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Ray Rice Reinstated; National Protests; Black Friday; Obama Facing Old & New Challenges; CNN Poll: More Americans See Economy Improved

Aired November 28, 2014 - 18:00   ET


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news: new protests, fresh demonstrations in cities across the U.S. over the Michael Brown shooting case, many of them targeting retailers, forcing some stores to close. What will happen tonight in Ferguson, Missouri?

Forced into hiding -- new details of officer Darren Wilson and how he fled for his life just days after his deadly confrontation with Michael Brown. What does his future hold?

Mall madness. We're there as doors open on one of the busiest shopping days of the year. Are these bargains really worth the lines and even these fights?

And on the Soul Train, Wolf Blitzer plays a special role in the upcoming Soul Train Awards. Which star was he picked to introduce?

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. Wolf is off today. I'm Brianna Keilar. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

KEILAR: And we are following breaking news, Black Friday shopping overwhelmed and, in some cases, shut down by a fresh wave of protests over the Michael Brown shooting case.

There are demonstrations across the U.S., including one that forced the closure of an entire mall near Ferguson, Missouri. That's where the unarmed black teenager was shot by white police officer Darren Wilson, cleared of wrongdoing by a grand jury this week, a decision that sparked rioting in Ferguson and protests nationwide.

Wilson's attorney, Neil Bruntrager, is standing by to talk with us, along with our correspondents and other guests this hour.

Let's begin now with CNN national correspondent Jason Carroll. He's in Ferguson for us.

Jason, what is the latest on protests?

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brianna protesters have targeted several malls in the area of Saint Louis. They also targeted this Wal-Mart here, protesters saying the time has come for their economic voices to be heard. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CARROLL (voice-over): The Galleria Mall near Clayton, Missouri, had shut its doors this afternoon. The National Guard showing up as dozens of protesters staged a die-in by lying on the floor.

More protesters blocked by police at the West County Mall in a suburb of Saint Louis, the motto of demonstrators, no justice, no profits. Dozens descended on a Target in Saint Louis, calling on shoppers not to buy in support of Michael Brown, and it wasn't just Target. Several Wal-Marts throughout the city saw protests as well, the National Guard showing up at this one in Ferguson, blocking the entrance to the parking lot. Doors did not open until 8:00 a.m., but, when they did, shoppers did show, some saying the idea of a blackout may be misguided.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a lose-win situation, kind of.

CARROLL (on camera): How so?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How so? Us shopping on Black Friday is not going to bring any justice to the whole situation anyway. I think we have to come up with some better ideas.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To me, it's disgusting. And...

CARROLL: And what part is disgusting?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The looting, the protesting, if it's not peaceful, it's just not right what they're doing. And everything is boarded up. It just looks like a ghost town.

CARROLL (voice-over): Protesters here kept their distance from the Wal-Mart entrance. One of them who came from Wisconsin talked about the need to target retailers.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Black lives matter more than Black Friday. We give thanks one day and then the next day, we will trample each other for a $50 TV. So all lives matter. Black lives matter.

CARROLL: Michael Brown supporters using social media to raise awareness and spread the word under the Twitter hashtag #BlackoutBlackFriday.

Hundreds gathered in front of Macy's in New York this afternoon holding signs that read, "Out the stores" and "Time to act," supporters calling it a racial and economic rally.


CARROLL: And, tomorrow, Brianna, the demonstrations will take a different form. The NAACP is organizing something called the Journey for Justice. It will start at about noon tomorrow at the Canfield Green apartments, not far from where I'm standing. That is where, as you know, Michael Brown was shot.

And demonstrators will then march 120 miles over the next seven days to the governor's residence in Jefferson City -- Brianna.

KEILAR: All right, Jason.

And we are going to hook now at some live pictures coming to us from New York. These are protesters who are there protesting some of the Black Friday shopping that is going on. This has been going on throughout the day. Protesters protesting against the decision in the shooting death of Michael Brown, the decision not to indict officer Darren Wilson.

We're actually learning new details about that officer, how he's been forced into hiding since the death of Michael Brown.

CNN's Brian Todd has been working this part of the story for us.

What are you finding out, Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, tonight, learning new details about Darren Wilson's efforts to protect himself. There have been death threats, bounties placed on his head. As a result, Wilson has been constantly on the move, in hiding, always looking over his shoulder.


TODD (voice-over): Despite not being indicted by a grand jury or charged with a crime in the shooting of Michael Brown, tonight, Darren Wilson is still living a life in hiding, something his lawyers say has now gone on for months.

CNN has learned it began just days after the shooting in August, when officer Wilson was mowing his lawn. He got a call telling him his home address was circulating online. Within three hours, he was packed and gone.

NEIL BRUNTRAGER, ATTORNEY FOR DARREN WILSON: He had to leave the grass, literally, half-mowed. And he had to go into hiding, because there are death threats out against him. There are bounties that have been placed upon his life.

TODD: Since that day in August, Wilson has moved from house to house, even staying for a short time with one of his lawyers. He says he's changed his appearance, growing a beard at one point. When he goes out, his lawyers say, he often goes to movies, which offers time cloaked in darkness. In an interview with ABC's George Stephanopoulos, Wilson talked about his precautions.

DARREN WILSON, FERGUSON POLICE DEPARTMENT: From where you sit in a restaurant to where you drive, everything has to run through your head. All the time you're watching to make sure no one is following you, everything. You hear or see someone look at you and then lean over and tell someone a secret. And that second person looks at you. You're like, do they know who I am?

TODD: In recent days, "The New York Times" published Wilson's home address online, likely inadvertently, as part of his marriage license, though he's not believed to have lived at that home in months.

His lawyers say immediately after the shooting, Wilson wanted to return to his job as a police officer. One of his own attorneys told him if he did, he could be executed in a blind alley.

RON HOSKO, LAW ENFORCEMENT LEGAL DEFENSE FUND: It's not a great leap to think if officer Wilson were to start patrolling the streets of Ferguson again, that somebody sees what shift he's on, makes a call and pulls him into a bad situation.


TODD: What about Wilson's future? Ron Hosko, the expert we just heard from, said Wilson would be prudent to change his name, keep changing his appearance, put his property into a trust so that it can be shielded from public view. And he says Wilson will have to be sharpening his awareness and his alertness, and he will likely be looking over his shoulder for quite a while.

Now, as for being a policeman, CNN has been reporting that Wilson is negotiating his resignation from the Ferguson police -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Brian Todd, thanks.

We want to talk about all this with officer Wilson's attorney, Neil Bruntrager.

Neil, thank you for being with us.

You just herald Brian's report there, saying that officer Wilson is negotiating his resignation. Where does that stand right now?

BRUNTRAGER: We're still in talks.

We're hoping again we can part ways with the city of Ferguson in an amicable question. There's no question he can't go back, but the terms which he leaves are very, very important. We're still talking about. Nothing is finished at this point. But I suspect it will be something relatively soon.

KEILAR: What do you mean the terms under which he leaves?

BRUNTRAGER: Again, he's going to have to resign simply because he can't go back. I think the city wants to treat him as fairly as they can, but the flip side of it is, again, we're just sort of figuring out the when of all these things.

And there are some financial issues that have to be attended to, things like his pension and things like that he will have already earned. We have to make sure we're covering all those issues.

KEILAR: Tell us about his time in hiding. How afraid has he been, is he for his life?

BRUNTRAGER: Well, Darren, like any policeman, is trained in a number of different areas. And obviously in terms of protecting his life he can do that.

Darren's fear is not for Darren. Darren's fear is for his family. That has been his guidance principle throughout all of this. But, fortunately, most police officers, and Darren is one of them, is trained to live life undercover and that's something they learn how to do. In terms of doing surveillances, they learn how to do that. They learn how to blend in their backgrounds.

They learn how to be inconspicuous. And that's really been the theme, how do I remain inconspicuous? That's the life he has lived.

KEILAR: Will he be changing his name?

BRUNTRAGER: I can't tell you that.

KEILAR: But the other issues of changing his appearance, he's been doing some of that, I imagine, we have heard with the beard and so forth.


KEILAR: Is that what he's doing?


BRUNTRAGER: Yes, ma'am.

And that's just the idea of remaining inconspicuous, whether it's facial hair on, facial hair off, whether it's long hair, short air, whether it's hair color. All of those things are things that any police officer would think about.

Again, it's so many different things. But it's how am I inconspicuous, how do I blend into the crowd? It's things like, again, when you're leaving the house in the morning or when you're coming home at night, you're getting out of your car, you look around to see who is on the streets. You look to see who is walking.

When you're driving, you look to see if people are following you. Sometimes, you double back to make sure you're not being followed. There's a variety of things that he does simply to make sure that when he gets home, he is, in fact, safe with his family.

KEILAR: Does he expect that he will always have to live in hiding like this, Neil?

BRUNTRAGER: I hope not. As we go on and as people look at the facts of this case and examine the facts of this case, I think that people are going to -- those people who have had an open mind, those people who are interested in the facts themselves, those people who have said I'm going to withhold full judgment until I see everything, I think he's hoping that that world will be the larger world.

I think he's got a lot that he could say. I think there's a lot that he could do. He's a remarkably poised young man, he's well- spoken and he's articulate. The experiences he's had, the lessons he has learned from this are lessons I think he should share with the world. I think it will advance the cause of policing and I think it will advance community relationships.

These are all things that need to be said. Again, I hope some day, I hope some day he can be the spokesman for something like that. I hope he can get back out in the world. It would be to our advantage.

KEILAR: Neil, stay with me. We will be talking with you in just a few minutes here.

We're also monitoring live protests that have been going on in New York City and also Ferguson, Missouri today. Stick with us. We will be back in just a moment to talk more with Neil Bruntrager, the attorney for officer Darren Wilson.


KEILAR: We're following breaking news, Black Friday shopping across the country being disrupted by protests over the Michael Brown shooting case and the grand jury decision not to charge officer Darren Wilson.

You're looking at live pictures, some of the world's -- some of the largest protests happening right now in New York City.

We're also back now with Neil Bruntrager. He's the attorney for officer Wilson.

Neil, thanks again for joining us.

You have talked about how officer Wilson has been certainly very concerned about his personal safety. You say he's not going to return to policing. Tell me more about that.

BRUNTRAGER: Well, the likelihood of him being able to go back is remote to nonexistent, and primarily because he is concerned if he went back into the department, he would just be a lightning rod for further activity.

He's concerned the first time he went out on the street, he would put himself and other officers at risk because of someone who just decided that they were going to take things into their own hands. Whether it's here in Ferguson or another place in this area or really any place in the country, his vision of this is that, look, policing is behind me.

And that's a real shame, because this was a truly dedicated police officer who wanted to live out his life, and as he's said many, many times, I hoped I would never have to pull my weapon. This is a man who liked to serve and he can't do that. We all lose because of that, Brianna.

KEILAR: He's not being charged -- that's what we learned Monday -- criminally. Is he prepared for the federal investigation and also the potential for a civil suit? BRUNTRAGER: Yes.

And keep in mind the federal investigation has really been a parallel investigation. Much of that has been going on as the state investigation did. So we have already been interviewed by the FBI. It was a very rigorous interview. It's been one of these situations where the FBI agents have been out talking to witnesses as well.

I would suspect that most of their street investigation is probably done. But, yes, he's prepared for it. Again, it's a different standard. It's a different type of charge they would be looking at in the federal courts. The civil rights violation has different elements. There are other things that are attendant to that.

I think it is a much harder case to prove, it's a much higher threshold that has to be crossed. Again, he's cooperated with everything. Everybody that has asked him to come forward and speak, he has done that. He will continue to do that and cooperate as we go forward.

KEILAR: I know he's been keeping an eye on current events, the protests that have been going on. What does he think about them?

BRUNTRAGER: It breaks his heart.

He has watched these things. I would go to Monday when the decision came down, of course, there was that brief moment of elation knowing that he was out from under that terrible scrutiny. But then we turned on the television and we watched as events unfolded in Ferguson that night.

And I'll tell you the room was just silent. Again, just as he saw places that he knew, as he saw people that he knew, as he watched these things unfold, it truly did break his heart. It was very, very hard to watch.

KEILAR: Does he have plans to issue an apology to Michael Brown's family?

BRUNTRAGER: Well, he has, Brianna.

But keep in mind, realistically, what can he say that will assuage their brief? Again, if he says to them, look, I'm terribly sorry that this has happened, and he has done that, people will say you haven't gone far enough. If he says look, I think I was justified, is that going to make them feel better?

Again, how do you find those right words? It's enough I think that he said listen, I'm sorry for your son's loss of life, I am. And he means that. That's the best we can do. There are no further words that we could offer that would sound sincere, Brianna. And those are sincere words.

KEILAR: Michael Brown Sr., the father of Michael Brown, has called officer Wilson a murderer. That's the word he used. What is your -- what is officer Wilson's reaction to that?

BRUNTRAGER: His reaction is, I'm sorry for your son's loss.

That's it, bottom line. I understand that those are words that are born of anger, they're born of grief. They're born of all of those strong emotions. Again, all we can say simply is that what happened that day was a matter of his training, of Darren Wilson's training, it was a function of his training. And what he did that day, Darren did because Darren felt he had to do.

So, again, we're sorry for that loss, but under the circumstances, there's nothing more we can say.

KEILAR: All right. Thank you so much, Neil Bruntrager. Really appreciate you being with us today, taking the time this evening.

BRUNTRAGER: Thank you.

KEILAR: Let's dig deeper now.

We want to talk to Shaun Jones. He's the assistant pastor of Mount Zion Baptist Church in Saint Louis. We also have CNN law enforcement and former FBI Assistant Director Tom Fuentes with us and we have community activist John Gaskin.

John, to you first. Weeks after Michael Brown's parents testified to the U.N., you have the Committee Against Torture calling the grand jury decision a tragedy. They said though they had to respect the decision of authorities not to prosecute officer Darren Wilson. But how significant do you think it is the U.N. considered this shooting in their report in the first place?

JOHN GASKIN, NAACP BOARD MEMBER: I think it's quite significant.

It's significant that the U.N. is speaking up regarding this. It's significant that the U.N. would invite Michael Brown's family to come and allow them to share their story, along with several protest leaders here in Saint Louis. And as we have seen in recent days, protests have been across the country.

I think that speaks volumes regarding the injustice that we have seen. You know, Brianna, many people are disappointed with that decision, that there was no indictment on any type of charges. People here at least, especially African-Americans, lost what little confidence they had in the justice system when that announcement was made. And we're very disappointed.

And so I'm hoping that the family of Michael Brown will find some type of justice in the coming months for the death of their son.

KEILAR: Yes, there is this -- they want a law passed, obviously, that would have body cams on officers. They also want -- know -- to take perhaps civil reprisal in this.

I wonder what you think, Tom, because this U.N. report, it says that there is concern about the militarization of U.S. police departments. This is the U.N. pointing a finger at the U.S. on this.

TOM FUENTES, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: First of all, Brianna, that's absurd. Coming from then, it's even more absurd.

I was on the board of Interpol. I ran FBI international operations for five years. I have met with law enforcement officials around the world for many, many years. What they're astounded at is the militarization of the U.S. public. They cannot believe we allow assault rifles in the hands of private citizens, armor-piercing shells in the hands of private citizens, body armor that can be purchased by private citizens.

That's unbelievable to them. Many of these countries, even large ones like China, their police officers on the streets don't even carry weapons. If they're going to do a raid, they check them out and go do it and then check them back in afterward. So they're looking at our society like it's still Wild West, and that's what police face.

So that's what the real leadership of law enforcement around the world thinks when they look at the United States.

KEILAR: What do you think about this proposal that Michael Brown's family wants? They want officers to wear body cams. Would that work?

FUENTES: Yes, I agree with that.


FUENTES: Years ago, when I was a police officer, I would have probably fought against that, that it's terrible to be under this kind of pressure.

Nowadays, I think most police officers on the street would welcome it, to show what they're up against. I think until you have seen even the dash cams on some cameras that show how people can become so aggressive with the police officer for no reason, or the degree of intoxication or the public official in Texas that was threatening the police officers, the prosecutor who luckily the dash cam proved the officers right in that case.

So I think most law enforcement officers now, and if I was on the street now, I would say put that camera on, I'm not turning it off. I want you to see what I see when someone comes at me. The demon look that officer Wilson -- I have talked to a number of police officers recently about that comment. And they comment what I say, we have all seen that look.

There is a time when a person can become so aggressive, so excited, so amped up, as many police officers call it, it can be drugs, it can be adrenaline. We have seen the look in the eyes of someone who basically that look says, I'm going to kill you. It's just hard to describe, but I don't know a police officer that's been on the street that hasn't seen that look at least once in somebody on the street. KEILAR: Shaun, you have been urging people to come together in

the wake of violent protests this week. Also today, though, you tweeted encouragement for this Black Friday civil disobedience and you also said in this tweet black lives don't matter to Missouri Governor Jay Nixon.

Do you really feel that way?

SHAUN JONES, ASSISTANT PASTOR, MOUNT ZION BAPTIST CHURCH: The problem is, we're concerned that our governor has yet to really do a lot to provide justice for our community.

He created the state of emergency so quickly. However, when it came down to the night of the announcement, there were not enough support of National Guardsmen in Ferguson particularly to protect those businesses.

And so our concern is simply that, under the state of emergency, the governor at any moment can offer and put in place a special prosecutor to then put together a real grand jury we find will be transparent and we can have justice for our community.

Thus, that's the reason why we're having this Blackout Friday. And we're saying that, if black lives don't matter, maybe green lives, money will matter to those and the sales tax to really create change and transformation for our region.

KEILAR: So you're feeling sort of the broader issues that all of this has revealed in the last few months. And obviously there is a need not just in Ferguson, not just in Missouri, beyond that, for there to be better relations between communities, between black communities and police departments.

And are you feeling like there's just no progress that has really been made in that regard?

JONES: There's been little progress. We are hoping that that will change. There are many persons, community activists, clergy, and organized groups that want to work and have been working in the past with law enforcement.

Law enforcement, we're not against law enforcement. We who have been on the ground, we want officers to go home, but we also want our black and brown children to also go home and to be safe. So our goal is to create a beloved community. Dr. King would say we can all work together, be diverse, represent and understand the differences, but still have one goal in mind, which is that we all matter and that the human race matters so we can all come together in one accord.

KEILAR: To that end, John, the NAACP is setting off on this 120- mile, seven-day march. Tomorrow, it starts and it's called Journey for Justice: Ferguson to Jefferson City. This is going to go to Governor Nixon's residence, I believe, is where it ends.

What does this march mean to supporters of Michael Brown? GASKIN: The message should be, if Governor Jay Nixon will not

come and sit down with us, if he won't come to us, take this, we will come to you.

And so Governor Nixon has completely -- his lack of leadership is something that needs to be reevaluated. Governor Nixon has done very little when it comes to funding for education in African-American communities. He's done very little when it comes to diversity with the Missouri Highway Patrol.

He's done very little when it comes to jobs within our communities. I have to agree with the pastor here today. I hope that the message will be sent today that obviously green does matter, because, here in America, African-Americans spend $1 trillion.

That's what their buying power is. Yet they make less than whites. And so hopefully the governor will also see that statement made when it comes to sales tax today. But I believe the march over the weekend will be successful. And each day, there will be some reflection on how many steps will it take physically to get justice for Michael Brown and black and brown lives that lie in the street every 23 days that are killed by law enforcement.

KEILAR: All right, and we will be watching that. CNN will be there covering this march, 120 miles, seven days and it starts tomorrow.

John, thank you for being with us. Shaun, really appreciate it. Tom, always good to have you here.

More breaking news next. The decision is in on Ray Rice's appeal of his indefinite suspension by the NFL for knocking out his girlfriend.

Plus, more on the fallout from the Michael Brown shooting and the special challenge that it poses to President Obama.


KEILAR: There is breaking news in the case of Ray Rice, the former Baltimore Ravens' running back, suspended indefinitely by the NFL for knocking his girlfriend out cold, a disturbing scene that was caught on surveillance tapes. Rice appealed his suspension and has just won his case.

CNN's Rachel Nichols joining us now on the phone with more. Rachel, tell us what this means, what you're finding out.

RACHEL NICHOLS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ray Rice is now able to sign with any NFL team he wants, and he is able to get on the field and play. And the big question going forward in terms of his football future is if any team is going to take a chance and actually sign him. Because of course, we would expect a pretty big public reaction to that.

There's also going to be a ripple effect on Roger Goodell, though. Because this case wasn't really a referendum on Ray Rice and whether or not he hit his wife. We all know that he did. It was a referendum on how Roger Goodell handled this case.

And it was an independent appeals -- appeals arbitrator, a former federal judge, who basically said, he screwed up. That he screwed up when he only gave Ray Rice a two-game suspension initially. And then the TMZ video came out, which horrified all of us, and then Roger Goodell turned around and suspended Ray Rice indefinitely.

And Ray's argument the whole was, "Hey, he had all the information the first time. He was just trying to cover up here, to cover up for his own incompetence," and the arbitrator basically agreed with him.

KEILAR: You know, it makes you think that Ray Rice, that no one's really going to want to sign him, a team won't sign him. But at the same time, he's a very good player. Winning is important. Do you think there's a chance that a team does decide to take him?

NICHOLS: Well, there's always a chance. Look, Michael Vick was in prison for doing some pretty horrible, just visceral things to dogs. And then the Philadelphia Eagles signed him, and now the New York Jets.

We saw recently the Denver Broncos brought in Richie Incognito, who of course, was part of that Miami Dolphins bullying scandal. Now, they didn't end up signing him, but the thought process was, hey, you have a strong locker room with a quarterback like Peyton Manning, who's going to make sure that the right thing happens, you could sign a player like that.

But here's the thing about the NFL. Yes, winning is everything. So if Ray Rice is a really hot commodity, I think there is a team that would take a chance on him.

The problem is, he's not a hot commodity anymore. He's 27 years old. He's going to be 28 in January. Unfortunately, for an NFL running back, 30 is sort of what people think of as the down slope of your career, and his numbers weren't very good last season before all of this happened.

So he will need to convince a team that not only is he not damaged goods in the public eye but he can be rehabilitated. But also needs to convince a team that he can work out for them on the football field. But hey, I've seen stranger things happen, Brianna, so I wouldn't count it out.

KEILAR: Yes. Don't count it out.

So Ray Rice released a statement today. He thinks the judge who heard his appeal, the NFL Players' Association, and then he says, most importantly, "my wife, Janay."

And he goes on to say in part, "I made an inexcusable mistake and accept full responsibility for my actions. I am thankful there was a proper appeals process in place to address this issue. I will continue to improve myself and be the best husband, father, and friend."

So this -- this isn't really the first time that he's expressed remorse for his actions, Rachel, but you know, is this -- is this enough?

NICHOLS: We're going to have to see if Ray Rice can rehabilitate himself in the court of public opinion.

You know, Americans generally like to forgive. They generally like to give people second chances. If you had told people that Michael Vick would be cheered for on the field in the height of the scandal over the actions with his dogs, I think people would have said, "There's no way, you're crazy." And yet, sure enough, he walks into the stadium and people are crying and screaming his name.

So you know, it could certainly happen. It's just a question of will it?

And then the other question is, what's going to happen with Roger Goodell. We're looking at the hearing officer, the honorable Barbara Jones, her ruling. And she talks about the fact that this indefinite suspension was arbitrary, that it was capricious, that it is, quote, "an abuse of discretion on the commissioner's part." And this has put him under a little bit more fire, especially as he tries to negotiate with the NFL Players' Association right now.

KEILAR: Yes, and I think a lot of people would say it was appropriate, but it was something he should have done from the get-go, not just sort of throw it in there later. Janay...

NICHOLS: Absolutely. And that's sort of the confusion with all of this. Some people today heard that oh, Ray Rice is reinstated and they're thinking about, is that deserved and the merits of his case. This has nothing to do with did he hit his wife, how bad was that? Should he be reinstated if he did or didn't hit her?

It's really about whether it was fair the way Roger Goodell handled this case...

KEILAR: Right.

NICHOLS: By giving him such a light penalty the first time and then just hitting him with a huge penalty the second time, really seemingly for no reason.

KEILAR: Yes. So Janay Rice spoke out for the first time since the Baltimore Ravens running back was suspended indefinitely. This was an interview with NBC. Let's listen.


JANAY RICE, WIFE OF RAY RICE: I was furious. We came home, and we didn't talk the entire ride. I didn't speak to him the entire ride home. He tried to talk to me. I didn't want to hear anything. I just knew he hit me, and I was completely over it. I was done. I didn't want to hear anything. I just didn't even want to entertain it, entertain him, anything

that he had to say, any explanation. Of course in the back of my mind and in my heart, I knew that our relationship wouldn't be over. Because I know that this wasn't us, and it's not him.


KEILAR: So Rachel, you've watched this. What is your reaction to that?

NICHOLS: I mean, look, there is a point where the relationship between Janay Rice and Ray Rice is between Janay Rice and Ray Rice. And it is not for the American people to decide how their relationship should go forward.

However, you would hope that they would -- as they do move forward, be perhaps examples in how to fight domestic violence, how to reform after being in this kind of incident, and we're just going to have to see how they both do in the days and months ahead.

KEILAR: Do you think there's a desire for them, on their part, to do that?

NICHOLS: Yes, I do. I mean, I think that they are both -- they have been public about wanting to be -- you read the statement from Ray Rice -- a better example, a better husband, a better friend. He is a public figure; he is aware of that.

I think the reason why a lot of people had a hard time with this whole incident is that Ray Rice has a track record of being very active in the community. And we will have to see if he continues on this front going forward.

KEILAR: Well, it sure is needed, so we're hopeful that will happen. Rachel Nichols, thank you so much.

Just ahead, the U.S. economy is on the rebound. So why is it still posing such a challenge for President Obama?

Plus, the lines, the bargains, all the chaos. You know what it is. It's Black Friday, and we're there as the doors open.


KEILAR: This Thanksgiving weekend finds President Obama's plate full of challenges.

CNN's senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta has more.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At the end of a tough week, when it seemed the politics of Ferguson could overwhelm his presidency --

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There are good people on all sides of this debate.

ACOSTA: -- some hopeful signs for the White House, from peaceful Ferguson protests, to shoppers flooding the stores on Black Friday. A new CNN poll finds for the first time in seven years, a majority of Americans say things are going well in the country, up 11 points from last year. The reason? A growing number believe the economy is starting to recover from the Great Recession.

OBAMA: Our businesses aren't just creating jobs at the fastest pace since the '90s --

ACOSTA: It's a message the president wants to deliver, though he's acknowledged too few Americans are feeling better off.

OBAMA: Absolutely not. I wouldn't be -- I wouldn't be satisfied as long as I'm meeting somebody that doesn't have a job and wants one. And the American people aren't satisfied. So, I want to do everything I can to deliver for them.

ACOSTA: Away from the economy, there are critical questions for the president to answer. On ISIS, fellow Democratic Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey released a statement, pressuring the White House to do more in Syria, to bring about the end of the violent rule of that country's leader, Bashar al Assad.

OBAMA: I've heard you. But you've got to listen to me, too.

ACOSTA: On the president's executive action on immigration.

OBAMA: I just took action to change the law.

ACOSTA: Republicans taking control of Congress next year are vowing to attack the policy's funding.

As for Ferguson, civil rights leaders are calling for presidential leadership, as Mr. Obama decides whether to pay the city a visit.

MYRLIE EVERS-WILLIAMS, FORMER CHAIRWOMAN, NAACP: I don't know if he should go, but he should speak loudly, strongly, his beliefs, and to all of the American public that it is not just a black problem, it's a problem of all Americans.


ACOSTA: And aides to the president say he's determined as ever not to be a lame duck heading into this New Year. But on the most pressing of problem for that is the situation in Ferguson, aides to the president say there will be more details coming out soon on how the president plans to tackle this subject. Meanwhile, the Justice Department says Attorney General Eric Holder will be heading to Atlanta on Monday to get that dialogue going -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Jim Acosta at the White House, thanks.

And let's talk more about politics now with CNN political commentator Ryan Lizza, he's Washington correspondent for "The New Yorker." And we also have CNN political commentator Cornell Belcher here with us here.

Ryan, I wonder, you've got Americans who are taking a -- they have a brighter view now of the economy. This is according to a new CNN/ORC poll. It says 41 percent say the economy has stabilized. That's up five months from last year and they're saying that a third who have been polled, they say the economy is starting to recover. This is up from only a quarter of those polled last November.

You'd think it's good news for the president. But can he just not even capitalize on this because of all the other issues that he's preoccupied with that we saw on Jim's report?

RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I'll tell you, I think the number one reason driving that is low gas prices. If you want to think about the number one black Friday sale, forget about a TV at Best Buy. If the gas prices are going to be down to, you know, $2.50 by the end of the year and, you know, that's got people feeling more optimistic. And eventually, if history is any guide, that will start spilling over a little bit to the president and economic confidence usually runs along with presidential approval and he might start feeling that a little bit.

KEILAR: Do you think that's the case? I mean, because his approval is not great I guess would be an understatement right now, Cornell.

CORNELL BELCHER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: That's spot on. I think as people grow more confident in the economy, the president, whoever the president is, is credited for that.

Look, most economists will say our economy has been improving, especially when you look at it compared to Europe is. But I think we still don't quite understand how frightened Americans were by the Great Recession that we just had.

I mean, we changed the economy. The downturn we just had, Americans were really frightened about it. Look, no matter what the sort of economic indicator is saying. Look, we are looking at job growth which the European Union would look. We are looking at sort of the financial system that is stable now. But people are still very fearful about the future.

KEILAR: Yes. The recession, it is almost a psychic -- it's almost this event that I think effects people so much. Don't you think --

BELCHER: And they have not come out of the fall because they were really frightened. Heck, I was really frightened by it.

KEILAR: Yes, I certainly was as well.

LIZZA: And people --

KEILAR: Go on, Ryan. LIZZA: No, I was going to say, real wages have not gone up. So,

economic confidence -- people don't necessarily care about, you know, 3 percent or 4 percent growth or the unemployment rate going down unless it affects them personally, but that's why the gas prices is something that affects everyone on a pocket-book level and that is what is driving this.

But as Cornell points out, there are still a lot of people struggling. The median wages have still not climbed during the Obama era, and the next Republican and Democratic candidates need a message that addresses that.

KEILAR: Yes, the gas prices are enough, but it feels kind of like maybe just one bright spot. I'll tell you that.

Thank you to you so much, Cornell and Ryan, to both of you.


KEILAR: And have a good holiday weekend.

Next, if you decided to sleep in this morning, we'll show you the Black Friday that you missed.

But, first, this "Impact Your World".


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR, NEW DAY (voice-over): As a Super Bowl champion, Drew Brees knows how to lead others to victory. Now, he's using those skills off the field to rally professionals to volunteer in their communities. It's called the Super Service Challenge.

DREW BREES, NFL QUARTERBACK: No matter, you know, what business you're in, what industry, there's always something that you can do to give back, and to be able to do that on a skill based or a pro bono level.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I serve to share my strengths.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I serve because my skills are in short supply.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I serve to keep kids in school.

CUOMO: People send in videos of themselves volunteering.

BREES: Through our -- the partnership with our foundation, The Brees Dream Foundation, we're trying to inspire others to want to go out and serve.

The challenge is, you get a group, you know, together. You identify a charity to go serve. You go serve them. You document that experience. You submit that video. And then you might be one of the ones that's chosen.

CUOMO: To add a little friendly competition, the Super Service Challenge will make donations to some of the charities featured.

BREES: We have roughly $1.5 million, you know, to give out. I don't know if there's anything that makes you feel better than giving.



KEILAR: There is every day shopping and then there is Black Friday shopping an the pros know the game starts early.

Our SITUATION ROOM colleague Jill Chappell shows us how it's done.


JILL CHAPPELL, CNN PRODUCER: Let's do this. Are you looking forward to this?

OK, Black Friday shopping. Thursday technically this year, but this is what I do every single year. I get my shopping done in one night.

I start at my first store that I always I start at, Old Navy. Because why? Door busters. Let's do this. I'm so excited.

All right. Head into the back. It is $19.99 so how much did I end up saving? $117.64. Love it.

But these are cute too. I need to stay focused. How much are these?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These are going to be 60 percent off.

CHAPPELL: This is why. This is why I come here and do this crazy in the middle of the night stuff.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you find everything okay?

CHAPPELL: Yes, I did. This is why I park close. It is time to do a package dump. Yes, I made it.

First round, done. Oh, my gosh.

Here is the problem -- you have to really want to go in, because the line is really long. So let's see. This is the end of the line. So my question is, is it worth standing in this long line? It is all about strategy. This store, Banana Republic. I'm buying men's stuff.

Like this, right? Oh, my gosh, the line, right? Long. Really long line, Martin. Really long.

You do it one night and then you are done the rest of the year. Are you done? OK. Hi.

(END VIDEOTAPE) KEILAR: And she was awake this morning. Amazing.

Wolf Blitzer is stepping out of THE SITUATION ROOM and on to the Soul Train.


ANNOUNCER: He is CNN personified. Please welcome Tessanne Chin and Mr. Wolf Blitzer.


KEILAR: So, Wolf was asked to help introduce Aloe Blacc at the Soul Train Awards. He was joined there by Tessanne Chin. She was winner of "The Voice". And you can see more of Wolf and all of the amazing performances this Sunday night on BET.

Be sure to join us Monday in THE SITUATION. You can watch live or you can DVR the show so that you won't miss a moment. I'm Brianna Keilar.

And "THIS IS LIFE WITH LISA LING" starts right now.