind, either u.s., our partner nigerian
forces or french forces were on the ground actively searching for this soldier. the fact of the matter is it's a battlefield. we just had a significant engagement. it's tough country. it's in the middle of nowhere. it's not as clear perhaps as the bright lights of this briefing room. but a lot of men and women searched very hard to find him. took a while to do that. we zersearched until we found h and brought him home. the sense it was somehow a desolate site, we went back didn't search for the soldier, nothing could be further from the truth. >> so what i'm hearing, wolf, is that during this time, these 48 hours, actually within the immediate minutes after the ambush, french jets were overhead, french helicopters were overhead also trying to see if they could engage and help inside the ambush. they're working through the results of that and how that may have unfolded. but french helicopters did evacuate the wounded very, very soon after the ambush. then contract helicopters came
in and rescued and took off the dead, the killed in action. and then on the ground for the entire next 48 hours you had u.s., you had french and nigerian troops looking for sergeant johnson. they knew quickly he was missing and never lost sight trying to find him and get him back. >> john, we're now told the fbi is actually on the scene in niger helping with the investigation. is this unusual that the u.s. military has brought in the fbi to aid in this investigation? >> it's not unprecedented, certainly we have had fbi help before in military investigations, particularly when there's loss of life or major casualties, but it is a little unusual. i think it speaks to a couple of things, first, they have a presence there in africa because we are so widespread and counterterrorism fight there. and number two, it does speak a little bit to the intelligence picture and the degree to which that was probably unclear. so i think they're really going to bring their forensic skills to bear to try to help the military wrap their arms around how this happened and how the
intel may have been so wrong. >> john kirby helping us appreciate the enormity of this continuing story. thanks very much. president trump fires another shot in the war of words over honoring fallen service members. the white house doubles down on calling a lawmaker an empty barrel. the president's latest sal vo came hours after the white chief of staff defended in a very personal message. the message again took direct aim at a lawmaker who criticized his condolence call to a soldier's family tweeting this, this is from the president, the fake news is going crazy with wacky congresswoman wilson, d, democrat, who was secretly on a very personal call and gave a total lie on content. on cnn's new day earlier today you had congresswoman frederica wilson fired right back. she rejected the notion she misinterpreted the president's intent during the condolence call in which he said sergeant la david johnson knew what he
was getting into. >> that is not a good message to say to anyone who has lost a child at war. you don't sign up because you think you're going to die. you sign up to serve your country. you say i am so sorry that you lost your husband, myesha johnson, you call her by her name, and you say your husband. you don't say your guy. they were married. and you say i am so sorry. you have our deepest sympathy. if there's anything this nation can do to ease your pain, as your president, please let me know. i am so sorry. >> our white house correspondent sarah murray is joining us now from the white house. sarah, the white house just released a new statement on this. tell our viewers what they're saying. >> well, wolf, we asked the white house to clarify what
general kelly was talking about yesterday when he was referring to the congresswoman speaking at this event. if you watch the video of her at this event, she does do a little bit of patting herself on the back. she does take a sort of brag tone but what she's talking about in the video doesn't really sync with what john kelly described her doing yesterday in the briefing room. but the white house is standing by kelly. general kelly saying he was stunned that representative wilson made comments at a building dedication honoring slain fbi agents about her own actions in congress including lobbying former president obama on legislation as general kelly pointed out if you're able to make a sacred act like honoring american heroes about yourself, you are an empty barrel. the white house not backing down from this language in any way, wolf. >> not at all. the white house chief of staff kelly you point out says he was stunned and brokenhearted that the congresswoman politicized something as sacred as this condolence call, but did he also
acknowledge that the president really started all the politicalization in response earlier in the week to a question from you? >> well, wolf, that's one of the unfortunate things about this situation is that everyone seems to be upset that this is being politicized and then everyone seems to be taking the next step and dragging this further into a political battle. obviously this started with the president. i asked him basically why we hadn't heard him say anything about this attack, this ambush in niger. and he turned it into sort of a political swar boarding comparing what he was doing in terms of our outreach with the family, what president obama had done, what previous presidents had done. there's no acknowledgment of that from john kelly and certainly in many ways even though kelly was in the briefing room sharing his own terrible experiences about losing his son trying to emphasize with family who is have made the ultimate sacrifice his own family, he is a gold star father himself rksz but he also took that swipe at the congresswoman and that's sort of where we're at today, wolf. >> real swipe calling her an empty barrel.
all right, sara murray, thank you very much. the four soldiers killed in niger were providing advice and assistance to local security forces and counterterrorism operations. but there are now serious questions, a lot of questions, in fact more questions than answers about exactly what happened. let's get some further perspective. lisa monaco is joining us, she's a cnn senior security analyst former assistant to president obama for homeland security and counterterrorism. lisa, what's your analysis? i was surprised to hear that the pentagon, the u.s. military is now bringing the fbi into this investigation in niger. it's pretty unusual. >> well, i think john kirby had it right. it is not unprecedented for the fbi to work with their military colleagues on an investigation like this. of course the fbi has responsibility for investigating the deaths of americans overseas. they have a very extensive international presence. they have legal attaches all around the world including in west africa, their closest legal
atta is in nigeria. i'm not surprised they're calling upon their expertise for a military death here, but as john said it's not unprecedented. >> not unprecedented but pretty unusual. what is the u.s. role over there? a lot of americans woke up and discovered four american troops were killed in niger and they asked themselves the obvious question, what were american combat troops doing in niger? i assume this was going on during the obama administration as well. >> sure, i think what you're seeing here is and unfortunately it's under very tragic circumstances that we're focusing and people will focus now on the fact that our counterterrorism operations frankly since 9/11 and increasingly so have to rely on and in partnership with international partners. and you heard secretary mattis talk about this, talking about working by, with and through local partners. and what i think we understand thus far about what these brave soldiers were doing on the ground working with the local
officials there and the local security services there. so that's not unusual. but it's not a household name, right? niger in our work with local forces there. >> i heard the defense secretary james mattis say the other day there are about 1,000 u.s. military personnel in niger, probably many more civilians, civilian contractors. that's a pretty significant number. but you send out a group of soldiers like this just with rifles, there are isis terrorists out there much better armed, you know, there's an aircraft that flies over, a french mirage jet, but under the rules that the government of niger put forward they can't actually launch strikes from the air to try to protect these troops. they seem to be going in very dangerous circumstances. >> that's exactly right. and two i think very important points to focus on here. one is the presence of the french forces. now, you referenced our thousand troops in the area and that is a significant number. and it's been growing over time. and that's because we've seen
islamic militants grow over time, whether it's boko haram, whether it's al qaeda in the islamic ma greb and increasingly affiliates for isis. so we have been working steadily across the obama administration and now to this administration with the french who've been historically taking the lead in that area. and that's why you saw them have a much more significant presence and bring the support in. but also i took note of the reports that said the vehicle that these soldiers were traveling in was unarmored, which indicates to me that they did not think they were going to confront enemy fire there. and i think that's a number of -- one of a number of questions that the congress and others are going to have here. what was the intelligence picture? why were these some 12 member i think green beret team, why were they surprised by the presence of 50 islamic militants? that's a significant number. what did the intelligence picture show? was it coordinated across the rest of the intelligence community? was the cia and other members of
the intelligence community involved in this picture? who approved this? how did it get approved? what were the questions asked in advance? so there's a lot of questions to be asked here and i think we heard yesterday from chairman mccain about the number of questions he has. i imagine there's going to be a whole slew of briefings taking part. >> senator john mccain's meeting with senator mattis later today. he's outraged, a lot of people are outraged. they seem to suggest there was a major intelligence blunder. they want to learn what happened to make sure it doesn't happen again because there's still 1,000 u.s. troops over there. they're going out in these vehicles that aren't even armored and if they don't have the weapons or air cover, this is an extremely dangerous situation given the fact that isis-supported terrorists are now very, very prevalent not only in niger but elsewhere in africa as well. lisa, thank you very much for your analysis, lisa monaco. joining us just ahead, former cia director james woolsey, he'll join us live. he has interesting thoughts on what he thinks happened in this ambush.
plus, a president's club without the president, just one day after george w. bush and barack obama attack president trump, didn't mention by name but it was clear who they were referring to, you're going to hear why all five living former presidents are appearing together and didn't invite the current commander in chief. at least he's not going to be with them. we'll update you on that. also, an unprecedented move at a nuclear standoff, north korea writing letters to countries around the world asking them to unite against president trump. t-mobile's unlimited now includes netflix on us. that's right. netflix on us. get 4 unlimited lines for just $40 bucks each. taxes and fees included. and now netflix included.
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u.s. is running out of time to resolve this peacefully. >> the president's been extremely clear on his perspective on north korea. he's not going to accept this regime threatening the united states with a nuclear weapon. he won't accept it. so there are those who've said what about accept and deter. well, accept and deter is unacceptable. so this puts us in a situation where we are in a race to resolve this short of military action. everybody knows it. >> want to bring in our cnn political director david chalean here at the minimum wagagic wal. we have new polling on the threat from north korea and how the american public feels about the way the american president, president trump, has responded. >> that's right, wolf. various threats to the united states, north korea you can see
is way up there, 6 2% of americans in this brand new cnn poll says north korea is a very serious threat. everything else is well below that. that has skyrocketed this year as we've seen the rhetoric heat up. we also asked the people, is donald trump handling the north korea issue recklessly or responsibly? and take a look at this answer here. 63% of americans, wolf, say reckless is how donald trump's response has been to north korea. 32% have said responsible. >> what about the iran nuclear deal? how are the american people responding to that? >> they want to stay in the iran nuclear deal. take a look at this. 67% of americans tell us that the u.s. should not withdraw from the iran nuclear deal. as you know donald trump has said that may be very well where we end up, only 27% say yes. and take a look at how this breaks up bipartisanship. i think this is instructive because it's across the board here. 80% of democrats want to remain in the deal. you might expect that. it was a barack obama
initiative. 67% of independents, 48% of republicans want to stay in the deal. the republican party, the president's own party is split on this issue. >> very interesting numbers indeed. david, thank you very much. just in, the state department now increasing the number of diplomats who have fallen ill from those sonic attacks in cuba. we're told now that 24 u.s. personnel have experienced, quote, health effects. state department says there have been no new attacks since august. president trump this week pointed the finger directly at cuba for being behind the attack. much more on this developing story coming up. also, the mayor in san juan, puerto rico with a blistering response to president trump after he says the administration gets a ten out of ten for its response to the crisis there. you're going to hear what she said. plus, very soon the defense secretary will meet with senator john mccain on the niger investigation as james mattis
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one that keeps you connected to what matters most. we've learned that fbi investigators are now on the ground in niger helping to collect evidence following a deadly ambush that killed four u.s. troops. meanwhile, there are already calls for what some are suggesting could be a benghazi-style investigation by congress into this attack. senator john mccain has already said he may actually go ahead and subpoena individuals to get answers to all of this. the former cia director james woolsey is here with us. he formerly served as senior adviser to the trump campaign. director woolsey, thanks so much for joining us. what questions do you want answered as far as the death of these four u.s. troops? >> well, i think the most
important thing is that this is the future face of africa. not only are we going to be seeing lots of immigration from africa up into europe, we're going to be seeing terrorist events and attacks in northern africa and the sahara as basically the islamists struggle with everybody else. >> what does that mean for the u.s.? >> it means the united states is going to see more events like this terrible one we have evidence seeing recently. we're going to have to have forces there that are well equipped, better equipped than this small group was. and we're going to have to rely very heavily on the local military forces and train them and cooperate with them and learn from them. >> but you think that keeping significant numbers of u.s. military personnel in niger and other countries in africa is an important -- is important for the u.s.? or should they get out?
>> well, if you get out, you turn africa over to the islamists. >> the african governments can't deal with these terrorists? >> not alone, i don't think. i think they need help and cooperation. and we need to learn from them. >> france is involved, britain is involved. what about the europeans? why can't they get the job done in africa? why does the united states always need to go in and assist? >> well, the french are probably the best equipped and best trained to do this now. and they've been there for a long time, centuries. but we don't do well when we assume victory and leave. that's what we did with the aircraft carrier, remember, with george w. bush, that's what happened when president obama decided, well, the surge has worked, we'll pull everybody out. what came in? isis. so if you don't care about the islamists controlling --
increasing the middle east but certainly the northern part of africa, then you can shrug and say -- >> so you say keep these thousands of u.s. military personnel in various countries in africa but make sure they're better protected, that u.s. intelligence is better. because clearly there was some major mistakes that led to the killing of these four u.s. troops. >> work closely with the locals, with the nigerians, the british and others. we have to be serious with this. we can't dabble with it and declare victory the way it's done before once we decide to leave. >> i want to get your reaction to something that's happened over the past day or so. the current cia director, you're a former cia director, mike pompeo, he was at an event and spoke about russian meddling in the u.s. presidential election last year. let me play the exchange he had with a journalist. >> can you say with absolute certainty that the election results were not skewed as a result of russian interference? especially given what we've learned just in the last few
weeks. and more importantly, are we vulnerable in 2018 -- >> i'm not sure there can be anything more important than that. >> okay. >> that we conducted an election that had integrity. yes, the intelligence community's assessment is that the russian meddling that took place did not affect the outcome of the election. >> all right. now, he made a mistake because that was not the intelligence community's assessment. they had to issue a statement following what the director said pointing out that the intelligence community's assessment was that they couldn't make a final determination whether any votes were changed. they did conclude the russians interfered. they did conclude the russians wanted to sew dissent in the u.s., wanted to undermine hillary clinton and help donald trump, but they could not conclude that actual voting results had changed. so they fixed what the director had said. >> well, there's a difference between being skewed and it changing the outcome.
if it had gone from a 70/30 vote to a 51/49 vote because of russian meddling but the same side had still won, the outcome might have been skewed but it was not changed. and i think bouncing back and forth between definitions of affecting fundamentally and so forth is one of the sources of confusion. >> well, he said flatly it did not affect the outcome. >> outcome. >> so in other words what you're suggesting is what pompeo was saying was accurate? >> yes, i think if it didn't affect the outcome -- that's what he said. >> but the cia put out a statement fixing what he said. >> it's still skewed means turned or twisted and perhaps changed somewhat. >> the original intelligence community report looking at it did not assess whether russia had successfully impacted the election. only that they interfered for various purposes but did not
conclude that they had actually impacted the election. >> well, that's yet another word to play with in here. and you can impact something and skew it and still not change the outcome. the key question in terms of the past election is whether it affected the outcome. it apparently did not. the next election which we ought to be getting ready for right now is up for grabs. we don't want mr. putin casting our votes because people made changes back just after 2000 and the electoral machinery and electronics and thought it would be a good idea to get rid of all paper trails. well, that was really a dumb decision because you only can do a vote count if you have a paper trail. >> so bottom line the russians haven't stopped. >> absolutely not. they've been doing this since the 1930s in one way or another, what's new is they're doing it with cyber. but interfering with people's elections russia thinks nothing of it. >> social media very actively as well.
former director of the cia james woolsey, thanks very much. >> good to be with you. >> extraordinary attacks on president trump from his two predecessors. why all five living american presidents are getting ready to get together without the current commander in chief. we'll tell you what's going on. plus, video surfaces from a 2015 speech by the lawmaker involved in a rather nasty feud with the white house. video that shows chief of staff john kelly made an erroneous claim in his attack on her over a call the president made to a soldier's widow. we'll have that for you. a lot more. stay with us. you wouldn't do only half of your daily routine, so why treat your mouth any differently? complete the job with listerine® help prevent plaque, early gum disease, bad breath and kill up to 99.9% of germs. listerine® bring out the bold™
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bush and the former president barack obama spoke at separate events yesterday. both men blasted president trump without ever mentioning his name. >> our young people need positive role models. bullying and prejudices in our public life sets a national tone. provides permission for cruelty and bigotry and compromises the moral education of children. the only way to pass along civic values is to first live up to them. >> if you have to win a campaign by dividing people, you're not going to be able to govern them. you won't be able to unite them later if that's how you start. >> all right. let's discuss this and more. joining us the diplomatic correspondent for "the washington post" anne gearan, bloomberg news cnn analyst margaret taluogh and chief
political analyst gloria borger. so two former presidents on different locations, coincidentally, i think, speaking out making it clear that they're very critical of the current president. >> what occurs to me is that president trump will not receive this well. they didn't mention his name. and that's okay. but it's very clear who they were referring to. and i think particularly grading for him will be the comments from someone of his own party, george w. bush. and so i'm kind of waiting for some tweets to appear about it and maybe they've told the president, you know, don't do that, don't tweet about former presidents. but i think that members of the club don't usually talk about each other while they're in office. they try to refrain from that. but even with the absence of donald trump's name here, it was very clear who they were both referring to. and i'm surprised we haven't seen some reaction yet. >> margaret, you're surprised?
>> what was particularly surprising about george w. bush was first of all his comments were sort of much more to the point than president obama's. >> he made a powerful speech. very carefully written speech. he had a purpose there. >> yeah. and, i mean, president obama had run against president bush his entire legacy and president bush's responses to that was go paint and find himself again. so for him to come out and this event was being planned for more than a year, he had months to think about and certainly weeks to think about how hard he wanted to go in these remarks. and this is where he landed. they were certainly both yesterday sending a message, but i'm not sure the message was to president trump. i think the message was to the american electorate, to voters and also to republicans in congress. and the question is, you know, sort of what happens next. it's an important marker for sure. but when the folks kind of try to draw the boundaries around the president are either retiring from office or not seeking re-election or dealing
with the health struggle, you know, whether you're mccain, whether you're corker or whether you're a past president who's not going to run again that's really not the same thing as taking the people who are engaging day-to-day with the administration. >> it comes just before this weekend when all five former presidents are getting together at an event to deal with hurricane relief efforts in texas. the current president won't be there. >> yeah. i mean, the event apparently was set up that way with the former presidents as a way for them to, you know, raise money and attention and so forth. but it is striking. i mean, the current president isn't traveling anywhere or doing anything major that we know of this weekend. and although he did obviously host the governor of puerto rico at the white house yesterday for an extensive discussion of hurricane relief and his role in
it. but this is -- the weekend will call attention to the fact that the former presidents have been extremely active in trying to keep attention on the ongoing relief struggle in puerto rico as well as in southern states. >> gloria, let me get your reaction to this feud that's now developing between the white house chief of staff john kelly and democratic congresswoman frederica wilson. he really went after her calling her an empty barrel yesterday. saying she had back in 2015 bragged about getting the money to build an fbi building named after two slain fbi agents in miami. and let me play some clips and then we'll discuss because this is getting pretty ugly. >> and a congresswoman stood up and in the long tradition of empty barrels making the most noise stood up there in all of that and talked about how she
was instrumental in getting the funding for that building and how she took care of her constituents because she got the money and she just called up president obama and on that phone call he gave the money the $20 million to build a building. she sat down. and we were stunned. stunned that she'd done it. even for someone that is that empty a barrel we were stunned. >> consider this scenario. the brand new federal building that will house the fbi has been built. and the fbi approaches my office. congresswoman wilson, the ribbon cutting has been scheduled in four short weeks. the dedication is on the government's calendar and cannot be changed.
one problem, the fbi wants to name this gorgeous eitiface at the same time in four weeks. everyone said that's impossible. it takes at least eight months to a year to complete the process through the house, through the senate and to the president's office. i said i'm a school principal. and i said, excuse my french, oh, hell no. we're going to get this done. immediately i went to attack mode. i went to the speaker, speaker boehner. and i said, mr. speaker, i need your help. the fbi needs your help. and our country needs your help. and we have no time to waste. he went into attack mode and in two days pulled it out of
committee, brought it to the floor for a vote. representative and i presented it, we all voted and i dashed it over to the senate and put our senators on notice, put it on your radar, senator nelson and senator rubio, who i believe have representatives here today, they hot lined it to the senate floor in just two days. and guess what, the president signed the bill into law this past tuesday april 7th, 2015, with a bang, bang, bang! >> we watched the whole video the sun sentinel newspaper had the whole video. she never spoke about raising the money, bragging about that. >> no. >> that was never in her speech. the white house chief of staff was clearly wrong in making that accusation calling her an empty barrel. and this morning when she was on cnn's "new day" she pointed out
that the funding was originally put forward back in 2009 she wasn't even in the u.s. congress. >> look, i think he misremembered. the story he told wasn't accurate. and you can see it in she was talking about the naming of the building, not the funding for the building. >> for two slain fbi officers. >> for two slain fbi officers. and then, you know, she asked as you go on in the tape she asked for law enforcement officials in the audience to stand so they could be applauded. and then she told the story for another few minutes about the slain fbi agents for whom the building was named. and so i think that it may be that general kelly and the congresswoman ought to get together and have a conversation about this. >> but, you know, margaret, the white house put out a statement doubling down on this empty barrel notion basically insisting that general kelly was right when clearly he was not. >> yeah. and what they seem to be saying
is that he was right about the thrust of it, that she wanted to take political credit for herself rather than -- >> but he specifically said she was bragging about getting the $20 million. >> of course. it's just set it up not being accurate. >> so does he owe her an apology? >> this is -- >> he's the white house chief of staff, he's a gentleman. i know general kelly. he's a responsible gentleman. if he made a mistake, he's one who acknowledges that he made a mistake. and he will correct it. he can say she shouldn't have been bragging about getting this through the house and then the senate as quickly as she did, but as far as bragging about the money she never did. >> yeah, i mean, i think we'll all be watching to see kind of behind the scenes how that plays out. but at the same time i'm not sure that it will matter politically this fact checking for purposes of what he was seeking to accomplish yesterday, which was to take completely out of play an issue that the president was really having trouble kind of putting to rest. controversies the president had started himself by questioning
essentially by thrusting general kelly's own personal tragedy into the spotlight and then talking about whether president obama had done this the right way. and in general kelly's comments yesterday, although i think the overarching accomplishment was essentially to mute the issue, to help president trump take this issue largely off the table, one of the subsets was to acknowledge that president trump had said things that might have been received poorly by the widow on the phone. to acknowledge, you know, that to acknowledge a lot of elements and to -- it was critical of trump in a way as well even as it was also largely critical of the media and of the congresswoman. >> very quickly, anne. >> margaret's right that kelly's purpose yesterday was to put this all to rest. and in one person whose own history and including poignantly the death of his son in battle is supposed to resonate in a way
that says this is it, this is, you know, this issue is over. and instead his inaccuracies and the questions surrounding what he said ends up actually prolonging a controversy that's been very damaging for the white house. >> we'll see if they end up having a conversation. >> they should have a conversation. she should have a conversation with general kelly, he should speak with her and then they should move on. the president doesn't want to move on. he tweeted last night, we assumed after general kelly spoke it was over, the fake news is going crazy with wacky congresswoman wilson who secretly -- who was secretly on a very personal call and gave a total lie on content. so clearly he's not yet ready to move on. we'll see what the white house press secretary says. that briefing is coming up shortly. coming up here, cnn goes inside raqqah, the isis stronghold now liberated by u.s.-backed forces including a close look at the group's secret underground prisons. we're going there live. stay with us.
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total liberation. that was the declaration today. the former isis strong hold liberated by u.s.-backed syrian malitias being handed over. in northern syria, and right near raqqah. the tell us about the emotions there during the handover and the importance of the cite of the ceremony. >>reporter: well, understandably, especially among the fighters who had lost so many of their fellow fighters during the fighting, it was very significant. the syrian democratic forces finally handing over control of raqqah, although they will still
continue to secure it to the ro raqqah civilian council. they can't restore until it's completely clear of mines. the ceremony is happening at the stadium where isis made its final stance and it's also a location they used as a prison. in fact it's main prison, we were told. >> let me go to nick. you were what, one of the first into the hold city, the old part, ancient part of raqqah earlier this year. just when it was being lipper liberated. what are you now seeing in raqqah's center? are you get ag clear fic picture? >> reporter: it's hard to tell because the most staggering thing about that city is is there are no people. the only people we came awere the fighters celebrating the
victory. you see signs of what life must have been like. in the underground part of the stadium there was a series of jail cells. there was one where they held their own foreign prisoners, who they decided had been spying for maybe the coalition. graffiti on the wall. in english, chillingly, a large sign basically explaining why he may have ended up inside that jail. maybe you were caught red-handed committing a crime. maybe you forgot to twitch the gps off. all the different parts of life under isis laid out in h full. chilling to see in there exactly what they were willing to do to
their own. also, we did see in fact an american there, 24-year-old from colorado. five months ago he was a computer engineer. never expected to be fighting actually on the front line in raqqah. he sounded like he enjoyed it to some degree. actually seemed sad the fight was in fact over but glad they defeated isis. i asked are you to go back and join? no was the answer to the both. i think life as a computer engineer seems farfetched now. >> i'm sure you will a he both be reporting extensively on this. thanks so much. once again, moments away from the white house press briefing as the administration phases new questions on the niger ambush. looking at live pictures coming in from the white house. the war of words over the president's call with the soldier's widow. much more on that. stay with us.
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