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Gun Range Death; Militants Seize Border Post Near Israel; Nine- Year-Old Girl Accidentally Kills Shooting Instructor; Gov. Perry Battles with Drunken Driving D.A.

Aired August 27, 2014 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, a dangerous new victory for Islamic militants on Israel's doorstep, as terror and instability spreads across the Middle East. Is the U.S. military any closer to attacking ISIS terrorists in Syria? We're getting new information about airstrike options on the table right now.

And a 9-year-old accidentally becomes a killer when she's taught to fire an Uzi submachine gun. We're going to talk about kids and guns and what went so horribly wrong.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in the THE SITUATION ROOM.

Right now, a brutal terrorist land and power grab is widening across the Middle East. Syrian rebels with ties to al Qaeda have seized control of the only border crossing opening up another front into the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, opening up another front in the fight against terror.

Also in Syria, opposition groups now claim a second American in addition to Douglas McCain has been killed while fighting with terrorists from ISIS. No name was given. There's no confirmation from U.S. officials, at least not yet.

The U.S. military says its forces are continuing to attack ISIS targets in Iraq with three new airstrikes launched today. President Obama now considering options for striking ISIS in Syria as well.

We have our correspondents and analysts and newsmakers all standing by as we cover all the breaking developments.

First, let's go to our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr. She has got the very latest -- Barbara.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, at this hour at the Pentagon, question number one: When will President Obama make a decision about whether to strike inside Syria?


BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Desperate Iraqis again on the run from ISIS, this time minority Turkmen in Northern Iraq under siege for weeks, people desperate for food, water and, above all, safety. The U.S. military is prepared to potentially expand operations to

airdrop humanitarian supplies and bomb ISIS positions to help break its grip here if President Obama orders it.

Across the border in Syria, no decision yet by the White House on whether to begin airstrikes against ISIS strongholds inside Syria.

JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I would not at this point set up a time frame for a presidential decision.

STARR: President Obama's critics, as expected, impatient.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Could I just say that when the secretary of defense and the chairman of Joint Chiefs talk about how this is -- a huge threat this is and the biggest we have ever seen, et cetera, and then -- and there's nothing to follow that up because there's no strategy.

STARR: For now, Pentagon drones continue flying inside Iraq looking into Syria for possible future targets, including ISIS convoys, weapons, personnel, anything that could be hit to stop the momentum as a capable military force, its critical military intelligence needed first before the president is expected to make a decision about ordering airstrikes.

COL. PETER MANSOOR (RET.), U.S. ARMY: And if we could locate insurgent trucks, Humvees, armored vehicles, tanks, mortars, artillery, airstrikes would be most effective at eliminating those pieces of the ISIS arsenal.

STARR: But the reality of the airstrikes also settling in.

MANSOOR: It's not a panacea to destroying the group, because it will simply melt into the areas it already controls and then comes the much more difficult problem of how to root them out.


STARR: And perhaps in an effort to continue to manage expectation, senior defense officials continue to point out that airstrikes can only take you so far, that they alone will not defeat ISIS. They may stop the ISIS momentum, but it will not defeat that organization -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Barbara, thank you, Barbara Starr at the Pentagon.

Now to some dangerous new gains by another militant group. Syrian rebels with ties to al Qaeda have seized control of the only border crossing into the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights from Syria.

Our senior international correspondent, Ben Wedeman, is joining us now live. He's on the Golan Heights.


today, Wolf, was there was an intense exchange of artillery fire, mortar fire between the Syrian army and the Syrian rebels near the Quneitra crossing between Israel and Golan and Syria.

And in the course of that fighting, several shells fell inside of Israel, wounding several Israelis, but at the end of the day, the rebels, including elements of the Nusra Front, which is a group affiliated with al Qaeda, were able to take over this Syrian position at that critical crossing between the two sides.

This represents quite a dramatic change of the situation on the ground. At this point, there's just 200 yards separating this al Qaeda affiliate from the Israeli army, which obviously is now on high alert because of that. In fact, the Israelis did respond to some of these what they called errant shells that fell inside of Israel.

Now, what's interesting is that until now, there has been a tacit sort of relationship between Israel and the rebels in southern Syria. I have been to hospitals in Northern Israel where the Israelis were treating Syrians who were wounded in the fighting in southern Syria, including some of them fighters.

But the presence of the Nusra Front really sort of changes that secret relationship that existed between Israel and some of the elements within the Syrian rebels in southern Syria, so much more tense situation here than we have seen in quite some time since the outbreak of the Syrian uprising in the beginning of 2011 -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And, Ben, when you're talking about the rebels in southern Syria, you're talking about moderate Syrian rebels who are opposed to the regime of Bashar al-Assad, but also opposed to very much so to ISIS and these other militant terrorist groups, right?

WEDEMAN: That's correct, but what we have seen, there's sort of a variety of rebel groups in southern Syria. It wasn't just the Nusra Front that took over this position on the border.

It was other groups as well with them. But what we have seen recently is that Nusra, which is sort of the junior partner in the rebel makeup in southern Syria, seems to be playing an ever greater role in the battlefield in the fight against Bashar al-Assad -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And Nusra split with ISIS, so there's very different terrorist elements going on in Syria right now. Ben Wedeman on the Golan Heights, thanks very much for joining us.

Let's bring in Oubai Shahbandar. He's with the Syrian opposition. He's an adviser to the moderate Syrian opposition. He's based here in Washington.

Oubai, thanks very much for joining us.

Does the moderate Syrian opposition have a working cooperative relationship which al-Nusra, which the U.S. regards as a terrorist organization?

OUBAI SHAHBANDAR, SYRIAN OPPOSITION COALITION: Wolf, since January, the Free Syrian Army has launched a concerted come against al Qaeda affiliates and ISIS.

In fact, al Qaeda's chief commander, Zawahri, himself in late January denounced the Free Syrian Army and the Syrian Opposition Coalition. The ISIS spokesperson, Muhammad al-Adnani, who the United States designated as a special designated terrorist, global terrorist, also released a statement that specifically targeted the Syrian Opposition Coalition and the Free Syrian Army as the adversary of ISIS.

BLITZER: You support obviously the Free Syrian Army, which is considered the moderate rebel group. The president said the United States would like to strengthen moderate Syrian rebels.

But here's the question. Do you have a relationship with al-Nusra, because right now that checkpoint on the Golan Heights, the Syrian army was defeated there? Al-Nusra and other elements came in. Was the Free Syrian Army part of that operation?

SHAHBANDAR: In northern and eastern Syria, the Free Syrian Army is absolutely fighting against Nusra. Information, in northern Syria just last week, we saw renewed clashes between elements of the Free Syrian Army and al-Nusra.

There are independent brigades in southern Syria, some of whom do have that relationship with al-Nusra.

BLITZER: Independent brigades of the Free Syrian Army?

SHAHBANDAR: Yes, that call themselves...


BLITZER: Was part of your Free Syrian Army part of the group that took command of this checkpoint on the Golan Heights between the Israeli-occupied area and Syria?

SHAHBANDAR: Absolutely not.

The seven main Free Syrian Army brigades three weeks ago issued a very clear statement for the whole world that there will be absolutely no coordination and no cooperation with the al-Nusra Front.

MATTHEWS: Who killed Douglas McAuthur McCain, the American who was working as a fighter with ISIS? Did your group do that?

SHAHBANDAR: The moderate Free Syrian Army absolutely was responsible for taking him off the battlefield. An operation center has been set up a few miles north of the city of Aleppo by the Free Syrian Army fighters who are engaged in an ongoing battle against ISIS.

It's very important to remember that the only force on the ground with a proven record of success in Syria to hold the line against ISIS and al Qaeda has been the Free Syrian Army.

BLITZER: So talk about that operation. How did he die? What was he doing? What were your forces doing?

SHAHBANDAR: What ISIS is attempting to do is attempting to encircle the city of Aleppo.

There are about 500,000 civilians in the city of Aleppo and in the countryside. There's a strategic city right now north of Aleppo close to the Turkish border that ISIS is attempting to capture called Maarin on the road to Azaz.

Now, for the past two weeks, ISIS has been launching suicide bombers, artillery shells, everything they have against the Free Syrian Army stronghold in that area. And the foreign fighter that was killed was part of that ISIS operation against the moderates.

BLITZER: That's Douglas McAuthur McCain.

We're now told there was a second American killed as well, another American fighting with ISIS. What can you tell us about that?

SHAHBANDAR: I spoke to the rebel operations center just recently to gain confirmation. We have not received any specific confirmation or any evidence of an American passport of other foreign fighters. But what we do know is that there are many other foreign fighters engaged in this battle by ISIS against the Free Syrian Army.

BLITZER: Yesterday, the president of the United States said he wants to strengthen the moderate Syrian opposition forces. Have you guys, the Free Syrian Army, the moderate opposition to Bashar al-Assad's regime, received any direct military equipment from the United States?

SHAHBANDAR: First of all, the Syrian opposition completely supports President Obama in his -- in this position to strengthen the moderates as the alternative.

BLITZER: Has he provided any weapons to you?

SHAHBANDAR: We have received -- there has been some weapons that have been received by the Free Syrian Army in northern Syria in the fight against ISIS.

BLITZER: U.S. weapons?

SHAHBANDAR: Indirect -- U.S.-facilitated.

BLITZER: What does that mean?

SHAHBANDAR: Small-arms ammunition.


BLITZER: When you say U.S.-facilitated, coming from other countries like the UAE or some other country like that?

SHAHBANDAR: From friendly regional countries, absolutely.

BLITZER: Like Saudi Arabia, UAE, other countries? SHAHBANDAR: Absolutely.

BLITZER: but nothing direct from the United States, right?

SHAHBANDAR: Not yet. Not yet.

Now, what the rebels on the ground do tell us is they are hoping for significant increase in American direct military aid because the rebels on the ground view themselves as the last line of defense against ISIS.

BLITZER: But the fear is, and I have heard this from U.S. military personnel and from U.S. intelligence, if the U.S. were to give you, the Free Syrian Army, sophisticated weapons, whether tanks, armored personnel carriers, anti-aircraft missile batteries, whatever, it could wind up in the hands of ISIS.

SHAHBANDAR: There are safeguards to guard against that.

BLITZER: What are they?

SHAHBANDAR: Thousands of rebels have gone through U.S.-supported training programs in regional countries, in countries that border Syria. There's a program that ensures that are vetted individuals who receive the necessary training to guard against these weapons falling into the wrong hands.

Furthermore, the rebels themselves are fighting these extremists. So the very people that America does not want these weapons to fall into their hand, rebels are on the front lines fighting against these people.

BLITZER: You must be disappointed that no U.S. weapons have yet been provided. The U.S. is providing to the Kurdish Peshmerga forces, Iraqi military, but the Free Syrian Army, which you represent, has received nothing so far.

SHAHBANDAR: It has received a small amount, but it's certainly not enough to sustain a campaign against ISIS and to protect the Syrian people.

BLITZER: For the future -- let's take a look. You love Syria. You hate Bashar al-Assad's regime. I don't know how many people have died over the past three years, maybe 200,000 people. Hundreds of thousands have been injured. Millions have been made homeless internally, externally.

You hate his regime. But what would be worse for the future of Syria, Bashar al-Assad staying in power or ISIS taking over?

SHAHBANDAR: Bashar al-Assad has played a very cynical game where he's actually allowed ISIS room to gain control over Syrian territory over the year, so that Bashar al-Assad could present the world this false choice, either Assad or ISIS.

So we in the opposition and those that support the opposition view Assad as part of the problem when it comes to Syria being turned into a...


BLITZER: But is it really realistic you can defeat both ISIS and Bashar al-Assad's military machine?

SHAHBANDAR: What I think is realistic is the U.S. can play a role to at least level the playing field in the short term to provide the Free Syrian Army the necessary equipment it needs to hold the line against ISIS and to prevent Assad from gaining a military victory on the battlefield.

BLITZER: You want U.S. airstrikes not only against ISIS targets in Syria, but the Syrian military targets as well, right?

SHAHBANDAR: Absolutely. It will be in the interest of the Syrian people and ultimately in the interests of U.S. national security.

BLITZER: Oubai Shahbandar, thanks very much for coming in. Appreciate it very much. He's with the Syrian, the moderate Syrian opposition.

SHAHBANDAR: Thank you.

BLITZER: Still ahead, we're learning more about the American ISIS fighter who was killed and when he first landed on the radar of U.S. authorities.

And what was a 9-year-old girl firing an Uzi submachine gun? A shooting lesson turns deadly and raises all sorts of very serious questions.


BLITZER: Let's get back to our top story tonight.

A second American may been killed in Syria while fighting for the terror group ISIS. U.S. officials cannot confirm the announcement from a coalition of Syrian rebels. The news comes one day after authorities did confirm that American Douglas McAuthur McCain was killed in Syria alongside ISIS fighters.

Today, we're learning new details about who he was and what authorities knew about him.

Our justice correspondent, Pamela Brown, is joining us now from San Diego, where McCain lived and studied, at least for a while, before heading over to the Middle East.

Pamela, What are you hearing?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we have spoken to a couple people who knew Douglas McCain here at San Diego City College, where he attended classes and studied Arabic, and they are shocked to learn about his alleged involvement with ISIS. According to law enforcement officials we have been speaking with,

authorities first became aware of McCain in the early 2000s based on his connection with someone they were interested in. But, Wolf, at that point, there was nothing linking him to anything nefarious.

However, most recently, McCain became the subject of scrutiny based on information gleaned from his associations in Minneapolis.


BROWN (voice-over): It was just months ago that Douglas McAuthur McCain began to attract the attention of U.S. intelligence. U.S. law enforcement tells CNN the government was investigating his overseas connection to the brutal ISIS terror group, but the extent of his radical side was not evident to his American family.

The 33-year-old American told them just last week that he was in Turkey.

KENYATA MCCAIN, COUSIN OF DOUGLAS MCAUTHUR MCCAIN: Last time I communicated with him was on Facebook last Friday on a picture I posted and he commented about my boys growing up.

BROWN: Within days of his Facebook post, McCain was killed in a battle between rival extremist groups near Aleppo, Syria. After his death, a rival opposition group released photos of McCain's body and his U.S. passport, seen here.

K. MCCAIN: This is so outlandish. That's not who he was. For him to be in Syria fighting for a terrorist group. That doesn't make sense.

BROWN: McCain converted from Christianity to Islam a decade ago. Sources tell CNN it appears he radicalized gradually.

K. MCCAIN: His religion was very important to him, but those people, the ISIS people, they don't -- they don't represent what my cousin's beliefs are or were.

BROWN: His family tells CNN they weren't alarmed by his conversion, but his recent posts on social media caught their attention. On a Twitter account reported to be McCain's, he wrote on June 9: "I will be joining you guys soon." The next day, he wrote: "I'm with the brothers now."

On June 26, he re-tweeted this post, which says: "It takes a warrior to understand a warrior. Pray for ISIS." It's not clear if McCain was in Syria when he tweeted. McCain grew up near Minneapolis and later moved to San Diego, where he attended college. Between 2000 and 2008, he was arrested at least six times, all for minor offenses. McCain's radicalization and death in Syria stunned loved ones back home.

ISAAC CHASE, FRIEND OF MCCAIN: That's what hurts the most, is because he was a good person.

(END VIDEOTAPE) BROWN: And after authorities learned that McCain had traveled to

Turkey and then on to Syria, he was put on a special list of Americans believed to be a part of militant groups. That means that if McCain had tried to travel back to the U.S., he would have been subject to additional scrutiny -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Pamela Brown in San Diego, thanks very much.

Let's dig a little bit deeper right now.

Joining us, our CNN security analyst Peter Bergen and CNN political commentator Peter Beinart.

Peter Bergen, first to you.

The Americans, what are they doing in Syria? Why do they get motivated to do this? You have studied this.

PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I think that Assad presents a very attractive enemy to fight against if you're motivated by these beliefs. He's an Alawite, which is a heretical form of Shiism.

He's a secular dictator, which makes him an apostate. He's imposing a totalitarian war on his population, killing at least 200,000 in the war so far. So there's a very attractive pull. And we're seeing a lot more. It's not just Americans, but Europeans are being drawn to this much more than the Iraq war, which after all had an occupying American army.

BLITZER: Can the U.S. really keep track, like McCain, Douglas McCain, of these Americans who go over there to fight to join with a terrorist group like ISIS?

BERGEN: I think the numbers are -- we are talking about 100. And we have had eight indictments and two people that we know have already died. Maybe three now with the news today of the second person that hasn't been identified.

Everybody in the U.S. government who is paid to worry about this wakes up and does something about this every day. So there's a huge effort. I think the numbers when you're looking at 700 French people who have gone, 450 Brits, 270 Germans, that's a much larger group and it's very hard for the Brits to keep track of everybody or the French.

BLITZER: Peter Beinart, you wrote a provocative article and you suggested it would be, in you words, I think reckless for the U.S. to start bombing ISIS targets inside Syria. Why would it be reckless?

PETER BEINART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, the thing that worries me is that the Obama administration has spent the last couple of years basically saying that we don't have good allies in Syria, that the moderate non-jihadist opposition is weak and also that we can't necessarily tell very well where the line is between them and people who are more militant. But you're not really going to accomplish anything by a bombing unless

you do so in conjunction with allies on the ground. Bombing can weaken an opponent, but you can't take territory. I'm open to being persuaded that the non-jihadist opposition in Syria is now strong enough and we have a good enough understanding of who they are to be able to act in conjunction with them.

But it's striking that it's the Obama administration itself that up until very recently was saying just the opposite.

BLITZER: It's interesting he says that, because in the last interview we did with the representative of the Free Syrian Army, the moderate opposition, he did acknowledge that while in the north there's no cooperation between the Free Syrian Army and some of these al-Nusra terror groups, in the southern part, he said there are some brigades from the Free Syrian Army that have worked with a terror group like al-Nusra.

So this division, this dividing line that Peter Beinart talks about, it's murky out there.

BERGEN: Peter is right. This has been going on for months now, where the al Qaeda affiliate in Syria is fighting alongside the moderate opposition against ISIS. So that's very tricky.

But I think not only that, but the other issue here, Wolf, is the legal authorization for war in Syria is not clear at all. There's no U.N. resolution. There's no NATO operation. The authoritarian for the use of military force that covers U.S. actions in places like Pakistan or Yemen may not apply.

And also the Syrian government isn't asking us to do this. Quite the opposite. So that leaves you with going to Congress. That's I think probably what the president wants to do and actually should do.

BLITZER: What do you make of the heart-wrenching appeal by the mother of Steven Sotloff, Peter, Peter Beinart, that -- obviously she wants her son, a journalist being held now for, what, two years to be freed. Is this going to help or potentially, and there's some fear it could hurt for all this publicity to be going out there.

BEINART: I really don't know. I gather that they decided to go public because he had been -- his name had become publicized by ISIS itself.

I wouldn't really second-guess, frankly, the mother of anyone in this horrible, horrifying situation that none of us could even imagine being in. She must have advisers who are telling her that this is the best way. Certainly, it's not appealing to have an American citizen beseeching a brutal madman like the leader of ISIS, but I think if it were any of our children, we would do whatever it took.

BLITZER: Yes, well-said.

Don't you agree, Peter?

BERGEN: Totally.


All right, Peter Bergen -- Peter Bergen and Peter Beinart, guys, thanks, very much.

Just ahead, a horrifying moment in Arizona. A 9-year-old girl with a submachine gun loses control, kills her instructor. What was she doing with such a powerful weapon in the first place? And will anyone be held responsible for his death? Our legal experts, they are standing by to discuss this incident that's causing so much outrage.


BLITZER: We're about to show you some video that may be difficult to watch.

A 9-year-old girl is learning to fire a sub-machine gun known as an Uzi when the weapon overpowers her, and she accidently shoots and kills her instructor. Police say no charges will be filed, but the incident is raising lots of very, very serious questions.

Tom Foreman is here in THE SITUATION ROOM. A shocking development.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. It really is, Wolf. And a hard thing to watch, because all around Las Vegas, there are these places that are involved in what's called machine-gin tourism. For a fee you can go fire all sorts of weapons. This gun range was about 20 minutes south of Vegas. And that's where this young girl from New Jersey was handed this gun.


FOREMAN (voice-over): At the Bullets and Burgers gun range, instructor Charlie Vacca is leaning over the 9-year-old girl, telling her how to handle the Uzi as she squeezes off a shot. Then moments later, she pulls the trigger for a burst of fire, and the 9-millimeter submachine gun jumps towards Vacca's head. He is mortally wounded.

SAM SCARMARDO, GUN RANGE OWNER: We really don't know what happened. I mean, our guys are trained to basically hover over people when they're shooting. And if they're shooting right-handed, we have our hand behind them, ready to push the weapon out of the way, and if they're left-handed, the same thing.

FOREMAN: Developed in the 1950s, the Uzi can fire ten rounds per second at close to 900 miles an hour. In the hands of a skilled marksman, it can be highly effective.

But groups like the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence have long argued that guns in the hands of young people bring inherent risks. Twenty-eight states plus Washington, D.C., have laws to prosecute adults who allow unsupervised access to guns, but they point out such laws don't apply to supervised use.

MICHAEL MCLIVELY, LAW CENTER TO PREVENT GUN VIOLENCE: There might not be a law on the books, but this is one of those situations where we think common sense should probably dictate our behaviors. And it just doesn't seem to make a lot of sense to give young children access, particularly to very powerful automatic weapons.

FOREMAN: Still, it's happened before. In 2008, an 8-year-old boy at a gun show in Massachusetts shot himself in the head while firing an Uzi. The former police chief who organized that show could have gone to prison for more than 20 years, but he was acquitted.

And local authorities say so far in this latest incident, charges will not be fired against anyone, calling the death the result of an industrial accident.


FOREMAN: We reached out to the NRA for any comment in all of this, because they purport to speak for the concerns of gun owners. We haven't heard anything from them.

But Wolf, what we have heard all day is just people really saying that this is at the nexus between the gun debate and the question of responsibility of adults when young people are involved with things like this. There's a lot of power here. This is a very serious weapon, compared to many guns out there. All guns are serious. Every gun owner will tell you that. But this is in a class that goes beyond something you'd normally expect in the hands of a child.

BLITZER: This is an Uzi submachine gun.

FOREMAN: Exactly.

BLITZER: If it goes off, you've got to be strong to control it to begin with.

FOREMAN: Sure. Sure, absolutely. When they start shooting like that in rapid fire, the gun starts walking. That's why even trained professionals have a hard time holding it on a target. And certainly for a kid, a very difficult task.

BLITZER: Thanks very much.

Let's dig a little bit deeper on the legal issues. Joining us now, our senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin, and our CNN law enforcement analyst, Tom Fuentes. He's the former FBI assistant director.

You heard about this story, Tom. I mean, it's a shocking, shocking development. Can anyone ever make a case that a 9-year-old little girl should be given an Uzi submachine gun to start shooting?

FUENTES: No, I don't think so. And I was a police firearm instructor. I was an FBI firearm instructor. And even there, even if it's an adult that's never handled a weapon like that, you don't let go. You hold onto the gun or come behind them and hold both of their arms. Make sure that gun remains pointed down range at all times, just in case the recoil. BLITZER: You've got to be strong to make sure you can contain it.

Right? The way it's described when you shoot that submachine gun, you've got to be pretty powerful.

FUENTES: Right. And that's why we teach our personnel that when you fire just three-round bursts. You know, so that you don't lose control over this. Like in the movies, someone shooting 30 rounds nonstop. You're going to lose complete control.

So, you know -- but to allow a 9-year-old and let go of the gun and let her be in control of that, this could have even been worse. Had there been other people down the line shooting at the same time, it could have been a massacre.

BLITZER: We know the instructor, Jeffrey, was tragically killed in this accident. Were any laws, as far as you can tell, broken? Should any crime be charged right now?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: You know, Wolf, my mentor in journalism was Michael Kinsley. And he has something he calls Kinsley's Law. Which is the scandal isn't what's illegal. The scandal is what's legal. The scandal is what we choose not to punish. What society says is OK is often the biggest scandal of all.

As far as I can tell, this was all perfectly legal. In Arizona where this took place, if a 9-year-old is supervised by an instructor and her parents, both of which were present, that's OK.

It's insane. It's ridiculous. It is not a way a civilized country should operate, but those are what our rules are; and this is what happens.

BLITZER: But as you know, this is not the first time this has happened. And there's something called negligence homicide, right?

TOOBIN: There is, but you know, this is not -- this was a supervised gun range. The procedures were in place. There was -- that gun range, as I understand it, had permission for 8 years old and up. This child was 9 years old.

I mean, look at the photograph. The photograph, this girl can barely hold onto it. It is so insane that she had this gun in her hands, but you know, the law -- the gun laws in states like Arizona, you know, in the more red states, they're only getting more lax. They're not getting more restrictive.

BLITZER: Let me ask Tom Fuentes. You were former assistant director of the FBI. How do you fix this so it doesn't happen again?

FUENTES: No, I agree with Jeffrey. As long as the law is there, you can't fix it. There's got to be. There has to be some form of legislation that places a higher age that maybe a person has to be 18 and the qualifications of the instructor is also known and published.

And apparently, according to this law, they're saying not only a firearm instructor is qualified, but it could be a parent. Parents aren't qualified if they're not a firearm instructor. Just being older doesn't make them smarter when it comes to now to handle a weapon.

BLITZER: And this poor little girl, this 9-year-old girl, Jeffrey, unfortunately she's going to have to live with this for the rest of her life, when you think about it. Here's the question: Obviously, laws have to be changed to prevent this kind of accident from occurring down the road. How likely is that?

TOOBIN: Zero. We didn't change the laws after Newtown, where 21 children were killed. The Second Amendment has become inviolate. It wasn't -- for most of American history, people thought the Second Amendment didn't protect an individual right to bear arms at all.

But starting in the 1960s, '70s, the National Rifle Association got the courts to start to change it. 2008, the Supreme Court said, yes, there is an individual right to bear arms. And politically it is unassailable.

Arizona will not change these laws. And I don't see anything happening as a result of this awful, awful event.

BLITZER: Jeffrey Toobin and Tom Fuentes, a really shocking, shocking development. Thanks, guys, very much.

Just ahead, we're going to tell you how a prosecutor's bizarre drunken driving arrest led to the indictment of the Texas governor, Rick Perry. We're investigating the legal drama, the political fallout for a possible presidential contender.


BLITZER: In Texas, Governor Rick Perry's lawyers now are formally asking a judge to throw out a felony indictment alleging the Republican abused his power. We're digging deeper into the charges against the possible 2016 presidential candidate and finding a web of partisan politics, old grudges and even a drunken driving arrest.

Here's CNN senior investigative correspondent Drew Griffin.


DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The mug shot so far tell it all -- one, a drunken Texas prosecutor, the other a smiling Texas governor, two characters in a bitter political feud that reached a boiling point one April night last year.

The drunk woman was swerving in and out of bike lanes.

Police pulled her over.

DEPUTY: Have you been drinking tonight?

ROSEMARY LEHMBERG: I had a couple drinks.

GRIFFIN: Took one whiff and realized it was time to do a field sobriety test.

DEPUTY: From this position.

LEHMBERG: Uh-uh. I can't do it.

DEPUTY: OK, I'm trying to demonstrate it.

GRIFFIN: What they also soon realized.

DEPUTY: I'm not 90 percent sure that's her.

DEPUTY: You're kidding me.

DEPUTY: District attorney.

GRIFFIN: Was the suspected drunk was none other than the Travis County district attorney. A very belligerent Rosemary Lehmberg.

DEPUTY: One thousand three. One thousand four.

DEPUTY: Ma'am, he's just trying to keep her from tipping over. You don't need to be slapping his hands away.

GRIFFIN: The county's top prosecutor was really drunk, failed to walk the line.

LEHMBERG: But I have a bad back and it hurts. I'm fine. Leave me alone.

DEPUTY: You're falling backwards. We don't want you to fall over.

LEHMBERG: I'm not going to fall.

GRIFFIN: Had a blood alcohol level almost three times the legal limit and verbally assaulted, even threatened the arresting officers.

LEHMBERG: You stop. You think I'm going to hurt you?

GRIFFIN: Jailers strapped her in a chair and put a spit hood on him.

LEHMBERG: Take this stupid thing off my head.

GRIFFIN: Former Travis County assistant district attorney Rick Reed, along with many others saw, this video --

LEHMBERG: Give me my phone.

GRIFFIN: -- and demanded his former boss step down.

LEHMBERG: No, I'm not drunk. Y'all have just ruined my career.

RICK REED, FORMER TRAVIS COUNTY ASST. DISTRICT ATTORNEY: She attempted to bully these sheriffs deputies into either releasing her or calling the sheriff himself so that she could avoid these charges.

GRIFFIN (on camera): An abuse of power. REED: Unquestionably.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): Governor Rick Perry insisted Lehmberg step down, too. It was so embarrassing.

But Rose Lehmberg, a powerful Texas Democrat, is still in office.

GOV. RICK PERRY (R), TEXAS: I'm going to enter this courthouse with my head held high.

GRIFFIN: And in odd twist of political fate, it is now Republican Governor Rick Perry who has just been indicted related to the Lehmberg case.

Mike McCrum was the special prosecutor.

MIKE MCCRUM, SPECIAL PROSECUTOR: Count one of the indictment charges him with abuse of official capacity, a first degree felony. And count two of the indictment charges him with coercion of a public servant, a third degree felony.

GRIFFIN: Here is how it happened. Lehmberg is perhaps the most powerful Democrat in the state of Texas and a long-time thorn in the side of Texas Republicans. Her district attorney's office runs the state's office of public integrity, which ironically investigates wrongdoing by state officials.

When she got drunk, Perry saw his chance to get rid of her, threatening to veto funds for the Office of Public Integrity unless Lehmberg steps down. Texans for Public Justice, an uber liberal group of watchdog Democrats, filed a complaint alleging that governor's threat is illegal.

(on camera): Your complaint is basically based on the fact that he threatened to fire or get rid of or coerce her to leave.

CRAIG MCDONALD, DIRECTOR, TEXANS FOR PUBLIC JUSTICE: That's exactly right. Our complaint was about the threat. It wasn't about the veto.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The honorable Rick Perry, governor of the state of Texas.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): That's because under the law, the governor of Texas has the right to veto anything he wants. But, McDonald says, the governor does not have the right to use the threat of a veto to get anything he wants. .

(on camera): Let me understand this from a layman's point of view. We've got this drunk lady who is the head of a public integrity prosecution unit who is doing her own threats. And the governor wants to get rid of her and she won't leave. He says I'm going to exercise my constitutional authority to veto this legislation unless you step down or resign. What's wrong with?

MCDONALD: He has constitutional authority to veto anything. But he doesn't have the authority to threaten a person who doesn't work under his control.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: In most criminal cases, you say, well, let's see how the jury decides. In this case everyone's first question is, forget the jury. Is this a crime at all?

GRIFFIN: CNN's legal analyst and former federal prosecutor, Jeff Toobin, and many others, question the indictment.

TOOBIN: The governor has the power to veto this money. So, the question is, how can it be a crime to threaten to use a power that is entirely within the powers of your office?

PERRY: I refer to Travis County as the blueberry in the tomato soup -- if you know what I mean.


GRIFFIN: Perry's colorful explanation of what happened is all about politics.

Travis County and its county seat, the self-proclaimed weird city of Austin, is all blue in the middle of a very red state. And the grand jury pool here reflects a Democratic slant.

A CNN analysis found some grand jury members openly Democratic and openly liberal. Others are cautious about political affiliation. None of them, we found, you would consider to be strongly Republican.

Grand jurors we talked to said the indictment was not political and the special prosecutor laid out a convincing case.

One did admit the vote was not unanimous.

Perry's defense lawyer says the indictment is nothing more than banana republic politics and asked the judge to dismiss the case. Legal experts say unless there's evidence of an actual crime, that indictment will likely be thrown out into the hot Texas wind.

Drew Griffin, CNN, Austin.


BLITZER: Just ahead, will Rick Perry's legal battle hurt his presidential hopes in 2016? We'll talk about the possible fallout. Gloria Borger is standing by.


BLITZER: As you just saw in the Drew Griffin piece, CNN is investigating the indictment of the Texas Governor Rick Perry, the possible fallout if he decides to run again once again for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016.

Let's bring in our chief political analyst Gloria Borger.

An excellent piece by Drew Griffin. A lot of liberals, a lot of Democrats, are actually saying Rick Perry in this particular case is right.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, David Axelrod, former advisor to President Obama, "The New York Times" had editorialized about this.

Look, presidents, governors threaten vetoes every single day. There is nothing criminal about threatening a veto, which is what you heard in Drew Griffin's piece.

Look, he can veto things. He just can't threaten it. And, you know, you have to say, look, even if you disagree with whether he should have threatened to veto the funding, maybe he should have called for a recall of this person and left it up to the voters. You can disagree with him on that political maneuver, but taking it one step further and saying actually that he should have been indicted criminally for threatening to do something that he is legally allowed to do is kind of head scratching to me. I don't -- I don't really get it.

BLITZER: And when you see the video of her after she's clearly drunk.

BORGER: Right.

BLITZER: She was not only arrested for drunk driving, but she was convicted of drunk driving. You hear what she's saying. You see how drunk she is. It's very, very powerful evidence.

BORGER: Right. And what the governor was saying was like, look, I don't think she's fit to hold this office.

Are they political enemies? Absolutely.

So, he was saying, I don't think she's fit to hold this office. If she doesn't resign, I'm going -- I'm going to veto that funding. And, you know, he had every right to do that.

Ironically, though, Wolf, this is helping Rick Perry politically. I was talking to one of his senior advisers today who say, look, you know, people got one view of him in 2012, remember the oops, the famous oops moment. They didn't like it very much. He's saying, now, you get a second chance for them to look at him, to look at his temperament, the way he's handled this.

Lots of people have said that he's handled this kind of gracefully and with some humor, as Drew pointed out in his piece, his mug shot looked more like he was posing for a glam shot kind of not taking it that seriously. And so, his aides say, look, this gives him an opportunity to show a little bit of leadership here, a little bit of strength, continue with the business that he's got to do and handle this in the appropriate manner.

BLITZER: We'll see what the courts decide now.

BORGER: Right.

BLITZER: Because this goes before the courts.

BORGER: They're trying to get this dismissed.


BORGER: We'll learn about that within 30 to 60 days, I'm told, about whether it will be dismissed. They want to get it thrown out.

In the meantime, though, Wolf, he's milking this for everything he possibly can with the Republican Party. And even some Democrats are looking at him and saying, gee, you know, doesn't seem so crazy at least in this instance, right?

BLITZER: Yes. And Drew's report was pretty eye opening for people who haven't necessarily followed it all that closely. You say, you know, this seems to be crazy. This woman really was convicted of drunk driving.

BORGER: Right. So if you're looking at Rick Perry and you're taking another look at him, you're saying, wait a minute, he doesn't seem on the wrong side of this one.

BLITZER: This is not out of the question it could actually wind up helping his chances, if he decides to run for president.

BORGER: For now, sure. It's a long way between now and then.

BLITZER: Gloria Borger is back. Thanks very much for joining us.


BLITZER: Remember, you can always follow us on Twitter, go ahead and tweet me @WolfBlitzer. Tweet the show @CNNSitRoom. Please be sure to join us again tomorrow, right here on THE SITUATION ROOM. You can always watch us live or you can DVR the show so you won't miss a moment.

That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.