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THE SITUATION ROOM
Interview With Idaho Senator James Risch; Ferguson Protests; Bungled Apology; Deputy Charges with Manslaughter Speaks Out. Aired 18-19:00p ET
Aired April 17, 2015 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Enemy forces. CNN learns that National Guard troops used those words, enemy forces, to refer to protesters in Ferguson, Missouri. Did that add fuel to an explosive situation during the days of rioting?
Bungled apology. A reserve deputy publicly explains how he mistook a pistol for a stun gun, killing a suspect. Did he give prosecutors more ammunition against him?
And President Obama's outrage. You are going to find out why the president walked into a news conference and wound up fuming.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The dysfunction in the Senate just goes too far. This is an example of it.
It's gone too far. Enough, enough.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Breaking now: ISIS terrorists are making it clear they were aiming for Americans when they unleashed suicide bombers in a car that exploded just outside the U.S. Consulate in Northern Iraq. Police say at least four people were killed, 18 injured. The attack comes in the midst of a brutal multifront assault by ISIS. It's prompting U.S. officials to debate strategy and whether a new assessment by America's top general is "a denial of reality."
I will ask Senator James Risch about all of that. He's a leading member of the Foreign Relations and Intelligence Committees. Our correspondents and analysts, they are also standing by with all the news that's breaking right now.
First, let's go to our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto. He has the very latest -- Jim.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, tonight, U.S. officials extremely concerned. This was a bold attack on one of the most secure facilities one of the most secure cities in one of the most secure parts of Iraq. There's evidence tonight it could have been a complex operation, a small explosion, possibly a diversion, followed by a car bomb, followed by what seemed to be an armed assault. Eyewitnesses reporting an hour-long gun battle.
SCIUTTO (voice-over): A blast in Northern Iraq, the target, America. A car bomb exploding near the gates of the U.S. Consulate in Irbil, sending U.S. personnel running for cover.
MARIE HARF, SPOKESWOMAN, STATE DEPARTMENT: At 10:44 a.m. Eastern, the duck and cover protocol was activated at the U.S. Consulate. All chief of mission personnel have been accounted for. There are no reports of injuries to chief of mission personnel or to the local guards.
SCIUTTO: On Twitter, ISIS quickly claimed responsibility for the attack, confirming the target was the Irbil consulate.
And in Western Iraq, ISIS still in a pitched battle for Ramadi, sending residents out of the city by the tens of thousands, blocking roads. Iraqi forces are still holding positions in the center of Ramadi as they await reinforcements from Baghdad. With civilians having fled the city, Iraqi forces hope to have an easier time targeting ISIS militants in Ramadi, one battle in a long war to take back Iraq from the terror group.
SAMANTHA POWER, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: We're in a much stronger position than we were in a year ago. ISIL now controls 25 percent fewer, or 25 percent less territory than they did back then. So there will be back and forth and there will be incidents.
SCIUTTO: Still, America's top general, Joint Chiefs Chairman Martin Dempsey, dismissed Ramadi as strategically insignificant.
GEN. MARTIN DEMPSEY, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF CHAIRMAN: The city itself it's not symbolic in any way. It's not been declared, you know, part of the caliphate on one hand or central to the future of Iraq.
SCIUTTO: Today, Senator John McCain fired back, calling General Dempsey's remarks a -- quote -- "gross mischaracterization and a denial of reality."
What is not in dispute is the importance of the Baiji oil refinery in Central Iraq, also under assault by ISIS.
DEMPSEY: Once the Iraqis have full control of Baiji, they will control all of their oil infrastructure, both north and south, and deny ISIL the ability to generate revenue through oil.
SCIUTTO: With all eyes on the terror group, a nearly forgotten enemy killed in an Iraqi operation, Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, Saddam Hussein's former number two, known as the king of clubs in the U.S. most-wanted deck of cards, aced out of the picture.
SCIUTTO: Tonight, the Pentagon says that Ramadi is still contested. They say the Baiji oil refinery, the central part of the refinery controlled by Iraqi forces.
But look at this now. You have ISIS assaulting Ramadi here. They're assaulting Baiji here. We have the attack against the U.S. Consulate up here in Irbil. In addition to the major cities in Syria, Raqqa and Mosul that it controls, the areas in red here that they control and the areas and orange that they have influence, even as U.S. officials claiming that the Iraqi forces are gaining momentum, ISIS still able to strike in several parts of the country here, including Irbil, one of the most secure areas.
They're really formidable. They're able to bounce back even from losses like they had in Tikrit just a couple of weeks ago.
BLITZER: Certainly true, true indeed, and very devastating.
Thanks very much for that, Jim Sciutto.
Let's dig deeper on the ISIS attack targeting the United States Consulate and all the men and women who work there, civilian, diplomatic, military personnel. What does it mean for the U.S. and the coalition strategy?
Our global affairs correspondent, Elise Labott, is joining us right now.
What's ominous about the attack is where it occurred. As Jim Sciutto just pointed out, it was supposed to be a secure area, relatively speaking.
ELISE LABOTT, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: That's right.
As Jim said, Wolf, it's a relatively peaceful area. It's Kurdish-controlled and in the beginning of ISIS' advance through Iraq, the U.S. moved a lot of its personnel from Baghdad to Irbil, because they thought it was safer. And when the U.S. started its operations against ISIS, in part it was to protect Americans in Irbil at the consulate there.
So the fact that ISIS was able to penetrate Kurdish defenses and launch this new area of attacks is very troubling.
BLITZER: ISIS is making this major move on this major city of Ramadi, which is on the road from Baghdad to Amman, Jordan. It's a really important area; 150,000 people have already fled.
ISIS still controls the second largest city in Iraq, Mosul, a city of some two million people right now. So all the talk that U.S. officials are saying, progress is being made, you heard Samantha Power just say they control 25 percent less territory than they did maybe a year ago. A lot of that territory is what desert, right? I mean, why do they think they're making such progress? Because it looks like ISIS is still in charge of a big chunk of the people and land of Iraq.
LABOTT: Well that's absolutely right. I mean, the Iraqis are clearly on the defensive, not on the offensive.
Even though the U.S. says the trend lines are good, they had some success in Tikrit. You see some of these other areas like Anbar, the Iraqis are on the defensive. They're fighting for Ramadi, they're fighting for this strategic oil refinery for about a year. I think this is the dilemma of the Iraqi forces. This is what they're talking to about the U.S.
Which is more important, to build on the successes of Tikrit and move up north towards ISIL and gain some momentum in the offensive against ISIS, or protect the flank, protect Baghdad and those western areas, which would certainly hamper the kind of broader momentum against ISIS, but would protect the center?
But even if you protect the center, then you lose control over the larger campaign. I think it's a dilemma for Iraqi forces, and I wouldn't say necessarily that they're in agreement. I think the U.S. would really like them to keep moving up around north, but certainly have to protect Baghdad, Wolf.
BLITZER: Let's not forget Tikrit was freed from ISIS, not so much by what the Iraqi military did, but what the Shiite militias did backed by the Iran Revolutionary Guard that came in with some U.S. coalition airpower. So that's not necessarily a normal situation by any means.
The U.S. in effect cooperating with Iran, the Shiite militias to deal ISIS a blow in Tikrit, but ISIS still in charge of big chunks of Iraq right now.
Elise, thanks very much.
Let's bring in a leading member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, as well as the Intelligence Committee, Republican Senator James Risch of Idaho.
Senator, thanks very much for joining us.
Let me get your analysis, first of all, ISIS claiming responsibility for the suicide car bombing attack near the U.S. Consulate in Northern Iraq, in Irbil. They say the consulate was their target. They wanted to kill American diplomats, military personnel. You're on the Intelligence Committee, the Foreign Relations Committee. What can you tell us about this attack?
SEN. JAMES RISCH (R), IDAHO: Well, Wolf, first of all, that hasn't been confirmed as yet.
However, having said that, it is more likely than not that it was ISIS. And certainly the consulate was the target. What's interesting about this is Irbil, as your story just pointed out, is a city that's been really relatively secure. It's a city of about a million people. And it is very heavily Kurdish, if not almost all Kurdish.
And it's very hard to penetrate. So, this would have been a very, very sophisticated operation, and one that would have been very difficult to pull off.
BLITZER: Are Americans safe there now? Because there are a lot of them, hundreds of them at the U.S. Consulate there and a lot of private citizens are there as well. The U.S. has a good relationship with Kurdistan.
RISCH: We do have a good relationship and we need to continue to cultivate that relationship.
They have been good friends of ours, have been reliable. They're excellent fighters. Having said all that, in answer to your question are they safe, safe, I guess, is a relative term when you're talking about the Middle East. They're certainly safer there than they are in many other places, be it Yemen or be it Baghdad or other places in the Middle East.
BLITZER: There's a lot of controversy right now over what General Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said yesterday, referring to ISIS now closing in, taking over two hugely potential places in Iraq, the city of Ramadi, that's about 70 miles from Baghdad, a major city in the Anbar province, also moving in on the Baiji oil refinery, the largest oil refinery in Iraq.
General Dempsey said at the news conference at the Pentagon yesterday that the Baiji oil refinery is strategically more important than the city of Ramadi. He seemed to suggest that if Ramadi fell, it would be a setback, but it wouldn't be as bad, necessarily, strategically as the oil fields. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEN. MARTIN DEMPSEY, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF CHAIRMAN: The issue here is not brick and mortar. It's about defeating ISIL.
So, as I said, this -- you know, I would much rather that Ramadi not fall, but it won't be the end of a campaign should it fall. We got to get it back.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: There's been a lot of criticism of him for saying that, including from your Republican colleague John McCain, the chairman of the Armed Services Committee. What do you think?
RISCH: Well, you know, I think what John was complaining about, or at least putting John's comments into context, I think he's more upset with the fact that the administration keeps spinning the story that, oh, you know, it's not so bad. Oh, yes, it is. You listen to these news stories that go on and
on, there's just no good news coming out of there, with the one exception today, which you have already mentioned, and that is that is the king of clubs was finally caught. That's about the only good. And interestingly enough, he was -- he was caught and killed by the Iraqi security forces.
That's about the only good piece of news coming out of there. And it's pretty de minimis compared to all of the other things that are happening. You haven't even touched on Yemen yet while I have been sitting here.
BLITZER: We will talk about it in a moment.
I want to you stand by, Senator, a lot more coming up, including AQAP, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, making major inroads in Yemen, what that means for the United States, when we come back.
BLITZER: Tonight, new video of Saudi airstrikes in Yemen. The air campaign is now in its fourth week. But Yemen's civil war rages on, giving terrorists an opening to gain dangerous new ground.
We're back with Senator James Risch, a member of the Foreign Relations and Intelligence committees.
What do you make of the fact that AQAP, arguably the number one terror threat to the United States, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, has now taken over an airport in Southeastern Yemen? They have certainly wanted to launch airstrikes against the U.S. homeland, if you will. What does this mean?
RISCH: Well, Wolf, I think, first of all, what you have to do is looking at this from way up and down, this -- you got to blame the whole thing on Iran. It's Iran that enabled the Houthis to topple the government that was in place there in Yemen.
And once they did that, as we have seen, it deteriorates every day. There's a vacuum because the government is gone. The Houthis are occupying part of it. AQAP is occupying part of it. And while everyone has been focused on Sanaa over more west, AQAP, as we have seen in the last 48 hours, has been very active in Mukalla.
And the pictures I think you have shown tell the whole story. They -- that is Mukalla, although it's 500 miles east of Sanaa, it really holds an important geographical position. And there should be more attention being paid there. But, having said that, because of all the things that are going on both in Iraq and in Yemen at the present time and in Syria, things are so spread out, there's a vacuum that AQAP is filling and it is a very dangerous situation for us.
BLITZER: Yes, that's -- Mukalla, there's where -- not only where that airfield, that air base they have taken over, but that's where a prison was emptied out of a lot of al Qaeda and other terrorists as well, so you're right on that.
Here's a question, because you're a member of the Intelligence Committee. I wonder how good the U.S. intelligence is. Less than year ago, President Obama called Yemen a place where the U.S. counterterrorism strategy was working. Do you think he's getting bad intelligence, bad information? He also called ISIS the J.V. team. He gets a daily intelligence briefing. Is the intelligence community up to it? Because you get those briefings as well.
RISCH: I'm sure he gets the same information that we get. I'm astonished to hear him say that ISIS is the J.V. team.
BLITZER: He said that about a year ago.
RISCH: But you look at what they're doing right now, if they were the J.V. team then, they have certainly matured quickly and substantially since then.
To say that Yemen was the poster child for what we're trying to do, I wouldn't have said that when he said that. Certainly, he was getting the same information we were getting. Iran muddles in our affairs whenever they possibly can. They love to poke a stick at us. And everybody knew at that time that they were supporting the Houthis militarily, financially and every other way.
And the Houthis were a viable force to topple the government and they did it. And, of course, now we see what's happening with the chaos that's taking place. And it gets worse every day. It gets worse every hour.
BLITZER: Let's quickly shift to a domestic issue, the Loretta Lynch confirmation process. She's nominated to become the attorney general of the United States. As you know, we have spoken about this before, Senator.
That nomination has been held up for more than 160 days, and President Obama, he was really irritated today. He called that embarrassing to the United States Senate. Even former Governor Jeb Bush, the potential Republican presidential candidate, says it's time for you guys to give her a vote up or down.
I know you're going to vote against her confirmation. But what's wrong with letting a confirmation vote simply happen?
RISCH: Well, I think we're doing just what the Democrats did when they were in charge.
And that is, we have lined up a series of issues that we're going to deal with and right now the issue that's right in front of us is a bill that Democrats have supported. And that is the trafficking, the illegal trafficking bill in human beings. They're supporters of that and they're filibustering that bill.
Well, that filibustering is going on. As Mitch McConnell has said, as soon as that filibuster is over, we're going to vote on it and the very next second, we're going to vote on the confirmation of the president's nominee for attorney general.
It's not as if we don't have a an attorney general. We have a an attorney general, nominated and confirmed. I also didn't vote for him. But we have an attorney general that is in place that is doing the job of the attorney general and as soon as Loretta Lynch is confirmed, and she will be confirmed as soon as the Democrats quit filibustering the human trafficking bill. She will be voted on.
BLITZER: As you know, Senator, this irritates a lot of Americans. The human trafficking bill is one thing. That has nothing to do with the attorney general of the United States. Why can't you do both, deal with the human trafficking issue, which is an important issue obviously, and at the same time let her have a vote?
RISCH: Yes. Well, I don't set the agenda there. The leadership sets the agenda. But they do put it in place and go one, two, three, just like the Democrats did when they were in charge.
And the lineup is what it is right now. And all they have got to do, all the Democrats have to do is stop filibustering, we will vote on human trafficking. I suspect it's going to pass with a huge vote and the next vote is going to be Loretta Lynch.
BLITZER: So if you were in charge, you would simply let her have her vote, not link it to something totally unrelated to whether or not she's qualified to be the attorney general?
RISCH: I'm not in charge and it's a hypothetical question.
But I think the leadership is doing what the Senate has always done for many years, the leadership sets up these votes in line. And you can stop something by filibustering. And the Democrats right now are filibustering a bill. But that bill is filibustering in essence also the vote on Loretta Lynch.
BLITZER: Because Harry Reid, the minority leader, as you know, says there's a parliamentary maneuver he can take that would force a vote. Do you understand what he's saying?
RISCH: I do understand what he's saying. And he hasn't done it yet.
I think they're doing this simply because it causes an irritation, as you have said. They could move it along. They could do it simply by getting out of the way. These people co-sponsored the human trafficking bill. And yet they're filibustering it and stopping the vote on it. It's nonsense, absolute nonsense. You're right. People should be impatient with this.
BLITZER: Yes. People look at the way the Senate operates sometimes and they say, huh? What's going on over here? We need an attorney general. She's been nominated. Clearly, a lot of people think she's highly qualify. She's been approved by the Senate for other positions, as the U.S. attorney before. Let her have a vote and then move on, deal with the human trafficking issue.
Obviously, that's an important issue as well, but sort of unrelated to whether or not she should be the attorney general.
RISCH: Right. We do have an attorney general in place. He was nominated by the president.
BLITZER: But you don't like him either, do you?
RISCH: Didn't vote for him either, for different reasons. My objections to Loretta Lynch is her view of the president's power on executive orders.
And she has a very broad view on that. I think it's wrong legally. I think it's wrong constitutionally and I can't support her for that reason.
BLITZER: All right, we have spoken about that before.
Senator Risch, thanks very much, as usual, for joining us.
RISCH: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: To find out more what you can do, by the way, to help civilians affected by the violence in Iraq and Yemen, go to CNN.com/Impact and you will be able to Impact Your World.
Just ahead, a CNN exclusive -- the provocative words that the National Guard forces used to describe protesters in Ferguson, Missouri. Does it help explain why tensions exploded on the streets?
And a reserve sheriff's deputy tries to explain how he mistook a pistol for a stun gun. But his interview is only adding to the controversy surrounding the deadly shooting.
BLITZER: Speaking out -- the reserve sheriff's deputy accused of manslaughter in the death of a fleeing suspect, Robert Bates, says he shot Eric Harris accidentally when he confused his pistol for a stun gun.
Now there are troubling new questions about whether Bates received proper training to begin with.
CNN's Ed Lavandera is joining us from Tulsa, Oklahoma, working the story for us.
What is the latest you're picking up, Ed?
ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it's been a little more than two weeks since the shooting death of Eric Harris.
And for the first time, we're hearing from the reserve deputy, 73-year-old Robert Bates.
ROBERT BATES, DEFENDANT: I shot him. I'm sorry. I'm sorry.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (EXPLETIVE DELETED) He shot him.
LAVANDERA: Seventy-three-year-old reserve deputy Robert Bates was charged with second-degree manslaughter after he used his pistol instead of a stun gun, killing Eric Harris. In an interview with NBC's "Today Show," Bates says he still can't believe it happened.
BATES: First and foremost, let me apologize to the family of Eric Harris. You know this is the second-worst thing that's ever happened to me or first. Ever happened to me in my life. I've had cancer a number of years ago. I didn't think I was going to get there. Luckily, I was able to go to a hospital where I had hours of surgery. I'd rate this as No. 1 on my list of things in my life that I regret.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Bates...
LAVANDERA: Bates, who had been a volunteer with the Tulsa Sheriff's Department for several years, says he can't explain why he confused his gun for his Taser, even though they were positioned in very different locations.
BATES: My Taser is right here on the front, tucked in a protective vest. My gun itself is on my side, normally to the rear.
LAVANDERA: Tonight the NAACP and others are calling on the Justice Department to launch an external investigation, following reports from "The Tulsa World" that the Tulsa Sheriff's Department falsified Bates' training records and that three supervisors were reassigned when they refused to sign the documents.
ZIVA BRANSTETTER, REPORTER, "TULSA WORLD": What we were told is that the supervisors were told to sign off on 250 hours of training. Most of that he did not have. Virtually all of that he did not have. And then the supervisors at the gun range were told to sign off on his handgun qualification, even though he did not qualify.
LAVANDERA: But Bates stands by his credentials, stating that he was fully trained and qualified to be on the scene during the sting operation involving Harris and that he has documentation to show he completed the necessary training required of reserve deputies.
BATES: That is absolutely the truth. I have it in writing.
LAVANDERA: But the Harris family attorney questions the authenticity of any such documents. (on camera): Do you think these documents have been falsified?
DAN SMOLEN, ATTORNEY FOR HARRIS FAMILY: Absolutely. I mean, and again, I think if there were to be any records that had surfaced, which none have, OK, but I believe that Mr. Bates has never been trained as a -- in a field training type of situation.
LAVANDERA: And Wolf, it has been just over two weeks since the shooting death of Eric Harris. The sheriff of Tulsa County, Stanley Glanz, has only done one interview over this entire incident and all the controversy surrounding it.
And just moments ago his spokesperson put out a statement saying that they have rolled out a, quote, "we're listening tour," in an effort to, quote, "dull rumors and clear up confusion over recent misleading stories from the local and national media outlets," providing people an email address where they can email in their questions to the sheriff's department -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Thanks very much. Ed Lavandera, reporting for us from Tulsa.
Let's get some more on what's going on. Joining us, the NAACP president and CEO, Cornell Brooks. Also joining us, the president of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, Cedric Alexander, and our CNN law enforcement analyst, Tom Fuentes, former assistant director of the FBI.
Cedric, the former insurance executive, as you saw there, the reserve deputy, as he's called, Robert Bates said he did -- yes, he regretted fatally shooting this black man in Tulsa. But he confused his stun gun for his hand gun. He said that could happen to anyone. Your reaction?
CEDRIC ALEXANDER, PRESIDENT, NOBLE: Well, you know, not being there, Wolf, in all fairness to him and everyone involved, having been in a number of those situations over the years, certainly, it can be a stressful situation.
But we as sworn officers, particularly those as sworn officers today, have all the responsibility of making sure that, when they pull their weapon, they have to pull the right weapon. And they have to use the resources they have available there. They tell them.
But look, we weren't on the scene. I wasn't there. And whatever that stressful situation was for them, of course, the state of Oklahoma saw that it was necessary to pursue charges, based on what the probable cause is today. So that pretty much speaks for itself. But it's unfortunate: it's sad for Mr. Bates and for everybody involved, particularly the victim, who's no longer here.
BLITZER: Cornell, the Oklahoma NAACP is calling for the Department of Justice, the Oklahoma attorney general to investigate the killing of Eric Harris. Do you believe that race played a role in his death?
CORNELL BROOKS, NAACP PRESIDENT: Well, what we know is that young African-Americans are 21 times more likely to lose their lives at the hands of the police than their white counterparts. We know that there are racial disparities along the length and breadth of law enforcement. So certainly, that's troubling.
[18:35:08] But what's particularly troubling here is we have a 73-year-old man who does not appear to be well-trained, or trained at all, carrying a gun, in an undercover operation. Those facts alone are deeply troubling.
And the fact that we have a man who lost his life, a father who lost his life, in the midst of this tragic situation is very troubling.
And so there's certainly enough here to call for a federal investigation. The fact that we have yet another African-American man losing his hands at -- losing his life at the hands of a white police officer is, again, very troubling.
And so whether race played a role in this particular tragedy, the fact that race plays a major role in so many, in a series of unrelenting tragedies, is important; and we have to look at this.
BLITZER: Tom Fuentes, does his explanation, Harris's [SIC] explanation -- he mistook the stun gun, the Taser for his handgun, -- does that make sense to you?
TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: It does make sense because of the way he describes it being configured. When they're teaching how to operate a Taser compared to a firearm, your firearm is supposed to be on your strong side. They recommend the Taser be on the opposite side, so that you would have to draw it with your weaker hand, in most people's cases, their left hand and pass it over to the right hand.
But as he shows in that interview, the gun is drawn with the right hand. The Taser, which he had up in his chest, was -- both are drawn with the same hand, almost in the same way. So because of that, I think it made it easier to confuse the two.
BLITZER: But you agree, he had no business on a sting operation, a dangerous sting operation involving handguns, a 73-year-old volunteer sheriff's deputy, if you will.
FUENTES: Well, I have a personal reason for disagreeing. Six years ago I reached the age of 57, and that's mandatory retirement for a special agent of the FBI and other federal agencies. So six years ago, I no longer was eligible to be on the street as an armed special agent; and you know, this is a much older situation.
BLITZER: Yes. A 73-year-old guy with a stun gun and handgun in an operation like this, a volunteer. They've got to review that whole -- that whole policy over there. I want all of you to stand by. Just ahead, Ferguson protesters
labeled enemy forces -- enemy forces -- in a controversial National Guard document obtained exclusively by CNN. Stand by for that.
Plus, President Obama as we rarely see him: outraged over the languishing nomination of the attorney general of the United States.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The dysfunction in the Senate just goes too far. This is an example of it. It's gone too far. Enough. Enough.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[18:42:26] BLITZER: Now a CNN exclusive: a disturbing revelation about the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, in the wake of the Michael Brown shooting. CNN has obtained documents showing that the National Guard, which deployed as violence in the community was escalating, referred to protesters on the streets there as enemy forces and adversaries.
CNN's Sara Sidner has done extensive reporting from Ferguson. She's joining us with more now. What are you finding out, Sara?
SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Look, the protesters who have heard about these documents, read about these documents, say, "Look, we should be called Americans exercising our rights, not enemies."
SIDNER (voice-over): CNN has obtained new documents revealing how the National Guard planned for the situation in Ferguson, Missouri. In internal documents that used words like "enemy forces" and "adversaries" to refer to protesters after protests erupted in sporadic violence, looting and burning in the wake of Michael Brown's death.
The document outlines the Guard's mission in Ferguson and the "enemy forces" to watch out for, putting general protesters in the same category as known hate groups like the Ku Klux Klan and the Black Panthers, saying, "Protesters have historically used Molotov cocktails, rocks, and other debris to throw at police. Several small arms fire incidents have occurred, and some may use militant tactics taught by that rebel group."
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are looked at as the enemy any time we're vocal, any time we're expressing ourselves, any time we're disenfranchised, and particularly in the black community.
CATHERINE JACKSON, PROTESTOR: How am I an enemy? All I am is a 62-year-old grandmother who's worried that I'm going to leave my grandchildren in a world where I can't protect them anymore. I want to see change. I want to see real change. SIDNER: The National Guard itself worried about the perception
of the words "enemy" and "adversary." In the documents, one colonel warned the language could be construed as potentially inflammatory. The National Guard spokesman told CNN these were only drafts taken from an Army form letter, and the language was changed and never appeared in the final order.
The head of Missouri's National Guard telling CNN in an email the documents used in the Ferguson, Missouri, case were "a generic military planning format utilized in a wide range of military missions, so the term 'enemy forces' would be better understood as 'potential threats'."
In November when a grand jury decided not to indict the officer who killed Brown, the governor and National Guard were criticized for the Guard's lack of response as two streets of Ferguson went up in flames. Back then, I asked the city's mayor about the Guard's reaction to the riot.
[18:45:03] (on camera): Did the governor do the wrong thing when it comes to how quickly the National Guard was actually deployed on the streets?
MAYOR JAMES KNOWLES, FERGUSON, MISSOURI: I don't know who made that call. But I do believe that the National Guard should have been out there much sooner.
SIDNER: Now I have to say, when you look at the documents it's hard to tell what might have been the final and what was just a draft. But we can tell you that the changes that were made taking the word "enemy" out for example seem to have been made in November and these documents, some are from august, the first time that the National Guard was deployed in Ferguson.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: That's all pretty disturbing stuff.
All right. Sara, thanks very much.
Let's dig deeper. Once again, joining us, the president and CEO of the NAACP, Cornell Brooks. Also joining us, the community activist, John Gaskin, the St. Louis City alderman, Antonio French, and our law enforcement analyst, Tom Fuentes, former FBI assistant director.
Cornell, what do you make of this? Governor Nixon of Missouri is in charge of the National Guard there. Was this a blunder, was this sinister? What's your reaction?
CORNELL BROOKS, PRESIDENT & CEO, NAACP: I'd simply know this, the young people, the young practitioners of democracy who took to the streets in the wake of Michael brown's death in the main used the very tactics that the NAACP has used over the course of 106 years, peaceful protests. Under the language of these documents, the same kind of protests that Martin Luther King engaged in, that Rosa Parks engaged in, that Roy Wilkins engaged in, would label them as enemies and adversaries.
This is not the way we use our guard. The fact of the matter is what we saw play out in the streets was in the main peaceful protests. And we should not escalate militarize protests and these conflicts on the street in ways to create and make it more likely for violence to happen. So, these documents are deeply disturbing, very disturbing.
BLITZER: Antonio, you say the documents, the statements in those documents amount to in your words, American soldiers viewing American citizens somehow as the enemy. Explain.
ANTONIO FRENCH, ST. LOUIS CITY ALDERMAN: Yes, the language is very disappointing, language matters and think that particular language is really indicative of a perception we saw play out many times between August and November. Law enforcement saw people out on the streets protesting as the enemy, instead of members of the same community that were upset about an important issue.
It also shows that the National Guard really painted with a very broad brush. By far, the vast majority of people out there, were peaceful, peaceful protesters, some of them young people, kids, some seniors, as those few individuals that committed criminal acts could have been treated as criminals, but not as enemy combatants somehow on our own soil.
BLITZER: You know, John Gaskin, you followed it very closely. There was -- as Antonio just said, there was some violence directed, the minority of the protesters toward police, did the National Guard as a result of that violence, directed at the police, maybe the National Guard, did they have justification for using those words?
JOHN GASKIN, COMMUNITY ACTIVIST: Absolutely not. I would have thought our country would have learned from the Kent State massacre. But to see that type of language being used to refer to American citizens and peaceful protesters is unexcusable and it is absurd.
But I think the real person who needs to be held accountable for this quite honestly is Governor Jay Nixon. As you know, the National Guard was deployed in Ferguson before the announcement was even made. And so, they didn't even protect the businesses that were most vulnerable along West Florissant, in that particular area of the community.
And so, this yet again, is yet another blunder primarily on his part due to his lack of leadership in the community and in the state of Missouri.
BLITZER: Tom Fuentes, what's your reaction?
TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, I think that, you know, the problem here is that yes, we have American citizens exercising their rights. And at times in this incident, during those couple of days, we had people committing arson. We had them discharging firearms. We had them throwing rocks, bottles, bricks, and Molotov cocktails at police. That's not Americans exercising their rights, that's attacking the police. And I could see where some 21-year-old might look at that when
people do that to him, might just think that that is the enemy.
BLITZER: And your reaction to what Tom just said, Cornell?
BROOKS: I understand the difficulty of the National Guard in this kind of volatile situation.
But let's be clear about this -- these documents represent a statement of policy and to the extent that we're describing overwhelmingly peaceful protesters as the enemy, as adversaries is, as potential enemy combatants, that's simply wrong headed. These documents represent a statement of policy and to the extent that we're describing overwhelmingly peaceful protesters as the enemy, as adversaries is, as potential enemy combatants, that's simply wrong headed.
[18:50:08] Now, we don't want to minimize the impact of violence. Certainly, police officers and businesses and peaceful protesters need to be protected. But we do not need to state as a matter of policy that American citizens in an American city in the middle of America are, in fact, enemy combatant. That's certainly wrongheaded.
BLITZER: All right. Cornell Brooks, thanks very much. John Gaskin, thanks to you as well. Antonio French, Tom Fuentes, good conversation. We'll continue to follow this story.
Much more news coming up. Plus this --
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The premiers of "Weed 3" and "High Profits" starting at 9:00.
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[18:55:48] BLITZER: President Obama says enough is enough. He's blasting the U.S. Senate for stalling the nomination of his choice to be the next attorney general, Loretta Lynch.
Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What are we doing here? And I have to say that there are times where the dysfunction in the Senate just goes too far. This is an example of it. It's gone too far. Enough! Enough.
Call Loretta lynch for a vote. Get her confirmed. Put her in place. Let her do her job. This is embarrassing, a process like this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: You don't often see the president get that angry at an issue that he's clearly very angry about this one.
Now to the 2016 presidential race and a new showcase for Republican hopefuls in New Hampshire.
Unofficial candidate Jeb Bush joined the crowd. He seemed to have his family and Hillary Clinton very much on his mind.
Let's go to CNN's Athena Jones. She's joining us live from Nashua, New Hampshire.
What's the latest over there, Athena?
ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, wolf. Well, we saw the former governor speak twice today, and he seemed really comfortable sharing his life story, talking up his record in Florida, and also taking questions from voters.
One question he keeps getting is how he's going to distinguish himself from his father and his brother.
JONES (voice-over): He hasn't formally announced his candidacy, but Jeb Bush is already acting like a presidential candidate, fielding questions from Granite State voters on tough issues, like immigration reform.
JEB BUSH (R), FORMER FLORIDA GOVERNOR: Deal with the folks that are here illegally, in a rational, thoughtful way. My suggestion is, earn legal status. JONES: That's a view at odds with many conservatives, a sign the
former Florida governor isn't afraid to stick to his principles on this and other issues. He says he enjoys engaging with voters in these intimate settings.
BUSH: This is what they expect. This is the unique nature of New Hampshire. You can do it. It's small enough where people get a chance to see it close up, which I love.
JONES: Last night, Bush also tackled that recurring question about the Bush family as a political dynasty. Much like the Adams' family presidents of centuries past.
BUSH: I have to prove that I'm not running for president if I go beyond the consideration of this to being an active candidate. I'm trying to break the tie between the Adams' family and the Bush family.
JONES: And he poked fun at a potential rival from another political dynasty, saying that Hillary Clinton's recent visit to an Ohio Chipotle --
BUSH: Do I go there? Yeah, I go there. The one on U.S. 1. Drive my own car. Park my own car, get out of my own car.
JONES: But while Bush has been jabbing Democrats like Clinton and President Barack Obama, he hasn't focused much on his fellow GOP contenders, even as the rest of the field try hard to distinguish themselves.
Former Texas Governor Rick Perry warning today that nominating another first-term senator would be a mistake. A not-so-veiled dig at Senators Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and Marco Rubio.
RICK PERRY (R), FORMER TEXAS GOVERNOR: We spent eight years with a young, inexperienced state senator. And I will suggest to you, economically, military, and foreign policy-wise, we're paying a tremendous price.
JONES: Now, Republicans here are generally more moderate than Republicans in some of the other early voting states, much more like the general election electorate. Now, Jeb Bush said he's a conservative, not a moderate. But he's someone who's also talked about running a general election-style campaign from the very beginning. Whether he'll be successful in winning over enough voters with that approach is an open question -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Athena, thanks very much. Athena Jones reporting from New Hampshire.
Remember, you can always follow us on Twitter. Go ahead, tweet me @wolfblitzer. You can always tweet the show, @CNNsitroom. Please be sure to join us here again Monday, right here in THE SITUATION ROOM. You can always watch us live or DVR the show so you won't miss a moment. Thanks very much for watching.
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