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tv   CNN Newsroom With Fredricka Whitfield  CNN  October 27, 2019 11:00am-12:00pm PDT

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hello again, everyone. thank you so much for joining me this sunday. i'm fredricka whitfield. we begin with breaking news. the leader of isis, one of the most feared terrorist organizations in the world, is dead. abu baghdadi was killed in a raid in syria. u.s. troops raiding his compound at night. showing this photo inside the situation room during the raid. abu baghdadi is being described as a devastating blow to isis and it ends a year-long manhunt to find one of the world's
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biggest terrorist leaders. >> he died after entering a dead-end tunnel, whimpering and crying and screaming all the way. the compound had been cleared by this time with people either surrendering or being shot and killed. he was a sick and depraved man, and now he's gone. baghdadi was vicious and violent, and he died in a vicious and violent way, as a coward, running and crying. this raid was impeccable and could only have taken place with the acknowledgment and help of certain other nations and people. i want to thank the nations of russia, turkey, syria and iraq, and i also want to thank the syrian kurds for certain support they were able to give us. >> we have a team of reporters around the world gathering details on this raid to kill abu
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baghdadi. let's start with cnn correspondent barbara starr. barbara, what are you learning about this raid and how it was carried out? >> well, fredricka, this raid was carried out by u.s. special forces, some of the most elite that are very skilled in these high value target missions, these counterterrorism missions. by all accounts it was upwards of 100 troops coming in by helicopter in the cover of night last night into this compound in northeastern syria, an unusual location. not where you might expect to find baghdadi. this was more of an al qaeda stronghold, but they got information over the last several weeks, and the president indicated it was about in the last two weeks this they were really able to firm up their plan and decide to go ahead and do it. listen a little bit more to what defense secretary mark esper had to say about this. >> the president approved a raid onto the target. the aim was to capture abu bakr
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a al-baghdadi, and if we couldn't cop to capture him, we would kill him. he was called to come out. he refused. he went into a dead-end area and he walked into a bombed area and killed himself. >> their real skill is surprise stealth. they come in very quietly, very unexpectedly. they have tremendous operational security, and they land and basically land on a target with overwhelming violent sudden force. that's how they stay alive with surprise and violence and that's how they get their targets.
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>> do you have any idea what kind of evidence will assist in counterterrorism efforts? >> good question. the troops were actually on the ground collecting intelligence for about two hours. that's a very long period of time, so it indicates they had some confidence they would not be met again with opposition forces. typically they collect everything they can find, laptop, computers, electronic media, papers, anything that might -- cell phones to look for addresses and phone numbers, anything that would indicate who baghdadi knew, who he met with, who he might have recently communicated with, what was his financial network, what network did he have of operatives that he could call upon to potentially plan and execute further attacks. it's likely to take some time to go through all of it and see exactly what they have, but that's the kind of information that they are looking for. fred? >> all right. barbara starr, thank you so
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much. so u.s. forces were able to track down abu baghdadi after months of hunting on the ground in syria. the president credited russia, syria, turkey and iraq, in that order, and then he also said syrian kurds. nick, the kurds say they've been gathering intel for months. how vital were they in the success of this operation? >> reporter: as you said, there was a passing reference by president trump to the syrian kurds, yet they say, and they said quite early on as details came to light, that they were involved in a joint operation to bring this to light, elaborating that it was actually five months of intelligence gathering that led to this operation today. it's almost troubling as an ally to the united states that it seems it led them to achieving this ultimate task, ultimate
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objective in the campaign. there were other references to russia, turkey and iraq that were also thanked presumably for allowing air space they control for the u.s. forces to hit that particular target. but it was a lengthy and sometimes overrevealing statement from president trump where he indicated he had been in awe of watching all of this around him. he said it was like watching a movie to some degree, and i think in certain terminology, it was detailed, almost crude, as to how abu bakr al-baghdadi ran away screaming. some of the intelligence talked about being gathered in this raid may have already been put to use, unconfirmed here, suggesting that maybe one baghdadi's key henchmen would
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have been spotted. this is part of the operation here, and it puts turkey's confusion to light here. they've called the kurdish someone the president gave a green light to, but it seemed that they were very close. some turkish-backed moderates rebel groups operate there, too. so questions how he came to be there, who was supporting him, who knew he was there, and what this means. the geopolitics have been changing so fast over the past few weeks, fred. >> thank you so much. the president gave critical details about the raid in syria. jeremy, president trump essentially giving a play-by-play of the operation. >> he certainly did, fredricka.
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president trump gathered yesterday in the situation room shortly after 5:00 p.m. to oversee this raid that was designed to kill or capture abu bakr al-baghdadi. we know it took weeks of surveillance to get to that point and also the u.s. had knowledge of certain tunnels in the compound. all of this because the president of the united states told us so. that has raised some concerns, of course, from certain national security officials who feels that the president may have perhaps disclosed too much, but it did go to the president's desire to really explain to the american public exactly what went on here. and he did describe things in quite explicit and sometimes vivid detail in the same way that he said watching this raid from the situation room was like watching a movie. the president also sought to describe the death of abu bakr al-baghdadi.
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>> he ignited his vest, killing himself and the three children. his body was mutilated by the blast. the tunnel had caved in on it in addition. but test results gave certain immediate and totally positive identification. it was him. the thug who tried so hard to intimidate others spent his last moments in utter fear, in total panic and dread, terrified of the american forces bearing down on him. >> reporter: and, fredricka, the president also described baghdadi as in terror and crying. he would also lament that terrorist leaders were almost masterminds when they planned these attacks, and the president said they should be referred to as losers.
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that was something else the president was trying to do today. another thing he was trying to do, fredricka, was put this in a broader framework. he repeatedly described capturing or killing baghdadi as a top priority in the administration, that this was something they had been trying to take care of for years. certainly they were trying to top this as part of his legacy, fredricka. >> with al baghdadi dead, what does this mean for isis? does this cripple the organization, or will another person step in to fill the void? plus, democratic leaders kept in the dark on the raid and demanding a briefing on how this all went down. in fact, some of them found out the world's most wanted terrorist was dead on television, like you and the rest of the world. ud. they saw us, they recognized us. ancestry® specifically showed the regions that my family was from.
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thanks. principal. we can help you plan for that. start today at welcome back with this breaking news today. one of the world's most wanted terrorists now dead. this morning president trump confirming that isis leader abu bakr al-baghdadi was killed after detonating a suicide vest in syria. baghdadi's death is a combination of years-long hunts after he declared a caliphate in iraq and syria in 2014. cnn international correspondent ben wedeman is live for us in beirut. ben, explain the significance here.
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why is al baghdadi's death such a big deal? this is bigger than osama bin laden, according to the president. >> reporter: the difference between osama bin laden and abu bakr baghdadi ran a country, what was essentially a country, iraq and syria. it was the size of great britain and ruled more than 12 million people. that state was created very quickly. this was a man who really knew how to run a terrorist organization and turn it into, albeit, a very briefly lived terrorist state. and for him to be eliminated, certainly it does represent an important milestone in the fight against isis. however, even the pentagon's inspector general in august came out with a report that said that between syria and iraq, there are between 14,000 and 18,000
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isis fighters still on the loose. isis still operates through affiliates in west africa, in libya, in egypt sinai peninsula, in afghanistan, in the philippines. it has sleeper cells in europe that have carried out a variety of mass murders, terrorist attacks. yes, it's an important milestone, but nobody is under the impression certainly in this part of the world that isis is history. isis is diminished, but its still there and it's still a very dangerous terrorist organization. fredricka? >> then what about for the region? i mean, for that individual, al baghdadi, what kind of influence did he have on the region, and with his death, what kind of impact does that have? >> reporter: it's important for me to explain why it's so noisy behind me. there is a revolution going on in lebanon. there is unrest in iraq. there has been unrest in egypt.
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there has been a revolution in sudan. there has been a revolution in algeria. the region currently is boiling. lebanon is teetering on the brink of economic collapse, and it is in these situations that groups like isis can take advantage of the chaos of the power vacuum that is created. and keep in mind here in this part of the world, there is a template that police states authoritarian regimes have always used. they have crushed the political center. they have terrified the opposition into silence. they have jailed opposition leaders. they have driven others into exile and they have created this dichotomy where the populist either goes with the regime, as distasteful as it may be, or they have the other option is
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the terrorists. therefore, that dichotomy still exists in the middle east, and groups like isis, they may change their name, but will be able to exploit the vacuum that is created between authoritarian regimes and the terrorist extremists. fredricka? >> all right. ben wedeman, thank you so much. really appreciate that. so with the leader of isis gone, what is next for isis? does al baghdadi's death cut the head off the snake, or will someone else simply step in and pick up where he left off?
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. back with more on today's breaking news on the death of one of the world's most wanted terrorists. today president trump announced that isis leader abu bakr al baghdadi was killed by a raid of u.s. forces overnight. with me, diplomatic editor and gail aklimone. she is the author of "ashley's
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war." good to see both of you. ben wedeman talked about al baghdadi's reach and influence over essentially taking over our country. so does his death krcripple the idealogy or influence, even? >> it does not mark a definitive finish to the fight against the islamic state. talk to folks and everyone will acknowledge it is much easier to kill a terrorist than it is to sleigh an idealogy and the idea of what the islamic state represented. they really talked to you about it as a state. even though this is an islamic state, president trump talked about it as a rule. >> the president vowed to go
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after skpiisis and other terror. this is what he said. >> al baghdadi has been on the run for many years long before i took office. but at my direction, as commander in chief of the united states, we obliterated his caliphate 100% in march of this year. today's events are another reminder that we will continue to pursue the remaining isis terrorists to their brutal end. that also goes for other terrorist organizations. >> so, nick, how does the president's decision to pull out u.s. troops out of syria impact this goal to eliminate the remaining isis terrorists? >> it perhaps removes the ability of some u.s. assets, and one would assume these would be more covert assets to move
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certain parts of the region, and that's limited because this operation was clearly led by intelligence. the president said there were signals intelligence that was then fed up by on-the-ground verification, if you will. that can be done with partners. but oftentimes the most -- the best way and the most effective way to get a lot out of partners in the battlefield is to be there closely with them so that they feel that you've got skin in the game, that you're in the fight with them, albeit you can bring fearsome fire power and incredible technology, but they also have to have people who put their necks on the line, if you will, who get that close-up intelligence. it can potentially be their offense. the al qaeda leader that was killed back in 1967, i believe it was jordanian intelligence that helped lead to his killing, and it's interesting the president helped pay tribute to that jordanian fighter pilot who
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was so brutally killed on camera by isis. how to be effective and get the best out of partners in the region is to be a stable partner who is close to them. so by pulling out forces, that does create some instability there. this area of idlib and syria is undoubtedly going into turmoil in the future because it is in the crosshairs of both russia and the assad regime in damascus, so there are probably going to be more opportunities created as the situation there becomes more chaotic, as terrorists use communications they might perhaps not otherwise use. there will be more opportunities created and forces on the ground can react more quickly if they're closer to them. >> and then, gail, the kurdish militia known as the sds played a critical role to helped provide intel that led the u.s. military to al baghdadi.
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but if you listened to the president earlier and he thanked a number of countris, it was russia, syria, turkey and iraq, and the syrian kurds. does that add salt to the wounds that the kurds have been feeling rather betrayed by the u.s. pullout of northern syria? >> i think right now, i've talked to the head of the u.s.-backed forces, right? the sdf was part of a partner source that the u.s. fought for the last half-decade with. this really is a momentous victory that was five years in the making with this partner force that started in 2014 in the town of kobani when isis had never had a single battlefield defeat. it was steaming across the region and just absolutely taking town after town. so i think this is a partnership, and one thing that isn't often captured is there is deep friendship between u.s. forces and the syrian democratic
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forces, between the kurdish leader mouzlim and u.s. forces. let's see what happens going forward. mouzlim held a press conference in syria and he was talking about, this operation was a huge success, and it was a huge success for a lot of people, including ziti women, like the president mentioned, who were enslaved by isis and who we worked to free along this road for the americans. the sdf says this is not unending, and everyone is hopeful this is not unending, so everyone is wondering what the fate of syria will be for them. >> the president was tweeting out for five months that there was joint intel on the ground until we reached a joint operation to kill abu bakr al baghdadi. thanks to everyone who cooperated in this mission.
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nic, the president thinking russia, and russia now is saying it wasn't aware of any u.s. military operations in the region, but then didn't we hear from the president who said there was some indicator given to russia, and russia was like, okay, that's great? so what's going on here? >> there can be a number of several things, but this is quite typical of russia. it takes away some of the shine for president trump when they do this. they say, well, you know, we weren't aware of this sort of lodged military operation going on, and by the way, we've heard several claims and counterclaims of who was involved, and we don't think all this adds up. it's quite typical of russia and particularly of their general information campaigns that tend to take what is quite a clear narrative and throw up a few other counter ideas and generally cloud the picture. now, you could say that's trying to take the shine off what
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president trump has done, you could say that's typical of the way that they roll out their own propaganda, they're cynical, but also don't forget that, you know, russia here is a key partner of bashar al-assad, and potentially that would not be best for the relationship between putin and assad. but, you know, putin wears the trousers in that relationship, so i'm not sure why they would worry particularly on that, to be perfectly honest. >> interesting. nic robertson, gayle tzemach-lemmon, thank you. one of the democrats said he found out on television. why the president left key executives in the dark, next.
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welcome back. house speaker nancy pelosi now demanding that president trump brief congress after isis leader al baghdadi was killed in a u.s. military raid late last night. in a statement pelosi criticized trump for alerting russia about the raid but not top u.s. congressional leadership. she goes on to say that, quoting now, our military allies deserve strong, smart and strategic leadership from washington, end quote. as for senate minority leader chuck schumer, this is how he says he found out about the raid. >> i saw it on tv. >> what was your reaction? >> my reaction? look, it's great that we've gotten al baghdadi and killed him. he's a dangerous man, an evil man. the fight against isis has to continue. >> trump says he kept pelosi and other members of congress out of the loop on purpose. in fact, he even suggested that telling pelosi would have posed a national security threat.
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>> did you inform speaker pelosi ahead of time? >> no, i didn't. i didn't do that. i wanted to make sure this was kept secret. i didn't want to have men lost, and women. i didn't want to have people lost. >> he said by doing so, it may have meant that there were leaks, and he went on to explain a little further his justification for not informing congress. i'm joined now by tulos tulose otirunnipa. good to see you both. is it right that he didn't tell speaker pelosi, or was he worried about leaks by the administration? >> it needed to be kept close to the vest. it will be interesting to see if, in the next 24 hours, the president did inform some members. we saw him golfing yesterday
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with lindsey graham and other republican senators, so if the president made a partisan decision in which he informed republicans but not democratic leaders, that could become pretty controversial. but we have seen in the past at least some previous presidents decide not to inform congress before a surprise attempt, whether it's a rescue attempt or an attempt for foreign policy reasons or national security reasons, and that's always been a struggle between the executive branch and the legislative branch about the war powers resolution and what congress is entitled to in terms of being noticed in advance. but the president decided. he made this decision and he's going to get some pushback from democrats who say, listen, we've been part of the gang of 8 for years and we've not spilled secrets. we know how to keep national security secrets. that's part of the reason why this gang of 8 was created so that intelligence information, classified information can be shared with congress before these types of events. so we'll have to wait and see
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whether or not he told some democrats and not others, or maybe he was focused on keeping this secret and not allowing anybody outside his national security circle to know about this. >> and he and the leadership, the gang of 8, had not been notified by the president. >> the reason to notify the gang of 8 is frankly more important when things go wrong. the president said it was dangerous flying in. the russians could have shot down american planes. >> the gang of 8 was told about the bin laden raid. >> i wasn't part of the gang of 8 at the time, but that's my understanding. had this escalated, had something gone wrong, had we gotten into a fire fight with the russians, it's to the administration's advantage to be able to say we knew they were going in and they were aware of the risks. we were at least provided a chance for feedback. that wasn't done here. i think that was a mistake.
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>> somali, what kind of notice does the president owe congress on a covert mission like this? yes, the gang of 8 were notified of osama bin laden, but does the president have that kind of leeway, where, in the condition of a covert operation like this, he doesn't need to notify them? >> it's my understanding in terms of the osama bin laden ra raid, it was very vague and congress wasn't looped in on the decision to go forward, so i think it does make a lot of sense to keep actions like this secret and closely held within a small group of military leaders. i think the question, as tulose said, is whether this was a gratuitous partisan swipe and whether they will be briefed afterwards. as speaker pelosi called for, the leaders and congress do need to get this information from the administration afterwards. this is not, as far as i know, a
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matter of legal requirement, it's just, as chairman schiff was saying, it can be a wise thing for an administration to do, to consult with the congress on decisions like this, and then after the fact that debrief congress. they do have a right to that information. >> and toluse, the flip side, we heard the president this morning who was boasting about having a conversation with russia before this got underway. listen to how he described it. >> russia treated us great. they opened up. we had to fly over certain russia areas, russia-held areas. russia was great. >> what did you tell them? >> we told them we're coming in. and they said, thank you for telling us. they were very good. they were very cooperative. they really were good. and we did say it would be a mission that they would like, too, because you know, again, they hate isis as much as we do. >> so toluse, russia got the
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heads up but members of congress did not? >> that's what it looks like. there is bipartisan discomfort with the president's continued off and onni i fawning over russia. it goes back to his campaign and the early years of his presidency. there is discomfort of how cozy the president is with russia, how many positive things he says about russia, and even siding with vladimir putin last year over the u.s. intelligence agencies about russia election meddling. there is some discomfort there that congress was not looped in and russia was. i don't know how many republicans will say that publicly, but it will be part of the narrative as democrats try to get more information about what happens and also the fact that democrats, at least according to chuck schumer, were not told of this before the press. they learned about it on television. even in situations in the past where congress is not necessarily given a heads-up before these things happen, usually they're told quickly afterward before the president makes remarks to the public, and that courtesy was not given in
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this case. >> it really wasn't made clear in that press briefing when a colleague from another network did ask if republicans were informed on the hill but democrats were not, and that answer was still lacking some clarity. all right, toluse, molly ball, thank you so much. more on our breaking news, but first, here's this week's "staying well." >> tell me, how are you feeling right now? >> apprehensive. >> vre is virtual reality exposure. we are helping people confront what they're scared of, and with veterans with ptsd, we will recreate what they describe as their traumatic event. studies have shown now for decades that vre is effective at helping people with their anxieties and phobias. >> as equipment becomes more available, this type of
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more on our breaking news now. president trump announcing it is death of abu bakr al baghdadi in remarks at the white house today after baghdadi killed himself in
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a raid with u.s. forces in syria. the president also thanked other countries and militias for their help. >> i want to thank the nations of russia, turkey, syria and iraq, and i also want to thank the syrian kurds for certain support they were able to give us. this was a very, very dangerous mission. thank you as well to the great intelligence professionals who helped make this very successful journey possible. >> cnn's sam kylie is live for us on the turkish-syrian border. so, sam, what do we know about the role turkey played here? >> reporter: well, the turkish version, fred, is they knew about the presence or location of baghdadi 48 hours before the attack and that they were informed as it went in or before it went in to deconflate.
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now, the united states has thanked turkey for its role saying it had indeed with the russians as well as the syrians as they had the air space the u.s. forces had to fly through. interesting that donald trump singled out the syrian kurds, as he put them, the syrian democratic forces which were part of the battle to defeat isis in terms of the landscape, and has also been claiming credit, as have the iraqis, for the intelligence to led to this capture or kill. the interesting thing about this, fred, where this occurred is not in the area where isis had any support, but rather in an area surrounded by bitter rivals of al qaeda. isis had split from al qaeda. there were a large number of al qaeda fighters and a huge
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presence around the camp as well where this was conducted. as donald trump hinted in his speech, there was a concern, perhaps, that baghdadi was trying to use his substantial amounts of finances available to him to maybe rebuild, reconstitute the so-called islamic state, perhaps using the other groups around him of a similar idealogical ilk. fred? >> sam kylie, thank you so much. still ahead, on the one-year anniversary of the most deadly anti-semitic attack in u.s. history, members of the tree of life synagogue in pittsburgh remember those they lost. one out of six vehicles
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it has been a year since police say a man shot and killed 11 jewish worshippers at pittsburgh's tree of life synagogue. the suspect, 46-year-old robert bowers, recently offered to plead guilty in exchange for life in prison, but federal prosecutors said no and are seeking the death penalty. the anti-defamation league just released a report showing 780 anti-semitic incidents occurred in the first half of 2019. cnn's polo sandoval is in pittsburgh for us. what's happening? >> reporter: fred, good afternoon. i think there is a consensus they want to remember that day not as one of the community's worst but the moment that community showed up to hate. we have seen many people stop at the building you see behind me.
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it continues to be fenced off since that day here, but it certainly hasn't stopped people from coming here to pay their respects and honor the memories of those 11 people who were gunned down 12 months ago today. in a powerful moment i witnessed a short while ago, you saw members of the pittsburgh islamic center come here with fresh flowers, messages, even a single jar of honey that is meant to symbolize the friendship that both communities considered themselves neighbors. but it is more than just a day of tribute. it is a day of service. there are many services to commemorate it here in pittsburgh. you mentioned the anti-defamation league. we spoke with that anti-hate organization who said this should also be a moment to pause, not just to remember those 11 lives but also remember there is that lasting threat not just for members of the jewish community but for members across the country as well.
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>> it's important to recognize when we talk about the change that needs to occur that a year ago to today, we have seen the same rates of anti-semitic incidents nationwide. so these threats and this continued growth of white supremacy is real, and we really do have to link arms and work together to lower the amount of hate and the incidents that we are seeing. >> reporter: not here with just that message but also continued support of the jewish community. the rest of the members of pittsburgh that still carry that pain from 12 months ago. there is a site that is scheduled in the coming hours. it is just one of these many positive events we have seen in it is last year as jeffrey meyers, the rabbi of the tree of
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life, said one individual continues to spread these caring acts. it has been continuing since that horrible day and they plan to continue spreading that message as well. >> thank you, polo sandoval. we'll be right back. more coverage. it's a network that gives you... with coverage from big cities, to small towns. introducing t-mobile's 600mhz signal. no signal reaches farther or is more reliable. and it's built 5g ready.
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